Stolen Resolution

•January 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

today I ran across a blog I hadn’t read before, The Bitten Word.  Apparently I am the only one who hasn’t been reading it and I can see why,  already I am ready to make some boozy ice pops and can next years tomatoes whole in addition to the green tomato marmalade and pasta sauce I usually make.

Now I normally don’t make New Years resolutions but I like the idea they have of making food resolutions so I am going to steal theirs:

this year I will use more of the recipes that I collect from magazines

this year I will learn how to make more proper cocktails

and last, I will add my own resolution,

this year I will cook more at home

I hope

Return to The Deep

•December 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In our family Christmas revolves around a series of meals.  Christmas Eve we have an early snack with a cocktail at La Posada then after a variety of activities we have a lovely fish stew and crusty bread before opening one present.  On Christmas morning we have sticky buns, and sometimes almond and apricot breads, with bagels, cream cheese and lox and usually scrambled eggs, mimosas and coffee.  We graze throughout the day and then come dinner time we have a huge dinner featuring turkey, ham, tamales, and all the sides you can imagine; accompanied by wine, whiskey and two or three desserts.

To add to the general fanfare of the dinner my brother and I have been smoking our Christmas turkey to a rich golden color for the last several years.  This process, of course, involves my brine.

this year for a change my brother bought whiskey chips to smoke with and so not to be shown up I went with a whiskey (bourbon of course) brine.  Sub a bottle of cheap but reasonable bourbon (I went with Evan Williams) for wine and go to town.

The results were delicious.

Step it Up

•December 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

also known as happy hour at Siam Society

I never wanted to be one of those people who only wrote negative things about restaurants so let me begin by saying there are Portland restaurants that I love and those I tolerate and those I know have mediocre at best food but I eat there because it is convenient or quick or because I’m a little drunk.  Maybe I’ve become a little spoiled after living years in Portland where for $3 there  are a lot of places where I can get a good quality burger and fries during happy hour not to mention jambalaya, fish tacos, dollar beers and cheep pizzas.  That is the point of happy hour; something should be cheep and plentiful so that for a little money you can role home full and a little tipsy.

All this brings me to happy hour at Siam Society

We went early on a Sunday evening.  The bar was empty and the service was prompt.  The drink menu was interesting but happy hour only applied to well so my first cocktail ran a whopping $9 and my second was another $7.  My friend has suggested the place and said she wanted something healthy only there wasn’t anything like that on the happy hour menu.  Nothing special or grand and everything seemed somehow too expensive.  I thought about going for my old standby pot stickers but I couldn’t bear to pay $4.95 for just four.  I went for the steak burger, $6.95 plus a dollar more for cheese.  The burger comes a la carte so I added cheese and herb fries for $3 more.  My companion gave up on the diet and joined me.  Considering the grill time for a burger cooked to medium it took a bizarrely long time to get our plates.  When the plates arrived I saw that $3 worth of fries was barley a 1/2 cup but the burger seemed alright to look at and at its side, in addition to the traditional tomato, onion and lettuce, was a nice mound of sliced jalapenos.  The ciabatta but was completely unobjectionable and the burger itself was soft and juicy with a delicious hint of Thai spices.  I would have appreciated knowing about those spice because I might have skipped the Gorgonzola, the only cheese option, which was a miss if the aim was seamless fusion.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t mind paying if the food is worth it.  When Couvron was still in Goose Hollow I saved budgeted to I could take my and a friend out for dinner and pay for the $75 prix fixe menu with the $55 dollar wine tasting for both of us.  But this is happy hour, its meant to be affordable.  Sure the burger was good but it wasn’t great and for the almost $11 it cost I could of had a great burger any number of places off a dinner menu.  When I added in a six dollar scoop of ice cream it was a $33 dollar meal before tip.  I could have forgiven the price if anything but the cardamon ice cream had seemed interesting, super tasty or special, but nothing was.

this is my message to Portland.  We live in a great food city and you can’t just rest on your laurels of previous fame or a good reputation ’cause there is a guy with a food cart who can do what you do and he would love a chance to take your place.

Urban Fondue

•December 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment
Gorgonzola cheese

Image via Wikipedia

Last night was my friend Stacy’s birthday.  For forever she has wanted to go to The Melting Pot for the all fondue meal, I have repeatedly talked her out of it.  But last night was her birthday so when she said let’s go the Urban Fondue I had to say yes.

Let me start by saying that I love fondue or raclette, pretty much any melty gooey cheese thing does it for me so my main objections to this plan were simply economic: even if you skip cocktails, which we all know I wouldn’t, you are in it for at least $30.

The atmosphere is lovely.  Deep red walls glow in the soft romantic lighting, the high backed booths surrounding the marble tables make everything seem intimate.  I had done a little research beforehand and knew the program but others in our small group were confused by the endless options and requirements that came with ordering our meal.  Cheese fondue starters are $11.95 and serve two, they come with bread but for an additional $5 or so you can add sides like sauteed mushrooms or sausage.  We had the Brie and Gorgonzola with Hazelnuts and the Ruby Port Fondue which was made with white cheddar, Swiss and Gruyere with caramelized onions and port.  The pot of Brie cheese was decidedly decadent, subtly flavored and the hazelnuts added a nice bit of crunch.  The Ruby Port fondue was delicious as well but maybe a bit grainy, probably a result of the grinding down of the onions.

The entree’s didn’t go quite as well.  The tables are small and they recommend that you choose only one or two of the “cooking styles” per table.  We went with Seasoned Firepot and though it was supposed to contain everything from fennel to clam broth it seemed rather viscous and bland.  The “entrees” came out ala carte, so we received small plates of raw chicken and beef with lobster each decorated with three sad slices of slightly off vegetable.  I’m sure they checked first but it seems a little unsanitary to cook beef for only thirty seconds when it is sitting right next to chicken which has just started its 3 minuets of cooking.  They say the lobster was fresh but it seemed a bit fresh frozen to me, with the meat being poorly apportioned, stiff and bland.   The beef was of such low quality that even cooking it rare left an impossibly flavorless and chewy mouthful.  We actually need the half dozen sauces the server produced to make it tasty enough to eat.

and oh lord don’t get me started on the cocktails.  Note to the bartender powdered cinnamon should not be sprinkled on bourbon and an old fashioned is not a juice based cocktail nor does it come with lime.

we skipped dessert

I might comeback for happy hour, have a cheese starter and a glass of wine but I would never eat dinner there again.  For $52 dollars before tip I left sober and hungry so we headed over to our local pub to finish celebrating in proper style.


I Love Pizza

•December 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Its a thing.  I shouldn’t eat it and when I’m minding my diet I don’t eat it a lot but I think that pizza is nearly the perfect food.  I get it, its not fancy.  But beer and a pizza, that’s a party, even if its not one you want to wear your good shoes to.

Portland has a lot of pizza options.   From the infamous Pizza Scholls to the the less than mediocre national chains.  There are plenty of places that I like but right now I am particularly enamored with Amalfi’s.  Amalfi’s is a NE standard and has been for decades.  When I was a child my grandparents would take me there for pizza and though they are cleaner bigger and nicer now the pizza remains the same: delicious.

The crust is thin but not cracker thin and is buttery and pastry like.  The toppings are fresh and plentiful without being overwhelming and the cheese is ooey gooey goodness.

The rest of their food menu is just ok though they do feature a delicious garlic bleu cheese dressing for their salads.  The cocktail menu features many a delicious item, my favorite is the Cowboy Cassidy (bourbon and ginger oh my), and they know how to make a beverage right.  If your drinkin’ though the best bang for your buck is the sangria, $10 gets you a half carafe of red boozyness.

they also have a respectable happy hour that is worth a visit to check it out.  They have mini pizzas (about 6″), buffalo shrimp and garlic cheese bread among many items on their cheep food menu.

but the key to Amalfis is

um yay! Pizza

Thanksgiving

•November 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Into the Briney Deep

•November 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment
Thanksgiving Dinner

Image by The Vault DFW via Flickr

This year is a big Thanksgiving in my family, for the first time in 15 years the whole family will be together for the holiday.

It should be very interesting.

The festivities will be at my sisters house in Sacramento.  For me this is the usual state of affairs, I have been coming down to California to cook Thanksgiving dinner with my sister for nearly a decade now.  When we first started we were too single girls having a good time (we did learn after the first year not to have too good a time the night before) and now she is married with two kids (I’m still having a good time) but the meal has remained almost the same.  The centerpieceto this meal is a well brined turkey.

Brine is a simple thing but it changes your turkey into a flavorful and surprisingly moist bird that will have your diners talking (true story).  There are a lot of different ideas about brine but the recipe I use, adapted from a Caprial’s recipe I found in the Oregonian, has proved to be delicious year after year.  The basics are simple:

1 cup kosher salt and a 1/2 cup brown sugar for every gallon of liquid.

The liquid remains in question.  I have read repeatably that you cant taste the flavor of the brining liquid but I beg to differ.  We use a mix of:

apple cider, 2 parts, and white wine, 1 part, which adds a delicate air of apple to the bird

Put it all in the largest pot you have.  add:

onion, cut into quarters but no need to peel

garlic cloves, smashed but no need to peel either

a small handful of whole peppercorns,

fresh herbs, whatever are the flavors you prefer to use on your bird usually rosemary, sage and thyme

warm on the stove until highly aromatic but not boiling.  Cool.  Once the liquid is cold immerse your, cleaned turkey in it and leave overnight in a refrigerator.  The next day remove your bird from the brine and rinse clean in cold water, make sure to thoroughly remove any traces of the brine.  Season and cook the bird as you normally would but DO NOT ADD ANY SALT, seriously.

this make the most delicious turkey and keeps it form becoming dry.