Manolo's Food Blog Manolo Loves the Food!

July 6, 2011

Trends We Hate

Filed under: Restaurants,Top Chef — Twistie @ 9:32 am

Marcel is hurt.

Well, maybe not. He might be smirking all the way to the bank behind that hairy hand and Wolverine ‘do.

All the same, restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s column for Shine on Yahoo enumerating his ten most-hated recent food trends does include two items that might break Marcel’s heart: sous vide and ‘better living through chemistry.’ Yeah, that last one is Marcel’s beloved molecular gastronomy (or Modernist Cuisine, as practitioners prefer to call it these days).

I have to say I agree on several of the things Gold finds so objectionable. Truffle oil overload and restaurants refusing to leave off a garnish on a plate for fear of destroying their art annoy the snot out of me, too. And while I would actually love a chance to eat something whipped up in the lab by Wylie Dufresne, well, if I never see an other blob of foam sitting like the congealed spittle from a disgruntled waiter on my plate again, it will be far too soon.

I’m tired of cupcakes, too, though the rest of the world now seems to be moving on to pie at long last. Good news for me since pie is one of my all-time fave desserts and the crust is my bitch.

And while we’re at it, could we possibly stop reaching sexual Nirvana at the mere mention of bacon in any context whatsoever? I love bacon as much as the next foodie, but come on people. It’s not Dodo egg omelettes with a side of Triceratops steak. It’s something we can eat every day of the week if we so choose. It’s good with a lot of things, yes, but that doesn’t mean it belongs in every dish from appetizer to dessert to the cheese board unless it’s Battle Bacon on Iron Chef.

Oh, and I’d like to note that bacon soda (no, really, I did try a sip once) is positively the single most disturbing thing I’ve ever put in my mouth? It was accurate, yes, but I couldn’t ditch the flavor or the oily afterfeel for hours, even after eating other things. Never. Again.

So what about you, folks? What trends do you think need to wind up in the dustbin of the nearest greasy spoon? Do you have a passionate defense of inflexibility regarding garnishes or foams? Did you put something in your mouth that you regret as much as I do that bacon soda?

Talk to me, people.

July 5, 2011

Big Night of Food Movies

Filed under: Food Porn — Twistie @ 1:35 pm

I love a good film about food. One of my all-time favorites is Big Night (1996). Not only is the food spectacularly gorgeous, I get to spend a couple hours with Tony Shaloub, Alison Janney, Stanley Tucci, Minnie Driver, Isabella Rosselini, and Ian Holm.

Seriously, a cast like that plus food that looks like this:

equals one happy, hungry Twistie.

What about you? What’s your favorite food film or food moment in film?

July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July from Manolo’s Food Blog!

Filed under: Holidays,Picnic — Twistie @ 11:26 am

There’s nothing like a summer picnic, is there?

Here’s wishing you all bright colors and delicious foods in great profusion!

July 3, 2011

It’s a Good Thing She Didn’t Mention the Dirty Knife!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Twistie @ 8:16 am

Thirty days in the hoosegow and a fine into the hundreds of thousands. That’s what a high court in Taiwan decided was fitting punishment for a blogger who complained online about her experience in a Taichung noodle house.

The blogger, Liu, visited the noodle house about three years ago and said the food was too salty, she saw cockroaches, and the owner let customers park their cars in such a way as to cause traffic jams just outside his restaurant.

Well, last month the high court decided that Liu needed to pay for these statements to the tune of NT$200,ooo plus the jail time in order to recompense the noodle house owner for lost revenue.

The good news for the blogger? It could have been worse. While health inspectors say the noodle house is not now as unsanitary as Liu described it to be back in 2008, the court found that Liu’s comment about cockroaches was merely a statement of fact and therefore not actionable.

On the other hand, her complaint about the saltiness of the food was found to be inappropriate because she ate only one dish.

I have to say, I think this one goes a little beyond the philosophy of letting the punishment fit the crime.

Perhaps the judges should have been required to eat the food before deciding whether Liu’s description was justified or not.

July 2, 2011

Mmm… Miette

Filed under: Books,candy,Dessert,Food Porn — Twistie @ 8:36 am

I must admit that although I live right across the bay from Miette (located in the Ferry Building in San Francisco) I have never visited them, nor tasted their pastries. Oddly enough, I just don’t get to The City that often, and when I do I’m usually headed somewhere that is not the Ferry Building. In point of fact, on the rare occasions that I am in San Francisco and looking for something to eat, I’m a lot more likely to be making a beeline to Tommy’s Joynt for some of their delicious Buffalo Stew and incredible garlicky pickles.

Frankly, I don’t go to many bakeries. I prefer to roll my own.

So when I heard that there was going to  be a Miette cookbook, well, that got my attention. You see, while I hadn’t had any of their cakes, tarts, cookies, or sweets, I had heard they were awfully good. My copy arrived in my hot little hands just yesterday, and I must admit I’m eager to try out recipes.

The book itself is quite charming. It’s a comfortable size, and it opens flat, which is convenient for actual use. The pages are thick and glossy, and the edges are cut in a rather charming scallop. No, that isn’t necessary. It’s just pretty. It’s also lavishly illustrated with photographs by Frankie Frankeny, who has done a tremendous job of making everything look beyond scrumptious. As you can see from the illustration above, the poster child chosen to represent the bakery is their famous Tomboy cake with its naked chocolate sides and pretty pink buttercream. It’s pink because it’s raspberry. Dark chocolate and raspberry? Sign me up!

Unfortunately, I will have to wait to try making this beauty for one simple reason: I don’t have the right cake pan. You see, Miette works with the philosophy that smaller is always better… and I have not yet had a reason to acquire a 6″ x 3″ cake pan. Sigh. Guess I’d better hunt one down.

I know that Miette is all about cute, but I think I’m going to leave the ribbons out of the cakes that list them in the ingredients. It is my considered opinion that there should never be anything on a cake that cannot be safely eaten. If I feel the need of the decoration, a little icing in a contrasting color should do the trick.

There is one other annoyance – this time in the text. In the layer cake section, authors Meg Ray and Leslie Jonath harp again and again about how very difficult they are to make. In the notes on making the Princess cake, we are told it can take days depending on the baker’s stamina. Really? In nearly every case, so far as I can tell, what they really mean is that the cakes can be exacting rather than difficult. It’s a fine distinction, but one I consider well worth making. One needs to – for instance – cut the layers so that they are even and straight. This is not especially difficult, but it is important to get right. Saying these cakes are incredibly hard to make scares off the home baker, and really, is that what you want to do in a cookbook?

Besides, in the candy section there are several treats that are every bit as exacting and fussy (in some cases moreso) as the cakes, but they are never called difficult. There is a general warning to be careful when working with extremely hot sugar because it’s quite easy to burn yourself badly, but no dire warnings that any of the candies will tax your strength beyond its bearing. The correct temperature is emphasized, but again, while this is on par with most of the steps in constructing the layer cakes in terms of difficulty vs. importance, there are no exhortations that making toffee or marshmallows is a Herculean task.

Still, these are miniscule flies in the batter, as it were. As I flip through the glossy pages, I am tempted by recipe after recipe. Cakes, cookies, candies, and tarts all call to me and beg to be baked up right away. And from my considerable experience in baking (forty-one years and counting!) I have yet to look at one of the recipes and question it’s proportions or ingredients.

Yes, I can ignore being assumed to be a layer cake wimp when the recipes are this good. After all, as soon as my 6″ cake pan is in my hot little hands, I’ll be proving in spades that I have the intestinal fortitude to slice layers and roll fondant with the best of them.

July 1, 2011

Beat the Heat With Simple Dishes

Filed under: Recipes,Soup — Twistie @ 8:22 am

These are the symptoms of heat prostration. As the summer goes on, we’ll feel more and more like the poor dude in that illustration. And yet we will still need to provide food for ourselves and our families and friends.

The good news is that this is also the time of year when you can easily make flavorful dishes without a lot of standing over a hot stove (or barbeque). The even better news is that I’m here to give you simple instructions for two such dishes.


June 30, 2011

Got Dinner Guests?

Filed under: Dinner Party — Twistie @ 10:38 am

When having guests over to dinner, most of us hope the evening will look like the picture above: smiling guests, attractive food, great view, and plenty of social lubrication in the form of a rather decent vintage.

So why do so many dinner parties wind up resembling something more like this:

or worse yet this:


June 29, 2011

I’m Not Beeton Around the Bush

Filed under: Cookbooks,English food,Historical,Recipes — Twistie @ 12:01 pm

Meet one of the most successful cookbook authors in history, Mrs. Isabella Beeton. Yes, that Mrs. Beeton.

Although she died in 1865, just about a month before her twenty-ninth birthday (of peritonitis and puerperal fever, following the birth of her fourth child), Mrs. Beeton remains a household name through much of the English-speaking world.

Her book, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management has been reprinted, updated, and collected ever since it was first published in 1861.

In fact, I have two different versions in my own collection. One is my own copy of the 1992 edition that I bought shortly before I got married. The other is my mother’s long-cherished copy sans a publication date. My guess is that it dates back to somewhere between the late 1930’s and the fall of the British Raj. Why? Because of the sorts of recipes, the instructions included with them, the advertisements shown on the endpapers, and the fact that there is a significant section on cooking in India.

The recipes are, of course, a major reason for the long popularity of the franchise. Over time, old recipes that are no longer fashionable or practical have been dropped in favor of things more in line with modern tastes. The sheer range of recipes makes the volume a great choice if you only have room or interest for one or two cookbooks in your world. And despite the common wisdom, there have never been very many extravagant dishes, nor was anyone ever instructed to ‘first catch your hare.’ Mrs. Beeton didn’t worry about whether you found your meat at the market or in the local Lord’s woods. Her concern was making sure you cooked it in the tastiest, most healthful possible ways and carved it neatly so that every person at the table could get an equal and attractive share.

But there’s a great deal more to the Book of Household Management than just the recipes. After all, there’s a lot more to managing a household than cooking. From the first, the Book has included lots of information on cleaning, organizing finances, child care, and medical advice. My 1992 edition includes a rather fascinating section on legal issues, and the older one has a section to teach your servants how to wait at table properly.

Did Isabella know her stuff? Well, she was the oldest of four children. Her father, Benjamin Mayson, died quite early. Her mother then remarried a gentleman named Henry Dorling,  who was a widower with four children of his own. The Dorlings proceeded to have another thirteen children. That made Isabella the eldest of twenty-two offspring. I’m guessing her emphasis on practical matters and economical management was based strongly in her early life.

You can find the complete text of the original book at, but I’m  going to go ahead and include one of the recipes here To Dress Carrots in the German Way:


1101. INGREDIENTS.– 8 large carrots, 3 oz. of butter, salt to taste, a very little grated nutmeg, 1 tablespoonful of finely-minced parsley, 1 dessertspoonful of minced onion, rather more than 1 pint of weak stock or broth, 1 tablespoonful of flour.

Mode.– Wash and scrape the carrots, and cut them into rings of about 1/4 inch in thickness. Put the butter into a stewpan; when it is melted, lay in the carrots, with salt, nutmeg, parsley, and onion in the above proportions. Toss the stewpan over the fire for a few minutes, and when the carrots are well saturated with the butter, pour in the stock, and simmer gently until they are nearly tender. Then put into another stewpan a small piece of butter; dredge in about a tablespoonful of flour; stir this over the fire, and when of a nice brown colour, add the liquor that the carrots have been boiling in; let this just boil up, pour it over the carrots in the other stewpan, and let them finish simmering until quite tender. Serve very hot.

This vegetable, dressed as above, is a favourite accompaniment of roast pork, sausages, &c. &c.

Time.– About 3/4 hour. Average cost, 6d. to 8d. per bunch of 18.

Sufficient for 6 or 7 persons.

Seasonable.– Young carrots from April to June, old ones at any time.



See? No need whatsoever to catch your own hare. But you could cook that today, and it would still be nice with pork.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress