Sunday, March 27, 2005

Trip to Rhode Island - Off the Beaten Path Once Again

I expect this will have to be a multi-parter, as I seem to have come down with some sort of flu bug in the process of having my adventure. C'est la vie, n'est pas? CameraMan and I decided, after not taking a vacation together since our honeymoon in May of 2004, that it was time for a long weekend. He wanted to go to our usual haunts in Vermont (usual? We haven't been on vacation in almost a year! But you know what I mean...) however, I put my foot down.

"We've been there!" I protested. "I want to try something new. How about Newport? There are mansions, it isn't far, and there will be seafood to enjoy."

CameraMan knows better than to protest, as I can be more stubborn than a spring cold when I want to be, so he proceeded to jump right into the task of finding us accomodations. Wonderful husband that he is, he settled on The Cliffside Inn, which was AAA 4 Diamond, Frommer's top Newport pick, home of legendary artist Beatrice Turner, and on and on. It's also home to a traditional English-style tea service that CameraMan and I were intrigued by, not to mention a full and varied breakfast. It was a bit pricey, but as we haven't been on vacation in almost a year (can you sense my annoyance at myself for letting this happen?), we decided not to nickel and dime it.

And so, on a cloudy and cool Friday afternoon, we jumped into the Rex (CameraMan's Subaru WRX) and headed north to Newport. We left around 9:30am and drove straight there, no stops except for the bathroom, as we wanted our first meal to be in our 'new home'. And boy were we glad we did!

We pulled into Newport around 1pm and as a result we wanted something quick and tasty, both of us being ravenous. Rather than eat down by the docks, which were lined with chi-chi seafood restaurants and snacky-type stands, we moseyed into Old Town, where I think we could have stayed the entire time, had we wanted to. The roads were lined in red cobble, poorly paved, and the side walks were craggy and buckled, and reminded me of my trip to Valence, as narrow as they got. We walked up into an open square, where a church towered in front of us, staring at us with Puritanical disapproval. On one side, two lovely old theaters sat side by side, one still housing plays while the other plays films, and on the other, two banks, a restaurant and... a coffee house!



I haven't blogged much on it yet, but CameraMan has a passion for coffee which I foolishly encouraged with a Christmas gift of a home roaster, and finding this little microroaster, waiting patiently for us to come and discover it was exactly the opportunity he was hoping for. Ocean Coffee Roasters is a micro-roasting cafe, which means they: 'hand-roast each bean to its peak of flavor in batches as little as 10 pounds each'. Which in plain words means that the coffee is fresher, more nuanced, and definitely more enjoyable.

We entered and were told to sit at any of the open tables. The waitress came promptly to give us menus and take drink orders - we started with teas, as we knew we'd want espresso after eating. CameraMan had Lychee Berry tea, while I had Lemon Ginger.

Both were loose teas and were served in Bodum press pots, which I'd never used for tea before but CameraMan informed me was a common method. The lychee berry tea was much too sweet for me, though CameraMan liked it (he likes tropical fruits - I can't stand their syrupy sweetness). The lemon ginger, though, was perfect - spicy and tart and very warming, which is what we needed coming in out of the wind. It was cloudier than I expected, but I was pleased.

The waitress returned, and we ordered. I, being a little chicken since it was a new place, stuck with something safe - deli turkey and swiss on whole wheat with lettuce, tomato, and honey mustard. CameraMan, however, had no trouble tucking into the menu with gusto, deciding finally on 'the Cuban' - 'delicious Cuban pulled pork with spicy jack cheese, french mustard, pickles, and onion served panini'. Sure - why not??

We waited about 10 minutes, sipping our tea and enjoying the home-like quality of the cafe. It was obviously more of a local joint - older men and women sat in couples over news papers or chatting excitedly about politics, wearing anything from torn jeans and tea shirts to leather vests and sweaters. Not your typical tourist in Newport, and exactly what we were hoping for. Additionally, the architecture in the building was reminicent of an old firehouse - a beaten old bar with stools squatted around the open-air kitchen/coffee area, black and white checked linoleum covered the floors, and the windows, with their arched tops, allowed light to pour into an otherwise industrial feeling space. Local artists were displayed on the walls (we particularly liked a water-colorist they seemed to feature) alongside kid-created masterpieces of crayon and marker. Very fun.

The waitress came with our sandwiches and the conversation ceased in favor of savoring our meals. Mine was exactly what I wanted - soft, homemade wheat bread studded with a sprinkling of sesame seeds acting as a cushion for thin-sliced deli turkey and a pungent, sharp swiss that was obviously aged well. My one complaint was the cook decided to use iceberg lettuce rather than romaine, but no matter - it offered a pleasant crunchy texture to contrast the soft bread and meat. The honey mustard also tasted homemade, and made my eyes water a bit at the sweet-spiciness. All was accompanied with a dill pickle and chips. A proven winner.

CameraMan's Cuban was more interesting. The 'panini' serving method turned out to be an herbed focaccia - dill and salt, we decided, and was not heavily pressed. It was, however, smokey, spicy, and the jack cheese was perfectly melted. Although CameraMan does not typically enjoy onions, he felt that the number on this sandwich was appropriate - not overwhelming, but acting as a pleasant contrast in texture, along with the pickles, neither of which had become mushy or flat in preparation. The pork was well-shredded and not at all dry. Finally, and most interestingly, the bread was not at all greasy. Greasiness in pressed sandwiches is one of the things that prevents us from ordering them more often than not, as it leaves both of us feeling unpleasant after eating, and it gives CameraMan heart burn. This sandwich suffered none of that, making it a perfect remedy for my poor starving husband.



Sated, we turned our attention to the coffee menu. We both wanted espresso - one of the things that unites us in our love of coffee is the joy and satisfaction we get while drinking a good espresso after a meal. We also wanted to try the drip coffee, as it's micro-batches appealed to the snob in us both. We decided to go with the home blend of espresso, described as full bodied house espresso has a suggestion of caramel and a slight smoky aftertaste. We agreed we'd be back the next day for drip coffee.

And so we each ordered a double shot. It came out quickly, hot and fresh, and the flavour was amazing. As promised, there were notes of caramel and raw sugar, with the crema tasting almost like whipped cream itself. The disappointment was the texture. As you may or may not be able to see from the picture, although there are some legs on this coffee (yes, I'm shamelessly stealing from the oenophile's vocabulary... so sue me), it did not climb or coat the side of the cup with any staying power. What that says is that the coffee was a little on the thin side, which meant the mouthfeel was watery and you lost some of the finishing notes. Still, given the choice between this and $tarbucks, it'd be this every time and twice on Sundays.


We left full and happy - unable to try any dessert, despite the siren's call of the quarter pound cookies, espresso macaroons, and homemade tiramisu. Perhaps when we return next time...for now, even the cars outside were trying to tell us something...

If you'd like to visit:
Ocean Coffee Roasters
Newport, Rhode Island
22 Washington Square
Phone: (401)846-6060

Addendum: We did return for coffee, though no sweets as it was too early. I chose the 'Mexican Organic Talon,' described as a Demeter certified organic coffee, grown under partial shade. Medium bodied with snappy acidity and a slight chocolate undertone. I found that it did have the chocolate undertone I craved, but was lighter bodied than I typically enjoy. Still, it was delicious and a far cry from the drip we get around Stamford. CameraMan had the Sumatran Mandheling (earthy tasting, heavy-bodied, and syrupy, for serious coffee drinkers) and really enjoyed it, saying it reminded him of the Pu-Erh teas he enjoys after meals or a good, peaty single malt scotch. Needless to say, I thought it tasted like moss and dust, and although I liked its staying power (the 'syrupy' trait they described was more, to me, like an oiliness), the flavors were not for me. Still better than $tarbucks though.

Monday, March 21, 2005

who wants seconds - autumn comforts from home

My family is a tight-knit group...the sort of family that embodies cliches and continues to perpetuate the fifties stereotype which otherwise has completely lost relevancy. My father, tall, dark and handsome, goes to work every day in a suit and tie, leaving at dawn and coming home after dusk, reserved and silent - a powerful role model. My mother, small, fair, and lovely, stayed at home with my brother and I throughout our youth, caring for us, cooking for us, cleaning for us, and teaching us right from wrong, as well as that there are a million shades of gray. Doug and I, only two years apart, were best friends and, although we fought as brothers and sisters do, we were always friends first.

Of course, having an idyllic family (and indeed, as the proud member of a living, breathing stereotype, how could it not have been idyllic?) is a pressure cooker - and frankly, the picture of Americana was not as much Norman Rockwell as 'Around the World in 80 Days'. So my friendship with my brother, my love for my parents, while these things were earned and cared for throughout my life, part of their creation and maintenance was due to necessity. Because often, we only really had each other to rely upon - over the course of my life, we moved through five states, two non-US countries, and a territory for a total of more than 10 separate moves.

And so we made friends and memories, shared laughter and tears, and then left them as together as we had come, in search of the next step in our lives as a family. My mother, whose quiet power and internal fortitude are disguised by her petite stature and big, toothy smile, made this work by taking every possible step to ensure continuity in our lives where she could. This meant spending each and every holiday season with my Grandparents in rural Wisconsin, seeing my Nana and Grandpa, Great Nana and Grandaddy, and all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins.

It is no surprise, then, how difficult it is for me to choose one item of comfort, one sight or smell or taste or touch that I can alight upon and identify as my favourite. How can I, when there are so many amazing memories to choose from? Every Christmas or Thanksgiving, Doug and I knew we could count on certain things at Nana and Grandpa's house. There would always be checkers or cribbage with Grandpa in the afternoons, for example, and the candy jar would always be full of long, sticky ropes of black licorice. Great Uncle Paul would always come for Sunday dinner, dressed in a sport coat and tie long after it was required by courtesy, and at 5pm sharp he would always have a martini, gin not vodka, in a tumbler over ice with a dilly bean. Doug and I would fight over who got that bean, not because either of us liked them, but because it was Uncle Paul's. Dinner was marked by the ringing of a small copper bell hung in the entrance between the kitchen and the dining room, only to be rung once the long lace table cloth was out, the silver and china placed, with crystal water glasses full and candles lit. And there was always lefse, wrapped into pale, thin cigars of butter and sugar, as there had been at our family's tables for centuries since before leaving Norway.

How can I choose? Lefse or krumkakes from our holiday feasts? Sticky buns from Sunday brunch or oyster stew from Christmas dinner? The thick, rich, homemade Bloody Mary mix my Nana has made forever and guards as a family treasure, stored on her pantry shelves in rows of canning jars like manna from heaven or the sweet, zingy sweet red pickles that dyed my fingers on more than one occasion when I sought a cinnamony treat between meals? What could sway me - what single experience is more than the sum of these parts?

Hard though it is to believe, there can be only one thing and it is my comfort. It combines the things I loved most about our visits to Nana and Grandpas - the sights, scents, textures, sounds, and everything in between that makes for comfort food. I have carried it through childhood where I can see it in my memories, bright and shining on the family table, often maligned but loved and never retired in favor of a chic new flavor, technique, or en vogue replacement. I brought it with me when I left my parents' home for my own beginnings in college..shared it with my friends, my roommate, my future husband, and always to positive reviews.

When I was sick, even at my sickest, I could turn to this food for comfort. It never waivered from being a safe solace, inviting, healthful, filling, and quieting. I knew where it came from, its history and my own, and it very easily might have kept me alive when I was too scared, hurt, and confused to entertain thoughts of other things. I have never felt turned away from it, I have never felt judged in its company, and whenever I have it, I feel the arms of the other strong, confident women before me holding me close. Even now, healthy and able again, when I need comfort, I turn to it before anything else.

And of course, I love the ritual of its preparation, the feeling of making it the same way my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother have, the smell of it as it wafts through my kitchen, sweet and subtle. It is so satisfying to feel the way the room becomes filled with heat and heavy with an indescribable, fuzzy, soft glow and even the piercing sound of my oven becomes muted and musical. I love the texture in my mouth, smooth on my tongue, thick and rich as cream, and warming from the inside out... a familiar blanket for my tummy. That it is simple and pure and unadulterated, that the recipe has never changed, is comfort all on its own - I cannot fail, for countless generations of women before me have made it fool-proof. But, almost more than anything, its beautiful, bright, joyful color excites me today the same way it always has, whether the bright gemstone on my Nana's side board, shocking contrast against white lace and polished silver, or the faded treasure tucked deftly in my freezer, tupperware armor protecting it as I prepare for the end of another season.

As my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother before me, I will share this recipe with my children. And, with that, I find great strength and great comfort because, in a simple memory made tangible in food, we will always be connected, supported, and comforted.

My favorite comfort food is my Nana Lynts' Mixed Winter Squash. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you.

Nana Lynts' Mixed Squash
Ingredients:
  • 2 medium acorn squash

  • 2 small butternut squash

  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground white pepper

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, plus garnish

  • milk, as necessary

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Grease glass baking dish with a bit of butter. Cut squash in halves and place side-by-side in dish, cut side up.

Bake until very tender, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Using large spoon, remove seeds and stringy pulp - throw these away.

Scoop out squash flesh and transfer to large mixing bowl. Add pepper, salt, and butter to squash; mash by hand with potato masher to desired consistency. If the squash is too thick or lumpy, add milk to even and smooth.

Serve in pre-heated terrine and garnish with small pieces of butter on top.

Servings vary by squash size - average about 8.


(image from season by season)

Friday, March 18, 2005

First Planned Stop - Guacamole!

Okay. So thus far, I've been naughty and not really stuck to my plan. I think that's part of cooking though - you don't always want to cook to a plan, you want to cook to your desires. Food is about filling a need, right? And until today, I didn't feel the need for guacamole... until today.

You see, work has been a bear lately and yesterday, being Saint Patrick's Day, meant that I had green on the brain. But I outgrew vermillion ales in college and frankly, I'm not much on food dye in my food. Still, I wanted something to celebrate - something festive, fun, and tasty. What's more tasty than guac? Serve it with chips, serve it with veggies, serve it with tacos... hell, it's a delicious substitute for salad dressing if you mix it with a little bit of salsa.

Fiesta in mind, then I set to work on my concoction when I got home from work. There's more than one variety of guacamole in canyon ranch, but I decided to go with the one that carries the spa's name in homage to the fact that I've been a little remiss in my goal. The primary ingredient is asparagus rather than avacados, which is nice at this time of year because asparagus is in season and therefore on sale in my local grocery store. I made up for that by picking up a large, heirloom tomato to chop up and throw into the mix.

Talk about easy! I'm embarassed that I haven't made this sooner!

I know that the first question, when we're talking about guac that isn't made with avacados anyway, is how was the texture? Well, I can't tell you yet how it sets up after a good refrigeration, but straight from the blender, it's obvious that it is not real guacamole. The creaminess that you get from a ripe avocado just isn't there. The recipe calls for light sour cream to try and mimic the effect, but it's lost - I don't even really think you'd get that smooth mouthfeel if you used full fat sour cream.

Having said that, the flavour is terrific. Very garlicky (a plus, in my book), despite only having one minced clove for 12 ounces of fresh asparagus, a large tomato, and red onion. While chili powder and tobasco are called for, you really don't get much heat - I used Penzey's hot chili powder and I still didn't feel a burn. I think that's okay, though, because it means that you can use it as a pleasant foil for a super-hot salsa or a stuffing in a baked hot-pepper. You also aren't overwhelmed by 'asparagus' flavor - it's guacamole lite... the Corona of guacamole.

The recipe makes 3 cups of guacamole, plenty for a small party, and it takes about 15 minutes to make, end-to-end, if you have no knife skills (like me). For those of you who can slice and dice like a pro, I'm guessing it'd take 5 minutes. So much better than buying the stuff in a jar at the store.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Another Detour - This Time To India!

So last night, CameraMan had a night out with the boys and I was alone for dinner. The previous weekend, he was an amazing, loving hubby and he (wait for it ladies) ... made me dinners to eat during the week. This is the first time he's done it (I've always been the one making the soups and fresh foods that go into the freezer for him), but let me tell you, it made my life so very much easier.

And so last night we tried a new dish, not from canyon ranch cooking, but instead from a mix of different places, including (but not limited to) the Internet, Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking, CameraMan's brain, and the limitations of our pantry. It's called CameraMan's Saag Murghi.

Saag Murghi (or Murgh Saag - I've seen it both ways) is a boneless chunks of chicken breast, cooked with fresh spinach, onions, tomatoes, and spices. It is a chicken curry first and foremost, which makes me happy because traditionally the texture of curries is rather mushy, and I look for that in comfort food. Additionally, curries can be pretty darn healthy - especially when you enjoy them sans full-fat coconut milk, and eat versions like this one, which include lean proteins, spinach, and traditional Indian spices like turmeric. According to WholeHealthMD, traditional Ayurvedics believe that turmeric is a great natural antibiotic, strengthens digestion, and, for those who struggle with this, helps improve intestinal flora. I'm not sure I'm in need of those effects so much, but since its an anti-inflammatory that could help with carpal tunnel and since I sit in front of a computer all day, I'm not fighting it.

CameraMan's version, as I mentioned, isn't exactly traditional. He used bone-in chicken breasts, having bought them accidentally, and then flaked it with a fork at the end of the whole cooking process, giving it a shredded consistency similar to southern barbeque rather than chunks of meat. He forgot to grind the coriander, so it went in pod-whole, with the other seasonings, along with the whole chicken breasts. The problem with all of this is you've got a lot of ingredients in one pan (albeit a large one), so stirring becomes an issue. He got around this by removing the chicken breasts temporarily, giving the concoction a thorough mixing, and then re-adding the chicken breasts before reducing the heat and allowing the curry to simmer. Finally, he forgot to add the garam marsala at the end with the yogurt.

Having said all of that, the end-result was really very good. We served it over spaghetti squash rather than couscous or rice, and it made a nice, filling, hot meal. The flavours are not what I would necessarily call 'Indian' - you could tell that there was something missing, but the roasted garlic and the ginger came through beautifully and with the spaghetti squash, the whole effect was a lovely contrast of sweets and savories that I really enjoyed.

It did suffer from re-heating, although I think this was more because the chicken was shredded at the end and therefore gave up a lot of its moisture. I would make it again though - much more satisfying (and healthy) than my other comfort-food favorite: macaroni and cheese.

CameraMan's Chicken-Spinach Curry (as made)
Ingredients

1 T canola oil
2 T ginger root, finely chopped
5 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup tomato sauce (plain)
1 T coriander seed, whole
1 tsp. cumin seed, ground
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt (kosher)
20 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, but not drained
1 pound chicken breast, bone-in
.5 cup nonfat plain yogurt

Directions
1. Heat oil in 3-quart saucepan over medium high heat. Add gingerroot and garlic; stir-fry 1-2 minutes or until garlic is golden brown.

2. Stir in tomato sauce, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground red pepper, and salt; reduce heat. Partially cover and simmer 7-8 minutes until a thin film of oil starts to separate from the sauce.

3. Stir in undrained spinach and chicken. Simmer uncovered 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted. Cover and simmer 35-40 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender; remove from heat.

4. Gradually stir in yogurt. Allow to cool to room temperature; remove chicken breasts from mixture. Shred chicken with a fork and re-add meat. Reheat over stove top briefly, about 4-5 minutes, if serving, otherwise pack in freezable containers for easy dinners.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Already a Detour?

Last night I was planning to make the guac and blinis... I really was. But it had been a long day, and all I really wanted to do was to snuggle into my chair and veg out on the TV. Hardly an adventurer, but then, we can't always be perfect, right?

Well, enter CameraMan to save the day! He suggested we try another one of the recipes in our book, the 'canyon ranch cocktail'.

Key ingredients include sparkling water, bitters, and, optionally, lemon or lime juice.

Who am I to pass up an opportunity, especially since CameraMan was so good as to prod me in the right direction? And especially since this recipe is so incredibly easy - and a really nice replacement for all the soda I tend to drink.

A little background then...According to Angostura's website, it is made from a blend of tropical herbs in 1824 as a cure for stomach ailments. He started exporting the draft in 1830 to England and Trinidad, where it became quite popular. It didn't, however, make the leap to beverage status until his son, Carlos, got in on the action. Carlos showed off the mix in all the posh spots of Europe at the time, mixing it with gin and other alcoholic consumables, to rave reviews.

The Canyon Ranch cookbook calls this non-alcoholic, which is true based on the volume of angostura bitters to other ingredients, but not true in the most literal sense unless you buy 'non-alcoholic' Angostura bitters. Some angostura is alcoholic - Alcohol (ABV): 45.0% (90 proof), in fact. So, if you are sensitive to alcohol, a recovering alcoholic, or simply uncomfortable with the idea, make sure to use non-alcoholic bitters in your recipe. This wasn't a problem for myself or for CameraMan, so we soldiered on.

If you smell Angostura bitters on its own, its bitter pungency is a little overwhelming. Scratch that. It's a lot overwhelming. To me, it smells like bitter orange essense - sort of like what we use to dissuade our cat from get into things. It's not foul, but its a wave of citrus meets bitter, and probably not something I would drink on its own.

However, when a dash (to taste) is added to a tumbler of sparkling water and a splash of lime juice, it becomes a delightful drink! Refreshing but moderated, with the relaxed, summery sense you get when you drink lemonade on a perfect summer evening, the fireflies floating about like stars in the heavens. You want to sip it, not gulp it like traditional soda, and the pretty, pale pink hue isn't at all reminicent of the kiddie-cocktail you might be imagining. It's like cosmo-light, and you could easily serve it in a martini glass at parties for a really nice non-alcoholic alternative without sacrificing style. You can see that CameraMan and I had no such compulsions, serving ours in a traditional tumbler, and sans the perfunctory lime wedge you would see in a bar, nice restaurant, or tiki lounge. If I were to try serving it to guests, I think I'd serve it with a small wedge of blood orange instead of a lime, though, just to be fancy.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Road Map... and Planning the First Stop

So, you might wonder which cook book will operate as the road map in the first leg of our little adventure? Well, I consulted with CameraMan, who will ultimately be on the receiving end of my experimentations (once tasted, I mean), and he chose 'Canyon Ranch Cooking: Bringing the Spa Home'. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is an excellent choice because:

  • There are beautiful illustrations for me to compare with - nothing like landmarks to help a gal navigate the trail...
  • The food is healthy! Big plus for me in terms of tasting everything and big plus for my dear CameraMan, as I want him along for the ride as long as possible
  • There's a lot of variety! Because it's spa food, they have to get creative with herbs, combinations of cuisines, and so on. So we shouldn't get too bored...
  • It's unique! While at least a handful of individuals have taken on Julia, Jacques, and Joy, I haven't seen anyone try their hand at spa food. Maybe we can take out some of the mystique?
I'm not holding myself to any specific order through my cooking, though it seems like appetizers would be a nice place to start. Simple, small noshes that should tide us over as we get acclimated and find our stride. The first items on my list are the Blue Corn Blinis and the Canyon Ranch Guacamole. I've gone to our local grocery to pick up the fixings - sadly, no blue corn meal was to be found, but I got a lovely heirloom tomato to make up for it. I'm planning to serve the blinis with the guacamole and diced hot peppers in place of fat free sour cream and caviar, as suggested by the book. I think it's a little more interesting and the whole southwestern fusion thing intrigues me.

A Delicious Beginning

It seems that lately you can't turn on the television, open a newspaper, or breeze through a magazine without reading about blogging and the impact of blogging on real life. It's almost as though people are inspired to see one another really trying to contribute, so they get out there and do it themselves.

Of late, I've been reading a lot of amazing blogs devoted to food. Recipes, epicurean quests, ethnic experiences... all of these interesting takes on something required, something quintessentially tied to daily life, inspired me to take on a journey of my own. I've decided to be a trailblazer of sorts, and though my journey may not cut new paths for everyone, it is certainly going to impact me and my own life. I think that sort of trueness is sometimes hard to find, so I invite you to come along and watch. Think of this as a bit of the 'Amazing Race', a bit of 'Survivor', and probably more 'America's Funniest Home Videos' than I'd probably care to admit.

For any trip, it is important to have a plan - a trail guide, if you will, that may or may not bear any resemblance to how the trip plays out, but can be used as a point of reference to redirect if we get lost. My plan is this - to cook my way through cookbooks, one by one, all recipes, and to document my experiences along the way. There will be no skipping just because I don't like an ingredient. I have no allergies to worry about, so I have no excuses. As I cook my way through, I vow to taste each and every recipe for you, and to share, through photo and word, my journey. I promise, it will be a bizarre ride.

Before we go much further, it may be of benefit for you to know a little more about me. I won't go through the laundry list here in this entry, but I suggest you click on the background bit, so you know what you're getting yourself into. You might even relate.

And so, here we are, laces tied tight and a pack on our backs, ready to venture forth onto these delicious paths. I have my trusty cameraman in tow (you'll hear more about him later) and I think I'm ready. We'll see soon.