Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rancho Market

Ranch Market 9th East and 3300 South SLC

It says something about Rancho Market that I was so eager to check it out and then review it. I doubt you'll ever see me rush to post about the fried chicken and potato wedges at my local Smith's. The real selling point was when my co-worker told me the butcher shop sold chicken feet (there will be a post about what I do with those coming soon). Rancho Market is clean well lit and still in the honeymoon phase of opening its new location at 9th east and 3300 South in the home of the old Fresh Market.

Whole Fish waiting to be cooked

Oxe Tail, there is a future post in this
The butcher shop was stocked with one of the widest variety of meat and fish I have seen in any of the grocery stores I frequent in the valley. There are a number of the harder to find parts of beef and chicken like ox-tail and the aforementioned chicken feet; along with a large selection of whole fish. The bakery was large in scope and filled with nearly every Mexican pastry you could ask for. All of the bakery prices were incredibly reasonable (cheap).

Just one end of the mammoth bakery section
The restaurant area offers a great selection of authentic Mexican food prepared upon order. I ordered the Barbacoa de Borrego (lamb) and the Petite Copine ordered the carnitas (pork) tacos with one additional chicharron (pork skin) taco for me. The borrego came in a broth that added great  flavor to meat when I wrapped it in the soft corn tortilla. The lamb was spicy in a way that still allowed you to taste the fruit flavor of the chilies with notes of roasted cumin and white pepper. The lamb still retained some of the natural earth flavor so synomynous with lamb. The cuts of borrego retained a good bit of fat that added flavor and texture to the meat. The cilantro, onions and key limes that it was served with were all very fresh. I was particularly happy about the inclusion of the Key Limes as it reminded of what I received when I had Mexican in Mexico, they also provide a subtle tart and bitter difference than their larger more common Persian cousins.
Our meal, note the Mexican Coke

The tacos were also excellent. The carnitas was flavorful with out being overly greasy (which is an all to common failing in carnitas). The carnitas had the perfects balance between crispy edges from the frying and soft tender meat that was in less contact with the oil. The chicharron was at something of a disadvantage because I ate it after I had eaten most of my borrego, so it was not as fresh from the fire as it should have been. It was still flavorful, but the gelatinous nature of pig skin loses its appeal when it is even slightly colder than hot.

Pefect little street tacos

The beans were also well seasoned and the Key Limes a great touch
The pasteries we purchased for dessert were fantastic. The very common tres-leches cake provided the perfect amount of sweet for after dinner consumption with feeling a sugar rush prior to bed. The crumb on the tres-leche was particularly nice as it was not too delicate, but certainly not heavy. The budding (I don't know if that was a typo on their part or what, Google offered no help) flan was something of a hybrid between flan and cornbread-breadpudding. It was sweet and caramely with a great contrast of texture between the silky flan and the crumbly bread.
Tres-leche Cake
Budding Flan

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

World Dog

The World Dog food cart at the corner of 2200 South and Highland has steam rising off of the hot griddle in the near freezing Salt Lake City winter's day mixed with the smell of cooking sausages and sounds of lively conversation of people gathered around are a reminder of everything that is right with street food. The real "fast food".

World Dog's owner, chef and entire service staff Joe have been adding variety to the Salt Lake's street food scene for around 7 months, but in that time they have managed to carve out a niche that had not been filled by Salt Lake's various taco stands (which will likely be getting reviewed later on this blog); the hot dog eaten on the street the way God and Fiorello La Guardia intended.  Joe is a culinary school graduate who has been "a friend of ours" in the business since he was 14. When I asked him "Why hot dogs?" He answered "I can't tell you why. It just came to me. Then the next day I found a cart for sale online, bought it and opened up two weeks later."
Grilled to perfection

The offerings range from the Azteca (my personal favorite) which is a chorizo sausage topped with fresh tomato salsa and served on a Bolillo Roll (a Mexican version of the French baguette) which offers the perfect crunchy crust and soft tender interior  to vegan dogs that actually sound appetizing (not enough to persuade me to order one of them over pig, but I can go there with my bunny cuddling friends and know they'll be well pleased). The cart's menu doesn't end at sausages. I had their tomato soup on my most recent visit and I say, with all hyperbole aside, it was the best tomato soup I have ever had. The petite copine agrees. The soup was creamy and rich while still maintain some of the light fruity citrus notes found in a fresh tomato. It's served with a toasted crouton and a slathering of cheese. Few things comfort better in the cold of winter than soup and this tomato offering serves as not only a shelter from the cold winds of January, but a reminder of the fresh taste of summer tomatoes.
Azteca Dog

Best Tomato Soup

* You can follow World Dog on Facebook to find out if they're going to be at their usual location on Facebook. World Dog also caters private parties and can be reached via their web site
World Dog on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Books About Food that Aren't Cookbooks: The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain

The Nasty Bits is a collection of essays by Anthony Bourdain . I make no secret of my fan boy obsession with Tony B, but this is the book that started that infatuation. I was given the Nasty Bits in a family holiday tradition known as the "book swap". It's a fun, frustrating experience where family members suggest books for other family members then we blindly draw the books and are allowed to steal from other previously drawn books. There is no end to the level of Machiavellian cunning that goes into this event. Last year my brother-in law J, who probably knows me better than anyone else in my petite copine's family save herself, picked the Nasty Bits as a book I should read. I was not excited. I had never watched No Reservations and was doubtful that a cook, I have known my fair share, could actually be a decent writer. I was wrong. I ended up the book on a blind draw and no one tried to take it from me, thank God they didn't.

Nasty Bits is broken into sections containing essays correlating with the five basic tastes; salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami with and final section featuring a taste of Bourdain's fiction. The title appealed to me because it is symbolic of something I have done all my life. From the time I was 8 years old and ordered escargot with my mom at dinner and finished it all I have been obsessed with eating the weird food that many Americans scrunch their faces like a constipated pug at. I tend to have a rule about ordering the weirdest thing on the menu and Bourdain's writing about the oddities of culinary world appealed to that in me.

One of the Salty section essays echoed a common rant of mine American fast food. The Evil Doers asks why do we eat this mass produced often bland food when other places in the world thrive on fresh prepared tacos, hot fish, soup bowls etc? Food and Loathing in Las Vegas was a fun read for me because I have such great familiarity with the Las Vegas food scene, it also inspired my recent trip to Bouchon. The Umami section's essay The Old Stuff, The Good Stuff was both sad and inspiring as it discussed a dying part of New York and the old ways of French Cuisine that are so out of the mode right now. He describes with the loving sense of nostalgia the interior of a restaurant that has seen far better days with a menu of classic French cuisine that many would deride as boring.

In all I would recommend The Nasty Bits to anyone with a cynical sense of humor who loves food, rock n' roll (the book is dedicated  Joey, Jonny and Dee Dee "The Ramones") and well written prose. If you're a fan of the show it reads almost as a companion piece to favorite episodes. If you're a current employee or proud alumni of the culinary world it will bring back fond memories or elicit a knowing nod.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fennel Boudin with Grape Extract

Tuesday night is dull. There is nothing I want to watch on TV until Fraiser re-runs start at 8. It's a good night to cook, but nothing that requires too much effort or clean up. I found a recipe on Serious Eats that only called for 5 ingredients that I had most of, but like with most recipes I had to embellish on it a little bit. 

Part One: The Ingredients
-Olive Oil (Not extra-virgin)
-Link Dinner Sausage (Preferably fennel, but I had to use a sun dried tomato. Avoid anything spicy) 
-Pine Nuts (Toasted)
-Fresh Fennel. (Slice the bulb and then mince some of the leaves for garnish)
Five Simple Ingredients

Part Two: The Process

-Heat the sausage with the oil until they're a nice golden brown.
Browning Nicely with the Fennel

-Take one cup of the grapes and process them in either a blender or a food processor. 
-Once the sausages are browned strain the pureed grapes and use the juice to de-glaze; throw away the pulp. Then add another cup of whole grapes and the sliced fennel bulb to the pan.
I Used a Cheese Cloth, but a Mesh Strainer Would Work

-Continue to cook until the sausages are cooked through, remove sausage and allow the sauce to reduce and the grapes to collapse.
Let Them Cook and Fuse Flavors Together

-Garnish them with toasted pine nuts and minced fennel leaves. I served it on top of some left over polenta, but it could be served over rice or perhaps even egg noodles. You just want something there to catch the sauce. 

Part Three: The Service

The meal was light and flavorful. The grape had a great sweetness that was met and balanced the subtle anise flavor of the fennel bulb. The sausage would have been better with a deeper richer flavor meat like lamb or beef, but the light sharp flavor of the sun dried tomato in the sausage. The polenta served as the perfect medium to enjoy the sauce, but would have been better if it had been made fresh. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We're Back...

After taking a year long hiatus from the food blogging world I have decided to come back in 2012.

In short what happened was, I got a new real world job that pretty much ended the time I had previously set aside to blog. After having been in that job for nearly a year I feel like I can now rededicate myself to Living in the Weeds.

I have been cooking up great ideas of what I want to write about for the past 9 months so hopefully there will be something of value in the coming years.

I apologize for abandoning the blog so soon after it's birth, but hope you will forgive me and return with open arms and empty stomachs.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fromage Friday: Rouge Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese

The Rouge Creamery has a long history among American cheese makers. The creamery started in Sonoma and moved to a large scale production in Oregon during World War II in close conjunction with J.L. Kraft. After the war they began focusing on smaller artisan style cheeses. The Rouge Creamery "Oregon Blue" was the first blue cheese produced on the west coast. The Smokey Blue I am reviewing today was subsequently the first blue cheese smoked on the west coast.

I love a sharp bite blue Stilton and have found it to be a utilitarian cheese in the right hands. I have used in dishes as varied as melted a top rib-eyed steak or burger, in poultry stuffing, or in a sauce on top of a fish dish. I am planning on using it in ice cream to go with a pear tart this summer, or if I get around to it later this month. The Smokey Blue Cheese is not nearly as sharp as most Stiltons. The flavor is mild and builds to a bite  towards the end of the taste. The smoke adds several levels of nutty flavor that aid in mellowing the normally sharp flavors of blue cheese. It has a distinct notes of almond and some mild fresh grass flavors. Their is a sweetness to the cheese coming in large part from the cold smoke process involving hazelnut shells.

Rouge Creamery Smokey Blue
Oregon, USA
Cow's Milk
The cheese is great for people who may not usually like a blue cheese because of its sharp flavors or those looking for a sweeter blue cheese to offer as a dessert course. I paired it with Honey Crisp Apples (two weeks in a row now I have done that) and fresh blueberries. It would go well with strawberries, apricots or bell peppers. A wine paring would be a milder more dry Riesling like the Eroica  Columbia Valley, Washington or Sangiovese like the Antinori Toscana Rosa Tuscany, Italy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tokai Sushi 4U

I should start by saying when it comes to sushi I prefer sashimi (hunk of raw fish on rice) to makizushi (sometimes raw fish rolled with seaweed). There are few things better in this world than a piece of tako (octopus) a bed of sticky flavorful sushi rice. That being said, I can not pass up the deal that Tokai Sushi 4U offers on their rolls. The happy hour at Tokai offers a two for one special on all of their rolls. The rolls are all large, fresh tasting, well constructed and beautifully presented. I will review each of the rolls we ordered individually here.* 

The Spider Roll
Inside: Fried Soft Shelled Crab, Crab Meat, Gobo, Radish Sprout and Avocado
Outside: Flying Fish Roe

Spider Roll
The Spider Roll is one of my two must have orders at Tokai. The soft shelled crab is crisp and lightly battered to not over shine the crab meat. The gobo gave the roll a mild pungent flavor that went well with the crab's natural sweetness. The avocado in the roll excellent creamy consistency. The flying fish roe (tobiko) was a beautiful garnish, but the added salty flavor was not needed.

Shrimp Killer
Inside: Shrimp Tempura, Crab Meat and Avocado
Outside: Shrimp and Avocado

Shrimp Killer
The Shrimp Killer had a slight sweet flavor from shrimp and avocado, which again brought a creamy fatty goodness to the roll. The Shrimp Killer is not complex by any one's assertion, but for a shrimp lover it is a great roll. The contrasting textures and flavors the tempura shrimp on the interior and the raw exterior shrimp provide excellent balance and show case the versatility of the crustacean.

Black Crunch Roll
Inside: Shrimp Tempura, Crab Meat and Avocado
Outside: Eel
Black Crunch Roll
This is the second of my must orders at Tokai. The sweet interior of the roll coming from the shrimp tempura and crab meat balanced with the smokey salty flavor the eel makes for an amazing meal. The the divergent textures from inside and out give the roll a deeper complexity than some of the other items we had that night.

Spicy Crab
Inside: Spicy Crab, Cucumber and Avocado

The Spicy Crab Roll is behind the Adam Roll, none of the Spicy Crab turned out well
Several at our table found this roll to hot to handle, I did not. The spicy crab had a creamy texture that I think helped neutralize the burn from the horseradish and peppers that were making the crab so spicy. The burn was a slow crescendo starting out slow and building to fire near the end of the tasting. It dissipated quickly in large part to the creamy avocado and the cooling cucumber. The major complaint against this roll is that the crab flavor is non-existent. It is entirely overshadowed by the heat and avocado.

Adam Roll
Inside: Shrimp Tempura, Eel, and Crab Meat
Outside: Avocado and Tobiko

Adam' Roll
The interior of the Adam roll gives the eater an abundance of flavors and textures. The crunchy tempura shrimp and crab meat with its sweet notes meet with the salty savory flavor of the rich dense eel endow this roll with fantastic balance. The avocado and tobiko provide a new level of texture to the bite, with added salt from the roe.

Tempura Banana
One of Tokai's greatest treats is that at the end of each meal you are awarded with tempura fried bananas topped with whipped cream, strawberry and chocolate sauce. The crispy tempura batter gives way to the soft caramelizing sugars of the hidden plantain providing the perfect sweet end to a filling Japanese meal.

*It should be noted that one of our dining party is pregnant and that limited our ordering ability. On subsequent post birth visits I promise we will be more adventurous and try some of the incredibly well named rolls like the Viagra Roll, Utah Roll, Spicy Pizza Roll, Dragon Roll, Caterpillar Roll and Play Boy Roll.

Tokai Sushi 4U on Urbanspoon