Thursday, November 13, 2008

Frenchy McFrenchy Pants

I went to Bistrot La Minette last night.

To put it simply, I wasn't expecting much (Oh... A-NOTHER French restaurant in my neighborhood), BUT I ended up being very pleasantly surprised and highly pleased with my experience.

I greatly enjoyed the ambiance, the warmth, the open kitchen, the wait staff and their classic French uniform, the maître d' who graciously took our coats upon arrival, and the size, feel, and depth of the menu.

In addition the food was delicious, endearingly authentic, and was eloquently served by a well trained staff.

AND, they did something that many other restaraunts do but far too many more do not. They plated the dishes we were sharing on two plates. This is such a simple but thoughtful thing that restaurants can do for a customer. Obviously you can't do that for every dish - our puff pastry for example would have been a hot mess -

... but our endive and Roquefort salad with walnut dressing just seemed so much better eaten out of my own personal bowl.

Also, they offer a white and a red French house wine out of a clay pitcher - Pichets de Vin (750 ml bottle) - for $18 freaking dollars. I mean, it isn't any kind of mind blowing wine but it is perfectly acceptable quality, the pitcher is appealingly rustic, and you can't beat $18 with a stick.

Good times, good times.

I was wondering what the name is all about. I mean there are quite a few definitions of the world Minette and I wondered which definition they intended... a woman's name? a small portrait photograph? a endearing term for kitten? a syenitic lamprophyre composed chiefly of orthoclase and biotite?

All seemed so equally fitting... (Ok, so all but the last one seem equally fitting). But alas, I perused their website and ... drum roll please...

La Minette [là mi-nè-t']
, French, 1. a pussycat; 2. often referring to the youngest girl in a French family

Good choice my friends. Good. Choice.

Bistrot La Minette - 623 S. 6th Street Philadelphia, PA 19176

You're a Freakazoid

I used to work on food photography shoots and, for a time, one of my clients was a pork producer*. I am telling you this because I'm trying to make the point that I have seen a lot of pork being photographed. For some perplexing reason I am always struck by how shitty photographs of pork look.

The pork always looks white and gross and completely unappetizing... even after styling and retouching.

Why? Why does pork look so unappealing on camera? It looks fine in real life. What is it about being captured on film that makes it look white and gross? I'm genuinely curious.

Beef looks tasty:

Chicken... Sure, Why not?:

But what's up with pork? Ick:

Is there a scientific explanation for it? Does the lens just not like pork's genetic composition? Does it have something to do with a chemical reaction that occurs during the cooking process? Is this the most trivial, worthless bullshit you've ever been asked? Am I the only person on earth that has ever pondered such matters of the mind?

Thank god we're not on a date. You would probably be "going to the restroom" right now to make the great escape. I guess I wouldn't blame you though since it only gets more bizarre once you really get to know me. In fact, if you didn't run I would be forced to lay the blame fully on you... I mean YOU are the one that chooses to entertain me. I mean, I am me... I can't get away from myself. You, on the other hand, have made a conscious decision. Freak.

*As a side note, that client referred to the slaughter of the pigs as "the harvest" which still gives me the heebie jeebies. Just saying.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mellow on the Mallows Already

Marshmallows are popping up all over the place.

I'm not talking about your average, everyday, run of the mill marshmallows. Oh no. These are "vegan" marshmallows... they are "old fashioned", they are "hand made", they are "artisan flavored", they are just expensive enough to make you feel like you are getting "something special".

I'm going to call them... Designer Marshmallows.

I'm seeing them in magazines, on cooking shows, in natural food stores.

To be honest, I am insanely jealous that I don't have a marshmallow factory so that I can take advantage of what I have determined is the current "Designer Marshmallow Craze". I can see the dollar signs now. I could have made millions (Not to mention the fact that I would get to say "I have a marshmallow factory" which is pretty bad ass).

Having said that, there is just something queer about it all.

I mean, honestly, I have known since I was a kid... since I was crapping my own pants, that there is something about marshmallows that just ain't right. The consistency just doesn't seem like something that god intended... it's just not something that occurs in nature. Plus, they are just so... American, so "Fat Free", so... Kraft.

Even then I clearly understood that they could only come from one of two sources. They were either the poo of magical fairies OR they came from a beaker. It was one or the other I just wasn't sure which at the time.

Later on, as I approached adulthood, I unconsciously concluded that they must in fact be made in a beaker and I left it at that. Which of course is true, although it wasn't until very recently that I realized that real marshmallows are just gelatin, sugar, and corn syrup beaten in a mixer.

Crazy, I know.
Anyone can make marshmallows!

You don't need a laboratory and an arsenal of creepy ingredients (although your grocery store brands still do include ingredients like artificial colour, artificial flavour, dextrose, modified corn starch, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, etc.).

Nope, all you need to make them at home is just some good old fashioned sugar, water, gelatin, corn syrup... get ta' whippin' and... bada bing, bada boom you got yourself some Designer Marshmallows. If you're feeling ambitious you could even give them as gifts this holiday season.

Of course Martha's makes them. Here's her recipe if you want to try 'em on for size:
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar (for dusting)
Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment. Let it stand 30 minutes.

Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup of water in a small heavy saucepan; place over low heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve sugar crystals.

Clip on a candy thermometer; raise heat to high. Cook syrup without stirring until it reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage). Immediately remove pan from heat.

With mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour syrup into the softened gelatin. Increase speed to high; beat until mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla; beat to incorporate.

Generously dust an 8 x 12-inch glass baking pan with confectioners' sugar. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan. Dust with confectioners' sugar; let stand overnight, uncovered, to dry out.

Oww Girl, put those bitches in some hot chocolate this winter for a real mind bender.

So, yes. The marshmallow's making a comeback. That's great. Really. I'm totally supportive and truly happy for the marshmallow.

If for nothing else roasting marshmallows is second only to a barrel of monkeys on the fun spectrometer. That alone proves it's worthy of a lifetime of praise.

Viva la marshmallow!

... although I still think it's kind of queer. Just saying.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Super Cuddly and Cute Image of the Week

No. You're right. I have never featured a super cuddly or cute image, let alone on a weekly basis, but by god, after seeing this lil' bugger I just might start. Look at those little feet! Almost makes me not want to eat 'eem.

As a side note:
Between the NASCAR-endorsed 'Pork and Beans' label, the weird felt backdrop, and the hairy little piglet, I feel like this photograph might have been taken by that kid in Deliverance who played the banjo.

Maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cinnamon & Spice

Recently I went to Kanella.

While a number of magically delicious things happened to me there, there was also a string of tragically suspicious happenings... The jury is out.

On the 'Yay' side of the spectrum:

1. The Food - It was undeniably delicious. We ordered a bunch of small plates to share including the noteworthy Dips of the day with grilled Pita bread (Double yay for extreme, but not overpowering, use of garlic here. The dips vary by day. They were flavorful and filling and, for 7 bones, quite a bargain). The Beetroot with yogurt and scallions (simple cubed beets tossed in yogurt with red onions) was also superb. The food was light and fresh and healthy... just the way I like it.

2. The Coveted Cuisine - I'm told it's one of the only (if not the only) places in the city to get Cypriot cuisine (influences from Greece, Turkey, France and Italy). That in itself is a plus.

3. The Chef's Peepers - Konstantinos Pitsillides' blue eye/olive skin combo imparts a pleasing sense of the Med even when set against his cold-patriarchal-Mediterranean-man-attitude.

4. The Name - Kanella is Greek for cinnamon. For some reason I really like that.

5. The Ambiance - The cool blues and whites, the pillows and rustic wooden tables, impart a sense of vacationing in the isles.

On the 'Nay' side of the spectrum:

1. Bread - Our bread was burnt. There were two of us. We were served four pieces while our two neighbors were served 6 pieces (which were not burnt). Do I really want or need the extra two pieces? No. Do I feel cheated when I see that they got more bread then us? Yes.

(OK. Maybe I'm exaggerating with that image but you get the idea.)

2. Temperatures - Some things were served too cold. The tahini served with the bread, the dips, and the dessert (date and almond torte) were all just-out-of-the-refrigerator cold. It was weird. I'm not saying they should have been warm but the temperature imparted a - made earlier, stored in the refrigerator, just plopped on a plate - feeling... it was a major turn off.

3. Timing - ... is everything. Even though we were one of the few diners in the restaurant we were rushed at every step along the way. Word to the wise...
A. Don't ever put more plates on my table then can fit. Unless I force you to at gun point.
B. Don't ever ask me if I am done with a plate that I'm still eating off of... just don't.
C. Don't bring the dessert menu OR even bring up the word "dessert" until after the dinner dishes have been cleared.
D. Don't bring my check without asking if I still have half a bottle of wine left, and then tell me that your shift is ending soon... Cause I don't give a fuck. I'm still dining. Thanks. That shit might fly at Ruby Tuesday but when you start working at an establishment that surpasses the $20/plate mark you are in it to win it so sit back and relax.

So, the choice is your own. I'd say weigh your yays against your nays and try 'er out if you see fit.

Good luck and god speed.

Kanella - 1001 Spruce St Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 922-1773

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Eww... Candy Corn

Seriously. Eww. I mean, the mere thought of getting candy corn in or around my mouth gives me the heebie jeebies.


It's the kind of thing I imagine they feed torture victims so that they die a slow and painful nutrient-free death. The only redeeming quality (if you can call it that) is the "cute" and "festive" autumnal color palette.

Hold on, I got one for you. Let's say you switch out the orange food coloring for gray... BAM! You've got a lean-mean-torture-machine on your hands just like that.

What the hell is it anyway?

HowStuffWorks says:

It's considered a "mellow cream," a name for a type of candy made from corn syrup and sugar that has a marshmallow-like flavor. Although candy corn tastes rich, it's actually fat-free... the recipe for candy corn hasn't changed much since the late 1800s...

Uncle Jimmy says:

Really? I'm shocked (said in my extremely sarcastic voice since it tastes EXACTLY like the recipe hasn't changed since the 1800s).

Who the hell eats it anyway?

I don't know but
Wikipedia says:

The National Confectioners Association estimate 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold each year. October 30 is National Candy Corn Day.

Uncle Jimmy says:

There is a "National Candy Corn Day"?..... Really?

Oh, and 20 million pounds of candy corn in a year!?!?!? My guess is that a large chunk of that is going to the mid-section of our country (pun intended) where they make things like this:

and this:


Shockingly, if you'd like to learn more it looks like there is actually an entire piece written on the subject, History of candy corn. With new colors and flavors, a treat for all seasons by Natalie Saeger.


Monday, October 27, 2008

T-Shirts Food Style

I want to tell you about my exhaustive quest to come up with new ideas for ironic food T-shirts. I have been working at it for months but I have only come up with one idea.

Idea #1:

"Offal Good"

... huh huh... huh huh huh huh. Get it? "Offal good"... "Offal" as in... sounds like Awful...
(long sigh followed by awkward silence). You're right. It isn't that funny.

This leads me to believe that I am not very good at this game, and that I may be a miserable failure... although sometimes I'm really hilarious in my own head.

I'll keep thinking.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Land of Milk and Honey

Wow. I feel like I have been gone forever. Did you miss me? I missed you.

I went to the Middle East...

Israel to be exact.

I love traveling so much. I love the new sights and smells, the chaos and the confusion... I love feeling like the world has been put in a blender, turned upside down, and mixed all around.

So, yes... Israel. Oh the things I saw... the desserts, the mountains, the Med, the Dead, and the Red... The people, all olive with bright blue eyes smelling like tangerines and filo dough... The sunsets... The deep red Israeli wine... Sigh.

And of course there was the food. I ate my way through the entire country and it was bone chillingly good... I had fabulous, fabulous food.

If I absolutely had to choose one cuisine to eat for the rest of my days I may have to choose Israeli cuisine.

I mean, maybe I'm still high on vacation (or the Valium I took to "sleep on the plane") but Israeli food seems to be in a state of complete balance. There are vegetables galore, protein in the form of beans and meats, seeds and nuts out the a-hole, all sorts of delicious breads, and a zillion and one ways to indulge without feeling like you just ate something... well... indulgent. Vegetarians and meat eaters rejoice... there's something for every taste.

I could go on forever and a day about all the wonderful things that I ate, but there were undoubtedly some highlights:


Oh sweet gentle Jebus, I was seeing Magen Davids when I put the first puffy piece of Bamba in my mouth. It's salty-peanut-buttery-sweetness is certainly an exception to that healthy balance bull shit I mentioned above, but it's an exception that I will gladly make.

I'm told it's available in some ethnic supermarkets here in the States but please don't tell me how to get to them. Bamba is far too dangerously good for me to posses that knowledge. I'm glad to live in a naive state of being in which I believe that I have to travel back to Israel to experience the glory.

As a side note, I'm actually thinking about getting a tattoo of the Bamba baby on my ass.

What else?


Most of the houses that we visited had a Passion Fruit (or Passiflora) vine growing outside. The fruit is harvested twice a year and we came just at the end of the second Passiflora harvest.

You cut open the fruit and inside is this sweet-crunchy-tropical Passiflora caviar. It is SOOO damn delicious that I shake my fist at the heavens for not having it grow as weeds here in the US.

And then there were the Burekas...

Imagine warm potato and cheese gently wrapped in a tender little pastry blanket... or instead of potato try spinach, or feta... they've thought of it all but let's face it, you could probably put cat shit inside of these heavenly little pockets and it would be the best god damn thing you ever tasted.


Not much to say here other then I fell madly in love. I will now be eating it on my cereal.

Finally there was the Rugelach

I think I took about 104 photographs of the Rugelach alone. I would like to be surrounded by Rugelach at all times... Like, maybe I carry it in my pockets so I can pet it when things get tough... or maybe I make a Rugelach hat and mittens to keep me warm when it's cold... or maybe I could just burn it instead of firewood in my home.

There were all those things and then there was nana tea, malawah bread, Israeli salad, etc. etc. etc. times infinity.

Yeah for the Israelis. They're really doing something.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Those Dean & DeLuca Guys are Good

I just got the new Dean & DeLuca catalog in the mail and it's blowing my mind right now.

Of course there are your staples...

  • The ever-present $225 ugly fondant cake that looks like it would taste like waxy plastic sugar-paste-vom.

  • The glorious selection of wine that I can't buy via mail because I live in (I mean in Pennsylvania).

  • The flight of caviar that costs $655 (total of 6 oz.).

  • The $400 leg of Prosciutto di Parma (online a leg of Ibérico ham is a bargain at only $2,000!).

Sigh... I joyously flipped past these items assured in the knowledge that the stars were aligned, the appropriate items were appropriately overpriced, and that there are people out there who are more bat shit crazy then I... ones who were willing to spend $65 on "Fall Cupcakes" (... wtf???).

There were some noteworthy gems though:

For example, please reference Page 9 for the mailorder - Lobster Rolls

Wow. $135. For hot dog rolls and old-ass lobster slathered in mayo.

Mmm... (only if "Mmm" can be said with heavily sarcastic undertones).

Also on Page 9... my heart skipped a beat when I found the - Foie Gras Burger

Holy smokes. $60 for four burgers yes but, all kidding aside, I might kill a man for one. $60 is a small place to pay when compared to life in prison.

GEE-OOOOD that sounds good.

... And then there's the crème de la crème on Page 54. I nearly wet myself when I saw- The Ultimate Chocolate Truffle

Here is where I'm supposed to make fun of it... so ridiculous... so expensive... blah, blah, blah... but I don't want to. I want to eat it. I want to eat it all, not only in one sitting, but in one bite. Crap, shit... ARGH!!! I want it so bad.

I think I'm going to order one... and then after that I'm going to time how long it takes me to burn 350 one dollar bills. Yay. It'll be fun.

Chocolate Meat

In response to a comment on my last post, I thought I would shed a little light...

Courtesy of Wikipedia with bolded commentary by Uncle Jimmy:

Dinuguan -

... or pork blood stew in English... is a Filipino savory stew of blood and meat simmered in a rich, spicy gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili and vinegar (Mmm... spicy gravy of blood and vinegar. What a delightful flavor combination. I first learned of its splendor back when I was being tortured in POW camp. Ahh... Now those were the days). The term dinuguan comes from the word dugo meaning "blood" (naturally). It is recognizably thick and dark, hence the Westernized euphemism "chocolate meat." (sound of me throwing up in my own mouth). It is similar to the Singapore dish pig's organ soup, differing in that it does not contain vegetables (thank God) and has a characteristically thick gravy.

Due to the offal it is frequently considered an unusual or alarming dish to those in Western culture (I'm not sure it's the offal that's throwing me off), though it is rather similar to European-style blood sausage, or British black pudding in a saucy stew form (hmm... interesting synopsis). It is perhaps closer in appearance and preparation to the ancient Spartan dish (its only redeeming quality) known as black gruel (that's bad ass) whose primary ingredients were pork, vinegar and blood (this dish actually kicked your f*@%ing ass after you ate it). Dinuguan is often served with white rice or a Filipino rice cake called puto (Whatever dude. Don't try to make yourself look better now. You're made of blood and vinegar... 'chocolate meat' remember?).

A similar dish is also known among the Bataks of Indonesia, called sangsang (I do like the name...). Sangsang is made from pork or dog meat (Wow. That really happens? I need to travel more) or more rarely, water buffalo meat, coconut milk and spices ...

Sangsang has special significance to the Bataks, as it is an obligatory dish in Batak marriage celebrations (Oh dang. I would be dying old and alone).

Having said all of that, all kidding aside, I haven't but I would eat the shit out of Dinuguan. Anyone serving it in Philly do you think?

Friday, September 26, 2008

7 is The Magic Number

So, I must admit... I am a little Italy obsessed. I love Italian culture, Italian cuisine, Italian architecture, Italian people... all things Italian. I lived in Italy, I travel back each year. I study the cuisine, the wine, the language...

I kind of want to be Italian. I think everyone in my family does... in fact my Aunt tells a story about how, as a girl, she cried when she found out that we weren't.

Yeppers. I am just about as Irish-American as you can get. Almost 100%.

My Italian friends enjoy breaking my balls...

"Let's see... we have Donatello, da Vinci, and Raphael. You have Bono.

We have the most beautiful people on the planet. You have Gingers.

We have Tuscany. You have Belfast.

We have the Renaissance. You have famine.

We have the most well respected cuisine in the world. You have blood sausage."

Ha ha ha. You're so funny Italian friends. I get it. You're better than me. Cough*FU*Cough.

Having said that, because of my envy of all things Italian, I have always wanted to take part in the Christmas Eve tradition - The Feast of the Seven Fishes.

My Italian friends have threatened to never speak to me again if I kopp that tradition... unless I "marry in". So, I have decided that this year I would make up my own, ethnically appropriate, Christmas Eve tradition...

I'm going to have The Feast of the Seven Potatoes.

What do you think? WHO'S JEALOUS NOW ITALIAN FRIENDS!?!?!?

Twice Baked
Boiled with Salt

That's right. You're green with envy right now aren't you? (pun intended... get it? Irish... green...?)

No? You're not jealous? Shit. F. Yeah. You're right. You win. Damn.