A nation of stoners anxiously awaits

Can This Chip Be Saved? (WSJ)

To make potato chips, it takes beet juice, purple cabbage and carrots. At least that’s what Frito-Lay has concluded as part of its big push to use natural ingredients in its chips. The veggies replace ingredients such as FD&C Red 40, an artificial coloring agent.

“If the ingredient isn’t in a consumer’s cupboard, can we get it off the label?” says Tim Fink, director of Frito-Lay’s seasonings team.

Frito-Lay, the biggest U.S. seller of salty snacks, is embarking on an audacious plan. By the end of the year, it intends to make half its snacks sold in the U.S. with only natural ingredients. Many are already in grocery stores.

That stripper’s boobs were totally real and I think she liked me

There’s been a lot of predictable outrage and gnashing of teeth over an Alabama law firm’s seemingly pointless decision to sue Taco Bell for “false advertising”. Apparently a sneaking suspicion — that the meat slurry used by the fast food juggernaut in their painfully-bad-it’s-good menu offerings contained very little beef — was actually confirmed.

It looks bad but passable… until you learn that—according to the Alabama law firm suing Taco Bell—only 36% of that is beef. Thirty-six percent. The other 64% is mostly tasteless fibers, various industrial additives and some flavoring and coloring. Everything is processed into a mass that actually looks like beef, and packed into big containers labeled as “taco meat filling.” These containers get shipped to Taco Bell’s outlets and cooked into something that looks like beef, is called beef and is advertised as beef by the fast food chain.

In terms of the legitimacy of the class action suit itself, I would say Taco Bell has uniquely and cleverly shielded themselves of culpability by referring to their menu items as “beefy”, which in this case is technically true.

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The Internet was similarly abuzz a few years ago when it was discovered that the “guacamole” dip commonly sold in erstwhile supermarket chains contained nary an avocado, and were essentially of the some composition as the crappy french onion dip it sat besides on the shelf, except with a booster shot of pale, artificial green.

If you’re paying attention, this really should come of no surprise. In the case of the supermarket avocado subterfuge, a quick glance at the ingredients of the guacamole container would confirm it always primarily consisted of industrially emulsified vegetable oil, and in the case of Taco Bell any sort of self awareness would have allowed the average person to discern that little of what passes as “ground beef” is actually flesh extracted from cows.

As someone who grew up on Chef Boyardee Ravioli (not because it was forced upon me, but out of pure, misguided choice), I recall being nine years old and marveling at how the first “meat” ingredient was “crackermeal”. I assumed at this young age this wasn’t a slang for what poor white people in Arkansas called beef — this was simply filler. Taco Bell’s “seasoned ground beef” similarly shares the same sort of strangely uniform and smooth texture.

If you’ve ever dared to look at what goes on inside the back of the house of any Taco Bell after placing your order, you’d already know that what goes on in the back-of-the-house doesn’t approach anything that resembles cooking in any conventional sense. Taco Bell is simply an MRE repurposing exercise. I presume the meat (and this includes all the meat, not just the seasoned ground beef) comes pre-cooked in unnaturally large, cryovaced bags, and each morning the opening shift simply cuts open a bag and pours the ignoble contents into a slot on the steam table and allows it to bring it up to temperature.

So how can it be a surprise that Taco Bell’s beef is more filler than meat? This is a place that has guacamole and sour cream loaded into separate chambers of the same squirt-gun. Taco Bell preys off teenagers, inebriated college students, and those of us suffering from bad judgement. Its raison d’etre revolves almost entirely around selling soda at huge profit margins — food is just a necessary means to an end.

From the CEO himself:

Taco Bell President Greg Creed said in a statement that the lawyers who filed the lawsuit got their facts wrong and that Taco Bell plans to take legal action against those making the allegations. He did not explain specifically what type of legal action Taco Bell might take. “At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket,” Creed said. “We start with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef.”

I, for one, am strangely comforted that only 36% of what is found in Taco Bell’s seasoned ground beef is actually meat.

Shisito and Thanh Son tofu

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A snack: stir-fried shisito peppers (from H-mart) and slices of lemongrass/chili tofu from SE Portland’s Thanh Son Tofu. This is a perfect lager beer nosh, in my humble (and often wrong) opinion.

If you haven’t checked out the seasoned tofu from Thanh Son, you’re really missing something special.

Thanh Son Tofu

103 NE 82nd Ave
Portland, OR 97220-6004
(503) 517-9902

Better living through chemistry

Lay’s Changing Basic Shape of Salt Crystals for Healthier Potato Chips (Popular Science)

The salt crystals on potato chips only dissolve about 20 percent of the way on the tongue, while the center of each tiny cube-shaped crystal remains intact until after it’s swallowed. Thus, most of the salt you’re eating on your chips is not contributing to the taste of the chip, but it is dissolving further down your digestive tract and causing whatever the FDA alleges that increased dietary sodium intake causes.

The redesigned salt crystal, with more surface area, should dissolve completely on the tongue, thus theoretically allowing each chip to taste just as salty with only 20 percent as much salt.

I have much respect for the Frito-Lay corporation.

Elitist tomatoes

Snob Appeal. (Wash Post)

In the food world, and in that especially obsessive corner populated by tomato aficionados, heirlooms are the embodiment of all that is good, which is to say they are not perfectly round, perfectly red and utterly tasteless supermarket tomatoes. We food snobs prize heirlooms for their personalities. These old-fashioned varieties are lumpy, cracked and creviced, with glorious names such as Casady’s Folly or Mullens’ Mortgage Lifter (which is not to be confused with Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter or Quisinberry’s Mortgage Lifter). And they come in nearly all the colors of the rainbow. They can be red, of course. But they are also yellow, streaked with tangerine like a summer sunset, pale green, bronze-and-purple and bruised black as if they’ve just escaped from a backyard tomato smackdown.

I have eaten terrific heirloom varieties; indeed, I’m quite partial to the Black Prince, which hails from Siberia, a place one doesn’t normally associate with tomatoes. But a week ago, I paid $4.99 a pound for a locally grown heirloom that was slightly mealy, tasted overwhelmingly bland and paled in comparison with a perfectly round, perfectly red commercial hybrid, dubbed Early Girl, that I ate last year and am still dreaming about at the height of this year’s tomato season.

Call me persnickety, but someone needs to take a stand here: “Heirloom” is not synonymous with “good.”

I have a Black Prince plant that has grown into a towering monstrosity over the last couple months but has yet to yield a single fruit. I suck.

Bread report: Little T American Baker

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I’ve heard many good things about Little T American Baker on Southeast Division, and finally stopped by recently–albeit only to score a large baguette for that night’s dinner with the in-laws.

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I was nearly tempted to grab a sandwich, but the large bowl of bun bo hue I had just finished 10 minutes ago stifled what would have been an ill-advised gluttonous decision.

They bake a mean baguette at Little T’s. Wonderfully crusty, with a chewy, airy interior. It was impossible to resist repeated nibbles off one end as I drove home.

This reminded me of the loaves my mom brought home from the French bakeries in Little Saigon (Westminster) when I was 6 years old. As soon as the bag hit the kitchen counter, I’d dig out rock-size chunks from a crisp loaf, and smoothly swipe a broad edge through a dulcet puddle of thick, rich sweetened condensed milk. Before you know it, you’ve eaten an entire baguette.

I could see myself eating an entire loaf with a bowl of mussels. I shall return for sandwiches.

Little T American Baker

2600 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202-1253
(503) 238-3458

Little T American Baker on THE WORLD WIDE WEB

Official Website
Portlandfood.org

Ebelskiver

I recently got this Ebelskiver pan from Williams-Sonoma just to prove to myself I could be a navel-gazing self absorbed yuppie elitist if I put my mind to it. I mean, a fucking pan just to make Ebelskiver? From Williams-Sonoma? Can one be more solipsistic? Do I own some sparsely furnished, post-modern pancake house that caters to existentialist Scandinavian misanthropes?

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In any regard it’s pretty neat, and my daughter loves eating this things for weekend breakfast. And it’s really easy, actually, to “stuff” your ‘skivers by dropping your filling (in this instance, a simple paste of melted butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar) on top of the dough as soon as you pour the batter into the wells.

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The filling seeps into the dough, and you’re left with these cute little “popovers.”

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Works with impromptu fresh fruit sauces as well.

I’m usually not one for sweet-ish things, but making your own Ebelskiver is heavy on the neat-o factor. I’m looking forward to attempting a savory ‘skiver…pulled pork?

Williams-Sonoma Ebelskiver Recipe (Copied Verbatim More or Less)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and granulated sugar. In another bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk and the 4 Tbs. melted butter. Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture until well combined; the batter will be lumpy. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff but not dry peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter in two additions.

    Put 1/8 tsp. melted butter in each well of a filled-pancake pan (ME: or use non-stick spray, which is what I used). Set over medium heat and heat until the butter begins to bubble. Pour 1 Tbs. batter into each well. Spoon 1/2 tsp. of the cinnamon filling into the center of each pancake and top with 1 Tbs. batter. Cook until the bottoms are golden brown and crispy, about 3 minutes. Using 2 skewers (ME: or chopsticks!), flip the pancakes over and cook until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes more. Transfer the pancakes to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling.

    Martin’s Swiss Dressing: made in Portland

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    I first tasted this Martin’s Swiss Dressing about 15 months ago when they were doing an expo at Uwajimaya. I sampled the dressing as a nice coat on simple mixed greens, and immediately experienced priapism of the taste buds.

    “Wow,” I thought to myself. (That is the extent of the dramatization).

    I quickly grabbed a bottle of Martin’s Swiss Dressing and placed it in my shopping cart. At $5.99 for 8 ounces, it was rather pricey. But for somebody who tosses as much salad as yours truly(!)—I eat a large salad every weekday—this was simply a down payment on deliciousness.

    Soon after, as I returned to Uwajimaya for subsequent bottles of dressing, I realized why this dressing had so much influence on my life. Swiss = umami proficiency = the motherland of Maggi. Imagine if the very core essence of Maggi umamish fortitude was somehow emulsified into a velvety smooth nectar suitable for drizzling onto leafy greens (aka “salad dressing”). You would have Martin’s Swiss Dressing.

    It very much reminds me of the incredible concotions I ate growing up, whereupon my Mom undoubtedly added a few splashes of Maggi to her Saigon-infused “caesar” salads—replete with a beaten raw egg cracked over the romaine just prior to a shower of grated parmesan before serving.

    I used to be mostly a fine olive oil and red vinegar guy, but Martin’s has pretty much changed my life. Packing plenty of saline je ne sai quois, it is the only dressing with which I don’t feel like I need to additionally salt my greens to bring out their true flavor.

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    Here’s the story behind Martin’s.

    I will go on record by saying this is the best commercial salad dressing available on the free market today (and perhaps the salad dressing black market as well). In the year+ since I’ve been buying this stuff religiously at Uwajimaya, the dressing has cropped up in the refrigerated dressing aisles of Portland area New Seasons and Lamb’s Thriftway, as well (the dressing apparently is required to maintain a cold temp).

    Martin’s Swiss Dressing

    Available at Uwajimaya in Beaverton, Portland area New Seasons, and Portland area Lamb’s Thriftways.

    Cock sauce

    A Chili Sauce to Crow About. (NY Times via @wanderchopstick)

    It’s become a sleeve trick for chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

    At the restaurant Perry St., in New York City, Mr. Vongerichten’s rice-cracker-crusted tuna with citrus sauce has always relied on the sweet, garlicky heat of sriracha. More recently, he has honed additional uses. “The other night, I used some of the green-cap stuff with asparagus,” Mr. Vongerichten said. “It’s well balanced, perfect in a hollandaise.”

    In Houston, at the restaurant Reef, Bryan Caswell, a veteran of Mr. Vongerichten’s kitchens, stirs sriracha into the egg wash he uses to batter fried foods, from crab cakes to oysters to onion rings. “It’s not heavily fermented, it’s not acidic,” said Mr. Caswell, who has won a devoted following for the sriracha rémoulade he often serves with such fried dishes. “It burns your body, not your tongue.”

    Sriracha has proved relevant beyond the epicurean realm. Wal-Mart sells the stuff. So do mom-and-pop stores, from Bristol, Tenn., to Bisbee, Ariz.

    Sriracha is a key ingredient in street food: The two Kogi trucks that travel the streets of Los Angeles, vending kimchi-garnished tacos to the young, hip and hungry, provide customers with just one condiment, Huy Fong sriracha.

    Take two channa masalas and call me in the morning

    Hospitals will take meat off menus in bid to cut carbon. (Guardian UK)

    Meat-free menus are to be promoted in hospitals as part of a strategy to cut global warming emissions across the National Health Service.

    The plan to offer patients menus that would have no meat option is part of a strategy to be published tomorrow that will cover proposals ranging from more phone-in GP surgeries to closing outpatient departments and instead asking surgeons to visit people at their local doctor’s surgery.

    Some suggestions are likely to be controversial with patients’ groups, especially attempts to curb meat eating and car use. Plans to reuse more equipment could raise concern about infection with superbugs such as MRSA.

    Dr David Pencheon, director of the NHS sustainable development unit, said the amount of NHS emissions meant it had to act to make cuts, and the changes would save money, which could be spent on better services for patients.

    “This is not just about doing things more efficiently, it’s about doing things differently, because efficiency is not going to get us to big cuts,” said Pencheon. “What will healthcare look like in 2030-2040 in a very low carbon society? It will not look anything like it looks now.”

    In praise of cauliflower

    Cauliflower Shines in Winter. (NY Times)

    Cauliflower can seem drab if served plain and, like its cousins cabbage and broccoli, downright unappetizing if overcooked. But from the Mediterranean to India, this versatile vegetable shines in salads and pastas, gratins and soups, curries and risottos. Cauliflower is at its peak now, from December through March, when produce markets often are otherwise spare, particularly if you happen to live in a northern climate.

    Wal-mart is there for all your racist cake decorating needs

    Cake request for 3-year-old Hitler namesake denied. (AP/Yahoo!)

    A supermarket is defending itself for refusing to a write out 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell’s name on his birthday cake.

    Deborah Campbell, 25, of nearby Hunterdon County, N.J., said she phoned in her order last week to the Greenwich ShopRite. When she told the bakery department she wanted her son’s name spelled out, she was told to talk to a supervisor, who denied the request.

    Karen Meleta, a ShopRite spokeswoman, said the store denied similar requests from the Campbells the last two years, including a request for a swastika.

    “We reserve the right not to print anything on the cake that we deem to be inappropriate,” Meleta said. “We considered this inappropriate.”

    The Campbells ultimately got their cake decorated at a Wal-Mart in Pennsylvania, Deborah Campbell said Tuesday.

    Tomacco?

    Purple Tomatoes May Help Prevent Cancer. (Web MD)

    A new breed of tomatoes that are specially engineered to have extra antioxidants may help prevent cancer, according to a new study.

    Scientists in Europe transferred certain genes of snapdragons to tomatoes, creating a tomato with a dark purple color and loads of antioxidants. Researchers tested the tomatoes on cancer-prone mice; they found that a diet supplemented by purple tomato powder increased the life span of the mice compared to mice eating a standard diet or a diet supplemented with red tomato powder.

    Ensalada Caesar

    Tourists Toss Aside a Chance to Taste History. (NY Times)

    It is true that the water can be problematic south of the border, if it is consumed directly from the tap or used to wash one’s salad fixings. At the same time, fine dining abounds throughout Mexico, white tablecloth affairs with celebrity chefs, mouthwatering menus and fancy water that comes from elegantly shaped bottles.

    Although not in that lofty league, there is one eatery with a particularly distinguished history that is relevant to the question of whether one should consume salads in Mexico. Called Caesar’s Restaurant, it sits in the seediest of spots, along Tijuana’s Avenida Revolución, and specializes in salad — Caesar salad, to be exact, which it says was invented in its kitchen in 1924.

    Broccoli is good for you

    Broccoli may undo diabetes damage. (BBC)

    Eating broccoli could reverse the damage caused by diabetes to heart blood vessels, research suggests.

    A University of Warwick team believe the key is a compound found in the vegetable, called sulforaphane.

    It encourages production of enzymes which protect the blood vessels, and a reduction in high levels of molecules which cause significant cell damage.

    Brassica vegetables such as broccoli have previously been linked to a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.

    Cracker! Yes. Actually, a cracker. You know…cracker?

    A university professor in Minnesota posts on his private blog some thoughts about faux outrage when some guy smuggled a cracker out of church, and it invokes over 3000 comments, dozens of death threats, and demands of retribution from the Catholic League.

    I wish I were making this up.

    Now, if some guy was smuggling tenderloin out of a churrascaria, I could see somebody getting a bit uppity, but we’re talking about a cracker. Cracker.

    The year of living dangerously

    Today for lunch I had a roast turkey sandwich with sliced tomatoes from a round fruit that to my knowledge was not vine-ripened and did not hail from California, Tennessee, Israel, or the Netherlands. I used half of the tomato, and chopped the rest for an afternoon-snack salad.

    I’m monitoring the situation and I’ll post to this blog tomorrow if I die.

    You just tripping, foo

    A Tiny Fruit That Tricks the Tongue. (NY Times)

    They were among 40 or so people who were tasting under the influence of a small red berry called miracle fruit at a rooftop party in Long Island City, Queens, last Friday night. The berry rewires the way the palate perceives sour flavors for an hour or so, rendering lemons as sweet as candy.

    The host was Franz Aliquo, 32, a lawyer who styles himself Supreme Commander (Supreme for short) when he’s presiding over what he calls “flavor tripping parties.” Mr. Aliquo greeted new arrivals and took their $15 entrance fees. In return, he handed each one a single berry from his jacket pocket.

    “You pop it in your mouth and scrape the pulp off the seed, swirl it around and hold it in your mouth for about a minute,” he said. “Then you’re ready to go.” He ushered his guests to a table piled with citrus wedges, cheeses, Brussels sprouts, mustard, vinegars, pickles, dark beers, strawberries and cheap tequila, which Mr. Aliquo promised would now taste like top-shelf Patrón.

    The miracle fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum, is native to West Africa and has been known to Westerners since the 18th century. The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids, according to a scientist who has studied the fruit, Linda Bartoshuk at the University of Florida’s Center for Smell and Taste. Dr. Bartoshuk said she did not know of any dangers associated with eating miracle fruit.

    I don’t know what the big deal is. I’ve been using this for years, whenever I’m about to toss somebody’s salad.

    MSG

    Yes, MSG, the Secret Behind the Savor. (NY Times – Via Umami Mart)

    IN 1968 a Chinese-American physician wrote a rather lighthearted letter to The New England Journal of Medicine. He had experienced numbness, palpitations and weakness after eating in Chinese restaurants in the United States, and wondered whether the monosodium glutamate used by cooks here (and then rarely used by cooks in China) might be to blame.

    The consequences for the restaurant business, the food industry and American consumers were immediate and enormous. MSG, a common flavor enhancer and preservative used since the 1950s, was tagged as a toxin, removed from commercial baby food and generally driven underground by a new movement toward natural, whole foods.

    “It was a nightmare for my family,” said Jennifer Hsu, a graphic designer whose parents owned several Chinese restaurants in New York City in the 1970s. “Not because we used that much MSG — although of course we used some — but because it meant that Americans came into the restaurant with these suspicious, hostile feelings.”

    I’ve been quite clear on the subject. The anti-MSG movement is the Red Scare of our generation, and all you culinary Joe McCarthys are on notice.

    Kettle is the people’s chip

    Kettle offering limited edition “People’s Choice” spicy chip package.

    This year our fiery flavor candidates are:

    • Wicked Hot Sauce – Inspired by hot sauce, cayenne pepper and vinegary tang flood your taste buds with bayou burning heat.
    • Mango Chili – Sweet mango highlighted with a salty, spicy blend of cayenne
    and habanero chilies will have your tongue dancing the mango tango.
    • Jalapeno Salsa Fresca – Fresh salsa anyone? A blend of fiery jalapeño and spicy cayenne mellowed with soothing sun dried tomato, green bell pepper and lime flavors.
    • Orange Ginger Wasabi – the punch of wasabi, a little ginger and a twist of citrus blend for a spicy Asian bite.
    • Death Valley Chipotle – a smoky blend of red chili, cayenne, chipotle, habanero and herbs lays the foundation for this flavor’s slow burning heat.

    The “People’s Choice” comes into play as we, the people, get to choose the next upcoming flavor Kettle will roll out.

    Oregon’s own Kettle Chips proves again it is the most progressive and democratic of all the salty snacks.

    Gazpacho

    Continuing on the cold noodles post from last week, the hot months are here, and that also means gazpacho. On a hot day, I can eat a gallon of this stuff.

    I like to blend my gazpacho (and use V-8), but add reserved chopped ingredients at the end, so there are two textures.

    Soup

    • 3 or 4 (depending on size) peeled, cored and chopped tomatoes NOTE: if you can’t get ripe tomatoes, use a fine brand of canned tomatoes (28oz)
    • 2 cans V-8
    • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
    • 1 red jalapeno, chopped
    • 1 red pepper, cored, seeded, depithed, and coarsely chopped
    • 1 English cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
    • 2/3 red onion, coarsely chopped
    • 1 cup (i.e. 1/2 a 16oz bag of peeled baby carrots) chopped peeled carrots
    • 3 green onions, coarsely chopped
    • 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves only
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon or so sugar
    • Few dashes of Worchestshire

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    Combine all the above in a blender. Blend to your liking. I don’t like it frothy. You can live your own life.

    Garnish

    • 1/3 red onion, finely diced
    • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled and finely diced
    • 3 chives, finely chopped
    • 1/4 bunch chopped cilantro
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil

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    Stir the above ingredients into the blended soup. Chill in the fridge at least a day.

    At times, if I’m feeling a bit randy, I’ll top this off with chopped kalamata olives before eating.

    Kimchi

    Kimchi is good. Although — like many things in the wide world of food that are good — it smells like shit.

    When we lived overseas, for a while we had a Korean neighbor who taught my mom how to make kimchi (I was in the third grade). My mom at that point had made pickled vegetables (the most ubiquitous being pickled mustard greens), but these were mild concoctions. My mom I imagine was intoxicated by the heat and toxicity of our neighbors kimchi, which spent a few days taking a dirt nap, buried in her backyard.

    My mom didn’t go that far, instead allowing a huge jar of kimchi to ferment on our kitchen counter. We lived at the time in a closed residential compound that had been designed by Dutch architects for (initially) expatriated Dutch workers and their families. As a result, our house was quite diminutive in an efficient, scaled down way — the Netherlands appearing to be a country that was built to 3/5th scale. It was quite possibly the smallest 5 bedroom house in the entire world – maybe 1000 square feet. Everything was scaled down to size — the bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, utility room. One load in our washer and dryer meant probably two pairs of jeans and five shirts. The icebox could barely hold a chicken. Our Atari 2600 game room was so small a third Missile Command spectator had a hard time waiting his turn without discomforting the others.

    As a result of living in such cramped quarters, my Mom’s huge jar of rotting crap smelled like fucking shit. Oh man, my dad would bellyache like a whiny ass titty baby. He had a hard time with fish sauce, but this kimchi was another smelly beast altogether. The fact that it sat out for days, stinking up the whole joint, imparted a more criminal ignominy. Like most solipsistic white honkies, he had an aversion to anything that smelled stronger than ketchup that wasn’t his own fart. I kid the white people. I love them — they are good at starting wars.

    My kimchi technique is slightly modified from a more traditional approach (as described on Zenkimchi’s excellent post), though I do use this technique as a template.

    As with most of my recipes, everything is approximate. In fact, I’m not going to give measurements for most of the ingredients here. Just figure it out yourself, you’re a big girl. Take some responsibility for your life for once.

    Kimchi

    Vegetable components

    • Cabbage
    • Daikon radish
    • Carrots
    • Sliced red onion
    • Chopped green onion
    • Garlic
    • Italian parsley
    • Ginger

    In this case, I picked up a couple long napa cabbages from Uwajimaya (around 2 feet long, but much narrower than conventional napa). I sliced the daikon into coins, and the carrots into matchsticks, and brined all these for around 8 hours in cold, salty water (1 cup kosher salt for every quart water). I used around 25 minced garlic cloves — no kidding — and a nice, shredded knob of ginger. The parsley may sound like an odd addition, but I like the freshness it adds to the mix.

    Seasoning components

    • Fish sauce (I used Three Lions brand – my usual)
    • Gochugaru
    • Crushed red pepper
    • Paprika
    • 1 teaspoon fermented shrimp sauce (your call)
    • 1 teaspoon or so of sugar

    Start with a large mixing bowl, and add all the spices.

    Pepper

    Gochugaru is Korean dried red pepper. It’s intensely red. Paprika, again, may seem odd , but I like the “red” it adds. Also, the crushed pepper could probably be omitted, but I like the additional flavor layer it adds. It is important to note the gochugaru is the primary pepper component and you are using a lot. How much? That’s your call, but you’re looking to create a consistent paste when you add the fish sauce (and the shrimp sauce, if you’re using it). It should be a nice sludge that should should be ample enough to coat all your vegetables. If you’re feeling timid, you can create the sludge separately and mix it in stages with the vegetables to obtain your optimum level of intensity.

    Once everything is mixed to your liking, transfer to a large jar or container and commence with the rotting. You can leave it out at room temperature overnight or transfer immediately to your fridge – I usually let it sit out for around 12 hours and then refridgerate. The opening photo shows kimchi in its infancy. I will sample the kimchi at this point, as there’s joy to be obtained from a fresh, bright batch of kimchi.

    Pepper

    But as you can see, once it mucks around in its own rotting filth for a while, that’s when something special starts to occur.

    Kettle Spicy Thai

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    In honor of National Potato Chip Day, I’ve decided to pay homage to a recently introduced, heavyweight contender.

    Rarely does a chip come around that punches you in the solar plexus and makes you stand up and take notice.

    Kettle™ brand Spicy Thai is such a chip. It is a snack that screams “Notice me! Behold me. You can’t ignore me. I am your muse. Your raison d’etre.”

    Spicy Thai has really taken the industry by storm and has almost singularily redefined the snack landscape. Not since the combination of fancy nutmeats in an unguarded moment of peanut exclusionary packaging has the snack world been shaken from its complacent doldrums.

    The flavor profile is simultaneously intricate, subdued, and bold. At first you’re hit with what is almost a cloying sweetness. This is simply Kettle toying with your emotions. You’re then clobbered over the head with a rush of ginger, and then a distinctly potent slow burn.

    Kettle is based here in Oregon (Salem), and they do much that is to be admired. Witness the delicate prose extolling the chip on the backside of the packaging:

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    A Chip That Travels Far for Flavor
    As true chip innovators, we love a challenge. So when a fan suggested that we take Thai cuisine’s complex balance of flavors — sweetness, spice and salt — and balance it on a chip, we reached for our passports. We’ve incorporated the refreshing sweetness and snap of ginger and the red peppery pop of Thai spice to create a collision of East and West in the crunch of the world’s most worldly chip. Have Kettle™ brand — will travel. No passport required.

    Under the dominion of any other corporate stewardship, this would be mere treacle and hyperbole. In this case, truer words have never been inscribed. I would personally like to meet and thank the “fan” that compelled Kettle™ brands to conjure such a masterpiece. He/she deserves accolades and adulation, and is worthy of bestowal of the highest honors we accord to those who advance humanity and progress to the zenith of benevolent accomplishment (hint: Nobel Prize).

    A note on Maggi

    A note on Maggi. I commonly use this liquid MSG incubator when I eat things with rice or when I need something to soak my sandwiches.

    I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. There are two types of Maggi. One looks like this:

    …and is manufactured stateside. Notice the label, how they suggest that only a few drops will do. Yes, this is unnecessarily preachy. That is because we are America, a nanny state. We can’t be bothered to allow our citizens to exercise free choice and sentient will; we are sheeple that need to be prodded and poked, lectured and proselytized to. We consider commercials broadcast in the first half hour of the Super Bowl to be a cultural high water mark, and suburban strip malls overwhelming barometers of the prevailing zeitgeist when multiplied by the activity coefficients of a Starbucks and an I Sold It on Ebay franchise.

    This is what the European version looks like:

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    This is the good stuff, and it costs twice as much as the stateside produced Maggi. Notice the much more subtle messaging.

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    The compelling argument to use just a couple dashes is buried on the side of the bottle. This is what a thousand years of intra-continental warfare, colonization and subjugation of foreign countries, religious and ethnic cleansing, genocide, and systematic classism gets you. You become a bit more laid back and the mommy message lives on the side label.

    So is the imported Maggi worth it? My mom swears so, and I listen to my mommy.

    Satan’s chestnut

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    What the fuck is this?

    My mom picked some of these up at FuBonn last month during her visit. She claimed she ate them as a child in her village in Southern Vietnam. Rest assured, I promise you my mother is a proper Buddhist, and — to the best of my knowledge — does not own any Slayer, Morbid Angel, or Napalm Death albums.

    As you can see, they are quite nefarious in appearance, as if somebody commissioned H.R. Giger to reimagine the chestnut. I suppose this is the kind of snack Damien the Omen eats while watching Spongebob Satanpants and channeling Lucifer’s minions to serve the dark lord’s whimsy. When my sister-in-law saw a picture of these in my iPhoto library, she exclaimed that she couldn’t believe I would harbor such evil with a two-year old daughter living under my roof.

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    My mom stuck them in a saucepan and boiled these “Dante’s nuggets” for about 5 minutes. Once they were cooled, I tried to improve upon her method of simply cutting them in half with my new Global knife (and dulling the blade), and digging out the “meat” with a fork. I instead used a crab claw cracker, but it basically just spewed devil shards all over my kitchen counter.

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    The flavor of the “flesh” is similar to a chestnut. Pure, white, evil, devilishly spawned, demonic, underworldish chestnuts. I wouldn’t go through the trouble of extracting the meat from a few dozen of these to, say, augment a turkey dressing. But if I ever found myself in Satan’s foyer, waiting for my entrance exam, I’d suck on a few out of respect.

    Mong Toi

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    This is one of my favorite Asian greens. As you can tell by the label, FuBonn classifies it as “Mong Toi”, though other cultures would most likely have other names for it.

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    Mong Toi has broad leaves with thin stems that feed into a thick, central stem. Steam or sauteed, the stem and greens become very tender. I would say it’s a nice cross between spinach and Chinese broccoli.

    Like spinach or Chinese brocolli, it pairs extremely well when steamed or sauteed (or both) with garlic and seasoned with a thick, dark Asian sauce. That’s exactly what I did in this instance. After cutting off the very 1/4 inch stub ends of the greens and rinsing them, heat up a large wok and briefly sautee a couple minced cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of peanut or vegetable oil.

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    Add the greens, and sautee, until they start to become slightly wilted.

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    Drizzle with a Lee Kum Kee sauce, such as oyster, “vegetarian stir fry”, hoisin, or a Korean fermented soybean paste (I use “Wang” brand). It just so happens that I keep a squirt bottle on handle with equal parts of ALL THE ABOVE for instances just like this. Imagine the fortuitous serendipity, if you can.

    Finally, hit with some cracked pepper and a squirt of sesame oil and enjoy.

    In praise of MSG

    If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?

    Good question. Not since the false demonization of the tomato as a poisonous cousin of the deadly nightshade has another ingredient usurped such mythical and misbegotten ill repute.

    What does chiefly animate Japanese soups and broths is an amino acid called glutamate. In the best ramen shops it’s made naturally from boiling dried kombu seaweed; it can also come from dried shrimp or bonito flakes, or from fermented soy. More cheaply and easily, you get it from a tin, where it is stabilised with ordinary salt and is thus monosodium glutamate.

    This last fact is of little interest to the Japanese – like most Asians, they have no fear of MSG. And there lies one of the world’s great food scare conundrums. If MSG is bad for you – as Jeffrey Steingarten, the great American Vogue food writer once put it – why doesn’t everyone in China have a headache?

    I liken this to the Reefer Madness scare of the 20th century. MSG has been demonized from the bully pulpit, scandalized by a generation of shucksters perpetuating false truths and slanderous lies. Armchair chemists and erstwhile nutritionists, burnishing speciously gained junk science, falsely projected their own hypochondriac ill-conceptions upon a gullible population so quick to scapegoat any perceived threat to their imagined, self-absorbed pollyanna-ish reality. Stop the madness, I say. Back off that ledge, come back from the brink of insanity, embrace the M to S to the G. MSG!

    It is your obligation, no, your mission, dear reader, to walk into any Asian restaurant who proudly proclaims “No MSG!” and tell them to cease with the lies. Demand that they exhibit the moral conviction to make a stand, to end the illusion. There’s no impropriety; alas, no reason for shame. We need not adorn this scarlet letter. Wear it proud, and wear it loud.

    Everything has MSG. MSG is everywhere. MSG is taste. MSG is living. MSG is life. Long live MSG.

    Chile salt

    When I was in fourth grade, we spent a month in Thailand, including 3 weeks in Bangkok. I distinctly remember the street vendors, sellling grilled meats and soups. My favorite carts, at the time, were the ones that sold green mango with chile salt.

    I grew up with chile salt. It was a constant condiment that existed in my kitchen, and even from a young age I enjoyed it regularly. I remember being as young as six, eating fruit with mashed bird chiles and salt, and being derided as a pussy when hyperventilating upon inhaling too much capsicum. You want to stop, but you can’t. My wife also appreciates this fetish-like culinary experience. And she’s totally white.

    Chile Salt with Fruit

    • 5 thai bird chiles
    • Salt

    First of all, if you do not have a stone mortar and pestle, stop right here. I’m sorry I didn’t make it clear, but you will need a stone mortar and pestle.

    Stem the chiles. Throw them in the mortar. Add enough salt to cover them loosely. Pound the living shit out of the salt and chiles. Serve with under-ripe fruits and stone fruits like green mango, granny smith apples, peaches, apricots, nectarines. The peaches, apricots, and nectarines should be hard as possible. It’s hard to find really hard, under-ripe stone fruits at the supermarket — most of fruit is ripe and slight squishy, i.e. ripe, which is how I understand most of the world enjoys their fruit. Bah.

    Salt of the earth

    Great article at Food Dude’s place about “The Meadow”, a new shop on Mississippi that purveys, among other things, a diverse selection of artisanal, gourmet salts.

    “-s”, who runs a great food blog, in comments takes umbrage with the owner’s seemingly “effusive” personality vis a vis his shop’s manifesto.

    However, the manifesto pretty much guarantees that I won’t do it there, as I’m not one to do business with someone who thinks that the life that I rather enjoy is sucking the life out of my bones. There’s a fine line between evangelist and a$$hole.

    -s – is this the part that put you off?

    “I believe a strong relationship with gourmet salt safeguards against the stagnation and turpitude that overtakes us as money, children, and slackening metabolism slowly suck the juice from our bones…”

    Very over the top, agreed, but in my case THAT IS PRECISELY MY MALEDICTION. That, and lots of drink, greasy food, and cultural pollution, mainly in the form of television advertising and the soul sucking transference that is the Internets.

    The old P.T. Barnum truism invariably applies here, but I readily admit I’m a sucka, AND I love me the salt. I will be there this weekend.

    You say potat-oh, I say…oh just S.T.F.U.

    Via Off The Broiler, Generic Names for Soft Drinks in America, broken down by county.

    I say “soda”, which I guess makes sense seeing as I was raised ostensibly in Arizona and, to a lesser extent, California.

    But I guess “pop” is the accepted vernacular here in the northwest. Seems very quaint, almost anachronistic, like “Hey Mary Louise Sue Anne, how about we grab a pop and jump in the jalopy and drive out to the levee and heavy pet?”

    Those in the south are fucking brand whore red state corporate cum swallowers, apparently, as they refer to all bubbly drinks as “coke”. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, man!

    The beautiful fruit

    Back when I was in college, for a few years I lived with a couple Mexican-American brothers. Let’s call them…Mark and Matt. Because that’s what were their names were.

    Mark and Matt had a very large, extended family in Tucson, and sourced much of their food and methods from their nanas and nonas or whatever they called them. It wasn’t uncommon for them to show up with a half-dozen, huge ziplock bags of roasted and peeled chilies that we would freeze and eat over the course of a few weeks.

    On top of the fridge there was usually a stack of fresh tortillas from the local, handmade tortilla purveyor — large as pizzas, made with delicious lard. You could eat these plain.

    And there was constantly a crock pot full of seasoned pintos on a low simmer in the kitchen – something I could always count on after the bars closed. Being in college, this was a great way to stretch your food dollar – raw pintos, bought in bulk. I remember Matt, buzzed from cheap domestic beer and a few pulls from the tube, sitting in front of the coffee table, sifting through individual beans for rocks and assorted detritus while listening to the Jerky Boys. Yeoman’s work.

    Now that I’m gainfully employed and able to set my sights on more highbrow culinary goals, I still go back to the food of peasants. There’s simply nothing more satisfying than eating how most of the world eats, using cheap, plentiful ingredients, carefully prepared with time and precision. And a pot of slow cooked pinto beans is still a (personal) crowd favorite.

    Pinto Beans

    • 1 pound of pinto beans

    Cover the beans in water, after you’ve picked through them to make sure there isn’t a rock or a hypodermic needle or anything you don’t want to swallow. Soak overnight. I recently bought Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday and he says most Mexican cooks do not soak their beans, but rather use lots of water and up the cooking times to 3 to 4 hours. You can do that as well. I’m not a fascist.

    After soaking overnight, drain the beans. Put them in a pot big enough to hold them. If you couldn’t figure that part out, stop right here.

    Cover the beans with water. The water should be an inch or so over the tops of the beans.

    Add the following:

    • 1 white onion, quartered
    • 1 jalapeno, sliced (not lengthwise. or lengthwise)
    • 1 or 2 dried chili (gaujillo, pasilla, anaheim, new mexico, etc.) — depithed and torn into a pieces (some seeds are OK!)
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 tablespoon coarse ground pepper (I like a lot. Your situation may call for less pepper — I don’t know you.)
    • Optional – Few “sprigs” of epazote1

    Mix well, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for an hour and a half or two, stirring occasionally (you could use a crockpot if you are so inclined). Once the beans are tender and are starting to lose their individual shape, salt the beans to taste.

    Then take out your potato masher, and do a rough mash. The idea here is to sort of mash some of the beans, and the others not so much. The final consistency should just begin to start to resemble a porridge of sorts.

    You’re done! Enjoy the beans as a side dish with ribs or meat, in tacos, or, like here, on a delicious, completely vegan tostado, topped with Bufalo Jalapeno sauce, salsa verda, avocado, and shredded lettuce.

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    This is like only one of the few times I ever eat vegan!

    1Epazote is a Mexican herb that adds a subtle background noise. Mexican cooks often add it to slow-cooked beans, I’m told, to temper the legendary flatulent side effects of eating beans. But if you’re like me and enjoy ripping one, then this benefit is somewhat marginal.

    Shroom fest at New Seasons

    If you’re a mushroom lover like me, you’ll want to check out New Seasons this weekend. Their expo this week is devoted to the fungus, and this week’s flyer promises each store will feature Shitake, Crimini, Agaricus (nee white button), Portabella, Wild Lobster, Chanterelles, Black Oyster, Alba Clamshell(?) and Trumpets.

    New Seasons demos run from 11am to 5pm on both weekend days.

    According to flyer (“Did You Know?”), the largest living organism ever found is the honey mushroom — called Armillaria ostoyae. It was discovered here in Oregon in the Blue Mountains, covers 3.4 square miles and is still alive and growing. It is an estimated 2,400 years old.

    If you could make a risotto out of it you could cure world hunger.

    The last days of disco

    Well, it’s officially over. Summer, that is.

    Here in Portland, the End of Summer happened some 10 days ago, on our last sunny, 70+ day. The sunshine gifted to us mortals over the past four or five consecutive fortnights has been replaced by rain and gloomy petulance. It may be just me, but the collective psyche of the region seems to discard its misbegotten optimism (of course it would not last forever), as we dig in and shruggingly accept the miasma of despair that suffuses the ether for the next half year.

    (Really, it’s not that bad. We just don’t want anyone else to move here).

    On this autumn solstice, what better way to give summer a 21-gun salute by harvesting some of the bounties from your backyard garden? In Portland, the long days of summer sunshine (precipitated by many a spring shower) lends itself to excellent growing conditions for the DIY green thumb. You don’t even need to possess any considerable growing chops — I certainly don’t — in order to grow and harvest prolific herbs and vegetables.

    Here’s a simple and delicious pasta dish using the fruits from my backyard — grape, teardrop and cherry tomatoes from the vine, and fresh basil.

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    Fusilli Bucati with Grape and Cherry Tomatoes, Capers, Olives and Basil

    • 1/4 Pound Fusilli Bucati (or bucatini, radiatore, or another short, squiggly pasta – I like the Colavita brand )
    • 1/2 Pound Grape, Teardrop and/or Cherry Tomatoes (I’m estimating the weight – around a couple dozen)
    • 10 Basil Leaves
    • 2 Minced cloves of garlic.
    • 2 Tablespoons Capers
    • 12 Pitted Kalamata Olives
    • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
    • 1 Pinch Crush Red Pepper
    • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
    • Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano

    In a large mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, capers, olives, garlic, salt, red pepper, and olive oil. Stack basil leaves and chiffonade, and add to tomato mixture. Using the back of a broad spoon (or a small paring knife), “smash” (or cut) at least 1/4 of your tomatoes to release the acidic juice. Marinate at room temperature for at least an half hour.

    Start to boil pasta. Get the largest non-stick frying pan (or wok) you have, and heat over medium heat. Test pasta and make sure it’s a minute “underdone” — if it is barely edibly al dente you’re in good shape. Crank up the heat on your pan to high, and drain pasta.

    Throw in the tomato mixture and sear over extremely high heat for 30 seconds. Add pasta, and fry for one minute, flipping and stirring constantly. The skins on the tomatoes should just start to blister from the high heat.

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    Plate, top with shaved cheese and fresh ground sea salt and pepper. Enjoy the last vestige of summer, and fill your Welbutrin prescription.

    Pimientos de padrónes

    A few years ago in Gourmet, I read an article by the great Calvin Trillin about pimientos de padrónes. He recounted his time in Portugal, in a small town during the yearly Padrón festival where he spent days eating fried peppers. Upon his return he sought out these divine chilies, eventually hooking up with a guy in Jersey who grew them in his backyard. The article greatly piqued my interest in discovering for myself the allure of this spicy Iberian jewel.

    Fast forward to my birthday last month. My wonderful sister visited the farmer’s market in San Francisco (just down the street from her office) on a Tuesday and bought me 3 batches of these pimientos de padrónes. Two days later, FEDEX dropped off 3 pounds of beautiful peppers from Happy Quail Farms (who are located in Palo Alto) on my doorstep.

    I immediately broke out my wok, heated a few tablespoons of olive oil, and blistered close to a half pound of these on the stove. I sprinkled kosher salt about 30 seconds before I thought they were done, and then transferred the beautiful little suckers to cool on a plate lined with paper towels.

    The vendor told my sister that the larger peppers promised more Scoville units than the smaller, which flies in the face of most chili pepper conventional wisdom. For the most part, I discovered this axiom to be true, but it was far from absolute. In fact, eating padrónes is like playing Russian roulette — I felt like John Savage in “The Deer Hunter”. The mildness of 5 or 6 straight peppers will lull you into a false sense of comfort, and then the next one will seriously blow your socks off, and suddenly you’re sweating and panting with delirium from simultaneous pain and pleasure. It’s an intoxicating experience I found to be quite enjoyable, with its peaks and valleys of deliciousness and discomfort.

    I did end up using these peppers in various prepared dishes. Purists might scoff, but there are only so many straight peppers (and rounds of Russian roulette) one can stomach over an entire weekend. Are pimientos de padrónes delicious in the following?

    • Mushroom, Cheddar (and Padrón) Omelette – Check
    • Black Bean Chili – Check
    • Japanese Shoyu Ramen – Check
    • Asian Stir Fry – Check

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    Here’s THE simple recipe for padrónes, with directions lifted verbatim from the Happy Quail Farms website.

    Pimientos de Padrón

    • A bunch of Pimientos de Padrón
    • Olive oil
    • Kosher salt

    Take a pan and pour enough oil to generously cover the bottom of the frying pan. Turn the heat up on the burner. When the olive oil starts to sizzle throw the peppers in whole. When the peppers start having small white blisters they are ready. Take the peppers out of the pan, place on plate with a paper towel. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Hold the pepper by the stem and BITE. Enjoy!

    Calexico at Wonder Ballroom

    Following the lead of fellow Portland blogger Hungry T (from whose blog I was alerted to the existence of slammin’ Tommy Guerrero — he of Bones Brigade skate legend), this post is not related to food, but rather music.

    Monday night I had the pleasure of catching Calexico at the Wonder Ballroom on N. Russell street. If you’ve never been to the Wonder Ballroom, it’s a great venue to catch live music. This is my second show I’ve seen here — the first being the New Pornographers last fall.

    The ballroom showcases its bands fairly well. Not overly crowded, they have a nice balcony that, unlike the Roseland, is actually navigatable. Beer is accessible, served both on the ground floor and upstairs in the balcony. Plus, you can alway shoot downstairs between sets for a stiff cocktail. I’m not a discerning audiophile by any means, but generally the sound is very good.

    I’m not sure if I missed the opening act or not. It was slated to be Erich Bachman, the lead for one of my favorite bands, Crooked Fingers. The last time I saw Bachman, he played a solo acoustic set at Dante’s. I was hoping to see him play with a backing band, but we didn’t arrive at Wonder until after 9 pm and apparently missed his set, so I’ll never know. The gentleman on stage at the time, who was singing in Spanish, was definitely not Erich Bachman. His long, flowing hair, streaked with grey, and sauve, latin stylings gave the impression of Ricardo Montalban’s hipster cousin on mescaline. This guy later joined Calexico on stage. I’m not sure if Erich Bachman even played, and I’m disappointed either way.

    On to Calexico themselves. Having spent a number of my post-college years in Tucson, Arizona, from which Calexico hails (ostensibly), we were almost forced to acknowledge the band as the saviors of local music. Around 1997-98, when the band started to gain steam, they would play often around town — mariachi-tinged songs and dense, noir-suffused numbers that had me deem them the “valium cowboys.”

    After being universally hailed by the local press for years, I suffered a Calexico backlash of sorts and generally did not pay much attention to them once I moved to Portland. Fast forward to 2006, and the band has released their latest album, Garden Ruin, that sees Joey Burns and John Convertino exploring more conventional song structures and straightforward indie pop/rock. A friend described it as “Adult Contemporary-ish”, but I have to say it’s a very tight, strongly produced effort.

    Songs from the Garden Ruin came across very well live, often times punchier and more racuous. The clear crowd favorites were the Spaghetti Nogales songs from their Hot Rail album. As a whole, the band performed incredibly well, and the live horns made for some brassy fun. They sounded great, and Joey Burns’ live vocals and stage presence have really grown up since the last time I had seen the band in a cramped, smokey Club Congress stage in Tucson. A huge backdrop of random, looped reel footage, which can often feel gimmicky, was very cool and added a slightly surreal, atmospheric touch.

    Quick food note: okay, I lied, there is a food element to this post. Before the show, we met for cocktails and noshes at Echo Restaurant, which was located right around the corner on MLK. I started with a Manza (sic?), a concoction of grapefruit, framboise and vodka. It was tasty and went down way too fast. I followed with a Monapalowa and grapefruit. I ordered the house salad — a simple green leaf tossed in a tangy vinagrette with blue cheese and toasted hazelnuts. $5 and very simple – nothing really of note. I moved on to the steamed clams ($8), which I enjoyed with a Bridgeport IPA on tap. The clams were steamed in a beer butter broth, and came with a hunk of toasted bread to sop up the juices. The clams were on the small side and reasonably tender. The broth could have benefited from the addition of something else, maybe some herbs or a more aggressive seasoning approach. The sauteed garlic shoots served on top of the steamers were delicious and made for a nice presentation.

    Overall, it was a decent, if somewhat perfunctory, pre-show meal. My buddy’s pulled pork sandwich in his estimations was “very good.” A lady at our table she ate her entire her burger without any mention towards its merits or demerits, so I assume it was acceptable.

    Asparagus

    Asparagus is all the rage these days, as tis the season. The Oregonian Food Day insert last week ran a spread on the green spears, and food blogs abound with tales and recipes.

    Asparagus has a rich history, and its name is derived from the Ancient Greeks. Native Americans prized the vegetable for their medicinal purposes.

    As early as 200 B.C. the Romans had how-to-grow directions for asparagus. They enjoyed it in season and were the first to preserve it by freezing. In the 1st Century fast chariots and runners took asparagus from the Tiber River area to the snowline of the Alps where it was kept for six months until the Feast of Epicurus. Roman emperors maintained special asparagus fleets to gather and carry the choicest spears to the empire. The characteristics of asparagus were so well-known to the ancients that Emperor Caesar Augustus described “haste” to his underlings as being “quicker than you can cook asparagus”

    Stateside, green asparagus is much more common than white, which is terribly expensive. White and green asparagus are the same plant – the albino spears are grown and cultivated sans sunlight so chlorophyll is not given an opportunity to develop. For some reason, this also gives white asparagus a much more phallic appearance. You should take this into account.

    Not being that familiar with white asparagus (mostly due to the hefty price tag and not the aforementioned penis envy), I understand it is much more common to peel it before cooking. All asparagus is typically snipped at the end, to remove the dense, fibrous stems. Don’t throw them away—they are great for soups. The really tough ends I’ll boil to create stock (and then discard), while the mid-to-ends get pureed with stock and cream, and the tips get a quick blanche before being used to sprinkle as garnish. Yum.

    Delicious Days introduces us to purple asparagus and a delightful spanish tortilla recipe with julienned bacon and fresh chili.

    Kitchenography gives us a fried asparagus that looks amazing. I love tempura, and asparagus is a worthy candidate. The author and comments claim the photos of the end result look strange and “wrong,” but I couldn’t disagree more.

    Local Portland culinary powerhouse Park Kitchen has their own food blog now, and their inaugural post (written by chef de cuisine David Padberg) details the merits of “the definitive spring vegetable”.

    A particular favorite of mine is Chinese style stir-fried asparagus. Tiger & Strawberries gives us a very tasty lamb stir fry recipe.

    Lastly, to answer your burning question, “Why does asparagus make my pee smell?.” Answer: it just does.