Friday, January 9, 2009

Taste of 2008.

This pomelo-induced smile is dedicated to home cooks everywhere—especially Chef Dad.
“…home cooking is a link, a continuum from one generation to the next, a flow of knowledge and love that strengthens and nourishes everyone it touches.” Nancy Harmon Jenkins in Gourmet. (1/08)

(please click on any photo to engage BIG photo)

30. Guinness Milk Chocolate Ice Cream poured from the cold canister. The undisputed favorite in the summer of ice cream. It’s handmade by design from David Liebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop. A creamy revelation tamed by milk chocolate and the bitter tang (and fizz?) of Ireland’s beloved stout. (Aug 08)

29. Harvest Supper. (Sept 08) Hanger Steak was the runaway hit at the inaugural Harvest Supper. Do you remember when Anthony Bourdain stepped back behind the line at Les Halles? “Onglet, onglet!!” the expediter bellowed. Onglet is the French name for this sassy, flavorful cut—the hanging tender—also called butcher’s tenderloin, a cut they kept for themselves. Thanks to Chef Dad, I’m a cheap beef aficionado. I stockpile flank and skirt as well.

Our dinner's sweet finale? Straus Family Creamery Vanilla whole milk Froyo with seasonal peaches, waffle cookies and SEVEN spoons!

28. NY Cheese Flan. NY-sister gets “epicurious” in her quest for a formidable flan. Move over NY cheesecake! (Oct 08)27. My nephew discovers pepperocini peppers! It’s "like unlimited flavor."

26. Gotham Eats. (Oct 08)
NY Pastrami from the 2nd Ave Deli And, the answer to the “Gotham Eats” eyeball bender.

Rainbow Cookies. Only in NY? If you’re in Northern California and you know where to get delicious Venetians, Tre-Colore aka Rainbow cookies, please let Spicy know!

25. Ellsworth Farm Cider Doughnuts (10.08) Made in New England and superior to the popular Atkins. Moist apple bits, cinnamon sugar and a cakey-cakey mouthfeel. Heaven.

24. Stainless Steel Central. Form, function and one happy home cook. Giant Sous Chef hangs the pots-n-pans rack! S-hooks hook it all up!

23. Salmon is the new chicken breast,
i.e. Getting-bored with a sea -food staple? Perk it up! Poach with wine, red onions, capers, lemons. Cut lemon aioli with poaching liquid for a quick sauce. And, serve with garganelli
(“quills”) over leafy greens.

Then, a classic skillet-seared wild salmon with Tyler Florence’s chili seasoning and some sexy sides: blue lake beans and mashed sweet potatoes spiked with Vermont maple syrup.

22. Anchovies! If you’re still making Caesar dressing with anchovy salt or paste, please stop now and buy a jar of oil-cured (or salt-cured) anchovy fillets from Italy. You will be happier. I promise you. I grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood when anchovy pizza was out of fashion, and it still may be, but on a hand-tossed thin crust with a little sautéed escarole…
21. Food for a Rainy Night. Oven Roasted Chicken. The Essential Knife Skills class at Sur La Table taught me to cut root veggies as a foundation for roasting. No rack needed!

20. Help in the Kitchen! Spicy parked Giant Sous Chef at the dumpling filling station...With delicious results.

9. Giant Sous Chef’s Happy Blood Orange Valentine Game Hen paired with a big fat bottle of Trefethen’s Cabernet Franc. (2.14.08)

18. The Great Cocktail Experiment: Pepperocini Martini in honor of culinary beginnings in a very Italian-American ‘hood.

17. Gambas al Ajillo (y limon meyer). Inspired by Mrs. Barre and accompanied by prosciutto-wrapped zucchini spears.

16. Brie & Beef Sliders on Ciabatta. Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

15. Spicy’s favorite lunch from Whole Foods. Brown Rice sushi and fresh organic fruit.

14. Filipina Girlfriends who like to Eat! Bridal shower + Crispy lechon=Happy Chicas! (8.08)

13. Lentils du Puy with roasted squash and white truffle oil. Another favorite from BI-RITE.

12. Grub for Homesick New Yorkers: Onion Bagel and REAL Straus Family Creamery Euro-style butter. Thank goodness for House of Bagels in SF. (10.08)

11. Linguine Alla Vongole to christen my 3 qt Le Creuset. Transported to a kitchen by the sea, fresh littlenecks steeping and popping in the covered pot. Searching for a mother recipe led me to the thrift-minded linguine con le vongole finte that replaces the clams with fingerling potatoes cooked until falling apart. (Jan 08)

10. Strawberry Mint Julep Inspired by a springtime trip to the South. A slightly spicy gentlewoman's drink. (5.08)

9. Rebuilding New Orleans: Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter. Manning jersies on the wall. And, the best char-grilled oysters in town.

Covert picture-taking at Cochon! The city’s ubiquitous Boudin Balls with house grainy mustard. One restaurant we can say without hesitation is worthy of splurge. Try Everything!

Potato rolls at Cochon. If these are the last thing I eat, I will be happy.

Food for the Spicy Soul: Evening jazz at The Spotted Cat, Frenchman St, NOLA (April 08)

8. Alemany Market frutas. A San Francisco locals favorite.
When Chef Dad visited in Winter ’07 he became mildly obsessed with the local pomelos. There's also a flea market for cookware freaks.

7. 18th Street Gourmet Ghetto throws a post-modern Barrio Fiesta. Roast heritage pork at the summer's block party.

6. The Other White Meat:
What to do with a
pork tenderloin? Two words: Bánh Mì.

5. Fast-food for Filipino Foodies.
Pampangan Sisig—Max’s Chicken-Style.
Lumpia Shanghai takes a dip. (12.31.08)

4. Cherry Pie (11.08) Memories of gloppy, gelatinous and offensive filling (McDonald's? Hostess?) erased with one forkful of Nora’s Bakery’s (nee Geneva’s in Daly City) buttery, creamy, juicy, cherry pie. Distributed at Drewe’s Bros, SF during the holidays. (So f*ing good.)

3. Cook’s Holiday. After our Christmas feast of pristine local steaks and Maine lobster, who the hell wants to cook? Spicy turns out the Lobstah Roll. (Wicked good.)

2. Pork Love! Incanto’s Pork Ragu made with their Boccalone salumi. Known in SF as the chef’s hangover cure. Just add fried egg.

1. Panettone French Toast. Aaah! Made with Pasticceria Fraccaro’s Panettone al Cioccolato. Creamy dark chocolate nibbles compliment vanilla-rich double-risen bread, sliced thick and transformed using CI's recipe for Challah French Toast (minus ½ t of vanilla and using melted salted European-style butter). Warning: Bear-Hug-inducing.

(aka Panettone Pain Perdu, an alliterist’s delight)

Do as I eat. Eat as I do...Thanks for reading!

(pls. click any pic to enlarge)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tony Returns.

For those who know Spicy, you know I'm a big Anthony Bourdain fan. I say this gleefully clutching two signed books, a signed chef coat (gifted to Chef Double in 2001) and memories of working with him when he was nothing but a blip on the Times best-seller list. Even lately his words of advice ring like carillon bells in my ears. "Cook. Write." He pronounced to me over a quick cigarette.

Last night, I christened a carbon steel seasoned-it-myself wok with some tofu-chard stir-fry and whipped up some buffalo tacos in Bourdain's honor. Then, I sat down to the season premiere of No Reservations, the show where Tony (he insisted I call him that!) travels the world seeking the soul of his very global palate. He went to Mexico to bond with Carlos, his Pueblan successor at Les Halles where Bourdain used to be the Executive Chef. Carlos was last seen in "Into the Fire" where he harshed on Tony's performance on the hot line. (Gotta love it! You know AB does.)

I loved this episode. Not only does it give props to Latin restaurant staff whose hard work and skill have their hand in more fine dining than you think in the U.S., but it hammers home the point that NR's fanatical about: It doesn't take white tablecloths, Micheline stars or impossible-to-make reservations for a meal to be worth traveling halfway around the globe. Tasting a variety of street vendor tacos (bull! blossoms! tongue!) were the thread of this episode to illustrate his point. Cameras easily document an absolute truth: Gritty, romantic shots of succulent exotic meats and veggies glistening and sizzling on a streetside flat grill, stuffed into handmade tortillas, into Tony and his compadres eager paws and straight into their rapidly filling bellies.

I know I'm not the only one who over the past ten years has witnessed her haute cuisine lifestyle go from caviar to crackers for the purposes of economic practicalities. So, when I asked myself, Why did they shoot in Mexico? I think NR producers are smart enough to kick-off the season with an inside look at a popularized and democratized travel destination. In other words, a majority of us can actually splurge and fly off in search of a taco bender. Not that they aren't scheduled to air a 'Venice, Italy' episode next week. But, they do hang in DC the following week (Gee, I wonder why?). Within this variety programming, NR has discovered a fine balance of gustatory swooning and marked social commentary.

For all of the above, the show producers deserve a big fat pat on the back. Anyone who works in television and loves food should be dying to work on this show. My one question for them: Does Tony write his own copy? For those of you who haven't read his books, he is talented in his own right. (He's not a celebrity chef cut-out well-oiled by a network agenda). The writing for Season 4's New Orleans episode was, in my mind, either James Beard Award or Emmy-worthy or both. Click here for an insightful essay (graphs 2, 3, 4) on Bourdain and co's work on a Beirut special.

See you next week in Venice! And, stay tuned for Spicy's Best of 2008.
If you watch NR, read Bourdain or have a comment... Please leave one!