Saturday, February 05, 2011


I was recently challenged by a chef that even I could make 'mayo' after seeing her whip up a batch and then enjoying some real mayonnaise. So I pulled out a new cookbook I found on eBay (a First Edition mind you) and dove in.

I will leave alone the debate between which is better, Hellmann's or Miracle Whip, even if Miracle Whip is trailer trash. There is probably a Facebook page for that debate. But this is about making something in my own kitchen with my own hands.

With a blender it's a snap to make mayonnaise and the permutations are endless what with herbs and other secret ingredients as mayonnaise is considered one of the mother sauces, a mother with many children. The father is Hollandaise, and his sons, which requires heat and butter instead of oil. Hollandaise is glorious but keeps only a few days and demands some effort and attention to make, while Mayonnaise can be blended together quickly in minutes and can last a few weeks. Like life, there are trade offs.

The first batch was a bit salty and very thick so I made another batch without salt and a bit less oil and married them together. The result was a creamy, full flavored sauce in which you can actually taste the ingredients unlike the national brands. Be warned, if you are used to the national brands, the flavors might scare you a bit as you reconcile what you think mayo should taste like as the flavors of home-made mayo are over-the-top.

Normally I would not slather mayo all over a flash-grilled skirt steak but tonight I will slather away. (This I can do in my sleep. Not the slathering. The grilling. Grilled on high heat in a cast iron skillet in this morning's leftover bacon grease with garlic and olive oil and some lemon juice leftover from the mayo experiment because I miss the sunshine of California.)

I whipped this together so quickly that I even had time to experiment with a new Martini. 'Throw and go' some Lillet in a chilled glass, pour in frozen Bombay Sapphire Gin and garnish with a twist of lemon. I think I will call it 'Ze Freench Tarte'. Talk about fast food. I think I have time to make another.

Thank you chef for challenging me and thanks Julia for spending 7 or 8 years writing your masterpiece and testing every recipe with American products and equipment in your tiny French kitchens so that it was right. That's dedication, even after being told that your book was "unpublishable". And you were 50 years before your time in insisting on fresh seasonal ingredients and the notion that time spent in the kitchen and in the markets sourcing and preparing meals for your family and friends is not wasted time. Quite the contrary. I look forward to passing this on to the next generation.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Passionfish -- Pacific Grove, CA

I like to stop in every time I'm near Monterey. Great food, big wine list that is about $5 over retail, and a firm belief in sustainable food practices.

Passionfish offers a unique California dining experience with serious food and wine in a fun and casual atmosphere. The ever-changing menu features the freshest, sustainable seafood, slow-cooked meats, organic greens and delectable desserts, all complemented by an award winning wine list priced well below what you've come to expect.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Phil's Fish Market & Eatery

In Moss Landing just north of Monterey over the harbor bridge amongst the commercial boat operations is Phil's Fish Market and Eatery. Park down the street as the parking lot is full and as you walk in there are vintage cars and serious Harleys with gorilla handlebars and you are reminded that yes, you are definitely back in California.

The line inside is long as you wait to place your order. I was waved off the chowder as it was reported to be thin and floury and went for the Halibut fish and chips and an Anchor Steam draft (1 of 8 choices). The specialty of the house is Cioppino, a cacophony of sea food in a tomato-based broth with a touch of heat and garlic served in a monstrous bowl.

After placing the order you walk to the bar past the grizzled bikers, trying not to bump anyone and starting a melee, and get your drafts and then walk around to find a table where the food will arrive in 20 minutes.

I've had better fish and chips but the Cioppino was great and the overall ambiance and value are worth recommending. And as you will most likely share a table it was very pleasant to strike up a conversation with the two private school teachers next to us. And on the drive out you can pull into the parking lot and buy 3 live crabs for $25 off Sully's boat for the dinner that night but be sure to wrap them tightly in the bag or they will be crawling all over your back seat.