Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

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

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. :)

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

Life's too short to eat bad food -