Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sushi, Sake & Psychedelics

No, we were not doing acid with our sushi. We were at the Denver Art Museum
for The Psychedelic Experience: Rock Posters from the San Francisco Bay Area, 1965 - 71. It's showing through July 19, and if you have the chance, you should go and see it, especially if you were alive in the sixties. I was born in the mid-sixties, so my memory of the original posters is limited. Although, there was one that I am sure I saw regularly throughout my childhood, but just can't remember where. Doubtful that it was at our house; my parents were definitely not hippies. Was it at my hippie uncle's house? At our summer house in Montauk? Anyway, it, and all the others and the stories that went along with them were simply far-out! Each artist had a different style and the styles changed over the years. What these artists all had in common was lifestyle - life in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, LSD, and music. The posters advertised concerts, many at the Filmore East, for bands such as Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Buffalo Springfield, Big Brother and the Holding Company and more - even Sha Na Na. The Museum did a wonderful job of combining art, music and story from the time period epitomized by the summer of love. My only complaint was that although the show was put together somewhat chronologically, there were no signs or directions to help the observer take it all in in chronological order.

After 90 minutes of trippy posters, we headed to Izakaya Den in Denver for some sushi, sake and Japanese-influenced small plates. This beautiful restaurant, modeled after the sake houses of Japan, is a culinary delight. Along with delicious sashimi dishes, the chefs dish out a variety of fabulous small plates, such as Pomegranate Braised Bison Short Rib with Crispy Fig Polenta,
Lemongrass Vichyssoise and Duck Confit on Crispy Wontons Served Over Forbidden Rice.
Although the wine list is rather small, the sake list is extensive. It assigns a number on the sweetness scale to each sake, -20 being the sweetest to +10 for the driest. We ordered the Otokoyama, Hokkaido, +10. It was excellent, but I realized that although I like my sake to be relatively dry, I do like a touch of sweetness. I think that a tiny bit of sweetness in sake has the same effect as salt on food. It wakes it up, gives it a little zing. The completely dry sake is, to me, just a touch flat.

It was a great evening - fabulous food and drink, great company, and LSD influenced posters. What's not to love?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Treats

When you were a child, did you ever sing the nursery rhyme:

Hot Cross Buns,
Hot Cross Buns,
One a Penny,
Two a Penny,
Hot Cross Buns

Did you wonder what it was about? Probably not. Hot Cross Buns are spiced yeast rolls traditionally made on Good Friday. They are thought to have originated in England, sometime around the fifteenth century. They are soft, only slightly sweet, and studded with golden raisins or other dried fruit. A white cross of frosting tops each bun. Delicious with a hot cup of coffee or a cold glass of milk for breakfast. You can find a great recipe at King Arthur Flour's blog, Bakers' Banter

I wanted to serve these for Easter breakfast, but being yeast rolls, the buns have several hours of rising time. Not wanting to rise myself at 3:00 in the morning, I started the dough yesterday. I've wanted to experiment with this method for a long time. Cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes and all kinds of yeast breads are great for breakfast, but time-consuming. I've heard several theories on the overnight rise; some say to put the dough in the fridge after the first rise and form the dough in the morning. Others say to completely shape the dough, put it in the baking pan and put it in the fridge without a second rise, letting it rise slowly overnight in the cold. I went with the second method, then took the buns out in the morning, set them on the counter to come to room temperature and then baked them. They came out perfect!

On to Easter dinner. We're making a leg of lamb, although our foodie 5-year-old thinks rabbit stew would be more appropriate! I've got a ton of mint growing in the sun room, so I'm going to make a mint butter, with some tarragon and fresh thyme and oregano thrown in for basting. We'll serve it with sauteed baby carrots (the real ones, not the ones shaped to look like babies).
Then, I'll throw whatever vegetables I have left into a puff pastry, maybe add a little goat cheese, and bake a tart. I think we have a couple of bottles of Pax Syrah in the cellar, though I'm not sure of the vineyard or vintage. But getting down into the cellar is a bit of an effort, so we may have to settle for the Reynolds Family Winery Los Carneros Pinot Noir, 2006. Settle? Life's tough....

Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Politics, Food and Confusion

Have you gotten one, or maybe several e-mails asking you to sign a petition to stop HR 875, the "Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009"? If you read foodie or political blogs, you've probably read about the controversy surrounding this bill. When I first heard about the bill, it sounded good to me. It would create a Food Safety Administration, which would take on the food safety issues now under the jurisdiction of the Food & Drug Administration, allowing the FDA to concentrate solely on drug safety, a big enough job by its self. This new agency would have authority to order recalls of tainted food, which, surprisingly, the FDA does not have. It can only suggest recalls. The bill includes new safety regulations for food production facilities, requires more safety inspections and requires such facilities to register with the agency and comply with inspections (there is no charge for registering.) Check out
for a recap of what HR 875 actually does and does not do.

Then along comes an e-mail from telling me that this bill will essentially regulate small farmers right out of business! Telling me to imagine life without farmers' markets & roadside farm stands! Stating "Americans would be forced to eat only corporately manufactured, chemically treated, hermetically sealed irradiated fruits and vegetables." Would I sign a petition against it? Where's my pen? Then, being the good lawyer's daughter that I am, I remembered that I am never to sign anything without researching it fully.

I started with Marion Nestle's blog, She is the author of several books on the food industry, including Food Politics and What to Eat. I think she's brilliant and recommend that everyone read her work. She gives a few links, and I also did some google-ing to get some more information. My research, by no means exhaustive, found nothing that backs up the claims stated on the anti-HR 875 petition. So, I'm baffled by why this petition exists, since its claims appear to be unfounded. What is the real reason that some people don't want this bill to pass? Certainly they are not for contaminated food? Pro-Salmonella? I'm not being sarcastic, (well, maybe a little); I really would like someone to give me the real reasons why some people are so against this bill that they'll say anything to stop it. Maybe if I knew these reasons, I'd agree with them.