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My growing discontent with America’s food production/distribution system got yet another boost from this whole egg recall debacle. I learned about localharvest.org in a great egg article on MSN and decided to see where I could find local healthy eggs. There’s a place 3 minutes from our house!

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• Just saw the new lobster sandwich at the Panera near my office in Jersey. 17 bucks! WSJ has the scoop.

• The blog’s been slow since we’ve been grillin’ more often. My new favorite cookbook.

• And we’re psyched to visit Paris next month. Got a couple strong recos to visit Berthillon. Can you decipher their specialty?

This past Monday, we took a personal day to do a bit of Christmas shopping without the crowds. It took us a while to get rollin, but we eventually made our way to our first stop in Bethlehem just before lunchtime. We wanted to see if a gift certificate to one of the Sands casino’s two new restaurants, Burgers and More by Emeril or Carnegie Deli, would make a good gift for my folks. We decided both spots were too casual to make a classy gift, but we were psyched to try Emeril’s for ourselves. We grabbed a seat at the bar and were handed the menus and two build-a-burger order forms. It’s nice to have the options clearly spelled out and there’s an implied reassurance that there won’t be any miscommunication with the chef. Hopefully you can read all of the choices in the pic.

My wife wasn’t in a burger mood, but went for the crabcake sandwich. The menu had a bunch of non-burger options including salads and a portabella burger for vegetarians. I do wish there was a veggie burger option on the build-your-own menu.

Design sidebar: It took me a while to realize that the BAM adjective in front of a number of menu items was an acronym of the restaurant’s initials and not just a reference to Lagasse’s trademark exclamation. Not sure why they didn’t play that up in the logo?

Our food took a while to arrive – probably due to the lunch rush – but the unique plating put a smile back on my face. You gotta love the fryer basket of extra thick and crispy onion rings. And the burger was great. Lots of toppings – a generous amount of blue cheese, and tasty balsamic-braised onions.

On my next visit, I plan to get the brisket blend burger with bacon, bbq sauce and cole slaw. And I heard the andouille barbecued white beans are fantastic. Though we may have to try the Carnegie Deli before the return trip to Emeril’s. Their dessert cases are a sight to behold.

Got a copy of the cookbook last week and i think it turned out great! Here’s a shot of the final cover (which you won’t see on Amazon), a chapter opener and a recipe. The recipes are broken down into four seasonal chapters that correspond with the grape growing seasons and the fresh ingredients available in California wine country. It’ll make a great xmas gift – i know i’ll be giving them to any cooking-inclined family and friends.

Just got word that the cookbook I designed has finally been printed. I was nearly finished when i first mentioned it way back in March, but a last minute reordering of the recipes required that I turn the design over to Chronicle’s in-house team for finalization. We also had some difficulties getting an approval on the cover design. The cover on Amazon is one of the twenty-or-so i created, but I know it was further revised by Chronicle after i turned over the files. Regardless, it was a nice change of pace from packaging design, and i can’t wait to get my hands on a copy this week!

From the Amazon description:

Seasons in the Wine Country brings the flavors of the Napa Valley and the expertise of instructors at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone into your home with over 100 seasonal recipes. Beat the winter blues with a hearty helping of Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs with Swiss Chard and Orecchiette and distill the fresh flavors of spring with Lemon-Glazed Pound Cake with Rosewater and Strawberries. With simple step-by-step instructions from the world’s foremost culinary authorities including suggestions for wine pairings as well as primers on culinary techniques and equipment Seasons in the Wine Country is the ultimate resource for those who desire to live the good life and cook like master chefs!

We finally got our butts outta bed a couple Saturdays ago to hit the Easton Farmers’ Market for the first time this season. It’s a nice walk down College Hill for us and the dog and it’s a great opportunity to buy locally produced foods. We generally try to grab breakfast on the way to the market – either at the Quadrant Book Mart or the Third Street Café. As good as the food is at the Quadrant, it can be a bit chaotic and tough to get a table. Third Street Café’s food is great and the service is tight. Plus, compared to the Quadrant, the sidewalk seating is more generous and gets full shade on hot summer days – two good things when we have our pup with us.

Their menu is a bit more gourmet than your standard breakfast fare, but don’t worry – there’s nothing too exotic and the portions are great. And they have a number of specials in addition to the core menu. My wife had an artichoke and cheddar omelet and I had tender scrambled eggs with sausage and sausage gravy on biscuits. Both dishes came with sides of soft breakfast potatoes flavored with a peppery sauce. I’m used to a crispier, greasier style of homefries, but these were a nice change of pace (though I still prefer crispier potatoes as a contrast to soft eggs). It was all great. And filling – we could barely finish everything.

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To drink, my wife enjoyed some coffee while i had a strawberry smoothie – a good one, not a syrupy premixed sugar shake. They have an assortment of fruit and will mix you up whatever combo you like. I think they have music every Saturday for breakfast. On this day there was a guitarist – really pleasant and not obtrusive.

All in all, it was a really nice way to start our Saturday. We headed over to the farmers’ market and grabbed a local wine, some cookies and a cherry pie, and a pork loin roast before the hike back up the hill. Then… nap time.

We discovered Klein Farms in Forks Township a few months back. We’d seen an ad in The Irregular newspaper (i think) so it was in the back of my mind that we needed to check it out. One day we were getting ready to head out to a dinner party and we figured we’d pick up some of their raw milk cheese on the way for everyone to try.

I’ve read a bit about the benefits of properly produced raw milk and there are some compelling arguments. The cheeses certainly tasted differently than expected. Klein Farms has a wide range of flavored cheddars and spreads, and my concern was that they were using the flavors (fruit, herbs, etc) to mask inferior cheese. I grabbed a plain gouda and a cranberry cheddar – nothing too gimmicky. I found the gouda’s flavor dramatically different from the European goudas we normally get (usually smoked), and the texture was much more elastic and less dense – almost like a mozzarella without the stringy protein structure. The cheddar was good, though a bit sharp for my tastes. I think we both prefer the more earthy flavors – smoked gouda, bries and blue cheeses. Humboldt Fog is one of our new faves but it can be tough to find. And Wegman’s has a Gorgonzola Dolce that will knock your socks off.

My main interest now is possibly using their raw milk to produce my own cheeses. We buy a fair amount of fresh mozzarella when the tomatoes come in. Cubed and tossed with cherry tomatoes, lemon basil, olive oil and sea salt – it makes a great meal on some toasted semolina bread.

I found some easy mozzarella kits here, though the site is…well…cheesy. This guy has kits for brie and blue cheese, and the idea of aging my own cheese in the cellar is really intriguing. A nice complementary hobby to my winemaking for sure. Maybe i’ll start it in late fall when it gets too cold to make wine? I need a bit more research before i add yet another complication to my life.

Installing a dishwasher isn’t the most fun way to spend a Saturday. The major headache (and legache and neckache) was getting the water pipe precisely lined up with the input on the bottom of the appliance. I had to pull the thing out from under the counter 9 or 10 times to readjust the pipe before it was perfectly lined up. And even then, attaching the compression fitting was beginning to feel impossible after a solid hour of twisting. The nut just would not catch onto the threads. All the while my wife kept asking about dinner. 6 o’clock. 7 o’clock, 8 o’clock. “I’m not going anywhere till i get this thing hooked up!” She came into the kitchen after 9 to inform me that Sogo was open until 11. I gave it one last effort with what little strength i had left. It seemed to catch. I kept pressure on the fitting and turned it a bit more. I finally had it! Since i could only turn the wrench about 5 degrees at a time, it took me till about 9:45 to get it about 95% tightened. I’d finish in the morning when i had my focus back. My new priority was food so i hopped in the shower and we got downtown to Sogo by 10:15.

I got a Sapporo immediately and we ordered an appetizer special, the “Summer Fusion” salad – a tasty blend of greens, avocado, mango, tomatoes and grilled black pepper tuna belly.

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I had to order another Sapporo by the time our entrées arrived. My wife ordered the “Sweetheart Roll” and I had the “Tiger Roll.” Tasty as usual. Forget the soy sauce and wasabi.

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It was too late for dessert so we just chilled for a few minutes before heading back up College Hill with my wife behind the wheel. I was out like a light as soon as i got in bed, but i got up bright and early (sore neck and all) and finished the dishwasher hookup. It’s glorious.

Picked up a few of these wine bottle totes a few years ago on Amazon to give as xmas gifts. A nice way to add value to a $10 bottle and skip the cheapo gift bag. The neoprene pouch holds a bottle snugly and cushions it from any accidental collisions. I also dig the integrated handle. It was the product BUILT® was founded upon, but they’ve really expanded their product line. Check ’em out.

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  • marbled banana bread
    Less than a week after I delivered the ostensibly completed manuscript for that my second cookbook (just 40 days now!), I received an email from someone was looking for a recipe for a chocolate-vanilla marble cake like the one her grandmother had made, one that had great texture and wasn’t too sweet. She said that no recipe she’d tried had achieved this, and […]

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