Will Owen's Profile

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Do you have a favorite fruit juice?

Our favorite porch-sitting cocktail in Nashville was Greyhounds: grapefruit juice and vodka in tall glasses of ice. I'd still drink those if I could …

2 days ago
Will Owen in General Topics

Why Does Ketchup on a Hot Dog Piss People Off?

About 100 miles straight downstate from Chicago, in the 1940s and '50s, the Owen family rule was that mustard went on burgers, ketchup on hot dogs. We knew people who did it the other way around, but that was as perverse as, well, making potato salad with Miracle Whip. If we were going to spend the day at the local creekside beach, we packed hot dogs, buns and ketchup. Maybe sweet relish.

2 days ago
Will Owen in Features

Corn Poblano Chowder Questions

Your instincts here look to be pretty good, but I'd not use a compounded chili powder AND cumin, since all the ones I've tried have plenty of that already. My choice would be just the cumin. If you want some extra heat you could put two or three dried red pepper pods in there and remove them before serving. I would not use the fennel in the chowder, but if it's tender enough I'd slice it thin and incorporate it into that green salad I think is called for. Some chopped scallions, both white and some green, would be a good addition to your garnish. And yes to crumbled cheese – queso fresco would be my choice as opposed to a melty one.

I always want a salad with a creamy soup, as fresh and colorful as possible. Sliced radish, that fennel if it'll work; some red onion sliced thin, salted and then soaked in cold water about half an hour cuts the sharpness and leaves it sweet. Crunchy greens, like chopped iceberg and maybe Boston or butter lettuce.

Sep 19, 2014
Will Owen in Home Cooking
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Bread Knife for Crusty Breads

I had to go look and measure, because I like ours just fine, both for bread and things like tomatoes. It's an 8" Zanger that Mrs. O had long before she had me, serrated with scalloping along the starboard edge, flat along the other. Never found it to be too short – in fact, I thought it was a lot longer.

Sep 18, 2014
Will Owen in Cookware

Do you have a favorite fruit juice?

Fresh-squoze OJ for me, or something equally fresh made from some local fruit on Kauai. I do love grapefruit juice and have all my life, but I'm taking a statin and am supposed to avoid grapefruit period. Dammit.

Sep 18, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics

Salt and Straw

Vulgar word for naughty bits. Not hipster so much as kids talking dirty.

Sep 17, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

Trader Joe's YAY/MEY/NAY - September 2014

That was a major disappointment to me as well. I found the seasoning all wrong for fish, and what's worse it hung in my mouth all day. It was not cheap, either.

Sep 10, 2014
Will Owen in Chains

Trader Joe's YAY/MEY/NAY - September 2014

It DOES make a great chili! I've been using the Carroll Shelby chili "kit" for years with hand-cut or ground beef, and had to switch to the beefless stuff so Mrs. O could eat it … and we both liked it better than the meat version. Just don't forget to fry the chili powder along with the "meat" until it's fairly dark and fragrant, then add liquid.

Sep 10, 2014
Will Owen in Chains

Who do you follow on the Los Angeles board, and why?

Now that is funny … he's been a Facebook friend for a couple of years, I've read his blog several times as well, and I never caught on that he was DU!!

Who do you follow on the Los Angeles board, and why?

I was confused about that myself until we were seen together in public … !

WildSwede, ipsedixit, Dommy! and Mr. Taster (in no particular order) are always most welcome on my screen, as were Ubergeek and especially the late Sam. Sooner or later we all disagree on something or other, but that's what friends are for.

Do I have to peel and seed tomatoes to make marinara sauce from scratch?

I don't think anything is easier than the magic plastic machine I use. Cut'em up, drop 'em in, turn the crank and let the pulp and juice go this way and the seeds and skin go that.

Sep 09, 2014
Will Owen in Home Cooking

If refrigerating tomatoes is supposed to be verboten, then what of gazpacho?

I make a salade de tomates with the heirloom fruits I get at the local Farmer's markets here in SoCal, just chunks of tomato with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. While I agree that chilling leftover cut-up modern varieties lessens their flavor, the Brandywines, Cherokee Blacks and similar breeds retain their flavor very well, and are not as funky when had for lunch the next day.

Sep 09, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics

What is "real food"?

Someone (not me) suggested it's what your great-grandmother would recognize as food. Since I had a couple of those while I was growing up I'm inclined to buy that.

Sep 09, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics

Where to buy harissa?

I use harissa paste, the French Le Cabanon brand in tubes, of which I last bought six on Amazon (to save on shipping costs per tube). As I found to my sorrow they need to be refrigerated for long-term storage. I have found in stores (I'm in California) for about $5/tube; I think I saved quite a bit going the Amazon way.

Sep 08, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics

Some Attitude at Nick's

Four of us had a mostly satisfactory late lunch at Nick's Cafe yesterday, ruffled only by some weirdness with the waitress. She was quite prompt to take our drink orders, one iced tea and four waters, which she brought immediately, but then … we just sorta dropped off her radar. A few other folks came in, ordered, were eventually served, while we had figured out what we wanted and put the menus back in their clips and then sat. Whenever her face was turned our way she wore a distracted frown, but quite skillfully avoided eye contact. Finally we asked the young man who was acting as the runner if we could order; he said, "Oh, she'll be with you in a minute," and went over to her. I heard him ask, "Are you going to take those people's order?" and she never looked up, just frowned and shook her head. So he took the orders and brought the food as it came out. Mrs. O and I were going to a catered party a couple of hours later, so she'd ordered just a side of coleslaw and I had the basic burger (former very good, latter just okay), and we left the kid a good 20% plus. Then, as were were getting up to leave, she looked up and smiled at us, saying, "Thank you so much, and enjoy your day." Needless to say, we had some puzzled conversation on the way out to our cars.

Sep 08, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

Taylor's Steakhouse dinner tonight

I'm assuming you went to the original in Koreatown. I've been only to the La Cañada outpost, twice for lunch and once (on someone else's dime) for dinner, and service was okay if a bit overworked – they were pretty busy at lunch – and quite professional. I was curious about the downtown one, but I think I shan't bother.

Sep 08, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

What do we call ...

Well, Tonny's in Pasadena is definitely a Mexican restaurant, but they offer both fine Mexican breakfast dishes – very good huevos rancheros and chilaquiles con huevo – and equally good American-style breakfast plates, including one of fried catfish and eggs. They also offer burgers, which I've never tried. I think in this case I'd simply call it a neighborhood restaurant, because it offers the sort of food the neighbors want. Nothing I've had there, though, has been at all what I'd call greasy.

Sep 08, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

Do you think wheat is "the root of all evil" or staff of life?

It's both. Cultivation of grain made us stop moving, hunting and foraging and nailed us to one parcel of land. It stripped us of an egalitarian culture and made some of us landowners, some of us serfs. I think this is what the story of Cain and Abel was meant to convey. That said, we made that bed and have lain in it for thousands of years, so hand me the baguette and the butter and let's talk about something else …

Simple carbs are more of an enemy of good health and weight control than fats, as I think has been well demonstrated. Recent studies have come out against the Diabetes Ass'n's recommendations favoring carbs over fats, and in fact have found that whole grains aren't that much better at glucose control than refined ones. However, that butter on my bread will slow the starch-to-sugar process a bit, as I understand it, and somehow that makes me very happy.

Quick and easy

Pasta with shallot, halved cherry tomatoes and bottled marinated artichokes, all usually from Trader Joe's. Cook the pasta and drain it. Drain the artichokes and keep the marinade, then chop them into smallish bite-size and set aside. Mince the shallot, cook it a while in some oil, then throw in the tomatoes and turn up the heat. When the tomatoes start getting soft sort of smash them down, cooking until there's plenty of juice. Stir in the artichokes, then add the marinade. When all that is simmering toss in the pasta and toss it all together. Serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino. You can also make this ahead and spread it into an oven dish or gratin pan and top with plenty of cheese, then run into a 350º oven for 20-25 minutes, depending on whether it's cold or warm. This is a good ploy for when you'll have drinks and stuff for a while before dinner – you'll get the cooking done before anyone arrives, and get to party a bit instead of cooking.

I should say that I've made this with spaghetti, angel hair and ravioli, all good.

Sep 05, 2014
Will Owen in Home Cooking
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Keeping ravioli fresh before dinner

Any pasta can be precooked, drained and then kept in cold water until service, then put into simmering water before draining and saucing. The only danger with a filled pasta is if any of the envelope gets torn the filling can ooze out or become soggy. If you're using wonton wrappers you just need to make sure they're watertight, but you'd do that anyway. Will the ground beef be cooked before wrapping? If not you'll need to boil them enough to cook your filling, but don't let the wrappers get overcooked, and a wire-mesh dipper or similar implement would be best for removing them to cold water.

Sep 05, 2014
Will Owen in Home Cooking

Mashed potato recipes

Yukon Golds and other way or semi-waxy potatoes are okay for "smashed" – that is, broken up pretty well but not mashed smooth – but my native mashed potato has always been the russet. Though I mostly use a ricer nowadays, as it gives a fluffy texture and no chance of developing into a starchy glop, my ancient wavy-wire masher is always ready if I feel like it, especially if I'm going to mash something else (such as cooked garlic) into the potatoes. Neeps and Tatties or Potatoes and Swedes are nice side dishes, the first being potatoes mashed with turnips, the second with rutabaga. Traditionally the potatoes and other veg are boiled together in well-salted water, then drained, dried in the hot pan, and mashed with too much butter. A good bit of freshly-ground pepper is nice too. Another masher-made dish is winter squash, like butternut or kabocha, again with butter, salt and pepper, plus I like to add mace or nutmeg. Very good Fall dish, great with pork or duck.

Sep 05, 2014
Will Owen in Home Cooking

Healthy non-deli meat sandwich ideas needed

Dang! I've been running out of sandwich ideas, and completely forgot meat loaf! The frikadellen thing is appealing too.

Trader Joe's frozen salmon burgers are what I keep around for a simple sandwich on lightly toasted English muffin with a slice of tomato. Wasabi Mayo on one muffin half, bottled tartar sauce on the other. One of those and a small salad will do me fine.

I used to keep leftover meats of all kinds for sandwiches until Mrs. O went veggie, but since I'm usually home all day I'll still do a small pork shoulder roast or something similar that will keep in the fridge.

Sep 05, 2014
Will Owen in Home Cooking

Does anyone pay attention to Merril Shindler reviews?

I don't think he loves everything, but he looks for something he does love. I also think he reports only on the places he can recommend. Some of us enjoy being snarky about disappointing food ("The fish was done to perfection; too bad they didn't stop there") but Shindler is of the "If you can't say something nice don't say anything" school, which used to be a lot more common than it is now. So he's a living fossil, so what – I kind of am too, and I like him for it.

And by the way, one of his reviews today is of the Guppy Tea House in West Covina, where he obviously had a whole lot of fun.

Sep 05, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

3% healthcare charge: coming to more receipts near you

I would point out that being served by a person who can't afford healthcare is a threat to my health. Public health is a public good, and ought to be regarded as one instead of as an expensive luxury you're being extorted for.

Too bad this is happening apparently just at the high-end places. At least twice now I've sat at Tony Bourdain's book-signings and heard him rail about how so many L.A. diners just love those ten-dollar-a-head dim sum feeds, without a thought to the poor jerks who cook, serve and clean up at wages that make them hold down two or three jobs and bunk five to a room.

3% healthcare charge: coming to more receipts near you

Amen, Mr. Taster. While I'm delighted that Mrs. O and her pre-existing condition are comfortably covered, her plan is neither as cheap nor as transparent as my Medicare-based 65+ Advantage plan, though both are with Blue Shield. It's going to be interesting to see if plans such as mine will remain a viable proposition for the insurers, but as long as Medicare itself keeps doing as well as it has I'll cope just fine. Would that all Americans of any age could do the same.

Sep 04, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

Does anyone pay attention to Merril Shindler reviews?

And there are those of us amongst the Chow pack who really like slippery shrimp … and Yang Chow also does the best sautéed spinach in Pasadena.

Sep 04, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

Does anyone pay attention to Merril Shindler reviews?

He does a weekly one- or two-restaurant writeup in the Pasadena paper, which probably feeds to the other SGV papers in that group. I enjoy reading them; he's one of those guys who's frank enough about his tastes that I can easily recognize whether I'd like that restaurant or not while continuing to like what he says. He's also the only local food writer I know who will write about oldstyle family restaurants in Whitter with timewarp menus, for which as a fellow aficionado of those I am very grateful. Long may he wave.

Sep 04, 2014
Will Owen in Los Angeles Area

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

Most diners and restaurants I frequent have hot dogs in the "Sandwiches" section of the menu, which is good enough for me … although they often list burgers separately, and I consider those sandwiches too. What it comes down to is that if you wrap some bread around some other food and eat it out of your hands it's a sandwich.

This disqualifies the so-called Hot Roast Beef Sandwich, and that's fine with me. Some diner cook or school cafeteria boss decided that mashed potato and gravy on some leftover (or canned) roast beef atop a slice of bread seemed like a good idea, and he or she couldn't think what else to call it. I never call it anything, now that I'm grown up and can order my own food.

Sep 04, 2014
Will Owen in General Topics

Whole Dried Apricots with Seeds... Uses?

I would think they'd be best used to make tangy fruit sauces for middle-eastern or mediterranean dishes. I would soak them until soft enough to pit, or else simply simmer them in water, with or without sugar, until they got to where the pits could be removed. You could simmer them in diluted vinegar with sugar and spices to make a chutney, or in water with some sugar and then cook it down to make a tart or pastry filling, maybe zinging it with some fresh lemon juice. This would also be a nice substance for trying out North African spices.

Aug 31, 2014
Will Owen in Home Cooking

What do you think about 'mandatory' Valet Parking?

Pity the ban doesn't extend to Pasadena. There are several Old Town restaurants that have exclusive "rights" to a lot of parking spaces right on Colorado.

Aug 24, 2014
Will Owen in Not About Food
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