Blog of an aspiring foodie

Archive for December, 2008

Heh – got called out on B4-U-EAT

Posted by beer_chris on 29-December-2008

So, not sure if this means something or not, but I got a kick out of it. I was browsing my old comments on B4-U-EAT.com a few weeks ago, and noticed that I had been ‘called out’ for a pretty negative review I posted for a new tapas place out here in the bay area.

I try really hard to be factual in these postings, especially in cases like this where it was my first visit. In this case, though, the ‘calling out’ seems pretty petty – like seems to happen sometimes with these reviews.

Snip of my review:

<SNIP>

Agree with majority of other negative reviews. Tapas were a bit pricey at avg $7. Ordered a number of cold seafood dishes, and was disappointed in each of them. Octopus not at all fresh. Sardine dish was not what was described on the menu – complained, and got another sardine dish but not the one on the menu (lacked anchovies). Empanada dish was described as empanaditas – which means small empanadaS (plural). Came out as one large empanada, and was swimming in a spicy sauce that wasn’t described on the menu. This sauce made the empanada soggy and was too spicy for my wife. A replacement order (pork skewers) came out with more of the spicy sauce – again not described on the menu. Had same reaction with morcilla as previous reviewer – was kind of exicited to see if it actually was a blood sausage – only to find out it was just simple chorizo.

Bartender a little rough around the edges – good service to us at the bar, but witnessed some decisions on serving old (sour) drink mix by adding some pineapple juice to it. If you go and order liquor/wine, be sure and sit at the bar to make sure you get what you ordered!

</SNIP> 

The ‘callout’:

<SNIP> (Emphasis added)

What a treat! A friend and neighbor told me about this restaurant and we are all very pleased after dining there. The quality and variety of tapas is very good. I have to agree with the reviewer who stated that for South Shore residents we FINALLY have an alternative to seafood and mexican restaurants. I have lived in the SS area for 10 years and this restaurant is great. For an area with higher end homes, we certainly have a dearth of nice dining establishments. No more trips to Houston on the w/e in order to have a good tapas experience. 

The environment and menu is more adult friendly. Sauces are described on the menu or one could certainly be proactive and ask the waiter if one is not familiar with whether the sauce is hot or not. Personally, I enjoy an environment that is more adult focused as I truly do not want to spend my dinner hour listening to screaming kids (love kids but not the parents who aren’t courtesy enough to remove the child and thus not disrupt other diners.) I highly recommend this restaurant and hope you enjoy your experience.

</SNIP>

Tee Hee!

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Some important family recipes

Posted by beer_chris on 28-December-2008

The following are copied verbatim from my mother’s recipe card file.

Granny’s Marshmallow Cream Fudge

Bring to a full boil–stir constantly: one 5-10 oz jar marshmallow cream; 2/3 cup evaporated milk (Nestle’s preferred); 1/4 cup butter; 1 1/2 cup sugar; 1/4 teaspoon salt

Boil 5 minutes over moderate heat, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat. Stir in ’til melted; two 6 oz. or one 12 oz (2 cups) Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate morsels; 1 tsp vanilla; 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped.

Pour in greased 8″ square pan.

Chill ’til firm. Yield: approximately 2 1/4 lbs

English Toffee (from Mom’s Domestic Science courses at UofH)

1 cup sugar
1/16 tsp salt
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup thin cream
1 tsp vanilla

Put all ingredients except butter and vanilla into a saucepan and cook, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Stir occasionally while cooking to 244 degrees. Add butter and continue cooking to 252 degrees. add vanilla. Pour onto an oiled marble slab or baking sheet. While still warm, mark in pieces. When cool, cut and wrap in wax paper.

Shortbread (Barb & Aunt Florence)

1 lb butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup corn starch
3 cups flour

Knead sugar into butter; mix corn starch and flour and knead in butter and sugar. Roll out/pat out/on oil paper instead of board.
Bake in oven 300 degrees or lower until pale golden, about 30 min.
(225 degrees or 200 degrees 1 hr works fine)

Grandma White’s Sugar Cookies (Dad’s edition)

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup cream
4 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder

Mix like white cake. Add more flour to handle well. Roll out and bake at 350 degrees.

NOTE: Dad says to add only enough flour to bring together. Refrigerate and knead in only enough flour to roll out cleanly. Keeping flour to minimum keeps cookies light. Shake warm cookies in a paper bag with granulated sugar.

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Overlap of interests

Posted by beer_chris on 26-December-2008

So, I’m watching the ‘Handlebar’ episode of Kitchen Nightmares this morning, and for this one Ramsay has gotten Dee Snider from Twisted Sister to be a celebrity buzz-maker for the little eatery. On the relaunch night I notice that an especially large and shaggy man is sitting at Dee’s table – and of course it’s Mick Foley. I had to rewind a couple of times to see for sure, as the show never even mentions him.

What an interesting overlap – food show, terrible reality show, professional wrestling – all interests of mine that I’m not sure I thought would cross (‘pick 2’ would be more like it)

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Boxed pasta and sauce – American Ramen?

Posted by beer_chris on 26-December-2008

Driving home from my family’s place this Christmas evening Jaime reminded me it was dinner time. I really had not even noticed what time it was, and certainly was not hungry – having grazed on ham and Christmas goodies all day long. However, she was ready for a meal and I assured her I could come up with something once we got home.

A quick look in the pantry on our arrival revealed something I generally keep around – a box of pasta and sauce. In this case, a linguine with parmesan sauce. These boxes are pretty prolific, coming in all sorts of flavors and found on the pasta/rice aisle in the supermarket. You bring some milk to boil, add a little butter and the package of seasoning/sauce in the box, along with the pasta of course. A little stirring and resting and voila – pasta with a cream sauce.

As I casually cooked this up in my skillet I began to think about two things. First, I thought about how dated this dish really is. It’s all about convenience – the biggest sacrifice being the cheese. The very idea that cheese flavor can be powdered and hermetically sealed into a packet smacks of 1950’s style industrial food engineering. This dish has nothing to do with cooking and flavor and everything to do with economy and convenience. A fundamental food sin – hauck, pa-tooey, begone, etc, etc. – right?

However, I also thought about a recent trip to one of the big asian supermarkets on the west side. This particular place had an entire aisle dedicated to ramen from different places in the world. If anything, ramen is more prolific than these boxed pastas with the sauce packets. They come in more flavors and are imminently more portable – some even coming in complete heat and serve style packaging. Ramen is one of those ultimate comfort foods for many cultures around the world – and that’s the real reason why I keep one of these boxes of pasta and sauce in my pantry. It’s a comfort food for me. That’s not to get all jingoistic about it and say I don’t eat ramen or something like that but this certainly got me thinking – and I do think the boxed pasta (or rice) with envelope sauce is a uniquely american type of overprocessed comfort food that we all just accept and eat because it’s just so darn warm and nice and tasty and easy and cheesy and yummy. 

That and it’s EASY to make on a night like tonight when only one of us it hungry.

Couple of other thoughts:

  • Safeway (Randalls) has a staff blogger. That’s crazy to me. Crazier is that people read it, some pretty regularly (at least according to my cursory glance at the pages) The intrewbes truly is an amazing thing.
  • I suppose the real origin of the pasta w/envelope sauce in a box is from Kraft with macaroni and cheese. I think Kraft originated the process to created the powdered cheese to begin with – a little research kind of confirms that, and certainy mac and cheese is one of the ultimate US comfort foods.

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It’s not Christmas . . .

Posted by beer_chris on 25-December-2008

Without a little (?) something in a box

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Trish and Darin Christmas show

Posted by beer_chris on 24-December-2008

Went to the annual Trish and Darin Christmas show at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck last night. As usual, the menu for dinner was selected (inspired?) by Trish and Darin. This year the selections were a little more limited than in past years, as the desserts were off of the regular menu, and were simply soup, main, dessert.

The show was pretty good. Darin’s voice was hurting a bit, but he’s definitely a showman. Best song of the night – definitely the cover of their father’s workman’s ballad.

Foodwise, a little simpler, as I mentioned. Starter was a quite rich (nearly oily) tomato basil soup with crouton. Second course was a braised beef brisket with garlic and cloves, mash and green beans. The brisket was pretty tender, but I didn’t taste any clove at all. Trish mentioned during the show she would share the recipe, so I’m going to email her about it. Dessert was a choice between three items on the Duck’s menu – chocolate mousse, sherry trifle and bread pudding in whisky sauce. Although these are normal items, they were on my bill as ‘mousse – Darin’ and ‘pudding – Trish’, so I guess the duo selected them.

I enjoyed a number of imperial pints of Anchor Merry Christmas Happy New Year – which is very nice this year. Also had a pint of draft pear cider, which I haven’t had in some time. Had a spirited discussion with my table mates about the origins of the term ‘perry’, as none of them knew it referred to a fermented beverage made of pear juice. I mistakenly called what I ordered perry, and have since learned (via Wikipedia, that harbinger of facts) that ‘perry’ and ‘pear cider’ are two different things – the latter being a mixture of apple and pear juice.

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Top Cook?

Posted by beer_chris on 20-December-2008

So, just watched latest ep this today off of DVR.

I remain very disappointed. I’m so glad Tom sat these chefs down for a little heart-heart. Deviled eggs? Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?!?

I’m not sure I’ve seen a show go from fresh to tired so quickly. These chefs seem uninspired, untalented or both. I’m beginning to get worried we have a set of cooks on the show and no chefs at all.

Here’s hoping next week’s ep shows some breakout work. With complete freedom for expression, planning and execution I expect the cream to finally begin to rise to the top.

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Quick notes – Malaysian food tonight, Top Chef

Posted by beer_chris on 17-December-2008

Really looking forward to Malaysian food tonight at Banana Leaf. I confirmed yesterday that they have roti canai, which as my memory serves is kind of like the New York hot dog of Kuala Lumpur – ultimate street food. I’m interested to see what others know and have to share about the cuisine, as I have only been to KL one time and thus know ultimately very little about food from other aprts of Malaysia and the little bits that I had when I was there.

Top Chef – liked last weeks show, but the first challenge got me excited but it turned out to be a dud. Why change a formula that worked? Palate test with blindfolds and single ingredients was definitely something that had been done before but it seemed fair if nothing else. The name the ingredients challenge seemed good on the surface, until everyone was guessing stupid pedestrian stuff like ‘salt’, ‘oil’, ‘pepper, etc. Who cares.

The elimination challenge was fun. I think it’s the first chance we’ve had to see these chefs actually cook – aside from the ‘Show your Kraft’ episode. I’m ready for some real inventive dishes though, and this was just a taste of that. Restaurant Wars has got to be coming…

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Top Chef – some new thoughts, Shiner 100

Posted by beer_chris on 5-December-2008

Some quick thoughts on Top Chef.

Bravo is working hard to make me hate Jamie and love Fabio. It’s working on both counts. Jamie’s little quotes about how she knows her food is so perfect, and the self hating business is really grating on me. I knew it was working when I didn’t even feel sorry for her when she said she cried herself to sleep. Sheesh, Bravo what are you trying to turn me into? Still really wanting to know whether Jamie ultimately becomes Stephen (lovable jerk) or Tiffani (I’m the new bitch, bitch)

Melissa’s hair is a disaster. I know I’m a balding man, but bangs to your ears? Seriously? It looks like some kind of ‘I-just-escaped-from-the-compound’ haircut. And come on – taking advice about how to stand up at judges table from the girl with immunity? Not wise. That and the whole ‘I just really want to be here’ business. When Rocco, Padme, Tom and Gail tell you your food was too spicy, I’m not sure, but . . .  IT WAS PROBABLY TOO SPICY! Own up, be real, stay focused. At least Jamie did that much.

Am I the only one that didn’t like this challenge? I mean, it was literally ‘made for TV’, but it felt like the only reason it made the show was because KLG spit out the lettuce wrap thing. I felt completely disconnected from the entire thing, and didn’t like this stretch to tie in with another NBC/Universal property. It felt forced.

Carla’s eyes are making me go crazy.

I like Ariane. She’s growing on me, but I’m just hoping we don’t have another Betty on our hands (caterer, constantly nervous about what everyone thinks of her, short, older than competition and talks about it constantly). Betty won an early challenge with a sandwich (which ended up ebing served at TGI Fridays) and Ariane wins with roast turkey and a salad. Can we get to it already and get over this baby-ass stuff? Let’s just get a minutiarized dorky wolverine lookalike who loves foams and see if she fights with it. Then we’ll know she’s actually Betty.

I want more FOOD in the show. Too much people stuff and showing off the challenges. A breakfast quickfire? Really? Weren’t they doing the ‘dig in the aquarium and get your own seafood’ challenge about this time last season?

I WANT RESTAURANT WARS!

Melissa should be gone, but Alex proved yet again that dessert is never the way to stand out. (My) Jaime asked a great question – why would he use up a perfectly good dessert recipe when he didn’t need to – at least not yet. It wasn’t salt for sugar (ahem – Miguel?) but it was pretty dumb.

BIG NEWS – Shiner 100 to be a dopplebock, according to the SA Express News (I linked to it via the Barley Vine blog.

YAY!

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I love me some Tim Hortons

Posted by beer_chris on 1-December-2008

When I was in Calgary this past spring I developed quite an affection for a Canadian staple – Tim Hortons coffee. As it is not available anywhere nearby, I had a coworker bring me back an especially large container on a recent trip she took to Canada.

It’s magical stuff – slightly spicy, but not very robust. A perfect morning coffee, and brews just as well in my little drip as it does in the ubiquitous stores in Canada (and most of the northern third of the USA, as it seems).

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