Interview with line cook Brandon Ricigliano

•February 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

This is Brandon Ricigliano. I caught up with Brandon while he was on a smoke break at work, still in his chef whites. Brandon and I agreed to continue our interviews again at a later date when we both had more time. This is just a little background on this interesting fellow to get us started.

One of the first things I noticed about Brandon was that his left arm was covered in food. I don’t mean literally covered in food, but tattoos of his favorite foods. There’s all kinds of stuff- a Chicago dog, bacon and eggs, a doughnut, sushi, a cupcake, a carrot. Unfortunately, it seems some ants have arrived at his appendage picnic too. Brandon will gladly show his whole range of tattoos, from the Simpsons paraphernalia left leg, to the huge mosquito on his neck that he amusingly claims is the Minnesota state bird. By just giving Brandon a quick look you can learn a whole lot about who he is.

Advertisements

My favorite breakfast

•February 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I worked as a sushi chef for a few years. After 3 years of making sushi I- gained some pretty decent knife skills, learned how to bandage a cut on the finger rather quickly, kinda learned how to handle my sake while working with a razor blade of a knife, learned japanglish(the Japanese equivalent to kitchen Spanish), and acquired a natto addiction.

When I would arrive in the morning to the sushi bar there would always be a little rice left in the rice warmer from the night before. My favorite breakfast quickly became the easiest thing I could make when starving at 7am. Sometimes I wouldn't even bother with cooking the egg. Just crack a raw egg right into the hot rice and stir. So good.

Domilise’s becomes a po-boy legend

•February 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Hidden in a quiet uptown neighborhood, with no windows, one small hand-painted sign, and wood paneling that defines the word “weathered,” stands one of the most unknown yet well-known sandwich shops in the big easy. At Domilise’s, on the corner of Annunciation and Bellecastle, you can have the best po boys in New Orleans, if you can find it.

The smell of fried seafood accosts you immediately upon entering. Several family members work contently behind the counter. Fresh baked French bread as long as a baseball bat protrudes from brown paper bags. Local shrimp and oysters are being fried by the handful until golden, and then meticulously stacked onto the bread, topped with shaved lettuce, pickles and mayo.

The small room is filled with memorabilia showing its age. Old beer cans, Barq’s root beer signs, Tabasco bottles, baby pictures, prom pictures of possibly the same people, and more wood paneling. In the corner, an old jukebox, most likely pumping out some Dr. John or Fats Domino. Most of the decor appears to have been there since they opened. In the back of the room, there is a door leading to the rest of the house, this is where the owner, Dorothy Domilise, or Dot, lives.

Dot and her husband Sam inherited the restaurant/house from Sam’s father, who opened the restaurant over 80 years ago. Sam died in 1981, and since then Dot has been the “Guardian of the Tradition.” Dot has lived in the house and operated the sandwich shop for almost 67 years. Without Dot, Domilise’s would most likely no longer exist. Thankfully, Dot has kept the tradition alive and plans on doing so forever.

Everyone that walks in the door is treated like family. Most of the customers are local uptowners. Many were brought to Domilise’s by their parents when they were kids, and now bring their kids. It’s not uncommon to see Dot conversing with multiple generations of one family, all in for a Saturday lunch together. It is obvious the customers mean a lot to Dot. She cried when some of her favorite students graduated and left New Orleans.

Dot has lived in New Orleans since 1943, and never plans on leaving. Dot grew up on a plantation in Southern Louisiana in the 20s. She met her husband Sam when she would visit her aunt and uncle in New Orleans. She later moved to New Orleans, and fell in love with the city. She plans on spending the rest of her life there.

That was before hurricane Katrina. In the early morning on August 29, 2005, hurricane Katrina made landfall on the gulf coast leaving a path of death and destruction forcing nearly half a million people out of their homes.

Dot was forced to evacuate to Alabama and then Franklin, LA where she grew up. Domilise’s was closed for months. She returned to find her restaurant and house much like her life at the time, in shambles.

Dot decided to stay and rebuild with the support of her family.

The smell of the rotting food in the coolers smelled like dead bodies according to Patti Domilise, Dot’s daughter-in-law, who now helps run the restaurant.

Many that has returned have said that one of the most horrifying parts of cleaning after Katrina was the smell of food that had been sitting for months without electricity. Despite the food funk, the family kept working every day towards reopening.

“Luckily, we didn’t have to do anything to the wood furniture,” said Dot. No doubt, the weathered furniture now better compliments the overall décor.

After replacing all the equipment and spending a lot of time cleaning mold, the restaurant was up and running again. Much like the rest of the city, things were starting to get back to normal.

Now, if you talk to a native, they will most likely tell you how well the city has recovered. The crime rate is down since Katrina, and the murder rate has dropped 15 percent.

Recently voted the greenest city in America, New Orleans has become the fastest growing city in the country as well. Thousands of evacuees and opportunistic investors have migrated to New Orleans each year since the storm. New construction is happening around every corner.

The city looks “maybe a little better now,” says Dot.

Most of the acclaimed restaurants have returned. Camellia Grill, another favorite among locals, was covered in hundreds of come-back-soon/we-miss-you post-it notes before it finally reopened its doors. Locals are loyal, and they take their food seriously.

In New Orleans, life is for enjoyment. This outlook on life played a large part in the decision by many to return. For Dot, it was an easy decision.

“There is no place like it,” said Dot. “It’s home.”

She never plans on leaving the city she loves again. Domilise’s business is as good as ever.

My favorite breakfast, or late night drunken snack…

•February 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Chicory coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde in NOLA

Cured Monterey Sardines

•February 9, 2011 • 2 Comments

Monterey Sardines

Not long ago I was in Tahoe skiing.  We were at the top of the mountain having a beer break when a skier sat down next to me and pulled out a can of sardines.  He quickly scarfed down the snack and headed back to the 12 inches of fresh gnarpow.  I thought to myself…brilliant.  A quick protein burst for the end of a long day of riding.  A delicious one to boot.  I now carry a can of sardines with me any time I ride.  I love em, can’t get enough.  Thanks random skier dude that sat next to me!

I recently picked up some fresh sardines from the market and decided I should cure my own for the next snowfall(which has been way too long).

I started with the tedious task of filleting the little guys.

 

 

 

 

Start the cutting process just like you would with any other fish.  When you cut the back, stop when you get to the ribs.  You should be able to peel the fillet away from the rib cage, leaving behind the rib bones.  Flip the fish, and make one incision along the back from head to tail.  After that you should be able to pull the tail towards the head and peel away the whole spine and ribs, cutting anything left connected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now cover the fillets with salt for 1 hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wash clean with cold water and submerge in a mixture of 1 cup rice vinegar, 1 cup white wine, 1/3 cup Mirin for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes the fillets will look white like they’ve been slightly cooked, like ceviche.  Remove from brine and cover with olive oil and fresh herbs.  You can add  additional flavors to the oil if you choose(garlic, peppers, citrus, etc).  Go nuts.  Get creative.

The homemade cured sardines were better than their canned competition.  The next time I made them I smoked them lightly with mesquite for about 10 minutes.  They were even better with the added smoke element.  Salty, tangy, smokey delicious little fishes.

You know it’s a good butcher shop when…

•February 8, 2011 • 1 Comment

Whole pig in the window!

Greenhorn

•February 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

green·horn/ˈgrēnˌhôrn/

Noun: A person who is new to or inexperienced at a particular activity.  i.e.– me

It feels good to be a rookie.  A fresh start.  No expectations.  My first blog.

My name is Scott Graf, I am a chef and a journalism student at San Francisco State University.  I am up every day at 6 a.m., and in the kitchen by 7ish, depending on the time in which coffee enters my body.  I am a sous chef at a San Francisco fish house.  Every day I play with food and try to make things taste good.  Sometimes I fail.  Often I succeed.  On top of cooking, I also go to school at night.  I am in my third or fourth semester at SFSU(When you’ve been in school since 98 you start to lose track).  This semester I am taking an Intro to Online journalism class and this blog will be the result of it.  The blog will focus on food.  There will be recipes, pictures, and anecdotes about food.  More so, there will be stories of cooks and chefs and dishwashers and runners and prep guys and expediters and so on.

I enjoy reading about food.  Many of my friends think its odd to read a cookbook much like one would read a novel, but I like it cover to cover.  My favorite is reading cookbooks written  in other languages.  I like to guess what the words are based on the pictures.  I must be right most of the time.  Although, judging by some of the recipes I’ve used, I’ve definitely lost some ingredients in translation.

Not so long ago, I was quoted saying blogs were less newsworthy than hard news.  I then contradicted myself by reading more food blogs than hard news stories.  Obviously, it was newsworthy to me.  Fellow food blogger Michael Procopio states a similar initial feeling about blogging in his “about me.”  The more I learned about blogging the more I felt it was necessary in todays world filled with tech-savy consumers.  The ability to inlay multimedia and link to anything makes the possibilities endless.  This is the future.

Speaking of the future, Check out Eat.Blog.Love.The future of food.  Food writers and lovers are coming together to discuss the future of food.  The industry has been changing quickly over the past few years, and with television shows like Top Chef and the like, it has even become trendy.  I thought us kitchen folk were the outcasts…what happened?  There is even a food blog about food blogs now.  Food blogs are entertaining, but they may make you hungry.  If you do get hungry, there are even food blogs about where to get good food.  For example, let’s say  your in L.A. and you have a hankering for something in particular, you can read Eating L.A. for some food for thought.  Here in the food mecca of the United States, San Francisco is fortunate to have a metric shit ton of blogs devoted to it.   A couple of my favorites are–EaterSF, Insidescoop SF.  In San Francisco, we are the ones that start national food trends.  Being green, we probably started that, I don’t know.  Farm direct produce and eating local are among the top trends in food right now.  San Francisco is a shining example with it’s booming farmer’s markets.  It’s seems that each week a new market pops up around the corner.  You can now find a farmer’s market in the city every day of the week– I’m not sure that many, if any, other cities can say that.  Farmer’s Markets are temporary homes to food trucks as well, another hot trend right now in the bay area.  People like Matt Cohen, founder of Off the Grid and SF Cart Project, are helping this trend along quickly.  So, now food is mobile, but slow too.

As a chef, I’m into the “Slow Food” movement.  At my restaurant we use all local and sustainable when possible.  Sustainability is a popular subject right now and information on sustainability is everywhere.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a “Seafood Watch” website which teaches you about what fish you should and should not eat.  Surprisingly, many of the most popular fish you see on menus, are considered fish you should “avoid.”  Even Obama is talking about food.  White House food initiatives and other bipartisan bytes of food politics can be found at Obama Foodorama.  This site tells you things anywhere from the whimsical “the best White House recipes for the Super Bowl” to the serious “2010 dietary guidelines released.”  If serious is not your cup of tea, then maybe something more lighthearted like “The Amateur Gourmet.”   Sites like this offer many different things from recipes to lists of funny food movies.  There is really something for everyone on the ol’ interweb.  Ya just gotta find it.  Check back for more blog posts that I promise will suck less than this one.