Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bees and family

As I was continuing my cleaning up of the food magazines/maintaining marital harmony chore last night, I came across this essay I missed in the August '08 issue of Gourmet. Ostensibly about bee keeping, but also much more. Ian Knauer has written an insightful, informative, and ultimately touching story. Give it a read.

photo from Gourmet Magazine
##### ##### #####
One year ago today @ E.D.T.:
the Iberian ideal that is Spanish Roasted Halibut!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I'll have a double NIKEburger please!

The special last week in the NIKE company dining room.....
either that or one of the many visual amuse bouches on Niall Harbison's blog!

Averting Meat Madness

Had enough turkey yet from the Thanksgiving throwdown? Maybe need a little protein break? Yeah, me neither! In fact I was just looking up recipes for this 5# hunk 'o pork shoulder that's calling my name. Like pork products are ever bad! But just in case OD'ing on meat may be your current state, relief is at hand. I have to share this recipe from the NYT's Health writer Martha Rose Shulman. I've found her stuff to be ever reliable (her caponata recipe is spectacular), and a few days ago, for a pre-Thanksgiving, post-standing rib roast dinner feast we had with friends, w was begging for something, anything, that was made from ingredients that weren't walking the earth, waiting their turn in my Le Creuset. I, like every other right minded eater, loves me some good butternut squash soup. It is one of the reasons that cold weather was invented, if I'm not mistaken. This version is awesome, with a nice added richness from the sweet potatoes and a health inducing, head snapping bite from the ginger (I bumped up her recommended dose of ginger by half). Silky textured after a spin in the blender, rich and creamy, you would never guess this has no cream or butter. Plus, this is one of the easiest soups you'll ever make, and it is vegetarian friendly. It coud also be made vegan friendly (Like I care. Vegans...don't you just want to wrestle their emaciated, protein deprived bodies down and stuff bacon into their mouths and watch their eyes do a guilty swoon of pleasure?!) if you use veggie stock.
I opened the newly released 2007 Patricia Green Cellars Sauvignon Blanc from Oregon, whose freshness and bright acidity played very nicely with the richness of the soup. By the way, 2007 was a great vintage for Oregon white wines. The best have beautifully ripe fruit paired perfectly with high acids from the cooler than usual growing season.
*** *** *** *** ***
Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Soup
from the New York Times/Martha Rose Shulman

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium-size Yukon gold or russet potato, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken stock, or vegetable stock
Salt to taste

1. Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and stir together until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the squash, sweet potatoes, regular potato, and water or stock, and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, or until all of the ingredients are thoroughly tender.

2. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup (or you can put it through the fine blade of a food mill or use a regular blender, working in batches and placing a kitchen towel over the top to avoid splashing). Return to the pot and stir with a whisk to even out the texture. Heat through, adjust salt and add pepper to taste.

Yield: Serves 6
Advance preparation: You can make this a day ahead and refrigerate. Reheat gently. The soup freezes well. Once thawed, whisk well to smooth out the texture, and reheat.

picture at top from the New York Times
##### ##### #####

one year ago yesterday at E.D.T. : sweet and savory together with Apple-Fennel Soup and a fabulous Pumpkin Mousse!

Arrested Devlopment

I'm officially embarrassed that I find this kid vid from the Icelandic show Lazy Town way too catchy...and somewhat cute. And I can't even blame it on something to show the kids. Damn the devil that is youtube!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Green Chicken Masala: does deliciousness get any easier?

What else would I talk about on Thanksgiving Day, that most American of holidays, but an absolutely delicious Indian dish, Green Chicken Masala, that w and I threw down the other night. It is also yet another reason I have piles of old food magazines laying by my side of the bed. w gave me the "honey, your magazines are kind of scattered around the floor there" which really means pick your shit up. So with my selfish need to satisfy my constant hunger cleverly disguised as an interest of preserving marital harmony I have been ripping and tearing out recipes, which is what led to this most delicious of dinners out of a recent Food and Wine rag. Every country has it's version of chicken and green chili sauce...except the U.S. of course with our distinct lack of indigenous cuisine... pollo verde probably the most familiar to our domesticated palates. This is the subcontinents answer...or perhaps precursor. The cilantro-mint-chili sauce alone (in the unretouched, über-green photo at top) just explodes with intense aromas out of the blender and is vibrantly beautiful to look at. This comes together so easily, and is a REALLY fabulous, complex tasting plate of food, that you need to spring on those you love!
The finished product, that despite its somewhat somewhat regurgitated baby food look, is simply awesome!
*** *** *** *** ***
Green Chicken Masala
from Food and Wine Magazine

2 cups cilantro leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1 jalapeño, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (1 3/4 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Kosher salt
Basmati rice, for serving
1. In a blender, combine the cilantro, mint, jalapeño, garlic, lemon juice and water and puree until smooth.

sautéing the onions, chicken, and turmeric

stirring the sauce just after adding the cilantro-mint-chili and coconut milk combo

2. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and turmeric and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden in spots, about 7 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and cook for 1 minute. Add the cilantro puree and coconut milk, season with salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is slightly reduced and the chicken is tender, about 15 minutes. Serve with basmati rice.
##### ##### #####
one year ago today at E.D.T.: my favorite movie of 2007 plus I give you the best damn meatloaf ever!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Save the café!

An interesting...and somewhat depressing....story in the NYT yesterday about the demise of the French café culture. Seems the traditional café is an endangered species because, sadly for those of us who cling to an old fashioned view of the French, the French people are apparently becoming more, and this is the really alrming part, like us. Quelle horror!! Buying wine at the supemarket, eating at home, banning smoking in bars and cafés. As café owner Daniel Perrey succinctly put it in the article, “If we standardize everything in France, and we study everything, and forbid everything, we destroy respect for our culture. We need to preserve the cafe bar. What is a village but a cafe, a school, a pharmacy, a bakery and a city hall?”

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ancho Braised Short Ribs: can you say "more please?"

With those delicious bits of beef above as a starting point, I knew I was in for some meat eatin' satisfaction! I had been craving short ribs for weeks. As always with the onset of cooler weather, anything braise-y and beefy sounds like just what the body needs. Hey, you can't fight evolution. Well, you can, but then you end up as some whacked out creationism advocate...or Sarah Palin. Neither of which are good choices. So I fully embrace my carnivorous tendencies and the responsibilities that come from being atop the food chain. And some tender fall off the bone short ribs are one of the best ways to fulfill the destiny God has in mind for me (a little shout out there for all my God lovin' and fearin' readers).

I have one money recipe for short ribs, and almost did the usual, but then a search on epicurious turned up this southwestern version. It sounded good, and as a nod to those former red states taking a leap of faith and going all blue, I took the leap myself and threw this newfangled thing together the other night, and if I may, in a nod to my beer drinkin', truck drivin' readers, this is one fuckin' incredible plate 'o meat! The sauce is just off the hook, infused with an intense, not-too-spicy smokiness from the chilis. The meat was so insanely tender, too. To have something that requires minimal prep and basically cooks itself come out this good is about as good as it gets, eats wise. It's a crazy good world!
*** *** *** *** ***
Short Ribs Braised in Ancho Chile Sauce
Yield: Makes 4-6 servings
Active Time: 40 min
Total Time: 4 1/2 hr

4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and ribs discarded
2 cups boiling-hot water
1 medium onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon salt
6 lb beef short ribs or flanken
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup brewed coffee

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Soak ancho chiles in boiling-hot water until softened, about 20 minutes, then drain in a colander set over a bowl. Taste soaking liquid: It will be a little bitter, but if unpleasantly so, discard it; otherwise, reserve for braising. Transfer ancho chiles to a blender and purée with onion, garlic, chipotles with sauce, maple syrup, lime juice, and 1 teaspoon salt.

Pat ribs dry and sprinkle with pepper and remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown ribs in 3 batches, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer as browned to a roasting pan just large enough to hold ribs in 1 layer.

Carefully add chile purée to fat remaining in skillet (it will spatter and steam) and cook over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, 5 minutes. Add reserved chile soaking liquid (or 1 1/2 cups water) and coffee and bring to a boil, then pour over ribs (liquid should reach about halfway up sides of meat).

Cover roasting pan tightly with foil and braise ribs until very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Skim fat from pan juices. Serve ribs with pan juices.

Cooks' note: Ribs improve in flavor if braised 2 days ahead. Cool completely, uncovered, then chill, ribs covered directly with parchment or wax paper and roasting pan covered with foil. Remove any solidified fat before reheating.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What are you drinking this holiday?

A little props to me for my latest article at regarding procuring the perfect holiday wine to keep your sanity intact and your family sedated. Click here for my intoxicating advice!

photo from

Ha and Vl: Noodle heaven! + Genoa r.i.p?: Another view.

Always on the lookout for new and delicious ways to get my food fix here in PDX, last Monday I went to the food mecca that is SE 82nd Avenue......wait, food mecca AND 82nd Avenue?? Maybe, if you want to eat your Big Mac in the used car you just bought off one of the innumerable car dealers with the hooker you just picked up on the street. At least that is the shared perception. But as in most cities, where suburbanites fear to tread are where food cognoscenti know to find some of the best places to nosh on authentic Asian food. Where the rents are cheap is where the newly minted communities set up their shops, serving their native foods to others who miss that taste of home. I had read about Ha and Vl on the website of our local fishwrap The Oregonian, where Karen Brooks raved about their hand crafted bowls of noodle soup. Tasting is believing, so Monday morning found me pulling into the parking lot of the charmingly named Wing Ming Square, a mini-mini mall of all things Asian and entering through the portal of Ha and Vl. There's something exceedingly satisfying knowing that at 9:30 in the morning, when most office workers are wiping the powdered sugar off their shirts from that donut they just pounded, I'm sitting down for what turned out to be perhaps the best bowl of soup I've had in town. The room itself is fairly small, with brightly painted walls, and a TV in the corner that on this morning was playing a Steven Seagal blow-'em-up movie. Perhaps the perfect backdrop to the flavor explosions that were going on in my mouth from my bowl of Bun Rieu, a shrimp paste based broth with loads of noodles and pieces of pork, soft tofu, peppers, onion, and tomato with just the right chili bite to slap the last of the morning funk out of my head. Incredibly fresh, you can taste the care that goes into each bowl. Every day they do one soup (two on Sundays) that is usually sold out by noon. At $7 for a very large bowl, this is about as good as breakfast can get! Also don't miss their perfect Vietnamese coffee. I ordered it in "strong" mode. Like Steven Seagal, if I'm going in, I'm going in hard! Also Tanya (Tonia? Tonya?), who is the daughter of owners Owners Ha Luu and William Voung H. (the "ha" and "Vl" of the name) was SO nice. I've also got my eye on their exceedingly affordable bahn mi sandwiches. This is the real deal, and worth the trip to the badlands of east Portland. And for all you B&T'ers who travel in trepidation, don't worry, the hookers usually don't hit the streets until the, so I've heard.
Ha and Vl, 2738 S.E. 82nd Ave., 503-772-0103, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
##### ##### #####

In Portland Genoa Restaurant for over three decades was a Portland institution, a temple of Italian food that garnered loads of national press for it's authentic, usually impeccably prepared food. It was also the incubator for several of Portland's current top chefs, including Kevin Gibson of Castagna and Evoe, Cathy Whims at Nostrana, and John Taboada of Navarre among many others. There's been much hand-wringing over it's recent closure, with everyone saying what a loss it is and how could this happen. Yes, it was one of the first restaurants in town that showed how good serious restaurant dining can be. But I have to take issue with owner Kerry DeBuse's explanation that the current economic downturn had been lethal to his restaurant: "I've seen serious recessions over the decades at Genoa," DeBuse told The Oregonian, "but nothing to compare to the economic meltdown in which we now find ourselves. We cannot continue as an economically viable business." Gee, does that sound familiar? Like the auto moguls on view in the District this week, Mr. DeBuse seemingly wasn't willing to change with the times. His contention that "it all changed 180 degrees within a week of the recent (Wall Street) crash" isn't exactly a mea culpa. These things don't happen overnight. Stubbornly clinging on to his expensive, fixed-price, special occasion only menu like Ford clinging to its SUV hegemony, rather than offering ala carte options to make it more accessible to the masses, he saw customers leaving for the less expensive options in town when they wanted that "night out" experience. His corner location was also a prime spot, and I could never figure out how they wouldn't open it up to the street, drawing people in by making them curious as to what was happening inside, instead keeping the windows facing SE Belmont covered in a tired, frankly unattractive dull reddish wrap. The restaurant business is like any other be it cars, newspapers, my wine business, what have you. Like the dinosaurs found out, those who fail to adapt to changing times become pieces of history.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wil Ferrell really can act...that is Stranger than Fiction!

I know I'm late to the party on this, but last night w and I watched Stranger Than Fiction, a movie that came out in 2006. Now I have to admit any movie starring Will Ferrell automatically gets the glance of skepticism. But I remembered some good reviews, and our friends D/K said it was their favorite movie of the year. K happens to also provide me a perfect martini whenever I am fortunate enough to dine at their house, so I figured if I can't trust my bartender, who can I trust? Plus this was directed by Marc Forster, whose resumé includes The Kite Runner, Monster's Ball, and another of my all time favorites, Finding Neverland (Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet together...need I say more?). Plus he's also directing the new Bond film Quantum of Solace. And about Will Ferrell? He actually acts in this movie....and not like an idiot. He gives a tremendously controlled performance, and the story is a wonderful, semi-dark but ultimately rewarding trip. Also starring is Emma Thompson, one of the most gifted and beautiful women in movies who also doesn't mind making herself look her worst (have you seen her TV movie Wit, out on DVD....amazing!), turning in another stellar performance. We both raved, and if you haven't seen it, do! I'd love to know what you think...or thought...of it.

Cellar Report: 2002 Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet

Bernard Moreau....the King of the Recycling Bin!!!

This is what all American chardonnays wish they could grow up to be, but as they say, breeding is everything. It's like a commoner aspiring to be British royalty. To compare Cali chard to this 2002 Bernard Moreau et Fils Chassagne-Montrachet "1er Cru Les Chenevottes" (now that's a mouthful of frenchiness!) is like comparing a plastic surgery addicted porn actress to Meryl Streep (Meryl's unfortunate turn in Mamma Mia notwithstanding). In other words, this is chardonnay from another planet. That planet being Chassagne-Montrachet from the wine galaxy that is Burgundy.

I opened this the other night for some friends to have with our seared scallops. Not that there is ever a bad time for premier (that's what "1er" means in French wine lingo) cru white Burgundy, but this turned into one of those perfect, "oh my freaking god" food and wine moments. Oh, in case you didn't know, all white Burgundies are 100% chardonnay (conversely all red Burgundies are 100% pinot noir). Chassagne-Montrachet is a tiny vineyard area within Burgundy where some of the most sought after white wines in the world are fortunate enough to grow up. Anyway, I knew this would be just about hitting its peak drinking time. Good white Burgundies really seem to need about 5 or 6 years to really give all they have. And this one was giving it up big time. Beautifully complex fruit on the nose...think bushels of pippin apple, with hints of earth, stone, citrus and fig peeking in from the edges with honey and flowers adding their two cents as it opened up. On the palate this had all of the aforementioned pleasure giving components, plus that classic Burgundian minerality...sort of a slate and wet stone flavor (not that I go around sucking wet stones. But if I did I hope they'd taste like this), with a still brilliant backbone of acidity and a luscious, lingering finish. So pure and so perfect with the simple richness of the scallops. One of those times when a bite of scallop followed by a sip of wine each seemed to enhance the other. This isn't an inexpensive bottle of happiness (about $50 retail) but it will kick any similarly priced American chardonnay to the curb. Am I lucky? Most humbly and gratefully I can only say absolutely!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sautéed Scallops...simply delicious!

This is such a simple, fast and easy first course that it doesn't even need a written out recipe for you to get much love heaped upon you by those who are lucky enough to share its deliciousness. One of those things that delivers huge flavor reward for your time investment. Scallops to me are something that demands minimal dressing up. We served this as a first course last Saturday before the glory that was the saltimbocca alla romana, and it was a stellar starting point. With something as rich as the saltimbocca, the scallops were a nice, light starting point. Of course I did amp it up a bit with glasses of 2002 Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet "1er Cru Les Chenevottes"....just because I care about the happiness of others. To get your scallop groove on here's all you do: Chop a handful of garlic and a handful of Italian parsley and set aside. Take your sea scallops...maybe two or three per person (and make sure they're fresh when you buy them. I'll ask my fish guy if I can smell them. I've been burned by bad scallops before)...pat them dry, and lightly salt and pepper each one. Dredge the top and bottom in a light coating of flour, shaking off the excess. Do them all before you start to sauté. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a medium non-stick sauté pan (use a larger pan if needed. you don't want them crowding each other) over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, carefully place each scallop in the pan, cook about 1 or 2 minutes per side. Turn when a nice golden crust develops. Remove from heat and and put on serving plates. Try really hard not to overcook. You want them just opaque in the center. Add a little more oil, let it heat up and throw the garlic and parsley into the pan. Stir it around for about 45 seconds or so...the parsley will get nice and crisp...and remove from heat and distribute equally over the scallops. Serve to your guests who will rave. Get ready to act all humble like it was nothing...which it wasn't, but they don't have to know!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

All the news that fits.....

.....also known as more ways to decrease America's productivity. I just came across the Alltop site and this self described “online magazine rack” is an aggregator of websites that cover almost every conceivable topic....or alltop...get it?? Okay, even they have limits. They thankfully haven't included the Star Trek fan base (although Bollywood is representing), and apparently hasn't made the cut. But if you want the latest from sites as diverse as Al Jazeera, the Bass Guitar Blog, or Miss Field's Cricket Blog. Oh, and for people like me, there's links to dozens of food and drink sites, too. Check it out....your boss will never know!

DOC...or D.O.A.?

There's two reasons I've been hesitating to write this post. One, I've had two restaurants before, so I have sympathy for how hard it is to make it. Two, I've tended to only write up good experiences, not bothering to mention the less than stellar meals I've had around town. But after a recent experience at Portland's relatively new DOC, I think I'm changing my approach for two more reasons. One, I've had two successful restaurants, so I know how easy it is with the proper commitment and care to put out quality food. Two, I would hate to think of anyone, especially in these troubled economic times, spending a not insubstantial amount of money (as we did at DOC) and have a less than satisfactory experience.

I went there recently with four other friends. We are all very good cooks, eat out way more than is probably fiscally or physically responsible, and bring relatively informed palates to the table (one of us is one of Portland's most respected current chefs). I like walking into DOC, where unusually and I think interestingly you walk through the kitchen into their charming little dining area just beyond. We opted for their five course tasting menu (for $50 each), thinking this would be the best way to taste the full range that the kitchen has to offer. We ordered a couple of bottles of wine off of their well chosen list to complement the two we had brought along feeling good about the night ahead. Unfortunately those feelings didn't last long. From the salad starters through to the desserts, there was maybe two bright spots. The salads in general were uninspired, lacking any real distinction. The risotto that came as a primi course totally lacked the creaminess that you would normally expect from a properly made version. Like they put it on the stove and didn't bother to stir it at all. The other primi of gnocchi was overdone and heavy, with a too sweet sauce that was also evident in one of our entrées. Both seemed the result of having too many things going on in one dish. A classic the troubling bacon infused bourbon at Belly Timber...of just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. The final nail in dinner coffin was one of two desserts we had, supposedly a Yogurt Panna Cotta on a Huckleberry Reduction. Picture a plate of huckleberries in their juice, which were fine, but instead of a jiggly, somewhat geometrically shaped cylinder or square of panna cotta one would expect, apparently the pastry chef, and by extension head chef Greg Perrault who stands right next to him, was content to just spoon liquid yogurt over the top of the berries and send that mess out. And not one, but two servings...incredible!! If your panna cotta didn't set up, don't send it out like your customers don't know any better. And if it is the pastry chef who doesn't know any better...or worse, doesn't care....then get a new pastry chef. I mentioned it to our waiter who didn't seem too concerned but did offer to have something else made, but by then all confidence in the kitchen was shattered and we just wanted to leave.

So we did, feeling like we had just wasted $90 each (including tip). I've heard similar stories from other friends (again, people who would know what's good and what isn't). With so many other reasonable, reliable places to choose from (and if you want an incredible tasting menu check out Park Kitchen), it seems DOC needs someone to right the ship that is apparently veering way off course.

How many mouths are you feeding?

Being a whore for good design, especially food related, I was quite taken with the original, and beautiful, items on offer at British designer David-Louis' website. w came across this last night while lost down the rabbit hole that is link chasing on the interweb. Not that I'm rushing out to buy a $52 pasta measuring device when my hands seem to work fine (I might be slightly tempted by his $37 magnetic egg cups, but then again I never use them....which of course isn't always a barrier to my buying something!), but I appreciate his creativity.

Thanks to fantastic-dl for the tip.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Oh my Goddess!

This has been one of those backburner things on my to make list for so long. It was having a great version at CAVA here in Portland that got me thinking about this most old school of salad dressings. According to The Gourmet Cookbook it was first concocted in 1920 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco where the chef made it in honor of actor George Arliss, who was starring in Scottish playwright William Archer's play The Green Goddess during its run in the city (note: not The City, just "the city"). I was inspired to action after reading a story with recipe in the New York Times Magazine a couple of weeks ago.

After reading their version, and looking at a couple of different interpretations from various sources including Gourmet, I cobbled together this, if I may, perfect version. It resembles, especially looking at the NYT's recipe (which they first ran in 1948), a caesar dressing. What I remember from CAVA's version, and most others I've had, is a nice lashing of tarragon. Oddly, the NYT version had none. But the Gourmet Cookbook version left out the garlic, which seemed a natural considering the other ingredients. So I took some bits from here and some pieces from there, and served it with a fabulous dinner for our friends J&K last Saturday (where the entrée was this drop-dead delicious Saltimbocca alla Romana) and it received much praise. I highly suggest you grab some romaine lettuce and get in touch with your inner Goddess!
*** *** *** *** ***
Green Goddess Dressing
an E.D.T. Original (with inspiration from several!)

1 cup mayonnaise
3 flat oil packed anchovy fillets, minced
1 teaspoon oil from anchovy jar or tin
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 scallion chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients except salt and pepper in food processor and purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
##### ##### #####
One year ago today @E.D.T: Bill Clinton dancing with a member of Flock of Seagulls!!

Better renew that gym membership, Hillary!

You may not agree with her and she may be a sycophant to the worst president in history, but you've gotta admit 54-year old Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is looking pretty buff in this photo from The Washington Post. Not only hot, but looking like she could kick Sergey Lavrov's ass!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Big Mac, hold the isotopes, please!

I admit to eating a couple if Big Macs a year. And yes, I read Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, so I do so with a certain amount of guilt and shame. But I may finally be forced to go cold turkey(burger?) and give them up for good, especially after reading this article on Forbes website that I was alerted to on Mark Bittman's bitten blog about what exactly may be in that 100% all beef patty. Ah, McDonald's, we had a good run, but I'm afraid it's over. It's not me, it's you!

Richly satisfying: the Millionaire Cocktail

Feeling rich right now? Like a million bucks? Yeah, me neither. Stock market-shmock about not worrying about things out of my control. What little discretionary income I have left I have decided to dedicate to the further expansion of my culinary and bibulous boundaries. Like all my money isn't spent there right now, but since I'm setting my goals conservatively these days it seems like a prudent (not to mention satisfying) course through these turbulent times. With that in mind, if I can't live like a millionaire, then at least I can drink like one with the Millionaire Cocktail, as presented in Jason Wilson's ever intoxicating spirits column in The Washington Post. A recent essay he wrote was about replacing expensive bottles of hooch with less expensive alternatives. Great advice contained there. The Millionaire is an old school concoction, and his recipe varies slightly from the original. On first sip I wasn't sure about it....kind of strange with its bourbon-absinthe combo and a slight sweetness from the grenadine. But I have to say it really grew on me, and with the second...and third..and further sips I was really digging it. Absolutely worthy of sharing. You might say richly satisfying!
*** *** *** *** ***
Millionaire Cocktail
from Jason WilsonThe Washington Post

Wilson: "This is a variation of a drink that was a standard in early 20th-century cocktail books. The original called for rye whiskey, orange curacao, grenadine and egg white; sometimes a dash or two of pastis or absinthe was included as well. Here, bourbon is used instead of rye, Cointreau instead of orange curacao, and Pernod is a more economical alternative for rinsing the inside of the glass than absinthe would be. Use a pasteurized egg if you are concerned about the risk in eating uncooked eggs. By the way, you might be a millionaire if you can afford to rinse a glass with real absinthe. A new status symbol?"

1 serving

Absinthe or Pernod for rinsing the glass, plus 1/4 ounce absinthe for the cocktail
2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 to 3 dashes grenadine
1 tablespoon egg white (see headnote)

Use just enough absinthe or Pernod to rinse or coat the inside of a cocktail (martini) glass. Pour out any excess.

Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full with ice.

Add the bourbon, Cointreau, lemon juice, grenadine, egg white and the remaining 1/4 ounce of absinthe. Shake vigorously for 60 seconds, then strain into the martini glass.
##### ##### #####
One year ago today @ E.D.T.: The taco truck glory that is Taqueria Uruapan!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Doing Battle Over Dinner: Keller vs. Achatz

I was alerted to this carnival of food excess by Michael Ruhlman's blog. Apparently Thomas Keller, he of French Laundry and Per Se fame teamed up with Chicago chef Grant Achatz of Alinea to put on a 20-course, Mentor-vs.-Protegé culinary throwdown that I was shockingly not invited to. Not that I would have coughed up the $1,500 to be front row center at what must have been the dining event of the year, but geez, I would have at least liked the opportunity to turn them down! In any event, my petty and Fantasy Island-like grievances aside, Ruhlman linked to the NYT's Pete Wells comments about the dinner are a fantastic and riveting blow-by-blow description of high end, ultra-high pressure restaurant service. Very well can feel the tension and urgency. And all the special needs diners! Why do they leave the house??

I've listed the links here to his series of posts. I would click through them top to bottom (also have a link to the menu....gee, that food wouldn't suck, now would it?!).

Part 1
Part 2 (with menu)
Part 3
Part 4

Picture from the New York Times
*** *** *** *** ***
One year ago today @ E.D.T.: A mashed potato primer!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hong Kong: Chungking Mansions

There was so much to do and see...and eat...on our recent trip to China, that it was impossible to post it all as it happened, because that would have cut into my eating time. There are still a couple of things I'll get to, so if you find yourselves in Hong Kong, there are delicious destinations to keep in mind. Today, I have to mention that in the midst of our Chinese food frenzy, we were both feeling the need for a break. Before we left we had read about a building called the Chungking Mansions, which supposedly housed many of the best Indian restaurants (which are ironically called a "mess" in this gritty setting) on the Kowloon side of the harbor in Tsim Sha Tsui. If you find yourself there, forget everything you think of when you think of the western definition of "mansion". In Hong Kong, mansion refers to usually large...really large...residential building, most of which look like they've seen much better days. Chungking Mansions is famous for its mix of businesses on the lower, non-residential floors, which house businesses that cater to the ethnic minorities of Hong Kong like Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, etc. Higher up are residential units and super-cheap youth hostels.

Walking in the front entrance, you are immediately greeted by a seeming chaotic mass of businesses, with crowded corridors branching off packed with electronic store, money exchange places, clothing merchants, food stalls of every ethnic stripe, except seemingly Chinese. It's absolutely fascinating, like you're in some movie set, where everything is available. We wandered around trying to find one place we read about, but not surprisingly after taking the elevator to one of the upper floors had no clue where to look. We ended up on about the second floor, walking past stores packed with cell phones and watches, travel agents and DVD sellers, and so tiny restaurants to choose from, with chairs and tables spilling out into the walkway. We finally, almost out of sheer exhaustion, picked a spot called Sher-E-Punjab, which I believe is Punjabi for really cheap, delicious food. The highlight for me was the best chana masala (right) I've ever had, EVER! So rich and tomatoey and complex. Wow! Absolutely fantastic. I wanted to lick the bowl clean, but luckily they also supplied with is perfect garlic naan (below) so I didn't have to embarrass myself. We also had one of their curries, also incredible, and something else that I know was good, but in my post-vacation haze I have no idea what it was. Bottom line: some of the best Indian food I've ever had. Around $15 US for both of us. And this place is littered with spots that I'm betting are just like it. Absolutely worth a visit because you've never seen anything like it!

Here's a youtube video some euro made that will give you a good feel for what it is like:

*** *** *** *** ***
One year ago today: Warming up with this awesome Chicken Avocado Tortilla Soup!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blueplate Lunch Counter; it's special!

I'd been hearing about Blueplate, Portland's retro soda-fountain style restaurant innumerable times. My friend Ron was raving about it a few weeks ago, telling me I had to go check it out. Now some people tell me that and I'm like "yeah, and didn't we have spaghetti sauce out of a jar the last time I was your house?" Well that's actually an exaggeration. Those who would commit such an act of culinary atrocity have long since been weeded out of my social network. Ron has a certain amount of credibility, so if he says it's so, it more than likely is. They do lunch only Monday-Friday and it's gotten all sorts of love in the local press, plus I had heard their chocolate malts were not to be missed. You throw a good choco-malt in front of me, I'm a fan for life! Turns out my friend DOR was on his way out of town to do some book research, so he was more than happy to accompany me.

You walk into Blue Plate, on the bottom floor of a downtown office building, and it really is like being transported back about 60 years. Tables run along the left wall, and a working soda fountain counter dominates the right side. They have all sorts of exotic...and not so...soda options. But come on, when a supposedly transcendent malt is available, you can keep the fizz. All the food is cooked to order, and the menu comprises a single sheet of paper that lists the two daily specials and their regular items, including much praised sliders that come two to a plate with a side of mashed potatoes. I actually like this simplicity. As much as I appreciate and regularly succumb to multiple temptations, I don't always want to have to make too many decisions. Here they make it easy. It was all done just right, and this spot is immediately on my regular stop-by list. Since you don't know Ron, let me tell you you need to get in....soon!
I had the meat-a-licious chili dog special. Look at I even have to tell you how satisfied I was?!
DOR had the two sliders with bacon. Awesome! Every time he eats bacon it reminds me that I was the one who hand fed him the first piece of ham he ever ate. He apparently has gotten over his Jewish guilt!
Is that fucking picture perfect or what? That is what all other malts want to be when they grow up!!

Marvelous Movement

This has nothing to do with anything other than to share this photo that accompanied an online NYT article reviewing the New Generation Dance Company. I thought this picture was amazing. A vivid contrast of colors, movement, grace, and drama. For someone with two left feet and the moves of a modern day, hip-hop loving Herman Munster, I can only look on in awe....and envy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's not you, it's me.....

Another must read essay from Shuna Fish Lydon's eggbeater blog about Testing Recipes. I love her thoughtful, humorous, insightful prose. A favorite passage (among many):

"But if you can take a recipe into your own hands, and really look at it before you buy the best butter, and spend all day bringing everything to room temp and clearing all surfaces for your next floury masterpiece, then I assure you that recipe will return the favor. Work with the recipe, do not let the recipe order you around."

The Comfort of Home

After almost two weeks in China the one thing I wanted eat more than anything when we got home was a nice, comforting roast chicken. Twelve days of eating things that while wildly satisfying. Except for the degradation and humiliation of the absolute garbage they call in-flight meal service on United Airlines. On our two long legs between SFO and China, the food was virtually inedible. By contrast, on a mere two hour hop from Shanghai to Hong Kong, we had an exceptionally satisfying Hindu meal on Cathay Pacific (pictured at right. It may not look like much in the photo, but it was delicious!). It seems domestic airlines are doing everything possible to make air travel an uncomfortable and trying experience.

In any event, due to various commitments and motivational impediments, I didn't get to my chicken until last night. now I think I make a pretty bad ass roast chicken on the grill. It really is as good as any chicken I've ever had out. But I was in the mood to try something different, so I checked on epicurious for some inspiration and came across this interesting sounding take that uses a mustard vinaigrette marinade. It was super easy to whip together, and I have to say the marinade that you stuffed under the skin and brushed on top really did keep the meat super moist, and imparted a very nice but not overpowering flavor, and the chopped fresh herbs that you sprinkle on top combined with the marinade to really intensify the flavor. Was it as good as my normal bird? Not quite, but for a change of pace and for a welcoming touch of soul satisfying comfort food, it worked pretty darn well!
*** *** *** *** ***
Roast Chicken with Mustard Vinaigrette
from epicurious
yield: Serves 4

For chicken:
1 6- to 7-pound roasting chicken
1 large shallot
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 fresh sage sprigs
1 cup Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe below)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

Preheat oven to 450°F. Pat chicken dry. Season cavity with salt and pepper. Place shallot, 2 rosemary sprigs and 2 sage sprigs in cavity. Slide hand between chicken skin and meat over breast to form pockets. Spread 2 tablespoons vinaigrette under skin over breast meat. Tie legs together to hold shape; tuck wings under body. Place chicken in roasting pan. Brush 2 tablespoons vinaigrette over chicken. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and sage. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast chicken 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Continue roasting until juices run clear when chicken is pierced in thickest part of thigh, basting occasionally with pan juices, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Serve with remaining vinaigrette.
- - - - - - - -
Mustard Vinaigrette
yield: Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

Mix mustard and vinegar in bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Mix in shallots and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover, chill. Bring to room temperature, mix before using.)

One year ago today: An amazingly fabulous pumpkin cake!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cellar report: 2003 Cameron Pinot Noir; 1998 San Vincenti Chianti

Sometimes when I pull a bottle of wine up from the basement I find it amazing I got to here from where I started. I mean there was time, back when I drank more for effect than for pleasure (not that old habits don't occasionally creep back!) that I would buy Taylor's California Cellars Chablis in the 1.5 liter bottle because I thought that since it had "fancy" script writing on the label and it was a "chablis" that I was pretty sophisticated way to get loaded or impress whatever random date I had back then...or both at the same time. I think the last time I partook of the TCC was with a friend when we were going to the drag races here in PDX back in the early '80s (and believe me, the picture of me at a drag race is pretty incongruous since that is not exactly my normal milieu. Although using a words like "milieu" and "drag race" in the same sentence is pretty incongruous, too.) and since we forgot glasses we were drinking it right out of the bottle. Not exactly connoisseurs, but it had the desired effect!

Those memories are still with me, and I think it is part of the reason that while I love good wine and have amore than healthy quantity laying in wait downstairs, I try to keep it all in perspective. And two of bottles I've had recently certainly improved my perspective. As a starting point, let me say that I love Tuscan sangiovese. There is nothing like (in its good versions) its dusty cherry fruit, earthiness, and how it just screams of where it comes from. What they call terroir. I don't carry any domestic sangiovese at the wine shack. What's the point? They will NEVER be as good, have nowhere near the food affinity, and oh-by-the-way cost two to three times as much. This 1998 from San Vincenti was Tuscan loveliness. In my experience regular Chianti Classicos (as opposed to Reservas) from good vintages/producers really hit their stride at about ten years of age. This one was surprisingly young, really taking time to open up, even after decanting. But it had all the requisite cherry, blackberry, and dust that I like with perfect acidity. It would easily last another five years, but the other night it was exactly right with Marcella's spaghetti alla carbonara!

Then to move as far across the wine dial from Chianti as possible you have the profoundly pleasurable pinot noir from Oregon's Cameron Winery. Idiosyncratic winemaker John Paul is the Willamette Valley's version of a reclusive Burgundian squirreled away in his cellar, doing things his way, making political pronouncements as powerful as his wine. In other words, I am a huge fan! John's pinots are elegant, and he eschews the new oak/overripe-fruit school that way too many pinot producers have signed up for, letting his incredibly pure fruit speak volumes. And he never submits his wines fro ratings by the various wine publications. He knows they're good, and everyone else should too. Along with the amazingly Burgundian pinots from Thomas, I think his are one of the two best Oregon pinots out there. They are nothing if not true. His 2003 "Arley's Leap" bottling we had a couple of weeks ago was delicious. Still very young, but showing his characteristic strawberry-cherry tinged fruit, with earth, spice, and violet notes peeking out, then making their presence known as the wine opened. Brilliantly balanced tannins and acidity. Great stuff, and I'm feeling better about my future happiness knowing I have a two more bottles stashed away.

Sorry for the photo quality. I'd blame it on jet lag from our trip, but that was, uh, four days ago it is actually just a crappy picture!

What I'm listening to right now

I admit to being a music obsessive. Thousands and thousands of songs in the iTunes library, rash buying decisions in the iTunes store (the latest being a late night, post-going-out-with-friends-where-much-adult-beverage-was-consumed, rocking out session with w and deciding right then that I HAD TO HAVE the complete remastered Led Zeppelin catalog for $100. The only time I regret the decision is when their 29:18 minute version of Dazed and Confused comes on. I don't know if anyone could smoke enough weed to get through that), and a proclivity for playing music at house shaking levels when cooking for dinner parties. And then there are always songs that come up that make me run to the volume control of my beloved Klipsch Pro-Media speakers (the best deal EVER on home speakers) and crank it up a few notches. Don't You Evah by Spoon is a perfect example. I'm a sucker for a beat, and Spoon's beats are right in my sweet spot......

Friday, November 07, 2008

Sellwood snacking satisfaction!

That which you see above is the latest path to happiness and personal contentment as provided by my local guide here in PDX to all things cart-ish and delicious, Kevin Sandri and his soul enriching silver temple of food worship, a.k.a. the Garden State food cart at SE 13th Av. and SE Lexington in the Sellwood neighborhood. I just tried his brand new way to suck money out of my helpless wallet, which is as always being mugged by my endlessly hungry stomach, a tender, savory, and all to delicious sliced pork shoulder sandwich. Mmmmm...pork shoulder & slow cooking...four simple words that are never a bad idea. He's still experimenting with the makeup of the sando. Today he hit me with one that was simply the tender shoulder sliced and put on a toasted ciabatta with some pan juices drizzled on it and it was fabulous. As always with Kevin and his continuing need to explore the limits of what can come out of the window of his cart, get this one while you can because who knows how long it'll be around.
***** ***** *****
And major props to Sellwood restaurant A Cena for their rave review in today's Oregonian newspaper. I embarrassingly haven't been (after all it is a whole two blocks away from the wine shack...geez), but will correct that oversight immediately. My little slice of SE Portland just keeps getting better and better!
***** ***** *****

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A night he...and we...will never forget

Thanks to Nancy Rommelmann for linking to this, in her words, amazing, amazing slideshow on flickr of a behind the scenes look at Obama and his family and staff as they watched the election returns in their hotel, saw McCain gave his speech, and made their way to the stage where Obama gave the speech that had me, and I'm guessing most of us, choked up. This has to be an unprecedented behind the scenes look at a candidate making history. The picture of Barack and Michelle in the third to last photo....where you can almost imagine both of them thinking "It's over. We did it."....says it all, don't you think?

Things I didn't try in Shanghai....

.....also known as the Gastroenterologist's special!
And if that's the NEW offering, what the hell was on the old menu??!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's all about local knowledge

Sometimes the only way to get into a subject is to get some local knowledge. w and I had just that experience in Hong Kong when we hooked up with her cousin Michelle, her childhood best friend who she hadn't seen for 28 years!! We met she and her brother late one afternoon and were sitting at a table in a mall café (Did I mention there are malls everywhere in HK? Not just here and there, miles apart, but literally EVERYWHERE! You can't walk two or three blocks without finding a mall. Probably because that's where the A/C is and it's either find a mall or perish of heat and sweat in the streets) and we were about to order and were talking about food, of course. w mentioned that I had been wanting to find a dai pai dong, simple street cafés in HK that are harder and harder to find. This turn of conversation led to w telling Michelle how I had been eating all the street food I could get my greedy hands around, and her ears perked up and she said (and this endeared her to me forever) "How about if we leave here and go out to Kowloon to eat?" Turns out that Michelle is into food about as much as I am...she takes pics of her food too...which speaks very well of her I might add, and we bailed on the mall and hit the MTR across the harbor to Kowloon, where we embarked on one of the greatest food odyssey's I've ever been on.

I can't tell you the streets or even where we were in Kowloon, (late addendum: w has informed me we were in the Sham Shui Po neighborhood. There's an MTR stop with the same name) but I have a feeling there are tons of places like these. We started at a jammed little spot where they directed the four of us to a six top that already had four people at it. Whatever, we grabbed the little plastic stools, everyone scooted over a little more, sat down, and Michelle got it going with our first incredible treats of an evening filled with them....

I know there are somethings you have to get your head around. This is one of them and it was delicious. That's cooked pig skin resting against pieces of turnip. The skin was tender, slightly porky-fatty, but really good.

One of the best small plates ever. Rice noodle rounds that you squirt some sweet & sour sauce and some chili sauce on, then sprinkle with sesame seeds, then stick long toothpicks into and eat with abandon!

I had been telling w all along that I had heard about this classic HK street treat that was called Stinky Tofu, which are crisp fried cubes of fermented tofu and the word was it was one of those love it or hate it deals. Which of course means I had to find out for myself, so Michelle led us up the street toward a corner stand. About 50 feet away and I was getting this distinct sewer-ish odor. I started to look around to see if there was something on the street I shouldn't step in when I realized that was the alluring smell of stinky tofu. Hmm, okay. Well, I didn't travel 7000 miles to back out now, besides, when in Hong Kong......

Stinky Tofu, with a slightly sweet/spicy sauce around them. I thought it was really good, although w didn't share my enthusiasm. Crunchy outside, soft and warm inside, and the sauce was amazingly perfect with them. And for those who have delicate olfactory tolerances, if you hold your breath while you eat it, it really isn't all that bad.

Then it was up the street a couple more blocks, where I am proud to say I impressed Michelle when I spied something sizzling away in vendors wok that was calling to me. I had zero idea what this vaguely sausage looking thing was (actually, I thought it was a sausage thing). All I knew was I JUST HAD TO HAVE IT! Turns out "it" was a stuffed crispy skinned intestine that they slice crosswise and stick a skewer through. I have no idea what it was stuffed with. Probably the various leftover parts of whatever animal's intestine it came from that the cat wouldn't eat. Anyway, I was so busy eating it that I forgot to document it, but Michelle was like "You really like that? I can't eat those anymore. Too much cholesterol" Well, I'd already had my ticket punched on the C-Train so many times I wasn't worried. The joys of ultra-low cholesterol, thank god!

Our next stop (left) was what the whole point of Michelle's Magical Mystery Meat Tour. It seems there's this storefront restaurant where the guy is famous for his crispy skinned pork (goddamn I love this place!). He's got copies of newspaper articles about his place all over the front window, including one of him with that "Yan can cook" guy. Another place where you jam your way into and wait for the goodness to appear. With food this good I don't even mind their slightly cranky service. They've got tables to turn, dammit! They have a printed menu (no English), but along the wall it looks like this (you can see our fearless leader Michelle at far right perusing our options) where the specials are written down. Normally a gwai lo like myself wouldn't stand a chance in a place like this, but thanks to Michelle, Paul, w and their blessed fluency, we ate some truly awesome food....

Our three course meal. Beautifully fresh whole boiled shrimp, perfectly cooked greens, and oh my fucking god, the crispy skinned pork! Freakish...Crazy...Insanely fabulous!!! This is one of the best things I have ever out into my mouth.

Another picture of the pork (just because I wanted to see it again...sigh) with its dipping sauces.

This was incredible food all afternoon/evening. And so damn cheap. I'm guessing that everything we ate and drank came to about $15 a person...maybe. Just incredible, and another reason that I am really sorry to have to leave. It kills me to know I will never be able to eat like this back home in Portland. Hence the need to embarrass myself here with my shameless gluttony!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

On a clear day.....

Oh, wait, there are no clear days. The view from Victoria Peak at left is what the HK tourist board would like you to believe. The view below is more than likely what you'll get (and this was taken on a relatively clear day). It is still worth the trip up on the tram, if only because it climbs the hill at a slightly nerve-wracking 45* angle, and the view of the skyscrapers below is pretty stunning.

Don't do that, that, that, that, and that. But do pick up the garbage, please!

A sign at the entrance to Victoria Park in downtown Hong Kong where apparently the Leisure and Cultural Services Department has thought of everything. And yes, the symbol in the upper right means what you think it does!

The best fucking street food ever!!

Hopefully we have established that if I am littering the blogosphere with f-bombs, that which is being bombed is really important....and most likely freakishly good to eat. Such is the case of the insanely and immediately addictive roast chili (or as they prefer "chilli") pork slices from the Bee Cheeng Hiang stand outside the Causeway Bay MTR stop in Hong Kong. Tender with a sweet-spicy glaze, I could eat pounds of them. We had them on our first day and were seriously smitten. We've had them twice since and I am more than a little worried about what my state of mind will be when I am back home in Oregon and they are 7000 miles away. But such are worries for another day, because tomorrow I will be back in line, ready to sell my soul again to the devil that is the Bee Cheeng Hiang chilli pork.

A few more favorite street eats from our HK adventure.....
Skewered squid that is boiled and served hot and tastes remarkably, and not to go all cliché, like chicken. FYI- almosrt anything on a skewer and eaten on the HK streets will make you happy!
A container of noodles where you choose your toppings!
Fish ball siu maai...see also shrimp or pork or any combo thereof siu maai
Curried fish balls from my man here in Yung Shue Wan on Lamma Island
The famous Kin Hing Tofu Dessert stand just outside of Yung Shue Won on Lamma Island, which w declared to be among the best ever!

Also tried but not photographed were the sweet buns from almost any bakery; an amazing crsipy skinned stuffed intestine skewer; and innumerable other things I know I am missing, dammit!!