November 28, 2006
Wikipedia may have a longer list, but here at Tea Leaves we know that size doesn't matter. Much. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Foods That Sound Like Sexual Positions"
November 21, 2006
I've written about it before, but every year around Thanksgiving, Susan Stamberg gets on NPR to pimp her family's disgusting cranberry relish, and so I feel that it is my duty to protect my readers: Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish was revolting the first time it was made, it was revolting the last time it was made, it is an inherently revolting recipe and if you make it, and claim to enjoy it, you are an overprivileged and self-deluded yuppie wretch. Make my relish instead. Happy Thanksgiving! $MTEntryExcerpt$>
October 31, 2006
Buy the yogurt, the chocolate, the mustard (sometimes), and the olive oil. Pete says that the frozen dinners are good. The cheese is hit and miss; it's a much more restricted selection than you'll find in either Whole Foods or the Strip, but on the other hand it's very affordable. The deli case is a travesty, particular the box meat presumably distributed from the same place that supplies Wal-Mart. But the prices on Nova lox can't be beat. I'm still bitter that I can't buy wine there. But that's not their fault. In summary, anything that makes Giant Eagle paranoid is, on balance, a good thing. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
October 26, 2006
All the foodie people in Pittsburgh probably know, but Trader Joe's is opening tomorrow in East Liberty. Some people I know were saying "meh" about Trader Joe's, what with Whole Foods just down the street. I, for one, am excited... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Trader Joe's"
October 13, 2006
The other night, we visited one of our favorite local places, the Grand Canal Cafe. For years, they've done straightfoward Italian food with a particular emphasis on pastas. Karen had a craving for their speciality: a ground veal and spinach... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Industrial Disease"
October 04, 2006
The other day I decided I needed some tea, so I decided to stop off at Margaret's shop, which I've written about before. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that it was nowhere to be seen.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Shopping Angst Averted"
September 21, 2006
You'd think, since I'm always bossing people around and telling them what booze to drink, that I'd have strong opinions on Margaritas and tequila. After all, I have already written booze-snob instructions on how to make the perfect daiquiri. But here's the thing: I don't really know anything about tequila. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Margarita Amateur Hour"
September 14, 2006
In 1986, a girl fell through the skylight of a building at Carnegie-Mellon. She had been drinking on the roof with her friends, and lost her balance. On the way down she straddled a water pipe, which broke her fall and probably saved her life. She hit the ground pretty hard, and was knocked out. When the ambulance arrived and the paramedics started to move her, she regained consciousness. She opened her eyes and said, very groggily, "Are you from Capri pizza? You must be, because you're slow and stupid." I never heard what happened to the girl after that — with luck, she perished in a freak eyeliner accident — but the incident stuck in my head because it reminds me that anyone will eat lousy pizza, if it's cheap enough and the pizza place delivers Most people have never had great pizza. Most people like pizza that sucks. So I'm going to give you a brief guide to great pizza, what makes it great, and how to find it. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Pizza Problem"
September 08, 2006
Over the years, I have experimented with making my own tomato sauce. For a long time, this just didn't work. I'd get some bland, runny, tasteless mess that didn't stick to the pasta. Recently, for reasons I don't completely understand,... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Accidental Sauce"
September 06, 2006
Earlier this year, my employer moved our offices from a building in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh to an area close to the CMU campus in Oakland. Being at CMU has a lot of advantages. It's an easier commute,... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Neighborhood Food"
August 21, 2006
The problem with White Russians is that they're very 1986. The other problem is that to make them, you have to buy a bottle of Kahlua, and now you have a bottle of liqueur that you can only use for... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Booze: Orange Creamsicles"
August 16, 2006
Some time ago, you may recall that we reviewed Italian amari, liqueurs that are believed to help aid the digestion. Our panel reviewed these beverages solely from the perspective of taste. Tonight, I had a somewhat overwhelming dinner, and I can report that, in fact, amari do work wonderfully as digestivi. So three cheers for the ragazzi buoni who make Amaro Montenegro. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
August 15, 2006
I find myself confronted by the same food questions over and over again. Here are a few that have been bothering me lately.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Short Food Questions"
August 11, 2006
In preparation for an article on the Perfect Margarita, I picked up a bottle of Cointreau (pronounced [kwan'-tro]). Since I can talk about liqueurs for hours on end, let's divert from the Margarita discussion to talk about orange flavored liqueurs. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Cointreau vs. Grand Marnier Knife Fight"
August 10, 2006
Fried rice, to me, is the Chinese American Macaroni and Cheese. When I think of the quick and lazy food of my childhood, it's always fried rice. Egg fried rice, fried rice with the little Chinese sausages, fried rice with... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Fried Rice"
July 31, 2006
A while ago I posted my recipe for making yogurt, in which I slavishly imitated Alton Brown's stern admonition to not heat the milk past 170 degrees Fahrenheit. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Beyond Alton Brown"
July 06, 2006
For tonight, a rumination on some old news. You may recall that a few weeks ago, Whole Foods announced that it would no longer carry any live lobster and crabs at its fish counters. The reason given for this new... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Whole Stupid"
June 30, 2006
or: why the best restaurants in London are all ethnic food. You've been learning to actually cook food, with recipes that don't start with "remove foil wrapper from cup". Phrases like "gently braise" suddenly and inexplicably combine with a shocking... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "On Earth As It Is At Dinner But Not South of Hadrian's Wall"
June 27, 2006
I took a few books with me on vacation. One of them was an Italian novel called La strega innamorata, ("The witch in love"). It's funny, and quirky, and easy to read, even for someone with language skills as rusty as mine. And every time I picked up the book, it did me the favor of reminding me that I should pour myself a glass of what might be my favorite digestivo, Liquore Strega. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Witch In Love"
June 26, 2006
One curious constant in the American food tradition dating back at least as far back as I can remember is the neighborhood ice cream truck. These small white vans are similar in shape to a mail truck, but much more... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Ice Cream Sandwich"
June 20, 2006
Recently, we've gotten a lot of feedback, both privately and on the site about the state of the local coffee scene. I am always happy to get this kind of information, since it never hurts to have new places to... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "A Hill of Beans"
June 13, 2006
This week I'm on vacation. While preparing for the trip, I had an interesting Shopping Moment that I'd like to share. The moment involves coffee, as so many of them do. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Burr Under My Saddle"
May 31, 2006
For all of you out there who enjoy blowing that college fund on shiny pans that you don't need, here is a reminder that the twice-a-year All-Clad sale is going on this weekend, starting Friday.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "All-Clad Sale"
May 30, 2006
It's gotta be 90 degrees here in Pittsburgh today. So here's a simple drink to beat the heat: Campari. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Bitter Is Better"
May 26, 2006
Six years ago, Karen and I heard rumors about a place in Bellevue that was serving up fancy food. For a long time, we regarded these rumors with some skepticism. Bellevue, after all, is a working class town that is... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Vivo"
May 25, 2006
"I want a hamburger. A really good hamburger." This is me, talking to psu. "Go to Tessaro's. They have the best burgers in town." That's psu, talking to me. But Tessaro's doesn't have the best burgers in town. In the abstract, yes, a Tessaro's burger is almost the platonic ideal of a great hamburger. The meat is cooked perfectly, over a wood fire. It's big and juicy. It's perfect. Except... Except they don't have french fries. Therefore, their perfect burger sucks. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Alchemy of Meat"
May 11, 2006
Lately I've been in something of a food rut. A combination of too much to do and not enough time to do it has left me eating out for lunch a lot at work. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Share a Gift, Share a Care"
April 26, 2006
In the wide landscape of available devices for turning ground coffee into an arguably drinkable liquid, the Moka Pot does not get its due. This strange device has the advantage of relative simplicity, and a long history of faithful service.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Moka Pot"
April 11, 2006
A lot of Americans don't like olives. This is because the olives most of us are subjected to suck. I probably didn't have a truly great olive until I was in my twenties. Now, they are almost a staple food in my diet. I'd like to share some of my opinions on the subject with you, and describe some types of olives that you might want to try, if you haven't yet. I'll also tell you what to avoid. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Olives For the Perplexed"
April 07, 2006
It finally appears that Spring has sprung. After some false warmth, followed by a pretty cool week, we came to a Friday afternoon with temperatures in the balmy 70s and pale blue skies. By tradition, my wife and I wait... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Ice Cream for Dinner"
March 30, 2006
For two years in graduate school, I lived in North Carolina. One of the things you learn about when you live in North Carlina is what good pulled pork tastes like. Good pulled pork is pork shoulder, or the whole... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Red Hot and Blue"
March 28, 2006
Over the weekend, the New York Times published this depressing profile of a growing service in the food industry where you pay someone to be your prep cook. Apparently, the way this works is that for a nominal fee, you... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Sloth, Ignorance and Denial"
March 16, 2006
Why do we go to Toronto? Mostly to eat. Sure, there are other attractions and cultural activities. But we go there to eat. And we've been there enough to develop some favorites. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Eating Toronto"
March 08, 2006
We all have them. Maybe you wore a denim jacket all through Junior High school. Maybe you think, when no one is looking, that Cyndi Lauper is actually pretty cool. Maybe you memorized the order in which Star Trek episodes first aired. Whatever your particular secret shames are, rest assured that everyone around you has their own as well. We spend a lot of time and effort on this weblog talking about food. In the process, we radiate megawatts of attitude about things that you should care about, such as authenticity, honesty, simplicity, and quality ingredients. We have even been called "food snobs" or "foodies", although I maintain I am actually more of a "chowhound." Occasionally we try to defend ourselves by pointing out that we like hot dogs. But let's face it: the hot dog is too indie, too hip, too ironic a food to be truly shameful. Saying you like hot dogs is like wearing a Quisp t-shirt at a Fugazi concert: "Look at me, everyone! I'm so square, I'm hip!" So today, I'm not going to screw around. Here, for your enjoyment and horror, are my real, honest-to-goodness, secret food shames. Most of them do not form a large part of my day to day diet; most of them I avoid for various reasons. But not eating and not liking are two different things. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Coming Out of the Pantry"
March 07, 2006
Today two short notes based on reader feedback.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Reader Mail"
February 28, 2006
You can spend a lot of money on stuff with which to make tea, if you want too. There are lots of kettles available in steel and copper. There are piles of teapots for purchase in all kinds and colors. There are all sorts of noodley, fiddly tea type things that invariably end up in the bottom drawer, unused and forgotten. I have a teapot, a nice little porcelain one, clean and white. I've stopped using it.$MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Well Equipped for Tea"
February 27, 2006
We went to Ohio to visit some old friends who we knew at CMU. While there, we made two interesting food discoveries.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Two Winners"
February 23, 2006
These are not my famous biscuits. This is a recipe I found in Peter Christian's cookbook, named for a tavern that we used to frequent when we lived in New Hampshire. Use them for sweet or savory dishes. But don't... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Peter's Famous Biscuits"
February 20, 2006
I was interested to read the article titled Perfect Pot Stickers in your most recent issue. The beginning of the article, which described the pleasures of the perfect Chinese Dumpling put into words exactly why I have spent a large... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Dear Cooks Illustrated"
February 17, 2006
...and somewhere, someone is eating caponata di melanzana. Melanzana, of course, is the beautiful Italian name for the fruit that the French call "aubergine," and which no one in America eats because it has the revolting name "eggplant." Caponata is a relish, of sorts, that uses eggplant to carry the flavors of the other items in the mix. It's easy to make (except for one annoying part), delicious, and my version is good enough that it can make complete strangers want to hold you and gently sob tears of happiness. Here's how to make it. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Friday Night in Sicily"
February 09, 2006
The other day at the local food emporium, I had chance to witness a terrible crime. There, on the shelf just below eye level, sat a prim little tin of kosher salt, labeled with an honest-looking brown sticker in a respectable handwriting font. This little two and some ounce jar cost four dollars, pushing the price per pound up near thirty. At my feet: a big cardboard box of kosher salt, three pounds, two bucks.
It's a rock, after all. But I didn't come here to talk about that.$MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Curry Powder"
February 03, 2006
Next up is an item about ideological videogames, but before that, I just have to share my favorite comic strip's take on the "milk vs. soy milk" issue. It's funny because it's true. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
February 02, 2006
When I was growing up, every once in a while my mom would make this weird food. When it came out of the pan, it always looked like a big pile of steaming gray matter. It looked nasty. Later, I... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Braaaiiiinnnnns"
January 25, 2006
Lord knows that in my time I've said some mean things about fair-trade coffee. I've tried to like it, but every time I go buying it on my own I end up with something that tastes bad. Since my super power is the ability to generalize a single instance of disappointment into a scathing indictment of an entire industry, this led to some enjoyable ranting where I prove, using logic, that all fair trade coffee everywhere, by the immutable laws of the universe, must taste horrible. The Green LA Girl, however, called my bluff. So now I will publically recant my earlier statements and say, without reservation, fair-trade coffee is awesome. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Eating Some (Fair-Trade) Humble Pie"
January 19, 2006
I have always had a personal rule about Chinese Food places. If they have pictures of the food, they should be avoided. This goes along with some other rules, like Chinese Restaurants in shopping plazas tend to be marginal.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "A Happy Return"
January 17, 2006
Here's an easy one for parties: liver paté to top crostini. Liver is misunderstood and maligned. It can have a strong taste, but doesn't have to be completely overwhelming. Part of the problem is that it's served often just fried up in a pan, which is totally uninteresting. Instead, do just a little easy work and you can have a great appetizer in no time at all. This recipe is adapted from Mario Batagli's version. The main difference between his recipe and mine is that I'm too poor to use duck liver. But it's quite good nonetheless. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "What Am I, Chopped Liver?"
January 16, 2006
As I mentioned last week, I was out of town. Specifically, I was in San Francisco. Every day and night, I ate at fabulous trendy restaurants. I walked around a vibrant, young, exciting city. I gained five pounds. And when it was all over, I took the red-eye back to Pittsburgh on a cold, dark, wet Saturday, at 6 in the morning. This felt pretty depressing. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Green Morning"
January 02, 2006
Every time I've tried fair trade coffee, I've had bad luck. But Green LA Girl has good things to say about it, and I like the way she writes, so I will keep trying it until I find a good one. Today the Starbucks downstairs from my office was selling Café Estima fresh. So I had to get a cup to try it out. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Because it is bitter, and because it is my heart"
December 29, 2005
My typical recipe for drinking chocolate involves cocoa powder, whole milk, a pinch of salt, and some vanilla. No sugar. Chocolate is supposed to be bitter. A pinch of cayenne pepper will serve, too.
But sometimes, once in a blue moon, on a particularly bad day, you have to do something different. Here's one way to do it.$MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Epileptic Fit Hot Chocolate"
December 28, 2005
The search for the true and authentic culinary experience occupies the mind of all of the food obsessed people of the world. Real Chinese. Real cheese. Real barbeque. Real sushi. The list goes on and on. Entire magazines and cookbooks... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Real Thing"
December 22, 2005
I made two cookie discoveries in the Target today. This is a bit odd. You don't expect to go to the Target to find out stuff about cookies.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Cookie Discoveries"
December 13, 2005
Here is a quick recipe to pass the time. We found a version in a cookbook or magazine that starts with a nice set of ingredients. So we decided to make it one night.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Lentil Stew"
December 07, 2005
We spend a lot of time pontificating on food on this site. So much so that often we are accused of being "foodies" or "food snobs". I categorically deny this accusation. A more accurate representation of my position is that... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "I Sing the Dinner Eclectic"
December 01, 2005
When I started eating Chinese Food in Pittsburgh, I can remember two sorts of places. There were cheap takeout joints like Ghengis Cones, which had Peking Duck sandwiches and soft ice cream. There were also "red plastic covered chairs" places,... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Chinese Food In Pittsburgh"
November 22, 2005
You've got to hand it to the French. They have managed to turn what is traditionally a completely unimportant thing — the shipping of the season's first Beaujolais Nouveau — into an "event." Beaujolais Nouveau is a cheap French wine that is meant to be drunk young. It is, along with straw-bottle Chianti, the definition of cheap wine. It's a good wine to have around, because even if you're not in the mood to drink Beaujolais Nouveau, you can usually put it to other uses, such as helping flush small items down your garbage disposal, or to bathe the cat in, or to degrease a bike chain. I want to be crystal clear: there is nothing, nothing wrong with cheap wine. Cheap wine is good. I mock Beaujolais Nouveau because I love it. Or, loved it. Now because the start of the "season" is an "event," we live in a world where a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau costs more than $10. This, more than anything else, is a sign that the world we live in has gone utterly, completely, barking mad. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "You Can't Teach a New Wine Old Tricks"
November 21, 2005
or, "Dear Whole Foods: Stop Pimping Iceland" Being a middle class, white, liberal, urban-dwelling type with enough disposable income that I don't mind paying unreasonable prices for foods that are only moderately better than I can find elsewhere, I sometimes shop at Whole Foods. Lately, Whole Foods has been pimping for Iceland. What's behind this? And more importantly, how can I get them to stop? $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Björky Had a Little Lamb"
November 14, 2005
Of all the foods that are acquired tastes, beer may be the most maligned and misunderstood. There are few foods for which you will readily find people who will boast, proudly, "Oh, I never drink beer. That stuff tastes terrible." The problem with this statement is that beer is perhaps one of the most complex drinks known to man. Not liking beer qua beer is sort of like saying you don't like "vegetables." So my assumption is that anyone who says they don't like beer (as opposed to "I don't like this particular beer") just doesn't know how to drink it. Today, I'm going to teach you how to drink beer. That means I'm going to teach you how to find a beer that you think tastes delicious. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "How to Drink Beer"
November 07, 2005
Earlier, I made a short list of everything that you really need to cook. At this time, I need to add one small item. In addition to the stuff I that I listed earlier, you should head over to the... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
November 04, 2005
It was just this past January that I published an article called What To Drink (Booze Edition), purporting to advise readers as to what alcohols they should keep stocked in their house at all times. One of the things I said was that, unless you had a specific need for it, you could easily get by without a bottle of rum. I stand by that statement. But in the interests of better living through chemistry, allow me to share two recipes that will give you the specific need for a bottle of rum. Since today was a particularly beautiful autumn day here in Pittsburgh, I'll give you one recipe suited for a nice summer day, and one more suitable for the darkest winters. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Yo Ho Ho"
November 02, 2005
Upton Tea's "Imperial Grade" Lapsang Souchong: Ugh. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
October 24, 2005
Certain topics come up again and again in this space. In videogames, we constantly talk about why save points are stupid. In photo we talk about equipment obsessions and how technique is more important than the camera. And in the "food and drink" category, I always find some occasion to complain about the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board ("PLCB"). This is because, like a dog who returns to his vomit, I keep trying to go into their liquor stores to do crazy, wild, unexpected things, like purchase liquor. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "It'd Probably Work Better If It Were Run By Drunkards "
October 21, 2005
My friend Erik used to be a chef, and he also spent a lot of time in Alaska. Therefore, he has strong opinions about salmon. Chief among them is never to buy salmon in Pittsburgh. But, if you break this rule, for god's sake don't poach the fish. Poached salmon, to Erik, is like a boiled beef roast. You end up with a piece of fish that is certainly cooked, but is no longer really good for anything but carrying large spoonfuls of garlic mayonnaise from your plate to your mouth. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Sort of Poached Salmon"
October 18, 2005
Tonight at the grocery store, I needed to pick up some prunes to make one of my favorite treats. It turns out you can't buy prunes anymore — instead, the major cooperatives want to sell you "pitted dried plums." Pitted dried plum, of course, is a longwinded way of saying "prune." Why this not-so-subtle shift in marketing? For a long time now prunes have had a connotation, in the US, of being something that senior citizens eat to cure their constipation. This doesn't make a lot of sense. The same connotation hasn't attached itself to raisins, or figs, or granola, or any other number of high-fiber foods. My conclusion is that the reason people think this way about prunes is because they don't understand the right way to eat them. Fortunately for you, I am here to help. The right way to eat prunes is to eat them as pruneaux d'Agen. A literal translation of this is "prunes of Agen," Agen being a region in France. This translation is wrong. Don't be upset if you mistranslated it: French is a subtle, many-layered language, and it can take a lifetime to learn its complexities. The correct translation of pruneaux d'Agen is "prunes soaked in booze." $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "How To Eat Prunes"
October 14, 2005
Northern spy! $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "They're Heeeeeeeeerrrrreee"
October 12, 2005
I've always really enjoyed Alton Brown's Food Network TV show Good Eats. One of the things I enjoy the most about him is his raise-the-black-flag-and-start-slitting-throats attitude towards kitchen equipment. Specifically, if a device could only be used to make one thing, he hated it. Recently, I've been eating a lot of this froufrou Greek yogurt, "Total." It's very nice, but fairly expensive. So I've taken to using my overpriced cups of Total to culture my own yogurt, using Alton's method for making yogurt without a yogurt maker. Here's how to do it. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Your Milk's Got a Little Machine"
October 03, 2005
This is another one of my mom's dishes. I grew up with this, but never really thought about how it was done. In college, I tried literally dozens of times to get this even close to right. Finally, with... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Chinese Braised Ribs"
September 29, 2005
One of the items in last Friday's snarky list of one-liners was: '"Fair Trade" coffee means that I pay more for the coffee beans, but then to make up for it they taste like crap.' This (partly) inspired fair-trade coffee fan Green LA Girl (there's only one?) to write a couple of articles on fair trade vs. taste, including an interesting conversation with a company that buys a lot of fair trade coffee, but has not bothered to seek certification themselves. The summary of the point of view of the coffee company was essentially "the desire for fair trade does not trump our duty to provide quality coffee." I thought it was an interesting read, and I wanted to elaborate on this a little. "Fair trade" coffee is doomed, as long as the business model is for it to be marketed directly at the individual coffee buyer. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Klatsch Warfare"
September 27, 2005
They had tomatillos at the farmer's market this weekend. Tomatillos means salsa. So here you go.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Salsa"
September 24, 2005
Taleggio cheese, but here's the problem. You want your Taleggio to be good and stinky, which means the paper on it should be soaked through and impossible to remove. But if the paper is impossible to remove, then you don't get to eat the rind. And I like eating the rind. It's a conundrum. Am I the only person with this problem? Perhaps I'm just being prissy. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
September 21, 2005
I have a sort of a hate/hate relationship with my local supermarket. The Giant Eagle closest to my house has this annoying habit: they figure out the products that I am buying, and then stop carrying them. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Daffy at the Supermarket"
September 09, 2005
The signs of late summer and early fall are everywhere. The weather is cooling off, if only marginally. The CMU and Pitt students are back in Oakland, turning the empty campuses into a sea of book bags, flip flops,... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "BLT"
August 23, 2005
I have a reputation for not liking anything. I don't think I deserve this, because I rant at least as vociferously about things I like as things I do not. But, for some reason people still have a distorted... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Things I like in Pittsburgh I"
August 22, 2005
There are certain items that I run out of on a regular basis, but am too stupid to pick up ahead of time. I don't have this problem with some things, such as milk, or bread, or fruit. But some items I seem to be wired to run completely out of before going to get more. Cat litter, for example. Coffee, for another. Wine. I'll watch the stocks of whatever-it-is getting lower and lower. "Huh," I'll say to myself. "I really should go get some more before I run out." And then I don't, and I run out exactly five minutes after whatever store sells it has closed, and then I'm grumpy for the rest of the night. I have this problem with tea. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Tea and Sympathy"
August 19, 2005
We did the drive from PA to Eastern New England again to visit the parents. Found a few more places to eat along I-90.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "More Road Food"
August 17, 2005
We all know the way to cook rice is with a rice cooker. For most of my life, I had used simple one button rice cookers. I had seen these "fuzzy logic" cookers, but never figured it was worth... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "My Robot Overlords 2: The Rice Cooker"
August 12, 2005
I have a superb Japanese cookbook, Japanese Homestyle Cooking by Suzuki Tokiko-san. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. Love, because it's a great book with many delicious and interesting recipes. Hate, because most of those recipes require what seems like days of effort to make properly, and Suzuki-san is very insistent on proper procedure. "The rice must be washed eighty-seven times, until the rinse-water is absolutely clear." "Scrub the burdock root using a brush made only from the shinbone of a cow. The cow must be one that weighed no less than 550 kilograms, and no more than 650 kilograms. This is critical. If the shinbone is unbalanced, the dish will be an abject failure, and you will shame your family." OK, I admit it. Suzuki-san doesn't actually say those things. But as I read her book, I feel like she's saying them. Because at the end of the day, I find the recipes to be too much work. I want them to be quicker. Easier. More convenient. I need recipes more suited to my swinging, space-age-a-go-go lifestyle. Something from a cartoon: open the packet, pour the water on to the powder, and poof! There is a cloud of orange smoke, and as it dissipates I find a full meal, beautifully presented. In other words, I am a barbarian, because it turns out that I am willing to settle for food that is only half as good as it could be if that means I only have to do one-tenth the amount of work. (At least when I'm the one doing the work. If you're doing the cooking, I require nothing short of perfection.) With that in mind, here is how to make soba noodles if you don't care a whit about authenticity. This is soba for barbarians. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Soba for Barbarians"
August 03, 2005
The later part of the summer means there are no more fresh crabs to be had. Therefore, to make you suffer, here are my two favorite recipes for crabs and crabmeat, both of which I made up accidentally.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Crabs"
July 22, 2005
...mulberry tree. I always thought it was a mulberry bush, but apparently I was mistaken. I parked underneath one of these trees outside one of my favorite bars — The Sharp Edge — the other day, with hundreds of perfectly ripe (and overripe) berries of a kind I'd never seen before. They looked like blackberries. They looked really good. Risking instant poisonous death, I gingerly tried one. They tasted good. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Here We Go Round The..."
July 14, 2005
For your edification, a few food places you should try if you find yourself on the road in upstate New York or Vermont.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Road Food"
July 13, 2005
I have this problem with cheese: very often, I'll encounter some super cheese, and then finish it, and then the next time I'm at my cheesemonger I have completely forgotten what it was that I was enjoying so much the other day. I have this problem with wine, too. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Formaggi Italiani"
June 24, 2005
The first ripe wild black raspberries (rubus occidentalis) of the season have been spotted. And eaten.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
June 15, 2005
My chocolatier, Amy, said "I've got something special for you." OK, so she's not just my chocolatier. She owns the store where I get most of my chocolate. For a while now, I've been getting most of my cocoa powder from Mon Aimee Chocolat in Pittsburgh's Strip District. As it happens, I drink a lot of cocoa. So when it comes to this particular commodity, I'm what is known as a "value" shopper (or, as psu would call me, a "cheapskate"). $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Cocoa Rouge"
June 06, 2005
I don't know a lot about coffee. This surprises people who know how much coffee I drink (a lot) and who know how obsessive-compulsive I can get about other things I drink, such as tea or wine. With those drinks, I'm always branching out to try new styles, while simultaneously deeply exploring the styles I know I like, trying to discern and describe small differences in taste. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Antidecisionmentarianism"
June 03, 2005
For several years of my life, I have had a tag line attached to me that goes "Oh, those are better in Paris." While I believe that this tag is somewhat unfair, there are definitely a few things routinely available... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Better in Paris"
May 31, 2005
Our last night in Paris, we found ourselves at Brasserie Balzar for dinner. This place is something of a landmark (even with its recent aquisition by a large corporation) in the center of the St. Germain area. The place is... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Service with a Smile"
May 30, 2005
The pints of blueberries have arrived. I am happy, until late September. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
May 26, 2005
Every so often, I think that I've reached some sort of plateau in terms of how much I hate the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Then I make some stupid mistake, like shopping at a Pennsylvania liquor store again, and I discover new vistas of animosity and contempt. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Whine and Spirits"
May 17, 2005
Tonight, we began playing with book titles, rewritten to include references to food. Or videogames. Or both. We very quickly settled in to a groove. Here are the results. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Books in a Blender"
May 16, 2005
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated antediluvian and protectionist state laws that prevent direct sale and shipment of wine by out-of-state vendors to consumers, at least in states which allow direct shipment by in-state wineries. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Raise a Glass"
May 11, 2005
As the drinks were poured, Lidia entertained us by talking about how they are made. Generally, amari are built on a base of strong alcohol that has been infused with herbs, roots, and sometimes fruits.
They occupy a strange space because of their dual role as both pleasurable and medicinal drinks. Italians are big on this. Pick up any bottle of mineral water in Italy, and somewhere on the label will be a little testimonial by a chemist from the University of Bologna (or wherever) stating that drinking L'Acqua di Cavilfiore is good for the digestion and urinary health. Because you need a chemist to tell you that drinking water will help you empty your bladder.
But make no mistake. They are drunk for pleasure as well. Bitter tastes are valued because they have a tonic effect, cleansing the palate between meals. As we were about to discover.$MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Amari Tasting (Part 2)"
May 10, 2005
Since we live there part time now, I thought it would be fitting to provide a bit more commentary on the new Mexican place in Squirrel Hill.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "¡Taqueria Mi Mexico! Redux"
May 05, 2005
Back when I first got my Tivo, I recorded too many episodes of a Discovery Channel series called "Great Chefs". What they did was to send a film crew into a restaurant kitchen and tape the chef making a dish... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Pan and Oven"
May 02, 2005
In what is, I hope, another sign of Pittsburgh developing a thriving and growing Latin-American community, a new, authentic taqueria has opened in Squirrel Hill, on Murray Avenue near Hobart: Taqueria Mi Mexico. Today was the first day they were open the general public, so a group of us descended on it for lunch. The summary: I will be eating lunch there every day for the rest of my life. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "¡Taqueria Mi Mexico!"
April 28, 2005
In the South Side of Pittsburgh, on 17th about a block and a half south of Carson Street is a small house with a green awning. Under the awning is a door and a sign that reads: DISH Osteria and... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "DISH"
April 25, 2005
In the almost 15 years that I've been back in Pittsburgh, the food scene here has for the most part expanded and improved in ways that I would not have imagined possible. I personally would not have believed that our... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Breakfast Problem"
April 20, 2005
A real conversation I had at the grocery store yesterday:
Me: "Hi. Do you have any heavy cream?" Employee: "Heavy cream? What's that?"And that was when I crumpled to the floor and wept like a jilted cheerleader. I know it was just one guy, but it's still depressing. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
March 31, 2005
This is the first part of an article on the Tea Leaves amari tasting panel. Today we will talk about the arrangements and participants, and tomorrow we will discuss the panel's reactions to the liqueurs. Their names roll off the tongue: Fernet. Nonino. Averna. Their tastes — unusual, herbal, and exotic — can seem almost indescribable. They are the amari, powerful Italian digestifs. My first exposure to amari came in Italy. Standing in a bar sipping a macchiato, a somewhat grizzled gentleman walked in and said, in a gravelly voice, "Averna". The barkeep poured a thick, dangerous looking liquid into a shotglass, the gentleman finished in a gulp, put the glass on the bar, and walked out. I asked the barista what it was, and he explained that it was a digestivo. "It's something you might drink if your stomach was a little unsettled." $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Amari Tasting (Part 1)"
March 28, 2005
Everyone loves to hate Starbucks. You can understand why: they're everywhere, they're successful, and the experience from store to store is so consistent that they destroy even the pretense of local flavor. There's an upside to Starbucks, though: they're everywhere, they're succesful, and the experience from store to store is so consistent that I can get a drinkable coffee in the middle of nowhere. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "In Defense of Starbucks"
March 27, 2005
I am pleased to announce that Lidia's restaurant in the Strip has graciously offered to sponsor the amari tasting. The members of the panel have been chosen, the time and place are set, and all that's left is to sit down and actually taste the liqueurs, and write up our impressions. Expect pictures and commentary from the event soon. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
March 24, 2005
For the record, here's my list applying the criteria that psu sets out.
|Food Not Great||Food Good or Great|
|Not Pretentious||Chiodos, Dee's Hot Dog Shop, The O||Il Piccolo Forno, Rose Tea, Tram's Kitchen|
|Pretentious||Le Pommier, Mallorca, Cafe Sam, Church Brew Works.||Baum Vivant, Chez Gerard|
As a special case, as far as I'm concerned, if your menu says "hominy polenta" instead of "grits," you are automatically placed in the "pretentious / food not great" category. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
There are a lot of ways to rate restaurants. The assumption is that most reviewers are there to rate the food, but really they are looking at many other aspects of the place. Therefore, in rating surveys like the... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Pretention Quotient"
March 18, 2005
Here's a simple recipe for turkey. I think it's good because I made it once for a friend who doesn't like turkey, and he ate a pound of it. To this day his wife makes the recipe with chicken and... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Turkey Cutlets with Lemon and Capers"
March 15, 2005
The restaurant experience can be a tricky thing to optimize. Sometimes you are just after a fun time with good company, and so the nature of the space (or the booze) is more impotrant than the food. More often though,... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "You are Who You Eat With"
March 11, 2005
Recently, a friend of mine who is new to Pittsburgh paid his first visit to Whole Foods. His comment on the experience was:
This is the place to shop if you enjoy paying a 50-100% markup over traditional supermarket prices so that you can feel good about how much you are doing for the native tribesmen of Mek-a-lek-a-ding-dong. Aside from that, they do have a good selection of international and esoteric foods.I've heard this expressed by others, too. A common nickname for the chain around here is "Whole Paycheck." I have a complex and conflicted relationship with Whole Foods, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the place. In the process, perhaps some of my tips will help you shop there without paying 100% markup over Giant Eagle. I feel like I should offer a disclaimer, in advance: you might read this article and think that I don't like Whole Foods very much. Nothing could be further from the truth. I like the excellent selection of just about everything. I like that their produce is always fresh, and that their staff is helpful, and the great selection of organics. I like that their very presence in Pittsburgh has forced Giant Eagle to try to improve in certain ways. The only reason I have such strong opinions about what is or is not "worth it" at Whole Foods is because when I go there, I feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store, because I want to buy everything. But that conflicts with my cheapskate gene, and so I have to develop value strategies to maintain my sanity. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "How To Shop at Whole Foods"
March 04, 2005
Pete's recent rumination on creamy eggs got me to thinking about something that I don't understand. Why does no one who runs a restaurant these days know how to cook eggs? I can count on the first two fingers of... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Scrambled Eggs"
February 16, 2005
I haven't had much time to read lately, but the time I have had has been spent reading Gina Mallet's superb book Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World. I hope to have a full review done next week, but for now I'll just tantalize you with my interpretation of a recipe that she mentions in passing, one of Escoffier's innumerable versions of scrambled eggs. I've made it several times now. I think I'm addicted. This is funny, because I have always despised scrambled eggs. I've always considered them the worst item on the American breakfast table, barely fit for consumption. Apparently, this is because everyone makes them wrong. I might dislike steak, too, if everyone always burnt it to a crisp. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Eggs à la Escoffier"
February 11, 2005
This recipe is adapted from The Joy of Cooking. The main modification is that if you make it my way, it won't be dry and overcooked. The main virtue of this recipe is its simplicity. The only way it could be easier is if it just read "pick up the phone and ask someone to make roast pork loin for you." $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Easiest Roast Pork"
February 04, 2005
It's a simple problem, with a simple solution. The problem is that raw almonds are too sweet and unfocused to enjoy on their own, while most roasted almonds you can get at the store are dry and unenjoyable. Do not speak to me of the overpriced "Marcona" almonds sold to suckers at places like Whole Foods. They're greasy and have all the character of frozen okra. What you want to do is roast your own. Here's how to do it. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Roasting Almonds"
January 28, 2005
I like to cook but I am, by nature, a rather lazy person. This can be a problem at times, since good food is often labor intensive. Luckily, many of the best things you can make do not require your... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Lazy Food"
January 21, 2005
After mentioning this dish in passing in the "what to drink" article, I realized that it was worth sharing the recipe. It is based loosely on one of Mario Batali's. My version is a little bolder, and about 350% cheaper. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Beef Braised in Two Buck Chuck"
January 19, 2005
Since psu covered cooking equipment yesterday, I wanted to talk a little about ingredients. In particular, alcohol. The typical home bar -- and I use the term "bar" loosely, in my house it's just The Cupboard With The Booze In It -- is stocked more by happenstance than by planning. If, as is common, you buy your alcohol on an as-needed basis ("Oh, I need two ounces of Jasper's Honeydew-and-Prosciutto Liqueur for these cookies...") and don't drink a lot yourself, then you end up with large quantities of comparatively expensive bottles that neither you nor anyone else will ever drink taking up lots of space. If you plan what you want or need, you can avoid that. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "What To Drink (Booze Edition)"
January 18, 2005
Hobbyist cooks are almost by definition equipment and gadget freaks. This is one endeavor where the latent object has great power. Therefore, as a public service, I'm here to tell you what I think you really need, and what is... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Stuff you need for cooking"
January 06, 2005
I actually did this a few months ago. I think of it every time I cook now.
- I turned on the oven.
- I put a cast iron skillet in the oven to heat up.
- When the skillet was hot, I carefully put a hot mitt on my left hand.
- I opened the oven and firmly grasped the handle of the skillet with my right hand.
January 03, 2005
From a culinary standpoint, I was having a good weekend. I had a guest who had some dietary restrictions; to wit, no saturated fats at all, minimal unsaturated fats, low cholesterol foods only. Since I, typically, am someone who starts nearly every recipe with "Take a cup of heavy cream and..." I had to do a little more planning to get the weekend's meals ready. I settled on primarily Japanese cuisine, on the theory that I could get the needed ingredients, and had a variety of dishes that met the low-fat requirements. Making dashi is always fun and easy, and miso soup is always appreciated. I also took the opportunity to try some things I hadn't done before. Every time I go to Chaya, they are out of kimpira, so I made it myself to find out what it was like (it was yummy). I also picked a recipe out of Tokiko Suzuki's book Japanese Homestyle Cooking for Pomfret broiled in Saikyo-way, a miso and sake mixture. Knowing how Suzuki is a stickler for procedure, I was careful to follow her instructions religiously, to the letter. I was somewhat suspcious of her instructions to salt the fish (and later, clean off the salt) before sandwiching the fish between saikyo-wai covered cheesecloth and preserving it for two days, but I trusted her. I admit I departed from her brief in one way: I decided to skip the "place the filet on a chysanthemum leaf" presentation. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Dinnertime Disasters"
December 09, 2004
Occasionally, people ask me about cooking rice. I always say: "First you get out your rice cooker." At this point, they might ask, "Well, what if I don't have a rice cooker?" In that case, my answer starts: "Well, first... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Cooking Rice"
November 25, 2004
If you just eat turkey and salad, and green vegetables, and skip the mashed potatoes, stuffing, candied yams, and so on, Thanksgiving dinner doesn't actually make you feel so full that you might die. I say that L-Tryptophan is just a convenient excuse to deny that gluttony makes you sleepy. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
November 24, 2004
I listen to NPR, as required by my "urbane liberal" membership. If you listen to NPR also, you know that the passage of the seasons can be marked not only by the weather, but by the reappearance of certain set pieces, regular as clockwork, like old friends. Or, in the case of Susan Stamberg's cranberry relish recipe, mortal enemies. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Relish Not"
November 06, 2004
Chinese dumplings, or the fried variation called Pot Stickers (more literally, the stuff that tears up because it is stuck to the bottom of the frying pan) were a fixture of my youth. My mom brought them from China to... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Pot Stickers"
November 01, 2004
October 25, 2004
One of the best features of the Xbox home console system is that you can rip music from music CDs to the hard disk. Some games then allow you to play that music back in-game. The classic street racer Project Gotham Racing is one such game. One of the first things I did upon acquiring an Xbox was to rip a whole bunch of surf music on to the hard drive. Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet. Los Straitjackets. Huevos Rancheros. And a small, barely known band called Barbacoa, who have a song called Northern Spy which, as you would expect, was a sort of Canadianish James Bond-y sort of thing. It wasn't until many years later that I learned that "Northern Spy" is actually the name of a variety of apple. I'd certainly never tasted one. I decided I wanted one because, well, y'know. It's called Northern Spy. It has to be great! They seem to be very hard to find -- everyplace I've asked has just said that they don't carry them, or that they're sold out. But tonight, at Whole Foods, I found a cache of Northern Spys. So I brought some home. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Northern Spy"
October 14, 2004
Who would have thought that a pizza with fresh mozzarella and roasted potatoes would be a great thing? Anyway. To go back to the beginning. There is an organization in Pittsburgh called Slow Food Pittsburgh which is a local chapter... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Slow Food"
October 13, 2004
I have an almost irrational fondness for sausage that extends even more irrationally to hot dogs. A good hot dog can be a thing of beauty and a stupendous culinary experience besides. A bad hot dog is at best sad... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Hot Dog Rules"
September 24, 2004
I've heard about Retsina for years, but it was not until recently, at a Greek restaurant on Danforth in Toronto, that I actually got to taste it. It tastes like rosemary wine. That's not a bad thing. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Retsina"
September 23, 2004
Bonjour Brioche is a breakfast place in Toronto. It's inconveniently situated on Queen Street East about midway between downtown and the Beaches, at the corner of Queen and Broadview. It's small, cluttered, and there's usually a wait to get in. The hours are annoying and too short. And it has some of the best bread you'll ever have. The croissant is superb. The baguette transcends belief. The coffee is good. Amusingly, the brioche they are named for is only just sort of OK -- if you're in the mood for a pastry, skip it and get the croissant instead. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Bonjour Brioche"
September 22, 2004
Don't be fooled. This is easy. You just have to follow a few simple rules and you too can make a beef stir fry that will show up the dishes at P.F. Chang's as the chewey carboard crap that they... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "How to stir fry beef"
September 01, 2004
Continue reading "Cafe Anatolia"
August 14, 2004
Where I grew up in Amherst, MA, there is a farm market called Atkins Fruit Bowl that has been around forever. They started out as just an apple orchard, but quickly grew into almost a whole supermarket. In particular, at... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Blueberry Pie"
August 11, 2004
Nevat, a Spanish goats' milk cheese that has the body of a brie but the lightness of a chevre. Cabrales, the best blue cheese in the world after true Roquefort. No bread, no crackers. Just a fork. A glass of white port. And, last but not least, two ripe, fresh green figs. Sometimes, life is good. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
July 20, 2004
If there's one annoying trend that has permeated Asian cuisine as prepared and served throughout America, it's that I can hardly find a place where a server doesn't ask me "How spicy? 1 to 10?" You don't ask me how much salt I want in the dishes that come out from the kitchen. You don't ask how much sugar you should put in the cheesecake. You don't offer me a choice of an omelette fried in yummy butter, healthy duck fat, or disgusting institutionalized margarine. Why do you ask about spice? A simple reason: people are stupid. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Spice Must Flow"
July 19, 2004
Continue reading "Overheard At Enrico's"
July 08, 2004
low (1 Mb), medium (3 Mb), or high (7.5 Mb) resolution versions. If you've the bandwidth to spare, get the high res version. (Since all video plugins for every browser are stupid and don't allow resizing, best results will be obtained by right-clicking the link and choosing "save", then watching in a standalone video program where you can make it full screen. But just clicking should work too. The movies are in Quicktime format; if you click on the links and don't get a movie you can install the free Quicktime player and try again.) $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "À la recherche du temps à noix"
July 07, 2004
Continue reading "Mangosteen"
July 06, 2004
There's not really very much that I won't eat, or at least that I won't try. This weekend in Toronto I got to cross one of the long-standing entries off the list of foods I have knowingly ducked: pig intestines, which we call "chitterlings" or "chitlins" around these parts. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Offal in Koreatown"
July 01, 2004
It was in a small auberge in the Dordogne, in the south-west of France, maybe forty-five minutes from the town of Villeneuve-sur-lot, where I encountered the perfect fried potatoes. I was dining with my parents, my sister, and a somewhat vegetarian friend. I, of course, went straight for the foie gras over arugula, among other things, but my mother and sister got the crayfish, which came with pommes frittes. Jennifer, the vegetarian, picked at the fries and soon started wolfing them down. We all talked about them -- they were, everyone agreed, the best we'd ever had. Jennifer knows no French; my mother and I have a little. So when Mom asked the proprietor how he made some incredibly good fries, I understood the response and Jennifer didn't: "Oh, that's simple. They taste good because we fry them in duck fat." "What did he say?" asked Jennifer, and my mother and I, guided by some psychic link, practically shouted the same thing at the exact same time: "He says the oil is really hot!" Lubricated by this little white lie, dinner continued, with Jennifer able to enjoy the best fries in the world guilt-free. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Canard"
June 30, 2004
We were in Toronto for the weekend a couple of weeks ago. For those who don't know, Toronto is a great food town only 4 or 5 hours drive from Pittsburgh. In particular, we have found Chinese and Japanese food... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Hiro Sushi"
June 29, 2004
For too many years i've been forced to take road trips to Washington, DC, Toronto, or Cleveland when I had the desire for Ethiopian food. A new restaurant, Abay, has opened up in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh (on Highland Avenue). To say I'm pleased would be an understatement. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Abay"
June 21, 2004
Continue reading "Berry Scandal"
June 18, 2004
Quinta do Noval
Continue reading "Workaday Port"
June 17, 2004
Can't talk. Busy eating blackberries! Pictures tomorrow. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
June 11, 2004
After my rant about P. F. Chang's you might ask, "Pete, where do you get chinese food you like in Pittsburgh?". Ten or so years ago, my answer would have been "I call my mom and ask her to come... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Chinese Food in Pittsburgh"
Pete wrote about Penn Mac the other day, which brings up the larger subject of the Strip in general and in particular, that part of the Strip which is really the Nexus of almost all the good food in Pittsburgh.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "The Nexus of Pittsburgh Food"
June 08, 2004
It's nice living in a town with a decent cheesemonger.
Continue reading "Cheesemonger"
June 03, 2004
I'm not much of a gardener. A few years ago, I had a blackberry bramble growing in my back yard, and I killed it.
June 01, 2004
Summer brings with it blueberries, as suddenly the geography of the world food distribution network becomes clear. One day, little 6 ounce packages of Mexican blueberries sell for $4. The next day, $3 buys you a pint of berries from... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
May 16, 2004
I normally don't just link to other people's entries. It's against my philosophy. But rules are made to be broken. psu goes completely insane about how P.F. Chang's (and its equivelent alter-ethnic wannabe brethren) are destroying the American palate and wallet, and it's just such a righteous rant that I have to share it with you:
Lost in all of this is the fact that even in a relative backwater like Pittsburgh there are smaller, cheaper, better places that are far more deserving of your dollars. They are found on the sides of roads, in shopping centers, and off of highways. They are run by real people who care about making decent food that is not so much Authentic as at least genuinely distinctive and fresh. But, the tide is against places that serve Real Food because they don't have the connections needed to get the huge spaces and exposure that even a crappy shithole like P.F. Chang's can manage just on sheer volume. This is just another case where the Big Evil Coporation is crushing the forces of light and goodness.Read the whole thing at Mixed Logs. Testify! $MTEntryExcerpt$>
May 15, 2004
Places like this represent a new trend in the marketing of what is essentially bad fast food towards a more lucrative audience.... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "P.F. Chang's: Why it's evil."
How do you know it's Spring in Pittsburgh? When Lucy, the best Bánh Mi vendor in the world (aka "The Saigon Sandwich Lady") sets up her outdoor stand and starts vending her wares. A good Bánh Mi (literally "French Sandwich," colloquially "Saigon Sandwich") is a transcendent experience. Along with Phó, their beef noodle soup, it is empirical evidence for classifying the Vietnamese palate as the best in the world. Bánh Mi is about fresh ingredients, contrasting textures, and intriguing tastes combining to provide perfection in handheld form. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Bánh Mi"
May 07, 2004
Since I tend to wax rhapsodic about the great dessert wines I encounter, it's only fair that I mention the losers. This season's big loser was La Tunella tocai friulano. To be fair, this is really my fault. Although I am American, I do know a little geography, and I knew going in to this that Tokaji is not, in fact, located in the Friuli province of Italy. So, I got what I deserve: a nasty, attenuated wine that had the consistency, nose, and taste of oversweetened grapefruit juice. Never one to pass up an opportunity to promote a home-grown American product, I present, for your enjoyment, a blow by blow comparison between the cleverly marketed La Tunella and the humble, yet honest, MD 20/20 Pink Grapefruit flavor. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "High End Wine Battle"
May 03, 2004
When spanakopita is wet and lame there is no pastry quite so false and weak, with spinach, feta, phyllo over flame, we eat it only at festivals Greek It's true, indeed, that this need not be so: somewhere a Turkish baker plies his craft, but on divided Cyprus, Greeks say "No!" (a culture war can make one's taste buds daft.) A rice pilaf that costs almost ten bucks is robbery even by standards Church The dollars flow in like a row of ducks, Somewhere a bishop cackles in his perch. Though every year I forget lessons past this time I swear will be my very last. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
April 27, 2004
Two eggs 1 - 2 teaspoons soy sauce generous squirt of sriracha chili sauce (a.k.a. "rooster sauce") dash sesame oil scramble in skillet with a little canola oil $MTEntryExcerpt$>
April 10, 2004
A brief followup Toronto booze report: I've always "liked" Tokaji, but never been crazy-go-nuts over it. In Toronto I picked up th e1999 Hétszóló Tokaji Aszú ("3"), and I love it. Although it has the sweetness you expect from a pourriture noble wine, like Sauternes, it is balanced not just by a peppery bite, but by actual saltiness. It's refreshingly tart, with an unripe apricot ester-like aroma. I've never tasted a wine quite like it. It is better by itself than with food. I'm going to buy a bunch more the next time I head up north (road trip, anyone?) Needless to say, the infinitely stupid Pennsylvania State Liquor stores don't stock this wine, although they have the "5" and "6" versions (much sweeter) of the same house. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Tokaji"
April 06, 2004
After a whirlwind weekend gustatory tour of Toronto I was driving home, and needed coffee to stay awake. I stopped at Krispy Kreme donuts, which for a long time had perfectly fine coffee, and once again was confronted by the trio of horrible coffees that they replaced their old, perfectly adequate coffee with. The new Unholy Trio goes under the nom de suck of three vague adjectives: Smooth, Rich, and Bold. Each of the three is completely unacceptable in unique and sad ways. Decaf drinkers, presumably used to second class citizenship in the Abbasid Caffeinate, may only elect Robust . $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Smooth, Rich, Bold, Lousy."
April 04, 2004
Some more loot from my Toronto trip: alcohol! The LCBO store on Queen's Quay near Yonge is truly a revelation. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "350 Miles for Liquor"
March 29, 2004
I arrived in Toronto at about 2 in the morning, and the very first thing I did, after parking the car and checking in to the hotel, was to walk down Yonge Street to the nearest street vendor and buy a sausage, slather pickled peppers and mustard and kraut on it, and walk back to the hotel, eating my hot dog, victoriously. Hot dogs taste better in Yankee stadium, or on Yonge street. No one knows why. It's just that way. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "350 Miles for a Hot Dog"
March 24, 2004
For a long time I've been fascinated by the idea of being able to buy and drink raw milk (or as some would have it, "real milk") rather than the pasteurized and homogenized product we all know and love. Part of it is the (realistic) fantasy of being able to make real clotted cream and part is the (unrealistic) vision of myself living in the Dordogne making an earthy, runny cheese from lait cru, which I bring to market each week. After the market, I would gather with my fellow peasant workers of the terroir and we'd sit and quietly get drunk on cheap red wine and complain about stupid Americans and the constantly striking truck drivers. I always assumed that I'd never get the chance to make either of these fantasies come true, but thanks to a well-placed word, I now have a gallon of raw milk. Time to get to work. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Got (raw) milk?"
March 22, 2004
Buying vintage port is like going on a blind date in Manhattan. No matter how many close friends vouch for your blind date, you really can't know in advance whether it will be fun or a disaster, and the only thing you know for sure is that it's going to cost a lot of money. You can't even count on having a good time if the date isn't completely blind. Since vintage port is a wine that we often keep for years, it's not unusual to end up in a situation where one bottle of a given house and vintage is superb, and then the next bottle from the exact same batch is awful, because it has spoiled, because you didn't rebottle it; this happened to me with a bottle of 1977 Smith-Woodhouse. I'm still recovering from the trauma. There are people who rebottle their vintage port periodically to avoid this outcome. I don't personally know any. (Pet peeve: if the wine industry would just get over itself and admit that "real" corks are completely inadequate to the job they're being asked to do and move to some less stupid technology such as a metal bottlecap and airtight seal, this wouldn't be an issue.) $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Two Overpriced Ports"
March 18, 2004
In a wonderful rant, psu talks about the perfect cup of coffee, and how there's only one place in Pittsburgh -- La Prima Espresso -- to get it. His conclusion is that it's pointless to buy an expensive espresso machine like a Silvia because it still won't be as good as what we can get at La Prima. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "La Prima Espresso"
March 17, 2004
Home espresso machines are a big business. For a few hundred dollars you can get a machine on par with the stuff that Starbucks is using to make those Venti half-caff double caramel 2-pump vanilla machiatto smoothie drinks for the... $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Why I don't buy a Silvia, or Ode to La Prima"
March 14, 2004
I have a cheese problem. My problem centers around the fact that the two best cheesemongers in town (Penn Mac and Whole Foods) are somewhat inconvenient for me to reach without planning. So I often find myself in the local supermarket, Giant Eagle, which purports to have a good selection of cheese. And they do. However, for some reason that I don't fully comprehend, Giant Eagle wraps their cheese in a plastic that makes all our these cheese taste disgusting. So I am caught in an infinite cycle wherein I am craving cheese, but I have no cheese, and I'm in the supermarket, and Giant Eagle has a type of cheese that I want, and I know that it will probably taste like rancid plastic but convince myself that somehow it won't taste bad this time, and I buy the cheese anyway, and I bring it home, and it tastes like plastic and I am sad and swear that I'll never do that again. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Gjetost: Freakish Norwegian Caramel Cheese"
March 02, 2004
In a past life, over at Tea Leaves, I've already discussed my favorite purveyor of fine tea, Upton Tea Imports. I'm not their only fan, either. Another season has come and gone, and with it another care package from Upton. Here are my capsule reviews. $MTEntryExcerpt$>
Continue reading "Tea Update"