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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Hasta La Vista

Here I go! It's vacation time again. This trip takes me to Mexico. I'll be in the Yucatan for three glorious weeks, a place known for warm weather, beautiful beaches, archeological ruins, Maya culture, seafood and relaxation. It may also be known for blogging. I promise to keep on blogging from internet cafes as often as I can. But if I miss a few days I hope you'll forgive me. There will be plenty to tell when I get home. Hasta la vista babies!...
Monday, November 29, 2004

All About Pho

What does it take for a food to become an obsession? Certain foods come to mind, chocolate, barbecue, oysters, and now pho. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup that has gained in popularity with the rise of Vietnamese restaurants specializing in the dish. It is not pronounced "foe" but rather "fuh". Sometimes referred to as the national dish of Vietnam, it is eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. While there are many different versions of the dish from different parts of the country, it is basically rice noodle soup usually with beef and an assortment of fresh herbs added to it at the table. There are versions with chicken and seafood too. I have never had vegetarian pho but I have heard that it does exist. Like chicken noodle soup, it is an amazing comfort food. The smell alone can make you feel better when you're suffering from a cold or a broken heart. If you want to check out what pho is like in Vietnam without the plane ticket head over to Noodlepie a won...
Saturday, November 27, 2004

Biddy

I love words. I love discovering new words or being surprised by words I thought I knew the meaning of, for example, I thought I knew what a biddy was. It turns out that a biddy is a chicken and the use of the word dates back to the 17th century. Sometime in the late 18th century it came into the vocabulary as a deragatory slang word for "old lady" probably much as "chick" came to be known as girl or woman in the 1960's. In this century one rarely sees "biddy" on the menu though. Hmmm, a biddy in every pot? Maybe not!...
Thursday, November 25, 2004

All About Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an annual American holiday celebrated by families, friends and magazines. Yes. Magazines. In fact, you could say our current version of Thanksgiving was invented by a magazine or more specifically a magazine editor. Around this time every year, historians regale us with stories of what the first Thanksgiving was really like. We learn that it was unlikely they ate a stuffed turkey, there was no pumpkin pie, no cranberry sauce, and most of the food was provided by the Wampanoag not the pilgrims--who feasted on venison, lobsters, clams, oysters, and fish. Harvest festivals were a long standing tradition for the Wampanoag natives going back way before the arrival of the pilgrims. The pilgrims and colonists, devout Christians, observed many days of "thanksgiving" throughout the year in which prayer and fasting were the order of the day, not feasting. The first national Thanksgiving was held in December of 1777 by colonists to celebrate the surrender of Briti...
Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Pilgrim Onion Marmalade:Recipe

One of the many things I love about Thanksgiving is the idea that it commemorates a time when the pilgrims and native peoples got along. With such a well-documented sad history of native Americans being mistreated, it's nice to remember that for a moment at least everyone was at peace. This Thanksgiving I'm using the cocktail hour to pay honor to those who were here before us with some "pilgrim and indian" inspired appetizers. Foods of the Americas, Native recipes and traditions published by Ten Speed Press is a new book published to coincide with the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. A gorgeous coffee table book with beautiful color as well as vintage black and white photography, it includes stories, essays and poems; great source material for learning more about the traditions of the people who came before us. It also has 140 recipes inspired by native Americans from all over the United States and beyond, using na...
Sunday, November 21, 2004

Melted Ice Cream Rugelach Recipe

Ah the joys of a fresh carton of ice cream! Alas it is only a matter of time before little ice crystals form and the ice cream loses it's perfect texture. One way to prevent oxidization is to put a layer of plastic wrap or scrunched up tin foil on top of your ice cream before putting it back in the freezer. But when it gets to the bottom of the carton, it's pretty much hopeless. Unless of course you have a recipe for melted ice cream cookies. For IMBB # 10 Cookie Swap let me introduce you to rugelach. Rugelach are rich butter or cream cheese pastry dough cookies shaped like little horns or crescents and usually filled with some combination of chopped nuts, raisins and jam. But some of the best homemade rugelach I ever had were made with a melted ice cream dough. They are positively delicious and often served around Christmas time at the Jewish holiday of Hannukah. Because the name is Yiddish, it is quite challenging to pronounce, especially if you aren't Jewish. Her...
Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Meet Tony Bourdain

Last week Anthony Bourdain came to town to sign copies of his latest book, Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking . At A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books , the space was jammed with foodies, chefs and so many culinary students from the Culinary Academy just a few blocks away that Bourdain claimed he could smell them coming in the place. Bourdain knows how to work a room. He is opinionated and takes on the controversial issues--the scandal at James Beard, the unsung heroes of the kitchen--Latinos, TV celebrity chefs, the raw food movement, foie gras, bear bile, you name it, nothing is off limits. He tells it like it is and despite his handsome good looks, he quickly dispels the idea that cooking is in any way glamourous. What makes him so appealing is his passion and enormous respect for the humble beginnings of much of the world's greatest food. He spoke at length about the more undesirable or "squiggly b...
Monday, November 15, 2004

Author Events

It seems like there are lots of great author events happening around town right now. Though I missed Thomas Keller speaking about his new bistro cookbook, Bouchon; last week I did see Anthony Bourdain speaking about his new book, based on the recipes at Les Halles. This week I highly recommend checking out the Laura Schenone lecture at the San Francisco Public library. Laura Schenone will be here to discuss whether or not it is true that a woman invented Thanksgiving, among other things. Laura Schenone won the 2004 James Beard award for her book A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove A History of American Women Told Through Food, Recipes, and Remembrances Laura's book is a combination of stories, recipes and photos that celebrate the power of food throughout American history and in women's lives. You will find native women who pried nourishment from the wilderness, African American mothers who sold biscuits to buy their children's freedom, and immigrant wives who transpo...
Saturday, November 13, 2004

Pomegranates:Cookbook

Would you be inclined to buy a cookbook devoted to burgers, fondue or toast? I wouldn't. None of those things are all that challenging to make in the first place. A whole book on grilled cheese sandwiches? Gimme a break. Cookbooks on single subjects have to be something special to catch my eye. They have to be varied, cover more than just one meal, and they should intrigue me to try something new and way out of the ordinary. Pomegranates by Ann Kleinberg is just such a book. Kleinberg's book includes recipes appropriate for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Not to mention beverages. This book comes out just in time because pomegranates are terribly trendy these days. Pomegranate juice and syrup is turning up in stores all over the place. No wonder as it is filled with antioxidants, used in many different cuisines and amazingly versatile. You can use the jewel-like seeds or the juice in recipes that are sweet or savory. I'll admit it, I'm bewitched by pomegran...
Thursday, November 11, 2004

Russian Shopping Adventure

Our Russian shopping adventure continued down the block from New World Market, at Gastronom which means "supermarket" in Russian. Ironic, because the space is tiny, especially compared with New World which is quite large with a long deli counter running the length of the store. But there are some different things available at Gastronom and it was Alenushka's choice for purchasing caviar. Tasting before you buy is the ticket when caviar buying at Gastronom. Gastronom sells four or five salmon caviar ranging in price from about $12 to $45 and you won't know which will taste best until you try them all. Sometimes it's the cheapest one that tastes the best. I didn't buy any of the three types of marinated mushrooms this time around, but will definitely try them the next time and possibly some of the cherry vareniki which got rave reviews and were not available at New World. Gastronom has lots of prepared foods as does New World, perfect for taking home to feast...
Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Before my Russian shopping adventure this past weekend I stuck with the familiar when shopping for Russian groceries. I bought farmer's cheese to make blintzes. I bought the best tasting homemade sour cream. I stocked my freezer with various types of meat and potato dumplings called pelmenyi and vareniki to boil up and serve with a dollop of the aforementioned sour cream. I sometimes bought a slab of Russian bacon or some smoked fish. Baffling to the uninitiated, too many other items in Russian specialty shops have all Cyrillic labels with no English translation and even if they are translated their usage remains a mystery. But shopping with Alenushka and Sour Cherry as they are known on the Craigslist Food Forum was a great opportunity for Pozoleboy and I to unlock many more secrets of Russian specialty store shopping and expand our culinary horizons. Our first stop was New World Grocery where we learned that Russian candy is often named after animals--such as bears or cow...
Sunday, November 07, 2004

Secret Menu!

Psst, secret menu, pass it on! Have you ever suspected that a restaurant had a secret menu? Or maybe just a menu that was in another language? Growing up my family frequented a Chinese restaurant where the waiter or manager would order for us, because the "real" menu was not in English. The food was terrific. Somehow eating off the secret menu was more exciting than eating off the regular menu, partly because you never knew what you were going to get. Since those early Chinese meals I have learned it's smart to chat with the waiter about things not on the menu when I eat out. One example is to ask about certain seasonal vegetables, they don't always make it onto Chinese menus but if you ask for them you may be rewarded. Once at an Italian restaurant I chatted up the chef and we mused about the cuisine only found in the town of Lucca. At the end of the meal a dessert arrived that not only wasn't ordered, but wasn't on the menu. Recently Pim of Chez Pim me...
Friday, November 05, 2004

Curried Butternut Soup Recipe

As each new season arrives I begin to think that it's my favorite. The colors, the scents, and the flavors of fall are just beginning to tantalize my senses. For sure it's the rich and eye-catching colors that grab me first; the pumpkins, pomegranates, pears and apples are so beautiful they almost beg to be put on display. Of course anything that is associated with Thanksgiving is also a hallmark of fall. Pumpkin, pecans, cranberries, even brussels sprouts. Just the words alone make my mouth water in anticipation. It seems in preparation for the winter, flavors intensify. Not that the flavors of summer aren't intense, but they have a different fresh delicate succulent quality about them that disappears in the fall. All sorts of winter squash are turning up at the market right now. Hardy vegetables that have some staying power. They wait until you are ready for them, unlike summery tomatoes and basil that say "use me or lose me!" Butternut squash is so wonde...
Wednesday, November 03, 2004

VinoVenue:Shop CLOSED

I only went to an automat once in New York, and then this summer I got to see another, though non-functioning one, at the Smithsonian in Washington DC. But l always loved the idea. An automat was a vending machine restaurant that served up portions of ready-to-eat food. All glimmering shiny and modern, it was mostly a gimmick, as it wasn't really "automated" and people had to constantly refill the offerings, but that didn't make it any less appealing. The novelty of technology and gadgets is often very attractive. Remember all the hype about smartcards a few years back? A smartcard is a plastic card that contains a tiny chip that includes a microprocessor and memory which means it can hold a ton of information. Though touted for years they haven't taken off in the US the way they have in Europe where people use them to access medical records, etc. Well smartcards may have finally come of age. Like a prepaid debit card, at wine bar/wine retailer Vino Venue...
Monday, November 01, 2004

Mae West

Do you ever find yourself in need of a good quote? More often than not, Mae West is my source for amusing bons mots. Her risque sayings are often very apropos for all things culinary: "I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it" (Dessert anyone?) "He who hesitates is a damn fool" (Especially at the buffet table) "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful" (Whipped cream, chocolate, sushi...) Tomorrow is election day, and while I try to keep this site free of anything political if it's not food related, I would like to share this one thought--if you are still undecided, at the bakery counter or more importantly in the election booth, let this memorable quote guide you-- "Whenever I'm caught between two evils, I take the one I've never tried." --Mae West...