Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Years and years ago – I’m not even remotely tempted to try to come up with a number – a really dear friend introduced me to Cincinnati Chili. He was from Ohio, and although we were both in graduate school and commensurately not in any great financial shape, he ordered Cincinnati Chili from Skyline Chili when longing overcame sense and it arrived on dry-ice shortly thereafter.

Happily, he shared. I no longer remember very clearly what it tasted like :(, though I remember very strongly that I loved it and wanted to have it again. That thought has recurred again and again – and I never did anything about it. So it seemed like a perfect item for my 40B440 list: something I’d been putting off forever.

Last year, I’d unearthed a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, when I was gifted with a web subscription, and by a happy coincidence (or karma), I was planning to make it this weekend, completly forgetting that it was on my 40B440 list.

As it’s been a long time since I’ve had any, I don’t know how true to the tradtional this recipe is, but I will say that it ROCKs.

Because the recipe calls for a plain tomato sauce, and because if there’s a more complicated way of doing something I invariably have to do it that way, I made my own simple sauce by:

melting 2 Tbs butter in a sauce pan

adding 1 28oz can of San Marzano tomatoes (there were only three ingredients: san marzano tomatoes, pureed san marzano tomatoes, basil leaf)

and simmering, stirring every so often, for about an hour:Then I made the chili.

1 ½ lbs meat (the original recipe calls for ground beef chuck – I used ground turkey)

2 Tbs oil
2 medium onions (chopped)
2 medium garlic cloves (minced or pressed)

2 Tbs chili powder
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp cocoa
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt

2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
2 tbs vinegar
2 tsp dark brown sugar
2 cups tomato sauce (see recipe)

Cook meat in whatever way suits your fancy, breaking up the meat into smaller grounds, drain fat and set aside

Set pan over medium heat and let warm. Add oil and let warm. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are translucent and perhaps a bit brown on the edges. Add garlic.

Add seasonings (chili, oregano, etc.) and stir until fragrant (~30 seconds)

Add liquid ingredients and stir
Add meat and increase heat to high. When it reaches a boil, turn heat down and simmer for an hour or so, until thickened.

It’s supposed to be served over spaghetti, but I had none and so had to make do with elbows:



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Sunday I had brunch with a bunch of friends at FARMiCiA, a restaurant in old City Philadelphia. I’d organized the brunch a few months ago, as that’s how much in advance you need to plan things to get this particular crowd together, and at that time I had no idea how easily I’d fulfill my 40B440 obligation to try 4 new restaurants …

Still, it’s a delight to try a new place, even if I can’t cross off another item on my Monster To-Do list. One or more of our party had had less than positive (but not negative) experiences with other meals there – I think the specific complaint was with their quesadilla still being soft – but it wasn’t enough for them to suggest going elsewhere. I think everyone was happy with their food – I was. I’ve had better brunches, but this was good value, conveniently located, and comfortable. A far cry from our disappointment with Parc, a year or so ago …

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So much for choosing something outside my natural inclinations – not 5 minutes goes by and I forget my resolve, and happily click over to watch Malcolm Gladwell on spaghetti sauce (17:33) because I’ve listened to him narrate his books, and very much enjoyed them and because the title was just so intriguing. It also seemed to be about food, a topic I seldom tire of.

It’s a funny and entertaining talk about one man’s research and success in the food industry in the 80’s, and why we have chunky spaghetti sauce. It’s an interesting presentation on the fact that  people don’t always know what they want (haven’t you had an experience of “I never thought I’d like ….”?) and  that there is no “perfect” there is just “perfect for some people”.

Perhaps the focus on universals is not always appropriate. Perhaps we should pay more attention to our differences

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This long weekend (well, long for me as I’m taking a few vacation days to try to reduce my stress, relax, learn to have fun, and get things done … not a felicitous combination of goals, I admit), I’m hoping to watch 5 TED talks. The first on the agenda is Barton Seaver: Sustainable seafood? Let’s get smart, chosen because it was a new featured talk, I’ve very interested in food reform, and just came back from the GEMI 20th anniversary conference which featured Philippe Cousteau Jr as a keynote speaker, and he re-ignited my desire to do more to help the environment.

And his talk fell into line with my own thinking and sense of responsibility regarding food – albeit one I do not hold to always as firmly as I would like. Some thoughts that I flagged while watching he talk:

  • we have a protein problem: well, duh. The meat portion sizes at many restaurants is massive and, to my own eating habits, abit grotesque. Last night at the restaurant was a special: a 20oz rib eye. 20 ounces. that is 1 1/4 POUNDS of beef. I don’t eat that much meat in a week, never mind red-meat, let alone in one sitting. Food shouldn’t be a contest, and it really shouldn’t be about greed. Sure it may taste delicious, but does it really taste as good at the end of a marathon eating session as it does at the beginning?
  • His point was to think more deeply about our food: where does it come from? how much am I eating? Should I be eating in greater moderation? Am I being greedy? (these thoughts are mine, not his)
  • Food reform is about both eating more healthfully, but also about saving the planet and embracing more sustainable processes and habits.

I enjoyed it. But perhaps my next TED talk should be about a subject I don’t know anything about, something I’m less naturally drawn to.

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Last night my brother and I took Mom to Scutra for her 80th birthday. It’s a restaurant in Arlington just 10 minutes from my Mom’s house, which I gather was opened in 2002. I’d never been before, but Mom suggested it, and so we went.

The food was excellent, though I found the atmosphere a bit loud. We were seated in the bar area, but when walking through the rest of the restaurant on our way out, it seemed just as noisy in the other room as in the bar. The floor was carpeted, so the only real way to reduce the noise that I could identify would be to decrease the number of tables (which were a bit tightly packed), but that would cut significantly into the restaurant’s income, so is not a likely option. I’d return with a younger crowd, but am not sure I’d recommend it for an older crowd. Granted, it was a Friday evening – it may have been a particularly busy and loud evening.

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Last Wednesday I finally got to try Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Philly that I’d really wanted to try when Kevin and Katherine were in town, but it didn’t work out.

I’d scoped it out because it had been listed as being vegetarian friendly, and was well spoken of. Not to mention the fact that I’d not had Israeli food before.

An old friend from grad school came through town (Ben!), whom I hadn’t seen in ages, and he is also a vegetarian – so SCORE! The restaurant was harder to find than I’d imagined, mainly because I hadn’t spent alot of time in that part of town, and partly because I was expecting a street level restaurant and Zahav’s is not.

I really enjoyed it – and it was a very good restaurant to bring a vegetarian and not have them feeling like they have no real choices. We ordered the sampling (hummus and bread, a tower of salads, a number of mezzas, and a couple of skewers (really, seemed no different from the mezzas), and a couple of desserts. A shade too much food for two people, but lovely to sample. Everything was excellent – I particularly liked the eggplant and beet salads, the hummus, and the cauliflower. Yum!

The turnip skewers – not so much.

Also, the place is DARK after sunset, and reading the menu was difficult – even for me and I have pretty good eyes.

Still, very much enjoyed and may take K&K back there if I can manage it.


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Vicki Lee

Last weekend, after a lovely stroll in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Mom, Kevin, Katherine and I had lunch at Vicki Lee’s New Cafe, another new-to-me restaurant. A par t of me thinks this shouldn’t count towards my 40B440 goal as it’s not in Philly and I’m unlikely to return.

Then again, I’m not necessarily going to return to a restaurant that’s in Philly, and I wasn’t thinking of being terribly fussy when I made this a part of my 40B440 list so why quibble now? Not to mention the fact that the list as a whole is still quite a challenge and finding one item on it easier to accomplish  than expected is hardly sufficient reason to try to make it harder.

And if it were in Philly – I definitely would go back. Heck, I’m tempted to try to go back sometime with Katie, I liked it so much. Fresh, light, and delicious food. I had a white bean and sausage soup (the menu said “cup” but it was really rather more like a quarter cup) that was good but not extraordinary. Then I also had a special – a veggie melt (asparagus, Gruyere, zucchini, yellow-squash with lemon aioli) that came with beautiful fresh baby greens. Yummy! And I normally don’t care for lettuce, so that’s saying rather a lot.

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