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.