Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Menus

We topped off this Memorial Day Weekend with no less than 5 cookouts. None of them hosted by yours truly, so I got to reconnect with friends in LA and enjoy their delicious cooking.

Each Memorial Day menu varied in cuisine and theme. The most popular ingredient of the weekend being chicken (in 4 tasty ways!). Nary a hot dog to be had this time around.

The outdoor tableware highlight was Jed & Jess's eco-friendly biodegradable plates made of cornstarch, potatoes and limestone from Earthshell. Eggshell in color and sheen, the rough-hewn plates looked beautiful on the table, with each plate weighted by a single river rock from the yard. An elegant and elemental design concept.

Here are the featured menus of the weekend.

Dinner, Monday, May 24th
Elegant Poolside Potluck at Jed & Jess's
Silverlake, CA


+ Pea Salad with Radishes and Feta Cheese
+ Whole Wheat Penne Pasta Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Oil-cured Black Olives and Arugula
+ Potato Salad with Tarragon and Dijon Vinaigrette
+ Grilled Portabella Mushroom Steaks, Eggplant Steaks, Big Asparagus, Zucchini Spears
+ Grilled Chicken Breasts with Cumin
+ Chiogga and Golden Beet Salad
+ Corn on the Cob with Ghee
+ Fresh Blackberries and Blueberries with Soy Vanilla Ice Cream and Mango Sorbet and Berry Coulis

Lunch, Monday, May 24th
Taqueria Cart Party at Lonnie and Eva's
Pasadena, CA

+ Carving Station with Carnitas, Carne Asada, Pollo and White Corn Tortillas
+ Taco Fixings: Salsas, Onions, Guacamole, Cilantro, Limes, Cucumbers
+ Spanish Rice
+ Pinto Beans
+ Frozen Margarita Machine

Sunday, May 23rd
Alfresco Sunday Dinner at Jim and Kristina's
Silverlake, CA


+ Cheese Plate with Manchego and Aged Gouda
+ Chips & Salsa
+ Barbecued Chicken
+ Grilled Salmon
+ Zucchini Sauteed with Onions and Cheese
+ Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
+ Corn Relish
+ Fresh Strawberries and Ginger Snaps

Saturday, May 22nd
Fish Tacos at Abbie and Nicole's
Los Feliz, CA


+ Grilled Black Cod & Shrimp Tacos
+ Frijoles con Queso
+ Avocado
+ Cabbage Slaw Salad
+ Homemade Salsa Picante Especial
+ Rias Baixas from Northern Spain
+ Steve's Merlot Pick of the Week

Friday, May 21st
Cajun cookout at the home of Shirley Morales and Kevin McSpadden
Hollywood Hills, CA


+ Guacamole & Tortilla Chips
+ Spinach Salad with Tomatoes, Feta, Black Olives, Peppers
+ Cajun Red Beans and Rice with Andouille
+ Barbecued Chicken (thighs and drumsticks)
+ Hot Condiments (banana peppers, etc)
+ S'mores
+ Margaritas
+ Beer

Big thanks to the great cooks and to our awesome, generous, and hospitable friends for inviting us. What a treat!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Untitled Thai Food

A Saturday afternoon of shuffling through the outdoor mall of art galleries that is Chelsea, NYC, can leave you hungry for many things. If you happen to be on 19th Street and your craving is Thai food, then you’re in luck.

Artist Rirkrit Tiravanija recreates his 1992 piece, Untitled 1992 (Free), which is a temporary plywood environment where he serves up a daily Thai meal within. The experience is free and open to the public with modest seating, paper bowls and plastic utensils.

It would be a bit intimidating or confusing to stumble upon this scene if you are not in the know – it looks like an odd and very minimal dining facility with no signage to clue you in. To me, this reads “private,” but, in fact, anyone is welcome.

We arrive to a yummy and fragrant green curry with eggplant, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, onions and bamboo shoots. Patrons and passersby can serve themselves a helping of steamed jasmine rice from the giant rice cooker and then man the ladel in the large vat of curry.

The set-up is about as “provisional” and barebones as it gets. My fellow art crawlers (Paul, Brett, Teddy,) and I serve ourselves and plop down on folding stools to eat our curry at the folding table. Naturally, everybody’s glancing askance, checking each other out for people’s reactions to being here and to gauge where they themselves reside on the socially awkward-to-cool barometer. (Or, at least I did.)

We learn the original piece was staged in 1992 at 303 Gallery in Soho. The exhibit’s press release explains further:

“…taking his historical cues not only from distinctly non-Western Thai traditions, but also from Alan Kaprow, Michael Asher, and Gordon Matta-Clark, Tiravanija’s seminal exhibition helped create a pivotal moment of rupture from the wealth and abundance of the previous decade…[Today’s kitchen includes] the same stools, tables, cookers, pots, pans, and refrigerator, along with the same 15-year old food waste.”

There are 3-4 people at work, using bulk-size cans of coconut milk, rice and very fresh-looking produce. The makeshift cooks are preparing a Thai beef curry for the gallery staff to eat later in the day. All the while a thirty-something guy documents the goings-on with a 16 mm film camera.

I’ve never been part of a performance art piece that tastes so good – the velvety curry bites at medium heat, but does not overpower, giving nuance to each vegetable.

The only thing missing is a Singha beer to wash it all down. Especially as there’s 6 more blocks of great tasting art (though far less filling) including: Yutaka Sone at David Zwirner, Paul Thek at Alexander and Bonin, Andreas Gursky at Matthew Marks, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige at CRG, Eva Rothschild at 303 Gallery, Sterling Ruby at Metro Pictures, Dana Schutz at Zach Feuer Gallery, Tim Hawkinson at Pace Wildenstein, Glenn Brown at Gagosian, Jonathan Lasker at Cheim & Reid, assume vivid astro focus at John Connelly Presents, and Sterling Ruby at Foxy Productions.

Gordon Matta-Clark and Rikrit Tiravanija
David Zwirner
March 21 through May 19, 2007, open Tuesday - Saturday
519 West 19th St. NYC

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Twenty Wings and a Prayer

While passing through Buffalo, NY, we embark upon a hunt for the best buffalo wings the city has to offer. Many local eateries fight to bear this claim to the famous style of deep-fried chicken wings slathered in cayenne pepper hot sauce. The main contenders boil down to Anchor Bar -- the originators of the spicy preparation -- and Duff's Sheridan Patio.

After surveying the reviews and recommendations, we settle on Duff's.

Upon entering Duff's you are confronted with a warning -- "Medium is Hot, Hot is Very Hot, Very Hot is Extremely Hot." In other words, Duff's sauce is pushing limits of the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) scale. Their wing sauces range from Mild, to three variations of Medium, to Hot and, finally, Suicidal.

The bargain $7.99 lunch special offers 10 wings and your choice of two sides -- a bowl of chili, soup, salad, or fries. We order two lunch specials -- one with Medium sauce and the other with Medium Hot (aka "Very Hot").

Our plate of wings arrive and the experience is physical. My Medium Hot wings bathe in a glowing fiery red pool of sauce while Brett's Mediums vibrate a near neon orange-red. Immediately a pungent whiff of vinegar and capsaicin assaults the nostrils.
As you raise the wing to your mouth, the hot aroma rushes into your throat and nose at once, choking you in anticipation of the heat.

One bite into the meaty drumette and your lips pucker in stimulation, your tongue goes numb and you taste the electric combination of sour, salt and spice. It's so addictive. Your fingers and thumbs quickly get sticky with the sauce. But you can't stop until your body begs for mercy (and it does). Luckily they're served with celery and carrots sticks to extinguish the fire in a cool, crisp bite drenched with creamy blue cheese sauce. The combination is sublime.

Duff's wins on a few levels: these are by far the meatiest, most succulent wings and drumettes I've ever had -- five of them will fill you up. Also, from the get-go Duff's has been frying their wings in pure trans fat free vegetable oil, which gives an indication of quality. Their hot sauce is made simply from vinegar, cayenne red pepper, salt and garlic, but they've devised an ingredient ratio that reaches the divine.

Duff's Sheridan Patio
3651 Sheridan Dr
Buffalo, NY 14226
(716) 834-6234
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