01 October 2007

The Lovely Red Peppers

My boyfriend and I are eaters who will not go for your typical fast lunch. Things like processed turkey meat, sliced white bread and pre-sliced cheddar cheese are basically not allowed in our kitchen, period. Our stubborn approach to food can make lunchtime difficult and we often find ourselves headed out the door for a decent noontime meal. But I have found a recipe that lends to easy, delicious, fast lunches at home.

I cannot take credit for the newfound golden ticket. The recipe was published in the first issue of Saveur I ever received which was delivered to my mailbox about 2 ½ years ago. I cherish this publication and read it front to back several times. While the recipe in question, Nimês Red Peppers, in the “A Meal in Nimês” article caught my eye I put off making them until a few days ago (when I had the plethora of peppers).

The recipe is simple. You put 6 ripe red bell peppers in the oven at 400 degrees. Roast for 20 minutes and turn them once sometime near the 10 minute mark. Then turn off the oven and let them rest inside the cooling vessel for one hour. Remove them, peel, stem and seed them, then let them drain in a colander for one hour (I let them drain overnight). Put the peppers in a bowl with 3 cloves of coarsely chopped garlic, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a Mario Batali sized pinch of salt. Pour some good olive oil over the peppers until they are completely submerged and mix them gently. Sit back and wait for the magic to happen.

After 3 hours of marinating these peppers will blow you away. They are plump, juicy and slightly tinged with a delectable taste of pungent garlic that blends perfectly into the tangy vinegar goodbye-flavor. The peppers are so delicious yet subtle, they add the perfect texture and flavor to almost anything.

I ate them on a thick heel slice of sourdough batard with a couple slices of artisan salami on top. So easy and so good. My boyfriend had a sourdough sandwich with thinly sliced red onion, Mahon cheese, salami, spicy whole grain mustard we picked up in France and some mesclun greens. Both were delicious and completely satisfying. There are some recipes that deserve a front seat in the refrigerator and these peppers are my new favorite culinary copilot.

29 September 2007

Salsa Witch Doctor

So in the end I made salsa. For a first try I think it came out fine, but nothing compares to Jorge’s salsa. His is the best and he adamantly refuses to share his recipe. When I was at the restaurant I relished the salsa making days. I would see him, Jorge, collecting ingredients in the walk in, then inspecting and preparing them meticulously. Browning dried small chilies on the stovetop, getting the massive cauldron ready, he was like a witch doctor.

Next thing I knew the cauldron would be bubbling away, green onions, tomatoes, and fresh chilies bobbing to the surface. Because I was usually so busy tending to my tables the salsa creation was like a puzzle; one time I would see him do something, the next time something else. I was stuck in a thick salsa mystery. Jorge loved my frustration and refused to divulge a damn thing.

Even though I am pretty sure I have everything, tools ingredients and all, to make salsa identical to Jorge’s I am lacking the courage. I can honestly say that I have no idea, even though I saw pieces of the salsa puzzle put together many times, how to make that salsa. What ingredients are browned and which are boiled? How long does the boiling process take place?

Truthfully, I am not afraid of messing up the recipe. I am absolutely terrified of producing something lacking the deliciousness, thickness and perfect spiciness of Jorge’s salsa. Once it hits your toung tounge your senses stand at attention, saluting the perfect spicy sauce. It is overwhelmingly good. And usually before you know it, it is covering everything on your plate. Behold the power of the salsa witch doctor.

24 September 2007

A Rare Breed

I sit here, at the old l’ordinateur, and wonder exactly what it is I am doing. Typing…? In front of me to the immediate southwest sits a delightful cocktail. Homemade. Now, this is a rare occurrence. Rare because typically, in my world, cocktails are good only if they are not homemade. Nothing makes a drink more delicious than a powerful mixologist standing in front of you with cheap bottles of booze, for sale at a cost. Whether the cost is your dignity or the bulk of your wallet is dependent on you somewhat, and the other two quite heavily.

But I digress. The issue at hand is the pile of fresh organic chilies that sit behind me in a large, stainless steel bowl from IKEA. Not the chilies of course, the bowl is from IKEA. The chilies are from my dear friends mother. She is a woman who is living the life of my dreams. A staunch German breed, this family’s humor is found in the more jovial (younger & feminine) generation. I have known the father for over ten years, have exchanged less than 20 words with him, never seen him smile, and find him miserably attractive. I don’t even want to attempt the mental reconstruction of the grandfather. The mother, however, lives on a vineyard, which her husband molds into expensive, exquisite wine while she annually invests herself in all sorts of rare and idiosyncratic projects. The dinosaur nativity scene is my personal favorite.

But she has of late been growing rich, luxurious, waxy chilies and has given me more than I can handle. Salsa? Marinated chilies? Chile rellenos? Salsa? I have no clue as to what to do with this bounty of the harvest.

I think maybe I will try the salsa. FYI, I am of French blood (it might go badly).

22 September 2007

Jobby, Job, Job

How strange it is; the search for a job, employment. What kind of hunt is this? It is certainly not equivalent to the pursuit of food or shelter (in the caveman sense), or love, or a perfect physic, a great outfit, the perfect cocktail…or is it?

I feel that I spend my days trying to convince people that I am a smart play, a safe bet. I am something like a long-term solid hand at the poker table. Why is it that it is such a risk, to choose the 5 cards that comprise me as an employee? Others have taken it and won the game at hand. Where is the breeding ground of this reluctance, the tuber of this bizarre employment discord?

Perhaps it is my age. Yes, I am 24. Yes, I have something of an “any-sort-of-girl”—“probably-not-very-special” look going on. But, come on, just have a freakin’ conversation with me. Maybe even read this blog. Doesn’t blogging count in this modern world? I had the understanding that blogging, myspacing, friendbooking or whatever is “up-to-date-cool” was the thing to do, the best way to make friends, the object worth staring at all day.

The fact is, it’s not. The thing to do, obviously, is to know people. The goal is to have connections that are as strong and bulky as a shipyard steel rope. Please, just meet me. One day, down the pipeline of this life (job), maybe you will win the poker game too.

18 August 2007


Oh the sweet, gassy smell of Venezula. Oh the succulent sounds of humming engines and blasting sound systems. Oh the arepas, hot and thick. Where is the rest of the world?

29 May 2007

La Bruschetta

There is something to be said for the quality of a restaurant when the road leading to it is so curvy and long, you feel more like throwing up than eating when you finally arrive at its front door. This is the path to La Bruschetta for me, through the town of Santa Cruz and up the twisty, redwood tree lined highway 9 to Felton. It is when I pass the sign that reads “Curvy Next 26 Miles” that I start getting nervous. One mile later, my window is down and my head is out of it, attempting with all of my might to calmly, slowly inhale and exhale.

The magic of La Bruschetta is revealed when you walk through its decisively idiosyncratic front door, adorned with a life size, cross-legged, nude, wooden woman, into the dining room and the misery of carsickness seems to float away on the tail of an olive oil infused breeze. As we entered, a warm, smiling hostess immediately greeted us and honestly instructed us to choose the table we would like to sit at so that it could be cleaned and set. By the looks of the place we had obviously arrived shortly after a massive rush of customers had seized the place. We chose a quite table in the corner, were seated shortly and left to ponder the traditional Italian menu.

Wanting to adhere to Italian custom, our choices were based in the plain desire for a family style antipasto, insalada, pasta and dolce. We began by ordering mussels in a tomato broth and a daily special, the roasted beet salad. To accompany the light and easily digestible genesis of the meal, we selected a white Sicilian “Grecanico” wine to whet our palates. The wine list was, like the ambiance of the restaurant itself, simple, quaint and appropriate to the menu. The wine arrived shortly before the food. It was buttery in color and taste, hit the palate with soft, easy acidic bite and ended with a quick, creamy finish. It was a perfect accompaniment for the meal we ordered.

The roasted beet salad was quite nice. The red beets were tosses with large pieces hard-boiled egg, which lent a necessary richness to the dish. The tasty mixture was served atop a bed of fresh greens with some crispy bell pepper slices to contrast the softness of the salads premiere ingredients. The mussels were cooked to a perfect plumpness and I was left wanted to find a chipped or empty shell. Although the thick tomato sauce was flavored nicely, it was a little too heavy and hearty for the delicate mussels. It worked better as a savory dip for the foccacia bread served with our antipasti. Both dishes were of a generous size, not overly large, but not too small to share.

As usual, thinking we could eat more than we ordered, we decided to supplement our meal with an order of “Bruschetta del Buongustaio”. One of about the 10 house specialty bruschettas, this was a happy over-indulgence. It arrived on a large serving plate, which shone with the glory of a bruschetta to end all bruschette. Four thin, fire toasted slices of foccacia circled the plate layered with a paper-like slivers of Italian salami, topped by a slender carved piece of brie adorned with two fluted diameters of vinegary pickle. Separating the bruschette were generous half circles of freshly carved pineapple. It was decadent, it was tasty, and it was interesting. I loved it, a new favorite. The flavors went great with the wine. It was so good, the meal was over for me.

Soon followed the “Rigatoni Alla Norma” an al dente tube pasta with a roasted eggplant, tomato and olive oil sauce topped with crumbled ricotta salata. It was good, but my heart was taken by the bruschetta, so I ended up taking my pasta home for lunch the next day. We then found ourselves to be the last people in the restaurant, marked by the new Eminem song making an appearance on the I-pod play list. This, to me, was funny and made me feel like I was in my grandma’s house, just as Mario Batali would want it.

We finished our meal with a Tartufo Classico, a deeply flavored chocolate snowball, with a center of zabaglione and a dusting of hazelnuts and chocolate powder. How could it be anything but delicious? We left the restaurant feeling satisfied and comfortable. Not only was the food cooked, served and eaten well, but La Bruschetta exuded three qualities I have grown to respect from any good restaurant: 1) you can see the kitchen from the dining room, 2) the head chef came out and spoke to us, 3) (this is only for Italian restaurants) there was something delicious besides tiramisu for dessert.

It was well worth the drive there, and even the exceedingly uncomfortable drive home.

24 May 2007

Best Bad Man of the Year

Every year, the only decent, free weekly newspaper that exists in the semi-small town in which I live, publishes an anticipated “Best…Of” issue. Now, because of the size and business dynamic of this quaint town-by-the-sea, if your business is voted “Best…Of” for anything, you have gotten a big boost in the right direction. As I have discussed already, I work as a waitress in a small café that has an equally small staff. This humble establishment has about twenty tables, a staff of two cooks, one prep cook, one dishwasher, two bussers (the dish boy and the bussers only work on weekends) and three waitress, has been open for 35 years, has never expanded from its tucked-in–the-corner spot and barely has seemed to change the menu in the entirety of its existence. That’s right, all of the biscuits and gravy you dare to eat.

I am one third of the wait staff and I have been employed at the café for a little less than a year. As far as the other two thirds of the wait staff go, one is a little younger than me and has worked there about 4 months less than I; the other is a little older than me and has been working at this restaurant for seven years. It is the only job she has ever had, she has worked there longer than almost every other employee by a long shot. So, even though it is not really true, she is owns the place. People eat there to see her, customers ask her to housesit while they go to Europe, she knows almost everyone’s name and their kid’s names too. Neither I nor the other waitress can hold a candle to her popularity. We are merely by-standers watching someone else’s ship sail by.

Her ship really came in this year though. Guess who was the “Best Server Of” 2007---you don’t have to guess too hard. Not only did her victory prompt the owner to make several huge chalkboard signs proclaiming her amazing abilities in serving the best-meal-ever, but it’s basically over in all totality for me and the other "normal" server. We can no longer even pretend to think that we are good at our jobs. So—currently we (this is not the royal “we”) kinda wander through our day, heads down, confirming to our tables that----no, it is not us, it is the other one who is the Best Server Of The Year.

I am left to wonder, is this how George Bush feels? Does he look at Vice President Cheney and feel that, no matter how hard he tries, there will always be a politician who is eviler than he? No matter what, he will never be the “Best Bad Guy Of” any year? He is, and always will be, defeated in his mission to be the worst. Or, is he like me and whole-heartedly realize that, even though it is a bummer to be beat at your job hands-down, someone else really and truly deserves it.