Last night I ate with Jeanne, Greg and Jerry at the Rumpus Room. I don’t like the name of the place, Rumpus Room, doesn’t sound like somewhere I’d want to eat anyway, but in fact, I liked the interior. It bills itself as a gastropub which is a term I don’t really understand but that’s OK because we didn’t understand trattoria (not that we do now, a real trattoria in Italy is not like the lame, so-called trattorias around here anyway) but the point is that we understand words like cafe, bistro etc, mean restaurant here in the US and while I don’t really understand what a gastropub is, I do know it isn’t what the word sounds like because the word sounds like an intestinal disturbance.
I had the muffaletta sandwich. It came with crinkle fries. I don’t really care for crinkle fries on some childhood memory level but as it turned out these were not fully cooked (I ate them anyway) and then the sandwich was 90% bun. I won’t go on about it though. It wasn’t terrible and I ate it. But I won’t rush to get back there. Our server was sweet, I will say that and his service was good even if he didn’t refill Jerry coffee cup. Jerry’s a grouch anyway.
Unfortunately for them, my first experience with muffaletta was the gold standard of all muffaletta. Central Grocery in New Orleans. It was one of the most deeply gratifying, delicious and life-altering experiences with food I’ve ever had. I had to sit on a park bench (like about 40 other people were doing) and eat it dripping oil between my knees onto the ground. It was a warm butter slathered bun loaded with ham, mortadella, provolone and piled high with olive salad. And the whole thing was wrapped in parchment.
I wish I could eat one again for the first time. The heavens opened up and angels sang.
I wish I could be an organized kind of cook. I wish I could clean as I go. I wish I would throw away the detritus of my culinary endeavors as I went. But I can’t. I don’t even know how it gets like this. It just does. Eventually it reaches a crisis point and I regroup. But it is never ever organized and tidy. Just regrouped.
Diet challenge in the office. I have to lose 8 pounds in month or pay $50. I’m not sure I can lose 8 pounds. Though I have it to lose, I’m not sure I have the stuff. I have had success over the years with some one of those fad diets that came around. I don’t recall the whole thing but it involved a lot of chicken (cabbage mostly) soup. You make a vat of it and then you can eat all you want anytime you want it. This might seem tedious but when you’re driven, well it works. You can eat things high in protein, but not fat. Fresh vegetable or fruits. I think you can’t have bananas or pineapple but I ignore that. You can’t have alcohol of course. Totally ignore that.
I made my vat of chicken soup. I like mushrooms but not in this particular soup for some reason, so I cooked extra ones. You can have all the damn mushrooms you can eat of course. I also like the soup with soy sauce. So sometimes I add that. In this case I added it to the mushrooms and ate that on the side.
As of today, one week, I’d lost .4 pounds. I’m plateauing.
Bolognese in France. I cannot resist bolognese sauce. I have it any time I see it on a menu. I generally don’t even care it’s not all that good. This pasta, however, at the small corner restaurant in Hyeres, Le Bon Coing (Provençal for the good corner) had great bolognese and I had it often. This particular picture is my desktop photo and I never look at it without being able to taste it and dreaming about a big bowl of it.
In the most recent issue (June 2012) of Bon Appetit magazine Anthony Bourdain makes the claim that he is not a snob. He may not be many things but he is a snob. I think I like him, I have certainly read a lot of his stuff (excluding his awful and poorly written novel that got published after he was famous but was written before, I imagine) and listened to him read his most recent book in which he excoriates a lot of people he doesn’t like.
For the record a snob is a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field according to dictionary.com. He may be a willing participant in the eating of what he thinks of as food beneath his station and he may think that means he is not a snob. But he is one nonetheless.
I have to admit that I am not a fan of Paula Deen necessarily or Andrew Cuomo’s girlfriend, whatever her name is, but I can see that they have value and recognize that people might like what they have to offer. And I certainly wouldn’t trash them the way he seems to like to do. I will also admit that I enjoy a lot of what he has to say and how he says it. But, not a snob? I don’t think so.
My nephew Charlie and I met Paula Deen once at the Fancy Food show in New York. She was lovely and friendly. She gave me a packet of her “house blend spice” or some such thing. It was salt, pepper and garlic powder.
I have somehow trapped myself into liking expensive coffee. I used to drink Maxwell House and be perfectly happy with that. I drink it black. I don’t need Starbucks, don’t really like it all that much either. But I have saved thousands over the years drinking cheap coffee. In the past 2 years or so, I began drinking Alterra coffee, a local coffee roaster and not just any Alterra, it’s a mix of french roast and Nicaraguan something or other. I have to buy the 2 and mix them together. I grind fresh beans every damn time I make it. It’s cheaper than going to Starbucks, but still.
What I would like to know is why all the super duper plastic this stuff comes in? It’s supposed to be organic but it comes in unrecyclable, unrecycled, uncompostable bags. Why? I reuse plastic bags for many things, like my dog’s poop (the plastic bags that cereal comes in are really excellent storage bags) but it’s impossible to use these for much of anything. They smell like coffee which precludes putting say, cookies in them, and they aren’t flexible enough to be able to pick up dog poop with.
I really love how Francis Lam writes. I think his recipes are easy to follow, enjoyable to read and generally something I’d like. So when I read his recipe for Italian sweet and sour cauliflower, I thought gotta try it. I love sweet and sour, cauliflower and Italian.
So not anything I will ever make again. I ate it but wasn’t that happy about it.
On menus in France you will occasionally find something called croustillantes, generally it is an accompaniment or side. It can be all sorts of things, sweet or savory, but the word essentially means “crispy things.” The last time I was in Paris, having dejuner with my sisters and my friends Michael and Terry in the unprepossessing La Tartine on the rue de Rivoli, I had a very fine salad topped with 3 or 4 melted cheese-covered croustillantes. The salad was great (and I returned to La Tartine many times in the course of the month I was there) but the croutillantes were outstanding. Toasts covered with cheese, drizzled with honey and topped with sesame seeds.
In my re-creation they are grilled left-over French bread, smeared with left over boucherelle (or maybe boucheron, they taste the same to me) cheese that I processed with cream cheese. I didn’t have enough to use the cheese by itself and, really, the cream cheese made it smooth and spreadable when the crumbly goat cheese is, well, too crumbly.
Croustillantes are easy because you can make the toasts days before, or really, whenever you have leftover bread, put the cheese on them hours beforehand. And then broil them right when you need them. I served these with fig jam this time. But I made quince jelly last fall that was AMAZING with them.
This turned out to be awesome. I like the grill pan thing because you don’t lose the smaller vegetables. I grilled the chicken skin side down (salt, pepper, garlic powder [love that stuff], oregano and something, maybe sage) right over the flames until the skin sorta charred then I put the grill plate on the grill, threw the vegetables (green and red bell peppers, onions and crimini mushrooms which I had tossed with olive oil and a dab of balsamic vinegar, onto the plate and put the chicken skin side up on top of all of it.
The grill pan, by the way, from Sur La Table is a million times better than the hideously expensive one I bought at Williams-Sonoma. The SLT pan came with 2 other sized pans for considerably less than the one single, overly-complicated (read: hard to clean), poorly shaped pan that warps over high heat that I got for much more money at WS.
Last night when I was sufficiently hungry I tried these again and it occurred to me to look at the ingredient list. To see, you know, all the naturalness. As well as the soy sauce content since they taste like crunchy soy sauce.
Uh, yeah, not all that “natural.” The multi-grain part is pretty far down on the list and there’s no soy sauce, although there is soy lecithin which I am imagining is not what I taste that tastes like soy sauce. I enjoy the “contains 2% OR LESS cheese powder,” so there may be none at all. For that matter they could put contains 100% or less M&Ms because there is certainly less than 100% of M&Ms in them.
The soy sauce is a mystery but they still taste filthy. I made grilled chicken for dinner, details tomorrow.