Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Oysters!

I never used to like oysters on the half shell -- I think they are definitely a required taste that comes as we age and our palates mature (wow, could I sound more pretentious?). My dad attends the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival every year and has for what must be decades now. It is a great time, full of delicious Cajun and Creole food and, of course, really fantastic music. When I was younger he'd always come home talking about what a great time he'd had. During my pre-teens and early teenage years I used to beg him to take me with him, always to be denied. Finally, I was promised that I could go when I was 16 -- or earlier, if and only if I ate a raw oyster first. I guess this was somehow dad's test that I was "ready" for New Orleans and all it had to offer. Dad loves oysters and I used to be so grossed out by them when he'd order some. So one night we're out to eat, just the two of us, and he orders oysters. I decide that this is my moment -- I just need to get one down and this could be the year I get to go to Fest! I bring the shell to my lips, tip the oyster into my mouth, give it a chomp as instructed by dad, and proceed to gag and spit it out. I couldn't do it, and I really, really tried. When I finally did get to go to New Orleans the next year, I tried frog's legs, alligator sausage, and had duck for the first time -- but no oysters.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

All things wine



Let’s see, last…September (so wow, a year ago…can you believe how fast the time goes?) Danielle and I took an epic trip to Napa, including a stop by Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, where I am a member of their wine club. If you’re not already familiar, Chateau Montelena has an awesome back story. Basically, back in 1976, they were invited to participate in a blind taste test in France that put French wines up against California ones, which at the time did not have much international acclaim. This event became known as the Judgment of Paris. The French wines were expected to win, hands down, and to everyone’s surprise, a California wine won in both the red and the white category – and for the white, it was Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay that won. This event helped put Napa Valley wines on the map and is a historical moment in wine history. There’s a lot more to the story, and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Before Danielle and my trip last fall, Netflix had recommended a movie called Bottle Shock and I watched it one afternoon, not expecting too much. Well, I loved it – it tells the (fictionalized) version of the Judgment of Paris and the role Chateau Montelena played. Even if there was creative leeway given, the story is great, the soundtrack is great, the cast is awesome, and the whole film is filled with beautiful scenes of Napa. Prior to seeing the movie, I hadn’t even heard of Chateau Montelena (this was clearly before I became the wine snob I am today). My dad was going to be visiting and we were going to head up to Napa for some wine tastings, so I had him watch the movie (he loved it too) and we made sure to hit up Chateau Montelena during our tour of Napa. During that trip, I became a club member at Chateau Montelena…and dad did as well.
Danielle’s visit came shortly after dad’s. I learned that as a club member, I had the opportunity to do a special Cellarmaster tasting at the Chateau, so I signed us up. Honestly, it was one of the best experiences I have had in Napa, and that’s saying something, as they’ve all been pretty epic. It was a seated tasting with cheese pairings, plus we got to go out into the vineyards and taste some grapes right off the vine, all in an idyllic setting. Anyway, while I was there I picked up an autographed copy of Judgment of Paris by George Taber, the journalist who covered the original event. The book is a more thorough look at the events leading up to and including the tasting, and the lasting impact it had on wine globally.
So fast forward almost a year, to earlier this month. In preparation for an upcoming trip to Napa, I finally picked up the book to read. I guess I thought that despite the interesting subject, it might be a bit dry – wrong again. It was really fascinating, and I learned a lot about the history of wine, wine making, and the global wine market. And that finally brings us to the point of today’s blog post. Each chapter heading includes a quote about wine, so I thought it would be fun to pull together some of my favorites – from the book and elsewhere.

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food. ― W.C. Fields

Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know. ― John Keats

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans. ― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast 

his lips drink water
but his heart drinks wine ― E.E. Cummings

Beer is made by men, wine by God. ― Martin Luther

Men are like wine - some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age. - Pope John XXIII

Wine is bottled poetry. - Robert Louis Stevenson

The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars. ― Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hilarity

As both a literary nerd and a food love, I find this highly amusing:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/katieheaney/imaginary-food-diaries-of-famous-authors

Also, I made this:

Notice the lovely filter?
This, my friends, is a flatbread from Target (Archer Farms brand, FYI), covered in a layer of Parmesan, and then topped with prosciutto, sliced nectarines, ricotta, and basil, and finished with a balsamic reduction and a drizzle of olive oil. It was delicious.

And finally, can I just say that summer in California is the absolute best, food-wise? We had corn on the cob at the market this weekend, and it was awesome. I am surrounded by stone fruit, cherries, strawberries, fresh herbs, and early tomatoes. It is kind of what I imagine heaven to be like.

That is all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Some little updates

So, one of the reasons that my blog posts have been so few and far between lately is that work has been totally chaotic. Why, you may ask, has it been so much busier than normal? Well, I'm really excited to say that my company has recently launched a pre-sale for our new line of products. My co-workers and I have been working toward this goal for the last 18 months or so, so it is really exciting for it to finally be a reality. You can check out our new website at www.saleae.com -- we reached our 30 day pre-sale goal in a week, and now we're just raising extra money to go toward the first production run of the new products . Yay!

Friday, April 4, 2014

A favorite food poem

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams   

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cookbook challenge update

Remember, I don't know, a year and a half ago when I decided to cook my way through Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris? I naively thought that this would be a fairly easy, straightforward endeavor that would take a couple months, tops.

Well, here we are, 18 months later, and I'm still not done. My interest/enthusiasm/dedication to the project has gone through waves -- there'll be times when I'll whip out three recipes in a week, and then I won't make another one for a month. BUT. There is a light at the end of the tunnel! I've recently tallied my remaining recipes, and I am getting closer...so close...which has really motivated me to get 'er done, as they say. As of today, I have four appetizers, seven lunches, six soups/salads, eleven dinners, eight vegetables/sides, and six desserts to go. With coconut madeleines on the menu for tonight, that number will be down to five desserts tomorrow. I have a few recipes reserved for Easter dinner in a few weeks, too. My game plan is to finish up the chapters I'm furthest on -- appetizers and then desserts, and then tackle the rest in as efficient way as possible.

I'm really excited about finishing this project (I already have my next challenge in mind, but we'll get to that later). I've learned a lot so far, and the biggest take-away has been a rush of confidence in my kitchen skills. This is going to sound immensely immodest, but so many things I make just turn out right, the first time, which is always incredibly validating -- a good thing, too, since I saved some of the hardest recipes for last. I'll need that confidence to carry me through the rest of the project!

My hope is to post an update relating to this every time I finish a chapter, so be on the lookout for that.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

I forget what I've told you about Thanksgiving plans for this year, so let me recap quickly. Basically, my parents aren't coming to town and I'm not going out of town, so I ended up inviting some friends/co-workers over for the occasion. We ended up with nine guests -- myself included -- which is the largest meal I've ever made for anyone! If I do say so myself, the whole event was a smashing success.

The menu was fairly basic, but delicious. I started with a cheeseboard appetizer made of local cheeses along with some persimmons, local honey, olives, and crackers. The main course was, of course, turkey, which I brined. This was my first brining experience, and both my brother and I agreed that it may have been the best turkey I've ever cooked. I also invested (a whooping $12) in an instant read thermometer, which may have been the best thing I purchased in months. I was able to set an alarm so that as soon as the turkey reached the right temp, I could pull it out of the oven, virtually eliminating the chance of over cooking. Sides included gravy, mashed potatoes, dressing, two kinds of cranberry sauce, classic green bean casserole, glazed carrots, rolls, herbed butter, and sweet potatoes -- all the basics, really. I asked guests to bring dessert, which was great because then I didn't have to cook it! We ended up with pumpkin pie, chocolate cheesecake, and a classic Indian dessert that unfortunately I forget the name of (oops). What made menu planning especially interesting is that one of my guests is a vegetarian. I thought it would be more of a challenge then it ended up being, actually. I made the everything with vegetable stock instead of chicken stock (except for the turkey and gravy, which I made with homemade turkey stock) and it turned out perfectly!
A vat of dressing!

A locally-sourced cheeseboard.
The meal was served with a variety of red and white wines, plus mulled wine with dessert. Have I mentioned that I'm a member of the Chateau Montelena Cellarmaster wine club? Anywho, I am, and their zin was the star wine of the day, in my opinion. Side bar: if you haven't seen the movie Bottle Shock, see it! I have vague future plans for some kind of Bottle Shock viewing party involving Chateau Montelena wines, but nothing concrete yet.