27 January 2008

Lifeblogging Food Bits

Warren Ellis has an excellent post on/example of lifestreaming. I deal with the geekier aspects of it over here, but contained in the post are also some excellent foodie resources:

Right now, I’m eating jerky and drinking a cup of coffee. Neither of these came from objects with a net presence, of course. I have to photograph them, curse the really fucking cranky camera in my phone, and upload them. What’s the information? What is the context?

If my camera wasn’t playing silly buggers, you’d doubtless be able to make out that the jerky comes from the excellent Martin’s Jerked Meat. You can’t find the Lewis & Clark Expedition 1804 jerky on the site, they don’t make it any more — I bought the last of it a few months back at Cressing Temple. They made it according to a recipe actually employed on that expedition — one of Martin’s specialties is “historical” jerky.

What do you divine from this? Other than that perhaps I earn too much money? Well, even in the crappy picture you can see the coffee is El Paraiso Lot 20, a first-harvest ground coffee sold by Fortnum & Mason.

...in the summers I start saving money, to make Xmas a bit of a production for them. I get a goose ordered in from David Harrison, Lili gets to pick a tree from the Hawkwell Tree Farm (unless she decides she’d derive more amusement from watching us try to assemble the stupid, massive, electrocution-risk artificial tree we got given a few years back), I get a crate of champagne and some edible gold and silver leaf to sprinkle in it… and I order a hamper and a fruit basket from Fortnum & Mason to be delivered on Xmas Eve. And that can of coffee was in the hamper this past Xmas.

And the jerky? Lili has always loved doing the country fairs, and Cressing Temple hosts the Essex Food Fair twice a year. Martin’s Jerked Meat were exhibiting there. Lili had never tried jerky before — that’s why she loves these things, she gets to try new stuff and have a go at local arts & crafts, plus there are usually horses and she’s been riding since she was two and so is besotted with the shit-deploying bastards. We came away with six bags of jerky varieties, plus some fruit leathers.

(Fruit leathers she knew, since we once attended a banquet consisting entirely of medieval foods, as orchestrated by the marvellous Stuart Peachey. I hugely recommend his books, for those with an interest, on Tudor- and Stuart-period food. Apparently we couldn’t leave without lots of fruit leather too.)

Jerky! Fruit leathers! Christmas geese!

21 January 2008

Hot Slavic

From the Real Paul Jones, Borscht Mexicali:

I took borscht the famous beet and cabbage cream soup South of the Border with some good results. The sweetness of the beets, the heat of the serraño peppers, a slight tang of lime and some chorizo made for a lovely fuschia colored soup which I accented with blue corn tortilla chips. Yummmm.

I started with a “Mexican Beet and Cabbage soup” from Epicurious and subbed serraño for jalapeño. Added some Mexican chorizo (before and after the blending as some in my family like to taste a chunk or two of meat now and then even in soups). To keep with the winter vegetable feel, I also added a few carrots. Some borscht recipes call for parsnips, potatoes, and vinegar. I passed on all of that.

That does sounds pretty good.

19 January 2008

Schneider-Weisse Aventinus Doppelbock

Generally, German beers are not my favorite. Not to say that I don't like them - I tend to, they're fine - but they don't really have either the hops I prefer in my ales or the smoothness and fullness of a stout. They're malty, is what they are. That being said, I've been hoarding a bottle of Schneider-Weisse Aventinus Doppelbock in the basement for a while, waiting for the right opportunity to pop the top, and I figured that Chapel Hill's day of winter was a good enough excuse. And it was - and it was good. Definitely malty-not-hoppy, but very smooth and massively flavorful, and not too sweet. Recommended, if you're into these things.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

There's a certain bias around these parts towards reviewing good stuff - partially I tend to have excellent taste, but also I've been pretty lucky with high-grade beers. Until this week. Earlier this week at the Yeasayer show, I noticed Local 506 had the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout available. They call it an "Imperial Stout" but don't be fooled - this is like the bastard child of Xingu and some third-rate Caribbean export stout. It's freaking terrible. Way too sweet, and with an unpleasant aftertaste and mouthfeel to boot. I'll put it in no uncertain terms: seriously kids, DO NOT WANT.

17 January 2008

Sierra Nevada Early Spring Brew

Sierra Nevada's ESB - Early Spring Brew to them - is, if anything, surprisingly unhoppy for a Sierra Nevada beer, much less an ESB. That being said, it's solid - nice malty flavor balanced with at least some hops, unfiltered for a nice cloudy and dark color, and not overly-carbonated (a complaint I sometimes have with Sierra Nevada's beers). Good-not-great.

16 January 2008

MKD's (Spicy) All-Purpose Red Sauce

from MKD:

Roast (over flame preferably, but a broiler works fine):
  • 1 large bell pepper (anything except green)
  • 1 hot pepper (I used 2/3 of a habenero this time, a whole serrano last time, both good)
  • 2 (or 3, if you want more of a tomato base) med-large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 small head of garlic, 1 small-med red onion (halved).

This time around I didn't have any tomatoes handy, so just used a can of organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes. Still good, but fresh tomatoes are definitely better.

So, do the roast-until-kinda-charred thing, paper bag, etc. The garlic and onions will probably take a bit longer. Take off most of the skins, stems, and other undesirable parts (I like to leave the seeds, except maybe the bell peppers) and throw it all into a food processor with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. If you're going the salsa route, a bit of fresh cilantro is nice, too. And maybe fresh parsley and/or basil for sauce. Without herbs is great, too, whatever.

This puppy's got some real kick, but not too much, and the flavor is unbeatable. Keeps in the freezer indefinitely and for a long while in the fridge. Served warm/hot as a salsa w/ some good chips it's not unlike our old standby, Rio Grande (but, ya know, better).

Splendid as a salsa, pasta or pizza sauce (and other applications, I'm sure - be creative).

Simple, delicious, versatile.


Victory Old Horizontal

Victory, of course, is the maker of America's Best Pilsner - but other than that, their offerings are good but have not approached best-in-category status. However, I might need to re-assess that with Old Horizontal Ale, one of the better barleywine ales I've had. Currently the beer-of-the-month at Milltown ($3! Cheap!), it's got a nice full taste but unusual for (some) barleywines, comes away hoppy rather than sickly sweet. Not surprising given how well hops are deployed in Victory's other brews, but - this is a well-balanced beer. Also, at 10.6% ABV it (very politely) knocks you on your ass, if you're not careful.

11 January 2008

Saranac Imperial Stout

Some time back I wrote about running across mention of Saranac's "High Peak Series"; well, now I've finally had the opportunity to try one of them, and the results are more than satisfactory. The Imperial Stout continues in Saranac's tradition of making unpretentious, earthy, drinkable dark beers (see also their Black Forest, Chocolate Lager and Caramel Porter. It doesn't present its 9.0%ABV too directly, but it's also not a beer you're going to want to drink more than one of at a sitting - and that's not a bad thing. Very flavorful, full chocolate malts and just a hint of sweetness. It's not as smooth as a Bell's stout - but really, that's an unfair comparison. Definitely recommended.

09 January 2008

Road Food - Virginia Barbeque, Ladysmith, VA (I-95 Exit 110)

When I'm making repeated drives over the same stretch (see - Oberlin/Chapel Hill-> DC), it's important to find what little local flavor might be accessible via the interstate. This isn't usually easy, esp. given that my "research" consists of scanning signs for restaurants posted at the roadside, the vast majority of which are national chains. But occasionally, there's an exception - some local cafe or, in this case, BBQ joint.

Now - Virginia Barbeque is a chain. But it's a local chain (though expanding nationally), which tends to mean that, at least at this point, it's succeeding on some sort of merit. And a meal there confirmed it - menus are still on chalk-board, sides are variable by day, and while the offerings are a bit suspiciously wide-ranging (the same restaurant offering NC and VA pulled pork, Texas beef, St. Louis ribs and rotisserie chicken? isn't that some kind of BBQ heresy?), there was no arguing with the product. I got a Virginia BBQ sandwich platter with Mac'n'Cheese (special that day!) and slaw on the side.

Slaw: sweet-but-not-too, not too much mayo, and while I usually like sliced rather than chopped, they pulled off a good texture by not chopping too finely. With Texas Pete on top, a formidable slaw.

Mac'n'Cheese: really, really, really good. Obviously not from a box, the Mac was coated, not inundated, with cheese sauce that was not congealy. But the key was the cracked pepper - lots of it.

BBQ Pork Sandwich: the buns held up with their in-house "spicy" BBQ sauce liberally drenching the meat and a layer of slaw on the top bun, and it was nothing less than a damn tasty sammich. Meat tender with good texture, also not chopped too fine, moist and not dry - definitely a winner.

Iced tea: offered in both sweet and un-sweet, with a container of lemon slices, this was the only clear disappointment. It was lacking in both tea and sweet, and when I hit the road again, the straw added a particularly unpleasant plastic tone to an already weak flavor.

Conclusion: at $7, a great success. I'd definitely go back if the timing works out, and would at least give the NC BBQ a try (it was southern Virginia, and the cook's apparently from NC), and the sides all looked excellent - esp. the hush puppies, collard greens and fries.

04 January 2008


While I'm not one to usually get emotional about 'home', there is one type of cookies my mother makes in December which the smell, from the first mixture of ingredients to the baking, is what I would imagine 'home' would smell like, were it an aroma.
For the longest time I assumed that they were Weihnachtsplaetzchen (German Christmas cookies) which she had learned to bake under instructions by my Oma, who came from a family of bakers. In fact, those cookies are very Mexican. Well, probably not Aztec, come to think of it. Truth is, they probably were brought in from Austria during the late 19th century, when Maximilian was placed in Mexico by Napoleon III to be 'Emperor', and polvorones were made in the castle of Chapultepec (I assume, they would fit well in there). In 1867 Benito Juarez got rid of Maximilian, but kept the polvorones, and they are made usually for weddings (because they are covered in white).

« Polvorones » or « Pastelitos de boda »

Adapted by Cecilia Ramirez Sturm

Preheat the oven: 400°F

Mix well:

  • 1 cup soft butter
  • ½ cup of sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together and mix into butter mixture:

  • 2 and ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (can be avoided)

Add: ¾ cup of very finely chopped nuts (hazelnut is best, but pecans will do)

Roll into logs that shouldn’t be larger than the cardboard roll of paper towels (but can be longer)

Chill the logs for 30 min

Slice the logs about 1/4 inch wide: now you have little round cookies you place on your baking sheet.

Cook for 8-10 minutes

Let cool on a cooling rack, and sprinkle powdered sugar on them (not too much, just a slight layer—that one can be avoided too)