Wednesday, June 18, 2008

what happens if gas reaches five bucks?

Has anyone else been forced to change their eating habits based on the high price of gas?

I find myself making consolations left and right to adjust for my seemingly out of control petrol habit.

To make matters worse, most of the things I like to eat are increasing in price at a rate that rivals the pump!

Here is a short list of things I've had to reconsider recently:
  • Bread. I really like good bread, but I think it should cost $4 or less per loaf. As it approaches/crosses the $5 mark I look for substitutes and start considering the store-brand wheat bread at $2.79

  • Milk. I used to buy the cheapest gallon of milk I could find ($1.99 or so) now the prices have gone way up AND I have a newly acquired taste for things that are hormone free/organic. This means my average 1/2 gallon of milk is $3.79 or 3.8X as much as i used to pay. I wonder how my bone density will fare if I pull back a bit on the milk?

  • Far flung restaurants. Living in suburbia has pros and cons, but one painfully clear fact about living where we live is a complete lack of interesting food (sorry Mia Roma.) In years past we would simply drive to the purveyors of our favorite (name your food category) whether they were located in West Seattle, Maltby, or Ballard. Today we factor in both the time and escalating cost to drive to our far-flung faves. Bummer.

  • Beer. I have a very simple system for assigning value to beer; "good" beer has flavor, substance, nuance, and is often made in smaller quantities. Some examples of this are Elysian beers, Rogue, and Maritime Pacific. "Commodity" beers are those that come in packs of 24 and up, differentiate on the can liner, and are promoted on large plastic signs around the country. "Good" beer should cost between $1 and $1.25 per bottle or $6- $7.50 per six pack. Today I pay as much as $10 per six pack or $5 for a 24 oz bottle of the stuff. Commodity beer is up as well, but I don't buy much of it anyway.

Now the good news! There are some things that have not risen dramatically, and in fact pack some serious value for you bargain shoppers out there!

  • Today I can fuel myself at Aca Las Tortas for the same five bucks I could a year ago. Same great ingredients, same great price! This keeps me going all day which is more than I can say for $5 worth of gas.

  • Pagliacci Pizza. This is not the world's cheapest pie, but it is my favorite and it seems to be holding steady. They make the pizza and salad just the way I want **almost** every time, and if they don't they send me a certificate for a free one next time.

  • Pearson's Nut Rolls are without a doubt one of the most perfect foods known to man. Salted Virginia peanuts, nougat, caramel...damn those are good. Next time you're on a roadtrip and the sting of buying gas has got you down...get a king size Pearson's Nut Roll and just try not to smile. They're tasty!

So here's my plan of action for the looming five dollar gas demons

  1. ride my bike
  2. grow edible stuff in my yard (well, my wife will do that and I'll eat it)
  3. eat at home even more
  4. steady diet of mexican sandwiches and nutty confections

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

the weather is messing up my program

One of the only ways I'm forced out of a culinary rut is by the changing seasons.

If it were always summer I'm pretty sure I'd be grilling salmon in my shorts, alternating between pinot noir and sauvignon blanc every other day.

If springtime were permanent I'd have a nice mixture of dishes and the excitement of a fresh crop of vegetables and fruits to enjoy.

Unfortunately we seem to be stuck in a never-ending '07-'08 winter cycle in the Pacific Northwest and its got me stuck in a rut that I can't seem to shake...

So what is my winter rut you ask? I'm pretty sure I can break it down into four bullet points:
  • My own homemade spicy red sauce
  • Big, bold red wines
  • Thai food from Pen Thai
  • Pagliacci pizza

This is a great rut to be in from a sensory point of've got all the major food groups (spicy, meaty, tomato-y, and wine) but it tends to put me in a "sit on the couch and watch Entourage repeats again" mood

if I'm ever going to fit into my speedo this summer I need the gods to comply with my request to change the freakin season so I can eat some other stuff.

How are you?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Its been some time since my last post. I attribute the gap to a couple things including a hectic lifestyle, some laziness, and a lack of culinary inspiration.
Sometimes I wish I didn't know about great food and drink. Imagine if it were possible to ignore Whole Foods, Pete's Wines, or your favorite sushi joint.

I recall a day not too long ago when my trips to the grocery store involved large packages of mass-produced tortillas, a five pound brick of Tillamook medium cheddar, a massive jar of salsa, and some sort of macro-brew (preferably with a nice can liner to impart that bottled taste.)
Sounds boring, yet to the early 20s Scott this cheezy-spicy-light beer combo was pretty damn good morning, noon, or night!

Somehow along the way I was introduced to new foods...and it didn't happen all at once. It was a gradual transition that led me from the simple, easy to find joy I had at Rosauer's to the hard to find, difficult to pronounce, and wallet-taxing experiences I have at Whole Foods today.
If you're not following what's happened, here is a simple "before and after" chart that should illustrate what used to be a staple in my world to what I'm enjoying today:

Carl Buddig proccesed "ham food" => sliced Safeway Select Turkey => Wine cured Proscuitto

Tillamook "baby loaf" => Irish cheddar => Ridiculous cheese habit

Tap water => bottled water => tap water (I'm not playing that any more unless forced)

Keystone Light => Red Hook => Rosemount Shiraz => Start a food and wine company

Iceberg lettuce=> Romaine => organic baby greens

Grocery store wheat loaf => baguette => kalamata olive bread

White mushrooms=> portabellos=> chantarelles=> morels

I could go on and on, but I think the bottom line is I have (with the help of shrewd grocery marketing gurus) slowly changed my taste across the board. The end results are pretty interesting. I am harder to please, I have to search harder and go to more places for the specific items I'm after, I spend WAY more on the most basic of items, and above all I absolutely love a good meal more than ever.

I hope you're enjoying whatever it is that you're eating today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Have you been to Utah recently? Yeah, me too...last weekend.
Having never been to Ogden i didn't really know what to expect. What would it be like? Is a "dry" cold better than a "wet" cold? Is there such thing as "traditional Mormon food?"
So let me address these points before I drone on any more:

1) What was it like? bland. its like any other third-tier western city...only whiter
2) It doesn't feel as cold when the humidity is low
3) No, there doesn't seem to be a high profile Mormon food, but I hear lime jello may be a contender

While in Ogden I had the pleasure of meeting a whole slew of nice people and sampling some local fare. I'm not going to highlight any particular establishment in this rant, but I will say Ogden has all the same sorts of restaurants we enjoy in major metropolitan areas, but without the high prices or tasty ingredients. The culinary focus is not on creating interesting tastes and textures, but rather filling your plate for $8.95.
here is a handy reference you can use to decode the somewhat **tricky** Ogden fare:

Bolognese = Ketchup and ground beef
Gourmet Pizza = doughy bread and greasy cheese
Butter = "gold n soft" margarine
Phad Thai = oops, Thai food
Pint of Pale Ale = $4.00 to join a "private club" and $3.50 for a bud lite tall boy

There is one standout food experience I need to share in the Ogden area, and its actually located about 20 miles away in tiny Huntsville, Utah. The Shooting Star Saloon is as old as dirt (and seems to be covered in a fine layer.) We went for lunch and enjoyed a surreal meal in this seriously old school saloon. The food options are limited (you can have a burger, a cheeseburger, a "mini star" burger, or a "star" burger, the last two include a nice knockworst on top of your patty! Don't ask for substitutions, don't ask for table service, and bring cash...cause they don't take American Express.

On a completely unrelated note, I have added another "favorite" torta joint to my list. Its simply called "Aca las Tortas" in Canyon Park and it is run by the same bunch that make my Tortas at the Kenmore roach coach at 80th & Bothell Way. They literally have 22 Torta options so it can be a bit overwhelming...but you'll get over it. Check it out yo.

Friday, December 7, 2007

What the heck is Yule?

Hey yule over there! Happy Festivus already.

Does anyone else have the feeling that the holiday season will soon be the holiday trimester?

I'm pretty sure Costco had pallets of Christmas swag before the trick or treaters came a knockin'.

Anyone ever eat a Yule log? Sing songs that include Yuletide greetings? Do you know what you're eating? do you know what you're saying? I didn't think so.

Turns out the the term "Yule" dates back many years to aboriginal Scandinavians and meant "celebration of the winter solstice." I'm sure you already knew that, but it was news to me.

Well, I digress...

For the three of you that read this blog I want to share with you some of my favorite holiday treats in no particular order:

1) The twice-baked potato. I was raised on these delectable treats. Not sure why I like them so much, but its kinda like a potato eating a cheesy pastry then falling asleep in a tanning booth. All crispy and baked on the outside, fat and gooey on the inside. mmmmm mmmm good.

2) Spritz cookies. Not sure what I like more about these, the taste or the process. I'm pretty sure its the process since anything that requires a specialized "gun tool" is a-ok in my book. They taste good too and they give me a reason to use food coloring. Fun stuff.
3) Large format wine. This is another mystery to me, I'm just not sure why I like massive bottles of wine so much. I buy them, I horde them, but I rarely open them. The holidays represent a time when I can go the northwest corner of the wine cellar, find a big fat magnum, dust it off, and show my friends and family exactly how much I care...1.5Liters worth!
If you haven't been to Stevens Winery, you may want to schedule a visit soon. Their latest release, Stevens Merlot is arriving and Tim has a few magnums available for purchase.
Lastly, here is a shameless plug for my little venture, Northwest Exclusive where we seek out the best food and wine we can find from the Pacific Northwest, wrap it elegantly, and ship it all over the place on our customers' behalf. In fact I'll be hosting a dinner party tonight consisting of our Northwest Prime filet mignon and some fabulous NW wines . If you need some last minute holiday gifts let us know, we'll help you out.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

They can't take that away from me

Call it vice, indulgence, or life's little luxuries, we've all got things that we take part in or consume in order to stave off the tedium that is everyday life.

A little while ago i ventured out of my office for a bit. I walked down the hall and saw a massive tub of soda on a co worker's desk. I rode down the elevator and smelled freshly huffed cigarette fumes. I walked out onto 4th Avenue and recognized the legions of Starbucks patrons streaming in and out of the local java spot...and then I thought to myself...these things are all kinda the same.

Everyone needs to feel entitled to something. Your job may suck, your kid might be remedial, your life may not measure up to your expectations, but no one can take away your **insert stupid habit here**.

Here are my (current) personal indulgences:
  • Cafe Ladro grande nonfat latte. It tastes a lot like coffee...which is nice
  • Theo Chocolate OR Dagoba Chocolate either one is good really
  • Expensive magazines has anybody noticed that magazines are really freakin expensive? here's a tip: do not buy a magazine in Canada with US dollars. Why? 'cause they jack you, that's why. Your $5.95 magazine is all of a sudden nine bucks CAD...which is now $23 US. ARGH!!!

Whenever I think about how much money I waste on stupid shit I get mad at myself for a minute...then I need to calm down so I treat myself to a nice cup of coffee, a little chocolate, and peruse a magazine that doesn't really have anything to do with my life.

I hope you and your vices are doing fantastic!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cooking is one of life's great joys. I'm not a great cook, but the more I learn about cooking the more comfortable I get...and sometimes that extra comfort leads to burning some shit.

I've always loved eating, but it wasn't until college that I fell in love with cooking for myself and my friends. It turns out that while your parents support you emotionally and financially (if you're lucky) they can't really be there to provide things like pot roast on Sundays, interesting pasta creations mid-week, or even a fridge stocked with condiments. So, rather than succumbing to a life fueled strictly by pizza pockets, the ambitious student begins to experiment.

The early experiments were more about utility than flavor, and often involved some combination of Carl Buddig meat products, ranch dressing, and tortillas. That worked ok for the fellas, but quickly fell out of favor making way for the more ambitious fare like fettuccine Alfredo which while still very basic, seemed to lend itself better to meals with the opposite sex.

Skipping ahead a good 10 years I marry an amazing woman who happens to be a much better cook than I am. So what does a food focused fella like myself do in a situation like this? Settle in for 50 years of the little missus' cooking, or try to do culinary battle by claiming the kitchen as my own? The answer is neither...I've opted to play a bit part in our kitchen production, typically chopping a bit of this or that, or doing the dishes (I challenge any of you to a dish skills are wicked.) I have however built a small portfolio of "signature dishes" that I whip up from time to time and here they are in no particular order:
  • "Sauce" On any Sunday afternoon in Kenmore during the rainy season (heh) you can find me in the kitchen working on some sort of hearty red sauce. I never do it the same way twice, but ask anyone who has tried it whether its is. You can make it lots of ways, but I would include some combination of great canned tomatoes (you'll need to experiment here, but these are most likely imported and come from San Marzano Italy) combine these with fresh shallots, garlic, red wine, and olive oil. You then need to decide if this is going to be a meat-focused sauce or not. If so, you should have started by browning the meat (beef, Italian sausage, or chicken sausage.) This sauce will require some serious simmering time so leave it on the stove for as long as you can (hours.) lastly you should top a meat sauce with a dollop of ricotta, and a veg sauce with good Parmesan **hint-its not in a plastic tub**.
  • Lasagna. This one takes a lot of work, but my lasagna includes spicy chicken sausage, spinach, mushrooms, and a bunch of other great stuff. you want one? have a baby and i might swing by with one of these in hopes that you get a break from multi tasking
  • Spicy grilled prawns. I think this recipe is in Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchens book, but I can't recall. you basically take some big-ass prawn, dip them in good olive oil (truth be told I am still trying to figure out how to source a high quality olive oil at a good price) you then chop fresh parsley, red pepper flakes, bread crumbs, and garlic together. throw in some salt and pepper, then coat the oily prawns with this multi-colored stuff and grill them briefly over a medium-hot grill. Don't overcook them.
  • Salmon. If you see some of my early blogs you'll see my whole salmon spread...its good if a little predictable
  • Patagonian Toothfish I'm not going to call it by it's real name 'cause some people think it is endangered, but it rhymes with "filetin' tree grass" and I only buy through reputable distributors. This one is easy. buy the biggest, fattest piece you can get your hands on, marinate it in a big zip loc with Yoshida's Teriyaki Sauce, some sliced Walla Walla onions, and a little garlic. Sear it on both sides, then place the fish on a bed of the sliced onions on some foil. leave it on the grill on fairly low heat for ~10 minutes (need to monitor based on thickness) pull it off the grill and let it rest before you eat it. pair it with the Conundrum, some fresh greens, and a sunny deck. Savor this meal and think about how freakin' lucky you are to have a Whole Foods nearby.

So this past Saturday I broke out of my rut...I decided to try some new things. To be fair, some of the things were not really new (steak) but Emily felt like a filet so who am I to argue? Here's what I made:

appetizer: crab/artichoke spread on plain crackers with Prosecco (just ok)

starter/side: Dungeness crab and spot prawn mac and cheese! (ridiculous)

side: asparagus with chanterelle mushrooms, tarragon, shallots, and butter (nice)

main: prime aged filet mignon topped with morel/chanterelle cream sauce

all paired with a bottle of 2000 Elderton Shiraz. In a word, amazing.

Unfortunately my ability to multitask is limited so I overcooked the steaks, but the rest was a work of art. I kind of got the cooking thing out of my system for a while now, so the Pagliacci hotline is pretty much my go-to recipe this week.

Bon appetite!