Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Movin' On

Re-update! My new home is at bistro613. Check it out here, or feel free to browse around through my blospot archives.
Hello, good reader-folk, old and new. Some stuff is about to rock the shizz-bah, and its time to come clean.

A local cornerstone of food-writing and restaurant criticism has finally decided to lighten her load, and hop on up to the upper tier of newspaper editorialism. Good for her- not so much for the public at large.

I received a call from the newspaper, wondering if there may be an interest in picking up some of the detail. My blog, my love of food, had caught their attention. And since I was writing about food and restaurants any way.... the answer was unabashedly yes, yes, yes!

We post-published an article or two from my blog, along with a restaurant review. My view, ha ha, seemed to be different enough on both levels to pull out a passionate reaction from folk. As with anything in the biz, some good, some bad. Either way, it's good that people are finally TALKING about food in a passionate manner- that's what its all about.

For the folks who have followed me since the beginning of "s'kat and the food", it's been an incredibly fun journey. I was already taking pictures of food and wine, and need some outlet to talk about it as well- a blog turned out to be the perfect way to do so.

As with so many other blog-folk, this has rapidly turned into more than I ever anticipated. The people I've met out there in the electronic-foodie world have proved kind, considerate, friendly, and more rockin' than I ever could have anticipated. I love the folk I've met through these tenuous internet connections, whether it be through blogs, comments or emails, I see one common cord shining through: real folk. Real compassion. And a love of good food.

I think this is going to be a good thing.

At any rate, I'm not ending my blog, but I am moving it. From here on out, you'll find me under the umbrella of the Daily Press at s'kat and the food. In addition to regular blogging activities, I'll have a restaurant review every Wednesday, and will put out two 'Taste' stories a month.

Things on the blog will look a little different. Foremost, it will be under the masthead of the paper, and that means adverts. Just scroll down if that type of thing bothers you.

Secondly, the blog will now be hosted by TypePad, and instead of the 2-column layout I use, its shifted to three. Other than that, folks, it will be business as usual. Be sure to update your links/feeds/readers, and hope to see you over there!

Shelley Rauch

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Our Italian Tuna Salad

Last week, my husband and I returned from Virginia wine country with some of the best tuna salad I've ever encountered. Luckily, my Momma didn't raise no fool, and I purchased a few precious cans of the oil-packed Italian tuna for further experimentation.

After much deliberation, DucCat and I did our best to replicate that intense taste memory. Red onion and kalamatta olives were minced. Red wine vinegar was sprinkled judiciously, capers with much more abandon. Then the part I'd been dreading- what had the little chunks of red been? It definitely wasn't a sun-dried tomato, yet it didn't seem to be a roasted red pepper, either. Was this some sort of high-falutin', Italian-packed marinated red pepper? In the end, DucCat chopped up one hot cherry pepper, while I diced a simple marinated red pepper. We mixed, and let the salad chill and meld for a couple of hours.

Oh the sweet glory. While the flavour wasn't exactly duplicated, it was still a fine, full riff on the original. We laughed, nibbled, then finally tore ourselves away to make dinner. I went with the straight-forward sandwich interpretation.

Fresh focaccia, another garden-fresh tomato, and a little lettuce was all this needed to shine.

DucCat chose to mix his with cooled pasta for the perfect hot summer's eve treat.
At any rate, I'm just happy we don't have to travel 2 1/2 hours to get the stuff anymore!

In keeping with the Virginia wine country theme, we enjoyed the tuna with a couple of glasses of Veritas Rose. Light, crisp, cool and imminently quaffable, it was the perfect excuse to linger on the porch for an extra hour.

I know I haven't been posting so much recently, but be sure to check in tomorrow. Some big changes are about to happen!

Italian Tuna Salad
2 cans tuna, marinated and packed in olive oil
2/3 cup red onion, minced
8 kalamatta olives, chopped
1/8-1/4 cup red wine vinegar (taste and adjust)
1/2 cup capers, drained and rinsed
1 hot red cherry pepper, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 marinated red pepper strip, minced
parsley and basil, minced, 1/8 of a cup
juice of one lemon

Drain one can of tuna. Combine the tuna and oil from the other can with the remaining ingredients, and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours. Overnight, if you can wait that long.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Still Eating Like We're In Virginia Wine Country

I'm still working on getting the photos back from our trip last weekend. In the meantime, I'll share a few goodies we brought home with us from the road.

Just outside of Crozet sits a building that looks remarkably like a nursery. Do yourself a favour, and pull over. Greenwood is actually an upscale gourmet market/wineshop/coffeshop, and they also sell a variety of fresh, organic local produce, eggs, milk, meat, etc. Oh yeah- plants and flowers, too.

There's also a little deli, where we had some of the best eating on the trip. Before leaving for home, we hit it up one last time, and stocked up the cooler. Back in our own kitchen, dinner was a no-brainer.

There had been one fat slice of meatloaf left; DucCat insisted it return with us. He coated it with a little flour, pan-fried it, then made a quick gravy. Served open-faced on toasted bread, I think it's the best meatloaf sandwich I've ever had. Come to think of it, it's the only one, but at this point, the benchmark has been set pretty high.
Now take a look at this;
Yes, that's right.
We paid $26 for almost 2 pounds of tuna salad. Madness? Only of the brilliant sort.
This Italian-style tuna salad is the best I've ever tasted in my life. High quality, oil-packed tuna is bathed in a marinade of red wine vinegar, capers, pickled red peppers, while hints of oregano linger in the background. Mind-blowingly good stuff, and completely worth the price.

When I saw what had finally ripened in the backyard, it was obvious what was on the menu for lunch the next day.

The ultimate tuna sandwich. Between Greenwood's salad, their own bread, and just-picked tomatoes, it was a fine way to relax and wind down from our journey.

Of course, we weren't the only ones who were salivating over that tuna salad. Let me reveal the full scene from the fork shot.
Yes, she was very good, and waited for permission before diving in with abandon.

Monday, June 05, 2006

So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish!

It was with many mixed emotions that DucCat and I shared one last bottle with the cowboy. You know, of Cowboy Syd's. It seems that greener pastures call, so he's saddling up, and heading on over to Port Norfolk.

Thanks for all the wine, the great meals, fabulous desserts and thou. You will be missed.

A Few of My Favourite Things

I forgot to take my camera along on the trip last weekend. Luckily, a friend let me borrow her digital, but it will be a few days before I can get them downloaded.

In the meantime, here are a few random things that make me smile.

Azzzurro Ristorante in Richmond, with killer Italian cuisine, fun atmosphere, and snazzy wine list.

Freshly fried nachos... thanks, Jeff!

BBQ, still warm from the smoker.

Flowers that are slowly drying out.

1999 Chateau Prieure-Lichine Margaux.

Cheese & crackers.

Hosta leaves in the shade.

...and a little toast... the one I love.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Heading out for Holiday

Well, it's been five years since that first, unexpected time I laid eyes on DucCat at a wine tasting.

Life has been good, so we're packing up the car in a few hours, and heading over to Virginia wine country to celebrate four blissful years of marriage.

Catch you cats sometime next week!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Like most holiday weekends, this one started out in the smoker. 8 pounds of wings were smoked down into spicy goodness.

Since I've gone over the basic recipe previously, I won't re-hash it again- except to say that the smoking makes it even better.

The wine was a special bottle shared by my father, who received it hand-carried by a friend from Italy. The Tenuta Dell Abate Giffaro 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah is one of those powerful, muscular wines that held an enjoyable balance of fruit and earth. Loamy, berry-filled goodness that stood up nicely to the fire and spice swirling about.

After that barrage of fire, spice, and fruit, it was time to tone things down with a little palate cleanser. Fresh strawberries were whirled through the food processor, along with sugar and a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice, before hitting the ice cream maker, then the freezer.
The strawberry flavor shone cleanly through, proving that sometimes it really is best to end the night on a light, bright note.

But the party didn't stop here. While DucCat and I have grown quite comfortable with hosting duties, we couldn't turn down an invitation the following evening at a friend's house. With promises of fresh crab, killer food, and the cacophony of fireworks exploding in the air, how could we say no?

We began with a hearty chili dip, deep in flavour, and complemented by crunchy blue corn chips.

The celebration continued with a wonderfully bright and fresh strawberry salad.

As for the rest of the meal, I'm really not sure what I liked best...

...was it the succulent, crispy soft shell crabs-

...or perhaps the largest and meatiest Alaskan Kinig crab legs I've ever witnessed.

Really, it's too close to call.

But, if I have to settle on something, it would be the perfect strawberries that just seem to keep popping up at this time of year.

Yeah, that's the good stuff.

Fresh Strawberry Sorbet

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1 quart strawberries, cleaned and hulled
lemon juice, to taste
Grand Marnier (optional)

Combine water and sugar in small saucepan on stove over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, stirring so sugar dissolves, and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, puree the strawberries in a food processor until smooth, then press through a sieve to remove seeds/pulp.
Add half the sugar syrup to the puree, along with 1/4 cup lemon juice. Taste, and continue adding until you've reached the proper balance of sweet and tart.
If you like, throw in a bit of Grand Marnier as well.
Process according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

The Real Deal

Click here to read my Daily Press review of "FDR- Food Done Right".

Monday, May 29, 2006

You're Welcome, My One True Love

I usually steer away from cookies at this time of year, but due to some extenuating circumstances, I've made some exceptions.

Recently, though, it was a late-evening plea from my loving husband. For something hot, a rich, soul-sustaining mouthful of chocolate. Luckily, I had gleaned a cookbook from the second-hand store, and had just the recipe to fulfill such a craving.

Filled with rich, dark cocoa, and sprinkled with white chocolate chips, these cookies emerged from the oven soft, warm, and oozing in comforting vibes. Just the way DucCat requested.

Inside-Out Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 3/4 cups unbleached AP flour
1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 stick unsalted butter (1/2 pound, plus 4 tablespoons), softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 ounces white chocolate, broken into 1/4-inch chunks (or use chips)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper. You may need to use each cookie sheet more than once. Cool cookie sheet completely after each baking, and reline with parchment.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt
In bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture until completely incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer, and fold in the white chocolate chunks with a rubber spatula.
Drop tablespoonfuls of the batter onto prepared cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are puffed, but still soft to the touch: do not overbake! Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Yield: about 5 dozen cookies
from "Chocolate For Christmas", by Maria Robbins
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