Boiled peanuts

Somewhere over the course of my childhood, I developed a taste for boiled peanuts. Maybe it was that year I lived in Georgia as a toddler, or maybe it was that southern neighbor of ours in Massachusetts. Regardless, I still crave boiled peanuts to this very day and dream about them far more than I care to admit. They’re like a cross between chick peas and roasted chestnuts, bean-like but also decidedly peanutty. I call them “redneck edamame“. When cooked properly, they have a wonderful soft and slightly chewy texture. I freaking love the things. Most other people I know, however, don’t.

” There are a number of redneck activities you can occupy yourself with while you wait “

I’m not going to lie to you. If you’re curious whether or not you will like boiled peanuts, you probably won’t. I only know a handful of people who like them, myself included. Many of these people herald from India, where I am told boiled peanuts are a relatively common street food. Aside from that, I know one Texan who likes boiled peanuts and three or four folks from the Carolinas who grew up eating them. Everybody else I know, my Texan wife included, think that boiled peanuts are all kinds of icky.

There. That concludes my disclaimer. If you make this recipe and decide that you hate boiled peanuts, you have only yourself to blame. Now that we’ve weeded out all the wimps, let’s get cooking!

Who wants to make a peanut angel with me?

Who wants to make a peanut angel with me?


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs raw peanuts
  • 1-2 quarts water
  • 1/2 cup table salt (or 1 cup Kosher salt)


Other stuff you’ll need

  • a crock pot or large stock pot
  • something to do for twelve hours


Directions

If it wasn’t so tricky to find raw peanuts, this would pretty much be the world’s easiest ingredient list. Raw peanuts usually start showing up at my local farmer’s market in late September and disappear again in December. You can also find them at Asian markets and/or in any decent-sized Chinatown. Once you finally locate some raw peanuts, buy a pile of them. I usually get two pounds at a time because that’s what will fit in my crock pot.

Be sure to wash your n... uhm... I mean produce. Be sure to wash your produce.

Be sure to wash your n… uhm… I mean produce. Be sure to wash your produce.

Take that lovely pile of peanuts and wash the bejiminy out of them. Peanuts grow in dirt. Nobody likes eating dirt. Wash harder. When the rinse water runs clear, the peanuts are about as clean as you can get them.

The general idea at this point is to simmer the peanuts all day long in salty water, which can be accomplished in a number of different ways. A pot on the stovetop works just fine, but I prefer using a slow cooker. Dump the peanuts into whatever cooking thingy you choose, cover with water, and add the salt. Bring the resulting brine water to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about eight to ten hours. If you’re using a crock pot, set the selector to ‘high’ and let it go for about twelve hours.

The salt ratio is a tricky thing to get correct, partly because everybody prefers slightly different amounts of salt, but also because the amount of water you need varies depending on the shape of your cooking vessel. The best advice I can give is to wait until the brine water is simmering and then taste a tiny spoonful of it. It should be salty but not repulsive, say a little bit less salty than ocean water. However salty the brine tastes is how salty the peanuts will be. Adjust the salt and water ratios accordingly, but do it early and do it ONLY ONCE.

Everyone in the pool!

Everyone in the pool!

So, how do you know when the peanuts are done? Well… uh… They certainly shouldn’t be crunchy at all, that’s for sure. If they crunch, they need to cook another few hours at least. They also shouldn’t be über-mushy, but rather somewhere halfway in between. It’s worth noting that you should not be alarmed at the apparent blandness of the peanuts as you taste test them. In my experience, the salt only seems to work its way into the nuts during the last 10% of the cook time or so. I have ruined more than one batch of boiled peanuts by panicking and adding more salt at the last minute, only to have the batch turn out lip-puckeringly over-brined. Don’t be a me.

There are a number of redneck activities you can occupy yourself with while you wait the twelve-ish hours it takes your peanuts to become boiled. You can build a potato gun, watch reruns of Honey Boo Boo, make a hammock out of duct tape, or go mattress surfing. When you’ve finished cleaning the mud out of your hair and replacing any teeth you’ve lost, you’re ready to enjoy a true redneck delicacy.

Note: If you like boiled peanuts and you’re not a redneck, I have probably just offended you. Stop being so sensitive.

I sure do love me some boiled peanuts.

I sure do love me some boiled peanuts.

Remove the peanuts from the brine and eat them hot. Delish! Whatever’s leftover will keep for about a week in the fridge, or many months in the freezer. If you’ve discovered that you do indeed like boiled peanuts, you might also want to try Cajun style. Throw a couple bags of Old Bay seasoning in the brine along with a jar of pickled jalapeños, juice and all, and you’re good to go.



See also



Standard Recipe Disclaimer
I don’t come up with a lot of my own recipes (unless you count my own personal milk-to-Grape-Nuts ratio), and chances are the recipe posted above belongs to or was inspired by a person other than me. So if you’re wondering whether or not I ripped somebody off, I probably did. Don’t get out the pitchforks and torches just yet though! I want to make absolutely sure I give credit where it’s due, so if you think someone deserves recognition for something that I haven’t already called out FOR CRYING OUT LOUD LET ME KNOW. Thanks, I appreciate it. Here’s a cookie.


The Bay Fish & Chips

meter-ok-goodThe Bay Fish & Chips is one of those places I really want to like. It may actually be good, but my one experience with it was a bit lacking. I can’t even really say that it was one particular thing that put me off about this place; the whole experience was like a never-ending chain of small disappointments that ultimately resulted in an overall opinion of “meh”.

” Weird, blue cups of water “

For starters, the spousal unit and I (for simplicity I’ll just say “we” from here on out) were finally recovering from a relatively terrible meal and we decided that we had earned something fried and tasty for our sacrifice. Fish and chips sounded dandy, and so we consulted Google for a local place we hadn’t tried yet. We drove a short couple miles down the street, following our GPS, and arrived at a strange and mildly unpleasant shopping center growing cyst-like on the side of El Camino Real. Tiny disappointment #1. Ok, well… Sometimes the best places are in grungy little shopping centers. I hope.

Sorry carlwuzhere for stealing this picture from your blog. Either you can sue me or I can give you like five bucks if you want.

Sorry carlwuzhere for stealing this picture from your blog. Either you can sue me or I can give you like five bucks if you want.

Actually, you know what… The signage mounted in the corner of that shopping center archway looks fairly professional. Wait a second. That big archway thing isn’t actually the front of an entire restaurant, it’s just an empty shell covering a weird, sad little space hidden in the corner. Tiny disappointment #2.

Welcome to 1982. Do you like our wood paneling?

Welcome to 1982. Do you like our wood paneling?

Now you can’t really photograph odor, so instead I opted for a picture of the menu board. As we walked in the door we realized that this place is not what we expected. It smelled like a noodle shop or similar Asian-style fast food joint, which is not a bad thing at all, of course, but it’s jarring when you are expecting to encounter the smell of… oh, I don’t know… perhaps fish and chips? It’s like going to take a big swig of your 7up only to discover that it’s tonic water. Euugh. Neither are bad things, but when you want one you usually don’t want the other. The place was also completely empty during lunch hour on a weekend, which was off-putting. Tiny disappointments #3 and #4.

Seriously, what's with those cups?

Seriously, what’s with those cups?

We skipped over the wonton soup and shrimp cake options on the menu and ordered what we came for: fried sea animal parts. The person at the register – I presume one of the owners – was courteous, fast, friendly, and happy to see customers. She invited us to choose whatever table we liked and brought us tartar sauce, vinegar, and cups of water. Weird, blue cups of water. Tupperware cups like what you’d find in the bargain aisle of a 1970s Walmart. Tiny disappointment #5. Around then I noticed the decor, a painfully stereotypical arrangement of wood paneling and gilded “paintings” of sailing ships braving untamed seas. If you looked closely at the paintings, you could see that each had a thin veneer of once-airborne fish fryer oil that had condensed into sticky little vertical driplets. Tiny disappointment #6. We tried not to touch the paintings (or the walls) and waited.

Well, it's fish and chips alright.

Well, it’s fish and chips alright.

I’ve spent a lot of time so far talking about all the things I didn’t like leading up to the one thing that matters: The food. A restaurant can get pretty much everything else wrong, but if they manage to produce an amazing plate of grub then quite a lot can be forgiven. Unfortunately, the fish and chips were not amazing. They were hot and crispy and overall just fine, but they weren’t exceptional. The fish was fair and very slightly too oily, and the fries were the standard crinkle-cut variety. Tiny disappointment #7. The surprising star of the show was the tartar sauce. I couldn’t tell if it was scratch made or not, but it was excellent. Certainly not a disappointment.

We left The Bay Fish & Chips unsure of whether or not we liked it. Both of us felt a little greasy from the experience, and neither of us seemed to be genuinely satisfied. The other online reviews for this restaurant are generally very positive, so I’m willing to give it another try to see if my opinion improves. From my limited experience here, however, I have to rate this place a slightly disappointing 5 out of 8 oily nautical paintings. Oh, oil paintings. I made an accidental funny.

The Bay Fish & Chips
826 W El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
(408) 732-5665
Google it

Bay Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Cure your own bacon

I really can’t think of a good reason why you wouldn’t want to cure your own bacon. IT’S BACON, PEOPLE. More is better! Homemade is even better than that. So then, do you like maple bacon? Black pepper bacon? Fancy herb-spiced yuppie bacon? Do you prefer it sliced thin, thick, halfway in-between? Well guess what, you get to choose. Control your own bacon destiny!

” Stop complaining and get to work “

Ok, so perhaps you don’t own a smoker and that concerns you. Sure, a smoker makes the roasting/smoking process a little bit easier, but it isn’t a 100% requirement by a long shot. There are a lot of perfectly viable workarounds, so don’t worry too much about it. The only truly “specialty” item you’re going to need is curing salt, also known as “Prague powder #1“, “Instacure #1″, or “pink curing salt”. Himalayan pink salt is not the same thing as pink curing salt, so don’t confuse the two.

Just imagine of all the things you can do with your very own homemade bacon.

Just imagine of all the things you can do with your very own homemade bacon.

Curing isn’t anything to be afraid of. Curing salt is simply a mixture of sodium nitrite and regular old table salt. Prague Powder #1 happens to be 6% sodium nitrite and 94% regular salt and is the only type of cure you need to worry about. There is such thing as Prague Powder #2, but it contains a different ratio of ingredients and is for a completely different style of curing. What is sodium nitrite? It’s a common ingredient needed in the creation of all types of meats we know and love such as ham, pastrami, sausages, and of course bacon.

So here’s the deal. Curing requires a very specific curing-salt-to-meat ratio. Too much results in excess sodium nitrite which isn’t good for you, and too little could result in spoiled meat which is just gross. The rule is always one teaspoon of Prague Powder #1 per five pounds of meat, ground or otherwise. Easy. It’s printed right there on the container of curing salt. It gets very complicated when you start adding liquids because then you need to calculate the solution, weigh the ingredients, blah blah etc etc. If you search around the interwebs a bit you will find all sorts of opinionated rednecks arguing with one another about science and math in a very amusing manner. You will also find quite a lot of recipes that call for wildly incorrect amounts of curing salt, which is a little scary.

The good news about this particular recipe is that it’s very safe. We already know that we’re not using too much curing salt.. but what if there isn’t enough? Well even if you didn’t use any curing salt at all, the meat is refrigerated throughout the process and only “ages” for 7 days, which isn’t really enough time for it to spoil. There’s also copious amounts of regular old salt – an effective preservative – and the meat actually ends up getting cooked twice before it ever comes near your plate anyway. There, does that make you feel better? I thought so. Let’s get started then!

You don't need a lot of gear to cure your own bacon.

You don’t need a lot of gear to cure your own bacon.


Ingredients

  • 5 lbs fresh pork belly, skin on
  • 1 tsp Prague Powder #1
  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt -or- 1/8 cup table salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup


Other stuff you’ll need

  • a 2.5 gallon Jumbo Ziplock bag
  • a smoker or barbecue and some applewood chips
    • alternately, a normal oven and a bit of liquid smoke will work
  • a meat thermometer
  • a good, sharp knife, the longer the better


Directions

The first thing you need to do is locate five pounds of skin-on pork belly. You should be able to order one at the butcher counter in your local grocery store. Alternately, you can seek out a specialty butcher shop and see if they already have pork belly in the display case. My favorite haunt for this sort of thing is Schaub’s Meat, Fish, & Poultry in Palo Alto. They usually get their deliveries of pork on Thursday mornings, so if you’re quick about things you can often snag a hunk of belly that same day without calling ahead.

Whisking together the dry mix first helps ensure an even distribution of curing salt.

Whisking together the dry mix first helps ensure an even distribution of curing salt.

Rinse the pork belly with cold water, pat dry with paper towels, and put it in that 2.5 gallon Jumbo Ziplock bag you set aside. The next thing you want to do is whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Note that Kosher salt measures differently than table salt does. A good general rule is that you should double the measure when using Kosher instead of table salt or halve it when going the other way. If you want your bacon a little on the salty side, allow the measuring cup to heap a little bit, otherwise make sure it’s a level scoop. Dump the dry ingredients into the Ziplock bag right onto the belly and add the 1/4 cup maple syrup as well.

Belly in a bag. Here we go.

Belly in a bag. Here we go.

Seal the zip on the bag and smoosh the ingredients around until the belly is completely covered. You might be thinking that it’s a pain to try and rub the ingredients on inside the bag, and you would be correct. You might also think it would be a better idea to apply the rub before putting the belly in the bag and you would be wrong. Remember that it’s important to apply exactly the correct amount of cure to the meat; if we rub the cure on first, we’re going to lose a good amount on our hands and on our working surface, meaning the bacon will turn out under-cured. Applying the rub inside the bag also helps ensure the correct saltiness (and maple-y-ness) of the finished product. It only takes an extra minute or two, so stop complaining and get to work.

Once the belly is covered, lay it flat in the refrigerator and let the cure do its thing. Every day or two, flip the belly over and give it a pat and a rub to help make sure the cure is distributed evenly.

After a week of quality fridge time it should look about like this.

After a week of quality fridge time it should look about like this.

Your bacon is now officially cured, but we still have some work to do. Remove the cured belly from the Ziplock bag, rinse it thoroughly, and pat it dry with a paper towel. Some people recommend letting it hang dry in the fridge for as long as two or three days in order to form a magical barrier-like thing called a pellicle that somehow simultaneously holds in juices, allows for even cooking, and makes smoke flavor “soak in better”. Gently warming your cured belly in a 100 degree oven for an hour is supposed to do the same thing. I have never beheld the forming of this mystical meat coating myself, but I’m not about to argue with an entire Internet full of other self-titled experts who say it’s for real. Personally I don’t bother with pellicle summoning (or whatever the activity is called), and my bacon still rocks. Do it if you feel it’s a worthwhile step, otherwise don’t. Your call.

This little piggy went to the smoker.

This little piggy went to the smoker.

This next step is where the meat thermometer comes in. What we want to do is cook the belly, as slowly as possible, until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. If you have a smoker, great. Set the temperature to 200 degrees F (or as close as you can get it), throw some applewood chunks or chips onto the fire, and put the cured belly skin side up on the grill for two or three hours. If you don’t have a smoker but you do have a regular charcoal or gas barbecue, configure it for low, indirect heat, and it will do just fine for smoking the cured belly. The different methods and techniques for configuring regular barbecues for indirect heat is a whole other can of worms that I won’t cover here, but I will say that there are plenty of options available to you. A regular old oven will work just fine as well, and you can still add smoke flavor by introducing a little liquid smoke to the process.

Yes, it does smell as amazing as it looks. Be jealous.

Yes, it does smell as amazing as it looks. Be jealous.

Once the belly reaches an internal temperature of 150 to 155 degrees F, remove it from the smoker/grill/oven and allow it to cool. Remove the skin while it’s still warm and stick it in the freezer for later use. That salty, smoky pig skin has all sorts of fabulous uses (e.g., chitlins, flavoring soups and beans, etc.) so definitely don’t just throw it away. What you do from here is now completely up to you. You can slice your bacon, cut it into chunks and give it away to friends, freeze it, chop it into bits and make lardons, use it as a pillow, etc. In my opinion, the very best option is to slice some of it up and make BLT sandwiches for dinner while you decide what to do with the rest. There are no bounds to what you and your bacon can accomplish together.

A 14

A 14″ brisket knife and a steady hand make for nice, even strips.

Now that you know how to cure your own bacon, you can start messing with the recipe a bit. Just remember that it’s always one teaspoon of Prague Powder #1 to five pounds of belly in a dry (or mostly dry) mix. From there do whatever you like. Add spices, pepper, bay leaves, espresso… pretty much anything really. Get out there and conquer your own world of bacon.



See also


*attempts to eat computer screen*

*attempts to eat computer screen*



Standard Recipe Disclaimer
I don’t come up with a lot of my own recipes (unless you count my own personal milk-to-Grape-Nuts ratio), and chances are the recipe posted above belongs to or was inspired by a person other than me. So if you’re wondering whether or not I ripped somebody off, I probably did. Don’t get out the pitchforks and torches just yet though! I want to make absolutely sure I give credit where it’s due, so if you think someone deserves recognition for something that I haven’t already called out FOR CRYING OUT LOUD LET ME KNOW. Thanks, I appreciate it. Here’s a cookie.


Tarpy’s Roadhouse

meter-great-haOnce upon a time, in a land not all that far away, there lived a happy Couple that were soon to be wed. They wanted their wedding to be the most perfect day that ever was, so they set out on a grand adventure to find the perfect location. Their heads were giddy in wonder of all the beautiful places along the Monterey Peninsula where they sought to exchange their vows.

Long they tarried in this land of coastal delight, sampling dainties and gazing at many-hued sunsets. It was said in legend of Monterey that it was the place of the Newly Wed or the Nearly Dead; and so it was true! The Couple discovered many young Princes and Princesses dancing gaily amongst silver-haired and wizened ancient beings. And yet all that were to be seen were happy, and the Couple decided that Monterey was still the ideal place for their nuptials.

Inside awaiteth many delicious things.

Inside awaiteth many delicious things.

Soon the Couple’s journey led them to Tarpy’s Roadhouse, a mystical… house… on the road… or something. And yet they cared not for the pedestrian name because the wonders of the kitchen had no equal! They dined on succulent lamb, rich bounties of the sea, and mesmerizing cocktails. Surely this was the place for the post-wedding feast, and so the Couple signed an accord with the kind Lady Tarpy herself, or so the event coordinator assured them she was, and so ensured a feast that would equal no other.

Pleased with their progress and fortified with the finest meal they could recall, the Couple’s next task was to seek out a grand palace to host their ceremony. First they visited the Baron of the Leaping Dolphin, who showed them a waterfront plaza of such splendor that the Couple immediately knew that their search was over. But the greedy Baron had other plans! He chuckled an evil chuck and drew forth a vile contract from the folds of his cloak; and he asked the Couple to sign it in blood!

The leaping dolphins were but the doorhandles on the fiery gates of the Underworld!

The leaping dolphins were but the doorhandles on the fiery gates of the Underworld!

“But what does the contract say O Baron, and why musteth we sign with such ink?” asked the groom-to-be.

“It says thou shallt consume only vittles prepared by my own hand!” laughed the Baron while pushing out a small fart.

“Alas, I fear your kitchen skills mayeth suck compared to the wondrous Roadhouse du Tarpy” fretted the concerned bride-to-be.

“And so my skills do suck!” guffawed the Baron. “There are but few who can burn water like me.”

The Couple quickly took counsel in one another, discussing what to do next. Their hearts ached to leave behind the magnificent waterfront plaza, but they could not bear the shame of serving their guests a disgusting meal. And so they told the Baron to put his contract where the sun shineth not, and they left.

Next they visited the benevolent hermit of the Pacific Grove Parks & Open Space Department. He was a gentle sort and was pleased to help the Couple in any way he could. “Thou willst not be safe from the rain in any part of my domain,” said the hermit sadly. “And yet I would gladly host the finest outdoor wedding ye has ever known, albeit a bit soggy. Also, I don’t provide lawn chairs.” Heartbroken, the Couple bid the gentle hermit a fond farewell and continued on their way.

Beautiful yet moist Pacific Grove.

Beautiful yet moist Pacific Grove.

They journeyed for many more days and nights, and their fortunes repeated themselves over and over. The Dutchess of Carmel DoubleTree declared, “Thou shallst eat nought but hotel food or get thou lost.” The child-prince of the Monterey Community Services Division said simply, “Huh?” And still the Couple continued on, dejected and lost. Then suddenly, the Couple smacked one another upon the head and knew the answer! Their wedding shouldsteth be at Tarpy’s!

The legendary Library of Tarpy.

The legendary Library of Tarpy.

And so they returned to the welcoming arms of Lady Tarpy, and she offered to them the beautiful Courtyard for their ceremony and the historic Library for the reception, and they were glad. The wedding was beautiful in spite of being overflown by cargo jets, and the guests of the newlyweds feasted on wondrous colossal shrimp and the exquisitely prepared flesh of turf-beasts. And the Priest said, “I declare you man and wife, and may you dine at Tarpy’s every year on the date of your vows.” And the newlywed Couple agreed that it should be so.

tsc_divider7_black

Exactly ten years later, the Couple continues to live happily ever after. They visited the Lady Tarpy as decreed, and they brought with them the Count and Countess of the great and overpriced kingdom Francisco of San. Lady Tarpy proffered to them seats within the sunny courtyard and sold to them lunch specials fit for royalty. To prepare their appetites for the feast, fried pickles with mystical and unidentified Creamy Sauce were served first. They included many different types of pickled vegetables that were amazing, especially with the mysteriously delicious sauce. Only the Count Francisco of San disapproved of the fried pickles, and the others declared him to be a stinky buttface.

Pickles of frying with Creamy Sauce.

Pickles of frying with Creamy Sauce.

The brisket biscuit, also intended to whet appetites, was universally praised. Special notice was taken of the bountiful and crispy coleslaw upon which the brisket sat.

Brisket contained within biscuit.

Brisket contained within biscuit.

Next was served forth a filet mignon devised into a sandwich made of freshly toasted garlic-upon-bread. Within this heavenly envelope was also added pungent bluish cheese and straws of onion-make, and three of the party were struck dumb with awe. The fourth cared not for the bluish cheese but agreed that the sandwich was otherwise divine.

A heavenly concoction of bread and cow.

A heavenly concoction of bread and cow.

The last of the savory dishes was rib bones of the boar. They were tender and englazened with succulent sauce, but alas they were not par with the rest of the meal. The Couple still enjoyed the rib bones, but they had not the courage to inform Lady Tarpy that the other dishes were superior.

Riblets of a fallen beast.

Riblets of a fallen beast.

The time had come to review the desserting menu, and none could decide which of the dainties was best. Then, as a ray of sunlight through clouds, they beheld the words “large dessert sampler” and knew it was the only true choice to be made. And so they told the waitpersoness, and soon a mighty dish of many sweet things was brought forth.

The renowned Platter of Many Cavities.

The renowned Platter of Many Cavities.

All who were seated at the table ate like ravenous wild things, each choosing a different favorite. After much debate and the unbuttoning of pants, it was agreed that all of the desserts were of equal and exceptional quality. And they were glad.

So ends this tale of the ten-year-revisit of Tarpy’s Roadhouse. The service and gastric delights continue to be of the utmost quality, neither too aristocratic nor too ignoble. It ranks quite highly compared to other dining halls, and shouldst one find themselves in the area they would be wise to pay Tarpy’s a visit.

Tarpy’s Roadhouse
2999 Salinas Highway
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 647-1444
www.tarpys.com

Tarpy's Roadhouse on Urbanspoon


Welcome to thee, all who desire to become fat.

Welcome to thee, all who desire to become fat.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Portola Valley Lobster Shack

meter-great-Portola Valley Lobster Shack is nestled away in a corner of Ladera Shopping Center along Alpine Road in, you guessed it, Portola Valley. Confusingly, this restaurant is sometimes called Old Port Lobster Shack, because that’s the name listed on the website. There are also two other locations listed under the Old Port moniker, but only one of the three follows this naming convention.

Yeah, I know. My head hurts too.

“Note: Flavor molecules may not actually exist”

Weird naming quirks aside, Portola Valley Lobster Shack is a wonderful little place. It’s quintessentially New-England-ish in its decor and food choices, but unlike many establishments actually located in New England, the people at Portola Valley are polite and friendly. What’s that, you say? I’m implying that people on the east coast are rude? No, I’m not implying that at all, I’m stating it as a fact. Hey, I used to live there so shaddap. (There, how was that for east coast charm?)

The menu at Portola Valley is a joy to browse. It’s one of those places where you just want to say, “One of everything please” and eat yourself into a coma. On my first visit I wanted to try the clam chowder because, well, how else are you supposed to judge a seafood restaurant? Then I saw the fish and chips and wanted that, but then I saw the lobster rolls. Oh boy. Sold. Then, just as I was closing the menu, I saw the mac and cheese! I am a rabid fanatic of baked mac, and I ended up going for the pulled pork mac & cheese. Yes I know it’s not a seafood dish, but it sounded so amazing I just couldn’t resist.

Pulled pork on baked mac & cheese. *dies*

Pulled pork on baked mac & cheese. *dies*

Before I knew it, my dish of baked heaven appeared before my eyes, and it was magnificent. The pulled pork was tender, smoky, and jammed with flavor molecules. (Note: Flavor molecules may not actually exist, but you get the idea.) The mac & cheese was excellent as well, but ever so slightly understated. This is actually a good thing because it worked well to highlight the pulled pork, undoubtedly the star of the show. Alone, though, it could have used a teeny bit more flavor and/or cheesiness. It was still all kinds of epic win though.

The brisket is remarkably good, especially for a seafood restaurant.

The brisket is remarkably good, especially for a seafood restaurant.

On subsequent visits and with additional fellow dinner-ists, I also got a chance to try the brisket sandwich. Yes yes, I can hear you whining that this is a review for a seafood place and I still have yet to try any actual seafood. Just keep your pants on, we’re getting to that. The brisket was on par with the pulled pork, meaning that it was very good indeed. The barbecue at this place is better than what you’d find at most dedicated barbecue places actually, and that fact goes a long way towards showing that the folks in the kitchen here really know what they’re doing.

I totally took this picture myself. Yep.

I totally took this picture myself. Yep.

There, see? I finally got to the fish and chips. More specifically, it’s haddock and chips, which is a nice little detail that really impresses me. Haddock is fairly common anywhere near the Atlantic Ocean, but seeing haddock this far west means that this restaurant is serious about being New England-y. Don’t take my word for it though. I dragged a native Bostonian here to give it a try, and he wasn’t very thrilled… until he saw that it was haddock. At that point (and after tasting the fish and chips) he changed his tune completely and had nothing but very positive things to say. On yet another visit I overheard a guy from England make a point of flagging down one of the people running the restaurant and complimenting them on the food. “It’s the best fish and chips I have had outside of London” were his exact words. And yes, I agree – the fish and chips are that good here. They are spectacular in fact.

At the end of the day, Portola Valley Lobster Shack is an excellent place to grab a bite to eat. If you’re hankering for a taste of east coast seafood or a bit of barbecue, this is the place for you. Rumor has it they make a mean lobster roll and a dandy cup of chowder as well, but my opinions on those will have to wait for a revisit. I hereby bestow a rating of 35,098,552,670,980 flavor molecules (out of 38,000,000,000,000 of course), which should land this restaurant pretty close to the middle of your radar screen. Visit here soon.

Portola Valley Lobster Shack / Old Bay Lobster Shack
Three locations in the Bay Area
www.oplobster.com

Portola Valley Lobster Shack on Urbanspoon


Lots of seating outdoors, not lots indoors.

Lots of seating outdoors, not lots indoors.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Buttermilk drop biscuits

Everybody loves biscuits. There’s no arguing with this statement. I’m not talking about the flat, sweet, crunchy things that folks on the other side of the Atlantic call biscuits (although those are good too), I’m talking about flaky, buttery, American-style biscuits. If you’ve never had one of these fresh out of the oven, you haven’t lived.

THESE are biscuits. End of story.

THESE are biscuits. End of story.

I’ve made a lot of rolled biscuits in the past, the kind where you roll out the dough and cut circles out with a cutter, but lately I’ve taken to drop biscuits. They get their name from the fact that are formed by taking rough scoops of dough and dropping them onto a sheet or pan; no rolling pin necessary. Drop biscuits require less work and therefore less handling, which – for me at least – results in a lighter texture. They are also more versatile than their rolled cousins, and they do rather well with additional ingredients mixed in like cheese or hunks of bacon.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk …give or take a bit. More on this later.


Directions

” If Satan has a favorite drink, it’s buttermilk “

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. If you happen to be using a cast iron drop biscuit pan, preheat it with the oven. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Now we need to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients, probably the trickiest bit of the whole process. The most straightforward way to go about it is just to plop the butter as-is directly into the flour mixture and go to work with a pastry blender. If you don’t happen to have one of these (and even if you do), this step can be a pain in the arse. You can try chopping up the butter before dumping it into the flour and using table knives or forks to work it in, but it’s a tedious process. Or………


Optional super-cool way of doing things

Put your 1.5 sticks of butter in the freezer and leave them there for several hours, preferably overnight. Put a cheese grater in there as well.

Yes, you read that correctly. Put a cheese grater in the freezer. I’m serious.

Guess what we're going to do next.

Guess what we’re going to do next.

When the butter is frozen solid, carefully remove it from the wrapper, handling it as little as possible. Using your icy-cold cheese grater, quickly grate the butter into the dry ingredients and mix them together. If you have trouble with the butter clumping together, put your dry ingredients in the freezer for 30 minutes first.

I bet you've never seen grated butter before, have you?

I bet you’ve never seen grated butter before, have you?

Regardless of which method you use to get the butter worked into the dry ingredients, you should end up with a coarse, crumbly-looking mixture with pea-sized lumps of butter. If you want to include additional ingredients (e.g., cheese), now is the time to add them. If this is your first time making drop biscuits, I recommend sticking with the basic recipe to get a better feel for things. Either way, it’s now time to add the buttermilk.

It's not an exact science. Just get your dry mix to look more or less like this.

It’s not an exact science. Just get your dry mix to look more or less like this.

Before we go any further, let me just say that buttermilk is NASTY. Don’t ever try it straight up. My friends and family will tell you that I’m grossly exaggerating things, but don’t listen to them. Buttermilk is one of the most horrific things I have ever tasted – my first tentative sip gave me nightmares for a week. It’s like rotten milk mixed with motor oil and rattlesnake venom. If Satan has a favorite drink, it’s buttermilk, I’m sure of it. It’s a mystery to me how such a repulsive ingredient can make such delicious biscuits, so I’m just going to chalk it up to magic and move on with my life.

Earlier, in the ‘ingredients’ section, I mentioned that you should use one cup of buttermilk, give or take a bit. What I mean by this is that the exact amount of liquid you should use cannot be easily determined ahead of time. When it comes to recipes like this one, it’s far more important for the dough to have the right consistency than to use a precise measurement. As my grandmother used to say when teaching me recipes, “Add enough until it’s right.” So, one cup of buttermilk is probably about the right amount, but don’t be alarmed if you need to add a bit more to make the dough firm up correctly.

Use a measuring cup if it makes you feel better, but I don’t even bother with one. Pour some buttermilk into the dry mix and stir it in gently, being careful not to over-work the dough. If you mix the bejesus out of it, your biscuits will turn out chewy and manhandled instead of flaky and light, so use a gentle hand. It will soon be apparent if there is not enough liquid in your dough because it will be powdery in areas and won’t want to hold together. Add another splash of buttermilk – no more than a tablespoon at a time – and turn over the dough a few more times with your mixing spoon. Keep adding liquid as necessary until you get a single, sticky mess of thick dough that stands up all by itself in the center of the bowl.

And this is what biscuit dough should look like.

And this is what biscuit dough should look like.

Now comes the fun part. Drop quarter-cup lumps of dough onto a baking sheet (or your preheated drop biscuit pan) and bake for 15 minutes.

They don't have to be pretty. In fact, it's better if they aren't.

They don’t have to be pretty. In fact, it’s better if they aren’t.

When the tops of the biscuits are golden brown and toasty, they are ready to consume. Serve them hot and with plenty of butter, sausage gravy, honey, jam, or whatever your heart desires.

It's all worth it for this one buttery moment.

It’s all worth it for this one buttery moment.



See also


A bacon and cheese variant I made recently. They did not suck.

A bacon and cheese variant I made recently. They did not suck.



Standard Recipe Disclaimer
I don’t come up with a lot of my own recipes (unless you count my own personal milk-to-Grape-Nuts ratio), and chances are the recipe posted above belongs to or was inspired by a person other than me. So if you’re wondering whether or not I ripped somebody off, I probably did. Don’t get out the pitchforks and torches just yet though! I want to make absolutely sure I give credit where it’s due, so if you think someone deserves recognition for something that I haven’t already called out FOR CRYING OUT LOUD LET ME KNOW. Thanks, I appreciate it. Here’s a cookie.


Gott’s Roadside

meter-greatGott’s Roadside is an excellent place. For my own tastes, it’s damn near the perfect eatery. Gott’s serves burgers, shakes, salads, breakfast, and quite a number of other American-style classics. They upscale things a bit by also offering a selection of wines, and their beer list ain’t bad either. There isn’t any one thing I can put my finger on that this restaurant does better than its peers, but maybe the thing that sets Gott’s apart is its consistency. All I know is that the next time I’m in the mood for a burger, I’m coming straight back here.

” My continued fry pilfering did not go unnoticed “

After an exhausting weekend of really and truly intending to do a better job of eating healthy, my wife and I decided one little burger couldn’t hurt… right? And maybe a shake. With fries of course. Mmmm, fries. We almost tried to talk ourselves out of it, but it wasn’t long before our rumbling stomachs made us get in the car and drive to the new Gott’s Roadside that just opened near Stanford. The road to hell, it turns out, is paved with comfort food.

Great location, right on the corner of El Camino and Embarcadero.

Great location, right on the corner of El Camino and Embarcadero.

Because I think I am smarter than my GPS unit, I decided to take El Camino from the South Bay all the way up to Palo Alto. Twelve years and several months later, we arrived at our destination. The right side of my face was getting a little sunburned from being subjected to the Spousal Glare of Death coming from the passenger seat, so I exited the car quickly and made sure to be as politely expedient as possible. We went inside, placed our orders at the cash register, and sat at a booth to await our grub.

Where is everybody?

Where is everybody?

The first thing that struck me about the restaurant is how empty it was during lunchtime on a Sunday afternoon. It may well be that Town & Country Village – the shopping center where Gott’s is located – is more of a weekday kind of spot, and I certainly hope that’s all it is. On the weekends, every parking lot in Palo Alto is jam-packed with Audis and Teslas, and every business is filled to bursting, largely with snooty people in expensive yoga pants… but apparently not today. Then again, Gott’s did just open, and things might just be taking a little while to ramp up.

If you don't like po' boys, you aren't human. Sorry.

If you don’t like po’ boys, you aren’t human. Sorry.

Suddenly our pager buzzed, interrupting my scornful musings of the upper middle class, and I hurried off to grab our food. Shawn’s crispy chicken po’ boy looked delicious, and so did her side order of fries. I had decided not to order any fries for myself because I didn’t really want any, but I figured stealing a couple of hers would probably be okay. They weren’t anything special, but sometimes regular old fries are just what you want. Having just another couple fries shouldn’t be a problem, I thought, and snagged a few more. Then a few more. Unfortunately, my continued fry pilfering did not go unnoticed. In a calm and pleasant voice, Shawn said, “I thought you didn’t want any fries.” At least I think that’s what she said, because the words I heard inside my head were “If you touch my food again, I will nail your skin to the Stanford tree mascot.” Regardless of what the exact statement was, I felt it was best to focus my appetite elsewhere.

Perfectly crispy but otherwise uninspiring fries. Then again, what else do you really need?

Perfectly crispy but otherwise uninspiring fries. Then again, what else do you really need?

To my delight, I suddenly remembered that I had ordered a patty melt. Hooray! This diner classic is one of my favorites and one I am always looking for. It’s a tricky dish to get right, and all too often the bread turns into a soggy mess where it touches the hamburger patty… but not at Gott’s. The toasty rye bread was crisp and un-collapsed, the whole grain mustard was fantastic, and the grilled onions were flat-out amazing. And the cheese! I give Gott’s a huge thumbs-up for choosing Gruyere as the “melt” part of the patty melt. It was the highlight of the meal for me.

A patty melt! Surprisingly hard to find, but Gott's has them.

A patty melt! Surprisingly hard to find, but Gott’s has them.

We finished up our meal pleasantly satisfied but not overly full, and we agreed that Gott’s Roadside rocks. They somehow seem to have exactly what you want on the menu, and they do a great job of not screwing it up in the kitchen. The quality of the ingredients and preparation receive high marks, as do the speedy service, reasonable bill, and clean dining area. Gott’s may not knock you on your ass in sheer awe, but if you want a great, hiccup-free experience and some tasty grub then this is the place for you. I rate Gott’s an extremely solid 13 out of 14 stolen french fries, more than good enough to justify many repeat visits. Just don’t take El Camino to get there.

Gott’s Roadside
Multiple locations around the Bay Area
www.gotts.com

Gott's Roadside on Urbanspoon


There's a little something here for everybody.

There’s a little something here for everybody.



Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.