Friday, March 30, 2007

The Annual Spring Heart Break that is Chavez Ravine

It’s spring and we’re back at the Dodger Stadium, so hardcore that we attend pathetic freeway exhibition games although it gave us an opportunity to check out our new seats and the new fifteen buck (!) parking system. And man, it would be so easy to run some shuttle buses up from the Chinatown Gold Line station, but that’s another big ole Dodger chip on my weary shoulder, along with their chums at Union 76.

But every spring I return to the stadium with the hope that there is something edible to eat. Our new seats are near a South Street Philly Cheesesteak which we’d never tried and so I dropped 8 bucks for a miniscule sandwich and a fistful of potato chips. The dainty thing was nicely oniony and satisfying in that way that cold meatloaf is satisfying, if it is satisfying to you, of course. But may I be condemned to dine only from the salad bar at Burger Continental for the rest of this and infinite other lifetimes, if I do not religiously import food to Dodger Stadium for every single game. There is not one thing at the stadium that is anywhere near is delicious as any number of things which can be brought in. And don’t you forget it.

I may have a malt or an ice cream or one of those insipid frozen yogurts in the plastic batting helmet during the dog days of summer. I may even succumb to the $3.00 beverage they have the nerve they call coffee if the vicissitudes of being a professional carpool driving menopausal she-devil have born heavily on me. But, with perhaps the exception of a Dodger Dog (for luck, occasionally) and a Camacho’s taco, which I have never tried but feel obliged to eventually, as it is actually a local merchant and more importantly, local to our seats, I will not even fall victim to the garlic fries nor the rancid peanuts, however artfully they are tossed at me. Report on Camacho’s coming soon. Otherwise, brown baggin’.

The absolute best Dodger carry-in is banh mi. I am fussy and only really love the sandwiches at Baguette Express in San Gabriel and haven’t done a decent recent exploration of Chinatown, so this perfect of portable foods, hasn’t been on the menu as often as I’d like. Langer’s is a great option but their unusual hours require a bit of clever strategy. Phillipe’s also is a good carryout choice, heavy on the house mustard. Another favorite is a selection of sushi and stuff from either of the two great supermarkets in Little Tokyo. Remember, no canned drinks, only plastic bottles are allowed inside.

Bag o’ tacos from truck is always a good option too, although in the interest of personal hygiene, I would patronize a truck that’s rather dainty of hand and grease and make sure to have a ton of wipey things in my purse. However, even my new huge feedbag could not contain enough wipies were we to bring in barbecue, so that is verboten, likewise are hamburgers because they just get icky when they’re cold. Even Rover won’t eat a cold burger. In all but the most beer soaked of sections, Zankou is just too smelly.

Alas, stadiums all over the country purvey local food specialties. Piroshki and stuff. We have Dodger dogs, which, I’m sorry, is a sub sui generis hotdog. There. I said it. Dodger dogs suck. Grilled. Steamed. Beef. Even if you can find a little packet of sauerkraut they suck suck suck. Even though Skully gushes so much love into the radio spots. Bleech Dodger dogs I say Bleech!

Give me deli and Viet Namese sandwiches and tamales and real food from the best food city in the world as befits our beloved Dodgers. Do they really deserve Carl’s Jr.? And think about the Goldline shuttle, too, ok?

Monday, March 26, 2007

In the Market for a Market?

Rover and I hit the 99 Ranch Market yesterday where I stock up on good rice, cheap mushrooms, cheap peeled garlic, fresh noodles and tons of other fun stuff. I am intrigued by the fish tanks and it is cool to think about that kind of freshness and every single time I go there, and I go there a lot, I enter, determined to select a live fish and I am never able to do it. I’m good on picking out a dead fish. Really. You look for clear eyes. I bought an interesting long silvery fish yesterday called a Pacific Sierra, which had been deaded before my arrival. Sometimes English is a problem at the 99 and I misunderstood the fish man. I though he was asking me if I wanted it cleaned but apparently he thought I meant cut and took a hatchet to it, leaving me instead of a whole gutted fish, with some thick steaks. My intention had been to roast the whole fish stuffed with a bit of lemon and garlic and Chinese chieves (spelled like that usually). The steaks are a different challenge. Stay tuned.

So, I can eat a fish and we often order live fish in Chinese restaurants but our victim is selected for us. I am a wuss. I could not point my stubby finger at the live fish tanks. Just like my favorite character, Leslie Lapides, in Sophie’s Choice who could say fuck but could not do it. Although there is a tradition in Casamurphy dating back decades to torment dogs and family members by manipulating fish jaws so they lip synch Bobby Goldsboro songs or spout Becket or Joyce or endearments with a Turkish inflection. Popped roasted fish eyeballs are also a source of levity of the weekly piscean meal. We do find it curious that Leo and Spuds don’t eat fish.

Himself and I devour fish with relish. We both are mindful that they are gifts from God but they get to swim in water their whole lives. And they have to. We try to eat them mindfully and look for fins and scales.

I stopped today by Jon’s Market on Hollywood and Vermont to browse and select my weekly love offering of healthful snack foods for my beloved colleagues at the office. There was no produce, save a bunch of green bananas which I deemed office friendly. I picked up some Armenian string cheese with caraway seeds, dried apricots, and a couple varieties of cookies from local bakeries, all of which had really basic (and non-chemical) ingredients on the label. I would most rather buy produce at Gelson’s but it is dear. There is less, but often some, available suitable produce for office consumption at the Von’s on Hollywood Blvd. but there aren’t any baked goods worthy of purchasing. I bet sometimes too, you can pick up a produce bargain at Jon’s, today just wasn’t the day. Overall though Jon’s has much more modest selection than Super King but the prices are just about as friendly.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

3 recipes. One Vegan. One ac/dc. One Dead Animal

Warning Kravitz. I am going to rhapsodize shortly about the consumption of God’s dead creatures, which I try to do mindfully, but I do do. In my hopes that you may some day have your own friends you can find God with, my tribute to you was a red lentil, couscous vegan dal which I think was quite nice. I should have warned you Kravitz to add some heat to it because it was made to be palatable to our children and more particularly their parents, both of whom are big fat wusses when it comes to hot. Although I adore horseradish and wasabi. Himself does not, but has a taste for mustard hotter than you would suspect and I would prefer personally. Said dal was transported to Kravitz and Paul in a nifty little Tupperware type toolbox thingie I found which sort reminds me of the ark of the covenant…will keep it vegan kosher for all of us restless spirits.

So, I’ll tell about the dal first Kravitz and then you can log off. I began with some inspiration from Deborah Madison, and if I haven’t said it before, she is my cooking hero. The Westerberg of cuisine.
(Kravitz likes onions VERY WELL COOKED) See now you can forward this on to your friends who are happy to cook vegan for you. Got any? Oh, except ME I mean…So please forgive me the fucking dead bird.

I never would have occurred to me to mix lentils and couscous but it was way past dinner time and the dal was stilly super liquidy while it simmered away. I threw in some couscous just to absorb but it turned out to be a really nice combination which I’ll definitely experiment more with.

Lentil Couscous Dal
Canola Oil
2 medium onions
2 cups red lentils
Chile oil (I like La Yu)
Chopped garlic
ginger spread or chopped fresh ginger
2 cups couscous
1 can coconut milk

This is something you can riff on some weeknight. Left seasonings vague because this is quick cooking,. I am not a chef. Nope. Not me. So use these seasonings in whatever amount you prefer or better yet, substitute anything that strikes your fancy. The principle is to clear the onions in the oil and then add the lentils, chile oil, garlic and ginger and lightly brown. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to light simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and add couscous. Cover and let rest 5-10 minutes. Add the cream layer from the coconut milk. Garnish w/ cilantro.

Roasted French Beans
Found huge bags of snipped French beans of excellent quality at Costco. Or get one of the smaller bags at Trader Joe’s and nuke it right in the bag.

Green Beans
Butter or Olive Oil
Coarse Salt and Pepper
Grated Cheese (optional) (I used some dry jack)

Microwave beans however you usually do it but a tiny bit less done than usual. E-mail me if you need help with basic bean microwave. I slit the bag after cooking, add the oil and seasonings and optional cheese (enough to lightly coat) and shake it a bit. Throw them on a cookie sheet and broil for about 5 minutes.

Another Variation on the theme of Turkey Thighs
I bought some mole in a jar from Trader Joe’s knowing that Himself has never warmed to mole and that it is not a flavor I think my kids crave. I purchased a bottle of organic ketchup at TJ’s too. I never use anything but Heinz, which we were out of, but the kids will use anything in an emergency. Ditto, on Best Foods/Hellman’s mayo. Nothing else. May even be better than homemade! Since I had made good on the Heinz in the extravagant size at Costco, it occurred to me that the organic TJs stuff would be quite redundant, and I, in a blast of 1950s housewife fury, added it to the mole to sweeten the hot and the funky. It worked. I won’t tell you what measurements to use, but this is the gist:

Turkey Thighs
Chopped Garlic
Raisins-small handful
Soft dried pineapple-small handful
Roasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat to 350 and spray a big roasting pan with tons of cooking spray before adding the turkey, skin up. Do what you need to do, if anything, to get the mole to your liking. Leave out the ketchup entirely if you will. I don’t care. Mix everything until it’s the way you like it. Don’t go crazy on the dried fruit. It absorbs the sauce and you don’t want the turkey to dry out. Brush it on the turkey. Cover the pan with foil and bake 90 minutes. Let cool enough to remove meat from bones and served garnished with pumpkin seeds.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Revisiting the Golden Arches

Finally finished reading Gospel of Food which had a nicely well balanced discussion about McDonald's and I found myself in Long Beach at 3:30 on Tuesday, desperate to get back to work but famished, not having had time to eat at all that day. The closest food available was a McDonalds and I was in and out of the drive through with two tiny cheeseburgers (one for Rover) a more than ample sack of fries and a diet Coke in about 1 minute for about 4 bucks. The burger, is a comforting institutional style one with a dainty application of condiments and a single pickle slice, right in the middle. The bun is ethereal and fluffy and the beauty was, even though I hadn't had this simple treat in many years, it was the same as I remembered it, and while the word classic is overused, it was comforting and I will indulge the hankering as mindfully as possible, every few years. The fries are sad vestiges of their beef tallow predecessors. The texture's not bad, but there's no potato flavor at all. Nevertheless, clean, reliable, and probably not the devil incarnate. That would be Burger King...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Northern California Field Notes

I messed with himself’s vacation and fled by myself for a few days of bliss in the northern part of our state. I had intended to dine in Palo Alto on Wednesday night with my dear cousin and her partner but when I wasn’t even close to leaving town at noon, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. On a whim, I called the Ventana Inn in Big Sur, one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed, and I got a deliciously discounted room with a fireplace. I arrived at about 8:00 p.m. and was able to walk on an amazing verdant trail which connects the Ventana Inn to the Cielo restaurant, which is handsome and tasteful. I had a swirled soup with two different types of mushrooms (I forget which kinds. Can I still sort of call this restaurant writing and expense just a bit of the trip?) but both were kind of murky and undistinguished. Also, workmanlike but uninspired was a roasted beet salad with decent quality goat cheese. For casual, I like the Big Sur Bakery which himself says is over rated but for a bit more formality, Cielo is way way better than Nepenthe, and while I have not eaten at the Post Ranch, this is probably the best meal destination in Big Sur although it’s so not about the food. I did beg for a few cookies (kind of boring chocolate things) to take back to the room and these were provided warmly and at no cost.

I insinuated myself into some high end dining in the city but alas, the company was so lovely I was distracted from my usual bitchy scrutiny. I had a wonderful lunch at Boulevard, the liquid portion of which certainly distracted me from the solid but which seems to be an adult type of restaurant, the sort of which we are short on in Southern California.

That night, I happened into a dear friend and mooched a meal at One Market, a comparable uber adult establishment. I was delighted to find my favorite Jerusalem Artichokes on the menu and they were so delicious I made it a point to bring a big batch from the Ferry Bldg. to my next stop in Felton. My host googled the tuber, discovered it is one of the greatest inducers of flatulence on the planet and I presume now the ones in Felton face extinction by liquefaction in a refrigerator, which was beautifully cleaned out for a change, in honor of my arrival with edible food.

I’d never made it to the Rose Pistola and by the time I finally did, I wasn’t even really up for dessert, nevertheless, even though I ordered dumb wine without my glasses, it was all as sweet as could be. Lovely. I hope to return there.