Outsider Tart Blog


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Number 2

The Keystone State

So-called for its pivotal role in the development of the USA, the Pennsylvania delegation to our Continental Congress cast the deciding vote for Independence.  Were it not for them, we might all be sipping Pimms.  Thankfully, not.

A mere 333 years ago, King Charles II handed over a chunk of land to William Penn to satisfy a debt owed to Penn’s father.  The younger Penn set sail to North America and founded what would become today’s Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Under his guidance, the city of Philadelphia was planned and built.  It seems fitting we focus our attention on the City Of Brotherly Love not only because of historic links between your land and our land, but because we’ve been there a time or two.  One of us may have actually lived in Philly for say about seven years or so.  With the exception of a delightful organized street grid, anyone who’s ever been can easily see similarities between here and there including mews and a city chock full of public squares and hidden gardens.  And just like London, when they laid out the streets in Philly, they didn’t exactly plan for cars and trucks.  Horses, yes.  Four or more wheels and wide bodies, no.

Historically Philadelphia was the second largest port in the British Empire just behind London.  It was the meeting place for our Founding Fathers and both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed into law in Independence Hall in 1776 and 1787 respectively (though they’re still kinda tweaking that last one just until it actually includes everybody).  While Washington, D.C. was under development, Philadelphia acted as the American capital until 1800.  Thought to be “The First American” one of the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, dabbled with inventing the lightening rod and bifocals whilst helping define the ethos of an emerging nation focused on thrift, hard work, education, community spirit and opposition to authoritarianism of any kind.  It is because of his immeasurable contribution to American history we are forced to endure unending appearances of “Mr. Franklin” at just about any function with or without any excuse for “him” being there.  FYI, it gets really creepy, really fast.  

To be honest, with the springtime holidays, we weren’t exactly sure how to play this one.  We’re not sure if people are about (it sure seems like they’re not) and we’re not sure who might want what to eat given holiday menus.  Do we have lamb?  Do we have anything with yeast?  Do we fast?   Do we eat?  Do we wrap the taps in foil or just not bother?  It’s so confusing.  We opted to stay very low-key and informal because we figured more complicated dishes would be had at home when celebrating.  It also gives us an easy excuse for doing Philly Cheesesteaks.  Now before anyone in the know takes aim, we fall firmly in the cheese camp not the Cheez Whiz camp so simmer it down.  At that, we take inspiration from the very heart of cheesesteak territory, South Philly (say sailth for south and you might come close to sounding like a local), and we add provolone.  Smothered with onions, peppers and mushrooms?  Optional.

Another ditty from my past is when I challenged my 6th grade English teacher who told a story about dialect and pronunciation.  He maintained an entire conversation was had in a mere two seconds and I maintained that was impossible given the time it takes to utter and process sounds in both directions.  Logic was lost on Mr. Drabek but thankfully double-knit slacks were not.  However, in his honor, we offer up in our best Philly-ese this query to which we also offer up some suggestions to help with resolving the issue at hand:

            DJA IT YET?



 To toast the Quakers...


The Colonist

Mason Dixon – the north/south boundary line is the southern Pennsylvania border

The Lightening Rod

Franklin’s Lament

Liberty Bell

Penn’s Pleasure

Independent Spirit

Bottled and Bond

And to break the fast (and solve the above riddle)...

Goats Cheese and Asparagus Quiche Cups

Philly Cheese Steak

Vetris Ruben Sandwich

Hershey Chocolate Chili

Lamb Pizza

Greens and Beans

Shaved Sprouts

Shoo Fly Pie


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Number 33

The Beaver State

Ouragon, as it was once called, has an incredibly diverse landscape with Pacific coastline, volcanic mountains, waterfalls, a variety of forest types (including rain) plus a desert.  Called the High Desert it is a relative term given most of the Oregonian landscape gets lots of rain where the desert gets only about 7 inches per year and qualifies as an actual “frontier.”  How rustic.  By no means is it arid and brown, just far less green than the rest of the state.  With all those trees came the lumber industry followed by the fur trade started by John Jacob Astor from New York.  It remains as the top timber producer in the lower 48.  Western Red Cedar, anyone?  This is where it’s from (sorry, architect flash back).  It is also home to the world’s largest mushroom.

In other agricultural news...Oregon is one of the four largest producers of hazelnuts worldwide.  You’re welcome, Nutella.  They also do a lot of cranberries.  Given the similarities in climate and soil to the Alsace and Burgundy regions in France, certain grape varietals do very well and Oregonian wineries are well regarded in particular for their pinots both noir and gris.  Thanks for our friends at Red Squirrel Wine, we will have several delicious examples on hand. 

If you’ve ever been to Portland, you’d know there are a lot of eccentric people about contributing loads of diversity and liberalism in thought and deed.  Matt Groening, the man behind The Simpsons is a native son.  California has Silicon Valley.  Oregon has Silicon Forest, home to many high-tech companies like Intel and biotechnology giant Genentech.  Nike and Adidas also call The Beaver State home.  Must be all that clean, fresh mountain air which keeps wheels turning and ideas coming and people cycling and running and climbing.  But in many ways it also helps distill things down to their basics and look at them from a new perspective.  In our experience, this is the crux of food from the region.  It tends toward the straight forward and clear with the tiniest tweak here and there which will light up your taste buds in a whole new way.  Without further ado...     

To toast the Oregon Territory...

Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir

Sokol Blosser Delinea or Pinot Gris

Sloe Barb Fizz

Pink Flamingo (mocktail)

Mountain Berry Martini

PnP Soda

PnP Cocktail

The John Jacob w/ Oregon Old Tom Gin

Furry Bastard

Prickly Pear

And from the Oregon Trail...

Truffled Crab Melt

Olive Puffs

Stewed Leeks and Goats Cheese

Filet w/ Pickled Onion Rings

Espresso Stout Pork Shoulder

Artichoke, Olive and Salami Pie

Pea Shoot Chicken

Wild Mushroom Cous Cous

Halibut w/ Rhubarb Chutney

Asparagus Gratin

Truffled Spinach

Griddled Hazelnut Poundcake w/ buttermilk cream


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Number 46

The Sooner State

Many moons ago in 1977, it became abundantly clear not much good came from Oklahoma.  At the time a daughter of the Sooner State, Anita Bryant, decided it best to crusade against gay rights.  Even though I was fifteen at the time and, how shall we say, not fully formed nor functional, it was painfully obvious she deserved to get a pie in the face on national television for preaching exclusion versus inclusion especially especially on American soil.  Despite the overwhelming majority of evangelical thinking in the Dust Bowl, many Okies have contributed positively to the general culture and populace:  Brad Pitt, Megan Mullally, Ron Howard and musicians including Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood to name but a few.  Amen to that.  Admittedly country music can be pretty catchy, but it gets a bit tiresome to hear folks sing about the Mrs. in her pretty dress or tight blue jeans as she fixes up dinner and tends to the children whilst the real man goes and wins the bread and they all run off to church on Sunday.  Praise this, I say...

Where many states have official foods be they ingredients or full-on dishes, Oklahoma is the only state to have an official meal.  It is an abundant spread including fried okra, squash, cornbread, BBQ pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken-fried steak, black-eyed peas and pecan pie.  Fried Pecan Pie, at that.  Okay.  So maybe it’s not all that bad if somebody in the Dust Bowl thought of frying a pecan pie.  Since we are all about authenticity here at Blue Plate, we thought we’d stay true to Sooner Spirit (minus the speaking in tongues) and offer up our version of the Oklahoma State Meal.

One last bit of info...Oklahoma the name is derived from the Choctaw Indian words of okla and humma meaning “red people” while the Sooner nickname is derived from those who, ostensibly, squatted on Indian Territory prior to it becoming available to “white” settlers (for free) in an act of Congress during Grover Cleveland’s administration.  How nice of them to honor the locals and celebrate those that took everything from them.  Perhaps if they had chosen names with different etymologies the Big Guy/Girl/Person Upstairs wouldn’t have been so clever in making sure Tornado Alley runs right through the state.  Intentional?  You decide.     

To toast the Oklahoma Brain Trust...

Infamous Wisdom

The Cyrus Avery – in honor of the Father of Route 66 who hailed from Tulsa

Red People

Choctaw for Fabulous

Sooner or Later, Karma’s a Bitch

Wilma Mankiller – in honor of the 1st female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Pe-eep-el, Cherokee Tre-i-ibe

Oklahoma Cooler


Number 17 (that is once they sorted out all the paperwork in 1953)

The Buckeye State

Derived from the Iroquois term ohi-yo meaning “great river” Ohio is best known for being the swing state in national elections.  As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.  Or so it goes.  The Buckeye population swings wildly from very, very conservative (Cincinatti) to very, very liberal (Columbus) so in the end the state is a litmus test for all things political.  The nickname of buckeye comes from the buckeye tree, native to this part of the midwest.  It bears “fruit” a lot like an acorn with a dark brown shell and tan center.  There are about a million iterations for Buckeyes, the state dessert, but all have two things in common:  chocolate and peanut butter.  What those have to do with an acorn-like pellet remains to be determined but it’s most likely down to aesthetics more so than not.

In the mid 1700’s, France and Great Britain waged the Seven Years War (known in the states as the French and Indian War) in an effort to control regional fur trading.  The result?  The French ceded control of Ohio to the Brits.  Then, Pontiac’s Rebellion (think native American Indian with feather headdress) led to American colonial victory and Britain ceded Ohio to the US in the late 1700’s.  As always, we look for the links between us.

Where taste buds are concerned, we thought it wise to focus on a chapter of one of our favorite books.  In it, the author cedes control to one of her chefs (at the time) who was born and bred in Ohio.  While of the impression that cooking chicken-fried steak might be too demeaning for any self-respecting chef, he realized the enormous contribution from his mother and grandmother to his palate and talent.  In his words...

I’ve been asking around, and guess what?  For a lot of people, Ohio just isn’t as palpable a presence as, say, New Orleans or the Lower East Side.  If it were, no one would ask me, “What do you eat out there?” “And where is it, anyway?”

Let me put it this way.  The where is relatively unimportant, it being a matter of some indifference anyway – especially to anyone who has ever passed through Akron [agreed, unless you appreciate the Tire Capitol of the World].  We’ll just say Ohio’s out there in the middle of our great low-profile heartland, and let it go at that.  I’ve long felt the official state motto should be changed to Mark Twain’s “It isn’t always easy being eccentric, you know.”

The what is something else again.  What covers a good deal more ground than we could do justice to on one menu, or even several.  Ground like green tomato mincemeat pie with fresh ham and corn pudding, and pineapple upside-down cupcakes, and roast turkey with three stuffings, and sweet-and-sour braised venison, and cheese dreams, and chicken-in-a-pot, and strawberry –rhubarb pie.  And have some more Johnny Marzetti [we told you we would re-visit this way back in New Jersey] and get your elbows off the table.

And based upon his re-telling of his past to the author of the book herself, her assessment strikes a chord with us:  the crux of the matter is to teach any and all (even the talented chef) that the food they were raised on has the same aesthetic and emotional weight as the food they’ve learned to eat in most restaurants. 

That said...

To imbibe...

Strawberry Rhubarb Smash

Flat Tire – aka Ode to Akron

Lima Sour (home to Glee, if not a lot else)

Buckeye Martini – and no, it’s not peanut butter and chocolate

Aviation – Orville and Wilbur planned everything in Ohio

Dead President – Buckeyes moved into the White House eight times

Northwest Territory

Columbus Cocktail

Sandusky Pop

To eat up...


Chicken Corn Chowder

Gar-licky Potato Peels

Chicken baked in Almond Cream

Cincinatti Chili

Beef Goulash on Egg Noodles

Johnny Marzetti – the Original, not my grandmother’s bastardized version

Licorice Snapper w/ Asparagus and Fennel

3-Bean Salad

Scalloped Potatoes

Corn Pudding

Celery Root Apple Slaw

To polish off...

Sour Cream Cake

Buckeye Cheesecake

© Outsider Tart Bakery, Chiswick, London 2010-12