Monday, January 30, 2012

To Bee or Not to Bee

And now back to our regularly scheduled eating and blogging.... Yes, it's time for a cocktail recipe. You have to be open to inspiration from wherever it comes, so when my step-daughter left the remainder of a  bottle of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey at the house when she headed back to college after Christmas break, I knew I'd end up playing eventually, if nothing else to speed the bottle, at last empty, to its recycled future (I am nothing if not a civic-minded drinker). As a kid myself (that is a legally drinking kid--the age was still 18 in those less MADD days) I had a bit of a Drambuie fixation--perhaps a way to sweeten my dad's love of Scotch, and may you Freudian mixologists have with that fact as you will--so I can see the interest in turning whiskey into liqueur. It just means you get to drink more of it, if nothing else. But the stuff is pretty sweet. So here is my solution, as pyschocandy is dandy, but liquor is quicker:

Just Like Honey Cocktail

(makes two--always make two, as either it's about romance or the lack thereof)

4 oz. Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey
1.5 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 oz. dry vermouth (Noilly Prat recommended)
1 oz. Low Gap clear whiskey
lemon strips for garnish

Shake all the liquids with ice in a shaker. Split into two chilled up glasses. Add lemon strip as garnish.

This is particularly recommended for Monday, slightly damp evenings when you think a bit of a cold wants you, and you want to fight it off as tastefully as possible.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day Four-ever

Time has slowed to a crawl, like trying to watch the dead run a race with no zombie in them. That's how this Thursday has felt, since I know tomorrow evening I go home to the land of carbs, of nightshades, of funghi, of the pickled and fermented, of the distilled and brewed. They will welcome me with open toxins, and they better stay open late. Sure, by the end the whole detox will only have been slightly over 100 hours, but this day alone felt like that.

The odd part is it's not so much I'm wracked with cravings. It's that I'm bored. So much of my life is about thinking about the next meal, shopping for it, preparing it, savoring it, and now it's like, "How do we dress up a green salad this time?" (Answer: go for an herb one complete with flowers.)

Here's tonight's dinner, about which my wife said, "Detox isn't as good as it looks." Alongside that salad is fresh local black cod, pan sauteed in a bit of canola oil that first fired up a mess of garlic, ginger, and spring onion (that's the crispy goodness atop). There was also roasted asparagus, Brussels sprouts, leeks. At this point I'm so sick of green I might turn away cash if it were offered (but I'm open to you trying to see if that's true). Everything tasted fine, yes, but I long for what I cannot have. The grass is always greener on the non-green side, I guess.

Wide-Screen Cuisine

Back for its second year, SBIFF’s Film Feast program features more than 25 restaurants, tasting rooms, and bars offering special deals — usually three-course specials, but sometimes even more elaborate affairs. It’s hard to highlight everyone, but here are five very different approaches worth checking out:

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Viva la Detoxico (Day 3)

Negotiating the fine line between will power and masochism is like tossing a two-tailed quarter into the air--someone's going to lose a sucker bet. Up to this point the detox hasn't been mightily miserable--avocado rights so many wrongs--but we were invited to go out for a friend's birthday tonight to the recently opened and ridiculously delicious Cielito (look for my article about it in next week's Indy). All along the walk there I practiced under my breath, saying, "Get thee behind me Satan," so I'd have my answer for when I was asked if I'd like a drink. And they do know how to make a cocktail here, not just margaritas but a lovely chili-infused-Bulleit bourbon-honey-lemon concoction that practically urge you to get sick so it can nurse you to health. From behind the bar, I believe all the worms in all the Mezcal bottles waved me a howdy, beckoning, but then I remembered you weren't supposed to hallucinate till after imbibing.

It weren't easy.

But I didn't give in, even if it took three asks to get water (the one at the bar ignored, then two at the table), and I needed water, bad. It certainly wasn't because of the chips, as I couldn't have those, despite my junk food jones for them (I remain a potato chip over corn chip kind of guy, but I am glad there's a separate chips-and-salsa stomach, or so I've been told). It was more the need to do drinking as a motion. Lord knows if I tried to detox for two weeks, you'd catch me drinking Shirley Temples, but even the kids got it over on me, as I couldn't drink all that juice.

So, it was guacamole, just from a fork, and not the guac with the pomegranate seeds and cotija, because even though that's a Spanish word, I know it's cheese. The secret, I've found, is to really relish each tiny bite, really think about eating and not just eat. Same with the amazing ceviches--there might have been a bit too much pickling going on, but I figure it's not breaking the rules too badly, eating mostly raw, very fresh fish in a bite that could barely cover a dime.

If you order the gorgeously prepared ahi tartare, it comes cylindrically, topped by micro-greens, with avocado (what else) sliced beneath and all that on a perfect pat of Peruvian purple potatoes. Someone will eat those for you, don't worry. But you and the tuna will get to love each other nibble by nibble.

Focus, thy name is detox.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's Not Easy, Eating Green (Day 2)

In which, a mere 36 hours in, I become the not-so-jolly green giant. For it seems everything I eat and drink is green, from this mint tea with a touch of chicory (my liver says thanks, but it talks with a much more muted voice than my tastebuds, the Gilbert Gottfrieds of my body) to the kale and seaweed salad and green beans and Brussels sprouts and aovcados and leeks. True, the quinoa last night was black, with white curlies that sort of steamed off it, making it look like tiny wormlings amidst dirt. Luckily it didn't taste like that--it mostly tasted of nothing as it needed some acid, some cheese, something I'm not allowed to have.

So, yes, I'm in the whining phase of this process fully aware it's nothing like being truly hungry and that I'm doing it to myself. It's the old idea--disconnect from desire (that evidently is nothing but a School of Seven Bells album now, according to the internet). But that assumes that being human isn't all about desire; it's not some outside force, it's not a devil spinning our heads in the direction of want as Mike Oldfield eerily plays. Desire is us, our want elevated into something grand. Sure, we could just eat, but think of the show culture has turned dinner into, so many signifiers, from knowing which possibly gilded fork is for what purpose to the codes of home found deep in different sauces that explain where we come from, who we are, the meals we ate to get from there to here.

Of course, this denial is the ultimate sign of privilege--I've got enough money (mere fractions of a Mitt, but still) to play at eating as strange as I'd like, as long as I like. And the not liking is part of the like--I'm suffering for my own good, and whether it actually does me any physical good is almost besides the point. Perhaps I'm just out to prove Nancy Reagan right, and elevate Just Say No from a bumper sticker to a bumper crop of brilliance. No doubt, a bumper crop of lots of green green veggies.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Lean, Clean Detoxing Machine (Day 1)

I was walking into my office building with kale salad in one hand, kombucha in the other, and I knew my life had taken a strange, strange turn. For you see before you (in words) a man who is doing something he often said he never would--I'm amidst a detox.

The reasons I've avoided one are as wide-ranging as the types of pork I enjoy:
1) It seems, if you follow food news, the one greatest rule is "moderation," so I try to do that.
2) It seems that if you avoid processed foods to begin with--can't remember my last fast food meal--you end up less processed yourself.
3) Despite the appearances, "diarrhea" does not rhyme with "yea!"
4) Pasta.
5) Cheese.
6) Days without alcohol. Which of course means I must explain, as you contemporary Carrie Nations no doubt assume I'm merely going to romanticize my desire to tipple. But if it's good enough for Europe, some wine or beer with dinner is good enough for me. Plus, too much of it is too tasty to ignore.
7) I'm from New Jersey, and don't want to move so close to the lightside of California, doing a detox. It's so cliche.
8) My wife wants me to do it, so like any not-quite-comprehending male, I dig in my heels. (Go ahead, make your catty little whip-snap noises now.)
9) Not everyone thinks a detox diet is such a good thing. Often those people have MD after their names. Oddly, the ones with MD after their names who are pro detox diets often have one named after them that they want to sell you.

Ultimately, though, I'm looking at this like going to a church my wife likes--I'm an unbeliever, but a little bit of others' faith might do me some good. Plus I just want to see if I can. Willpower doesn't have a "me" in it, alas, especially on a evening of a rainy day when the idea of a finger or so of St. George Whiskey sounds like an appealing way to warm up and wind down. This is a fight with my own bad self.

Luckily it's not some crazy Master Cleanse thing (I'd look funny even with a slimmed down version of Beyonce's body) and there's no dreadful powders involved (we only have one bathroom, so colonics are out of the question). We're generally following the Candida Diet rules, which, of course, leaves me singing Tony Orlando, and so I hate the whole diet even more. But they're relatively forgiving--even olive oil is ok--and the Brussels sprouts we roasted tonight we're yummy (even sans a vinegar tang, let alone some good pork fat).

I figure keeping a journal of sorts here in the blog would be a good way to discuss what this is like, why it's like, what there is to like, if anything.

Plus I've already got an out. This detox will be so short it's really just like a practice for a real one someday, as I won tickets to see Lucinda Williams in LA Friday, plus a gift certificate to Border Grill, and we're not passing up on very very good fortune. Let alone Mexican food and good tequila.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's Not a Shame about Ray's

Too often instead of thinking "Hey, the people who come to us love art, so have an aesthetic sense, so want to eat good food," museums seems to reason, if their cafes/restaurants can be taken as evidence of some thinking, that "these folks are captive, let's give them whatever means we make the most ducats." That might be changing, though. Obviously right here in Santa Barbara we have Brenda Simon doing fascinating, delicious things at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, if only: 1) it was open longer hours, 2) there was a direct State Street entrance, 3) if she had a real kitchen, there (well, maybe 3--the absence of one has led her to do some wonderful raw dishes, and SB could use some of those).

But this post isn't about the joys of the Santa Barbara Museum Cafe. It's about the new-ish and very exciting Ray's and Stark Bar at LACMA. We headed LA-ward this past weekend doing one of those culture-jam one day visits: two places to eat, one museum, a tiny bit of shopping, and a play in 8 hours. Since we were Father's Office-ing later, but not much (as the play's curtain was 7 pm), we decided to bar snack it at the Stark Bar, which is anything but (it's not named after the adjective but rather Ray Stark, Hollywood bigwig and longtime LACMA supporter). They've got Bar Bites for you, mainly flatbreads and a variety of cheeses, but also things more surprising for a mini-menu, like bone marrow (I'm still trying to figure out how to convince my pescatarian partner that marrow isn't really an animal product so we can share) and shisito peppers, although theirs were much zingier and longer than the ones I've usually had; be sure you've got your water service before digging in, with the surprising heat, the lovely sea salt, and light dose of sesame vinaigrette all driving you to drink.

Not that you won't be able to drink drinks, too, but these cocktails are too good to down merely as fire extinguishers. I enjoyed a Smokey and the Bandit (guess the film's producer?), a brilliantly balanced concoction of Laphroaig 10yr Cask Strength, honey, orange, and lemon peel, perfect for a LA wintery day. Actually, the heatlamps blasted, so I might have cooked my neck a bit, but I certainly wasn't well chilled, like my cocktail. Chryss opted to try out one of the seasonal hot cocktails, a very adult variation of a hot chocolate called a Oaxacan Holiday made with dark rum house-infused with cocoa nibs, crème de cacao, chocolate chili bitters, freshly whipped cream, and grated nutmeg our divine bartender Microplaned with intense precision. There are plenty of other items we didn't get to--this was a mid-day drinking with craft beers in our near future--with a wonderful display of garnis, from mint leaves on ice to star anise, across the bartop, all ready to finish off each exacting cocktail.

In addition to the peppers we shared a sage flatbread, pleasantly puckered and offering sage grown right behind the restaurant (the localest of LA herbs), Sottocenere truffle cheese, and maitake mushrooms.These are perfect light lunches, especially with the liquor kicker. (The wine list looked wisely chosen and fairly priced, too.)

Culture can be so civilized, this way.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Announcing the SB Sandwich Showdown

In anticipation of the February 22 Campbell Hall appearance of Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio (who happens to own a chain of ’wichcraft sandwich shops), UCSB Arts & Lectures, Whole Foods Market, and The Santa Barbara Independent are throwing a showdown to see who serves up the best sandwich in Santa Barbara. Two contestants will be professional sandwich slingers, but the third will be an amateur/home cook. Do you think you have what it takes to be that person?

The amateur battle of the S.B. Sandwich Showdown will be held live at Whole Food Market on Friday, February 3, 4-5 p.m., so if you serve up the best thing since sliced bread on sliced bread, enter by sending the following to by Friday, January 20, 5 p.m.: (1) a recipe for your favorite sandwich; (2) a testimonial from one person (not yourself) as to the tastiness and inventiveness of your creation; and (3) a short bio (remember, you cannot be in the food industry and take part). A panel of judges will then choose one non-pro to take on the pros on February 3 in the live sandwich-off.

The winner of the final contest — whether pro or amateur —will receive a Whole Foods Market shopping spree (value $250), a pair of tickets to see Colicchio at UCSB, the chance to meet him backstage after his talk (please, no “pack your ____ and go” jokes), and a copy of ’wichcraft (Colicchio’s acclaimed book on the art of sandwich-making). Plus a lot of bragging rights.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

More Luster than Bluster

It's often hard extracting the hip from the hype, deciding what's luster and what's bluster. Initial raves for a place always lead to some bitter backlash, and where the truth lies amidst those typical tides of opinion is never easy to tell. Welcome to Mohawk Bend in LA's trendy but still a bit edgy (which makes it trendier, I guess), Echo Park. Lovingly built into the bones of a century-old vaudeville theater, it's the kind of places that touts "our philosophy" on its website, with lines like, "We care about your food choices, which is why our menu has vegan, vegetarian, and non-vegan options. We have dedicated food prep stations for our vegan fare. Our goal is to make sure EVERYONE can eat at our restaurant without having to sacrifice quality or taste," that are both encouraging and a bit sanctimonious. You have to deliver if you're going to make such statements, especially when you extol your all-California produce-products and a 72-tap beer list that's also all California, plus one out-of-state guest brewer a month.

The good news is (based on one visit, so small sample error is certainly possible) Mohawk Bend earned any of its possible pretension. It was great that the staff certainly didn't pull any superior airs--we got seated (with reservations), within a few minutes of arriving, our waiter knew his stuff and offered up a free taster of Craftsman Acorn Saison that I did go nuts for (you never know with Craftsman crazy brews--that Aurora Borealis with persimmon and mint tasted of toothpaste while the Holiday Spruce, made with actual spruce, is delish and not like drinking your Christmas tree water, brewed). The waiter did look very LA hiply handsome, but I admit I'm superficial and want all the servers in LA to look like they just came off their commercial shoot; it might be because one of my first meals in Los Angeles years ago an agent at the table next to mine actually connected with the actress-waitress serving us both, although it might all have been a set-up to impress me, living in Iowa at the time.

Meanwhile, back at the Mohawk...that's one impressive and ever-moving beer list, enough to make you proud you're a Californian. The pub's owner Tony Yanow also owns Golden Road Brewery, and we tasted on of their beers to keep it all in the family, namely the Point the Way IPA that manages to do the righteous hoppy do it has to for an IPA and clock in at a mere 5.2% ABV. Expect DUI rates in LA to drop precipitously. But there was plenty of more great beer to be had, like a High Water Hop Riot (had had that in bottle, but as usual, tap is head and suds better), the jokingly named but yummy Lagunitas Sucks, and then for dessert a Bootlegger's Black Phoenix Chipotle Coffee Ale with just enough heat and just enough coffee kick.

As for the food, there is vegan poutine--even the cheese is animal-product free. But how can one go wrong with fries properly crisp, that then get to soak a bit in a mushroom-rich gravy, so the cheese is pretty much just a bonus? My partner was pleased with her JJ Kale Salad (that JJ is for the julienned jicama, not Hunsecker) but we were both bowled over by the mussels, fine farmed bivalves from Carlbad, in a terrific vadouvan. Don't worry, I had to Google it too--it's a French take on Indian curry, one more of the many reasons colonialism shouldn't have quite the bad rap it does. (I mean, tasty food gone global makes up for years of oppression and often outright slavery, right?) You will order extra bread if you get this dish. You will wish you had a hip flask to take any remaining juices home with you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

WineBistro Goes Montecito

It’s one thing to tout California cuisine and name your restaurants WineBistros, but it’s another to do so as Pierre Lafond has, given his winemaking roots go back to 1962. That’s more than a track record for Santa Barbara County — it’s like being able to say you saw the rib get ripped from Adam way back when. And it probably takes that much gravitas to move into the Montecito Upper Village location that was home to the much-loved Italian trattoria Piatti for 21 years.

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On a Year of the Dragon Roll

Somehow it is not just 2012 but ten days into the year and I haven't blogged since going cocktail crazy December 21st. (There's really no connection, promise.) I've got plenty I want to write about, from praising places I took too long to ever enjoy (Petit Valentien) to damning with faint so-so's (Ladyface Ale Companie in Agoura Hills). There's out of town good to go's--Mohawk Bend and palate food + wine. There's that essay about service three ways in Maui (and that goes all the way back to July).

So here's to a Georgeeats resoultion for 2012--at least 2 blog entries a week, plus a link to an Indy story (not always the feech, even).

Sound good? Well, eat up, then.