This page is dedicated to satisfying the obvious desire many of us feel for beautiful, well presented, and of course ecstatically swallowed food and drink. You bite and then you drink, or other way around. Whatever the order, the enjoyment of the delicious should be a slow but increasing satisfaction, with all regards for what may have been sacrificed, whether by the beast on your plate or the time by the chef.
Warning for vegetarians – all writers are carnivores here, and so shall remain (unless we get addled with strange logic and a healthy dose of magic dust). We like to dine on that which captivates us with texture and presents the key array of what makes good food – some mixture of sweet, sour, fat, salt, feel, and the elusive other.
- Lucskos Káposzta (Sloppy Cabbage Stew) (2/26/2017)
Might not look like much (hence the name), but man is this good. If it would have been up to me I would have called this “Meat Stew” for obvious reasons on the ingredients list, but this is a traditional Hungarian stew, is fabulous and slightly decadent, and is especially tasty on a winter’s day. As with many recipes, there are several versions of this dish out there, but this is what I have always had growing up, and I think it is the more “classic” rendition, but I’m not an authority on the subject so who knows. Also like most soups & stews, it gets better as it sits longer in the fridge (to a point of course).
1-1/2 lb. fatty pork stew meat or spare ribs (boneless)
1-1/2 lb. fresh brisket of beef (not corned beef)
1 lg. cabbage
1/4 lb. smoked bacon (Optional)
~ 3TB oil
1 lg. Red Onion, diced
1 bunch tarragon
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 – 1/2 C white or red wine vinegar (depends on taste and how much liquid you ended up using).
Sour Cream to taste (1C seems to me the bare minimum)
In a large pot place the beef and pork. Fill with cold water to cover meat plus a little. Add a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 1-1/2 hours. Remove from heat, reserve the broth, and set meat out on a cutting board to cool until you can cut it into ~ 1″ cubes.
Meanwhile, cut the cabbage in manageable wedges and place them on a rack in the sink, salt them and pour about a kettles’ worth of boiling water over them. If such racks are not available you can always just toss them in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes and then drain them. If you are using bacon, cut it into pieces.
In a large pot, heat the oil and then toss in the onions, sautéing until they are translucent. Take off the heat and place 1/3 of the cabbage on top of the onions in a layer. Salt & Pepper. Place the beef cubes and 1/2 the bacon if using. Spread 1/2 the remaining cabbage as the next layer, then add the tarragon (I just use the leaves from the bunch). Add the pork and the rest of the bacon. Finally, cover with the last of the cabbage. Salt and Pepper.
Skim most of the fat off the top of the saved broth and pour it over the layered ingredients. If it does not reach the top add some water being mindful you don’t dilute the broth too much. Bring to a simmer and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes. Taste it as it will likely need more salt and pepper. Add the vinegar and set aside to cool. Add the sour cream and stir.
It is good to serve with another dollop of sour cream in the bowl from this chef’s perspective. Enjoy it with a chunk of good bread and a glass of white wine. Or a color of your choice.
- Snowed in at the Bar (1/11/2017)
By Narcissa Lyons
As the snow whispered around the car, the tires not confident in the several inches of snow, I made it around the corner to the store for a few things before heading to the gym. As will happen on many a route, I passed a bar. I glanced in the parking lot to confirm what I knew I would see–that it was far from empty.
Invariably this gave me a warming feeling even though I was not one of them. What is it about a snow storm that makes some of us stay longer having been there before the snow began to fall, or even venturing out to get there for the spectacle outside the window? There are admittedly many that will have nothing to do with traveling in such conditions (sanefully so), and many that don’t drink so it’s never a thought at all, but I’m talking to the population that knows the deliciousness of this relatively rare event. Because unless you’re at the bar every day, the chances of this cozy experience do not come that often. It’s a matter of getting caught and the snow creating an excuse to remain a bit longer.
You work late and stop on your way home for a drink with a friend, and there are a couple of flakes that catch your eye as you open the door to the bar. In the back of your mind you tell yourself that time is limited, but that disappears as the music from inside and the warmth of the place embraces you in a way that is very different than a summertime, island-like vibe. Or maybe it’s windy, the snow whipping as you cross the street, and all you can think of is getting inside to avoid the cold and warm yourself with a drink and conversation. Perhaps it’s daylight and you need a break between chores and decide that one traipse into a shelter from careless weather is due. Understanding that this might not be a break at all, but sending that thought where it belongs.
You sit at the bar with your friends or on your own and there is what can be described as a conspiracy in the air. You can sense it in others in the room, and there is what looks to be just an edge more glee in their eyes, the air. Snow pelts and then slides down the glass, the crystals collecting quaintly in the corners, encouraging the scene within. People glance out the windows, and the snow, beautiful but unheard, is still appreciated. “It’s really coming down” someone says and people agree. “Man, look at that wind”. Not just nods, but eager nods. It’s not that snow is an enabler for over-indulgence because that isn’t usually the case. There is a reverence for Mother Nature, because her tacit motto is “If you fuck with me, I’ll fuck with you”, though mostly it’s just “I’ll fuck with you” (hurricanes, mudslides, tsunamis what have you), so testing that is not the intent and we’ve too much fear for her nasty moods. It is that the whiteness provides for a change to the routine just like it does for school children, just like it does for those prevented from going to work. It’s a camaraderie with your fellow pub mates and that you’re all safe in the building as the weather wreaks the havoc it will and that’s just fun.
People in colder geographies mightn’t have the same appreciation, but that doesn’t take anything away from the parts of the world that do. It’s a little like being part of a storybook, as if you’re some traveler and you enter a place, almost better if unfamiliar. The characters commiserate, swallow something tasty, and as the belly is warmed the stories of the various travelers unfold in between the usual banter. The bartender is in on it if he doesn’t live too far, and his amped up talent from behind the bar makes an ordinary beer an elixir. Possibly I am being nostalgic or rueful. It’s the beginning of the year you see, and I have begun another unforgiving diet that made me drive by one and then several luring, alluring joints no one the wiser, and I did not get to be snowed in at the bar.
- Gotta Serve Somebody (12/17/2016)
By Narcissa Lyons
I have been citing this song by Bob Dylan for the last twenty years or so to help emphasize a point, and it seems I have been doing it incorrectly. I never listened carefully enough, apparently, since the meaning is quite clearly not what I thought, though I think Bob would not mind how I have been twisting it just a sly sly. The real meaning is pretty crystal.
Mr. Dylan, through quite a few verses, tells us that no matter what we do in life we are going to have to serve somebody–as in the devil or the lord/good or evil. He is not wrong, though I’ve seen plenty of people skate on both sides with startling grace. An excerpt from his piece:
You may be a construction worker working on a home,
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome,
You might own guns and you might even own tanks,
You might be somebody’s landlord,
You might even own banks
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
I have cited this when talking about the job of waiting on tables, and I’ll get to it, but a little history/first hand knowledge prior to that. First off, I am not going to use the term “Server” anywhere, the PC title for the job, because I find it offensive, and actually the opposite of what waiters and waitresses should want to be called. I’ll save my spiel for the de-genderization of job positions for another article (actor vs. actress, etc.). Hint: Not for it. Waitressing is the best of the jobs I’ve held, or at least my favorite. The only reason I don’t do it now is because I needed to find something a little more lucrative to pay for bills that oddly don’t ever want to decrease. It was my favorite job because I got to talk to a lot of people, most of whom were decent personalities. The pace is fast most times, calls on logic for saving steps, the back and forth jargon with your co-workers is witty and fun, particularly when you’re making fun of customers ya have to grin through, and you get to leave it all behind when you walk out for the evening. Witty dialogue can be found in many places, but I think the nature of the fast pace and having to get words out before you’re out of earshot gives you the ideal practice for slinging choice words and wisdoms.
Invariably, you meet the jack asses. And it’s true, they are not scarce, but most nights you’re not riddled with them. The main problem with jack asses is they tend to be louder than others, they like to share their opinions, and the opinions can be offensive or stupid, but usually both. They are condescending and do in fact look at people in the service industry as subservient in general, and not worth treating the same as, say, those with whom they are dining. My own logic almost always prevented me from trying to enlighten them, an impossibility anyway. But experiencing the boobs in our society is something that naturally would sometimes come up over after work drinks.
The way a person treats wait staff tells you a lot of what you need to know about them, because if there is even a hint of “well I am going to be nice to you because I feel bad you have to wait on tables for a living” then that is ickiness and only slightly better than open rudeness (snapping fingers, “hey”, etc.). When speaking of serving others for a living, waiting tables is the most literal of all such jobs. Physically and actually that is what you are doing–handing over plates, drinks, food–serving. And many, even some who themselves do it for a living, translate it to something more demeaning than another job or more demeaning than what it is. But it is not demeaning at all, unless being a jockey, baseball player, CEO, news anchor, playwright, etc. is demeaning. Unless a person is independently wealthy, he/she has at least one customer that needs to be pleased in order to keep the job and the money flowing. This is how Mr. Dylan’s song has been mis-cited by me, but I’ll do it again. No matter what you do, what your role is in life and how wealthy you might be, you’ve got to serve somebody. We are all in the role of servitude, for financial reasons try to do it with a smile, and hopefully the majority of those smiles is authentic. Because an authentic smile means you like what you do…and it is grandly cool to like what you do.
Thanks, Bob Dylan, for being there when I invariably pulled out the important lines to give my grand finale of a point. It’s not that any of my friends, co-workers, bosses or restaurant owners disagreed with me, but when I quoted the lines at the closing of my little lesson they looked at me a little more with the “I get it” eyes and a sincere nod of the head, like “this chick knows what she’s talking about”. If Bob Dylan said so, then who is anyone to argue?
- Shit-Bang Rum Balls! (12/4/2016)
By Panni & Paulette
Above picture pretty much tells you what you need to know about these beautiful balls. They disappear. I would not normally post two recipes in a row, but have to on account of the season, the crazy smack in the palate these have, and, er… the eating of these scrumptious chocolate buzz balls may have temporarily dulled my creativity for the next “real” article. Two of my sisters, Panni and Paulette, made and brought these for Thanksgiving. It is an adaptation of Condolife.com’s “The World’s Best Most Dangerous Rum Balls Ever”. As that recipe advises, these actually get better with a bit of time, the ingredients getting more and more familiar with each other as the rum enables. Just like life with people and drinking!
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (high quality please)
1/2 cup almond paste
1 cup sour cream
A pinch of salt
8 cups (or three boxes) Nilla Crackers/vanilla wafers (finely crushed)
1 1/2 cups melted butter
1 1/2 cups rum (whatever color, but dark is my favorite)
2 cups pecans, crushed
3 2/3 cup cocoa (again, good quality)
2 cups sugar
Chipotle or cayenne pepper as desired and as withstood
Melt the 12 oz. chocolate in a double boiler and mix with the sour cream, almond paste and salt. Cream well and set aside. In separate bowl combine wafers, butter, rum, pecans and 2/3 cup of the cocoa. Mix until it holds its shape. Add chocolate-sour cream mixture and knead with your hands until blended and soft. Refrigerate until firm (overnight). Mix the sugar and remaining 3 cups cocoa together and put it where you think is easiest for the next task–you’ll be rolling the rum balls in this mixture to properly surface them. With your hands form small (~1″ dia.) balls and then roll them in the cocoa/sugar mixture to coat. Place them in cookie tin lined with wax paper, or in mini-cupcake holders. For the pepper/last ingredient. Experiment. Toss in a pinch to the cocoa/sugar coating mixture and roll a batch in it. The additional heat of the pepper–the chocolate–the rum–a gift to almost all your senses. Legendary.
- Roasted Red Pepper and Gouda Soup (11/27/2016)
Basics by “The Café”
Finessing By Narcissa Lyons
This sounds like it might be a heavy soup, but isn’t. The amount of cheese is minimal but adds a nice smokiness and texture. It’s possible adding a dollop of sour cream to your portion might make it even better since sour cream invariably does. Below serves roughly 4 hungry peeps.
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 onion chopped
2 carrots peeled and cut into small pieces
4-5 roasted red peppers, sliced*
4 cloves garlic minced
2 cans reduced sodium chicken broth (14.5 oz cans)
1 bunch fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup smoked Gouda cheese shredded, plus some for garnish
Home-made garlic croutons**
Chopped bacon bits (optional)
Heat olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, 3 to 5 minutes. Add carrots, roasted red peppers, garlic, chicken broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from heat. Using either an immersion blender (love this thing) or a traditional blender, puree the soup. Once pureed and at home in the saucepan again, add the cheese. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with some of the shredded cheese, croutons & bacon bits. Enjoy.
*If you haven’t roasted peppers before, it’s easy and they are very good to have around to toss into almost anything (pasta, sandwich, fantabulous on their own). Plus you should do it any time you think your peppers might not be tasty raw any longer. Simply take 4-5 peppers or whatever depending on you, and slice off the sides, tossing the innards. You do not have to wash since you’ll be peeling off the skin. Place them on a cookie sheet, skin side up, and put under a high broil setting. You want to take them out when the skin looks as below, approx. 10-15 minutes. Once cooled off, peel the skin and discard the skin. It’s OK if you don’t get every last shred of charred skin since that adds to the flavor. Layer the pieces of peppers in a wide cereal bowl ideally so that layers are: peppers/TBSP EVOO/salt to taste, peppers/EVOO,etc. Each time you put the oil on, rub into the peppers so they all have the benefit.
**If you don’t have them or feel like making them, store bought will do the trick obviously.