Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Blog Knight Rises

Sooooo.... we're back. Yes, I know that Blogging Boise is a one woman show. I know that you come here for those snazzy reviews of Boise's hottest spots through the eyes of a single young female experiencing them for the first time. Unfortunately for those of you who crave that unique perspective, you will have to expand your blogging palates a bit.
Think of it this way: The old Blogging Boise was like a delicious plate of spaghetti. The new Blogging Boise... it's like a delicious plate of spaghetti with a crapload of parmesan cheese dumped on top. So I want to be DJ Parmy Parm, spinning this record until you just want to get up and dance to the words popping up on your new iPad, adding cool new tracks and mixing in new perspectives that you just couldn't get before with just Miss Marinara.
That being said, we actually are going to try to get a real post out today. The topic du jour..... (drum roll please).... vino, wine, alcoholic fruity drink. Specifically, Project Paso's 2009 Paso Robles Chardonnay. You will quickly find out that the Miss and I know little about wine. There are very few adjectives that we have to describe the stuff, but we will try our best to improve to the point where a few posts down the road you actually care what we have to say.
The review: It's wine... pretty alcoholic, 13.9%. God, we know nothing about wine.
Here's a review of a pizza place to add something of substance to this post.
Flatbread Community Oven- Meridian, ID.
We had a $30 gift card sitting around from this past valentines day, and with growing hunger and a lack of direction we decided to let the card decide for us. The atmosphere itself is pretty nice. It feels like the sort of place that would belong more with the newer developments along Eagle Rd, but the trip into old Meridian isn't too bad.
The building is a somewhat hip little place, with bar seating facing the main kitchen, a fair amount of table and booth seating throughout the floor, and a separate bar section toward the corner. It was fairly crowded for 7PM on a Saturday night, but being relegated to the kitchen bar seating was not necessarily a bad thing for a first-timer. We were able to catch a glimpse of just about everything coming out of the oven and were able to get a good feel for what kind of food we would be ordering.
We ended up going with some sea-salt flatbread, and a pizza with chicken sausage, carmelized onions, green pepper and garlic. I'm not exactly sure what is was called as we thought we could fill a blog with a wine review and were not planning for this sort of stop-gap measure.
Regardless of the lack of nomenclature, the food was above average. We've tried a few neopolitan pizza places throughout Boise, and Flatbread seems to fall in somewhere in the middle with the rest of the pack. It's not a bad pizza... it brings a nice change of pace from the American style pizzas that are usually found in this house. It just fails to provide anything to differentiate itself from other similar joints in the area. They had a few choices for beer on tap, but there are pizza places out there that have more varieties of brew than Boo the Puppy has pictures that will melt your heart.
The toppings seemed nice and fresh, not on a level with The Frontdoor in downtown Boise, but their spicy chicken sausage was great. Their pizzas were a bit challenging to keep together with a very soft thin crust and a cheese layer that had a tendency to slide off. The sauce was of the more tomato-ey variety found at most neopolitan pizza places, but not overly sweet like I have had at some others (this is a good thing).
The service was about average. Our server was friendly, our food was quick to arrive. Nothing much to write home about so I'll move on.
Overall, Flatbread provides a solid experience. Most of the pizzas are affordable at around $15, and they serve sandwiches as well. We probably won't be rushing back now that we've used our gift card, but if you're in the mood for pizza and looking for something new to try, it will provide a solid change of pace. Overall, 7/10.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pinnacle Sports Grill

We called a lot of different places in the Boise area, and Pinnacle Sports Grill seems to be one of the only restaurants that carries the Pac 12 network. No, I have not taken a sudden interest in the Pac 12, but my boyfriend's football team (Oregon State) is in the league.  With the Pac 12 not on DirecTV, this is where we go to watch games that aren't airing anywhere else.

We went on Saturday night and this was our second time visiting the place. If I have to be camped out somewhere for 3.5 hours to watch football, I don't mind doing it here.  It is a really cool set up.  A lot of the booths have individual TVs in them, and you can get a portable speaker box, so you can watch and listen to whatever you want.  They also have a bunch of really big TVs in the center of the bar and lounge-y looking seats.

We have had the same waitress both times and she is alright.  I am sure it is pretty tricky waitressing for people who stay for so long, and probably annoying, but she must be used to it by now.  It just seemed like it would take forever for her to stop by (35 minutes one time!)  but I am sure it is frustrating for her when most of the time we say we are fine. 

You get free homemade potato chips when you sit there.  They are pretty good, but a little bland.  I dipped mine in ketchup the first time, and just snacked on them the second time.  I would prefer free french fries or seasoned popcorn or something of the sort, but hard to complain when it is free.

They also have really cool beer towers that have 100 ounces of beer! 

The first time I went, I had an Ahi Seared Salad that was really delicious (about $13). My boyfriend had some sort of sandwich and liked that as well. The second time we went, the food was underwhelming. I had the Albondigas soup and my dining mates had tacos and calamari.  The tacos weren't a big hit and the rice and beans were left uneaten.  The calamari was alright but we would have preferred thinner, crunchier pieces to the thick slabs that were served.

The Albondigas soup was average.  I liked the addition of cilantro and it was much tastier with saltines thrown in, but nothing mind-blowing.  By the way, if you are like me and had no idea what Albondigas is, it is a type of meatball soup with carrots, onions etc.  It just wasn't very interesting, but I am not sure if that is how it is supposed to taste.

I do need to note our food came super fast!  The speedy arrival was much appreciated.

I also got one of the new Winter Drink Specials, the Pinnacle Peppermint Patty.  I thought it was going to be a warm drink, but it was actually a frosty cold martini.  It had whipped vodka, white chocolate, chocolate sauce, mint and Kahlua.  It was a bit pricey for $7, but yummy. After that, I had a New Castle Brown Ale 16 oz for $5.25.

I think this is a great place to be a local at.  We loved some food and hated some food, so over the luxury of a few visits, it would be easy to have a list of favorites and stand-bys to order.  Next time I know what I am going to try - the Huckleberry Salmon Salad featuring grilled salmon, huckleberry viniagrette, blue cheese, fresh pears, candied nuts and dried cranberries for $12.  I have a feeling that will be a winner. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Poor Man's Version of Garganelli with Fennel and Pork Shoulder Ragu

Bon Appetit October 2012 has a recipe for "Garganelli with Fennel and Pork Shoulder Ragu" that is a copy from a dish served at the restaurant, Oenotri, in Napa, California.

I couldn't find the dish on the Oenotri restaurant dinner menu, but I did find it in on the lunch menu as part of an aweosme three course $20 meal.  Mixed lettuce with Meyer lemon viniagrette and parmesan, mostaccioli with Willis Farm pork ragu and parmesan, plus apple granita with argumato.  Not sure what half of those words are, but for $20, it sounds like a can't-miss meal. 

Now, before I go into this particular, let's make it very clear that Oenotri seems to be a good restaurant.  261 yelp reviews have resulted in a 4 star rating, referring to the restaurant as "seriously my favorite restaurant in Napa, hands down."  You can have dinner family style by splitting a few artisanal pizzas, or make a meal for yourself with pasta and "can't miss dessert." 

I decided to try this recipe for myself, with a few of, what I thought was subtle, tweaks.

First - Penne vs. Garganelli
This is garganelli

This is penne
The difference? Penne I can actually find at the grocery store, so penne is what I bought.  However, I have a feeling hand crafted Italian pasta vs. a box of $1 pasta has a bit of a flavor difference.

Second: Fennel vs. Celery

 This is fennel
This is celery
I have never actually purchased fennel, but it seems to be having an "It moment" right now.  I keep seeing it in recipes, but I still can't find it at my local Albertson's.  I have had fennel seeds, so I assume fennel tastes like licorice.  As for celery, well I think we all know what that tastes like.  Searching the internet, I kept finding celery was the best substitute for fennel, so I have been sticking to that until I find some at the store.  I also did this substitute for a chicken recipe that called for fennel, and had no issues. However, I think fennel might be a case of not knowing what I am missing out on.
Third: Spicy Italian Sausage vs. Groud Pork Shoulder
 If we just looked at a picture, these probably look the same - ground meat. However, I have no idea where to purchase ground pork shoulder and sausage was 2 for $6, for it seemed like an obvious choice.  I am going to guess there is a difference.
So, to sum this up, I made three substitution for three ingredients that were actually in the title of the recipe.  It did not turn out very good and was not worth all the time (took me an entire day to actually finish the recipe) it took to cook.  Keep in mind this is coming from a girl who actually enjoys spending inordinate amounts of time cooking.  I also enjoy leftovers and couldn't bring myself to finish this.  It wasn't horrible but definitely something I will never make again.  Maybe if I stuck to the recipe, I would have better luck, but I am not going to find out!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Butternut Squash Tart

I really love appetizers, especially long drawn out ones that take forever to make but result in a simple but delicious snack.  I spent over two hours on Sunday roasting and carmelizing onions to make Caramelized Onion and Shallot Dip.  That dip was amazing, and highly recommended with potato chips.  I bought my personal favorite, Wheat Thins, as a back up, and I couldn't put down the chips.  Go big or go home, I guess.

Bon Appetit October 2012 has a really fun "Guide to Hors D'oeuvres" that I am loving.  There are five main steps:
1) You deserve a shower
2) Never let them see you deep fry
3) Its the economy of scale, silly
4) Fake it and make it
5) Chips and the dip: its the law - see Onion Dip above

Worried I might get on a dip kick similiar to college 2010 (I think sustained myself almost completely on a variety of homemade dips for a period of at least a month), I decided I needed to branch out a bit.

Following Rule #3 - Economy of Scale, I decided to make the Butternut Squash Tart with Fried Burned Sage.

The verdict?  Totally worth it and totally delicious.  If you are serving many people, make a few.  They are actually really easy and impressive looking.  I ate about 1/3 of mine for dinner without even trying, so these can go really fast.

Ingredients - note that even purchasing with one tart in mind, I had enough ingredients to double without having to buy extra

Frozen Puff Pastry - note this is NOT the same as Phyllo dough.  I made that mistake once and never will again.  Look in the freezer section near the cream puffs, whip cream, and eclairs.  The box looks small, but you do want the 17.3 oz version.
1 large egg (I used two of my friends' eggs from their chickens - one would have sufficed).
12 1/8 inch thick rounds of peeled butternut squash from the neck of the squash - I was worried I didn't slice them thin enough to cook through, but the bigger chunks were not a problem.
3 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
1 jalapeno
12 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup shaved parmesan
Grinds of black pepper
The instructions are pretty self explanatory, so just follow the Bon Appetit recipe.  I do have a few tips though:
1) Realize pastry dough takes 40 minutes to thaw and take out of the fridge and wrapper in time.  Do not try to unroll prematurely or it will probably break.
2) Have all the sage leaves ready and throw in at once.  These fry incredibly quickly and I burned mine. They don't taste like much when burned.
3) Use big flaky sea salt when sprinkling with salt
4) Keep in mind this is surprisingly easy to cut.  I didn't think it would be - you could easily cut into slices, squares, or whatver you desire.
5) Apply jalapeno honey liberally. For those who enjoy spicy, add the jalapenos on top.
6) Eat with friends around.  This is dangerous to keep around the house solo.
7) Don't worry about a super strong tsquash taste for guests who don't like vegetables.  This is really more of a showcase on the tin buttery pastry dough and the spicy sweet honey.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jalapeno Honey

Well I wanted some grand entrance back into the blogging world, but I kept putting it off because there was nothing that seemed quite grand enough.  I do have plans for a brown sugar bourbon ice cream in my new ICE CREAM MAKER (thanks Mom/Grandma!) but I haven't had time for a project like that yet.

I did make time to make a ROAST CHICKEN I am pretty proud of.  Take a look:
Now, I am making some jalapeno honey (boil jalapeno, honey, and some water).  I am hoping to use with with corn bread, biscuits, and a butternut sage tart I want to make this week. 

Also upcoming - adventures in beer brewing.  Our beer should be done any day now.  We were pretty bad  beer parents and haven't been paying it much attention at all, but I are excited to see how it turns out.

So there you have it - short, sweet, spicy and I hope to be back soon!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kale - Eat more of it!

Kale is one of those super foods we should all be devouring.  It takes a bit getting used to, as it has a "greener" taste than bland iceberg or common romaine, but it is packed with nutrients and can be prepared in super tasty ways.

My absolute favorite way to eat it is to make kale chips.  See my blog post for more information on how to make those.  That post also has tons of information on why kale is so good for you.  If you want the shortened version, you should know it has been dubbed "the queen of greens," and July 2012 Glamour has it listed as one of "5 Goods We Should All Shut Up and Start Eating Already."  The best part?  Kale may help fight cancer and lower cholesterol.

Kale salad is what I like to eat when I want something healthy and fast.  Cut up kale into bite size pieces - I avoid the tough rib down the center.  Wash and dry.

Toss kale with slices of shredded parmesan and dried cherries (or use your favorite fruit/cheese).  Add nuts if they sound good.

Drizzle with red wine vinegar + olive oil and done.  Healthy, delicious, easy.  One of the best things to eat on a Monday night!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fish Fillets with Tomatoes, Squash and Basil

I have been a busy little bee moving from my apartment to my wonderful new house!  Now I am unpacking and with a little less urgency than a strict move in date, I have some time to breathe.  We went camping lasr weekend, and even though I didn't actually cook anything in a little pouch, it got me really excited about the idea of cooking things in little pouches.

I got this recipe for Fish Fillets with Tomatoes, Squash and Basil from the June 2012 issue of Bon Appetit - they have tons of other pouch recipes perfect for summer! I have already devoured Basil Tomato Sauce with Polenta (polenta is a surprisingly awesome substitue for pasta) and Sausages with Onion and Green Peppers were a big hit at the bar.

I love salmon and usually buy it at Costco (boneless, skinless, individually wrapped amazing fillets).  They cost about $20 for 7, so not the cheapest but also not too expensive.  I didn't want to make the drive all the way to Costco and I found an equally good version at Albertson's.  8 fillets for ~$12, but the fillets are about half the size and have the skin on.  This doesn't bother me and it has been fun to switch it up.  I recommend either for this recipe, but I think the smaller size of the Albertson fillets may cook faster in the pouch.  Note this recipe originally called for "white flaky fish such as Atlantic cod or halibut," but I like it with salmon.  I think you could use just about anything and be fine. 

I also have a giant basil plant, which I call my basil bush, dying to be picked.  I love this recipe because you can use tons of basil.  This dish would be great for having company over, as it looks amazing and the pouches make great individual servings.

Fish Fillets with Tomatoes, Squash and Basil

2 thinly sliced zucchini
1 thinly sliced shallot (shallots usually come in twos stuck together - use both)
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil divided plus 1/4 cup basil leaves
16-20 grape tomatoes sliced in half
4 tablespoons white wine (I usually use Tisdale Chardonnay as it is only $3 a bottle)
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 fish fillets of your choice (as mentioned above, I used salmon)
salt and pepper
Parchment paper (I think the only viable substitute would be aluminum foil)


1) Defrost the fish if not already defrosted.  With salmon, I like to soak in warm water to defrost. Preheat oven to 400*.
2) Get 4 rather large squares of parchment paper and lay out on a work surface.

3) Divide squash among the parchment paper, arranging on one side in thin layers. Evenly divide tomatoes among pouches.

4) Add shallots, basil, and tomatoes.

5) Drizzle each packet with 1 tablespoon of wine and 1/2 tablespoon of oil.  I was worried it would spill everywhere but it doesn't.  Season with salt and pepper.

6) Add a fish fillet to each packet.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle another half tablespoon of oil. 

7) Fold packet over to close, and crimp edges tightly.  I did a rolling type crimp and flattened the edges.

8) Place packets on a baking sheet and bake, 10-20 minutes.  I baked for 20 because I hate undercooked salmon and you don't have to worry about the food drying out because of the packets.

9) Cut packets open, watching out for the steam.  Serve with garnish of basil.