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    Humboldt County, on the far north California coast. NOT a great place for restaurants, but a remarkable Farmers Market
  1. Citric acid. When you don't want more liquid or a particular fruit flavor, just sour. Sumac powder (Penzey's) works too. TJoe's Savory Broth packets (come in a box of 12). Pickapeppa Sauce or Bufalo Salsa Chipotle for a mystery kick. Frozen orange juice. I keep a can in the freezer to add to sauces (especially tomato-based) or dressings (fruit salad). Just scrape off some from the top to add a fruity tang. (Do not dilute, the point is more sweet/sour/orange flavor, less water.)
  2. The double-boiler method reminds me of "Eggs Francis Picabia", a recipe he contributed to The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. Beat the eggs well, put them in the pot, and start stirring. Every couple of minutes add a dollop of good butter. Keep doing this for 30-40 minutes, and eventually they form tiny curds the size of caviar. Labor intensive, but amazing. I suspect that's what Nero Wolfe was talking about, since the cook book was published in 1954, and The Mother Hunt in 1963.
  3. Maggie, I am writing a column about my own experience recreating the "true" Ratatouille as presented in the movie. May I have your permission to reproduce your very colorful third photograph? I'll send you my column and the photos from my own experiment. BTW this permission doesn't imply that you don't fully own the rights to your photo, just that I have permission to publish that one in my column and reproduce it in the online edition. The publication is The North Coast Journal (local to Humboldt County, CA). If you agree, please let me know how you'd like the photo credited. Joseph Byrd (please respond to byrdhouse.ltd@gmail.com)
  4. Cole is on the mark about Rogue River Blue, easily the best American blue ever made. The reason I didn't mention it is that it is produced in small quantities, and not sold commercially. You must go to the Creamery in person, and sign up for a subscription, with 1-day delivery by FedEx when the cheese is released (needless to say, this is not cheap). And then you need to stay on top of it, or risk losing your place! This is cumbersome for most people. What's the use of praising something few can taste? That said, it won the gold medal for the world's best blue in London in 2004, and you can imagine how French cheese makers loved that! And while it is a special cheese, spectacular at its best, it is not equally good every year. We have had Roquefort that was better, and Blue d'Auvergne that was equal. That's part of the glory of the great cheeses, that they are active, vibrant, and not routine or necessarily "consistent". But if you are traveling to southern Oregon for New Sammy's, it might be worthwhile to stop at Central Point, and get your name on that list. Being on it does not obligate you to purchase, simply offers the opportunity. Joseph
  5. This is encouraging. We're planning what may be a regular Xmas week trip. Over the mountains from the coast via 199 from Humboldt. It's four hours, about the same as it would take to Napa or Sonoma, and about half the price, to say nothing of accommodations. In the same county is Jacksonville, which has a Kosher Jewish deli that makes their own corned beef, pastrami, matzo ball soup, all splendid and distinctive. MacLevin's, downtown, next to a big cooking supply store. A perfect after-Sammy's brunch. On the way there you pass Central Point, home of Rogue Creamery, which features some of the best blue cheeses in the country. Try their Oregonzola. There's also an excellent breakfast place in Ashland, with fresh-squeezed juice, original concepts, and perfect execution, Morning Glory, across from the college.
  6. Now we wish we'd planned a week! "some of the finest curryhouses in Europe!" Who'd have guessed? Thanks to everyone who helped us plan this excursion, and we certainly will report back....I'm supposing it will be to this same thread, yes? Check back the second week in July, when we've had a chance to compare notes.
  7. We're starting in Haworth, then heading toward Leeds in search of pork pies and ale. Anthony's is a possibility if we want to spend the money. But we've three or four days, possibly more, and we are quite ready to go anywhere...there's so much to see, so we might as well do it with good food along the way. We sense that the coast is pricey, though, and we live on the coast, so it's not particularly special. We've had our share of high-end dining experiences, including two visits to The French Laundry, which is almost local (actually 5 hours south of Humboldt County, but California is very big). "Interesting" is the key word here; we'll happily change our itinerary to find something special or unusual.
  8. Exactly what we'd hoped (but not dared expect) to hear. The 2006 pub book is available on US Amazon, which will give us time to plot and plan. The Star Inn looks like a prime candidate. My wife may have found a place run by a couple of chefs with stages at El Bulli, Anthony's in Leeds http://www.anthonysrestaurant.co.uk/ ....have you heard anything? Sometimes the restaurant trying for their first star can be amazing. Le Clos des Gourmets in Paris was such an experience, better than any of the three 1-stars we tried.
  9. We have a week to spend in Yorkshire, both town and country. We will have not much money, so our dining will probably be pub. Some research has revealed the Pork Pie Appreciation Society and Timothy Taylor Beers, which we hope is a good start. So we are appealing first for word about interesting inexpensive food you've had in Yorkshire (pubs included)... ...but our second question is if we go (just one night) to a really special place, where shall it be?
  10. I don't seem to be able to edit the original post, but I've been informed that the correct area code is 535, not 541.
  11. No, there was no hint of shell. I don't know whether the shell might have been baked before filling. Of course, the top fourth of it was removed (there are tools for doing exactly that). I have a hunch the custard might have been filled in the shell first, then steamed. Here in Humboldt County, the problem is crab shell in your picked crab. Sometimes it even gets past both of us into the crab cake.
  12. We've been hearing about New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro in Talent, Oregon, for about a year, and finally organized a short Oregon trip to conclude with a visit on New Year's Eve. All we knew in advance was that there would be a special menu costing more than usual, and that the restaurant was hard to find. A restaurant that plays hard to get naturally attracts attention, as with Ma Maison in 1970's LA, whose phone was unlisted. But an unlisted phone can't compare with invisibility. When we passed through Talent on our way in, it was mid afternoon, and, fore-warned, we decided to locate Sammy's while there was light. But after passing through town once each direction, we asked a cop. To all appearances, it is an abandoned roadside bar, paint peeling, with an ancient electric-bulb arrow above the entrance. There is no sign, indeed no indication of habitation at all. Returning that night, however, there were cars parked around, and the arrow sign was operating, albeit with several burnt-out bulbs. Still, there was a moment of doubt, as opening the door, we stepped into a dark little chamber the size of a walk-in closet. Bravely, we pressed on, and entered a low-ceilinged cluster of tiny dining nooks. Much about Sammy's is funky, in the way one might expect a back-country café to be. But nothing in the ambience prepared us for the meal. Drappier Carte D'Or, a French champagne, was the only wine served, and flutes were refilled by Vernon Rollins as soon as they were empty. A blanc de noir, it was perfect for the meal, except perhaps for the amuse bouche, a perfect single sushi of flying fish roe scented with cucumber. In the six courses that followed, Charlene Rollins moved in a careful orchestration from complex to simple, but always with the deliberation of a master chef. First, in an egg cup, an eggshell was filled with custard laced with white truffle, topped with a splash of California sturgeon caviar; on the plate, a thin crisp wafer of potato pancake was accompanied by a savory purée of celeriac, a dollop of crème fraîche, and more caviar. Served with a tiny spoon for the custard, it was at once magnificent and delicate. Flavors chased each other across the tongue. Shellfish consumé was amazing. A distilled essence of crab, mussel, clam, and shrimp, the shells oven-roasted, a near-black, evil broth that spoke of storms and surf-battered sea cliffs and shipwrecks. Floating in it was a delicate waif of crab cake, almost nothing but crab shreds bound with a little egg, topped with saffron and cayenne scented mayonnaise. An adventurous, dangerous course. A striking way to shift the palate spectrum was a salad of pear, with baby greens, spiced walnuts, and dried sour cherries reconstituted in kirsch. Dressed with a truffle oil vinaigrette, this was as light and vibrant as the previous dish was intense and dark. And topping it was one of the most remarkable things we've yet tasted: a quarter-inch medallion of foie gras that Rollins had cured in brine – uncooked, pink, and needing no condiment. We've tasted a fair amount of foie gras, and this was in a class by itself. From complexity the meal descended to simple, at least to the casual diner. Beef tenderloin was plain, but perfect: rare, oven roasted Niman Ranch beef, sliced into butter-tender steaks, with a chanterelle wine reduction, served with fingerling Japanese baby sweet potatoes, and a rather amazing risotto of pearl rice and tiny black eye peas (from the Rollins's own garden), whimsically called "hoppin' john." (Hopping John is a traditional New Years Day dish in the South – rice, black eye peas, and ham hocks.) An effective concept, with "al dente" texture provided by the baby peas. And of course, "simple" in the hands of a master chef is never really simple. Dessert was at once simple and more complicated: "Italian nut torte with passion fruit sherbet and honey ice cream." Totally counter-intuitive. It almost doesn't work. But if you carefully take one small bite of torte, then a dab of the sour sherbet, and finish with the same amount of honey ice cream, it's a dazzling experience. In other words, follow the specific order of the menu description; any other sequence fails: the honey is too cloying to start, the passion fruit too sour. After-dinner truffles were delicious but unneeded. Espresso was served with clear shards of crystallized sugar. Despite the lavish nature of the meal, the true luxury was in concept and labor, not food cost. To our thinking, the meal nominates Charlene Rollins as one of the most imaginative chefs in the country. Thomas Keller is the proper peer for this cook, even though it's a league she may not want to play in. Vernon Rollins is reputedly equally imaginative with wines, and it's certainly to his credit that he chose to accompany the meal soley with a good Champagne. I've called to ask their hours, and they limit dinner to Friday and Saturday until February, when they will expand to a Thursday-Sunday schedule. 541.539.2779. Plan on staying in Ashland, just south.
  13. I-5 is a wasteland, and finding good, nay, edible food within a few miles has been a life-long frustration. One notable exception is Woolgrowers Hotel in Los Banos. Since it's pretty much dead in the center of the state, we try to time trips south from Humboldt County so that we spend the night there, because Basque is not eat-n-go food. Recently, though, we found a place that has been right under our nose. Louis Cairo's, 558 7th St in Williams is just a few blocks off the highway (the intersection of I-5 and 20), and we had a superior road lunch there in September. For those who are looking for exotic, I'm not sure it will be the ticket, but they butcher their own local Angus beef and lamb, and they make everything in-house. Like Woolgrowers, you have to bravely walk in through a working-class bar, and the dining room is not fancy, although the brands of local ranches on wall plaques adds a nice touch of local color. Cairo's has been around since 1945, and Patty Jo Cairo is the daughter of the founder. Besides steaks and chops, there are chicken livers and sweetbreads on the dinner menu, and two levels of intensity for garlic bread. There's also an appetizer called "Garlic Bulb and Brie." Italian, not Basque, but the soup we had was definitely in that league. Clearly, though, beef is what's for dinner. We're on our way back on Jan. 1, and we'll stay over, have supper, and report back.
  14. We have a morning appointment on a Friday, so breakfast suggestions are welcome. Regarding dinner, there are a couple of positive postings on Le Provence, and it's close, so that sounds like a worthwhile experiment. (See also this review in the Sacramento Bee.) There are some very negative reviews of it on Chowhound, but they don't give the impression of sophistication. El Dorado Hills looks to be a 40 minute drive, a bit far for us.
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