Sunday, October 3, 2010

Beef: It's what should be for dinner... But only if you order it right.

As you all should be aware of by now, I am huge meatatarian. I’ve never met a creature that I wouldn’t eat or wear and it perplexes me why people would want to waste their life as a vegan or vegetarian when there are so many fabulous things to eat out there… I mean vegetarians/vegans- How is that rabbit food you’re noshing on anyway??? Do you want to come eat some real food? I can share, really I can. You’re hair might be a tad bit shinier if you got some iron from red meat you know…. I’m just saying. Anyway, the one thing that vexes me more than people that don’t eat meat, are the people that eat meat incorrectly. WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU ORDER STEAK MEDIUM WELL/WELL DONE? In my book, it defeats the whole purpose and you’ve now just wasted a perfectly good cut of beef.

You may be wondering why I am bringing this up on a Sunday of all days, but it happens to be that little old moi received some slack on my Facebook page for photos that this fabulous magazine took of my benefit dinner. There was a dish that I cooked consisting of blackened rib-eyes which were cooked to perfection, (perfection being RARE and MEDIUM RARE), and then topped off with a roasted bone marrow and rosemary butter, (thank you foodies, thank you. I appreciate the applause), and someone who shall remain nameless, decided she didn’t like the rare OR the bone marrow because it was “scary”. Well honey, I have news for you… You’re not a food person, you’re dismissed. Enjoy Applebee’s because I’m positive they will turn your steak into cardboard for you and they’ve never even heard of bone marrow- You’ll be safe there, I promise. In fact, I think I can get you a table next to the idiot I once broke up with because he guilted me for ordering veal. He’s banished to a life filled with bad chain restaurants too.

Living next door to the Palm Steak House in LA for many years and having learned how to cook a proper piece of beef from my good friend, Chef Camillo, I feel that it’s my duty to spread the knowledge that he was kind enough to bestow on me. It’s like a diplomatic duty or paying it forward or something. Sear your steak on the stove, finish it in the oven and most importantly, LET THE THING REST. You’ll yield an incredibly juicy and fabulous piece of meat that way. Trust me ladies, if you can learn to cook a good steak and a crème brulee, you’re Mancandy will never leave you. It’s a fact. Hell, I would never leave anyone, hence my loyalty to the Palm!

In all seriousness though, this whole Facebook incident really got me thinking, and yours truly has come to the conclusion that we should really institute a form of segregation: Food people on one side, non-food people on the other. Then we would know who not to waste our time or beef on. I truly believe that how one views food, translates into different aspects of a person’s make up: Adventurous or unadventurous; sensual or boring; passionate or unimpassioned. Because at the end of the day we’re all looking for someone for which we have things in common. Just like NATO, the point of the union is to keep the peace and fight for a greater good- And how can a couple do that if one is being guilted for ordering a little osso bucco from time to time? Gentlemen, if you’re ordering your steaks well done then you need not apply, because at that point you may as well be drinking white wine. And you know what I say to that: Men that drink white wine as a preference- Forget about it. Can’t handle a good, bold, spicy glass of red, can’t handle a real woman.

Friday, October 1, 2010

American Pie, Martha and Moi

So, I know that I tend to preach in my blogs about the glory of French food, cooking techniques, my Chef crush on Daniel Boulud, and well, pretty much all things en francais. In fact, a week ago while at the beach, I had to endure endless mockery from the Mancandy as we laid out our beach blanket and I proceeded to pull out and devour an issue of Country French Magazine- What? It was an issue on decorating in country French style, and I was raving over the hearth-like kitchens in the spread. Like you wouldn’t have done the same? Although I adore my French provincial-style dinnerware and had a near meltdown when a single plate was broken at our last dinner party, yielding an uneven set, I actually am quite fond of American classics as well. When it comes to food, there are a plethora of classics in the American cuisine that I just can’t get enough of, and a good apple pie is one of them- It’s just one of those foods that conjure up some of my fondest memories from childhood, and honestly, what could be better than that?

Maybe it’s the change to cooler weather, my biological clock has started ticking, or perhaps just pure boredom- but yours truly is officially nesting. Instead of splurging on trips abroad, little black dresses, or even Prada, I’ve been diverting my disposable income to home goods stores such as Sur la Table, Williams Sonoma, and even on multiple occasions dressing incognito and raiding the messy cookware isles of TJ Maxx, picking up random Le Creuset and copper cookware for fifty percent off. It was on such an occasion, as I was desperately trying to find a replacement for the aforementioned broken plate, that I came across my new obsession: an ivory and Tiffany blue, deep dish pie plate, with fluted rim. “I don’t bake pies”, I thought to myself as I started to walk away from the dish. “But then again, I don’t have a Tiffany blue, deep dish pie plate with fluted rim- Because if I HAD one, I’d be baking pies all the time!” I reasoned as I quickly stopped, reversed, and snatched up the dish.

Later that day as I stared at the pie dish, I was torn between my fondest food memories with my Auntie Louise’s apple pies and a desire to create my own amazing recipe; and the fact that if I did, the Mancandy’s assessment that I was the “Asian Martha Stewart” would then be correct. If I made the pie would it then just be a sleigh ride to becoming a Stepford Wife? What was next? Cashmere twin sweater sets, with cardigans draped over my shoulders? Oh wait… I already wear those. Well Wisteria Lane make room, because obviously the food won and I ended up doing my spin on an American classic- Apple and Browned Sage Butter Pie with Cream Cheese Crust. Even though it wasn’t my Auntie Louise’s pie, it took me right back to my childhood and I was literally giddy like an eight year old all over again. In fact it made me so damn giddy that I made another pie for my friend Christine when we had our girl’s night the following week, (yes your math is correct, that’s two pies in seven days). She sat there in horror as I proceeded to work two cubes of butter into the crust and another cube into the apple mixture itself. She ate it anyway.

There are few things that I find as comforting as the foods from our childhoods. The tastes and smells of those foods often take us back to times that, like the food itself, were simpler than that which we have now. Mine is my Auntie Louise’s apple pie, yours may be something as basic as a grilled cheese sandwich with Campbell’s tomato soup, mac and cheese or a chocolate chip cookie. But regardless, I think it’s important to take the time to enjoy those foods again, whether you’re cooking them yourself or finding a fabulous restaurant in our fair city that dishes up the classics reminiscent of your childhood.

So perhaps I am becoming more Martha-like with my pies and floral arrangements, and am thinking of trading in my racy Dolce for A-line pleated Oscar de la Renta frocks in pastel hues- But really, is that such a bad thing? Maybe nesting and reverting back to the foods of our past isn’t counter-productive, but actually signifies growth- That we’re ready to move on to the next stage of our lives, creating and sharing those childhood memories with a new generation. Even though I still prefer a penthouse loft on 5th Avenue to the white picket fence, and a shiny Rover to a mini-van, the idea of the Wisteria Lanes of the world and what Pleasantville represents, are somehow both exciting and comforting to me. And I for one can’t think of getting a better slice of the preverbal American Pie than that. Bon appétit!

Lunchbox Laboratory

As I woke up dazed and confused, I looked around… I was in my car which was parked in a garage, not in my bed. I was in a suit, not in my pj’s so apparently I went to the office today. What had happened? What time was it? Why was I almost non-functional? Slowly sitting up, I looked at my watch- 3:34pm. I was lethargic and unmotivated to do anything but curl up into a ball and sleep for the rest of eternity. Then I remembered… I went to Lunchbox Laboratory for burgers.

While yours truly is never opposed to a good food coma, I highly suggest that you not engage in that activity on a day that you actually have to be functional. But if you are going to self-induce hours of lethargic-best-food-sleep-of-your-life, then I highly suggest you do it via Lunchbox Laboratory.

Nestled in a little joint on 15th and 73rd, this place boasts some of the best burgers that I’ve had in Seattle. With the menu written on a chalkboard and the entrance covered in retro lunchboxes, it’s definitely become one of my favorite places in town. And of course allowing you to make your selections of seasonings, cheeses and even multiple types of French fries always makes this foodie a happy girl. Gourmet cheeses, fries that encompassed the spectrum from shoestring to tater-tots, to steak fries and beyond with salts from rosemary to truffle, I knew immediately that this place would be awesome. So what did we order? The truffle burger with bacon of course. A side of tater tots with bacon-garlic salt and chocolate malt that brought me right back to my childhood science class as it was served in a beaker.

Now the Mancandy eats a lot. In fact I sometimes joke that he has a hollow leg as I have zero idea where he puts all the food that we eat, but the burgers are so rich and amazing here that we were able to split a burger, fries and shake and be completely satisfied… Hello! I actually left work and had to nap in my car from the coma that it put me in.

So when it comes to burgers in Seattle, I definitely recommend checking this fabulous little place out. Take a field trip back through time to your childhood science class, mix and match ingredients and sip cool concoctions out of glass beakers… Because here, it’s always a fabulous idea to play with your food. Bon appétit!

Ode To Bacon

In the ever changing world of culinary creations we see different trends come and go. As I am a bit of a purist, I usually stick with one rule when it comes to creating a new dish. Are you ready for my secret? Because it’s a big one… In fact I am actually thinking I should get a patent on it because it’s almost as catchy as that guy that says “Let’s get ready to rumble”. In fact, it’s kind of like the culinary version of that phrase. Ok, so here it is… The Grand Poobah of ingredients; the holy trifecta of gastronomy; the meatatarian’s savior should Armageddon come and I have to pick my last meal, dammit I want it to start with this:
Butter, Bacon and Booze.

That’s right kiddies, those three ingredients are the secret to all of my knock down, blow your mind, ‘I can’t believe she made that’ dishes. Beouf bourguignon, pan seared pheasant with fig demi-glace, herb crusted rib-eye roasts, even my recipe for braised octopus. You may not know it’s there, but your taste buds will thank me indefinitely.

Lately I have been thinking about the culinary need for bacon and why we can’t seem to get enough of it. In fact, I’ve decided that it should be in a category of its own in the food group’s pyramid.

Much to the detriment of my arteries, I recently wrote a recipe for Bacon-Maple Cupcakes with Maple Butter-Cream Frosting. ..“Que?” you say? “Quelle horreur? Having bacon for dessert???” NO. I say it’s AWESOME. The sweet and savory combination of sugary maple and pork belly is really just the best thing since life spread. And little old moi isn’t the only one that thinks so either.

At John Howie Steak at the Bravern, among the fried truffle gnocchi and pork belly sliders is a decadent dish that I have come to love, and I am sure Paula Dean would highly applaud- Deep Fried Kurobuta Bacon. Because honestly, what’s better than bacon? Deep fried bacon. Yes I said it. I love it. And you should love it too.

Skillet Street Food does an amazing Bacon Jam that is slathered on their signature burgers. Caramelized onions, bacon, spices and perhaps even some crack because week after week I find myself frantically checking their website for location info and waiting in line like a culinary junkie needing my fix.

At Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland one of their best sellers is the Maple Bacon Bar. A traditional maple bar in all its yeasty goodness, topped off with perfectly crisp bacon strips that even had Anthony Bourdain reeling for more.

Bakon Vodka has even become a staple at Bloody Mary breakfast bars around our fair city, and honestly I can’t think of anything more fabulous than that.

Perhaps my arteries loathe me, and I am reducing years off my life, and I may even start getting hate mail from PETA for my enthusiastic barbarism in the name of gastronomic perfection- But you know what? I honestly don’t care. We’re only here once, this isn’t a dress rehearsal, and I intend to enjoy every minute of it. Because as a wise Disney character by the name of Ratatouille once said, “If we are what we eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

To SIP or not to SIP? (Seattle)

Whenever there is a new restaurant I am always overcome with a sense of excitement. The shiny newness of it all, the cuisine, the décor, the wine… the high I get from it is almost as good as the high I get when trying on a new pair of Louboutins. So, after a few failed attempts to attend dinner at SIP Wine Bar in Seattle- The new, chicly designed restaurant on the corner of 5th and Madison, I finally got the excuse I needed- business associates in town from LA.

Now typically when entertaining, I don’t go to anywhere that is not tried and true- especially with business associates. After all, one bad meal with them can be like a couture gown that doesn’t quite fit right- Disaster. However a good friend of mine had tried SIP a few weeks prior and had enjoyed it, so I decided it was as safe a bet as any.

Realistically, I should have known that my evening was going to be doomed from the start… After all I, MOI, moi whose barbarism extends to the need to consume a piece of bloodied red meat every other day or else I will be bitchier than I already am, was going to dinner with an AA member and a f-ing vegetarian. The thought of it alone is enough to send me into a rib-eye and vodka induced frenzy for the next week and a half.

Anyway, upon arrival, I was overjoyed to discover that there was actually valet service. For those of you that don’t know me, that is one of my biggest complaints about this city since moving from LA- NO VALET ANYWHERE! Can you imagine moi in my environmentally unfriendly Escalade, circling the block looking for parking? WHO DOES THAT? I mean really, it’s quite uncivilized. I don’t know how Seattle has managed to function for so long having to park its own cars. Ugh. Anyway, so after I pulled into said valet and handed them the ticket, I noticed that it was $9.00… Ummm first of all, valet service at Boa on Sunset is $8.00, and that is in freakin LA. This is on the corner of 5th and Madison in SEATTLE… Just a tad overpriced I think… But, as with shoes, yours truly is willing to pay the premium for quality.

After entering the restaurant, and admiring their wall of wine display, we were led up the ramp, past the cocktail crowd to our table by the lovely towering windows that enclose the whole of the restaurant. After reviewing the somewhat extensive menu, we decided on crab cakes with a granny smith apple and fennel root slaw. The flavors were fantastic with a light curry essence and the meyer lemon crème fraiche was delicious. The crab was succulent and had the perfect texture of creamy richness and a caramelized crust to incase it. Needless to say my palette was inspired and I was now hungry for more.

For my main course I selected the scallops, which were accompanied by a potato squash hash and house cured pancetta. Talk about a complete and utter let down. While I must say that the dish is a conceptual work of art, the execution was unfortunately not something that designated it so.

Upon arrival to the table, it was apparent that my dish had been sitting under a heat lamp for at least ten minutes, as the quince soubise had formed a layer of film on the top and the hash did not have a freshly whipped texture, but instead, the dull, sad look of mediocre potatoes that had been sitting out on Thanksgiving for too long. I don’t know about you, but when I think of a soubise sauce, I become elated- the lovely flavor of the onion and the silken texture of the volute that gets incorporated so the texture is creamy, but yet light enough to just barely coat the back of a spoon. Well in this case t’was not so. The sauce, while rich in flavor was a bit heavy for my taste, and the sheer fact that they had allowed enough time to elapse that the crème had formed a film on top, was enough to make me unappetized at first glance. My three miniscule scallops weren’t glossy, golden and caramelized, but instead the tops were an opaque white, with a dark black burnt rim around the edges. When I cut into the poor scallop, it was rubbery and overcooked. Now, I have no issue with miniscule scallops, I understand haute cuisine, but just like haute couture, the execution must be flawless in order for it to work. I doubt Valentino would send one of his signature red frocks down the runway with an unfinished hem, so I have no idea why the chef would have sent out overcooked scallops.

This restaurant gained back a few brownie points in my book with their dessert- a Key Lime Pie, which was actually more along the lines of a tartlet. The crust was made from crushed cookies and was buttery and crumbly in consistency. The custard was a bit sweeter than I would have liked, but tasty nonetheless, and I thought that the toasted coconut flakes added texture and gave the presentation an edge.

Overall, I have to say that I was terribly unenthused by this restaurant. I wanted to like it, I really did. The décor, while a bit hotel restaurant-ish, was still chic and quite comfortable. The live jazz band was also a plus as I find it a rare treat that Seattle restaurants be musically inclined. However, all that being said, I will not be venturing back to give it a second chance.

I like to think of myself as having a photographic memory. When it comes to fashion, I can tell you exactly what dress/shoe/bag I saw come down the runway in any given season that I will forever associate with its designer. When it comes to food, I can tell you exactly what I ate at any given restaurant that will forever haunt me in a fabulous way or otherwise. Unfortunately for SIP, it’s the latter.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet may have suggested that it’s nobler to suffer outrageous fortune, and in this specific case, my misfortune was that I had to suffer through an entire dinner of sub-par food that in any other situation I would have sent back. But old Billy S. also suggested that we take arms and oppose the sea of troubles… And since I didn’t have the luxury to oppose my sea of troubled scallops that night, I’m doing it right now. Sorry SIP, you’re fired.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Skillet Street Food (Seattle)

One of my greatest culinary passions is street food. It’s a passion that I discovered at a very young age. I actually remember walking through the streets of Taipei with my mother during my Spring Break and eating whatever goodies that we’d come across, my favorite being the green onion pancakes that were cooked on the huge oil drum woks. When travelling, I believe that consuming street food is one of the best ways to get to know a city or a culture. So you can imagine my disappointment upon moving to Seattle, and the severe lack of street food as opposed to LA, as the weather here is not conducive to such an industry. Yes there is a Taco truck down the street from my place that I can’t get enough of… But that is entirely different blog in it of itself.

When one thinks of “street food” the idea that normally comes to mind is a questionably sanitary truck, stand or cart, serving the economically priced food of the people. But what the gentlemen at Skillet Street Food have accomplished turns the concept of “street food” on its head. Based in a shiny silver trailer, and operating only twice a week at random locations all over the city, this little gem is absolutely worth the drive, the line and quite possibly Armageddon.

Friday at approximately 11:20am, I pulled into an alley in SoDo, down the street from the Starbucks headquarters. In the adjacent parking lot, there was a silver trailer, with Anita Franklin’s “RESPECT” blaring from the speakers within. The menu was simple and written on the side of the trailer in black marker, and as I was aware that they change the menu frequently, my friend and I decided to order one of everything. And all I have to say is thank God we did. While I wasn’t a fan of the slightly watered down and too sweet Rosemary Lemonade, there was not one other thing on the menu that I can say I would not order again, and again, and again. I won’t recap the entire meal for you, but here are the highlights…

As you know, I can’t stand Rachel Ray. I hate her acronyms and stupid words like “E-V-O-O”, “Sammys” and “Choup”. But if “sammys” all tasted like the Fried Chicken Sammy at Skillet, then I swear I’ll convert to her idiotic linguistics tomorrow. The breading on the chicken was spicy, flavorful and crisp and had been deep fried at the perfect temperature so the breading didn’t retain too much oil. Using radicchio in place of a traditional green lettuce added a different spin, and the celery root and apple slaw gave the sandwich a light freshness that I actually woke up craving today. The soft roll that it was served on had the sweet flavor of egg bread and was the perfect vehicle on which to spread the creamy, spicy aioli. Overall, the sandwich had a phenomenal balance of savory, sweet and spicy; hot and cold; soft and crunchy. In this cook’s book it was fabulous.

“The Burger” was composed of grass fed beef, and topped with a mild blue cheese, peppery arugula and the legendary bacon jam that Skillet dishes out. Served on a soft grilled roll, it was perfection. I know that you really can’t go wrong with bacon any time, however I have to say- Skillet’s Bacon Jam was incredible. The caramelized onions provided a rich amber color, an intense sweetness and sticky, jammy consistency, while the rendered bacon and spices gave it an incredibly savory flavor. As we ate the burger, we noted all the complexities and depth of flavor. The earthiness of the grass fed beef was so rich and yummy, and the sweet, savory combination with the bacon jam and tangy bleu cheese was such an outstanding combination. This was definitely no ordinary burger. All together as a package, it was flawless.

Now, like any heavy consumer of vodka, I enjoy a really good French fry in the morning. And I know that Poutine is a dinner staple among the good people of Quebec, and I officially want to thank them for sharing it with us. Skillet’s spin on the traditional Poutine was fabulous. Instead of cheese curds and brown gravy, the frites were smothered in cheddars, lighter gravy, and then tossed with Italian parsley and Rosemary. It was by far the most addicting dish I have had in a very long time.

Sitting in the back of our car devouring the meal, not caring about the potential of aioli stained leather, but all while cursing the fact I had worn the Dolce tux jacket, I couldn’t help but think how fabulous a concept Skillet was. Street food has always been something that is near and dear to my heart, and I am so elated to see Seattle ushering in new ideas such as making what was once the cheap eats of the people into innovative and gourmet delights. So when it comes to Skillet, I suggest you go immediately, and get there early, because more than likely, I’ll already be standing in line.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Background on the Chef

As with any fabulous fashionista, over the years I’ve gone through many changes- haircuts, spray tans, city of residence, gay husbands, gay boyfriends, straight boyfriends and of course the ever yo-yo-ing routine of going to the gym. However, the three things that have always stayed constant in my life are friends, fashion and food.

Until recently, I had been blogging about my dating life, (Confessions of a Serial Dater), however as of last week I decided blogging about the mancandy in my life and all of my melodramatic antics (regardless of how funny they may be) without his knowledge or consent would probably be a huge faux pas, kind of like Lauren Conrad designing a clothing line for Kohl’s... So after coming to the realization that I reluctantly will have to take a break from writing about men, I decided that perhaps I should write about the other love of my life: Food.

For those of you that know me, it’s no secret that I am in fact a huge foodie, cook, entertainer and hostess. For those of you that don’t know me, well I thought that perhaps we could get to know each other a little better, before I published my first review… After all, I am a lady, and I like to be wined and dined before I hop in between the sheets, you know?

In a nutshell this is my deal- I’m a commercial real estate broker by day, renegade foodie by night. Well actually, perhaps we should just say renegade foodie 24/7, because even when I am at work I am talking about food… I’m not a professional chef, but I am a self taught cook, with a great palette and a hunger to always learn more about the art of gastronomy. I live and cook in pencil skirts, four and a half inch stilettos preferably made by Christian Louboutin, and I’ve never met a woodland creature that I wouldn’t wear or eat. I hate PETA, and maintain my stance that since I wear vintage fur I am technically recycling. I think that people that advocate for world peace should drink more vodka as it cures all that ales you- thirst, sadness, cancer, world hunger. It really is like the miracle drug. I am a firm believer that men that drink white wine as a preference are usually not worth the time- After all, if you can’t handle a good, bold, spicy glass of red, chances are you can’t handle a real woman.

I am a bit of a control freak (my friends would say that it’s more like insane control freak) in the kitchen, and if you want to help me at dinner parties, for God’s sake, just stay on the opposite side of the breakfast bar, and keep my wine glass full… You can even open the door when guests arrive.

If I had my own restaurant there would be a sign out front reading “Vegetarians, Vegans & Ill Behaved Children Not Welcome”. I am undoubtedly a meatatarian… In fact, I prefer my steak still be mooing when it gets to the table. I’ve never understood the human need to cook red meats past a medium rare, as if you do, you may as well be eating cardboard. Foie gras is in my top five exports from France, alongside from Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, and the actor Oliver Martinez.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the cooking shows on the Food Network with people that don’t actually know how to cook. Yes, Sandra Lee that means you. I’m sorry darling, but “Semi-Homemade” doesn’t qualify as cooking, that’s called unwrapping and warming up. Giada, Sarah Brown and Robin Miller annoy the hell out of me, and all of their food sucks anyway… Which brings me to my next and most crucial point- I DON’T TRUST SKINNY CHEFS. Because if you are that skinny and cooking for me then you probably don’t believe in what I have deemed to be the Holy Trifecta of Gastronomy: Butter, Bacon & Booze.

Do I work out? Yes, I just started to go regularly, (again), but honestly, the only reason I am going is so I can justify cooking with more butter. I’m serious! Every morning when I am in agony on the elliptical/or stairmaster, I just think to myself “Moi… just go 15 more minutes… if you do, you can make the coconut cake…” By the way, I use Ina Garten’s (a.k.a. Food Goddess of the Hamptons and friend to hot gay men everywhere) recipe and there are like five sticks of butter in there… Yeah. Hence the stairmaster…

Until recently I lived in Los Angeles, where there was never a shortage of friends, fashion or food, and luckily for moi, I was often able to engage in all three of them at the same time. Having relocated to Seattle, I now find that in order to keep my sanity I must leave this city a minimum of once a month to collect and center myself before I return to the land of muddy corduroy and Birkenstocks. So, I’ve been putting my frequent flyer miles to good use, travelling the country and indulging in the cuisine along the way. And let me tell you- There are some FABULOUS places out there!

In this blog, I’ll be sharing my experiences from my travels, and also from those of my own backyard, a.k.a. Seattle. To kick things off, over the next few weeks I’ll be travelling through and writing about Seattle, Seville, Barcelona, Chicago and New York. I’ll be cooking, eating, wining and dining and sharing my experiences and very opinionated point of view along the way. I have no idea where my culinary adventures will take me, but the one thing that I do know is that I’m always hungry for more.