Tim Foolery

Home » Food

Category Archives: Food

Peach and Goat Cheese Pizza

The past couple of weeks it seems like my social media feed has been full of people making peach pizzas.  Peach and ricotta. Peach and Mozzarella.  Peach and Goat Cheese.  Peach with tomato sauce. Peach with pesto.  I will admit, I never thought about a peach pizza until recently, but I don’t know why.  I love pineapple on pizza, so why wouldn’t another fruit like peach be a logical next step?

I decided that this weekend I was going to make a Peach and Chevre pizza.  I scoured the interwebs for the perfect recipe, but nothing really grabbed me.  Now I can go off recipe for quite a few things and those are usually Italian options.  Each fall I make a huge batch of bolognese sauce that keeps me going through the winter.  I don’t follow a consistent recipe with that.  When I make a homemade pizza, I go off book too.  This recipe felt a little more daunting – I really didn’t know what I wanted to taste with this meal.  But hell, as I always say, if I try something new and it sucks, I can always just order…well….pizza.

I knew I wanted peaches and goat cheese (chevre), so we hit the farmer’s market for the peaches and stopped by Whole Foods for the pizza crust and some chevre.  I decided to keep it pretty simple. I wasn’t going to mix and match cheeses, I wasn’t going to layer in some tomato sauce or pesto.  I wanted to really focus on the two main ingredients: peaches and chevre.

I started off by preheating the oven to 450F (230C or Gas Mark 8).

I rolled out the Whole Foods whole wheat pizza dough into a quarter inch thickness (rectangular, only because getting the dough perfectly round never really works for me…) and brushed with the good olive oil.  I say good olive oil because we perpetually have two kinds at home – the kind that we use in every day cooking and is kept in a bottle with a spigot next to the stove and the other olive oil that is usually used to make salad dressings or as a final finishing touch to something.  Yes, I used the good oil here.  A light brushing over the top was the perfect base to this culinary canvas I was dreaming about.  I should say that at this point I had already  put this dough on a cookie sheet with a silpat liner (we use both the fancy French version as well as the Amazon Basics version – I find they work exactly the same).

Perfectly Ripe Farmers Market Peaches on Freshly Oiled Pizza Dough.

I sliced up two peaches – about 1/4 inch thickness and placed them all over the freshly oiled pizza crust.  I wasn’t sure how much chevre I’d need so I grabbed an 11 ounce size at the store (I used just over half, but could have used more) and crumbled it by hand over the pizza.  I then decided to cut up some fresh scallions and sprinkle over the top.  Finishing it off with some freshly ground pepper and some sea salt.

Next step: crumble a bunch of chevre all over the pizza.

I tossed this bad boy in the oven and cooked initially for 10 minutes – just to see how it worked.  It wasn’t done, but the critical thing to remember is that chevre isn’t a moist cheese, so it doesn’t melt like mozzarella.  I ended up cooking the pizza for about 18 minutes until the crust was brown (not too golden), the peaches were soft and the chevre was very tender and just starting to brown.

Into the oven at 450F (230C or Gas Mark 8) for about 15 minutes.

While the pizza baked, I put a half cup of good balsamic (we don’t use much balsamic, so I think we only had the good stuff around…I think it was the good stuff because it resided next to the good olive oil) into a sauce pan over medium high heat to reduce it. I wanted a nice thick balsamic drizzle over my pizza once it was done.  Cook the vinegar until you are left with about 2 tablespoons of the reduction. I also ran out to the garden and grabbed some basil (both traditional and purple).  I ran it under some water (pretty haphazardly) dried it, rolled it into a tube and quickly ran a knife though it.  A quick chiffinade was all I needed to do here.

Reduce your balsamic vinegar to about two tablespoons.

The timer rang and my pizza was finally done.  My first thought was “Damn, this needs something. More cheese?  More peaches?  A traditional sauce?”  I let it cool for about five minutes then sprinkled the basil and cut it into squares.

Voila! With the fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic reduction, this pizza was ready to go! I didn’t snap a pic of the jalapenos because I ate the pizza too quickly!

I was very pleased with the flavors – the peaches were so sweet and still held their shape, despite the slicing and the heat of the oven.  Drizzle your balsamic reduction over the entire pie and dig in. As I finished my first slice, I decided to walk out to the garden and grab a jalapeno pepper.  I sliced the pepper (about 1/8″ – 1/4″) and placed the raw peppers on my pizza.  The peppers were just what this needed.  It added a great kick to the pizza and paired just perfectly with the peaches.

Want to follow my lead? Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • One portion store bought pizza dough (or homemade if you so choose)
  • 2 tablespoons of the good olive oil
  • Two ripe peaches cut into 1/8″ slices (discard the pit)
  • Two scallions – thinly sliced (both white and green portions)
  • About 6 ounces of chevre – although feel free to use more
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil – chiffanade
  • One jalapeno, sliced very thin
  • Salt and Pepper (freshly ground, of course) to taste
  • 1/4 cup of the good balsamic vinegar

Do you make pizzas with fruit fresh from the farmers market?  What would you add to my recipe?  Send me pix of your summer pizza creations – I can’t ever get enough pizza options!

Gaggan – Fine Dining in Bangkok

Our time in Bangkok was limited. We were using this time to relax from more than a week of schlepping through Myanmar and in addition to a wonderful luxury hotel, we wanted some phenomenal food. Thai cuisine is one of my favorites – and spending so much time in Myanmar, with their bland, forgettable food, we needed something amazing. The 50 Best Restaurants in the World list has lead us to some great places and the first thing that popped up when we looked in Bangkok was Gaggan (#7 at the time). While not Thai, but a modern take on Indian, we decided it was a must visit.

We booked reservations a few weeks before we left Chicago and were able to get seats at the chefs table doing the tasting menu. Gaggan, the restaurant, is captained by Gaggan Anand and has been open since 2010 and according to Wikipedia, his plan was to re-envision Indian food into a refined, fine dining experience — he truly succeeded. The interiors of the restaurant are muted, with lots of whites and beiges, it just helps to bring your focus to the food.

The old townhouse that has been turned into one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World.

Our reservations were at 21h30 and we were fortunate enough (and quite by chance) that we could walk from the St. Regis to Gaggan. It was quite humid – it is Bangkok you know, but the walk was less than 10 minutes and it would have been utterly insane to take a taxi. We arrived shortly before 21h00 – I mistakenly thought we’d be able to grab a drink at the bar, but no such luck. We arrived early and waited about 10 minutes then were escorted upstairs to the large horseshoe bar area surrounding the kitchen.

Chefs and Assistants preparing for service at the common kitchen/bar table. 23 Courses do take some preparation.

We were the first to be seated. There were eight other people joining us upstairs for the amazing tasting menu.

The menu was delivered almost immediately when we sat down. There were no comments or directions, just the menu. Just Emojis. Just simple color printings on velum. Just emojis…A ton of them…25 to be exact. A 25 course tasting menu starting at 21h30 now seems like quite the daunting task. Remember, 15 hours ago we were hopping on a bus, heading to the airport in Heho, Myanmar for our two flight trip to Bangkok.

The menu was delivered on velum and only showed a single emoji for each course. no further guidance was given until the course was delivered.

Unfortunately there wasn’t an option for wine pairings with dinner. We could select bottles or by the glass if we wanted though. We asked the sommelier (who wasn’t a Master Sommelier) for guidance and this was by far the most disappointing part of our entire trip. His response: “Well, I’d suggest you get what you like.” Ok, I get it. With this many courses, we aren’t going to pair a new wine with each of the 25 courses, but with an emoji menu, we need some guidance. We didn’t get any. When we asked about a specific wine, we were told it was good and we should get it. When I asked if it made more sense to start with a glass of champagne first, then jump into a white or would the champagne do well for the first few courses, his response, was the same – “Do what you want.” If he would have said something about the first 16 courses are quite varied so a traditional pairing won’t work, but I’d recommend two to three glasses (even all at the same time) and then pairing them separately with the various courses, I’d have bitten and got three to four glasses of wine. As it was, we ended up with two glasses each. I was looking for the full experience here and the sommelier really did not deliver.

Chef came out and welcomed us all, asking us to introduce ourselves to our fellow diners and say where we were from. There were a couple Americans dining with us, but none who still lived in North America. We were surrounded by mostly people living in Bangkok. We were then told that the first 15 or so courses would be quick-fires (single bites that come out in rapid succession – which does lead back to the trouble with proper pairings), then we’d move into slightly larger courses, but nothing would be a full and proper meal course.

The first plate was set down in front of us at 21h28 and another course would be dropped every 2-5 minutes. It started to feel like a whirlwind. Everything was so tasty – great texture, great flavor combinations and a truly one of a kind delivery.

A (Spice) B (Citrus) = C (Cola)

Yogurt Explosion

Bombay Bhel

Eggplant Cookie

Chili Bonbon

Green Peas Mushroom Roll

Idly Sambar

Charcoal Prawn Amritsari

Aloo Gobi Caviar

Citrus Waffle Goat Brain

Closeup on Citrus Waffle

Amazaki Liver

Uni Ice Cream

Chu Toro (one of my favorites!)

The team prepping the Akami Tartar

Akami Tartar (a close second!)

Close Up on the Akami Tartar

Tomato Matcha

Pork Vindaloo Cutlet

Scallop Curry Cold

Quail Chettinad – Caged

Quail Chettinad – UnCaged

Chef prepares the fish course – I’d never expect the fish course to require a blow torch…

Post Torching Fish

Cedar Wood Paturi (sorry for the blurry pic!)

Lamb Kebob Hot Dog

Crab Curry Chuwanmushi – a bland picture but an amazing course.

Beetroot Blue Cheese (YES PLEASE!)

Basil Chocolate Butterfly

Strawberry Ghewar

The final course, the Strawberry Ghewar was delivered at 23h12. We were full. We were sleepy. We were pleased to have visited Gaggan. The restaurant will be closing in 2020, so if you have a plan to visit Bangkok, I highly recommend you stop by and pay Mr. Anand and his team a visit. After he shutters Gaggan in Bangkok he’s moving his restaurant to Japan — yes, it’ll be on my short list for sure.

Before we departed, we were given the full menu – and by full menu, I mean one with words. Not an elaborate menu, mind you, but one that provided much more detail than the emoji menu we encountered upon our arrival.

Our final menu, complete with emoji and description.

Minneapolis: Need Advice

I remember way back when….I use to ask for advice and recommendations when I traveled from the blogosphere. I’ve fallen out of that habit, often to my detriment. I’m going to dip my toes back into the untamed world of asking for help from complete strangers again. I will say, you all have provided some great recommendations in the past…

I’m off to Minneapolis for work in a couple weeks. I’ve got hotels all squared away, but I need help on finding the hot new places to eat and drink. Those who are regular readers know that I’m not a fan of chain restaurants…no matter how “great YOUR PF Chang’s is.”

Some basics on my trip. I’ll be traveling with a junior member of my team  so I will be very strict on our expenses…you know, setting a good example. So dinner is capped at $55/person, all included. We are staying downtown and will have a car, but will likely be Ubering around because we will want to have a drink.

IMG_20170707_190436_872

I always enjoy a fun cocktail when traveling. Where can I get a great drink and a bite to eat in Minneapolis?

I don’t care about fancy restaurants, even if Michelin did rate Minneapolis, places of that ilk aren’t really going to work on this trip. I’d love to find a great little place for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail. I want a quality restaurant that is unique to Minneapolis (or St. Paul, but not too much farther afield).

Where is your favorite place to grab a drink when you are in Minneapolis? Do you life in the Twin Cities and love pushing out-of-towners to places they’d never stumble upon by themselves? If so, I want to hear from you!

Food of Myanmar

Myanmar is a country nestled between India, Thailand and China.  It is at a cross roads of culinary delight.  The textures, flavors and the spices (both from a flavor and a heat standpoint) of these three countries make them home to some of my favorite cuisines.  I knew nothing of Burmese food before we started planning this trip.  I had never been to a Burmese restaurant and come to think of it, I don’t believe I had even seen a Burmese restaurant in the United States.  I chocked that up to the isolationism of the totalitarian regime.  There were few refugees from Myanmar making it to the United States – the influx of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s spurred the growth of Little Vietnams in various cities as well as expanding the American palate to embrace these non-American flavors including Vietnamese Fish Sauce, which you’d be hard pressed to find before the refugee influx.

Despite never eating Burmese food, I was extremely excited to have 10 days of basking in the culinary bliss that I just assumed would be an amalgamation of Indian, Thai and Chinese.  I was looking forward to trying curries filled with various types of protein (beef, pork, chicken…I wasn’t expecting the Burmese to have anything too exotic like dog or snake in their curries).  I figured we would switch between eating these great curry dishes to eating noodle soups, each with a varying level of spicy and flavor.

I was mistaken.

Well, that’s not 100% true.  We did eat curries with more traditional proteins (beef, pork and chicken). We did get noodles from time to time.  The food was not the heavenly blend of food from the three neighboring cultures.  It really was a relatively bland effort.  We tried different preparations of the food as we moved around the country and as we did, we would find a slightly different take on the same beef or fish curry.  Nothing I had wowed me. I didn’t create an ever lengthening list of things to try again or to track down back in the US.

That being said, we did have one dish that I really enjoyed and would order it again in a heartbeat, if I could find it again.  Shan Noodle is a dish from the Shan province in Myanmar.

A lunch buffet with numerous curries.

We went a little wild at the buffet.

My first Shan Noodle from 999 Shan Noodle.

A great shrimp spicy noodle dish served as breakfast at the airport.

A series of Burmese food.

I’m enjoying a Myanmar Beer, which was a staple lunch drink for me.

Chicken Curry wrapped in a banana leaf.

Grilled Spicy Fish.

The best meal in Myanmar, a Shan Noodle Family Recipe.

The chef/owner of Myat That Kavng Restaurant.

While we only had one meal that was bad (I think the beef had turned, but the hotel restaurant at the Pristine Lotus cooked with it anyway), most meals were bland, yet perfectly sustainable.  We weren’t able to find the flavorful food the locals eat.  Our guide, who was a local, said that we were indeed eating the local food, which was disappointing.  I was hoping we could find the Myanmar equivalent of the delicious peasant food of France or Germany or the wonderfully nuanced noodles the Vietnamese people eat.

One of the main goals for me, when traveling, is to explore the local cuisine. One of the main things I look for when planning a trip is the food. I was disappointed in that aspect of our trip to Myanmar.

What is your favorite dish from Myanmar?  Do you have a Burmese restaurant back home you like to visit?  Other than Shan 999 or Myat That Kavng where should I have eaten on my trip to Myanmar?

Favorite Places and the Resulting Lost Opportunity

One of the key benefits of travel is the ability to frequently try new things. One of the key detractors of travel can be the lack of consistency, lack of the known, the comfortable. When traveling, you can be met by newness every time you turn a corner. That newness, that unexpectedness is both the most exciting part and the most nerveracking part of travel.

When you find a place that you love, be that a restaurant with great food, a bar with excellent service, a bookshop with friendly and knowledgeable staff or a boutique that has the perfect gift, do you find yourself returning to that place time and time again when you visit that city? I do. When in LA, I visit The Lobster (Santa Monica) in Toronto, I dine at Barberian’s. When in Portland, we eat and drink at Departure. In New Orleans I always get an Absinthe from a dive bar abutting the cathedral. These are my go to places. They have special meaning to me and I love sharing these experiences with my travel companions.

The problem with these familiar places not only shines during travel, but while home. Every time you visit one of your regular haunts, you miss the opportunity to experience something new and magical. You feel comfortable, but you don’t push yourself to try something new.

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Paris (if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Google+ you already know that). We returned to Le Marais (4e Arrondissment), the same neighborhood we stayed in during our first visit in 2011. We stayed in a different hotel this time. We ate at different restaurants this time. Three of the four nights we were there, we stopped by a small cafe on Place Saint-Catherine and ordered a bottle of rosé. Each day we were in Paris it was over 30C each day, so a late night rosé was quite refreshing. We had the same server each night. Our final night we stroll up, take a seat on the Place and our server came up, took my hand and pulled me from a welcome handshake into a big bear hug. He asked, in French, if we would like a bottle of rosé tonight. He was welcoming. He was happy to see us. Yes, he was making money off of us, but he appreciated our loyalty.  We appreciated the sense of home despite the fact we were more than 6,600 kilometers from our actual home.  We will return to this cafe on our next trip to Paris.

Place de Vosge – Le Marais.

What are you missing? Does what you get from visiting the same place out weigh the possible opportunity for something better elsewhere? When you travel, what do you push for? Newness with each experience, or a level of comfort?