Saturday, November 19, 2016

When Marcus And Anthony Came To Dinner

How can you not love Thanksgiving?

Its the one true day a year that you can get away with eating almost anything, all day long, and the best part is you have leftovers for like a month. Do you get sick of eating turkey after a week? Yeah, us either. That stuff goes with almost anything. Its a great lean protein that can be utilized in soups, stocks, casseroles, sandwiches and a ton of other options. You can use the stuffing/dressing a million different ways too. And green beans. And cranberry sauce. And...

You know what, we're just going to stop here because two new cookbooks have arrived just in time for the big day of feasting and giving thanks for doing so. We here at the Homeskillet are big fans of both cookbooks along with the chefs/authors as well.

The always engaging Marcus Samuelsson has finally given us a full rendition of what goes on in his Harlem restaurant Red Rooster and Anthony Bourdain breaks down his favorite recipes from all of his travels and time honored traditions in his first actual cookbook.

Plus Xmas is arriving quicker than you think so both of these food tomes would make an awesome gift for that fussy "foodie" home cook buddy of yours. Both of these books are unpretentious, a bit artsy but most importantly jammed with all sorts of fun ideas and innovative recipes.

Let's get started shall we?

"Red Rooster : The Cookbook"
By Marcus Samuelsson

We have been a huge fan of Marcus' for a long time now. It wasn't only his incredible rise to culinary power, but after reading his memoir, Yes, Chef, we kind of fell in love with him.

Lots of longtime Harlem residents have both praised and chastised Samuelsson for bringing his concept to a neighborhood that, at one time, was thought to be quite, um..."dubious". Now it seems because of Red Rooster and its upscale jazzy approach to soul food, it and he have invited other like minded chefs and business owners to join them. Some residents love that their neighborhood has gotten a well deserved face lift while others find it has become gentrified and with the new digs a new rent hike has come into place.

Whatever the case may be, Marcus Samuelsson can cook and by the character of his other works, the man can really write too.

Red Rooster is a departure from his other cookbooks, Marcus Off Duty or The Soul of a New Cuisine, which are more straight ahead cookbooks, where Red Rooster features more of the community that help build, inspire and support his iconic restaurant. The pictures are stunning, creating an air of musicality and swingtime style which go great along with the eclectic and savory recipes.

The book goes from some suggestions of the ingredients you will need to make a successful dish, advice on how to stock your pantry, tools you will want in the kitchen and a whole laundry list of tips, techniques and even music playlists to get you moving and cooking.

Red Rooster is very new Harlem and very Samuelsson which makes this one of our new favorite cookbooks of 2016.

As far as Thanksgiving is concerned you can find a slew, a slew!, of inspiration to make a memorable meal this year. And next year too if you like. Whatever man. It's your with it what you will.

We really like his "Bird Broth" recipe that infused white miso and jalapeno on a down home take on traditional ramen. There are also a ton of chicken recipes, such as hot wings and chicken and waffles, along with lamb and all sorts of fun ideas for a delicious yet uncommon family dinner.

His herb roasted turkey with cranberry gravy is delectable and smart. Using parts garam masala, lavender, ruby port and even prune juice, this one will surely turn heads as grandma pipes up "But this isn't the turkey I used to make!" followed by everyone rolling their eyes and sighing in relief.

And after the holiday has come to pass and you still have half a bird leftover, his recipe for a Thanksgiving banh mi is really fun. This time we use the livers and he walks you through a simple process of dusting the offal, deglazing your skillet and assembling the sandwich. It's pretty simple and a great way to use some parts you normally might throw away. Now we are not a huge fan of livers but this take changed our minds.

Or if you wanna cook short ribs for Thanksgiving he provides the recipe for the ones he made for the Obamas for their first inauguration. Using plum sauce, some horseradish and a few herbs, this one just feels, and tastes, like eight years of awesome. We plan on making these when whats his name takes office in January. We plan on fighting the power with the strength of good food.

At least they can't take that away from us.

Included in Red Rooster are playful cocktail recipes, delicious side dish options, appetizers and desserts. Sure, you'd expect all that from a normal cookbook, but what makes this one so special is the man behind your mouth watering.

Marcus Samuelsson was born in Africa, raised in Sweden, trained abroad and now calls New York his home. The influences from his life come alive on these pages and it makes you want to don a sharp suit, pick up a saxophone and blow soulfully into the night knowing that at the end of the jam session some blackened catfish, peanut bacon pork chops, curried goat stew and a strong house cocktail made with homemade ginger beer and black rum waits for you.

This book is vibrant, it is essential and best of all it has stories to tell.

You have to think; Marcus is a writer at heart. His memoir was so well done that it took our basic fandom to a new level of respect after reading it. Heartbreaking and captivating, Yes, Chef should be in the library of any food fan or cook.

There are so many narratives in Red Rooster that you almost feel as if you own a novel with a bunch of pictures in it rather than an elegant street smart book filled with innovative, sumptuous while at the same time hands on recipes to bring your family, and community, together.

This Thanksgiving do everyone you are cooking for a favor by picking up a copy of Red Rooster and see how many smiles you can muster up by giving them something new to both eat and think about.

Or give it as a Xmas gift. Either way.

Red Rooster rules.

"Appetites : A Cookbook"
By Anthony Bourdain

Now you all know Anthony Bourdain right? Yeah, of course you do. He's like super famous now. You've seen him on the TV on such shows as No Reservations, The Layover, Parts Unknown and various appearances on chef competitions and the like. He has traveled all over the world, probably several times over by now, and has a taste for real and sometimes debatable street food.

He likes to drink, he swears, he was a heroin addict, he's brash, he's funny and best of all the man can really frikkin' write. In some cases, and even according to him, Anthony Bourdain is a better writer than he was a chef and Bourdain was quite an accomplished chef so that's saying a lot.

So it's really cool that he actually wrote a cookbook and, yes, just like the guy that wrote it, it is intriguing, amusing, sometimes scary but best of all totally entertaining.

Basically if Anthony Bourdain is going to compose a cookbook, you know you can trust it.

This is a man that puts up with very little bullpucky and it comes across on his shows, in his writing and most importantly his food. Appetites is just another reflection of what he has bestowed upon the globe as far as his take on food and eating is concerned. Its full of candid, slightly insolent photographs, some teetering on the grim and near pornographic. The colors are as raw as the subject matters; chicken pieces, whole boars heads, steamy piles of red noodles served in helmets, bloody jujitsu gear, stuff like that.

Composed alongside these shots are recipes both fairly commonplace and extrinsic. You have wedge salads, Caesar salads even, deviled eggs, lasagne, sandwiches and so forth. But these are dishes that Bourdain deems worthy of writing about and putting his name on so you know the techniques and ingredients are not going to disappoint.

And they dont.

Of course, just like Marcus Samuelsson, Appetites is filled with all kinds of well crafted stories and anecdotes, most filled with profanity and blunt observations. But you expect this from the man. This is why we love him.

But we are not here just to blow smoke up Bourdain's bum, we want to talk turkey here. Thanksgiving turkey most importantly.

This is why Appetites works on so many levels and can be added to this here blog post.

Bourdain has a whole section in his book totally dedicated to doing a Thanksgiving that will be not only tasty but relatively stress free.

Here's how he does it:

Bourdain breaks down what you need to do for a successful Thanksgiving in three days, all of which should start about a week before the actual event.

Day 1 is buying all of the stuff you will need: vegetables, herbs, butter, oil, bread, seasonings, etc etc. And this is where things get awesome: He suggests buying two birds instead of just the one. Yes. He has one called the "stunt turkey", this is the smaller version that is on display for the family and can be used for sandwiches and stock later. Then there is the "business turkey" which is the actual turkey you will be serving. It's a bigger version of its stunt double and will already be sliced and dealt with when family arrives.

Clever huh?

Day 2 is making stock into gravy, assembling and baking the stuffing, making his cranberry relish (whole orange, some cranberries and sugar...that's it) and putting it in the fridge and, of course, knocking out all of your side dish prep. This way when the third Thursday in November rolls around all you gotta do is keep everything warm, keep everyone happy and get into the Thanksgiving nog.

Is there a Thanksgiving nog? We sure hope not.

Day 3 is roasting the stunt turkey, finishing the side dishes, roasting and dismantling the business turkey, fixing the stuffing to your liking, making the stunt turkey look all pretty and displaying the business turkey in a delightful manner.

The side dish recipes are awesome: Robuchon (use a ricer) style mashed potatoes, creamed pearl onions, candied sweet potatoes and bacon-y Brussels sprouts.

If you follow the simple rules that Bourdain lays out then your Thanksgiving should be fairly tension free. Unless uncle Jeb gets into the horse liquor again and starts chanting old Polynesian naughty limericks to the kids then you might have a problem there.

Appetites as well as Red Rooster are simply fantastic cookbooks by simply fantastic chefs that can really write as well.

We love both the chef's take on Thanksgiving, or at least components that could be construed as Thanksgiving, and it is up to you to find inspiration from both Samuelsson and Bourdain to make a memorable holiday feast.

But as both authors say, its good to have have a razor sharp and heavy chef knife, always have a "mise en place" (everything in place) in your kitchen ready to go (salt, pepper, oils, spices, onions, garlic, etc) and always have some kind of music playing. This is important to keep the rhythm of the cooking and maneuvering around the kitchen like a schizophrenic ballet more enjoyable.

But is it safe to cook while listening to Thrash Metal?

We are about to find out.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Camera, Typing & Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
The Week Before Thanksgiving, 2016

Metal Influence:

Saturday, November 5, 2016

And The Award Should Have Gone To...

We can't say how honored and proud we are that Metal Mark is contributing to the publication that puts out the Best Of Tucson every year. He is having a lot of fun and thanks for reading his stuff.

Okay, enough of the pleasantries...let's get down to the brass tacks here.

Every year the Best Of's come out and every year we go "No! Are you kidding? That place over the other one? Come on Tucson. You're killing us Smalls..."

Thing is, the publication has very little to do with the choices. It's the good people of Tucson that do most of the voting. So this is on you T-town. You brought this on yourself. 

While most of the arts and entertainment, kid's stuff, home and garden winners we are fine with but when it comes to the food part we always slap our collective foreheads with disinclination and slight horror at some of the choices that run away with the trophies. Sure, a good portion of the winners and runners up are great but there are always a few that we can't get on board with. It's as if the polls went out in the late 90s and never got changed.

So this year we are going to do our own Best Of and we hope you can agree with some of the things we agree on.


Lets do this.

PS: We are not in the business of pissing anybody off; this is purely for entertainment and just our own dopey opinions...that's all. So apologies to anyone that gets mussed up about our preferences. Cheers.

Best Delicatessen
Their pick: Dickman's Meat and Deli
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: The Sausage Shop

C'mon man. The Sausage Shop wasn't even mentioned. This place rules.

Dickman's is cool but in our humble food opinion the little deli that could, that being the Sausage Shop, just plain dominates.

The bajillion different styles of sandwiches are all amazing, their meat counter selection is incredible and if you bag a deer or accidentally run over a bear just bring that beast in and they will break it down for you for an agreeable fee. No really. These guys know their meat and in such a small space they do the deli game a big favor.

Anyway, not to dis on Dickman's but if you haven't been to the Sausage Shop please do yourself a favor and do so. It might change your mind to switch your vote for Best Delicatessen next year. It might.

Just sayin...

Gaze upon the glory that is the Sausage Shop

 Best Place To Get A Sandwich
Their pick: Beyond Bread
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Sausage Deli

Okay, we didn't want to dote on the Sausage Shop too much but we will drool over the Sausage Deli for a bit.

It looks as if we just love sausage...don't we?

Beyond Bread is great but we went for a single stand alone place for our sandwich spot pick. The Sausage Deli is awesome, they have a fun bar with a great craft beer selection and the layout is more cafeteria style than an open forum of scattered tables. The Sausage Deli just has this East coast 'get in here, get your sandwich, eat it then get on with your life' feel to it, which we like.

If you want to laze about and sip coffee and click on your laptop for hours then, yeah, Beyond Bread is totally made for that. And the sandwiches there are good...we just like the Sausage Shop's sandwiches a bit more though.

Which brings us to the next category:

Best Sandwich
Their pick: The Cheesesteak at Frankie's
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: The Omar from Sausage Deli

Here's the thing: We frikkin LOVE Frankie's. It is one of our neighborhood go-to places for a cheesesteak sandwich but, here's the can get a cheesesteak at a lot of places. Not as good as Frankie's most likely, but if you go to Philly they are all over the place.

But the Omar? That is a Sausage Deli original.

It sounds pretty basic when you break it down: Turkey, salami, Swiss cheese with bell peppers, onions, pepperoncinis, mustard and house Italian dressing on an onion roll (we prefer the sub style though), but when you eat it the Omar takes on a whole new sandwich dimension.

We love the Omar so much that we even did an ode to it a while ago. Remember that one? We sure did.

The Omar didn't even place this year and that is a weird and crying shame.

Go to the Sausage Deli, get an Omar, vote for it next year and we can all live in some kind of syncopated serenity all thanks to a sandwich.

It can be done!

Best Greek Food
Their pick: Opa!
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Either Pappoule's or Greek House

Opa! is awesome. We know the family that runs it, its near the compound, its always a delight....nothing bad to say about Opa!.

But have you had the gyros at Pappoule's? Yeah, pretty righteous and apparently very authentic. When we are in that neighborhood we always make a plan to grab some Pappoule's to go. It has yet to disappoint. See, a true Greek gyro should have very little on it, especially no lettuce, and a lot of Greek restaurants insist on putting a bunch of crap on your gyro. Just give us the gyro bro! Hold the stupid lettuce! Hold it between your knees!

Pappoule's didn't even place for Best Of and we just wanted to shed some light about their food, which is great and as close to the real deal as you can get.

Next up is going to be the fairly new Greek House restaurant. It wont be long until that starts winning some votes. Watch. You watch.


Best Vegetarian Restaurant
Their pick: Lovin' Spoonfuls 
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Renee's Organic Oven

With the expanding culinary scene here in Tucson the choices for vegetarian and vegan establishments continues to grow and grow. We bet by next year there will be another good dozen or so places to get non-meaty, non-animal based dishes to satisfy your belly and conscience.

Unfortunately Lovin' Spoonfuls always wins Best Vegetarian because a lot of folks just think that's the only option in town.

Its not. By a long shot.

We personally love Renee's Organic Oven. Their Italian inspired items that can be gluten free if you need  are really tasty and fresh. Their black bean hummus that goes with a lot of dishes is innovative and a bit tangy. You just need to get out there and try for yourself. It's a little place on Sabino Canyon and Tanque Verde so it might be slightly out of the way for some of you (as it is for us) but it is well worth the trip.

Plus Renee is really cool and she's there a good amount of time so, there's that.

Best Salsa
Their pick: Guadalajara Grill
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Rosa's Mexican Food

Okay, Guadalajara always wins Best Salsa because they make it fresh right there at your table and, yes, it's pretty darn good.

But, c'mon now...the house salsa at Rosa's is the best thing ever.

It is spicy, it is flavorful and best of all it is garlic-tastic. Every time we have even have a hint of a cold we b-line it to Rosa's and order up something hot and steamy then smother it with their salsa. It is a cure all and we're sure it is what keeps us looking good and smelling even better.

It's the garlic.

Rosa's salsa is just necessary and a Tucson treasure.

But they wont make it table side because then you'd find out what their secret ingredients are.

We know what one ingredient is.

Yeah. Its the garlic. We just said that.

Weren't you reading?


Rosa's salsa = Yum

Best Breakfast
Their pick: Blue Willow

Best Brunch
Their pick: Prep and Pastry

Tucson Homeskillet's pick for both: Baja Cafe

Blue Willow is great for when the folks are in town. Its that kind of a spot. Its good but its not blow your socks off great. It's fun and clean. Your parents like that.

Prep & Pastry continues to dazzle but we feel they are a bit heavy with the pork belly. We like pork belly its just know. In moderation.

Then you have the plethora of other options that are always a delight: Bobo's, Frank's, Mother Hubbard's, Robert's, etc, that we love and will always love but there is one (well two now) place that we just can't get enough of.

Baja Cafe just slays for breakfast and brunch. The benedicts are really hearty and fanciful, the pancakes are incredible and everything else is just plain awesome. The thing is is that Baja only serves breakfast and lunch and closes at 2pm, so you gotta get there early. And we highly suggest getting there a bit early. The place fills up fast.

A word of warning: Don't go on Sundays unless you wanna wait an hour for a table! No, for real, both locations are packed on Sundays so we are there most days but. Unless you like waiting a while for eggs and corned beef.

Well, it is worth it so...its up to you.

Plus Baja has a full bar too. Did we mention that? Well now we did.

Put another gold star by their name for that addition.

So good.

Yep, these are one of the benedicts. Yep, they are amazing.

Best Sushi
Their pick: Sushi Garden
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Anywhere but...
The Beardown Roll at K Sushi

Sushi Garden? Really Tucson? Really?

Look, maybe at one point long ago the Garden was the spot for raw fish wrapped in seaweed and covered in rice but the sushi game in the T-dizzle has changed son.


At this point Sushi Garden is a sports bar that serves Japanese "inspired" meals but it is far from being the best sushi in town.


Sorry to harp on the place, we don't mean any disrespect, but places like Kazoku, Sushi Ten, Samurai, Shogun, K Japanese, Ikkyu, Obon and so on and so on literally destroy the factory like flavor at Sushi Garden. You kids need to get out there and sushi explore for yourself. This one just feels as if you looked on your ballot from the last ten years and went "Oh, yeah, that place. It's fine."

Which it is. Sushi Garden is fine. Good bar, comfy patio, decent lunch buffet, all that, but the wizard-like ingeniousness that is coming from tucked away locations by chefs that have honed their craft and continue to push the flavor envelope further and further is what we are focusing on here. Just awesome family run businesses that are serving up amazing food.

It's up to you Tucson! Now get out there and get you some sushi. Some real sushi.

Do it!

The Passion Roll at Kazoku

Best Neighborhood Bar
Their pick: Tap and Bottle
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Danny's Baboquivari Lounge

Tap and Bottle is awesome. But here's the thing:

It is not a "bar" and it is not located in a real "neighborhood".

This win just feels like people just see the name of the place in the paper and went "Oh yeah. They serve beer. That's a bar. Whee!"

Yeah. No.

A real neighborhood bar is in a real neighborhood and the corner of 6th Avenue and 7th Street isn't exactly a "neighborhood", its more of a destination when you are shopping and eating up on 4th or getting some supplies at Miller's across the street. Not a lot of homes in the vicinity.

And a "bar" serves liquor and mixed drinks as well. Tap and Bottle is just craft beer and select wine service, so it can't be officially labeled as a bar. See where we're getting at here?

Our vote, as usual, goes to Danny's Baboquivari Lounge; a real bar in a real neighborhood.

Danny's placed for Best Dive Bar this year but it is far from a dive. It's cozy, relatively safe, great staff, good beer selection, honest drinks and above all it is in a neighborhood. Yes. There are homes surrounding the place, there are regulars, heck...WE are regulars. We're at Danny's like 4 to 5 times a week. We love this place.

And we also love that Danny's won Best Jukebox in Tucson. Anything that holds old school Metallica, 70s yacht rock and classic hip-hop we are so down with.

So on any given night (not too late because we're old and have to get up early) you might find the Homeskillet crew nestled at the bar with some of our good friends and, yes, neighbors, enjoying a stiff drink and eating from some of the diverse food trucks they get on a regular basis.

Cheers on that!

That would be Metal Mark on the far right with some pals at Danny's

Best Beer Selection
Their pick: Tap and Bottle (again)
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Old Chicago 

Yes, Tap and Bottle gets some really amazing craft and small cask beers. Yes. On any given day you can drink from around the world or just up the street. They get some fantastic brews and we applaud them for that.

So does the Tucson Hop Shop. And we love them as well.

But check this out. None of the local places has a selection of 110 beers at any given moment. That's one hundred and ten...beers! For that you're going to need some corporate backing and Old Chicago on Campbell Avenue has that.

Sorry, we know you are reading this and sticking your nose up at a fairly large chain concept, but Old Chicago is about as un-corporate-y as you can get and their selection of beers is astounding.

Why we pick them over, say, the Yard House or something like that is because the people that work there love what they do and do a darn fine job getting some hard to reach beers and near impossible ales from around the globe. With their World Beer Tour (which we have tried and failed that's a lot of beer!) you can even earn rewards like free food just because you love drinking beer. Drink beer, get free stuff. Done.

Look, please please support local businesses such as Tap and Bottle and the Hop Shop but don't forget to sneak into Old Chicago to see what's new on the board. You'd be surprised.

We always are.

Which brings us to our final category and pick:

Best Bartender
Their pick: Barbacide Trujillo (Club Congress)
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Sherra Stewart (Old Chicago)

Now here is where things might get sticky, and we apologize in advance:

Barb Trujillo is awesome. We love her, she is a Tucson tradition and institution and we have nothing bad to say and will never have anything bad to say about her. This isn't personal. At all. 

Thing is...there are other amazing bartenders out there. 

Jana at Danny's, running around like a crazy squirrel (even now when she's super pregnant) is one of the best ever, or Kimmy or Jerica...we just love everyone at Danny's. We're a bit biased. 

But we pick Sherra Stewart at Old Chicago because she is able to create relationships and be creative within a "corporate" environment and it shows that she really enjoys and loves what she does. 

Sherra's influence gets us regular barrel taps from local and international breweries, she cooks food for events and kickoff parties, she travels around the US training other Old Chicago bartenders to try and be as awesome as her (wont happen, she is too awesome), she invented her own spicy Bloody Mary mix that got her front page recognition, she has a loyal fan base, she's funny, she's brash and she always has a big smile on her face. 

And she has been there for over 12 years now. That's a dedication in which we can support and we totally love.

What we are trying to say here without making anyone upset or burning bridges is that there seems to be a pattern with the Best Ofs year after year. Changes are rare it appears with the winners and runners up and with us scooting around town trying new and different restaurants and bars, we come across so many amazing servers, dishes, chefs, bartenders and the like and it'd be nice to see some diversity. That's all. Tucson is just chock full of awesomeness and we just wanted to give some recognition to some of the good people, and food, and drinks, that we personally love and admire and we hope you will visit them sometime soon to see, and vote, for yourself. 

That's all.

We cool?

Hope so.
Sherra and her award winning Bloody spicy and good

And another thing!

Nico's was voted Best Burrito in Tucson. Umm...not too sure about this one. There are just far too many options out there right now that destroy Nico's (although we do love us a Pollo Asado now and then) so this one felt like it was phoned in. You need to get out there for yourself to see, and eat, all of the incredible burrito options this city has to offer. 

We prefer Sher-E-Punjab over Saffron for Indian food. But that's just us. 

Still waiting on some real down home, kick butt BBQ. Red's is doing well as are a few small food trucks but the continual winner in this category has never impressed us. Sorry, just saying.  

We really like what the kids over at Pueblo Vida Brewing are doing with seasonal ales and lagers. The winner and finalists in the Best Brewery are fine but we just have a taste for Pueblo Vida. 

Don Guerra of Barrio Bread makes the best bread in the universe. He came in second...sorry but wrong. Our man shuts down any bread making business but thanks for trying. 

Not too sure if Serial Grillers is even doing a food truck anymore now that they are opening up a second brick and mortar. So our vote will go to American Flying Buffalo where chef Eddie takes you on a culinary ride  through Asia, the south Bronx, the deep south and, of course, the Old Pueblo. Really good stuff. 

But we are totally stoked that Yoshimatsu got best Japanese and Boca Tacos Y Tequila got, yes, best tacos. So cheers on that.

Okay, enough ranting. 

Let's do this again next year shall we? See you then...

Uploads, Typing and Opinions:
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
A Few Days Before Election Day, 2016

Metal Influence: