Friday, February 26, 2010

TV dinner

After a grueling day at work, I could not wait to get home and park myself in front of the Olympics with a healthy dinner.  Well, I wasn't that excited about the healthy dinner, but I managed to make it work.  I had roasted a chicken with lemon and pepper earlier in the week, which I ate with steamed asparagus and a little bit of sriracha mayo for good measure.  A little Rooster makes everything better!

Sriracha is named for a port town in Chonburi province in Thailand (not far from Bangkok), but is not a Thai hot sauce as many believe.  As the New York Times informed me, Huy Fong Sriracha sauce is neither Thai nor Vietnamese, but actually made in Los Angeles and intended to reference Asian chili sauces in a multicultural way. 

With the Rooster, even vegetables taste great! And yes, that is a Boddington's in a frozen German beer stein, on the side... a girl can't cut out everything. Cheers to making it through another work week!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tasty Burger?

In the latest episode of the Roadside Project, we stopped at Ikeda's on a long haul home Sunday in search of the notorious "Tasty Burger."  I use the word notorious specifically, by the way.

The Tasty Burger has a bizarre cult following.  At 1:30 on a Sunday, we waited in line for a good twenty minutes just to order.  We needed those twenty minutes to make a choice, the extensive menu spanning burgers, steak sandwiches, fruit smoothies, Thai rice bowls ... Although I was tempted by the prime rib sandwich, I had to order a Tasty Burger and understand what all the hype was about.  I chose the mushroom swiss burger and waited ... and waited ... and waited ... for my first taste.

One hour later we had finished our grocery shopping next door, finally scored a table with an amazing roadside I-80 view, and had our burgers before us.  Visually I was interested, but the flavors belied the appearance of the sando.  It did not taste like the ground beef in the burger ... like the toasty buttered bun ... or like the (admittedly grayish) mushrooms piled high.  It took me several minutes to identify that it predominantly tasted like peppery oil, the flavor of Ikeda's flat top grill.

Terroir might be desirable in a wine, but not in a roadside burger. 

Next time, I am skipping the meal and loading up on snacks next door.  Safe travels!  

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lazy days in Tahoe

Cooking breakfast in Tahoe is an amazing way to start the day. Time around the table with your friends, enjoying a good meal before hitting the slopes.  (Admittedly we are off to a slow start today).

One of the most interesting things about today's breakfast was that I didn't cook it! Seriously, Marsha offered to cook breakfast, using ingredients from the fridge, and one of the most fascinating things about the morning was watching someone create something new and different with your ingredients.  It is like someone using your iPod to create a playlist ... your songs, but somehow the combination is totally unexpected. 

OK, I'm off to the slopes!  Happy Thursday everyone!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Flour + Water = Food + Heart

Gidget and I went to Flour + Water in search of good pizza.  Great pizza, actually.  And this pizza was so storied that we made a reservation, for two, 60 days ago back in December (testing the limits of Open Table for an early evening Tuesday night reservation). 

So of course, when we looked at the menu, selecting a pizza was a no brainer. I advocated the margherita pizza (with a foodie's addition of burrata) as a great way to test the mettle of a pizza establishment with a staple that relies on the texture of a crust and the tanginess of a sauce to differentiate.  The pizza itself silenced us for many minutes, its crust a perfect blend of crispy and slightly charred exterior (courtesy of the restaurant's Valoriani oven) with a chewy center.  The sauce tasted like crushed and extremely fresh, tangy tomatoes ... making me feel as if the pizza did not even need cheese.  But, it had burrata! 

It was much more challenging to select another dish or two from the menu of starters, pizzas, pasta, and secondi.  We relied heavily upon our server (whose recommendations and thoughtful commentary definitely guided on food and wine throughout the meal). We opted for the pasta special, a pig heart tortellini (the pig heart first sauteed with a mirepoix, then ground up as a pasta filling), served with an emulsified butter sauce.  Though the pig heart component frightened Gidge (and secretly dared me), the dish was well balanced between a salty but otherwise non-intimidating meat element, the folded handkerchief style tortellini pasta, and a thickened butter sauce that together created a phenomenally compelling mouthful.  So much so that a) we turned to our neighboring table and insisted that they order the pasta special and b) insisted to each other that we try a third dish (as a dessert substitute, of course).

With plenty to choose from, we grilled the server (whose recommendation, to note, was the duck breast served with romanesco and chard) and then completely strayed toward our original inclination and ordered another pasta dish: fennel and pork shoulder raviolini with chard.

All three were phenomenal choices, making me wish I could eat without implication for the rest of the evening.  This restaurant quickly worked its way into my top 5 with its quality of ingredient, preparation, and service.  The pizza was unparalleled in the city and the pasta a close rival to the likes of Farina.  I cannot wait for my next return visit.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

OC Crab Feed

Friday night was, for me, the most eagerly anticipated night of the year: Crab feed at the Olympic Club!

Flanked by many of my closest friends, we posted up at our two tables of 12.  The blue and white checkered tablecloths were a little disjointed with the tall boxed ceilings and elegant chandeliers of the Olympic Club main dining room.  We, in our stretchy pants, may have also been a little disjointed with our surrounding patrons, some of whom broke out the sequins and the backless gowns.  Quite all right with us ... they put us in the corner tables for a reason. 

Bibs on, we tackled the all-you-can-eat extravaganza.  Caesar salad, ravioli in meat sauce, and the main attraction, platters of cracked-for-you Dungeness crab.  We focus so seriously on this meal that we, for once, pay little attention to the wine in front of us.  So serious that we have a traditional list of contests and competitions that keep us mentally in the game.

Which table eats the most platters?  Which person lasts the longest?  Which person eats the most?  At what time of night does Tim break out his claw-hand?  When will Nicole put on her crab claw nose ring?  Who can make the most crab puns and crustacean jokes? And perhaps the most time-honored of them all, who can wear the bib longest?

I won this last and most storied competition, wearing my bib long after dinner to the O Club bar and later to the Owl Tree.  Oddly, I even garnered a couple of compliments from strange women about my top.

Anyways, at the O Club Crab Feed, everyone leaves a winner, and feeling clawsome!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I know I normally write about food. I talk, and think, a lot about food.  However, this blog was always intended to be about the ingredients for a good life ... and good food is only one of them. Equally important is the food for the spirit.

And with that in mind, tonight I went to yoga.

This yoga class was the most exhilarating, cardio-intensive, physically demanding hour in my (limited) yoga experience.  One of the Olympic Club's first "late night" 7pm classes, it was packed with athletes in search of a variation to their routines.  The instructor, Pradeep, guides you through the physical and mental practice of yoga, just as focused on mental acuity as physical agility.

As Pradeep says, "If you are here, be here." I spent an hour of my week practicing yoga and will carry its lessons with me throughout the week until the next session.  Can't wait until next week when I can get me some OM!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Healthy beginnings

As promised, today I began the healthy eating endeavour.  My main goal today was to prove (to myself) that healthy eating doesn't have to be boring, that food cooked well doesn't have to take forever.  After a late night at work, I stopped by my local grocer and picked up ingredients for a quick plate of lightly stir fried shrimp with fire roasted salsa.  This plate (which I sometimes pair with a warmed corn tortilla for shrimp tacos, or occasionally add slices of avocado) takes five minutes to prepare and longer to enjoy.

The meal satisfied my stomach, my palate, and my healthy-eating principles:

1. Pick a healthy favorite and treat it like an indulgence. In my case, I love shrimp and focused on a feast of the savory little characters. 
2. Add a little spice.  Salsa and hot sauce are staples in my house, livening up everything from eggs to rices and pastas to salads.  Tonight I picked up a roasted green salsa from Casa Chicas, whose chunky texture of tomatilloes and onions balanced out nicely with cilantro.
3. Eat at the table. Concentrate on the flavors and feel more full, besides.
4. Drink "fun" water (aka Pellegrino) in a wine glass for a sophisticated spin on hydration.

Anyone have a healthy recipe they can share? I have to cook tomorrow too...