I HEART BACON
Friday, December 2nd, 2005

Favorite Seattle Food Stores

You know how people like to say “Don’t quit your day job”? Well, in my case I really should quit my day job. I work in web development, and while that’s all well and good, this field requires at least some interest in technology. It requires time spent on keeping current with the latest website technologies and trends. Time which I don’t have because it’s spent obsessing about food.

Anyways, all that to say I found this incredibly cool tool called wayfaring via Miss Ginsu’s website, The Hedonista. I’m sure it’s been around for ages (months in web years), but since I’ve been heads down in food-related things I’ve never seen it before today. It’s based on Google Maps but you can customize it to create your own little world. My world happens to be all about food stores in Seattle.

Check out my map in progress at: http://www.wayfaring.com/maps/show/1379

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Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Eat Well Guide

I just received the latest Splendid Table e-newsletter and read about the new(ish) Eat Well Guide. The Eat Well Guide is a directory of sustainably-raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from stores, markets, restaurants, farmers, etc.

I think this is an important issue so I wanted to pass on the link:
http://www.eatwellguide.org

It appears as though these are the same people who brought us the totally brilliant Meatrix, so that makes me like them even more.

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Thursday, July 28th, 2005

Gifts from the Heart

I have to take a quick moment to brag about the birthday presents I received this year. There were many beautiful and thoughtful gifts and I love them all. Thank you!

My birthday wish came true and I got a thermapen. Yes, A THERMAPEN. After screaming for a few seconds, I ran around taking the temperature of the air, the ground and generally anything that was soft enough to poke a needle into. The thermapen is ridiculously expensive, but the fact that it can take a temperature reading IN 4 SECONDS FLAT is truly amazing. It even came with calibration papers. CALIBRATION PAPERS! I love it more than anyone in their right mind should love a thermometer. I kind of want to carry it around in my bag and whip it out at restaurants. Okay, not really.

I also received the National Association of Meat Purveyors (NAMP) Meat Buyers Guide. Not only is it oh-so stylish, but it’s useful as well, with wonderful drawings of nearly every type of meat/poultry cut you can imagine.

My brother and his girlfriend flew in from NY for my birthday and brought a wonderful and amazing range of foodstuffs from their neighborhood: chili peppers, dried hibiscus, tamarind paste, purple corn pudding, purple drink, huitlacoche (!), Quesos Zurita Oaxacan string cheese, longaniza, mole, yellow hot pepper paste, unknown (and unlabeled) spices, chili candy and more. I’m going to have fun finding recipes for all these ingredients!

Lastly, I received some money from my dad and decided to follow my own advice. I bought a beautiful, beautiful, blue doufeu off eBay, which I expect to receive any day now. Oh yeah.


Friday, July 1st, 2005

Utensibility

I almost totally forgot about this. Luckily I was reading Arthur’s “Cook Next Door” post, which reminded me of how much I’ve always wanted a Hot Diggity Dogger.

Unless I’m totally broke, when I get gift money I try and spend it on something that I wouldn’t normally buy. Never anything too practical or something that I’d be willing to save up and buy. So, Sam, here are a few suggestions:

1. Hot Diggity Dogger
2. Doufeu
3. Thermapen
4. Waffle Stick Maker

Monday, May 23rd, 2005

Gadget lust!

I’m not gadget happy by any means, but once in a while I’ll find a piece of cooking equipment that I really, really want. Sometimes it’s something completely unnecessary and esoteric, like the Oval Doufeu I came across on eBay—and am still kicking myself for not buying. (If you own one of these, please write and tell me how amazing it is, how I can’t live without it and how it’s worth the $300 price tag.) Sometimes it’s something as simple and indispensable as a $20 soft-sided cooler.

My latest lust has been for a thermometer. An $85 Super-Fast Thermapen to be exact. It can read a temperature in less than 4 seconds and makes me dream of perfectly cooked pork roasts and T-bone steaks.

Saturday, April 2nd, 2005

Morning at the Market

I’m throwing a tamale making party in a few weeks, so it was the perfect excuse for an early morning visit to the Pike Place Market for ingredients. I love the market, but I hate crowds, so it’s heaven to be there in the morning when the stalls are just opening and the tourists are still sleeping.

I only had a few things to pick up, so I parked down below on Western where they have free parking. My first stop was El Mercado Latino—a tiny store with narrow isles, but the shelves are packed tight. I took a cursory look around, wanting one of everything. I stuck to my list and got Maseca Masa Harina, corn husks, and an assortment of dried chilies: ancho, pasilla and New Mexico.

My next stop was La Buona Tavola, Truffle Cafe. They have a beautiful array of truffle products including oils, salts, creams and butters. Plus they sell dried pastas, wines, olive oils and real balsamic vinegars. I was there for the Casina Rossa Truffle & Salt. Zach had bought me a dish for Valentine’s day and I love it. I use it on practically everything, so now my friends are addicted to it. I needed a jar for a birthday present, but I really should have purchased a case; everyone I know wants one. While there, I couldn’t resist getting a truffled porchetta sandwich. I wasn’t hungry, as it was only ten in the morning, but I knew I’d be glad later on (I was and so was my kitty, who ate the napkin that some juices spilled on).

Next stop: Don & Joe’s Meats. I heart Don & Joe. But I think I may just have a thing for butchers. I picked up a beautiful beef shoulder roast and pre-ordered a pack of duck legs and duck fat to pick up the next week. I resisted the urge to go into DeLaurenti, but I just had to stop and buy a huge bundle of gorgeous orange tulips. I happily walked back to my car, thinking that I really should do this more often.

Saturday, March 12th, 2005

Exotic Meats

I have a new obsession and its name is Wild Boar. Ever since my trip to Vancouver and eating at Wild Rice, I have been dreaming about Wild Boar. I was jokingly telling a friend that we should roast a Wild Boar, but he was so enthusiastic that I decided to look online and see what was available. I found a listing for Exotic Meats and just about died when I realized that they were located in Bellevue, which is a 15 minute drive away. I practically fell out of my chair when I saw that they sell Wild Boar Bacon.

Needless to say, I found myself at Exotic Meats that very next weekend. The store had just been relocated from the Shoreline area and now shares space with an Indian grocery store. Their section of the store was decorated with Astroturf and white lattice fencing. Very odd, but I was too enthralled with what was in the freezers to give it much thought. I started pulling one of everything out the cases and then realized I needed to exercise some restraint. I gave myself a budget of $80 and purchased the following:

A slab of Wild Boar Bacon
Caribou Sausages
Yak Patties
Goat Meat, in chunks for stewing
Ostrich Sausages
Elk Medallions
Antelope Sausages
Smoked Duck Sausages

By the time Zach and I got home it was past lunch time and we were hungry. We decided the caribou sausages sounded good and I pan fried them in a bit of olive oil. They didn’t appear to have much fat on their own so I was a little worried that they would be dry. I found an assortment of mustards in the fridge: hot English mustard, bourbon molasses mustard from Stonewall Kitchen, Mostarda di Cremona, horseradish mustard and a plain French Dijon. We had also just been to PFI, so to go with our sausages, I opened up a can of giant baked giant beans in light tomato-dill sauce, fried eggplant in rich tomato sauce and sprats. I tossed together a quick spinach salad and we were ready to eat.

I sliced off a bite of sausage and ate it plain so I could fully taste the flavor. It was incredible. The absolute best sausage I have ever eaten. Despite not being very fatty, the sausage was juicy and very tender, with a texture similar to veal. I can’t really describe the taste because I’ve never tasted anything else like it. I tried some of the condiments and the best ones were the mustards with a touch of sweetness to them; the bourbon molasses mustard and the Mostarda di Cremona. The Mostarda di Cremona tasted like a superb marmalade with a hint of mustard—sweet, tart and hot. As good as the mustards were, I had to eat most of my sausage plain; it was so amazing that I didn’t want to adulterate the taste.

Zach and I both agreed that this was one of the best lunches we’ve had in a long time.

Thursday, February 17th, 2005

Nothing says “I love you” like bacon

My mom sent me four packages of bacon from the Grateful Palate for Valentine’s! The bacon arrived in Seattle today but wasn’t delivered, so I had to rescue it from the UPS distribution center. When I got home I opened up the box to find a shiny metallic bubble-wrap package. I opened that up to the intense smell of hickory-smoked bacon which nearly knocked me off my feet. The ice pack had completely melted and the bacon was on the verge of getting warm, so I had saved it just in time. Whew.

I had already eaten dinner so I put the bacon in the fridge. After a few minutes, I padded back into the kitchen to check on my bacon. Yep, still in the fridge, right where I left it. After a few more minutes, I got out my Grateful Palate handbook so that I could read the description for each bacon. Then I decided I needed to take pictures of my bacon. Finally I just gave up and cut open every package and reverently removed a slice from each.

Then I did something I’d never thought I’d do. I decided to microwave it. Now before anyone starts yelling about how wrong microwaving bacon is, let me just tell you why. I didn’t want to pan fry them all together because I wanted the integrity of each flavor to stay intact and not commingle. Plus I wanted each slice to be ready at the same time so I could compare and contrast. And using four pans to cook four pieces of bacon seemed ridiculous, even for me.

So I microwaved. I know people swear by this method, but I really do think it’s awful. It smelled like burnt paper towels and smoke. Plus you can’t save the bacon grease for frying other things because it gets embedded in the paper towels and turns into a nasty mess. I’ll never microwave bacon again, but for the purpose of my experiment it worked out well. The slices were nicely browned and somewhat crisp.

I carefully laid the bacon on my plate so that I could tell which was which. I ate half a slice of bacon from top to bottom, then I went back and ate the second half in the reverse order, taking notes along the way.

Meacham Old Fashioned Maple Cured Bacon (MOFMCB)
1st bite: Wow. This is what REAL bacon tastes like. It’s incredibly flavorful. And Juicy.

Burger’s Sugar Cured Bacon (BSCB)
2nd bite: Smoky, but not very sweet.

New Braunfels Comal Country Bacon (NBCCB)
3rd bite: Kind of boring tasting, but good crunch.

Gatton Farms “Dan Phillips Secret Special Cure” (GFDPSSC)
4th bite: Holy crap! This is way too smoky.

GFDPSSC
5th bite: Still smoky, but now I’m catching overtones of chemicals.
Overall impression: My least favorite. It tasted too smoky and had a gasoline-like aftertaste. Blech.

NBCCB
6th bite: This is really good bacon.
Overall impression: The least smoky of the bunch, not too sweet with a really good texture. My second favorite.

BSCB
7th bite: I like the thinness and delicacy of this bacon.
Overall impression: Good bacon flavor, smoky with just a hint of sweet. Thin and crisp.

MOFMCB
8th bite: Yeah, this is definitely my favorite.
Overall impression: Sweet and smoky with a strong spice that I couldn’t quite place.

I am looking forward to conducting many more bacon taste-tests in the future.

I LOVE YOU MOM!

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Friday, February 11th, 2005

Presents from China

I received a surprise package from my brother and his girlfriend today. They had recently been to China and sent me something from their trip. The box was small, rectangular, intensely aromatic and smelled suspiciously like pot.

I opened it up and it was two bottles of real Szechuan pepper! You know, the kind that has been banned from import into the United States. There was also some shrimp paste and a cookbook called Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking.

I don’t think they could have gotten me a better gift. The book looks fabulous with lots of great recipes and information on all the different Szechuan cooking styles—I can’t wait to try out some of the recipes. They also sent a cute little origami pig kit. I was really excited to put it together until I opened the package and realized it consisted of about 500 scraps of 1” x 3” paper and no instructions.

I called my brother right away to thank him for the wonderful gift. He asked if I’d tasted the peppers yet. He sounded a little dubious, so I asked him if it was okay to eat them raw. He said to try just a little. I was wary, but I took a bite. The taste was like the smell but magnified by a hundred. My brother said to wait a second, so I waited and then my mouth went totally numb. Then the drooling started. My brother was asking me if I was okay but I couldn’t reply because I had my head in the sink, trying to keep the saliva off my shirt. Rinsing helped, but there was a piece stuck in my molar and I swear that it was making my tooth produce drool. I had to brush my teeth and wait about five minutes for all the effects to wear off. My brother was laughing hysterically.

For some reason, my parents had a shaker of MSG in the spice drawer when I was growing up. It looked like delicious salt through my eight-year-old eyes, so I shook some straight into my mouth. It was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted. Quite similar to the Szechuan pepper experience in the sense that it enhances the flavor of accompanying foods but is not meant to be eaten straight. But I can’t wait to see how the peppers transform in a recipe. After I got off the phone with my brother I headed over to Zach’s to make him try one.

Saturday, December 25th, 2004

Adding to the collection

My mom gave me a beautiful new egg cup for Christmas!

Monday, December 13th, 2004

My first truffle

I’ve ordered my fair share of truffle-flecked dishes at restaurants, added truffle oil to foods I make at home and I even own a truffle shaver, but I’ve never purchased or eaten a whole truffle before. I always had romantic notions of where my first truffle buying experience would be… maybe France? Somewhere in Italy? Hell, at least in a fancy deli in New York. So imagine my surprise that my first time would be at Uwajimaya.

I was there over the weekend and saw Styrofoam packages of white and black truffles for sale. I picked up a tray of the white ones—they were awfully cheap ($4 for a small package / $79 per pound) and had an odd gasoline-like smell through the wrapper, but curiosity won out and I bought them.

So today I was thinking I should probably cook those bad-boys up. I did a little online truffle research, only to find that I should have eaten them immediately after purchase. Ooops. I went and checked on them; they didn’t seem soggy so I decided it wasn’t too late.

I wanted something supremely simple and plain, so that I could really taste the truffle. I found the perfect recipe at splendid table. My friend picked up some fresh linguine from DeLaurenti and I already had a good block of Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh butter, so we were all set. I also had two Pork Lau Lau (pork, pork fat, butterfish and salt wrapped in taro leaves) that I got at Uwajimaya as well and needed to eat, so we had a rather strange dinner.

The pasta was really good, except I didn’t follow the recipe and didn’t use nearly enough butter. I shaved the truffles on top and dug in. The truffles had a hint of flavor, but tasted more like old mushroom than truffle. On second thought, it was kind of like having little wood shavings on top of your pasta—a little crunchy and surprisingly dry.

The Pork Lau Lau, on the other hand, was amazing. After heating and unwrapping them, I was a little skeptical because they looked like they were packed solid with pork fat. But after you scoop away the top layer of fat you’re left with some seriously succulent and well-flavored pork, and butterfish that melts like, well, butter.

The verdict? Don’t buy truffles at Uwajimaya, but you SHOULD buy the Pork Lau Lau. Lots and lots of them. Save your truffle money and spend it at DeLaurenti. Yes, $2,000 per pound sounds like a lot, but… well, it is a lot. They’re truffles. What do you expect?

Wednesday, December 8th, 2004

Shop Blue

After reading Consumer Whore’s article on the ShitBegone™ economic embargo against red states, my friend did some research on where to shop blue and sent me this handy link: http://freenortheast.com/thelist.php.

So in summary, these companies are GOOD:
American Rice
Ben & Jerry’s
Campbell Soup
Costco
King Arthur Flour
Trader Joe’s
Whole Foods

And these companies should be avoided:
7-Eleven
Applebee’s
California Pizza Kitchen
Domino’s brands
General Mills Inc. (yes, this includes Pillsbury, Cheerios, Yoplait, Betty Crocker and Haagen-Dazs)
Goya Foods, Inc
H. J. Heinz Company (what?!)
Hershey Foods
Krispy Kreme
Kroger / QFC
McDonalds
McIlhenny Company (put down that Tabasco!)
Nestle Purina (no more Friskies for Dylan… poor kitty)
Olive Garden
Outback Steakhouse
Papa John’s
Safeway
TGI Friday’s
Wendy’s
White Castle
YUM brands (which includes KFC, Pizza Hut & Taco Bell—more like YUK)

You can also go to the site and get a blue-friendly grocery list for stores in your state. Speak with your dollars!

Wednesday, December 1st, 2004

Christmas has arrived early

The day I anticipate all year came last night when I found the latest Grateful Palate catalog in my mailbox. Dan Philips, a.k.a Captain Bacon, is the genius behind the Bacon of the Month Club. The guy that travels all over the country to bring us the finest specimens of bacon. His Grateful Palate catalog is beautifully designed and the mouthwatering descriptions of the bacon offerings are as sophisticated as wine tasting notes.

I urge everyone who isn’t already on their mailing list to sign up (the new catalog site doesn’t look like it’s up yet, but check back—it’s worth it).

Captain Bacon also co-hosts Aphrodisiac Bacon Dinners for those lucky enough to live in Washington DC. Maybe I should move there. It would be like Christmas once a month.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2004

Treats from NYC

Mom just got back from visiting Ross & Andrea in New York and brought back stories of a crazy dinner at wd~50, mozzarella balls, apricot paste and torrone. Mmmm!