Vintage KFC bucket sign, San Jose

Vintage KFC bucket sign, San Jose

Now that Kid One is living in San Jose, I have a good reason for heading “over the hill” more than once in a blue moon. One thing I’ve discovered is that San Jose has done a great job preserving historic signs. I posted this one from mStephen’s Meat Products a while back. Here’s one near Kid One’s flat – an old Colonel Sanders bucket marking a KFC and Taco Bell next to Zanotto’s Market near the Rose Garden. I love it for the food history preserved here.

Special sh#% holiday gift shopping

Special sh#% holiday gift shopping

I saw these bottles and thought it was TOTAL GENIUS marketing. A Texas company called Special Sh$% is making all sorts of seasonings and gift packs, just in case you – or a close frenemy – need a little bit of  savory sh&^ in your life. (Or your kitchen.) I can’t speak for the quality of the ingredients, at 12.95/bottle, I’ll wait for someone to give me a jar of my own some...

Scrambled Eggs and Waffle Fries

We’ve been enjoying Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show so much this week! He even holds Kid Two’s attention, and my 15-year old cultural critic is a tough nut to crack. And those suits!  His Late Show was never on my radar – WAY past my bedtime. So even though I’d occasionally catch online clips, I never did appreciate how very creative, polished, and entertaining he is. I’m a fan. I always take note when a song talks about food in some way, so I perked up at a mention in Vanity Fair that Fallon knew that Paul McCartney used “scrambled eggs” and a placeholder for “yesterday” when he wrote the song. Too tempting. He got McCartney to agreed to appear as a guest AND showed him a new verse about “waffle fries” to convince him to perform the piece. They perform it completely straight. Awesome. embedded by Embedded Video  ...
Roadside Sausage Sign, San Jose

Roadside Sausage Sign, San Jose

  There’s a pretty good history of the defunct and demolished Stephen’s Meat Products plant you can read by clicking here. You don’t have to know anything about it, though, to appreciate the lone sign as a testament to times past. Great...
Cook The Books Club Winner!

Cook The Books Club Winner!

Last week Deb from Kahakai Kitchen contacted me asking if I’d guest judge their Cook The Books Club contest for the book “Baking Cakes in Kigali.” Well – yes! The Cook The Books Club is a bimonthly book club and blog event in which the hosts, along with any other interested person, reads a predetermined food-related book, blogs her thoughts, and prepares a dish inspired by the book. Fun! Here are my responses to the thoughtful and inspiring blog posts that were submitted, and congratulations to the winner Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Camilla. Thank you for inviting me to play! I plan to join you next time for Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens....
For perfectly straight cucumbers every time

For perfectly straight cucumbers every time

We recently had a gentleman visitor from England, an erudite, entertaining, fellow who, although having travelled extensively in Africa and the Middle East during his first career, was on his first visit to California. We started him off right with a trip to our Satuday’s farmer’s market for a few tastes of the Monterey Bay: Tomales Bay kumamoto oysters from La Marea of the Sea, kraut juice shots from Farmhouse Culture, local Monterey Jack cheese from Schloch Family Farmstead, and fresh strawberries and cucumbers to take home for the evening’s cocktails. A breakfast of princes. He happened to mention, while in line to pay for the aforementioned cucumbers, that as a young man he worked for a grower outside London who shared the ancient Victorian invention for growing perfectly straight cucumbers: grow them in a glass tube. I thought he was pulling our legs, but it’s true. Industrial Age inventor George Stephenson, the man credited with building the first railway in the world to use steam locomotives and who invented the miner’s lamp, tired of trying to make a sandwich from wayward, curvy cukes and came up with – you got it – a glass tube keeping them on the straight and narrow. The cucumber straightener. They became quite popular; here is an advertisement Oh, those crazy Victorians. Click here for more cucumber...

Huli Huli Chicken

Every week I try and catch Wiki Wiki Wednesday on KZSC; it’s broadcast from 6 to 9 am Pacific time, which sometimes interferes with either sleep or Morning Edition. It’s worth it to hear a gem like this. . . here is “Huli Huli Chicken” from the Barefoot Natives: Huli huli chicken and huli hull-style chicken has a big following in Hawaii . . . story goes, it was first made by a man named Ernie Morgado from Pacific Poultry who was cooking at a company event. This version of his teriyaki barbecued chicken, made with a now-patented sauce, was so delicious it became part of the Hawaiian food culture. It got its name because the chicken was cooked between two grills and flipped over, and “huli” is the Hawaiian word for “turn.” I love it when a dish is so culturally ingrained it gets its own song. Peaches, anyone?...
Homemade provel cheese

Homemade provel cheese

  True story: St. Louis-born in a decidedly un-foodie time, I did not know that provel and provolone were two different cheeses until after I had moved to California and was married with a baby. Really. I had a sudden taste for one of those delicious house salads we used to get from Talayna’s back when there was only one enormous and dirty location in DeBaliviere, before it got all prettied up and moved. The salad was an enormous mound of iceberg lettuce with a few Greek olives, cherry tomatoes, croutons, and delicious gooey tubes of provel cheese, all tossed together with the house dressing, a garlicky creamy Italian that my BFF assured me her mother said was very close to Marie’s. I can’t find a picture of it, but here’s a similar salad from Leo’s Pizza in Kansas City that will give you the idea: I made the salad that night with provolone and was disappointed. Where was that soft, gooey cheese I craved? I confessed to LL being confused that the provolone in California was so – different from my midwestern cheese. “But we called it provel,” I reasoned. “Maybe there’s some difference.” And that’s when I learned they’re two completely different cheeses. “Provel is like Velveeta,” he informed me. It’s processed. It’s not even cheese. I’ve never seen it around here.” To this day, I have no idea how my native California-husband knew about provel 22 years ago when just 2 years ago even Anthony Bourdain hadn’t. He just knows things, it’s his superpower. So I moved on and found other cheeses, and for all these years provel was just...
Pork egg roll with apple, carrot, and jicama

Pork egg roll with apple, carrot, and jicama

My first homegrown monster Mutsu apples inspired this recipe. Make your slaw in advance; you will have leftovers by design that are wonderful tossed with cashews on a lettuce or tortilla wrap with avocado. The first time I made these these egg rolls with fresh fried calamari rings (the recipe is at the bottom of the post) and miso soup. We are having them again tonight with steamed tilapia and miso soup again. (What can I say, we like miso soup!) First, the slaw recipe. Here’s a tip I just learned: peel fresh ginger by gently scraping off the peel with a spoon. Works like a charm. And for this recipe, make sure your ginger is very finely grated or you’ll get odd gingery chunks. Apple, carrot, and jicama slaw   Save Print This is a crunchy, sweet, and tart slaw that's delicious served with pork loin as an entree or as a sandwich or wrap filling. Author: Life in a Skillet Recipe type: Salad Ingredients 1 cup jicama, peeled and julienned 1 cup tart apple, julienned, and tossed with 2 tbsp lemon juice to keep from browning 1 cup carrot, julienned 1 tbsp grated ginger ¼ cup minced red onion 1 tablespoon sesame oil 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tsp ground black lemon pepper. Instructions In a large bowl, stir together the jicama, apple, carrot, onion, and ginger. Drizzle with olive and sesame oils. Toss well. Add pepper and toss again. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. Wordpress Recipe Plugin by EasyRecipe 3.2.2089   Now make it into an egg roll: Pork loin egg rolls with apple, carrot,...
50 and Counting with the Rolling Stones in San Jose

50 and Counting with the Rolling Stones in San Jose

There’s got to be something wrong with getting dressed up and sipping roasted truffle bisque before a Rolling Stones show. Maybe not as wrong as Jessica Biel wearing a clip-on nose ring to Chaos to Couture, but when said roasted truffle bisque is accompanied by lobster tail and is served in a restaurant arena at a special reservations-required seating before the show, it’s cause to wonder. While Mick and Keith were backstage, possibly channeling eternal youth inside matching hyperbaric chambers, a legion of similarly-aged fans sat inside The Grill at the HP Pavilion at a $72.95-per-person-pre-fixe-Rolling-Stones menu, selecting from house made chanterelle pasta, red wine marinated poussin, applewood bacon wrapped filet, or potato scaled turbot. And drinking wine. Check it out.

Naoki Honjo kitchen photograph

Naoki Honjo kitchen photograph

  This photo absolutely captivates me. It’s the illustration for Tessa Hadley’s short story “Experience” from an old New Yorker, and I wish you could see it full-page size, as I did. I instantly imagined an entire persona from this peek at a refrigerator. It’s impossible for me to read the New Yorkers each week, so periodically I page through a stack, making sure I’ve read all the good bits and tearing the Table For Two columns before reluctantly recycling them. Invariably, doing so makes my life richer....
Fiction for foodies: Baking Cakes in Kigali

Fiction for foodies: Baking Cakes in Kigali

Every now and then I read a book that just perfectly illustrates how food as a theme unites all the people of the world. Baking Cakes in Kigali is one of those books. It’s most likely not a novel you’ve heard of; at least I hadn’t, although author Gaile Parkin made Oprah’s poll of favorite contemporary women writers the year after it was published. My newest sister-in-law – the one on our family who ALWAYS  knows what’s going on – gave me this copy on one of my trips back to St. Louis. Once I dove into the story. I was completely enthralled – read it straight through the day and into the night. The protagonist is Angel Tungaraza, a married mother raising her four grandchildren while running a cake-baking business. I love her character; she’s wise, insightful, and empathetic, the type of person to whom others confide their problems. With flour, sugar, eggs, and food coloring, she sets the wheels in motion to solve any tricky situation or problem that arises with a light heart and a perfectly decorated cake. This isn’t magical realism, though. Here’s the deal – the best part of the novel is the contrast of Angel’s baking business against the setting, her middle-class household in post-genocide Rwanda. The only thing I knew about the country was locked in my memories of horrific reports that I honestly tried to block, and Parkin, who lived in Rwanda for a time, created a sweet story of people who live normal lives – working, schooling, traveling, and marrying – against a devastated past. Cake and joy are the ties...

Iron Chef Morimoto is judging Miss Universe

In an interesting twist on food meets culture, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, the person who introduced me to cooking competitions via Iron Chef Japan, who never fails to amaze and inspire me with gorgeous bites like this when I catch him on Iron Chef America, is taking all that global cred and eye for beauty and turning it to . . . women. Check this out: