Tag Archives: food

food porn

So now that I got a few thousand page views because I used the “P” word in this blog post title, let me get to the actual post…

I have a pretty cool life, like how I get invited to fun events (restaurant openings and previews, etc) because my best girlfriend’s husband is an executive chef. Of course that can go either way, like when he’s catering an event and runs short on waitstaff and she and I have to run out and buy white shirts and go pass trays of food or pour drinks for a few hours. That’s happening less now since his kids are getting old enough to don the black-and-whites so we old folks don’t have to.

Anyway, this week his new restaurant, Mediteranneo, inside the Zero Degrees Hotel, also new, opened officially and I was invited to dine there. It’s along the banks of the Norwalk River in Connecticut and the windows (which are actually operational and open!) overlook a waterfall that provided both a beautiful view and a lovely backdrop of ambient sound for diners.

I won’t get into the food too much here since you’d be better served by reading this ARTICLE written by an actual food writer who attended the night before I did. Suffice it to say I had the Black sea bass crudo with citrus, sesame seaweed, and Dauno Gargano EVOO for my appetizer (a new dish for me) and the Parmesan crusted West Coast halibut with tomato chive buerre blanc and sautéed spinach (my all time fave of my friend’s creations) for my main course. That was followed by a dessert of another of my old standby favorites, a molton chocolate cake that we love so much we’ve been known to call Chef Al at the restaurant and ask him to bring a few home for us.

I also grabbed a piece of the wood oven pizza we ordered for the table, which was fabulous, and I tried my friend’s rhubarb dessert, also incredible.

So if you’re in driving distance of Norwalk, CT, stop by the restaurant and treat yourself to a culinary experience. Do what I do and go with a bunch of friends so you can each order something different, send the plates around the table, and try even more!

Mediterraneo  353 Main Ave., Norwalk, CT Phone:  (203) 229-0000

Cat

bologna, hushpuppies and smoke sauce, oh my

I’ve traveled enough, you’d think I’d cease to be amazed at how vastly different the culinary offerings are within my own country. Without going very far from home, twenty minutes or less, I can get Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Portuguese, Italian, Mexican, German, Greek and French cuisine, even Texas barbecue.

What I don’t know where to find in my little corner of New York are hush puppies, or grits, or fried okra, or collard greens, or a fried bologna sandwich.

Keep Calm and Eat BolognaWhat the layman might not realize is that as a writer I have to remember these regional differences while writing stories set in other parts of thecountry. I must remember it’s pop, not soda. It’s a hero or a hoagie, not a wedge or a sub. It’s sweet tea, rather than iced tea. And I have to remember that when my characters stop for a quick lunch in Oklahoma, they’re not going to see the same menu with the same choices I’d see here in NY. And that is why I used for my research the menu of an actual restaurant in Oklahoma for my characters’ date in ONE NIGHT WITH A COWBOY.

That menu from Joseph’s Fine Foods in Drumright, Oklahoma was my first exposure to the existence of a fried bologna sandwich, jalapeno hush puppies and smoke sauce. I wrote it into my book, based a sex scene around it, and even included it in my marketing, because it seems smoked bologna is sexy!

Now, all I have to do is get there and get some!!

how many sleeps til christmas?! part 2 -gifts for the foodie

I had so much fun putting together the post with the list of gift ideas for the writer in your life last week, I decided to make another, but this time for the food/drink lover in your life. So here you go…get out your Christmas lists and credit cards!

Bacon KeychainBACON!

Everyone loves bacon, right? And I heard a horrible rumor that there may be a shortage due to weather and failing crops that were needed to feed the pigs… I don’t know, it’s all too horrible to think about, so let’s move on to the gift for the bacon lover! How about a key chain proclaiming your love for both that someone special in your life, and bacon? Courtesy of Etsy.com and WhiteLilieDesigns.

Lobster Print~

LOBSTER, anyone?

How about framing this print for a unique item of kitchen decor?

A beautiful antique lobster image, printed on a vintage dictionary page from Black Baroque on Etsy. They have tons of other designs as well.

~

Trader Vic's Book o Food & Drink

TRADER VIC

I’ve just recently read about Trader Vic’s history and it’s pretty amazing. More than that, so is his famed dark rum which I also just tasted for the first time.rum_dark

Buying this cookbook for my husband was a no brainer and I’m at this very moment holding in my hand the original 1946 printing of Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink, available on Amazon, and it is totally cool.

Imagine how happy a gift of a bottle and the book would make the rum/food lover in your life.

Any other suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

Cat

red hot & blue chicken salad

Red Hot & Blue Chicken Salad

A Red Hot & Blue Signature Recipe:

I’m no chef but I do pride myself on my creative uses of leftovers, which is how this dinner came about. Hot wing sauce and blue cheese dressing makes this a great way to use up leftover chicken with all the satisfaction of eating hot wings. You get all the good stuff you’d get in a bar if you ordered chicken wings–the blue cheese dressing, the carrot and celery for dipping, and of course the tasty hot chicken wings, all on top of lettuce so you can pretend you’re being healthy! AND as I’m sitting there deciding what to name my recipe, it hit me. Red Hot and Blue–just like the name of my book series. It’s not often I can be both a promo ho and a foodie at the same time… okay, maybe more often than you’d think. But in any case, try this with 4th of July leftover chicken. Quick, easy and you’ll never notice you’re eating leftovers!

1 cup leftover cooked chicken, sliced to bite sized pieces

1 Tb Butter

2 Tb Hot Sauce (such as Crystal or Frank’s Red Hot)

Lettuce

Carrots, chopped

Celery, chopped

Blue Cheese dressing

Buffalo Hot Wing ChickenIn saucepan melt butter and add hot sauce. When blended, add chicken and heat just until warm.

With the remaining ingredients, assemble your salad (in either individual serving bowls for each person or one large bowl for serving family style). Place warm chicken pieces on top and serve immediately.

Note: You can add other salad ingredients if you’d like. I usually like to keep it purely chicken-wing themed, but tonight I had a cut tomato I needed to use up so that’s in there too.

Cat

going nuts

Yes, this post is about actual nuts, but it’s also about the insane cultural environment we’re living in–as a writer I do so love when words align like that!

Anyway, I’ve touched a tiny bit on here, and delved in a bit deeper on my own blog, about PayPal (and in reaction to PayPal certain retailers such as Bookstrand as well) and their recent determination that selling erotica and erotic romance is the same financial risk as selling Pornography, Prostitution and Online Gambling. As a result indie authors and publishers were all lumped into one big category and declared obscene. (This is an extremely simplified in-a-nutshell explanation culled from various official statements, as well as emails and letters written and posted on various places around the web. If you are interested I suggest you Google the topic to make your own determinations.)

Anyway, thanks to industry pressure–mainly irate readers and authors as well as Mark Coker of Smashwords–as well as a denial from Visa (whose policies PayPal cited for their decision), PayPal is reevaluating their position and backing off… slightly… but at least things are moving back in the right direction.

So, now it seems that the food industry is experiencing the same kind of issues, mainly misclassification and an attempt at censorship, and of all things, WALNUTS are the target.

In a recent article I read that many recent studies have determined that omega-3 fats may lower cholesterol, inhibit tumor growth, lower the risk of breast cancer and treat major depression. Walnuts naturally contain omega-3 fats. However, when Diamond Walnuts dared to state that on their label, the FDA cracked down on them with the following statement…

“Because of these intended uses, your walnut products are drugs… Your walnut products are also new drugs … because they are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced conditions. Therefore … they may not be legally marketed with the above claims in the United States without an approved new drug application.”

Now, I’m not talking about Diamond Walnuts making false, unsubstantiated claims. They have the omega-3 studies to cite, and the omega-3 fats are actually in the nuts naturally, but in a twisted sense of oversight the FDA has now grouped walnuts with drugs. Again, this is an extremely simplified explanation of what is a complicated situation so READ it yourself.

So, to recap, in the U.S. today, ROMANCE NOVELS = PORN and WALNUTS = DRUGS and both need to be regulated for our own protection.

What all this does, however, is make me want both more.

I’ve got a bag of walnuts here somewhere that I keep around for if I’m making chocolate chip cookies. Or if I take the time to make slow-cooking oatmeal, I’ll throw some walnuts on top to up my protein for the meal. Now, because I like to be contrary, I’m going to eat more walnuts. I’m going to put them in my salad. I’m going to leave them laying around in bowls in the house for a snack. I may make that my gift of the year this Christmas–nuts and nut crackers for everyone!! In fact, my go-to contribution for all the parties I attended last season was nuts–mixed pecans, peanuts and walnuts tossed with rosemary-infused olive oil, spiced with cumin, sugar, salt, pepper and just a touch of cayenne pepper and toasted for 20 minutes in the oven. That dish was a hit at all the parties pre-censorship, it should be huge now it’s an illegal “new” drug!

too many cooks in the kitchen

Yes it has become an expression and perhaps lost some of its meaning but Saturday night at our first Cooking through the Decades dinner with friends there truly were too many cooks in the kitchen, as evidenced by the vast and varied menu.

As I mentioned last post my friends and I, who gather weekly to share a meal, decided to add some flair to the get-togethers by creating a themed menu around periods in history. Though I hope we can skip out of order later and do a Colonial meal, as well as a Southern Civil War Era one, we began with the first decade of the 1900s. The menu choices were to be inspired by our personal heritages since that period in US history was the age of immigration and we chose Ellis Island as our theme.

So we had German, Irish, Italian, Jewish and Polish all represented in various mixes among us and here is the menu we served; once you read it you will see what I mean about the too many cooks because there was much too much food and way too many carbs, but perhaps that is my 21st Century sensibilities talking.

Drinks: German Beer, Italian Wine

Appetizers: Polish Kielbassa & German Knockwurst served with German Pretzels in a honey mustard dipping sauce. Italian Pizza Rustica, Irish Dubliner Cheese with crackers, Italian Olives

First Course: Jewish Matzoh Ball Soup

Main Course: Irish Shepards Pie, Tossed Green Salad w/ Italian Vinaigrette

Desserts: Jewish Chocolate & Raspberry-filled Rugalah, German Almond Pastry Puffs, Apple Kugel, and Raspberry Tart, and 2 boxes of assorted purchased Italian bakery cookies.

That doesn’t include the hot wings and fried chicken cutlets we also served to the children because they turned their noses up at our fare. So you can imagine the kitchen, every square inch covered in food. If you were one of the 3 people who actually logged in to our live streaming web broadcast you don’t have to imagine!

Anyway, we are going to do this again in spite of the “are you insane?” look I got from my husband last week when he heard it was a “themed dinner”. It will probably be in 2 weeks we’ll do the second decade of the 19th century, the theme being World War I. This time I am hoping we plan a tighter, more contained and less random menu. I have some of my cookbooks and old magazines out looking for popular drinks of the period and researching what foods were rationed because of the war. A book I discovered on my shelves, Vintage Cocktails: Authentic Recipes and Illustrations from 1920-1960,says that in 1914 “As World War I rages, the Martini is America’s number-one cocktail, known throughout the world as the symbol of all things civilized.”

So there you go. Perhaps I’ll pack an overnight bag for this one since we might be drinking martinis. You may want to tune in to the live streaming broadcast.

cooking through the decades

So you already know my friends a) like to cook, b) like to eat and c) are a little bit crazy. I think the next grand scheme, which will begin tomorrow night, is proof of all three. You see I was away and left them to their own devices for one week with nothing to do and a few bottles of wine, and ‘cooking through the decades’ was born.

What is this of which I speak? They decided to each week choose a different decade and plan a meal around the food popular during that time period, and somehow it morphed to also include the drinks of the period and the clothing. I personally think our friend Grace simply wanted an excuse to dress up, but whatever, it’s happening.

Tomorrow we begin with the turn of the century. The age of immigration in this great country of ours when the huddled masses poured through Ellis Island carrying with them their meager belongings, whatever name the overworked immigration official bestowed upon them, and the foods native to their homeland.

This project has taken on a life of its own and tomorrow I’ll be cooking and I suppose looking for some sort of babushka to wear. We’re hoping to get a live cam up and running in the coming weeks so fans can join us for our weekly culinary travels through time. Hell, if nothing else, it should be entertaining!

nature’s bounty~clams

There’s just something raw and animalistic and yes, sexy, about catching your own food. Some of my favorite memories are clamming with friends on a salt pond in Rhode Island.

clamming

The clams are barely an hour old when we’d bring them back to the house and throw them in the closed shells on a hot BBQ grill rack. They cook only until they open up, then you take them in hand, shoot just a dash of hot sauce and eat them, all hot and tasty good, right out of the shells. No utensils, no plates. Add an icy cold beer to cool the fire of the hot sauce and you’ve got all you need.

Of course, for the catching this year, since clamming began at low tide which was 8 in the morning, we indulged in Mimosas made right on the boat out of Prosecco and orange juice.

Mimosas

This year we did something a little different. Since we had a professional chef with us, he insisted we not use the bounty up for our little grilling/drinking party. Instead, he brought the clams back to our rental’s kitchen and turned them into incredible home made chowder on the first night, so light and tasty people went back for third helpings. Then on the next night, the rest were made into Linguini and Clam Sauce, with tons of garlic, good olive oil and fresh parsley.

Clams in a cooler

Another summer’s Rhode Island vacation has come and gone, but the memories will last forever and next year we’ll be back. Clams, look out!

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when smoking is good…

No, I’m not talking cigarettes or even the hipper cigars. I’m talking smoked meat.

There’s this guy in a truck I stumbled upon a few years ago. He starts up the smoker in the morning, fills it full of ribs, drives to a parking lot and sits there. When the ribs are properly smoked, he’s open for business. When they’re gone, he’s done for the day. Incredible food and I was happy to find him parked along the road. Extra nice in this day of chain restaurants churning out mass amounts of cookie-cutter food.

Today I was equally as lucky. I stumbled upon a new BBQ place literally in a hole in the wall. The Round Up Texas Texas BBQ is on Rt. 9 in Cold Spring (Putnam County, NY) and is stuck in a parking lot behind Old Post Hardware. If there wasn’t a sign along the road (and smoke billowing out of the smoker) we would have never seen it.

The atmosphere is wooden picnic tables with rolls of paper towels on them, longhorns and indian blankets on the walls, and one huge flatscreen TV tuned to golf, but you are not there for the atmosphere, believe me. You are there for the brisket smoked 18 hours and the fall-off-the-bone ribs. An hour later I can still taste the smokey flavor in the back of my throat. It’s rare to have food that sticks with you–in a good way. The chicken was good (the skin was the best part). The spicy sausage was also good. But the stars were the brisket and ribs in my opinion, along with some wonderful and surprisingly spicy mac and cheese.

Places like that are few and far between in a world populated with Outback Steakhouses and Applebees. I’m making it my personal mission to make sure the little guys stick around.

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the little things in life

I write romance. I write military romance. I research the military to write said military romance and there is certain research you just can’t do on Google therefore, whether they are at a fire base in Afghanistan or at a desk stateside, I talk to soldiers and Marines sometimes more than I talk to my best friend. Why? Because I’ve moved way past the research level and into the friendship zone.

About a week ago the unthinkable happened. Something that changed the lives of those left behind forever. Two days ago, it happened again. Today, I asked my deployed friend what I could do for him and the platoon. He jokingly said he could use a hug, which of course, half a world away I couldn’t provide. Then he said, “Vienna Sausages. That’s what the guy sitting next to me wants.” I said okay. Anything else? “I’d love a jar of sliced jalepenos. Oh, and maybe some of that Chef Boyardee Ravioli. And chips.”

I guess it’s the simple things in life, the familiar, that we cling to at the most trying times like this. At first you simply go through the motions and try to remember to keep breathing. Exhaustion takes over and your body eventually remembers how to sleep again. And then one day, food becomes more than just a necessity and you find yourself actually hungry again, and craving the things that remind you of better times.

So tomorrow I will go to the grocery store and I will buy vienna sausage, and sliced jalepenos, and canned ravioli and chips, and I will shove as many as I can into a flat rate Priority Mail box because I can’t send a hug through the mail, but perhaps I can send a little comfort, even if it’s only comfort food.

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