Presenting The Faux Gourmet!

The Faux Gourmet has been on hiatus for a while. I began this blog as a creative outlet during law school. After law school, I started other blogs on other topics and no longer needed this as a creative outlet, not to mention my diminishing free time.

But I kept cooking, kept taking food pictures and garden pictures, kept wanting to share the little tidbits of what I'd made. I occasionally did this on my personal blog (to which, I'm sure, people yawned and wondered when I'd post another cat picture). But I started to miss this space. Of all the blogs I have, this format, culled over several dedicated years and incorporating that adorable illustration by Sam Wedelich (see info the left) is by far my favorite.

So I'm back!

Expect short and sweet posts. Less food porn, more recipes and tips. If you want food porn you can look at any of the 5000 million existing food blogs. I don't have good lighting in my apartment and don't have time to style plates. I just want to make something yummy and eat it. If that sounds ok with you, stick around.

Looking forward to being back in touch!


The Faux Gourmet

Faux Gourmet @ Twitter

    follow me on Twitter

    Thursday, December 31, 2009

    Brown Butter-esque Sauce

    Rhymes with arabesque!

    Yeah, you could make a brown butter sauce. Sure. Easy. Melt some butter. Let it get kind of browned. Maybe even throw in some sage. Whoopee. Been there, done that.

    OR you could make some brown butter-esque sauce. First thing that grabs you is the sexy name (also rhymes with picturesque!). Then you taste it, and find yourself hooting "Yum!" like Rachael Ray, even if you think you're a cynical New Yorker. Then you serve it to your loved ones. "What is this yummy sauce?"they ask; it tastes like a brown butter sauce, but there's something *more,* something...mysterious. Something that will deep 'em on their toes. Something that will keep 'em coming back for more. And more. And more. Until you all enroll in Jenny Craig.

    But relax! 2010 and its resolutions doesn't start until tomorrow. Today you can indulge. So make like Julia Child, get out the butter, and get saucy.

    Apologies again for lack of photos. I could say I didn't have a camera but honestly, I think we just ate the sauce too quickly to be bothered...

    12 Tbsp butter
    2 Tbsp honey
    1/4 cup chicken broth
    1/4 cup white wine (I prefer something buttery, like an oaky Chardonnay, or slightly sweet, like a Riesling)
    1/4 cup half and half
    Fresh sage leaves
    Toasted pecans, crumbled

    Melt butter in saucepan over medium-heat; use light-bottomed pan if you have one to make it easier to see when butter is browned. Stir leisurely, tilting the pan back and forth as butter melts, foams, and gradually turns brownish and takes on a nutty aroma. Don't let it get dark brown!

    When it gets brown, briefly remove from heat and toss in crumbled sage leaves. Stir in honey til it dissolves, then return to low heat and begin whisking in chicken broth, then wine. Salt and pepper sauce to taste, then finish by whisking in half and half to thicken slightly.

    Serve over butternut squash or pumpkin ravioli; top with pecans.

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Pre Fab Cooking

    Return of the Faux Gourmet You Know & Love

    Taste & See: Real Simple always has these "recipes" that consist of pre-made food products assembled and combined in such a way that they create something new, and ostensibly, wonderful. I've never made one of those recipes. I like cooking, and I've always thought I was too proud to let Betty Crocker or Pillsbury do for me what I'm perfectly capable of doing for myself.

    Then again, it is also true that I don't always want to burn my eyes with the heat of a dozen smoking chilies.

    Let me explain. A few weeks ago I made the Best. Salsa. Ever. Want the recipe? Grill bell peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes and garlic, smoke some pasilla chilies, grill a half dozen other kinds (chipotle, jalepeno, anaheim, banana, ancho), give it a good coating of ground rock salt, and puree the whole mess. That simple.

    It was glorious. It also caused my eyes to sting and water, my face to burn, my throat to hack, my fire alarm to have spasms. In short, there was a price to pay for the glory.

    Sure it tasted incredible; it had a deep, smokey flavor that started off mild and slid into a surprising kick, not too spicy to overwhelm the layers of complexity. It was truly glorious. But then again, on a week night when I want to get my dinner together in time to watch Glee, maybe a jar of my fave supermarket salsa will do.

    Generally speaking, you'd be amazed at what a little clever doctoring can do to the most banal of base ingredients: leftover cream cheese from a bagle brunch, a can of tomato paste & a bit of bacon stashed in the fridge become a delightful tomato soup; leftover coconut milk and mustard create an oddly satisfying sauce to accompany pumpkin gnocchi. And my ridiculous salsa--or its supermarket substitute--tossed over a bunch of things I tend to have on hand anyway gives me a big pan of enchiladas to last all week.

    Do it Yourself: So do you want gourmet smokey salsa? Or do you want dinner? The recipes are easily adapted; make them either way to fit your needs.

    Chicken Enchilada Casserole

    4 chicken thighs, skin & bone on
    2 small onions, chopped
    About 5 cloves garlic
    Chicken broth:
    1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
    Approximately 8 small tortillas
    Salsa or enchilada sauce:
    • Gourmet: 1-2 cups gourmet smokey salsa, described above.
    • Faux Gourmet: 1 jar of your favorite supermarket version (smooth, not chunky)
    • Gourmet: 1 cup Accidental Bean Soup, omitting 1 cup yogurt & substituting 3-4 tbsp chevre or cream cheese.
    • Faux Gourmet: 1 can black beans, straight up
    Simmer onions, garlic, chicken thighs and broth to cover in pan on low heat. When chicken is cooked all the way through it will be very soft, falling off bone easily. It will also be quite hot so be careful and use two forks to shred meat, removing bone and skin. Season with salt and pepper.

    Build enchiladas in pan, alternating with layers of tortillas, chicken/onion/broth mixture, salsa, black beans, and cheese. Plan for about three layers and divide ingredients accordingly for each layer. Top with final layer of tortillas and cover with cheese.

    Bake at 350 until cheese melts, approximately 30 minutes. (Check at 20.)

    Tomato (Paste) Soup
    Given that you *could* just buy canned tomato soup straight up, you may wonder why bother with making it yourself? Well, little cans of tomato paste, like the one you see in the photo below, generally cost between 69-99 cents and make approximately 3 servings. Really. Your soup will be healthier and full of things like FOOD instead of preservatives and chemicals. You can season it in dozens of interesting ways instead of getting a bland sweet and salty combination punch. And it is really, really easy...the perfect go-to food for a late night rally-snack or a rainy day when you've got nothing to eat. (Except for lots of canned tomato because you read my post, In Praise of Canned Goods, & promptly stocked up. Didn't you. You did, right?)

    C'mon lazy people. This is a LAZY recipe. You can do it. And you'll have tomato soup you can be proud of.

    Small can of tomato paste
    Something creamy:
    • Gourmet: About 1/4 cup chevre
    • Faux Gourmet: About 1/4 cup cream cheese OR milk
    Bacon, chopped, to taste
    *Tip: for convenience, slice bacon height-wise rather than width; it is very easy to separate & chop into small pieces this way. I use approximately 1 "inch" of bacon slices in soup for 3 people.
    • Gourmet: Fennel seeds, black pepper & garlic salt
    • Faux Gourmet: Omit fennel
    Optional additional seasoning:
    • Gourmet: Apple cider vinegar & sugar
    • Faux Gourmet: Omit apple cider vinegar
    For other variations try adding chopped roasted red pepper (from a jar or can!), chili flakes, basil and oregano, cumin, paprika, curry powder, ginger...just, not all at the same time.


    Add tomato paste and 2 cans water (or if omitting cream cheese/chevre, 1 can milk) to pan and stir to combine.
    Stir in cream cheese/chevre. Simmer over medium heat til hot then turn heat to low.

    Meanwhile, briefly fry bacon in skillet. For very decadent soup, add bacon & grease. For not so decadent soup, reserve grease and add bacon.

    Season with fennel seeds and garlic salt- approximately 1 tsp each. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You may also want to add a bit of sugar and/or apple cider vinegar to sweeten it up, especially if you're used to Campbells's.

    Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich: I recommend a sharp cheddar with a good, sweet mustard and prosciutto.

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Faux Gourmet in the Blogosphere!

    Oh readers, I miss you. I'm on hiatus again, as you may have guessed by my absence. (You noticed, right?!) I love sharing with you things I eat & cook, and love hearing from you that you love eating and cooking the things I share. It is a big circle of love.

    On that note it was extremely gratifying to read someone else blogging about...ME! Wow! The very funny Washington Wineman, aka @WAwineman, tried one of my recipes--remember Lettuce Entertain You? I know you tried to forget but the image of dancing heads of lettuce burned in your mind, you can't escape your longing for lettuce rolls. At least Washington Wineman couldn't. He gave them a try, paired with a Washington wine, naturally, & had this to say (click here for full post):

    Tonight's pairing was culled from that current phenomenom known as "social media", aka Twitter. I constantly scan my "followers" list and check their websites for entertainment value and I found one in @TheFauxGourmet, hosted by Jeannie Rose Field of New York. She is a recent graduate of the NYU School of Law and did an internship with the United Nations in Thailand. She is also lesser known for pairing viognier with kimchee soup. Yikes! Get to know her from her excellent essay on ethnicity! Btw, I think you are 100% ethnic American. But, I digress. Getting back to the food pairing, I was so entranced with the pictures from the November 10 blog that I went out and decided to try out the recipe. Got all my ingredients from a Korean market and added some fungibility to "Asian-ize" the recipe, as if it needed any more. If you've had lettuce wraps from PF Chang's, I can tell you her recipe is just as good, yet much more satisfying...because I made it! Oh, and yes, the wine was a wonderful addition with its bold citrus and stone fruit notes. Twitter does work and if you're not on it, I can only ask..."what's on your phonograph tonight, gramps?"

    Awwww. Nevermind that I DID NOT PAIR VIOGNIER AND KIMCHEE SOUP. That was a joke gone awry. (Is my wine cred really still in tact after that merciless slander?!) The point is, random stranger found my blog & made food dreamt up in my own little twisted mind & enjoyed it! And that, my friend, is what food blogs are for.

    On that note, there are plans in the works. First, word on the street is my long-broken digital camera will soon be replaced! Not by Santa, but by Mack Cam. They've been slow but I think it was Fuji's fault; the Mack Cam folks have been very helpful. Soon and very soon.

    Second, I plan to shoot for weekly posts in the new year. I will set aside some time on a weekly basis and make sure I get one out regularly; better than a string of quick entries you barely have time to read followed by a gaping silence that makes you wonder if the Faux Gourmet will ever cook again.

    Finally, I hope to transition this blog to wordpress soon...gasp...under a new name & new look. I don't want to say too much until the transition is made but hopefully it will be something that makes it a better food experience for all of us.

    In the mean time, Bon Appetite.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Things I Want to Eat NOW

    Food News & Quick Bites: I haven't had a chance to write about it here yet, but if you follow me on Twitter you probably know I'm obsessed with a Cambodian (inspired) sandwich place in Manhattan called Numpang. The flavors are incredible; I salivate all day dreaming of the moment I'll walk up to the booth and be handed a grilled shrimp with coconut sandwich drenched in spicy sauce. Oh boy. They're a bit expensive for the size but the flavor is so good I notice every little morsel.

    But that was before I met Xie Xie. Today I was reading an article on The Daily Beast about Guy Fieri & his haters. One thing lead to another and soon I was scanning a blurb by NYC chef Angelo Sosa, with whom I attended church for about a year and a half when I first moved here. He recommended Hop Shing, a dumpling haunt in Chinatown. Who doesn't want roast pork buns with a sugary glaze? I quickly yelped it & it has officially moved to my must-try list.

    I was tickled to see Sosa on a culture maker/shaker like TDB; it seems, somehow, as much a sign of success as actually working a 4 star kitchen. Curious to see what he's been up to since our paths diverged I clicked on his bio.

    Enter Xie Xie, Sosa's new Asian sandwich shop. I may end up remaining devoted to my true love, Numpang, but that doesn't mean I won't be trying half the things on his menu, like shredded pork shoulder marinated in hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and soy, or his 1000 year old ice cream sandwich with a burnt black fleur de sel caramel center. Take me now! I can't wait to start the brutal process of comparing the rival Asian sandwich joints, one flavorful lunch at a time. (See a review here by someone who has already begun.)

    Also on the sweet side, this weekend from 1-5 is the Brooklyn Chocolate Experiment. The event is a cook-off by amateur chefs followed by a free after-party "with chocolate galore." Um, yes please!

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Lettuce Entertain You

    Because salad is so early 90s.

    First reason why I'm sorry: Lettuce find a nicer, lettuce continue to use puns. And lettuce not forget how fun a good pun can be.

    Second reason why I'm sorry: all photos courtesy iPhone. Apprently Mack Camera is doing battle with Fuji on my behalf to get my camera fixed but point is still...NOT. Gar!

    Third reason why I'm sorry: not to presume you've missed my sassy low-brow cooking but in case you have, I've been away feeding real people in the real world for the past two months. Guests almost every weekend, if you can believe it. Last one for a while left today and I thought I'd commemorate the season of reuniting with old friends by reuniting with y'all. You might not miss me, but I miss you! At least, I miss being able to delude myself I have readers. Same difference.

    Taste & See: Tonight's challenge: Use up 2 heads of lettuce. Not in one night, heavens no. Even my celery munching self is not that much of a rabbit. In fact, I am starting to have a Lettuce Problem. My CSA keeps presenting me with these gorgeous, crisp heads of lettuce faster than I can consume it. And in my laziness, I've started eating...plain lettuce. Salads made of torn lettuce and torn lettuce only. And I've learned something very valuable about plain lettuce. It is...gross.

    But maybe the problem isn't lettuce, but my callousness. Maybe lettuce just needs a little TLC, a little devotion. I pay attention to sturdy vegetables like carrots and onions but wilty little lettuce has been getting no love. I just throw it in a plastic bag and shove it in the fridge, only pulling out a few leaves when the guilt of ignoring it becomes too much.

    Today I resolved I would devote a little more tender loving care to my lettuce. Be gone with these lackluster salads. I would discover other lettucian uses and embark upon a whole new lettuce themed adventure! It sounded impossible, but The Faux Gourmet is nothing if not intrepid.

    Let me tell you, as one who has been to the edge & back: It can be done. Since I'm sure reading about lettuce gets old as quickly as eating it, here's a play by play of tonight's mission accomplished: lettuce wraps. Lettuce takes the place of bread in a fresh and light twist on a burrito or eggroll. The filling is up to you--this was inspired by fellow CSA goodies carrots, jalepenos, leeks & radishes. Enjoy!

    Do It Yourself: Spiced pork & vegetable slaw lettuce wraps

    Dice 1 square inch ginger, 2 large cloves garlic, 1 small jalepeno and saute in oil in large, shallow pan.
    Chop 1 leek (or greens of 2-3 leeks OR 2 spring onions) and add when onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.
    When leeks soften, about 1 minute, add 2/3 to 1 lb ground pork.
    Season with a few good shakes of soy sauce, 1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and a dash of cumin and coriander.
    Allow meat to cook until browned; turn down heat to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid evaoprates into a thick sauce.

    Buy a food processor. If you already have one, you may skip this step. Armed with your mighty food processor, push 2 carrots, half a cucumber, and 3 radishes (the quantities are, of course, to taste; if you just have a carrot, just use a carrot!) through and make yourself beautiful shredded veggies in seconds.

    Combine equal parts soy sauce and sugar, twice as much lime juice, and a dash of sesame oil. Add a dash of sriracha if you like it hot. Stir to make a dipping sauce.

    Serve with rice and washed lettuce leaves. To make a wrap, spoon a bit of rice, meat and veggies on lettuce. Top with a small spoonful of dipping sauce and crushed peanuts. Fold bottom third of lettuce "spine" up, then wrap soft sides of lettuce around it. You'll get your fingers messy, but hopefully have fun doing so.

    I think I'm going to reward myself for getting this entry together with...another lettuce wrap. Yu-ummy.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    We Got the Beet!

    I'm still without a good digital is getting rather frustrating to be unable to photograph anything I cook & has dulled my appetite for writing. I'm trying...and I really need to stop prefacing my blog posts with this. But the good photo below is way better than my photo below. Sigh...

    Tossing in a magic ingredient
    makes winter veggies pretty in pink

    Photo from Pinch My Salt Food Blog

    Taste & See: You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to beat the riddle- between the limited number of pink plants out there and the title of this post, most of you are probably on to the magical powers of the beet. Beat away your preconceptions regarding this underappreciated little globule, often relegated to canned purple gelatinous Thanksgiving side-dishes. A beet can be so much more!

    Bet you didn't know sugar beets are used in making table sugar, did you? Or that beets were grown in ancient Babylon & ancient China? Who's late to the game now? Thousands of years of agriculture can't be wrong! Of course beets did lose their popularity with the advent of spinach. Whatever happened to make new friends but keep thee old? I say, time to bring that beet back. Even if the President isn't a fan.

    If you're anything like me (lazy & vain), you're beaten down things like beets because you don't relish (pun intended!) the idea of purple fingers. I had a whole sack of CSA beets I was avoiding for just that reason until my cousin Linda came to visit with her simple solution: cook unpeeled. Doh. Why didn't I think of that? Beaten by the beets no longer!

    Following her advice I slit off the tops and bottoms, stabbed with a fork a few times, and loaded them into my go-to roasting pan. But it looked so sad and lonely with only purple orbs. Fall wants more color--orange carrots, golden onions, brown and red potatoes...all those hardy creatures of the underground just waiting to be jazzed up with a stunner like beets. I didn't bother to peel the carrots or potatoes so the prep took mere minutes. Everything went in the roasting pan, along with a healthy toss of salt, pepper & herbs, and about 30 minutes later I had a pink roasted cornucopia.

    While you can't necessarily see it in the photo above...the dish was so pretty! Even before peeling the beets, which was a snap after they'd softened (but still gave me purple fingeritis) their color had bled to the rest of the dish in a most lovely way, giving a shockingly magenta sheen to the usually earthy roots & tubers. I served it with rice, which also became speckled with pink. Even better, the tangy flavor from the beets was set off ever so perfectly by the buttery, salty base flavor of the rest of the dish. And you can't beat a dish that comes together so quickly, with so little effort.

    If you've been avoiding beets, don't beat yourself up. Beat the habit with a beet rehab program, starting with of pink roasted cornucopia of your own.

    Do It Yourself: Pretty in Pink Roast Beets

    There is no set amount of each vegetable; use what you have on hand or what you like to fill a roasting pan. Suggested vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, celery, carrots, onions, yams, garlic, and of course beets.

    For a four person serving, I used approximately 2 onions, 2 potatoes, 3 carrots, 2 medium stalks celery, & 6 small beets & and 4 cloves of garlic.

    Seasoning suggestions: I used ground pepper, garlic salt, olive oil, and chopped sage, parsley and carrot greens. Rosemary would also add a nice woodsy flavor.

    Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
    Do not chop beets, but cut off tops and bottoms and stab with a fork.
    Chop vegetables roughly into bite-sized pieces. Save onions, vegetables can be roasted with skins on if well-washed.
    Season to taste.
    Cover with foil and cook for approximately 30 mintues. Test vegetables; if soft, remove. If not, continue checking in 10 minute intervals.
    Peel beets when cool and chop into bite-sized pieces.

    Serve with rice or hearty bread and apple cider.

    See also: Check out some of these other beet is enough to make you actually start craving beets!

    Cafe Fernando: Beet soup looks simply divine.
    Simply Recipe: Pickled beets, to feed your craving all winter long.
    The Kitchen Table: Beet risotto with greens
    White on Rice: Beet ice cream. NOW you're talking...
    Pinch My Salt: Chocolate Beet Muffins. I'm not making this up...

    And for the inquiring minds among us:

    Tournament of the Tubers: Not surprisingly, beets lose to sweet potatoes.
    All about Beets: The author of this easily surpasses my beet-related passion.

    Sunday, September 27, 2009


    Why did no one tell me about that typo?


    Sunday, September 13, 2009

    Quick Links: Airfield News

    Howdy folks, two quick notes for my fellow wine lovers. (I assume that includes *everyone* reading this...)

    First, my latest column is featured on the front page of Airfield Estates' latest newsletter! Check out the pdf (it isn't on the website blog yet) for vibrant photos & recipes to inspire you during the last days of summer.

    Second, congratulations to Airfield Estates for winning Wine Press Northwest's wine of the week award. I wrote a food pairing for the wine, the 2007 Vineyard Salute Bombshell Red, last spring. Check it out here!

    About the wine, from Wine Press Northwest:

    Appellation: Yakima Valley

    A slightly risque cartoon of a stewardess may have contributed to the appeal, but the price and quality deserves attention. A tongue-wagging blend of Merlot (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (32), Syrah (11%), Malbec (3%), Sangiovese (2%), Cinsault (1%) and Counoise (1%) combines for a nose of blueberries and coffee, black cherry and cedar, and sun-dried tomato and cola. Flavors of opulent blackberries and chocolate - accented by blueberries acidity and mild tannins - make this fairly easy to pair with a variety of meat dishes. Rated "Outstanding" by Wine Press Northwest magazine.

    Price: $16.

    Cases produced: 631.

    Food matches: Pair with rosemary-rubbed lamb pops or barbecued beef ribs.

    Airfield Estates, 560 Merlot Drive, Prosser, WA 99350, 509-786-7401

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    In Praise of Canned Food

    If you only take one thing away from this post, it is this: buy canned tomatoes.

    Really, truly, I beg of you: buy canned tomatoes.

    Why, you ask? Isn't canned food for giving away to the Salvation Army around Thanksgiving when you clean out your pantry and find one can of tuna and one can of kidney beans you don't even remember buying? Doesn't Michael Pollan hate canned food?

    Well, I don't know if he does or not. But I do know that when you get home from a long day and are trying to come up with something to eat, driving through fast food or calling your local take-out place often sounds easier than whipping up a feast of organic acorn fed free range heirloom la la la. Not that I have anything against eating like our pre-historic ancestors; I mean,
    organic acorn fed free range heirloom la la la is good work if you can get it. And who can quibble with the idea of only eating foods you can actually pronounce? Not I.

    But I can pronounce tomato, which is the only thing in a lot of canned tomato products. And cans are cheap. And cans stick around in the cupboard forever, lowering the chances my fellow cook-for-one-ers (or two-ers) out there will end up making compost out of half their produce. To my mind, all this makes canned tomato a darn good happy medium for a busy gal (or dude) on the go who still wants to eat half-decent food.

    But they've more to offer still! Chopped tomatoes are already cut for you. Yeah, like, you just open the can and toss in. Crazy! And tomato paste is all pureed and thick-like, perfect for adding body to dishes...or for diluting and becoming a sauce or soup on its own. (Or Ketchup!) Stewed tomatoes have a thick sauce and a bit of flavoring. Tomatoes brighted up a dull dish, tame over-spiced food, add texture--that comfy, sink your teeth in feeling, and can be seasoned to go a thousand different ways. Honestly, they're downright heroic.

    Do it Yourself: Here are three ways I used stewed tomatoes this week, just the beginning of infinite possibilities.

    Greek Yogurt Salad
    Stir approximately 1 Tbsp lemon juice into 1/2 cup greek yogurt. Season with cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper.
    Pour in approximately 1/3 medium can stewed tomatoes, including juice, and stir to break up tomatoes.
    Stir in about 1 cup diced crunchy vegetables such as celery, red onion, and cucumber.
    Garnish with parsley or enjoy as is.

    Fridge cleaning spaghetti sauce
    I first made this when I had very little in the fridge, pouring in a bit of this and that to try and create something interesting to pour over noodles. The sauce was so good I ended up doing without the pasta and gobbled it up on its own...and looking for excuses to have leftover ground meat to make it again.

    Brown about 1 cup ground pork or beef (or a mix) over medium heat with 2-3 minced cloves of garlic.
    Dissolve in approximately 1 tablespoon harissa, 1 tablespoon fig jam, and 1/2 cup apple cider or 4 tbsp cup cider vinegar. Add 1/3 medium can of stewed tomatoes and add more liquid as needed to maintain saucy consistency.
    *I had about 1/2 cup sauteed onions leftover in the fridge. I added them to the mix to great success.
    Allow to simmer gently while stirring. Season with salt and pepper.
    Melt in approximately 1/4 cup goat cheese.

    Stewed tomatoes over rice
    Ok, this isn't really a recipe. But hear me out. I had some chicken and rice with a chili adobo sauce for dinner. The sauce was a bit too powerful and lacked texture until I emptied my final third of a can of stewed tomatoes on top and heated the whole thing. It was instantly richer. The intensity of the chili sauce melded into the tomato juice and spread more evenly over the whole dish, instead of shocking me every few bites.

    Now that's what I call Faux Gourmet Success! And it was all brought to you by canned tomatoes, which you should immediately go buy. They're cheap & will last forever, and you'll start using them in everything...but if you don't , you can always donate them to the Salvation Army.

    Monday, September 7, 2009

    Scallops a la Perfection in 4 Easy Steps

    A no-fail scallop preparation
    makes the most of my indulgence

    *My camera is *still* broken so my photos are all via iPhone for the time being; they're OK but not exactly candidates for food porn. I hope that doesn't keep you from salivating!

    Taste & See: I associate scallops with splurging. They're one of my favorite foods, but I rarely buy them, and when I do, I get frozen, not fresh. Who can afford fresh scallops? Not this girl on a budget. Then I started frequenting the seafood stand at my local farmers' market. The first time I went, the girl behind the counter was bagging up two plump little scallops for a couple who planned to walk over to a park bench in the sun and enjoy them raw, just like that.

    Aha! All this time I'd been thinking if I was going to enjoy a delicacy like scallops I'd have to shell out some insane sum and prepare a feast. I hadn't though about buying only a few and savoring them for the pure pleasure of their taste. But from then on, buying a handful of scallops from the farmers' market has been a ritual treat. They're $13.95/lb at the stand I visit, and a quarter pound provides a couple rounds of scallopine enjoyment.

    How to prepare them?
    This is another potential headache. Though they are delicious raw, as I learned, I love them even more seared, a crispy coat over a meaty interior. But scallops can be rather finicky. They're easy to overcook, getting all tough and chewy, a complete waste of a mollusk. Part of my aversion to buying scallops was the fear I'd indulge on a choice ingredient only to carelessly demolish it in the kitchen. But as I've discovered, the only real tricks are using a good pan & remembering less (cook time) is more (flavor & texture).

    One option: drench in butter, cover with bacon bits, biscuits and a mound of mashed potatoes. This is a dish I had at a small pub in Maine in spring 2008. This is a great way to prepare scallops if you want to gain weight quickly and walk around with a bowling ball-esque lump in your stomach for several hours after your meal. Seriously, what was I thinking? But butter and bacon cover a multitude of sins, so it can't have been all bad.

    For my part I prefer things on the simple side. I bought this amazing new sear pan last week (read more about it here) and it seared my scallops beautifully, as you can see. (Ha! I got it for $50 on Amazon; at the time it was $150 everywhere else but now I see the venerable Williams Sonoma has also discounted the pan to $50. Go Amazon!) My vanity is tickled to have grill marks since as I live in a box with no yard and no grill. Here is the 'recipe' I have devised for seared scallops a la perfection,
    combining the pan's searing instructions, common sense & my own whim.

    Do It Yourself: Seared Scallops a la Perfection, for one

    Heat the pan at medium high heat sans oil about one minute, til pan is hot. To test, flick a dab of oil on to pan; if it sizzles it is hot enough.

    Add a small amount of oil; I prefer flavored grapeseed oil, usually Lime Riesling oil from apres vin. It adds a hint of lime that pairs beautifully with the delicacy of scallops. Frequent readers know I'm obsessed with Lime Riesling oil; it wins the award for "food product I'd sponsor if asked."

    Sear scallops: Set 4 scallops on pan and cook on each side about a minute; use tongs to gently turn. I also like to toss in a few herb leaves--basil, here--to fry up in the oil and accompany the scallops. Remove seared scallops from pan, set on small plate and cover.

    Make sauce: Turn off heat on pan and add about a tablespoon of butter. When it has melted add about 1/4 cup white whine. I used
    La Vie Douce, a sweet Roussanne from Prosser, WA's Maison Bleue Winery. I sometimes add a dash of lemon or lime juice if I have a fresh one handy; it brightens the sauce, making it more summery. Scrape up any bits left in pan from scallops and stir all together. Pour sauce over scallops and garnish with something green for contrast. I used lime basil leaves to match the oil.

    Indulge away!

    Saturday, September 5, 2009

    Quick Links: Dinners Under $20

    This article from Apartment Therapy The Kitchn is truly in the Faux Gourmet spirit- Dinners for 10 under $20. Think you can't have dinner parties on a budget? Think again. Enjoy!

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    Playing Ketchup Ball

    From Columbia Crest's 25th Anniversary Celebration, August 2008

    Dressed up Ketchup
    kicks some serious condiment booty

    I've been with my family in Washington State for the past month. It has been a time of abundant food accompanied by bottles of ever-flowing (mostly Washington) wine. We have had feasts galore, both of our own making and at several delightful eateries. I even watched Julie & Julia, a movie about food and blogging about food, for goodness sakes.

    Yet for all this, you've heard nary a peep from The Faux Gourmet. Yes, I snuck in a few short posts at the beginning of the month & wrote a new Chef's Corner column for Airfield Estates, coming soon. But by and large, the past month has been a time for simply enjoying. Even Julie & Julia made me want to cook (with lots of butter) more than blog about cooking. And so my hibernations seem never to end; first the bar exam, then vacation--I'm forever teetering to one extreme.

    Taste & See: Teeter no more. I'm now on my way back to New York to resume "real life," day-dreaming about the dishes I'll make when I get home. It doesn't hurt that I've been watching Eat Drink Man Woman, with cooking footage that puts Food Network to shame. But for all this fancy stuff, I find my mind wandering back the same simple dish I've craved all summer long: a hamburger.

    Oh, you can dress it up with high-grade meat and fancy toppings if you want but at heart all I really desire is a hunk of juicy meat topped with melty cheese in the loving embrace of two cripsy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside pieces of bread. And ketchup. Homemade ketchup.

    From Columbia Crest's 25th Anniversary Celebration, August 2008

    Ketchup is where I get fancy. I don't want Heintz's, or even Annie's organic (tasty though it is). Ever since Gourmet magazine's early summer feature on the ultimate burger I can't stop making homemade ketchup. It's freakishly easy and the homemade flavor so dramatically outshines something from a bottle it is almost a crime not to make it from scratch. Here's my adopted recipe; try it for yourself and if you're anything like me, you'll be dreaming up main courses just to have an excuse to drape your food in gorgeous red.

    Delightfully "viscous" (Gourmet's word) ketchup, on the burger & for extra dipping

    Do It Yourself: Some homemade ketchup recipes call for stewing down fresh tomatoes. Not a chance, with tomatoes $4/lb last time I checked, compared to 59 cents for a perfectly adequate can of tomato paste. Gourmet calls for canned stewed tomatoes but I didn't feel like cleaning a blender & took the easy road; ketchup made from tomato paste tasted pretty darn tasty to me.

    1 small can tomato paste
    1/2 onion, diced
    3 cloves of garlic, diced
    1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
    Chili Powder
    Apple Cider Vinegar
    Brown Sugar

    Here's the easy part: Saute down the onion & garlic til they're soft & brown, making your house smell wonderful. Empty the tomato paste into a bowl and stir in the onion & garlic.

    Here's the less-easy part: Season to taste. Oh, I know you want precise measurements but the truth of the matter is you probably like yours seasoned differently than I do. If I tell you how I do it & you don't like it, you may just go off ranting about my poor taste in condiments (not you, that *other* reader) and never give homemade ketchup its proper due.

    But since you insist, here's how I play:
    1/4 cup Brown Sugar
    1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
    1/2 Tsp Chili Powder
    1/4 Tsp Paprika
    1/8 Tsp Allspice
    1/8 Tsp Cinnamon
    Dash of salt.

    Then I season to taste.


    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Quick Links: Thailand through Expert Eyes

    Because she writes sentences like "a (mis)transliteration of the Thai alphabet which stabs in the hearts of all linguists like a poisoned dagger;" because she has mouthwatering photos of fat bananas grilling; because she, like me, thinks that a world without khanom krok is a world with one reason fewer to live...I recommend to you the (often-Thai) food blog She Simmers, starting with the beautiful entry about a very special Thai market, "Or Tor Kor."

    I have a very special place in my heart for Thai markets. I've written about them on WITP several times, including Better Be Street if You Lookin' at Me Parts I and II; Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old AK; and Sugar & Spice. I can hardly think of a better afternoon than wandering aimlessly through a market, admiring rows of shiny fruit, shrieking at slithery creatures, observing the carnival of human expression, and of course, eating street food.

    If the written word + photos aren't enough for you, look up Anthony Bourdain's culinary take on Thailand (in a time of tumult) from August 17's episode of No Reservations, on the Travel Channel.

    Friday, August 7, 2009

    The Hills Are Alive

    These are a few of my favorite things.

    Taste & See: My whole affair with Thailand began the year after I graduated from high school, when I was an exchange student in Bangkok. A decade later my youngest sister followed in my footsteps (though she'd hate for me to put it that way) & embarked for Austria.

    During her exchange year I had a chance to visit her, and during the visit we ate a whole lot of her favorite foods--meat and potatoes, totally different than what she calls my typical "flee flee flou flah" cooking style. But Austria showed me how tasty downhome hearty food can be, and now I find myself wanting a little less flee flee flou flah, a little more schnitzel, goulash and wurst.

    In Salzburg, in between taking ourselves on an unofficial Sound of Music Tour & cavorting at a beer hall run by monks, we ate at a homey little Rick Steves-vetted restaurant where exorbitantly proportioned plates of meat and potatoes were served with gusto, and fresh house beer. Even if the food hadn't been entirely satisfying--full of flavor as the plates were full of meat--the owner, whose concern for our culinary experience was utterly charming--would have merited a visit.

    These dumplings were a crowd favorite, crispy outside giving way to tender potato mash inside. Comfort food defined.

    Roast sirloin steak with saucy onions, mashed potatoes & bland steamed vegetables--normally not a fan but here they provided a necessary foil to all the richness. Approx 11 euros.

    Meat plate! Three kinds of grilled meat, fries, rice & a few veggies (though veggies are clearly not the main idea here). Approx 12 euros.

    Roast pork, sausage, and a tennis ball sized "Knödel," that is, dumpling. Approx 11 Euros.

    And finally, my favorite dish of all, goulash with Knödel. The Austro-Hungarian equivalent of a curry, all warm saucy goodness. Approx 9 euros.

    After all that stick-to-the-ribs fare, we were revved up for an adventure in the chilly Salzburg mountain air. In fact, you might have even heard us singing...Goulash with dumplings and schniztel with noodles, bratwurst and liverwurst and warm apple strudel...all the potatoes that our waiter brings, these are a few of my favorite things!

    Do It Yourself:
    If you chance to visit Salzburg, Austria, stop by Zum Wilden Mann at Getreidegasse 20, or email for info at

    Thursday, August 6, 2009

    Galette Thee to a Bakery

    Presenting: The Lazy Person's Pie
    (What else do you expect from The Faux Gourmet?)

    Taste & See: Sometimes you have time for pie. Sometimes you have time to roll out two neat little layers of crust, to gently press the edges with a fork or layer a lattice topping. Sometimes you want your finished product to look cute and picturesque, ready for a photo-op with a pitcher of milk and bowl of cherries.

    Other times, you just want a tasty little workhorse, a little "rustic," code for, "frazzled on the edges," but in a warm & homey kind of way. With pie as with life. But crown an ugly duckling pie with mounds of bursting berries, or drape with caramelized onions and dot with chevre, and suddenly the workhorse is looking downright beautiful.

    Enter the galette
    . A galette doesn't put on pastry airs. No offense to pâte brisee mavens, but a galette puts the crust where, in this humble chef's opinion, crust ought to be: a supporting act to a brilliant filling.

    A galette is a kind of French open-faced pie. There's only one layer of crust, rolled out big and wide. The filling, which can be pretty much anything, savory or sweet, is placed in the middle. The edges of the are then crust tucked over, creating a kind of a stuffed-crust-pizza of a pie.

    There is no need to be neat; in fact, the charm is in the untidy folding of the crust, bursting out at reckless, uneven angles. And...that's it. That easy. And with a food processor, the crust practically makes itself. With this perfect last minute dessert in your bag of tricks, you'll need to get thee to a bakery no longer.

    Do It Yourself: Rather than give you a precise recipe, I describe the basic structure & give a few ideas to get you started. For more complete instructions, see this article break it down. If you're the type who prefers precise recipes, or just want further inspiration, scroll down for a list of links that will have you up to your ears in rustic pastries in no time.

    Crust: Use a “classic” pie pastry recipe (think flour, salt, cut with butter, ice water), and press go; the mix will roll itself into a little ball, which you, oh talented chef, need not knead or fuss with. Just roll it out (I often use a wine bottle) into a nice large mass (no extra credit for perfect circles), sprinkling as needed with a touch of flour for easy handling. Bake--it takes about 45 minute at 350 for the crust to turn golden brown--and serve.

    Savory: Inspired by a reader's letter in a past Gourmet magazine, this savory galette features butternut squash. Cut a squash in half, remove seeds, & brush with butter. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Peel off outer skin and mash with a hunk of chevre (I used about 6 oz for one medium sized squash) which should melt right in to the hot squash. I also added some sliced scallions for color and seasoned with salt & pepper. I also tossed assorted dried herbs—oregano, sage--in with the crust.

    Sweet: There's nothing quite like grilled pears. They caramelize into a lovely, mouth-melting mess, just begging to be topped with a bit of crunchy sea salt for contrast, both in texture and flavor. Slice a few pears and cook on a skillet in a bit of olive oil; toss with a tablespoon or so of sugar to ease the caramelizing process. I flavored the crust with a bit of sugar and lavender to give the pears a sweet place to rest and used wheat berry for crunch.

    For some more ideas see the following:
    Plum or Apricot Galette, courtesy SimplyFoods
    Apricot Cherry Galette, courtesy Cafe Fernando Food Blog
    Blackberry Galette, courtesy Savour Fare
    Savory Sausage & Fennel Galette, courtesy Food Blogga

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009


    Hello dear readers,

    As you've probably noticed, there has been a lot of tweeting from the Faux Gourmet & not a whole lot else. I've been disheartened without my camera; still waiting for it to get fixed, and have been focusing on another side project (will post about that soon!) and studying for the bar. Lest you worried I'd closed up shop for good, I'm only going to be on 'vacation' from What's in the Pot? til the end of July. I look forward to more tasty postings when the bar exam is good & over. Hope you enjoy a summer of cooking & eating good food until then!

    The Faux Gourmet

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Accidental Bean Soup

    Another happy kitchen mistake:
    Pasilla chile + black beans + yogurt
    = whoops, that was good!

    Note: Please forgive the lack of photographs. I've been holding back because my camera is in the shop but this dish was so tasty I figured I should at least note instructions for re-creating it, and if I was going to go to the trouble, might as well share them. Besides, it is bean soup. It is brown and chunky. Maybe better if you don't see photos.

    But I digress. The bean soup actually started with a plantain. I was at the grocery store in my new neighborhood, which is home to a lot of people who are not white yuppies (unlike my old neighborhood). The grocery store has a lot of things in it that reflect this diverse ethnic makeup--thinks like yucca, plantains, and rosewater. For my part, I had fond memories of a friend from the Caribbean's delightful rendition of platanos, plantains, sliced and cooked in a sweet syrup. I thought I'd replicate it if I could, but I wasn't sure if I should get a green or a ripe plantain.

    Naturally, I got one of both. I mimicked her sweet dish with the ripe one, but that still left me a green plantain. I knew I could fry it & make chips, but normally I don't really thrill to the idea of deep fried anything, so I sent out a tweet, hoping some of you could help me out. I wasn't overwhelmed with responses online, but a woman at a coffee shop opposite me offered this advice for particularly tasty fried platanos: dip them (short soak is more like it) in salt water in between two separate rounds of frying. I decided to give it a try, already envisioning the pasilla chile chevre dip I'd make to go with them . . . Ah, pasillas, my flavor du summer. I can't get enough of their rich, smoky flavor--adding not so much heat as complexity.

    But then I had only the tiniest bit of chevre. No matter, I had a bit of yogurt. I'd soaked the pasilla chili in hot water & dumped it all the wok, loath to lose out on any flavor, so it was pretty watery. No matter, I'll dump in a can of black beans for body. Brilliant! But the beans had quite a bit of water themselves, and I just didn't have the patient for it to simmer out.

    By the time I blended it all together in the food processor I had about four cups of materiel, way more than I needed for dip. Plus, it was nothing like the creamy dip I'd envisioned. It was actually rather soupy. Soup! That's it! I'd made a soup. Now that was brilliant. My roommate wandered over and took a big spoonful, confirming in delight: "That is delicious!" Indeed it was, and it was a total accident but one I'd gladly make again. Here's the recipe so you can too.

    Do it yourself:

    Toast a pasilla chile over a dry skillet for about 30 seconds on each side. Cut out the stem & seeds and soak in about a cup of hot water.

    Fry one large chopped onion and five cloves smashed garlic in oil. When onion is soft, add the chile and the water.

    Cook a few minutes more then add one can black beans, including the liquid.

    Spoon about 3 tablespoons chevre and 1 cup yogurt (I used plain, Greek-style yogurt) in the food processor. Pour in the onion-beans-chile mixture from the pan and blend together til just mixed; soup should be chunky.

    Serve warm, with twice-fried plantains if you like.

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    Movin' on up, movin' on out, nothing can stop me

    Hello dear readers,

    As some of you may have seen from my tweets lately, I have recently moved. I have spent the past month preparing to leave my box of an apartment in midtown, Manhattan, foodie desert (though there are oases of sorts - see this fun article about a blog I love devoted to finding them).

    Yesterday in a whirlwind of sort I loaded boxes and boxes (Turns out I own: kitchen paraphernalia & food, clothing, books, and a teensy, tiny bit of decor/furniture. This very accurately reflects my priorities!) into a big van driven by two multi-pierced, heavy-lifting bartenders/movers for hire and schlepped out to my cozy new home in Prospect Heights, nestled on the northeast side of Park Slope and Prospect Park.

    It was quite a hassle of an experience, including a jammed bridge, a parking ticket, and a cherished dining room table that doesn't fit in the hallway of my new place! When I finally collapsed on my couch in the new apartment, I couldn't help but wonder if it was worth it.

    It was. It is. It will be. Today is a new day and I'm feeling so excited about how this new place will shape and contribute to my foodie ways (faux gourmet, of course). My new roommate is a fellow foodie and we are going to get along fabulously. The rain drips on the plot of land outside our living room, watering our potted fresh herbs and tomatos she bought the other week.

    There are separate spaces for the roomy, by NY standards, living room & open kitchen (and notably, my personal space, a real bedroom with a real door!), perfect for entertaining. We will have a table that doesn't double as my desk. We have counter space. We have, get this: a dishwasher!

    There are farmer's markets and plant stores and food coops, stone throws away, and a growing Brooklyn foodie cult to enrich our stores in myriad creative manners. Once my camera is finally fixed I'll have real daylight in which to take photos . . . and I may even spring for some dishes that aren't borrowed from my mother's college tupperware collection on which to plate my creations!

    It will be a while before I'm fully settled but in the mean time I'm just grateful to be starting anew in a place that will nourish me, body and soul. I'm so excited about what lies ahead & I hope you will continue to join me!


    Taste & See: Faux Gourmet Housewarming Cake

    Cooking when your kitchen stuff is all in boxes is kind of like making French food: every step in the recipe requires a whole other recipe. "Combine flour, baking soda, baking power and salt" really means unpack the box of dry goods lugged from my old kitchen and the kitchen utensils box with the measuring cups; "cream butter and sugar" means set up my kitchenaide. Baking myself a housewarming cake to enjoy on a rainy afternoon was a great way to start the long process of settling in here!

    I used a recipe from this month's magazine, but being the Faux Gourmet, I, of course adapted it. I didn't have everything it required but my the recipe below with my substitutions nonetheless created a lighter-than-air (with a surprise crispy crust) that has found me sneaking back to the kitchen for bites all afternoon.

    Do it yourself:

    1 cup flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/2 stick butter, softened
    2/3 cup plus a bit more on the side
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    1 large egg
    1/2 cup milk (I used soy; tasted great!)
    1/2 cup yogurt (I used blackberry)
    1 cup frozen blueberries
    1 tsp white vinegar

    Preheat oven to 400 F. Butter & flour square cake pan.

    Combine flour, baking power, baking soda and salt.

    Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy (about 2 minutes), then beat in egg and vanilla and beat well.

    Mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternately adding soy milk, yogurt and white vinegar, until just combined.

    Spoon batter into pan and scatter fruit over the top. Spinkle sugar over the top and bake until golden, about 25 minutes.


    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    Guest Entry: Spinasse

    Three blogs for you:

    Frugal Foodies has a slogan I can get behind: "Would rather be poor than give up good food." Of course, my blog tries to make it possible to have the cake & eat it too, but FF blog has lots to love about it.

    Amateur Gourmet is my blog doppelganger; I can only hope WITP matures into something like that over time . . . of course, preserving my passion for travel, the Pacific Northwest & otherwise lovable quirkiness. (It is lovable, right . . . ?)

    Seattle Field Notes blog brings us a review of Spinasse, which you may remember from my ecstatic tweeting re: their homemade pasta a few weeks ago. SFN does a monthly review of restaurants in the Seattle area, with which I have a love hate relationship. Love, because it whets my appetite . . . and hate because I'm envious & wish I could be there to try first hand! As FoodMayhem said on an earlier post, if only Washington weren't so far away. Maybe this summer after I'm settled in my new apartment (which has a backyard!) I'll have a Washington Nostalgia Meal for my loyal NYC-based readers to celebrate the bounty of the state that nurtured my faux gourmet sensibilities. Any takers?

    In the mean time, I present SFNB on Spinasse:

    Note: all photos from Spinasse website.

    Taste & See: I've been looking forward to going to Spinasse with my parents and sister because they love authentic, rustic Italian food. They came over for part of Memorial Day weekend, so I jumped on the chance to take them here and I'm glad it worked out. Christy's sister Caroline also got to join us for our Sunday night dinner. All I knew about this place is that the chef makes fresh pasta every day and that it has been one of the top new restaurants in Seattle (located in Capitol Hill near Pike Street).

    Now to the goods. We were seated at a community table, which we shared with two other groups. This wasn't so bad because we got to see what others were eating. Right after we sat down, were given complimentary bruschetta (one with some sort of pate and one with a somewhat sour cheese). This reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister Jeannie about whether the unexpected free food is worth the premium you pay for the rest of the food. I think that if you are going to a restaurant with premium prices then you're prepared to pay that premium, so the sticker shock isn't a factor and the unaccepted treat is just a bonus. What do you think?

    The menu follows a traditional format of Antipasti (appetizers), Primi (pastas), Secondi (meat), Contorni (sides/veggies), and Dolci (dessert). We started with the sampler antipasti, which allowed us to get a taste of all the delicious starters. These aren't the kind of appetizers you get at some place like the Olive Garden (calamari, artichoke dip, or flatbread). I could hardly interpret half of the dishes and really didn't know what to expect. My favs were veal with tuna maionesse (sounds weird, but yummy) and rich anchovy fillets. Next we ordered one of each of the homemade pastas (fine cut egg pasta with ragu, ravioli with butter/sage/pine nuts, and "random wide cuts" of pasta with braised pork). Each of them had such a rich deep flavor that complemented the light and fresh pasta. I know Jeannie wished they had gnocchi...maybe next time. We like these so much we got another round because of the rare opportunity to get this high-quality pasta (and we got to keep the leftovers!). For the Secondi, we had some sort of pork chop and a rabbit dish. I think I like the rabbit better, but really the pastas were the highlight of the night. We also got some roasted turnips and their greens and some potatoes. For dessert, we sampled the chocolate torte.

    Aside from the food, the restaurant was quite small with capacity for only 45 or so, and no waiting area. The bar looks straight into the kitchen, which looks more like a Julia Childs kitchen than a typical industrial type kitchen. I would love to sit up there and watch them prepare all the delicious food. The bar is used by the chef/owner Justin Neidermeyer to make his pastas in the morning. Service was a little slow, but we got there pretty late and they kept the kitchen open for us as we were a little slow in getting our orders in, so that was nice of them. I enjoyed the food, but I don't feel compelled to return. I got the experience I was looking for as I enjoyed the meal with my family, but in the end it isn't really my style of food. I'm starting to realize my style of taste with food. While I enjoy watching all the gourmet cuisine made in shows like Iron Chef and the intrigue of techniques used, I don't enjoy eating the food as much. At first I thought it was the type of restaurants that serve that type of food (see La Cirque), I think it has more to do with the food itself. I still can't quite pinpoint what it is that I don't like, but I'm enjoying going through the process of developing my preferences, both with the food I eat and they ambiance of the restaurants I eat at. So in the end, like I said, I enjoyed the experience of exploring a new restaurant, trying new tastes and being with my family, but I don't feel like I need to go back. Another reason is that there are so many other exciting restaurants in Seattle, some on my list and some yet to be discovered, that if something isn't quite right for me, then there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

    Now, don't just take my word for it. Check out these other reviews by people who actually get paid to write this stuff.

    Saturday, May 23, 2009

    Great, Cheap American Wine II

    Adding to the list:
    more excellent Washington wines under $25

    While my last entry complained of omissions in a recent article reviewing great, cheap wine, I obviously made many grave omissions in my response, as any attempt to catalogue great Washington wines is bound to do.  There are far, far too many wines out there for me to be comprehensive.  But I spent the better part of yesterday hitting the street and wine-tasting my way through a number of local wineries so no one can say I didn't make an effort.  

    Taste & See:  Two wines don't qualify for "the list" because they're over $25 but they were so good I can't not share my joy.  Bunnell Family Cellars Mourvedre and a pic are both stunning. The 2006 Mourvedre, (100% Mourvedre, $38) pure peppery bliss, outshone a Spanish Mourvedre (in Spain, known as monastrell) we'd already decided was pretty stunning itself.  The 2006 a pic (47.5% Syrah, 18.6% Cinsault, 17.3% Mourvedre, and 16.6% Grenache) was seriously like drinking red wine butter.  Butter may be an adjective normally reserved for white wines but this baby was smooth as . . . well, you know the phrase.

    In the budget category, I'm thrilled to share Thurston Wolfe 2006 Syrah.  (See the photo of the winemaker, Dr. Wolfe, on the previous post).  It smells of chocolate pepper; if the taste itself weren't so divine I could almost be content just taking repeated deep breaths in front of a glass.  It is so deep and rich you'd never know it was blended with 5% viognier.  At $16 this wine is a steal; since it will be good now through 2015 you have no excuse not to buy cases!

    Usually Roussanne and Marsanne grapes, both Rhône varietals, go together like peanut butter and jelly; the perhaps better known viognier rounds out the trio.  You don't see many Roussanne headliners however, so I was tickled to try not one but two such versions at Maison Bleue, a new winery specializing in French-style wines.  They have a regular Roussanne called La Vallee du Soleil (2008, $25) that is crisp and fresh, with a fruity (pineapple, peach) start and an acidic finish--nothing regular about it.  They're also doing a sweet Roussanne, called La Vie Douce (2008, $20) that is rather remarkable.  The first taste was rather sweet and I was afraid it would become cloying but I was amazed to find the flavor brighten into a rich, complex blend of flavors I had to keep sipping over and over to get a handle on.  

    And in a quick note to add to my recommendation for the DavenLore 2008 Rose ($13) in the previous post:  I spoke to the winemaker today at the local farmer's market and learned the wine is a blend of Malbec, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot and Cabernet.  We tried and tried to guess but Cab was the only one of the four my friends and I guessed correctly.  That just goes to show how interesting and complex it really is.

    Do it yourself: Don't take my word for it.  Visit these tasting rooms, those discussed in the first part of this article, and others on a weekend (or week) get away to Prosser, Washington, my charming hometown in the heart of the Prosser wine industry.  I am not going to reinvent the wheel and tell you where to stay and eat when you're in town:  see this article about wine-tasting in Prosser and visit the town's chamber of commerce website for tourist information.  Enjoy your visit!

    Friday, May 22, 2009

    Great, Cheap American Wine I

    Correcting a grave omission:
    some excellent Washington wines under $25

    Update:  This post is the first in a series.  Look for other posts of the same title for more delightful Washington wine recommendations under $25.

    I recently read an interesting reflection on the difficulty of finding cheap American wines that are really good, interesting and lively. Too many cheap American wines are cookie cutter blends, tasty but bland, the author complained. Fair enough, but as I'm always a stalwart defender of Washington wines I was obviously disappointed he didn't include any in his list of goodies. I'll just chalk that up to his not having discovered them yet and see what I can do to remedy that.

    A Seattle Times piece compiling a handy list of 100 of that 2008's greatest Washington wines, many of which are under $25, certainly helps. For example, the Thurston Wolfe 2004 JTW Reserve Dessert Wine ($20), Barnard Griffin 2007 White Riesling ($8), Milbrandt Vineyards 2006 Traditions Merlot ($15), Alexandria Nicole 2005 Destiny Ridge Merlot ($24) and Hedges Family 2006 Three Vineyards Red ($25) are all local favorites, to say nothing of wines in other major Washington wine areas, like Walla Walla and Woodinville.

    Dr. Wolfe of Thurston Wolfe winery conducting barrel tastings.

    Taste & See:  Better yet, I've been back in Washington visiting family this week & had a couple great wines lately that belong in his list:

    We enjoyed the
    Daven Lore 2008 Rose ($13), from a new, smaller winemaker in my hometown, on the front lawn at sunset the other night, accompanied by a chevre-pasilla chili-tangerine-pomegranate dip I'd made. It was crisp and fresh, as a rose should be, with a bright cherry aroma but not overwhelmingly fruity or sweet. Very good.

    I haven't had it lately, but my last trip involved tasting at Milbrandt Vineyards, where I fell in love with their Chenin Blanc ($12.99). The bad news it is available only in the tasting room; the good news is that might be enough to enduce some people to visit my charming hometown. The Chenin Blanc is a varietal that fell out of popular usage in the 1980s, a perfect example of the mass production trend the article above describes.  This wine balances notes of kiwi, apples and melon with a nice acidity. (Their charming label & website design doesn't hurt, either.)


    Airfield's signature biplane, decked with Christmas lights

    The fact that I write a food column for Airfield in no way predisposes me to like their wine . . . if anything, I agreed to write the column because I already liked the wine so much. Conventional wisdom has it that the 2007 Oaked ($20) and Unoaked Chardonnays are both absolute winners although the 2007 Unoaked is no longer available.
    The Oaked is creamy, with notes of peach and butterscotch. The 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay is looking promising, however, at $12 a bottle you can taste it repeatedly to watch it develop.

    Personally I've really enjoyed the 2007 Lightning ($20) lately. It is a blend of Roussanne, Viognier and Chardonnay and certainly provides the complexity sought after in the aforementioned article. I made a lovely risotto with this wine recently. I seasoned the rice with salt, pepper, butter, a touch of saffron, homemade chicken broth & Lightning. Then I added seared scallops, shrimp, and asparagus touched with lime riesling grapeseed oil--all cooked separately--as well as frozen peas. Finally I melted in a bit of brie cheese, which gave a nice creamy texture. Delicious!

    Finally, the Airfield 2008 Pinot Gris ($16) was a delight with grilled salmon the other night. It has a fresh, clean taste with a good fruity nose, but not at all overly sweet. The label's proclamation--notes of lychee and white peach--is dead on; there's also a mysterious hint of banana. Very enjoyable.

    I know there are many more I could list but I'll never get this posted if I don't stop somewhere. But if you know of another Washington wine that combines value with a really interesting, complex taste, please don't keep it to yourself!