Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mark's New Look: Bamark Obama

Thanks, John. This look should play well for Mark in East Coast interviews.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Best Burger in Montana?

Maybe. It depends on your opinion, but in my opinion this one is up there.

The Mint Bar & Cafe in Belgrade, Montana, is known for its high quality steaks and hand-made cocktails. As it turns out, the hand-made, half-pound burger with fresh fries is 9/10ths of the steak experience at 5/10ths of the price - and tonight, 10/10ths of the satisfaction.

My burger was cooked to perfect medium rare (closer to rare) and was topped with a fried egg on a fresh English muffin. Between the basic seasoning on the meat, the substantial sandwich (sorry) of beef and fried egg required only a slim slice of tomato to dress things up. No additional ketchup, mustard or other condiment required. Very, very juicy, beefy, and good.

Also, the seemingly endless basket of skinny fresh fries delivered the perfect yang to the burgers massive ying. The sapphire martini chased it all down in an herbaceous goodness that only a chilled high quality gin cocktail can offer.

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Mint on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

First Ever Substantial Sandwich Photoshop Contest

That's my friend Mark get back into the workforce by "upgrading" his photo for his LinkedIn page and win a prize. I'll kick things off with Blagojevich hair and a proper suit...complete with corporate name tag. The winner, judged by me...wins a fabulous prize, something fabulous from my fabulous garage. Contest ends Wednesday, May 6.

Post your entries here:

Good luck.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Beef Shanks Osso Bucco Style

Sometime yesterday I put four beef shanks into a slow-cooker along with a 1/2 bottle of red wine, some garlic, parsley, carrots, a small can of tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Before I went to bed, I put it all away in the fridge.

What this teensy bit of effort yielded a day later was a pretty decent Monday night feast. The sauce was a deep burgundy-brown...and at fridge temps, slightly gelatinous. No corn starch-wondra-flour thickeners needed here. Thanks to the shanky nature of the cut, the meat and bone work magic to create perfect a perfect sauce. 

Rounding out the plate were olive oil mashed potatoes with parsley, crostini, and a gremolata garnish. Look at the photo closely, and you can see a bit of marrow just waiting in the bone in the foreground. What else do you think the toast was for?



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Good Latte = Good Monday

If this is any indication how the day will go, I should be in good shape.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Earning The Turns (and Tans) at Bridger Bowl

In what so far seems like an endless winter, I have learned to run outside at the first sign of a)blue sky or b) actual shadow-producing sunshine. Saturday produced both of these items and I headed up to Bridger Bowl with my intrepid ski buddy, Rick.
Some warm weather earlier in the week followed by one of our recent snowstorms had left the hill with a really firm base coated by about 4" of creamy spring snow. Not the only folks out on the hill, the parking lot looked more like mid-February than late-April in terms of cars, dogs, and general hangings-around by endearingly grungy ski-bum/dirtbag community.
SPF 50 sunscreen barely held back the intense springtime sunshine; cheekbones barely contained huge grins at we linked lazy turns down un-tracked not-quite-powder/not-quite-chowder snow.
Thanks to Rick E. for sharing the pics.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mark Bittman Joins us For Dinner...

...Not really...but everything on the plate tonight comes directly from his Bitten-ness. Wanting for some time to try a recipe I spotted on Mark Bittman's The Minimalist for mashed potatoes with dandelion greens; I decided to give it a go and pair it with the home-y goodness of meatloaf (the recipe based loosely on a recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything).

With winter persisting (about 8 inches of snow so far today - it IS April 23rd, isn't it?) the dandelion greens were not plucked from my front yard, but snatched up at the grocery store for what I am sure is too much money for overgrown weeds.

A coarse mash on the potatoes and the rough-chopped and blanched greens become good friends in a baking dish when coated liberally with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bread crumbs, a bit more olive oil on top and a few minutes under the broiler and the mashed potatoes and weeds become something altogether different and wonderful. Savory, creamy, slightly bitter and the occasional crunch from the bread crumbs. Dude, and I haven't even had a bite of the meatloaf yet.

Look, the beef and pork combo was moist and good, but next to those potatoes....I think I am still blushing just a bit.

Here's the recipe for the potatoes.

Read the article and watch Mark do his thing here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring+Hot Dogs=Good Lunch

I walked several blocks today to chow down on a "club" dog at Paulie's Hot Dogs. The steamed bun contained a solid dog with loaded with avocado, bacon, tomato, mustard and mayo. The skinny and very crisp shoestring fries made the lunch a meal. The folksy-bluegrass instrumental covers of Led Zeppelin tunes made the hot dog joint mellow and dare I say, slightly sophisticated.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bridger Bowl: Empty, Sunny, and now, closed.

Just like my day before at Moonlight basin, I soak up every moment at Bridger the way my face noticeably soaks up the sun's UV rays.

The ennui of mid-season skiing has a way of fading on the last days of the year. Every run takes on a sweetness fueled by the impending separation between skier and skis. As the winter comes to a close and with four and a half months of frequent skiing under my belt, my turns feel dialed-in and the slopes have become my playground.

Fortunately for me, I am sharing my playground with what seems like ten other people on the entire hill.
Technically speaking, the Bridger and Moonlight ski days followed a similar pattern: arrive late, have some scary and fast runs on the ice, take a break, and wait for the sun to turn the ice into creamy spring corn snow.

Around 12:30 the magic happens: perfect corn snow on a firm base. Snow like this just begs for a set edge. On my telemark equipment, each turn is a slow-motion flex of the knees and ankles all joined by a tipping of the skis to put them on edge. Done correctly, you leave two rather substantial and perfectly formed ruts in your wake.
After a few hours, my friend Rick (seen above freeing the heel) and I heed a calling from our bellies for fuel. Fuel, and satisfaction on this day, arrives in the form of nachos and beer. I am quite certain that we have made the right culinary choice with this classic combo of man-food when the couple at the table next to us openly admits their "nacho envy."

"Those that forget history are doomed to repeat it." I'm not sure who said that in the first place...but I think they may be right. For evidence of this, I submit the Bridger Bowl Daily Video below, shot exactly one year ago with myself (in green, on tele gear), Rick (seen after myself in black, on tele gear), and a handful of others closing out the ski season:

"Doomed" to repeat history? Not so sure about that...more like "lucky enough."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Moonlight Basin - Closing Weekend Ski Day

Like just about anything I suppose, you can even take skiing for granted. I am really getting into the spring mode...riding the bike....enjoying the signs of life in my yard and around town. But with only two days left before the lifts close for the season both in Big Sky and at Bridger I am determined to make the most of it.

Moonlight Basin is the new kid on Lone Peak's northern aspect. Next door to the larger (ugh) Big Sky ski area, Moonlight Basin is just as un-crowded and has the same sort of general hugeness that its neighbor to the south serves up in spades.

Most of my friends have either moved on from skiing in general for the season, or are just more willing to soak up the Montana spring sunshine unencumbered by huge plastic boots and gore-tex pants.

Not me. One more weekend. One more run. One more lap. The sun is fabulous. The lift lines - there aren't any - are something sadly I've come to expect at Bridger on powder days. The place is empty. I lose count of how many times I ride the six-person-per-chair "six shooter" lift by myself.

The snow varies from rock-hard re-constituted firmness at the lodge to really nice chalky old "powder" up high off of the Headwaters lift high in the bowls.

Later in the day, the groomers soften up to near perfect corn snow and I proceed to shred the ridiculously huge and uncrowded slopes like I'm gunning for some sort of world cup title.

I am delighted at lunch to find that the lodge is serving up burgers straight from the grill on the Moonlight Lodge deck for $6 (with potato salad, no less). When I inquire about beer, the convivial ski-bum at the grill simply opens up a cooler next to the grill and says "Kokanee cans for three bucks." Dude, that's like nine bucks for everything. I give him a $10 bill and shove the buck in the tip jar.

A few more laps as the sun comes and goes and once the light turns painfully flat I check out at the spring skiing approved time of only 2:30.

Usually a die-hard Bridger fan, I am somewhat smitten with my whole laid-back Moonlight Basin experience today.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Shed Saves Dinner

Shed Red how do I love thee. Let me...gimme that.....

It's been about 53 days, 16 hours, and 23 minutes since we had lunch at The Shed in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Not that I'm counting, but its been a while and we polished off the last of the Shed Red chile sauce we brought home with us from our New Mexican road trip.

While last night I experienced a bit of culinary inspiration (pesto/pancetta/feta stuffed chicken thighs with mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and a quickie beurre blanc to go over it all) tonight was another matter all together.

Tonight involved no pre-dinner inspiration, and motivated by dwindling funds, we opt to just go straight home and see what we can make for dinner using the current contents of the fridge and pantry.

Then I saw that almost empty jar of Shed Red. Just like the earthy heat lights up my taste buds, the jar of sauce sparked of inspiration for tonight. When in doubt: huevos rancheros.

A simple cheese quesadilla was placed underneath some home fries and pinto beans, then two over-easy eggs, all topped with a generous spoonful of Shed Red.

In those first few bites I am kind-of, sort-of, maybe-just-a-little, gone away to Santa Fe. Earthy low burn heat that cranks up as you work your way through the dish. Tasty heat that sneaks up on you in the form of the slightest patina of sweat on your brow and the little places under your eyes. Huevos Rancheros or any hash-type meal rarely fails to satisfy or comfort. The same can be said for the Shed Red.

That's 53 days, 16 hours, and 34 minutes now. Just in case you were keeping track....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Latte Art of the Day

Trust me, they don't all look like this.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Birthday-worthy dinner?

After an unusually manic Monday at work I had let the dinner plans, uh, shall we say: slide. After a quick trip to Montana Fish Company I was the proud owner of four huge scallops and four pieces of halibut cheek.

The above items, paired with some angel-hair pasta and a spoonful of leftover home made pesto made for an appropriately elegant dinner. I seared the scallops to a medium rare in olive oil, and sauteed the halibut cheeks in a little butter and garlic. Tossing in just a splash of wine and a bit more butter, I had a nice little pan sauce to enhance the gems already on the plate.

A premiere-cru Chablis cuts like a laser beam through the richness of the dish with its lean flavors and minerally finish.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Escape to Jackson Hole: Part 2

The white noise of the hotel room heater/AC unit having done its job, we awake to a sunny day doing its best penetrate the seams of the curtain drawn across the hotel room window.

Having enjoyed dinner at Trio last night, we know now that the food advice we received was solid (thanks, Niki!); so we opt for one of the breakfast recommendations: Pearl Street Bagels. This choice was reinforced by the PSB ad that featured a bagel, of course...but also an image of a perfectly poured latte with a clean Rosetta clearly visible in the foam.

The tiny bagel joint had a steady stream of what were clearly regulars coming and going. The bagel selection included pumpernickel among about a dozen other flavors. Pumpernickel I should mention is a variety not offered by Bozeman's Bagel Works. I, of course wanted a latte...that looked like the one in their ad or maybe like this one.

The coffee, while very good...didn't quite deliver visually. No Rosetta here, just a nice abstract swirl of espresso crema and steamed milk micro-foam. Hey, they were busy...and I'm sure that I probably looked like the mouth-breathing, big eyed tourist that I was. The pumpernickel bagel on the other hand was great; having the perfect balance of slightly crunchy skin, chewy, but somehow light interior. The generous schmear of salmon cream cheese made it a complete meal.

After breakfast we head up into the fantastically sunny - and empty - Grant Teton National Park. Other than the sun, a couple of moose and a handful of other visitors, it felt like we had a private showing for two of the entire Teton Range.
Don't let the sun fool you, it was about 18 degrees.

Millionaires and wannabees aside, Jackson and the Tetons rarely disappoint.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Escape to Jackson Hole: Part 1

"...Sometimes whatever you're looking for is right in you backyard." Whoever said this anyway? Oh, uh...I did...two posts ago. Que lastima!

That theory may work on Wednesday...but its Saturday and we left town. Taking advantage of the off-season rates, we escaped to Jackson Hole for a quick weekend getaway. Do we need an excuse? Okay, it's Jen's birthday!

Jackson, Wyoming where its said the at the billionaires have chased out the millionaires, is what it is: a resort town for the well-heeled and the wish-I-was-well-heeled that happens to be bordered by the stunning Grand Teton National Park.

Enjoying Jackson's uncrowded spring off-season, we tour the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Not just mountain lions and grizzly bears this museum has a surprising collection that includes both well known genre-artists like Batemen, Catlin and Bodmer, but also O'keefe and Warhol. Who knew?

For dinner we were directed to Trio by a colleague. Recognized by Food & Wine magazine in 2008, Trio is a hip-gastro-pub/American Bistro that offers everything waffle fries with a blue cheese fondue (missing this is a fon-don't!...*sorry*) to wood fired pizzas and more traditional entrees like risottos and pastas.

In a moment of weakness (clarity?) we order the aforementioned waffle fries with our cocktails. Look, I am not sure what Warren Buffet had for dinner, but I am willing to wager that whatever it was it wasn't as good as the fried goodness in front of us - especially if you include our cocktails: a basil mojito and a lemon-rosemary-vodka concoction.

That combo alone could have made for a great dinner....but we didn't drive five hours to have french fries and liquor....not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you.

Round two in the food department involves something not fried: two salads. One of classic arugula-olive oil-lemon-Parmesan the other field greens, roasted mushrooms, Point Reyes blue cheese and candied walnuts.

A stout, but balanced 2005 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon goes well with the salads and the simple but delicious pizza margarita that serves as our main course. Watching the pizza from dough-toss to flaming wood-fired oven in the open kitchen added to the experience, I'm sure.

For dessert I was delighted to find a cheese assortment of manchego with honey, fontina with orange zest, cheddar with herbs and Point Reyes blue with a balsamic reduction was a perfect ending to enjoy the wine lingering in my glass.

Tomorrow: Breakfast and the Tetons.

Latte Art of the Day

I liked this tasted good....and I wanted to share.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Western Cafe and Colombo's: Bozeman Classics

Wanderlust, in all its restorative goodness has its limits. Sometimes, the good stuff is right there in front of you. Maybe...just maybe...right where you are is better than just about any place else. At least today, and at least at a couple of Bozeman institutions, downtown's Western Cafe and the south side's Colombo's pizza, this is the case for me.

While downtown continues to heal after the recent destruction, life continues. At noon today, I walked four blocks to my bank, five blocks to the Western Cafe and afterwords, next door to the barber shop (two stools and one dog).

The Western Cafe is a trip to another era with Formica tables and lunch counter, vinyl counter-stools and chairs, and menu standards like patty melts, calf liver and onions, BLT, and chicken fried steak. Today I go for a cheeseburger and fries. Funny how seemingly difficult it is to crank out a burger and fries these days that doesn't suck. I am happy to say that my burger today - hand made, fries and all - definitely didn't suck.

Hand made fries....why don't more places do this? Aren't potatoes cheap? Doesn't this just add one, maybe two steps (if you bother blanching) to the whole french-fry process? Regardless, the fries at the Western started their day as a whole potato ended it in my belly. Crispy, crunchy, tender, brown. Good. The burger had the slightest hint of pink in the middle and was juicy and good. The bun was not a huge focaccia or ciabatta, it was a white bread bun - the perfect spongy delivery vehicle for the cheesy-beefyness within. I was shut down and kind of freaked out when I didn't get the piece of home-made pie I wanted: a towering slice of lemon meringue. If you want ample pie selection, its best to go early.

Keeping with the home-town-old-school theme and needing some mid-week comfort food for dinner, we headed to Colombo's pizza near the university. Colombo's pizza is thin, cracker-crusted pizza that isn't going to challenge anyone. It's fresh, it's salty and it's good. You won't find some food writer (irony alert) waxing about their innovative toppings, but you will find house-made Italian sausage, fresh basil and all the usual suspects present on the menu. Green olives, a favorite of mine for old-school pizza which can be hard to find these days, also available.

The thin and salty macro-brew-lite-beer pairs perfectly with the Pizza and the Billy-Joel-red-brick-and-paneling-1978-pizza-joint decor. Not just a pizza place...Colombo's can be a trip back to my childhood. A little Aerosmith with your pepperoni? Yes please.

Back to the whole wanderlust thing.... In recent posts I talk about noteworthy burgers (here and here and here) that I traveled great distances to savor; I also gushed about some next-level pizza in San Antonio. Here I am today however, just steps from my office, just minutes off some conference call savoring the same my own backyard.

Colombo's Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon

Western Cafe on Urbanspoon