Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lovely Day of Food and Related Utensils

* This was a different talk than the one I thought he would give, but in the end I'm glad this is what he talked about: his invention of the term "molecular gastronomy" in 1992 and what MG has become today (hint: something different than what he originally intended with the term!), with lots of photos, examples, and explanations of how Wylie Dufresne and Ferran Adria and Grant Achatz et al. do what they do. Thanks to Pauline for this article, too!

**A terrific show of long sets. And then Stephen brought the band out for beers with us at Rudy's. It was amusing to watch Britt Daniel enjoy about 45 seconds of anonymity in the bar, looking for a seat on one of our benches. And then get swarmed by wannabe-rocker boys and girls wearing lots of lip gloss and little else.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


This requires two installments to fully describe.

First, before I forget and to whet (or utterly suppress) your appetite, here's my haul of freebies from the SYSCO Spring Food Show that I went to in Hartford today:
  • about 10 pounds of ads and catalogs
  • One bag Terra Chips
  • One bottle Saratoga spring water
  • Hormel pen and sticky-notes set
  • One giant bag of what appears to be every condiment Heinz makes
  • Three McCormick "Big 'n Bold" spice blends packets: "Monterey Style" Roasted Garlic and Red Bell Pepper, "Key West Style" Lemon, Basil and Thyme, and "Grill Mates Montreal Chicken" seasoning
  • One "House Recipe" (aka SYSCO) brand Salt-Free Original Seasoning Blend
  • One bottle Hydrive dragonfruit flavor energy drink
  • A-1 Steak Sauce pen
  • Two individually-packaged Rice Krispies Treats
  • Two packets Crystal Light "On the Go" drink mix
  • One Donna's Delights whoopie pie
  • One bottle Butter-It "trans-fat free liquid butter alternative"
  • One pop-up sponge in the shape of an Idahoan potato
  • Two plastic cockroaches from Ecolab

Stay tuned for more observations from a fake food professional. In a bizarre coincidence, the Connecticut Library Association was having their annual conference in the same convention center today. I am so busted.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Delicious Sandwich

Sandwiches are a conundrum for me. All that bread gets in the way of what I really want: the bright yet rich, crunchy yet smooth filling that goes in the middle. But I don't usually want a salad made of just the filling ingredients, either. Something about the way the bread mashes everything together makes the whole so much greater than the individual parts. Even better is when someone else makes the sandwich for me. I have vivid memories of my mom's putting together the humblest ingredients: mayonnaise, processed cheese slices, iceberg lettuce, and Wonderbread together melded to make the most soothing and wonderful sandwich mush in the lunchbags of my youth.

I can appreciate the simplicity of a pressed media noche, dripping with margarine and pickles, and the extravagance of sirloin steak and caramelized onions that you eat with a knife and fork at the Union League. One of the best things I ever ate was a sandwich of sopressata, salami, mozzarella, marinated anchovies, and a lot of vinegar and oil at Genova in Oakland. But your standard turkey/Swiss/mayo on a Kaiser roll is never what I want for lunch.

That said, I made myself something simple and delicious tonight, to eat over the sink while poor Andy slept off his 24-hour flu bug. Take a third of a roasted garlic ciabatta loaf from Chabaso. Warm in the toaster oven and split. Add mayonnaise, if you like. Mix together a can of tuna and some of Deborah Madison's lemon vinaigrette*, spread half on the bread, save the rest for another lunch. Add some arugula leaves. Press together and eat over the sink. Perfection.

In other brief news:
  • Two thumbs up to Liv's Oyster Bar in Old Saybrook, where we gorged ourselves on winter oysters for Easter dinner. The seared scallops with gremolata were also quite fine, as were the fried oysters on celery root remoulade (though no fried oysters will ever match those of the Sea Swirl, which I was chagrined to find was profiled recently on Rachael Ray's tourist show). And Andy ordered a dessert that I never would have ordered, given my usual aversion to segments of citrus fruit: blood oranges and clementines in a Prosecco sabayon. Heavenly, not very sweet, a perfect tribute to the end of citrus season.
  • Damn you, Limon Fine Food, for stocking Krinos Taramosalata. I have you to thank for the extra five pounds I am sure I have gained by eating the taramosalata out of the jar, with my fingers, while standing in front of the open fridge. I don't even bother with the damn pita anymore, even though their homemade pita is the best I have eaten anywhere besides Hoomoos Asli.
  • The King Ranch Chicken recipe in Cook's Country didn't quite live up to the hype. Tastes delicious -- certainly much, much better than the classic "take two cans of cream of chicken soup" version -- but overly liquid. As this is perhaps Andy's favorite dinner in the world, I am sure I will have many chances to tweak and perfect the recipe.
*Deborah Madison's Lemon Vinaigrette, adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone:

2 T fresh lemon juice
1 t finely chopped lemon zest
salt and pepper
about 1 t capers, minced
1 scallion (white part only), thinly sliced
a few T olive oil

Combine everything except the oil and let that sit for 15 minutes. Then whisk in the oil. Taste and add more salt and pepper if it needs it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sing It, Sister

Maira Kalman and I are clearly soul mates.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I Almost Forgot!

Have you seen?

The amazing


Purchased by me at Grocery in Philadelphia, but can be purchased by you here!

Those spiky protrusions dent the cupcake a little, but what's a little dent when the result is a topful of unmarred frosting?

Blini is more interested in the cupcake than in the cupcake holder.

You Can't Win 'Em All

In recent days, we have had two terrific meals and one terrible meal. It's the terrible one that I fixate on, though. What is it that is so deeply disappointing about a bad meal? What makes many people so risk-averse when it comes to dinner? For me, the disappointment is made worse knowing that for the same $70, we could have feasted on fresh, delicious fish rather than the dry, stinky stuff we ate at Kiraku in Fair Haven on Thursday night.

We should have known from the moment we walked in: scented candles and a huge, loud wall projection of a Sting concert are not auspicious in a sushi restaurant. Nor was the very small number of diners on a Thursday night at 7:30 pm (and we were the last people there at 9). My sashimi was the worst I have ever eaten, and I have eaten a lot of raw fish, and in some questionable places. My mackerel was dry as a bone and actually seemed to suck some of the moisture out of my tongue, my scallops were slimy and fishy, and my "white tuna" (whose very existence is up for debate) still had ice crystals in the flesh. My eel tempura roll tasted like the oil it had been fried in was at least a week old. Andy's selections were no better, and our waitress was nowhere in evidence so we had no one to complain to. Kiraku had come to us highly recommended, making us wonder whether we'd hit it on a bad night, but still, a Thursday? Scented candles? I don't think we'll be trying it again, despite its perfect Quinnipiac river deck.

A much, much better meal, and a cuisine that is ever so welcome in New Haven, was had by our little group on Friday night at Mezcal, a new Mexican restaurant in the old El Charo Alegre space on Mechanic street (between Lawrence and State). It was no Dona Tomas, but it was damn good, and we can walk there!

Seven of us shared shrimp ceviche (okay), taquitos (so-so), a shredded beef and egg dish (whose name I can't remember -- I can't read my own handwriting) that wasn't very flavorful.... I can see your eyes glazing over, but WAIT! Then the amazing stuff arrived: one order of pollo entomatado, chicken on the bone cooked in a spicy tomato, tomatillo, pepper, and raisin sauce; pollo con pipian, also on the bone in an achiote-colored pumpkin seed sauce that was so good we all tried to eat it with a spoon; and two orders of deeply porky carnitas, stewed, fried, and spiced unlike any I'd had in California, home to Libby's Hero Carnitas. Plus all the homemade chips and incredibly spicy salsa verde and tortillas and beans and rice we could eat. We all left disgustingly full and about $16 lighter, each. The place is BYOB, so go early and stop at the liquor store around the corner for a six-pack of Negro Modela. I always worry about whether places can and will stay open in this town, but on Friday night Mezcal was packed. Hooray!!!

The other home-run meal we had was last week's at Ibiza. Yes, at last and finally we went to Ibiza. I promised I'd take Andy there when my job became permanent, so he cashed in and we got the tasting menu with paired wines. But I will save that post for next.

EDITED TO ADD: It's actually three great meals to one bad one. This afternoon, Tom and I got burritos from the Roomba cart and they had a special barbacoa lamb burrito filling. Oh my god. Roasted lamb in spicy sauce in a Roomba burrito. Best burrito ever? Maybe one of the top three. Ever. And I think one of those other two was at the Roomba cart as well.