Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Life in Paris: Marché Beauvau & Marché d'Aligré

I have a bunch of Provence stuff to post, but being out of touch with "le wifi" has screwed everything up. Wifi is back at our Paris apartment, so I had to document our visit to the fabulous, must see the indoor Marché Beauvau and its outdoor next-door-neighbor Marché d'Aligré. And pardon the amateurish camera work (shot with my fuji digital camera) and the hackwork commentary. But I AM an amateur AND a hack!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Seasonal on whole new level: Soba Noodles with shrimp & cilantro

Seasonal cooking is obviously the big buzzword among a lot of the food obsessed these days. It doesn't quite have the annoyance factor of the term "locavore" quite yet, but it's coming. Not that it's a bad thing, but why does everyone have to trumpet it like it gives them so much faux-cred. Just cook locally and quit talking about it for christ's sake! San Diego chef and cookbook author Su-Mei Yu is also big on seasonal cooking, but on a whole new holistic level. Not exactly using what's in season, but cooking according to what the body needs to cope with the seasonal weather changes. A pretty fascinating concept, I have to say. Also pretty damned delicious if her soba noodles & shrimp dish are any indication. This was a cover recipe on a recent issue of Food & Wine Magazine. One of those things as soon as I saw the pic I was so in. Thai noodles and grilled shrimp? Oh yeah! So why is this so seasonally appropriate right now? According to Su-Mei when explaining why you don't want to skimp on the lime wedges "The sour juice protects the respiratory system in the early spring and cilantro helps when you're congested." Works for me. This is another one of those dishes that I'd be more than happy to be served in a good Asian restaurant. The best part for all of us at home is it's fast and simple and delivers so much for the minimal effort. Now I don't know if this was just w and my appetites the night we had it, but the recipe said it's enough for 6. Um, we finished every...last...scrap between us. Maybe she meant 6 small first course portions. Or 6 small Asians. Or maybe we're just overfed Americans. Whatever, just be forewarned you won't be able to stop eating this fabulous dish!
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Soba Noodles with grilled shrimp & cilantro
from Food and Wine Magazine/ Su-Mei Yu

6 ounces soba noodles
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon agave syrup
2 large shallots, thinly sliced and separated into rings
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined (deveining not necessary, fyi- bb) Salt
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Lime wedges, for serving

1-Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring, until tender, 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the oil with the soy sauce, tamari and agave syrup. Add the noodles and toss.
2-In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown and crisp, 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to paper towels. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook over low heat until golden and crisp, 2 minutes. Transfer the garlic to the paper towels.
3-Light a grill or preheat a grill pan (but really, light the grill. the extra flavor is so very worth it!- bb). In a bowl, combine the lime zest and juice with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Stir in the shrimp and season with salt. Grill the shrimp over high heat, turning once, until glazed and just white throughout, 3 minutes.
4-Arrange the noodles on a large platter. Sprinkle with the scallions, cilantro, crushed red pepper and the fried shallots and garlic. Arrange the shrimp on top and serve with lime wedges alongside.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Rum Manhattan Cocktail: drinking in the face of adversity!

Perhaps you heard the rumblings about the shortage of Angostura Bitters that reverberated through the cocktail world recently. To those who are partial to their perfect Manhattan Cocktail and fearing they might have to go without, this would be roughly the equivalent to learning to wean oneself off of mother's milk. The crux of the issue is that real angostura is the smallest component by far in a Manhattan, but the most important. Without its bitter tang on the finish you have a flat, flabby whisky/sweet vermouth concoction that really isn't worth the glass it's in. Among those who were trembling at the thought of being without a dash or two in their favorite libation was my friend K. K adores Manhattans. K's pursuit of the perfect Manhattan is roughly akin to the fervor with which zombies pursue raw flesh: not just something you like, but something you need to survive. That's why upon hearing about the impending, disastrous, possibly life-altering shortage, and with his own supply dipping precariously low, he set about scouring Portland for a resupply. He finally found some, all the way across town, at this obscure international grocery where he purchased both of their largest sized bottles, which was all they had on and. Seems it was almost all anyone in the city had on hand. Well being restored to his drinking world, K generously shares his bounty with others, myself included. Just don't ask for your Manhattan "extra bitter"!

I tell this story because I found out about the shortage after reading this story by Washington Post booze columnist Jason Wilson. Liking a Manhattan as much as the next right minded barfly, perhaps without K's ardency and certainly not his bloodhound like ability to sniff out the key ingredient, I of course looked for alternatives. Word to the wise: in a perfect Manhattan there is no substitute for Angostura brand bitters. The drastically different Fee Bros. doesn't even come close. So with that in mind and a bar cabinet devoid of the real thing, I took Wilson's advice and made his substitute version offered up in his column, the Rum Manhattan. Now calling anything a "Manhattan" without using whiskey & sweet vermouth is, to some (again your author included) somewhat blasphemous. I get my back up whenever I see a "Chocolate Martini", or even more wretched the "Appletini". Just call them what they are, a "gin cocktail". I felt the same way about the Rum Manhattan, but I was thirsty and really needed a drink. Besides, it's not like I'm the one who came up with the name. What I did end up with was a rather delicious, rich, full-flavored yet balanced drink that I would gladly make again. The addition of the maraschino liqueur, which is quickly becoming my favorite cocktail component, and the dash of orange bitters (thank you for that Fee Bros.) added the perfect counterpoint to the rum and Carpano Antica vermouth. Very worthy of the glass it was poured into, this was an intriguing, complex addition to my personal cocktail repertoire. Just don't call it a Manhattan in certain company!
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Rum Manhattan
from Jason Wilson/Washington Post

2 oz. good quality dark rum
1 oz. sweet vermouth, preferably Carpano Antica
1/2 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
Dash orange bitters
Orange peel for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and add first four ingredients. Shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds and strain into martini glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

PDX Quick Bites: eating Portland!

I haven't done a round-up of my latest eating exercises in a long time. Not because the baby is keeping us home, because we've found plenty of opportunity get out while the fat boy sleeps (not counting the hour I spent driving around with him after a meltdown at Red Onion while w stayed and ate with friends. She was kind enough to get me some noodles to go). So with that, here's some quick hits of things I've been loving...and one thing I don't....
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You could get two of the most satisfying lunches and dinners by going through two doors ten feet apart on SE 22nd and Division....
TASTE UNIQUE- I've raved before about the lunches I've had from owner Stefania Toscano's temple of Italian authenticity called Taste Unique. Her hole-in-the-wall house of all things Italian and homemade is really a remarkable place. Saying that, if I didn't love it before then the lunch w and I had there the other day cemented it's place in my food loving soul. The reason: the richest, most heart-stoppingly decadent plate of pasta I have ever had. Stefania's Spaghetti alla Carbonara should come with a coupon for an angioplasty. The plate appeared before me, all yellowy and sending billows of porkily aromatic steam skyward. I mentioned to w that they must have used a ton of egg yolk in the pasta to make it so yellow. Then one bite and I knew; it wasn't the pasta, it's the sauce. Bite after bite of decadence. I make carbonara all the time at home from a recipe from Marcella. It's not this. I don't even know if I could take this on a regular basis. I asked Stefania why hers tasted so wrong but so right. I said when I make it I use two eggs and yet it isn't anything close to what she made. She looks at me and simply says "Oh, you have to use no whites, only yolks." Lesson learned. If you see this on her lunch menu (served Tue-Sat only, 12-2), you have got to sample this bit of cholesterol-laden heaven. Amazing!
Also I have been hearing raves about Stefania's semi-regular, regional Italian dinners. One seating for 10 people, family style. Just $25. The comment I heard back from a couple who went to her Roman dinner was it was outstanding, but they had one complaint: there was too much food. Too much of Stefania's food? Um, count me in! Check her website for details.
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BAR AVIGNON- Just about 10 feet east from Taste Unique's front door we had another stellar meal at Bar Avignon that Colman thankfully slept through (although we've become the couple there for the 5:30 early dining scene). The highlight among many (the beet salad with fig salsa; the perfectly cooked bavette steak; the deliciously relaxing and spiritually invigorating Aviation cocktail Nancy made me) was one of those rare...for me..perfect pairings of food and wine. We ordered their sensational app of Persian Spiced Albacore Crudo with chickpeas and a meyer lemon olivada. Randy suggested trying a glass 2008 François Chidaine "Touraine" Sauvignon Blanc. Wow! Absolutely spot-fucking-on, Randy. I would happily stop by BA just to have these two together. The snap of the sauv blanc perfectly set off the creamy, fresh richness of the Albacore. If it is still on the menu, this a must try combo!
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GRUNER- I went on a happy hour exploration at the newish Grüner with a couple if buddies a few weeks ago. Grüner is chef Chris Israel's homage to the food style of the Alpine areas of Europe paired with the fresh, seasonal food of the Pacific northwest. We sampled a few dinner's worth of Happy Hour treats (followed, perhaps unwisely, by a full three course meal at Tabla), including a very credible burger, some beet-pickled hard boiled eggs...a great take on that dusty dive bar staple...beet ricotta dumplings, and a nice charcuterie plate among others. But the addictive must have HH plate: fried "smashed potatoes" with herb aioli. Perfect bar food...salty, hot, slathered with garlicky mayo. Loved them. There was almost a fight over the last couple of bites. Plus, if you ever wanted to explore the various white wines of this part of Europe, Grüner is your spot. Sommelier Dana Pickell has a list that includes, among other treats, 11 different rieslings on the night we were there. Whether this is a good or bad idea I'll leave to you, but from someone who feels that great European riesling continues to be the most under-appreciated food wine in the world I can only be impressed.
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EVOE- I've been seeing a new-to-me oyster about town. I first spied them at EVOE on SE Hawthorne, where chef Kevin Gibson's simple yet flavor bursting food continues to astound. The oysters we sampled there were Kusshi oysters from the east coast of Vancouver Island. I've always been a huge Kumamoto fan, but these Kusshi's have immediately leap-frogged to the top of my oyster infatuation list. Perfectly shaped, small, meaty, briny, and rich, if you see them you have to try them, preferably with a crisp glass of Muscadet or a crisp and zingy northern Italian white. We also loved Kevin's beautifully composed beet salad that may or may not still be on his blackboard menu. It doesn't really matter though, because at EVOE there are virtually zero bad choices!
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ACME COFFEE- out in our Hawthorne neighborhood we have recently taken to stopping by ACME Coffee House at 1431 SE 40th Ave (truly a coffee "house"., located in an old Portland home-turned-business) while out on our Colman walks. Warm, funky, very Portland where owner Ken will give you a warm welcome them whip out a perfectly made double shot of espresso made from the PDX's own Ristretto Roasters coffee. He pulls a great shot, just enough for a few sips instead of the usual cup of diluted swill that passes for far too many coffee joint's espresso. Check him out of you happen to be in need of caffeination in SE. As you can see from the pic Colman definitely needed a wake up call, but you know what they say about sleeping babies....
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GINO'S- In the VINO 'hood of Sellwood, Gino's continues to be a beacon of neighborhood conviviality and warm welcomes. w and I made a long overdue pilgrimage to Mark and Debbie Accuardi's corner spot and as always left very satisfied. Gino's isn't food that is looking to wow you or impress with some faux cutting edge attitude. It's just good, honest Italian inspired home cooking, allied with the best priced wine list in town (how about a 2000 Moccagatta "Bric Balin" single vineyard Barbaresco that was drinking beautifully for just $66!), now overseen by their most capable sommelier Tia Hubbard. After a starter of their legendary caesar salad, my tender filet came, as ever, perfectly cooked with two veg sides and a huge pile of creamy mashers. w was happily slurping down her briny bowl of Cioppino (make sure you order extra bread for'll need it).
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APIZZA SCHOLLS- Ah, Apizza Scholls. How you madden and delight at the same time. How I love your perhaps best in America pies with their simple yet delicious toppings and blistered, blackened crusts. Your pungent caesar salad which is also one of the two or three best in PDX, preferably topped with anchovies. The fact that you serendipitously chose to open on Hawthorne a mere 3.5 blocks from my house (which thankfully negates the need to endure their unendurable waits as we go sign up, go home for a cocktail, then wander back down). And then...and then...there are nights like I experienced a couple of weeks ago. A night where after making plans to meet friends for a night of Apizza indulgence I volunteered to stop by and add our names to the list on my way home from VINO. I dutifully show up at 6:25, the wait was was already quite long but who cares, and look at the signup sheet where I am confronted by "NO MORE NAMES BEING TAKEN TONIGHT!" WTF?? No more names, at 6:-fucking-25 in the evening?? Now, I've seen Apizza pull this at 8 or 8:30, where it seems a tiny bit more logical, even though posted hours are open 'til 9:30. But 6:25? How could they possibly not have enough dough to the point where they would stop taking names before 6:30?? I know they do their own thing and think very highly of what owner Brian Spangler has accomplished, but again I have to say...6:25?? Was this a test of my love? Perhaps, because like a manipulative lover they know I will keep coming back. Yet I feel for those who drove across town thinking they had plenty of time only to be slapped upside their unsatisfied appetites. If not for me, Apizza, then for them: there really is no excuse!