Random Seasonings – A Snow Day Blog – January 28th, 2009
Snow day equals blog day. After a vain attempt to make it to work this morning, I turned around and drove back home to spend the day watching the snow and ice come down, along with the trees and power lines. School was out, but since my son was at his mother’s robbing me of my normal side kick, accomplice and co-conspirator, I had to find other ways to pass the time. Like catching up on all the news that’s fit to eat. My first preference would have been to spend the afternoon in the kitchen, but since each news update brought word of Mother Nature’s ever expanding involuntary rolling blackouts I decided launching into some new culinary enterprise probably wasn’t a good idea. As it turns out, we lost power around 2pm for nearly three hours, just long enough for nice cat nap, which is apparently how my cat spends every day. Given the choice between writing something serious or frivolous, I decided to keep it casual. So here are the fruits of my afternoon and evening labors, more random thoughts from the Honaker household.
Obama(food)palooza: One thing is certain, never has so much been written about the food likes and dislikes of the President.
A reflection of our growing foodie culture? Maybe, though then Senator Obama seemed to kick the whole thing off by letting it be known one of his favorite Chicago restaurants was Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo. Now comes word the Obama’s have hired Sam Kass, also of Chicago, as the family’s private chef. Kass will augment official White House Chef Cristeta Comerford who has held the position since 2005 and is the first woman to hold the post. Also in White House food news, a growing number of chefs – celebrity and otherwise – are lobbying President Obama to set a new direction in US food policy by promoting more sustainable and organic cultivation, something the appointment of Chef Kass would seem to support. One flare up in what is, on the surface, a worthy endeavor came when Anthony Bourdain lambasted Alice Waters in a recent interview. In Bourdain’s words, “I found the allegedly chronic non-voter Waters’ offer to head up a “kitchen cabinet” – an advisory board guiding the new administration to a new, organic, locavorean foodie Valhalla – well …presumptuous.” In an interview he elaborated by saying in his usual polite, conciliatory and compassionate fashion, “Alice Waters annoys the living shit out of me. We’re all in the middle of a recession, like we’re all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market. There’s something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic. I mean I’m not crazy about our obsession with corn or ethanol and all that, but I’m a little uncomfortable with legislating good eating habits.” Regardless of your opinion on the matter, I think everyone will agree this discussion is more interesting than the Reagan era debate over whether ketchup constitutes a serving of vegetables in school cafeteria lunches. Personally, I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and can’t enjoy when it comes to food. Next time a politician says a food item should be banned, ask them to list for you everything they’ve eaten that week and where. Chances are they are being hypocritical. Eat free or die.
Love Thy Legumes: Our friends at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals want Americans to interact carnally with our vegetables, and they’ve made a commercial to promote this belief destined to air during the Super Bowl. Or at least that’s the rumor – the ad has been rejected by the Network as too racy. The commercial depicts female models, um, well… enjoying their veggies, and the tag line at the end proclaims “Studies show that vegetarians have better sex. Go veg.” Now, I really don’t see how that can be considered more risque than all of those Enzyte commercials featuring “Bob” and a gaggle of gawking female neighbors who are apparently all in on Bob’s little secret. What neighborhood does Bob live in anyway? The female to male ratio is apparently 10 to 1. The Veggie Love commercial is on PETA’s website if you want to check it out. Just be sure to eat something small, roasted and porcine while you do it.
Earth to Emeril: Someone needs to tell the good people at Emeril’s Home Base that it’s late January and half of the country is recovering from an ice storm. For reasons I can’t explain, the RSS feed for Emeril’s Daily Recipes spewed out last night a recipe for “Emeril’s Kicked Up Halloween Caramel Apples”. If I wanted something to stick to me that much today I’d go outside and lick the lamp-post.
Whereforth Art Thou Summer?: Somewhere, beneath the pine tree limbs bending over the deck, is my red table umbrella surrounded by tiki lights shaped like margarita glasses.
Anthony Bourdain moment #2: I stumbled across a 30 minute video on iTunes of Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain at the Miami Book Festival. Apparently the whole purpose of the segment was to give the two of them a chance to cut up and play foil to the rants of the other as I never figured out what books if any they were suppose to be promoting. Recommended if you’re a Batali or Bourdain fan, for no other reason than to hear Batali’s take on who would be the last person on the Food Network he would invite to cook dinner.
Infused with the Spirit: No, this isn’t the name of my new Sunday morning culinary themed bible service – I’m talking about infused liquors. An infused liquor is basically your regular run of the mill spirit steeped in fruits, herbs, spices or whatever catches your fancy. Most people have tried, knowingly or not, infused vodka, usually in a fru-fru martini at some over priced cocktail bar. Gin is basically vodka infused with aromatics like juniper berries. Personally I prefer infused tequila, namely pineapple tequila. It’s ridiculously simple to make. First, buy a pineapple (did I lose anyone?). Second, peel and core the pineapple and place it in a container large enough to hold it but not so large as to break the bank when you add the tequila. Third, pour tequila over the pineapple until it’s completely covered (still with me?). The next step is the most difficult – wait at least 10 days before sampling the tequila. I know, but your patience will be rewarded. Use the infused tequila to make pineapple margaritas, layer it with other spirits in a shot glass (or drink it straight), or pour an ounce over vanilla ice cream and garnish with a sprig of mint for a tasty dessert. One word of caution – DO NOT EAT THE PINEAPPLE. Trust me, we tried that. Once. One night having sampled a batch of our newly infused spirit we thought it seemed like such a waste to just throw out the fruit. My neighbor Charlotte baked up some rosemary shortbread cookies, whipped up some cream and I sliced and grilled the pineapple. We thought it sounded like a good idea, until we bit into it. The pineapple absorbs quite a lot of the tequila during the infusion process, and when the alcohol is heated to say 400 degrees on a hot grill, it makes for a rather painful sensation when swallowed. We pushed the fruit to the side, choking and gasping, and redirected our attention to the shortbread cookies and whipped cream which were quite good. Mark that one down in the “never try that again” column. But I do highly recommend the infused tequila for something out of the ordinary. Plus, it’s fun to the see the look on people’s faces when you respond to the question “What’s that in the back of your refrigerator?”
Earth to Wine Enthusiast Magazine: Times are tough, so tough apparently that one of the premiere wine magazines is seemingly chasing a new demographic – Super Bowl party planners. I know nothing about the author of the article, Kristene Hansen, but I sincerely hope she wrote this with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Bold, aggressive flavors like cheddar or spice need a robust wine. For chips such as Doritos (any flavor, from Nacho Cheese to Cool Ranch), Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream or even tortilla chips dragged through a spicy grade of salsa, uncork a properly aged Cabernet. (Be sure to give it some air before kick-off, of course. You’ll be surprised how less tannic the mouthfeel and finish on the Cab is.)
- Riesling: Chips with heavy doses of salt and vinegar can stand up to a sweet, full-bodied Riesling. The two might even square off and provide balance.
- Pinot Noir: Whether it’s from Russian River or Languedoc, pino pairs well with earthier snacks, like Sun Chips.
- Sparkling Wine/Champagne: Take the division of food classes to an extreme with a glass of Champagne or sparkling wine—with even the cheapest, original-quality potato chips you can find. Thin and greasy, they’ll introduce new flavors to your glass of bubbly.
- Shiraz (Syrah): The black-pepper underbelly of a Shiraz, along with its juicy and ripe-fruit flavors, goes well with snacks like Chex Mix, pretzels and even roasted nuts.
- Sauvignon Blanc: Tortilla chips with lime (or lemon) flavor are a great pairing with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc that introduces notes of gooseberry. The acidic nature of this wine, when met with lime and lemon, is a solid match.
If you’re drinking Riesling with potato chips, my suggestion would be to keep that to yourself.
Anthony Bourdain moment #3: I’m still in stitches over Monday night’s episode of No Reservations in the Azores. Forced to describe a geothermal park (and it’s accompanying sulphurous smell), Bourdain launched into a metaphor so explicit and grotesque I’m still surprised it made it past the Travel Channel’s sensors. I can’t repeat it here because I have family that reads this, so let’s just say it involved egg salad, Hulk Hogan’s undergarments, and a part of the human anatomy whose location can best be described as “existing between two points, being neither wholly part of one nor the other”. Use your imagination, or download the episode from iTunes.