Category Archives: Haute Cuisine

La Cabeza

“What is that?” I asked in Castillian.

There was a large chunk on his plate. It was about the size of a childs fist. Earlier in the dinner I had assumed that he had ordered chicken, but now that I took a second look, I wasn´t so sure.

“The head.” He replied.

The table was silent as he and his father watched me for my reaction.

“The head of what?” I asked cautiously. Then,  suddenly I recgonized the two long front teeth and the shape of the skull.

The father made a bouncing motion with his hand, then put both his hands to the side of his head to simulate the long ears of a rabbit. He raised his eyebrows excitedly.

“Oh…” I paused…

“You´re not going to eat that?” I asked.

“Oh, yes! The head of the rabbit is very good!” Replied the father. “This is just how my grandmother used to make it. It´s so good, I ordered one for myself too!” He had already finished his dinner. But as if on que, the waiter arrived with a second plate of broken rabbit parts piled on a thin pool of broth.

Knowing how he likes to share the flavors and textures of his culture, I quickly took a gulp of red wine and prepared myself for the worst.

“You never see the head of the animal on the plate in the United States.” I stammered in Castillian.

Within seconds of the new rabbit landing on our table, he had forked a small object onto my empty plate. It rolled around like a marble before coming to a stop in the center.

“Uh oh. Organ meat!” I silently thought to myself.

The father´s eyes lit up as he excitedly pointed to his own back and smiled, “How do you say this part?” He questioned in english.

“Kidney.” I replied.

“Yes!” He said, then smoothly added in Castillian, “It´s very rich, No?”

Trying not to think too much about it, I quickly forked it into my mouth. Indeed, it was very savory with a pleasant firm texture.

“Yes, it´s very good.” I admitted.

“The cheek. You must try the cheek. This is a very special part.” He dug into the face of  the rabbit and pried off a small chunk of meat that he deposited on my plate. Again, I found it to be delicious, smoothly textured, well seasoned.

“And now, you try the brains.” He informed me.

“No! You don´t truthfully eat the brains?” I suggested, hoping not to find out.

“Oh yes. This too is a very special part. You must try it.” He insisted.

A lump of grey matter was forked onto my plate.

As I think back on this moment, I´m pretty sure everyone in the restaraunt stopped what they were doing or saying so they could watch the American eat rabbit brains for the first time.  I was so focused on the burnt and basted substance before me that I´ll never know. At that moment, the small, pulpy lump was larger then the jagged peaks I´d seen in the distance, more mysterious than any of the high mountain passes I´d been crossing to get to the valleys on the other side.

I hesitated.

Then I went for it.

As opposed to finding something to  savor, I discovered a disconcertingly textured, offensively flavored mush that tasted miraculoulsy, exactly how I feared rabbit brains would taste.

“No me gusta!” I exclaimed, and reached for the wine.

Mid-summer Harvest Time Salad Recipe

Beets, straight from the backyard and into the steamer.

Beets, straight from the backyard and into the steamer.

Finally, Harvest time is here! It’s hard to beat the freshness of a salad made almost entirely from ingredients from the backyard, plucked from the ground moments before being consumed. It not only means eating about as well as you possibly can, but it’s one less errand you have to worry about.

To help share the excitement, here is ShugaPants & the Freaks favorite, most recent salad creation:

Lettuce: whatever’s growing in the backyard. Arugula would be nice if you have some.
Beets: shred them raw, or thinly slice up roasted or steamed ones.
Goat cheese: crumble away.
Red onion: in long, thin slices.
Cucumber: what’s not to love?

Top with:
Pumpkin seeds: Toast them up in a rusty iron skillet right before serving.

Add dressing:
1 part olive oil, extra virgin
1 part balsamic. Dark, thick and rich balsamic.
1 pile of garden herbs that would cost about $20-$30 if you were to buy them in the little plastic boxes from a store. We’ve been using tons of oregano, parsley, and chives.
1 pile of finely chopped garlic, enough to ward off a crazed vampire.
1 teaspoon mustard: just enough to emulsify the oil and vinegar

Serve with some super chilled white wine on a hot backyard evening.

Bon appetite!

Transcendental experience at the Red Iguana

Eating serrano peppers at the Red Iguana

Absinthe Drinkers by Edgar Degas

My life is so much better now that the Red Iguana has opened a second location. To eat there used to always be an ordeal. It involved either planning to eat at off peak times to avoid the standard 45 to 90 minute wait, or finding someone willing to go early and do the waiting for the group. But even going for lunch on a tuesday at 11:30am would often land you waiting in a long line, under the heat lamps yet freezing next to the whizzing traffic of North Temple Street.

Finally, the Red Iguana has tripled their capacity. Show up at a regular meal time and you’ll still be waiting in line, but now there are two glorious work-arounds: you can make reservations, or you can just show up and eat at the bar. !Brilliante!

So today, without hesitation, we decided to go to the Red Iguana after a last minute decision. I went with mi compañero del trabajo, who also is a huge fan of the Iguana, and a fellow culinary adventurer.

I was starving. I wanted everything on the menu. We ordered. Our plates arrived, oddly within a minute, but in our current state of hunger and thirst, this was no problemo.

One of the many things that sets the Red Iguana apart from other Mexican restaurants is the small salad that comes with the plates. At other restaurants, these salads usually consist of pale tomatoes and limp shredded lettuce that taste more of stale tap water than anything refreshing.

At the Iguana, these little salads are always something different, something interesting, and typically more authentic. Today it was purple curly endive with pickled carrots and onions, fresh radish and tomato chunks, a pickled jalapeño, and above it all, laid a crinkled, boiled serrano. Laying there like icing on a cake, the innocent serrano achieved the impossible by looking simultaneously like both the gates of heaven and the gates of hell…

Our plated lunches were delicioso. But about a third of the way into the meal there came a distinct moment in time when our palates wanted more. I put my fork down. Cautiously, my hand went for the serrano. I noticed my compañero was doing the same. One of us, I can’t remember which, muttered, “it’s time”.

We each grabbed a chile by the stem, gravely nodded to each other, and bit off a third of the pepper. The taste was subtle, extremely delicate, like a fresh french bouillon. There was only a hint of bright pepper flavor. There was plenty of time to mull over the taste, to be surprised that maybe this pepper wasn’t going to be so hot after all…

Of course, that’s when the pain started. Pain that felt like my tongue was surrounded by battery acid and someone was slowly starting to charge it up for a long ride. At this point, I mentally prepared myself for the pain to go off the charts. As if preparing to be burned alive was possible.

But this time was different. The pain in my mouth seemed a planet away as my mind slowly began to reel in a euphoric state of expanded awareness. A wave of energy pulsed through the roof of my mouth, rushed through my brain, and finally, beaded up on my forehead as my hair began to stand on end.

I looked at mi amigo. He looked at me.

“Wow! Did you feel that?” I said.

“Yeah. That was intense.” He said.

“Not too hot, actually.” I said, as suddenly the heat began to ramp up, the pain, bursting through the roof of our euphoric state.

As anyone who’s ever eaten an excruciatingly hot pepper knows; the pain will end, eventually. Never as quickly as you want it to, but it will surely end.

The pain did taper. It became downright manageable. So it wasn’t too long before our fascination with the pepper induced rush returned. Again, our hands found their way to the peppers. This portion thick and loaded with pepper flesh and seeds. What were we thinking? As my hand brought the pepper to my mouth I debated biting off another third verses eating the whole thing. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle a third bite so I decided to go big. I bit down on the juicy pepper and it squirted all over the inside of my mouth. For some reason I chewed slowly, wanting to taste it all over my tongue, savoring every sublime taste and texture until the heady wave came back, this time with tsunami force.

I stopped doing everything, and anything. I just sat, letting the sensation wash over me.

I looked over at mi amigo as he sat there too, eyes blank. Open, but seeing nothing. Nothing left to do but feel: the burn of the tongue, the expanding awareness. I thought of the painting by Degas called “The Absinthe Drinkers” where the female patron is obviously on another, mind numbing plane. That’s how we looked. That’s how we felt. Frozen in place. Like the push of a jet leaving the runway or your mind searching for balance during an earthquake.

In slow motion, with the voice of a lizard, I unconvincingly said, “I think I’m going to make it.”

The room had gone quiet, still. After a long pause I asked, “Are you going to make it?”

I’m not sure if he responded because all I could think about was if I should get up and run for my life now or in a couple seconds? And if I did choose to get up and run, where would I run too? Was there a tub filled with milk and honey anywhere nearby that I could dive into and drown myself?

I looked at my hands. Why did they do this to me? Slowly I wiped my forehead, where transcendental serrano juice was beading up after it had voyaged from my tongue, through my brain, skull, and skin again. I looked across the table at my friend. He hadn’t moved an inch or touched his plate of food in the last 5 minutes. I hadn’t either.

“I… I think I’m gonna make it.” He said.

Finally, I was beginning to believe that I might make it too.

P.S.

If you like this story ask me about what happened the time Helmüt ate 5 boiled jalapeños at a taco stand on Main street…

Skiing in Morocco, Part 1 of 5

Powder Princess and Foothill Freak wearing the traditional Moroccan Jellaba cloak on the streets of Marraketch.

Powder Princess and Foothill Freak wearing the traditional Moroccan Jellaba cloak on the streets of Marraketch.

Here it is, the Morocco Report.

Part 1 is about our stay in Marraketch, four days of intense shopping, cooking classes, eating, and looking for the perfect postcard before the ski tour.

The ancient Medina of Marraketch is an amazing place: vibrant, dirty, in-your-face, and it serves up the best fresh squeezed orange juice on the face of the planet. We stayed in a traditional riad, a 3 story structure built around a beautiful, open air courtyard, minutes away from the frenzied plaza where snake charmers have hypnotized cobras and snakes since the dawn of, well, snake charming.

streets of Marraketch

After we first left the airport, our taxi driver mentioned that the road is too narrow to drive us all the way to the hotel and that we

This is the front door of our Hotel. If we didn't have a local kid show us the door, we'd never found it.

This is the front door of our Hotel. If we didn't have a local kid show us the door, we'd never found it.

This is the atrium of Hotel Sherazad. Amazing, amazing place. Go there. (cost us around $30 a night).

This is the atrium of Hotel Sherazad. Amazing, amazing place. Go there. (cost us around $30 a night).Photo PP.

If you go to Morocco, you simply must stay in Marraketch at the Hotel Sherazade. Here is their website: hotelsherazade.com. The peace and tranquility there was a very welcome respite from the crazy streets outside. But eventually the insanity draws you back out…

Walking the streets you have to be careful to not get run over by a concealed woman driving a moped while talking on her cell phone.

Walking the streets you have to be careful to not get run over by a veiled woman driving a moped while talking on her cell phone. Photo PP.

Or a horse drawn carriage, a bicycle with 3 kids on it, a donkey pulling a wagon, a sleek Mercedes Benz suv that somehow squeezed through; you never knew what might run you over next.

Or a horse drawn carriage, a bicycle with 3 kids on it, a donkey pulling a wagon, a sleek Mercedes Benz suv that somehow squeezed through; you never knew what might run you over next.

In the Souks you could find more hats than in the Powder Princess's closet

In the Souks you could find more hats than in the Powder Princess's closet. Photo PP.

The nuts of Marrakech.

We didn't have a problem locating nuts. Photo by PP.

Buying alcohol in Marrakech. Sometimes if you even asked, it felt as though everyone was staring at you.

On the other hand, it was very hard to find beer or wine, especially in the old Medina where we stayed. Even just asking where to buy wine would get everyone looking at you.

Jawa loading a Moroccan Desert Crawler

All forms of transportation are used and over-burdened in Morocco.

If you can imagine it...

If you can imagine it, it

A Spice Souk in the Marrakech Medina.

When it comes time to buy something in the souks, you have to be prepared with nerves of steel for the negotiating. Some caffiene was helpful too.

Here a member of our ski group discusses the price of a carpet with a local Moroccan after a leisurely cup of sweetened mint tea.

Here a member of our group discusses the price of a carpet with a local Moroccan, after enjoying a traditional cup of sweetened mint tea.

Here's the carpet that Princess bargained for and purchased. She was so stern and determined I almost felt bad for the shopkeeper. Almost. Back at home, the Powder Porpoise approved it immeadeatly.

Here's the carpet that Princess bargained for and purchased. She was so stern and determined I almost felt bad for the shopkeeper. Almost. Back at home, the Powder Porpoise approved it immeadeatly. Photo by PP.

Princess wins the culinary adventurer award for eating pigeon tagine. And she's a vegetarian!

Princess wins the culinary adventurer award for eating pigeon tagine. And she's a vegetarian!

The cooking class we took was, oddly enough, one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was organized beautifully and perfectly by an organization called Souk Cuisine. Here is their website: soukcuisine.com

Princess mixes up an intoxicating blend of spices in our cooking class.

Princess mixes up an intoxicating blend of spices in our cooking class.

The whole time we were in Morocco the Princess kept drawing parallels with our experiences to the movie “Star Wars”. She called the Medina of Marrakech “like the cantina scene, but the jawas ride on mopeds”.

Star Wars was filmed in Tunisia. I don’t know what she’s talking about.

Turbaconducken takes flight

turbaconduckenSorry, no skiing to report. With less than sub-par conditions in the mountains, I’ve been researching the next “freak-mobile”. this annoying project should be completed just in time for the wonderful low pressure headed our way.

PowderPrincess also found something other than skiing to do, and has invited some freaks over for a pre-solstice feast. Here’s the report, in her words: Continue reading