Thursday, December 20, 2007

I thought I had a good Thanksgiving, with I only had my family and a turkey and mild, snow-free California weather, but Henry Rollins went to the Shatners' for his Thanksgiving. That might be the Thanksgiving jackpot.

Foodgoat was happy to re-discover Henry Rollins, whose music he admired in his youth, in the form of the Henry Rollins TV show. Watching Henry Rollins is like watching Foodgoat's two best friends talking out of the same body. And on TV. With William Shatner. Which is awesome, but also kind of creepy.

He was very disappointed to learn that up until last week, I had a no idea who Henry Rollins was. He may have been more disappointed that he didn't find out this all-important fact prior to marriage.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Give Me Your Tired, Poor Wine Yearning to Breathe Free

While at the Rosenblum Cellars tasting room, we were introduced to the wonder that is the Vinturi Wine Aerator. We tried one of the wines with and without the aerator, and were astounded at the difference it made.

The idea behind aerating wine, or letting it breathe, that by exposing wine, young reds in particular, to air, you "open up" and improve the taste and the aroma.

How to do this? Well, you can open up the bottle and let it sit there for a while, and then drink it. We have never been patient enough to do this. When we open a bottle, it's so we can drink it right now. Plus, the shape of the bottle isn't really conducive to air exposure.

Or, you can decant the wine into another container. I think crystal decanters are lovely, but we don't have one, and anyway, the idea of pouring wine out of a perfectly nice bottle into a decanter just to pour it into a glass right away seemed to be just another step between me and that glass of wine.

There are also numerous aerating tools, including this Wine Whisk, but we don't have any of those. And anyway, did they really make a difference?

So, into the aerate-less world, enters the Vinturi Aerator. You simply pour wine through it into the glass. It makes a rather rude sound as the wine goes through and adds little bubbles into your glass. It all happens somewhat quickly and without a lot of flashing lights, leaving one to wonder if it really did anything.

Once you taste the wine, though, you realize that it does. It makes a huge difference. Taste some wine without using it, and then taste the same wine using the Aerator, and the taste difference can be spectacular. In some cases, we were surprised that they were the same wine. Unaerated, the wine was harsh and sharp; aerated, it was smooth and much better.

The Aerator isn't a performance enhancing tool for all wines - it made hardly any difference at all in some of the higher end Rosenblums, for example, and it didn't stop the Cigarzin from giving Foodgoat a raging red wine headache - and we haven't tried it on whites, but it did work wonders on some of the cheaper red wines that we've tried it with. A $10 bottle of wine that we initially disliked suddenly tasted like a $20 bottle. This $40 tool may end up saving us money in the long run.

Plus, it's pretty and it's fun to show people.

The lesson for me? Wine needs to be served properly to get the most out of it. And that includes adequate aeration, if that's what it needs. It's amazing how paying attention to little details in serving wine can make such a big difference in how it tastes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's Not a Holiday Without a Jelly Donut

Why didn't anyone tell me that Hanukkah celebrations include jelly-filled donuts?

I would have started celebrating Hanukkah long ago!

Especially if all of them are as good as my first sufganiya, a kind of jelly donut cooked in oil. The one I had was homemade, with jelly added before the frying, resulting in a warm jelly center (usually, it's fried first, then injected with filling). It was really quite delicious.

Why celebrate with donuts? (The question is, why not?) But in this case, it is the custom during Hanukkah to eat fried foods, in commemoration of the miracle associated with the Temple oil. Another fried dish associated with Hanukkah is latkes, or potato pancakes, which seemed just like hash browns to me, except with sour cream and applesauce.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Theorem of the Cheesy Ratio

After waiting months in the In-and-Out-less Midwest wilderness, Foodgoat finally got to go to In-and-Out again while in California.

The last time he was there, he got a little silly and had a 2x6 - two patties, six slices of cheese. Afterwards, he conceded that it might have been too much cheese.

Being older and wiser, this time he stuck with the more delicious 2x4, animal style.

But while awaiting his order, he noticed the receipt listed a 4x4 animal style. Foodgoat caught a worker and corrected the mistake.

He sat down to eat, only to discover that it had not been corrected at all. He still had a gotten 4x4 animal style. Four meat patties, four slices of cheese. What could he do but eat it?

It was good, but ... it was a lot of meat. A lot of meat.

What does this teach us? Well, it proves Foodgoat's Theorem of the Cheesy Ratio, developed after the 2x6 experiment.

The Theorem of the Cheesy Ratio explains why the 2x4 works by describing the perfect proportion of meat to cheese - of two slices of cheese per one meat patty.

Too much cheese - as in the 2x6, which has three slices of cheese per patty - and the cheese doesn't quite melt right. Thus some of the cheese is a little cold, and the whole meat-cheese tastiness is dependent on adequate meltedness.

Too much meat - as in the case of the 4x4, which has 1 meat patty to 1 slice of cheese - and you don't have enough cheese to balance your meat. This is especially important the higher you go in number - a cheeseburger (1 patty to 1 cheese) may be tolerable if you're of small appetite, but get up to 4x4, and you might feel you're just chewing down a pile of meat without enough cheese to make it worthwhile.

But in the right proportion - as in the 2x4, 2 patties to 4 cheese slices - there you find enough meat to be filling but not overwhelming, enough cheese to be tasty but still melted properly.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Days of Wine

While in California a few weeks ago, we attended the wedding of Foodgoat's aunt, which featured not only a lovely ceremony, a fun party, and a very happy bride and groom, but also days and days of excellent wine. There was fine wine at the rehearsal dinner, trips into wine country for tastings, long discussions about the virtues of this wine and that, wine gifts, even wine with Nation's burgers for lunch (which is pretty good, let me tell you).

The reception had the very best bar of any wedding we've been to, and that includes our own (when people see my wedding photos, the first question is always "What's that you're drinking?"). It featured wines from the local Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda, which happens to be Foodgoat's very favorite winery and current obsession, having discovered their delicious Zinfadels when he visited their tasting room last spring. We sipped happily all night long.

Later that week we stopped by the Rosenblum Cellars tasting room - “mecca for zin-fanatics” - to sample even more.

We tried:
Kathy's Cuvée Viognier, California - 2006
Maggie's Reserve Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley - 2005
Snows Lake Vineyard Zinfandel, Lake County - 2005
Lyons Reserve Zinfandel, Napa Valley - 2005
Désirée Chocolate Dessert Wine, California

How much did we like the Rosenblum wine we tasted? This much:

Ah yes, Foodgoat and I will be drinking well for a long, long time.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Weirdness in the Chocolate

A few weeks ago, friends handed me a piece of candy, instructing me to eat it, but declining to tell me what to expect or anything about it.

Having a peanut allergy has fomented a deep suspicion of unfamiliar candy. Who knows lurks underneath that sugar? What evils have been hidden amongst the sweet? Even when assured of its safety, I was distrustful.

After all, if someone tells you to "try something" without further elaboration, you can be sure it's not because it's delicious. If it was tasty, they would have said so. No, people who just tell you to taste something - while refusing to say why - are looking for a reaction. Usually an adverse one.

I didn't have an allergic reaction. But it was indeed an adverse one. To a milk chocolate bar with Pop Rocks.

Yes, Pop Rocks. Volatile, loud, slightly painful, Pop Rocks. In milk chocolate. Smooth, mild, sweet milk chocolate.

It's not really a happy combination.

So of course I happily accepted a whole bar of the Israeli-made candy for Foodgoat to try.
However, not wanting to spring a mouthful of weirdness on his taste buds, I told him what it was first. Now knowing that there was weirdness ahead, he postponed the tasting repeatedly, waiting for the "right time" (much like our marriage).

And when you think about it, there's really no right setting or atmosphere for eating something freakish like that - there's no meal where you think, "Hey, you know what would go great with this wine? A chocolate bar with Pop Rocks."

When he finally did try it, the result was this:

While another person's reaction to the Pop Rocks chocolate bar was to clutch at her throat and scream "IT'S BURSTING INSIDE MY BRAIN!!!"

Which all just goes to show you that the weird, uncomfortable feelings that Pop Rocks give you are not eased when encased in creamy milk chocolate. In fact, it kind of makes it worse.

Maybe that's why the kiddies like it. Maybe its unpleasantness is what makes it appealing. Like artificially green ketchup. Can't say I'm one of them, though.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

We Go to Dinner with the Ingredients We Have, Not the Ingredients We Want

The local Asian market is more like a Korean market than a Filipino market. This would not matter so much if I was looking for, say, rice, or fish sauce. But I was looking for lumpia wrappers. This, they did not have. They did, however, have egg roll wrappers. It's not the same, but the only real Filipino market is an hour away, so it would have to do.

I made some filling - ground beef with onions, garlic, corn - but lacking some of the usual vegetables that normally go in, such as green beans, I went with what I had in the freezer: frozen chopped spinach. I don't ever remember having spinach in lumpia. Conceptually, I told myself it was no different from green beans, but I felt a little bad doing it.

I feared I was straying too far from the essence of Lumpia.

I wrapped and I fried, and I ended up with this:
This was not lumpia.

Not because of the spinach, which was fine and actually kind of good, but because of the wrapper. Lumpia wrappers are thin, fragile sheets of rice flour mixed with water. Egg roll wrappers are thicker, rubbery sheets of dough - flour, water, and eggs. Lumpia wrappers fry up crispy, flaky, delicious. Egg rolls wrappers fry up puffy and heavy and a more doughy inner side.

And this is why lumpia wrappers are far superior than egg rolls wrappers - lumpia does not end up looking like it has boils.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Special Level

Being a good Catholic girl, I lit a devotional candle and prayed to all the saints that comment spammers burn in a special level of Hell, where they must eat okra dipped in Marmite. Or chicken, just undercooked enough that it looks cooked but is actually still raw enough to be all rubbery and salmonella'd. Or cereal with those artificially colored, dried up marshmallows. Or all three together in a Velveeta-laced casserole. With one of those flimsy plastic sporks that neither spoons nor forks with any efficiency.

Using food as punishment often means denying food, but I think one could get a lot more creative with it, don't you?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Halloween, one of the best holidays in the year, when we go through the time-honored tradition of choosing trick-or-treat candies. It's a big decision. We never, ever eat candy. This is the one time of year that we eat any, so we choose that candy with care.

Trick or treaters were allowed to choose two out of a giant candy bowl (even the kid who dressed as a Yankee, who was lucky I let him have anything). This year, our offerings to the children of our community included:
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cups: Foodgoat fave, and always rank high on the kiddies. Foodgoat prefers the regular size Reese's cups over the smaller sizes (due to the higher peanut butter to chocolate coating ratio).
  • Snicker's: Is the Fun Size getting smaller? Because it doesn't seem as fun as it used to. But still good to Foodgoat. Not for nothing is Snickers the best selling candy bar of all time.
  • Twix: Did you know that Twix was called "Raider" in Germany for years? And that the change to "Twix" in 1991 went so badly it became a metaphor for botched attempts to make something look more modern by rebranding it with a new name? I didn't either. It's one of those things that's on Wikipidia, but I don't really believe.
  • Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fishes: The surprise hit of the night - lots more kids wanted the sour chewy candies and the gummi fishes than we would have thought. The Sour Patch Kids were originally called Mars Men and shaped like aliens. The Swedish fishes are now actually made in Canada and are actually vegan, but you wouldn't know it, because they do taste pretty good.
The best part? Lots of leftover candy, just for us.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Not the One

We have been an exclusively Granny Smith household. Then the other day I had an apple that was not a Granny Smith. To my surprise, I found that it was good - it was crisp and not too sweet and quite eatable. Could it be that there are other apple types that are lunch-worthy? The only other apple cultivar that I am familiar with are Red Delicious, or as I like to call them, Red Not So Delicious.

Unfortunately, I had no idea what cultivar this good one was. But it's autumn, and there is a dizzying array of apple varieties available, so I tried another apple.

Alas, McIntosh apples were not what I was looking for. Traditionally the most popular cultivar in New England, I thought that McIntoshs had a reputation as a good eating apple, but if they do, I don't agree. They're not good for eating. They're a little too mushy. But they did turn out very nicely for my apple pie, baking into succulent, sweet little pieces. And hot, cinnamon-sprinkled mushiness on top of a flaky crust is much preferable to the cold, plain mushiness at the bottom of the lunch bag.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Blade Noodles

We watched the sci-fi cult classic Blade Runner for the very first time a few weeks ago, and the only thing that really stuck in my mind was early in the film, when Deckard was eating at a noodle bar. Against the dark, noir future, that hot, steaming bowl of noodles looked so yummy.

So Foodgoat was inspired to make his very own bowl of noodle goodness, venturing into Asian cuisine territory. For this he employed not only frozen noodles from the Asian market, but some other new ingredients we happened to have on hand due to a failed Saveur magazine Thai recipe, including a root called galangal, which looks like a pale ginger. I've seen the taste described as similar to pine or to cloves ... different from ginger but still a sort of spicy root taste.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Foodgoat was sick last week, and treated himself partly with a bag of Horehound candy. (And here you thought this was going to be another Larry Craig post.)

Horehound, a weed in many countries and a member of the mint family, is an old herbal treatment for coughs and colds and other sorts of respiratory troubles. Claey's has been making the horehound herb tea candies for generations, and still brews and steeps them in copper kettles.

Horehound drops were commonly sold in pharmacies The FDA banned horehound as an active ingredient from cough drops in 1989 due to insufficient evidence supporting its efficacy, but horehound is still widely used in Europe, and can be found in European-made herbal cough remedies - such as Ricola. And it is still recognized as safe when used in small amounts to flavor beverages, candies, foods, and medicines. For Foodgoat, the horehound worked about as well to soothe his sore throat as any other cough drop or hard candy.

But how does horehound candy taste? Well, sort of root-beer-ish, somewhat bittersweet. Not bad.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

West Coast/North coast Beer Matchup

The Browns and the 49ers don't play until the last game of the season, but San Francisco and Cleveland recently went head-to-head in a Foodgoat Beer Battle, pitting the Anchor Liberty Ale vs. the Great Lakes Brewing Company Dortmunder Gold.

The Dortmunder Gold, which Foodgoat considers the best of the Great Lakes beers and his beer of choice at the moment (especially when the Cleveland teams are playing) is a smooth lager with "more body and less hops than a Pilsner, and less malt and more hops than a Munich style lager."

Against it we tried
the Anchor Liberty Ale, (first brewed in 1975 to commemorate Paul Revere's ride). Anchor describes this beer as "a heavily hopped ale (Cascade hops) with a copper color and a hoppy nose."

How would the West Coast ale hold up to the North Coast lager?

Oddly enough, they taste almost exactly the same. Foodgoat took a swig of the Liberty Ale and thought for a minute that he had the Dortmunder.

It's downright spooky. They're like long lost beer twins.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Marriage Made in Foodie Heaven

Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the presence of these witnesses, to join together Home-Grown Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella, which is commended to be honorable among all foods; and therefore not to be entered into lightly – but reverently, deliciously, and often.

Into this holy estate these two ingredients present now come to be joined, supported by a cracker or surrounded by a sandwich. If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together – let them speak now or forever enjoy the mutual tastiness of juicy, bright red tomatoes over smooth fresh mozzarella slices.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Who Else Like Corbo's Cassata Cake?

Mario Batali, of course! He mentioned it in yesterday's USA Today article on 10 great places to discover Italy — in America:
"Corbo's Bakery has the best cassata (cake) I have tried in the USA," Batali says.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Cassata Cake

This past weekend, for his father's 60th birthday party, Foodgoat hosted his first big dinner party. And so ended any desire for opening a restaurant, because now we know that cooking for over twenty people? It's work. It's hard work. It's fun at any given night to make pork and dumplings, salmon, spinach gnocchi with homemade tomato sauce, black bean and avocado salad, green salad, or roasted vegetables, but all in one day? With your cooking reputation on the line? We have a newfound respect for all who cook for large gatherings.

Fortunately, Foodgoat had the help of his brothers and his mother (good cooks all), and the food came out deliciously and was well-received and everyone was happy.

The one thing we didn't have to make was the birthday cake. While the rest of the menu was not decided until last week, for months Foodgoat had his heart set on a cassata cake from Corbo's Bakery in Little Italy.

A cassata cake is a dessert from Palermo, Sicily, but it's the dessert to get here in Cleveland. They appear at all kinds of special occasions, and locals turn dreamy at the mention of Corbo's cassata cakes.

Traditionally, cassata (introduced by the Arabs) is a tort of plain white cake filled with the same sheep's milk ricotta cream, topped with frosting and sugared fruits. It might have an orange liqueur and chocolate filling and a shell of marzipan or chocolate frosting.

The Corbo's version is a light, fluffy, white cake filled with creamy custard and fresh strawberries and topped with just-sweet-enough whipped frosting. Sooo delicious! It's so good I completely forgot to take a picture, so anxious was I to eat a piece.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Anthony Bourdain has an overrated menu up on Radar Magazine, which includes ...
Pea soup topped with truffle oil: Truffle oil is the lazy chef's way to add value, by which I mean charge more.

Chocolate martini: Both chocolate and liquor are good in bars, but ordering them together announces that you don't like or appreciate either. Anyone who requests this drink should also get a T-shirt that says "I am an asshole, please take my money."
To make this menu even more overrated, may I suggest biodegradable plastic products? I know it's all the rage among the environmentally-inclined to use biodegradable plastic spoons and forks and such as the green alternative. The corn-based, or whatever, products will allow us to consume one-use items with a clear conscience, or so the hype goes.

Well, I have included two biodegradable plastic items in my compost pile in the past two years, and today, that plastic water bottle (that I carried all the way from Colorado, I might add) and that flimsy plastic bag still look as pristine and as structurally intact as the day they were made. They have not degraded one bit. Not even a little hole anywhere to indicate some kind of plastic collapse. And that's deep in my hot, damp, worm-ridden compost pile, which can make pizza boxes disappear in a matter of weeks. What would happen to them in the dry, cold landfill? They'd sit there, for years, that's what would happen to them.

And so, I'm officially taking the position that biodegradable plastic is overrated. It irritated Foodgoat to see the couple on TV smugly proclaiming their wedding "green" because of their use of biodegradable spoons and forks - sure, it soothes the guilty consumerist soul, but we're pretty sure that in reality, all they really do is create more landfill trash.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fish ... in Sandwiches?

Not so long ago, I had run of eating fish sandwiches. All were variations of breaded fish fillets (it's tilapia in the photo), topped with cheese and mayo and tomatoes and lettuce in some kind of bun.

It sounds so ordinary, doesn't it? Yet fish sandwiches still seem sort of new and weird to me. Where I grew up, my family ate a lot of fish, but not in sandwiches. Nor was fish breaded, or even filleted, for that matter. I don't even think we ate a lot of canned tuna.

No, the fish on the table usually looked not too far from the way the Good God made them - whole, heads on, bones in. And served with a big plate of rice. Just like the Good God intended.

And so, breaded fish sandwich, you'll forgive me if I still look at you askance because you look nothing like a fish. It's not your fault you've been breaded beyond recognition. You still taste good.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nicely Named Wines

When people ask me if things are different since being married early this summer, I look back on the nearly four months of wedded bliss, and I realize that yes, things have changed. Foodgoat drinks a lot more.

He claims the visit to California and, especially, the Rosenblum winery, inspired a interest in wine, but I have my suspicions because my mamma always warned me this might happen. Or maybe that was just a bad country song.

Anyway, we've been sampling lots of wine over the past few months. The Norman Vineyards Zinfadel "The Monster" is one of the few to receive multiple tastings, and makes us happy every time. I think of it as a big red wine, although I can't really articulate what I mean by that. Suffice it to say that the Monster is a great everyday wine to sip while cooking dinner (albeit a $22 one) or a nice one to bring over to someone's house, because it tastes lovely with a variety of dishes or just by itself.

I'm not saying that the only reason I wanted to try Kilikanoon Lackey Shiraz was because it was called the Lackey. Or because the label had a nice drawing of boots. But it helped.

No, the reason I wanted to try it was because the Warehouse Beverage, our excellent neighborhood beer and wine store, had a little handwritten sign, noting that it was one of the best in its price range. Over the years, we've found that their little handwritten signs are never wrong.

The Lackey ($13.99) was warm and red and just a little spicy and delicious with Foodgoat's pasta sauce, made from four different types of tomatoes and three different types of peppers in our garden.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Thanks to our garden defense system, we have collected far more tomatoes from our little vegetable past on any given day than we were able to salvage from entire past seasons. Over two days, we collected seven (7!) pounds of organic, fresh, tomato goodness. And more is coming.

At the beginning of the season, when we were still a little unsure about whether the motion-activated sprinkler would truly deter the poachers from the ripest tomatoes, we picked the tomatoes when they were still a bit under-ripe. But a few days in a closed paper bag in the cool, dark basement, and they came out beautifully red and ripe for pasta sauce or BLTs.

Now we know we can actually let them ripen on the vine. Each afternoon, we pick a few red ones, and leave on the windowsill for the next meal. Meanwhile, the kitchen smells of harvest.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cost Benefit Analysis on Canned Tuna

We did a double take at the price tag of Ecofish Solid White Albacore Tuna. Our mothers would have a fit if they found out that we paid $7 for one can of tuna. It wasn't even on sale.

But curiosity got the best of us: how much better could the outrageously priced canned be?

So what might justify the high price of Ecofish over your $0.89 variety? Sashimi grade, solid white meat tuna, hand filleted and packed. Independently tested for mercury and PCB’s. Sustainably produced.

We ended up using it for tuna melt sandwiches. Between the tuna and the fancy imported cheddar, they were the most expensive tuna melt sandwiches we ever had.

But it came out to be a delicious tuna melt sandwich. Yes, it was pricy. But it had really good tuna. Delicious tuna, that tasted just like a real tuna steak. It was noticeably different (and better) than the other canned tuna we usually get.

Hmm, which leaves me with a dilemma. That was really good canned tuna. But I can't deny that $7 is kind of pushing it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Humboldt Fog

Our cheese budget has been growing lately. Last week we shelled out over $30 at the cheese stand. But what can we do? We try cheeses, we love them, we must have more. The cheese vendor gives us a slice of a new cheese to try, we love it, we must buy half a pound.

That's what happened with the Humboldt Fog, which, according to the cheese guy, is one of the hottest cheeses of the day. Made by Cypress Grove Chevre, the goat cheese was dee-licious, with a tangy, blue cheese-like center surrounded by a more brie-like creaminess.
Rich and flavorful, it's definitely a party cheese.

So we bought crackers and had ourselves a party of two.

Idaho? Udaho? Actually, It's the Senator

Foodgoat and I were snickering yesterday over the latest hypocritical denials and disavowals from Senator Larry "I am not gay" Craig regarding his encounter with an undercover policeman in a Minneapolis airport bathroom, when suddenly we remembered why his name was familiar:

Senator Larry Craig ... from Idaho ... the one with the Super Tuber recipe?!? The hot dog-in-a-potato recipe that was so suggestive and so blatantly indecent I blush to have posted it?!? The dish that seems to aspire towards actual, rather than metaphorical, food porn?!?

Yup, that's the one.

I wonder if the Super Tuber is another one of those secret signals Craig employed?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Reservations, About Cleveland

The long awaited episode of No Reservations, where Anthony Bourdain dines in Cleveland, aired last night. It was funny, it was clever, it made Cleveland food, quite rightly, look very tasty.

Even though the West Side Market segment was a wee bit shorter than I would have liked.

And there were a few too many shots of Decrepit Cleveland.

And they didn't go to our two Cleveland favorites, Slyman's and Stevenson's.

And ... Skyline Chili?!? Really? I had to side with Michael Ruhlman here and grimaced at the spaghetti-weak chili-cheese dish. And correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that more of a Cincinnati thing, and not a Cleveland specialty? And Cincinnati is completely different from Cleveland. One is in Ohi-uh, and the other is in Ohi-oh. See? Not the same city at all.

But we are plotting a visit to the Sausage Shoppe soon.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rotary Grater

Today's tip: If you find yourself in need of grated carrots, and the only carrots you have are the baby kind, a rotary grater of the kind normally used for Parmesan cheese lets you grate up the little carrots without putting your finger tips in the line of danger.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Orange You Beery?

Having finally finished the last Harry Potter book, blogging can once again proceed as previously scheduled.

Last week, Foodgoat and I had dinner at the Winking Lizard downtown, just before watching the Browns' preseason game (and the excellent debut of Great Brown Hope Brady Quinn), and discovered that not all buffalo chicken sandwiches are created equal. Some buffalo chicken sandwiches, in fact, are created quite badly.

Passing up on the beer cocktails this time, I tried the Ommegang Witte Ale. It's a nice, light, very summer-like beer, that I would drink again.

Except without the orange slice this time, thank you very much. Although I hadn't seen it before, white wheat beers are often served with a slice of orange, though this may be a marketing ploy to promote Blue Moon. In the case of the Ommegange Witte, I didn't care for the addition of orange at all, which made it taste far too citrusy. Actually, it made me feel like I drinking another beer cocktail after all.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Everybody Votes

Foodgoat and I submitted a question to Wii's Everybody Votes channel, and now it's up there as one of the questions!!!

Get thee to your Wii and vote on "Is it called pop or soda?"

Midwesterner Foodgoat calls it pop. I, the West Coaster, calls it soda. I have to be careful not to ask for sodas from the natives because I end up with seltzer water.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Beer Cocktails

I've always thoughts that beer and cocktails were two separate and mutually exclusive things. You drink beer or you drink a cocktail (alternatively, you drink beer and then you drink a cocktail or vice versa), but a beer cocktail sounds all kinds of wrong. Is that really what they call a mixed beer drink?

That's apparently what I had at the Flannery's Pub, where Foodgoat and I dinnered before Saturday's preseason Browns game. Specifically, I drank a Snakebite, which is half hard cider, half lager beer.

It sounded nice and light and hot summer day-ish, Harp's and Longbow cider, but it seems my taste for cider, and sweet alcohol in general, has faded. The Snakebite just tasted really sweet, leaving no room for any of the other tastes and flavors that come with beer. It might have been fine if it came in a little cordial glass, along with dessert, but in Flannery's Trademark 20 oz. Imperial Pint,.. no, no, no.

According to wikipedia, a Snakebite might also refer to Guiness and cider, which might also be called a Black & Gold, which is what Foodgoat's mixed beer choice was called, but his Black & Gold was Guiness and Dortmunder Gold lager. His drink was much better than mine, not only because it tasted better, but the two beers separate out into two layers.

The Guiness, surprisingly, was the floating top layer - I thought it would be the sinking bottom layer because it looks and feels heavier, but it seems Guinness is carbonated with a lighter gas mixture of nitrogen and CO2. Who knew?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Indian flavors

You know what beverage goes really well with a main course of pork meatballs in a curried cream sauce?

Goya Coconut Soda.

I didn't think it would taste good in general, but it was delicious with the curried pork.

Not sure how it will mesh with, say, pasta, but for Indian flavors, it's yummy.

Speaking of Indian flavors, last week we also made a version of saag paneer using tofu instead of paneer cheese, that turned out surprisingly well. It was an ideal tofu dish, in that you couldn't really tell it was tofu.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Foodgoat's North Coast Offense

Our first harvest has come in!

One pepper ... and one red tomato!!

And, it looks like there is more to come - although the strawberries were decimated, and the parsley gnawed to the stems, the tomatoes and most of the peppers are big and heavy with fruit. And although they're still green and unripe, we have great hopes that they will make it to our table this year.

We put up a well-constructed fence, but when even that failed to deter the groundhog and the deer, it was time to get serious. It was time to get the Contech Electronics Scarecrow Motion-Activated Sprinkler.

Witness it in action:

And since putting in the sprinkler, our garden has been unmolested, and we dare to hope that we might actually get more than 3 tomatoes this year.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Don't Do Taco Night! No, Wait, I Do ... Tacos Rule!

The other night I saw a taco on South Park, and crudely drawn as it was, it set off a craving in me for tacos. Hard shell tacos, which I haven't had in years and years, since Taco Bell had them for 59 cents.

Rather than suffer through Taco Bell or even one of the unexceptional Mexican places around here, we hit the grocery store for our very own Taco Night.

It was actually great fun constructing our tacos from spiced up ground beef, colby jack cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, lettuce, and avocados.

Foodgoat reconstructed an old Taco Bell favorite - the Double Decker taco, in which the hard taco shell is inside a soft tortilla, held in place with refried beans. It sounds freaky and unnatural, but it does the Great Flaw of the Hard Taco Shell - one bite sends cracks all over your containment system, and structural integrity is lost. An outer layer of soft tortilla and refried beans, however, keeps it all in prime eating position. Oh, and it tasted pretty good, too.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I Never Thought I'd Find an Ice Cream Treat Disgusting

I noticed that on the Pierre's Ice Cream website, they do not have a picture, or even a description, of their Strawberry Crunch Bars. This was merciful of them, because the Strawberry Crunch Bar is visually a horror.

Picture it: the brightest, most unnatural, practically neon, pink ice cream bar, coated with powdery chunks of white "cake".

Taste it: an assault of artificial strawberry flavoring and mushy sugar-flour balls.

I don't know what possessed the good people at Pierre's to produce such a thing. Maybe it's one of those things that they didn't want to do, but had to do it because something has to pay the bills, and it might as well be those same people that eat Oreo O's with Marshmallow Bits cereal for breakfast.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Today's Hint

Pappy's XXX White Lightnin' barbecue sauce is very delicious, with a slow, building hotness, but ...

Don't use it to slow cook ribs over several hours, which appears to damage its original tastiness. Next time, we'll use it straight from the bottle with minimal, if any, cooking time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Reflections on Pineapple

We recently caught our first episode of Top Chef, and I was surprised to find myself entertained. Perhaps not Tivo Season Pass entertained (it is a reality show, after all), but entertained nonetheless. What doomed the chef eliminated in this episode was pineapple. Pineapple desserts. A pineapple upside down cake, in her case.

A really fresh, ripe pineapple is a delicious thing, but I don't think pineapple is a particularly forgiving ingredient. But when the Top Chef team decided on dessert, I thought, good! And when they decided on pineapple, I thought, not so good.

Part of my problem with pineapple may be the texture. I think it's that pineapple juice texture that makes the Naked Protein Zone drink offensive to the tongue. Or maybe it's all that soy powders added to it.

Any disregard for pineapple evaporates however when the pineapple is grilled. Then it's good with everything.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Saveuring Avocados

Look at that gorgeous cover on the latest issue of Saveur!

I read the cover story on avocados out loud while Foodgoat was cooking dinner (which, sadly, did not contain avocodos). We drooled over the luscious photos and descriptions, and by the end we had concocted plans that would require at least 20 avocados.

Saveur mentions pairing them with seafood a few times, but Foodgoat is an ardent fan of the avocado-bacon match-up, which is yumminess incarnate. And while the article makes much of the role that guacamole had in popularizing the avocado in the 20th century, for all the avocados we buy we've never made guacamole.

My experience of avocados goes far back into my childhood, and never in the form of guacamole. Like the article's author, I mostly remember eating avocados straight up out of the skin, in my case with a spoon and a sprinkle of sugar.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Birch Beer

I'm not sure why it disturbed me to pour out the Sioux City Birch Beer into a glass and found that it was red and not brown like the Root Beer and Sarsaparilla.

According to my knowledgeable friend Wikipedia, red is within the range of birch beer colors, which are the result of the different species of birch trees from which the sap is taken.

Wait ... sap? Not roots? Nope, it's sap, and wikipedia also suggests sucking on a broken birch tree twig to taste the birch beer flavor.

I think I'll just take their word for it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Different Kind of Cold Brew

A hot cup of coffee is all very well and good on most mornings, but on those steamy summer days when it's 80 degrees in the shade by 8 am, it can be a little hard to take. But I've always been disappointed with straight up iced coffee - it just never tasted good cold, so I always went for the iced mochas or other sweetened versions.

The recent cold brew coffee article, though, piqued my interest. The technique was simple - grind coffee, add water, let sit, pour, add ice - and, although the article suggests a Mason jar and sieve, tailor made for the French press. Making cold brew coffee in the French press was just like making hot coffee in the French press - except that you use water directly from the tap, and the steeping time is 12 hours instead of 4 minutes. It was definitely easier, but how about taste?

For comparison's sake, we did a side by side taste test with the same coffee: cold brewed iced coffee vs. hot brewed coffee which had been chilled and iced.

The verdict: for iced coffee, the cold brew was by far superior - it didn't have the bitterness that the hot brewed version had.

Iced Coffee

Add about 1/3 cup of ground coffee + 1 1/2 cups of water into the French press.
Let sit overnight.
Pour into an ice-filled glass. Add a little cold water if it's too strong.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Peppercorn - Yes, Peppercorn! - Ice Cream

Foodgoat's first inclination on receiving an ice cream maker is to begin with the basics and make vanill, so as to begin crafting and perfecting one's ice cream technique.

My inclination is to just skip to the weird and bizarre flavors.

And that's why I made a Peppercorn Ice Cream, adapted from a recipe in Chow. I halved the recipe, partly because using 8 egg yolks in any one recipe just seems egregious, partly because I've found that the ice cream maker just works better with smaller quantities, and partly because I figured there wouldn't be a lot of demand for more peppercorn ice cream.

To my surprise, Peppercorn ice cream, even made with black pepper, is not nearly as bad as it sounds. Even though I used more pepper than suggested in the Chow recipe, you don't taste the pepper right away - it was more of building aftertaste than an immediate assault on the tongue. Even then, I didn't find it offensive at all. Someone said it was like the Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans in Harry Potter.

Still, it's not exactly dessert material. One wouldn't sit down with a big bowl of this. However, I could imagine it as a nice accompaniment to something savory. Like a steak.

Peppercorn Ice Cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, crushed with the bottom of a heavy pan
  • 4 egg yolks
  1. Heat the heavy cream, milk, sugar, and pepper in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Remove from heat and let mixture steep for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl and beat well with a wire whisk.
  3. Return the cream mixture to medium heat and bring to a simmer again. Remove from heat. Temper the hot mixture into the eggs by slowly pouring the cream into them in a thin stream, while constantly whisking the eggs with a whisk.
  4. Strain the egg-and-cream mixture through a fine-mesh strainer back into the saucepan. Return it to the stove and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the custard base has thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon.
  5. Cool the custard overnight, or until it is completely cold.
  6. Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place in a covered plastic container and store in the freezer overnight.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


While in Cleveland, our President made his best, most commendable and irreproachable decision of his two terms of office today.

He decided to have a corned beef sandwich at Slyman's.

We have been so remiss in not posting about one of the most glorious food places in Cleveland that we rarely get to go to. It's only open on weekdays until lunch, and since the lines are notoriously long, Cleveland's best deli mocks us with their famous corned beef sandwiches.

So last week when Foodgoat and I got off work early for the 4th of July, there was just one place we wanted to go.

The lines were only a little long (just out the door) but it's a fair price to pay because their corned beef sandwiches! are! so! good!
The perfect combination of just the right amount of fattiness (which is to say, not too much) to indescribably yummy beef ...

Order one "all the way" and you also get swiss cheese, mustard, and horseradish (plus bonus points from the staff for knowing the lingo).

After experiencing the goodness again, Foodgoat has decided that trekking out across the city to Slyman's for lunch is well, well worth it.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Two Appliances for Slow Cooking Meat

A few months ago, everyone at work was suddenly mad for the Farberware Open Hearth Smokeless Broiler, an electric rotating meat rotisserie thing-y that was apparently the wedding gift of choice during the 1960's. The succulence of meats (so juicy! so tender!) slow cooked over a bottom heating element for four hours, has been so celebrated, I find myself eying them on eBay.

What stops me? In a word, storage: our teensy 1925 kitchen barely has the counterspace for the coffee grinder, much less a large single-use appliance.

Especially when the slow cooker, the multi-tasking Crock Pot, is working out so well. Just last week Foodgoat discovered yet another tasty thing it can do: it can make corned beef.

The nearby deli makes a decent corned beef sandwich - for $8. We can pick up a corned beef package from the grocery store for less than that, plop it (fat meticulously trimmed off, as per Foodgoat standard policy) into the slow cooker at night with water and the packet of herbs that it comes with, and in the morning ...

A muy delicioso pile of corned beef, tender and juicy, ready for several day's worth of personalized and yummy (and inexpensive) sandwiches for lunch.

But I still want to try a Farberware Open Hearth Smokeless Broiler, storage and possible fire hazard be damned. Because then I could put on a very large chunk of pork, or possibly a very tiny whole pig. Because roasting for hours and turning on a spit is the how lechon (tasty, tasty lechon) is made.

And now that I think about it, there is always room for lechon.

It's True: It's Boar, Not Boring!

When we are forced by circumstance to pick up bacon at the local grocery store instead of the West Side Market, I end up disgruntled. The quality of the packaged bacon leaves something to be desired, being less flavorful and usually very fatty. But to add insult to injury, the price is often double that of bacon at the West Side Market.

Then, while shopping at Heinen's a few weeks ago, we spotted a bacon that ungruntled us: D'Artangnan's Wild Boar Bacon. Sure, the price is a stiff $8 a pound, but eating wild boar... feral swine ... maybe even Hogzilla! Priceless.

It didn't disappoint, either. It tasted different from the run of the mill farm-bred bacon: meatier and more interesting and de-licious on a burger.

On a side note: this year's Fourth of July lesson is to never leave a cardboard box of paper bags underneath the barbeque grill. Especially when grilling.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Taking Me Out to the Ball Game

Foodgoat and I went to an Indians game last week for the first time in a few seasons, and found lots of new things - like the spiffy Heritage Park and the Batter's Eye Bar out by center field.

And may I say, thank the gods for the bar, not only because they served me a rather tasty raspberry-lemon-lime frozen margarita before the game, but also because the four annoying guys sitting behind us decided by the bottom of the second inning to hang out there, thereby sparing me and everyone else in section 101 from having to listen to their idiotic conversations about stupid things that happened ten years ago when they were in junior high.