6/29/12

FoodieVertical Food Foodhole

We don't much care for the term "Foodie." In its basic sense it refers to one who has a keen interest in all things food. That term is now enshrined in the common vernacular. Alas. And that "interest" thing is now quite something else again. 

Narcissistic preoccupation/obsession? People are going to bed hungry in this world (still). And we are sending back the poached salmon because it isn't chilled sufficiently. "Waiter, the texture of this mousse! It's inedible!" "Show us the water menu, please."  

Who doesn't like food? But, give us a break. It's out of control. Bacon ice cream? The nuances have nuances. How many kinds of salt do you have at home? Oils? Condiments? Sugars? Honeys? Don't let's get started on cheese. We don't shop anywhere where there are less than 250 varieties available.

Fondly remembering a very posh restaurant in New York City. Christ Cella. Going back to 1923. Alas, no more. (Now Aretsky's Patroon Townhouse. Similar vibe.)
No menu. White tablecloths and napkins. Waiters with long white aprons. Wood floor. WWII aviation photos on the walls. Want a Shrimp Cocktail: a fist full of Shrimp in a plain little bowl drenched in Cocktail Sauce. Broccoli with Hollandaise: Steamed bunch of Broccoli on a plain plate drenched in Hollandaise. A Steak: grilled perfectly. Dessert: Napoleon; yes, stacked crispy and custardy on a plain white plate. If you haven't caught the drift ... make it simple ... put it on a plate.

Yes, there's a place for everything. But, particularly in NYC, there's a tendency to try to top the top. Then top that. And even again, and more so. Basta!

It now seems to also have spawned a whole class of individuals who we would refer to as "Food Snobs." Maybe we can recalibrate to add the term "Foodhole"? Foodies gone too far. And, an industry that has grown up catering (capitalizing) on the penchant for these types to relate to food as entertainment.

Our bouche is not amused. It just seems somehow off to be sitting in a restaurant propped up to here to give the impression that what you are about to partake of is heaven sent. The food usually stacked so high with so many elements it looks like it could indeed reach the celestial realm. Prices to match.

We recently shelled out $37.00 (!) for breakfast at a new trendy spot in toney suburbia. A 3" x 2" piece of brioche French toast topped with a single egg (organic, oh yes) accompanied by some undistinguished sausage called farinheira. It's a traditional Portuguese sausage made with farina and pork fat (show us the pork!). It's the kind of thing that you have to have grown up with to appreciate. Bland to high heaven. The owner/chef was ecstatic about how it comes from a shop that makes it specially for them. All that surrounded by a drizzle of honey and a generous sprinkling of bits of hard mission figs. Also, a flat thin frittata of dense thoroughly cooked eggs infused with a confetti of colorful vegetables. Custom roast coffee with an odd flavor note; $2.50 per cup. Seconds? That'll be another $2.50. Make it nice with a mini-croissant. It was stale. And a thimble of jam for +$1.00.

It didn't hurt that our lovely waitress was most welcoming and all smiles and rather shapely in her tight jeans. But, we can't help feeling that the tab was mostly for hype. More the idea that it was special, than the proof in the pudding. And, the owners' narcissistic fantasy that they were bringing something really new and exciting to the table. We will let sleeping dogs lie. We'll not be back.

Just to button it up, this Cat doesn't want to go out to dine and pay up the wazoo for stuff that isn't even half as good as something we could whip up at home any day of the week.

Someone recently shared about her lovely lunch at this trendy new spot, "Pulled Duck Croissants." She's a local booster of trendy dining spots; nothing but superlatives. Not just duck, but it's been "pulled." And, on mini-croissants. Where's the duck? We got your duck to pull! And what's with croissants for sandwiches? Sure they're good. But it seems that any time you make it with a croissant the big spenders stop thinking and pony up just to partake of the experience of being with the in crowd. We like imaginative food, but not a fantasy of food. As in, good mainly in your imagination.

There's a place for special foods and food preparation. But, there are too many now for the majority of those aspiring to greatness to hit the high marks.

For heaven's sake!











6/28/12

Whisky Tasting

Thanking Bruichladdich ("Brew-ahhk-ah-klah-dee") Distillery for this definitive lesson on tasting.

1. The Color (indicates what to expect)
2. The "Legs" (age and weight)
3. The Tongue/Mouth Feel ("heat")
4. The Nose (Straight and with water)
5. Tasting
6. The Finish (How long the taste lasts)

6/22/12

An Omelet for the Queen of Romania




THIS JUST IN: We tried a new, so-called up market type restaurant in town for breakfast recently, instead of the default in-town diner. Noticing the omelets ($7.95) on the menu I asked the critical (so I thought) question: are the omelets done in a pan or on a flat top grill. I was assured they were done in a pan. Sounds good. The problem with most omelets, especially in diners, is that they are prepared on a flat top and spread out all thin and too well done. A pan is de regueur. What could go wrong?

Additionally, I spotted the "Chorizo Scramble" ($8.95) and asked for that, but cooked as an omelet. Now, an omelet is mainly a fast scramble let to settle a bit (Classic French) or longer/slightly browned (Country French Style) to form a bit of a seal, then folded over a few times with or without a filling. First, the waitress informed me it would be extra for the Chorizo Scramble to be done into an omelet. How much? She pulled out $2.00; from you know where was my immediate thought. Really! But ,I saw her raise, and called. Let's do it. $10.95 for an omelet, you would expect something special.


Out came a thin crepe-like egg thingy folded over 3-4 times with micro bits of chorizo sausage which were done to a hard dry dense chewiness. It did look like a flat top treatment. We called the waitress to protest. But, as she unsmilingly hovered near me, I unwrapped the "joint" and lo and behold, yes it was done in a pan. But, flat top style. A full ten inch circle of tough-done egg you could unfold and hold up to the light; which I did. Well done, and you could have played Frisbee. Oh, and never mind that I asked for the thing to be not too well done. The straight faced waitress stressed it was a classic French omelet. Ya, and I'm the Queen of Romania!

As my dining partner observed, that was the kind of place you have to adapt to, not the other way around. Even in a search, images of their omelets look exactly like the one I was proffered. We were assured when we left without taking another bite that everybody liked their food. We kindly assured her that we were content to let everyone continue that way. You can't fight ignorance. To screw with her, we left a fat 20% tip.

We won't name names, but the joint is in Montclair, New Jersey and it rhymes with glum. In all fairness, Plum at Park is a nice enough restaurant. Very nice old style diner, bright and clean. Interesting menu. Omelets everbody loves. Just not Cooky Cat.

Here is an earlier post on the subject of omelets with a definitive demonstration by THE authority, Mr. Jacques Pépin.

6/19/12

Tea Cup Pigs



Before you go away saying, "Oh, Mr. Cat, that is not Cooky, it's 'Kooky'", let me explain. You are going to love it.

You know it's hard to innovate a new food recipe, but you've come to expect cutting edge new ideas from Cooky Cat; and, he won't disappoint. (If you go to Paris you won't find the likes of this item at Le Comptoir or any of those Joël Robuchon dives.)

Presenting Gołąbki [ɡoˈwompki] for the 21st Century. That old country, down on the farm sure to please Pigs in a Blanket. You know, Cabbage rolls filled with ground meats, rice/grain, and your choice of spicing.

Sidebar: You might be thinking that Cooky Cat tends to be a little, ahem, "Ham Fisted" in his approach to food. Let's just leave that to another item when he takes on pigs feet.

The twist is to form the Cabbage packets inside grandma's old tea cup. The kind that flares out slightly at the rim.

RECIPE:

Blanch cored head of Cabbage soften. Separate the leaves. Let cool, set aside. Before using pare off the thick portion of the ribs. 

Prepare a melange of sauteed sliced Mushrooms and Onions in a tomato/red wine sauce. Season and spice to taste. Some dried woodsy Mushrooms would be nice. Set aside. "Melange", you ask? Look it up!

Place one large or 2 small Cabbage leaves carefully inside the tea cup, leaving enough overhang to fold over filling.

For the filling: Ground meat(s) (beef and pork 50/50; veal too, if you can stand to think about how veal is raised). Beef and lamb, fantastic. Par boiled long grain white rice (30/70 ratio rice/meat / even maybe a little more Rice to taste). Some finely chopped sauteed Onion/Shallot with a little Garlic. Season to taste. Parsley, maybe a little Thyme. Some dried currents for a little sparkle, if you like.

Place filling in teacup lined with Cabbage leaves. Close overhanging leaves to seal.

Select Portobello Mushroom caps large enough to cradle each Cabbage bundle with some room to spare.

In a high side baking dish pour some of the Mushroom-Tomato sauce, and nicely arrange the Portobello Mushroom caps inner side up . (Nicely, as opposed to tossing them in from a distance like you usually do!) Then place the Cabbage packets inverted (folds down) on top of each Mushroom cap. Add the remaining sauce. Cover, as Ms. Nigella Lawson would say, languorously.

Be sure the sauce is thin enough to provide enough liquid to thoroughly braise the Cabbage packets and reduce down to a medium thick sauce.

When all that is cooked, remove the Mushroom cap/Cabbage packets, leaving the Mushroom sauce in the pan. Reduce sauce if necessary.

You can serve the teacup pigs slathered with sauce right away. But, here's a Lucky Strike Extra: Pipe mashed Yukon Gold potatoes (butter and roasted garlic, please) around the packets on the free edge of the Portobello Mushroom caps. Spoon the Mushroom sauce onto a warmed plate, then place the Tea Cup Pigs on top of that. Ready to serve. (A drizzle of fine chopped parsley won't hurt either.)

The only question left open is what, if anything, to plop on top as a panache, so to speak. To give it that Cooky Cat caché and elan. How about a small bundle of asparagus heads tied together with a few long swags of garlic chives? We'll leave that one to your imagination and creativity. Who knows, you could engineer the thing to reach several inches high above the plate. (If you are the trendy type, that is.)

Be ready to bask in waves of love and appreciation.

6/18/12

Blessings of Nature


On a fine Summer day recently we trekked off to Western New Jersey to pick sour cherries. Sour cherries are de riguer for mom's cherry pie (lard crust; lattice top, of course). That very seasonal rarity is seldom available in stores and there is only a few week window of opportunity for picking. Quite delicate and very quick to discolor/go south. Seen here is a portion of this year's haul. Sweet! Not really. The cherries are SOUR! "Sweet" is an expression . . . Never mind.


We managed this year to get eight pounds, enough for four large cherry pies. Back home . . . a quick wash and clean, pitting, bath in lemon water, packed with sugar in freezer bags. Ready when we want.

Our excellent source is Stoneyfield Orchards, on (where else?) Orchard Street in Belvidere, New Jersey. Here is an excellent write up on the orchard and the good people who now run things around there.

While we were at it we purchased a gallon of their own apple cider and a dozen super large double-yolk chicken eggs. Seen here for comparison with some medium free range eggs we had on hand.


Part of the total experience at Stoneyfield Orchards was an impromptu guided tour with their young daughter, the princess of the domain. The "doggie", chickens, rabbits, and the cows. A six month old calf was waiting to greet us under the shade of a tall old mulberry tree.

Magically, as we walked toward the calf, and I asked what was its name, as I looked down on the grassy walk I saw a bright yellow dandelion. And just then, I heard, "Her name is Dandelion."

Sweet. Now, that is sweet.
  

6/3/12

Low and Slow on the Backyard Weber Grill

There's grilling and then there's barbeque. When we think "barbecue" we are talking low and slow, plenty of hardwood smoke. As that lady we entertained at some long forgotten backwater bar in Rangoon say, "Mama love you long time." She be smokin'. We also feel the same about our spareribs and pork shoulder.

We've been scratching around looking for a way to use the trusty Weber Grill to do some low and slow ribs and pork shoulder. The offset method is too hot for slow, long smoking.

Our search is over. It called the Smokenator. The device inserts into the Weber Grill and isolates the burning coals. It produces the necessary smoke and regulates the temperature, adding humidy with a built in water bowl/steam pan. The net result is an indirect heat/smoke source that keeps the cooker temperature at a steady 230-250 degrees Fahrenheit.

We just discovered this much praised Weber Grill upgrade and will be ordering our very own post haste. We need the model for our 26.5 inch grill, and there is a smaller one for the 18.5 inch unit. (Shown below with the optional Hovergrill.)

Dig it.

 


6/1/12

Don't Cut Your Eggs With a Knife!

It's a rule in Cooky Cat's domain (and don't think you are excluded from that), you don't eat eggs with a knife. Even if you are one of those Europeans that chronically has to have both hands going, one with a fork, the other with a knife.

Alright, your eggs on a slice of toast. OK then. But, it's to cut the toast, silly. The egg. A knife is overkill. Literally. 

And, while I'm at it. Hey, you Europeans! We get it about using the knife for helping things on the fork. But, every time! Some things just manage to get on the fork by themselves. Would it kill you to just stop being so traditional all the time.

To Whom It May Concern: Just because there's a knife on the table, you don't have to use it. Use your keppe. Don't be a shlabudnik. Or, a schmendrick.
Today's Question # 11

What is it?

It's called an egg topper.