Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I'm feeling in a "sharing" mood today, so I figured I'd fill up this post with one of my favorite recipes:

1 tbsp natural peanut butter
1 tbsp Hero brand (only!) raspberry jam
2 pieces of Old World Pugliese bread

Place each piece of bread, flat, on a table.
Using a butter knife, spread the peanut butter on bread slice one.
Using the same knife, spread the raspberry jam on the peanut butter.
Swirl lightly until incorporated.
Place bread slice two on top of the peanut butter, jam & bread mix.
Serve immediately.

Want to know what's so damn funny? Check out this. I know, second day linking to someone else's blog, I am a lazy bastard.

Now, seriously, one of my favorite recipes (and actually one of my own).
Patrick's Sweet & Spicy Pasta Sauce

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 cups red onion, divided
5 cloves of garlic, divided
1 tsp sea salt
1 14.5oz can of tomato sauce (not flavored)
1 14.5oz can of Gia Russa stewed tomatoes
1 cup fresh tomato (chopped), divided
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp of cayenne powder (more, to taste)
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp fresh basil, roughly chopped
salt to taste

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
Add 1 cup of the onion, sliced thin & salt, cook until it begins to lightly brown (about 5 minutes). Add 4 cloves of the garlic, sliced thin.
Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions and garlic are dark brown. A bit burnt is even okay.
Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, in another large frying pan (preferably one with a high lip), heat the cans and 1/2 cup of fresh tomato over high heat until it begins to boil. Lower heat to a simmer and continue to cook until reduced 1/3. Note: if you do not have two frying pans, just prepare the onions & garlic first and then set aside in a bowl.

Once tomato sauce has reduced, add the honey, cayenne power & onion/garlic mixture. Stir. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until mixture is chunky and most of the liquid is gone. Add the rest of the tomato, garlic (pressed or minced), onion (chopped) the fresh basil, and salt. Cook for 3 minutes, or until warmed through. Remove from heat or add your al dente pasta.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Two very interesting posts found on my blog checks this morning:
one
two

In light of their length and breadth, I'm going to take a break today. Would feel silly to talk about food sandwiched (PB&J style) between those two.

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Monday, March 29, 2004

Well, it's only fitting that on a sunny spring day, the only cd's I have at work are mellow goth discs. That said, must make the best of things and, using them as inspiration...
My Top 5 Depressing Albums:

5. The Cure "Disintegration"
Ex. Lyric: "oh just one more and I’ll walk away all the everything you win turns to nothing today"

4. Cyber Zen Sound Engine "The Intercepted Transmissions"
Ex. Lyric: (instrumentals)

3. This Mortal Coil "It'll end in Tears"
Ex. Lyric: "Fond affections are never said, They're only sung in songs. I never was naive enough to know when I was wrong"

2. Lycia "Tripping Back through Broken Days"
Ex. Lyric: "I will not sleep tonight, too many thoughts, muscles too tight, here in the dark I'll replay, all that has passed, the glory of broken days"

1. Area "The Perfect Dream"
Ex. Lyric: "There was a window with ice so thick I couldn't see, and I just walked away, gave up on all the sunlight that I need, and sneaked across the floor"

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Friday, March 26, 2004

So, after much convincing, I finally got Genevieve to join me for a trip to this new Mexican joint in town, Taqueria Guadalajara. At first glance of the menu, my heart sank. It looked as if this place was just another El Rodeo. Another link in the Mexican franchise chain. Combo plate one, combo plate two, etc. But, ah, turns out those are there for the timid or unadventurous. Turning the page revealed a wealth of authentic tacos, tortas and the like (during the weekends, they apparently also serve dishes such as Pozole). This is where my taste buds led me. We each ordered a torta (basically, a sandwich) and a taco. Once the food arrived, we first went to work on the tacos. Served on 2 layers of warm corn tortillas and sprinkled with cilantro, lettuce, your choice of fillings (I got chorizo, Genevieve got mushrooms), a wedge of lime and an heavenly smoky sauce, these proved that, true to their name, tacos really were what they did best. This was not your hard shell Chi-Chi's fare. Simple, yes, but also amazingly full of flavor. Next up were the tortas. Here, they fell a little flat for Genevieve. Her avocado torta was good, but very plain. No match for the punch of the tacos. My Torta al Pastor, on the other hand, was equally delicious. Full of grilled peppers, marinated pork and cheese, it bowled over the bland torta I'd had just days before. Lunch was served with a side of grilled jalapenos, which acted as a perfect match to the spicy, but not overly hot meal.

What else can I say? Go there!
12926 Lorain Ave. Just down the street from Phomn Pehn.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

So I have finally tried Bubble Tea.

You see, on my way back from my previously mentioned wanderings, I happened to notice a Bubble Tea place outside of work. (Like spitting distance from the front doors). Well, since it was so close and on the company's tab, I decided "what the heck!" and, while on my lunch break, grabbed a Mango tea. It...well, I can't say it's an unpleasant experience, but it definitely wasn't what I expected. When I get the image of tapioca in my head, it's off those little white/clear globs you get in pudding. Not so in the Bubble Tea. Instead, they're these huge black jobbles, which kind of remind me of cooked dough soaked in water. The flavor is not unlike, well, drinking all the juice out of a can of fruit. Sweet, syrupy and a bit overpowering. Though I'm glad I had the chance to try it, I can't say I plan on getting bubble tea again, anytime soon.
Sorry Virg ;)

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Ah, my last day in Rochester and the weather has finally gotten better. I just got back from a short trek around downtown. I can't say I was too impressed, but there are some nice buildings here and there.

So, anyways, what you really came here for: the foodie stuff.
Last night, we tried out a restaurant that I had found out about before heading out called Mex. It doesn't take too much of a stretch of the imagination to figure out they serve..what else..Mexican food. The restaurant was just a short 5 minute drive from the hotel and in a neighborhood which reminded me *alot* of Cleveland Heights. It had the same feel to most of the architecture. Mex was located in a large old house. The first floor was strictly a bar. Up the thin stairs, past walls covered in artwork, was the restaurant portion. The first thing you notice when entering is the aforementioned art covering the walls on every spot. Most of it was pretty odd, depicting things like a woman dining with a tiger and a werecat. Thought I can't say it fit my personal tastes, I felt it gave the restaurant a certain eclectic flavor that was definitely cool. We didn't order appetizers this time around. Instead, we went straight for the main course (and some chips and salsa, of course) and a few beers. The chips and salsa, a staple of every Mexican restaurant I've been in, were all homemade and very good. The salsa, a picco de gallo with delicious chunks of fresh tomato swimming in cilantro and pepper, was particularly noteworthy over many other restaurants. Service was good and the food arrived in a prompt fashion. I had a plato (platter) with tostados, torta and a side of refried beans and spanish rice. If that sounds like alot of food (and alot of beans), it was. Dawn (my co-worker) got a salmon, served with a lemon chili sauce on a bed of rice. I didn't have a chance to try it, but it looked and smelled excellent. My dinner, on the other hand, was a bit of let down. The torta (leavened dough stuffed with various ingredients.Mainly a mix of beans, cheese and spices.) was a bit bland. The consistency was excellent though; semi-hard crust gave way to creamy beans inside. It was, unfortunately, very filling and didn't leave much room for the tostados, which was too bad, as these black and blue beauties were excellent. Even more beans & cheese stuffed between huge pieces of blue chips and covered with chorizo (no, not soyrizo ;). They were simple, but very tasty. Dinner was finished off by a few bottles of Tecate, no dessert. I should also probably note that the spice level was way too mild for either of our tastes. Supposedly, the restaurant prides itself on its homemade hot sauces, but they were out of these, so we weren't able to give them a shot. In alternate, they supplied a variety of Tabasco sauces, but the effect wasn't the same. Lastly, for you veggies out there, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this place if you’re ever in Rochester. Their selection of vegetarian options was excellent (every meat dish could also be prepared with tofu, seitan or a variety of pseudo-meat products).

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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

On a more personal note, let me say this:
Business Trips SUCK

I tell you, I'm sure there's worse things in life than being plugged into an expensive hotel on someone else's dime, but it's the whole temporary transplantation thing that gets to me. I'm here, but not long enough to get to experience Rochester and it's like, even if I did get a chance to go out, I'd have to find a tour guide who had similar interests as I. That could happen, but not within the limited constraints of who I see. So, instead, I am stuck at work and the hotel room, watching way more tv than I like, annoying my neighbors my incessant harmonica playing (instead of my wife) and probably eating more than I should as well.

Well, I am off to grab some lunch and wander aimlessly until I find myself completely lost or the secret West vault (containing the hidden plans of the Legal Illuminati).

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Hello from the Great White North of Rochester, New York.
Okay, so it's probably not any colder than Cleveland right now, but at 25 degrees, it certainly feels like it.

So, rather the endure the overpriced "delights" of the Hyatt Regency's room service, my co-worker and I opted to try this Thai place that had been recommended to us called Mama Sans (which I would have thought was some vaguely xenophobic thing if it weren't for the fact that the place reeked more of "hangout for local Thai immigrants" than anything). That's to say, it was dingy. Not unhealthy dingy, more on the level of Phomn Pehn (for those in Cleveland who have had the pleasure). A hole in the wall. We were worried, until the food started coming. I started my meal out with a soup (the name of which slips me). Chicken and vermicelli noodles floating in a delicious broth of coconut milk and spices. The heat level was excellent. Firey withouth being inedible and the taste was just explosive with flavors of peanuts, coconut and chilis popping up at every turn. Next up was the main course, where I got a Vietnamese Curry with Chicken. Another awesome dish. The sauce was a slightly sour affair, embedded with a high spice level and lots & lots of peanuts ;) The whole dish was masterfully prepared, heavy without being overpowering and losing it's bold flavor.

This was in stark contrast to my breakfast this morning (from Hotel room service) which, even though it cost only a little bit less than the Dinner, was comprised of simply 4 pieces of french toast and 2 sausages (all of the low low price is $17.00! Glad it's on my work's bill). The toast was, suprisingly, dry and rather bland. The sausages were okay, but not worth the price they charged for them.

I have so much food in my fridge now. From the thai leftovers to a bunch of soup and salad my loving wife packed to me, I think I could eat the rest of the trip without going out.

But then, how would I burn through the company's cash? :)

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Thursday, March 18, 2004

blog.. blog.. blog.. blog..

First, I'm posting a reminder to Genevieve and myself that we forgot to stop by Rozi's this past week and pick up that Cain Musque wine. I know it's kind of selfish to waste blog space on the equivalent of a post-it note, but it is my blog ;)

For my real post, I think I've touched upon his subject somewhat before, but, in order to make it official: My Top 5 Most Vile Food Stuffs. Things you'd see me start gnawing at my own arm before I ate:

5. Any dried, fried, tied meat "products". Yes, I'm talking pork rinds. I'm talking beef jerky. I'm talking spam and it's associates. Anything that involves the phrase "meat product". Now, let it be known I've had beef jerky before. But that was a different time, a different place. And I thought it tasted like salty ass even then.

4. Hing (asafoetida). It's not a food, but a spice and, honestly, I have used it and, therefore, eaten it. But, those who have ever *smelled* hing knows why it has to be on a list of vile things.

3. This is just a name thing: Pizone. It's a CALzone. Not a "PIzone". I mean, I'd really like to think your average consumer does not think a calzone is going to be too weird or "ethnic" for them. So why fuck with the name? Maybe they are different though. Has anyone out there had one who could let me know?

2. Donato's Adkins Diet Pizza - My mind is still reeling about how a bunch of cheese and tomato sauce thrown into a bowl (sans crust) can be called a pizza. Okay, I can't let that subject go. Pizza is generally two things: a crust + some sort of fat topping (cheese, usually) + (optional) whatever additional toppings. I mean, if we can call simply cheese + tomato sauce a pizza, what would low-carb pasta or lasagna be? Couldn't they be the same thing? Either way, it looks like regurgitated pizza and it lacks the basic principles to even be called such.

1. Hot Pockets - Every time an ad comes on for Hot Pockets, I get queasy. Bits of meat "stuff" smothered in sub-cheese and encased in an easily microwavable crust. I know it's supposed to be ultimate convenience food (easy & quick to cook, requires no plates or utensils to each). But, well, regardless of how easy it is, it looks like vomit in a snack pie crust! The varieties where they try to go beyond the old Ham & Cheese (don't even get me started on Breakfast Hot Pockets) are even more vile.

Anything to contribute? I'm sure I left some things off. What food would you not eat even if it meant life or death?

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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

My official band site www.subliminalself.com has been updated. I've also added a snippet of our new, goth-as-all-get-out song "Song for Tomorrow". If you want to check it out in it's entirety, go here

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Monday, March 15, 2004

Going cookbook crazy...

So we picked up three new cookbooks this past weekend. At half-price books, of course ;) Our cheap-selves store of choice.

The first one was 'A Cook's Tour of Mexico' by (no, not Tony Bourdain ;) Nancy Zaslavsky. This one was, of course, my choice. On par with my ongoing Mexican Culinary Obsession (M.C.O.) The book is part cookbook and part travel guide, reviewing various markets and restaurants in Southern Mexico. It starts out by telling you that this is not for those looking to eat at the Holiday Inn in Mexican City, instead, it's meant for the more adventurous palettes. I found the information about the Markets very thorough (even providing directions on how to get there). But, the book was published in 1995 though, so I'd like to see a newer revision before I'd go out of my way to find the restaurants listed, some of which may very well be closed. My only other complaint was that I really didn't feel the b&w picture sprinkled through really did justice to the vibrant colors of the food you see in the all-too-brief color sections throughout the book. By the way, I know I have at least two other food-obsessed folks reading this blog. If either of you have any suggestions for good Mexican cookbooks, particularly (though definitely not necessarily) ones with some good veggie recipes, please post them in the comments section.

The next up was 'Sunday's at Moosewood Restaurant'. The veggies and vegans among this list have, I'm sure, heard the Moosewood name many times. Moosewood is a vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York, as well as a publisher of a variety of vegetarian (though, they do consider fish vegetarian) cookbooks. We've had many of their books over the years (sadly, one was lost in a tragic soup accident) and though they're not our favorites,they can be counted on for solid, though not overly awe-invoking recipes. 'Sunday's at Moosewood' is their "ethnic cookbook." A thick tome, it covers a variety of different regional cuisine, from Scandinavian and Indian to Jewish and Southern (United States). Each regional has their own section devoted to it. This is where a bit of a peeve comes in. The Table of Contents at the beginning does not list the individual dishes in it; instead, it only contains a listing of the regions covered. So, you have to pick your region and then pick your meal from that section's TOC. I'm sure this is fine if you're planning a themed dinner, but for everyday cooking, it's a bit annoying. We haven't had a chance to make anything from this book yet. But, if it's like the others in the Moosewood series, I am sure it will find its use.

Lastly, we got 'The Vegetarian Table: Thailand' by Jacki Passmore. Genevieve picked up this one and I honestly have to admit that I haven't had a good chance to really look over it yet. From what I saw, it looked excellent though.

Sadly, this Sunday was not a cooking day. Instead, we enjoyed a lunch at Web of Life (Westlake, Ohio - whose portabella gyro rocks! despite being a bit salty) and had leftover Indian Baked Pudding & Spiced Carrot & Peanut Soup. The latter of which really grew on us, though the original recipe left it none too spicy for our tastes. But, that's what more chili paste is for :)

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Friday, March 12, 2004

"In case you didn't feel like showing up.."

Pre-Comment Bonus to Mike, who I am sure, gets the above reference.

I'm going to switch the subject to music for a bit. Last night, the Phantasy hosted a show featuring two of my favorite regional bands:
Furnace St.
ThouShaltNot
Joining them was Chicago act, Urn.

Furnace St. opened the show with their unique blend of electronics and indie-rock. Their set consisted of mainly of new material, off of their upcoming album. It was all surprisingly subdued. Except for a brief shift into tweaky dance music, the songs were mellow and controlled, even a bit ballad-esque as times. There was very little of Adam's trademark tongue or butt waggling going on. Despite this, I really liked the direction they were going in and look forward to hearing the completed album.

Urn took the stage next. Their main issue was that, once they got onstage, they wouldn't leave. Their set stretched on for well over an hour, which is, to me, a bar limit for a band on weeknight, even if I liked the music. I hate to give a struggling band a bad review. They obviously have a lot of drive and more power to them for sticking their heads out there and making a go of it. But....look, the 80's are over. Please put your flying V guitar, Sebastian Bach hairdo and pseudo-pirate jacket back in the closet and walk towards the light. And while you are at that, please please, do not do jumping jacks onstage. It didn't work for Front242; it's not going to work for you.
If someone has once told this to Urn, things might have been better. I don't doubt their technical prowess, it's the execution of that into heavy, cock-rockin' goth metal that turned me off. Once a Cleveland act, halfway through the set, I realized I knew this band from previous incarnations. At one point, they even did a reprise of a song from one of these old bands they used to be. The last time I heard that song; it was about 10 years ago. In the same dingy club, breathing in the same stale, smoke filled air. I couldn't believe that, after 10 years, I was still going to there. Worse yet, that nothing had really changed. Sure, the crowd turned in for a newer, younger, set, but at that point, the place felt just as stale as the air.

Last up was ThouShaltNot, who we had the pleasure of opening for at the Symposium last year. This show marked the fourth TSN performance I'd seen. Comparing it to the stellar shows I'd seen in the past, the performance felt a bit uneven. In part, I think various sound elements were to blame. Foo, who normally plays an awesome electric drum set, was constrained to a mic'ed acoustic set. The vocals were also surprisingly dry and something about the overall mix felt a little "off". Maybe I was just standing too close to the stage, but it all contributed to a distinct lack of oomph in the final sound. That's not to say there weren't some amazing points. Among them was a mini-acoustic performance in the middle of their set. For three songs, they switched the backing track off and performed completely live. This mini-set within a set consisted of versions of: "Weakness of Words", "G.L.M" and a new song "Sick". All of which were pulled off really well. The other high point of the night was the final song, "Trial by Fire", a catchy pop-ditty, and probably one of the few to use the word "Pygmalion." The whole audience knew the lyrics by heart and they sang and threw their fists in their air along with the band, building a connection that simply electrified the performance. Less electrifying was their cover of "Wonderwall" which even Alexx admitted was a bit "silly".

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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

So I am now further tattooed. I need to take a picture of my "word" tattoo, as part of the agreement I signed to be involved in the project. When I have that, and a picture of the Pluto one, I will post it.

So, the question every asks: did it hurt? Answer: like hell. Though, really, about 75% of it was bearable. Sure, it was painful, but I was okay. Now, that 25%, on the other hand, was completely excruciating. Those were the times when the tattoo gun was either on my shoulder blades or my spine (especially the lower spine). Those were the times I was wondering why I was paying someone to cause me that much agony. In the end though, I am really happy with them. I got them done at Voodoo Monkey and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone else, or go back there. It's weird though, there's something about getting them done on my back which made me more nervous. Maybe it's some human instinct that I'm violating by turning my back on someone who plans to cause me pain, I don't know.

Now that I have that over with, back to food.
So, lots of good dishes came out of the Coleff (or Southern Coleff) kitchen this past week. Among them:

Applesauce - More out of need than culinary experimentation, I ended up simmering this with sugar & spices, covered, on a crock pot all night. It gave the applesauce the deep rich caramel color of apple butter, but retained the consistency of the sauce. It also imparted a really rich, almost chocolate taste to the mix. This is definitely a technique I plan to repeat. Good tasting and low maintenance, can't go wrong ;)

I used some excess apples not used in the applesauce to make a few baked apples for dinner. They were good, but time constraints forced me to use the oven instead of the crock-pot, so I didn't really like the taste as much as the slow cooked variety.

Cheese & Soy Chorizo Enchiladas - check out Genevieve's Blog for info on that.

Indian Flavored Black Bean Soup - Another example of need prevailing over experimentation. I'd like to say I had planned to make this a pseudo-Indian soup, but really..I ran out of cumin. So, I decided to try some alternative spices, using a bit of the masala I bought for the chickpea dish I made the other day as well as a bit of turmeric, chili power and a few other things. Turned out damn good, if I do say so myself. Maybe next time I'll fry a chili and spice mixture up, take the idea further.

Sorry there is no theme today. I promise to return to my usual rants and raves soon :)

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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Attn: Non-Food related post follows.

So I am getting two new tattoos today.

The first is actually part of a story/art piece. The writer, Shelley Jackson, has put together a story, but instead of publishing it on paper, it's being printed on people. People volunteer to have one word of the story tattooed on them (picked at random) and thus become part of the story. A few co-workers and I went in on this. One of them already got his word ("before") tattooed on him and now it's Anne's and my turn. Her word is:
"casing."
mine is:
"whole"
I am getting it tattooed between my shoulder blades. She's getting hers along her spine.
For more info on the project, check out:
http://ineradicablestain.com/skin.html

The second tattoo I am getting is the symbol for Pluto, one on each side of my lower spine. I was really attracted to if after reading the following description from symbols.com

"Astrologers in the West claim Pluto to be the ruling planet of Scorpio, that sign formerly was thought to be ruled by Mars. The US astrologer Alan Oken suggests that is merely a higher octave of Mars breaks down form, he claims, but transforms its very atomic structure. The planet is the aggressive and emotional energy behind wars, he says, but the planet represents the ultimate destruction of the atom bomb. signifies the passion in sexuality, but represents the orgasm. is the anger that makes the soldier pull the trigger, but is the force that separates the soul of the man who is shot from his body, Oken says."

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Monday, March 08, 2004

One last comment:
The Pain Perdu I made this past weekend rocks! (see Genevieve's guest blog)
If you like French Toast and make one recipe featured on this blog, that is it.
(though i might suggest waiting until summer comes and get your berries fresh).

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I guess someone is reading this... ;)

So, after commenting last week about my lack of a larger knife, I get a call from my dad this past Thursday. He had read the blog entry and went out and bought us an early anniversary present. A Wüsthof 10" Chef's Knife, engraved with my initials (for when I go to cooking school, so I can take it with me and not lose it). For those who read this blog that do not cook at much, maybe it's kind of hard to explain how cool this is. But, as I learned from my class as well as just plain using it, having a good knife does make a lot of difference. It's longer, so it involves less wrist motion to chop, since it doesn't need to be brought up as far to "clear" the food. It's deadly sharp, so it slices through veggies like butter and it's high quality, so it'll last me a good long long time. It's like, a Honda is a great car, but you wouldn't want to go drag racing in it. My 8"'ers are still good knives, but with the amount and precision of use needed for classes and school, as well as home, the Wüsthof will serve me better.

The knife arrived this past Saturday. Needless to say, I am intensely geek'ed and very grateful to my dad. :)

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Hi all, Genevieve here writing a guest column on the food we had on my birthday this past Saturday.

I love Indian food and especially buffets, where you can taste a bunch of different flavors without ordering a huge amount of food. We went to Jaipur Junction for my birthday lunch. Since the Clay Oven closed, they are my favorite Cleveland Indian restaurant, followed closely by Saffron Patch (the same owners I think). We don't go there too often because it is about 25 minutes away, in southern Cuyahoga County. The food is amazing though - just the right amount of spices and ghee and the bread is always just chewy and toasty enough and the gulab jamun is sweet and wonderful but not cloying like a lot of Indian desserts can be.

Dinner was Pain Perdu and Sweet Potato Hash (modified by using vegetarian sausage). A couple of weeks ago we had made two breakfast/brunch items from the March 2004 Cooking Light. It turned out to be delicious, so I decided I wanted this for dinner on my birthday. We used frozen berries for the French toast since it's still winter here in the frozen north, but it still tasted great.

The highlight, however, was the cake Patrick made me. It was the Chocolate Layer Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting from the February 2004 Gourmet. Here's their picture, our cake looked almost as good even tho we wimped out on cutting the layers into 4 thin pieces. There are photos on Kerry's camera that will be posted to my blog as soon as they're imported.

This cake definitely lived up to its expectations, and proof i guess is that it is gone now :). I think a lot of what made it was the chocolate. The Mediterranean grocery at the market sells these blocks of chocolate, and I never really knew what they meant on the cooking shows when they said "high cocoa content" until I tasted these. The milk chocolate especially has that rich flavor where it almost tastes like there is liquor in it. The only problem in the cake is that I would probably exchange some of the butter in the frosting (it called for 3 sticks!) for cream cheese (which was the base for the frosting I made for Patrick's birthday) if we make it again. We cut down on the butter so the chocolate would still be the main flavor, and still the next day the frosting had the consistency of chilled butter and was difficult to spread even after running the electric mixer through it.

I would like to thank Patrick for making my birthday a wonderful culinary experience!

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Friday, March 05, 2004

Chili chili cocoa pop

Maybe it's some guy thing in me, my culinary love for chili. Who knows? Though, let me say, it is Genevieve who makes it in our house. It's one of the few dishes she refuses to let me make (another one, until recently, being oatmeal (...don't ask ;)). I don't think it's so much the taste of chili that I like, even if it is awfully good, but the idea. Chili is a blank canvas. Upon that mixture of spices and tomatoes, you can build such a wide variety of flavors. Sweet, savory, spicy, and on..

Everyone seems to have a chili recipe. I could stand up in my cube right now and sit down with one from every person around me. It's not a discerning dish. Not like something like Risotto (which I think is another one of those "blank canvas" dishes). Chili doesn't care about your cooking skills. You could burn toast and liquefy microwave fries and still be able to make a reasonable good pot of chili. It can be refined and delicate, or it can be bold, brass, with knock you off your ass spiciness. It's a "common man's (or woman's)" culinary creation.

As you've probably guessed from my blog, though I love fine food, I'm not a culinary snob. Maybe I make fun of the days of Better Homes & Gardens, but really, if someone puts the time in to make me food, that's a great gift and I'm certainly not going to snub it for it's lack of exotic spices. So, that's probably why I like chili. With a few basic ingredients, anyone can make it and really create it on a very personal level. And it can be damn good.

So, what's your favorite chili recipe?

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Thursday, March 04, 2004

Special post for my veggie and vegan readers. From this week's The Onion.

Virulent Strain Of Soy Flu Traced To Single Tofurkey
SAN FRANCISCO—A virulent strain of soy flu has been traced to a single tofurkey at a Bay Area food-processing factory. "An investigation of Green Earth Foods has located the bird-shaped loaf of firm bean curd from which the infection originated," said Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "To prevent further spreading of the disease, all tofurkeys in Northern California are being quarantined and destroyed." Gerberding said it appears that the soy virus was not transmitted to the factory's Spaghetti & Wheatballs Microwaveable Entree division.

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Dreams of food..

So, I had an odd dream last night. In it, I owned a small Bistro inside a Grocery Store. (Such as those coffeehouses within Borders.) It was the morning and I was getting everything ready when I realized that my wait staff (which consisted of one person) wasn't there. Walking outside the store, I find her making out with her boyfriend. I ask that she get inside and help me get ready for customers, but she refuses. So, I walk back in the restaurant, pacing around because now I have no one to wait on tables. Then, I decide that, rather than waste time, I'd best start prepping the dishes. I get to my prep table and pull out a list of about 9 items. It's at this point I realize that I have no idea which 3 items are supposed to be available today. Resigned to not being able to prep, I decide to check on the tables. The seats, which were empty minutes ago, are now filled with about 20 or so people, each one wondering where their food is. I complain to the person next to me, who has something to do with the Bistro, about my lack of help. He listens to me and walks outside. A short time later, through the doors comes a whole wait staff. Each one is decked out in a red shirt (which has the Bistro's logo on it, like some sort of uniform) as well as a small apron. The person who I talked to previously about my lack of staff is leading the pack. I look at them with great relief.

The end.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I feel like David Letterman here. But, another top X list..
Top 5 places I love to shop for food:

5. WestPoint Market - I am a bit torn on this place (ergo their placement at #5 on the countdown. For those interested, #6 would probably be "every chain grocery store I go to out of necessity"). One on hand, it's great to wander around a store filled with gourmet items and pick out little treats for myself. On the other, for someone who buys almost all their food at the West Side Market, it feels more than a little..stuffy. It can be too quiet, reserved...pretentious..for my tastes. I always walk out of there spouting my "it's only food..even if it does cost $30 a pound" rant going on. That said, they do have an awesome selection of high quality items you often can't find anywhere else and it's still a fun excursion when we're down in Akron.

4. Asian Plaza - They're creepy and they're kooky, they smell a little ooky, but they always have the...um..chili paste? Adams Family references aside, for Asian ingredients, you can't get a wider selection for cheaper than Asian Plaza. Everything from seaweed to pickled and candied octopus is available here, stocked to the ceiling and at rock bottom prices. The only bad point is that, to get too all the good stuff, you have to wade through the pervasive musty and fishy smells that occupy every corner of the place.

3. Indian Grocery - Located just outside the heart of big-box land in Parma, the Indian Grocery managed to feel far removed from the blaring chaos of the Best Buy and H.H. Gregg down the street. It is small, with just two isles of food (and a wall of Bollywood video tapes) making up their whole store, but they have almost anything you might need for your next Indian dish. Plus, the counter help is gregarious, friendly and knowledgeable, always willing to help you sort out what you need. They have weird hours, so I can't go as much as I'd like, but I enjoy it every time.

2. Mi Pueblo Grocery - A recently expanded addition to the Mi Pueblo restaurant, which adjoins it. When I first went there years ago, it was a small corner shack, half the size of a 7-11, and less than inspiring. Returning recently, I was pleasantly suprised to see they'd greatly expanded. Now, dried chilis line the wall and shelves are well stocked with a wide variety of Mexican ingredients. Meat eaters should also take note of their expansive selection of seasoned pork and other meats. All of this for dead-cheap prices.

1. The West Side Market - a veritable celebration of food. Walking down those isles (especially early on a Saturday, when the throngs of people aren't there to make it hard to get around), lined with produce of every color and vendors yelling and thrusting free samples at the crowd, it's food Mecca to me. High-class grocery stores, like West Pointe Market, I can take 'em or leave 'em. The environment and spirit of the West Side I can't do without. There's a certain feeling of comfort to be a regular at the Market. To have a vendor ask why you haven't been around for a bit, or give you a "see you next week" as you head out. Even living just a few minutes from it, nothing gives me a bigger sense of being part of the Cleveland community than the Market. Plus, let's get down to it: play your cards right and you're getting some high quality stuff for very low prices. Some of their inside stands, well, they can be comparable, price-wise, but the quality if just heads and tails (no pun intended) above the local chain grocery store.
Sub-top 5 listing. Top 5 stands in the West Side Market (in no particular order)

* Christopher's Bakery - After giving up Vera's when their bread turned spongy, Christopher's has been our new favorite bakery. They don't have the sugar-filled goodness of Vera's, but their bread is top-notch. The Old World Pugliese being one of their signature breads and an enjoyable, just-crusty-enough treat.

* City Roast - Some of the best coffee I've ever tasted comes from City Roast. People often wait in great lines just for a cup of their wonderful black goodness. Yes, it's more expensive than Folgers, but if you want something that tastes like coffee (instead of cardboard), it's the best place I've found in Cleveland.

* The Hispanic Stand -I really can't remember the name of this place. It's on the outside isles, next to the W. 25th door. Service could not possibly be friendlier and, despite the occasional wilted cilantro, food is almost always top-notch. A joy to go to, even if I'm buying something small.

* Basketaria - I think I spelled that wrong. Either way, it's a lovely stand filled with organic produce, but not at "organic prices." They also always have an odd item or two in stock, if you're looking to try out something new. I love grabbing one of their loose carrots when we go. They're sweet sweet sweet and big enough (re: fucking huge) enough that I can chop what I need for dinner and have enough left over to eat while I'm cooking.

* Meister Cheeses - Though they're often pretty crowded, there's a reason: Their great cheeses and friendly service. I often joke that, even if we don't need any cheese that week, maybe I should stop by, just to pick something up. It doesn't feel like a trip to the Market without a visit to Mr. Meister.


If you live in the Cleveland area and have not visited one or more of these places, I strongly encourage you to do so. Get out of those santized Giant Eagle stores and get some good food!

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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Last night, while sorting through some boxes, I came across Genevieve's Grandmother's "Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook".

My mom had one of these, I'm sure my grandmother did as well. It seems that every woman of a certain age range (i.e. currently older than 50) has one of these plaid patterned beauties stashed away somewhere. As if they were issued to everyone when they turned 18. (Genevieve corrected me and informed me that they were probably more-than-likely issued as wedding presents for soon-to-be housewives). I'd be willing to bet that anyone reading this knows a mom or grandmother who has one.

Opening the book, the first things to spill out were the clipped recipes, mostly from newspapers and magazine ads. Except a few of them which were handwritten on cards and miscellaneous pieces of paper. I remember these in my own mother's cookbook as well (it's those scraps that, I believe, contain the mysterious tuna rice pie recipe ;), except this cookbook's were filled with, among other things, variations upon variations of instructions for kugel.

Cooking, especially home-cooking, has progressed by leaps and bounds since Better Homes issued this book about 50 years ago. Most of the recipes come across as kitchy, dated, even a little gross (one, in particular, involved cutting a hole in a hamburger bun, sticking a solitary egg in there, then baking it at 350 for 25 min, placing a slice of cheese on top and baking for another 5, until melted. It was called "bunny.."something). It's full of ultra saturated pictures of the idyllic family table, filled with turkey, waldorf salads, and Jell-O molds. One, of a woman with 8 arms, each holding a dish, looking up at the clock (I assume, waiting for her husband to come home) was particularly of a certain time-period.

I have to give credit though. Most of the basic cooking techniques still hold up today. (Their instructions for making fudge were dead-on what we did last week.) So, as such, I can say that I feel, to an extent, the book holds up today. Not that everyone exactly *wants* a recipe for the perfect grape Jell-O mold anymore, but as a reference source, it works very well. Either way, in these days of a million cookbooks for every taste and ethnic variety, it was an entertaining glimpse into what was supposed to be the "perfect meal", decades ago. I joked that it would be a fun to do a themed dinner party, sourcing the meal just from that book. Of course, I've seen those dresses the cooks are supposed to wear and I just don't think they'd be flattering on my waistline.

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Monday, March 01, 2004

You know, I don't think I'd ever really appreciated a well-written recipe until I read a bad one.

So, the other night, Genevieve prints out this recipe for a chickpea Indian dish (the name slips me) for us to make on Sunday. As I'm prepping for the recipe, going through my usual once-over to make sure there's not some step at the end that's like: "then cook the tomatoes for two hours", which I've noticed some recipes do and is a big pet peeve of mine, I notice that, not only do the instructions leave a lot to assumption, but the ingredients are not even printed in order. Those who make Indian dishes probably know that many of them involve an oil mixture added at the end. Usually some lightly fried spices swirled into the final dish. This one also had that, but they spices used were interplayed throughout the listing (not at the end like what would - make sense). So, as I'm cooking, I have to henpeck around the ingredients to get the measurements while at the same time, skipping around the instructions so it all flowed in a cohesive manner. The latter of which did *not* end up happening, but was resurrected by some help from Genevieve.
In the end, the dish turned out fabulous. Probably one of the best Indian dishes we've made. But, it was also one of the most stressful. I'll probably make it again, but not before completely rewriting the recipe.

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