DOTW: Bloody Mary

Posted by Anita on 12.29.06 7:12 AM

bloody mary (c)2006 AECNot that any of our regular readers will be overindulging this weekend… but just in case you find yourself in need of a wee “hair of the dog” after late nights and too much holiday cheer, here’s a recipe for a classic morning-after tipple to put you back to rights.

If you’re feeling too fuzzy to make your own tomahhhto juice, feel free to substitute V-8 or another flavorful store-bought brand. But juicing your own makes for a crisp, tomatoey taste you can’t get from commercial stuff, and a pleasant viscosity that helps keep all the seasonings afloat.

Need another excuse to whip up a Bloody Mary? Matt gives you 10 of them, fresh from the archives.

Slightly Fancy Bloody Mary
Makes 3-4

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice (preferably Muir Glen)
1T Worcestershire sauce
2T freshly squeezed lemon juice
6-8 ounces vodka
Tabasco sauce
Grated horseradish*
Cajun seasoning salt, such as Tony Chachere’s (or celery salt, or garlic salt)
Lemon wedges, celery hearts, green olives

Process tomatoes and their juice in a food processor. Strain the puree through a coarse sieve into a non-metallic container, stirring and pushing the puree through the seive until you’re left with just seeds and about 1/4 cup of dryish pulp, which you can discard. You’ll end up with a generous 2 cups of thick tomato juice. Add the Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice to the seived juice, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, until well chilled.

In a highball glass, stir together 2 ounces vodka, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon horseradish, a generous pinch of seasoning salt, and Tabasco sauce to taste (start with 3 drops). Fill the glass 2/3 full with ice and add 6 ounces of the tomato juice mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Garnish each drink with a lemon wedge and a celery heart, and olives if desired.

*Either fresh-grated from a horseradish root, or bottled horseradish without any creamy additives; “prepared horseradish” will make the drink cloudy and slick.

breakfast, Drink of the Week, recipes


Spamalot (or not)

Posted by Anita on 10.22.06 11:49 AM

spam & eggs (c)2006 AECFor years, my family’s observed a rather lowbrow holiday breakfast tradition: Cubed ham and quartered hard-boiled eggs in a cheddar-infused bechamel sauce, served over toast. It’s the kind of impossibly rich dish that should come with the name of a good cardiologist, so it’s best left to the “a couple times a year” section of the recipe box.

I’ll probably lose all foodie cred when I admit that, originally, this concoction was made with both Spam and Velveeta — the ham and cheddar are relatively modern improvements. We still call it Spam ‘n’ Eggs for nostalgia’s sake, even though no actual spams have been harmed for years. At least that’s what I used to be able to say…

It’s not an official holiday, but my sister and I are both visiting my folks, and this morning Dad announced that he had a craving for Spam ‘n’ Eggs. Mom offered to run down to Vons and pick up some ham — we had all the other ingredients on hand — but Dad stopped her short.

“Not ham. Spam.”

“Real SPAM?” we all asked in unison.


So we indulged him. And, you know, it wasn’t bad. Of course, you could put dog kibble in cheese sauce and it would taste pretty good. Still, unless you’re overwhelmed with morbid curiosity, I highly suggest you stick with ham.

Spam ‘n’ Eggs
6T butter
6T flour
5-6 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
pinch of dry mustard
3/4 pound ham (or 12-oz can Spam Lite, if you must)
6-8 hard-boiled eggs
1 loaf English muffin bread (or other good toasting bread)

Cut ham into 1/3-inch dice, and set aside. Quarter eggs vertically, and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, until foaming subsides. Sprinkle with the flour, and whisk well and cook until bubbly and whitened. Add 5 cups of milk, and continue to whisk until just below a boil; reduce heat. Continue to stir until thickened to the consistency of pancake batter. Add cheese and mustard, and stir until cheese melts. Thin with more milk, if desired; you want the sauce to be spoonable, but not runny. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the ham to the sauce, and continue to stir until heated through. Reduce heat to low, and set the egg quarters into the sauce, taking care not to dislodge yolks, if possible. Push eggs down into the sauce, and heat through gently.

Meanwhile, toast the bread and keep warm in a towel-lined basket until all slices are toasted. When ready to serve, place two slices of toast on each plate, and spoon the egg-sauce-ham mixture over the top.

ps: Happy birthday to Rocky, my Spam-loving friend.

breakfast, family, recipes


To market, to market

Posted by Anita on 10.22.06 11:47 AM

prickly pears (c)2006 AECI’ve always loved going to farmers markets, even before they became the trendy (aqnd pricey) scenes they are now. When I lived in Menlo Park, ages ago, there was a farmer there who sold the most wonderful corn I’ve eaten on the West Coast. She admonished anyone within earshot in a nasaly whine: “Don’t cook my corn! Just HEAT IT and EAT IT!” Of course, we have to replay this little scene anytime we’re cooking heating corn, or any other fragile food.

Even after all these years of wandering the asphalt aisles and sniffing out seasonal veggies, I think this is the first year where I really am getting a full understanding of the interleaved seasons of all the produce that’s grown in Northern California. It doesn’t take much of a genius to recognize that tomatoes are summer food, but it’s another thing entirely to see the incremental changes that happen week by week, variety to variety.

In hindsight, I’m incredibly glad that my New Year’s resolutions included getting closer to the source of my food — being at the market each and every week makes a great weekend ritual, and a real eye-opener. I don’t think I ever realized, for example, that many spring crops — favas, artichokes and the like — enjoy a second season in the autumn. It makes sense, when you think about it, but it’s easier to grok when you’re seeing it happen.

I’m going to miss the next two weeks of the market while I’m visiting my family, so I very deliberately soaked up as much of the atmosphere as I could. The weather was spectacular, one of those bright-crisp days we get as the seasons change, and everything looked beautiful. Primavera even made chilaquiles, after two weeks of huevos rancheros and other substitutes… we joked that they must have known I was leaving town, but in all seriousness, it was a lovely way to start my long travel day.

breakfast, farmers markets, shopping
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Friday news nibbles

Posted by Anita on 10.20.06 10:57 PM

punkin doughnuts!Krispy Kreme‘s got a pumpkin spice cake doughnut on offer for the holidays, plus — so cute it’s almost scary — pumpkin-shaped raised glazed with ‘ittle Jack-o-Lantern faces (pictured at right) through the end of the month. Awww!

Hot on the heels of their “$6,000 combo meal” TV spot, the fast-food hucksters at KCE/Hardee’s (that’s Carl’s Jr. to us West Coasters) released a list of suggested wine pairings for their speciality sandwiches. Perhaps monsieur would care for a bottle of Peachy Canyon Incredible Red with his Jalapeño Thickburger?

Or perhaps a bottle of bubbly? Perrier’s launching a new campaign aimed at the younger set, going for that edgy thing in an attempt to ditch its Miami Vice-era aura.

I’m still reeling from their purchase of Sharffen Berger, so please forgive me if I don’t seem happy about Hershey’s buying up Oregon’s Dagoba Organic Chocolate.

News of the wierd: Until last week, the world’s largest curry house was located in West Yorkshire, of all places. Hard to imagine that it’s gone out of business, innit?

Another shocker: The Amish don’t want your flippin’ food stamps!

breakfast, drinks, levity, news, other stuff, shopping, wine & bubbly
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No gold star for Red Star

Posted by Anita on 10.01.06 11:28 PM

red star bloody mary bar (c)2006 AECWe’re staying overnight at the 5th Avenue Suites, one of two Kimpton hotels in Portland. And as much as we love Kimpton — and recognize that their restaurants can sometimes be better than merely decent — we’re pretty clear on the fact that you’re not going to a hotel restaurant in search of culinary excellence. You’re usually pretty safe with American standards like burgers, club sandwiches, Cobb salads and the like, but expecting anything memorable is a recipe for disappointment. This, we know well.

So why in the name of all that is foodie did we take the elevator downstairs to the Red Star Tavern & Roast House, rather than seeking out a truly worthy place to brunch? Well, kids, today’s the Portland Marathon, and the whole city — most especially the area around our hotel — is jammed with people. And, on a more personal note, it’s also the morning after a very late night spent celebrating the marriage of two long-time friends, Karen & Nelson, out at Edgefield, the McMenamin’s brewery’s rustic resort on the edge of town. Let me say that again: Brewery. Wedding reception. Nelson’s crew. You get the picture…

Now, we didn’t know this ahead of time, but it turns out that Red Star has a D.I.Y. bloody mary bar on the weekends. You choose one of ten decent vodkas, and they bring you a very healthy glug in a salt-rimmed pint glass, and point you to the bar. Along said bar you’ll find a wide assortment of bloody mary mixes, plus straight tomato juice, celery salt, hot sauces, horseradish, and what must be the city’s best-stuffed array of olives. No Worcestershire sauce, Tony Cachere’s, or celery stalks… but I suppose pickled asparagus will do in a pinch.

And, you know, the drink’s pretty average. It’s not a stunning beverage, but I’ve got no one to blame but my own sweet hung-over self. (Mental note: This is why we generally leave brunch to the experts.) Cam wisely sticks with coffee and water in the beverage department, and busies himself with the Sunday NY Times. I never did trust a newspaper that’s too uptight for comics, but that’s probably best left to another post…

In a strange departure from our usual preferences, Cameron opts for fish & chips — a lunchy brunch option! — and I choose the biscuits and gravy. The service is polite, prompt, and cheerful, and we’re all happy. Until the food comes, that is.

My biscuits are fine, but the gravy looks and tastes rather prefab. And I don’t understand why a fancy hotel like this can’t afford a slotted spoon for the kitchen: my poached eggs come in a bowlful of water… a pet peeve of mine, admittedly. On a more serious note, Cameron’s fish is coated in a delectable-looking batter, but what’s inside is clearly wa-a-ay past its prime, reeking of ammonia. He calls over our server, who apologizes profusely and whisks the plate back to the kitchen. Almost as quickly, she brings it right back to the table, explaining that although she’d be happy to replace it with another dish, “the cooks say it’s catfish and that’s just how it smells.” Uh, yeah. No.

Ultimately, French toast with real Vermont maple syrup turns out to be a wiser choice.

I vaguely remembered having eaten at Red Star on our last swing through Portland — what is it about this city that brings out the food-slackers in us? — and being unimpressed, but I suppose the bright spot in the whole debacle is that I certainly will remember this round… even I won’t make the same mistake three times.

Red Star Tavern & Roast House
503 SW Alder Street (at Fifth Avenue)
Portland, OR 97204

breakfast, drinks, Portland, restaurants, travel
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Hot doughnuts? No.

Posted by Anita on 09.29.06 11:01 AM

top pot doughnuts (c)2006 AECAmong Seattleites, Top Pot doughnuts have acquired something of a cult status. When the Seattle Rep coffee bar began offering them a few years ago, for example, they so vastly understimated demand that their entire supply sold out nearly an hour before the curtain went up, leaving not a crumb for late arrivals… much less intermission.

Now we love us some doughnuts, but it took us ages before we managed to get our mitts on a Top Pot. We’d walk by their Belltown location after dinner or a movie, and shake our fists at the darkened storefront — who closes a doughnut shop at 7pm?? (Luckily, the original Capitol Hill shop keeps slightly more-sane hours.)

Ironically enough, it was breakfast time when we finally succeeded in scoring one of these babies. And what an assortment met our hungry eyes: Crullers of all colors, maple bars, sprinkled cake, sugar-glazed…. mmmm. Dense and intense, they’re like the anti-Krispy Kreme: not hot, not fluffy, not angelic in the least. Served alongside custom-roasted coffee, you’ve got yourself a breakfast worth hunting down.

Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts
609 Summit Avenue East
Seattle, WA 98102

breakfast, coffee & tea, Seattle
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Crepes replace crap

Posted by Anita on 09.19.06 5:47 PM

crepevine fillmore (c)2006 AECWords cannot begin to describe how much we loathed Leticia’s, the former quasi-Mexican occupant of the space at Fillmore and Clay — although my Yelp review certainly took a stab at it. But even adjusting for positive bias, we’re happy to say that this space’s newest incarnation as the latest outpost of the Crepevine mini-chain seems to be a much better fit.

But let’s start at the beginning: We were making the weekly pilgrimage to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, when we got seriously derailed by a malfunctioning ticket-printing machine at our favorite parking garage. We circled the area looking for another place to park that wouldn’t extract blood for 2 hours of parking, and came up empty. Sensing the ticking clock of our dinner guests’ impending arrival at 5pm, we pulled the ripcord and decided to do our marketing, and our breakfasting, at a more mainstream establishment.

We pitched around a few restaurant-near-good-grocery combos, and came up with Mollie Stone’s on California (a terrible choice, as it turns out… but that’s another post), surrounded by a wealth of breakfast options. Remembering that a new Crepevine had taken over the old Leticia’s space made the decision even easier: We knew we could get in, and get fed, with a minimum of fuss.

Even though nobody in the kitchen had the common sense to remove fresh spinach from their offerings, we still enjoyed our breakfasts — a benedict-like Costa del Sol for me, and a Petaluma scramble for the Bald Guy. The menu at the PacHeights location is much the same as at other Crepevines, with the thoughtful addition of a full bar for those of us needing a wee hair of the dog with brunch. And the decor’s a little less grungy than, say, that of its sibling out on Irving (where we used to eat a lot, way back in the day).

Now, I don’t want to overstate the case — the food is nothing more than workmanlike and certainly not worth a drive across town. On the other hand, we both agreed that if there were a Crepevine near us, we’d probably eat there a lot more than we’d care to admit. With omelettes, sandwiches, pasta, burgers, and the original “salads bigger than your head”, Crepevine does a creditable job filling the “I dunno, honey, where do you want to eat?” niche. Affordable, clean, fast, and reasonably tasty… what more can a hungry couple on the run ask for?

2301 Fillmore Street
San Francisco CA 94115

breakfast, restaurants
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Five things to eat…

Posted by Anita on 09.13.06 8:13 AM

Foodblogger's Guide to the GlobeOver at The Traveler’s Lunchbox, Melissa posed a challenge to her fellow food-bloggers: List the five things everyone should eat before they die.

Erin tagged us to participate back at the end of August, and we’ve been bickering about it ever since. Does it mean five natural foodstuffs? Five prepared dishes? Five culinary experiences? Five meals? Being a rather ecumenical gal, I’m inclined to interpret the question in the broadest terms; Cameron’s being a little more dogmatic, and — hey, no value judgement here — is not surprisingly having a very hard time coming up with his answers. I, on the other hand, am having a terrible time limiting myself to just five. Argh.

But, after a couple weeks of pensive nail-biting, I think I can safely say that you, my foodie friends, should go forth and eat the following five items. But don’t go dying on me any time soon, ok?

1. street food in Thailand, preferably breakfast at the Damnoen Saduak floating market. I recommend kanom krok, soup noodles, thai coffee, and a mango, but feel free to sample whatever’s being made by the ladies with woks in their wooden boats. We spent 3 weeks in central and northern Thailand this past January, eating street food every day. And while we did have some nice meals in restaurants, it’s the noodle-shop nosh and street-stall snacks that still haunt me.

2. heritage pork in Britain. Your choice: a pork & stilton sandwich at Borough Market, or roast middlewhite at St. John. Or both, hey… don’t let me stop you. Even the best pig I’ve eaten stateside is a pale, pasty shadow of the succulent swine they’ve got over in Blighty. Despite the weakness of the dollar and the superstrength of the pound, it’s a taste-memory that’s worth the cost of airfare.

3. tacos from a taco truck, preferably carnitas at the El Asadero taco bus on South Rainier in Seattle. This was the year I got over my fear of street food. I shudder to think of all the amazing food I missed. I’m not particularly squeamish or germ-phobic, but I am a total wimp when it comes to busting out of my cultural comfort zone. For some reason, having mastered the the taco truck experience over the last couple of years made it easier to go outside the boundaries and let 2006 become the Year of Eating Dangerously for this former fussy eater. So far this year, I’ve eaten sushi at 6am in Tokyo (prepared by chefs with whom I shared absolutely no common language), all kinds of crazy nutty wacky stuff in Thailand, escamole in Mexico, and a host of other oddities… and the year’s not yet over.

4. a meal made entirely from peak-season farmer’s market finds. Although I’ve always been dedicated to the idea of seasonal and farm-direct cooking, this summer was the first time we could honestly say that 100% of the ingredients for certain meals — including staples like oils and salts — came from the market. The cynical me is surprised that it really makes such a difference, but the nutty-crunchy side of me realizes this is one of them-there culinary no-brainers.

5. the tasting menu at The French Laundry. A quick glance at other blogger’s contributions to this meme shows I’m not alone on this one. But really… it’s one of the few high-end dining experiences that’s objectively worth every penny that you pay for it. This meal will genuinely change the way you think about dining out and — if you’re particularly introspective — about cooking as well. My photos certainly don’t do it justice, nor do any of the (admittedly plentiful and generally well-written) first-hand accounts you’ve read online. Clear your morning schedule, put the phone on speed-dial, and pray for an opening: I promise you won’t regret it.


Oh, I almost forgot to pick the next five other bloggers — which is getting really hard, as it seems like nearly everyone‘s already taken a crack. So, tag… you’re it!

  1. Sean at Hedonia
  2. Lucy at Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook
  3. Cheryl at Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit
  4. Matthew at Roots & Grubs
  5. Mary at Jalapeño Girl

breakfast, cooking, farmers markets, meat, Mexican, other blogs, restaurants, Thai, travel


Beta Toast

Posted by Cameron on 09.11.06 3:57 PM

toast pass (c)2006 AECThe food took forever to come out. It wasn’t good when it arrived. The servers were tripping over each other. There was a waiting list as long as your arm at 9:15 on a Sunday morning.

But hang up the sarcasm phone for a second and listen: we’re really, really pulling for Toast Eatery, a contemporary diner recently opened in Baja Noe Valley.

Ever since we finally threw up our hands over Al’s Cafe Good Food on Mission street, we’ve been longing for a good breakfast place that didn’t require a visit to the peninsula. Anita had been hearing about Toast’s debut so we planned an early (for us) attack on the corner of Church and Day streets.

We were completely unsuccessful in beating the crowds that inevitably surround any halfway-viable brunch joint in Noe Valley. The interior isn’t large, but Toast boasts a number of sidewalk tables. A little flexibility bought a significantly shortened wait for seating: we scored two stools at the bar, a choice that paid dividends later in the meal. The interior is invitingly painted and tiled, and sports cute light fixtures and accoutrements. It’s a clean, well-lighted place for grinds.

The menu at Toast could be taken from any one of a million diners across the nation: scrambles, omelets, pancakes, french toast, eggs benedict, corned beef hash, and chicken fried steak. Lunch/dinner options include soups, salads, burgers, and sandwiches, with plenty of traditional favorites: french dip, club sandwich, cheese steak, hot pastrami, and chili.

We chatted with one of the proprietors who was running herd on the front of the house and handling the counter traffic. I asked if they had real maple syrup, and he said that they were planning on adding it for an extra charge, but they hadn’t yet. Major points. I encouraged him to follow through. In my book, real maple syrup is one of the simple things that a breakfast joint can do to rise above the crowd. I’m happy to pay the extra buck, and I won’t order pancakes without it.

The servers were obviously still getting their act together, but everyone was hustling and mostly friendly. Anita ordered chicken fried steak and some orange juice, while I went for eggs benedict and coffee.

Half an hour later we’d finished the Sunday paper, I was on my third cup of coffee (not bad tasting, nice big cups), and we were hungry. When the food finally appeared, it became clear that the kitchen is still getting its act together, too. The hollandaise was a strange dark brown color, watery, grainy, and inedibly salty—as if it was made from a mix and someone used a cup of powder instead of a tablespoon. Anita’s food was no better: Sysco battered steak patty cooked with zero love and covered in gravy from a mix. Our hashbrowns were just barely cooked. Finally, in a barely believable bit of irony, the english muffins on both our plates were completely…wait for it…unToasted.


I complained (nicely) about the benedict and our seating choice paid off. The man in charge got instant feedback, and I was quickly supplied with a replacement (bagel with lox and cream cheese). Anita struggled through her plate, as there wasn’t anything returnably wrong with it. The scrambled eggs weren’t bad, at least.

We’ll almost certainly return, for two reasons. First, we badly need this kind of place nearby. With the exception of Joe’s Cable Car, it’s impossible to get a non-ethnic meal in our neck of the woods for less than $70 (for two) that doesn’t suck five different kinds of ass…and even then you’re taking your chances. Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack doesn’t count because you have to be on the ice to score and if you don’t take credit cards, you get to stay in the penalty box. Plus you can end up waiting for an hour for a table if you don’t whack someone first.

The second reason that we’ll return is that I think the folks at Toast have their heads on straight and they’re very obviously still sorting out their kitchen. The response to my complaint was fast, professional, and there was genuine interest in what went wrong. Plus, there were lots of positive little we’re-paying-attention details: organic, Fair Trade coffee served from thermal carafes instead of left cooking on burners; a small, low-end, but intelligent wine selection; very cool silverware; and, of course, real maple syrup on the way.

No guarantees (witness the continued incompetence and eventual fall of Chez Maman Bernal), but consider this review a bug report and give Toast a try after they’ve had a chance to pump through a few release candidates.

breakfast, Noe Valley, restaurants


The egg maven

Posted by Anita on 09.06.06 9:52 AM

mushroom swiss omelette (c)2006 AECEver since she was a little girl, my sis has been an egg-o-maniac. I know my memory’s got to be faulty, but it seemed that soon as she was tall enough to reach the stove, she was whipping up gorgeous fried eggs every morning before school.

In our house, Cameron has the egg juju (in addition to the biscuit hand and many other culinary skills I covet), and my already mediocre skills have lapsed into downright dustiness. So it stands to reason that when I’m visiting family, it’s Patti who gets called on to turn oeufs into omelettes. I’m tasked with sauteeing mushrooms, pouring juice, or setting the table… and happily so, ’cause I know what’ll be on my plate in mere minutes.

breakfast, cooking, family
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