Kalimotxo (But You Didn’t Hear It From Me, I Swear)

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Oh, Spain spain spain. El Bulli Basque Blah Chorizo Pimenton Spain Spain Spain. Serrano Croquetas Mahon Zamorano Cava Rioja Morcilla Lomo Spain Spain Spain. Spain Spain Spain.

There, I feel better.

Lest you think I’m being sarcastic, I am not. I love Spain. Let me say it again: I love Spain. It’s where my family’s ancestors come from, genealogically speaking. And I’m proud to sport a crazy long and OLD Basque surname. I love my Spanish friends and I love the way Spanish people welcome me into their homes when I visit their glorious country, sharing long meals with me that go deep into the night.

With that said, I’d like to veer just a little bit off the path of Spain’s culinary hotness and talk about something so trashy, so silly, so Spanish: Kalimotxo.

Kalimotxo (pronounced Calimucho) is one of those things that I secretly love but never admit to drinking outside of my close circle of friends. It’s a concoction of cheap red wine, ice, syrup and Coke and enjoyed in the Basque country. Yes, you read that right. A glorified wine cooler, vulgar and crude. AND I LOVE IT!

Like all regional specialties, what goes into a Kalimoxto changes wherever you are at. Add lemon-lime soda and it becomes Pitilingorri, use orange soda and you have yourself a Txurrimuski. Made with white wine and your Kailmotxo becomes a Kalitxuri! FUN!

The irony in all this is that I am not a soda or Coke drinker at all, and in fact I don’t care for syrupy sweet things too often. I do love a good homemade Sangria, so it stands to reason that I’d dig a Kalimotxo on a long-summer day provided there are no cameras or food purists around.

Skip the fancy-schmancy this Valentine’s Day–I know I am! Serve up a big plastic 2-liter of Kalimotxo, eat some Popeye’s fried chicken and wrap your greasy arms around the one you love. Remember, we can return to high-class eating and drinking tomorrow. Cheers!

Kalimotxo
This delightful beverage must be made with bad red wine. You wouldn’t mix a bottle of the good stuff with Coca Cola, would you? I didn’t think so. Also, don’t get fancy with the soda here and do NOT shop your generic aisle; YOU MUST USE COKE®! I add a splash of raspberry syrup because I got it like dat. Suck it up, buttercup!

Recipe
Red Wine
Coke
Ice
Splash of Raspberry Syrup (if you like)
Lots of ice.

Method
Mix it up to your liking. Serve with aspirin or ibuprofen the next day.

Note to my Wine Pedant friends, including retailers, tasters, importers and vintners: Zip it. Can it. Hush. Silencio, por favor. I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. Just today I ask you to keep your lectures and gasps and fainting spells to yourself. Is that too much to ask for?

This post previously appeared at the old Mattbites site.

Tiny update: This post in no way implies that those who like this drink, including myself, are low brow whatsoever. It’s more of a statement reflecting the fact that we tend to be food snobs entirely too often.

The Height Of Gastronomy, Right Here

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Allow me to revert back to my childhood for just one tiny ‘lil minute.

Or just allow me to revert back to any day this week, actually.

Ah, the beloved peanut butter and jelly sandwich. One of my most favorite things on God’s green earth. Ok, on God’s green and brown, getting-too-warm-thanks-to-us earth.

It happens to be the first recipe I properly mastered – age 4, thankyouverymuch. And I suspect it was probably the first thing many American kids learned to make as well, much to the chagrin of nutritionists and pediatricians all over the United States.

The National Peanut Board says that an average American consumes 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the time they graduate from high school.  I think they probably meant to say “Matt Armendariz, 6th grade.”

Excluding my friends with peanut allergies, a PB&J really has to be one of the most sandwiches around. I never realized this until reading facts and figures from companies like Smucker’s and the Peanut Board, but this sandwich is the perfect example of sweet and salty, one of my favorite flavor combinations–if not my absolute favorite. It can be enjoyed standing in the kitchen, dressed up with carrot or celery sticks, adorned with toasted bread, made exotic with seasonal preserves or other nut butters, but it’s always satisfying, simple and delicious. And c’mon, there are times when you don’t really want to think about what to eat, especially when you’ve been around food all day long, and that’s when this sandwich comes to the rescue.

So now I ask you: My European friends always ask me to send them jars of peanut butter. Is it an American thang? Are we the only ones who dig it?

And do you enjoy PB&Js? Is the nut butter / jam / preserve ratio important to you? A little or a lot?

Note: I won’t insult your intelligence by including a recipe. Duh.

Ask Your Doctor If It’s Right For You…

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"Medicine is learning how to keep alive the people whom the Western diet is making sick. It’s gotten good at extending the lives of people with heart disease, and now it’s working on obesity and diabetes. Capitalism is itself marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into lucrative business opportunities: diet pills, heart-bypass operations, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery."

Wow. A very powerful observation from Michael Pollan’s Unhappy Meals in the New York Times Magazine.

A very very good read (says the man who looks at the post below and sees a big slab of meat!)

A Meat & Potatoes Kinda Guy

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Growing up my mother and grandmother fed us picadillo, a dish of ground beef, potatoes, tomatos, onions and spices. It was the perfect meal–delicious and satisfying–and always enjoyed with fresh flour tortillas on the side. It’s a dish I still crave to this day, and like most Latin cuisine it has its regional differences.

As I’ve traveled I’ve noticed that almost everyone has their own version of meat and potatoes, and it’s easy to see why. A traditional Irish corned beef and potatoes, a Kashmiri Rogan Josh served with slowly stewed potatoes, or Brazilian churrasco enjoyed with mounds of Brazilian potato salad- – mix a protein and a starch and happiness is always guaranteed…not to mention a fully belly.

Sometimes in my moments of quasi-food snobbery I chide my friends who refuse to join me for dinner, fearing I’ll pick something that falls outside their culinary comfort zone. I practically have to sign a form promising them no organ meats, no intense heat, no stinky cheese, no bellpeppers and certainly nothing that comes from the “strange” parts of an animal (which always leads me to ask why a rump roast isn’t strange but a tongue is, but whatever!) However, the perfect meal to satisfy my picky meat-and-potatoes kind of friends are, well, meat and potatoes. But only meat and potatoes in their most simple, smoky and stripped down form: steak frites.

My mouth waters just saying that: steak frites.  Grill a steak (with butter). Season with salt and pepper. Serve with French fries. Seriously people, how could you ever improve on perfection? It’s one of the dishes that my picky friends and I can always agree on.

A Belgian favorite, steak frites can be found all over the world. It’s a bistro classic, and depending on where you’re dining the cut of meat will vary. Sometimes it’s hanger steak that’s seasoned and sliced, other times it’s a higher quality cut of meat that’s grilled, topped with butter and served with fries.  To me the best part is halfway through the steak, dipping salty fries in the juices that have mixed with butter on the plate. Cholesterol be damned!

Of course, it’s not something I can really allow myself to enjoy on regular basis, so when I’m going to indulge in full fats and fried foods, a steak frites it is!

Steak Frites
From the Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook by Ruth Van Waerebeek.

Ingredients
4 beef steaks, such as porterhouse, sirloin, rib eye, shell or filet mignon (1/2 pound each and 3/4 to 1 inch thick), or one 2-pound steak
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon water

Fries (however you choose to prepare, but I prefer a smaller cut than a big giant steak-cut fry for this recipe)

Method
With a sharp knife, make small incisions, about 1 1/2 inches apart in the fat around the outside of each steak.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large heavy skillet or sauté pan over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the steaks and sear for 1 minute on each side. Reduce the heat to medium. Season the steaks generously with salt and pepper and continue cooking, turning the steaks every other minute, until you see little pearls of blood come to the surface, about 6 to 8 minutes. The steaks should be cooked rare to medium for juicy, tender meat.

Remove the steaks and place them on warmed plates. Over medium heat, deglaze the pan with the water and swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Drizzle these pan juices over the meat and serve at once with fries.  Serves 4.

Matt says: Don’t forget a big glass of beer. Or wine. Lots.

The 7th Annual Weblog Awards

Awards

Bloggies

Wow.

I mean, really. WOW.

Wow again.

The 7th Annual Weblog Awards have been announced, and I humbly announce that mattbites has been nominated as one of the 5 best food blogs in this year’s Bloggies.

Have you seen the others nominated? I’m not sure about you, but I feel as if I’ve already won just being nominated and being in such amazing company.

I just want to say thank you to everyone who reads mattbites. The love I’ve felt from each and every one of you over the past year has made my life so rich, and before I actually tear up over here I just want to say thank you.

I only hope I’ve given back as much as I’ve taken.

From the bottom of my toes to the top of my bald head….

THANK YOU!

Heading South. Really South.

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In a few weeks we’ll be heading down south – way south – for about a month of rest, relaxation, wine and parrillas.

It’s time for Buenos Aires!

I’ve
been dancing around the house like a little kid lately. Buenos Aires is
one of our most favorite cities on the planet, filled with amazing
people, a vibrant restaurant scene, cool places to stay and more
grilled meat than you could ever hope to eat in one lifetime.

It’s
hip, it’s happening, and it will be my temporary home for just a little
bit. I’ll be blogging from South America, so check back for some
entries, some interviews and some pretty pictures that will most like
be taken under the influence of plenty of Malbec.

Regular postings may be kinda spotty over the next few weeks as I try to cram a bunch of work before our departure, but I’ll be around. Email me and say hello!’ And if you’re in Buenos Aires and have your favorite places I’m all ears!

Cheers!

I LOVE FRITO PIE. I MEAN REALLY.

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I’ve gone through great lengths to not let my professional culinary experience get the best of me. No amount of food tours, international travel, trade shows, dinners and tasting panels will ever go to my head, no sir! (Ok, written down it sounds exciting but trust me, it is a job.) Underneath the exterior of a man who tries his best to live up to his corporate image is a professional dork of the highest order. If you don’t believe me I’ve got photographic evidence of me in a wig with, er, um, nevermind. Back to the food, the real reason why I keep this blog.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I find it necessary to step away from my professional life and get back to basics. And when I say basics I mean the tastes and flavors that i grew up with on the gulf coast of Texas, however-bad-for-you and trashy they may be.

Enter Frito Pie.

I was prompted to write this entry about my beloved Frito Pie because just today I was talking about it with a co-worker. I went on blabbing for about 6 minutes about how it’s been forever since I’ve had one and how if I had my druthers I’d eat my weight in fritos and chili and get fat (ok, fatter) and never leave the house and wear torn up sweatpants and a wifebeater and drink nothing but Big Red and become a giant blob of a human being–all with tattoos, of course. After my co-worker let me gab nonstop (thanks, Sandy!) she turned to me, stared me straight in the eyes and asked:

"WHAT THE HELL IS A FRITO PIE???????"

Ok, people, if you keep a vegan blog, a blog focusing on healthy eating or living, or have any type of political agenda against bad taste or junk food then now is a great time to point your browser to another web site. You see, Frito Pie is so wrong that it’s right, so bad that it’s good, and that makes me very, very happy.

Just like margaritas and caesar salads, Frito Pie’s origins aren’t completely clear and have been debated for many years. Everyone seems to stake their claim to its invention, but in this case I could care less. New Mexico, Texas, Jupiter or Mars, it could be from Heaven as far as I’m concerned. Just keep them coming.

Ok, enough already. What exactly is a Frito Pie? A staple of county fairs, drive-ins, bake sales and ballparks for decades, Frito Pie nirvana is created when an individual serving-size bag of Fritos is spit open along the back and topped with chili, grated cheese and chopped onions. You may encounter different methods such as baking all the ingredients like a casserole but be assured that you’re reading nothing more than good old-fashioned heresy.

As with all recipes of high quality pedigree, Frito Pie’s ingredients and proportions do matter. I believe it’s most authentic when prepared with canned chili without beans, and Frito Pies must be made with Frito-Lay brand corn chips. Anything less and it’s not a Frito Pie. A scoop of chili is sufficient as your goal is to not drown the chips but slighty coat them, leaving them crunchy.

And yes, I’m fully aware that the image above portrays a Frito Pie a la  "Straw Hat" variety because it’s in a bowl and not the bag.

Ok, at this point I know what you’re thinking: man this sounds absolutely atrocious and horrible and packed with sodium, artificial ingredients, saturated fat and I can’t wait to try it! Seriously though, I won’t fault you or get angry if you leave hate mail as I realize that regional "specialties" aren’t for everyone. We can’t all love cheese curds from Wisconsin, a grinder from New England, or even Poutine from Quebec (Wait a minute, I love all those things so scratch that point I was feebly attempting to make.)

Tomorrow I’ll return to my world of artisan foods, but tonight I’ll be indulging my inner Texan and damaging some arterial walls. I’m off to the kitchen, y’all!

Frito Pie

Ingredients
Fritos Corn Chips
Chili (without beans)
Grated Cheddar Cheese
Chopped Onion

Method
Heat chili and pour on top of Fritos. Top with cheese and onions. Because it’s usually served on the go I have omitted exact amounts needed. It’s always to taste, it seems. This recipe can also be prepared with vegetarian chili with delicious results. It’s really the Fritos that make it so bad for you.

This entry originally appeared last year at the old Mattbites sight. It has magically reappeared because 1) I pigged out on a Frito Pie last weekend and 2) I find myself craving another one.

Spring, Summer, Winter, What?

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Wait. What day is it again?

I’m writing a piece on tequila for May, brainstorming on a summer marketing campaign at work, and shopping for swim trunks for next month’s trip. All signs point to summer and warm weather, but in reality, it’s been colder than normal here in Southern California. While I’m dreaming of ribs, backyard barbeques, and copious amounts of rosé, one step outside in the early morning reminds me that I shouldn’t get too far ahead of myself. It’s downright cold! Brrr!

Ok, so I had to trick my brain into thinking it was January, which it is. Wait. I’m confused. What? At any rate, while flipping through a cookbook that was sent to me I stumbled upon the perfect dish, something simple and easy and guaranteed to keep you warm. Pasta e Ceci is a soup made with chickpeas and pasta from Jamie Oliver’s book titled “Jamie’s Italy”. More on the book in the next couple of days, but right now I’m going to help myself to another heaping bowl of soup, a piece of crusty bread and a glass of wine. And as I do I will remind myself that even though my brain is on summer, my body and stomach are fully enjoying winter – well, what we call winter here in Los Angeles!

Pasta E Cecci, from Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver.
Serves 4

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick of celery, trimmed and finely chopped1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
A sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 14-oz. cans of chickpeas
2 1/4 cups of chicken stock
3 1/2 oz. ditalini or other small Italian "soup" pasta (matt’s note: I used riso)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: a small handful of fresh basil or parsley, leaves picked and torn

Put the finely chopped onion, celery, and garlic into a saucepan with a little extra virgin olive oil and the rosemary and cook as gently as possible, with the lid on, for about 15-20 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft, without any color.

Drain your chickpeas well and rinse them in cold water, then add them to the pan and cover with the stock. Cook gently for half an hour and then, using a slotted spoon, remove half the chickpeas and put them to one side in a bowl.

Puree the soup in the pan using a handheld immersion blender. If you don’t have one, you can whiz it up in a food processor instead, then pour it back into the pan. Add the reserved whole chickpeas and the pasta, season the soup with salt and pepper, and simmer gently until the chickpeas are tender and the pasta is cooked.

At this point, if the soup is a little thick, pour in some boiling water from the kettle to thin it down, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve drizzled with good-quality extra virgin olive oil. Lovely sprinkled with some freshly torn basil or parsley.

 

Grey Skies Are Gonna Clear Up

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Damnit. And here I was updating my wardrobe and home décor to reflect neon’s latest popularity on the runways. Legwarmers,  sweatshirts, day-glo fringe.

What are the chances of both magazines working drab backgrounds?

I know it’s the “dead” of winter and all, but don’t you think that a boost of happy color might be in order here?

At least F&W’s pretty hot pink bowl makes me happy.

Stuff, Just Random Stuff

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My brain is mush these days. There are a million things going on, and I’m trying to make some deadlines so I can take some time off. Trying to work on three month’s worth of seasonal projects simultaneously leaves me exhausted at the end of the day. But enough of the whining already!

If I post this in bullet form will you think less of me?

Will you still love me?

Please say yes.

Thoughts from the past week:

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1.Your metabolism does indeed change as you get older. ##^@%!%^@%?.


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2.  Perhaps it was prompted by Amy who has been in Vietnam this month, but my love affair with Little Saigon has no end in sight. Luckily Garden Grove, California is only up the road.

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3. I love Australians. Always have. And Tim Tams, too. No, really. Love love love love love them both. And an afternoon spent tasting Australian food and wine at this year’s G’Day LA event in Century City only makes me want to pack a suitcase and visit. To the folks at Austrade – thank you!

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4. Next month we’ll be frolicking on the beaches along the southern hemisphere for a few weeks. Don’t be surprised when you turn on the news and read how groups of South Americans all fainted and went blind because I took my shirt off. I’ve warned you.

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5. Fellow bloggers and public relations firms, if you’d like me to read what you have to offer then introduce yourself. Say hello. Strike up a friendship. But please don’t blindly send emails where you’ve cut and pasted mattbites into the contents. You really know how to make a boy feel special. Who ordered the Tsk tsk with a side of Disingenuous?

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6. Wolfgang Puck’s latest steakhouse Cut is actually very good. But then again a $120 steak better be.

Insideorville7. Am I the only one creeped out by the digital Orville Redenbacher that debuted on last night’s Golden Globes? What’s next? A pixelated CGI Julia Childs for Kraft?

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8. Brrrr. It’s no secret that I can’t stand cold weather, but our recent dips into the 20s and 30s will most likely affect California’s citrus crop this year. If you’re at the market, stock up and enjoy now. My produce contacts tell me it might slim pickings from here on out.

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9. A few have asked about this "super secret" project I’ve alluded to in the past few posts. While I’m sworn to a big fat non-disclosure form, I can tell you it involves technology. And no, I’m not going to be recreating Orville for another commercial.

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10. Victoria Beckham is wearing me out! Between home hunting in Bel Air, daily visits to Sprinkles and Pinks (don’t listen to what you’ve heard–the bitch can eat!) and every little shop in town for gifts for the kids, I can’t stand it any more. Posh, I have a life. Please quit calling me. Straight to voicemail, girl. I mean it.