Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas comes a little early in New Orleans this year...

It's the holidays as we are all painfully well aware of. For those of you who wait until the absolute last minute to shop tomorrow is it for you. Since we travel at the holidays (to be with family) things get jumbled or rushed from time to time. Today is a prime example - it's the 23rd - and we did family Christmas here today. I have to work tomorrow and the other part of the family here has had stuff booked for Christmas eve for some time now so today was it. We had a non-traditional meal - steak, twice baked potatoes, salad, and bread, we also had apple pie and pecan pie for dessert. No ham or turkey, no sweet potatoes, or any of the usuals. I think I like this one better...I don't eat as much and I enjoyed it more. Maybe steak will make its way onto the menu. After lunch was the gift opening extravaganza. Now bear in mind we opened gifts with a 2 and a 4 year old. There were bits of paper everywhere. Now this is our first Christmas as married folks and my in-laws are still trying to figure me out a little bit. Last year I got a few things that were great; this year there were two that were just really amazing. My in-laws bought me a handmade end grain cutting board

This was made by a man in our church here who does this as a hobby. If anyone is interested in obtaining one of these (he has more designs than this) post a comment or send me an email and I'll pass along his information. The second gift was a last minute thing from my wife - something she didn't think I'd like but that I happen to love:

I don't know if it's a terribly accurate timer or not (we got a digital timer for our wedding that's my favorite) or that I'd ever even use it - but it's a fun countertop item that adds character to our kitchen. I don't know if I'll post tomorrow and I know I won't on Tuesday so Happy Christmas to my readers, family, and friends. God has blessed abundantly this year and I am thankful for all He has provided. I'll try to post from on the road later this week.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Updates and thoughts...

Say what you like about Emeril Lagasse. Some dislike him because he suffers from, as one author penned, a deplorable excess of personality. Others think he makes food too simple or dumbs it down. There are times he grates my nerves like nails on a chalkboard and others that he bores me to tears with the routine. However no one should ever say he dumbs down anything...especially food. I had the privilege to dine in the flagship restaurant again today. The first trip was in '03 and I was on vacation here (New Orleans) in the city. Today was my office Christmas party (we're a small, family type office and we celebrate Christmas, not holidays). I enjoyed the porkchop again (this one was a single cut, not double) along with lobster bisque and the meyer lemon frozen souffle. The service was flawless as was the food itself - one of the best dining experiences I have ever encountered. There was nothing dumb about the masterful flavor combination of caramelized sweet potatoes, the tangy sweet sour of the tamarind glaze, and the subtle heat of the green chile mole. Chef Lagasse has a charisma that many might envy - but he brings food to the masses and shows them that there is no magic in restaurant kitchens that a home cook, with time and effort, cannot duplicate.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

New location, new starter, new direction...

So we made it safely to New Orleans. Let me say this much. I've moved multiple times in my life. I've never enjoyed it. I can tell you I enjoyed it even less driving the truck pulling a trailer at 4 am with semis screaming past on either side. I left indentions in the steering wheel.

I tried the barm/boiled grain starter starter didn't like it. I had to toss it for the move and have started another...I'm using organic flour and it seems to be more active faster.

So...a mildly new direction for this blog. I have had arrangements made for me to get some cooking lessons from a friend of my inlaws who are true Cajuns. I'm excited...I know that no two kitchens do things alike but learning from someone who grew up on this cuisine will be better than some restaurants take. I think I want to merge/fuse it with Classical French - a la La Bonne Cuisine by Madame Saint-Ange and French Bistro. Somewhere in the back of my head I can get a picture of a really unique and delicious spin. I'll be posting more as time goes on. Since I'm searching for work my time is relatively free...hopefully I can devote some time to catching up on this and other minor projects.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sourdough alterations...

This is what I get for reading about bread...after getting some information from The Fresh Loaf I was reading articles from SFBI's newsletter. There were articles related to the use of a true barm - soaking the whole grain flour in boiling water (essentially the same as the mash in whole grain brewing) for a period of time with diastatic malt (activating the enzymes) and thus releasing the sugars for yeasts to feed on. Now I'm going to divert for a minute - I don't think you can culture from this "mash". Yeast dies at 138-141 F. You're covering the flour in 212 F water...I haven't done the math (so I might be off) but just roughing it out in my head tells me the beasties died in the hot stuff. I did part of this experiment - I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 T rye flour in 6 ounces of boiling water. I then mixed in a couple of ounces of my starter. I will post on the results tomorrow. I can see where there would be more sugars available to the yeast from the soak. The protein structure has to change (you added heat...proteins denature on exposure to heat...ala scrambled eggs) This also, according to the article, will enable the bread to take higher hydration. I'll post on those results when they happen.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bread, that Asian grocery smell, Pho, and Vietnamese coffee...

So tonight was a shopping night for Sunday lunch (which is happening...just with an unknown number of guests). First stop - the Vietnamese bakery we had Banh Mi in last night - Banh Mi are the Vietnamese equivalent of Po'Boys - tasty pork or chicken on a roll with pickled vegetables, cucumbers, jalapenos, mayonnaise (not the mess out of a jar this was homemade and decidedly different), and a hit of cilantro. All I can say is it's the best $2-$3 you can spend. I bought a dozen rolls for $3 - if you're in Atlanta get to Lee's Bakery on Buford Highway, just past the intersection of Clairmont Road. The bill for dinner (2 sandwiches and 2 bottles of water) was $6.50. Next stop - Atlanta Farmers Market (also on Buford Highway, just down from the bakery). Let me say two things about Asian grocery stores - first - I love them - I don't know what 80% or more of the goods are but I always have fun exploring. I also struggle to spend more than $20 and yet somehow I manage to leave with a cartful. Tonight was a partial basket. I'm doing my spin on the Banh Mi - I was going to get all fancy and make little meatballs out of chicken but it's going to be more finely chooped chicken in a sauce. I picked up green onions and daikon. I put the daikon with some carrots in a refrigerator pickle of 1T kosher salt, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1/2 cup cane vinegar, 2 cups water, and 1/4 cup (plus a little) of light brown sugar. I warmed this for 30 seconds in the microwave to get all the goodies to dissolve and then dunked the chopped veggies (smaller than french fries and bigger than true batonette). Cover and in the fridge. So back to the store - I also picked up a bottle of Thin Soy Sauce (Healthy Boy brand from Thailand), Fish Sauce (Three Crabs brand from Vietnam), and Sriracha (Shark Brand from Thailand). The soy is amazing stuff...I'll never buy Kikkoman again...this is just too good (and dirt cheap). The Sriracha is amazing...flavorful, almost sweet, with a flash of heat well after you've swallowed it. Fish Sauce...can I just say this is the first real fish sauce I've ever bought...that's a smell right there. Wonderful salty lightly fishy taste but I have to hold my nose. I also picked up a packet of tamarind pulp (the sour kind) and a box of Sun brand hot tamarind candy (delicious in a kind of freaky way, sweet, salty, sour, then rather hot...but good...addictive sort of good). Total of $10.50. Now the second thing...what is THAT smell? If you frequent Asian markets you know what I'm talking about. It's not totally unpleasant but it's just odd. This store is cleaner than the American groceries I frequent (and they're pretty clean). I knew this was going to be a good trip...I could smell the store from the parking lot. According to these folks this is the #2 market in Atlanta for Asian foods. I have to agree. It doesn't have all the knick-knacks and toys that some of the others do but it's a great store. I'll be looking for it's equal in New Orleans soon (more on that in another post).

Pho - a dish that needs to be on more menus. I've never been so satisfied by a bowl of soup in my life. It's also the first time I've eaten soup with chop sticks. I stuck to just the beef...the tendon and tripe might have been excellent but I wasn't ranging far tonight. My father joined me for dinner as he was nearby waiting on my mother. He'd been to this place (or one very similar to it) many years ago and has been trying for all that time to get us there. I wish he'd succeeded before now. I hope we can get back this next week. We ate and had a good time catching up. He'd also mentioned Vietnamese coffee to me. Now I'm pretty much a coffee freak...there isn't much I haven't tried and I'm always up for something new. I had one hot and one iced tonight...imagine drinking melted coffee ice cream...and you get pretty close. Rich, sweet, intense, and with the caffeine and sugar I was buzzing for an hour afterwards.

So...I get my goodies home and I set to work. I've already told you about the pickle. Now...for the chicken...I mixed 1/4 cup of light brown sugar (at some point I'll get palm sugar and test it, but tonight called for what was in the pantry), 1/4 cup thin soy sauce, 1 1/2 T fish sauce (I almost ran out of the kitchen...I'll get used to the aroma over time but it was just rough tonight), 2 T tamarind pulp, and 1 T sriracha. I warmed this in the microwave for about a minute total and stirred to melt/dissolve/soften the tamarind from the seeds/membrane/inedible stuff. I let it sit for a couple of minutes and then I poured through a strainer and mashed on the solids to get all the good stuff...the verdict...sweet, salty, sour, and a little heat (just a sparkling heat, not really even a hit) - there's a hint of fishy but I think when it gets in with the chicken, lime, green onions, and garlic it'll fade fast. I'm going to tweak some Duke's mayo with some soy and sriracha for a little oomph.

On the New Orleans reference...yes...MAF is moving to the Big Easy. Posting will get scarce from the 3rd through sometime the next week. I'll be back...there's new foods to find and I'm assuming the cook's role in my inlaws house for a bit (they've opened their home until the loving wife and I get on our feet and find a place). I'm looking to broaden some culinary horizons and maybe slow down the eating out. I'll discuss more later.

Monday, July 23, 2007


No...that's not Mac''s MAC - Moves, Adds, Changes. Sunday lunch didn't happen yesterday...which was really fine with me...I turned up a tad short on some important ingredients. So...we went to our pastor's house...always fun, always loud. I took along the butter and French loaf half (which were crowd favorites) and a jar of jam just for the pastor's wife (who promptly hid it in the fridge for her own enjoyment later, which was my whole intent). We finished lunch and returned home to continue packing (something I had forgotten how much I really dislike). I involved my wife in baking bread for the week...I baked my spin on pain ordinaire from the Village Baker. I used some white wheat flour in place of all white. I baked it in two batards and over half of one of them is gone now. I think we might devour the other half tonight. The butter on the bread is some of what's left of the batch I cultured and whipped. Wonderful stuff...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cooking up a storm...

It's been a good day - slow pace, even in the midst of packing to move - and I've gotten some stuff done. I've made refrigerator jam ala Pim - mine is bumbleberry (a name I picked up from the Lehman's catalog...strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and rhubarb - no apple for me). I'm culturing butter ala Traveler's Lunchbox and making granola of the same. I'm doing a small lot of butter and a half batch of granola (with my own twists...all I had was salted mixed nuts so in they went. I wasn't up for grinding mace so it was cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla). I'm doing lunch tomorrow (or so I think I am...table of six ????). I'll post about it then.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Right...back to work now...

It's been a couple of days since I've posted...been a long week at the office. But it has not been a week without it's successes. The snaps above are from the first real sourdough/pain au levain success I've ever had. I grew my own starter...wheat, white, and a touch of rye just for that little something extra. It was worth losing sleep (seriously folks...this isn't just a figure of speech) over. Look closely at the second pic...3:59 AM...yes I went back to up again at 5:30 and got my normal day underway. The response from one of the other bakers on when I asked if anyone else did this sort of thing was "You've been bitten by the "You know you're a bread baker when..." bug". I like that answer. I'm proud of this isn't perfect and it is short of what I envisioned texturewise. Tastewise is another matter...there isn't much left of it now...I've mentioned before that my wife isn't a fan of crusty bread...she loves this...crust and all. It's got a natural tang and the wheat flavor shines nicely. I've got a couple of adjustments to make on the next run of this one and I think I'll have it. Thanks to the bakers at the fresh loaf for all the great information and the encouragement you provide by showing us all what's baking in your kitchens. Hopefully more to follow this weekend...I'd like to make jam, butter, and granola...depends....

Monday, July 16, 2007

Home again, home again...

Back home and let me just say that the first day back at work was not fun. It wasn't tough but I enjoy my vacations...especially when I get to relax.

So first order of

I'll disappoint you upfront - I didn't take any snaps at the Farmer's market. I had my camera but I was exploring and didn't really think to grab it until I was feasting on a Nutella crepe and about to depart.

I did take pictures here...

I drove to Avery Island and visited the's not a big place but it's well worth the drive - if for nothing else to pass mile after mile of cane fields and to say I've been where Tabasco is made. There are also other treats...

Fresh crawfish etouffee. Purchased at the Tabasco Country Store right next to the factory. I took the tour and bought a couple of little mementos. I also visited the Jungle Gardens just down the road from the factory but I'm still working on those post for another day.

I spent a week in New Orleans. It's been the third week in a year and the fourth trip in that timeframe. My first trip was a good one - I went two years before the storm. My next trip was a year after. In these recent trips I have been able to see the real city. I've found out that some of the tourist traps are also favorites for locals. I've found that as is true in so many other cities - those hidden neighborhood hole-in-the-walls are some of the best food there is. I will weigh in on two topics: Cafe au lait and beignets and muffaletta. I'm not going to do an exhaustive history of the coffee and beignet tradition in the city but I will say that after multiple visits to both Cafe du Monde and Morning Call I much prefer Morning Call. I've visited the Lakeside location of MC half a dozen or more times (I need my fix at least once when I'm there) and several of the CdM's scattered about town...MC wins hands down in my book.'s fun to go to CdM on a windy morning early (pre 9 am) and watch out of town business men in dark suits attempt to eat fresh beignets piled high with lots of white powdered sugar. I suppose it is the little things in life...especially when they're that funny. Now onto the topic that might get me keelhauled...muffaletta. I have had three versions of this mythical sandwich now. One from the capital of muffaletta Central Grocery, one from an Italian place just around the corner from my in-laws house, and this one...from Cafe Freret (thanks again Lorin). Now the one at the Italian place is in a different category - hot/warm muffaletta. CG and CF are both cold. My wife and I shared the large at CF...I managed to put away half of this thing. I love these sandwiches...meat, cheese, bread, vegetables, olives (which I'm not normally a big fan of) and love all put together in a way only New Orleans seems to do. My wife and I held a fast discussion as we indulged in our favorite NOLA date food (it's a tradition that we share one every trip) - we'll be back at CF...and not so much at CG. For the uninitiated let me offer this - go to CG and experience one (don't go on Monday (they're closed) and go early) then go to CF and really enjoy. These are my opinions - I'm not compensated in anyway that having eaten and enjoyed them (is it wrong to even enjoy picking up the check for them?)

There is more to come...but I wanted to get something to you to update things. Back to the iced au lait I made myself (I always bring back groceries...).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On location in the Big Easy...

I've been here since Saturday afternoon...eating, driving around, venturing into all sorts of places and neighborhoods to bring you, dear reader, what's going on in the city of New Orleans now. Sunday was church, Monday was a recovery day from driving all day Saturday, Tuesday...Tuesday began the adventure. My wife is in class during the day so I get to take my trusty map and go for a drive. Tuesday morning found me sweating myself silly at the Crescent City Farmers Market Tuesday market. Creole tomatoes, okra, eggplant, late season peaches and blueberries, heritage chickens and eggs, grass fed beef, flowers and plants galore were present at this event. I was rather enthralled with shopping and exploring I didn't get pictures - but there wasn't much of a picturesque nature - lots of sunshine and sweat and veggies. Tuesday lunch was supposed to come from Cafe Freret but they are closed until Friday (never fear, gentle souls, I'm going back on Friday to get this.) Today was even more fun. Instead of taking my wife to class she drove herself (we're staying with her parents) and I drove to Avery Island...home of the deliciously spicy Tabasco sauce. The island is also home to a "Jungle Garden" that is beautiful. I'll post pictures later and talk about the tour. No one has been forgotten...I think tomorrow might be a recovery day and time to catch up on my reading. Until later...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Thoughts on rising dough...

This post is only partially about bread. I'm typing it as my third run at Joe Ortiz's Pain de Campagne sur poolish from The Village Baker is having it's final proof in a banneton. This one got similar treatment as the last loaf...all day chill of the poolish in the fridge. I'm using Gold Medal's Harvest King bread flour. The dough behaves much differently than either of the last two times. It's got more body - I also noted greater gas bubbles in this one when I was doing the folding. But enough about this bread dough...

I was thinking last night (another date night for the loving wife and I) about how we sometimes mistake the better or best of simplicity for the good of complicated or un-simple. I had these rather wild imaginings of ratatouille and roast chicken. We wound up with mushroom omelets, grits, and sausage. I don't think the meal could have been more perfect - soul satisfying and conversation stopping. They were also some of the most perfect omelets I've ever made...the egg was not brown on the outside, they were perfectly set, the fold even worked mostly right. I kept the grits simple - butter, salt, and pepper. The sausage were a frozen patty that we like. I continue to find the simple solutions in life and the simple ways are the best. The more work I do in gardening and cooking and baking the better my perspective is on life (though after kneading several pounds of bread dough it's very difficult to have a bad're thoroughly rung want a nap and new arms) and my relationship with my wife. To any new readers - I get philosophical late at night when I'm tired and have a long road still to travel.

The bread is in the oven to follow later.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

IMBB Apron Edition

This post is written as an entry for the Lucullian Delights IMBB Apron event.

This is my favorite apron. I acquired it a few years ago when my grandmother and I went on one of our adventures together. We drove to Greenville, South Carolina to visit Foxfire Kitchens together. It was quite a trip - we got lost along the way stopping at Furman University to call for directions (which turned out to be a stone's thrown from the store). My grandmother was my favorite culinary guinea pig. She was widowed and didn't cook much for herself. She lived vicariously through my cooking (sometimes it was an adventure and some times an experience) and was the greatest sous chef anyone could ever ask for. I bought the apron because it reminded me of the English shopkeepers and the navy blue and white stripe one they wear. I put this on in my kitchen and always remember the fun my grandmother and I shared in her kitchen. She passed a little over a year ago and my loving wife has taken her place as guinea pig - but no one can fill the place for culinary adventurer like my grandmother did.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pain de a loaf pan?!?!?!?!?

My loving wife is not a fan of rustic crusty breads (much to my chagrin). So...I compromised...sort of. I am baking Ortiz's Pain de Campagne sur poolish for the second time. This time I followed the recipe - my first run was minus the rye flour in the poolish which made for an interesting dough - very soft and not enough gluten to hold shape (that might also have been the bakers fault so I cannot be held completely innocent). I made another poolish this morning out of the flour blend (1 cup unbleached all-purpose, 1/2 cup whole wheat, 1/2 cup rye), the water (1 1/2 cups filtered) and one packet of yeast. Last poolish was allowed to sit on the counter overnight. Today was a work day so after one hour I popped the poolish in the fridge for an all day chill. It was more active in the hour than the other was over night. I had to run an errand tonight so I came home, set out the poolish, and ran to Sam's. Back home and off to the mixing. This is a hand mixed bread - it tells me I need to incorporate some form of this activity in my arm was aching. It mixed up beautifully - soft and sticky at first but it absorbed the last cup of flour and was beautiful - slightly tacky to the touch, soft, elastic - the perfect dough. Knocked it down, folded it repeatedly and shaped into a loaf for the wife's enjoyment - note this is the only time this recipe will be put into a loaf - it's designed as a round. I'm sitting typing as it bakes in our George Foreman oven (I wasn't about to light off the big one tonight). The house smells of warm bread and since there is a glass front I get to watch it...I have new understanding of the term "oven spring". It overran the edges some but it's absolutely beautiful...the crust is turning a rich golden color that will progress to a deeper brown. The use of rye made the dough behave much more differently than the first run. The next run using both rye and bread flour. the last run will remove the rye (as in the first baking) and use bread flour in place of the all purpose and wheat (as I did in the first baking) for the rye. I'll be posting results as I bake (normally 2-3 days to a week to devour, I mean test, the loaves).
I've added the pic...maybe he went back to his country roots...the top of the loaf more resembles a batard. Breakfast will be extra lovely in the morning.

Catching up

Saturday night was the big to-do here...things went well. I wanted to clean up and fire up the outdoor grill the house comes with but I decided that since it was 98 degrees outside and I'd be standing over a 500-600 degree heat source I'd pass. We roasted the chickens in the oven instead. I glazed them with an apricot jam and creole mustard mix with about 20 minutes left in their cook time. We also had green beans and crock-pot macaroni and cheese. Simple, solid food. I served up the onion confit and white bean dip I had made earlier as appetizers. They were smash hits.

Sunday was an interesting day. I had made a poolish starter for a Pain de Campagne formula and I got up at 4 to make the dough, proof it out, and bake. The bread turned out great - I had some exceptions to the recipe so it wasn't exatly what it might have been - if a little flat. It was probably the best bread I've made in my baking odyssey so far. I'm trying the same formula again as written - I purchased Rye flour just for this. I'm starting the poolish this morning and I'll proof and bake it off tonight. I'll post the results when they are in. Needless to say Sunday was a long day. Had lunch with my sister and brother-in-law and friends at the sister's new house. She's surprising - gone from not able to cook much to a really good cook.

More later today...hopefully.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Date night

So tonight was date night...

The menu -

Shirred eggs with Canadian Bacon, sauteed mushrooms, and Parmigiano-Reggiano
Sour Cream Cake
Macerated Wild Blueberries and Raspberries

Simple, elegant, and a repeat performance has been requested. Tomorrow is the big day...lots of work...look for a post late tomorrow.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Work night number 2

Tonight was grocery night and prep for Saturday's entertaining. I'm planning two easy appetizers, the main course, and maybe a dessert. I'm working on one appetizer now...three onion confit.

1 medium to large red onion

1 medium to large Spanish onion

1 medium to large sweet onion (Vidalias are in season so that was my choice)

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1/2 cup reduced chicken stock

1/4 cup cane vinegar

2 sprigs fresh thyme

4 T butter

1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil

Pinch Quatre-Epices

Begin heating oil and butter over medium heat. Top, halve, and peel onions and slice in 1/4" thick half moons. When butter begins to bubble add half of onions. Sprinkle with half of salt and half of sugar. Add remaining onions, salt and sugar. After 10 minutes cook time add sprigs of thyme. When onions are softened and well browned, remove from oil. Drain oil from pan. Add onions back to pan, add stock, vinegar, and Quatre-Epices. Reduce liquid to syrup consistency. Cover and chill.

One more day till Friday...

Last night I skimmed the stock I had made. It needed more simmer's viscous but not as gelatinous as some. Even cold it smells amazing. I can't wait to use it in something soon. I'll take it up and freeze it tonight. I've added my phone to this to take snaps here and there...I tried one already but it was before cup number two and things didn't turn out quite as I wanted them was a case of user error and gross inexperience. I'll figure it out. We're prepping to entertain this weekend. We've been having friends and neighbors drop by to break bread with us. This weekend is a much larger party...our neighbors next door and their son, our neighbor across the street, and my wife's former roomie. So I'm cooking for seven. The menu is shaping up...grilled chicken, crock pot mac and cheese (which if you've never done it this way you've missed out on what could easily be the greatest macaroni and cheese (or macaroni gratin if you must) known to all mankind), I'm toying with a brunswick stew recipe but that might get dropped, and something green. There'll be bread and an amuse or two. I might pirate the white bean dip from Chocolate...and put my own spin on it. I'll report back with more as the work progresses and I'll post how it all turned out.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

First real work night

Busy night tonight. I'm baching it while the loving wife works a late shift. keep myself occupied I'm making stock - my second try. The first time was vegetable stock...not much to that one really...simmer for a few hours and then rapidly cool and decant into ice cube trays, pop into the freezer, and voila: frozen stock cubes ready for whatever comes along.

  • Tonight is chicken stock...the wife set out the carcasses and bits that had been occupying the freezer for a month or so and I came in, chopped up the mirepoix, added thyme, bay leaves, and a small handful of black peppercorns, covered in cold, filtered water and turn on medium low heat - you want slow bubbles. As Anthony Bourdain made abundantly clear in his Les Halles cookbook: NEVER BOIL YOUR STOCK! Right now the house smells of rich chicken stock and will for several hours to come I must be doing something right...I'm seeing the scum form that I've read and heard so much about...nasty stuff. No wonder it get skimmed off.

  • I'm also poaching some chicken for use in mock barbecue.

  • I've made my own take on Quatre-Epices. I used white pepper, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Yes, that's five spices. I'd have added ginger if I'd had any dry. It has a most unusually musky spicy aroma. I'm looking forward to trying this out soon.

  • I made my not-as-famous-as-I'd-like-it-to-be cheese spread. It's my take on a tip I got from a local chef. He made the most amazing (next to my mother's) pimiento cheese. I was at a tasting dinner one night and had a chance to talk to him. Long story short his secret was Tillamook Sharp Cheddar. I use it in mine and omit the pimiento. I season it up with onion and garlic and hot sauce. I also use goat cheese in place of cream cheese.

  • I was going to roast coffee but it sprinkled rain and the humidity is oppressive right now. Maybe tomorrow night.

The loving wife also signed off on doing some "in-house" food "production". I've got a great wheat bread recipe and all the kit...I just needed the go-ahead to get going. I'll also be making yogurt and in a year or so be cranking out strawberry jam/preserves/conserve. I ordered some Fragaria virginiana (wild strawberries that were the one of the parent cultivars of the berries we know so well today). These aren't big berries but the taste is reported to be amazing. Check in with me in a summer or so and lets see what sort of yield and taste we get. I'll be adding some other little things along...including a garden to grow some stuff. Fresh from my own garden has always tasted better than even the really fresh I've bought from local farmers. Well...back to the kitchen. Add this to my list of favorite aromas - apple pie, coffee, Nueske's bacon, freshly baked bread, and now chicken stock.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Re-entry into this week was like the Space Shuttle hitting the atmosphere at the wrong angle and skipping, hotly, across the surface. This has not been my best day.

There had been some brief discussion between the wife and I to make a mock BBQ chicken - braise/poach the chicken, shred, add sauce and serve. With a zucchini gratinish kind of thing I made the other night - I'll post that one when it works right and not before. This was edible and ok...just not what I had envisioned. I scrapped the plans and we wound up having omelets and cheese grits. Not ordinary omelets - sweet omelets. I warmed two tablespoons (give or take) of
Duerr's lovely strawberry preserves and placed it in the middle of my omelet - standard for me is two eggs and two tablespoons of water, whisked thoroughly, and then cooked in my egg pan. I topped mine with some leftover Feta cheese from the other night...there was a great flavor contrast - the eggy of the egg, the sweet berry from the preserves, and the briny sharpness that only Feta can bring to the party. I could envision this redone with some Maytag bleu - A Bleu Berry Omelet mayhaps? My grits are another matter - I bought some on our honeymoon from Nora Mill Granary in Helen, Georgia. "Georgia Ice Cream" is what they are called. I made them according to their directions - 4 cups of water to 1 cup of dry grits. Bring water to a boil, salt lightly, add grits and stir very well. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until grits have absorbed most of the water. You'll know what it looks like - it goes from corn floating in water to paste really fast. I think we added about 2-3 ounces of supermarket sharp cheddar cheese (please feel free to step out here. I love grits with fresh thyme and fresh chevre, or Montgomery's cheddar, or even "Red Cow" Parmesan and lots of pepper (maybe a drizzle of well aged balsamic for a little something really special). I also added my own creole seasoning (salt free) which I lovingly took from NOLA Cuisine and added my own twist - smoked paprika for regular. It just adds a subtle smoky sweetness. It was good just to sit and talk to my wife and share a meal together. I'm planning something special for Friday night date night...if she reads this (I can honestly say I don't know) I won't reveal doodle until I serve it up.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Saturday wanderings

After a later than needed start I ran the errands I was supposed to. I retrieved some items I'm selling through trusted vendors and then off for a bite to eat and to hit the grocery. I'll say it in type here as I've verbalized to friends: I'm so glad Whole Foods bought Harry's Farmers Market. I'm not always crazy about the lineup in store or the way they continue to rearrange the blessed place (I used to know the market like the back of my hand, now I'm always scrounging for items). Today was one of those just a little less than thrilled days - they had an island theme (which by itself is innocuous) but they had some guy playing steel drum piped through the store. It gets old fast in that much noise. Anyhoo...they had lots of regional organic produce on special so I bought some of this and that (specifically zucchini, squash, and yams). I picked up more's become a pantry staple. I also picked up some cheese to make my cheese spread with (fresh goat and Tillamook cheddar, spiked with onion, garlic, and or shallot). I went looking for two places in Marietta - and found neither of them. I settled for a local chain sandwich shop and had their chicken salad - great stuff that I didn't have to cook. I noted as I went in the door that there was a shop down the walk called "Cajun Specialty Meats". I took a chance and went in. These guys make their own stuff - Tasso, Andouille, and a case full of sausages and meats that are seasoned. They also have refrigerator cases of bits and pieces of Gulf Coast goodies - Savoie sausage, crab meat, and some other bits. The other wall is a micro Cajun/Creole/Italian grocery. Most of the Louisiana Brand products, some Zatarains (large sizes of Crab Boil available), lots of Tony Chachere's stuff, and most important to me: Community Coffee Between Roast stacked up. The gent who helped me said that was all he drank as well. The shop was small but clean - no funky smell and the tops of the tables that weren't being used to process meat were shining. I bought Tasso and Andouille and I'll post my thoughts on them when I try them. My wife should be pleased...I won't be itching to make my own for a while longer. For the diaspora of Cajuns/Creoles/and other folks chased up here by the hurricanes as well as those who like me got bit by the flavors of New Orleans and can't shake them (I married a native) check them out: Cajun Meat Company

Saturday morning coffee

June 16, 2007 - Thoughts on coffee (before the first cup is, honestly, barely begun)

I mentioned my Chemex in last night's post. I'll be honest where I learned about this wonderful device - James Bond novels, specifically From Russia With Love (my favorite book and movie). In the book Fleming paints a picture of Bond's daily life in London. The part about his breakfast captured my attention. I can honestly say that I rather enjoy Cooper's Orange Marmalade, Tiptree "Little Scarlet" Strawberry preserves (when I can find and afford it...we're talking potential fiscal ruin here), and the coffee brewed in an American Chemex. He also mentioned an egg boiled for a precise time (never been a fan of soft or hard boiled eggs but I've had them scrambled and fried in celebration of this ideal), two pieces of wheat toast (I'll eventually post the brown bread recipe I use that brought this to new heights), each with a large pat of Jersey butter (Normandy is better but I take whatever is in the fridge door), and some Norwegian honey (which I've never been able to find here in ATL). Fleming also wrote about the china...Minton...used to serve the breakfast. I work for a living and don't earn thousands of Pounds Sterling from gambling all night at a club. I'll take the Fiestaware we got for the wedding or the restauarant white I had before. Now back to the coffee...the Chemex. This device couldn't be simpler. No plug, buttons, or other nifty devices. We're talking seriously low tech. My only caveat is to buy the Chemex filters. I have heard reports that other filters give way under the weight of water and coffee (since they rest partially unsupported). Put medium fine ground coffee in the filter and pour over 195-205 degree water and when it finishes dripping experience the finest cup of coffee known to man. What makes it even better is to roast your own coffee - yes, I'm a home roaster and proud of it!! and brew that up. For one stop shopping for the Chemex, roaster, and green visit my friends Tom and Maria at Sweetmarias. These folks stock an amazing assortment of green, brewing gear, and more important knowledge and wisdom for the home roaster. They moved to California some time back so shipping take a little longer than it used to when they were in Ohio but the service and selection far exceed the extra few days wait for the goodies. Next on my list for green suppliers is Coffee Bean Corral. Good people, fast service, and amazing selection. Now I don't always have home roasted coffee - I either forget or run out of time - so here's a shameless plug for one brand of coffee that always graces my pantry and brewers - Community Coffee - I used to drink the Dark roast exclusively and then I decided to try the Between roast once. I've never looked back - Between roast is a favorite of the wife and I. Somehow the local markets stopped stocking it - note to aforementioned retailers - you really cheesed me with that one. Her parents were gracious enough to bring four pounds with them on a recent visit and we'll stock up when we go down to New Orleans (her hometown and where her parents reside) in a month - I do plan on blogging that food event. I've included my formula for coffee below:

For every 8 fluid ounces of fresh, cold water - 1 SCAA measure (found at Sweetmarias) ground coffee - I use a medium fine grind that I have adjusted my Zassenhaus manual burr grinder for. I'll post a picture at some point so you can see but it won't give you an accurate idea. You have to tinker with it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Opening Night

Up and running on the internet now...two days, two technicians, too many hours and phone calls, and some unnecessary indigestion...but that's not the purpose. This is a foodie blog - talking about food finds and restaurants here in the Metro Atlanta area.

Tonight - June 15, 2007 - Date Night

The wife and I went out tonight. Dinner at Chris' Pizza in Toco Hills. Chris' is a great hidden place - Greek pizza and food. This is good food, not high end, not low end, just solid cuisine. The service is good and the place is normally quiet - the dinner crowd was arriving as we were on the way out. The wife ordered an individual veggie pizza and a small Greek salad. I had the small Greek pizza. What is it about gyro meat? The blended flavors of lamb and beef, the seasonings, and that slightly crunchy outside. We finished up and then went right around the corner (literally) to Atlanta Coffee Roasters. This is another hidden place. It's a favorite with college students. The espresso is excellent - I'd rate it in my top three in this town. They are retailers of all sorts of coffee, tea, and brewing gear. I'm a big coffee person - my Chemex and I have a potentially unhealthy relationship. This place gets two thumbs up from me.

Last night (marking two months of marriage) was homemade Chickpea Curry - I found a recipe at a vegetarian site and sort of made it my own.

2 c dried chickpeas
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 medium onions, diced medium fine
6-7 small cloves of garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 1/4 tsp cumin seed, toasted and finely ground
1 tsp coriander seed, toasted and finely ground
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
1 tsp Penzey's Maharajah curry powder (this is the ultimate curry powder)
3 T olive oil
1 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp garam masala

I always hot-soak my dried beans. I cover them in boiling water for one hour, drain well, and use. Saute the onions, garlic, and ginger in the oil over medium high heat until slightly golden. Remove from heat. Add turmeric, cumin, coriander seed, and curry powder and stir well - the kitchen will be very fragrant now. Put chickpeas, tomatoes, saute mix, 1 cup of the water, and the salt in a Crock-Pot. Cook on low for 6+ hours. I left out (and probably missed out) the garam masala the original called for. You can add this if you'd like (and probably should) in the last half hour of cooking. Check partway through and add additional cup of water if needed. Serve over rice for a tasty meal.