Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A battle with the Devil...

Just earlier this week, a friend of mine had met the Devil and it had placed upon my friend the most ultimate sin: he didn't like bacon anymore.  What fool what sorcery is that in which a human could be stripped of that God-given love of the most heavenly of all foods: bacon?  How can one lose the taste for bacon?  Bacon is what makes the world go round and probably 4 our of 5 people would rather take a freshly and perfectly cooked pound of bacon over $100.  So, how did it happen?

My friend picked these up before a trip and had one.  They are the worst tasting things and if they were meant to taste like bacon, then they were likely designed by PETA to prevent people from eating more pork products.  They took one of the defining flavors of bacon: the smokiness, and made a candy out of it.  I tried one and spit it out.  It tasted like I put a BBQ charcoal in my mouth.  I tasted pure smoke and char and nothing that would even remotely strike me to swallow the bean.

My friend was put off and didn't want anything to do with bacon so I pulled out my secret recipe: bacon brownies.  What was that?  Wait, you mean regular chocolate brownies with bacon?  No, I mean bacon brownies.  I did these before and are easily accomplished with just a tad bit of molecular gastronomy.

So, you cook the bacon and render the fat out, then add the fat with some things and make some brownies.  They lightly taste like bacon and sugar and vanilla and are perfect. 

The result: my friend said that the brownies may have turned him good again, in that he would soon be able to eat a couple of them, had he not eaten any of those beans.  Likely though, I think he said over time, he could enjoy bacon more, if it tasted nothing like the candy and more sweet.  I did my good deed for the week.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Do you even care about your health???

This morning, while in Walgreen's getting milk for work, I was behind a few people in line.  In the front of the line, was a very round woman who was fighting over how much money she was supposed to save from her coupons: a mere 60 cents or so.  She wasn't an issue.  What was a problem, was the man behind her and in front of me. 

The man looked like he was in his late 70's.  He was frail, had a very small structure, and his arms and legs were thin.  He had a slightly darker skin color than I, more of like a light brown suntan.  He didn't appear to be in the best shape as he had bruises all over himself, like his body just decided to stop healing itself.  His skin looked like wrinkly leather and the bruises were not contained to small areas but were large patches, as if his body was slowly turning purple.  I noticed a cotton swab on his left arm, in the crease of his elbow and noticed what looked like a think clear plastic tube running from his right pocket, up and in front of him.  I would guess that either he has a little, tiny oxygen tank with him or that small tube was delivering something into his arm.  Perhaps like an IV with fluid or maybe insulin or something that was colorless.  Let's just say that without seeing him from the front, I was seriously worried when it was his turn at the cash stand and he asked her a question.

"Could you get me a pack of Marlboro lights?" he asked.

I didn't say anything out loud but inside I was screaming at him.  Could this have been the worst decision in history?  Clearly, the man is in no condition to smoke, even a "light' cancer stick, so what was he doing buying a pack anyway?  If that was a mini oxygen tank, then he is a moron for smoking.  That is an explosion waiting to happen.  If that was a tube inserting IV solution or insulin, then he obviously is in no condition to do anything harmful to his body in the first case.  I have noticed that in most cases, older people really don't care about themselves.

I would figure that if I was old enough where my body had the physical appearance of a mummy, I would want to stay alive for as long as I could, not speed up the aging process.  Cigarettes do kill.  I'm not telling you to stop, but just suggesting that if you do smoke, it would be in your best interest to stop.  What if I told you that for every cigarette that you smoke, you cut 2 hours off of your total life time?  That's right, just move up your biological clock by 2 hours.  So, how many cancer sticks do you smoke in a day?  10? 12? then you just erased a day from your life.  Which would you rather do; die or live?

I'm not going to preach to you about the benefits of living, but it has its advantages.  However I can't help but notice that there are stupid people around.  When you have asthma, and you smoke, that is stupid.  When you drink and black out and then decide to drink some more, that is stupid.  When you do drugs that do damage to your body and continue to do so, that is stupid.

Please, make a conscious thought about what you are doing to your body and why you are doing it, before you do it.  If your family has a history of heart disease or other heart related issues, it probably isn't a good idea to have MacDonald's or red meat every day.  Please everyone, before I start losing friends or family or friends of friends, think of your actions before you do something.  Don't be like the old man who obviously wasn't in healthy condition and decided to switch from regular cigarettes to 'light' ones thinking they would stave off his bad health.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A short allegorical and metaphorical view of molecular gastronomy....

Wow, that title did it didn't it?  I'm sure if you told others what you were reading they would think you are super smart and you are because you are reading my blog.  Some people don't know what I do when I tell the about molecular gastronomy and a good way that I can describe it is this: when you go driving and you see some one's license plate that has a strange saying on it, you try to figure it out but sometimes it is difficult.  So you see a plate that says something like:


What could that be?  Well, if you play around with it, prep, preple, preplert?  Well, I made it to say "purple heart".  Do you see it now?

I think of this being a metaphor to molecular gastronomy because with the molecular gastronomy, you some are basically making something of different components that when together may not resemble but work just like the inspiration.  For instance: do you like BLT's?  What if you were offered a plate with two pieces of white toast, with mayo on the sides, a thick and juicy tomato, a crisp piece of lettuce and a few strips of bacon?  That is the traditional view of the BLT.  My take on molecular gastronomy has to do with the science of cooking a BLT and then challenges me to make something that tastes like that sandwich, but to me completely different.  My idea was to have an Asian soup spoon and inside of it place some bread crumbs.  On top of the bread crumbs would be some powdered bacon, then some lettuce foam and on top of the foam would be some tomato caviar.  Should it would look a lot different, but with each bite, you would taste something that tastes juts like a BLT sandwich.  That is molecular gastronomy to me.

So, try to do something different or make some sort of food different.  Make something that tastes the same but looks and feels different.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Everything is impossible

Whether you turned your back on Robert Irvine during his little stint or not, you cannot help but to admit that he does know what he is doing.  If you may recall, Robert started his show be saying how he cooked for Charles and Diana as well as the President.  Well, along with some financial things, he pretty much made up half of his resume'. 

However, he may have lied but the one thing that he has that no one can take away is his skills.  The show, where would randomly pluck Robert out of his normal life and throw him into a location with no ingredients and cooking tools and expect him to prepare food for a large number of people, is new and no one thought of it before this show. 

He almost always succeeds in his role and his goal.  Feeding 200 people with nothing but a handful of jellybeans and some bread?  He can do it.  Feeding a group of starving natives in the middle of the Sahara with a camel and a toothpick? He could do it and make a dessert as well.

His cookbook is not as inventive and creative as the dishes on his show, but they are simple and complex at the same time.  Dishes like beef Wellington have foie gras as an optional ingredient, but not required as one can change it.  All of his recipes serve about 4-6 people and all are heart servings.  Great foods show up as traditional recipes and some new ones.  I can also say that while I haven't tried every recipe, the ones I did try were great.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The challenge of an empty fridge...

Around the universe, there are very few things that are more frightening or more worrisome than an empty refrigerator.  I think that it fills us with horrors of starvation and dehydration when we open that large door and see the absence of food or drinks.
 What can be done?  For people like me, something must be done immediately.  It must be my patriarchal thinking taking place.  Traditionally it was the male primate that brings home the kill for his family and when I look in there and I see nothing of value to eat, it makes me feel like less than a man, or at least less of a monkey.  As the house-husband who cooks the food and as a chef, it worries me as I know that if I cannot get food in there, then the kids may find something horrible to eat, like fast-food. While working on my holistic nutrition degree, I became fully aware of what is in some of my favorite fast-food items.  For instance, chicken nuggets that have many many other things in them besides chicken and a breading. More importantly, why is high fructose corn syrup needed in the bun, the hamburger, the fries and the drink?

For a person like me, I want a nutritious meal on the table for my 2 kids and wife every day.  A vegetable, starch and a meat, maybe that meat 5 times a week, but a protein source at least each day.  Filling that fridge is my job, no, my duty as a chef and father to make sure that there is something there for my family that will not rot their brains or their bodies.

If you look closely at my empty fridge example, you can see some things that may spark some inspiration of food items to cook.  There is some yogurt, butter and eggs in there, which is a must as I practice my pastry chef cooking all the time, but you can't eat healthy by eating pies and cookies all week.  Strawberries, pudding and rice are on the lower shelf.  Maybe the rice can be paired with some veggies and strawberries and the pudding make good desserts. Down below in the drawers, I have some apples, key limes, celery and carrots.  I do have onions and if you have any culinary knowledge you know that I could make a mirepoix for a good soup extra flavor profiles for a dish later on. 

What does your fridge look like?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The mana was bread!

Whenever someone mentions the word "man" I remember what I was taught in Sunday School, that mana was "bread from heaven".  The thought of eating heavenly bread that would fill you up physically and spiritually sounds like an awesome recipe and one that would bring in plenty of profits. I know that the smell of fresh bread is intoxicating to many people, including myself, so imagine how the scent of heavenly bread would taste.

Bread is not a mystery as it has been used as a source of food and nourishment as far back as the Neolithic age (9500 BC).  Breads have always been made from a simple combination of water and grains/flour.  It wasn't until last night when I was figuring out the calorie count for a pie I made, that I noticed how important bread was and still is for civilizations. 

One cup, of bleached, enriched and all purpose wheat flour has about 455 calories.  That is one cup of just flour and it has the same calories as some items as McDonald's. Now, in today's times, the FDA suggests that the average person needs a 2,000 calorie diet to stay healthy and alive.  So, think of almost 1/4th of that daily amount of calories can be found in just one cup of white flour.  Think of the potential and the incredible thing that flour is, in this case.  It's light, in mass, and yet has so much healthy nutrition to it.  

No wonder that when the writers of the Bible thought of something that would save the people from hunger, it wasn't wine, or mutton, but bread.

Monday, July 12, 2010

no contest there...

In the early 80's, a group of business people got together in Florida at an old club house and turned it into a cheeky food establishment.  The waitresses wore short shorts and tight shirts and they called the place Hooters.

Here in St. Louis, in the late 90's a group of people noticed the success of Hooters and tried to make their own version, calling it Show Me's.

Now, the Show Me's restaurant in South County has been there for such a long time that I remember driving past it many times always thinking it was a bar and not knowing what it really was.  On their website, the Show Me girls are shown wearing heels, tight shorts with parts of their ass hanging out and very revealing shirts.  I was told by me brother-in-law that the girls were hotter, the food was better, and the place was cooler.  Maybe the South County store didn't get the memo.

My wife, two kids and father arrived just this past Sunday at the Show Me's on Lemay.  It was a dump.  We walked in and a waitress was sitting down at the bar, next to a customer.  She turned and told us that we could sit wherever and turned back to talk to the guy.  There was a girl behind the bar getting drinks and a single girl working the floor.  We walked in to the place which was dark inside, had the beechwood look that is just so similar to another establishment, there were 2 dirty tables in front of us and one table of people.  We needed a table for 5 and there were only four-tops around so we waiting for someone to clean off another one so we could push two tables together.  After we got our table and sat down, we looked at the menu and it took 10 minutes, before a girl came over and asked us for our drink orders.  10 minutes later, our drinks came and the server walked off again.  We were there for 20 minutes, we just got our drinks, the waitress left before we could order our food. By then, my kids were starving as this was about 1pm and my youngest was crying for food as he was so hungry.  We watched two men come through the door and sit down.  Within 30 seconds a chatty blonde showed up at their table and took their drink order.  About 2 minutes later she came back with their beers and she took their food order.  We watched this take place as we sat in misery, waiting for someone to even talk with us again instead of ignore us.

After those 20 minutes, we couldn't take it.  My family got up to leave and when the girl did see this, I asked for the bill.  She came back saying "I'm sorry I got caught up, I had management problems".  So, badly I wanted to turn to her and say, "No you didn't, I saw you get those guy quick and get their orders in seconds.  You had a problem because there were kids here and you didn't want to work."  I paid the bill for the sodas and left.  

The above experience was so much different that the Hooters, on Lindbergh, just about a mile away.  As we walked in, we were immediately greeted and sat within 2 minutes.  Right when we were sat, a server was right with us asking for drink orders.  I took a second to mention to a manger about how we tried the ugly shack version of Hooters and still Hooters was better.  In fact, my dad and I were joking that as soon as we walked in that Hooters was better because someone acknowledged us.  Hooters is Hooters.  We were greeted, had food, had drinks and had service.

Let's have a scientific comparison:

Greeted us within 2 minutes                                            
Sat in to minutes                                                             
Kid's menu was given to the kids                                    
Drinks within 2 minutes of ordering                                 
Food came about 7-8 minutes after ordering                   
Server was smiling, nice and talked to the kids                

Show Me's
Greeted us within 5 minutes
Sat in 5 minutes
No kid's menu available
Drinks came 10 minutes after we were sat
Didn't make it this far
Server talked to my father and my wife, no smiles

Finally, the big two things: girls and food.  Since I am married, I will use my dad's opinion on the girls. He definitely thought that the girls at Hooters looked better and more attractive.  The food, was great, as usual, at Hooters and since we never were served at Show Me's, that was an easy win.   This isn't really a review, since every time that I have been at a Hooters restaurant, it has had great food and good service. But it is interesting to note, that like so many other things started in St. Louis, for the purpose of copying off of something more famous in other areas, that the copy sucks compared to the original.  Sure we have the best of many things and the imitators suck, but a lot of time, St. Louis thinks that things outside of it's area are better so it tries to copy.  Our nightclubs and dance clubs are copied from the ones in New York and Las Vegas, but our version sucks.  So, St. Louis, cannot copy Hooters.  We had friendly hostesses, friendly servers and friendly managers.  Food was perfect and tasty and quick.  Everyone was friendly.  That is Hooters.  So, do not go to the bad knock off: show me's.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

how things change

It was exactly 5 years ago, last night, that my wife and I went out to eat to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary.  Upon a suggestion from my uncle, we picked a nice restaurant called 1111 Mississippi, which had a wine country bistro type of feel to it. I remember the food prices being high, the food was incredibly tasty and the service was excellent.  Since that dinner, my wife and I had grown into a family, we have been around the world and eaten at many fine and hole-in-the-wall restaurants and we have tasted some things that were just heavenly and others that would make Andrew Zimmern spit out.

Our second anniversary dinner was at Kitchen K, which tried to be an upscale eatery but bad food and bad service cut them down.  Our 3rd year was at Chez Leon, which opened my mind to French cuisine and how good it could be. Our 4th year we went to the Ameristar Casino and to Home nightclub, on the way winning $350 and deciding to just eat at their seafood restaurant instead.  Our 5th meal was in Las Vegas at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. So, we moved up in the restaurant eatery scale and going back to our first anniversary spot, we thought it would be relaxing and I could review the place while we were there.

So, we arrived again at 11 Mississippi and just like last time, we were quickly greeted seated, even 10 minutes ahead of our reservations, which is great.  We were asked about our beverage selection and then after we ordered, some bread came for us.  The bread was a rosemary focaccia bread and a small saucer of grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil.  The bread was good but the cheese did not have that characteristic salty flavor.  We guessed that perhaps they store the cheese in olive oil which would dilute the flavor.

We ordered two of the specials and out they came:

This salad was a mixed summer salad with lettuce, strawberries, mandarin oranges, raisins, almonds and feta cheese clumps.  The salad was not that large and there was almost no dressing on it.  Both my wife and I thought that nothing really went together, it was as if they took all the pieces and just threw them on the plate.  What we didn't know when told about this special salad or it was delivered was that it was $7.99!  This salad was smaller, in portion size, than those you can get at St. Louis Bread Company, so we figured it was a side salad cost; like $3.99 or $4.99, not $7.99!  Overall, salad got a miserable 1 out of 5 stars.

I ordered a special that was described as pineapple and melon gazpacho soup.  My wife and I were waiting for something that was chunky, flavorful and full of summer cooling flavors; especially the melon and pineapple.  What was delivered was this:

Yeah, this was put down in front of me. What was given to us, was a tomato puree' soup that had hints of melon, more than a punch of pineapple and way too much basil.  Gazpacho soup is supposed to be chunky or at least not a complete liquid.  The first spoonful tasted good, with all tones being recognized.  It started with basil, moved into pineapple and then finished with basil again.  The second spoon tasted okay but by the third and fourth and past that, all I tasted was basil.  Those green specs in the picture are basil.  It was too basily and the acid of the pineapple didn't help the basil but only hurt the dish.  The idea may have been a good one, but maybe if it wasn't a puree' and there was not that much basil, it would have been better.  A bad dish is one that may taste great on the first spoon, but it seems to go downhill and you don't know why, but by the 5th and 6th spoon you can't and don't want to finish it.  It was a $4.99 soup or so so I wanted to finish it with my wife saying "you don't have to if you don't like it".  Ha!  That soup may have done better than that pile of greens up above, maybe I'd give this a 1 out of 5 stars as well, because I couldn't finish it.  Too much basil!

Our main courses came after wards and we were happy.  I remember having great entrees during our first time here and I was looking forward to a good end to this bad food meal.

This was the braised rabbit on a cheese polenta.My wife complained of the meat not tasting like rabbit enough, as it tasted like gamy turkey and didn't have a goo enough flavor.  Furthermore, it was covered in an orange sauce that did nothing for the meat.  My wife couldn't finish the meat and ate the polenta underneath instead.  I think she gave it a 3 out of 5 stars.

Now, a few other things that we noticed.  It would be best that while explaining the specials of the day, since they are not listed on the menu with the prices, to explain what their cost is as well. If our waitress had explained to us that the salad was $8 then we may not have ordered it.  Secondly, one of the first things I remember learning as a bus boy at Old Country Buffet was to not stack plates at the table.  When you are enjoying a romantic evening and the busboy comes by and takes your plate, with food remnants still on it and your wife's plate with things on it as well, and stacks them, right in front of her, and then walks off, it doesn't add to the nice and romantic atmosphere.  Those plates should have been picked up and taken away separately, not stacked in front of us.  I was worried that it would spill on my wife's dress, right into her lap.  Either the level of expertise has to be higher in order to satisfy my wife and I or this place has gone downhill in the past 5 years.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It goes together like banana and strawberry...

Does banana and strawberry really go well together?  I don't know when the pairing of those two fruits first came to be. So they say that bananas were first domesticated about 5,000 years BC.  The strawberry that we know, was the result of a crossbreed from two different types, and was done in France in 1740.  So, I would guess that the first strawberry was eaten with a banana, maybe in 1740 in France. 

Now, what did or what could that duo of flavors have tasted like?  Maybe something like this:

Well, what is it?  That, which may not look like much, is my strawberry and banana pie.  Here is what I did:

These are my bananas and I took some softening strawberries:

I made some simple pie crust: ice water, flour and butter

Okay, as anyone does with a pie, made the dough, placed it in the dish, cooked it for 15 minutes at 355 degrees F with a piece of foil on the bottom, then removed it and cooked it for another 15 minutes.  Then sliced the bananas first and layered as much of the strawberries I could, into the dish.  Covering it wish some another piece of dough and into the oven it went for 45 minutes.  What came out wasn't necessarily the best looking item, but was a very, VERY, tasty treat.  If you want more info or the recipe for the pie dough, email me.

Monday, July 5, 2010

We have the technology....we can make it better.

In the food industry and as a Mr. Mom type of guy, when any of us come up with a recipe or something we like, if it is not what we want, we change it.  It is normal and encouraged as not everything is made to our liking so it makes sense that we can change foods to our specific tastes.  Although, some changes are harder to do.

I made a cake, that has almost 2/3rds less of a cake of similar texture, taste and consistency.  It was based upon a normal thick and rich cake, but this one is different: no sugar.  So how does that work?  I turned a cake that would normally have over 4,000 calories into one that has just 2,000 calories.  What more, is that a single serving of my cake, has less than 200 calories. The cheesecake  Factory has a chocolate cake that tastes like mine and it is more than 750 calories.  So, ladies, or those watching anything about them, which would you rather have:  A chocolate cake that tastes great and has 200 calories a slice or one that has 700 calories a slice?

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present my flourless and sugar free chocolate cake. 

No sugar, means that I made it better than it used to be.  So, make something better.