Sunday, February 28, 2010

Checking It Out

My kitchen is well stocked with various gadgets, pots and pans. My bookshelves are crammed with a weird mixture of cookbooks - both for food and for Photoshop. My browser favorites files burst with a wide range of culinary blogs, food sections of national newspapers and food porn. But before there was all that, there was the Library. I love libraries. An incredible resource especially if you have control issues walking into a Borders or Barnes & Noble. Luckily I live in a county that has an excellent library system. Even their trucks are cool.But I didn't realize how good my library was until I saw Ferran Adrià's A Day at elBulli on the shelf. 600 pages of text, photos and recipes, it's not really a cookbook unless you're plugged into the "Adrià/elBulli way" of cooking. It's more a book of philosophy.That line about chefs should be better tasters is particularly fascinating when you think about how many times we've heard some poor Top Chef contestant try and explain why their dish tasted like crap.Oh yeah, Ferran, I struggle with that last one all the time.I really love the belief of making the chef, the waiter and the guest all equal parts of the production of a great dish. A total experience, each important to the process.

Of course, all this deep culinary thinking recently became a bit confuzzled. You see elBulli is only open for 6 months out of the year and only open for dinner. Each year approximately 8,200 guests dine at the restaurant compared to the two million requests they receive. Now in 2008 it cost € 200 (about $316 US) for the tasting menu. Sounds like a bargain to me for the restaurant voted Best Restaurant in the World but what it didn't do was cover the costs of making that meal. In January Adrià announced he would be closing elBulli, in part because they were losing half a million euros a year. Suddenly a whole lot of Foodie Bucket Lists took a big hit. Here's hoping your library is as extensive as mine and you can at least check out Adrià's book. You might even try your hand at making Mango and Black Olive Discs but good luck borrowing 25 grams of Isomalt from your next door neighbor.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Can I get a side of Fries with that?

Would how something was packaged influence the way you eat? Product designer Daizi Zheng thinks so.
Then again, some things should just stay on the shelf.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chef Bourdain

Photo by Keith Farris, CIA

In case you missed Tony at his alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America on a recent episode of No Reservations. You can thank me later, ladies.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I love simple. Here's a little treat that couldn't be any simpler.
Goat cheese cut into coins, wrap those slices with thinly sliced pancetta, then crisp up in a little hot olive oil. Finish it off with a little drizzle of honey. Now you've got an amazing little bite that hits the creamy, salty and sweet notes all at once. Pair it up with a good crusty bread and you've just spoiled yourself. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dim Sum Sunday - Hot Steamy Soup

It's only appropriate that it's snowing today. It makes me appreciate today's task all the more.
Although it's not so much fun for my Lucky Garden Gnome or....

...Handsome Jake. The soup I chose to make would happily satisfy both the garden gnome and the dog, a hearty Beef Barley soup with chunky vegetables from Cook's Illustrated Best Recipes. The soup itself is very straightforward but I highly urge you to make your own beef stock. Some cooks enjoy the work intensive process of making bread. That's the way I feel about making stocks and soups. I love steaming up the kitchen with deep meaty smells as I brown six pounds of beef shanks and oxtails needed to get that rich beef flavor. The bonus is that you'll have your meat to add to your soup. I don't mind the straining or de-fatting the results. It's that flavor I'm chasing. No store bought broth can touch it.

Beef Barley Soup with Mushrooms

2 T vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
2 medium carrots, chopped medium
12 oz mushrooms
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 c drained canned diced tomatoes
2 quarts rich beef stock plus 2 cups meat shredded into bite sized pieces
1/2 c pearl barley
1/4 c minced fresh parsley
salt and ground black pepper

Heat half the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion and carrots and sauté until softened.Add remaining oil and mushrooms. Sauté until mushroom soften and the liquid they throw off evaporates, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the thyme, tomatoes, stock, meat, and the barley. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the vegetables and barley are tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot and steamy.
With a loaf of hearty bread and some sharp cheddar cheese, let it snow all night. You have your hot bowl to keep you warm and happy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Karmic Dilemma

This giant foodie Orca is faced with a mighty Karmic Dilemma. You see my little Top Chef Crack Monkeys, Top Chef Masters is about to hurtle back into our lives with Season Two. They just announced the lineup of 22 Master Chefs and I have to admit it's a pretty fantastic group. I thought I had my Fav to win it all picked out and ready to go......that's right, long time Shamu Chef Crush, Susan Feniger. A 30 year veteran of opening and running successful restaurants, writing cookbooks, starring as half of the Too Hot Tamales back before the Food Network went stupid. Why she even rocked the Chef Fauxhawk back in the day.How could I not pick her to win? Well.... Chef Debbie Gold, Executive Chef of the American Restaurant, located in Shamu's own backyard. Oh holy hell, now what? I'm a big fan of Chef Gold's work both at the American and her former restaurant, 40 Sardines. What the heck am I going to do?

Don't worry Gail, as long as you're at the Judges Table, all will be right in our world.

In this corner we have Wily Veteran of the Restaurant, Television, and Radio worlds. She stands about 5' 4" in orange Chuck Taylors. Her first restaurant, the tiny City Cafe, only had room for a hot plate inside and a hibachi out back. Was voted Finest Lesbian Chef in the world by Out Traveler magazine. Is versed in many global cuisines. Best reason to throw the Karmic Kitchen Mojo behind her efforts to become the Top Chef Master? She gives fantastic TV and I'm a friend on her Facebook. (Along with a thousand other people.) People, nobody ever said that common sense, reason or expertise go into these picks .

And in this corner we have a local favorite and winner of a James Beard award in 1999. Have actually eaten at her two restaurants, The American Restaurant and 40 Sardines. Food was fantastic and if I had more cash and a better wardrobe, The American would see a lot more of me. A single mom whose culinary tree appears to be American with deep French roots. Looks like this is her first venture into the madness that is Food TV. Best reason to be Debbie Gold's Top Chef Master's Bitch? Possible Watch Parties at the American. (how cool would it to eat a chef's food while watching her compete on Top Chef Masters)

So in the interest of fairness I will do what all smart people do when faced with this kind of dilemma....let someone else decide by running a poll.

Who should Shamu pick as her favorite to win Top Chef Masters, Season 2?
Go with the Wily Veteran Susan Feniger, she writes to you every day on Facebook
Debbie Gold, you might actually have a chance to talk to her in person before Bravo finds out
Don't you realize Ludo Lefebvre is back, slice off a hunk of that Crazy French Cheese free polls
OK party people, help an Orca out and vote. And if Susan or Debbie feels like they can influence the voting by leaving a comment...well they can. I'm easy like that.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dim Sum Sunday - Hot Steamy Soup

For our last Dim Sum Sunday, I asked our participants to bring me some sun by the way of Citrus. My bloggy friends were incredibly generous in their citrus offerings.

Key Lime Coconut Squares

First up is one of two Florida gals who soak up the sunshine on a daily basis. La Diva Cucina not only served up a decadent lime dessert but also shared an adorable photo of La Diva as a wee Divette. These lime squares will brighten up any winter day.

Three Layer Orange Cake

Dani from Gardening Under the Florida Sun knew that two layers of sunshine would not be enough for the harsh winter weather some of us have been enjoying so she brought out....The Third Layer!!! With cream cheese frosting. Yours truly would have been satisfied with just licking the bowl.

Orange and Pear Salad

We have a newcomer to Dim Sum Sunday. MS over at Making Space actually made something healthy and got the kidlets involved in producing the dinner. Getting them to actually eat the green leafy stuff we'll put off until another Dim Sum. Thanks for joining our merry band of foodie bloggers.

Which brings us to this week's theme for Dim Sum Sunday. Hot and Steamy Soup. Yes, even after the wonderful sunny citrus of our last Dim Sum, I'm still cold. That means it's time for Soup. This Sunday, show us your favorite rib sticking, better the second day soup. Post it up and wander back here to see what everyone else made and tell us you're up. Because if you don't how can we make our copious notes for the eventual National Eating Tour of Foodie Bloggers.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How'd they do that?

Last week when I was putting together my Citrus Dim Sum, I had planned to do a dessert to complete my red snapper dinner. In my research I had come across a dessert that had intrigued me. It was a goat cheesecake pastry from a 2007 NY sweet shop review by the Wandering Eater. It's beautiful and seemingly simple. A mini cheesecake in a nest of kaitfi. Well...not really that simple. There was no recipe to help me out. I was on my own.

Finding the kataifi (shredded phyllo dough) was simple.
The Greek deli down the street had exactly what I needed. Just defrost and peel off what you need. You make the nests by mixing the shreds with a little melted butter and then mold into the bottom of muffin cups. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes and you've got nests.Except that these nests seem a little short. The little mini cheesecakes sit like top hats on these flat little nests.But how to get deeper nests? I had just the thing. A popover pan. The individual cups are deeper and wider than the muffin pan cups. Another batch was soon cooling on the counter.Getting there, not as pretty as the restaurant's neat, little cheesecake but it's getting there.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Old School Food Porn

The melding of art, commerce and food has always intrigued me. The love of food porn photography is evident. But there was food porn before there was color photography. There were talented artists who toiled away, usually without credit, producing labels and advertising that would lure the consumer into reaching that hand out and paying money for a King Tut Lemon.
As I zip around the internet, poking into all things food, I'll be posting an occasional series on Old School Food Porn, whether it be fruit crate labels or World War Two Homefront posters.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just One More Reason to Go West

That reason is Boccalone. Pig parts heaven.

It has has t-shirts... has a great slogan... even has a Back/Belly/Cheek sampler.
Road trip anyone?