Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Food Splurges I Still Make

At the Stranger, we're working on a group piece about the places we still go out to eat. For me, the list is pretty short--primarily Afrikando Afrikando, a terrific Senegalese place down the street from my house, but also Ali Baba, a falafel-and-shwarma joint on Capitol Hill, Green Leaf, a tiny Vietnamese place in the International District, and the taco bus by my house. I still splurge on food; it's just that my splurges these days consist of the things I bring home, not the places I eat away from home. Here are a few:

• Fresh oysters, served freezing cold with lemon and horseradish, about $7 a dozen at the farmer's market.

• Locally produced, free-range chicken (the anonymous chicken "parts" at the supermarket scare me).

• Fancy sodas, like Dry Soda or Dad's Root Beer.

• Organic almost-everything--especially root vegetables, which absorb everything that's put into the ground they grow in.

• High-quality spices (I make my own spice blends, like curry powder, but I buy the best spices I can find.)

• Fancy pasta. I'm convinced that certain pasta shapes--like pappardelle--just taste better than the ones you more commonly find mass-produced, like fusilli and spaghetti. I don't know where I got this, but I'll frequently spring for hand-cut pasta in interesting shapes.

• Bottled salsa. Yes, I could make my own (and frequently do, in the summer). But after spending most of my life in Texas, I can't go more than a day or two without indulging my salsa craving. Emerald Valley's organic hot salsa is the closest approximation I've found in the Northwest of hot Texas red sauce.

A lot of people are trying to cut their food budgets these days--hardly a day goes by the the New York Times doesn't make some mention of saving money by eating in. (For example.) And while I know I'm far from the only serious home cook turning to convenience foods to save time and money, I was pleased to see Kathleen Flinn's recipe today for doctored instant ramen. By tossing the MSG spice pack, adding some nutritious stuff like tofu and green onions, and ramping up the flavor with miso, sricha, and cilantro, she elevates a 33-cent packet of ramen into something that sounds not just edible but actually delicious.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. Three Cheers for Ali Baba. I took Nicky on Piano there.