Saturday, November 24, 2007

San Fransico - Incanto and Bacar

To add to my Iron Chef America experiences, upon arriving back from Cleveland I found out that I would be flying out to San Francisco for a photo shoot. I immediately made reservations at Incanto, Chef Chris Cosentino's restaurant in the Noe Valley. My supervisor, Dave, and I arrived there at 9pm, after landing at 8p, to a full dining room. I could see Chef Chris hard at work in the kitchen adjoining the dining room.

Dave and I opted for the sparkling water and I also ordered a reisling. I started with an appetizer of Crispy Hog's Head Terrine with pickled turnips and grapes, which looked a lot like breaded SPAM, but tasted a whole lot better. The pickled grapes were amazing...a flavor that was tart with vinegar but sweet from the red grape. Both the grapes and turnips complemented the richness of the pork very well.

My main course was the Chicken Liver Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter and Dave chose the Handkerchief Pasta with Rustic Pork Ragù. The ravioli was creamy and rich and incredibly delicious.

To finish the meal I tried the Bay Leaf Panna Cotta & 15-year old Balsamic and Dave had the Roasted Peach, Ginger Ice Cream & Bergamot Mint.

After the photo shoot the next day, we went out with Greg Lorencz and Kim Avelar, the photographers, to Bacar on Brannan St. Kim picked a very nice Cabernet and we started with appetizers of Calamari and the Wood Oven Roasted Bone Marrow, Sultana Raisin-Caper Relish, Parsley Salad & Grilled Bread. Greg and Kim had never tasted bone marrow and were brave enough to give it a try. Using special long, narrow spoons we dug deep into the roasted bones and scooped out its goodness. We spread it on the toast, added a few raisins and heartily crunched down. Yum.

As a main course Kim and Greg chose the Mesquite Grilled Prime Ribeye Steak Slow Cooked Broccoli, Fingerling Potatoes & Arugula Salad, Sauce Bordelaise, Dave chose the Alaskan Salmon Cauliflower, Roasted Yukon Potatos & Toasted Almonds, Caper Emulsion with a side of Roasted Baby Beets & Humboldt Fog Chèvre, and I picked the Loin of Cervena Venison Savoy Cabbage, Hazelnuts & Spiced Quince Broth. The tenderloin was a bit tough, but very flavorful and the sauce was wonderful.

Dave and were the only ones up for dessert so I ordered the Pumpkin Pie Panna Cotta with Hazelnut Sable Breton, Pepita Praline and Ginger Caramel; dave chose a dessert called the Milky Way which is a Fudge Cake, two quenelles Malt Ice Cream dressed with Bourbon Caramel. Both were fabulous.

We followed dinner with a round of drinks at a nearby bar but had to cut it short as the jet lag finally took hold (just in time to take off again at 7a.) and so called it a night, and an end to my time on the west coast.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cleveland Is Food

I took Friday off work to head to Cleveland for Michael Ruhlman's book signing and discussion on his new book, "Elements of Cooking". To make the trip more memorable I also made reservations at Michael Symon's Lolita in Tremont. Unfortunately I got the dates mixed up and the book signing was actually on Saturday, but that turned out in my favor.

I secured a place to stay overnight at my sisters house Friday night and headed for Tremont, a Cleveland neighborhood. I love this neighborhood that's tucked in the northeast corner of I-90 and I-490 behind and around Lincoln Park. It's surrounded by churches and warehouses, but it contains an eclectic mix of artists, musicians and fabulous restaurants. My reservation was for 8:30p and it was 6p when I hit Tremont\ so I made a beeline for my favorite bar in the area, Edison's. Edison's is a nostalgic neighborhood bar with great character and a fantastic patio. I had a couple pints of Buckeye Brewing Company's Hippie IPA, which was described as very hoppy by the bartender, Terry. Personally, I like a lot of hops and thought it was pretty similar to the Barley's Brewing Company Pale Ale.

On to Lolita. I had a reservation for two, but my wife ended up not coming with me and my sister had to work late, so I gave up my table for a seat at the bar which offered a view of the kitchen. No Iron Chef tonight, but the food was awesome. I figured the best way to enjoy the food was to try the starters. I began with the warm olives and continued with the roasted beets, grilled lamb sausage, mussels, roasted dates, crispy chicken livers and the garlic bruschetta and a very nice reisling that went well with everything. By far, my favorite was the crispy chicken livers...crispy on the outside and extremely tender and flavorful on the inside. It was served over a soft polenta with sauteed wild mushrooms over the livers. To die for. The beets were served with slivered almonds, dabs of ricotta, honey and orange zest. I ended up stacking several of the beet sliced atop one another with the almonds and ricotta sandwiched in between...a beet neapolitan. The flavors blended perfectly. My only disappointment was the bruschetta, topped with roasted garlic, basil and buffalo mozzarella. The crostini wasn't very crisp, actually almost soggy, and seemed over oiled. If it would have finished with a sit on the grill, I think it could have been more of what I was expecting. Of course, that won't stop my from going back any chance I can get. Lolita's flavors have left all kinds of inspiration running through my mind.

Next time in Cleveland I need to hit Lola and the Zach Bruell's Parallax.

The next morning I headed for Raddell's Sausage Shop on Waterloo and E. 142. I consider it the best sausage shop in town and one of the reasons Cleveland is a culinary goldmine. Raddell's has a very Old World feel and the aroma is amazing, smoky, meaty, sweet, spicy. I picked up smokies, smoked slovenian sausage, dried smoked slovenian sausage and a cottage ham. These ingredients make my gumbos and jambalayas rock and there's nothing like it in Columbus, I'm sad to say.

For breakfast I headed for Coventry in Cleveland Heights and had breakfast at the Inn on Coventry. Two lemon ricotta pancakes, eggs, bacon, grits and too much toast to eat. Yum. Then I went shopping. Coventry is an area full of boutiques, shops, bars, music, restaurants and coffee shops. Passport to Peru, Big Fun and City Buddha being my favorite shops to wander around. I recommend the area to anyone heading to the East Side.

On to the book signing. Michael Ruhlman is a very personable nextdoor neighbor kinda guy. Humble, yet incredibly knowledgeable. He gave a good length talk about his history and the reasons to write this latest book, and yes, answered questions about judging The Next Iron Chef. No, there was no favoritism towards Chef Symon. Chef Symon won because of his consistency throughout the competition.

In further posts I hope to express some of the ideas and metaphors that Mr. Ruhlman has always written about, but applying those to the design world.

Monday, November 05, 2007

And then there were two

So, now it's down to Besh and Symon. Symon, you rock! My observation of these two has been that Symon would be amuch more entertaining Iron Chef than Besh. While Besh does have a great sense of humor, it's usually clever repartie compared to wide-open Symon. He's the energy that the Food network needs.

Next week is the showdown in Kitchen Stadium. If I'm not mistaken, I thought I saw Besh carrying a big swordfish in the preview clip. Did they intend to reveal the secret ingredient or are we being misled?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Yeah, yeah

Right, I haven't posted anything in a long time. Hmmm, Why? Well I sort of lost interest in cooking as my time dwindled by having more of a life. I started hitting the gym 3 days a week, working longer hours, and the damn oppressive heat of this summer. I lost my appetite in order to shed the many ponds I gained while cooking so damn much, and because it got expensive.

Momentarily, however, my passion is emerging again. Most likely spurred on by The Next Iron Chef airing on the Food Network. Two of my favorites chefs are competing head-to-head, Michael Symon of Cleveland (!) and Chris Cosentino of San Francisco. When Michael won this last Sunday I yelled loud enough that neighbors probably though the Indians are going to the World Series (bummer on that). Symon showed his Cleveland colors by not being afraid of the grill, hell, everyone in Cleveland has a grill...and know hot to use it.

Michael Ruhlman has been blogging about his judging experiences with Bourdain weighing in his armchair critique, insightful and humorous. I wish the Food Network would focus more on the cooking and let these chefs really cook in real Iron Chef situations. Next up, "Snacks on a plane", WTF. This is like Top Chef with a better prize. But I'll still watch it, of course. Any show that demonstrates that great food can be made on-the-fly, I believe, sends out a strong message toward the general populace to not be afraid of good cooking or cooking well.

I remember a newspaper article about Zach Bruell of Z Contemporary Cuisine ( in the mid eighties) and Parallax ( in Cleveland. Much like today's "Take Home Chef", he would go to a grocery store, pick and interesting "victim", and offer to whip up an extraordinary meal from the contens of their cart in their own home. It was like me learning to cook in my Mom's house (no offense, Mom) rumaging through leftovers to create something I wanted to eat that was just the right taste. Ok, I'm rambling. More later.

Ta for now,

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ewwww! Tell me this is just a rumor

Posted on Gawker, What Has Two Thumbs and a Boatload of New STD's?

I quote, "Celebrity chef Mario Batali has been enjoying la dolce vita this summer, with late-night drinking sessions at the Spotted Pig.

During one recent bacchanal, which lasted almost until sunrise, the red-headed restaurateur told his companions he was leaving to "drop in on Courtney Love."

"He said that he 'often' drops in on her," said our man with the big ears.

Believe me, I love Mario and his cooking, and this is in no way is posted to reflect his win over Chef Costentino...It just came up in a search. I'm pretty sure Mario is married with a couple kids and was only joking...probably hoping everyone would vomit.

Monday, April 23, 2007

And the winner is...Batali (46 - 44)

Chef Chris Cosentino brought great dishes to the table, but in the end Iron Chef Mario Batali's cuisine reigned supreme. I was a little surprised, however, that Batali had no offal dishes (unless you count caul fat) knowing he was going up against Cosentino. Batali focused his dishes on a trip to Majorca, the the Spaniards use offal? I'll have to research that.

Back to the show. I was trying to catch the dishes as fast as I could, but I know I missed some. If anyone caught the whole menu, please post it or send it to me. Though I am hoping Chef Chris might might post his dishes on his blog, Offal Good.

Just found...Whoa! Paolo posted a blow-by-blow of the show at MenuPages Blog. Awesome. But I'll post an abbreviated rundown.


1. Cheese crostini of ricotta w/ garlic bread
2. Sea scallop crudo with pickled and raw garlic
3. Garlic pasta with [thinly sliced] snails
4. Garlic roasted squab holding a clove in its talon (including the head cut lengthwise to expose the brain)
5. Eighty garlic clove braised pork belly & tripe
6. Garlic infused honey mousse and pine nut brittle


1. Tapas: garlic bruschetta with lomo, garlic-potato tortilla, brandade stuff piquillo pepper
2. Gambas (langostine) al ajillo
3. Cod with green garlic emulsion
4. Cold gazpacho soup (garlic, almonds, melon) &; sopa de ajo with the quail egg ricotta ravioli
5. Lamb chop with escalivada (squash blossoms)

The score:

Taste: 25-24
Plating: 13-7
Originality: 8-13
Total: 46-44

C'mon! An "8" and he used the squab talons, livers and brains. Chris was robbed.

Anyhow, I think the best part of the show was when Mario was dribbling some sauce over the cod and Alton Brown said, "Look, Mario is saucing his codpiece." I've watched enough Alton to know that joke wasn't a freudian slip. Good one, Alton.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cosentino vs Batali in Battle Garlic

Sunday, April 22, 2007 @ 9:00pm EST/PST
The Food Network

"Chef Chris Cosentino enters Kitchen Stadium for the first time and challenges Iron Chef Mario Batali to a culinary showdown. Will Chef Cosentino's creativity best Iron Chef Batali?" Food Network's Iron Chef America page,1976,FOOD_16696_50398,00.html

Chris is a chef who believes in the use of offal in cooking, and I love eating offal. This past week I was in NYC for the Manny Awards, the "Grammy" of Pharmaceutical Advertising, and had the opportunity to eat at the Stage Deli. I ordered the toungue sandwich and it was awesome. Fall apart tender slices of beef toungue piled 4 inches high on rye bread. Dipped in russian dressing it was heaven. The sandwich also came with 5 or six large dillpickles and a bowl of fresh made cole slaw. I highly recommend the place. Unfortunately, while eating there I missed the chance to sample a foie gras terrine at Maisson right next door. Which means I just need to get back to NYC soon. And I hope to get back to San Francisco to eat at Incanto one of these days. Until then, watch two great chefs battle it out.

For more background on Chris Cosentino visit his web blog, Offal Good.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Pork, dumplings, and saurkraut. This is one of my favorite dishes that my made made while I was a kid and the national dish of Bohemia. As a family we still have this dish at holidays, but not so much in between. I had bought a nice pork roast on sale and decided it was time to make this ols classic myself. The dumplings that my family always made are knedlicky hoskovy, or bread dumplings. These are very large, small loaf dumplings with cubes of bread added. They are extremely satisfying dumplings and we always make plentyt of extra for leftovers. What do you do with leftover giant dumplings? Well, my favorite is to cut them up into cubes, saute in butter until golden and then crack a few eggs over the top, keep things moving to coat the dumplings well, season and enjoy. This is a heary breakfast or even a nice dinner if served with stewed tomatoes. I can't get enough of those dumplings.

Anyhow, back to the pork. The pork I roasted in the oven after giving it a nice spice rub consisting of salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, thyme, mustard powder, and a little garlic powder. To the saurkraut I add about a teaspoon or so of caraway seeds per pound. In the photo I served this with a pork and red bell pepper gravy, which came out a little too sweet. I'd like a more savory pork and sage gravy instead. Here's the recipe for the dumplings:

1 C Flour
1 Egg in 1/2 C Milk, beat lightly
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
3 slices Bread (cube & toast until golden)

Mix the dry ingredients together, add the egg & milk mixture, and fold in the bread cubes. Form the dumpling into a round loaf, dusting with flour so it doesn't stick to you or the board. Boil for 15-20 minutes.

Note: The egg and milk mixture is very dependent on the number of dumplings you make. For each dumpling use a 1/2 Cup measure, add the egg then top off the measure with milk. So, for two dumplings you would add two eggs to a 1 Cup measure, then top of the measure with milk. Three dumplings would require three eggs in a measure and milk add to get to 1-1/2 Cup. Get it? Every other ingredient is straight multiples.

I hope you give these dumplings a try, either as part of Vepro-knedlo-zelo or with eggs. Either way I'm sure you'll enjoy them. Dobre podjme jist (ok, let's eat!).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Beast Within

Excuse my absence in posting, I'll start catching up here. Back in January, when the temperatures finally dropped below freezing, my friends from 2Silos farm called me up saying they had a sheep that was approaching the 1 year mark and it needed to become food.

Of course I jumped at the chance, but let me explain a few things first. I've always loved animals and have been a protector of animals, especially wild animals. I swerve whenever possible, while driving, to avoid a creature, I don't hunt, and I'm a pet owner. I once had to watch a buddy shoot a horse that got hit by a car, and was very saddened by the loss. Now, I've also grown up watching nature shows and knew nothing was wrong with the operation of the food chain. I have watched my cats dispatch birds, chipmunks, and the occasional rabbit. I also grew up knowing the delicious value of wild game, whether bought whole at a market or shared with a family member that did hunt.

So, why did I want to go to a farm, watch an animal be killed and then help butcher it? Well, as Anthony Bordain (and many other chefs) put it, "It's important to know where your food comes from." As a food fan and a consummate carnivore, I felt it was my duty to take the opportunity. And I'm glad I did. What stirred inside of my during the process was the primality of The Lord of The Hunt, Herne, and the Lord of the Forest, Cernnunos. Whether we human like it or not, we're animals and we're high on the food chain. And, while packaged meats are highly accessible, I think we lose the connection to the animal we're eating. How was it raised? Did it die well? These are the things I wanted to experience.

The experience also brought me closer to Cameron, who did the actual act, but was not raised on a farm. Killing is not natural to Cam, though owning a farm has forced against his natural instincts. When owning a farm the animals are not pets, they are food, just like the vegetables in the field (though they require more care). We took awhile preparing our minds for what was to come. We talked about it and reassured each other that it needed to be done, that's why they raised the lamb.

We literally trudged out to the barn through the snow, and confronted the beast. This was no spring lamb. This was a fully mature 200+ lb. sheep, full of wool and not happy we're in his pen. I'm not going into the rest of the details, except that after we hauled it upstairs, it was amazing how fast an animal starts looking like food.

Next we brought it inside to butcher. Working on an animal that large really lets you see where all the muscles are and how the connective tissue and joints work together.

For my efforts Cam and his wife, Denise, gave me a few selections of the sheep including a flank steak, a whole leg, a tenderloin, and a variety of offal which included 2 stomachs, kidneys, heart, liver, and a bunch of suet (for the birds). Had I studied more sheep physiology, I would have wanted the sweetbreads which we accidentally cut in pieces.

I want to thank Cam and Denise for the experience and their unwavering hospitality. Unfortunately, due to not enough available time, I had to freeze most of my haul, but keep an eye out for the dishes I create coming this spring.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Wing Doctor

So, the Wing Doctor shows up at my door one day with three samples of his sauces with the challenge to create recipes using the sauces. The Wing Doctor is a professor of biology at Ohio State University and has been working on his sauces for several years (nevermind the website, I hope to be creating him a new one soon.) Block parties, housewarming, gatherings always feature the Wing Doctors wings if he's there. The doc is a great guy. The most notable sauce that he makes is his Red Ranch Sauce. Spicy, cool, tangy, mmmmm. It's mild enough that my wife will even eat it. And it makes a great dip for chincharones (mexican pork rinds).

Of course I was up to the challenge and my mind began reeling with ideas beyond the ordinary wings. Calamari? Chicken? Eggs! Yes, eggs. Specifically, deviled eggs. I made about 2 dozen eggs to serve at our local brewpub, Barley's Smokehouse, to share with the doc, his family and friends...and the staff. Needless to say they were a huge hit and all were devoured. So here's the first of my Wing Doctor recipes:

Devilish Eggs
3 eggs, large
3 slices pancetta , very thinly sliced
1.5 tsps Dijon mustard
1.5 to 2 tsps wing sauce
2 Tbsp mayonnaise

Place eggs in one layer in a pot and cover with cool water. Heat until boiling. Cover and remove from heat. Let set for 10 min. Cool eggs unter running cold water still in pot, drain, but leave water halfway up eggs. Add 32 oz, or so, of ice to cool eggs further. When cool, dry and store in refrigerator. Brown pancetta in pan until crisp. Drain on paper towel or rack. When cool, crumble.

Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Place yolks in bowl for mixing. Place whites arranged on a platter. Crush egg yolks with folk until fine then mix in dijon, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Blend to combine until smooth.

Pipe (medium star tip) egg mixture into egg white halves and top with small amount of crumbled pancetta.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Columbus Calamari Showdown 2006

Throughout 2006 I visited some of the best recommended restaurants serving calamari in and around Columbus, OH. With the constant expansion of Columbus and it's importance as a retail shipping hub has also expanded Columbus as a restaurant test bed. Columbus boasts the home of Cameron Mitchell restuarants, Wendy's and White Castle burgers and our own Bocuse D'Or winner, Harmut Handke.

I chose calamari mainly because I can never get enough of this succulent little ocean dweller (though I'd also love to see more cuttlefish use as well), but also because it seems to be a ubiquitous appetizer on menus. With the wrong preparation calamari can become tough and chewy, but when done right it has a nice bite and a rich softness.

The main criteria in my ranking was the desire to have more. Would I immediately order another dish of this food after finishing off the first dish? Secondly is how it's prepared. I am disappointed in the number of identical Calamari Fritti offerings at many top restaurants. Sure, for most folks the ever familiar breaded and fried calamari is comforting. But that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for new preparations, ones with lots of forethough and experimentation.

So, here's the best of 2006:

  1. Cameron Mitchell's Ocean Club - Fried Judith Point Calamari

  2. Elevator Brewery - Fried Judith Point Calamari

  3. Q2 Bistro - Spicy Salted Calamari

  4. Cameron Mitchell's Cap City Fine Diner & Bar - Hot & Sour Calamari

  5. Ha Long Bay

Notable restaurants that did not make the top 5 are Smith & Wollensky (overly salty), McCormick & Schmick (ordinary), Brio Tuscan Grill (ordinary), Bucca Di Beppo (ordinary).