November 28, 2005

broccoli blue cheese soup

one bunch broccoli
3 chunky slices blue cheese
half and half
salt, pepper & nutmeg

Boil the broccoli until just tender. Drain, but reserve some of the cooking water. Puree with stick blender, and add half and half gradually to get desired consistency, adding cooking water instead if you think it's too overwhelmingly creamy. Add blue cheese, crumbled up, and let the residual heat melt it -- use a spoon to sort of mush it into the soup. Salt & pepper to taste, dash of nutmeg.

It'll be a bit tepid, so you might want to reheat a bit, but be careful not to boil or it'll curdle. You might get around this by using heavy cream and a bit more cooking water, but i had leftover half and half.

Serves two for dinner, 6-8 as a small starter. Yum.

(picture coming)

Posted by foodnerd at 08:48 PM | Comments (3)

November 21, 2005

sparkly cider

I love when leftover cider starts to ferment in the fridge and gets all effervescent, and just a shade boozy. Yummy.

I have some apple-pear cider from seedling orchard (at Green City Market) that was really lovely when it was fresh, and these last couple of glasses that fermented are pretty darn nice too.

Posted by foodnerd at 09:22 PM | Comments (1)

November 20, 2005

alnatura leberwurst

mmmmm, liverwurst. I got a jar of organic Alnatura leberwurst while in Germany over the summer, and i've been eating it for lunch this week. It's almost as good as the transcendently delicious stuff that H bought for us at his local butcher during our visit. Rough textured, meaty, soft and melting, with a bit of spice. I guess that I am going to have to have H and spleen bring it back for me whenever they go back and forth to the old country...

Posted by foodnerd at 07:10 PM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2005

the chipp inn

I found a great friendly dive bar near my house called the Chipp Inn. Great juke full of old standards, R&B, disco, reggae and a few 80s pop hits, and a friendly bartender with a wide selection of cheap local lagers, mexican beer, and german brews. But the truly brilliant part is the fact that every hour or so a dude comes through selling homemade tamales out of an igloo cooler, $5 for a whole baggie full and some killer spicy green salsa. My kinda place. (i ate the tamales for breakfast today and forgot to take a photo of them first. oops.)

Posted by foodnerd at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2005

so so wrong

Today I went to the crappy supermarket near the office to buy papertowels and milk for the coffee, and at the checkout there was an exhortation to buy some "Santa Dollars" to support charity. I had to look more than twice to make sure what I was seeing was real, but Santa Dollars are legitimate US currency, in $1 denominations (you pay $2, therein the profit for charity), with the rosy smiling face of SANTA fucking CLAUS on the bill in place of George Washington. I wish i was kidding.

Posted by foodnerd at 03:46 PM | Comments (4)

November 12, 2005

barbara's polish deli still rules

In between two unfortunately stressful meetings out in the western burbs, I got another fabulous $5 hot lunch at Barbara's Polish Deli. This time it was a softball-sized chicken meatball (delicious, tender with flecks of herbs), with 2 sides: noodles with bacon & cabbage, and a tangy sauerkraut dish with bacon & kielbasa. It was the high point of my day.

Posted by foodnerd at 11:38 PM | Comments (1)

November 11, 2005

musings on wine

I'm wondering why wine hasn't been having the adverse effect on me lately that it usually has. It started in Italy, where tallasiandude and I drank way more wine that we normally would, and none of it made us feel nasty. And last week I drank a bunch of wines with C at blackbird and green zebra, and felt just fine. So what's up with that? In the past, even half a glass of wine would make me feel bloated and full (cutting into my ability to EAT, a horrible state of affairs), and would make my head hurt and my feet swell; I started to just avoid it altogether. How come none of this wine lately has done that? Is it that it's better wine? Is it that it's not American wine? Is it that I'm a freak of nature and have undergone some bizarre cellular transformation?

Posted by foodnerd at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2005

i want one; don't you?

the ultimate in personal culinary accessories

Posted by foodnerd at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)

green zebra

So C emailed last night that he had bonded with his server at Spring last week, and her sweetie pie -- a server at Green Zebra -- was hooking him up with a reservation at Green Zebra tonight. And obviously I didn't need to be asked twice.

I'd heard mixed reviews from several quarters, but I liked the concept of the restaurant and wanted to see for myself what was up with a not-quite-vegetarian restaurant that celebrated the vegetable. Unfortunately, I am an oaf and forgot my camera, which is a damn shame considering how pretty all the plates were; sadly, we'll have to make do with camera photos.

The interior is all angles and hipness, but the palm fronds and faux-woven table surfaces are really cool, and the table arrangements afford more privacy than you'd expect from a restaurant so small. We ordered 3 dishes from each of the three stages of the tasting menu, and had just the right amount of food. The trout sounded good, but we were pulled by the wegemetarian dishes and stayed pure veg all the way.

There was an avocado panna cotta, savory this time, with creme fraiche and pickled sweet peppers and celery leaves. This dish was plain weird, but in a really good way. It was cool and soft and unctuous and rich, best when punctuated by the sweetness of the cream and the sharp brightness of the pickles and celery. It would be awesome as a summertime dish.

A trio of beets came with a deep garnet beet with gorgonzola-horseradish sauce, a fine dice of pink beets (my fave) with dill and white balsamic, and a near-puree of golden beets with orange walnut dressing. The subtle distinctions between the three types of beet was interesting, and was thrown into relief by having all three on the same plate. I *heart* beets with dill.

The marinated mozzarella was a spectacular specimen of imported italian cheese which would have been gorgeous just on its own, but it came with a garnish of olive-bean-spice puree, and a pool of pureed arugula, and a moroccan-spiced parmesan cracker. Yummy.

The middle courses were a roasted shiitake roll wrapped in a wonton wrapper and fried, served over sauteed savoy cabbage (the one discordant note in the meal -- i thought the frying was a bit off, though the shrooms and cabbage were very tasty); a quartet of agnolotti filled with puree of cauliflower & mascarpone, and topped with roasted cauliflower and black truffle (whooo-ee, yum!); and a light, lemony "cassoulet" of artichoke, tomato and lemon-balm hollandaise (my fave of the three, closely followed by the agnolotti).

The bread and butter are fabulous at Green Zebra, by the way, especially the multi-grain bread, which has a nutty sweetness that's just right. Normally i prefer salted butter, but whatever this sweet-cream stuff was could turn my head for sure, and they serve it nice and soft, the benchmark of a restaurant that's serious about their eating.

We'd been drinking a sancerre recommended by Jeremy, our fabulous waiter, which turned out to be a real treat, minerally yet with a little bit of fruit in it. I will keep my eyes peeled for sancerre henceforward. As we segued into the third round of dishes, we moved on to a Domaine du Grapillon d'Or 2001 Gigondes (that envelope is sure coming in handy). Very nice indeed.

The last series was an eggplant tart with a smoked tomato sauce and a zucchini-cheese pate (good); a spicy-hot lentil cake with a sticky red-pepper jam and a meyer-lemon relish (awesome, both the cake and the condiments); and the best dish of the evening, a duck egg served over applewood-smoked potato puree with brioche points. Holy crap, this dish is good -- somehow they got those potatoes to taste like bacon, and they melded beautifully with the thick gooeyness of the duck egg's yolk, and all of it was perfect with brioche toast. I wish they were open for brunch so I could stumble over there and have duck egg and smoked potato for breakfast on the weekend.

We had room for a cheese course, since the all-veg menu was quite light, and we had a nice silky brie-style cheese, a funky hard sheep cheese, and an amazing find: Friesago from Shepherds Way. Nutty, milky, sheepy, perfectly balanced. Walnut toasts and date paste and fresh figs and micro-sliced apple went nicely with all the cheeses, and paved the way for dessert.

A fresh-fig galette with ginger ice cream and black pepper ice cream was very good, but it was the pumpkin beignets with warm cranberry compote & pecan ice cream that stole the show. Yum. We were unable to resist the idea of chocolate curry ice cream, though C was skeptical -- it turned out to be fantastic, tingly and spicy notes playing around with the rich chocolate. (On a related note, C was telling me about his dinner at Tru last night, which involved -- wait for it -- foie gras in chocolate sauce with a glass of big rich madeira. *mwrowr*) And there was a lovely dessert wine, a spicy Monbazillac, similar to Sauternes but with a more complex kick of spice at the end.

This dinner was not as mindbending as the one at Blackbird, but I wasn't expecting it to be; dinners like that don't come along every day. But this dinner WAS interesting, well-executed and delicious, and was enjoyed with what has turned out to be a wonderful new friend. Yay!

Posted by foodnerd at 12:26 AM | Comments (1)

November 08, 2005

way down south in carolina

Went down to Raleigh for M & A's wedding, which was just lovely -- everyone should be so happy at their wedding as these two were. It was literally joy-full to be there to witness it.

We ate some fabulous fried green tomatoes with lemony shrimp at the reception, and a full-on Carolina-style BBQ spread at M's parents' place afterward, both of which were deelish. The next morning, after tallasiandude had to head home for class, I took myself to the Waffle House along the interstate and had a pecan waffle and a monstrous slab of salty country ham. Yeehaw! Yummy.

Posted by foodnerd at 11:51 PM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2005

blackbird: wow.

Holy cow. I often enjoy expensive fancy-pants meals when I have them, but I am rarely impressed as deeply as I was by my dinner at Blackbird last week. (I would have run home immediately to blog about it, but work and travel intervened.) My friend R has a brother-in-law whose job takes him to Chicago, far from friends and family -- and that brother-in-law is not just a nice fella, but he is a Food Whore. Can I get hallelujah? Because I get to be his stand-in dining companion. Yay!

He couldn't decide between the unknown-but-recommended (Spring) and the known-and-loved (Blackbird). I scoped the menus online -- why doesn't Spring put their whole menu up, dammit? -- and was equally torn, until I had a look at the desserts: Blackbird was offering avocado panna cotta and chocolate semifreddo with bacon. Chocolate + bacon = I MUST GO THERE.

So we went. And the room is as sleekly fashionable as it had seemed from the outside, but oddly cozy, perhaps because you're close enough to the neighboring tables to smell their dinners, and get pulled in to neighborly conversation about what you and they've been eating. Which is sort of nice, taking the edge of seriousness off such a highfalutin' restaurant. The service is friendly but not overly so, knowledgeable but not snotty; I was pleased.

C & I got to chatting, since we'd never met, and happily had lots in common, so we hadn't even gotten a look at the menu by the time the people next to us got their amuse-bouche -- which smelled so goddamn good it was distracting: we both stopped talking and started staring. It was some sort of soup, strongly scented with black truffle. Normally i find truffle mildly annoying: it's usually just a token extravagance that doesn't add much to the actual enjoyment of the dish, it smells better than it tastes, and most of the time there's not even enough of it there to really detect it at all. But this -- it smelled SO good. When ours arrived, we immediately stuck our noses into the cups and sniffed. And sniffed and sniffed. The cups held a few spoonfuls of sunchoke bisque, supercreamy and light and savory, with big slivers of truffle floating in it along with tiny bits of apple and possibly sweet onion to add crunch & brightness. I scraped every single bit of soup out with my spoon, and only the fact that I was dining with someone I'd just met kept me from attempting to lick the cup.

I knew I was going to get along just fine with C when we couldn't decide on appetizers, so he proposed to whitewash our gluttony, I mean structure our meal, as three courses: 2 appetizers to start, 2 more to follow, and 2 mains to end. Dude, sign me up. (And of course we shared it all. Duh.)

Course 1: We had a charcuterie plate of meaty country pate and boudin blanc (which I'd never had), with grainy mustard and pickled cabbage & summer beans & beet. The pickles were very sharp and well-spiced, as good as any I've made, and I make awesome pickles. The boudin was surprisingly meaty in flavor, considering it's so pale in color, and dense and a bit sweet from the rice; I am going to have to do some boudin investigations in Louisiana sometime soon. And we had a plate of venison pastrami, dark, dense, salty little slabs dotted with dates, fried capers, pickled shallots, pumpernickel toast cubes and sunchoke cubes. (Tiny cubes are a theme at Blackbird; normally I would find that a bit affected and annoying, but everything we ate was so spectacular that I am willing to completely forgive and even embrace such things.) The intensity of the meat was made even more delightful by the soft rich sweetness of the dates, and I would just like to say that whoever thought of frying capers deserves a cash prize.

C is a wine guy, so we had champagne with the starters; I had a brut rose that was very nice, but of course because I am a wine retard I can't remember what it was, or what C had. :-)

Course 2: My scallop dish was one of the best things I have ever eaten, period. It was completely and utterly perfect. Maine diver scallops, seared to a thick crunchy golden crust, intensely scented with black truffles -- two flavors that could not be more wonderful together, commingling and complementing each other -- and celeriac cubes, a few leaves of celery for a lighter, brighter note in the same key, and a bit of butter and salt. OH. MY. GOD. I have had a lot of fantastic scallop dishes over the years, but this one takes the prize, for the combination of flavors alone, in perfect harmony. Decorum got chucked and I scooped up every last bit of buttery sauce with my finger, licking as I went.

C had a confit of suckling pig, gorgeous in its own right, but perhaps not as mindbendingly sublime, at least for me. But that's no flaw -- and there certainly is no flaw in a pile of meat so moist, flavorsome and velvety, pan fried to a crisp crust, and served over sweet and sour cabbage, a cider gastrique (mmmmmmmm) and a wee pile of winter squash cubes. This dish was all about the softness of the pork in the mouth. Lovely.

By this time we'd gotten a burgundy. It smelled of forest floor, which I think is a lovely thing to smell like, and it turned out to fill the mouth nicely, round, with no hard edges. It got more floral and complex over the course of the meal, and was quite pleasant to drink on its own after we'd finished the food and were waiting on dessert. It was a Fixin 2001 Hervelets Premier Cru; I wrote it down on an envelope because I knew I'd forget what it was.

Course 3: I was having too much fun by this point and forgot to photograph the mains. I had a confit of veal tenderloin. The server asked me how I wanted it cooked, which confounded me -- veal usually comes one way, unlike beef. But this was grass fed, and was nearly as red as beef, and since I'd ordered medium rare, it arrived darkly pink and very tender, meatier than veal usually is -- sort of like the tenderest filet mignon ever. It came with some fried cavolo nero (a bit chewy, which was rather pleasant), some starchy red lima beans (also nice), a wine reduction, and baby artichokes and white turnips nestled into a creamy white-turnip puree. Yummy. C had a guinea hen glazed in yuzu. I had a few bites, and they hit with a powerful citrus flavor, an unexpectedly intense surprise, but not overpowering to the bird. I would have happily eaten a plateful.

C got the english muffin pain perdu with fruity accompaniments, and you KNOW i got the chocolate-bacon extravaganza. It was two square mini-waffles, with milk chocolate semifreddo studded with hazelnuts in between, a dollop of sweet butter on top, and two tiny sticks of salty, fatty, strong, crunchy bacon propped up against a pillow of homemade marshmallow fluff. The fluff wasn't needed, but it was good anyway, heh. The bacon was not the usual american bacon; it might have been pancetta, or guanciale? Anyway, it was fantastic with the chocolate and the waffles, all that I'd hoped it would be.

After all this, we were perfectly filled, not a bit overstuffed. We were delighted, entertained, educated, contented; it was sort of like an evening of art appreciation, in which none of the pictures were boring or stupid. We would talk about other things, but constantly drop out of conversations to focus on the art happening in our mouths. We were there for nearly 4 hours. A restaurant that can make an evening like that possible deserves lots of repeat business. Next time tallasiandude comes to town...

Posted by foodnerd at 10:58 PM | Comments (2)

November 01, 2005

weirdly appealing #2

Second in what appears to be an ongoing periodic series. Inspired by I know not what, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to pour some kefir over my leftover mashed red kuri squash. So I put a pinch of nutmeg and a shake of hot hungarian paprika and a pinch of salt into the squash, heated it up, and poured cold plain kefir over it. And stuck a slice of stinky old cheddar next to it. The squash and kefir ends up being mostly creamy and only a little tangy, which is a nice accent to the sweetness of the squash itself, and the spices keep it from being overly sweet. Stinky cheddar is mostly just a source of protein, but goes nicely nonetheless.

Posted by foodnerd at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)