Thursday, July 24, 2014

California Dreaming

Dream on...

Currently drinking: Acacia Chardonnay, 2012. Honeysuckle and roasted melon, a full body ride that connects the tongue and anus via jasmine. 



Is this real life? Is this forever? Hell no. 

I woke at 1:00am to Kate freaking out because someone was peering inside of our cottage. To her credit, she was right and we both we're on edge as I walked to the door armed with an empty 2011 Priest Ranch Sauvignon Blanc bottle, ready to strike (in my underwear). The culprit took off, and left us both uneasy for the duration of the night. I'm sure she (as we determined only by description) was just wasted and wanted a hug, or our wine, so we're not too concerned about the lodging for the rest of our trip. Who knows, I may even get a hug :)

After a series of swirling dreams, I woke to my wife stomping in the door around 7 am, proudly wearing the sweat of a 3 mile run. I, on the other hand had a pillow between my legs and my right arm was half asleep... Classy. I shake off the dust knowing I have but one mission in life - to snap a photo of the ever elusive "Bouchon Basket Ninja". This is the person who is responsible for dropping tasty baked goods on my doorstep around 8am whilst I drool pinot onto a goose down feather pillow. At 7:35, I grab the Canon T3 while Kate showers and hit the front porch only to find this:


Son of a bitch! She beat me to the punch, or so I thought... I noticed my neighbor didn't have their basket yet, so I sat and waited. Sure enough the short haired, basket bearing beauty appeared. I was in awe, and for a second I actually considered attacking her just so I could double down on baskets, but let's be honest, no pastry is worth going to jail for (even if it has weed in it). Did I snap a pic or two? Yes. Will I upload them now? No. Why? All I have is an iPad... You'll have to wait til I post the whole album later. I hope this will suffice in the meantime:

Our basket was nothing short of glorious though...


Pictured clockwise from 10:00ish; Sourdough baguette, some sort of sweet bread, a Maine blueberry scone, and the legendary chocolate filled croissant! Also pictured, modest fruit cup, New York Times, fresh squeezed OJ and a bottle of 2010 Chandon. 

For all of you that just called me an asshole outloud, I hear you and I agree with you entirely; I suck and I don't deserve this, but I'm getting it all the same, so enjoy the ride with me. Needless to say, we made incredibly short work of this platter and quickly agreed the chocolate croissant won by a longshot. In the words of my beautiful and well spoken wife, "you can't beat a buttery fucking chocolate filled pastery...", and she's right. As we crushed a few mimosas, she looked at a few vineyards north of us in Calistoga and St. Helena, and we settled on Castello di Amorosa, a big ass castle about 25 mins outside of town. 

The drive was nothing short of stunning. Every California wine I've ever heard of we passed on the way up. It was only 10:00, so the sun was still mild and the tempeture just under 75 degrees. THIS is the Napa experience I pictured that the first two days hadn't yet revealed. With the love of my life on my right, we crept up the driveway in the silver Mustang, alongside Frank Sinatra crooning "My Funny Valentine".


Holy wineshits! 

I'm a midget, 3 topless broads, and a beheading away from eternal paradise. I just pray that the wine is a fraction as good as the view, and for $35 a head, it better be.

There is no way I can possibly reconstruct this fabulous hour long tour with my lack of patience and sub 400 word vocabulary, so let's just say it was excellent and far exceeded my expectations. Our tour guide, Jefferson, was first class awesome and must wield a 9 inch cock as he spoke with the swagger of a guy who makes 94 point wine every time he farts. A few pics from the tour below: 
Kept between 58-60 degrees at all times...
I would have sex with this if there were time and it bought me dinner 
Plastic signs to highlight the ambiance 
Magnums increase the quality of wine as they store comparable oxygen to a 375ml bottle, yet hold two times as much wine. #snootywineknowledgeandshit
My future grave
Outstanding wine/fingernails

I'm bald, she's sexy

The 5 wine tasting was terrific, here is the the rundown of what we chose:

Taste 1: 2013 Pinot Bianco
Taste 2: 2012 Gew├╝rztraminer 
Taste 3: 2011 Zingaro "gypsy"
Taste 4: 2010 Sangiovese 
Taste 5: 2011 Merlot
BONUS! I talked the guy up... Surprise!
Taste 6: 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon 

Frankly, the first 3 I would buy a case of now. The Sangiovese was forgettable, and the Merlot was
...well, a merlot. The Cab had a super fat ass and begged for 20 more mins to loosen up before sipped, but regardless stood strong amongst many $80+ bottles in the Maryland Market.

We left super satisfied and ready to eat. Well, there are a ton of grapes here...





Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Napa, California: It Begins



It's been 3 years since my last post and much has happened. I bought a house. I got married to a beauty queen. I went to Italy... you know, adult shit. However, those benchmarks never tickled the idea of reopening my blog. After all, I only built this thing to challenge sister's blog in the first place (sorry dukes), yet I never truly disposed of the idea of boasting about my culinary and booze-inhaling adventures. I haven't had a reason or the time to indulge until now. Ladies and ladies with dicks, my muse and infamous return: Napa Valley.

For those unfamiliar with my approach, I enjoy cooking, eating, drinking, playing music, video games, and meeting new people. Anything I write about (no matter how bad the spelling and grammar) will involve some mention of the above. I just noticed how much my second chin sweats when I tilt my head down in 90 degree weather. Yuck. Okay, onto today's post.

We woke to French pressed coffee and a charming basket of fresh pastries from the famous Bouchon Bakery. I'll speak more about this tomorrow when I can get a fresh pic or two, so this will have to tide you over in the meantime. 

Your envy smells of broccoli...

In my eyes, Napa is a notable benchmark for anyone who seriously thinks they value the art of oral indulgence and over-celebration. Truth be told, on first look it's hot, dry, and ├╝ber snooty. Coping with the fact that I will sooner than later offend the locals, I set a few ground rules for my ever-destructive self.

1. No driving if I have more than 2 drinks.
2. Don't mix booze.
3. Drink at least 1 glass of water anywhere I go (except potty)
4. No food bill should exceed $500 (US)

We hit downtown Napa a mere 3 miles from our abode around 10:30. Kate was driving our silver Mustang Convertible while I tried out the new Canon T3 camera in vain whilst enjoying the retro sounds of Fitz and the Tantrums. Parking was a debacle, not due to lack of spaces though. I'm convinced that when god built my wife he spent a few too many points in the "beauty" pool, leaving the "driving" one a few coins short. This is as close as she's allowed to the drivers seat from here on out. 

Women's rights and struggles aside, we soon found ourselves in downtown Napa, walking around aimlessly and somewhat underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, the air was crisp, sun was shining, and there wasn't a cloud to be found, but the sheer number of cement mixers and orange tape boggled my mind. Apparently they are "rebuilding" to accommodate tourists by adding Michael Kors and Gucci to the area... Fucking America. I could tell Kate felt similar, so I opted to pop into the John Anthony tasting room to ease up. There we met the chipper soon-to-be PE Teacher, Robbie. Nice kid, poured us some pretty sick reds including a 2010 Cabernet that I would have sold my socks for (the 2 Sav Blancs weren't bad either). We'll probably pop in there tomorrow evening for a bottle and a cheese plate. Excuse my lack of pictures on this one, but I didn't know I was going to pull out the defibrillator for the old blog until we hit...

DON PERICO!!!

(Insert iPhone pic of sign here)
I'll get better about the pics, I pinky swear with your sister. 

Now I know what you're thinking...

"That sounds like my neighborhood Mexican joint where I saw a guy pee on the building once..."

And it totally was! So we had to go.

I know, I know... We flew across the country and spent a small fortune to go to wine Mecca and the first lunch I have is at a no-name Mexican restaurant?! Yup, sometimes you gotta set the bar low. After all, we have reservations at the legendary Bottega (Michael Chiarello's slice of heaven) on Sunday, so do not be alarmed, you will bury your dry eyes in much food porn in the near future. So why did we really go? 

Fun Fact!: There are a gazillion Mexicans in Napa! This was a good bet, and it paid off big time.

We were seated next to the door at a booth that could be easily monitored by the host/manager. I guess they smelled trouble coming in, bad I don't blame them. Kate's smokin hot, and I look loud and unruly, so they kept us close. Kate orders a Tequila Ricky, essentially a Gin Ricky (club soda & lime) but with Mexican happy juice. Me? House Margarita... You can always tell the future with one of these. I've never had a good margarita and bad food (or vice versa) in the same establishment. Drinks arrive and are great, so I'm stoked about the meal. I take this pic of my wife:


God she's hot. 

Okay, food orders are as follows. Kate spots a blackboard advertising $9.50 chicken Fajitas - done!

(Authors note: I just learned what diphthong means...)

I'm feeling heathy, so I decide on the Steak Chimichanga. In case you snort kale and masturbate into trader joe's weak-ass paper bags, allow me to explain how this food of the gods is built. 

Step 1: Build a burrito large enough to fit Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow's baby inside of.
Step 2: Deep fry it. 
Step 3: Add red sauce and cheese. Serve to Carl

Did I just tongue fuck an astronaut on Jupiter? Best red sauce I've ever had, and easily 18oz of steak. Tender, salted and perfectly fatty, I just melted over and over again until I hurt inside. Guac that came with it was stupid too. Flavorful, unlike the "Uncle Julio's" and comparable overpriced crapshacks in our area. Kate's meal was solid and had at least two whole grilled onions on the skillet, corn tortillas and all.  

Carl's Chimichanga 

Kate's skillet and decent teeth


Kate's accoutrements 

Napa. Mexican. The cure for HPV... It's all the same when you're happy and watching the guys on the other side of the window pave the road. This calls for a celebration...

Shots!

Don Julio to be exact, and Tecate to wash it down. 

So much for rule #2. 

Kate stares in disbelief. The bar manager giggles as if you put his balls in cold salsa. Me? I'm just happy I didn't have to be on my 11:00 weekly directors call. 


I shook it off, ate the pinto bean off the table (see full shot pic) and smiled. If not here, where? If not now, when? We so often speak of our wishes in vain... 




Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Not So Ordinary Dinner...

Carl has been SLACKING... who knew this blog thing could take so much effort to maintain? The good news is I'm 4 meals behind, so there is a surplus of work for me to do before. The bad news is I do not plan to stop cooking anytime soon, therefore almost assuring that this surplus will last for quite a while.

For the record, this meal was prepared on June 16th, 2011 as a pillar in the plot to seek Kate's hand in marriage. Nothing says your friends are becoming domesticated like a food blog, so don't act like you didn't see this coming.



A Not So Ordinary Dinner: Seared Rack of Lamb with Garlic Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes


The Lamb:

This shit's not cheap, so be ready to spare no expense. When we speak of the "rack", we're looking for juicy, plump lollipops that have ample amounts of fat to be trimmed. It's well worth spending $18 plus on a frenched 8 rib rack, especially if its only for 2 people. All being said, this is not a reasonable meal to try and provide for more than 8 people due to its price point and the amount of care you must put into your meat.

Before you marinate your lamb, you must cut it into desired pops. Assuming you bought a frenched rack (most fat cut away and cleaner appearance) this should be cake. I suggest sticking with single chops for this go around, though double's are an option as well. For cut details, check here. http://www.foodsubs.com/MeatLambRibs.html

Lamb Marinade:

1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 red wine
A couple small rosemary branches
A few sprigs of thyme
2 cloves of garlic
Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Peppercorns

Demolish the herbs and garlic with your awesome knife skills and toss them in a Ziploc seal bag with the EVOO and S&P. Toss in your Lamb Lollipops and let them kick it in the fridge for a bit. (2 hours is fine)




Garlic Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes

8 fingerling potatoes (red, white, whatever... color contrast is good)
3 cloves of garlic
A few small branches of rosemary
Half of a red onion
EVOO
Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Peppercorns

This couldn't get any easier, and it shares all of the same ingredients of the lamb, so its an easy shopping trip. Preheat the oven to 400f. Cut your potatoes (skin on) lengthwise in quarters so you have long "fries" cut... roughly 32 pieces in all. Throw them in a 2 inch walled baking man and drizzle EVOO all over them add some S&P for love and mix them all up. Toss them into the oven.

Run your knife through the garlic and rosemary a few times (course chucks work well here)and cut the onion into "pedals" or 3/4 in squares. After the potatoes have been in for 20 minutes, add these ingredients to the pan with some more EVOO and S&P. Toss them around so the taters have a chance to cook on another side and all of the flavors mingle with joy and anticipation of being demolished by a hungry bride to be. 25 more minutes in here and you're ready to serve!

Finally, heat a frying pan to medium high heat and add a splash of EVOO. Take the first half (4) of your lamb pops and lay them in the pan. Season the side that isnt cooking with some extra S&P and flip them after 3-4 minutes (for medium). Repeat this process with your last 4 pops, 3-4 in per side and set them aside to rest.

Deglase the pan with the red wine and scrape the little lamb bits that stuck to the pan with a wood spoon. Add a little of the left over marinade and let it stew for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. This will make for a nice galce to serve over the lamb.

Set table with a dozen super steroid roses, a bottle of nice Cabernet, and an engagement ring and hope for the best!

Cheers!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Off to a Good Start: Sangria Flank and S.S.R Salad

I took today off because I spent my past two weekends pushing 90 bands comprised of 7-16 year y/o's through the doors and onto the stage of the legendary 9:30 Club of Washington D.C. for my company's 8th Battle of the Bands. All work and no play makes Carl a cranky boy, so today is for me.

Yesterday, my love Kate bought be a red bike (I think its a Schwinn) off of the local teachers message board (like craigslist) which sparked me to acquire an awesome helmet for 20 bucks off of "actual" craigslist. Saftey first.

As I dorked out listening to Rush while wearing my new helmet in my car, I saw the ROOTS Market and decided its time I finally check this place out. Can't say I terribly impressed with anything they offered with the exception of their produce and bakery. Let's face it, I'll be the last guy that ever goes gluten-free or vegan. However, inspiration sometimes comes unplanned. I spotted a small meat section on my way out and found a  beautiful Rosdea All Natural Aged Flank Steak that I had to have. 20 minutes and 17 dollars later I left ROOTS with all I needed for this beauty.

Carl's Sangria Aged Flank and S.S.R Salad: 

A dish inspired by Spanish flavors, especially saffron and sangria! 

Before we get started, this is a GRILL inspired dish. If you lack a grill (or the skill set to properly use one) you can make it as a skillet steak. Alright, let's rock.

Flank:

If you don't know about the power of flank steak, yo' best ax somebody! Flank is like a friggn' sponge if you give it enough time to do it's job. Find a nice flank at your local shop - I used a 1 lb cut for this one (serves 2 comfortably). Remember this steak will need AT LEAST 4 hours of time to marinate (unless you prefer tough and flavorless meat).

Steak Marinade:

1/2 cup red wine (malbec is best)
1/4 cup veggie oil
1 lime
1/2 of a ripe mango
1 tsp champagne vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Toss your steak in a zip-seal bag and add the ingredients above. for the mango and lime, I leave chunks of the flesh and rind in the bag with the meat for an all out flavor orgy. Shake the bag and lay flat in your fridge for 4-24 hours. Walk away.



S.S.R Salad aka Spanish Saffron Rice Salad


This can be served at any temperature. I serve it cold with this dish to provide a subtle salt and savory balance to our bright and sweet steak. Marinate your steak before your make this!


4 tbs olive oil
1 cup of short grain white rice (or whatever is in your pantry)
Half of a sweet onion, chopped small
A clove or two of garlic (to your taste), diced
2 sprigs of green onion, chopped
1/2 cup of small Spanish olives (the green ones)
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
A pinch of saffron
2 cups of water
Salt and pepper

In a quart sized sauce pan, add oil and saute onions and garlic for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add your rice and coat in this mixture for about a minute. Stir in salt ( about a tsp) and pepper (10 cranks on your grinder) and your saffron. Add the 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. When a rapid boil hits, drop the temp to low and cover for 10 minutes.



Quarter your olives with the little pimento pepper inside. This will add great color and little sparks of sweet/sour play throughout the dish. Add chopped green onion and cilantro to the olives and set aside.

Check your rice; make sure there is still a little liquid in the bottom of the pan. If there is not, add a few tbs of water to keep it steaming. Stir in Olives/Cilantro/Green Onions and kill the heat. Leave it covered for 5-10 minutes. "Fluff" the rice when there is no more liquid in the bottom and set aside for service or in the fridge for a cold salad.



Get your grill up to 400 degrees f and spray/oil the grates. You want a nice sear on this meat, so the high heat is necessary. If you are a grilling noobie or just need a few pointers, check out this link for some great grilling tips on flank (his marinate isn't bad, either) http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/grilled_marinated_flank_steak/

Don't forget to let your steak rest for 10 mins before cutting and enjoy!!

The Debut

What started as a way to avoid doing laundry or writing curriculum has now become my passion project; to mix flavor and fun by means of searing, boiling, freezing, poaching, sauteing and on a (really) good day... baking.

I'll keep my introduction brief and let the food do most of the talking on this blog. But before I enlighten your palate, a few quick things. 
  1. I am not a trained chef. I've taken 3 food related classes in my life, so don't take my words as the law by any means.
  2. If you don't like Alcohol, Butter, Bacon, Trans-fats, or Onion you may want to reconsider using my recipes. I'm sure your local Trader Joe's has a thing or two to offer for your kind...  
  3. If you have any questions about anything related to this blog (cook times, measurements, add on's, allergic substitutions ect...) don't hesitate to email me. It would make my day to  know folks are actually using these ideas. 


I hope all of you enjoy eating and experimenting as much as I do. If you have any requests, shoot me an email!


Love,

Carl