May 4, 2006
Forgive me if I clean out the refrigerator this week, try to find the things left behind from some past meals and turn them into a semi-cohesive repast.
Let's start with a couple of letters. Danielle Hickney writes: "I enjoyed your article about potato-leek soup. It happens that I made potato-leek soup the week before last (before I knew it was the same thing as Vichyssoise, which, had I known, may have increased my enjoyment of the dish). I also had leftover leeks and wondered what to make with them. I ended up using them in a frittata with some basil and fontina cheese, and it was delicious! I wonder what you did with yours."
Well, mine lingered in the so-called crisper while I was on vacation. Just this week, inspired by Danielle's note, and lacking much else in the fridge, I tried using the lone leek in a frittata of sorts. The other thing I had left over was the tail end of a container of Tuscan tomato basil bisque, one of the Signature Soups made by Safeway, which kind of reminds me of the soup we used to make at City Grill, although ours was much better. (I think Curley's offers a variation on that same recipe.) Anyway, I thought I'd see what happened if I cooked the thin-sliced leeks in olive oil, then added some eggs beaten with the soup and a spoonful of salsa. I poured the mixture in the pan and waited for it to jell into a frittata, but alas, it never did. So I threw some cheddar cheese on top, kind of folded it over and called it an omelet — not a pretty omelet mind you, but still edible. A lonely flour tortilla and a glass of Paul Newman's grape juice completed breakfast.
Another note regarding potato leek soup came from my friend Iris Schencke. "By the way, I made Vichyssoise inspired by you," she wrote. "What to do with the green parts? Julienne them and pile them on top of a filet of fish (cod, snapper?) in a bit of wine and olive oil and bake. Nice and simple."
I'll try it. The Farmers' Market still has plenty of beautiful leeks.
Regarding my call for suggestions for food on the road, Jack Munsee called to recommend a barbeque joint in Willits next door to Safeway in the shopping center. It turns out I know the place. Months ago, when I was returning from another trip south and feeling hungry, I dialed my co-worker Hank on the cell as I was approaching Willits, asking where I might eat. (He used to live there.) He steered me to the Phoenix Bakery Company, sort of a hippie/artisan pastry/bread shop (formerly located in Hopland) where the breads and pastries seemed inelegant and overpriced, but with a really good barbeque menu. As I recall, I ordered a tri-tip sandwich, but the waitress convinced me to go with the brisket, which turned out to be a very generous portion of smoky, melt-in-your-mouth tender beef on a tasty (if inelegant) bun. A decent potato salad on the side was garnished with a past-its-prime pickle (something that I pointed out to the chef). I could only eat half the sandwich, so I took the rest home for a second, equally filling, meal.
Ran into my friend Serge Scherbatskoy Saturday morning when I went to the Farmers' Market. He was parked in the front of the future site of Café Brio. As some who follow the legal announcements in the paper may have noticed, his permit for the café has been officially approved by the city of Arcata, a major hurdle that means he (and Alchemy Construction) can move forward based on the drawings done by architect Kash Boodjeh.
Next step: The installation of a three-phase/220-volt transformer, something the city and PG&E are handling within a few weeks, if all goes according to plan. The old muffler shop will take some major overhaul inside and outside, including a new front with "lots of glass," which should take some time, so don't expect to see it open overnight. "Maybe before the Farmers' Market season ends," said Serge hopefully, conceding that "by the end of the year" might be a more realistic timeframe.
Talk turned to another coming change, just off the Arcata Plaza: New ownership for Jambalaya. I happened to catch current owner Deborah Lazio as she was coming out of the restaurant last week and asked her about the ABC liquor license notice in the window, which lists Richardo and Rose Contreras as new "owners." As Deborah pointed out, they don't own it yet — the place is still in escrow, which is "not the same as sold." In fact, as you may recall, she went though the process before with another "buyer" who got to escrow, but pulled out because the building's owners were bumping up the cost of the lease. The new lease deal has apparently been negotiated to the satisfaction of the Contrerases, who, according to Deborah, plan on keeping the same sort of upscale menu as now. There is something that will change, however. As Serge pointed out, the liquor license is a new one, not a transfer, and it's for beer and wine, not hard liquor, so the days of the Jam as a bar seem to be numbered.
Deborah's plans after the sale? She says she'll take some time off, then get back into the restaurant business again — this time at the foot of C Street in Eureka, not far from where the Lazio family had a very popular seafood restaurant years ago. Her new place in the works, a chowder house, is part of the planned Fishermen's Work Area adjacent to Glenn Goldan's sidetracked Seaport Village.
Earlier Saturday, before the market, we were out yard saleing and ran into Carol Jacobson, maestra of the ArMack Orchestra. She insisted we come to the orchestra's "Springtime on the Bodensee" dinner that night. I'll admit, I was hesitant — I'm not exactly a fan of German cuisine — but I was glad we went. It was an evening of good food and music that got off to a great start: A first course that included Karottensalat, which was pretty much what it sounds like — carrot salad — but not rotten, really good, with long shreds of fresh, sweet carrots dressed with just enough mustard vinaigrette and garnished with fine diced parsley.
The real surprise was the Rotebeetensalat, a beet salad. I do not usually like beets. While you might say they have an earthy taste, I tend to think of dirt. But in this case the earthiness was successfully complimented by a powerful dressing with horseradish and garlic and sour cream. I even had a third helping.
The main course, in three parts, included Spatzle, a yummy egg noodle that I've made before and Huhnerpfeffer, a stew traditionally made with rabbit, but here done with chicken thighs, which is what Wildberries generously gives them every year. A red wine marinade made it flavorful, but also turned the thick sauce a grayish brown. While it wasn't exactly beautiful, it tasted quite good.
Coup de grace for the meal was a Schwarzwalder Kirshtorte, a decadent Black Forest chocolate cake swimming in cherry sauce and heaped high with whipped cream with a Maraschino on top. Yum. I ate everything but the stem.
We end with a correction: That great breakfast/lunch place in Santa Cruz I wrote about last week is called Café Brasil, not Café Brazil. You can see their full menu and get directions at www.cafebrasil.us.
Questions? Comments? Recipes? Further suggestions? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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