Monday, June 28, 2010

Frankie Treats | Arzberg Form 1382 Krug Pitcher

Milky perfection

I don't own a home yet, but I could see myself designing my kitchen around this Azberg Form 1382 Krug pitcher. I found it on Cube Marketplace; alas, there are none left. The cool white and dark blue is a gorgeous combination of colors, and I love the piping of navy along the lip of the pitcher's mouth. I just think "bountiful" when I see this pitcher. Am I weird? I don't care. I love it.

Drink This | B-Side Cabernet Sauvignon

I could drink the whole bottle.

Looking for a delicious red to go with your grilled meats this July 4th weekend? You need to buy B Side Cabernet. It's a delicious, inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon made on the "flip side" of Napa Valley, away from the famous wineries on the west side of the valley, and it's a great buy for those in the know.

The winemakers, Don Sebastiani & Sons, state on their website: "Vines in these areas are grown in thin volcanic soils, which yield smaller, more concentrated fruit, producing Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignons with classic berry and cassis flavors."

And this Cab does have very rich, deep berry undertones. I tried a glass or two at a wine tasting at Strip, in Avon Lake, OH. I prefer dry red wines, and this one delivers, with hints of oak and smokiness brought on from aging over two years in French oak.

You can find it on for $21.95, or hopefully at a restaurant near you!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Strip | Strawberry Shortcake

Life has become a little complicated this month what with finding new jobs, moving, and being ill, so I've put my plan for a cross-country strawberry shortcake pilgrimage this summer on hold. Rest assured, these little setbacks haven't prevented me from gobbling up strawberry shortcake whenever I come across it.

My latest find is offered at Strip, an independent steakhouse in Avon Lake, OH. It's a unique version of my favorite dessert, featuring a large slice of angel food cake with a dollop of strawberry cream (strawberries whipped into cream until it's airy), a scoop of french vanilla ice cream, sliced strawberries, and whipped cream. It's not a light dessert, but it is so delicious that I thought of the biscuit version I had at Howley's in West Palm Beach only halfway through the bowl.

The verdict? I prefer an old fashioned biscuit base or even a chiffon cake base for my strawberry shortcake. The biscuit provides a more savory counterpoint to the strawberries' sweetness, but Strip's rendition is definitely worth eating again.

If you go on a weekend, call them or go to their website for reservations. The restaurant is housed in a restored barn in historic Olde Avon Village, a neat place to visit if you're in the area and would like a boutique shopping experience in a quaint, rustic setting.

Strip Steakhouse

36840 Detroit Road
Avon, OH 44011-1570
(440) 934-9900

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Amazon's Antidepressant | Ayahuasca

Gringos who go to the Amazon are usually there to perform some ethno-botanical experiments with ayahuasca, a sacred concoction brewed from the ayahuasca vine, chacruna leaves, and a variety of forest goodies.

I thought only hippies and New-Age "witches" took ayahuasca seriously outside of the jungle. I was very surprised, then, when my hosts decided I should travel to a shamanic village deep in the jungle and try the sacred ayahuasca. I declined politely, because all I'd heard of ayahuasca was that it was like peyote - which is to say that it made you so sick you started hallucinating. The offer lingered in my mind, though ... had I overstayed my welcome that badly, or did ayahuasca truly have something to offer me?

Fast forward five years and I've learned that (in addition to being a vehicle for rapid entrance into the spirit realms) practitioners of Western medicine have discovered ayahuasca can also be used as an anti-depressant - and they're taking it seriously enough to begin clinical research. Kira Salak reported in her March 2006 article for National Geographic:
"At the vanguard of this research is Charles Grob, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UCLA's School of Medicine. In 1993 Dr. Grob launched the Hoasca Project, the first in-depth study of the physical and psychological effects of ayahuasca on humans. His team went to Brazil, where the plant mixture can be taken legally, to study members of a native church, the União do Vegetal (UDV), who use ayahuasca as a sacrament, and compared them to a control group that had never ingested the substance. The studies found that all the ayahuasca-using UDV members had experienced remission without recurrence of their addictions, depression, or anxiety disorders. In addition, blood samples revealed a startling discovery: Ayahuasca seems to give users a greater sensitivity to serotonin—one of the mood-regulating chemicals produced by the body—by increasing the number of serotonin receptors on nerve cells.

Unlike most common antidepressants, which Grob says can create such high levels of serotonin that cells may actually compensate by losing many of their serotonin receptors, the Hoasca Project showed that ayahuasca strongly enhances the body's ability to absorb the serotonin that's naturally there.

"Ayahuasca is perhaps a far more sophisticated and effective way to treat depression than SSRIs [antidepressant drugs]," Grob concludes, adding that the use of SSRIs is "a rather crude way" of doing it. And ayahuasca, he insists, has great potential as a long-term solution."

Yes, that's a huge chunk of text, but it's important because it shows that ayahuasca could work as an antidepressant without all the nasty (often, enduring!) side effects from mainstream antidepressants.

The primary ingredient of ayahuasca is the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, which is mixed with the shrubs containing dimethyltryptamine. Dimethyltryptamine is a naturally occurring psychedelic drug said to be analogous to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Neat, right? The problem is, each brew seems to vary in potency depending on the brewer.

Oh, and heads up: "In addition to its hallucinogenic properties, caapi is used for its healing properties as a purgative, effectively cleansing the body of parasites and helping the digestive tract" (Thanks, Wikipedia!).

Ever die of dysentery playing Oregon Trail? It's like that, only in South America.

Dr. Grob explains some the long-term effects of ayahuasca below:

It's clear that taking ayahuasca is not something that should be done on a lark - still, I want to experience it after reading Kira Salak's personal website and her article, but that's more to do with the the fact that I've taken "mainstream" antidepressants and haven't been impressed by them. After more research is done, I'd be willing to give it a try ...

... I'll have to find a decent "guide" to walk me through the experience, however - I don't want to end up in bat country!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Unfortunate Advertising


Outback Steakhouse can be hit or miss with service and quality of food; the last filet mignon I bought there had a gruesome ribbon of gristle snaking down its middle, but at least the server was hospitable and on top of things.

In addition to questionable quality, Outback has achieved notoriety for featuring one of the worst, junkiest appetizers known to man, the Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch. I Googled "worst food" and clicked the "News" tab on June 15th and found Outback Steakhouse featured as one of the sponsored links above my search results. The proof rests at the top of this post.

Google is telling it like it is: "If a web page appears in Google’s search results, it’s because Google thought it was a relevant result for your search, not because someone paid Google to put it there."

This is even more interesting:
"Advertisers decide which queries their ads should match, and then Google decides on placement, i.e., which ads to show and in what order. Google determines placement by an auction; the auction not only considers what the advertiser will pay for the ad, but also its click-through rate, i.e., how often users click on the ad. If users often click on an ad, Google will likely place the ad higher up on the results page. If the click-through rate of an ad falls below a certain level, indicating an ad isn’t relevant to the query, Google removes the ad."

I don't know much about online advertising, but what I get from this is that somehow, "worst" appears to be a keyword for the ad copywriters at Outback Steakhouse. Kudos to them for embracing what they are, I guess!

*I searched "worst foods" today, and Outback Steakhouse wasn't featured as a sponsored link anymore.

Possible explanations:
  1. People were didn't click on the ad.
  2. Someone at Outback HQ hacked my blogger account and decided to sabotage this gritty exposé.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Women in the Kitchen | I quit, too.

Via Eat Me Daily.

Paula Forbes wrote an interesting article about women working in kitchens and the lack of famous female chefs on Eat Me Daily last month. It's been on my mind lately, and that means a re-post! I hope to catch any readers who may have fallen through the cracks, especially if they're chicks working in kitchens.

I have worked in kitchens in some capacity for over four years, so this article made me reflect on my time in the back of the house. The environments in most of my jobs have been centered around men. I'm talking dirty jokes, nasty music, and in some cases, offensive differences in pay. Later jobs as a cook paid well and were actually fun. I learned how to be "one of the guys", taking part in all the jokes, which do fuel camaraderie, and just learning how to talk smack in general. I seemed to "evolve" into dealing well with jokes that were textbook sexual harassment, and probably made the work environment a little more difficult to deal with for the women around me (the irony is not lost on me).

The thing is, the most important part of "making it" in a kitchen (for me, anyway) was my ability to hold my own when the tickets started pouring in, and my ability to perform the other parts of my job well. "Making it", in this instance, meant having the respect and collaboration of my co-workers, and the recognition from my supervisors in the form of fair pay, raises, and promotions to more coveted positions on the line.

I have had generally good experiences, then, especially in my corporate career. While I don't think I'm alone, there definitely is a higher ratio of men to women working in kitchens across the United States, despite more women enrolling in culinary school. My particular restaurant espoused equal opportunity for advancement based on performance, but also had fewer female kitchen managers and owners in general than men. This company just settled a lawsuit with the EEOC over discriminating against women for promotions.

Quite a few women do stick with cooking and either become "one of the guys" or carve out careers with their feminine personalities intact, but man, does it take toughness and tenacity. All those Food Network programs do a middling job showing that working in a kitchen is a physically-demanding job. I find that most women on the network aren't shown slinging tongs in a high-pressure environment surrounded by sweating, aggressive men. It's hard to describe how much like a machine a properly-running kitchen is: you need to work in sync with your co-workers to produce perfect plates. It's not brain surgery, but it takes quite a bit of timing, discipline, stamina, and focus, as well as talent to perform well consistently.

These requirements apply to both men and women, but add social stress from sexual harassment and discrimination to a female's mental checklist upon clocking in to work. No wonder there are countless articles featuring top female chefs discussing why they're such a rare breed. The fact is, the restaurant world is a sexist, cutthroat business that many aren't prepared for properly. Maybe women just go about getting what they want differently than men do, as Alex Raij of Txikito says in this Village Voice blog post. Maybe all of these female chefs are paving the way slowly but surely for the rest of the ladies, and their efforts will pay off in the next decade or two.

Anyway, this article made me think about how strange it is for women to not be represented proportionately in the restaurant world's awards ceremonies and "top chef"-type articles, since there are so many of them graduating from culinary school and actually working in restaurants. I wonder, how many women are willing to follow through with a culinary career? I stopped cooking for the same reasons Paula stopped: it was hard on my body, and the hours were stupid- long and late. I wasn't willing to sacrifice my life for that, and maybe the answer is that most women aren't willing to sacrifice their lives, either. This is a complex issue that I'm not prepared to handle right now, so read her article for a bit of history and for some interesting links. I hope that aspiring female chefs read the post, and take heart.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What to Grill Today | Pizza

Looks like the best pizza I've never had.

My sister and her fabulous could-be-a-chef boyfriend have a delicious tradition of making grilled pizza when the weather is right in Miami. The photo above is their latest creation: grilled breakfast pizzas, eaten poolside.

They'd get more "foodie points" if they made their own dough, but they buy it from Whole Foods, which is the next best thing. They roll the dough out to the desired thickness and throw it on a cured, pre-heated grill. The dough puffs up when heated, so they pop it, flatten it, and flip it over. That's when they sauce it or add other toppings.

The pizza on the left has sliced baby 'bella mushrooms, bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese, and home fries. The pizza on the right has their home-made chunky marinara, fresh spinach, home fries, egg, sausage, and cheese.

Everyone invited to these impromptu poolside pizza parties swears by the pizza. I expect to have a few made for me the next time I grace them with my presence, which means a full report for my readers!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The More You Know | Zombie Defense

Urban Bone Machete, Mark III

"Let Me Be Frankie" usually deals with the subjects of food, travel, or whatever the heck else I feel like it dealing with. So, head's up, dear readers! It's time for a Zombie Public Service Announcement!

The Zombie Apocalypse, for those of you who aren't well-read on events "impending" and "doom-ish" in nature, is one rogue virus, bacteria, nanobot or scientific "reanimating" boo boo away from happening.

Stockpiling guns and ammunition in preparation for Z-Day is a given, but once the ammo runs out, you've got the proud folks of Zombie Tools, in Missoula, Montana at your back! These metalworking men are crafting battle-worthy weaponry for your protection in the good ol' USA. My first impression was "Damn, those things are pretty nerdy!", but if I were in the market for a zombie killing blade, I'd prefer to use something made from 1560 spring steel, if only for one reason: it's purportedly the same steel used to make the Kukri.

The Kukri is the official close combat mêlée weapon" of the Ghurka - some of the fiercest soldiers in history ...

... maybe this post should have been about them?

Anyway, visit Zombie Tools' website to find the right Zombie killer for you.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Re:visiting Peru | Kanguro Saltado

Say wut?
Via Portage_tide_new

That's a weird title for a post, but it's a weird thing I'm about to share: the Peruvian government has recently approved the importation of kangaroo meat raised for human consumption from Australia.

The thought of Peruvians eating kangaroos doesn't actually faze me. Peruvians roast little guinea pigs very often and very well. One could say they specialize in "exotic" meats.

I do find it odd that Australians kill off their own national symbol. Shouldn't there be laws against that? We don't BBQ bald eagles here because, well, they're the majestic symbol of the United States of America, and because we would get in Big Trouble.

I guess there aren't laws like that down under:
"Despite being Australia's national symbol, millions of kangaroos are slaughtered in the wild each year to control their numbers and much of that meat is used for pet food.

The idea of farming them for human consumption is controversial, but many health-conscious Australians already eat kangaroo meat."

(Read the AFP article here.)

Australians, in what I hear is typical Aussie fashion, couldn't care less about what anyone thinks of them. But why?

I guess kangaroos seem to be Australia's version of annoying deer. They destroy gardens and prized crops and leap in front of cars instead of away from them. Deer don't participate in hilarious, one-sided boxing matches, though, or carry cute joeys in nifty pouches, or save farmers' lives. Clearly, the kangaroo pros outweigh the cons, and kangaroos prove to be way cooler than pesky deer.

I propose we institute a kangaroo/deer exchange: bring the kangaroos to the States and let Australia have our deer. We can incorporate kangaroos into American life humanely: a kangaroo in every classroom, kangaroo walking backpacks, kangaroo living baby carriages, attack kangaroos, kangaroo drinking buddies, and so on.

Who's with me?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oberlin | Farmers' Market

A year ago today (okay, give or take a couple of weeks), I was getting ready to move from West Palm Beach, FL to Oberlin, OH. Moving was quite a stressful "life event", and like every good American, I comforted myself with shopping while under duress.

I arrived in June, right in time to alleviate the he(ck) out of my stress at the Oberlin Farmers' Market. A motley group of farmer-hippies congregated under white tents in the middle of downtown Oberlin, a five minute walk from my apartment.

That was the first bonus; I'd never experienced a market within walking distance from my home either in Miami or West Palm, where one needs a car to do anything worthwhile.

The clean white tents and beautiful produce made me giddy, so I may have scared the gentle hippie farmers a bit with my enthusiasm. Our interactions consisted of me saying "I'll take this one and that one," and me snatching things from tables.

See those carrots and that parsley up there? Those were mine, as were those chives.

At $12 a pop, you bet I de-stressed.

The second bonus? The pies pictured here. Amazing. I don't have a shot of the strawberry-rhubarb pie, and I wish I had bought it. I did go for the goat cheeses, of course, as well as lavender room spray, lavender honey, and a couple of spinach quiches.

Summer has strolled around, and the Oberlin Farmers' Market is open again every Saturday through October, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. I'm working up the courage to buy some of the grass-fed lamb or beef I was too cowardly to buy last year, but really, I'm going back for the strawberry-rhubarb pie. I'll be forced to bake my own if there is none, which may not end well (watch out, future roommates!).

Oberlin Farmers' Market:
85 S. Main St.
Oberlin, Oh 44074
Saturdays 10am-1pm
May - October

Friday, June 4, 2010

Summer of Berries

Stand-in strawberry photo until I have my own!
Via Bigberto.

I haven't been following the health nut diet I proposed for myself back in April, and now that it's almost summertime, I'm getting panicky at the thought of bathing suits. I feel deeply that I'm too young to wear a one piece.

Luckily, summertime also means that strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries -all preferred fruits- will be in season. Follow my logic: I shouldn't have any trouble taking a fresh, healthy, and organic approach if I'm eating what I enjoy.

Also, making strawberry shortcake, blueberry pie, and raspberry jam is still better than not ingesting any fruit, so, there's berry picking to be done!

I've found several farms west of Cleveland to fuel my strawberry shortcake obsession health kick. I'll be doing some picking, some photographing, and cooking with what I find at these farms:

  • Red Wagon Farm
  • Chance Creek Blues Organic Blueberry Farm
  • Voytko Farms
  • Aufdenkampe Family Farm

  • Want to find a few farms close to you? Visit

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    The Amazon Rainforest | Paiche

    I first wrote about my trip to Iquitos a few weeks ago, and mentioned having a bit of an "Amazon Adventure Checklist" for the trip. One of my first demands, of course, was that that I get to the Amazon river itself as soon as possible!

    I foolishly considered tossing myself into the river as soon the guide boat glided free of the shore - moments before being told to watch out for piranhas and paiche.

    Piranhas I know all about (they're hilarious!), but paiche were new to me.

    Paiche are the largest freshwater fish in the Amazon river, being large enough to give an adult human a pretty good fight if they were to piss one off. They're considered great sport fishing by the natives and breathe through a creepy lung-like-but-not-a-lung organ instead of gills.

    My favorite part of the paiche crash-course, however, was learning that these lung-fish are considered "living fossils".

    The next day, I was treated to a variety of local dishes, and was pretty enthusiastic to learn that the first course would be paiche! Our cook skillfully cleaned a local fisherman's catch, then fried thick fillets of paiche in palm oil and sprinkled them with salt. The paiche was served with long strands of pale green vegetables that looked a bit like fettucini, as well as fried plantains and fresh tomatoes.

    While it might seem obvious, fresh Amazon paiche makes a great meal! The fish is moist and sweet, with a texture like swordfish. The light green vegetables are called chonta, and are harvested from the hearts of palm trees and have a fresh, almost cucumber-like flavor. The cook actually called the chonta "jungle pasta".

    There was small-talk around the meal, of course, and I was educated more thoroughly about paiche by our guide. He mentioned the living fossil bit and mentioned that paiche were incredibly easy to catch because they had to surface every few minutes to breathe, and that their tendency to come up for air made the paiche so easy to catch that they had been put on a protected species list ...

    ... wait, WHAT!?

    Luckily, there weren't any Amazon Rangers lurking about to arrest me, but from then on out I learned to ask lots of questions before being fed the sort of "delicacies" that might get me fined or jailed on these sorts of trips.

    Mmm ... forbidden paiche

    SO, did I stop eating the paiche?

    Heck no! Paiche is delicious on its own, and I bet it would make for divine fish 'n' chips, ceviche, and McFish Filets, as well! Unfortunately for the rest of the paiche, the fish is too damn delicious and too easy to catch to stick around in the wild much longer - so maybe you should start some sort of letter-writing campaign to open up some hatcheries or something.

    So, whatever. Do what you must to make it happen, but I strongly suggest adding "fresh grilled paiche" to your culinary bucket list ...

    ... just watch out for piranhas.

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    Re:visiting Peru | Cerdo Relleno con Manzana

    I made one heck of a dinner tonight, thanks to that old cookbook my mom sent up. "Cerdo Relleno con Pure de Manzana" is a simple dish, perfect for those nights that you don't want getting too complicated.

    If you do it right, the pork is tender, the apple sauce is savory, and it's so tasty, you won't even want a side dish (that's all filler, anyway).

    To reproduce this dish you'll need-

    • 2 lb pork tenderloin
    • sea salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • powdered cumin
    • 1 tbsp of raisins and 1 tbsp of cranberries
    • 4 tbsp olive oil
    • 4 tbsp butter
    • 2 medium-sized onions (small dice)
    • 2 large apples (peeled, cored, sliced)
    • 1.5 cups chicken stock (as required)

      1. trim excess fat and silver membrane off pork tenderloin; wash and pat dry
      2. butterfly the pork and season both sides liberally with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and powdered cumin
      3. place either the prunes or the raisins and cranberries in pork
      4. dice the onion; peel, core and slice the apples thinly, set aside
      5. sear pork until golden in olive oil over medium heat, set aside
      6. discard the olive oil, add butter to the same pan and saute onions and apples for 5 minutes over medium heat
      7. return pork to the pan and add 1/2 cup of chicken broth
      8. cover pan, adding chicken broth as needed so that the mixture doesn't become dry
      9. cook for 25 minutes (or to your preferred temperature), flipping the pork over halfway through
      10. slice pork in 1/2" thick slices, serve with rustic apple sauce on side

    I took a few liberties with the recipe, substituting cranberries and raisins for the recommended prunes. I also plumped up the raisins and the cranberries by heating them in chicken stock, before placing them in the pork. I added cumin to the list of seasonings, as well - and you can see from the picture that the apple "sauce" isn't, since I prefer apples in their rustic form. I also added some fresh goat cheese (with lemon pepper) as a counterpoint to the sauce's sweetness.

    The end result was better than I could have asked for, and definitely a recommended "bucket list" recipe!