"Bacon is the candy of meat."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tonight on Masterpiece Theatre, Upscale Downscale

Just back from a nice weekend with the family in Philadelphia. Since we were with kids, we didn't get to check out the exciting places in the Philly food scene, like Morimoto or The Fountain at the Four Seasons, but we did very well with places specializing in upscale versions of downscale food. Saturday night, we went for very tasty BBQ at Devil's Alley, which had a great old industrial vibe and a fun atmosphere. I shared a platter of St. Louis style ribs with Young Master Gateau, which came with two sides (excellent beer battered onion rings and cole slaw were my picks), while Mr. Gateau had a turkey burger (buh?) with bacon and blue cheese, and the baby had a nice cheese quesadilla with good fries (note to New York area restaurant owners: there is no reason on earth why a child's entree should cost more than the $3 or $4 or $5 pricing we encountered in Philadelphia, and portions should be scaled to match. Also, put the regular menu food on the kids' menu, not just endless fried nuggets. I saw a menu for a place there that offered an English cut prime rib for kids, for the love of pete). Mr. Gateau talked me into sharing a whole pitcher of ale with him, which proved to be a good move, as it was excellent (from the Yard's brewery, which apparently has just disbanded).

On Sunday, we avoided the misery known as the "free, cooked to order" hotel breakfast and went out for a fun brunch at the Continental Mid-Town lounge, which had a groovy retro-future look and a terrific menu reminiscent of the great Norma's at Le Parker Meridien in New York. Mr. Gateau had a good cheddar and bacon omelette, I had poached eggs with smoked salmon hash, with exceptional coffee and a Bellini, which was just what I needed, and we ordered "The Big Bang" platter for the kids to share, which included a short stack of pancakes, scrambled eggs, toast, applewood smoked bacon, very flavorful turkey sausages, and probably the best breakfast potatoes I've ever had. These were just what you want in a potato side -- well seasoned, and cut into thin ovals that we potatoey and tender in the center, but crispy everywhere else. This more than adequately fueled a long walk around the historical sites, and then an endless trip home fighting the Jersey shore traffic/certain people's repeated failures to read properly the instructions displayed on a certain person's GPS device that a certain person's spouse gave him for Father's Day.

All in all, Philadelphia did right by us.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Foodie Musing

Listen, I know it's all horribly foodie and bobo and privileged to be all "darling, simple dishes using the best possible ingredients is the only way to eat" but I got a really good dinner together last night using that method. I'm fortunate in that we have this great, weird independent supermarket in town that carries local produce, lots of weird European and Latin American imports (jams! oils! spices! rose water! fruit nectars!), and a great homemade take-out area, with everything from 6 flavors of hummus to complete entrees. So I got some pita chips, tapenade, and spicy feta dip from there, and made a Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella made there (still warm when I got it), some of my own basil, and two giant amazing tomatoes I bought for a king's ransom at the Saturday farmer's market. I topped that with the good California extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's someone had tipped me off about ($6 a bottle, and could have been over $20; I got 4) and some fig vinegar that was $12 a bottle, which I hadn't noticed until after I got it home. Good thing, or I would never have bought it.

I asked Mr. Gateau to grab some red wine from the basement, and I never can keep track of what's good and what's table wine, but I suspect he opened a bottle of the good stuff. Which is fine with me, why save it only for dinner guests?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gimme a Break

I finally had a little time this weekend to dig into a recent addition to my cookbook collection, Eric Gower's The Breakaway Cook, which is a gorgeous and inventive cookbook emphasizing full flavors from around the globe and a pantry stocked with unexpected ingredients that quickly become staples. I've already become addicted to his flavored salts, which take about 30 seconds to make in a spice or coffee grinder (sea salt blended with lavender, dried tangerines, smoked paprika, or Japanese green tea powder).

Yesterday I made a chicken dish that is basically marinated and then sauced with a pureed mojito, with the addition of some onion, garlic, and cilantro, and was just succulent and wonderful. This morning I followed his instructions for fluffy herbed scrambled eggs, where the tip of the day was to use a few spoonfuls of Greek yogurt where I otherwise might have used milk. Delicious. Even my picky husband and kids ate with gusto.

Friday, August 17, 2007

School Daze

Young Master Gateau is about to start kindergarten, so yesterday in the mail we got the information packet that included things like lists of the numerous school supplies we are expected to provide for the use of the whole class (apparently, they no longer hand out crayons; each kid is expected to contribute two packs each to the collective supply -- woo hoo! all those anti-school budget folks who carried on about having their taxes raised in some Communist plot to educate someone else's kids had no idea they were fostering this kind of socialist crayon distribution collective).

Anyway, among all the lists and directives was the instruction that we're to provide a "healthy, not sugary snack" and a drink each day, along with lunch (the school cafeteria does not sell food until the end of September, WTF? God, I'm cranky.) Since YMG does not eat fruits or vegetables, or half the other things normal kids eat, such as yogurt, string cheese, Goldfish crackers, etc., I'm not quite sure how I'm going to deal with this one. So far I have come up with:

pita chips
fresh mozzarella balls
bread with butter
um, probably something else if I try really, really hard

Oy, and school hasn't even started yet.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Saturday Morning With the Gateau Family

One of the drawbacks of having kids, as everyone knows, is that they get you up early seven days a week, which for a lazy layabout like myself, was probably the hardest adjustment I had to make. However, on the upside, this means that you get an awfully lot done in the morning during time that would otherwise have been spent lounging around in bed.

By 8am today, Young Master Gateau and I were ready to hit our small local farmers market. We usually get there closer to closing, and though we can usually find plenty of nice stuff, getting there just after opening was like going to an entirely different market. There was bounty. Our purchases included two pints of my favorite Sungold cherry tomatoes that I eat by the handful, blackberries, blueberries, zucchini, peaches, several kinds of heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, a yellow watermelon, and multicolored beets. Combined with what is coming out of our little garden, we should be getting our fruit and vegetable servings this week.

After that, we stopped at the supermarket for some other essentials, and learned that in their bid to compete with outlets like Whole Foods, our big chain supermarket now has a featured microbrew section. It sits opposite the bacon section, so that's great, one stop shopping.

When we got home I cooked an entire package of hickory-smoked bacon (why orphan three slices in the refrigerator, I figured) and I made a triple batch of pancakes -- mostly chocolate chip, but I made myself a big blueberry one and a big blackberry one. We all shared a big pot of Earl Grey tea, and now I'm ready to go back to bed, if only the kids would let me.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Ted Allen is right and good

On this week's Top Chef, guest judge Ted Allen had this advice for the chef contestants:

"If you want to make people happy, give them bacon."

Monday, August 6, 2007

The best thing to serve with bacon is.......bacon

We spent the weekend visiting with friends who are thoughtful enough to rent a beautiful summer house in the country each year so that their un-summer-housed friends can come to visit. Thanks, guys! This visit was a rousing success, if only because Young Master Gateau did not start vomiting upon arrival, as he did a few years ago. There was swimming, there was grilling, there was kid interaction, there was sitting around on the deck with alcohol, all the necessary components of a fine summer weekend.

And there were blueberry pancakes and THREE KINDS OF BACON, provided (and cooked) by Mr. Gateau. Sadly, this year we were not able to pick up the super thick-sliced uncured bacon that had handily won comparison with Niman Ranch's bacon two years ago, but we got the thinner version of the same, the Niman Ranch, and some nice peppered bacon. We meant to do a scientific study and determine a winner based on taste, appearance, and meat-to-fat ratio, but basically we were all so fried from the kids waking us up before the crack of dawn that we forgot. And ate it all. Without pause. So much for science, but HOORAY FOR BACON!