Sunday, January 31, 2010

The fish cooker

Speaking of contraptions, I've got one that I've been trying to find the right context to share.  It's a custom-welded fish cooker that the wife's grandparents have down in Tallahassee, FL.  On the day when the refrigerator is most full of leftovers, the family tradition is to have a fish fry.  Don't question, just enjoy it!
The fish cooker pictured here is welded out of stainless steel with a custom burner underneath.
From November 2009
I thought it was also interesting to note the fish-breading box pictured here that houses flour in a "well" underneath a plastic grate where the meat that you're going to cook sits on. Give it a shake, forget about dredging and splattering flour everywhere.
From November 2009
Here are some marinated oysters about to hit the fryer. A little of Essence of Emeril (otherwise known as a mixture of paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, etc.), oyster liquor, and oil.

From November 2009

Can you say Po Boy?

From November 2009

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Three Couples and Limo - Part Deux

If You Missed Part I, Click HERE
From San Fran Sonoma 2009

Chapter 3 – I had a memorable meal at Slanted Door

Our trip continued with less food and more wine, which was both exciting and overwhelming. We completed a lovely stay in San Francisco by eating at one of my favorite Spanish restaurants – Zarzeula. I don’t believe it has ever won a culinary award, but I am inclined to dine there every trip I make to San Fran. I easily convinced my travel mates, and we took the cable car the short distance from Union Square to Russian Hill. Luckily, Zarzuela is a corner stop for the cable car. We made our way to a table in the back, proceeded to order Sangria and a number of tapas. I can recall garlic shrimp, eggplant with goat cheese, sardines, choriza, Padron peppers, pork medallions, and chicken on a stick. We had a few others, but considering the culinary experience for the remainder of the trip, I’m lucky to recall anything from Zarzeula. They never disappoint, but the meals only increased in quality from Thursday-nite Spanish to Sunday-nite Vietnamese.

From San Fran Sonoma 2009

We made our way to the wine country beginning Friday morning. Based on experience, we intentionally planned little, while leaving most to chance. Our first stop was Gundlach-Bundschu, in lower Sonoma County. It was an excellent choice, provided a nice selection of Tempranillo, Zin, and Syrah, and also gave us some next-stop suggestions, which proved to be the pattern for our weekend tastings. We left Gundlach for Bartholomew Vineyards, which is owned by the same group. It was not disappointing, however, we procured less wine there than our first stop, and I’m sure the inclimate weather slightly dampened our experience . We again got suggestions for our Saturday limo tour.

We then drove into Napa Valley, and decided to sample Thomas Keller’s Bouchon for lunch, but realized we didn’t want to wait long for a table, nor did we want to spoil our appetite for Zazu that nite. I was personally less disappointed than my fellow travelers were, since I had experience Bouchon at the Venetian in Las Vegas a few years back. We opted for the adjacent Bouchon Bakery. In my opinion, six hot sandwiches overwhelmed the two-person bakery counter staff, which managed to warm our sandwiches to the point of no return on the Panini press. We requested that they be removed just in time (the staff reluctantly obliged), and enjoyed them on Smith and Hawken furniture in the recently rain-soaked courtyard, along with the obligatory pastry. The overall experience was exceptional, since after the long drive from lower Sonoma, we were more than relieved to relieve ourselves in the Bouchon potty. Although the Bouchon Bakery staff was sub-par, the foodies in the group still had to say, “How do I love thee Thomas Keller? – Let me count the ways”.

It happens that a wine festival was occurring on the weekend, and we had not purchased tickets to participate. After receiving rave reviews from fellow Southerners we met at Gundlach, but mixed reviews about the festival from others, we decided to taste wine primarily at the locations not participating in the wine festival, in order to avoid the crowds. That was probably one of the best decisions we would make all week.

After a long drive in a Suburban over a treacherous mountain road from Napa to Sonoma, bravely driven by our Atlantan, we arrived at the hotel, and settled in for a quick nap, then the 20 minute drive to Zazu. Zazu grows much of what they serve, and is a very casual dinner location. I would love to wax on about the food; however, I had the worst case of heartburn I had experienced in years, and was not able to enjoy my meal, or drink wine even though I pre-medicated with Zantac 150 – four of them. My companions were impressed with the food, but distracted by the close-talking couple at an adjacent table that maintained an unmoving gaze literally inches from each others eyes while speaking OR eating. It was distgusting, distracting, and unappetizing. It reminded me of the “Schmoopy” Seinfeld episode. No, you’re a schmoopy.

Chapter 4 – Limo Tour in Sonoma County
Our wine country experiences had taught us that the limo tour of wineries was more of a sure thing than a hooker and less expensive. Learning the backroads of wine country while trying to find obscure wineries is not my idea of fun. The gang agreed, and we spent a wonderful day celebrating Neecie’s birthday while sampling wines from many wineries that we had never heard of, and a couple of old stand by’s. We began with Rodney Strong, whose Pinot Noir I’ve enjoyed since well before Sideways, where we tasted, purchased, again asked for suggestions, and proceeded to Armida (Excellent Zins and excellent view from an unimpressive 1970’s almost A-Frame).
From San Fran Sonoma 2009
Next was Zichichi (the owner poured our tastings in V.E.R.Y small portions Рalmost too small to taste), lunch from the Dry Creek Kitchen, which we ate on the grounds of Dry Creek Vineyards with a bottle of Syrah, then on to about three others where the crowds were too thick for us to stop the limo. We ended the day at Frick. Frick is one of the smallest, most unassuming wineries you will ever visit. It reminds me of a charming double-wide with a porch. The staff was the friendliest of the day, and the wines were very unique. Frick bottles a number of wines that are often used to blend with other wines, like Cinsault, which is typically blended with Grenache, but at Frick is bottled as a Ros̬. Our dinner after the long day of touring was early and unassuming. We were all in bed by 8:30pm (except for Nigel, who apparently found a local pub).
From San Fran Sonoma 2009

Chapter 5 – The Slanted Door
Sunday began with a visit to the Dry Creek Olive Company, where tasted and procured small batch olive oil and pomegranate vinegar, then took a nice (and less winding) road from Santa Rosa to the Napa Valley so we could stop at the new kitchen store at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone campus, and so we could swing by to get my camera bag and lens from the limo company. Something I inadvertently left the day prior.

From San Fran Sonoma 2009
We finally made our way back to San Francisco, the SUV filled with great anticipation for the greatest meal of our trip – The Slanted Door, located in the Ferry Building. We made a reservation a couple of months in advance, and were eating early to ensure we would make it to the airport in time for our red eye flight. We arrived at 6:30 for our reservation, and the place was completely packed. After getting suggestions from our waiter, we ordered

  • Cellophane Noodles with fresh Dungeness crab,

  • Snow Pea Pods,

  • wood oven braised niman ranch short ribs with lemongrass, daikon, watermelon radishes and baby carrots

  • niman ranch shaking beef cubed filet mignon, sausalito springs' watercress, red onions and lime sauce

  • barbecued willis ranch pork spareribs with honey-hoisin sauce

  • mesquite grilled lamb sausage and kusshi oysters, chinese black olive and preserved lemon relish

  • chicken claypot with caramel sauce, chilies and fresh ginger

Every dish had enormous depth of flavor and texture and, thanks to our waiter, were all complementary. I can honestly say that this meal was the highlight of a trip filled with unforgettable experiences. I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco, but I think I left part of it in Sonoma County, part in Foley’s Irish Pub, and the rest in the Slanted Door.

Friday, January 15, 2010


There you have it.  Richt and Evans have hired Todd Grantham from the Dallas Cowboys as the new athletic director for a 3 year deal worth 750K/year.  Take it as a positive that they're dedicated to do what it takes to get UGA back in contention in the SEC.  The process, while a little nerve-wracking, worked, and it sounds like we shouldn't have ever doubted Richt and Evans.  Whew!  Breathe a sigh of relief!  Of course, I don't think any UT fans felt like they ever should have doubted Kiffin and company. 

What kind of guy is he?  He runs a 3-4 defense which is what several other pro teams have (Steelers, Cowboys, Patriots, etc), which means that we're going to need linebackers.  I personally would have loved to see Rennie Curran in this defense.  As to his philosophy, in his words:

"I look forward to developing an aggressive, physical, attacking style defense that offenses will not look forward to playing against."

"After the game is over," he said, "the team you just played is happy they don't have to play you anymore."

So how should we feel?  Why don't you ask Mark Richt?

“I think we hit the jackpot,” Richt said.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You can't spell slu- umm, I mean irony without UT

Look I don't have to make this up. Ah, the irony.

Hamilton also made it clear a permanent coach will be on board rather than going forward with an interim coach.

"Men’s Athletic Director Mike Hamilton is in charge of the process to both address the immediate needs and to hire a new head football coach," UT Interim President Jan Simek said in a statement this afternoon.

At least the head coach can be permanent, even if the president isn't.  Good luck with all that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

There is no Keyser Soze! Kiffins screw the Vols in the middle of night and move to Southern Cal.

We'll have to wait and see how much destruction the UT crowd left in the wake of the angry mob.  I read some reports on Rockytoptalk that said the fans were trying to barricade the street to prevent Kiffin from leaving.  Between ineffective rioting, some tear gas, and a couple of burning pieces of furniture, UT fans have really shown us something.
As much as I express concern about this whole defensive coordinator business, I have to say that I'm eternally thankful that Mark Richt is UGA's coach.  In the end, time will tell how this works out for UGA and Tennessee.  Just another good example of what hired guns will get you. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What do Mark McGwire and Kenny Rogers have in common?

You be the judge.



The Gambler


Monday, January 11, 2010

The lateral move and difficult decisions

Kirby won't be the next DC at UGA.  It sounds like a lot of fans were really counting on this, and are beyond pissed.  I'm not one of them, because of what I posted last week:  despite what many UGA loyalists think, there was no way Kirby Smart was going to be better off short- or long-term in Athens than in Tuscaloosa.  And for everyone that doesn't believe his moving to be UGA's DC was a step down, get over yourselves.  UGA is currently a second-tier program (we hope) in the SEC.  Not that it's a bad thing, because Alabama was, also, a couple of years ago.  And that's all subject to change from season to season.
Being something of an expert on "lateral moves" I can say that tons of factors go into making these decisions, not the least of which is consideration of the upside of each place.  As long as Smart and his wife are happy in Tuscaloosa, the only thing that could have brought him to Athens was a coach-in-waiting position, and I bet that despite the money he may have been offered (which was way too much in my opinion based on what is being reported, but was supposedly matched), that wasn't on the table.  Again, another important clue as to what Richt's plan is for the program and his career.  Of course, it's all speculation because he refuses to talk about it.  Considering the upside in Tuscaloosa (didn't they win the other night?) and Smart's apparent goals to be a head coach somewhere, the only thing that Alabama didn't have was that it wasn't Athens.  Otherwise, it has everything else going for it.  The were few to no net benefits to moving to UGA.
What worries me now, as a fan, is that we appear to have been waiting and expecting this deal to go through, and apparently had some level of commitment from Smart that he would go through with it. 
What if 'Bama had lost the national championship game?  Would things have been different?  What if the freakish hadn't happened, and Colt McCoy didn't wind up with a case of the "dead arm," Texas didn't commit 5 turnovers, and was able to embarrass the 'Bama defense?  Maybe verbally committing to UGA was a "smart" insurance policy.
Regardless of whether Smart is really responsible for the defense or not, it brings up an interesting and sobering realization that perception is everything.  Even if he's eating M&Ms in the bleachers during practice while Saban is literally doing all the hands on coaching, the longer the program is successful and the longer he sticks with it, the greater will be the perception that he can reproduce it wherever he goes.  And that he can parlay into a head coaching job.  Because his success is more guaranteed at Alabama than in Athens.  I'm sure Saban reminded him of that this weekend.

What's next?  I still think it's going to be at least one person from the NFL, and it's going to cost us.  If we don't know something by next week, I think we're going to have a serious problem on our hands in the way of fan mutiny and recruiting class.  Which means that the cut-off on the Hartmann fund will be significantly lower! See, the glass is half-full.

Seriously, the world hasn't ended because we couldn't get Kirby Smart.  Jobs like these are all about timing.  We've had some timing issues with the people we've approached, although I really think that we'll all soon realize that Smart wasn't the "right man" for the job.

Left Overs...

Posting has been pretty slow for me, I'm still cooking up a storm, but not cooking much new... In the past week, I've made steak frites, various pizzas, a ton of bread, roasted chicken, and homemade sausage with lentils (see previous posts regarding all of these). Not much new to write about. However, I did want to mention a terrific side-item that keeps well for several days, potato pave.

The beauty of this thing is that you can make it as rich or lite as you wish by varying the liquid added to the potato prior to baking. What makes it better than "au gratin" is the ability to saute and add some textural contrast to the creamy potatoes. Pictured above are New Year's Day leftovers (1/2 of a cornish hen, black-eyed pea and collard gratin, and potato pave).

For my preparation of the pave you'll need

Heavy cream
4 russets
salt & pepper

2-8 inch square pyrex dishes
Something heavy and oven proof like a good cast-iron skillet
aluminum foil.

Preheat oven to 400F. Start by lining one of the baking dishes with foil and butter generously. Butter another piece of foil for the top and set aside. Square the potatoes (the dish is called pave, pavers, get it?) and slice thinly, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Could use a mandoline or show off your sick knife skills. I prefer the latter. Pour cream (a cup or two) into a bowl and dip each potato slice in the cream then transfer to the dish, overlapping very slightly. After half of the potatoes have been layered, give a good sprinkle of salt and pepper, then grate a good amount of parmesan over the first half. Repeat with the second half and top with the other piece of foil. Place the second dish inside the first, give a good press and weight with the iron skillet. Bake for about an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and cool. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably weighted.

When ready to serve (about 10 minutes beforehand), pull the entire pave out of the dish using the foil and carefully peel off the foil. Using a very sharp knife, cut rectangles/squares etc from the center. Next in a hot pan, saute for 2 to 3 minutes per side in the oil of your choosing, or even on all sides for extra crunch!

You can serve these in place of any potato dish and look like a Rock Star, or better yet, a television star on The Learning Channel Trauma show!


Monday, January 4, 2010

America: Too Stupid To Cook

America: Too Stupid To Cook

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Defensive coordinator salaries: the UGA effect

As of January 4th, UGA still has no defensive coaches other than Rodney Garner.  It seems as though we waited one year too long to make a change.  Had we done it last  year, Chavis might well have been our coordinator.  As it stands now, there's no one in sight.  Reportedly, Richt has contacted at least 3 people:

  • Bud Foster from Virginia Tech-leveraged VT for a contract renegotiation
  • Vic Koenning-wanted to go to UGA, but they dragged their feet and Ron Zook (Illinois) scooped him up
  • John Chavis-leveraged LSU for a contract renegotiation

Sounds like we're willing to offer 600K a year and a 3-year contract.  As long Richt is confident, I guess we should be, too.  Maybe it's all a big scheme to either bankrupt these other schools or lock them into someone that may not work out.  Evil Richt strikes again?

So what do you think Richt will do?  There are tons of variables that go into this, most of which we'll never know, but I think it's interesting to contemplate a few questions.

  • Is there a role for someone like Kirby Smart to come in as head coach in waiting like Jimbo Fisher or Will Muschamp?  In other words, how much longer would Richt be willing to stay at UGA?  If  you need precedent, look no farther than his mentor, Bobby Bowden.  He took a program that hadn't done much and turned them into a perennial powerhouse.  And he stayed for the remainder of his career.  Growing up close to FSU and having folks in the family reminding me of all the Bowden wisdom, there are major similarities between Richt and Bowden's style, whether it's in handling the media, other coaches, the players, etc.  So my answer to question number 1 is no, the answer to 2 is a long time.
  • Do we benefit from Kirby Smart?  Likely not.  I for one can't believe that he is responsible for getting Alabama to the national title game.  It's mostly Saban, who's the brains behind their success, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.  Besides, Smart's stock likely can't rise as high at UGA than it can at 'Bama unless there's a potential role for a head coaching job.  And if there's not that potential for him at UGA,  he'll be gone when the offer comes from elsewhere.
  • Do we need to go out and get an NFL coach?  That's likely to be the case, but if Richt has a young guy out there that he's interested in that's not quite ready for prime time, maybe he could set up a scenario where a senior NFL DC comes in and tutors a young coach into a star.  That would be great planning for the future, and would be a much more sound investment than buying the most expensive thing out there, just because we can afford it.  Look at the two guys he made a seriously play for, Foster and Chavis:  both experienced and in the latter 1/3 of their careers. They never made a serious run at Koenning, which is why he's in Illinois, freezing his ass off.
  • How should we interpret Richt's choice of defensive coordinator?  I think it's going to be a turning point in his career.  If he chooses something that looks like a long-term plan, he's more likely telling us (as he always has, but then so did Tubby) that he's in it for the long haul.  If he hires a flashy name for a bunch of cash, I would take it as a sign he's going to give it one good try, and if it fails, he's done.  And it will likely be our own fault.