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thin-manIt’s become a tradition…

… around VS Central to ring in the New Year by juxtaposing the consumption of a decadent meal with a midnight viewing of William Powell and Myrna Loy in “The Thin Man”.

Hey, nobody party’s harder than Nick and Nora (even getting shot is just the right occasion for a quick martini!) so we’ve taken to celebrating the New Year while trying to “keep up with the Charles’ “; a drinking game ONLY to be played at home, and one that we NEVER win!

This year Austin was draped in a nasty fog that made going out to play bumper cars with the rookies even more tenuous than normal so the tradition continued.

With Martinininthemorning.com …

…providing the soundtrack for the evening we whipped up a great meal featuring prime steaks that were accompanied by sautéed mushrooms, peppery watercress and my rendition of a Jacque Pepin classic — Gratin Dauphinoise.

Normally a simple dish of potatoes cooked in a garlic cream (whole milk) sauce, depending on the occasion I will tweak the Dauphinoise with a bit with cheese or herbs … last night I hit it with light touches of three different cheeses and the result was incredible. [Read more…]


Would you take on Sophia Loren?

…On the proper recipe for Pasta Fagioli no less? Well, Deana Martin did exactly that!

While interviewing Ms Martin for the Holiday Chat with Deana Martin article, we had a sidebar discussion about learning to cook her dad’s favorite dish — Grandma Angela’s Pasta Fagioli — and a little “cultural exchange” she had with Sophia Loren.

Standing toe-to-toe…

…Deana and Italian cultural icon Sophia (“everything you see I owe to spaghetti”) Loren jousted over the proper ingredients for the classic Italian dish. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that exchange!

Well, the next best thing is Deana’s side of the story below. Check it out … as well as Angela’s recipe and my review of the dish below. [Read more…]


Probably not Patsy’s … but who knows

Frank Sinatra…

…had a 30+ year relationship with Patsy’s Restaurant and three generations of the Scognamillo family that ran the place.

Patsy’s became a favorite haunt for Frank — special to him for far more than just great food — and that close relationship all started on a Thanksgiving back around 1952 that Rick Busciglio captures in his Examiner piece — “Frank Sinatra’s Lonely Thanksgiving in New York” (11/25).

I will offer a link to the Examiner story below but it comes with a warning: I was inundated with pop-ups and ad chaff when I arrived on the Examiner site (even through my normal pop-up blocker).

I detest that sort of thing so much, I’m going to do something I never do and post the complete anecdote below — with full attribution and the associated link BUT also with fair warning that linking thru to the Examiner comes at a price.

The story of Frank finding his way to Patsy’s for that fateful Thanksgiving is great, and just one of many anecdotes that the Scognamillo family shares about Sinatra and many other stars of the era in the Patsy’s Restaurant Cook Book. [Read more…]


Endless summer in Austin…

…sort of has me down.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re way better off than we were last year at this time — after 2011’s vicious wild fires and 70 days over 100 degrees — but I’ve been hankering for one of my favorite Fall recipes for weeks now and with temps hanging in the upper 80’s … well, it ain’t Fall around here yet.

Not sure how I came to associate  a pan stew of white beans, fennel and tomato with a crisp Fall day; but when the temps start to dip, that Provencal styled dish figures prominently in my Fall fare mix … a bowl of chili, lamb shanks & porcini-morel mushroom risotto, and white beans provencal (along side the braised or roasted protein of your choice).

I could stand it no longer…

Yesterday — while spinning Ella’s Rodgers and Hart Song Book for the coming series review — I tripped across this Fennel-seed crusted salmon dish in the deep dark recesses of my recipe database.

I decided I couldn’t wait any longer … this recipe could be recast as an Indian Summer variation of my “fall classic” fetish dish and in the end it definitely sated my white bean/fennel Provencal jones. [Read more…]


As a tribute to Frank Sinatra…

…during the run up to his 100th birthday and for his life long love affair with “Old No. 7” (before during and after Ava, Marilyn, Barbara, Nancy and the rest!) the folks at Jack Daniels Distillery are releasing a special bottling of their Tennessee Whiskey — “Sinatra Select”.

Using special barrels (“Sinatra Barrels” no less) that are carved inside to expose the whiskey to more wood, the special Sinatra blend will roll out over the coming months — starting in Airport shops around the world.

I’m more of a scotch whiskey guy, but Frank loved him some “black Jack” … If you are likewise taken, check out this piece from The Spirits Business website  for the details.

Now if I could just get one of the single malt guys to pony up a Dean Martin blend for me … 😉


We spun up a Dean Martin fest…

… last weekend while I dove into an interesting recipe I snagged off the web — Rigatoni with Roasted Cauliflower and Spicy Tomato Sauce from herbivoracious.com.

Actually, my Zite aggregator snared the recipe for me … finding out the recipe comes from a vegetarian cooking blog explains some of the recipe’s shortcomings — one of which I fixed … and one I did not.

As you read though the recipe, you’ll see that basically this is a spicy tomato cream alla vodka sauce embellished with roasted cauliflower and green olives. The nutty roasted cauliflower was very nice; but channeling Dean Martin … leave the olives in the martinis palie!

I love green olives and look for ways to cook them into view … tagines, paellas, osso bucco and countless “pantry pasta” and puttanesca variations.

But the sauce in this rigatoni recipe is more of a luscious creamy tomato alla vodka sauce and the picante flavor of the green olives “break” the sauce — on the palate if not actually in the dish. To be clear, the sauce does not actually break but the olives strike an incongruous chord against the pureed creamy tomato sauce consistency. [Read more…]


‘The Frank Sinatra’ VS style … so good!

It took me awhile…

… to take a swing at Othello’s Deli “The Frank Sinatra” sandwich I found at Serious Eats a couple of weeks back. Didn’t queue it up that weekend like I promised in my post but I finally cranked one out last night and OMG is this a great sandwich!

I’m not strong for eggplant as a rule … it’s a mouthfeel thing more than taste. I pretty much need it prepared the way you find it in TFS — sliced thin, breaded and fried to golden brown deliciousness.

In this sandwich the ‘plant works great up against the porky goodness of the ham/prosciutto stacked on top of it.

Joining the glorious yin/yang of the salty pork and “crisp veg” eggplant, the roasted red pepper adds a third pallet dimension … sort of an aromatic fruitiness that nicely rounds out the “Sinatra”.

The provolone seems to act as a negotiator between the big three ingredients, while the balsamic vinaigrette lands on yet another part of the pallet — punctuating the whole eating experience. Jump the break for the VS version of “The Frank Sinatra”  [Read more…]


© Max Falkowitz – Serious Eats

Talk about a weird convergence…

After catching a simply awesome Tony Bennett concert last night at Moody Theater (home of Austin City Limits), I was rummaging around the aether web while reviewing my notes from the concert.

In the process I came across a this great looking sandwich — The Frank Sinatra — in Max Falkowitz’s cool Sandwich a Day column over at Serious Eats (where Mark is the Serious Eats: New York editor).

After researching Mr S’s food preferences over the past few months (and reading the Patsy’s Restaurant Cookbook) I think Frank would have indeed loved his namesake sandwich! [Read more…]