Sunday, November 21, 2010

My 1st cheese!

I've taken up cheesemaking! With my ample free time available to silly hobbies, I've started dedicating myself to the art of cheese. I figured Ashton is making beer, Andy was making bread, what's the next best thing? Cheese! For someone as decidedly un-sciencey as myself, cheese is actually a pretty big challenge (what's a mesophilic culture??), but TOTALLY satisfying and REALLY fun. So far I've only got 1 cheese under my belt, but I've assembled a few more supplies and am ready for round 2!

The first cheese I made is probably one of the most basic ones around- a simple lemon basil cheese, made from a half gallon of pasteurized whole milk from a cow + 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt to taste, and some freshly picked basil from our pet plant. I slowly brought the milk up to 165 degrees F while stirring to avoid scalding, and once it was removed from the heat I added the lemon juice and let the mixture rest for 15 minutes. After that, I poured it into a cheesecloth lined colander and tied into into a ball and placed it in a large pot to catch the drippings while it sat in the fridge for an hour. Once I took it out, it had clumped into a ricotta-esque spread to which I added the salt and basil and voila! It's one of the few recipes that doesn't call for calcium chloride, rennet, or cultures, so for my first time it was absolutely perfect. In the end I could have used a bit more salt and maybe a tad more lemon juice for some zazz, but overall it was wonderfully spreadable and lent itself beautifully to a breakfast schmear.

Next I'll making paneer (the basic Indian cheese) and I've just gotten my cultures in the mail and some goat's milk chilling in the fridge, so stay tuned!

Jumbo Slice, Adams Morgan

Nothing helps curb a hangover like a big, greasy slice of pizza, and there are no bigger slices around than Washington, D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood
Jumbo Slices! They nightly serve up their humongous 'slices' to hungry crowds of barhoppers desperate for some calories. Each piece is about the size of my entire torso, and to say it's just one is a cruel joke to play on your digestive system. However, two warring establishments lay claim to the best jumbo slice in DC, and having patronized the original recipe Jumbo Slice Pizza after a night of drinking and debauchery I can safely give my stamp of approval to it as the superior jumbo slice available. If you find yourself in the Adams Morgan area with a rumbling stomach, dare to compare and take on one of the mighty slices to declare your own winner. Really, it seems like win-win, doesn't it?

Image taken from

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Island Spice Jamaican Restaurant

Last year as I was preparing to head to Jamaica with my family for an island Christmas extravaganza in lieu of gifts, the owner of my company handed me a business card for Island Spice Restaurant and suggested that I give it a whirl. I tucked it absentmindedly into my pocket and forgot about it, despite working only a few blocks down the same street. After experiencing the claustrophobic joy of a Sandals resort, where all-inclusive food doesn't necessarily represent the local potential or even variety, I have to say I wasn't exactly enthused on the idea of some more mediocre Americanized dry chicken rubbed with pseduo-jerk sauce and cold beans with rice.

However, the idea and hope that Jamaican food might actually have something to get my tastebuds tingling led me to re-evaluate my previous prejudice, and a few of my more adventurous co-workers decided to join me for a meat-filled feast of curried goat, Jamaican BBQ chicken, and jerk chicken, each served with a side of red beans and rice and warmed vegetables. Ordering over the phone was easy, and based on the brief conversation with the harried employee your feelings are not taken into consideration, which leads me to believe that the food had better be damn good for them to stay in business.

Although I was told that each lunch plate came with fried plantains, none were to be found, and at $1 for a side I was disappointed with the lack of them despite our request. However, the meats themselves were surprisingly tender and absolutely wonderful; the BBQ chicken especially had a tender, juicy quality and the sauce packed a wallop that I had trouble not licking from the plate. The jerk chicken was no American falsetto; rather it did the nation proud with just the right amount of rubbed spices and tender meat hanging from the bone. The curried goat could easily be shared, unless one has a soft spot for a gutfull of the wonderfully greasy meat and marrow-filled bones. I was pleased with the amount of delectable marrow I was able to suck from the bones themselves, and while the curry lacked the spicy punch of the two chicken dishes, the meat was a unique and flavorful treat the likes of which I have not experienced within the city limits.

The dark greens and corn were wonderfully prepared and added an exotic, almost African quality to the entire plate. The red beans and rice were mediocre at best- a basic addition that served only to sop up the wonderful juices now running from our chins as we moaned in delight. Happily, my co-workers were more than willing to split all of the lunch meats so we could all have a taste of each dish, and while I think the vegetarians are out of luck in this particular restaurant, I recommend it as an off-the-beaten-path experience for those looking for an adventuresome, meatcentric meal.

Island Spice
2820 Market Street
San Diego, CA 92102-3105
(619) 702-9309

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lamplighter Roasting Company, Richmond, VA

What gets you mentally and physically going in the morning? For some, it's coffee. For some, it's bikes. If you happen to bike to get coffee, so much the better, and if you happen to bike to get coffee at Lamplighter in Richmond, well then it sounds like your day is off to a good start! The eternally-vacant gas station fell into disrepair long before I breezed through River City, but it's finally gone to great use as Richmond's newest revamped coffee shop/roaster/cafe/hangout of hipsters and hoboes alike. Catering to a quirky and hugely varied clientele, the things that keep people coming back in droves are the coffee and eats. Despite having become a permanent West Coaster pre-opening, I had the opportunity to stop by Lamplighter due to countless word-of-mouth praises and now every time I'm back in Richmond I make it a point to stop by; we've even been able to spread the tall bike coffee love in San Diego, bringing back pounds of various roasts to distribute amongst like-minded coffee aficionados (while keeping a few for ourselves).

One of the especially great things is their policy of giving a free iced coffee if you buy a pound of beans (any roast). I'm not exactly how stringent this policy is (the entire staff seems to be in their early to mid twenties and nary a tattoo-free employee is to be found), but it seems consistent enough to pass along as gospel. Their menu is large without being overwhelming or even too varied; lots of the breakfast basics are covered, along with plenty of animal-free dishes as well. Kitschy touches abound, and DIY details lend a complete air of freedom without becoming sloppy; despite being run by a young group of bike hooligans, professionalism is not compromised with comfort and a cozy repertoire. Feel free to bring your mom along with your dog, and if possible squeeze outside on the covered patio to avoid the slightly claustrophobic dining space (it's a bit too small to even really be called a room). Coffee is a must, and while the food isn't to die for, it's yet to prove to be a disappointment.

Richmond continues to undergo various facelifts in sections of the city, and with Acacia Midtown just around the corner and new condos springing up all along Cary Street, Lamplighter is another welcome addition to the neighborhood. Recommended for ages 1-100, animals welcomed, biking is encouraged.

116 S. Addison Street (corner of Parkwood and Addison)
RVA 23220

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Food Wars- Lobster Rolls

Lobster rolls are to Maine what cheesesteaks are to Philly, and if you haven't had the opportunity to head to the cold netheregions of the Maine coast to enjoy one of the delectable seafood-stuffed sandwiches, I strongly advise you to turn off your computer and hustle there ASAP by any means necessary. Traditionally, lobster rolls contain a generous portion of lobster meat tossed with mayo and served on a hot-dog style bun; however, there are endless variations to the classic, ranging from the slight to unrecognizable. Lobster contains a lot of connotations in the food world representing power, wealth, and huge debates continuously arise around the world about the sustainability and availability of the clawed crustacean. However, with Maine waters teeming with these prized creatures, it remains one of the staple foods of the Northeast and the pride of generations.

While there are thousands of tiny clapboard buildings littered all over the state, each with their own unique spin or traditional homage to the lobster roll, Kennebunkport, Maine lays claim to two powerhouse institutions each boasting the best rolls fresh from the source of the Kennebunk River. I've actually been to the Clam Shack in my ventures to the ever-chilled state, and while there are few foods that San Diego can't reinvent or simply execute better than anyone else anywhere in the world, there's simply no duplicating the lobster roll eaten at the source. When anything is pulled from its home, killed in front of you, and served within moments of its death dressed on its coffin plate with only slight garnishes to enhance the still-living flavor... well, there's just nothing quite like it. Food Wars visited the seaside town to umpire the clash of the crustaceans between the Clam Shack and Alisson's Restaurant, so if your tastebuds are salivating (which they should be at this point), check out the episode's sneak peek below.

My own first lobster roll met its demise a few years ago at the Maine Lobster Festival in Portland, which is a fantastic food festival dedicated to the king of the sea and all his attendants. Let's just say it took a few bottles of suds to get that hat on me.

As convoluted as lobster's history has been and remains to be, it continues to uphold a crowning glory of a long, proud American tradition. I sincerely hope that the seas clear and lobster settles back into its rightful place as ruler of the sea. In the meantime, a hot buttery bun and some fresh lobster meat would do me just fine.