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eG Foodblog: Alcuin (2011) - In the middle: Eating and Drinking on the

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#31 CaliPoutine

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 11:26 AM


Julie tells me that Leon's is the gold standard for frozen custard in Milwaukee( I found it to be pretty fantastic too). Do you have any great frozen custard in Madison?


We do have frozen custard and it's quite good but I know of only one place: Michael's. It always has a long line. If you drive around Wisconsin, you'll find independent frozen custard places here and there. They seem to be all over the place.

Did you try the Leon's when you were in WI? I've never had theirs, but I've heard good things.



Yes, I tried it. I found it better in July than in November. Something about eating cold dessert when its cold out.....

The flavor we bought in November was cinnamon to have with pie. Julie used to work there when she was a teen so she is partial.

#32 Jenni

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 11:54 AM

Are there any textural combinations you like that I might try? I'm up for anything.


I like interesting mixtures of textures. So crunchy raw veggies (think onion, mooli, carrot, cucumber, etc.) to contrast with a meal of softer components (dal, rice, cooked vegetables, etc.). Toasted peanuts in yoghurt salads. Pumpkin and sesame seeds on top of cauliflower cheese (put it under the grill to toast the seeds).

Chaat dishes are particularly great for these texture contrasts, and they have great flavour contrasts too. For papri chaat, crisp, crunchy papri contrast with soft boiled potatoes, similarly soft yet differently textured boiled chickpeas, crunchy raw onion, smooth and creamy yoghurt, tangy yet smooth tamarind chutney, feathery fresh coriander leaves and crunchy sev.

And of course there is pani puri which is one of the greatest texture contrasts. A crisp poori is filled with some kind of filling. This can be seasoned boiled potatoes and chickpeas. Or seasoned mashed chickpeas. Or seasoned sprouted beans. All these are a texture contrast already. But then you dunk the poori in spicy pani (water) and eat it quickly. An explosion in your mouth! Crispy, soft, watery, spicy, tangy, sweet, pungent, salty...so many different experiences to savour all in one mouthful.

Another textural thing I like is slightly viscous texture. Okra and urad dal for instance have this. I've always wanted to try natto for this reason.

Anyway, won't hog your blog any longer. Was just very happy to see someone talking about their enjoyment of the textural elements of food. So easy to forget yet very important!

#33 annabelle

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 01:35 PM

Nice blog, Alcuin! I love all of the German things. Must you buy beer at a distributor in Wisco or is it for sale in shops and not just bars?

#34 Alcuin

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 01:38 PM



Are there any textural combinations you like that I might try? I'm up for anything.


I like interesting mixtures of textures. So crunchy raw veggies (think onion, mooli, carrot, cucumber, etc.) to contrast with a meal of softer components (dal, rice, cooked vegetables, etc.). Toasted peanuts in yoghurt salads. Pumpkin and sesame seeds on top of cauliflower cheese (put it under the grill to toast the seeds).

Chaat dishes are particularly great for these texture contrasts, and they have great flavour contrasts too. For papri chaat, crisp, crunchy papri contrast with soft boiled potatoes, similarly soft yet differently textured boiled chickpeas, crunchy raw onion, smooth and creamy yoghurt, tangy yet smooth tamarind chutney, feathery fresh coriander leaves and crunchy sev.

And of course there is pani puri which is one of the greatest texture contrasts. A crisp poori is filled with some kind of filling. This can be seasoned boiled potatoes and chickpeas. Or seasoned mashed chickpeas. Or seasoned sprouted beans. All these are a texture contrast already. But then you dunk the poori in spicy pani (water) and eat it quickly. An explosion in your mouth! Crispy, soft, watery, spicy, tangy, sweet, pungent, salty...so many different experiences to savour all in one mouthful.

Another textural thing I like is slightly viscous texture. Okra and urad dal for instance have this. I've always wanted to try natto for this reason.

Anyway, won't hog your blog any longer. Was just very happy to see someone talking about their enjoyment of the textural elements of food. So easy to forget yet very important!


Wow that sounds fantastic. I have to confess I know very little about Indian food. In fact, all I know about it is that it is delicious. I'm definitely going to have to try some of these things out. Maybe that will be my new winter food project...
nunc est bibendum...

#35 Alcuin

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 01:40 PM

Nice blog, Alcuin! I love all of the German things. Must you buy beer at a distributor in Wisco or is it for sale in shops and not just bars?


No distributors here thankfully. I had enough of that in PA. You can get beer and wine pretty much anywhere: gas stations, markets, corner stores any day of the week. The only catch is that you're not allowed to buy beer to takeaway after 9pm, so you have to think ahead a bit.
nunc est bibendum...

#36 ScottyBoy

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 01:47 PM

Looking forward to this!
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#37 Alcuin

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 01:58 PM

I stopped by some markets to pick up a few things for dinner tonight. I usually shop at three markets: Midway which I've shown you, the Willy St Coop which I will show you, and the Jenny St Market which I'm going to show you right now.

Jenny st 1.JPG

This is a small, neighborhood market that is close enough to my house that on a good day I might be able to beat you on my bike even if you're driving a car. It carries mostly fairly regular grocery store items, though they will have things they get straight from farmers during the growing season. I like it because it can be less expensive than my other go-to the Willy St coop (which is as local and organic as possible, so expensive). I went to Jenny St today because I knew the peppers I wanted to use in tonight's dinner would be much cheaper there (I've spent $5 for a red pepper and I won't be fooled again).

The entrance to this very small store

jenny st 2.JPG

Apples are the fruit du jour

jenny st 3.JPG

Wisconsin peppers

jenny st 4.JPG

They also have a decent selection of meat at good prices, comparable to a supermarket.

jenny st 5.JPG

jenny st 6.JPG

And they always have at least one lobster, dwarfed by their oversized sparsely populated tank

jenny st 7.JPG

I've seen this tank with more than two lobsters in it, but I've also seen it with one lonely lobster huddled in the corner.

And of course, what market would be complete without a walkin beer cooler

Jenny st 8.JPG

Note the beer beer cooler attire: don't want to catch a cold trying to make your choices.

I came to the market for peppers, but I didn't buy those bell peppers above. I got some sweet banana peppers, mainly because they were a mix of red and yellow.

lamb and peppers.JPG

I'm going to make a ragu of lamb and peppers to serve with some maccheroni alla chitarra and I like to have a mix of red and yellow.
nunc est bibendum...

#38 Florida

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 02:45 PM

I've been to Madison a half dozen times and never knew of the Rathskeller. Looks like a very interesting spot (and so close to the lake where I take my daugther to look at the ducks).

I guess it's good to learn from the locals.


As for the Hopalicious, I think it's a pretty good beer, but would agree with you that Two Hearted is superior.

#39 suzilightning

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 03:15 PM

I picked up some Pocky to give as prizes to some of my students: I sent them in teams through the UW library system on a competition scavenger hunt.



hope you interfaced with the librarians and use them to your student's best advantage (30 year librarian)

wanted to inhale that mopo tofu - didn't think about the silken tofu, though. ohh.... lamb

and johnnybird would love the walkin beer cooler

Edited by heidih, 17 October 2011 - 03:20 PM.
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#40 Alcuin

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 03:30 PM


I picked up some Pocky to give as prizes to some of my students: I sent them in teams through the UW library system on a competition scavenger hunt.



hope you interfaced with the librarians and use them to your student's best advantage (30 year librarian)

wanted to inhale that mopo tofu - didn't think about the silken tofu, though. ohh.... lamb

and johnnybird would love the walkin beer cooler


I spend a lot of time talking to them about using the libraries and the librarians. They were amazed when I showed them that there were librarians specially focused for every topic they could think of. It was awesome.
nunc est bibendum...

#41 Alcuin

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 03:35 PM

Here's the mise en place for the lamb ragu.

mise for lamb ragu.JPG

It is as simple as possible really, with very little active time. Put it all together, let it cook about 2 hours, and it's done! Ideally I'd use white wine, but I don't have any around so red it is. It's a Chianti, which is also not exactly ideal. This dish is from Abruzzo, so you'd really like to pair a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo with it. And it really is a better pairing, flush with fruit and with soft tannins, the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo would pair better with the sweetness of the peppers and lamb.

No matter though; the Chianti will be good. As long as it has the acidity to stack up against the richness of the ragu, I'm happy.
nunc est bibendum...

#42 KatieLoeb

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 06:49 PM

Alcuin:

Looking forward to this week. Great work so far!

Do you ever come back to Philly to visit family? Maybe you can make it for the Heartland Gathering next summer...

As for the Ransome, my cohorts and I have found it behaves a bit more like whiskey than gin in the glass in some applications. Try a Ransome Sazerac or Old Fashioned sometime. We just put a Ransome Martinez on the menu. It's tasty that way too...

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#43 Alcuin

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 07:38 PM

Alcuin:

Looking forward to this week. Great work so far!

Do you ever come back to Philly to visit family? Maybe you can make it for the Heartland Gathering next summer...

As for the Ransome, my cohorts and I have found it behaves a bit more like whiskey than gin in the glass in some applications. Try a Ransome Sazerac or Old Fashioned sometime. We just put a Ransome Martinez on the menu. It's tasty that way too...


Ransom Martinez' are the way I went through two bottles of the stuff. It's my favorite Martinez gin, though I like Junipero in a Martinez too. Good point about it behaving like whiskey. I never thought of a Sazerac or Old Fashioned so I'll definitely have to give that a shot.

I do come back that way every once in a while. I'll keep my a watch on the gathering to see if it coincides with a return home.
nunc est bibendum...

#44 Alcuin

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 07:51 PM

Tonight's dinner was maccheroni alla chitarra with lamb ragu and a green salad.

I use the Kitchenaid pasta attachments. They are great for me especially since I have no counterspace to speak of (literally) and I don't need to clamp anything down. It's also great because I have two hands to work with and the rollers make the thinnest pasta I've ever seen. I've never made better pasta before getting this; it was a dramatic increase in quality and consistency.

This time, I was (at least in part) kickin it old school using the chitarra

pasta alla chitarra.JPG

There's a real technique to having the right moisture in the pasta. Too dry and it won't press through the wires; too wet and the pasta will stick back together again after being cut. I'd say that figuring out how to gauge the proper wetness of dough for the chitarra has made me a better maker of pasta in general.

pasta.JPG

I forgot that I only like to take it to setting 3 on the rollers, but this was taken to 4. It has slightly less of a square shape than I like, but the unique texture of the chitarra made pasta is still there. It's got a very toothsome feel to it (no other way to describe it) and, because of the relatively limited surface area compared to interior volume of most fresh pastas, it tastes strongly and pleasantly of wheat.

Here's how it looked, dressed with the ragu, before the application of cheese.

pasta uncheesed.JPG

Here's how it looked with a generous sprinkling of pecorino. This is the traditional cheese to serve with the lamb ragu, and I have to say thinking of using anything else just doesn't make sense to me. The sharp saltiness of the cheese marries perfectly with the sweet richness of the lamb and peppers.

pasta cheesed.JPG

I love ragus like this. The sauce is not tomato based (the tomatoes are only there to add a bit of acidity and their juices); it's based on the fat that renders out of the meat and marries with the peppers and tomatoes to become a pleasantly orange condiment to the pasta. Delicious.
nunc est bibendum...

#45 KatieLoeb

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 07:55 PM

I do come back that way every once in a while. I'll keep my a watch on the gathering to see if it coincides with a return home.



Well, even if you aren't coincidentally going to be here at the same time, drop me a PM next time you're heading this way. I think we need to go on a bar crawl together! The cocktail scene is flourishing quite nicely of late. I think you'd be surprised and impressed...

Back OT: That pasta and ragu look delicious!!! My favorite kind of pasta dish - rustic and yummy!

Edited by KatieLoeb, 17 October 2011 - 07:56 PM.

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#46 heidih

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 08:11 PM

Now I need a chitarra. I love pasta with that sort of chew. I appreciate your description of the ragu - makes sense and appeals as an earthy approach. You mentioned 2 hours earlier. Even with the use of ground meat did you simmer on extreme low heat for such a long time?

#47 Alcuin

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 08:18 PM

Now I need a chitarra. I love pasta with that sort of chew. I appreciate your description of the ragu - makes sense and appeals as an earthy approach. You mentioned 2 hours earlier. Even with the use of ground meat did you simmer on extreme low heat for such a long time?


Sometimes I let it go an hour, sometimes two. This time it probably ended up being an hour an a half. The reason for the amount of time is to break down the meat so that its as fine grained as possible. That way it spreads itself out over the pasta more consistently and really becomes a sauce rather than chunks of meat here and there. It's the same reason you cook a ragu bolognese so long I think.

And a chitarra's a great thing to have. It's become my go-to fresh pasta shape, along with tagliatelle. Most times, I'm happy with one of those two, unless the dish really calls for something else.
nunc est bibendum...

#48 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 12:00 AM

This pasta dish looks really tasty!

#49 Anna N

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 03:14 AM

Thanks for the demonstration. This is all new to me.
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#50 Alcuin

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 07:42 AM

Breakfast today was an omelette with Hook's 5yr inside and some homemade Habanero hot sauce on top (and lots of it!)

omelette pic.JPG

The technique is far from perfect, but I can get the right texture down on the eggs (tender thin sheets of egg rolled up around a creamy interior). It just doesn't look as nice as I'd like. Then again, I used two eggs, not three, and I think three eggs make for a plumper, better looking shape.

The ooze is half runny egg, half just melted cheese, just how I like it.
nunc est bibendum...

#51 heidih

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 08:16 AM

Can you share your habanero sauce recipe? My freezer is packed with beautiful bright orange bags of them from my bush.

#52 Zeemanb

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 08:20 AM

That pasta looks absolutely fantastic, rock star world class!

Oh, and I am also a big fan of braunschweiger. I grew up eating the cheap stuff in the yellow/orange tube on plain white bread with mustard. These days I'm very fortunate to have a local producer who makes a high quality version of my favorite "poor man's torchon".

Enjoying the blog very much!

#53 Alcuin

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 08:46 AM

Can you share your habanero sauce recipe? My freezer is packed with beautiful bright orange bags of them from my bush.


Take about a 1/4 to 1/2 lb of habaneros (I like 1/2lb, because it mellows a bit in the fridge), a carrot, a few cloves of garlic (I'd say 3-4) and a small onion. Clean the habaneros, cut the carrot into thin disks, and slice the onion. Put that into a saucepan with 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup water. You can use distilled or apple cider, but I prefer the clean sharpness of distilled here b/c the fermented flavor of the apple cider makes the pepper sauce taste overripe, but of course a chacun son gout. Cook until everything's nice and soft, then add a touch of sugar (I like a pretty small pinch in mine, just enough to bring out the fruitiness of the habaneros) and salt (I like a lot of salt in mine) to taste. Then you puree it in a blender as smoothly as possible, and bottle. I use an old bitters bottle that I bought in a gas station driving back from Milwaukee(people love their bitters here), but they weren't worth much so I dumped them and saved the bottle, knowing it would be perfect for something.

Here's the finished product

habanero sauce.JPG

I'm not sure where I got the idea from, or what the recipe looked like before I got my hand riffling through its inner workings to make it how I want it. It makes for a fruity, very hot sauce though, better than anything I could buy.
nunc est bibendum...

#54 Alcuin

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 08:53 AM

That pasta looks absolutely fantastic, rock star world class!

Oh, and I am also a big fan of braunschweiger. I grew up eating the cheap stuff in the yellow/orange tube on plain white bread with mustard. These days I'm very fortunate to have a local producer who makes a high quality version of my favorite "poor man's torchon".

Enjoying the blog very much!


Thanks. "Poor man's torchon": awesome.

Braunschweiger can be really great if its made with care, or it can be full of additives and lengtheners and who know's what.

I was talking to somebody the other day about headcheese and he said he didn't really like it, but could stomach it when he had to if his parents fed it to him. I started talking about how delicious it was, and he mentioned he was eating Oscar Mayer headcheese! That's all he knew of headcheese. I tried to preach the gospel but he wasn't interested.

Then again, Oscar Mayer is pretty local to these parts. Their headquarters is right down the street from my house, and the family mansion is about equidistant the other way. The wienermobile is a very common sight around here.
nunc est bibendum...

#55 heidih

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 09:18 AM

Thanks for the hot sauce recipe. Sounds like it would bring out the habanero well without masking it. I will be giving it a try. Going to keep my eyes open for a suitable bottle.

#56 Anna N

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 09:51 AM

Thanks for the hot sauce recipe. Sounds like it would bring out the habanero well without masking it. I will be giving it a try. Going to keep my eyes open for a suitable bottle.

Soya sauce or Worcestershire sauce bottles work really well if you can get the smaller sizes. Don't make pepper sauce but never toss one of these bottles as I find many uses for them.
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#57 ambra

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 10:00 AM

You're killing me. the thing I miss the most from the US, is Cheddar. I miss Cheeseburgers, Cheese sandwiches, standing in front of the fridge stealing slices.....


Great blog so far!!

#58 Alcuin

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 10:09 AM

I just got back from the Willy St coop, where I buy most of my food. The place is irresistible to me, which is a problem because it's very expensive since every thing is organic and as local as possible, etc. But they have the best products, the best fish (the only worth buying in the whole town), the best cheese aisle, the best bulk aisle, etc.

Warning: be prepared for some blurry and otherwise lame photos.

willy st outside.JPG

Here's what it looks like when you walk in, right into the fruits and vegetables section. The store is pretty small, but everything in there seems to be thoughtfully selected. The great majority of it is good.

willy 1.JPG

Some fruit. It's apple season, as you can clearly see...

willy 2.JPG

Some vegetables

willy 3.JPG

willy 5.JPG

Squashes and pumpkins

willy 4.JPG

The juice bar and bakery

willy 6.JPG

Frozen meat and fish

willy 7.JPG

The meat section. This used to be about half the size, and it was clear the store did not care about meat. But as smaller local producers started getting bigger and more able to get their products out by riding the wave of the local, organic, green movement and/or starting coops to compete with bigger operations in terms of distribution, the coop caught notice and expanded their meat selection to include them.

willy 8.JPG

willy 9.JPG

willy 10.JPG

The selection is still small, and as you can see, there are times between shipments when some things aren't there. I was looking for some pork chops today, but they didn't have any. That's just the price you pay dealing with small producers I think and I'm really very happy they bring their meats here in the first place. When I get them at the farmer's market, they tend to be frozen but you can get them fresh and ready to go here.

Here's the fish section

willy 11.JPG

It's also small, and it's very expensive, but the fish is good quality. It is actually an offshoot of another store, the Seafood Center that's on the Westside of town, so they are somewhat separate from the coop itself. The fishmonger's there are great though. They'll get you what you want, tell you when things are coming in, and they aren't stingy about giving away bits for stock even though they sell it already made. I asked for fish heads once and they gave me a 5lb rack of halibut, still full of meat. I made fish stew out of it, and it was plenty meaty, plus I was able to put some good fume in the freezer.

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nunc est bibendum...

#59 Alcuin

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 10:28 AM

Here's some more co-op stuff.

They have a very well outfitted bulk aisle of course

This is only one side, I forgot to take a pic of the other side, but it looks pretty much the same!

bulk aisle.JPG

Bulk oils, syrups, soy sauces

bulk.JPG

Spices

bulk spices.JPG


They also have a really good deli and salad bar. I get ideas from their salads all the time; they're very inventive not to mention delicious. And the best thing about the salad bar is that they put their composed salads alongside the greens and vegetables, so you get a lot of good variety.

willy 12.JPG

willy 14.JPG

Here's a shot of the deli

willy 13.JPG

When I first saw the Southern Fried Tofu they have, I was skeptical. Actually, it went beyond that: I bought a square just so I could deride it. It turned out to be delicious, with a very flavorful fried crust. I get a square sometimes now as a treat for myself on the walk home from the store.

Cheese!

willy 15.JPG

willy 16.JPG

The coop's cheese selection is one of, if not the very best, in town.

cheese.JPG

Curds. There is a sign up when they are especially fresh (i.e. made that day). That's when you want them. An old cheese curd is halfway between pasty string cheese and the deliciousness that was.

curds.JPG

And here's some limburger. The Chalet Cheese Co-op in Monroe, WI (a little more than an hour south of Madison) is supposedly the last maker of limburger in the US. You can go visit (must call in advance), see the cheesemaking process, then get a limburger sandwich (dark rye, mustard, limburger, thick slices of onion) to eat. They're good.

limburger.JPG
nunc est bibendum...

#60 Alcuin

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 10:30 AM

This is what I picked up for dinner tonight. I wanted pork chops, but a loin roast will have to do.

for tonight.JPG

That's grade b maple syrup that I'm going to use to glaze the pork. Apple rings and lemony greens on the size. Not sure about the potatoes yet. Maybe a potato cake of some sort?

Off to get some lunch and do a bit of work.
nunc est bibendum...





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