Thursday, September 30, 2010

Eating Out An Assfull of Alligators

Whew!  Day late and a dollar short again!  Many apologies and excuses dear readers, it's been a busy and somewhat banal week.  Adventures in vehicle repair and varied handymannery abounded.  And although I have been a little too distracted to conduct much in the way of culinary experiments, I have been dragging my camera out that last few times I've gotten out of the Hobbit Hole.  So I give to you, the week in photos.

(In order) Tower reconstruction x13, my version of tortilla soup, my little garden buddy x2, iconic alley cat is iconic, closeup of the basil forest, okra blossom, baby radish bassinet and my purty flowers x2. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eating Out Good Vibes

Holy crap! I feel like I’m suddenly back again. And ergo I must totally blame Ms. Joey and Pat Contreras. Since my earlier semi-hiatus, I’ve felt like a total hack. And a big part of that was the usual Summeritis. The need to completely fuck off from the period of June through September. But after a wild boozer night of soul searching. somehow we’re finally home, tossed and have a keyboard back in front of us! So let’s type our sweet bodacious ass right the hell off!

Ok, that previous paragraph sounded way better in my head, but rant on we must, with a final beer left in the fridge and a jaundiced eye staring at the Alscacian Riesling I found at the Grocery Outlet. Nummy though it sounds, I must ferry on to post something of worth. Ok, on to ranting about something I saw tonight while getting tossed.

Bartender Challenge! This marks the first time that I have stepped foot onto the hallowed grounds of the original Java Café in over half of my lifetime. (To you young’uns, that’s pretty much from birth until your junior year) And oh how the old girl has changed! But before all of that, let’s talk about charity. The pimping part of the Bartender Challenge is that it takes local celebrities who’ll still work for free and pits them against each other to see who can make the most amount of tips. All of which go to the Creative Fresno mural fund, which gives badass painter types brushes and colored goo to make the Downtown look more prettier!

Tonight it was violin virtuoso Patrick Contreras (the scary guy on the inaugural ‘Notown Magazine cover) and la chica mas bonita Ms. Joey slinging drinks and laying down the smack for local artistic painterography. And much style and flair was applied! Mr. Contreras had a steady $5 for a personal violin solo tip tub working. However, Joey girl with the hand of granite and the friends of steel simply could not be stopped. Backed up by the War Angels stopping in to count coup on the bar and all of her fans as co-host of the Central Valley Buzz, she charitably smashed the cat-gutter at a ratio of 3-1 for a grand totalish of around $400 towards smashing a little more beauty into our storied downtown.

Ok, back to my sweet Java. First off…the men’s room no longer smells like a rabbit hutch! I have no idea how they imported the odor, but I swear to you on whatever icon will make you believe me, it smelled like a soft mixture of rabbit food and what rabbit food becomes. Now, it smells like a room. And that disturbs me. Not quite as much as the old coffee pump alley now being MILF row, but it’s a damn near thing. To the patio!

Dear fucking god. It hasn’t changed! For all of the extra faux wall ruination of my childhood architecture, my beloved patio is nigh untouched! Short of the original furniture going the way of Bowie 45’s, is completely as I remember it, only 15 years older, plus a shoddy fountain lacking water hookups. But being a Fresnan, I simply find it refreshing that there isn’t a desiccated turd aerating itself in a rarely seen corner. Nevermind the most banal conversation by privileged Caucasian women, discussing how Fresno needs a relevant weekly paper, and what will make it fly. Not knowing that the advertising required to float a new publication anywhere near success would require “let’s make a new dam” money, because as a local socioeconomic group, we’re the most skeptical and yet the most susceptible to “buzz” of any market on the west coast. We love it like an unstained stuffed animal, then tag it up, cover it in gasoline and burn it to the ground for the insurance. And that’s why we can have Krispy Kremes no more. Or Cabo Wabo’s.

All that aside, I was sitting through the night with a semi-chubby at finally getting to sit in the back of the old Java with a properly purchased and allowable boozey beverage, and get to sit back in my delightful adultyness and knock back a few on my old kiddy cocktail stomping grounds. Where I discovered that 6 mocha java shakes, did really give you the shakes. And a bit of lactose poisoning. And that 15 year old kidneys can process gallons and gallons of coffee while you’re ditching school and hiding from your folks in the absolute LAST place on earth they ever would have looked for you. Except for that time you had to call your Mom for your spare car key, because you locked yours inside and you need to be there for 5th period for a test. Uncaring steward of the sky-cake, how I miss those days…but at the very least I can wander out into the most awesome and thankfully underutilized space in the most sacred land in this burg of hidey holes and “Walt Sent Me”’s.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Eating Out the Peter Pepper Harvest

At last! After an entire spring and summer of toiling, fertilizing, fretting, we have fruit. Well, pods really. The blossoms that were able to set during that miraculous temperate snap we had last month have happily made it to maturity. Wee little weenie shaped nubbins of firecracker power! We’ve gotten a grand total of 7 all year, with 6 of them coming from this very harvest! Not terribly impressive so far, but the current 6 all came from one plant.

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Fortunately, with things finally reaching pleasant daytime temperatures, the remaining plants have decided that there has been a second spring and are currently producing a fair number of blossoms. Alas, I do see a fair number of them yellowing and taking a dive off of their branches. But I’m hoping that with a little extra fertilization (no nitrogen during flowering) that they’ll start setting to fruit. With only a potential couple months left before night time temps start dipping into the 40’s and the plants decide to go dormant. We’ll see if I’m crazy enough to set up a small greenhouse for them.

As for the remainder of the garden, the tomatoes have been complete punks. 2 cherokees, 3 or so baby san marzanos. The black krims that I started from seed have just been potted, mainly to see if I can get them to produce before it’s far too cold for ‘maters. The okra plants are doing quite well and throwing out about a pod a piece every 2 days. Fun for vanity growing, but if I really intend to eat it, I’m going to have to sow a raised bed’s worth. But hey, at least I know that my Okie greenthumb is still intact. The herbs are rocking, the basil forest is quite happily crowded, thyme and oregano are branching out and attempting to creep from their containers. And the sage is finally starting to mature a bit around the edges, with plenty of stunted babies to pick at.

The newest experiment is bringing up some French breakfast radishes from seed. They’re supposed to reach full maturity in 30 days. Most gardening sites I read swear by them as an easy and fun crop to grow. They keep a couple small beds in a offset rotation every 15 days and have tons of fresh radishes. I’ve even found that I’m fond of them in the French manner with a little butter and sea salt. The creaminess of the butter cuts that spicy bite a lot of radishes have and the salt makes you enjoy the juiciness of the flesh. Bet you never thought of a radish as juicy before. Try some fresh out of the ground and you’ll see!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eating Out While Faking It

Greetings and salutations! Another week, another set of culinary adventures. As I’m sure you saw on the Facebook, I was beating my brains trying to come up with something to throw down on the Cooking With Pook segment on the Central Valley Buzz. It was late, the beer was flowing and I was rooting through the pepper porn on and I discovered a drunken cooking thread of impressive size. As I flick through the various inspiring and spicy dishes I run across something so strange that I instantly fall in love.

Blueberry cole slaw. What in the heck? I’m normally a fan of more savory slaws, but for some reason it sounded good. It also had absolutely no recipe listed anywhere in the post that I could find. But I rarely let anything as paltry as a lack of experienced advice prevent me from wildly flailing about in some pathetic attempt to imitate an alien recipe! So here we go!

Blueberry Coleslaw

1 head cabbage shredded
1 large carrot shredded
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 small shallot minced
½ cup blueberries
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup mayo (could substitute with yogurt or sour cream)
1/8 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons celery salt
1 hearty pinch pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 small pinch nutmeg
1 tiny amount star anise

First shred your cabbage and salt with the celery salt. Then grate the carrot and dice your walnuts and red bell pepper and add to the cabbage. In a separate bowl begin to prepare the dressing. First, mash your blueberries in the bottom of the bowl with a fork until they’re thoroughly broken up. Then sprinkle with the dark brown sugar. Mince the shallot and add in as well. Pour in the mayonnaise, heavy cream, vinegar, pepper and a pinch of celery salt and whisk together until purpley-smooth. Now for the important part.  The weird spice measurements.  The amount of nutmeg used was scraped in two brief passes over a grater of the whole spice-nut. Less than a standard pinch. Then the star anise, you just use a few of the TINIEST little flakes scraped from one of the star nodules. Any more of either spice and they’ll totally dominate your dressing. And the idea is for them to help meld the savory and sweet flavors together.  Mix again, then toss the cabbage mixture with the dressing.  Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.  Serve and enjoy!

Given that I was flying blind on the recipe, I was overjoyed with the outcome. It was sweet but not cloying. There was nice crunch from the cabbage and the red bell pepper. The walnuts add a bit of a velvety texture between the softness of the berries and the zestier crunch of the vegetation. The nutmeg and star anise do a good job of staying in the background, lending some perfume to the bite, but not jumping out and dominating the palate. It’s certainly weird and attention getting without being so bizarre as to affront one’s culinary sensibilities.

If I were forced to make suggestions as to how to serve this edible sideshow attraction, I’d probably lean towards the beloved barbeque. Certainly ones with berry or cherry based sauces. Or accompanying a nice pulled pork sandwich and sweet potato fries. I’m even pretty sure that it’d play nicely with a fruitier red wine or a rose’.

So there it is! And I encourage all of you to be wild eyed explorers of the new and strange. Don’t be afraid to try a new twist on an old classic. Even if you don’t have a recipe, trust in your tastes and your experience to carry you through.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Eating Out In Labor

Happy long weekend everybody! I am officially wrung out like a reusable vaginal sponge! This sedentary wordsmith has been running hither and yon so much that we’ve almost forgotten what our comfy hobbit hole looks like. From the Tower to the hills and back again. We’ve been all over our fair land in just a few days.

Tuesdays philly went over like gangbusters. And so now I can give to you the secret!

Not-Dan’s Philly Cheese

1 lb VERY thin sliced boneless ribeye steak
2 med red bell peppers julienned (about ¼ inch)
1 small shallot minced
1 clove garlic minced
¾ lb sharp cheddar cheese cubed
4 hoagie rolls
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bottle brown ale (Newcastle preferred)
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste

First, start your cheese sauce. Take the cheddar cheese cubes and place into a plastic bag and sprinkle with the flour. Close the bag and shake to coat cheese. Heat your butter and sauté your shallots until they’re glassy. Turn down your heat and add the cheddar cheese and about 1/3 of the ale. Stir and simmer, making sure to keep the cheese moving on the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t burn. Add in the cumin, paprika, turmeric and garlic, stir and reduce heat to low.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Now heat up your skillet and add in the olive oil. Season your beef with salt and pepper and place about 1/4 in the pan and brown on one side, then add in 1/4 of your red bell peppers and sauté with the beef. Working in batches, you can also toast your rolls if you prefer and assemble on the fly, or finish cooking your peppers and beef before you tackle the task. Simply open up your roll and squeeze in as much peppers and beef as you’d like. Then, placing the cut upright, ladle some of your hot cheese sauce over the filling, taking care not to overdo it and cover your hand in napalm-like lactose divinity.  Enjoy!

Then on to Wednesday and the Pub Quiz at The Landmark! As I heard the tale told, the jackpot was up around a couplefew grand! But alas, the sweet taste of victory and a buttload of cash was not to be had by the Central Valley Buzz team. Sadly, I was just bare assedly wrong on a few pivotal questions. Although I still stand by the fact that nitrocelluloid has been commonly known as celluloid since DeMille’s time. Yes, I’m pouting. No, it wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest at the end of the game. Nyah!

Thursday again saw us dashing off to The Landmark again for a dear friend’s birthday and pub crawl. The funniest part being that no crawling actually happened. Instead we tucked in for a quick dinner. Scalone again. I know, I know, the food blogger should try new stuff and rant about it. But I REALLY like the scalone there! Their onion rings looked gorgeous, if you’re into that sort of thing. Our dinner companions were mightily impressed with theirs, that’s for sure. We then moved onto the patio to relax and palaver over cocktails and enjoy the mild summer evening. One big perk was my introduction to a mixed drink called a Hi-C. Which, hands down tastes like the old fruit punch, but it masks an insidiously strong booze kick that’ll have you drooling under the table after a few. Alas, we’re unable to fully embrace the terrifying cocktail, for we cannot be drag-assing for…

Friday! And this evening we’re off to Mr. Chuck Leonard’s surprise birthday party at the City Arts Gallery. Mr. Mayor was taken off to enjoy a baseball game downtown to give everyone time to gather and set up. Then at the appointed hour this wizened old man was nearly sent fluttering from this mortal coil by the exuberant bellow of his many well wishers. After some smelling salts and the defibrillator, he was back up and delivering hugs to his friends and associates. Then off to the libation table to get tight! There was a fantabulous cold cut and snack spread. Which worked out fabulously for me since I was running on Pringles at the time. Of course the night rocked our little pink socks right the heck off. Even Chance the Friendly Pit Bull was having the time of his life as new friends and old chatted and danced the night away.

Saturday…ugh! I feel like a Kenyan distance runner has been using my liver as his left shoe. We’re due up in Coarsegold for yet ANOTHER good friend’s holiday long birthday shindig. There is nothing quite like being able to relax with coincidentally unrelated family in the wonders of the live oak, clear skies and beautiful vistas. But I’m also feeling tired, grumpy and terribly self indulgent. I love everybody to death and unfortunately missed out on the planned tacogeddon that night. But we opted to lay low and rehydrate, then duck out to Yoshino’s for some sushi. We had a newer guy as our sushi chef, but he was on point through the whole meal. We started off with some miso soup and a little plain rice, then she moved on to the snappy roll, which she loved. I opted for a couple orders of tuna and 1 order of yellowtail nigiri sushi (fish on rice). I used to not be a raw tuna fan, but at Yoshino’s they seems to always get really fresh and clean tasting tuna. Mmm mmm good! An order of beef sashimi and I’m full to the gills. What? Yeah, I said beef sashimi! It’s crazy good. A lightly seared piece of beef is sliced very thin and placed over daikon strings with a sweet-savory sauce and scallions. If you like rare beef, you’ll love this and it’s a great way to get non-sushi fans into the fun of Japanese cuisine. Good meal, relaxing evening, good cheer reserves are topped off and ready for GO!

Sunday and Monday have actually been more of 1 solid chunky day. I could wax poetic about my dear friends that you might not know or might actually be. Sufficed to say that we’re super, ultra, mega, blessed by a dearth of good people in our life. And they can cook! Dinner was The Most Perfect Green Chicken Enchiladas ever made by man. Good drink and conversation waxed clean through to sunrise at which point the morning shift kicked in. Talk about a wake and bake! Straight out of bed and on to proofing her cardamom rolls prior to their Faustian convectionary completion. They didn’t last long. But it did seem so long until dinner, farfalle with Italian sausage and a asiago primavera sauce. So damn good!

We even got some great and potentially life ending exposure to wildlife. First was a little bobcat kit that we saw staring at us from the shore of a nearby pond. So incredibly cute! We were told to beware that there was a mountain lion in the vicinity, but thankfully it took the holiday off, short of giving us all a start with a 3 a.m. yowl. But my most impressively boneheaded move was narrowly averted by Mrs. EOF. As we’re walking up a well defined dirt road, I’m dazed and entranced by an angus cow that appears to be magically floating around a pond, munching the plants. Aqua cow! A new breed! When I’m knocked to the side with a counterintuitively calm “Dude, snake.” She narrowly saved me from stepping right on the fattest rattlesnake I’ve ever seen and the first one I’ve ever seen outside of a cage. Thankfully, it appeared that he too had been partying all night as he barely took notice of us as we lurched past him. So, thank you Mr. Mellow Rattlesnake for not taking down the giant, pasty and (stupidly) barelegged blogger. That fact that I’m still alive and have both my legs still has totally made my summer. Here’s hoping you get to somewhere people don’t go and spread your snakey gospel of not biting dumb drunk insomniacs.