Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey-n-Trimmings-palooza 2010

I love Thanksgiving.

Why? Because I get to spend all day cooking up a half a dozen dishes that I've spent a fair amount of time researching to go with the fat juicy bird that sits in the spotlight on this big day. I take this holiday seriously. And I also have a lot of fun.

This year's line-up comprised:

- wild rice dressing with figs, dried cranberries and Andouille sausage
- Parker House rolls, my 2nd try at this herbacious, buttery bread
- mac and cheese topped with caramelized onions and crumbled goat cheese
- Brussels sprouts, sausage and toasted pecans sauteed in butter and maple syrup
- cranberry relish with fresh-squeezed orange juice
- sweet potato pie

As usual, I made way too much. But what can I say. I've learned from the best—my mom always made enough food to feed an army. Hard to step it back on Thanksgiving, when "feasting," "food coma" and "pigging out" are the operative words.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bibimbap Hits the Spot

... no matter where you are.

I inhaled this splendiferous sizzling stone pot full of Korean delights—kalbi (beef short ribs), sauteed and pickled vegetables, white rice, with a fried egg and generous squirt of hot chili paste on top—in Seattle. My preggy friend AS (Korean-American like me), whom I was visiting, said she'd been having some serious K-spice cravings. I was more than happy to oblige her.

I think back to my childhood and teen years, when my folks used to scoff at my sister for always and ever ordering bibimbap when we went out for Korean. As they explained it, bibimbap (which means "mixed rice") is nothing special—it's something you'd have at home, throwing all of your leftovers together into a bowl with your rice. But my sister was unswerving—she knew what she liked. And what she liked was bibimbap. Well, hats off to my sister ... for sticking to her guns ... and having good taste.

The Best Ice Cream

... is the kind that's home-made.

Last summer, AS and I took the short ferry ride from Mukilteo to celebrate the 4th with MN and her fam on Whidbey Island, WA. Part of the festivities included making ice cream the old-fashioned way: with a hand-crank, ice-cream maker MN's bro had picked up on the cheap at some vintage store way back when.

We each took turns at the crank.

And in less than 30 minutes ...

The fruit puree, heavy cream and sugar had tranformed into the most luscious, creamy strawberry ice cream.

After a few hours in the freezer, it was ready to be served up.

A good thing I don't have an ice-cream maker at home—I'd be havin' a scoop daily. Since this was a special occasion, I helped myself to two. DeRishous.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cheers to Beerworks

Six-month-old Mill Valley Beerworks Brewery and Beer Cafe has a mighty nice vibe (the clientele comprises the outdoorsy Nor-Cal type, so no surprise here), not to mention a really big range of Belgian, Bavarian and home brews. JA and I gobbled up the springy-fresh, home-made pretzel (I wanted another but restrained myself) and followed it with a lovely little cheese and olive platter. Oh yah, and of course we washed it all down with some quality beer. After trying a couple (one being a pumpkin ale that was a flavor bomb of spice), I opted for the easygoing k├Âlsch, while JA favored the hefeweisen. All in all, well worth the trip to the North Bay.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mate ... not for the faint of heart

Mate (pronounced ma-tay) is hard to drink ... unless you're an Argentine who's grown up drinking the extremely bitter brew on your mama's knee. Our guide Girardo said he and all the locals drink this stuff daily, from hollowed-out calabash gourds, through metal straws, and in very large quantities. They love it, he told us. It's refreshing, soothing, a great digestive. He added that it's even said to be an appetite suppressant ... hmmm, is that why the meat-loving Argentine's are so lean?

Fortunately, Girardo took pity on us and sweetened our yerba mate while it steeped in hot water with a generous dose of sugar. While the other gals were only able to take a small sip before passing the mate back, I was finally able to drink some of it down ... and actually almost enjoy it. Almost. But not quite. Mate is definitely an acquired taste. Kinda like cilantro, or black licorice, or the stinkiest blue cheese. It evokes a strong reaction—often negative in the beginning, but with repeated exposures, I'm sure you'd grow to like it. Really.

Me: actually drinking the mate
JA: faking it (it was the only way she could take the pic without grimacing)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Where's the Beef?

In Buenos Aires, Argentina ... naturally. And some tasty pork too. We had a really lively meal of smoky, fork-tender pork rib brisket and rib-eye—along with some ginormous veggie sides and a peppery, zesty Malbec—at Minga in Palermo Soho.

I inhaled this medium-rare hunk o' beefy goodness, sitting out on the verandah of Victoria Ocampo's house in Tigre. I kept telling myself there was no way I was gonna finish this steak, but I did—the richly flavored meat was so tender and juicy, it was almost as if each piece melted in my mouth ... like magic.

When we spent the day out on a 150-some-odd acre estancia (aka ranch) near San Antonio de Areco, we partook in multiple rounds of Argentinean BBQ comprising a wide range of grilled meats—chorizo and blood sausage, ribs, tenderloin and a whole roasted chicken. Yes, there were sides, but it was all about the meat.