Thursday, August 30, 2007

Astoria's Master Of Egyptian Hocus Pocus meets the King Of Kitchen Konfidential...

Anthony Bourdain's job is to travel to distant, exotic destinations, eat beautifully prepared food and say "Mmm! That's delicious!"

The Travel Channel sent him on safari to Astoria, Queens with his faithful, cravatted sidekick, Andrew Zimmern, to eat some lamb testicles... erm, I mean prairie oysters at Ali's Kabab Café.

If you have a sharp eye, you can see me, Zora, Peter and Dapper Dan in the background...

Watch him eat like it's his job. Oh, wait... It is his job.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Zora's Dream of Paella in the Fire

She had a dreeeeeeeeeeam...

... So, It's 9 am, and I'm at The Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Forum, on my seventy-fourth glass of wine, when Zora calls. Did I mention it was 9 am?

She'd had a dream.

A dream about paella, Tamara.

It's gonna come true, Tamara.

She wanted to cook paella on the grill. And she was gonna put it together. Awesome. My inebrio-paralysis notwithstanding, all I had to do was write an invitation. The tricky bit was finding the keyboard... Here it went:

Exhibit A: She had a dream.......
a dream of Paella in the fire, as in... on the grill baby. Sort of like the Brunhilde immolation scene in Ride of the Valkyries, except Paella.

I am in Sonoma, drinking like it is my JOB. Oh wait... it IS my job. at any rate, I can barely get myself out of the room for classes in viticulture, so I am using zora's email to me to describe what will be happening.What I can tell you is that it will be happening THIS SATURDAY, AUG 18 at 7pm in the Reynolds/Wasserman ranch back yard. Usual rules apply. Usual rules being $25 and a bottle of wine per person. More wine if you drink more. Which you probably will.

Zora: "I think you could just say paella is one of those things they always say is "a meal in itself," which just means we reserve the right to decide at the very last second what else we might give you along with clams, mussels, sausages, fish chunks, chicken bits, saffron, lemons, etc., etc., etc. Oh, and maybe people should be instructed to bring cheap red wine plus orange or lemon soda to experience the miracle of "tinto en verano"--the Spanish technique for making even the cheapest vino palatable and refreshing. Maybe we could have a Syria-style spread of little apps out while we do the paella--sort of as a nod to the alleged Arabic origins of the word "paella" (perhaps from baqiyah, for leftovers). And by Syria-style, I mean served on newspaper, and so tasty it will make you weep..."

As you can tell, The invitation was pretty much all Zora. People started emailing instantly -- a virtual frenzy of starving paellaphiles hoping for some saffron and smoke infused rice.
It's... The Bomba, yo...

By Friday night, Z had finished the menu and sent the shopping list. It involved fish, shellfish-- whatever other edible fruits of the sea I wanted to get, some spanish rice called Calasparra, whole greek yogurt, Syrian cheese, capers, olives, gigantic thin Syrian-style pita -- the biggest and floppiest kind, and wonderful, wonderful butter beans.


Lucky for us, I also had some tomatoes freshly yoinked off the plants in my garden -- Yeah, baby, Yeah!

Saturday afternoon, I did the shopping, but got slightly sidetracked in the Euromart near the bitter lemon. I remembered that Dapper Dan loves the stuff so I bought a sixpack. Plus, I was positive it would work to create the Tinto Verano stuff-- wrong. Oh well, mighty good on its own.

Ah, the bitter and the sweet...

When I returned to the with all the goodies to find that Zora had deposited even more bags on my porch. Ripe tomatoes in pink, green, red and black, herbs, big inky-dirty beets, 2 chickens with their heads and feet intact (yikes!) and glorious chorizo. When Zora arrived I poured some champagne cocktails, turned up the Dolly Parton, and we were off to the Spanish races.

Speaking of tomatoes...

Zora was running the show, so I was on kitchen slave detail. My first task was to make the tomato salad-- cut up the ripe tomatoes and layer them on a platter.

Well, hello, ladies...

Blanch the superripe ones and peel them, and then puree with a ton of garlic, olive oil and sherry vinegar.

Can I just say... fucking delicious?!?!?! So delicious, in fact, that later, after the appies and during the pre-paella lull, I poured the dressing into teeny glasses, added several drops of sherry vinegar, and served it as gaspacho. I kid you not.

So Karl cleans out our handy BBQ pit, and after the traditional debate about grill height vs. charcoal temperature/density, we get to it.

Outstanding... The pictures don't show it, but Zora was Grillmeister on this one, and worked her little hotgloved fingers to the bone grillin' up sea monsters and crispifying and saffronizing rice... Zora kicked ass with the paella, and also taught us the authentic contemporary Spanish sangria recipe, which is made with, um.... Fanta®. Seriously. Lemon-Lime flavored, fucking FANTA®.

A good time was had by all, and we ended up serving dinner only about three hours behind schedule, which is pretty damn close to our average. Besides, everyone was too drunk to care.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy Birthday Julia!

Happy Birthday To You,
Happy Birthday To You,
Happy Birthday, Saint Julia,
Happy Birthday To You!