Golden Hill Farms

Many of you have probably heard all kinds of things about the current situation with the beef that we find at the grocery store. Most of it is corn fed, and who knows what else has been fed to these poor animals. Don’t get me wrong, corn is a symbol of pride in this country and it has many uses, some very delicious, but all must know, cows don’t like corn!

That’s probably the shortest explanation you’ve ever read. I’m not saying any more about that either. OK, maybe I’ll say that what’s killing Americans is not the amount of beef we eat (other countries eat more beef) but what’s in the meat.

A cow is a herbivore and a ruminant. It likes grass. These animals eat grass and it turns into healthy delicious beef. Think of it as another miracle of nature.

I grew up on grass fed beef. I know what’s good for me and my family.

There are a few grass fed beef options around the Pittsburgh area. Golden Hill Farms is, perhaps, not one of the closest. It’s about an hour and a half drive northwest of Pittsburgh. Long drive, but it was a beautiful fall drive.

The farm sits on acres and acres of luscious green grass. The cows seem so happy with it, they don’t even care about your presence.

Bob and Saundra Rose have owned and operated this farm for over forty years. Nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Bob and I talked about cows, beef, farming in the area, cattle rotation for best grass use and much more. Bob is very proud of his cows. I learned many things about the grass fed industry. Things like, dairy farmers selling their day old Jersey/Holstein dairy calves that have been fed milk replacer, and then they are put to pasture and hay for two years. In this period of time and because these cattle don’t have as much muscle mass as the beef cattle, they only weigh around seven hundred and fifty pounds. The quality of the beef is poor and at best only good for hamburger.

We went inside the house where we met Saundra.

The farm house is tastefully decorated with many of those farm items, like pickling crocks, we city folk don’t know what they are for. We were told not to remove our boots when we went in. “This is a farm house,” Bob said. But, trust me, everything was kept very clean.

We sat at the kitchen table and had a slice of pumpkin roll while we talked about the life at the farm. I felt like I had known the Roses for a long time. They made us feel very comfortable. The Roses are very customer oriented, and they won’t let you go home with a cut of meat you don’t have use for.

On our way out, cheese graters made into light fixtures edged the walkway. It is indeed a special place, this farm.

We could really tell how much they care. We’ll be back.

You can contact them at:

Bob and Saundra Rose
20405 Lauderbaugh Road
Cochranton, PA 16314
(814) 425-7063 home
(814) 720-5864 cell
info@goldenhillfarms.com

Abay Restaurant cares

Abay has a special place in my heart. This restaurant happens to be where Laura and I had one of our first dates. We have since enjoyed many meals there.

A few weeks ago on a busy Saturday evening we went to Abay for dinner. This time some things were a little off. The Kay Wat (Lean, chopped beef slowly simmered with berbere and a combination of seasonings) was greasy and the Butecha (Ground chickpeas mixed with olive oil, diced onions and green peppers) had more red onions than chickpeas. And the onions were very large and roughly chopped. After noticing a few other details about the components of our combination platter, we were concerned.

We thought maybe they got a new chef? Maybe Abay was now under different management?

Abay was packing them in that night. Multiple tables waited to be seated. On our way out I felt a little sad that maybe things were changing.

Days later, I ran into Jamie, owner of Abay.

I told him of my experience as I was trying to find out what had changed. Jaime has been a restaurateur for a few years now. He has consumed all of his time making Abay a successful restaurant. You can very quickly tell how passionate he is about the way things should be done and he will go far, Africa in this case, to find the perfect ingredients for his menu. He was concerned and interested in my comments, and told me that he would address it. Later that day he sent this email to his staff.

“…I’m sending this to everyone because it impacts each of you. I ran into a chef today whose opinion I respect. He has been eating at Abay since he moved to Pittsburgh from Spain a few years ago. He was quite candid about his last two visits to Abay. Due to the drop-off in the quality of the food, his party wondered if I either sold Abay or hired a new chef. His general sense was that the food coming out of the kitchen was done without the same care as it had been in the past. As for the meat dishes, he noted that they were too oily. With respect to the Butecha, he noticed that it was not properly broken up, the onions were diced too large, and there were too many onions, thus overpowering the dish.

One of the challenges of this business is consistently doing everything correctly with each customer day in and day out. The front needs to work in concert with the back to pull this off. Although it is exhausting, this meticulous approach is in part what has led to our success. Servers, if something is plated that doesn’t look as it should, address it with the kitchen immediately. Do not serve it.

Furthermore, if there is ANY customer complaint, bring it to my attention. If it is a critical issue, call me right away. If it is minor, tell the person who will be calling me with the numbers that evening so that they can inform me then.

In the over five years that Abay has been open, our objective has remained the same. We strive to be a unique, cultural venue that provides excellent food and service.”

The care that people like Jamie put into their food keeps restaurants like this thriving and makes them places we can always count on for a great culinary experience.

disclaimer

The intentions of this blog is none other than to narrate myexperiences at some of the restaurants/food operations I visited.Positive or negative criticism is expressed from my point of view andpersonal experiences.What I’m getting at is, that, there’s a chance that my opinions mightnot coincide with yours partially or at all. This is not to stop youfrom visiting a restaurant based on my opinion. We all have different experiences/points of view. Share yours with me.

good Vietnamese food in Pittsburgh

Few months ago I had a bad experience with a Vietnamese restaurant in the Strip recommended by my friend Brian. He describes his culinary inclinations by saying “I like flavor.” I don’t know how or why, but this place had no flavor. The food was prepared badly and the portions were incredibly small, maybe in order to limit all the things that were so wrong about these dishes.

On a recent Saturday morning, Laura and I drove to the Strip as we often do. As we drove around looking for parking, one of the multiple places we passed by was another Vietnamese restaurant, Mỹ Ngoc. I notice its unpretentious sign every time we go to the Strip. And every time I’ve wondered what goes on behind that old facade, and what has to offer.

Maybe wanting to give the Pittsburgh/Vietnam connection another chance, Laura and I made Mỹ Ngoc part of our lunch plans.

Outside the restaurant, Vietnamese folks sat behind a cart. A cart like many that can be seen on the streets of Hanoi. French bread hoagies, yes, the Vietnamese make excellent french bread, but, I don’t think this bread was made by them. On the other hand, the different and very interesting filling combinations for the hoagies were definitely theirs. Although they don’t have as many toppings as you would find in Hanoi, we found it very appealing.

We decided not to go for the hoagie and instead we went inside the restaurant. First table of the day for lunch. Is this a good thing? We’ll see.

“You sit here!” an older, smiley Vietnamese man tells us. He also informed us that he was helping today, he’s retired from a “handy man” business, even though he still works at it for a few hours per week. In the same breath, and always with a sincere, almost child like smile, he shares the thought of buying this restaurant. He puts two glasses of water on the table and walks away.

We start to look at the menu. This is a long menu, but we narrow it down to a salad like dish and a noodle bowl. He takes the order back to the kitchen and we are left in a dark dinning room, only lit by the outside light and a few small lights on the walls. It’s kind of romantic. We noticed an Asian man sitting motionless with a cell phone to his ear behind us. I watched him intrigued. Is it calling in an order? Why is he so quiet? I waited to hear a conversation, but he quickly blended into the decor.

We could hear the echos of our food being prepared in the kitchen.

Our smiley handy man returned to the table with our lunches. Both dishes had a simple presentation. My Tom Rang Muoi (salty shrimp) sat on a coarsely chopped bed of iceberg lettuce. Laura’s Bun Ga Cari (curry chicken with rice vermicelli) had a clean curry broth, and the noddles were cooked perfectly. The shrimp came shell on. The light coating and seasoning now flavored my fingers as I peeled the shrimp.

Handy man returned with water and showed honest concern about how we felt about our food. We had nothing bad to say. We enjoyed it very much. Soon after this he was telling us how to repair a fridge. He even gave us a home made business card with his phone number and the promise of repairs for a very small fee. Afterwards I noticed that his name didn’t appear on the card. I’m disappointed to this day I didn’t ask him, but if I ever need an appliance repair, I’ll be looking for my nameless smiley handy man’s card.

I licked my fingers once more, after eating the last shrimp. We got up and paid at the front desk. Two ladies standing behind the desk and our handy man had a short discussion about how to handle our check, or that’s what we thought anyhow, since our Vietnamese is not up to part. After they all seemed to agree, they gave us our change and said a warm, polite, always respectful good bye.

We walked out to a bright sunny afternoon. The taste of our great meal was in my lips and mouth. I was in need of a palate cleanser, but at the same time, I thought to myself, this place has flavor.

food shows visit Spain

Last night we watched back to back food shows on the Travel Channel–Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World–and both were about Spain. We tuned in 2/3 through No Reservations, so I’m hoping to find the show somewhere online or find out when the Spain episode is scheduled to be rebroadcast.

Anyway–what struck me most was the huge contrast between these two shows and their treatment of the land and cuisine that I love.

Bourdain reflects on the culture that gives rise to artists like Victor Arguinzoniz of Etxebarri and the very famous Ferran Adrià of elBulli, showing respect for the ingredients, the customized equipment, and the skill of chefs who have mastered the use of both to produce perfection in cuisine.

Zimmern, when visiting a 300-year-old restaurant in Madrid, cuts his lip by enthusiastically tearing into a suckling pig’s skull to get at the brains.

Different strokes for different folks, eh?

when should you spend more for organic?

When you’re shopping for fruits and vegetables, it’s not always easy to convince yourself to spend an extra $2 a pound for organic produce. Sometimes you wonder whether it’s worth it. A good way to make that decision is to spend the extra money for organic produce for the types of produce that tend to have a higher concentration of toxins (pesticides). I can easily remember that you should always buy organic apples and strawberries, but it’s hard to keep track of the rest. It’s nice to see that Food News has produced a downloadable wallet guide for produce showing the 12 most contaminated (“the dirty dozen”) and 12 least contaminated items. Here are the lists:

12 Most Contaminated 12 Least Contaminated
* Peaches
* Apples
* Sweet Bell Peppers
* Celery
* Nectarines
* Strawberries
* Cherries
* Pears
* Grapes (Imported)
* Spinach
* Lettuce
* Potatoes
* Onions
* Avocado
* Sweet Corn (Frozen)
* Pineapples
* Mango
* Asparagus
* Sweet Peas (Frozen)
* Kiwi Fruit
* Bananas
* Cabbage
* Broccoli
* Papaya

urban farming: beekeeping

On Tuesday, August 25, I went to a Burgh Bees “Beekeeper Meet-up” on the North Side. I originally discovered Burgh Bees at the Phipps Garlic and Tomato Festival, which is a special event during the regularly scheduled farmers market that happens on the lawn at Phipps Conservatory every Wednesday. Based on the quick conversation I had with the Burgh Bees people at Phipps that day, it seems like they’re trying to get as many people as possible involved in urban beekeeping to protect the hobby. I guess the idea is that the more urban hives there are, the less likely the city government is to restrict people’s right to have a hive.

The lady who hosted the meet-up has a bunch of hives on her roof, and we all got to see the honeycomb and try some honey. Well–I didn’t get to try any honey, but in theory I think we were all supposed to have a taste. It was really interesting to see this small but productive operation (just a few boxes of bees produce 360-400 pounds of honey!) in a regular person’s urban backyard.

Naturally, I struck up a conversation with another attendee who turned out to be in the catering business, and we ended up discussing the food industry in Pittsburgh. Laura always teases me about this: wherever we go, I run into someone that I’ve worked with or find people who are involved in the food industry. Occupational hazard!

albondigas de pescado


ingredients

  • 1 pound of pollock
  • 2 eggs
  • 28 ounces of stewed tomatoes
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry parsley
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • Olive oil
  • a dash of white pepper and red pepper flakes
  • salt

instructions

Soft poach the eggs in water with a teaspoon of white vinegar. Put them in a food processor. At this point you can start to gently heat up the olive oil. Enough to submerge at least three fourths of the albondiga. Take off the stem and seeds of the pepper and combine with the eggs. Add half of the onion to this. Blend for a few seconds and then add the pollock. Add parsley, white pepper and red pepper to the fish. Blend until it becomes a uniform paste. Finish it with a dash of salt. Let it chill for 15 minutes in the fridge. Make 1 to 1 1/2 inch albondigas, same as meatballs. Lightly roll in flour. Dice up the other half of the onion. In a deep saute pan sweat the onion.

With your mortal and pestle or the food processor make a paste of the garlic cloves and a pinch of salt. Dilute with the white wine. Add the stewed tomatoes to the onions and saute for a few minutes. Add the garlic and wine mix. Simmer the tomatoes. Fry the albondigas in the olive oil until they achieve a nice golden brown. Should only take a few minutes. The oil should be hot but not smoking. If it starts to smoke, reduce heat. Flip albondigas in oil to make sure they get evenly browned. As they finish frying transfer them onto the tomato sauce. When all the albondigas are in the sauce, cover and let it simmer for 15 minutes. A glass of wine and a little bread is all you need.

featured ingredient: lemon

The lemon (Citrus limon) is a small, yellow rounded fruit, pointed at its ends, with acidic juice. The origin of the lemon is unknown, though it may be native to northwest India. Arab traders in Asia carried lemons and other citrus fruits to eastern Africa and the Middle East between AD 100 and 700, reaching China by 1000. Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to the New World in 1493.
But, what’s most important is that the juice, zest and leaves all have culinary uses.

When purchasing look for big, plump, firm lemons that are heavy for their size. When choosing Meyer lemons, look for bright, shiny fruits with richly colored orange yellow rind, indicating that the fruit was picked when fully ripe.

Try to avoid brownish lemons won’t be as juicy. Avoid lemons that are shriveled, hard-skinned, soft, or spongy. Avoid old Meyer lemons with hard dry skin or with soft spots.

And store lemons in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks (1 week for Meyer lemons).

Lemon (juice, zest and leaves)is incredibly versatile as an ingredient. Adds flavor or enhances and gives freshness to others. They are great with artichokes, capers, cumin, fennel, fish, garlic, marsca-pone, mint, poultry, raspberries, shellfish, thyme, and many more. I like to use lemon zest in my rice pudding. Even my apple cheddar empanadas have a little lemon juice.

Lemons are definitely an ingredient you’ll always find in my fridge.