13 December 2010

Red cabbage and Feta are friends, after all

As much as I appreciate Slovakness and Slovak food, there are days when I can't stand the sight of a cabbage soup. There's a part of me that anticipates it as liquid cement, it stays there forever and there's nothing to do but wash it down with beer or Kofola or Vinea, to try to tame the saltiness of it, leaving no space in the stomach for an entree.

But cabbage is the cheapest food at the market, three blocks away, and exactly two blocks closer than any of the supermarkets from my place. (This distance differentiation is important when the weather hits -9 degrees Celsius, or 16 F). And I found a woman who sells beautiful, small veges, I trust her completely because her hands are covered in grime-it's her produce I buy every Saturday. I finally went for a cute red cabbage, mostly because I got tired of buying only onions, leeks and carrots for soup. I figured I'd make rotkohl the way my German omi made it, but today I remembered I don't actually know how to make it without a pressure cooker. So I searched the 101 Cookbooks website, and found something to work with.

Tassajara Warm Red Cabbage Salad

1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
fine grain sea salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
3 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 pound head of red cabbage or radicchio, quartered and cut into thin ribbons

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
2 ounces golden raisins (or other plump, chopped dried fruit)
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to garnish

Roast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown. Sprinkle on the sugar, and a couple pinches of salt. Stir until the sugar melts and coats the seeds (you pan will need to be hot enough). Transfer the seeds immediately to a plate so they don't stick to the pan. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and saute the onion for a minutes or two with a couple pinches of salt. Stir in the garlic, and the cabbage, and a few more pinches of salt. Stir and cook for just a minute or so, or until the cabbage softens up just a touch. Then stir in the rosemary, most of the raisins, and the vinegar. The cabbage will continue to get more and more tender even after you remove it from the heat, so keep that in mind, and do your best to avoid overcooking it - where it collapses entirely. Fold in half of the feta cheese, most of the sunflower seeds, then taste. Season with more salt if needed. Serve garnished with the remaining raisins, feta, sunflower seeds and Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4 to 6.

Of course I had to adapt the ingredients and the procedure. My cabbage head was tiny, I only had white onion, no raisins, no sunflower seeds, no balsamic vinegar, no rosemary, no garlic... But went ahead anyway with:

Half a tiny head of red cabbage, chopped into fine ribbons
Raw Pumpkin seeds
White onion, chopped
Two Croatian dried figs stolen from the Potential Christmas Gifts stash, chopped coarsly
A little bit of feta
Ume boshi vinegar (one TBsp)
Pinch of sea salt to taste, at the end.

I skipped the first step, because pumpkin seeds are delicious raw, but followed pretty closely the main step, though I probably overcooked the cabbage by a minute or two, and it did make a difference. So my advice would be: one minute cooking for the cabbage, this is serious.

It came out pretty delicious, and I'd only wished I'd had more feta. I was suprised that the cabbage went so well with feta and the sweet, crunchy figs. It came out with a nice range of colours, and would indeed be lovely next to a slice of quiche or an enchilada. I still have half a cabbage head left, I might do this again for dinner (for two, as a side). I still have time to run to the store to buy more feta, maybe some parmesan and some raisins. It's only 0 degrees C (32 F) out there, completely manageable.

28 October 2010

Bánh Mi Saigon Bakery

Bánh Mi Saigon Bakery, formerly a sandwich shop in the back of a jewelry shop, now a sandwich shop with a jewelry counter in the front, is pretty much exactly what I'm looking for in terms of Bánh Mi. Bread has a good crust on it but also chewy inside, with just-enough-but-not-too-much shredded carrots, vermicelli, sliced cucumber and jalapeños. And then there's the pork: delicious, candy-tasting wonderful pork, crystallized almost. Just perfect, and at $3.75 a helluva deal for a great lunch. Iced coffee was nice enough but not the best.

24 October 2010

Smoked Fish

By far the most exciting new part of the smoker has been my experiments with fish. Each has been instructive, and mostly delicious. And as good as the mackerel was the other week, this past weekend bluefish provided new highs. Not to be overlooked, however, a nice brine for the tuna delivered superior results – fuller description below.


Background: Bluefish was the cheapest but also tasty-looking at the fishmongers so I decided to give it a go. Good choice.

  1. Prepare brine:
    • 4 c. water
    • 1/4 c. soy sauce
    • 1/4 c. kosher salt
    • 1/4 c. sugar
    • 4 bay leaves, crushed
    • 1 tbs. whole peppercorns
  2. Dissolve all elements and combine
  3. Put fish in pan and cover with brine; refrigerate for 4 hours
  4. Remove, rinse, and put on rack to let drain and dry for 2 hours 
  5. Smoke for 3 hrs. on aluminum foil (less for smaller filets)
  6. Enjoy!

Verdict: Just great. Best fish so far, and not even expensive – already becoming a household standard.

Albacore Tuna

Background: In addition to the huge filet of bluefish, there was a lonely little hunk of albacore tuna that was the last the fishmongers had today, so I decided to give it another go and am glad I did.

Preparation: The brine I found was a lovely little ginger brine (I went pretty heavy on it):

  1. Prepare brine:
    • 2/3 c. water
    • 2" inch piece of ginger, sliced
    • 1 tbs. honey
    • 1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
    • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  2. Dissolve all elements and combine
  3. Put fish in plastic bag with brine; chill in fridge for 1 hour
  4. Remove, rinse, and place on rack to dry and drain for 2 hours
  5. Smoke for 2 hrs. on aluminum foil
  6. Enjoy!

Verdict: The result is not overly dry, very flavorful and meaty. Looking forward to having some sandwiches this week.

11 October 2010

Smoking Meat

One of my first priorities after moving to Brooklyn (yeah, yeah, we'll see whether the blog title stays put) in a house with a yard was getting myself a smoker. After two years of delicious smokery courtesy the Wolf-Ferrari house, a change of location demanded that I get my own carcinogenic deliciousness up and running. So it was that, for my birthday, I bought myself a Brinkmann Gourmet Electric Smoker– very basic, no temperature gauge or even on/off switch, but electric, two big racks and only $70.

After assembling and curing it, I determined that yesterday would be the first trial-run of the big red beast, and so assembled a range of meats and preparations to see how it all went.

Long story short: super-awesome.

Long story slightly longer: preparations and results for each given meat, below, in order of awesomeness.

1) Spanish Mackerel

Background: I'd had it in my mind to smoke some fish, and so stopped by the fishmongers at the Ft. Greene Farmer's Market on Saturday looking for a likely victim. The lovely, greasy Spanish Mackerel was a perfect prospect, and so I picked up three filets.

Preparation: To start with, I went just with a super-simple fish smoking technique –

  1. Liberally sprinkle kosher salt onto plate
  2. Place filets on plate
  3. Liberally sprinkle kosher salt on filets
  4. Let sit for 10-15 minutes
  5. Wash off salt with cold water, transfer to dry plate and pat dry
  6. When ready to smoke, transfer to large sheet of aluminum foil
  7. Place aluminum foil on grate of smoker, and smoke for ~2 hrs.
  8. Enjoy!
Verdict: Hot out of the smoker, the mackerel was simply divine – no longer greasy, the fat had kept the fish moist and tender, the smoke providing a lovely counterpoint to the salt and sweetness of the fish. And then today, chunked out and eaten on top of a poppy-seed bagel with cream cheese, the fish was just about as good a bagel-topping as I've ever had. Highly, highly recommended

2) Whole Chicken

Background: No picture, because we demolished the bird entirely. I got a nice, free-range, small (~3 lbs.) bird, because who doesn't love a chicken?

Preparation: Super-basic. Covered in olive oil, salt, pepper, and smoked for four (4) hours right on the grate. 

Verdict: It only misses first prize because the mackerel was so transcendent, but this was basically a perfect bird. The skin was a deep golden brown, crispy but not overly so, and the meat inside was just outrageously juicy and tender. I am very, very much looking forward to cooking down this carcass for stock, and to repeat performances smoking birds.

3) (tie) Pepper-rubbed Turkey Thighs 

Background: Also from the bounty of the Farmer's Market, these big ol' turkey thighs (3+ lbs.' worth) were meant as an experiment in de-boned poultry, and also as fodder for tacos and sandwiches for the week.

Preparation: I went with a (mostly) dry rub for these, made of

  • 1 tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1 tbs. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbs. cumin powder
  • 1/2 tbs. cinnamon powder
  • 1 tbs. maple whiskey
  • 2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
coated them, placed them in a Ziploc, and marinated overnight. Put them on the rack and smoked for four (4) hours as well.

Verdict: Very nice, though room for improvement – maybe more of a marinade and a little oil will help hold more moisture in (not really much in the way of skin on these guys). Great smokiness comes through in the meat, and the rub firmed up nicely into a spicy and flavorful crust all around.

3) (tie) Chicken Liver Pâté

Background: After once accidentally discovering how awesome smoked liver is, I've become an enormous fan of this mostly-overlooked-currently-in-this-country-among-some-audiences organ. At least when it comes from birds.

Preparation: Having had great success with making a pâté with sherry after the fact, I decided to go traditional and soak the livers in booze (ha!) the night before –

  1. Wash 1 lb. livers, and transfer to glass bowl
  2. Pour four (4) oz. sherry over them, and mix gently
  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight
  4. When ready to smoke, drain livers in colander (but don't rinse – just let excess liquid off)
  5. Get a large sheet of aluminum foil (or aluminum pie plate), and create circular ridge
  6. Place livers in pie plate or foil approximation thereof
  7. Put container on rack of smoker, and smoke for ~3 hours
  8. Let cool, and transfer to bowl; mash thoroughly with fork
  9. Cover, and transfer to fridge
  10. Serve chilled or room temperature
  11. Enjoy on bread or crackers! 

Verdict: Very flavorful, and a great success. Also nice to make ~12 oz. of pâté with ~$3 of ingredients.

5) Tuna

Background: Figured I'd use one of the more-traditional smoked fishes as well, so picked up a small steak.

Preparation: I sliced the steak in half, for smaller pieces, and used the same prep as the mackerel –
  1. Liberally sprinkle kosher salt onto plate
  2. Place steaks on plate
  3. Liberally sprinkle kosher salt on filets
  4. Let sit for 10-15 minutes
  5. Wash off salt with cold water, transfer to dry plate and pat dry
  6. When ready to smoke, transfer to large sheet of aluminum foil
  7. Place aluminum foil on grate of smoker, and smoke for ~2 hrs.
  8. Enjoy!
Verdict: Not bad, but not a runaway success. Came out a little dry – could definitely use a nice marinade to keep moisture in and add some other flavors.

6) Chicken Heart

Background: Well, there were giblets with the chicken, and I'm not one to waste food.

Preparation: Just put it on the aluminum foil, similar to the livers.

Verdict: Smoky! Very, very meaty and chewy. But, there's a reason you don't really see chicken hearts on menus most places.


So, all in all, an excellent start. Stay tuned for additional adventures in smoking, and if you've got wood or meat to devote to the cause, let me know!

24 August 2010

New Holland Golden Cap Saison Ale

Great balance between yeast and wine body, dry not sweet, very refreshing.
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22 July 2010

Cerveza Cucupá Chupacabras Pale Ale

One of only a few Mexican mircobrews, Cucupá is out of Mexicali and makes a nice range of beers. Carrboro Beverage Co. recently started carrying a few, and I tried the excellently-named Chupacabras Pale Ale. And: a very, very nice beer. Great hop character and creamy body, well-balanced with malt. Super-satisfying beer and well more than just a novelty - pick it up if you get a chance.

17 July 2010

Chicken Liver Paté

For reasons that are probably a bit beyond my comprehension, I've gotten incredibly into liver recently. Specifically bird liver which, astoundingly, is just about the cheapest part of the bird you can buy. So armed with the larger part of a pound of smoked chicken liver (courtesy a friend's smoker), I proceeded to make some paté.

Chicken Liver Paté


  • 1/2 lb. chicken liver, smoked
  • 3 cloves elephant garlic, roasted
  • 1/2 onion, chopped, caramelized
  • 2 oz. cream sherry
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbs. butter


  1. Chop all ingredients finely
  2. Melt butter in saucepan, add garlic
  3. Add onions, liver and pepper; stir thoroughly
  4. When hot, add sherry and cook down, mushing all ingredients together to a delicious goo
  5. When gooey, remove from heat and let cool for a few mintues
  6. Throw 'er in the food processor or blender
  7. Get everything out, put in a container and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours
  8. Serve on crackers and eat the hell out of it


Duh. Obscenely decadent and delicious.

Alternately, if you prefer it in the original French, there's

Dominique's Foie Gras via Claire


large goose liver (500g)
white pepper


Rajouter sel, poivre blanc, muscade râpée, une pincée de sucre, deux cueilleres soupe d’alcool, porto, cognac, armagnac, tu couvres d’un film, et tu laisses macérer une nuit.

In your bowl, put salt, white pepper (I'm fairly sure I used regular), a pinch of sugar, 2 tablespoons of alcohol (porto, cognac, armagnac), cover with the transparent plastic, leave in the fridge one night.

Le lendemain, tu prends du film étirable, l’enrouler une douzaine de fois, comme un saucisson, fermer les bords avec le fil de fer. Il faut absolument fermer hermétiquement.

The next day, take some transparent plastic film, wrap up the liver a dozen times (I used to do 20 times), close the ends with twisty-metallic thingees. It HAS to be impermeable.

Faire bouillir 5 L d’eau dans une grande marmite, quand l’eau bout, tu éteints, et tu plonges ton foie dedans, et tu le maintiens au fond. Mets le couvercle. Quand l’eau est froide, ton foie est cuit. Il faut le retirer. Puis, l’enrouler dans un torchon et le laisser dans le frigo 5 a 8 jours (8 c’est mieux).

Get your biggest pot, and put 5 litres of water, bring to a boil (it might be easier to get your kettle's help on this, 5L is a lot of water). When the water boils, turn the stove off, place your liver at the bottom--keep it there (mine floated, so I had to submerge it under a couple of bowls-get creative). Cover the pot and leave it be. Once your water is cold, the liver is ready (it will take hours, of course). Take it out of the water, wrap it pretty snuggly in a kitchen towel, place it in the fridge for 5 to 8 days (8 days is better).

Bon appetit!

Bon appetit!

12 July 2010

Great Divide 16 Oak-Aged Double IPA

A knockout - oak aging perfectly balances the huge maltiness and (obvs.) hops of this guy, and leaves a fantastically smooth, dangerously smooth 10% ABV treat. Currently on tap at Tyler's Carrboro - go getchoo some.

13 May 2010

Savory Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes and Peppers


  • 6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
  • 3 red peppers, roasted, skinned, chopped into 1/2" squares
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, oven-dried and preserved in oil (you could probably fudge this, but I had 'em)
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced roughly
  • 1 large onion, sliced medium-thin
  • 1 14-oz. can foul mudammas
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 c. stock (I used veggie, you could also use chicken)
  • olive oil


  1. Heat oil to low in a large saucepan with a lid
  2. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant (~1 min.)
  3. Add onions and stir; cook until they begin to soften
  4. Add tomatoes and peppers with a bit more oil (from their containers works nicely)
  5. Stir all ingredients together and add a bit of stock (~1/2 c.); stir again to combine and cover
  6. Cook covered for several minutes, then open and add chicken
  7. Cook chicken for several minutes, turn over, and add foul mudammas, stirring to combine
  8. Cover again, and cook on low for about 10 min.
  9. Uncover, and cook for about an hour on low, stirring occasionally and adding stock when the sauce gets too thick or starts sticking to the pan
  10. Serve with rice and enjoy!


Really, really good. Just really good. Still-thinking-about-it-now good.

Rhubarb and links

I saw the stems from the corner of my eye at the store, such a soothing, beautiful pink colour! I love rhubarb from way back in the day, it grew on the side of our house, was easy to identify and easy to cut, it was ideal for kids-turned-kitchen assistants--"Go get me some rhubarba!" Off I'd go with the smallest kitchen knife, on a mission. Last night it made me a little sad to just have to pick them up from a basket and stuff them into a plastic bag, I missed out on the cutting noise, the juiciness, comparing the leave sizes... Ah well. Such is life these days. You can grow rhubarb easily, but you have to wait 2 years before you consume it, I don't have that time.

My instinct recipe for rhubarb: rhubarb-strawberry crumble. I made this one, intrigued by the inclusion of port (I only had dry sherry). But I made two mistakes: I couldn't find/was too lazy to look for rolled oats, so I replaced it with steel cut oats. (Turns out, if you replace an ingredient with a better ingredient, you don't necessarily get something better). And: I didn't reduce the sugar. So my crumble was decent, but not spectacular, too sweet, and a tad too crunchy, even though it smelled enticing. But maybe I'm a bit blase about it, so many rhubarb-strawberry crumbles in my life...

This morning I found this recipe: orange-coriander ice-cream and rhubarb pop-tart. Now that caught my attention! I still have a couple rhubarb stems sitting in the fridge. I'll try that (especially the orange-coriander ice-cream), and report soon.

05 May 2010

Vichtenaar Flemish Ale

Sour nose, sour body, sour finish. Just sweet enough with strong tart-cherry flavors, it's a great sour ale; recommended if you're into that sort of thing (which I am).

02 May 2010

One-line Beer Reviews Vol. II

Kind Belgian Red Ale: not bad, well-balanced and tasty, but nothing special and not especially Belgian – drink it at a party if it's there but don't go out of your way for it.

Victory Helios: super-refreshing, nice edge of the Belgian yeasty base and crisp but not overwhelming or floral hop finish – highly recommended, especially on a summer evening.

Stoudt's Gold Lager: just a great beer - crisp, refreshing, perfectly balanced, great hop finish; very highly recommended.

Stoudt's Karnival Kölsch: not bad, but a little too sweet for my tastes – probably not a repeat buy for me, but it could just be that I don't like Kölsch ales that much.

30 April 2010

Lemongrass Tofu Noodle Soup


For tofu:

  • 12 oz. tofu, cut in 1/2" cubes
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. lemongrass powder
  • 1 tsp. five-spice powder
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil

For soup:

  • 8 oz. dried Thai rice noodes, linguini-width
  • 2 stalks lemongrass OR 2 tbsp. lemongrass powder
  • 6 c. veggie stock
  • 1 thumb-size piece ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk green garlic, bulb minced and stalk sliced
  • 1 spring onion, bulb minced and stalk sliced
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped into florets including stems
  • 1 1/2 c. cabbage of some sort, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 3 tbsp. fish sauce 

  1. Combine soy sauce, 1 tsp. sesame oil, 1 tsp. lemongrass powder and five-spice powder in spouted cup; pour over tofu in mixing bowl and mix with plastic spoon, covering tofu completely. Chill in fridge for at least half an hour.
  2. Dunk noodles in a pot of boiling water, cover the pot and turn off the heat; allow the noodles to soften in the hot water for 10 min.; drain and set aside.
  3. Put 1 tsp. sesame oil in wide skillet and heat to medium-low; sauteé tofu until slightly browned on all sides and firm, and set aside.
  4. Put 1 tsp. sesame oil in a medium-large soup pot and heat to medium-low; 
  5. Add ginger, garlic and spring onion bulbs, carrots and lemongrass (include left-over stalk pieces if using fresh), and sauteé until fragrant.
  6. Add stock,  bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 min.
  7. Add broccoli and cabbage; stir and allow to simmer 2 min.
  8. Reduce heat to minimum and add the tofu, garlic and spring onion stalk, and fish sauce; cook for several minutes.
  9. Ladle noodles into bowls and serve soup on top.
  10. Enjoy!


Fantastic - fresh and very flavorful.

26 April 2010

Lavender-Quinoa-Almond Muffins

I finished the liver cleanse, and realized that a) I felt much better without eating flour (i.e. gluten), and b) I didn't miss dairy products at all. (More on this in a later post). So, in a natural enthousiasm to bake something after a three-week hiatus, I experimented around, in a chain-of-thought style.

I knew I had quinoa leftovers, the pot of dried Croatian lavender literally jumped out of the (packed) pantry as I opened it, and the best replacement for regular flour is almond flour (in my opinion). I remembered Mollie Katzen's excellent wild rice-quinoa muffin recipe. Some googling (here and here) and head-scratching later, this adapted recipe took form.


2 cups quinoa (cooked)
2 cups almond flour
3/4 cups of sugar--the night before, in a glass jar, mix the (organic white cane) sugar with 2 Tablespoons of lavender flour, let sit, closed, for about 24hrs
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

3/4 cup almond milk
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup safflower oil


The usual: whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients in a small bowl. Poor the wet mix into the dry ingredients, combine without overmixing. Bake 25-30 min at 350F.


They smell fantastic. Without an overpowering smell, they don't taste bitter at all, adding the flowers in the batter was the way to go. Maybe, next time I'll grind them first, but they were as innocuous as if I'd added thyme. The nuttiness flavour brought by the almond flour and the quinoa played second fiddle to the lavender, exactly as I had hoped. The only thing was that they were very crumbly, I actually had trouble getting them out of the baking pan--next time, muffin cups (paper). Also, next time, I'll have to think of a way to limit the sugar--tricky, since too much lavender can bring a bitter flavour (as I learned from infusing milk with lavender a little while back...). Of course now I'm thinking of infusing stevia extract with lavender.

22 April 2010

Brooklyn Dark Matter

I wasn't even aware of this beer before rolling up at Milltown to do some writing this evening, and my initial impulses towards it – bourbon-barrel-aged usually sells me straight away – were settled when the barkeep let me know there were 5 kegs of it in North Carolina, and Miltown had 2 of them – and that was it.

The beer: despite a nearly opaque brown-black, it's not a super-heavy ale. Malty, with the sweet oakiness of the bourbon barrels that's pleasant and not overpowering. Super flavorful body, nice vanilla notes, and a balanced, roasty finish with just a bit of hop. Just a great beer – shame it's only around for a while and only on tap, but highly recommended if you can get your hands on it. And of course: great, great name.

UPDATE: Now (beginning of May) on tap at Tyler's too!

21 April 2010

Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale

Very intriguing beer right off from the name – Soba! – and no less from the taste. A golden and a bit cloudy ale with a thick creamy head, it has a nice lemony nose and a strong but not overpowering vanilla taste both from the first and throughout. There's also a citrus edge just at the outside of the flavor, super-creamy mouthfeel and taste generally, and a perfect tempering with hop bitterness. A thoroughly tasty, satisfying and non-standard cream ale – recommended

15 April 2010

Dr. Pepper Heritage

The ongoing popularity of Mexican Coke and the mishegas around high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS, as the kids say) has led the other big sugar-water makers to actually test out making their drinks with sugar, again. Pepsi Throwback got a pretty good reception, and I was genuinely disappointed the other week when I was unable to buy the Mountain Dew equivalent despite a sign advertising it.

So it was with great excitement that I found a row of Dr. Pepper Throwback cans at a gas station yesterday on my way back up from Atlanta. I should explain that I used to drink a lot of Dr. Pepper: really a lot, this-is-what's-wrong-with-American-diets amounts. Probably for the best, I burned out on it and more generally on soda as a result, but it's a taste that did at one point occupy a pretty big part of many days for me. Therefore, pretty exciting to taste finally what it really should taste like.

And that is? So much better. I'd actually had, uncharacteristically, a regular Dr. Pepper a few days earlier on my way down to Atlanta, so had the flavor still in mind as I popped the can open. The first thing you notice: no chemical escape of Dr. Pepper air freshener flavor, and much, much less carbonation – this is a good thing. The second thing: the sweet and mouthfeel of sugar is just so, so different. In the context of this soda, it means that rather than coating your mouth in a syrupy plaster and finishing with a chemical dry (regular), you can actually taste the flavor of Dr. Pepper: which is nice! The finish is also sweet, smooth and pleasant without being saccharine.

Am I just pretending here? No I am not. This was a really excellent soda. I won't pretend it's good for me (though less-awful than HFCS), but it'd be nice if this were available regularly, or in a fountain, rather than the standard stuff. It's a clearly better product, and I'd pay more for it – at a buck a can, I'm guessing the Dr. Pepper Company is still doing just fine, profit-margin-wise, on its carbonated sugar water with food coloring. But as with a frustrating number of things in contemporary US society, it's easier to rake in a bit more money making a much worse product, and so that's what we'll continue to get.

Sierra Nevada Fritz & Ken's 30th Anniversary Ale

Sierra Nevada has certainly been raising their game recently – the Harvest Series is both one of the best ideas and most well-executed set of beers I've had in a while, with the Southern Hemisphere just a fantastic beer. So it's not any surprise that they're really blowing the doors off for their 30th anniversary, releasing a series of four beers emphasizing big tastes and age.

First up is the Fritz & Ken's Ale, and it is a big (9.3%ABV) and distinctive beer. The first taste is a smoky, roasty malt flavor – probably the best use of smokiness I've ever tasted in a beer. The palette fills out with chocolatey tones and only a bit of sweetness, finishing dry and with smoke still all around in an incredibly pleasant way. Probably the closest a beer can come to the experience of a cigar. Certainly not a summer afternoon beer, but a worthwhile quaff nonetheless.

08 April 2010


Apparently eggs for breakfast is a good idea for reasons well past their general deliciousness:

A new study demonstrates that eating protein-rich eggs for breakfast reduces hunger and decreases calorie consumption at lunch and throughout the day. The study, published in the February issue ofNutrition Research, found that men who consumed an egg-based breakfast ate significantly fewer calories when offered an unlimited lunch buffet compared to when they ate a carbohydrate-rich bagel breakfast of equal calories. This study supports previous research which revealed that eating eggs for breakfast as part of a reduced-calorie diet helped overweight dieters lose 65 percent more weight and feel more energetic than dieters who ate a bagel breakfast of equal calories and volume.

07 April 2010

Duck and Vietnamese Sausage Soup

Finally got around to using the duck stock when I found some Vietnamese sausage at an Asian market; put together a few ingredients from recipes I found and let 'er rip.

  • 4 oz. Vietnamese sausage, sliced
  • 4 cups duck stock
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 3-inch knob of ginger, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 package rice noodles
  • 3 Star anise
  • 1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce, or more according to taste
  • 1 tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • sesame oil
  1. Soak rice noodles in cold water, drain and set aside
  2. Heat sesame oil over medium-low heat
  3. Add onion, ginger, star anise, sugar and five-spice powder; mix thoroughly
  4. Add a few tablespoons of the duck stock, soy sauce and fish sauce to prevent ingredients from sticking
  5. Add sausage and sauteé for several minutes
  6. Add remainder of stock and raise to boil; lower temperature and simmer for 15 min. on medium heat.
  7. Add noodles and cook for 10 min. at a simmer
  8. Serve and enjoy!

Spicy (this may be the result of some leftovers I threw in with some spice of their own, and the inclusion of the chilis the Vietnamese sausage came with), savory, tasty. A winner! Probably would be equally excellent with chicken stock if that's what you got.

04 April 2010

Beau Joubert Oak Lane Pinot Noir Rosé 2006

Another great rosé and a very big contrast. The pinot noir comes through strongly, and there's a very nice acidity to it, also balanced by sweetness and an excellent finish. Lovely South African wine, and was a total steal on clearance at $6 at Harris Teeter; definitely worth picking up a bottle for more than that, though.

Domaine Luc Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2009

As you may have noticed, I'm on a bit of a rosé kick. And why not? Perfect weather for a nice crisp wine, and this guy may take the cake. Crisp and light, with a perfectly balanced hint of both acidity and sweetness, it's really just a great summer wine. Good deep flavor and can complement spicy food or served on its own, and a steal at $9/bottle.

02 April 2010

Community Food Principles

My last post got some great comments over at Google Buzz, not in the comments here, so I thought I'd share some of the community's food principles.

JD offers:

Implied, but not directly noted, is avoidance of processed foods. This resolve doesn't always work for me, but, particularly while reading Omnivore's Dilemma, I'd really like to keep King Corn out of my cell structure as much as possible--and it's in just about everything that's not a free-standing, unadulterated food.

I agree entirely, and when buying pre-made food tend to opt for those with the fewest ingredients. 

LG offers several of her own:

This addition/recommendation is less about health and more about fun, but it can allow for healthy cooking due to mental flexibility: Don't be afraid to improvise! This is my main way of cooking. I improvise within a structure- I pick a grain and a protein and then the veggies and flavors start to fall into place. Then as I go, things evolve. It is always tolerable and usually delicious. One can go far with trust, intuition, and fun. 
And more practically, I have decided the frozen vegetables are a-okay. I used to only go for fresh, but my lifestyle is unpredictable, so I always have a stash of frozens and in the meantime I try to use my fresh ones. I figure its better to have vegetables than to waste fresh ones that I don't get to in time. 
Except for 6 months of my life, I have been without a microwave in my home. Just an FYI that it is do-able. However, I am into heating up leftovers in the microwave at school in my spiffy pyrex dishes! Yay for less plastic toxins in my food. 

A rule I'm trying to keep with myself: NO CORN SYRUP! Except in decadent gummy candies every now and then or soda if caffeine is needed in a migraine or road trip emergency.

HFCS is a big no-no with me, and I do find that while life sans microwave is do-able, I really wish I had one for re-heating rice.

And KG notes:

I appreciate the part about the beer, obviously. I am constantly amazed at the bewilderment of other beer "appreciators" at high-end beer prices. Like you said, top-shelf beer is still cheaper than even Bud at a bar. I think the term is "anchoring", where people's attitudes toward acceptable prices are very slow to move from the original expected price. We think beer=cheap, even when we have the opportunity to try world-class beers for <$20. This explains why foodie Weavesters would happily pay $14 for a "mid-range" wine bottle and scoff at $18 for a six-pack of Hopslam, which, in terms of flavor and volume, is the better buy.

Moreover, there's more predictability with beer than wine, especially as regards the price:quality relationship. Spend $12 on a 6-pack and it's almost certainly gonna be pretty excellent; spend $25 on a bottle of wine and it might be great or it might be "meh." Or corked, which happens a lot more often than skunking.

Not that I don't love wine!

Great feedback, y'all – keep 'em coming!

01 April 2010

Food Principles

Most of my posts and thoughts here are descriptive (I ate/drank/made this – here's how/where) rather than proscriptive, but I do have a central set of motivating ideas about food behind my actions and consumptions.  I'm not doctrinaire in anything, really, and food is no exception – making hard-and-fast rules keeps you from a range of experiences, and so many of the hard-and-fast food rules cut out favorite things of mine, so: all in moderation.

Rather than being a total locavore/vegetarian/Atkin's/caveman/cheapskate, I find that applying a set of general principles (which can always be adapted for context) serves me well in making food that is generally healthy, tasty and affordable. It's not an all-encompassing philosophy, and clearly your mileage may vary, but if you were wondering how or why I do what I do, these are a pretty good guide. So, in no particular order, here are my thoughts on food.

  • When shopping, think by ingredients rather than meals. A lot of people (I used to and very occasionally still do this myself) go shopping with a template derived from recipes, e.g., "I'd like to have Chicken Kiev, so I need X, Y and Z", and I find that this approach misses the boat in several respects. First, it constrains you into the box of "recipes I already know", which might guarantee successful execution of a meal but gets pretty boring pretty quickly. Second, it commits you to particular ingredients regardless of price, season and sourcing: that caprese salad is just not going to be as good with mealy, watery, off-season Mexican tomatoes and cow's milk mozzarella, trust me. And third, it's just not economical: not only are you locked in to whatever price the main ingredients happen to be, chances are there's some minor ingredient that you a) don't already have, and b) won't use all of what you buy before it goes bad. That's just flat-up waste, and I hates it. But if instead of thinking about meals before you go shopping, you think of them after (or even during), you will be able to take advantage of 
    • fresher ingredients – just see what looks good!
    • better prices – buy stuff that's on sale or in season (which will be tastier, too), and
    • a broader, more interesting range of meals – coming home and thinking, "What am I gonna make out of this?" is fun, not terrifying! Especially when...
  • Don't be afraid to royally mess up a recipe. Not everything (either from a book or that you make up on your own) will work out perfectly the first time, so experiment and be willing to fail. If you know what you like, you can always correct it a bit and have a just-okay meal: the next time, it'll be great. Keeping always in mind,
  • DO NOT OVER-SALT. There is simply no excuse for it. In addition to being one of the absolutely easiest ways to make your meal healthier, you can always just add more salt when the food's on your plate. If you make a meal too spicy, you can correct that any number of ways, but too salty? Ruined. 
  • Know what you like. Interrogate your tastes, and be okay saying to yourself both "I really like X" and "I just don't like Y." There's nothing worse than putting a lot of effort into a meal that you know in your heart you aren't really going to enjoy. Okay, there are a lot of things worse than that, but regardless, just be okay with what you like.
  • Don't be afraid to cook richly. I don't hate on cooking light or healthy, but there are degrees of appropriateness. Cooking vegetables in olive oil and serving over brown rice? Delicious. Substituting canola oil for butter and still expecting your cream sauce to come out right? Unlikely. Rich food, while not an every-day thing (at least if you're trying to maximize the number of days you're around), is with us for a reason: it tastes incredibly delicious. So make it, and eat it, in its proper proportions. When you cook risotto, you can see for yourself how much buter and cheese is absorbed by those wonderful little kernels of rice, so don't eat the whole damned bowl. Relatedly,
  • Use and serve smaller plates. If food is threatening to spill off your plate, you've served too much. Get dinner plates that aren't XXL: they take up less space, and even filling your plate you'll eat less. If you're genuinely hungry after finishing, you can always take more – if you don't feel like finishing your plate, you can always put it in the fridge for later. Really, it's okay.
  • Always be on the lookout for good cookware. Good pots and pans matter, but this shizz is expensive. So go to thrift stores and keep an eye on Craigslist for good stuff – genuinely good cookware will last you potentially decades, so it's always worth picking up if the price is right. I suppose if you actually have money you could just go out and buy it, but what's the fun in that?
And, a particular pet peeve of mine:

  • Don't buy mid-market beer.  If it's a cheap-beer kind of night, get some PBR – not the worst thing ever, just like an occasional pack of Doritos won't kill you. But for the same reason that you wouldn't go to TGI Friday's, don't buy mid-market beer. Beer is food, and even top-end microbrews at $10-12 per 6-pack are not that expensive: still a lot cheaper than going out to drink. Given the exceedingly high level of quality available in US microbrews (the best beers in the world from top to bottom), the couple of extra bucks you pay are going to be well, well worth it in terms of taste. Especially if you're paying attention to the quality of the ingredients in your food, this is a no-brainer. This also does mean that I will definitely give you the stink-eye if you ever bring Beck's to my house.

Okay! That's probably enough for now. Go forth and do good!

30 March 2010

Heavy Seas Märzen Beer

Toasty, smooth and with a nice body but neither too light or heavy, Heavy Seas Märzen  suffers only from absolutely atrocious cover art – seriously, there must be about eight different fonts on the label, a cheesy skull-and-crossbones and mid-'90s-sports-franchise-style graphics to top it all off. Great to drink, but maybe pour it into a glass first (where it has a lovely blonde color).

24 March 2010

Anton Bauer Pinot Gris 2006

Generally I'm pretty skeptical of Austrian and German whites – too many are just too, too sweet – but it's a nice sunny day and the Bauer was knocked down from top-line to bottom-line price at Wine Bar, so I thought I'd give it a go. Glad I did – nice little acidity in the nose and to start, leading to a super-smooth but not overpowering vanilla tone and lovely rounded finish, always just the hint of sweetness balanced by acidity. Great glass of wine.

23 March 2010

Spicy Mexican Fried Green Tomatoes

While making Bill Smith's collards (cribbed from the excellent Holy Smoke), I decided to nose about for some other recipes and found a perfect one at the Southern Foodways Alliance, given that I have two green tomatoes and am doing Mexican pork tomorrow.


2 green (unripe) tomatoes
1/2 c. white cornmeal
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cumin

  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • Canola oil for frying


  1. Slice tomatoes into 1/4" slices and salt both sides. 
  2. Mix cornmeal, flour, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper in a shallow dish. 
  3. Heat 1/4” oil over medium-low heat in a frying pan. 
  4. Dredge tomato slices in cornmeal mixture, coating both sides generously. 
  5. Fry in batches in oil until golden brown and tomatoes are softened. 
  6. Drain on paper towels.
  7. Enjoy!


Astonishingly delicious. Very, very highly recommended.

22 March 2010

(New) Dominion Brewing Company

During my DC days, Dominion was one of my favorite (probably the best, at that time) local breweries - Dominion Ale was just a great beer, and Tupper's Hop Pocket was probably the best DC-area beer, period. A great ale.

Recent years have not been kind – the brewery was sold in 2007 to Coastal Brewing Co. (a mid-major co-owned by Maryland's Fordham [always the poor child of local brews] and Anheuser-Busch) and they discontinued Tupper's Hop Pocket (which, gladly, still appears available on a limited basis).

Moving down to NC has shifted my local-beer consumption and in any event, Dogfish Head long since eclipsed them as the mid-Atlantic's best brewery. But on my last time up to DC I noticed some new brews from Dominion – a Baltic Porter and an Oak Barrel Stout, and it being Maryland they were pretty cheap so I figured I'd give it a go.

Dominion Baltic Porter: in an excellent surprise, it's really quite nice – smooth and not too boozey, understated chocolate tones and a good solid body and pleasant finish. A good beer!

Dominion Oak Barrel Stout: a bad, bad beer. Sickly sweet and over-oaked, over-artificially-vanilla. It turns out it's great for cooking (esp. in my Lazy Man's Mole) but not for drinking.

So, it's a psuedo-brewery imprint now, but at least capable of making a solid beer. Hopefully they haven't screwed up the Ale.

21 March 2010

One-line Beer Reviews

Been slacking on this, so here goes:

LoneRider Deadeye Jack: nice solid porter, dry and chocolatey, reminiscent of English porters.

BrewDog Dogma: very nice and smooth, tasty, but probably won't buy again at its price point

Dogfish Head Aprihop (2010): a serious improvement over last year's dishwater edition, very nicely balanced hops and not overly fruity - perfect for a warm spring day.

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron (2008): nearly two years' aging has taken this beer from unsubtle and overly woody to dangerously (at 12% ABV) smooth and super-tasty, and from disappointment to big-time winner.

Highland Seven Sisters Abbey-style Ale: very nice and not overly winey abbey-style ale; refreshing and well-balanced.

Mad River Serious Madness Black Ale: a great beer, rich and smooth and not as heavy as a stout or even porter - highly recommended.

14 March 2010

Angove's Nine Vines South Australia Viognier 2006

Picked this up on sale a while back, intrigued by a) the low price, b) the grape (increasingly a fan of Viogniers) and c) the ABV - 15%, which I don't think I'd ever seen in a white before. I finally had occasion to open it the other evening and was glad for it – lovely full body, nice vanilla tones and sweet but not sickly so, and a nice clean finish. Great mouthfeel, and paired well with the tamarind shrimp and spicy kim chi. Definitely worth remembering and picking up.

11 March 2010

Stir-fried Lamb with Green Onions


  • 8 oz. lamb fillet, trimmed and very thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp  white sugar
  • 1½ tbsp  Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tsp  dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp  Chinkiang vinegar
  • 1 tsp  sesame oil, plus extra to serve
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 2  garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4  thin slices of ginger
  • 8  green onions, cut into 2" lengths


  1. Combine lamb, light soy sauce, sugar and 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine in a bowl. Season to taste and stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Combine dark soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and remaining Shaoxing wine and set aside.
  3. Heat a wok over high heat until smoke appears. 
  4. Add vegetable oil, swirl it around wok, add garlic and ginger, let it sizzle until just coloured (8-10 seconds), then immediately add lamb. 
  5. Toss rapidly using a spatula until lamb is partially cooked and slightly charred (20-30 seconds), then add reserved dark soy sauce mixture and mix through. 
  6. Add green onion and stir-fry until most of the sauce is absorbed. 
  7. Check seasoning and add extra sesame oil if necessary.
  8. Serve and enjoy!



02 March 2010

Cilantro Carrots with Cumin


  • 2 lbs. carrots, each cut into 2" long pieces, then quartered lengthwise

  • 6 tbs. orange or other sweet juice (I used mango nectar)
  • 3 tbs. lemon juice

  • 3 tbs. olive oil

  • 2 tbs. ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, pressed

  • 2 tbs. minced fresh cilantro


  1. Combine carrots and 6 tablespoons water/juice in large saucepan. 
  2. Season with salt. 
  3. Cover and boil until carrots are crisp-tender, about 7 min.
  4. Drain off any excess liquid. 
  5. Transfer carrots to large shallow bowl. 
  6. Mix in lemon juice, oil, cumin and garlic. 
  7. Season with salt and pepper. 
  8. Cool. 
  9. Add cilantro. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at cool room temperature.)
  10. Enjoy!

01 March 2010

Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry

I've been a fan of Manhattans for a while now, and in the last two years have even come around on Martinis and a range of other similar mixed drinks. But even as I've experimented with a wide range of whiskeys, vodkas and gins (home-infused and not), and gone so far as to make my own bitters (I'll get around to posting on that one fo these days...), the vermouth has remained the standard off-the-shelf variety. Mostly, because that's about all that's available.

But on a recent visit to 3Cups, I overheard Matt S. extolling the virtues of their (recently-added) AOC Vermouth, Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry. Intrigued, I interrogated further and learned that the staff had done a taste test with the Vermouth, on ice, by itself – and that it'd passed with flying colors. Say no more! I picked up a bottle of the Dry and of the Blanc (sweet and white – never even heard of such a beast before) – they were out of the Rouge – and prepared to give them a test-run that evening when B. and S. came over for dinner.

First, tasting straight-up, chilled.

Round 1: Taste Test

Dry: incredibly delicate and tasty, herbal with a nice bitter finish but not parched. Really does make a great apertif.

Sweet: fuller palette,  still nice herbal flavors but pops a little more without being saccharine in the way your normally think of sweet vermouth.

Round 2: Cocktails

Lately, Perfect Manhattans have been my cocktail of choice and this seemed like a perfect (ha!) opportunity to really put these vermouths through their paces.

Perfect Manhattan a la Carrboro


2 oz. Pendleton Blended Canadian Whisky
1/4 oz. Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Dry
1/4 oz. Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Blanc
Dash herbal-citrus bitters
Dash Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters


Add to shaker over ice; shake vigorously and strain into glass


Maybe the best Manhattan I've ever had: balanced, delicate, flavorful with herbal, caramel, vanilla tones all melding together in an absurdly smooth drink. Obviously I can't speak highly enough of the Dolin – totally converted, and can't wait to pick up a bottle of the Rouge.

21 February 2010

Lucy's Chutney

My mother provides some remembrances of my greaat-aunt Lucy and the recipe for her fantastic pear chutney, which I'll also provide below


  • 6-8 lbs. hard green pears, peeled and diced
  • 1 quart cider vinegar (add 1/2 quart more as it cooks down)
  • 2 lbs. brown sugar
  • 1 lb. white raisins
  • 1 tbs. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 head garlic, chopped fine
  • 6-8 chili peppers
  • ginger (candied, dried, or fresh)


  1. Throw together and cook forever, stirring frequently, until it's a thick rich brown.

01 February 2010

Internet Beer Bread

 I've resolved to start making more bread. But I'm still kind of a n00b with bread, and can't quite understand the whole yeast business yet. Having made my old (read: one) standby bread just now – burned-on-the-top-soft-on-the-bottom banana bread – and with the oven hot, I was favored by the Internet with another recipe that didn't require waiting. And so, Internet beer bread.


  • 3 c. flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 12 oz. light lager [I used PBR]
  • 1/4 c. melted butter or margarine (the latter if you wanna go vegan)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 F
  2. Grease bread pan and set aside
  3. Mix dry ingredients until smooth
  4. Pour in beer and melted fat; mix thoroughly
  5. Bake for 50 min. 
  6. Remove from pan and let cool on rack.
  7. Slice and enjoy!

Pretty damn good! And with prep-time about an hour start to end, definitely a good stepping-stone to bread-making that my more cooking-oriented brain can deal with. Next time, might try with a dark beer.

30 January 2010

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup with Bok Choy

As noted the other week, I've been experimenting with more Asian-style chicken soup recipes, and got the basics of this one from a Food & Wine recipe. Worked well and there's probably even more ways to go within this basic framework.


  • 1 tbs. cooking oil
  • 1 tbs. sesame oil (not toasted)
  • 1 onion, diced finely*
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2" piece fresh ginger, cut into thin slices
  • 1 tbs. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried red-pepper flakes
  • 6 c. chicken stock
  • 1 c. crushed tomatoes
  • 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bit-sized pieces
  • 3 tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 c. cilantro leaves plus 1/4 c. chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 oz. thick rice vermicelli
  • 1 lb. bok choy, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 c. lime juice 
*Interesting note: I didn't have any fresh onion and couldn't get out of the house due to snow (right?), so instead used a jar of Cippolini onions in Balsamic vinegar. They were dynamite, so maybe adding a few dashes of Balsamic vinegar to the soup (or soaking the onions in it for a 20 minutes) might be good.

  1. In a large heavy pot, heat both oils over moderate heat. 
  2. In a separate pot, soak the vermicelli until soft and drain; set aside  
  3. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, chili powder, and red-pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 min. 
  4. Stir in the tomatoes, fish sauce, salt and chicken, coating each thoroughly.
  5. Add the stock and cilantro leaves (if using), and bring to a simmer. 
  6. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked, about 20 min. 
  7. Add the vermicelli to the soup; cook for a few minutes.
  8. Add the bok choy; bring back to a simmer and cook for about 1 min. 
  9. Stir in the lime juice and chopped cilantro, if using. 
  10. Serve in large wide bowl and enjoy!

Freakin' fantastic; very savory and a nice balance between sweet, sour and spicy. I didn't use the cilantro but it'd go well; additionally, if you like it spicier, having a bottle of Sriracha handy would do quite nicely. Veggies can very comfortably sub out the chicken stock with veggie, chicken with tofu, and fish sauce with... well you're on your own for finding some umami.

UPDATE: Upon re-heating, it became clear that given how relatively delicate the bok choy is, this is a better soup to make and eat all of it that night (still fine re-heated, just the bok choy becomes a bit fall-aparty); if you want a re-heatable alternative, sub in kale, collards, chard, etc. and cook for several more minutes.