Friday, May 31, 2013

El Truck Del Rincon Criollo

Only a few weeks after we moved down here, I noticed one morning a bright, yet lonely, food truck parked in the Shell station lot (northeast corner of Sheldon and Waters) on the route to Hackknifette's preschool. The truck sported a lakeside mural depicting a curious assortment of forest creatures not normally associated with the Tampa area (chipmunk, moose, geese) and was named "El Truck Del Rincon Criollo" (translation - Creole Corner Truck). Interest piqued, I watched out for the truck every day on the way to and from school and eventually realized that it never moved from its perch (at least not during daylight hours). With signs advertising Latin food to go and "The best Cuban sandwich in Tampa" (which, of course, every restaurant from New Port Richey to Sarasota professes to have), I vowed to stop in for lunch someday before the school year concluded. Hackknifette brings her lunch to school on Wednesdays, so I picked last Wednesday as my day to check out El Truck.

Judging from the photo above, you'd never realize that you're about to dine in a gas station parking lot (or, for that matter, next to a Hillsborough County waste treatment plant - luckily, the nasty effluent fumes seem to drift northward away from the site). For being a food truck, the list of offerings was surprisingly large (empanadas, hot and cold sandwiches, croquettes, breakfast dishes); however, I decided to put to the test their claim of having a superior Cuban sandwich. Just to spice things up a bit, I also ordered something called a deviled crab and an unusual soda called Ironbeer (original 1917 flavor!) to accompany my sandwich. Little did I know how much culinary gusto I managed to pack into one modest lunch.

Let's first discuss the deviled crab. Looking like a small fried football (see photo above), I discovered upon subsequent research that this is actually indigenous Tampa street food, first sold out of pushcarts in Ybor City to feed striking cigar factory workers in the late 1920s. The original idea was to take cheap, plentiful blue crab meat, mix it with leftover Cuban bread crumbs and a spicy relish (like a Spanish sofrito - onions, garlic, chili peppers, and tomatoes sauteed in olive oil), and fry it to make something like a hand-held crab cake (useful if you're a hungry striking cigar roller needing your other hand to loft a protest sign). I wasn't crazy with the deviled crab at first, but it grew on me as I reached more of the good stuff (i.e., the crab and the relish) in the middle and now I'm anxious to seek out more of them around town. Since the sofrito gave my edible football a little bit of an edge, I was happy to have the Ironbeer to wash it down. An interesting story in its own right, Ironbeer was invented in Cuba in 1917 and allegedly became the pre-revolution soft drink of choice there, moving to its new home in Miami once the Castros assumed power. The current version has little connection to the original (it's still produced in Miami) and has a flavor described as a "fruitier Dr. Pepper", although I would say it reminds me more of a Fanta (maybe Strawberry?).

As good as my crab and soda were, the clear star of the show was the Cuban sandwich. When the man says he's got the best in town, I would hazard to dare that he might actually be right (I'm aware that my sample size is limited - I've only been here 3 months). The bread slices were fresh and beautifully crunchy (grilled to absolute perfection), between which were nestled tasty shredded pork, oozing Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles, and ham, with a tiny slab of chicharron (fried pork skin) on top for good measure. Large, inexpensive (about $5), and damned delicious, I've fantasized about this beast ever since and can't wait go back for another (the owner's son also suggested I try the steak sandwich - if it's half as good as the Cuban, I'll be a happy boy)....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


If you ever visited Tampa while on vacation, odds are pretty good that you ventured through Ybor City at some point. Located just north and a little east of downtown, Ybor is Tampa's historical landmark neighborhood turned entertainment district, once home to a large concentration of cigar factories and now featuring myriad boutiques, eateries, and live music clubs (I have it on good authority that the vibe gets a little rowdy after dark). While doing my pre-move research on the Tampa culinary scene, I also discovered that one can find Columbia Restaurant (2117 E. 7th Avenue) there, which is billed as the oldest in Florida (open since 1905) and the world's largest Spanish restaurant (although I suspect there may be some places in Spain that might dispute this claim). Always a sucker for places with strong historical ties, I made a point of putting Columbia on our short list of local dining venues that needed to be experienced ASAP. ASAP ended up being a week ago Saturday when my lovely bride and I decided to see what all the hubbub was about.

Columbia began as a humble cafe serving food to Cuban and Italian immigrants working in the cigar factories and evolved into a national landmark of Spanish and Cuban cuisine. The current restaurant complex occupies a large spot on 7th Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets and includes a gift shop, bar/lounge, several dining rooms, space for a flamenco dancing show, and several nearby parking lots. Since we had declined to spend extra to see the show, we were escorted to the Don Quixote Dining Room, which was built in 1935 as the city's first dining room to feature the then-newfangled refrigerated air (I can happily report that it still works today). Our table was a small 2-top situated in the middle of the boisterous room (which had a decor that wasn't quite kitsch, but close) surrounded by various large parties: a tour group of Lighthouse Ladies, bunches of teenagers having dinner before Prom, families celebrating anniversaries, etc. With this volume of diners (especially in an "institution" restaurant like this), I always get a little concerned about food quality suffering due to the high plate traffic leaving the kitchen; however, I wanted to give the owners the benefit of the doubt before writing Columbia off as a Spanish Disneyland.

The missus and I started out our meal with a pitcher of the house's sangria de Cava, made tableside by one of our two servers (more on that later) with Jaume Serra Cristalino Spanish sparkling wine, a mix of citrus juices, Torres Brandy, and Torres Orange Liqueur. Deceptively smooth, the sweet beverage went down easy and often, eventually forcing me to slam on the brakes mid-meal so as to avoid getting tipsy before the drive home. We needed some nosh to counteract the liquor and opted for the famous Columbia original 1905 salad, put together at the table (if you haven't figured out yet, they're big on tableside presentation here, equal parts showmen and food purveyors) to resemble a giant antipasto salad, with lettuce, tomato, olives, julienned ham, Swiss cheese, grated Romano, and the secret house garlic dressing. Even though the menu trumpets the fact that USA Today vouches for this dish (not always a good sign in my book), we both found it to be quite good as antipasto salads go, with all the vegetables crunchy/fresh and not overly-doused in dressing.

Almost every entree on the menu has some sort of backstory to it (indeed, you start to get the feeling that Columbia is to Tampa as Antoine's or Commander's Palace is to New Orleans; that is, a repository of local culinary history) and no opportunity is missed to namedrop high-profile patrons (Babe Ruth! Marilyn Monroe! Joe DiMaggio! - no Hemingway, though, odd since he seems to show up almost everywhere else in Florida and the Caribbean). I too fell prey to the star anecdotes, ordering the Marilyn and Joe "Salteado", a conglomeration of beef tenderloin tips, chicken breast pieces, shrimp, and roast pork sauteed with olive oil, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, diced potatoes, chorizo, garlic, and red wine, served with yellow rice (this dish was allegedly inspired by a tiff that the famous couple had while dining at Columbia in the early 1950s). It wasn't bad (see photo below), although I'm not sure I get the connection to the argument.

Mrs. Hackknife's Veal "La Reina Isabella" didn't have a highfalutin genesis and was possibly better for it. This dish consisted of pounded veal cutlets that were coated in Cuban bread crumbs, pan-toasted, and topped with a potent saffron butter sauce and lump blue crabmeat. Served with asparagus and what the house calls "good rice", the veal was both decadent (I got to eat the leftovers for lunch later that week) and very unique.

Last, but not least, was a dessert special of towering mango mousse cake (see photo below). I have to say I enjoyed this probably best of all, an another unusual creation that wasn't cloying, contrived, or seemingly connected to any well-known persona, a spectacular example of how refreshing tropical desserts can be (see Refinery, orange-rosemary creme brulee with candied grapefruit).

Given our experience at Columbia, I'd say that if you show up with reasonable expectations about the atmosphere (which is more fun dining than fine dining), service (friendly, yet a bit uneven - the two server concept works only if they communicate well and don't trample each other's toes), and food choices (when faced with the option of something unusual versus "Uncle Jimmy's Favorite Snapper", pick the former), you're going to do just fine. I would have no problem returning to dine here with friends from out-of-town to give them a taste of old Tampa. Who knows? We might even see George Clooney...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lee Bros. at Publix

When the missus and I decided to move into the Canteen here in northwest Tampa, it was pure dumb luck that we happened to pick a neighborhood that was near 1 of the 8 Publix Aprons Cooking Schools in the country (and the only 1 between Sarasota and Lakeland). Aprons offers classes on everything from cooking basics boot camp (which you can be sure I'll be attending at some point) to individuals classes on grilling (yay!) to visits and demos from celebrity chefs. Next month, Kevin Gillespie of Top Chef fame (he was a runner-up during the Las Vegas iteration of the show) will be there (June 27 - mark your calendars), however, the Lee Bros. also recently made an appearance at the school, an event that Mrs. Hackknife and I opted to attend to tide us over until June. I'd only recently heard of Matt and Ted Lee, siblings from Charleston, SC that first started a mail-order food business focusing on specialty foods from their home region (the Lowcountry), then branched out into food journalism and, eventually, cookbook writing. Their stopover in Tampa was part of a tour promoting their new book (Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen) and they were gracious enough to share a 4-course meal of their latest recipes with the demo attendees (of course, we were happy enough to consume them).

For our appetizer, the boys (and their assistants from the cooking school) whipped up a surprisingly simple, yet substantial beloved cheese spread from a now-defunct restaurant in Charleston called Henry's (you can find the recipe here). Not all that different from the traditional Southern spread pimiento cheese (minus the mayonnaise), this dish packs a decent wallop of spice from the horseradish and hot sauce that gets added (of course, you can adjust the heat level to suit your preference or the tolerance of your guests), plus a little pick-me-up from a few ounces of beer (and a splash of red wine, if desired - this didn't make it into the official recipe). Like most dips, this one is best served with crackers and cut-up veggies like carrots and celery. Next up was a briny and refreshing pot of something called frogmore soup, named after a town on the South Carolina coast. Although the soup does not contain any actual frog meat as I was hoping, there are plenty of other stellar ingredients (including shrimp, blue crab, smoked sausage, and sweet corn) to make this a nice candidate for one of the best representations of Lowcountry cuisine.

Moving on to the entree, the brothers presented their take on an iconic Southern specialty, shrimp and grits. The Lee Bros. version contains both bacon and tomatoes in addition to the shrimp (which are sliced in half lengthwise so that they curl up like spirals when cooked), yielding plenty of umami flavor to balance the mellow grits (they cook their grits in whole milk, not cream or butter). For a side dish, we received a healthy helping of Matt's four-pepper collard greens, featuring a great combo of spice (from jalapeno and poblano chile peppers) and bitter (greens mixed with apple cider vinegar), a vegetable dish I'd have no problem wanting to duplicate at home some weeknight. And last, but not least, dessert arrived in the form of something called syllabub , a whipped cream treat brought over to America by English settlers in the 18th Century (it gets a boozy boost from the addition of Madeira or Amontillado Sherry). The recipe I found includes rosemary-glazed figs, but our syllabub had strawberries and black pepper instead (simply substitute 4 oz. of quartered strawberries that have been tossed in a couple teaspoons of sugar for the figs). When washed down with a little Port, this was a fine end to a fine meal (and straight home to bed for us - zzzzz....)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Taco Bus

Although our family has been in Tampa now for about 2 1/2 months, we finally got around to cashing in my other food-related Xmas present (the dining certificate to SideBern's being the first), a gift card to Taco Bus. Chef Rene Valenzuela (a native of Mexico) started his Mexican food business as a taco truck in the mid-1990s and has since expanded to four permanent locations around town, plus a fleet of mobile trucks to serve fests and catering events. Chef Valenzuela has a clear passion for using fresh, natural ingredients (many of which are vegan-friendly) to create a menu of traditional Mexican street foods from all regions of his home country, an approach that garnered the eventual attention of the Food Network, which filmed a segment of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives at the restaurant in 2011 (Guy Fieri has professed his undying love for the chilorio torta).

Mrs. Hackknife, Hackknifette, and I made our way to the original Taco Bus location (913 E. Hillsborough) for lunch one recent Friday afternoon. The flagship site resembles an urban commune of sorts, consisting of a large unpaved parking lot, two actual buses where orders are taken and assembled, a covered outdoor common area with makeshift seats (for those not getting their nosh to go), and a brick-and-mortar dining room with table service and, possibly most importantly, air conditioning for those oppressive Florida July evenings when you've had one mai tai too many and need some grease to counteract the booze. We were fortunate to arrive right before the lunch rush, which we may have exacerbated by slowing down the ordering process with our many menu selections and gift card (I will neither confirm nor deny this). Anyway, once we received our food, we made our way over to a table in the communal outdoor space and got down to business. We began with a small order of the butternut squash centro (a salsa consisting of grilled squash, tomatoes, onions, and sweet red peppers, topped with queso cotija and pico de gallo), a specialty of the Yucatan peninsula served with tortilla chips. This appetizer was exceedingly colorful (I did have a couple of photos, however, they were lost when I switched cell phones last week - sorry, very unprofessional) and exceedingly delicious, even when scarfed down without the chips. For entrees, I chose the famous torta (sadly, Guy's favorite chilorio is only available on Mondays) stuffed with carne de res desebrada (described as "shredded beef cooked Northern Mexico style with tomatoes and chiles") and a host of other ingredients, including refried beans, mayo, lettuce, jalapeno strips, and cheese, all on a fresh baked roll. While this torta isn't quite the equal of the legendary Mexican sandwiches turned out by Cemitas Puebla in Chi-town, it's darn close and I'd happily return for a second (and a third, fourth, etc.). Mrs. Hackknife was similarly pleased with her tacos, one with beer-battered swai fish and a white cream sauce, the other shredded pork cooked up Yucatan-style in achiote paste and bitter orange (aka cochinita pibil). Even Hackknifette's quesadilla and our drinks (hibiscus lemonade and watermelon agua fresca, both made with fresh fruit) were standout. I will no doubt be back to Taco Bus as many times as possible to hopefully try every item on the menu at some point (and maybe even get some pictures)....

Friday, May 10, 2013

Jicama and Apple Slaw with Mint Dressing/Gen. Schwartzkopf's Sour Cream Peach Pie

My dad and stepmom recently drove out to the Canteen from Vero Beach for a visit to see their grandkids (and also possibly to ensure that we hadn't destroyed our pool equipment yet, novice cement pond owners that we are). For dinner, I opted to cook out on the grill, sizzling up some fat Italian sausages to go with roasted peppers, potatoes, and onions. I tried out a couple of new recipes for the other sides - first up was a cole slaw that included kohlrabi and apples in a bright mint dressing, at least that's the version of the recipe I received from our old farmbox lady back in Chicago. When I sauntered over to Publix to get ingredients, however, there was no kohlrabi to be found; luckily, I recalled that there are a number of chefs that use jicama (a root vegetable from Latin American that's similar to a water chestnut) in their slaws, so I ad libbed and bought a jicama bulb instead. As it turns out, this wasn't a bad substitution - the jicama/apple slaw was light and fresh, a really perfect counterweight to the sausages and rich roasted veggies. I see myself making this slaw again as the Florida heat starts cranking up soon for summer.

Kohlrabi (or Jicama) and Apple Slaw with Mint Dressing

1 lb. kohlrabi or jicama, peeled and grated (or shredded)
2 red apples, peeled and grated
1/4 c. fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. freshly-grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Place kohlrabi (or jicama), apple, and mint in a large mixing bowl. Mix remaining ingredients in small bowl with whisk until well-combined. Pour dressing over kohlrabi/apple/mint and mix well.

As simple as the slaw recipe was, I found a dessert to make that was even easier. Back in 1996, the late General Norman Schwartzkopf (a Tampa resident until his death last year) contributed a recipe for a sour cream peach pie to Time-Life Books so it could be included in a Miss Piggy cookbook that was being compiled (yes, apparently, such a thing exists). Sadly, I don't possess this cookbook, but I did see the recipe in a recent issue of Tampa Bay Magazine (the General's widow had allowed it to be republished in the article) and thought it'd be a good summer dessert to try for guests. All I needed to do was get a pie crust (instead of homemade, I went the lazy route and bought a prefab Graham cracker crust), put sliced canned peaches in it, mix up a few ingredients with sour cream, pour it into the shell, and bake the whole melange for about 35 minutes. Although I wouldn't push to get it on the menu at the Harry Waugh Dessert Room anytime soon, the pie was surprisingly good given the effort level involved - even my dad and stepmom (who are notoriously discerning when it comes to recipes) partook and didn't find fault, at least not until after they headed back to Vero as far as I know. So, to sum it up, if you happen to find yourself visiting the Canteen sometime this summer, odds are pretty good you'll find us out by the cement pond enjoying jicama slaw and sour cream peach pie. We'll leave a seat on the lanai for you...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Neighborfood - SoHo

While trolling local restaurant websites recently (these are the things I do for fun), I stumbled across an entity hitherto unknown to me called Dishcrawl, a San Francisco-based organization that employs "ambassadors" in various cities across the U.S. and Canada to set up dining events for enthusiastic gastronomes. Near as I can tell, two different events are typically offered: one involving 4 restaurants in a given evening (the "Dishcrawl") and a second, longer variant that covers a larger geographic area and goes by the name "Neighborfood", a visit to 8 dining establishments in one stretch. Quickly realizing that I've already been doing my own rendition of these in Chicago and other places while on vacation, I excitedly informed Mrs. Hackknife that we'd be attending the next Tampa Dishcrawl event, which was a Neighborfood tour of a food-heavy stretch of South Howard Street (or "SoHo" to locals), just west of downtown.

By 1:45p on a recent Sunday, the missus and I were parked just outside of Hugo's Spanish Restaurant (931 S. Howard), our meeting point for the tour. Hugo's is normally closed on Sundays, but they had graciously agreed to host the group as we began our dining itinerary with a small version of the house Cuban sandwich. It's been a few months since I wrote about the Cuban, so I'll recap - the most common version includes ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on fresh Cuban bread (similar to a baguette, except baked with a little lard in honor of our dear friend, the pig). Hugo's Cuban was served cold instead of toasted (not sure if there's an "official" prep - I've seen it both ways) and I can now say that I think I prefer mine to be hot, so as to have crunchy bread and gooey cheese. The next stop was literally right next door at Tate's Pizza (927 S. Howard), a small, nondescript Italian joint run by 3 rail-thin proprietors who must have unnaturally-strong metabolisms (no joke - I suspect a strong gust of wind might topple them all). What they lack in weight they make up for in enthusiasm (very gracious and welcoming hosts) and prowess in the kitchen, as the house chicken wings were terrific, a perfectly balanced blend of sweet and heat in a tasty little package. Just as good was the thin crust pizza they brought out - my favorite was the Ruskin, a pie featuring olive oil instead of tomato sauce, topped with garlic, tomato, and unspecified "special seasonings". Since this was only Stop 2 of 8, I had to restrain myself from filling up on extra pizza and wings.

Trying to stay on schedule, our chaperones herded us out of Tate's after only about 10 minutes for our third destination, Green Lemon (915 S. Howard), a modern Mexican restaurant that reminded me of Chicago's Frontera Grill (although a bit hipper) or Big Star (with less whiskey and a wider menu). Unlike Hugo's, GL is alive and vibrant on Sunday afternoons, catering to a late-waking crowd seeking to shake off last night's excesses with huevos, tacos, and, for the braver souls, the occasional tequila flight (I also noticed a number of patrons sipping margarita glasses containing upturned beer bottles - not sure what that's all about). We were each served a gigante chicken taco, avocado-glazed buffalo chicken pieces with crispy onions, julienne jalapeno peppers/celery, blue cheese crumbles, and a lime Caesar dressing. Potent as it sounds, I was able to take a little of the edge off with a house margarita (sans beer bottle - see photo below).

Pressing onward, our motley group of gourmands reversed course a bit, heading back south down Howard Street and left on Morrison until we reached the Tiny Tap (2105 W. Morrison - no website, God bless 'em), not really a dining destination per se (unless you consider bbq chips haute cuisine); however, the owners were kind enough to allow Wimauma Restaurant (4205 MacDill Ave. S., new website pending) to set up a mobile catering station on top of one of the pool tables for Dishcrawl. In and of itself, Tiny Tap is a mandatory pit stop for any bon vivant, serving beer/wine to generations of Tampadres (since the 1930s, I'm told) and as quintessential a dive bar as you'll ever find (see photo below), right down to the year-round Xmas lights and a dog randomly wandering between tables.

Given the tavern's location (across the street from SideBern's and not far from its parent steakhouse, Bern's), it's become something of a second home for chefs and waitstaff looking to blow off steam post-shift, in turn serving as a place to network for jobs in the restaurant trade (indeed, Wimauma's owner Beth told us her husband, the head chef, hired a cook in the parking lot after he'd dropped off food for our tour). Speaking of the food, Wimauma had two dishes for us: pulled pork sandwiches with cole slaw and a beer cheese dip chock full of smoked sausage, scallions, potatoes, and who knows what else. The dip had a consistency somewhere between soup and spread, inflicting enough joy on my tastebuds for me to go back for seconds.

At this point, we had reached the long slog of the food jaunt, walking north about 7 blocks past many watering holes with outdoor patios (all of them hosting large hordes of patrons downing liquid refreshments) until we reached Mangroves (208 S. Howard). More swanky nightclub than restaurant (at this point in my life, I'm quite sure I'll never find myself on the premises after 6pm), Mangroves bills itself as a bastion of new American cuisine that also offers an impressive brunch menu. The chef prepared for us a surprisingly good french toast infused with Grand Marnier and some truffled scrambled eggs topped with mini-caviar that knocked my socks off, clearly the best thing I'd eaten all afternoon. From there, it was a short jog back southward to Ribit's BBQ (401 S. Howard), a smokehouse emporium built into an old gas station (see photo below).

As far as BBQ, Ribit's sprays to all fields, offering pulled pork, brisket, ribs, smoked sausage, chicken, and even Cajun food on weekends. While the geographic reach (covering Texas to the Carolinas) is admirable, they may be stretching themselves a little thin in trying to please all possible barbecue afficionados. I found the pork rib combined with the sweet sauce (available in the industrial-sized coolers you see below) to be decent, but not particularly standout (or it could have been the fact that my judgment was starting to be clouded by food overload).

Just 2 stops to go. First up was Meaner Weiner (500 S. Howard - no website), a hot dog and burger joint run by a friendly gentleman who confided to us that he'd spent some time running a similar stand in Chicago. Among his more intriguing menu items were hand-cut garlic parmesan fries (delicious), a traditional Chicago dog (even including a Vienna Beef weiner, neon green relish, and celery salt - sadly, we didn't get to sample it this time), an Italian beef sandwich (ditto), and a Coney dog with chili that was distributed to our group (see photo below). I was only able to enjoy a bite or two of this before having to step off.

Last, but not least, on our tour was dessert in the form of tiny gourmet cupcakes from Frostings Etc. (500 S. Howard, same strip mall), who gave us little Chinese food containers containing a chocolate chip cookie dough and a banana cupcake. Although I really wanted to do it, I couldn't consume another bite and decided to save our cupcakes for the progeny, who greatly appreciated the leftovers we tossed their way.

All things considered, I have to say that the Neighborfood concept really delivered bang for our dining bucks and I expect that we'll be attending another Dishcrawl event in the not-so-near-future...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Apple Butter, Rapini, and Rosemary Vinaigrette

Thus far, in the 6 weeks since we'd become Florida residents, I'd cooked some veggies (asparagus and scallions), sausages, and fish on the Canteen grill, but now I was looking to branch out a little further with a pork dish. Diving into my recipe library, I found a grilled pork tenderloin recipe in Chef Stephanie Izard's Girl in the Kitchen cookbook that seemed to fit the bill. The pork in this case is marinated overnight in a mixture of garlic, thyme, olive oil, and sambal, which is a chili paste popular in Southeast Asian and Indonesian cuisine. Given that sambal is a bit exotic (none to be found at Publix), I was able to track down a jar of it at my local Filipino grocery, the same one that sold me the Magnolia Ice Cream (I'm getting to be friends with the staff there). I have since discovered that sambal not only pairs well with pork (in small doses, I might add - the spice level is a little on the aggressive side), but also with seafood like shrimp, so it now has a place in my condiment hall-of-fame. Anyway, the remainder of the dish includes an apple butter (when prepared appears to really be more like applesauce), a vegetable called rapini (also known as broccoli rabe), and a rosemary vinaigrette. I'd never worked with rapini before (the produce guy at Publix had to point it out to me in the vegetable case) - although it resembles a leafier form of broccoli, it's actually in the mustard green family. Chef Steph's version of the stuff is boiled for a few minutes (like most greens, it cooks down fast and compactly), blanched, and mixed with bacon crumbles to make a pleasantly bitter garnish that counters the sweetness of the apple butter and the savory of the pork.

I should note that the vinaigrette in this recipe is pretty robust (calls for 1/4 c. of fresh rosemary, which is quite a lot) and goes a long way. I managed to use the leftovers as a manly salad dressing for a couple of days after the fact until the rosemary aroma was practically wafting from my pores.