World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Month: July, 2006

Essential Ingredients – Cape Cod


As I begin to transition to vacation my thoughts turn to those regional delights that taste best eaten in open-air, sitting by the shore.  Fish and chips, lobster, fried clams, steamers and the rest. Condiments shouldn’t be overlooked.  Pure, rich drawn butter for the lobster, fresh, tart lemon for the raw oysters and the sour tarter sauce for that just caught ocean fish.

Tarter sauce’s major component is mayonnaise which came about in the mid-1700s. It is named after the Tatars who ravaged Eastern Europe in the 1800’s. These Turkic-speaking people settled in Mongolia during the 5th century A.D. Beef Tartare was usually served as it is now, with a bevy of garnishes, including a piquant sauce with a mayonnaise base that came to be called sauce Tartare or Tarter Sauce.  So why aside for the naming after their clan why ‘tartar’. We’re getting there…this group of people would place cuts of steak under their saddles to tenderized. After a day’s journey the steak was not eaten raw (contrary to popular understanding) but minced and fried or boiled.

This version of tarter is a bit like me–one part East Coast one part West Coast. I’ll be on vacation for the next two weeks wandering from Westport to Cape Cod with many audiobooks, paperbacks looking for a lobster shack or two.

Chipolte Tarter Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons drained capers, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cornichons, pickles or relish (drained)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chilies

Mix all ingredients together. Let chill in fridge for 30 minutes for flavors to come together.

Vacation Time

Sunday Morning, Late August

by Deborah Cummins from Beyond the Reach. © BkMk Press

She’s never sat at a steamy café near Pont Neuf
and fed a lover a perfect tarte tatin,
never slept naked in a rented room
on Place de la Madeleine, shutters open to the rain.
Already, a thousand times before this morning,
she’s wished to be someplace else if only
a little further down the beach.

In this small town on the Cape, even clouds
drag away their important business.
Flimsy chairs face seaward, as if in wait
for something glorious, drastic.
An ocean away from Boulevard St. Germain,
the water shimmers like unspooled foil.
Some other life lies elsewhere:

hers, unclaimed.
But why, now, as her husband crosses the yard
and with customary gestures plucks—
oh, how banal—a common daisy,
does her blood, running its old familiar route,
deliver such bounty to her heart?

What kind of Donut are You?

You Are a Boston Creme Donut


You have a tough exterior. No one wants to mess with you.
But on the inside, you’re a total pushover and completely soft.
You’re a traditionalist, and you don’t change easily.
You’re likely to eat the same doughnut every morning, and pout if it’s sold out.


Some fun before the hot hot weekend–90s in Marin, 100+ inland!  My results shouldn’t be much of a surprise as Dunkin’ Donuts is what I was weaned on!

via Blogthings- Take the test

Shaken, Not Stirred


I love to drink Martinis,
Two at the very most
After three I’m under the table,
After four I’m under my host.

Dorothy Parker

Two thousand and six marks the 200th anniversary of the cocktail—or at least the first recorded mention of the word. And while the tradition of the American cocktail is long, and varied you can seek out Mr. Boston for details. There’s really only one clear choice and it is quintessentially Americanthe Martini. (Yes that’s an intentional capital.)

The elixir of choice for M.F.K. Fisher, E.B. White, Kingsley Amis and H. L. Mencken who deemed it "the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet." As Lowell Edmunds discusses in his scholarly deconstruction of the cocktail, Martini, Straight Up: The Classic American Cocktail, the word "Martini" evokes not only a cocktail, but also an image and an idea. The symbolic potency of the Martini depends first on its uniquely inverted triangular cocktail glass in which it is traditionally, and secondly on its ingredients. This is where the quality of the gin or the vodka matters most. And to many purists it also rides on the name: if someone identifies a given drink as a Martini, then, for symbolic purposes, it is a Martini. Purists when calling for a martini are expecting the gin-based mix. 

There is no other cocktail that is more sophisticated, urban, adult and American than the Martini. It’s symbolic of a nostalgic past–of three-martini lunches, the Brat pack, James Bond and 1950s black and white films.

As with most food lore and history the most cited origin is that Jerry Thomas, a famous and influential 19th century bartender, invented the drink at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, sometime in the late 1850’s or 1860’s. A prospector, about to set out on a journey to Martinez, California, put a gold nugget on the bar and asked Thomas to mix him up something special. There are many other versions but what I know is that while history is valuable what we need to know is how to properly order one.

First things first, gin or vodka? At the risk of igniting a firestorm a bit more history. A traditional martini is made with gin, dry vermouth and either an olive or a lemon peel.  The migration to vodka began in the early 1950s. The glass was no longer stemmed but an Old Fashioned glass. To order the earlier version of the cocktail–chilled, in a stemmed glass, whether with gin or with vodka–one would state "straight-up Martini" or Martini "straight up." The expression was also shortened to "Martini up." James Bond was ever the diplomat and drank a hybrid version.

Like all things in the Land of Plenty you have many choices these days, Mexican Martinis, Chocolate-tinis, and others.  Just order it whatever way you prefer. And I prefer mine similar to Winston Churchill’s,(he’s a gin man, however}–straight up, extra dry and shaken. And just turn toward the direction of France and bow before straining into a shallow glass and garnish.

The James Bond Martini

From Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Three ounces of Gordon’s Gin

One ounce vodka

Half a measure of Kina Lillet

Pour ingredients over ice. Shake it to chill and for texture.

Serve in a deep champagne goblet.

What is a Recipe?

But the journey is what a recipe is all about. Cookbooks should teach us how to cook, not just follow instructions. By paying attention, a cook should be able to internalize the process, rendering the written recipes obsolete. The point of a recipe should be to help us find our own way.

Daniel Patterson, Chef, Coi,

San Francisco

via July, 2006 Food & Wine

Two Weddings, One Move & A World Cup & TDF


As you now know I am still doing this blog effort. This month marks year two. My extended absence is due to the twists and turns on this road of mine over the past two months. After going through an owner move-in eviction, seeing lots of miserable rentals in San Francisco I have move slightly to the north to Marin County into a little cottage with an IBK, with a total living space of less than 500 square feet.  I’m seriously downsizing everything as I was in a nice 2BDR rent-controlled city apartment. Change I remind myself, is good. (and what was I doing with 8 boxes of cous cous and 450 cupcake liners?) All this and I decided it was a good idea to manage the World Cup office pool. Then the Tour de France scandal…

A week before the move a long time best girlfriend moved with her equally sweet hubby-to-be for new careers and a life in Vancouver.  Their wedding was on a small island 100 miles north of this cosmopolitan location on Cortes Island.  Aside from great beauty and oyster farming (darn that red tide!) the largest draw to this island is the educational retreat center of Hollyhock.  The site opens to the sea while being wrapped in rain forest. The wedding was beautiful, the seaside ceremony a girl’s dream and the love flowed as did the Etoile champagne.

All meals served at Hollyhock are vegetarian. Many of the wedding party were anxious about this aspect of the weekend.  They had little to worry about as the food was well-prepared and of good quality and variety.  The salads were accompanied by a yeast dressing made with nutritional flake yeast, tamari, garlic and oil and my favorite a creamy herbal dressing.  This is a perfect dressing for grilled vegetables and for the many garden salads in the long summer weeks ahead.

Now to continue to unpack and prepare for a family reunion and a wedding on Cape Cod! Where does completing next year’s marketing plan for work fit in?! I’ll be writing more about Hollyhock, Vancouver, and life in an IBK in the months ahead.

PS: Chris I have 8 pounds of four dried chile peppers.  They are yours if you want them!

Photo: JBrophy

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