It’s Day One of the Eat Local Challenge, and here in Cookiecrumb’s Playhouse, we have appointed a theme for our month: The Barbary Coast Kitchen.
We won’t be strict adherents to antique eating, but wherever possible or whenever it just seems like the right thing to do, we’re going to re-create menus, using local ingredients, from the Gaslight Era in San Francisco. Turn of the Century. Earthquake time. Native ranchos. Old Chinatown. Like that.
I know for certain that those who could afford to do so in San Francisco a hundred years ago loved dining on imported extravagances, like pineapples, terrapin, coconut. We’re not going to be doing that. We’re not going to be dressing in Edwardian costumes, either, belting out “Open your Golden Gate!”
In fact, we’re going to have a little fun with the recipes of yore, all the while delving into a historical tradition that will be fun to – uh – delve into.
Today we’ve taken a venerable dish, Celery Victor, and reinterpreted it as Cardoons Victor.
When Cranky took his first taste, he called it Cardoons Loser.
He said, “Let the cardoons end!”
Oddly, he kept nibbling and totally came around to it.
Celery Victor is a dish of celery boiled in broth and served cold with vinaigrette and (optionally) hard-boiled eggs, created by Chef Victor Hirtzler of San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel (he published a cookbook in 1910).
Cardoons look something like celery. There the similarity ends, however, because it turns out cardoons are molto bitter. I think I should have trimmed the leaves off before I simmered the stalks.
After my first couple of bites, I said, “This is like smoking a cigarette. No, it’s like eating a cigarette.”
But cardoons are related to artichokes, and once you get past the – well, we ended up calling it “sophisticated” – bitterness, there’s a lot to like.
I actually hit the “Mm” stage. Every time I’d take a bite, another “Mm” would erupt. Then I achieved the elusive “golden taste” that eating artichokes leaves in my mouth: a sweet, mysterious I-don’t-know-what.
Not sure I’m going to try cardoons again, though. Jeez, you buy a bunch the size of a Body Snatcher pod, trim it, cook it, and you end up with an appetizer. And I’ve learned that cardoons are considered a noxious pest – a weed – in Northern California because they spurt seeds so readily. (Wait. Weed? Foraging? Did somebody say foraging?)
Anyway. How do you like that rummage-sale celery plate the food's on?
Sources: Cardoons from Mariquita Farm, Watsonville, CA. Vegetable broth from my freezer, made from local stuff in 2005. Herbs from my patio. Olive oil from McEvoy, Petaluma, CA. Habanero flakes from Happy Quail Farms, East Palo Alto, CA. Egg from Triple T Ranch, Santa Rosa, CA. Vinegar from Kitchen Line, Sonoma, CA. Mustard from Tulocay’s, Napa Valley, CA. Salt… Well, let’s talk about the salt another time, shall we?