Here is our friend Mike (in the middle) playing with his band. I do not have any incrimating photos of him the next morning. No really, Mike - I don't. Honest. Well maybe just one....
I also cooked breakfast the following day, since there is no place that will feed twenty hung over people on a Sunday morning in La Porte. Did I take pictures of this grand feast? Hell no – I was busy turning flapjacks, cooking bacon and making coffee. And we went through a lot of coffee.
So a word of advice – four pounds of bacon, five dozen eggs, thirty pancakes and two pounds of coffee is not enough for twenty people with hangovers. Buy more. Lots more.
One of the best things about traveling the same route every year is that we get to eat at tiny places that no one has ever heard about. I am not talking about a hot new chef or food that is stacked up in little pyramids – this is gas station food.
See, in big cities, gas stations really don’t have much in the way of tasty food. When you get out in the boonies, gas stations usually double as a restaurant for the masses. No Micky D’s in your town? Head on down to JP’s Carry Out and get yourself a pizza or some fine broasted chicken! Wait - need something for that man sized appetite? Try a pork fritter sandwich!
Basically, it is a piece of pork loin, pounded thin, breaded and deep fried. Serve it up on a bun with all the fixins and it is a damn fine lunch break for a weary traveler. The one I ate this time-the pork was the size of a small plate. Hmmmmmmmmmmm…too bad I only get it once a year.
In other junk food news, I picked up twenty 2-liters of Kosher Coke. For those of us in the know, it is the yearly chance to buy mass quantities of our favorite beverage made with REAL SUGAR. Yes, no high fructose corn syrup in this product. Does it make a difference - you bet your sweet bippy it does! The cola is less viscous and has a cleaner finish on the palate. IT is just like Coke used to be. Don’t believe me? Check out this recording from NPR.
I am thinking of making my own syrups - I love ginger beer and it is hard as heck to find a brand that I like. My grandfather and his brother-in-law used to run a soda bottling works out of an outbuilding at ye olde family abode. I still have one of the original bottles and a business card. So it runs in the blood. If you want it done right - do it yourself!
Well, maybe this week I will settle down and stop teasing you with my wonderful food finds - time to get back in the kitchen and start cooking!
There are things you can afford to share with people because there is a lot of it to go around. If you make a big batch of cookies, you are probably willing to share. On the other hand, your sister comes back from
Take McDonald’s - no one really shares the Golden Arches. They do just fine on their own. And what about that restaurant that serves great waffles just around the corner? Sure, you might be willing to share that with your friends and relatives. (Do not share with that creepy guy at work - don't ever tell him anything! He probably keeps a file on you at home.)
But what if you know that by sharing, you would cut into the availability of the goodies? Personally, I will usually keep those places to myself. Am I being selfish? Damn tootin’. By and large, the owners aren’t hurting, but they only make a small amount of goods every day and if you spill the beans, you KNOW you won’t get your part.
So today, I am going to be generous and share something with you. That means even if a ton of people stampede over to the store and buy up everything the shop owner has, she will have plenty for me when I roll out of bed at a leisurely 10 am and wander over to the store. If this were not the case, you would have to insert bamboo under my nails to get me to talk - and even that might not work!
That is a picture of one of the best cinnamon rolls I have ever eaten. The texture of the pastry is moist with just a little bit of chew, the cinnamon is balanced: not so strong that it overwhelms you, but not so subtle that you forget what you are eating. The topping is crunchy and sweet without the cloying, overly sweet icing most rolls seem to feature these days. Cinnabons? Fuey! Get thee behind me, Crap!
My hubby took one bite from his roll and made me go back and buy more – all for him. I realized if I wanted more – I would have to fight him for it. (The doctor says that the stitches will come out next week!)
This sexy creature came from Amy Lozier of Omega Artisan Baking in the North Market. You remember her from the last post. Not only were her cinnamon rolls to die for, her bread rocked as well. So get off your duff, into your car and down to the North Market. Tell her Rosie sent ya!
Here is one more sexy closeup for the road.
Next time - no more Mrs. Nice Rosie. I will talk about the best place to eat that I won’t share with you.
I have always loved visiting grocery stores and peering at the boxes, bags and cans that represent the sustenance needed for our bodies. When I was in college, I loved getting on the bus and heading downtown to the North Market, into the decrepit Quansit hut that housed it at the time, and buying the fresh produce and wonderful meats and cheeses that I could only find there.
I was a little sad when the hut was torn down and the market moved into a newly renovated warehouse. Sure it was a little seedy, but that was part of the mystique. It seemed more real than the local grocery store. The food tasted better and you felt as though you were part of the chain of farmer to market to consumer. Sure some of the people were a little creepy – but a good loaf of bread will make me forgive a lot of failings in my fellow man.
I have only been down to the market about four times since the transfer. A lot of the old venders couldn’t afford to make the transition. It was like visiting your uncle after he had a sex change. He looked real pretty but he still wasn’t quite right.
So what dragged me down there this time? Well, part of it was to visit Curds and Whey, the best cheese shop in the city. Mike Kast, the owner, knows spoiled milk like no one else in the city, and the orgasmic cheese orgy that follows a trip to his fine establishment is worth any amount of pain and aggravation. This time, I asked Mike to suggest three cheeses that Tony and I could eat with the bread we had just purchased from the Omega Bakery. Living up to his reputation, he hooked us up with a pungent Bleu des Causses, a Taleggio Vero Cademartori and a nutty Gruyere. Hmmmmmm - my mouth started watering thinking about them – hang on, I am having cheese flashback. Cheese, Grommit!
I also had designs on picking up some baked goods while I was there, including the afformentioned Omega bakery and pasteries from Jurgen’s bakery. Jurgen’s is no longer in the market – I have no idea how long its been since they left, but it a loss. Their spot has been claimed by fairly uninteresting purveyors in new age somethings or others. Omega - well, that is a different story. Amy Lozier is the owner and damn girl! That is some fine baking.
As I wandered North along the aisle, I was drawn in by a display case of ravioli. They were striped. Well some of them were - others were pink! Just beautiful. The case belonged to Pastaria, who have been at the market about 18 month (if I recollect correctly). Turns out, Pastaria is the retail outlet for a local pasta maker who usually only sells to the trade. So if you are looking to buy some primo pasta - you now have a destination. I picked up a pound of their garlic green beans with pine nuts. The beans made my taste bud do a dance of joy.
Lastly, I picked up ten pounds of mixed chicken parts for stock at North Market Poultry. I did so well at the beef stock, I decided to put away some chick stock as well. Nothing like tasty backs, necks and wing tips to make a flavorful stock. I have included a picture of some nasty chicken bits for the faint of heart. I think there may be some chopped liver in my future!
Of course, these are the only places I stopped in on this trip. I want to go back soon and pick up some fine pasta and sauces from Pastaria, fish from Bob the Fish Guy and meat from Bluecreek Farms. I most likely will head down in April when their farmers’ market returns. I can’t wait.
I received Tony Bourdain’s book, Les Halles Cookbook, as part of the Amateur Gourment’s Secret Santa book exchange. I wish I could remember the name of the gal who sent it to me, but being dim-witted, I can no longer find my notes. It is actually one of my favorite books in my collection and I am sorry I cannot thank my kind Secret Santa pal appropriately.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Tony Bourdain pisses some people off. He is pretty socially unacceptable. Drinkin’, smokin’, cussin’ and getting’ stoned does not make him the best role model in the world. But it works for him - and it definitely works for me. I like him because he reminds me of all the hard partying cooks I met during my short stint as a fish cutter at a now defunct high end restaurant. That job made me admire a crew that could crank out 500 meals in a night and still have the energy to party afterwards. It also let me know that I do not have what it really takes to be a good cook in a restaurant environment. I love food, but it’s the love of a home cook who likes to cook according to her own whim, not the whim of 500 other hungry souls and a demanding chef.
Food TV, I think, regrets their brief, yet violent association with Mr. Bourdain. He was just a little to “on edge” for the white bread, goody two shoes image they like to promote. I think the best thing about A Cook’s Tour was reading the accompanying book. While the national food media may be editing him for prime time, he pulls no punches in his writing. I respect that. He may be a whore, but he is a whore with principles. (He probably doesn’t do Golden Showers either. I’ll make a point to ask if I ever meet him.)
The good news is, while Food TV was a little to pansy for him, he seems to have found a good home on the Travel Channel. I mean they renewed his series “No Reservations” for another season. I have to wonder if they made him promise not to write a book about it…hmmmm…
So, Tony Bourdain, thanks for making me want to be a better cook. You bastard.
Today- I tackled making brown stock. I had always avoided it. Why? The raft. To clarify a stock, you have to put this god-awful mess of eggs whites and ground meat and other stuff on top and simmer the stock until it gets all nice and clear. Plus, I never really had a good place to store it. Tony (the hubby, not the chef) bought me a chest freezer to store my frozen goods in. So with the advent of the freezer and a lot of verbal abuse from Tony Bourdain (via Les Halles Cookbook) – I grabbed the bull by the horns and made some beef stock.
Bourdain says up front this stock will not get me a position in a four star kitchen anytime soon, but it will make some killer food on the home front. That’s all I can really ask.
The basics are very simple - browned bones, browned mire pox, water, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves. Put in a pot and simmer. Skim. Strain. Enjoy. If you want to know Tony’s exact instructions, grab a copy of the book and read. I just hope your ego is up to a good pounding.