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eG Foodblog: tupac17616 - Barbecue & Foie Gras


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Fig Tree -- No figs yet  :sad:

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Since I have never seen a fig tree, it is startling to see a photograph of the actual leaves versus sculpted ones on ancient statues.

Do you mean no figs yet this year or are they hard to grow? (Love them wrapped in prosciutto.)

Is there anything in your family's amazing garden that is impossible or difficult to find in stores or markets?

I would love a little bit of a field trip if there are interesting markets, funky or impressive stores that permit photography, that is, if you are not selected for a long period of jury duty.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Sorry for the long delay in getting this one posted. Last night turned into a very long night, and jury duty all day today made for a very long day. But here 'tis:

FATHER'S DAY DINNER

Baked Caprese Salad -- Homegrown Tomatoes, Homemade Pistachio Pesto, Fresh Mozzarella, Toasted Pine Nuts (and a little torching at the end for some better browning :cool: )

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Mushroom Risotto -- Onion, Garlic, Arborio Rice, Dried Wild Mushrooms Rehydrated in Chicken Stock, some sauteed Cremini Mushrooms, Cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano

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Asparagus & Sweet Corn -- Just tossed with a nice Sicilian olive oil and roasted for a while

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Sirloin Steak -- Quickly marinated in olive oil, maldon sea salt, coarse cracked peppercorns, and rosemary, then grilled on the Cuisinart Griddler (normally I would've done it properly on the charcoal grill outside, but we were in a time crunch)

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Dinner is served....

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Vanilla (well, Chocolate for Mom) Ice Cream topped with Warm Summer Berries and Fresh Whipped Cream -- Summer in a bowl (er, uh, a margarita glass :laugh: )

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All prepped and cooked in one hour, start to finish. Pretty quick and easy meal. But it really hit the spot. And my dad loved it, which was all that really counted yesterday anyway.

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Do you mean no figs yet this year or are they hard to grow?  (Love them wrapped in prosciutto.)

Is there anything in your family's amazing garden that is impossible or difficult to find in stores or markets?

I would love a little bit of a field trip if there are interesting markets, funky or impressive stores that permit photography, that is, if you are not selected for a long period of jury duty.

I'm not sure whether the fig tree really likes the soil it's in right now. Hopefully it will bring some fruit this year, but we'll see. (I, too, love them wrapped in prosciutto. And/or stuffed with goat cheese. And/or drizzled with warm honey. Oh yeah. :wub: ).

As for a field trip, I was hoping to get photos of my favorite food market here called HEB Central Market. When I spoke to a manager about taking pictures, she said they had to check out the website first, make sure it's okay, yada yada. Long story short, no call-back from that lady meant no pictures. Hey, if they want to turn down free (positive) publicity, then that's their loss.

I think we may be going out to eat tonight, so I'll be sure to have the camera in tow. I feel like I should end with some pictures from some kitchen other than our own. Y'all must be tired of seeing all my home cooking by now! :biggrin:

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I have owned a couple of expensive electric grills, (none named George) but they all disappointed. I could never have cooked a steak as perfectly as you did. Would you recommend the Cuiz Griddler?

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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We are SO not tired of your cooking! That's some beautiful food you're turning out, creative and interesting, nicely executed, mouth-wateringly photographed. Are you totally sure you're a teen-ager???

And thanks so much for the garden pictures. The difference in the growing season between SA and up here in Almost Alaska is really startling.

That pistachio pesto - is it basil and pistachio?

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It's been a long week of cooking. It was time for a night out. My original plan was to head to Le Reve, which I would say is undoubtedly the best restaurant in San Antonio, if not this part of the country, and ask that the chef prepare a spontaneous off-the-menu degustation for the table. But a private party that had been planned for the evening at that restaurant meant a change of plans. So we stuck close to home tonight.

A place that just opened up within the last six months or so, called Bin 555. This restaurant is the more casual, no reservations sibling of a lovely restaurant here called The Lodge housed in a beautiful castle-like estate. We had visited for the first time just a couple of weeks ago, and noted how nice it must be to dine out on the patio here, with large tables, adequate shade, a nice breeze and subtle music. What more could you want on a summer night? Turned out it was a very slow night at the restaurant, so we had the patio basically to ourselves, which in some restaurants might have been a bit awkward, but in this case it was perfectly calm and relaxing. As you can see in the menu on the website, the menu is basically tapas-style, and is priced and portioned to encourage sharing among the table. So the five of us (mom, dad, me, younger brother and his girlfriend) chose quite a variety...

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Untraditional Style Caesar Salad with Sourdough Croutons, Grilled Red Onions and Parmesan ($3.75)

Not sure what exactly is so untraditional about this Caesar Salad, but it was tasty. Better than I remembered it being the last time we got it there. My brother, the Caesar Salad connoisseur of the family deems it worthy of his top three, so they must be doing something right.gallery_28661_3068_7792.jpg

Roasted Garlic and Chickpea Hummus with Oven Toasted Crostini ($5.00)

This was quite tasty, with a clear roasted garlic flavor going on. The crostini left something to be desired. Somewhat bland and flat tasting, I thought. (Must be a theme with this place. Last time we ordered the daily bruschetta, which arrived on the same crostini, and were borderline horrible, I thought). Dipping the Naan (pictured below) into this hummus, however, was just beautiful. Also turns out this was my mom, dad, and brother's first time trying hummus, so it looks like I have an easy idea for something to make at home in the near future.

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Local Texas Lump Crab Napoleon with Avocado-Lime Aioli and Guajillo Chile Vinaigrette ($8.50)

This was better than I remembered it being the last time we ordered it. Perhaps they were a little more generous with that beautiful lump crab meat. Or perhaps they remembered to use the salt shaker this time. Either way, I definitely enjoyed this dish.

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Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail with Spicy Horseradish Cocktail Sauce ($2.25/ea X 5)

Terribly uninteresting to me. I enjoy neither chilled shrimp nor cocktail sauce, so this one was rather blah for me. I have no problem with a chef doing a creative reinterpretation of a classic dish, but this took absolutely no thought at all. I also thought five shrimp that size was kind of measly for the $11.25 price tag, but maybe I'm just cheap sometimes.

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Traditional Spanish "Tortilla" ($3.25)

Along with the shrimp, this dish was one of the weaker ones of the evening, I thought. Just no vibrancy to the flavors at all. Perhaps even the chefs knew this when they shrouded it with an unnecessarily large dollop of that spicy roasted pepper sour cream.

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Grilled Asparagus Milanese Style with Organic Fried Egg and Pecorino Romano ($5.00)

I'm sorry, I am no great chef, but this dish just did not hold a candle to my own version at home (see photo here). Classic flavor combination, but really pretty disappointing.

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Chef Dady's Daily Risotto -- Mascarpone, Organic Cherry Tomato, Tarragon, and Black Pepper ($5.75)

This was another one of the highlights of the meal for me. My mom also loved it, although my dad and my brother both thought the tarragon overwhelmed the other flavors. Very clean, simple flavors. And it was cooked very well, neither too loose and runny nor a starchy mess.

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Grilled Venison Sausage with Spicy Roasted Peppers, Butter Braised Apple and Bacon-Mustard Vinaigrette ($6.00)

Yes, you read that right: Bacon-Mustard Vinaigrette. And yes, it was as good as it sounds. Mmm, bacon... :wub: Oh yeah, the other stuff on the plate was good, too. :raz: Venison is perhaps my favorite meat, so I had no complaints with the sausage.

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Mini Paella with Roast Chicken, Andouille Sausage and Saffron ($4.75)

This one was pretty lacking in the taste department, we thought. None of the flavors really stood out. My dad later told me he would've showered it with a good sprinkling of salt and cracked pepper if there had been any available. Not terrible, but definitely not something we'd order again here.

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Handmade Veal Meatballs with Cinnamon, Vanilla Bean, Peach & Brown Sugar ($7.50)

I insisted we try this a shot this time, as I'd seen it on the menu last time and thought "What the...?". My family was a little bit hesitant to say the least, but they all tried it. Varying reactions all around. My mom didn't like it. My dad said he thought he liked it, but he wasn't sure. My brother's girlfriend thought it tasted oddly like a link of breakfast sausage that had been dragged through the pancake syrup. My brother said he didn't know what to think. Me, I thought it worked surprisingly well. I didn't get much of the cinnamon or brown sugar flavors shining through, but the vanilla bean and peach flavors were just assertive enough to make their presence known but not so cloyingly sweet as to overwhelm the meat. Sure, the meatballs were kinda weird. But I wouldn't mind trying them again some time. Guess that makes me kinda weird, too, eh? :biggrin:

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Wood Fired Naan Flatbread with Roasted Garlic Butter ($6.50)

This stuff is obscenely good. Really, it's ridiculous. Both last time and this time it was the family favorite, and we opted for a double order. This time, we even thought about a triple. It's just that good. And the roasted garlic butter? Yeah, that doesn't exactly hurt its cause. :cool:

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Four Cheese Pizza with Basil-Marcona Almond Pesto and Shaved Red Onions ($11.00)

It seems like pretty much anything that comes out of the wood burning oven here is delicious, and this pizza was no exception. Crispy, pliable, charred and chewy in all the right places. A fine pie, no question about it. One of the family favorites again this time.

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Jumbo Local Texas Lump Crab "Dip" with Mascarpone, Chives and Oven Dried Crackers ($12.00)

This was better than I had remembered it being on our previous visit. It was brought the table bubbling hot. As much as I love mascarpone cheese (see risotto above) and crab, it's hard to go wrong with this one. Not sure what makes this dip a "dip", but, hey, guess a modern-day menu is not complete without a few stray quoatation marks, right?

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Wood Oven Roasted Red Snapper with "ODT's", Fennel and Heirloom Potato Ragout with Saffron Oil ($21.50)

More quotation marks. This dish must be good! Actually, the ODT's (Oven-Dried Tomatoes for those in the know :raz: ) were pretty tasty. And this coming from an admitted tomato Nazi who believes tomatoes from anywhere else besides our back yard are always ridiculously inadequate. My dad didn't enjoy this dish, perhaps in part due to his undying hatred of all things fennel. My mom thought it was good, but nothing special, I think. To me, it was reasonably tasty, but probably not something I'd recommend. I could make something comparable at home quite easily and for less money. To me, $21.50 for a snapper dish this size seems a little more Manhattan than San Antonio. Perhaps this opinion, though, is based more on its price relative to the other dishes on the menu, which are quite reasonably priced for the most part.

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Nutella and Dark Chocolate "Souffle" Cake ($6.00)

By this point, everyone (except me) was stuffed. Alas, I had to take one for the team and order dessert. I am not a big dark chocolate guy, but simply mention the word Nutella in my presence and it seals the deal. I figured why not give it a shot. Neither souffle nor cake, but rather more like a soft, fudgy brownie, this was quite tasty. But it was just crying out for some ice cream. Or a glass of milk. Pretty tasty dessert, but nothing remarkable, and probably not something I'd order again.

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All in all, a very enjoyable meal. I have a feeling this may become one of our regular family dining out spots. I'll be curious to see how (and how often) this menu changes over time. Anyway, I should probably call it a night. Been another long day. And the past week of blogging has really just flown by. Almost time for me to pass the torch on to the next blogger. See y'all tomorrow!

Edited by tupac17616 (log)
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Okay, I said I was going to sleep. I lied. :biggrin: A few more responses before I hit the sack...

I have owned a couple of expensive electric grills, (none named George) but they all disappointed. I could never have cooked a steak as perfectly as you did. Would you recommend the Cuiz Griddler?

We've had the Griddler over a year now and have been quite pleased with it. More often that not, we just use it for panini. But lately, we've been trying out hamburgers, fish, steaks, etc, to see how it performs. So far, so good. Obviously the flavor we'd get grilling outside on the charcoal grill is not there, but it cooks reasonably quickly and evenly. And not having to flip things is always a plus. Not a bad tool to have around for a rainy day (or just a lazy day when you don't feel like getting a fire going outside :smile: )

OK.  First the tomatoes.  Then the corn.  Another hard hit.  But, I bet the strawberries I pick tomorrow are better than yours!

If you're picking them yourself, I have no doubts they'll be better than ours! I'll just have to console myself with a homegrown tomato in one hand and a salt shaker in the other. Ah, life is rough. :raz:

Wow...that baked caprese salad looks so good...where'd you get the idea to bake it? If I can get my hands on some good basil soon, I'm definitely making it.

I was making that meal in a huge rush since I had to start so late, just kind of throwing together some things on the fly, and that idea just sorta came to me. Turned out really well, and it was nice change-up from the typical caprese. Torching the top and adding the toasted pine nuts at the end really just brough it over the top. If you do end up making it, I'd love to see pictures. This is definitely one easy dish that I'll keep in the future repertoire.

[...] Are you totally sure you're a teen-ager???

[...]That pistachio pesto - is it basil and pistachio?

Nah, I'm way past being a teenager... I'm 21! :biggrin:

The pistachio pesto is basil, pistachios, pine nuts, parmigiano-reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. (See details here)

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You've been *very* busy while I've been gone, I see. :biggrin:

Y'know, my first real flowering as a foodie was when I was 22, fresh out of college and rooming with the recently-graduated computer supergeek who became one of my major cookery mentors. We and our circle of friends cooked and dined with similar abandon--the city in that case was Boston, but the quick coming-of-age as a foodie was similar. So I'm getting an especial kick out of watching you carry on.

I haven't been following your posts elsewhere--do you also have friends at school that you cook up a storm with, or for?

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Hey, tupac, are you still serving on jury duty? What have you been doing for lunch? Are there any good eateries near the courts? Or have you been packing your lunches? Sorry if I'm being dense and forgot something you've already mentioned.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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This week has flown by!

With the circumstances including late nights and jury duty, I'll leave the blog open longer than usual today -- until late afternoon/ early evening -- so ending comments and questions can be made and tupac can wrap this up in his delightful style.

Meanwhile, do start following the next eG foodblog, already in progress. It promises to be another enjoyable week. We are on a roll!

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Tupac, I really enjoyed sharing your week. Your family is very very lucky to have you cooking for them!

The baked Caprese salad is on my 'must try' list. And thanks for the pictures of the garden. For someone in a city apartment, with only a tiny balcony, a well-tended garden is lovely to see. :smile:

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Oh good, you're much older than I thought. For some reason, I'd thought you and BryanZ were about the same age - two kick-ass kids blowing us all away. I mean, you still blow me away, but at least you're old enough to raise a glass with.

Thanks for a really fun blog, and we'll be watching your culinary star rise, I'm sure. Hey, are you gonna tell us your name, so if we see you in Food and Wine we'll recognize you?

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Hey, I just wanted to say this was a great blog - I had to catch up in big chunks here and there cos I wasn't around much this week, but it was really fun. I really like your approach to food and cooking. I thought the baked Capresi salad was a great idea - it's kind of pizza without the bread, if you think about it ... Thanks for sharing it all.

And, boy am I jealous of those tomatoes. Mine are still only flowering!

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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Wow. What a scary morning.

Sorry I've been slow in responding this morning. I was driving my younger brother to work this morning, and we were T-boned by another car going about 45 mph that slammed straight into the passenger door panel. Luckily the side airbags worked like they were supposed to and my brother (who was in the passenger seat) is okay. Beyond scratches/bruises/soreness, right now I think that I am more mentally shaken up than anything else. The initial adrenaline rush combined with the fear/anger/guilt of it all is a little jarring to say the least. The right side of car is completely totaled. My brother and I thankfully seem okay. The three people in the other car seem relatively okay, too. Mother driving, father in passenger seat, very small boy in the back seat. Other than the father's (who was not buckled) probably broken arm, they were okay. One of those times to remind yourself that the cars are replaceable. The people are not.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program...

I haven't been following your posts elsewhere--do you also have friends at school that you cook up a storm with, or for?

Funny you should ask. This part year, I met a girl who is just about as crazy about food as I am. So we often cook together, and we, along with three others (who also cook), will be sharing a 5-person suite next year. Complete with a stove with gas burners. :smile: I am totally looking forward to an awesome year. My strength is Italian & Southern style cooking. Hers is more Japanese/Thai/Indian influenced. The others have the background with more Dominican & Puerto Rican food, as well as some more Italian thrown in the mix from a suite-mate whose family is from Milan. Should make for quite a living (and eating!) arrangment! :cool:

Hey, tupac, are you still serving on jury duty? What have you been doing for lunch? Are there any good eateries near the courts? Or have you been packing your lunches? Sorry if I'm being dense and forgot something you've already mentioned.

I was lucky enough not to be chosen as my group of 32 was narrowed to 12 yesterday. Of course, it took a day of being bored out of my mind, but what can ya do? The courts are downtown, near some interesting places. But I wasn't really sure what kind of time format the day might bring (as this was my first time actually going to jury duty..been called before, but was in exempt since I was in NYC at school). That being the case, I brought my lunch. A nice big bad of fruit, both fresh (apple, banana) and dried (mango, apple, prune, pear, apricot, date, cherry, golden raisin, blueberry). Shocking, I know. :raz:

During a recess in the afternoon, though, I walked over to Le Reve, which I would say is undoubtedly the best restaurant in San Antonio, if not this part of the country, and spoke to the chef about possibly preparing a spontaneous off-the-menu degustation for the final meal for me eG foodblog. But a private party that had been planned for the evening at that restaurant so that meant a change of plans. On the positive side, he seemed honored by my request and asked me to call him back today to set something up. So that was good.

This week has flown by!

With the circumstances including late nights and jury duty, I'll leave the blog open longer than usual today -- until late afternoon/ early evening -- so ending comments and questions can be made and tupac can wrap this up in his delightful style.

Meanwhile, do start following the next eG foodblog, already in progress.  It promises to be another enjoyable week.  We are on a roll!

Thanks, Susan. I'll do my best to find the time to wrap it up late this afternoon/early evening since I am at work now (physically, but after the morning I've had, not exactly mentally, ya know).

I am sure the next blog is gonna be great! Looking forward to it!

Tupac, I really enjoyed sharing your week. Your family is very very lucky to have you cooking for them!

The baked Caprese salad is on my 'must try' list. And thanks for the pictures of the garden. For someone in a city apartment, with only a tiny balcony, a well-tended garden is lovely to see. :smile:

Thanks so much. I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures, and even if you got nothing else out of it, at least you've got a new dish for your 'must try' list, and that is always a good thing. :smile: I hope to see it on the Dinner thread one of these days.

Oh good, you're much older than I thought.  For some reason, I'd thought you and BryanZ were about the same age - two kick-ass kids blowing us all away.  I mean, you still blow me away, but at least you're old enough to raise a glass with.

Thanks for a really fun blog, and we'll be watching your culinary star rise, I'm sure.  Hey, are you gonna tell us your name, so if we see you in Food and Wine we'll recognize you?

You're quite welcome, I am glad you enjoyed the blog. ByranZ is a just a bit younger that I am (~20 if I recall), but honestly, he's done some things in the kitchen that I could only dream of. To me, technique-wise, he is one of the most talented home cooks on this site, regardless of age. And his presentations are beautiful as well. I'd say if there is any young eG'er to look out for in the food mags one day, it'd be him.

As for my name, I imagine there's no harm in sharing it. Who know's maybe I'll go one step further and post a picture in my blog finale. In my personalized apron. Yes, I am a nerd. :raz:

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Has it been a week already?

I was just getting into this!

Wait a minute: We saw your fabulous kitchen, but did we see the inside of your fridge?

(I think we did but am not sure.)

Anyway, it's been real fun living your life vicariously. I only wish I could have tasted it too!

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I'm very glad no one was hurt in that accident and I thank you for the blog -- I've enjoyed it even though my garden tomatoes are still little green blobs.

~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

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Wow, I'm glad to hear that you and your brother were ok after that accident. Even a minor accident can rattle you! It's good to know that the car's systems were working and did their job to protect you.

I admire your dinners and I am jealous of your garden - it's been a great blog!

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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Whoa! Glad you're more-or-less in one piece after that accident! Yeah, that is one helluva way to start one's day.

(What is it about blogs and Murphy's Law, anyway? :wacko: )

Thanks for a most excellent blog--keep on fooding like that, young man, and you will go far. :cool:

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Has it been a week already?

My thoughts exactly. And with the way the time has flown, I can hardly believe it. I've really enjoyed sharing a week in my food life (is there any other kind?) with y'all. You've seen the fridge, the kitchen, and the garden. Chicken-fried steak, tacos, and pistachio pesto. You have all provided such great comments/questions/discussions, and that has really kept this blog going. I just hope I kept up my end of the deal. There are, of course, a few pieces I just didn't have time to fit into the puzzle, most notably a BBQ pilgrimage to Lockhart, TX and a spontaneous chef's tasting meal at Le Reve, my favorite restaurant in San Antonio. I suppose, though, that I will live to eat (and blog!) another day.

Thanks for a most excellent blog--keep on fooding like that, young man, and you will go far. :cool:

That, ma'am, is exactly the plan. :wink: Keep on fooding, indeed...

Ciao for now

-- Aaron

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'Twas fun, ta muchly.

How long did you bake that caprese for? Long enough to melt the cheese, or long enough to 'stew' the tomatoes?

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Wonderful blog - I can't believe it's over!

I'm glad to hear you are well and safe. Take care, and enjoy the rest of your time in Texas with your family. I presume you'll be back to NYC to sample another few hundred of our finest restaurants!

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Wow another week gone. Thanks for a great week!

**************************************************

Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
    • By FoodMuse
      Hello everyone,
      eGullet was nice enough to invite me to write a food blog chronicling what I've made or eaten out for one week. I'm so excited about it! Thanks guys.
      About me:
      I dream about food, I wake thinking what's for dinner and I'm so excited to share it with you. I'm part of the food world in New York. By that, I just mean that I'm so fortunate enough to be invited to great events where I get to eat great food. I'm also a nerd and a part of the technology world. I produce, edit and sometimes host food related web videos and I'm also a part of the tech world.
      I'm launching a website called Please, Pass the Gravy. www.pleasepassthegravy.com We let you create a menu, invite friends and then collaborate on that menu. Never host another potluck with 8 pasta salads. You could use it now, but we're alpha launch, it works but it's ugly. It's my ugly baby. So, if you use it be kind and message me if you have improvement ideas. I thought it would be ok to write about it here because it is food related.
      I live in Brooklyn with a lovely guy who likes to eat and a small corgi mix dog. I cook pretty much every night and do a nice brunch on the weekend. I am not a crazy dog lady, but I do admit to cooking food for the dog. I have an excuse, beyond doting, he had seizures that have stopped since not feeding him dog food.
      Foods I cook:
      Spicy foods! If you look at my blog I have a simple papaya ketchup with habanero that is pretty darn good.
      I love great cheese. This may be the week for Beer Cheese Soup.
      I try to limit carbs, though I do cheat.
      In any given week C. and I probably eat cauliflower, broccoli and green beans as a side.
      Tonight's dinner will be Vietnamese inspired. We'll see how it goes. I'll post about it as soon as I can.
      Any requests? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.
      -Grace
    • By Duvel
      In these challenging times, a full summer vacation is not an easy task. For the last 1.5 years we have been mostly at home with the clear plan to visit Catalonia (or more precise my wife’s family) latest this summer. And it looked good for a while. Unfortunately, the recent rise in case numbers in Spain have resulted in …
       
      OK, let’s skip this part. Long story short - my wife and me are fully vaccinated, as are >90% of the people we care about in Catalonia. After some discussion (after all, Germans tend to prefer to be on the safe side of things) we simply fueled up the car, got each a test (for the transit through France) and started to drive …
       
      After a leisurely 11h drive we arrived at a small fishing town somewhat north of Barcelona around 3.00am. We unloaded the car and my wife an the little one went straight to bed. 
       

       


      I found an expired beer in the elsewise pretty empty fridge and enjoyed the cool breeze on the terrace. Holidays, here we come …
       

    • By liuzhou
      Last week, Liuzhou government invited a number of diplomats from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Poland, and Germany to visit the city and prefecture. They also invited me along. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday introducing the diplomats to the culture of the local ethnic groups and especially to their food culture.
       
      First off, we headed two hours north into the mountains of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County. The Miao people (苗族 miáo zú), who include the the Hmong, live in the mid-levels of mountains and are predominantly subsistence farmers. Our first port of call was the county town, also Rongshui (融水 róng shuǐ, literal meaning: Melt Water) where we were to have lunch. But before lunch we had to go meet some people and see their local crafts. These are people I know well from my frequent work trips to the area, but for the diplomats, it was all new.
       
      So, I had to wait for lunch, and I see no reason why you shouldn't either. Here are some of the people I live and work with.


       
      This lovely young woman is wearing the traditional costume of an unmarried girl. Many young women, including her, wear this every day, but most only on festive occasions.
       
      Her hat is made from silver (and is very heavy). Here is a closer look.
       

       
      Married women dispense with those gladrags and go for this look:
       

       
      As you can see she is weaving bamboo into a lantern cover.
       
      The men tend to go for this look, although I'm not sure that the Bluetooth earpiece for his cellphone is strictly traditional.
       

       
      The children don't get spared either
       

       
      This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General.
       
      After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures.
       

       

       
      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.
       


      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
       
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.
       

       
      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.
       

       
      On a nearby table is this
       

       
      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.
       

       
      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
       
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.
       

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
       
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.
       

       
      Let the eating, finally, begin.
       
      In no particular order:
       

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato
       

      Bamboo Shoots
       

      Duck
       

      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.
       

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery
       

      Stir fried pork and beans
       

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)
       

      Pig Ears
       

       
      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.
       

      Stir fried Greens
       
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
       
       
       
       
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
       
      Roll on dinner time.
       
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
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