Saturday, September 8, 2007


Pambiche is a regular stop for me. I've been there a fair number of times, with only one real miss. They have one of the two best mochas in town. They have amazing desserts. The entree portions are insanely large. The food is rarely off. The empanadas are good, the salads are good. The pollo croquetas are lovely. The fried yuca is awesome. The wait is just a tad long, though much improved when the outdoor seating is available during the summer. If you haven't been, it's worth a trip.

Last night, we started with the yuca con mojo. I love yuca. The tangy sauce was a lovely compliment. Did I say that I love the yuca?

I had the plato cubano, a favorite of mine. The pork, red beans, rice, and tasty, tasty yuca. Mmmm yuca. The pork was perfect this time. From time to time, it's been a little overdone and a tad chewy, but this time, it was succulent. I had te helado which is an iced combination of fruit and hibiscus tea, which was perfect for my mood.

PG had the lengua en salsa, the pork served in creole sauce over rice was pretty tasty. She was more than pleased.

Belle liked her arroz con pollo as well. I think she might be a bit of a ho (a southern ho) for the saffron, but the chicken was also tender and juicy.

You won't be hungry following the main course, but don't let that stop you from checking out the dessert display case. If you've ever been to Pambiche, you know that the dessert list is intimidating to say the least, and to make it more torturous, there are more desserts on the list than are available that day. So, you get to read all the descriptions and match them to the desserts on display. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sure you can make a mistake picking from the display, but don't get your heart set on something and then realize they don't have that day.

This time, they had a dessert I'd never actually seen in the glorious display case, papagayo. A delightful combination of passionfruit mousse, chocolate canela mousse, separated by layers of macadamia nut meringue, covered with whipped cream and topped with an adorable chocolate macaw! Wowsa! Belle and PG shared with me so as not to suffer any internal injury.

Food: 9
Drinks: 9 that tea hit the spot on a warm day!
Scene: 8, busy, busy. you'll probably have to wait
Service: 7

I'll be back.

Pimiento Cheese

1 lb sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 oz. diced pimiento w/liquid
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. mustard powder
1/2-1 tsp. cayenne

Mix 'em together; it'll be kind of pasty. That's pretty much it.

Remember, recipes are suggestions, not the law. If you like mayo more than I do, add more to make it more traditional (I'm guessing closer to 3/4-1 cup -- eek!) I imagine you could even mix in some different types of cheeses for variety. I like the cayenne, but you could probably leave it altogether.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Wine Tasting September 2007 - Rhone Revels

Let me start by saying that I have nothing against the French. I like butter and cream in my food as much as anyone. I like cheese, glorious cheese, stinky cheese, moldy cheese, the lot. However, the French and I have never seen quite eye to eye on wine. I like my wine with less barnyard, less dirt, and um, well less French than the French seem to do. Go figure. On the other hand, for the first time ever, my rankings were right in with the group. I do not understand, not one itsy bitsy tiny bit. One of these wines should only be used for cleaning paint brushes. Three of them were quite drinkable and the last was a bit all over the map.

Here's how it works: rank the wines from 1 to however many (generally 5 to 6 bottles) after tasting both with and without food. Go around the room and talk a little about the wine and share your rankings. Total the score. Tada. Lowest score is the winner. This time we had a tie, so don't get too confused on the numbering...

You're probably wondering what we drank? Well here it is:


In the order they were ranked by our intrepid tasters (my rank in parentheses):
1. Domaine le Goubert 1995 Gigondas "Cuvee Florence"(1) - Grenache less than 80%, Syrah an/or Mourvedre
2. Domaine Rabasse Charavin 2000 Cairanne "Cuvee D'Estevenas"(2) - Corinne Couturier top reserver wine
2. Domaine de l'Oratoire St. Martin 2000 Cairanne "Haut-Coustias"(3) - Mourvedre 60%, with Syrah and Grenache
4. Bosquet de Papes 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (4) - Dominant Grenache
5. Domaine Rabasse Charavin 1995 Rasteau (5) - blend of 70 year-old vines, Grenache 60%, Mourvedre 40%

The warm-up wines were:
Clos des Papes 1996 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc - This was by far one of the strangest whites I've had. It tasted something like a watered down whiskey, which I'm told is the characteristic "butterscotch" of aged Grenache Blanc. I didn't dislike it, but I'm not sure what to do with it either.

Chateau Pradeaux 2005 Bandol Rose - This was listed, but I think I missed it altogether. Oops. My bad.

Picklefest 2007!

364 jars!!! More to come.

Dills, Pat's, and sweets were only the beginning

Packing the green beans. Now there's a way to keep them from sticking out above the rim of the jar.

The potmaster at work! Yes, that steam burns, but he's tough! If you're going to try this at home, you might want to wear shoes and gloves.

Salsa, carrots, beets, and more dills -- and this is only the second plywood landing.

Nearing the finish line... The beans have been in for processing, and we've started on our third landing platform.

And last, but not least -- or should I say butt not least? Yes, that sweet relish was the end of the run and that is 364 jars total. If you're doing a booty shakin' dance in celebration, you have to know you're going to make the blog...

Birthday Festivities at Andina

Alright, so I've been waiting for the official photos on this, but I've decided to wait no longer! Official photos could be forthcoming.

Best birthday event ever held on a Monday night in the George V room downstairs at Andina! We had a remarkable amount of food and beverage! The tasting menu included a little of each of 12 small plates and two desserts.

Here's the menu split into courses:


Cebiche de Pescado "5 Elementos"
traditional cebiche of fresh fish "cooked" in key lime juice with a marinade of onions, cilantro and peppers

Cebiche de Mango Verde Y Langostinos
traditional cebiche of green mango, passionfruit and prawns

Yuca Rellena
cheese-stuffed yuca with an aji Amarillo and ricotta cheese sauce


Palta Rellena de Cangrejo y Langostinos
avocado stuffed with crab and shrimp

Causa Solterito
freshly mashed yellow potatoes infused with key lime juice ans pressed into a cake with savory vegetarian toppings

Chicharron de Langostinos
crispy golden prawns studded with quinoa

Pimiento Piquillo Relleno
piquillo peppers stuffed with cotija cheese, quinoa and aged Serrano ham


Anticucho de Pollo
marinated chicken skewers

Anticucho de Corazon
marinated beef heart skewers

Conchas a la Parilla
grilled scallops dressed in garlic lime butter sauce

Tortilla de Patata Y Aioli de Aji Amarillo
Spanish-style potato frittata with an aji Amarillo aioli

Esparragos Peruanos
fresh asparagus brushed with olive oil and grilled


classic Peruvian cookie, scented with key lime and filled with manjar blanco

Trufas Perunas
authentic handmade truffles with Peruvian flavors


So the setup was small plates that were shared. Everyone had the chance to try everything. Based on the buzz in the room, I'd say the cebiche de pescado, yuca rellena, palta rellena, chicharron, piquillo relleno, and the two skewers were the most popular dishes. The only two dishes that didn't rock my world were the prawns (truthfully, I've never had a prawn I love) and the scallops, which I thought were a tad on the salty side.

The desserts were both good, but I love the alfajores. It turns out the manjar blanco is very similar to dulce de leche, and I can't pass on that! If you have a chance to try the anise truffle, go for that too!

The service was excellent and the restaurant provided extra servers for drink orders for the first hour or so of the event. The restaurant was amazingly accommodating for the people with special diets and even provided alternatives to some of the dishes for the lactose-free, gluten-free, and vegetarians in the bunch. The five year-old who was having a picky day even got his own special chicken strips, made with the quinoa coating used for the shrimp, and yuca fries! Apparently they were also excellent.

All told, we consumed many bottles of wine (the Maquis Lien was by far the crowd favorite), even more cocktails, and tons of food.

Thanks to all y'all who saw fit to attend! See you next time!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

So it's been a while since I've posted anything here, and Miss Kitty is surely displeased. These are a few of the food outings of late.

I've rated this place before, and it remains one of my favorite places for a down home meal. They have excellent burgers, and you can't miss with the fried cheese curds. The drinks are always strong but tasty. What else can you ask? For starters, you can ask for Joe. Joe is the best. Lest I forget, rhubarb. Rhubarb tart, rhubarb cobbler, whatever is on the menu, order it. You won't regret it.
Drinks: 8
Scene: 9
Service: 10+, Joe rocks!

Nuestra Cocina is another of my regular hangouts; they consistently have amazing food, drinks and service. I love that everyone I've ever taken here leaves happy and satisfied. We had two appetizers, the sopes (mmmmmmmmm) and the queso fundido. Both were fabulous. They were running a little behind on the tortilla making that day, which was a little strange since it wasn't a ridiculously busy night, so that gave the fundido time to cool off a bit. Lucky for us, I suppose, since PG was likely to have burnt herself inhaling the stuff! Dinner for me the pork tenderloin with parsnip and guajillo salsa. It's true that I'm a sucker for celeriac. I cannot lie. PG had the pork as well. Mouse Ears went for the beef special. For dessert there was orange flan and cinnamon ice cream! The spicy margarita and the spice limedrop are amazing. Given the chance, get the de Granada while you're at it.
Nuestra Cocina
Drinks: 8
Scene: 9
Service: 8

I've heard the hype. You've heard the hype. Who hasn't heard the hype? Was it good? Yes. Will I go back? Probably. Did I die and go to heaven? No. Don't get me wrong. The menu was varied and original. Everything I had was tasty. I could tell you what PG thought, but I couldn't hear a word she was saying. Clearly I should learn to lip read or perhaps some essential sign language before going back here. When I left, my ears were actually ringing the way they do when you've been hanging in a bar with a really loud rock band. What's up Paley's people? Are there amplifiers installed for sound enhancement? Breathe. Okay, so what was this food? Well, we started with the crab beignets and the fava bean salad. Beignets were delicious and light. PG says they were were a little underdone. I don't particularly agree. She had the fava bean salad, which I'm told was delicious with it's preserved lemon. However, there was some sort of toast thing with a pepper on it that made PG's eyes water. I've seen PG eat some scary spicy stuff without blinking an eye. Um, if it makes her cry, it's too spicy, people. Seriously. I was afraid to try it. PG had the butter poached halibut, which was melt in your mouth good. Man, it was good. I'd go back just for that. The server even recommended a nice wine to go with. I had a lamb dish (I can't actually remember what part of the lamb) with sausage and chick peas. It was delicious if out of character for the restaurant's northwest-y feel. For dessert there was decent coffee, lemon mascarpone tart and molten chocolate cake with honey vanilla ice cream.
Paley's Place
Drinks: On the wagon!
Scene: 7
Service: 9

Wandering on Division -- don't ask why... Miss Kitty and I spot a new joint called the Matchbox Lounge. Apparently new, and possibly up and coming. We ordered drinks, both of which were good. Let's not talk to much about the waitress confusing the Easy Rider and the Hard Driver drinks, so that Miss Kitty felt obligated to consume both when they were delivered to the table... The house salad was good and not overdressed, which is so rare these days. I had a veal stock soup with morels, lardons, and arugula. Smack in the middle was a delightful morel flan. Miss Kitty had a grilled cheese with ham and muenster. She's still talking about it. :) All this from the happy hour menu! I'm pretty sure I'll check out this place again.
Matchbox Lounge
Drinks: 8
Scene: 8
Service: 8, she gets points for trying, right?

So, the girls are out for a night on the town, but we need to make it in time for the show at 7:30. Let's go somewhere new we say. Okay, I've heard a bit about this place on Hawthorne called Iorio. I think it's been there a couple of years. Certainly it's been there long enough to work out some kinks, right? Apparently they could use more practice. The more I think about it, the less i think I might go back. Details, please? Why certainly.

First we're shown to our table. We tell Jeffrey that we need to leave by 6:45 to make our show. Then everyone disappears. Perhaps we've entered some alternate dimension where the menu explains itself and the food brings itself to the table? Nope. That's not it. Crap. 5 minutes later, mind you, this is opening at 5, not during a dinner rush, the waiter comes to ask what we might like to drink. Drinks? You have drinks? "Do you have a menu, or should we make them up," says Artsy Broad. Perhaps we've scared him now...

Skip to the drinks. We were finally off to a pretty good start when the spanish coffee and mango mojitos arrived. Now we arrive at the part where we realize that menu items are things like "catch of the day" and "today's ravioli" and we begin to realize we are missing key information for placing our orders. Where has Jeffrey gone? Oh,Jeffrey? Ope, there he is. Once the daily menu is explained we're off again.

Miss Kitty is sold on the gnocchi with the shrimp special for a starter. She was unimpressed. Art Broad goes for the beet salad and the scallops over mushroom risotto. I, lucky me, have opted for the scallops over celeriac puree (yes, there it is again.) They don't suck. They are well cooked, but otherwise unremarkable. They are paired with a salad of greens which actually seem to conflict with the flavors in the scallops. I'll just eat scallops and then the salad I say. Disaster averted for now. Let's see how they do on the second course, I say. Puff pastry with goat cheese and eggplant. Yup, i'm sure all those things were in there somewhere. The puff pastry is undercooked and coated in a layer or three of soggy cheese, eggplant, peppers, and again this mysterious pile of greens. All in all it tastes pretty good. But then I get in past the crunchy exterior to find uncooked puff pastry. Ew. What do I do, I can't send it back; there's really no time, right? Okay, power through. I eat all of the cooked pastry from the edges and consume the salad and assorted other toppings. Okay, it's only 6:20, let's give them one more chance. We all order coffee, and I order the flourless chocolate cake with crema gelato (and apparently magical strawberry puree which was not listed on the menu.) The coffee arrives. It's pretty standard illy coffee. The dessert arrives. Oh dear. Where has the time gone? Suddenly it's 10 to 7. Miss Kitty cleverly asks that the bill be prepared while we consume our coffee and dessert. Oh, now the chocolate cake is pretty good. I'll have another bite I say. Is that burnt chocolate? Why yes. Surely they saw that before they turned it out on the serving plate. Surely. I won't swear. I'll eat around it, and then we can just get out of here. Needless to say we walked out the door at 7:03. Sigh. Hmm. That was a rant.
Drinks: Responsible designated driver!
Scene: 7
Service: 5

Whew! Clearly I should post more often, or at least avoid Iorio!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Peppered Salmon with Ponzu

I had the good fortune of receiving an unexpected gift of fresh salmon. Normally, I like to just throw it on the grill with a bit of kosher salt, pepper, olive oil, and dill. However, as fate would have it, spring has arrived, but summer is not quite here yet. I couldn't rely on it not pouring on me when I was out with the grill, so I wimped out and went with an indoor method which is a variation on a Cooking Light recipe from this month or last.

2 T mixed peppercorns, ground
1 T sesame seeds
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 salmon servings with skin
1 tsp. canola oil
5-6 drops orange oil (zest would work here, but I had none)
2 tsp ponzu
1/2 tsp agave nectar or honey

Heat oven to 400F. Mix the first three ingredients in a shallow dish. dredge the cut side of the salmon in the pepper mixture. Heat oven-safe frying pan over medium heat. Add canola and orange oil. Fry the salmon for approximately 2 minutes on each side. Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes until flaky or whatever you like. Plate and pour 1/4 of ponzu mixture over each piece.

I served this with broccoli raab that had been blanched for 2 minutes and then put in cold water. Then I sauteed a garlic clove in olive oil and added the raab and tossed until the raab was fully reheated and tender. Simple and delicious.

Chicken soup for the sick girl's sanity

So, you might think I've been remiss in posting. However, the day after I wrote the wine tasting post, I went to Le Happy with four friends at the request of one Miss Hello Kitty (MHK). When we arrived, we were informed that there was no heat in the building, but we decided to stick it out by keeping our jackets on and ordering alcoholic beverages. The mixed drinks were tasty and not terribly expensive. I actually opted for a hot coffee and liquor drink in order to further distract from the cold. The crepes were pretty good, though not the best I've had. They were heavy on the cheese and light on other ingredients. The dessert crepe with pear and chocolate was over the top, but shared amongst several would not stop your heart immediately. Were I to do it again, I'd opt for the simpler sugar and lemon version. MHK did, and it worked for her. I'd go again if I were already in the area, but I'm not sure I'd head to that part of town just for a hipster crepe.

Le Happy
RATINGS (Keep reading to decide how big a grain of salt...):
Food: 7
Drinks: 8
Scene: 7 (might have been higher with heat)
Service: 8, friendly, but damn slow
Illness: Just starting.

But I digress. On my way home from the restaurant, I noticed just a hint of scratchiness in my throat which I attributed to too much alcohol and gabbing with the girls. Boy, was I wrong. I woke up the next morning, I was sick, sick, sick! Now, I'm the kind of person that gets sick and tries to pretend like it's allergies for the first week or so. I didn't even try this time. I just sat on the couch with my tea and chicken soup. Just in case you're wondering, the chicken soup was Trader Joes. Green Tea and chicken soup. Crackers an chicken soup. Black Tea and chicken soup. You might be asking yourself why I only had chicken soup. I have no answer. But it was already here. It was soupy. It made my nose run and temporarily stopped my cough. I did not argue. This went on for the next 10 or 12-ish days. Blech.

By the 15th, I was ready for something with no chicken, no soup, no tea. Luckily, MHK was having a birthday party at Masu West. She and 20 of her closest friends descended upon the lounge and consumed $400+ in sushi and beverages. Now the sushi was a touch expensive, the the drinks were actually quite reasonably priced. I had a Tokyo Drop (grape, lychee, vodka) and an Asterix Gimlet (gin, lime, kiwi). Both were mmm mmm good. There were some bizarre sushi combinations as well as a few more mundane. The St. Helens was way overkill. They spider roll was also too much, but the unagi, salmon, california rolls were all quite good. The squeel was a fascinating tempura sushi. Fried sushi. Is that legal?

I came, I saw, I ate too much sushi.

Masu West
Drinks: 9
Scene: 9
Service: 10

I'll be going back for drinks and snacks. I'd be cool with taking a group here again. the service was quite capable even with our large group.

Clearly I was back on the wagon. By the 18th I was ready for a trip to Savoy on 26th and Clinton with a couple of friends. I love this place. I mean, don't get me wrong. The service is always, and I mean always, bad. They're not rude, just absent even when they're standing at your table. The food is just good old standards. The drinks are interesting and super potent and cheap. I had a burger with blue cheese. It came with thin crispy fries and pickled onions. I love pickled onions. Love. My Three Sisters cocktail claimed to have been Bombay Sapphire, Chartreuse, and lime. I can vouch for the gin and chartreuse, but I'm not convinced on the lime. It had a hint of lime, once I squeezed the garnish into it. :) However once I just considered it a martini on ice, all was well.

Savoy Tavern & Bistro
Drinks: 8
Scene: 9
Service: 6

After Savoy, we headed to Pix on Division for dessert. I had the Amelie and a Cocoa Chanel. The hot chocolate at Pix is really good. What I love is that it's chocolaty and not insanely sweet. The Amelie is one of my all time favorite Pix desserts, though it is closely tied with the Pear Rosemary Tart. I always come back, even with the strange music.

Pix Patisserie (Division)
Drinks: 8 cocoa chanel is super tasty
Scene: 8, what's with the music?
Service: 9

Whew! That's a lot of cursory discussion of the past 3 weeks. Let's hope for more in depth coverage in the future.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Wine Tasting March 2007: Hola Priorat!

So what happens when you put twelve adults, a five-year old boy, three dogs, and an ailing cat in a house on the beach for the weekend with a case of wine a a dozen lamb shanks? Well, I know what happens with the people I know...

Wine Tasting March 2007: Hola Priorat!
Warm-up wine: Erath Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc $11
Here's how it works: rank the wines from 1 to however many (generally 5 to 6 bottles) after tasting both with and without food. Go around the room and talk a little about the wine and share your rankings. Total the score. Tada. Lowest score is the winner.

In the order they were ranked by our intrepid tasters:
  1. 1995 Gran Clos de J.M. Fuentes $45 (24 pts)
  2. 2001 Clos De L'Obac Costers del Siurana $??? - the wine guy gave us a deal (32 pts)
  3. 2001 Cartoixa Reserva d'Scala Dei $34.50 (33 pts)
  4. 2001 Pasanau Le Morera de Montstant $32 (43 pts)
  5. 1999 Crianca Morlanda $44 (48 pts)
For the record, I ranked # 5 as #1, and the rest in the same order listed above. I liked the two oldest wines the best. Rumor has it the production has changed in the last 10 years in the region and that steel is becoming more common than oaking the wines. Coincidence? You be the judge.

#1 was a resounding #1 with the group, which rarely happens. They were all well liked, but in the end we found no real price performer. #1 was certainly a crowd pleaser. #4 had one characteristic I should not fail to mention. The crowd generally described it's smell and taste as composty. The others were more mineral and spice.

Friday evening:
meat lasagna, salad, wine

Saturday breakfast:
coffee, coffee, coffee! cowboy's breakfast, oatmeal brulee

saturday lunch:
cold cuts (count them, 3 kinds of salami!), bread, beets, coffee cake

saturday wine tasting dinner:
3 varieties of cheese from Spain, potato and arugula soup, merlot and rose water braised lamb shanks, couscous, celeriac and kumquat salad, cherries jubilee

sunday breakfast:
blueberry pancakes, sausage, bacon, orange juice and champagne, pineapple, leftover cakes from the day before

I'm sure I've left something out, but suffice it to say that's a lot of food! Also of note: a delightful champagne of all chardonnay from champagne, etc, and I quote, " very expensive" was brought by the wine nerd. There was nary a naysayer in the bunch. The five-year old stuck to juice.

Oh yes, let us not forget the making of the peeps!
more peeps

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


It seems that if you take a quart of goat milk, mix it with 2 cups of sugar and then simmer it for 2-3 hours, stirring every 5 or so minutes, until it thickens and carmelizes, you get a delightfully tangy caramel sauce. Apparently it is traditionally used for crepas con cajetas, which is simple a crepe with some of the caramel and some nuts. I approve. Wholeheartedly.