Is this weird?

FoodNerd and I occasionally debate whether or not a given thing that she makes for a meal is weird. This discussion is completely orthogonal as to whether a given meal is delicious or no. Just whether it’s weird.
Often, it’s not even up for debate. Like the time we had Korean kim chi, a Japanese style cold sauteed spinach with sesame oil, garlic and sesame seeds, lightly pickled bean sprouts in rice vinegar and salt, some ham (deli ends) and some leftover rice. She was trying to make space in the fridge and it was the only stuff left in the house that wasn’t for a party we were having the next day. And it was tasty. But… kinda weird.
So our weird dinner last night: succotash, steamed jasmine rice, a fried egg and shredded cheddar cheese. FoodNerd is vehement that this just ISN’T weird. I totally think this is weird.
So we ask you, Internet: Is this weird?
[Update: remember, you have to consider all components in toto.]
Take the poll!

Oakland Oatmeal Raisin NOM

We got these cookies at Arizmendi Bakery in Oakland, within walking distance from our friend R’s apartment.

Best oatmeal raisin cookies ever.

I’ve always been partial to (shockingly) the Shaw’s store-made oatmeal raisin cookies, but I’ve had to swear off them because they’re made with nasty trans-fatty partially hydrogenated oils. (plus, they’re kinda hit or miss.)

Spendy (we spent $13 on a little under 2 pounds — maybe 12 cookies — to take home with us and for the long flight home), but dericious.

And entirely organimagical. That’s a word, right?

Roundabout to the local

So it figures that I stumble on an interesting locally-written blog by reading about it in a Chicago-based magazine that FoodNerd gets delivered to the house. One of the more recent issues of Time Out Chicago makes mention of a blog on U.S. Food Policy (aptly named, U.S. Food Policy) written by a Tufts University professor.

FoodNerd is concerned that reading it is just going to make her depressed about how bad the policy in the U. S. currently is, but it seems like there’s also a lot of good stuff in the form of local info, resources, and news of good things that can be done and/or are being done.

Hopefully there’s enough balance so she won’t be upset that I posted it. I’ve found it a good read so far, but I’ve haven’t had the chance to dig through the archive yet and I’ve got to get back to work.

Summer in a bowl

Summer in a bowl

Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

I was a bit worried that I had ruined the raspberries by putting them in the freezer.

We had a pretty good bounty this past summer, but at the time, every berry that I didn’t get to eat felt like a sacrifice of the greatest magnitude. And they looked so sad in their plastic container, frost and ice crystals forming over them, suffering the indignity of having their integrity ruptured by the expansion of the freezing juices, and getting accidentally thawed when the freezer door didn’t quite shut properly.

It turned out to be worth the wait, as their fruity tartness blended nicely with the simple creamy sweetness of the Häagen Dazs vanilla ice cream that we also had in the fridge. (An interesting contrast to a few days ago, when it seemed too sweet when I had some with some oreos.)

It was like you could taste a bit of summer in every bite, the snow, freezing rain and sleet outside notwithstanding.

Unhappy Meals

I’ve stumbled upon this article by Michael Pollan twice now — once in my friend Ryan’s Visualizing Science blog, and then again this afternoon, when my friend shr accidentally messaged me a link to it that he had intended to send to his lovely wife. I’m taking it as a sign of its relative significance, so I figured the least I could do was post a link to it, so here you go.
A bit depressing, but a good read nonetheless.

Christmas Eve Dinner

Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

FoodNerd had to head off to the parental homestead yesterday afternoon which leaves me to my own devices until tomorrow when I head out there myself to extricate her. I was hoping to meet up with friends tonight and maybe grab some dinner out, but plans fell through and I had to fend for myself.

Under these circumstances, I’ll generally just eat something quick and easy: ramen and egg, pasta with Classico red sauce and some generic granulated cheese, mac ‘n franks. Basically, junk food, although I’ve convinced myself that the mac ‘n franks is really the only one that approaches the line in terms of sketchiness. I actually think the ramen business is pretty good as far as quick meals go since I get my protein from the eggs, and I’ve taken to adding kimchi and, very recently, tofu.

But I did the ramen thing last night, and I wanted a little more than just pasta, cheesy or otherwise.

Upon scanning the fridge, I discovered a bag of kale that Ma & Pa FoodNerd had brought from their garden. (Let’s hear it for the mild winter.) I’ve never cooked with kale before, but I decided to just run with it.

So, taking a cue from this post, I chopped up 3 cloves of garlic, lightly sauteed them in olive oil with some fresh ground pepper, added some chopped up kale (just 4 leaves, which initially filled the 3 quart pot I was using) and threw in a generous pinch of salt. Once it had wilted down a bit I added a bit of chicken broth (thank you, FoodNerd, for stocking up) and then supplemented it with some (defrosted) frozen shrimpies from Trader Joe’s. I let it simmer waiting for the pasta to finish cooking and then just dumped the whole mess over the drained pasta.

I expected it to be a little bitter and kind of bland. It turned out to be neither. Surprisingly tasty, actually. (I admit it, I’m not normally a kale guy.) I’m sure the MSG in the chicken broth is helping out a bit here, but I think the garlic and salt also go a long way. And all told, including defrosting the shrimp and boiling the water, the whole business took about 20 minutes to prepare. Schweet.

Organic doesn’t always equal good

An interesting article on the Walmartization of organics:

“But Michael Pollan, a writer for the New York Times Magazine and author of a book on organic agribusiness, notes in a June 4 article that Wal-Mart’s entry into this new market will almost certainly perpetuate practices that are at odds with the original vision of organic farmers. For example, demand for organic milk has already caused agribusiness companies to apply the tactics of factory farming to organic milk production. Cows are herded into organic feedlots where they never eat grass — just organic grain. Thus their milk satisfies federal standards for the organic label, even though it lacks essential nutritional ingredients, to say nothing of the misery caused the animals.”

Food for thought, as it were. [via our friend Jul at her new blog Veggie Chic]

Pho disappointment

Fan Si Pan
Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

As FoodNerd has mentioned, I’m visiting Chicago for a few days between classes, and as such, I’m working from her place during the day. When we got to her neighborhood last night after picking me up at the Ashland train stop, she mentioned that the local Vietnamese fresh roll / bahn mi store had started offering pho (pronounced “fuh”) — the vietnamese style beef noodle soup that I’ve learned to appreciate as something wholly different from my beloved nu ro mian, but just as delightful (and far more available in the New England area). I love me all manner of soup noodles, so I had pretty much decided last night what I was going to get for lunch today.

Fan Si Pan is a sort of upscale hippie/hipster joint, a bright space decked out in spring green and light wood with colorful highlights, and it seems to be trying to cater to a different clientele than the Pho shops I’m used to visiting in the Boston area. (I do wonder what kind of traffic they get in this largely Hispanic neighborhood: around 12:45pm there was a signle group of four sitting at the table in the window and a lone woman waiting for takeout.)

I definitely got the impression that they specialized in the sandwich/roll-up market with their bahn mi and spring roll menu, but I couldn’t tell you how they measure up since that’s never really been my thing. (Perhaps FoodNerd has an opinion.) The Pho, which was recently added to the menu (ideal, really, for this time of year), comes in small, medium and large; I got the large for six and change after tax.

Frankly, I was a bit disappointed.

I was already a little disappointed that even ordering in, the soup came in a 32 oz. disposable styrofoam cup/bowl. I want my soup in a real bowl, but I guess it’s a testament to their focus on quick, takeout, eat-with-your-hands sandwiches and spring rolls that they appear to specialize in. They used the skinny rice noodle that is more common to bun (vermicelli) and, of course, which you find in Bahn Mi. There wasn’t much beef to speak of (unsurprisingly, no tripe, but also none of the yummy tendon that I love so much), and only a few bits of beansprout mixed in, nothing like the pile of beansprouts and basil that I’ve come to expect to accompany my soup. Also missing was the plum sauce that adds an extra layer of richness to the soup, although they did have a bottle of Sriracha chili sauce on the table along with… soy and wasabi? Weird, but I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be a traditional Vietnamese dining experience. The broth was actually quite good — good hearty beefiness but seemingly without the MSG that is common to this dish (perhaps one positive in its less traditional style).

Ah well, live and learn. On the one hand, I need to curb my expectations, but on the other, I need to be more cognizant of where I’m going and try to play to their strengths. The soup was still a good thing on a cold winter day, but maybe I should take a page out of FoodNerd’s book and pick up some Mexican soup next time around.

Bacon Night at The Harris Grill

Bacon Night at The Harris Grill

Originally uploaded by Patrick58.

Ok, so… due to my posting of the Thanksgiving day bacony-goodness on Flickr, I was alerted to the Flickr BACON group, a group dedicated to pictures of bacon.

How freakin’ awesome is that? I mean, is that not like the best idea ever?

Well, actually no. No it’s not. The best idea ever is Bacon Night held at a barcafe in Pittsburgh. (Although, credit where credit’s due — I wouldn’t have found out about it without the Bacon group.)

“Yeah, so… The Harris Grill on Ellsworth is now doing this promotion… Tuesday nights, free bacon at the bar. No, really, I’m serious. Free bacon. In a basket. They keep bringing it.”

Holy crap. No wonder Pittsburgh is considered to be one of the best places to live in this country.

What I did onWITH my summer vacationTOMATOES

  1. celebrity with fresh garden basil

    dressed with oil, freshly ground pepper and salt

  2. brandywine and yellow pear with mozzarella

    I never did get the caprese salad quite right.

  3. The BLTA

    Bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado. On toasted bread, slathered with mayo. One of my favorites growing up; but never with such high quality tomatoes, if I do say so myself.

  4. The triple-T

    Tuna and tomato (supersteaks, in this case, I think) on toast.

  5. sauce/soup

    What do you do when you don’t check for spaghetti sauce until after you’re halfway through cooking the pasta? Toss the pasta with sliced sausage, a diced tomato from the garden, basil, and a little olive oil. It actually came out like a sort of soup noodle, which is just fine by me.

  6. more sauce

    made from the beat-to-hell yellow pear brandywine and supersteaks left on the vine. Garlic, onion, basil and a little olive oil. A little on the sweet side, but still alright.