BOTW–Ovila Saison

Ovila Abbey Saison

For centuries, the monastic tradition has followed the Rule of St. Benedict–Ora et Labora (prayer and work.) This Saison farmhouse ale is in honor of the noble labor in which the monks engage. Hazy blonde in color, these rustic ales are designed to be complex and contemplative but also refreshign and drinkable after a day in the fields. With earthy and spice aromas this Saison has notes of green grass, and a faint citrus tang. The body is light and layered with fruit and spice accents and a dry, peppery, and refreshing finish. Released June 2011.

Sliced tomatoes, Basil, and vinaigrette.

Cap of the Saison. A very, very enjoyable beer. You’ll often catch me enjoying a small one of these when I’m off the clock after Savoy Night at Alembic Bar.

Steak rubbed with salt, pepper, and spices.

Heat that cast iron skillet up hot and sear the first side.

If you don’t set off the fire alarm, you’re doing it wrong.

Roasted potatoes, coming out of the oven.

After searing, we rest.

Tomatoes with Basil and Arugula in a Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Joseph Swan 2006 Zeigler Vineyard Zinfandel

According to winemaker Rod Berglund: “Noticeably sweeter with aromas of fresh blackberry cobbler. In the mouth it is a big wine with the richness and acidity of a light port. The fruit is bright and focused, and, like the Stellwagen, it has excellent balance. Great by itself, with cheese or with dessert. I can’t wait until the wild blackberries ripen as I am going to pick a bunch and make a blackberry cobbler to try with it. Yum!”

Cast Iron Seared Ribeyes, Braised Russian Kale, and oven roasted fingerling potatoes.

Who can resist a St. George Single Malt Whiskey Flavored Gelato Bar?

WOTW–Gypsy Boots

Romano Beans Roasted with Maitake Mushrooms, Garlic and Herbs.

Steelhead, ready to be topped with sauteed aromatic vegetables.

“I am trying to be patient with your shenanigans.”

Lighting the Candle.

When the beans and mushrooms were roasting, I added some Early Girl tomatoes from Two Dog Farms on top of them. Then I tossed them both with Frisee, sort of a vegetarian variation on the normal warm french salad. I was on the fence about adding cheese, but a poached egg would have been really nice. Still, a very tasty salad.

Souvenir from our last trip to New Orleans.

Michele was taken in by Winfred Wong’s glowing writeup of this wine on the BevMo shelf and the back label. “One travels the world over in search of what one needs and returns home to find it…the Sonoma Coast.” As much as I appreciate the sentiment, and as much as I do like the Sonoma Coast, Gypsy Boots’ Pinot Noir was really not very good. Barely above “plonk” level. At least it was not expensive.

“No, really, I am being very, very patient with your goofiness, and I would like some fish, please.”

Steelhead braised with aromatic vegetables, quinoa pilaf.

Reform Club

First, just a reminder that Sunday, September 25, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails, (they also have a great beer selection,) on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

One of the nice things about working in restaurants, is when you can go out and enjoy the fruits of your friends labors.

In this case, a popup in the Specchio space called Reform Club. The meal and beverage pairings below were done by Allyson Harvie (Citizen Cake, Ragazza), Becky Pezzullo (Undercover Supper, Bar Bambino), and Dion Jardine (Slanted Door, Heavens Dog). I don’t know Allyson or Becky very well, but I worked many, many nights with Dion when he was working at Heaven’s Dog.

corn soup, eggplant caponata,
tomato, basil, balsamic
(and pork)

Dry Gin, Blackberry puree, Sherry.

roasted fig salad,
ham, almonds, ricotta salata

Aged Rum, Lime, Ginger Syrup, Egg White.

mixed heritage pork roast: belly, sausage, loin,
mustard spätzle, braised chard, market fruit

baked gravenstein apple
cinnamon, raisins, butter, brown sugar
(and pork)
Paired with a Chenin Blanc from Chatueau Soucherie.

There may also have been shots of Angostura Bitters…

The next Reform Club Dinner is planned for October 16, with a menu and chef soon to be announced. Join the mailing list, follow the twitter, “like” them on facebook, read their tumblr, support my friends’ labor of love, and have some awesome food and drink!

Chicken Soup with Kale, Potatoes, and Sweet Corn

Sometimes you have to make your own damn chicken soup…

Chicken Soup with Kale, Potatoes, and Corn

INGREDIENTS:

1 Chicken Breast, Bone in
Chicken Stock

Olive Oil
3 slices bacon, diced
2 Tablespoons Flour

1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
dried Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Spanish Spicy Smoked Paprika
Dry White Wine (or Dry Vermouth)

1 bunch Russian Kale, leaves chopped
2 Baking potatoes, peeled and diced
2 ears Sweet Corn, shucked and kernels removed from cob
Fresh Sage leaves, sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste

METHOD:

Place Chicken Breast in a pot large enough to hold it. Cover with Chicken stock, bring to a near simmer, reduce heat, and cook until done. Remove Chicken Breast from stock, debone, and dice meat. Reserve stock. In the bottom of a pot large enough to hold about 2 quarts of soup, brown bacon in olive oil. When crispy, remove bacon and reserve 2 tablespoons cooking oil. Return oil to pot, and saute onion, carrot, and celery until tender. Deglaze with White Wine and reduce until syrupy. Stir in flour and cook until fragrant. Slowly stir in Reserved Chicken Stock, stirring to prevent clumping. Bring to a simmer, when it gets close it should thicken. Add Kale Leaves, Thyme, and Paprikas. Bring back to a simmer. Add Potatoes and cook until almost done. Stir in sweet corn, sage leaves, and bacon. Check seasonings and when potatoes are tender, serve with crusty bread.

As usual this was an improvisation based on standard techniques and what was available at the grocery store but, Mrs. Flannestad liked this version so much she said I had to write it down.

Tuna Casserole

Now that Macaroni and Cheese area has been thoroughly gentrified, maybe it’s time to start colonizing some of the other neighborhoods of my Midwestern childhood.

It’s fine enough, when you hear a chef talk about their youth in the bucolic countryside of Austria, or how they had their Oyster epiphany visiting family in Brittany.

Yeah, it’s fine, whatever, if you’ve earned what you do. But sometimes I wonder, how could you not? You’re not even having to try, basically just waking up with a pedigree which includes the best food in the world.

But can you make a decent Casserole? How is your “dish to pass”?

Tuna Casserole

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 Pound Pasta

1/2 onion, chopped
8 Mushrooms, sliced
Olive oil or butter

2 TBSP Butter
3 TBSP Flour
1 Cup Warm Milk
1 Cup Warm Chicken Stock
Nutmeg
Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

1 Can Tuna, preferably Italian
Frozen Peas
Spinach, roughly chopped
Fresh Thyme
Bread Crumbs (Or to be more authentic, crushed potato chips)

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Put on water to boil your pasta. Slightly undercook, drain. Saute the mushrooms until they have given up their moisture. Add chopped onions to pan and cook until tender. Deglaze with dry white wine or Dry Vermouth and reserve. In a sauce pan, melt the butter. When it is melted and the water cooked off, add the flour and, stirring constantly, cook until it smells of toasty bread. Stir milk and chicken stock into roux, a little at a time at first so it doesn’t clump. Bring liquid to a near simmer, it should thicken nicely. Grate nutmeg into sauce and check the salt level, it will probably need quite a bit. Combine all ingredients, except bread crumbs in oven proof dish (Or pasta pan, if it is oven proof. One less pan to wash.) Top with bread crumbs and cook until it is bubbling and the bread crumbs are toasted.

Enjoy with the not too fancy beverage of your choice.

Not that I can really complain, I had a great upbringing, it’s just that the foods which were awesome in my youth still aren’t really enshrined as shining examples of world cuisine. For example, pies, cookies, and doughnuts. My grandmother was a great cook, a fantastic cookie baker, but not much for recipes. I’ve never had cookies, fry cakes, or pie crusts as good as hers were. I think those tantalizing treats are probably lost forever. Though, I just about started weeping when they served a Krumkake with our dessert recently at Bar Tartine. Even the fantastic t-bone steaks my Dad would grill in the summer. Oh, though, the best example were the strangely named “Corn Boils”. Sweet Corn fresh from the field, soaked briefly in salt water, and grilled over hardwood. Every time I smell the sweet smell of burning corn leaves, it takes me back to those hot Summer nights in Wisconsin.

I know envy is embarrassing, and I shouldn’t be grumpy or jealous of others’ experiences.

I have mine, and they’ve made me who I am. Given me the taste for the food and drinks that I have and allowed me the chance and ability to sometimes share it with others. And, no, I don’t really want to pay $24 for a fancy version of Tuna Casserole. Thanks, but no.

WOTW–Navarrouge

Spatchcocked Chicken, rubbed with Sage and Spring Onions.

Started Roasting some small yellow potatoes with a couple Rosemary Sprigs. When the potatoes started showing some color, I removed the Rosemary sprigs. Put the chicken on top and roasted until done.

Side dish is a spicy succotash of corn, chard leaves, chard stems, and onions. Made a pan gravy with the drippings.

Served with a bottle of Navarro Vineyard‘s delicious table wine, Navarrouge.

BOTW–Autumnal

First, just a reminder that Sunday, August 28, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails, (they also have a great beer selection,) on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Friends gave us a bunch of really awesome Meyer Lemons. What better to do than to turn them into Lemon Merengue Pie?

Stillwater Autumnal

This deep amber hued ale takes it’s inspiration from Germany while still nodding to the Belgian farmhouse tradition. The base is comprised of German two-row, wheat, Cara-Munich, and roasted barley. Generously hopped with a blend of Perle, Spalt, and Hallertau Mittelfrüh and fermented with a rustic Belgian farmhouse ale yeast. These elements together provide a melange of earth and fruit aromas backed with hints of caramel with a dry clean finish.

I hadn’t researched a lot about Stillwater, aside from trying a couple of their bottles when I saw them in liquor stores. Interestingly, turns out, the brewer is a “Gypsy Brewer”. He rents overflow capacity from breweries and then visits and brews collaborative brews with them.

‘Gypsy Brewer’ Spreads Craft Beer Gospel (on npr)

We’d tried their sage spiked Saison Cellar Door before, but I think we liked Autumnal even more. It was pleasing and easy to drink.

Risking life, limb and fingertips running some amazing patty pan squash through the ceramic mandolin.

Balsamic vinaigrette, marjoram, arugula, and small tomatoes.

On the plate!

Roasted a pork tenderloin on top of a winter squash with onions and potatoes.

Got advice on this wine from one of the wine guys at K&L Wines. 29 Songs is a big ass Northern California Syrah, juicy and delicious. The wine guy suggested it, “wasn’t exactly a food wine,” but we enjoyed it with our dinner anyway.

Unfortunately, the lemon meringue pie didn’t turn out quite as well as I was hoping. For some reason the custard didn’t quite set. On the other hand, the Meringue was awesome. Ah well, nothing wrong with Lemon flavored version of, “œufs à la neige” in a pie crust! Great dinner anyway!

Bachelor Night 03

From Drop Box

Of course the way to start some quality Dog Boy weekend time is to take a trip to Fort Funston! Happy Dog, Happy Man!

Then fry some leftover baked potatoes with onions. Fried potatoes, not hard. Why do they suck most of the time in restaurants?

And serve the fried potatoes with leftover hamburgers on a toasted English Muffin.

From Drop Box

Some time passes. What would a Bachelor Afternoon be without a nap? Anyway, dinner for one at Gialina. Roast Chicken Breast with a Panzanella salad and a glass of wine. We’ve been going to Gialina nearly once a week since it opened and it remains about our favorite nearby restaurant.

Somehow ending up in Berkeley of all places, at the Albatross Pub, with friends, recently re-arrived in the Bay Area.

From Drop Box

They do have tasty beer at Albatross Pub, who can complain about Moonlight Brewing‘s Bombay by Boat?

BART back to San Francisco, and another night gone.

I guess “Sucker Punch” will have to wait until tomorrow.

Bachelor Night 01

A lot of people have recently been posting Dean Martin’s recipe for “Martin Burgers” on their sites, dug up by Letters of Note:

MARTIN BURGERS

1 lb. ground beef
2 oz. bourbon–chilled

Preheat a heavy frying pan and sprinkle bottom lightly with table salt. Mix meat, handling lightly, just enough to form into four patties. Grill over medium-high heat about 4 minutes on each side.

Pour chilled bourbon in chilled shot glass and serve meat and bourbon on a TV tray.

Well, obviously, we’re in California in the second decade of the 2000s, so we’ll need to mess with that a bit.

Start by slicing some heirloom tomatoes.

Follow your favorite recipe for burgers, mine involves bread crumbs, dry vermouth, spanish paprika, thyme, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil. Form your meat into patties. I like dividing a pound of burger meat into 3 patties. Heat a pan or start the grill.

Rent an appropriate movie. Preferably something about which your partner said, “That sounds dumb!” and about which you thought, “Yeah, that does sound kind of dumb, but cool!” I was thinking of Avatar, but it just seemed too woosy, and possibly too dumb, even for me.

Start cooking your burgers.

While they are cooking, add a tablespoon (or to taste) of rich simple syrup to a rocks glass. Squeeze a quarter size piece of orange peel into the syrup and drop into the glass. Add ice. Add 2 oz Bourbon and stir until well chilled.

Toast a bun or English Muffin. Spread one side with mayonnaise and the other with dijon mustard. Put some greens on the mayonnaise side and a slice or two of tomato. On top of this place the cooked burger. Cover top with mustard side, cut and enjoy. If you’re feeling particularly hungry, a baked potato is a nice accompaniment.

Pop in the video and enjoy.

BOTW–Double Trouble & Chilayo

First, just a reminder that Sunday, May 22, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails, (they also have a great beer selection,) on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

When I was growing up, my sister and I weren’t really allowed into the kitchen. Basically, about the only things we were allowed to do were load and unload the dishwasher and decorate Christmas cookies. Especially since the family roles were very traditional, even if I displayed some interest in cooking, men were really only allowed to grill things outdoors in our house.

Consequently, I was sent off to college with very little idea of how to feed myself. I survived the first couple years on dorm food, Ramen, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

But then I went and spent what little money I had saved on Comic Books and Records, so I had to get a job. I also needed to an apartment outside of the dorms, so I didn’t have to spend summers at home with my parents.

I really don’t remember how I ended up getting a job at Brat und Brau, I don’t think it was anything more than a random job application submission. Anyway, after they determined that I was unsuited for service work, I was assigned to the job of getting the dining room in order for lunch service, including setting up the salad bar and popping the corn.

Somehow, I parlayed this experience at Brat und Brau into a job as a prep cook in the catering department of a local deli chain.

It was there that I realized that I really enjoyed cooking. I mean at first I didn’t make anything more complicated than my typical bachelor food: fried potatoes with bacon, eggs, and cheese, but I sort of sunk into it and started to absorb the business and culture.

I’d always felt a bit like an outsider, and the people at the catering company were people I felt more comfortable with than a lot of the friends I had grown up with. They were outsiders. In the 1980s and 1990s, cooking was not yet really a reputable career, and my parents weren’t exactly thrilled with this new direction. I even tried to drop out of college my junior year and just cook, but they wouldn’t let me, “We’ve paid for your tuition this far, you WILL graduate.”

Anyway, I did eventually graduate, with a lovely and useful Bachelor of Arts in English, but as soon as I had finished college, I went into cooking full time at a local Southwestern Restaurant.

At the Southwestern restaurant, I was initially thrilled, this was really good food. Or, well, it seemed to be at the time. But then I started reading about actual Southwestern and Mexican Food, Mark Miller and Diana Kennedy were my first two big authors, and realized what we were serving was, well, not that good. A mishmash of Italian-American comfort food and Southwestern food, even though we were using decent ingredients, it bore no resemblance to any of the dishes I made from Ms. Kennedy nor even Mr. Miller.

Along with the early influences of Ms. Kennedy, Mr. Miller, and the Chinese Food Books of Nina Simonds, one of the people who has been most influential on me later in life is Alton Brown.

I always really like people who get down to the basics and demystify things that seem too complicated. Or, well, things that other people have made seem too complicated. Sure, cooking is complicated, but there are methods which allow us to understand it, and even generally end up with predictable outcomes.

I really like that he has always been on the side of demystifying food from a technical perspective, but not only that, but that he has championed American Food and Food Culture. He even seems like a sensible man.

I recently learned that Alton Brown has decided to stop producing new episodes of his Good Eats show on the Food Network, after a mere 249 segments and something like 10 years. Get sad about the end of a TV show? Especially one on the Food Network? Seems a little pathetic. But, I am. You can make fun of me now.

The first beer this week, is the Orchard White from the Bruery.

Orchard White is an unfiltered, bottle conditioned Belgian-style witbier. This hazy, straw yellow beer is spiced with coriander, citrus peel and lavender added to the boil and whirlpool. A spicy, fruity yeast strain is used to add complexity, and rolled oats are added for a silky texture.

I didn’t read the label at first, and was like, “What’s that flavor?” Put on my glasses, checked the fine print. Oh right, Lavender. Well, at 5% ABV or so, the Orchard White is easy drinking and enjoyable. Spiced Wit Beers are not generally my favorite Belgian style, but this isn’t bad, despite the Lavender, maybe on a hot day, when you’re feeling a little floral. Interestingly, I recently read that the Bruery is reorganizing its beer production and varieties, and to make room for other things in its schedule will be discontinuing the Orchard White.

Monty, however, is not impressed, with all this boring monkey talk about beer and food preparation. Until all this blah blah is over, he will be waiting on his chair at the table.

The second beer is Hops on Rye from Firehouse Brewing. I really know zilch about this beer and brewery other than a friend recommended it to us. Looks like it is brewed at a sports bar chain which has locations in East Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. The beer isn’t bad, a Rye based IPA, but I think Bear Republic’s Hop Rod Rye is a more, uh, elegant example of this style. Mrs. Flannestad enjoyed it more than I, it seemed just a little unpolished to me.

One of the first dishes I made from Diana Kennedy’s “Art of Mexican Cooking” was a pork stew called Chilayo. Like most Mexican dishes, there’s a bit of semi-labor intensive prep on the front end, and then its pretty easy. Preheat your oven to 300. Basically, soak some chiles in boiling water, then puree them with onions, garlic, and spices. While that is going on, cut up some pork stew meat (this was a very nice piece of Kurobota pork shoulder from Avedano’s Holly Park Market), pour warm water (or stock) over it, start it simmering. Add the pureed chiles and a half pound of quartered tomatillos. Cover and move to the oven and cook until the pork is tender. I served it with Rancho Gordo Cranberry Beans (cooked with a ham hock), Plain Brown Rice, spicy braised chard, and warm corn tortillas.

Definitely Good Eats.