The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

A website celebrating and enumerating Juneau, Alaska's food culture

Matty’s Law & Order Soup

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Puréed acorn squash, beet & leek soup

Puréed acorn squash, beet, & leek soup.

In the soup world, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups:  The cooks, who make the soup; and consumers, who eat the soup.  These are their stories:

This is the time of year to harvest all your hard work in the garden.  Not only am I an avid soup eater, I also love to cook using fresh ingredients obtained from our garden.  I had some success on our garden this year, with enough greens and snap peas to last us through the summer.  We have been enjoying fresh salads consisting of cabbage, Kale, and carrots this fall.  Some of the less successful crops this season were the leeks, broccoli, and potatoes.  I read that it’s best to plant leeks indoors in the early spring and then transplant as soon as the soil can be worked.  I think next year I’ll take this advice more to heart.

My biggest disappointment was my potato crop.  Potatoes grow great in Alaska.  I’ve usually had good luck when it comes to potatoes. This year I think I didn’t plant them deep enough.  This resulted in smaller and not as many spuds.  So I have been thinking about what to do with my failed crops.  I hate to waste anything so Kim suggested I make a potato leek soup.  I thought this was a great idea and decided to expand on it.

This last Saturday I was balls deep in a Law and Order marathon when I got the sudden urge to make some soup.  I had a bunch of little leeks, beets, and carrots that I managed to salvage from the garden.  These would form the base of my soup.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough potatoes for the potato leek soup that I was craving.  I realized I needed something else to make the soup magical.  I put some pants on, loaded up the old pom-chi, and headed to the local store.

I ran the gauntlet that we call Foodland, avoiding eye contact with people so I didn’t have to do the dreaded stop and chat.  It was during one of these moments that I spotted what I knew would be perfect.  Squash!

It’s fall after all. What better way to warm the soul than a hearty cup of squash soup?  I carefully picked through the many varieties of squash and stumbled across an orange acorn squash.  Just like the Dude, I knew this squash would tie the soup together.  I rushed home to begin preparation.  The first thing to do when preparing a squash for soup is to cut the ends off and remove the peel using a vegetable peeler.  Then carefully cut squash lengthwise and remove middle part making sure to save the seeds for a healthy snack later.  Once the squash is de-turded you can begin to make the soup.

Ingredients:

-2 tablespoons butter of olive oil

-1 leek chopped into fine pieces

-1 small beet diced

-1 diced carrot

-1 diced celery

-2 pounds winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 ½ -inch chunks

-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

-3 cloves garlic

-2 sprigs fresh thyme

-Pinch of nutmeg

-1/4 cup fresh basil

-1/2 cup coconut milk

-Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Begin by heating the butter or oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the leek and cook until softened, about five minutes or so should do the trick.  Then stir in the beets, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, thyme, basil, nutmeg, and chicken broth.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until squash is softened about ½ the episode of a Law and Order should do the trick.

2.  Once the squash is done remove the pot from heat and discard thyme sprigs and puree soup with an emersion blender, food processor or any old kind of blender.  If the soup is too thick, you can always add more stock until you get the desired consistency.

3. Next you add the coconut milk and bring back to a brief simmer and then remove and add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy your soup with some warm bread and a nice fresh garden salad.  I would also recommend this soup on a cold wet fall afternoon while in the midst of a Law and Order Bender.  Garnish with fresh basil & enjoy!

La Brigada -or- Foraging in the Meatwise city of good winds

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La Brigada is described in Time Out Argentina as being one of the best Parrillas in the city. Conveniently located in the hood that I am staying, San Telmo, I gave it  whirl the other night despite the fact that I´m not a big time steak fan.

The place is classy in the way that an upscale sports bar would be if such a thing existed in the States. There is an odd juxtaposition of white table cloths and futbol memorabilia going on. Pennants of various clubs from the Premiership, Spanish and local sides coat the walls like a second lacquering of wall paper. The obligatory signed Maradona jersey is stationed in the entryway. The wait staff wear dark black get-ups with brown fleur-de-lis paneling blossoming on the chest. A very beast mode 1970´s fashion styling.

I ordered a corn empanada and waldorf salad as starters.

The empanada was a refreshing departure from the normally meat heavy standard issue empanadas that are all over the city. It was like a tasty corn chowder inside of a crispy shell.

The waldorf salad, besides having an amazing name, is a personal favorite of mine. The version served at La Brigada was sort of minimalist take on the ´dorf but great in its own right. It came without any kind of ruffage with apple and celery chunks being the only vegetable / fruit components.

The apples and the celery in the salad were both very light, if that makes sense. The celery was almost white in color and wasn´t nearly as overwhelming in flavor as some of the bright green varieties you commonly see in the States. This led to both of the textures being quite similar and a subtle interplay of flavors. The dressing was a liquid-y mayo with big chunks of bleu cheese with some walnuts tossed in there to crunch things up.

The server recommended that I order a T-Bone. I thought that it was probably going to be to massive from the menu description, but I went with it. It was gnarly. I felt like I could actually visualize the part of the cow that the steak came off of because I had so much surface area to work with. I should´ve known what I was getting myself into when I noticed the menus were covered in cow hide, but shit… When in Rome.

I ordered it medium-rare, which was pretty rare for me. I generally don´t like eating beef chunks that are still kind of squishy raw. The steak was very tender but I think I´m a poor judge for this type of food because it is just too John Wayne for me.

I am glad that I gave this guy a go, but I think I´ll be sticking to slightly less red meat. I sat next to a trio of oil and gas guys that worked down in Buenos Aires and lived in the States and they told me that next time I should try the roast pork shoulder or some of the dicier sounding selections on the menu like the bull testes or the tripe containing monstrosities. I honestly don´t know if I´m cut out, meatwise, for this whole beef adventure.

I walked into a mixed bag at Estados Unidos 465 and walked out a few small steps closer to needing a colonoscopy, but I gave it the old College try and sometimes that´s all that matters.

7 Feedbags out of 10!

Written by The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

October 9, 2011 at 10:21 am

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Swashbuckling like a sushi-loving space pirate -or- Kwakisurpineku?!?!

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I remember eating Chinese food in Paris once and afterwards feeling poisoned and like I was going to die from MSG overload.

It felt like being a kite knocked down by stiff wind. Traveling can be like that sometimes. Becoming entranced in simple activities like walking through a crowd and trying to discern all the alien faces and voices makes you feel like a newborn ghost and abruptly everything can tilt to where you are no longer sublimated into the landscape and instead you become aware of how fragile and tenuous everything is in a place where the language falls apart in your ears like driftwood shipwrecks and your internal compass spins like a polar explorer´s. Getting sick overseas is a real buzzkill.

It is with this once burnt mentality that I order out-of-place foods, like Asian food in Europe or, say, South America. You don´t want to just wander into any old Chifa and start slumming on some sloppy chow mein.

Serendipity is a Zen creature. Confluences always seem to occur when you are unconcious of their possibility. This is a story about how I found the best sushi in the world.

Through the touchscreen of my iPhone, gifted from on high by saintly, dearly departed Steve Jobs, I discovered BuenosAiresDelivery.com. It is a restaraunt delivery service that is amazingly intuitive to use and comes with English and Spanish language pages. You just plunk in your address and what kind of food you want and the oracle of wingfooted comestibles supplies a construct of the available universe and the website also saves your information for future orders.

Through the magical conduits of the Rube Goldberg machine that I visualize as being a snaking tableau of Mario Brothers chrome green portal tubes spanning the earth like Tesla electricity, I found Hoshi, address Guatemala 5841. The sushi I ordered, Roll Di Parma Rice, was described thusly by the menu:

Seaweed and shrimp tempura and avocado, covered with scallops, topped with Parmesan cheese and teriyaki sauce.

I feel like I could live in a blank white room in the Himalayas for a millenia, racking my brain and pacing and drinking pots of scalding mud brown caffeine under the influence of burning bushels of aromatic incence and not be able to come up with a more appetizing-sounding conglomeration of things to roll up in rice.

I have been missing the Seong´s sushi acutely here in BsAs. The crunch roll is in my experience a superior form of sushi. Also, the Mongolian beef there is simply narcotic. I have had sushi in a good many places and Seong´s has always seemed unrivaled to me, maybe because it was the first sushi that I really experienced and therefore it cultivated my specific taste in the dish.

This sushi reminded me a little of the crunch roll because of the tempura shrimp, and that was partly what attracted me to it in the first place. But the flavor profile is more memorable. I can´t believe this heresy I speak, but the parmesan cheese, while just a note in the symphony, added a contrast of savory salt flavor to complement the avocados. The scallops also perfectly counterbalanced the crunchy shrimp with a fleshy subtle seafood compliment. It was what the comic book villain Two Face would be like if he was sushi instead of a foil for Batman. The crispy shrimp is evil and seductive while the scallops are wholesome and heavenly imbued, but each ingredient isn´t a simple one dimensional note. Shimp is sort of saintly, too, and scallops are most defintely a little scandalous.

If this is even possible, the dessert I had might have been even better.

I am one of those people who loves lemon meringue pie and lemon jolly ranchers and lemon jelly-filled donuts. Lemon can do no wrong by me, so when I see an interesting lemon dessert I am on it like cops on Rodney King. This little guy is a lemon cheese cake, or so it was described on the menu, with a sesame crust and a red berry sauce with interspersed almonds. It was, to me, almost more of an ice cream cake that had an extra reserve of creaminess. The crust on the bottom was such a perfect counter heft to the lemon ice cream. It was kind of like one of those sesame bars you buy at Rainbow Foods that are sweet and savory, but the crust was transmorgrified into something softer and more pastry-like. The almonds and berry sauce were like two guys you take on a road trip so they can sit in the back seat and entertain you with intermittant banter and man the iPod soundtrack to the Ride. Not crucial to the navigation or propulsion of the craft, but indispensible at certain moments and thus part of the harmony. The Greek Chorus, if you will, of the lemon cheesecake experience.

Call the cops. This place is better than ten liquor store breakfasts and a punch in the kisser, hence my carefully devised rating.

10 out of 10 Feedbags!

Written by The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

October 6, 2011 at 9:17 am

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Eater of worlds -or- Love in the time of no Taco Bell

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Being hopelessly lost is Buenos Aires is a pleasant experience. Every once and a while you find your bearings like tires finding purchase and slowly the turf becomes navigable.

There are a profusion of local restaurants that serve a limited range of cuisine that really isn´t that appealing to my food prefences, which trend towards endless breakfasts at Denny´s or hot and spicy ethnic dishes.

Empanadas and pizza conspiculously missing the garlic and roasted sides of beef are all well and good but Moons Over My Hammy they are not.

In the absence of the possibility of stumbling across a Taco Bell or pancake house, the thing I most was craving when I arrived here was something spicy. I´ve noticed that the Argentines don´t really go in for the spicy stuff. Even their fries are unsalted. It is disorienting to say the least.

Enter the Gibraltar in San Telmo.

It is an English pub that plays Premiership soccer and rugby on a muted flatscreen TV during the daytime. The ambiance is sort of shabby-chic Victorian and the music goes from Tom Waits and Merle Haggard in the daytime to electronic at night. There is a large main room with black leather couches in the front and bench seating under the gaze of stately portraits of stiff-lipped, long dead Brits. Above the bar is a library or study room that does not appear to have any stairs or ladders leading up to it. There are what appears to be leather bound books and perhaps even fine mahogany and ornate wooden cabinets. The bar is like some amazing hipster anthropomorphism that looks studious and temperate but is really a daytime drunk.

If you head to the back, you pass an open view of the kitchen and find yourself in a smaller room with a billard table that leads to an outside backyard area where smokers congregate on stone benches. I really love these styles of “indoor courtyards” that are walled-in and always seem to have plant life crawling up to a square of sky suspended above.

In the travel guide Time Out Argentina, the Gibraltar was mentioned as being a place for genuinely spicy currys and I was surprised having had a drink there the previous night when it was slammed with people. The Gibraltar is something of a living, evolving creature each day. It opens and noon and if you go there early it serves a proper English breakfast of sausages and baked beans. There are a few people lingering, usually expats reading books and slowly imbibing pints. In the early afternoon foot traffic picks up. At some magical moment each early evening, patrons pour in from work and parts unknown and pack the place to the gills and a doorman materializes outside to regulate the amount of people in the bar.

The picture above is a green curry. I have so far taken in the green and red currys, the pad thai with shrimp and chicken, the hotjunglecurrybeef with noodles and the beef and ale pie on a lark. All were amazing. The pad thai and the currys are rustic and fresh. Green beans are a big component and hold up well in the spicy broth of the curry. The Gibraltar likes to garnish everything with cilantro, so in a way it is like an infinitely superior version of Pel Menis. You know, if Pel Menis (Menis… is that pronounced like penis?) had more than one menu item and served booze and attracted a cosmopolitan crowd and had some atmosphere, it´d be the same place. If you are drunk and spiritually debased enough, you couldn´t tell the difference.

Apros pos of nothing, I´ve been writing this in a shitty internet cafe listening to the Cranberries and Sufjan Stevens on youtube.

The red curry had some real heft. I ate this plate, devastated it really, in a few savage minutes and shambled home to take a nap. It was that transcendent. The roasted peanuts and water cress are so crunchy good. I took to dunking chunks of the perfectly sticky rice into the broth and soaking in the spice like a human vacuum sealer. Before, meet after:

I think it is all the more impressive that I did all this damage with chopsticks.

Buenos Aires is a beautiful place. The people are so cool. I mean like Johnny Depp cool. They stay up late because it´s much easier on one´s constitution. But they aren´t really down with the exotic foods, which is so puzzling. I guess this is coming from the same mind that growing up assumed that all of Latin America ate some version of Mexican food. Not so. There is not, nor will there ever likely be, an unending proliferation of Taco Bell-themed restaurants resplendent in wild neon colors covering the Southern Hemisphere. And it is for the better. But, like all fantasies, it is hard not to seek out small bits of cognitive dissonance involving innermost secret desires.

The Gibraltar in San Telmo, address Peru 895, is one of these fragmentary dream scapes. I couldn´t recommend it more highly.

10 out of 10 Feedbags!

Written by The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

October 4, 2011 at 10:40 am

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Wild Yam Noodles with Coconut Milk and Vegetables

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Autumn is beginning the ever too quick fast forward in Juneau. The leaves are falling, if not fallen. The chill of winter lingers in the sharp morning air. It’s time to get the house ready for winter: fill the oil tank up, get the flannel duvet out, and cook comfort food.

After over five months, I’m still entirely gluten free. I’ve also miraculously stayed off the coffee. I haven’t fallen into the sweet embrace of cheese again. In fact, the only dairy in my diet is organic low-fat yogurt. What may be the biggest surprise is that I’ve started running. I started the Couch to 5K app on my smart phone a little over nine weeks ago. Yesterday, without being chased by bear, I ran 3.5 miles on my own accord. It’s a little weird to write in my food blog about how much I look forward to running now.

This meal was inspired by a hungry trip to the grocery store after my run yesterday. The trail I ran in the valley is close to a nice market with fresh-ish vegetables and “ethnic” food. In Juneau, Alaska “ethnic” food means in most grocery stores, a single aisle filled with a league of all nations hit list of foods. These ethnic foods may include: curry, Asian noodles, Latin American hot sauce, couscous, hummus, tea, and maybe the odd can of dolmas.

Ingredients:

– 1 package of wild yam or rice noodles

– 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
– 1 shallot, finely diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
– 1 bunch of green onions, white part finely chopped with green tops reserved for garnish
– 7 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
– 1 orange pepper, thinly sliced

– 1/2 block of extra firm tofu cubed, to garnish
– 1/2 can of coconut milk
– sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
– 1 Tablespoon of Madras (yellow) curry
– 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
– sriracha sauce to taste, to finish

Instructions:

– heat a sauce pan of water to boil and cook wild yam or rice noodles for specified time
– in a sauté pan, heat olive oil
– add chopped white part of green onions, shallot, and garlic
– season with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and turmeric and cook 3-5 minutes
– add chopped mushrooms, orange pepper, add yellow curry powder, cook another 3 minutes or so
– when noodles are finished cooking, drain (don’t rinse)
– slowly add noodles to large sauté pan with tongs
– add 1/2 can of coconut milk, add a bit more sea salt and fresh ground pepper
– toss noodles and veggies with tongs and cook for 2 to 3 minutes
– plate in a shallow bowl
– garnish with tofu and green part of onions
– add sriracha to your taste

Serving suggestion:

If you don’t have a nut allergy chopped peanuts might also serve as garnish. Fresh cilantro and lemon grass would also work well with this dish. Unfortunately, the market I went to was out of all herbs other than parsley.

Pair this dish with a Czech Pilsner or a Japanese Kirin brew in a tall cold glass for delicious beer fun time!


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Grilled Sweet Potatoes

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foil

Grilling season may have come and gone for many of my fellow Alaskan friends. It’s pouring down rain today in Juneau and it doesn’t feel like it’s letting up any time soon. This post may be a little tardy in that regard. For folks living the dream down south, or brave enough to bust out the grill under the cover of driveway or porch, this post is for you.

Some time back, between beginning my Master’s program and working almost full time, our friend Amanda made these delicious foil packs of sweet potatoes and I’ve been meaning to blog about them. It’s a simple enough recipe that requires few ingredients and only 20 or so minutes of grilling time.

Ingredients:

– 2 to 3 sweet potatoes (or yams if you prefer)
– 1 to 2 teaspoons of cumin
– sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
– 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Instructions:

– Make fun little foil packets for your sweet potatoes, folding the edges as shown in the photo above
– Peel & cube your sweet potatoes and group them in a large bowl
– Add olive oil, cumin, sea salt, & pepper and toss potatoes
– Add a reasonable amount of potatoes to each foil wrapper (you’ll probably have about 4 foil packets)
– Poke holes using a fork on the tops of the foil wrappers
– Throw the foil packets on top of the grill, turning a few times, for around 20 minutes

Serving Instructions:

These cumin grilled sweet potatoes are dreamy with grilled chicken, veggie burgers, or vegetable skewers. Happy Eating!

Written by Patrice Helmar

August 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Feedbag Harvest

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Our garden has been amazing this year – we finally built PVC coverings around our three raised beds. When I say “we” built, I mean Matty built. This is a small garden basket full of haul from this past weekend. We’ve had fresh greens, kale, and sweet peas in our salads for around four weeks now. It’s a blessing to have such an awesome man in my life that can build, grow, and fish.

The other day Matt took his new salmon rod out and caught four pink salmon off the docks near the salmon hatchery in town. Pinks or humpy salmon aren’t considered the best of the best here in Alaska. King salmon, or even white king might be more sought after types of salmon. Honestly, there’s nothing better than pretty much any kind of fresh caught salmon, drizzled in olive oil and grilled up. In abundance, pink salmon is great smoked, or home canned with a pressure cooker.

salmopn

I’m so busy with school and work right now that most nights I haven’t had much time to cook let alone blog. We were both so tired the other night when I took these garden haul photos. I’ll try to get creative this week, while I have a little time off and make something delicious to write about. I’d like to make some dolmas or some gluten-free Greek food (is that possible)?

I’d love more than anything to some how get out fishing and bring home a big halibut to keep us eating well all winter. My favorite thing in the world right now is smoked halibut, seriously.

I’m just happy to report that operation growing and harvesting our own food is going super well this summer. Here’s another photo of our garden bounty! And yes, miraculously that is an onion ->

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Written by Patrice Helmar

August 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm