Friday, July 23, 2010

Bloggers Favorites on Simple Lovely

isetta two tone
I am both thrilled and flattered that one of my favorite bloggers, Joslyn of Simple Lovely, has asked me to do a Bloggers Favorites list for the regular feature on her site. (And I'm so excited that she mentioned Food 4 Kids!)

It's up today - head on over there and check it out! xoxo

bmw isetta photo via netcarshow.com


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Portland Part I - The Kennedy School and DOC

McMenamins Kennedy School Hotel - Portland

Have you ever fallen asleep in class? If not, now's your chance! That's the gist of the tagline of this quirky hotel just outside of downtown Portland, and it suits them well. It's housed in a converted school building that was built in 1916 and closed in the 1970s. It was fully renovated by the McMenamin's operation in the 90s or thereabouts, and includes not just 32 rooms - converted from former classrooms - but no fewer than five bars, a restaurant with a huge outdoor courtyard, a soaking pool, brewery and movie theater. There are no TVs in the rooms but you'll never miss them - you'll be too busy drinking their house-brewed beer and distilled spirits in the pubs, playing pool or shuffleboard in the Boiler Room bar, soaking up the sun in the courtyard, taking in the two nightly movies - or paddling around in the salt water soaking pool.
McMenamin's Kennedy School - Room

The above photo is of our room - complete with the classroom cloakroom lining one wall. Looking all that long row of hooks took me right back to Marcy Elementary. The rooms are comfortable and spacious, but free of bells and whistles - I had to ask for a hair dryer at the front desk. It did have beautiful high windows, a king size bed and a bathroom with shower stall though - not bad at all for $140. per night. It was also right across the hall from the restaurant, making for an easy stroll to breakfast (and back from the bar at closing time.)
McMenamins Kennedy School - Portland

The buildings are arranged around a huge garden courtyard. It's empty here because it was about 100 degrees at the time - but on most summer days it would be perfectly comfortable. In the winter I bet that giant fireplace puts out some heat.
McMenamins Kennedy School - Portland

The front desk is in the original school office through the archway, complete with lift up countertop. I'm pretty sure there was no refrigerator full of beer in there though when the elementary schoolers were running around.
McMenamin's Kennedy School Pub

Two of the five onsite bars, the Honors Bar and the Detention (cigar) bar are tiny, housed in what look like supply closets. We spent most of our time in the Boiler Room bar, playing pool and shuffleboard and sipping the house-brewed Hammerhead Red Ale and cocktails made with Penney's Gin and citrus juices.
McMenamins Kennedy School Courtyard Bar

The Courtyard is the only restaurant on site, and also houses a copper lined bar. To be polite, the food is not a draw at McMenamins. They have a good hummus plate with warm pita bread, and the tater tots with peppercorn ranch are shamelessly irresistible, but the menu sticks to fry cook fare - burgers, quesadillas, a few salads, etc. Luckily, two of Portland's best restaurants are within an easy walk...
DOC - Portland

On our first night, we ventured into the warm evening to walk five blocks or so to DOC, a tiny gem of a restaurant on the same 30th street corridor as Beast, and owned by the same group. (We went to Beast the following night, so both of our dinners in Portland were - somewhat ironically - eaten on the same block.)


DOC - Portland
We sat on the sidewalk at the empty table pictured above since the weather was pleasant by that time - the sun having gone over a bit.
DOC - Portland

The menu is influenced more by seasonal and regional ingredients than a strict Italian theme, which was just fine with us. Wanting to try as much of it as possible, we opted to both order the 5 course tasting menu ($50.) when our server told us they would bring us each something different. In essence, we received a 10 course tasting menu for two, for $100. James also order the wine pairings, and I opted for a cocktail followed by a glass of white (and a taste of each of his pairings, of course.)
IMG_9291

This bread and olive plate was the first thing to arrive at the table. You know that saying that you can tell how good a restaurant is by it's bread? It worked here. It was ethereally light and airy inside but with the perfect amount of chew and crispness in the crust. A great foil to the grassy, rich olives.
Bread, butter and olives at DOC

My first course was a tongue salad with beets and horseradish creme fraiche. The photo doesn't do it justice - it was savory, spicy and rich - and the tongue was as thinly shaved as the greens. It almost belonged on a gourmet Jewish deli menu - a borscht salad. (How about that for a restaurant idea? Nouveau Jewish Deli...)
Chard, Tongue and Beet Salad with Creme Fraiche at DOC

James received clams with spicy chorizo - a dish that surprised us since it was not on the menu. These were sweet, garlicky and spicy and gave us something to mop up with the bread.
Clams with Chorizo at DOC

I really wish I had thought to write the wine pairings down, because many of them were unusual. What surprised us most about this place was the incredible service and serious approach to food and wine, it seemed out of sync in a way with the tiny size and informal atmosphere - it made the place a gem, vs. a nice little spot for a bite and a glass of wine.
DOC - Portland

We had another course in here, a gnocchi for James and a risotto for me. These were the weakest dishes, which is interesting because they sounded the best to me on the menu. The gnocchi was served with slivered snap peas and carrots, and the risotto with morels and peas. The risotto was not risotto, it was simply rice - and the gnocchi was a little over cooked. We were able to push this around on our plates and out of our memory once the next course arrived though...
Salmon with Grilled Romaine, Chanterelles and Lemon Cream at DOC

The salmon dish, pictured above, made up for everything. The crispy skinned filet was propped on a small grilled romaine heart, with sauteed chanterelles and a lemon mousseline cream. The cream complimented the romaine and the salmon just perfectly. The flavors were reminiscent of a Caesar salad - with the seafood, lemon and romaine, but so much better. The cream was really unusual - the tiniest bit sweet, just to eliminate any bitterness, and rich but silken and light. It was simple but just different enough to be genius.
Pork with Apricots and Green Beans - DOC

James received the pork, which they informed us was slaughtered the day before. It was very simply served with apricots and pole beans. It was nice, but the meat could have been more tender and a sauce would not have hurt. It was about this time that the mosquitos started in on us. We went from swatting a few every so often to "Oh my God we're being eaten alive!" in the space of a few minutes.
DOC - Portland

DOC - Portland
After the main course, we had to retreat to the dining room to escape. I wasn't disappointed, since I wanted to experience the inside of the restaurant too. I loved the way the kitchen was just inside the front door. I'm pretty sure that isn't legal here, and even if it were it wouldn't work in most places since the kitchens aren't that - shall we say - decorative? I wasn't able to take any more food photos in the dim lighting - but we moved on to a perfect cheese course - a small slice of Tillston Point blue cheese accompanied by a grape must jam for me, and another cheese for James that he loved just as well. Our server/sommelier concocted a little dessert wine cocktail for James as his pairing.

Dessert arrived soon after - a cherry almond crostata with creme fraiche, and a sliver of rich chocolate cake with coffee ice cream. With this I ordered a pot of coffee - which they made in a vacuum pot, a glass contraption that looks like a chemistry set, using Stumptown beans. I could tell when he was done and had poured the cup that he was just daring me to ask for cream. I tasted it to see if it was needed, and it was perfect. In fact, if it weren't such an ordeal, I'd consider buying one to use at home. We finished off the meal with a sip of grappa as an aperitif.

After a much-needed post-prandial constitutional through the tree-lined streets of Concordia, we whiled away the rest of the evening (and an hour or two of the next morning) playing tabletop shuffleboard and pool in the hotel's Boiler Room bar.

I don't know if I can speak for James, but it was the best date I've been on in a long, long time!

McMenamin's Kennedy School
5736 Northeast 33rd Avenue
Portland, OR 97211
(503) 249-3983

DOC
5519 Northeast 30th Avenue
Portland, OR 97211
(503) 946-8592

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The 2nd Annual San Diego Food Bank Food 4 Kids Program Fundraiser!

FOOD_4_KIDS_-_CHECK_PRESENTER_FRONT

I'm dying to tell you about Portland, but before we get to that we have more important business to attend to. Today is the launch of our second annual Food 4 Kids Backpack Program Fundraiser! If you're thinking it hasn't quite been a year, you're right - Caron Golden and I started this program last year during the holidays, but we soon realized that the best time to raise funds for a school related program is in the summer, so that we can get needed help to these kids in time for the school year.

The Food 4 Kids Program was launched in 2007 to provide food for chronically hungry elementary school students on the weekends. These kids receive free or reduced cost meals while school is in session, but do not have food available on the weekends or school holidays for themselves and their siblings. Food 4 Kids provides food directly to them, without requiring their parents to receive a referral to a local food pantry, pick up food at the pantry or prepare it at home. Every Friday, participating students receive a backpack with child-friendly items such as peanut butter, pop-top canned goods, cereal, juice boxes, fruit cups, raisins, pudding cups, granola bars, shelf-stable milk and macaroni and cheese tucked inside.

During the 2008-2009 school year, the Food 4 Kids program served approximately 200 children in eight schools throughout San Diego County. Last year, in just three weeks we collected $6000 in funds and about 1200 pounds of food. As a result, the San Diego Food Bank is now serving 525 children in 19 schools.

Still, only a fraction of the eligible kids are receiving food, and the Food Bank would like to expand the program even further. It costs a mere $6.00 per week per child to fund, and a donation of $250.00 will fund a backpack for a child for the entire 36 week school year. Giving whatever you can afford will help the Food Bank continue grow the program and meet the demand.
IMG_7495
In an effort to meet this need, the 2010 “Food 4 Kids” fundraiser has been expanded this year. It is being run not just by myself and Caron, but Susan Russo, of the popular blog Food Blogga, and local chefs/consultants Diane Stopford and Amiko Gubbins. This summer's program will also run for six weeks instead of last year's two, and there are three ways you can help!

1. Monetary Fundraiser: We have a fundraising site on Firstgiving to collect monetary donations, and keep track of our progress. The address is http://www.firstgiving.com/food4kids Donors will be eligible for prizes which will be awarded by random drawing at the end of the event! (More information about the prizes will be posted soon.)

2. Backpack and Food Drive on August 21 at Little Italy Mercato: On Saturday, August 21, a food and backpack drive will be held at the Little Italy Mercato (last year's is pictured above). Please bring neutral backpacks (with no logos or markings and preferably black or red in color) and kid-friendly non-perishable prepared foods such as applesauce, cereal, fruit cups, mac ‘n cheese, pretzels, shelf stable milk, etc. to the Little Italy Mercato between 9 AM and 1 PM, where Food 4 Kids volunteers and Food Bank personnel will be collecting them.

3. Dollar-a-Dish: During the month of August, several San Diego restaurants will select one of their best selling menu items and will contribute $1 to the Food 4 Kids program for every order of that dish sold during the month. As of today's date, the following restaurants have agreed to particpate:

Alchemy
Bencotto
Café Chloe
Casa de Bandini
Casa de Guadalajara
Casa de Pico
Cosmopolitan Restaurant
Cowboy Star
Croce's Restaurant and Bar
Cucina Urbana
Dining Details Catering
Gaglione Brothers
George's at the Cove
Hilton Garden Inn, Del Mar
JRDN
JSix
Kensington Grill
Lotsa Pasta
Nine-Ten
O'Brothers
Pizza Fusion
Playa Grill
Rimel's
Ritual Tavern
Royal India
Sessions Public
Soleluna Café
SoNo Trading Company
Starlite
Stingaree
Terra
The Red Door
Urban Solace


Please visit these restaurants during the month of August and ask about their dishes!

More posts will be coming soon with updates about our progress, more participating restaurants and information about the prizes and some other surprises, so please check back with us!

For more information on the San Diego Food Bank and their Food 4 Kids Program please visit:
http://www.sandiegofoodbank.org/programs/food4kids

Please also "like" us on Facebook and check out our hashtag on Twitter for the latest updates and news!

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/food4kids
Twitter: #Food4KidsSD

Friday, July 09, 2010

Portland Ho!


We've just landed in Portland - a city I've never visited but always wanted to check out, so I'm pretty excited. We won't be there for long, & the itinerary is jam-packed.We're actually staying in two different hotels - James insisted on staying our first night at the McMenamin's Kennedy School, a funky artsy remodeled elementary school turned hotel near the airport. The Kennedy School is close to the 30th Street strip where Beast & several other restaurants run by the same group reside - including DOC, Yakuza & Fats. They're booked with wedding parties for the rest of the weekend so we're moving to the Ace Hotel downtown on Friday, but we're actually coming back to the hood on Friday night for dinner at Beast. It's the one place I just HAD to go. It was the hot ticket during the IACP convention and I've been hearing about Naomi Pomeroy for years.

We're also planning to do the food carts on Friday (I'm all about the schnitzelwich at Tabor) and check out Pearl Bakery, Clyde Common, Stumptown Roasters, Voodoo Doughnuts & maybe Kenny & Zukes. How I'll eat all that I don't know, but I guess I'll find out!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Vietnamese Breakfast at Out the Door - San Francisco

Out the Door - Fillmore, San Francisco
Seeing as we're about to head out of town again (this time bound for Portland - woot!) I think it's about time I jammed in these last couple of posts about our trip to San Francisco, oh, what - two months ago? In fact, I've been wanting to tell you about this meal for even longer than that - since our first visit in February, when most of these these pictures were taken. After that trip, too much time elapsed, I had other things on my mind and I just didn't get around to it. I also knew I'd be going back again and wanted to wait until I'd visited twice before writing a post. Yes, I know. The things I do for you...
Crispy Impeial Spring Rolls at Out the Door
There are three Out the Door locations in the City, all offshoots of Charles Phan's famous Slanted Door at the Ferry Building (bonus points if you remember the original location in the Mission.) The first one is also in the Ferry Building, on the concourse directly behind the restaurant. It's a walkup takeaway stand, with Vietnamese coffee and a few dishes to go (try the bahn mi) as well as take-home kits for making Slanted Door specialties at home. The second location is a full sit-down restaurant at the San Francisco Centre Westfield mall on Market Street, and so is this one, tucked away on Bush Street just South of Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights. Only the Pacific Heights location serves breakfast and brunch, at least as of this writing - and though I've enjoyed the food at all three locations - I especially liked the brunch.
Daikon Rice Cake at Out the Door
Though it was 10 AM on a Saturday when we visited, I had to order the crispy imperial rolls, the daikon rice cake and the vermicelli noodle bowl, just because I couldn't resist. Regardless of the time of day, there are few things in I would prefer to eat over crispy pork stuffed spring rolls with fresh herbs and sweet fish sauce for dipping, especially when accompanied by grilled shrimp and vermicelli and more of that sauce poured all over... If pressed, I do have to admit the vermicelli dish is not significantly different from those you'll find at other (less expensive) Vietnamese restaurants, but still, it does not disappoint.
Vietnamese Breakfast at Out the Door
If you prefer eggs at that hour of the morning, they are more than happy to accommodate - with traditional eggs and bacon or something more original, like the brisket hash with potatoes, poached eggs and gravy that Brandon ordered.
Vietnamese Breakfast at Out the Door
James went non-traditional with the Beef Pho, which I don't think he'd ever tried before, but he really enjoyed. I'm not a pho person myself so I couldn't really criticize it, but it certainly looked good with all the fresh herb and vegetable add-ins. Sort of along the lines of Menudo, a hot bowl of spicy soup can be very restorative the morning after a late night... or so I'm told.
Vietnamese Breakfast at Out the Door
What really clinched it for me though, was the beignets. Hoo boy, the beignets. Crisp on the outside, light, tender, warm and slightly eggy on the inside - they're better than Boulette's (and you know how I feel about Boulette's.)
Beignets at Out the Door.  Swoon.
They offer Vietnamese coffee with two beignets on their breakfast and brunch menus - two things together that just about form my idea of heaven. Add that to my two favorite things in the world to eat (the aforementioned spring rolls and vermicelli) and not surprisingly, you've pretty well sold me. Add in some original breakfast dishes, a lovely atmosphere (lovely enough to draw Jamie from Mythbusters on our second visit - my only celebrity sighting in San Francisco to date!) and you've got a pretty solid combination in my book.

Out the Door
2232 Bush St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 923-9575
reservations recommended for parties larger than 2 (if you don't want to sit at the bar or communal table)

Monday, July 05, 2010

Piecrust, Porchetta and Peonies Part II - The Recipes

Peonies, hydrangeas, roses & sunflowers
Though I think it wound up being the right choice, porchetta was not actually my first choice for the main course of this dinner party. My original plan had been to fry chicken in the turkey fryer - set up right there in the garden. Since we'd never done this before (never even used a turkey fryer, truth be told) I thought it would be a good idea to do a test run. Two weeks before the event, we invited a few friends over and bought three small frying chickens from Whole Foods. I cut them up, brined them, buttermilk dipped and fried them, using Thomas Keller's recipe from the Ad Hoc Cookbook.
IMG_8889
We had a little trouble with the oil temperature at first, but once we got that figured out and turned out some edible chicken - we decided something kind of surprising. We actually didn't like Thomas Keller's recipe all that much. It calls for quite a bit of onion and garlic powder, two things I generally don't use - but I can believe might be good in fried chicken. It was also brined in lemon - and that bitterness combined with the sharpness of the garlic and onion powder was just a little much. We could have adjusted the recipe, but frying chicken for eight people on the spot was a heckuva lot of work, and we figured doubling the number of people wouldn't help, so we retooled. Enter the porchetta.
Porchetta
Not having made this before, I looked at a few recipes ahead of time - Zuni, Jamie Oliver, Cesare Casella - and arrived at the conclusion that if I couldn't get a skin-on pork shoulder a la Jamie, I should go with Cesare's method of wrapping a leaner cut in the belly. I ordered a whole belly and a whole shoulder from my favorite local butcher shop Homegrown Meats, and trimmed the pieces to fit. (Cesare's recipe calls for a loin, so I'm sure that would work too.) I liked the sound of the seasonings in the Zuni and Jamie Oliver recipes - so I used garlic, parsley, sage, lemon juice and zest to make sort of a chimichurri like slurry that I rubbed all overthe meat. The whole shebang then goes in the fridge to dry out overnight before roasting. (See below for the full recipe.)
Barefoot Contessa French Potato Salad
For sides I made my favorite French potato salad - and a potato gratin that I cobbled together from thinly sliced potatoes, a bechamel sauce, shredded gruyere and chives. I also made some pickled red onions, yellow wax beans and carrots. For the red onions I used this recipe, which has become my go-to as I think I've mentioned before, and for the carrots and beans I used Alice Waters' basic pickled vegetable recipe from the Art of Simple Food - see below.
Galettes
I made these galettes using a quadruple recipe of this pie dough. The figs were from a friend's tree and to go with them I made some frangipane (recipe included below) which I also used for some nectarine and cherry tarts.

Fig Galette


Frangipane is a paste of ground almonds, sugar, butter and flour - it goes great with stone fruits and is often used in coffee cake or pastries. It's also delicious spread on toast and baked and topped with jam.

Nectarine and Frangipane Galette


The strawberry tart was inspired by a delicious dessert on the menu at Cafe Chloe - strawberry galette with creme fraiche ice cream. If I'd had more time I would have made the ice cream. It's insanely good with the warm, juicy tart!

Galettes


Porchetta
adapted from Jamie Oliver, Zuni and Cesare Casella's recipes

1 whole pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
1 whole pork belly, silverskin removed and trimmed to an even thickness.
kosher salt

5 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (such as Maldon)
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh sage (you can just use parsley if you don't have sage on hand)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
zest of one small lemon (zest it, then juice)
juice of 1/2 small lemon
about 1/4 cup olive oil - enough to make a slurry
1/8 tsp of cayenne or ground red pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
several coarse grinds of black pepper

The pork belly will be a long rectangular piece of meat about 1.25 inches thick. Trim the pork belly so that the short side of the rectangle is as wide as the pork shoulder is long. Unroll the pork shoulder and cut a chunk that is the right size to fit inside of the pork belly so that it wraps all the way around. Rub all surfaces of the meat with kosher salt (you should use about two tablespoons.)

In a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with the salt. Add the chopped parsley and sage and crush. Add the remaining ingredients and stir (I use a small rubber spatula right in the mortar and pestle, but you can also transfer it to a bowl) Smear the mixture generously on the meat covering all interior surfaces, leaving the outer skin of the pork belly dry.

Set the pork shoulder chunk inside the pork belly and wrap the belly around it. Tie a piece of string very tightly around each end and then wrap the middle (it helps to have someone hold it together for you.) Tie it as tight as you can, since it will shrink as it roasts.

Place the roast on a shallow pan in the refrigerator, uncovered, for at least twelve hours (preferably twenty four) before cooking.

Two hours before cooking, remove the roast from the oven and allow it to come to room temperature.

Half an hour before cooking, set the oven temperature for 450. Place the roast in a draining roasting pan. (I used a Costco turkey roaster.)

Put the roast in the oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 375. Roast for about 2-2.5 hours, until the internal temperature registers 165.

Slice and serve on soft rolls with pickled onions and arugula. Aioli would also be nice.

Alice Waters' Pickled Vegetables
Adapted from The Art of Simple Food

This recipe makes about six cups of pickling brine, enough for about 2 pounds of vegetables (depending on what you use.) I especially like it for carrots.

3 cups white wine, champagne or rice vinegar - or any combination thereof
3 cups water
4 tablespoons sugar
1-2 bay leaves
3-4 fresh thyme sprigs
Half a dried cayenne pepper or a big pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric or curry powder (optional, but nice for the color)
2-3 whole cloves
1 teaspoon peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, smashed but still intact
a big pinch of Maldon salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium pot and pring to a boil. Cook each type of vegetable separately in the boiling brine, scooping them out and filling jars with them as they are done. Set them aside to cool. Once all the vegetables have cooked and cooled and the brine has cooled to room temperature, pour the leftover brine into the jars and refrigerate. They can be eaten right away, but I think they taste best after a day or two.

Frangipane
This recipe is from culinary school - so it's in weight, not volume. Mea culpa - but you really should get a kitchen scale if you don't have one :)

4.5 ounces of butter, very soft
4.5 ounces of sugar
4.5 ounces of almond meal or ground almonds
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/8 tsp almond extract
3/4 All Purpose flour
pinch of salt

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and almond meal until fluffy. Beat in the egg with the almond extract and vanilla paste. Add the flour and salt and beat just to combine.

Spread this mixture in a thin layer over the pastry base for a tart. It's especially good with puff pastry. If possible, leave a bit exposed so that it can puff and brown around the fruit.