Category Archives: Good Cooking

On the Fly is SO fly

L-R: Brick 29 and On the Fly owner and chef Dustan Bristol and manager Doug Stinson cranking out sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts for the lunch hour crowd. Photo by Jeanne Huff

L-R: Brick 29 and On the Fly owner and chef Dustan Bristol and manager Doug Stinson cranking out sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts for the lunch hour crowd. Photo by Jeanne Huff

I have a new favorite sandwich joint. It hasn’t been open long — officially, just a few weeks — but I have been there about 10 times already and have tried just about every sandwich and soup of the day. Everything is delicious. At least for this comfort food loving girl from Kansas, it is truly comfort food kicked up a notch. Well, actually, quite a few notches.

And that’s exactly what On the Fly’s chef and owner Dustan Bristol intended when he came up with the idea. It’s what he had in mind when he added bacon jam to his egg salad sandwich. When he decided to take on that mother of all comfort food sandwiches – bologna. He remembered his favorite bologna sandwich from his childhood. “My grandparents had that bologna with the olives in it,” he says. And, of course, they served it on Wonder bread with mayo. So, his take on the classic bologna sandwich includes green olive tapenade, aioli, organic arugula, sliced tomato and house-made bologna — “that way I know what’s in it,” he says — on white bread custom made for Bristol by Mathieu Choux of Gaston’s Bakery. “It’s like Wonder bread on crack,” he says with a smile.

I don’t doubt it for a minute. I am one of the addicts that start lining up around 11 a.m. hoping to grab one of the sandwiches at the ready — the egg salad and the bologna regularly sell out early. Or, if I’m feeling extravagant, I might sidle up to the counter and order a fresh, made-to-order hot sandwich. The regulars include grilled cheese Panini (sharp white cheddar, Monterey jack, shaved red onion and pear), a Reuben panini (with house Louie dressing and Swiss cheese fondue and roasted cabbage tossed in vinaigrette in lieu of sauerkraut) and a daily special.

My friend Jason says On the Fly’s roast beef sandwich (with Manchego cheese and house made Bearnaise aioli on a baguette) is the best he’s ever had.

All the usual suspects are there so whatever your go-to comfort sandwich is, you won’t be disappointed; rather, you and your taste buds will be delighted: turkey (house brined and rotisserie-cooked with roasted red and green peppers, smoked gouda cheese, aioli and dried chili pesto on baguette), chicken salad (again, house brined and rotisserie-cooked chicken tossed with vinaigrette, fennel, red onion, raisins, blue cheese crumbles, fresh basil, toasted walnuts with aioli, organic arugula and sliced tomato) and how about this: cashew butter and jelly (house-made cashew butter, boysenberry conserve and fresh banana on that better-than-Wonder-bread bread).

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of other sandwich places downtown, many of which are pretty good to great: there’s the Bleubird (my second fave), Subway and of course Jimmy John’s, to name a few. And there are restaurants aplenty where you can get sandwich specials of the day as well. You can get a sandwich that will satisfy your lunchtime hunger in any of those establishments (the Bleubird will tickle your taste buds with panache, but you have to wait on line, and some of the fare is a little more spendy). At On the Fly, most sandwiches are grab-and-go, and cost about five bucks, a few a bit more, some less. And that’s a pretty great price point for deliciousness. The place also has ramped-up soups, salads and desserts. I dare you to sink your teeth into the Rice Whiskey Treat (think of  your childhood’s rice krispie treat on steroids — comes with salted caramel sauce for dipping) and not flutter your eyes in OMG ecstasy. And if you like breakfast sandwiches, I highly recommend the Croque Madame (fried egg, house ham and Swiss fondue). The only downside I could find on my trips there was that if you want one of the hot sandwiches that are made to order, you do have to wait a few minutes while they make it. But in my experience, the end result was worth the wait.

Bristol, also owner and chef of Brick 29 in Nampa, says he modeled the sustainable, local, whole food, real food, grab and go concept on the trendy and wildly popular Pret a Manger, that started in the U.K. and now has locations in Hong Kong and New York. And, he already has plans to take the entire On the Fly enterprise up a notch or two: he envisions online ordering and bike delivery service in the near future that will rival that of the competition’s. “I would love to have a concept I could standardize and duplicate. We want to be aggressive. I think we offer a better value than Jimmy John’s.”

He wants to be the sandwich king.

One bite is all it will take to know that if anybody can take on Jimmy John’s, Bristol can.

 

IF YOU GO:

On the Fly, 800 W. Main, Suite 200. 344-6833. http://ontheflydeli.com.

On Facebook: On the Fly Rotisserie Deli.

It is in the new Eighth and Main building in downtown Boise. Just hang a right at the top of the escalator.

Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Sandwiches, soups, salads, desserts. Also grab and go entrees.

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EEEE!! Look out behind you! It’s the Halloween good news roundup

Photo by Brad Talbutt

Yep, that’s me.

A few years back, I convinced a group of my friends to help me check out some local spooky spots for Halloween. As you can see by my nonchalant mug, I was oblivious to any of the assorted scare tactics the zombie dudes were trying out, including those silly old chainsaws.

OMG, who am I kidding, those chainsaws are freakin’ SCARY, do you SEE the look of sheer, raw fear on my face? That face, ladies and gentleman, is a rictus of pure, unadulterated terror. I thought I was gonna die!

But seriously, it was a lot of fun and I am posting the photo for your Halloween pleasure and hopefully, to provide my tagalong friends a little blast from the past (Ted, Janice, Grant, Susanna, Amy, Kathleen, Brian, Brad: DON’T GO BACK! The scarecrow man is REAL!!).

But the real reason I posted that photo was to get your attention. I have a wonderful announcement to make and, unlike the daily newspaper that, appropriately enough, focuses on today’s and tomorrow’s news, I’m going to do a follow on a previous First, the good news story.

I just got off the phone with Greg Morris, director for Charitable Assistance to Community’s Homeless, or C.A.T.C.H. and he said the Harvest for Homes fundraiser for the Canyon County branch was a huge success: They were able to rake in about $15,000!! All to benefit homeless families with children. Catch C.A.T.C.H. of Canyon County on facebook.

I was doubly sad I hadn’t been there because not only was the place packed, the entertainment was spectacular. With dueling pianos as accompaniment, Tom Dale, mayor of Nampa, and Garret Nancolas, mayor of Caldwell, both grabbed microphones and crooned a few tunes to the delight of all.

“What a great night and it was wonderful to be able to explain our program to so many,” Morris said.

Finally, I would like to leave all you ghouls and goblins with a seasonal recipe. This is a special dish recently handed over to me by a former colleague (thanks Bridgett!). It may sound a little scary but don’t worry— so did those chainsaws and look how great that turned out!

CASSEROLE IN A PUMPKIN
Ingredients:
1 med. pumpkin (make sure it will fit in the oven)
2 pounds ground beef
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped green pepper (I used red; same dif)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 4-ounce can sliced mushrooms
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups hot cooked rice, Uncle Ben’s (not instant)

Method:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheet and clean out pumpkin (this is the gross and tedious part but bright side— free pumpkin seeds!). Save the lid.

Saute onion, celery, green (or red) pepper in 1 tablespoon oil. Add beef; simmer until browned. Add remaining ingredients including rice. If you want, you can also add 1 can of water chestnuts (I didn’t add them because Bob has an aversion to them, I have no idea why).

Fill pumpkin with the mixture and replace the lid. Bake 1 hour until pumpkin is tender.

When serving, scoop pumpkin and eat with casserole.

For dessert, here’s another spooky little blast from the past. Boo!

Good chat!

Carol Ann and Michael Boss

Carol Ann and Michael Boss


Since starting this blog project, I have been bowled over by support and helpful suggestions. Being the sole reporter and editor, I’m doing my best to keep up, but I’m more than happy to tell you: there’s a lot of good news out there!

In this chapter — actually, this might even suffice as a Web-sized tome — I introduce to you Michael Boss. Boss is a fellow Web entrepreneur. He started his own Web site:

http://www.behindthemenu.org/Behind_the_Menu/Welcome.html

and his game is all about food. And local restaurants. But, as you will discover, Boss is, well, his own boss, and, like Thoreau once wrote, he’s taken the restaurant review less traveled. Boss’s delightful restaurant revelations fall more into the category of fireside chats with each restaurant owner.

Intrigued, I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on Boss. The result is a comfortable, relaxed conversation. I’ve not yet met Boss in person, but I know when I do, it will be like meeting an old friend. I invite you to pour a cup of coffee (or glass of wine), set out a plate of sweets (or hors d’oeuvres) — and enjoy.

JH: Can you tell us a little about yourself, please? Sort of a mini-bio?
MB: (I was) born and raised in San Francisco between the era of the Beat Generation and the Flower Children (I went to the same junior high as Jerry Garcia, thanks for asking). I credit growing up in The City with one of the things that motivates me to write about food: the recognition that the world is full of a lot of amazing cultures and traditions that all find their way into what we eat.

This conviction was further reinforced by living a number of years in the Middle East, where, at one stage, I taught rotary wing aerodynamics to Irani army cadets in the legendary city of Esfahan. Throughout my world travels I became increasingly fascinated with culinary traditions and with how the subject of food can unlock so many stories about place, tradition, and ethnicity that few other subjects invoke with so little controversy.

Having had my own public relations agency in Boise for ten years, I got to know a number of local restaurant owners through a marketing program sponsored by SYSCO. The program evolved into more of an advertising co-op model, which was a disappointment to me in that my interest was in the multitude of stories behind the menu items of locally owned restaurants.

The conventional media pipeline didn’t allow for those stories to be told, and it took another five+ years for the technology of Web 2.0 and social media to create the kinds of tools and communities to allow for the audacity of creating my own “media source” for local restaurants to tell their stories.

And then, of course, losing my job as the PR Manager and Media Strategist at MPC Computers gave me the perfect excuse to follow my muse. Necessity is, if not the mother of invention, than at least the father of opportunity.

JH: Michael, your Web site “Behind the Menu,” features local restaurants. However, instead of it being a clearinghouse, listing or even a collection of reviews, your Web site is more about taking a look at what goes on behind-the-scenes. Can you tell us a little more about your Web site’s mission statement?
MB: Good insight, Jeanne. You’re right. This is not a directory or site for conventional restaurant reviews. I find both of those to be limited in their story telling potential, and there are already some good sites out there for listings and reviews. My personal favorite is http://www.idahoeats.com. (It’s a ) great concept, and really well executed except for all the Google Sense ads.

If you look at the title on my business card, it’s “Culinary Raconteur.” The mission of Behind The Menu is just what the name suggests: to tell the stories behind the food in local restaurants and businesses that make up the culinary environment in the Boise Valley.

What is the experience that a chef/restaurant owner is trying to create for the customers? What are their inspirations and associations with the foods they serve? What are their relationships with local growers and producers? What are the family and ethnic influences on their cooking? What culinary causes are they passionate about?

You can walk past the double fudge brownies at the Brick Oven Bistro and never know that the recipe came from a legendary culinary diva of Denver who used to hold court with visiting celebrity chefs. If you knew that story, you’d never again think about that brownie in the same way. That’s the story I want to tell — more to the point, that is the story I want people to hear from the restaurant itself through the podcast series (now available on iTunes as “Local Food, Local Voices,” by the way).

JH: How did you get so involved with food? Did you spend time in the kitchen as a child? Fascinated with making mud pies? What’s the story?

MB: I came to the kitchen late in life, but now do most of the cooking at my house. I love to cook.

You also have to go back to the answer to my first question. My very first epiphany around food came during my sophomore year in college, which I spent in the South Indian city of Bangalore. The food was a VERY powerful experience, and I realized that it embodied so many things about the culture that you couldn’t have learned as powerfully in any other way. To this day I believe that you can’t really begin to know a culture until you learn to speak at least some of the language and eat the food.

Those two things will tell you a lot about how other cultures perceive the world. I also discovered along the way that when you ask people about their relationships with food, you’ll learn a lot about them that other questions might not have uncovered. It’s a safer subject than politics and religion, but it can tell you a lot about both of those as well as others.

JH: What’s the funniest story you’ve heard during your interviews?

MB: Funny you should ask! I think it actually came out of this morning’s interview with Chef Lou Aaron (the Behind The Menu blog and podcast will be posted this coming Monday).

MB: Chef Lou earned his chops in the biz by starting in the “dish pit” of the Gamekeeper. He got “promoted” to pantry chef, and one of his duties was to prepare king crab legs. The process resulted in his going home each night with bloody hands. He told me that to this day he still has nightmares involving what many would consider a delicacy!

JH: Most touching story?

MB: Has to be Michael Mohica’s story from Ono Hawaiian Cafe. Michael started his culinary career as a little boy cooking with his grandmother. She died last year, and was never able to visit the restaurant that her grandson created, although she did see photographs. If you read one of the comments to the blog about Ono, you’ll see that one of his family members wrote about how proud their grandmother would have been.

Having that connection with my food as a chef would sure make me put an extra dollop of love into whatever I served. It’s not just food, it’s memories of a much loved grandmother that I’m sharing with the people who come to my restaurant.

That’s powerful stuff. I want people to know about that connection when they eat Michael’s food!

JH: So, Michael, how do you choose your subjects, how do you decide where to go next?

MB: In getting this project off the ground, I’m initially going with places I’m familiar with and recommendations from people whose taste I trust. My rule of thumb is that while I don’t write reviews, I won’t write about any place that I wouldn’t want my family or friends to experience. You know the feeling that you have when you recommend a restaurant to someone you love, and they call you one day and say, “wow, thanks so much for that recommendation — that was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.” That is giving someone you love a special gift.

As time goes on, I’m going to “mine” the Idaho Eats Web site and seek out the places that are getting the best user-generated review buzz. I know it sounds snobbish, but since I don’t take money for content creation, I have the journalistic prerogative of writing about what pleases me or captures my attention based on word-of-mouth (which is what this site is all about to begin with). Over time, I’d like Behind The Menu stories to be associated with recognizing the best restaurants, chefs, and culinary businesses, whether the subject is a steak house or a local winery. Presumptuous, perhaps, but as Robert Burns said, “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” I said that in my best brogue, by the way. (Smiles.)

JH: Where will you go next?
MB: Damned glad you asked that question, Jeanne! On Monday my partners (Scott Nicholson, a local commercial real estate agent, and Brian Critchfield, a social media visionary and ace marketing maven) will be hosting a focus group at the BSU Culinary Arts Program. We’ve invited a number of local restaurant owners, who will be attending along with some of the culinary program faculty who are intrigued with the Behind The Menu concept.

During the focus group we’ll be teaching some basic social media skills that a restaurant owner can put to use the minute they get back to their office/kitchen. We are also going to introduce a social media association concept that we hope to refine through restaurant owner feedback, and that will provide ongoing social media marketing services to deliver the content that the site creates around our local food scene.

Ultimately, it will be the association fees along with sponsorship from non-restaurant culinary businesses who want to reach the local foodie audience that will pay the freight for creating the content in an “ad free” environment. We are taking a more innovative approach to the business model that we believe is in keeping with the more innovative nature of social media as a marketing strategy.

I don’t believe in pouring new wine into old skins. We also want to form relationships with other organizations who promote local businesses, which would include the Downtown Boise Association, Think Boise First, Buy Idaho, etc. We share their belief that the high tide floats all boats.

Finally, we want to find ways of using the site and social media model to create interesting synergies between different members of the culinary community. Imagine events, promoted through “Tweet Ups” (Twitter gatherings) that are culinary-themed, such as pairing chocolate and wine, or that tie some of our restaurants to historical subjects (imagine Bar Gernika and the Basque Block history), or that feature “progressive meals” with a particular ethnic theme?

And we haven’t even touched on the content possibilities with creating a YouTube channel for five-minute video vignettes, or guest blogs, or inviting well known community folks to do a podcast interview at a favorite local restaurant to talk about their connection with its menu.

The mind spins…Which also leads to another potential revenue stream: content syndication.

But the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and the first step is simply telling one good story, then the next one.

JH: Wow. That “big-picture” future is, well, I won’t say mind-boggling, but it does offer food for thought. What’s next for you, Michael? A book? Oprah?
MB: I used to do a seminar presentation entitled “Be Your Own Oprah” based on the belief, which is fast coming to be common wisdom, that social media and Web 2.0 tools that I can access by simply opening up my MacBook can make any of us the Oprah of our own community, depending on how we define “our community.”

Right now, I want to be the Oprah (or at least the white, middle-aged, male version) of the local restaurant scene. My community will decide if they want to bestow that honor upon me, and I trust their judgment.

Book? Probably not, but we’ve already talked about rolling the “long form” blog and podcast stories into Web site profile pages for each of the participating restaurants. No reason these profiles couldn’t be packaged as print pieces for the hospitality industry as “Signature Dishes of Boise.” I’m open to whatever digital media opportunities grow organically from the single-minded intention of telling the “tales of culinary adventure from the City of Trees.”

JH: Would you like more input/suggestions from local gastronomes?
MB: Absobloominlutely! I’m a big believer in collaboration, and in taking an idea that you think is a good one, sharing it with people whose creativity you trust without the expectation of any particular outcome, and then seeing what develops organically. I’d hate to be tied to any project that depended on me being the smartest guy in the room! But then, like Groucho Marx, I probably wouldn’t join a club that would have me as a member.

JH: Michael, this has been a great interview. I think what you’re doing for local restaurants, getting their stories out, getting to the heart of the matter, is a great service. Is there anything we’ve left out, anything else you’d like to say?
MB: I’d like to thank the members of the Academy, my mother and father for always believing in me, and of course, Jesus. (Sorry, I’m a bit of an iconoclast, but I also know my priest would think that was funny. He’s an iconoclast too).

JH: Thanks Michael!
MB: Au contraire, Jeanne. Thank YOU!

Good drinks!

hurricane1If you’ve ever been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, no doubt you’ve tried one — or maybe two if you’re brave (or some would say “insane”) of Pat O’Brien’s famous Hurricanes. These are fruity drinks served in a distinctive swirly-shaped tall glass. Oh, and they also contain lots and lots of rum. Be careful if you imbibe and if you drink this aptly-named cocktail anywhere but home, by all means, call a cab!
Here are some recipes for all you brave (or insane) Mardi Gras revelers:

Hurricane Recipe
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice

4 ounces dark rum

4 ounces passion fruit syrup

Crushed ice

Orange and/or lime slice

1 Maraschino Cherry
In a cocktail shaker, add lemon juice, rum, passion fruit syrup, and crushed ice; shake vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes and then strain into a tall glass or hurricane glass.
Garnish with an orange and/or lime slices and a maraschino cherry.
Makes 1 serving.
http://whatscookingamerica.net/Beverage/Hurricane.htm

Hurricane, New Orleans Style recipe
Scale ingredients to servings
1 oz white rum
1 oz Jamaican dark rum
1 oz Bacardi® 151 rum
3 oz orange juice
3 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 oz grenadine syrup
crushed ice

Combine all ingredients, mix well (shake or stir). Pour over crushed ice in hurricane glass. Best enjoyed through a small straw. Garnish with fruit wedge if desired.
http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink4371.html

Good eats!

king-cake-doll-babyLet them eat cake!

If you want to throw your own Mardi Gras party, don’t forget to make a traditional King Cake — it’s just not a real Mardi Gras party without one. Here’s the fast down-low on King Cakes: the cake celebrates the Epiphany when The Three Wise Men brought presents to the baby Jesus — that’s why there’s a little plastic baby baked in the cake. It’s considered lucky if you get the piece with the baby in it — plus, you get to throw the next party. Check out the more complete history of the King Cake here:
http://www.mardigrasday.com/mardigras/history.php#kingcake

Here’s a recipe for the cake from the Mardigrasday.com Web site: http://www.mardigrasday.com/

King Cake
Traditional New Orleans Recipe
Ingredients
1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 – 4 1/2 cups flour unsifted
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest, this is lemon rind, grated
1/2 cup warm milk
5 egg yolks
1 stick butter cut into slices and softened, plus 2 tablespoons more softened butter
1 egg slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1″ plastic baby doll

Directions
Pour the warm water into a small shallow bowl, and sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar into it. Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for three minutes then mix thoroughly. Set bowl in a warm place for ten minutes, or until yeast bubbles up and mixture almost doubles in volume. Combine 3 1/2 cups of flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg and salt, and sift into a large mixing bowl. Stir in lemon zest. Separate center of mixture to form a hole and pour in yeast mixture and milk. Add egg yolks and, using a wooden spoon, slowly combine dry ingredients into the yeast/milk mixture. When mixture is smooth, beat in 8 tablespoons butter (1 tablespoon at a time) and continue to beat 2 minutes, or until dough can be formed into a medium-soft ball.
Place ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and knead like bread. While kneading, sprinkle up to 1 cup more of flour (1 tablespoon at a time) over the dough. When dough is no longer sticky, knead 10 minutes more until shiny and elastic.
Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl evenly with one tablespoon softened butter. Place dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire surface is buttered. Cover bowl with a moderately thick kitchen towel and place in a draft-free spot for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in volume. Using a pastry brush, coat a large baking sheet with one tablespoon of butter and set aside.
Remove dough from bowl and place on lightly floured surface. Using your fist, punch dough down forcefully. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top, pat and shake dough into a cylinder. Twist dough to form a curled cylinder and loop cylinder onto the buttered baking sheet. Pinch the ends together to complete the circle. Cover dough with towel and set it in draft-free spot for 45 minutes, or until the circle of dough doubles in volume. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush top and sides of cake with egg wash and bake on middle rack of oven for 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown. Place cake on wire rack to cool. If desired, you can hide the plastic baby in the cake at this time.
Colored sugars
Green, purple, & yellow paste
12 tablespoons sugar
Squeeze a dot of green paste in palm of hand. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the paste and rub together quickly. Place this mixture on wax paper and wash hands to remove color. Repeat process for other 2 colors. Place aside.
Icing
3 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 – 6 tablespoons water
Combine sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons water until smooth. If icing is too stiff, add more water until spreadable. Spread icing over top of cake. Immediately sprinkle the colored sugars in individual rows consisting of about 2 rows of green, p urple and yellow.
Cake is served in 2″ – 3″ pieces.