Not Even

Californians do not know how to make bagels. It’s strictly a New York talent. Unless you’re a transplanted New York bagel baker in California, you will never know what a real bagel tastes like.

It’s all in the method. You must boil the dough first. It’s what gives the bagel its shiny, chewy exterior. Steaming them won’t do it, neither will brushing the tops with egg wash.

Bagels in California omit the boiling method so you end up with bready bagels that taste more like unsweetened donuts than genuine bagels.  FullSizeRender (21)

Speaking of which, bakeries are now fond of producing chocolate chip, cranberry and walnut, and other sweetened varieties of bagels for the undiscerning public. That’s unheard of in the real bagel world. It’s garlic, onion, poppy-seed, and pumpernickel in the genuine bagel environment.

I’ve noticed that most food stores are now making their own bagels. Don’t even. They’re terrible. So are the kind in those big warehouse food stores. Don’t waste your money.

I even tried importing a dozen bagels from my favorite New York shop except I couldn’t bring myself to pay $50 for the indulgence. It was the shipping costs that killed me.

I’m still on the lookout for a Jewish baker who is quietly boiling his bagels and doing all the right things to bring pleasure to his customers. I haven’t found him yet, but I know he exists somewhere in this vast state of mine.

Calvin says, “You’re dreaming. It’s like me hoping for brisket in my food dish.”

beagle

 

 

Down the Hall

Things started off with a cliffhanger as I prepared to oversee a food event for 60 people.

The food distribution truck showed up two and a half hours late and parked a block away instead of in front of the house like they usually do. Then the driver came to the front gate, a Hispanic dude, and saw the six steps leading to the front door and announced, “I don’t do stairs.”
“What?” I said incredulously.
“I don’t do stairs,” he said a second time. “It’s against company policy.”
“Really? You guys have been doing stairs for 20 years with us.”
He whipped out his cell phone, took a picture of those nasty stairs, and said, “I’ve just sent this off to my supervisor for instructions.” Then he disappeared around the corner to sit in his truck. photo-4

I called my rep. “I’ll fix this and get back to you,” he said.
I waited.
No driver.
No rep.
No food.
No answers.

I called my rep again.

“I’ll call my manager,” he said.

The driver came back to the gate. “If we don’t solve this I’ll have to take the food back to the warehouse.”

By now the chef, two friends, a co-worker and I were on the street staring the dude down in a gunslinger showdown.

Suddenly my rep appeared out of the ether. “I was in the neighborhood,” he said out of breath. A short, wiry guy with consternation all over his face. I showed him the tables set and ready and the kitchen.

I showed him those nasty stairs.

Meanwhile the dude had disappeared and returned with his first load of boxes. About 25 of them. At street level.

We had no choice but to make an assembly line sandbag style and run boxes from the street, up the nasty stairs, down the long hall, and into the kitchen.

It took us almost an hour to check every box against the order sheet. The dude was now in the kitchen helping us identify the boxes. The rep stood there with  jaw open.

We finished checking the last item, signed the sheet, and the dude disappeared around the corner.

The rep said he’d make sure this wouldn’t happen again.

You bet. Because you’d just lost a customer of 20 years, dude.

Calvin says, “Cut the dude some slack. If you hauled boxes all day, everyday of the week, you’d be a dragon lady throwing your rights around, too.”  beagle

Bring Out the Tamales

IMG_9279What is it about holiday parties that they always seem the same? I’ve hosted hundreds of them, attended even more, and every one of them is a replica of years past. The dinner whether served buffet style or delivered to the table, is usually the same fare – the requisite ham, turkey, and green bean casserole. I know some of you love all this tradition, but I don’t. I want to bring out the chicken smothered in mole sauce with a garnish of pomegranate seeds. Or a steaming hot bowl of pho with hard boiled egg, thin slices beef and mint leaves. I know. The kids would go “Eeu!” and grandma would roll her eyes and keel over. Mention Christmas and your taste buds come scrambling into your mouth, all jostling for position to be first in line for tradition.

Did you know that smell is the strongest sense we have? We can lose our eyesight, our taste buds can go south, touch is no longer accurate, and sound, well, don’t get me started. Smell, on the other hand, can take you back to your childhood when you came running into your mother’s kitchen to snatch a slice of freshly baked bread slathered with rich butter. Or it can remind you of your first glass of pink champagne when you breathed in the bubbles and they raced up your nose and made you sneeze like crazy, or when you got a whiff of a gardenia bush on a hot summer night letting off it’s sweet, sultry fragrance.

I’d like to start some new traditions that include not only exotic culinary delights, but aromas that would provide us with a new library of memories that would lead us into the future. Like smoked, crushed chiles, Spanish saffron, spicy chocolate, and star anise.

Calvin says, “Yep, smell is my obsession. I’m intoxicated by fox droppings.” beagle

 

It’s Not That Complicated People

It’s Thanksgiving this week, when most cooks in America freak, call a supermarket and order a pre-made turkey.

It’s funny because we’ve become a nation of foodies. Or at least the Food Network would have you believe that.

Have you noticed how many new cooking shows have come on the scene lately?

Children are now competing like the big chefs. They’re having to deal with the likes of Gordon Ramsey breathing fire down their little small necks.

How about the Holiday Baking Competition that’s running right now? They just kicked off the only experienced contestant older than Duff. All the rest are amateurs sweating their brains out as they pound sugar dough into holiday disasters, I mean desserts.

Why do we complicate things?  wall flowers1a

Can’t we just rinse a bird under running water, pat it dry, throw it in a pan and roast it in the oven? Four hours later it’s brown and done.

What’s so difficult about blanching string beans in a hot boiling water? Throw a stick of butter on them once they’re drained and in a dish, and voila, you have your green.

Then bake some potatoes alongside the bird. Don’t let the mashers control you.

The stuffing might be a bit daunting, but don’t fret. All it takes is lots of butter, celery, onions and cubed breadcrumbs. Then toss in a mound of savory seasonings, some vegetable broth, mix it all together in a bowl, pour the mixture into a baking dish and cook it alongside the bird and the potatoes.

Follow the directions for homemade cranberry sauce on a package of fresh cranberries or buy it at the store. It comes in a can.

And there you have it. Pour yourself a glass of wine or two, kick back and relax. You’re done.

Calvin says, “You’re not done until you toss me a turkey leg sans gravy because you don’t know how to make it.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Eating If You Want to Be Healthy

Are you reading about healthy eating lately?

I want to scream.

Corn is out, beef is in.   artichoke

Wheat is a no-no, it gives you a fat belly, but chicken is good.

Dairy is terrible, full of hormones and antibiotics, but tofu is worse, so go for quinoa.

Rice has arsenic in it. Arsenic? Yep, in the water.

Potatoes are suspicious. Why? What have they done to anybody?

Sugar, alcohol, and caffeine are poison. There go the bakeries, the beer and wine makers, and never mind the coffee growers in Central America.

Chocolate gets a bad wrap, too. (Spelling intended)

It’s utter confusion out there.

How do you shop and what do you eat?

Today I just read Valerie Comer’s blog who wrote, “I love eating chemicals and pesticides. After all, if this stuff preserves food, it will preserve me, too. Won’t it?” http://eatlocalgrown.com/article/11392-27-reasons-to-avoid-farmers-markets-satire.html

That’s a funny way to deal with it! She makes a good point.

Calvin says, “Kibble? Where did that come from? Probably some marketer’s brain fart to turn scraps into money.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Culture of the Lure

Alf and I went to a Home Show last weekend.

I knew it was going to be trouble before we left the neighborhood.

I can say no to candy, doughnuts, and ice cream, but I have no willpower when it comes to things for the house.  Fried Eggs

I managed to not sign any work orders with the floor guys and the kitchen granite guys, although I did make a couple of appointments for them to come out to the house later on.

What got me this time was a chef with a winsome personality demonstrating a line of amazing pots and pans that let you to cook without water and oil. He lured me into his area by tossing a freebie gadget in my direction. One of those plastic thingies that when inserted into a lemon it lets the juice out without the pits. It was hypnotic. Next thing I knew I was sitting in the front row hanging on to his every word. He made a raw salad, cooked fresh veggies in one of those gleaming pots, and baked a chicken breast that looked like it had been grilled on a barbecue. Then he passed the platter around for all of us to sample the food. It was crunchy, savory delicious.

I bought the line.

He threw in three extra pieces of equipment for free, which by themselves would have cost enough for a down payment on a condo.

It’s impressive the choices of products you can find for your home these days – from flooring to cabinets, to windows, roofs, pools, fireplaces, interior and exterior surfaces – everything to turn your house into that Hollywood mansion look.

It just shows how much the celebrity influence has spilled over to our clothes, our homes, our cars, how we travel, the kids we have, the dogs we own, and the food we eat. It’s all fair game, including those pots and pans for your kitchen.

Calvin says, “Sucker! You should have stayed home and taken me on a rabbit walk. But now that you have them, toss the kibble, I want crunchy delicious.” beagle

Heaps of Thanks It’s Over

Thanksgiving is over. I’m relieved.

It was a meal that didn’t live up to expectations.

The turkey tasted gamey. It should have lived.

The dressing was flat. It never made the leap from blah to wow.

The apple pie was limp and fell into a heap when on the plate.

I cancelled the mashed potatoes this year. It was already a carb fest without them, why did we need more? was my line of thinking.

Big mistake.

Never mess with tradition.

The kids complained, my husband frowned, and the dog howled.

“There’s no place for the gravy,” my son, the traditionalist said.

“The turkey is naked without it,” Alf said.

“I came for the gravy, now where do I put it?” said my friend.

“The Pilgrims didn’t make gravy,” I said.

“They didn’t make cranberry and orange relish either, and I see that on the table,” said Alf.

I was skewered. In my own kitchen.

Calvin says, “You should have consulted me. I would have told you to skip the green food and make a mountain of smashed spuds.”