A Dozen Dishes I Crave

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Gorgonzola Stuffed Medjool Dates

Gorgonzola Stuffed Medjool Dates

INSPIRED BY Michael Bauer’s thoughts about “dishes I’ve remembered long after my reviews have been published,” here are the top 12 dishes I still crave, also in no particular order.

  1. Pollo Molcajete — spicy chicken in red sauce served with nopales, crunchy deep-fried pork rinds and grilled fresh white cheese at Casa De Las Sirenas in Mexico City.
  2. Tom Douglass’ salty-sweet, seriously tasty Fennel Salad with Orange and Hazelnuts at Seattle’s Serious Pie.
  3. The chewy, earthy Gorgonzola Stuffed Medjool Dates served at intimate Bar Tartine in San Francisco’s Mission District.
  4. Alaskan Halibut (pricey, but worth it for the heavenly fresh taste as well as the jewel box-like presentation) by Chef Laurent Manrique at Aqua.
  5. Bi-Rite Creamery’s mouth-watering Salted Caramel ice cream.
  6. A favorite childhood treat — old-fashioned French Dip Sandwiches (with hot, house-made Dijon-style mustard) at Phillipe the Original in L.A.
  7. Divinely rich, savory-sweet Pere al Gorgonzola salad at Tigelleria in cute little Campbell, California.
  8. The absolutely addicting Pecan Bars — oozing sugary fresh, sweet cream butter — at Kenny & Zukes in Portland.
  9. Super simple Yunnan-style Roasted Leeks dusted with hot red pepper powder at Beijing’s Food in Novel.
  10. Luscious Crabmeat Sardou with artichoke bottoms and creamed spinach as served at historic Galatoire’s Restaurant in New Orleans.
  11. Butter soft Hot Salt-Beef brushed with lip tingling hot mustard on a chewy beigel (bagel) fresh from the oven at Beigel Bake on Brick Lane in London’s notorious East End.
  12. Delfina’s intense Grilled Calamari with Warm White Bean Salad — the squid’s smokey flavor pairs perfectly with creamy white beans.

Rotten Butter

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Fresh Willow Maid Butter

Fresh Willow Maid Butter

MY FATHER never liked butter. He said his American farm-cook mother had served rancid butter as a cost-cutting measure. I think, perhaps, serving rotten butter was just a reflection of my grandmother’s lack of skill in the kitchen. The only thing she whipped up that didn’t make me sick was packaged Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing.

In England, everyone’s favorite living Sex Pistol, Johnny Rotten, is mock-celebrating the U.K.’s history and butter: watch his telly commercial on YouTube (Rotten sells Country Life).

If Rotten’s butter sell-out leaves you craving a pat of real anarky, check out the recipes at F*#k Corporate Groceries and Punk Rock Kitchen‘s kick-ass cookie cutters! And steer clear of the Food Network — where the programming has turned into a rancid pablam according to True/Slant’s Matthew Greenberg.

The Fine Modern Art of Food

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Warholesque Art at Humphry Slocombe

Warholesque Art at Humphry Slocombe

While touring San Francisco’s Mission District, I spotted this funny Warholesque painting at the new Humphry Slocombe ice cream shop. (I ordered a scoop of their intensely caffinated Blue Bottle Vietnamese Iced Coffee, and skipped the foie gras flavor…)

Andy Warhol was far from the only modern artist known to feature food in his work — California painter Wayne Thiebaud is lauded for his still lifes of pies and cakes. Photographer Liz Wolfe has an equally artistic recipe for food bliss: colorful, candy-coated set ups.

The summer of 2009′s most infamous food-art installation is in England where street artist Banksy has taken over the Bristol Museum. Banksy’s show features pink-frosted donuts, tubes of bologna, demented cooks, excrement filled ice cream cones, and a giant vanilla soft serve melting on the top of an ice cream van.

What Banksy’s cooked up may not whet everyone’s appetite. It does prove, however, that just about anyone can be a modern artist. Why not try your own hand at food art in the home kitchen?

Better yet, get out of the house and join in the fun at a Jell-O mold competition or French fry sculpting contest! (Don’t miss the video!)

UPDATE: Thanks to Rebecca for showing me this additional item on SFGate — Freeman Makes Artistic Desserts at SFMoma.

Major League Eating

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Hot Dog Competition

Hot Dog Eating Competition, San Jose CA

FINALLY, a sport I can get behind with major league enthusiasm: Competitive eating! And I’m proud to be from the same home town (San Jose, California) as world champion Joey Chestnut!

I started thinking about competitive eating earlier today when I dug up this video of a workplace Oreo eating competition at Inside Zappos. (Zappos looks like a fun place to work. I wonder if they’re hiring?)

Of course I had heard about Nathan’s yearly hot dog eating contest and I’ve seen the Big Texan’s 72-ounce steak challenge with my own eyes. As I dug deeper, I found that competitive eating has become such big business that there’s a new Wii game devoted to the subject. There’s even an International Federation of Competitive Eating!

Who knew that eating 17 pounds of cow brains could bring you fame or that a tiny, 105-pound woman can eat 11 pounds of cheesecake in one sitting and live to tell the tale?

As for myself, although I did eat three kinds of ice cream today (Brown Butter Pecan and Salted Caramel at Bi-Rite and Blue Bottle Vietnamese Iced Coffee at Humphry Slocombe), the only competitive eating contest I can image entering (and winning) is Boston’s annual bacon eating extravaganza.