Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I'm most sad that I will miss the Saturday morning Hope High Farmers' Market and Waterfire (if there's even a Waterfire planned).
I have a couple of places lined up that promise exciting gustatory experiences. Got my camera, some mixed nuts, and the Dinnerman's ipod. I'm on my way.
Ciao for now.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
What can I get for you today?
One Heineken Light, and one Vieux Carre!
What's that? I've never heard of it!
Here's the recipe; which I found for free. (Dinnerman looks on and says, for real? Steph? You kidding me?)
Bartender looks blankly at me. Hmm. No can do. Benedictine, we lack.
Rye Manhattan then. (I'm now a convert; bye-bye to bourbon.)
Bar to booth. Orders placed, food in mouths. Feet in mouths. Hands in pants. (?)
Bartender fly-by - that ordered drink? We want to make it in days to come.
On the rocks, you say?
Yes, I think.
We hope to have it, by your next visit!
Thanks, appreciate that, say I.
And I walk away quite satisfied. :)
Here's the recipe that launched a thousand ships. Google it if you want to know more.
1 ounce rye whiskey
1 ounce Cognac
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon Bénédictine D.O.M.
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Mix all ingredients in a double Old Fashioned glass over ice; stir.
Let me just sum this up to say the tonight, Rick's Roadhouse exceeded my expectations. I'm sure that our fantastic friends had a big hand in framing this evaluation, but I also think the food was better than my first visit. The Dinnerman's brisket was not so dry. My peel and eat shrimp were good. The rye was flowing.
Still, I want to smoke my own meats, stew my black eyed peas.
And I will, I will.
Just not tonight...
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
My Ipod shit the bed yesterday, and I am suffering the sequelae. It gets worse by the hour; these things always do get worse before they get better. Tomorrow I will venture out to the Apple store at the mall (groan), which will no doubt be busy busy busy because of the new Iphone and all its charms.
Ahem. Which leads me to wonder: if I could only have one of the two, which would I pick? Music or food? Which would sustain me more completely? Is it even possible to dissect apart the two and their respective influences on my psyche? (Which is no doubt positive! Such a shining example I am of mental health!)
If I could only have one or the other, which would I pick? Which means more to me? Listening to and playing music, or cooking and eating food?
I realize this is ridiculous, and would never be a decision I would have to make. I am an American, after all. I want for nothing but a soul and someone with whom to discuss its implications. As I listen to Jeff Buckley (on the Dinnerman's Ipod, thanks god) and smell my meatballs simmering on the stove, I can't imagine being without either.
Being a sucker for a compliment, I acquiesced, with the warning that I am brutally honest. They said fine, we are confident in our product, bring it on!
I was expecting a wedge of brie; instead, an entire wheel came in the mail - perfect timing the week after my lobster bender. There goes any attempt to lower my cholesterol, thought I. (Yeah right...as if that will ever happen)
I admit I went into this endeavor expecting to be less than thrilled. First of all, this cheese is mass-produced and marketed. How much personal attention could go into each batch? Secondly, consider the audience to which it is marketed - the American public. Need I say more? Is the target demographic really into stinky, runny, nuanced cheese? Or are they looking for something to grab while running up and down the aisles at the local big chain grocery store to impress at the potluck?
Maybe that sounds a little harsh, but hey, this is my blog. These are my opinions. You don't like it? Go watch Nickelodeon.
On to my thoughts on this brie. First, it had a very smooth and creamy texture. Even the rind was rather soft for a brie, which was good because I like the rind. I liked that about it very much.
But the second issue is of course flavor. There just wasn't any. It had none. If you liquified this cheese and put it on my tongue I wouldn't be able to tell you what it was. I really love strong tasting cheeses - the runnier and stinkier the better - and this just had no taste.
I gave Kenny a couple of wedges and he independently came up with the same comment - no flavor. He said, "I kept eating more and more of it waiting for it to taste like something, but it never happened."
Now my friend is constipated, his taste buds left wanting.
So, would I buy this? While I appreciate the attention from Ile de France, the answer would have to be an unmitigated 'No'. I can't think of any situation for which I would make any effort to obtain this cheese.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I noticed as I was pouring it into my coffee that the half and half was all clumpy and curdled-looking.
I brought it back to the Shell station and said to the Bozo the Clown look-alike that something was wrong with it, it was curdled, maybe it had been stored improperly or something?
He said, no, that's not the problem. The problem is that it came from the wrong cow. Um, huh?
He said that the cow this came out of had just had a calf and wasn't given enough time before she was milked again. Apparently the milk gets really thick after they give birth? (Anyone know anything about this sort of thing?)
I was so intrigued that I failed to notice until later that he made me pay for the replacement. I guess the lesson was worth the price of admission.
You learn something new everyday!
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
It's nice to make a big pot of gravy ahead of time. That way all that's left to be done is to make a quick salad and boil the pasta. This past Sunday we had the gravy with rotelle pasta and a nice bottle of Bonny Doon Syrah.
What's cooking in your world?
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
From the very beginning my life was filled with music, and music-making machines. There were always multiple guitars, banjos, and mandolins hanging around the house. (You want to take violin lessons? Here you go, take this violin. You want to play trumpet in the school band?
Okay, I've got one somewhere...) Occasionally he'd break out something more exotic and unusual, and my childhood memories include playing around with dulcimers and dobros, tubas, trumpets, and trombones. Once, I appropriated a clarinet, and wouldn't put it down until I could make a sound, any sound, other than a screech. I even broke out the old Minolta and forced my little sister to pose with this clarinet. (The pictures came out really well, actually. I made her wear my old prom dress and put her head in her hands. It was my first time using pantyhose over the lens as a filter. What a prodigy I was. How do I digitize these images???)
Anyway, my dad was, is, and always will be the Music Man.
As such, we always had music playing around the house and in the car. After my sister was born, we got a brand new mint green 1978 Chevy Impala station wagon with an 8 track tape player. This was just the best thing to me! We'd sit in the "way back" and hang our heads out the window. There were speakers back there, so I was able to hear all the Harry Chapin, Linda Rondstadt, Eagles, and Billy Joel that was playing.
Billy Joel was a favorite of mine and still is. The first album I remember buying was Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual. But the second was Billy Joel's An Innocent Man. I didn't realize it then, but now I know I am drawn to dynamic, dramatic, percussive musicians. He certainly fits the bill. (So does Elton John. My third album was Too Low For Zero.)
Anyway, the entire point of this post came from my perceived connection among the three title characters.
My dad showed me music. That music included Billy Joel. Billy Joel notoriously goes to Al Forno. My dad saw Billy Joel at Al Forno once in 1999, while having dinner with his wife, her aunt, and her husband (also known as her uncle). My dad didn't want to bother him, but his wife's aunt did, and did. I certainly wouldn't have. I wouldn't even approach a celebrity to say how much I love their work. But my dad's wife's aunt did. I heard this story ad nauseum over the years. So my dad, Billy Joel, and Al Forno are forever linked in this head of mine.
I love them all, in different ways and strengths.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I was immediately struck at how different the inside looks from how I remembered it. It seems much more intimate and cozy, with a relaxed "cantina" feel. There are plants around the bar, and hanging lights over the tables which lend to the feeling of privacy. The middle of the dining room has a tile floor reminiscent of a patio. Someone did a great job on decor here! The space looks completely different from its days as Restaurant Fuji.
We started out with a couple of margaritas - the Dinnerman ordered one with blue curacao, and I went a more traditional route. We both wanted salt and rocks, but I didn't get the salt. It's easy to understand how the one waitress overlooked that detail, however, as she was handling the bar and the dining room all by herself on a busy Saturday afternoon. I don't fault her; she did a great job and could have used some help.
Chips and salsa are brought out with our drinks. The salsa was pretty smooth and had a little heat. We both prefer a hotter and slightly chunkier variety. The chips were, quite simply, too hard.
The guacamole was very good, but again, we like chunks. That's a matter of personal preference though. We both thought the chips, salsa, and guacamole were inferior to those at El Rancho Grande.
Let me say that our entrees were really wonderful - much better than I ever expected. I had the Molcajete Azteca, a mixed grill including chicken, sirloin, shrimp, chorizo, cactus strips, and Viajero cheese served over a chipotle sauce in an actual molcajete, which is a traditional Mexican stone tool with legs used to grind spices and salsas and also as serving vessels. Molcajetes often have the head of an animal on the side; I think this one was a pig. This dish was so delicious - the meats and cheese were grilled to perfection and the sauce packed a spicy punch. The molcajete held heat very well - this dish stayed really hot for the duration. All this was served with corn tortillas, rice and beans.
(Sorry for the bad pic; I left my camera at home and took this with my phone)
The Dinnerman really enjoyed his Barbacoa de Chivo, or braised goat shanks, but he kept commenting that he will order the Molcajete next time, and kept stealing bites of my meat. This is very out of character for him; he likes to order his own dish and erect a fortress around it. It's taken 4 years for him to get to the point now where he sometimes offers me a bite of whatever he ordered, because he knows I love to try everything. So perhaps his eating off my plate is a good sign (although now that I think about it I didn't get to try the goat...).
The Molcajete Azteca can be ordered for two, but somehow I doubt we will do that, even if we both choose this entree next time.
In our final analysis we give El Rancho Grande the award for chips, salsa, and guacamole, but Don Jose Tequilas is heads and tails better in entree department - especially for that Molcajete!
We will be back soon.
Don Jose Tequilas
351 Atwells Avenue
Providence, RI 02903
Tel: (401) 454-8951
Fax: (401) 454-8952
There is parking in a small lot behind the restaurant, and they offer valet on Friday and Saturday nights.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Hello (President of the Condo Board),
I know I haven't said much about it lately because I am trying to remain positive and focus on the good in my life (which is plentiful, I know. I am a very lucky girl!), but the stench from a fucking club that somehow* obtained permits to smoke cigars/cigarettes in this non-smoking state is continuing to have a negative impact on our lives. No one is helping us. Here is what I have to say about it tonight:
(*"somehow", in the fair state of Rhode Island, almost always involves greasing certain palms, usually those of City and State officials. Either that or said party perhaps is friends with the judge's husband, thus affecting the "clarity" of said judge's thought processes. But nobody will ever talk about that.)
I am wondering when we can expect the Condo Association to put some measure in place to give us relief. The whole idea of an emergency measure involves the concept that said intervention happen quickly, and to date this has obviously not been the case.
The stench of second hand cigar smoke in the hallway leading to our unit (224) is continuous and overpowering, and as you are well aware, also infiltrates our condo and those of others who are unfortunate enough to live close enough to the club. I can't help but think that the Board and the Corliss Landing Condo Association would have done something by now (something - portable air filters, anything! help alleviate this!) if you, as President of the Board, had to live here full time, every day, without the option of escaping to your other residences. Maybe I am mistaken, but there it is.
I am sure you realize that the Board and Condo Association, by taking no action, are opening themselves up to lawsuits. We sure as hell do. I have been in varying states of respiratory distress for the duration of this plight; I haven't been able to take a deep breath since last October. This entire situation is, at best, one of those things in life that just ain't right. I'd like a little help here.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The point is, the man loves all grilled or roasted chicken on the bone, but none more than the spatchcocked chicken.
I've written about this before - the only other time I attempted this maneuver. Spatchcocking a chicken involves cutting out the backbone of the bird and sort of butterflying it so it can cook more evenly. This makes grilling a viable option for the bird, a cooking method that would be harder to execute were the creature fully intact. Spatchcocking allows for the combination of the excellent flavor that comes from cooking chicken with skin and bones with almost the same ease and evenness of grilling boneless breasts. It's the best of both worlds. Well, except that with removing the backbone the tasty ass of the chicken comes off too. Next time I will save that nugget and cook it by itself!
This baby got a rub of a compound butter I made. I let a stick soften and mixed in some very finely minced garlic, shallot and jalapeno, then I added salt and pepper, fresh herbs (basil, chives, tarragon and parsley) and lemon juice. Onto the hot grill skin side down she went, until she got nice and crispy. Then I flipped her over and turned the heat down to medium, where this 3 1/2 pound bird cooked for about a half hour. Toward the end I threw on some squash, jalapeno peppers, and scallions. When the chicken came off the grill I gave it a generous squeeze of lime.
For sides, I made a salad of steamed corn which I cut off the cob, halved grape tomatoes, feta, red onion, and basil with a simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing. I had also roasted red bliss potatoes in the convection oven at 375 with olive oil, bacon fat, garlic, salt, pepper, fresh rosemary and thyme. They came out really good. I actually had taken a shortcut with the potatoes, because I didn't want to leave the oven on while we were outside grilling. I microwaved them for 6 minutes earlier in the afternoon, took them out and let them cool until I was ready to roast them. They took a lot less time to roast and they got just as crispy, if not moreso. I know it sounds like cheating, but I will do them this way again when I am cooking outside.
You can see more photos of this dinner (and others!) by clicking on the chicken pic.
Tonight we are having guests coming to town, so we will take them out - probably to Al Forno, unless they have another preference. I am temporarily relieved of cooking duty.
I am so happy that I learned how to use my camera even though I lost the software and drivers when my hard drive crashed. I have Flickr to thank for allowing me to upload photos directly from the camera, and I have my fellow bloggers and food writers - especially the local ones like Stephanie of StephanieDoes and Jen of Last Night's Dinner - to thank for the inspiration to chronicle what I cook and share it all with the world. I really, really enjoy doing this.
I am very lucky to have a willing audience too!
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
It's no secret that much of what passes for normal here in Rhode Island would never fly anywhere else on the planet - our political corruption, our unwillingness to drive more than 5 miles from home, our lack of street signs, the rampant lack of infrastructure - but the driving situation has crossed into another league. In my own observation, it seems to be getting progressively worse over time.
Spend any time here and you will witness the deficiencies of RI driving. They exist in many forms. There is the failure to stay in a single lane, the blatant running of red lights and stop signs (I recently saw a Johnson & Wales bus go through a stop sign without even slowing down), the tailgating, the generalized aggressive behavior (sometimes with the inclusion of hand gestures and/or the shouting of obscenities), the shotgun left turns at lights (when oncoming traffic has the right of way), the obnoxious parking jobs, the stopping in the middle of the road, the stopping and backing up in the middle of the road (usually involves a missed turn; sometimes occurs on the highway when an exit is missed), the refusal to respect crosswalks, and the cutting off of other motorists.
Yesterday I saw 2 different cars on 2 separate occasions going the wrong way down a one way street - the street on which I happen to live. I took it upon myself to inform these drivers of the errors of their ways and they turned around, but not before giving me a vacant stare and muttering something. What is wrong with people? Don't get behind the wheel if you are not currently inhabiting your body.
All the bad driving makes it interesting to be on a bike or on foot here. Not only do you have to worry about actually getting hit by a vehicle, you sometimes even have to put up with random verbal assault. We were crossing the street in a crosswalk (yes, we had a "walk" signal) and this aggressive woman in this behemoth of a vehicle nearly hit us - full speed ahead. She was supposed to be the one to stop; she had a red light. So what does she proceed to do? Apologize? Surely you jest. No, she did not say she was sorry and wrong. She screamed out the window at the Dinnerman and me, "Fat ass!" "Cunt!". We are still all PTSD-ing about that one.
You can't leave the house.
Don't get me wrong; I love this state. Well, sometimes it's more of a love/hate thing, but what can you expect? After 35 years we know each other well; Rhode Island and I have a complicated past. For such a small landmass there is so much beautiful coast. There is stunning architecture. RI is laden with history. We have delicious native fruits and veggies growing throughout the year. But it is clearly not normal.
Maybe that's why I've stayed.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Eaten on a Sunday for a change. The Dinnerman declared it the best he had ever had, and the man has eaten many. This one had sausage, pork ribs, and my meatballs. It was, as always, extremely easy to make. I whipped this up Saturday afternoon, stuck the entire pan in the fridge when it cooled, and we had it Sunday. It always tastes better if it has a day to mature, but it was hard not to eat it right away!
I should add that I was inspired by Jen of Last Night's Dinner to add garlic, red onion, and parsley to my meatballs, something I don't usually do. It made them so much more flavorful! Now I will always make them this way!
Her recipe is included in this post:
(sorry for the ugly linkage...I don't know how to make it look any nicer! I've tried! Help!)