Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ramblings, and a Few Words About Nashville Noshing

Trout, City House
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
First off, let's talk about this pic. As I mentioned in a previous post, while the Dinnerman and I were in Nashville a couple of weeks ago we had the pleasure of dining at 3 of the city's best restaurants, kindly recommended to me by the lovely Claudia of cookeatfret.

We ate at Ombi first, and had the best sweetbreads of our lives, among other wonders. Even though we were a party 7 we were treated like royalty. Sure, it was a Monday night - the Monday after the Superbowl, to boot - and sure, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. But make no mistake - Ombi has great people involved. We got a little tipsy on the unique cocktails and delicious wine, and the Dinnerman made the error of double tipping, but the gentleman who took care of us was kind enough to call our hotel and alert us to that fact. As I've said before, in Rhode Island they'd celebrate with their fingers in the air. Kudos to Ombi.

In fact, I will go out on a limb here and declare that Nashville has amazingly kind and accomodating people involved in the preparation and serving of food and drink. This extends beyond the 3 fine establishments on which I've taken details and menus. I ate alone at many a meal and without fail was treated like Buddy Cianci at the Capital Grille here in PVD.

I don't know how much of my observation is tainted by my Rhode Island upbringing. I am who I am. I was born with a sensitive soul and raised in one of the most harsh and nasty places on the planet. Until I was 19 and visited relatives in California as an adult I thought that the entire world's population was as obnoxious, ignorant, and self-entitled as the people that surround me here on all sides in this tiny, isolated, and disgustingly out-of-touch state. To this day displays of kindness take me aback.

In fact, yesterday I managed to start fights with not one but two groups of elderly people with silver spoons up their East Side noses and sticks up their asses. I'm sorry if this sounds evil - I didn't instigate these encounters, I promise you. More about those to come. For now I will conclude the Rhode Island bashing with notes on today's early morning coffee-in-bed conversation between the Dinnerman and I.
He often says that RI is truly an Isle of Misfits and should secede from the union and just become a sovereign nation unto itself. (He's from Revere, MA - just outside Boston, where he was educated - and has spent a decade in Cleveland, where there actually are societal rules that people follow.)

I have always responded that the people here could never get it together well enough to make that happen, even if they wanted to. Heads in the asses, out of touch, yada yada yada. Hell, people won't even drive from Warwick or Woonsocket to Providence (a 20 minute trip) without packing a suitcase. Think I'm kidding? Seriously and unfortunately, I'm not.

Anyhoo, I had a bright idea this morning. I believe mere secession would not be enough. I wish we were on a tectonic plate here because it might make what I propose easier - a mere act of nature: Rhode Island should just be physically shaved off of the continental United States and set adrift in the Atlantic Ocean. That would provoke some Darwinian weeding out! We could do it next February on Darwin's birthday. What do you think? Of course, we'd have to do some intelligence screenings beforehand, so that those who are actually worthy can get their asses to Massachusetts or something...

Wow. I guess I am all wound up. This is going in a direction I hadn't intended. Maybe I've seen too many promos for 'The Reader'; maybe I've gotten into too many fights with the natives lately. I believe RI is a physically beautiful place, infiltrated with much corruption and too many isolated idiots. But that's just me.

The intended Nashville ramblings will have to wait, as the man just got home and I've got some steaks to cook.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pair of Hearts

Pair of Hearts
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
Happy Valentine's Day to all 3 of my loyal readers!

This is a photo of the pair of chicken hearts I roasted with a whole bird last week. The little guy on the right was inside the cavity of the chicken, and the big heart on the left was a fortuitous find inside a package of chicken livers. I got the baby, the Dinnerman got the giant.

Yesterday was not the best of days for me, and marks my first problematic Friday the 13th.

I awoke around 6:15 am with abdominal cramps, and it was all downhill from there, if you know what I mean. I won't get into the gory details. Suffice it to say that a morning full of gastrointestinal distress morphed into an afternoon of fever, chills, and some of the worst myalgias and arthalgias I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

The Dinnerman kept calling to make sure I was still alive, and, bless his heart, returned home with Gatorade and ginger ale. By then I was pretty much over the hump, but you know something's wrong when I go to the Hot Club and order a ginger ale.

After that, we ate some Chinese food and watched reruns of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'. It felt so good to laugh really hard; it felt even better to sleep for 10 hours and wake up feeling much more like myself.

Hope your day is a good one, and Cupid treats you well. In the wake of my own (thankfully relatively short-lived) sickness and that terrible and fatal plane crash in Buffalo, NY, I'm reminded of the importance of appreciating each moment with the person I love most in this life.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rose-colored Glasses

Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
Just in the nick of time, I found these glasses in the bathroom of Ombi in Nashville. Then the seven of us passed them around the table in what was a sort of ritualistic invocation of good wishes and hope.

Or maybe it was just a drunk-fest. Whatever you want to call it, it was necessary and welcome!

We all ended the night ringing in a friend's 30th birthday at an Irish bar with great live music. In Nashville. The world is a strange place, ridiculous and sublime.

The Week in Chicken and Cod

Chicken Liver Ragu!
Originally uploaded by whatstepheats
Each time we travel I return with a strong urge to cook. As I prepare meals at home with more regularity I find that I miss that process strenuously when it's taken out of my routine for more than a couple of days.

Last week we were in Nashville, where we ate some very satisfying meals. But I did no cooking at all (unless you call ruining the in-room coffee in the hotel mini-pot cooking) and dammit all, I missed it!

It felt good to go grocery shopping on Monday morning, a task I usually dread. It felt good to say hello to the familiar faces who know me by name at my local stores. It felt good to haul heavy bags down the hall and sort through their contents in my kitchen. (I even remembered to bring my reusable bags, which I often forget to do.)

This week I wanted to roast a whole chicken - something I'd been avoiding of late because roasting only the breasts is just easier and I was in a rut.

I wanted to make a big pot of golden chicken stock, because I am a purist and I have a sinus headache and though I touted its merits at the time, that last multi-animal bone jiggly version I'd created was just not as good as the real thing, which perfumed my home today.

I wanted a big piece of cod, because I love cod. That's what we will be eating tonight. (Cod is not chicken. I had to amend my title.)

And because we'd had an over-salted version of it at City House in Nashville, I wanted to make a flavorful chicken liver ragu.

I'd planned to add some ground pork to the ragu, but the package I had smelled a bit questionable so I added some crimini mushrooms instead. Other than that it was the same procedure as last time, except I used a can of crushed tomatoes (instead of a quart of pre-made meat gravy from the freezer), and I cut the livers into much smaller pieces. This version was a clear winner - we devoured the entire 12 ounce package of pappardelle - and thankfully there was about a quart of the ragu left over to freeze for future use.

I didn't follow a recipe per se, but what follows is the basic idea. Though I don't mention it, everything gets a hit of salt and pepper as it goes into the pot.

Finely chop about half a red onion and a head of garlic cloves and saute over medium-low heat in olive oil in a big pot until softened. Then raise the heat to high and add about 10 ounces of chicken livers, diced into small pieces (I used scissors - be sure to discard any gall bladders and overtly visible connective tissue).
Add about 4 ounces of diced mushrooms and saute until the livers are just cooked. Add a splash of red vermouth and simmer for a few more minutes. Then add a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes and some ribbons of fresh sage leaves. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasonings to your liking.

I like my ragus to 'mature' for a day before serving, so I made this on Tuesday and we ate it Wednesday night. I think the flavors deepen this way, but you can certainly eat it immediately after cooking. It's delicious either way!

I boiled a 12 ounce package of dried pappardelle, though fettuccine would work, as would shells or orrechiette - anything that would hold the gravy and bits of livers!

Top with grated romano and fresh sage leaves, and watch your man (or whomever you are feeding) melt into a helpless puppy dog!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Eating Nashville

We've been here in Nashville for the past several days - the Dinnerman for work and me for play! I experienced a long overdue deep tissue massage, but besides that haven't done much more that eat and drink. Very nice escape indeed!

This is the short version of the food report; for all the juicy details y'all will have to wait 'till I get home and have a chance to download all my pics and refer to my menus.

Claudia, of cookeatfret fame (, gave me her top 3 restaurants in Nashville and we were fortunate enough to visit each one. We did Ombi first, then Watermark, and finally City House.

I'll give you the brief hilights, with more to follow.

At Ombi I ate the best sweetbreads of my entire life and found some rose-colored glasses in the bathroom, which I quickly and quietly appropriated. We were a party of 7 so the gratuity was included. The Dinnerman didn't notice and tipped an additional 20%, and they were kind enough to call me and tell me about it. In RI, somehow I don't think that would have been the case!

At Watermark - my favorite of the 3 dining experiences by far - I had an other-worldly appetizer of sauteed escargot with sweet potato dumplings and shaved truffles that was better than multiple orgasms. If you can believe it, this was my first encounter with shaved truffles. So sad I waited this long.

At City House, which is housed in an old aluminum factory and reminded me of Al Forno, we drank a fantastic Italian red and ate cured ham with peanuts, delicious olives, and the biggest taralli I've ever seen. The chef was a little heavy-handed with the salt, but the food was fabulous and we got to try Prichard's bourbon, which I definitely need to source.

Gotta run to the airport now...I have to leave you hanging. The people are so kind here it's beyond belief. I think I need to leave New England...