Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 4 - Going downhill quickly

Today started off pretty good - we heated up the rest of the broccoli-salami-swiss egg pie for lunch, and it was even better the next day.  This afternoon I made a couple of loaves of ciabatta using a starter begun last night.  I used the recipe from Epicurious, which originally came from the late, lamented Gourmet.  It got OK - not amazing, but pretty good.  It was just a bit sweeter than I expected it to be.  But it's a good basis for improvement.
     Then for supper, we have parts of a couple of meals, but not everything we needed for any of them.  Today was a lazy pajama day, and we were pretty adamant about not leaving the house for anything short of a fire.  So, we relied on emergency apocalypse supplies - Spam and Kraft macaroni and cheese.  I am feeling considerable shame as I type these words, but there you have it.  That's what we ate.  I did dress up the mac 'n' cheese with dried leek flakes and smoked paprika, but that was mostly to make myself feel better.  Don't get me wrong, we eat mac 'n' cheese every couple of weeks, but I usually make it from scratch (though not to the point of making my own noodles - that's a bit far for me).  After mac 'n' cheese with real actual cheese, Kraft doesn't taste great.  But it gets the job done, so there you have it. I make no apologies about the Spam - it tastes as good as any other processed ham and Mr EA loves it. 
   So tomorrow we'll be out of the house for work, and able to pick up the bits and pieces we need for the other meals we have most of, so that will be a relief. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 3 - Egg-pie day

So back to our regularly scheduled story!
     Tonight I made an egg pie (or refrigerator pie, or quiche) out of the leftover broccoli from last night.  I had a frozen pie crust, so that saved some stress.  I am hit or miss on homemade pie crust, so I avoid it when I can.  But what to put in with the broccoli?  By itself it's a little dull.  We had 3 slices of hard salami left - they got diced up and thrown in the mix.  The bag of shredded cheese I though we had was nowhere to be found, so I diced up 4 slices of swiss cheese we had for lunches.  Now for the binder - we do have eggs for which we have no other plans, so that was a go.  However - cream?  Not so much.  Well, we had 2% milk, which isn't an exact substitute, but close enough is good enough - more or less.  In the oven it went, and emerged somewhat moister than I think it should have, but still done well enough.  It tasted pretty good, and we have a good bit left over for lunch tomorrow.  So that's another meal done.  Yay!

F Street Station

I take a break from our regularly scheduled column about our planless week to write about our visit to F street station today for lunch.  We were downtown running some errands, and having a tough time figuring out where to eat - so many good places we wanted to get back to, so many new places to try!  We have heard good things about F Street Station for some time now, so after some discussion we decided to check it out.
     In decor terms, F Street actually is what places like Red Robin try to be - a funky, interesting-junk-encrusted, neighborhood joint.  It is a very comfortable place with a relaxed atmosphere. The lunch menu, at least, is somewhat limited - burger, fish and chicken sandwiches, and a reasonable selection of seafood entrees. What is on the menu, though, sounds pretty good, so we were a while deciding.  Mr EA chose a halibut sandwich, and I got onion soup and a side of homefries (which turned out to be french fries).  Mr EA immediately fell in love with his sandwich - the fish is perfectly cooked - moist and tasty, and the batter is light and a bit spicy but not overwhelmingly so.  Mr EA said it is one of the best fish sandwiches he ever ate.  He reports that the roll was also very tasty, and he appreciated that the fixings came on the side so he could dress the sandwich himself.  On the side were tomato, onion and pickle slices, and a little cup of tartar sauce.  My onion soup was delicious - the cheese was nicely browned and the soup itself was richly beef with lots of good tender onion.  It came with some bread that I was too full from the soup and fries to eat.  The fries were medium-thin cut with the skin still on, fried to a good crisp brown.  In my lifetime pantheon of best fries ever, they are now second to White Spot fries.  I would guess that they are fresh cooked, but I can't swear to that.  We dipped them into the tartar sauce left in Mr EA's cup, and that made them even better.  All in all, an excellent lunch at an interesting place.  If you already haven't, check out F Street Station - you'll be glad you did!

PS - a little later in our downtown trip, we stopped by the Cake Studio, where Mr EA had a key lime pyramid and I had a cherry-champagne dessert - they were both delicious :)  So far, 3 out of 3 stops there have been successes.  Check them out for sophisticated treats when you are downtown!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 3 - A Spunky Try at Dinner

      This is one the meals we actually sort of planned during our shopping trip - meat!  Mr EA grilled (yes, outside, on our grill) a steak, which we started marinating this morning.  The marinade was a thrown together mix of mustard, oil, seasonings, liquid smoke and vinegar.  It got pretty tasty, and was expertly grilled - mmmm!  With it we had sauteed onions and steamed broccoli.  We didn't think of having steak until we were at the meat department, which is after produce in our store, so we didn't think of potatoes.  However, the veggies were pretty good, so we didn't miss the starch too much.
      Also, in a happy accident, we have a lot of leftover broccoli, which we are thinking about making into an egg pie for dinner tomorrow.  Egg pie is a naming convention that came about because, apparently, men do not eat quiche.  They will eat egg pie, however, so that's what we're having :)  We do have some eggs we need to use up, and have a bag of shredded cheese, so that should all work out.  I'd say I love it when a plan comes together, but of course, we don't have one.  I love it when not having a plan comes together?  I'll work on that and get back to you.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 2 - Quick Dinner night

So tonight was a hurry-up night.  I have an exercise class which makes it necessary to leave the house at about 5:45, and so we can either eat something quick before I go, or something quick after I get back at around 8.  Sometimes I make something the night before that we can reheat, like soup, and sometimes we just have cubanos or something like that.  Of course, being plan free meant we hadn't prepared for either of those eventualities - what would we do for supper tonight?
     Rifling through the pantry I found an emergency can of Italian Wedding soup, and we had sandwich fixings.  Voila!  Soup and toasted cheese sandwiches it was.  Now that wasn't so hard, was it?

...However, I will say this.  We already had to make a store stop to get stuff we didn't know we would need.  We decided to try baking naan and ciabattas this weekend, so we needed yeast and milk. This is one of the reasons I like to have a plan. Hopefully this won't be too frequent of an occurrence!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Our Week of Eating Dangerously - Day 1: Shopping Without a Net

Our Week of Eating Dangerously really has its roots in yesterday, or as I like to call it, D minus 1.  I finally talked myself into getting a new phone, which was something I had wanted to do for sometime but could just not justify it.  Finally though, I did justify it (to myself; Mr EA has been telling me to "just get one" for months now).   Anyway, the result of this was that last night, when I should have been planning for the coming week's meals, I was playing with my new phone well into the night.  So when I finally started thinking about my chores, it was 10:30, which was too late to start as it is an hours long process. 
     Normally, I open up my Living Cookbook software and plan the menu using the calendar, then use that to create our shopping list, which I then adjust according to what we already have on hand or need that isn't related to a menu item.  Then I print out the shopping list, then I go through the coupons to have the ones we will probably need together.  Then the list and coupons go with us the next night for shopping.  I have friends who think that is the craziest thing they ever heard.  They just stop to pick up a few things every night, or get what's on sale, or get bunches of packaged food from Costco or something.  Then of course I think that's crazy.  But what a boring world it would be if we were all the same! 
     So anyway.  Because of various other things going on this week, if we did not shop tonight, it would probably not be until this weekend some time.  So we decided to just wing it.  As we wandered through the aisles of Fred Meyer's, randomly picking up and putting down various items, this seemed kind of like a bad idea already.  Like Dr. Henry Jones, I recorded all my important information so I wouldn't have to remember it.    A good percentage of our favorite meals are a bit involved, so I put them in the software.  "Think," I said "What do we like to eat that isn't too involved?"
 "Pizza" said Mr EA.  So we got stuff for French bread pizza (which is what we had to eat tonight).
"OK, pizza."  I said, "What else?"
 "..,.Different pizza?" said Mr EA.  "Spam!  Some kind of meat!"
 "No, seriously"  I said.
     He was serious.  So we wandered around a bit more, picked up some things we vaguely thought might go with some other things we were pretty sure we already had at home and wandered back out.  After paying, of course.  The grocery bill was about on par with what it normally is, so we didn't go absolutely berserk, which was what I would have predicted would happen.  So that was a surprise!  Wonder what else we will discover on this wacky, menu-free adventure we are on?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue

Acting on a hot tip from ADN, and also as part of a generally Hawaiian-themed day, we went to the Dimond Mall today to check out L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.  A relatively recent addition to the food court next to the skating rink, L&L is one of several interesting stands at the mall.  Apparently this is part of a fast food chain that originated in (surprise!) Hawaii and has since spread to many Western States, American Samoa, New Zealand, and now Anchorage. 
The focus of the menu are the plate lunches.  For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure, a plate lunch is your entree of choice, two scoops of rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad.  I don't know why that's the standard combo, but it sure is tasty.  Entrees are some form of beef, pork, chicken or fish - no vegetarian options are available that I could see.  It was hard to choose - so many delicious looking options shone out at us from the menu board!  However, Mr EA wound up with a chicken katsua lunch plate and a spam musubi, and I got a loco moco lunch plate.  I had been reading about loco moco for years, and wanted to try it - it was worth the wait!
plates are available in two sizes, mini and regular.  We got the regular, since mini sounds...well, tiny.  However, we will probably go to mini next time, because regular is a humongous pile of food. Despite valiant efforts, neither of us could finish - the food was so tasty we didn't want to stop eating, but eventually you have to.  Or you'll explode. 
     Mr EA's chicken consisted of planks (strip is too timid a word for these pieces) of boneless chicken, breaded and fried.  It tasted to me like there was skin still on there, but maybe that's just because it was so flavorful.  The breading was crunchy and lightly spiced, the chicken was moist.  He also got a small portion of barbecue sauce for dipping that was also delicious - kind of ketchup-y with some soy sauce flavor as well.  The spam musubi was also very good, but a big portion.  You get a big brick of sushi rice with a thin layer of sauce on top and then a slab of Spam on top of that, and the whole thing wrapped in a sheet of nori.  It was even better than the same appetizer at Hula Hands, because it was warm, and the sauce really added a bit of kick.  I know it sounds kind of icky, especially if you are not a Spam fan (and if not, why not?) but it really is extremely tasty.
    In ordering loco moco, you need to specify how you want the egg done - I got it scrambled, so I didn't get any good yolk action.  However, I'm kind of squirrely about eating eggs out, so scrambled was the safer bet for me.  Loco moco is a hamburger patty topped with an egg and covered with gravy, all on top of rice.  It is really pretty tasty!  If you were a fan of salisbury steak day at your school cafeteria, you will like loco moco, as it tastes very much like that, but with an egg on it.  Also, the hamburger and gravy are probably better than what they had at your school cafeteria.  I even tried dipping a few bites in Mr EA's barbecue sauce, and that was pretty good too, but it was re tasty on its own.  The macaroni salad (mayonnaise based mix with not a lot of vegetation in there) was also delicious.
     As for the ambiance, well, it's a food court.  The beverage options include a variety of Hawaiian fruit juices and (really) Hawaiian Punch.  If you do want a delicious taste of the islands, and aren't too concerned about ambiance, check out L&L.  You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sullivan's - Believe the Hype

Pretty much everything anyone has said to me about Sullivan's has consisted of two parts:
1) the food is amazing, delicious, incredible!
2) it's kind of pricy, though.
Both those things turned out to be entirely correct. 
     As yesterday (1/12) was my birthday, Mr EA offered to take me out to eat anywhere I wanted.  After a lengthy internal debate - I picked Sullivan's.  We got there a bit early in the evening, shortly after their dinner opening at 5 pm.  Despite not having reservations, we got seated right away.  The dining room filled up pretty quickly thereafter, though, so I'm glad we got there early. 
The atmosphere is what I would call "Classic Steakhouse" not Western Steakhouse - not a lasso or branding iron to be seen.  There are dark wood panelled walls, tables with white tablecloths, subdued lighting, and photos of Jazz Age boxers (John Sullivan, Jack Dempsey - that sort of thing).
Our waiter, whose name I unfortunately did not catch, was a real pro - making excellent recommendations and generally maintaining a good balance between checking in on us and leaving us in peace. 
I started with a gin martini, which came with a skewer of three absolutely enormous olives.  The martini itself was perfect, bitter and with good aromatics from the gin.  Then we got risotto fritters - herbed risotto wrapped around a chunk of mozzerella and fried into a crispy ball.  This came with a delicious tomato dipping sauce that really brought out the savoriness in the dish.  It was delicious, and just enough to share between the two of us. 
For our entrees, Mr EA and I debated long and hard, but both wound up ordering 10 oz strip steaks with a side of frites, both of which had garlic butter on them.  "Wait a minute!" the fitness conscious will be saying "Steak and fries with butter on them?!"  Yes.  And it was delicious.  Mr. EA also ordered gorgonzola butter for his steak, which I stole little bits of, and that was even MORE delicious.  But I am getting ahead of myself. We generally like to order different things so we can try each other's food and get a better sampling of what's on offer.  And there were a lot of tasty-sounding items on the menu.  However, this was the thing that sounded best to both of us.  We'll try for more diversity on our next visit!
  I started out with the "salad", which was a wedge of iceberg lettuce liberally doused with a house-made blue cheese dressing.  It also had a little sprinking of tomato bits on it.  This came with the entree, but Mr. EA declined his, on the grounds that he did not want to have anything to do with lettuce just then.  I loved it.  The lettuce was very crisp and refreshing, and the dressing was creamy with a good dose of blue cheese funkiness - a perfect balance of flavors.  When the entrees came, the steaks were perfectly done - we ordered medium, and they had a good sear on the outsides and juicy pink insides.  The frites were crisp and garlicy, and the ones on the bottom of the stack were doused in steak juice.  Mmmmmmmmmm. 
     Our waiter tried to tempt us with dessert, but there was really no way for that to happen.  Everything - the appetizers, the side dishes, the desserts all looked so tempting, but we were seriously full.  Maybe on another visit.
If you are in the mood for a hearty meal featuring steak in an elegant atmosphere, check out Sullivan's. You'll be glad you did!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Burpee catalog - harbinger of delicious veggies, or cruel hoax?

Once upon a time, I was a halfway decent gardner.  July through late September would bring us baskets of tomatoes every week, more pumpkins and cucumbers than you could shake a stick at.  However, that was a few grow zones away. 
     I've been getting conflicting reports from green-thumbed locals and long-time transplants.  Some people say you can't grow tomatoes here without a greenhouse (which isn't going to happen for us).  Others say that you can spit a seed at the ground and come back a week later with a wheelbarrow for the veggies that will result.  Now, obviously, agriculture happens here - we do have plants.  I'm just wondering if amateur gardeners can do much of anything with regular seeds.
     I plan to try some container gardening, and maybe a bit of planting in the yard.  So we'll see. 
    Anyone reading along from the Anchorage area - do you have a garden?  And if so, how does that work out for you?

Eating Alaska - Christmas Edition!

Here is the second half of our foodie Christmas exchange!
Here is a cross section of what we sent out to loved ones in different parts of the country.

The base layer is, of course, a smoked Alaska Wild Salmon.  the other box on the left is a selection of chocolates from the Alaska Wildberry store, which have centers of (you guessed it!) wild berry jellies.  On the right are the birch caramels of earlier post fame.  The cylindrical device above that is a reindeer sausage.  The cute little jar is birch syrup from the same maker as the caramels.   

Not everyone got the same stuff - some people don't like fish, some people don't like meat or fish, and so forth.  I don't believe we sent anyone Alaska jellies this year, or AK specific herbal teas.  However, those are some other good options. Some of this, of course, is stuff you wouldn't necessarily eat on a weekly basis.  However, it is indisputably local, and it is indisputably good stuff! 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thrill Griller

Mr EA is, shall we say, an enthusiastic grill man.  In our previous home, he grilled something at least once a week.  We had a decent sized porch, so inclement weather didn't bother him, and it never got that cold, so winter didn't bother him either.  However, events have conspired to keep him from cooking meat over an open flame for the past year and a half, and it has been wearing on him.  Severely.  A few weeks ago, however, he was able to purchase a grill.  Then events conspired to keep him from using it. 
Until today...

He grilled a reindeer sausage we bought this weekend at the Alaska Sausage company (to be blogged later).  Right now he is feasting on crispy sausage, and seems happier than I have seen him in a while - a guy and his grill :)