Friday, February 29, 2008

When In Doubt

The secret behind these strangely addictive strawberry candies? Tamalehawk is convinced it's the two different kinds of wax. Many candymakers would be content to add only one wax; the Spaniards behind this little coiled cobra go for the Carnauba Wax and Beeswax blend, masterfully churned in burning urns over long-flaring flames. Something about its fragrant and convincing bouquet, its tough but yielding texture, and the fact that they are imported and "hand-packed". Somehow the fact that it was touched by hands is reaffirming to him.

Tamalehawk forgot to comment on a recent Twin Anchors visit, his favorite rib shop in the city. Everybody knows that his ultimate ribs are dry-rubbed and air-dropped in from the 'Vous in Memphis, but in the meantime, there's nothing better than piling into the tiny Twin Anchors dining room and shoveling a full rack of zesty ribs into your gullet with cartoon enthusiasm. Encircle the table with some smack-talking tanagers and you've got a night to remember.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Journey Concludes

It's hard to describe the level of obsession Tamalehawk has forged for these brownies. Simply put, this represents the apex of his lifelong brownie journey, the culmination of three decades of hope and heartache. These brownies sit besides the first and most powerful brownie memory Tamalehawk has, still strikingly vivid all these years later: a small hawk, barely able to fly let alone hunt, waiting patiently in a long line of small hawks in the schoolyard to buy a giant slab of frosted brownie with colored sprinkles for fifty cents. Ten minutes of anticipation and finally he was able to step up to the giant pink bakery box, fluttering in the midday breeze, and claim his long-awaited walnut-studded prize. The rest of recess never mattered; so transfixed, it was rare he ever made it past the curb.

The Cook's Illustrated recipe for Classic Brownies feels fussy and starts off tedious. What are you asking us to do with the foil? Fold it in half and then into a strip? Whatever. Cake flour instead of all-purpose, huh? OK, he'll give you that one. Definitely go with the microwave method to melt the chocolate; the double-boiler is for suckers and zabaglione. Tamalehawk was skeptical, until he got a look at the crusty light brown top in the oven. Miles away from the black soupy fudge of box brownies, this batch reached into Tamalehawk's soul and blazed for him a perfectly primmed path to his youth. He can't even bear to give any of these away.

Chase The Dream

Assembling a stylized Mexican street taco can be, to Tamalehawk, one of the most affirming acts available. Frought with self-discovery, one's taco architecture speaks volumes of who one is, and who one hopes to someday be. Several slabs of avocado to slant the flavor profile into creamy's favor? A tangle of grilled onions so it bites back? A sprinkling or avalanche of queso fresco that you finally got the guts to buy and really regret ever having lived without? One cilantro sprig or several? Maybe you'll just wind up eating the skirt steak off the plate, sans tortilla or toppings. That is for you to decide.

Tamalehawk ate at Tizi Melloul a while back. Situated right across from the nest of a red-legged honeycreeper he knew from back in the movie-slinging days, this spot radiates a Moroccan vibe, he guesses? Judging by the maroon and gold-tassled pillows, the dramatic draperies, and the too-close tables, it's shooting for Moroccan. Though definitely not Tamalehawk's kind of place - the precious, unpronounceable name alone would cause him to keep walking - the food was great. The appetizer inspired him to make an apricot chili glaze at home, and the crispy pork belly delivered on every hope he had riding on it. Plus, he completely dusted the valet by parking in the public lot two blocks away for four bones less. Take that, urban luxury.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Milestone

Well, we did it. 100 posts. Tamalehawk wishes to thank everyone who follows his culinary pursuits and the lazy arc of snap decisions that comprise it, and himself for eating so many delicious, weird, and intriguing things. Together, everyone soared on wings of discovery, shedding feathers of fear over a city clamoring at the promise of a life-altering quesadilla, or a heartbreaking chili, or a menu revelation. Can you hear the clamoring? It has reached a deafening din!

A lot of exciting things on the horizon. Tamalehawk has been using the waning moments of relative quiet to eat like a small, carefree bird. He hopes to always be drawn to the idea of ordering something called The Mess from a local sandwich purveyor. It has fries and coleslaw directly on it, which positions it squarely in Tamalehawk's downy wheelhouse. That sandwich, in myriad ways, reflects the true nature of life itself; everything crammed together unnaturally, working together to make something that, in time, feels natural, and in some more time, achieves greatness. He hopes that whatever the future holds, he can always appreciate the mess that might come with it. All this introspection is making him hungry.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Midnight Rambler

Sometimes it's late and you are starving and you convince yourself it's OK to eat like a freshman flush with your parent's cash and no desire to live until tomorrow. Although it is a mercifully infrequent occurrence, you rarely have to twist Tamalehawk's scapulars to sell him on a Wendy's run. Decades of tinkering in the food lab have constructed what, to much of modern man, is considered the paradigm of fast food chicken sandwiches. Then, in a fit of unbridled hubris, they put bacon and cheese on it.

We know that dipping your fries in the Frosty is a mandatory taste explosion. A impulsive experiment confirmed that there was no correlatable effect when Frosty is applied to your chicken sandwich. No detrimental change, just no worthwhile enhancement. Also, it's a small thing, but Tamalehawk loves the cornmeal-dusted buns. He doesn't know why, but he wishes everything was dusted with cornmeal. They also have a sandwich called the Baconator, and you have to have an old-school pair of brass clangers to put that on today's market.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Iron Grip

Are you guys eating these? It's that time of year, when scores of scouts bumrush grocery store thresholds, milling and giggling and hawking the nostalgic favorites for a stiff five dollars a pop. You can refuse them, drive past the droves, but eventually you will buy a box from your mom who bought too many, or your co-worker whose daughter's pleading face is staring at you from a ceramic frame on her desk.

They've got a stranglehold on supply, spiking the demand to unnatural proportions even though, really, in general, there are way better cookies out there. Given the choice, Tamalehawk will do the Coconut Blast-offs or the Cinnamon Tingles. Still, eating these Peanut Butter Patties did inspire the courage to eat three more, the confidence to dip the paraffin-encrusted disk into orange juice, and the character to finish off the package when it's so close to be being done anyway. Also, it's a shame about the girl whose face is near-completely obscured by the Girl Scouts graphic. Tamalehawk hopes her mom wasn't too disappointed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On The Brink

The reasons Tamalehawk rushed this protatotype to market are two-fold: First, the raw materials had been lingering on the fridge without consideration for some time, and second, a few recent remarks by some ptarmigans in the media have implied that he may be slipping, content to buy precious pre-made products from Trader Joe's or phone-in a pasta dish.

He'll admit it is getting tougher to take strides in the kitchen. This time, he wanted to make something that was a cross between a grenade and a potato, or a grenato, by coring a Yukon Gold potato, stuffing it with something good, and putting the pin back in. His experiments yielded promising results - a delicious molten core baked from the inside, exploding like shrapnel when dissected. As he moves to the next phase of development, he would definitely par-boil the potato first to facilitate easier pin removal. Pictured, he went with sofrito as the incendiary material, but in future iterations, he would gladly go with nacho cheese, gravy, or even some kind of soup.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Sudden soup: Sweat some chopped onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat in a pot. Take the corn out of the freezer door and untwist the bag. Extract the zucchini from the depths of the crisper and inspect them. Decide that this is their last chance for greatness, and that it's up to you to deliver on their potential.

Next, move the pot off the burner because all of your ponderous regret has put the onion and garlic in serious jeopardy. Get your head in the game, lower the heat, and move the pot back. Peel the zucchini until you get tired of doing it, chop off any parts you can't in good faith feed to someone, cut into chunks and throw into the pot. Toss the corn, salt, thyme, coriander, and optional turmeric in and let it rip for a while. Plaintively sing a folk song in memory of the peppers who couldn't be there with you. Then add chicken stock, then take your immersion blender on its maiden voyage and puree the hell out of it. Be sure to maniacally splatter vegetal viscera all over your midsection like you are Larry Drake in Dr. Giggles and the soup is Doug E. Doug. Taste it, correct the seasoning, and eat it if it came out OK. Feel competent enough to get you through another eerily dreamless night.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Deadly Invitation

Part two of the series Diner Sandwich Revival. The patty melt, arguably the stoic grandfather of the melt genre. On millions of menus, it's easy to overlook this gentle giant of the national dinerscape. It wasn't until Ladyhawk went on a three-day multi-city patty melt jag that Tamalehawk was forced to pay homage to what, in many cases, is better than its burger brethren.

Let Tamalehawk explain: You've got the signature grilled rye bread again, which is better than the standard bun you will likely get. Then the cheese - the cheese really comes alive upon the patty stage, relaxing all active cultures into a web of stunning coverage, forming a new, symbiotic relationship with the caramelized onions, themselves a pivotal part of the flavor balance. Tamalehawk also learned this from the television set: don't overwork the ground beef, it makes it too tough. Also, season the outside like you would a steak, instead of mixing it in - salt pulls moisture out and makes it too dry. Now he goes straight from package to pan, the satisfying sear sending seriously sonorous signals to his stomach. A word of caution: as it's an intense experience, don't get too caught up in your pursuit of the patty melt; you can suddenly burn out and find yourself grabbing for salad in an attempt to ease the gathering meatlock within.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Unknown Horizons

Hard to argue with a blueberry morning. Preceded by an egg sandwich dawn, and followed by a falafel afternoon, a cupcake dusk, a skirt steak evening, and a milkshake night - you've got a perfect day on your wings. For starters, Tamalehawk will eat anything that has been selected. It makes him feel special, which is a nice feeling early in the morning. Next, he will gladly consume anything that claims on its very packaging to have an Incredible Taste. He means, you have to right? It's not just edible, it's incredible. Also, a Perfect Crunch? Yes, cereal merchants, he shall undoubtedly taste your efforts. If the perfect crunch has been engineered, you better believe Tamalehawk wants to be on the forefront of that discovery.

Blueberry Morning largely lives up to its claims and, save for some horrible copy on the back of the box which makes for an unpleasant table-read, it is a certainty that he could eat the entire box in one sitting if left unsupervised. Next on the agenda, he will bravely test pilot Honey Bunches of Oats studded with real dried peaches. He is hopeful but cautious. If they're using the same technology they used to dry tiny wild blueberries, then morning can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Hero Within

The first in a two-part series entitled Diner Sandwich Revival. The tuna melt is a crapshoot in any region or restaurant. Let's face it, the two words clang cacophonously together, conjuring an image that could easily be incongruously unappetizing. Nonetheless, it perseveres as a recognized part of the American diner canon, so a certain modicum of respect is due. Tamalehawk would rarely pull the trigger on this ubiquitous option, for fear of what might emerge from the kitchen. Will it be open-faced? On an English muffin? Will pineapple slices somehow be indicted? That unsavory uncertainty is often quite enticing to Tamalehawk, but in this case, he'll usually peruse for a more foolproof option.

The star in any classic melt is the rye bread. Mild but flavorful with an even toasting consistency, the rye bread is responsible for bring the melt genre to prominence nationwide. On the bread tip, Tamalehawk wishes to endorse Panes, a family-run cafe on Sheffield and Wellington. He called a lunchtime audible and picked up a roast beef sandwich with fresh farmer's cheese and ranchero sauce on fresh focaccia, cream of broccoli soup, and a tortilla salad. The menu is entirely excellent sounding and shockingly affordable. He will be back for the white chocolate rice pudding, Oaxacan pork sandwich, and fresh baked sourdough loaves. Dining local never felt so right.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Naturally Selected

So, good riddance green peppers, Tamalehawk guesses, right? Having hit the culinary scene, the red brethren deeming green unneeded even in fajitas. Red was ripe for stardom, and quickly made greem seem dated and maybe a little passe. It could bring the full sweet flavor to the party, or stand out in a bed a lettuce. You couldn't make an appealing soup with green. Red could accomplish it all and make a dip at the same time. People everywhere were making the switch fast and permanent, and even its lower price couldn't bring the green bell pepper sympathy.

Tamalehawk is often a creature of comfort, but his restless wings need to swing a wide and regular arc around the outer perimeters of the familiar. He wants to fill this pepper with something strange and roast it, an arranged marriage forged in the heat of another's will and hunger. At the same time, he wants to leave it alone, praise it for the perfection it achieved without an ounce of intervention. The green pepper shouldn't be blamed for its inferiority; it is the perfect idea right on the verge of ripeness.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Tamalehawk knows he has quality friends when they give him food as a gift. Especially condiments. A new condiment can keep him transfixed for months, agog from the absolute abundance of applications, excited by the endless eating events in which the consuming condiment can be consumed. He pushes it to the cutting contours of its capacity, crossing all semblance of sanity in a quest to conquer the myriad mysteries within.

He's not sure what makes this Spicy Chili Mayonnaise a good indicator of Country Living, but regardless, it is going to be applied to nearly everything Tamalehawk's last shred of reason allows him to. A great condiment can make him pull the trigger on an otherwise boring menu option. Grilled chicken sandwich? Meh. What? With cumin-lime mayo? He's listening. Falafel sandwich? No than- wait, with jalapeño hummus? Let's do this. Also, don't think for a second Tamalehawk won't order one menu item with the condiment from another. Because he has, as often as is necessary. As should you.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Protect and Serve

Peanut butter is a food that Tamalehawk will eat on his way to the grave. Lapping it up, heaping featherfuls, dipping his beak straight into the jar with a wild look in his eyes. It's the rare food that comes close to perfect in its commercially available form - a uniformly velvet viscosity, the luxury of creamy or chunky, edible in sandwich form, and packing a potent protein-punch to the solar plexus.

Whether it's a surreptitious swipe at night or a formal post-meal dollop, peanut butter always manages to spackle the hunger void shut. Tamalehawk learned a secret trick from an old condor friend: Add two tablespoons of peanut butter to your ramen noodles with the sodium-flavored packet, then crack an egg right in the water and swirl it around. Split the resulting mass of noodles with your friend and laugh confidently, knowing that the meal you just made cost you about twelve cents and is guaranteed to last a long day of perching.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hard Times

This chicken got sprung on parole after about nine months on ice. No one knew he was out. He didn't even call his family. He just collected his personal effects and moved on down to the fridge. A free bird. Got a job, was minding his own business, but before you know it he was running with the wrong crowd again. Thyme and butter and paprika and those dudes. In the oven in no time. Sad story, happens every day.

What else. Tamalehawk executed a second order from his new Chinese take-out place, Silver Seafood. He keeps wanting to say Silver Surfer. This time around, the sesame chicken, moo shu pork, fried rice, and egg rolls all made solid appearances. Also, the hot and sour soup is outstanding. He is pretty sure there is octopus in there but it's so fresh and good he eats it all anyway. Added bonus: for the second time, the delivery man has found a way to slip past the locked front gate and make it all the way to Tamalehawk's front door undetected. The sharp knock is enough to scare him half to death, but he'll trade that for having to trudge out in the snow any day.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Chasm Calls

Tamalehawk is happy to recommend Apart Pizza on Montrose, a place he had long ago spotted in his travels. It is thin and cut into slices like pizza was designed to be. They call it "Italian style" but it's close enough to Tamalehawk's native New York style to send him back to the old days. Pictured is the dessert, called filoncino, that he ordered as a climactic denouement to his margherita pizza. Who orders dessert from the pizza place? Firmly in the dessert zone, he had to come up with something to calm the roiling riot in his stomach the following night.

Emergency dessert: Preheat oven to 350. Take single remaining pie crust from freezer where it has been since Thanksgiving, peel the three layers of foil off, and leave on the counter to defrost for fifteen minutes. Sit down and watch some TV. Forget you were in the middle of making something, then remember. Put the crust in the fridge because you've let it get too warm. Take out Nutella and raspberry preserves. Watch TV standing from the doorway. Take crust out of foil tray and cut into squares, place them on a cookie sheet. Place a spoonful of Nutella and preserves on pie crust squares, making sure to get Nutella on the counter and the back of your hand somehow. Fold the square over to make a little triangle wonton and press the edges tight. Bake it until it's golden and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Eat it too quickly and grip the sink tightly and you attempt to cleave the molten filling off the roof of your mouth with one hand while grabbing for another triangle with the other.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Historically, leftovers get a bad rap. The very name invokes their legacy of neglect; "left" as in left behind, still sitting in the pot on the stove, half-chopped on the cutting board, "over" as in done, no longer hungry, not worth eating at this time and probably not the next day because you just had it and it was OK but today some of the guys in IT are getting Thai food so maybe Wednesday.

Typically stuffed in Tupperware, stacked and tucked behind lingering milk, obscured by cured black olives, in the back near the beer, hiding behind refried beans who also have no means of again being eaten. Tamalehawk doesn't always triumph in his efforts to leave no morsel behind, but he loves a quality leftover. He doesn't cook often enough, and when he does, he prefers there to be something left for the next day when the feathers settle. Sauces, stews, and marinated marvels mostly improve after a chance to consider themselves overnight, and that's one less sad-wich Tamalehawk has to hurriedly assemble before work.