May 30, 2004

wretched, wretched excess (oh how i love you)

While diligently taking it excessively easy this memorial day weekend, we accepted an invitation from spleen to motor up to Portsmouth NH for the afternoon. Of course, how could we refuse, seeing as how Portsmouth features THE FRIENDLY TOAST? *swoon*

Leaving aside the decor (excessively red, excessively retro, excessively bad-art), and the waitstaff (excessively sexy and retro/arty), this place has firmly grasped a few essential truths about food.

First, the pinnacle of the sandwich maker's art: The Mr. Haegar. Monstrous slices of homemade white bread, filled with cheddar, pickles, tomato slices, mustard and horseradish cream sauce, and grilled in butter. Served with onion rings, mmmm. This thing is a beast, a titan of filling tastiness -- it is the absolute best approach to a grilled cheese that ever was. The mustard and the horseradish kick it over the edge, by bridging the creamy cheese and the tangy pickle (and lots of it, woohoo!). Even though it is a foodgasm, I can only eat half the sandwich, so the fact that it keeps well in the fridge is a sweet bonus.

However, my inability to fully consume the sandwich's glory may have had something to do with the enormous plate of cheese fries that preceded it. Blue cheese and provolone cheese fries, broiled to a perfect gooey, crunchy brown and served with strawberry habanero sauce. Blue cheese. Plus melty provolone goodness. Need I say more?

The frappe machine was busted this day, but we'll be having at the frosty treats next time, because they looked *good*. Those Friendly folks have a way of mixing up crazy flavors in the best of ways.

And just because really good is never enough, our waiter put on my favorite Ramones album of all time and played it in its entirety. Bliss.

(postscript: I can't speak for the others, but we ate at 2pm, and neither tallasiandude nor i was even remotely hungry at 10pm, when we met a friend for "dinner." Bloated? Yes I was. But no regrets.)

Posted by foodnerd at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2004

grilled summer sausage

ooh, and another thing from this past weekend: One of my fellow cabinmates sliced up some of that nasty shelf-stable summer sausage, the kind you often get at xmas from Hickory Farms, and put it on the grill, and it came off dee-licious. It renders some of the fat, I think, and toasts up the edges, giving it a little more texture. Who knew?

Posted by foodnerd at 10:18 PM | Comments (2)

my favorite food

Speaking of Wu Chon House.... I've never had a "favorite food." It always felt like choosing one of my many beloved children as the favorite -- impossible. My fallback answer has always been "cheese." Just cheese? Yes, all cheeses -- never met one i didn't like.

But into my life has come the perfect food. It has all the necessary attributes for a food: spicy, meaty, sweet, vinegary, fatty, savory, contrasting textures. And I am deliriously happy whenever I am eating it. Tofu kimchi bokum, particularly as made by Wu Chon House, is my favorite food. (Hedge tells me Koreans just call it tofu kimchi and all is understood. But I found it at Wu Chon, and I call it what they call it.)

Take kimchi and onions and fry till caramelized. Add thin slices of fatty pork belly and fry some more. Add a sauce made of gochu jang (spicy pepper soybean paste), brown sugar, soy sauce and garlic. Add a half cup or so of water to it, because you're going to add some rice pucks and they'll need water to soften up. Simmer this till everything is soft, the sauce thickens and the pucks are chewy soft. Put some cool sliced tofu next to it on the plate. Eat and be happy. Or just go to Wu Chon and order some -- no one else makes it better.

(Thanks to Hedge for the recipe -- I shall never again lack for my favorite food.)

Posted by foodnerd at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

Loved It/Hated It - Artisanal

Prologue: "A" Gets a Reservation. "A" strikes up a conversation with her coworker who loves to talk about food! Turns out she worked for Artisanal (woo hoo!) and we can get a reservation for Friday night, when "J" will hit New York.

Act I: Friday Night. 3 very hungry people looking forward to a wonderful dinner at Artisanal - the reviews are excellent, the place is packed, and we all love cheese.

Act II: Appetizers. We had a wonderful waitress - cheerful, French, attentive - everything was perfect. Delicious cheese puffs came in a paper cone with some of the strongest drinks ever. They were the only drinks we've ever paid $12 for that were actually worth $12. (In fact, it is a miracle we can remember the meal...) The Artisanal Blend Fondue (not too stinky!) with apples and bread arrived in due course - we had no compunctions about ordering two separate cheese-based appetizers. At this point, after pouring the wine, our beautiful French waitress informs us that as she is in training, she has to leave for the evening. At this point, they really should have sounded the death knell on dinner, but we were oblivious...

Act III: Entrees? We were exposed like Kate Winslet on an iceberg to the horrors of "team serving." No fewer than 7 different waiters, and 2 managers "helped" us with our meal. Needless to say, the raclette (yes, another appetizer) arrived 1 hour after the wild mushroom risotto (shared by "A" and "J") and the hanger steak ("C"). Not only that, but it took no fewer than 3 requests - of different people - before we got that raclette. Now, this didn't make us as upset as you might think, because the food was fabulous (and hey - we were still doublefisting!)

Act IV: Deserted with Dessert. We didn't learn. and we ordered dessert anyway, from waiter #7. We got a baba rhum (wonderful), and the piece de resistance, the cheese plate. As "J" described it, "transcendent." (Def: Transcending the Aristotelian categories...) We picked one creamy (Stanser Flada from Switzerland), one tangy (Tourmalet from France) and one STINKY (Il Caprino Tartufo from Italy). "J''s reaction to the latter: "Barnyard." "A's" reaction: "Public bathroom." They were not kidding when they described it as stinky cheese. It was gross, but oddly compelling, and the next day when "J" was in Princeton she walked by a freshly fertilized garden and thought to herself, "Now what does that make me think of? Oh - right! The cheese!" After getting 1/6 of the bill knocked off because of the poor service the night was complete.


Posted by littlelee at 08:41 PM | Comments (1)

May 17, 2004

corn black bean salsa/salad

A new thing created this weekend that was very popular with the assembled triathletes and adventure racers and one lone hiking foodslut. Make it this way:

1 bag Trader Joe's Roasted Corn, thawed
2 cans black beans, rinsed
half a vidalia onion, chopped

make vinaigrette w/ olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon or lime juice, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, minced garlic and minced chipotle in adobo. Add to the above and let marinate (I let it sit overnight, but I don't think it matters much).

When you're ready to eat, add a box of grape tomatoes, sliced in half, and if you don't have any cilantrophobes, add a handful of chopped cilantro. I think the cilantro is fairly important, so if you have phobes, serve it on the side for the rest of us.

Woo hoo! Nummy. Especially good with grilled chicken and veg or picnicky things of that kind.

Posted by foodnerd at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2004

lunch in brown and yellow

We were out of lunchmeat this morning, and I forgot about the tasty leftovers in the fridge from last night's Korean food frenzy at Wu Chon House, so it was the dreaded caf for me today.

When forced to go to the caf, I'll usually get two grilled cheese and tomato sammies and a cup of soup. Outrageous at 7 bucks (ok, it's really like $6.50, but I round up) but it's fairly safe and the soup usually doesn't totally suck.

But it's slim pickin's at 1:20 -- it closes at 1:30 (not the first of my peeves). By the time I get down there, they've already shut down the grill and the one soup that might have been appetizing was popular enough that all that's left are a few grains of barley and bits of drying vegetables dotting the bottom of the serving container.

So I end up with the meatloaf from the "Market Carvery" station, topped with brown gravy. Two sides? Well, the rice tray looks almost untouched, and the green beans look like sad withered twigs cooked with...something. Onions? Garlic? I give up on 20 questions and get the mashed potatoes and corn.

The corn looks to be cooked to within an inch of its life. But no, I stand corrected -- they've had the life cooked out of them, leaving only yellow husks of fiber and starch. The meatloaf tastes alright, but it has a strange chewiness that I don't generally associate with meat. The potatoes are quite passable by comparison, but that's not saying much.

And all this for five bucks. What a deal, eh?

I hate the caf.

Posted by tallasiandude at 02:16 PM | Comments (3)

May 12, 2004

fruity dessert at its best

fresh california strawberries plus homemade lime sherbet = pure dessert bliss. Dang.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2004

Fat = Good

This may not be the start of the new all-butter diet fad, but a new study has been published that suggests that fat isn't the evil-doer that many take it for and may even be good for you. [Reuters]

"A relatively high amount of fat in the diet may be a boon to a healthy person's cholesterol levels, a small study suggests. On the other hand, limiting fat intake too much could have the opposite effect."

So no more funny looks when I request aggressive butter application on my popcorn at the Coolidge, thank you very much.

Posted by tallasiandude at 02:17 PM | Comments (2)

albany mexican and strawberries

Thanks to P for taking us to a great mexican place in Albany -- El Mariachi. Authentic dishes, good flavors, fresh ingredients... mmmm. Try the sangria -- it's excellent and better than the margaritas. WHY don't we have any decent mexican food here? Perhaps it's hiding in the neighborhoods I don't frequent, much the way the decent BBQ is in Dorchester.

California strawberries are in season again, and cheeep in the markets. Get 'em while they're yummy!

Posted by foodnerd at 10:48 AM | Comments (1)