Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Truffle in Mind

Kraft korrupts, we all know that. Poor college students, lured in by the call of a twenty-nine cent a serving meal, can't help but mac 'n' cheese out. But m'n'c, like wine, should not come from a box. And in some of us, the quest for the perfect m'n'c might continue as a lifelong mission....

and there was Marliave. So if you're in Boston, wind your way about the down-at-its-heels Downtown Crossing, in a place where nothing this simple yet sophisticated might be, to a place that has been around since 1885, sort of--it's very refreshed, now, but has that air of having been around a bit that gives the place some gravitas.

The important thing is to order the mac 'n' cheese. It's listed as an app, but it makes a perfect lunch even for me with an appetite. It comes out in a white porcelain pot so you have to pop open the lid and then let the scent hit you, a warmth of homecomings. Yes, it's got what's listed as black truffle, and perhaps they actually do some grating magic, for it doesn't have that perfume you tend to get when places just use truffle oil; you know what I mean, as if the meal put on truffle perfume to hide it ain't really truffly at all.

But even better, it's the mac that's the star here. It's house cut ziti, something substantial, and they let it stay that way, as it's all al dente. Too often this dish can be mush-a-roni and cheese, but not at Marliave. And then, it's unclear what the cheese combo is (the menu mentions a vague "farmhouse cheeses"), but they, too, are rich and full and turned into a velvety sauce that covers every bite of the ziti.

I want some right now.

The Green Monster of Jealousy over a Boston Brunch

Be prepared for me to bat all out of order for the next few entries as Georgeeats is on the road, and part of that road winds through Boston, where I hadn't been in over a decade but my has the food and drink been good there. I might do an east coast beer wrap up separately to do proper justice to everything from Smuttynose to Pretty Things to Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp in-between, but just the names should be enough for now.

But if you're near Fenway and you need good eats and drinks, don't hesitate to visit Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar. Indeed, you can sit right at the bar, but in a booth, too, if you're lucky, as the one end gives you the best seats in the house, it seems. We were there for a wonderful Sunday brunch, Adrian Gonzalez good, not Carl Crawford good. You can get bloody Marys two ways, veggie or carnivorous, so as I become more and more a beefy sort, I said, sure, lay your bouillon on me, and fortunately they were out of Slim Jims, which are the usual stirrers, but not out of the candied bacon that got sprinkled on top, a delight of brown sugar and pig. (This is a place that takes pig very seriously, as it will cook up an entire pig roast for 10 if you order ahead--way better than Peking duck, if you ask me.)
Now, since we're in Boston we have to sample things from the sea (the other sea, that is, given we partake heartily of the Pacific at home), and for me that means mainly Maine lobster. It might just be my east coast growing up bias, but they still seem to be the best, and Citizen served them up well in a Maine lobster benedict that got to be richness of all sorts, what with the fresh crustacean in glorious chunks (they didn't gyp me), the eggs poached to runny loveliness (where once chefs put that last pat of butter on a dish to enrichen it, now everything gets this yolk trick, doesn't it?)(of course a benedict does, I know that, but you know what I mean), and a Hollandaise that perhaps had a bit extra lemon zip, as everything else needed a balancing acid badly.

Those potatoes were wonderful, too, and made for a great sauce sopping material. Meanwhile my lovely companion went for the Atlantic fried oyster po-boy, and in addition to frying mighty well, Citizen also knows the super secret to one of these sandwiches--that bread only the best po-boys and lobster rolls ride astride, something seemingly so soaked in butter you wonder how it's still a solid.

This was one rewarding, filling, fulfilling meal. Makes you proud to be a citizen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Three Pickles Relishes Historic New Location

The closing of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens in 2006 no doubt left many crying in the beer they couldn’t have anymore at their favorite watering hole. But Jimmy’s was greater than a sophisticated souse’s favorite non-divey dive bar, as it had been a Chinese restaurant, run by the same family, no less, for half a century, a last remnant of Santa Barbara’s long-gone Chinatown.

Just less than five years since the closing, you can once again get a beer or some wine in Jimmy’s. For deli Three Pickles, a neighbor, has moved into the restaurant side of the building, spiffed the space up, and hopes to carry on the Jimmy’s vibe a bit, even handing out fortune cookies with orders.

Want to read the rest then go do so at the Indy's site.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Four More Beers, Uh, Years!

You have to click on that menu to make it bigger, but you know you want to, and trust me, the menu made me bigger as it was wonderful through and through. But what else might one expect from the dynamic duo of brewer Eric Rose and Chef Dylan Fultineer at HBC? I won't take you through it course by course simply because I don't have the time, but I did want to point out a few things:

1) I could get very used to eating local ridgeback shrimp whole, like little softshell crabs, especially if I had Dylan's killer peanut sauce to drizzle atop.

2) I never order salmon out because it's one dish I nail at home, so why pay someone to do what I can do? This salmon, however, well, I would order it again. The slow poaching keeps it moist with all its lovely fattiness (admit it, that's why salmon is everyone's favorite fish--you get the good fat you want from a steak but get to feel virtuous eating it) but the real secret is getting a bite of everything on the extremely well-conceived plate at once, so the zip of the Meyer lemon, shaved just thin enough, cuts that fat a bit, and then the tabbouleh, made from actual malted wheat (it's a brewery after all), is a comforting sweet (that's what malt in your beer does, after all, besides process the alcohol), but then there's the parsley and Persian mint doing the great countering, centering things herbal greens do, and it's all in your mouth. At once. Which you get to follow with a healthy swig of the 4th anniversary ale, which is billed as an "American style sour ale brewed with Brettanomyces and lactobacillus," that reminds you of the old aphorism "Brett in wine, say nein, Brett in beer is the sour you'll find dear." Or something like that.

3) If a version of the red rock crab chowder doesn't end up on the menu someday, I'll be the crab. OK, having lived in Baltimore for awhile and doing my time with a bushel of crabs, I understand picking out the meat from the shell is a chore, and I only had to pick it out and feed myself, and drink lots of beer while doing it. So the kitchen prep is a bitch. But surely some other fish might work in a chowder that good. Red curry. Yum. And vegetables still with a bit of bite in them, tasting like potato and carrot and whatever they actually were, not just soup ballast. The giant hunks of crabmeat didn't hurt none neither, of course.

And then there's the one new beer of the evening, and a delightful surprise it was, the cask conditioned Pocket Full o' Green.  An India Pale Wheat, it makes me say junk all those Belgian-IPA crosses that sort of seem the platypi of brewing, and go for the wheat-IPA combo instead. Rich and full in the mouth (the cask helped that, of course, and Eric warned it will be a different beer off cask), but still, so so good.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Tequila That's the Real-a Deal-a

There are many things I would do for you, dear reader, not the least of which turns out to be heading to a chic Montecito party to have people feed me incredible edibles and pour me $280-a-bottle tequila to my heart's content. Yep, a-gave the office for you folks...keep reading that one till you groan with disbelief. For way back on Cinco de Mayo--it's been awhile, so perhaps I'm just getting sober--I was invited along with many people with fancier clothes, cars, and money than mine (I'm sure it's not just more money, it's fancier, too, like the presidents on it aren't even just Jackson and Franklin but Lester Young) for a deubtante ball of sorts featuring Casa Dragones and its single product, a sipping tequila that is mighty fine, indeed. It's a 100% Blue Agave Joven style, which is unusual, too, and a clever marketing move. And sure, why believe me, now that I've been bought for a mere fine party, but the tequila is incredible, from its clear-going-to-silver unbelievable color, which, of course, they call platinum because silver is for peons (like Daisy Buchanan's voice, it looks like money*) to its range of aromas and flavors, citrus to oak (yes, they oak age for you long time). Better yet it's so finely distilled that even sipping away as the servers never quite let anyone get a glass to empty, it didn't finally clock you upside your cabeza and leave you hurting for muchas dias.  Is it worth $280 a bottle? When poured in Montecito gratis it is, without a doubt, and that's even on a day when a fog bank blocked the ocean view from the estate where we partied down.

As for the food, it turns out anything made really really well goes with any distilled drink made perfectly. So the passed apps, and they just kept coming--you almost had to take things from the servers just because you felt sorry for them carrying all those trays around--were heavy on seafood and light on cooking, which was bright, bracing, beautiful. Ceviches and sears and fresh scallop sliced in citrus in a slurp it up, but politely, this is a fancy party, spoon. There were tables to get tamales and tacos, and again this wasn't street food for a second. I may never have seen the face of Jeebus on my tortilla, but I have sensed his presence in ones as good as those from this party.

Then, of course, there was Mexican techno, too, as the Mexican Institute of Sound was flown in for the gig. My guess is a good half the guest list wasn't pleased, no doubt trying to figure out who let their gardeners have turntables and synthesizers, but the band was fun, and you could boogie a bit on the outdoor temp dance floor which was covered with a blownup photo of an agave plant.

As for stars, Michael Keaton was there and gave off the air of someone more or less normal. But he is pretty small--that Batman suit must have been gigantic. Alexandra Paul was there, but I don't recognize anyone from Baywatch unless they're in red bathing suits. And then there was Dennis Miller, and, alas, I failed to think of this line soon enough: "So, Dennis, now that Bin Laden is dead, can you go back to being funny?"

*You really didn't think Third Eye Blind came up with that on its own, did you?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is It the Dressing or the Stuffing that Makes This So Tasty?

I've written about it before, but just so you know, Santa Barbara is home to the baby ridgeback shrimp.... OK, wait, this comes from Buzzfeed's 20 Babies Dressed as Food. Which makes me feel a lot better about not having kids, given how much I like to eat. I mean, how could you not experiment? I figure till they're about three-years-old they're yours, aren't they, so you should be able to do what you want. It might even be the environmentally sound thing to do, as you grow your own food, eat as local as possible, and reduce the global population all in one tasty meal.

Seriously, it really means that parents have too much time on their hands, and too much disposable income to make costumes that make their children look like food. Which, if you think about it for as long as it probably took people to make some of these outfits, and that better be a long time, and they better not be mass-produced somewhere (picture this: a Chinese factory with underage, poorly paid Chinese girls working a line putting together hotdog suits so American children can dress up as the food the Chinese workers can't afford to eat themselves), you just have to end thinking a profound thought like, "Huh?"

Plus I'm rethinking that next serving of baby vegetables I get at a fine dining spot.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Brophy Bros, Where All of Santa Barbara Goes

In 1986, the Billboard top song of the year was Dionne and Friends doing “That’s What Friends Are For.” Cheers, in its fourth season, became a top 10 hit on TV. Meanwhile, here in Santa Barbara, the Bennett family opened Brophy Bros., and we got our own place for friends. “We’ve had billionaires sitting next to hobos, real billionaires not just millionaires,” said John Bennett. “That’s Brophy Bros. We were never limited to one demographic. That’s why if we ever have a new server acting uppity, I tell her, ‘Get rid of the attitude—there’s nothing cool about slopping chowder.’”

Want to read the rest, then go to the Indy site.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Georgeeats Faster

Just so you know, while the blog is still Blogger powered, you can now visit directly via

Technology is wonderful.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Prime Rhine Wine Time

What a quality gustatory experience worth is both a tough and easy question to answer. In some ways, it's worth whatever a person is willing to pay, if that's not too tautological. I mean, if people stopped going into debt to eat at the French Laundry (it's $270 a person, now, sans tax, tip, alcohol), Thomas Keller would have to rethink the business model.

The same is true for wine, too, and wine has had to make a bit of an adjustment of late, what with the economy tanking and all. In general wine-sellers (no, not cellars) would tell you recent years have meant a highly bifurcated wine market--you had to sell your grape juice for either under $20 or over $75. Death to the middle class, as it were.

So you might wonder if the high end stuff is still any good, or is just there so folks can show off. And, sometimes, it really really is that good. Case in point Chene Bleu, a new house in France that had a small tasting in Santa Barbara the other night. Turns out they've hit it off with the Wine Cask's Doug Margerum, who is even making a wine of his own under his Margerum label from their grapes, a rose´ they had sadly run out of by the time I got to the tasting. Especially since Chene Bleu's own, a 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah blend (Margerum's is 100% Grenache), was lovely, the sort of thing Provence does so well, both flavorful and malleable, if that makes sense, calling out for food of all sorts. That wine, $30, not cheap for a rose´, but in this portfolio, definitely the entry drug, as it were.

The tricky part is Chene Bleu is top-of-the-line through and through. Go check out the website, if you don't believe me, one of the best designed I've seen in a long time--elegant, info rich, ripe with gorgeous photos, abetted by judicious use of video. They're also working at a bit of a deficit, as they're outside all the named appellations--neighbors to Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but even more into the magnificent Dentelles de Montmirail. That lacey limestone backdrop means their vineyards are isolated and protected and unusual. And the soil is nutrient rich.

You get to taste all that in the bottle, even when the bottle costs $100. They also like to bottle-age, so are just releasing a 2006 Abelard (90% Grenache, 10% Syrah) and a 2006 Heloise (65% Syrah, 32% Grenache, and 3% Viognier), while still insisting the wines are mighty young. Nicole Sierra-Rolet, who was presenting the wines from the winery, went even further, claiming the Abelard really needed to decant, and was a brilliant second-day wine. That said, it would be hard to imagine any making it past the first evening, it was such a gorgeous mouthful upon the bottle opening, rich red berry flavors and a persistent and pleasing pepper in the finish.

So, if you've got some spare hundreds, you won't go wrong here. Or make sure you've got some rich friends, and advise them as to what to buy.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bourdain Jacks the Ripert

So then Eric Ripert said "You'll shoot your eye out!" and he kicked me down the slide. Or at least that's sort of how it seemed at the lightning-fast meet-and-greet after the Eric Ripert-Tony Bourdain presentation at the Arlington. Even the pose of the image above looks like it could be a Photoshop job, but can you blame them for not wanting to have to chat too long with anyone, especially given the types of questions that dominated the q&a portion of their event. I still don't get how some people think it's ok to ask a very personally focused question "I'm going to _____ in ______, and I would like dining recommendations...." like Bourdain and Ripert where there as personal travel agents, and as if the 2000 other people in the theater gave a sauteed soupcon about them our their lives.

That said the two famous chefs were ever-gracious, and managed generally to take even the most ridiculous of questions and say something interesting. And then Bourdain had to deal with a young-whipper-snapper telling him that on his recommendation from his Rome show he rushed right out to have the cacio e pepe and "expected better of you." Bourdain not only told the young teen he might get it when he's older, but he also said, "I admire your balls to come up and say that."

Otherwise, it was an entertaining afternoon, if nothing earth-shaking. Ripert firmly defended "farm to table," while Bourdain worried it merely made food more expensive and boutique. Both agreed they wouldn't eat dog, unless it was offered by a host in someone's home and they couldn't refuse and be rude. If the world was ending and they had to have their last moment within 100 miles of Santa Barbara, Ripert would head to the beach, Bourdain, ever the rock-n-roller (and clearly the pre-show recorded music was his playlist, with lots of Dead Boys and Voidoids), wanted to be found floating in the Chateau Marmont pool. The actual opening, when they grilled each other courtroom style with leading questions (Bourdain pushed as to whether Ripert was truly American, Ripert questioned whether Bourdain could really cook at all--guess which line of questioning hurt more?) seemed a bit stiff and forced, but they seemed to be having fun, so why shouldn't we? As Bourdain says, "After all, we're in the pleasure business." Nice work if you can get it....