Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Restless Farewell

Well, folks, whether I'm ready or not, here it is: this blog is graduating.

That's right, this is the last post you'll see on shootingstarsofthought.blogspot.com. From now on, please point your browsers, rss feeds, and curious eyes to http://shootingstarsofthought.com

Here's the caveat: this new site is clearly a work in progress right now. I'm experimenting with layout, format, subject matter, even my hopes and dreams for the whole thing. (I'm also experimenting with trying to find more time to write on it, as the shortest month of the year, even with a bonus day, has also proved one of the busiest).

But all of these things will work themselves out. When they do, the little "beta" sign might just disappear from the top of the page. And the font might get a little bigger, and the design a little easier to navigate. But until then, while the design might wax and wane, the voice will stay strong and true. From now on, anytime you want to find what's on my mind, it will be here: shootingstarsofthought.com.

And there you have it. Thank you blogger, you've been good to me all of these years. I'd leave you with more of a speech, but I haven't got it in me (there's a tivo-ed episode of the wire and the last 25 pages of the diving bell and the butterfly to still accomplish tonite).

Instead, I'll do something I've been meaning to do for weeks: call your attention to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's acceptance speeches from the Oscars. (Unfortunately, in what only seems like oh-so-obvious irony, you can no longer watch these on youtube, thanks to "a copyright claim by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.")

So with the words of Glen Hansard--"Make art! Make art!"--I jump ship, change lanes, and set out for a wildly more creative course with the design of my blog in my own hands. Well, I guess it's time to bid farewell and be down the road...See you on the other side!


ps--feedback about this new venture is DEFINITELY welcome!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Day 2 of the Great Gourmand Vacation Week

Day 2 (Monday): Homemade Jalepeno Cheese Bread sandwiches

The Great Gourmand Vacation Week continued on Monday with a recreation of one of my all-time favorite sandwiches: a steak melt on jalepeno cheese bread. I've sung songs about the valiant JCB in the past, and for good reason--the combination of creamy cheddar and spicy chile does wonders to any filling you dare insert between the slices.

Monday's JCB melt was inspired by leftover tri-tip, and took a deliciously local turn. Our overstuffed sandwiches not only featured leftover Brandt Beef tri-tip, they were crafted on Bread on Market jalepeno cheese mini-baguettes, and topped with caramelized Schaner Farms onions, and a splash of diced Valdavia Farms arugula for good measure. If only I had some Winchester Gouda on hand, the sandwich would seriously have been the best flavor explosion to come out of one San Diego kitchen since it started playing host to locally sourced meals about a year ago. (As it was, I had a huge block of Tillamook in my fridge, and being on "vacation" and all, I settled for the convenient rather than the trek to a Hillcrest cheese shop).

The meal even included San Diego hot sauce--I had the pleasure of sampling an array of hot sauces from Carlsbad company Scorpion Bay. When GGVW (Great Gourmand Vacation Week) ends and I go back to my regular routine, I intend to experiment more with these sauces--their tantalizing flavors (avocado, chocolate, taco-shop) deserve front-and-center placement in a dish. For the time being, I was content to dash a few drops of each on different bites of my sandwich, as any hot sauce that doesn't hold up to a steak sandwich is no hot sauce in my mind. (They all passed).

Suffice it to say, San Diego puts forth a damn good cheese steak. Why has it taken me so long to come to this realization? Seriously, with the triumvirate of Bandt beef, Bread on Market JCB baguette, and (I imagine) Winchester Gouda, Philly's got nothing on us. And did I mention how well a JCB cheese steak goes with a pint of Ballast Point Dorado? It's like the two were made to go hand in hand. (The brewery has 22-oz. bottles if you're wondering where to get some).

Coming up next: the Great Gourmand Vacation Week Road Trip!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

the great gourmand vacation week: day 1

Through a series of coincidences, happenstance, and a handful of last minute plans, this week has been dubbed, for lack of a more grandiose term, the Great Gourmand Vacation Week. Ok, so a caveat--in "vacation" week I don't actually mean I'm taking any time off work, but I do mean actively trying to spend every single evening acting like I'm on vacation. The result? A week peppered with delicious adventures in an itinerary that I otherwise thought only occurred during the the most well-planned, luxurious vacations. It's phenomenal (and I wholeheartedly recommend trying it at home).

Today marks the halfway point, and while I really should be in bed resting up for my next big adventure tomorrow, I thought that the halfway point seemed worthy of a blog post. Here, in a bit of a delay, is how the week kicked off.

Day 1 (Sunday): Homebrew lesson and barbeque.
I knew from the second I started pulling brewing equipment from a friend's closet that nothing this week was going to top day 1. It all started on Saturday, during a last minute trip to Ballast Point brewery (which doubles as the Home Brew Mart) when a casual conversation escalated to reality. A beer style was decided on, ingredients were purchased, and a plan was set in motion to make my first ever homebrew attempt actually happen.

the bounty: malt, malt extract, hops, yeast, and sugar, all ready to be spun into one bewitching brew

We settled on an American Pale Ale, mostly due to me liking it, my friend having had success with the style in the past, and the home brew mart's helpful "beer recipes" telling us exactly what we needed to throw into the pot. Here's the recipe (although the version we made had a few more kinds of hops), here's the instructions we followed for steeping grains and brewing from extract, and here's a step-by-step visual recount of the event:

steeping the grains

removing the grains

adding the malt extract

adding the hops

chilling the wort

transferring to the fermenter and taking a hydrometer reading

adding the yeast

sealing the deal!

Three days later it is bubbling steadily at 71 degrees F. (that's good!) We've got dry-hopping and then the bottling process to come, and if all goes well the official tasting is scheduled for leap-year Friday, because, well what better day to taste your first homebrew attempt than a day that only comes once in as far as you can remember (Feb 29 on a Friday)?

Oh, and then there was the barbecue. Not one to let experiences skate by at anything less than epic, I decided to take advantage of the wait time during the 3-hour process by grilling up a massive cut of tri-tip. (Who has a homebrew session without lots of delicious food to accompany it?). Brandt Beef has started coming to the Pacific Beach farmers markets on Saturday mornings, and I've been celebrating first with chili, then beef stew, and I was excited to try my third purchase, tri-tip. I also was hankering to test out a smoker bag I recently picked up, and ended up with a hassle-free, one bag, outstandingly delicious dinner: tri tip, new potatoes, and green beans. I'd show you pictures but my camera was trained on the stove the whole evening.

Stay tuned for more adventures from the Great Gourmand Vacation Week!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Let's get all historical up in this post

Let's just call this the first in a series of ruminations on the past, present, and future of food. In no particular order, this one falls around the mid-1800's.

According to Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, as translated by M.F.K. Fisher*:

Definition of Gastronomy

Gastronomy is the intelligent knowledge of whatever concerns man's nourishment.

Its purpose is to watch over his conservation by suggesting the best possible sustenance for him.

It arrives at this goal by directing, according to certain principles, all men who hunt, supply or prepare whatever can be made into food.

Thus it is Gastronomy, to tell the truth, which motivates the farmers, vineyardists, fishermen, hunters, and the great family of cooks, no matter under what names or qualifications they may disguise their part in the preparation of foods.

Gastronomy is a part of:
Natural history, by its classification of alimentary substances;
Physics, because of the examination of the composition and quality of these substances;
Chemistry, by the various analyses and catalyses to which it subjects them;
Cookery, because of the art of adapting dishes and making them pleasant to the taste;
Business, by the seeking out of methods of buying as cheaply as possible what is needed, and of selling most advantageously what can be produced for sale;
Finally, political economy, because of the sources of revenue which gastronomy creates and the means of exchange which it establishes between nations.

It rules over our whole life; for the cries often newborn babe beg for his wet nurse's breast; and the dying man still receives with some pleasure his final potion, which, alas, it is too late for him ever to digest!

It concerns also every state of society, for just as it directs the banquets of assembled kings, it dictates the number of minutes needed to make a perfectly boiled egg.

The subject matter of gastronomy is whatever can be eaten; its direct end is the conservation of individuals; and its means of execution are the culture which produces, the commerce which exchanges, the industry which prepares, and the experience which invents means to dispose of everything to the best advantage.
*Brilliat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste was published in 1825. It has been translated from French into English several times, including once by the food writer MFK Fisher, who published a translation in 1945. I'm currently reading this translation, and, in being lazy, spent a portion of the evening trying to search for a public-domain version from which to copy and paste this quote. However, it looks like most public-domain versions out there are of a different translation, the Fayette Robinsion translation (done around the mid 1800's I believe--he died in 1859). I've never paid attention to different translations of foreign texts before, but even a quick skim through shows the difference the translator's perspective can have. Robinson's alternative translation of the above passage can be found here (scroll to the third essay down)--I wonder if I'm the only one to realize the amazing richness a food writer brought to the enjoyment of this text. (If you agree, and intend to ever read a copy of this tome, be sure to get your hands on a version of the MFK Fisher translation...it's well worth the hunt).

Monday, January 21, 2008

drive-by blogging: toronado

Well, I might as well follow up my post about the new Liars Club with a post about what will possibly (?) be its central San Diego replacement.

Word on the street has been that Toronado is slated to open a San Diego branch in "early 2008." Having been there just once, I'm excited. I mean, look at what they have on draft in SF right now. (One can only surmise that most of those Nor. Cal. breweries will be So. Cal. breweries in the new location).

But, never content to rely on word on the street for more than a few weeks (I want answers, ok?) I sent a dispatch to San Francisco to get a firsthand report from the Toronado staff about the situation. (ok, he was going to SF anyway, and he was also going to Toronado anyway, but he promised me he'd ask.) The report? "Anyday now."

A report like "anyday" gets me excited, so I decided to dispatch myself to do a little investigating. Turns out "anyday" in Toronado bartender speak is a pretty liberal euphemism for, well...eventually.

Here's the building--it's on 30th between Lincoln and Polk

and here's what it looks like right now:

yep kids, looks like at least for a little while longer the forthcoming Toronado is pretty firmly rooted as a boarded up yoga studio.

the black marker on the sign is incredibly faded, but it definitely says Toronado. Here's some stellar photo editing for your enjoyment:

Anyway, look like the wait will be at least a few weeks longer. Luckily for anyone in the area, I recently discovered that the bike ride from Hillcrest to Hamilton's is incredibly do-able (and a mostly downhill ride that should definitely require a helmet). Just don't count on getting a cab within 40 minutes of when you decide you're ready to leave.

alright, well I think that's about enough citizen journalism for one day.

Friday, January 18, 2008


totally off topic, but i have to express my respect for some joe strummer brilliance:

the diving bell and butterfly
(warning, automatic sound) (trailer here also, i think, automatic sound) ends with joe strummer and the mescaleros's ramshackle day parade (one the also otherwise brilliant streetcore) running through the credits, and i have to admit, the movie sheds a considerable brilliance on the song...i mean, WOW. please watch the movie, and then please insist that the song be played at least five times in a row after that. then, if you're as sappy as me, relish, or at least notice, the tears streaming down yr face.

also, tom waits's all the world is green is equally amazing in the soundtrack (also plays in the credits, but there is another tom waits song that plays during the movie)

besides the soundtrack, this movie is absolutely amazing on it's own. based on a true story and what a story it is. i ran out today and added the book to my library reserve list (which is good, because i'm now number 12 on the new michael pollan book, so i need a few to distract me for a while).

anyway, i know a good number of you loyal readers will enjoy it if you get a chance. (the movie, not necessarily the strummer song, although that's amazing too)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Polito Farms featured in LA Times

This time of year, I'm seriously addicted to citrus. I have been downing Satsuma tangerines and Valencia oranges from Polito Family Farms by the pound (I'm actually eating one now as I type). And it looks like I'm not alone--the LA Times food section this week has a nice feature on Bob Polito. Check it out: This Farmer Has a Zest for Experimentation.

The article highlights the history of his Vally Center farm, how he came to grow what he grows, and the importance of farmers' markets for farmer's financial success. Be sure to read to the end--the last section of the article gives an overview of the hardships farmers in San Diego County have faced over the past five years.

After you read the piece, be sure to check out Polito's produce first hand. They're at the Pacific Beach farmers' market every Saturday.

Also in today's LA Times food section is a great article on 100 things to do with a meyer lemon. Polito has them, if you're interested. They've got a thin rind, and are much sweeter than a typical lemon--you can eat a slice and not pucker up seconds after the juice hits your tastebuds. (I also happened to be gifted a gorgeous Meyer lemon tree last month, so I'm particularly excited to see this article.)

I'd love to see more articles like this in our papers. I was just having a conversation last night about how odd it is that while the chef seems to have reached celebrity status in our world, the growers of our food all too often pass by under the radar, unnamed and uncelebrated. You can't have chefs without food folks--here's to celebrating our growers.