Touristas

03Jul10

Headed to Sonoma with the masses, camera fully-charged, bag packed w/summery clothes & sunscreen, and HUNGRY!

Admittedly, I’m somewhat averse to following the tourist herd.  (My parents helped shape this psyche I think!)  Major holidays tend to be spent away from the crowds.  But there’s a reason why people congregate in certain special places, right?  I’m looking forward to the serendipity that comes with having no reservations…literally.  In a life where I’m usually forced to fit inside a box, I will gladly embrace serendipity for the next few days.

I hope everyone else can do the same…Cheers!

Advertisements

Tick tock…

23Jun10

“What do you call it when everything intersects?”
“The Bermuda Triangle.”
Sleepless In Seattle

I can hardly believe that today is June 23, 2010. (It’s been almost 2 months since my last post…eek, which almost sounds like what you say in Confession…but I digress!)  Halfway through the year and it feels like it’s been such a blur.  It’s exactly the scenario I dread.   Boredom can be cured, but living in a vacuum is dangerous.  Madisyn Taylor recently called it “living subconsciously”, a combination of survivalism and “hiding behind technology”.  Either way, something’s gotta give.  What the hell have I been doing the last 8 weeks??  Don’t panic, I’ll just do a Cliff’s Notes version:

I took a few meetings about possible joint venture projects, none of which led to more than a few emails before a 2nd meeting that didn’t happen.

I had fun showing out-of-town guests how awesome it is to live and eat in the Bay Area.

Watched some movies, read a few books, and left work on time most of the time!

I helped one of my friends cook her very first meal from scratch!!  Now THAT was awesome.

The whole thing came about during a visit I had with my Very Busy Friends.  I call them that because, well, they are!  They’re fun, lovely, dynamic, successful young business people with a handsome young son.  Due to their relative proximity to Papalote, some other friends and I made our way over to their house with a heavy buzz and some burritos.  I vaguely remember the conversation going from “We never see each other enough” to “Let’s have dinner” to “It’d be cheaper for us to eat in” to “We rarely use our kitchen” to “I can show you how to make some stuff”…”For real??? OK!!”

Several text messages and about 2 week later, I was back at their door (daylight this time) with groceries and a game plan.  We went over basic pantry staples, how to pick most veg and fruit at the store.  Empowering her to take an active role and do a lot of the prep and cooking took much much longer.  But the reward was soooo much better!  We roasted chicken breasts on the bone, used some of it for salad and the rest in a white bean & chicken soup.  We roasted salmon filet in a foil package with green onion, ginger and soy.  And since it was late and we were starving, I showed her the basic components of a vinaigrette.  The smiles on their faces when we were done, and the pride with which she described what was on the table was AWESOME.  It had amazed me that someone so accomplished found the process of cooking so intimidating, so out of reach.  They were already on the right track, making baby food for their son.  But now this is a whole new level, and I’m so happy for them!  If it means that one night week is one less night with take-out, I call it a great start.

Speaking of take-out…I fell into a bit of a rut.  A lot of weekends away from the house meant no weekend trips to the market, or even a grocery store.  And after a few days I decided to see how the other half lived for a while.  I ordered from here and there, all types of cuisine, sometimes single-portion and others à la carte so there’d be leftovers.  I learned that I could never live like that.  I found that, when done on a consistent basis, it’s a very lonely thing to eat take-out every night.  I have this image in my head of Miranda from Sex and the City, getting “laughed at” by the girl in the Chinese restaurant because she ordered the same food all the time.  Those who know that episode also know that she wasn’t directly being laughed at.  But still…there’s a lonely component to the whole thing.  I still gravitate to the creative process of making food for oneself and others.  And frankly, there aren’t a lot of places I can afford to order from that don’t make me a little kuckoo crazy over time.  So much over-salting and sugar and corn starch!  Blechhh.

I came to realize that I took my previous post, after Auntie Pearl’s funeral, too much to heart…doing the “viva la vida” thing…and then veered off-course along the way.  There was a sense of focus very much lacking.  Rather, the focus was definitely there, but on too small a space.

Time to get up off the dirt.  Clock’s ticking.


It’s been a while…the following is kind of a blog-dump…

I feel as though the last few weeks have flown by.  Which is naturally what happens when you want things to slow down.

My dear friend lost a long battle with cancer this past Sunday.  She’s one of the greats.  Full of grace and heart and light.  True Aloha spirit.  From the moment we met she always brought a sense of peace.  She managed to be simple and complex at the same time.  Never judgmental, never naive either.  Her spirit will live on with those of us lucky enough to know her.  Especially her husband, two sons and daughter-in-law, grandson on the way, many other family and friends.  Due to the equal-opportunity nature of cancer, she was in her 50s when diagnosed, which stacked the odds further against her.  She outlasted many doctors’ expectations for survival, but after a few years her body just couldn’t withstand that damn disease from spreading.

By no means was she a gourmet-phile as many in the blogospere/Twitterverse/intelligentsia know themselves to be. (I will not incite the “f” word!) The words “salt of the earth” come to mind.  Hers was the kind of comfort food that brought actual comfort.  Wonderful things with her own spin like a stacked eggplant parmigiana — layers of breaded eggplant, tomatoes/tomato sauce, mozzerella, ground meat/sausage.  Classic meatloaf with beef chuck and just the right amount of dried spices.  Fried chicken, goulash, short ribs with mustard, etc.  Her husband is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, so Filipino food was more of a special-occasion thing.  They made it work.  It certainly never stopped her from liking the finer things, but I always looked forward to the delicious no-nonsense meals and conversation at their family table.

I’ve been in a funk since Sunday…actually even before that.  Her condition had deteriorated so quickly in the last couple of weeks…as expected.  It was conflicting to want to spend time with her, even if she’d only be awake for part of the time; and at the same time try to continue living and doing.  There were a few times where I’d jump when the phone rang because I was expecting “the call…that I didn’t wanna hear, but I knew that it would come.”  (Don Henley.)  When the call finally came, I felt like all the air went out of me for a few moments.

There is a big void in this world after she left it.  Tomorrow morning we say our goodbyes so to speak.  She didn’t want sadness or dark colors or mourning in the traditional sense.  Instead, she planned for a luau with bright colors, family and close friends, lots of Hawaiian food and the beach.  “Selfless to the end,” as her husband said.  She wanted a celebration of life.  Logically, I know I’m supposed to feel relieved because her pain is over and it’s now the time for everyone to move on and forward.  And I do.  But 5 days later I felt feel frustrated, sad, dare I say lost.

I’ve been trying with limited success to get in that mindset.  And then earlier this evening my phone rang.  It was Spice, telling me that she and her husband are expecting their first child.  Now, if that isn’t a sign (as well as blessing for our family!) I don’t know what is.  Suddenly, everything shifted in my brain and came into focus.

A celebration of life.

Life goes on, just like the Beatles said.  I have been truly privileged to have known a great woman and call her my friend.  Her legacy will continue to inspire long into the future, and God willing I’ll see her again someday because that’s what I believe.  As much as my heart breaks, I owe it to myself and to her to LIVE.  I’ve still got dreams to make real, people to love, laugh with and most importantly, FEED! (LOL)  And last but not least, the Spice-y little baby born into my family almost 25 years ago, is now a full-fledged lady/kidatheart/wifey/careerwoman/MOM-TO-BE!  Cheers to you, mon chou, on this next stage in your life.  I love you so much!  Thank you for helping me remember what’s important.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This past Saturday night, with Sav and G in tow, ventured out to Bay View for a semi-underground, VERY unforgettable 5-course meal by Dontaye Ball, aka Good Foods Catering of Alemany Farmers Market fame.

For me, it all started with a lot of Twitter buzz, then with this article, and after trading tweets and emails with Dontaye my friends and I were fit in for the 1st of 2 seatings.

The short answer is, It’s all about the bacon.  A cynic might say, “C’mon, bacon isn’t that hard to get right.  & everyone loves bacon.”  No no no no.  You need to try THIS bacon.  It’s smoky, a little sweet, it’s thick cut, it’s got a little something special that you can’t put your finger on…until you realize that it’s completely free of nitrates/preservatives.  Think I’m crazy?  Ask someone that’s had fresh-caught fish or eaten a salad with garden-t0-table veg.  Little things mean a lot.

So the format is 5 courses (the 5th being dessert).  Dontaye opens up his home to the guests, and tables are set on the bottom floor.  One of his sous chefs reminded us “Feel free to tweet between courses,” picture-taking was encouraged, and the room was easy like Sunday morning.  Obviously we were all paying for this privilage, but it really felt like a dinner party.  I wish I’d kept the card showing the wine selections — they were mostly Spanish or South American, and the Cava was goooood.

The slideshow is in chronological order, and I’m glad I managed to take pictures of each course!  Without getting too gushy, they were all great, but my highpoints for each course were:

  • 1st course: the spicy sweet kick of Eat Slow Jams with the bacon…velvety cauliflower soup chockabok with bacon flavor
  • 2nd course: the bacon “bits”, hands down. we all agreed that the grilled romaine, while delicious, was just a vehicle for the bacon, LOL
  • 3rd course: the seared smoked pork belly…damn.  all over the room you could hear people say “Oh my God” and “you won’t need your knife”. right before the course went out, Dontaye rolls up to us with a ziploc container and says “Smell this.”  BACON DUST.  I’m pretty sure he explained how it was made, but was too drunk off the smell to remember.  Ferran Adria would’ve been happy.
  • 4th course: “long-cooked greens” with bacon jus…the greens were perfectly cooked, and I think I could’ve done shots of the jus. Seriously.
  • 5th course: waffle. bacon. ice cream. bourbon.  ‘Nuff said.

I very gladly bought packs of the bacon to take home, packed in airtight bags for enjoyment/sharing in very the near future. ($7 per pound)

So if you didn’t know before, you do now.  Good Foods Catering is the bizness.  While Dontaye has done other dinners, he said that this was the first of what will (hopefully!!) be many All Bacon Dinners.  Follow @goodfoodscatering on Twitter, swing by the market where he & other great folks are pimpin’ delicious slow food.  And try not to miss out the next time!  (p.s. – his twin boys are adorable! meeting them was a fun bonus.)


It’s been a week since I left the desert, and I can still feel the heat.  My ears rang for 2 days before stopping.  The bruises have healed & my tan is already fading (perhaps due to my exposure to fluorescent lighting LOL).

Coachella.  An unforgettable weekend that came and went so fast!  I’m doing my best to recall it a week later, and because it’s my blog/my rules, this post might be a little more verbose than you’d like.  Too bad – hope you like the pretty pictures! ;-)  There’s no way I’ll post them all, if you’re jonesing for more just leave a note.

Thanks to Sugar‘s research, we’d bought tickets on the very first day and 2/3 days of music were our light at the end of the dark tunnel known as Tax Season.  The plan was leave work, get on a plane, and leave it all behind!  Prior 4/15’s have seen me flying to Hawaii and Vegas, so I’m just keeping w/tradition ;-)

Day 1: Friday
Due to some speed bumps in the itinerary, Sugar & I were flying in to SNA and driving to the desert. (Other friends were roadtrippin & would meet us there.) In the spirit of chillaxin, we hung out in Huntington Beach w/friends before breezin’ through the toll roads to get to Palm Springs/Indio.  And then…the realization of 10s of thousands of people all trying to take a bunch of 2-3 lane roads to the same place…


!@#$%^&*(

I remember actually jogging a little bit to get to the Outdoor stage, LOL!  To me, the energy was palpable.  Regardless of any extra-curricular motivation, you could tell that everyone was so damn happy to be there!!  Moving through the crowd, I could hear conversations in French, Spanish, Farsi, Korean, Cantonese, and English accents from across the USA/UK/Australia.  The sun began to set, and I saw what I’d always heard about the colors of a desert sunset.  (I’m sure it’s even better without all the lights, but it was pretty awesome.  My camera couldn’t do it justice, partly because I’d only owned it for 18 hours & barely knew how to use it…)

The photo doesn’t do the scene justice, but the best surprise for being that far back was seeing the screens broadcast in HD!

Admittedly, I never actually made the connection between listening to Passion Pit and knowing it was them.  But needless to say I wouldn’t be making the same mistake again!  They are an awesome band!


Round 2 with La Roux

With Jay-Z as the headliner at about 11pm, we had some time to kill.  Cel service was horrible (too many iPhones!) so I gave up on trying to meet w/the rest of the crew, went w/Sugar to La Roux.  They’d been recommended to me, and people were packing into the staging tent.  Being a concert addict, I’m *that girl* that sings along with the band and generally eats up the experience.  So it was like being a fish out of water having no frame of reference whatsoever, while these totally inebriated girls kept dancing into us and screamed along. (LOL)  La Roux defintely puts on a great live show.  If you’re old enough, imagine them in the synth-pop/rock genre, as an opening act for New Order, Depeche Mode, Human League & the like…which suits me just fine!


Young Forever: A Jay-Z show 14 years in the making

Say what you what, and people say plenty.  But I’m HUGE Jay-Z fan.  It’s gotten me into a lot of interesting conversations, i.e. “How can you like him, he’s so mysogynistic”, “He’s a sell-out”, “You like rap music?!” … blah blah blah.  But starting with Reasonable Doubt, I was a fan and that was it.  (Though he did make a few choices that had me shakin my head along the way…)   I’d missed many opportunities to see Jay-Z in concert, and vowed to break my losing streak this time!  (He was a much easier sell thanks to his “Empire State of Mind” single.) With some advance planning, we got a pretty decent position in the second section back.  But we also got our first taste of people trying to swoop in on the spots we’d worked so hard to stake out!  Our “neighbors” were all in agreement to keep our area safe from predators that had every excuse in the book.  One guy in particular kept rotating his excuses because for some reason he thought we’d forget him after 10 minutes.  Soon enough, the “hyping” countdown started, a 10-minute mix that kicked off with the Beastie‘s “No Sleep Til Brooklyn”.  It pretty much set the tone for the night in my opinion.

The set list led with “Run This Town”, with Rihanna’s part on tape.  I didn’t miss her absence, and had a fleeting thought to who might make an appearance because his latest album was chock-a-bock full of duets.  It was a thrill to have him perform both old songs and new, hits and B-sides, and see that a lot of the crowd were longtime fans also.  You could tell that he was having a lot of fun on stage too — he had his now-established set-up of full band (including horns), DJ, Memphis Bleek on backing vocal, digital set-up behind him, and the HD screens on either side.

Inevitably, “Empire State of Mind” was a high-point, and while Alicia Keys didn’t show, Bridget Kelly did really well.  (I felt bad hearing the boos at first, but they didn’t last.)  Jay also incited his Glastonbury ’08 performance with Oasis’ “Wonderwall” (one of my all-time faves!!).  I heard cynics talking smack about it the next day, and to that I say “Oh get over yourself!”

I guess now’s a good time to mention that the photos and videos I took were my personal enjoyment and for everyday sharing.  I’m not trying to make money off of them or help someone else make money off of them.  That said, if you repost these and call them your own or try to sell them, your fingernails will fall off and you’ll have diahhrea every day for the rest of your life.  Just sayin’.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah…

I hear someone behind me say “Sweet, we’re overtime already.”  And he’s right — even with our late start, we’re past the scheduled time.  (YAY!)  Almost as if he heard us, Jay starts talkin saying the same thing but that he’s got a few more songs in him.  With that he says “I wanna bring out a very special lady…”, and unless if you’ve been under a rock the past week, you already know who comes walkin on stage…
It was kind of adorable to see them being able to perform together without hiding how they felt about each other.  She sang the hooks for “Young Forever”, and with the crowd singing & cheering along, the fireworks took it home.

Day 2: “Our hopes and expectations…Black holes and revelations”

It was gonna be a tricky day because there were TONS of schedule conflicts.  Tough choices had to be made.  Temper Trap and Muse and Tiesto were top priorities, Tokyo Police Club, Kaskade, David Guetta, Z-Trip, MGMT, Camera Obscura, Corinne Bailey Rae, Gossip, Bassnectar, Sia… dilemma!!!

Sweet Disposition

Temper Trap started relatively early, so first order of business was to make that show.  In spite of an early start & a shortcut, traffic still had us cutting it super close.  But we made it and it was worth every minute.  To make it even better, we were able to link up with other friends and enjoy it together.  We had a false alarm thinking we were sitting near someone that looked like either a Victoria’s Secret model or Charlotte from LOST, depending on who you asked.  It didn’t matter because it was all about the band!!!!  I’m gonna have to say that their live show is better than the album, and I hope they record again soon!  They’re coming to town for BFD, for those in the Bay Area.

That Canadian flag you see was pretty much everywhere I went.  I should’ve asked that guy how he always staked out such great crowd spots!

(Yes, that’s a bra on his head.)

After Temper Trap, we had an open block of time to eat and figure out what the heck to do!  Schedules were negotiated, meeting places were designated and we were off to the races again.  S and I agreed that we’d forgo several acts to stake out prime spots for Muse, that evening’s headliner.  We’d be hangin’ out through Tokyo Police Club, Coheed & Cambria, followed by the Faith No More reunion.  S was in 1st grade when Faith No More had their hits, so that made for interesting context (LOL).  My thing is, I grew up around heavy metal (among other things), so even if I don’t know the band, I can appreciate a good shredder.  C&C put on a great show (they didn’t get a spot on the Main Stage for nothin) and finished off with part of the USC Marching Band on stage!  (Fight On, as my bro-in-law proudly says.)


(L-R: Coheed & Cambria w/USC Marching Band, Faith No More)

Faith No More took a fun approach.  They knew they were older, they knew that a lot of people there wouldn’t even know who they were.  So they show up in zoot suits, with their first song being “Reunited” by Peaches & Herb.  The confusion in the audience was HILARIOUS!  Yet most of them were singing along by the 2nd chorus.  By that time it became clear that everyone (yes, EVERYONE) around us was staking out for Muse just like us, which made me worry.  Then FNM started their true setlist and the mosh pit opened up immediately to my left…oh boy.  I thought to myself “Muse fans aren’t like that.  Right?  Nah…”

WRONG!  Never again do I have to wonder how it feels to be part of those oceans of people in rock concert videos.  IT SUCKS.  (Don’t give up on me, this story has a happy ending.)

Muse: Uprising

We met this guy during our “Muse stakeout”, he said it took 3 hours to make the flag. It looked so great, and it was featured on the jumbotrons. Yay!

To put things in perspective, S & I had been working our way forward for the past 4-5 hours or so.  We had what we figured to be a darn good spot front and center, with about 10-15 “rows” of people in front of us.  And then the waves of people pushing from the back started putting everyone closer and closer together.  Just when you thought you couldn’t get any closer…you did.  Couldn’t move your arms.  Surrounded by taller, sweaty people in the desert heat with half an hour before the show was going to start.

And then it did.

Everyone that had been sandwiched so tightly together suddenly lurched forward, and I got knocked into on all sides as people insanely tried to push in to our area.  One line of people actually managed to (literally) punch their way through on my right side and ran towards the front.  Muse started with 2 recent hits: “Uprising” followed by “Supermassive Black Hole”.  I spent the duration of both songs tryng to go with the flow (at one point I was tilted w/my feet off the ground) so that I could *try* to enjoy the song, or trying to avoid getting my @$$ kicked by moshers.  Seriously, moshing at Muse??  Luckily, my grunge metal days had me trained in beginner’s mosh pit self-defense.  After Supermassive, that was it.  S & I agreed to make our way out and meet after.  The only thing I could say to get people out of my way was “Do you wanna get in front of me?”  Eventually, I made my way into an open “puddle” and enjoyed the rest of the show from there.  AMAZING.

finally, some room to breathe!

!!!!

“breakin bread” w/some pyro

Knights of Celadonia

Anyone that wasn’t a fan before, absolutely was after a performance like that.  The range of musical talent was off the charts!!

Tiësto: Carpe Noctum

When the performance came to its inevitable end, the friends left & it was just me and Sugar hanging around for Tiesto.  It’s hard to describe/discuss a trance/house DJ performance, so I won’t bother.  I have no difficulty describing the CROWD though!  We were standing at least 20 yards away from the “edge” of the audience area for the Main Stage, which suddenly filled with people.  You could also see the more obvious “audience” area was already packed.  I might be totally off in my estimate, but it was as is Tiësto was in one endzone, and we were 100 yards away, with thousand of people dancing in between AND behind us!  The only other analogy I have in terms of sheer # of people is maybe Love Parade in Germany.  Estimates after the fact clocked in 75,000 people.  Personally I think that includes everyone that stayed that late for other acts, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  It was your classic rave-ish situation: near nakedness, people totally in another space & time, costumes (leftover deadmau5 fans?), neon lights.  I didn’t think it was Tiësto’s best, but overall it was a good performance.  Bonus for old-school fans: he remixed his original hit remix of Barber’s Adiago for Strings.  Good times.

And just like that, it was done.  Unfortunately, we would have to miss the Sunday lineup (including Thom Yorke/Atoms For Peace, Phoenix, Gorillaz, Jonsi, De La Soul, B.o.B., MUTEMATH, Matt & Kim) but considering everything I’d already seen and heard, it was easier to let go.  And the extra full day on Monday to recover was equally priceless.

There are plenty of other bloggers out there that railed all the bad points of the weekend, so I won’t bother spreading more negative vibes.  This year was definitely different than ones in the past (which I’d missed out on), and luckily I didn’t have to deal with a lot of the drama people tweeted/blogged about.  If they brought back single-day ticket options and had another killer line-up, I’d be pretty easily convinced. :-)


TGIF

23Apr10

Hello World!

I’ve been away, in more ways than one. So much to talk about! Watching the last few minutes of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, and unless I fall asleep at the computer (again LOL), there will be quite a bit of blog to chew on.

In the meantime, I have to ask: Do you know about the Food Revolution?  Do you realize how dire it is?  Have you signed the petition?
http://www.jamieoliver.com/campaigns/jamies-food-revolution/petition

Watch the episodes:
http://www.hulu.com/jamie-olivers-food-revolution


In case my first post about bacon didn’t give it away, most of what will be posted here will not be pleasing to vegetarians and vegans.

I love a good hunk of meat.  (Insert inevitable innuendo here.)

I bring this up because in my kitchen there is a rib eye steak from Prather Ranch, well salted and getting happy.  He and I are gonna have us a little sit down soon.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with retail therapy?  Without getting into too much detail, I was in the City earlier and wound up…all wound up.  My friends bless their hearts, listened as great friends will and said “You deserve a nice pair of shoes before you go home.”  I laughed but didn’t really think that was going to help this time.  (Besides, I just got a great pair 2 months ago…)  Fast forward some more and I’ve power walked all the way down Market St. to the Embarcadero.  I took some great mental photos of the new Embarcadero Zip Line (free until April 18th), mid-week tourists, skater kids and local eye candy.  After sitting and watching the ferries for a bit, I rang up Mr. G who works nearby and humored me for a Blue Bottle Mocha.  He also endorsed the retail therapy idea, but I said “You know, all I can really go for right now is a big steak.”

I knew deep down that Prather would have what I wanted, but I obligingly went to Golden Gate first, just to check.  They do have a LOT of great things (some of the best lamb sausage around!!), but today wasn’t the day.  Cowgirl Creamery pit stop for more Lamb Chopper and a couple of new goodies, then finally the MEAT STORE.  Is it wrong that I love the way that sounds?  It’s just so right!  After a nice chat with the Meat Man (I forgot to ask for his name!), I picked my prize:  A 1.2 lb cut of marbled beefy goodness.  And as soon as I said “this one please” I honestly felt better.  I smiled for the first time all day.

Mr. G. brought up something I hadn’t thought about in a long time: the scariness of cooking a “big piece of meat.”  “Easy to screw up” and “expensive” are definitely not terms that are nice to group together.  And people are still buzzing about this week’s “Techniques” episode of No Reservations, which included Les Halles’ côte de boeuf (double-cut rib steak … W-O-W).  Everything Tony said NOT to do, I or someone in my family had done once (or more) back in the day: cooked it while it was still a little cold, cooked it too long (I may never unlock the mystery of 7 minutes per side), flipped it too much, and yes the worst — cut into it before it had fully rested.  Luckily, I have entered my 30s with barely enough knowledge to treat a big hunk of meat with love and respect.  And I’m still learning!! In honor of Mrs. G., I’m going to attempt a step-by-step on “My Perfect Steak” in its simplest (yet detailed) form, so that perhaps Mr. G will have the courage to cook her a Big Piece of Meat!

For those who think I’m nuts, ask the Lobel family (butchers extraordinaire) or Jaden Hair (one of my favorite food bloggers & a TV personality based in Tampa).  Or scroll down.  Either way, enjoy!

My Perfect Steak (the indoor version)

4 Ingredients:
Steaks (I prefer rib eye, aka Scotch fillet/entrecôte/Delmonico…everyone’s got their preference. But if you can, buy it from somewhere that has an actual human being behind the counter.  It really helps!  The most expensive one is not always the best!)

Good salt (i.e. Kosher, Maldon, fleur de sel.  I rarely use iodized salt for marinating meat because it just makes things saltier.  Yes I realize how lame that sounds.  But if you don’t believe me, taste 1/8 tsp of table salt versus 1/8 of any other salt.  Or just read this.)  There are many other things which can be used to season/marinate a steak, and I’m not averse to them.  But for now, let’s keep it simple.

Butter (The Real Deal Holyfield!  I enjoy Smart Balance as much as the next girl, but PLEASE treat your steak better than this!  Otherwise, you’ll deal with the bubble and squeak of cooking all the things in your butter substitute that make it “healthier”.)

Olive Oil (Don’t waste your good Extra Virgin on this, just Originale or Light will do fine.  But if XV is what you’ve got on hand, don’t go shopping.)

What to do:

Take your meat out of the fridge at least an hour before you have to cook it.  (Seriously!)  Pat the steaks dry with a sturdy paper towel, because the last thing you want to see are remnants of a cheap napkin or towel stuck to your steak!  Transfer to a platter or plate where they can hang out before cooking.

Season LIBERALLY with the salt, sprinkling from a few inches above.  Please FIGHT the urge to just shake whatever shaker or container your salt is in over the meat.  Get primal, get visceral, just do it!  I wish I could tell you “one tablespoon per pound” or some kind of tried-and-tested magic number, but IMO that doesn’t exist.  You want to be able to SEE the sprinkled salt create an even coating before it melts.  If you’re really unsure, just start with 1/2 a teaspoon per side, per steak and work your way up. (*Note! This is a variation from Jaden’s recipe above, calling for a thick layer of salt, which is to be rinsed off after 15 minutes or more.  I have no problem whatsoever with that method, which by the way is yummy & very well researched.)

Don’t be afraid to hold the meat!  It’s the perfect way to make sure that the sides of your steak catch all the extra salt that ended up on the plate.  But alternatively, use a pair of tongs and handle gently.  PLEASE DO NOT use a fork, unless it’s your goal to create little holes for your steak’s juices to escape.

Then comes your first test: walk away.  Cover the steak(s) with plastic wrap for safety if needed, but that’s it.  Don’t poke it, flip it…nada.  For at least 30 minutes.  Chances are there’s a Friends rerun showing somewhere, watch at least one. :-)

Then and only then, put a cast-iron or other heavy-bottom, oven-safe skillet on the stove, and preheat between medium-high and high til it’s HOT.  For me, I’ve got an electric stove (sigh), so it takes about 10 minutes.  No joke!  While that’s going on, take out whatever you’re storing in the oven & get the top rack to the 2nd-3rd position from the top.  You want to make sure there’s adequate space between the pan and the top of the oven/oven coil. Preheat to 375 degrees.

Pat the steaks dry again on all sides, the salt has drawn out some moisture from the meat.  (Don’t be scared!)

If you have a brush (basting or pastry), pour out some XV oil into a small bowl & brush the steaks with it on all sides.
If you don’t have a brush, you can drizzle oil lightly on the steaks or coat the pan CAREFULLY with oil by first taking it off the heat.  I’ve done both, and while the latter does make things smoky you’re about to see a whole lot more.  (Get your fan on & windows open!)

Gently lay the steak(s) into the pan. Important to remember! 1) Lay them down going away from you (aka closest side to you down first) to minimize splatter or oil pops — trust me. 2) Do not, do not, do NOT crowd the pan.  Your average cast-iron skillet will fit 2 steaks comfortably with plenty of space around  each one.  You need that space to cook properly, unless gorgeous carmelization isn’t your thing & you want to steam your steak. ;-)

Once the meat is down, leave it the *beep* alone for 2-3 minutes.  I say 2-3 because it depends on the thickness of your steak.  I highly recommend consulting the Lobel’s chart, which is pretty universal & has never steered me wrong.  And I’m talking about a true medium rare steak, which I feel is the only way to go.  (Feel free to email me your thoughts on gray meat.)  So walk away, but don’t go far.  This would be a good time to get the butter out, if it isn’t already.

After the appropriate time, use your tongs and flip the steaks.  They should come away from the pan without resistance – if they don’t, give it another 15-30 seconds.  Avoid the urge to use a spatula!  You can spend the next 2-3 minutes patting yourself on the back for the beautiful sear yo got on that steak!  When you’re done (don’t get too excited yet) put the whole skillet/pan into the oven on the rack you set up earlier.  Use a timer to make sure you don’t overcook the meat in there!!!!

Along with the timer, you can hedge your bets by taking the temperature of the steaks in the center.  130-140 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare.  Transfer them to a (serving) plate and cover with foil for 5 minutes.

In our house, everyone gets their own steak or half of one.  So to serve, I say pick your (well-rested) steak, top with some butter and grab your side dishes!

P.S. — Fancy things to enhance your steak… to be discussed another day or better explained by others on the Internet:

–Make a compound butter to top the steak with — I like adding smoked salt , garlic confit, dried tarragon.  Florentines will extol the lovely pairing of rosemary and a good steak as well.  Jamie Oliver put me on the right path w/that during his “Naked Chef” days (OMG, 10 years ago?!) and I love it!  (Wish I could get those eps on DVD, but there’s always YouTube and my TiVo server, LOL)
–Toss some sliced mushrooms into the pan; their inherent water content will come out and make magic!
–Deglaze the pan with liquid (stock, wine) and butter to make a sauce out of those delectable brown bits — but if your bits are closer to black than brown, pour the wine into a glass instead & save the butter for your bread/rice/side of choice
–Have some fun with Magic Butter (beurre monté)
–Sprinkle minced chive over the top before serving — it’s a wonder what a little green can do!

The Great Reward