I was torn as I sat down to finally write this blog post: Should I begin writing as if two months hadn’t past since my last post? Should I offer an apology and explanation for why it hasn’t been updated recently? And if it was option #2, what exactly to say? Honestly, I haven’t written mainly because I haven’t been inspired. Before I started blogging, I never realized how much time actually goes into writing an (ideally) interesting and insightful post. It’s enough effort that when you stop doing it, when you get out of the habit, it’s hard to start up again. (Incidentally, the same thing happened with my gym membership. It took the closure of the gym to finally force the choice between going again on a regular basis or actually admitting defeat and cancelling my membership. And I can’t really claim credit for acting—it was entirely out of my control.)
But, unlike my efforts at self-improvement, I wasn’t going to give up on this blog so easily. I especially wasn’t going to give up when there have been so many good things coming out of my kitchen over the past few months. There’s enough built up content that deciding where to begin again has been difficult. I’ve finally settled on an international favorite of both mine and Tania’s: the Peruvian dish known as lomo saltado.
For whatever reason, probably related to meals I ate growing up, whenever I think of pork chops, I think of thick center cut ones. Ones that are thick enough to actual exhibit differing levels of doneness and can actually be cooked to a nice “medium.” It was rare, if ever, that I ate thinner cuts of pork. For whatever reason, to me they always seemed to be associated with an overcooked and dried out chop.
So, when I came into a wondrous bounty of pork from local Davidson Farms, which included thinner cuts, I was left without any go-to recipes in which to use them. I knew I’d have to work on discovering how best to prepare them. And this being winter, I’d have to cook at least some of them without the benefit of my trusty grill.
My first thought was that these chops would be perfect for frying. Being thin, you wouldn’t need as much oil to fry them, and it’d be easy to do in my shallow cast iron skillet. My second thought was: Tania eats way more healthfully than I do, so unless I wanted to fry up a mess of chops all for myself I’d have to 1) find at least some other ways to prepare them and 2) find someone to eat fried pork chops with me at a later date.
There are some occasions where I’ll go to a restaurant, or make something at home, and while I’ll want to share some aspects of the experience, I don’t feel that an entire post is warranted. Interested in delivering more content—in a more timely manner—I’ve decided to create a new category of post for this blog. These posts will be light on written content (there will be some still!) and heavier on things like photos.
I toyed around with what to call them. The first couple of titles that came to mind, quick bites, short orders, were already in use. And so I’ve settled on “amuse bouche.” Literally translated as amuse the mouth, an amuse bouche is the small single bite appetizer that is occasionally served at some restaurants. Usually every diner on any given evening will get the same thing. Which is: whatever the chef feels like making. It seems like a fitting title for this new series.
The first in the series features a well-respected Columbus food truck, The Coop, in a new and unexpected location, the kitchen of Shumaker Place neighborhood bar, The Hey Hey.
By now, the secret of the Baking Steel is not much of a secret. The word is out that this project, started on Kickstarter by Andris Lagsdin after reading a review Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine: The Art & Science of Cooking, is the “most impressive home pizza product [J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats] ever tested.” Pizza lovers everywhere are trading in their stones for these well-made (and really heavy) sheets of steal.
I got mine for Christmas (thanks Tania!) and it has been an incredibly useful tool as I’ve begun to explore the world of bread baking. As I try and try again with my bread baking, I’m learning more about cooking than I have in years. And as good (or bad) as some of the breads I’ve made are, I hadn’t put the baking steel to its real intended purpose: making pizza.
Tania and I just got back from a whirlwind of a trip to San Diego. The main purpose of our visit to California was a wedding of some close friends. (I was in the wedding, ostensibly because the groom and I grew up next door to one another. But it may also be that I just happen to look damn good in a tux.) As would be expected of someone who cares enough about food to write about it on the internet, we did our best to eat our way through San Diego as well.
We ate incredibly well at the wedding itself. The rehearsal lunch was fantastic, and dinner at the wedding reception exceeded all my expectations for wedding food. As good as those meals were, it’s the many other meals that will be the subject of this blog.
Rather than a chronological listing, I’m going to recount our trip by category. Looking over those meals, with one notable exception, they appear to break break down into three main classes: breakfast, fish, and drinking. Because this is a long post, here’s a quick list that will jump you right to each place we went:
Oscar’s Mexican Seafood
Stone Brewing Company
I was on a roll for a while, turning out regular blog posts to keep my nascent audience entertained. And while I write this blog for the dual joys of cooking and writing, the ever growing number of hits showed that all my effort was not for nothing. Then came the past few weeks and…silence. It’s not that there’s nothing to write about; I’ve been busy. It’s just that there hasn’t been time to write is all. So, traveling in the way-back machine, let me tell you about an awesome dinner Tania and I had several Sundays past.
My ancestry is Swedish-German. Somewhere along the way though, and I’m not sure where, a really good recipe for spaghetti and meatballs worked itself into my family’s repertoire. (Is it just me, or is the word spaghetti hard to remember how to spell? It’s definitely one of those words that I misspell just about every time I write it.) Lest you be confused, these are meatballs of the Italian—not Swedish—variety.
Spaghetti and meatballs, at least as my family prepares them, is not a weekday sort of dish. It’s one that requires several hours of simmering on the stove. And while it can simmer largely untouched once you get started, you still have to stir the concoction every so often to prevent the bottom from burning. (Which inevitably still happens to me anyway.)
A few years ago, word began to spread of a new pizza place in town. Located somewhere along the rather nondescript 161 corridor, it was said that this pizza transcended its unassuming surroundings. Those in the know, well-versed in Columbus’s other pizza offerings, said that this pizza was special; that it stood out. Eventually, the trickle became a flood, and it became accepted as common wisdom among a certain set that Borgata Pizza Café made some of the best pizza in town.
I don’t know what too me so long to try this pizza! It tastes as great as it looks.
Despite all that, despite the recommendations from numerous reliable sources, it took me years to finally make the trip myself. Every time I thought about getting pizza, my thought was “Oh, that’s too far away. Let’s just go to [closer pizza shop]. I mean, can the pizza really be that good?” You know how, as you get older and wiser, you look back and think “If only I could go back in time and tell my younger self what I know now”? That’s how I feel about my pre-Borgata self.