Wednesday, May 28, 2008

One of the Best Culinary Inventions of the 20th Century

So from what I can gather, important culinary inventions of the 20th century include:
  • Microwave Ovens
  • Paper Towels
  • Saran Wrap
  • Food Processors
  • Tupperware
  • Disposable aluminum roasting pans
However, none I could find thru a very thorough 8-minute Wikipedia research sabbatical from my workday can compete with my pressure cooker. If you aren't familiar with pressure cookers, they are a pot with a pressure-sealing lid that creates a high-pressure environment for cooking foods, and the higher pressure forces water into the food in addition to raising the boiling temperature for water, thus cooking foods at half to a fraction of their normal cooking time.

Since getting mine for Christmas, I've cooked beans (30 minutes, and the best evAH according to Taste Tester and his friend), potatoes (making about 15 pounds of potato salad in 30 minutes); asparagus, broccoli, corn husks for tamales, chicken for shredding and filling the tamales, and I'm looking forward to trying brown rice in it, which I can never completely finish cooking in my rice cooker. We practically never get to put it in the cabinet because it's always being used and cleaned for use again.

I really must insist that everyone try one. They come in several sizes; my 4 quart is perfect for me but smaller versions are on the market. Most are less than $30; at Target right now this 4qt is $19.99. Go rush to the store this instant.

And thanks Mom.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Great Food On Lake Travis: Cafe Bleu

While boating on Lake Travis this Sunday, we decided to try out Cafe Bleu near Volente. Its entire restaurant is an open-air deck with teakwood tables and chairs, overlooking Travis in a spot for a perfect sunset dinner. At 6:30pm it was still brutally hot, but a later appointment would be lovely weather. The tanorexic Austin lake socialites didn't get seated in full sun as we were.

The meal was pricey by my standards--$12 shrimp and crab ceviche (but only enough to fill a martini glass and served with 10 chips. Really? 10 chips? I wonder what that works out to for cost per chip) and $10 calamari, but they were both excellent starters. In fact, my brother's gf had the sense to follow those apps with a simple side salad; Taste Tester and I went for a $25 entree of crab-stuffed shrimp with brown rice and creamed spinach. I wouldn't have paired creamed spinach with shrimp, but it was pretty delicious and rich, and we waddled out happy.

Our lazy/dirty boating clothes made it pretty obvious that we didn't qualify for the yachting club discount cocktail hour, which may partly account for the lousy service. But I have to say, those two appetizers made it worth the cost. The calamari batter was seasoned with red pepper flakes and plenty ground black pepper, spicy enough to make you keep diving back for more.

Overall I'd recommend Cafe Bleu highly--for a special occasion. Meanwhile I'll be trying to rip off their seasonings and ceviche sauce for my own evil purposes.