Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Case Against DIY

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 10:12 AM

Bean counting. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Bean counting.
There are some items on a menu that you move right past because damn, you could just throw that together at home. Where's the sous vide? The duck fat fryer? In what world are you going to pay someone to make you a bowl of black beans with avocado slices? That would be the world of Beachcomber (1602 Old Arcata Road, Bayside), where plastic animal toys signify your table's order and artfully tattooed couples nibble organic scones over the pass-along Chronicle. A reader emailed about the Beloved Bean Bowl ($9.75, $6.95 half order), with its black beans, avocado, poached egg, Jack cheese and salsa, all of it organic, cage-free, etc. The egg yolk is perfectly creamy and the beans are firm and smoky against the bright red onion, tart green chilies and scattering of mango. In short, it bears little resemblance to the cry for help that is your end-of-the-month canned bean bowl at home.

Your mom does not make you tuna sandwiches this nice. Sorry. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Your mom does not make you tuna sandwiches this nice. Sorry.
So, too, the smoked tuna sandwich, recommended by the same reader who is clearly not bound by willful self-sufficiency. There is, after all, pleasure in having someone make a sandwich for you — take a moment to reminisce, then make a phone call and reconnect with your parents or that old guy from your favorite deli because that is love. Sure, some may look at an $11 tuna sandwich (no fries, no sides beyond a pinch of dressed greens) like one of those $400 Pentagon hammers. For one, the city block of a sandwich isn't the canned tuna and mayo you're smashing with a fork at home. It's salted and smoked tuna, rich and oily with black pepper. Mixed in are chopped pimento olives, walnuts and a little mustard on fresh, soft Rosemary focaccia. The kitchen was out of tomatoes when we ordered ours, so shredded carrots were subbed in to fine effect. If you're willing to take that kind of time and effort to spoil yourself at home, congratulations: You and Oprah are living your best lives. The rest of us should probably just order the smoked tuna salad sandwich.

Got the goods on good eats in Humboldt? Send the Hum Plate investigative team a tip at Jennifer@northcoastjournal.com.
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Friday, March 4, 2016

Greek Drama

Posted By on Fri, Mar 4, 2016 at 12:49 PM

You don't eat meat? It's OK, we'll have gyros. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • You don't eat meat? It's OK, we'll have gyros.
I am told by a reliable Greek co-worker that everything is Greek. Everything. And yet when I swung into the office with a paper bag from Humboldt Soup Company (1019 Myrtle Ave., Eureka), there was some panic — from the Greek Panikos, incidentally — as to whether its gyro ($8.29) would be Greek enough.

The meat is key here. There are those of us who look at gyro meat or shawarma — the glistening, rotating column of the Mediterranean/Middle-East's answer to sausage — and recoil. Others among us dream of having a similar set-up beside the couch and shearing off strips of greasy goodness as John Stamos flickers on TV. This gyro is stuffed with beef and lamb shawarma that's soft and spicy, somewhere between sausage and meatball, but not overly salty. It's not exactly the same as the stuff they're slicing off the turning spit in the old country (or in Queens, for that matter) but it's savory and makes the cut. 

The pita is legit — warm, soft and grilled — and unlike the usual foil-wrapped, dripping behemoth, the whole thing is pretty. Well, not anger-Hera-and-turn-you-into-the-snake-headed-Medusa pretty, but fancy enough to justify the price. The circles of pink pickled onion are tart and bright against the earthy meat and the tzatziki sauce is lightly garlicky and creamy with cubes of cucumber and tomato. Some fancy lettuce and a dark and nutty tahini spread that adds sweet smokiness are enough to make you forget about all that Greek austerity. Just don't get carried away and throw your plate. It's cardboard and that's not festive, it's littering.

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