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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Trezo Mare

Keith took me out for a very tasty birthday dinner. We went to Trezo Mare at Briarcliff. Most of the diners were out on the patio so we had a cozy corner table in a largely empty dining room. The decor was rustic Italian, all dark wood and low lighting. We had a great server who basically spoon-fed us through the menu since we were a tad overwhelmed by our choices. I started with a flight of Cabernet tasters entitled Taxi Cab Confessions. All three were nice but the Artesa cab was excellent. The appetizer was a seriously yum plate of truffle fries done with white truffle oil. I barely refrained from licking the plate. Keith had Chicken Parmesan with garlic mashed and brussel sprouts and I had spicy and flavorful Fish Tacos. Dessert was Trezo's signature Chocolate Bars and a light Panna Cotta with fresh berries. Trezo only uses local growers and vendors. It was a muy delicioso evening all the way around. Another year on the planet celebrated with beautiful food and company. What more can one ask for?

Truthiness, Paula Deen, Food Blogs

Ok, I admit it. After revisiting it, my chicken salad sucked. I didn't follow the recipe as I should've. So...lesson learned. If following a recipe, follow it the first time to the letter to taste the dish as the creator intended. At that point, feel free to play with ingredients to change it up.

I actually got this last bit of advice from the irresistable queen of Southern Hospitality, Paula Deen. I just finished her biography called " It Ain't All About the Cookin, Y'All.'". Two things struck me about this book:

1) It was most assuredly written by her. I'm sure she had help, but the voice is clearly Paula's. Southern twang and sayings intact, thank you very much.

2) She is brutally honest. It had to have been painful for her to include every humiliating moment on her climb to the top. But she did.

That woman had quite the ride. Love her or hate her, no one can deny she hasn't earned every bit of success she enjoys. By the way, I love her....unequivocally.

I finally took the time today to surf food blogs. Oh my word.....it was like Christmas. I've truly been missing out. My instant fave is Matt Bites. Other new loves include Amateur Gourmet, Foodbuzz and Mark Bittman's New York Times site. The one thing that is totally intimidating to me is that all of these sites are from true expert foodies.

I am not swayed, though. That's the point....I may be confounded, but I will learn to be a better cook and I will continue to write about life as I see it....in food.

You Say It's Your Birthday

I made my first stab at chicken salad. I used a recipe for spicy chicken salad from a Jamie Deen recipe. I decided to be creative and switched out a couple of ingredients. It turned out fairly well but this early in the game I think I have learned to stick with the recipe as written. I also did not cut up the chicken and veggies as fine as they should have been. My lack of patience is an issue with cooking fer sure.....

Today is my birthday. I 've gained another year in the fortysomethings. I have the day off from both jobs and am going to finally take the time to search out other food blogs. Tonight, K is taking me to dinner at Trezo Mare. I'll be blogging about that, you betcha.

The day brings about a flood of food and birthday memories. Many birthday cakes and parties from my parents over the early years. My ninth in particular was a memorable cookout at a park picnic pavilion. I received an awesome Hot Wheels track. For my sixteenth, my friends overtook my parents home and made some seriously scary food in my mother's home. My poor Mom sat on the front porch with my dad as it was happening probably deep breathing and praying to the heavens that they didn't burn the place down.

The highlights of my recent birthdays have been with Keith. For the first several years, we celebrated my birthday in a different city every year. Dinners included some mouth-watering seafood at Fisherman's Wharf at San Francisco, yummy Italian fare in New York City, a sublime evening at an outdoor venue in Santa Fe and an elegant dinner and show at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. These evenings were all pure magic in every way.

Food in celebration is a must. Especially birthdays.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy

Senator Ted Kennedy died today. I've been somewhat of a Kennedyphile over the years. I've read many of the family biographies. His accomplishments speak for themselves. I respect anyone who succeeds despite great personal loss and public embarrassments. In honor of his passing, I'm including the recipe for the Senator's favorite lobster salad.


Ingredients:

6 ears of corn
4 lbs. lobster meat cooked and cut into bite size pieces
2 large tomatoes peeled and seeded
2 avocadoes peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons milk (or light cream)
1/2 cup fresh dill chopped
Salt and pepper

Directions:

1) Cook the corn and then scrape off the kernels and set aside
2) Put the tomatoes, avocado and corn into a bowl, add the lobster meat and toss gently
3) In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and milk and mix until smooth
4) Sprinkle the lobster mixture with dill, salt and pepper then add the mayonnaise mixture and stir briefly so the sauce barely holds the rest of the ingredients together.
5) Cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving.

The Big Picture

Life can turn on a dime. That lesson can make for a tough reality and it's one we all have to learn and relearn constantly.

Keith's cousin, Rhonda, her husband Brett and their beautiful girls Morgan and Shelby have had to deal with the horror of losing their family home to a devastating fire two days ago. They lost the majority of their home as well as family pets. Their home was a beautiful old farmhouse. Morgan couldn't retrieve a single thing from her room. The loss they are feeling is just unimaginable. Thank God they themselves were not at home and have each other.

Keith and Rhonda are part of a large extended family that truly knows the meaning of being there for each other. Be it Allie's recent wedding or this tragedy, they come to support their own, no matter what. I will write in greater detail about the many truly unique and wonderful family traditions these folks celebrate that of course, always center on great food.

For this post, I will focus on one celebration. Brett and Rhonda host what they call a "Stump Burning Party" every Halloween weekend. It features huge bonfires, crowds of family and friends and of course, massive amounts of mouth-watering food. The folks gather at long tables in the garage area of that beautiful house for a great meal and lots of laughs. The food highlight for me was Brett's extra-spicy hot dog sauce. After the meal, Rhonda's father Dave brought in the tractor and took all of the kids(and a few adults) on a hayride through the hills.

Rhonda is quite the kitchen whiz herself. She made this wonderfully hearty chicken noodle soup for Cookie Sunday and I've also sampled her very tasty Monkey Bread at a family camping trip in Tennessee. I've yet to taste her rice pilaf which apparently she is famous for amongst the family.

I pray the family can heal and rebuild quickly. I look forward to them having a kitchen to cook in again very soon. I also hope to share their recipes for these as well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Foodie Friends

I've been hitting up a lot of my foodie friends for hints on how to work on becoming a cook...most everyone agrees it's practice, practice, etc. I work a six-day work week so time to cook is tough. I have some thawed chicken to work with and I'm thinkin' about chicken salad. Hopefully tomorrow...

I cut some fresh basil, both the regular and lemon that we grew on the deck to take to my friend Linda. I gave it to her at work and we both stood there inhaling the scent of that basil. Absolute heaven. Linda is a dear friend I've known for about five years and most assuredly a fellow foodie. We've had many a foodie moment together. Dinner parties and restaurants and a great appreciation of fine wine are just some of the things we've shared. Linda lost her husband Jack the year before last to cancer. Jack was a character and certainly a foodie in his own right. We all miss him. One of my favorite memories of Jack is a signature dish involving an amazing vermouth sauce. Linda hasn't been able to create that dish since his passing but hopefully one day I will be able to share the recipe with you.

In the meantime though, Linda did bring me the Shrimp Scampi recipe she prepared at a dinner at Jane's in honor of Ronnie and Jeff. It was divine...I will share the recipe after I attempt to make it.

It seems as if this blog will in essence become my Life in Food....I may not always be cooking but food will most certainly be featured. I look forward to sharing recipes, restaurant suggestions and food memories....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Stinkin' Thinkin'

A new day dawns....

Now the real challenge begins. Here's why....I'm on my own and my typical thought process has come creepin' back in. So today's entry is about my self-defeating ways. I'm writing this to lay it all on the table. If I'm to accomplish becoming a good, self-confident cook, I'm gonna have to be honest about the challenges:

1) I won't belabor on about the movie, but one plot point that resonated with me is that Julie took on this project because she never finishes anything. I tend towards the same.

2) I defeat myself with negative thoughts. Already this morning, I'm overrun with doubts. I'm coming up with every reason not to do this. Just order out! Let Keith cook, I'll clean up! Blah....

3) I want to learn to cook everything. I just don't need to eat everything. I've fought my own weight issues for years. The family history is riddled with heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
I have tried to quit smoking on and off for 20 years.

So...blah blah blah. In essence, I'm my own worst enemy.
So let's talk positives...

I love food. That's not going to change. If I learn how to cook it, maybe I will improve my relationship with it. If I conquer my fear of cooking for others, I can try out some of the more fattening fare and send it off to co-workers and friends. Cooking can help me accomplish tasks from start to finish which should help alleviate work and personal stress. It will help me want to quit smoking, not just for health reasons but to open up all of the senses. I want to explore my family and friend's histories through food.

The true difference in this project and others is that I'm writing about it. The writing is helping the creativity flow and forcing me to be honest.

So enough with the confessional. The cards are on the table. Next post is back to the food!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

crap I forgot the link!


http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/chicken-piccata-pasta-toss-recipe2/index.html

I'm still learnin' this bloggin' thang. Please forgive screw-ups such as forgotten links, spelling and grammar issues. All shall improve!

The Meal

My eventual goal is do become an instinctual, creative cook like so many of my family and friends. I love watching my friends Kaki and JB debate spices and try out different methods of cooking and grilling. Keith also frequently cooks with just his senses. I can't wait until I get there but for now it's all about the recipes.

The dish was Chicken Piccata Pasta. We had an appetizer of Baked Shrimp Cocktail which was delish. I learned in the cooking of the pasta dish about al dente....which indicates not all of the way done. I also relearned the euphoric smell of garlic and shallots cooking. Multitasking is not usually an issue for me but in the kitchen it takes on a whole new meaning. I've always been endlessly fascinated with the juggling acts the chefs I've worked with have performed.

The end result I'm happy to say was a burst of flavor.....a truly lovely dish. I'm going to include links to all meals I do and when needed simply copy them here.

Again, this was with Keith. The solo efforts are yet to come and may they one day be as creative as Cezanne's apples...

First Attempt

First day as planned was a foodie day, to be sure.

Living here in Kansas City is a wannabe foodie's dream. Endless supply of eating adventures to be had. I've lived here six years and feel I've barely scratched the surface but fully intend to. Our day began with breakfast at First Watch in NKC which always manages to get me overly full no matter how early I stop eating the meal. I have never had a bad meal there. Yum indeed.

We took a stroll through Cosentino's new and spectacular market in the Power and Light district and then went on to see Julie and Julia at the new AMC downtown theater. What an inspirational experience that film is. Meryl Streep was brilliant and I felt as if I was truly discovering Julia Child for the first time. My friends know my love of film and food so I had boundless good will toward this movie.

Headed to the grocery store and did the shopping. Here begins the inexperience. Typically, if Keith and I go together I offer to push the cart and remove myself from any decision making. Seriously...I'll do the lug work if I don't have to think. Tonight, we had chosen a recipe to start my cooking tutorials and K insisted I actually carry the list and pick out the food. I quickly learned there was a difference between flat-leaf and curly-leaf parsley. Embarrassingly, I also did not really know what a shallot looked like. Items chosen, we headed toward the homestead.

I chose a Food Network Rachael Ray recipe to kick it off. I have loved the Food Network for many years and truly, it has gone a long way toward helpng me relax toward cooking. I should also mention that Keith is a great cook. I know what you're thinking......if he's there to cheer you on and coach you, where's the drama? Worry not, friends...I can find drama in a doorknob. K will help me today but the goal is to do this on my own and not just for Keith and I. One day at a time.....

In The Beginning....

Yes, this was partly inspired by Julie and Julia.

Let's just get that out of the way. However, I know next to nothing about cooking. I have worked with and around food for most of my adult life but primarily in a "front of the house" position....selling, serving, etc. I am a man in my forties who has sadly, barely made it past the boiling water stage.

I have decided to conquer this. My family history is rich with great cooks and my entire life has been blessed with many foodie friends and experiences. It's long past time I embrace this huge aspect of my life.

Oh sure, I can toss a frozen salmon filet that I marinated into the oven and cook a boxed rice dish to go with it. I can even toss a salad to go with it. Rest assured though....this very easy dinner completely stresses me out. I am completely intimidated by the preparation of food. Combine a healthy lack of self-confidence with a tendency toward clumsiness and the idea of me becoming a cook is rife with comedically disastrous potential. The idea of cooking for anyone other than myself absloutely paralyzes me with fear.

I do have two seriously awesome assets in this new endeavor. Keith, my partner, is astoundingly supportive and oh man, I may not know how to cook it but oh, do I love to eat it. I love to try it all.

I am going to start cooking everything I can get my hands on. I want to immerse myself beyond just my jobs into food culture. I want to research my own family history(and for that matter, everyone else's) with food. Finally, I will become a bonafide cook. Even if it kills me...and burns down the neighborhood in the process.

I want this to be a collaborative process....in other words, help! Send recipes, stories and suggestions. I will post my cooking and food endeavors....so please comment!

Here we go....