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Everything posted by Alcuin

  1. 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.
  2. 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...
  3. Thanks Jenni. I like texture in almost every dish, but those that really stand out to my mind right now are Thai dishes that bring together a crazy amount of tastes and textures. I remember looking at a recipe for larb and thinking it would never work, there's too much going on there. But the interplay of meat and herbs bound by toasted rice powder (a crucial ingredient for texture) ends up working perfectly. I'm thinking of pasta dishes too where there's an interplay between pasta and sauce, but that may just be because I'm going to make pasta tonight. Are there any textural combinations you like that I might try? I'm up for anything.
  4. 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.
  5. I teach at 8:50am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so on those days I usually have some bread and cheese with my coffee, or just grab something quick after class. I've been meaning to get some ice cream from Babcock Dairy for a while now, and today seemed like a good time to do it. I don't eat it a lot, and my girlfriend loves ice cream but can't eat it without a measure of gastrointestinal distress. So I had a cone for breakfast today. That's my Pumpkin Cream Pie cone resting in the cone holder conveniently provided for you so you can sort out your money with two hands. This ice cream is the best I've ever had, by a longshot and that includes homemade. I think its the quality of the milk, which is rich in creamy texture. The flavor is always spot on too. Typically I would avoid ice cream that's trying to taste like pumpkin pie but I trust Babcock to do it right. The ice cream does really taste like a lightly spiced pumpkin pie, but not so much that you can't enjoy the core of what ice cream is, the dairy. Here are the other ice creams on offer They had Orange Custard Chocolate Chip, Orange Sherbet, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Union Utopia, Cookies and Cream, Raspberry Swirl, and the Pumpkin Cream Pie. During the summer, there is often a long line that snakes around and it can take a little while to get to the counter. And since it's their downtime, they have about 1/3 of the flavors they normally do. It is served year round and people eat it even when it's snowing outside. A testament to its perennial goodness. I ate my cone in the Rathskeller, which is where a lot of people meet to eat lunch and drink beer during the day, or drink beer and watch movies and sports at night. It is in the style of a German downstairs pub, and has all kinds of German murals about loving to drink and to learn. It says "who doesn't love wine, woman and song remains a fool his whole life long." This one says "I don't count the hours unless they are happy." They also have an extensive collection of old steins to encourage drinking. Fireplaces complete with murals about the duties of learning to sit by in the winter as you eat and drink. And here's where you buy your beer. In the summer months, you can buy it from several places just outside here on the Terrace that overlooks lake Mendota. It's a favorite spot to hang out and drink some pitchers; the scenery is beautiful and they have music too. A whole lot of beer is drunk there, and lucky for me my office is in the next building over. My teaser photo looking out on the lake was taken from the Terrace. The beer list You might not be able to make out all the beer, because the lighting inside the Rathskeller is very low and it's sunny outside so the conditions were not ideal for my tiny camera. But the beer list there is pretty good. Here's the small cafeteria attached to the Rathskeller "Chamber of Food" There is another larger and more modern cafeteria one room over. I used to eat here a lot a couple of years ago, but these days I usually just buy food from the foodcarts on the library mall and bring it back here to eat if it's not nice enough outside. The food here is passably mediocre, and there's too much good stuff nearby, especially when the carts are out.
  6. The silken tofu really makes it for me. The way it bursts in your mouth and its unique flavor. I don't know if silken tofu tastes stronger than other kinds of tofu, or the super soft texture allows for more surface area to hit your tastebuds so it delivers the flavor to the mouth in a bolder way, but there's something to the way it tastes that I really love and don't get out of firmer tofus.
  7. Hahaha it's definitely more than curds and fish fries these days, though I eat them too. Fried cheese curds, when made well and served fresh out of the fryer are like nothing else. But as for variety in food, I was surprised to see not the first, but the third Himalayan restaurant open up last year. To differentiate themselves from the other two, this one specializes in all things yak meat. I've never been, but it's been open long enough that it seems to be good enough to survive.
  8. I made Ma Po Tofu tonight with Fish Fragrant Eggplant, some gai lan with ginger, and rice. I've loved mapo tofu since I first made it, and I've worked on the recipe ever since. I use Fuschia Dunlop's recipe with a few tweaks; sometimes I use leeks, sometimes I throw Chinese chives in depending on what's fresh, and I always marinate the pork in xiao xing wine, white pepper, light soy sauce, and sesame oil. The sauce is simply chicken stock, with some sugar, corn starch, and soy sauce, which marries with the garlic, black beans, and chili bean sauce to make the dish. Here it is in the wok: It's important at this point to be very gentle if you're using silken tofu. I always do, because the real beauty part of this dish is the contrast of the crumbly meat with the squishy tofu. Plus I love to press the tofu up against the roof of my mouth. But if you're making this dish with the silken tofu and you stir too hard here, it will break into a thousand fragments and the contrast of the gelatinous chunks and the small grained meat will be lost forever (or until you make it again). I'm not questing after the elusive wok hei in my house, but I love woks. They are very easy to handle large portions of things, not to mention the fact that the design of it makes for a variety of heat zones. Here it is on the table, finished with ground Sichuan peppercorn and scallion: Here is the Fish Fragrant Eggplant: For those who have never had it, it doesn't involve fish at all. From what I remember, the sauce is often used with fish hence the name. My major departure from tradition here is that I don't deepfry the eggplant. I steam it because it's easier, and while it is less delicious I still think it's good and saves me some calories and heaviness. Otherwise its a standard sauce of Chinkiang vinegar, stock, some sugar, and soy sauce with ginger and garlic as the aromatics and chili bean sauce for heat and depth of flavor. We had some greens too, Gai Lan with ginger juice (grate some ginger and squeeze the juice out of it-it's amazing how much you get), soy sauce, and a light touch of sesame oil: And beer to drink alongside: It's Hopalicious, an American Pale Ale from Ale Asylum, a Madison brewery that opened up a few years back. I didn't like this beer much when it first came out, it seemed overly malty to the point of being musty and the hops were not prominent which I thought was strange for a beer with such a name. This summer though, I ended up drinking a decent amount of it and liking it. I don't know if the more recent bottlings are better or more to my taste, but I've been warming up to it. Or maybe I've just stopped comparing it to my all time favorite beer, Bell's Two Hearted ale, against which almost any beer pales in comparison. In any case, Hopalicious may not be great, but it's very good and I like Ale Asylum a lot in general. They're always solid.
  9. Try the 'Variation on a Theme' from the Beta Cocktails blog. It's good with both Hayman's & Ransom, but I prefer the latter. I've done that with Hayman's. It's a great drink and I'll definitely put the Ransom version on the to-drink list thanks.
  10. Also, note the summer sausage and brats at the top of this pic. You really can get it anywhere.
  11. I went to the Asian market I like in town, Midway. There are others that are larger than this small store, but this one has better produce and better products too. The only problem about it is that you have to spend some time looking for things if you don't already know where they are. It seems that only the owner of the store knows where things are, so if you can't find him, you have to spend some time. But pretty much everything is there. This is near the entrance, with pickled turnips and other things in bins to the left that give way to Asian snacks and nuts. 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. Some pics of the vegetable aisle. Sometimes it's best to go to the Hmong farmers that come to the farmer's markets; they have some things like bok choy and other kinds of greens. But Midway's got everybody beat if you're looking for long beans or gai lan or galangal. I bought some ginger, gai lan, and an eggplant to supplement what I got out of my garden. Here's the Chinese, Japanese, and Thai sauce aisle. Meat section And here's where you get your milk, cheddar cheese, century eggs, and grass jelly drink Certainly not the best market, but it does the trick. There's a lot more in there than you might think (frozen beef bile anyone?...).
  12. I can get Tuthilltown. It's amazing what you can get if you ask. Over the years here I've insinuated myself into the booze market around here: a good friend of mine owns a liquor store (the Cork 'n Bottle) and is very enthusiastic about bringing really good products in. We couldn't get Laird's bonded, for instance, and after a good deal of agitation, we've got it. Same with Rittenhouse BIB (though we've had to start agitating again...) I also have been helping out with the wine tastings there every Saturday for a couple of years so I've had the chance to drink a lot of wine. Access to good wine and booze is a good thing.
  13. I should explain this teaser pic a bit more: While that looks like summer sausage as some suggested, which is another favorite meat in tube form around here that you can get pretty much anywhere (there's a nice venison cherry summer sausage that I like too much to keep in the house), that tube is filled with Braunschweiger which is a liver pate like liverwurst that is smoked. This one comes from Willow Creek Farm, producers of fine Berkshire pork. I like their Braunschweiger: it's nicely smoked, their pork is always great, and many of their products are wellcrafted. I'll be picking up some pork from them next farmer's market (I'm hoping they come through with some fatback for me to make sausages with!). A sandwich of crusty bread (the bread in this pic is homemade, I'm going to make some tomorrow), raw onion, coarse mustard, and a generous chunk of braunschweiger is tough to beat. Pairs well with strong bear.
  14. I like the Hayman's, it's sweetly aromatic, just what I think an Old Tom should be. I was using Ransom, which is a very different style with a little age on it and a sharpness of cardamom, but I found it difficult to find drinks where I really wanted to use it. It's good, I just never really wanted to pour it. Any suggestions? And as for Walleye, I'm planning on going to a fish fry on Friday, and if not I'll find some other way of fitting it in. As for apples, Honey Crisps are all over the place around here now. They're not my favorite apple (I like a touch more acidity) but they are still very good (sweet and crisp-the name's not false advertising). My teaser pic had a cheese plate with some sliced Honey Crisp on it.
  15. Just got back from doing a bit of shopping and had lunch. We had a cheese plate and a salad, with Tom Collinses on the side made with Hayman's Old Tom. The cheese plate Starting clockwise: Baguette from Batch Bakery, hands down the best bread in town, and the only one I'll buy if I don't have any homemade around; Hook's Tilston Point (Stilton style), Rothkase's Moody Blue (a smoked blue), Bleu Mont Dairy's Bandaged cheddar, and Hook's 5yr cheddar. Hook's is perhaps the cheesemaker with the most name recognition here, and they make incredibly solid versions of cheeses (they have a Roquefort clone, the Stilton clone, etc) and they make what may be the best "orange cheddar" around, dry and crumbly pleasantly studded with lactic acid crystals. Their 12yr cheddar is definitely something to try but very expensive. The Tilston point is a very good version of Stilton, while the Moody Blue is one of our house favorites: the light smoke plays perfectly with the creamy blue. The Bandaged cheddar is very unique: wrapped in bandages and aged in a cave in Blue Mounds, WI, it has a matte texture, which at room temp is good for dragging against the roof of your mouth to feel the cheese's fine grained creaminess. Willi, the cheesemaker, told me that he was inspired to make the cheese after taking a trip to Scotland and becoming convinced that he needed a cheese cave of his own in WI. The salad Just a simple salad. The greens are from Harmony Valley. I love their greens this time of year, because they have more mustard greens than any other season. Otherwise its olives, tomatoes from the garden (they're green, can't remember the variety), shallot, roasted red peppers from a jar that we really like, and a peperoncino on top. The table Perhaps not the best lighting for pictures, but it was just right for eating lunch.
  16. Hi everyone! I'm Alcuin (aka Josh) and welcome to my foodblog, brought to you directly from the isthmus of Madison, WI. First a little about me. I grew up in Philadelphia and its suburbs. My mom lived in Delaware County (it was suburban enough for me to have a pony, grow up picking wild berries, fetching eggs from my great grandmothers chickens, and all the rest). My dad lived in the city. These two places are where I learned to eat. My mom was a cook who specialized in French food; she later became a personal chef and still is. Not only is she especially skilled, she was always an adventurous cook trying to learn new things. This, even more than the knife skills and focus on execution that I learned from her, is the main motivation of my cooking. I'm always seeking out new lines of flight when it comes to food, but over the years I've developed a stable of personal dishes and ways of making them that I really like. We'll be seeing some of them through the course of the week. From my dad I learned where to get the best pizza and cheese steaks. It was from him that I learned about the glories of Pork Italiano, which is an elemental combination for me: rich moist pork, braised bitter greens, salty sharp provelone, and some hot peppers liberally applied if you got 'em. Everything you could ask for, a harmony greater than the sum of its parts. Seeking that supernatural harmony is the motivation of my cooking. My dad's side of the family was also Italian-American. Vivid memories still guide me: Aunt Anna (pronounced AnnDanna) working dough through the chitarra, eating meatballs flecked with little lumps of potatoes (she used mashed potatoes, lumpy, to tenderize the balls), garlicky greens and beans for lunch. She worked in a Port Richmond kitchen that was tiny and outmoded to be sure, but that was enlarged by the sureness of her kitchen work and the tradition that worked its way out of her knowing hands. That's an image that sticks with me, and keeps me rooted in the simplicity that my vertical piston sausage stuffer, standmixer, food processor, and the internet with all its glorious excess of information can work to distract me from. I moved to the midwest for graduate school in medieval literature (my field is Old English literature: Bede, Beowulf, King Alfred, et al). I had never been anywhere near any midwestern state, and probably would have had to think a little to sort out the region on a map. So I had a lot of expectations ready to be squared with the actual reality of the place: I knew of cheese, beer, and walleye and that was about it. When I got here, I asked somebody where to get some cheese and they pointed me to a small market nearby. I had been working at a deli in northern Delaware (closed now) that specialized in European cheese and meats (the cheese selection was amazing, you could get smoked eel cut to order, foie gras and corned veal tongue was always on offer). To say the least, I was disappointed by the store: there was hardly any Wisconsin cheese! I thought for a while that Wisconsin's fame for cheese rested only on old worn-out tradition and newer mega-producers like Sargento and I felt myself bereft of the sophisticated offerings I was used to. Also, I couldn't get a hoagie or a steak to save my life. Luckily I was completely wrong about what I thought was a foodless place. It turned out thought that my eyes were just looking somewhere else, something I first discovered when I started going to farmer's markets, which are a fixture here (11 of them happen throughout the week in Madison alone) whereas I never knew of one in northern Delaware where I lived from the ages of 18-23 while going to undergrad. In really digging beneath the surface of the place, which the farmer's markets first taught me to do, all manner of expectations were bound to be and were overturned. I lived in north Wilmington, Delaware before coming to Madison. The place was and is a wasteland of sorts for non-corporate food. It is far too hard to find a place there that's not a franchise or chain of some sort. Madison is completely the opposite: on the isthmus, where I live, there are hardly any fast food places. If you want fast food, you have to drive to the far west or east side of the town. Or you can go down State St, the boulevard that is the homebase of college students, but even there chains are few and far between. So I began to eat locally, even before it was cool (!?). I got into local farms, local food, and local beer all of which are in such abundant supply, it seems sometimes that you have to work not to eat locally around here. Madison is also the place where I really started to cook. After I moved here for grad school, I was all alone when it came to food in a strange place where I no longer had my daily bread or even my sandwich shops. My mom is force in the kitchen (that's a euphemism); she runs it with a vision, no matter what she's cooking, and with a strict, keen eye. Getting out from under her wing too, I had to do it myself: and it turned out I loved to cook even more than I'd thought. I started perfecting recipes, learning to bake bread, dabbling in charcuterie to replace what I moved away from. That effort to replace and recover what I'd moved away from became something different. It became less an exercise of replacement and more of an exercise in emplacement. As I started looking for the best ingredients, my own philosophy towards food shaped itself: first, do no harm. I cook all manner of things, and there's very little I don't like (I can't think of anything at the moment!). So this week we'll have beer, we'll have cheese, we'll have bread, we'll have cocktails, and we'll have whatever food it occurs to me to make. I'm leaning toward Ma Po Tofu tonight; my girlfriend just brought me home last night some fresh Sichuan peppercorns from San Francisco (what you can get around here is a little on the stale side). And after all beer is great with spicy tofu and Fish Fragrant eggplants eked out from the sunset of my garden's life (I hope!). So here ends the rambling story of myself. Onwards to food and drink!
  17. I love Dotty's. Catch them on a good night, and their burgers are greatness in burger form. Even at their less than best though, they're still the best in town I think.
  18. Looking forward to showing off my little spot on the globe!
  19. And by this, may I assume that you are referring to those residents of the East/West coasts that disdainfully call the rest of the US "Flyover Country," full of unsophisticated, provincial, not-terribly-bright, red-meat-and-potato-eating rubes who are, in fact, less than marginal, and frankly matter not at all? Oh yes. But it goes both ways too doesn't it? Some of the younger folk where I live like to proudly proclaim themselves Sconnies. This is in reaction to the timidly derogatory (but more playful than not I think) term Coastie. A mild example. Before I moved to the midwest, I had all kinds of prejudices about it. I'd never been here even once before, so all I had to go on was what I could imagine. The sources of my imagination were a little cartoonish as you might expect. But then you live and learn and I did. I love it here. That's why, even if it may sometimes be true, you can't really say, in this day and age at least when airplanes can fly us fish in a couple of days even in the middle of the country, that landlocked midwesterners (or whoever) don't like fish. I've met plenty who do. Though of course their liking fish is not the same as mine, and mine's not the same as someone from Seattle's, etc.
  20. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "In the United States, coastal counties constitute only 17 percent of the total land area (not including Alaska), but account for 53 percent of the total population." That's a lot of people living on coasts. I grew up pretty close to the ocean, but not in a coastal county. Even still we ate crabs by the bushel all the time and a lot of fish. I can't think of anyone in my entire extended family that dislikes fish, and those I'm closest to are avid fishermen/fisherwomen (though mainly for sport) and eaters of fish. I'm not saying that's representative of America, but America is huge and contains so many various geographical regions and cultures to go along with it, that it can be really hard to generalize. One illusion is the idea that the East and West coasts of the country are not representative of the country as a whole. Of course not, but there are a lot of people that live there. It is a commonplace of a certain kind of political attitude to say that "America's Heartland" is more representative of the US, and that people who live on the East/West coasts are marginal. This is not really true: both the interior of the country and its coastal populations are equally representative, if often very different. They have different American foodways. So the question "Do American's dislike fish?" is much more analogous to the preposterous question "Do the Chinese dislike fish?" than an analogy to England or Germany. So anyway, I wonder what percentage of that 53% living on coasts likes fish and which doesn't? I would also be interested to find out why they dislike it if they do. Maybe it's personal taste and maybe it's a bad experience. Personally, I think it's because fish can be difficult to handle (it goes off very very easily) and the some of the best ways to prepare it (poach, en papillote, raw or just kissed by a touch of heat, etc) are not the ways you cook more common proteins (beef/pork/chicken). Also, it's economics. I can get good fish here in the midwest, but it is really really expensive. That's going to work against a lot of people even having more than passing contact with it, and passing contact breeds prejudice more often than not.
  21. Alcuin


    I haven't tried this, but I probably won't. That's mainly because it's more work than making risotto the way I do it now. Adding cream to risotto is unnecessary and that much (3/4 cup) will change it into something that might not resemble risotto enough for me. But my main problem with it is the extra steps: beating the cream to stiff peaks and rinsing the rice first creates unnecessary work and dishes. The way I do it now is efficient enough. The labor intensive part is making sure that there's enough moisture in the pan, but that's really not that hard. I don't stand over the pan the entire time; I just check it every couple of minutes and add stock when I need to. Since I'm cooking, and in the kitchen, it's not a hardship to check the pan and ladle some stock in. The trick is knowing when enough's enough. Also, I don't think you have to stir constantly. I stir to incorporate the stock, then when I'm finishing the rice, I stir hard the last two minutes or so to whip up the starch in the rice et voila. It's not that hard. This recipe seems harder. I do it another way too that's even easier. I saw Lidia Bastianich one time make this easier version. You take all your ingredients and use a dutch oven, sweat onions carrots celery chopped very small (I use a food processor), toast the rice, add the wine and cook down, then add cut up boneless chicken and almost all the stock in and let it simmer covered for around 20 minutes. Then a little more stock and some cheese, give it a good stir stir stir, and it's done. Almost as good as making risotto: I don't think I'd be able to tell the difference unless I already knew.
  22. I think Bittman is very unWaters in this article. I'm not in love with everything he does, but I think he gets it right in this piece. This is important: He says elsewhere that the alternative to soda is not Bourdeaux, just like the alternative to McDonald's is not to become an insufferable bore and nitpick about food with a sense of superiority. That's a welcome message and I don't hear a lot of people saying it. He's not nagging people to change their lives. In fact, I think he assumes that his audience is pretty much on board in this piece so he's talking about what to do with what we know. I actually think he's trying to move beyond the first stages of an incipient food movement. He equates it with the anti-tobacco campaign and I hope he's right in linking the two. It would be great to see those kinds of successes happen with food. It will be harder though, which is what he points out.
  23. I bought one of these, then used it solely for making tortillas. It's perfect for that because you can use the two burners at different heats and its really easy to flip them. But I didn't make tortillas for a while and for some reason the seasoning came off and it rusted. I just refinished it and have been thinking of what I could do. I've used if for pancakes, but outside of pancakes/french toast and tortillas, I'm not really sure what to do. Maybe I'll just force myself to use it and see what happens.
  24. Well that is an American voice making it more like an "aw" as in law but correct versus making it sound like "o" in Obama (one of the examples in the long & short kid dictionary). I like the one in this link. Same idea, just spoken more quickly and not drawn out. The thing is that there are so many vowel sounds that its impossible to be definitive, and sometimes its really hard to tell one from the other. So is Bosch pronounced like that "a" in "father" or the "aw" in "law" or the "o" in "hot"? These are all different sounds, but a lot of times its hard to tell the difference between them unless you are really working at it. My understanding of German pronunciation is that it would be the "o" in "hot" expressed as a short vowel but lengthened by position in front of a consonant cluster. But who cares when its hard to tell the difference? As long as you're not saying it like the "o" in "ghost" I think you're fine. This is a totally different thing that mispronouncing Fernet Branca and dropping the "t" despite the fact that its an Italian word or pronouncing "Cynar" like "sigh-nar" when its supposed to be "chee-nar." Doing those things makes you look like you don't know what you're talking about. Pronouncing Bosch like "Bawsh" is no big deal compared to that.
  25. The "ö" in German (o with an umlaut) doesn't mean a vowel is long. It's a different sound than "o" long or short. It's hard to explain but the vowel is between an "o" sound which you make with the back of the mouth and an "e" that you make with the front of the mouth. Because its an "o" sound that wants to be an "e" sound, you purse your lips a bit as if you were going to make an "r" sound. So the "ö" actually sounds a bit more like an "e" than an "o." Very confusing stuff: easy to hear, hard to imagine unless you're already familiar.
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