Monday, February 9, 2015


Well I'm sure you've guessed that I had run out of critical steam. I mean how many times could I call a collection of recipes superb? I tended to shy away from calling a cookbook "crap" because...well...I still have a lot of friends in the book business who sent me cookbooks to cover, and that's not nice. And there are a lot of cookbooks out there that could justifiably be called crap. I don't earn a living from blogging (a lot of people don't earn a living from blogging), and I wouldn't know how. I used to review one or maybe two cookbooks a month. Now I'm covering a cookbook once every six months--not even. But I didn't want to stop talking about food, which is one of the things I love talking about most. So here I am in semi-retirement, publishing books (two cookbooks and one garden book thus far), and slowing down. I'm awfully busy doing not much. But I got out to eat all the time. I'm constantly cooking. I host a dinner gathering for two of my closest friends here in Portland every week and I really do put a lot of thought into the components of each of those meals. I also keep a good eye out for food trends, and follow the food on TV, radio, in newspapers, other blogs, etc. 

One of the big chores I had committed myself to when reviewing cookbooks was long, detailed reviews. Well that's not very interesting and I'm pretty sure it didn't move the sales needle much either. I will still talk about cookbooks, but in much shorter terms. I plan to add some recipes, talk about restaurant experiences, and keep my eye food trends, food pretensions, good food, bad food and everything in-between. 

DeBuyer 12.6 inch mineral carbon steel frying pan

I want to talk about frying pans. I've to a bunch of 'em:  cast iron, stainless steel, non-stick. I love the cast iron, but my All-Clad, 12-inch frying pan was totally frustrating to cook in. I think All-Clad make superior pots and pans. My two saute pans are excellent and always produce excellent results. But oil residue can only be removed with effort and all-too-often, food sticks to its shiny, smooth surface. For years, I've been intrigued by DeBuyer carbon steel pans and recently a friend convinced me to try one. They are heavy like cast iron. Once you've created a smooth cooking surface, their matte-gray finish becomes mottled with a multitude of colors, which eventually I'm promised, will turn nearly black. Also once cured, the pan has a non-stick surface. The handle is very long. Like cast iron, the pans are washed in hot water and a good stiff brush can easily remove anything that dries in the pan. And they must be dried instantly to avoid rust. This makes them relatively low maintenance. 

I've cooked breaded pork cutlets, eggs, pan-fried flap-meat beef steaks and created pan-sauce. I've sauteed onions, and other vegetables on its smooth surface and it goes easily into the one for a baked finish after an initial browning of pork chops, and other meats. The results are always excellent. I bought mine on Amazon and they can often be found in better cookware shops such as Sur la Table. The pan is a bit pricey, but at near-$70 it was a heck of a lot cheaper than the All-Clad which priced over $100. Be prepared to put this sturdy pan in your will. Built to last, future generations of your family will surely be cooking with this wonderful pan. 

12-inch Ecopan frying pan

Non-stick cooking surfaces are not really part of my daily cooking except for a few skillets, and a small two-quart pot. I've become increasingly uncomfortable with non-stick surfaces, such as Teflon, because of the presence of health concerns. While no data supports the idea that these chemical surfaces are dangerous, like aluminum, I prefer to err on the side of caution. I recently purchased a 10-inch and 12-inch ceramic coated fry pans, and so far, I really like them. Let's talk first about eggs. Breaking an egg into one of these pans you notice right away that the egg never sticks. Just a slight jiggle and that sunny-side-up egg glides around the pan like an ice skater at the local rink. I've cooked bacon, and omelets, as well as sauteed green beans, parboiled Brussels sprouts in them and then finished them off in the same pan with a little butter and salt and pepper. Food cooks very well on these surfaces and cleaning them with a little soap and water is a breeze. So far their pristinely white surfaces haven't discolored. 

The one drawback is their lack of weight. Their surfaces are as thin as the bad-old aluminum Teflon of old. So you need to keep your eye on them to prevent burning. They are priced fairly inexpensively. I bought this pan in the kitchen area of a local TJ Mack for under $20, which leads me to wonder how long they will truly last. But for the time being, I'm enjoying cooking with them. 


Steakadelphia is a local sandwich shop specializing in Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, which were very popular in New York during the years I lived there, but they always came from places that you wondered had recently been visited by a health inspector. I'm hardly a food snob, but I do prefer eating in an immaculate restaurant whether its four stars or a local diner. Before moving to Portland, I had actually never eaten a Philly cheesesteak. Steakadelphia (at 5835 SE Powell Blvd., 503-788-7141) serves a pretty fabulous version. In this case, I've only ordered the Supreme. This 8-inch sandwich is full of flat-top cooked thinly sliced steak, embellished with white American cheese, mayo, onion, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, jalapeƱos mushrooms and their own Steakadelphia sauce. This deeply flavorful combination costs $6.75. There's a 12-inch version for $9.00 and if you want extra meat and cheese in the same 12-inch package, the price goes to 11.25. Add 25 cents in the evening to each choice. The rolls are soft. The whole is wrapped in a large piece of paper, and when you open it, the aroma hits you between the eyes. A burger never tasted like this. All the different elements come through. You're not just eating a messy sandwich. 

There are other choices here. Your choice of meat can be either beef or chicken or a combination of both. The Rough Rider choice means white American cheese, mayo, onions, tomato, bell mushrooms, sweet peppers, hot peppers and Philly horseradish sauce.  The Caveman is the same but with Philly honey mustard. You want another cheese? There are versions of the Provolone, Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Cream Cheese, AND Cheese-Whiz Philly cheesesteaks. Steakadelphia does two burgers and offers french fries, which I've never ordered because my brain is pretty addled by the time I consume one of those fantastic Philly cheesesteaks. You can wash your Philly cheesesteak down with domestic and local beers or soda. In case you're craving more--there is a rooter float or classic shakes in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. There are about twelve tables plus two outside during warmer weather, or you can call ahead and pick up for home consumption. There are a lot of good sandwich choices in Portland. Right now, Steakadelphia is at the top of my list. 

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