"Bacon is the candy of meat."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Is there a Mrs. Softee? And if there is, who does her hair?

I had my first Mr. Softee of the season today. (Mr. Softee, for those of you who don't live in or around the New York greater metropolitan area, is merely the best ice cream truck company in the world ever. Yeah, Good Humor can kiss my ass. You can read more about Mr. Softee here. You can also listen to the music at that link, but I'm afraid I can't say you'll be happy you did. It's a notorious earworm, and was also the subject of a somewhat nasty battle last year between Mayor Bloomberg, who said the sound constituted a nuisance, and the Mr. Softee guys, who, predictably, said it didn't.)

The first Mr. Softee of the season always makes me happy for several reasons: first of all, the ice cream is really pretty good. It beats the stuffing out of frozen yogurt, which doesn't have that same velvety mouth feel. Second, it means spring is finally here. Third, I get to flirt with the Mr. Softee boys, who are often cute. Finally, with Mr. Softee, I can eat ice cream without my cat standing next to me giving me sad eyes because she wants to lick the spoon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tell me something good

Well then, since you asked, here is something good: Chocolate Riesen. I'm not a huge chocolate person. I mean, it's great and all, but it's not usually the first thing I crave. These are killer, though, and since you can buy them at the supermarket, you can have them whenever you want. Mmm, chewy chocolatey goodness. What Milk Duds should be, if they didn't taste like wax.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Eat Licorice. Just eat it, for gods' sake.

Many people do not care for black licorice. These people are deluded. I can sort of get my mind around not caring for the salty kind, as it makes no sense, but how the hell can you not like Twizzlers? (I'm not talking about that pansy-ass red shit. I'm talking about black Twizzlers. Chocolate Twizzlers are adequate, but chocolate licorice is problematic on several levels beyond the scope of this post.)

In any event. I did a comparison of two types of licorice products: that old standby Good & Plenty, which, according to the box, is artifically flavored, and Panda Licorice, which, according to the wrapper, offers "the real taste of licorice," which presumably means it is not artifcially flavored, unless there's some sort of linguistic hanky-panky going on that I don't understand.

The Good & Plenty, since it's candy coated, offers a nice crunch that the Panda doesn't -- a fine thing in a snack food. But for flavor, the Panda kicks Good & Plenty's ass. While Good & Plenty has a mild molasses sort of flavor that's fine if you have a licorice jones going on, the dominant taste is of sugar and corn syrup. (Quaintly enough, sugar and corn syrup are the first ingredients on the label. Fancy that.) Panda, on the other hand, has an unmistakable earthy, molasses kick. The consistency of the Panda is also worthy of note -- sort of al dente, with a smooth feel when you chew it.

Good & Plenty has the advantage of being available at many fine newstands on subway platforms. Panda you have to get at Whole Foods and tony places like that. (Although the nice gentleman who runs the newsstand on on the downtown side of the R/W stop on 23rd Street, when asked whether he carried Good & Plenty, replied, "Good & Plenty? No no no no no. No, we don't carry Good & Plenty. No, no Good & Plenty" and then he offered me Sunkist Fruit Gems instead. Nope, I don't get it either.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

For medicinal purposes only

Because I am aging rapidly, even as I type, it took me well over a week to get over a sore throat, and that was with some heavy-duty antibiotics. During that time, I am afraid, I wasn't all that interested in food, but I did learn a few things. For example, that chicken noodle soup is mostly boring as hell. Here are some things I ate that surprised me in that they went down so nicely:

--chocolate chip pancakes
--baked potato with sour cream and crumbled bacon

Hm, these things do have something in common, and that is that the Carb Police will no doubt be after me very soon.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Silk Purse of a Sow's Ear, Hors D'oeuvres Division

I was too lazy on Saturday to do my grocery shopping at multiple stores, so I made do with the Stop & Shop. We had friends coming over to dinner on Sunday, and I was doing a simple menu -- marinated London broil (from my recent share of a grass-fed side of beef), roasted asparagus with Parmesan, rosemary roasted potatoes, and salad with olive oil and lemon juice dressing. Young Master Gateau really wanted to make red velvet cake for the guests, so we got the stuff to do that as well (actually, we had to go back to the store again because I'd forgotten buttermilk and white vinegar, and I skipped going yet again after I could not find the cake pans at zero hour, so we made cupcakes instead, and relied on nonstick spray and prayer to ensure they'd come out of the tins, because we also had no paper liners).

So as to have something to soak up the cocktails, I got some mixed olives and plain miniature mozzarella balls from the mediocre appetizing bar. Here is how I turned them into something actually tasty:

I dressed the mozzarella with olive oil and one defrosted garlic-basil cube from my freezer. Added sundried tomatoes and let this sit a bit to mix.

The olives were pretty tasteless until I dressed them with a little olive oil, a teaspoon each of crumbled dried thyme and rosemary, and shredded lemon zest.

And now for the best hors d'oeuvre you can make from the supermarket, straight from my parents' 1970s dinner parties: get a container of the nice, cut-up pineapple chunks (the fresh, not canned). Get a package of decent bacon, such as Boar's Head. Wrap each pineapple chunk in a strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Broil these for a few minutes, until the bacon is cooked. Drain. Serve. No matter how foodie your guests, nobody can resist the combination of sweet pineapple and bacon.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Right round, baby, right round

Yes, the theme of this post is "round." Round, as in the shape of the little tiny meatballs I made for dinner. Round, as in the circumference of each strand of spaghetti. Round, as in the shape the tomatoes were before they were pounded into submission. Round, as in the shape of my distended belly after I ate a gigantic bowl of the stuff.

Here is how it went down: my friend, Mr. X, organized the purchase of a side of grass-fed beef, and invited me to participate. The dividing up took place over the weekend, but as I was otherwise occupied drinking too much and eating foie gras bread pudding with Meg and Pam, I had to pick mine up from Mrs. X last night. And what a haul -- all the meat that's fit to eat, all delicious and nicely wrapped for the freezer, about 40 pounds of it. One pack of hamburger started to thaw on the way home, so I set that aside to eat today. At first I thought I'd make just a Nice Juicy Hamburger (as my mother would say, when she was trying to sell us the concept of going out for a nice simple dinner on the nights she'd worked and didn't feel like cooking when she got home). But as we were out of buns, ketchup, tomatoes, onions, and probably a million other things, I decided to do meatballs and spaghetti.

These are good -- they're based on Nigella Lawson's recipe. Of course, she makes her pasta by hand, which will happen around here approximately when hell freezes over. They're a little fussier than my usual midweek cooking, but somehow I managed to get it done, even with Mr. Gateau at work late and the mini-Gateaus (Gateaux? cupcakes?) engaging in their usual chaos. I happened to have in the freezer a couple of Ziploc bags of roasted tomato puree I made last summer after I bought a ridiculous amount of tomatoes at the farmer's market, so I was able to use up one of those. There is something incredibly appealing about a bite-sized meatball, even if they are kind of a pain to make.

Delicious as these are, I've been craving sweet-and-sour meatballs of the sort this friend of my parents used to make when we'd go visit them in Philadelphia. I suspect that they won't taste quite right until I break down and use grape jelly as the sweetening agent. Stay tuned -- there is a lot of meat in my house and I intend to use it.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Totally Hypothetical Question

If anyone is actually reading this, please weigh in on the following very important query:

If you had to choose an entree on the basis of the side dish, and the side dishes were gorgonzola "tater tots" with bacon-studded spinach, or foie gras bread pudding with pancetta-wrapped asparagus, which would you pick?

Not that it's really required, but it seems likely that these are the leading contenders on the menu.

Well, the food was a good as it sounded. We started with a cocktail (this followed the leisurely downing of a bottle of Pinot Grigio and numerous gossip magazines) -- I had a blood orange Cosmopolitan that was fantastic, and also pretty. For dinner, I went with the tuna tartare, which was wonderful -- very meaty and flavorful with plenty of ginger and cilantro, plus wasabi sauce on the plate. For the entree I just could not turn down the promise of foie gras bread pudding, which tasted heavenly, though it was so rich that I couldn't begin to finish it all. The duck breast was very nice, and though there was a dried cherry sauce, not sweet at all. Pancetta-wrapped asparagus gave me my daily bacon requirement. Meg was good enough to share her gorgonzola tater tots, which were basically the Platonic ideal of potato croquette. Must try making those some time.

By the time dessert rolled around, all I could manage was a latte to try to cut through the massive amounts of alcohol (by this point, we'd also managed to put away a bottle of Zin) and tastes of Meg's chocolate beignets and Pam's warm chocolate cake.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

In Which I Confirm An Age-Old Truth

Never tiring in my quest to make vegetables, well, interesting, I hauled out the roasting pan and threw in a headsworth of cauliflower florets. A couple teaspoons of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a 475 degree oven later, I had deliciously browned healthy vegetable chunks that miraculously smelled like French fries. But wait! what these bad boys needed was a good sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese and another minute under the broiler, and suddenly I found myself pounding back a meal's worth of hot vegetable goodness with my fingers. A couple nights later, I did it again, this time with a whole bunch of asparagus.

The key principle here, and one I ignore at my peril, is the time-tested truth that Fat is the Best Tasting Thing.