I HEART BACON
Sunday, October 30th, 2005

Oysterville: Day 2

consumed on 8/27/05

Day two in Oysterville started with a wonderful breakfast strata with sausage and mushrooms. It was hearty, steaming hot and filled with spicy sausage. (I especially love that this dish can be made entirely the night before and simply baked in the morning; perfect for a brunch.)

After a rather long walking tour through Historic Oysterville, we returned to the house for lunch. J had seen a shrimp ceviche recipe on The Early Show (with Bobby Flay) that had caught her eye. I’m generally not a huge fan of ceviche, but only because I’m very particular about it. This recipe was fantastic; well-balanced and not overly citrus-y, the tender shrimp pairing perfectly with the sweet mango.

J had also brought along a savory mango cheesecake from JW Desserts (on Whidbey Island). I’ve yet to visit JW Desserts in person, but I’ve already had several of his cakes. His sculpted cake gallery is amazing and not only do the cakes look great, but they taste great as well. In addition to desserts he also makes savory cheesecakes that are out of this world; creamy, rich and flavorful. J served the mango cheesecake with homemade rosemary crackers from The Herbfarm Cookbook.

And just for overkill, J also served fresh mozzarella from Central Market, heirloom tomatoes and basil drizzled with olive oil and good balsamic. With fresh and high-quality ingredients, the Caprese salad is sublime. We washed it all down with a nice Rosé.

After lunch we took another long walk, this time along the beach. And then it was time for dinner.

We decided to eat out, despite the warnings from our host that eating out in Oysterville wouldn’t be nearly as good as cooking in. We ended up at Moby Dick’s – a local “hotel” that houses a restaurant. The hotel had an odd style that’s typically described as “funky”; lots of dark paint in the slightly off colors usually found in the paint store’s bargain bin.

We started off our meal with pan fried oysters and a Caesar salad. The oysters were great—as they should be in a town called “Oysterville”. They were plump and briny with a crisp, cornmeal coating and a side of wonderful corn relish. The Caesar salad tasted fine, but since it was made with feta cheese, I’m not sure I’d technically still call it a Caesar. J had the halibut and fennel stew, but something about the dish was very off; the fish was dry and the stew had an unpleasant bitterness to it. R had the pork chops with ancho sauce. The sauce was decent, but as with most pork served in restaurants, it was very tough and rubbery. The best dish of the night was a rib eye steak coated in an olive tapenade served with mashed potatoes and green beans. This dish was solidly good, but not what I’d consider great. Overall it was a decent meal, but for the prices they were charging, I was expecting a great meal. Next time, I’ll listen to our host!


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Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

Oysterville: Day 1

consumed on 8/26/05

An acquaintance of mine recently built a new house in Oysterville, on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula, and invited a few friends over for a weekend visit. It was a long drive out to the coast (in miserable traffic) but it was worth it.

C’s house was actually built as a retreat for the Willard R. Espy Literary Foundation‘s Writers Residency Program and it’s gorgeous. The main house is meant to be a gathering place for the writers/artists-in-residence and is very open and welcoming. My favorite part, of course, was the spacious communal kitchen with shelves full of top of the line cookware and a pantry stocked to the hilt.

As we arrived rather late that evening, dinner was ready and waiting: Dungeness crab with an Asian dipping sauce and a beautiful corn salad. Now, I’ve never really thought about dipping fresh crab into anything but butter, so the sauce threw me at first. Could a flavorful, Asian-style sauce be better than drawn butter? It was. In fact, it was so much better that I doubt I will serve crab with plain butter ever again.

Our friend R had recently found work as a wine distributor for l’Esprit du Vin, so he had brought along several great bottles of white wine. Dessert was a peach and berry crumble with fruits from the coast. It was one of the best fruit crumbles I’ve ever had, so I just had to get the recipe.

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Friday, October 21st, 2005

Bloody Marys

consumed on 10/21/05

During a long weekend at Ocean Shores, I discovered a smoked meats store that was next to the liquor store…. They had:

  • Razor clam sausage: wanted to try this but got vetoed…
  • Landjaeger: soft & slightly spicy peperoni (w/o the weird food colorings)
  • Brown sugar beef jerky: tender with a great, sweet & smoky flavor
  • Double-smoked bacon: need I say more?

We decided to combine the meats & liquor and made a full on appetizer cocktail!

Bloody Mary recipe:

  • 92 oz v8-juice
  • 750 ml crater lake vodka
  • 5 oz Worchestire sauce
  • 1 oz Tabasco (or more if you like spicy)
  • 1 T celery salt
  • 16 oz beef bullion
  • 4 oz lemon juice
  • 1 T pepper

Garnished each with:

  • pickled asparagus
  • shrimp sauteed in garlic & butter
  • dill pickles
  • olives
  • pickled hot okra
  • celery stick
  • daikon
  • a few slices of double-smoked bacon

 

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

23rd Post Meme

I’ve been watching (and reading) with amusement as this meme went around. Just when I thought it was safe, William from Never Trust a Skinny Chef tagged me.

So… my 23rd post was about a day trip over to Bainbridge Island and my fifth sentence was about licorice:

I have never really liked licorice very much but after trying some of Zach’s I’m open to the possibility that I just don’t like bad licorice.

This is actually a very fitting sentence for me as I think that I would like just about any kind of food as long as it’s was done well.

I seriously doubt that I know anyone who hasn’t already been tagged, so I will just leave it at this: if you want to participate, leave me a comment and consider yourself tagged!

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Friday, October 14th, 2005

The Last Summer BBQ

consumed on 8/18/05

As I’ve said before, I love BBQs. I’m not sure if it’s because they epitomize summer or if it’s just the classic grass-is-greener syndrome since I live in an apartment and don’t own a grill. Either way, when K invited me to her family barbecue I was excited to squeeze in one more before the end of summer.

When I arrived, K had already put out a really delicious salmon and cream cheese spread with crackers and her mother had made these cute little appetizers of cherry tomatoes, marinated bocconcini and basil, which were skewered onto toothpicks. It was a brilliant and portable twist on the Caprese Salad.

For the grill, K had purchased chicken drumsticks and tenders from Trader Joe’s and then slathered them with a bottled BBQ concentrate sauce. This was such a perfect (and easy) idea because it was a mid-week BBQ and there were lots of kids who appreciated the boneless cuts. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t; I made a sandwich out of the chicken tenders and it was great. I had brought along some duck sausages from Exotic Meats. They were a little heavy on the liver taste, but otherwise very juicy and flavorful.

For sides, K made a beautiful (pink) salad of beets and cucumbers that were marinated in pickling spices. Considering that I’m not really a fan of beets, this dish was pretty good. K’s dad made a fantastic potato salad with tender purple and red potatoes, lots of capers and bits of celery.

As delicious as all the food was, the highlight of the evening turned out to be dessert. K has wheat allergies so she’s always making things with spelt. This time she made a plum galette. It had a crust of spelt flour, lemon yogurt and lots of butter, then a layer of frangipane filling topped with fresh plum slices. The flavor was nutty and rich and it had an unbelievable crunch to it—almost like a hard-cooked puff pastry.

Even though I’m sad to see summer go, this was a great send off.

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Thursday, October 13th, 2005

The DishMaker

A friend just sent me a link to this incredible invention that will make recycled / recyclable dishes on demand:

MIT Media Lab’s Counter Intelligence Group, which develops innovative kitchen designs, has created a machine that makes dishes on demand and recycles them after diners have finished a meal. The dishes are made from food-grade, nontoxic acrylic wafers, which are shaped into cups, bowls and plates when heated, then resume their original wafer shape when they are reheated and pressed.

How cool would that be? Acrylic wafers!
http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,69113,00.html

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Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Brunch, Culinary Fool Style

consumed on 9/24/05

In my circle of friends I’m known as the one who “over does” it with parties and food, so I always enjoy meeting people who are even more over the top than me. Culinary Fool is just such a person so when she invited me over for her semi-annual ladies brunch a few weekends ago, I gladly accepted.

I walked into an amazing smelling house and was quickly ushered out to the sunny back deck where coffee, orange juice and champagne were waiting. After introductions and some chit-chat we were asked back inside and seated around a table overflowing with food. This was the spread:

Crab and Shrimp “Quiche” – A beautiful mix of fluffy, light eggs packed with crab and shrimp.

Oven Omelet with Vegetables – Another egg dish more geared towards the vegetarians.

Tomatoes with Shallots, Basil and Balsamic – A colorful and tasty side dish with cherry tomatoes and basil from her garden.

Homemade Orange and Cranberry Rolls – Culinary Fool said that these didn’t turn out as good as usual, but I still enjoyed them.

Chicken and Apple Sausages – Completely addictive sausage from Aidells. It almost tasted like a savory-sweet kielbasa.

Pork Roll with Apple Stuffing – A pork roast stuffed with a chunky apple filling.

Bacon Fritters РWhen I saw these, a wave of happiness came over me and I wanted to hug Culinary Fool. They were light pancakes studded with bacon, served with arugula and saut̩ed balsamic onions.

Brunch is such a lovely occasion on its own, but when done Culinary Fool Style it’s elevated to a whole new level.

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Sunday, October 9th, 2005

Meme: Childhood Food Memories

When I read The Scent of Green Bananas’ post titled “Where memes come to die,” I started laughing. Then I remembered that I had been tagged for the Childhood Food Memories Meme by Accidental Hedonist back in August and then again by Chubby Hubby in September.

Despite my lateness, I really did want to do this meme. It’s an interesting idea and became even more “interesting” when I compiled my top five. Sadly, most of my food memories from childhood revolve around secrecy and foods that are bad for you. Which is odd because I grew up around lots of food—really, really good food. So what I craved as a child were the processed foods that all my other friends were eating.

I’ve done a few comparisons for an example:

FRIENDS: Sugar Smacks
ME: Cheerios (upon which I heaped spoonfuls and spoonfuls of sugar when my mom wasn’t looking)

FRIENDS: Snicker’s Bars
ME: Wha Guru Chews

FRIENDS: Kool-Aid
ME: Water

Okay, so you get the picture. I’m just trying to explain (disclaim?) why my childhood food memories are so strange…

1. This memory has always stuck with me, partly because it’s so shameful and partly because it’s so hilarious: One hot summer day, my mom found me huddled up in the corner of the porch (I obviously knew I was doing something bad), with an entire stick of butter in my greasy fist. I was licking it like a lollipop. And from what I recall, I wouldn’t give it up.

2. I have very fond memories of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets with Sweet and Sour Sauce. As a kid we’d stop by McDonald’s almost every Sunday, after the family game of tennis, and my brother and I would each get a container of McNuggets. The strange part is that everyone accepted this as normal behavior and treated it like a reward for exercising.

3. Another odd memory I have is of my mom telling me to dust the household plants. For some reason I got it in my head that if I washed them, I could then eat them. I managed to eat half a leaf before my poor mom noticed and asked me WTF I was doing. What’s really funny is that we had that plant for a really long time—and until it died it always had a bite mark taken from one of the leaves.

4. I was desperately addicted to Twinkies during my middle school years. I would stop by the corner gas station EVERY DAY on my way home from school and purchase a two-pack, which I then consumed in secret. There was something about that artificial fluff stuffed into a spongy container that I found wildly comforting.

5. The last memory I’m going to share is the time I ate MSG. We had a container of it in our spice drawer (probably from my Chinese grandma) and one day curiosity got the better of me. It was the most disgusting thing that I’ve ever tasted. Hands down. MSG is supposed to enhance the flavor of whatever you’re eating, and in this case it was just enhancing the flavor of my mouth. Imagine the five people you know who have the worst breath. Now imagine them licking you all at the same time.

I’ve probably over-shared, but there it is. I’m passing this on solely based on who I think might actually participate AND who, as far as I can tell, hasn’t already participated:

Seriously Good
The Pragmatic Chef

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Friday, October 7th, 2005

Doufeu Lamb

consumed on 8/20/05

After a very successful doufeu debut with pork, I decided to try the doufeu out on lamb. I was feeling a little reckless (… or was it lazy?) and opted not to use a recipe. I chose some survival spice, coriander and cumin out of the cupboard and applied a nice coating to the lamb. I sautéed some onions, ginger and garlic and the browned the roast on all sides. I added a few cups of chicken broth and slid the doufeu into the oven to let it do its thing.

After a few hours I pulled it out of the oven and inspected the lamb. I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating, but when I tried to slice the roast it fell into shreds. Honesty. I never knew lamb could get that tender, but it was also odd because the meat was dry. I think I made the mistake of cooking it like it was a pork shoulder, but the lamb didn’t have nearly enough fat content to cook that long.

Luckily, the flavor was great—although next time I’d use way more survival spice and less cumin (I went nuts with the cumin). I served the lamb shreds with truffled mashed potatoes (potatoes with Casina Rossa Truffle & Salt) and beautiful yellow beans with butter and Sel Gris with Herbs.

Stick with me; this is where it gets good. The next day I thought, “What can I do with leftover lamb shreds and mashed potatoes?”

Shepherd’s pie was the natural choice.

I mixed the leftover stewing juices with the lamb and layered them into the bottom of a casserole. I topped it with a thick layer of mashed potatoes and a fresh sprinkle of truffle salt. Then I spread a layer of panko on top and drizzled it with melted butter. The combination of the crisp topping, creamy potatoes, lamb and truffle salt was outstanding. Plus the potatoes completely masked the fact that the lamb was dry. Rarely have I ever said this, but… the leftovers blew the main dish away!

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Thursday, October 6th, 2005

Simple Syrups

What I love most about simple syrups, is that they really are just that: Simple. Ridiculously easy to make, they keep for a long time and are worlds better than commercially made flavoring. So why isn’t everyone making simple syrups?

PERSONAL RANT: On another note, why do flavored vodkas even exist? I recently had a drink made with Absolut Raspberri and thought it was the most disgusting thing to have passed my lips in a long while. It tasted artificial and fake and absolutely nothing like raspberry. And please don’t even get me started on that “Vanil” (a.k.a. nasty scented candle) flavor…

So I’m here to encourage everyone to make their own flavored simple syrups. It’s this simple:

1. Put three cups of water in a pot.
2. Add two cups of sugar and give it a stir.
3. Bring to a boil over high heat and let boil for a minute.
4. Remove from heat and toss in desired flavorings.
5. Let steep until cool and then strain into a clean container.

Voilà. Keep it in the fridge for up to 3 months. Add 1-2 tablespoons to any alcoholic drink, or even just plain carbonated water.

Last weekend B & I made a bunch of simple syrups for an Asian-themed party we were attending. We went to Uwajimaya in search of inspiration and walked out with: an English cucumber, a package of Vietnamese mint, lemongrass stalks, limes and a package of huckleberries.

The cucumber simple syrup was flat out amazing. All we did was peel the cucumber and then cut it into 1/4 inch pieces for steeping. Everyone who tasted it asked for the recipe. And then didn’t believe me when I told them how easy it was.

The mint simple syrup was awful, but only because we didn’t realize that Vietnamese mint isn’t really mint. We made a quick replacement batch using two mint and two peppermint teabags. Mint tea simple syrup is my old standby and is fantastic in drinks.

For the lemon grass, we simply sliced it into thin rounds for steeping. This syrup turned out light and fruity. It was too delicate for complex drinks, but it was perfect with just vodka and soda.

The lime simple syrup was made with the zest of four limes, plus the juice of one lime. We were testing out my new microplane zester and got a little over-zealous… we ended up with too much pith, so the syrup was bitter. We labeled it “bitter lime” and passed it off as bitters with flying colors.

Our last syrup was made from huckleberries. It was a beautiful color and had a wonderful, lush and fruity flavor. Worlds better than Absolut Raspberri.

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Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

IHEARTBACON turns one!

I can’t believe it’s been a year. It’s been so much fun writing about all my eating adventures. It has also helped hone my passion (obsession?) for bacon. Thanks to everyone for all the great comments and all the great food recommendations. Keep ‘em coming!

So how did I celebrate? Bacon would be the logical choice. But no, I celebrated with homemade wild boar jook. Bet you didn’t see that one coming…

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Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

Chocolate-coated bacon

Someone did it. They beat me to it. They made chocolate covered bacon. The informative post covers the history of chocolate covered bacon, the process and the (less than stellar) results. I guess not everything tastes better with bacon…

On another, meat related note, I can’t resist throwing in this link I found via Blog on a Toothpick: salami rugs. I want the bierschinken one. Badly.

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Monday, October 3rd, 2005

Nishino / Tasting Menu

A week ago, Hillel from Tasting Menu invited me to a launch party for his latest creation: Autumn Omakase, A Tasting Menu from Tatsu Nishino of Nishino. The party was held at Nishino and since I had never been before I was excited to check it out.

For the party Nishino was serving platters of sushi, fabulous shrimp and asparagus tempura, seared tuna with chopped daikon and little foie gras/shitake/tuna nibbles. Admittedly, passed appetizers are not a huge indication of a restaurant’s capability, but I was sufficiently impressed. I will be returning very soon to try out the omakase menu.

Now for the good part. Even if you don’t live in Seattle you can still try the omakase menu—you’ll just have to cook it yourself. Hillel’s latest cookbook is filled with beautiful images and nine of Nishino’s recipes, which have been broken down into steps that seem very manageable. I can’t wait to cook the entire menu!

Download it for free at:
http://www.tastingmenu.com/autumnomakase

Congrats Hillel! Another beautiful baby…

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Monday, October 3rd, 2005

Seattle Food Blog Group: Tutta Bella

consumed on 8/3/05

So, um, seeing as how the next Seattle Food Blogger meeting is tonight, I thought I should post something about the last get-together. I’m cringing as I look at the date; it’s been two months since we dined…

This was the smallest gathering yet, just Orangette, Culinary Fool and myself. It was my turn to chose the restaurant and I was feeling pizza-y. Plus I was long overdue for another visit to Tutta Bella.

It was a hot, sweltering day and the wait for a table was long, but the complimentary wine-while-you-wait (wine-so-you-don’t-whine?) certainly helped smooth things over. After about 20 minutes we were seated upstairs where, unfortunately, all the hot, stale air was collecting. Acoustically it was probably the worst location in the restaurant as the ceiling was low and there was nothing around to absorb sound. Ignoring the table of screaming kids behind us, we ordered a bottle of wine and perused the menu.

Knowing the gigantic proportions of Tutta Bella salads, we decided to order just one Caesar ($5.50) and split it. It had a nice, creamy dressing although I wished it came with more anchovies. We probably could have shared this salad with another 2-4 people.

For pizza we ordered the Tutta Bella ($9.95) and the Pancetta e Pomodoro ($9.50) to share. The Tutta Bella came with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, caramelized onions, Isernio’s hot Italian sausage and mushrooms. The Pancetta e Pomodoro had golden pomodoro sauce, pancetta, mushrooms, slivered garlic and formaggi di casa. The Tutta Bella was a great, simple pizza, but it just couldn’t compete with the pancetta (what can, really?). The Pancetta e Pomodoro was much more delicate and at the same time more assertive and salty.

Even though the restaurant was hot and loud, I really, really love this place. Maybe it’s because it has that bustling, comfortable, neighborhood feel… or maybe it’s the wonderful pizza… or maybe it’s a perfect combination of the two.


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