HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Category: Eat Me Drink Me (Page 1 of 6)

Rum tasting

Rum Tasting

I was asked to host a rum tasting for a customer’s birthday. At first I tried to convince them to taste whiskey, but they were pretty much set on rum. Fine, I like it all. But I had to educate myself on the island spirit. Ranging from light, dark, gold, flavored, spiced, and premium, Rum is, in truth, a kindred spirit to our own small island, Unalaska. Separated by the breadth of the Pacific ocean from our Caribbean brothers and sisters, we are an outpost of weird and wild weather and hard-working men and women. Whence one rocky mass of mountain and beach jutting out of the blue-green waters, so another, even so removed from similar climate, the lifestyle of the island dwellers can be derived of one culture – from water, life.

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Potuguese Food Road Trip

Portuguese Food Road Trip

Portuguese Food Road Trip

Days 3-4-5 – South of Lisbon, Portugal

I sort of specialize in border crossing, even triple border point. One of the highlights of my career in border-crossing was between Hungary and Slovakia, in a rented car. Epic. The one on foot at the triple border point between Slovakia, Ukraine and Poland still gives me the shivers. The one here and now was quite good, as it is a tiny tiny border, basically crossing a bridge. No custom station. Just a bridge and a guy with goats. Some goats had their legs hindered by rope, for, you see, “these buggers like to escape, especially this smelly one”, that was the old shepherd guy speaking, in a mixture of French (a little), Spanish (some) and Portuguese (a lot). And yes, it did smell like goat, even from inside the car.

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Spanish Food Road Trip - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Spanish Food Road Trip – The Good The Bad The Ugly

Spanish Food Road Trip – The Good The Bad  The Ugly

Day 1­-2 – Driving through Spain, not Portugal yet, so not the fastest way to get there, but still rushing, go figure…So the whole idea about the first part of the trip is to get to the south of Portugal as fast as possible. Then go up slowly and then get to France via Bilbao or so, then rush back. Therefore (and this is funny, you’ll see), I’m going to go north of Madrid via Contreras, which is a very very very small and lost village close by Barbadillo del Mercado, already far away from it all… You see, it’s to go to a fake cemetery. You don’t see? Alright, first things first, a recollection on how we got there, where we slept and, of course, what we ate.

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California Dungeness Crab Bisque

California Dungeness Crab Bisque

California Dungeness Crab Bisque

Crabbing on kayaks in Humboldt Bay is rewarding

When in Northern California, do as the Humboldtians do, go crabbing. Except when there is a harmful red tide going on. Then you don’t go crabbing. You go eating. But here’s what to do when you can go back in.

Crab. Dungeness Crab. Metacarcinus magister. Named by the English Naval Captain George Vancouver after the arrowhead-shaped headland in Kent, England, this super middleweight gets its name from the town of Dungeness in Washington’s Juan de Fuca Strait, the watery border between the U.S. and Canada. Native only of the Pacific coast with commercial fisheries from Alaska to Point Conception, California, “Dungies” are trap-caught, which allows for the release of bycatch (inadvertent fish caught in trap), and therefore considered sustainable by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

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Sushi American Style

Sushi American Style

Saucy and Deep-fried, that’s how I like my sushi.

Sushi’s expensive, so I look for something filling, like the Colossal Roll.

I don’t like the taste of seaweed, and they don’t have soy wrappers here–I don’t know why–so I get the inside-out caterpillar: lots of avocado!

— Typical statements heard at sushi bars all over the United States.

The fact that sushi is considered by many to be a “health food” makes one think about the current state of health in the U.S. Supposing that rice and fish–buried as they are in deep-fried, oil-soaked batter and spicy mayo–are healthier than hormone-filled CAFO-lot raised beef burgers is not completely crazy, especially if it’s the average American middle class citizen making the assumption. Consumers are seeking new food choices and quality appears to be chief among desires. Yet as the desire for better food makes economic headway in the market, we must also look to biological reasons as to why a cuisine as simple and delicious as Japanese style sushi got Turduckened into Franken-roll Sushi American Style.

Sushi American Style

Anago Nigiri - Simmered Sea Eel on Sushi Rice with Ginger Shoot

Anago Nigiri – Simmered Sea Eel on Sushi Rice with Ginger Shoot

Japanese style sushi is all about the fish. Less about roll-sushi and more about nigiri. Forget the overbearing sauce and taste the subtle flavors of vinegar and fresh raw fish, be they the upfront oily aji to the smooth, buttery sake or the creamy, oleaginous maguro or even the slightly sweet ama-ebi and anago, there are a vast frontier of undiscovered tastes within the world of Japanese sushi, each so exquisitely slight that to oversauce, or in the case of much of the rest of the world–to freeze anything that is harvested from the sea–is to destroy that delicate polish from a discerning palate.

In its own inverse way to the American version, it too is about size. But rather than an 8-piece roll deep-fried and doused in syrupy soy-based sauce, Japanese style sushi, what is called Nigiri-zushi, is really about the process of enjoying life’s small pleasures to the fullest.

Sushi American Style

Bitchin’ Roll – King Crab, Avocado & Cream Cheese – Deep Fried

Bitchin Roll – Deep Fried Sushi

The western most sushi restaurant in North America, Harbor Sushi combines the best of traditional Japanese sushi & pub food with an American edge. The Bitchin Roll–with fresh Alaskan King Crab, avocado, cream cheese rolled up, tempura fried, and topped with a sweet Unagi sauce–is a great example of that.

But let’s not misunderstand what’s going on. We are taking very delicate fresh seafood ingredients, wrapping them up in flavored rice and seaweed, slathering them in a tempura style batter, and deep frying them in 350 degree vegetable oil for 2.5 minutes until the cream cheese starts to melt. I didn’t actually eat one until I was pretty much black out drunk. By that time it was cold. But I ate three. Three Rolls. COld. Semi-soggy. They were still awesome. I did feel guilty the next day when I managed to remember it all.

To be clear, this style of “sushi” represents a kind of life that, despite my past, I no longer lead, so it is hard to come to grips with the shear sales that deep fried sushi generates. My purer inner self wants to take it off the menu and offer a crispy autumn leaf and barley tea instead with a dry winter twig for teeth cleaning. I cannot fathom the kind of person who goes into a sushi restaurant–sober mind you–and orders something like this willingly, thinking that they are getting anything like a traditional sushi experience. But maybe that’s the secret. It’s nothing like traditional. An even if it were, 1) they wouldn’t know and 2) they probably wouldn’t like it at all…So fuck it, enjoy.

Cooking with Craft Beer

Cooking with Craft Beer

Let’s get something straight. I am a middle-aged Caucasian American male married with small children. I work for a large corporation. I have a car and a house and all the different kinds of obligatory insurances and a smart phone and I play fantasy football and I drink beer and then instagram photos of the beer. I probably seem like a very typical person who is not very interesting to anyone whom I do not financially support, and even then only peripherally. Even I am mostly bored by me. Pragmatic and realistic, I have been tucking in button up shirts for what feels like years now. Compared to how I used to live–doing freelance photography while traveling abroad for years at a time on a shoestring budget, now writing this is as exciting as it gets. I remember when I was a child I used to get excited by so many different things, and what made me happy most was swimming at the beach amid the daily barrage of everything that felt so new. However fresh things may have been, I was always skeptical. I do remember feeling that the whole Santa Claus / Jesus ruse was always bullshit. The closest I ever got to feeling something about the Hand of God was if I went to the bathroom while watching a Dodger game, I swore that I had affected the outcome of the game (if I do #1 versus #2 will Fernando Valenzuela strike out Mike Schmidt? or will he homer?) Having somehow become a typical middle-aged white dude, I had to ask Well, what else is new?

...caramelized red onion relish with jalapeños, nonpareil capers, tomatoes, garlic, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and yes, beer, cooked slowly until yummy. Click To Tweet

Cooking with Craft Beer

It’s hard to stay saucy.

The old adage that Time Flies should be prefaced by (The Older One Gets…) Time just flies. This past year(s) has been a whirlwind. It feels as if it has been ages since I actually sat down to write something. All the ideas are still there (I hope…), but actually getting them down on–forget paper–screen, has been something of a challenge. But one of those intangible, foggy challenges one doesn’t realize even exists. You just wake up one day with words spilling out of your head and your fingers itching to get back to the keyboard and well, there you are. What had been (or perhaps it is better to put it, what had not been) happening prior to that could be any number and combination of minute chemical, psychological, or physical factors, which will indubitably go to fill that ever expanding pile of remaining a Mystery For All Time (or my MFAT ratio as I like to say…)

What is worth writing about these days? Wikipedia has cancelled this page, although this page will give you some results. Unique visitors are up but overall visits are down (is that due to actual living visitors perusing and lack of bots or something else…?). Urban dictionary has mixed reviews. There’s all the great music out this year. All the beer and books. But when you really think about what is important, long and lazy Saturday afternoons were born for gastronomic exploration and beer drinking. Experimenting with good food is a great way to please your spouse and avoid watching another goddamned Mickey Mouse video with the kids. Turn on some music, break out the dance moves and teach them how to cook! Cracking a couple of Belgian IPAs and American Saisons along the way not only can’t hurt the experience, but can add flavor to the recipe of life.

Cooking with Craft Beer

The dough:

* 4 1/2 Cups High Gluten Flour (add some whole wheat for roughage)
* 1 3/4 Tsp High Grade Salt (Sel de Mer or Himalayan, Hawaiian, etc…)
* 1 Tsp Yeast
* 1 3/4 Cup Cold Water Beer

Mix the dry components into the flour to distribute well. Please tell me you have a mixer, but if not you will want to add the beer slowly while kneading the mixture (adding a bit more beer or flour as needed) until coalesced into a great big brown lump of raw love. If you do have a mixer, put in the dough hook and let’er rip for 5 minutes or so. If not, I hope you work out ‘cos your forearms are soon to be burning.

Cut into four, knead into pretty balls, oil’em up like your Swedish Masseuse and throw in the fridge. They’ll last for up to week but are best used within two-three days. You use cold beer to delay the fermentation process, which takes place in the fridge overnight. Longer, slower fermentation means a healthier, tastier pie. Just ask the scientists. There are many other recipes in which I use beer to add flavor. In most cases it is best used at room temperature and flat, much like myself.

The sauce I use is a basic caramelized red onion relish with a combination of jalapeños, nonpareil capers, tomatoes, garlic, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and yes, beer, cooked slowly until yummy. Cook ahead of time and let cool to room temp before adding as base sauce to dough. Take the dough balls out at least two hours before using. Once ready to make your pie, press and toss the dough (do not roll) to the desired size, spread on the relish, top with a mixture of cheeses (fresh mozza, meunster, crumbled bleu, brie, et al) and a few flavorful toppings.

So what is worth writing about? Despite not really liking the word itself, happiness, is worth writing about. Or at least writing about what provides that intangible satisfied feeling, when thought passes away and there is just the person and people around you, smiling through faces stuffed with great homemade pizza and homebrewed craft beer. What else is there really, but variations on this theme?

From ocean to table - Wild Alaskan Silver Salmon

From Ocean to Table – Wild Alaskan Silver Salmon

Fish Tacos make me happy. Halibut, Cod, Monkfish, Blowfish, whatever you got. Bring it. But what about Salmon?

Well-known for its high protein, high omega-3 fatty acids, and high vitamin D content, like most seafood salmon is becoming an increasingly popular food, especially in places that don’t traditionally have access to oceans-going fish. In order to service this demand, an increase in farmed salmon has spread across the globe. 99% of all Atlantic salmon commercially available are farmed (while more than 80% of Pacific salmon is harvested from the wild). While harvesting wild salmon (wild anything really) is more beneficial in terms of nutrient content, sustainable fisheries practices are necessary to maintain a healthy and vibrant population. With the advent of damming rivers and mining activities, logging, et al, the situation for wild salmon migrations has turned political. On the one hand there are many native populations that still depend on salmon for a large part of their diet and economic livelihood, not to mention their millennia-old cultural importance. And on the other hand there are large commercial interests jockeying for access to energy sources, logging rights, mineral deposits, and hegemony over the fish farming industry itself. Who knew a large majority of the world’s salmon supply was farmed in Chile? Which begs multiple questions: 1) is there enough wild salmon to go around and 2) is the proliferation of farmed salmon doing more damage than good in harming the environment, the fish, and we, the consumers, who just want a damn taco?

The NOAA fisheries stat sheet states that “Coho salmon on the west coast of the United States have experienced dramatic declines in abundance during the past several decades as a result of human-induced and natural factors. Water storage, withdrawal, conveyance, and diversions for agriculture, flood control, domestic, and hydropower purposes have greatly reduced or eliminated historically accessible habitat. Physical features of dams, such as turbines and sluiceways, have resulted in increased mortality of both adults and juvenile salmonids.”

The key characteristic of salmon is adaptability. What else would you expect from an anadromous fish? Being born in fresh water river beds, migrating to the ocean to feed, then returning, often to the exact place of their own birth to spawn, and then unceremoniously dying in a heap of stinking fish flesh. What an epic life. Yet one that the farmed variety never gets to experience. It does not hunt, as it is fed fish pellets (a ratio of 1.5 – 8 kilograms of wild fish are needed to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon) and never gets to expire in spawning ecstasy yet rather mills about in its open net pens, polluting the ocean floor and proliferating sea lice.

From Ocean to Table - Wild Alaskan Silver Salmon

(Map courtesy of NOAA)

While the majority of coho salmon seem to inhabit the waters surrounding Alaska, they range throughout the Pacific from Japan and eastern Russian, and south all the way to Monterey Bay, California. As baby fry, coho feed frantically on aquatic insects and plankton, as well as cannibalizing their own the eggs deposited by adult spawning salmon. They grow peacefully in the pooling river beds, ponds and lakes, eating and defending their turf from their cousin fish, trout and char. But there is simply not enough food present in fresh water for their growth. So they head out to sea to gorge on all sorts of fish and squid. Yet even as technologically savvy as modern fishery sciences are we know little about the ocean migrations of coho salmon. Tagging has shown that maturing Southeast Alaska coho move northward throughout the spring and congregate in the central Gulf of Alaska in June–probably one final feeding frenzy–until at some point setting off toward shore and reaching their stream of origin. Once the return home begins they never eat again, eventually even dissolving their own stomachs to make room for eggs and sperm. Now that is dedication.

After reentering fresh water the dehydrated salmon change appearance and lose their delicious flavor as the salt leeches from their bodies. Weakened by the long journey and fight to spawn they, and their fresh laid patch of roe are easy pickings for bears, the ecosystem engineers of the forest. It is the bears unique fishing ability that allows them to rely on salmon as a major food source. Once caught the bears transport the fish to the forest where the remains become nutrients for the soil, trees, and plants. The salmon leftovers are scavenged by birds and other animals and eventually feed the forest floor and release nitrogen as they decompose, also feeding the trees. And the cycle continues. Unless you’re a Norwegian farmed salmon. Then it is abruptly stopped.

The Audubon Society reports that wetlands that connect lakes and rivers leading from forests to the open sea are crucial to maintaining a healthy salmon population. Over the last 200 years, the continental United States have lost at least half of all its wetlands. NOAA goes on to say that “Washington and Oregon’s wetlands have been estimated to have been diminished by one third, while it is estimated that California has experienced a 91 percent loss of its wetland habitat.” Human action in wild habitats, once a part of the natural cycle of life, has become an intrusive, destructive and catastrophic to the general welfare of the entire ecosystem. So sayonara wild salmon. Hello farmed fish. Hope you’re happy, people in Kansas, yes now you too can eat salmon.

While farming fish may be an exploding market of potential revenue for investors the larger item at stake here is not just one fish but the entire Pacific ocean coastal ecosystem. There must be balance or we will wipe out a keystone species. That will most likely have devastating effects on a wide range of issues we have no idea the depth of. Let the rivers flow and the wetlands return and their will be fish, wild and healthy, enough for us all who live within reach. Those living in landlocked regions can eat what is available, as their ancestors once did. Keep Salmon wild. And properly labeled. And now, please enjoy what I caught, cleaned, cooked and ate with a deliciously home-brewed double IPA last night.

From Ocean to Table – Wild Alaskan Silver Salmon

Monkfish is the New Lobster

Monkfish is the New Lobster

Seafood is the way to go for any and all tacos if you ask me. BBQ Prawns, Baja-style Cod, Roasted Sea Bream, Halibut ceviche, Tempura Blowfish, it’s all good. So that’s what I’ve been doing, testing the waters. The marinade I use goes well with any of the above, but especially Monkfish.

Monkfish is the New Lobster

Monkfish is the New Lobster

Or actually, it has been for a while, but you didn’t know about it. Why? Because it’s ugly as sin! Look at that beast!

When it can be had, Monkfish it’s my fish of choice because near invertebrate is perfect for roasting, braising or pan-frying. Monkfish most likely gets its name from it being an ugly sucker, whose body mass collapses out of water and takes on the characteristics of a slug once taken from its pressure friendly ocean climes. It has one long vertebrae running the length of it eel-like body, with thick spinal offshoots branching out transversely along the way, so once cleaned, cut up and cooked there are no pin bones to be hassled with, making for a quick transition from grill to plate to mouth. Although hard to clean, slippery to handle and the innards tend to stink up your place if not immediately disposed of, the meat has a texture akin to lobster and is a dream to cook and especially to eat. If you can get your hands on the liver you can sell it on the Japanese Black Market and finance your kid’s college education. Otherwise, what Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seawatch says about the tasty monster is good news for North Americans:

Monkfish is the New Lobster

BBQ’d Monkfish in lime chili sauce

Monkfish was once considered overfished. Thanks to improved management, stocks have increased recently to a more sustainable level. Monkfish is caught with bottom trawls or bottom gill nets. Because both methods create bycatch, monkfish is a “Good Alternative” rather than a “Best Choice.” Monkfish is found from the Canadian Maritimes to Cape Hatteras, but this recommendation is for the U.S. fishery only.

  • Juice of 5-10 Limes
  • Garlic Bulb
  • Jalapeños/Serranos/Habaneros/Pasillas
  • Seasalt

After roasting garlic (allow to cool and squeeze out into a paste) and jalapeños (remove skin, seeds and stem and dice) combine the above ingredients and blend until smooth. Marinade chunked monkfish for 10-20 minutes (more than this and you might as well eat it as ceviche), throw on a hot griddle and grill for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately on warmed corn tortillas with fresh made salsa picada and cilantro. Add guacamole. Beer. Mix in stomach. Repeat.

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