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Friday, July 29, 2011

First attempt at Pasta

So today I learned a few things about making pasta. First of all, it's not all that complicated. second it will come out much better if you have a rolling pin or pasta machine. But we'll get into that later.First let's take a step by step view of how this goes.

The first step is to mix up the eggs. You can either use whole eggs or twice as many yolks. So if you're making 5 cups of flour you would either use 6 eggs or 12 egg yolks. It will change the texture and give it a burst of color.

Ideally you'll start mixing the flour into the egg little by little so the egg doesn't escape. I was doing a pretty small amount of dough and that may have been my demise. Or maybe the lack of proper kitchen utensils. Could be any number of reasons but basically you want it to wind up looking like this:

I nice little bundle of love. The color may vary depending on what kind of eggs you use as well as whether you use whole eggs or just the yolks. After that you need to roll it out. This is where my downfall truly began.

By some strange twist of fate I happen to not have a rolling pin or a pasta machine either of which would have made this much better. Instead I used my little measuring cup because it was the only thing that was about the right shape and wouldn't get destroyed when I rolled out the dough. The end result, however, was an incredibly thick noodle.

Not terrible but not terribly attractive. I suppose it could have been much worse! So I got the water boiling with a bit of olive oil to make sure it didn't clump up. If you but a good packaged pasta, oil in the water will not be necessary but for fresh pasta it's pretty essential, I'm told.

So while the pasta was cooking I decided to make a simple butter pasta so I got my diced red onion going. I used red onion and not too small because I like having a bit of that crunch in there.

Once the onion got nice and soft I threw in some asparagus pieces for a few seconds before tossing the pasta in there to soak it all up. I also wanted to give it some color because it just doesn't come out the same if it hasn't gone through the pasta machine a few times. Oh yeah, and a nice hunk of butter because everything tastes better when you use butter. That's butter, not melted plastic made to look like butter, that's real honest-to-goodness unsalted butter.

The end result was not completely embarrassing. Of course, the use of butter, garlic and onion makes messing this completely up pretty difficult. The texture was a little off because of the thickness of the pasta, it just didn't develop as I'd hoped. But other than that, it was quite good!

Just remember, there's no shame in not doing perfectly the first time you make it. This is one of those things that are so cheap and easy to make that it won't hurt if it doesn't come out perfectly. This was 1 cup of flour, 1 egg and 1/2 a tspn of salt. Nice, cheap and easy. Seeing the amount of time it took to make, I think I will spring for the pasta machine. This can be a quick and easy meal that I can throw together in a crunch.

Have you made pasta? Tell me about it!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ribs, Frisco Grill and Margherita

So it has been an eventful couple of weeks! We've eaten some absolutely great stuff lately. The first of the list was Lasagna and a Tomato salad that my SIL made for us. It was delicious with everything made from scratch, including the tomato sauce, with the exception of the pasta.

In order to make up for the heavy meals we've been having, we decided to have a nice, light, natural breakfast on Sunday since I had a premonition that some great food would follow. Unfortunately, I must admit that cooler heads prevailed and we went with some french toast. How do I eat it? With peanut butter and maple syrup!

And then Friday rolled around. We had a BBQ with a group of friends and it was decided that I would make my spare ribs. It's a rather long, if not complicated, process. So I bought to racks of spare ribs and brined them before putting the dry rub on there and letting them sit overnight in the fridge. Of course, we got up incredibly early and managed to drag ourselves to the house where everything was going to happen.

I like to use a charcoal chimney with lump coal since it's faster, has great flavor and seems to burn forever! so we started up the fire and the crack of dawn. Well, almost. Well, more like noon. Ish. Ok, Ok, so we're not morning people and just managed to drag ourselves out of bed by 9:30 and had the coals ready by noon. On went the rack of ribs and, due to the lack of wood chips, we threw on some soaked oregano stems to make some aromatic smoke to give the ribs some great flavor. After about 4 hours, this is what it looked like.

It was quite spectacular. The meat was moist and soft and came off the bone quite nicely. I think with every attempt I keep getting closer to what it should be. Maybe next time they'll be perfect! After that great meal we were quite full until Sunday when we went to Frisco Grill. I have to say that this is one of those places that I just can't believe I hadn't been to before now! It was absolutely great. I had the Buffalo burger and the Chunky Monkey Milkshake and am looking forward to having it again. It was juicy, tasty and surprisingly light. If you're after some great grilled food or fantastic finger food, I would have to send you towards this place!

I also recently heard of a new gourmet store, Mia Cucina, which seems to be somehow related to NuChef. It took a huge amount of self control to not splurge every penny I have to my name in the place. They have EVERYTHING! Cheesecloth, sieves, spatulas, baking materials, finishing oils, vinagrette recipe bottles, fresh herbs, pots, pans, meats, seafood and just about everything you could ask for. Including...

French cut Lamb Chops! Now for those of you have a ready and constant flow of this kind of wonderful packages, all I say to you is :P For the rest of us, this is quite a find! I've been searching high and low for this. I also found mussels, tuna steaks and a full leg of lamb! But moving on to the true star of this week.

Margherita Pizzeria is a fairly new gourmet pizza restaurant. We decided to splurge today and had ourselves a salad to accompany our pizza. After having seen it advertised numerous times on GuateDining and reading so many great reviews of the place, we decided to put it off no longer!

Sadly I must say that it was the one somewhat drab part of our meal. The lettuce was good, the tomato's fresh and the egg acceptable but what really made it boring was the Mozzarella Cracker. It was too thick, soggy and underwhelming. The pizza, however, is another story all together.

This pizza is awesome, absolutely incredible. The tomato sauce tastes like they just pureed some incredibly fresh, ripe tomato's into a simple but delicious sauce. Everything here tastes so fresh that it must not have been out of the ground for more than a few days! The crust is nice and crisp and has that particular taste and texture that can only come from one of these:

A brick oven kept at 900ยบ that makes this pizza quite exceptional. And it doesn't end with the pizza. For dessert we had a nutella pizza, in order to keep with the theme. The base was a little tough but the flavor was absolutely more than enough to make up for that small shortcoming. With a nutella base and covered with Walnut, strawberries and whipped cream this dessert takes the cake! So if you're up for a good meal with great ingredients and on a reasonable budget, this is my #1 pick of the month. Try it, share it and enjoy!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Chateau DeFay

As I mentioned in a previous post, some friends and I went to Chateau DeFay, a few kilometers outside of Antigua Guatemala.

With high expectations and more than enough enthusiasm we set off on our way. We heard that the road was rough, that people had been throwing their garbage by the wayside but that it was well worth the journey. The Chateau is quite beautiful, that much I will admit. My wife and I had some fun taking some pictures in the very nicely kept back yard.

The rain, however, drove us back indoors to explore the rest of the building. We wandered through the rooms until we found the stairwell that goes up the tower and, needless to say, hustled up the tower taking pictures out of the windows on the way up and down.

Finally we headed back down to the reception area for the free wine tasting. For those of you who aren't familiar with the place, Chataeu DeFay is supposed to be a winery. While everything seems to point in that direction (such as the bottles of wine labeled "Chataeu DeFay") there is some very conflicting information about it. During the wine tasting they told us that they make a bunch of different wines. They were OK but definitely over priced. The curious thing came when we took the tour and they told us that they were still a few years away from producing all their own grapes and that they imported some. After seeing the vines we went to the winery where they showed us their equipment and the tour guide let slip that they didn't have any grapes last year. I guess that explained the incredibly clean machinery (with the exception of the label maker). None the less, we did enjoy that wine.

Now, wether or not they make their own wine, grow their own grapes or overcharge for their wine, this place is permanently on my radar for the food. This is, after all, a food-lovers blog and not an oenophile blog and, ironic as it may seem, the food here was so much better than the wine. We started off the meal with a mouth-watering antipasto which consisted of some mozzarella squares, pimento, black olives on tomato slices all drizzled with some amazing extra virgin olive oil.

After this we had the pasta. The menu basically consisted of a bunch of pastas and about 3 meat dishes. When confronted with this kind of menu, it leads me to the conclusion that they must be good with their pasta and put the meat/chicken/fish on there just to please the pasta haters. This is a prejudice that was not seen in anyone in our group. I had the anchovie pasta. The two anchovies on top were a nice touch aesthetically but did not help the dish's taste in any way I could discern. By ditching the two anchovies that crowned the pasta, the taste of the pasta improved exponentially. It was creamy and delicious and struck a wonderful balance between creamy and light.

The winner by choice was the Pasta al Pesto. While quite gratifying to my taste buds, several of my friends found it to be somewhat bland to their taste. While quite colorful, Pesto does sometimes tend towards the bland if you're not careful.

The pasta Pomodoro was the best dish. Despite being the most simple, it also gave those fresh vegetable a real chance to shine. If Chateau DeFay has anything going for it, it's gotta be the fresh vegetables that they've got floating around they're kitchen. I just barely managed to snap this picture before it was devoured.

The pasta Amatriciana was also among the chosen dishes and proved to have some bold flavors for the adventurous taste buds. A little salty and a little spicy it kind of gave a naughty/nice kind of vibe that played with your head a little while before you made your mind up about what was going on in your mouth.

So at about Four O'Clock we decided to make our way back home because the road was indeed rather difficult. Not only does one have to deal with ruts, rocks and mud but we found ourselves in the middle of some rather picturesque fog.

All in all we spent a very nice day there. For anyone who's planning on going, I would give the following advice: skip the tour, take a lot of pictures and eat the pasta. Think of it as a destination meal rather than a visit to a vineyard. You'll be so much happier to find your expectations of a decent meal met and even surpassed without the letdown of seeing where grapes could be, will be, were but aren't. Also, don't trick yourself into thinking that the garbage situation won't be so bad. Keep you windows up and your AC on and the smell shouldn't be too bad.