Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations and Livingston, MT

In the latest episode of the TV show No Reservations, we get to see chef, writer, eater, and TV host Anthony Bourdain's impressions of Livingston, Big Sky Country, and my backyard (in a cosmic sense). While I cannot lay claim to Livingston, I have spent the better part of 17 years living either down the Paradise Valley in Yellowstone National Park, or just west, in the more city-fied cousin, Bozeman.

I came to this area 17 years ago for a summer job to escape Texas. I landed in Yellowstone Park thanks to a summer-job-help-wanted ad in Backpacker magazine. There wasn't any big plan to find one of the most beautiful places on the planet, just a desire for space, scenery, and the unknown. Since then, I have played the role of tour guide many times, showing off the "backyard" to out-of-state friends, relatives, VIP's, and colleagues. I find it curious and enjoyable to watch others interpret this place, its people, and its scenery. Through others I am reminded of the inherent beauty and big-ness of the area we live in. I enjoy Bourdain's snarky, often inward-looking repartee, and I got a kick out of watching it all take place in my back yard.

In last night's show Livingston's 2nd Street Bistro and Murray Bar served a beautiful multi-course dinner to Bourdain along with local denizens Dan Lahren, Russell Chatham, and Jim Harrison. I like the 2nd Street Bistro very much, and I am glad to see some recognition thrown their way. I even recognized some of the dishes moving by on-screen, having just enjoyed (and blogged about) a proper dinner there two weeks ago.

A worthwhile point was made in the show; except for those people lucky enough (or smart enough) to have made their millions elsewhere, most of us pay dear sums of "mountain tax" to keep our zip codes here in southwest Montana. One is wise to keep the tool bag of skills fully stocked and ready for use, as you never know what sort of creative employment you might need to undertake to make that next mortgage payment. Whether it be the rancher who cooks, the cubicle-wonk who teaches skiing, the teacher that picks up a hammer, we are nothing if not multi-taskers.

As Bourdain pointed out, Montana is an "unspeakably beautiful" place. As I mentioned before, I get a kick out of other's interpretation of Montana, and I enjoyed watching Bourdain's interpretation on the soft glow of my TV. Tomorrow morning I will also enjoy waking up not by the blue glow of the TV, but by the sun breaking over one of three mountain ranges visible from my town.

Check out the preview here:

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Calories Combat Clouds, Ennui in Bozeman

It is no news flash that the weather was rainy and cool yesterday in Bozeman. In my opinion, there is nothing like prodigious amounts of butter, olive oil, and bacon to make one feel better on a cloudy day.

Nothing quite says "breakfast of champions" like a fresh (and warmed) croissant (from Sola Cafe) loaded up with two over-easy eggs, bacon, and a touch of havarti.

I continued the lipid-enhanced consumption through lunch. I spread a bit of my pesto on some leftover bread with a tomato slice (veggies!), Havarti, and crumbled bacon (leftover from the requisite "extra" made for breakfast).

For dinner we had pan-roasted chicken thighs served with (surprise!) pesto and orecchiette pasta along with a pureed soup of leftover roasted veggies. The soup was the star: earthy, good, and fully flavored thanks to the roasted peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and shallots. An olive oil toasted crouton with chevre crumbles topped the soup off nicely.

Jen's dessert of broiled figs, honey, mint and marscapone was tasty, fresh, and rich all at the same time.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pesto & Havarti Stuffed Burgers w/ Crispy Speck

Hmmm...what to do with some fresh pesto? Pesto/pasta salad? Nope. Crostini? No, sir. Whole-wheat, tofu-cheese, veggie pizza? What the...? With apologies to my veggie friends, this pesto was destined for a more noble application.

I stuffed the pesto inside a patty of ground beef with a slice of Havarti and topped it with crispy speck - and hey, a slice of tomato!

For the record, I also made a grilled ratatouille-of-sorts with charred and skinned peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and shallots as a side dish. While tasty, my execution could have been better. The veggies were flavorful but a touch over-cooked, in my opinion. A sprinkling of goat cheese and pine nuts did their part to enhance and put the finishing touch on the dish.

Back to the burger... These babies had some height to them. With a spoonful of pesto and the sliced havarti packed away like little bundles of joy, these burgers were just waiting for the heat of the grill to bring together a trinity of pesto/cheese/cow.

It's kind of fun, in a twisted kind of way, to push your friends just a bit with food. Teri wondered aloud how she would get her mouth around the towering concoction. Who doesn't love a challenge?

The whole burger package was kept moist with good quality 80/20 meat and the olive-oil based pesto. I'll take a little credit, however, for cooking these to pretty damn-near perfect (for this application) medium done-ness.

Emily shared a bottle of the Fess Parker's Frontier Red, Lot 82. This Rhone and Bordeaux mutt was clearly driven by the syrah, and it tasted good with the burgers. With 15.5% alcohol, however, one would be wise to let this one sit just a bit and blow off some of the blue flames that tend to linger in the glass.

Teri served a shot of Limincello along with her tasty dessert of shortbread cookies and Limencello-laced strawberry compote atop cream cheese. We decided a good description for the Limoncello could also double as a potential band name: Alcoholic Lemonheads.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kagy & S. 3rd Goodness: Sola Cafe & Moberry

I really like the trend in the shops at Kagy & S. 3rd/Willson. Sola Cafe now offers more food than ever. Plus, they have become a fully stocked mini-grocery of goodness. The largest selection of Crema Roasting beans in town are on the shelf and waiting for your grinder. There are fresh local eggs in the fridge along with a bunch of other kitchen staples. No need to go across the street anymore to the VFW-meets-here-every-morning gas station. Unless of course I need some gas, natch.

Today at Sola my double-espresso was pulled with care; the first two attempts by the barista were discarded (too fast?). The third shot takes its time and comes out with a nice head of crema. My espresso looked pretty in the white porcelain cup. Before we left the cafe, I picked up a bag of Crema Roasting's Espresso. I can't wait to get it into the grinder. I've been working my way through a bag of CR Dawn and I am eager to geek-out on the differences between these two varieties.

Next door to Sola, a new fro-yo joint has just opened its doors. Moberry, with its clean Ikea-esque interior, is anchored inside by a counter of colorful and fresh goodies to enhance your fro-yo experience. Fresh-n-tangy tasting frozen yogurt is offered in plain or green tea. Big, pretty pieces of fresh fruit and berries, nuts, even sugary breakfast cereals are available as toppings. I favor the plain yogurt, as it seems a bit tangy-er than the green tea variety. Today it was two orders of the plain. Jen loaded her's up with some big fat blackberries. The Cap-n-Crunch and green tea will have to wait for another day...

To add to the geographic excitement, a building permit on one of the empty suites next door indicates that "Lemongrass Thai" intends to open here.

A Thai restaurant in Bozeman? Maybe I don't have to move just yet...

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bad Free Pour Latte Attracts Scorn from Senator

...not really. But I thought it was funny how a) my latte poured a little funky this morning and b) how the Senator's photo on the paper looked as if he somehow disapproved.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Delicious Monday Night Chow? Oh yes.

That's right, on the night of the week that makes boiling water seems like a hideous challenge, I managed to crank out a nice little feast using a few ingredients snatched up at Heeb's while on a lunch-time stroll.

For a tasty first course, beets were roasted, chopped and combined with toasted pine nuts, olive oil, local goat cheese, and placed on top a crispy baguette slice.

Fresh peas were blanched, pureed, and combined with some half and half. A couple of local tomatoes, some garlic and some olive-oil-enhanced baguette croutons formed a quick panzanella salad.

Seven bucks worth of beef tenderloin (3/4 pound) was grilled, rested, and sliced. The beefy goodness rounded out the plate of veggie goodness. To finish it off, a red wine/balsamic reduction was drizzled on the plate.

On a Monday night this tasted like a million bucks.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Frost in Bozeman this Morning

Although my outdoor thermometer was reading closer to 34 degrees, frost was clearly visible on my deck.

Where are my gloves, my ear-band? Didn't I just put these things away just a few weeks ago?

I don't mind the cool air as I pedal my bike downtown this morning - especially after I hear that the temps are well into the 100s in Texas.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

It's a Man-Eat-Dog World: Paulie's Hot Dogs

I like hot dogs. We are fortunate in Bozeman to have, at least during the summer months, two places to satisfy your craving for tube steak: the hot-dog cart downtown in the summer and Paulie's Hot Dogs all year long.

I had the distinct pleasure of introducing two Paulie's virgins to the hot dog experience today. My friends Mark and Teri signed on to the adventure with enthusiasm; Teri having gone so far to proclaim, "I want me some hot dog!" earlier in the week. Okay then.

Today, I decided to show off a bit in front of my friends and I ordered one of the larger, more indulgent and fully loaded varieties, the "Route 66". When this dog hits the table, your friends will be jealous. It is big. It is colorful. Most of the food groups are represented: chili, white cheddar, neon relish, onions, tomatoes, celery salt, and a pickle spear. Oh yea, I went for the "jumbo" instead of the lame-sounding "regular". I don't know about any of my readers, but I have had plenty of "regular" in my life, thank you.

Chomping through the layers of goodness while seeking the hot dog within, I played a tasty game of culinary "Where's Waldo". MMmmmm....find the doggy.....mmmmggglllll....

Mark and Teri order the more conservative "New York" (sauerkraut and brown mustard) and "Starter" (neon relish, onions, yellow mustard) dogs respectively.

Grunts of approval emanate from our booth. I was enjoying my indulgent dog so much that Teri and Mark snatched up my camera in an effort to capture the sick and hedonistic display of tube-meat bliss that was washing over my face.

In a moment of lipid-fueled creativity, Teri draws Snoopy on the chalkboard wall of the restaurant with the words, "Dogs are good". Yes, they are. Dogs ARE good.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Revenge of the Bike Nerds

This is pretty funny. The humor herein about fixed gears, hipsters, lycra, leg-shaving, and Dura-Ace is spot on. Not that I have any..er...much...uh...years of...uh...personal experiences with any or all of of the above topics mind you.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dinner Tonight: Flat Iron Steak with Chanterelles, Roasted Carrots and Potatoes

Cook just about anything savory in garlic and butter and it will taste pretty good. Cook local chanterelle mushrooms in garlic and butter, and put them on top of a medium-rare flat iron steak, and it will taste way more than good. We paired our steak was a combo of roasted carrots and potatoes. It is a dinner like this one that make going out seem like a poor decision, or at the very least, a waste of money.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pasta with Chanterelles, Bacon & Pesto

For the record, this was delicious. Homemade pesto with bacon dressed up plain spaghetti. Topped with the orange-hued chanterelles that had been sauteed in butter and olive oil, this simple pasta dish boasted favor that belied the limited number of ingredients. Thanks to the foragers at All Things Italian for picking - and selling these gems of the fungal world.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bruschetta, Nina Franco Prosecco and Raspberries

Tonight we had a simple dinner of cannellini bean and tomato bruschetta. To drink we had Nina Franco Prosecco with raspberries from the yard. On this evening, life is not sucking.

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Leftover Steak Hash + Poached Eggs = Deliciousness

I love breakfast. I love any kind of meaty hash. Thanks to some leftover steak, I had both this morning along with some nicely poached eggs. Deliciousness.

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Julia Child, L-Town, and 2nd Street Bistro

Saturday night became dinner and a movie night thanks in part to the newly opened Julie and Julia flick and Livingston's 2nd Street Bistro.

We had been warned: don't go to this film hungry. Good advice, as the food-porn-shots of sizzling-butter-in-copper-cookware along with Meryl Streep's/Julia Child's yummy sounds will taunt you throughout the 123-minute run time.

Entertained, and now voraciously hungry, we escaped Sweet-Pea clogged Bozeman for our reserved table at the 2nd Street Bistro in the ever-charming Livingston.

A bottle of 2005 Savigny-Les-Beaune gets things started along with appetizers of moules frites and seared scallops. Jen's moules were bathed in a gloriously heady broth of garlic, parsley, and Pernod. The broth was so delicious that she asked for a spoon to dispatch the remnants once the moules were gone. Nicely seasoned and crispy fries did their job as broth delivery vehicles.

My scallops sported a particularly nice sear along with near perfect done-ness. They rested along-side a risotto of saffron and basil studded with crawfish tails. A drizzle of spicy oil rounded out the dish.

Entrees included a seafood stew of shrimp, calamari, salmon, muscles, and a classic steak frites.

Yet another enticing broth, this time with tomatoes, saffron, and fennel, was the backbone of the fish stew. It was an evening of aromas!

The steak frites utilized a flatiron cut and was sauced with a red-wine bernaise. This particular sauce is what American brown gravy aspires to be. Medium rare and well seasoned, the steak was as delicious as I wanted it to be. The fries once again mopped up wayward puddles of bernaise.

For dessert, it was a dark chocolate cherry tart and a bing-cherry cake. Chocolate-cherry-fudgey goodness was packed into a buttery shortbread crust. The delicious white cake took on a bit of a purple haze with the cherry-bits laced throughout. A delicious non-sequitur on each dessert plate was a stegosaurus-shaped crispy cookie that spoke in clear tones of butter and lavender. Yum.

I really enjoy 2nd Street and its classic bistro-ness along with a very thoughtful wine list. Loads of gems can be found on the wine list from some of my favorite regions: Burgundy and the Rhone. Just to show they care (or brag), the restaurant even sports an empty 1970 Margaux bottle as a vase in the men's bathroom.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cherry Slab Pie IS your daddy

Who is your daddy? Your momma? It doesn't matter. Jen just made a cherry slab pie. It tastes as good, wait, WAY better than my crappy photos make it look.

Thanks to smitten kitchen for the recipe. Thanks to Jen for baking it.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

McLeod, MT: Road Kill Cafe

To find yourself in McLeod, Montana, is to find yourself surrounded by space, mountains, and a handful of movie stars in their mountain hide-aways. A post office with the sign "Main Street" hammered to the building IS the downtown. Out on the main highway, just down the road from the Post Office, lies the Road Kill Cafe. Not just a cute name, the Road Kill offers burgers of elk, buffalo, and the common cow; all yours for $6.50.

The beer glass, frosty; the elk, rare; the bar's dogs and kitten outnumber the staff of two.  Both basking in their newlywed bliss, the proprietors show off their wedding photos as my ungulate of choice cooks away on the flames outside.

I catch up on ancient episodes of Law and (DUNK DUNK) Order on a tiny TV above the bar while I take on calories and enjoy the dim and swamp-cooled confines of the Road Kill.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Yellowstone, the 2010 Prius, and Me

Occasionally, my work takes me into Yellowstone. Recently, this involved hosting another blogger who is road testing Toyota's newest Prius on an 8,000 mile road trip:

Follow the PriusDriveThru on

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