Archive for December, 2008


Posted on December 31, 2008. Filed under: favorite, hodgepodge |

What would you do on a super-cold, snowy day? Set up a stand in the local farmers’ market? That’s what quite a few vendors did today in the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan. With the wind blowing, snow falling, and most of the city (except for the schmucks waiting in Times Square…seriously, I have no idea why people think that’s fun…) taking naps, local food purveyors still lined the market.

Sure, it was a bit more sparse than a bright summer’s day. But you could still find everything you need for an amazing meal. Two grass fed beef vendors, sustainable poultry & pork, apples aplenty, root veggies, squash, preserves, wine…

The point is, if these guys and gals can drag their asses into Manhattan & stand in the cold/snow, we can all make a little effort to eat locally. It’s a lot easier than what they’re doing. So let’s do that.

I’m going to have a Ronnybrook Farm yogurt, and a mackintosh apple (75 cents a pound, take that megamart!), and get ready to get hammered. Happy New Year.

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Home of Chicken and Waffles

Posted on December 29, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge, review, travel |

I was exploring the Jack London Square farmers’ market yesterday (good market!), and a wonderful smell was in the air.  After much exploring, my nose led me to…Home of Chicken and Waffles.  Now, I might be a Yankee & a Jew, but I love soul food like a fella from Mississippi.  As soon as I walked through the door, I knew I was in the right place.

The Home of Chicken and Waffles began as a franchise of the famous Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.  In 2004, the family decided to spilt from their parents and take the reigns themselves.  This was a smart move.  The strong family ties are evident on the wall- each menu item is named after a family member, their portraits (with the dish) are painted on the wall by a local artist.
The food is soul food at is best.  Although the protein is limited mostly to fried chicken, the array of sides more than makes up for the lack of smothered pork chops.  Truth be told, the fried chicken is so good that you might run the risk of missing it if you had other options!  Some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had in fact!  It’s crisp, juicy, sweet, and without a hint of greasy.  As for the sides, it’s a hit list of soul food champions: grits, mac ‘n cheese, yams, greens, peas.  All menu items are accompanied with a suggested side or two.  While you can swap sides for 50 cents, you probably won’t feel the need to do so.  Oh, and the waffles?  Heavenly.  
Service at Home of Chicken and Waffles is fantastic.  Personable, fast, and funny.  They make you feel like you’re popping by their house for a meal.  Indeed, the diverse clientele all seem equally at home there.  Hipsters sit side by side with families on their way home from church.  Old and young enjoy the sweet sweet chicken.
I believe the join is always open, as hours aren’t listed and they tout themselves as the perfect place to go after a night out in downtown Oakland.  I couldn’t agree more.
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Posted on December 26, 2008. Filed under: recipe, vegetable |

Latkes are potato pancakes traditional to Jewish cuisine, and enjoyed by many many Jews during the festival of Chanukah.  They are damn good.

4 Russet Potatoes
1/2 – 3/4 Onion
1 Cup Flour
2 Eggs
Peel and grate the potatoes.  Squeeze grated potatoes as hard as you can, removing the starchy water.  You could also use a salad spinner.  This step is important, removing the moisture & potato starch will improve the texture of your latkes.  Grate onion.
Beat the eggs, add all the ingredients.  Except the fat of course.  Then again, if you want to stir a little chicken or duck fat in there, be my guest.
Now we fry.  How do we fry?  Well, let me count the ways.  Latkes are traditionally cooked in chicken fat.  I say go for it!  Seriously, you eat these things once or twice a year, so why not go crazy?!  If you opt out of the chicken fat (maybe just mix in a little bit….?), use vegetable oil.  It won’t be quite as amazing, though I suppose your heart will be happier.  
So, heat whatever fat you like to 360 degrees (the latkes should immediately bubble).  Form mix into cakes 3-4 inches across, 1.5 inches thick.  Don’t get out a ruler or anything, you’ll get the hang of it!  Fry for three minutes per side.  Latkes are also a great candidate for deep frying.  4 minutes in the fryer will do it!
*Don’t be alarmed if the latke mixture changes color.  It’s just the potato oxidizing.  Removing the potato water will help stop this, as will the egg.  Keeping it covered helps, too.  Still, your mix will turn brown, maybe even grey.  Don’t stress it.  It’s cosmetic, and the beautiful golden brown crust that forms when you fry will make it disappear.  
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Posted on December 22, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge, vegetable |

Savory is an often overlooked herb, especially in American cuisine.  There are two major types of savory: summer and winter.  Summer savory can be found during the … summer!  Winter savory can be found … anytime.  (Summer savory is an annual herb, winter savory is a perennial shrub, much like rosemary.) 

Summer savory has a more delicate flavor/texture, better for finishing dishes.  Winter savory is more hearty, and can be used as a base flavor for longer cooked dishes.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  One cooks things longer when the weather is colder. 

The flavor is a mild cross between thyme & rosemary, both botanical cousins.  It can be used in the same way you would use either herb, and is especially popular in Italian long cooked dishes.  Medicinally, savory is known to aid in digestion, and is rumored to be an aphrodisiac.

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(Breakfast) Beef Stew

Posted on December 17, 2008. Filed under: beef, one pot, recipe |

This is my take on a recipe first published in Marion Harland’s Common Sense for the Household (1884), updated in The American Heritage Cookbook (1964, edited by Helen McCully).  I’ve updated it to suit my taste, and you should feel free to play with it, too.  This was, without a doubt, the best beef stew I’ve made.

2 Lbs. Beef, cubed
Grass fed beef preferred!
2 Tbs. Flour
1 Tbs. Fat, your choice, butter preferred
1 Small Onion, sliced
2 Carrots, quartered
3 Ribs Celery, quartered
1 Parsnip, quartered
1 Small Green Bell Pepper, quartered
3 Cloves Garlic, crushed
1 1/2 Cup Beef Broth
3/4 Cup Water
1 Tbs. Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
4 Sprigs Savory
6 Sprigs Marjoram
6 Sprigs Thyme
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tbs. Mustard
1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
2 Sprigs Savory
4 Sprigs Each Thyme & Marjoram
Begin by coating beef with flour.  Melt fat in pan, then add beef to brown.  After beef browns, add vegetables.  Cook 5 minutes.  
This step is optional, but recommended.  Not only does it deepen the flavor of the dish, the melting fat & flour form a roux that will thicken the stew.  If you decide not to brown, omit the flour.

Add remaining ingredients in the top part of the list.  You’ll save yourself some time (thyme!) later by either tying the herbs together with twine, or putting them in a tea bag.  See, the herbs are woody, and not especially tasty to eat, so- better to keep them in one place and remove them when the dish is done.
Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to simmer.  Walk away for 1.5 – 3 hours.  You can stir from time to time, but that’s all the work you need to do.
In the last five minutes, add the remaining ingredients.  Again, it’s a good idea to keep the herbs together.  Taste, and add salt as necessary.  Serve over some kind of simple starch- rice, potato, noodles.
As with all dishes of this kind, it’s only going to get better with a day or two in the fridge.  Also, don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients.  There isn’t a lot of work to do, I promise.  The assembly took 20 minutes, including the browning.
Why is it called a breakfast stew?  I have no idea!  Maybe this was breakfast in 1884.

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Read: This Organic Life

Posted on December 15, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’m not sure how this book managed to escape my radar for so long.  “This Organic Life,” written by Joan Dye Gussow, is a terrific read.  

Warning:  If you don’t own/have access to somewhere you can grow things, this book can be frustrating.  Here’s the thing: Ms. Gussow loves to garden.  She loves it so much, that you’re going to want to grow things too.  And not just a few things.  You might find yourself at the garden center enviously eying people buying a fig tree, or a grape vine.  You might find yourself secretly planting shallots between your landlord’s flowers.  You might find yourself going to Home Depot and buying a GIANT box, then filling it with hundreds of pounds of dirt….
Yeah.  That’s probably going to happen.  Why?  Well, it’s a very sensible (and wonderful!) thing to grow your own food.  Joan Dye Gussow’s tale of suburban gardening is a terrific read.  Gussow manages to inspire without preaching.  She might live a life sustained almost entirely of things she grows, but she never expects the reader to.  This isn’t a holier than though type of sustainable living read.  Rather, it’s pure inspiration.  
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Review: Dan Tana’s

Posted on December 8, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge, review |

It’s not often I feel compelled to write a restaurant review, but my family and I really enjoyed this place, so there it is.

Change is good.  We can all agree on that.  However, some places should always stay the same.  Dan Tana’s has embraced that philosophy fully.

Basically, picture a stereotypical East Coast, Italian American restaurant circa 1973. You know: red checkered table cloth, Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling, dim lighting, 8454355 lbs of garlic…

Warning: If you hate the idea of that, if you think that today’s Italian food should be all butternut squash ravioli in sage brown butter, you’re going to hate this place.  Fine.  Hate it.  Because, frankly, the place is a little cramped and I’d be happier if you weren’t there.

For the rest of us, this is a little bit of heaven.  In a city that often struggles with authenticity, Dan Tana’s is dripping with it.  This place isn’t cliche- it’s where the cliche started. 

Service is attentive.  Fast, helpful, and with a little bit of attitude that lets you know you’re in good hands.

The food?  Well, aside from the forgettable prosciutto and melon, it was all fantastic.  Amazing.  Get what you’d expect to get at a classic Italian joint: something parmesan, something big fat steak, something covered in garlic and butter. 


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Chicken Lew Cashew

Posted on December 6, 2008. Filed under: poultry, recipe |

Maybe it’s not the smartest idea to try to make a traditional style Chicken with Cashews without doing much research.  Or, maybe it is.  Whatever I made, it didn’t quite match what you’d expect from the dish.  Nonetheless, it was pretty damn good.
2 Chicken Breasts, diced
1 Carrot, diced
1 Small Onion, diced
2 Ribs Celery, diced
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Small Nug Ginger, chopped
1 Small Chili Pepper of Fire, seeded and chopped
1 Cup Raw Cashews
1 Tbs. Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Chicken Stock
2 Tbs Hoisin Sauce
2 Tbs. Mirin
2 Tbs. Soy Sauce
1 Tbs. Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tbs. Corn Starch
Marinate chicken in soy sauce for 15 minutes to an hour.
Quickly brown chicken, say for about 2 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Add cashews and cook for about two minutes.  Add the veggies and cook for another minute.  Return chicken to pan, cook for…another minute!  Add sauce, and cook till it thickens, about…a minute!  Serve.
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Nobel Son

Posted on December 4, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge, movies, Nobel Son |

If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, why not see me in a movie?!  Seeing movies is always fun, and seeing me in a movie is even better.

Nobel Son is a thrilling dark comedy.  Kidnapping, car chases, theoretic chemistry.  With a cast that includes Alan Rickman, Eliza Dushku, Danny DeVito, Bill Pullman, Bryan Greenberg, & Shawn Hatosy, you know you’re in for a treat.

Check out the Nobel Son website for all the details.  It’s playing nationwide.

Oh, and it’s (kind of sort of) food related, too.  How?  Well, you need to check it out.

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Idea: Don’t Be Absurd

Posted on December 2, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge |

“We eat with our eyes.”  It’s cliche, but true.  So why would the people at Sevan Produce decide to add a giant cigarette discount ad atop their food flyer?

Now, I’m no advertising expert.  But, if watching Mad Men has taught me anything, it’s that you should drink a steady diet of highballs all day long.  This way, you’re drunk enough to call a person out on their craaaaazy ad scheme.  Clearly, someone at Seven isn’t drinking nearly enough, because this is just absurd.

Nothing says quality like a cheap (giant monoculture tobacco) smoke.

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