Tour of California

The Hilton’s Winemaker Dinner series convenes next on March 30 with a Tour of California.

The reception is at 6:30, dinner at 7:30, and the price is $95 plus tax and gratuity.

Details on the Wine page.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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I don’t know how your Paddy’s Day is looking, but ours came with about a foot of snow.

No worries. We’re safe inside with a sixpack of Guinness and all the makings for Beth Fitzpatrick’s Guinness Stew. (It’s a rare holiday when the Fitzpatricks don’t have ham, so consider yourself fortunate to be trying this, at all.)

As me sainted father would say, Slainte.

GUINNESS BEEF STEW

2 pounds London Broil, trimmed and cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Cayenne
2 Vidalia onions, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped
8 ounces tomato sauce
10 ounces Guinness Stout
2 cups carrots, large dice
Sprig of fresh thyme
Fresh parsley chopped for garnish

Toss beef with a little oil. Season the flour with salt, pepper and cayenne and then toss the meat with the flour.

Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Don’t crowd the pan, work in batches if necessary.

Reduce the heat. Add onions, garlic, and tomato sauce. Cover and cook gently for 5 minutes. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a casserole, stoneware crock or Dutch oven.

Deglaze the skillet by pouring 1/2 of the Guinness into the skillet, scraping up the brown bits.

Pour over the meat, along with the remaining Guinness. Add the carrots and thyme. Stir and adjust seasonings. Cover the casserole and bake in a 300 degree oven until the meat is tender, 2-3 hours.

Garnish the stew with parsley and serve.

Serve with roasted small potatoes and remaining bottles of Guinness.

— Padraig O Cearbhall

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

guinness-stew.jpg

I don’t know how your Paddy’s Day is looking, but ours came with about a foot of snow.

No worries. We’re safe inside with a sixpack of Guinness and all the makings for Beth Fitzpatrick’s Guinness Stew. (It’s a rare holiday when the Fitzpatricks don’t have ham, so consider yourself fortunate to be trying this, at all.)

As me sainted father would say, Slainte.

GUINNESS BEEF STEW

2 pounds London Broil, trimmed and cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Cayenne
2 Vidalia onions, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped
8 ounces tomato sauce
10 ounces Guinness Stout
2 cups carrots, large dice
Sprig of fresh thyme
Fresh parsley chopped for garnish

Toss beef with a little oil. Season the flour with salt, pepper and cayenne and then toss the meat with the flour.

Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Don’t crowd the pan, work in batches if necessary.

Reduce the heat. Add onions, garlic, and tomato sauce. Cover and cook gently for 5 minutes. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a casserole, stoneware crock or Dutch oven.

Deglaze the skillet by pouring 1/2 of the Guinness into the skillet, scraping up the brown bits.

Pour over the meat, along with the remaining Guinness. Add the carrots and thyme. Stir and adjust seasonings. Cover the casserole and bake in a 300 degree oven until the meat is tender, 2-3 hours.

Garnish the stew with parsley and serve.

Serve with roasted small potatoes and remaining bottles of Guinness.

— Padraig O Cearbhall

In Time: Nate Keller

First it was network TV, now it’s Time magazine. You can’t keep our friend Heidi’s kid — Google Exec Chef Nate Keller — out of the news when it’s about sustainable, local, organic food.

Nate comes in at the middle of this Time piece on local vs. organic, which is partly energized by Wal-Mart’s entry into the organic market — the one that’s “special,” a niche food culture, alternative and blah blah blah.

Nate serves more than 400 purely local meals a day.

“Most chefs simply place orders with suppliers. Good cooks understand that quality and origin are related because of the toll extracted by transportation, but in the end, if Emeril Lagasse wants to serve wild salmon one night, he can just order it from Alaska. Keller, who recently became the chef at another Google restaurant, couldn’t do that. Although just a freckly 30-year-old, he had to plan his menus the way preindustrial cooks did, according to whatever local vendors offered that day.”

His Cafe 150, which opened last year, got its name from Nate’s policy of only using ingredients that are grown within 150 miles of the Googleplex.

The day he opened Cafe 150, his menu included more than 30 featured dishes.

As Food Management magazine described it, “There was a robust broth teeming with slices of beef skirt steak and handmade yam noodles; clams sautèed with disks of handmade Chinese sausage and wisps of fresh basil; a sandwich bar with nine made from scratch condiments, and grilled romaine lettuce, persimmon and poblano chiles; and composed salads such as wild rice and hazelnut, and crispy tofu slaw. ”

And the menu changes every day.

Kitchen Testing

Food & Wine’s Marcia Kiesel runs a test kitchen that develops six to eight recipes for every issue of a magazine that prides itself on being on the front edge of cooking trends.

“Sometimes the great new idea just doesn’t work,” Kiesel says. “You might retest until you go crazy, but you have to be knowledgeable and disciplined enough to admit it is not good. You let it go.”

Read about her adventures.

Adopting a Ship

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Executive Chef Thomas Long of Holy Spirit Hospital joined the U.S. Navy’s Adopt A Ship program last year, signing up for a ride on the USS West Virginia.

The program is run out of Mechanicsburg by Chef Michael Harants. It puts chefs aboard U.S Navy vessels to help Navy culinarians improve their food.

Tom talked about his experiences at the ACF meeting last month, and I asked if I could publish his journal pages from the sub trip. It’s quite an experience to be aboard a warship during an alert and he describes it well.

Here’s some of his decision process before he left:

“I remember talking to one of my ladies I work with at Holy Spirit Hospital, and I said ‘Well I have about three days to make my mind up about going on a submarine to teach the Navy cooks better cooking techniques.’ She’s about 65 years old and she just looked at me and said ‘What’s there to think about? When do you think that’s going to happen again?'”

Here’s his submarine journal.

Here’s the interview Food Management magazine did when he got back.

Here’s a Wikipedia profile of the USS West Virginia, an Ohio-class sub.

Service? What service?

For years experts have been talking about the service economy replacing the economy in which we used to make things. As in: It’s inevitable, it’s coming, it’s here …

Which is fine, except in the restaurant business where, too often, service sucks. Seriously. And not just in one direction, but all over the place.

Often it’s because of super-casual waitstaff with no idea how anything is prepared in the kitchen, but happy to chirp, “Hi! I’m Chastity, and I’ll be your server tonight!”

As a customer, knowing my waitron’s name doesn’t help me. I would never call out across a crowded dining room, “Hey Chastity … how about a refill?” or “Chastity, we need more taco sauce!” Not happening.

If Chastity happens to wander by the table, I would probably signal and when she comes over, ask in a quiet voice for whatever. I just can’t envision a scene in which I would use her name, except for the part where Chastity disappears for 30 minutes and I flag down another server who asks, “Who was your waitress?”

Friendly waitperson, absent thee from felicity awhile. Give me a polite, chilly and knowledgeable French waiter any day.

On the other side of the coin is Cedars.

We met friends there for dinner Tuesday night. Walked inside and stood there beside a table for 10 minutes waiting for someone to tell us it was okay to sit down. Waited for our friends for probably another 10, staring at empty water glasses. No one came by to fill them.

Our people came and the waitress walked past our table about 12 times looking after other tables. On one pass, I raised my hand in a wave. She rounded on me, muttering, “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

We ordered two appetizers for four people. They came without any small plates to dish onto, so it was messy. We asked for some plates as the waitress walked by and before we could ask for some napkins too, she was gone. When she came back with appetizer plates, we asked for napkins. Yeah, we were being pests.

The main plats were good, if skimpy for an ethnic entree priced in the high teens. Coffee was great. Too bad about the service.

Maybe this was an anomaly?

Well, as it happened, food writer Sue Gleiter went there the next day for lunch. Her report: No napkins.

Mike Rhayem is a good host, and I was a big fan of Cedars when it was on Reily Street in Harrisburg. I hope it succeeds in Camp Hill.

Without competent waitstaff there’s no way.