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After and Between the Storms

A small portion of donated foods

Relief goods donated at San Antonio Parish in Forbes, Makati

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As a foreigner observing this for the first time from within, it was fascinating and encouraging to see what the people of the Philippines could do when confronted by a difficult situation. With Ondoy still fresh on their minds, people sprung into action and started helping wherever they could. Donations and volunteers flowed in. In many countries people are prone to inaction, waiting for a government response, but here there was little time for such bullshit.

Inside the War Room

A small portion of donated foods

Passing relief bags down the line at San Antonio

With each passing day, the donations increased and the deployments became larger and more organized. All that I joined were night time, so I don’t have many pictures to show. They were focused on the areas around Quezon City. I didn’t actually see much flooding but there were some areas of EDSA that were impassable. The narrow low-lying streets in some of the neighborhoods were still caked with several inches of mud with trash strewn about and a smell of raw sewage.

Unloading at the distribution spot in Fairview

Fr. Luciano Felloni offered his home to store and distribute relief goods. Sorry about the mess..

I would love to hear feedback and personal experiences from last week. It would be a bit optimistic to assume that this won’t happen again. With so many people involved surely there are just as many observations to offer. What can be done differently in the event of another large-scale flood or other disaster?

One issue that was on the minds of many of the volunteers was the fate of all of the plastic bags used to pack relief goods. Is there a better solution that we could prepare for now?

The floods are certain to have a lasting impact on people throughout the affected areas and Filipino farmers will be some of the hardest hit. What relief operations are still ongoing?

Your thoughts and input please!

Back from the Brink

Saffron-streaked fresh pasta right out of the roller

Saffron-streaked fresh pasta right out of the roller

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Holy shit! It’s been a little while hasn’t it? I’m a bad blogger, I know. But I never told you differently anyway.

It’s all for good reason though, I promise. One being the soft launch of my first product under my new brand Mr. D’s Artisanal, a Philippine Wagyu Corned Beef. The response has been really great, better than I expected. As I scrambled to scale up my production I also had a private event to prepare for this weekend. Hence, no blogging.

To those of you who have already ordered the corned beef, thank you and please provide your feedback. I have several other products in the pipeline as I begin to fill out a full product line of locally sourced and crafted artisan foods. I have completed my first test batch of naturally fermented dill pickles and I’m sourcing natural pork to produce a number of tasty pig products.

To those of you who are still waiting, thank you for your patience. I am producing my maximum output each week until I feed each and every one of you. I am cautious not to grow too quickly as my first priority is to maintain the quality of the product.

The private event was for a post-mass family meal on Saturday. My hosts were expecting up to 40 people and had requested lamb and seafood dishes. The event went well and my hosts were very gracious. Check out my menu below.

Rare Tuna Niçois

Tuna poached in olive oil, with fennel, citrus and herbs, quail eggs, French beans and potato, anchovy vinaigrette

Gambas (sorry no picutre)

Prawns, sofrito, chorizo, garlic

Saffron Agnolotti stuffed with Lobster, Sweet Corn and Chives

Roasted tomatoes, zucchini blossoms, saffron-lobster brodo

Coq au Vin

Roasted shallots and oyster mushrooms, bacon, glazed baby carrots

Roasted Seasonal Vegetables

Cauliflower, asparagus, yellow squash, zucchini, lemon

Cashew-crusted Rack of Lamb

Brown butter eggplant, whole grain mustard honey lamb reduction

The tuna is gently poached to rare in extra virgin olive oil that has been infused with lemon rind, fennel, herbs, peppercorns and bay leaf

The filling of the agnolotti consists of lobster, shrimp and sweet corn. The sauce is much like a bisque made from the shells of the lobster.

Coq au vin. No coq jokes please.

Old dog, old tricks

Shroomin’ Part Two: Ohio Edition

P1030622

I had a stroke of good fortune this week for my trip home to Ohio. My arrival was conveniently timed with the height of morel season. If I was forced to create a list of my top five favorite foods morels would undoubtedly make the cut along with bacon, foie gras, beef bone marrow and Girl Scout Thin Mints. Two days after arrival we went off to the great wilderness of rural Ohio in search of the world’s greatest fungus.

Ohio is a hotbed for morels and mid April is the best time. Mushroom hunting is a long-standing tradition in this region with a number of websites devoted to the art. Hunting areas are always secretly guarded often even amongst family and friends.

Jet lag served me well this day because otherwise it’s not easy to get me up at 7:00 am even to hunt morels. But morning is the best time, particularly before anyone else gets to them first. My son had a blast, at least in the beginning, traipsing around in the woods and helping us hunt. There are a lot of ‘rules’ when it comes to hunting morels but I find they can really grow about anywhere in the woods if the conditions are right. They can be difficult to spot sometimes even when looking right at them.

Daddy, I'm seeing things..

I found one nice morel relatively early on, but unfortunately it was rather isolated. After a while we found a couple smallish patches and managed a modest but substantial take home. Had we bought our findings instead from a produce supplier it would have cost about $60-70 but that’s not the point. These were our shrooms.

When working with morels it’s important to soak them in salt water and change the water several times. These things are teaming with life. They are hollow and the inside of the mushrooms will usually have bugs or worms inside or at least dirt. Soak them for at least a couple hours, then drain the water and let them dry on a tray lined with paper towels.

I cooked these the way I grew up eating them, more or less. In the midwest they are usually dredged in seasoned flour and fried in butter. They really don’t need more than this, seriously. We let ours soak overnight then used them to make the best damn breakfast ever.

Ready to be butter-enhanced

To make this just crack a generous amount of black pepper into white flour. I usually don’t add salt to flour because it makes the seasoning harder to control. Salt the mushrooms and dredge them in the flour then shake off the excess and set aside. Cook some minced shallots on low in butter until soft and reserve. Add a bunch of butter to a hot pan and wait until the butter just begins to brown. Fry the mushrooms on medium-high heat and turn them once. Once they are turned add some chopped garlic and your shallots. Be careful not to burn the shallots or garlic. Add a bunch of chopped herbs at the end (I just used parsley but tarragon, chives, chervil would all be great). Now drain them on a paper towel and you are done.

Butter enhancement in progress

The ridges of the mushrooms get all crispy and the mushroom is super meaty and delicious. This would also go well with a horseradish mayo. You could substitute another mushroom, but sorry it won’t be as good. That’s life. I served these over a plain French omelette with classic home fries and roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon.