Sunday, May 3, 2009

French Laundry

I'm finally going to make it... 42 Days and counting.  I WILL be breaking my current pescatarian status for this.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What the Hell Is It?

Well, first of all, it was invented in the 1970's, which tells us a lot right there.  Secondly, it is described as a "blend of various texturing ingredients, flavorings and colorants."  Mmm!  

The primary ingredient is surimi... which in itself may need an explanation.
Cutesy of Wikipedia -

Surimi (Japanese. lit "ground meat")... a Japanese word referring to a food product  intended to mimick the meat of lobster, crab, and other shellfish.  It is typically made from white-fleshed fish (such as pollock or hake) that has been pulverized to a paste and attains a rubbery texture when cooked.

Meat from lean fish or land animals is separated and then minced numerous times to eliminate undesirable odors.  The result is beaten and pulverized to form a gelatinous paste.  

Right.  So we gots the seafood paste.  Now what do we do with it?  Make it into a crab leg maybe???

... The most common surimi product in the Western market is imitation or artificial crab legs... sold as krab in America...

[It was developed to] process the increased catch of fish, revitalize Japan's fish industry, and to make use of what was preciously considered "fodder fish".

A typical ingredient list looks like this:
Pollock, water, egg-whites, cornstarch, wheat starch, natural and artificial flavor (natural flavors include but aren't limited to amino acids and proteins obtained through aqueous extraction, and there are artificial flavoring compounds like esters, ketones, nucleotides, and monosodium glutamate, etc.), less then 2% snow crabmeat, soybean oil, mirin, potato starch, salt, sugar, soy protein isolate, monosodium glutamate, sorbitol, sodium tripolyphosphate.

"Prior to freezing cryoprotectant materials such as sugar and sorbitol are added to prevent degradation of the gel-forming properties of surimi.  Starch & egg whites are added to improve the texture, color and to stabilize the gel matrix".  

Oh, and the color.  That typically comes from water insoluble compounds like carmine, caramel, paprika and annato extracts which are mixed and then applied to the crab meat bundles... in order words, big weird bundles of the shit are painted with chemicals to be red... or pink... or orange... or whatever it is. 

Sigh.  Another great example of modern food production in action.  Wow.

I have a friend who buys it cold and enjoys right out of the bag.  I have expressed my lack of support for this practice and she has told me to shove it up my ass and that she doesn't want to hear any more of my holier-then-tho preachy bullshit. We agree to disagree.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Prepare To Be Horrified

For the bride that wants a truly unique wedding...

Babette's Feast

This is an incredible food movie... we watch it each year on Thanksgiving.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Flavor Combinations - Obsession Du Jour

Fig and tamarind.

Moroccan Feastival

The other night I made a Moroccan feast.  

A friend was leaving for a trip to Morocco so I wanted to send her off right.  

We were eating traditionally, communally, off platters with our hands.  

I started off with hot towels served table side, and then broke off six courses of glory - three salads - a garlicky cucumber tomato salad, a warm sauteed eggplant in a thick red tomato sauce, and a chilled marinated carrot and parsley salad- all were served with a big basket of torn warm bread for scooping.  Then came lemon chicken served whole.  Next couscous and currants, then the motherload - sweet and savory bastilla, then a bakliva cake with a burned butter mint sauce, next came mint tea, and finally an overflowing bowl of whole fruits. 

If there was a cooks equivalent to spiking a football I would have done it at the end of the meal... and then I would have done some kind of asshole dance too.  It was good... by God it was good.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Oh, Hai.  How have you been?  Sorry I haven't written you in awhile but I have been busy learning how to become a proper gypsy.  I've taken up some new hobbies including beard growing, showering with only a Nalgene bottle and a stick of gum, and bird watching. Things are really going great.

So right, where have I been... ?  There was Manhatten, Philly, the Smokey Mountains, Asheville, Nashville, Memphis, Hot Springs NP, Austin, Carlsbad Caverns, Madrid, Santa Fe, Taos, Flagstaff, Vegas, Red Rocks, Death Valley, Mohave Desert, Joshua Tree, San Diego, Los Angeles, back to Joshua Tree, back to Flagstaff - this time for two weeks, Sequoia NP, Berkeley, San Fran and now Sonoma... Oh, glorious, glorious Sonoma.  

I've been in Cali for quite some time and have little concept of time anymore but I think I have been here for (boop, boop, beep, bop... calculating)... almost three weeks.  Holy shit!  That seems like a long time.  Wow.  

It's just so glorious that I can't leave... a perfect storm of ocean cliffs, green green mountains, mossy redwoods, and rolling hillsides covered with vineyards... brilliant yellow mustard flowers blowing in the breeze. Mwa!  

And the food, the wine, the oranges, lemons, Dungenous crab, avocados... Sigh.  Cali cuisine, so distinct, so healthy and so fresh.

Plus, I have found so many new obsessions... Nutritional yeast, canned fish, agave syrup, kombucha...

Oh, and my favorite - Ak Mak

It's SO good.  Flat bread crackery type things that are wonderfully healthy yet really flavorful. They are so light and airy with this really distinct and desirable texture... one that I've never seen before.  And the taste is really complex and all sesame-like.  Mmm!  Plus if you're a God-fearing person they are somehow holy... I don't know how, you will have to read the packaging to know how or why they will get you closer to divinity or whatever but, suffices to say, they are some tasty-ass Jesus crackers...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Boold Peanuts

So, right.  There was Asheville.  It was cold in Asheville... very very cold, but we had a great little salad at a place named Todd's Tasties (unfortunately so) and we were fed hippy food mostly with weed in it.  

... Then it was time to hit the road.

Up over the Great Smoky Mountains we went (the Great Smoky Mountain National Park by the way is - and always will be - free... it's written into the initial land transfer. Just an interesting little factoid for you).  On our way to Nashville we hit Dollywood (eek!), Gatlinburg (double eek!), and the Grand Ole Opry... all of which were closed for the season.  OK... Gatlinburg obviously doesn't "close" but I either blocked it out from the trauma or I was still stoned from the hippy food.  Your guess is as good as mine. 

Anyway... my most interesting food related observation from this leg of the trip was the reminder about boiled peanuts... 

There are roadside stands hawking them all over the place.  

If you haven't had boiled peanuts you are missing out... and what you are missing out on is a great story to tell your friends about how there is a food in the south that is less appealing then eating cardboard that was wrapped in bark and then boiled in unflavored toilet water.

They taste exactly like you would imagine...  like a hot, soggy bean.

Those southerners never cease to amaze me.  First that war thingy... and then this. Cray-zee.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jimmy's Taking Off - Day One

I had ignored my gypsy roots for far too long.  My pants were itchen' and my hands were a cold that only January-in-Philadelphia can bring.  I'd had enough.  It was time to leave my apartment, the city, the east coast... I split.  Ciao, Buon Viaggio, Hasta Luego, Arriverderci, Au Revoir, Auf Weidersehen, G'bye.  Gone are the days of Uncle Jimmy Eating Philadelphia as we know it and on are the days of Uncle Jimmy Eating America... and I'm hungry.  

I hit the open road yesterday and by "open road" I mean a road covered with three nasty inches of snow with a thick icy crust.  

I could barely drag my big ass bags to the car without falling on my ass and I was only "helped" by the crazy woman I passed who threatened to "shit on my f*&$ing face" and by the ogles of the creepy dudes who stand across the street smoking cigarettes and making you feel like you need to go back inside for a hot rape shower. Ahh, Philthy.  How I'll miss you.

Anywho.  So I was on the road.  I picked up my co-piolot, Mang, who will be joining me for the first two weeks of the trip.  Don't worry.  I'm safe.  Mang's with me.

The first leg of the trip was a little hairy, with the freezing rain and all, but all turned right in the world mid-way through Virginia with only cloudy skies and spotty rain showers as a reminder.

We passed through Tennessee after night fall and drove through the dramatic Smoky Mountains... I was sad that we hit them after dark as the silhouettes were awe-inspiring. 

Ahh... The road was flying by under my ass and it felt grrrreat.

Our first stop was Asheville to stay with my hippy friend Stephanie.

She just bought a house there and she welcomed us with open arms and glasses of wine.

The house was all warm and cozy and there were plants everywhere and just the right amount of handmade pottery to make you feel like at least one person in the house reads about Buddhism on the regular.  And people... there are many.  It's kind of like a commune (one guy is an Emile Hirsch circa Into the Wild lookalike).  Oh, and there is also no shower which is... how shall I say.  Not shocking.  

They also have one of those life sized card board cut outs of Obama with the white dude hands!!!!  I couldn't believe it.  I had just heard a story on the radio the day before!!!! They didn't even know what kind of gem they were sitting on!

We went and got a salad and a delicious local Microbrew at Todd's Tasties.  I had a Wedge IPA and it was delicious.

When we got back Steph's roommates were making veggie tempura and goo balls for dessert.  Ha.  Fitting.  

So, anyway... some food, some wine and then to bed.  There is no heat here (again... not shocked) so it is icy cold.  

Don't worry, I have apologized profusely to Mang for bringing her to a hippy commune with no heat or showers and I don't think she is going to retaliate on my as... or Mang me out as we say.

Day two... Woke up early.  I'm off to go explore the town.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy New Year

Today marks the year of the Ox.

May I recommend the parade next Sunday followed by Dim Sum at Ocean City?  Mmm... so good.  

The pork buns and shark fin are delicious but try everything.  

That's the fun of Dim Sum... The dishes are all brought to you for your inspection so just take a peek and point to what looks good.  Portions are small and inexpensive so if you don't enjoy one of the things that you chose it's no problemo... you're a better person for trying.

Here's to a new year.  I'm feeling really good about this one.

Ocean City Restaurant - 234 N. 9yh St. Philadelphia, PA 19107

Ode to WaWa

I love Wawa.

Maybe it's wrong but it feels so right.  

There are just so many fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere, and you can make your own salads or sandwiches, and there is plenty of club soda, and there are lots granola bars, and the stores are always big so I don't get claustrophobic, and no one who works there is ever good looking so I don't feel intimidated, and the bathrooms usually aren't covered in fecal matter, and if you wanted to kill yourself there are plenty of donuts and cheese filled soft pretzels on which to do so.  That's what I call one stop shopping.

Maybe instead of holding on to my dream of opening a food cart I will open a traveling Wawa. How amazing would that be?... not for you, for me.  I would get to be surrounded by the cushy womb of Wawa everywhere I went.  It would be a glorious existence. Sigh.

Heartbreakingly, I just learned from Wawa's website that they don't franchise. DAMN! 

It was a crushing blow, although I did discover a few interesting Wawa factoids: 

Factoid #1. The company was originally a home delivery dairy service until the first Wawa market opened in 1960.  (Oww... Milk men!  What an old-timey job. I may have to add that to my list of jobs-to-have-before-I-die, right along side of
Drawbridge Tender, Phone Psychic, and Jelly Donut Filler).

Factoid #2. All dairy products available at Wawa are artificial growth hormone free (Strange that we need to be congratulating anyone for that but, Yay).

Factoid #3. As for the name... apparently the company's original dairy was built in Wawa, PA., which itself was named after the local Lenni Lenape Indian tribe's word for the Canadian geese found in the Delaware Valley.

Factoid #4. In 1995 Wawa begins offering ATMs with no service fee (One of the many reasons I could kiss them on the mouth).

Factoid #5. Wondering how many calories are in your Classic Italian Shortie with extra mayo, pickles, and provolone cheese?  Visit the Wawa NetNutrition calculator online and all the caloric information you desire will be yours.

Oh and elsewhere I discovered that Johnny Knoxville has a Wawa tattoo:

Huh.  Who'd a thunk it?

So, anyway... To summerize my ode to Wawa: Oh Wawa, I hath seen such beauty only in thee heart of spring.  If only I could wrap your tender bosom into the shape of a food cart and carry thee gently about... only then would thine heart be at peace.

So romantic. If I had a Valentine I might get them a Wawa gift card.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ever Wonder What a Cloud Tastes Like?

Me too.  And I have no F-ing clue.  BUT something tells me they may taste like the light-airy-sweet-tart-glory that is Greek Yogurt.

My current favorite is Fage AND the 0% is Non/None/No-Fat so it is healthy, healthy, healthy. If you're eating it on its own you can fold in a wee bit of honey or fruit spread for a little sweet kick.

Out Not In

I went to dinner the other night with my Israeli friend.  We were trying to invoke the spirit of our recent trip to Israel which now seems oh-so-long ago.  I hadn't had a good Israeli meal since returning to the States and I was craving it something awful.  I wanted to be sure we got the best, most authentic, Israeli food in the city regardless of price, reputation, or anything else.  I did my homework and all signs pointed to Mama's Vegetarian in center city so that's where we ended up.

At Mama's you order cafeteria-style. We ordered the hummus platter, the bureka platter, and the vegetable salad platter (we were very hungry). It was super cheap which is a plus, especially since they serve everything in plastic clam shell containers - even if you eat in as we did (which seems not only ghetto but, even more so, extremely wasteful).

We brought a bottle of  Israel wine from the Galilee.  I had called the week before to confirm this was OK but when I asked for a bottle opener they gave us a hard time and insisted that I had called "the wrong place" and that wine was not aloud... Hmmm.

I asked them "Why?" and they mumbled something rude.  After insisting they didn't have a bottle opener they finally fished one out of the pencil holder and handed it over.

We shrugged them off, cracked the wine and sat sipping out of Styrofoam cups while getting the stink eye from the staff (in the not overly clean dining area).  This all would have been much more annoying if A. I was facing them, luckily for me my back was toward the counter and B. the food wasn't as good as it was... but it was good.  Very good.

Mama's hummus is not only delicious but more authentic then anything else I've had in the city.

The burekas are moist and flaky and there is a choice of spinach, mushroom or potato filling. They were the gargantuan variety which I hadn't seen in Israel but that appear to be the norm in the States.


The salad platter was just OK although it is the dead of winter so I'm wondering if the platter is more robust and isn't spilling over with tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer.

Also note that, in addition to what you order, there is a full fixin's bar with marinated carrots, fried cauliflower, pickles, olives, sauces, and various other marinated goodies.  So factor in that deliciousness.

We topped everything off with Baklava and its honey-pistachio-gooeyness was delightfully mouth-melty.

SO... I think the moral of this story is that Mama's is designed for take out... they have never claimed otherwise.  Having said that, if I were a take out person (which I'm not) this would be a stellar option... It's tasty, cheap, healthy, exotic, good for leftovers, good for movie night with your hot Israeli lover, good for pretending you made it and serving it at/bringing it to a dinner party.  

In addition they have a meat-serving cousin on South Street between 6th and 7th if Shawarma is your jam.

Mama's Vegetarian - 18 S. 20th Street Philadelphia, PA 19103

Monday, January 19, 2009

They're Not ALL Pithy

I was recently having a conversation with a friend.  We were happily talking about our favorite fruits when all of a sudden, completely out of the blue, she sideswiped me with the "fact" that she did not like oranges.  

I was taken aback, and greatly disturbed, but I waved her off and decided that she had been momentarily touched by the crazies. 

I just wanted to pretend that it had never happened but she kept insisting and her apparent contentment to continue living a life without the orange blew my mind.  

It was like she had just lay down and accepted it.  At first I angrily told her that she should just start wearing sweatpants and eating pie for breakfast because, in my opinion, she had basically already given up on life... 

BUT I couldn't.  I couldn't know what I knew and live with a clean conscious.  Hers was a fate too severe for any human to bear... and frankly I just didn't believe her.    

I asked what it was about the orange that she didn't like... was it the taste? the zest? the pulp? the pith?  

Through some (not so extensive) deduction we determined that her dislike did in fact stem (pun intended) from the pith.  

When "eating" an orange she (like many other with the same affliction) would suck the juice out and discard the pith.  

It was all very heartbreaking.  After a long cry, a handle of cheap wine, and a half a bottle of aspirin I ran (OK.  I walked.  Slowly.  While holding my head.) to the store for some emergency supplies.  I needed to change this crazy bitch's ways.

I bought what I know to be the most tender, juicy and pith-free orange I could find... the Satsuma (also known as Mikan).  

I knew if they couldn't change her mind, nothing could.  To make a long story short... She loved them, and now I can rest easy knowing that there is one less hater walking this earth.

So, I would encourage any of you who know an orange hater to have an Satsuma intervention. Trust me. They will thank you for it later.

What's She Doin' With That Apple?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

No Beef

I don't think I have had a burger since 2006.  I hear you can be killed in Texas for less.

Beard Person

That's me.  I'm what you call a beard lover... I may be the number one fan of the beard.  

What hurts me more then anything is the food service industrie's beard ban.  

Yes, I'm talking about the beard cover.  It is so unfair to ostracize beard wearers with this humiliating punishment.  Inhumane really.  I am in strick opposition.  It just ain't right.

GOD that's douchey.  

This means I'm never going to be able to date a chef, or a chef with a beard, and I'm greatly disturbed by this notion.

Baby Sex Food

From NPR:

"A recent paper titled 'You are what your mother eats' found that women who ate lots of breakfast cereal, salt and potassium were more likely to give birth to baby boys."


Friday, January 16, 2009


I went to the new Northern Liberties spot the other night - El Camino Real.  It was the first time I had been.  It was also the first time anyone with me had been. 

I didn't eat.  I drank my dinner but I was the only one...  Everyone else at the table ate. 

They didn't know it but they were being very closely watched... studied if you will.  I was keeping an eye on them to determine how they liked the food... Noting every expression, each reaction.

We sat down, we ordered, the food came, they ate, we talked about life, the economy, the woman who's ass grew around that toilet seat... you know, the normal stuff.  No matter how hard I tried I couldn't seem to decipher any feelings one way or another.  They all seemed OK with everything*... I mean, generally everyone seemed unaffected.   You know, it was like they had eaten the same thing a zillion times.  They knew what to expect when they ordered and what it would taste like when they put it to their lips.  It was mindless.  What struck me was that they could just as easily been as equally not-overly/not-underly impressed at one of the zillion Cantina/Segundos-esk establishments that are opening up all the hell over the city...  

We get it already, "authentic" Mexican dishes served by radically hip hipsters... an equation that appears foolproof.

I was not impressed, although I didn't try a god damn thing so I should shut my face hole. I did drink beer and those were cheap... plenty of choices for three or four bucka'roos and the food didn't appear terribly overpriced either.  Plus I love the logo... and looking at gorgeous hipsters.

Just some observations...

*With the exception of desserts, although I was dining with the head Pastry Chef from Le Bec.  She was unimpressed.

El Camino Real 1040 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123 

Hearts and Kittens and Clouds and Happiness

More Things to Punch in the Jay

Jessica Seinfeld.

A. Because she ripped off the Sneaky Chef 

B. Because she's married to that Dee-Bag... 

P.Fing.S.  Why am I the only person on the planet who hates Seinfeld? Why is that?!?

Irony is Ironical

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Look Into My Crystal Ball

OK, so you don't have to look too hard to see that there is going to be (or is already) a backlash against high concept food.  Numbered are the days of hots that aren't supposed to be hot and things served on a bed of smoldering maple leaves (don't worry Keller, I'm sure you will still sell a million copies of Under Pressure, Sous Vide is still on the tip of everyones tongue).