Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Great Snow Storm of 2011

February 4, 2011

Wow. What an exciting morning we had today! Had my usual Top Chef party the previous night and although sparsely attended it was quite enjoyable: a couple kinds of chili and a few cocktails and we got to watch the latest episode. I saw all my guests home safely and tottered off to bed wondering where all that snow that had been predicted was.
Frank woke me up before my alarm went off imploring me to look at the winter wonderland outside but I knew I’d be seeing it soon enough so rolled over and got a few more zzzs. When I finally roused myself I saw that it was, indeed quite snowy and began to wonder if I was going to be going to work at all. I got a call from a few of my colleagues who were either told to stay home or had decided to do just that so I called my boss to see what was up and he told me to come on in and he’d be there in 10 minutes or so. Darn. Now, I distinctly remember asking Frank if he wanted to drive me to work and him replying that I should be just fine. Hmm.
I backed out of the garage onto what looked like fine powder but was in fact a sheet of ice and immediately slid. I called Frank and told him and AGAIN he said, “I’m sure you’ll be fine; just take it slow.” Hmmmmm.
I made my way out into the street and turned right to go up the hill and found myself, tires spinning furiously, at a complete standstill. After spinning the tires a few more times and sliding more and more I again called Frank and told him to get his ass out here and help me before someone rear-ended me. I turned on my emergency lights and remarked to myself that he sure seemed to be taking his sweet time getting dressed. A couple of cars passed me, luckily without incident.


Frank finally made it out and got behind the wheel and after spinning the tires a few more times and sliding more and more, made absolutely no progress up the hill. I finally got out to push (after falling on my ass, thank you very much) and slowly, slowly we made it up the hill. Meanwhile I called my boss to let him know the situation and started thinking, “I really don’t need to go to work today, even though it is pay day.” We made it up to the light and saw that the main highway was in just as bad shape as our street so decided to attempt to turn around and come back home. We made it down the road and successfully negotiated the u-turn to come back up the road but just had this sinking feeling that the hill was going to get us again. It did. Any vehicle without 4-wheel drive wasn’t getting anywhere on this hill this morning.
We got almost parallel to our driveway when the tires started slipping and we started slowing down. I, again, attempted to hop out and push on the passenger side but it just wasn’t working this time. Meanwhile a guy in a BMW began his ascent up the hill, and seeing our predicament, slowed down. Bad choice, buddy. He immediately got stuck trying to crest the hill. Keeping his situation on hold, we slid our way into our neighbor’s driveway (luckily, not her mailbox) and parked the car. After letting her know the situation we started up the hill to try and help Mr. BMW. Frank tried to push from the side, I tried to push from the back (and promptly fell on my ass again, thank you very much) but to no avail. He wasn’t going anywhere. He began sliding backward so Frank advised him that his best bet for the time being was to just pull it into the ditch in front of our house. He did so, called his wife (who DID have 4-wheel drive) to come and fetch him, so we decided our work was done and climbed back into our nice warm bed.
About half an hour later I was in our bathroom (which overlooks the street) when I heard the tell-tale sound of a struggling engine and futiley spinning wheels and said, “Uh, oh. Here’s another one.” I climbed into the tub and got the window shade open just in time to see a big old truck sliding backwards and sideways down the hill and right into the BMW. Ouch! He joined him in the ditch.


I jumped into my clothes and ran out to assess the damage. The poor guy was quite rueful and, I imagine, already adding up the damage, when he said, “I hit your car.” I told him it wasn’t mine, relayed the morning’s events and asked for his information so I could give it to Mr. BMW when he came back for his car. He gave me the info and we made sad, cold small talk and then began to notice quite a line-up of cars just not quite making it up the hill. Frank had joined us by this time and after seeing 3 or 4 try and fail we decided that perhaps some authorities should be notified. Frank called the police to apprise them of the situation just as a Camaro started its slow and hopeless ascent up the hill. The young girl got caught on the left side of the road, near the grass and we advised her to stay there. Meanwhile, Grandma got caught on the right and was dangerously close to sliding into the truck and BMW. We advised her also to stay there.


Right then a sand truck went lumbering down the other side of the street, making it a bit safer to drive on. We noticed a number of the cars who didn’t make the hill, back down and go up the side of that street (basically going the wrong way on a one-way street) and successfully getting up the hill. Frank decided at this point to go down and direct traffic and head people off from the treacherous hill. A mother and her daughter were out walking and trying to help. When the young gal in the Camaro got out the mom noticed she had a case of beer in the back of the car and wisely advised her to put it in the trunk before the police arrived; which they did just as she got the beer in the trunk.


The police were absolutely no help in the situation. They basically stood around and asked for everybody’s license and scratched their heads and looked cold. I invited Camaro girl into the house to keep warm while we waited to see how we were going to move her car. Finally the sand truck made it back up our street. We were able to get her on her merry way, get truck man out of the ditch and get back to our nice, warm bed!
I left a note on the BMW letting him know I had truck-man’s info. He dropped by a couple of hours ago and we relayed the morning’s events. He looked none too happy but accepted his fate with admirable grace. At that time he still wasn’t able to get his car out but sometime this afternoon he must have ‘cause I just noticed it’s no longer there.
The snow is practically gone now as I write this at 2:30 but I’m still in my nice, warm bed. SNOW DAY!!

Rules for Drinking (all day and all night)

January 22, 2011

Now, there inevitably comes a time in one’s life when one finds it necessary to drink all night and all day.  (For me, that pretty much means every family get-together.)  If one finds oneself in this situation there are some very simple rules to follow to navigate through the experience enjoyably and not find oneself passed out on the couch flashing a beaver to whomever might happen to walk by (which, invariably happens to my sister because she doesn’t follow one of the most important rules—I will elucidate later.)

Let me take you though a day, shall I?

MORNING: 

Drinks in the morning vary according to the season and occasion so we’ll have to break this one down a bit:

CHRISTMAS:  Christmas, of course, is mimosas.  Our typical Christmas morning starts bright and early (and I mean early, early when our kids were young.  6ish?  Now that they’re teenagers we’re lucky to get them out of bed by the crack of noon) with cappuccini all around, which segues into drip coffee and then when we are all assembled:  mimosas.  These are enjoyed with our traditional breakfast strada and Grandma’s caramel- pecan rolls.  The mimosas get us through the arduous present opening hours and last roughly until the champagne runs out, which is usually around 4 hours later.  Now, at this time, there is absolutely no shame in taking a mid-morning nap.  (Or in my husband’s and my case, our traditional Xmas Boink—followed by a nap.)

EASTER:  Beer.  Not sure why but I seem to have numerous pictures in my mind of the adults watching the kiddies scramble around looking for eggs that are literally right at eye level and all of us seem to be clutching a beer.  Perhaps it’s the warm weather.

JULY 4:  Beer.

ANY OTHER MORNING:  Beer.  Since we’re usually, shall we say, a little the worse for wear when we’re together, a breakfast beer is always welcome.  Your typical breakfast beer is on the light side.  Say, your Coronas or your Lucky Lagers or your Canned Budweiser (not for me, thank you, I do have some standards and I draw the line at canned Budweiser.  My father was quite fond of Budweiser as a breakfast beer as I recall; especially while traveling.  But, I digress…)  We’re not really the hard alcohol/Raymos Fizz/Bloody Mary drinkers unless, of course , we’re on vacation and happen to be at a bar/restaurant and are in DESPERATE need of one.  I myself am not a fan of the Bloody Mary as it tends to bring up the previous night’s indulgences rather than quell them.  I must give a shout-out to Kristofer Brekke; however, who makes the best Raymos Fizzes.  If you happen to be at the Brekkes on a (too) bright and sunny morning make sure to ask for one.  He’ll whip on that white apron and be happy to oblige. 

THANKSGIVING:  Mimosas.  As of late, they’ve been a rather smaller family affair so I try to get a little more inventive with them; adding some cranberry juice or spiced cranberries or bitters.

AFTERNOON:

Afternoons are the trickiest part of drinking all day and all night, so, please, pay close attention.  Here’s where many of you may stumble and fall.  Afternoons are most often reserved for white wine (cheap, therefore, plentiful.)  Most people (my brother-in-law excepted) simply can not drink beer all afternoon and stay awake and not get completely bloated.  White wine, admittedly tends to make one sleepy as well but at least one doesn’t get so full!  One needs room in the stomach for more white wine.  AND, now here’s the really important part:  It is imperative that one eats all throughout the afternoon to counter the effects of the alcohol.  This is where, the aforementioned sister falters.  She simply doesn’t eat enough while imbibing.  Very, very important.  Chips and clam dip, soppressata and pecorino, all the various odds and ends and left-overs from Jordon’s fridge, served right from their Tupperware containers fresh out of the microwave.  Eat, people, Eat!  If you follow this rule you and your family should be able to knock off about half a case or so while whiling away the hours playing countless games of gin, decorating Easter Eggs, watching old movies and cooking and baking.  On the rare occasion, we may throw in a shot of limoncello if we have one around but we usually stick with the white stuff.  Also, again, no shame at all in an afternoon nap.  It will revive you for:

COCKTAIL HOUR:  Now, this is an extremely important rule in my bourbon drinking family.  Yes, we are bourbon drinkers (also).  No bourbon before 5:00.  That is the rule and there is no getting past it!  My sister, Jordon, used to have a clock that would make a different bird sound when it chimed the hour.  I believe 5:00 was the goose.  When we heard that we would perk up like dogs hearing the car keys and go, “Oooh.  It’s Bourbon O’Clock” and head for the ice.  You hear that Amy Vaughan?  No bourbon before 5:00.  Well, maybe 4:30 if it’s winter and cold and dark out…or 4:00.

DINNER:  Wine of course.  It’s a no-brainer.  Here’s what we save the good stuff for.  Jordon will break into her cellar of mostly very nice local Zinfandels or my mom will haul out some of her good stuff from over the years.  Well, most of the time it’s good.  The really dusty ones that still have my dad’s notes on them are sometimes a little scary.  Let’s just say when the cork crumbles when touched with the corkscrew it’s usually not so good.

NIGHT:  After dinner can get a little tricky also; especially if someone pulls out a bottle of port.  If that happens it’s usually the end of all of us and time for bed.  However, if it’s still fairly early and there’s, say, a movie to watch then it’s back to bourbon and sodas to be enjoyed with homemade popcorn.

So, there, fellow drinkers, you have it.  A quick guideline to drinking all day and night, a few simple rules to follow and your family get-togethers can be pleasant and beaver free.

One last rule.  Before retiring, one must make sure there’s a very large glass of water next to one’s bed and plenty of cold beer in the cooler for breakfast.

Chiles Rellenos and Cheap Rose

June 30, 2010

I made some fabulous chiles rellenos the other night. Now, I’m sure that most of you know that chiles rellenos translates literally into stuffed chiles, which opens the dish up to a myriad of stuffings, batters and even sauces. However, when I was growing up it was just cheese, egg batter and a simple tomato sauce. I actually didn’t know there was another option until I was probably in my 20’s.  And the chiles we used?  Canned Anaheims or, as we called them, Ortega Chiles because that was the brand name on the can.  In those innocent culinary days of the 70’s we had never heard of poblanos and especially not how to prepare them.  (I must say, although I never used canned chiles for my chiles rellenosthese days it was far easier just taking the suckers out of the can, drying them off and stuffing them than it is to roast, peel and seed  poblanos, all the time trying to keep them intact. Last week I peeled a whole batch of poblanos at my ridiculous job for which I’m grossly qualified and my hands were still burning the next morning.)  

 Although our chiles rellenos were quite simple they were indeed succulent. The recipe was very easy. It was adapted from a Sunset Magazine recipe.  Basically you just take the aforementioned chiles, stuff them with a piece of Monterey Jack Cheese, cut to fit, separate some eggs (1 egg for each chile), beat the yolks with flour (1 tbsp. per yolk), beat the whites until stiff, fold the yolks into the whites, dip the chiles in the batter and pan fry until golden brown on each side.  The sauce was basically canned diced tomatoes cooked with a little sauteed onion, garlic and spices.  Spread a thin layer of that in a baking dish, place the chiles on top of it, cover with a bit more sauce and bake for about 20 minutes.  Voila!   Heaven.  Serve with beans and salad.

Now although the dish is easy to make there are a few drawbacks.  One is that they are extremely fattening and the second is that they are very messy to make.  By the time you’re finished, you’ve usually got egg whites all up your arm and strewn across your counter and little pools of oil on your stove-top from trying to flip them big, fat suckers– and you can’t get that old oil smell out of your kitchen for days.  So, we kind of stopped making them for awhile there.  I did used to make them with my students each year and talk about a mess!  I finally stopped doing that too.

So, since I no longer made chiles rellenos  at home I began to order them at Mexican restaurants on a fairly regular basis.  (That, by the way, is how I judge the quality of a Mexican restaurant:  their chiles rellenos and their mole.)  This is when I discovered that chiles rellenos can be stuffed with something other than cheese and that the batters vary widely.  I had one once that was seriously just an omelette with a chile stuck in it.  It was disgusting.

Now, I must say, I didn’t really like the fancy vegetarian stuffings or the classic piccadillo or the ones with raisins or nuts (except for the Chiles en Walnut Sauce that my mom picked up from a cooking class that she took.  However, that is QUITE the production.)   Until Frank and I wandered into this little Mexican restaurant right on Highway 71 a couple of years ago.  The place is great.  You’re sitting out front at a cheap, metal table under an awning whose fans never work, literally, right in front of a very hot, dusty highway surrounded by a Mesquite fence and a few scraggly cacti.  It feels just like Baja.  Anyway, they have this dish called Dos Amigos which is basically two roasted poblano chiles stuffed with shredded beef and topped with lots of melted cheddar cheese.  That’s it!  But it is so good!!  That’s when I started branching out a bit with my chiles rellenos.  I realized, first of all, that you don’t even need a batter!  Or a sauce for that matter!  If the chiles are good enough and the stuffing also, that’s all you need.

Which brings us to the present.  Due to some unforseen financial troubles I’ve been trying to keep myself on a strict 20.00 a day budget for food.  And me, being me, that of course includes alcohol.  Luckily it’s hotter than hell here which means lots of cold, cheap rose.  I actually quite love roses and usually like to spend around $10.00 to $15.00 a bottle, but as I mentioned, money is tight.  My favorite cheap rose ($7.99 at my local grocery store) is the Marques de Caceres from Spain. It’s nothing to write home about but it’s nice and dry, low in alcohol, goes well with almost any kind of food and fits nicely into my budget.  And…screw cap!

I decided to make this batch of chiles rellenos this last week for a few reasons.  1.  I happened to have a lot of stuff in my fridge that would go nicely in them 2.  The poblanos right now are gorgeous 3. They fit in with my budget and, the most importatn reason, 4.  I had some left-over pork that I needed to use up.  Oh yeah, and 5.  With the extra money I saved I could buy not one, but actually two bottles of Marques de Caceres

But really, the main reason I decided to make them was to somehow use up this pork.  I’d had this pork chop that i’d brined and barbecued in the fridge for about a week because Frank and I just couldn’t stand to eat any more pork!  I know, that does not sound like a person on the verge of poverty.  Here I am complaining that I’ve got this succulent 2″ pork chop in my fridge but here’s the thing:  this was some of Winston (see My love Affair with Pork) that had been in the freezer for about a year and a half now.  It was vacuumed sealed so perfectly good but the problem is that the chops were a 4 pack and we’d already plowed our way through three of them and were just tired of pork!!  When I had this same problem the week before, I had cubed up one of them and put it in tacos and it was delicious so I thought to do the same thing with the rellenos.

So, here are  my fabulous cheap and nutritious chiles rellenos:  I sauteed some onions and garlic with a fresh corn of cob I happen to have in the fridge, added a can of rinsed black beans, a half a tomato I had laying around, some oregano and cumin, some cooked quinoa (I’ve been on a bit of a quinoa kick lately-that and Israeli couscous.  I LOVE Israeli couscous) and some grated cheddar cheese.  I lightly oiled a baking dish, placed my laboriously roasted, peeled and seeded poblanos in them and stuffed them with the mixture. 

Feeling quite proud of myself, I asked Frank when he wanted to eat.  He said, “What are we having?” I started to describe the dish to him and that’s when I realized, I forgot the pork!  The was the main reason for making the damn things and I forgot to put it in!  Luckily it wasn’t too late.  I cubed it, fried it up as planned and poked it down into the stuffed chiles mixture.  A little more cheese on top, pop in the oven for about 20 minutes and it was done!  Quite delicious, cheap and enough for left-overs for the next day.

Oh yes, the rose went quite nicely with it as well.

One day, perhaps, I will go out to a restaurant again worthy of a review but for now it’s home cooking for me, baby!  Tonight it’s a little seared steak topped with sauteed crimini mushrooms, shallots, thyme and rosemary from my garden and finished with Marsala.  ($8.00 for two).  I had enough in my budget to splurge on a Kenwood Cab.

Food and Wine–the second 10 years

June 12, 2010

As I pored through the second 10 years of my Food and Wine magazines I realized that what I found wasn’t so much about memories but about connections from my past to my present life.  For instance, I must have come across at least 20 recipes for raita.  Obviously in the past raita meant nothing to me because I have no recollection of reading any of those recipes.  However, since Ghufrana, our Pakistani pastry chef (that’s how I always refer to her:  Ghufrana, our Pakistani pastry chef) started making the absolute best Chicken Biryani, accompanied, of course, by her famous and yet secret recipe of cucumber-tomato raita it’s become a part of my world.  I wish I could give you the recipes for both but, as I said, they’re both top secret.  Suffice it to say that lots of cardamom, cinnamon sticks and perfectly cookedbasmati  rice are involved.

There were many other connections that kept popping out at me along with wonderful taste memories so, let’s get this party started:
 

2001 

July –Didn’t find anything that struck a bell until this month –I found an article on  Giada De Laurentiis pre Food Network.   At this time she was just a lowly personal chef to Ron Howard and others. You can see that someone had already picked her out for stardom though.  She will soon be flashing those big white teeth and teasing us with her provocative cleavage every day of the week for years to come.  The Top 10 Chefs this year included  Wylie Dufresne, Anita Lo, and Will Packwood.  Now, of course, everyone knows Wylie Dufresne, the goofy gastronomic wizard, and I got to know Anita Lo through Top Chef Masters.  And I actually personally know Will Packwood.  He was the first top chef chosen from Austin (that I found anyway).  He’s a friend of my friend, Sonja and we had drinks and apps with him about a year ago at Hyde Park Bar & Grill.  (He was drinking wine spritzers but I still liked him.)  Unfortunately, he’s had two restaurants here in town fail:  Emilia’s and Cibo.  Now he’s working for Hardy’s (a food distributor).  Will, Will, Will, buddy.  Get back in the kitchen.  Get out of town, move to Italy, go on Top Chef, do something!  Open up a little food  trailer with Sonja and me.  You’re squandering away your talent!
October -Idly thumbing through this month I came across the holy grail:  Star Anise Pork. I have a copy of the recipe in my cookbook that my sister, Jordon sent me.  I’ve looked at it a hundred times and never really made the connection that it came from Food and Wine.  It’s so weird to see the real thing.    It’s like going to Florence and seeing Michelangelo’s David after looking at cheap little copies and caricatures of it all your life.  Although I admit, I didn’t tear up the way I did while viewing David and his perfect ass, it was still quite moving.  I suppose I should include the recipe after all this build-up.  I really shouldn’t because it’s been my go-to in my catering career for about 5 years now.  And I really shouldn’t tell you that it’s best on homemade sourdough buns.  But I think I’m safe there because I would be willing to bet that most of you do not have a sourdough starter sitting in your refrigerator, bubbling and burping and waiting to be fed and used again.  So, just because I love you all here you go:

Star Anise Pork

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup dry sherry

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 whole star anise pods, crushed

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

One 3-pound boneless pork shoulder, tied (I’ve never tied it, and I’ve used bone-in also)

Salt and fresly ground pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro (optional)

1.  In a small bowl, mix the stock with the sherry, soy sauce, brown sugar, star anise, garlic and five-spice powder.

2.  Season the pork with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a large enamaled cast-iron casserole.  Add the pork and cook over moderate heat, turing occasionally, until browned all over, about 15 minutes.  Add the sauce mixture and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the casserole.  Cover tightly and cook over low heat for about 3 hours, turning the roast every 30 minutes, until very tender.  Remove the pork and boil the sauce until it is reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes.  Discard the strings.  Pull the pork into long shreds and return to the casserole Garnish with the cilantro and serve.

Reading through 2001, starting with September I became morbidly curious as to when and how 911 was addressed and handled.  I finally found it in November and it was really beautifully done:

“From the editors: The staff of Food & Wine mourns the thousands of people lost on September 11 and grieves along with those who knew and loved them. As this Thanksgiving issue goes to press, with smoke still rising from the wreckage of the World Trade Center, a few miles south of our office, we see a small bright spot: the response of countless fellow New Yorkers who have been cooking for the rescue workers and for the relatives and friends of the missing. This simple, earnest act on the part of chefs, restaurateurs and ordinary people at home in their kitchens reminds us that food has the power to console in times of loss, as well as to help us celebrate in times of joy. We dedicate this issue to those who need consolation now and to those who are offering it.”

Ah, the beautiful, healing power of food.
November- Bourbon has found its way into so many of our Thanksgiving recipes that I’m sure I made this one: Maple-Glazed Turkey with Bourbon-Pecan Gravy. If not, I think I should. It just sounds so me!  The Warm Brussels Sprout Slaw with Bacon rings a distant bell.  My annual attempt to like brussels sprouts.  It never works but the bacon sure must have helped.  This same month I found another catering stand-by that I had no idea originated here.  I think I picked up the recipe from  Jordon:   Grilled Pancetta-Wrapped Shrimp with Fresh Herbs.  A bit time consuming but always a show stopper at any party.  (P.S.  I usually barbecue mine.)

2002

March-I came across a wonderful article called Undercover in Napa by Lettie Teague.  Now, this one really hits home because my entire extended family feels the exact same way about this winery and this asshole that works there.  Lettie says, ” There is only one mean man in Napa. One of the best things about being a tourist in Napa is the friendliness of the people. In fact, almost everyone seems to be smiling. Except, that is, at V. Sattui Winery. I’d never visited V. Sattui before. But because the guidebooks recommend it and a friend told me it was her favorite place of all, I decided to check it out. Both the guides and my friend had made much of the winery’s cheese selection, not to mention its free tasting of winery-only bottles. What I found instead was grocery-store-caliber cheeses all wrapped in plastic and a tasting room set up to resemble a wild West saloon. Here Napa’s Mean Man was at work. His job was to pour people the wine they requested. I approached smiling and pointed to a name on the blackboard. The Mean Man snarled in reply, “Don’t you dare point at me!” And he added, in case I didn’t get his meaning, “Do I look like your waiter?” I asked politely as possible for a taste of Zinfandel and set my glass down as soon as he turned away. Perhaps the reason V. Sattui wines aren’t sold anywhere else is that the Mean Man also serves at the winery’s sales rep?” 

 We had a similar distasteful experience and will not only never go there but won’t even drink their wines.  We always say the name of the winery like we’re spitting:  SaT’OOEY.  The way you’re treated at a winery really does make a difference.  Frank had such a horrible experience at DeLoach probabaly, oh, 30 years ago that to this day he refuses to drink their wine.  Keep this in mind winery people, when hiring!!! You should hire someone like my cousin, Robert who is knowledgeable, accomodating, funny and charming. You hear that Francis?
December – Lettie Teague again. I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed Lettie Teague’s aritcles over the years.  I love her writing style which is a lot like, well, mine, and I agree with her on many, many subjects. She seems like someone I would love to hang out with drinking wine and saying mean, snarky things about the people around us.  This article was about sparkling roses which I adore.  She also prominently mentions her pushy, grumpy prick of a husband.  I can certainly see why they got divorced.  You’re better off  without him Lettie!  Now you can enjoy the food and wine that you like!
 

2003 

 April-Ran across this:   Where to go next in San Francisco.  They mention Tartine Bakery (at 600 Guerrero).  When I read this I had literally just gone there 2 days before with my niece, Lindsey.  Can’t say that I loved it as much as apparently everybody else in the city does, judging by the line out the door, but it was pretty good.  (The cappucinnos–or I suppose I should say, cappuccini– where I work are MUCH better though.) 

2004

I didn’t find much of anything this year except a bunch of appointment slips from Kaiser Permanente.  I guess I was a little more caught up in my bunion surgeries than experimenting with new recipes.  It certainly shows what I liked to read in the waiting room though.   I do recall making the Roasted Onions and  Mushrooms  for Thanksgiving.  I remember everyond liked them except my mom.

2005

February– Found the Pistachio-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Pancetta. I didn’t realize it’s Adria Ferran’s recipe. No wonder it’s so luxurious.  Now I feel kind of proud that I’m able to execute it, although I must admit, on occasion the pancetta has fallen off during cooking.  It’s really a wonderful recipe for a very special occasion.

Pistachio-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Pancetta

 1/3 cup unsalted pistachios

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

1 ½  teaspoons chopped rosemary

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

One 1 ½ pound rack of lamb, frenched (8 chops)

6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta or bacon

8 scallions, white and tender green parts only

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In the bowl of a mini processor, finely chop the pistachios with the thyme and rosemary.  Add half of the olive oil and process to a paste; season with salt and pepper.  Scrape half of the pistachio paste into a small bowl and stir in the remaining olive oil.
  2. Coat the lamb with half of the remaining pistachio paste.  Wrap the pancetta slices around the lamb, between the bones, leaving the bones exposed.  Spread the remaining pistachio paste over the pancetta and set the rack in a small roasting pan.  Roast the rack for about 40 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the meat registers 130 degrees for medium-rare.  Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.  Reserve the pan drippings.
  3. Meanwhile, spoon 1 teaspoon of the rendered pancetta fat from the roasting pan into a medium skillet and heat until shimmering.  Add the scallions and cook over high heat until softened and browned in spots, about 4 minutes.  Carve the lamb rack into four 2-chop servings and transfer them to plates along with the scallions.  Drizzle the pistachio pesto all around and serve right away.

Note:  I’ve never cooked the lamb for 40 minutes.  Usually between 20 and 30.  I have also barbecued it but it doesn’t work as well.  Also, I don’t think I actually ever did step 3.

May -Oven-Fried Pork Carnitas with Guacamole and Orange Salsa. I SO remember making this recipe.  My sisters and I were at my mom’s house for some reason and she was out and about, probably playing tennis or something so we were in charge of dinner.  We had all read the recipe and couldn’t wait to make it!  Actually Jordon and I were a little more excited than Julie, owing to the fat content of the recipe.  It’s chunks of  browned pork cooked in 2 cups of oil for 2 hoursl!  I must say, it was heavenly but we’ve never done it again. That amount of oil was kind of scary.  I seem to remember more than 2 cups.  Perhaps we doubled the recipe.

July -San Francisco Seafood Stew. Umm.  This is not a great memory, but a great dish.  I got this issue in June, right as we were getting ready to move.  We were in the process of selling our house, which meant lots of remodeling.  So, Frank, my son, Gino and I were all living in the back apartment which consisted of basically one big room, a kitchen and a tiny bathroom.  Not the most ideal living conditions.  In addition, most of our stuff was in storage, and we had the anxiety of not being able to sell the house.  I eventually opted to spend most of my night’s at my Mom’s house.  We decided to make this one night and were waiting and waiting for Frank to come home.  We finally realized he wasn’t coming until late so we decided, “Fuck it.  We’ll eat without you.”  Although there was much tension in the air at this time this soup was absolutely delicious and mom and I had a lovely meal.  And, if I remember correctly, it was a good thing he didn’t come becausae we pretty much devoured it all ourselves.

San Francisco Seafood Stew

Serves 2 to 4 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

½ cup dry white wine

1 ½ cups chicken stock

1 cup bottled clam juice

1 cup drained, diced tomatoes

2 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon hot sauce, plus more for serving

Salt and pepper

2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed

¾ pound skinless snapper fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces

½ pound shelled and deveined medium shrimp

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley

Sourdough toast, for serving

  1. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil.  Add the shallot and garlic and cook over medium high heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the wine and boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.  Add the stock, clam juice, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf and hot sauce and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the clams, cover and cook just until most of them open, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the snapper and shrimp, cover and simmer until they are cooked though and the remaining clams have opened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the seafood to 4 bowls.  Add the butter and parsley and cook over moderate heat for 1 minute , swirling the pan.  Spoon the broth over the seafood and serve with sourdough toast.

FYI:  One time I made it with canned clams and catfish and it was still damn good! 

 

Tyson Cole from Uchi was one of the Best New Chefs (3rd from Austin).  I still have not made it to Uchi.  It’s become kind of a symbol for me:  When we strike it rich, we’ll go to Uchi.  I’ll let you all know when that happens.
September – Ah, Tyler Florence’s Red Curry-Lime Chicken Wings.  I gotta tell you, these are the best chicken wings ever!  And also a staple of my catering menu.  I can easily eat 20 of these in one setting.  Thank you Tyler!  Soon I will be as fat as you have become.  Oh wait, I think I’m already there.

Red-Curry-Lime Chicken Wings

4 pounds chicken wings, tips discarded, wings separated into 2 pieces

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Salt and freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste

1 tablespoon honey

Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon soy sauce

  1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Spread the wings on 2 large rimmed baking sheets.  Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss.  Bake the wings for about 40 minutes, or until browned and crisp.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, blend the butter with the curry paste, honey, lime juice and zest and soy sauce.  When the wings are done, transfer them to the bowl and toss with the butter until well coated.  Transfer the wings to a platter and serve.

 2006

January-Well, we’re in Texas now and have been here since June.  I found this shopping list on a Mapquest sheet to a movie theatre: star anise, tamarind paste, ancho chile powder, quinoa, currants, poppy seed.  I must say, it’s a bit of a mystery.  The star anise could have been for the star-anise pork, and the tamarind paste and ancho chile powder could have been for a barbecue sauce for ribs, obviously the quinoa and currants go together but the poppy seed?  Lemon poppy seed cake perhaps?  Got me.
March – Came across these recipes that I make on a fairly regular basis:  Polenta Gratin w/Spinach and Wild Mushrooms, Pulled-Chicken Sandwiches, Moo Shu Shrimp (Pre-Washed, Pre-Peeled, Pre-chopped, Pre-Fab Food by Grace Parisi.)  The polenta dish is rich and decadent, definitely a special occssion side dish. The pulled chicken sandwiches were WAY too vinegary so if you plan to make them, cut the vinegar in half.  The Moo Shu 
Shrimp is so easy and delicious that I think I may make it tonight.  Gotta get the last of thosegulf  shrimp I’ve been seeing in the stores before the oily ones from the spill start coming in.  Saw an advertisement for the  First Season of  Top Chef.  Oh my, I truly love that show.   And I’m not embarrassed to proclaim it.  You know how some reality shows make you feel kind of dirty?  One day, I watched about 6 Hell’s Kitchens in a row and I swear, I had to go and take a shower.  But Top Chef?  Love it, love it, love it.
April – Came across an article on the Best of the California Wine Country.  That is so mean!  Here I am, 2000 miles away from family and friends with really, really shitty Texas wine and almost no money to spend on food and I have to read about all the wonderful places I’ve left.  I’m sure I was very sad after reading that article back then.  I was pretty sad reading it this time actually, especially having just eaten at Bottega (Michael Chiarello’s new restaurant in Yountville).
May – Mini Black Bottom Cheesecake.  Still haven’t made them but they’re in my cookbook and I so want to!
June- Chinese-Style Ribs with Guava BBQ Sauce.  THAT’S why I’ve got that guava jelly in my fridge.
July – Jacques Pepin in Mexico. I so want his life. The article starts out, “When Jacques Pepin gets ready to cook a meal at his vacation home in Playa del Carmen, Mexico”…that’s pretty much all you need to set the envy meter to 10.
November – Huh. Nothin except Onion-Mustard Monkey Bread which was awful!  I remember I was upstairs watching TV in bed while it was in the oven and it may have gotten just a little bit too done but even if I hadn’t burned it, the mustard was so overwhelming that that’s all you could taste!  I don’t know what possessed me to try this recipe.
DecemberBest Restaurant Dishes of 2006 Café 909 Frozen Pistachio Parfait, Marble Falls, TX.  I was so proud to have this local place mentioned that Frank and I had to take a trip out there for dinner.  It was, I must say, up until that time, the best meal we’d had since moving here.
I remember making the Celery Root w/Apples, Walnuts and Blue Cheese for Thanksgiving.  It was quite forgettable.  I just can’t get that excited about celery.  Of course, if I had actually used celery root instead of celery it might have been different but I just can’t justify spending like $5.00 or whatever it is these days on a stupid old celery root.

2007 

 August- Corn and Bacon Chowder w/Jalapeno Crema.  Ah hah!  Another catering stand-by.  I’ve made this probably 10 times for one of my clients.  Her family loves it!  And I’ll tell you a secret:  I make it with frozen corn on the cob and it’s just as good as if I’d used fresh.

Corn and Bacon Soup with Jalapeno Crema

6 servings

10 medium ears of corn, shucked

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 ounces lean bacon, finely diced (1/2 cup)

1 celery rib, finely diced

½ cup finely diced onion

½ cup finely diced yellow bell pepper

3 cups whole milk

1 ½ cups heavy cream

Kosher salt

Pinch of cayenne pepper

¼ cup sour cream

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus cilantro leaves, for garnish

½  teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Freshly ground white pepper

  1. Set a box grater in a wide shallow bowl and coarsely grate 6 ears of corn; you should have 2 cups of grated corn.  Cut the kernels from the remaining 4 ears; you should have 2 cups of kernels.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  Add the bacon, celery onion and yellow pepper, cover and cook over low heat, stirring a few times, until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the grated corn, the milk and 1 cup of the heavy cream and bring to a b oil.  Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer, stirring often, until the soup is thickened, about 20 minutes.  Season with salt and the cayenne pepper and keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering.  Add the corn kernels to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until they are lightly browned, about 7 minutes.  Season with salt.  Stir the cooked corn kernels into the soup and keep warm.
  4. In a blender, whip the remaining ½ cup of heavy cream to soft peaks, about 20 seconds.  Add the sour cream, jalapeno, chopped cilantro and lemon juice and blend until thick.  Season with salt and white pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowl, top with spoonfuls of jalapeno cream and cilantro leaves and serve at once. 

November- Now this was a good issue.  My niece, Lindsey was living with us at the time, her brother, Jeffrey came out for Thanksgiving and my mom and brother-in-law were here.  FAMILY!!!!  We made the  Potato Chips w/Chevere, Pepper Jelly and Bacon and the Texas Smoked Salmon Tartare for appetizers,  They’ve both since become catering favorities.  I think we also had some yummy chicken liver pate that my mom made and I believe we made some kind of poblano turkey that was incedibly moist and delicious.  I also got the Cranberry Streusel Cake (which my son loves) from this issue.
December – 3 Cheese Mini Macs.  Well, I’ve made them a couple of times but I gotta admit, the American cheese in them kind of creeps me out.  However, it is a fun way to eat macaroni and cheese.  Mini muffin size portions.  Practically no calories.

January- Fudgy Chocolate-Walnut Cookies.  Really good, really easy and no flour!  I should bring the recipe to my restaurant for all the gluten-freeks to enjoy.

2008

 June- Grill Roasted Bacon and Scallion Corn Muffins.  Seriously, how could these possibly be bad?  I’ve made quite a few variations of corn muffins over the years; with cheddar cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, etc. etc.  These are right up there with the best of them, even if you don’t cook them on the grill.   Marja’s Mac & Cheese.  (Marja being the wife of Jean-George)  I made this once for one of my Top Chef parties.  In addition to 2 or 3 cheeses on the inside, it’s dotted with cream cheese!  How delightfully decadent.  It’s nice to know that  Jean-Georges Vongerichten can enjoy something this homey and comforting.  Now there’s someone who’s got a great life!  Ah well.
November – This was another fabulous Thanksgiving issue.  I’ve gotten into the habit of switching up my menu every year and using the most recent November issue of whatever magazine I like the most.  This Citrus-Marinated Turkey was prepared like a puerco pibil.  I loved it.  We also made the Sweet Potato Gratin w/Chile Spiced Pecans which was quite yummy.

2009

I didn’t find ANYTHING that struck a chord until November!  I thought at first that I must have been more interested in my Bon Appetit and Gourmet until I realized that this was the year of the Top Chef Parties.  My husband was working in Dallas Sunday through Thursday so I had to find something with which to occupy my time or I would have ended up hanging out at the local bar and getting a bad and probably much deserved reputation.  I came up with the idea of a Top Chef Party every Wednesday and really, my entire week revolved around it.  It gave me an excuse to keep my house clean every week and something to keep me busy on Mondays and Tuesdays, mainly researching, shopping and preping recipes and then cooking for earnest on Wednesdays and then the party.  There were usually between 6 to 10 of us, mostly my work chums plus Sonja and her friend, Julieanne.  Guests would usually arrive between 7:00 and 8:00 (with liquor) and we would enjoy appetizers, drinks and then the main meal.  The meal was usually just some good old home cooking:  beef stroganoff, chicken chilaquiles, meatloaf, lasagna, chili, chicken pot pie, etc.  One night it was all appetizers and our last time together we each made our own personal pizzas.  At 9:00 we would gather around the telly, pony up our $3.00 and get down to business.  We would make a bet after the first quick-fire challenge was announced.  As soon as we learned the challenge and all the rules we would pause the show and write down our choice of winner and put it in the voting glass.  When the winner was chosen, the pot would either be won by one person, split, if more than one person picked the same contestant, or, if no one chose right, it would go into the final pot.  The same procedure was followed for the elimination challenge except that we all had to choose a winner and a loser.  By the end of the season we had about $100.00 in the final pot.  After the show, more drinking and dessert.  It was swell.  The sad thing is that it will never happen again.   My crew is scattered across the state and frankly, I can’t afford to do it this year. Oh yeah, and Frank is back home and he would only make fun of us.  But, it was a great time while it lasted.

I did find the Spiced Upside down Apple Bundt Cake in the November issue.  That is an outstanding cake.
December-My very last month.  I found the Chile Brined Fresh Ham.  This is actually a great place to end as it kind of takes me full circle.  I had two fresh hams from Winston (see My Love Affair with Pork) that I didn’t know what to do with!  I really don’t like ham so when I had Winston processed I requested that they not cure them.  When I found this recipe I was very excited.  We were driving back to California for Christmas this year so I packed up the ham in ice and carted it across the country.  We ate it a day or two before Christmas and it was quite delicious.  I also brought back some Boudin balls and Boudin sausage from Bergeron’s in Lousiana.  We fried up theirs and made some of our own to compare.  Hate to admit it, but there’s were better.   But, it was my first try.  Next on my self-challenge list:  Making my own boudin sausage.  I happen to know where I can get my hands on some pig livers.

Again, Food and Wine, thanks for the memories and thank you all for sharing them with me.

Food & Wine & Me: The First 10 Years

May 9, 2010

Well, Frank finally talked me into it.  I’m finally going to give up my collection of Food and Wine magazines.  This is not an easy thing to do, although I admit fully that I haven’t looked at, opened or really even thought about them for years (except every time I glance up at the top shelves of my kitchen and see them.)  I’ve had this collection since 1991!  I was still living in San Francisco in a cute little one bedroom apartment out in the Sunset with Frank.  We were newlyweds!  The magazines made the move to our new house in San Leandro the next year and I had a special bookshelf just for them and my cookbook collection in the kitchen.  Just about the time the bookshelf was getting completely full we made the move to Texas (2005.)  The big question:  Do they stay or come with us?  After much deliberation they were allowed to come on the trip (although the bookshelf didn’t make the cut.  It wasn’t in the best of shape by this time but, when you buy a $10.00 bookshelf from Ikea you can’t expect it to last forever.)  So, we got to our new spacious digs and began unloading and unpacking and the next big question became, where shall I put this huge pile of magazines that I’m never going to look at again?  We were broke, broke, broke, having been paying the mortgages on two houses and not yet having sold the old one so even a $10.00 bookshelf was out of the question.  Looking around the kitchen I noticed that there was a perfect shelf space on top of the cupboards so I made a makeshift bookend out of a glass champagne bucket and a piece of flagstone, hopped up on the ladder and stacked them all around the kitchen shelves.  They eventually ran completely around the room.  They started by the glass door to the porch, wound over the oven, took a little break over the door to the laundry room then resumed over the coffee maker, wine fridge and headed on over to the refrigerator.  Eventually I did run out of room so the last two years have been stacked in the front bedroom. Thus the impetus to get rid of them:  Frank claims he needs that space for his textbooks.  Textbooks?  Really? 

So, a couple of weeks ago I gave in and decided to get rid of them.  Now, as I said, this has not been an easy process.  It’s not like I can just haul them all down and chuck them in the recycling bin.  First I had to take them all down and clean them off with a wet cloth.  Remember, they were way up high in the kitchen so you can just imagine the grease and dust that had accumulated over 5 years.  After lovingly sponging them all down I put them all in order and laid them out on the living room floor.  While deciding where they should go (Library?  Good Will?  Craig’s List?)  I got the bright idea that I should leaf through all of them and see what memories pop out at me.  Three weeks later I’m finally ready to jot some of them down.  So, here goes:
1991   The first thing I notice is all the people that are still alive:  Julia Child is writing articles, Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn pose in an American Express ad,  Robert Urich smiles happily out of a dog food ad.  Then there are the “new” chefs:    Bobby Flay opens Mesa Grill in New York, Jeremiah Tower smirks  in a Dewar’s ad (what happened to Jeremiah Tower?)  Thomas Colicchio had hair!  He was named one of America’s best new chefs in 1991. 

Then I noticed this hideous article:   

Besides “lite” beef, supermarket shelves may soon be stocking leaner pork raised in response to concerns about dietary fat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that pigs fed a diet of whole soybeans – which contain soybean oil have higher ratios of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat in their bodies than those fed a standard diet. For example, bacon from the pigs on the soybean diet had twice as much polyusatured fat and 8 percent less saturated fat, makint it a healthier product. (Denise Fortino. ) 

So, this is who we have to thank for over 15 years of skinny, tasteless pork.  Thank goodness that trend is going away.

December:  Wow!  My Panettone recipe.  I so clearly remember making this at Christmas time at my sister Jordon’s house.  She and Paul were still in their first house in Pioneer and the entire family had spent every single Christmas there since Jordon was pregant with Lindsey in 1984.  We would always come up 3 or 4 days before Christmas and cook, cook, cook.  Many happy holidays were spent at that house.  I’d never made panettone and really only knew it from those dry boxes you always see popping up in the grocery stores at Christmas time but Frank and I had spent part of our honeymoon in Italy so I was inspired. This panettone was absolutely delicious:  moist, not too sweet, good fruit.  And it made great french toast the next day.    I’ve included the recipe for all of you to enjoy.

Panettone

 by Nick Malgieri

½ cup milk

1 envelope active dry yeast

3 2/3 cups flour

1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons melted

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon white rum

3 whole eggs, at room temperature

3 egg yolks, at room temperature

½ cup diced candied orange peel

½ cup dark raisins

½ cup golden raisins

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk until lukewarm (110 degrees).  Remove from the heat and whisk in the yeast.  Place 2/3 cup of the flour in a bowl and stir in the milk-yeast mixture until smooth.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until almost tripled, about 1 hour.  (The sponge may fall abruptly toward the end; this is normal.)
  2. Fifteen minutes before the sponge is ready, place the stick of butter in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a paddle.  Beat at medium-high speed until light.  Add the salt, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and rum and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the eggs and egg yolks.  Beat 1/3 of the eggs into the butter mixture until smooth.  On lowest speed, beat in 1 cup of the flour until fully incorporated.  Scrape the bowl and paddle.  Repeat with the remaining eggs and flour in two batches, beating well after each addition.  Add the sponge and beat on the lowest speed until the dough is smooth and slightly elastic, about 5 minutes.  Finally, beat in the candied orange peel and the raisins.
  4. Scrape the dough into a buttered 2 ½ quart bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.
  5. Butter and flour a 9 by 3 inch springform pan.  Stir the dough with a rubber spatula to deflate, then scrape it into the prepared pan.  Cover loosely with a buttered piece of plastic wrap.  Set aside until the dough reaches the top of the pan, about 1 hour.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Discard the plastic wrap.  Bake the panettone in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes, until well risen and deeply colored.  Cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes longer, or until a thin knife inserted in the center emerges clean.  Transfer to a rack to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the side of the pan and slide the panettone off the base onto the rack.  Brush all over with the melted butter and let cool completely.

We definitely had more time in those days to cook.  We even made our own candied orange peel.   I believe that same year I also made an extremely time intensive focaccia.  It had to rise for something like 12 hours.  It also was really, really good.  I did not include that recipe because it’s insanely long.   However, I’m sure you can find it on foodandwine.com.  That Italian Seafood Feast looks very familiar.  Not sure if we made it that Christmas but I distinctly remember preparing one at some time or another.

 Wow, this lady in the Saturn ad opposite the recipe is wearing a dress that looks suspiciously like one of my bridesmaids.  That’s a little disconcerting but perhaps a coincidence since I got married in 1990.
1992 –I seem to be missing April and May.  This is not really surprising because we moved from San Francisco to San Leandro and Food & Wine often has a little trouble negotiating new addresses.  I do remember being rather upset about those two missing months since it was going to ruin what was, up until then, a pristine collection.  Ah well.  I hope whoever ends up with all these treasures will understand and forgive. There’s an interesting article here about Distinguished Restaurants of North America. There are 15 listed in Texas; and  not one of them is in Austin, which just confirms my opinion of this town as NOT a great food mecca.  I didn’t get any other memories of this year but I guess that’s not too surprising since I got pregnant in February and gave birth in November.  I may have had a few other things on my mind besides cooking.
1993 – I found what has to be the most lukewarm review of the French Laundry Restaurant ever written.  Admittedly, it had just opened but considering the incredible press it’s gotten over the years this review is hilarious:

For intimacy, I recommend The French Laundry, named after a former tenant of the building. The prix-fixe dinner costs $46, and while some might describe a $46 meal featuring a small chicken as being taken to the cleaners, there are compensations. The wine list is extremely inexpensive, and the experience of eating here is soothing. Once you book a table, it’s yours for the evening. You’re welcome to stroll through the backyard garden between courses if you wish. The herbs and spices growing there find their way into polenta with orange zest and rosemary or chanterelle mushrooms sautéed in butter and thyme.

Hmm.  These Potato Nests with Crème Fraiche and Caviar look surprisingly familiar.  I believe they may have found their way onto our Christmas table.  Also, here’s my old friend  Apple Cranberry Pie.  Can’t tell you how many times I made this pie over the years.  (The secret my friends is orange zest.)
1994 – April. This cover rings a bell and this issue is definitely well used. The cover is sporting a picture of the Lemon Pudding Parfait.  Man, I used to make this dessert for any special occasion.  It’s basically lemon curd lightened up with whipped cream, layered with whipped cream and raspberries in a tall, pretty glass.  Very, very easy and very, very yummy.  I didn’t realize it until looking at this recipe but I’ve adapted this recipe and have offered it in my catering repertior (Jill’s California Catering)  all the time.   Instead of a parfait I put the lemon cream in little tiny tart shells and top them with a couple of raspberries.  Always a success.   August – Ah, these summer pies and tarts.  I distinctly remember making these for my cousin Robert’s daughter’s wedding ceremony.  He was living at some cute little place in Napa or Sonoma  (he was always living in some cute litle place in Napa or Sonoma) and he and I had a lovely afternoon in the kitchen before everybody else arrived.  I remember making mountains and mountains of tabbouleh.  Come to think of it, we might have actaually made the fruit pizzas from next month’s episode because I also have a vague memory of pizza, pizza, pizza.  Our boys (mine and my sister Julie’s who are all about 6 monts apart) were running around naked covered with blueberry juice and big grins.  They were so cute!!!!!!!!    Oh man, these Potato salads!  This was a great month.  Julie has been making the goat cheese and red pepper one almost every Easter since she found the recipe.  Pretty sure she uses feta instead of goat though.  Enjoy!

Potato Salad with Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Peppers

3 pounds medium red-skinned or California white potatoes

3 large red bell peppers

6 ounces soft goat cheese

1/3 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup thinly sliced scallion greens

1/3 cup chopped drained sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

1.       In a large pot, steam the potatoes over moderately high heat until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.  Drain and cool.

2.       Meanwhile, roast the red bell peppers over a gas flame or under a broiler, as close to the heat as possible, turning often, until charred all over.  Transfer the peppers to a paper bag and let steam for 10 minutes.  Working over a strainer set over a bowl, scrape off the charred skins and remove the stems, seeds and cores.  Cut the peppers into thin lengthwise strips, then cut cross-wise into ½-inch pieces.  Reserve 1 tablespoon of the juices.

3.       Peel the potatoes, halve them lengthwise and slice 1/3 inch thick.

In a large bowl, stir together the goat cheese, oil, red pepper juices and the salt and black pepper.  Add the potatoes, red peppers, scallion greens, sun-dried tomatoes and basil and stir gently.  Serve at room temperature.

 
 
 
 
 

Potato Salad with Poblano chiles and Cilantro

2 pounds medium potatoes

Salt

2 medium poblano chiles

¾ cup plain yogurt

1/3 cup mayonnaise

3 scallions, finely chopped

1 small garlic clove, minced

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1.       In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water, add salt and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer until just tender, about 30 minutes.  Drain and let cool.

2.       Meanwhile, roast the poblanos over a gas flame or under a broiler, as close to the heat as possible, turning often, until the skins are charred all over.  Transfer the chiles to a paper bag and set aside to steam for 10 minutes.  Scrape off the charred skins and remove the cores and seeds.  Cut the chiles into ¼-inch dice.

3.       In a bowl, mix the poblanos with the yogurt, mayonnaise, scallions, garlic, ¾ teaspoon salt and the pepper.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into ¾-inch dice.  Add the potatoes to the dressing and toss.  (The salad can be made to this point 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.)  Stir in the cilantro right before serving

 

1995 –Found a bit of a more in-depth and gushy review of  The French Laundry. The review was a full page this time instead of a paragraph: The prix-frixe has now gone up to $52 (4 course), $57 (five course) and $70 (9 course). There was a wonderful article on Jacques Pepin and his friends hunting wild mushrooms and cooking them. I remember how much I enjoyed reading it back then and thinking, “He’s got a great life.  How can I get a life like that?”  He looks so rugged with his little 3 day growth. November-This month is always the most used throughout the years and this one is no exception.  The page with the  Maple-Pepper Roasted Turkey is filthy!  Always a good sign for a recipe.  I seem to remember making this turkey 3 or 4 times throughout the years.   Torta Rustica. I think my mom makes this.   I could be thinking of that black bean torta she made that time at Stern Grove though.  It was dense.  December –  Oh, there are always such fun cooking recipes in December.  This issue features the  Mermaid Cookies w/Pumpkin Seed Scales.  I remember I was so excited by the pictures that I made a stencil out of cardboard and made these with my kids at school. (In my old life when I had a career and not just a ridiculous job for which I’m grossly overqualified I used to teach High School English and Foods.)  Hey!  The Cranberry-Orange Cheesecake!  This thing is a behemoth!  We always love to make some crazy, elaborate dessert for Christmas and usually end up throwing most of it out.  This really is a delicious cheesecake but it is easily 3 inches high.  I think it calls for something like 4 pounds of cream cheese.

1996 – January  Here’s another great recipe for Focaccia (by Lauren Groveman).  Now you’ll know where to find the recipe if you so choose.  Check out this wonderful litle recipe from Julia from the  October issue (Gosh I miss her!) –

Julia’s A Simple Little Hen

To broil-roast a large (1 ½ lbs) Cornish hen, cut out the backbone and flatten the bird by pounding down on the breastbone and ribs with your fist. Brush the hen all over with oil and melted butter, season well and set it skin side down in a baking pan. Broil for several minutes, until lightly browned. Baste again and brush all over with crushed garlic, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of dried thyme. Turn the bird over and broil it skin side up until browned. Finish by roasting a 350 oven for about 20 minutes, or until the legs are tender and the juices run clear. Cut in half lengthwise to serve. (Serves 2)

Can’t you just hear her telling us the recipe? 

Linguine with Tomato, Tuna, Garlic, Fennel and Lemon.  I used to make this recipe all the time.  Frank’s mother loved it!  I don’t know what happened but I seem to have lost my taste for it.  Perhaps I should give it another try. Now here are a couple of recipes that I still make all the time and EVERYBODY loves them.  Thank you Jacques Pepin:  Toasted Bread and Onion Soup,  and Chicken Ragout Jeannette.  The soup recipe is the easiest and most delicious onion soup you could ever make and the Jeannete is a dish his mother used to make.  You can make it with bacon but this is a recipe that I will actually go out and buy salt pork for.  It really makes a difference.  It’s basically a chicken stew with red potatoes and the pork and such.  He finishes it off with a shot of Tabasco which just sends the dish over the edge!  Check these recipes out.  You will not be sorry.  

Somehow, and I’m still blaming somebody, I’m missing November.  I know I’ve scoured all of their houses but I’m positive one of my sisters or my mother has an extra November issue in their stack.  And I’ve always imagined  that it’s got the absolute best turkey, side dishes and pies in it.  This missing month still keeps me up at night.  Tragedy.

1997 – February- Here are some more really wonderful chicken recipes from Michael Roberts.  Michael Roberts had a restaurant called Twin Palms in Pasadena that we’ve all been to because we feel  have some kind of weird connection to him.  Turns out he is the partner of my sister’s friend’s brother.   Got that?  And just because we have that obscure connection we feel like we know the guy.  Anyway his recipes are fantastic and the restaurant was really fun and classy.  I remember going there with my friend, Lanai and Gino about 10 years ago.  Gino got a bloody nose and we were trying to staunch the flow with a white cloth napkin in the middle of the restaurant.  Oh, good times.  Perhaps I’ll tell you the story of when he simply had too much to eat at Vespaio’s and couldn’t make it out of the restaurant in time to deal with it).  Anyway, the recipes are different variations on sauteed chicken.  My two favorites are  Sauteed Chicken w/Herbs and Vermouth,and  Saute of Chicken and Shallots.   April – Interesting article on the Hill Contry by Molly Glentzer that I’m sure meant nothing to me back then.   She mentions Cooper’s BBQ pit, Fredericksburg, Jeffrey’s Restaurant in Austin, Luckenbach, all the shitty wineries, Enchanted Rock, & Central Market (which she seems to love as much as I do).   July Readers’ Choice: Restaurants.  1st place was Commander’s Palace, last was Tra Vigne.  My, my my, how times have changed.  The last time I went to Commander’s Palace (last summer) it was just so disappointing.  There’s no other way to say it but the food was just not good.  However, the 25 cent martinis (I think we had 19 between 4 of us) went a long way towards making up for the food.   As for Tra Vigne, well, I’ve spent some of my happiest culinary moments there.  The day after my friend, Amy’s wedding I went there with my sister, brother-in-law and best friend, Pete.  That was one of the happiest afternoon’s of my life.  The food was always spectacular but even more so, I just always seemed to be extremely happy every time I was there.  Michael Chiarello sold it many years ago but I think I’m going to be able to go to his new place in a couple of weeks.  I’ll definitely keep all y’alls updated. –

1998 – February  – Goat cheese soufflés w/thyme.  This is a keeper.  This is my neice, Lindsey’ favorite dish for us to make together.  They’re pretty darn easy and a total show stopper.

 

Goat cheese soufflé with thyme

 

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup flour

1/2cup milk

2 tablespoons dry white wine

½ teaspoon dry mustard

½ teaspoon anchovy paste

3 ½ ounces goat cheese,crumbled

1 ½ teaspoons thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 large eggs, separated, plus 3 large egg whites

½ cup grated sharp white Cheddar

 

1.                  Preheat the oven to 375.  Butter a 1 quart soufflé dish.  Add the Parmesan and turn the dish to coat it with the cheese.

2.                  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Add the flour and cook, whisking, until blended.  Whisk in the milk, wine, mustard and anchovy paste and cook, whisking, until the sauce is smooth and thick, about 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the goat cheese and 1 teaspoon of the thyme leaves.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the egg yolks.  Scrape the soufflé mixture into a large bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface.  (The soufflé can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight.  Bring the mixture to room temperature before proceeding.

3.                  In a large stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of slat until soft peaks form.  Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the beaten whites into the soufflé mixture; fold in the remaining whites until just a few streaks remain.

Gently scrape the mixture into the prepared dish.  Sprinkle the top with the Cheddar, the remaining ½ teaspoon of thyme and some pepper.  Bake the soufflé in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until nicely risen and browned on top.  Serve at once.

Page 108 looks very well used but I don’t recognize any of the recipes on it. There is a little purple crayon mark so perhaps Gino was the one who was interested. July – Best New chef Michael Symon.  He’s certainly come a long way.  There sure are a  lot fewer” fall-out”s these days.  That’s what I call those little cardboard inserts that try to get you to buy more magazines.  I  Had 5 fall out in December alone. One of them had LaToya’s pager number on it.  Pagers.  Remember those?  La Toya was one of my students who turned into my favorite babysitter for Gino.  Wonder what she’s up to these days?
1999 – June. On Dana Cowin’s wedding article I found this scrawled in the margin in my handwriting: “Bof uf ‘em is extranomical fighters” Oba Carr 5/21/99.  That is hilarious.  I must’ve been watching the fights with Frank with the magazine on my lap and when I heard that quote I just had to write it down somewhere.  Extranomical.  Note to self:   find a way to use that word as often as possible. July  – One of the Best New Chefs is Rocco DiSpirito.  He kind of self-destructed didn’t he?  Also mentioned were John Besh, Marc Vetri, and Suzanne Goin who had the Best tip: “Always cut steak against the grain. A skirt steak’s grain can curve, so turn the meat as you slice.”  Of course I know to cut against the grain but that skirt steak tip is great.  I can never seem to get my skirt steak tender.  That must be the secret.  November  – Ah, once again my favorite month.  Here’s Jordons’ go-to for pretty much every Thanksgiving:  Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Shallots.

 

Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Shallots

10 Servings

5 pounds medium to large sweet potatoes

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ teaspoon cardamom

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Vegetable oil, for frying

¾ pound shallots, thinly sliced

 

1.       Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Pierce the sweet potatoes with the tip of a knife and bake for about 40 minutes, or until tender.  Turn the oven down to 250.

2.       Slit the skins and scoop the potatoes into a large bowl.  Add the butter and cardamom and beat with an electric mixer at low speed until smooth and fluffy.  Season with salt and white pepper.  Transfer to a serving dish and keep warm.

3.       In a large deep skillet, heat 1 inch of oil until shimmering.  Add half of the shallots and fry over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to paper towel.  Sprinkle with salt.  Repeat with the remaining shallots.  Scatter the shallots over the sweet potatoes and serve.

(The recipe can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Store the shallots in an airtight container.  Rewarm and rewhip the potatoes; recrisp the shallots in the oven if necessary.

2000 – January   This has got to be the stupidest article ever: 

 A Wine for Every Sign  Here’s what Scorpio (which happens to be my sign) gets: 

For the always passionate Scorpio, home is where the heart is and both may be changing address. May I suggest a wine in a box? Perhaps an Almaden red? It’s easy to pack and carry for a crosstown or crosscountry move.

WTF?  A boxed wine?  Almaden boxed wine?  Is she kidding?

Here’s her suggestion for Capricorn, which if Frank’s sign.  (Frank, by the way, is bald and hates Sauvignon Blanc.  And I don’t ever think I would use the word “prudent” to describe him.) 

Prudent Capricorn, loosen that white-knuckle grip and let down your hair. This year marks the beginning of your quest for a ligher, more reckless spirit. A Merryvale Sauvignon blanc will pair quite well with your newly tousled look.

Nice work Beverly Cambron.  The good news is I don’t think the mag ever published her again. 

February  Discoverd this little article called The Frugal Gourmet.  I’ve actually been to this place many times in Dallas.

Take Breadwinners,  a café and bakery with a lush interior courtyard. Order coffee ($1.50) and you get a basket of fresh-baked breads on the house; it might hold sun-dried tomato bread and hearty spice cake. Leo’s Favorite Scramble ($8) is a mix of eggs, grilled chicken, ham, onion, tomato and Jack cheese in a sheen of hollandaise. (Mark Stuertz)

Gotta totally agree with Mark here.  Frank and I have spent many lazy Saturday mornings at this place, drinking Mimosas, checking out all the fake Dallas boobs, enjoying the delicious bread and occasionally indulging in one of their softball sized cinnamon rolls.

 October –  These were kind of cool.   Italian Cooking school tips: To make your own natural wine vinegar, place a slice of bread in some wine for 25 days. Put your rising bread dough “to bed” in a large bowl: Cover it loosely with a kitchen cloth and then with a thick blanket to keep it warm. To freeze basil, pluck individual leaves from the stalks and place them in a plastic bag. Blow a little air in the bag before closing it.

Strangely, no memories of November or December.

Well, that’s the first 10 years.  It only took me about a month to get through all of them.  Only 10 more years to go!

Happy Mother’s Day to all you Mothers out there.  Keep eating and reading.

My Love Affair with Pork

April 14, 2010

I was just watching Anthony Bourdain in Chile. (I finally set my DVR to record all of the No Reservations that I’ve missed over the years.)   He was eating a sandwich called The Lomito in the restaurant called La Fuente Alemana. It consists of a beautifully fresh baked “Frica” bun slathered with avocado, tomato, mayonnaise and a HUGE portion of thinly sliced slow cooked pork. I’m ashamed–actually, I’m not sure if I’m ashamed or proud–to say that the sight of that sandwich literally brought tears to my eyes. There is nothing, my friends, (as Tony would say) as wonderful as slow cooked pork.

Growing up, pork was really not on my radar.   We would have pork chops pretty often but they were BORING!  (Sorry, mom.)  To give her credit, it’s actually pretty difficult to cook a pork chop well.  I’ve had very few in my life that I’ve enjoyed except of course The BIG CHOP at Cooper’s BBQ Pit (more later.)  And we would have spareribs every now and then but, again, they just weren’t that great.  They were kind of chewy and stuck in your teeth and had too much sweet barbecue sauce on them.  So pork at home?  Eh.

My true awareness of pork began when we started going to Chinatown in San Francisco and getting the barbecue pork (and duck) hanging in the windows of the butcher chops.  Oh My God!  That is pork!  The incredible crispy, fatty skin and that red ring of smoke on the ribs and that succulent sweet meat  falling off the bone. Watching the butcher with that 6 inch cleaver raising it up over his head to WHACK those pieces into bite-sized bits and slide it into the take-0ut box was truly a thrill.   We would usually end up eating most of it in the car before we ever reached our picnic destination point because it was SO FREAKING GOOD!!!!!!!  The juice would just run down our chins and our fingers would be covered in that wonderful, wonderful fat.  Ah yes.  That was pork.

Somewhere around my teens my Mom found a recipe for carnitas in a Sunset magazine that all of us still use to this day.  The recipe calls for boiling a pork shoulder or butt with spices and carrots and onions and then baking it and then shredding it and serving it on a warm tortilla with pico de gallo, guacamole and cheese.  Very, very yummy.  However, it’s even better the next day when the shredded pieces are thrown in a pan and fried.  THRICE cooked pork.  Crispy, fatty, heavenly.  Thus began my fascination with the slow roasting of pork and my preference for the shoulder and butt.

I was never a fan of smoked pork products such as sausage, hot dogs, (till I went to Chicago and had a Chicago dog and Italian Beef Sandwich.  Wow), ham and your basic German styles of pork so when I found myself in Munich in 1984 I wasn’t that excited to be sampling the wares.  However, one day, my sisters and I escaped a Museum and found ourselves in a little sandwich shop eating the most heavenly pork sandwich I’d ever had up until that time in my life.  The bun was crusty and soft and the same time, the mustard was deliciously spicy and the pork was rich and succulent and delicious.  (And we were just so damn happy to be out of that museum.  Jordon had reached her limit:  “I refuse to look at one more painting of you-know-who”–meaning Jesus.)

Coming into my own as a cook I would include pork in my repetoire, oh, about once a week.  After watching Once upon a Time in Mexico I became a huge fan of Puerco Pibil. ( By the way, if you get a chance to see Robert Rodriguez’s little 10 minute short on that DVD on how to cook Puerco Pibil, watch it!  He is absolutely adorable and you will fall in love with him as I did.)  Puerco Pibil is, again, a pork shoulder or butt, cut into big chunks, marinated in chiles, achiote, citrus and tequila and slow cooked in banana leaves…served, as Johnny Depp says, with white rice, black beans and a shot of tequila.

My sister, Jordon, found a recipe for Star Anise Pork which is, again, a shoulder or butt, boiled in chicken stock, soy sauce, sherry, Chinese 5 Spice and Star Anise.  We shred it and serve it on homemade sourdough buns.  Absolutely heavenly.  It was always a huge hit when I served it at catering events.

Traveling to Texas when we were thinking of moving here, I got my first taste of Texas barbecue.  And,oh yeah, I liked it!  Although Texas is known as a beef state I’ve had some damn good ribs and pulled pork sandwiches here and basically, any time I see that on a menu I order it.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a pulled pork sandwich that I haven’t liked.  Even a bad pulled pork sandwich is a hell of a lot better than an o.k.  ham sandwich.

There’s a restaurant outside of Austin in the tiny little town of  Driftwood called The Salt Lick.  They have some of the best barbecue I’ve ever had.  Aside from the great food it’s a wonderful experience.   You drive out to the country, bring your cooler of beer or wine, sit at a wooden table on benches and chow down!! The brisket is succulent; the ribs are falling off the bone and I even like the sausage.  And the barbecue sauce is perfect.  Not too sweet, not too hot, not too vinegary.  Just the perfect amount of all of those flavors.

Then there’s Cooper’s BBQ Pit in Llano.  There’s not a wholel lot in Llano besides a very pretty river, a dusty old museum with quite a collection of different types of barbed wire and Cooper’s BBQ Pit.  You can smell it before you see it and you know you’re there when you see the line snaking around the building.  You stand in line and slowly more toward Nirvana (i.e. the barbecue pit) where you tell the guys working it what you want.

“Uh, give me 2 of those jalapeno sausages, and one of the regualr, mm, about 1/4 lb of brisket, 1/2 lb of ribs, oh, that’s 1/2 lb?  better make it 1 lb.  No, I don’t think I’ll waste my time on chicken thank you very much, say, what’s that?  The big chop?  Yeah, I think we’ll have one of those.”

They shove it all onto a tray that you bring inside to be weighed, you buy a couple of sides, maybe some beans, some coleslaw or potato salad, if you’re with Gino, some cobbler, get yourself a Shiner Bock, find a place to sit and eat and eat and eat till you can’t eat no more.

The Big Chop is simply unbelievable.  I don’t know how they got a piece of meat that thick so tender and  juicy and perfectly smoked.  Something to aspire to.  I must admit, I am a very bad smoker.  My stuff comes out way too smoky and not at all tender.  I don’t think I have the right mind-set for it.  But, I would like to learn. 

So, when my son, Gino signed up for an Agriculture Class last year and asked if he could raise a pig the answer was a resounding, “YES!”  I knew it was going to be expensive (which it was), I knew it was going to be a lot of work for him and me (which it was) but I also knew that at the end of the semester I would have a freezer full of pork (which I did.)

The pig was kept up at the Ag barn behind the high school so all I really had to do was buy feed and supplies and drop Gino off there to feed, water and walk him.  He really did all the work.   I just put in all the money.  When we first picked out the little piggy I must admit he was pretty darn cute.  Gino named him Winston.  As he grew however, the cuteness kind of went away.  I mean, come on!  It’s a pig.  How cute can they really be?  As Samuel L. Jackson said in Pulp Fiction, “That better be one charming mother-fucking pig.”  Winston was not.  He was a pig.  Big, lazy, smelly and pretty darn mean.

I almost worked up the nerve to see him castrated but chickened out at the last minute.  I had to drive Gino to the high school the night it was getting done.  There was some kind of sporting event going on so there were all kinds of traffic guards.  I so wanted them to stop me so I could say, “Let me through!  Pig castratation!” But, no one did.

Anyway, he ate and ate and ate and grew and grew and grew and Gino showed him at a pig show in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere which wasn’t all that fun to watch either.  Gino got a pink ribbon, which is like 11th place.  But as Frank said, “Maybe the ones who come in last are the sweetest.”

The week before the end of Winston we fattened him up with deer corn…and then it was time.

The following program contains content that may be inappropriate for some viewers.  Parental discretion is advised.

This warning is displayed before every No Reservations show.  Does anyone beside me find this incredibly ironic?  Is it because Tony says “fuck” every now and then? (which is bleeped out)  Is it because he drinks a lot? Because he’s a bit of an anarchist?   No, it’s because every now and then they might actually show an animal being slaughtered.  Heaven knows we all love eating the meat but, for God’s sake, don’t show anybody killing it!  (The only thing more ironic than that warning are the Olive Garden commercials shown during the show.   Our Olive Garden culinary school in Florence?  Please!)

You would think after that paragraph that I witnessed the slaughtering but I didn’t.  One of Gino’s friends father’s carted him off to a slaughterhouse in Johnson City and about a month later we got a call to come pick up the meat.  (Sweet!)

Gino and I set off around 12:00 one Saturday.  It’s not a short drive to Johnson City, especially with Gino behind the wheel.  I was pretty much plastered to the ceiling the entire drive with my foot pressing on an imaginary break.  Gino is not a good driver.  If you ever get a chance to get in a car with him, just say no.

So, we finally arrived, only to find the butcher shop/slaughter house closed.  I could’ve sworn  the lady said the hours were 12:00 to 4:00 but apparently they were 8:00 to 12:00.  I must admit I said a few very choice words not fit for the virgin ears of my son (Hah!)  He however, noticed someone inside the store and started banging on the door.  Luckily for us the lady took pity on us and told us we could get our meat but we’d have to help her look for it.  Rummage through a butcher shop?  SURE!

She led us back through different freezers as we sifted through boxes and boxes of pig parts all labeled with the Future Farmers of America’s names.  We found our Miceli boxes and piled up about 10 of them on a pushcart.  Then Gino said, ‘Oh, my friend asked if we could pick up his pig’s head.”  (I had declined to have our head included as I really had no idea what to do with it.  Later, too late, I learned you make tamales out of it).

“Well,” she said.  “That will be in this here  freezer.”  So, we went into yet another freezer and began poking through a bunch of frozen bagged pig heads.  We simply could not find our friend’s head.

“Let’s just take one from the kill floor,” was her next suggestion.  So, we wound our way through hanging pig haunches, trees of livers and tables filled to overflowering with pig’s heads.  We were both loving it.  Finally we just chose one at random, which wasn’t frozen, by the way, but still kind of life-like and a little rubbery.

We were going to drop it by Gino’s friend’s  house on the way home but no one was there and it would’ve been just too Lord of the Flies tol leave it on their front porch.

The meat from Winston was not as succulent and fatty as I would’ve liked, I’m sad to say.  Apparently you had to pay more money for a better (tastier) pig and walk them more diligently than Gino was willing to do.  But, I’ve gotta say, it was pretty damn good.

Did I mention the bacon?  Winston bacon was the best bacon I’ve ever had.  It was so meaty that there wasn’t even a hint of it curling up while cooking.  We use Niman Ranch (nitrite/nitrate free) at my ridiculous job (for which I’m grossly overqualified) and it can’t hold a candle to Winston.

Sadly, all the bacon is gone now as is the ground pork, the ribs, the shoulders, and the butts.  All I’ve got left are some 2″ pork chops, an uncured ham (I carted the other one back to California at Christmas, brined it, seasoned it and baked it and it was darn tasty) and a few neck bones and skin.

My goal is to learn how to smoke properly so I can make my own “big chop.”

I’ll let you know how it turns out.  I’ll invite Tony over.

Ghosts of Easter Past

April 8, 2010

This year I had literally no Easter. In fact, I worked at my ridiculous job (for which I’m grossly overqualified); which, actually was ok because the gal who usually runs the brunch line (ok, ok, I’ll fess up, I’m in the food industry) has a 2 year old who is actually excited about the whole Easter thing whereas my 17 year old son really couldn’t give a shit. (To digress for just a minute: although brunch is one of my least favorite meals in which to partake–probably because I’m usually heavily hungover–I totally dig cooking brunch. Turning out beautiful omelettes and waffles and coordianting it with the home fries and toast and fruit–I must admit it gives me a huge feeling of satifaction and accomplishment.)

So, after work I came home to my husband who was still suffering from food posioning (we think  from a dumpling/empanada place in Dallas which shall remain nameless since we’re not sure and don’t want to get sued) and my absent son who was playing Frisbee or something and for Easter dinner we had… frozen pizza.  So, so sad.  We did however, manage to finish watching “The Ten Commandments” which we had started the night before.  The costumes, by the way, in that movie are FANTASTIC!!    I’m a little skeptical that they actually had the dies to achieve those wonderful lime greens and neon blues.  I’m really torn between who had the best and most costume changes:  Anne Baxter or  Yul Brynner (who was Russian, by the way).  His were more flashy:  leapord skins and cute little cheerleader skirts and tall shiny purple bowling pin-type hats whereas hers were much more1950’s classy.  And in one of them, I swear you can see her entire right breast peeking out through the material.   Charleton Heston though  gets to be such a drag as the movie goes on.   God, this and God that.  Blah, Blah, Blah.  The crazier and grayer and bigger his hair gets the more boring he gets.  And Edward G. Robinson:  Whoo!!  What a bad Jew he was!  And what was that whole thing with the Golden Calf?   I’d like to know the real story behind that litle part of Hebrew history.  The oddest thing about ABC showing  that movie every year at Easter is that it has nothing whatsover to do with Easter!    Jesus wasn’t even a glint in his father’s eye.  It’s all about Passover, and, then,well, you know, all that God stuff.

Anyhoo, experiencing my to total lack of Easter got me a-thinking of all my previous Easters. 

When we were really, really young my parents did the entire Easter thing with Easter bonnets and cute little dresses for us three girls.  We have home movies of us searching for eggs and finding our baskets and looking unbearably cute.  A couple of years my parents gave us baby chicks and ducks.  There’s a particular home movie with my older sister, Jordon, stopping my 1 year old self from bashing the chicks as they scatter from the basket.  Later on there’s another shot of us girls screeching in joy and terror and jumping on the hammock as the now, grown up and evil ducks try to bite us through the canvas.  Cut to:  Close -up of my mom’s  foot kicking over a box from which the 2 evil ducks waddle out and swim away in the local lake:  banished from our backyard forevermore.  ( I can’t really remember what happened to the chickens.)

My Mom, though, I’ve got to say, was the worst Easter bunny ever!  She would hide the Easter stuff in the hall closet.  Not behind anything or way up up high but just pretty much there if you just bothered to slide the door open.  I remember one year we three girls were up and ready to hunt and my parents (who may have been a bit hungover) yelled from being their bedroom door:  “The Easter Bunny is not up yet  Go back to bed!”

Aside from a few gliches though it was always magical for us.  We totally got into the decorating of eggs.  Many years my father insisted on doing it the old-fashioned way with onion skins and thread and leaves and vinegar.  It never really worked but it definitely brought back memories for him of his own Easters with his family.  In addition to  the commerical PAAS dyed hard-boiled eggs we would often decorate blown eggs.  I remember one Easter being completely flabberghasted and impressed by the designs that my cousin David’s boyfriend, Tom, fashioned.  I believe that was a huge influence on my future fascination and joy with blown eggs and our egg trees.  (More later.)

As we moved into our adolesence we kind of left the egg thing behind and focused more on the vacation.  (By the way, religion was never a factor in our Easter experience.  It was all about pagan ritual and chocolate and the thrill of the search.)  This was always a great time of year in my family because it coincided with Spring Break.  Since both my parents were teachers that meant a week off for all of us.  Most years we would drive down to San Felipe and spend the week camped on the beach with friends.   These were wild times my friends.  Lots of Dos XX’s and rum and cokes and margaritas and  sand dollars and wonderful, wonderful food.  We would canoe out to the shrimp boats and get fresh shrimp and steam mountains and mountains of clams and cook huevos rancheros in the morning after sleeping on the beach.  One year my father was stopping cars coming into the campground and regaling the driverswith stories about the time he and Earl Stanley Gardner rode snowmobiles through the desert.  (He may have had a bit to drink.)  We would come home sunburned, adorned  with cheap silver which would turn our fingers green and turquoise and Mexican dresses…and half-heartedly do the egg thing.  It’s so sad when you lose the magic of a holiday to age.

Luckily we all had children so we got to enjoy it all over again.  At first it was just my oldest sister’s kids, Lindsey and Jeffrey and believe me, we went all out for them.  Then Julie’s sons Lucas and Jacob and my Gino came along and Easter ended up at Julie’s house.  Throughout the years we developed a routine:  I would buy all the Easter crap for the three boys and she would supply all the food.  I would go a little crazy I admit.  I would usually end up spending about $100.00 on malted milk balls, and Reese’s eggs and jelly beans and some crazy form of a basket and weird little rabbit and other cute litle creature crap.  The day before, we would do a perfunctory coloring of eggs with the boys, who never were really into it and were just so messy!   Here’s what it would sound like:

“Don’t just drop it in!

“You know, you can use more than one color”

“Are you sure you want it to look like that?”

“Dammit, you’ve spilled the purle!  Go and play!”

 And then we’d herd them outside and really get down to the business of decorating eggs.  We would have dozens and dozens of blown eggs and spend lovely, happy hours drinking white wine and talking and laughing and  leisurely decorating eggs with all manner of medium:  water colors, tempera, fingernail polish, photographs, decoupauge, little Pokemon figurines…whatever inspired us and we could find around the house.  My cousin Robert and our friend, Garth, both incredible artists turned out some true works of art.  I can still picture the Florentine Villa scene that Robert did.  It is truly magnificent.  I hope it never breaks.   ( Mine were certainly more abstract and lucky if they looked good–and some did.)  We would always do a (usually tasteless) topical egg.  We had a Monica Lewinsky (she had a really big, open mouth), an Elian Gonzalez, the Two Towers, Uma Thurman’s big breasts the year she was breastfeeding at the Oscars, Anna Nicole Smith (again, huge breasts), a Leonardo Di Caprio Bunny (for some odd reason), Eggbama, etc.  Certainly no one was more amused by them than us.  We do enjoy our own work.

They were all hung on an oak branch cut from the back yard and “planted” into a big bucket.  Except for  a decorated Christmas tree it’s a sight that makes me most happy.

And the next day:  Pork products a-plenty.  Not quite sure how it happened but as the tradition at Julie’s house evolved we would eat various forms of pork and its accompianents pretty much all day:  sausages and ham and pork loin and ribs and of course, deviled eggs and asparagus and strawberries and pilfered Easter candy from the boys’ baskets  until we felt as gassy and bloated as a rotten egg.

It was beautiful.

Pimento Cheese and Barbacoa

March 31, 2010

Last week I mentioned pimento cheese and barbacoa.  One of my thousands of readers outside the great state of Texas (thank you, Robert) wondered what the heck I was talking about so I decided to do a little bit of research.

I looked up many, many recipes for pimento cheese and found countless variations.   Some had feta, some had Worcestershire sauce, some had cream cheese, some had pecans, some had jalapenos, some had dill pickle, some had hot sauce but what all of them had in common was cheddar, onion and mayonnaise (oh, and pimento).  See, there’s my problem with pimento cheese:  mayonnaise.  Now I’m not one of those mayonnaise haters (I’m not as adamently anti-mayonnaise as Bruce Willis in The Full 9 Yards) but I do, for some reason, have a problem mixing mayonnaise and cheese…and to tell the truth, it’s kind of more of a philosphical thing than a taste thing.  My friend, Amy once brought Cheesy Delights to one of my parties.  Cheesy delights are basically cheese, thyme and mayonnasie, broiled on a crostini.  Man, did she get a lot of flak for that one.  And the thing is, it actually tasted good!  It was just the idea of the mayonnaise that set us all off….which brings us back to pimento cheese.  It’s basically cheese, mayonnaise and a few other sundries spread on a cracker or bread…  I go back to my original statement:  I just don’t get it. 

( Not really a fan of pimentos either when it comes right down to it.) 

Barbacoa on the other hand.  AAGGGHH!  (Picture Homer Simpson drooling, head tipped back, in one of his moments of food ecstacy).  For those not lucky enought to have experienced Barbacoa it is basically slow cooked beef.  and I, dear readers, am a huge fan of slow cooked meat.  I prefer pork (I’m pretty much on the same page as Anthony Bourdain when it comes to pork.  BRING IT ON!!!!!!!) but this slow cooked beef is a pretty close second.

To give you an actual history of Barbacoa according to Wikipedia:

“Barbacoa de cabeza is a specialty of slow cooked cow head that arose in the ranching lands of northern Mexico after the Spanish conquest. Except for cochinita pibil, one of the common characteristics of Mexican barbacoa is that marinades are not used and sauces are not applied until the meat is fully cooked…

Throughout Mexico, from pre-Mexican times to the present, barbacoa (the name derives from the Caribbean indigenous Taino barabicu) was the original Mexican barbecue, utilizing the many and varied moles (pronounced “mol-ehs”, from Nahuatl molli) and salsa de molcajete, which were the first barbecue sauces. Game, turkey, and fish along with beans and other side dishes were slow cooked together in a pit for many hours. Following the introduction of cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, and chickens by the Spanish, the meat of these animals was cooked utilizing the traditional indigenous barbacoa style of cooking…
In the U.S., barbacoa is often prepared with parts from the head of a cow, such as the cheeks. In northern Mexico, barbacoa is also sometimes made with the head of a cow, but more often it is prepared with goat meat or cabrito. In central Mexico the meat of choice is lamb, and in the Yucatan their traditional version, Cochinita pibil (pit-style pork) is prepared with pork…

Barbacoa was later adopted into the cuisine of the southwestern United States by way of Texas, which had formerly been a part of northern Mexico. The word transformed in time to “barbecue”[1], together with many other words related to ranching and Tex-Mex cowboy (vaquero) (buckaroo) life.”

So, we’ve got the idea of slow-cooked meat from Mexico which naturally transformed itself into the Texas style of barbecue, i.e. slow cooked meat.  Beautiful.

When we first came to Texas and I saw barbacoa on a menu I asked what it meant and was told “barbecue.”  DUH!  I pictured just some boring grilled meat (you see, the difference between Califronian’s idea of barbecue and Texan’s) so never ordered it.  Now that I know what barbacoa really means I shall add it to my go- to list along with carnitas, cochinita pibil (enjoyed, I’m sure you’ll all remember, by Johnny Depp in Once Upon a Time in Mexico), chopped beef, brisket, pulled pork, star anise pork, duck confit, etc., etc., etc.

Now, one thing I don’t quite get is Carne Guisada.  More on that later.

Jack Allen’s Kitchen

March 23, 2010

Ah, I had just heard two of my four favorite words in the world: Half-Price Appetizers. (The other two, of course, being: Open Bar.)
We were sitting out on the deck at Jack Allen’s Kitchen perusing the menu. I had once again escaped from my ridiculous job (for which I’m grossly overqualified) and picked up Frank from the airport. We discovered that neither of us had eaten lunch so we decided to swing by this joint and check it out. I’d heard good things. Now, let me say, that to hear good things about a restaurant in Austin is like…well, I can’t come up with a snappy simile at this particular moment. Let me just say, that I don’t really trust people’s opinions too much ’round these parts. They seem to be pleased by the most plebian and mundane fare. And I don’t mean to sound snobby or superior (well, maybe just a little) but I’ve had a lot of bad food in this here burg.
I know, some of you who might have read my other blogs (all 5 of you; thank you) are probably saying, “But she seems to like everything!” Not true! I’ve just gotten really lucky lately. Believe me, if I come across something I don’t like you all will be the first to know. (Because, really, part of life being beautiful is ocassionally being able to totally trash-talk something or someone)
Anyhoo..back to Jack Allen’s Kitchen. It’s on Highway 71, almost to the Y at Oak Hill. In fact, it’s in the spot that used to house a restaurant called The Y at Oak Hill. We never made it to that place (although I’d heard good things). By the time we finally got around to stopping in, I was informed that they had just up and moved to Minnesota or somewhere crazy like that. And, if I’m not mistaken, I believe theytold me that they  kept the same name. Now that really confused me because I doubt very much if they just happened to move to another spot that had a Y (i.e. a crazy, stupid interstection where about 3 highways meet)  and that  happened to be near a place named Oak Hill.

 Be that as it may, we went to this spot in its second incarnation. That is, Nunzio’s. And it was…o.k. Tell the truth, I can’t even remember what we had. I just remember sitting out on the deck on a sweltering hot day, looking down on the creek, wishing that the fans were a little stronger and making good use of the mosquito spray they had thoughtfully provided on the tables.
Well, today was not sweltering hot and there were no mosquitos or mosquito spray available. What was available were: Half-price appetizers! And fun cocktails. I ordered a Maker’s Mark Citrus Smash. It consisted of Maker’s Mark (duh), Paula’s Texas Orange, muddled oranges, bitters and soda. I wanted to like it more than I did. It was basically an Old Fashioned (which I love) with a little orangecello thrown in but, and I know this is going to sound crazy, it was just too orangey. It was good but not great.

What were great were the half-price appetizers. We had a hard time making up our minds but with the help of our waitress we finally decided on the Barbacoa Stackers and Bacon Wrapped Quail. Both excellent choices I must say.
Before we got to them she brought us a little amuse bouche of pimento cheese and some really good, hard, crunchy housemade crackers. Gotta tell you, I just don’t get the whole pimento cheese thing. Perhaps, not being a native Texan, I never will. It just tasted bland and kind of like cottage cheese mixed with cream cheese.
Anyway, back to the good stuff:
The quail consisted of around eight or so, 1 inch long legs and thighs (some on the bone, some boneless), wrapped up in bacon and grilled; served with jalapeno jam, peach jam and a microgreen fig salad. Gotta tell you: each bite was a little taste of heaven. (I’ve got to find myself a quail source. You’d think I’d have met some hunters by now who are just dying to give me their left-over quail, but nope!  anybody?  anybody?)
The barbacoa stackers were two stacks of 3″ perfectly crunchy tostadas layered with black beans, barbacoa and JAK’s slaw. It was the perfect combination of tastes and textures: the crunchiness of the tortillas and slaw, the creaminess of the black beans, the sweet smokiness of the barbacoa and a perfect little shot of piquancy from the cotija cheese.
I think I can safely say that I could’ve eaten another portion of each of these wonderful little offerings. I believe we got out of there spending under $40.00.
Love Jack Allen’s Kitchen and must return soon.

So, it’s Saturday and where do we find ourselves but sitting at the bar at Jack Allen’s Kitchen. We just happened to be in the neighborhood because Frank wanted to look at some possible office/warehouse space for his possible new company and since, once again we hadn’t had any lunch and it was closing in on 3:00 and we had only sampled two of the appetizers we decided we simply had to stop in again.
The inside of the restaurant is just as charming as the patio. They’ve put in nice looking rustic hardwood floors in the restaurant area and a cool, kind of coppery looking floor in the bar.  The bar has a kind of a rustic, old-timey honky tonk feel while the restaurant area is a little more sophisticated with orange tapestries and tan painted walls with music themed art on the walls. Bare lightulbs swing underneath lightly leafed swags of linens on the ceiling of the bar.

So, Saturday:  Did I mention that it was freezing cold outside? This Texas weather is crazy, I’m telling you. Yesterday it was in the 70’s, today it was around 40 and with the wind-chill, it felt about 20 degrees. I had on a turtleneck, sweater, scarf and my long red coat with the black velvet collar (that I bought at the Thrift Store for $6.50).  We were definitely experiencing a “Blue Norther” as they’re called around these parts.  Or, as some old bonafide Texan described it to us:  “When that wind starts blowing down  from Canada, there’s nothing to slow it down it except a single strand of barbed-wire in Oklahoma.”
We sat at the bar (because Frank loves to sit at the bar) and ordered a couple of drinks. I had a glass of XYZ Zinfandel from Sonoma that was quite delicious. Frank had a margarita. Once again, following the advice of our server/bartender we ordered three different appetizers. (Did I mention that they were still half-price? Happy Hour on Saturdays is 3:00 to 7:00. Did I mention that I love Jack Allen’s Kitchen?)
We got the fried catfish, Spinach Gorgonzola Ravioli and Smoked Beef Rib Quesadilla. The catfish came as little crunchy fingers, perfectly coated and fried and served with JAK’s wonderful slaw (not at all soggy) and chipotle spiked tartar sauce.
The spinach-gorgonzola ravioli (which is not housemade but purchased from a nearby purveyor) was bathed in a walnut pesto cream sauce with parmesan cheese, also spiked with a hint of chipotle and served with grilled ciabatta bread. The ravioli were quite tasty but it was the walnut pesto sauce that really shone. The bread was perfectly grilled, soft and crunchy and was used liberally to soak up that sauce.
We couldn’t quite eat all of the smoked beef rib quesadilla but what we had was delicious. Tthe cheese was a mixture of pepper jack and cotija and, again, it was served with JAK’s slaw. Were we happy? Yes, we were.

We happened to see the chef/owner, Jack Gilmore, and Frank being Frank called him over and told him how much we loved his food.  He looked kind of like Eric Bogosian in his Law & Order:  Criminal Intent Days (I guess that would be now wouldn’t it?) and was quite personable.  He told us they’d been pretty much packed since they opened.  Their reservation book was full for tonight at any rate.
Remembering that I had a blog to write I decided to try another signature cocktail. This time it was the Pomegranate and Basil Martini. Ketel one Citroen, Pomegranate Juice and Basil leaves served icy and up in a martini glass. All I can say is YUM!!

Jack Allen’s Kitchen you will be seeing us again soon and perhaps, we might even move on to the main menu (but not until we’ve had all the half-price appetizers.)

A Day at the Lake

March 18, 2010

Saturday! My day off! After our decadent breakfast of way too many croissants and sitting out on my porch reading Food and Wine magazine I finally got Frank up from his nap and we ventured forth into Lakeway.

It so so strange living here. 90% of the time I totally forget that I live in a resort town. In fact, 90% of the time I even forget that there’s a lake here. Not being part of the lake community (i.e. owning a boat) it’s just not really a part of our  everyday lives. And living right on the outskirts of Lakeway we hardly ever go down into the heart of the town and even see the lake. I used to at least go down into town every day to work out but since I got this ridiculous job (for which I’m grossly overqualified) I have neither the time nor energy to do that.
So…since my husband was home for the weekend and didn’t have a million things to do (well, he did but he put them off because the weather was so beautiful), we decided to start our tourist expedition at Johnny Fin’s. 

Johnny Fin’s bills itself as a “floating restaurant”.   Due to the extreme draught over the last year  it actually  had to shut down in the fall and  move across the lake.   To tell the truth, I was always a bit confused as to what that meant because they’ve got their kitchen and main bar area in what seems to me a fairly stable structure  on land and the floating part seems just to be the outside patio area…but what do I know?  We aren’t  really Johnny Fin’s type of people.  In fact, after going there just once right after moving here 5 years ago I pretty much just knew it from its reputaion of pissing off its neighbors with its loud late-night music and the fact that my son and his friends used to swim over there from the park (which always made me very nervous). 

It’s a pretty rustic old-school Lakeway  place.  First of all, you drive down this little road off of RR 620, past the brand new developments, past the old homes/rental homes/trailers that have been there since the 70’s to—a marina.  You pull into the parking lot, which is surrounded by boats, boats, boats:   Boats in the docks, boats stacked up in that shed area where, you know, they stack the boats when they’re not using them, boats for sale, and, of course, the boats zipping back and forth on the lake. 

You walk through the main building (which, did I mention?  is on land), that looks, from the outside, like a bait shop, and from the inside, like  a really cheesy chain-type restaurant with lots of video games in the foyer, including that crazy addicting hook-grabbing machine that could probably fund our miliatry by now  if the funds only went to the right place…and travel on to…

The dock.  Ah yes, the floating part. 

We sat at a nice little table with a great view of the lake and ordered a couple of cockatils.  The waitstaff were all very friendly and accomodating and wearing Home Depot aprons for some odd  reason.  Since I seem to be on this kick of ordering the house speciality cocktail (new thing for me:  it used to be beer, wine ,or  bourbon and soda, with occasionally a vodka drink in the hot afternoons–thank you Sonja for changing me) I ordered this strange concoction of vanilla vodka, orange juice and Sierra Mist.  Sierra Mist?  What was I thiinking?  That is so not me!   It was the vanilla vodka and orange juice  that drew me in.  One day, long ago in my inebriated past I had a drink with vanilla vodka, orange juice and half and half (it was either in Hawaii or San Diego) and it tasted just like a creamsicle.  This didn’t.  The Sierra Mist was way too overpowering and too sweet.  Did not dig it.

So, we ordered and received some extremely mediocre fried shrimp and buffalo wings.  In fact, the wings were undercooked.  To give our accomodating Home Depot moonlighting waitress credit, she did get the cook to throw them back into the fryer for us but by then we were way too full to even eat them..too much cornmeal encrusted shrimp and french fries.

But, let’s face it.  One does not go to Johnny Fin’s for the food.  One goes for…hmm, what does one exactly go there for?  I guess to enjoy the lake and people watch; which we did.  After another drink (I switched to Shiner) I felt my chest getting sunburned (and at my advanced age that is not a good thing) so we decided to move on.  On our way out, after hearing Frank say, “I want a boat” about a MILLION times (in under an hour) we took a little tour of a 44 foot cruiser for sale (no, did not find out the price) which was insanely desirable (yes, the envy meter was at about 100).  I really could imagine me up in that captain’s seat in some short little white shorts and a cute little Captain’s hat.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I know I would be down in the galley whipping up appetizers and cocktails.

Next stop:  The Lakeway Inn.

The Lakeway Inn has been here since the 60’s but this last year or so was bought out by the Dolce group (I actually have no idea what that means but it looks like I know what I’m talking about) and completely renovated and updated.  It is gorgeous!  We first came down here a couple of years ago when they were having a Sunday summer concert series.  Basically they opened the resort to anybody who showed up, let them use the pool and listen to some great local music.

Today we parked and walked on down to the pool area.  The gate was locked and there was a guard there who let us in to the pool area because it was so slow (normally only guests can use it–besides Frank can talk his way pretty much into–or out of–any thing or any place).  We sat in the cabana area next to the bar overlooking the three-level pool and the hot tub which in turn, overlook the lake.  This spot has a really fantastic view of the lake.  The boats are moving much faster on this part since there’s no dock area near.  Looking to the left of the lake and the pool there’s a two story building where the resort has their banquets.  In this area of the resort they’ve built a glass deck that juts out over the lake…kind of like the one in the Sears Tower in Chicago but not nearly so creepy.   It is a bit scary when you’re standing there looking down at the lake; but also exhilirating. (I actually took some photos but being a blog neophyte don’t know how to download them yet.)

Continuing my kick of checking out the local cocktail, I ordered a concoction of Citroen vodka, St. Germain liquer, splach of soda and a giant sprig of rosemary (can’t remember the name).  The rosemary actually wasn’t overpowering but the drink was too sweet for my taste.  Frank’s on a vodka gimlet kick so that’s what he got.  Our waitress said, “Vodka gimet?”  when he ordered but assured us that the bartender would know what it was.  The waitstaff, by the way, were adorable.  They had short, shorts, cute little pink cowboy hats hanging down their backs and big, big smiles.  After we got our cocktails we were very happy, sitting there in the shade and staring out over the lake.  We spent the time watching a group of women hanging out by the pool.  They all seemed to be related and having a great time.  We played our usual game of “Fake or real?”  (speaking of boobs of course).  We decided four (boobs, not girls) were fake and the rest real.

Since my first drink was too sweet, for our next round I got a Lakeway Lemonade which was delicious!!  Remember how I said the Neuti Blonde Martini was my new favorite drink?  Well, this is my second.  Unfortunately I didn’t take notes (see blog neophyte comment above) so can’t tell you what was in it but I know vodka, lemon juice and perhaps limoncello were involved.

The sun was starting to set behing the glass platform, the girls were headed back to their rooms to change for dinner, so we decided to call it a day and head on back to the old homestead.  What a truly wonderful weekend this has been.

(I am going to be so fat by the end of this blogging venture.)