A Tasty Carboniferous Terroir

October 12, 2008 in Food Porn, Local Food, review, seafood

Smokehouse Scallops, pancetta, smoked cheese soup

See what this does for your taste buds – Smoked Scallops, Smoked Cheddar Bourbon Soup, and artisanal smoked pancetta, all brought together as part of a larger smoked, bourbon tasting menu.

Yeah, my tastebuds almost fainted, I almost fainted, my family was inarticulate as they simply scarfed their share of our samples.

Brian Treitman, of BT’s Smokehouse, who you know I have blogged about before (An improbable meat nirvana in a BBQ wasteland, Criminally Good Smoked Salmon and Bacon – B.T.’s Smokehouse, Food Photo 101: Shooting BBQ) shared a delightful sneak taste of this scallop dish recently when I stopped by for my latest fix of his smoked salmon.

Wine connoisseurs speak of terroir – the notion that a particular wine has a unique taste that is gained from the ecology of a very specific location.

The wiki defines it as such:

Terroir (/t̪εʁwaʁ/ in French) (Spanish: terruño, pago) was originally a French term in wine, coffee and tea used to denote the special characteristics that geography bestowed upon them. It can be very loosely translated as “a sense of place” which is embodied in certain qualities, and the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the manufacture of the product.

I am sure that this concept is nothing new to most of you.

Today I would like to suggest that there is another sort of terroir, one which is more complex in some ways, more fascinating to me (perhaps because I do not drink wine and I DO eat BBQ).

I think that each well-seasoned and well-used smokehouse smoker has its own distinct terroir. If you get close to the gaping maw of Brian Treitman’s smoker you will notice the build up of solid smoke and smoked meat essence.

Brian adjusting the pork roasts

It coats the interior and the racks.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: Slow roasted pit BBQ beef brisket, pork butt, chicken

Brian uses applewood from the MANY orchards that surround us in this region. He does a dry rub on many if not most of the meats (and tofu!) that he smokes. The smoke and the slowly cooking meat react and meld in a way that seasons the smoker to its own unique terroir.

This terroir is the lively organic memory of the many ribs and chickens and pork butts and bacons and salmons and turkeys of the past.

You can choose to utterly submerge yourself in a tongue electrifying miasma of smoke as you nibble on the bark of a long smoked pork butt.

BBQ pork butt

You can get a wholly different but BT Smokehouse specific smoke essence when you eat one of the smoked scallops shown in this post.

Smokehouse Scallops, pancetta, smoked cheese soup

This particular assembly of ingredients can be a part of a larger tasting that Brian can provide to foodies in the Massachusetts area. He works with you to identify a seasonal menu that also leverages the unique terroir of his smoker as well as local microbrew beers and smoke-friendly spirits like bourbon.

You can call Brian at 1-617-251-6398 to talk about your tasting. There is a minimum of 8-10 people, likely max up to 50 depending on your home situation. There is a 2-4 week lead time so plan ahead.

Here are the salacious details of this fantastic dish.

Moist plump scallops were cured in Brian’s spice rub and brown sugar for 4 hours and then cold smoked with applewood. You can special order these and their price is pegged to the scallop market price. Call in to get the details.

The soup is made with a sharp white cheddar cheese that he smoked as a block and then spiked the soup with bourbon. This alone would delight you in its mixture of the smoky terroir and the bourbon. He sells this at $8/pint.

The pancetta was cured for 5 days, lightly smoked, and then dried for 4 months. This goes for $10/lb.

Smokehouse Scallops, pancetta, smoked cheese soup

The soup and the scallop, while both smoked, have a distinct flavor from one another. It may come from the lack of cure on the cheese, it offers a lovely layering of differentiation.

Smokehouse Scallops, pancetta, smoked cheese soup

This is such a fantastic variation from the heavier beef and pork BBQ. I am just in love with it and I hope that you get a chance to work with Brian to bring a tasting that includes this offering to you and your loved ones this holiday season!

KD eating pancetta

Five year old KD really enjoyed it all, could hardly wait for the shoot to be over. Notice that super mod hair cut? Yeah, she got a hold of some scissors and decided she needed to do the do.

Reach Brian at 1-617-251-6398 (Tell him Nika sent you)

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A most crustaceous birthday

October 22, 2007 in holiday, seafood

Q's 11th birthday - dinner

Q turned 11 this last weekend and we feasted, as we always do on her birthdays, on steamed lobsters.

This is what it looked like last year’s party.

lobstah

This year the party got started so late it was just not worthwhile to shoot it all in the darkness. I really do need better lighting in the dining area but what can you do!

I also had substantial cake failures due to the fact that Q wanted a DRAGON cake and my attempt to make dragon cupcakes just withered under gravitational forces. I shot none of those ill-fated pumpkin muffins. We ended up simply making spider cupcakes with chocolate frosting and chocolate twizzlers for legs.

I went a bit Halloween with the decor this year but the best I could do was shoot two of the kids outside in the costumes they wore.

Q is a bit goth with her awesome skull goblet and wig and black wings!

Q's 11th birthday - sipping with wings and wig

Q's 11th birthday - sipping with wings and wig

KD is a lovely little faerie.

KD Faerie

KD Faerie

KD Faerie

KD Faerie

Island Creek Oysters: A Salty Pride

June 27, 2007 in Food Porn, Les Dames d'Escoffier, Local Food, seafood

If you love [tag]oyster[/tag]s you likely have your own way of describing the experience of [tag]eat[/tag]ing them. If you don’t like them, you probably have a more vivid description. If you have never eaten a [tag]raw oyster[/tag] but are the sort to give new things a try, a description may do you some good.

I will try to keep this g-rated but it will be hard because the experience of eating a raw oyster is an adult advanced topic. I will also ask your [tag]indulgence[/tag] because I KNOW that this has been written about so much in mundane food writing that it can become cliched.

For me, eating an oyster is a transcendent and inherently frustrating experience. If you are positively inclined toward the family [tag]Ostreidae[/tag], looking upon their delicate [tag]membrane[/tag]s, laid bare, is almost more than one can tolerate in polite company. Their [tag]plump[/tag] bodies repose in pearlescent beds surrounded by an incongruent rough outer shell. The naked and disturbing (revolting?) truth of their morphology creates a rigid tension as it plays against the pleasurable memories of previous oysters.

Each new oyster represents a new choice: Do I slurp it off the shell? Do I spear it with a tiny fork? Do I gulp it down? Or do I allow it to fill my mouth completely and do I chew all its different textures?

Until recently, I would gulp them down, but the gulping leads to frustration, mostly because that makes a dozen seem like nothing.

The odd juxtaposition between full and empty that you feel when gulping oysters – full tummy but the short and insufficiently experienced oysters – lead me to find a more intense experience. That is how I ended up plopping large dollops of extra spicy [tag]red sauce[/tag] on the oyster which I had balanced on a crispy [tag]saltine[/tag]. When all of THAT is gulped, well, its a much more satiating experience. But its not really about the oyster then, is it.

As a poor but hungry student in [tag]New Orleans[/tag], I would eat a dozen but then continue with the free red sauce and saltines, not REALLY missing the oyster (lots of cheap [tag]beer[/tag] helps, but that would help just about anything in New Orleans in the hot humid summer, and, OK, hot humid winter too).

However, to chew the oyster is to be honest about what you are eating. What the heck does honesty have to do with eating oysters? I guess as I grow older, honesty becomes more urgent because missed opportunities and numb experiences waste what little time there remains.

To chew an oyster is to pop and crunch and swish and swirl all the jiggly “icky” oyster bits around your mouth. All these things blossom in your mouth, one of the most intimate zones we have. While that can be an adult experience, I really think it goes deeper, back into the oral phase we all pass through as little ones, just as my 8 month old baby boy is now.

To chew, you do not use jarred oysters from the grocery store. To chew, you get the oyster on the half-shell as I did recently at the fantastic “[tag]Feast in the Field[/tag]” [tag]Les Dames d’Escoffier- Boston[/tag] Fund-raiser held this last Saturday at the [tag]Allandale Farm[/tag], the last working farm in [tag]Boston[/tag].

I am going to share more photos and details on that beautiful event in another post but today, I will share with you the story of a collective of 12 farmers called [tag]Island Creek Oysters[/tag] who obviously LOVE oysters and who grow simply fantastic little creatures for you to either gulp or chew.

I learned about Island Creek Oysters first in the Spring issue of [tag]Edible Boston[/tag], a fantastic [tag]foodie[/tag] magazine here in [tag]New England[/tag] (obviously a part of the [tag]Edible Communities[/tag] [tag]magazine[/tag] empire but it was founded and is run by the driven and brave [tag]Ilene Bezahler[/tag], read more about her here).

Subscribe to Edible Boston! (I get nothing if you do, beside the fact that I get to share this with you)

You can read about Island Creek Oysters in the article “[tag]DUXBURY PEARLS: ISLAND CREEK OYSTERS[/tag]” (PDF) in the Spring Issue by [tag]Michael Kirkpatrick[/tag] with the awesome photographs by [tag]Michael Piazza[/tag]. A lot of the information I share with you below, I learned from that article.

[tag]Skip Bennet[/tag] first swam into the [tag]aquaculture[/tag] biz back in 1992 by seeding [tag]quahog[/tag]s and [tag]razor clam[/tag]s into his little part of Island Creek in [tag]Duxbury[/tag], MA. Three years later and after so much hard work cultivating and marketing these two species, the quahogs were decimated by an epidemic of [tag]QPX[/tag] ([tag]Quahog Parasite Unknown[/tag]). Many of us would find this perhaps too much of a loss to go on with the risks of establishing a new clam bed, Bennet chose to switch species and grow oysters instead. He teamed up with fellow aqua-dude [tag]Christian Horne[/tag] and they formed Island Creek in 1997. Boston area chefs embraced Island Creek oysters and the business has grown. Chefs further afield choose Island Creek oysters, try [tag]Thomas Keller[/tag] of [tag]The French Laundry[/tag] and Per Se. Not bad clientele, huh?. It seems that [tag]Per Se[/tag] serves something like 1,200 to 1,500 Island Creek oysters A WEEK. These lovely [tag]bivalve[/tag]s have even made their appearance on plates at the [tag]White House[/tag].

My experience with Skip, his guys, and Island Creek Oysters was not so coiffed, I got to see them in action and taste some of their oysters in the open air in a green field on Allandale Farm in Boston.

One of their trucks.

They were the nicest guys and they were literally [tag]shuck[/tag]ing as fast as they could and ALL AFTERNOON. There were some people who stood at the cute little boat filled with ice and ate oysters the entire time, eating dozens upon dozens of oysters.

Hey, it WAS a foodie event.

This would be the equivalent of an open bar of the finest years of wine for a wine lover.

I think their motto is a wonderful thing: “Eat all you want … We’ll grow more!”

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Wash your mouth out with soap

March 28, 2007 in Fish, Food Porn, Japanese, Off Topic, product, seafood

sushi soap

I found these really cute sushi soaps at The Paper Source and thought I would share.

One day, I spent a couple of hours driving around looking for some guest soaps for the bathroom and find NONE! I was so darn frustrated.

With these soaps you can satisfy the need to spiffy up the bathroom for yourself or guests and have a bit of fun while your at it.

This is a link to the sushi soap page at The Paper Source sit, where it says:

Yum, we love this keen sushi soap. They even come with kamaboko and wasabi soap. Scent free, these glycerine soaps are naturally moisturizing so they won’t dry your skin out and, no animal testing is involved. They make such a wonderful thank you for a hostess and a clever welcome gift for any visitors who drop by. So realistic you could just eat them up, but don’t do it!

Includes one of each soap:
Tamago
Ikura
Kamaboko
Wasabi

I also really like their tag line, “Do something creative every day.” I think it would be nice to be able to do that but, like many ideals, it is not a trivial task!

[Note: I get nothing if you click these links, this is all just for fun!]