Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Riding out ahead of the culinary trend line

El Camino. LEO photo by Frankie Steele.
For this week's dining column in  LouisvilleHotBytes.com and LEO Weekly, I take a look at a national survey of chefs and find that our town is riding out ahead of the trend line in a number of eats-industry measures.
What's up, Chef?
Next year's food trends are old stuff here
Is this town trendy or what? For foodies, I mean. I understand Louisville has the reputation as a place where the latest fashion trends arrive five years after they're oh-so dead in New York. But when it comes to food, if the National Restaurant Association's 2014 Culinary Forecast is any guide, we're not only on top of most national eats trends but we also have already seen a few of them crest, surf over the top and fall back.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Thai-style green curry with Beyond Meat grilled "chicken" strips

I was very happy with this quick Thai-style green curry with @BeyondMeat grilled "Chicken-Free Strips" that I tossed together for dinner tonight.  Almost too simple for a recipe, it involved tearing  into bite-size shreds, browning them briefly in peanut oil, then making the curry base with sauteed onions, diced red and green bell pepper, and minced garlic and ginger olus salt, red and black pepper, until the onions were good and browned; add a half-cup coconut milk plus a dab of Thai green curry paste, shot of soy, a bit of tomato paste, a dollop of sambal oelek and a squirt of lemon juice. When the veggies are done and the creamy sweet-hot coconut sauce has come together, check seasoning, stir in the "chicken" strips, warm through, and serve over hot rice.  That's all there is to it.  Definitely yum-worthy.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mmmmushroom risotto ...

Mushroom risotto!
I made risotto for a small crowd tonight, more than doubling our usual ration for two, and it worked out very well.  Its rich brown color reflects the presence of brown domestic mushrooms and plenty of reconstituted dried porcinis, a fresh mushroom broth incorporating the concentrated porcini soaking water, and, of course, a load of deeply browned onions, bringing the color and delicious flavor of caramelized onions and garlic to the party.

Since we were hosting a small business meeting, I decided to cook the risotto to near completion, just short of al dente, before our guests arrived, then put on a lid and left it at room temperature for an hour or so, returning at dinner time to finish it over heat with a little more mushroom broth, butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano.  I hoped this wouldn't post an unacceptable risk, and as it turned out, the finished product's texture was fine. I think it was more prudent to do it this way than it would have been to finish it early and then try to reheat.

So, this approach worked well for me, but there's always room to learn. If you've tried pre-cooking risotto and then finishing it later, I'd love to hear your tips and techniques.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Mmm, fennel-scented Italian sausage and pasta

Huh-huh, he said "sausage," Beavis. Or he said Lightlife Smart Sausages® Italian Style, anyway, a plant-based "meat" that's aromatic and fennel-scented and looks, tastes and feels so much like real Italian sausage that it's hard to believe it wasn't carved from the side of a pig. But it wasn't, and that's a good thing on several levels, from the health thing to the humane thing.

The dish was quick and easy, too easy to require a real recipe.  I thawed a block of our summer garden tomato sauce, portioned and frozen for just this sort of winter dinner, and cooked up the sausage, sliced into rounds, with the tomato sauce, a bunch of browned onions and garlic in a little olive oil, and black and red pepper and salt. Oh, yeah, and a hit of fennel pollen (or you could grind a little fennel seed) to kick the fennel flavor up another notch.  Boil spaghetti, drain spaghetti, dress pasta with the sauce and put a simple green salad on the side, and dinner is done.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Meaty" flavor in a plant-based red lentil dal

Red lentils, boosted by browned onions and plenty of Indian spice, make about as “meaty” a meatless dish as I can imagine. Filling and heart-warming, this is one of the most enjoyable variations on Indian dal (lentil soup) that I’ve come across yet.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Spaghetti with spinach, garlic butter and Parmigiano

This quick and easy dinner made a delicious light evening meal for Christmas Eve. When butter is a serious player in the flavor mix, I recommend using the best quality butter you can find. Fresh locally produced butter from hormone- and antibiotic-free milk is mighty fine, although I was plenty happy with tonight's choice, Delitia of Parma from Emilia-Romagna.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Pilafy or Biryanish?

Veggie pilaf-biryani
Call it pilaf or call it biryani, it's really a little of both, I guess, this stovetop rice and veggie dish that I put together tonight, using the stovetop technique for a Southwest Asian pilaf, more or less, but flavors that I'd associate with a South Indian biryani.  Given the Silk Road historical connections between Persia and the -stans and India, it's not surprising that the cuisines meet and mingle with mutual affection.

It was a simple enough dish that I threw together from what was available to make dinner for two:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Indian delights kissed with primal fire

For this week's LouisvilleHotBytes.com dining column in LEO Weekly, we visit a new Indian restaurant in suburban Middletown called Clay Pot, prompting a reverie on the primal fire of the classic Indian tandoori oven.
Clay Oven fires up Indian goodies 
Ponder this: An Indian cooking technique based on clay pot principles as old as civilization can generate temperatures up to a roaring 900 degrees F. That's hot enough to put even your neighborhood pizza oven to shame, and it's even hotter than your home oven gets when it's self-cleaning at full-blast and locked up for your protection.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Radical Christianity in Pope Francis and the Song of Mary

"If you think of the mother of Jesus as a sweet, submissive figure, take a closer look at the words this teen-aged Palestinian woman sang when the angel tells her she would be the mother of God: '… he has scattered the proud … brought down the powerful … lifted up the lowly … filled the hungry with good things … sent the rich away empty.'  This divine command links Torah and the Gospels. It is the command that Jesus explicitly asks of those who follow his way."(1)

Reflecting on the Magnificat or Song of Mary, a reading from the first chapter of Luke's gospel that's also offered as Canticle 15 in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer in the Episcopal Church, I thought of Pope Francis and the well-deserved acclaim he has been receiving for the fresh air he is bringing in to his church.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fennel gratin makes a warming winter dinner

Fennel and onion gratin.
When I was a kid, I hated licorice with every fiber of my being. In our family, bad children were threatened not with a lump of coal in our Christmas stocking but the evil reward of nasty black licorice. Ick.

But my first trip to France introduced me to the joys of Pernod, Ricard and other anise-scented liquors - not licorice at all, but something much more delicious. And in an adult beverage! And then further travel across Provence and into Italy revealed the wonders of fennel - perhaps the most subtle and delicious member of the whole licorice/anise/fennel family - and I was a convert. Fennel in sausage, fennel in risotto, fennel as a base for fish, thin-sliced fennel in a crisp salad? It's all good.

Tonight, armed with a big, fresh fennel bulb, I threw together a warming fennel gratin.

I pulled the cork, and there was THE BLOB ...

Any old Port in a storm?

So you want to enjoy a mature, well-aged wine without spending a bundle, but you can't afford a temperature-controlled wine cellar?  Go with Madeira, most any savvy wine geek will advise. As far back as the 15th century, the sturdy wines of this Portuguese-ruled Atlantic island were being built to survive ocean voyages and last for the long haul.

This good advice still holds. But the savvy wine geek's usual second suggestion, Vintage Port, takes a bit more analysis.  Vintage Port, or "VP" to those who know it well enough to use nicknames, can last for generations indeed. But to find a keeper requires a little knowledge and a lot of good advice. The producer's record and, perhaps even more important, the vintage, matter.

I wrapped up a 12-year experiment the other day, pulling cork from the second bottle of a Duff Gordon 1994 Port that I had originally purchased and first sampled in 2001, then kept on a wine rack in a cool but not cellar-quality home location since.

Cutting to the chase, when I pulled the cork, the wine was still drinkable, if a bit light and thin.

And then I noticed The Blob!

What is this gross thing?

Find out in this week's 30 Second Wine Advisor, now online and en route to subscribers' Email boxes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cincinnati chili: No hating, please!

Our homemade Cincy "five-way."
Actually, I really don’t get the fear and loathing that the idea of Cincinnati chili evokes in some people. Mention this stick-to-your-ribs regional delight, and those of us who didn’t grow up with it (or its Louisville cousin, “chili con carne” over spaghetti without the aromatic spices) generally go “eeeuuuwww” and then burst into an angry rant.

What’s to rant about? From a food anthropology standpoint, it may help to recognize that this is just another strain of immigrant cuisine working its way into the American melting pot.  Displaced Greek and Bulgarian refugees came to Cincinnati after World War II, and some of them opened restaurants.  Unfortunately, the good burghers of the Queen City (then, as now, more conservative than we are down the river) weren’t having any furrin’ food.  So the canny entrepreneurs re-purposed their traditional spaghetti with meat sauce and called it “chili,” and hungry Cincinnatians, recognizing it by that name,  ate it right up.

That’s more or less how it happened, I’m pretty sure.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

So, how did you find Cheddar Box Too?

Pan-seared salmon salad at Cheddar Box Too.
LEO photo by Frankie Steele.
This week, we visit Cheddar Box Too for my dining review on LouisvilleHotBytes.com and in LEO Weekly. This pleasant, sunny little lunch spot in St. Matthews opened last year, sibling to the original Cheddar Box, just across the parking lot, which has been vending box lunches and desserts to go for more than 30 years.
Cheddar Box? Cheddar Box, Too 
My friend Tom has been in Louisville for a few months now, and he knows his way around pretty well. But he got a little confused when we got together for lunch the other day at Cheddar Box Too. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

$10 recession-busting French red

Delas 2012 Ventoux
Delas 2012 Ventoux
I keep reading that the long-running recession is over. A news flash just came in! "Economy Added 203,000 Jobs in November; Unemployment Falls to 5-Year Low!"

Funny I'm not feeling that, though, and neither are most people I know.  Recession, Schmecession:  We're not all out at wine auctions buying Domaine de la Romanée-Conti or Screaming Eagle or whatever today's trophy du jour might be. But show me a decent, interesting red wine that goes well with food and bears a modest $10 price tag, and I'm all over it.

Check out my tasting report on the $9.99 Delas 2012 Ventoux in today's 30 Second Wine Advisor. You'll also find a link to a fine holiday benefit, a 10 percent savings code from our good friends at California Wine Club, and a repeat of last week's links to Steve and Deborah De Long's first-rate Wine Map of Italy, along with their other display-quality wine maps and their offbeat, intriguing Wine Grape Varietal Table.

It's all in this week's 30 Second Wine Advisor, now online and en route to subscribers' Email boxes.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Healthy is tasty at Earth Friends Cafe

The breakfast naan quesadilla at Earth Friends Cafe.
This week's @TheVoiceTribune review from LouisvilleHotBytes.com takes us to Earth Friends Cafe for healthy, tasty fare.  Here's the intro. Click the links below to go to the full review.
’Tis the season ... no, I’m not talking about that season.  ’Tis the season for spectacular over-eating, indulging ourselves a the delicious risk of life and health because, well, that’s what we do at holiday time. 
If you’re ready for a break, though, or plan to be later, allow me to suggest a trip to Earth Friends Cafe & Coffee Bar, where virtuous dining can also be delicious.  Now, the menu here offers a lot of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and other genres here that may sound abstemious. But Earth Friends offers options for the omnivorous, too.  
Read my full review on LouisvilleHotBytes.com or click here to find it in the Voice-Tribune.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Come on down to Eiderdown in Germantown

Eiderdown, one of my favorite casual Louisville restaurants, seems a perfect fit for the city's Germantown neighborhood.  Here's the intro to my review for LEO Weekly and LouisvilleHotBytes.com this week. Hit the links at the end for the full report.

ImageIs Eiderdown German? Is Germantown German?
LEO's Eats with Robin Garr

Ah, Germantown, that lovable little urban neighborhood. Who can drive, stroll or bike through its tidy streets of shotgun houses and sturdy brick storefronts without feeling connected with our city’s German heritage? 

Don’t look too closely, though. Back in the day - way back in the day, the 1840s - a tide of German immigrants (and, a bit later, their Irish cousins) washed over Louisville, whose earlier first families, established and conservative folks of English stock, didn’t particularly welcome them.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Frittata with celery, onions, garlic and Grana Padano.
So what, other than the obvious point that one is French and the other Italian, is the difference between an omelet and a frittata?  There's no denying that the finished product is similar, but the results certainly aren't identical. Nevertheless, I like them both.

The key to me is that an omelet is made over screeching high heat and takes only a minute or two to fashion from start to finish. It's the 50-yard dash of egg dishes.  Call the frittata a mile run, then:  It's cooked low and slow and gently develops its texture over 15 minutes or so of gentle cooking on stovetop or in the oven.

But yeah, they're both essentially a round, flat delight fashioned from eggs and filling ingredients.  Either way, what's not to like?

All hail the satsuma!

Fresh satsuma!
There's something that both fascinates and frustrates me about the seasonality of fresh fruit (and veggies, too!)  There is probably a life lesson in the patience that's required to wait for the annual arrival of fresh local peaches, ripe garden tomatoes, juicy fresh figs, and, as the season moves on, ripe pears, and now satsumas, the one variety of tangerine so good that I would rather wait for its short December-January season than eat the others.

Seedless, easy to peel, sweet juice nicely contained in tight segments that don't leak all over your hands ... what's not to like?  I eat them by the sack full while I can, then declare it a season and wait for next year.

Sometimes I wish all these luscious items were available all year 'round (and I'm not talking about the rock-hard, trucked-in substitutes bred for shipping durability but not for texture or flavor, either!)

But suppose we could have satsumas - or ripe local peaches, tomatoes and all our other favorites - all 12 months of the year. Would they still taste as sweet?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fettuccine in mushroom ragù with pistachios

Fettuccine in mushroom ragù with pistachios
I keep threatening to make a savory dish using shelled pistachios, and what I have in mind is something like a textured pistachio cream, maybe studded with ... something else? Over rice? Pasta? This is clearly still a work in progress.

In preparation for it, I recently shelled a good quantity of pistachios and have them stored in a tightly sealed glass jar. Tonight, in the mood to fashion an intense mushroom sauce for pasta, I decided to garnish it with some of the pistachios, and I'm happy to say it worked out very well.

It's still a mushroom sauce with pistachios, though, not a pistachio sauce, but never mind. It was good, and it went beautifully with a funky artisanal Loire delight, Puzelat-Bonhomme 2012 Touraine Pinot Noir. Here's how it came together:

Tis the season for wine books and more

De Long Wine Map of Italy.
I'm enjoying a quiet day at home today, savoring memories of yesterday's feasting and sharing thanks and gratitude with friends.  No mall for me! But I admit it ... I did go online and look for some good reading material about wine and other things.

Want to do some Black Friday work from home?  My 30 Second Wine Advisor column for this week features links to Steve and Deborah De Long's first-rate Wine Map of Italy, along with their other display-quality wine maps and their offbeat, intriguing Wine Grape Varietal Table.

You'll also find links to three serious recent books about Italian wine, and  my tasting report on Bersano 2010 "Costalunga" Barbera d'Asti, in this week's 30 Second Wine Advisor.

Quick link to buy De Long's Wine Map of Italy for $29.95.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The red and the black ... pepper, that is

Back around 1986 or thereabouts, when I had the very happy occasion of meeting Cajun Chef Paul Prudhomme at his K Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen for an interview for the old Louisville Times, we got to spend a little time in his kitchen banging some skillets around, and he gave me a handful of cooking tips that I’ve never forgotten.

One of the best of those tips was so simple that I do it routinely, without even thinking much about it: When you want to make a hot-and-spicy dish, don’t just go for the fire, but think about your ingredients and bring together piquant flavors that support each other while adding a bit of complexity to the heat.  

Specifically, don't just use red or black pepper but build a mix. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Scrambled eggs ... with cabbage!?

Don't be too quick to assume that this odd-sounding combination won't work! I ran across this recipe in Summer Tomato, a foodie blog that I enjoy, and thought the idea of quickly sauteeing thin-sliced cabbage, hitting it with a shot of soy sauce, then gently scrambling fresh free-range eggs around it might be good.

Unable to leave well-enough alone, I kicked Summer Tomato's recipe up a notch or two by building in some aromatic flavors and just a touch of piquant fire to give it a cross-Asian touch that reached from India to South China.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Love me some risotto

Got leftovers? Make a risotto! This simple procedure almost always works for me, and it was just fine for dinner tonight when the larder revealed a little "tree" of broccoli and an aging part-head of cabbage.  Clean 'em up, parboil 'em, then make a quick risotto with butter, onions and garlic and arborio rice, adding in the cabbage toward the end and the broccoli florets, just long enough to heat through, with a handful of grated Grana Padano cheese at the end.  It's simple and reasonably quick, and with a little practice, the idea that risotto is a complicated dish requiring constant attention goes away.

Yeah, it requires some attention, but it's worth the 25-minute effort. It really is!

Is poverty intractible? Economist lists seven solutions

According to Luke's gospel, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor.”  Period. But many of us who consider ourselves even modestly well-off may find it easier to hear Matthew’s version, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” 

The affluent tend to find the latter approach more comfortable, Episcopal priest and retired U.S. Navy Chaplain George Clifford writes in his blog, “Ethical Musings,” because “spiritualizing Jesus' teaching saps those teachings of their revolutionary demands that we care for the least among us.”

In the midst of affluence and rampant consumerism, one in every six Americans lives in poverty.  Should that matter to the rest of us? What should we do to address the gap between America’s rich and poor? What can we do?

Are you being persecuted?

"Did someone threaten your life, safety,
civil liberties, or right to worship?
This question comes up every holiday season when talk radio starts blaring about the “War on Christmas.” 

Now blogger Rachel Held Evans (who I had the great pleasure of meeting and hearing in the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church Dimensions of Faith series last month)  thought she would help everyone out with this handy chart. (She asks that we offer thanks to Ryan Richardson for making it look good.)


What do you think? Is it a generous gesture to wish our Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or non-believing friends a warm “Happy Holidays,” or should we expect them to adopt our holiday so as not to persecute us?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Quick pepper beef with snow peas

The other night I was in the mood for some comforting, easy Chinese-American restaurant-style pepper beef with snow peas, and threw together a quick and easy version that hit the spot ... and went very nicely with a cheap red wine, a Delas 2012 Ventoux from Provence.

I used @Gardein brand "beefless tips," an excellent beef-like wheat gluten-and-soy analogue, great for those who enjoy beef but don't want to sacrifice a cow to eat it; but of course you could use stewing beef or even ground beef formed as mini meatballs if you don't mind about the animal thing.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Economic recovery: The 99 percent get lunch

"The Roy" mortadella and cheddar sandwich
at Jackknife Cafe. LEO photo by Frankie Steele.
My weekly dining review on LouisvilleHotBytes.com and in LEO Weekly takes us to two appealing and reasonably affordable new lunch spots in the booming corridor east of downtown Louisville.

Here's the top of the story. Click to the links below for the full reviews.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hello, dal

Red-lentil dal with fennel slaw and basmati rice.
"Dal," a.k.a. "Daal" or "Dahl," is a simple Indian dish, a soup or stew made of lentils and, most often, garlic, ginger, butter or oil and an array of spices.  Indian comfort food, it's easy to make and delicious to eat.  I like it best with red lentils, which cook up more quickly than green or brown to make a consoling mash that reminds me more than a little of the other side of the world's answer to Mexican frijoles.

Tonight I made a batch for dinner, and it was as simple as this:

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Are you going to finish those brussels sprouts?"

Korean roasted brussels sprouts
with basmati rice
Ever since I tasted Chef Tyler Morris's Korean roasted brussels sprouts at Louisville's Rye on Market last month, I've been meaning to try to fashion something along these lines myself.  Tonight, after I ran across a really pretty set of small, fresh B sprouts at Paul's Market today, I finally got around to doing so, and all I have to say is, "Mmmmm."

As I said in my review, these little round green critters aren't easy for most of us to like. "Overcook them and they get stenchy. Undercook them and they stay hard, without the saving grace of crunch. And no matter what you do with them, it seems, they remain, well, tiny cabbages."

And so it goes. Still, armed with my memories of Rye's treat, and a little Googling that led to several variations on a similar dish created by Chef David Chang at Momofuku, I made up a batch. I don't claim that it's a clone of Morris's version, or Chang's, but it's my own, and it was good.

Mmmmmuffuletta!

So I had a crave for a real New Orleans-style muffuletta today, and happily, dear old Lotsa Pasta makes one that's a fair match for the iconic Central Grocery model in the Crescent City.  I didn't want fatty cold cuts, though, so I talked them into making me a plant-based model instead.

Nice puffy fresh-baked ciabatta bun, check!  Thick slice of funky provolone, check! NOLA-style olive salad and plenty of it, check!  Now, hold the greasy sausage, but slather me on a nice thick schmear of tasty, protein-rich and gently spicy black-bean puree instead.  Slice it, wrap it ($5.50, more than fair) and lug it home. Lunch is served!

I was going to split it and save the other half for tomorrow's lunch, but I couldn't quit eating until it was gone. Mmmmmuffuletta!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mamma mia, it's a fried pie!

Fried pie might sound like just about the fattiest, most unhealthy (yet strangely seductive) thing that one could imagine, and the stakes go even higher when we start talking about fried pizza pie.  But Louisville's Boombozz Pizza, locally for more than 15 years of thinking outside the pizza box, offers a crunchy, crispy, grease-free version that's mighty hard to resist.

Check out my review on LouisvilleHotBytes.com and in this week's Voice-Tribune.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A food critic walks into a Bar Belle ...

Birria de borrego (pork shoulder) at El Camino.
LEO photo by Frankie Steele.
 ... and hilarity ensued as we compared contrasting notes on El Camino, the hot new Cali-Mex eatery and watering hole in the former Avalon venue on Bardstown Road that's run by the same folks who brought us the mega-popular Silver Dollar.

Here's the intro. Click the link at the end to read my full report on El Camino at LouisvilleHotBytes.com and Leoweekly.com.

No, Bar Belle! El Camino is surfin' good

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What does the Swedish word IKEA mean in English?

Google Translate applet
Why, no. I am just putting together a simple little kitchen chair. Why do you ask?

Monday, November 11, 2013

I'm a veteran. Please don't thank me.


 November 11: Day Of Peace, Veterans Day, Origami Day, Sundae Day
It's Veterans Day, and I'm a veteran of (Vietnam-era) wartime service in the U.S. Air Force, but I was never in harm's way - a situation that I did everything in my power to ensure. Over the many years since, I have been much more attuned to pacifism than war-making.

I am very uncomfortable with being thanked for my service, so please don't do that. Rather than glorifying war by treating veterans as the heroes and heroines that very few of us were, let's work to end war instead.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Deconstructed eggplant-chik’n parmigiana

Earlier today I wrote about Food TV personality Alton Brown’s article in Wired, “Tastes Like Chicken,” featuring #BeyondMeat grilled chicken-free strips.

Then it occurred to me that this was as good an excuse as any to make dinner with some of the soy-and-pea-protein analogue that’s been getting a lot of attention lately. It really does taste like chicken, and its producers are building a serious case that high quality meat analogues aren’t just a thing for vegetarians, but could represent a significant increase in world food sustainability by producing a tasty, “meaty” protein alternative made from plants at a fraction the expense of raising meat. 

Even without non-trivial issues of health and humaneness being taken into account, that could be big.

Tastes almost like chik'n, says Alton Brown

When it comes to Beyond Meat chicken-free strips (which I've praised before), the wacky host of the late, lamented Good Eats and Iron Chef America seems mighty impressed.

Brown wrote a long article for Wired Magazine recently, highlighting a visit to Beyond Meat's production facility and his thoughts on the environmental and health benefits if  "analogue" meats can be perfected in a world of billions.

Breakfast of champions!

Fresh fruit - varies with the season - and plain, unsweetened yogurt ... okay, just a dab of brown sugar to kick it up a notch.

This morning's feast, a juicy ripe Bartlett pear, blueberries and pomegranate. Healthy and delicious ... what's not to like?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wine-label inflation ... when does "close" count?

Not quite Chateauneuf 

I don't want to over-state my irritation here:  Domaine Olivier Hillaire makes a fine Châteauneuf-du-Pape and an excellent Côtes du Rhône, the subject of today's tasting inquiry.

But in an age marred by advertising excess and marketing hype, I feel a need to push back a bit when I read a back label brag that goes like this:

"From vines located just across the Rhône River from Châteauneuf-du-Pape."

Uh huh. Back in my snarky youth, we used to have a saying, "'Close' only counts with horseshoes and H-bombs." Otherwise, as another old saying goes, a miss is as good as a mile. Generally, a miss literally is a mile when it comes to wine appellations.

Winemaker poisons wine to kill thief

Well, this is ugly ... what do you think about the ethics (and legality) of this winery-defense strategy, covered in The Daily News Fetch on Lewis Perdue's Drinks Business?

I can certainly feel the sense of outrage and violation that comes with being the victim of a thief. But I can't ethically, morally or theologically support the idea of killing a thief over property, particularly in this setting where death is dealt entirely in the name of revenge. 
Winemaker kills thief with poisoned wine

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Trans fat ban!

Whoa! This is big, and frankly, given that trans fats are right up there with cigarettes in terms of their direct and immediate danger to human health being beyond proven, I think this proposed federal ban is a good and gutsy move.


In today’s political environment, though, there’s bound to be pushback, both from big industry with its deep pockets, and from the large number of everyday Americans who’ve drunk enough right-wing Kool-Aid to be prepared to believe the worst of government, even in the face of a public-health proposal well rooted in scientific evidence to the contrary.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Good eats make good neighbors in 'restaurant clusters'

LEO Weekly's Dining Guide 2013 is out this week!  The intro to my article is below, with a link to the full story online. For more, the following link will take you to LouisvilleHotBytes.com contributor Marsha Lynch's lead story and all the other goodies now on LEO news stands around town.

What helps one helps all
Good eats make good neighbors in 'restaurant clusters'
LEO's Dining Guide 2013

Garage Bar in NuLu
Birds of a feather flock together, it is said. And now it appears that maybe restaurants do, too. For many generations, after all, the dining scene that our parents and grandparents knew required a trip downtown for that special dining-out occasion. Neighborhood dining was largely limited to your friendly corner bar and grill, a diner or cafeteria or maybe a Woolworth's lunch counter, or perhaps one of the city's early pizzerias or chop-suey joints.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Eeeeuuuwww! The anatomy of McRib

It's worth clicking through to read the full story about how and why McDonald's restaurants failed in Bolivia and left the South American country after a 12-year run of economic losses.  

But I can't help but lift out this delicious (not!) discussion of what actually goes into the McRib:
The McRib: 70 ingredients all restructured into one
Did you know that the McRib is processed with 70 different ingredients which include azodicarbonamide, a flour-bleaching agent often used in producing foamed plastics? McRibs are basically "restructured meat technology" containing a mixture of tripe, heart, and scalded stomach. Proteins are extracted from this muscle mixture and they bind the pork trimmings together so they can be molded in a factory. The McRib is really just a molded blob of restructured meat, advertised and sold like fresh ribs. There's nothing real about it, the preparation or the substance. In fact, McRibs really came about because of a chicken shortage. The restructured meat technology approach kept the McRib on the menu, despite the shortage, and the profits continued rolling in. 
All together now: Eeeuuuwww!

Click to read the FoodMatters article, "Finally! A Whole Nation Rejects McDonalds."

Monday, November 4, 2013

A poem for autumn

The days are growing short and dark.
It makes me want to whine and bark.

That is all. K, tnx.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Quick Thai-style curry how-to

Thai-style curry with green peppers and tofu,
made with plenty of coconut milk to eat with rice.
Here's how to make a quick Thai-style curry with pretty much whatever you have on hand.  I don't guarantee that it's 100 percent authentic, but by keeping small jars of Thai red curry and Thai green curry and a few small cans of coconut milk in the larder, I can whip up a dish on short notice that reminds me a lot of Thai restaurant food, and I don't even have to go out!

Tonight's version was very simple, using green peppers, onions and tomatoes and some leftover tofu as the base ingredients.  You can use just about anything:  Meat, poultry or seafood, tofu or faux meat, or just-plain veggies. When our garden is producing, I'll often make an entire curry based on green beans sliced into bite-size pieces, or cubes of fresh eggplant.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Jacques Aux Lanterne becomes dinner

R.I.P. Jacques. Monsieur Aux-Lanterne, who gave his all for Halloween and now serves in a finer way as potiron rotie: Pumpkin, potatoes and onions tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and snipped fresh sage, then roasted 45 minutes at 450F.

A fine match with an offbeat Loire red, peppery and tart, Puzelat 2012 Touraine Pineau d'Aunis.

Fascinating wind map of the U.S.

This is beautiful. and it makes you think of our atmosphere in a whole new way.  Click this link to see it the nation's wind patterns in dancelike motion.

(Click the hotlink, that is, not the map picture, which is merely self-referential.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Chicken (or, okay, Beyond Meat grilled chicken-free strips, whatever) sauteed with green peppers and onions in Parma butter with a lot of black pepper made for a great, simple, Italian-style dinner over spaghetti.  Fine with a simple Barolo from Trader Joe's, a bit thin and tart, Rocca dell'Olmo at $14, but the kind of simple Italian table wine that made me happy when I was young ... and still does.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Make Mine Grilled Cheese, Pleese!

Grilled cheese! What better comfort food for blustery autumn days?  For this week's LouisvilleHotBytes review in The Voice-Tribune, I check out the delicious variations on this traditional sandwich at two local spots:  The new Atlantic No. 5 (son of RYE) on West Main, and the newly launched weekend brunch at Bourbons Bistro.
VOICE-TRIBUNE Review by Robin Garr
Grilled cheese at Atlantic No. 5Ahh, it finally feels like autumn, and I’m thinking of comfort food. This nostalgic meme rarely attaches itself to the light, low-calorie and cooling dishes of summer. “Comfort” means stews and hearty soups, spaghetti and meatballs or maybe a thick pan of lasagna – the kinds of warming, stick-to-your-ribs dishes that Mom used to make, or at least you wish she had. 

Nor need comfort food be complicated or hard to cook. Consider, if you will, the simple grilled cheese sandwich. Recently, in discovering one delightful new spot and one appetizing new weekend brunch at a familiar spot, I’ve encountered new takes on a grilled cheese capable of winning the people’s ovation and fame forever.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Food stamp cuts matter to real people. What will you do?

Funding for federal food stamps will shrink by $5 billion this week, and the pain may not stop there, says the Wonk Blog at The Washington Post.

Brad Plumer writes:
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) currently costs about $80 billion per year and provides food aid to 14 percent of all U.S. households — some 47 million people. Those numbers swelled dramatically during the recession.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Broccoli and cheese pasta

Simple comfort food:  Trim fresh broccoli into florets and cut the stems into thin slices and small dice.  Blanch until crisp-tender, shock with cold water to stop cooking while they're still bright green, and set aside.

Start short pasta (I used penne rigate), and make a quick Mornay sauce with a flour-butter roux, salt and pepper, minced garlic and onions and about a cup of shredded Cheddar.

When the sauce is thickened, add the drained broccoli. When the pasta is al dente, drain it very well and stir it in. Serve!

The challenge of Naturo-locav-organic foodism ...

It's no secret that I favor a preferential option toward locavore, natural and organic food, and I'm delighted that we can get this from our urban garden and from retail options in our town.

But it's not always puppies, kittens and unicorns.

The short version is that I don't know whether I'm glad or sorry that I spotted three boiled broccoli worms in tonight's dinner just before I mixed the locally grown organic veggies into the cheese sauce.

There are some things that you just can't un-see.

No pictures. No way! Sorry, thanks, bye ...

OS X Mavericks ...

Now installing on my iMac. I hope I'm happy!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Roasting veggies: Just short of a controlled burn

White eggplant, potatoes,  green peppers, carrots and
onions;  roasted 30 minutes at 450 with olive oil, S&P.
Next time I'm making a big platter of roasted vegetables, I'm going to know how to tell when they're ready:  When Mary yells, "Go look, I think they're burning!" I'll know that they've got about 10 minutes to go yet.

As I've roasted a fair share of our urban garden's limited bounty this summer, I've learned a thing or two about the easy, delicious process of converting them into nutritious, healthy vegetable candy by cutting them into chunks, tossing them with oil, salt and pepper, and roasting them at 400 to 450F for a while.

So how long is "a while"?