There are so many reasons why I'm in love with Alton Brown, host of the Food Network Show “Good Eats.” Remember the show he did that was a take-off on both “Iron Chef” and “Junkyard Wars”? He had to rummage through a junk yard to find the right equipment to build a smoker. (Of course, it helps fuel the smoldering fire of my ardor that his smoker was for making his own bacon.) And remember the show in which he pretended to be stranded on a desert island and all his mise-en-place was laid out in bamboo cups? (Can you believe he's straight?) But reason number 871 that I love Alton Brown is that he's such a brilliant cook. I recently had the pleasure of ravaging a freshly steamed lobster and after moving quickly through the fat claws and meaty tail, I looked forlornly at the 12 skinny little claws that were left. And then I remembered the show that he did on lobster. Alton demonstrated how you could take the skinny legs, pop off the ends and roll them like bread under a rolling pin. The meat pops out the other end like a tube of pink ice out of an Otter Pop! I tried it (using an empty wine bottle—it was all I had) and it worked perfectly! That guy is a freakin' genius. Alton, if you're reading this: I'm single and I will take all the lobster meat tubes you can dish out.
All the News That's Fit to Eat
Fans of the Nob Hill institution (3211 Central NE) will be sad to learn that O'Niell's has lost their lease. That's right, after 10 years as the neighborhood's most reliably unpretentious bar, the building's owner has decided not to renew what had been a 10-year lease. According to manager Jennifer Smith, O'Niell's is devastated by the news. "It was very much a surprise," she said. "Everyone is quite shocked. The employees just found out last week. ... A lot of the bartenders and kitchen staff have worked here for 10 years." Though the wall colors have notably changed several times, most everything else at O'Niell's has had reassuring consistency. "It's been a formula nobody wanted to mess with," Smith said. "It's been a profitable business for us and we really wanted to stay.
The Vagaries of Paying by Credit Card
“Would you like to leave a tip on the card?”
A chowhound acquaintance e-mailed the other day to ask, "What the f&%k is up with paying by credit card in restaurants and having them ask you if you'd like to add a tip to your total?" He relates that, "Half the time, it's your server who rings you up, and it makes for a really uncomfortable situation. I always tip, but I tip according to how good or bad my service was. Just give me the receipt and I'll decide what amount to leave without being asked. More often than not, I feel like answering, ’No,' just to be a dick because I don't like being put on the spot."
Food for Thought
The Iron Willed Chef
Remembering the peerless Julia Child
I'm a decent cook. My mother could easily pass for a gourmet chef. My maternal grandmother is a culinary goddess of the Southern variety whose kitchen, whether she happens to be cooking at the time or not—will make your mouth water just for the magical place it is. My mother learned the basics of the craft from her mother, then took it to many other levels courtesy of magazines, cookbooks and her own intuition. I gleaned bits and pieces from both my mother and grandmother, and we spend at least one day every year cooking and baking together around Christmastime. It's been a wonderful, tasty education, and while I'm by no means TV-chef material, cooking is in my blood—part of who I am as much as music or anything else.
At some point down the line Thai food became synonymous with comfort food for me. It was my family’s favorite dining out cuisine when I was young, and now I have a lot of good nostalgia wrapped up in the smell of lemongrass and curry. Tom kha gai, papaya salad and pad see ew are my go-to orders when I’m sick or just craving something warming and familiar, so I’ve visited most of the Thai spots in town to find some of my favorites of each. That GrubHub bill is getting a little out of control at this point, honestly.
Here’s a few of my favorite spots to order Thai in the Duke City. May they bring you many spicy tears and great evenings.