Wramen Pop-Up

On Sunday, April 13th, two of Fort Worth’s highly talented chefs – Jesus Garcia of Little Lilly Sushi and Kevin Martinez of Tokyo Cafe – hosted a Wramen Pop-Up at the Culinary School of Fort Worth.  Pronounced double-u ramen, Wramen implies westernized ramen, or a version you wouldn’t expect to see in Japan.  The term originated in Seattle when food writer Jay Friedman called for “a change in nomenclature”.  He proposed that authentic Japanese ramen continue to be called what it is (ramen) and anything else that is not authentic should be termed “Wramen”.

If you think he’s being a food snob, I’d urge you to think about what passes for Mexican or Chinese food in your neighborhood.  I was lucky to grow up in the big melting pot of Houston, where friends taught me the distinction between authentic and Americanized versions of their cuisines.  Since ramen in restaurants is still relatively new to many Americans, I’m happy that someone hopes to maintain its integrity, much like we Texans differentiate between Mexican and Tex-Mex.  So I guess to me it makes sense that two Mexican sushi chefs from Texas would understand and want to promote the Wramen naming concept.

Double-u ramen, ramen, whatever you want to call it, these guys do it well!  Some of the Wramen we sampled was relatively authentic and some was definitely unconventional, but it was all outstanding.  I completely respect what these guys are doing … for themselves, the restaurants they work for and our city.

Lucas and I arrived at the Culinary School around 5:30, grabbed some wine glasses (byob!) and sat at a table for two.  Many of the tables were large enough to accommodate bigger groups, but as we watched people make their way inside it appeared most came in pairs.  We weren’t certain what would go best with each course so we showed up with some belgian beer, a bordeaux and a bottle of champagne.  I sipped on the champagne while waiting for our meal to begin, since I knew from some pre-dinner snooping that our first course would be light.  Also, this was my birthday dinner so I felt like celebrating.

The first course was Branzino (European sea bass) seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, a perfect small yellow tomato sliced in half and placed between it and some rocket salad with a hint of lemon and remarkably good parmesan.

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Next was the Bao Bun Duo.  One was filled with savory duck and figs, reminiscent of five spice, topped with pickled cucumbers.  The other was full of moist, tender Miyazaki Beef, sprouts and spicy chile oil.  L.O.V.E.D. both of them.

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The 3rd course was our first bowl of Wramen!   Continue reading

Burnt Toast

As many of you already know, I had neck surgery (ACDF C5-C6) about two and a half weeks ago.  My recovery is going pretty well.  I’ve had good days and bad days, but mostly just really really boring days.  The majority of my time has been spent on the couch, surfing the internet or watching tv.  I loaded my kindle full of books before the surgery, but haven’t turned it on once … which is probably a good thing because my attention span and ability to retain information has been awful lately.  I’m off most of the medication at this point, but still need a vicodin here and there or everywhere.

Which is probably why I burned toast yesterday.  Not once.  Not twice.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, three times.  That’s probably a record.  I mean, who does that?!  In my defense it was my first attempt at cooking a whole meal post-op.  All that I’d done prior to this was make a batch of guacamole and my own birthday cake with hideous pink frosting (also an example of poor judgment).  So I’m at least capable of doing one thing at a time, but trying to make toast, eggs baked in tomato cups and some bacon was apparently far too much for my goofy ass at this point.  Lucas actually said “maybe you shouldn’t cook again until you’re off the meds”.  Because I didn’t just serve him burnt toast.  Nope.  I also baked the eggs too long.  Destroyed them.  They were beautiful before going into the oven, which I shall forevermore call “that goddamn egg killer”.  No, I am not projecting. Continue reading

Homemade Pork, Apple & Leek Sausage

On a drunken night back in March, for reasons I cannot recall, Lucas ordered a meat grinder.  What I do remember clearly is him running around the house screaming “STX Turboforce 3000!”.  And everyone loving the name so damn much that at some point the purchase button was hit from his Amazon cart.

Two days later this showed up.  Why did we need a meat grinder again?  Oh yeah, awesome name!  And the surprising thing is that it’s actually been used.  We’ve ground meat for all sorts of things, including hamburgers, chili and Italian sausage.  Really good Italian sausage.  So good it sparked an interest in stuffing our own (sausage). Continue reading

Baked Eggs in Moroccan Ragout with Spanish Chorizo

Whew, that’s a mouthful!  But a delicious one.

Modified from Food 52′s recipe for Moroccan Merguez Ragout with Poached Eggs, this is what I chose to make for our Christmas brunch.

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What makes it so special, so Christmas Brunch-worthy?  If I had to choose one answer, it would be the ras el hanout.  What is that, you wonder?  It’s a North African blend of spices, typically made of cardamom, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, clove, cinnamon, peppercorn, fenugreek, paprika, turmeric and more.

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In Arabic, ras el hanout means “head of the shop” or a blend of the finest spices available.  At one time ras el hanout would have included cantharides, or Spanish fly (it’s a beetle, why not call it that?), as an aphrodisiac.  Here is what wikipedia has to say about cantharides:

“As it passes through the body, cantharidin irritates the genitals resulting in increased blood flow that can mimic the engorgement that occurs with sexual excitement.[3] For this reason, various preparations of desiccated Spanish flies have been used as some of the world’s oldest alleged aphrodisiacs, with a reputation dating back to the early western Mediterranean classical civilizations. The ease of toxic overdose makes this highly dangerous, and for this reason the sale of such products as Spanish Fly has been made illegal in most countries.” Continue reading

Bourbon-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

It’s Christmas Day.  I’m sitting on the couch in my pajamas, watching Lilo & Stitch and not so patiently waiting for Lucas to wake up.  Since he’s working nights we’ll open our presents this afternoon, eat a brunchy meal and then finally (finally!) I will get to take a bite of the Bourbon-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake I baked around 1:00 this morning.

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Normally I despise baking, but when I saw this Fleur de Lis Bundt Pan I wanted it so very much that baking didn’t sound too awful.  I put it on my Amazon wish list and there it sat, marked high priority, ignored by all for the past year.  Until it showed up on my doorstep a few days ago.  A gift from Santa Claus?  Close enough.  Thanks Mom & Dad!

To break in my new pan I wanted to make a boozy cake.  One so boozy it might make me feel a little tipsy.  I searched online and found this recipe, courtesy of the New York Times.  They call it whiskey-soaked, but I used bourbon.  And since all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon, I feel the need to specify. There are rules people! Continue reading

Marilyn

I am no longer anyone’s granddaughter.

The last of my grandparents, the last of my parent’s parents, is gone.

As usual, with the passing of a loved one, I find myself looking at family and friends, feeling a sense of wonderment for the way one single person can touch so many lives.  What she meant to each of us, the different roles she played in our lives.

Marilyn was my grandmother.  She was so very much my grandmother that it is hard for me to call her Marilyn.  She is grandma.  That is how I have always known her.  But first, she was a daughter.  A sister and a friend.  A wife and a mother.  A beautiful woman, who loved her family and God very deeply.

Although I am now 35, most of the memories I have of my grandmother are through a child’s eyes.  Sadly, there is a disconnect.  Perhaps because of the 50 year age difference, but more than likely because as I got older I saw my grandparents less and less.  Alas, the regrets we have when time runs out.

But thanks to her I will always, always have …

Christmastime in Kansas City.  It was pure magic as a child, even if a bad case of strep throat kept me up long enough to discover Santa Claus did not exist.

That crazy Spring Break ice storm.  Giant icicles everywhere!  I had never seen anything like it before, or since.

Roller skating around and around the basement with siblings and cousins, calling each other names.  “Nerd.”  “Turd.”  “Nerd.”  “Turd.”  “Nerd.”    Round and around.  The basement door opened and grandma looked down at us with her arms crossed, eyelids fluttering faster than a hummingbird’s wings, her voice shaking, “Do you know what a turd is?!”.  Well of course YOU all do, but I honestly didn’t at the time.  And I was shocked!  Stunned into silence because ohmigod did she just say THAT!? … until she shut the door and we were all reduced to fits of giggles.

Long summer days watching The Little Princess, The Secret Garden and my favorite, Anne of Green Gables.

The sound of her voice reading stories to me.  The sound of her voice singing hymns at church, confident and unwavering.

Shelves full of Lladro and other beautiful, delicate pieces I thought belonged in a museum.  I was a terribly clumsy child, so afraid I’d break something.

The smell of red wine, which as a child reminded me of communion, which made me think of the blood of Christ, which totally freaked me out.  Run away!

Scrabble.  I lost a lot of games, but discovered a love of words.

Grandma in the kitchen, the heart of her home.  Where I learned how to set a table properly, to keep my elbows off the table, to pass the salt without reaching across a million people and (of course) “no singing at the table, no whistling in bed or the boogie man will get you by the hair of your head”.  I can hear her now.

And let’s not forget the best meatloaf in the world.

Magnolia Cheese Company

On a warm Fall afternoon, Lucas and I hopped into the truck and headed to the corner of Magnolia and 5th to try a new (for us) restaurant.  Housed in an old building with big windows, which lend a surprisingly generous feel to the small space, was our destination:  Magnolia Cheese Company.  What better way to enjoy the beautiful day than by sitting at a table on the sidewalk, eating an array of cheese and meats, while sharing a bottle of wine and people-watching?

When I pushed open the door and walked in I was immediately drawn to the casual atmosphere.  Seat yourself tables to the left, a wall of wine and the cheese/deli counter to the right, plus a huge chalkboard with the menu posted behind the counter.  I paused, taking it all in, and noticed that something felt off.  Looking over my shoulder I realized the door was wide open.  Oops!  Feeling like a dumb-ass for one quick moment, I shut the door behind me and made my way to the counter.   Fancy cheese or no, this is Texas.  So I should say I sauntered up to the counter.

After agonizing over the menu and weighing all of the options we decided on the Local Cheese Plate ($16.00)  and a 3 Meat Plate ($14.00).  Libations?  The patient guy behind the counter offered us a wine sample, but it was not quite what we wanted.  He held our order in the system while we stepped out of line to look through the bottles on the wall.  Recognizing some of them and getting a feel for the mark-up, we selected something around $30 that we’d never tried before.  Back in line with bottle in hand, we paid for our order and then snagged a table on the sidewalk facing Magnolia.

While sipping on wine and waiting for our food to be brought out, we watched people pass by, many walking their dogs or on bicycles.  A trio of too cool for school hipster guys walked by and I pondered for a moment over what passes for fashion these days.  Ugh.  I brought my judgmental self back in check when I looked down and realized I was wearing an ugly old shirt, jeans and hiking boots.  Double ugh.

But within moments we saw something so beautiful I could barely contain myself.  The Local Cheese Plate – a glorious sight to behold!  5 different cheeses accompanied by an assortment of fruits (pears, persimmon, grapefruit, pomegranate seeds & figs), curried pecans, honeycomb, sauces, jams and a bowl full of sliced baguette.  I wish I had taken the time to jot down exactly what cheeses we had, but my absolute favorite was the blue, followed by a creamy goat with bacon.

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Next came the 3 Meat Plate.  Wow!  Serrano Ham, Bresaola and … Anchovies?  Well now, that was a surprise.  Lucas felt cheated because he’s not a big fan of anchovies.  I however love them, but was certainly sorry to give up part of my portion of the other two meats.  Lesson learned (ask what’s on the meat plate). Continue reading

Little Lilly Sushi

I haven’t been inspired to write much lately, but I still know how to enjoy a meal.

And Little Lilly Sushi in Fort Worth makes that so very easy. From the moment I step over the threshold it feels as though I’ve been transported off of Camp Bowie and into another world. Little Lilly is an intimate restaurant with a warm atmosphere that immediately puts me at ease. The waitress with the sweet smile greets my husband and I, asking if we’d prefer one of the few tables available or a seat at the sushi bar, and something inside of me is released. I am content.

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Behind the sushi bar stands Jesus Garcia, Head Chef Extraordinaire. This is the heart of the restaurant, where the magic happens, and undoubtedly where we want to be. He remembers us from our previous visits, greeting us with a smile. We take our seats and look over the drink menu, eavesdropping on the conversation he’s having with another couple. Lucas and I share a smile, because Jesus is so easy to talk to and the conversation is alway always always about food. We order a bottle of Ginga Shizuku Sake and continue to listen as they discuss restaurants in Houston’s Chinatown.

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Bean Butt Chicken

Yesterday morning, while leafing through Mastering the Grill (the #1 grilling cookbook in our house), Lucas and I discussed what to make for our Memorial Day dinner.  We’ve been throwing a lot of chicken boobs on the grill lately, so initially we leaned towards a different animal.  But the moment he said Bean Butt Chicken I was all over the idea.

Now, I’m not sure how the idea of inserting something up a chicken’s butt and then cooking it came about.  I can only imagine, kindly keep my thoughts to myself and then thank that certain freaky individual.  Beer, beans, whatever … it doesn’t matter. Continue reading

Tejas

Ahh, Texas.  After 18 long, sad months, I am finally returning to my home state.

The next month will go by quickly, yet I am still anxious as hell and ready to go.  Last weekend we picked out the house we’ll be leasing and the movers will be here around the 20th of June.  The best part?  Don’t have to pack!  The movers will take care of everything.

And this time we will not (hopefully) drive in the rain for days, lock our keys in a moving van or get food poisoning!  Click here for the whole story.

I may miss Pittsburgh.  Maybe.  It is beautiful here, far more beautiful than Fort Worth will ever be.  And I’ve made a couple of good friends that I hope to keep in touch with.  But food?  Not so much.  Okay, okay.  Somehow Pittsburghers have perfected the french fry like you couldn’t imagine.  If you like meat and potatoes it would be the perfect food vacation destination for you.  Personally, I’m sick of it

Just the short weekend we spent house-hunting in Fort Worth left me drooling for more. Continue reading