Archive for February, 2009

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Don’t You Dare Hold the Mayo

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

We decided to go out for burgers last night.  Rarely does this occur because a) so often the burgers out there are crappy ,and b) Marc insists we make a better burger than anything we could find out there.   For the most part, I must agree:  unless willing to sit down at a rather up-scale-ish restaurant and pay $14, a fine and tasty burger is rare, no pun intended.   Ironically, the burgers we make are probably not far from $14 each, what with the sustainable beef, the Niman Ranch thick-cut bacon and pricey cheese that gets piled on a Marcburger.   These also involve home-made herbed mayonnaise and caramelized onions, so you can see why it is hard to warrant going out.   Once in a blue moon, however, we find ourselves with the potential for little more than cereal and vodka for supper and so must venture out, whether we like it or not.

There is a Burgermeister down the street that has won all kinds of awards and accolades for its gourmet burgers.  The word “gourmet” is hardly a descriptive adjective anymore, arguably providing no more information than the word “large”- it’s all relative, and so much overused.    I would argue that “gourmet” is code for “expensive” and has nothing to do with the quality of the food.   From this, one might surmise that I am less than enthralled by the Burgermeister’s gourmet, award-laden burgers.     It is true.  They talk a mean game but the buns are dry and the beef is, strangely, flavourless, like they forgot to add the salt.

So last night, we walked further to visit Darla’s.


Interesting-  she doesn’t insist she’s “The Best”, allows for the possibility of a better burger.   These are not what I expected:  hand-molded patties cooked to order of doneness (cooking to order seems just an American thing, right up there with Chicken ‘n Waffles), topped with mayo, thick, smoky bacon and melted cheese, served with onions, lettuce, pickles, mustard and ketchup on the side. I like the stuff on the side- easier to get the way I like it.  And like it I most certainly did.    The woman who was our server, I think she was the eponymous Darla, came up to the table after we had had a few bites and said, “I had a burger earlier today and it was really fucking good.  How’s yours?”

“Really fucking good.”

Because Tea Time Needs More Bloodshed

Friday, February 20th, 2009

I drink at least one cup of tea every day and I have yet to buy a tea infuser.  I use tea bags and the Bodum™ coffee press for loose tea, but up until now, a tea-infuser has seemed unnecessary.   Until now.

Sharky Tea Infuser

INFUSION means to extract certain properties from an soluble ingredient such as tea leaves , herbs or fruit by soaking in liquid (water) until it gets saturated. So we can say that a infuser is the in charged of make this happen. This is a ludic point of view about the color given off from the phenomenon, which makes more interesting the waiting of the whole process.


Same Old

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Perhaps it’s a sign that our Valentine’s Day was nothing out of the ordinary.   I don’t mean that cynically, rather in an every-day-is-filled-with-sunshine kind of way.   Most often, an occasion or a holiday warrants, for us, a relatively extravagant meal that we prepare, but this year, it was just what happened to remain on our weekly menu.  Our regular menu has, I suppose, evolved to a place where almost every evening we cook is an occasion.  Except for the nights when we make Kraft Dinner.

This year’s V-day was preceded by an attendance at the Food From the Heart wine and food tasting at the Ferry Building the night before.  This was reminiscent of one our first dates spent at a wine and food tasting in Calgary at the Stampede Grounds.  The Ferry Building was somewhat more demure and featured some really enjoyable wines from Napa, Sonoma, etc. but somehow they had neglected to put a champagne tasting booth next to the raw oyster booth.  A small oversight I suppose I can overlook for the fact that there were pulled-pork sandwiches, caviar blini and, thankfully, no Hungarian wines.

The next day, Saturday, we needed only to ferret out a delectable treat of a wine to go with supper.  Expensive wine is certainly a deviation from our norm and so much more appreciated as such.   We went to our new favourite wine shop/convenience store in Cole Valley where $150 bottles of wine are sold next to canned pork and beans and Big League Chew.   We discussed with the proprieter, Adel, what we planned to cook that night and that we were leaning towards a Malbec, but he suggested instead a Chilean blend from Maipo Valley with a hand-lettered “716” on the bottom right of the label.   It is the bottle number of that vintage of Antiyal 2005, of which 6900 were made.   Somehow, this little piece of knowledge added a new perspective to the wine, because to picture this one bottle as its number, I must see it relative to its 6899 brothers, and that is was among the first thousand to be bottled (presumably).  Curious: would it be different from bottle 5016?

  • grilled chili-marinated skirt steak with maple-chipotle glaze


  • french fries with fleur de sel and truffle oil


  • chevre rice pudding with pistachios, dates and candied kumquats


Some bold flavours to challenge this wine;  it was certainly enjoyable after breathing for awhile but I wouldn’t describe it as extraordinary, though neither would the meal itself warrant that praise.   However, when applied together to a small desk-cum-table facing our best and only view of the city at night, it was certainly delightful and romantic.

Meat + Cheese + Bacon + Cheese

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

As Blair wisely pointed out, this site is like the ‘anti-sybarites’.

This Is Why You’re

After reading about five entries, the descriptions started to make me gag.  Honestly, bacon wrapped around around an hamburger wrapped around a  a hot dog?!   To be topped only by the “Carnie Casserole”.    I was reminded of a previous post lamenting meat-centric gluttony:  In Which I Discuss Meat.

Tart on Tart Action

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Didn’t really plan this, but there was leftover puff pastry from an earlier savoury pot pie, and I couldn’t bear to watch the pastry go the way of the beef short ribs.   Plus, there was a deal on asparagus that was not to be missed- $4.99/lb.!   Might as well be buying it on the black market.   So we dined on leek and asparagus tart with Bucheron cheese…



…followed by a rustic apple tart laced with honey and melted butter.

Comme il faut

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Irresistible.   At the library, I try to limit myself to 3 or 4 cookbooks at a time because I have to carry them all home, up steep hills, and some of those cookbooks weigh a ton;  I’m building up the muscle needed to lug home the big yellow Gourmet Cookbook.  In the meantime, I brought home The Bistros, Brasseries and Wine Bars of Paris:  Everyday Recipes form the Real Paris.  Balancing an armload of books in the narrow aisle I flipped the book open to Pan-Seared Cod with Potato and Smoked Sausage Purée from La Muse Vin.  Didn’t even need to look further before I plunked on the top of my pile and lurched over to the check out.


It’s the first book I sat down with when I got home.  I thought about bustin’ out the PostIt™ notes to bookmark the ones I wanted to try but, that would’ve meant book marking almost every page.   Irresistible, French cooking!   The first thing I read was on the front cover, the definitions of the establishments listed in the title:

  • Bistro, an informal place serving a few hearty dishes noon and night.
  • Brasserie, a café-restaurant with continuous service and timeless foods.
  • Wine bar, a small establishment featuring wines by the glass and some simple food.

Seems a lot of overlap in the definitions, perhaps the only true point of differentiation is the time of day at which meals are served at each.  So I can’t have wine for breakfast?
After much lip chewing and salivating, I convinced Marc that we should make choucroute garnie, unglamourously translated as Sauerkraut with Pork and Sausages.  This took some earnest convincing on my part as Marc abhors the sauerkraut.  But I quoted the book that fresh sauerkraut is worlds away from what he would know as canned, pickled cabbage.  We can get fresh made sauerkraut in bulk at the Rainbow grocery (right next to the bulk, house-made kimchi and the enormous tub of organic miso paste) so the authenticity of the recipe would not be tarnished.   If I’m to be perfectly honest, it was likely the promise of Canadian bacon in the recipe that made his decision, not my championing of sauerkraut.

Ah, so satisfying, this glorious, humble dish.  Salty, meaty, tart with vinegar and crunchy with cabbage, spicy mustard on the side to slather on hunks of bratwurst.  No question, this will be making repeat performances as long as the weather hovers around “chilly”.


Squished Flat and Crispy on the Outside

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Recently, whenever we have decided to roast a chicken, we have butterflied it.   I don’t know how this started exactly, but at some point, I used some lethal kitchen shears to de-spine a chicken in order to roast it faster, and now it has become habit.   Less time in the oven means less gas usage, the meat cooks more evenly, food is on the table faster;  the only drawback is the aesthetic value of presenting a flattened chicken.

Last week we added a new dimension to  the butterfly cooking method:  squash it even flatter with a brick.  Ostensibly, this brick-method makes it Moroccan, if one is to believe Tyler Florence on the TV, but I’m not sure I do.  Regardless, it did present some twists:

  • the skin was crispier than usual owing to the extra fat being squished out and rendered, coating and crisping the skin,
  • the chicken was, naturalement, way flatter than usual,
  • the cooking time was slightly faster.



In addition to adding the brick to our collection of kitchen tools (stolen from the front garden), we finally lashed out and bought the $15 grinder to be dedicated only to grinding spices.  What took us so long?  It was so much easier to use this then trying to mortar-and-pestle them as we used to.   As it turns out, it would’ve been rough going trying to grind up the sumac berries for the za’atar by hand.    The recipe for the chicken suggested serving it with za’atar grilled bread, which was pizza dough we did on the Foreman.  Za’atar, we could’ve bought it ready-made, but since we had the spice grinder it was going to be more fun to build it on our own.


Add a little couscous spiked with toasted almonds and dried apricots, top with some cool minted yogurt, and we could be in Morocco.


It’s February

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

This has nothing to do with food but I can’t resist-   the blooming of the purple leaf plums on our street is extravagent.




When Life Hands You a Lemon

Monday, February 9th, 2009

“When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.”   What about when life hands you rotten meat?   Or rather, what happens when you buy meat and then leave it in the fridge so long that when you take it out to use it, the juices in the sealed plastic package appear rather more green than red?     What’s the adage for rotted meat?

There was nothing we could add to those sad-looking, expensive beef short-ribs that would have made them palatable.    Angrily, Marc threw them away and thus the whining began.   Both of us whining about what to make for dinner on Saturday night when we had planned all week to enjoy beef rendang, when we had made a special trip via bus and walked 10 blocks to the Asian grocery to find the pandan leaves for the accompanying nasi lemak and the kaffir lime leaves to flavour the beef.    A breath away from suggesting we order pizza, Marc found a recipe online that saved us from ourselves, a recipe that called for kumquats, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric and shallots, all of were laying about unfulfilled without the star of their show.   We had randomly purchased chicken thighs that afternoon because we were at the butcher’s, and Marc ran down the street for one chili pepper while I prepped the rest for Spice-Rubbed Chicken with Kumquat-Lemongrass Dressing.   Really, what are the odds that we would have purchased a 1 lb. bag of kumquats because they were on sale?   How often do we have lemongrass poking their scratchy ends out of the vegetable crisper?

And so, an evening that started out by throwing away twelve dollars-worth of meat ended with spicy, citrusy, crispy-skinned chicken on a bed of coconut rice. So far, the Year of the Ox brings us luck!


Safe, Safer, Safest

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Lately, Sam has become more sensitive to loud noises in the kitchen.   Anything that bangs or grinds or clangs startles all four feet off the floor and backwards about a meter.  What has changed that every pot lid that clamps down on a pot, every dropped fork makes him jump out of his skin?   He finds it safer now to stand in the doorway of the kitchen while we’re cooking, to be safe from anything that might disrupt his delicate sensibilities.

If the kitchen drama becomes too scary, he will go off for a nap, sometimes where it feels safest of all.