We’re all down with eating seasonally here in the Bay Area. But how about drinking seasonally?
California growers coax most popular citrus fruits into year-round abundance, so it’s easy to forget that these tart treats — especially many of the obscure varieties — are truly winter fruits. Specifically, sour oranges like Bergamots and Sevilles have a painfully short harvest each January or February, a fact that oddly endears them to many aficionados. This same scarcity has inspired countless generations of English cooks to put up marmalades, to extend this slice of winter sunshine as long as possible.
I’m so enamored of specialty citrus that we’ve planted a miniature grove in our tiny yard: A full size Meyer lemon, a dwarf Bergamot, and a shrub-size Makrut (kaffir) lime. The bergamots we harvested this week were zested for a micro-batch of bergamocello; I hope next year we’ll have enough to make preserves or at least make a small batch of bergamot orangettes (would that be bergamettes?). But these same few fruits yielded just enough juice for a round of one of my favorite cocktails, dubbed the “Friday After Five” in honor of the eGullet thread that spawned it.
If you can’t find Bergamots, feel free to substitute fresh grapefruit juice. It won’t taste the same, of course, but then — like favas and peaches and sun-ripened tomatoes, in their turn — the drink’s fleeting flavor is part of the charm. If you’re anything like me, the haunting scent of Bergamot may even be enough to make you wish for winter in the summertime.
Friday After Five
1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce green Chartreuse
3/4 ounce bergamot juice
1 dash Herbsaint, absinthe or Pernod
Shake over ice, and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a bergamot twist, if desired.
Cookiecrumb over at I’m Mad and I Eat and Kev at Seriously Good have challenged one another to a mac-n-cheese-off, an ooey-gooey duel, a fight to the death on the field of fromage. Their chosen weapons? Bechamel, pasta… and cheese.
What is it about humble ol’ Mac & Cheese that brings out the competitive spirit in otherwise mild-mannered foodies? Last year, our old Seattle crew hosted a mac & cheese showdown, where no fewer than half a dozen recipes vied for the crown. And about a month ago, Union — one of Jet City’s top restaurants — hosted a citywide smackdown (mac-down?) that got promoted on local radio.
I’ve got a few favorite recipes in the files, including a 5-minute version that I make sometimes for breakfast, but no single concoction owns my allegiance… certainly not enough for me to want to enter it into public competition. But the eye-rollingly good version I serve to company — as a side dish, mind you — comes courtesy of our friend Wendy, the hostess with the mostest, who’s tweaked Martha Stewart’s recipe to the point of decadence.
Fondue Mac and Cheese
4T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
2 slices good white bread, grated coarsely
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. each freshly grated nutmeg, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper
1/2 pound sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1/2 pound penne
Heat oven to 375°F. Butter a 9×9 baking dish, and set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1T butter. Pour butter into bowl with breadcrumbs, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside.
Fill a large saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Add penne, and undercook by 2 to 3 minutes, until the outside of the pasta is just cooked. Transfer macaroni to a colander and drain well, shaking the colander to remove as much water as possible from inside the penne. Set penne aside.
Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt remaining butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. While continuing to whisk, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Turn off heat, and whisk in the wine, salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and both cheeses, reserving 1 cup of cheese for topping.
Stir macaroni into the cheese sauce, then pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top, followed by the buttered breadcrumbs. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer casserole to a wire rack, and cool 5 minutes; serve hot.
About a year into our Great Northwest Experiement, we were both desperately homesick for all of our friends in San Francisco… and utterly sick of trying out restaurants that “everyone” said were great, but that were either nothing special or unspeakably terrible. I think it was Cameron who first started posting on Chowhound’s Northwest forum, looking for better food; I soon joined him, posting reviews of places we tried and hated (usually) or loved (occasionally).
One fine day, a CH poster called MsRamsey sent me an email and told me to check out eGullet. Once we landed on eG, we found a fantabulous crew of like-minded souls — people who knew where to find the really good stuff and weren’t satisfied until they found even more of it. We became great friends with many of these folks over the course of the next couple of years; they became our primary social circle. (The ultimate irony is, of course, we miss the Seattle crew now at least as much as the people we left behind in San Francisco.)
Not long after, three of our foodie friends invited me our for “drinks with the girls” at Zig Zag Cafe, a bar I’d never even heard of, much less visited. Little did I know that I was in for a life-changing experience. I met a man named Murray Stenson that night — a man who would become a friend and a mentor. He made me a drink that night that opened my eyes to the wonders of cocktails beyond plebian Gin & Tonics and Whiskey Sours.
This, ladies and gents, was that drink. It remains a favorite of mine — and retains its place on the Zig Zag menu — to this day.
1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. Maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz. green Chartreuse
1/2 oz. lime juice
Shake with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass.
I promise not to do this very often, but I can’t resist a hearty “hear, hear!” to Sam over at Becks & Posh for her recent crankiness on a subject near and dear to my heart: The tyranny of online food communities. Reading about Sam’s recent (re-)disillusionment with the new-but-not-really Chowhound brought up a lot of old stuff for me.
Looking on the bright side — as Kevin from BaconPress quips in Sam’s comments — I suppose I owe the food-board troglodytes a thank-you note: This blog (like many others) was born out of our frustration with the politics and personality disorders that inevitably infest even the best-intentioned food communities, and from our desire to keep sharing all the fun food stuff we stumble across in our wanderings.
I dug up an email that I sent to a MouthfulsFood friend who asked me if I was ever going to return to the fold, after I staged a one-woman boycott following a vicious personal attack by one of the board’s resident nutjobs:
I am blessedly glad to be free of the axis of snivel; I hadn’t realized how much that negativity wore me down, day after day.
I’m lucky that I have the best parts of my online experience integrated into my ‘real’ life, now, and I realize that that’s where the biggest payoff is going to happen.
OK, rant over. Thanks for indulging me… not just today, but all the time.
I’m so glad that Anita put this up. Superkudos and much admiration to Anita, Sam and all of those (special shout out to S. @ RG) who can absorb the acid and vinegar and still come out balanced and smooth on the other side.
Flashback: Just as spring ended, we garnished this sangria with pears and citrus for our garden-warming party. It seems only fitting that we bid adíos to summer with a peachy version.
Both the syrup and the fruit need to be made up ahead of time, so this is a perfect recipe to start today with an eye toward the long holiday weekend.
This recipe is based on Katie Loeb’s version.
750ml bottle of neutral red wine
4oz orange liqueur, preferrably Cointreau
4oz brandy — we use E&J XO
4oz spiced simple syrup (recipe follows)
chopped fruit macerated in additional brandy and/or liqueur
club soda or sparkling water
Make the simple syrup the night before you plan to drink the sangria. If using hardy fruit — such as citrus, apples or pears — macerate the fruit overnight as well; summer fruits like peaches and berries only need a few minutes’ soaking time or they’ll turn to mush.The morning you plan to serve the sangria, mix the alcohols and syrup, and adjust for sweetness and booziness. Chill thoroughly until ready to serve.
Place LOTS of ice in a glass, and add some of the boozy fruit. Nearly fill the glass with sangria — leaving about an inch of head room — and then top with a glug of club soda.
Spiced Simple Syrup
2-3 sticks of Mexican canela (or 1 stick regular cinnamon)
4 full pieces star anise
1-1/2 tsp. cloves
1-1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. red chile flakes
one pint of 1:1 simple syrup
Boil the spices in the syrup for 5 minutes, then cool overnight. Strain, then use as desired.
In addition to being my dad’s birthday (Happy B-Day, Pops!), August 31 is also BlogDay 2006. What’s that, you ask? I’m so glad you did! Here’s a clip from the BlogDay site (which seems to be overwhelmed with traffic at the moment):
What will happen on BlogDay?
In one long moment In August 31st, bloggers from all over the world will post a recommendation of 5 new Blogs, Preferably, Blogs different from their own culture, point of view and attitude. On this day, blog surfers will find themselves leaping and discovering new, unknown Blogs, celebrating the discovery of new people and new bloggers.
BlogDay posting instructions:
- Find 5 new Blogs that you find interesting
- Notify the 5 bloggers that you are recommending on them on BlogDay 2006
- Write a short description of the Blogs and place a link to the recommended Blogs
- Post the BlogDay Post (on August 31st) and
- Add the BlogDay tag using this link: BlogDay2006 and a link to BlogDay web site at http://www.blogday.org
Given that the only blogs I read until recently were Hedonia and SFHomeBlog, I’m basically thinking that any blog is pretty much fair game as “new” in my book.
As most everyone else who’s participating has said, it’s hard to pick just five. But here, in no particular order, are the five new-to-me food blogs I’ve put at the top of the pile, the ones that I read on my Treo on the way in to work.
- Anyone who’s already reading food blogs knows about Becks & Posh. Sam’s a fellow Bay-Area gal (albeit a transplant from England) and those who know tell me that I am rightly very sad that I missed my chance to shake her hand at the Bay Area Food Bloggers’ Picnic last weekend (which we had to back out of attending at the last minute).
- After rekindling our romance with cocktails during the Seattle Experiment, we found ourselves a bit adrift when we moved back to San Francisco: Where were all the decent watering holes? We should have gone trawling for a site like Cocktails with Camper English a long time ago. Love it.
- One of our friends from the Seattle food crew, Matthew Amster-Burton is also a food writer of local reknown. He’s also dad to one of Seattle’s cutest toddlers, Iris. In Roots & Grubs, Mamster chronicles his often hilarious interactions with his budding foodie of a daughter.
- Speaking of Seattlites… during the course of a shared dinner at Union, Molly struck me as someone who I’d be reading about some day. Little surprise to catch up with her, a couple of years later, and find that her Orangette has become one of the stars of the food-blog world.
- I always knew Shuna Fish Lydon was a blogger: her review of Range for the KQED blog got caught up in a (ahem) spirited debate over on MouthfulsFood last fall. But I didn’t know she solo-blogged until I met her at a June Taylor marmalade class earlier this year. When I put out my call for blog recommendations earlier this month, multiple people suggested eggbeater …and I could no longer keep my head in the sand. Now I am hooked on this quirky little slice of Shuna’s brain.
ps: Thanks for the link, Sean.
Boy, did we have a blast this weekend… so much so that I’ve been too beat to blog.
Saturday found us in the usual place: Breakfast at Primavera — ack! no chilaquiles? I suppose migas are close enough — then a long wander around the Farmers’ Market. Highlights included taste-testing about a gazillion peaches (oooo… Frog Hollow didn’t make the cut), looking far and wide for the best heirloom tomatoes, having an excuse to splurge on burrata at Cowgirl, discovering the previously mentioned tri-tip of luv at Prather, and scooping up the weekly bag of gloriously bacony avocados from Brokaw … mmm, mm!
Back south again with a stop at In-N-Out Burger en route to Target and the Colma BevMo for their big Grand Reopening sale (had to use that $10-off-$40 coupon!). Then back home, for a bit of prep cut short by realizing that we’d forgotten a few things… Off to Noe Valley on a “bourbon and bouquets” run, stopping at French Tulip — where we ran into Sean, quelle surprise — for hydrangeas and such, then on to Urban Cellars for a shockingly overpriced bottle of Knob Creek.
Whew. No wonder I’m tired… that sounds exhausting. But at the time, it felt like a nice and leisurely preparation for the dinner party we hosted on Saturday evening, jokingly (but accurately) called “bounty of the market, plus cheese”.
As our guests arrived, we started with a round of Currier cocktails on the back deck, accompanied by gorgonzola-and-peach bruschetta from the Ferry Building cookbook. Moving to the table, we paired a surprisingly affordable Yalumba ‘Y Series’ viognier with a salad of heirloom tomatoes, rosemary salt, burrata, and toasted pain-de-mie breadcrumbs (photo, above).
For the main course… there goes that tri-tip again, offered with a side of our friend Wendy’s luxurious penne-and-cheese, the winner of a recent mac-n-cheese cookoff among our old Seattle crew, and a Galante Vineyards Carmel Valley cabernet. (We won’t talk about the haricots verts that we forgot to serve… oops.)
Dessert was easy but good: We stole a page from our friends Russ & Nick’s dessert tricks, sweetening mascarpone with honey… which we then drizzled over Ciao Bella grapefruit-Campari sorbetto, topped with a few perfect raspberries. Then coffee in the living room, served with a platter of kumquats and shortbread, and another of madeleines and macarons from Miette, and some Recchiuti fleur de sel caramels.
Hard to imagine we had the strength to get up the morning after such a glorious evening, but shopping waits for no woman! Another early stop at JoAnn’s en route to Toys ‘R’ Us — our niece is on her West Coast tour and must have Dora! — then home for a quick nap before the family arrived. Thank goodness we have an appreciative audience for our leftover mac and cheese.
So… here’s the deal: We’re doing this food-blogging thing in a vacuum. Sure, we read a couple of food blogs written by friends — hi Sean, hi Matthew! — but frankly the world of food blogging used to seem a little redundant to our other culinary life online — we got all the stimulus we needed from sites like eGullet and MouthfulsFood.
Once we dropped off the food communities, the blog seemed like a great place to stash those scribblings that just can’t be left unwritten, the photos that must be shared. But even when the blog occasionally gets interactive via comments, it’s still not enough input to feed my media jones. And the NYT Food Section only comes out once a week.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone (my naive self included) that there are something close to, oh, a bajillion food blogs out there, and I have no idea where to start! So, I wanna hear about your must-read food, cooking, dining and drinking blogs. Which do you read first, before all the rest?
(And yeah, I know… I can’t believe a vegan blog won the Bloggie, either.)
In the process of moving my content off of MouthfulsFood and eGullet, I put a few appropriate snippets onto Yelp — figuring that their Seattle content needs all the help it can get. Much to my amusement, my writeup of La Carta de Oaxaca has been voted Review of the Day in Seattle.
For those of you in Seattle, this is great news: Yelp’s still a wild frontier up there, where even moderately well-written stuff gets noticed and appreciated. Go forth and Yelpify!
On the advice of some friends from MouthfulsFood, we made the trek over to the Somerville/Cambridge border for dinner at East Coast Grill and Raw Bar.
Two minor quibbles: First, it's difficult to get to without a car — the nearest T stop is about 3/4 of a mile away, and when it's 90° and 90% humidity, you will feel every one of those 3,960 feet. The other downside is that the place is practically legendary for having lines out the door, but still they manage to have no room to wait in the bar. Those two things — and those alone — are the only barriers between this place and restaurant perfection.
We loved the great white-wine sangria, justifiably famous tuna tacos and "wet bone" ribs; other barbecue items aren't nearly as impressive. The meat in my brisket sandwich was a touch dry, and the sauce was too-sweet and unremarkable. The wet bones have a slightly Asian taste to them, and are much, much better. We were told that the striped bass was a must-order dish if it was available. It was, and it was!
I thought the prices were really a good value for the quality. The decor is a little 80s-dated — Nagel called, and he wants his wall sconces back — but the atmosphere is so funky and friendly that you can't help but be won over.
East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
1271 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02139