Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eating Out Six Months Of Your Delicious Attention

Man…the title sounded better in my head. But nonetheless! This is our six month anniversary of being a mouthy, semi anonymous, picker on of local businesses, as well as a bestower of glowing praise upon those that earn our pleasure. And oh what a pleasure it has been.

We have teetered out of bounds here and there for meals in Los Gatos and up towards Coarsegold. We’ve meandered through a few of my favorite everyday recipes, wandered through a famous arts festival and back-doored our way into a rather prestigious local food and wine event. We even got to meet the amazing Henry Rollins!

What an amazingly awesome 6 months it has been. And I can’t thank all of you folks for reading and pretending to enjoy it up to and so far. It warms the drunken warrens of our blood pumper that folks enjoy and occasionally encourage our interweb tomfoolery. And we hereby renew our pledge to continue being a travelling jackass opinion machine, as well as remembering to funnel the occasional bits of simple food inspiration into a vaguely intelligible form, that you might totally change it and make it your own.

Happy anniversary dear readers. May we enjoy many more kind returns. Non-mushy posts to follow immediately after I stop weeping like a proud mama at her first baby boy’s briss. Mazel tov!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eating Out A Show Diary #2

My my. Has it been a month of Tuesdays already? It’s all been so fun and such a kick in the pants that I’ve hardly noticed the non-Tuesdays flying by. And who’da thunk that it all would come together by running down to the Tower with my beard trimmer to rescue Chuck from being roached like a Shetland pony.

In the past few weeks I’ve been deep in the plush, leather clad opulence of a luxury party bus, gotten to listen to and chill with 3 amazing ukulele players, hang out at the community garden with a badass steel artist and rap with interesting folks from all over the Valley. All the while, being allowed to be a big fat show off and soaking up praise-words of nummyness. And it appears that it can only get more interesting.

Yesterday’s show had an amazing guitarist on named Nathan Hinojosa. Talk about a smoking axe stroker! His sound brought to mind the idea of acoustic Spanish thrash metal. He does this great high wire act, balancing between the traditional riffs and styles of flamenco guitar, but he backs it up with lightening quick fingering that brings to mind old school Anthrax or Slayer. Although picturing him shredding on his acoustic with a 10 penny nail spike forearm bracer sort of bakes my noodle, I think he could pull it off.

And I got to meet my second Hollyweird type director! The guys from National Lampoon’s Sex Tax were in studio to drum up buzz for their Fresno premier. The premise being the hijinks ensuing around the IRS taking over a Nevada brothel deep in arrears. (see what I did there?) And although that’s the funny part, the hysterical part is that they decided to hold a premier in Fresno because we have the largest concentration of IRS employees on the West Coast due to our local processing center. And they’ve offered free entry to any employee of the IRS. But even more awesomely hardcore, they’ve extended the same offer to anyone who can prove that they are a sex worker! I just hope that they’re putting condoms on the Tower Theater seats until the run is up. I’ll be the one watching the movie in hip waders.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Eating Out My Esteem for Mangosteen

Holy shit! A restaurant review? Here? On Eating Out Fresno? Pshaw! But it’s true! I somehow got out of the house and let some other poor schmuck do the cooking in exchange for hard earned shekels. And as always, it’s a crap shoot on whether or not I’m going to feel like a dumbass for parting with the greenbacks to get something I probably could have ruined better in my own kitchen.

Case in point, Mangosteen, the cute bistro that took over the old Lyon’s building that Kim’s Vietnamese once occupied. I’ve read a fair stack of eater reviews and seen tons and tons of positive feedback on the various restaurant review sites that actually are aware that Fresno exists and has places to eat. So, on a hot summer’s Sunday, it made sense to finally stop in and see if this moderately priced eatery was actually all it had been cracked up to be.

On first impression, it’s quite nice. I can still totally see the old Lyon’s layout, but somehow the architects had subliminally added in Asian elements. Like the main supports of the dining room in the rough shape of the pillars of heaven. Pretty cool. And the mural work on the side and back walls is quite beautiful. And another big plus for a sweltering Fresno day is good air conditioning. Too bad the customers were cooler than the produce in the back, but more on that later.

We’re seated promptly and strangely, before seeing a menu, we’re asked what we would like to drink. Since I’m interested in what unique beverage items they might have, we opt for waters. Odd that I would have to establish that, since it’s pretty much the universal constant of a sit down restaurant. I’ve got that sinking feeling in my guts. Like I’m going to have one of those, “Oh yeah! THIS is why I blog!” moments. Damn it, I really wanted to like this place.

With menus in hand, we peruse their offerings. It’s a decent little menu, reasonably priced and as usual, should have been spell checked before going to the printers. And then it happens. The first little domino is tipped, flips the man into the pan which cuts the string on the iron hovering over the open tube of toothpaste…well you get the idea. Mrs. EOF orders a Thai iced tea and I notice that they have whole young coconuts on the menu. If you’ve never had a young coconut all to yourself, you are missing a piece of the grand puzzle of decadence. Sweet, thin coconut milk is just the side benefit. What makes them so amazing is their tender, young, gelatin textured flesh. It’s like it’s insides are coated with an astoundingly light and airy coconut custard of delightfulness.

And so the death knell came. “Well, our freezer went out, so let me check and see if we have any.” Wait, what? Your fucking freezer is down? Isn’t that where all restaurants keep the lion’s share of their perishables, only to be thawed for use on the same day? Shit! Half the menu is seafood! And why in the hell are the coconuts in the damn freezer? This does not bode well for our intrepid eaters.

They discovered that they do indeed have some left as the server brings out our appetizer (to be enjoyed with our waters) of Roti Prata. As it arrives, I understand why he seemed perplexed at us only ordering one. For $2 you get one piece of a weird naan-crepe like affair with a coconut curry dipping sauce. For all I know, the bread could have been a poorly mixed tortilla thrown on a flat top. A little flaky, kinda chewy, but not terribly impressive. Really, the appetizer is all about the coconut curry sauce. That stuff is tasty enough to make a straight man happily gobble down a cock and ask for seconds. But great sauce does not, a great appetizer make. All it did was harden my resolve to learn curries so as to avoid this shade of ridiculous in the future.

Dick in the ear #2: The drinks arrive. The Thai iced tea is pretty straight forward and what I expect. Chai tea extract mixed with some soy milk over ice. Not exactly innovative, but whatever. The real embarrassment was the young coconut. It comes with it’s little baby dome chopped off and a straw tossed into it’s depths. Not exactly the Jaques Pepin school of plating, but again, whatever. I’m giddy with anticipation. And so, I lift it’s little lid and scoop out the first bit of…hey! This shit is hard as hell to get off the shell! And it’s…it’s fucking hard! What is this crap?? Maybe the milk will…taste like the fry cook was soaking his toes in it! Mother. Fucker.

You know what enters into a kitchen refugee’s mind when they hear the freezer is out? Oh shit, what is the manager going to try and save, despite the loss of quality and potential risk to the customer? Most often, the contents of a restaurant’s freezer is worth over ten times more than what they have in their safe. And so, if it looks like that stuff is going to have to be trashed, whoever is doing the books will do their damndest to make full use of whatever they think they can squeeze past their customer’s blunted palates. Well Mr. Mangosteen Manager, you picked the wrong dude to try and slip shoddy coconuts past. And your sins are only compounded by the remainder of the meal.

Somewhat foolishly, despite a strong gut feeling and some fairly strong proof that this is going to all go to shit, we order fairly robustly. Her, going with their Daddy-in-Law’s Fried Rice (beef basil fried rice) and the Laksa (coconut curry soup with shrimp, ramen and surimi) and myself with the sambal udang (prawns in chili sauce) and the Hot Hot oelek tofu. And we wait…and wait… Then I hear bellowed from the kitchen “I NEED LAKSA!”. Nothing like a well behaved kitchen enhancing the eating experience by making sure I hear every call and every plate up. I especially liked how they would double their volume if the lone server didn’t immediately abandon the customers they were helping.

So they’re down soup and we’ve got 3 sautee dishes. Do you think that they either waited to make the sautee’d food or remade it if it had been sitting too long? If you do, then you have a poor sense of foreshadowing and likely should seek out some reading comprehension classes. But wait we did, after we had been given soup bowls 20 minutes before it was prepared. It, however, was fairly tasty. The base of the soup is the same curry that we had with the mutant naan bread.  So as aforementioned, it could make penises taste good enough to fill up on. Hell, it was tasty enough that I didn’t get TOO depressed at the sight of krab (surimi fish paste, flavored and formed into crab shape) in the soup. Though again, looking at the components, once I learn how to make the curry, I’m sure I can toss a couple shrimp, some scallops and a block of ramen into the broth at home. The basil fried rice wasn’t awful, but I’ve had much better. The basil flavor was getting lost in the mushy rice and what little beef there was, didn’t bring much flavor to the party. And those were the best 2 dishes.

I apparently, struck out. Given my recent obsession with all things spicy, I wanted to line up for the hottest stuff they had. And (according to the menu) they had dishes that use my absolute favorite Asian chili sauce, sambal oelek. It’s hot, but not the type of spicy that makes you dive for the milk or hate your best friend forever for letting you take a bite. It’s got that wonderful pungent punch without the overly vinegar taste that most hot sauces have. Great on pizza, great on steak, great on burritos.

But not great in the hands of whatever chef was on shift at Mangosteen. First disappointment was the Hot Hot oelek tofu. It should have been called, Bitter Bitter plate of crap. The “crispy” tofu was already soggy and it’s just awash in onions. Nothing else, just onions. Probably 8-1 onion to tofu ratio. And the “hot” part was a joke! A child wouldn’t have been intimidated by the spice in this. And the flavor was downright crap. Here I’m expecting some nice pungent pepper flavor and all I get is a washed out sweetened burnt soy sauce. The coconut curry was hotter!

And the prawns? What image is conjured in your mind when you hear prawns? Big, meaty shrimp as big around as a working man’s thumb? Me too! But apparently whoever is buying for the restaurant seems to think that they’re more along the size of salad shrimp. You get bigger tails in a shrimp cocktail ring! Prawns my left nut. These sad little lumps of food borne illness waiting to happen had been languishing at an unsafe temperature for god knows how long, were rinsed off and sautee’d in the exact same wretched sauce and with the same lame ass accompaniment. And to add insult to flavor injury, they cooked the dog shit out of the poor things in hopes of not killing me and then left it to languish under whatever heat lamp they have hidden in the back, until the lost Laksa soup had at last been cobbled together from extract and canned goods. They were bland bits of flaky rubber that I would have been embarrassed to serve myself, much less look a customer in the eye and say “Yes, that is worth money.”

But Pook, you say, it can’t possibly get worse can it? Oh yes dear reader, yes it can. You see, having already sent back 1 item and finding myself with another 2 unpalatable messes, rather than send them back as well and have a pout, I simply asked for some plain sambal oelek to dip my food in. Such is it’s powers, that straight from the bottle it can overpower the flavor of shitty food. And I get…coconut curry sauce… What in the motherfuck? I’m not some rubeish redneck using imaginary Tennessee Thai terms for what I want. I asked for what was supposedly the main flavor component of my dish. For fuck’s sake, it comes in a JAR! It’s not like they had to make it fresh. So, try number 2. MORE OF THE SAME SHITTY SAUCE ON THE SHRIMP THAT I’VE ALREADY STATED WAS CRAP! Okay, now I’m wondering if I’m on another planet. If I go to a damn Italian restaurant and ask for more parmesan for my eggplant parmesan, I don’t get a look of constipated confusion.

Right when I think I must be mad or the label on the jar has been lying to me. Suddenly, amazingly…they fucking figure out that they offer it as a goddamn dip for their spring rolls!! Finally, I can grimace my way through potential food poisoning with something resembling some aplomb. At the very least, it was able to cover the semi-rotten flavor of the tofu and gave me something more interesting to chew than the old pencil erasers that were the shrimp.

Man, where do I start on the wrap up? If I had filmed dinner tonight from start to finish, I could make the perfect training video of how not to operate a restaurant. While I personally appreciate candor, telling a customer that the freezer is busted is a fast track to making a smart (smarter than me) eater run out the door and never come back. An even faster track though is for the kitchen to fulfill every nightmarish scenario running through my head. Seriously, trying to salvage bad shrimp? The chef should be fined and horse whipped. Just for ruining my coconut moment alone, they have earned my eternal nutritional enmity.

There is one tiny speck of light in all of this though. The server. Honesty may not be the best policy for a server with most customers. But with me it’s golden. It may have been a bad idea to mention to me that the freezer was out from a professional point of view. However, had I been wandering into that wretched coconut and pathetic shrimp without forewarning, my sense of disdain would have rapidly morphed into indignant rage. Probably accompanied by calls to the health department. They did their best to give me the hints that would have lead me to more pleasant experience. But I was more interested if the kitchen was so stupid as to sell inferior product. The poor thing was mortified, as I sat staring at the kitchen, politely waiting for them to figure out how to put jarred sauce into a bowl so I could cover their mistakes for them. They even offered to comp us a desert. Which would have been fine if they had forgotten our appetizer or something. But, since it would likely come from their own pocket, I wouldn’t hear of it. Then they upped the ante by offering us 10% off the meal. Again, I’m not down with that. My meal wasn’t 10% awful. It was 85% awful. And the restaurant shouldn’t feel that it’s ok in my book because I got a White Sale discount. (It’s a Labor Day thing) Plus, I hate the idea that folks might feel I’m pulling the ole scumbag scam to eat on the cheap. I’d rather leave with my dignity and pay full price and vow never to go back. But the pro pulled rank on me at the credit card machine and gave us the discount anyways. That’s a pretty stylish move in my book. If they ever quit, I’ll be overjoyed to have them as a server anytime. I hear there are openings down in the Tower District . So, by their magnanimous gesture we ended on a high note. And for that I’m thankful. Well, for that and the fact that I immediately ran across the parking lot and bought myself my very own mega-jar of sambal oelek. Now to learn curry!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eating Out The Devil’s Dangly Parts

Yup, that’s right! Hot peppers. Unfortunately the backyard crop is struggling with blossom loss at the moment, so we headed out to the Vallarta Supermarket over on Cedar and Dakota. Talk about reasonable prices! I’ve ogled their ads over the last couple years, wondering at how in the world they were able to sell tomatoes and other nummies at prices that should be making Vons nervous. And since it was my intention to get in some hot saucery practice in before attempting it on TV, I would need some extra for practice-type material.

The first one out was a jalapeno hot sauce just based off of the peppers, a few seasonings and some vinegar. It seemed fairly simple overall, but my first attempt with serranos ended in overly vinegared tears. So this time out I was a bit more conservative with “winging it”. At first, my impression was that it was way too sweet. But allowing it to rest in the fridge overnight really mellowed the flavors together and made a much better sauce. Heat level-wise it wasn’t anything to be afraid of, if you like hot sauce. A few folks who tasted it decried it as nearly nuclear, but I think they were just trying to inflate my chilihead ego.

Jalapeno Hot Sauce

- 12 jalapeno peppers
- 6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 whole lime
-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
-1 tablespoon salt
-1 minced shallot
-2 cloves minced garlic

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Sautee the shallot in olive oil until translucent, then add the peppers and garlic. Squeeze juice from the lime and combine hot peppers with all other ingredients in the pot and simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Place in food processor or blender and beat down until sauce reaches the desired consistency. I prefer a fairly smooth sauce.

So I had the jalapenos locked in, but I’ve REALLY wanted to play with some of the more dangerous peppers. Alas, habaneros have been hard as hell to find through spring and summer so far. But again, Vallarta came through. 12 dazzling little orange gems for me to experiment with and even better, to taunt the wicked entity known as Chuck Leonard, who has an infamous rivalry with the delicious heat demon. I’ve taken to calling them Chuckbane. So how to elevate these bad boys from just a blowtorch in your mouth, dare food? What about some fruit? Maybe some pineapple? And so in my quest to find a pineapple habanero sauce to tweak, I discover something completely unexpected. Carrots. Yes, carrots. It makes a certain amount of sense now that I think about it though. They’re sweet, not terribly flavor dominant and can give you some more bulk and body to your sauce without it having to be pure, nose-melting Satanic heat. This one burns for sure. Still, not anything that’ll make you dive weeping for the milk carton. To be honest, I damn near drooled into a bowl of chips, over my own hot sauce! Possibly a little to sour for an ice cream topping, but readily fixed by omitting the vinegar and most of the salt for the juice from the crushed pineapple.

Habanero Pineapple Hot Sauce

-2 tablespoons olive oil
-2 tablespoons minced garlic
-4 tablespoons minced shallot
-2 tablespoons kosher salt
-1 tablespoon honey
-2 medium shredded carrots
-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-Juice of 2-3 limes
-Juice of 1 grapefruit
-1 16 oz. can of pineapple with juice
-12 halved orange habaneros pith and seeds included

Very similar to the jalapeno recipe. Start off by cooking your shallots in the olive oil until they’re glassy, then add in the carrots, the vinegar and the salt. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the carrots appear to be about halfway cooked. Then add in the peppers and everything else except the pineapple. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add in the pineapple and simmer for another 5 minutes. Once the carrots appear to be cooked and the peppers are pliable, CAREFULLY transfer this to your blender or food processor. If you decide to use an immersion blender, make sure that you use eye protection! Heck, gloves aren’t a bad idea either. My fingers are still a little burny 12 hours later. Place your mixture in and pulse to break it up, then blend until smoothed to your desired texture. This is certainly one where it wouldn’t hurt to let a bit of the pineapple remain chunky if you like the idea of a little chew to your sauce.

Talk about a bite! You get the pineapple, citrus, vinegar and garlic all on the front end in a frantic rush. As if the flavors know that there is a tidal wave of heat chasing it like the bull chased that poor unicorn into Ralph Bakshi’s animation studio. Ugh, that harpy still haunts my nightmares. But this hot sauce will take a place of reverence in your heart for it’s amazing flavor and a heat that is impressive, but won’t unman you in front of your darling, gingham clad, prairie wife.

This has also cemented my intention to track down and grow the wily bhut jolokia pepper. Reputed to be up to 3 times hotter than the hottest habanero pepper and used by weapons companies to make some mean-ass pepper spray. Also, assuming (praying) that our peter pepper plants bear enough fruit this summer, there would be nothing that would tickle my perverted foodie funny bone more than to make a few bottles of REAL cock sauce to drizzle on my pizza and ramen. I already discovered tonight that the jalapeno sauce is an excellent dressing for some ramen noodles with a little soy sauce. Take that, college kid’s cookbook!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Eating Out Your Independence

Hello everyone! I trust you all had a fabulous Kick An Englishman In The Teeth Day! (Normally we wouldn’t advocate such allegorical violence, but due to the English’s distinct lack of front teeth, one would have to get their shoe all the way back to their chewin’ tooth and no one wants to risk catching Caledonian tooth cankers on their toesies, now do they?) Must everything start with an awkward non sequitur? Yes, yes it must.

This year we had some pretty wide open options for how to spend the 4th. Upstate, downstate, in the hills, in the ghetto, just about all over. But given the insane level of activity that food bloggery and best friendishness has elicited, it’s high time for a head space vacation. A celebration of sloth in a beautiful setting. And where better than a wee cabin in the Santa Cruz hills where the loudest sound is the wail of a skillfully played guitar or a lovingly playful pup looking for some stick chasin’ time.

Screw itineraries and exploration for a weekend. Let’s just go enjoy some good company and conversation. If food bloggery doesn’t find inspiration, I’ll just kick down my super secret summer salad recipe before it airs on Tuesday. But as luck would have it, I was inspired! So you’ll have to tune it to watch me caper like a jackanapes. (it’s the linky on the upper right. Tuesday 4pm!)

The delicious of the weekend started pretty quickly. We had but dropped our bags and retired for a few celebratory brews when the lady of the house set into making her lemon white wine chicken over spaghettini with haricots verts. Absolute heaven! Boneless chicken breast with a white wine reduction emulsified with lemon and cold butter over al dente pasta. And the haricots verts (pencil thin, tender green beans) had a very bright flavor and satisfying crunch. That’s some Welcome to Our Home food right there! Stuffed and overjoyed, we spent the evening on the deck watching the stars and kicking back with our libations. First day of absolutely lazy holiday was a success!

So successful were we that we chilled straight until Monday, wherein we got the garden tour. They’ve had fairly cold weather up at their elevation until recently, so their garden is a few months behind our own Fresno-furnace surviving greenery. But the cool part is that it’s pretty much like it’s just barely spring there. So everything is in bloom. Little baby first growth squashes peeking out from leaves, a few beginning raspberries, chamomile flowers in abundance. It’s always fun to see plants as they are waking up and hitting their stride. They’re so cute at that age…

But as an overripe plum falls to the ground to ferment, only to be snatched up by a starving fructarian. So too must the weekend of chillaxation be bid farewell to. We capped off a perfect visit with a luxurious breakfast at Gilley’s in Los Gatos. I’ve ranted about them before though, so it’s sufficed to say that everything was just as amazingly perfect as skillful humans can deliver.  Eat there!

We did make one more stop off at the infamous piss palace known as Casa de Fruita. If there is a spot that will make you feel like an idiot for not stopping at one (or several) of the fruit stands on the way through Gilroy, it’s their produce stand. Nine damn dollars for a pound of Rainier cherries!! Those are the type of prices I expect to pay if I run out of beer in the extreme backcountry of the High Sierra! Thank goodness I was looking for early habaneros instead. But all this was just to tease my culinary outrage so that I might be a better snark-ass for the upcoming dinner at the Casa de Café.

There are some consistent good points about the café though. They’re open when it’s late and there’s nothing within another half hour’s travel. Ok, that’s mean. It’s actually a fairly clean joint from all I’ve ever seen. They’re not cheap, but neither do they really gouge you. The coffee is hot and has free refills. And there’s PIE!

So, with my nose out of joint, I’m ready to slam the crap outta this historical highway choke’n’puke. We’re HUNGRY hungry. So why not give them the best shot possible? There’s 3 steak specials up today. Impressive for a Monday. My lovely lady opts for the ribeye and I notice that they have a t-bone on the board. I haven’t had a t-bone in many a year. And the prices don’t make me want to scream. Both steaks were in the ballpark of $16 each, which is fairly good for a slab of moo-cow anywhere. She goes soup, I go salad and both for the baked potato.

First up was a trencher with a small loaf of recently baked bread with a couple cups of butter and a serrated knife. I must say, it wasn’t too bad. A light wheat bread with a bit of rolled oats on the crust, with just enough butter for the loaf. Pretty good portioning on someone’s part. We’re off to a good start. Next up were the soup and salad. I liked the corn chowder. It was rather thick with a little burn from the chili peppers hiding behind the niblets. The salad didn’t really do much for anyone. Standard pre-mix with some shaved carrots and a nigh tasteless bleu cheese dressing. But for a diner, it was at least fairly fresh and looked decently plated. I guess you really don’t pick your diner by the quality of their side salads anyways.

Main course! Someone’s timing was on, because a scant minute or two after we had finished our openers, our steaks arrived. Props on hot, clean looking plates. Good sized potatoes were flanked by some steamed broccoli and carrots and bookended some mighty tasty smelling steaks. I do love a fire grilled steak, but there’s just something about the smell of a diner steak. I don’t know if it’s the cast iron environment of the griddle or what, but it really brings out that minerally metallic flavor of the beef. Those char marks that are only 2 or 3 degrees from being burns, the coffee colored sear over the main body of the steak. It might go against all of the rules of fancy beefery, but I still find that smell and appearance comforting. Crap…there goes the snark. Oh well! But that doesn’t make everything perfect. My medium was closer to well. I was hoping for a wee bit of pink, but was hedging my bets against cheap beef and rushed cooks. Too much heat, a bit too dry, a little tough. The taste was there, but the texture almost had me reaching for the A-1. The rib eye came out much more to order. Pink all the way through with just a hint of red towards the middle of the steak. Which, oddly is medium. But all diners usually have adjusted the accepted doneness scale by one notch. So if you ask for well, you get some charred leather and a smile. Such is life. The veg were 50/50. The carrots had a fine texture, but the fartyness of the broccoli had seeped into them, ruining any sweetness. The broccoli itself was just a half pale yellow glob of sadness. Odd that the veg is bullshit when they’re right next to a big ass fruit and veg stand. But their baked potato was adequate and large enough to cover for his non-starchy cousins.

Sadly, no pie review dear friends. Too full of beef... What? It wasn’t perfect, but it was edible and still not too bad for the price. Service was on point. She kept our soda and water glasses full and checked on us often enough. But she did commit one irrevocable sin. No steak knife came with my steak! However, there was still the serrated knife for the bread, so I just co-opted it for my own use. And while she was a pretty young waitress, there was something incredibly unnerving about her. Like she had seen might Cthulu rise up from his millennial slumber deep beneath the fecund sea, stride forward and lean forth his unspeakable, writhing visage, reach forward to her face with his ancient claw and say unto her “Got your nose!”, then teleported her back into her VW Cabriolet to make out with stinky Jimmy Thunderfuck the varsity quarterback, while wishing that Ricardo Montalbon were still alive to whisk her away from all this. We tipped her anyway.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Eating Out A Peck Of Penis Peppers

As we’re swaying into July, I’ve been catching up on my well procrastinated gardening. And what do I find? But this wee pornographic pepper showing it’s veiny erectness to the unimpressed world. I’ve had some worries that I wouldn’t get any fruit on the Peter Pepper plants this year due to late repotting and blossoms dying off. But it looks like we’ll get at least one naughty pepper of hilarity for our labors. And from what I can tell, pepper plants can be overwintered and produce year after year.

So let’s see how the rest of the garden is doing. I’ve been eyeing my first Cherokee purple tomato that has been coloring up nicely. I got these not only because of the name giving the nod to a small portion of my genetics, but also because it’s a common opinion that they have one of the nicest tomato flavors around. So, I figure a couple of these added to my spaghetti recipe will take good all the way to great.

Speaking of my spaghetti, after our trip to Sam’s Deli, I discovered the wonder that is San Marzano tomatoes. And much to my delight, at the beginning of the planting season, I found out that their seeds were pretty easy to find and quite inexpensive. So, I set up some of these bad boys to germinate and discovered that my sowing skills suck ass. Not only were they completely on top of each other, but due to a lack of funding for the tons of soil and containers I didn’t plan well for, they pretty much stayed that way until they were setting fruit. So it was barely last night I sat out at 3am (better to replant when it’s cool) and attempted to extract and separate them to be repotted as best I could without absolutely shredding their roots.

We’ve got some fruit on ‘em and they look healthy enough, just very tiny. They’re something akin to super giant grape tomatoes. But hopefully with another good 6 inches of soil to send out some roots to, they’ll be able to rebound and get some decent production by August. Or at the very least, survive my ham handed treatment of the poor tender young things in a dark yard abutting an alley.

Besides the porno peppers, I actually opted for a couple, more standard varieties. We picked up a standard Italian pepper that is throwing out some impressive sized pods considering how short the plant is. There’s the rather fruitful Fresno chili plant, whose peppers are turning an interesting red-orange. The first couple green ones I tried from it weren’t spicy at all, so I’m hoping these mature pods will pack some more heat. Especially since I’ve had it rubbing shoulders with my Habanero plant! I’m told if milder peppers are planted near much hotter ones, they’ll take on characteristics of the other’s heat profile. No blossoms have stuck yet on this heat monster just yet. I’m hoping and praying I can get a handful to make an attempt at homemade salsa.

From there we’ve got our Okra seedlings growing up big and strong for a late summer crop. Our 2 year old strawberry plant valiantly clutching to the walls of it’s broken bottomed pot. Our hopeful lavender transplants, the saddest old catnip plant (local hooligan kittens got into it) and a handful of attempts at growing some purty flowers up from seed.

But most importantly to a city cook, the herb garden. It was herbs that got me back into shoving dirt and green things into pots and arrogantly demanding that they provide me with their bodies and their children that I might better enjoy my seared animal flesh. I think I started again with a basil plant I picked up at Trader Joe’s. It’s since died and been replaced, but the chives I got that year have expanded so much that they’ve taken over two large pots and kick out more onion grass than any 5 people could use. Plus I started a bunch of others from seed. Like oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage and some other crap that I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t remember and don’t really recognize. But I figure once it grows up, I’ll give it a taste and we’ll see then.

If you’re out there with some chicken poo under your nails and the odor of macerated fish guts rising from your watering can, I salute you! It’s such a relaxing and enjoyable past time. And there’s nothing quite so self gratifying than eating something that you grew from seed to plate. Well…I can think of one or two more acts of self gratification that might trump that. But it’s damn close. Here’s hoping your fruits are fat and your pests are few!