Let’s have a toast for the meow-meows.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy drops Wednesday the 22nd. And you better believe Soldout. will have your analysis. And puns.
Post with 17 notes
An aviation holding pattern, says my inappropriately-anthropomorphized friend Mr. Wikipedia, is “a maneuver designed to delay an aircraft already in flight while keeping it within a specified airspace.” I flew to Madison, Wisconsin last weekend to see the woman I love. The plane I was on landed early, mercifully and quickly — I was anxious to see her, after all. My heart is what was stuck in the holding pattern. We rejoiced, we cried, we enjoyed each other. Then we ate at L’Etoile, winner of the coveted Dr. Zachary Award For Best Meal I Ate In Madison And Possibly In 2010. (Oh yeah, it won some Beard-award thing, too. I didn’t see any spectacular beards there, though.)
(amuse bouche: roth kaese moody blue (smoked!) cheese, apple butter, cinnamon-ginger tuile. oh, and a nut.)
In a nod to locavores (and perhaps to fend off annoying questions from foodies), the menu bludgeons you with its Wisconsin-ness as soon as you make eye contact. Mysterious and foreboding farm names like Black Earth Valley, Fantome and Snug Haven pepper the menu, which led me to assume that the wheels of cheese, crates of produce and head of cattle are ported back to Madison by hobbits.
(her first course: candy onion soup, grilled leaf lettuce, pine nuts, lardons, sarvecchio, grape must.)
The Girl(tm) definitely likes her sweets, and “candy” was no idle term for the onions in this soup, which was more of a thin puree and an elegant take on the French bistro classic. I’m still partial to the rich, molten-cheese-destroying-the-roof-of-your-mouth version with caramelized onion slices hanging off the side of your spoon. But this was an alarm clock for the palate. I had no complaints. I never had any complaints about my love, either, except that she lived where I did not. She’s sweeter than onion soup.
(my first course: duck confit and cold noodle salad, asian pear kimchi, cracklins (!!), cilantro.)
Being the Shrek-like oaf that I am, I always shout an enthusiastic yes to the words “duck,” “confit,” and “cracklins.” This appetizer took duck confit in a lighter direction, using it as an unctuous garnish amid a light, dashi-dressed swirl of vermicelli. Pickled stuff appears frequently on L’Etoile’s menu, as well as in their gastropub Graze next door. Think Restaurant Eugene supplying Holeman & Finch; you’re starting to get the picture.
(her midcourse: sheep’s milk cheese agnolotti, pork meatballs, sage broth, olive-oil compressed summer squash)
(my midcourse: blue prawn scampi, white wine braised leeks, garlic crostini, spicy shrimp americaine sauce)
I was starting to get the picture too. My wonderful and perceptive woman noticed my face clouding — not from the silken cheese and pillowy pasta, nor from the sauce Americaine. I wanted to do, and did, very inappropriate things to that plate after scarfing down the prawns. The sauce tasted of browned butter and the sea. But she sensed that I was pained by the holding pattern our lives had been maneuvering in since she moved away.
(her third course: dry-aged ribeye, potato-bacon tart, panko onion ring, haricot vert, whole grain mustard-riesling sauce.)
She and I dovetail like steak and a potato-bacon tart. Specifically this potato-bacon tart. Unquestionably the star of the evening, it outshone the perfectly-cooked ribeye, veg and sauce. Imagine your grandmother or mom’s best mashed potatoes. Then imagine that they are permeated with the memory of bacon sizzling when you woke up on a snow day. Also, the bacon is made of crack cocaine. (In case you’re wondering, I’m the steak and she’s my little potato-bacon tart in this clumsy extended metaphor. I promise that I mean that sweetly, if you’re reading this right now, dear.) We gobbled it up greedily, together, until it ran out.
(my third course: grouper, toasted farro, heirloom bean and pancetta salad, caramelized shallot marmalade, ground cherry, mint pesto.)
See those little yellow things that look like gumballs? Those are ground cherries. They’re like tomatoes, and they’re tart, tiny and sweet, unexpected treasures on what would be a fantastic dish even without them. I’d never encountered the ingredient before, and I hope it won’t be the last time. I’d never encountered a woman like her, either, and I hope it won’t be the last time. It’s like winning the lottery, looking down and seeing that ground cherry, or looking across the table and seeing her smiling face.
(the cheese course: ridgeway ghost (goat), ocooch mountain (sheep), pleasant ridge reserve 21 month (cow), raw milk gouda (cow), 12-year aged cheddar (cow), and buttermilk blue (cow).)
Sometimes, you don’t get to have all the cheeses. L’Etoile’s all-Wisconsin cheese menu offers four options: three for $12, four for $14.50, five for $16.50, or the gonzo option: all 29 cheeses for $60. (Bring all your friends!)We chose three cheeses each. Sometimes you’ve got to do the responsible thing and leave a good cheese behind, lest everything crumble apart like a 12-year aged cheddar.
So, we did just that. We realized that our hearts were stuck flying standby and that holding patterns are for aircraft, not human beings. We wallowed, we cried, we enjoyed each other as best we could. The trip to the airport wasn’t long enough, and the plane left early, cruelly and painfully — I didn’t want to leave her, after all. But maybe something unexpected will come from this, and we’ll find the surprise ground cherry in our romance-turned-friendship. There could be, like there was at L’Etoile that night, a sweet ending.
(her dessert: door county peach and almond tart with brown butter ice cream and apricot sauce.)
(my dessert: raspberry souffle with maple ice cream and raspberry coulis.)
This was disgusting in concept, underwhelming at first application, but now: delicious! It’s very subtle.
Post with 1 note
Nothing worry of comment. The winter doldrums hit me like a sack of 3-day-old baguettes, and it’s been a lot of kale and soup (and not a small amount of Easy Mac.)
And hey, it’s Hawks season, so most of my ‘nutrition’ has come in this form:
About ten days ago I was operating at 40% happiness, but I’m up to maybe 83% now. Expect a post soon.
Photo with 2 notes
deconstructed paella: chicken confit & spring onion puree, paella rice cake & shrimp, fried scallions, smoky red pepper sauce
Post with 1 note
Quick stats about my Eat on 30 experience:
$27.74: my final budget
$16.24: my final budget excluding alcohol (DOH!)
$??.??: the amount you are going to donate to Project Open Hand
(infinity): the amount of face-punches you’ll get you if you don’t!
Threats. It’s How I Roll.(TM)
In all seriousness though, thank you so much to Tami at Running With Tweezers for running this eye-opening project. And a big thank you to the other participants. I’m glad to have made your e-quaintance. You all have done a much better job with the spirit and the purpose of the challenge than I’ve done. Still, I’m looking forward to Eat on 30 Take Three! Next time I’ll be a little more sensible.
Here’s a picture of my final Eat on 30 breakfast, a Spanish-style tortilla with potatoes, carmelized onions and herbs, as well the remaining 3 oz of my chicken sausage.
Can I get an OM NOM NOM?
Post with 1 note
First, the lesson. *waterfall, chirping birds and gong sound*
I make remarkably good fried chicken. I cooked some last night for lunch today. I’m not sure what happened, so I’ll write a haiku about it:
on the frying of chicken late at night
why’s it in my hand?
should be cooling on the rack—
damn! it’s in my mouth.
So… I wasn’t hungry at all this morning, and a banana was all I needed. Lunch was potato-leek soup and some
burned, soggy caramelized, marinated eggplant, and dinner was a brined and grilled chicken breast over red leaf lettuce with a splash of vinaigrette. Total for the week is now $10.38. I’m supposed to meet a friend at a dive bar to watch the Phillies, so I plan to nurse one Guinness for the entire evening. (Wish me luck. A lot of it. [First Editor’s note: Alternately, you can wish him a PBR.])
The real excitement, culinarily speaking, is that my chicken drumsticks are now curing (parsley, thyme, garlic, orange zest, green onion, pepper, and lots of salt) for my chicken confit, which will be served with my ‘deconstructed paella’ on Sunday. Maybe I will fare better than Ron on Top Chef!
BREAKING NEWS: [Second Editor’s note: Observant readers (in other words, anyone but Zack) will notice that the green onion seems to be absent in the above photo. It was on the counter, which is a difficult place from which to impart its flavor unto the chicken. This has now been rectified.]
[Third Editor’s note: I mean what the hell, man, seriously.]
Page 1 of 3