Monday, October 19, 2009

My Inner Southern Belle

Well this all started about a week ago. I ordered 6 nail polishes and some firm hold hair spray from the beauty supply and its been a downward spiral ever since. I'm becoming southern. Its true. I only want to eat pie and have lacquered finger nails and curl my hair. This is what I get for making fun of Paula Dean. Its all catching up with me. If I start wearing petite miss suits in cotton candy and powder blue, please start an intervention. Its sad 'cause I kinda like what Ms. Wisconsin has got going on.

So for dinner tonight I will be feasting on deep dish apple pie that Diana made, chipotle peach BBQ chicken, and beans with bacon and brown sugar. Mmmm!

So for the chicken I mixed one jar of chipotle peach salsa from Trader Joe's with ketchup, brown sugar, worshtichire sauce, white wine vinegar, garlic pepper, salt, chili flakes, and cumin. Next time I will use honey instead of brown sugar so that it makes a more syrup-like consistency. The flavor was really good, but the sauce was runny once the chicken started cooking and the juices mingled with it.

For the beans, I mixed a big can of pintos, 2 bay leaves, salt, garlic powder, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 tbl of brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and chopped two strips of thick cut bacon. I covered it all with chicken broth and simmered for about 30mins. It was sooooo good. I love baked beans. Actually, I just love beans.

So I wolfed this all down with a glass of Clos La Chance, Syrah wine for $7.99. Its really good, cheap wine. If you ever see it, buy it. It pairs perfectly with BBQ chicken and The Rachel Zoe Project.

Well, that's it. Not too exciting. Sometime this week I will attempt to make baklava. We have lots of walnuts and some frozen phillo dough....and my really good butter! I can't do it tomorrow, cause that's a GCN night, and Wednesday is Top Chef.... so I guess Thursday?

And to all my fans out there, is there anything you think I should try to eat or attempt to make? Let's hear it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Top Chef: Volume 3

Ok... I'm gonna make this quick. I'm not in the mood to type all that much, and my hands hurt from cutting hair. So can we all agree that this season is just WEIRD? So many twists and I never know who will get cut next. Also the contestants are very strange this season. I go back and forth on hating them. But one person is constant....I REALLY do not like the Hedge Hog.

So the guest judge is Charlie Palmer. The dude looks like a pedophile and also like the butler form the Simpsons that always says, "Yesssss."

He is famous for popularizing American cuisine and he worked with both of the Vagina Brothers (the Voltaggio's.) I didn't think it was fair. By the way, is it me or are the brothers' eyes getting smaller and more rat like?

So the quickfire challenge is pretty lame. They have to do a food pairing with potato chips. Nothing about this excites me. I call that challenge: lunch. Anyway, ugly Eli wins it because he is fat and gorges on chips while smoking pot in his mother's basement. Ya, he lives with his parents. And he was trying to pawn it off like its this kitchy off beat lifestyle he CHOOSES to adhere to. Sure pig, sure. He makes Potato Clam Salad with Fennel, Celery, and White Truffle Sauce and pairs it with the onion potato chips. It looked good....for once.

So the main challenge seemed like something I could get behind. They have to cook for Pigs and Pinot an event dedicated to eating pig and drinking pinot. WHO HAS BEEN READING MY DIARY? Why wasn't I invited? Anyway, they all got to choose their pinot and build a dish around it. Then they drew knives to see what cut of pork they had to cook. Its so serendipitous because I cooked pork tenderloin yesterday in a chardonnay and applebutter reduction. Seriously, who is following me around?

So it seemed like everyone did a great job. There was porkiness everywhere and everything looked really good, despite them serving their dishes on clear plastic plates and serving wine in plastic tumblers. Anywhoo, the winner was Kevin again! He made Pork Leg Pate and paired it with the 2006 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills, Pinot Noir. His looked gross, but I love pate and I bet it was delicious. He also had chopped chestnuts on top which was genius. Like I said before, Kevin has this in the bag! I want to start a fantasy football team but with Top Chef. I'm great at guessing who will win... and I need the money.

So the losers are Lauraine, Robin and Ash. Lauraine made a pork butt Rillettes. The judges said hers tasted the worst and it was like cat food. She should have been sent home...but wasn't. Robin made a Brined Center Cut Pork Chop and the complaint was that she didn't have enough meat on the plate. And Ash made a Chilled Pork Tenderloin with corn and I think olives. He also embarrassed himself again by saying the Hedge Hog was a master chef and he second guessed what he was going to make and the event. Needless to say, he went home. It was time.

So I feel a little weird because I kinda like Robin now. Everyone was totally ganging up on her and my inner ghetto/savior was like "Nuh Uh! Oh nooo you didn't!" Everyone was being so mean to her at the house especially the little hog Eli. He was yelling at her for no reason. He took the cutting board she JUST cleaned and was about to use. After she told him that, he went off and started yelling that she wasn't his mom as he descended the stairs. It was very comical because in that situation, she did look like his mom. And he seemed like an immature, ungrateful, ugly child stomping down the stairs to his lair of stink, porno, and heavy metal music. She just responds with, "Thank god I'm not your mother." And she truly believes this with every fiber of her being. Go Robin.

What was also weird was that Mike Isabella wasn't totally disgusting this episode. He kinda shut up and stopped being an asshole. He made fun of himself a bit and had a good looking lebanese meatball dish. He also looks like my bartender G Spot, so maybe that has something to do with it. Anyway, great show. Can't wait for next episode when its Restaurant Wars. Sweet.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Retraction Action! I'm a strong woman. I can admit when I'm wrong. And I do have to admit, I might have been a little misleading with my very first blog, the one about Chase. Let it be known that I absolutely love it there. I will sing their praises from the highest mountain. To me, its THE perfect place for a happy hour night. I seriously hope that it remains the small "locals only" joint that it is, and that tons of people don't flock over there and ruin my Tuesday night plans. This is what I live for.

So I've been going to Chase every Tuesday night for about a month now. I have only blogged about it once and there are two reasons for that: 1. I really want it to be my secret so I still have a spot at the bar. 2. Its become my intimate little hang out and I'm so comfortable there that I feel like it would be boring to read about. I think I'm wrong. I think everyone needs to know about the tasty little treats being dished out.

Ok, so I'm going to retract a lot about my first review, however, I still stand behind that the blueberry martini is gross and that I wouldn't eat cheesy bread on a date. With that being said, the food is really really good. Now that I have eaten there a couple of times I can say that it is a mix of Italian-American and authentic Sicilian recipes. I was really impressed tonight with our food and I want to come back for lunch when the chef makes a puttanesca sauce from scratch WITH anchovies.

So for dinner, G Spot brought out bread and two dishes of antipasti. One was a dish consisting of whole white beans, onions, spices, and olive oil. It was good and sweet and had a slight creamy texture from the beans. The other dish was my favorite. Apparently it is a Yugoslavian dish consisting of cabbage, tomatoes, paprika, and sweet peppers. It was similar to Macedonia pepper mash. REALLY good!

For dinner, I had the lasagna which was awesome. In the words of Rachel Zoe, "I die." It was huge and so delicious. The sauce tastes homemade, the filling was beef, pork, and veal, and it was super cheesy and so satisfying. I usually don't eat veal. I find it too sad. Veal is my version of a gate way drug. If I start eating veal, then I know dog is next, and sooner or later, I will find myself eating monkey because it was offered. Ya...slippery slope.

Diana's dish was really good too! She left her order up to G Spot. He's really good at ordering and for some reason has this innate sense of just knowing what you are in the mood to eat. Perhaps its because his mom is MADAME ROSINKA?! Ya. NOT kidding. So bad ass. Anyway, he ordered Diana the chicken parmigiana and a side of penne in a roasted pepper sauce. The penne was good but had more of an eastern European flavor: very smoky and sweet. The chicken parm was pretty damn good. The breading on the chicken made all the difference. It was really crispy. My guess is that its a combo of bread crumbs and corn meal (polenta).

Meggy ordered the ravioli which were super yummy too. The filling was ricotta and herbs and it was in a pesto cream sauce. Definitely filling, but an addictive flavor that makes you want to lick your plate.

It was cold and rainy today so this is exactly what we were in the mood for. Everything was warm and cheesy and just cozy. I love Chase because it has atmosphere but isn't too loud. It's the perfect place to congregate after work and shoot the shit and just chill. I really love it because the interior makes it look like a lot of the restaurants in New York. It reminds me of a very small version of Les Halles with its dark cherry wood, and dark leather seats and Christmas lights. It's familiar and comfortable. Not to mention, G Spot is a cute guy who appreciates good food, which is clear since he is constantly snacking on something! He's a great old fashioned bartender in the sense that he not only pours drinks, but he entertains us while we are there. He helps us order and is always offering us little tastes from kitchen. He also is carrying pear vodka he is a good listener too.

So I hopes this clears up a few things and that people understand why I keep going back. Its simple, really. Chase is the bar you've been looking for. The spot you've been wanting to call your own. The food lures us in, but G Spot keeps us coming back for more.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Top Chef Night 2

Wow. As you can tell, I've been avoiding writing this entry. TC aired on Wednesday. It's Friday now. It's time to get it all off my chest. I just have to say that I thought this whole episode was really weird. I, of course, HATED the ending. I also thought the quickfire challenge was really rushed and I don't all didn't feel right. The whole thing gave me a weird vibe. Ash was acting like a slave, Robin and Mike were team members, the Hedge Hog RUINED Ashley's life! It was all very unsettling. Let me explain:

So I don't know whose idea it was, but Tyler Florence was the guest judge. I have nothing against Tyler Florence. In fact, I think he seems like a pretty nice guy who is reasonable good looking, although constantly bloated. However, they have had Hubert Keller, Eric Ripert, and Wylie Dufresne all who have Michelin stars! Is Tyler Florence REALLY at that level....I think not. But if I ever see Rachel Ray's little pug face on my Top Chef, I'm gonna go ape shit. I have beef with that woman.

Ok, so the quickfire challenge goes like this. There is a big slot machine with adjectives and nationalities. Everyone cranks the slot thingy and gets three words that they have to build a plate around and Tyler Florence decides who wins. Excellent idea for a challenge.

Ash got: tired, tart, Italian. He made a puttanesca sauce which I found clever because a tart is a whore. So good one, Ash! It looked good but very straightforward. C'mon now, I make puttanesca every now and then! Show me you are better than me!

Ashley got: blue, cheesy, middle eastern. Honestly, I think she had the hardest. First off, no food is blue, secondly middle eastern food isn't cheesy! She banged it out by making Sumac Crusted halibut with feta foam. It looked soo good; like a delight! I fell in love even more. *sigh

Bryan (the robot) got: adventurous, crispy, Asian. He's so lame. He doesn't know what adventure is. His snooze fest of a meal was seared scallops with bok choy and tempura beads. Waa Waaaaaa. Seriously, wake up kiddo! It looks fine and all, but make something EXCITING for once. I know you want to be Mr. Straight and Narrow in comparison to your "wild child" brother, but sheesh! Live a little.

Eli the Hedge Hog got: stressed, umami, Latin. This is a VERY cool mix. He could have done SO much. Personally, I would have done a smoky chile verde with tons of cumin for that umami flavor. He does shitaki mushroom ceviche with avocados. Can you imagine how gross that is?? I bet it just tastes like musk.

Jennifer got: adventurous, nutty, American. I would hate that mix of words, but oh well. Maybe I would make a pistachio pesto with manchego instead of Parmesan? Anyway, she made diver scallops with pistachios and caviar on top. She got in trouble because they didn't think she made anything adventurous, and I agree.

Kevin got: stressed, spicy, Asian. He made pork with daikon and a Vietnamese salad. Everyone was impressed because he nailed Asian flavors and he does not cook with them. His dish was also a real pretty color and looked very good.

Lauraine got: tart, romantic, Latin. I would have made a key lime pie ( Miami, hello Latin!) and made a truffle with dark chocolate and chili peppers to go on top. Rad, right? She made a salad with goat cheese and a pomegranate dressing. Oh, has someone been reading my blog for recipes?? I think SO!

Mike Isabella got: stressed, umami, asian. He made raw sliced mushrooms with an yuzu emulsion. His looked gross too. And jeeze people! Umami doesn't mean MUSHROOM! And why is everyone this season so obsessed with yuzu? I've had it. Its not that great!

Mike-the-Devil-may-care got: adventurous, tangy, Asian. That sounds like a personal ad to me...but I digress. He made an yuzu curd with raspberries, Greek yogurt, and a seaweed cracker. It really looked amazing. He is adventurous. I will give him that!

Robin was wearing a TERRIBLE shade of lipstick. I decided the name for that color of lipstick is Lusty Prune. Seriously, the WORST color. Anyway, she got: stressed, umami, middle eastern. She made a veggie hash with cumin and curry oil. Curry isn't really middle eastern. Woman: why are you here? Who did you have sex with to make it on the show?

Anyway, every one's dish looked pretty good! I think this is the best they have ever done. All of them looked restaurant ready besides the Hedge Hogs. Seriously, his made me want to puke. I imagine the taste of avocado and mushroom is like eating spoiled guacamole. Anyway, Kevin won again. His looked great, like I said earlier. I'm pretty sure he's gonna take it. Go red heads.

So the contestants' next big challenge is that they have to prepare a family style dish in teams of two at their house. The must make a meal in honor of a famous chef's cooking style with ingredients the chef has picked out for them. Tyler Florence is the guest judge...again.

So Bryan and Lauraine (who are so boring it makes me feel like I'm in a coma) get paired up. They make a meal inspired by Tyler Florence. It looked good but it wasn't impressive at all. It was Halibut and Sherry-Chorizo Viniagrette Yellow Corn Cake with Avocado Mousse. I'm sure it tasted great, but once again, IMAGINATION!

Kevin and Jennifer are paired up together and their chef was Tom Douglas. I think they were an extremely strong team. They are both excellent chefs, especially when Jennifer isn't hungover. They made Kobe Beef with Tomato-Cardomon Broth, Petit Bok Choy and Asian Pear. They clearly should have won. Everyone was raving about how amazing that broth was. Cardomon is one of my favorite Russian! I bet it was a flavor explosion. Jennifer wins because her broth is so amazing. I wish I could have tried it. It sound so good. I bet it would make a good addition inside a vodka martinni too!

Mike and Robbin were teamed up and had Takashi Yagihashi. This was just hilarious to watch. Robbin seems SO annoying. She was driving him nuts! It was great because he couldn't boss her around because he doesn't know Asian food at all and she claims she does. It was just a car wreck. Robbin is burning food right and left, Mike is all deflated and bruised because he doesn't have any ideas! Comedy. They ended up making marinated Mushroom and Pickled Pear Roll, Seared Tuna and Scallop, Truffle Ponzu. It was kind of a mess.

Michael and Ash were really weird to watch. All of the sudden Ash develops this super man crush on Michael and decides to lick his butt clean and do whatever he says. It was like Stockholm Syndrome. The chef they got was Nancy Silverton. Ash didn't contribute anything. He just sat back while Michael's meth-induced rant came out with some civilized ideas. They made Pancetta Wrapped Halibut with Egg Yolk Ravioli, Fennel and Asparagus. I guess they wanted it to be like a carbonera. It seemed really good. Problem was they didn't get a good sear on the fish because they were cooking on these weird electric woks instead of the kitchen like normal people.

Lastly and sadly, handsome Ashley was paired with the evil Hedge Hog and their chef was Govind Armstrong. They made Grilled Spot Prawns with Red Beet sauce, Creme Fraiche Gnocchi and Kale. It all seemed like it would have been delicious! Eli really wanted Ashley to make her gnocchi. And she did. However, when her back was turned, Eli over salted them and then deep fried them instead of sauteing them. Seriously, Colonel Sanders uses less oil to make chicken. He ended up ruining the gnocchi, and Ashely didn't cook the prawns enough because she was worried about overcooking them. So Hedgehog threw her under the bus and she was sent home. I'm so so so sad. I never thought she would win, but I thought top 4 for sure! She was sent home before her time. How can Robbin still be there and not my lovely Ashley? Sometimes the galaxy doesn't make sense.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Festivals are cool, Port-A-Potties are Not

Well kids, it was that time of year again when boys became men and girls became women. was the annual Avocado Festival in Carpinteria. 3 Glorious days of stuffing your face with actually QUALITY festival food. I said it before, but Mexicans can COOK! And the Avocado Festival is their super bowl.

I had to work 2 out of the 3 days this year, so I didn't go balls out like I wanted to. There was so much to taste and I didn't get to sample nearly as much as I wanted. But everything I did eat was amazing to say the least.

I know what you're thinking. "Festival food? Gross." But this isn't actual carnival/festival food. Think of it more as street vendors or the worlds longest taco truck. Everything is made with love and care and with extreme attention to detail. So to start my culinary adventure (at 10 am) I bought some chips and guacamole from the high school cheerleaders, who happen to make the Worlds Largest Bowl of Guacamole. It is an inflatable children's pool loaded with avocado, onions, jalapenos and lime. I'm not really into kitchy hype like that, but seriously its really good guacamole. Also, I was a cheerleader for Carp high and remember waking up at 9am to chop onions and cry. Maybe the secret ingredient is cheerleader tears?

After my guacamole, I went to the old favorite of mine which is the Lions Club's Famous Tri-tip sandwiches. Imagine a french roll loaded with savory, tender tri-tip and smothered in strips of avocado. Oh. My. God. It always hits the spot. I can't even explain it. Its meaty juices soak into the bread and intimately mingle with the avocado just like sluts at a frat party. Did I mention I love avocados?

I also sampled the hand rolled chicken taquitos for the first time this year. VERY good. Probably my new favorite. They used all white meat, which is a little gringo for me, but still good. It was really garlic-y, so of course I liked it. However, I'm still gonna claim that thigh meat with some fat would have been better. The taquito shell was really good. Very crispy and light and perfectly seasoned. It was served with some guacamole that wasn't very good. It was pretty watery and didn't have any kick to it. I think its a crime to make guacamole without any heat. I also had some churros. And well...they were churros. What do you want me to say about it?

One REALLY important part to mention is that Meggy Girl really wanted a funnel cake. I don't blame her. The smell of vanilla funnel cake permeated ever inch of the festival. It smelled so good you could almost see it. Remember in Looney Toons cartoons when someone would put a pie in the window and the scent would slowly drift and then become a hand that beckons people? Ya...the funnel cake was doing that. So we waited about 15 minutes in line to get a funnel cake. It was the only food booth with a line, which I find hilarious. But it was worth the wait. As you can see in the pic, the cashier was almost god-like as he handed the treasure to Megan's humble hands. It was worth the wait.

So to top it all off, of course I ate all of this while downing some Avocado Honey Ale from Island Brew. SO SO SO good. Its like a very light amber ale, but with no hoppy flavor at all. Its very smooth and slightly sweet. As you might have guessed, its made from the honey from avocado blossoms. There isn't any real avocado in it...but I like the avocado creativity.

As for the rest of the evening, the gang and I waited about 45 minutes in line to enter The Palms. If you know the bar I'm talking about, you would laugh. For those of you who do not know what The Palms is, first off, congratulations, you are less white trash than me. Secondly, imagine the dirtiest, dingiest, small town dive bar. Good. Now make it more white trash. That's The Palms. It was fun like always. Its the place where everyone in town flocks to and dances the night away. So all in all, Avocado Fest 2009 was a huge success. Next time, I will have to try the avocado ice cream. Usually McConnels makes it and it tastes like cold, sweet, guacamole. However, this year, Coldstone Creamery made it and apparently it was good. I found this out AFTER the festival was over. Food blogger fail.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Eat at Joe's!

Ok, so I found myself dining at a Santa Barbara staple on Friday. Yes, I ate at Joe's. Joe's is the oldest running restaurant in Santa Barbara, which is cool. I really never thought of eating there. The menu reads like a directory for the frozen food aisle in a grocery store: onion rings, mozzarella sticks, Salisbury steak. It never really jumped out at me as a place that I wanted to dine at. As it turns out, Joe's kinda kicks ass! It achieves everything it is striving to be. Its the place you would take a client if you were a business man in 1962; good strong cocktails and man food. This is a nutrionalist's worst nightmare. This is the kind of restaurant that serves vegetables as a place holder, not as something you would eat. Its total post WWII food, and done well: no frills, no silly garnish. If you are in the mood for American comfort food and booze, this is the place you should go.

I have to admit, I was lame when it came to the booze ordering of my meal. I just wasn't in the mood for a cocktail at the time so I ordered a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (my favorite). I do know from experience that their cocktails are really good! I like the dirty martini with 3 olives. With that being said, I did a better job at ordering my food! The waitress was around 50 years old, and looked like she's worked there forever; a no bullshit type of broad. I could tell that I could trust her judgment. I told her I was a food blogger and that I wanted to eat whatever she thought was the "best of Joe's." She gave me a little wink and said that she knew just what to order.

I was presented with a sandwich that could only be described as a mammoth sized open face french dip. It was a piece of Texas toast with a huge slab of prime rib with au jus and horse radish on the side. It was nestled in between a pathetic salad of chopped iceberg with ranch and a healthy dose of golden french fries. The fries were REALLY good...really potato-y with a crisp outside and soft inside. No soggy fries here. The salad was the equivalent of a frilly piece of don't eat it, you just accept that its there. And the sandwich....oh boy the sandwich. It was great! I've never had prime rib, but I'm pretty sure I was eating great prime rib. It is fatty and juicy and meaty. It squirts blood juice when you pierce it with a fork which makes the piece of toast underneath even more crucial. I grew a pair of testicles while eating this meal. This is serious man food. There is NOTHING feminine about this meal. It was really good and satisfying in its own way. I don't order fare like this often, but on a slightly cold, windy night, this stuff hits the spot. It just goes to show that sometimes you're just in the mood for bloody meat. I give this place an A+. From its classic red checkered tablecloths, to the waiters in monkey suits, and their famous stiff drinks, Joe's Cafe is American food done right; unadorned and simply fabulous.

Click Here for Joe's Cafe!