Monday, May 31, 2010

Holistic what?

In this world of new-fangled miracle pills, juices and diets many people think when they hear or see the word "holistic" they are given the idea that it doesn't work.  Much like when people hear about "alternative medicine".  They may wonder that if normal medicine is good enough for everyone else, why do they need anything alternative to it?  Good question.

Well, do you think that traditional medicine is working for you?  Let's remember that the current medical world, used to think that rubbing mercury on a part of your body that had an infection was a good idea.  They also used to think that if you had an injury on your finger, that making a cut and letting it bleed for some time was also a good idea.  What science is just now discovering, is that certain plants around the world, contain the same building blocks that our body needs to do its own thing.  So, doctors all over the world are suggesting that you eat a healthy selection of fruits and vegetables as well as certain other things.  Such as drinking more milk or eating more eggs or eating more bananas and things like that.

Furthermore, people who follow or practice holistic healing or nutrition, believe that the source is better than the pill.  For example, as yourself this question: "Would you rather take a pill to get your Vitamin C for the day or drink a glass of orange juice?"  If you would rather drink the orange juice, then that is the main idea being holistic healing: healing through food.  So, what are you missing? Do you need more Omega 3 fatty acids in your body?  You can take a pill or have some fish, olive or macadamia nut oil.  Is your skin losing its elasticity? You could take some Vitamin E pills or eat more green leafy vegetables.  Are your bones becoming brittle?  You could take some calcium pills or drink some dairy milk or eat some broccoli.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't listen to your doctor as they still have some medical information that may help and more and more doctors are looking into holistic ways to help heal. When it comes to cancer though, as my friend Astelia is finding out, things get a little more complicated.  I don't want to say much more on here as cancer hits a very fine line as if I do say that I believe that cancer can be beat by eating and having a healthy lifestyle, and someone tries it and it doesn't work for them, it comes back to me.  I will only say that people and research has shown that eating healthy and eating the right foods while having cancer has shown to be able to fight it back for good.  My suggestion, eat the foods as they are, not the pills and supplements

Friday, May 28, 2010

sugar free and low GL chocolate brownies

I love chocolate, I can't help it, as I normally down at least 24 ounces of chocolate milk, a day. I have been blessed with a wonderful metabolism that allows me to consume about a pound of chocolate a day with no visual weight gain or bad feelings. I have made this recipe as it was original with sugar and then when I made it and removed the sugar and did it my way, no one could tell the difference.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F

you will need:
1/2 cup of butter (one stick)
1/2 cup of Truvia
1/2 cup of powdered milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
a pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder

1. melt the butter and mix it with the truvia and powdered milk.
2. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix it all together.
3. Then add the cocoa powder, flour, salt and baking powder

pour into an oiled or sprayed 8 or 9 inch square pan dish and cook for 25-30 minutes. You will know it is done when you stick in a toothpick or a chopstick and it comes out clean.

I used whole wheat flour on this one, which does add a slightly nutty taste, but feel free to experiment on your own and change that to perhaps 1/4 cup whole wheat and 14 cup ground barley flour. The whole wheat flour has about 1/4th of the GL's that white AP flour has and the barley flour has less than half of the GL's of white AP flour. The Truvia has no calories or GL's and the powdered milk has a low GL as well.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sugar free and low GL apple pie

Ever since my father-in-law found out that he had diabetics, I found it a little bit hard on him.  Meaning: as a chef, I enjoy it best when other people enjoy my food and meeting people who can't eat this or that because they physically cannot take it then it makes me sad and inspires me to do something about it.  I met a man who was type 1 and he was telling me how he loves to eat things that are really bad for him.  Like he loves to eat cookies but they could potentially kill him.  So what do you do?  Experiment.

 Have you tried to eat one of those sugar-free cookies that you can buy at the store?  The sugar-free chocolate chip cookies taste like someone sprayed a pieces of cardboard with a chocolate scent.  It tastes nothing like a cookie should and that is a problem.  In regards to what I made last night, pie, I know people who always wanted an apple pie, but can't have it because of the sugar.  We are not just talking the added sugar and brown sugar but also the natural sugars in the flours and such. What I did, was make a pie crust, from scratch and then make filling from scratch, both with no sugar and low GL's.

Things like all-purpose flour and other grains have a high carb content and also have a high glycemic load, so it takes longer for your body to break down the sugars.  So, replacing your all-purpose flour which has a GL of 66 per cup with something like whole wheat flour which has a GL of 44 per cup and barley flour which has about 28 GL per cup, definitely reduces the overall GL's. So about 2 cups of flour go into the dough and instead of having 132 GL's in the total crust, I had 71 GL's, which is a considerable difference.  I also replaced all sugar with truvia and added extra cinnamon, which was enough to completely take out those added calories and GL's.  So, that cup of sugar was replaced with Truvia.  So that was 774 calories, about, and about 139 calories that was flat out removed.  Everything else was the same except I did add one teaspoon of molasses,  which added about 20 calories and 3 GL's. 
 How did it taste?  Well, if you love apple pie because of the super sweet sugary taste, then you would not have liked it. But if you like apple pie because of the apples, flaky crust and spices, then you would have liked this.  I made a perfect crust, but because the whole wheat flour became more crumbly than normal, my wife called it an apple crumb pie, which seemed to fit.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What do you have cooking in your log cabin?

I admit, I am not so much a history buff than a history reader.  I do enjoy reading history and learning about things of the past.  I even enjoy reading about what ancient peoples ate and how they prepared their food.  Corresponding with that notion is an interesting book called Log Cabin Cooking, from Barbara Swell.

My mother took a trip to Springfield, Illinois, where thanks to our 16th President and his modest life, the idea of living in a log cabin has been pushed to the brink of Romanticism and given a feeling of adventure, when for those who were actually dealing with the life, it was nothing fun at all. My mother picked up this cookbook, which tells a little about how people in the 1830's cooked and did their basic food stuffs, without the use of fancy gadgets, like: thermometers, microwaves or refrigerators.

While some of the ideas and generally accepted principles were good enough to get food on the table, in most cases, it wasn't goo enough to make things tasty.  Even so, many of the frontier people survived because they did a few things that would help them.  How they survived with little to no fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products is beyond me as I can't make it through the day without a big glass of chocolate milk.

Out of necessity came simple recipes that needed little wet ingredients: baked items, like breads and muffins.  Out of this book, I tried my hands at the cornbread, which likely came from a 1835 recipe.  Unlike the original peoples, I had an easy time at this, as my oven has a thermometer built into it so I set the temperature I wish and simply wait.  The book suggests that you get your wood oven hot and then place your hand inside of it so you can check the temperature.  Like a grill, the temperature is based upon how long you can have your hand near the fire without having it burn off.  Using their simple recipe, of mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ones and combine them together, I was able to pour the batter into my Pyrex cooking pan, instead of my cast iron pan.
Now, again, I had it easy as I was able to play some video games while this was cooking, compared to those living in the wilderness, but in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes, a nice tasting, but a tad dry cornbread came out of the oven.
Now since I have never seen anyone server cornbread dry, I know that it is okay.  You always serve cornbread with a soup, because its dryness sucks up the broth.  You also almost always slather a thick coating of butter on it and either fix certainly made this a very tasty cornbread.  So, give one point to the housewives in the 1830's.

Along with this, you have to wonder how they did their everyday work and still make food for the table.  There was a lot of breads or muffins, a lot of soups and stews and a low of preserved things.  House chores would be so much more difficult as you would have to go outside to wash the clothes and the dishes. However, overall, some of the great things we have today as American dishes, came from things that were prepared during this time period or the time in the West.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What's in your ... bread?

In this day and age, there has been a lot of talk about healthy foods and processed foods.  Studies have shown that things like bleached, white, processed flours and high fructose corn syrup tend to be the main reasons why we have been in-taking more calories and sugar, lately.  Why is that? Well, as our society and culture has started to ween things out that have too many processed items in it, we have overlooked a product that has all this stuff in it and we may not even think about it: bread.

I've always loved fresh bread and while i was young and still at my parent's house, I used to wake up early in the morning and make bread; the long way.  Even after I was married and had my own home, I still made bread, the long way, and it was an all day event.  My wife never wanted to be tied down at home for any length of time during the weekends, since we work all day, so I never got many chances to make bread.  Finally, I broke down and for a small investment cost, I purchased a bread machine.

The machine we got was great and simple.  For example: a 2 pound loaf of bread takes about 3 hours, but all you do is put the ingredients in it and turn it on.  It peeps when it is done cooking and ready. 

Now, I'm surprised that more people are not into making their own bread, even those who use bread for toast or sandwiches.  So, what is in your generic white bread that you buy at the store?

Okay, so let's look at this list: enriched wheat flour (which is highly processed), water, high fructose corn syrup (which is that artificial sugar that your body doesn't recognize and turns to fat, instantly), salt, yeast, oil, fats, preservatives, more starches, more enzymes and soy lecithin (soy fat).  I wonder how much of that stuff is really good for you?

Ok, here is some fresh baked milk bread.  It has the following ingredients: unbleached flour (it is processed because I was out of bread flour), whole milk, a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of sugar, filtered water, butter and yeast.  That is it.  Now, while this loaf will not last weeks and weeks, it will taste good and be better for you than that other one. 

The link is located below and get yourself a bread machine. This is the one I use, it is cheap, VERY easy to use and you can clean it very easily.  Buy it here and buy it now. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

People are starving in China...

When I was a kid, I remember my dad telling me to eat all of my dinner because people were starving in China and that comment was supposed to make me feel guilty about throwing something away that someone needed.  It worked on 50% of the time.  I remember my younger brother at some point saying that if my dad was caring about starving kids in China that he should send the uneaten Lima beans to China for them to eat.

As I got older, I worked at an all you can eat restaurant and it was there that I watched just how much food people throw away.  People stuff their cheeks until they resemble squirrels and then complain that they are full when it comes to anything healthy.  I remember a couple that were so large that they had to suck it in and squeeze and wiggle in order to fit into a booth, to eat their food.  I remember a person carry a plate of food in each hand and in the left hand it was stacked with fried chicken and in the other was a mound of fried clams. I would watch these people sometimes take up two chairs, each, as they filled their mouths with food.  While they didn't really waste food, like that, most of them would visit the salad bar and fill at least a few plates up with vegetables. I guess they felt that if they had some veggie plates and ate them that they would feel better about their diet or weight.  What was an issue though, is that they never ate the healthy stuff because they would always dive right into the bad stuff, like the fried foods.  Not to mention just the shear volume of food that is thrown away at restaurants in general.

I remember seeing on Dirty Jobs, that some restaurants are helping out by taking their leftovers, in the trash, and giving it to animal shelters and farms for food for the livestock.  People used to ask me, when I was managing, if we gave the leftover, cooked, but un-touched food, to shelters for people to eat.  We didn't and you know why?  Because the owners of the restaurant didn't want to risk the revealing of our secret recipes. 

This brings me into preserving.  What I do, is a bit of early molecular gastronomy, also known as canning.  You probably don't think of canning using any sort of science been when you think of how everything is done, you realize that while it may not use fancy chemicals, it uses all sorts of outside sources. 

For example: I have been working on jams and jellies for about a year now.  When you work on a fruit spread, you are mixing pulverized fruit with sugar and pectin, which is a natural fiber and thickening/gelling agent, in hopes that it matches the right consistency.  You toss in some lemon juice for a preservative and then you have fresh jam.  Now, while that was easy, now you have to can it and that means taking a freshly sterilized jar, filling it with enough jam that there is still some headway at the top of the jar, and then placing a lid and processing the jar.  When you process the jar, you place the jar of jam, in a pot of water and boil for 10 minutes.  You then take the jar out and let it sit.  What happens is that the insides get so hot they boil as well, sterilizing the food, and the inside of the jar a second time.  Then because the temperature of the inside of the jar is hotter than the temperature outside of the jar, in the air, it creates a vacuum and sucks in the lid, as it cools, sealing the jar.

Why is canning so difficult?  You have to make sure everything is sterilized or else a bacteria will grow, unhindered in a happy and perfect environment and can give botulism.  You also have to make sure that the item is the correct consistency as if it is too thick, it may not heat properly or even stay in the jar and squeeze out during the process. Not to mention that you are dealing with keeping a balance of fiber and pectin to make sure that the food is the right consistency. 

If any of you would like to start canning, buy this book: or ask me and I'll be happy to help, as it is an easy way to preserve and not waste food.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Start at Square One...

Square One Brewery is an average sized brewery and restaurant in Soulard on Park Avenue.  My family went there, for fun and out of the blue, on Friday night and had enjoyed ourselves.  The first thing we noticed when we entered is that behind glass doors, you can see them brewing 3 beers and they list which ones they are, so you know that the beers you get come form here and aren't from some other place.  Besides that, they led us out into their little outdoor garden spot, complete with giant wall fountain, ample shade from a nice sized tree and those outdoor heaters making sure that everyone is as comfortable as they can be, while enjoying their food.

My family and I were placed in a great position for kids, against the wall and garden box, which prevented my 2 year old from running all over the place by corralling him into a spot with a wall, a garden, a tree and our table and chairs.  We sat, under a great view from a bright green tree contrasting with the baby blue sky and ordered our drinks. Not too long afterward, we ordered our food and it arrived, maybe 20 minutes later.

For the kids, we ordered chicken strips and french fries, which turned out be these huge strips of chicken, beer battered in the same coating as what has to be used with fish n'chips.  French fires were cut nicely and tasty, not too dry, salty, greasy, oily or raw, but cooked well.  My sons, split the dish and there was hardly any left, so on their behalf, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Then my wife ordered the wurst plate, which came with three types of sausage, a pile of red skinned mashed potatoes and some asparagus.Three sausages came with this one: a spicy chicken and two beefs.  All of them were differently seasoned but still good. There was a heap of some sour and sweet sauerkraut which was good enough to make me want to start eating sauerkraut again. The red skinned mashed potatoes had some onions and garlic in it that helped to compliment the potato taste, making for some flavorful mashers. There was the ground mustard sauce and some steamed and salted asparagus to finish. Everything was really tasty and this dish was given a 4 out of 5 by me.

We then had a plate of the stout braised pot roast with the same red skinned garlic mashed potatoes and some vegetables, which in this case, were more asparagus.  That was a mound of meat and gravy, on top of mashed potatoes: what better way to spend an evening.  The beef was tasty and tender, perfectly tender in such a way that it melted in my mouth. Or at least fell into perfectly cut sized pieces for easy chewing. (Hubert Keller should take a lesson on pot roast from this chef.)  The pieces of carrot and celery had the part they normally play in this classic dish and still added the same amount of flavor overall. The beef went fine with the mashed potatoes, as all beef does, and in this case, I ended up dipping everything I could into the gravy. This dish gets a nice 4 out of 5 stars as well from me.

We don't have pictures of the blueberry ice cream that was ordered for dessert and came out in a bowl with two large scoops.  As it was delicious and definitely worth ordering if you go there.  The funny part of the evening came when a person near to us, presumably with his date, probably tried to impress her by ordering a cask ale. Well, it was delivered to him and when he took a sip and made a disgusting face, he complained directly to the waitress. Complaining of the beer being too warm, the man demanded that his cask ale, which is supposed to be served warm or at least at room temperature, be taken back and a cold one returned to him. The waitress told him that all of the cask ale beers are warm, with which the man replied that he would like another beer.

Square One Brewery
1727 Park Avenue
St Louis, MO 63104
(314) 231-2537

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Muse....

Finding things to write about that sound interesting are sometimes challenging, however finding things that make me want to cook, has never been easier.  We all started from somewhere: it could have been a member of our family, something we saw, or something we experienced that made us want to cook.  What was it in your case as to what is your story? I'd love to know how some of my favorite chefs came to their epiphany with food, in case any of them or any other chef ever reads this.

When I was young and woke up at 6am every Saturday morning, I would run downstairs and turn on the television. Sure, I watched cartoons like every other kid in the 80's, but if I recall correctly, at about noon-time, the cartoons stopped.  It was at this time that I switched the channel to PBS 9 and watched Michael Chiarello's cooking show.  After his show was another cooking show with Jeff Smith.  Then, we would switch the channel to 11 and watch the original Star Trek, but that is another story.

All of us who are into food, have a memory of seeing other chef, at some point.  Whether you were a young celebrity chef watching Martin Yan de-bone a chicken in less than a minute or you were watching Julia Child make a cake, we have memories of this and those memories stick with us.

So, as my original questions was poised and left unanswered: What was your inspiration?

Thursday, May 13, 2010


The word Revelation, means to lift the veil, as to reveal what is hidden or not known to everyone.  Here a few things that have been on my mind and everyone should know:

1. Calories.  Calories, are not that real, just like Time, it is merely a unit of measure so as it is, it doesn't exist.  Now, the measurement does exist and if you are trying to live healthy or even trying to lose weight, watching calories is one of the ways that this can happen.  This is how it works: 1 pound of human fat, is made up of 3,500 calories.  Also, if you eat or ingest, less calories than you spend, your body has to find energy for those extra calories you are spending and thus, pulls the calories from your body; ie. your fat.  So, you lose weight.  Now, sitting behind a desk all day, working at a computer, probably only burns about 1.7 calories a minute, because your body really isn't doing anything too active. So, if you sit for 4 hours, then you burned 1.7 *60 * 4=408 calories. On some commercials, they show a woman having a special shake for breakfast at her desk, then a salad, so she only consumes a mere 200 calories or so.  This means that her body has to pull on its fat reserve, and burn 208 calories. That means that the woman just lost about 2 ounces of weight.

Now, this doesn't seem much, not counting what she does out of work, assuming her night activities cancel out her food intake, but in a work week, of only 4 hours of work and two 100 calorie meals, she comes down almost a pound.  Again, this is simple.  Now, let's say that the woman, takes in 500 calories all day, works behind a desk for 7 hours, runs on a treadmill for a combined 2 hours, and does some walking around doing general home activities.  Using this site:  The woman would burn 1.7 calories a minute at her desk, 9 calories a minute by running and 2.8 calories a minute doing household chores.  So, we have a 7 hour work day at 714 calories burned, then 2 hours of running at 1,080 calories burned and then an hour of housework at 168 calories for a total of 1,962 calories burned.  If that woman, in this case, still only had 500 calories all day, then she would burn 1,462 calories out of her fat supply.   In a 5 day work week, that would be 7,310 calories or two pounds of fat.

2. Pride and jealousy: When a person has mastered what they think is what they want, then they become proud of their work.  This is pride and not in a bad way because in any job you want to be proud of what you can accomplish.  When I made fruit caviar for the first time using sodium alginate and calcium chloride, I was very proud of myself, for instance, as others have problems doing so. After watching the second season of Top Chef Masters, my wife and I came to the conclusion that we like this show better than the others.  The reason is unlike the regular show, where nobodies fight and compete against each other to become a high ranked chef, this show is already filled with high ranked chefs.  They are competitive, but in a friendly way, like playing a game with your wife, you don't feel bad if she beats you, but you will not just give-up and let her win either.  I love the comrade-ary that these chefs have, sharing ingredients and items and joking with each other.  Sure, they all want to win and are sad when they are kicked off, but they are doing this for fun and for charity. I guess if I used a different metaphor, it would be like a group of the best Baseball players, like the All Star game. Well, that's not a good example, really, as in the show, the chefs are still humbled by each other.  Rick Moonen, who is probably one of the best chefs on the show, still comments on how one of his fellow chefs is better than he: Jonathon Waxman.  Yet in the same way, you can hear Jonathon tell the viewers how Rick is better than he in things as well.

I am not a professional chef and I know that some housewives are better cooks than I, so I am still humble at that.  However, I know that there is at least one chef, Anthony Bourdain for example, who can't bake anything and I'm sure that he would love my chocolate chip cookies, or my giant cinnamon roll or something like that. So, to have a chef, that is obviously a master at what he does, tell you that you do something better than they do is a bit of humility that I have seen chefs do.  Maybe one day, I will get a chance to have some famous chefs eat my food and experience this first hand.   

 3. Anyone can cook: just like the chef in Ratatouille, I believe that anyone can cook.  No matter who you are, buy some ingredients and cook.  It is so easy.  Do you need cooking classes or a fancy French school? No, not really.  Cooking classes or schools don't teach you recipes, they teach you techniques.  You can learn techniques on your own.  Did your mother or your grandmother go to cooking school?  No? Then how did they become good cooks?  Practice.  When I was working on my degree in Holistic Nutrition, there were some cooking textbooks on techniques of healthy eating and preparing of foods.  Instructions on how to prepare things like cooked quinoa or cactus leaf, but nothing that one couldn't learn for themselves. 

If you don't believe me, think of something you like, start off with a protein, like beef, chicken, fish or pork, for instance, and then think of how you want it.  Do you want it boiled, baked, grilled, saute'ed or steamed?  Then what type of flavoring to you like, spicy or savory?  Then what type of ethnic culinary techniques should we use?  Do you want some spicy, Asian inspired beef dish or a home style, southern baked chicken?  If you can do this yourself, do it.  If you need help, contact me:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inspired by a true story...

A few nights ago, an interesting show caught my eye: Chef vs. City.  This fun show pits two experienced Food Network chefs against two chefs from the local city.

In this episode, at one point in the show, the chefs have to make a giant cinnamon roll.  I saw as they made a roll, as large as an 18 inch pizza, or larger.  That image got my mouth watering and I set to work last night.  I started the dough making in my bread machine, for a normal batch of cinnamon rolls.  Then after I rolled it out, I brushed butter on it then sprinkled it with cinnamon, a bit of sugar and some brown sugar.
After rolling it around, it was 12 inches in diameter.  Well, I had it sit on the oven top, under some plastic wrap and 20 minutes later, it had proofed to 18 inches in diameter. Then in the oven it went and out came a wonderful, huge, cinnamon-y, giant cinnamon roll.
Now, I know that some people like a lot of icing on theirs, but in this case, that would have been overkill.  So, a nice slice of some warmed cinnamon roll with its sweet dough and cinnamon-y goodness seemed to work for me and everyone who helped me eat it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The not so sleek Sleek....

After rooting for him on Top Chef Masters, my wife and I figured that a well-deserved night out without the kids to a local restaurant would be the best thing for our 'date night'. The only celebrity chef that has anything in St. Louis, is Hubert Keller's two restaurants in the Lumiere' Place Casino, downtown. The restaurant was nicely decorated as it allowed the decor and feeling of the next door ultra lounge to pervade through and into the dining area to evoke a calm and relaxed emotion. We were greeted by a chatty but very informative waiter named Johnathon, who besides only two other dishes, turned out to be the best part of the evening.

     You would figure that a world class chef coming into the St. Louis area, would at least use the area's resources to make his food as well as promote his restaurant within the area. Mr. Keller did not do this. My wife and I have eaten in many locations around the US and the world and even in places like Las Vegas, LA or Miami, some steakhouses will promote the fact that their beef comes from farm raised Cattle in Missouri.  The beef that Keller uses in his steakhouse doesn't come from Missouri, it comes from Nebraska. Okay, what about how Missouri has an open air market for fresh grown fruits and vegetables and that market has been open for business since 1883 which makes it the oldest market West of the Mississippi.  The market is open every day with food and crops from the local farmers from both Missouri and Illinois. If I was a chef preparing some great food in St. Louis, I would go local for the ingredients; even Gordan Ramsay stresses this in every one of his Kitchen Nightmares shows. Well, Keller gets his produce from Eureka, which while still in Missouri, is perhaps a good hour drive from the restaurant while the Soulard Market is about a 5 minute drive. Considering that St. Louis has no coasts, there is no fresh seafood from St. Louis, so that leaves that out as well. So, you know what is left? Johnathon told us that the water comes from St. Louis and promptly filled our water glasses. Knowing that St. Louis has some of the best water in the US, I took pride in this.

My wife and I opted for the 5 course tasting menu as the chef has prepared it so we thought we should give it a try as he/she knows best and we are just humble foodie people who have no clue as to what we are talking about, snobby chefs think. We had no drinks that could compliment nor hinder the natural flavors of the foods prepared, so no wine, beer or any other drinks, other than the St. Louis crystal clear water.

We did order two additional things: one being the lamp ravioli and another being some mashed potatoes with Perigold truffles, which will be discussed later when they arrive.

The first course was a long, dark dish with a small micro-green salad on the left, a few slices of deep red raw tuna on a bed of perfectly and thinly sliced radish in the middle with a large ceramic spoon with a caviar mix on the right of the plate. It was a dish prepared deconstructed and as such, there were no instructions for eating it and we had to guess. It was an okay dish and my wife, who loves seafood was not impressed.  Quality ingredients but not so inventive. She gave it 3 stars out of 5.

The next course was a seared Halibut resting on a mash of corn and popcorn with a sprinkling of paprika. The fish was good, even more so because I don't really enjoy eating fish as much as I do meats, but the Halibut is a sneaky fish that can take on the flavors of pretty much anything: the chicken of the sea. Overall, this was a very fine dish as with each bite of fish, it was best to get a little corn and popcorn in as well, giving it a very nutty flavor overall. We both gave it 4 stars out of 5.

Since I didn't eat much of the fish, I ordered a small starter of the lamp ravioli, with ratatouille vegetables and a veal au jus.  The ravioli came out, arranged out from center in a small bowl. The vegetables were minced, very tiny, and arranged in a round cylindrical shape in the middle, with the raviolis fanned out from the base in the au jus. There was a half of a cherry tomato on top of the pillar with a stem of fresh thyme sticking in the tomato. It looked wonderful and I dove right into it by removing the thyme and picking up the whole tomato and placing it into my mouth. That is when all hell broke loose. My wife said that my face immediately became contorted as it looked like I was in severe pain. The tomato tasted like I just downed a 40oz. of straight vinegar. The flavor was so intense of that strong vinegar that I could not talk and felt as if I was choking; an near fatal experience that I have gone through a year ago. My manners persuaded me not to spit it out and upon swallowing it, every sense of my being wished me to find and strangle the chef or garde manager or whoever was responsible. I asked our great server as he came by if the tomato had any vinegar and he said it was "lightly marinated." Dear Chef Keller, I don't know if it was you or another chef but lightly marinated things with vinegar should end with you rinsing them off. The marinate is often used to brake down the connective tissues and make it more palatable, not disgusting. I felt like Tom Colicchio and wanted to so badly remove it from my mouth with my hands and throw it on the plate, yelling out for the MOD, but stayed my hand and just drank all of my water instead. The rest of the dish was good: the vegetables were perfectly cooked and reminded me of the ratatouille I make, which is also delicious, the lamb ravioli still had that flavor, that off-gaminess that makes them taste not like any other meat and the au jus had a perfect blend of citrus, mint and meat fat that seemed to come together perfectly. If the dish did not have that tomato, then it would have been a praise worthy dish, along the lines of great chefs like Che Robuchon.  However, because it is the first impression that makes a dish and I can still taste that vinegar flavor, even more than 72 hours away, makes the dish one of the worst I have ever had. Sorry Chef, I give this dish 1/2 star out of 5.

Sleek is supposed to be a steakhouse and after eating at perhaps one of the best steakhouses in the country, Delmonico's, Sleek was no where close what a steakhouse is or feels like.  His Burger Bar, which was located just 100 feet from sleek, is more of a steakhouse than this place.  The dish next was a duo of steaks or of beef.  On one side of the plate, was some peppery seared beef, two small pieces not more than 3-4 ounces each. The peppery beef was perfect as it had a black crust on the outside and still rare on the inside.  When you bit into it, the top of your mouth tastes the black peppery seared crust as your tongue tastes the warm juices from inside of the meat. If that was all there was on the plate, it would have been a 5 out of 5 dish, however there were other things presented on the dish.  The other pieces of beef, were two pieces of tender roast beef. The roast beef was no different than the roast beef I make at home in the Crock pot and we all grew up on.  There was nothing fancy about it at all.  Now, if Keller was attempting to make a duo of where we are going and where we have been, presenting the pot roast as old school and the seared beef as neo-classical, then it would have been a perfect dish. But pot roast? Okay, I will look past the pot roast and the seared beef but there were vegetables on the dish. The vegetables were some fresh carrots and turnips. Neither of them were cooked all of the way and seemed like they were only slightly blanched as the turnips were still raw in the center, clearly undercooked.  This dish, only got 2 stars out of 5 from me.

With the steak meal, came the mashed potatoes, which I had ordered. The potatoes were awesome as they had sliced baked garlic in there with the large pieces of Perigold truffles. The little dish of mashed potatoes was $8 and there was easily $5-$6 of truffles in there so it was definitely worth it.  It was the kind of mashed potatoes that as a German kid like me, you think of no other way to have potatoes. It was a perfect blend of those three ingredients and I can say nothing else but Yum. Chef, this little dish was an easy 5 out of 5 stars.

As we wound down towards the desert dishes, my wife and I started to find ourselves not in a fancy restaurant, but in a nightclub.  What is perhaps one of the stupidest ideas in the restaurant world along side with serving BBQ on weak paper plates is the concept that half of the restaurant turns into an 'ultra lounge' playing loud mixed music and serving drinks while people relax. The loud remix of "Jizz in my pants" was not making the romantic dinner any better, just more lame. About this time is when the server brought us the pre-desert dish, which was another long plate with a small goat cheese creme' brule on one side and some pickled pear on the other side. Now, my wife said that the creme' brule was good and I went for the pickles.  To the untrained person, pickles are a pickles. But for me, I have been spending the past 6 months making and canning pickles as well as other spiced concoctions, jams and preserves. It would compare to trying to fool your grandma about cookies, after knowing that she has been baking cookies for 50 years.  A pickle by any other flavor or name is still a pickle but there must have been something to pickle it or cure it and in this application, which was tasty, but likely not a true pickle.  The pickles as they were called, were from pears, as they still had their sweet flavoring and were presented as only long, thin slices, like fast food french fries. They were colored pink, most likely from the pickling spice and had some rosemary or thyme leaves on top, as a garnish. They were very inedible and the pickling did little to remove the fact that it was a fruit.  This dish gathered 3 out of 5 stars.

The last dish was an apple pie and ice cream, which we both love, in general and nothing is more American than apple pie. It was served on a round plate with 3 indentations. One was for the creme' fresche, the other was for the apple pie, in its own casserole dish and the last for the cinnamon ice cream.  This dish had everything go well with it and it was a perfect dish. We let it cool a bit as it was as hot as magma when it was delivered to us, but after throwing the creme' fresche and the ice cream into the dish, it was very tasty. It was a perfect dish and it did bring you back to eating fresh apple pie and ice cream, just like grandma used to make. While being very good, it was still just apple pie and unless I see some apple pie cooked without a dish and in a pillar with ice cream layered in, perhaps it will be more interesting than this. This dish garnered an easy 4 out of 5 stars.

Overall, the food at this establishment was good, not Emeril or Bobby Flay good, but good. I've had fancier foods at the Burger Bar, when I made my own burger with a black truffle au jus to dip it in.  For the simplicity of the foods the prices did not fully match. If you are to come there, please show up before 9 or 10 in the evening so your quiet meal isn't interrupted by loud music.  I think if they were looking for a name for the place, instead of Sleek, they should have named it Rough.

Back to the Stables...

When I review a restaurant, it is impossible for me to test everything on the menu.  I do not make much money at my day-to-day job so I cannot afford to go to a great place like The Stable and order 10 dishes for myself. So, if I am not with a large group of people, I have to go back to a previous location. Going back serves two purposes: first, it allows me to try something new and different and secondly, it allows me to track any changes the restaurant has made, be them good or bad.  This  past Friday, I gathered some friends and foodies and went on a return trip to The Stable.

 People have read my past blog and have started to go to the Stable and I have been asking what they have ordered and what they would recommend. A friend of mine suggested the house beer and the gumbo. Now, I did order the house beer and it was awesome, and of course a basket of bacon was ordered, and then the gumbo.  A fellow foodie and I were very disappointed in this gumbo to the point where I was unable to finish mine. From their menu, the Sicilian Gumbo has salsiccia, shrimp, fava beans, roasted peppers, ground beef and risotto.  While that description sounds good, that is what both of us hoped for. The first bite, was not a very good impression, however. My first scoopful of gumbo, and every bite thereafter, tasted like tomatoes and vinegar. It was a strong, sour taste that I was not looking forward to as I attempted to find those other ingredients in my cup.  I admit that it wasn't the best photo above, but it is enlarged to show that the items listed, were not in my gumbo.  It tasted like someone made a quick tomato sauce for pasta and placed it in a cup. There was ground beef, tomatoes, and a single slice of sausage.  There was no beans, no shrimp, no pepper, and not a single grain of risotto.  I kept talking with my friend, asking him if he has anything in his and he didn't find anything.  Every bit to him tasted like vinegar and with me only have taken 6 or 7 bites, I called it quits.  In my book, that cup of gumbo, read, in the menu as something very tasty, but what we were given, gets about 1 star out of 5.

On the upside, what The Stable really shines at is the variety of their Chef, whether he was in control of our gumbo/vinegar soup, we do not know, but the rest of the food was delicious. The Stable has an entree', so strange and unusual that my friend and I had to order it.  We decided on the Plate of Food. This entree', says that it is the Chef's selection, changes by the minute, changes by the hour, we don't know, $8.95 and no refunds. How much more manly can you get by having a beer, a basket of bacon and a plate of food. This wild card item was ordered by both of us, within a few seconds of each other and ideas began to fill our heads about what it could be.  What was more interesting was the thought that the Plate of Food could be two separate dishes and each of us would receive a completely different dish. Think of the possibilities and in particular, think of how many different possible dishes the chef could create and piece together.  If the chef has the components for every one of his regular dishes, in house, then would else could he have for the Plate of Food?  Are you ready....?

My food turned out to be a giant plate of two large slabs of a spicy meatloaf, a heaping scoop of a red skinned, cheesy mashed potatoes and a side of steamed broccoli.  The potatoes were creamy and rich, the meatloaf had a spice to them that was enhanced and brought upon by some extra richness in the gravy, and the broccoli had a dash of butter on them. My dish was a 4 out of 5.
My friend's dish came out as a breast and leg of an herbed, baked chicken, some mashed sweet potatoes and broccoli as well. I think he gave his meal a good 4 out of 5 as well.
The moral of the story, live dangerous, take a risk, and try the Plate of Food.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Food in travels

While being a big fan of travel shows and food shows, I always try to eat something native while visiting other cities and countries. Every country has their own foods and reasons for eating those foods.  Port-side cities eat a lot of seafood because that is what is most abundant while land-locked places eat mostly other types of meat.  Anyways, for those people who don't travel, here are some of the more interesting things I have seen and tasted from my travels:

In the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas, this is a giant completely chocolate sculpture. This is made from dark, milk and white chocolate and is kept in the chocolate store in their shopping area.  This chocolate store also has many, many fountains and chocolate falls as well as some of the most expensive and probably best tasting chocolate and candies.

Also in Las Vegas, in another casino, is a restaurant that has a huge wine selection.  How huge?  It is more than 3 stories tall.  This tower of wine storage has an elevator that the employees can use to reach just the right libation.

This past December, of 2009, we had a trip to Lebanon.  This picture of food, was from a great restaurant.  This table, was the dessert table.  What happened was they placed maybe as many as 50 dishes in front of us to eat, I think there was 10 of us eating there.  After we were stuffed, they set up a table, this table, on the table behind us. Then they asked us to move to this other table. Oranges, persimmons, kiwis, strawberries, apples, oranges, grapes and everything else you would want was on this table. Lebanon is the country of excess, where there is always more food than you need and it is always more tasty or tastier than you thought could be possible.

  No, this is not me, but my brother in law. In Japan, they have Japanese food and American food. In every country I have been, Ireland, England, Japan, Lebanon, they have a McDonalds and in Japan and Lebanon, they have KFC as well.  This KFC, in a small corner of Tokyo, has a nice statue in front where you can have a Kodak moment with the murderer of millions of chickens each year. (I am not an chicken rights person as I love KFC).

So, I hope you enjoy the little food travel and be on the lookout for food no matter how weird or usual.

Monday, May 3, 2010

go team Umi Zoomi!

As a good father, one thing I do is try to watch a few of the shows that the kids enjoy. One of these shows is called Team Umi Zoomi, about 2 tiny people and a robot who save the world through math and pattern power.  As strange as it may sound, it works with little kids as my 2 and 3 year old love the show. Now, what does a kids show have to do with food, you may be asking yourself?  In this morning's episode, the three characters were singing about how they loved milk.  Not the pansy soy or almond milk, but good, ol'fashioned cow's milk.  The boy character was drinking chocolate milk, the girl was drinking the strawberry milk and the robot was drinking white milk.

Now, I have had online discussions with my fair share of vegetarians and vegans who claim that cow's milk is only good for cows and that cow's milk is the cause for all of the fat kids because of the sugar and fat in milk.  I love those types of people. They take something they dislike and then make up facts to prove their side.

So, what is so good about milk? A professor of nutrition and fitness suggests that chocolate milk is a great drink for after workouts:|+What+to+drink+after+a+workout

Now, I am strongly on the milk army because I love milk.  My parents raised us by telling us, as small kids, that if we drink milk we would grow but if we drank other things, like lemonade, we would stay the same. While not entirely accurate, it is basically moving a true fact: milk does help you grow. In order for your body to grow its bones, it needs a ratio of 2:1 of calcium to phosphorus.  Milk is the closest thing that you can put in your body that has this ratio.  So, you drink 2 glasses of milk and your bones get stronger, try doing this with other drinks.  For all of you soy milk lovers, first of all, your soy milk does not have calcium, so it is added afterwards.  Secondly, it does not have phosphorus, so what are you drinking it for?

Overall, I have at least 4 ounces of white milk and 16-32 ounces of chocolate milk, a day and look at me! I have never had a broken bone in my life, I'm very healthy and I am not fat at all.  As for Team Umi Zoomi, they are the first thing I have seen aimed at children that did not say anything about Soy milk.  The producers are obviously smart enough to know that cow's milk is way better for you than soy milk, especially for children.