Steve made this loaf of bread. With this recipe. Incredibly easy.
Virgina is for lovers? Maybe. On Sunday, Virginia was for famished people. Ask your wife – when women are hungry, they are HUNGRY and not afraid to be curt about it. We drove through the state today on our way to the National Bike Summit. If we’re on a long drive, and it’s between 12 and 2, the task falls to me (as the non-driver) to Yelp and UrbanSpoon my way to a good restaurant. By the time Steve mentions food, we’re usually both pretty hungry, which doesn’t do much for inter-marital relationships.
Restaurants are a crap-shoot on Sundays. Most are closed and those that are open are shi-tay (worse case scenario: baked potato at Wendy’s). I swear, a miracle came upon us this Sunday, as we approached Staunton, Va.: Zynodoa. I have never been happier to be in a high-quality, local restaurant as I was today. It reminded me of The Kitchen in Boulder — a chalkboard listing the local meat, fish and produce purveyors; large windows and a small but focused menu.
We were starving, thinking we’d have to ingest crap food to stay awake and totally not expecting any restaurant of our standard to be open. Then we found ourselves in a sunny booth window, waiting for our local Virginia fare.
I don’t drink coffee, I rely on fruit juice in the morning and eat a steady supply of fruit and veggies to keep me perked during the day. The past few days, I’ve had plenty of fine food, but not enough bright food and I got crabby and tired. I needed bright foods. Zynodoa was a godsend: bibb lettuce/kale/beet salad. This was followed by my favorite kind of entree, a creative vegetarian main dish: sauteed oyster mushrooms with a potato turnip puree and garlic crostini. I don’t care what you call it, I appreciate good food, it makes me happy. Someone put thought into this food, and that’s my kind of meal and exactly what I needed.
Again, a small miracle.
I’m going to end the blogging drought with some food talk!
Steve and I visited about 35 states last year, and when I think of each state, one of the first things that comes to mind is food. I like to eat, and when you work on the road, seeking out good food is a hobby.
If you know Steve and me, you know that one of our favorite restaurants in Boulder is Khow Thai. Not even because the food is good, but because the food and service are consistently good. I value consistency almost more than the food. It’s comforting to have a favorite restaurant that is consistently good.
In any event, our favorite restaurant in Texas (not to mention Rudy’s BBQ, a post unto itself), was also a Thai restaurant: Titaya’s Thai Cuisine. This is the absolute best Thai I have ever had. I might have never been to Thailand, but I’ve had a boatload of Thai food around the country, and Titaya’s is the best. Everything tasted fresher, better seasoned, and more balanced than anywhere else. It was a random search one night, after a long day of trail design in the cold, and nothing could have sated us better.
I felt bad after posting such a meaty recipe yesterday. Survey says that three out of five readers of this blog poo poo meat. I usually poo poo it too, but I’ve been cooking a lot of meat this week because I was finally able to make the gaggle of recipes I’ve been tearing out of magazines for the past few months, and I found a great local butcher here in South Lake Tahoe. I rarely eat meat at restaurants (bleh), so when I’m home and when I can find high-quality meat, I take advantage of the opportunity.
We eat a lot vegetarian or vegan meals, especially when we cook out of a hotel room (read: one burner and at the lower limits of sanitary), so I’m always on the lookout for flavorful and complete meat-free meals. I made this one to garnish a dish last night (don’t ask what kind of dish). It’s a perfect fall plate, flavorful, nutritious, and easy.
Olive-Oil-Roasted Tomatoes and Fennel with White Beans from Bon Appetit magazine
- 2 large fennel bulbs with fronds attached
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt divided
- 2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
- 4 large fresh oregano sprigs
- 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
Preheat oven to 425°F. Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 1/2 cup. Trim fennel bulbs and cut in half vertically. Cut each bulb half into 1/2-inch-wide wedges, leaving some core attached to each wedge.
Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Add fennel wedges in single layer; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt. Cook until fennel begins to brown and soften, turning occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Add tomatoes, oregano, garlic, and crushed red pepper; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Fold together gently.
Transfer skillet to oven. Bake fennel and tomatoes until soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Mix in beans and 6 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds. Bake 5 minutes longer to heat through. Transfer mixture to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining chopped fronds. Serve warm or at room temperature.
In September 2008, Steve and I traveled to Sweden on a Salomon-sponsored trip for their now-defunct women’s adventure program. Before and after our time with Salomon, we spent a few days on our own in and around Stockholm.
On our very last night in the city, we had balls on our mind, and headed to *the* spot to grab Swedish meatballs: Den Gyldene Freden. As we rolled in and got settled (not to mention found the place), we realized that not only is DGF one of the nicest, most traditional places to eat in Stockholm, but aside from just a few appetizers, the “Svenska köttbullar med pressgurka, lingon och gräddsås” (meatballs) were the very cheapest thing on the menu by at least $15. We wanted the balls, stat, but we didn’t want to seem like cheapies either. But hey, these balls cost $30 a plate, so who’s a cheapie?!
We ordered them and never looked back.
The next day we waved goodbye to Sweden and our Salomon adventure, and could only hope to one day again revel in a Swedish meatball dish of that caliber: delicate and springy meatballs, tangy pickles, sharp lingonberry sauce, light but unctuous cream sauce. Oh dear. Nothing would ever taste so good.
But as fate would have it, and it generally does, in rolls the January 2009 edition of Cooks Illustrated. If you’re a cook who’s interested in technique, pick up a copy of this magazine. Someone at CI must have had an in with the big guy, because man had we been hoping for this kind of miracle.
I made these for Steve the other night, in our Tahoe condo. I’ll cut to the chase and post the recipe. Forget everything you know about meatballs, throw your stomach a bone, and make yourself some Swedish meatballs. By the way, if you ever want to see Steve lick a plate, make him this.
Notes: The technique in this recipe make it great. Don’t skimp on beating the pork. Be sure to grate the onion. Fry those meatballs well. I’m notorious for “Belgian-izing” recipes (i.e. not following the rules), but follow the recipe on this one. I served them this time with sauteed spinach and roasted fingerling potatoes, which both contrasted and complemented nicely. They’re traditionally served with pickled cucumbers, recipe below.
Cook’s Illustrated Swedish Meatballs
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 slice white bread, crusts removed and bread torn into 1-inch pieces
- 8 ounces ground pork
- 1 small onion, grated on large holes of box grater (about 1/4 cup)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 8 ounces 85% lean ground beef
- 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- salt & fresh ground pepper
- For the Meatballs: Whisk egg and cream together in medium bowl. Stir in bread and set aside. Meanwhile, in stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat pork, onion, nutmeg, allspice, pepper, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder on high speed until smooth and pale, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl as necessary. Using fork, mash bread mixture until no large dry bread chunks remain; add mixture to mixer bowl and beat on high speed until smooth and homogeneous, about 1 minute, scraping bowl as necessary. Add beef and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl as necessary. Using moistened hands, form generous tablespoon of meat mixture into 1-inch round meatball; repeat with remaining mixture to form 25 to 30 meatballs.
- Heat oil in 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until edge of meatball dipped in oil sizzles (oil should register 350 degrees on instant-read thermometer), 3 to 5 minutes. Add meatballs in single layer and fry, flipping once halfway through cooking, until lightly browned all over and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. (Adjust heat as needed to keep oil sizzling but not smoking.) Using slotted spoon, transfer browned meatballs to paper towel-lined plate.
- For the sauce: Pour off and discard oil in pan, leaving any fond (browned bits) behind. Return pan to medium-high heat and add butter. When foaming subsides, add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until flour is light brown, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in broth, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits. Add brown sugar and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream and return to simmer.
- Add meatballs to sauce and simmer, turning occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Swedish pickled cucumber ingredients:
- 1 lb Kirby cucumbers, sliced into thin rounds
- 1 1/2 c white vinegar
- 1 1/2 c sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 12 whole allspice berries
- Place cucumber slices in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring vinegar, sugar, salt, and allspice to simmer in small saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
- Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and stir to separate the slices. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Uncover and cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Pickles can be refrigerated in their liquid in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.
Have you ever come across the Edible magazines? They’re usually free, and up for grabs at many local merchants. The magazines are usually written by local food enthusiasts and farmers, and cover all aspects of your local food system: farms, farmers markets, food policy, seasonal recipes, sustainable agriculture and upcoming local food events. The magazine is nationwide, but each region has its own edition (and it’s ever expanding).
When we were in Chicago, that region’s Edible steered us to some delicious restaurants. The Santa Fe edition highlighted local food purveyors and growers. I was excited to spot the San Juan Mountains edition (the first edition for this region) while we were grabbing coffee in Cortez on our way to Telluride.
The San Juan Mountains’ “Hen House” article about raising chickens really made me miss my old ladies! Soon enough we’ll have more chickens.
Who doesn’t like breakfast? Especially breakfast that involves spiiiice.
The breakfast we had in Santa Fe, NM certainly stands out as our most memorable meal in New Mexico. Although we spent a fair amount of time in this state over the months (Gallup, Ruidoso, Las Cruces, Raton, not to mention ample highway miles), only one thing counts: bakery basket.
If you are in Santa Fe, be sure to visit Tecolote Cafe. The breakfast entrees span the gamut: French toast from homemade breads, New Mexican spicy specialties (I had the sheepherder’s breakfast: boiled new red potatoes with jalapeño and onion, then browned on the grill, topped with red and green chile, melted cheddar, and two eggs any style), and BAKERY BASKETS! As soon as you place your order here (and regardless of your order), the server carries out a basket of homemade treats (instead of toast), including cinnamon rolls, biscuits and muffins. The perfect antidote for having endured the long wait for a table.
After Nevada comes… Arizona!
We drifted into Prescott, Ariz. in mid-January, in the midst of an 80-year snow storm. We had plenty of work planned… but the for the first of many times this year, the weather forced us into a bar for the afternoon, instead of scoping out trail.
Prescott reminds me a bit of Boulder with its people, awesome food selection and small town, independent charm. I hear the mountain biking is pretty stellar, and it’s relatively close to other mountain biking in the Southwest, if you want to make a roadtrip out of it.
When you’re down there, be sure to try these three great restaurants:
– Cafe Raven: organic/local cafe, with a beer list to beat the band and a comfy area to relax.
– Pasquale’s Place: schnitzel and sauerkraut; what more would you ever need?
– Prescott Brewing Company – local brewery with interesting brews and above-average far.
On our way from Augusta, GA to the New River Gorge in WV, we took a little detour through Charleston, SC. Charleston is a perfect place to visit: very walkable, tasty restaurants, beautiful historic downtown and abounding outdoor activities.
A day after the best Southern cookin’ I’ve ever had (I have little frame of reference, but I wholeheartedly welcome competition), we rode our bicycles down to Folly Beach, a little beachside community about 10 miles away from Charleston. We dipped our bikes in the Atlantic, and plan to do the same when we reach the Pacific in October! Here’s the evidence.
I’ve been trying to figure out a way to recount our travels through the United States, as well as characterize the sheer mileage we put in on our trusty Subarus. There are many factors that go into making a visit or trip a memorable one, and the factor that rises to the top is the food.
So I’m going to start a new series – 50 States, 50 Eats. I’ll recap each state we’ve been to in culinary terms. For each state, I’ll mention my favorite restaurant, coffee shop, or food experience. And if you are passing through, you’ll know where to fill ‘ur belly!
Since mid-January, we’ve been to 23 states – most of the Midwest and the East (aside from New England). We’ll visit about 6-10 more before the end of the year (fewer than the first half, as most of our visits in autumn are in California).
Here goes — I’m going to start with our first real stop, Nevada. We drove through Colorado and Utah prior to Nevada, but Colorado’s for another day, and Utah was a sleepy stop. We’ll hang out in Park City in July, at which point I’ll have something to say.
#1 Recommended Eat in Nevada: POP’s Cheesesteaks, Las Vegas
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t even like cheesesteaks, but we were driving through rainy Las Vegas, desperate for some dinner prior to a presentation to the Las Vegas mtb’g community that was soon to start. POP’s shack along a busy road looks ramshackle, but had the tastiest cheesesteak I’ve ever had – you can customize the meat quantity, peppers, spice, onions, and make something that really appeals. It’s a nice break from the typical Las Vegas fancy food. Perhaps this wasn’t even the best meal we had in NV, but it certainly opened my eyes to the fact that a cheesesteak doesn’t have to be nasty.