18 July 2012

new bacon: an update

both curing pork bellies have been flipped for the first time.
this meat doesn't seem to be giving up its liquid as much or as quickly
as the first batch of bacon we made.
i am not sure why this is,
but it could be colder in the new refrigerator
or the belly could simply be leaner than before...
we did use a different butcher this time, after all.
we are also using kosher salt, as the recipe requires,
where as last time, we only had fine grain sea salt on hand.
either way, we are making progress
and both pork bellies smell fantastic!

our bacon after the first flip:
chocolate serrano on the left & roasted garlic herb on the right
image by sarah c baron

16 July 2012

homemade bacon part deux

the kitchen is unpacked, 
the wine is chilling in the fridge, 
the garden is growing nicely...
so it must be time to make bacon again!!!

saturday morning we made a stop at the the atherton mill market.
for old school charlottean's, that is the refurbished warehouse complex 
near the train tracks at south boulevard and tremont.
it is a lovely, local fresh market with many vendors
selling all sorts of delicious fruits, meats, cheeses, and handicrafts.

we stopped by the windy hill farm table 
and they just so happened to have some fresh pork belly on hand!
windy hill is a local family farm that you just can't help but want to support...
the people are nice and the food is fresh.
we picked up three well-trimmed, one pound pieces of pig.

just down the sidewalk, still in the mill,
is the savory spice shop where we were able to purchase
curing salt, kosher salt, and some more spiciness for our bacon experiments.
this is another shop, i can certainly recommend.
again, nice people, over 400 spices, 
and if you have no idea what you are doing 
or what you are looking for, 
they let you taste everything!

this time, we thought we'd try a few different types of bacon.
fun bacon, if you will.
chocolate chili bacon &
roasted garlic and herb bacon are on the menu this week!
we kind of just made this stuff up, so it could be awesome of it could be horrible...
we'll find out next weekend!

here are some image of the process...
updates to follow!!

mmm... raw, uncured pork belly
from windy hill farm in new london, nc
image by sarah c baron

homemade curing mixture, dutch cocoa powder,
and dried, smoked serrano peppers
image by sarah c baron

belly, wrapped in curing mix,
blanketed in cocoa & chili
image by sarah c baron

every herb we could find...
parsley, basil, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, lavender, cilantro, mint, etc.
image by sarah c baron

wishing we had a full sized food processor
image by sarah c baron

belly rolled in curing mix, coated in
a glorious paste of herbs & roasted garlic
image by sarah c baron

28 June 2012

surprisingly magical dining

earlier this month, bob & i were down in south florida for a family vacation.
the drive from sfl to clt is not a short one and a stop over is a requirement for such a trip.
somehow, i convinced him that a few days in the happiest place on earth might be fun.

it was fun...
and tasty!

when i was a kid, my family spent some time living in florida.
one of the perks of being a child in that state is that we used to visit disney world
on a pretty regular basis... the school even took us there for field trips!

i don't remember the food as anything stellar.
i can recall a lot of tomorrowland cafeteria-like lunches
consisting of weird pizza, standard hotdogs, and french fries that had clearly been frozen.
it was a different time then though and food was definitely different as well.
plus, i am sure that when feeding a family of five at disney prices,
gourmet meals were not on the top of my parents' list of priorities!

this month's adult trip to the disney theme parks was really quite
a different experience for me and mostly because of the food!

first, did you know that the magic kingdom is a dry principality?!
this isn't a huge deal...
we can go a day without a cocktail,
but some mornings really just beg for a bloody mary
and you have to leave the mk city limits to get one.
we took a lovely monorail ride out of the park to the polynesian resort for lunch.
after a quick glance at the menu, we chose the kona cafe.
i got a bloody mary to go with my bbq pork tacos (a great combo)... 
this was when i realized that we had the potential for a delicious weekend ahead of us!
they were so surprisingly good and bob's noodle bowl was just as yummy!

sweet pork tacos served with
smokey bacon slaw & hawaiian style mac salad
image by sarah c baron

noodle bowl with chicken & fresh veg
image by sarah c baron

later that night, after a nap and a shower,
we went to the restaurant in the dolphin hotel where we were staying.
there are a few celebrity chef places at disney and this one belongs to todd english...
blue zoo is very blue and seemingly underwater themed.
the menu had lots of seafood options.

i had come down with a sore throat, so food wasn't exactly what i was craving.
i went with an appetizer that would go down easily... and man did it!
i ordered the tuna tartar and it was spectacular!
the gorgeous fish was served with
a cool lime crema, freeze dried shriracha sauce and gelatinized miso pearls.
i savored each bite as long as i could and even managed to share a few with bob.
he ordered the filet which was served over creamy polenta
with a side of short ribs... i love meat with a side of meat!
i don't like short ribs, but these were phenomenal!
i probably ate more than my fair share (thanks, bobby).

dessert was a splurge, but who can pass up lemon meringue filled
with lemon custard and lemon ice cream and a glass of sparking pinot noir on the side?
not us!

melt in your mouth tuna tartar...
my favorite raw fish
image by sarah c baron

yup... meat with a side of meat!
filet served with short ribs over polenta
image by sarah c baron

lemony delight
image by sarah c baron

the next day we went to epcot center, which we had been looking forward to.
epcot is not a dry theme park...
this might explain why the world showcase doesn't open until eleven am 
and the whole park closes at nine pm! lushes!

after a morning riding through future world, we decided to head south for lunch.
we picked up a cider and a guinness in england outside the rose & crown pub for our walk.
we got distracted in the beautiful shops of france 
and morocco is lovely this time of year.
by the time we got japan, we were starving! it is a long trip, after all!

lunch at the hibachi style teppan edo is always fun because you get to freak out strangers!
i have a shellfish allergy, so they cooked my meal in the back kitchen,
(every disney restaurant was diligent about food allergy safety!)
but bob's steak and noodles were prepared with a show, right in front of us.
again, i was pleasantly surprised by the tasty, far from ordinary meal.

fun with food & strangers
image by sarah c baron

hibachi style chicken, noodles & veg
image by sarah c baron
after lunch, we slightly satisfied our real wanderlust
by sampling snacks and beverages from almost every country...
although i don't recall much about china!

prosecco in italy,
churros in mexico,
bier in germany,
tabouli in morocco &
molson in canada!

we settled on european for dinner and managed to get a table, sans reservation,
at bistro de paris in france.
although dinner was definitely good, i don't really remember what we ate.
between the view of the lake, fireworks and the bottle of champagne,
there was a whole lot going on!

overall, we had a fantastic time and,
much to my surprise, really enjoyed eating in the disney resorts!
it was, well...

fabulous fireworks at the magic kingdom
image by sarah c baron

26 June 2012

if you like chicken...

well, gang...

i am back!!
and i have plenty of new food photographs
and yummy recommendations for your eating pleasure.

we are taking a step back in time just a few weeks...
before we relocated to charlotte,
we spent a few weeks in a "lovely" & tiny extended stay hotel.
on the weekends, we sent the pup to doggy daycare
for some much needed exercise
and we would go on little day trips to escape the cramped living quarters.

charlottesville is just a short drive from richmond, va.
it is a quick trip out I64 through some of the prettiest scenery...
farms, hills, wineries!!

i can highly recommend a stop at the beautiful keswick vineyards.
they have great wines, a wine club,
fantastic outdoor seating with views of the vineyards, and...
their tasting room opens at nine in the morning!
a glass of their wine on the patio is a wonderful way to begin the day!

keswick vineyards front yard view
image by sarah c baron

because we are members of the connoisseur's club,
we always stop in to the jefferson vineyards when we are in the area.
the tasting room is set on the top of a hill with a yard
filled with adirondack chairs to sit in, sip wine and look out over
thomas jefferson's old stomping grounds...
that man sure knew how to pick a spot!
the wine is tasty and they serve their pours in riedel glasses...
that you get to keep!

an outdoor area overlooking monticello
image by sarah c baron

bob enjoying the morning, wine and view
image by sarah c baron

pinot gris for breakfast
image by sarah c baron

despite all of the delicious wine,
my favorite part of any trip to the monticello trail
is eating lunch at the michie tavern.
it is a touristy little historic village type place.
they serve lunch buffet style with servers in period costumes
that come to your table to refill your plates as you wish.
the menu is limited, but what they do, they do well...
and they do fried chicken!!!
the fried chicken at miche tavern is the stuff of dreams.
it is crispy, juicy and unbelievably tasty!
you will wait in line in the heat or the cold outside
and tall folks will need to duck under low doorways,
but the chicken makes it all worth it!

seriously... go eat this chicken!
image by sarah c baron

25 May 2012

i am not on a diet

don't worry,
i have not gone on a diet
or anything crazy like that!
my love of pork and fat is still going strong!

i haven't posted in a while
because i am in the middle of a complicated move.
living in a hotel means not a lot of cooking
and a lot of affordable, mediocre eating out.

we will be traveling and cooking in june though,
so stayed tuned for more delicious details.

if any of the followers would like to share
their own photographic culinary stories,
please email me and i will happily feature your work!


01 March 2012

o bacon! my bacon!

... our fun-filled trip is done!

bob & sarah's first fresh bacon experiment is complete
and we have deemed it a success!

sunday, despite a drop in temperature, we brought our cured and rinsed pork belly
out back to our favorite weber grill for an infusion of smokey goodness.
bob is the grill master at our house and smokes using the kettle grill regularly.
to keep the temperature low and indirect, he uses only a few coals and concentrates them
on the far side of the grill in a little half moon container that came with it.
the meat goes on a piece of foil on the opposite side of the grill.
added to the coals are a few hands full of wood to create the smoke.
this time, bob went with a combination of hickory and cherry.
he smoked it for about three hours and kept the temperature between 150 and 200 degrees.
smoking this way requires a bit of attention to ensure that the temperature doesn't get too high.
bob checks the grill every fifteen minutes or so to make sure it keeps smoking.

the bacon came out so good!
it is smoky and herby and takes like what bacon should taste like.
check it out...

getting the grill smoker to a good temperature...
image by sarah c baron

we pick up our wood chips and chunks at the local lowes.
this time we are using a combination of hickory & cherry.
image by sarah c baron

heat... check.
smoke... check.
cured pork belly... check!
image by sarah c baron

bob stokes the smoke & checks the bacon
image by sarah c baron

it looks like real bacon...
(this is an end slice, so it is a little more smoky & salty than the rest)
image by sarah c baron

it cooks like real bacon...
image by sarah c baron

it tastes like real bacon!
this is a little endive, irish blue cheese & bacon salad...
we had fish this night, so i had to come up with some way to incorporate our bacon :)
image by sarah c baron

22 February 2012

fresh bacon update: day 5

ooh, now it is getting good!!
the meat is firmer and the rind has begun to stiffen & change texture.
it is feeling more bacony!
the scent that drifted up when i opened the container was very garlicky.
in order to fortify the herbaceous undertone we are going for,
i added a few more bay leaves. bay is subtle and just smells so delicious!

we will flip this baby one more time on friday
and, if we are lucky, sunday will be the day we smoke it!

bob & sarah's bacon, day 5
this is the fat side
image by sarah c baron

bob & sarah's bacon, day 5
this is the meat side
image by sarah c baron

bob & sarah's bacon, day 5
fortified with a little more bay
image by sarah c baron

20 February 2012

fresh bacon update: day 3

today we got to flip our bacon-in-progress for the first time!

it is only the third day of curing and already we can see some changes!
the salt cure is starting to draw the moisture from the meat.
the texture is noticeably firmer than it was saturday afternoon,
even the colors are intensifying,
and this lovely piece of pork belly is now surrounded by a slurry of liquid, salt and spices.

its starting to get exciting, kids!

bob & sarah make bacon : day 3
the fat side is on the left and the meat side is on the right
images by sarah c baron

19 February 2012

bob & sarah make bacon

nope, we aren't cooking bacon,
we are making bacon!!

saturday afternoon, we visited our favorite local butcher here in rva,
the belmont butchery, and asked tanya and the guys for two pounds of
delicious uncured, un-smoked, antibiotic-free pork belly!!
they were also kind enough to toss in some pink salt for us
since, as usual, bob & sarah cook on the fly and are often unprepared!

pink salt is a combination of table salt and sodium nitrite
which is what makes bacon taste like bacon and not like ham.

our resource for this information is mark ruhlman's book
charcuterie: the craft of salting, smoking, and curing.
it is both informative and lovely,
and you all know how i enjoy a really pretty book!

so... we took this beautiful piece of pork belly home where we rubbed it with a mixture of
salt, pink curing salt, sugar, peppercorn, crushed garlic, bay leaf & some other random dried herbs.
we popped it into an airtight container, also known as our brownie pan with a lid,
and into the refrigerator, where it will take a seven day nap.
every two days, the pork belly gets flipped over to keep redistributing the curing mixture.

so stay tuned, blog friends, for the results of this amazing experiment in bacon awesomeness!
it is bound to be incredible and possibly, eventually, disastrous for the health of bob & sarah!

bob & sarah make bacon: day 1
image by sarah c baron

18 January 2012

another place for the list... the blue goat

mlk day was a great monday, because bob was actually not working on weekday!
and he had a hankering for a fancy lunch...
i love a fancy lunch!
so we hit up urbanspoon in an attempt to find something nice & new to us.

bob found the blue goat, located in the lovely libbie-grove area in richmond.
bob gets big props for this find because lunch was fabulous!
the restaurant is clean, trendy, well-decorated and comfortable...
like a farmhouse,
if the farm was in greenwich village!
it is clear that every detail was considered
so make sure to check out the bathrooms when you visit!

the blue goat has a very modern take on pub food
with its farm-to-table, nose-to-tail approach of creating a menu.
and, yes, they actually offer meals made from goat!

bob ordered the sausage sandwich.
we aren't talking johnsonville brats here people!
the blue goat serves a house-made smoked venison, pork & duck prosciutto sausage
with sauteed peppers and stout mustard!
what? yes! it was heavenly!

house-made, smoked venison, pork & duck prosciutto sausage
from the blue goat
image by bob stanier

i ordered the pizza of the day which was a deliciously simple blend
of fennel & basil olive oil, house made ricotta and fresh herbs.
i would definitely try any pizza of the day that they might offer.

pizza of the day: house-made ricotta and fresh herbs
from the blue goat
image by sarah c baron

with the great food, service and atmosphere,
we are stoked about returning to sample the family style dinner and brunch menus!
if you are up for a great beer & interesting food made from local ingredients in a comfortable setting,
then check out the blue goat.
maybe we will see you there because i am considering moving in!

13 January 2012

top five favorite places to eat in richmond!

one of the things we liked most about moving to richmond,
was that there are some pretty good options for eating.
we do like to dine out and have discovered some amazing restaurants,
most of which are within walking distance from our house!

here is a list of the top five places where i like to eat in town:

5. ginger thai
it is located on cary street in the carytown area of richmond.
the place is really small and a little pricey for the atmosphere,
but the food is tasty and spicy, if that is how you want it!

4. secco wine bar
is also in carytown.
it is yet another quaint little restaurant where you sit close to your neighbors.
the place is modern and clean with a unique small plate menu,
a great ever-changing beer selection and, of course, a large wine list.
we went for richmond restaurant week. it was great and i had beef cheeks for the first time! yum!
on another occasion, we stopped by in the afternoon with a hankering for cheese.
there was no cheese plate on the lunch menu, but they made one for us anyway!

3. garnett's cafe
is located in the quiet, residential fan neighborhood.
they have amazing sandwiches and soups.
everything seems homemade, right down to the pickles!
it too is tiny with a small counter bar and only a handful of tables.
there are always colorful neighborhood folks in attendance!

2. 8 1/2
can be found on pretty strawberry street in the fan.
this place is take out only,
but the pizza, oh the pizza is so delicious!
it reminds me of lombardi's in new york city;
the sauce is flavorful and the ingredients are quality... mmm, pepperoni!
they don't have a website, but you can find them on yelp & urbanspoon.

1. mekong
this is our #1 go to restaurant in town. the only one on the list we have to drive to.
its not much to look at,
located in a shopping center on broad street amongst mattress stores and latino markets.
it can get extremely crowded, especially on a friday or saturday night, but any wait is worth it!
the pho is amazing, curries are delicious and, my favorite, make-your-own spring roll is fun and yum.
the craziest part, however, is the beer list.
mekong has the largest selection of belgian beers in richmond
and those tart and rich brews counter the spice and flavor of vietnamese food so well!

there are a number of other places that we like a lot, but don't go to quite as much;
like la grotta in shockoe slip, strawberry street cafe down the road from 8 1/2,
the cellar door tucked in the basement of an apartment building on monument avenue,
can can on cary and balliceaux on lombardy in the fan.

if you live in richmond or come to visit, check some of these places out!

our custom cheese plate from secco wine bar
image by sarah c baron

the cute garnett's cafe. no food photos because i eat too fast!
image by sarah c baron
pizza from 8 1/2
image by sarah c baron

bob modeling a delicious winter brew at mekong
image by sarah c baron

mekong pho with chicken & accoutrements
image by sarah c baron

04 January 2012

our not-so-secret recipe: homemade bacon vodka & bloody mary mix

i just love a spicy, smokey bloody mary on a sunday morning!

what began as an attempt to court through food
has evolved into the search for bloody mary perfection.
for the passed few years, we have been concocting and tasting and reworking
both the vodka and the mix for this holy grail of breakfast cocktails.
it has been a difficult task, but, as they say, someone has to do it!
here are our secret recipes that we willing share with anyone who cares...

sarah's bacon vodka (not for the vegetarian!):
fully cook one pound of bacon
submerge bacon in one bottle of quality vodka (use a large jar with an airtight lid and save the bottle)
place in a cool dry place for 3 to 5 weeks
remove and discard bacon
freeze vodka overnight
remove large chunks of fat and leftover bacon by pouring through cheesecloth
freeze vodka overnight
slowly pour through coffee filters 
repeat two or three times until you are confident that the majority or the fat has been removed
(the resulting liquor might be a little yellow or it might be a lot yellow, it depends on the bacon)
use a funnel and pour back in to bottle making sure to label it!

bob's spicy bloody mary mix (not for the timid!):
1 bottle of quality tomato juice
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup pickle juice
1/4 teaspoon moore's hickory
2 tablespoons sriracha
1 teaspoon tabasco
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
3 teaspoons horseradish
1 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon dried mustard
1/2 teaspoon old bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper (or a rich chili powder)
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro (or a small handful of fresh chopped)

shake well, chill & season to taste after a day or so.
mix with bacon vodka and serve garnished with pickle, bacon slice, celery & lime!

bob & sarah's smokey bacon bloody mary
garnished with vodka cured jalapenos
image by sarah c baron

03 January 2012

holiday eating

i love the holidays because it means food, food & more food!
this season i spent a bit of time traveling, which always means tasty meal options...
pittsburgh, washington dc, richmond & southport, nc
offered us some delicious items to put in our mouths!

here is a visual recap with web links!

The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company
is a must for meats & cheeses. They do mail order!
Primanti Brothers,
because fries taste great on sandwiches!
Yacht Basin Eatery
has amazing Italian food in an unexpected location. Check it out if you are in Southport, NC.

tollhouse cookies from scratch made by yours truly. bob helped!
image by sarah c baron

primanti brothers salami & cheese in pittsburgh, pa.
if the lines are too long, consider going for breakfast. everyone loves a french fry sandwich for breakfast!
image by sarah c baron

experimenting with the fryer:
fried skins stuffed with roasted garlic mashed potatoes & all of the trimmings
image by sarah c baron

a lovely cappuccino and croissant from le pain quotidien
in old town alexandria, va
image by sarah c baron

the final filtering of my homemade bacon vodka
it sounds and looks pretty gross, but it tastes oh, so good!
image by sarah c baron

new year's eve party snacks!
fried bacon wrapped dates with pistachios & bleu cheese courtesy of doug hetrick
image by sarah c baron

bob stanier created a scrumptious meat & cheese platter from penn mac in pittsburgh
bresaola, calabrese, prosciutto, maytag bleu, black diamond cheddar, gruyere & a sheep's brie
image by sarah c baron

an exquisite & authentic new jersey italian meal at the yacht basin eatery in southport, nc
the napolitano pizza with prosciutto & balsamic reduction was to-die-for!
image by sarah c baron

pierogies from penn mac with turkey kielbasa
tossed together in the kitchen after a late day at the office
image by sarah c baron 

a slow cooked white bean & chard soup
taking advantage of those frozen parmesan rinds & the le creuset cookware
image by sarah c baron