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Friday, December 30, 2011

Foodie Gifts, anyone?

I've been meaning to get this post up all week. I've finally found a few moments to get it written. 

I'm curious what kind of kitchen and/or food-related gifts you received for Christmas. Do share! 

Here are some of the goodies I got: 

3.5L deep fryer

Aeropress coffee system with
the stainless steel filter screen
a very cool Bento box with Bento cookbook
and mini-containers for sauces

a couple of great books by Michael Ruhlman

an interesting offering from the mastermind of El Bulli

very cool book of food concepts
from a blog of the same name

a primer and reference to
a possible future hobby

I also got a very cool Chef Mat for the kitchen. It's very comfy to stand on, and appears to be very heavy duty, durable, and easy to clean.

So, let's hear it... Did you get any food-related books, gadgets, etc?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to all!

I just wanted to take a moment to wish you all and your families a very Merry Christmas! Or whatever you may celebrate this holiday season. 

Leave some comments about some of your indulgences, this year, such as what goodies you've had, what your holiday meal(s) consisted of, and the such. I look forward to hearing your stories!

And I hope you got your visit from Santa, and not Krampus, this year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Be Frank With Me... Favorite Christmas candy or cookies or pastries?

As I was working on doing some baking and candy making, today, I was thinking about what you all consider your favorite Christmas candy or cakes or pastries or cookies. I'm not talking about Reese's peanut butter trees, and stuff like that. I'm talking about homemade goodness!! Do you have any family traditional recipes you have to make every year? I'd love to hear about them! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Krampus, Pooping Logs, and trotters, anyone?

"The original bad, bad Santa. Because in Austria, when they tell you what happens to bad boys and girls, they ain't f*cking kidding."  - Anthony Bourdain

A classic German postcard showing Krampus with St. Nickolaus

If you missed the No Reservations Holiday Special on Monday night, you missed out on a classic. I'm sure in true Travel Channel fashion, it will be replayed... a few hundred times.

Anthony Bourdain and company put on quite the entertaining offering. It was also educational; we got to learn about several Christmas traditions from around the world: the Austrian/German character of Krampus, the Catalan "Pooping Log", and even the Italian traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes. And don't forget the appearance of Norah Jones and her soothing rendition of "Silent Night" in the hotel lounge, an appearance by the band F*cked Up, and the humorous "Vegan Death Metal Chef"!

I enjoyed getting to see some chefs I am familiar with, such as Lidia Bastianich and Dave Arnold. Tony meets with Lidia and Christopher Walken (which have a unique connection) at her house to show an example of the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. It was humorous when Walken treated the octopus a little like a mob informant. Lidia created a very delicious looking feast out of what could easily be scowled at, by most people. The only time I've had octopus was on a birthday dinner at a local sushi restaurant, and I would like to try it again in something like that salad she created.

I listen to a weekly podcast from Dave Arnold, the Director of Culinary Technology at the French Culinary Institute, called Cooking Issues on the Heritage Radio Network. It's a very in-depth show taking questions from callers and emails about what else... cooking issues. He's got a bit of a hard-on about sous vide cooking more than I think someone should, but it's still a very good food nerd podcast. I enjoyed his segment with Tony about "What Would Jesus Eat".

The food featured in the episode left my mouth watering. From the meat orgy of a meal Tony enjoyed at his old residence of Les Halles, cooked by Chef Carlos Llaguno, to the delicious salt-crust prepared venison from Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner, from Blaue Gans. This was the segment where Krampus was explained. If you are not aware of Krampus, already, he is the "bad Santa". It's a very demon-like creature, with horns, an evil forked tongue, claws for hands, one hoof foot, one clawed foot. It is said if a boy or girl is bad during the year, instead of St. Nickolaus coming to your house to deliver gifts, Krampus would arrive to beat you with switches, chain you up, torture you, or often, toss you in his wicker basket to drag you off... seemingly to Hell. Germans and Austrians didn't screw around with kids; when they wanted them to behave, they just scared the ever-living crap out of them. Don't believe me? Google the book Strewwelpeter!

Another classic German postcard of Krampus

A trip to El Quinto Pino and a visit with Chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero allowed Tony to try a traditional Catalonian dinner of escudella. Tony also got to learn about the tradition of TiĆ³ de Nadal and the Poop Log. Apparently, a smiley log, with its own song, will poop out candy... a confection with almonds or peanuts. If it doesn't poop, it gets hit with a stick. Odd... but entertaining. I especially liked the mini-figurines of pooping characters, including Santa leaving a steaming deuce.

Another great food moment came from a traditional, hearty English meal prepared with April Bloomfield, of the Spotted Pig. The duck, veal shanks, and pig trotters pie left me yearning to have some in front of me while I watched.

If you are a Anthony Bourdain fan, or follow anything from him in writing, Tweeting, or Facebook'ing, you will instantly know the absolute most humorous point of the show: Samantha Brown in a role as a crazy, drunken cat lady, and discarded "bubbly" travel host. She was a great sport to participate in the episode, especially in the setting she was put. I also loved the little quip that she only eats "takeout from Le Bernardin". And yet another jab, in reference to some of Tony's opinions, comes in the final scenes of the show with Paula Deen-loving nurse!

A great episode... and I highly recommend seeking it out on your program guide, and watching.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Frank about... tonight's "Next Iron Chef"

I normally don't watch my Food Network, anymore. Personally, most of the programming is either just ridiculous (for example, on the Cooking Channel, Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen) or the overplayed cooking competitions (Cupcake Wars or Chopped or "you name it" ). One of my favorite shows was Iron Chef: America; but as of late, it's even a bit of a non player for me. However, I have to admit I was reeled in with the idea of the "Superchefs" on the newest Next Iron Chef offering. (And for the record, I am even keeping up on this season of Top Chef!)

Throughout this season, I had many favorite chefs competing; namely, Michael Chiarello, Robert Irvine, Anne Burrell, and Alex Guarnaschelli. I had actually thought that Chef Irvine would be able to do well, due to his experience with Dinner: Impossible. I've been disappointed to see some of my favorites go home. This leads me up to tonight's episode.

The first part of the show wasn't too bad. I'm not a professional chef, but I didn't think smoking was a wise preparation for a scallop, as Chef Faulkner did. But, what do I know? I was devastated that Chef Guarnaschelli was eliminated. I think she has the talent and skill to make an "Iron Chef", whatever that actually encompasses. She was a little too on edge, and overly worried, the entire time she was on the show. She never really had the confidence in herself, or what she created. I was sad to see her go. This however, set up what should have been a major battle between Chiarello and Faulkner.

I say, "should have". What made that change in my mind? Uhm... the commercial that followed... basically a big promo for crackers and wine. Sorry, but I thought was ridiculous for the penultimate episode, and a hell of a battle between those two chefs, to have such a blatant promotion. I wasn't impressed with either of the chefs' offerings. But, what do you expect? Friggin' crackers?? Overly buttery crackers could easily kill any delicate flavors you try to balance on them. I really disliked that they ruined such a potentially fantastic battle with this crap.

I honestly feel that Faulkner deserved a spot in the finale. I will now also interject my dislike for Chef Zakarian. I have no doubt that he's a good chef. Do I have to like him because of that? Hell no. So, I won't.

How I felt when I found out Zakarian was
going to the finale, and Alex was going home!

My thoughts on the next Iron Chef... I don't know if she can pull it off, but I think Elizabeth Faulkner can be the Next Iron Chef. I am also excited about (and my wife predicted this before the judgement came down to who was facing Zakarian) that they are letting them pick a sous chef from the other contestants. I would have love to see Alex vs. Faulkner for the win. I think in the finale, some of the "cutesy" crap that Zakarian often pulls, may bite him in the ass, finally. So, there's my prediction... Iron Chef Faulkner!

I am toying with idea of doing a "Food on TV" post on a weekly basis covering some of the shows I keep up with: Next Iron Chef (well, the last one, at least), Top Chef: Texas, and The Layover. So, keep checking back!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Well, here goes nothing...

"Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly."
          - M.F.K. Fisher
Welcome to “Frankly Food”, my attempt at a blog covering my “frank” thoughts on such topics as food, cooking, wine, craft beers, and the like. I felt I needed some outlet for all the crazy voices and thoughts flying about in my head. I hope this can act as a spigot to release some of this into the world, and to share with people who may have something to add; and perhaps I may even be of some little help to someone out there. I felt that Facebook and Twitter just were not giving me enough satisfaction as a vehicle for my ideas.

Anything could pop up on this blog: it may be a recipe, it may be just a tantalizing picture (“food porn” to which it is referred), it may be a little review of a local restaurant or meal I’ve enjoyed, it may just be a food-related quote that struck me as relevant on that particular day. My goal will be to post at least once a week.

What I would ask is that you give your feedback… your ideas… your thoughts. I want to be able to spur discussions from my posts. Feel free to share your mind. If you think I’m totally off-base or misinformed, let me know. If you agree with anything I say, or have an additional thought, let me know. Your comments, ideas, feedback will all be truly appreciated.

Above all else…  be frank in your thoughts and ideas about food!