Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Few (New to Me) Blogs

Earlier this week as I was catching up on reading food blogs, I noticed a few unfamiliar blogs on link lists. After doing a little clicking, I was again struck by the knowledge that the internet is enormous. Even within this one little area of the blogosphere—that is, people who love to cook and eat, and then photograph and write about cooking and eating—is vast. Unless I do a little publicity, there is no chance anyone is just going to stumble upon my blog.

Without further navel-gazing, here are a few sites I'd like to test-drive:

Travelers Lunchbox
First impressions: magazine-style layout, links with a note about where the blogger is located, beautiful photos, and concise writing

Cumin & Coriander
First impressions: approachable and lively; nifty links to recipes featured on site

Everybody Likes Sandwiches
First impressions: love what the blogger has done with the Blogger template; another approachable and lively-looking site

A Finger in Every Pie
First impressions: long entries; lots of food bloggers already read this blog so peer influence made me do it

I'm a huge fan of Michael Ruhlman. I love his narrative style, how he deftly married journalism and creative writing in The Soul of a Chef and The Reach of a Chef. And, I enjoyed his spirited opinion when he was the guest blogger at Megnut. So, I'm delighted that he's agreed to blog on his own site.

Which food blogs do you enjoy reading?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Few Reims Gems

While our fine dining experiences in Reims fell far short of those in Paris, Hambone and Spice did find pleasure in a few unexpected, and memorable, meals. One our first full day in Reims, we (our party included Hambone’s mother and her husband, as well as Hambone’s youngest brother, his wife, and their two young children) trekked a few miles across town to the Mumm (“moom”) champagne cellars. Upon arrival, we learned that the cellar was closed for lunch. As we were hungry and had an hour or so to fill before the next tour was given, we embarked upon finding food. We were within walking distance of the finest restaurant in Reims, but were told, in no uncertain terms, No children.

Since leaving the city center, we’d seen exactly one place to eat, just a block away—The Three Sisters, which didn’t look very promising from the exterior. Inside, our first impression was clouded by an unappetizing combination of fresh and stale cigarette smoke. Next, we observed that slightly grubby workers—likely Mumm’s truck drivers on their lunch break—occupied all the tables. Quickly, two tables were cleared for us. The bartender swept out from behind the bar and in halting English informed us that there was one thing on the lunch menu—chicken and mushrooms in a sauce over rice. All the adults agreed that they could eat this dish. The bartender offered to have sandwiches made for the children. And, we ordered up a bottle of table Bordeaux, which arrived at the table chilled. Our meal was very good, and the kids ate their enormous sandwiches without complaint.

A few days later, we found ourselves on Place d'Erlon, Reims’ main drag, which was lined with countless restaurants. Because of Reims' proximity to Belgium, many of these restaurants offered moules frites specials (steamed mussels and french fries). Since I adore mussels, I urged the group to try one of these places for lunch. And while I don’t recall the restaurant’s name, I do remember that you could order your moules in white wine and garlic or in cream or in a curry sauce.

Whenever we order mussels stateside, we are fairly accustomed to getting 10 or so mussels, about two inches in length, in a shallow bowl with a fair amount of sauce through which we drag crusty bread. But here we each received an enormous black pot. When the lid was removed, a savory, salty ocean scent wafted out. When the steam cleared, it revealed a pot with well over 50 tiny mussels, each containing a dime-size nugget of meat. A cold, smooth Duvel (a Belgian golden ale) was the perfect accompaniment to this outstanding lunch.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Living with Leftovers, part 1

I am reluctant to throw away any food from the fridge until it's ready to escort itself off the shelf and out the door, especially when there are starving children in the world. This morning I saw a container boasting roughly a half pound of grilled, spice-rubbed flank steak, cut in perfect, against-the-grain slices. With thrift sitting on one shoulder and a smattering of invention on the other, I was determined to turn the leftover meat into a tasty dinner for Hambone and Spice.

Ruling out fajitas (not quite sure how to effectively heat the meat without further cooking it) and quesadillas, both of which are great ways to use flank steak, and further rejecting risotto and pasta, which are no-brainer uses for leftovers, and knowing that H&S have both a chili festival at Alpha and Beta's elementary school and a birthday celebration meal in a restaurant in our near future, a salad was in order. Locally grown lettuce from the farmers market—studded with plump cherry tomatoes, carrot ribbons, red onion slivers, and thinly sliced flank steak—was anointed with Bittman's basic vinaigrette (red wine vinegar). I love a good chopped salad, and this one did not disappoint. Next time, I'd add blue cheese crumbles for a counterpoint of sharpness and a soft, creamy texture. For this time, though, there was virtue in cleaning out the crisper.

NOTE: Molly at Orangette recently made this salad, which I'd love to try the next time I have a chicken hogging prime refrigerator real estate.