The Lone Foodie is Moving!!

I have decided that the Lone Foodie deserves a more creative and open platform to share all my food adventures with the world.  So, the site has officially been moved to www.lonefoodie.com.  This version will be up for a couple more weeks until I can get all the media transferred but all the fun and new articles will be posted to www.lonefoodie.com.   If you have a subscription please continue it on our new site!!  If you have any questions please let me know – I am so excited to start sharing even more food posts with you :).

What is duck sauce, anyways?

Tonight was the second instance in memory that I was disgusted by Chinese food, a truly tragic occurrence.  The first was in college from “Tiki House,” the only place that would deliver after 2:00 am in the area.  That alone probably should have tipped us off that not only was the quality sure to be marginal but that we also should not be eating at that time of night regardless of the number of beers consumed.  

Tonight was different.  All day I had been craving chicken lo mein and a good crispy egg roll dipped in duck sauce.   A fairly simple request, I thought.   This was the first time I was ordering take-out in Pittsburgh and remembered a small place on the main street of the suburb that I live in.  So on my drive home I googled the number and called in my order.    A man with a light Chinese accent asked when I would be arriving and I gave him an estimated ten minutes; he laughed mischievously and asked if I could possibly be there in 9 and a half minutes?  Weird. 

So I pull up and park so I can quickly run in, grab my food, and be on my way.  As I open the door all hopes for a anonymous transaction are dashed.  “You are LATE!” giggles a small man.  I shrug, apologize and ask how much I owe.  It is dark in the restaurant and as I look over I notice only one other patron, a large and very drunk man who upon seeing me exclaims “Ray! I see you have ordered my new wife!”  Gross.

As I am paying I start noticing even grosser things about this establishment.  Piles of newspapers are stacked everywhere, random trinkets litter the floor, and in a three room restaurant only two tables.  I grab the bag of “food” and quickly hurry out.   On my drive home I am obviously evaluating whether the contents of that bag are safe but my sheer hunger is overpowering common sense. 

At home I bite into an egg roll that is mushy and void of filling other than a meek looking shrimp.  No mind, the star is still to come – Chicken Lo Mein!  I open the take-out container and am pleased to see some bright-colored broccoli heads and carrot sticks.  I tentatively taste a bite and immediately regret every decision to eat today.  It tasted like something rancid, moldy, and dirty socks all at the same time.   Again, GROSS. 

So as I am sitting here trying to decide when the inevitable food poisoning is going to set in, the question “What is duck sauce?” enters my mind.   As I quickly do  a Google search I learn that it is also referred to as plum sauce or apricot sauce and is mostly composed of fruit, sugar and spices.   Thankfully, mine tonight came in plastic packets and it is the one thing that I do not fear to make me deathly ill for the remainder of the night.   Moral of the story:  If you don’t trust the looks of a restaurant, why trust the kitchen that you can’t see?  

In case my encounter is not entertaining enough for you, here is a song by the group Duck Sauce: Barbara Streisand.

Purple, Purple, Everywhere!

 

And no sign of flowers in sight!  I am not sure if I was drawn to purple this weekend for the longing for spring flowers, of not having a dreary, rainy day or because it is Easter weekend but everything I did and saw the last few days seemed to be purple. 

It all started with the decision to do something with all the food magazine recipe clippings that I have accumulated over the years.  I am not sure why I thought it was a good idea to cut individual recipes out instead of whole pages to make it easier to catalog, but none the less I am left with a pile of asymmetrical clippings documenting all of the recipes that called to me the last few years.   The result of this endeavor will be chronicled soon (with its own page!) but the important thing was the discovery of a recipe that included “Onion Jam” from Bon Appetite. 

It was supposed to be an accompaniment to a rack of lamb with mint pesto but I immediately thought of using it as base for pizza with goat cheese.   You can find my modified recipe here.  Isn’t it pretty??

                        Red Onion Jam and Goat Cheese Pizzette

I then spotted some tiny purple potatoes at Market District on Saturday afternoon.   I had never even seen these bright beauties before but thought that they would be a perfect star for my ‘try a new food” exercise this week.   After a quick search on the Internet to make sure there was no special treatment needed for these, I decided an Easter morning potato hash would be the perfect way to celebrate.   

Caramelizing the potatos with butter, shallots, garlic and mushrooms then topping with a fried egg was a satisfying and colorful breakfast! 

                                                  Purple Potatoes and a Fried Egg

As if it was known I was having a “Purple” weekend, Saturday night provided me with a gorgeous purple and pink sunset.  I hope everyone else had a delicious and colorful Easter weekend.  What did everyone eat? 

The Best Pasta Sauce Ever……

While its very well known that I am not Italian (in fact, half Irish and half English), I think it is fair that I can make such an opinionated statement regarding a sauce, or  “gravy,” if you will.   First off, I have no biases towards other sauces.  I do not have an Italian grandmother to which I want to swear allegiance to her pot of bubbling deliciousness.  Rather, I have an Irish grandmother with a penchant for Stouffer’s frozen lasagna.   Some may exclaim that I do not have the Italian palate fit to judge such a claim.  Nonsense.  I have eaten my fair share of over-salted and preservative filled Olive Garden in addition to having my fair share of fresh, bright and luscious sauces in the North End of Boston.   I know a good sauce when I taste/smell/see one. 

My quest to make an amazing sauce started my junior year in college.  At this time I thought nothing of cracking open a jar of Classico and dumping it over generic brand noodles and calling it dinner.   One night I offered to host a spaghetti night for my sorority sisters.   They all groaned and said the only way that they would participate was if I nixed the stuff from a jar.    It was my turn to groan.  Every time I asked someone to share their recipe she said it was a secret family recipe that was impossible to share.  Finally, my big sister stepped up to the plate.  Coming from a close-knit Italian family she often invited me for dinners when going home to NC was just not an option.  She decided I could learn her “gravy” recipe.   From that moment, I was hooked.  I wanted to try cooking all sorts of sauces. 

One day while watching the Barefoot Contessa on the food network I watched an incredible sauce be built before my eyes.  Originally, this is a sauce made at Nick and Toni’s Restaurant in East Hampton, NY.  It had a magical color and I could almost smell it through my television.  Immediately, I knew I had to make this sauce. 

While I can wax on poetically about how good, creamy, rich and downright enjoyable this sauce is, that would get rather boring.  Instead, here is a picture for you to see the magical color on your own, and a link to the recipe.  Trust me, just this once, don’t go with Grandma’s secret recipe.  TRY IT. 

Nick and Tonis Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

You can find the recipe here:

Nick and Toni’s Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

P.S.  In case my opinion isn’t good enough, the Amateur Gourmet also did a post about this pasta sauce here: Amateur Gourmet’s Post on Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

A Weekend of Firsts

Staying true to my food resolutions, I made sure that I tried new things this weekend to share on The Lone Foodie.  The new food was parsnips prepared in a new recipe that I found on the Amateur Gourmet (Great food blog for those of you who haven’t discovered it yet), Cider Braised Chicken with Parsnips. 

I’m not sure how this vegetable was missed in my repertoire over the years.  I am a huge fan of carrots and potatoes giving me no excuse not to delve into other root vegetables.  Whatever the reason, yesterday I had my first taste, and they were wonderful!  I will definitely be cooking with them a lot next winter.  I can see them being great even as a substitute to mashed potatoes or in a stew.

Parsnips ready for their cider braising!

 Braising is also a preparation technique that was foreign to me, making this recipe a great choice for my flag-ship blogging endeavor.  I had no idea how juicy and flavor infused a simple chicken breast would become after doing this!  The best part is that it was so simple.  Just put it all in the oven after browning the chicken and leave it alone and when it comes out of the oven your meal looks like this:

Cider Braised Chicken and Parsnips
Finally, as you can probably tell from the photos, food photography is also a first for me.   Photography, film, and pretty much everything creative has been left safely in the hands of my brother, Ryan, for the last 7 years or so.  It has been so fun to experiment though and I promise my skills will get better!  My wish list of kitchen toys is now including photography toys, go figure.  I will post this recipe on the recipe page soon so check back if you want to try it!

And the Adventure Begins!

Welcome to the Lone Foodie!  This is an idea that I have been contemplating, thinking about some more, toying with and finally deciding to jump in and bring to life.   Food to me has expressed itself in many different ways over my life.  Eating wonderful meals has always been something that I love to do surrounded with friends and family, as I am sure is the same with a majority of people.   It is always so enlightening to see how each person gleans a different experience from the same food, it makes the experience so much richer to share it with someone. 

The name of my blog is The Lone Foodie, however.   This speaks to several different avenues of food that, in general, I explore on my own.  The first is actually cooking.  From the time I was young, I would take to the kitchen whenever I had spare time, often to bake cookies.  Lots and lots of cookies.  Our household had so many cookies that my parents started bringing them wherever we went to try and minimize the stockpile!  As I grew up,  I expanded my skills outside of cookies but I still was almost always cooking alone.  It became meditative and a way for me to focus all my energy on something other than everyday stressors.   Today, I look forward to the days where I can spend several hours experimenting with a new recipe and then (hopefully!) enjoying the outcome.  I have also begun creating cooking playlists that I will post for everyone to enjoy!  Gotta love dancing and cooking at the same time :). 

Then there are other aspects of being a foodie:  salivating over the fresh produce at farmer’s markets, poring over gorgeous cookbooks filled with endless possibilities, biting my nails through each season of Top Chef and researching all the new restaurants in my area that I immediately want to go try.   Unfortunately, being twenty three its not common for my friends to jump with joy to be a part of these explorations.  A $90/head five course farm to table dinner located outside in the area I recently proposed brought moans and averted gazes.  I, of course, thought it sounded fabulous!  Ultimately, these experiences gave me the final push to start this blog.  Not only will I now have a forum to share the fun foodie adventures that I go on, but it will give me the motivation to push myself to try even more things in the world of gastronomy. 

With that said, I have made a few “Foodie Resolutions” for the rest of the year to chronicle on The Lone Foodie:

  1. Start a food blog
  2. Cook a new recipe once a week minimum.
  3. Try one new food each week.
  4. Go to a farm to table dinner experience
  5. Take a cooking course
  6. Take a wine tasting course
  7. Learn to like fish
  8. Write 10 original recipes  – savory or sweet

I hope you enjoy my blog and please share any ideas about food adventures with me! 

Doing food research in Poland - Spring 2009. Street Pretzels were great!