A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Back to the Original Mission

I state that I'm gonna post recipes, so dammit I am. Except that I'm really gonna post a general query, not recipes I've actually prepared.

First, I'm going to make a flank steak dish inspired by friend Brian. He described a Greek-style dish, with feta and spinach I believe. I'm going to go for a Franco/contintental variation.

1 large flank steak, pounded hella thin
1 big chunk of Gruyere
1 bunch Green Onions

I'm going to wrap the onions and cheese (sliced, of course) in the flank, a la a jelly roll, tie it up like a roast, brown the exterior and then slow cook in red wine, some kosher salt, garlic, and mystery ingredients. The question is: what mystery ingredients? Bay? Maybe some potatoes? I was going to serve it with bread, not tubers, but hmm... Also, I'm thinking of cooking at 250 for an hour--maybe 200? Last time I made a roast, I neglected to bring the sauce to a boil before putting the ole' DO in the oven. Not gonna make that mistake twice.

Second, I'm going to cook a turkey. Yes, I've already put the bird in the fridge to defrost. So I'm set there. I'm going to cook the bird as simply as possible. Maybe some light salting and some simple herbs on the outside, but nothing crazy. No brining either; maybe next time. Anyone have good roasting suggestions for a non-brined gobbler? I'm doing some studying online as well, so I hope I'll be fine.

Big question isn't the bird but the stuffing. I've never made stuffing from scratch. So far I've gathered a sourdough loaf, celery, onions, broth, and thats about it. I've got plenty of spices, and I plan on buying turkey sausage (Jewish roommates, the roast is partially for them). If anyone has advice on stuffing (cooked in the bird) please let me know. I'm completely new at this style of cooking. The flank steak? That kind of stuff is totally easy to conceptualize in comparison to a roasted bird. But I'm looking forward to the opportunity to expand my arsenal.

Next adventure, probably, will be me trying to cook lamb. The butcher's selection looks nice. Or maybe rabbit, though I don't know how ready I am for game. These are thoughts for a future time.

In other, less yummy news, I've made the switch to Firefox. I'm loving it. Also, there's a rumor out there that The Arcade Fire are coming to town. Cheers to Tom of Unrequited Narcissism for the great rumor. I hope it's true--I might have a show to look forward to. Hell of a lot better than Trans Am.


Okay, I'm still an HTML novice, and I'm just now getting used to the Blogger template setup. But it's coming along. There's a handy dandy list of links on the left which will be sure to expand at some point in time. Let me know if you think I've missed anything. Advice on HTML is also welcome. Man, I know next to nothing about this stuff. Strange, considering I've been using the interweb for years (oh, the memories of downloading .aiff files of live Kraftwerk concerts back when I worked at the army base... wow, was that a long time ago). Markup languages don't seem too hard. I'll get the hang of this, eventually.

Udupi Palace, Slipping

So I went with Audrey to Udupi Palace last night for a quick dinner. There are three possible reasons to explain the relatively mediocre meal I had there:

1. I've been eating many highly spiced and flavorful meals, numbing my tastebuds to more complex and subtle flavors.

2. Udupi Palace is in general, slipping.

3. It was Monday, and they had an off night.

Last time I ate there, the Iddly was nice and sour, the Mulligatawney had a great lemon punch, and the Sambar was near perfect. Not so this time--bland everything, pretty much. I'm thinking that 3 is probably the right answer. Well, at least I hope so. The last time I had a dosa was at Madras Palace and it was pretty damn good--so I don't think my taste buds are to blame. Also, service at Udupi was a step off the norm, leading me to believe once again that it was just an off night. Maybe I'll venture forth and try some other vegetarian Indian places. Of course, with Indique still on my "must visit" list and IndeBleu opening soon, maybe I should hold off. Also, I still haven't been to Belga Cafe. And Lukas still hasn't changed the freakin' menu at Tunnis, though I sampled some amazing beer-battered broccoli Sunday night.

In a totally unrelated observation, Dulles Airport is a bitch to get to.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Hit Counter!

Thanks to code ruthlessly stolen from Andrej's blog, I can know track how many people actually read this blog. If I break 100 I'm having a party. And no hitting reload! Cheaters.

Speaking of parties, I'm actually thinking of hosting a New Year's Eve thingy at Chez Kanishka, Rob, and Kevin's (AKA 35 Squared, AKA E St, AKA Almost The Ghetto). Are any of my three readers interested in attending? I can promise an elaborate appetizer spread as well as the possibility of fun. Let me know, as I'm actually serious about this.


Am considering strongly a significant reduction in alcohol consumption. This will have the twin effect of making me less interesting and more financially solvent. I'm considering a couple of strategies at the moment:

No more "Thirsty Thursdays"
Likewise, "Sunday Bloody (Mary) Sundays"
A ban on all bar hopping until after the Holidays
More going to movies
More time at the gym
Less 11 PM Saturday night trips to Tunnicliffs
An earlier bedtime in general

Other suggestions on how to make it happen are welcome. With work stress decreasing now that my big trip is over, I think this is both possible and do-able. Thoughts?

Oh the Pain of Being Back

Back in the office, and decidedly not feeling it. Maybe the tryptophan hangover just took 4 days to hit me? Actually, its more likely that I'm just totally busted. The last two weeks have consisted of: a ridiculously early taxi ride to National Airport; 5 days of extremely stressful conferencing and late nights, with a big ole' airport delay thrown in for good measure; a day of recuperation that wasn't particularly restful; Thanksgiving with the family and all that driving; nights out with Mike (Fri.) and Brian (Sat.); and the complete inability to rise from bed yesterday. Now I'm at work, planning on doing things like timely reports while saddled with a backlog of correspondence that really needs to be tended to.

Oh yeah, did I mention that I'm completely sick of my job? That might be the grumpiness talking. But on the off-chance that corporate headhunters/anonymous benefactors/other interesting potential employers read this--I'm totally available and open to offers. Call me, okay? We'll do lunch.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

San Antonio Fooding (and Drinking) Days 1 and 2

I landed in the San Antonio airport around noon on Friday. The weather was decidedly warm, which was an awesome change from ole DC. Setting up the booth was an uber-bitch, taking three of us a total of 5.5 hours. I was there first, and due to the extreme inconvenient way in which the booth was left for us, I had to move probably a few thousand pounds of books, one box at a time, around the display. Ugh.

Post setup, I was quite literally dying for a meal and a beverage. I took down a couple of margaritas at the hotel bar with Duffy before setting off for the Riverwalk. Bad idea. The Riverwalk on a Friday was quite literally mashed. We ended up eating at a place called La Paloma. Its next to Zuni Grill. If you are ever in San Antonio, do not eat here. I won't detail the meal except by saying that it sucked. Of course, we were both starving so it didn't matter too much. Afterwards, off to the Leaping Lizard, where I drank Shiner Bock. Thumbs up to Shiner Bock and to Elisa, the cute bartender at the LL who flirted with me all night.

Saturday was a busy booth day, but I did get a break to go eat lunch with Jeremy. We went to a place called Casa Rio, which is one of the older restaurants in SA. We had to wait a bit, but the meal was really satisfying. I had the huge combo plate--a hard taco, a guacamole salad, a tamale, a burrito, and nachos. It was a ton of food and I loved every minute of it. Note that I would not ever recommend this as high dining. Tex Mex is solid, stick to your ribs food. Excess pretension in the making of Tex Mex makes one a wanker like Bobby Flay. Meal, 7 out of 10, maybe a 7.5 because the service was great. Drink of choice with the meal was an Alamo Golden Ale. Thumbs down. Oh yeah, I forgot about breakfast on Saturday. I ate at the shitty little Hilton deli and had a chorizo and egg breakfast taco. It was, well, great. Hit the spot.

(side note: I think I use "hit the spot" a lot. I'm a fervent believer in the situational and ephemeral quality of tactile experiences. I don't believe in fallbacks, one-type-fits-all meals, drinks, or any situation really. What is great when it is raining and you are feeling like home is not what will be great when it is sunny and the Orioles have just beat the Yankees. This seems to be one of the cardinal qualities that differentiates foodies from eaters. An eater would be satisfied with the same droll BS meals all the time; a foodie examines every element surrounding the meal to find just the right fit. Okay, so maybe this is all idle ramblings and not particularly well expressed. But you get what I mean. I think of this as my "Bloody Mary" theory of meals. See previous post on San Antonio for context)

Dinner Saturday night was with Brian at a restaurant called Aldaco's, near the old train station in San Antonio. We were sent off there by the recommendation of the concierge. It was a good meal, but not amazing. We started with margaritas and then ordered a ceviche. Now I'm a sucker for a good ceviche--it is one of those wonderful culinary inventions I adore but have not had the pleasure of enjoying frequently. This ceviche was good. It was served on odd flat fried tortillas (not the tostada shell or massive margarita glass I'm used to) and was mostly smaller shrimp. It had healthy citrus kick with a good amount of avocado and cilantro. For entrees, Brian had a chile relleno (he gave it a solid 6) while I had pork in a chile sauce. I give the pork a 7. Service at the restaurant wasn't particularly good and the drinks were a little too weak for my taste. Overall rating, 6 out of 10.

Afterwards, we went back to the hotel bar. Then on to some receptions for free drink. I got trashed.

Still to recap: a lunch at a restaurant that was so not memorable that I don't remember it, dinner at Pesce, lunch at "Steers & Beers" (for serious), dinner at Boudros, various bar recaps, a biased and limited culinary overview of San Antonio, and the tale of the journey home.

Bar Review: The Saloon

Okay, how have I been doing the U St thing for so long and missed this place? The Saloon is the epitome of what I want in a low-key hangout type bar. Let's start with that beer list. I'll make a bold statement right off the bat: this is probably one of the top beer lists in all of DC. Fritz Hahn's profile covers that well. What he doesn't mention is that in a desert of hipsters, clubbers, frat types, and so on, The Saloon is an oasis for quiet drinks and good conversation. The service was outstanding and the bathrooms were clean and well kept. If you're looking for loud music, or to pick up chicks, or to dance, this isn't the place for you. But I'm going to go back, maybe with a few friends, to kick back and enjoy the complimentary pistachios. This probably isn't a place for every night, but every other night doesn't sound so bad.

The Lowdown

Prices: Moderate. Half Liters of outstanding German lager, $6.50.
Decor: Dark, true bar type. No pretension.
Scene: Who knows? Probably people who like to drink.
Service: Quick and friendly, but not invasive.
Food: Didn't have any, but have heard it is good.
Recommended if: You're going out to catch up with an old friend, or looking for a quiet place to finish or begin your evening.

Friday, November 26, 2004

San Antonio, the short version

A short entry about my trip to San Antonio, from a culinary perspective:

1. No matter where you are, convention center refreshment stands ream you on food. $3 for Dasani? Bite me.

2. Tex Mex is good food, but not really receptive to extreme innovation, especially in a city which does not exactly have the highest per-capita income.

3. I had the best crab cakes I've had outside the Bay area, causing me to reconsider my policy of "No Crabcakes Outside of DelMarVa." (Two years ago I had dungeness crabcakes in Anaheim at a very high end restaurant and they were gee-ross). These cakes were served with a dijon mustard sauce and were quite satisfying.

4. Shiner Bock is good beer.

5. I went to one of the highest-rated restaurants in San Antonio (Boudros) as a solo diner. The short of it: great appetizers, fix your wine list, and thank you for the kind service. Too bad your signature main dish was only so-so. This is a long story that I'll post about in the long version.

6. As a restorative beverage after a stressful day, the Bloody Mary ranks highly. You know how there are some drinks that are just drinks (whisky, rum and cokes) and some that just "hit the spot" (an ice cold lager, a great glass of wine) at a certain moment? Well, the Bloody Mary is probably #1 on the hit the spot list. Though I would not order it all the time, there are moments when no other drink will do.

Long version, with restaurant recommendations, forthcoming. Also, I will soon be making my first ever turkey dinner, fo'rilla. I'll be fielding comments and suggestions--and will have a second chance as well, which is awesome. More later.

P.S. This might be the first post anyone actually reads. If so, welcome!

Tryptophan: Don't Believe the Hype

Seriously, I bet tryptophan was one of the most searched words on Google the last few days. Not that I'm going to give that substance the pleasure of searching or even linking to it. But seriously--all this "tryptophan makes it sleepy-time" business just doesn't happen to me. Maybe its my body's already immense store of toxins counteracting the foreign substance; maybe I sleep differently than normal people; maybe I just confuse tryptophan drowsy for wine drowsy, though frankly I didn't feel either last night (after many a glass, from a Zin to two different Pinot Noirs and then finishing with an old Beaujoulais Nouveau from the basement)

Thanksgiving was at the Mallik's, which means next year it will be here. The meal was good. Turkey has the wonderful quality of being excellent when treated simply (not that that will stop me when I embark on my two upcoming roasts). The stuffing (my favorite part of the traditional meal) was disappointing, made up for by my mom's twice-baked potatoes, which were better than usual. I still contend that bacon crumbles, bleu cheese, and chives would make that dish all the better. Also on the plate (or two) were a good asparagus-hollandaise dish, a wonderful green beans and carrots casserole, ham with a honey glaze and pineapples, macaroni and cheese (a nod to my sister), cranberry sauce from scratch, and salad. I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Dessert was basically cheesecake or pumpkin pie, with one of the cheesecakes made with Splenda for the diet-restricted adults. Overall meal rating: 7 out of 10.

Oh, if you don't know--we have crazy Thanksgiving meals. We start much later than the usual families, at the earliest during halftime of the Cowboys game but usually after its over. Three families feast--the Malliks, the Chakrabortys, and the Gangopadhyays. Sometimes we have special surprise guests. Minimum guest list is 12. Its a huge deal, and a huge meal.

But the tryptophan, it just don't work on me.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

On My Mom

My mother thinks highly of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," which on one hand disturbs me but also pleases me because of the inherent liberalism her comments display.

That is a bit of an assumption, I guess. My roommate two summers ago adored the show as well, but she was a ridiculous conservative homophobe. So there you are.

Also, at the recent funeral of a family friend, my mother was the only "kaki" (Bengali for "auntie") who recognized that the younger brother of the deceased sang a song by Pearl Jam ("Black", I assume; sadly I was not able to attend the wedding). My sister astutely observed that its because "you're our mom."

Right now I'm pretty much dying to get into the kitchen and cook. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to. Already I can think of three or four ways to improve the ham dressing. Mom is insistent that I am not to cook for this Thanksgiving. Okay, now all of a sudden I'm allowed to go in the kitchen. Of course, its to wash dishes. One day I will have my comeuppance!

Being home is nice. But there's no beer in sight, which would make it nicer.

Total double quote pairs in this post: 5. Total content about food: approx. 10 %.

First Post

I'm so excited. This makes me the internet's 1 Hundred Billionth (est.) useless page. Now an audience of over five people will be able to read me ramble about stupid things. Maybe--just maybe--I can parlay this opportunity into some sort of permanent fame, like that guy Ozymandias or Tenzing Norgay. Friends, this are the things that dreams are made of. These and, in my case, capsaicin that I fail to digest, making REM sleep fitful and the dreams particularly vivid.