Tag: dinner parties

a night of slow roasted perfection, a grilled cheese winner, and hybrid broccoflower bearcats

if you saw any of the photos from the recent iron chef bacon smackdown, you’d know that my friend kwame is a redonkulously good cook.  he possesses a unique and extremely rewarding combination of an all-consuming love for food, a willingness to experiment, a natural curiosity for processes and flavors, a desire to search for the best ingredients, and the commitment  to wake up at 7am to check on his slow-roasting oxtail when he went to bed drunk at 3am. now that is some serious dedication, and some crazy good luck for those of us fortunate enough to attend the four course dinner extravaganza at his place last night.

i really enjoy kwame’s style of cooking – he’s focused and clearly following a grand plan in his head, but simultaneously manages to be laidback, engaging, and a great host. he’ll have five burners going while he sticks two pans in the oven and juggles a cheese grater and a juicer and dude still looks relaxed.

this lovely bowl of upland cress (the spicier, more pungent cousin of watercress), butter lettuce, mint, and sage sitting in a few inches of water signaled that there would be some delicious fresh ingredients coming our way.

cress-butter-lettuce-and-mint

last week, i went on a shopping trip to the produce heaven berkeley bowl with kwame, jess, and annie. i bet it’s the first time the butcher has had anyone buy him out of oxtail, which is why it is nonstop entertainment to roll with kwame at grocery stores. he turned this ginormous bag o’tail into a phenomenal saffron risotto with slow-roasted oxtail, topped by a sprinkle of pecorino and parmesan cheese. BOOYAH.

saffron-risotto-and-table-setting1

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short ribs. braised in chimay. piled onto grilled cheese. daaaaaaamn.

i almost forgot: the austin grilled cheese invitational is taking place this weekend! i’m hoping to go for a replay of the grilled cheesey wonder of the dolores park san francisco invitational, but clearly we‘ll be pretty busy rolling around the streets of austin with the RVIP Lounge and Karaoke Cabaret. yes folks, it’s a shiny happy karaoke and rock band party on wheels.

in case i can’t make it to the competition, i’m happy knowing i had one of the best grilled cheeses of my life last night: kwame’s slow roasted short rib and cave-aged gruyere masterpiece.  as clayton said, it was a serious mouthful of oral orgasm. more on kwame’s four courses of amazing later,  plane taking off (we were downed with a medical emergency in the industrial wasteland of lubbock, tx), but i’ll give you some food porn to enjoy for now…

short-ribs-and-gruyere

welcome to the epic eight course battle citrus showcase showdown

i love it when people you know pull off something so skilled and talented it’s like they just tore off their shirts and revealed their superhero status to the masses.  my friends alejandro and jess put on iron chef: battle citrus last weekend as a follow up to the bacon smackdown, and both proved themselves to be seriously excellent, creative, inventive chefs. not only did they come up with delicious, beautifully presented dishes, but the whole shebang had to be…get this…sodium-free. yup. no salt. not only no added salt, but they had to stick to low-sodium foods, which means no cheese. or bacon. or dairy products other than heavy cream. and so many other things.  for most chefs, that’s like asking them to cook with one hand tied behind their back and blindfolded in a sauna while being poked by a room full of agitated monkeys. in a word (or two), fucking hard.

both jess and alejandro have been cooking salt-free for some time now so they at least had a good repertoire of low-sodium foods and tricks to help with the battle, but it was still quite a feat (read jess’s awesome just-started blog for recipes, more info on the sodium-free lifestyle, and what will surely be a fantastic post on battle citrus from inside the action. i’m merely reporting from the sidelines). they both rose to the challenge beautifully, as you’ll see once we break into this insane food porn photo album right now.

to welcome you to the battle citrus showcase showdown, this is what we saw when we first walked into the kitchen:

candied-oranges-beetsand-grapefruit

citrus fruit of all kinds of every conceivable size and color balanced on every available space in the kitchen, the sweet, tangy, and savory smells mixing throughout the room. luckily, it’s the perfect season for california citrus and alejandro and jess had picked up an incredible variety of citrus fruits to use throughout the dishes as (to name just a fraction) seasoning, garnish, butter flavoring, sauce ingredient, soup base, ice cream flavor, and even multiple kinds of bowls. such ingenuity.

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