Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Eating Out A Show Diary #1

Dear diary,

I really dig this whole TV thing. So far I’ve been able to knock out 2 recipes with only minimal difficulties. Although deciding to add the garlic at the beginning of cooking was a rather boneheaded move and I should have known better. But oh well, the chicken was done all the way through and still pretty moist. And this time I managed to make enough so that all of the crew got to have a taste as well.

Plus I got to meet Peter Moredyk, a fascinating ukulele impresario and probably one of the nicest guys I’ve met all year. Not only does he play and sing quite sweetly, reminiscent of a Tolkien ballad on a desert isle while sipping rum drinks, but he’s also a well travelled and interesting fellow. Originally hailing from South Africa, he has travelled quite a large portion of the planet and has sampled cuisines from all over. The only living man I know who has consumed the dreaded bhut jalokia peppers of India and could brag about the experience. (This man puts cayenne on his breakfast cereal!) I can’t wait to get out and see him perform live.

There was also Chuckle’s co-host for the day Amy Kohl. She’s a transplant to Fresno from the terrifying backwoods of upstate New York. But much more than that, she’s a local artist who, not only sculpts metal but is a fair hand with ink and graphite. I always feel a wee bit of farm-boy shame whenever I meet someone who can weld, since Pop never let me do much more than operate a cutting torch. But I also feel like I’m all thumbs around visual artists as well. So a welding artist pretty much makes me feel like a hack. But she brought me back from the brink by being a really sweet and genuine person. The oddest part about TV so far is how much the conversations will extend into the commercial breaks. Oftentimes one of their plucky techs will have to urgently remind us that we’re going back on the air so we can reset and be ready for another entertaining topic.

And what can I say about the great and powerful Chuck Leonard that hasn’t already been added to the Library of Congress? Considering I ditched Mr. Steven’s Radio/TV class after the first two weeks, Chuck makes doing and understanding TV extremely easy. He and all of the Central Valley Talk family make me feel really welcome and go the extra mile to help me not look like a fool. And trust me, that’s no small task!

To top off a fabulous day, after the show, Chuck took me over to see the Tower Community Garden. Truly, I have to say that I’m very impressed. From the mulch pile where they gather green waste from restaurants and mix it together on site, to the worm box for raising soil enriching wriggly beasts, to the amazing collection of plants and flowers lovingly laid out in their raised beds and in the serenity garden. Yup, there’s even a serenity garden to enjoy. 300 steps lead around in a tightening spiral where you stroll past a parade of color and smells. I’m hands down impressed. There’s a nice block of tomatoes set up, as well as squash, brussel sprouts, strawberries, various peppers, pumpkins and a ton of other items that I’m still learning how to identify on the fly.

I’ve got to say that I found the garden to be incredibly inspirational. Especially because, as I understand it, there is no central authority guiding it’s care. Rather, it’s the community of the Tower District that brought out the plants, tends the soil, weeds the beds and in general keeps a tidier garden than I do in my own back yard. And the young folks beating the heat in the shade as they listened to a friend belt out some tunes on his guitar provided some pleasant ambience as we walked the paths and admired the beauty that kindness and community can bring out.

Not a bad day at all. Let’s hope that next Tuesday is just as cool if not a little bit cooler.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Eating Out A Landmark

Actually, THE Landmark. You see, after we didn’t totally screw up during the premier of the Cooking With Pook segment on Central Valley Buzz! 4-6pm weekdays on channel 33.1 and webcast, (Like that artfully rammed in plug? Thought you would.) so we felt that we deserved a bit of a victory dance after our premier and dropped in for a bite. More about the mighty ‘Mark later.

Let’s talk about MEEEE! Oh my god! I cooked on TV! And it was a ton of fun! I got to make my pasta carbonara recipe. And you know that old saying about watched pots and boiling water? Multiply that by 10,000 when you’re doing your best not to look like a complete ass on TV! Oh my god, it took that pot of water damn near an hour to go from tap to boiling. But beyond that, it was all smoothies. The pancetta rendered nicely, the sauce came out an acceptable texture, the pasta wasn’t too bad. And it looked ok. Creamy pasta isn’t exactly going to jump off of your screen in brilliant HD. My real boner though, was off-camera. I didn’t make enough for the crew! There’s a small army of hungry interns who are looking to jump me. Lesson: bring more next week. Look maw! I is on the Tee Vee!

And on to dinner. We took a wander around the Tower after the show, so that I might annoy any who would hold still, with tales of my nouveau célébrité. After having my inflated head booted out of a few living rooms, the hunger was upon us. First I thought about the take out pizzas over at Karch’s, since I could also get it home to the camera I left there. But alas, it was after 9pm. So we settled on the all night happy hour at the Landmark and a sad lack of food pics.

I’m actually at The Landmark quite a bit. So I found it a little strange that this is the first time that it occurred to me to review more than a couple plates of appetizers during the Rogue. It’s really a very nice Basque restaurant, with a medium sized back patio that they lovingly heat in the winter and have misters up to help beat down the raging Fresno summers. Their back dining room is fairly large and nicely appointed. And most importantly, even if it’s raging at the bar and on the patio, you can still hear yourself think while you’re eating in the dining room. A big plus when the restaurant is also a popular night spot. And rather than clear out the tables for a dance floor, the kitchen stays open late so drinky pants can get their grub on and level out their buzz.

Menu stuff! And a gin and tonic, please. They’ve got a pretty wide menu, Basque style seafood dishes, lamb, beef, frogses. Even the terrifying escargots of snailness. But the spouse lady was down for some clamsian goodness for the appetizer. So, I chose the scalone, an apparent fusion of scallops and abalone (which I’ve never before seen on a menu for under $40), egg dipped and fried, similar to a calamari steak for my entree. The lady chose the shrimp scampi and we both went for the pasta alfredo as our side.

Their clams were pretty good. Only a couple were sporting the hated clam-sand-poop. Nothing sets you back as you’re mentally getting over the concept that you’re eating an entire animal, poop chute and all, than a nice, crown-damaging crunch to remind you that there’s an artfully stewed turd in that chewy little fellow. Doesn’t mean I didn’t finish ‘em and then dip some of their garlic bread in the butter, white wine, shallot and poop broth. Mmmmmm. And if you think that’s a little too gross, I’ll tell you a few tales of the dark side of sausages! To know what worcestershire sauce really is will make you faint dead away.

The salads were ok. Not much in the greens to get too excited about. My bleu cheese was fairly mild. Although the pickled beets on top were a fun touch that harkens back to the fancy salads of my youth, like the Lime Lite’s. Overall it wasn’t going to sink or float anything on it’s own. So we move on to our entrees. Both were hot and seemed to be fresh from the kitchen. There was a small delay, since our server was also handling the madhouse of the patio, so I was a bit worried. But he seemed to be well in synch with the kitchen and got our plates out within their tastiness tolerances.

I really liked the scalone! It was 3 medium sized, egg dipped and fried patties. Very similar to a calamari steak. But it’s all the difference when you bite into them. There is a much lighter texture than you get with squid, or even with scallops alone. And I finally understand the abalone obsession. When handled properly, they’re extremely tender and sweet. Absolutely perfect on their own, it’d be a sin to even add a squirt of lemon. Now I must find an abalone festival, that I might sate this heretofore unknown need.

The alfredo was fairly meh. It was certainly better than Lipton’s. But I think I may have had overly engorged standards by that point considering I had lunched on carbonara, destroyed the clam appetizer and already sampled the scalone. I was reaching the Danger-Full level. The clams had also done their damage to the spouse. But she bravely trooped her way through her shrimp scampi. I got a taste and really liked the flavor. Nice sized butterflied shrimp in a tasty garlic butter sauce with something new. Mushrooms. It makes complete sense now that I think of it, but they had to show me the truth of it. The shrimp themselves were a wee bit overcooked, but didn’t detract too much from the dish. Overall, we were really happy with dinner and our service. Not for the first time and most certainly not the last.

So, we’ve got ourselves a bit of a Tuesday spot on an awesome local TV station! I feel like I’m finally living out my dream of being a character in Weird Al’s movie “UHF”. I hope I get to jump out of a closet in a Channel 30 office and yell “Supplies!” while attacking their hired goons with mops during a clandestine mission to rescue Chuck’s abducted janitor, who will later go on to say some very regrettable things on stage in LA. With that fantasy in my head and a belly full of new and interesting seafood, I gotta say. Damn, it feels good to be a blogga!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Eating Out Fresh and Local

Howdy y’all! And a happy Monday to ya’s. I trust your weekends were mostly quite pleasant and involved enjoyable activities that dovetail nicely with the sunny and rather warm weather. Preferably scantily clad activities. Sadly, I myself was in a more pants-on sort of position.

But, it wasn’t all bad. There was of course some excitingly experimental (for me) cooking going on in the kitchen of love. The bounty of spring is tidal waving it’s way into summer and it’s been bashing it’s way past the levies of my laziness. A post all-nighter trip to the farmer’s market drained me of about 80 bucks, but left me awash in fresh blueberries, strawberries, squashes, eggplant, sprouts, lettuce, fresh bay leaves, sage. The usual rampage of far too much good stuff for me to conceivably eat in a timely manner.

And in our amble through all things dirt-born and delicious we discovered most happy news! Fabiano’s amazing coffees are going to be served at the bar at Charlotte’s BakerEatery’s new location at 609 E. Olive! I’m wildly excited for them! But I better still be able to buy my kona too, or I’m gonna be a pissy Mr. Bloggerpants…

Speaking of pissy! It’s official. EoF has made it’s very first hate-hardon. Remember that rant a while back about the assault of the food Gestapo at the Vineyard Farmer’s Market? Me neither! But apparently the property owner and instigator of the rant does. Have you ever seen someone, as they’re about to confront you, begin shaking like they’re about to either have an epileptic episode?  That, or they’re gonna freak you all night long.  And then their opening phrase is shrill and quavers like formerly mute rooster who just got his voice box back?

It was like that. I haven’t seen barely controlled rage like that since Hulk Hogan stole the beautiful Miss Elizabeth from Randy Machoman Savage, as she pops off with a “I’m surprised to see you back here.”. Huh? That’s a line a bartender uses the day after you lost a fight to the local King of the Watering Hole. Hardly a witty comeback to the pithy smartass that threw you under the bus for having poor public relation skills. Mainly, I don’t see where the fight is. She has an unpleasant attitude and likes to run all over the place and pretend that she’s the bespectacled Red Queen of Vegetable Town. So, I suppose in that light, I did lose. Because she certainly didn’t learn that she is her own and the market's worst PR rep. Still, it’s amusing that I have apparently not only gotten her goat, but I have shaved it, given it a pink mohawk and tattooed “Hot Stuff” on it’s butt. People with overblown egos are fun!

So with the good coffee news and a bit of a giggle we flee back to the Hobbit Hole for a leisurely nap and to consider the dinnerly options. And while the larder is stocked to the gills with fresh and delicious, we’ve also got a few items on their last legs that we gotta get cooked up. Number one on that list was a pack of fresh asian noodles that we had picked up. Pretty much undried pasta noodles. And it hits me. I freaking LOVE pan fried noodles. With not a damn thing on ‘em either. No sauce, no sprouts, no pork. Give ‘em to me plain and crunchy and yummy! So we’re gonna give that a try. Chicken sounds like a nice and simple protein, we can marinate it in something nummerly. And I did grab some nice salad greens from Il Giardino Organico as well as some sprouts from The Sprout Lady and a nice head of green lettuce. So maybe I’ll throw together a vinaigrette for that.


1 half package of fresh asian noodles from the Korea Market
Enough water for boiling
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce

First, boil the noodles as indicated on the package. Like 5-6 minutes. Then drain the noodles. I don’t rinse because I like them to be a bit starchy and sticky later. Now heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or frying pan. Make sure the noodles are well drained or it can splatter on ya, so be careful true believers. Toss ‘em in and arrange them into a relatively even, round, mess and fry on med-high heat. They’re moist, so it’ll take a few minutes per side to get the toasty brown color you want. Once you’re almost ready to flip, sprinkle the uncooked side with soy sauce and the remaining oil and then flip. It’s ok if you can’t pull off the perfect pancake flip, if it breaks up on your spatula, just give it the best turn you can. It’ll still be delicious and done in a few minutes. Crunchy, chewy, sticky, with a hint of salt from the soy sauce. So good!

Farmers market salad with grapefruit walnut vinaigrette


1 bag of mild mix from Il Giardino Organico
1 head green lettuce
1 handful mixed sprouts, beans and flowers from The Sprout Lady
½ cup chopped walnuts


¾ cup grapefruit juice
¾ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon honey from Bee Bob's
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 minced baby shallots from KMK Farms
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced chives
2(ish) cups of olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients in a non-aluminum bowl except the oil and let come towards room temperature, about 10 minutes. Then whisk everything in the bowl together well. Afterwards, make sure your bowl is snug because this is a both hands move. While whisking like a madman, slowly drizzle in your 2ish cups of olive oil. Ish is because it’s to taste and until it’s emulsified. I like mine thin and tangy, some like theirs thicker and oilier. Your call, comrade.

Take all the salady stuff, toss into a bowl, lightly drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss again and serve!

Marinated chicken breast with soy lemon thyme sauce

2 chicken breasts
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup Ramos Torres muscato blend wine
½ cup rice vinegar
1 lemon
½ cup minced shallots
3 cloves minced garlic
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoons minced fresh sage
2 tablespoons chili sambal
2 Fresno chilis
2 tablespoons minced chives
1 teaspoon corn starch dissolved into 4 tablespoons of water

Put your chicken breasts in a plastic bag and pour in all of your wet ingredients. Slice half of the lemon and place the slices into the bag along with the juice of the remaining half. Put in all of the herbs except for 1 sprig of thyme and 1 bay leaf. Slice the Fresno chili and add it along with the sambal and then seal the bag. Allow to marinate for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. I prefer the hour. Then take the chicken from the bag and add to a frying pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and cook covered until done. Depending on your hen-boob thickness that could be a short or long time. But nobody wants chicken tartare. Take your done chicken and set aside.

Now take all of your marinade goodness that you reserved and strain out most of the chunkies. I was able to do this mostly just by pinching the end of the mouth of the bag so it trapped most of the stuff while the liquid poured over. You could use a strainer too I guess. If you’re a pussy. But anyway! Juice in pan, use a whisk and whisk up any of the brown bits left from the chicken and toss in that last sprig of thyme and a bay leaf and simmer until it begins to reduce. Now, instead of fully reducing this (because it’d be WAY too salty) we’re going to thicken it with some corn starch. So get it to a nice bubbling simmer and adjust the taste to your liking, then begin to whisk in some of your corn starch slurry until your sauce reaches the consistency that you want. My first shot, I went a little overboard and wound up with a Gulf of Mexioesque gravy blob. But texture aside, the flavor was still nice over the chicken.

If I weren’t such a purist about pan fried noodles, I probably would have cut up the chicken and added it to them and then toss the whole affair with the sauce that we made. But I am. However you don’t have to be, so if you do wind up doing it, let me know if it’s as good as I would hope, or if it tastes like a bag of dicks. You never know until someone else tries it and complains, right?

So here’s hoping that you’re out there being insane and experimental. Saying “Damn the torpedoes and ladies in bad hats and lederhosen!”. There are already too many bad influences out there that make it seem inconvenient or messy or unfun or whatever, to make your own food. Fuck all that! Our farmers turn out far too many delicious delicacies. Far too much of the rare and never before seen. And I eat far too well to ever consider letting such small things and minds prevent me from enjoying one of my dearest pleasures outside of boobies. Haters gonna hate, eaters gonna Eat Out Fresno.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eaing Out A Gamers Piehole

It’s been a much more sedate weekend so far. And that’s not so bad overall. It’s a dice rolling, Dungeons and Dragons kinda weekend. Not D&D proper, but Savage Worlds, an offshoot of another fun pen and paper game called Deadlands. But you’re not here to verify that I’m a card carrying nerd. It’s about food right?

Well, to the point, the lady of the gaming cave also mentioned that she wanted to have a Make-Your-Own pizza party. So, of course I absolutely must take my contribution to the most absurd extreme possible. And since it’s an Eye-tahl-euhn type dish, it’s straight to Sam’s Deli I fly!

I did establish that I intended to go over the top early on and got together a rough shopping list. So I wander into Sam’s and begin my slow, teasing meander with the store. She’s like a lady. You don’t just sprint right to her meat counter and start spanking the prosciutto. You ease into things with her wine section. Take a casual stroll, all the while eyeing your naughty desire. Everybody knows what you’re there for, but there are the societal niceties to be observes before you get into her well preserved meat slurry…if you know what I mean.

But before I indulge my porcine desires, I need to secure the base for the red sauce I volunteered to make. So 2 cans of the San Marzano puree and a small tin of paste is first. Plus I’m eyeing their rather vast selection of anchovies. But I’m fairly certain that my spurting desires are going to sink my budget long before I can indulge in comedy pizza toppings. So I pinch off that stream and divert back to the original reason I need to change my underwear.

Oh my beloved meat counter. When daddy finally wins the lottery, he’ll just walk in and wave at the length of the glass and and say “I’ll take it.”, like a stoned, fat kid looking at a Taco Bell menu. There ain’t much behind the glass that I wouldn’t quiver with delight at the idea of eating it smothered in cheese on some crusty spaghetti sauce bread. This is gonna be hard as hell to stay in budget.

Well first we need pepperoni. And they’ll totally slice it to size if you buy a full stick. And it was only a half pound. So, we’re doin good so far. I MUST get some of Sam’s home cured prosciutto, so a quarter pound of that. On to a halfer of Calabrese and Molinari salamis, some buffalo mozzarella for margherita pizzas and a couple hot Italians. I’m bracing myself for the pain. Thirty bucks! Right the fuck on! I got change to pick up a couple pizza skins and the aforementioned anchovies for food comedy! Piiiiiimp. Got out for under $40 and I got braggable meat to swing around at the party!

It’s Fresno, so with triumph must come comic tragedy. In this case, it was me getting a new video game and totally slacking off on picking up the 1 secondary herb that I really needed to make the red sauce absolutely fucking perfect. So…around 4 a.m. I finally tear myself away from my digital mistress and jump into the truck for a run to the 24 hour Maxxipad Grocery Store. Dude, there are a fuck-ton of bike riding tweakers on the road at that hour on Blackstone and Barstow. A small flock was sweeping through the parking lot, presumably looking for bits of string and lost crack rocks to fuel their meth inspired Death Ray.

So, after dodging speed aficionado piloted forklifts and getting conflicting opinions on what constituted a retail spice section by the very heroes who stocked it, we’ve scored a fresh clove of garlic and small tub of dried marjoram. Nothing like a nigh-morning adventure for under $2. Now, back to the Hobbit Hole for some dead tired cookery, because there’s no way in hell I’ll wake up early enough to make a sauce that’s worth a shit. To the fire!

This bad boy is to taste, so you get ingredients, but it’s up to you to figure out what ratios you like in your sauce. But it started out with two quart cans of San Marzano tomato puree and 5 cloves of fresh (spicy!) garlic. From there it’s salt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, honey, oregano, marjoram, basil, sage, thyme, black and white pepper, red pepper flakes, 1 italian green pepper, tomato paste and dill. Basic hints would include going light on the salt, thyme, vinegar, sweeteners, pepper and thyme. Too much can really start a May Revolution in your sauce pot and it’ll be well out of your control. Start with your tomatoes, half the garlic, a dash of olive oil and a little salt. Then start to build your flavors on that foundation. Once you can taste that particular herb in a quick slurp, back off and work on some of the others. Eventually you’ll find the balance you like between that kitchen sink of Italian herbs, acidity and sweetness. The trick in this case was my being baffled by an underlying bitterness (to my palate) that I couldn’t figure out since I hadn’t burned anything. It was the lack of dill. A bit of abuse to a few sprigs we had drying on a hook and suddenly the bitter was gone and a nicely assertive sweetness was in it’s place with a smooth link between it and the acid being facilitated by that dill flavor. FINALLY! It’s almost 8 in the morning and I’ve still got to make a damn character!

If sleep came, I was unaware of it. For the 4 hours of laying down, I think 3 were spent imagining topping combinations and fretting about if the sauce was the right caliber for an adult’s tastes without being so strong that the kiddies, who’d be flitting about, wouldn’t like it. I know it’s sad. But whatever petty boy-hobby fantasy football crap that keeps you up at night is somewhere in the same realm of sad, so eat my ass. I give a shit about those rare moments I get to attempt to show off my food holier-than-thou-ness. Not that I actually in my own transcendent nature. But when all your friends know that you’re a food blogger, it ratchets up the stress level on making edible shit that may even taste good.

Ugh. Morning. Coffee. Lovely girlfriend using her feminine wiles to lure me back into the daylight world. Lovely, sucky girlfriend. Ok, up, showering, getting Picasso Pants together. In the interim, she had used the Sam’s receipt as a fairly accurate checklist and has all the food pimpery loaded and ready to fly up to Coarsegold for our middle aged nerdgasm party. And thank whatever uncaring cosmic entity that has internet connectivity, for that woman. Without her, half of this blog would just be me whining about everything that I forgot in my eager rush to slobber all over whatever calorie bearing item that caught my temporary fancy. So, we’re Mitch All Together as we head out of town.

Here’s that part where I tell you all about my 70th level half Avatar bard/thief who did this amazing thing to a dragon’s butthole. And I know you don’t game, but this is one of those universally funny dragon butt stories. We’ve all done this to a dragon’s butt once in our lives. What’s that? You haven’t? Well I supposed I could get some friends together and we’ll hold a small dragon down, so you can give it a shot. Seriously, it’s fun. All the cool kids are doing it. Roll a d30. Ooops, you failed. Dragon herpes. Sorry hoss, never seen that happen before. (Lies)

And so dinner time finally slinks it’s sultry way between the 100 stories we all know and re-tell to push the game back while the breeders children have their various crises and triumphs of mono numerical emotional chaos. Finally, it’s time for the adults to play with yeasts and fires and meats that have been preserved through salts and bacterial action. Sorry nerd brethren, but daddy has a sexy new game that’ll make him fat and poxy and generally unattractive and it’s called cooking.

So, the lady of the house, we’ll call her Raquel, had pre-prepped through her magical baking skills, 3 different dough batches. The most braggable was the Italian herbed dough, which reminded me of several of the nicer bakeries I used to go into in LA once the focaccia craze hit. The second was a medium dough. And the third was an Alton Brown recipe, once she had cut the flour in half and still it was damn near a cannonball. Which brings me to another odd point. A lot of Alton’s recipes suck ass. His prime rib recipe/method rocks for sure. But a good number of his scientific tried and true recipes come out tasting like well seasoned mandrill ass. And to her credit, she was able to cut some moisture into the taffy-like density of the dough and soften it into a workable texture to pound out some pretty fine looking ‘za’s.

I was secretly smug that the kids and the husbandly type opted for Dirty Uncle Pook’s Red Sauce. And secretly relieved when nobody had to lock themselves in the shitter for an hour. But now for my pizza! For I brought friggin anchovies! And god damn, if’n it wasn’t said wisest before I could make up the words. They smell like cat food. And it’s “hairy” with fine bones. So we toss the furry catfish bait into our gobs and chew. As the flavor sets in, it’s completely swept away by a violent wash of pure salt. I think I’ve found my dirty old man delicacy that will keep the wee ones from hanging around me after I’ve started my mid-morning libations. “Hey kiddo! Wanna anchovy? Well then bugger off! And get me another beer!” Ahh youth.

Sufficed to say, I may have picked up some boozery libations prior to the gaming and cookery. And I might just have buggered off to the back yard for a smoke and a pleasant stare at rocks’n’trees’n’things, so I fairly well missed what most of the parently types put on their own pizzas. All I know is that the pepperonis were decimated and there were some really fun eye contact moments when folks sampled the Calabrese salami before topping their pizza with some. That’s one of those special salamis that pretty much knocked Genoa off of the pedestal that I had it on for about 30 years. Though I was shocked that I came home with so much prosciutto left. Poor kids, don’t know what they were missing. I however had some serious plans in mind.

Oh the food-snob shame! I had completely forgotten all of my pizza skin slapping skills in the intervening 8 years. So as I’m trying to hero my way through my dough, I’m just watching Mrs. EoF cringe and wince at my complete lack of technique. Finally hubris had to fall prey to reality and I shamefacedly stepped away from the board and allowed my lady fixed my screw ups and left me with a workable pizza skin. Ok, back to my know-it-all expertise. You start with a thin, light coating a sauce and light dusting of cheese as a basic foundation. Then the first layer of pepperoni. Then more cheese. But leave the ‘roni’s still peeking through. Then a layer of Calabrese with a few studs of buffalo mozzarella. Then more cheese. Then the Molinari and the squarsh blossoms and another dusting of cheese. Finally, it’s prosciutto roses to top off my gift bouquet of meatly goodness to myself for Fat Drunk Bastard’s Day. My thighs are fucking quivering in anticipation!

425 degree oven for…until the cheese starts to brown! There’s a sky scraper stack of shit on that pizza, yo. It need’s time to let fire stuff run up and down that majestic column of artery clogging mouth-sex that you’ve compiled. Wait until your crust is gold and creeping towards actual brown and make DAMN SURE that your mozzarella browns and lightly crisps on top! You want your toppings to fully cook and meld with the meat mess you’ve progenitored. Do it right and people will remember your pizzas more fondly than the stripper at a bachelor party. And that young lady could shoot an ice cube across a room!

The beloved woman also made a really smoking riff on the margherita pizza with fresh squash blossoms, prosciutto, basil and a couple anchovies to keep her dusky Italian soul going “Squeeee!”. I had a bite and it was really quite lovely. Sweet and pungent with basil, light creamy buffalo mozzarella, with just a little salty bite here and there from the anchovies and prosciutto. Not wholly traditional, but when something tastes that good, tradition can find it’s own damn ride home.

Normally the blogpost roundup goes here. But I don’t see much of an overarching lesson from today other than to never take old yeast from your mother-in-law and to take TV people recipes, especially leavened baking recipes with the proverbial grain of salt. At the end of the day, he’s really an actor that is trying to get his well paid content in the can. Sucks that they might be shooting a show with a completely different recipe because it looks better on TV. But, it’ll really bake you noodle if you found out how many well dressed food pics are of items that are totally not food and in some cases rather toxic. At least the pizza was real. And I totally killed an entire army of Orcs single handedly, with the butter knife of Chthanteroch. That’s what level 70 does with all purple gear and the Mysteriously Sparkly background trait. So damn cool.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Eating Out A-CoW

Greetings dear readers! What a freakin weekend we had! Rollins on Friday night, Burlesque on Saturday night and then the Celebration of Wine on Sunday! How in the heck did I suddenly develop a social life? Unthinkable!

Well, you got a peek at my letter to Henry that I’m screwing up the courage to send off. The show was really, really good. Without ruining album sales, let’s just say that he catches you up on his life over the past year or so and gives you some fun insights into his recent TV roles. And seriously, if you have seen one of his shows, stick around and meet the man. He’s nothing but kindness. And he brings his own Sharpie! Now if I could only have convinced the Phyllis Diller of punk rock to get her bewbs signed. Can’t win ‘em all I guess.

Saturday rocked with the ladies of the Valley Burlesque Society doing Wonderlesque, featuring Cap’n Scurvy’s Fantastical Armageddon Tea Party. What a show! The beer flowed, the ladies pranced about in their most beauteous choreographical manners and the Cap’n dazzled the crowd with the miraculous powers of his fantastical tonics. But then some horribly perverted rabbit flasher showed up! I don’t think I can ever eat carrots again. And all on the Cap’n’s birthday. At least he’ll have those pasties to keep him warm through the night terrors.

Which brings us to day 2 of the Henry Hangover. I probably shouldn’t have drank that half bottle of Polish brandy. But it was so damn good! Smooth, only a mild hint of sweetness. It was like a fine scotch, minus the peat. So, I’m just a wee bit frail going into Sunday and the 28th annual A Celebration of Wine (ACoW). But since there will be 32 different food vendors on site and nothing more liver-bashing than wine, I think we can make it.

Jumping pork futures! Upon arrival, we’re assailed by the odor of money. It probably helps that we’ve infiltrated the VIP area using skills honed by years of “I’m with the show” practice. But I’m fairly certain that my vintage Jimmy Buffet Hawaiian shirt and painfully pale legs will stand up to the scrutiny of the leg breakers hired to keep a wine fuelled riot in check.

So, we in! Let’s get to it! First spot was the catering table set up by Chef Delaney Boling from fame. And here I’m reminded the differences between a cook and chef. First off, it’s a gorgeous spread. Great cheese table, bruschetta bar, yakitori skewers, fresh chilled fruit, a slider station with burgers AND pulled pork. But what really rang my bell were his kebabs. First off, the meat was salami. I’ll say it again, the meat was SALAMI! Sound weird? I know, but it was insanely good. Especially in concert with the balsamic and onion marinade. Macerated onions in a marinade? Seems simple, but it was a revelation to me. Plus, it did amazing things to the green bell peppers on the skewers. Normally I dislike the overly bitter taste of the greens and prefer reds or orange. But something magical happened during the marinating process where all of the bitter was drawn out of the pepper and was replaced with a mildly tart and sweet flavor. Like it was a mildly pickled carrot. Chased down with a little Fresno State chardonnay and we were fuelled for exploration!

Armed with a wine glass and a silly looking but highly functional wine glass holder-type plastic plate, we set forth into the sultry, tree shaded morass of high dollar gentrified elites. Little do they know, a broke-dick ex-kitchen refugee walks among them, sampling and gobbling and grazing and mooing. Who knew bad fashion sense was fashion? But there were at least a dozen others in even louder shirts with even skinnier bone white shanks jutting from Target shorts. Apparently I’m supposed to be rich, my bank account just doesn’t know it yet. What fun!

So we immediately join, what has to be the most orderly line I have ever seen for free booze in my life. Maybe it was too many punk rock parties and the dog eat dog world of underage drinking, but I’m used to having to throw a few elbows to ensure that Daddy gets his cup full before the barrel runs dry. Not so much here. Instead people are politely chatting and droning and generally fucking up the orderly nature of getting my goddamn drink on! But given that there are ridiculous numbers of cases floating around and most of these pansies look like lightweights, I think I can hold out long enough to get a glass of whatever this dude is slinging. Turns out to be a decent chardonnay. But Christ, in this heat, I could go for something a little more chilled. So that pretty much means fuck all the reds.

The next booth we hit up is run by Cupcake Vineyards. And hosannah! They’ve got a Riesling! Happy happy happy! Joy joy joy! And suddenly it occurs to me. There is a metric fuckton of good vintners here! I don’t have to drink “everything”. I’m not even a wine snob! And even though they’re good, I’m fairly certain that Chateau Marmot isn’t here, so I ain’t missing a Rothschild or anything. I can pick and choose what to drink! I can just have a Riesling day! Well…maybe not totally. It’s a rarer wine to find than a chard or a cab. But from here I decided that I was going to stick to odd wines rather than swill any red or white that came my way. And it worked out quite well. There were 3 Rieslings that I could find, along with a couple very sweet muscat wines. The blended muscat by Ramos Torres was lighter and not quite as cloying. But the pure muscat by Quady was still very tasty. Would be a perfect dessert wine, or even poured over some ice cream with some sliced grapes or muscat raisins. Some of the varietals were really interesting. There was a really subtle Grenache and an insanely spicy Barbera at Two Friends winery’s booth. And when I say spicy, I mean burn your mouth for a couple minutes after your sip. But not in a bad way. It was like it had been decanted with hot peppers or something. Strange, but really good. There were others to be sure. But there’s food out there to rant about, so with no further delay.

I GOT TO EAT CHEF KARSTEN’S GRUB FOR UNDER $100!! I’m sure you’ve heard of Erna’s Elderberry House. Easily one of the most expensive spots to eat in the area and one that carries a big reputation. I’ve run into the guy during midweek shopping trips to the farmer’s market. Seems fairly pleasant in general. So, we’re served by a lovely lady at the booth. And already I’m giddy. For, I see a beautiful terrine of duck on a wee thin crouton. Out of everything else served that wasn’t cold cuts. This was the only spot that served the One Perfect Bite. I know, I know. It’s pretentious as hell. But for the prices that they charge at the restaurant, I want some fucking pretentious. And hot damn in a preacher’s drawers is it pretentiousing all over my mouth. Smooth duck liver and chives, lightly chilled. The crouton is a bit soggy. But, it’s a cattle call here. There would be no realistic way for them to make them all to order on site. But I’ll say this, they’ve enticed me enough that I very well might try their Broke-Dick $40 Menu. $100 a head is still too rich for my blood. And with my luck it’d be the Celebration of Onions menu.

There were other fine food establishments represented as well. I even got to rub shoulders with Chef Vatche from Cracked Pepper Bistro and Scott Sauer from Max’s Bistro. Vatche brought out the CPB’s demonic dessert of decadent delight that they simply call bread pudding. What a cruel bastard! He KNOWS that if I start eating that, I’ll go back for more and be so stuffed that I won’t be able to try any of his competitor’s food! Wicked, evil, Chef Vatche! You must be spanked!

We also hit up the Roe booth. Man, if those girls actually WORK there, I’ll cruise there for sushi before I bother with overpriced wings at Boobers. Yow! Plus they had some nice, well chilled California rolls and some cute little bite sized apple chicken salad wraps. Certainly one of the lighter snacks of the day and rather refreshing in the Fresbergian heat. Bella Pasta’s spread was ok I guess. Their orzo pasta salad was pretty good. The potato salad was…potato salad. But their bowtie pasta was a trainwreck! Uncovered, dry, no flavor. I’ve got no idea what they were going for, but I would have tossed those last dregs before I served them to someone, in hopes that it would draw them to eat at my restaurant. They get a big Fail on that one. Although, they were one step ahead of Wahoo’s Fish Tacos and several others who just outright ran out of food in the first hour. Nothing makes you feel like a valued potential customer like an empty booth and a sign. Dammit a fish taco sounded hella good on a hot day like this. Guess I’ll just have to learn to make my own.  Nyah!

But it’s always darkest before the dawn right? Well this time, the sun rose in the North. Now, I’m as much a detractor of the Fresno-North, Clovisian set as anyone. But as soon as I turned the corner, I smelled curry and there was the North India Bar and Grill booth. This is another spot that has had a lot of buzz and glad handing around the Fresno Foodosphere. So the bar is already set high. They’re throwing down some rice with a bit of vegetables, a garbanzo bean curry and about an 1/8th pound chunk of chicken breast. My god! Where Erna’s was very up front about their elegance in their presentation, North India was almost belligerent in their desire to feed you. And friendly! I had heard some rumors about a particularly surly manager serving the previous year. But it appears that the owners paid attention to the debacle and instead sent in a team of folks that just about talked me out of my distaste for travelling that far into Lexus country. And to top that, they even served up an amazingly tasty curry, moist chicken and some pretty flavorful rice.

There was all that and a lot more. There were a ton of cold cut plates available. Two different cheese makers, Bravo Farms, who has an AMAZING sage cheese. Insanely good with scotch. And Fiscalini Cheese Co., who brought a strong Cabernet washed cheddar and also made a sexy ass horseradish, cheddar, sour cream dip. Oh my god, that was the shiznit! Fresh horseradish and their really sharp cheddar cheese with just enough sour cream to bind it to a pretzel. You can blow your onion dip out your ass Mabel! There’s a new queen of the Super Bowl party!

Sadly, between the ghost of the hangover and the heaviness of many different wines and foods put me over the top on fullness. I was Fullerton Von Fullingham. Although, I must say, it was the first time in my life where I wished there was a vomitorium. Seriously, I was at a point where I wasn’t eating for nutrition. I just wanted to have the room to be able to taste more food from more restaurants. I think I might have a problem… That, or I’m an incredibly cheap bastard and wanted to get as much experience with each establishment’s cuisine, without mortgaging the arm and leg that they’ll charge for a full meal.

And really that brings me to the brilliance of the whole event. For $80 at the gate or $70 pre-buy, you get 3 hours to tear through the cellars and larders of some of the best that the greater Central Valley has to offer. Just the wine tab alone would run you double that at any reputable grape guzzling establishment. And don’t even get me started on what you’d be dropping to get to Wagon Wheel Sampler your way through places that normally charge you $40 for soup and fucking salad! Never mind that you’re at a gorgeous ranch right off the San Joaquin River, shaded by large trees and parading around the well manicured backyard of the ranch’s owner and main sponsor of the event. You’re even serenaded by the smooth sounds of the middle aged classics cover band, while you sit and work your way through one of the many bottles that you won at the silent auction and argue with your compatriots which one of you is going to call friends to come pick your drunk asses up.  Shoulda rented a limo...

Plus, you never know ladies. The weird guy taking photos might be a blogger in disguise. Now I’ve got the EoF Cheeleaders!

Great event. Great time. Great booze and incredible food. It only looks expensive until you see how much you get for the ticket price. Beats a trip to the Renaissance Faire any day of the week!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eating Out Henry Rollins

Dear Henry,

Thank you kindly sir, for coming to Fresno. Without going into an overly kiss-ass rendition of how incredibly awesome you are and how I’d commit seppuku in front of the Supreme Court in the name of free speech, liberty and vegetable rights, I’d rather give you my perspective on how you may or may not have influenced the awesome of my evening.

It of course, started with the show. And while I’d like to struggle against pandering, I have to admit that it was rather excellent. Blah, blah, huge fan, TV party, Liar, that story about frozen turds dangling from The People’s Train. Seriously, I love the butt right out of you.

First thing that really made you shine like a golden god by whom all other deities shall be measured, wasn’t your well crafted and performed show. Although, I must say, your adeptness at handling drunken shout outs was as astoundingly effective as it was brief. I’ve seen Howie Mandell go down in flames during the height of his Bobby’s World fame on the same stage through poor crowd handling. We’re a loving town, but we’re unruly like a rodeo bull. Truly you are the Fresno Whisperer.

Later, came the groping attempt to find mutual friends, only to circle around the building and find you signing autographs and sharing with everyone. I must say, after my friend asked you to take the pic of him with his own ticket as a memento I sort of felt like an uncreative hack. And I have to thank you for taking control of the situation, delivering an awesome pic and giving me a great story about that thing that happened that time. I’ve got a horrible knack for being star struck around artists that I admire. Whereas I was totally able to chill with Taime Downe from Faster Pussycat, outside a crappy Iron Maiden show with the stick thin heroin doll that he had as arm candy. I just get really uptight around people whose opinions I respect. Totally not your fault. I was the exact same around Dave Brockie.

So, there was a further point to all this beyond butt kissing. I can’t scientifically attribute the remainder of the evening to your magical transitive properties of coolness just as yet. But I’m hoping to base a doctorate on the theory. Simply because, I had a few scant goals left in my younger than you but older than cool frame, left. Tragic, I know. But the future is full of interesting stuff, so I’m sure more will pop up. But back on point, there were two extraordinarily pleasant and rare events that followed the show and the autographs.

First one being, there came to my understanding of an awesome bohemian intelligentsia collective of a most eclectic nature. Described to me in a story relating a group of artists having a watercolor day in the shadow of a giant German photo enlarging machine draped and festooned with various taxedermied oddities tucked into every nook and cranny. Plus I heard they cook good. And so, by the transitive properties of your own awesomeness, I somehow got invited to visit the well camoflaged art militia camp. And to be perfectly honest, the words used to describe it to me were most poor, and I cannot cobble together anything more cogent that would further be able to describe the “vibe” of the spot. Excellently random and with a high bar for acceptance is all I can add. But I was much enriched by the meeting of the house’s residents and the conversations that erupted. It’s always a delight to meet new people and learn something worth knowing.

And to top off our evening, an extremely nice and relatively new chum invited us over a delightful after party/show decompression with another friend we’ve been wanting to get to know better (in the non-biblical sense). Dispensing with the basic couldgiveashit details, it was a very interesting intersection of redneck and gentrified with a splash of real here and there. The whole evening was so much fun, we kept It going until roughly 7 a.m. discussing a wide array of subjects both personal and environmental.

So, in closing to my absolute kiss ass, Dear Punk Rock Icon I Loved Your Show letter. I’d like to thank you for the unintentional (I assume) hex of interesting that you put on this evening. I’m sure I could fill a few pages with how inspirational and brilliant you are and how you helped me beat up Satan in a dark alley in Memphis. But really, who hasn’t? What I hope you’ll get a kick out of is not only did we really enjoy your show, but even after it and getting to meet and greet with you, we also had one hell of a great night with some brilliant and new (to us) local people. Some you met, some you didn’t. But all the same, we all had a fun night last night (June 4th 2010) and you were somehow involved in the great sticky mess that resulted.

Welcome back to Fresno Henry. You old fuck. Come back sooner damn it! I’ll go to a show on Thanksgiving anytime.


P.S. I’m hereby altering my vocabulary so that “rubbing one out” shall be known as Rollingsing. Such as, “I’m about to Rollins into this tissue.” Or, “Can I Rollins onto your tummy?” One love.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Eating Out Your Friends

Greetings and vacational felicitations dear readers! Nothing like a three day weekend that you stretch almost to the following weekend, am I right? And christwagons I needed it. Too much sun, too many delicious beers and too much good food. And unfortunately the too many beers part pretty much ensured that I wasn’t going to risk my camera to a wild gesture as I’m describing that thing I did that time to someone who was already there to see it. So we’re blogging acapella for this one.

One great thing about cooking around your friends and they you, is that you know you’ve got a few competent folks that you can tag in when you’re dying for a smoke or got volunteered for the beer run. So the first dish I got to play with was Wilburton’s famous shrimp skewers. Not going to totally give away the recipe, but let’s just say that marinated, bacon wrapped shrimp skewers wouldn’t be done a disservice by adding a sliver of jalapeno to the wrap.

I always get a kick out of being able to watch a cook do their thing for a few servings and be able to pick it up. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I’ve been watching him make this dish for the last several years of course. And every time the plates get violated like Arnold Drummond’s dignity at a hot tub cocaine party. Even if you’re the cooker of the dang things, you’d best get yours and grub down before a wildly hormonal mother of 14 drags you down by your hair and curbs you on the edge of the deck. But really, they are that good. I probably should have suggested soaking the skewers though. That made for a fun wild scramble for some tongs!

Next up would be Mom’s brisket. She gets the raw cut and trims at home with an eye that comes from decades of careful study of the beefly ranching arts. Roasted to perfection and then shredded and tossed in her own secret selection of smoky and spicy potions and then re-bathed in the juices that it gave up in the oven. Seriously, as I type this, I could cut glass with my nipples. Mash a handful of this manna into a hoagie roll and sit down for a meat tube that has rocketed from heaven straight into your slobbering gob. Meatgasm barely hints at the delights that are foolishly tucked into humble yeast and flour. The true canny meat worshiper waits until most have headed to bed and sit up with a beer, picking choice bits from the beef pond at your leisure.

The most amazing however was also the most simple. Friend of the blog Margeurita Liquorbottom turned out her authentic Indian tacos! Much has been made of this magicockle speciality over the years, but I had yet to get a chance to sample them. Until now. Holy bouncing Buddha! These things are insane!

Having done a little research (since she artfully hides her recipe from prying eyes!) they seem to be a pretty straight forward quick bread recipe that you fry. But the result changes the form and experience of the usual corn or flour tortilla taco. The fry portion of the bread gives it it’s fluff and a nicely crispy but mildly chewy texture wards off the soggies. Top it off with some locally ranched and mashed beef, a little greenery and a few dashes of Tapatio and you’re on a holiday to cloud 9 in your guts. I was so overcome, I couldn’t muster a compliment. All I could do was offer the most sincere culinary hug I think I’ve ever given anyone since I saw a Michigander punk rocker make me manicotti nigh from scratch using only a British commando knife as a utensil. Truly eye opening stuff.

I’m lucky to have friends who are always challenging me on a culinary basis and are still fun to have a beer with. It’s the times like these that make a man understand that the word rich has many definitions, but the best measure is the person who is richly rewarded by their relationships with a vast chaotic sea of weirdos and heroes. And in that light, I’m an overjoyed Scrooge McDuck skinny dipping in 200 story money bin! So here’s hoping that all of you had a fabulous and filling weekend with those who challenge you and love you.


P.S.  Special shout out to the Teddy Bear for the rocking breakfasts!  Chorizo baby!  With real glands and everything.  Thats how you make breakfast!  Friggin soyrizo hippies...