Friday, April 24, 2009

L'Heure Heureuse

Mini vodka martini, icy cold

Massachusetts was the first state to do it, and one by one, others have followed suit. Of course, I’m talking about the ban on happy hour. Since 1984, more than 20 states have tagged along on the trend of abolishing two-for-one drink specials, free or reduced-price appetizers with which to enjoy those drinks, and all the good times that go with tipping back a few in the company of friends and coworkers during those magical hours between punching out and tucking into dinner.

Fortunately, California is no lemming, and on a recent Friday after work, some good friends Nathan and I hadn't seen in a little while suggested meeting up at Figaro. Modeled after a Parisian bistro and occupying prime sidewalk real estate on Vermont Ave., the Los Feliz restaurant is a favorite of the see-and-be-seen set of the near-eastside. In fact that's probably why it had been years since we were last there. But In This EconomyTM, who are we to pass up those happy hour specials?

Selections from Figaro's happy hour menu

Pictured above, clockwise from top left, are (in French, of course) pommes frites ($3), croquettes de crabe ($6), and moules gratinee aux fromage ($6), all roughly half of what they cost during dinner service. Cocktail discounts include $4 "mini" martinis, $3 beers, and $5 glasses of wine. So Nathan and I managed to get our drink on and fill our stomachs for about $30. Happy hour at Figaro lasts only from 5 to 7, so when the end is nigh, do the smart thing:

Make that a double

By the way, I hope to start featuring different happy hours on Food Comma on a semiregular basis. Any suggestions?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cups of Fate

Found these Heath Ceramics teacups near Merced on a recent road trip to the Bay Area. We exited the highway in search of coffee and just happened to catch sight of a Salvation Army. I actually didn't even want to stop because I was anxious to get to our destination already, but Nathan's insistence paid off. Somewhere along the line they'd apparently been separated from the matching saucers, but really, who needs a saucer? Now if only we had someplace to put them.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Shrimp Mac and Cheese

When I'm getting down to the end of our groceries, mac and cheese is an old standby since I always have some kind of pasta in the cupboard and some kind of cheese in the fridge. But I’m one of those people who feels like if there’s no meat in my meal, I haven’t really eaten. Frozen shrimp and bacon to the rescue!

I could have used different pasta or cheese or added fresh herbs if I’d had any, but the following “recipe” is precisely how I made this dish with the materials I had on hand. That said, it’s also imprecise because I tend to eyeball ingredients rather than measure them out.

15-20 medium shrimp (thawed if frozen), peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped
1/2 lb or so elbow macaroni
2 strips bacon
1 big clove of garlic, minced
1/4 small red onion, minced
small chunk of butter
spoonful of flour
a good glug of brandy
1/2 cup or so of chicken broth
a shot or two of half and half
a big handful of shredded cheddar cheese
a small handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Boil macaroni the usual way and drain.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch heavy skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, turning a few times, until crisp and then drain on paper towels, leaving rendered grease in the pan.

Add garlic and onion to skillet and sautee over medium-high heat until garlic is fragrant and onion softened, just a minute or two. Add butter and swirl around until melted, then add flour and stir constantly until fully incorporated. Add brandy and chicken broth, let it come to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced a bit, 10 minutes or so. Stir in half and half and turn off heat. Mix in cheddar cheese and add salt and pepper to taste; then add raw shrimp (it'll cook in the oven).

Add macaroni to pan and stir everything together. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole and top evenly with Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake for 30 minutes or so, until top is golden and crusty. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Chop or crumble the cooked bacon, sprinkle it over the top, and serve.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Objet Orange Part Deux

Here's one of my finds during a recent road trip through Arizona.

It's a Descoware enameled cast iron skillet with lid. In flame, of course, with trademark grey enamel interior.