Thursday, September 29, 2005

This is what you want, This is what you get...

Over the past few days, my focus has been for shit.

Recently, I've had a few spectacular failures with some of my desserts. The other night I made Lava Cakes and they were underdone. (It's hard to check a Lava Cake because the center is supposed to be gooey, just not Batter-Gooey...) Last night I tried making these chocolate cookies I found a recipe for in a book I have and they were not... right.

Despite those mishaps, I made an amazing dish the other night of Pan Roasted Pork Loin with Caramelized Shallots in a Hard Cider Jus. It was really, really, good.

Roast Pork Loin, Caramelized Shallots, & Hard Cider Jus
2-4 1"-Inch Pieces Boneless Pork Loin
1 1/2 T Butter
Shallots, 2 bulbs per piece of Pork
1 Cup Hard Cider
1/4 t Pepper (For Sauce)
Salt & Pepper (For Rubbing on Pork)

Pre-heat oven to 450F
Pat pork dry, then rubbing with Salt and Pepper.
Heat Butter in a heavy OVEN PROOF skillet over Medium-high heat.
Lightly Brown Pork in butter, 3 minutes per side or till nicely browned.
Place pork on a plate and hold till ready for heating in the oven.
Add Shallots to pan (And a little more butter if needed...) and cook till tender and just starting to caramelize.
Add Cider and Pepper and cook down to just about 3/4 Cup. Make sure to scrap up all those brown bits on the bottom - That's the flavor right there...
Return Pork to pan and place in the oven for about 8 minutes. Flip pork over and cook for another 8 minutes.
Serve Pork with Shallots and reduced Jus.

This is really an excellent AND quick dish to prepare. Paired with Gorgonzola Mashed Potatoes and a colorful veggie like carrots or squash, this is an Arsenal dish. The kind you pull out in a pinch and people gush over. Seriously, try it...

Speaking of good food, on Saturday, Kerrie and I will be having dinner at a nice little French bistro in Glendale called Grande Finale. I'm very much looking forward to getting a good Steaks au Poivre. SamB's used to have a good one, but they nixed it from their menu. Come to think of it, they used to do a lot of things that were good but somehow managed to stop doing all of them. Hmm, weird...

Virus 23 - Order of Death
Plastic Bertrand - Ca Plane Pour Moi
White Zombie - Thunderkiss 65
White Zombie - Electric Head pt. 2
Joe Tex - I Gotcha

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Die Monster Die! (Part 2)

You know, I don't like it when I'm made to look like a jerk. I'm perfectly capable of projecting such an attitude myself, so it's especially irritating when I talk-up a place and get the hose for it...

Case in point: Last week I went to this nifty little coffeehouse in Sharonville called Alreddy Coffee & Cafe. Literally, a big house with hardwood floors, classy wooden furnishings, lots of sunshine pouring through big windows, a very appealing menu of breakfast and lunch fare, and glorious coffee...

I loved it. I ordered a cappuccino, an orange juice, and a croissant sandwich. They were great. I mean, I was really into the vibe of the place and the food was good. Most importantly though, the coffee was spectacular.

As soon as Kerrie got home from work, I told her we needed to go for breakfast over the weekend. What can I say, I was into it!

But... (and there is always a "but", isn't there?)

Kerrie and I DID go for breakfast on Saturday and it went something like this: First off, the front door was locked. No real reason, just had it locked. The customers sitting at the tables in the front motioned for us to go around to the side door. Hmmm... As we went in, I got two menus from the girl behind the counter (who will hereafter be referred to as Princess) and she told me we should have a seat and she would come out an wait on us. Princess was neither rude nor pleasant, She was just there. (sigh) So Kerrie and I sat down and waited. After about ten minutes, I got up and went back to the counter. There was an older and more mature looking woman waiting on customers also, she came over to me and took my order - all the while Princess was toiling away wiping down the countertop and making coffee. I ordered an Indian Spiced Chai and a Mexican Fritatta for Kerrie, and a Cappuccino and a Belgian Waffle for myself. Top it off with two ice waters and I was told they would bring the drinks right out to our table. A few minutes later, Princess came trotting out with out hot beverages, set them down and walked away. So I got up and went to the counter, again, in search of silverware. At this point, the older woman seemed a bit put-off by my recurring trips to the counter. "We need to figure out who's waiting the tables today, OKAY?" she snapped at the Princess, then smiled and told me she would be right out with clean silverware.

Not a great start at all, but let me tell you... The food is good. Kerrie's Chai smelled SO good, hot and full of aromatic spices. My cappuccino was excellent. The foam was so thick, I stood my spoon straight up in the mug. My waffle was divine, too. It was light, crispy and perfectly cooked. There are many worse things in this world than a soggy, heavy waffle (Like a late-night drive with Ted Kennedy) but every once in a while a restaurant gets it so right, you just can't help but feel good...

Until you make your fourth trip back to the counter. They never brought out our ice water, and I had to go fetch. Finally, a man who was obviously part of the kitchen staff came out and asked if we were finished and if he could take our plates. He followed up by asking if we needed refills on anything. Oh, the irony! The one person who DOESN'T get tipped is the one who was the most attentive and polite.

You know, I don't mind going up to the counter to get stuff, IF those parameters are clearly defined at the beginning of the dining experience. When you say to a customer: "I'll be right out to wait on you...", well then... fucking do it! And don't roll your eyes when I come back up looking to be served Princess...

So I'm torn. Do I go back? I'm thinking "yes", if only for that fan-tabulous foamy capp... Sometimes, it's all about the coffee - ya dig?

The Misfits - Famous Monsters
DJ Smash - Phonography: Vol. 1
Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Blank Generation
Massive Attack - Blue Lines
Black Sheep - Wolf in Sheeps Clothing

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Die Monster Die! Why Won't You Die?!

Last night was a good foodbaddie night.

I made a very nice dinner of Center Cut Pork Chops au Poivre, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Buttered Asparagus; and finished it off with a 2-Buck-Chuck Sauvignon Blanc. For dessert I made one of my favorite, and fairly easy, sweets: Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies.

Last night was a veg-out kind of night. The premieres of both Arrested Development and Kitchen Confidential were on last night, so Kerrie and I were parked on the couch for a good long while.

That said, I LOVED Kitchen Confidential. The show is very funny in many dark ways. From the backbiting to the pirating of employees to the inevitable slicing of human flesh, this was a very amusing half-hour for me.

Unfortunately, though, Kerrie got a bit squeamish when the Sous Chef, Steven, gets his fingertip cut off and blood goes everywhere. It was painful to have her ask that one special question: Does that really happen in restaurants???

How do you answer that question and not ruin dining out for someone for the rest of their lives? Anthony Bourdain, in his book "Kitchen Confidential", has this to say: I'm not evening going to TALK about blood. Let's just say that we cut ourselves a lot in the kitchen and leave it at that.

There is so much about the restaurant industry that people don't get. That "customer is always right" shit doesn't really fly anywhere in the world except here in North America. What's worse is that the average ass-hat diner believes that they are right. Unless there is something so spectacularly wrong with your meal or the service that it's apparent to EVERYBODY around (including the staff) don't get smart about it. Say it with the tip, but try you're best not to enrage the chain of people who stand between you and your food. Just don't. You may be King Shit in whatever little self-absorbing circles you roam through, but once you enter the cooks domain you are a mere peasant. All that matters to us is what we create and taking your money for doing it. The romantic notion of loving to serve the customer is steaming BS. THE OWNER loves serving you, but then again - refer to my previous statement about money.

Just remember, we the people work behind closed doors. We love doing what we do, but we don't love you. We love the food we create and the money you give us. Try not to make a bigger deal out of it than it really is. Losers...

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
(This recipe is divided into three easy parts and can be assembled and baked in an hour or less...)
2/3 Cup Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs
1 Cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/3 Cup Butter
2 Squares (1 oz. each) Unsweetened Chocolate

1/3 Cup Peanut Butter
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Flour
1 Egg

Start by combining the Flour, Baking Powder, and Salt in a small bowl. Next, beat Eggs, Sugar and Vanilla together till smooth and pale. Gradually add in Flour mixture and set aside.

Melt Butter and chocolate in a small saucepan, stir continually so as not to burn the mix. Slowly add the Choco\Butter mix to the Flour\Egg mix. (This part works best with an electric mixer.) Once mixed, pour into a prepared 8" Square Pan.

Beat all the ingredients for the topping together until smooth, then drop by the spoonfull into the chocolate batter. Run a knife through the batters to create a marbled effect.

Bake @ 350F for 25 to 30 Minutes.

"It's like where 'Food' and 'Money' come to have sex!"
- Owain Yeoman, from Kitchen Confidential
"I'm dependent on my labor, for the texture and the flavor..."
- The Posies (Song of the Baker)

The Misfits - Die Monster Die!
The Posies - Song of the Baker
Boney M - No woman, No Cry
Tom Tom Club - Genius of Love

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Apocalypse is just a change in the weather...

Friday night, Kerrie and I went out for the evening.

One of my favorite, albeit trendy, places to go in Cinci is Ludlow Avenue. Ludlow Avenue is slimmed down Ann Arbor-esque neighborhood teeming with artists and beggars and old, rundown buildings that house some of the best eateries I've ever experienced. Case in point, Kerrie and I ate at this amazing Italian Bistro named Baigio's. Small, intimate dining where the aroma of garlic and heavy cream practically knock you over when you walk through the front door.

But really, when it comes right down to it, I like Ludlow for one reason: Sitwell's Coffee House.

Sitwell's is the "Cosmo's" of Cincinnati. It's a funky little place to visit, loosely decorated with different types of art, postcards, posters, curtains and any other piece of crap they can staple to the walls.

It's an amazing "thing" to experience. The coffee, the people, the vibe... Kerrie and I stopped in for dessert and settled into the back half of the joint where you are allowed to not only smoke, but you're allowed to smoke cloves and no one makes a fuss. We shared a bowl of Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream, and each ordered coffee. I had a cappuccino and she had Kioki Coffee. The drink Kerrie ordered, although I only got a sip of it, was psychotically good: Dark Roasted Coffee mixed with Congac, Creme de Cacao and Kahlua. To round things off, there are all types of people roaming around this place. Some annoying, some working quietly, some we weren't able to tell if they were man or woman. (It's Pat!) Plus, the music selection was good. They were playing some sort of techno with tempos around 120-130BPM. What amazed me was how this did not hurt the ambiance for one second. If I had ever played Oaky or the Beat Junkies or Deep Dish at Cosmo's, it would have cleared the 3 PAYING customers out in less than 5 minutes.

I really love this place, truth be told. I feel comfy there. The sad thing is it makes me long for my days at the big ole C-Fuck, and that's not all that great of a thing to be wanting back into. On the upside though, it's inspired me to work all the harder on my tell-all about Cosmo's - And believe me, I'm telling ALL. Confession is good for the soul, right GL?

Sitwell's Coffee House

More Human Than Human - The X-ecutioners
Apache - The Incredible Bongo Band
If you want blood - ACDC
Quit Dancing - Highgears
Jungle Love - Morris Day & The Time

"Edwards got that rash from McCann..."
- Jeb
"What? Cuz I don't say things that are funny enough?"
- Kerrie on not having QotD in FBF

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I crumble like a Sugarcube...

Recently, it came to my attention that a lot of my clothes don't fit me anymore. And those items that used to be baggy, now fit comfortably. Since I no longer walk to work every day, nor do I walk around town to get breakfast or coffee or the occasional haircut, I've gained just enough weight around my waist to make more than a few pairs of my pants not fit.

So I spend 30 minutes on the treadmill every morning. I also lift a little and do some basic Yoga, but the focus is on the walking. I never realized what a huge difference that made to my weight until I was getting dressed one Sunday morning and had to "suck it in" to get my black suit on, which I just bought last September.

I don't eat badly, for the most case. Yes I still par take in the ritual of eating junk food, but not like I did when I was in High School. (Cold Pizza and warm Coke anybody?) But I'm also NOT on the Health Nazi regiment of eating either. You know what the difference between me and a health-nut is? Nothing. We're both going to die, only I'll have had Foie Gras, Baked Brie, Chicken Shawarma, Baby Lamb Chops, turkish coffee and a host of other Food-Taliban no-no's - And I've loved every second of it...

Anyways... Today on the treadmill, I got to thinking about the items I can't live without in my kitchen. Surprisingly, the list is relatively small. There are tons of gadgets and unique items I use frequently (My Ibrik for example) but could live without if life so dictated...

But it goes without saying, what CAN'T I live without? Here the short and crucial list:

1.) My Chef's Knives
No item so useful, so elegant, so sexy as a fine-assed chef's knife. I use Calphalon and keep four types on hand at all times.
8" Chef's Knife
6" Chef's Knife
5" Santoku
7" Santoku

2.) Calphalon Cookware
Oh yeah... I have a lot of Calphalon. The items that I use the most are my three saute pans (8", 10" and 12"), my two stock pots (8 Quart and 12 Quart), and my sauce pan (1 Quart). You just can't do much better than Calphalon - Giggety!

3.) Blender, Food Processor, and Hand Mixer
All three items, made by Black & Decker, have proven essential for dessert making. If you've ever had one of my cheesecakes and their accompanying sauces, they all start with excellent ingredients and these three WMP. (Weapons of Mass Production)

4.) Wooden Spoons
Plain, old fashioned wooden spoons. It would be a tragedy to wreck that sexy Calphalon cookware by scraping metal across the bottom of it, so I -like any sane cook- use wood. Hehehe... Wood.

5.)Gas Grill
Charcoal is family tradition. Fathers teaching sons how to stand around in front of a grill in checkered pants holding an MGD... Gas, on the other hand is a professionals must. When you have 6 to 12 to 20 people lined up waiting for an entree, charcoal dudn't cut it. I grill just about everything, as I rarely fry meats. Even in the dead of winter I try to grill as much as possible.

6.) Mix Tapes
There is something about the way I work... I don't know what it is about me, but I need music when I work. Punk rock, DnB, Slut Rock, Funk, Turntable, Trip Hop and Isaac Hayes. I need rhythm when I work, I need a beat... I try not to over emphasize what's on the tape, because I never want it to detract from my work, only to aid in it. I guess that's why I like electronic so much, very little going on lyrically but a lot going on with beats and grooves. Also, I hate it when someone brings a mix tape to the work environment and wants you to analyze every track in all it's artsy glory. HEY! I'm choppin' shallots here! I don't give a good fuck about some Weezer spin-off!

And that's really it. Those are the essential items. When I make dinner, I usually don't stray too far off that list. Yes, there are tons of other items like Mixing Bowls, Squeeze Bottles, Cutting Boards, Coffee Makers, and Cutty Sark, but they don't do much outside of provide for a well-stocked kitchen.

One item oddly missing from my to-die-for list is a Kitchenaid Professional Stand Mixer. I've wanted one for years and have yet to actually go out an buy one. Meringues, Cheesecakes, Breads, and a slew of other culinary delights could be at my finger tips if only I went out and got one. (ahem) Christmas is coming soon dear readers...

Yo La Tengo - Sugarcube
Isaac Hayes - Them from Shaft
Klint - Diamond
Richard Hell & the Voidiods - Love Comes in Spurts
Paul Oaknefold - Ready, Steady, Go

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I was made for lovin' you bay-bay...

There is a small community in San Diego called Old Town.

Old Town is nothing special, per se. It's got some neat history, quaint shops, a few cigar stores, and some great food...

Jeb and I found this to be true when we ate at Rockin' Baja Lobster.

RBL is, as you may have guessed, is Baja-style cooking -specifically: Seafood- and it is Rockin'... The place is tucked back onto one of the side streets and apart from it's big sign, you would never think of it as a restaurant. Seriously, from the street it looks like a big fancy estate with a gate and lots of foliage.

The story goes, that Jeb and I were looking around for something to eat when we last went to San Diego. I had installed the rule that we could not eat ANYWHERE we could eat in Ohio. (No BK, Wendy's, Olive Garden...) As we were walking around, we noticed the sign from about three blocks back and headed towards it. As we crept upon the place, there was actually a debate about going in. Should we or shouldn't we? I really don't know why there was any doubt...

As you enter, the place appears to be like any other mid-range restaurant. Kind of generic, honestly. But as we waited to be seated, I got a better glimpse of the place, and it all started to make sense. The dining room is actually a open-air setting with a big awning over it. There was a fountain and a well stocked bar, plus lots of classic rock music piped in over the speakers. And by Rock, I mean ROCK... None of this Toto/Starship/Fake-Rock shit. Once seated, I ordered a Cutty with Lime and a glass of Ice Water, and sat back with a grin while listening to I was Made For Loving You by KISS.

The menu is pretty decent. Maybe my Ohio-tethered palette was fooled by the obvious. I doubt this was true-according to Hoyle-Baja cooking, but it was fan-fuckin-tastic. Jeb and I split the Big Baja Bucket for 2 and killed it pretty quick. It was overflowing with Lobster Tails, Shrimp, Marinated Chicken, and grilled Carne Asada.

It was a near Zen experience, because to my thinking - THIS is what eating is supposed to be about. Not what's the most expensive, not where you eat it, and not because it's trendy. It was good...

I've made some Baja dishes back here in Ohio, but they're not quite the same. The recipe, style of cooking and ingredients are exact, but there is something about RBL that can't be duplicated. If you ever make it out to California, I highly recommend it. There, ya happy Jeb?

Ray Nagin - Demi-Publican in 2008! Hey, you could do worse...