Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Pork and Pinot

December 26, 2012 Leave a comment


A week ago, with Joel home for the holidays, we had Burgundy at home night. Gail cooked beef bourguignon and we opened a bottle of 2000 Burgundy (Morey-Saint-Denis premier cru from the Monts-Luisants vineyard). Tonight Gail made another feast, pictured above. The dish is pork with beets, apples, kale, onion, and garlic—additional flavoring courtesy of chardonnay, fresh rosemary, and fresh thyme—served over pasta.

Accompanying the food was a bottle of Porter Creek Winery‘s 2009 reserve pinot noir. I had planned for weeks that once Joel got home, we would drink our bottle of Morey-Saint-Denis with one meal and one of our Porter Creek pinots with another. Tonight was the night for Porter Creek.


I have written about Porter Creek before, starting with our 2008 visit. I won’t repeat myself. See this link, for instance, describing our wine club shipment last April, or the link I included there to a 2009 NYT column by Eric Asimov on California pinots. Well, let me quote Asimov once again:

For me, wine’s place is with food, and that’s why I had begun to despair of so many California pinot noirs. Their power and sense of sweetness were overwhelming at the table. But it turns out that more than a few California producers share my feeling, like Ehren Jordan of Failla and Thomas Brown of Rivers-Marie, Joe Davis of Arcadian and Alex Davis of Porter Creek. Almost to a person, they make no secret of being inspired by the wines of Burgundy.

See also this short note in the San Francisco Chronicle two years ago on Alex Davis. Here is his description of tonight’s wine.

Our 2009 reserve is a special selection originating from the steepest parts of the Fiona Hill Vineyard. It was vinified with one third whole cluster fermention and 40% new French oak barrels. The result is bolder, broader-shouldered wine with serious aging potential.

The wine was both delicious and a perfect complement to tonight’s meal. We have another bottle of the reserve, so we do have the option of waiting to discover its aging potential. I don’t know if we have the patience though. My bet is that the next time Gail makes beef bourguignon, we’ll be opening it. If only we had ordered more while it was still available.

Categories: Family, Food, Wine

Doolie’s Hot Hot Sauce

December 21, 2012 Leave a comment


We had dinner downtown at ART Restaurant two nights ago. (More on that in a forthcoming post.) Along with our entrees, we selected three side dishes, one of which was called “Doolies Hot Sauce Broccolini.” We had no idea who Doolie was.

The server warned us that the broccolini would be hot, which seemed clear enough. I replied that that was good. By the time the broccolini was served, I had completely forgotten that it was going to be hot. Really hot, we discovered. And indeed good.

Yesterday I explored further and discovered that Doolie’s Hot Hot Sauce is a local product. That shouldn’t have been surprising, given the emphasis ART places on its relationships with local purveyors. Still, I had imagined a sauce from Texas. Not at all. The company is in South Seattle, the founder a resident of West Seattle. From the website:

What started as something founder Abdul Mohamud made as a treat for friends and family for game days, parties or just to have with snacks eventually turned into something so good, they HAD to have with every meal! Overtime, the sauce had adopted a new name and became known as Doolie’s Hot Hot Sauce. Eventually, more and more of his friends, his family, even his friends’ families began to ask him for some of this amazingly delicious sauce, using it as a marinade, on pizza, in sandwiches and on burritos, or even just as a dip with chips! With such a high demand for the sauce, Abdul decided to make Doolie’s Hot Hot Sauce available for sale to local businesses, vendors, and plain individuals. Years of practice and perfection, as well as the highest quality of ingredients go into each batch of sauce produced. All of the produce is hand-selected with the highest standards of excellence. All ingredients are fresh and local, supporting the Pacific Northwest community and local farmers. All of this is done ensure that YOU receive the best hot sauce available!

My search also led me to a great piece half a year ago in the West Seattle Herald, where I learned that Mohamud is just a 24-year-old, born in Somalia.

Last year he started a Somali restaurant with his brother, but after six months they were only able to break even and decided to call it quits. There was, however, a silver lining.

Grandma’s hot sauce was served with every meal during their restaurant run, and Mohamud said people started to take note. Customers were stealing bottles from the tables, friends were stealing mom’s homemade batches from his fridge, people were calling in to-go orders for the sauce instead of food … it was clear people really liked the stuff.

At the turn of 2012, Mohamud decided to run with the lustful following Grandma’s sauce had created, applied for the necessary permits to start making it for commercial resale, and started renting time at a commercial kitchen in SoDo. After much trial and error, he was able to recreate Grandma’s flavors in large scale batches and found a way to tone down the heat “for the masses” (he said the original is extremely hot).


Reorder requests are going from a case a week to a case a day, a modest profit is starting to turn, and Mohamud is already scheming future products, including a “GuacaDoolie,” a red sauce, and, eventually, an original version of Grandma’s Recipe with a heat level for adventurous palates.

The Doolie’s website has a recipe for a spicy tuna sandwich that I’m eager to try. We’ll buy a jar and experiment.

Categories: Food

Burgundy at Home

December 19, 2012 Leave a comment


Here are the ingredients:

1. Attend the annual fundraising dinner for your favorite museum, buy anonymous (wrapped in paper) bottles of wine in the “wine grab,” discover that you are the owner of a 2000 Morey-Saint-Denis premier cru from the Monts-Luisants vineyard.

2. Have some beef in the refrigerator that needs cooking.

3. Pick up your son at the airport late the night before, thereby bringing one more appreciative eater and drinker into the house.

4. Have the wisdom 27 1/2 years ago to marry a good cook, wait 21 years for her to attend culinary school, wait another few years for conditions 1 through 3 to fall into place.

Combine and produce a Burgundy evening at home.

Last night, Gail made beef bourguignon: beef, carrots, onions, parsley, mashed potato, and lots of wine in the sauce. Accompanying it was our 2000 Burgundy. A green salad followed, and then poached pear (with a second helping of the beef in between). Too bad I didn’t take pictures of the salad and pear. Everything was delicious, and a feast for the eyes as well.

No need to go to France, or Rover’s*, when we can eat like this at home. Thank you, Gail.

*Rover’s, Seattle’s great French restaurant, just down the street from us, will close next April, as owner-chef Thierry Rautureau announced last week. Luc, his restaurant next door, will continue, and he has other ventures in mind.


Categories: Family, Food

Pasta Carbonara

November 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Andrew Carmellini, chef/owner of TriBeCa’s Locanda Verde, making pasta carbonara

[Daniel Krieger for The New York Times]

Tuesday night, the NYT put up an article by Ian Fisher at their home page about pasta carbonara as a Thanksgiving substitute. As a carbonara lover, I clicked on the article immediately, and found it sufficiently exciting that I thought of writing a post about it. The next morning, I saw that it was the front page feature story in the weekly Wednesday food section, and later in the day I noticed that it was #2 in the NYT list of most e-mailed articles. I wasn’t alone in my fascination with carbonara. And my service as linker to the article might be unnecessary. Yet here I am linking to it, in case you missed it.

Of special interest is the discussion of guanciale versus pancetta.

My wife has more confidence in my cooking skills than I do. When we were posted in Italy (I was the New York Times correspondent in Rome), she volunteered me to make carbonara at a party one summer afternoon in Tuscany. The host was a contessa, the mother of one of our sons’ school friends. I am American, and I could tell most of the guests did not hold much hope.

I hadn’t made much carbonara before and told her, “I’m nervous.”

She said, “You should be.”

It all went terribly. It was too hot for most Italians to enjoy heavy carbonara. I didn’t bring enough guanciale, the cured pig cheeks that for many Italians have become indispensable for carbonara. I had to chuck in some pancetta (pork belly as opposed to cheek) that the host had in the fridge. For this crowd, pancetta simply was not done. I botched the eggs to the point that they were scrambled.

No Italian adult would touch it, except the contessa, who did so with well-bred, fork-plucking politeness. But the children gobbled it down because — and this is the curse and the key to carbonara — eggs, bacon, cheese and pasta taste great, almost no matter what. It’s worth the effort, though, to get right, and that’s what I’ve striven for since, to the point of curing my own guanciale at home, which is less difficult than it sounds. No obsession here, I swear.

Fisher raises a series of questions: “Guanciale, pancetta or plain bacon? Only pecorino cheese, made from sheep’s milk? Or is a bit of Parmesan O.K.? Peas or not? Onion? Whole eggs or yolks? Or, heaven forbid, the ingredient that most divides devotees of a dish that, above all, aims for creaminess: actual cream?” It would appear that the answer is, whatever works.

Andrew Carmellini, the chef and owner of Locanda Verde in Manhattan, studied cooking in Italy but has gone his own way, while keeping true to the dish’s nature. In his version, which he calls Spaghetti Friuliano, after the region in Italy where part of his family comes from, he uses speck, which is like prosciutto, as well as onions, cabbage, eggs, smoked pecorino from Sardinia and, yes, cream. He even finishes it with a little grappa.

After seeing Skyfall last night, Gail and I took a route home that would bring us past a favorite neighborhood restaurant, La Côte Café. In mid afternoon, we had eaten a late lunch of Thanksgiving leftovers. As we passed La Côte Café at around 8:15 PM, we weren’t in need of a full dinner. I suggested that we stop for dessert crepes.

Earlier this year, in converting from La Côte Crêperie to La Côte Café, the restaurant substantially revised their menu. Many of the crepe selections were dropped. Lasagna and pasta carbonara — perhaps the best carbonara in Seattle — were added. This presented a bit of a problem, since we really weren’t there for a full meal. With carbonara on my mind for four days, I had to exercise enormous restraint to stick with ordering just a light salad and a dessert crepe, which I did. Now we have to get back soon so I can satisfy my carbonara craving.

I wonder why French restaurants make such good pasta carbonara. Without doubt, I had my favorite version ever at the beachfront restaurant of the Majestic Hotel in La Baule, on the Brittany coast. That was in 1999, when we were visiting my sister and her family on the occasion of a big birthday for her. We ate there the night we arrived. I had the carbonara then, and again when we returned later in our stay.

I’m thinking that next month, when Joel is back, we can experiment a bit with our own version of pasta carbonara. Gail, what do you think?

Categories: Food


October 27, 2012 1 comment

The NYT food section three days ago had an article on some of the options for dumpling lovers in the city, along with a slideshow and the video I’ve embedded above. If you missed the video, I recommend you click on it and watch. It features the work of Joe Ng at RedFarm in the West Village and Dale Talde at Talde in Park Slope. (The slideshow is worth a look too.)

From the article:

In Park Slope, Dale Talde has engineered one of the most hunted-down bar snacks of 2012, a beer-friendly, street-cart collision known as the “pretzel dumpling.”

Inside, there’s some slightly cured pork. Outside, a process of boiling, brushing, pan-searing and baking creates a skin with the crust and chew of a hot pretzel. The dipping sauce echoes what you might get at a deli, or in a bag full of Chinese takeout: strong mustard.

For Mr. Talde, who grew up in Chicago and comes from a Filipino background, the goal was to summon a dish that represented a spirited take on what’s Asian and what’s American. “For us, it was a perfect way of blending the two,” he said.

If any place embodies the city’s neo-dumpling ethos, though, it’s RedFarm, whose West Village location has already spawned a forthcoming Upper West Side spinoff. At RedFarm, there are dumplings fashioned to look like Pac-Man characters and horseshoe crabs. There’s also an egg roll stuffed with pastrami.

“I call them whimsical,” said Ed Schoenfeld, the veteran restaurateur behind RedFarm. Spend an afternoon touring the kitchen, and Mr. Schoenfeld will rhapsodize about the artistry of the chef, Joe Ng. Those batter-crusted crabs might look like a cute gag, but there’s culinary precision (and greenmarket produce) inside them.

Pete Wells reviewed RedFarm back in March, giving it high praise and two stars.

It won’t be easy. They have plaintive black sesame-seed eyes, the dumplings at RedFarm, giving them the appearance of strange, adorable characters in a Miyazaki film. These flat-bellied duck and crab dumplings look like a school of wide-mouthed catfish; the pale-green ones, filled with shrimp and snow-pea leaves, like moon-faced tadpoles. Over here are Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde, spectral shrimp dumplings in blue, pink, yellow and white, chasing a Pac-Man made of sweet potato tempura with a blueberry for an eye.

Ignore their plaintive stares, and stare at them instead. Look how rounded they are, how their fillings weigh against their glossy wrappers like the summer juice pressing against the skin of a plum. They look firm, ripe, ready. You can tell that they’re going to be good.

But you don’t know how good they really are, and how good RedFarm can be, until you try one. And then, plaintive stares or no, you begin devouring these bundles of delight one by one.

RedFarm, in the West Village, is a collaboration between one of New York’s greatest Chinese chefs, Joe Ng, and one of its greatest Chinese restaurateurs, Ed Schoenfeld. Only one, Mr. Ng, is Chinese by birth. Mr. Schoenfeld is Chinese by calling, a Brooklyn-born Jew who long ago heard an inner voice urging him to bring better kung pao chicken to the people of Manhattan.

They have several clever ideas at RedFarm. First, the menu has been tailored for a Western palate, with none of the bland and slippery specialties that non-Chinese eaters find so enigmatic. It also seems designed for the age of Yelp, when the entire world can be split into either Nothing Special or OMG. RedFarm’s cooking runs hard toward OMG.


For sensations like this, people have stood in line, and stood and stood, since the restaurant opened last August. RedFarm belongs to that post-Momofuku generation of restaurants made possible by the discovery that people will wait in line, open their wallets and put up with a reasonable amount of discomfort if the cooking consistently vaults above usual levels of intensity. No reservations are taken, except for large parties.

The décor, to stretch a definition, is provided mostly by potted plants and by Mr. Schoenfeld’s owlish eyeglasses, color-coordinated with his sweaters. Cartons of beer and liquor are stowed above the tables on raw-lumber platforms. (What design budget there was seems to have gone into buying one of those highly accomplished Japanese toilets.)

In exchange, all the flavors have been turned up as high as they can go. The dishes can be salty, or sweet, or rich. Often they are all three at once. At RedFarm, the food goes to 11.

The review has a slideshow too, also worth study.

We’ll be in New York in just days, but with limited time, so that part about waiting in line may mean we won’t get down to RedFarm. Next time.

Categories: Food, Restaurants

Bill Burger, 3

August 15, 2012 2 comments

A quick review, for those who haven’t been following this series of posts.

Two months ago, just before the start of the US Open golf championship at San Francisco’s Olympic Club, I wrote about the Bill Burger, invented by Bill Parish and served exclusively at the club. I quoted from Al Saracevic’s story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

For decades, famished golfers have stopped at a small, nondescript shack between the 9th and 10th holes at Olympic to devour what quite possibly could be the greatest burger known to mankind. It not only tastes great, but it looks funny, too.

You see, back in 1950, a guy named Bill Parrish opened a small burger stand outside the boundaries of Olympic, but close enough for golfers to run over and buy a burger or dog between holes. To save money, Bill decided to cut his burgers in half and serve them on hot dog rolls. That way he didn’t have to waste money on buying two kinds of buns.

The result is legendary. You can hold it one hand and wolf it down in no time. And did I mention it tastes fabulous? If you’ve ever played the famous Lake Course, you know what I’m talking about.

I then explained that Bill’s daughter now makes the burgers, using a mold to shape the ground beef and concluding that we need one of those molds.

Two weeks ago, I wrote with exciting news:

This morning, my pal Russ was kind enough to send me a link to the Kitchen Art Ham Dogger, available from Amazon for just $6.29. … I ordered one. It arrives tomorrow. Ham dogs this weekend. Hot dog!

No ham dogs that weekend, as it turns out. Alternative eating options arose. And then Gail went away for a few days. But patience is a virtue, and I’m virtuous, so I waited.

Last night I got my reward. Ham dogs! Or, Bill burgers! When I got home, Gail had already molded them into shape. Soon she had them on the grill, and when I took over, all I had to do is roll them. I suppose that was a first, rolling rather than flipping the burgers.

It turns out that putting cheese on a ham dog isn’t so easy. Something to do with dogs being curved, unlike burgers. If you slice the cheese flat, you will discover a problem.

The problem may look minor in the picture below. The cheese melts and curves after all. But it doesn’t adhere as tightly as flat cheese does on a flat burger.

Maybe you can see that better in the next picture. Take a close look at the second ham dog from the top.

Another problem: the fixings don’t see to rest inside the bun as well as in a burger bun. (See photo at top.) But maybe we didn’t buy the right hot dog buns. We need to experiment a little more.

No matter. They tasted good.

Which prompts the fundamental question. Why bother? Sure, they tasted good, but no better than if we shaped them like burgers and ate them on burger buns. Is there a point to this enterprise, other than to use the Kitchen Art Ham Dogger that we now have $6.29 (plus tax) invested in?

Yes, there is a point, as Gail reminded me, and it was Bill Parrish’s point as well, his source of inspiration. If you’re making both hamburgers and hot dogs, turning your hamburgers into Bill Burgers allows you to lay out one type of bun only. It simplifies shopping, minimizes waste, saves money. Kind of like growing melons shaped like cubes. The melons can travel in the same boxes used for other goods, saving space and money.

Now we must search for the perfect Bill Burger bun. And a melon mold.

Categories: Food

Bill Burger, 2

August 2, 2012 1 comment

Just before the start of the US Open golf championship in June, I wrote about the Bill Burger. This year’s Open was held at San Francisco’s famed Olympic Club, which in addition to its rich sporting history is also home to Bill Parish’s great burger invention.

I quoted in that earlier post from Al Saracevic’s story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

For decades, famished golfers have stopped at a small, nondescript shack between the 9th and 10th holes at Olympic to devour what quite possibly could be the greatest burger known to mankind. It not only tastes great, but it looks funny, too.

You see, back in 1950, a guy named Bill Parrish opened a small burger stand outside the boundaries of Olympic, but close enough for golfers to run over and buy a burger or dog between holes. To save money, Bill decided to cut his burgers in half and serve them on hot dog rolls. That way he didn’t have to waste money on buying two kinds of buns.

The result is legendary. You can hold it one hand and wolf it down in no time. And did I mention it tastes fabulous? If you’ve ever played the famous Lake Course, you know what I’m talking about.

I also quoted a description by Katie Sweeney that accompanied her slide show, in which she brought us up to date by mentioning that “nowadays, Bill’s daughter is in charge of making the burgers. They have a special mold that shapes the ground beef into skinny rectangular patties. Each patty is a quarter pound of beef.”

And I concluded:

We will be watching the golf on Sunday, and having our Father’s Day barbecue. What better way to take in the action than to accompany it with Bill Burgers (or our best approximation of them)? We could use one of those molds.

Alas, minus molds, Gail refused to participate in Bill Burger building. We had to settle for Copper River salmon, accompanied by rice, grilled vegetables, corn on the cob, homemade strawberry lemonade, and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream cake.

I know. Not so bad. In fact, it was terrific. But I have continued to dream of Bill Burgers.

I can stop dreaming soon. This morning, my pal Russ was kind enough to send me a link to the Kitchen Art Ham Dogger, available from Amazon for just $6.29. (Thank you, Russ!) The product description:

Now you can please both the hot dog and hamburger lover. You will never have to buy two kinds of buns when you have Kitchen Art Ham Dogger. The Ham Dogger is easy to use and makes 1/4 lb. hot dog shaped hamburger patties. Make specialty dogs using ground sausage or turkey.

To give proper credit, Russ learned about the ham dogger from Amy Rolph’s piece on the Top 20 weirdest things you can buy on Amazon, posted yesterday at the Seattle PI website.

I ordered one. It arrives tomorrow. Ham dogs this weekend. Hot dog!

Categories: Food, Shopping