More About that Crab in Kyoto

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I was all set to let fly a jeremiad about picky eaters. I even had a series of pictures of egg white omelettes from last week's brunch to illustrate my point. Why such sanctimony in the middle of March Madness sensible people may ask. I can't say- I was just in a snit. Then all sorts of pleasant things began to happen. As I was waking up last week through the grogginess I heard some guy on NPR talking about crab brains. I think he owned a seafood restaurant near San Francisco. The piece wasn't archived yet so I googled "crab brains food". A startling number of entries came up including one called Kyoto Foodie, which explained my whole crab dinner in Japan last November.

Then I got to go back down east. First stop was my parents home in New Bern. You may recall that I often go on about Tryon Palace Seafood which is just a block away. I always stop there for take away fried shrimp and oysters. Now they have opened the Sting Ray Cafe next door so you can sit down to great lunches of fresh seafood as well. This place is too good to be true for someone like me who grew up on beach restaurants that serve big platefuls of fried food

Then off we went to Emerald Isle where I served once more as a judge for the Iron Chef competition which is the center piece of the fundraiser for the culinary program at Carteret County Community College. The event was well attended and there was lots of good food courtesy of local restaurants. The kids from the college were pitted against a crew from a local restaurant and some of the staff of the host country club. The culinary students won with really wonderfully imaginative things. The first thing that stopped me in my tracks was a pesto made with raw collards. A little basil had been added for color. The second showed humor as well as cleverness. After announcing that they were trying to keep to a local theme, they presented us with a stir fry beef tenderloin that had been sauced with a Pepsi reduction. Yes Pepsi (It was invented in New Bern, you know), reduced with vinegar and a lot of black pepper producing a sort of Asian hot and sweet glaze. I was delighted. I intend to steal both of these ideas.

Meanwhile I got nominated for a James Beard award and the Heels won the NCAA Championship. What have I got to whine about? I'll talk about the award nomination closer to the event. Tomorrow I do a fund raiser with The Kitchen Sisters and Susan Stamberg for WUNC. The preparation for that is an entry in itself. I've been so blissed out over basketball that I didn't even get around to booking flights and hotels for the Beard Gala until this afternoon. (It's April 7th as I finish this entry). The stack of unread New Yorkers on the table says it all. I'm having a really busy spring.

posted by Bill Smith at 9:09 PM 2 comments

The Farmers' Market is suddenly in high gear

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On Monday, I took this picture of the daffodils on my kitchen table before a snowy window. By Saturday, my whole neighborhood was decked out in shorts and flip flops. The Farmers' Market has returned to summer hours and as if on cue, it seems bustling and full again. The town is in that pleasant state of suspended animation that comes each year with the arrivals of spring break and the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. I'm usually in the kitchen for the games,and of course there is no TV, so over the years I developed what I consider to be a remarkable ability to follow games on the radio. I always listen to Woody Durham and am able to keep track of time, fouls and points. This is true even of teams with which I am unfamiliar.

We're into our fourth week of corned hams. As is often the case, we'll sell completely out two Saturdays in a row, then use hardly any at all the next week. That's OK. This Sunday night, the kitchen had dynamite ham tacos for dinner. The hams seem particularly good this year. You have to careful around them because the fat is so good. Even I can't eat whole platefuls of roasted fat without consequence, so it's best to keep myself from even starting. One taste and I'm doomed.

I'm making coconut cream pies again, with that lard and vodka crust. This time I reduced the amount of sugar in the filling a little and I think that this is an improvement. Donna Florio's strawberry buttermilk sherbet is back for a bit. This stuff is so good and it's quick. It requires no cooking, so it's less complicated. I'm starting to think cakes again, too. We're still fairly busy despite the economic news, so one feels more confident about experimenting and expanding the menu a little. Next week I return to the Coral Bay Club on Emerald Isle to be a judge for the Crystal Coast Challenge. This is a combination fund raiser and competition that benefits the culinary program at Carteret County Community College. I really enjoyed this last year. This year I don't even have to cook, just eat.

posted by Bill Smith at 1:48 PM 1 comments

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