Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

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

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sunday Brunch

One of those weird things.  Early last Sunday morning (way to early - an insomniac night) I read a post from a friend, cook and restaurateur that he was suspending brunch service until March.  That is sad - it's a bottom line boost.  Despite my own concerns (not to mention Bourdain's), about brunch in general, I am sure Steven knocks his out of the park.

But, despite my promise that on our next available "date" Trish and I will dine at Europa, brunch is not likely.

Sunday mornings are sacrosanct and almost ritualistic in nature. At eight the Today Show comes on.  Alison climbs the counter to get our special plates, assigned by design to each of us. Trish picks her off the counter and dances with her singing " A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes".  Trish cuts the bagels, I slice the onion (preferably red but plain yellow works fine).  After the local weather, the toasters get activated and I make the mimosas.  The kids Tang is ready.

Ellie gets a blueberry bagel - she doesn't do lox.  She takes about 2 hours to Spackle the cream cheese on.  The rest of us do everything bagels.  Alison takes a whole one - butter on one side cream cheese on the other - disgusting, but better since she stopped dunking it in orange juice.  Trish and I do it pretty much the same way, except I do capers. They are whole if we make them, open-faced if they are from Bagel Jay's

We toast: Cheers to new life and Bon Appétit. We added "and so it goes" after Vonnegut died, but have lost it.

9:00 if it's Sunday, It's Meet the Press.  10 another Mimosa and This Week.  We switch to Face the Nation at 10:30. PBS at 11 - we like Meacham and Stewart, but they don't hold our attention as much as Moyers, so we usually go up and Trish cuts my hair.

The we get on with the day.

So, Steven I wish you good luck when brunch resumes, and we will get there for dinner, but we just really enjoy this quality family "alone time".

And we giggle.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I would not eat green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am - Dr. Suess
I grew up a Kosher home.  The first time I had a cured pork product at a classmate and neighbor's home.  It was bad baloney on white bread with mayo.  Served with milk.  I wanted to vomit, but I was nice.

It wasn't until my mother passed and we stopped being Kosher that I learned how bacon and eggs taste (and the bacon doesn't taste that way anymore - what do you think?).

My admiration for cured pork grew as quality improved and imports increased, but I have become a firm believer that the best is done yourself.  I wrote of the first attempt at a home brined and smoked ham earlier.  This one may have been better.  When you put the ham in a sandwich you taste the ham, not just the mustard.

It is worth the effort and I got a big bone and trimmings for pea soup!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Frère Jacques

In February of 1981 I prepared a dinner to impress a red-headed nursing student from Bowling Green.  Her roommate (my law school classmate) and her boyfriend were there as well.  The dinner was not a disaster, but the soup was. (We still dated a year and a half).

It was then I decided I needed to learn to really cook, a journey I continue on today.  I went to a local used bookstore and asked not for cookbooks, but books that would teach me to cook.  She sold me Vol. 1 and 2 of Mastering and La Technique by Jacques.  I didn't cook through them a la Julie and Julia, but boy did I practice and learn.

Jacques and Julia taught me that you can disagree over cooking without being disagreeable.  Jacques and Claudine gave me ideas of how to cook with my kids. Jacques, himself, continues to inspire me.

Jacques is 75 today.  Celebrate with me!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

This is a test

Just trying out an app!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Life's too short to eat bad food

I am sorry.  This is still too high, but we cannot get the government to create one agency to supervise our food supply and give them the powers to enforce.  Ultimately the blame lies with us for accepting crap on our plates.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A new local find.

I love discovering local places like The Village Smokehouse in Orchard Park.  A small local niche business using excellent ingredients and giving one a choice over generic supermarket choices, or niche specialty items.  Found them when picking up some sheet music for Beezil.

I do my own smoking, and it's a haul from here, but I'll do what I can to support then.

No website or Face book page yet. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Food Wars: Episode V - The Monster Thickburger Strikes Back

If you're afraid of butter, use cream. - Julia Child
This is an interesting article in the WaPo about how the food "wars" have become part of the broader culture wars.  One side can can come off as condescending.  The other as ignoring reality.  Julia Child berated the "Food Police", decrying those who suggested using "healthier" and foul tasting substitutes for the real thing.   She enjoyed the occasional In-N-Out Burger and McVomit's fries until they stopped using lard as the frying medium.  But I cannot even imagine her making a political statement defending the KFC Double Down as food.

My personal motto, noted above, is "Life's to short to eat bad food". This does not imply avoiding foods that are technically bad for me. Give me a fat laden Mangalitsa rib chop or an occasional Ted's Hot Dog. I like diner food. They make me happy.

It refers to food that is just bad. Engineered.  Mostly it refers to the crap served at national chains.  Why would anyone go to Olive Garden for cookie cutter pasta when we have so many locally owned "Spaghetti Houses" with better food and better value.

It's OK to splurge on food that is bad for you if it tasty and well prepared.  However I revere the words of James Hilton in Lost Horizon: "I would say it was "moderation". It's the virtue of avoiding excesses of every kind... including the excess of virtue itself".


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cooking or Death - The First Loaf

Beezil made her first loaf of bread this weekend.  I love watching these kids cook!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Situation Normal All Fraked Up

I have written about this before. We need to completely overhaul the way our government oversees our food supply.  Congress passed legislation which, while minor, is a step in the right direction.  The House passed a bill, and then over the strong objections of Sen. Tom Coburn the Senate passed a bill. But they added a provision not in the House in a way that violates the Constitution. They frakked it up. Now they start again.

Oy.  I am going to beat my head against the wall.

In The News Again

This time on on food and nutrition. Look for more in my piece in Buffalo Rising to be posted soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New Rules

I don't recommend nonstick pans for most preparations. - Michael Symon

I like Michael Symon.  I cannot wait to go to Lola on one our biannual visits to Cleveland.  I recently read through his new cookbook and enjoyed it a lot.  The above quote is from it.
So why is he now shilling for nonstick cookware?  I just saw his ad on TV. I do not begrudge any cook for making extra money, and the quote is not unqualified, but it feels wrong.

New Rule: a cook should not recommend any kitchen item that is not used most of the time!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Last Fruits of Summer

This is the saddest time of year.  The peppers remaining had to be picked this week.  It always presents a challenge though - hot sauce, salsa, something else?

You tell me!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Local Heros

Did you cook my rabbit?- Mac MacIntyre
There has long been a developing of trend of cooks doing what they can to feature locally raised food.  I would credit Alice Waters with bringing it to America's attention, but I am sure that there were precursors.

It is certainly not easy to do it here in the northeast.  A short growing season to start with. Seafood is flown in or frozen, though I would like to see more pickerel on local menus. A restaurant needs to be canny to make use of local products.  Take meats, for instance.  As Jim Guarino of Shango pointed out at a Farmer/Chef conference last winter local producers cannot supply things like say a T-bone on a regular basis.

But a lot of cooks are making the effort to try their best to still utilize local stuff.  Sometimes as a special when available.  They have also been curing things - a little bit of really good dry cured ham goes a long way as an app or ingredient.

Wild Russian Boar is not native to Western NY, but like all "heirloom" piggies, good souls (and apparently brave souls) like Rich Tilyou of T-Meadow Farms , the place that brought us some of those lovely hams people are curing, acquired some and made them available to local restaurateurs.

So, when two restaurants we have been dying to visit were featuring it, and we were surprised by a chance for a "date", we jumped at it.  The choice of which one would have been tough, but for the fact that one would have kept us away from the construction at the I-190/290 interchange and on the Grand Island Bridges and that the Chef at that Restaurant has done everything but get down on his knees and beg me to come in with Trish so he can show off.

Steven Gedra of Bistro Europa is hot cook, and the kind of friend who offers the gift of meat when you stop in to say hi (cured pork usually) and you do the same in return. But, in a bizarre twist the same night we had a rare date, Steven had rare night out of the restaurant.  With apologies to Bruce and the rest of the crew, I wasn't going without the Gedra.

That meant going to Lewiston, freaking out at the traffic delays and arriving 15 minutes late for our res - something I HATE to do.  It was worth it.

First there is something going on on Center Street that we liked.  It reminded us of Niagara-on-the-Lake when we liked it and Honeymooned there. There is the Little Yellow Chocolate House a sweet shop and ice cream parlor.  An olive oil emporium called D’Avolio which was discussed in the BuffNews a week ago Wednesday. A bunch of restaurants from pubs to fine dining, including Carmelo's our destination.

I think I may have briefly met Carmelo Raimondi at the Farmer/Chef conference last January, but I really have wanted to go to his restaurant for a while (like Steven, Carmelo lists his local producers on the menu).  We even overcame our fear of Niagara County water.

There are some basic indicators of a good fine dining experience.  One is the amuse - the pre-app - the thing put on your table before you even get to peruse menu. The baseline is a boring bread and bland butter offering. I have had some amazing ones, but I don't need them. All I want is a step above B & B to show that some thought has gone into it - a compound butter, the bruschettas we did at DACC's, seasoned olive oil.  It doesn't matter.

Here it was a good bread served with EVOO (damn you RayRay) and an Italian celery based relish whose name I have forgotten (though I am sure it's in one of my Italian Cookbooks). Perfect.

Another is those little things a kitchen can do to show you are not an imposition.  Trish and I are not appetizer people, unless we are making a meal of them, but the beet salad on the menu just sounded seasonal and good. We asked to split it and would have been happy to have a plate placed between us.  When the server came back (and she was good) it was with two perfectly arranged plates with a half order on each. Nice touch.

Of course one must deal with with the entrees.  Trish had the Squid Ink Tagliatelle. It was lovely. It is so easy to overcook small seafood.  I, of course, had the boar off the specials menu (below). I had been prepared for some gaminess, but there was none - only a rich porky flavor. Anyone who has ever dined with me knows how little I eat.  I can live for a week on the leftovers.  There was barely a morsel left on the plate.

The bottom line is that we are never going to get to 100% local, but when you can support a Chef who thinks local and puts on a good feed it's worthwhile. We will be back.  With friends.

Don't worry Gedra, the next time the the Moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, Europa is top of the list.

PS.  Carmelo, if you read this, my 11 year old daughter, who is becoming a good cook, would like lessons in making your panna cotta :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Soup of the Day

"No soup for you!" the Soup Nazi
 So, this started of as an offhand comment to Elissa Altman, a food writer at such places a Saveur, the HuffPost and her own blog Poor Man's Feast. Now I have never met her, though I hope to some day, but when she put a call out to find a way to comfort her partner Susan who was suffering from a cold I jumped in.  My suggestion was Tom Yum Goong, part of why I am married, and something I was planning to make that night (author's note - I wasn't able to do it until last night - wonderful with a nice Torrontes).

Elissa took the idea, and was even kind enough to acknowledge it, but then she got sick too and posted this piece on comfort soups.  I hope you are feeling better, Elissa, and that chicken soup recipe sounds remarkably like my own grandmother's, but this discussion made me think of a top five list of me favorite soups.  After all, the term restaurant comes from a soup that restores. Google the name Boulanger.

So, here they are:

5. Barley Broth (aka Scottish Broth). If you want a hearty soup for a cold winter night, this is a hearty choice. Lamb, peas, barley, cabbage, and root vegetables, thickened slightly by the barley. This is truly a restaurer. Eaten with a dense crusty loaf of say oat bread it's a complete meal.

4. Onion Soup Gratinee (aka French Onion Soup). This is a perfect example of simple peasant austarity. Broth from simmered meats, stale bread, cheese and onions stored for the winter.  Yum. Hints: saute the onions low and slow and let them caramelize naturally. Don't buy $19 a pound Gruyere no matter who tells you.  I love Gruyere, but it's lost here.  My favorite is Jarlsberg. This is one of the two soups on the list that suffer from bad restaurant versions.  Soup base and cheap cheese don't do it.

3. Hot and Sour Soup.  This is the second soup butchered too often by bad restaurants. It should be prepared gently, with the best ingredients.  When thus prepared it is an awesome experience. When not - it's liquid snot. When it's done right it's heaven.

2. Tom Yung Goong.  More heavenly than Hot and Sour, this is a soup that brought my wife and I together. It is a perfect balance of hot, sour salty and sweet with the punch of umami. Laced with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and mushrooms, Thai basil and mint, I don't care what seafood or protein is in there. I just want slurp the wonderful broth.  It should be number one on my list, but it cannot because:

1. Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls.  I am Jewish.  I have no choice.  But, I really love it.  I usually take care of the broth, and Trish takes care of the kneidlach using David Rosengarten's seltzer recipe.  But my Mom has taken to buying a chicken soup mix, and tossing out the soup part and just making the matzoh balls. They are not bad.

When I am sick the Jewish Penicillin always works - as do the others - what works for you?

Hope you are better Elissa!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nomeclature IV

What a kid I got, I told him about the birds and the bees and he told me about the butcher and my wife. - Rodney Dangerfield

As people begin to get used to buying locally, they will be in for a surprise when it comes to meats.  We don't have the butchers.  I am not talking about the few remaining independent butchers that will still stick their elbows on the counter and give you advice on how to cook that hunk of meat you just bought.  I am talking about the kind of USDA approved places that will slaughter the beast and fabricate the carcass in to recognizable parts.

The problem is they have forgotten how to be butchers, seemingly limited by only getting to deal with venison. I have split a delicious pig with a friend for the last couple years.  But I don't want sausage.  I don't even want ground pork.  I want bones in my chops.  I want to specify the cuts.  I got hocks which I will be smoking next week, and some neck bones I used to make a rich gelatinous stock.  I want my skin, my trotters, my head.  I bought a half a pig and I want half a pig. (And I can't help thinking that the butcher is reselling the parts I don't get.) I have considered asking for the whole half, but I have neither the room to store it nor break it down. 

I blame the producers a tiny bit for not anticipating the educated consumer.  I blame consumers for being gullible enough to embrace the skinless - boneless mindset.  I blame the butchers for not being flexible, but now for mislabeling. I have written about this several times before, but identify the part accurately! 

The pork comes frozen and carefully wrapped in butcher paper, labeled with a sharpie. Yes, you can roast any part of a pig, even a whole pig, but certain cuts are better suited to different methods of roasting.  When I thaw a a package labeled "Pork Roast" I anticipate a cut that can be cooked at high heat.  When I peel back the butcher paper and see the unmistakable "7" bone of a shoulder aka butt it pisses me off.  It's one of my favorites - my go to for sausage and pulled pork.  It wasn't what I was planning on in the time frame I had.  It came out tasty but tough.

It's the tasty part that kills me.  Absent the butcher issue, this is food worth paying a bit more for.  That same week, I cured a ham from that piggy in a brine with Grade B Maple Syrup, cold smoked it then roasted it.  I glazed it with some of my jalapeño jelly thinned with  some white wine.  It was delicious.  My wife, who is not a ham fan, called it the best she'd ever had.

Of course, the dilemma now was what to do with leftover ham and roast pork.  Easy call.  Cuban Sandwiches.  Ham and pork, thinly sliced, Swiss (I actually prefer Jarlsberg), and a dash of mayo (sometimes a tad of mustard). I don't own, nor do I want, a pannini press.  A cast iron pan with another on top works fine.

Now if someone could just definitively state: dill pickle, sweet pickle or no pickle . . . .

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Morning Food Porn

Lunch yesterday at Suzy Q's .  Yum Yum!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cold Hearted Orb

Breathe deep the gathering gloom
Watch lights fade from every room
Bedsitter people look back and lament
another Summer's useless energy spent
- Graeme Edge (with a slight modification)
 And thus another summer comes to an end.  Oh. I know it doesn't officially end for a few weeks, but we all know that summer is over Labor Day, especially as a parent.  Tomorrow the pool will be drained and the lifeguards gone.  I will walk a child to the bus stop for the last time.

To make matters worse, shortly after rising I realized that I was having one of my occasional attacks of vertigo. Just casting a cloud over a day too cloudy by any Labor Day standard.  The "cold hearted orb" of the title is supposed to be the moon, not the sun.

But nothing will stop me from my annual Labor Day hot dog.  Not this year.  My second article for Buffalo Rising was on the history of the hot dog based on the differences between Buffalo and Rochester - my two homes.  You can read it here and here.

This year I am going Rochester style.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In Julia's Kitchen

It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it. - Julia Child
If you know me, you know it started with Julia.  My love affair with food and the preparation thereof was described in my very first post in this blog in September 2007.  A few weeks ago I finally got to view the shrine to the life of the Blessed Saint Julia at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Yep.  I got to see her kitchen (and you are dealing with a guy who has Julie and Julia on his iPod!).  It was wonderful to see the tools she used to practice her craft preserved with such care.

But the experience felt sterile.  Since my wife first visited the display they have erected Plexiglas barriers.  Take a look at the last few moments of Julie and Julia - you do have a copy, don't you - it's like a movie theater rope. When we saw the the real Star Spangled Banner that day, and the Founding Documents the next day we expected heavy protective coverings, but this should have been an easier view.

Plus it made photography a pain.  And there were no good chachkies in the gift shop as a momento.

Still, I am glad to have made the pilgrimage.  And I left butter. :-)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Little Help From Your Friends

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm,I get high with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends.

Ok, so I kvetched a few days ago about the "dark side"  of supporting local food producers who want to be Disneyland. There is a bright side too. When we can, we help each other out.

Christa Seychew and I have engaged in a spirited discussion about why we don't have real Mexican here - even street food.  Her question is here.  My response here.

But, then Lloyd came.

Yep, Lloyd - a real taco truck.  A taqueria on wheels opened by two entrepreneurial local cooks to great acclaim.  Long lines, and great reviews from people whose opinions I trust. We planned on going going there with the kids for lunch yesterday.

I mean these guys refurbished the truck, passed Health Department regs, got approval from Buffalo Place (who were worried apparently about whether this would lead to an invasion of Mr. Softee's)

But last week the truck blew it's engine.  Rather than sit idle, people like Christa and the folks a Artisan Kitchens and Bath threw a benefit.  We decided to attend.

I'd like to tell you that the tacos were great. I can't.  I barely tasted them.  It was clear when we got there that they had more visitors than they planned on.  They were "in the weeds". I told Christa I'd volunteer to help, but I really wanted to eat those tacos first.

Then I saw Nelson Starr gloved up and helping out.  Dude, you brought Bourdain to Buffalo.  Leave some of the spotlight for the rest of us!

But I gloved up and spent the rest of the night squeezing out churros.  Trish spent the night tossing them in cinnamon and sugar..  I came home stinking of sweat and frying oil. I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!

Here I am, a few days later, and my hands still ache. Arthritis sucks. I'd do it again tonight though.  Buffalo is the City of Good Neighbors.  And we cooks are a family.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Eat A Peach

We love doing our best to support local food.  Be it cooks, growers, producers or sellers, we like to help out our neighbors in Western New York.  But there is a dark side to this trend.

Let us start with this story. There is a place not far from here where we used to take the kids to pick pumpkins every October.  They got to walk in the fields and find their  perfect pumpkins. There were also some farm animals to watch. As time went by, the pumpkins were pre-picked, and higher priced.  The Corn Maze appeared.  And the gift shop opened.  And we stopped going.

This is the curse. We want the kids to get out in the fields and pick stuff.  Period. I know they need profits, but some of these folks are giving U-pick a bad name.

We went to pick peaches.  It was a bad sign that there was a gift shop. Oh, and an ice cream parlor.  We were provided with baskets, and a wagon and headed to the orchard.  There were big signs pointing to the U-pick area.  We picked.  The peaches looked better on the other non-U-pick side. Tuff nuts, we picked some there too.  I will admit we had some sticker shock at the price of a bushel.

Then we went to pick some berries. Another bad sign - in addition to the large gift shop there was a hamburger/hot dog stand and a mini amusement park with a farm theme, including tricycles painted to look like John Deere tractors.  We paid 25¢ a piece for picking baskets and wandered into the fields.  Lot's of berries in many varieties.  None of them ripe.

I was so pissed that I skipped a planned visit to my friends at Leonard Oakes.  We just went to Krull Park and had a picnic lunch.

Too add insult to injury, my wife stopped at a nearby farm stand for some corn for dinner (the best we've had this season).  They had local peaches picked by someone else at less than half price that we paid to pick our own.

As for pumpkins, we have found a roadside source with what I call a "We Trust You" box for payment.  Can't pick your own, but the price is right.  This year I will ring the doorbell to say thank you, or at least leave a note.

I'd tell you where it is, but I don't want to find a gift shop there!

{queue the Allman Bros.}

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Doe Urine ≠ Econmomic Renaissance Downtown

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  Don't build a Bass Pro at Canal Side - who cares. - Modified by me.
I never got the allure of a Bass Pro.  When I think of an "anchor" to a retail spot, or a key to the revitalization of our City, this doesn't even enter the picture.

Look I have nothing against hunting or fishing.  Some of my fondest memories are the time spent with a family whose annual food budget counted on their take of venison - I loved cooking with it.  They also raised pigs.  Full disclosure, it was also the first time I was ready to ask someone to marry me (it's OK, I am still friends with her and her sister).  It also was the source of one of my favorite stories - the time Ralph wanted Amy to test her sights and drew a deer on a piece of cardboard. She fired and the shot went wide right (appropriate as I was with them on the day of that dark cloud in Buffalo Bills history).  Ralph put a leaf in the hole and had Amy shoot again.  The leaf fell.  She put the bullet through the same hole.  Ralph suggested I be nice to his daughter, as she could take me out one nut at a time. :)

No, my problem is that, as my wife first pointed out, we never saw people running downtown to buy doe urine then dropping a couple of big bills at SeaBar or Hutch's or the dozens of other fine restaurants or businesses downtown.

There is a dynamic that works.  I have been buying herbs and spices at Penzey's for years.  First by mail order, then when they opened in Cleveland. But, they opened this year in Buffalo.  Their presence a couple of doors down caused us to become member/owners of the Lexington Co-op.  A trip to Penzeys/Co-op/Guercio's is now a regular trip.

So here's the thought:  Screw the hard stuff and bring a Lotte/Assi asian market like the one I was at in Northern VA last weekend. Tons of fresh produce.  Live fish in tanks.  Every condiment you can think of.

That would bring me downtown to canal side!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Social Networking

If it's the Psychic Network why do they need a phone number? - Robin Williams
OK, you can love or hate Facebook, and the effect it has on our lives, but it is a network over all. Yes, you can meet old school buddies you have lost touch with, but in the end it is also a network.  A place where people of similar interests, like food, can meet and share ideas.

That is how I met a friend - for the sake of convenience let's call her Christa - who is friends with a lot of my friends in the Buffalo food community.  She is also an ardent supporter of local food and local cooks.  We traded occasional quips and barbs via Facebook, but it wasn't until the Field and Fork network's annual Farmer/Chef  conference (she was an organizer) that we started to get to know each other.

My Comrade in Culinary Catastrophes (we'll call him Fred) called me the day before and asked if I wanted to join him, but a quick scan of the web site showed it was sold out.  So I contactedChrista and offered to coat myself with EV Olive Oil if she could slip me in.  She couldn't, but put me on a wait
 list and within hours I had a slot.

It was enjoyable, and I got to meet Christa and some other new friends, as well as reuniting with old friends.  Lunch initiated some interesting discussions.

Some time after, when Christa put out a call for where to get something, I volunteered my Restaurant Depot account. she had one through Buffalo Rising, where she was working again.

I told her it was a wrong answer.  The correct answer was "yes, I'll use your card, and then we will have lunch at El Canelo", a favorite of both of us.  This prompted her to question why we don't have a "real" Mexican restaurant here.  Her post was here, my response is here.

And we may have a solution here.

Ultimately we did get together at El Canelo - only to find that that location had closed.  So we had an unremarkable meal at a chain. During that meal, she asked if I wouuld like to write for Buffalo Rising.  My first article was on fish sauce.  My second went up today, the first part of a discussion about hot dogs.

So remember, social networking may be social, but it is also networking! 

ETA: I have been advised by this person who calls herself  "Christa" that it was Nickle City Chef that provides her with the membership to Restaurant Depot. :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Congratulations Beezil

My daughter Alison completed her time at Dodge Road Elementary today.  In preparation for the Recognition ceremony, each child has a photo taken to be posted on the Auditorium wall.  They can choose to wear what they want, preferably something that says something about them.  This is my little baker (though she wants to be an archeologist or a veterinarian.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Return Of The Giant Hogweed

Turn and run!
Nothing can stop them,
Around every river and canal their power is growing.
Stamp them out!
We must destroy them,They infiltrate each city with their thick dark warning odour.

They are invincible,
They seem immune to all our herbicidal battering. - Genesis

Back in 1971 I went with a  friend, Kenny Pearsen, to see what we thought was a SciFi movie.  It wasn't. It was a documentary starring Laurence Pressman as a fictional scientist Dr. Damien Hellstrom telling of how trying to kill insects just makes the the survivors stronger. "Ever wonder how David slew Goliath? Like the insect, he wasn't afraid to die".Kind of Darwin meets Nietzsche.

It came to mind last week listening to On Point on NPR.  Here is a link to it - you can get transcripts or podcasts there.

It was a round up of Roundup the miracle herbicide created by Monsanto (and which makes me wish I hadn't enjoyed the Monsanto pavilion at Disneyland for many years). Here's the deal - Roundup is a really good herbicide.  I first discovered it when I got to Law School in Ohio.  It helped me realize that Toledo was not WNY - we don't have TV ads about "Broadleaf Plant Infestations" here in WNY, just fat men yelling HUUUUUGE!

I have a jug in in the garage for the stuff that grows where nothing should grow.  It also kills things you don't want it to - which is why the grape vines grow on only one side of my arbor.

So to make the substance more marketable to farmers Monsanto went on to genetically modify crops - primarily soybeans and corn - that were resistant to Roundup.  Spray your fields, plant your crops and no hacking out weeds by hand.  It had a second benefit for places where tilled soil tended to blow away.  Think Tom Joad.  It allowed a form of farming that required no plowing or tilling.  Perfect, right?


Much like Dr. Hellstrom's warning, some weeds survived - being immune to Roundup.  And they grew fruitful and multiplied.  So now they are talking about dosing our crops with old chemical crap. Or new chemical crap.  When will we realize that keeping food cheap may not be the best policy.

On the plus side, It got me to listen to Nursery Cryme once more.  Always a good thing.  Oh, and as the lyrics suggest, the boys (probably Peter, but maybe Tony) got this in 1971.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mexican Dining in the Nickel City - an open letter to a friend

“If I moved away, I would definitely miss the Mexican food. Every region has its own Mexican food, and they're very chauvinistic -- they believe their food is the real Mexican food.” - Russ Parsons
My friend Christa Glennie Seychew, now back at Buffalo Rising, brought up on Facebook a consideration of the state of Mexican food in Buffalo. I had answers or at least my view, and said I'd respond, but I cannot find the frakkin' post.

So, instead I'll post here, and let her know.

The main premise of her post was that with all the Mexican "themed" places in town, why don't we have a true Mexican restaurant?

Dear Christa, I have two answers.

But first, discount the national chains. They suck. I am not even sure that Taco Hell qualifies as food. Discount Mighty Taco, too. As one who grew to love it in the purple haze of the 70's it is a food group separate and apart. I do not even think Mexican when I consider it - it's a Mighty.

What this leaves are the local places with Margarita specials (often bad ones), cold Corona with a lime, canned Mexican music, and occasionally some hygiene issues. The problem is that they are Tex-Mex - lesser offspring of the places we enjoyed on our trip to San Antonio - places such as Rosario's, Mi Tierra and La Margarita. Frankly, I'd like to have a place like those here, with real breakfast tacos like those at Mi Tierra, the middle one is Lengua. (BTW, when it comes to kitsch, Mi Tierra makes Salvatore's look like rank amateurs!)

So, to my theories. First, I don't think people get Mexican food. If you grew up at Taco Hell and Chi-Chi's you're going expect that kind of mierda . It may be worse here in WNY. One lesson I learned working in local restaurants is never to overestimate the culinary intelligence of local diners. For everyone who dreams of spending special occasions at Sea Bar or Torches, there are dozens who dream of doing the same at Olive Garden or Alice's Kitchen.

This is an area that reveres the fish fry. They think menudo, if they think of it at all, is where Ricky Martin got his start, posole is on the bottom of a poor persons shoe. Try to convince them that corn smut, huitlacoche, is not only edible, but delicious.

The other problem is closely related to overcoming those prejudices - demographics  . Think about it, a Korean, or Indian or Caribbean restaurant can open and do fine because there are no ingrained concepts.  (Japanese is the exception that proves the rule, but that's another post).With Mexican we don't have the population to overcome the Ortega/Taco Hell syndrome.  In fact, even with the Chinese/Chinese American population here we can't overcome the La Choy generation.

But, here's the rub: There is at least one fair Chinese restaurant nearby that when asked by Chinese immigrants to put on a 13 course traditional banquet did so in a phenomenal way!  If we get enough people who want traditional Mexican - even if just a taqueria - we may get one.

In the mean time, Christa, you have two options:

Go to Toronto on a weekend. Perola's Market on Augusta (the west border of Chinatown) does have a taqueria only on weekends - I was clued in by Corey Mintz of the Toronto Star.  It may mean eating standing, but it's worth it. Or:
From Toronto Sat
Get to know me well enough to get an invite to dine here.  I do good Mexican.

Sunday Morning Food Porn

Ming Teh, Ft. Erie, Canada

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Food For Thought

Reminded by Nick Stellino:

Heaven, is where the police are British, the cooks Italian, the mechanics German, the lovers French, and it is all organized by the Swiss. Hell is where the chefs are British, the mechanics French, the lovers Swiss, the police German, and it is all organized by the Italians.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Julie and Julia Night

Julie and Julia night was a great success, but I hurt today. I ain't as young as I once was. The food was well recieved, and very few leftovers. At left are the gougères, or as the girls call them Cheesy Poofs. I love those kids!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Maple Weekend and Earl's

"Food for the body, music for the soul" Earl's Motto
Saturday marked the opening of our Statewide Maple Weekend. So we made or annual journey to some of our WNY Sugar Shacks for a good time and on a quest for our yearly gallon of Grade B syrup, the best on the planet.

We hit Randall's in Alexander, which was fun, and Kirsch's in Varysburg where we scored that gallon of Grade B as well as discovering that they raise Natural Black Angus Beef. We need more producers that do that kind of thing around here. That's a photo of the Sugar Shack with a couple of the giant windmills that dot the landscape along Rte. 77.

The bad news about this part of the trip is that we had so little snow and warmed up so quickly that the trees are budding, which ends the season. Syrup, at least in WNY will be in short supply.

Afterwords we we went to Earl's, a WNY landmark for 54 years. It is known for "pies and fries", drinks served in real handleless mason jars and Country Music. The last is why I have only been there twice.

But, we had promised the kids, and let them down three times before. Once we arrived to find they only took cash, and we had none (they now have an ATM). Once I was ill. The last was when we forgot that restaurants in the southtowns close on Monday?

The burger was ok, and filling (so filling that we skipped dinner), but the fries I used to like were undercooked and cold.

If you want to know what Earl's is like, it's on TVFN at 10 tonight. I know 'cause Earl told every party that came in. Every party!

"Do you'all watch Food TV." We heard it so much that Trish was dissolved in laughter!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Goodbye, Godwulf

After a while I got hungry and went to the kitchen. There was nothing to eat. I drank another beer and looked again, and found half a loaf of whole wheat bread behind the beer in the back of the refrigerator... — Robert B. Parker (Mortal Stakes)

There is a long history of Detectives and food. Now I am not speaking of the caterer turned detective thing, but rather the traditional detective. Sherlock Holmes had Mrs. Hudson bringing him trays of Food. Mrs. Maigret making meals. Miss Marple having tea. Philip Marlowe drinking whiskey, or making coffee without a filter (milk only in the morning). Poirot and Hastings sharing a meal.

The Apex may have been Nero Wolfe, the 300 pound Gourmand who employed Fritz Brenner as his personal chef. I actually have cookbooks based on Maigret and Wolfe.

But to me, it's Spenser. He is a great, intuitive cook, but reading his adventures is also a history of Restaurants in Boston. From the Locke-Ober and the Ritz, to Biba, The East Coast Grill and Blue Ginger.

I just finished The Professional. It will be the last one Robert B. Parker was alive to finish. He died Jan 18. There are more works in the pipeline, but it won't be the same.

Farewell Spenser, and Susan and Hawk and Quirk and Belson and Farrell and Vinnie . . . . .

Very few of my books are about who stole the Maltese Falcon. — Robert B. Parker

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blogorrea Redux

Been really busy lately, so I'll be finishing some things that have been queuing up!

Tuesday Morning Food Porn

Santasiero's Meatball Bomber - Monday, March 15 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fun Food Stuff

"The cow is of the bovine ilk; One end is moo, the other milk."- Ogden Nash
This just kind of explains itself. Just go to this link Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz"and read the reviews. They are a hoot of literary imitations!

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Food Quote of the Week

It isn't often that the Sunday morning shows we watch have food references, but in the past year, Bill Moyers has had at least two. He interviewed Michael Pollan, and this gem came from a discussion about Global Warming and the possibility of ending up in a world as depicted in Richard Fleischer's Soylent Green.

The quote: "I don't want to spoil the ending, but Food and Nutrition labels have been dramatically relaxed."

It's people. Soylent Green is made out of people. They're making our food out of people.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cole Porter

Anything goes in, anything goes out, fish, bananas, old pyjamas, mutton, beef and trout - The Other Cole Porter

Or, as Jesse Jackson might say "If you love to eat, you'll have to excrete". This is a Public Service Announcement. When you hit 50, get the colonoscopy. It took me almost 2 years despite friends and family assuring me that it wasn't that bad. Chad Ward, author of the wonderful "An Edge in the Kitchen" - perhaps the best book on how to deal with knives available - took the time to remind me of Dave Barry's famous column on the topic. Read it again.

It really wasn't that bad. In fact for me it was better than some of those who told me it wasn't that bad. I think it helped that flatulence is second nature to me. Look, as Barry say you either have cancer or pre-cancer, or you don't. If you do early treatment can be a lifesaver. If you don't, you will sleep better.

I know. I'm clean. Plenty of meals left to prepare and eat.

'Nuff said!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


There is no such thing as a Buffalo Wing. Buffalo (Bison bison) are mammals. They don't have wings.

There are just Wings.

They are neither baked, broiled, broasted or roasted. They are not breaded. They are not cajun nor teriyaki nor BBQ. They are not boneless.

There are many legitimate other uses for the chicken wing, but they are not Wings.

Considered to have been created at the Anchor Bar, a mere 20 minutes from here, Wings are Deep Fried and tossed in a sauce of butter and Frank's hot sauce (No Tabasco or Crystal or Texas Pete, etc. allowed). A bit of ketchup may be added - the corn syrup helps the sauce stick.

They are served with celery and or carrot sticks. And Blue Cheese dressing (Ken's was the standard). The best wings were served at Rooties, but it is now gone, with only a satellite in KY remaining. (OK, aside from the fact that I REALLY loved the wings while at UB, it was our regular hangout after we closed down DACC's. And the bartender then was smokingly hot!)

So for the best wings in town, you have to come here -on the one or two days a year I make them!

Monday, January 4, 2010

West Side Story

Today, all day I had the feeling
A miracle would happen
I know now I was right. - Tonight
Well I finally made it to the West Side Market in Cleveland over New Years and it was everything I hoped for and more. I have already written of my hopes for a return of the central market. But I don't see it happening soon.

Aside from seafood, it trumps my beloved Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia (OK it's a seaport - I know).

The variety of offerings was overwhelming. Really. And because I was unprepared, I bought little. But it does prove that a real City market can exist, and the gives me hope.

But, Susan and Brian also introduced me to the existence of Charlie's Gourmet Garlic, right around the corner from them. My supplies include German White, Music and Sussanna Soft Neck. What a hoot! I have just started playing with it!

Cleveland is good for food!

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

Life's too short to eat bad food -