Friday, July 31, 2009

Anxiously Awaiting Pickles


I pickled for the first time last weekend. I made dill pickles with regular ol' pickle mix from the grocery store. I needed to do something quickly with my cukes that I had to salvage from the great hail storm (more to come on that).

Earlier that day, I saw some beautiful carrots at the Boulder Farmers' Market: yellow, white, and purple. So I decided to try a recipe I'd seen in Molly Wizenberg's book: Spicy Pickled Carrots with Garlic and Thyme. This was the just about the last recipe that I thought I'd try from this book and it turns out it was the first one! I just couldn't resist those beautiful carrots and I was in a pickling mood.

So I'll be trying both sets of pickles this weekend and will report back on how they turned out. But for now I'm just enjoying how pretty they look in my garage frig next to B's keg of Golden City Beer.

So why was I in a pickling panic? Well, we had the hail storm of all storms about a week and a half ago and it destroyed my beautiful garden. Our roof, a window, 2 screens, and a gutter need to be replaced, but I'm most upset about the garden, which now looks like vegetable slaw.

Just look at the carnage:




I salvaged what I could: about 5 cukes, 2 zuchhini, 2 yellow squash, and a couple of tomatoes. I might still get some tomatoes and possibly some zucchini, but for the most part the garden is toast. And it was my best one ever. Whah!

Wine Bar Week - Tuesday

On Tuesday of our week with no kids, I met B at Caveau Wine Bar for their happy hour. I had taken the day off and celebrated with a massage at Massage Envy, which turned out to be a mistake. The masseuse coughed and hacked through the whole thing, claiming she had just eaten something peppery. I should have left, since it was uncomfortable, gross, and not even a little relaxing, but I was too chicken. So I was needing a glass of wine. (Who feels like that post-massage?)

Caveau has a nice wine list. Again, it was mighty hot that day and the place was blistering. I noticed they didn't have many wines in their racks--they were all in the temperature controlled coolers. We also shared the meat and cheese plate, which had 3 meats and 3 cheeses.


We later headed over to D Bar Desserts, since it was just down the street. They have a small, but good wine selection. We sat at the bar and watched owner Keegan Gerhard make something delicious, actually painting with chocolate. He was teaching a woman his techniques, which was interesting to watch. The place is definitely an homage to him with Food Network shows playing on a television screen and a digital photo frame displaying his works.

We weren't terribly hungry and I mainly wanted dessert, so I had a watermelon salad and B had the recommended baked mac & cheese made with four cheeses, cheese nips, & panko crumbs. I heard Gerhard tell another person at the bar that the cheese nips were to give it a Kraft mac'n'cheese-like taste.


So then dessert, what we really came for. We started with their famous "Cake and Shake," choosing vanilla on both sides.


It definitely lives up to the hype. I especially enjoyed the shake with the little malted milk balls.

But I thought the ice cream sandwich was even better.


They start with homemade waffles with rock sugar baked right in. And they make the waffles when you order it--they're not premade. They top it with vanilla ice cream and the most heavenly smelling 3-cherry compote. I thought I was going to keel over from the smell of the cherries cooking. It's fun to watch your dessert made to order right in front of you. Talk about making your mouth water! Then they top all that with amaretto cream.

The young man making our ice cream sandwich said he works at D Bar only once a week and works at a sushi bar the rest of the time. I thought that was an interesting combination and you could see a sushi-like attention to detail in his dessert.

My sister is really into baking and desserts and probably should have been a pastry chef. I can't wait to bring her here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Farmers' Market

I hit the Wheat Ridge farmer's market today, which runs Thusdays 11 am - 3 pm. A nice little market with lots of produce. Here's my haul:


Kale, lettuce, boiler onions, yellow squash, corn, and cantaloupe.

Get Up In My Grill

Since it's cold and rainy today, let's talk about grilling. Here are two of my current favorite poultry recipes. Unfortunately, I have them written on recipe cards and don't know who to credit them to. I googled the recipes, but didn't find a source.

Grilled Spice-Rubbed Chicken with Lemon and Garlic Oil

This is one of my favorites, such a flavorful combination of ingredients. B is not too fond of it, since he doesn't like fennel or cilantro, but too bad, we make it anyway, cuz momma loves it.

1 1/2 t fennel seeds
1 1/2 t ground coriander
3/4 t dry mustard
3/4 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground red pepper

Rinse 4 chicken breast halves. Pat dry and then rub spice mixture all over. Grill chicken.

Mix and spoon over chicken:
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C minced fresh cilantro or parsley
3 T lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 t salt

Curry and Honey Turkey Breast Cutlets with Chutney Raita

Everyone likes this dish. We make it with chicken too.

4 turkey breast cutlets (~ 1 1/2 lbs.)
1 1/2 T curry powder
1 T honey
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 t salt
1/4 C mango chutney
1/2 C plain yogurt
1 T lemon juice

Preheat grill. Stir together curry, honey, oil, and salt and smear over both sides of cutlets. Grill cutlets ~ 8-10 min.

For raita, stir together chutney, yogurt, and lemon juice. Spoon over grilled cutlets.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cooking Dirty

Cooking Dirty: A Story of Life, Sex, Love and Death in the Kitchen Cooking Dirty: A Story of Life, Sex, Love and Death in the Kitchen by Jason Sheehan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sheehan is a good writer. I've enjoyed his work as a restaurant critic for Denver's Westword for awhile and he's managed to take that edgy style of his and expand it into a full book.

This book chronicles his life working in kitchens--not famous ones, just regular ol' restaurants. At times, it got a bit redundant. I wanted to say, okay, we get it: cooking on a line during the rush is like going into battle and the guys who do it are tough. The book could have standed a bit of editing--too many similar stories about getting slammed during a dinner (or late night) rush. The book finishes with a little bit about how he got into food writing.

But all in all, I really enjoyed this book. The book will inevitably be compared to Bourdain's, but while that book is touted as an expose of the restaurant industry, this one is more of a memoir of how Sheehan has used and abused himself and turned out okay in the end.

And I'm wondering if the restaurant in the epilogue is Osteria Marco?

View all my reviews >>

Wine Bar Week - Monday

The next night we started off with dinner at Osterio Marco. Dinner began, of course, with their famous house-made burrata. It never disappoints.


Look at that yummy cocktail garnished with basil:


B had the house-sausage pizza and I tried the mushroom & asparagus orzo with parmesan fonduta & truffled arugula. Mine was good, but I should have stuck with several small plates, like I've done in the past. I prefer their antipasti and salume. The cheese in the orzo was a little overpowering.

After, we went across the street to Cru Wine Bar. I was surprised to learn that they are a chain, with locations in Denver and Texas. The walls are covered in handpainted "blown up" wine labels, which is kind of cool until you find out that they're really just advertisements and the wine distributors pay to have their wines painted there. Those "peeling edges" you see are painted, not really peeling. Kinda cool!


Our server was really nice and excited to talk about wine, which is always fun. I had the "Latin Affair" flight with two wines from Spain and one from Argentina. The wines were very similar and I would have preferred a more "progressive" flight.


All in all, it's a place I wouldn't seek out as a destination, but if I happen to be in the neighborhood (and that's fairly likely since it's in Larimer Square), I might stop for one glass.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Week O' Wine Bar Crawl (and more) - Sunday

Yippee--the kids were away at the grandparents' cabin! B and I hit the town each night in search of the perfect wine bar.

First stop (Sunday night): Jonesy's EatBar. Not necessarily a wine bar, but a very good wine list. We actually went there for dinner. And I didn't even start with wine: I started with a "Rocky Mountain Sweet Tea" made with Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, water, and a dash of Leopold Brother's Three Pins Alpine Herbal Liqueur (apparently they used to be in Ann Arbor--didn't know that until just now). What a dangerous drink! It tastes so much like regular sweet tea and not very alcoholic at all. I decided later that I wanted to make my own, and made the mistake of letting B talk me into buying another brand of sweet tea vodka that was on sale at Argonaut. Nope, you gotta get the Firefly. The stuff I got, although "handcrafted" is kind of nasty.

Here I am with my sweet tea, B's Breckenridge 471 IPA, and our Truffle Fries ("tossed with truffle oil & drizzled with truffle aioli"). Yum Yum. Pardon the crappy phone pic.


Now this really is a crappy phone pic. I had the Coconut Green Curry Mussels with red grapes & fennel. O.M.G. Absolute heaven. They were probably the best mussels I've had all year (and I've had some good ones). Spicy, a little sweet, and perfectly cooked. B had the fried shrimp po-boy sliders with shredded cabbage, tomato & spicy remoulade. They were decent, but didn't even compare with my mussels. For once, I won the menu lottery (B does far more often than me--I usually end up begging him for more bites of his, and being the wonderful husband that he is, he obliges).


My main complaint about Jonesy's (and just about every place we went this week) is that it was ungodly hot (a rough combination with my mussels which were already making me sweat). This was the week that was the hottest so far this summer and pretty much every place we went to was without air conditioning. Not something I'd normally mind, since I usually prefer fresh air, but this particular week, I wanted my a/c. Jonesy's definitely should get a few fans at least for some air circulation.


Since we were in the area and it was our first night sans kids we headed over to my favorite place for



Steuben's, of course. We, as always, had fabulous service at the bar, but when we moved outside for fresh air, it did not fare as well. Oh well, the cocktails make me happy no matter what.


Madmen Me

I don't even watch this show, but this little app is so cute. That dress is totally something I'd wear in real life too.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Toledo Update

The Toledo trip is long gone, but I should post a little something. The trip was wonderful and a whirlwind--one of those trips where you don't have enough time to spend with anyone, before you need to run off and see someone else. Fun and exhausting.

On the food side of things, we hit the hot spots (i.e. the main places we wanted to hit, although we could have done so much more...).

I had the Chili Mac at Tony Packo's--a chicken version, new since I was last there.


As B would say, "Maaaa, I need a new plate. Somebody puked on this one," (semi-quoting Calvin and Hobbes). But ya know, sometimes those kinds of plates are the tastiest. I used to have a friend that called food like this "dumbass." And this was definitely a plate of delicious dumbass. Not shown are the huge mound of spicy pickles I ate, regular and fried (mmmmmnggggg....fried spicy pickles....)

We ate at Kotobuki:


I have a better picture of the boat pre-decimation with my lovely friend Phoebe, but since I don't have permission to post her pic, you'll have to go to Facebook to see it. I was so ridiculously excited by the gomae, that I gobbled it up before I got a chance to take a picture of it. And, in the picture above, you can see a little bit of the disappointment in my eyes that this is the biggest can of Sapporo they now serve. They used to serve a mini "keg" of it. I think maybe Sapporo doesn't even sell it now, because I couldn't find a picture of it online. Anyway, we used to go with a group and no matter the size, we'd get the "big beer." Fun times!

The sushi was good, but not as good as I recall. I was disappointed to see that they have succumbed to the non-traditional, what I call "cheesy super americanized" rolls (and what they call "special rolls.") Sniff. Now I can't say that Kotobuki is better than Sushi Den or Sushi Sasa.

Beirut was awesome. No pictures unfortunately--too busy eating. I want their baba ghanouj and Lebanese garlic bread to be the last thing I eat on earth, I think. J (my 5 year old) entertained us (i.e. embarassed us) by standing up at the table, pulling up his shirt, and saying "Boys have bretzles too. They're just little." God love him.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Vegas-Day Three

We woke up super late and then hit the casino's buffet. God, it was awful. But at least it was only 12 bucks.


We gambled a bit--played a little roulette and the slots. Then we hit the town. We started with drinks at the Four Seasons poolside bar.


Also see drinky pic #4 below. It was hot and snooty, so we just stayed for one, then hightailed it to Mandalay Bay to check out the sites and play some slots.

Then it was time for dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak.


They were having a recession deal called "Sunday Supper:" $48 for 5 courses ($70 with wine pairings).

We started with an antipasti course of Genoa salami, Molinari Coppa, spicy zucchini, marinated mushrooms and olives, and baby fontina. This was paired with Scarbolo 2005 Pinot Grigio.

The soup course was "Early Harvest Corn Chowder" with Oregon morels, bacon lardons, and fingerling potatoes. This was probably my favorite dish of the evening. It was paired with Rayon 2005 Blanc de Morgex.

The pasta course was "Granora Orichiette" with housemade pork sausage, sweet peas, and broccoli rabe. This was also very good. It was served with Castello di Montastero 2005 Chianti Classico.

The entree we chose was yellow fin tuna with acqua pazza braised cannelini beans, balsamic glazed mushrooms, and Yukon Gold potato puree with roasted garlic. This was paired with Movia 2003 Tokai Friulano from Slovenia.

The dessert was chocolate souffle with pistachio ice cream.

The portions were ridiculous. Each dish was the size of a full entree at another restaurant. It was disappointing to leave so much food on my plate! The service was also very slow. I could tell they did this on purpose. I'm all for lingering over a long meal, but I would prefer that it be on my terms, not the restaurant's. Plus it was just absurdly slow. Also, the place is too dark, as you can tell from the picture above, which did not turn out well. I didn't even try to take pictures of the food, because of the dark. It's a very masculine place, as you might expect from a steakhouse. The meal was quite good, but not outstanding. We greatly preferred the meal at Daniel Boulud's (which was also cheaper).

After, we went back to Parasol Up, Parasol Down at the Wynn, because we hadn't been able to see the light/water show the previous evening. We got the best seats right by the water and I had a glass of the same Sancerre we'd had the night before (still trying to find out what it is!). The show is about every 20 minutes and very amusing. There are projections on the waterfall, head shaped video screens that pop up out of the water, and colored balls that move and dance on the water.

Here's the head. Note that it is a separate video screen in front of the waterfall behind it.


And here are the lights in between the show. I loved the pink ones--it made the trees seems Dr. Seuss-y.


We then went back to the hotel, where I finally had to drag Erika away from the slots.

So that's Vegas! The highlights anyway. So what are going to do for Bitchapalooza 2019?

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I absolutely loved this book. It combines the genres of memoir and food writing in the most beautiful of ways. Each short chapter is a memory of the writer's that involves food, followed with a recipe for the dish. I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but definitely will as they sound wonderful. They range from something as simple as radishes and butter with fleur de sel on a baguette to fresh ginger cake with caramelized pears.

Her writing reminds me a bit of Ruth Reichl and I read a review that called her "this generation's M.F.K. Fisher." She writes lovingly of her relationships with her father and husband. She writes of her time spent in France.

The author is the owner of the food blog "Orangette," which I had heard of but never looked up. Unfortunately, it looks like she's now on hiatus, but I definitely plan on going back and reading past entries.

The book took me awhile to read, because--like a good dish--I wanted to savor it and really took my time reading it. I rarely read books again, but this is one I probably will (especially for the recipes). I hope there are more books to come from Wizenberg.

View all my reviews.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vegas - Day Two

We left off yesterday with the beginning of the second day at the pool. Considering how late we got up, this took the majority of the day time hours.

We had early reservations for dinner at Daniel Boulud Brasserie at the Wynn. Right now is a great time to go to Vegas (if you can afford it) because of all the recession deals. The restaurants at the Wynn are offering prix fixe menus called Taste of Wynn. You can see the one for Daniel Boulud here.

The Wynn is absolutely gorgeous. For example, one of the "gardens" inside:


We started off with drinks at Parasol Up, Parasol Down (the down part).


Or you can see drinky pic #3 in the previous post. We had an excellent bar tender, who reminded us of someone we'd hang out with.


We ordered the three course menu and a bottle of Sancerre. The sommelier was so freakin' delicious and Erika made him blush, haha. She took a picture of him, but it didn't do him justice. Thankfully, she also took a picture of the Sancerre's label, because it was amazing and I can't find it online or remember it right now. But I have to get it.


I started with Country Pâté with homemade pickles and farmer’s bread and she got the Artichoke Velouté with brioche crouton and basil oil. I had just a taste of hers but it was great. Look at my beautifully presented plate (and it tasted as good as it looks):


We followed it up with the Moules Frites with bacon and crème fraiche for me and the Scottish Salmon with Asparagus, meyer lemon, and brown butter for her. Look at the colors in my dish! The fries were awesome too, perfectly dressed with vinegar.


The third course was to be dessert, but we had lingered too long and were running out of time before our show at the Mirage. So they kindly allowed us to cancel the third course. Thank goodness we did, because they already had special dessert plates for us since I had told them we were celebrating our 40th birthdays when I made the reservations.


The food was outstanding and the service was excellent. Although I'm not sure our female server appreciated our flirting with the male sommelier and her assistant, as we somehow ended up pretty much being served by them.

By the time we were done, we were seriously running late. We literally ran from the Wynn to the Mirage, where we were going to see Cirque du Soleil's Love.


Here's a picture earlier in the day (not during our mad dash):


Our timing was perfect. We sat in our seats and I swear the second my butt hit that seat, the lights went down. We didn't even have time to pee or (gasp!) get a drink. The show was absolutely amazing. I must admit I always had it in my mind that Cirque du Soleil was cheesy, but this was the best (non-band) live performance I've ever seen. Absolutely riveting and a blast. And our free tickets that came with our hotel/flight package were great seats. You can see videos of the performance here. So I'm now a CdS convert and am looking forward to the next time I get to see a show (although I'm not particularly interested in the Koozi show coming to Denver soon).

After, we hit the strip checking out the Vegas extravangas like the Bellagio fountains and horrid pirate show at Treasure Island. Here's a pic outside Cesars:


We ended up at a tequila bar in TI. Apparently it's part of the group that also owns restaurants like Zengo in Denver. Had some good tequilas.

We hit the Peppermill and Fireside Lounge much later for omelets and drinks (a wonderful combination). Wow, that place is cheesy:


The waitresses all wear long cocktail dresses and are eastern European. Our neighbors were a scary young meth-ed out type with a much older man who was supposedly wheeling and dealing on the phone (at 3 in the morning) to buy her a car. It was an...experience.

We walked back at our hotel, and for some strange reason, at 4:30 in the morning, "Sluts of Fun" is absolutely hilarious.



Thursday, July 9, 2009

Finally Getting Around to Vegas - Day One

Lordy, I've been busy. No time to blog. I can't believe the Vegas trip was over a month ago. It's been a whirlwind since then. Vegas, then Ohio, then Steamboat, and the cabin this weekend. But we get a week without kids this next week, so much adult-oriented eating and drinking shall ensue. Hopefully a movie or two too (tutu, ha).

So Erika and I met at the Vegas airport, our flights getting in only 10 minutes apart and headed to our tacky hotel Circus Circus. Considering we paid $50 total for 3 nights (that's TOTAL, not each), I can't really complain about the place. It met our needs (i.e. a place to sleep that has a pool).


I could probably explain the trip with just these pics:






Are you getting the picture?

Okay for posterity's sake, here are some of the fill-in-between-the-drinks details:

After a couple drinks in the room and some catching up (we hadn't seen eachother in 3 years!), we gussied ourselves up and hit the town. We had dinner at Mario Batali's Enoteca San Marco in the Venetian. See the first drinky pic above. It wasn't fabulous, but wasn't bad. We shared a bottle of wine, a cheese plate (which contained some delicious peppered honey), a Romana pizza with tomato, mozzarella, anchovy, capers, and chili and Pennette alla Norma: pasta with tomato, eggplant, and ricotta. The pizza was meh and the pasta was absolutely tasty.

Erika, unlike me, is possibly the most gregarious person in the world--which does tend to rub off on me a bit. This results in lots of perks, in this case getting chatted up by the sweet old men next to us and some lovely dessert wines on their tab.

We decided to head over to the Mirage to check out where the show we were seeing the next day was. We had no real plans for the night. Maybe check out the strip and then settle in a quiet bar for some catching up. Erika started chatting with some nice young men there for directions to the box office. Let me tell you--telling people in Vegas that both of you are celebrating your 40th birthdays gets you stuff. Next thing we know, the guys tell us to come back in a half hour when their place opens--they were bouncers for Jet Night Club. You know, one of the night clubs you always see pictures of celebrities in? With throngs of people and lots of girls dancing on stages? Not. Our. Kind. of Thing. But we figure what the hell.

So we have a drink at the casino bar (see the second drinky pic above) and head back over to the two cutie pies, where there is now a huge line. They literally open the velvet ropes, afix special armbands to our wrists, and hand us a bunch of drink tickets. Quote of the weekend: A girl goes, "Hey, it's my 21st birthday." Erika growls back, "Well, it's our 40th." Nuff said. It turns out the special wristbands entitle us to unlimited free drinks--as long as they're vodka-based (okay with me!). Not sure why we needed the drink tickets too. We thought we were just really hot (haha) with all the young men tumbling all over themselves to talk to us, then we realized they just wanted our free drinks. S'okay.


I generally can't stand places like that--didn't even like them when I was young. Have always preferred loud, raucous bands and/or dive bars. (Although we used to have a standing weekday evening at a place called Uptown, where we danced to Siouxsie, Love and Rockets, Sisters of Mercy, and the like). But I. Had. A. Blast. It was so Vegas and over the top and I'm sure the 40 year old women looked ridiculous. But we didn't care.

After, we stumbled down the strip the long, long way back to Circus Circus, stopping for omelets at Denny's. The next morning it was bagels and coffee and off to the pool: the perfect cure for the "day after" (especially if you include margaritas).


I'll have to continue this tomorow.