Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tomato Sauce and Fresh Pasta

August means tomato sauce---I can my year's supply as the tomatoes come in. Did I miss the tomato season? The box of Roma tomatoes I bought was not local and the tomatoes were a little pale and firm.

p> I decided to use Marcella Hazan’s recipe for tomato sauce II. It includes onions, celery, and carrots. For very ripe tomatoes, I prefer straight tomatoes with a little onion. But I thought that this recipe, which I haven’t used in years, would be a good choice for these tomatoes and a nice change of pace. The sauce cooks pretty quickly, taking less than an hour. The mirepoix vegetables give it additional body and makes the water from the tomatoes less of an issue.

I broke up the ingredients using my stick blender. It isn’t as effective as a food mill but it works reasonably well. I enjoy the occasional piece of vegetable in my sauce for texture.

I wanted to eat a little right away so I tried a recipe from Chef Hazan’s cookbook that combines pasta, sauce, and fried eggplants. I coated some slices of tiny eggplant in cornmeal and fried them up.

For the pasta, I used a recipe from Serious Eats. It uses more egg than I am used to using and I was curious to see how it worked. Being in a lazy mood, I mixed it in the food processor rather than by hand. Continuing my streak of non-Italian-grandmother behavior, I rolled the pasta using the Kitchenaid. I cut it by hand in wide noodles, which gives me a little more control.

Once all the components were done, I assembled everything in a pan, giving the pasta a good stir to coat it with sauce.

I topped it off with some grated Parmesan. This was a superb dish---I am indebted to Chef Hazan. The eggplant gives the dish heft and nutrition; the cornmeal coating gives a bit of sweetness to contrast with the sauce. The sauce was superb with a garden taste that spoke of bounty. The fresh pasta was extremely tender and absorbed the flavors of the sauce.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse With A Side of Pie

Of course, I wasn't going to miss the total eclipse of the sun. I drove to Lavonia GA, fighting traffic the whole way, and made it with 10 minutes to spare. I found the perfect small town event. People stood and sat around the town square and the train station. Kids rode their bicycles expectantly around town. Dogs waited patiently for their masters. It slowly grew darker, then quickly.

And then it was dusk in the afternoon. The eastern sky glowed red like a sunset.

Two and a half minutes later, the sun returned. Hooray! The dragon that ate the sun has been vanquished! Time for some pie!

I headed to Dad's just off I-85. This is very much a small town restaurant as jack-of-all-trades. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu is a simple affair of burgers, hot dogs, chili and---of course---pie. Many of the dishes were sold out thanks to the tourists who descended like locusts on the area. Luckily, the pie had escaped their reach.

I went for a slice of buttermilk pie, a single-crust custard pie made with buttermilk. It hit the spot: good filling, nice crust. That pie sustained me through the traffic back to Atlanta, a good finish to a memorable day.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Yeasted Buttermilk Pancakes

I typically make multigrain pancakes for breakfast. But every once in awhile, I go with white flour pancakes, which helps to highlight the flavor of the buttermilk. These pancakes are from the King Arthur Flour Cookbook's recipe, with buttermilk as the milk and yeast substituted for baking powder. This batch has sat in the refrigerator overnight. The result is thick and very rich.

Here they are on the griddle with banana slices.

And here is the final result. I added a light layer of chocolate Nutella spread on each pancake. I kept the strawberries on the side for strategic placement. These beauties are about 1/2 inch thick. They make a great way to start the morning.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Duluth: Zion Market

Zion Market is the latest entry into the busy Asian food market on Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth, right next to Micro Center. It is a mid-sized market specializing in Korean groceries. It has a large produce section where I saw some pretty good deals. The seafood section was large with items ranging from octopus to fresh abalone; many of the items were on trays and wrapped in plastic. A stand with a name something like Mom's Treats offered little tiny fish that had been pickled or dried. And of course they featured a large aisle of red pepper sauce.

Yellow Cake With Chocolate Ganache

I was in the mood for a cake but, quite frankly, I didn't want to spend forever making one. I started with the classic yellow cake recipe from The King Arthur Cookbook. To prepare, I cut paper rounds for the bottoms of the cake pans. Mom used to cut these out of paper bags from the grocery store. Of course, that was back in the twentieth century when grocery stores put your groceries in paper bags.

I creamed together the butter and sugar for a good five minutes.

I mixed in the eggs and buttermilk.

After some time in the oven, I pulled out these three eight-inch layers. After they cooked, I soaked them in simple syrup.

My next step was the chocolate ganache. I poured Guittard baking chocolate coins into boiling heavy cream. I normally use Alton Brown's proportions but I decided to try Ina Gartner's. The result was much stiffer, even with some added cream. As a result, I spread the ganache rather than pouring it on.

The result looked like this.

I realized too late that I should have used fruit preserves between the layers rather than chocolate. I decided to serve the cake with cherry preserves and hazelnuts from my trip to Seattle. Overall, this was not my most successful cake. But hey, it's still a cake.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Dayton OH: 4 Lb. Diner

I was in the mood for meat for lunch and 4 Lb. Diner satisfied me. It took me awhile to parse their logo and figure out their name. Inside, I found a brand spanking new version of a classic diner. I pulled up a seat at the counter and was greeted with warmth and efficiency. I enjoyed watching the cooks work.

This is my bleu cheese burger. The cheese is packed into the middle of the patty. A little more cheese would have been fun but overall this was an exemplary burger. The salad was good, too.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dayton OH: Corner Kitchen

The Oregon District is next to downtown Dayton. It reminds me a little of South Street in Philadelphia with its mixture of hip and slightly seedy establishments. Why is this neighborhood called Oregon? Beats me. And Dayton is in the Miami Valley. Go figure.

The cream of corn soup gave a nice balance of cream and corn.

I wasn’t sure how the stuffed eggplant would be prepared. It turned out to be a roasted eggplant with ratatouille, or at least the rest of the ratatouille ingredients minus the eggplant. It made a delicious combination.

This is my lemon buttermilk cake. My server suggested that I dive in and take a vertical scoop through the entire dish. That turned out to be an important suggestion that allowed me to get the lemon curd, cake, and whipped cream. The sweetness and acid balanced perfectly. And it wasn’t too big.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dayton OH: The Killer Brownie from Dorothy Lane Market

When I checked in at the hotel, the staff member told me that if I was going to dinner in Oakwood, I had to stop by Dorothy Lane for their killer brownie---named top 10 in the U. S. I reminded her that my mom was in the competition but that I would be sure to try it.

I didn’t realize that Killer Brownie is the official name of the dish. This brownie is indeed impressive. It is both much thicker than the typical brownie. It is also very dense---most cakey brownies are not this dense. The taste is very flavorful but not overwhelming. A layer of nuts and caramel is buried in the middle.

This brownie has great taste and provides a wonderful sense of indulgence. Mom, your crown is secure, but this killer brownie is pretty good.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dayton OH: Oakwood Room

Oakwood seems to be the Main Line neighborhood of Dayton. The streets are lined with large, elegant houses and manicured lawns. The main street is nicely curated collection of upscale shops. The Oakwood Room fits in that mold as a classic beef house with wood paneling, low lighting, and classic d├ęcor. I would say steak but their signature beef dish is the prime rib. Naturally, they also serve seafood. The service is very gracious. Many of the patrons were clearly regulars and I was treated with equal warmth.

The bread course was hearty and appreciated after a day of travel. The dressing was a vinaigrette dressing that was very nicely balanced.

I was in the mood for a fine piece of prime rib and that’s what I got. It was tender, juicy, and delicious. My server warned me that the horseradish was extremely hot and she was right---wow. The hash browns were formed into a neat cake, as is the style with steak houses. My only very small complaint is that the vegetables had a hint of fish, probably from sharing the steamer with some. But overall, this was a classic meal nicely done and service that made me feel like an old hand.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Kalispell MT: Cislo's Family Restaurant

Cislo’s is a classic coffee shop right down to the local business ads laminated into the tabletops. The service is just what you would hope for, warm and welcoming.

As soon as I saw the sign for the double berry pancakes, I knew what I would order. These were the best pancakes I’ve had in awhile, thick and fluffy. The strawberries and blueberries were fresh and plump. This was a wonderful breakfast. Cislo's seems to be the place to go for breakfast in Kalispell.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

St. Mary MT: Park Cafe

I was passing through St. Mary, just outside Glacier National Park and in the Blackfeet reservation, when I saw this sign. I should have “I brake for pie” bumper sticker, although perhaps a tattoo would be a more appropriate expression of my commitment. So of course I stopped and ordered a piece of pie.

Luckily, I snagged the last piece of cherry pie for the day. The pie was very good. The lattice top in particular was perfectly executed, making my attempts look sad in comparison. Of course, I’m glad I added the vanilla ice cream.

If you do travel to this part of the country, be sure to visit the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning. It has a superb collection of Plains Indian artifacts that are both historically important and visually stunning

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Glacier National Park: Ptarmigan Dining Room

The Ptarmigan Dining Room is the spectacular main restaurant of Many Glacier Lodge. The lodge was built by the Great Northern Railway early in the 20th century in a grand style that modern hotels simply can't match. The dining room has a hugely high ceiling and a beautiful view of the lake. The gracious service recalls an earlier era.

Check out that item in the middle of the menu: Maid-Rite Loose Meat Elk Sandwich. The moment I saw that, I knew what I would have for lunch. I have tried the original Maid-Rite loose meat sandwich, the Midwestern classic dating back to the 1920s. I wanted to see just what the chef would do with this idea.

Here is my sandwich with a glimpse of the view from my table. The sandwich was outstanding. A light Sloppy Joe-style sauce had just a bit of sweetness. The slight gaminess of the elk meat complemented the sauce perfectly. The result was a wonderful marriage of savory, sweet, and hearty.

For dessert, I had this wonderful blueberry cobbler with ice cream. Berries are the crowning fruit of the north and I tried to enjoy them every chance I had during my visit.

Monday, August 7, 2017

West Glacier MT: Belton Chalet

I enjoyed a wonderful dinner experience at the Belton Chalet in West Glacier. The chalet was originally built by The Great Northern Railway, themed for Switzerland. The railroad was a pioneer in theming its resort establishments, it turns out. The Alpine theme of the original establishment is lovingly preserved. The service is just as gracious as I expect was the case at the turn of the twentieth century.

I started with a delicious soup, creamy but not too heavy.

Here is my main course, a rainbow trout. It had a more pinkish skin than I am used to, which seems to be common among Montana trout; perhaps the color is due to the minerlas in the water. The sauce was raspberry and peach. Below was a polenta patty with nicely rich greens.

For dessert, I ordered blueberry pie in a jar with huckleberry ice cream. The crust was perfectly cooked, nice and brown. Blueberries were wonderfully delicate in both taste and texture. Just sweet enough, not overcooked so they retained their shape and texture. I wasn’t sure how the ice cream would work but it was similarly subtle; the fruit flavor came thorugh without overpowering either the cream or the pie.