Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Watermelons were being harvested 5,000 years ago in Egypt and can be seen in hieroglyphics. They were placed in burial tombs to nourish the dead in the afterlife.
In the 10th century, this fruit spread to China and all of Asia. The Moors were taking the watermelon, along with tiles and algebra, through Europe in the 13th century. It was in Central America by 1516. The American colonies were growing watermelons from seeds in the early 1600's.
The watermelon was always an important fruit because it traveled well in its own oblong or round ''container,'' and it would keep for weeks.
They were so good tonight that I decided after eating them that trying to eat a dessert would be superfluous.
Here's the info on La Cote Brasserie. You can book it at OpenTable.com.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Two American towns hotly debate the right to claim the distinction of being the birthplace of the sundae: Ithaca, New York, and Two Rivers, Wisconsin.It's ironic that the cherry syrup was used in New York, considering that Wisconsin is a big cherry-growing state.
Each has marvelously well-documented tales involving someone sitting at a counter and ordering a dish of ice cream, over which someone else spontaneously decided to pour syrup (chocolate in Wisconsin, cherry in New York).
Whether or not the dae ending was in response to "blue laws" against enjoying yourself on the Sabbath is a whole other story. All we know for sure is that there is nothing quite like a dish of cold ice cream gobbled up with syrupy goodness.
Monday, July 28, 2008
I just returned from a long weekend in New Hampshire, and I have a few food adventures to share. Portsmouth is a lovely city, and my food memories from there have been pretty positive up to now. Unfortunately, the Dolphin Striker was only a shadow of the restaurant I had experienced two years earlier.
The Dolphin Striker advertises itself as "refined New England cuisine," but it is in need of much more refining. My friend Vince felt the pappardelle with lobster — one of Saturday night's menu specials — was bland. My main course, the "tasting of lamb," was very uneven. The ragout of shoulder was excellent, but the roast leg was uninspired.
I started with the foie gras, which was simply okay — below the expectations for a $15 starter. The berry and honey confiture that accompanied it fell flat.
I also question whether the Dolphin Striker is storing its red wines properly. Both varieties I tasted were unacceptably warm.
We capped the evening by going to an excellent coffee house that's near the city's historic center. The coffee house is called Breaking New Grounds, and it always seems to do much more business than the Starbuck's that is half a block away. One of the reviews of BNG at CitySearch complains about rude staff, but I've been there several times, and I've never found staff to be difficult.
For artisanal beer lovers, a "must" stop is the Portsmouth Brewery, located on Market St. The brewery has a nice selection of beers, from stout to lager.
I spent most of Friday in Hanover (home of Dartmouth), and here is my quick summary of food experiences there. I was pleased with the coffee and baked goods at the Dirty Cowboy Cafe, but Murphy's Pub (a couple of doors down) was very disappointing — a great space with lots of character, but the food was distinctly blah. If you're stopping at Murphy's for a beer, give it a try. Otherwise, caveat emptor. Both establishments are located right near the Green.
To be honest, the food highlight of the whole weekend was when Vince prepared homemade lobster rolls for lunch. God were they good!
It isn't as much work as I thought it would be. Having watched him prepare them made me feel confident enough to give it a try sometime.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
A poll in the latest issue of Wine Spectator (Aug. 31) issues “a wake-up call to restauranteurs and sommeliers.” According to the WS article:
Our (survey) respondents are serious about wine, but they are disappointed by the wine service they receive in restaurants.
In their experience, sommeliers are too often under-educated and over-opinionated, pushing wines because of personal preference or higher markups. Often wine-savvy themselves, these customers simply don’t trust their server’s advice.
. . . An overwhelming 93 percent (of survey respondents) declared that the quality of a wine list was very (47 percent) or somewhat (46 percent) important when choosing a restaurant.
. . . While 52 percent prefer to see 100 or fewer selections on a list, just 3 percent want more than 500 selections. Diversity rather than size is key for many . . .
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Just as no figure skater ever won a gold medal solely for executing perfect figure eights, no one will become a great chef simply on the elegance of his brunoise. Show too much focus on juliennes and chiffonades, and you can be dismissed as a technician without soul. But without sharp knife skills, food cooks unevenly, expensive meat and fish turn raggedy, and lots of time and ingredients are wasted.
. . . there is a certain pride of blade — more often than not, a masculine pride — that goes with elegant handling. The kitchen knife is the domestic stand-in for the sword, and men who might otherwise show little interest in cookery can be quick to volunteer when it comes to cutting up whatever beast is for dinner.
In his 1808 Host's Manual, the great French gourmand Grimod de la Reynière shamed gentlemen who did not know how to cut up a roast: "The host who does not
know how to carve, nor to serve is like someone who has a fine library and cannot read. The one is almost as shameful as the other."
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
1. The first key is using the right bread. Like this one, most recipes for French Toast call for standard white sandwich bread. But this kind of bread doesn't soak up the egg-and-milk batter as well as other breads. Standard white bread is also so flimsy that it doesn't hold up as well as other breads. It is prone to get soggy unless you eat it immediately.
I think the best bread to use is brioche. That's what they use at the Boulevard Woodgrill in Arlington, Va., and it's enough to encourage me to drive across the Potomac to have brunch there.
Brioche produces a French Toast that is slightly crispy on the outside, but moist yet firm on the inside.
2. The second key to excellent French Toast is serving it with real maple syrup, not the gooey cane-sugar syrup that many restaurants opt for. Even if the restaurant doesn't use 100% maple syrup, it makes a big difference to use a syrup that is blended with maple syrup.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I love their creamy yellow flesh, but their relatively high price reflects the fact that up to one-third of the crop is eaten by birds each year.
This 2001 article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer gives a nice overview of Rainier cherries, and I love this quote from an orchard owner: "Growing these cherries is like playing poker with God."
But I don't agree with this newspaper article's description of Rainiers as "the sweetest" of cherries. I'd say Rainier cherries have just a hint of tartness. I have never seen a cherry pie recipe that calls for Rainiers, and I'm guessing that's because other varieties simply bake better.
Only about 6% of all the cherries grown in Washington State are Rainier cherries.
Anyway, as long as I get my mid-summer fix of Rainier cherries, I'm more than willing to share some with birds.
Friday, July 18, 2008
But, in this article a few days ago, the N.Y. Times' Frank Bruni reports that the recommendations he got via the iPhone seemed incomplete.
In the NYT article, Bruni writes:
If you were searching for a restaurant that would please almost anyone, Dressler, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, might well be it. Good-looking? Definitely. Menu? Contemporary American, with a mix of fish, meat and meatless options. Its prices aren’t stratospheric, its vibe is relaxed and its reviews have been solid. It even picked up a Michelin star last year.
So why didn’t the new iPhone want me to go there? I was standing smack in front of Dressler, using the phone’s Urbanspoon restaurant-search application, which was supposed to pinpoint my location and recommend the best options nearby.
I shook the iPhone, which is how you activate a search. It directed me to a wine bar several blocks away.
I shook again. It directed me to an Italian restaurant all the way over the Williamsburg Bridge, in the East Village.
With another shake, a Williamsburg coffeehouse came up, and with yet another shake it was back to the East Village. Even when I specified “Williamsburg” as my preferred neighborhood and “American” as my preferred cuisine, Dressler didn’t come up right away.
It was a laggard, an afterthought, and thus revealed the foibles and limitations of the Internet dining guides to which more and more of us are turning for help.
An internal affairs report says a Daytona Beach police officer demanded free coffee and tea from a Starbucks and threatened employees with slower emergency response times if they refused.
Lt. Major Garvin, a 15-year veteran, was fired July 8. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Chief Mike Chitwood says Garvin recently failed a polygraph test that he insisted on taking.
The coffeehouse's employees claim that since June 2007, Garvin had visited the store as many as six times a night while on duty. Besides demanding free drinks, workers complained that Garvin also cut in front of paying customers.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
In Massachusetts, a "milk shake" does NOT have any ice cream in it. It is just syrup and milk blended together. Literally milk shaken. So a chocolate milk shake in Massachusetts is basically chocolate milk. It is a "frappe" that has the ice cream, milk and syrup all belnded together and is nice and thick. So what the rest of the country refers to as a milk shake, we in Massachusetts call a frappe. Incidentally, in Rhode Island it is called a "cabinet."
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Annual per capita consumption of fish in the U.S. . . . 16.5 lbs.
Annual per capita consumption of fish in Japan . . . . . . 154 lbs.
. . . some defunct diners are getting a new lease on life from an unlikely source: young people in jail.
Behind the razor wire at Rhode Island’s juvenile detention center, teenage offenders are restoring four vintage diners that have been brought there by preservationists for the New Hope Diner Project.
This fall, the first restored diner, Hickey’s, should open in Rhode Island, with some of the teenagers working the griddles and the cash register, and even preparing to manage the restaurant someday.
. . . “Building birdhouses like a traditional high school program is not what these kids need,” [community liaison John] Scott said. “We’re actually preparing them for all kinds of skills: there’s ceramic tile in these diners, sheet metal work, plumbing, electrical. You always meet people who want these kids to be locked away, and I respect their ill-informed opinion. But I look at the training school as kind of like Home Depot of the correctional system. We give them the tools, and when they’re ready to use it, they’ll use it.”
Other offenders here take culinary arts classes, receiving food-handling certificates.
Bill Tribelli, the culinary arts instructor, will help devise the diner menus, featuring some old standbys like corned beef and cabbage and “hot wieners,” but also recipes from his cookbook, “Jailhouse Cooking.” Those dishes include Jailhouse Chicken, Jailhouse-Style Macaroni and Cheese (made with WisPride or Velveeta), or Strawberry Mousse (Cool Whip and instant strawberry pudding).
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Clearly, the blogger at MyVeggieWorld doesn't share my reaction.
Monday, July 14, 2008
There is better Italian food to found in Chicago, but, dollar for dollar, I believe Quartino may be the best value. Quartino has a tapas-style menu -- small dishes of charcuterie, cheese, cured fish, risotto, etc. They also offer a wide variety of good wines by the glass. They also make pizzas, which looked quite good.
It offers some outdoor seating, and it's close by the Michigan Avenue shopping district.
“Summer in Moscow is only two months,” [local resident] Nargis Gulyamova said. “We don’t often get a chance to be outside.”
Finding a glimpse of human-scale beauty — a patch of green in a courtyard, a 19th-century gargoyle — can be a challenge in this city of monumental architecture and busy construction sites, especially during the winter when no one wants to linger on the street.
. . . With the temperature hovering in the low 60s on Friday and heavy rainstorms rolling across the city, the outdoor cafes that have become a Moscow summer tradition, built with awnings and roofs for just such contingencies, did brisk business.
When it comes to enjoying the outdoors, Russians have always been adept at taking what they can get: sunbathing standing up beside frozen rivers or growing a year’s worth of vegetables at their country houses during the short, bright summers.
But outdoor cafes have taken on a special importance in Moscow, where over the last decade people have slowly colonized street spaces that once offered little in the way of coziness.
Cafes have filled in the architectural nooks and crannies away from the city’s wide avenues — behind apartment houses, in park buildings. And, like New Yorkers willing to squeeze into tiny cafe tables next to dry cleaners or even garbage cans, some Moscow diners happily sit outdoors next to 10-lane boulevards.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Perhaps. I was surfing online when I stumbled on this recent article from the Times of London in which the woman who is dubbed the "queen of French bread" contends that the baguette is distinctly un-French.
Friday, July 11, 2008
I don’t like baked key lime pies. Some people say that they taste the same (or very similar), but I still object. The pies are baked because of a fear of salmonella or other potentially egg-borne pathogens.
The fact of the matter is that the acid in the fresh lime juice that is used to make the pie actually “cooks” the eggs, thus destroying anything harmful that might have
been in them.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
"Chinese food is among a handful of first-rate international cuisines. Unfortunately, as served in so many restaurants, this diverse, complex and inventive cuisine is rarely at its best, rarely even at second best. So clonelike have the (New York City) area's Chinese restaurants become, we rarely anticipate a new one. It is a sad admission . . ."That is what the N.Y. Times' Patricia Brooks wrote about Chinese cuisine 14 years ago, and I think it's as true today as it was then. Moreover, it's probably true for Chinese restaurants in Boston, Washington, Chicago and a host of other cities.
The juxtaposition of ingredients — from bamboo shoots to chicken to lemon grass to pork — is an interesting start, but so many Chinese dishes seem to be created in a mass-production mode. Or at least they taste that way.
Spending the holiday weekend in San Fran, a city with a rich array of Chinese restaurants, I had high hopes that we would encounter a pleasant surprise. Friends recommended that we eat dim sum at Yank Sing, a Cantonese restaurant in San Fran's financial district.
Everything was decent, and most items were very good. But, except for the shrimp dumplings, nothing was stupendous.
With a final bill of $77.90 for two (no alcoholic beverages were ordered), more dishes should have been stupendous.
Don't get me wrong. You will eat well at Yank Sing, but not necessarily well enough to console your wallet.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
That's too bad because the city's Richmond district is an intriguing neighborhood with a host of Chinese restaurants, food and gift shops, as well as a smattering of bookstores and other shops.
Joe's Ice Cream is one of those step-back-in-time ice cream parlours that makes its flavors right on the premises so stopping here for an ice cream, sundae or shake is a very smart detour. The shop is located right at the corner of Geary Blvd. and 18th Avenue.
I have not tried Family Fortune Restaurant, but a few locals insisted that it was the best Chinese eatery in the area. It's located on Geary Blvd., the main east-west drag, between 14th and 15th Avenues.
Green Apple Books is a great place to waste an hour or two browsing through fiction and non-fictions.
Parallel to Geary Blvd., but just a block north is Clement Street, which this guide describes as the area's main dining-shopping drag where "you'll find great Burmese, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean restaurants, Chinese bakeries that sell siu mai (steamed meat dumplings), BBQ pork buns and other dim sum for under a dollar ..." If you like to cook Chinese at home, Geary and Clement streets are good places to look for small Chinese groceries that are likely to have some of the harder-to-find ingredients that are part of Chinese cooking.
In reality, the inner Richmond district is the real Chinatown of San Francisco.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 3/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon of milk
- 2 extra-large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- Unsalted butter
- 2 ripe bananas, diced, plus extra for serving
- Pure maple syrup
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, mixing only until combined.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until it bubbles. Ladle the pancake batter into the pan.
Distribute a rounded tablespoon of bananas on each pancake.
Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until bubbles appear on top and the underside is nicely browned.
Flip the pancakes and then cook for another minute, until browned. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used.
Serve with sliced bananas, butter, and maple syrup.
And, believe it or not, one of the main trouble spots happens to be food.
According to the N.Y. Times:
A 28-page contract requested by Denver organizers (requires) that caterers provide food in “at least three of the following five colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white.” Garnishes could not be counted toward the colors. No fried foods would be allowed. Organic and locally grown foods were mandated, and each plate had to be 50 percent fruits and vegetables.
. . . caterers, expected to feed the 40,000 people coming to town, are throwing up their hands over the food requirements.
“Everything that the Democrats did got off to a late start,” said Peggy Beck, a co-owner of Three Tomatoes Catering. “It was such an ordeal. We’ve jumped through hoops and hoops to bid on their stuff, and we had to have certain color food so the plates would be colorful . . . This was some of the silliest stuff ever,” she added.
Nick Agro, head of Whirled Peas Catering, questioned whether the requirement for local organic food could meet cost constraints.
“These were fantastic ideas, but I question who is willing to pay for these extra costs,” Mr. Agro said.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
In preparation for this summer's Olympic Games, the Chinese government has recommended new English translations for more than 2,000 traditional ChineseSo where did these bizarre names come from? Palmer explores that question in the rest of his post.
dishes to appeal to Western tourists.
The menu items in question include "bean curd made by a pockmarked woman," "ants climbing a tree," and "chicken without sexual life."
I like old people candy. There, I’ve said it. Don’t give me any sour flavored, blue colored, gummy candy treats. Instead give me black licorice or better yet some NECCO wafers.
And what, you may be pondering, is a "NECCO wafer"? If you're curious, read the rest of the post.
From the description, I kind of doubt that NECCO wafers would appeal to me, but black licorice is always nice.