I have a pretty new home, here.
Please update any feeders, links, and the like. And please come visit often.
Friday, January 16
Monday, January 5
The holidays have come and gone with but one unadorned post from Cmoore. If you think I'm backtracking to make up for lost time, think again -- my gastronomic delights for the month of December shall remain largely anonymous. However, I did happen to spend two obscenely serene nights on the northern California coast. See?
We stayed in Mendocino (above), but stopped by Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville on the way up. After sampling the full gamut on tap (12 brews total) we walked out with hefty bottles of their Hop Ottin' IPA, and Boont Amber Ale (not to mention a hefty buzz). The Winter Solstice may have been our favorite, but the rich creaminess and pleasant wintry spice that made it so pleasant might be cloying after a full pint. I kept hoping to hear a snippet of Boontling, but no such luck.
The next day we continued north up the coast to Fort Bragg, home of North Coast Brewing Company's brewery and brewpub. My lady finally indulged in the beer-batter fish and (garlic) chips she had been craving, and I revisited a childhood favorite with the buttered clams steamed in wheat beer (a grown-up twist).
We intended to order their 10-beer sampler, but a convincing server led us to the full 12-beer set. C. favored their flagship Red Seal and the various Belgian impersonators like Brother Thelonius, a pseudo-dubbel. I picked the ever-robust Old Stock Ale for my top choice. After a pint of that we postponed our intended 7-mile hike, possibly indefinitely (or at least until the next getaway).
Both breweries were excellent, but I'd have to say North Coast pulled ahead. The wines we sampled (Navarro and Pacific Star) were alright and awful, respectively. At least none of them tried to pull this pie shot stint like the "bakery" down the block...
Wednesday, December 24
I was assigned Christmas Eve dinner at the Tarr household (my standby locale for the winter holiday season). Growing up, Christmas Eve meant going to church and then eating clam chowder, so my mind automatically went to the happy soup-and-salad place. I like light food the day before Christmas, and even when my night in the kitchen got bumped from Christmas Eve to the night before the night before Christmas, I stuck with that idea.
I meant to serve minted goat cheese (with a hint of lemon zest) on whole grain baguette with pomegranate seeds as an appetizer, but that ended up paired with the second/soup course (see below). It was delicious -- I highly recommend you start mashing fresh herbs into your goat cheese on a regular basis.
Instead, we started with the salad. I have no photos of this salad because I was too busy making a three-course meal for five to document the results, but I am going to tell you about it anyways. I've never told you about my obsession with poached eggs, have I? Pity. It is real and it is encompassing, and it is largely unsatisfied. I have yet to poach an egg well. Still the quest continues, and the interest has yet to wane. So as I was planning this Christmas Eve-Eve salad, I started with the idea of a perfectly poached egg resting on top of some lightly dressed bitter greens (in this case, frisée, watercress, and a bit of arugula). After considerable deliberation I also threw in some edamame, roasted shitaake mushrooms, kalamata olives, and fontina croutons.
The dressing was the real star but I can't exactly tell you what was in it. I'd like to pretend that's because it's top-secret, classified information, but in fact I put so many ingredients into it that I don't exactly remember all of them. I know there was sherry vinegar, olive oil, tahini, pumpkin butter, black sesame seeds, and tamari, and that I may start a new love affair with the humble whisk.
The soup was a pile of roasted tomatoes, garlic, red peppers, and sage, pureed and simmered with a bit of vegetable stock, a splash of almond milk, and plenty of cajun seasoning (cayenne, smoked paprika, lemon pepper, onion powder, and sea salt). I left a little surprise of roasted chickpeas in the bottom of each bowl, and finished it off with a few more fontina croutons and some parsley.
And finally, for dessert I made almond meringues, which were perfect for dipping in Mexican hot chocolate (a favorite) made with almond milk, lactose-free cocoa powder, cinnamon, cardamom, chipotle powder, and brandy.
And now I hang my metaphorical apron until Friday. I find it fortunate that although I despise Christmas, my ladyfriend's day of birth happens to be the day after the big day. As long as I can find crab and artichokes there should be a stellar post coming your way this weekend...
Wednesday, December 3
Every other Monday night Lady and I stay in, so this week instead of a restaurant review I have a probably-more-exciting synopsis of my attempt at pescatarian-friendly paella. I've never made paella before, and was mainly excited that I finally had an excuse to purchase saffron. Saffron is one of those foods that should be given as a gift (along with, in my opinion, organic mangoes, avocados, chestnuts, truffles--chocolate or more preferably fungal, whole nutmeg pods, really incredible coffee, really bitter chocolate, marcona almonds, and anything grown in a windowsill or backyard).
I started with this recipe but tweaked it quite a bit and came up with something closer to this:
1 bag Trader Joe's frozen seafood blend (16 oz of shrimp, calamari rings, and scallops)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1+ tsp sweet paprika
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
4 + 2 +1 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1 1/4 cup frozen green peas
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 vegan sausage (I used Italian-style because I like the sun-dried tomatoes in this)
16 littleneck clams
1 can artichoke hearts, halved, liquid reserved
3+ cups vegetable stock simmered with 1 tsp saffron threads
1 1/4 cup beer (I used an IPA; a saison or pale ale would also do nicely)
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large paella pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add seafood blend (not defrosted); saute 3-5 minutes with 2 cloves garlic, cayenne, and paprika (the seafood mixture will not be cooked through). Set aside, reserving liquid.
Add onion and bell pepper to pan, and saute 5 minutes. Add the remaining cayenne and paprika, crushed red pepper, and 3 garlic cloves; cook 5 minutes. Add rice and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, beer, seafood liquid, parsley, 4 cloves garlic, half the lemon juice, and peas. Bring to a low boil and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
In a separate pan, brown sausage in a bit of oil, adding drained artichoke hearts, 1 clove garlic, and a bit of paprika near the end of cooking time.
Add clams to paella pan, nestling into rice mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until shells open; discard any unopened shells. Stir in the seafood and the sausage mixture. Add more liquid (from artichokes or extra broth) as necessary until rice is tender. Sprinkle with lemon juice (or rice vinegar), fresh parsley, salt (we used Tony Chacery's, but that's for another post), and plenty of cracked black pepper. Remove from heat; cover with a towel and let stand 10 minutes.
We were going to pair a crisp Spanish white or even a tempranillo blend with our paella, but really we both love beer and that makes more sense to my palate anyways. I deliberated between saisons and tripels in the grocery store, but ended up with North Coast Brewery's Le Merle. This is a truly excellent California saison, with just enough spice and hops to stand up to our flavorful meal, but still light enough that you would never guess it rings in at 7.9% ABV.
Next conquest: gluten-free vegan pizza. That tastes good. I know I've got you on the edge of your seat...
Wednesday, November 26
It's a lazy Wednesday morning and while I should be memorizing the functions of the Stomach meridian I find myself nestled in borrowed boxers with a plate of leftover Chinese food in front of me with no desire to read about wind heat and borborygmus. Ladyfriend tried to make me one of her "delicious" green drink smoothies (frozen strawberries and bananas, protein powder, green..powder...of some nutritional sort, and almond milk), but I was having a distinct craving for leftover mu shu vegetables (I credit the midnight tequila, but that's subject matter for another post). Which reminded me of this draft of my gastronomic guilty pleasures.
I started this list months ago, before I had a real kitchen in San Francisco, and continued it through the days when memorizing muscle attachments took precedence over, say, purchasing produce. In the absence of free time I found myself taking shortcuts and falling back on my less sophisticated preferences. In fact, I distinctly remember pondering my Gastronomic Guilty Pleasures while sitting in a cafe that happened to be playing a (cough, country) song that falls into the category of Musical Guilty Pleasures. Hm. I'm also going to share that I seem to be falling for Ladyfriend, and even though this feels like an incredibly healthy dynamic it seems apropos to enumerate the less-than-healthy foods that I fall for every time.
* Leftover mu shu vegetables, generally without the rice wrappers and potentially cold.
* Mayonnaise. I could practically eat it with a spoon, but I usually make myself scrape it off the spoon onto some sort of bread product and top with salt. Maybe tomatoes if I'm feeling lypocene-deficient.
* Spaghetti-O's. From the can. With the same spoon (see above).
* I know organic, natural peanut butter is delicious and nutritious, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a weak spot for super-processed sugar-laden peanut butter (chunky). Jar --> spoon/finger --> mouth --> stomach.
* Macaroni salad from the Safeway deli. This should probably be a subset of "mayonnaise" but I do feel it warrants it's own line.
* Onion dip. You know. Marie's? The stuff that's basically sour cream and artificial flavors? Yeah.
There. I said it. Don't judge.
What are your guilty (gastronomic) pleasures?
Tuesday, November 25
My posts have been rather sporadic as of late, as you may have noticed. I seem to have gotten a) overcommitted, and b) involved with a very nice lady, hence a predictable lack of blogging time. I additionally seem to be entering some sort of unexpected cooking hibernation, and I'm honestly not putting up much of a fight. However, ladyfriend and I have been exploring the gastronomic options throughout San Francisco and she recently had the brilliant suggestion to post lurid details about our adventures here. Thus: Tuesday restaurant reviews.
Last night we struck out to Range. I've been eyeing Range since I first moved to the Mission, and passed Range every day on my way to yoga. I sensed that they had particularly inveigling culinary delights to share, but I needed the appropriate occasion and dining partner to venture out.
I was so right. The atmosphere is warm, home-y, and inviting -- plenty of dark wood and brushed silver, pleasant lighting, and perfect acoustics for dinner conversation. We started with the Quercus Harmonia Pinot Noir 2007 since ladyfriend was looking for something sweet and light, and the Andre Brunel Cotes du Rhone 2006 on the server's recommendation, since I was leaning towards something earthy. We subsequently swapped wines but both were excellent, with a mutual pleasant dustiness that complemented the autumnal flavors of our meal.
The menu looked lovely, but since we have a host of dietary restrictions between us (gluten-intolerant, loosely lactose-intolerant, pescatarian) we selected an array of appetizers. We were hesitant to order the barley-vegetable soup with gruyere croutons, but we weren't disappointed: it was fantastically seasoned and chock full of greens and root vegetables. The Bartlett pears with arugula, celery root, goat cheese, and hazelnuts were the real star for me, showcasing a melange of flavors that synchronized beautifully against the backdrop of rosemary vinaigrette.
For our next course we shared the raw California Yellowtail with pickled beets, meyer lemon, and tarragon which was...a disappointment. Ladyfriend insists the cut of fish was sub-par, and I didn't particularly care for the preparation. Fortunately the sweet-potato-stuffed pasta with sage, lemon, and pecans made up for it -- the lemon in particular added a lovely bracing quality against the sweet heaviness of the wintry fillings.
For dessert we chose the bittersweet chocolate espresso souffle with cinnamon-caramel swirl ice cream, paired with Ottimino Zinfandel 2005 and the Taylor Fladgate late bottled vintage port 2000, and every single one of those flavors worked together so incredibly well. Port and chocolate have to be one of my favorite decadent combinations, and I give Sam the server major props for pushing me that direction.
Ladyfriend additionally notes the excellent service and lovely food presentation, for an overall score of 9.0 (our highest yet; retroactive restaurant reviews to come). I loved it all that and a little more for a 9.1.
A question for you, kind readers: what do you think about taking cameras into restaurants? I know certain New York establishments have banned photography at the table, and I do feel disgustingly overt/tacky/touristy/amateur whipping out my little Sony Cybershot before each course. But, I know that reviews with a view are significantly superior. Thoughts?