29 April 2011

Pad Thai is best made from scratch.

I inherited this bottle of Pad Thai sauce that promised an authentic experience when dumped over rice noodles and vegetables. Meh. It was flavored ketchup, and it did nothing to remind me of Pad Thai. (It was not bad on fries, though.)  It did, however, remind me that making Pad Thai from scratch is not difficult. I will say that, as a white girl using ingredients I pick up at Safeway, this recipe is not overly authentic, either... but I promise you that it will be more flavorful than the bottled sauce.

Pad Thai (It’s not that hard. Why buy a sauce?)

Serves 4. Adapted from Vegetarian Times recipe.

8 oz. uncooked rice noodles

2 tsp. peanut oil

2 eggs, cracked into a bowl and beaten

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, chopped and seeded

1 medium red bell pepper, julienned

2 ripe large tomatoes, seeded and diced

4 oz. snow peas, strings removed

4 oz. firm tofu, drained well and cut into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

2 Tbs. fresh lime juice

2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

2 Tbs. tamarind concentrate

2 Tbs. fish sauce

1/4 cup chopped cashews (1 oz.)

4 scallions (white and light green parts), chopped

2 oz. fresh bean sprouts (1 cup)

In large pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Add noodles; stir to prevent sticking. Cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the beaten eggs and scramble (stir constantly) until they are a bit dry. Add garlic, jalapeno, and bell pepper and stir-fry 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, snow peas and tofu and stir-fry until vegetables are just tender, about 4 minutes. Add tamarind, fish sauce, soy sauce and lime juice and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes more. Stir in cooked noodles and cilantro.

Divide noodle mixture among plates. Sprinkle with cashews, scallions and bean sprouts and serve right away.

I like to serve this noodle dish over cooked jasmine rice, but I may just have a carb problem…

22 April 2011

Fargo is hip, dontcha know!

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Fargo for a couple of performances, and much to my surprise, I got a taste of urbanity that I have trouble finding in Denver.

HoDo is the Hotel Donaldson in downtown Fargo, a renovated Art Deco building which is home to a 17-room stylish hotel (rooms are each designed around one original work of art by local sculptors, painters, photographers, etc.),  a chic urban bar decorated with local art, and a New American-style restaurant run by Chef Tim, semi-finalist for the 2011 James Beardhttp://www.jamesbeard.org/index.php?q=about_awards Foundation's Best Chef in the Midwest.  (Winners announced May 6.)

The restaurant strives to highlight local produce, with items like rack of North Dakota lamb , local wild rice sausage, and an artisanal Midwestern cheese plate.  Staying true to his roots, there is even a small plate of mixed marinated vegetables, pickles, mustard, and grilled bread (served with or without the cheeses).  If that isn’t the classic ploughman’s platter, I don’t know what is (and it may just be the only one offered by a James Beard nominee)!  

I had the three-cheese lasagna with truffle cream and wild mushrooms. The flavor was fantastically earthy and multi-dimensional, and of course, the massive quantities of cheese were very comforting.  The dish was rather large for one person, and also a bit too salty for my taste, but as leftovers, it mellowed nicely the next morning for breakfast.  (Yeah, you read that right.)  HoDo also boasts a great wine list, which it shares between the bar and the restaurant, and my companion and I enjoyed generous glasses of Malbec from Argentina (it’s tough to get dry red wines from North Dakota, I’m guessing).

For dessert, the chocolate trio consisted of homemade milk chocolate sorbet, a bittersweet la bete noir (my favorite), and a fluffy Godiva souffle.  All were fantastic, even the chocolate sorbet which I usually wouldn’t enjoy.  The souffle was rich and very sweet.  The flourless chocolate cake, however, aside from  the perfectly creamy consistency, had a certain roasted flavor to the chocolate that definitely elevated the entire trio into a dessert for grown-ups.  

The food that night was certainly the work of an artist (saltiness aside), and the atmosphere was just what it should have been: dark, cozy, and elegant without being stuffy, in good Midwestern style.  Our service was clearly well-trained in pushing the most expensive of everything, but she was a sport when we continually chose more interesting--though cheaper--items on the menu, and she seemed knowledgeable enough about the menu in general.  A walk through the bar afterward provided a livelier, more youthful version of the same general vibe, and the artwork in the halls and scattered throughout the walls made Fargo seem like a satisfyingly artistic place.  It was a nice night.  Youbetcha.

15 April 2011

New spring drinks for you

Although most days it is still too cold to sit on my front porch and drink, I do it anyway, because I am so impatient to resume my summer hobby of sitting on my front porch and drinking.  And while I am bundled up from head to toe, mittens and all, I am enjoying drinks that make me think of spring, which helps me ignore the shivering.  All recipes yield one drink, but it would be nice of you to make enough to share.  And my neighbor says it looks sad when you drink martinis on the porch all by yourself.

April Rain
2 oz. vodka
½ oz. lime juice
½ oz. dry vermouth
lime peel for garnish

Shake vodka, lime juice, and vermouth vigorously over plenty of ice (the shaker should be almost to cold to hold!) and pour into a martini glass.  Garnish with lime peel.  

Early Spring Martini
2 oz. vodka
½ oz. dry vermouth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon frozen peas
1 small lettuce leave, ripped into pieces

Muddle peas and lettuce in a shaker.  Add remaining ingredients, shake together with plenty of ice and strain into a martini glass.  

Sparkling Cucumber Cocktail
2 oz. gin
1 teaspoon Rose’s Lime
1 teaspoon super fine or granulated white sugar
 thin slices of cucumber, plus one thicker slice for garnish
Tonic water
In a martini shaker, muddle the 4 thin cucumber slices with the sugar.  When cukes seem well-beaten and have create a good amount of juice, pour in the gin and Rose’s lime.  Add lots of ice and shake vigorously.  Strain into a martini glass, top with about 2-3 ounces of tonic water and garnish with remaining cucumber slice.

08 April 2011

Greeley, CO's weirdest restaurant

Ostensibly, Red's Dogs and Donuts hearkens back to Greeley's potato-loving past, offering "spudnuts", or doughnuts made with potato flour.  In reality, it's a crazy hot mess of A.D.D. junk food love--doughnuts (most are not spudnuts), "gourmet" hotdogs made with kobe beef (Why bother?  Can anyone explain this?) and all kinds of random toppings like mole sauce with pickled red onions and coleslaw with bacon, as well as a couple of special treats you can't find anywhere else.  In fact, you might not ever have heard of them.

Kolaches are a yeast-based bun filled with meat, vegetables, or fruit.  Most are geared towards breakfast (though Red's is open until 8pm weekdays, midnight weekends) and amount to enclosed Egg McMuffin-style sandwiches.  And then there are the Wacky Waffles (I'm pretty sure a "TM" belongs after that term).  Wacky Waffles are merely Belgian waffles with various toppings, most of them including candy and heavy whipped cream, but I guess maybe they thought waffles weren't exciting enough to sell without a special name.

Now, I'm not making fun--their doughnuts are pretty incredible (though you can save your money on the Baconator--you can see the bacon, but you can't taste it), and the kolaches are a pretty handy portable way to fill up.  All in all, the food is made well and with a great affection for all that is unhealthy.  And the extreme enthusiasm with which the workers greet and serve you behind the counter is downright heart-warming.  I'm just saying, this place is bizarre.  And the owners are definitely going to die of heart disease soon.

02 April 2011

Blue C Sushi Extra Super Good!!!!!!

Blue C Sushi can be found in mediocre, overpriced shopping areas throughout suburban Seattle, and it's sickeningly lit with copious neon lights.  Open the doors and you are overwhelmed with insipid, thumping ambient trance music and your eyes will eventually be assaulted by Japanese sports shows projected onto the largest wall in the room (because a widescreen t.v. just isn't enough).  But here's why you should go: it's totally fun!  Oh, and the food is amazing!

So, Blue C is modeled after the first Japanese restaurants to work on conveyor belts in the 1950s--food comes gliding around on a long train, plated on color-coded plates.  The color of the plate tells you how much you will pay if you take it.  So, watch carefully and grad whatever you want--the host adds up the costs at the end.  Picking your food becomes a whimsical group activity, and the slower pace of eating keeps you from getting overstuffed.  Prices are also quite reasonable, particularly for Seattle.

The food itself is beautiful: lovely sushi rolls and sushi nigiri with the freshest of fish, comforting noodle dishes and innovative salads, and tasty little naughty things like mini doughnuts and cheesecake.  I loved the seared ahi tuna--it might be the best I have ever had.  And it cost me $4.25.  I had one of the most satisfying, delectable Japanese meals of my life for $22.95, and I got a good giggle out of the cheesy aesthetic.

So, Blue C Sushi, when are you branching out?  Or do I have to keep flying back to Seattle to eat well?