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June, 2010 | Manolo's Food Blog
Archive - June, 2010

Sriracha packets? There is a God!

This weekend, my dreams came true. I discovered sriracha packets at a Hawaiian BBQ joint in LA. I stuffed my pockets full of these little pouches of spicy loving, and I vow never to be without them again.

Chipotle – 750,000 people a day can’t be wrong

Everyone wants a one pound burrito apparently, and Chipotle has the stats to prove it. Today the Denver based chain opened its 1000th store.

I was there on opening day of New York’s first Chipotle, and let me tell you it was a momentous occasion (especially for the couple of Coloradans with whom I was dining.)

And in good news for those on the other side of the pond, according to a source I spoke with this morning, Chipotle’s next stop may be Deutschland, giving this Facebook group what it’s been gagging for.

Wedding wars — Ozersky vs Sietsema

In last week’s Time, food writer Josh Ozersky offered advice on how to have a delicious wedding. Instead of going through a caterer, he suggests, pick and choose your favorite dishes from your favorite restaurants, and voila — goodbye dry chicken and rice pilaf, hello banh mi and bucatini all’amatriciana.

If only it were so simple. As one in the throes of nuptial planning, who is forgoing a caterer in favor of some restaurant favorites (prior to reading this article mind you, so don’t go calling me a copy cat), let me tell you, this is a tough road. No caterer means no wait staff, no serving dishes, no steam plates, no linens. It is a serious DIY undertaking.

So I was a little irritated when I read Ozersky’s piece. First because he stole my idea, the rat, but more because for him, with a bevy of celebrity chef friends, the whole curated reception seemed like a piece of (unconventional, gourmet wedding) cake.

But I felt vindicated today when one of my favorite restaurant critics, the Village Voice’s Robert Sietsema ripped Ozersky a new one on the Voice’s Fork in the Road blog. Like me, Sietsema was critical of Ozersky for framing the article as a service piece, advice on how to have an “uncatered” wedding, when the Time writer’s experience was clearly a rarefied one. But his larger criticism is that Ozersky failed to disclose that he received the food for free. That the chefs mentioned in the article were receiving invaluable Time Magazine coverage in what was clearly some kind of quid pro quo arrangement goes against all sort of journalistic ethics, Sietsema argues. And besides, the rat stole my idea.

Oh the horrors — A food blogger’s nightmare

Stayed up way past my bedtime Sunday night to attend a 10 PM screening of  Bitter Feast at the LA Film Festival.

The film centers around celebrity chef Peter Gray whose career is ostensibly ruined by a scathing review on the ficticious food blog “Gastropunks.” When Chef Gray is fired (by none other than Mario Batali in a cameo as a restaurant owner improbably named Gordon), he exacts revenge, taking the blogger hostage and torturing him in a series of Food Network worthy extreme cooking challenges. If the blogger can cook a perfect over easy egg, he can eat it; if not  he’s got egg on his face — literally and delivered by way of a sizzling frying pan to the noggin.

It’s a pretty brutalizing film, kind of torture porn meets food porn — full of lots of close ups of rabbits  being butchered  and then sauteed into beautiful ragus juxtaposed with raw faces being beaten and then, well, beaten again.

Probably not everyone’s cup of English Breakfast. But here’s the trailer in case you’re feeling brave. I for one will give serious thought before speaking ill of the chef’s for a while.

WWJE? (What would Julia Eat?) Tacos!

Last Saturday the Mr. and I hit up La Super-Rica Taqueria in beautiful (and I mean BEAUTIFUL) sunny Santa Barbara. The little taco stand, with it’s big back porch was fabled to be Julia Child’s favorite Mexican spot.

The queue is apparently often scores of people deep, but since we didn’t get there for lunch until about 4, we didn’t have to wait too long before placing our order at the counter, which is particularly fun because you get up close to watch the kitchen folks making handmade corn tortillas.

For such a wee place, there were loads of options, and it was difficult to make a decision, but I’d heard that when at Super Rica, be sure to eat loads of tortillas and go for the special tamales, so I did as told.

A deceptively simple taco de bistec — perfectly grilled meat on one of those impeccable fresh tasting tortillas. (Really it’s two tortillas, but when splitting one taco between two people, the Mr. and I each take a tortilla and half the filling and it works out just fine. Blasphemous perhaps. But just fine.)

Guacamole. Believe it or not, there are two tortillas lurking under that mountain of avocado. What initially seemed like an excess of guac quickly became a dearth of the glorious green stuff. Especially with a drizzle of one of the three complimentary salsas. Especially when scooped onto the taco de bistec.

One of the specials — a tamal de verduras. (Though I get the sense this “special” is often on the menu.) Fresh masa stuffed with chayote, corn, zucchini, potato, chili strips, and cheese. Topped with a crema sauce. This was kind of the fettuccine al fredo of the tamale world. Decadent. Comforting.

And finally my first favorite. The itty bitty tamalito de cambray.  A pint-sized tamale fit for a pint-sized taco joint, stuffed with chicken, raisins, almonds, and tomato sauce, packed into a banana leaf. Moist, a little sweet, a little savory. A little corny. I literally licked the banana leaf clean of all traces of this one.

Thanks Julia! Thanks Super Rica!

Top Chef University

To mark the excitement that is tonight’s premier of Top Chef DC, I decided to enroll in Top Chef University, the new online “culinary school” in which the “chef-testants” from the show’s various seasons offer intensive training in everything from “Pantry Organization” to the art of molecular gastronomy (haven’t you been wanting to add potato foam to your repertoire?)  There are 200 hours of lessons, in a curriculum designed by Top Chef judge Gail Simmons (Gaiiiiil…..) and Anthony Hoy Fong.

Now to be honest, I’m not a fully enrolled student at Top Chef University. I’m on a temporary press membership, so I’m more like a pre-frosh, scoping out the school, trying to decide if there are enough cute boys, interesting professors, and if the food in the dining hall is edible.

So far, so good. While the system (at least on my computer) is a little glitchy, the videos that make up the lessons are clear and well shot, and best of all as your host you get to choose between two of my all time favorite contestants – Carla Hall and Kevin Gillespie.

Now a word to the wise, this is not Cooking for Poets, or whatever the title of a gut class in the culinary world would be (Cooking for Lumberjacks perhaps?) It’s pretty rigorous and the techniques they show take practice (after several attempts, I’m still trying to get my julienned carrots to look as pretty as Miss Carla’s), but I think if I stick with it I may graduate summa cum laude — unless of course I get too distracted watching Top Chef DC to actually study.

Jelly from Helly…

Photo Charlotte Ommedal

Only the Brits could hatch a scheme like this. Starting June 24th, London’s Barbican Art Gallery will be selling “Occult Jam” made by darlings of the culinary art world, Bompas and Parr. With names straight from Hogwarts, the pair Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, are famous for their wild food related adventures, having previously create a jelly shaped like St. Paul’s Cathedral, a futurist aerobanquet, and scratch-and-sniff cinema, have now created a series of jams infused with “powerful artifacts.” For purchase will be absinthe and pineapple jam made with sand from the pyramids; plum and oak jelly with wood from Lord Nelson’s ship The HMS Victory; and most of all, milk jam with a speck of Princess Di’s hair.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to book those tickets to London. It would be hell if they ran out before you snagged a jar.

Street Eats from Coast to Coast – NY today, Oakland in August

Announcements for two street food events made it into my mailbox today –

New Yorkers, get thee to Lower Manhattan this afternoon for the Street Vendor Project‘s Pushcart Market, which started this morning at 10 and will go until 6 (with a very happy Happy Hour at 5 PM). Among the yummy offerings — handcrafted ice cream, jerk chicken, and vegan desserts — plus a chance to win much coveted tickets to the Vendy Awards.

For more details check out their Facebook page.

Those on the Left Coast have a little more time to prepare for Oakland’s 2nd Annual Eat Real Festival, which will be held August 27-29. In addition to 80 vendors selling everything from traditional street tacos to creme brulee to clam chowda, there will be loads of DIY mini-classes teaching you to make your own cheese or how to vertically garden, as well as various forms of entertainment including food related poetry slams and noodle pulling demonstrations.

I went last year

and ate quite well…

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