Now that awards season is over I have a big one to give out.
Let me say at the start, I go to too many restaurants. I was basically raised eating in fancy restaurants. Long before other parents took their kids out to dinner, mine were trendsetters. We were taken everywhere. We were seen and heard. But, we ate our gourmet meals and behaved. Then it was straight home to a proper bedtime.
A friend’s mother, whom I hadn’t seen since I was a kid, recently told me that the first time she met my family, she had been eating with her husband at Villa Capri and spotted us, kids and all, dining at this almost exclusively grown-up place. What she noticed was how well behaved we were.
My parents rarely adhered to the unspoken rules of the 1950’s. They didn’t believe in babysitters. Aside from Villa Capri, we ate at Chasen’s, Scandia, Brown Derby, Moulin Rouge, and every Sunday night at Matteo’s. We even lived for a brief period at the Garden of Allah Hotel, though it was long after guests like Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and F. Scott Fitzgerald had checked out. Anyway, that’s a little of the backstory.
Would today’s Hollywood even exist without its bistros? Nobu, Palm, Mozza, Craft. The oil that lubes the wheels in this town is extra virgin olive oil, preferably for dipping the great bread into at Giorgio Baldi in Santa Monica Canyon. And no great restaurant would survive here or anywhere without those unsung heroes of fine dining – the bussing staff. Technically bussers. But usually referred to as “busboy,” an antiquated term it may be time to lose. Setting tables, clearing tables, cleaning tables, bringing food, you name it, quietly and efficiently. If the service is good, much of the credit goes to them. And that includes “busgirls.” In England the job is often referred to as a waiter’s assistant, a more dignified job description, if you ask me.
I ‘d always look forward to this time of year when I worked at North Dakota State University. One of my colleagues would bring a big slow-cooker full of her delicious Beer Cheese Soup. Up to that point in my life, the only Beer Cheese soup I had tasted was served at a Fargo restaurant. It was very thick, very cheesy and very goopy. In my opinion, too thick, too cheesy and too goopy.
Nancy’s Beer Cheese Soup would send a sweet, yeasty beer aroma wafting through the NDSU hallway. Lunch that day would be a big mug of soup ladled from the hot slow-cooker topped with freshly popped corn right out of the microwave oven.
Now, I don’t normally do much cooking with Cheez Whiz, but I just can’t make this soup any other way. You’ll see why when you taste it. The soup is light and creamy with just the right amount of beer and cheese flavors. I use unsalted butter in this recipe. The soup gets plenty of salt from the Cheez Whiz and chicken broth.
I love all types of savory pies, but one in particular is very special to me. The first time I ever heard of beef and Guinness pie was during my time studying abroad in London. I was so intrigued that I ordered it at a quaint, tiny restaurant that specialized in pies aptly named the Pie Room. It became the hang-out spot for my group of friends. Over the course of our studies we could not keep away. I had the opportunity to try all of their pies. Beef and Guinness pie made the biggest impression on me and it still remains among my top favorite British foods. I can clearly remember my first bite: a tender cube of meat, a luscious sauce, and a crispy crust. So as St. Patrick's Day neared this month, I decided I wanted to cook something other than corned beef and cabbage.
When I think of Ireland, the first thing that comes to mind is the drinking culture. What surprised me the most about my time in London was seeing everybody on a Friday night drinking in hoards out in the streets around the pubs. Stereotypically everyone seems to think negatively about the drinking culture. But as someone who lived in Great Britain, I can say that it is a very enjoyable and communal way of meeting people, getting people together, celebrating life's events, or just for talking about the day over a few pints of stout or ale. I've not yet had the chance to visit Ireland, but if I do, I will make sure to visit the many pubs and make a pilgrimage to the temple of my favorite beer, the Guinness factory.
Years ago, Stone Brewing wrote a post on their company blog titled "MustardGate 2010" in which they announced that the Stone Brewing mustard they've been shipping to their customers was missing an important ingredient - their beer. As it turned out, the company they hired to make the mustard for them never used the beer Stone sent them to make the product. The kegs Stone sent them came back empty, so there was no clue where the beer actually went.
I admired Stone for being this forthcoming, and for going out of their way to make things right with their customers and their fans by offering refunds, discounts, whatever it took to make things right. But in the end, it gave me the inspiration to make that mustard myself. I'd made mustard before, and beer makes everything better. So I made it, and it was delicious, especially when slathered on Bratwurst or (in this case) smothered on beer-braised corn beef & cabbage.
I’ve tried several versions of Irish soda bread, but this one from Cooks Illustrated is a favorite. For a more traditional soda bread, reduce the sugar by half and omit the raisins.
3 cups bleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400°F. Whisk flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt in large bowl. Work softened butter into dry ingredients with fork or fingertips until texture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add buttermilk, egg, raisins, and stir with a fork just until dough begins to come together. Turn out onto flour-coated work surface; knead until dough just becomes cohesive and bumpy, 12 to 14 turns. (Do not knead until dough is smooth, or bread will be tough.)
Pat dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high; place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheet or in a cast-iron skillet. Cut a cross shape into the top.
Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into center of loaf comes out clean or internal temperature reaches 170 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes, covering bread with aluminum foil if it is browning too much. Remove from oven and brush with some melted butter; cool to room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes.
– Recipe courtesy of Cook Like James
Despite the fact that it has been been between 80 to 100+ degrees every day for the past few weeks, I have been craving risotto like a mad woman. Nevermind the fact that it requires about an hour (maybe a little less) over a hot stove in a house that doesn’t have central air conditioning. I know it’s not just for the excuse to open a bottle of wine (or beer, in this case), and I certainly don’t enjoy sweating any more than necessary. Risotto is fun to experiment with; it’s an enjoyable way to pass the time and end up with a dish that feels like I put a little work into it, even though all it really requires is stirring and sipping a cool beverage.
I usually use a dry white wine for risotto (see here and here), but this time I wondered if beer would be a successful switch. I’ve been obsessed with Firestone’s summer release, Solace, so that was the beer I decided to use…because of course I had to drink my accompaniment! It will be fun to experiment with beers of different intensities. Solace is on the lighter side. I’d be very curious to try a porter risotto – but maybe I’ll wait for the fall for that one!
If you’re getting around to planning your St. Patrick’s menu a little late like me, here’s something to help—a quick and easy sautéed cabbage recipe. I’ve never been one for the traditional boiled cabbage that often goes along with the corned beef on this holiday. In fact, I didn’t learn to love cabbage until I cooked it hot-and-fast–in a sauté pan, in a stir-fry pan, on a griddle—anything where I could bring out its sweeter side with a little browning.
Sautéed cabbage is not only (much) tastier than boiled cabbage, but it’s less fussy to cook. The basic recipe really doesn’t need much embellishment either, since browning accentuates the nutty flavor of cabbage. But after you’ve tried this and made it part of your repertoire, you can perk it up by adding sautéed apples to it, by tossing in a bit of ginger or garlic, or by playing around with the deglazing broth by sub-ing in white wine, lemon, or apple cider for the rice vinegar and soy sauce.
Regular old green cabbage would be just fine here, but I’m crazy about its crinkly-leaved cousin, Savoy cabbage (right). Savoy wilts in a hot pan a bit quicker than regular cabbage, and has a slightly richer flavor and lighter texture.
With St. Patrick's Day on the way, we just had to share our favorite recipes made with two Irish staples: Guinness and Bailey's. Enjoy!
Bailey's Irish Cream Cake
St. Patrick's Day. It's all about meat, 'taters, cabbage, and leprechauns. No wonder this Italian girl from New England has never gotten excited about it. Fortunately, it's also about beer, and that does get me excited.
I'm a late-comer to beer, but I love it; since I live in San Diego, that's a good thing. With a whopping 33 breweries producing craft beer, San Diego was recently crowned the top beer city in the country by Men’s Journal.
I just discovered an amazing seasonal beer calle Pipeline Porter. It's brewed by Kona Brewing Company in Hawaii but distributed to only a handful of markets including San Diego. It may just be the perfect beer for a Beer Ice Cream Float.
It's hard to tell but these cupcakes are the color chartreuse, made to match the walls of the Buttersweet Bakery in Atlanta...a funky little shop with a hip vibe. Cupcakes are so "in" right now and it's fun to play with all the possibilities. Cupcakes are not just for kids anymore!
These are PERFECT for St. Patrick's Day. It was really difficult to photograph and show the real neon color these Key Lime Cupcakes take on. In person there is no mistaking their shade of green. They are very fun looking.
I love the unique flavor key limes give, more of a tart-bitterness, which is a good thing when it comes to baking and cooking with them. They do pack a flavor punch but in a pinch you could get away with using regular lime for these cupcakes. Just remember the key lime boasts a higher acidity and stronger aroma than regular limes, so it might change the overall limey-ness of this recipe.
So get your leprechaun on and make these...they are good...
It’s St. Patrick’s Day this week and since I don’t really drink, I figured I would just find ways to incorporate booze into my food. As I have learned from baking with stout in the past, beer is a surprisingly wonderful addition to stews, brewed drinks, and cakes.
Originally, I wanted to make a triple layer cake. I could only find 2 of my 3 eight inch cake pans and I wasn’t really in the mood to go and purchase an additional cake pan for this project. This cake didn’t really have a purpose. I did’t need it for any specific occassion or event, I was just in the mood. I invisioned the chocolate cake with Bailey’s buttercream frosiing and green chocolate clovers around the perimeter of the cake. I found clover lollipop molds, but could not track down mini clovers.
Change of plans. I went with cupcakes. I know; there are tons of “green-themed” cupcakes circling the internet right now. Not totally original, but what the heck – lots of people in my community benefited from my baking whim. I made minis for Isaac’s classmates, larger ones for the M’s and the G’s, and the office gals got an unexpected afternoon snack.
by Joseph Erdos
Warm yourself from head to toe with a hot drink on a blustery day like today. Mulled wine does that and more. Popularized in Germany and Scandinavia, mulled wine has been a holiday favorite for hundreds of years. Christmas markets in cities and towns all over Europe swell with shoppers who turn to mulled wine when they want to warm up their...Read more...
by James Farmer III
Baby, its cold outside! I’ve found myself sippin’ and savorin’ a warm drink of sorts all day – Earl Grey this morning, Orange Zinger later on, the latter two combined and then for my nightcap, this warm cider was just the ticket.
Every year, my fair peach state yields the last of its famed crop towards summer’s end. Afterwards, apples from our...Read more...
by Matt Armendariz
Because our holiday parties tend to revolve around themes and menus of yesterday (I blame my house, it’s terribly 1950s to the extreme, and no, I wouldn’t change a thing), I wanted to experiment with a category of drinks that are probably better suited to Patagonia rather than Sunny Southern California: hot cocktails.
Regardless of the outside...Read more...
by James Moore
I like to use this recipe during the winter, when there are lots of great...Read more...