Friday, May 7, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Ryan Detter

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin'Home Cooking'

Growing up I had lots of male friendships.  I just seemed to hit it off better with the opposite sex- less drama and girlish nonsense.  Despite my love of pretty dresses, a great shade of lipstick and wedge heels I had a lot of tomboy in me.  I loved "being one of the guys", and always having someone to keep a look out for me.  It was easier back then.  As you get older, that statement from When Harry Met Sally becomes dreadfully true "Men and Women Can't be Friends".  I tried to resist it, swearing up and down that this wasn't true.  But just as Harry predicted usually one fell for the other and the friendship was ruined.  Once married, pretty much the only male friends you will have will be the husbands of your best girlfriends.  Guilty by association (luckily my girlfriends have all married fabulous men!)

I have only found this  exception to the rule twice in my adult life and the first time was when I met my college neighbor, Ryan Detter.  My long time roommate Andrea and I moved into these great apartments a bit off campus and lucked out living right next to these really sweet, super fun guys, Ryan and Mike.  I was dating Scott at the time, but unfortunately he was attending Kent State University so we had to suffer through 3 1/2 years of long distance relationships.  Long distance dating can be difficult, especially in college.  But he was the love of my life and we were both determined to make things work.  By this point in my life I was already growing weary of male friendships.  I was now tired of the guy drama, and would just rather hang with my girlfriends.  Well surprisingly Ryan and I hit it off right away and were instant chums.  From the get go Ryan was always respectful of my relationship with Scott.  He would share his dating adventures with me and I would complain to him about how I hated Scott living so far away.  We were good ears for each other and provided perspectives to life that our friends of the same sex couldn't give.  

After college I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and Ryan moved to Baltimore, Maryland.  We successfully kept in touch.  A few years later I was thrilled and honored to have him and his delightful girlfriend Jill attend my wedding.  It meant so much having them there to help Scott and I celebrate.    And I look forward to the day I can do the same for him.  

Ryan is funny, smart and an amazing cook.  You are a lucky one if you are invited to dine in his kitchen for you will have a feast!  He's pretty fearless when it comes to food, so you know you will be in for a treat- or at least an adventure!  Ryan knows how to have a good time and his taste in music is spot on.  Want something new to listen to?  Be sure to check out his website.  You will be sure to go home with something fabulous.   So for today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am proud to introduce you to my true, dear (male!) friend, Ryan Detter. 

Ryan Detter
Ryan and his girlfriend, Jill.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Wow, that's a tough one. I can't commit to what movie to watch let alone a favorite thing to cook. Usually it's based on seasonality (soups/stews in the winter, fish/grill/salads in the summer) or whatever looks fresh in the grocery store or market. I guess I will go with what i've cooked the most lately, which would be a great light version of gumbo I got from Mark Bittman on The New York Times. It's not too heavy for gumbo and has a nice amount of spice and seafood (two of my favorite things). The protein and vegetables are pretty flexible so that allows for some good creative variation every time you make it, which goes along nicely with my "buy what looks fresh/seasonal" mentality. If you're feeling especially hungry you can eat it with rice, and if not you can simply serve it 'naked'. Plus it always has a ton of leftovers that are even better the next day.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
My weekday meals. There's generally not much time to prepare them and I stick to simple things (fish/steamed veggies/salad) so there's not much room for creativeness, etc. I don't mind this, as i can't eat fancy elaborate meals all the time (for health reasons too), but it simply doesn't make the cooking part as fun as when i am doing something different and learning new things. Guess you gotta have the sour to enjoy the sweet.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Right now my favorite place would have to be Brian Voltaggio's (the guy from Top Chef) place in Frederick, MD Volt. I was lucky enough to have a 21 course chefs table there for my birthday (thanks Jill) and it was unbelievable. It did just as it was designed: allowed me to taste a small sampling of everything, and drool for the next 2 months till I get back and am able to have a full course of certain items (*drool* butternut squash goat cheese ravioli *drool*)
Jill and Ryan with Chef Brian Voltaggio at Volt

As for a place I am dying to try: there is a place a little off the beaten path in baltimore called the Chameleon Cafe. It's in a neighborhood called Hamilton that has had some rough times, but is now seeing an upswing in new residents/shops/bars/restaurants. It's always in baltimore top 50 list and I have had many close personal friends say it's not only great, but one of the best bargains in the city. Quaint too, not one of those McSteak joints.

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
Considering I write a music site (blatant self-promotion time: this question is pretty tough. I guess I would go with Iggy Pop - "I wanna be your dog". on repeat. Just kidding. I think I would put on a good mix of low-key indie (The National, Feist, Beach House, etc.), down-tempo electronica (junior boys, air), and some mellow classics (neil young, bob dylan, aimee mann, etc). Sidestory: I once went to this hip bar/restaurant called brewers art for a Valentines dinner (even though we don't really celebrate it...just an excuse to go out) and they were playing one love song, and one not at all love song, etc. Example: Beatles - Hold me tight, Nirvana - Rape Me, Marvin Gaye - Lets Get It On, Bob Dylan - It's All Over Now, Baby Blue. It was hysterically genius.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
You know, I wanted to answer with something fancy that I thought was absolutely absurdly good, but you know when they say "the best food is the food that brings you back home"? Well they're right. My last meal on earth would have to be a mixture of my mom's greatest hits: Her "So thick it comes out in squares" mac-n-cheese, her "orange juice/brown sugar, cooked so long it just falls apart" ham, and her pumpkin pie. Love yah mom, but if I lived closer to you, that "last meal" would be happening a lot sooner than planned ;)

What are you currently reading?
Been in quite a big Hunter S. Thompson phase. Just finished "Hells Angels", and am 1 chapter into "Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72" (I would also highly recommend the book version of "Youth in Revolt" by C.D. Payne)

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
My pasta maker. I don't make it as much as i should because it takes a long time, but it always impresses people (myself included), and tastes like NOTHING you can get at the store. Plus raw eggs and flour is the cooks equivalent to a little kid getting dirty in a sandbox. Sad thing is, I actually have to clean the kitchen, where as my mom always cleaned the dirt off my clothes. refer to my earlier statement about not making it very often.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
I think my signature dish changes every year or two. I find a dish and cook for anyone who will try it. So I would say I have a couple. The first one, is an "antipasta" chicken cordon bleu. First you chop up some basil and layer about 3 pieces of prosciutto together so it forms a wide "paper". Put some goat cheese and some of your chopped basil in the middle of the prosciutto and wrap the prosciutto around the cheese/basil, making sure to seal off the ends (it will kind of look like a mini-hot dog). Meanwhile I like to marinate the chicken in whatever marinade you like, then pound it out so it's flat. Wrap the chicken around the prosciutto "roll", throw in a couple toothpicks so it stays wrapped (or you could use cooking string), brown it on the stove, then throw it in the oven till it's up to temp. Definitely rich, but really tasty.

My other signature dish I got from the wonderful food blog The Kitchen Sink. Its an herb encrusted pork tenderloin. They suggest to do it on the grill, but I find that you lose a lot of the herb goodies that way, and prefer to do it on the stove top, followed by the oven. First get a mixture of herbs (thyme, basil, sage, rosemary), the more the better as you wanna be able to overcoat the entire loin. Chop up the herbs, some garlic and mix it all together with some red pepper flakes and fennel (this ingredient is key, but you don't wanna go overboard on it, as it will make it too anise tasting). Coat your pork loin in spicy brown mustard and pour the herb mixture over the entire loin till it's fully coated. preheat your oven, put some oil on a large skillet and brown your loin, trying to limit the loss of herbs. then throw it into the oven until it reaches 145. This temperature is key, as I've seen lots of people over cook their pork. It'll keep cooking as it rests, and this makes it super moist. I know what I'm cooking this weekend.

You are from the Cleveland area, but moved out to Baltimore a few years ago. What do you miss most about the Cleveland area and what do you love most about where you live now?
Hands down the people. Not just people I know, but the overall nice way the people of Ohio and the mid-west act and treat others. It's funny because I can meet someone for the first time and after talking to them for a bit I start to think something is a bit off. I end up asking "are you from the mid-west?", and sure enough they usually are. Not that people aren't nice in baltimore, it's just different and hard to explain. There is just something warm and comforting about walking into a CVS in ohio and being told "thank you" and "can I help you" and knowing they actually mean it (most of the time).

As for what I love about baltimore, there are many things (closeness to other major cities, the bay, the history) but the thing I love the most has to be the tons of hidden gems. Just when I think I've been to every small restaurant or bar I'll trip onto some unknown place that starts a whole other adventure. It really makes the city seem pretty new and fresh, although I've lived here for about 8 years now.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
My mom always did a mean chicken stir fry. We always knew what day was stir fry day because that odd looking "pan" would be brought down especially for the meal. Of course later we would learn that it was actually called a wok, but for us at the time we thought it was quite worldly to be cooking in such a cool looking thing. I make it still, along with all kinds of other stir fry's, but as is usually the case I can't seem to get it quite as good as mom did.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
In no particular order, off the top of my head: High Fidelity, Life is Beautiful, Fight Club.

What was your happiest moment in life?
Wow, talk about a hard question. I am lucky to have a lot of happy moments, but I guess the most recent happiest moment was at my brothers wedding. All of my family was there, along with my girlfriend and a bunch of our friends. We were all just having a huge party and enjoying our time together. I don't get back to cleveland as often as I would like, so it's those times I get with all of my family together that I truly cherish.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Usually safeway, but every sunday we have a huge downtown farmers market and I try to make it there once a month. It runs from may to december, which i was always amazed about.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Cheese. I love it. All of it. I recently wrote a comment in a food blog saying "Cheese is The Beatles of food" and I still think that's true. There are thousands of variety's, they're not good for you (which makes it all the better), they have a broad range of tastes and texture, you can add them to anything....I could keep going on and on. I would much rather have a cheese plate for dessert than whatever chocolate volcano thing-a-ma-jig the pastry chef is making these days.

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
I guess the thing I am most proud of is all of the great people I've had the privilege of meeting and creating great relationships and friendships with. Seems weird to be proud of other people, but all of those relationships really mean the world to me. I've had some wonderful times, but none of them would be nearly as good without great people to share them with. Maybe that's a cop out....and if it is, then my second answer would be running about 18 miles a week for 2 years now. Including a marathon, 4 half marathons, and 2 10-milers.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
Every year it's the same: cook more. Like I said, weekdays don't allow for the time to cook the types of things I want to, and weekends are generally busy but I've been working on making room for cooking weekend nights, and sometimes weeknights. My girlfriend seems to like this resolution quite a bit.

One word that best describes you is: Gregarious

Provençal Calamari Salad with Tarragon and Mint
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

1 cup grape tomatoes
1 pound calamari, cut into 1/2-inch rings (frozen calamari that is already cleaned and sliced works great)
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 stem tarragon, leaves roughly chopped
2 stems mint, leaves roughly chopped
Chopped toasted almonds, for garnish (optional)

In a sauté pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté gently—you don't want to add color, until it just turns fragrant. Add the tomatoes and chili flakes, and some salt and pepper, and sauté for about 3 minutes.  Raise the heat to high, add the calamari, and season again. Allow to cook until just firm and opaque—under five minutes, so keep a close watch.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, and lemon juice with some salt and pepper.  When the calamari have gone from translucent shell pink to opaque white, and not a moment later, drain off most of the liquid in the pan. Then add the lemon dressing and the tarragon and mint. If you like, sprinkle just a few roughly chopped toasted almonds over the top. Serve hot, or at room temperature.

Ryan, thank you so much for doing this interview for me!  You have provided me with so much wonderful new reading material, food blogs, and the like, my Google Reader just grew over night!  I am super excited to give all of the recipes a try, that calamari one sounds so perfect for the summer.  Next time you are in Cleveland, give me a ring.  We can take our better halves out for a fun dinner on the town!  


  1. Wow, great interview, probably one of the best yet (except for my daughter's). Great recipes you included and a lot of great information. I will be making all of them at one point! Thanks, and maybe one of these days I'll get to meet you (actually I probably have but I don't remember...this time I'll make sure I do!)
    Amie's sister, Bonnie

  2. thanks! i will definitely be sure to call next time i'm in town. probably sometime this summer. HIGHLY recommend that blog thekitchensink. great recipes and stunning food photography (also a hobby)

  3. Antipasta chicken cordon bleu...that just sounds delish! my moutH is watering. Amie, I can see why you picked him as a great guy bud! I have to agree with Bonnie too, this was a great interview. Thank you Ryan Detter...Good to know that there are still a few great guys out there (including my Hubby, od course!)
    Tera Pepper



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