June 29, 2005

cheap smoked salmon!

Treasure Island is a Chicago foofy-food store that seems to be similar in concept to Trader Joe's except not as cheap. Decent but not comprehensive selection. They had good chopped liver spread in their deli case, but the real find is the smoked salmon trim -- 8 bucks for a pound of smoked salmon bits. If you don't care about having a nice pretty side or uniform slices for presentation, this stuff is just what you need. Good quality salmon, great price. I put mine into pasta with dill, shallot, black pepper & a bit of the creme fraiche. Yum yum, fantastic summer dinner and still a big pile of salmony goodness left for the rest of the week. I had a photo of it, but i never downloaded it and I'm off for vacation soon, so sadly y'all are gonna have to live text only for now.

Posted by foodnerd at 01:33 PM | Comments (1)

June 28, 2005

Portillo's italian beef

On the way home from a client today I stopped for a quick lunch at Portillo's in Addison IL. It wasn't bad, nice tender meat and crunchy spicy pickled peppers & carrots on a standard-issue french bread roll. I see now what sets Johnny's Italian Beef above the rest though -- their gravy is more herbal, more savory, and you can adjust the amount of it so you can really soak that sucker down into a mushy puddle of flavor, so that the WHOLE SANDWICH oozes that dreamy flavor without the intrusion of any bread blandness whatsoever. Plus it has loads more atmosphere -- Portillo's was one of those annoyingly self-aware "retro" places with lots of random mid-century reproduction signs and an old gas pump, etc. as decor.

Posted by foodnerd at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2005

food people are just nicer

I'm sitting here watching The Next Food Network Star, and despite the fact that it should be either Hans or Susannah winning this shindig, I have to say that it is striking how much nicer these people are than your average reality/competition show star. I've been catching bits and parts of StripSearch, where studly boys duke it out to be part of the next Vegas male-stripper revue, and almost none of them seem in any way like someone you might want to meet, and they're already scheming and whining. These food people have been nothing but nice, both in general and to each other, even in the middle of what is clearly a giant stressfest. I hope that more than one of them ends up with a cooking show within the next year. Add this to the fact that food bloggers seem to be across the board warm and friendly folks, and you have to wonder -- are cooks just better people?

(ps -- the eventual winner of the contest was consistently the most annoying through the entire contest, but yet their pilot was completely great and I would totally watch their show. What did the judges see that the program editors didn't show us?)

Posted by foodnerd at 10:30 PM | Comments (2)

June 25, 2005

Fluorescent Orange Goodness

The Utz cheese balls have made their triumphant return to the 'Co -- 35 ounces of glorious orange crunchy goodness in what appear to be 3 gallon plastic barrels.

Our first experience with these orange nuggets of delight was purely by chance. Foodnerd was hosting a "big food" party centered around bulk packaged food. I think every item was at least as big as your head. (bigger than a breadbox, certainly.) A one-gallon can of nasty dinosaur-shaped faux "spaghetti-O's" seems to stand out in my mind, but the clear champions of the evening, able to rise above the petty name-calling and in-fighting between its over-processed and supersized brethren, were the Utz cheese balls.

Light and crunchy is to be expected. But it's the butteriness that allows these balls to truly rise head and shoulders above the rest. The fact that there are NO hydrogenated oils (partially or otherwise), like for real as opposed to that Frito-Lay nonsense, is just gravy.

Utz cheese balls: a true champion.

Oh, and on the subject of excellent things orange and cheesy, you oughta check out this. (Which I stumbled across surfing around Flickr.) F'ing awesome.

Posted by tallasiandude at 06:39 PM | Comments (2)

June 24, 2005

coke zero: dopey name, boon for dieters

Coke Zero, the new product attempting to mimic Pepsi One, does not suck at all. In fact, though as a loather of Pepsi and daughter of a diehard Coke-head, it pains me to say so, Pepsi One did not suck either -- it tastes just like real Coke with sugar and caffeine. I often yearned for it to be in the vending machines as a commonplace, just as ubiquitous as the mostly crappy but tolerable Diet Coke. I will probably continue to yearn just as much even though there's now a Coke option as well that has no calories but still tastes damned close to The Real Thing (tm), but a girl can dream.

Posted by foodnerd at 05:19 PM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2005

kitchen lessons

beets with tarragon, not so good. the flavor is weird -- tarragon is better on chicken and in moosewood-style gazpacho.

yukon gold potatoes with dill & creme fraiche, really really good. YUM.

indiana buffalo ribeye, strongly flavored but quite tasty.

beet greens with onion & mustard seed, fine but meh. only used mustard seed because bizarrely there is no mustard in this house, but it didn't lend much flavor. I probably should have thought of it before i started cooking, so i could have toasted the seeds in oil.

have you guessed? I went to the farmer's market. *grin*

Posted by foodnerd at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2005

weirdly appealing

Leftover rice topped with a bunch of sriracha and some cheddar cheese is bizarrely delicious and satisfying. It's better if there's a fried egg involved as well as it was earlier in the week (hmm, does this count as an eomeote entry?), but when dashing out the door en route to a dinnertime flight, this gets the job done and right quick.

Posted by foodnerd at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2005

japanese teatime treat

Our friend T returned recently from a trip to Japan, and he brought us a present of some sort of dessert. It was beautifully packaged and well labeled, but exclusively in Japanese, so we had no idea what it might be. Last night we busted it out to go with some of the A-number 1 tip-top grade green tea that tallasiandude brought back from China.

The dessert present turned out to be crumbly white filling wrapped inside a thin layer of sweet pink ume paste, wrapped in a sweetened red shiso leaf. These were accompanied by a block of the same pink paste, with a cute little serving knife, so you could cut off thin strips and lay them over the little leaf packets. They were fantastically delicate and delicious, with the strongly perfumed shiso blending with the sweet and fruity plum paste and almost almondy dry filling, and they were perfect with the grassy green tea. Now, I like a gooey choco-treat every now and again, don't get me wrong, but when it comes right down to it, I prefer Asian-style sweets much more. They're subtler, less cloying, and often more interestingly flavored.

Posted by foodnerd at 07:36 PM | Comments (2)

June 20, 2005

hubba hubba

Holy Shitake's post about how to use bacon to make baklava better than you ever imagined possible. Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard.

Posted by foodnerd at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2005

fathers' day fishfest

My brother sent a whole filleted Copper River salmon to my father for Fathers' Day, with strict instructions for cooking the treasure. Being generous and kind, the parents brought the fishy to my house in Waltham to share. Yay!

We fired up the weber kettle and oiled the fish lightly, and laid it out whole on the grill, skin side down, and tented it with foil. We were told not to touch it whatsoever until such time as it was starting to flake and there was a thin line of dark red (raw) still running down the middle, and then to remove it from the coals, tent it again on the platter, and let it sit a few minutes, then eat. It came out perfectly cooked, tender, moist, flavorful. Just lovely. We had it with russet potatoes and vidalia onions roasted in foil in the coals, garden asparagus, challah rolls (from Costco, and yummy), and mixed salad, again from the gardens. We also had a starter course of sauteed chinese cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and mung bean vermicelli, cooked in a bit of chicken broth & soy sauce.

Dessert was a bit of a disaster (I guess it runs in the family), since Mom's blueberry cupcakes failed to rise, and her intended frosting of vanilla sauce (which I had bought for Dad some years ago; it got hidden in the cupboards & forgotten) turned out to not only be stale, but to have been revolting in the first place -- super thick and sticky, kind of like plastic. But there was ice cream, and the cupcakes tasted good once you scraped off the nasty goo. Happy Fathers' Day!

Posted by foodnerd at 07:29 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2005

heed this warning, all ye who fly

at least all ye who fly through LaGuardia. DO NOT eat at the chinese buffet in the foodcourt in the US Airways terminal. Trust me on this. My weekend in Ithaca involved more Gas-X and bathroom time than beer & socializing. Urgh.

Posted by foodnerd at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2005

fuckin hot

is the only way to describe it. the last few days, regardless of what city i have been in (chicago, ithaca, boston), it is just too fuckin hot and humid to move, let alone eat. today it is so bad (and really, today is better than most of the days have been) i am hiding out in the basement, and ate sun chips dipped in a mixture of cottage cheese and cilantro salad dressing. the picture is of the new blue flavor of gatorade i have been subsisting on, in a pale green glass that at least looks refreshingly cool. feh. i hate humid heat.

Posted by foodnerd at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2005

good salmon cakes

latest version of my salmon cake improvisation came out pretty good, so i guess i better write it down.

packet of salmon
1/4 red pepper, minced
few parsley leaves, minced
green onion, minced
teaspoon or so Old Bay seasoning
teaspoon or so Tamazula hot sauce
3 tbsp miracle whip (lower fat version is just fine)
1 egg
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
ground black pepper

Mix all together well, then form into 4 balls. Roll in more breadcrumbs mixed with more Old Bay seasoning. Mist olive oil into nonstick pan, heat to medium, and fry -- spray the patties with some oil, too, and spray the pan again whenever you flip. These end up not as fabulously golden as if you fried them in 1/8" of oil, but much less fat going down the gullet makes it easier to handle a couple of dry breadcrumbs in an otherwise delightfully crunchy crust. Summer's coming, y'all, and some of us have been eating a little too much cheese. And bacon. And beer. And bread. *grin* Oooh, and I had these with the last of parents' asparagus and the first of my garden's baby arugula. Yummy.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:47 AM | Comments (0)

connah stowah

Sorry, just a little Bawstinonics slipped out. So the corner store near my house has a wide selection of Polish groceries (soup mixes, juices, cookies, etc.) along with locally made tortillas and Mexican staples. Psyche! I got some black currant nectar, and a carrot/apple/strawberry juice. They also have Vitner's chips, in most but not all of the worthwhile flavors. Heh.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:05 AM | Comments (1)

June 02, 2005

road trip notes

so in a whirlwind of activity, we packed the car full of stuff and headed west the Thursday before Memorial Day. we stopped at the foodnerd homestead to say hi to my mom, drop off white-cream donuts for dad, and acquire a bag of fresh asparagus from the family patch, and then drove straight through until 1:30am, with a few stops for ingestion & elimination along the way. We hit the road again at 8am, and pulled up in front of my apartment just before 3pm -- and managed to unload all the aforementioned stuff before the rain came.

A few highlights:

- i'm pretty sure we saw a bald eagle flying overhead somewhere in Ohio.

- Hardee's fried chicken is surprisingly good, considering.

- virtually all the cornfields we saw were fallow, full of last year's brown stubble. what's up with that? why wouldn't they be full of growing green by now?

- the Comfort Inn at Barkeyville, PA has really good free waffles, along with free wireless and soft beds. Who'da thunk it?

- we saw a lot of Ohio's finest along the way, but not even a glimpse of Indiana's finest. Weird.

- my mom packed us a crazy picnic of cheese and nuts and deviled eggs and animal crackers, and a showstopping platter of prosciutto-wrapped canteloupe. Awesome.

- wendy's now lets you have salad instead of fries in your burger meal. kinda cool, really.

- Dairy Queen kicks ass.

Posted by foodnerd at 03:18 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2005

foodnerd challenge #1: cream of chicken soup - DELAYED

Well, May has come and gone, I have been out of my mind busy the last three weeks, and it appears that our only serious competitor, Dr. Biggles, has been about the same, so we have no soup recipes. I have the cookbook prize in my possession, so the contest will happen someday, but perhaps the thing to do is table it until soup season resumes in the autumn. Perhaps by then we may have a little time to ourselves to tinker with creamy chickeny concoctions for the general betterment of mankind. Tune in next October.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:58 AM | Comments (2)