Black Eyed Pupusas





"There she was just a-walkin' down the street, singing 'Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy'..."

Whoop!



My friend Connie is on an El Salvadorian kick and has been RAVING about a number of spots south of the city. We had plenty to catch up on...and some El Salvadorian investigating to do, so today we met for lunch. While she snagged a table, I was outside snapping a few photos.

No sooner did she mention my name, than I disappeared from view!

The amazing disappearing act was followed by a wail...more akin to a wounded animal....


While I was out snapping photos, I tripped on a drainage grate and plummeted to the ground. I tried to break my fall...but may have broken my arm instead. As my face sped towards the black-topped drive through, I remember thinking, "I can't stop this...."

Then...WHAM!

I laid there, stunned and motionless while my friend--still inside the restaurant, struggled to open the emergency exit (the closest door to me.)

In no time, a crowd of El Salvadorian men hovered over me in a bleeding, humiliated moment. Pools of blood dripped from an unknown origin. (My face was still numb and I couldn't quite tell where the wound was.) As it turns out, the titanium cat-eye frame of my glasses, both buffered my face-plant, and tossed askew, drove the pointed corner into the flesh over my eye. I've got a deep gash that somehow, appeared to pucker, and close on its own. Still, it's deep enough...a scar is eminent.

When I regained composure enough to stand, I took an assessment of the damage. Besides the bruised and swollen black eye, I now have extremely limited use of my left arm, and my foot somehow got tangled in the mess....

But even worse than my own injuries?

In the momentum of my fall, my camera was thrown and skidded to a stop 12 feet away. We found my batteries strewn in an 8 foot radius from there. The camera itself seems to have suffered even worse damage...and now is rendered quite useless.

I'm grieving the death of my camera even more than my own injuries. (As you may know, I carry it with me every day. It's now become an extension of me, ready to capture fabulous experiences at a moment's notice.)



I decided to grieve my camera later. There were more important things at hand. I hadn't seen my friend Connie in weeks and drove 20 miles to visit her favorite spot. (I'll think about the doctor tomorrow...)

So I rallied, and ordered a plate of pupusas!

Let me tell you...they were amazing...and totally worth the drive. I'm definitely looking forward to going back. Sorry, no pupusa photos, or shots of Connie's fabulous breakfast (served all day) with refried beans, fried plantains, house-made cheese, sour cream, and spicy scrambled eggs.


I do, however, have shots of the exterior, captured just before my fall. Over time, this building has spanned multiple incarnations. I suspect it used to be a bank, but Connie knows it as a former favorite Indian restaurant (some of the signage is still evident) and now, of all things...it's a popular El Salvadorian restaurant.



"El Salvadorian Pupuseria Titas"



Tita is the name of the cook...famous for her pupusas and house-made cheese. And now, they have endeared themselves to me with the fine treatment just after my fall. The boys raided the first aid kit, sharing everything from gauze to antibiotics, aspirin...and icy cold towels.

Connie, I can't thank you enough for your tender-loving kindness...and for ferreting out all the great hole-in-the-wall joints around town!

I am mourning the death of my camera.

But I also had a swift reminder of the things that are important in life. Things can change in the blink of an eye....And I'll always be grateful for the wonderful people in my life. YOU are the key ingredient in this oh-so-delicious life....

The Omnivore's 100

Streetfood vendors in Thailand. On the menu? Stir-fried grubs.




I must admit, I can be a bit squeamish about trying new foods....

Happening on a village market in Thailand, I took a pass on grasshoppers and grubs.

And when the Chef called me down to the restaurant with the lure, "I've got something for you to try!" I was less than thrilled to find a plate of bull's testicles (if I remember right, they were poached, then pan fried and sliced.)

Sadly, I turned down the birthday invitation to dine with my friend Shango on whole pigeon--with the emphasis of sucking the brains out.

But I am quite proud of the fact that I tried head cheese...even after I helped make it. (Splitting pig skulls and all....)

So when I spotted the Omnivore's 100 list over at Very Good Taste, I wondered, "How would I fare?" I seldom dine on a dare, but was surprised to see how many dishes I've actually tried. Mind you, there's a big difference between tried and enjoyed.....

How 'bout you? How many have you tried?

*****
From Very Good Taste:
Here’s a chance for a little interactivity for all the bloggers out there. Below is a list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food - but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you haven’t, mind you; neither have I, though I’ll be sure to work on it. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers.

Here’s what I want you to do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at http://www.verygoodtaste.co.uk/ linking to your results.


Tall Poppy Note: Completing this list took me down memory lane....moments, memories and tastes are in parenthesis.

1. Venison (My dad likes to hunt and we grew up with a constant supply of venison in the freezer. At meal time, my mom made a special effort to conceal its origin. Is it venison or hamburger? She'd never tell...)
2. Nettle tea (Chef makes a fabulous nettle soup, topped with a poached duck egg.)
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare (Union makes the best...topped with raw quail egg yolk and served with hearty, thinly sliced pumpernickel toasts. Mmm...)
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp (I celebrate Christmas every year with a large Polish family. Carp in the U.S. is considered an inferior fish, while for the Polish, it's standard holiday fare.)
9. Borscht (Same as above. Standard food with my Polish friends.)
10. Baba ghanoush


11. Calamari
12. Pho (In Seattle, Pho shops are everywhere. Whenever I'm sick, Pho is total comfort food.)
13. PB&J sandwich (I like mine with extra crunchy peanut butter, and if available, I prefer honey over jam. Bonus points for toasted bread.)
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart (Hot dog vendors abound in New York City as a quick and easy snack. Here in Seattle, the hot dog vendors come out after dark...and are situated near popular bars. Big, fat hot dogs with a smear of....cream cheese! Sounds gross, but it's actually quite delicious.)
16. Epoisses (My first and only taste of this cheese that frankly...smells like a barnyard, was dining with Tony Bourdain, filming No Reservations. Tony was absolutely giddy! The chef brought the epoisses out to the table in a pastry bag. I'll never forget Tony tilting his head back and squeezing a long stream of cheese into his mouth. For him, it was manna from heaven!)
17. Black truffle (Uber posh dinner...truffles shaved, tableside, over risotto.)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns (One of my favorite snacks when visiting the Pike Place Market. I like the curry-filled buns. Dodging tourists and weaving along the vendors, munching on a hum bow. It's one of my quintessential Seattle experiences...)
20. Pistachio ice cream (Busted! Becky, I still haven't made that recipe you sent....)


21. Heirloom tomatoes (Love them, but wow...at up to $10 a pound, the price can be quite staggering. Would love to grow my own sometime.)
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras (This stuff is like a badge of honor for foodies. I just had foie gras ice cream at Spur, a new gastro pub in Seattle. Excellent texture but I couldn't really taste the foie....)
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese (Thanks to Noah and the boys at Porcella, I made my own, thank you very much!)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche (Marce from Pip in the City brought me some from Argentina. Raiding the fridge at midnight, I enjoyed dulce de leche by the spoonful....)
28. Oysters (Awww...man, I don't even want to go there....more on this one later. Let's just say, I've got a history with oysters!)
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda


31. Wasabi peas (One of my favorite snacks, purchased at Asian markets. With my mouth burning from the wasabi, they're addictive little things...)
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float (My favorite treat when I was a kid. Just after ice cream's plopped in a mug of root beer, I especially loved the ice crystals that form on the outside of the scoop.)
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (Cheap party fare for the college crowd. The ratio of vodka to jell-o is important. My first attempt...we made vodka-jell-0-soup!)
39. Gumbo (In Naw'lins...Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez, baby!)
40. Oxtail (Braised, long and slow...I automatically order this dish whenever it's on the menu at Tavolata.)


41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk (Steve, a local vendor at the farmer's market, raises prized Nubian goats. He sells the most fabulous goat cheese, yogurt, and milk.)
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin (Sea urchin can be quite prolific in the Pacific waters. I'm a certified scuba diver and here, we hunt sea urchins and hand-feed them to wolf eels. Divers also make extra money by hunting urchin for export to Japan. On the surface, I first had urchin roe, served in a sauce.)


51. Prickly pear (in a margarita...yum!)
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine (Steelhead Diner's version made with the Beecher's cheese curds...yum!)
60. Carob chips (My mom loved the idea of carob chips, for some reason. Not that she was a health nut, but even in our small Midwestern town, she was attracted to foods that were a wee-bit exotic.)


61. S’mores (Decadent camping in the San Juan Islands. We enjoy these on chocolate-covered graham crackers with toasted homemade marshmallows. Mmmm...)
62. Sweetbreads (Does it count if I didn’t chew? Eww…swallowed this one whole at the super posh San Francisco restaurant, Boulevard.)
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (Buying a bunch of odd fruits at a farm stand in Pimai, Thailand, we nearly got thrown out of our guest house for unveiling this stinky fruit on the premises.)
66. Frogs’ legs (Does it count if I don’t remember it? Hint: Mardis Gras. New Orleans. And yes, alcohol was involved!)
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (Elephant ears and funnel cakes are standard American fair/carnival offerings...)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain (I've got a penchant for traveling through Central America. It seems nearly every meal is accompanied by fried plantains.)
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette


71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe (Foodie friends smuggled it in the US...in their kid’s diaper bag….)
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (A favorite when I was a kid. Now? Ewww…)
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini


81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict (For the low-down on eggs benedict in Seattle, check out this thread on eGullet.)
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef (There's Kobe beef and then there's beef, Kobe-style. A little branding can do wonders...)
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate (I recently had my first bite of this at the Chocolopolis grand opening.)


91. Spam (What's up with Hawaiians and their penchant for Spam? I just don't get it...)
92. Soft shell crab (Plucked fresh from the waters in Baltimore. The shell develops quickly on crabs, so it's key to get them early. How does a crab get a new shell? It exits out the back end of the carapace and hides until the shell develops.)
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish (This freshwater fish is prolific in the waters where I'm from. My dad loves to fish, but was never fond of catfish...Have you ever seen giant catfish? Yowza. As a kid, I had nightmares--dreaming about those giant catfish lurking in my favorite swimming hole.)
95. Mole poblano (Friends and I attended cooking school in the Yucatan...and I've got a fabulous mole recipe from Los Dos Cooking School. This place is my idea of paradise.)
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Theo & Chocolate University

Theo Chocolate's 75% Cacao




Seattle is known for many things...Amazon.com, Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, the legendary Pike Place Market, and delicious microbrews. Taking the city by storm...let's add chocolate to the list.

It's no wonder Seattle played host to the Luxury Chocolate Salon. We've got more than a handful of fabulous artisan chocolatiers, and several destination-worthy chocolate shops.


But just a few years ago, when Joe Whitney bought a former brewery in the funky Fremont neighborhood, more than a few people raised eyebrows. In this unlikely spot, Joe built Theo Chocolate, the first organic chocolate factory in the United States. Thanks to a bit of dumb luck and happenstance, I was in the factory the day they pressed their very first chocolate bar.

The rest, as they say, is history....

Besides their commitment to organic and fair trade, what I respect about Theo Chocolate is their desire to educate the public. For a mere $6, you can tour the factory and gain an insider's perspective on the process. Here you'll learn about chocolate--from the harvest to bar....and enjoy samples galore!


Now, if you're in the Seattle area and you're a chocolate lover, listen up.

This fall, Theo is offering a series of classes, aptly titled Chocolate University. Taught by Theo's Chief Scientist, Dr. Amy McShay, these classes will take an in-depth view of chocolate. I'll be there...and look forward to sharing what I've learned. And if you want in on the action, find details and registration info here.




Theo's Chocolate University


Chocolate 201: Antioxidants and the Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
The consumption of high cacao content chocolate has been associated with positive health benefits ascribed to flavinol antioxidants. Recent reports have implied that not all dark chocolate are created equal. We investigate the difference between the varieties of dark chocolate and why these differences might exist. We investigate antioxidants in the diet, how they are measured, and review clinical data associated with the consumption of chocolate.

Chocolate 202: Cacao Origins, Cacao genetics and the fermentation process
Three major varietals of Theobroma cacao (the cacao tree) are recognized in chocolate making: Criollo, Forestero and Trinitario. Analysis of the DNA of Cacao suggests that there are more than 1400 varieties of Cacao, implying that the genetic diversity is very high, although the majority of Chocolate is blended to improve consistency. In many ways, varietal and vintage trends in Chocolate resemble trends in the winemaking industry. We investigate genetics and diversity of Cacao and discuss how origin, genetics, and fermentation process influence the flavor of Chocolate.

Chocolate 203: The Chemistry of Chocolate Making
Recent advances in analytical techniques have provided insight into the molecular composition of Chocolate. The chemistry of Chocolate changes significantly during the fermentation, roasting, milling, and conching process of Chocolate making. We review the steps of industrial chocolate making in detail and investigate how modern analytical techniques have provided a unique insight into the 400 or so molecules that make up the exquisite and complex flavors in chocolate.

Chuckanut Drive


video



Have you heard people wax poetically about the Pacific Northwest?


Nine months of rain is a fair tradeoff for summers like this: sunset over the bay with the San Juan Islands off in the distance. Peeking behind low cloud cover, you can see the faintest glimpse of the Cascade Mountain Range.


This footage was shot from a scenic drive near Taylor Shellfish Farm. If you're in the area and get a chance to day-trip outside the city, Chuckanut Drive is the place you want to be. This 9 mile stretch offers incredible island, water, and mountain views. Along the way, you can pull off at Taylor Shellfish, grab some oysters and take in the splendor. Pack a cooler with wine, and you've got the makings for a perfect lazy day, Northwest-style.


From this vantage point, I ran into a real character named Bob Jones. He came to visit in 1974...and never left. With a minimalist lifestyle, he refuses to work in the summer and is often either kayaking or summiting the surrounding mountains (he's climbed over 300 at current count.) We talked about his energy-efficient geodesic home and the day everything he owned was stolen by hikers. He gingerly turned the conversation to conspiracy theories...and grew animated talking about what a crazy lot bear hunters were. Spending the bulk of his time in the woods, he assured me, there were plenty of bear hunters. "I can spot them a mile away! We nod and say hello, but it's best to just keep on walking. Those guys are crazy!"


On the night this film was shot, Bob was recovering from a shoulder injury...and aching to get out on the water. He gave me a look through his spy glass and talked about the flow of currents. Out on the horizon, a small boat bobbed on the water. What about the shoulder injury? He was exploring a nearby abandoned military base, fell into an unmarked crevasse.....

In lieu of a panoramic shot, I tested the video capability on my camera. The landscape is so stunning, I had to share. Above is my very first attempt at video....I didn't even know I had audio. That's Bob in the background, jonesing to get out on the water.




Doc Talk


Three: Impressions From the Struggle for Girls' Education (Nepal::Trailer) from NonFiction Media on Vimeo.

A note about the film:
Above is a trailer/teaser from Amy & Scott's work with Little Sister's Fund. This is a fabulous organization who is using education to eradicate poverty in Nepal. Educating females has far-reaching impacts to the local community and in that area of the world, it takes less than $3,000 send a girl to school....for 12 years. Click here to read more about Little Sisters Fund and their work.



A little known secret about me: I hate TV.

Film commonly associated with the American cultural identity drives me crazy. Don't even get me started on prime time TV in America. (I can live with out "reality TV" and news that is compromised by advertisers.) And for me, big budget entertainment offers little value. Car crashes, pyrotechnics, and special effects are gratuitous. I can provide my own adrenaline rush, thank you very much.

But documentary work is another story entirely. The lens brings you deep into the lives of others, probing, questioning, and creating a forum for dialog. Documentary filmmakers tackle the issues, frame it, and visually and bring it back to you. The more I learn about the process, I am in awe...and intrigued.

When I had the opportunity to sit in on a discussion with documentary filmmakers who just returned from Kathmandu, Nepal, I jumped at the chance...and got far more than I bargained for.

Amy Benson and Scott Squire of Nonfiction Media went to Nepal to produce a film for Little Sister's Fund. Fulfilling that objective, they stayed on in Nepal to gather more footage, and shoot for a longer piece. Thier blog documents trip preparations, challenges faced on site, and hours of editing. Whether you're "into" documentary work, or not, it's worth taking a look at their gear...and what it takes for this kind of trip. Gearhead love here, here, and here.

Scott and Amy have an infectious spirit...and delving in to the process of making the film, they laid it all out on the line...the good, bad, and ugly of making a documentary. Sponsorships, fundraising, assembling gear, framing the story, research, power challenges (solar, battery, etc.), and on it goes. On-site translation was particularly challenging. Once their work was finally translated, they found dialog that was off-topic or incredibly mundane. Amy explained that during an overnight visit, living in one of the huts, they later discovered the dialog was focused entirely on...the stranger in their home. "Do you think she likes rice?" "How much does she eat?"

Having been a fan of documentaries for a number of years, it was fascinating to hear their take on the situation. How does a project of that scale go from idea to concept to final, finished product? Does the end product resemble what you hoped for? Every project involves compromise. What did you compromise on...and what do you wish you hadn't compromised? What did you learn, good or bad, that changed the way you'd handle things next time?

The event was open to the public, but the demographic was predominantly filmmakers. So when Amy slid in a tip about an upcoming weekend...filmmakers discussing their work, challenges, and showing works in progress...I made a note. Later, I discovered the event is also open to "enthusiasts" and jumped at the chance.


So this weekend, I'm off to DocFarm.

I'm on a fact-finding mission...trying to figure out how I want to document my own round-the-world trip. Photo, film, or book? While I've been knee-deep in research over the past few months...this weekend adds another layer to that exploration.

The truth is, my only film experience includes a completely forgettable part in a movie that somehow ended up at Sundance (my character-- added at the casting call--might be credited as "girl in the theater.") And this one. Neither experiences add up to anything on par with this crowd, so I'll just keep my mouth shut...and absorb all I can.

Along the way, I'm going to stop and see my friends at Taylor Shellfish Farm. They're bringing in the harvest and I'm going to snap some photos. Stay tuned. It's going to be a very busy weekend and hopefully I'll come back with lots of scoop!



In case you're interested, here's a look at the presentations for this weekend:

The Real Dirt on Farmer John: Editing 50 Years of Personal History into 90 Minutes

Click Whoosh and Ars Magna: Mastering the Short Documentary Format in Five Grueling Days

On Native Soil: Licensing Media for a Nationally Broadcast Feature Documentary

Your Clips: An Evening of Documentary Film Discovery

Your Work in Progress: Soliciting Feedback

A Wink and A Smile: Nurturing Subject Intimacy While Respecting Privacy



Special Delivery: Candied Bacon Toffee

The other night I was at my local food mecca...and the guy behind the counter called out, "Hey, where's my bacon ice cream?!?" How's THAT for a greeting?

You see, I have a "special" relationship with my meat guy. I'm always asking him bizarre questions like..."Which cure would be better for...bacon ice cream? Should I go with more or less smoke, or sweet applewood?" Six kinds of bacon later, I left to play mad scientist.


It all started with my friend Dan over at Pie-Hole.

Bacon is the new Elvis...and thanks to a raging fan base, it's showing up all over the place. And in an effort to show his bacon pride, Dan upped the ante: "I have bacon chocolate AND I'm a member of the bacon-of-the-month club."

The gantlet was thrown.

I countered. "Well, **I** have Jerry's pork belly recipe." Jerry = Jerry Traunfeld, famed Herbfarm Chef. When he was at the helm, the Herbfarm was named the "Number 1 Dining Destination in America." Now we're all anxiously awaiting his new venture, Poppy.

A long, reverent silence followed....Jerry. Pork belly. Does it get any better?

Game over.

Or so I thought.

Dan rallied...and lobbed with, "Have you ever had D'Artagnan's wild boar?"

I scoffed, "Like I need to do mail order? Man, I make my own bacon!"

"Shut up!"

"True story."

Yes, people, this is how food sluts smack down. (You should hear us after a couple bottles of wine....)


The result of this turf war? A little show-and-tell in the form of our Swine Divine party. 10 courses of nothing but pig. (In my food-coma stupor I do recall a salad, but that was gratuitous. Ah well, Mom would be happy.) On with the pork fest...

We ended up having BOTH Jerry's Pork Belly AND Wild Boar.

Henry the VIII had nothing on us that night!

Swine Divine carried on through dessert when I made David Lebovitz's Candied Bacon Ice Cream--hence the bacon testing. And just when you think we couldn't find more uses for pork...the bacon ice cream was served in a dish made of Dan's fabulous candied bacon tuilles. Bacon knows no bounds...

Thanks to this venture, I have discovered....candied bacon is a revelation! Sprinkled with brown sugar and baked in the oven...no muss, no fuss, just sweet, tender bacon.

I began to think of candied bacon as a garnish...or rather, a nut alternative. ("Bacon: the Other Nut....")


Seized by a what if moment...

I wondered...what would happen if I took my favorite toffee recipe, and substituted the nuts...for candied bacon? Off to the lab, er, uh, kitchen for mad scientist, part II.

The result? Dan, Mr. Bacon-bliss himself, declared it the best toffee he's ever had! (Prancing...and the mumbled garble of the "Rocky" theme ensued.)

****
Back to the Meat Guy calling me out...

I stopped dead in my tracks told him, "I've got something even better! Candied Bacon Toffee. " At the thought of Candied Bacon Toffee...people are either repulsed...or in awe. He was still trying to wrap his brain around the idea.

"I'll bring you some tomorrow."

"Sure," was his dubious response.

"No, really, what time do you work?"

"I'm off at 9:00 am."

"What?!"

That night he closed the department down, and the next morning he would arrive to open at 5:00am. (Anyone still think the food biz is glamorous?)


Toffee. Delivered by 9:00am. It's the least I could do.

"I'll be here."

The next morning I woke in the wee hours to make a batch of toffee. Bleary-eyed, loads of coffee, and songbirds. Good thing I've made the base of this recipe a million times.

And now, without further ado....

Ladies & gentlemen, I present to you....Candied Bacon Toffee:




Salty, Sweet...and Bacon. What's not to love?


I have to admit, showing up at the meat counter...and giving something back...caused a minor sensation. But that was nothing compared to Mark's first taste of toffee. He spun around and shared some with the rest of the crew. "Don't think about it...just try it!"


My bacon muses...Mark Page and Adam Calhoun


The crew wore aprons that were already smeared and splattered with the morning butchery. And here I was, peddling toffee. I felt like I should be dressed in gingham and pig-tails...I was soooo out of place with my Betty Crocker moment. Still, I took solace in the universal brotherhood of bacon-lovers.

Wielding huge butcher knives, one by one, the crew shouted down the line, "Hey, do you sell this stuff?"

"Damn, this is good! Where can I buy it?"

Well, you can't buy it (yet!)...but you can make your own.


Start with some fabulous bacon. (If you have a Whole Foods near you...this Black Forest bacon is my favorite...but any bacon will do.) Or you could join the Bacon-of-the-Month club. Whatever. Hey...it's bacon. It can't be bad. It's the Universal Law of Bacon.




WARNING: Higly Addictive.


Now, on with the recipe:


Candied Bacon Toffee

Tip: Once your toffee is ready, things move very quickly. Mise en place is key, so get yourself properly set up before you begin.


For the candied bacon:
3/4 pounds of bacon
1/4 cup brown sugar


Toffee:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
2 tsp instant espresso powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp. dark unsulfured molasses
1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


For the bacon:
On a foil-lined sheet pan, lay out your bacon strips. Coat the top with brown sugar. Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes, flipping over half way through the baking time.

Allow the bacon to cool until warm, then cut (with scissors) into 1/4-1/2" pieces. Reserve in a separate bowl. (The ends may be a bit crispy. Keep those for yourself...and enjoy while you pull the other ingredients together.)

Hint: It's key to work with the bacon while it's still warm. If you wait too long, it has a tendency to stick to the foil.


For the toffee:
Prepare your mise en place: in a medium bowl, combine sugars, espresso powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine water and molasses. Butter a sheet pan or line with a Silpat.

Melt butter in a heavy 2 ½-quart saucepan over low heat. Add sugars, espresso powder, cinnamon, salt, water, and molasses; stir until sugar dissolves. Attach a clip-on candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium; cook until thermometer registers 290 degrees (and no less!), stirring slowly but constantly and scraping bottom of pan with a silicone spatula, about 20 minutes. (You're on the homestretch when the molten toffee starts to become clear. If you're impatient like me...it will seem like this step takes forever. Stick with it....you're developing that lusty toffee flavor here.)

Once you arrive at 290 degrees, remove your pan from the heat, and quickly stir in the candied bacon. Immediately pour the mixture onto your prepared sheet pan; do not scrape the saucepan. Spread toffee to ¼-inch thickness. Use two forks to separate and distribute any bacon that clumps together. And finally, dust the top of the toffee with a light sprinkle of Kosher salt.

Stick the sheet pan in the refrigerator for about an hour (until the toffee is firm.) Break the toffee into pieces and store in an airtight container. Sharing is optional.

Ah...the limitless possibilities of pork. Toffee today...swine sculpture tomorrow....


Dan, Mark, Adam...thanks for the inspiration. Dan, just wait until Swine Divine, II. You won't believe what's up next!!!



FXcuisine.com....where have you been all my life???


Occasionally I stumble on great resources...Upon their discovery, the EUREKA! moment is so overwhelming...I'm convinced I've been living under a rock, or have been seized by a very long hibernation.



Today I discovered FXcuisine.com...and I don't think I'll ever be the same. This is my kind of site: smart and informative...with achingly beautiful photos. And it's free! What's not to love?


Here's a sampling (prepare to be green with envy):



Buying Spices in Istanbul

Tuffle-Hunting in Paris

Molecular Gastronomy Seminar

Behind the Scene at Alain Ducasse's

President Mobutu's Own Brandy

A Visit to Rungis, the World's Biggest Food Market

Foie Gras Terrine Chargrilled Like in Sauternes

More on the Examiner Gig & Other Musings

I managed to slip in a sentence or two about my new writing gig over at the Examiner.com...but here's more...

Originally, my title was the "Seattle Food Scene Writer" and I put heavy emphasis on what's happening around town and recently attended events. I'm still doing that...and I'm also working on an number of projects including chef interviews and purveyor visits. Thanks to this new gig, I'm happily discovering a whole new side of my city.

Since I'm writing about the Seattle scene over on Examiner, today, I've included a ton of links. There, you'll be able to find the lowdown on where to get the goods on everything from tagines to unpasteurized milk (for making cheese). See the column to the left. I've also got a list of Seattle-based food bloggers. If I've forgotten any of your favorite places, spaces or people, please let me know. I'm happy to include them.

I also compiled my list of reviewed restaurants:

- The Corson Building (with Matt Dillon...one Food & Wine's Top 10 chefs, 2007)
- Skillet (the Airstream trailer profiled in all the national mags...cranking out some of the most memorable food I've had in months)
- Via Tribunali Pizza (their pizza oven was deconstructed in Italy and shipped here just for that project)
- Molly Moon Homemade Ice Cream (taking the city by storm...)

And in case you missed it, I had the opportunity to meet with the Splendid Table's Lynne Rossetto Kaspar. She's absolutely wonderful and we chatted like old school girls!

Also worth noting is this post titled, "Who Are you?" It sheds a little more light on my background and bit of my own philosophy.

Whew!

What about Poppy? Well, things are changing, for sure. It's a work in progress and I'm still sorting things out. Behind the scenes, I've ramped things up considerably on my Round the World Trip. I've been doing tons of research, buffing up my technical skills, and interviewing anyone who will talk with me. More on all that soon.

I'll admit, I'm challenged for sure. Having two blogs and trying to figure out how to divide the content is a big struggle--especially because they both involve food. I've never successfully dated two people at one time, and now I'm finding it really difficult figuring out how to maintain to blogs. We'll see...It's a work in progress...but if you've been wondering where I've been, I've been spending some quality time over at the Examiner. Now that the "getting to know you" phase is over...I'm looking forward to spending more time with my first love. (Right here, thank you very much!)

At the risk of sounding like a big tease...I've got some juicy stuff on the horizon, and much more I need to catch up on. Please, bear with me. I've got a nice window of time over the next couple weeks....

Drama in Bloggerland...

Have you guys seen this post? Melissa at Alosha's Kitchen posted a recipe--with credit...and her modifications. Apparently Cook's Country didn't take too kindly to use of their recipe without permission and asked her to remove the post.

The weird thing is...the degree of reactions to the blogger world. On the one hand, you get Cook's Country actually hiring people to police their recipes and on the other, you get people like Dorrie Greenspan who proactively go out and comment on people's blogs. ("Yes, use my recipes and tell us about your experience." Things went awry? She'll even chime in with some helpful tips.) I really respect Dorrie for that and consider it one of the qualities that endear people to her.

This Cook's Country incident shines a spotlight on a number of issues in the blog world. Should bloggers be held to journalistic standards? The premise of a blog is a bit of "dear diary" on the web...for all to see. Who knew they would become so wildly popular? (As a side note...I find it particularly amusing that journalists are now writing blogs as a job requirement...but that's another story.)

But the question is: Where is the line between blogs and true journalism?

It's a perplexing question for a number of reasons. At the recent Food & Wine Best Chef events, they covered this issue. How do restaurateurs handle bloggers? Since I bring a camera everywhere I go, it's been fascinating to see the reactions. My experience run the gamut...free dishes from the kitchen (oh, camera, she must be important!) to not-so-polite requests for "no pictures" (food is art, and that's considered proprietary.)

Word on the street from the Food & Wine event?

Ignore bloggers.

But is that really the answer?

Do you really want to ignore someone who will likely give you free press...and no matter how large their readership is...spread the word about you? Having worn a PR hat, I can assure you, it's ain't cheap to create buzz. If bloggers are going to come along and do it for free...do you really want to ignore it?

But then there's the issue of accountability. If you as a dining patron are holding that restaurant accountable for a good meal, should the restaurant hold you accountable for higher standards in reporting? Being on the internet and the supposedly anonymous place that is, it's no excuse for malicious or vindictive rants. That's the kind of thing that gets a "real" journalist fired. And unfortunately, it's the stuff that drives web traffic--good, bad, and the uglier, the better. (Hits are hits, right?)

My own role is just as ambiguous...and has me taking a giant stride back, and asking myself lots of questions. Yes, I've got backdoor access into some drool-worthy kitchens, and I've got more than a handful of friends whose name you might recognize. Over the past couple years, I've had some mind-blowing experiences, and many of them never make it to my blog. Looking back, I wish I had written more. Whether I held back or was just too busy...it's probably a combination of both, but I wish I wrote more.

I too am caught up in the ying-yang of the blogger world. I have a new writing gig over at Examiner.com. And since I travel with a camera and a notebook every day...after each and every event, people ask me when the post will come. (When will you write about me?)

Since I attend 6-7 blog-worthy events a week and I have a full-time job, unfortunately I can't write about everything--even the events I really wanted to talk about.

The notebook?

The camera?

I keep those close because at the pace I'm going...I don't want to forget my life.

So, ying-yang happened when I was invited to visit a friend at her restaurant gig. I came home giddy from the experience and wrote a post about it. (I worried about professional bias, but since there had already been tons of buzz about the place...decided I was in the clear.) And yet, days later I was bumping into a snag, "When did I give you permission?" Permission? It never occurred to me to ask permission. Camera, notebook, two blogs...and you're my friend.

Did I really have to ask for permission?

The answer is yes.

Ying-yang, you see? 99% of the people I deal with can't wait for me to spread the good love, and then I bump up against one person who changes the entire course. Yes, I need to ask for permission. Yes, I need to learn the rules of journalism. I should be held to a higher standard and I'm grateful for it. (Time and distance has helped temper my judgment. When it first happened, I was hurt and angry, for sure.)

It's a murky arena out in bloggerland. New rules are being written. It's that shifting grey area (am I a journalist or am I just a blogger? And what rules apply to me?) that is still sorting itself out.

My theory?

Higher standards are better for everyone...including myself.