delicious discourse

A Little Bit of Heaven On The Bend

Posted in restaurants by delicious:discourse on February 26, 2008

Hudson’s on the Bend (Austin, Texas) is another restaurant my family has been going to for years. Actually, my 21st birthday dinner was at Hudson’s, of all places (I was NOT your typical 21-year old). However, in my last two visits I have entered into a new appreciation for the restaurant, partly due to my increased attention to artful and tasty food, but also because of a growing-up and stepping-up of Hudson’s.

Hudson’s was very busy the night we went (due to it being the day after V-day) and that is my only complaint. It was not as quiet and cozy as it usually is, but the food made up for it. The meal started with the Smoked Duck Diablo appetizers and Seared Foie Gras my grandmother insisted everyone try. The Duck Diablos were served on six skewers stuck into a halved Granny Smith apple flat-side down, each with a piece of duck breast, jicama, jalapeno, and figs in balsamic, all wrapped in a piece of apple wood bacon, and served with a red chili glaze. They were bite-size, salty, flavorful, delicious, and a perfect compliment to the sweet and smooth foie gras served atop a pumpkin bread pudding, drizzled with orange and cranberry sauces and finished with a red onion jalapeno marmalade. Since reading Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl’s adventures as the NYTimes restaurant critic and almost every meal including foie gras, I have wanted to revisit this delicacy. The fatty and salty foie gras is perfectly complimented by the sweet pumpkin pudding and citrusy-tart orange cranberry sauce. It all sort of swirls together and melts in your mouth in a beautiful combination of flavors.

Usually the salad course is quite unexciting, but not at Hudson’s. Among our salad adventures was a spinach salad with a hot pig viniagrette (“pig” just fancy for bacon) served with a smoked quail topped with a honey ginger cilantro glaze. This is not just your typical pre-dinner salad and M and his Dad said they were absolutely delicious with the quail served warm over the bed of spinach. My choice was a mixed green salad with poached pear, candied pecans, goat cheese (substituted for bleu) with a cranberry balsamic viniagrette. I loved the dressing. The tartness of the dressing brought out the subtle sweetness of the poached pear, the creaminess of the goat cheese, and the nuttiness of the candied pecans. I actually think the bleu cheese usually served with the salad would be much to overpowering for the perfect delicate balance of the combination. Another salad consisting of ruby red grapefruit and avocado on a bed of butter lettuce, decorated with pomegranates, and drizzled with a campari viniagrette is an example of a spectacular play with color and texture as well as flavor.

And on to the entrees….the most-ordered favorite (4 out of 6 orders) of the night was Hudson’s signature fish dish, the Hot and Crunchy Ruby Trout with a hot and crunchy shrimp and a hot and crunchy avocado, drizzled with a mango jalapeno sauce (that you can buy bottled at Hudson’s), served with lightly sauteed vegetables still crisp and full of their natural flavor, and garlic red-pepper flan, which is so light it floats in your mouth, yet covers your tongue with cream. The “hot and crunchy” is a batter of almonds, sesame seeds, cornflakes, sugar, and red chili flakes. The dish could also be called “Sweet and Spicy” Ruby Trout, with the kick of the red chili flakes and the sweetness provided by the sugar. It is the best use of cornflakes I can think of—and it will not let you down.

The Grilled Pheasant Breast caught the eye of one of my fellow eaters. It was stuffed with cilantro pesto and placed atop a San Luis Holy Mole sauce with a pheasant confit tamale and a white chocolate tomatillo sauce. I did not get to taste this dish, but the first words out of the eater’s mouth were “This is delicious…..”. I don’t think you say that about pheasant unless it is really, really good. The other entree ordered was the American Bison stuffed with venison sausage, on top of a three-bean ragu and chipotle bbq sauce to accent the lean bison and spicy sausage. Two of my favorite meats rolled into one. The bison had a nice sweet, meaty flavor complimented the dominant venison sausage taste. It was good and tasty, but I believe the sausage detracted from the appeal of the bison and its natural flavor.

Now dessert was something else. Apple cider ice cream came served in a conical glass sitting in a glass spherical bowl filled with dry ice causing white frost to billow over the edge. You should have seen the look on my grandfather’s face, ice cream had never looked so good, and if you know my grandfather, this is quite a feat. This innovative presentation was topped with a gingery and chewy cookie sitting atop the perfectly formed scoops of ice cream. In addition, the ice cream was fabulous — it made me think of picking apples in a fall orchard with the leaves violently changing colors and rushing back to a farmhouse to make fresh apple cider. I also highly recommend the Caramel Apple Spice Cake served with apple cider ice cream and cajeta sauce. The cake was heavy and dense, almost like a bread pudding, with the warmth of apple and spice present in every bite. The cajeta sauce added a creamy richness to both the ice cream and the cake. Believe me when I say, there was not a crumb left.

One of the MANY things I love about Hudson’s On The Bend is the sense of adventure in the food. With every dish delivered to the table comes a new excitement of what is in store and what taste buds will be awakened. This type of food is rare and the world needs more of it.

www.hudsonsonthebend.com

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Trio at the Four Seasons, Austin, Texas – Too good to leave….

Posted in restaurants by delicious:discourse on February 21, 2008

I am a lucky girl, a very lucky girl. And I am not even Irish. Even though I may complain, alot, life is pretty good. My luck on Sunday lead me to two very delicious meals at Trio, formerly known as the Cafe at the Four Seasons in Austin. After running the AT&T Austin Half-Marathon on Sunday, I really could have eaten anything. Thirteen miles can work up an appetite! After getting over my severe disappointment of not going to Kerbey Lane (where we were originally going to brunch”), being seated in a private dining room to accommodate our party of 9 (right away, might I add), and surveying the food offerings, I got excited. Really excited. I had heard about brunch at the Four Seasons for EVER and I was finally going to get to try it. After our own private waiter, Joe, explained the layout of the land as well as giving me insider tips to the best migas in Austin (M’s dad swears his favorite are at the Four Seasons), taking care of my caffeine fix, I dove in for my first round.

The miniature waffles was the first thing to jump on my plate besides the chocolate covered rice-krispie treat I made at the chocolate fountain (the fountain was a pleasant suprise and my only complaint is they did not have cubes of pound cake, my favorite thing to dip). The waffles were perfectly formed and golden brown. I added some fresh whip cream atop a mound of mixed berries (blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries) with a nice long pour of syrup. At the same station were mini pancakes not more than 3 inches in diameter looking very tempting, but the square dips created by the lattices of the waffle won out. Next I moved over to the egg station. An egg-white omelette, made to order, with cheese, sausage, and tomatoes was added to my plate, along with a cream cheese blintz about to burst and accompanied by a buttery slice of apricot. I passed up the cooked sausage and bacon, the eggs-benedict that looked divine and sinful at the same time, the pastry encrusted salmon wellington, the drum, as well as the sliced steak. I curiously explored the oatmeal and yogurt each served in martini glasses. The oatmeal was appealing with what looked like to be dried fruit and nuts mixed into the creamy oatness (after consulting the menu, I discovered the “oatmeal” to be Old-World Birchermuesli consisting of rolled oats, raisins, bananas, pecans, cinnamon, and vanilla yogurt). The salad station consisted of everything from caprese salad (tomato and mozarrella) to pates, cheese and antipasti, seafood salads, sesame-crusted ahi tuna, etc. I opted out of most, due to the shellfish (M is SO allergic), however M did grab some of the ahi tuna, which was tasteless and too grainy in texture (growing up in Hawaii, I know good ahi tuna). Passing the dessert table, I was saving for later, I went back to taste my findings.
The cheese blintz was everything I thought it would be and more. The crepe-like exterior broke awake to reveal the the rich cream cheese filling inside that held its form. The belgian waffle proved to be crispy on the outside with a soft middle and you could tell the whip cream had been made in house by its creamy, not overly fluffy texture, adn not too sweet. My egg-white omelette proved just as I asked, but nothing unique. M had never had drum before, but he was not too impressed. The mashed potatoes were perfectly creamy and salty. From around the table I heard various murmurs of pleasure and not a plate went away uncleared. As for dessert, I picked up a cheesecake that was so flavorful, yet so light, not your typical heavy dense cheesecake. It tasted of authentic New York cheesecake with cookie-dough crust, sitting on round sugar cookie. M tried the Stawberry Pannacotta, and one bite was enough of the syrupy sweetness.
Overall everything was pretty tasty and the service was excellent and friendly. One of the sous-chefs wondering around stopped to inform us that the elaborate scupture presiding over the desserts was actually made from chocolate by the pastry chef. She was going to Paris for a competition she had entered . He politely smiled when I asked if she wanted to take me with her and he answered all my questions about his culinary education. However, I found something lacking in the brunch, I kept going back out to the food area wanting something more, but not sure exactly what it was. Maybe I was looking to be a wowed, and it just did not happen.
Now dinner at Trio, is something else. I had the privilege of dining at Trio for dinner for the second time on Sunday. It was better than I remembered. First of all, you can not really beat the setting of sitting outside on the patio, the Town Lake breeze softly rustling the trees, comfy chairs, shawls to wrap around your shoulders, and heaters providing warmth to lull you into a meal that seems like a dream. Also, I just have to mention this because I don’t think it will ever happen again, we never left the Four Seasons between brunch and dinner. And for brunch, because it was after the marathon, we were all in jeans and T-shirts, running clothes, and I in a Juicy hoodie and sweats and Puma shoes. To dinner, I went dressed in the same extremely casual outfit and recieved no discrimmination from the staff (we may have gotten a few dirty looks from diners, but that is their problem, not mine). I have never been so comfortable eating a meal or relaxed (the margarita, I had at the bar upstairs, may have had something to do with that).
To start the table ordered a combination of two different salads, a Romaine Caeser and the other a Mixed Green Salad (the greens came from, the very local, Dripping Springs). As asked, the chef blended the anchovies into the dressing rather than having them sit on top of the long leafs of crisp Romaine lightly tossed in the dressing. The Mixed Green Salads came with a light dressing, fried pieces of seasoned fennel that had some kick and provided some necessary crunch, and topped with creamy goat cheese. It was light and perfect after a long day in the sun.
One of my favorite things at TRIO are the popovers that are served as the bread course (also served at lunch). They are irregular shapes of copper and fried-buttery goodness. They are full of air, but their “skin” is copper-brown and crispy on the outside and a doughy yellow on the inside. I could make a whole meal of them and had to restrain myself from consuming them all.
The first time I dined at TRIO was the first time in my life that I have EVER truly enjoyed a steak. This may not sound like a big deal, some people just don’t like beef, but this 23-year old did not start eating red-meat and pork until she was 19. Growing up I ate mostly fish, chicken, and turkey. When I moved to Texas I decided if I was going to not eat something, it was going to be because I did not like it, not because that is the way I was raised. I have eaten steak and pork, but when dining out, have consitently preferred fish. On Sunday, I ordered the 8 oz fillet again, and it was the second time in my life I have truly enjoyed a steak. Their steak is, what I am determined to believe, why people eat beef. The meat is cooked sans butter (I hate buttered steaks) which means a) the chef knows what he is doing and b) it is a quality cut of meat. I ordered my steak chef’s choice, which was medium-rare, and that is how it came, served on a light swirl of a red-wine like sauce, and topped with a cooked shallot and a sprig of rosemary. It proved tender on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside, thoroughly laced with the warm, natural flavor of beef. M’s mom ordered the Rosted Grouper served in a pumpkin puree sauce of a sweet, yet slightly acidic flavor. The waiter brought a trio of salts for us to try with our various entrees consiting of a french salt, a hawaiian salt, and a smoked salt. We all concured the French salt was the best accent to the steaks and the fish with its rough texture and hint of herb (it reminded me of Provencal seasonsing). For sides we ordered the maple-roasted beets consisting of what looked like to be three types of beets of their usual vibrant hue of magenta, and the sweet corn creme brulee with its candided top to be broken away to the sweet corn concoction underneath. Too satisfied with the simple, yet sophisticated meal, dessert was passed up, but only with the condition that I would come back and have just coffee and dessert sometime soon, very soon.

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(Corn Creme Brulee. Photo courtesy of www.fourseasons.com/austin/photo_gallery/)

It really was a perfect meal of freshness and confidence in quality over quantity with simple accents opposed to over dressing. At TRIO, everything tastes as it should.

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In Defense of Fonda

Posted in restaurants by delicious:discourse on February 18, 2008

I have been a dedicated fan of Fonda San Miguel since I move to Austin almost 5 years ago. There have been many birthdays celebrated and margaritas had between the Mexican art covered walls. It pains me to hear discourse of Fonda being over priced, inconsistent, disappointing, etc–all amounting to it being much less than par. First, let us note, Fonda is an INTERIOR Mexican food restaurant, not the typical Tex-Mex, or greasy Mexican food one finds in the joints around Texas. I think many misunderstand this fact when they interpret the food they are served. Also, Fonda is considered one of the best Interior Mexican food places in the US. We all know, people love to bring down those on top. It makes them feel superior to find fault in what is highly regarded. Granted Fonda has had some coming-in-to-its-own to do after their praised chef left, but last night, when it really counted, Fonda served a superb meal.

For Christmas I gave my boyfriends parents the Fonda San Miguel cookbook. They have a love for the Southwest and Mexican food, so I thought it fitting. M’s dad was very excited about some of the recipes and wanted to experience the restaurant before trying any of them. It just so happens they were going to be in Austin for the Half Marathon we (M and his brothers and I) were running in, and it was a given we would go to Fonda for our pre-race dinner. Imagine my anxiousness, loving Fonda, but worried it wasn’t going to live up to the expectations of M’s parents. Yikes! This can happen when you hype anything up too much. But boy, did Fonda perform.

We started the meal with some guacamole and Queso Asado. The Queso Asado is just like their Queso Flameado (which for those of you who do not know, is melted mexican cheese served in a skillet, to be scooped into tortillas) but with pork chorizo and sauteed swiss chard, and it was delicious. It fed the whole table (9 of us) and it was cheesy goodness with the spicy flavor of chorizo (spicy pork sausage) and the subtle hint of greens from the swiss chard. The guacamole was clearly made fresh, served with iceberg lettuce on one side and pico de gallo on the other in perfect position to scoop some up on the way down from the guacamole mound. It was not too salty, nice and chunky but somehow creamy, and contained perfect amounts of cilantro, onion, and jalapeno. The chips served on the guacamole plate are perfect, just the way I like them, thick,crunchy and fried. However, the chips they serve with two kinds of salsa for the table are thin, but perfect for the light salsas. When it comes to chips, I have learned, it is a matter of personal preference.

For the main course, I branched out from my usual Carne Asada and ordered the Chile en Nogada, which was divine and almost like a dessert, if you can imagine that. Chile en Nogada is a Chile Relleno stuffed with diced pork, raisins, potatoes, and walnuts. This version was served with a sweet, walnut cream sauce sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. It is almost to pretty to eat. The dish comes with a side of black beans and white rice, which accompanies most dishes. M ordered the Carne Asada, which is a grilled flank steak almost a foot long, but thin. Most flank steak I have had is chewy and too salty, Fonda’s melts in your mouth with the perfect amount of seasoning. It is served with a cheese enchilada, and unless you like mole, I suggest asking for a verde sauce instead of mole for the enchilada. I think my favorite entree of the evening, unexpectedly, was the verde chicken enchiladas ordered by M’s dad, who knows his stuff. These were the best enchiladas I have ever had. I have heard people complain about the price of enchiladas at Fonda simply because they are used to paying ten buck for mediocre greasy, stomach wrenching enchiladas at their local joint. The plate served two very fat enchiladas smothered in a verde sauce, not to the point that they were soggy. The sauce was light and smooth yet had texture and you can tell it was cooked slowly and with care. The chicken wrapped in a lightly fried tortillas was either smoked or cooked on the rotisserie. You can tell by the color of the meat–white on the outside and slightly pink (definitely cooked) on the inside. The chicken was shredded and seasoned with some cilantro. The cheese was served on top of the enchiladas and accompanied by the verde sauce. It was a simple dish, yet every element came together to compliment each other to create the perfect enchilada.

As for dessert, I am now hooked on cajeta, which is a creamy Mexican caramel made with goats milk. Fonda has several dessert dishes with cajeta, including the El Mateo and Crepas de Cajeta (crepes with cajeta sauce). We had two orders of the El Mateo arrive at our table in large orange, frosted, and stemmed glasses with two scoops of cajeta ice cream in each. The waiter then poured a shot of frangelico over each serving along with a generous pour of cajeta. There was not a bite left. To bring back memories of trips to Mexico long ago, M’s dad ordered a shot of blanco tequila and espresso to compliment the cajeta. The smile on his face indicated he was in high-nostalgic-foodie heaven.

Our ONE disappointment was Fonda did not have the Carne Guisada recently mentioned in a review by TEXAS MONTHLY. However, that just gives me a reason to go back.

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Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on February 16, 2008
I hate to writing this post on Valentine’s Day (do not get me started), of all days, but it is just another day, so I will truck on. To end this very over-processed Hallmark day, M and I made very homemade, from-scratch, unprocessed pizza. Not only is my boyfriend handsome, smart, adventurous, and boy does he put up with me, the guy also is a master pizza chef—I kid you not. Just when a girl thinks she has it all, she finds she has so much more—a boyfriend who feeds her…WELL..very well.

I do have to take part of the credit here, because I was indeed the one who found the pizza dough recipe, gave M his pizza stone and peel for his 29th birthday on January 28th. But execution tonight was all about him. While lunching, we browsed through dozens of pizza recipes, but he chose the one below, which we added grilled chicken too and nixed the bacon to make it our own. The pizza was one of the best and most unique I have ever had. The dough is soft, puffy yet heavy, and chewy, just the way I like it. A combination of brie, pecorino romano, and sharp cheddar cheese, give every bite a different ratio and array of flavors and dimension. M said he could do without the parsley, however I hold it adds color and presentation to the dish. Also, keep that honey handy. M introduced me to the simple dessert of pizza crust with honey drizzled over it. Tonight could not get much sweeter.
Pizza Dough (courtesy of Giada DeLaurentiis)

  • 3/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 2 cups (or more) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Pour 3/4 cup warm water into small bowl; stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Brush large bowl lightly with olive oil. Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add yeast mixture and 3 tablespoons oil; process until dough forms a sticky ball. Transfer to lightly floured surface. KNEAD dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is very sticky, about 1 minute. Transfer to prepared bowl; turn dough in bowl to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. PUNCH down dough. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. ROLL out dough according to recipe instructions. (Start in center of dough, working outward toward edges but not rolling over them.)

White Pizza

  • pizza dough
  • 10 half-inch cubes of brie (all cheese–to taste)
  • grated sharp cheddar (about 1 cup)
  • percorino romano (about a 1/2 cup)
    3 tbsp. flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 ear of grilled corn
  • 1 chicken grilled breast

Put the pizza stone in the oven and heat to 475 degrees. Gently stretch the dough to desired size of pizza, most likely just over 12-inches (it depends if you like thinner or thicker crust). Place dough on a floured pizza (can also use cornmeal) peel. Sprinkle the cheddar and brie on the dough. Spread the grilled corn, parsley leaves, and grilled chicken on top of the cheese. Scatter the grated pecorino romano on last.
Slide pizza onto hot stone in oven. Bake 6 to 8 minutes until golden. Cut into slices and serve.

Pasta! Pasta! Read All About It!

I subscribe to Daily Candy New York, even though I live in Austin, because someday I will live there and, for the meantimes, I need to be in the loop. Today’s newsletter featured a new restaurant opening in New York, Michael Psilakis’s Mia Dona, which is to serve inexpensive Italian food. The particular opening is not what caught my eye–this is, “….only he’s doing casual, inexpensive Italian here because that’s all anyone wants to eat this year”. Because that’s all anyone wants to eat this year????? How did Daily Candy know I prepared a simple, delicious, and inexpensive Italian pasta last night????? And that I have been on an Italian kick all winter, including my first dinner party where I served caprese salad, a pork roast with a fig port sauce, and risotto????? Oh they are good. They are real good.

Personally, I cannot take credit for the hearty yet light, healthy yet satisfying pasta I prepared last night. That credit would have to go to Ms. Giada de Laurentis and her Everyday Italian book, which I highly recommend by the way. Her risotto is to die for. Seriously. I got blisters making it. Anyway, the recipe calls for orecchiette, a type of pasta native to Apulia, about 3/4 of an inch in size, and resembling a small ear (orecchio is ear in Italian, how cute). However, you can use a different small shaped pasta. In this case, I chose bionaturae’s Organic 100% Whole Wheat Penne Rigate, made in Italy. The reason I picked this pasta is because it has only one ingredient listed–organic whole wheat durum wheat flour in addition to the given water and salt. Under cooking instructions, after the amount of water and time, is “The more you cook your pasta, the higher the glycemic-index rating. Please test your pasta frequently and become accustomed to eating pasta ‘al dente’, as they do in Italy”. Now, this is cool and interesting. I had never heard the glycemic index bit before, but it makes sense. As for the al dente, I love the fact bionaturae is encouraging consumers to eat their product as INTENDED, the way Italians do.

Back to the pasta recipe-

2 bunches broccoli rabe – trimmed and cut crosswise
12 oz pasta
olive oil
1 lb spicy pork sausage, removed from casing (Andouille works well)
3 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup FRESH grated parmesean (Grate it yourself. Yes, I am making you work for it. You will thank me later.)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pot with water and salt to a boil. Add the broccolini rabe and cook until tender yet crisp (about two minutes) and strain out of the water. Using the same pot of boiling water cook the pasta for the directed amount of time and please try it al dente! While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet heat the sausage until cooked and juice has rendered. Add garlic and a pinch on red pepper flakes. Add the broccolini to sausage and toss to coat. Combine pasta and sausage mixture, once pasta has been strained. Add parmesean and toss all together. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

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Food Mission – Part 2 & 3

Posted in food litertaure by delicious:discourse on February 16, 2008
Continued from Food Mission – Part 1, here are the second two suggestions of Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food. The first, to refresh your memory, was “Eat Food”.

  • Mostly plants: What to eat
    • Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
      • No one will argue that plants are bad for you (maybe certain types of plants, but we don’t eat those). We depend primarily on plants for vitamin C and antioxidants. Apparently, way back in the day our bodies could actually make vitamin C. However, there was a plethora of vitamin C in the diet of our ancestors that our body did not need to make it from scratch and over time we lost the ability to create it at all. Eat plants. They are good for you and they do not bite.
    • You are what you eat eats too. (This is one my favorite, yet most disturbing find in the book. Like Pollan says, this is a glaring truth that is often overlooked. If the steak you are eating comes from a cow who was fed whole grains [animals grow faster and produce more on a diet of whole grains] and it makes them sick [cows have evolved to eat grass, the leaves if the plant versus the whole grain, which is the seen] they have to be given antibiotics. Cows being fed grains have meat higher in different fats (omega-6s and saturated fat) and fewer vitamins and nutrients than cows who eat green plants. So basically, if your cow ate grains and antibiotics, then you are eating them to.
    • Eat well-grown food from healthy soils
      • You are what your plants eat too.
    • Eat wild foods when you can.
      • I think what he means here is that it does not get more natural than plants growing in the wild or eating animals straight from their natural habitat and way of life. The plants are “stronger” because they have not been protected by pesticides and have grown from wild soil. Also, according to Pollan, two of the most nutritious plants are not ones we find in our grocery stores, but lamb’s quarters and purslane–two weeds. As for animals, game tends to have less saturated fat and more omega-3s than domestic animals mainly because they comsume a diet of mostly plants not grain. Wild fish have higher levels of omega-3s than farmed fish, which I did not know, are often fed grain. Fish that eat grain? What world are we living in? My dad repeatedly suggested we go salmon fishing in Alaska, which for a teenage girl sounded like the end of the world. Looks like I should of gone.
    • Be the kind of person who takes supplements.
      • What have you got to lose? They apparently definitely do not hurt you. However, it can be argued that if you are the kind of person that takes supplements you are 2) more affluent and b) probably already live a pretty healthy lifestyle and have access to great health care.
    • Eat more like the French, or the Italians, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks.
      • This is one of my favorites because I am fascinated with the French philosophy towards food and life! Basically, eat like any culture besides ours. Food is not just about EATING it is about culture and sharing.
    • Regard nontraditional food with skepticism.
      • Twinkies, my friend, are a non-traditional food.
    • Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.
      • There is no one thing that makes a way of eating work. It is the relationships between all factors involved. For example, it is not simply olive oil that makes the Mediterranean diet so healthy and therefore the people healthier than we. As Pollan puts it, “In thesame way that foods are more than the sum of their nutritional parts, dietary patterns seem to be more than the sum of the foods that comprise them.”
    • Have a glass of wine with dinner.
      • Yes, this is what you think, a license to drink—in MODERATION and the good stuff. A margarita make with margarita mix is NOT going to qualify here. Also, if you think about it, cultures like the French and Italians, who have a glass of wine with almost every meal have a different food culture than Americans. They have meals, which are slow and enjoyable, they take pleasure in food and the act of eating with people. Food, to them, is so much more than what is on the plate.
  • Not too much: How to eat.
    • Pay more. Eat less.
      • Quality over quantity. The theory here is that when you buy and eat quality, you need to eat LESS of it to be satisfied. I definitely vouch for this one, one might of the real deal is so much better than 5 of the low-fat, sugar-free imitation.
    • Eat meals.
      • Stop snacking all day and east three meals. A meal is much more than the food. “At the dinner table parents determine portion sizes, model eating and drinking behavior, and enforce social norms about greed and gluttony and waste. Shared meals are about much more than fueling bodies; they are uniquely human institutions where our species developed language and this thing we call culture.” (Pollan, pg.189) My parents had us sit down to the dinner table every night during my childhood. We were never allowed to eat in front of the TV or take our dinner to our room. Even if we sat down together for 10 minutes, at least we sat down together and shared a span of time and interaction.
    • Do all your eating at a table.
      • Part of eating is enjoying our food, tasting the flavors, and paying attention to what you are eating. This is hardly possible if you are driving your car or sitting on the couch watching the latest high-drama episode of The Hills. Take 15 minutes out or your busy day and sit at the table. Use the table as it was intended—to serve meals.
    • Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
      • Need I say more? You are NOT a car. Don’t act like one.
    • Try not to eat alone.
      • “The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from mere animal biology to an act of culture.” (Pollan, p.191)
    • Consult your gut.
      • If you are not hungry, don’t eat. If you are full, stop eating.
    • Eat slowly.
      • There is an organization in Italy, Slow Food, that is dedicated to “a firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life”. Slow Food aims to bring people back to the satisfactions of well-prepared food or well-grown and quality ingredients and enjoy long social meals.
    • Cook and, if you can, plant a garden.
      • I love to cook, but planting a garden is out of the question. I didn’t exactly inherit the green thumb (thanks, Mom). So, I will just have to frequent the sorry farmers markets in Austin to get my homegrown veggies. However, I can cook and I do guarantee a food is that much more satisfying if you put work into it and it turns out fabulously delicious and you get to watch everyone oooooo and ahhhhhh over it.

Pasta! Pasta! Read all about it!

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on February 16, 2008
I subscribe to Daily Candy New York, even though I live in Austin, because someday I will live there and, for the meantimes, I need to be in the loop. Today’s newsletter featured a new restaurant opening in New York, Michael Psilakis’s Mia Dona, which is to serve inexpensive Italian food. The particular opening is not what caught my eye–this is, “….only he’s doing casual, inexpensive Italian here because that’s all anyone wants to eat this year”. Because that’s all anyone wants to eat this year????? How did Daily Candy know I prepared a simple, delicious, and inexpensive Italian pasta last night????? And that I have been on an Italian kick all winter, including my first dinner party where I served caprese salad, a pork roast with a fig port sauce, and risotto????? Oh they are good. They are real good.Personally, I cannot take credit for the hearty yet light, healthy yet satisfying pasta I prepared last night. That credit would have to go to Ms. Giada de Laurentis and her Everyday Italian book, which I highly recommend by the way. Her risotto is to die for. Seriously. I got blisters making it. Anyway, the recipe calls for orecchiette, a type of pasta native to Apulia, about 3/4 of an inch in size, and resembling a small ear (orecchio is ear in Italian, how cute). However, you can use a different small shaped pasta. In this case, I chose bionaturae’s Organic 100% Whole Wheat Penne Rigate, made in Italy. The reason I picked this pasta is because it has only one ingredient listed–organic whole wheat durum wheat flour in addition to the given water and salt. Under cooking instructions, after the amount of water and time, is “The more you cook your pasta, the higher the glycemic-index rating. Please test your pasta frequently and become accustomed to eating pasta ‘al dente’, as they do in Italy”. Now, this is cool and interesting. I had never heard the glycemic index bit before, but it makes sense. As for the al dente, I love the fact bionaturae is encouraging consumers to eat their product as INTENDED, the way Italians do.

Back to the pasta recipe-

2 bunches broccoli rabe – trimmed and cut crosswise
12 oz pasta
olive oil
1 lb spicy pork sausage, removed from casing (Andouille works well)
3 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup FRESH grated parmesean (Grate it yourself. Yes, I am making you work for it. You will thank me later.)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pot with water and salt to a boil. Add the broccolini rabe and cook until tender yet crisp (about two minutes) and strain out of the water. Using the same pot of boiling water cook the pasta for the directed amount of time and please try it al dente! While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet heat the sausage until cooked and juice has rendered. Add garlic and a pinch on red pepper flakes. Add the broccolini to sausage and toss to coat. Combine pasta and sausage mixture, once pasta has been strained. Add parmesean and toss all together. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

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Food Mission – Part 1

Posted in food litertaure by delicious:discourse on February 16, 2008
I am on a food mission, that I must say, has recently been rejuvenated by Michael Pollan’s most recent book, In The Defense of Food, in which he does answer the question of why food needs to be defended. Food, as Americans know the word, needs no defending at all. We have no problem consuming vast amounts of it. But, food– whole, natural, unprocessed, high quality food– that needs all the defense it can get. This is not a diet book, which are not worth the paper they are printed on, it is a book about getting back to our eating roots, back to the way food is supposed to be prepared and served, and away from the Western Diet as we know it. Pollan provides several guide lines to avoid the processed imitations of the real thing as well as how to approach food and eating. Below is the first of the three guidelines–Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

  • 1) Eat Food:
    • “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
      • I guarantee your great grandmother, from her grave, has no idea what high-fructose corn syrup is, nor does she care. Pollan’s point–all the processed junk flooding our food chain has been created in the last 100-or-so years, so it was not around at the time your great granny was alive and thriving.
    • “Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup. ”
        • To show what a perfect nerd I am, I actually had a great time at the grocery store last night with the above and discovered some great “new” foods! I found out that normal butter, in addition to cream and salt, has natural flavorings. Natural flavorings? Sounds innocent enough. What the heck is that and why would butter need it? The following is an explanation from www.fsis.usda.gov,“Ingredients such as ginger, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, celery powder, and garlic oil…” Why would butter need any of these flavorings, I have no clue, and it makes me suspicious. So, I managed to find some butter, KerryGold, imported from Ireland consisting ONLY of pasteurized cream. It is absolutely delicious and I promise you can taste a difference from domestic butter. It is more yellow-orange in color too, indicating vitamins and antioxidants!
        • I was also shocked to find the high-fructose corn syrup in my Oat Nut Bread along with a long list of incomprehensible ingredients. I will have you know that today I pledged to start making my own bread or to go without.
        • My last, but certainly not least!, finding was Wateroak Farm’s Brazos Supreme Ice Cream–one of the few ice cream varieties with a short list of normal sounding ingredients (dairy goat milk, dairy goat cream, turbinado sugar, whole eggs, guar gum, sea salt, and natural vanilla). Honestly, I didn’t realize it was made out of goat milk until I looked at the label again last night. Had I seen the “goats milk” in the store, I probably would not have bought it, everything happens for a reason. I got vanilla (to go with some very delicious dark chocolate chip cookies I had made), but there was a wide variety of flavors. It turned out to be a little icier than the ice-cream I am used to (Amy’s anyone?), but was refreshing, creamy, with no shortage of flavor. I look forward to testing the other flavors. If you are interested, here is their website, www.dairygoathaven.com/iceCream.htm).
    • “Avoid food products that make health claims.”
      • This one is self-explanatory. Take this rule to other areas of life–if someone is bragging about one thing, they usually are trying to compensate for something else. This is also known in various forms as “short man syndrome”. So, if the tortilla claims to be low-carb, it probably means it is filled with junk. Tortillas are supposed to have carbs, they are made out of flour, which by nature is a CARBOHYDRATE. Don’t eat “foods” that claim not to have the one ingredient that makes them what they are. Where is the logic?
    • “Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.”
      • Simple–all perishables are on the outside, meaning they are much more natural than the processed junk in the middle. Think about it. There are exceptions, put the GoGurt down.
    • “Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmers’ market. You also won’t find any elaborately processed food products, any packages with long list of unprounounceable ingredients or dubious health claims, nothing microwaveable, and perhaps best of all, no old food from far away.”
      • Not all are lucky enough to have fabulous farmer’s markets and the like, but if you do have access, I would utilize one as much as possible. Plus, they can be fun, if they are NOT in Austin (there IS hope). One Saturday morning last summer, M and I drove out to Blanco for a nice hill-country drive and to pick up fresh peaches at McCall Creek farms(www.mccallcreekfarms.com). The market turned out to have some fresh veggies and fruits–you could practically see the fields from which they came from–as well as baked goods, including banana bread, aromatic apple pie, and fresh baked cookies, as well as locally candied pecans. All were made directly behind the counter in the little kitchen. I could see the bucket of dough on the counter. We left with a small basket of peaches, a loaf of banana bread, that was still warm, for the drive, and candied pecans for some summer salads. It was definitely worth the drive as well as the satisfaction of buying local and knowing exactly where the veggies and baked goods came from.

The Glory of the Morning Glory

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on February 16, 2008
Imagine my disappointment when I arrived at Sweetish Hill at 9:30am this Sunday morning and they are already OUT OF morning glory muffins. How can this be???? The morning glory was going to provide me all the energy for my ELEVEN-mile run (did I mention I am training for a half-marathon February 17th?). How can a bakery run out of one of their best products within three hours of opening??????? It must be a conspiracy. They are hoarding them in the back waiting for the after-church goers, while the healthy, centered, and undevoted characters are punished with oat-bran (one of the better I have had) and mocha muffins (mocha, in this muffin basically just means chocolate, but mocha muffin sounds healthier than a chocolate muffin, which by the way, M would not get again). This, sadly, is not the first time this has happened to me, where they are out of the one thing I want, and I sadly have to choose an alternative because I am already there and there is no where else I want to go. M, irately informed me, it probably is worth calling before hand to see if they have morning glories than to go in excited and exit disappointed with some muffin/pastry you didn’t even really want, but were to dejected to reject. This is when I informed him that we just need to make our own because, honestly, I have been severely disappointed with the bakeries in this town.You may be wondering what is so great about Sweetish Hill’s morning glory muffin that would would warrant this cynical post. Where shall I begin?

The morning glory muffin is unbelievably satisfying and dimensional, leaving you wanting not a thing more. I never thought I would use dimensional to describe a muffin, which nowadays mostly are refined cake-like substances. The morning glory has texture and depth of shredded carrot and apple with the penetration of the spices throughout the entire muffin. Raisins bring scattered surprises of sweetness like unexpected little smiles and unanticipated gestures of affection. The muffin top, many claim to be the best part of the muffin, is firm and crusty and a promise of the goodness and strength that is to come below. Every bite is delicious and every difference or inconsistency throughout the muffin works itself out to create a beautiful and delicious ordered chaos in your mouth.

Chocolate & Power

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on February 16, 2008
I am by no means a chocoholic (I mean, if I have to, I will eat it…), but in Chocolat (it just happens to be on E tonight), the movie, Juliette Binoche’s magical cooking makes me want to eat nothing but chocolate. I could turn into a cocoa leaf right now, literally. At one point in the movie she has a dinner party for the few people who accept her in the rigid, French, country town she currently resides in. The meal is served outside in her quaint, unruly, European courtyard and she serves chocolate with everything–chicken with a chocolate sauce, asparagus dipped in chocolate–yes, all this sounds absolutely mad and some absurd combination a pregnant woman would crave. However, the looks on the faces of her guests are as if they have just taken a bite of the one thing their taste buds have always yearned for, yet never thought existed. By the way, did I mention that Johnny Depp, the mysterious gypsy, is one of the guests? Johnny Depp and sexy food, how can one go wrong (M, I love you!)?? I love this idea of the power and magic food can have on the people who eat it and the artists who create it. There are stories, mainly fictional, about chefs cooking their emotions into their food, which causes whoever eats the food to experience that emotion or the causes magical spell-like events to happen as though the food expressed the chef’s subconscious desires. No matter what exactly occurs–all instances indicate the simple power, pleasure, and expression of life food provides. We need food to live–there is nothing more powerful than that. To be more accurate, we need the nutrients food (by food, I mean REAL foods not processed junk) to live, but there is no reason we should not enjoy every bite along the way.There seems to be this idea today that enjoying and finding pleasure in the food we eat is an indulgence, which is just plain absurd. People eat processed junk promising far-out health claims, low-fat this, sugar-free that, low-card BREAD, etc, etc, etc. Does anyone enjoy any of these tasteless and nutritionless substances marketed as food? No, most certainly not. It would do everyone much more good to eat the real deal, which is much more satisfying, and just eating less. In food, delicious, quality and less, is in the end, so very much more. Just remember that.

Tarrytown Farmers Market

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on February 16, 2008

Living in Tarrytown I didn’t even know we had a farmer’s market until driving home from Town Lake yesterday. A smattering of signs posted along Exposition informed me of the “Tarrytown Farmer’s Market Expo” starting at 9am on Saturday and located behind the Talulah Blue flower shop (which apparently has been there since 1946–I’m impressed). Having been generally disappointed with the farmer’s markets in Austin compared to those of LA or New York, I decided to drag the boyfriend to check it out this morning with falsely inflated hopes. I insisted on being there at 9am because I did not want to miss out on the good stuff. Honestly, I should have stayed in bed. Walking down the street this morning, there were cars parked along Exposition and Tarrytown moms walking away with white plastic bags full of what I thought may be delicious goodies. Walking in I even thought to myself “This may actually be cool”. Located behind the flower shop in a kind of wooded setting, are wood tables and “booths” in a U-shape. It is like walking into a little hidden grove. The first booth was Sweetish Hill, which I got really excited about because their morning glory muffins happen to be my favorite. Life was about to get good–I wasn’t going to have to actually get in my car and drive 5 minutes to pick one up on Saturday morning. How did I get this lucky? But of course, they didn’t have any muffins. Their selection consisted mainly of breads and very few danishes. The lady however, did say she would talk to them about incorporating morning glory muffins into their Tarrytown Farmer’s Market selection. Folks, there is hope. After Sweetish Hill, the booths got less and less exciting. There was a gourmet spice booth, one selling only mushrooms, Jake’s Granola that you can get at Central Market any day of the week (they had samples though and if I was to get one it would be the Pecan Orange Zest), a soap booth, several jewelry vendors I am sure you can find on South Congress or by campus, only like TWO produce booths (how can this be a farmer’s market with NO farmer’s???), Texas Coffee Traders, and a Round Rock Honey booth that actually had impressively large jugs of honey (12lbs!). Other than that, I cannot recall anything other vendors. Oh wait, I did see the wife of a guy I work with, but she wasn’t there for the “farm goods”, she bee-lined it too the vintage buckle lady. I am determined to not lose hope. This could just be the beginning. I am actually semi-seriously thinking of e-mailing the event coordinator at Talulah Blue to see if I can set up camp for the next market, on February 23rd, selling my famous carrot cake because I know people are dying to have it first thing Saturday morning–it is THAT good.