Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Day in LA with Janet

So yesterday I went down to see my friend Janet Rorschach in Los Feliz. As you may remember in previous posts she was also one of my Chef Instructors in culinary school. She made such an impression on me that we've remained friends even after all these years. 

I was in for a true LA treat. So here is my Day in LA a la Janet.

Our first destination LaMill Coffee on Silver Lake Blvd. This coffee house offers such a unique experience in the way one can enjoy coffee. They also offer a variety of teas, and have a small restaurant, which includes limited seating outside as well. The premise of their coffee - it starts with great beans and clean water. This is one of those gems that you want to share, and yet keep all to yourself. You can also see their full site here.

For those not familiar with driving in Los Angeles let me educate you - parking is a premium. There are no large parking lots where you leave your car and walk about all day. So it's a good thing I wasn't driving, parallel parking is not my thing. Janet is a pro!

After our coffee we went on the hunt for a spice shop she had heard about. We didn't have an exact location but a general idea and lo and behold we found it. It's called Spice Station. This store reminded me of an alchemy's store. Large 1 gallon jars lined the wall filled with some spices/herbs I had not experienced before. Like black limes, and habanero sugar. Well I could not resist getting 2 different salts - an Aged Balsamic Salt and a Vintage Merlot Salt. The other little spice I had to get was Tomato Powder, which I plan to use in homemade cornbread. The merlot salt I think will be a wonderful finishing salt for a grilled steak. 

Onward we go! Next stop McCall's Meat and Fish Co. This is where I realized that while I joke about living in the ghetto, I really do live in the food ghetto. To walk into a butcher and see the cuts of beef both wet and dry aged, pork, chicken, veal, lamb, rabbit, quail, duck and then you see diver scallops so plump, skate that has been prepped to perfection, mussels, clams, Ahi tuna that actually made my mouth water, salmon and sea bass. The first thing that impressed me was just how clean the store was. When you walk in the store is cool and the smell is of meat, but it's such a clean scent. Nothing is wasted, the cuts are trimmed to perfection. The counters were constantly being wiped down. Each of the butchers was dressed in professional chef attire - black pants, white coats, full black aprons, and black skull caps. Janet instinctively knew I would be drooling over this place, and she was right!

What more could I possibly see? So much, and I do know that is just the tip of the iceberg. Not too far away was our next destination, a winery Silver Lake Wine. When you first walk in you are greeted politely and asked if you have been there before. Of course I answered no, and the gentleman behind the counter pointed to the first table and said These wines are from all over the various regions and are under $25. The store is then broken down by region, Calif, France, Germany, South America, New Zealand etc. The prices range on each from $10 to $100. The back wall is the holy grail wall. These are very, very nice wines. They also offer a small selection of spirits, but wine is differently their gig. In the back is a long bar where you can have a wine tasting. They offer 5 wines and they pair it with food, $20 per person. This isn't your BevMo of wines where the staff might know a bit about the wines. These folks know their stock. Doing a special dinner - go in tell them what you're having and they will match a wine to your flavor profile of dinner. How cool is that?

Ever see images from people vacations when they go to France and visit a Fromage shoppe (cheese shop)? And you think oh I would so love to experience something like that! Well you can. Head to The Cheese Store of Silverlake. I never experience a store like this. They had so many wonderful cheeses, cow cheese, goat, sheep, pasteurized, unpasteurized you name it. They even had some very decadent looking cheeses too. And while we know I cannot do dairy I do know I can do goat cheese. I just don't care for it. So I found some cheese for Derek, it was sheep's cheese with black peppercorns. Well turns out sheep's cheese doesn't bother me! I need to test this some more to be sure. This shop also offers some wonderful olive oils, including white and black truffle oil. Do not miss out on this store!

As we leave the cheese store we are on the search for a store call Cookbook.  But prior to getting in the car and continuing our search we pass Gingergrass Fresh Vietnamese Cuisine and Janet asks if I'm hungry and would I like Vietnamese food? I informed her I have never had Vietnamese Food. (Well I guess that rock I've been living under is pretty heavy because I have been missing out!) The restaurant is small, but the seating is such that you not only enjoy the company you are with, you are close to your tablemates and it's almost a given that either you will ask what they are having, or they you. The ingredients are SO FRESH! I had the Beef Pho and this soup is just fantastic. Feeling under the weather, this will help what ails you. Hung over, this will perk you up. Cold and rainy it's like a bowl of sunshine.  I think the phrase of the day was "Heaven in bowl!" I just could not get over how good this was.  Thank you Janet for such a lovely lunch. 

Last, but not least it was time to find Cookbook which is actually a local small green grocer. They also had some local baked goods from a baker in Pasadena. I picked up two italian mini baguette with prosciutto and butter. Because it tasted so good, it proof positive that simple ingredients, few of them really make for wonderful flavors.

This was just such a wonderful day! I gotta tell you, it inspired me. I hope it does you as well. While you may not want to drive out to LA to explore, then at least explore what is in your area. I am just positive you'll find a gem. 

Here's to great friends, wonderful food and an experience of a lifetime. Memories are great aren't they? Now go make your own..stop reading mine ;)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rubs and Ribs

Well today I decided to do 3 racks of pork ribs with 3 different rubs. While similar, they are different. One note that I will make is that each of the rubs needed more salt.  So later when I post the recipes I will post as the original recipe called for and put my adjustments in parentheses. 

First each rack was trimmed a bit and the membrane removed off the back. Then I doused them in apple juice prior to applying the rub(s).  I decided to put them in my smoker using apple wood chips (soaked for at least 45 minutes in warm water). The water tray in the smoker was a mixture of 50/50 apple juice and water.

**Note - I have done ribs before in my smoker and I must mention that there is a difference when you apply the rub the night before and thoroughly rub it into the meat, cover and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

They were cooked between 225-245 degrees for 7 hours. I think I should have pulled them at 5 hours and 30 minutes and let them rest for 45 minutes rather than cook longer. The flavors were wonderful but the outside ribs, I feel, were a bit dry. 

Rubs number 1 and 2 were enough to cover one full rack of ribs (about 14 ribs in a rack). Rib number 3 would have been enough to cover all 3 racks so adjust accordingly. I personally do not mind making bigger batches and saving them in airtight containers for future use. (Canning jars are perfect for this purpose)

Rub # 1
2 Tbs. Cumin 
1 Tbs. Chile Powder
1 Tbs. Dry Mustard
½ tsp Kosher Salt (I would adjust to 1-2 tsp)
1 ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 ½ tsp Ground Cardamom
1 ½ tsp Ground Cinnamon

Rub # 2
1 cup Sugar
4 Tbs. Celery Seed
4 Tbs. Garlic Powder
4 Tbs. Onion Powder
5 ¼ Tbs. Chili Powder
5 ¼ Tbs. Black Pepper
5 ¼ Tbs. Paprika
1 Tsp Salt (I would adjust to 1 Tbl.)

Rub # 3
2 Tbs. Paprika
2 Tbs. Onion Powder
2 Tbs. Sugar
2 tsp Celery Salt
1 tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp Ground Black Pepper
½ tsp Cayenne, OPTIONAL if you want Spicy Ribs (This was omitted for this taste test)
(This recipe did not call for salt probably because of the celery salt. However I would add 1 tsp of salt along with the celery salt)
Rub # 1 has unique flavors due to the cardamon and cinnamon. While rub # 2 and 3 are similar # 2 has chili power while # 3 does not. Also # 2 uses celery seed, were as # 3 uses celery salt. # 2 has more black pepper than # 3 does as well.
When the ribs were pulled I allowed them to rest for 15 minutes. We each did a smell only test. No tasting yet. They were labeled on the bottom of each tray. Based on smell alone Derek chose in order - Rub # 3 as his favorite followed by #2 then # 1. I, on the other hand, chose #3, 1, 2. 
Then came the taste test. I cut small chunks off and got out 6 plates, three for him and 3 for me. I put notes on the bottom indicating which rib they were. I gave him 3 plates in no particular order and asked him to rate them by taste alone. He also did the same for me.
Now as you recall based on smell only he chose  3, 2,1. However based on taste he chose 2, 1, 3.  For smell I chose 3, 1, 2 and based on taste I picked 3, 2,1 which is what Derek picked on smell. What does all this mean? Not much on such a small scale, however, the nose does not always dictate the palate.
I hope that everyone plays with their food once in while. It is a lot of fun! If any of you have favorite rubs please let know what they are and next round I test them out! 
Until then...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Holiday Eating Tips

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.
2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare. You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!
3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.
4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, pumpkin, mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:
"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well
preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, "WOO HOO what a ride!"
Have a great holiday season!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Bread Pudding

Ok so this is my own adaptation of a savory bread pudding. I made 4 individual bread puddings. The flavor was just wonderful! I took 2 of them over to my neighbors. She is one of my best critics. The craisins added a really nice sweetness to the dish. I used Rice Milk because I don't do well with milk products. It's why this take about an extra 20-30 minutes to bake properly. Also the celery leaves was so much better than the parsley I had initially planned to used. Really kept up with the flavor profile I was going for.

Turkey Sausage Bread Pudding
4 Eggs
2 Cups rice milk
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp ground sage
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
5-6 cups stale bread or left over rolls from thanksgiving torn into chunks.
1/2 cup left over dressing
1 lb hot turkey sausage
1/2 cup craisins
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves
1/4 cup small diced celery

Combine first 6 ingredients and mix well. Add the rolls and left over dressing and mix well. Put back into fridge. Let the rolls absorb the milk/egg mixture for at least 30 minutes. Remove casing (if any) from turkey
sausage and cook. Cut each sausage in half lengthwise and cut into 1/4 slices. Add to milk/roll mixture along with the craisin and celery/leaves.
Butter 4 10oz ramkins. Fill each one and place on cookie sheet. Place into a preheated 350 degree oven, on a rack placed in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes then rotate pan and bake for another 20-30
minutes. Remove from oven. Tops should be puffed up and nicely browned. Allow to cool for at least 15-20 minutes.
Serve warm
Before Baking

After Baking

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thai Basil Chicken with Coconut Rice

This is a fabulous dish that is very easy and packs a lot of flavor!! This recipe is curtesy of Cuisine at Home.

Ingredients -

Combine for the Slurry Mixture

3/4 Cup Coconut Milk (Do not confuse coconut milk with cream of coconut.)
1/4 Cup Chicken Stock/Broth
2 Tbs. Oyster Sauce
2 Tbs Fresh Lime Juice
1 Tbs Soy Sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp anchovy paste (optional)

Season: Stir-Fry in 2-4 Tbs Vegetable Oil

1 lb boneless chicken breast cut into 1-2" chunks.
1 1/2 Cup of green beans (I used the frozen petite green beans, thawed)
1 Cup red bell pepper diced
1 Tbs Garlic, minced

Stir in; Garnish with

1 cup whole or sliced basil leaves (I use a tad more as we really like the flavor)
1 jalapeno thinly sliced with seeds
1/2 Cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped (we omit these due to allergies)

Directions --

Combine all ingredients for the slurry and set aside
Season chicken with salt and pepper and then stir fry in 2 T oil over high heat for 5-8 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove and set aside. Heat 1 T oil in same pan add green beans and stir fry 1-2 minutes, add bell pepper and garlic and stir fry another 2-3 minutes. Add chicken and any juices and stir fry 1-2 min. Stir in slurry mixture and cook 2 minutes allowing sauce to thicken. Stir in basil and jalapeno and garnish with peanuts. Serve over Coconut Rice (See Below)

Coconut Rice (Start this cooking then start working on the other dish. You can turn stove down to lowest heat to keep warm)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt (do not use table salt or you'll over salt it)
1 cup basmati or jasmine rice (rinse before adding to liquid)
Finish with 2 Tbs fresh lime juice and 1 Tbs unsalted butter.

Bring stock, coconut milk, sugar and salt to boil, add rice, cover and turn to low and let cook 15-20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minute before stirring. Add fresh lime juice and butter and fluff.

This recipe is just wonderful!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Trip to the Eastern Seaboard

So our trip to the eastern seaboard was just wonderful! My camera never came out till we got to Rockport in Cape Ann and I don’t’ know why I kept forgetting the darn thing!

We landed in Boston Saturday afternoon and went to get our rental car to head to our hotel. I cannot believe how big the Boston airport is! But getting out and to our rental car was so easy so that was one less headache.

From there it was an hour or so drive to the hotel in S. Yarmouth MA. We set up camp and headed out to just drive around and get a lay of the land. We stopped at a place called the Lobster Pot for dinner. Not being in the mood for lobster yet, I have the fisherman’s feast which consisted of shrimp, scallops, scrod with ‘chips’ and coleslaw. This was the worst meal we had on our trip but we were tired and weren’t as picky with location as we were later on. It was like going to Long John Silvers.

The next day we head out the cape and just enjoyed the drive. Along this deserted road we found a place called Moby’s and decided to stop for lunch. This is where I had my first (of three) lobster rolls. Not sure if I’m missing something here, but the lobster roll was $17, but had I order the whole 1.25 lobster and cracked it myself it was $14.99 so I was really expecting something “more”. Very disappointed. But I was not taunted. That night for dinner we found a new place, our rule is to never eat at the same restaurant twice when we travel unless forced to, called Captain Parker’s. Here we found something that intrigued us, an appy called the Sampler. We knew that arriving on the east coast would mean nothing but seafood, but we were leery about shell fish. Out here on the west coast we don’t eat the fish, ever. But we so wanted to try our first mussel/clam/oyster and this appy had 2 of each – stuffed oysters, mussels Monterey, clams marinara and 2 seafood stuffed mushrooms.

The plate is laid before us and our waiter, who must have sensed our dismay, calmly pointed what was what and how to eat them (Thank you Jimmy!). Eating this appetizer would be a huge mistake for me because it has awoken a beast that will never be sated. I was hooked!

The next day we were going to go to Martha’s Vineyards, but we found out that about 75% of all the businesses were still closed as they wouldn’t be opening until the ‘season’ which starts after Memorial Day. So we ended up going Province which is at the tip of the cape and then came back to a little community called Chatham. We heard from the locals the place to go was the Impudent Oyster. That was when I realized the mussels we had at Captain Parkers were so-so cause these were really, really good! We sat at the bar which was sunk down into the back of the dining area. The bar was made up of polished drift wood and the license plates that adorned the rim up top were ones that had washed up on shore.

Up early the next morning and found we were kind of bored with Cape Cod only because so much was closed. So we packed up our things and headed to Newport RI. What a wonderful seaport village!! And the “summer homes” will drop your jaw. We toured one of the Vanderbuilts home called The Breakers. This is me in front of it.

This was one of many homes like this and they only lived in them like 3 months of the year!! The opulence inside is staggering and to me very garish. But it was the “in thing” for the time.

My next batch of mussels was a restaurant called The Red Parrot. Well first we ordered cocktails and Derek, bless his heart, ordered a beer…called Red Parrot Ale, but I think he needs reading glasses because he ordered the Patriot Ale. The waiter looked at him and had this confused look of “wait a minute I know every beer on here and I don’t recall one called the Patriot..” He asked Derek “You mean the Red Parrot?” Derek heard “you in the Red Parrot?” said “um..isn’t’ that where we are now?” shook his head and said yes I’ll have the Patriot Ale. I’m laughing so hard because they both had this look of “Geez dumb guy.” So I had to clear that up which had them both laughing.

The mussels here were even better than the Impudent Oyster. These were the same size shell but the meat inside was so much plumper and moist! (Nom – nom – nom- nom) Weather was cold 52 degrees and windy, but we walked all over. This town is just a wonderful area to explore! Shops and food galore.

Next we drove up to Gloucester and stopped at a visitor’s center we had to been to once before when we went to New York about 4 years ago. It was closed but we remember that walking thru it was quite lovely. We headed back to the car I was behind the wheel and the car was running and before I could back out we hear “I-O” which I think was “hello?!” in Massachusettian. :) This little old lady and her husband (John) came running up to the drivers window. They asked if we were looking for someone in the visitors center and we said no were just passing thru and asked if they ran the place. They said no and asked if we wanted to see a picture book she had created of all the local coffee shops? I paused because this is just an odd question. First why would I want to and second why on earth did she have such a book. (Darn my cynical California ways!) But not wanting to be disrespectful I start nod yes but before I could finish the said “book” was thrust into my hands and she had a smile that just said how proud she was for making it. I, on the other hand was still quite confused. I looked thru a small 3 ring binder which had pieces of paper with numerous photos printed upon each page, which was then in a plastic page protector and placed in the book. (All 23 pages) No captions, text, addresses, phone numbers…nada. So we asked what the book was for? She said she and her husband just love all the different coffee shops and the area that she likes to make books of them. “But the visitor centers won’t take them. Can you imagine that? No reason not to, but they just won’t…such a waste.” She then informed us that in her car she has books on trees, shopping, beaches you name it. They asked why we were here, we told them vacation and not for anything in particular just drove up to see the area. Well John goes sprinting to his car and comes back with 4 maps. And for 20 minutes they tell us where to go, drive, see, eat…that’s when I waited for the “can we have money” question to be asked. But suddenly John steps from the car, pulls his wife back and waves his hands to shoe us off saying “Here take the maps…Go on now…off with you…go explore Cape Ann for yourself and see why we love this place so much!” They stood there arm in arm waving to us as we drove away. Just a delightful couple!

So off we went and found a lovely bed and breakfast place called Sally Webster Inn. Granted there are B&B’s all over the place, sometimes as many as 8 on one block. We looked at 3 of them and then the 4th one we loved. This was our room

This town is just the quintessential small seaport village. We just adored this place. There are so many huge differences to this town verses where we live in a big city.

1 – No trucks. There are no semi-trucks (18-wheelers) allowed anywhere. The biggest truck we saw was a bread truck.

2 – No graffiti, anywhere! We even went down the docks where there is a lot of commercial equipment and none there. Not like it was painted over, there just wasn’t any.

3 – No excessive noise. I hear sirens near my house every few hours. Then the helicopters, gardeners, traffic etc. The gardeners here can only use electric lawn tools so no loud lawn blowers.

4 – No profanity. This flipped me out! The kids were all out of school on Friday and yelling and catcalling to each other. But they were yelling things like “Hey your free ice is nothing! We got free candy!” Or “You dork I totally ride better than you.” In our area it’s like listening to drunken sailors talk and that’s with the grade school kids. Matter of fact we made a u-turn in a street in an area that wasn’t labeled as no u-turn but 2 kids yelled out “That’s illegal!” Not like in Calif where they would have yelled “Hey you dumb***** you can’t do that s**t there!” Our windows were down and all we said “Ok…thanks!” and then it was like wait…first did kids just tell us something was illegal and we said thanks?! *cue music* There’s a sign post up ahead…your next stop – the Twilight Zone!

5 – BYOB to your restaurant. This stumped me till I found out that up until 2005 Rockport was a dry city. So many restaurants don’t have a liquor license. But you can bring your own bottles of wine or spirits in. Lol that was just weird.
This is a view of the coastline in Cape Cod

Homes by the Sakonnet River

The bay as you enter into Rockport Harbor

Inside Rockport Harbor

Cape Ann is built on 440 million year old granite. In the late 1800's it was quarried out on a small scale than on a much larger scale until the granite industry collaspe in 1929. Large pools that can look like ponds or lakes are actually granite holes that are now filled with water.

One of the lovely paths you take to see the various quarry holes and then you end up at the cliffs overlooking the beach and the Atlantic Ocean.

On a front porch someone had saved seashells they had found and arranged them in a painted flower pot so they looked like a bouquet of flowers.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Ah the essential of all that is good. Basically what it translates to is carrots, celery and onion. A 2 to 1 ratio is traditional, but if you’re like me a few extra onions will aways find their way in. But a good starting point is 1 cup of onion, 1/2 cut carrots and 1/2 cup cup cut celery. (by the way if you’re from south you wouldn’t put celery in, but rather bell pepper) So…what do you do with mirepoix?
First cut them into even pieces, small dice is best. Put them into a saute pan with a bit of olive oil some salt and pepper. Now let them slowly cook a bit, don’t rush it. Let the flavors build. Once they are tender remove from the heat. Now the wonderful decision.

Mirepoix is a great soup starter, add it to some cook rice, stuffing loves this stuff, or even put it into mashed potatoes. I’ve done this mixture and eaten it as a side dish.

Use your imagination and do not be taunted. This is one of the simplest of combinations that renders some incredible flavors.