Duck fat

You know that weird thing where you hear about something for the (seemingly) first time and it strikes you as odd/interesting/worth paying attention to? And then suddenly you are seeing/hearing/talking about said thing over and over and it seems more than coincidence? Almost freaky? Like said thing is either stalking you or you have been subconsciously stalking it?

This is what happened to me and duck fat. (For the non foodies, yes, that is the fat rendered from ducks, and used as a distinct ingredient.)

First it was that New York Times Magazine spread on chef's tattoos from way back in March. I love chefs. I love tattoos. I loved this spread. And even though the pork tattoo is ballsy, it was the duck fat tattoo that stuck with me.


I mean, listen to this woman wax eloquent about why she would have such a gorgeous, old school tattoo of the word duckfat on her arm:
''I love duck fat,'' said Jill Barron, the executive chef at De Cero, a Mexican restaurant in Chicago. ''I love cooking with it; I love rendering it. It's my favorite fat.''

Next it was reading restaurant reviews and generic Bon Appetit-Gourmet-yada yada that was not particularly memorable, except that duck fat was popping up all over the place. So when we ventured to York, Maine to check out the new gourmet foodie store Trillium, and saw a tub of duck fat, I knew I was taking it home. $5 for the tub, which seems fair and good.


(By the by, Trillium has some fun cheeses, dried goods, dairy stuff, smoked meats and sausages, etc. I also brought home a healthy serving of the most delicious Parma ham I have ever had. Mmmmm . . . Parma . . .)

I used the duck fat to saute some new potatoes I had gotten at the farm market a few hours before. Wondrous. (This is also some fore-shadowing. The combination of duck fat and potatoes proves to be the star again and again in this chronicle of fowl fat.) I also tried spreading it on toasty good quality bread, much to B's horror, although he gamely tried it and pronounced it too gamey. I thought it was ok, but would've been better if I were making grilled cheese, very savory style, with the bread. It should be noted here that B did not like the truffle cheese we had on our scrambled eggs that we ate with our potatoes and toast (for dinner). So his opinions about such things should almost be discarded.

duck fat

The duck fat has the quality and consistency of room temperature butter, even very cold. It is white, and very clean. It didn't brown when cooking the potatoes - more experimentation is in order.

Finally, a friend told me about and then the next day I read about, a restaurant in Portland, Maine, called Duckfat. So we went.


We ordered the Belgian frites, of course, and of course they are fried in duck fat and come with a sauce, of which there are many choices. If you are tired of reading this post, you can stop here because this was the highlight of Duckfat. Not that the rest wasn't very good, it was. It's just that these are the best damn fries in the world. If you are anywhere near Portland, and are not afflicted with vegetarianism, you need to get thee to Duckfat and get thee some frites. I loved loved loved these.


Those wooden things sticking out are little forks. I loved my cute little frite fork.


B and I each ordered a panini, and they were real and not trendy so much. His was the BTC, with very good bacon, a tomato reduction that was very good. I will say I could've used much more cheese. Mine was the duck confit panini with plum chutney and boursin. Too much chutney. I wish I had tried the fig and port sweet panini. I got a black and white milk shake that was delicious. Next time I will order a vanilla one because mine melted together too quickly but the vanilla part I did taste was amazing. B got a home made ginger brew which he hated. He likes Jamaican style ginger beer and this wasn't. It tasted like ginger powder.


I very much liked the food, and am happy to try other things. Duckfat has definite service issues. It is counter service, but at the same time you are in line you're trying to gage if you are going to have a table when you get your food, because there aren't very many tables (in fact, I don't know if you can tell from the photos, but we are really sitting at a 2 foot by 12 inch slab up against a wall). It worked, at one point two different parties behind us staked claims to tables before food, leaving us and the people in front of us a little hurt and confused, but it all worked out. Also many other people got their drinks before us, so we had our nice hot salty fries and no refreshing beverage. I think the best thing might be to order ahead, and take your food out on a picnic.

In the end (is this finally the end of the duck fat saga? I still have some left in the fridge . . .) I do love duck fat. Especially when potatoes are fried in it. But not enough to obsess over it, and not enough to tattoo the word on my body. Though it really is wonderful, and I've been itching for another tattoo . . .


Barone's Steak Shack, round 1


Driving home trying to think what to cook for dinner on an already growly stomach, I passed by this shack. It has been recently erected, sometime in the past couple weeks, and we have been tracking its progress in regards to being open. So slamming on the brakes and causing a near accident when I saw the open flag out was a no brainer - dinner's done.

They have quite an expansive steak menu, and the prices are great. $6 for a regular 8" steak and cheese, $7 for a 10". No sides to speak of, some bags of chips. They do offer fountain sodas. Also on their menu (which we have yet to try) are things called chicken steaks, with the same vast topping offerings. I'll report back when I know more, but that will be a couple trips hence as next time we will definitely be sampling the Italian sausages. Things I probably won't try for a while to come but which are also offered are hot dogs and hamburgers. Back to the steak -

I got a nacho jalepeno steak sandwich for myself and a MegaLoaded for B, which turned out to be mushrooms, peppers, and onions with cheese. They have cheese choices, which I like. Their peppers are actually red and sweet, not green bell, which I really really like but B could've gone for the more authentic green bell. The cheese is ample, the steak shaved. When I picked my sandwiches up off the shack's counter, the kid behind it said, "You're going to need a lot of napkins" and handed me an inch thick stack. Grease was already leaking through the paper wrapping and paper sleave. Fortunately, we didn't eat right away and I let them sit on paper, which seemed to drain away at least the surface grease. Not that I don't enjoy a little grease with my cheese steak.

These are very good cheese steaks. They don't shove me over the edge into cheese steak ecstasy, but they are the best in this area.

Barone's Steak Shack
Rte 1, Rye (just north of Breakfast Hill Road)
open 11am - 7pm Sun - Thurs, 11am - 9pm Friday and Saturday


Kitchen Myths

Most of these are old news, but I post the link here because of a recent discussion with Watty over screaming lobsters - scroll down for the truth about said screams.


SARS tomato

I heard this story on NPR on my way home - tomatoes grown with SARS vaccine built in. I had previously heard about bananas made into vaccine vehicles.

People who know me know I don't like food fucked with. Most especially tomatoes. Can't emphasize how much I don't want my tomatoes messed with. (Sorry, some tomato angst going on here - haven't eaten one not out of a can since late October last year because I just don't buy them at the store. And with the weather so hot, all I can think about is tomatoes. My desert island food.)

But people who know me know I also don't do needles. At all. Not like I need vaccines or anything, but people keep bugging me about my ten years over-due tetanus situation.

For now, the no messing with tomatoes principal wins out over the no needles principal.

When I come down with lockjaw and can't eat tomatoes, we'll talk.


Ruhlman Reading

Inspired by the Amateur Gourmet, I inter-library loaned Michael Ruhlman's books The Soul of a Chef, and since it came up in my search, The Making of a Chef.

I'll have to say up front that although I read non-stop, and therefore read a lot of crap, I am still very picky about the quality of writing I enjoy. I don't enjoy Michael Ruhlman's style. BUT, the information contained within is good enough to keep me reading, and to inspire me to pick up and finish off the second book just as quickly.


The Soul of a Chef is divided into three sections: the master certified chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, following a friendly fun chef on the rise in Ruhlman's hometown Cleveland, and chronicling his work with Thomas Keller, of the French Laundry (and now, Per Se). This last section held my interest far more than the others, and I will be checking out The French Laundry Cookbook in the very near future. Keller hired Ruhlman to help him with this book, thus Ruhlman's getting to write the last section of Soul of a Chef.

I feel like kicking myself in the ass after reading this. Not that's it's easy to get reservations at the French Laundry, but there were a couple supreme dining occassions in San Fran when I could have at least tried. I don't regret my meals at Chez Panisse, or the Zuni Cafe, and so on - but. But -

The descriptions of the food, the meals, the experience. The French Laundry. From reading this book alone, it is worthy of its reputation. Sigh.


I definately learned a lot from Making of a Chef. Not what Ruhlman tried to hammer home, obvious stuff about the personality of people who cook for a living, but the details. I've never attempted, and so have never learned, classic cookery. Mother sauces, browning of bones, stuff like that. Good read which added a lot to my base of food knowledge, without having to put hours and days in, in the kitchen.