Monday, November 26, 2007

no pie day this year

Usually, this is the time of year I provide a list of all of the pies I made for the family Thanksgiving, but alas, there was no pie day this year. Will and I decided to head down to Southern Utah for a camping trip instead of having a traditional Thanksgiving--the first time in my life I haven't had the usual meal. We spent Thanksgiving night in a motel, watching deliciously bad reality tv and eating a semblance of a Thanksgiving dinner: turkey sandwiches, pumpkin empanadas, and beaujolais. It wasn't bad and the pumpkin empanadas gave us breakfast for the next two mornings. I was a little glum about missing the pie, because when else can you justify baking seven pies at one time? But the camping was lovely--great scenery, sometimes warm weather, and perfect hiking (although there were way more people around than I expected).

Luckily, friends decided to gather before Thanksgiving for a pie party, so I feel that my pie lust was satisfied--you can read about the party over at Hightouchmegastore.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I'd love to hear about your meals.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

OED word of the year

Beating out other timely contestants ("bacn," "tase," and more), at a youthful two years old, the 2007 Oxford New American Dictionary Word of the Year is locavore, the word for someone who prefers to eat food cultivated locally.

(How do I know this? I subscribe to the OED word-a-day listserv!)


Sunday, November 18, 2007

squeaking with pleasure

Mr. Tart and I are heading up to Green Bay, Wisconsin, for Thanksgiving with my extended family. The festivities will include a tremendous dinner for the nearly 30 of us expected at my parents' house, the Packers game on Thanksgiving day, of course (no Macy's parade viewing for this crowd), my cousins' annual "Miles Standish Day" steak meal on Thanksgiving Eve, and oh joy! that squeaky orange delicacy done best in the dairy state, cheese curds.
If I wasn't certain that my husband really, genuinely likes my parents, I would suspect that he agrees to accompany me on our pilgrimages to the midwest solely for the cheese curds.
They're best still warm from the, well, wherever it is that they make cheese curds--but they're just about as good from the refrigerator the next day. They're springy when you bite them and they squeak between your teeth when they're fresh; they taste of the essence of a rich, mild cheddar. As much as I love my stinky unpasteurized French cheese, I delight in cheese curds too.
Bonus: Unlike those forbidden stinky unpasteurized French fromages, Wisconsin cheese curds are not off limits to pregnant women!
And guess what? It turns out that some restaurants in the Green Bay area fry them! Exquisitely soft and creamy inside, protected by a golden brown crunch that leaves a slick memory on your fingers, the deep-fried cheese curd is addictive and comforting. No previously frozen, mass-produced mozzarella stick could ever compare. The deep-fried cheese curd only lacks its fresh counterpart's beguiling squeak (once described by the New York Times as "balloons trying to neck").
Mom and Dad will have cheese curds waiting for us when we get off the airplane tomorrow--but will we have a chance to eat fried curds during our short holiday visit?

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

local food article

I've been a bad blogger lately, but you can check out some of my thoughts about eating locally over at Culinate.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mushroom risotto? What a shocker.

When my husband and I go out for a nice meal, I can never shake my vague sense of guilt. I enjoy checking out the D.C. restaurant scene, partially because I learn a lot about it at my job and partially because, well, duh. But, although Mark loves a good plate of food (almost) as much as I do, he'd often be happier eating at the empty place with no wait list next door to the new place everyone's talking about.

And I think I've figured out why: The vegetarian entrees are uninspired, even from kitchens that otherwise turn out creative, well executed food. While I'm having an epiphany over unctuous duck confit, poor Mark is faced with yet another grim Melange of Seasonal Vegetables, one just like what he could get at the empty place next door. I feel terrible about subjecting him to places where I'll have all these amazing choices and he'll scan the menu, find the one veggie option (if there is one at all), and say, "Well, mushroom risotto it is, I guess." We skipped Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal because I just couldn't subject him to that scenario, even though he always swears up and down that he wouldn't mind (bless him).

In fact, it seems that the better the restaurant, the slimmer the meatless choices. (With exceptions, like certain types of ethnic restaurants and booked-in-advance tasting menus.) In casual-dining places where the philosophy is "give the people what they want," Mark generally gets to at least choose between the mushroom risotto and the Melange of Seasonal Vegetables. (Oh, goody!) But in places where the menu reflects the chef's culinary point of view -- places we'd both be excited to eat at -- that point of view comes across as "vegetarians, go home." Okay, maybe that's a little harsh. But the point is, they're showing you what they make best, what inspires them, what they like, and mostly that doesn't happen to include vegetarian entrees.

Here's the thing, though. Right now, the sustainable seafood movement is translating into a restaurant trend in D.C. -- look at Hook in Georgetown. And most respectable chefs these days make at least some effort to source ingredients as locally and sustainably as possible. So, given that going veggie at least part of the time reduces your carbon footprint, I don't understand why this isn't also manifesting itself in the form of more innovative vegetarian food in restaurants. (And I say this as a most-of-the-time carnivore, lest I sound preachy.)

I understand, I guess, that chefs view meat as the centerpiece of what they do -- that they can demonstrate their technical mastery by cooking it perfectly, and then demonstrate their creativity by having it be a vehicle for innovative flavor profiles. It's what lets them show off their chops (no pun intended). But come on, can someone please, please show me a vegetarian entree I wouldn't think to make at home? Do it for the vegetarian foodies, and for the omnivores who love them.

Is it better in other cities, maybe? Because it's bleak in D.C.

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