Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

An End Of It

But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. – Anton Ego

It is finally over.

After nearly 40 years as the Restaurant Reviewer/Primary Food Writer/Dunsel for the Buffalo News, Janice Okun is finished. The finale didn’t come easily. The saga seemed to have more false endings than the Return of the King. Her first retirement came in 2009 when the primary food writing duties were turned over to Andrew Galarneau. Andrew, a friend, was denied the title of Food Editor and Ms. Okun retained the reviewing duties.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Latest Mental Floss

In which I wax rhapsodic about stores of Christmas Past.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Waters of Lethe

 Never underestimate the gullibility of the American consumer. - Scotty Harris

They were the Keyboard Gods. These are the words of Dave Weigel in Slate Magazine, in his marvelous five part series on the era of Progressive Rock. In the midst of the pyrotechnic talents of other keyboard players of that era (Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman et al.) Tony Banks was the epitome of restraint. A founding member of my favorite band Genesis, his talent and roots found more subtle expression. He was aptly called “the most tasteful keyboardist of prog rock” by music historian Wayne Studer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jedi Kitchen Tricks

I mean, I thought something for the apartment...maybe a new clock, or a cool phone, or a great art book, or something...but a blender? I mean, what is this? 1958? Give the little wife a blender?! - Father of the Bride - 1991

I have acquired a lot of kitchen equipment over the years (Some twice.)  I am picky about the devices I choose. I was schooled by the Frug and in most cases could pass the Alton Brown unitasker test. I could get by without some of them, but they make life easier.

There is only one I wish had come into my life earlier and that’s the stick blender. Invented in Switzerland in 1950, it didn't start working it's way into our kitchens in the mid 80's. I would have been saved a couple of messes if I had gotten one earlier. That’s what happens when you ignore trustworthy advice and use a standard blender for hot stuff without venting and covering with a towel. That aside, it isn’t easy to get food out of completely. It also can be a pain to clean and keep track of the parts.

Friday, November 2, 2012

That Thing They Du and a Gift of Baijiu

 Never eat Chinese food in Oklahoma - Bryan Miller

This is the story of how I found out you can get good Chinese food in Buffalo.

In the immortal words of my Prof. (later Dean) Phil Closius: stay with me people! This will wander a bit, but I think you enjoy the journey.

When you mention the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, most people’s minds point to Flick getting his tongue stuck to the flagpole, or to Ralphie dropping the F-bomb and getting his mouth washed out with soap. Not to me. To me that quintessential scene is the family dining in a Chinese restaurant after their turkey is devoured by the neighbor’s dog. It proved to all that I hadn’t been lying about what my family did for Christmas.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Best Meal I Ever Had

Uttered upon awaking at 2 am in a freezing hotel room in the Park Plaza in Toronto.
Me: Will you marry me?
Trish: Uh-huh.

This is the story of the best meal I have ever eaten.

Not the most important meal – that was two nights later, a romantic dinner for two at the Hillebrand Winery. The most meaningful meal was the meal I cooked to impress a girl and set me on the path to cooking. My favorite meal is easy, an authentic Chinese banquet with friends which will be the subject of my next post.

I don’t think I could pick “a” memorable meal. There are too many; with family, friends, loves past and present (The Thanksgiving of whipped cream and juggling wine bottles? Cooking in Catskill with mega chopsticks?) I have had a variety of tasty meals. - here and elsewhere - too many to name.

This was the best.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jedi Kitchen Tricks

Alan Stanwyck: You'll be wearing rubber gloves. Do you own rubber gloves?
Fletch: I rent 'em. I have a lease with an option to buy.

I can’t be alone in this.

The first time you handled a chilli (in my case it was when I still spelled it chile, and the only choice was a jalapeño) you ignored the advice of every expert and did it bare-handed. Then you touched a sensitive extremity – I was lucky that it was my nose – and you swear to use gloves the next time.  For a starting cook, without much guidance in those days, rubber gloves meant Playtex yellow gloves. Great for washing up, but not very precise when it comes to close-in knife work.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Mommys* Brisket

Get Brisket from Lipman's, put on foil, top with a sliced onion and a bottle Kraft Catalina Dressing. Seal foil and bake at 325° until tender.

This is Mommy’s* Brisket recipe, or at least it would be if a copy had been handed down to me. It’s the only specific meal of hers I remember. Sweet, moist and delicious. Served with a bit of horseradish. It is permanently connected in my mind with Jewish holidays and it appears frequently on my table at such times. The leftovers in a sandwich, particularly on challah – da bomb.

Lipman's is a kosher butcher in Brighton, New York, the town near Rochester where I spent my childhood. It is still very much in existence. In fact, by a strange coincidence, the current owner is married to my oldest and best friend Kathye. I like him – not just because he markets beef jerky based on my recipe. To my knowledge Lipman’s is the only independent kosher butcher left in Western New York.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

Flossing Time

I love my toys, but there is one barrier even knowing who Chuck Yeager is wont get me past. Welcome to The Geek Barrier.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Sauce for Erasers

A meal without nuoc cham is no meal at all. Corrine Trang.
I am pretty sure that nuoc cham (nước chấm) is my favorite condiment.

When it comes to food, "favorite" is a marvelous adjective. It is so unabashedly subjective. So much more useful than, for instance, "best". Even so picking favorites isn't easy. The answer to "what is your favorite braise?" may be affected by so many variables - mood, weather, contents of the pantry. I have managed to come up with a top five soups list and even rank them, but the list and rankings are subject to change without notice.

Condiments present a different problem, there are not only so many to choose from; there are so many variations within each type. Much of what is used are prepared - in this case not always a bad thing. Consider ketchup. Heinz is my favorite ketchup. I will use others, Hunt's or DelMonte - even Sysco's House Recipe® - on french fries and burgers. Homemade is nice, but it just doesn't make it for that. Homemade Mayo is delicious, but I want Hellman's in my egg salad. Oh, and Mira- um, that other stuff, works well for breaking in a ball glove if you don't mind the stench.

Mustard is different. Webers is my go-to, but I have many favorites, like many styles and enjoy many combinations of flavor. I have found few, prepared or homemade that don't work for me.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Sense of Community

And when I have broken the staff of your life, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven - Leviticus 26:26
Just a cool little cooking related site off the road on our way to Caroga Lake. It's on Rte 167 just after it pulls away from Rte. 5 and the Mohawk River, outside of Little Falls. There is a sign on 167, letting you know it's there, but we hadn't stopped. When we weren't focused on getting to or from, the weather was bad.

Not this time. There was a forbidding looking chain across the entrance but otherwise a short, slightly-downhill path led to the site complete with an informational sign tellin the story of the oven.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Last Giant Leap

Neil Alden Armstrong 1930 - 2012 

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Way To Cook - Part One

This is the story of how I found Julia, how she saved me from despair and showed me the Way. The Way to Cook (Jacques was there at the beginning as well, but it's not his 100th).

As with so many important chapters of my life, it starts with a redhead. In this case a red haired nursing student at Bowling Green named Lisa. I met her at a party at the house she shared with my good Law School friend (and friend to this day) Kelley. I would have accepted Kelley's invite without knowing that she had five housemates. I'm sure I would have had a good time even if all five women weren't hot. I certainly could have had a good time even if the redheaded one hadn't shown some interest in me. But my drive home would've been quite different if I hadn't spent most of the night, and until breakfast time, showing Lisa how comfortable the seats in my new car were when fully reclined.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Local Gems

Have I  mentioned before that I do not do restaurant reviews? - Scotty Harris

I don't. But I do talk about restaurants I go to. Especially something interesting.
Just south of here is the intersection of Dodge and North French Roads, the very location of the girl's alma mater Dodge Elementary. Take the left on North French and head out. Past Transit it becomes County Road, and then Hunts-Corners-Akron (what kind of street name is that?) until it ends at Rte. 93 in Akron. This is our standard route when traveling East. Take a right and cut over to the Thruway. A left gets you there too, via the Res for gas.

We go this way often. We know the landmarks along the way: the bus barn; the tree farm; the giant mosquito sculpture; the horse farm located right by the graveyard (turning the game of "bury your horses" into a giggle-fest). Reliable Propane always makes me muse about an "Unreliable Propane". Sounds like a Simpsons gag.

Earlier this year we were returning from my homeland of Pittsford when we discovered something new along the way - what appeared to be a trailer and some tables in a small clearing beside the road. We were traveling at nice clip, but Trish and the girls were pretty sure the sign saying one of my favorite things: BBQ.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Flossing time

Would you buy a new Tablet from this man?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chemistry Set for the Kitchen

Condiments are like old friends -- highly thought of, but often taken for granted - Marilyn Kaytor

From the beginning of my adventures in cookery one of my most agreeable tasks has been creating condiments.  In large measure I think the making of condiments rekindles the primal joy of a kid with a chemistry set. A simple vinaigrette can present one with solution, emulsion, suspension, diffusion, absorption, and colloids. That's just the beginning. Think fire. Fire is cool.

Mustard, ketchup, dressing, sauce BBQ and Hot, it doesn't matter. All are a hoot to make (and they make great gifts).

In the beginning it was steak sauce - an attempt to re-create the distinctive sauce used by the Rainbow Steak sandwich shop. (I think Rainbow Steak was owned by Amiel Mokhiber of Amiel’s, whose kids I went to high school with. Amiels has now been resurrected on Henrietta Road, near (in?) Rainbow's old location ). My kid brother Bobby and I had a Saturday afternoon tradition of blending, improvising and tasting. If we never quite achieved our goal, many results were quite tasty.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pain et L'Artiste

I lack the patience of the artist in the kitchen, but I cannot see why baguettes should look identical. - Scotty Harris

CSA Report June 21, 2012

Lettuce, Lettuce, Lettuce, Scapes, Lettuce, Snow Peas, Lettuece, Letuce, Lettus. Green Leaves. What's the Frequency, Lettuth? Lettuce. Lettuce CUP.  Too much Lettuce on their minds . . .

Princess Leia Organic

Thursday, June 14, 2012

CSA Report June 14, 2012

This week three leaf lettuces, radishes and baby turnips, broccoli, brocolini, mizuna, baby bok choy and baby kale, and arugula. Plus Garlic Scapes and dried chillies from last year's harvest. Stir fried veg tonight!

Anybody need lettuce?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

(Ad)-Dressing the Summer

So this is this, and that is that:
And there's how you AD-DRESS A CAT - T.S. Eliot

I usually don't do recipes. They are a pain in the buttocks. At home I tend to cook by the seat of my pants, the outcome of each flavor profile guided by instinct and skill to match my mood at that particular moment. If you believe that I'd like you to consider this bridge I'm selling in Brooklyn.

The fact is that, while I know where I want to go and how to get there, I am too lazy to carefully measure so as to create the instruction manual for others to repeat my result. Every once in a while I do come up with something I really like and take the time.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Jedi Kitchen Tricks

A two-year old is kind of like having a blender, but you don't have a top for it. - Jerry Seinfeld

If you know what you are looking at on the right, you might want to skip this.  Or not.  It's kinda fun.  

 I love kitchen tips - those handy ideas that make cooking easier, (and make you wish you'd thought of it yourself). This may have come from Alton Brown, or Sara Moulton. Cook's Illustrated is also a possibility. It used be really handy for these, but time and repetition have rendered them redundant - even silly. Not as bad as: To open jar, rotate top counterclockwise, perhaps. It just seemed that way whenI gave up my subscription after years.

Here's the scoop - most blender jars  have the same screw thread pattern as a standard Mason jar (not wide mouth). You can use a Mason jar as a small blender carafe or as a replacement for a dedicated spice grinder. Just screw the bottom ring, blade and gasket on as the jar's lid, invert and mount on the base. Shazam.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

CSA Report June 7. 2012

The first pick-up of the 2012 includes leaf lettuces, radishes and baby turnips, broccoli rabe and brocolini, mizuna, baby bok choy and baby kale, and arugula. I think the rabe is going on the grill for dinner. Yum.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Tale of Peta Rabbit

Freely adapted from a story by Andrew Galarneau, Food Editor of the Buffalo News and with apologies to Beatrix Potter.  Are you sitting comfortably?
Once upon a time, upon a time there
were four little Rabbits,
and their names were--
and Peta.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.- William Shakespeare.

Our long regional nightmare is over. After literally minutes of painstaking deliberation, the Common Council of the City of Buffalo has at last issued rules and regulations governing local Food Trucks. Those valiant brick and mortar operation (let's call them BM's) have succeeded in winning almost precisely what was offered to them by the food truck operators from the beginning.
The fears of these BM’s have been assuaged and the city is safe from the twin perils of mass littering and public urination. I am certain that these BM’s are raking in record profits with their success.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Return To Blogging

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.  ~Mark Twain

I’d call myself a procrastinator if I ever got around to it. Look at the picture. This was supposed to be a New Year's resolution and I am just finishing it.

The fact of the matter is that took a break from blogging. There are a lot of reasons, but sometimes you just need to refresh your batteries. After a while I discovered that I really missed it. I also found that one big impediment to my blogging that my mind was getting bogged down with and a lot of other thoughts that either work too short to require a blog post, or were not suited to something that is dedicated to food as a subject.
So I decided to start a second blog called Mental Floss to rid my brain of that accumulated detritus. There is also more in the works you may find interesting. Stop by. I look forward to seeing you!

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

Life's too short to eat bad food -