Sunday, May 24, 2009

What's cool now...

What Pierino thinks are cool would be tiffin lunch boxes, composed of stackable tiers of trays. All neatly organized and cheap---unless you go to Design Within Reach where they are ridiculously expensive, but that's Williams Sonoma for you.

We cook away from home frequently so for us it's a convenient way to prep ahead. But they are also excellent for your picnic. Think green too. No little foam trays to fill up land fills with.

Our understanding (knowing nothing about Indian languages) is that the name comes from "tiffin walla"..."who carries a box." The imperial English shortened the name to tiffin. The ones we own were made in India.

What else is cool? Blackhawks v Redwings in Stanley Cup semis. This is the oldest rivalry in hockey going back to 1926 when there were only 6 teams in the league. Can you guess who the other four were? Carolina Hurricanes were not among them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Setting the Bar of Bar Courtesy

This we believe, after 30 years of constant travel. Be courteous and respectful toward your bartender.

One thing I learned when I was traveling solo and dining in good restaurants is that it's usually easier (and more appreciated) to take a seat at the bar (I bring a book along)and order the menu from there. Be prepared to chat with your neighbors and the bartender. Trust me, they'll ask you about the book.

Step two, be sure to politely ask everybody's name. It goes along way. Pierino's MO is to order one (or maybe two) drinks along with food. Nurse your drink and get to know people. During my travels I've gone back to quality restaurant bars after a six month interval, and say, Mario up in Monterey remembers me and what wine I ordered and points up the best things on menu. Not because Mario is trying to "sell" them but because he personally likes them. The term "sous vide" seldom comes up.

I do this at home as well. Basically because I visit bars to eat and not to drink all afternoon. So, these people have become my friends and not my servants. Sometimes the chef will come out and chat with me for awhile.

Back to bar etiquette. Don't yell that "we want three Captain Morgans." You'll wait a full half hour for drinks. A nod is all you need, he or she knows you are there. And be sure to always say please and thank you. As in, "thank you, Heather." "And, yes, I will look at a menu thank you."

Now enjoy your food and your book.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Classical Gas

This past week we had an opportunity to cook dinner for good friends; something we love.

It's funny how a menu can begin with just one ingredient and then just roar off like a brush fire. Not a good joke just now. One of the first dishes we thought of was an old school iceberg lettuce wedge with roquefort dressing. This was approved by popular acclaimation. And then...

...but then we had to come up with a "classic" old school main dish. Pierino consulted with his friend Kim on some ideas. But what we settled on was osso buco. With some trepidation we ordered over the phone so that our friend Lee Van Cleef could pick up the package in Ojai. Let's just say it exceeded our expectations. What a relief. Four nice shank pieces coming in at 4 pounds total. Oh, yes.

Now Pierino's criminal mind went to work. The traditional accompaniment would be a risotto Milanese; but---- What we served was a saffron fettucine. Saffron is our favorite ingredient. End of discussion.

Pierino knicked his left thumb early into the game while chopping onions. This happens a lot. You put a tiny cut on the tip of your thumb with a sharp knife and you won't believe how much it will bleed. So: much hand washing, taping and retaping. Try this experiment; use a very sharp knife and poke the edge of your ear with it (you might want to test this in the shower because you will bleed lavishly). Okay,you probably don't want to do that. We're just saying...

A "classic" Roquefort dressing

Real Roquefort, crumbled
Hellman's/Best Foods mayonaise
Buttermilk (we love buttermilk)
Garlic salt
Possibly water to thin
A whisk

Combine ingredients to your personal taste. Our recommendation? Knock yourself out with Roquefort. You won't regret it.