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eG Foodblog: Rico (2012) - A Little Bite of Big D


Rico
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Hi everyone!

Or, to play into an often frustrating - but almost always endearing - stereotype:

Howdy, y’all!*

My name is Rich, aka Rico, and I’ll be taking you through a bit of my culinary life in Dallas this week. Incidentally, my eGullet handle refers to the name by which I went in my high school Spanish classes many years ago - and I’m still awful at Spanish.

Anyway, on to the teaser photos:

teaser1.JPG

Only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes (hat tip to Lyle Lovett). We didn’t really have much of a winter this year, so I was brave and planted my tomato seeds at the beginning of February. So far, I’ve had some pretty good luck. Trying out five different varieties this year; we’ll see how that goes. I’ve also got a few different kinds of cucumbers, beans, peppers and herbs going. Unfortunately, this blog will likely be finished before any of them come to fruition - or should I say vegetableition?

And Zeemanb, I noted your comment about being six weeks ahead in being able to get a garden going, and I'll just say this - come mid July, when you're harvesting buckets of tomatoes off of your plants, I'm going to be spending my days doing rain dances just so my plants will stay alive in the 110-degree Dallas heat. Take solace in that, at least!

My box smoker (wet smoker).

teaser2.JPG

This is not the typical sort of smoker I am accustomed to seeing down here. Most of my friends and people I know tend to use the oil drum-style smoker with a side box for the fuel. I do not begrudge that style in the least, but have gotten to know the operation of this smoker so well that I’m not going to change anytime soon. But we will most certainly get into that later this week.

A few cookbooks and such.

teaser3.JPG

The Neil Sperry Texas Gardening book – the green binding – is ubiquitous in this state but I’m not sure it came through very well. Anyway, those are some of my books. The Wodehouse collections were not left in there intentionally; however, my affinity for the Jeeves and Wooster stories is undeniable.

To address the MC volumes briefly – unlike one of the more recent food bloggers, Chris Hennes, my knowledge of Modernist Cuisine is laughably limited. That doesn’t prevent me from trying all sorts of things from it, but I’m probably not going to do anything from it this week; to try my inexperienced hand at it in a public forum might be a major step back in the development of the movement as a whole (kidding (kind of)).

All right, then. A few other tidbits, I suppose:

Having been born and raised here, I call myself a Dallasite, but for the past three years I have lived in the suburb of Richardson, about 200 yards from the Dallas line. I am fortunate to be in a fine location for a lover of things culinary, as I find myself within a few miles of a Central Market, Whole Foods, Saigon Market, Hong Kong Market, Fiesta, and few standard grocery stores. We can get into what all those are as the time comes, though I would suppose that a most are pretty self-explanatory.

My wife will tell you that my approach to food is like a six-year-old with ADD who just had too many Coco Puffs**. I prefer to call it inspiration-driven. Meaning, I’ll tell her that I’m making dinner, and then I’ll happen to see a technique I want to try, spend a while at it, and then she’ll ask me what’s for dinner.

“Ummm. Well, in about four hours, we’ll have some really nice dehydrated lime curd! That’s a good dinner, right?” (Note: dehydrated lime curd is never a good dinner). She is of infinite patience.

As it is, I’ve got a several places that I can’t wait to show you, and a pretty good outline of what I’ve got lined up for the week . I’m looking forward to it all (and to getting to know some of you better) and hope you all enjoy reading it half as much as I am sure I will enjoy documenting it!

*I feel I should explain my understanding of y’all. In Texas, we use it only in the plural sense – as a conjunction of you all – so that in its written form, we substitute the apostrophe for the o and the u in you. It is clear and its use saves a valuable syllable.

However, in some southern states I have heard that its homonym can be used to refer to a singular person. It is my understanding that in this sense, it would be spelled ya’ll. I do not understand the reasoning behind this punctuation, and frankly, I do not understand the reason for the word’s use in the singular. All that to say, in this week’s blog you will likely see y’all spelled and used only in the plural sense, if indeed you see it at all.

**This also applies to my writing style. My lack of focus and/or patience means I cannot proofread my own writing. I just can't do it; my eyes glaze over and ... well, all I can ask is that you bear with any typos, run-ons, tense disagreements and things of that nature.

Edited by Rico (log)

 

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Rich – Well, as I said on the ‘teaser’ thread, I’m going to be at the beach this week, but the hotel is SUPPOSED to have wireless, so I’m hoping to be able to keep up. Love that you are a Jeeves and Wooster fan. We are BIG fans – our GPS is named ‘Jeeves’ (and even has a posh English accent :wub: ).

It’s not just Texas. I’ve never heard anybody but a Yankee use y’all singular. Just wrong.

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I'll be following this thread with considerable interest.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Thanks for the kind words, all - I will admit to a few nerves when considering the prospect of following all the great blogs everyone's been writing. A high bar, indeed.

We'll not be breakfasting today, and will instead be partaking in that wonderful combination of meals known as brunch. In the meantime, a cup of coffee will have to tide me over. It's store-brand coffee, but before you judge, it's not just any store brand. It's called Hill Country Fare, and it's a product of HEB, a San Antonio-based grocery store chain. This particular HCF is called Texas Pecan, and it's fantastic. Incidentally, HEB is also the company that started Central Market, a grand and glorious place to which I'll be headed later this week.

Took some shots to give a little better idea of where I'll be cooking from and to elaborate on the garden a bit.

maters.JPG

Tomatoes, among them Giant Syrian, Super Sweet 100, Yellow Brandywine, and Bella Rosa. I've got a few others getting started, but can't remember offhand what they're called. I am not a bad gardener, but not a great one either, so I just go with volume and hope for the best.

Some cucumbers getting started.

cukes.JPG

And the herbs. So far we've got thyme. parsley, rosemary, tarragon, basil, oregano and a few dozen chives just starting to sprout. I may add some more as the season progresses.

herbs.JPG

We just re-did the kitchen. Over the three-month process, I really didn't know if it was going to be worth it; it was a serious pain. However, we are very pleased with the result.

kitchen.JPG

Will return in a few hours with a brunch report!

Edited by Rico (log)

 

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Hey Rich! Good to see you blogging!

I love your writing style. It's very easy to "get in to" and I feel like I'm sitting next to you having a conversation.

I hear you on the gardening. You and I may have to plan a rain dance together. Maybe if we do it together it will have more of an effect. I planted radishes, spinach and lettuce a few days ago and I'm afraid I did it too late.

I throw a few "ya'll's" around from time to time......

Oh, and ya'll be safe today....you and I are supposed to have some major tornado possibilities today and tomorrow.

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Great start, Rick. Your kitchen is beautiful. And as always, I'm envious of folks who can start gardening this early in the year. Looking forward to learning more about Dallas, too.


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Rico,

Could you do a favor and tell me the width of your kitchen in the area where you have the little island/cart? And, how wide is the island/cart? Is it on wheels?

I've been thinking of adding one of these to my kitchen, but am not sure I actually have enough room.

Looks like your renovations turned out great!

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Hey, Rich, nice to see you blogging!

The inability to distinguish between the singular and plural “you” is a major flaw in the English language. Practical Southerners have remedied this deficiency.

Sympathy on the joys of kitchen renovation, but it looks like the end result is gorgeous and practical.

I look forward to sharing your week.

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Thanks, Shelby, nikkib and LindaK!

Shelby, I'm in the same boat - just planted some lettuce, and I may have to settle for micro greens instead.

onrushpam, I've got 76 inches between the fridge doors and the oven door, with the table at 20 inches wide. I won't lie - it's a tight fit, but it works. Both doors open all the way, but I do not have room to stand directly in front of the oven if I've got the door open. That's not a problem for me, but it is something to consider.

And I realized I forgot the other cookbook photos! Keep in mind that while I do not have a terribly extensive collection, I nonetheless have more cookbooks than I do opportunities to cook from them. So, to assume I have accomplished - or even attempted - all their recipes and techniques would be to greatly overestimate my culinary abilities.

books1.JPG

books2.JPG

The avid eGulleter will notice that a majority of these books (though there are several that have been given as gifts) have been recommended by someone or another on eGullet over the past seven or eight years. This is not by coincidence.

On to brunch, and the foodblog's first actual food (imagine that!).

There's place in Dallas called The Grape that has a very popular Sunday brunch, and a very celebrated hamburger that they only serve for that meal specifically. A statewide magazine named it the best burger in Texas a few years back, and while I have neither the expertise or the experience to personally grant such a superlative, I can say that I take no umbrage at their assertion.

We also had fried polenta, served with cojita cheese and sriracha (and a bit of sour cream) and the Country-Style Frittata, (asiago, goat cheese, dried tomatoes, broccoli and pancetta). And they start everything off with little banana nut muffins.

Grape_muffins.JPG

The Polenta Fritters

Grape_fritters.JPG

The Frittata

Grape_frittata.JPG

And a couple of the burger - I wish I could have photographed it as well as it deserves, but such is life:

Grape_burger.JPG

Grape_burger2.JPG

I will confess that I like everything about The Grape; I apologize for the lack of photos of the place (I will take more interior shots as we go along to other establishments), but it is smallish, comfortable, not too dimly lighted ... it's just a warm, welcoming restaurant, if that makes sense. And, they've got a little patio just off the sidewalk of Greenville Avenue (it was about 75 degrees here today), too.

Okay, I'm going to take a nap, now. I am lucky enough to live just a few miles from my parents' house, and they've asked us over for dinner tonight. So we'll see where that takes us!

Edited by Rico (log)

 

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Nice kitchen. Nice garden - it looks like you are not allowing enough room for the rosemary - it can triple in size in a single season unless you keep it severely pruned.

Love the polenta fritters - and everything else.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Looking forward to this one, Rico! I've had some wonderful meals in Dallas, and I order my coffee beans from Cafe Brazil. Your kitchen is beautiful, and absolutely looks as if it were worth the effort.

I'm about 5 hours northeast of you, and I'm seeing some new growth in my herbs. Wondering if I can take a chance on putting basil outside yet, or if we still have some cold nights in the offing....

Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Beautiful looking kitchen. I hope we might get more of a tour and I'd be interested in hearing if there's anything you'd do differently, given the chance.

...

*I feel I should explain my understanding of y’all. In Texas, we use it only in the plural sense – as a conjunction of you all – so that in its written form, we substitute the apostrophe for the o and the u in you. It is clear and its use saves a valuable syllable.

However, in some southern states I have heard that its homonym can be used to refer to a singular person. It is my understanding that in this sense, it would be spelled ya’ll. I do not understand the reasoning behind this punctuation, and frankly, I do not understand the reason for the word’s use in the singular. All that to say, in this week’s blog you will likely see y’all spelled and used only in the plural sense, if indeed you see it at all.

...

I'm a Yankee, born and bred, so I don't know y'all from ya'll but my nieces and nephews in San Antonio use "all ya'll" as the plural form. Usually with an emphasis on the ALL to ensure that the entire group realizes they are being addressed. Always cracks me up 'cause I always figured y'all was plural to begin with.

Thanks for blogging!

Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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Very nice, Rico! Your kitchen is laid out almost exactly like mine, even with the island/block. Mine is on casters and I have my pots on a rack over it.

It's good to know that you can get a burger in Dallas that isn't well-done.

Thanks for blogging!

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As a child of the south I never saw y'all or ya'll written till I was in my 20s. Before that I did see youse guys written. I always figured the yankees in Jersey just talked funny but said the same thing I was.

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Oh my - the polenta fries look and sound delicious. Was the burger one you could pick up and eat? - looks more like it was cut in half as in a knife and fork mode. The bun looks thin and crispy. Interesting and appealing :)

The kitchen is lovely. How do you most often utilize the island?

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Bruce - Thank you for the sympathy - and the kind words! Now that it is all said and done, yes, it was well worth it. I had my doubts, especially after the demo itself took two weeks and I was left looking at dirt where the kitchen floor had been. Only then did I realize what I had gotten my wife and I into.

andiesenji - Yes, I'm starting to realize that about the rosemary. I've already trimmed it pretty drastically, but it doesn't have much quit in it; it is already wanting for another pruning.

blue_dolphin - Overall, there's not a whole lot I'd do differently, except for the microwave vent fan: it sucks. Or, rather, it doesn't suck enough. It can get irritating to have to disable your fire alarm every time you want to fry a significant amount of anything, but if that's my biggest complaint, then I don't mind at all.

kayb - The basil in my garden was actually store bought as a seedling; I believe our frost date is around March 15, and I didn't want to wait for fresh. I just planted seeds this weekend. There are worse things in life than to have too many basil plants, after all ...

annabelle - I agree, though over the past couple of years, Dallas has been undergoing a steadily growing burger craze. There are many new burger joints around town that make a fine hamburger that are served as ordered - in my case medium rare (most of the time).

heidi - Once cut in half, the burger could be handled. Perhaps a better man (or woman) than I could take on the task of consuming it uncut, but that is a task I would not venture to undertake. As for the island, the explanation for its existence in our kitchen is that I just love available surface area. In a practical sense, is typically where my mise goes and where I do most of the veggie prep work. And it's where I put my drink :)

ScottyBoy - It was good stuff, man. Funny you should comment on your mom's cooking, when ...

... we went to my parents' house for dinner tonight. Native Chicagoans of German descent, even though it was a day late, they insist that everybody should celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I still don't know why, exactly; I think it has something to do with an excuse to drink beer. Regardless, we had corned beef and vegetables. It was the pre-brined stuff (my mom is past the point of wanting to learn to make corned beef from raw brisket - if she was ever at that point at all), but I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless - the few Paulaner Salvators I knocked down in the process of eating didn't hurt much, either. It was a simple meal with little elaboration, but a good time was had by all.

cornedbeef.JPG

 

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The fried polenta looks amazing. I need to try it with similar toppings.

I'm looking forward to your trip to Central Market. I lived in Galveston for 7 years, and one of the things I really miss is the proximity to the Central Market in Houston. Love that place.

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Thanks for joining in, RRO!

tikidoc - Yes, I am beginning to rely on it heavily and wonder how I got along without it! Spoiled, I am.

Anyway, I wanted to give everyone a quick heads-up - a little bit upthread, Shelby mentioned some pretty serious weather headed this way. Well, it's here. Shouldn't present much of an issue, but if there are tornado warnings tonight I might not get to start smoking the brisket as I had planned. We'll find a Plan B, regardless - just wanted to keep everyone appraised!

Breakfast this morning is lots of coffee. Was going to take a photo, but ... it's just coffee.

Edited by Rico (log)

 

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