Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pepper Soup and Shroom Sammiches, Dot's Pesto, a Worthy Brunch, and a Bargain Knife

I've discovered eclecticity! Last night, I put a bunch of my recent cooking related purchases to work for a tasty, but unspectacular meal. It was a couple recipes from the Top Chef cookbook, veggies prepped with Cooks Illustrated's top-rated santoku knife, and I used a Rick Bayless pepper roaster and griddle in the process (and an immersion blender). The achievement was in the multiple resource utilization and the inclusion of several foodie interests simultaneously. I think that qualifies as blogable.

It all started with the usual... thinly sliced onions. But, this time around, they were a pleasure to chop, because I was using my new Forschner Santoku knife, which glides through most anything with ease. Amazon, has these drastically discounted. I'd seen several magazine reviews that heralded the Forschner chef's knife as the best value of any knife on the market. Their santoku is cut from the same cloth. In the past few years, I've gone through a few Kitchen Aid and Cuisinart knives found at discount stores. It turns out that the cutlery at Marshalls is practically disposable compared to the high dollar stuff. Where for art thou, reasonably priced quality knives?

The Best Knife Deal:
The real competition for these Swiss Victorinox knives are the German forged steel knives by Henckels and Wusthof. At a third of the price, there's hardly a comparison to make for a frugal guy like me. But, they always wind up in the same league when tested by experts. Here are some of the significant differences. Forschner's economical line of knives have Fibrox (plastic) handles and thin metal blades. In your hand, they feel light and cheap. But, don't let these underwhelming traits fool you, because the knives cut like a samurai sword and rarely need sharpening. Hence, the high quality and low maintenance Forschner knives are especially popular in professional kitchens. On the other hand, the prestigious German knives are weighty, require frequent sharpening, and make their owners feel like they're sitting in a sports car at the showroom. That sensation might be worth paying for (if you're an impedent man), but in the kitchen, such pretensions are hardly necessary or practical.

T.G.I. Not Fridays
I posted earlier about the Rick Bayless line of cooking accessories. For the past month, I hadn't used my $10 pepper roaster (reduced from $60). But, tonight, I roasted three peppers perfectly and then used it as a griddle as well. The recipe I followed was from season two of Top Chef. Betty's portobello grilled cheese and roasted red pepper soup won a childhood comfort food challenge and can now be found on the menu at TGIFridays. But you don't need me to tell you how to make soup and a sandwich, take your instructions from this video on Bravo's "The Wong Way to Cook." We enjoyed the meal tonight, but it was more effort than it was worth. Don't think we'll be going to TGIFridays to try the massed produced version, or for any other reason, for that matter.

Dot's Back On Television
All the bloggers are talking about Richmond's own Dot's Back In being featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Well, I've never been to Dot's on MacArthur Ave, but having watched the episode, I'm dying to go and try those corn cakes covered with beans and salsa. Of course, now the place is going to be so popular that I may never find out if Dot's is a diner or a drive or both. Even though this episode will probably air ad nauseum, it was fun and I'll bet every Richmond viewer saw someone they know during the few minutes of dining room footage (hi Emily and Ethan!). Karen recognized an old co-worker in Jimmy, Dot's new owner, from her days of waiting tables at the John Mashall restaurant. I got so interested in Jimmy's walnut pesto that I made a batch myself, only omitting the cheese (not vegan, just ran out) and mashing the ingredients with my mortar and pestle (hard work if you're spoiled on food processing).

?Donde Esta el NiƱo?
By this point, many of my readers are wondering where their Jasper Diego update has gone to. I didn't work in any stories about the baby and I'm ready to stop typing. He's generally sleeping, nursing, staring at us and making quizzical faces. But, mostly he's sleeping. On Sunday, we dragged him to Carytown in a stroller. A week after giving birth, and Karen does a three mile walk. Did I mention that she's only one pound over her pre-pregnancy weight? This is Jasper after the long walk. As you can see, his feet are killing him and he wants you to kiss them.

Come to think of it, at one week old, Jasper had his first meal out and it was Sunday brunch at Can Can. That's blogable, right? I was all geared up for a baby hunger tantrum that would disrupt our meal and the surrounding diners. I imagined Karen brazenly nursing amid the clamor and dining chic-ness. Wouldn't that be a provocative post? Karen getting thrown out of a French restaurant with her top half-off? Oh, we'd have fought it tooth and nail, dontcha know. Well, maybe next time.

Jasper slept through the meal and the only news to report is my revelation that Can Can's premium prices buy a hell of a good brunch experience: strong coffee, terrific breads, yummy sides, and attentive service. I'm always cranky as I suppress my cheapskate tendancies and place my order for a freakin' $12 omlet PLUS a $3 side. But, then I'm treated to an awesome meal and I do dig the ambiance (although I fet underdressed). Having our newborn along for the ride, may have also tamed my inner Mr. Cranky. Karen and I agreed that we would have to drag Jasper out again for happy hour sometime. Life is getting sweeter, if you ask me.


  1. Hey, they just finished taping an episode of Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives at Magnolia Cafe here in Austin last week- the place I worked for 3+ years and I still pick up shifts on the weekends. 20 something hours of footage and I missed it all. But you'll be able to see some of my Austin family if you tune in sometime early this summer they say. I don't see how that place can get any busier, but it probably will.

  2. i used to work at the John Marshall myself - we ate lunch at Barristers like everyday. it was nice to see Jimmy doing his thing.


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