Wednesday, January 24, 2007

2007 Food Resolutions

1. Shop
~Midtown Global Market, an indoor farmers market with myriad multicultural restaurants, opened to great fanfare, but early this year, the Star Tribune reported that many vendors aren’t turning a profit.
~Mill City Farmers Market
~E’s Cheese in Mendota Heights, Premier Cheese Shop in Edina
~Clancey’s Market for Greg Westersteen’s house-made sausages; Broder’s for Armandino Batali’s salumi
~Trader Joe’s, the metro’s first opened last summer, but we’re still Trader Joe’s virgins

2. Eat out
~La Belle Vie—generally considered to be the best restaurant in the metro area
~Peninsula—Malaysian curries
~Town Talk Diner—upscale blue-plate specials (Moskowitz rave, so does foodie friend Tracy A.)
~Craftsman—posh American, just over the river from where we live
~Heartland—posh American, specializing in game and regional specialties, just up the hill from where we live
~Cue—Lenny Russo’s (Heartland) new restaurant in the new Guthrie Theater
~Spoonriver—Brenda Langdon’s (Café Brenda) new restaurant
~Cordon Bleu cooking school restaurant
~Alinea (Chicago)
~Zuni Café (San Francisco)
~Chez Panisse (Berkeley)
~French Laundry (Yountsville, CA)

3. Eat in
Cook from each of the cookbooks we own, especially the following:
~Sunday Suppers at Lucques (Suzanne Goin)
~A Tale of 12 Kitchens (Jake Tilson)
~Kitchen Diaries (Nigel Slater)
~Cooking of Southwest France (Paula Wolfert)
~Silver Spoon
~Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet (Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid)
~The French Laundry Cookbook (Thomas Keller)
~The St. Paul Farmers Market Cookbook

4. Make at home
~use the gadgets/appliances (pasta attachment on KitchenAid, raclette maker with crepe griddle, rice cooker, fondue pot)
~poached eggs
~five master sauces (béchamel, veloute, espagnole, hollandaise, tomato)
~duck confit
~Paula Wolfert’s panade
~Judy Rodgers’s roasted chicken

Sunday, January 21, 2007

2006 in review, part 2

It’s been quiet here at Hambone and Spice, a little bit because Spice is having a hard time letting go of 2006, but also because we’ve been busy cooking and eating and drinking wine. We’ll get to those details in due course, but first, I need to get off my chest all the blogging I failed to do last year. Forthwith, some cooking, eating, and drinking highlights from 2006:

mastered a mean margarita with fresh-squeezed lime juice, tequila, triple sec—shaken, not blended. I ask you Who needs mixes?

burgers—Hambone makes the best burgers and they’re especially good grilled
Syrian kabobs—ground beef with cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and cloves
pork tenderloins and whole chickens thrown on the grill to capture the residual heat after we’ve grilled dinner
calzones—the grill is about as close to a pizza oven as you’ll ever get at home, so calzones done this way have a crispy exterior and a chewy interior, plus the filling is ooey and hot. When done build-your-own style, these have the double advantage of being fun for the kids and easy to serve vegetarian friends.
sausages—sausage (teriyaki chicken with pineapple was my favorite among many) and mustard fest with the Harrisons

chimichurri—Deborah Madison’s recipe, with parsley or cilantro and parsley and cilantro
romescoNew York Times’ majorly labor intensive version, enough to feed an army
sage-walnut pesto—to top pumpkin ravioli or butternut squash gnocchi—or eat straight from spoon

I made guacamole so often in 2006, I’m pretty sure I can make it blindfolded. Sure, it’s great with chips, but it’s awesome on burgers

Again, I made this white sauce so many times in 2006, that I’m pretty sure I can make it blindfolded, adding cheese for “Thomas Jefferson” (as the kids call it) mac and cheese, cauliflower gratin, croque monsieur, or croquetas.

~deep frying
croquetas—béchamel with Serrano ham, green onions, and manchego cheese; chilled; dipped first in beaten egg, then in panko; fried. Crispy and creamy perfection.

~chopped salads
oranges, blue cheese, pine nuts
dates, apple, manchego, caramelized walnuts
pears, crisped prosciutto, toasted pecans
cantaloupe, prosciutto, sherry and smoked paprika vinaigrette
hard-boiled eggs, avocado, cherry tomatoes

~foie gras
ate a lifetime’s supply while in France

~typical Costa Rican breakfast
rice, beans, eggs, farmer’s cheese

Gruner Veltliner (drank my first)
vino verdhe (slightly effervescent “green” wine from Portugal)
malbec (drank our way through all the Argentinean vineyards we could)
pinot noir (fell in love with Claudia Springs pinot noir, small Mendocino County vineyard)
Ascheri Barolo, 1996 (Hambone’s birthday bottle, which we probably opened too soon)
Heitz Cellars Martha’s Vineyard, 1970 (one of the California wines put up against French wines in the historic 1976 Paris tasting)

New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen—croquetas and other tapas
Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin—fig tart
Cooking of Southwestern France by Paula Wolfert—squash soup with crisped ham
Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran—lamb biriyani with orange and whole garam masala
Zuni Café by Judy Rodgers—cauliflower pasta with capers, anchovies, and garlic
Appetite by Nigel Slater—an extremely versatile fish soup

Friday, January 19, 2007

Speakers good enough to drink

Stereo speakers have never looked—or sounded—as sexy and smooth as when they have been crafted from old whiskey barrels. According to the folks at Pioneer, malt mellows sound. These speakers are made using oak has been snuggling up to the golden liquid for fifty years.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Alpha and Beta's Adventures in Eating

Early in the summer, in anticipation of our family trip to France, we inaugurated the Adventures in Eating series for our kids, then age four and six. The goal was to get them to try more foods, especially foods that they may never have eaten before, in a setting where they need to use their manners and sit at the table.

Here’s a recap of Alpha and Beta’s Adventures in Eating:

Greek: It’s Greek to Me
Our first meal out was an enormous success. The boys loved pita, of course, as well as souvlaki and calamari, but were a little freaked out by the flaming saganaki.

French: Margaux
With his head on the table, Beta slept through the meal, which, unexpectedly, proved to be training for France, where he slept through almost every meal. Alpha discovered his love for steak frites.

Spanish: La Bodega
The tapas were very expensive and entirely mediocre, but, knowing we could do better, Hambone and Spice were inspired to throw a tapas party to celebrate the summer solstice. We ate croquetas (potato and cheese), calamari, albondigas, pincho de pollo (grilled chicken), tortilla de patata, Russian salad (peas, eggs, tuna, homemade mayonnaise, black olives), white asparagus (marinated), and flan. H&S loved the sangria!

Vietnamese: Mai Village
Disaster. The kids wouldn’t even touch the egg rolls. Never let a bridge over a koi pond trick you into thinking the restaurant will be fun for the kids.

Japanese: Saji-Ya
An outstanding sushi meal with Beta, at which he devoured the fried shrimp heads from our ama ebi.

Indian: Tandoor
Beta discovered Indian chicken nuggets (chicken anointed in chickpea or lentil batter and fried) and chutneys (his favorite was the date variety). Tandoori chicken and naan went down well after much encouragement.

Chinese: Yummy
This meal marked significant milestones for both boys. We ate dim sum at this restaurant a year ago at Christmas at which time we couldn’t get the kids to try anything—not dumplings, not shrimp, not even egg rolls. Finally, one of the dim-sum ladies brought the boys special plates of Chinese hotdogs (hotdogs wrapped with a sweet bun), which were quickly devoured. Needless to say, when Hambone and I proposed dim sum for a special end-of-year meal, we reminded the boys of the awesome Chinese hotdogs. We even invited friends to join us—friends whose kids are picky eaters—and lured them with the promise of Chinese hotdogs. Guess what? Yummy no longer serves the Chinese hotdogs. The children were forced to eat dim sum—and they embraced the moment, especially Beta, who reveled in pointing at little treasures on the cart, which were unflinchingly handed over to him.

We ordered a lot of food that day—all good: pork shumei, sticky rice with Chinese sausage in lotus leaf, squid curry sauce, chive dumplings, chicken with basil, Chinese broccoli (I love this, so green and fresh), salt and pepper shrimp (Beta was naturally drawn to these perfectly seasoned prawns avec tetes), pan-fried turnip cake (I didn’t love the turnip cake), mixed pork dumpling (fried and crispy), pot sticker, tofu dumplings, fried tofu and shrimp, shrimp dumplings, pork and watercress dumplings, pork buns, and bean-paste-filled buns (another of Beta’s favs).

The boys truly grew as eaters this year, and Hambone and Spice are so proud of them. In the new year, Alpha and I share the goal of finding the best French fries in town (Margaux's were very good, better than many we ate in France, in fact). We will most certainly eat dim sum again. Maybe we’ll even take out a second mortgage and treat the boys to the spectacular tapas at Solera. I’d even like to try Vietnamese again. And, while I don’t think we’re quite ready for Ethiopian, we could take them out for Italian, Mexican, Thai, and more French and Italian and dim sum.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

2006, food in review

Hambone and Spice ate so well in 2006. We enjoyed many fantastic and memorable meals near and far from home—at a resort while on vacation in Costa Rica, in restaurants while on vacation in France (in both Paris and Reims), in restaurants on our home turf, and, most important, in our own home.

Here’s a recap of some of our great restaurant meals in Minneapolis-St. Paul (previously unmentioned in the blog):

Restaurant Alma (with Dorothy and David, January)
Hands down, Alma is one of my favorite Minneapolis restaurants, so it was a pleasure to take Hambone’s mother and her husband here when they visited us in January. The food is unpretentious, but innovative—a delicate balance to strike.
To start: duck confit with onions on mixed greens
Pasta: light, fluffy ricotta gnocchi in a fennel sauce with capers and brown butter
Main: pheasant with rosemary pain perdu, savoy cabbage with bacon and apple
Dessert: oatmeal stout gingerbread

A Rebours (with the Harrisons, January)
This is, quite possibly, the only charming St. Paul restaurant, decked with dark wood banquettes and mirrors, in the historic Hamm building. A Rebours (French for "against the grain") is an off-shoot of the now-defunct Bakery on Grand.
To start: mixed greens with toasted hazelnuts and blue cheese
Main: cassoulet replete with duck confit, pork belly, and beans, which were a little on the crunchy side
Dessert: skipped, which is something I never do, as a rule

Anemonie (February)
This sushi and oyster bar is adjacent to Azia, a fusion Asian place that had its fifteen minutes in 2005. H&S ate here not long after Anemonie opened, and, much to our surprise (given the popularity of Azia) and dismay, the restaurant was empty. The sushi was pretty mediocre and very overpriced.
To start: baked green mussels
Nigiri: bachimaguro (big-eye tuna), hamachi, aji, unagi, salmon
Rolls: crunch roll (tempura-coated California roll), spicy yellowtail (mayo bound), mountain roll (shiso, yam, tuna)

Ristorante Luci (March)
I can’t remember the last time we ate here, but friends who had eaten at Luci recently reminded us of this wonderful neighborhood place. Years ago we got off to a rocky start with Luci, but she almost always gives us a solid meal.
To start: prosciutto di casa (soft, creamy, salty house-cured pork loin served with mixed greens)
And: chunky, peasant-style split pea soup with tomato and taleggio
Pasta: lasagne di zuccha (paper-thin fresh pasta with butternut squash and sweet gorgonzola cream)
Main: perfectly cooked lamb t-bone chops with potatoes and green olives
Wine: Avignonesi Montepulciano ’02

Auriga (with Jack and Bev, May)
Hambone and Spice had an outstanding meal at Auriga for Spice’s birthday in October 2005, and we were pleased to share the spot with Hambone’s father and his wife on their annual visit.
Start: Catalan stew (mussels, shrimp, fish, saffron, smoked paprika, carrots, celery, and almonds)
Main: New Zealand venison (with baby artichoke hearts, raisin reduction, and risotto)
Dessert: mocha mousse cake (12 amazing layers of thinly sliced cake, a slab of chocolate, chocolate sauce, coffee gelato, cappuccino foam, and chocolate crunch)
Wine: David Bruce petite syrah ’04

Five (October)
We were under the impression that Stewart Woodman was doing some molecular gastronomy at Five, but were faced with a straightforward menu when we ate here for Spice’s birthday celebration. The food was incredible so we weren’t disappointed, and the location (the former Fifth Precinct station) was a treat. I’m glad we had an opportunity to eat here before Woodman bowed out in December.
Start: duck breast (sliced and plated over duck confit, which sat on top of a creamy, tangy celery root slaw, yuzu soy butter)
Main: lamb loin in yogurt-cilantro sauce on orange-scented jasmine rice (“Bhopal style,” essentially a refined, but deconstructed, Indian curry, which is to say the lamb was sliced and placed on spinach, which was draped over the rice, with a moat of sauce)
Dessert: lemon crème brulee with pink peppercorns, lemon shortbread-like cookies (one of the most unusual and refreshing desserts of the year)
To end: Housemade mini donuts, an homage to the building’s original purpose, came with coffee

Restaurant discovery of the year: 112 Eatery
Chef-owned 112 Eatery is one of the most difficult reservations in town. Booking six to eight weeks out, Hambone and Spice made a decision, based on our first fantastic meal there, to do just that. We now have a standing reservation every six to eight weeks. Every meal has been a delight—from the marinated olives and sweet-spicy almonds that serve as nibbles while perusing the menu to the cardamom popcorn that comes with the check and everything in between. Hambone and Spice love the space (it reminds them of NYC neighborhood joints), and they love what chef Isaac Becker is doing in the kitchen—nothing short of totally innovative, approachable fare. While it's no surprise that the City Pages crowned this the best new restaurant 2006, Food and Wine loves 112 Eatery too, selecting the lamb scottadito (chops with goats milk yogurt) as a “best restaurant dish of 2006.” And, 112 Eatery has a well-edited wine list with something interesting for every budget.

Start: duck and radicchio salad (a true revelation with miso dressing, scallion, sliced eggs, and fresh bread crumbs)
Main: swordfish with harissa, coriander, turmeric, and shaved fennel with tiny, handmade pasta)
Dessert: chocolate pot de crème
Wine: Novellum Languedoc chardonnay (’04) and the Anton Bauer "gmork" gruner veltliner

September (Steve and Lisa)
Start: duck and radicchio salad (again, because I am going to try to make this at home)
Sides: gnocchi (pan-fried, ethereal, I can’t stop thinking about this dish)
Main: Berkshire pork tenderloin and golden chanterelle hash (very, very good)
Dessert: chocolate pot de crème (again)
Wine: Robert Picota ’03 syrah and Mark West pinot ’05

October (Steve and Lisa)
Start: stringozzi with lamb sugo (a handmade pasta with a rich lamb sauce)
Sides: cauliflower fritters, braised escarole (meltingly good)
Main: barrimundi with avocado butter (and corn, beets, couscous)
Wine: Marquis Philips cab ’05 (Australia) and Chateau d’Oupia (minervois) ’04 [sheepy]
Dessert: banana tart (surprising), tres leche cake (best dessert of the year), pot de crème

It will be very difficult to top the restaurant meals in 2006, so we may not even try (wink, wink).