Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Barbecue Update: Chicken Bomb

Posted by on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Step aside, turducken. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Step aside, turducken.

Word came in over the wire that Wild Oaks Grill had its notorious Chicken Bombs earlier this week ($10). Those are chicken breasts stuffed with hot sausage, pepperoni or shrimp, along with cream cheese and jalapeno peppers, then wrapped in smoky bacon and barbecued. Take a moment there. They're not always available, which is probably best. 

click to enlarge Fire in the hole! Hot sausage chicken bomb. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Fire in the hole! Hot sausage chicken bomb.

The bacon alone is worth it — thick cuts of the meaty stuff on all sides — and it keeps the chicken underneath juicy. The red circle of sausage in each slice and the soft, pale green pepper are enough to give your face a little color, but the dollop of cream cheese cools things off a bit. The shrimp-stuffed bomb is a little more uptown — the cream cheese melts into the little bay shrimp like a sauce, and it's not as spicy as the sausage variety. Both are going in our Hurt Locker of deliciousness that almost killed us.

Dismantling the bombs is a hot mess after the initial slice, but it's still more dignified than "just eating it like a hotdog," as one person suggested. After all, we may be eating meat stuffed with meat and wrapped with more meat, but we're not animals.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Chocolate Revolution

Posted by on Sat, Apr 12, 2014 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge Sipping chocolate for chocolistas and other upstarts. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Sipping chocolate for chocolistas and other upstarts.

We look at chocolate as a luxury, as a sinful indulgence. But back during the French and Indian War, it was part of a soldier's rations. Nutritious, medicinal and as necessary as a pouch of tobacco. And a good deal of the scheming, plotting and fomenting for the American Revolution happened over cups of drinking chocolate. 

Over at Old Town Coffee and Chocolates, you can nurse a half cup of sipping chocolate like a revolutionary ($2.95 for a small). It's not hot cocoa, and no marshmallows are required. Instead, it's thick, warm, not overly sweet and all that you hoped the chocolate fountain at your cousin's wedding would be. It is deeply satisfying enough to be dessert, but socially acceptable as a coffee break order. You can even get it with a shot of espresso (50 cents extra) — "Look at me, nose to the grindstone, fueling up for more hard work!"

Do not feel ripped off when you see the small portion in your mug — you could go with a large ($3.50), but not everyone's chocolate tolerance is high enough to withstand a full mug without cocoa-drunk-dialing all of his or her exes. Those colonials knew to take it easy with the stuff. The Historic Williamsburg website quotes the 1770 Virginia Almanac's cautionary words "warning 'the fair sex to be in a particular manner careful how they meddle with romances, chocolate, novels, and the like,' especially in the spring, as those were all 'inflamers' and 'very dangerous.'" Hear that, ladies? Crack open a novel and drink up.
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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Big, Green Monster

Posted by on Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 11:09 AM

click to enlarge We're going to need a bigger boat. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • We're going to need a bigger boat.

A reader wrote in with a tip about the wet burrito at Tasty Tacos (3943 Walnut St, Eureka), saying the green sauce and the marinated chicken are amazing ($9). What the tipster didn't mention is the enormity of the thing, which the menu calls the biggest burrito in town. When it arrives, smothered in a perfectly tangy, green tomatillo sauce, as promised, it makes the plastic fork in your hand look like a baby's. Passing it across the table is like dragging a body.

Inside the blanket of soft tortilla are the usual suspects: rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, salsa and beans. But the juicy, shredded chicken is all my informant promised it would be, slow-cooked in a verde sauce — the recipe for which the cook will not even share with her husband and business partner. 

click to enlarge Like a Zepplin. A delicious, saucy Zepplin. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Like a Zepplin. A delicious, saucy Zepplin.

Now, there are days when a mere mortal-sized burrito will not do. Maybe you're planning to split it with a friend. Maybe you've just finished a triathlon. Maybe you're just wearing loose pants. But something has shifted in your mind to allow you to order a burrito that could conceal an army, should you ever need to breach the gates of Troy. But perhaps today is not that day.

click to enlarge The namesake Tasty Taco. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • The namesake Tasty Taco.

Turn instead to the namesake Tasty Taco ($4). The large corn tortilla is freshly made — all soft and thick with ragged edges and grill marks — and flirting with being a Greek pita. Go with the green sauce and the chicken here, too, and enjoy the zing of the burrito while still being able to walk out of the shop unassisted. 


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Friday, April 4, 2014

Pie Hard

Posted by on Fri, Apr 4, 2014 at 10:46 AM

click to enlarge Real coconut cream pie. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Real coconut cream pie.

Pie takes a backseat to cake, largely because of its limited decorative possibilities — fancy latticed crust can't compete with buttercream roses and fondant zoo animals. If pie is going to do battle with cake, it can't show up as an elegant little sliver (don't bring a tart to a pie fight). It's got be be some serious pie.

My money's on the triumvirate of cream pies at Toni's ($3.99). (Scoff if you will at the truck-stop vibe, but the Thai truck took home best cooked oyster at the fest last year.) The crusts and fillings are made from scratch — that means flaky layers you actually want to eat all the way to the edges. The pies are brimming with great heaps of milk chocolate filling (take a break from dark for just a minute, will you), coconut filling with big shreds of the stuff, and vanilla custard with slices of fresh banana. On top of each broad wedge are peaks of whipped cream — which beats gummy fondant any day. 

click to enlarge Chocolate cream pie at Toni's. Yippee-pie-yay. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Chocolate cream pie at Toni's. Yippee-pie-yay.

The cream pies are especially good in pairs (coconut + chocolate/banana + chocolate/coconut + banana) or all  together (because what is there is no afterlife and this is it?). This means you may have to form an unsteady alliance with your fellow diner(s) and order all three. Your level of intimacy will determine whether you dart around from plate to plate with your fork or divide the pieces and slide individual portions gingerly onto your own plate. Either way, keep your friends close and your pie closer. 
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Raise Your Glass

Posted by on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 3:02 PM

click to enlarge HUFFINGTON POST
  • Huffington Post

The National Brewers Association, having finally sobered up from trying all the craft beer in the land, has released its top 50 craft breweries in the country. Lost Coast Brewery made 37. (Pause for moment of local pride and hearty belch.) Check out the full list on the Huffington Post
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

Posted by on Tue, Apr 1, 2014 at 12:04 PM

click to enlarge Meat pile at Wild Oaks. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Meat pile at Wild Oaks.
I only ever see the plumes of smoke shooting up from the behemoth of a barbecue stand at the Eureka Veterans Hall when I've already eaten. So when we drove by last week on the way to lunch, I hollered at my colleague to pull over, which she did, Transporter style. Bracing.  

click to enlarge Belly up for pork belly. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Belly up for pork belly.

There are no sandwiches, no sides and no scales. What the Wild Oaks Grill does have is tri-tip, bacon, ribs, pork belly, brisket, yard bird (chicken) and pig ass (pulled pork). Proprietor Rob Dunn reaches through the black clouds puffing out of the Santa Maria-style grill and pulls out a foil-wrapped hunk of pork belly that's been smoked for five hours with salt, pepper, garlic and a little brown sugar. He slices off a trembling plank for us to sample — meltingly juicy meat striped with glistening fat that's caramelized at the edges. He squints at the cut, roughly the size of a hardcover airport novel, and says $20. Sold. My wheel-woman gets a hunk of tri-tip and a half chicken for $35. (Psst: The chicken steals the show.)

click to enlarge Yard bird hot from the grill. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Yard bird hot from the grill.

Dunn hauls his converted 1960s boat trailer to Hoby's Market in Scotia on Tuesdays, the Veterans Hall in Eureka on Wednesdays, the 76 station at 2698 Central Avenue in McKinlyeville on Thursdays and the Country Club Market in Eureka on Fridays. And judging from the pack tucked in the bib of his overalls, when he's not standing over a billowing stack of meat and a burning pile of split black oak, he's smoking a cigar. 

click to enlarge Keeping score on the back of the rig. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Keeping score on the back of the rig.



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Friday, March 28, 2014

#tasteofmain

Posted by on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 11:27 AM

That little packet of Taste of Main Street tickets is a challenge. It's a gauntlet of 26 eateries ... not that you have anything to prove. But it's like a trip to Disneyland — all that pressure to hit the big rides and still make it back to the car without anybody passed out or in tears.


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Monday, March 17, 2014

'Tis a Wee Cupcake

Posted by on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 5:31 PM

click to enlarge DREW HYLAND
  • Drew Hyland

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day a little. Really little. This leprechaun-sized Guinness cupcake from Ramone's ($1.25) is moist and chocolatey, with a hint of stout and a fluffy dollop of buttercream. And you can always share it. 
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Drink Me, I'm Irish

Posted by on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 1:19 PM

Put down that Redi-wip and Bailey's. The good folks at Gallagher's showed us how to make a proper Irish coffee for St. Patrick's Day. Or Monday. Remember: real, fresh whipped cream, unsweetened. And don't skimp on the whiskey — a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but it won't cover the taste of the cheap stuff. Jameson, and be generous. 

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Old Ale, New Tricks

Posted by on Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 6:04 PM

click to enlarge Vanilla eisbier, baby. - DREW HYLAND
  • Drew Hyland
  • Vanilla eisbier, baby.

The Local Beer Bar is celebrating its second birthday on Saturday by releasing an anniversary ale whipped up with Eel River Brewery — a vanilla eisbier aptly named Stop, Collaborate and Listen (price TBA). Why? Because it's iced, iced, baby. What? We were all thinking it. And in one of the most scandalous abuses of press passes in history, the Journal popped in for a sneak preview. Several of us, actually. (Suddenly everybody's a journalist.) The heavy ale is served a little warmer so the vanilla and the oak come out, and the dark beer bite is cut by a caramel flavor. It's luscious stuff, perfect for fans of boozy, robust beers. But beware: the little glass packs a wallop at 13 percent alcohol. Maybe you should grab a stool. 

click to enlarge Drink it slowly. - DREW HYLAND
  • Drew Hyland
  • Drink it slowly.
According to Local owner Darren Cartledge, the final product took three tries with the tricky German icing process before aging several batches in a bourbon barrel. That might be why this sort of thing doesn't get made all the time. Old ales are meant to travel (see, the growler is part of our cultural heritage) and to age well, "collapsing on itself," says Cartledge. So in another two months, he'll be releasing a little more of his stock so you can see how it's developing. For science. 

The taps open at noon tomorrow with the eisbier and a lineup of Cartledge's favorites. "Everyone has to drink what I like," he says.


click to enlarge Owner Darren Cartledge puts one up on the board. - DREW HYLAND
  • Drew Hyland
  • Owner Darren Cartledge puts one up on the board.

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Recent Comments

  • Re: Barbecue Update: Chicken Bomb

    • Nice! Way to go, Rob. Wild Oaks Grill rocks!

    • on April 15, 2014
  • Re: Pie Hard

    • I'm willing to go on record and say that pie is better than cake.

    • on April 4, 2014
  • Re: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

    • No sandwiches+overpriced feedlot meat= waste of $ in my book

    • on April 2, 2014
  • More »

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