A Special Request

Hi,

Many of you know that I live in North Carolina.  We were lucky, and just had lots of rain.  But many of my fellow NC residents were not.  There is much flooding, and because these swollen waterways will continue to rise over the next week or so, the worst of the flooding is yet to come.

And, most of these affected areas are still in the midst of recovery from Hurricane Matthew, two years ago.

If you can help financially, please do.  Here is the link to the Salvation Army’s Hurricane Florence page. 

If you are not able to contribute, that’s okay, believe me, I know from broke.

But please, keep North Carolina in your thoughts.

Thanks and take care,

debbie 

 

The Kid Goes Dark

Chain bridge between Buda and Pest, on Buda sideToday I bring you a story that almost didn’t make it to print. I am The Kid, the offspring of your normal columnist, and recently back from vacation in Budapest and Vienna.

As I set about planning my trip, as I chose points of interest, I slowly realized that I was creating a fairly creepy vacation. As you’ll see.

Entrance to Murder Exhibit

The entrance to the Murder Exhibit

On my first full day in Budapest, I visited their recently opened Murder exhibit. The point of the exhibit was to understand what makes a murderer, but in my experience, it was less successful in that, and more successful in giving guests the willies. Tableaus were set up with bedrooms of John Wayne Gacy and Elizabeth Bathory, the inside of Jeffery Dahmer’s fridge, Ed Gein’s kitchen, and more that I won’t spoil. One walks through with a headset, so they were able to take advantage of surround sound. Not for the faint of heart, but very much worth the hour or so spent for true crime fans.

Next, we’ll head to Vienna for a couple of stops.

Narrenturm

The Narrenturm.

Vienna is only a 2-hour train ride away, so I decided to spend one of my days checking out the city. My first destination was the Narrenturm, or “Fool’s Tower”. This is one of the world’s oldest asylums and has since been turned in to Federal Pathologic-Anatomical Museum Vienna. It is similar to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, but all the signs are in German. I, dear reader, do not speak German. It was a heck of a time going from room to room, attempting to puzzle what each exhibit was. Some are obvious, but after a while, you start to forget what a normal lung really looks like.

Maria Theresa's Crypt

The crypt of Empress Maria Thersa.

I next headed over to the Hapsburg Imperial Crypt. This is a Capuchin monastery, and current resting place of all the Hapsburg line. One member was laid to rest here as recently as 2011. I learned more about Austrian history in the hour and a half tour as I have in all the history classes I have ever taken. It was fascinating to hear all the steps taken by the members of the Hapsburg imperial family that all ended with them in the same crypt and just seeing how design choices had evolved over the hundreds of years, with the first burial taking place in 1619. I’ll say this, Maria Theresa wasn’t fooling around with her 9-ton metal sarcophagus.

The Labyrinth of Buda Castle

The labyrinth.

Back to Budapest now, with the story of how I almost didn’t make it back home. Budapest is split into three parts, Buda, Pest, and Obuda. Buda is more of the historical district. This is where The Royal Palace is located, as well as the Labyrinth of Buda Castle. Running under Buda are tunnels and caves created mostly through natural hot springs. People would use these tunnels for smuggling, parties, and in the case of Vlad Dracula, or Vlad Tepes, a 14-year imprisonment.These days, curious tourists are welcome to tour the labyrinth, with only occasional arrow signs on the walls as guides. Not long after entering, you are greeted with a fork in the road. One side leads towards more of the dimly lit labyrinth. The other heads towards the Maze of Darkness. This section is totally unlit, and your only guide is the rope attached to the wall. By the end, the rope was my best friend. I feel like the rope really understood me.

Thankfully, I did eventually escape. Though I did pass the same snake statue about 4 times. I wonder how Snake Friend is doing. I hope he’s well.Snake sculpture in labirynthThanks for your time.

The Kid, World Traveler

Greetings from sunny Budapest!

Or, rather, as I just got back, rainy North Carolina. Pardon the interruption, but your regular food column has been briefly supplanted by a guest column from The Kid.Regular readers will be familiar with The Kid, the offspring of your regular columnist. I just got back from vacation, and she asked if I would be willing to talk a little about the food of Budapest. I offered Toronto as well, but as I never left the airport, it would be “Yes, Starbucks here tastes like nearly every other Starbucks.”As every meal shared amongst friends in Budapest starts with a small glass of palinka, I’ll start there. Palinka is a clear fruit brandy that is traditionally served before a meal. The idea is that you drink the palinka, and it prepares your digestive system for food. Every restaurant and pub I went to had at least 5 and 20 flavors. I guess they were all just hoping to ready people for digestion? I’m sure that was it.

And now food.My first meal in Budapest was Chicken Paprikas. It was at a restaurant my Airbnb host pointed me to, and it was a perfect introduction to Hungarian food. Chicken Paprikas is slow-cooked chicken, in a creamy red gravy. It’s full of Hungarian paprika, and served with spaetzli, a homemade egg noodle. While it’s traditional and delicious, I learned later that most Hungarians save Paprikas for the cooler months at my next culinary outing.There is a dinner hosted by a local, called Meet and Eat in Budapest. While the host is from Budapest, she moved away to go to school for a hospitality degree. When she got back home, she found that there just weren’t enough jobs, so she made one. Four nights a week, she opens her home to tourists of all different nationalities. With the help of her parents, she cooks family recipes and pairs each of the three courses with a different wine.All the courses were amazing, and so was the company. Who would have thought that I would spend my Hungarian vacation sharing a meal with people from Scotland, France, and England? The stand-out dish, though, was the dessert. It was a Dobras Torte, a chocolate and vanilla mouse sandwiched between chocolate sponge cake. It was fluffy and lightly sweet. I don’t really have a sweet tooth (a stark difference between myself and your regular columnist, who would list birthday cake as her favorite food), so the cake was a perfect end to a wonderful meal.If my prattling on about Budapest has got you excited for the food, try this one on for size:

Chicken Paprikas:chicken paprikas¼ cup butter + 1 tablespoon

2lb chicken legs

1 medium onion, chopped

1 ½ cups chicken broth

3 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup sour cream

Prepare the Chicken Paprikas:

  1. Dry chicken and dust lightly with flour, salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat until it is hot. Melt 1tbs butter. Add chicken and brown. Remove chicken from pan and tent loosely with foil.
  3. Add remaining ¼ cup butter to pan and sauté onions until they are translucent add paprika. Return chicken to the pan.
  4. Add chicken broth and gently simmer over low heat until chicken is falling apart. Remove chicken from the pan and tent loosely with foil.
  5. Add sour cream and return chicken to the pan and coat with the sauce.
  6. Serve with spaetlze or egg noodles.
    Torte and coffee at Sacher Cafe

    At the Sacher Hotel and Cafe in Vienna, with its world famous Sacher Torte.  The Kid said it’s kind of dry.  And the whipped cream looks badly over whipped.

    Thanks for your time.

Thoughts While Watching Star Trek Voyager

*For Michele and The Kid, Two of My Favorite NerdsFor the past few years when the entire Matthews Family band can gather together, we try to catch an on-demand episode of Face Off, a SyFy network special effects makeup competition. The show has made me both more aware of the creations and more appreciative of what folks go through to create believable science fiction productions.

Mack and Mike

It’s hosted by McKenzie Westmore, an actress who played the leading romantic heroine on the soap opera Passions.  She has her own cosmetics line, but it’s not a vanity project, it’s a family tradition.  Her father Michael is the third generation of the Westmores to be a ground-breaking makeup and special effects designer.  He has an Oscar for the Cher movie, Mask, nine Emmys, and he invented the look of both the Ferengi and Borg.  On Face Off, the elder Westmore acts as creative and structural mentor to the contestants.

Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One, full-on Borg

During the Star Trek Voyager episode I was watching, there was a scene with Seven of Nine.  Seven had for many years been a Borg, a frightening race that can best be described as a cross between a cyborg and a zombie.  She’s been rescued, and most of her cybernetic implants have been excised—but a few were impossible to remove.  She has a prominent one on her forehead.

Seven, post-rescue and reconstruction

I’m not sure how Borg facial appliances might look, but Seven’s device seems completely authentic.  It absolutely looks right.  And Michael conceived this, carved it, and painted it.  Because of Face Off I know about this process.  I’ve seen it push many contestants to the breaking point.  I’m sure Westmore agonized over the design and sweat blood to bring his idea to fruition.But there were a couple of things during Voyager that made me yell at the TV in frustration.

My loudest hollering and most colorful language was reserved for flashlights.

Neelix, the Jar-Jar Binks of the Star Trek universe, using a Voyager flashlight.

Every time our intrepid crew show up unannounced at some Borg frat party gone wrong and need to light the dark ship they break out a rectangular light with a wrist band, roughly the size and shape of a big angular plastic corsage from some nightmarish, dystopian prom.

Worf and Riker using the most ridiculous flashlights of any century.  A literal flaming torch would be better, you could at least use that as a weapon.  But the ship’s fire suppression systems would keep putting them out…

Granted, they are an improvement over the Next Generations regulation flashlight, which was basically a 1960’s transistor radio that was held in a raised hand.  So, 50% of your hands are occupied in an unknown situation.  And the light’s so darn dim, everybody’s got to pitch in with their own brick, or nobody’s going to see anything.  It’s like the light was manufactured and marketed by intergalactic con artists who saw the Federation coming from a long way off.Dear Picard,

I’ve seen your flashlights.  You must admit, they kind of blow.  I know you live in the 24th century, and I’m just from 2018, but I have a couple of ideas.  Maybe wear the light on your head like a hat, on your face like glasses, on your shoulders secured to a hook on a piece of clothing.  Heck, it’s the future, maybe have it hover next you?

Jean Luc, I googled these today, in the 21st century.  Imagine what you might google.

Or, get Data’s and Geordie’s heads together one weekend after brunch and have them go all 2369 AD on it, and come up with some flashy, scifi solution.  How about eyedrops that luminesce and safely project light from the iris, or something future-y like that?

Thanks for your time, Captain.Trek on!

debbie

Maybe one day I’ll reveal my thoughts while watching a beloved fantasy/scifi program, Supernatural.  But there won’t be anywhere near as much cranky bellyaching.  Those Winchester brothers are so darn adorable they make everything all right.

Two to go, please.

You know, maybe I shouldn’t relay my thoughts while viewing those pretty, pretty boys…not everything that pops into my brain box needs to be publicly shared.

Thanks for your time.

 

…And This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Chain Bridge

This is an actual photo of Budapest, not an artist’s idealized rendering.  It looks like it’s made of daydreams and spun sugar.

The Kid is on vacation this week—in Budapest.

In a phone call home, we discussed goulash.

Our version of goulash.

In our family, goulash is a stew-like dish made with hamburger, roasted garlic, mushrooms, tomato, and pasta of some sort.  It’s filling, tasty, reheats like a dream, and with a dollop of sour cream is practically perfect comfort food.  In other areas of the US, various iterations of this dish are known as American chop suey, beefaroni, and curiously, Johnny Marzetti.

A plate of the real thing, from a restaurant in Budapest.

The Kid informed me that our goulash has nothing in common with true Hungarian goulash (which I knew) and it’s the national dish, served mainly on special occasions (which I didn’t know).

But the US/Hungarian dinner dichotomy got me to thinking.

What is wrong with us as a nation that we take a perfectly good ethnic dish and pervert it into something the citizens of the dish’s birth country wouldn’t recognize it if a pan of it was dumped over their heads?And goulash is the tippiest tip top of the culinary iceberg.  If a national dish can be changed so profoundly that the only thing left in common with the original is the moniker, we, the people have probably done it.

Take, for example, spaghetti and meatballs.  It is true that Italians eat both spaghetti and meatballs, but never together, and certainly not like we do.  Meatballs are neither the size of cantaloupes, nor served on pasta.  And they sure as heck never break spaghetti in half before it goes into the pot.  Serving or consuming cheese from a green can in Italy will get you serious prison time, where they never, ever serve spaghetti and meatballs.

Authentic street tacos of carnitas, white onion, and cilantro.  Like a dog, I could eat these until they kill me.  But what a way to go.

Mexican food in general, and tacos in particular.  Nowhere in Mexico does anyone serve shredded lettuce and cheddar cheese on a traditional taco.  Or ground beef.  Or seasoning from a glossy envelop manufactured in a Scottish company in Maryland.  Taco shells are not even a thing.  And those u-shaped, bland, crispy shells from a cardboard box would just make a Mexican abuela (grandmother) cry and pray for our very souls.

Why ya gotta make Gramma cry?

In elementary school they made something they called chicken chow mein.  It was a glue-y, stew-y dish of chicken and celery served over rice.  A handful of noodle-shaped cracker things were thrown over the top for crunch. I, and many of my classmates loved it.  We were little kids though, so what did we know from international cuisine?

Chicken chow mein ala Central Elementary school.

But the only thing that lunch tray ambrosia truly had in common with the authentic Chinese dish was the chicken.

This is the real thing.  Check out the crispy noodles.

It’s not even a rice dish.  Traditional chow mein is made with egg noodles.  They are fried so they’re crispy and crunchy in spots.  This, I imagine are where those canned crunchy noodle things came in.

This product alone made him a hero to generations of schoolchildren and stoners everywhere.

The one man that arguably put more chow mein in more American bellies than any other single person is Jeno Paulucci, a second-generation Italian who founded the canned Chinese food company, Chun King, in the 1940s.  He seasoned the food with Italian flavors, in an effort to make the taste more familiar to the European palate.This mania to morph traditional recipes has almost become a national joke, a kind of twisted point of pride.  At a bicentennial dinner attended by Paulucci, President Gerald Ford summed it up by asking, “What could be more American than a business built on a good Italian recipe for chop suey?”

Ladies and Gentlemen, President Ford.

Many of these Americanized, sanitized dishes are favorites from our childhood.  So, eat them to your heart’s content.  But would it kill you to at least sample the authentic food that inspired them?

C’mon, you know you wanna…

Thanks for your time.

 

Ridiculous to Sublime; Just Add Coffee

Flavor NC production observation, day two:

The filming on this day was at Porter Farms and Nursery, in Willow Springs.  But, before any travel I needed some coffee, stat.Here’s something that will give what follows some context; a generous portion of my blood is composed of caffeine.  Whether it’s an expensive fancy coffee beverage, a glass of my homemade sun-tea that’s so strong Petey and The Kid call it jet fuel, or chocolate so dark it absorbs surrounding light, my engine runs on that stimulant of the jacked up, jittery gods.  Without it, I am a cranky toy, with failing batteries, and a belligerent headache.

Oh, and waiting any length of time, for any reason, makes me lose my mind.

Didja ever notice the Starbucks mermaid has her legs/fins flung behind her head and is holding them there?

At the closest Starbucks to my house, I placed my order and got out of the way (people who stand right in the middle of the store, in everyone’s way while they wait for their drink need repeated, severe beatings).  After a few minutes the barista sets down a cup and mumble-announces what’s in it.  I grab it, see there are three of something in it (I get three pumps of caramel).  That’s good enough for me, I take a taste.

Don’t judge.  In my defense, there was very little caffeine in my system.  I’m lucky I found the store, or the jeep to take me there.

Turns out, shockingly, that I’ve picked up the wrong cup.  Embarrassment and apologies then ensue.  I finally get the correct 20 ounces of go-juice and get on the road for the forty-five-minute drive to Willow Springs.

When I arrive at Porter farm it turns out I’ve beaten host Lisa Prince, her sister and associate producer Michele Holland, and photographer/show owner David Dalton.  And Lisa and Michele only live 15 minutes away.

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From left: David Dalton, Lisa Prince, and Charity Morris.

The first person I meet is Charity Morris, the farm stand manager, cheerleader of everything Porter, and its social media maven.  She’s barefoot, with wavy, surfer girl blond hair, and wearing a luminous, welcoming smile.  She’s to be our main guide today as owner Ashley Porter is the quintessential, Gary Cooper “strong silent” type who’s not so much camera shy as camera averse.

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Ashley Porter’s hand, holding a decorative mini pumpkin in a luminous jade green.

The farm stand itself looks like a set for a movie.  The vegetables are gorgeous, each one a shining example of itself.  They’re arranged beautifully but organically, as if a breeze with design training and impeccable taste has blown them just so.  Our star of the shoot, okra, spills out of a large basket in a riot of shape and color.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe attached building contains two of my favorite summer items—air conditioning and homemade ice cream.  Charity loves to use freshly harvested produce for it.  We’ve just missed the blueberry sweet corn, but the fresh watermelon ice cream becomes part of the shoot.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter visiting the okra field, we drive to the farm annex where the fields went on as far as we could see.  One portion was full of countless plants heavy with different varieties of ripe tomatoes.  Purely as research I ate a couple; sweet, and warm from the sun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext was summer squash of different shapes and colors.  Then were pumpkins, a few for cooking, but most were purely ornamental, including ones that were pale green and covered with what looked like warts.  Our host Ashley said they were perfectly suited for jack-o-lanterns and Halloween decoration.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe concluded our visit back at the farm stand.  Lisa and Charity did a shot that culminated in biting into a raw piece of okra.

Again, as research for you, Gentle Reader, I sampled a small, raw pod.  It was fuzzy like a peach, with a bright, strong okra flavor, and no slime.  It was really good.And nope, it didn’t taste like chicken.

Thanks for your time.

The House of Great Ideas

On breaks, The Kid brought all kind of things home from college.

There were the mountains of dirty laundry.   Binders full of bills.  Sometimes, exotic Vermont ailments, which were then introduced into the Matthews family petri dish.  Occasionally books I “absolutely had to read”, or movies and TV shows that I “absolutely had to see”.

Yeah, there’s cake.

But, The Kid was attending culinary school up there.

So, a lot of the stuff brought south had to do with food—new recipes, new ideas. The first one was simple.  Almost too simple.

Salads.  Before, whenever I’d made a dinner salad, it was a huge, hairy production.  Special trips to the grocery for bags of greens, vegetables sliced just so, eggs or another protein I needed to prepare, and freshly made dressing, usually ranch.As a consequence, we only had salads every couple of months, and in between there would usually be a couple of times where I purchased greens and mushrooms for salad but then something would come up and a week later I’d end up face to face with slimy malodorous lettuces and ‘shrooms that had a decidedly gangrenous quality.The Kid, however, advocated a much more casual, spontaneous approach.  This included buying a row boat-sized container of mixed greens from Costco or BJ’s, a log of goat cheese, and some ready-to-go protein to toss into the mix (I butter-toast and salt a couple pounds of pecans every few months and mix them with dried fruit.  It keeps in the fridge for weeks).  It’s dressed with a bottle of ready-made dressing; I love Trader Joe’s balsamic.

No stress, no prepping,  a salad at a moment’s notice.  It increased my salad consumption ten-fold.Then there was the time my very own shine-hauling mini Richard Petty pulled into our driveway with six or seven cases of homemade pomegranate mead.  Transporting this quantity happens to be a felony in most of the states driven through on the way home.

But it was burrata to which The Kid introduced me that brings us back around to my visit to Raleigh’s Whiskey Kitchen.

Burrata is basically a mozzarella balloon, filled with whole milk ricotta cheese.  This ricotta in no way resembles cottage cheese.  It’s luscious, luxurious, and when spilling out of a sack made from cheese, miraculous. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mad scientists at Whiskey Kitchen serve it on sliced heirloom tomatoes speckled with crispy-fried okra, all resting on a shallow pool of their homemade pesto aioli.  But before any of this happens, they lightly cold smoke the burrata, which gives it a flavor that compels one to just.keep.eating. Their pesto is delicious, with a sauce-like consistency.  This makes it much more versatile, and a silky coating for pasta, unlike most, which can be greasy and is prone to separate.

Here is the Kitchen’s recipe, sized for home cooks.

Whiskey Kitchen Pesto

1QT packed parsley

1QT packed cilantro

1QT packed basil

1QT packed mintWhiskey pesto

1Pnt Canola or salad oil

1Pnt Sunflower seeds

4 cloves garlic

1 C lemon juice

2 Tbl lemon zest

3 tsp salt

2.25tsp black pepper

Blend ingredients in blender just until mixed and smooth.

 To make the aioli, the same 2:1 ratio is used with your favorite brand of mayo (we use Duke’s)If you haven’t been to downtown Raleigh in a while, very interesting things are happening.  There’s unique shopping, museums, and NC legend and lore.  I strongly suggest a trip in the near future that includes a stop at Whiskey Kitchen.

One more tip; I’ve recently discovered their buttermilk pound cake with cream cheese frosting.  Just one slice could make angels sing.  Even angels on strict diets.

Very rare photographic evidence of Victoria’s Secret Angel, Alessandra Ambrosio, near cake. 

It’s totally worth the calories.

Thanks for your time.

 

Flavor -N- See

Petey had one piece of advice: “Make sure you’re quiet when they’re filming.”

And in two days I only interrupted eighty-six times (not really, just twice).

Every Friday on the WRAL noon news, Brian Shrader, traffic guru and daytime anchor appears with Lisa Prince of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  Together, they cook recipes with seasonal North Carolina products.  Their segment is called Local Dish, and they’ve been doing it for around twelve years.The co-hosts make dishes that are NC authentic, tasty, and original, or twists on old favorites.  After making hundreds of recipes, it gets tough to come up with new ones, so they count on reader submissions.

And, that’s how I made Lisa’s acquaintance.

In the fall of 2014, WRAL was soliciting recipes for holiday gatherings.  On Christmas at my parents’ house, we have a buffet.  I make a ham and either mom or Heavenly Ham prepares a large roasted turkey breast.  And mom makes baked beans and her famous baked macaroni and cheese.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We also have a few cold salads.  So, I sent in my high-country potato salad, with broccoli and cheddar cheese.

And then I forgot all about it.

In the early summer of the next year, Lisa sent me a note.  In it she thanked me for participating and told me they were going to make my salad for the Fourth of July show.  I was thrilled—I watched Local Dish every week; it would be a thrill to see one of my dishes made on TV.  I wrote back, thanked her, and told her I was (at that time) a food writer at the Herald Sun.  She then wrote back, telling me that she organized the specialty food contests at the State Fair.  Would I be interested in acting as judge for a few of them?

She had me at “food”.

I went, had a blast, and met some really nice people that are almost as obsessed with food as me.  A couple weeks later I bought her a cup of coffee and interviewed her for a column.  Since then I’ve judged at a few more fairs.

If you’ve wondered how I feel after judging…here you go.  Like a piggy that won the prize.

I’ll let you in on a secret: she thinks I’m doing her a favor by working the cooking contests but judging at the State Fair is truly one of the highlights of my year.  The Kid started judging last year.

Last week I met Lisa, her sister Michele Holland, and David Dalton at Whiskey Kitchen in downtown Raleigh.  Lisa had invited me to a taping of Flavor NC, a PBS show she hosts that celebrates the producers and cooks of North Carolina grub of all types.  If it’s grown, raised, gathered, fished, or plucked by Tar Heels, Flavor NC is all over it.

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From left: Michele Holland, Whiskey Kitchen’s executive chef Clayton, David Dalton, and Lisa Prince

In addition to being Lisa’s right hand at the state fair, Michele’s also associate producer of the show.  Her organization and ability to anticipate the needs of the shoot are scary. But, best of all, she is a giant nerd whose love and allegiance to Doctor Who, the multiple Star Trek series, and Supernatural closely resembles the geeky fanaticism of The Kid and me.

crowley snow

Our puppy, Crowley.  Named for a character in Supernatural.

David is cinematographer, editor, show-runner, creator, and owner of Flavor NC.  He’s also kind, funny, and cheerleader of both our state and its food.  His SUV is packed so full of television equipment that there’s not room in there for a bottle of Coke and a tomato sandwich.

Next week I’ll dish on the two-day shoot, talking about shy farmers, walls of whiskey, and why I should never trust my own judgement before consumption of caffeine.Thanks for your time.

 

The House of Good Ideas

There’s this story I heard years ago.A woman was making brisket for dinner.  And, like always, she cut two inches off before putting it into the oven.  Her daughter asked why.

“Because that’s what my mom does.”

Her daughter asked, “Why does Gramma do it?”

“I have no idea.”

Soon, they got Gramma and the phone, who confessed she’d done it that way because her mother had done it that way.

Finally, the three generations of curious females contacted the original cook and asked her why she cut off the end of every brisket.

“Because,” she answered, “My roasting pan was two inches short!”Life is full of things we do that make little to no sense, but we do it because nobody thinks to ask Gramma, “Why?”

Last Monday I spent the day in Raleigh, at a restaurant called Whiskey Kitchen.  I was there observing the filming of a TV show.  The restaurant wasn’t open yet, so it was quiet, which enabled me to poke around and ask lots of questions.

And I had some questions.The first one was about the lady’s room.

Most women carry a purse.  When washing one’s hands in a public lav, there is a conundrum.  Do I set my bag on the floor, which doesn’t even bear thinking about, or next to the sink that’s knuckle deep in questionable ‘water’.Ah, but at Whiskey Kitchen there is no bathroom Gordian knot.  There is a giant hook hanging next to the sink in the lady’s room.  It should become federal law that every public restroom must have a giant hook hanging next to every sink—it just should.

Pesto is an Italian condiment/sauce that traditionally is a mixture of basil, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, and usually pine nuts, or pistachios, walnuts, or another tree nut.But those nuts bring more issues than a Batman comic.  Not only are there lots of people with nut allergies, these allergies are nothing to mess around with.  Allergic people have died from kissing someone who had recently eaten nuts.  Even eating food prepared in kitchens with nuts can cause adverse reactions.

But the Whiskey Kitchen genius chefs have an answer: sunflower seeds.  It elevates and invigorates the classic pesto flavor, which sometimes can seem tired from over familiarity.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFried okra’s delicious.  But, if you’re a fork user, you chase the little nuggets around your plate.  If you go commando and use your fingers, you get covered in ranch.

But, not at Whiskey Kitchen.  They cut the okra…length-wise.  So you have a little stick of crispy goodness to dunk into their Green Goddess Ranch.

Whiskey Kitchen Green Goddess Ranch

(This recipe was sized down from a restaurant sized amount.  The herbs are approximate and can be adjusted according to taste)1 tablespoon Basil

1 tablespoon Parsley

1 tablespoon cut chive

2 teaspoons dill

2 teaspoons mint

1 teaspoon lemon zest

3/4 teaspoon tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 cups buttermilk

2 cups mayo

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black peppergreen goddessCut all herbs finely, by hand. Combine half in the blender.

Mix Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, salt. Reserve for later along with half the herbs.

Blend all other ingredients in blender. Add the acid, salt & pepper and reserved herbs by hand.

Next week I’ll give you their pesto recipe and tell you about another crazy idea of theirs which turns out to be one of the most original and tasty bites I’ve ever put into my mouth.

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Mmmmm…mozzarella balloon… 

Thanks for your time.