Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Thanksgiving turkey and other weekend notes

In case someone was wondering (I have four readers! Hello, Beth and Kirk and Angie and Lisa!)Thanksgiving was a success. Turkey came out fine, made 2 types of cranberries (simply from recipes on the Ocean Spray bag), stuffing with ground pork, and garlic mashed potatoes. We did the 500-degree thing for a half an hour and lowered to 350. I don’t have a thermometer that can be left in the oven so I check the middle of both breasts after another hour and a half and found them to be at 149 and 155 so I left it go for another 20 minutes. That may have been too much since they measured over 175 the next time. Oops. We let is rest for a half an hour and then cut. We both proclaimed it perfectly moist and fine. We could have probably taken it out when I checked the bird the first time…

The whole thing was finished with a delicious dessert lovingly prepared by my good friend Marie Callender.

Did anyone eat out for Thanksgiving? My first choice would have been a newish French restaurant in Scripps Ranch, La Bastide Bistro. They were serving up (as posted on their website) ROASTED PUMPKIN SOUP WITH FOIE-GRAS CHANTILLY, GOAT CHEESE AND ORGANIC BEET SALAD, TRADITIONAL TURKEY, CONFIT LEG, STUFFED BREAST WITH MUSHROOM AND TOASTED PECAN TART, BUTTERNUT SQUASH MOUSSE AND ALMOND RUM SAUCE. $32.50. Maybe next year.

I like these long weekends – no traveling, we just stayed at home. But that is a nice chance to go out to eat a few times. Went to El Torito (Mira Mesa location) on Wednesday – don’t laugh, they have an interesting menu and it’s a comfortable, simple meal and you can stuff yourself silly for less than 20 bucks a person with drinks. We usually make it there a couple times a year.

Friday found us at Just Fabulous in Kensington – we started with soup (butternut for me and mushroom for her) then I got the kobe beef burger (ah, yummy! Thanks for the recommendation, Zen Foodist!) and my wife got ravioli (cheese filled I believe) with shrimp, sausage and ham strips. We ended it all with a peanut butter mousse dessert that plated beautifully. All of it was very good. A fairly reasonable meal (plus a glass of wine for her and a beer for me) for $80 with tip. They looked to be having a slow night, but we were early (6 or 6:30 or so) but we were seated in the best seat in the house (right in front of the dessert display!)

Finally on Sunday, made it back to Roppongi in La Jolla for their half-priced tapas happy hour (4 to 6 pm) for the second time - went last about a year ago. The two of us shared the crab cakes, mini lamb chops, kung pao calamari steak and duck quesadilla. Finished it all off with an apple tarte. Everything was very good and nicely presented with interesting sauces and flavors. No drinks for us that night, total (with a nice sized tip) was $50.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Waters Fine Catering

Forget about Turkey Day 2005 for a bit and lets talk about the Macy’s School of Cooking (at the Mission Valley Home store, next to Target). Last Saturday, Chef Andrew Spurgin from Waters Fine Catering joined Chef Bernard from The Marine Room for two hours of cooking. Chef Bernard is the regular “emcee” at these classes and he usually has a guest chef that comes in, though sometimes it will be just Chef Bernard, who puts on an entertaining and educational class. Typically, a 3-course meal is prepared with sample plates served to all.

The readers of San Diego Magazine has given Water Fine Catering high marks the last couple of years in their reader poll “Best of…” lists. I won’t pass judgment one way or another from that (I mean, who knows….I believe IHOP has appeared on such a list) but surely it is a city favorite. (Hard to find, I hear, on West Morena Blvd.)

The theme was Holiday Entertaining Secrets – I care little of entertaining, but I’m of course always interested in some interesting foods. Chef Andrew had plenty of stories to tell – he got off on tangents to the point my wife whispered, “Come on already, cook something.” I found him to be an excellent speaker and seems to be very knowledgeable.

Sometimes at these classes (I’ve been to 4 or 5 this year) the chef starts out with an empty slate, so to speak, grabbing the raw materials from counter and making the food right in front of us with the samples coming right from that. Other times, the recipes are quickly demonstrated with samples handed out from food that was prepared earlier (or “in back”.) I suppose it depends on the size of the group. The room was probably half full (full capacity is 110 or so) and was the largest group I’ve seen there.

Okay, on to the food. First Chef Andrew made a Truffle Fonduto – I wasn’t sure if this was just a cute name for a fondue or if it has real meaning. From the recipe it seems to be fondue with the inclusion of eggs. It was served to us in a small cup with a variety of dipping items (marble potato, asparagus spear, cubed bread). Tasty. Next he made a Apple-Walnut Vinaigrette for a Frisée Salad. Again very tasty. I’m not to the point in the kitchen where I would make more own dressing, but it was delicious – basically a apple juice reduction with oil (one part walnut oil to two parts olive oil) and vinegar, a little finely chopped garlic and shallots.

Main course, which I have pictured, was Duck Breast with Yam and Gold Potato Purée, Vegetables and an Orange-Fig Balsamic Sauce with Anise. Whew. It all sounds fancy! And again it was delici-yoso….ahh, sorry, lets just say it was deeee-lish! (There is a little fig in there with the sause).

My, it's really a small portion!

Cost is $25 for the 2 hour class. Oddly, they don’t have a website, but you can see class descriptions by picking up a flyer at the store. And if you want any of the recipes, or info on the upcoming classes, fire an email at me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Turkey Week 2005

We bought a turkey. It’s gently resting in the refrigerator now.

Butterball - are they good? We’ve never made a turkey before. (That’s bad!) I think they have a hotline to call if you get stuck. (That’s good!) But it will be just for my wife and myself. (Oh, that’s bad!) And it’s 14 pounds. (Oh, that’s a massive amount of leftovers!)

Alton Brown had a show that aired this week in which he baked the turkey at 500 degrees for 30 minutes to brown it up and seal in the juices and then lowered it to the normal 350, put in a temperature probe and took it out when it hit 161 degrees an hour and a half later.

This is the plan. Will toss in a some rosemary and sage into the gut of the bird and will let it rest for a half hour after taking it out.

If all this doesn’t seem right let me know. Soon.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wine and Food Fest 2005

Oh, my woefully neglected blog.

Went to the San Diego Wine and Food Festival last Saturday. As expected, with advertising saying that over 100 wineries would be pouring, it was overwhelmingly wine orientated. Yet there were many restaurants represented also – maybe 30. But what I know about wine can fill a thimble. Sure, I like to taste and try new (to me) wines, but I really prefer interesting foods and tastes. So, it was a little disappointed from that aspect. (Though it would truly be a deal just to do wine tastings for an afternoon – hundreds of bottles in a small area. Gotta be a wine lovers dream!)

Everyone got a wine glass and plate/tray when you entered that you could carry around from booth to booth. Some served up bite sized samples, some a bit more. Most popular food tables were the samples of Brandt Beef and the larger duel booth shared filled with cheeses from Aniata Cheese Company in Del Mar and Taste in Hillcrest. Lines were 5 or 10 minutes long at each of these, but most you could walk right up to and be drinking or eating within a few seconds.

The most generous serving was from (of all places) Viejas with (the pictured) seafood ceviche. Jack’s La Jolla served up a great butternut squash soup, but I didn’t make many mental notes of much of the food. There were also several beer companies represented, pouring good amounts plus one tequila tasting table. I hope everyone had designated drivers or found someway to sleep it off before they drove home.

San Diego Restaurant Week note: I see they have posted the menus for many of the restaurants. Make your plans now to have the Braised Short Rib Ravioli with Wild Mushrooms or the Basil Roasted Salmon with Asparagus Risotto Cake and finish up with a Semi-cooked Chocolate Truffle Cake with Raspberry Sauce! Or what ever else delights you! :)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Extraordinary and extra

Short entry.

Not much to write about this week. Typically our nightly meals at home are nothing worthy of blogging about. We did have a delicious afternoon lunch at Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego (Union Street location) with my in-laws. All of us have a love of chocolate and sweetness so it was a perfect place to visit.

I had my camera with me but I forgot to use it. But we each had a scrumptious piece of cake. And now we are fat.

Is anyone going to any of the events surrounding the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival (I’ve heard it’s a festivas for the rest of us, but I’ll have to get back to you on that). I have a single ticket to the “Grand Event” on Saturday that I was lucky enough to land from one of the sponsors as a promo. It’s a slightly staggering $85 otherwise a person. So far my wife isn’t interested enough for that (although any of us would easily spend that on a dinner out) so it looks like I’ll be going solo. If no other area bloggers are going I’ll be sure to come back with a full report.

Overall, it seems that the emphasis is more on wine than food - taste wine from over 100 wineries! Mouth watering cuisine from San Diego's finest restaurants! Gourmet food companies and culinary exhibits! They do list restaurants like Region and Cafe Cerise, El Bizcocho, Roppongi, Soleil @ K and over 30 others.