A Mad Men Cocktail Party - Fondue, Gimlets, & Gourmet Hot Dogs of Yore

Last night was the season premiere of Mad Men, and to commemorate the occasion we--along with some fellow SASOU'ers--joined for a circa-1964 cocktail party. Apart from the new episode itself, the evening was made by two things: a vintage Betty Crocker Cookbook, and some serious fondue. We'll address the fondue later, but first get a load of this:

And you thought hot dogs were low-brow American cuisine! Learn the techniques above and you'll wow everybody at your next backyard BBQ! Impress the hell out of the boss and his wife, and maybe even land a date with Darlene, that hot little number from accounts receivable.

So the very tattered Cookbook, from whence the above photo was taken, was an heirloom handed down from our host's mother to him. The book is full of seriously dated recipes that slant heavily toward jello salads and casseroles. You'll find a couple more excellent photos from the cookbook at the bottom of this post.

The gathering was also a perfect excuse to break in the new Cuisinart fondue set (one of many gadgets from the registry).

Ours is a metal, non-stick, electric fondue pot, which provides for very nice control, but ... non-stick interior, sharp metal fondue forks? How is that a good idea? In any event, the cheese fondue was good. Our host's fondue set was made of cast iron, and instead of electricity is heated by the flame from an alcohol burner.

The heat control seemed a bit trickier than on the electric set, but I like the cast-ironness of it. We used his set for the chocolate, coating both strawberries as well as mint-flavored marshmallows that the missus made from scratch (perhaps we can get her to post the recipe in the comments? Hint hint!) (Also, for this blog, we're still waiting on a better name than "the missus.").

The vodka martinis and the gimlets flowed, and the first episode of season four left us grateful that Mad Men is back, disappointed that Salvatore seems to be off the show, but relieved that Thally finally lotht her lithp.

Dora, the Hindu goddess of 1950s suburbian domestic entertainment

This is a recipe for a pineapple cake which our host actually made. And it was good! I'm not so sure I would say the same if he had made the casserole with enormous chunks of (pork?) loin resting in the midst of what seemed to be macaroni mixed with cream of mushroom soup.


Southern Utah and Vegas (Octopus, Slots, Polygamists, and Ponyo Pancakes)

Ahhhh how I miss the desert lands of southern Utah. The sweeping vistas, the towering red rocks, the sunsets, the dry heat, the fundamentalist Mormons. KM grew up in various western states, and spent wonderful days, decades distant, in the canyons near St. George, UT. How great it was to return! Riding through the desert, the top of Pa's convertible Mustang down, I heard Calexico music playing in my head as I watched hawks circle in the sky above and imagined that every RV we passed was a meth lab (the missus and I are big fans of Breaking Bad).

With family in St. George, Utah, a little over 2 hours from Las Vegas, we took a week's vacation that included hiking the slot canyons, a trip through Zion Nat'l Park, a very brief night in Las Vegas, and of course, a lot of excellent food. Let's recap, shall we?

The photo you see here was from the last night of the trip, when we stayed for a night at the Palazzo Hotel in Vegas. The photo just below was taken from our room on the 44th floor, looking down on the hotel pools far below.

We spent most of the day inhaling rum drinks while sitting in those pools. At night, we had a costly but delicious dinner at B & B Ristorante, located inside the long hall between the Palazzo and the Venetian. This is one of Mario Batali's places. I've never been a huge fan of the red-headed, girthful, TV chef, and I'm always very skeptical about restaurants owned by celebrity chefs (particularly ones who wear crocs--I don't give a fig if they're popular in the industry, they're damned ugly), but I have to say the grilled octopus appetizer and the short ribs were pretty good. The place does have possibly the worst view of any higher-priced restaurant anywhere.

Prior to Vegas, we spent a few days in St. George, including time by the pool, and a birthday dinner I cooked for my brother, consisting of fish tacos and (for me and the missus) some delicious Polygamy Porter. The slogan for the brew is "why have just one?" Ahhhh, those cheeky non-Mormon Utahns (yes, "Utahns" is the proper designation).

Prior to that was a trip to the breathtaking Zion National Park. After a day spent hiking, we refreshed ourselves with beer and excellent food at the Spotted Dog. The menu, like many in high-tourist zones, is fairly standard fare, but the food was excellent, and unlike B & B the Spotted Dog has one of the better views of any restaurant:

Incidentally, the photo you see at the very top of this post was from a hike we did in Kannaraville Canyon, one of the many "slot" canyons in southern Utah.

And I almost forgot! My adorable niece, who was also visiting St. George with my brother and his family, is a huge fan of Ponyo, the latest creation of the completely brilliant and unsurpassable Hayao Miyazaki (if you have not seen Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, or Nausicaa, I feel genuinely envious of you. Go rent or buy them NOW!) Anyway, since she was obviously enraptured with the movie and its title character, a young goldfish/mermaid, I ran to the store for a bit of food coloring and made this "Ponyo Pancake," which she devoured immediately, getting syrup in her hair in the process.


Sad Monkey - A brief lesson in trademarking

Yes, I know, I promised a post about the recent food adventures in Utah and Las Vegas, and you'll get that tomorrow, but first I would like to address a little beef (and I'm not talking about veal).

I began looking into registering a trademark for the name "Kitchen Monkey" to protect it from fiendish interlopers, when I discovered that a year and a half ago some internet startup bloke regsitered the name "Kitchen Monki" for a recipe site. Now, I've looked at the site, and frankly, I like it just fine. But WHY....WHY....WHY did he have to use the name "Kitchen Monki"?????? Granted, he altered the spelling. Who knows, perhaps because he saw that this blog has been in operation since 2004 and he might have some trademarking problems of his own.

Yes yes, it's my damn fault for not registering sooner. Trademark law rewards the attentive (or may I say, opportunistic). And yes, I could still fill out a registration application and hope that my spelling will make it past some attorney at the trademark office. But if it doesn't--if that attorney thinks it's too similar to "Kitchen Monki"-- I have to eat the $350 non-refundable application fee! Sheesh. I don't have that kind of extra cash laying around right now, so let's take a vote:

(1) continue on as "Kitchen Monkey," hope the person behind "Kitchen Monki" is content to leave this blog alone, hope that no future person trademarks "Kitchen Monkey," and give up any notions of a book deal under that name (ha ha ha).

(2) change the name of this blog and register it with the trademark office so this doesn't happen again. I am loathe to change the name, since I've been Kitchen Monkey for six years now. And I like the banner graphic too. Hmmmmm . . . "Kitchen Velociraptor"? "Kitchen Black-Spined Atlantic Tree Rat"?
On the off chance that I have any readers who are intellectual property attorneys, your opinions are most welcome.



HEAT WAVE - Summer Grilling and Beach Adventures

Kitchen Monkey just returned home from a week-long adventure in southern Utah and Las Vegas, NV (more on that trip next post) to find Washington, D.C. sagging in the haze of record temperatures. Firing up the iMac and longing already for the dry desert heat, I've decided this is as good a time as any to post on some recent summer adventures in and around D.C.

A couple weeks ago KM and the Missus (who will be doing some guest posting and has yet to choose her blogname--suggestions welcome!!) followed some friends to Ocean City, Maryland. I typically go more for the quaint beach villages such as Chincoteague, Virginia over the giant boardwalk, Jersey-Shore, kitsch-fests such as Virginia Beach and Ocean City, but there's no denying this was a great trip.

Our small group split a fifth-floor room overlooking the ocean. Our day was divided roughly into four acts. Act One: scarily gigantic cocktails while watching the ill-fated U.S.-Ghana World Cup Match (a moment of silence please). Act Two: wave-jumping in the Atlantic. Someone swears they saw a shark, and at least three of us were pinched (surprisingly hard) by crabs while swimming. As you can see in the above pic, we had our revenge. Act Three: lunch (on both Saturday and Sunday) at "On the Bay" - a great little seafood shack about a block from the beach. Ignore the fact that it is not actually "on the bay," and ignore the fact (if you can) that they appear to have the same Jimmy Buffet CD playing on constant rotation. They have high quality and reasonably large oysters, which are getting more expensive (just another reason to hate BP). They also have excellent king crabs and shrimp, but the specialty would be the local blue crabs, of which I ate far too many.

Act Four: as night fell, we retired to the hotel and grilled some delicious marinated vegetables and lamb cubes and watched as a red moon rose above the water, which you can see here.

Going further back in time, I wanted to post some pics of a recent grilling. The burger you see here was produced solely with locally grown or raised ingredients purchased at the Mt. Pleasant farmer's market just down the street from us. It includes ground beef and greens from Truck Patch Farms, and my favorite, Monocacy Ash goat cheese from Cherry Glen Goat Cheese Company, which recently won a bronze medal at the 2009 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.

This burger was really truly delicious. The Missus also made her trademark ice cream sandwiches (which she says New Englanders call a Chipwich), with chocolate chip cookies sandwiching home made vanilla ice cream, with the edges rolled in chocolate chips. Perhaps she'll post the recipe here soon.

Hope you're all having a great summer, and feel free to send links to or comment on your own favorite grilling ideas for this summer.

Next up, Vegas, baby.