Tag Archives: food

My buddy cooked dinner for me

I really liked Rick Moonen on the 2nd season of Top Chef Masters. I loved the way he took himself seriously without taking himself too seriously. He joked a lot, but made fun of himself as much as he made fun of others.  He seems like a guy you could have a glass of wine with and discuss sustainable seafood.

Sidenote: I just watched Food Inc. and they didn’t talk about seafood. So, I’m not quite sure what sustainable seafood is, or why it is important.

(Because I get all my foodie info from documentaries.)

What I think I know: the fishies I ate were happy fishies and that when they died, the environment was not impacted. What I know: they were delicious. So, if sustainable seafood = happy, environmentally friendly fishes that are delicious, then I’m in.

Back to Rick & I. Now that I’m on the up and up on sustainable seafood, I’m pretty sure that we could be buddies. Especially because his menu only had three instances of red meat — this is my kind of chef! (But I get that. My husband loves red meat  and is allergic to shellfish and so if there wasn’t any on the menu, I probably wouldn’t have been able to sweet talk him into going to RM Seafood.)

But I, on the other hand could have eaten everything else on the menu. And maybe now that Rick is going to be my buddy, I’ll get a chance to someday.

Since ordering everything on the menu wasn’t in the cards (oy vay, enough with cards for a while, Vegas.) I had to make my selections. It was really hard, people. But at the same time, it was pretty much a no brainer.

Decision number one: pass up the raw bar. Why? Husband can’t enjoy it, and I just don’t believe oysters should be enjoyed alone. (Ladies, anyone want to go back with me?)

Decision number two: despite hot temperatures in Vegas, soup over salad.

If your buddy only had one shot to cook for you, then you better go with what he’s known for. This was Rick’s White  Clam Chowder, and let me explain…

Simply delectable. The first thing that hits your tongue is the tang of the dill, and then in each creamy bite, you get substantial chunks of briny clams (I love a sandy bite now and then) and al dente potatoes that pop in your mouth. The dill lingers on taunting you to lick the bowl clean. Of course, I wouldn’t want to embarrass Rick that way. So I just forced my spoon to reach new depths of cleaning a bowl.

Then I let one of Rick’s staff take it away. (Incidentally, our waitress’s name was Stephanie. See, Rick knows good people to hire in his restaurant…) I’m pretty sure the only reason I relinquished my bowl  is I knew what was coming next…

Hand made cavatelli  with morel mushrooms,blue crab, meyer lemon.

Let’s talk about sustainable seafood again…

A happy fish makes a happy Stephanie.

So, what was awesome about this dish? Pretty much everything.

It’s one of those dishes that sticks in your mind for days.  You want more, but you can’t have more. I would have a very hard time returning to RM Seafood and not ordering this again. But, I know Rick would encourage me to try something else. Maybe he’d just bring me another little taste of…

The cavatelli itself is almost gnochi like. Only it’s not,  because each pasta is like a little mini cup for the creamy lemon sauce, which dances in your mouth as you alternate between the savory crab and the rich morels.

I had never had a morel before, so I knew I would order this before I even got to RM Seafood.

Thank you, Rick.

Oh yes, and I was there with Mr. Quirky. Almost got a little carried away. Mr. Quirky did not have a starter. He just went straight for the gold…

The beef filet with crème fraîche whipped potatoes and red wine reduction.

He said, “It was a very good steak. Not the best, but very good.” He also thought it must have been a very happy cow. A happy cow makes a happy Mr. Quirky.

I think it’s hard to be the best at steak when you are focused on seafood. So, we cut Rick a little slack.

I tasted the wine reduction sauce on the potatoes and it was the perfect combination of creamy, savory and sweet.

See, how happy it made Mr. Quirky?

You know what else Mr. Quirky loves?

A game.

And this is the final reason why I think Rick would not only be my buddy, but he’d love Mr. Quirky too. Only a very fun spirited chef would think to take his dessert and make a tasting game out of it.If you can guess the flavor of 16 sorbets and ice creams, it’s free!

Food should be fun.

And Rick gets that, it’s obvious.

This game was a blast. I don’t want to give away too much, in case you are thinking of dropping by anytime soon. We got nine right, which isn’t bad.

Some of the flavors that stumped us were garlic, milk and buttermilk. (Stephanie told us that milk stumps a lot of people!)

I was pretty proud that I picked the pretzel ice cream, and came close but confused Thai Tea for Chai Tea.

This was among my favorite dining experiences ever.  And while I know that Rick was most likely not even in Vegas that night, I’m relishing in the fact that he had a lot to do with my meal.

Rick, let me know when you want us to come back. We’re a lot of fun!

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Queen of Quirky: not the coolest kid at the Vegas pool scene

You can take the Queen out of Kansas City, but you can’t take the Quirky out of the Queen.

Even when I try to be kind of cool, I fail.

Take my first day in Vegas.  It was 3 p.m. and I decided to hit the pool with my laptop and work for a while. I had heard the Hard Rock Hotel had a happening pool.

But if you are the QoQ, you can’t just “show up at the pool and wait for the magic to happen.” You have to prepare for these kinds of things. Namely sun.

So there I was, lugging around my laptop bag (a pool accessory not likely to show up on the Glamor Magazine “Do List.” ) which I had stuffed with my bag o’ sunscreen, room key, iphone and work papers.

My bag o’ sunscreen contains SPF 30, SPF 55 (age correction) SPF 20 chapstick,  SPF 30 oil free face and an assortment of rubber bands. It is super awesome.  Because nothing looks sexier than thick white sunscreen that barely soaks into your skin because it’s so dense.

Luckily, it was a weekday so there were a few spots. I pulled up a chair and went to work…

slathering on my oodles of sunscreen.

But then I realized that I had found a seat in the shade. Seeing as I had gone to all that effort to slather on sunscreen, I decided to move.

I found a nice spot in close enough proximity to dip my toes in the water while keeping an eye on my stuff.

I sat down and felt the chair give.

A lot more than it should.

Good grief. Four days off the Weight Watchers and I’m already breaking chairs? (I heard that WW was illegal in Vegas, so decided not to take my chances getting caught on a diet in the city of sin…)

Turns out the chair was already ripped. (And if you don’t believe that, please keep your opinions to yourself. )

After a short while I realized the pool crowd was starting to shift. The 20’s group had had enough sun and was going upstairs to do whatever it is they do before they do whatever cool things in the night. The 30’s plus crowd was starting to  show up.

A nice couple sat down next to me. I was immediately endeared to the wife who said she envisioned after 30 minutes in the sun, she would be tan and skinny for dinner. Because isn’t that what happens at the pool?

I loved that philosophy. (And may steal it later.)

We laughed about my chair. And my bag ‘o sunscreen. And we discussed food.

Oh how we love food.

Food can make  two strangers the closest of friends in an instant. Speaking of new friends, my new friends gave me the most marvelous tip. RM Seafood at the Mandalay Place inside Mandalay Bay.  You know, Rick Moonen from Top Chef Masters?!

I totally spaced that his restaurant is in Vegas, so I was stoked to hear that it was not only there, but that it was highly recommended by my new fellow foodies.

And that, my friends, is how not to do the Las Vegas pool scene.  But, it is how to meet cool people and find fantastic food.

Look for more about Vegas in the coming days…

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The Quirkys: Weighing In

It’s no secret that weight gain is common during the first year of marriage.

So I wasn’t surprised when my clothes started fitting a little more snug, and even my mom jeans were hard to pull on.

Mr. Quirky has been on me about the laundry because it turns out, he only has two pairs of jeans that fit him. (Also because I am a horrible slacker when it comes to laundry in general, but that’s another post.)

But when I learned Gertie has gained six pounds, I declared something had to give.

Seriously.

Gertie!!!

Notoriously Ms. Slim and Trim has put on an entire six pounds since we got hitched. I know this because right before the wedding we took her to the vet and she weight 150 lbs. Saturday, she weighed 156. I made them weigh her again just because I couldn’t believe it.

This is the dog that never puts on weight.

It was time for something drastic.

Weight Watchers.

No, not for her. For me. For the 10 pounds I’ve gained from being newly married and NOT working out due to the broken tail bone. The way I figured, it would be a trickle down method of weight loss for us all. But it has to start somewhere, right?

It’s so hard to be the Queen sometimes.

For example, every Saturday & Sunday morning, I scramble two eggs. I eat approximately 3/4 of the eggs and put the plate down and let Gertie finish it. It’s something we’ve been doing for two years now.

But on Sunday, I only scrambled up one egg. Sure enough, as soon as she heard the sounds of my egg, she came running. But instead of my usual portion sharing, I proceeded to eat it without sharing. Gertie looked horrified. Finally, I gave in and gave her the last little morsel of egg. You see how this is going to work? Default doggy diet.

And Mr. Quirky is also going to diet default style when I begin omitting butter, cream and cheese from our dinners and adding in more veggies to keep things within my point allowance.

While this is all good and well, and sure to get results, I just want to share one thing: Her highness is hungry.

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Worth-the-wait duck ragu

Two melt downs and several glasses of wine later, I produced this culinary masterpiece. My Italian grandfather would have been so proud. But getting here was not short of sweat and tears.

On Wednesday night, I had stage one of my pre duck ragu melt down.

It was over the parpardelle pasta. In my mind there was no other pasta worthy of  this savory duckatent (sorry) dish. I really, really wanted to make my own. But without a pasta press, the odds of me getting more of a thick, dumpling-like noodle were far more likely than me nailing pasta  on my first run. I owed the duck confit so much more than lumpy starchy noodles, don’t you think? I shopped pasta press attachments for my mixer, but just couldn’t commit didn’t want to spend $100 on my first try at pasta.

Go ahead. Call me a pasta pansy. I deserve it.

Over martinis (Martini Wednesday), DD Girl helped convince me not to have a nervous breakdown over not making the pasta, and it would be okay if I sacrificed cooking pride for quality noodles. (Just this once, I said.) So a call was placed to my favorite Italian market. If you can’t make it yourself, Cupini’s can make it for you. Only parpardelle isn’t a pasta they keep in their fresh supply. It has to be pre-ordered.  And they prefer 48-72 hours warning. Thinking that my duck ragu was to be made on Thursday, I asked if just this once I could pick up my pasta in 24 hours later.

It took a bit of sweet talking (they did my rehearsal dinner and I have a connection to a former store manager) but Cupini’s saved my pasta crisis and promised to have two pounds of fresh parpardelle by 5:10 on Thursday evening.

But personal events (crisis #2) led me to cancel Fire & Wine night on Thursday and reschedule for Friday night. Which was okay because DD Girl and I had already planned for a girls’ night on Friday night. It also gave me more time to confit the duck in advance so that the night of the dinner, I could focus on the ragu.

For a week, I combed recipes for duck ragu. But I couldn’t find one that used duck confit. So I did some combining and came up with….well, I’m not going to hold back – perfection, really.

Here’s how it came together:

1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, and 1 onion (all finely diced) went into my dutch oven along with two tablespoons of duck fat from the night before.

After the veggies were softened, I added four cloves of garlic for about 30 seconds before deglazing with 1/2 cup of red wine (Malbec, because it was what i was drinking.) I let that reduce for a few minutes before adding a large can of whole peeled tomatoes, finely diced, 1 cup of chicken stock and two tablespoons of tomato paste. Also, a pinch of salt and pepper.

Then I turned the heat to low and put the lid on to let the flavors combine.

After about 30 minutes, I added most of the tomato juice from the can of tomatoes, a little more broth (maybe half a cup) and a tablespoon each of dried thyme and oregano.

30 minutes later, I diced up all my duck meat (and maybe gave Gertie a nibble.) Into the dutch oven it went.

Can I pause for a minute and tell you how much I love duck meat? I could eat it every day. Also, did you notice? I finally got a dutch oven! Thank you in-laws!

I waited for as close to 30 minutes as I could, but my house was smelling really good and I couldn’t wait to get the pasta in.

Delicious pasta. You are my friend.

I probably should have withheld a little. Two pounds is quite a bit of pasta, but I used up every ounce of my self-control the night before and so all the pasta went into the salted boiling water.

(And now that I’ve been enjoying leftovers for two days straight, I’m kind of glad I didn’t hold back.)

After a quick 2 minute swim in the boiling water (a little longer because I was frantically trying to locate my tongs, which I had set down absent mindedly) I combined the pasta and a bit of its salty water with my sauce.

I wish this blog had taste-o-net.

Because I’m not sure you truly get how good this was.

I think DD Girl summed it up pretty well…

Sitting outside on the porch, with several bottles of wine, lots of laughter, good friends, fantastic food. I live well.

I may have had a great big bowl of leftovers for breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. I couldn’t wait for lunch.

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Self-control

I want you to know the Quirky family exhibited insane amounts of self-control last night.

Gertie, Mr. Quirky and I were all waiting with little pockets of drool forming in the corners of our mouths as the savory aroma of the melting duck fat wafted through our home.

Gertie sat by her bowl for a while, just in case any of the delicious meat might show up.

Mr. Quirky grabbed a paper towel, just in case a juicy duck leg was placed in front of him. (We’re not fancy enough to keep official napkins in the house. The words napkin and paper towel are interchangeable in my book.)

I paced. I fussed. I read. I stuffed my face with Chinese food. Anything to keep my mind off the crisply duck skin sizzling in my oven. (But I didn’t do any laundry. Note this fact.)

Finally, the legs were released from captivity.  

I carefully drained the precious nectar of duck fat into a container. Then I waited. Waited because my recipe said to. Waited because I knew nothing else to do.

Finally, it was time.

But what happened next shocked even me.

I carefully shredded the meat into a container and put the container in the fridge.

(There may have been a few nibbles here and there, a drop in Gertie’s bowl and a few pieces of crispy skin and savory meat taken to Mr. Quirky.)

But for the most part, the delicious duck meat was put away.

For what?

To be continued…

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It wasn’t my kitchen, but it was good

Me=famous chef wanna be.

I mean, don’t all chefs always have this much fun?

Le sigh. Probably not. It’s fun to dream.

This double fisting (tequilla and Dos Equis) pic was actually taken after the food was served. I can’t believe Memo trusted me to feed his party.

And I only have a minor burn and cut to prove it happened. Oh, and I guess this photo.

But if you want to know, I served up:

  • Adapted stuffed mushrooms from The Pioneer Woman (put a few of my personal touches in.)
  • Roasted red potato skins with pancetta, shalot and goat cheese
  • Guacamole

My food was enhanced with Roomie’s brookies (brownies with chocolate chip cookie dough inside) and DD Girl’s boyfriend’s fiery hot, but delicious salsa.

After about an hour and a half of prep-work/cooking in Memo’s kitchen, I began to make myself at home.

Literally.

DD Girl was amused as I picked up after party guests, cleaned counter tops and washed up the dishes. I couldn’t help myself. It was starting to feel like my kitchen.

Mr. Quirky rescued me the party before I started either dancing on the counter or looking for a mop (It could have gone either way.) But if you ask me the tequila, I was really the life of the party. I swear.

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Queen of Quirky’s Philly Stuffed Quackers

Fire & Wine night this week was quacksolutely fabulous.

I took on my second Real Women of Philadelphia challenge with the support of DD Girl, Roomie and friends Paul and Andy, and of course my #1 producer, Mr. Quirky. (Who says I need to take direction better…)

Now I know friends Paul and Andy were really invited b/c Roomie forgot it was Fire & Wine night and she had dinner prior to coming, so we had more duck to go around. And that’s ok. But now that we’ve opened the vault into our top secret Fire & Wine night activities, I fear they are going to want to come weekly.

Special thanks to my friends at Hen House Market who ordered two whole duck breasts for me. If you are ever looking for specialty meats or seafood, Hen House is fabulous to work with. (They also were the source of my lobsters – RIP.) And DD Girl who has eaten more duck in her life than I have raved about how delicous and fresh tasting our duck was.

Next week we plan to confit our duck legs (which are waiting in my freezer) and do something similar to Elise’s pasta dish. Stay tuned!

Anyhow, the video has been submitted, the duck breasts were demolished and several bottles of wine were killed on the front porch. Good times. 

(Note, Gertie made her national debut in this video – she pops in toward the end to see what’s going on and why her kitchen smells so good. Can you blame her? She’s a bird dog, afterall.)

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