Sunday, July 30, 2006

Summer on a Plate

Our cupboard was bare after the trip, so yesterday I went to Bishop's Orchards to re-stock. Oh, the bounty! I came home with two quarts of blueberries destined for cake and daiquiris, okra and squash blossoms destined for a batter fry, and corn destined for my mouth as quickly as possible. Bishop's has started selling Connecticut farm wines for cheap, so I bought a bottle of a blended white as well -- worth a try, right? Further inspiration hit after I had an incredible sandwich at the Little Stone House, the ligher, less expensive and formal offshoot of the better-known Old Stone House in Guilford. I've never been to the main restaurant, but after my incredible sandwich of seared tuna, wasabi mayo, roasted red peppers, and cayenne-dusted cucumber slices, it's next on my list. It has been a long time since I had such a satisfying and memorable sandwich.

The tuna put me in mind of other delicious fish. Specifically, the most delicious of summer fish: BLUEFISH. I turned the car down Route 146, the most beautiful road in Connecticut, and pointed it at Bud's Fish Market in Indian Neck. There, for $7.95 a pound, was the most lovely filet of bluefish ever! Ever!!! If you have not had bluefish, you are in for a treat -- oily and rich, slightly salty with a shock of VERY dark meat, it's rich enough for company but so inexpensive that it's sometimes considered a trash fish by the kind of people who eat boring halibut all the time. At The Place, they sometimes have bluefish on the menu, but it's been cooked in a foil packet on the grill, which basically steams it with lemon. Cooking it close to the flame in your broiler with a gin-and-tonic-esque marinade creates a nice brown crust that belies the silkiness inside. Enjoy this recipe!

Bluefish with Gin and Onions
adapted from Saveur, Aug./Sept 2005

1 bunch scallions
1 1 1/2 to 2 lb. skin-on bluefish filet
1 1/2 limes, halved
8 tbsp. melted butter
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup gin

1. Lay scallions in bottom of medium roasting pan or large baking dish in a single layer. Put fish, skin side down, on top of scallions and squeeze juice from one lime over fish. Pour 6 tbsp of the butter over fish and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover whole dish with plastic wrap and let marinate at room temperature 30 minutes.

2. Preheat broiler. Uncover fish, transfer dish to broiler, and cook until top of fish just begins to brown, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, squeeze juice from remaining lime half into a small saucepan. Add the remaining butter and the gin and bring to a boil over high heat.

3. Remove fish from broiler and pour gin mixture over fish. Return pan with fish to broiler and continue to broil until it is browned on top, flesh is firm to the touch, and fish is cooked through, about 3-5 more minutes. Serve hot, cold, or room temperature, with scallions on the side.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Promises, promises

Yes, I will write about our trip! Really! We had beer in Mason jars in Port Costa, cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab in San Francisco, and homemade vegan wheat-and-gluten-free veggie burgers on the grill in Eugene. We swam in two rivers and drank a lot of good wine (and Andy drank some really, really bad wine). Our favorite store in Eureka has closed but now we have a new favorite store in Berkeley.

In the meantime, here are our photos from Oregon and here are those from California.

Monday, July 24, 2006


We were here.

More, with photos, soon, once I recover from the 8,352 emails at work.

Friday, July 07, 2006

West Coast Madness

I cannot contain my glee any longer. We are going to Oregon and California in less than a week! For almost two weeks! We start off in Portland, my home town, staying at the Kennedy School, eating at Park Kitchen and Clarklewis (thanks to ExtraMSG for his recommendations last year to an overwhelmed former Portlander, I enjoyed meals at both of these places and now must go back on a yearly basis) and Burgerville and Voodoo Doughnut and gosh probably also Pix Patisserie and Bijou Cafe and several other places in the 48 hours we're there.

Then up Highway 30 to Astoria, where I was born, past Sauvie Island and Scappoose and St. Helens and the former Trojan Nuclear Power Plant. Hopefully lunch at the Columbian Cafe. Then two days at Neahkahnie with my sister and stepmom and aunts, eating crab and salmon and oysters fresh out of the water. Then to Eugene for a dinner with Deepfry, sadly not at New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro but we'll get to that on another trip.

Onward through Southern Oregon and over to Eureka and the Lost Coast Brewery for a glass of their Great White, and further to the ACTUAL Lost Coast. Then a day and a half in the Anderson Valley at Lazy Creek and Esterlina and Navarro and the Apple Farm. On our way to the Bay we'll stop for an espresso milkshake -- the best milkshake in the world, ever -- at Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena.

And then there's the Bay Area, where I think my head will explode if I begin to think about all the places we'll get to re-visit. My mouth is already watering over Vik's and Burma Superstar and Dona Tomas and Gregoire's potato puffs. And Cha-Ya, to make us feel healthy and absolved of our gluttonous sins.

I think we need more than 12 days. I think we might need 12 months.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Born on the Fourth of July

Big birthday weekend around here. Stephen's was Monday, and we celebrated with a big barbeque in his front yard. BBQ pork ribs, brisket, and burnt ends provided by Jack Stack of Kansas City. It's becoming a tradition and for a week before the blessed event I begin seeing burnt ends everywhere: squirrels scampering up trees with burnt ends in their mouths, a burnt end on my keychain, etc.

Then Monday we drove up to Vermont for Christian's birthday. It was the best kind of arrival: late, hot, and tired, we walked in the front door and were bearhugged by Christian, who already had one Margarita in each hand for us. Sitting out on the counter were the several Mexican dishes he had made, a stack of steaming corn tortillas, and plates. Almost before we had set our bags down and said our hellos to the other guests, we had plates full of shredded chicken in tomatillo sauce, very spicy shrimp ceviche with avocados, zucchini and chorizo stew, and pinto beans with huge beautiful pork chunks.

The next morning, we got up, drank some emergency coffee, and braced to stand in line at the Blue Benn Diner in Bennington. It's maybe the second-greatest diner in the world (the best, of course, is O'Rourke's). All their specials are plastered to the walls, everything is fresh, including their doughnuts, real local warm maple syrup is served on demand, and the waitresses are indulgent enough to laugh and chat rather than be annoyed when all six of us decide to cram into one miniscule booth. One day, I want to go there for a meal other than breakfast, but that's not to say I wasn't happy with my strawberry-and-cream-cheese-stuffed sourdough french toast with hot strawberry syrup.

After some hiking, a big World Cup upset, many wildlife encounters and a game of "capture the frog" in the swimming pool, we started smelling the most wonderful smells wafting out of the kitchen. Sadia was in the middle of making an enormous Pakistani feast for Christian's July 4th birthday. There was enough for everyone to have three platesful, but I ate so much on my first plate that I thought I might really pop, for real this time. Eggplant raita, four kinds of pickle, beef that had been stewed since before breakfast, lentils with lemon, cabbage with several kinds of seeds, chicken curry (a homemade curry, not "chicken with curry powder"), piles of delicate rice, and flour tortillas serving as naan. All made without consulting a single recipe, every one of the dishes exquisite. The cake (brought by someone who has a big crush on Christian and refuses to believe he does not also pine for her, which added a bizarre twist to the day) was superfluous after a meal like that.

All that food made for a cramped, bloated, and generally uncomfortable three-hour drive home last night, but I think it was worth it.

PS. Happy one-year anniversary to this blog, today! Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 03, 2006


In celebration of the extension of my job, I made a reservation on the spur of the moment at our favorite restaurant, Le Petit Cafe, on Friday night. The chef, Roy Ip, answered the phone and when he took my name, he said, "oh, I know you." Which he does, as he has since the first time Andy and I went to Le Petit Cafe. That rainy March night when Andy finally moved here for real, he sat down with us and chatted at length, asking us what we did in New Haven, where we had moved from, sharing memories of food in the Bay Area. The next time we came in, a few months later, to sample the early summer produce, he sent us home with miniature apple tarts for our next day's breakfast. And the next time, when we came for the comforting yet over-the-top cassoulet after Andy's brother's wedding in Arkansas, he sent us celebratory after-dinner drinks (unbeknownst to us, he had just received a four-star rating from the New York Times) and introduced us to another table of diners, some local food writers. We go to Le Petit Cafe every time we have something to celebrate, since the one time we went elsewhere for a festive night, we wished we hadn't.

So we walk in on Friday night and Mr. Ip sees us and says, "Hello there, Mrs. Delicious!"



A Google search for "Le Petit Cafe Branford". An unfamiliar website. He recognized me from the photo. I feel like Gael Greene. I need a picture with dark glasses and a wide-brimmed hat. My favorite chef! Recognizes my photo! Has read my dumb little blog! Am I honored? Am I horrified? Both.

Fortunately, there's nothing bad I could ever say about Le Petit Cafe. I never order duck anywhere else because I know I will be disappointed -- it will never be as good as the five-spice duck breast that Mr. Ip makes. I could, and sometimes do, eat the homemade truffle butter with a spoon. The mixed olives with garlic and cumin, the freshest pickled beets with ginger and mint, the diver scallops wrapped in Spanish ham, the hazelnut fondant, the cassoulet OH LORD that cassoulet.... If I keep eating there regularly, my last meal might come sooner than I think, but what a last meal it will be!

Now I'm off to change that photo. Before a chef I don't like quite as much tracks me down.