28 October 2010


And so, another delightful garden year is ending.  And who gets the last delicious tomato from our garden?  Well, let's just say, it wasn't me.


26 October 2010

Chocolate-tequila-cream ice cream topping

tequila festival

Being in San Diego presents the delicious opportunity of crossing the border into Tijuana, Mexico. Crossing over into Tijuana is quite easy, simply drive down to the border, park your car in one of many parking lots ($7 for the day), and trot across on foot. No one asks to see your papers, no one asks you your intentions, you simply wander past a bunch of serious looking guys with large automatic weapons, and next thing you know, you're in Mexico. Dozens of cabs, street food and a sports-betting facility await nearby. If you're an American, it'll cost you $30 to take a cab from there to downtown Tijuana. If you're travelling with a local who speaks Spanish, it's about $3 to hire a cab.

On this occasion, we were headed to the annual Tequila Expo. About 30 tequila vendors and a few street food vendors. For $6, you can have a taste (or two) of any of the many tequilas being poured. We were careful. While the tastings were small, there were a lot of tequilas, and we quickly could have been under the table. We split up the tastings between the four of us on hand, and only re-tasted the recommended tequilas (and indeed, we skipped over the offerings that we recognized as being available in the U.S.).

One of the novel discoveries of this trip was tequila-based cream liqueurs. While most of these were pretty poor-quality, we did find one that we really enjoyed:

chocolate tequila cream

Hacienda Milán and Kama Sutra are chocolate and vanilla-flavoured liqueurs (respectively).  The distinctive tequila flavour blends really nicely with the chocolate and vanilla flavours.  And while I don't expect to find myself quaffing these sweet drinks on a lazy Saturday, I immediately found myself thinking "Dessert Topping".

The return trip is more complicated, involving standing in line for about an hour, and talking to a surly immigration officer who wants to know how many bottles of tequila you're carrying. Make sure you have your passport, and remember, each person is allowed only 1L of liquor duty-free.  However, it's generally not worth it for them to do the duty paperwork if you're carrying only a tiny bit more than the allowable amount, so I've managed to go over on numerous trips across the border without ever paying duty, even though I've *always* declared everything that I'm carrying.

And when we returned home?  How about some chocolate-tequila-cream topping on a nice vanilla ice cream?  Simple to prepare, complex flavours that meld well together.  What a delightful, unique dessert.

chocolate tequila ice cream


Tequila Expo 2010 was Oct 13-17
Av. Revolución and 7th St.
Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

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21 October 2010

The man who ate everything: Olives


My 4 ½-year old son, Bbq Jr., loves olives.  Even as a baby, his favourite activity at parties was sitting on a friend's lap while she fed him olive after olive.

Me, not so much.  While I *love* the flavour of olive oil, I have never found olives appealing.  I've always found it to be a bit of a personal failing.  Indeed, when friends discover I don't like olives, they always react surprised - "But you're such a food guy!".  Yeah.  Don't like olives.

But the psychology of desire is a tricky thing.  According to Steingarten (in The Man Who Ate Everything):
"By the age of twelve, we all suffer from a haphazard collection of food aversions ranging from revulsion to indifference... we are born with a cautious ambivalence toward novel foods, a precarious balance between neophilia and neophobia."
Well, I suffer from olivephobia.  I dislike olives.  Or rather, I disliked olives.  Take this little tidbit:
"Most parents give up trying novel foods on their weanlings after two or three attempts and then complain to the pediatrician; this may be the most common cause of fussy eaters and finicky adults--of omnivores manqués. Most babies will accept nearly anything after eight or ten tries."
We took this little bit to heart.
"People should be deeply ashamed of the irrational food phobias that keep them from sharing food with each other."
I am ashamed.  We serve Bbq Jr. new foods over and over until he likes them. And now, at age 4 ½, he's a more adventurous eater than I am. And that must be remedied.

Taking a page from The Man Who Ate Everything, I ate olives whenever I had the chance.  Every time Mrs. Dude and Bbq Jr. had olives, I would eat three.  Any time Mrs. Dude had a chocolate martini, I would have a gin martini - with two olives.

And after a couple of months of this, a few times a week - I can report - SUCCESS!  I not only don't hate olives any more, I actually enjoy them.  I like their saltiness.  I enjoy the bitter, bright flavour of a good olive.  Yum.

So what next?  Squash.  I will love squash before I am through.  I intend to make this a new series here on Indirect Heat.

Stay tuned.

19 October 2010

Deluxe grilled cheese

Here's a quick one. A nice and easy Sunday dinner, that ends up seeming a little deluxe. Let's dial up a grilled cheese.

I used a nice no-knead bread that I make frequently. That, and some manchego cheese and some gorgonzola.


Sauté some onions.  Meanwhile, start heating your grill.

caramelized onions

Slice the bread.  Layer in the cheeses and the onions.  Close up your sandwhich, and roast for about 10 minutes on each side on the grill.

Grilled cheese

If the cheese isn't melted, slide over to the cool side of the grill and close up the grill until the cheese melts.

Slice and serve.

Grilled cheese

A tiny bit of deliciousness with a tiny bit of effort.

14 October 2010

Fratelli Perata

In Napa, California, the wineries are all slick and polished. Even the bad ones have beautiful tasting area. My favourite Napa Winery, Pride Mountain, is like visiting the symphony at its best. Refined. Complex. Beautiful. You leave feeling refreshed.

Visiting Paso Robles is more like an Abbie Lincoln concert. Smooth. Smoky. "They call it jazz."

We recently visited Paso, and found our way to Fratelli Perata. As you pull up the driveway, it may not immediately be obvious that you are at a winery. Granted, there are grapes growing all over, but the farmhouse and garage on the premises don't say vineyard.

Inside the garage is a bar, a series of barrels, and a sign explaining why they can't serve food on the premises. The woman who greeted us was the proprietor of the establishment. Her long gray hair and tie-dye shirt identified her as a member of the counter-culture. She explained that she and her family had bought this property in the 1970s and that all the wine their was made by them. Their daughter, educated in viticulture at UC Davis has helped keep them modern. This is a family operation in every sense of the word.

She proceeded to pour us a dozen or so fabulous wines. Many of them blends, all of them delicious. While the finish on many of these wines was not as long as one might like, there's no sticker shock, either. We have only once before signed up for a wine club (Kenneth Volk - a club we continue to receive wine from).  But we felt compelled to sign up for another.  There will be Fratelli Perata served at our barbecues.

Fratelli Perata

Fratelli Perata Winery
1595 Arbor Rd
Paso Robles, CA 93446-9669
(805) 238-2809

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12 October 2010

Pride Mountain Winery


After making the mistake of visiting a winery without any vetting, we poked around Chowhound to find a winery that we would be delighted by. We focused on small to medium sized wineries, so we could get something different. Something new.

Pride Mountain Vineyards was near the top of the list.  It's a remote winery, 20 minutes west of St. Helena in Napa.  The drive is good fun, on narrow roads, through curvy, tree-covered terrain.

At the top of the mountain is a beautiful scene. If this is where my review ended, I would still recommend Pride Mountain Vineyards. Simply sitting on the patio, looking out over this:

Pride mountain

- really made me happy. It's a stunning view, in a quiet remote location. Really magical.

But (as I'm sure you're surprised to hear) they also serve wine. The first wine that was poured was a delightful viognier. Very, very nice. But the real surprise was their merlot. I haven't had many merlots that I was fond of. The merlot we tasted was perfectly structured. Well-balanced, with a long, extremely pleasant finish. Complex without being muddled. This is one of the best wines that has ever passed over my lips.  We savoured the tasting serving over 20 minutes.

Pride wine


Pride Mountain Vineyards
4026 Spring Mountain Rd
St Helena, CA 94574-9773
(707) 963-4949

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05 October 2010

A little information.

We're currently toodling around the Bay Area on our annual vacation. Naturally, a big part of our vacation is exploring the deliciousness that can be found along our trip. We're big users of services like Chowhound, as you can rule out certain places to visit.

But one doesn't always have the time to vet every visit to a den of deliciousness. Take the other day. We're pulling into Paso Robles, and we can tell from the GPS we'll be getting there right at five o'clock. We'd like to visit a winery, but they all close at five. So we quickly did some searching on our Android phones, and discovered that Meridian was on the route. No time to vet it.

Ugh. Fail. Five wines, the best thing I can say about them is that none of them were offensive-tasting. Most of them had no flavour at all.

But then there's yesterday morning. Bbq Jr. and I are headed out for an early breakfast to the Embarcadero area of San Francisco. But I have a little post-it note, with the name of a coffee shop. Steve, the owner of Zumbar Coffee in San Diego has told me that Blue Bottle Coffee is one of the best coffees on the West Coast.

Steve's obviously not the only one who thinks so. The line for this place was pretty long at 8 on a Monday morning.


But this is some fantastic coffee. The macchiato I order has the right balance of sweet and acid. The froth on the top is light. An amazing coffee.

It pays to be informed.

Blue Bottle Coffee (multiple locations)
66 Mint Street, San Francisco, CA
(415) 495-3394
M-F 7-7, Saturday 8-6, Sunday 8-4.

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