Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Yes, off the radar is putting it mildly.  Having a midlife crisis, perhaps? I just logged in to look up my own recipe for popovers for today's Christmas dinner and wondered, what happened to me this year?  Where is this side of myself, the writer inside of me that I love to indulge while at the same time hopefully entertaining all of you readers?
I started a small Japanese style catering business this year.  I say "small" because it is still in its infantile stages.  Starting a business, as exciting as it sounds, has taken all of my creative juices right out of me.  Needing 175% of my attention but somehow not captivating me fully, it has been a struggle between maintaining balance in my life (exercise, free time, a man) and feeling guilty that I'm not 100% captivated.  Why aren't I?  There is something missing.  So I thought if I shared with my readers my plight, activating my creative juices through writing and other means, that the missing piece just may present itself to me.
Here is a link to my website www.tatsujapanesefood.com.
In the meantime, Prime Rib is on the menu for today.  A bunch of friends are coming over for a delicious dinner and to enjoy some rare bottles of wine that I've been waiting to open. On the left is 1999 Araujo Eisele Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; next to that is 1999 Opus One Napa Valley Cabernet.  Two great wines, the same vintage, good friends, a big hunk of meat.  What more could one ask for?? (ok, don't get me started on that one)
That Araujo has been carefully stored since I left the GM position at Picco about 6 years ago.  One of my best customers brought it in for my last night.  I humbly asked him if i might bring that one home to add to my collection instead of opening it and of course he obliged.  The Opus One, my friend Marcelo found in a "throw away" box at a winery where he works.  The Araujo started off really inky and then opened to a lovely black currant, earthy, dark fruit, great acidity, not too hit-you-over-the-head cabernet.  The Opus was smooth from the get go and opened to a full gigantic fruit explosion in the mouth.  Some found it slightly on the "sweet" side - all that ripe fruit just waiting to be exposed to the elements after 12 years.  Overall, I was quite pleased we opened them with this small group - believe it or not, none of us was left wanting.

That's me, carving the 10 pound Niman Ranch roast.  It took almost 3 hours to cook in my somewhat retarded (but working) electric Frigidaire Custom Imperial oven circa 1965.  Built to last, that behemoth did me right.

Our group was gracious at all the delicious wines, lots of Schramsburg Blanc de Blanc to get us going, 3 different desserts from Emporio Rulli in Larkspur, and one of Erin's famous Icebox Cakes, recipe straight from Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan.

There's Marcelo with his proverbial harem.  Seriously, those Brazilians - love their meat and their ladies!
So for now, I must go clean the damn kitchen, as well as the cobwebs from my writing.  Thanks for  participating in helping me get back to my groove!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Munch Mondays Santa Rosa - Alive and Finger Licking!

Dim Sum Charlie's Airstream swamped with hungry Santa Rosans
I set the alarm on my phone to remind me to cruise up to Santa Rosa to check out Munch Monday, a first ever lunchtime grouping of gourmet food trucks congregating on E Street between 2nd and 3rd.  Jillian Dorman, owner of the popular Santa Rosa based Street Eatz, worked her charm with Santa Rosa officials and managed to wrestle an end of the parking lot between the Post Office and Public Library every Monday between 11:30 and 2:00 pm for 5 trucks to park and sell their delicious treats to hungry Sonoma County office workers and food freaks (me being the latter).  Not to mention, it was a nice break for the local business folk tired of the same ol', same ol' on Fourth Street.  Thankfully it was sunny, as thermometers barely broke 50 degrees all day.

Fork Catering (from Sebastopol), Dim Sum Charlies (hailing all the way from Napa) and Santa Rosa's own Street Eatz, La Texanita and Chicago Hot Dogs were there with lines 20 deep at times.  By all accounts, the vendors were all a little surprised by the large turnout which resulted in a some waits, but not that bad considering it was a great time to catch up with co-workers, make new friends and just sort of hang out.


"10 Dolla Make You Holla" from Dim Sum Charlie's
 I felt like a kid in a candy store with so many choices and my stomach churning with hunger.  I decided on Dim Sum Charlie's as the line was going pretty fast and these guys are my friends, as I've worked a few events along side them in my friend Mark Raymond's truck, Mark's the Spot, a popular Napa based slider truck that also serves the best Hoisen glazed Duck Wings this side of, um, this side of, well okay, the Mississippi!
Anyhoo, most people were getting the "10 dolla make you holla" sampling of Dim Sum goodness, but I chose the "trio" of seafood (lobster, shrimp and scallop) and something called a "pork noodle snotty goodness" (don't quote me).  It was easily the most appetizing and least appetizing sounding thing at the same time if that makes any sense.  I wasn't afraid though.  The snotty goodness was a noodle pancake stuffed with barbeque pork and green onions.  Delish!  The seafood trio were also incredible with the crunch from the shrimp providing satisfying texture to compliment the hot mustard, chili, soy sauce concoction I dreamed up.  After scarfing both delicious selections down in a matter of moments, I contemplated getting back in line.

Agedashi Tofu

Instead, I decided to spread the wealth and ordered an Agedashi Tofu from Street Eatz. 
With the tagline"flavors of the world", Street Eatz was dishing up diverse offerings such as Cuban Style Pulled Pork sandwiches, Coconut Seafood Curry, Pork Tacos and Cajun Style Chicken Pasta.  As I waited for my Agedashi Tofu, fried cubes of lightly breaded tofu topped with grated ginger, bonito flakes, green onion and dashi broth, I gazed around at the crowd, and made mental note of the best sounding stuff from the other trucks for future Monday munching sessions:  Fork Catering's burgers sounded incredible, and they even offered a local crab sandwich; La Texanita's carne asada tacos, how could one go wrong; and even the Chicago Hot Dog sounded damn good, as everyone needs a good Vienna dog every once in a while, and with tomatoes to make it officially Chicagoan... 

Fork Catering's Menu


As I munched on my Agedashi, I was lucky enough to chat up a fellow local blogger who writes about everything Bento, how incredible was that?   Here is a link to Michelle's cool blog: http://www.sonomabento.blogspot.com/.   I hope to see Michelle again (and some of you) next Monday.  If Mondays don't work for you, consider cruising over to Napa for "First Friday," another congregation of many of the same trucks that happens on the first Friday night of every month.  The kicker, it's on private property so you can bring your own libations and eat and drink your way through the lively crowd.  Check it out at 1st and Soscol, near the Oxbow Market.