Month: November, 2009

All The Single Lads, Put Your Hands Up

To paraphrase Beyonce, we’re calling all the single lads!


Rambling Restaurant is looking for some hot male action.  Why, you ask? Do we need a reason? Well, we’ve got one here:

‘Due to popular demand, on Thursday 3rd December & Friday 4th December we are holding a Lone Ramblers’ & Rambling Roses’ Singles Night at Rambling Restaurant!

It’s a 3-course dinner party of aphrodisiac foods & music. Lone Ramblers (gentlemen) and Rambling Roses (ladies) share tables and bring your own booze (no corkage fee). Lone Ramblers move tables every course to keep it lively. Who knows what might happen?!’

We’ve already sold all the Rambling Roses tickets, so it’s time to spread the word amongst your single male friends to get their asses in gear. An evening of great food, wine, music and a cozy room full of available women? Yes, Rambling Restaurant can make your wildest dreams come true.  According to Kanye West, it’s going to be ‘ONE OF THE BEST NIGHTS OF ALL TIME.’

Lone Ramblers,  get your tickets here for the Thursday the 3rd  or here for the Friday the 4th.

We hope to see you there…but not in the outfits like JT and Andy Samberg in the above video, okay? Best to leave a little to the imagination.

Rambling Restaurant Fun: Ninety-Nine Bottles of Wine on the Wall

Thursday’s Rambling Restaurant was a boozy festival of wine tasting and matching canapes  – so many glasses of alcohol that I’m amazed I could stand up straight long enough to take any of these photos. We partnered with the lovely and charming Dan of Bibendum Wines to do a casual and relaxed evening event in our usual secret location. Dan ‘liberated’ a serious stock of bottles from the Bibendum stores for us – Champagne, Riesling, Chardonnay, Malbec, Chianti, and an excellent dessert wine – all matched with bite-size hor d’oeuvres such as the Zamorano cheese with quince jelly and persimmon, above. Below, tasting notes with parmesan crisps awaiting their toppings for the first round of canapes.

The full line-up of booze and bites below…

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Rambling Restaurant Fun, Part One: Summer Rolls and Phenomenal Pork

I’m in the midst of a serious cooking week. Wednesday and Thursday were both Rambling Restaurant nights at our secret location in Camden Town. Tomorrow is our London Thanksgiving party that started as a few friends and has somehow mushroomed to over 20 people and we still didn’t manage to fit everyone we wanted to invite! (Don’t worry though, we’re having a holiday party too and you’re all invited:) Sunday is another Rambling Restaurant, then I fly home to Boston to cook family Thanksgiving. Whew! I’m tired just typing that. Well, actually the soreness in my arms is from all the peeling, chopping, kneading, and rolling I’ve been doing tonight to make three pies and brine two turkeys. Yeeowwwch.

Tonight’s been a primarily solo affair (with Chris’s help on the awkward pouring-brine-into-a-plastic-bag-full-of-raw-turkey action), but luckily the Rambling Restaurants are always fun shared cooking evenings  full of laughter, chatter, catchup on recent nightly activities, dirty jokes, a broken glass or two (or three) and ample glasses of wine to fuel the cooking creativity. Over the last few nights, Chef foodrambler, Michelle, our newest member Sarah and I have served nine different dishes to over forty people. I’ll start with Wednesday’s meal, a classic and relaxing Rambling Restaurant event compared to the hustle and bustle of the next evening’s wine tasting.

Wednesday we served vegetarian Vietnamese summer rolls as a starter – lightly sauced cellophane noodles and an assortment of fresh veggies (carrots, scallions, cucumber, water chestnuts, cilantro) rolled tight in thin rice paper wrappers.  After dipping my fingers in hot water to soften about forty pancakes from their original hardened state, I had some crazyass prune fingers, let me tell you.

Dipped into a sauce of fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, soy, garlic, scallions, chili and whatever else I put in that I can’t remember,  these bright little bites of freshness are a very happy way to start any meal. But it doesn’t get much better when it’s followed by an insanely good slow-roasted pork shoulder  – rubbed with spices and then whacked into the oven for about nine hours till it falls apart at the poke of a fork into the tenderest shreds of meat.  Mmmmmmmm….way to go foodrambler.

Scored into about centimeter thick strips with a sharp knife, the outer skin becomes the most amazing fatty, crispy, crunchy crackling that is frighteningly addictive. Served on cabbage and egg noodles with a pour of meaty gravy, this dish is pretty much unstoppable. We ended Wednesday night with an apple crumble with cream and a sprinkling of bittersweet caramel dust.  Unfortunately,  I always forget to take pictures of dessert. But don’t worry, I’ve got loads of pictures of the FoodRambler’s amazing canape creations from Thursday, coming up next!

Oh and while I’m posting Rambling Restaurant photos…

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Kitchen Experiments: Roasted Fennel, Squash, and Asian Pear Soup

roasted fennel squash and asian pear soup newI’ve just spent the last few hours greedily devouring the food porn and travel tales in Anthony Bourdain’s round-the-world eating book, No Reservations. It makes me want to eat coconut water-basted roast pig in Indonesia, steamed shark’s head in Singapore, fois gras burger in Montreal and white clam pizza in Seattle (pictured above behind the soup). Hell, I’d even consider testicle terrine in Iceland, raw seal in Northern Canada, and ’sand-, fur-, and crap-laden warthog’ in Namibia to be able to eat and travel like he does, although I could do without the nasty details of the hospital visit resulting from getting a little too friendly with the lower intestines of said warthog.

Since I can only vicariously live out my gluttonous international foodie fantasies through Bourdain’s book (at least for the evening) I consoled myself with soup. It’s become perfect soup weather in London, so I finally stopped longing for my lovely red immersion blender back in San Francisco and buckled down and bought another one. Can’t do soup without it!

With delicata squash and a big bulb of fennel in last week’s veg bag, I had the basics of a flavorful autumn soup based on an amazing roasted pumpkin soup recipe with cinnamon and chilis from the cookbook of the fabulous Moro Restaurant  on Exmouth Market (so far the best meal I’ve had in London…go eat there now). And then I remembered that I bought a bag of Asian pears on Brick Lane today and decided to include one for an additional sweetness and a texture that is  somehow on the positive side of slightly mealy and almost gritty.  I roasted half a pear with the squash at first but then decided more was needed and diced another half directly into the boiling soup. It’s probably easiest to just toss it all in at the end along with the potato that I added to thicken the soup. Then go to town with your immersion blender  – aka  your onomatopoeicallynamed zjzjzjzjzjjjzzher  – and your soup goes from ugly lumpiness to smooth and creamy like MAGIC.

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Two Excellent Articles On Improving American Food (and my relationship to childhood obesity)

Some seriously excellent articles I’ve just encountered:

1. Avoiding Factory Farms: An Eater’s Guide, by Nicolette Hahn Niman

2. Good Food Nation, by Peter Dizikes of the MIT News Office

Seriously, go read them. Or if you just want me to summarize, click after the jump for brief overviews, some additional thoughts, and an amusing childhood connection…

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Food Geeking It Out With Wired UK and Deep Fried Short Ribs

A little bit of excitement…I’m writing some food geek articles for Wired UK! I’m really thankful for such a cool opportunity to write about all things edible, techie, innovative, and just deliciously awesome for the website of one of the most kickass magazines in the biz .  My first article on space-age sous-vide cooking and perfect steaks published yesterday (go read it!) and I’ll be honest, I’m kinda geeked out about it.  Also a little freaked out about it.  It’s a big step from rambling about whatever I want here to writing for a really popular site with tons of readers and an editor.  Like I’m kind of embarassed to have forgotten to mention how to finish off the perfect steak, as pointed out by my astute and carnivorous friend Dan: ‘the best part of good steak is the char on the outside and there ain’t no char in the water jar, na’am sane?’

He’s poetic too.

As I told Dan and should have mentioned in the article, once you pull the steak out of the water oven, you slap it on a grill or in a pan on high heat and get a good sear. Mmmmmmmmmmm perfect steak. Writing the article made me want my own sous-vide machine, but since I can’t afford the one I referenced I might just have to make my own like the awesome one below from the author of the droolworthy food blog Inuyaki (and his Flickr photos here)

home sous vide machine

A hacked together machine like that made this:

sous vide short ribs

Forget finishing off your steak on the grill when you can DEEP FRY it. Umm…Deep Fried Short Ribs?, you ask?  Yup. Those beauties above were ‘cooked in a 135F/57.2C waterbath for 48 hours and then deep fried in 360F vegetable oil for a few minutes to crisp up the skin.’ Oh holy crap. Want steak now. Inuyaki, your food geek innovation is making me drool all over my keyboard.

Food + Geek  x  Creativity(Innovation) = YUM.

Insanely Indulgent Butter-Fried, Onion Soup-Simmered Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Ricotta

butternut squash butter roasted pasta

This may look appear to be normal pasta – if anything, a bit mushy and brown looking,  but otherwise nothing special. But no. This is some seriously, insanely, unnecessarily butteriffic pasta.

Butteriffic: (adj) infused with a completely superfluous amount of butter to the point of unsurpassed deliciousness and extreme caloric overload.

TV is generally full of all sorts of useless drivel, which is why I don’t own a television. However, sometimes TV teaches you important things. For example,  how to take a decadent and already relatively unhealthy dish such as macaroni & cheese and then infuse it with more deep, rich, buttery flavor to the point of…well, I was going to say heart attack, but I’m still standing.  So then, more accurately, to the point of AMAZING.  For this knowledge, I owe thanks to the final episode of MasterChef, which, based on my one viewing, appears to be  a British show of similar concept and nearly identical name to Top Chef.  In the ultimate challenge to determine a winner, the contestants had to recreate the dishes from a Michelin-starred chef for thirty other Michelin-starred chefs.  Yikes. I learned that Michelin-starred food is precise, complex, innovative, boundary-pushing, technological, demanding, beautifully presented, really ridiculously complicated, and most importantly – you guessed it, butteriffic.

The macaroni & cheese, elevated to Michelin-starred standards, involved dried pasta pan-roasted in butter,  simmered in veal stock, covered in stock glaze, cut into perfect circles, and stacked into a tower with layers of butternut squash and another over-the-top indulgence, duck confit.  Apparently the dish took four hours to make,  and that’s along with the 18 ducks that Steve, the ultimate winner, had to simultaneously roast.  Obviously I have neither the skill nor the time to recreate this dish, although maybe I should try because then I could eat it. But pan roasting in butter and simmering in stock? That I can do.

And now you can too, if you’re looking for that extra hefty dosage of calories. But hey – it’s also an extra hefty dose of seriously tasty comfort food, perfect for curling up in a comforter on the couch on a cold day.  This would also be an excellent dish if you were a bear looking to stock up on fat for hibernation. If you’re not a bear…well, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the buttery goodness is worth the fat.

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Great Food Articles Written By Other People

I’m in a moment of consumption rather than production.  I have some cool Rambling Restaurant posts coming once I get ahold of some photos/get my act together, but more importantly, I’ve been busy reading a lot of amazing food articles that I want to share.’s baker’s dozen of provocateurs, trendsetters, and rabblerousers in food. Butchers, brewers, Slow Food-ers, and more. These people rock.

Michelle Obama is going to cameo on Iron Chef America on Battle: White House Garden. Cristeta Comerford, the White House chef and Bobby Flay vs. Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse. I love her.

The other White House chef, Sam Kass, is also a public policy wonk helping to publicize good food and fight childhood obesity.  I love him too. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that he is kind of ridiculously attractive.

And lastly, Jonathan Safran Foer wrote a beautiful piece in the Food Issue of the New York Times Magazine, an excerpt from his book called Eating Animals. It’s  about food, family, history, memory, inconsistent vegetarianism, and ultimately, not eating animals.  In just a few pages it made me laugh and made me cry.

Go read about all these fantastic people doing amazing things.





Roasted Lemon and Vegetable Bulgur Wheat Pilaf

bulgur wheat pilaf with roasted vegetables

One of the exciting things about living in a new place are all the new and different ingredients  to sample, eat, delight in, purchase, cook with, and integrate into your kitchen repertoire.  Thanks to my dear friend Michelle and her excellent dish from the stunning Feast of Strangers, I’ve become acquainted with bulgur wheat, which tastes to me like a cross between couscous and brown rice.  The grains are slightly larger than the average couscous and a little rounder than rice grains and apparently have more fiber and vitamins, as well as a lower glycemic index than either of those two close cousins (at least for white rice). More importantly, they’re delicious as well as inexpensive and versatile.

I’ve taken to buying various cereals and grains in bulk for those exact reasons. Any given evening, I generally have enough fresh vegetables or canned items or refrigerated goodies to toss into a very simple bulgur pilaf or couscous. The following recipe can be adapted depending on whatever items you may have around but what makes the recipe a bit more special is Michelle’s roasted lemon trick. Tangy, zesty and slightly caramelized, the browned lemon rinds add a fantastic and unexpected kick of flavor.

The rest of the recipe is fairly nebulous, which, if you’ve read any of my other recipes,  you will most likely find unsurprising. But I think that’s the best part – it’s not particular or demanding or complicated or requiring of your full undivided attention. Essentially, you roast the vegetables that need roasting, sauté the vegetables which would taste better sautéed, slice up any delicious items you might have in the fridge like marinated olives or peppers, and boil the bulgur. Combine in dish, stir, and eat. Easy peasy. But don’t worry, I’ve also spelled out directions after the jump…

orange peppers and uncooked bulgur

Bright orange peppers and uncooked bulgur!

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