My friends Lynn and Karen and I have been meeting the third Wednesday of every month for years. We started out at Victor’s because there was parking (Karen’s need). That was back when there was smoking. Ugh. But they had great popcorn and sometimes free food which, for Victor’s I thought, was pretty good. We’ve branched out over the years and since Lynn retired from the hellhole she was working in we now head north, for her convenience. We like Bravo in Bayshore, I think the bar food is really good and it’s cheap at happy hour (and they have the world’s best waiter) but we were regulars at Alioto’s for quite some time being fans of the deep fried dill pickle, until it inexplicably closed. They had a good wine list, great happy hour food and AWESOME (I use this word too much) onion rings. They were more like those onion hay stacks but they were really good, home made.

Imagine my surprise when I saw it had reopened. So we went there last night. Apparently it had closed for remodeling. I’m not sure what their interior design goal was but, Christ, it was poorly thought out. The walls are dark gray-blue-green, a color that sucks the pink out of your skin and makes you look cadaverous. There is not a soft surface in the place and the noise scatters like ball bearing on concrete.

No more onion rings. No more dill pickles. No more wine list (Seriously?? House cab? I don’t think so, not that I didn’t slug down a half gallon after a while you don’t notice the metallic after taste) and the rest of the food was unremarkable to less-than-remarkable.

I’m not one to not give the place another go at it. John (Alioto, I presume) came over and talked to us. We whined about the onion rings. He said he’d think about it. That’s more than I would have done when I owned I restaurant.

Macerated vegetables

This was really an exercise in preventing all the produce I have from: A. Rotting, and/or B. Becoming breeding grounds for fruit flies, and it was also simply experimentation with food. I decided to create a macerated vegetable salad, or maybe it might end up more like gazpacho or ceviche, I’d be good with any outcome.

I didn’t want the tomatoes sitting there any longer being the love shack, providing nourishment and nursery for the fruit flies and by making the “salad” this way I could dispatch the offending produce in no time and not think about it again until I was ready to eat which could be later today, tomorrow or whenever.

I used only the tomatoes that were already going over to the dark side, cutting out the soft, fuzzy, discolored stuff, sliced what was left into chunks and added sliced peppers and onions. I used the yellow peppers that came in my CSA of which I was very leery since I have a vivid memory of my mother slicing yellow peppers when we were kids not realizing that the palms of her hands were gonna burn for hours. After all my precautions I thought to taste it and it wasn’t hot.

I doused the whole thing with vinegar, salt and loads of pepper and let it sit overnight. I had it for lunch 2 days in a row. Adding cottage cheese to the horror of my colleagues. It was delicious.

This morning I read in Bon Appetit the “new trend” of macerated vegetable salads. I am prepared.

Pizza Night!

Pizza is man’s highest culinary achievement and no pizza is more achieved than the pizza made at Peggy and Paul Schmidt’s house. Seriously.

For longer than 10 (and it might be more like 20) years the Schmidt’s have been making pizza every other Monday for at least 10 adults and, although the kids are grown and gone, there used to be some 20 or more of them swarming around the kitchen as well. Besides being the nicest folks in the world, they host and feed us all night, an infinite variety of pizzas processing in front of us as we slog wine and wait to be served, helpless as baby birds.

They make their own dough and roll out each crust topping them with an amazing assortment of stuff, each pizza more delicious than the one before. Though, on reflection, that may have something to do with the amount of wine I consume.

Last night my favorite was caramelized corn and creme fraiche. But I also love their buffalo chicken pizza. (Last night’s was particularly good because they were able to put bleu cheese on it. Their son, Drew, who lives in France, fer chrissake, doesn’t like bleu cheese.)

The paper thin crusts are thrown onto a shrieking hot heavy bottomed pan, sauced, topped and whipped into the oven. It is a process that they make look simple and effortless. I have never heard them say it is otherwise, or complain about the amount of work the night is. Like I said, they are the nicest people in the world, nicer even than Michelle Obama, well, maybe not that nice, but you get the idea.

All of these pizzas, by the way, were from last night and I didn’t get but half of them.

French tomatoes

Ashish is in France at a conference in Toulouse. I have never been to Toulouse and he assures me it’s nothing remarkable. But then he sent me these pics. Now this is something to be jealous about.

In France, where there are markets everywhere, they put the origin of the produce so you know where it’s come from. You know that the tomatoes from Fronton, for instance, are in, ripe and picked just 4 kilometers away. People stand around and discuss their preferred produce, vendors, theorize about when the particular item will be in and ripe, how long the crop will last. Of course, the French can discuss anything to the point of annoyance. But I find I love being in the market hearing them talk lovingly about tomatoes.

He may not like Toulouse, but I envy him his tomatoes.

Mess, part 2

Granted, I have a small kitchen. There is barely 3 feet of workable counter space. I should get exact measurements. But no matter, I never think I’m working in a cramped space and I’ve made dinner for a lot of people. What I have though, is a terrible inability to be tidy when I’m cooking. Thank god I have an industrial garbage disposal. 

Tomato sauce/fruit fly control

I have, as I may have mentioned, a fruit fly issue from time to time. I have all sorts of produce lounging around on my counter for various reasons; I don’t like to refrigerate tomatoes, I have to let these nectarines ripen at room temperature, garlic and shallots shouldn’t be refrigerated, I forgot to put the limes away, a kohlrabi I have no idea what to do with, and then with all of that produce comes my second favorite house pet, the fruit fly.

In the interest of ridding myself of the miasma of fruit flies that hover around me when I am drinking red wine I decided to rid myself of some of the produce lying about. I had a fair amount of roma tomatoes and decided to make sauce with them. While it is fairly simple, it’s a whole lotta work. There’s a quick boil, the skins have to come off (though I have to admit the peels come off really neatly) the meat of the tomato just poops out if you squeeze them right and then some slow simmering. I dispense with the foley food mill my mother would have used, for the blender.

I got about a cup of sauce from an afternoon of messy work. Not the most profitable use of my time but I got rid of the fruit flies. Kinda. 

Monday’s salad, today’s lunch

I had a lot of tomatoes from various places. CSA, farmer’s market, neighbors and co-workers. Most were romas but I had a couple big ones that were pretty much becoming breeding territory for my vast collection of fruit flies. Fruit flies are not too different from begging dogs in my mind. Fairly innocuous but there when they want what you’re eating. Or more to the point drinking. They love red wine. 

Anyway, I had to cut up these giant tomatoes, douse them with vinegar and put them in the refrigerator or there was going to be a population explosion. I added a little sliced onion since I was making a salad the next day for dinner with friends and thought I’d make a marinated italian kinda salad. It wasn’t half bad considering it had been refrigerated something that, to me, ruins tomatoes. There was a enough left over so I saved it and when the next night my niece Maureen came over and I added still more tomatoes, onions, green peppers and extra vinegar. There may have been some stray olives in there but I didn’t add any more because her boyfriend doesn’t like them. The leftovers from last night will be today’s lunch. It is a sort of gazpacho now. The tomatoes, onions and peppers have given up their juice and what remains is an extremely savory liquid with some vegetables into which I am going to add cottage cheese. This will undoubtedly gross out my co-workers. But it won’t be the first time.

My mother, who taught me to eat like this used to put canned tomatoes, canned spinach and cottage cheese together in a bowl and call it “poor man’s lasagna.”


Monday Dinner                                                          Wednesday Lunch

Sausage fest

I pass the parade of different sausages everytime I pass a butcher counter and since I go to some grocery store or other pretty much every day and every store has its own display, I see a whole lot of sausages. It feels like they are all trying to out do each other; blueberry breakfast sausage, buffalo chicken sausage, turkey and stuffing sausage and on and on. So I decided to try some of them. I got some from Whole Foods and some from Pick N Save (Actually it was Metro Market, but it’s just really a Pick N Save with higher prices).

Did you know that legally you cannot wrap a turkey sausage with a pork chorizo sausage? Poultry and pork must be separated. That is until you get them home and put them on the grill together. 

I got chicken feta and spinach **, chorizo*, hot italian*, turkey brat and my personal favorite the buffalo chicken****. Normally, I use a three star rating with no stars being good enough, one being delicious, two outstanding and three something to write home about, but the buffalo chicken was really hands above all the rest. If something wasn’t good enough I wouldn’t mention it unless it was, say, poisonous. In which case I’d come up with some way to alert the media.

In the interest of honesty, I have to admit, I have never used a star system before.

Watermelon and feta

As I said in an earlier post about watermelon I planned to try watermelon and feta together. So fine. I went and bought a honking watermelon and butchered the damn thing The amount of waste is horrifying (where is that worm farm when you need it) but I butchered and filleted it and dumped the feta on it. I also added some mint which seems right but I’m not such a fan of it. This is a taste that like lemon, adds a “bright note” according to the TV chefs. To me it adds a “toothpaste note.”

Anyway, the seedless watermelon was not exactly great. I think they bred the taste out when they bred the seeds out. But the combination of the vague taste of watermelon and the taste of feta was nice. I avoided the mint but everyone else said it was good.

Smoke Shack

 Last week my friend Barb and I ate at the Smoke Shack a newish place in the 3rd Ward. I’m not sure I like the name since it reminds me of the smelly, smokey bars of days gone by, but I’d heard good stuff about it and we decided to try it. 

It looked nice, old-timey road house kinda place with loud blues playing (coulda lived without that). Stools with no backs, don’t like that too much. Nice bartender. And the food, well, it was good enough to make us not think about the annoying blues guitar solos and maudlin lyrics. We had pork (sorry Patty) BBQ nachos that were amazing and then we had BBQ egg rolls. Oh my god. The pork, I have to say, is farm raised, organic and local. And delicious.

Please note Miller Lite product placement.