Leafed through the new Food & Wine today—I don’t have my own outdoor space right now, so reading a grilling-themed food mag was slightly masochistic, but the burger on the cover looked so juicy. There were some good ideas in there that I might force encourage friends to let me try on their barbecues. The main piece, “20 Smart Tips for Everyday Grilling,” had some particularly tasty-looking recipes, including a whole roundup of salsas, dips and sauces made from grilled veggies: think pineapples, red bell peppers and red chiles, grilled then blended with fresh mint and lime. Yummy. Scott, if you’re reading this, they also suggested putting soaked allspice berries onto your coals when making jerk chicken, for that flowery aroma.
I also liked Christian DeBenedetti’s piece on San Diego brewpubs—when I wrote a summer beer roundup for ROB last year, I got a crash course on brewmaking from Brian May, the owner of Beerbistro. Since then, I’ve been a hardcore hops hound, so I appreciate anything that expands my tiny store of beer knowledge. The story on Argentinian-style outdoor grilling was hunger-inducing, too: oh, to have a life where I could spend all day cooking meats and cheeses over coals outside my Uruguayan cottage. I could also see myself making some of the sauces and relishes for sausages, too. Overall, it’s a good issue, lots of attractive ideas and accessible to real home cooks, rather than straight up food porn. One thing I’m absolutely going to try is the Portonic cocktail: Portuguese white port, lime juice, ice and tonic—plus bitter melon on skewers! Crazy. But I bet that bitter flavour would make this drink a kickass aperitif on a hot evening.
I also took a look at the winter issue of Gastronomica, which is more in the food porn vein. Or more like intense food nerdery—it’s a journal put out by UC Berkeley, and sometimes the pieces have a fairly academic slant. There’s lots of international and cultural food analysis, plus gorgeous, huge artsy food photos and even the occasional poem. It’s for gluttons who are also readers, so basically I pretty much love it.
I was at the opening of the Leslieville Cheese Market’s new west-end shop last night, where I chatted with a friend about Ontario’s ridiculous paternalistic approach to cheese making. In short, the government is obsessed with pasteurization of dairy products (even as everyone ignores entire aisles of processed frozen food products that are incredibly vulnerable to deadly bacteria). Not only are Ontario cheesemakers prevented from making truly raw-milk cheeses, they also must buy their milk from a common silo that combines the milk from a number of dairies before pasteurizing happens. So a dairy farmer can’t make cheese from her own cows, let alone sell milk to her cheesemaking neighbour. This means that fromageurs can’t control their cows’ diet, or even choose to use only the milk of certain breeds. If you don’t care about cheese, you don’t think this is a big deal, but for cheese nerds, all these rules are a straightjackets to cheesemakers’ imaginations, and our enjoyment.
So, I was pretty absorbed in Eric LeMay’s humour piece Illegal Cheese, about sneaking a suitcase of Parisian fromage into the similarly draconian United States. He waxes poetic about the cheeses he ate on his travels, getting almost dirty: “If you’ve caught the seminal whiff of a Saint-Marcellin or relished the cunnilingual mush of a Rocamadour, you know cheese celebrates Eros in all its meanings.” I also enjoyed his description of a particularly stinky cheese he didn’t care for, Livarot, which he and his girlfriend nicknamed Gérard Depardieu: “why do the French find so alluring what strikes us as raunchy, hulking and nearly grotesque?” Good one.
Having just written about pad thai this morning, I also liked Alexandra Greeley’s “Finding Pad Thai,” which summed up the history of the Thailand’s signature dish. The opening to this piece was a bit flat—as writers, we should all agree to quit cobbling together “amazing facts” from lazy Google research, it makes us look bad. But after the pedestrian intro, there’s some good stuff in here. Like that pad Thai’s global popularity was contrived by a 1940s politician, who purposely bigged up the dish among his people, partly to encourage them to eat more diversely, and partly to help establish a non-Chinese identity. Cultures are made, not born, apparently. Greeley also gets at why street vendor pad Thai will always be better than restaurant versions—those ladies with their five-foot woks are making the stuff all day, every day. There’s a recipe at the end that looks good, perhaps I’ll see how it compares to what we’ve been doing. And there are plenty more words about food in this fat issue of Gastronomica but it’s Friday, and sunny—I think I’m going to go outside.