Obama fan? Definitely, except for his crappy taste in beer...

Check out Endless Simmer's rant against President Obama's "beer summit."

The Husband hasn't seen any of this yet and I'm debating whether I should point this out to him at all: he's going to have a coronary when he finds out not a single Dogfish Head was on the table.

Eat, drink, and question the President's sense of quality and craftsmanship.

More thoughts on Julia Child:

Michael Pollan also brings up the idea that Child encouraged an entire generation of women to be courageous, to have no fear in the kitchen, to just make the leap. She said, "The only way you learn to flip things is just to flip them!" I love that. I talk to friends all the time who claim that they can't do the things I can do in the kitchen. You know the excuses: "I can't cook"...or..."My husband is picky - he won't eat that"...or..."I'm too busy."

When all it really is, in the case of my friends and family who I quote, is a lack of courage.

Eat, drink, and be brave.

Julia Child and Michael Pollan: Provocative as ever

I'm a little late this week in catching up with my NYT food articles, but imagine my pleasure when I saw a new article by Michael Pollan: "Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch." It ties into the release of the Julie & Julia movie, arguing that Julia Child taught us how to cook from scratch ("real scratch cooking") in the days of "educational television," as opposed to the Food Network today, which teaches us how to cook fast and quick, only partially making any of it from scratch.

As expected, Pollan is rather alarmist about it all, some would argue rightfully so. I got caught up in it: halfway through reading the article, I vowed to boycott Food Network forever and everything it stood for. Not that I watch it that much, anyway, but still... What I do appreciate about Michael Pollan is that he doesn't really point a broad, sweeping finger at Food Network as a whole. He pinpoints the marketers and the advertisers specifically, those who stand to profit by keeping Americans out of the kitchen. Even so, Food Network certainly profits from its viewers sitting on the couch, watching them, rather than in the kitchen and away from the TV.

The article explores the many reasons why we 1.) left the kitchen, and 2.) keep going back to it vicariously in the form of Food Network shows. Pollan suggests, among other hypotheses, that perhaps part of the reason we watch so much food TV is because humans actually miss cooking, and we don't want to see it gone from our lives forever. He also mentions that, while cooking in the kitchen is down, grilling outside is actually happening more regularly (perhaps because we miss the primal slab-of-meat-on-a-fire feeling)...but he gets in a tizzy because that activity is happening almost exclusively on the weekends, "turning cooking into a form of weekend recreation, a backyard sport for which we outfit ourselves at Williams-Sonoma, or a televised spectator sport we watch from the couch."

But to bring this back to Julia Child, I particularly liked this point Pollan makes, talking about Child actually glistening with sweat at the end of the show from wrestling together her meal from scratch:
Child was less interested in making it fast or easy than making it right, because cooking for her was so much more than a means to a meal. It was a gratifying, even ennobling sort of work, engaging both the mind and the muscles. You didn’t do it to please a husband or impress guests; you did it to please yourself. No one cooking on television today gives the impression that they enjoy the actual work quite as much as Julia Child did. In this, she strikes me as a more liberated figure than many of the women who have followed her on television.
There was definitely lots of food for thought (god, I know...I'm sorry) in this article and Pollan is certainly as provocative as ever. I urge you to take a look.

Eat, drink, and get off the couch.


Guest post: Don't judge a burger by its cover

Well hello again. Long time no see. I know it has been a while since I guest posted for the lovely wife, but today there is this:

What is it? A hamburger? Well yes.....sort of. Even at the Goog, there are days when you just....get bored. I guess the same is true for the pastry chef, because today, she gave us this little gem.

What you see here is a dessert burger. A sweet roll as the bun, raspberry and simple syrup for ketchup, green coconut for lettuce, chocolate brownie for the patty, and whipped cream for the mayo. A sight to behold indeed. What could possibly go wrong with this concoction? Too much! Too much! Now as a disclaimer here, I am not a big "sweets" guy. No sugar in the coffee, no mixer in the whiskey, no chaser to the tequila. This thing was like stuffing a Care Bear into a My Little Pony, dipping them in Magic Shell, then rolling it in Pride Rainbow sprinkles. TOO SWEET. I had one bite just to say that I did.

But hey, at least it looked cool.

Other guest posts by The Husband:


And then there were books...

And lest you think I did nothing but eat on my vacation, here is a list of the books I read:

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I FINALLY read it and it totally delivered. Yowza. Luckily, Jen (of Reading Rants) is hooking me up with Catching Fire this week.

Titanic's Last Secrets: The Further Adventures of Shadow Divers of John Chatterton and Richie Kohler by Bradford Matsen - It really leaned toward conspiracy theory, and I'm not quite sure I'm buying what they're selling. A fascinating read, nonetheless.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - Read this a second time. It
makes me feel calm when my life is in upheaval.

Omnivore's Dilemma: The Young Readers Edition by Michael Pollan - I didn't quite finish it yet...it's dragging for me...

I also got together with three of my favorite librarians: BJ Toewe, Karen Fischer, and Linda Bellock. These three women are the reason I'm blogging today, working as a librarian and in publishing. They work at Salem Public Library and took a chance on a 22-year-old kid with no library degree and not one ounce of experience with children. They hired me as a library assistant and, fast forward twelve years, here I am today. We got together for a delicious meal at BJ's house, overlooking a lake, sitting outside and laughing up a storm. It's glorious when you're able to go back to where it all started and be thankful for all your opportunities.

That said, we didn't really talk books: we gossiped. You know how librarians are...

Eat, drink, and bring a strong back on vacation to carry all your books.

Vacation, Part II: Oregon

So the second part of our vacation was a trip to Oregon to visit my in-laws. Again, I found myself wondering why - why - did I ever leave...until Adam reminded me - again - how much I loathe the constant gray. Nevertheless, here are a few of the things we did:

  • Mexican and Salvadoran cuisine at Los Dos Hermanos in Keizer. I haven't had a lot of Salvadoran* food, but I do credit myself with knowing good food when I taste it...and this is gooooood. I am a HUGE fan of their pupusas (here is a recipe that I've used to try to imitate them), and we went through two pitchers of their margaritas. Good times, good times. It's a great local family-run joint and, even though I can't imagine you'd ever be there, I can't recommend it highly enough the next time you're in Keizer.
  • I drank a ridiculous amount of local wines: Cubanisimo 2006 Pinot Noir (major spice), King Estate Pinot Gris, King Estate 2007 "Next" Pinot Noir (light and fruity, perfect summer red), and Firesteed Pinot Noir. And that was only the local wines...there were others...

  • As usual, we stocked up on all our local produce at EZ Orchards. The photo below is a meal mostly bought from them: local Willamette Valley Cheese Co. cheeses, caramelized local Walla Walla onions, local raspberries and marionberries, Great Harvest bread, and non-local salami bought at Whole Foods. To top it off, this lovely lunch was eaten while fishing along the Santiam River.

  • And no trip to Oregon is complete without a trip to McMenamins. The BEST tater tots, great burgers, and fantastic local beers: I splurged and drank TWO pints of their Wheat beer. I love the atmosphere too - dark wood, jukebox, mismatched tables and chairs. Not to mention that the servers will let you sit forever, if you want. It's about the closest thing we have to pubs in the U.S.

  • We also went to Great Harvest Bread Co. and bought one of the biggest ice cream sandwiches EVER. Also bought some fresh bread to go with all our meals.

  • The Ram is a microbrewery across the street from my alma mater, and I drank waaaaay too many Long Island Ice Teas there in my youth (they were only $2!!!). I made up for it this time by drinking an excellent microbrew: Big Horn Blonde. You don't need to know that it was a 24 ouncer...see, I can still put 'em away!

  • Last but not least, we scored a tour at the "we don't give tours to the public" Kettle Chips processing plant. I'll be writing an entire post dedicated to the tour, but let me tell you now that it was truly a pinnacle for me. Absolutely fascinating.
The food scene in Oregon is everything it is rumored to be: focus on fresh, local ingredients with a natural, relaxed, laid-back vibe. I ate well, my friends, and it was wonderful.

Eat, drink, and cheers to the West Coast, my homeland.

* So Los Dos Hermanos spells it "Salvadoran" but I keep reading it "Salvadorian" other places. I can't tell definitively which it is.

Homeward Bound

Recently we went on our annual summer vacation where we spend a few days in California and a few days in Oregon. My family lives in a tiny little town called Rescue, which is situated in the larger El Dorado County, which is about 45 minutes east of downtown Sacramento. I always tell people that it was a great place to grow up because, as a kid and teenager, I could always get somewhere better: 2 hours to San Francisco, 2 hours to Napa, 2 hours to Lake Tahoe. As an adult, though, I've come to appreciate this area for what it is and we usually stay put when we visit.

I don't have photos, but here is the post I did last year about our trip (or the San Francisco portion of the trip). I may not have photos of this year's trip, but I do have lots of links. Check them out:
  • My mom and my sister introduced me to Heyday Café, a haven of simple yet fabulous food. I had their Portobello "Philly" with Caramelized Onions, Bell Peppers, Provolone Cheese, and Smokey Aioli. It was one of the better sandwiches I've ever had, especially considering the café's careful attention to the bread: a ciabatta that was light, airy, and in perfect proportion to the amount of filling. I also had their roasted red pepper bisque with smoked Gouda. I do a roasted red pepper soup, but I have never considered putting cheese on it. The Gouda added a layer of richness and decadence and really made the bisque a meal unto itself. My mom's favorite dish is the Roasted Butternut Squash atop a Bed of Spinach Greens with Bacon Crumbles, Red Onions, Toasted Almonds, Goat Cheese, and a Brown Sugar Cider Vinaigrette. Every flavor was balanced and the ingredients were incredibly fresh. Our server, who I believe is one of the owners, told us it was his mom's recipe. Last but not least, they have a stellar wine list, including lots of El Dorado County wines (I drank the Boeger Barbera).

  • Speaking of Boeger wines, my mom also took me to the Boeger Winery as my birthday present (July 19th) and had me pick out wines to ship home. I chose two bottles of their Merlot, which was surprisingly smooth - generally speaking, Merlot tends to have too much bite for my tastes. I also chose two bottles of their rosé, which lacked the tartness I usually shy away from, and I also chose two bottles of their port, which was uncharacteristically light for a port. Isn't it lovely that I'm going to get home to local California wines waiting for me?

  • Also speaking of wine, my parents have some friends who have only three acres of grapes and they make what little they have into wine...and I love it. It really strikes you how doctored up and pretty-fied all those bigger vineyard wines are when you taste the simplicity and freshness of a tiny wine. Of course, they sell it as grapes...in liquid form in a bottle...so it's not entirely legal. They also get lots of help producing the wine from friends so their wine label has the name of their vineyard (which I'm obviously not sharing) and then, underneath it, "Hand Crafted Wine of Friends." Don't you love that? So my mom bought a case of their wines and she'll ship some of those bottles to me, telling the UPS store that she's shipping olive oil.

  • We also had a great dining experience at Kobe Sushi, an unexpected gem of a restaurant in a small town (Cameron Park). Stay away from the rolls, in my opinion - they're drenched in sauce. That said, my family goes nuts for the rolls so to each their own. I can highly recommend the sashimi, though - the freshness rivals any of the sushi I've eaten in NYC so far. Lastly, the service is friendly and attentive. The prices are also incredibly reasonable.
Overall, a lovely trip to California and, as usual, I'm having a crisis of confidence about our move to New York. But that always fades once I return home and rediscover New York's distinct personality.

Eat, drink, and discover you can go home again.


Overdue linking

Two of my favorite fellow bloggers have written about food lately; however, in my absence, I wasn't able to draw proper attention and give them some love. So here is my overdue linkage:

Over at Ten Block Walk, Molly O'Neill recaps a lovely evening she and I had at the New School a couple weeks ago, listening to a lecture about Craig Claiborne's life and career. The panel included Molly O'Neill (this was an opportunity for Molly to meet her doppelganger!), Betty Fussell, Anne Mendelson, David Leite, and John T. Edge. I'm a relatively new reader to Claiborne's work so everything I heard was new and fresh. However, I particularly enjoyed Leite's discussion of how media - newspapers, books, etc. - are changing, thanks (or no thanks, depending on your perspective) to blogs and online resources. He brought specific attention to advertising and its slow (too slow) realization that online advertising and marketing is where the future is. It not only piqued my interest as an unpaid blogger but, as I enter the world of publishing and marketing, I'm left wondering in what ways I can innovate and create. I also feel so overwhelmed by it all: the way in which we receive content has changed and will change radically. Paradigm shifts rarely come easy. So I'm left mulling, mulling, mulling... Overall, it was another interesting lecture at the New School. I love the way these panels bring us from the past and the ways in which others blazed new trails (Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, Alice Waters) to the future and where the trail may lead.

In other foodie news, Brenda Bowen - fab literary agent - wrote a brief post (with photo!) about the Big Apple BBQ in Madison Square Park in June. I wasn't able to attend the event, but I heard nothing but fantastic things about the food. And when else do you see suckling pigs laying out on park benches?

Eat, drink, and blaze new trails.


REVIEW: The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises

My friend, Molly, keeps hounding me to write a book and I often respond that I have no time for creativity. Even though, yes, I would love to write a book someday. Well, when I read The Sweet Life of Stella Madison (Delacorte) by Lara M. Zeises, I sent a message off to Molly, informing her that I couldn't write a book anymore because Stella is the book that I wanted to write. Fresh voice, foodie-centered, cute boys, smart heroine. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read and Lara M. Zeises was the perfect author to write it.

Wouldn't it just be Stella Madison's luck that she was born to foodie parents when she'd rather eat Whoppers and hamburgers? Her parents, who own a restaurant together, have been separated for years and, when they finally start dating other people, Stella can't deal. Naturally, because of her lineage, everyone assumes Stella is into food as well, and she is recruited to write restaurant reviews for the local paper over the summer. Can she fake being a foodie? Add a hot older guy interning in her parents' restaurant, tempting her to stray from her sweet boyfriend, and you have a recipe for disaster (Yuk, yuk. Couldn't resist...)

Zeises has gorgeous food descriptions. In particular, each chapter starts off with a menu. I loved the menu at the beginning of chapter 2 best: "'Saluting Summer': Strawberry and blue cheese salad with white balsamic vinaigrette; herbed sweet-potato chips with crème fraîche; chicken breasts stuffed with roasted peaches and topped with a light Gorgonzola cheese sauce; blueberry shortcake surprise." Sounds amazing, no?

I also loved the way in which writing about food and exploring food is a metaphor for life's challenges. I loved the moment when Jeremy (the hot chef intern) tells Stella, "I've talked to you enough to know your voice. And this isn't your voice. This is you trying to play restaurant critic instead of being one. It sounds generic and inauthentic. You can do better than this. I'm absolutely certain of that." From there, Stella and Jeremy cook gnocchi together in teen's version of the pottery scene from Ghost. Romantic with a touch of sexy. Food moves the plot forward, and it also plays a part in Stella's search for authenticity and finding out who she is outside of her parents, friends, and boyfriend.

The book can border on the sentimental at times with statements like: "Cooking is a science. It is an art, a craft. It does not work unless you give it your heart and soul and sweat." But those moments are few and far between. Teens will find this fun and frothy, and it might even inspire some new foodies. The food descriptions are entirely accessible, even for the non-foodie. I enjoyed this from beginning to end, and librarians countrywide will no doubt be left wondering what sort of phenomenal dishes Zeises creates in her own kitchen. I would love to see what sort of author talk she would give to teens about food and writing!

A true foodie book for teens. I recommend it highly!

Other reviews:

Tea Cozy: I appreciate that Liz points out Stella has a very healthy relationship with food. It's so refreshing to encounter a character that is normal and healthy for a change!

Bookends: I like Cindy's point about Stella trying to find out who she is among some big personalities. There is definitely a coming-of-age aspect to this story.

Losing gallbladder = losing weight

So I'm back and I'm bad. Okay, not really. But I am feeling almost back to normal post-surgery to remove my gallbladder. Thankfully, I'm eating and drinking normally; the only thing different is that I still need a nap each day...and I hate to nap. But my stamina just isn't what it used to be.

So I was admitted to the hospital last Saturday (July 4th, for heaven's sake) and wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything but ice chips from Saturday through Monday - THREE days! Then I went to a liquid diet: Jello and some sorbet concoction. Then I went to "real" meals. And here's a sample of those things*:

This was the Jello and the orange "sorbet". The ingredients list was nothing but sugar, corn syrup, and water. I ate the Jello and left the sorbet. A woman can only handle so much.

This is the point where I said to Adam, "Just kill me." On the left, string beans...I refused to even try them. On the bottom right corner, that would be yams. I tried a bite. That's all that can be said about that. And the top right was sweet-and-sour chicken. Didn't recognize it, did you? Yeah, neither did I. The chicken was dry and the veggies were overcooked. More sweet than sour. And on the very top of the picture? Sara Lee apple pie. I tried it but I just couldn't handle any more sugary things.

"Promise Vegetable Oil spread" I ate the bread plain. Once you live on real butter, you can't go back to this science experiment.

Lentil soup. I couldn't bring myself to try it. Adam tried to convince me to eat it "for posterity", but I refused. So he tried it and agreed with my decision. I just had surgery, after all. I needed to look after my health and this is not the way to do it.

Four days in hospital. Check. Hideous food. Check. Coming home and fitting in my skinny pants? Priceless.

Eat, drink, but not in the hospital.

* Pictures taken with my phone, obviously.


Radio silence

I've just returned home from having surgery to remove my gall bladder! Ack! That's what I get for eating all those lovely high-fat foods. Luckily, the problem has been removed, thus allowing me to continue eating just as I always have.

Give me a couple more days to recover and then I'll be back...

With photos...

Of the hospital food...


Eat, drink, and toast to good health!