Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Inflation; Not the Soufflé Kind

I read with horror a snippet from the Financial Times. I hope I copied it right: “In the US, [food] prices have risen by 6.7 per cent, seasonally adjusted, since the beginning of this year, compared to 2.1 per cent for all of 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics." Wow. This certainly has been borne out since I have been shopping for my home meals at a big variety of markets, just to see “what’s out there”.

One well-known place had rib-eye steaks that were 2 1/2-inches thick and cost $21.00 a pound. The one I looked at and did not buy would have cost me $33 dollars. While it is true I could have easily fed 5 people normal servings of meat, (but most folks eat a half-pound steak each). By the time you add some veggies and some potato or rice and let’s assume no good steak even needs a sauce, I would have had to add another $13. So, it would have cost me $10 per person for the food, only if I did all the cooking, serving, clean up, and gave no dessert.

Restaurants compare pretty favorably to buying and preparing your own food, I think, when you consider the portions, the quality of the cooking, the labor and does anyone out there even think about the SKILL it takes to cook well!? Let alone the overhead (landlords have to eat, too). I still think we should all cook at home as much as possible; we should support the restaurants that are in it for the craft and the long run, and then there should be a nice balance for all. If you go to every “latest, new” restaurant that means you will never patronize the same place twice – it is nearly impossible. It's like leaving your spouse every other day for another bite of forbidden fruit.

I am told constantly that customers vote with their dollars and if they don’t like a restaurant and don’t think they are getting their money’s worth they won’t patronize it. Please do this at your market – they deserve a kick in the teeth once in while like we in the restaurant business get sometimes a little too often.

Happy cooking, and remember, a good dish of red kidney beans, onion, rice and water and little salt and pepper, topped off with a little excellent extra virgin olive oil, you can still eat an epicurean meal and beat the hell out of inflation.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Danish Anyone?

If you did not like Victor Borge (shame on you), don’t read the rest of this blog. Here is a real Danish joke and one he might have told if he knew it. He should have spoken to my wife – she told it to me decades ago and I just thought of it again and laughed and laughed.

A man goes into a restaurant and sits down. The man says to the waiter “Do you have any strawberries without cream?” The waiter says “Just a moment. I will go and ask the kitchen.” The waiter returns and says to the man “We do not have any strawberries without cream – but – we have strawberries without milk.” The man says “Well, in that case I don’t want any.”

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I Should have Blewit Today

This morning there is a light rain. The air smells fresh and invigorating – the kind of day one should be looking for mushrooms. If only I had some more time and peace of mind (I guess I could get some if I went into the woods and starting looking for little fun-guys to play with). My wife and I used to go out on days like this with a picnic basket loaded with mini-salamis made by our now deceased friend Bruno Iacoppi – what a terrific guy he was, and the salametti were divine; we had bread, simple prosciutto or ham sandwiches, wine, celery hearts, radishes, green onions, apples, oranges, dry crunchy cookies. It seems like a mountain of food but it was always just enough and soooo good. Usually we had good luck and came back almost always with chanterelle but sometimes boletus edulis (porcini), or armillaria mellia, the honey-mushroom or blewits, lepista nuda (they are light purple and you can just image the Adams Family making infernal dishes with them but they are fantastically tasty). I used to make a simple blewit stew; with dry white wine, a touch of fresh thyme, scallion and that was it; and with bruschetta it was heaven.

Well, back to reality. The stoves and the ovens becken. Ciao

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Spring is Here – Again

It was here for a few minutes a few weeks ago; now it is winter again. I made some really good minestrone with cannellini, red kidney, and pinto beans, onions, and the usual stuff, but no chicken stock; I like water based soups. It was fantastic with bruschetta, and each bowl I served was drizzled at the last moment with the greenest, most fragrant extra virgin olive oil I could get. Delicious. I sat there with my Irish rain hat on, my Scottish cashmere muffler, a long gray one, and a goose down vest I bought in Chinatown for $9.00 (wow), and had my minestrone. Ah, Spring in San Francisco (er, was that Winter?).

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


O.k. Turn on the juice.

I did that just three days ago firing up the electric stove in our rented apartment (we have long since given up the huge house with EVERYTHING one could want – downsizing sucks). We turned on one large burner and watched the electric meter gyro as if it was out of control. It was astounding. I am trying to figure out how much it would cost to roast a big turkey for 3 hours in the electric oven as opposed to a gas oven. Gas is my choice and I am frantically trying to get a gas range that is simple, direct, does little else but provide heat with some controls, and is somewhat less than one-million dollars. Of the gas ranges I have looked at I like 30-inch BlueStar the best with American Range as a follow-up, although it is not as clean and Spartan as the BlueStar. Oh. I forgot to tell you, you should have seen what it took to get a gas line installed to the kitchen. We live in a building more than a hundred years old; its charm being more visual than its function and it makes one wonder why we are living in it.

Does anyone out there really prefer electric to gas? I know the cost of installing a new electric service and range is much, much cheaper than gas, but fueling becomes a major issue later on unless you heating up a can of soup. I don’t use canned soups so I make my own. Moreover, if they are big time, delicious ones, we are talking major time on the burner. That meter would probably explode with a minestrone going.

Wish me luck on my quest for the perfect gas range. Anyone out there got a free (Ok, make that cheap BlueStar) they want to provide me for my soup making?

Next, I might take up the issue of ventilation. HooHoo. That is a good one, too.