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June 14, 2006

A postcard to the folks
Posted by Teresa at 07:50 AM * 118 comments

Hi Jas, hi Jan—

I hear you’re in Guanajuato right now, hanging out with your friend the sociologist who’s started up an authentic Irish pub there. Good on yer. Wish I were there.

I don’t know what kind of access you have to English-language books, so it could be you’ll have to wait until you get home to pick this up, but I’m pretty sure you need to read Liquor: A Novel by Poppy Z. Brite. PZB made her name writing horror. I have nothing against horror, but her books just didn’t speak to me.

That was then. What she’s writing now isn’t even genre. Liquor is a mainstream novel about a couple of nice boys, Ricky and G-Man, who both work as cooks in New Orleans. They’ve been living together since forever, working their way up from washing dishes. You can read an excerpt from it here. The musician they’re making fun of is Jimmy Buffett.

Patrick’s got first dibs on the book and he won’t yield it up to me until he’s done, but he’s been reading me episodes from it, especially when I’m cooking, and I am utterly charmed. (He’s already bought PZB’s second book in this series. I’m plotting to seize Liquor when he falls asleep this evening.) It’s about half story and half food prep, discussed appreciatively but without pretension. Patrick says the book starts to develop something that looks like a formal plot a few chapters in, but I’m not worried.

Here’s a section where G-man and Ricky are being taken to dinner at the Commander’s Palace by Lenny, a rich backer who wants to help them start their own restaurant. In all their years in New Orleans they’ve only previously managed to eat there once apiece:

The main dining room hadn’t changed much in the years. The patterned green carpet was still marshmallow-thick underfoot, the walls accented with dark wooden paneling and softly lit paintings of Louisiana swamp birds. Balloons and ribbons festooned the tables of parties celebrating special occasions. The hum of conversation and the clatter of dinnerware were lively but not distractingly loud. This room could seat about 120, but somehow it still had an intimate atmosphere.

Ricky was wearing the only jacket he owned, a navy-blue affair from high school, too short in the sleeves and uncomfortably tight across the back when he tried to button it. G-man, bereft, wore the dreaded green House Jacket provided to underdressed male patrons. His customary dark glasses didn’t help the look. Lenny sported an expensive-looking white silk jacket and a candy-striped shirt with too many buttons undone. The other two men at the table, Lenny’s lawyer and business manager, wore conservative business suits.

“So,” said De La Cerda, the lawyer, “we’ve got quite a few things we’d like you to look at—”

Lenny held up his hand. “Not yet, Oscar. They want to check out the menu.”

They had a round of Bloody Marys made with the restaurant’s own worcestershire sauce, then placed their orders. A few minutes later the waiter set small plates of butterflied shrimp in front of them. “Chef Jamie sends these out with his compliments, Mr. Duveteaux. Our shrimp and tasso Henican. Enjoy.”

Rickey took a bite of the appetizer. The tender Gulf shrimp were spiked with tasso ham, tossed in a spicy beurre blanc, set atop a pool of five-pepper jelly, and garnished with pickled okra. The dish had a bright, complex flavor: first you tasted the sweetness of the shrimp and butter, then the gastrique’s sourness and the tart burn of the peppers. Rickey suspected he might be in the presence of genius. This was a worshipful presentation of shrimp, not just bringing out its best qualities but actually improving them. Of all the cooks he’d known, only Paco Valdeon had had such a gift for exalting his ingredients.

Rickey finished his appetizer in four bites and glanced around the table to see if anyone was watching. When he saw that no one was, he used the side of his finger to scoop the remaining sauce from the plate. Just as he put his finger in his mouth, G-man looked up, saw what he was doing, and nodded emphatically.

Lenny looked at their two spotless plates. “You like that, huh? You do as well with this restaurant as I expect, you can eat here any time you want.”

“If we do as well as you expect, we’ll be at our own restaurant all the time,” G-man pointed out. “So was that Crystal hot sauce in the beurre blanc, do you know?”

“Yeah, it was. Good palate.”

That’s a typical scene. I was tempted to transcribe their list of restaurants that open and close while they’re waiting for the renovations to be finished in their own restaurant, but I didn’t want to pull something that funny out of context.

It’s just nice. This is a hard-working, not always fair, behind-the-scenes milieu where intelligently considered food is both everyone’s daily work and their favorite art form. Made me think you’d enjoy it.

That’s about all for now. Patrick’s fine. My garden looks great but I’m not going to boast about it to people who’re hanging out in Guanajuato. We miss you.

Cheers —

t.

Comments on A postcard to the folks:
#1 ::: Darice Moore ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 08:28 AM:

I'm so hungry now. And I just ate breakfast.

#2 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 08:50 AM:

Food fanatics may also want to take a look at the teaser for next summer's Pixar release, Ratatouille.

Brad Bird (The Incredibles) directs, and if the script is half as good as the teaser, it's going to be brilliant.

#3 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 09:14 AM:

As my friends know, I am an indifferent cook. But if you like books about food, cooks, cooking, kitchens: I recommend The Kitchen by Nicholas Freeling. He is best known in this country as a mystery writer and to some as a practitioner of Zen, but he was at one time a professional cook, and The Kitchen is an incisive, funny account of what it's like to work in the kitchen of a provincial hotel in France. The book was published by Harper in 1970 and I have no idea if it's in print in any version (yes, I know I can Google it, thank you.) The hardcover also has great woodcut illustrations.

#4 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 09:40 AM:

Love this series! Patrick, have a look at The Value of X. It's prequel to Liquor, less to do with food, more to do with their early relationship, and contains the alluded-to Monkey Hill incident and Rickey's CIA fiasco. It's excellent. Prime refers to the CIA experience quite a bit, but it also fills you in as you go, so you could read them in any order.

There are a handful of short stories about Rickey and G-man, too, and something forthcoming called D*U*C*K.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 10:50 AM:

I want dinner now, and I just ate breakfast! TNH, you are brilliant.

#6 ::: Hamadryad ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 11:31 AM:

I have a craving for shrimp now. This sounds really good. Great timing, too. I'm looking around for something new to read.

#7 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 11:37 AM:

I have a crave for shrimp now and I don't eat shrimp at all.

#8 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 12:57 PM:

D*U*C*K is a novella; I don't know much about the content, but Ricky as a boy appears to be important to it. (The working title was "Waiting for Bobby Hebert" in reference to a particular New Orlean Saints game in, I believe, 1985.)

#9 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 01:15 PM:

Ah, Commander's. One of the most depressing things I saw while at home this Mardi Gras was that Commander's Palace is closed. That's just not right.

#10 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 02:22 PM:

My mouth is watering.

The public library has it.

I know what I'm doing tonight.

#11 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 02:29 PM:

Adding a shout-out to the Liquor love-fest. I adore those books. I picked up the first one because I was homesick, and I got totally hooked. (But I always end up feeling really low-class after a scene like that. I mean, although I get why the characters are disgusted with it in this scene, I like Crystal hot sauce. I put it in my soy sauce instead of wasabi. That probably says a lot about my tastes right there.)

(Ob. link to PZB's LJ)

#12 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 02:31 PM:

Reminds me of the lovely food porn on Looka!

I miss New Orleans and I never got there!

#13 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 02:54 PM:

I think "mainstream" is a genre these days.

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 03:13 PM:

Ooooh. Patrick just sent me the URL for that appetizer from the Commodore's Palace site:

Shrimp and tasso with five-pepper jelly.

#15 ::: suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 03:25 PM:

TNH wrote:
Shrimp and tasso with five-pepper jelly.

Oh, that's pretty. It'd kill me in under 30 seconds, but it's pretty. Cursed allergies!

#16 ::: Misha ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 03:30 PM:

Oh, I love that series -- I've got the next one pre-ordered at Amazon. I didn't pick Liquor until after Katrina, when I wanted to visit New-Orleans-that-was, as Joss Whedon might call it, and I too was pleasantly surprised by how much I adored it.

#17 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 03:39 PM:

Nicole:

It seemed to me that the characters were also liking them a little Crystal hot sauce - I surely wouldn't be wiping the last drops of sauce off the plate if one of its ingredients was something that disgusted me. Rather, I took it as an example of G-man showing off his expertise, being able to identify just which hot sauce the chef had used. Like Peter Wimsey identifying a vintage after rolling a sip around on his tongue a few times. These genius connoisseurs - such exhibitionists ;-)

Lizzy: Now I'm waiting hungrily for my gently-used paperback copy of the combined Freeling Kitchen and Cook to arrive from the online used book vendor!

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 03:49 PM:

It's also a startling detail because Crystal Hot Sauce is a utility hot sauce, not some high-end thing. It's sold in supermarkets in large-size bottles.

#19 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 03:53 PM:

Right. They're definitely not "disgusted" by the presence of Crystal-brand red pepper sauce; quite the contrary.

We're big fans of Crystal at Casa NH. It is my belief, reiterated to Teresa at tiresome length, that it is the perfect complement to chicken lo mein. It's distinctly different from Tabasco and its many imitators; lighter and more vinagery.

#20 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 03:58 PM:

PNH

Tried Sriracha? It goes the other direction, and does it well.

#21 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 04:00 PM:

The number of hot sauces sitting on the shelf in our refrigerator door isn't quite enough to drag it off its hinges, but I worry sometimes.

#22 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 04:02 PM:

Crystal is great. It's exactly the condiment called for when you don't want sriracha. I haven't used a tabasco or close-tabasco-alike in ages.

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 04:06 PM:

Hmm. Teresa, if you wrote that on a postcard, you used a very fine point.

Sounds like a fun book.

#24 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 04:09 PM:

Clearly you've never seen how small Teresa can write.

I finished Liquor. What a joyful hoot of a book. With just enough murder to be piquant. I want another book JUST LIKE THAT.

#25 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 04:15 PM:

Yes, but her micrographic skills would not, I think, be the limiting factor. If (size of postcard)/((number of letters)*(average size of letter) < (size of pen point), it mattereth not what skill she possesseth.

Have you read The Debt to Pleasure? Darkly funny.

#26 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 04:16 PM:

Arg. Missed a ) there. The inequality is
(size of postcard)/((number of letters)*(average size of letter)) < (size of pen point)

#27 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 04:21 PM:

We came back from a trip to Belize loaded down with a goodly-sized case of Marie Sharp's hot sauces. I'm particularly fond of the Green Habanero with Prickly Pear.

I'm also glad that we had a chance to eat -- if only once -- at Commander's Palace. I don't recall everything we had, but it certainly included the whiskey bread pudding and Bananas Foster for dessert. My god the bread pudding.

#28 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 04:40 PM:
We're big fans of Crystal at Casa NH. It is my belief, reiterated to Teresa at tiresome length, that it is the perfect complement to chicken lo mein. It's distinctly different from Tabasco and its many imitators; lighter and more vinagery.
Is it similar to Frank's Lousiana Hot Sauce? That's generally what I buy when I want a vinegary hot sauce.
#29 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 04:49 PM:

Nothing beats Pickapeppa (especially not their hot sauce made with Scotch Bonnet/Habanero peppers). But I'm biased.

#30 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 05:08 PM:

I grew up in meat and potatoes land. Bread and butter was the usual appetizer. Salt was the standard flavor additive. And if you wanted something with a little zing, you added pepper. Not surprisingly, I have no taste for spicy, and spicy seriously does not like me. Then again, I can't cook for squat either. When I saw my first episode of "Futurama" and the intro trailer showed an ad for "bachelor chow", I remember thinking, "now there's a good idea". Milk and cereal seems to do the trick while I wait for it to come on the market.

As for meat and potatoes, they seem to be a misunderstood food. Having left the farm some long time ago, it took me several years to find a good steak house that knows a good piece of beef. I could get a great steak back home at an Applebees for less than $20. In the big city, I know of one restaurant that serves good beef, and its a 5-star joint that I can expect to spend over a hundred bucks for two.

Shoot. My mouth is watering...

#31 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 05:35 PM:

Jimmy spells his name "Buffett," but the confusion is perfectly understandable in context.

Tangentially, we have a new restaurant in Uptown that calls itself "Antoine's Creole Maison." Elise and I decided to have late breakfast there a couple of weeks back.

As the door closed behind us on the way out, she said "Lightning will strike this place."

It was . . . well, if you come visit, there are lots of cool places we can take you, in all sorts of cuisineses and price bracketses and ambienceses, but not there. And it's in a compressed area of really good specialty restaurants -- Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Greek, Caribbean, Italian, noodle bar, bar & grill -- so maybe we should photograph it now.

#32 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 05:35 PM:

I hear you're in Guanajuato right now

I misread this as "I hear you're in Guantanamo right now". This made the rest of the sentence more than a little confusing.

#33 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 05:42 PM:

I love Crystal, but you can't get it out here. My favorite utility hot sauce at the moment is Cholula, a Mexican sauce though bottled in Texas.

I should buy a big bottle of Crystal when I'm in NY next month.

#34 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 05:48 PM:

I should buy a big bottle of Crystal when I'm in NY next month.

This and many similar references to that hot sauce should deeply confuse the DEA agents who are googling for Tina users.

#35 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 05:51 PM:

What do you know. I've always preferred Crystal hot sauce to Tabasco. It has a nice flavor. The other hot sauce I like is Pepper Plant Original California Style Hot Pepper Sauce. It is a pourable salsa with a vinegar base, and lots of flavor relative to the heat level.

The book sounds delicious too.

#36 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 05:57 PM:

Greg, I was following right along (but not identifying since I seek out spicy food) until you said, "I could get a great steak back home at an Applebees for less than $20."

There are acceptable steaks, and this might just be one of them, but if you want a great steak, you should be in the $100 per person range, as a starting point. And I recommend Bern's in Tampa and Peter Luger in Brooklyn. Daniel's in Seattle is a pretty good steak, and it's in nearly the same price range.

I eat maybe two steaks a year, and they need to be special.

#37 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 06:07 PM:

Iain Coleman writes: "I misread this as 'I hear you're in Guantanamo right now'. This made the rest of the sentence more than a little confusing."

Thank you. I did the same.

#38 ::: Poppy Z. Brite ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 06:36 PM:

You guys, thanks so much for the nice shout-out!

Kevin: D*U*C*K does indeed contain a flashback to a 1986 Saints game, but the rest of the story is present-day.

Leigh: Commander's Palace will be reopening, probably in August. Until then, should you return, I highly recommend Cafe Adelaide in the Loews Hotel. It's owned by Ti Martin and Lally Brennan of CP, and many of the CP cooks and FOH staff are there.

Nicole: Absolutely no diss intended to Crystal hot sauce, either by me or by the characters in Liquor. It is a very good sauce and is used in the dish I mentioned, Tasso Shrimp Henican. I also like to use it to make a hot wing sauce. Sadly, Crystal has elected to permanently leave New Orleans in the aftermath of the storm.

Fragano: Pickapeppa is a whole different animal from the vinegar-based Louisiana hot sauces, but it is wonderful and is my chef husband's personal favorite sauce. If you like it, I also recommend Matouk's Calypso.

#39 ::: Poppy Z. Brite ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 06:38 PM:

Almost forgot -- Alex Cohen: Marie Sharp's may be the best hot sauces in the world. I can scarcely afford enough to keep me supplied.

#40 ::: Rachel Brown ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 06:58 PM:

I adore Liquor. Like Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen, which not-coincidentally is also about food and love, reading it gives me a warm happy feeling much like sitting down with friends to a delicious home-cooked meal.

I second the recommendation of Sriracha hot sauce. It comes in a squeeze bottle with a rooster emblem, in several flavors.

#41 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 07:28 PM:

Rachel: The rooster on the outside and the condiment on the inside have led to Sriracha being known as "Hot Cock" in my household. It's gotten to the point that we no longer laugh when requesting it.

#42 ::: Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 07:30 PM:

Rooster sauce! Now it has a name. Everyone I ever talk to just calls it "rooster sauce" and everyone knows what they're talking about... I expect I'll continue, as I'm not sure I can figure how to pronounce "Sriracha" without offending someone.

#43 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 07:49 PM:

Greg London--re Bachelor Chow, have you seen this?

And I recommend John McPhee's "Brigade de Cuisine" from Giving Good Weight in the "books that make you want to eat no matter how much you've just eaten" category. The title essay, which is about the New York Greenmarkets, is also great.

#44 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 07:53 PM:

My impression is that most of the Vietnamese folks I've talked to are unfazed by non-Vietnamese people mangling pronunciations. Vietnamese is insanely difficult to learn, apparently (it has six tones, just for starters). The likelihood of the average Westerner pronouncing it correctly is vanishingly small, I believe.

That said, I pronounce it "sree-RAH-cha", and have been understood whenever I've asked for it.

#45 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 07:55 PM:

Hey, PZB, thanks for stopping by. Great book. Patrick's finished and I'm reading it now. I scared the other people on the subway platform when I read about the school project.

Crystal: One time, after a prolonged period of hot sauce deprivation, Patrick and I got our hands on a bottle of Crystal sauce and more or less drank it. We had to buy another one to have any to put on our food.

I'm real fond of Another Bloody Day in Paradise brand Three Pepper Lemon hot sauce. I think it was formulated to go in Bloody Marys and on cheap shrimp cocktails, but I'll eat it on anything, most notably my breakfast eggs.

#46 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 08:18 PM:

Three Pepper Lemon Hot Sauce. Gosh, my affinity for Pace Picante seems tame by comparison.

#47 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 08:35 PM:

if you want a great steak, you should be in the $100 per person range...

well, the Applebees steak I had in the midwest for $19 was way better than then steak I had at the five-star restaurant that supposedly specialized in steaks. It may be that the national politician who was eating two tables down from us distracted the cook, but that doesn't explain the A-1 style sauce that was on the steak when it was served. I nearly cried. Plus the meat was stringy.

Maybe the midwest-applebees steak doesn't qualify as "great", but it was pretty darn good. The best steaks I've had were in Minneapolis and Chicago. Those were great. Anywhere else in the midwest, you can get a pretty darn good steak. Outside the midwest, all I've gotten were mostly lousy steaks with maybe three exceptions that were on par with great. I think "The Rules" in London was one of the places.

#48 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 08:42 PM:

re Bachelor Chow, have you seen this?

monkey chow? yoinks. Think I'll pass. Although I could stand to lose a few pounds and pelletized food might just do it. Maybe I should buy a bag for emergency purposes. wonder how long it stays edible....

This is so the opposite end of "good steak" conversation that I just had to note as such...

#49 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 09:05 PM:

Mike Ford: Buffett. Right. Fixed.

Beth, Crystal's not that easy to find in NYC any more, either. After several months of not seeing it anywhere, we finally found it in a deeply crappy poor-people grocery store on 4th Avenue and 25th Street in Sunset Park. Go figure.

#50 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 09:06 PM:

I'm an utter wimp about capsaicins; ginger, sure, mustard-horseradish-wasabi, also sure, but most pepper hurts.

Steak, though -- I've had good steak in restaurants, but it usually involves ordering buffalo. (There may be exceptions in the case of those restaurants I can't afford.)

Sirloin in quarter inch thick strips in apple vinegar and ginger marinade for a couple-six hours, rolled up, stuck on skewers, and cooked at about 300 F in the toaster oven (which probably isn't 300 F, just what the toaster oven thought was 300 F, the poor deluded device with no real settings betwixt 'off' and 'fire hazard'); five pound slabs of sirlion with lavish cinnamon and thyme baked on a rack over a pan of water; fry the bacon, then the mushrooms, then the eye of round, which means more or less poaching the steak in the bacon fat and mushroom decoction (into which you have cast divers herbs), at least until the pan boils dry and you sling in a couple table spoons of maple syrup to make a vast, sticky, tasty, caramelized mess; a nice thick chunk of something over an honest-to-Tiwaz fire, held up on metal skewers or loops of black iron fence wire, but to really work, you need to have put in a twelve hour day of heavy lifting beforehand -- the hindbrain accepts this as a due substitute for having killed the mammoth yourself and turns on the Ancient Atavistic Tastebuds that are otherwise unavailable; crumble a big handful of dried sage into hot olive oil, add mustard flour -- the good stuff, fresh, while you can still feel the oil on it -- stirring, and a wee tot of the roughest scotch you've got (Té Bheag, a Hebridean blend of modest price, respectable antecedent, and flavour to make Islay malts seem dulcet, comes to mind) until it's thick enough to stick, then stir, wait, stir with chunks of whatever, so long as they're near-cubical and the wait doesn't actually reach the point of anything burning are ways I've had some success with steak.

What they've all got in common is taking a relatively long time and making a relatively large mess, both things restaurants -- at least those I can afford :) -- don't much go for.

The rant about the necessity of getting an honest slab of cow I think I shall suppress.

#51 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 09:07 PM:

Gotta admit, I'm pretty dubious about that "only a steak dinner that costs more than $100 is worth eating" rule. I've had a bunch of famous-venue $100+ steak dinners, and some better steaks that cost a fraction of that.

#52 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 09:38 PM:

We breed and hand-rear a cattlebeast each year for the freezer, and I swear home grown beef is unbeatable for flavour, tenderness, and overall yum factor. If TNH, PNH, Ms Brite (swoon!) or anyone else here wants to come visit us down on the arse end of the world, we'll give you the best steak you've ever tasted.

#53 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 09:39 PM:

Just to clarify, I didn't say that the only steak dinner worth eating had to cost over $100. I've had really good steaks that cost quite a bit less, and I've had disappointing and very expensive steaks, too.

However, the best steaks I've ever had have been at crazy-expensive, hyper-focused steakhouses. Bern's in Tampa is probably the best I've ever been to, based on both quality of the food and the overall dining experience. Bern's throws in a kitchen and wine cellar tour (yes they have a wine cellar in Tampa) and has a separate dessert area. The >$100 pp figure included wine and dessert. Their menu is limited, with a strong steak focus, but you can order your steak by the ounce and request a degree of doneness that is executed with absolute precision. The atmosphere is actually slightly cheesy, but in a good way and the staff is totally committed to what they do and work with you to make your meal really enjoyable.

(Wow, did I go on about that. In short, if you're in Tampa, have the cash and calorie count to spare and like steak, go to Bern's.)

Now, it's entirely possible that Applebee's sources superior steaks in the midwest, but I'd rather pay 5 times the price for a dining experience and do it only once a year. If I eat at Applebees or any similar chain restaurant, I stick to salads and burgers.

#54 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 09:47 PM:

I see no-one has yet seen fit to comment on "Tasso". I know of the poet, and the play by Goethe, but is it a vegetable, a spice, or some kind of prepared foodstuff? You can cut it into strips, is all I know.

Sigh. Off to research on internet. And they wonder why 'surfing' takes up so much time.

#55 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 10:25 PM:

Epacris -- it's a (capsaicin-)peppery ham, useful if you're serious about your jambalaya. The ones I've had aren't salty or dry like genuine Smithfield; I don't know whether that's a different curing, injected water (as in most ham, to make up for what's lost in curing), or just not the real article -- the best I've had comes from a ]charcuterie[ on the NY-CT border.

#56 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 10:37 PM:

You can order Crystal Hot Sauce from Amazon.com, but the page says it'll ship from Gristede's in NYC, so if that Park Slope source dries up you can try hunting around that chain.

#57 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 11:19 PM:

Yeah, pretty much every place I ate at in England sucked, except for "The Rules" in London, which was really awesome. Then again, after two weeks of chewy beef, maybe it was just relative. But I don't think so. I think the waiter was talking about the different ages of beef, which isn't something you get even at Applebees, other than to say how long it's been in the freezer.

Oh, and there was a place out in the boonies, somewhere near Stonehenge that's like the oldest inn in England or something. hundreds or thousands or years old or something like that. They had really, really, really awesome beef stew.

Boston had a place called Capital Grille, right in the heart of the city. They cooked the steak in coffee grounds, which gave it a salty, smokey flavor. And the meat was unbelievably tender. ask for the one with the coffee grounds if they have it.

There was a place in Minneapolis, Minnesota which was freaking amazing. They specialized in French cuisine. The filet mignon makes me drool thinking about it ten years later. Gawds, I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant. It was a big place, two story open room with a massive chandelier and a guy playing piano. And it was like the first two stories of a ten to twenty floor building, surrounded by high rises.

Tampa? didn't get out much in Tampa. Didn't see any alligators in alligator alley, either. Hot and muggy. Ugh.

Then there was this time I went to a buddy's backyard cookout. He picked up a ten or twenty pound chunk of sirloin and grilled it. un-freakin' believable. Even freakier, he got the meat from Costco's for cripes sake.

Chicago is a bit of a blur. Can't remember any specific places. Someone was always chauffeuring me.

Isreal isn't the place to go for steaks, but the schwarma there is good. It's the only place I've ever had falafel that I liked too. It also gave me a craving for something pronounced bee-ya-lee bread or something like it. haven't been able to find a place in the states that sells it or even knows what the heck I'm talking about.

My best food in Aruba was at that Hyatt, but the steak was Brazilian, which isn't the same.

#58 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 11:22 PM:

Poppy: I like Matouk's sauces as well (though some might read that as treason). Fortunately, they're available in Atlanta.

#59 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 11:22 PM:

I once visited a cookhouse that was closing down and bought a bottle of "Da Bomb" for Phil Foglio, who loves hot food. He looked at it with upraised eyebrow, ran his little finger around the inner neck of the bottle, then licked it and handed the bottle to Kaja. She did the same and handed the bottle to me. I followed their example and when Kaja sprinted to the kitchen to get the big bottle of milk for all three of us I chugged my mug. At that time it was the hottest sauce on the market at 119,000 Scoville units--I shudder to think about Blair's 16 Million Reserve, which is rated at 16 million Scoville units.

#60 ::: Poppy Z. Brite ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2006, 11:57 PM:

Tasso is a highly seasoned, air-dried Cajun ham generally used for seasoning dishes rather than eating by itself. You can order a very good version (along with other excellent Cajun meat products) here.

By far the best steak I've ever had was a 45-day prime dry-aged ribeye at the Nana Grill in Dallas, TX. Dry-aging makes all the difference if you enjoy that savory, slightly gamey flavor. Buffalo is also very good.

#61 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:01 AM:

Greg: It also gave me a craving for something pronounced bee-ya-lee bread or something like it.

If they looked something like this than they're called bialys, and you can get them at good bagel shops in New York. The best place to get them is at Kossar's a bakery on Grand St in NYC, open 24/7 except for shabbat. (Passover, too, I expect.)

#62 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:01 AM:

The best steak I've ever had was at Janko's Little Zagreb in Bloomington, Indiana. The decor consisted of a vinyl red checked table cloth, and possibly a candle in a fat round wine bottle with one of those nets on the bottle. The menu featured every imaginable cut of steak, cooked any way you wanted (including tartare), and one broiled chicken thingy. Side dishes were a bowl of iceberg lettuce with dressing and a baked potato, and maybe corn on the cob. That's about it for the range of choices. Best steak EVER, about $25 back in 1990.

My current favorite place is called Krapil's, in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. It has pretty much the same decor as Janko's. There, you can get a marvelous dry-aged steak as big as your head for $35.

#63 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:02 AM:

Greg, did you mean "bialy"? They're not hard to find in NYC. (They're shaped like a bagel where the hole only goes halfway through, but they aren't otherwise similar.)

#64 ::: Bob Oldendorf (NOT 'Bob') ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:10 AM:

Greg London: Bialy

haven't been able to find a place in the states that sells it or even knows what the heck I'm talking about.

New York.

#65 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:20 AM:

Mr. Ford- Yeah, but their pecan pie was *almost* as good as my grandmothers, and that's saying something. Hers is another one of those "retire the catagory" recipes.

Though if you find another Creole place in town, let me know? I never did learn to make jumbalaya to suit me.

On steak- the Beef House at Interstate 74 and US 41 in Indiana has good steak for not too bad of prices. The disadvantage is that it's in the middle of nowhere IN. And people are right, it's frustratingly difficult to get good beef inexpensively outside of the midwest...I've stopped trying. Chicken or veggie works so much better.

#66 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:57 AM:

Coincidence or serendipity? When I sat down at the computer to check email & blogs, I had some cajun-fried chicken and red-beans-&-rice with me to munch on. (Late dinner following hospital visit.)

Another Crystal hot sauce fan here. Tabasco is hot; Crystal is hot and flavorful.

AND... I've been meaning to send Patrick some of the peppers that came up wild (probably from bird droppings) under the laurel tree out back. The peppers are only about a quarter-inch long, but each one packs a wallop about equivalent to a full-size jalapeno; I call them Jesus-F***-Me! Peppers, because that's what I said the first time I tried one. Probably a type of pequin pepper.

Steak: Since I can (usually) do a pretty damn good steak at home, I usually skip them while eating out.

#67 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 01:06 AM:

For the New Yorkers (or visitors) I highly recommend to you our local steak place, here in Queens. La Portena (official website; beware: Flash-based) is Argentinian, and as nearly as I can tell, that makes cow and steer their religion. Consistently excellent beef, and it doesn't hurt that they serve it in quantities that would choke a great white shark for about $30/person.

#68 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 01:06 AM:

Mmmm. Bialys. I love bialys, but I've never found one worth a damn outside of Brooklyn.

There's also a variant called a pletzl, which is bigger and has more onions. They're even harder to find. Mmmm.

Dollars to donuts the guy who made the bialys you (Greg) had in Israel learned to make them from somebody in Brooklyn.

They're made from the same dough as bagels, only they're simply baked, not boiled, broiled and baked like proper bagels.

Here's a little bagel tip. If they're puffy or have a little bubbly pattern on the bottom, they're machine made and steamed, not boiled and therefore not worth eating.

(I don't eat too many bagels outside NYC either.)

#69 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 04:15 AM:

I cooked steak last night, as it happens. Fillet steak, no marinade, pan fried in butter. Mashed spuds, boiled peas and a shallot-garlic-tomato goo.

The restaraunts I've visited in the US seem to be more interested in choking sharks than tasty meat, the steaks were vast slabs of watery tasteless protein. I know, I visited the wrong ones.

#70 ::: dynomoose ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 05:13 AM:

The third book in the series, Soul Kitchen, is coming out in August. I can't freaking wait!

#71 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 08:55 AM:

bialy bread. Cool. At least I know how to spell it. Now if I could only find a place that sells it. The stuff I had was like soft, fresh-made bread, with some kind of spices in it, garlic? onion? Don't know what. Anyway, I ate one, then went back and got two more and ate them on the spot. un-bah-leave-a-bull. I'll keep an eye out.

#72 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 09:56 AM:

One of the most memorable steaks I've ever had was at a little Korean place. I forget the name of the dish, but it was about a 1/2 lb. of good beef tenderloin, minced by hand, and served raw dressed with sesame oil, garnished with big chunks of raw garlic, pine nuts, Asian pear, and a raw egg. You ate it by wrapping a mouthful in a leaf of crispy lettuce.

This restaurant being in Kentucky, the waiter came by three times to make sure that I knew what I was ordering and that I wouldn't complain when I got it. (It was on the section of the menu generally reserved for homesick Koreans.)

A total gamble w/r/t food poisoning, but so delicious. (Sometimes I think eating raw meat and eggs is the closest I'll ever get to the thrill of fugu sashimi.)

#73 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 10:05 AM:

*sigh* I miss bialys. The last time I had one was when I went climbing in the Gunks. I guess New Paltz is close enough to NYC that people know what they are there.

Anyways, yes, same dough as bagels, but baked. The version I'm familiar with has diced onions and poppy seeds in the center.

#74 ::: Tom Scudder ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 10:08 AM:

1 - Only half-paying attention: I read the fifth word of the first sentence as "Guantanamo" and spent the rest of the piece trying to figure out where the ironic knife-twist was going to arrive.

2 - Marie Sharp's. Mmmmm... I should have laid in a big supply, and not just the tiny-souvenir-crate of mini-tobasco-bottle-sized bottles. Still have some of the ultra-ultra-hot sauce, which is a bit disappointing compared to the regular sauces.

#75 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 10:55 AM:

Greg - a quick usage note, bialy stands alone and doesn't need to be attached to bread, any more than you'd say bagel bread.

Of course, the Brits eat bread rolls, presumably so that no one confuses them with egg rolls.

HP - The Shawangunks are beautiful, aren't they. Whenever I visit friends in Poughkeepsie, I try to talk them into going for a hike at Lake Minnewaska State Park.

Re: hot sauce, when I was a kid we always had Trappey's Red Devil in the house, reserved for use on fish. These days, I use Sriracha as if it were ketchup. The big jar of Sambal also gets a fair amount of use. I actually don't own any traditional Tabasco-like hot sauce right now.

One thing I don't understand is the vinegar with the little peppers floating in it. I've splatted it on grits in Georgia, but hot is the last word I'd use to describe it.

#76 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:06 PM:

Union Bagel, at Union Station in LA, has bialys. I don't know if they're good bialys or not - they're really hole-free bagels - but they *are* tasty.

#77 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:22 PM:

Meat, meat, meat. Skippity skippity skip. Except: am I the only one who still thinks 'filet' is meat with no bones, and 'fillet' is something that goes around your head? I'll cry in the wilderness if I have to...but am I truly alone in this?

I hardly use hot sauce any more. I just don't eat a lot of things it can go on. Sometimes I put some Tabasco™ in my salad along with the blue-cheese dressing (sort of a hot wings without the wings effect).

As for cooking, I just use sesame hot oil for anything vaguely Asian, and habanero oil (thanks TNH!) for everything else. I've found that it's delicious mixed into butter and spread on (lowcarb) bread, for example. And I sometimes make a gouda-habanero oil melt for a quick snack.

I love spicy food...from my neck up. South of there it's another story, but sometimes paying the piper (npi) is worth it for the fun of dancing!

#78 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:24 PM:

Steaks -- one of the best I've had was at the Weber Grill in Chicago (I liked their pina coladas too).

Also in Chicago -- Stetsons in the Hyatt Regency. Wonderful filet mignon, and the Mile High Strawberry Shortcake was heavenly...

#79 ::: Echidna ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:36 PM:

Larry, the "vinegar with hot peppers floating in it", at least the variants I've seen, seems to be intended as much as a decoration as a condiment.

Sriracha, yes, a necessity. Especially on falafel.

#80 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 12:37 PM:
Sadly, Crystal has elected to permanently leave New Orleans in the aftermath of the storm.
Poppy! They didn't!

*mourning*

Man... I've told practically everyone I know this anecdote, but my One Big Crystal Hot Sauce memory goes like this. One year in high school, our PE class did what they call "life skills" with the upshot that for about two months they bussed the whole class, girls and guys, out to Mid-City Bowling Lanes. On the way there, we passed the big old Crystal Hot Sauce sign. Y'know, looks like it was painted in the 1890s on a big wooden board, shows someone stirring a humungous cauldron of steaming yummy. And every day as the sign came into view, several of the boys on the bus would start yelling "Hawt Sawce!" like it was a punchline, and they would keep yelling it for about five minutes. Boys, y'know. This was probably Junior year.

I came in by train for Mardi Gras this year. The sign was still there. I wonder for how long though?

*whimper*

It's always on my "stocking up" list when I come home to visit, ever since leaving for college. A bottle of Crystal, a jar each Cajun Land kitchen seasoning and crab boil, a jar each Zatarain's creole mustard and chow-chow. And a can of CDM Coffee, which I can pick up at any Asian market around Boulder if I want to, but that just feels wrong.

Glad to hear Commander's will be back again, though. That's super good news.

#81 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 01:01 PM:

Echidna - I'm thinking of the stuff in little shaker bottles, like Tabasco. Clearly it gets used because the bottles on the table are always less than full. I've mostly seen it in Georgia / Northern FL, Not so much in SC and it's pretty much invisible except in supermarkets in NC (at least in Western NC, which I've been to quite a few times).

#82 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 01:22 PM:

CHip and Poppy, thanks for that information. I did eventually turn up a recipe, after skimming over a whole lot of interesting stuff about the poet and, something new to me in relation to Tasso, badgers (a European version of wombats, dunno if they're in the US). Definitely a non-kosher dish, then.

But I doubt I'd be able to import it here without all sorts of special permits. It would probably send the sniffer-beagles into a complete frenzy, tho' it might completely overload their olfactory senses - possible a fining offence; some kind of assault.

Beefsteak, OTOH; now that I have a fully-working stove again, I'll be able to not just bake cakes & biscuits, and make roast dinners, but grill! So far, since I don't have refrigeration here yet, it's been limited to toasted cheese. Luckily for me, Sydney has had an early cold winter, meaning milk, butter(,) & cheese will keep a while even without setting up a Coolgardie safe arrangement, or the like.

#83 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 01:34 PM:

Epacris: I guarantee you there are badgers in the US. How they compare to the European ones, I don't know, but you wouldn't want to tangle with one. About twenty-five or thirty pound animals, dens with entrances about a foot across. The one I saw up close and personal was dead - I had to move it out of the way to mow that part of the bar-ditch - so I was safe enough.

#84 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 01:35 PM:

a quick usage note, bialy stands alone and doesn't need to be attached to bread

Maybe that's why no one knows what the heck I'm talking about, cause I'm always saying something like "you's guys got any bee-YAW-lee bread?". Then they give me that look that my dog gets when it can hear something high-pitched but can't tell where it's coming from.

I'll keep that in mind next time I go to the stores. Thanks.

#85 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 01:55 PM:

Ask them for bee-AH-leez. One bialy, two bialys, a lot of...bialystock. Heh.

#86 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 02:07 PM:

Based on Greg London's earlier comment about foreign restaurants, I'm wondering just how many "oldest inns in England" there are? Is there a Minister for Old Inns?

I'm wondering this, because the "Oldest Inn in England" that I visited was the Trip to Jerusalem, down at the base of the hill below Nottingham Castle. That one claims to have been there since 1189.

I've never been to Stonehenge, but, heck, raising and aligning giant rocks is thirsty work. And a bowl of stew sounds good too.

#87 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 02:53 PM:

Of course, the Brits eat bread rolls, presumably so that no one confuses them with egg rolls.

More likely so they're not confused with filled rolls, of which the Sausage Roll is the most infamous (and, in the case of Thomas Otway, deadly).

The Oldest Inn in England is the Dismembered Roman in West Wales, though the sign shows a dead cat and the word "Clwyrfyrbl." You can't find it. If you do, it'll be closed, and if you see someone go in, people will make oo-ee-oo noises, speak in hushed tones of the Fair-to-Middlin' Folk, and offer to buy you a pint at the nearby Ye Olde Hindoo Shuffle.

#88 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 02:55 PM:

Xopher

"Bialim" surely.

#89 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 03:31 PM:

Visiting Jerusalem @ 1995:

The guide noted that the figure-8 shaped bread that some Palestinian folks were lining up to buy were called [name very close to bialy].

They were much bigger than the NYC area bialys I'm used to.

* * *

The Squirrel Hill district of Pittsburgh has at least one top-notch bagel maker. It is on Murray Avenue. I don't recall if I ever bought bialys, but there's a good chance they'd be available.

#90 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 03:59 PM:

I buy my beef from a resturaunt supplier on 39th street in NYC. He's the one who sells *to* places that sell $100 steaks. I get mine for under $30/steak and cook them myself.

#91 ::: Kate P ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 04:16 PM:

On a sidenote here: Re Old Pubs:

I come from Nottingham, and they did a survey on the three oldest pubs in the city. The Bell won for the oldest building, the Royal Children for the oldest piece of wood found in the actual structure( or something like that) and the Trip To Jerusalem(Trip to locals)was supposed to be the oldest brewery site in Nottingham-and possibly in other places too.....
I think the Crusaders were supposed to have stopped there for a last drink before taking ship to the Holy Land.(they must have gone the long way around-just like in Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves.)
The Trip's atmospheric-it's partly carved out of Castle Rock itself-and has an impressive variety of old ghost stories. It's just a pity that the beer tastes like they haven't cleaned the barrel since 1129!

#92 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 04:43 PM:

The Trip won my personal award for Best Pub For This American Tourist on a Rainy Day. I had a Bass.

And the Maid Marian, up in Edwinstowe (just across the road from Sherwood Forest Park) won "Most Likely to Please Clueless Yanks" with its Budweiser and American country music. I had a short wait for the bus back to Nottingham.

#93 ::: Poppy Z. Brite ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 05:09 PM:

Nicole, I think they are planning to leave the landmark Crystal sign up, at least. It sustained some storm damage but you can still see the chef and his pot.

I forgot to weigh in on the price of a good steak, so of course I must do so now. The Kobe/Wagyu beef that will set you back $100 is well worth it IMO (unless you like your steak well-done, in which case there is no point in spending that kind of money because it's going to taste like burnt shoe leather no matter how good the quality of the meat). However, I reiterate that the best steak of my life was a $50 bone-in prime ribeye from Texas, dry-aged for 45 days. I believe long dry-aging can cause U.S. prime beef to approach or even surpass the quality of Kobe/Wagyu.

Re: those little peppers in vinegar, the vinegar is good on greens (collards and such), but I prefer to take the peppers themselves out of the bottle, cut them up, and put them on hot dogs with mustard. Used that way, they are fairly hot. Just don't ever accidentally leave the cap off the jar in a hot kitchen or 10,000,000 fruitflies will commit suicide in the vinegar.

#94 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 05:14 PM:

"Bialim" surely.

Hmm. It sounds more Russian than Hebrew to me. I'm not sure. I'll have to look it up.

#95 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 05:41 PM:

Avram's comment above is simply further proof that, as time goes by, "Park Slope" will be taken to mean the entire western end of Brooklyn south of downtown, plus, quite probably, parts of Staten Island and Edison, New Jersey.

#96 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 05:49 PM:

Bruce Adelsohn: You weren't kidding about the awfulness of the Flash site. I bailed before I could find the answer to my actual question, which is: do they serve actual Argentinean beef? If so, we're on our way.

HP: My favorite Korean dish is this thing where they take good raw beef that's been frozen solid, and slice it up into tiny slivers, not unlike shoestring potatoes. Then they drizzle fiery hot sauce on it and drop a raw egg or two into the mix. The resulting proteinaceous goo is served with slices of crisp green apple. Mindblowing.

#97 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 06:49 PM:

Gee, I'm such a wimp. No red meat, and my bread of choice is Challah. My husband's more adventurous, though, and copes well with the hot sauces.

#98 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 08:30 PM:

A local restaurant is owned by Argentinians and they do "Argentinian Night" once a month. You usually have to reserve three months ahead.

#99 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 09:31 PM:

When I was at Iowa State, the dorm meal plan only offered 20 meals a week. Sunday lunch was big; Sunday evenings we were on our own. Beer and a bialy at Dugan's Deli were frequently my Sunday supper. The drinking age was 18, and I actually didn't start college til I was 21 anyway.

Dunno how good bialys in Ames, Iowa were by New York standards, but they tasted good to me.

#100 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 09:55 PM:

Larry, why wouldn't they have a wine cellar in Tampa? Unless Bern's is right down by the bay, in which case the restaurant would be really close to sea level.

Also, as far as hot sauces... A friend of ours gave my husband a bottle of something called "Dave's Insanity Sauce." I put a quarter teaspoon in a gallon of chili, instead of my normal couple of tablespoons of Tabasco, and it made the chili too hot to eat. Which was a shame, because it also gave it a wonderful fruity flavor as well.

Rats. I have this craving for Bananas Foster...

#101 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 10:03 PM:

Mmmmm...Argentinean beef....
I went to an Argentinean restaurant in Alcala de Jinares, Spain, once. Wonderful, wonderful meat. And a lot of it.

#102 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 10:26 PM:

Nature's Gate no longer makes Phyto-Tein drink powder, a protein shake mix based on pea protein (which I find much more digestible than soy) and tasting largely of tomato.

I used to make a 24-ounce shake with that mixture, and season it with two or three DROPS of Dave's Insanity applied off the end of a toothpick. Wake-up juice!

Rice protein in V-8 is an okay substitute, I guess. And the Dave's Insanity sauce helps a lot.

#103 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 10:44 PM:

Or more likely that I misremembered you specifying "Sunset Park" in your post, Patrick.

But you're right, it probably will. My old apartment in Prospect Heights was advertised as being in "Park Slope area". Soon it'll all be Park Slope, Williamsburg, Dumbo, and maybe Red Hook.

#104 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2006, 11:06 PM:

pat - It was the first basement I've ever seen in Florida. In the areas of Florida I know, even the old houses don't have cellars because of high water tables and heavy rains that would make them flood.

Oh, and what does Bananas Foster have to do with Dave's Insanity Sauce? (Then again, a tiny addition of Scotch Bonnet might be nice in such a rich dessert.)

#105 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 02:01 AM:

Patrick: I think so, but must go by there to confirm. I'll do that tomorrow (as I'm passing it for errands anyway) and let you know.

#106 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 09:24 AM:

FYI, my local Met Food on Vanderbilt Ave. in Park Slope Area Prospect Heights had several 12 oz. bottles of Crystal in their hot sauce section. I bought one, which I'll probably never finish 'cause I'm wimpy that way, but I sampled some and it is quite nice, used sparingly. Let me know if you want me to hoard some for you, P&T, it was cheap enough.

#107 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 04:47 PM:

Poppy:

Nicole, I think they are planning to leave the landmark Crystal sign up, at least. It sustained some storm damage but you can still see the chef and his pot.
That's what it looked like to me from the train, yes. It certainly is a landmark.

I'm really, really tempted to try enticing the mass suicide of fruit flies a la your example. Better than having 'em dive-bombing my computer screen all night.

#

pat greene:

Also, as far as hot sauces... A friend of ours gave my husband a bottle of something called "Dave's Insanity Sauce." I put a quarter teaspoon in a gallon of chili, instead of my normal couple of tablespoons of Tabasco, and it made the chili too hot to eat. Which was a shame, because it also gave it a wonderful fruity flavor as well.
Ah yes. We discovered that whilst living in Oregon. There was someone named Dave in my husband's gaming group at the time (Mage: The Ascension on some nights, Rifts on others). It was inevitable that someone should visit the hot sauce gift shop in downtown Grants Pass and come home with a bottle of Dave's Insanity Sauce and try it out on the group.

The verdict: "Dave is pain."

"Do you mean the sauce or the person?"

"Yes."

#108 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 06:42 PM:

Larry... my comment was rather muddled. Bananas Foster has nothing to do with Dave's Insanity Sauce (at least as far as I know) and everything to do with New Orleans and my memories of it.

Bananas Foster and *proper* red beans and rice are comfort food. Red beans and rice from when I lived there as a child, Bananas Foster from when I visited as an adult.

#109 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 07:06 PM:

I'm really, really tempted to try enticing the mass suicide of fruit flies a la your example. Better than having 'em dive-bombing my computer screen all night.

There's been evenings when a person couldn't sit in this house with a glass of wine in peace, never mind the computer screen. What's worked for me is a variant on the fly-lab stray trap: mine is a banana skin in a mesh-lidded Mason jar (nominally a sprout jar) on the kitchen counter.

#110 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 11:07 PM:

A friend of mine has been known to serve chocolate cheesecake with a strawberry-habanero sauce. Delicious.

#111 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2006, 11:59 PM:

One friend of mine startled a lot of people with chili-chocolate chip cookies at some party, maybe a New Year's Eve or a club 'bring a xnack' night. I wasn't surprised and I didn't find it unpleasant (actually they were really yummy).

The only thing I faulted her on was not letting people know the ingredients. When I bring something not ordinary to a party (or actually if I bring ANYTHING to something public like the KaCFFFS Christmas Party), I provide a list of ingredients on a notecard, and make sure it is put in front of or attached to the treat plate.

#112 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2006, 07:55 AM:

I do like Mike Ford's idea of the oldest pub in "England" being in Wales. Probably the English put it there for safekeeping.

Regarding other favorite hot sauces--well, too many to list, but a special shout-out to Jamaican Style Batch #114 which, despite the gimmicky label, is a powerful and subtle condiment which sings hallelujah on eggs.

#113 ::: Euan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2006, 11:12 AM:

"Dave's Insanity Sauce"

Hot? Bah. No 'hot' sauce is truly hot. If you want hot, go to a Thai restaurant and ask for 'Som Tam* Bu Pla La**, Pet Pet.***'

But think it over carefully, because I won't take any responsbility for the effects. (Blindness, insanity, addiction to fermented fish, etc.)

*Som Tam is the most famous dish of Isaan (Northeastern Thailand). It's basically a very spicy shredded papaya salad. V. good. V. healthy.

**Pla la is fermented fish sauce. Some people really like it. Others are like me.

***'Pet' means spicy in Thai. 'Pet pet' means even more spicy than that.

#114 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2006, 03:24 PM:

Mmmmm.... papaya salad. It's one of the ways you can tell a really good Thai restaurant.

For the uninitiated, this is not made with ripe papaya, it's made with green papaya, shredded/grated into strips. Green papaya has a firm texture like a medium hard apple, and a complex taste with just a hint of sweetness. There's more sweetness from the fish sauce. It can range all the way from very mild to killer hot.

#115 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2006, 05:58 PM:

I think I see a contradiction in this:

There are acceptable steaks, and this might just be one of them, but if you want a great steak, you should be in the $100 per person range, as a starting point. And I recommend Bern's in Tampa and Peter Luger in Brooklyn. Daniel's in Seattle is a pretty good steak, and it's in nearly the same price range.

According to the reviews linked to from the Peter Luger site, Luger's steaks run about $30-40 per person. (Zagat lists them as a $66 meal; Fortune says that they're $28.50 per person for the steak.)

This is not the first time I have seen Peter Luger's described as the sine qua non of steaks. But I suspect the difference between an excellent $30 steak and a $100 superlative steak would be lost on me.

#116 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2006, 06:03 PM:

Kevin - The Zagat number is "typical" per person. Alas, when I go there it works out closer to $100. The $100 I tossed out was for the whole meal, not just for the steak, and at steakhouses everything is extra.

#117 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2006, 01:31 AM:

Kevin, I think you mean ne plus ultra rather than sine qua non.

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