Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Return to Sender

I'm not sure how how to describe Fred Rzemek's place in our lives. I was one of his lawyers, as was Trish. He's the one who talked me into entering into a culinary career, and I was the opening Chef at his late, lamented Fredi in Clarence Center.

Mostly though, he and his wife Maggie are good friends. We enjoy the company at quite gatherings, as well as their well received parties. They make it easy for us - the girls are the only kids ever invited.

When invited I usually do something fun or fancy. When we were invited to an Inauguration party I started thinking on those lines, but when I asked what I could bring and his answer was bread a lot of bread, I was a bit confused. The problem was that we didn't get our invite (it's 14051, not Tonawanda's 14150).

The party had a theme - let's party like it's 1929 - It was a 30's Soup Kitchen, with all variety of homemade soups: Scottish Barley Broth, Potato Leek, Tomato, Borscht and more. All were delicious!

I was part of the Bread Line. I made three: a couple of straight dough, two-day ferment baguettes; a sourdough Banneton loaf and a rustic country boule that I refer to as a Horta.

Good friends, lots of food and wine, and another peaceful transition of power. It doesn't get much better than this!

Oh and please note the Barack Obama Inaugural Commemoritive Soap (their idea)!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Things not to eat!

There are few things I won't eat - but I think I will add Blowfish Testicles to the list. . . .

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!

Happy Robbie Burns Week, Y'all. I do a pan Haggis - I could have stuffed it in a hog casing, but this works well for us. It is great sliced and pan fried with eggs for breakfast!

I leave you with the Selkirk Grace!

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Ur-Pizza

There is an seemingly infinite variety of pizza toppings. Our favorite local pizzeria has 20 choices, from the basics to things that are better choices as a veg side. Heck, overseas you can get things like squid, tuna and sweet corn or perhaps you'd like lamb and pickled ginger.

Once I approached puberty, and got over mere cheese and pepperoni, I would load up my pizza with the House "everything" special. It was usually just the basics in some combination - the pizzeria's version of an assorted sub. As I have grown, I have learned that that is too much. I now limit myself two or three choices (anchovies are not a choice - they are a requirement, preferably salt packed).

So basically, I still like just about anything on my pie. I am not overly picky, though I am not particularly fond of the so-called Hawaiian Pizza. The taste just doesn't thrill me. Plus, for authenticity's sake it should be Spam, not ham. It causes my parents great distress when I say "I don't care, just order it and I'll eat it." But then it takes them two hours to order a pizza in any case. Sure, there are some toppings I am fonder of than others. But, I do draw the line at calling something a pizza that is better called a flatbread with toppings.

The Buffalo News had an article last week on some local gourmet "pizzas" including the following:

Reuben Pizza: Sauerkraut, corned beef, Thousand Island Dressing.
Chicken Liver Pizza: Grated mild cheese, Caramelized onions, sauteed chicken livers.
Thanksgiving Pizza: Gravy, sliced cooked turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce.

They may be good, but they are not pizza - even if they made Wolfgang Puck famous!. It may be arbitrary, but for me a pizza must have two ingredients: cheese and some type of tomato product. Without those, it is not a pizza to me. Yes, this unscientific distinction rules out what many to be the first true pizza - the Pizza Marinara, but it leaves as the first pizza one of the great culinary inventions of the last 200 years, the Pizza Margherita. A simple combination dough, tomatoes cheese and basil, it is great in the oven, and even better on the grill.

I had ordered it when at a restaurant in Hudson, Ohio, and it was quite a good pie, but I didn't expect the girls to gobble up the leftovers.

So at the first opportunity we had I made it for the family two different ways. For both, I used my most basic pizza dough, brushed with some garlic oil. One was made with canned crushed tomatoes, topped with fresh mozzerella and basil, a la Germon and Killeen. The other topped with the best fresh tomatoes I could find at this time of year. Both were great, but I wish my inside pot of basil was more fruitful this Winter.

My basic Pizza Dough!

-- Metric --
5 grams yeast
410 grams flour, bread
12 grams Salt
14 grams olive oil
240 grams water, lukewarm or more, if necessary

Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a Food Processor. Start the processor and add the oil and water to the dry ingredients. If the dough hasn't formed into a ball in about 30 second add more water in SMALL increments, until it does. Do not over process. The result should be a slightly tacky dough

Place the dough on a flowered surface and kneed a few minutes until the dough is silky, then place in an oiled bowl and coat on all sides. Cover (top, damp towel, plastic wrap) and let rise until doubled in bulk. Form into pizza round(s).

Yields on large, or two small Pizzas.

Standard Measures

3 cups bread flour
1 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbl olive oil
1 cup warm water or more, if necessary

Yields: 16 Servings

notes: At this time the dough can be frozen in an oiled freezer bag for future use, or, for even greater convenience, formed into rounds and baked in a 400ยบ oven for 10 minutes and saved as ready to bake Pizza Shells.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Faux Gras

First they want to start calling fish Sea Kittens. Now this tidbit appears in today's BuffNews:

The humane organization PETA International has just announced a Fine Faux Foie Gras Challenge to professional chefs, asking them to produce an original, purely vegetarian product that is comparable in taste and texture to the real glob of prized goose fat that many diners love.

Yeah, thats a challenge I'll take up. The recipe will start with: Take three live sea kittens and place in boiling, salted water . . .

Thursday, January 15, 2009


November 25, 1920 – January 14, 2009 Revenge is a dish best served cold.

March 19, 1928 – January 13, 2009. He finally escaped!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Children of the Corn II

In a December 10 op-ed, Nicholas Kristof, whose reporting on Darfur is a must read, turned his attention to the Department of Agriculture. In his opinion, it should be renamed the "Department of Food". Doing so would indicate a change in focus from the mere production of agricultural products, to a focus on what we eat.

Renaming the department would signal that Mr. Obama seeks to move away from a bankrupt structure of factory farming that squanders energy, exacerbates climate change and makes Americans unhealthy — all while costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

The nature of our farm policy in this country has been disgraceful since the days of Earl Butz and the rise of agribusiness as basis of the Prime Directive of said policies. It focuses on mere production rather than what is best for our diet, or our country. We have fence-to-fence monocultures of crops, payments to millionaires for not growing crops about their McMansions (aka "Cowboy Starter Kits") and qualifying for disaster relief after the Columbia shuttle exploded overhead. We have New York journalists being paid not to grow crops on land the breadth of the country away.

But the worst is our corn policy, which includes low cost food of dubious nutritional value, sweeteners that are addicting, and production of corn ethanol at no environmental or energy gain, and an overall waste addiction to petroleum in general.

Many were encouraged to hear of President-elect Obama's familiarity with the work of Michael Pollan, and hoped a new day had arrived.

Of course, then Mr. Obama named Gov. Tom Vilsack to be the next SecAg. I found Mr. Vilsack intriguing during his short run for president, his record on agriculture is spotty on CAFO's, and while he looks at ethanol from non-food sources, corn is still king. After all he was Governor of Iowa the lagest producer of corn in the nation.
But at least there is congressional oversight. The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee is Tom Harkin of , oh, Iowa. Well the House Agriculture Committee is chaired by Collin Peterson of Minnesota, which is only the forth largest producer of corn in the country. It's the fox in the henhouse.

In the meantime, the President of the Corn Refiners Association wrote this to the Buffalo News:

Criticism of high fructose corn syrup is unfounded The Dec. 27 letter, “Instituting ‘soda tax’ will aid public health,” may mislead consumers about high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup, sugar and several fruit juices are all nutritionally the same. High fructose corn syrup has the same number of calories as sugar and is handled similarly by the body. The American Medical Association in June 2008 helped put to rest misunderstandings about this sweetener and obesity, stating that “high fructose syrup does not appear to contribute to obesity more than other caloric sweeteners.” Even former critics of high fructose corn syrup dispel long-held myths and distance themselves from earlier speculation about the sweetener’s link to obesity as the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition releases its 2008 Vol. 88 supplement’s comprehensive scientific review. In 1983, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration formally listed high fructose corn syrup as safe for use in food and reaffirmed that decision in 1996. Consumers can see the latest research atwww.HFCSfacts.comand Audrae Erickson President Corn Refiners Association

I wrote a response which hasn't been printed:

A recent letter from the Corn Refiners Association, as well as their recent ad campaign, seem to be rebutting an argument about High Fructose Corn Syrup that is not being made. The issue with HFCS is not that it is different from other sugars per se, either as a sweetener or as a contributing factor (among others) to Childhood Obesity or Type 2 Diabetes. Rather, the issue is that the cost of HFCS is kept artificially low to a point - according to the USDA - less than half of the cost of refined table sugar. It is kept artificially low based on misguided corn subsidies and paid for by our taxes.

As a direct result of the subsidies, products made with HFCS are also priced artificially low. Further, cheap HFCS has allowed it to become insidious, appearing in foods you would not expect to find it - have you checked your kid's bread lately?

While I am a big fan of choice in food, there is no question that our children consume way to much sugar in whatever form. I just don't think we should be using tax dollars to be enablers of this “habit”.

Only one politician has stood up to big corn, and he is fictional. Life (and corn) goes on!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year's With Good Friends - And Good Food

Yes. We spend New Years in Cleveland of late. Every year I hear the refrain: Cleveland - why Cleveland? OK, Cleveland is not what you think. And living in Buffalo, we have an inferiority complex too, even with Cleveland. It's as simple as the fact that they are "The Mistake on the Lake" and we are only "The Mistake on the Lake - North Campus".


Consider -

We have a great Chef named Mike (Andrzejewski) who has cooked at the Beard House, but they have an Iron Chef named Mike (Symon)

We have a great food writer in Andrew Galarneau, but they have the nationally famous food writer Michael Ruhlman.

We have the decaying Broadway Market, which was never what I had hoped for, they have the vibrant West Side Market - the kind I want.

We lost four straight Super Bowls, and they have never lost one. (OK, that's a gag. They have never been in one!)

The bottom line is that just as there is more to Buffalo than its rep, there is more to Cleveland's than its rep. And much to enjoy in both.


The Third Circle of Hell would be filled with laughter if these friends were with us.


I don't live in Buffalo (East Amherst) and they live in Hudson, an exurb of both Cleveland and Akron. It has a downtown area filled with restaurants like Vue and Downtown 140, and shops like Heather's Heat.

Now I'd love to show you photos of our first night dinner, Susan's cover of the Petto Di Pollo Alla Domiziano from Stino da Napoli in Rocky River, but I forgot my camera.

Lunch New Year's Day was in Hudson at the Tomato Grill, good food, casual atmsphere, and kid friendly. Absolute proof that you can travel without eating at chains! You can see how much the girls hated it!

I went for the Pizza Margarita.
Brian and Susan went for for The Chicken Saltimbocca, Trish for Chicken D'Agnese. I wish I had a photo of Ellie's Ravioli, but she was done before I could aim the camera. wink

Even our server got into the food photos. Caption suggestions are welcome!

Along with a variety of sparkling wines, dinner began with some aps including a Galantine like I made last year before Trish got sick (more on that soon!). Dinner was Strip Steaks, Mashers and Salad - and lots of wine!

No better way to launch a New Year!

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -