Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday: Didn't really try to beat yesterday

After getting home, I wonderfully fell asleep on the couch for an hour and a half.  I believe this was the position I chose:

Turns out that wasn't the best strategy.

When I woke up, I didn't really want to work too much at making dinner, so I just grabbed the buffalo hot dog I had in my freezer and had that.

Let's see if I wake up early enough tomorrow to make it to the farmer's market.

Thursday: Chef Mavro

So it's that time of year again:

However, this year, I decided that I didn't want to be a sad bear again.  Instead I made a dinner reservation at Chef Mavro, and set forth to have a delicious meal.  They only do prix fixe menus, and although they do allow substitutions (so you can change what you get in your N-course meal), they also offer the "Grand Degustation," which supplies a tasting size of everything on the menu.  Even though I live here, and could theoretically go every week, and slowly try everything, I figured that if I'm going to do this, I might as well do this right:

Helpfully, since I'd signed up for a thirteen course meal, they supply a personalized menu to follow along with. I did not go with the wine pairings, because although that would have been nice, I did have to drive myself home afterwards.  I did start with the Domaine Huet, 2007 vouvray "Le Haut Lieu" (the swordfish pairing).  I think this was my favorite wine of the evening, as it had a sharp acidic taste that cut through a lot of the richness of the first courses.

Let's go course by course:

Amuse Bouche: vichyssoise, sumida farm watercress foam
My first thought was "this tastes like a garden."  The watercress foam adds a very herb-y taste to the incredibly smooth vichyssoise.  I'm not particularly fond of watercress, but this worked well.

Roasted Maitake Mushroom: sesame accented artichoke puree, pickled shallot, yuzu vinaigrette
I don't think I've had maitake before, but I've certainly heard of them before, given that Iron Chef Japan used them in nearly every episode.  I will certainly be seeking them out in the future.  It simply has the best mushroom flavor ever.  The artichoke puree was somewhat lost in the richness of the maitake, but the shallots and vinaigrette offered a nice sharp contrast. This was when I started to realize that this had been a good decision.

Tako cevice: wow farm tomato granite and juice seasoned with espelette, jalapeno cucumber brunoise, red onion shavings
I don't like octopus.  If the Cthulhu spawned sea demons were wiped out, I wouldn't particularly mind.  If they were wiped out by being converted into this, I would probably join in to help.  The tomato granite had a super strong flavor, and the other veggies added flavor that tako usually lacks.  My other main complaint about tako is the texture, as it's usually impossibly chewy.  I suspect that being marinated in such an acidic sauce is the reason that's not the case here, but it was certainly nice to see my main issues with the main ingredient completely solved.

Oh no! The shame of dripping on the tablecloth!

Ahi Tartare & Caviar: taro chips, ponzu sauce
This shows up in a lot of places as many people's favorite dish, an opinion seconded by one of the waitresses. The tartare is served on a "country crouton," which was not crispy as I expected, but served as a great base to hold it all together.  I, of course, knocked it all over the place, and had to use the taro chip to help push it all back together.  In any case, this is delicious, and it's certainly understandable why this is so popular.  My definition of umami is pretty much now "did you eat that ahi tartare? Yeah, that's what umami is."  

Shutome Crisped with Rice Flakes: island swordfish sauteed, indian poha rice, pressed white & red rice, jin hua ham, green papaya chutney, pondicherry almond vadouvan
Swordfish is pretty much always good, and the rice flakes add a good texture contrast.  I should have realized before tasting that "pondicherry" is Indian, and so the curry flavor shouldn't have been a surprise.  The pressed rice and ham cake was another texture contrast.  It wasn't crispy, but wasn't simply a mushy wad of rice.  It flaked apart releasing the chewy rice.  This was another one of my favorite dishes, just because the blend of fish, sauce, ricecake, and chutney had a delightful range of flavors and textures to mix together.

By this point, I'd finished my glass of wine, and ordered a glass of the Domaine Michelot, 2007 Meursault, "Les Narvaux," which was the pairing for the next dish.

Keahole Lobster Risotto: white asparagus, essence of lobster
I think this was my favorite dish of the evening.  Large chunks of lobster in the risotto, a nice chunk of tail, and a sea of lobster foam to scoop up with each bite.  I don't know what else to say about this one.  Maybe not as  creative as the maitake or as wonderfully contrasting as the shutome, but the richness and flavor make up for it.

As a side note, this was the point where I started to think that a thirteen course meal was possibly larger than I was really ready for.

What's this?

The next course is served tableside by Chef Mavro himself.  You can see the cute little googly eyes on the salt crust as he cuts it open.  The picture is just of his hands because a) I hate having my picture taken, and assume everyone else is the same, and b) I had to get a good picture of googly eyes, because, duh, googly eyes.

Dayboat Snapper Baked in Hawaiian Salt Crust: tomato-ogo-fines herbes
Chef Mavro listed off all the herb ingredients in the sauce, but I quickly got lost.  This was another course that immediately presented a single idea in my head: "flavor forest." Most things have only a few flavors that poke through and you can identify as "oh, cucumber," or "oh, onion."  This sauce just had a smooth richness that seemed to my mouth to be hundreds of individual flavors all blending together into a dense "forest."  The snapper was perfectly moist due to the salt crust, but was not salty at all.  The bottom of the fish is protected by a bed of spinach (hidden in this picture, I think), and the top by the skin, which Chef Mavro removed before plating.

Since I was now moving away from the seafood portion of the meal, I got a red wine, the Fiddlehead Estate Pinot Noir, "Fiddlestix," a suggestion by the sommelier.  

Kurobuta Pork: Loin roasted, crispy kau yuk, vanilla glazed molokai sweet potatoes, etuvee sumida farm watercress and essence, pork jus
Kau yuk is the pork belly on the left, and the loin is wrapped in swiss chard.  I've mostly stopped eating pork, since it's so hard to find any in the store that has any flavor or fat at all.  This pork did not have this problem, and makes me think that I'll be looking around for more of this.  The sweetness of the potatoes was mirrored by the sweet potatoes, which were probably one of my favorite accompaniments of the night.

Certified Angus Filet Mignon: oxtail rillette dumpling, pickled baby beets, essence of pinot noir
It's not listed, but you can clearly see the oxtail gelatin sitting atop the dumpling.  From this point on, I will not make fun of meat jellos ever again.  The gelatin didn't have much flavor, but melted in my mouth to soak into the oxtail dumpling.  The filet was cooked nicely, as can be seen by the pink color throughout.  The thing that I noticed the most about the filet was how dense it seemed.  Very good, but after everything else, steak just doesn't seem that adventurous.

I didn't take a picture until I was almost done with it, but on the right is a small tasting of the Domaine Dupont Tisserandot, 2004 Gevrey Chambertin, the pairing for the pork.  The sommelier stopped by to pour the taste "just because."  This was the wine that made me regret not choosing to take a cab and skipping the wine pairing.  This wine had a spicy finish that would have gone wonderfully with the sweet pork.  Live and learn, I guess.

Colorado Lamb "Djerba": roasted loin, brick crusted "moussaka," braised baby turnips, harissa-lamb jus
I was looking forward to this course, as lamb is pretty much my favorite meat (you might be able to tell this by the cut piece that I almost had in my mouth before remembering to take a picture).  However, I was surprised to find that the moussaka was my favorite part.  The rich flavor of the tomatoes and aubergines was a surprise.  I don't think it would be possible for any one to eat this and then claim afterwards that they don't like eggplant.  Of course, this isn't to say that the lamb wasn't good, especially with the harissa sauce.  Since it was the loin, it wasn't as fatty as other cuts (despite what that sliver of fat would say), and therefore any "gamey" or "mutton-y" flavors were much diminished.  I know I'm probably in the minority, but those flavors are why I like lamb, so I missed them.

Hawaii Island Fresh Goat Cheese Mousse:  one minute strawberry jam, frankie's nursery green peppercorn, ma'o farm arugula salad.
The jam was a wonderfully sweet, and matched well with the gentle goat cheese mousse.   I was wondering if the mousse would be very goat-y, but it really wasn't, having just enough to distinguish itself.  The arugula was frustrating to pick up, given the soft base it was on, but that just forced it to pick up as much mousse as possible for each bite.  The peppercorns (that's not a blackberry) were much stronger than I expected, but covers the woefully underappreciated strawberry/pepper flavor combination.

Alas, more tablecloth spot shame!

Pre-Dessert: molkai watermelon in champagne gelee
Four quick bites of crunchy, nearly frozen watermelon in a lightly flavored gelatin.  This made me realize that I've not had any watermelon at all this summer, but given that each bite had as much flavor as most entire melons, I think I've made up for that.  This also makes a good split between the rich savory flavors that precede it and the sweet treats that follow.

Dessert Trio

Pavlova "Moderne": seasonal berries poached in maple syrup, lemon scented creme fraiche, lychee sorbet
The pavlova serves here largely to present the berries, and the other berries seemed to me to simply be there to point out how delicious blueberries poached in maple syrup can taste.  My first bite had one, and I immediately thought of biting into a homemade blueberry pancake, and getting just a berry and the syrup it's drenched in.  Wonderful.  The sorbet reminded me that I actually like lychee, and should eat more of them.

Lilikoi Malasadas: guava coulis, pineapple-coconut ice cream
I probably should have eaten this first, instead of going in menu order.  The warm malasada had partially melted the ice cream, blending the two temperatures together.  In any case, the fatty grease of the fried dough cut through the ice cream in a way I wouldn't have expected.

Valrhona Chocolate Cremeux: jasmine honey kanten & chantilly, cacao sand, fennel sesame crisp
This was my favorite dessert, as it's basically a super dense chunk of fudge.  I have never thought of fennel and chocolate before now, but will have to start coming up with ways to pair these in the future.  I think this works like the strawberry/pepper combo above: it's thoroughly unexpected, but after trying it, you wonder why it isn't more common.

Mignardises: mocha pave, cassis macaron, guava pate de fruit
Trio means four here. Or six. Or two times three. Whatever.  These were single bite treats to wrap everything up.  The mocha was another that I should have eaten in a different order. After the cremeaux, nothing chocolaty could come close.  The macaron on the other hand, is the kind of thing I wish I could eat everyday. It crushes in your mouth to release the cassis cream center, with all the wonderful fruitiness that contains.  The guava pate was a great finish, as after eating everything else, it's a simple, light, single flavor.

Thirteen courses and three hours later, I think it's a safe bet that this was a wonderful idea for a birthday dinner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday: Optics!

We rearranged our office this week, and now instead of facing the window, the window is on my left.  Conveniently, this puts me directly in line with the row of prisms in the courtyard (it's actually arranged like the Pleiades, but that's only visible from the courtyard).  Because of this, in the early afternoon, I sit in the middle of a rainbow.  This is my silhouette (with phone) blocking the rainbow (you can see my glasses in the faint red on the spines of the old notebooks).

 I didn't do leftovers today, mostly because I was already out, and Arby's sounded good (it wasn't really).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday: really, Unilever?

I was watching youtube videos.  Video A comes on, and has an annoying advertisement in front of it.  It's Hellmann's, telling me to smear mayo on my chicken before I...pan fry it or something? Who knows, that's just fucking gross, so I wouldn't make that ever anyway.

Then Video B comes on, and shows me the exact same ad, but with all instances of "Hellmann's" replaced with "Best Foods."

Maybe living in Hawaii messed up the geolocation, and they don't know which brand is sold here, so figured it was best to cover their bases in this bizarre attempt to suggest disgusting product based recipes.  It still seems kind of silly to make the same commercial twice.

Blah blah leftovers blah.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday: Leftovers make me immediately want pizza

But I resisted the dark call of the delicious pie, and had leftovers soup instead.  I did take my own advice with the bread, and drizzled honey on it after toasting.  That fixed the bland problem nicely, and the sweetness contrasted with the salty soup.

No pictures, since it's basically the same thing as yesterday, just with the bread sliced and honey drizzled.  Since this is unlikely to be relevant anytime soon:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday: simmering

I figured that since it's fall now, I should make something "fall-y" for dinner.
Yes, ok, I understand that

Yes, I can tell that it's still like a zillion degrees, but it's like that all the time.  Just because it doesn't actually feel like fall doesn't mean I can't pretend it's fall.
Fine. Thanks I guess (even though that's winter, and it's currently fall).

Anyway, I figured I'd make something warm and hearty that I could eat this week without having to bother coming up with a plan.  It seems like I make stews fairly often, but I went with a slightly different strategy this time.  The ingredients:

Back row:

  • 1.5 lb red potatoes
  • 0.5 lb regular mushrooms
  • 0.5 lb portabella mushrooms
  • bottle of merlot
  • can of beef broth
  • can of tomato paste
Front row:
  • A leek
  • 0.25 lb carrots
  • 1.5 lb chuck roast
  • 0.5 lb ground beef
  • 0.5 lb onion
  • 0.5 lb paciento placenta pancetta
  • 0.5 lb haricot vert
  • 1oz dried porcini mushrooms
Not shown:
  • like 6 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbs sage and rosemary
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • anchovy filets
I didn't take intermediate pictures, but the sequence was
  1. Brown the roast and then reserve.
  2. Add chopped pancetta until it renders a bit, add anchovy, garlic, onion and ground beef.
  3. Reconstitute porcinis in the broth.  Once it's simmered and the mushrooms are hydrated, add worchestershire sauce and tomato paste.
  4. Accidentally the whole bottle of wine.
  5. Bring to simmer, and add porcini sauce.  Season with about half of the spices.
  6. Let simmer for an hour or so, then add diced potatoes.
  7. Let simmer another hour, add chopped carrots and leek.
  8. Blah blah another hour, add chopped mushrooms.
  9. About a half hour before finishing, add haricot vert so they keep some texture.  Correct spices and salt.

This was the end result, with the side of some crusty multigrain bread for soaking, and some super delicious cheddar they had for tasting today.  The cheese has a nice mild flavor, with a sweet and salty rind.  The bread wasn't so great, as it's a bit bland (they should have used some honey or molasses or something to perk it up), but after soaking in the broth it works ok.  The stew really turned out a lot more like a soup, as it's not very thick.  I guess it's really just a beef and vegetable soup, but that's ok.  It would make an excellent dinner on some cold snowy evening.  Since that's not really an option, it's good that it also is delicious on a warm tropical evening.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ross Douthat is a fucking idiot

Go read this.

Did you get the main point he's making? "Letting someone falsely convicted of a crime be put to death is more just than making them be in prison for life.  They get more publicity, and therefore have a better chance at getting a second trial that exonerates them."

Holy fucking shit.  It's better to gamble your life away in the hope that you'll actually get justice?

Hey, let's dissect his closing paragraph:

Abolishing capital punishment in a kind of despair over its fallibility would send a very different message. It would tell the public that our laws and courts and juries are fundamentally incapable of delivering what most Americans consider genuine justice.

Yes, fucking forbid that we change something just because a) some fucktards aren't happy until people die, and b) they could have their happy world view crushed.

It could encourage a more cynical and utilitarian view of why police forces and prisons exist, and what moral standards we should hold them to. 

Because we all know that the police are held to only the highest standards, and that prisons are only run in the interest of society and the benefit of all.

And while it would put an end to wrongful executions, it might well lead to more overall injustice.

You are a shitbag, Ross Douthat.

Saturday: Lunch out

After not being sure what I wanted to eat for most of the day, I decided to just go back to the burger place next to WF before getting groceries.  

I got the same onion and fry side I had last time, which was as way-too-big as last time:

My burger this time was cheddar cheese + bacon + mushrooms + mixed greens + tomato (kind of pale, though) + green onions.  My sauce was the "hot wing sauce," which was a nice match.

Nicely pink inside:

This was also way too big, and I left with the "unpleasantly too full" feeling.  Still, that helped cut down on the impulse grocery shopping, so that's a good thing.

I think tomorrow is going to be a cooking day, so maybe I'll do a recipe thing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday: The 39 Steps

The movie is basically identical to the play.  There are a few differences, but with large stretches of identical dialogue, it's pretty much the same thing.  There's enough humor in the original that it's not so strange that they reworked it as a comedy.

One thing missing from the play that the movie has is that sweet ass autogyro above.  The play used a North by Northwest reference done with shadow puppets instead, which works, but still isn't an autogyro.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday: adventure!

After a week of leftovers, I decided to do something different.  Manoa Valley Theater has been advertising seemingly during every show I watch.  Since I watch almost everything via DVR now-a-days, and that removes 90% of commercials, the fact that I've seen their advertisements so pervasively says something about how much they must have bought.

Anyway, I started with dinner at the ramen place by work.  I don't believe I have ever seen this place have more than six people in it at any one time, but today it was completely filled.  It looked a lot like they'd impressed the entire family into service.  Mom was waiting tables, Grandpa was clearing tables and setting up napkins, Daughter was running the register, and Young Sons were handing out menus and getting water.  Let's say that Dad was cooking in the back, but I couldn't see.

Part of the reason I like this place so much is that they have these wonderful combo deals: $10 for a mini ramen, plate of gyoza, plus an entree (unagi for me tonight).  Admittedly, the rice was overcooked and dry, and the unagi was a bit small, but balanced against the rest of the dinner, a smaller piece of eel isn't that bad.  I do wish they'd label the soy sauce and gyoza sauce dispensers. I always have to pour a bit out, and see which one is more red.

After dinner, I went to the theater, and was able to head directly in. 

Oh look, a playbill:

The play they're showing at the moment is "The 39 Steps," based on this movie, which is in turn apparently based on this book.  It's been redone as a comedy, and works well in a parody noir style.  Part of the humor is based on the fact that there are only four actors in the entire production, and therefore requires a lot of fast costume changes on (or just off) stage.  In any case, fun show, well acted, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Hmm...I just went to see if I could find the original movie on DVD, and discovered that it's available from the Internet Archive.  A quick wget later, and I know what I'm doing tomorrow evening.

After the show, I decided to get something snacky.  My original thought was one of those chocolate croissants, but the bakery closes at seven.  Instead, I went and got a pizzabird from McDonald's.

Ok, it's a M&M McFlurry, which contains neither pizza nor birds.  However, years ago, while helping with homework late at night, I mentioned that we should go get a snack.  Instead of remembering "McFlurry," or even "Those fake-ass blizzards that clown bastard makes," my brain came up with "pizza...birds."

And that has been the name my brain associates with them ever since.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday: leftovers means I have nothing to put here

Let's see if I have any random pictures to post instead:

Team Corgi carries a stick.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday: Nothing cool rhymes with "tues"

Dinner was the same as yesterday, except my baguette had gone impossibly stale. I plan to pick up a new one tomorrow.  Instead of pictures, two stories about animals from today:

  1. I walked out of the IfA to see a cat trying to hide in the plants. I walk over, heading for my car, and notice that the cat has a bird in his mouth. "What are you doing?" I asked. The cat panicked, dropped the bird, and ran to sit in the parking lot.  I start to walk away, only to stop when I see the bird flop around, and try to get his wings to fold back up correctly.  I watched for a few minutes, and he was able to get them back to normal, and hop up to hide on a window sill. There's not much I could do for him, so I started back to my car.  When I noticed that that damn cat was still sitting there, I walked after him until he started to run away into the bushes around someone's house.  Hopefully the bird was able to sort itself back out and get away before that cat decided to come back.  It was clearly someone's cat, as it was bright white and seemed to be fat and healthy.  It's unfortunate that they don't keep it inside where it can't kill things.
  2. As I was turning in to my apartment, I stopped to wait for another car to leave the driveway.  I noticed a guy walking his dog and returning home to the building.  The other car drives away, and I see the dog approaching the stairs up to the door.  He has his head turned around to look at the car pulling out, and isn't looking where he's walking. WHAM! The dog jumps backward after smashing his head into the wall next to the stairs, he gives it a surprised "OMGWTF! WHERE DID THIS COME FROM!?" look, and then continues on up the stairs with a happy little step.
I guess the point of these stories is that even though lots of animals are cute, some are murderous death machines, and some are hilarious comedies waiting to happen.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mon-day: You have to pronounce it correctly

Alternate title 1: "Oh crap, a squeezy bottle."
I got the bottle awhile ago so I could do things like this: make salad dressings. Also to do sauce decorations and such things, but it's basically sat in my cupboard since I got it.  Since making dressing always takes the longest of all parts of salad making, I figured I'd blitz up a big batch and put it in the bottle.  My recipe was:

  • Squeeze of tomato paste
  • Smaller squeeze of garlic paste
  • Few glugs of balsamic vinegar
  • Equal amount of olive oil
  • Splash of vermouth to even it out and cut down the intensity
  • Salt/pepper
Blitzed up with the stick blender, and then dressed on my regular lettuce/tomato salad, with some of my romano cheese.

Alternate title 2: "I really like my big ramekins"
I had to kind of cram the triangular slice of pizza casserole into the circular ramekin, but it allowed me to heat it in the oven instead of the microwave.  Om nom nom crusty burnt cheese.  Also: chunk of bread.

The "mon" stuff:

Oh man, a snorlax bean bag chair? That's super cool!

A snorlax dress? Yay, snorlax!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bunday: slightly less blah

Today's daily bunny bunny was super cute:

I did finally get out and get groceries today, and although I've been thinking about meatloaf for a week or so, I decided to go with something equally comfort foody, but substantially easier to make. Despite the fact that it's totally something invented by the 1970s, pizza casserole is totally a delicious throwback to my childhood.  I've had people tell me before that it's "just something my mom made up," but the internet tells me differently.  Google comes up with piles of recipes, none of which really match the one I know. So:

  • Like a pound of ground beef (this would have been Maui beef, but WF had a "eating local" thing today, and sold out)
  • About half-ish of an onion
  • 1c macaroni (I used the whole wheat one so I could claim that this totally not healthy meal was healthy)
  • 10 mushrooms. Maybe a half pound? 
  • ~1/8lb pepperoni
  • ~1/8lb salami
  • Deli/box/thingy of pizza sauce from the WF make-a-pizza area (14oz)
  • Cheese
Saute the onion until translucent (in the super big 12" nonstick skillet), and then add the beef and brown it.  While that's happening, boil the mac.  I added the mushrooms once the meat was cooked, and quickly sauteed them to get some of the moisture out.  Choppy choppy the cured meats, and then add to the meat with the pasta and pizza sauce. Mix mix mix, and then bake for a half hour or so at 350.  Remove, add the cheese (I used a hefty dose of pecorino romano to get that fragrant sheepy goodness, topped with slices of provolone), and then return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

I'll take a picture tomorrow, as I was too hungry to bother today. Besides, i can't think of anything that rhymes with "Monday" yet, so I won't have an animal picture to post then anyway.  

Since this makes like six servings, I'll probably be eating it for the rest of the week.  Part of the idea behind this was to give me something that I could make and then eat for the rest of the week without having to come up with new stuff or cook too much.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Caturday: blah


Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday: lazy = tacos

Since I was out of planned food, I just picked up tacos on the way home. Woo lazy!

The taco picture is a zombie because I've been watching this movie on my DVR this evening.  It's led me to a conclusion that luckily someone else has had:

Boris Karloff and Hugh Laurie totally look alike.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday: BLT!

I couldn't find a rack, so I just blotted my tomatoes dry today:
This worked well to keep them from bleeding all over everything and turning the sandwich into a soggy mess. I also went with just two slices instead of three.  This ensured that each slice had a foothold on the bread, stabilizing things as well.