Friday, July 20, 2007

don't point that at me

okay i'm totally stealing this idea from this guy but i thought it was cute and thought i'd give my own version a go...

what if we attributed the wine spectator points system to things other than the grape?

mr. jefferson's university: 92

mark wahlberg: 94

hugh grant: 53

arizona republic's food photography: 4

the onion: 100 points

walruses: 87

um... can i use negative numbers?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

a rose by any other name is NOT as sweet

c/o :

USDA WATERS DOWN ORGANIC STANDARDS. Organic food is organically grown, except when it isn't. Confused? So are we. (Man, are we ever.) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) greenlighted a proposal late last Friday allowing 38 new non-organic ingredients in products bearing the "USDA Organic" seal, despite more than 10,000 e-mails and letters from concerned consumers and farmers, according to the Organic Consumer's Association.
The USDA's proposal will mean that
Anheuser Bush will be allowed to sell its Organic Wild Hops Beer without using any organic hops at all. USDA Organic-certified sausages, brats, and breakfast links will be allowed contain intestines from factory-farmed animals raised on chemically grown feed, synthetic hormones, slaughterhouse waste, and antibiotics. Fish oil with the USDA seal of approval may also contain toxins such as PCBs and mercury for that extra flavor. Cats and dogs will be forced to live together. (Okay, we made that last one up.)
If, like Howard Beale on
Network, you're mad as hell and you're not going to take it anymore, seize advantage of the 60-day public-comment period and send a letter to the USDA now. ::more ::"Organic Food is, Like, Organic, Right?"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

more equal than others

this is a great photo essay showing the different ways that people interact with different animals - some destined for the dinner table, some preened for show, some tested with medicines, some cuddled for therapy.

and it has another cute duck picture so i couldn't resist sharing...

paradigm shift

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

first date: dara thai

i know that it's probably a good idea to wait to try a restaurant until they actually have a permanent sign posted out front.

anthem is trying to grow as fast as folks are flocking up there, and commercial rents aren't cheap, especially on the main drag, anthem way. so i understand the push for places to open their doors and try to start bringing in revenue.

i have no problem with high school kids having to use the large button calculator at the counter to figure out tax and change, or the lack of a liquor license, but one should at least try to get
all the ingredients necessary for the dishes on the menu before asking people to try them.

i ordered the pad thai which had all of one tiny piece of green onion for any greenery other than school-lunch-lady shredded lettuce with the pieces of beet thrown in (for no real reason 'cause kids won't eat something purple unless it's frozen on a stick.)

the chicken was very dry, with kind of the same consistency as the overcooked scrambled egg thrown in. mushy flat noodles more like fat fettucine than rice noodle, no tamarind perceptible...

i can't judge a place on one dish i know, but the whole experience of the place felt so unfinished, just like the recipe. i anxiously await the signage... perhaps their thai iced tea is so intoxicating that it overwhelms the rest of the underwhelming.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

duck... duck....

i really don't think the world would stop turning if overpaid celebrity chefs couldn't put foie gras on their menu. i mean we've already got the word "truffle" which can add a perfectly respectable $23.00 to the wording of any dish in which it appears. come on.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

clean plate club

not to be outdone by America in anything, under the guise of conservation, China is now chasing the big American bottom-line.

Hong Kong restaurants will now charge money for food left on your plate at the end of your meal. apparently foodstuffs make up 1/3 of all landfill fill now.

so clean your plates, you know you'll just be hungry in an hour anyways.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

a very simple wish

by nikki giovanni

i want to write an image
like a log-cabin quilt pattern
and stretch it across all the lonely people
who just don't fit in
we might make a world if i do that

i want to boil a stew with all the leftover folk
whose bodies are full
of empty lives
we might feed a world if i do that

twice in our lives
we need direction
when we are young and innocent
when we are old and cynical
but since the old refused to discipline us
we now refuse to discipline them
which is a comtemptuous way
for us to respond to each other

i'm always surprised
that it's easier to stick
a gun in someone's face
or a knife in someone's back
than to touch skin to skin
anyone whom we like

i should imagine if nature holds true
one day we will lose our hands
since we do no work nor make any love
if nature is true
we shall all lose our eyes
since we cannot even now distinguish the good from the evil
i should imagine we shall lose our souls
since we have so blatently put them up
for sale and glutted the marketplace
thereby depressing the price

i wonder why we don't love
not some people way on
the other side of the world with strange customs and habits
not some folk from whom we were sold
hundreds of years ago
but people who look like us
who think like us
who want to love us why
don't we love them

i want to make a quilt of all the patches and find
one long strong pole
to lift it up
i've a mind to build
a whole new world

want to play

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

bacon butties

(this, according to British scientists, is the formula for the perfect bacon sandwich)
there are a lot things happening right now that have me really thinking about food and my impact on animals and the environment.
now i know this sounds strange to say about what is probably the most suburbanite planned community in existence, but i can attribute a lot of eye-opening to my impending move up to anthem.... 30% of the community there was required to remain wild and undeveloped, so there are large desert washes and bunnies and turkey vultures looking for bunnies.
there has been so much hype and hoopla about 'going green' and organic products. phoenix needs to join the 'green' movement - and go brown. the amount of damage and displacement that the development here in the Valley does is staggering, and kudos to anthem for making an (albeit bland HOA approved shade of brown) effort to preserve what arizona is supposed to look like.
the damage done by poisonous pet food was another wake-up call, obviously.
and the clincher is that i have been reading a book lately called the way we eat which traces families' diets backwards from store to source. now i by no means purchase food from wal*mart, but the authors traced a typical family's groceries from that big box store back to the horrific processing plants and pig farms and the deplorable conditions that so many animals live and die in.
so remember that your dinner has a face not just a formula.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007

organic anthem?

*photo credit: madelyn's restaurant... i didn't take this shot

so it looks like greasy spoon is going to be relocating upstate, to more "polished silver" digs (hidden outdoor webcams are very useful things).

now anthem is not exactly on any culinary maps whatsoever, but i'm hoping that one upcoming new spot looks promising: brian ford is bringing his fresh organic fare from his farm at south mountain days to the city with madelyn's restaurant (named after his daughter, cute)

we're trying to figure out why the dining options up in anthem are so sparse... is square footage too spendy? is the country club really all that good? are there so many building restrictions that we just can't find the good restaurants that are already there? ford is the first chef to venture into that territory, and hats off - it will be a huge change from the gardens at the farm to the approved-shade-of-brown-stucco strip mall.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

go nobuo!

well the valley takes a (hopefully temporary) step back in the culinary world standings with the departure of our one james beard award winner bradford thompson from mary elaine's at the phoenician. bradford resigned today but will stay on through april.

nobuo fukuda: omakase, bro. you're our only hope this year for a prize.

next year: kevin binkley.

debutante ball

uppity baseball food in scottsdale = wok fired soba noodles. kudos to this guy flaming up a storm at scottsdale stadium during the giants-cubs series this march. i can only judge from my own uppity principle standpoint, as i just can't bring myself to buy these dang things at a baseball game. call me closed-minded but my love of baseball was bred at camden yards and wrigley field.

here in the sand canyon state i see more of these chinese food boxes with chopsticks sticking out around the stadiums than mustard-stained mouths at giants home games. (except for when the cubbies are there, then there is at least some sense of normalcy to the place)... hence this shot:

i don't care if i ever get back...

Monday, March 26, 2007

in like a lion...

i like this guy. there is an article in the new yorker on gordon ramsay that i think really shovels through all his screaming and ranting and really hits on his food.
bruni gave him only two stars in the times; for the most part because he thought the food was boring... the interior of Gordon Ramsay in the London is white on white and the dishes had the slow-calm of walking through a cloud of dry ice, the complete opposite of the firey underworld of Hell's Kitchen that we all know and love/hate.
buford in the new yorker explains this quite incitefully, saying that for all of ramsay's torments, he finds solace on the plate and in the taste of his food, even though getting there is laced with so many vulgarities.... what matters is what goes into your mouth not what comes out of his.

hello? hello? *hiccup*

funny gift idea: it's a flask

Friday, March 23, 2007

radio arcadia

we finally have a little bit of word on what is going to be the next incarnation of la grande orange at 40th street and campbell - construction is well underway, the building has a series of stucco arches and the republic says the new place will be updated italian classics. the new name: Radio Milano.

i unfortunately haven't been back to see my favorite bartender Sander at postino's since the place has suddenly gone hip and inaccessible. we always used to go in monday nights for the pizza/wine deal there but we stopped at the beginning of football season.

Sander is the quintissential 'tender, who, only the second time we visited, would see us come in and before i could even set my bag on the back of a barchair, he had out two wine glasses and my favorite russian river pinot and without a word waits for my smile and nod. that's a bartender.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

eat this book

new book on my nightstand... it's another book where putting it down, you feel as if you were just having a pleasant conversation with a good friend who knows your thoughts very intimately. she's very comfortable and a lot of her thoughts frighteningly feel like they are straight out of my own head, although i find myself judging her whims at the same time envying her adventures.
anyways i include it on a food blog because the book's first section is all about the goal of finding herself through the pleasures of eating and drinking in italy. it's light on the gastronomy and heavy on the sheer enjoyment of beautiful meals.

Monday, February 26, 2007


i hit the arizona renaissance festival last weekend and it was a complete hoot. there are so many folks that come dressed the part who aren't working there, it's hilarious. while i did not partake in any of the many foodstuffs available on-a-stick, it was a killer day.
fake jousting = WWF on horses with mug of wine instead of plastic cup of beer.
what an interesting community but it makes me wonder just what the scene behind the scenes is really like. i've met actual warlocks and witches - sat right across the dining table from a man who morphed into a demon and back in barely a second... it happened. the whole "goth" thing isn't just black fingernails and skull earrings.
i hope that the renaissance community isn't scary and dark behind ye olde false facades.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

please drive through

phoenix is now about to find out how well their air conditioners in their cars work. or don't work. these drive-past coffee houses are such gems up in the pacific northwest, basic little sheds you could probably buy at lowes with lanes to drive up, grab your joe and go. no frills, the only challenge is to keep track of which punch card to use at which hut.
as i was saying before i was so rudely interrupted...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

heaven on earth

my month of traveling continues this weekend with a magnificent trip up to sedona for a winemaker's event in the verde valley at argueably the most exciting and accessible vineyard in the state. we tasted some incredible wine and cheeses on a beautiful day right on oak creek.

wines: all stunners from page springs cellars, the most down-to-earth experience you'll ever have with a winemaker who is passionately creative with his blends and bottles.
  1. vino del barrio blanco: the red-wine drinkers white wine
  2. vino del barrio red: the red-wine drinkers staple
  3. ECIPS: nicey spicey
  4. 100% granache

cheeses: a great array that included simi fulvi unbriacone, mimolette, petite basque, l'edel de cleron and chaumes.

we also got to see the fermenting vats full of pungent fruit and foam - just fascinating! we tasted the early stages of a white wine (drawn from the bottom to avoid the thick yeasty foam layer at the top). this tasted like sweet pear-grapefruit juice with a mead-y bubbly consistency.

sedona magazine has an article this fall 2006 issue on wineries in the verde valley with lots of great info. check it out.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

vegas, baby!

sorry for the long wait for new post... have been on working trip to las vegas. i was actually kind of dreading it, the slot machine noise drives me batty, the reeking smokey lounges... all pictures in my head of the three and a half days to come as I flew out of Sky Harbor.

boy was i pleasantly surprised at how much I actually enjoyed myself... here's our post-game replay:

*view from ghostbar patio @ top of palms tower

first night: cocktails, hardwood suite @ the palms casino; wine, aureole @ mandalay bay.

hardwood suite: off the hook!!! wow that place is a bachelor's dream (or bachelorette with the right attitude)

aureole: the wine bar at aureole was sooo impressive to look at but a little disappointing to partake at. granted we were there a little late (for des moines standards but not for vegas) but there was NO food whatsoever, the bartender/wine steward finally produced some stale bread for my starving companion who didn't hit the heavy apps at hardwood quite hard enough. he also recommended a pinot noir called ISC, (short for International Sommelier Conspiracy) which is actually produced solely for Charlie Palmer's restaurants. perhaps it wasn't my favorite because it was developed to be specifically paired with Palmer's food, and they didn't serve us any.

second night: dinner & drinks & late-night, ghostbar @ the palms.

*tuxedo strawberry & mousse @ ghostbar

ghostbar is dreamy, the view is exquisite, you are glad to be off the main strip so you can take it all in from the patio there.

dinner was a decent caesar salad "as it should be"; a lame pasta: spinach and pesto just fight each other to the bitter end...; a nice filet, and this dessert (above), a nice light fluffy mousse with typical wedding dessert fare tuxedo strawberry that is hard to mess up.

third night: dinner, okada sushi @ the wynn; late-night, palms lobby bar.

*sablefish @ okada

*beautiful blend @ okada

*tuna tartare tacos @ okada

this dinner was just gorgeous. the wynn is just a cut above in terms of least-gaudy-but-still-tacky vegas decor. had the best uni i've ever had, even though it was not one of anyone's favorite of the selections. the sablefish (above) was marinated in miso and wonderfully sweet, probably the highlight. I wasn't impressed with the satay meatballs, there was something missing, like... spice or flavor or something essential like that. most of the sashimi was divine, I love toro! this wine was lovely too: le mistral 2003. this place was our back up to nobu, and I think it filled in just fine.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

stop that cheese!

sorry to keep loading this blog up with cheese stories but i wanted to update a previous post with some new information to explain why something i tasted at a local restaurant was not at its best... to be fair it's not the restaurant's fault, it's the FDA...

new food and dining site being launched called has shed some light on the problem of the epoisses cheese i tasted a few weeks ago... this little culinary item seems to be the world's most wanted...

finding this cheese in europe, it would only be aged about 30 days, and the american FDA has actually banned any sale of this stuff before it's aged 60 days.

"Young raw-milk cheeses are illegal in the United States because they are swimming with bacteria that—theoretically, anyway—can make you sick or even kill you. Listeria is the primary offender, but health officials also fret about E. coli and salmonella. Of course, it’s these very bacteria—and the gooey conditions in which they thrive—that constitute the soul of transcendent cheese. “Cheese is a natural, living animal,” says Joe Manacusso, the cheese buyer for Citarella in New York City. “It shouldn’t be treated with heat and plastic the way it is in this country. That compromises the product. Yes, there is a small factor of contamination from raw-milk cheeses, but the French have been eating this way for hundreds of years without much consequence.”

so this explains the umm, ewww's that emanated from our table that night at Cheuvront... given the extra long aging process to save us all from ourselves and our own palattes, the shipping time from wherever this variation had to come from, no wonder i said it must have been past its prime...

illegal cheese at

Thursday, August 31, 2006

$12.00 jam, revisited

what's in my fridge? 08/31/06

so there is no lavender nor pomegranates in this sorry excuse for a foodie fridge. the contents of my ice box are so random because i have usually had to purchase strange things to diversify other items that i'm photographing... the fancy cheeses sitting next to canned tomatoes, the $12.00 blood orange jam in a small jar peeking out from behind a can of light beer (which isn't mine i swear.) but that is the methode to my strange stockpiling...

aaron, your coors light is still there waitin for ya.
mark, your fat tires are going flat.

all those vegetables - a little too ambitious a purchase on my part... i keep forgetting to take them with me to work, so i end up grazing on fig newtons or leftovers from when other people get to go out to lunch and i don't.

right in the middle shelf there is a delightful cheese, a big improvement on the last one i tasted, this one is called harlech, and it is a creamy Welsh cheddar made with horseradish and parsley. (add a little mustard seed and pepper stoli and it sounds like we're getting close to a good bloody mary, but i get distracted... ) harlech is a whitish 'mature' cheddar, perfectly crumbly with a mild snap but no deep breath to it like a goat or feta. the parsely gives it a great texture too; as, like a bloody mary or a soup, it's always better when you have to chew it. this cheese would be wonderful with a good medium rare burger or would give a great zip melted over fries... or pair it with a pint of boddingtons. i found this cheese at safeway, by the way...

Monday, August 28, 2006

future infusion

lavender is the new pomegranate.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

malodorous memories

epoisses de bourgogne - cheuvront wine & cheese

there are some tastes and smells that haunt me. driving 18 hours straight every summer from virginia to grandma's in chicago we invariably passed through that gem of a 'burg that is gary, indiana. whatever they're making there you smell the haunting gas/garbage odor in the car with the windows rolled up. it's definitely not louisiana, paris, france, new york or rome...

i worked for outward bound for two summers driving teenages who had not showered over the course of a 16 day backpacking trip in a two door mini-pickup truck - with my head out the window - and i still could not escape the smell of rotting fruit that poured off these poor pubescents.

i now have another malodorous memory to contend with.

Époisses is a pungent unpasteurized cows-milk cheese. it's washed in brandy with a distinctive soft red-orange colour.

it's so smelly it is actually banned from being carried on the paris metro.

i don't know how to describe the smell without using the word 'funk' in one form or another. i believe the sample we got was actually past its prime, as it was quite runny, and the silence around the table was only broken by occasional um, ewww's. it felt like my entire mouth was coated with butter made from armpit funk. (see?) it completely enveloped my mouth, nostrils and even ears, and, 21 hours later, it can still make me and my fellow diners shudder.

cheuvront serves tasting menus of three different wines, paired with three small samples of cheeses. this epoisses was served on a zinfandel tasting menu which was not quite hearty enough to wash the taste out away no matter how many refills.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

great grape: angeline pinot noir

i used to overcompensate for being self-conscious in social situations. to make my mark, i would try to assert my ability to hold my own by ordering bad-ass drinks like makers on the rocks and smoking cigars with all the boys. that would actually apply to wines too... only the biggest, spiciest, heftiest reds imaginable will do. after too many sick/fuzzy evenings and too much drambouie (neat) i have finally come to a place where i know that i am a bad-ass and i don't have to really flaunt it. it's just there, and true, and neat. now i know that subtlety is a gift, a makers mark should be shaken not stirred (no fruit in my manhattan, though, thank you very much), drambouie should just stay on the shelf (chilled irish mist trumps) and pinot noir is not just lame, watered down merlot.

i'm not going to reinvent the wheel by rehashing what the website says this wine tastes like... i'll just say it is delicious, and it's on the by-the-glass menu at tarbell's. and it's not wimpy or self-conscious. don't call it 'noir' for nothing....

Saturday, August 12, 2006

dishwatching: ginger snap

C H E L S E A' S K I T C H E N

Tuna Tartar and Guacamole Dip .......................................................................14
Ultra fresh blue fin tuna with shredded radish and soy lemon vinaigrette. tortilla chips.

wine pairing: angeline dry creek zinfandel ....................................................9/35

some places are hard to get a handle on - they seem to attract the most diverse clientelle, serve the widest range of menu selections, decorate unassumingly with no real thought... succeeding in somehow pleasing everyone from swank mr.- or mrs.-right-now to little old ladies who lunch, they are strangely comfortable, yet aggravatingly crowded. chelsea's kitchen fits that bill, with a packed parking lot at 11:20 am for button-downs with bluetooth's , and a busting-at-the-seams bar of mostly beautiful people after 8 pm. (or is it 'blueteeth'... whatever -they're idiotic...)

chelsea's, out of all the LGO hospitality exhibitions, takes the bravest (however miniscule) step out and away from the pottery barn catalogue as far as decor goes, although it utilizes the great space that it has poorly, ensuring long waits and dining at a one-foot-wide bar rail that taints the experience to no end.

a recent lunch visit was so tainted, with plates and glasses precariously and precisely arranged on this rail, where sitting at the (admittedly comfortable) leather bar chairs, you knock knees with whomever is seated across from you. just made the sauce served on the Howie burger even more tasteless than it was, and my medium rare burger had no pink to begin with, even less so when i had to drench the thing with mustard to give it any flavor other than too sweet carmelized onions. typically their medium rare is cooked to tuna steak specs, barely seared on either side. the fries aren't as greasy as wendy's curly fries but chelsea's has recreated the spices exactly, whatever that says. i watched one of the owners do a quick breezethrough which included reaching from the aisle back into the line seemingly to touch the french fries as he was walking by in jeans and a plaid shirt.

an interesting dish, however, is the tuna tartare appetizer. it's only as good as how fresh the tuna can be (way inland) and this fish was as the menu described. you can catch a hint of ginger added to the soy lemon vinaigrette, not normally expected in a guacamole dish. (barrio cafe adds pomegranate seeds to its made-at-tableside guacamole casero for an added sweet/acidic pop.) at chelsea's their asian/mexican fusion combination becomes quite snappy and cooling, balancing off the rich avocado. i only wish that the tortilla chips were a little thicker and heartier - they are kinda thin, causing more than a few breakages when trying to sample the guac and tuna together in one bite.

the soul of the wine...

...sang by night in its bottles: 'dear mankind -
dear and disinherited! break the seal
of scarlet wax that darkens my glass jail,
and I shall bring you light and brotherhood!

how long you labored on the fiery hills
among the needful vines! I know it cost
fanatic toil to make me what I am,
and I shall not be thankless or malign:

I take a potent pleasure when I pour
down the gullet of a workingman,
and how much more I relish burial
in his hot belly than in my cold vaults!

Listen to my music after hours,
the hope that quickens in my throbbing heart;
lean on the table with your sleeves rolled up
and honor me: you will know happiness,

for I shall bring a gleam to your wife's eyes,
a glow of power to your son's wan cheeks
and for this athlete flagging in the race
shall be the oil that strengthens wrestlers' limbs.

into you I will flow, ambrosia brewed
from precious seed the eternal sower cast,
so that the poetry born of our love will grow
and blossom like a flower in his sight!'

Sunday, August 06, 2006

speaking of ink....,,2-2292596_1,00.html

british times reported a company has applied heat sensitive ink to the outside of eggshells calibrated to the correct hard- or soft-boiling cooking temperatures - you buy the dozen with the setting that you want inked on it, and the ink will appear when the temp hits that perfect mark.

not that most brits need any help with their culinary skills - nooooooo...

i'm sure gordon ramsey just sensed a disturbance in the Force.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

exit, stage left

everyone i'm sure has their own opinions on certain food critics. reichl chronicles her shape-shifting stint as the dining critic for the Times, when she donned wigs and took on completely different personalities to try to preserve her anonymity in the cutthroat new york restaurant scene. definitely illustrates the theatre of the 'scene' as she describes becoming these characters, and trying to experience Daniel as one of the bourgeoise.

it really is quite a skill to be able to discern squid ink in a dish, or to recognize that a lamb dish sauce has been thickened with blood.

the language she uses... now i guess it seems eye-rollingly over the top, since any yuppie yahoo now extolls the decadence of truffle oil. see bruni's annoyance at that profulgation...

Saturday, July 29, 2006

red grapes revisited

what's in my fridge? 07/29/06

the sam adams is actually renting space there for a friend's easy access when he works at my building. the grapes are delicious this time of year. that thai paste i use when i make curry coconut chicken once in a blue moon. okay i just outed myself - talked smack about having fancy chef's knives to chop garlic, and there's the jar of pre-minced cloves i bought out of sheer laziness. authenticity, my arse, eh? hee hee.

ave mario

slate magazine recently had an article questioning the "somber" style adopted by gourmet magazine regarding its cover photography.

i think the style is more reverent than depressing... there is such the new 'cult of personality' that suddenly surrounds chefs and all things culinary, thanks to education from public television, beautiful celebrity cookbooks spun off from food network 24/7 and the millions spent on fabulous/not so fabulous new restaurants; there has been a popularizing of once-exotic ingredients and utensils... (i remember being laughed at in college because i actually had a garlic press among my random thrift-store kitchen acoutrements. now i'm press-less but have some really wicked kitchen knives to chop garlic by hand = much more craft and art, right?)

this is one of my shots that i took in my kitchen. is it depressing? good, because i was in a sad mood when i shot it.

but seriously, i think that we're all getting a little too sophisticated for the lame, straight-on, full focus shots above-the-menu at the noodle shop in the mall. (unless you are a certain japanese bistro in scottsdale.)

cooking has become so commercialized, so even wal*mart sells satay skewers (under horrid flourescent lighting i might add)

as chefs get more and more sophisticated, as restaurants spend more and more money decorating their spaces so that the guests enjoy the exact experience the proprietors want to pair with their food and wine, we need to be able to show that reverence and complexity that everyone has given to very basic needs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

waste not want not

an earlier post referenced "the soul of a chef" - i'm finally getting towards the end and came across a stunning passage. thomas keller (see previous post dream dinner) recalls how he once asked his purveyor to send him live rabbits instead of well, parts. he wanted to learn how the freshest food was actually killed and dressed. he relates a startling session with the bunnies, how they screamed louder than the milk pitchers at fair trade coffee at central and portland. (baristas there please reference previous post!!!) but the respect he gained for the food he was creating exponentially increased. his obsession with never wasting anything useable from any item of food...

his head sous chef talks about a stage at a michelin rated french restaurant where he was in charge of cleaning and dressing $11.00/pound produce. where he quickly learned the respect necessary for such a commodity. returning to the states, he treated $2.90/pound asparagus the exact same way, out of respect that he learned for the entire process, the entire goal of beautiful nutrition, the entire goal of doing his best at everything.

eat food that makes you cry when you taste it because it's beautiful. not for convenience... i've driven by THOSE stockyards in texas along the interstate. but the places that actually understand what they do to lives, have respect for them, and use all of the lives that they take with dignity and grace.

the basics of intense gourmet cooking can be directly applied to real life. pay attention to the basics. don't waste what you are given, at any price. clarity trumps complexity. cleanliness is next to alice cooper-ness. take pride in every move, and make every move perfect grace. love what you are creating.

hell hath no fury like a frother scorned


Microfoam is a byproduct of heating milk with a steam wand on an espresso machine. The quality of microfoam is actually a very fine emulsion of denatured milk protein and air, that has little or no visible bubbles. The qualitative opposite of microfoam is macrofoam, which has visibly large bubbles.

this is what cappucino foam should look like. dense, v. small bubbles, and should float a beer bottle cap. it should not burn the crap out of your mouth. the coffee should be thick but smooth and rich.

to make the perfect foam, place more milk than you will need into the pitcher (to ensure you have enough time to make sufficient foam before it all scalds), submerge the steamer wand and turn on the steamer. immediately start moving the pitcher up and down, alternately submerging the the wand and then drawing it back up just under the surface until you hear the sound of the milk foaming. continue bouncing the pitcher, keeping your hands on the outside to feel for the temperature increasing. if it's too hot for you to hold, it's too hot for someone to drink. (duh @$^$%@!) keeping the wand near the surface of the milk creates the thickest, largest amount of foam. as soon as the sound of the wand in the milk starts to change, you have begun to alter the chemical composition of the milk and it's DONE.

a cappucino has more foam than a latte. basic basic basic.

where can a girl find a decent cup of coffee in this town??!! despite caffeine-induced hopes dashed by chain and independent coffee shops alike, after terrible tongue burns from poorly trained baristas who try to save time by leaving the milk for a cappucino under the steamer screaming worse than jodie foster's lambs, while they just push a button to pour shots.... there are a few phoenix establishments that actually know how to make the perfect foam.

  • drip: 7th street & sheridan ... might take a while to get to you because the staff is all so neighborhood and friendly, but with the kicky atmosphere you won't mind hanging around a while.
  • paisley violin: grand avenue ... i'm only bitter because their move last year put them outside of stumbling distance from my house.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

best of: burgers

best cheap burger in arizona:

bear wallow cafe in alpine

the meat is so tender it seems like you could actually use a spoon to eat this sandwich. comes standard with mayo packets, and with what are probably the soggiest fries in arizona.

bear wallow cafe
Hwy 180 - South side
Alpine, AZ 85920
right at intersection of 191 and 180 in alpine
the best gig in town for breakfast, lunch or dinner

right next to great little stayover spot: alpine cabins

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

restaurant quantum mechanics

why do we love to go out to eat? what is the romance the draw the beauty of a menu, where one can walk into a room, ask for a certain thing on a list, and expect to receive that thing... as described... as expected?

quantum mechanics and chaos theory ... divorce rate and throw-away consumerism.

where else can i go these days, and feel reassured that something i'm told is going to be a certain way actually exists in physical reality? the news media?

i think this might explain why people get so incredibly upset when they go to a restaurant and things are not up to par... we want to escape to a place where things are perfectly done and where we feel important... almost magicians... we ask AND we receive.

if i go to this restaurant, i get reality reassured to me in multiple ways:

  1. description, decor: does it look the way i've been led to believe? wow, actually yes.
  2. menu: is the cuisine similar to what i've been led to believe?
  3. actual dish: does my plate actually represent what i've been told to expect?
  4. service: someone will take care of me... better odds than family these days.

this is also great proponent for the CMC.. the Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America... because doing things in an actually universal way is somewhat comforting today. relativity, morality-wise, has destroyed a lot of this world's spirits and drives, but the culinary world will have an actual standard to strive for and acheive.

the only string theory i want to wrap my head around is the perfect al dente tagliatelli wrapped around my fork.

(why have we no Einstein today, but we do have a Thomas Keller?)


glassware is absolutely key to the 'biz. a martini is basically a frou-frou way of asking for a shot of hooch, put it in a "i 'heart' st. petersburg" shot glass, and it's a shot of vodka. but you put it in that angular tall stemmed glass with some bleu cheese stuffed olives, shakey shakey, and suddenly it is ab-fab rather than just a crap shot of skyy. martini glasses also make for ultrafancy dessert dishes; i've seen lots of chefs try to extend the martini glass's use into appetizer-land, but ceviche pressed up against clear glass just looks like green tinged brains, so don't do it.

wine glasses are just as important as martinis, and the stem-less trend might work in little italy and be called au-ten-tik, and it would totally work if you're serving the 5.99-er but if you actually are buying a $100+ dollar bottle of wine, and you know what it's supposed to taste like, and want to actually taste it that way, ask for different glasses if you're served stemless from some hip-dip lounge... the heat from your hand will actually affect the temperature of the wine, and if the restaurant's "cellar" is worth it's salt, the thousands they spent on it is worthless if first-daters' sweaty palms make all their wine mulled.

there is a reason for all these different shapes and sizes of glasses... champagne flutes encourage all those bubbles that get you messed up faster on new years and turn the night into "amateur night"... (will tirade on those nights on a later post... )

beer steins with handles... not as chic to look at, but in the arizona heat, when someone invariably wants to sit on a patio, their fingers won't heat up the suds as fast. our hands are 98 degrees on the inside... beer is really good at 45 degrees... do the math. those steins on "cheers" are not just nostalgically pleasant.

the forms of things make things taste different. that is a given in cooking, otherwise we could just eat a piece of pig cut straight off the hog. beverage culinary arts are just as important, and your favorite bartender (and bar manager) need to know that the appeal of alcohol is, at higher pricelines, not solely the fuzzy factor, but the actual culinary factor as well.

and make those martini glasses make it really pretty too.