Monday, August 23, 2010

Pork...a love affair

It is no secret that I am obsessed with food. No, not in the 'pry the cookie dough out of my hand' obsession, but the kind of obsession that does not allow me to live a day without reading about, preparing or watching about food in some context. That being said, I can't eat with reckless abandon like I did 20 years ago. And the food that I grew up on would not be considered health conscious by any means. If it wasn't for the lettuce, iceberg no less, that we stuffed into our tacos, fresh produce wasn't in the culinary arsenal of the Mexican food that my mother prepared.

To prepare authentic carnitas....they MUST be fried; fried in lard. What did you actually think? Carnitas are amazing because they are fried in lard. But I had to ask the question; do they really need to be fried to be orgasmic? I decided that they did not. Although the piece of pork that I use is not the leanest piece, the preparation can lay waste to some of that food guilt. So, here is my take on a healthier version....


4-5 pound bone-in pork shoulder. (Yes, you can remove SOME of the fat, but please leave some on, it is necessary)

6-7 garlic cloves cut into slices

5-6 medium onions sliced lengthwise and then sliced into 1/4 inch slices

olive oil

1/2 cup of dark beer

1/4-1/3 cup of fresh squeezed citrus juice with pulp (I used a combo of ruby grapefruit and orange juices)

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

With a pairing knife, make slits all over the roast and stuff the garlic slices in the holes. Pat the roast dry and season all over with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan in moderately hot heat, but not smoking. Brown the roast on all sides. When the roast is browned, remove and place on plate.

Lower the heat to medium and add all of the onions. Saute for 5 minutes until the onions start to soften and brown. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and continue to saute for 10/15 minutes until the onions are caramelized.

Add the liquid to the pan and stir to remove the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the pork onto the top of the onions and cover the dutch oven with a tight fitting lid. Place in oven.

Roast for 2-1/2 to 3 hours until the meat is tender and falls away from the bone. Shred meat with fingers when cool enough.

You can prepare a day ahead. My secret to reheating without drying the meat out is to place the meat in foil and put into a steamer basket over hot water. This not only retains the moisture but places a small amount back that is lost when refrigerated.

To finish the carnitas tacos, I prefer the following:

Small "taquito" corn tortillas toasted over open gas flame or in a dry non stick pan
Fresh topped cilantro and onion
Fresh sliced radish
Crumbled Queso Fresco (if you are lucky enough to find a Mexican deli that sells so!)
Cubed avocado
Salsa (your preference)
Fresh limes

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pesto, pesto, pesto

This is one of my favorite times of year....tomatoes and basil are in season, at their peak of beauty and flavor. So, I picked up three large bunches of basil and organic heirloom cherry tomatoes. Pesto was on the menu last night....delicious. Scroll down for the recipe.


1/4 cup dry roasted unsalted walnuts

1/4 cup dry roasted unsalted pinenuts

9 cloves of garlic

5 cups of fresh basil leaves packed

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups of high quality extra virgin olive oil

1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, preferably grana padano

Agave nectar to taste

Place the walnuts, pinenuts and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steele blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feeding tube and process until the pesto is finely pureed. Add the parmesan and puree for a minute. Add 1/2 tsp (more or less to taste) of the Agave Nectar and puree for 10 seconds. The nectar takes the bite off the raw garlic and balances the flavors.

Serve, or store pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin layer of olive oil on top to retain the color of the basil.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Poinsettia or Bust

A brief note:

Graham and I are spending time together again. It’s hard to find someone that you have things in common with and a connection. And time spent away from one another can truly be beneficial. I have made alot of changes in the last 7 months and although there were times that I hit some really low points, I would not trade any of the experiences I have had or the amazing people that I have met that have become apart of my life. At the end of my life, I only want to regret the things that I did….I never want to regret the things that I did not do.

So, I certainly did NOT want to squander an opportunity to spend time in Poinsettia… This past weekend we went to a ghost town deep in the heart of the desert in Nevada. I can’t disclose the location…the beauty of the experience is knowing that only a select few have knowledge of its existence. It is seriously out in the middle of nowhere and I would guess that the closest water and electricity is 40 miles away. Needless to say, as all good things go, there is work and effort for such an amazing payoff.

Glen, Marites, Anna, Graham and I piled into a rented SUV literally stuff to the gills with luggage, camping equipment and food. All of us had to forgo some item in order to get everything inside….Since we stopped a few times on the way, I am not sure exactly how long the drive was, but I would venture to say 6 hours. Considering the cramped quarters, it was actually a happy car trip.

There is a small town called Gabbs where our ghost town hosts (The Alkali Flats) were playing live on Friday at R & D’s Bar. And as far as I can tell, they are the only live band ever to grace this little community. As is their custom for such an important event, the town had a potluck at the bar to welcome the band before their performance. Slowly throughout the evening, more ghost town attendees coming from all parts of California and Oregon started to arrive at the bar to enjoy the entertainment before we all made our way back to the ghost town.

Now, there were some general rules to adhere when being invited to the ghost town as the place is pretty much on an honor system. First off, there is a formal dinner held on Saturday. Yes, there in the middle of the desert you are expected to dress up in formal attire and sit down to an amazing sunset meal on top of the ridge overlooking the great expanse. Second, there is a saloon that is rather well stocked and you must bring a bottle of spirits and a shot glass to add to the provisions. And finally, you must prepare a dish for the formal dinner. Let me tell you, these people bring their A-game. You will not find a tub of potato salad from Costco or seven layer dip. Nope, these people are serious and the expectation is already set.

On Saturday, everyone dispersed throughout the ghost town to kill time in the hot desert sun. Graham and I took a long hike along the ridge, some played Scrabble and cards on the porches of the few ramshackle homes, a few fellas enjoyed skeet shooting, while others took refuge in Whitey’s Saloon to throw back drinks and tell some stories. Tim White, the town “mayor” to which the saloon was named after, notified everyone that dinner was set for sometime after 8:00. On occasion, someone would yell out a countdown to dinner. With that, everyone took to getting their dish prepared and suited up in their formal attire to join everyone at the top of the ridge.

As previously stated, the food was amazing and we were lucky to enjoy some killer dishes made by way of a few Dutch ovens. After dinner, as is the tradition of this formal dinner in the desert, 15-20 fire lamps were lit and released into the sky to mark the end of the meal. As an added benefit, some residents of Gabbs had joined us at the formal dinner and came bearing an entire fireworks show. Seriously, a fireworks show that went on for a couple of hours. Of course, after the end of a very long day the ‘pyrotechnic’ staff was three sheets to the wind and the commentary coming from the launch point was more entertaining than the fireworks themselves; especially when one would go haywire and fire off in the wrong direction. No one had issue until some came dangerously close to the saloon. That would be alcohol abuse and it would not be tolerated.

It was a wonderful weekend and I felt honored that I was invited to experience such a special place with such truly awesome people.

Not even a spare inch of space

Thunderclouds and lightning on our road trip

Enjoying the expansive view

The offical notification of no man's land....a road beer

It always tastes better when you are breaking the rules

A windmill made of car parts....not as cool as the sky

The infamous R & D's Bar in Gabbs, Nevada

A beautiful rainbow after the thunderstorm

The Alkali Flats LIVE!

You gotta love a small town....

I am pretty sure that the gas station is a cash business

That little speck in the middle is the Poinsettia Ghost Town

The skies were so clear that you could see the moon all day

Killing time in Whitey's Saloon

The gentleman in the middle is a resident of Gabbs and an honored guest at the ghost town

Mayor Tim on the right.

The Sunset Dinner

Another honored guest of the ghost town and the largest flask I have ever seen

The fellas in all their finest

More dinner shots

The lighting of the sky one point there were 15-20 in the sky.

The last day at Poinsettia

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter weekend

It was a great weekend…a very busy one, but fun nonetheless. Friday I had a meeting on tap with Chris which required that we toast to our new business venture. We polished off a bottle of Mumm…yum. Despite our celebratory mood, we did make progress and drafted a concept that our marketing person can run with. And best of all, Chris agreed to focus on a couple of key events for the SPCA; namely the yearly Reigning Cats and Dogs black tie event. That would be a very nice coup indeed!

Of course, I indulged in my new weekend activity of coffee and people watching…my regular haunt was closed for a brief remodel so I headed to Peets. And the people did not disappoint...I enjoyed a leisurely hour before heading over to my friend's for a photo session. We had too much fun…It was especially ridiculous when we would bust out our America’s Next Top Modelisms... “Smile with your eyes! Give me fierce! Think about something sexy you’d do with your man!” Let’s just say that Tyra won’t be calling any of us any time soon. As a photo shoot creative director, I pretty much sucked! My friend and I would often look at each other and ask, “Okay, now what?” Maybe I need an apprenticeship with Nigel Barker…oh yeah, sign me up! Despite our lack of structure, we managed to get some very good shots and we had fun doing it.

So, I headed back home to reward myself with a glass of wine and the decision to kick back and enjoy a quiet evening. But…my friends had other ideas. Glen called and left a message telling me that they were at the Bockbierfest and they wanted me to join them. At first, I decided to stay home…but I hadn’t seen Glen and the bunch in a while and I always have fun with my friends, regardless of what we are doing. So, I mustered a second wind and headed to the fest. Besides, I had to be in attendance to see Kevin reunite with alcohol, something he gave up for lent. And seriously, how can you NOT have fun dancing to polka music and drinking copious amounts of beer? And the evening continued to get better as an old acquaintance handed over his remaining (24!!!) food and beer tickets to me. Thanks Patrick! Love you! Mean it!

The Infamous May Pole Dance

Kevin and his beer. Reunited and it feels sooooo good

Those crazy Germans...we were just missing the vocal stylings of David Hasselhoff.

Glen getting his chicken dance on....

Oh yeah! My ticket booty....

The next morning, a few of us Bockbier attendees got together for an Easter Brunch at the Tower CafĂ©. Thanks Anna, Sue, Nina and Robert! The food was great and the company was even better. One of the brunchers received a text from a potential someone and we all took turns deciphering the message behind the words. And what did we learn? Not a whole hell of a lot… But I did learn one thing…if you want to communicate something of importance to someone of potential importance, it’s best to do so in person; much is lost in translation and your friends will tear apart a text message like a pack of rabid wild animals. And often the analysis is less than positive and rarely accurate. Life lessons over huevos, mimosas and coffee....

Nina and Sue

Robert and Anna during the text decision, "He's just not that in to you."

Finally, I headed up to see my family for Easter dinner. We went very unconventional this year….surf (lobster and crab) and turf (ribeyes and sirloins). And to start things off…raw oysters on the half shell. My cousin Cori bravely ate her first raw oyster and has decided that she doesn’t need to do it again…ever. However, most of us couldn’t get enough and Rick considered and then attempted to rescue a couple of oysters that has made their way to the trash. Alas, he was not successful…thank god; we were WAAAAY beyond the 5-second rule.

Cori gets extra points for effort. Impressive nonetheless...

The oysters have seduced us and we have lost control....

Monday, March 29, 2010

And so it goes...

It was a great day at work…although tired from staying out a bit late last night celebrating my birthday, I felt oddly energized. However, by the time the clock hit four in the afternoon, I started to lose a bit of my steam; especially knowing that I needed to go home and work out….being tired is no excuse. Besides, I only let myself down if I talk myself out of it. Anyway, I got a ton of work done, cleared off some dinosaurs from my desk and readied myself for the rest of the week.

Yesterday during some down time, I took my food research over to the local coffee house to throw back some caffeine (I was going to need it) and do some menu brainstorming to prepare for our menu writing on Wednesday. I actually got more accomplished than I thought I would. I even had to talk myself out of hitting up a couple of local businesses to see how we can help each other out during this economic downturn….but I need to wait until Chris and I have something tangible to present. I tell you what, this catering/retail thing has come at the absolute perfect time in my life and I get to work in and support my beloved East Sacramento. And the extra money is a definite bonus.

As noted before, the girls and I headed to The Torch Club to see The Nibblers and it was a great time! I have to give a HUGE shout out to my friend Aysha. Most likely, against her better judgment, she and Denise joined us last night. Let’s put it this way…it not her kind of club. But I assured her, that she wouldn’t be disappointed. And she wasn’t. She killed me. After checking out the ‘moves’ of our counterparts on the dance floor, she busted out her own moves…from her workout DVDs. I shit you not. Hands down, one of the funniest things I have witnessed in a long time…until 15 minutes later. This guy (he looked to be about 12) in a bright red golf shirt and the thickest eyewear I have seen started to take over the whole place. I wasn’t sure if he was epileptic, high, or just messing with the rest of us…who does Devo moves still? At one point….his dancing was so out there that the band started to lose composure. This just encouraged the boy and he ended up stealing the tambourine from the lead singer and took center circle on the dance floor. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time… Life is looking pretty good from where I am sitting right now.

The Infamous Birthday Shot....

The Delicious Stylings of a Dancing Genius

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happy 41st!

Yep! Today is my birthday and I am really happy with my life. So, I would consider this a good birthday already even though it's only 9 am.

Chris and I met yesterday to discuss our catering expansion and retail venture. It went really well...he and I really seem to mesh and have extremely similar viewpoints. So, on Wednesday we are going to get together and work out our catering menus, price structures, set up a program to teach cooking classes and nail down a commercial kitchen that we can utilize when business starts to take off. And most likely we will be planning a reception for our target business people and the movers and shakers in the community to announce that The Bicycle Chef, has branched out. We anticipate that we will have the whole catering aspect up in running in 6-8 weeks. I can't wait.

Yesterday, I headed up to Newcastle to spend time with my FAVORITE cousin Tina. We did some shopping...of course. Then she took me to dinner at Tres Agaves...I splurged a bit. We had the most delicious carnitas, a pitcher of their awesome margaritas (rocks not blended) and I was given a birthday shot of tequila that was as smooth as silk. Oh yeah!! Afterwards, we headed to the mall to do....more shopping. Since it was my birthday, I went to Sephora to cash in on my loyal customer status and was rewarded with some very nice makeup and a bottle of Givenchy perfume on the house. Happy Birthday to me! We also headed over to Lush which is store that specializes in bath bombs, soaps and lotions. My wonderful cousin got me the honey massage smelled so good that I wanted to eat it. Then it was off to Susie and Larry's where I indulged in a glass of wine and a few laughs with some awesome people.

Tonight, the girls and I are headed to The Torch Club to listen to The Nibblers play; they are one of my favorite bands. It looks to be a fun night with some of the best women I know! My 41st year is looking to be a very good one...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I forgot how much I love this song....

I fell in love with this song a few years back and just found it again in my CD collection....awesome!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And the battle has ended...

Last night we had a Scrabble Potluck Rematch at my place. Since Kristin isn’t much into the game, she bowed out and took position as score keeper. That left three teams of two each; The Baldtonios (commonly known as Glen and Marites), Kevin and Anna, and Bob and I.

Now, a little backstory… The Baldtonios are some serious Scrabble players. They have the really nice board that spins, they have the dictionaries and they know every two letter word and use for the letter Q without the need for a U. When they got married, their invitations had a Scrabble theme, pulled tiles as part of the celebration and had an actual size Scrabble wedding cake complete with tiles and words. So, they don’t mess around.

I did have home court advantage, but that was about it. The last time we played, Graham and I were a team. Here’s a hint…don’t allow your Scrabble partner to get inebriated before you play. At this point, Bob and I had enjoyed a tequila cocktail…but we still had our wits about us.

And miracles of all miracles…Bob and I kicked ass. Although, the majority of the credit goes to Bob…he made some brilliant plays. I have a feeling that the battle will be revisited at a later date.

Kevin and Anna hard at spelling...

The infamous Baldtonios. Getting ready to kick ass.

Bob working on our tiles. We had some awesome tile pulls...the WHOLE night. Plus, we're brilliant.

The finished board...

The final score...check out that 239!!!!!