Tag Archives: chicken

IACP 2010 Conference in Portland

Nong's chicken

Chicken skin is extra!It’s always such an adventure at IACP, but this year’s conference in Portland seemed more adventurous than ever. Whether it was the frenetic energy of a food-crazy city—or the fact that 900 food-obsessed people had descended on it—this year’s conference was the most manic I’ve ever experienced. Manic, but inspiring, fun and wholly memorable.

It makes coming home a bit of a let-down. Let’s face it, as a writer (and especially as one who works from home), I spend a lot of time by myself. I type brilliant little things into a computer and they disappear into the ether, and that’s about it. I celebrate when I have a conference call and someone says that they liked my piece. I do happy dances when I get published. But, for the most part, it’s me, at my desk, staring out the window, making pots of tea.

And then something like IACP conference comes along, and once a year I am thrust into a group of people who get it. They understand the agonizing frustration of not being able to get words onto paper (well, proverbial paper—screen, more like), the unending guilt of procrastinating and the internal struggle between writer and editor. And the food geekery? The fact that I can wax poetic about dumplings or go off into a dream state thinking about sandwiches…well, that’s not weird at IACP. It’s totally par for the course.

I come back from conference each year simultaneously refreshed and inspired, and exhausted. The exhaustion is to be expected after a week of eating and drinking, without much sleeping. The refreshment and inspiration comes from being with people who get it, who have done it, and who keep me going on this crazy food path that leads to weird places. And I look forward to seeing them every year to get guidance for my next steps down this wacky road. One of these people is Cheryl Sternman Rule, who wrote a wonderful blog post and captured some of the lovely people at the conference. She even managed to make me look good, despite my complete and utter lack of sleep all week.

Lest you think I’ve gone all soft on you, here are some of my favourite moments of the conference.

Salt and chocolate

chocolate barRadishes with salt and butterThe best possible way to kick off a week of elegant gluttony: a meet and greet of the most gastronomic proportions. Thin sushi slices laid on Himalayan salt blocks so that one surface is almost cooked; one shockingly salty surface that melds into the buttery richness of tuna. Oysters with mignonette. A craft cocktail bar. A chocolate bar. Fresh radishes with creamery butter and different salts. Bowls of popcorn, with different salts. Wood-fired pizza with mushrooms, arugula, cheese. Fabulous people, coming and going late into the night.

Chicken, cocktails and hipsters

chamomile sourThe IACP host city opening reception was spectacular. Restaurants like Paley’s Place served pillowy soft gnocchi with fresh crab, while the premiere food cart in town served signature Hainanese chicken on oily rice. Around the corner, Pix Patisserie served teeny tiny mousse cakes in front of a tower of croquembouche. Still further, Nel Centro‘s swiss chard tart with raisins in pate brisee collapsed in my mouth like buttery dust. Taylor Shellfish brought 100 pounds of Kumamoto oysters, freshly roused from their beds. And sprinkled in between, local wineries and breweries. And a cocktail bar manned by cute hipster boys in plaid shirts and tight pants.

And of course, the  absinthe salon that smelled of licorice, sin and secrets.

Vegan soul food

If you know anything about me, you know that I’m no vegan. I was curious about this session, led by food writer Bryant Terry. I expected militant veganism, maybe a manifesto about the evils of meat. What I got was a truly beautiful presentation that included history, personal story, a tribute to grandparents, rap, music, social and political commentary and the best collard greens I’ve ever tasted. I mentioned this session to a friend who had also attended, and he teared up at the memory of it. One moment in particular, when Bryant sang a song that his grandmother used to sing in the kitchen, brought the entire room to a standstill. No one breathed. And then he paused, opened his eyes and continued his story. It was, to be honest, one of the most powerful moments I’ve experienced in a long time.

Midnight supper

I was lucky enough to get invited to a secret midnight supper, held in a space that will become Caffe Vita‘s foray into wood-fired pizza. In the interim, the room was set for us with communal tables and candles and promised us the culinary talents of Michael Hebb, Naomi Pomeroy, Mark Fuller and Jason French. As the night continued, food kept coming. Each dish was more delicious than the last: grilled asparagus, pizza, clams, chicken livers and—the highlight of the night—lemon and parsley crusted pork belly on greens. All of it washed down with red wine drunk out of tumblers, while listening to the fabulous local band Y La Bamba, talking food and wine with beautiful people. Termed a “meeting of Seattle and Portland,” this Vancouver girl felt very lucky to be part of the magic.

Edit: Check out the lovely Maggie’s photos of that magical evening. Just looking at them sends shivers down my spine.

Butchery and charcuterie

It’s not every Saturday morning that I’m greeted with an entire pig, gutted and splayed out on two cutting boards. And it’s certainly not every Saturday morning that I get to watch two expert butchers break down half a pig each. Adam Sappington showed us an American approach, breaking the pig down into neat square and chops for his Whole Hog dinners. Each part was neatly stacked on top of itself, forming an almost Lego-like deconstructed pig. Dominique Chapolard, a pig farmer and butcher from France, showed us his approach: seam butchery.

**IF YOU’RE SQUEAMISH, VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN, YOU MIGHT WANT TO STOP HERE. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.**

Seam butchery is, quite honestly, beautiful. We watched as Dominique took a knife and separated the entire rib and backbone section from the meat. The silence in the room was only broken by sharp intakes of breath as we realized what he was doing. Then he deftly removed the inner bones from the ham, pausing only long enough to remove the skin in one piece, and then cutting each muscle group free. He laid all the pieces out on the board like some kind of Damien Hirst exhibit and explained that he would take the pieces to market and French consumers would request particular cuts from him. It really highlighted the connection between animal and meat; muscle and bone, rather than pork chops and bacon. That may sound graphic and violent, but it was respectful and dignified. It was stunning.

Charcuterie and butcheryThe conversation then touched on the difficulties of becoming a butcher in North America, how the North American and European farming systems are drastically different, the lack of female butchers (though there were two in the room that morning!) and how a holistic approach to food starts with the animal, includes the entire food system, and finally ends up with the consumer. It was a conversation focused on meat—and specifically, on pigs—but could have been applied to any number of food issues that are currently being debated.Charcuterie

We concluded with a selection of charcuterie from Dominique, Adam and Olympic Provisions, plus Pudding River wine. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning.

Read more about that morning’s events from the oh-so-well-coiffed Michael Ruhlman. I’d also be totally remiss if I didn’t tip my hat to the wonderful Kate Hill.

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Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Que

While in Boulder, Colorado, I had an inexplicable craving for barbecue. I think it was the universe trying to tell me something, because a few days later, I found myself sitting in a parking lot, eating the best barbecue I’ve ever had.

Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Que is an unassuming building on a corner lot. It’s the kind of place that you know must be good, because there’s no other way it would be in business. Although, I suppose if you were going for an ambiance of barbecue-scented sauna, you’d find it here.

A “triple meat” cost $16 and featured barbecued ribs, brisket and chicken, along with baked beans and coleslaw. And five slices of white bread that I ended up tossing frisbee-style off my friend’s balcony. The “triple meat” ended up being more than enough for four meals.

The barbecue sauce is exquisite. It’s on the tangier side of sweet, but it’s also rich and meaty. The ribs were beefy and delicious (if a little tough at the edges), the chicken smoky and moist, and the brisket tender and flavourful.

We ate at the picnic tables outside the shop, with stacks of maple wood (for the wood-fired grill) behind us. We watched as a steady stream of people went in and out of the shop with take out, and chatted with the other barbecue lovers at the tables: two BMX bikers, two engineers, and a man in a suit.

Food this beautiful always has a story behind it, and this was no exception. When I spoke to him after the meal, he mentioned that someone had made a documentary about him. Well, it turns out the Daddy Bruce is the subject of not one, but two documentaries, as well as countless print articles. The documentaries are both great pieces, suffused with the love and spirit that Daddy Bruce inspires in people.

Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Que
2000 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder, CO
(303) 449-8890
Daddy Bruce's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

The Nile: miles from Ethiopia, but so delicious

There we were, five visitors to Denver stuffed in a car, on a dark highway, guided by nothing more than a silent GPS unit. We were on a quest for the region’s best Ethiopian food. Based on an exhaustive survey of two Ethiopian people we met earlier that day, The Nile was where it was at.

Forty-five minutes later, we found it: an unassuming restaurant in a suburban strip mall in Aurora. The friendly server brought us Ethiopian beer and honey wine and managed not to laugh at us as we earnestly explained that we wanted to try one of everything on the menu.

An hour – and several Ethiopian beer and glasses of honey wine – later, she presented us with a giant injera covered in bright dollops of different curries. That is, it was a 3-foot diameter Ethiopian pancake that looked like an artist’s palette. Each dollop was tastier than the last, whether it was the cardamom lamb, the roasted potatoes, curried lentils, fragrant spinach, fiery curried chicken, or something else.

We ate until we were full, then took turns declaring ourselves stuffed – only to find ourselves, five minutes later, picking at a dollop of something. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It was a lovely communal experience with people who I look forward to seeing each April. At last year’s conference we experienced The Most Delicious Sandwich I’ve Ever Eaten (no exaggeration, it really was) and this year was no exception. According to the restaurant’s website:

Sharing the same bread is socially significant in the Ethiopian culture and also creates a bond of friendship and personal loyalty between the diners.  It is said that people who eat from the same plate (mosseb) will never betray one another.

On our way back to Denver, we figured out how to make the GPS talk, but not how to control the volume. It barked instructions to us all the way home, drowned out only by our giggles.

[This post is dedicated to the memory of JS, who raised a great son and tipped us off to The Most Delicious Sandwich last year. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but I wish I had. He’ll be sorely missed.]

The Nile Ethiopian Restaurant
1951 S. Havana Street
Aurora, CO
(720) 748-0239
The Nile Ethiopian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

New York street food worth waiting for

New Yorkers do not stand in lines. They certainly don’t stand in lines for street food – not usually.

They do stand in line for the halal food cart at the corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue. Its proximity to Times Square is a little bit ironic, because tourists stuff their faces full of chain restaurant swill when they could be having freshly prepared tastiness. There’s beef, chicken and lamb with your choice of pita or rice. All of it is smothered in some delicious sauce, and hot sauce if you want it.

I’m not sure what’s better: the people-watching opportunities (people in line, and the people who gawk at the people in line) or the incredible value. You can stuff yourself silly for under $10.

FYI: The cart is only open at night. I’m not sure what time they set up shop, but I’ve been there at 9pm and at midnight. Both times, there were at least 40-50 people in line.

I’m just clucking around

For today’s shameless plug, I point you in the direction of my latest post on Foodists. It’s about chickens and stuff.

Smoked paprika

I’m obsessed with smoked paprika right now. I’m putting it in and on everything: roast chicken, hummus, and Cheryl’s roasted eggplant dip.

Paprika is made by grinding up red bell peppers. It’s usually associated with Hungarian cooking, as it plays a central part in goulash.

I prefer smoked Spanish paprika. It’s a little less spicy, and the smokiness is really subtle. It wends its way through dishes and makes things taste like mellow summer days by the barbecue. I love Chiquilin brand smoked paprika (“pimenton ahumado”), which you should be able to find in most specialty stores in Vancouver.

Chiquilin smoked paprika

Family treasures: soya sauce chicken

I’m an only child, so I’ve never had to argue with siblings over who got the newest toy, or who got to sit where, or whatever siblings argue about. See? I’m such an only child that I don’t even know.

When it comes to family treasures, the thing I want most is my mom’s marinade for soya sauce chicken. She has two jars of dark, dark brown sauce in the freezer that are older than I am. It’s essentially a braising liquid for any kind of meat (usually chicken) or, my favourite, hard-boiled eggs.

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