Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's better than food? Women.

I know that this is not my usual bunch of banter, my collection of innocuous facts and figures and formulas about ingredients found at the back of the shelves at the store or some sugar free dishes made out of 3 things that taste like it was made of 30; but this topic in particular needs a place and that place is here.  Whether one knows it or not, St. Louis has a large presence of burlesque performers.  These ladies show their stuff while doing dances and acts that are reminiscent of the old days.  These women are not all "average" or "large" women but women in every size that show that all it takes is a bit of tease to drive any man wild; while not having to strip completely naked.  When most people hear of the word "burlesque" they are thinking of the girls whom in the past few years have made the art of tease into nothing short of a strip show. However, the girls of burlesque ion St. Louis, do a great job keeping up with the traditions of the skill and keeping it sexy without being dirty.

Ariana Bauer started to photograph these burlesque girls earlier this year, in positions that show the art and skill of burlesque and the beauty of the women.  These pictures that show the art and the time that Ariana spent editing them are up for show during her gallery showing, October 2-9th.

Even though it has nothing to do with food of any kind, nor anything that I am cooking or preparing, I highly suggest that anyone who likes seeing pictures of girls, to check out the gallery.  The prints are all moderately priced and most of these will be signed by the girl that is featured in the artwork.  Not only could you buy the limited edition, one of a kind signed print, but then you can meet the girl in the artwork at the gallery show!

While the 2nd through 8th is open to everyone and you can see and buy these wonderful works of art, the real fun is the closing party on the 9th.  Starting at 7pm, all of the big name burlesque performers of the St. Louis area will be present.  So, if you have a thing for Lola van Ella, not only can you buy a brilliant piece of artwork with her as the main feature, but you can also meet her!  Why would you miss your chance to meet these sexy performers?

Featuring Images of:
Lola van Ella
Foxy La Feelion
Faith McQueen
GoGo McGregor
Jeez Loueez
Gravity Plays Favorites
Roxy Rockets
Dewy DeCamille
Dimples Divine
Bella Sue DeVianti
Angel Saint-Marie
Fiona Flame
Moxy Malicious
Honeysuckle Rose
Sammich the Tramp
and more

Soulard Art Market
2028 S. 12th Street
Saint Louis, MO 63104
(314) 258-4299
Corner of 12th and Russell, across from McGurks Pub
Gallery Hours
Thursday - 6pm-10pm
Friday - 6pm-10pm
Saturday - 12pm-8pm
Sunday - 12pm-6pm

Monday, September 27, 2010

The elephant in the corner...

This Saturday night, my wife and I went to the Elephant Bar, which is a restaurant near the West County mall.  This restaurant has food that is inspired by the co-owner's trips around the world and his time in a kitchen in Hong Kong.  Basically, everything is pan-Asian inspired.  They want everyone there to have an enjoyable dining experience, with a jungle/safari atmosphere and just a relaxing and casual experience. 

Well, I have had my doubts on this dining location, especially since it is located behind a large parking garage and the 40 spots that are in front of it are always taken.  My wife called ahead a reservation for myself, her and our two kids for 7:00pm and we walked a bit in the mall.  We had come out at just 5 minutes till, found a nice and close spot to the restaurant's doors and walked inside.  My wife told the hostess that she had made reservations for the 4 of us for 7:00 and she told us 'just one moment' and handed us one of those coasters that lights up when it is your turn for seating.  Well, we waited and waited and figured out that when you call for reservations, it doesn't actually save a table for you, but just puts your name on the list.  I also saw a few booths that were clearly available, but no one was seating anyone in those spots.

I will admit that they finally got to us about 8 minutes after our supposed reservation time, sat us at a booth that I had seen empty since we walked through the doors, and completely ignored us every time we went up to the hostesses, but they did get a server with us, almost immediately.  The thing about the menu is that it is supposed to reflect the travels that this main executive chef had taken throughout the world.  These travels meant eating things like bland food and overly salty sides.  If this was the case, I would hate to travel where this chef went to. 

Is that a harsh thing to say about a chef and his restaurant?  Yes, but it is also the truth.  There is no way around it.  I thought the food was about as good as the food at MacDonald's.  For the same price, we could have gone to the Cheesecake Factory and had incredible service, food and a great dining experience, even with the kids!

My wife and I were hungry, but also thought that ordering a larger dish and each of us having a side would be good.  So, we ordered the Kona BBQ Pork Ribs.  We had a choice of white or brown rice and we picked brown.  We ordered a half rack and this is what came:
Um, if you look on their website at the great picture: http://www.elephantbar.com/Menu/Menu.aspx, and click on the Global Grill, their picture of the same dish had different items, like french fries, for instance.  Now, let's get right in. The BBQ ribs were okay, it tasted like your usual store-bought sauce, as they were tender enough to fall off the bone also.  We had a scoop of coleslaw, which tasted like your general coleslaw.  There was a skewer of grilled shrimp that tasted fishy, even to her, which meant they were not fresh at all.  The BBQ chicken breast was tough.  It was good and cooked fine on the thinner side, as it was a half a breast, but the other side was hard on the bottom, so it was not cooked evenly.  The brown rice that we asked for was in fact arborio rice and it was vastly under cooked.  It was not hard and crunchy but hard and chewy, like gum or a gummy bear that was stored in the refrigerator. The biggest thing that didn't fit on the plate was the small cup of brown beans, just like your basic pork n' beans.  However, these had no pork in them and instead tasted like they were cooked in the Taco Bell hot sauce packets, then someone sprinkled some cheese on top.  Besides this, the plate was $16.95!  I give the plate a sad 2 out of 5 stars.

How could this have been fixed?  Well, it was supposed to be inspired by something. Most of the time, anything with the word 'Kona' in the title is supposed to have something to do with Hawaii.  I find it hard to believe that the food in Hawaii is served like this.  The boring Southern style cole slaw, Mexican inspired beans, and undercooked Italian rice.  Nothing went together on this plate at all.  I think before they fix the plate, they should have decided what culture or cuisine were they trying to copy or play with.

My wife and I each ordered a small side to go with our main dish.  My wife ordered a pear salad.

I ordered the Fresh Sauteed Spinach and it was good.  It had just the right amount of cheese and spices on top and I actually ate the whole thing and was happy.  A 3 out of 5 for me, chef.  It was just your basic cooked spinach, still crunchy but still tender.

The kids got a great deal as we ordered a chicken quesadilla for one and the other got the hamburger.  I can honestly say, that my son's burger was tastier that my grill platter.  The bun was brushed with butter and grilled with a bit of garlic on top: perhaps even with Whirl. The burger was as thin as a MacDonald's burger and it came with some simple french fries.  I ended up eating most of my son's burger, as he was not that hungry anyway.  His burger was a good 3 out of 5, it really was.

What did I learn from this?  Well, the higher the food prices, does not relate to how good the food is.  So, it was possible that the $39 that we spent on the four of us, did not deliver to us $39 worth of flavor and tastiness.  Now, one of my biggest issues was this:  Our server handed me the bill, at $39.06.  I didn't have enough small cash to give her the standard tip we do, which is about 18%.  So, I gave her $50 and asked for change back.  So, math people, work with me here: If I give you $50 and the bill is $39.06, how much should be delivered back to me?  Say about $10.94 right?  Guess how much she gave back to me?  $10 in ones.  That's right, she did not give me back the 94 cents.  Why?  I don't know, but I found it unsettling that instead of giving me back the full amount that was not on the bill, she kept the 94 cents.  Now, was it an accident?  Maybe, but she should have noticed it when were leaving the table and she took the money.  She could have remembered, 'oh, there are no coins, what happened, oh, I didn't give him the change!' Instead, I gave her just her a tip and even so, I counted that 94 cents which she already took, as part of her tip. Moral of the story, don't steal from the customer.  I had a feeling that she was actually going to expect that I tip her another 15%, from $40 or even from $39 which would have meant that she received $5.85 as she already pocketed the 94 cents.  The total would have been $6.79, which was likely closer to a 17% tip. I don't play that way and in this case, her % tip did count the 94 cents she stole.  So, did she get less than she may have expected?  Yes, because I didn't see that money. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's what I do....

People may think it is easy, but it is not.  The only people who think it is easy are those who have no baking skills and don't really understand how food works. It is something that requires patience, the knowledge of science and the ability to not give up. What is it that I do? Recipe creation and experimentation. 

So, your favorite dish is a flan, which is traditionally made with such ingredients like a can of sweetened condensed milk and a few cups of sugar.  With enough tries, I was able to adopt someone else's recipe and create this flan, sugar free, low fat and with a sugar free caramel sauce.

I have been told that with enough time, anyone can make sugar free desserts out of anything.  Well, I'm sorry but you can't.  Anyway, can make these sugar free desserts if they have the time, the patience, the understanding and a bunch of other good stuff.  At one time a cafe said that they were interested in my desserts and then when I told them that they would have to pay me for these recipes, they replied that what I make "is not special and anyone could do it."  I'm sorry but let's be honest, has anyone who is reading this, been able to take their favorite dessert and make it sugar free? 

They said that not enough of their business is requesting sugar free and while that may be a good point, you should always have at least one sugar free option at anywhere that serves food.  Also, that sugar free item should taste good.  Which is my crusade.

When I worked at Old Country Buffet/Home Town Buffet, over the whole menu, there was perhaps 3 things that were sugar free.  There was an apple crisp, a jello mouse and an awful cake which I remember as a bad chocolate mousse.  Well, the jello cake had a flavorless crust on the bottom and a bright pink cherry jello flavored mousse with some sugar free whipped cream on top.  I tried it along with the other sugar free things so as a manager, I could tell when something was wrong or cooked incorrectly.  The apple one is the only one that tasted good, since you cannot screw up apples.

While I was there, I was once asked why the sugar free things tasted like crap.  Well, they don't have to.

So, for future desserts we should be expecting a sugar free tres leches, a gooey butter cake and some chocolate chip cookies.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A strange fruit...

This ingredient may not be as strange as cactus leaves or other interesting plants but I thought about the strangeness of this fruit, while I was preparing them for a tamale' sauce. The tomatillo is a round, firm, green fruit that is usually found still wrapped in its casing.

This green fruit is found within the tomato family and is often a bit tart and used in most, if not all, of Latin American green sauces.  The fruit ripens and grows within the husk, and then it splits it open finally at the end. 

The tamale sauce, requires that you peel off the husk, wash them, chop it in half and then bake them till they are good and roasted (375 degrees F for 45 minutes.)  You then blend them in the blender with some tomatoes and some peppers and it makes for a very nice sauce.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The mighty and powerful flan

A flan is a rich custard that normally has a caramel sauce on it.  It is rich and is the prime dessert for those south of the US border.  The flan, usually is made from a lot of fat and a lot of sugar.  I had requests to try to find and make one that did not have the bad stuff in it.  After searching, I found a good recipe.

From www.gastronomie.kalys.com

You needed:
3 grams Agar
750 ml whole milk
50 grams cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
30 grams of sugar

You take everything and place in a pan to bring to a boil.  When a boiling point is reached, you add the flavoring.

You then let boil for a bit longer and pour into rimekins or muffin molds.

Now, I have them all done and they taste good, using the agar as a gelling agent.  What I have to do now, is come up with a sugar free caramel sauce and make this sugar free.  I think once that is finished, I will post a follow up on here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Top chef insanity

Like most cooking shows, Top Chef has sustained itself by showing the world how chefs in America cook their food and what is the newest way to prepare dishes.  It has become a media goldmine as it is a Bravo network creation but other networks try to copy it with their own cooking reality contest shows.  Although none of them come into comparison with the Top Chef series.  Even though the first season was still the best, like any series, it is still fun to watch.  The thing about contests is this: these chefs have been hand picked.  So, when the best group of 20 or so signed up, they were the best at that time.  What I think is that the chefs from this past season and so forth seem to get lesser skilled each season.  That is why during this last episode, Hung was able to do almost all of Angelo's work and still have enough time and energy to help final preparations with Angelo. 

Now, what I find to be very humorous on the whole deal is the start of the new show: Top Chef desserts.  I didn't think there was the need for one until I remembered that some of the best chefs in the world, cannot make simple desserts.  I remember reading that Bobby Flay could not even make a cookie.  What gets me is that next year will we see a Top Chef Sugar Free or a Top Chef Cocktails?  A chef is a chef and the Top Chef should be one who can execute a dessert and a savory dish.

So, Top Chef desserts episode one:  We are introduced to the challengers in what reminds me of a group of challengers from Project Runway.  The group is so ego centered and filled with the Queen of the Universe attitude that it makes me wonder if I should ever pursue a baking degree as to be thrown in with this lot.  The head judge is a James Beard award winner in pastry and he has some delicious looking food. Johnny Iuzzini, is the head judge and his skills are what will make him perfect for judging the challengers.

The first challenge, the quickfire, was one that had me puzzled at why the producers picked these people.  The challengers had to make their signature dish and then twist it into a cupcake.  Easy right?  Well, you had a guy who eventually won, who had last made a cupcake in Home Ec, a woman who decided to make a meringue piped in the shape of a cupcake and a guy who only makes frozen or cold desserts.  You had some normal dishes turned into cupcakes with things like strawberry puree's inside and other good flavors.  The woman with the meringue didn't turn on her oven and so she didn't even finish.  The guy who calls himself the Snow Queen, I think it was, didn't make a cupcake but a gellato in a glass and called it his version of a cupcake.  So, right off the bat, you have at least one person who cannot bake, in a dessert competition.

The next step, is to work and make something that can be described as chocolate decadence.  What comes to your mind when that is spoken?  They had a table covered in every type of chocolate, well maybe not every type, but dark, milk and white.  What would you do?  A lot of people did simple things and didn't use that much chocolate.  I know what you are thinking now.  It is a chocolate challenge, so the idea would be to use as much as possible, yet people did not do so.  The loser was sent home for making a flour less chocolate cake with a broken mousse on top.  She screwed up as the mousse  didn't set and broke and instead of making another, she just left it be.  She lost for bad decision as they tell everyone on the regular Top Chef show: if you are not happy with it, don't serve it.

Does this show look good?  Well, the first challenge was nice, making what looked like a good start.  But with the preview of this show, what took place and was shown was nothing but crying, screaming, and drama.  Which is why I said it reminded me of project runway.  I don't know if I will be watching as I know that shows like this do keep the most drama -causing person as it makes for good ratings, but for people like me, I won't watch anymore.  So, I may watch an episode here or there, but overall, the tone that it set was one I could enjoy, but not with those contestants.  Should I be on the show?  Yes. 

What would I have done?

Well, maybe a coconut flavored cupcake with a vanilla cream icing on top with pie crust crumbles.
Elimination challenge would feature a flour less chocolate cake selection, maybe 3 of them stacked on each other with a nice raspberry spread on top, to help bring some moistness and bold flavors in.  I would do a dark chocolate layer, with a milk chocolate one on top and then a white chocolate one.  That much chocolate is great and should differentiate itself from one another.  The raspberry topping gives a burst of bold contradicting yet complimentary flavoring to the chocolate dish.  Just like a dollop of whipped cream would do also.  

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Food porn part 3

Bacon, bacon, bacon.  Homer Simpson would agree with me that there is no way that there is a magical animal that gives us ham, pork chops and bacon all at once!  I am a fan of bacon and here we have a picture of candied bacon.  It looks like they covered bacon with brown sugar before cooking it.


A lot of people love chocolate.  Some people love the taste and the flavor and others take their obsession to new heights and LOVE chocolate. I know at some spas, like Mist Spa, they even have a chocolate massage.  From their website: "Feed your skin with your choice of four delicious flavors of chocolate oils: Chocolate Raspberry, Chocolate Cherry, Chocolate Mint, or Chocolate Cake. Your first treatment is a Chocolate facial, using Eminence Chocolate Mousse hydrating masque and moisturizers. Next, our therapist will give you a one hour massage using the chocolate oil of your choice. Following your massage, you will move to our exclusive Oceana spa capsule where you will enjoy a Chocolate Oil Salt Glow Exfoliation. Then, chocolate oil is mixed with Moor Mud for a detoxifying and hydrating 30 minute session in the Oceana. To complete the experience, Chocolate Oil is lightly massaged over your body so you can enjoy the flavors for hours."
Whether you want to wear it:

or eat it:


Chocolate is a wonderful thing to have.  Dark chocolate has been shown to be good for you, containing certain antioxidants that help rid your body of free radicals and toxins.

Butter is one of the most natural fats that is actually good for you as well and the best for cooking.  Don't let people fool you.  It adds a flavoring that nothing else can replace and in the long run is better for your body than other oils.  It is a natural dairy fat and things from nature are the best.  By the way, who doesn't like butter?  Here we have a statue of butter, a life-size Marilyn Monroe statue of pure butter.

So, these are examples of my idea of food porn.  What do you like?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fod Porn part 2...

I don't know how many of these there will be, but lets just fill the week with them.  Think of them as in honor of the 100th episode of No Reservations.

I found a copycat recipe for Hostess cupcakes and this is a big bowl of that white, rich creme filling.  I had a container of this in the fridge and used it for everything.

This is my 18 inch in diameter cinnamon roll.  At 18 inches across it was probably close to 3 pounds of cinnamon, sugar, and melted butter goodness.

Bacon brownies.  That's right, vanilla brownies flavored with bits of bacon and bacon grease.  If you love bacon then this is the best thing.  Well second to a basket of bacon.

Alright Angela, this is some chocolate fudge brownies, right out of the oven.  Notice the cake-like outsides and the gooey chocolate near the center.  Full of sugar and other terrible things.  But it tastes so good.

Be on the look out for the next batch of food porn where I peruse the net for the best in food porn online.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

XXX- Food Porn -XXX

I love food and always have been a lover of food, but it wasn't until a few years ago when I heard the term 'food porn' used by Anthony Bourdain and I love it.  What better way to describe the feeling you get while looking at or eat great and delicious food.  So, below are some things that I have made or saw that is so much food porn for me.

100% cocoa mass, that is pure chocolate.  No sugar, preservatives or anything added; just chocolate.

Lemon meringue pie, just out of the oven

My 9 inch in diameter chocolate chip cookie

A closeup view of buttery and syrup covered French toast

Stay tuned for part 2.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

No rats helped me here...

Everyone loves Pixar movies, but when Ratatouille came out with a fancy rat chef who helped a janitor cook wonderful food, everyone loved it: Foodies even more so.  When I saw a movie about cooking and the love of cooking making you who you are no matter your race or species, I loved it.  After seeing it though, I clamored all over the internet to look up a recipe for the title dish.  I found it.  Below is my version of the recipe and what I did:

1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp minced garlic
1 cup finely diced onion
2 16oz cans of chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp parsley
1 bay leaf
1 lb of Roma tomatoes
1 lb of zucchini
1 lb of carrots or parsnips
1 lb of yellow squash (can use eggplant instead)
1 pinch of chervil
2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Take each pepper and cut it in half, place it on a foil lined baking sheet and roast in the oven until the skin loosens, which is about 15 minutes. When it is finished, peel the skin off of the peppers and chop nicely.

Take the oil and place it in a pan with garlic and onion, cooking on medium high heat. Cook until garlic and onion start to turn brown and caramelize. When it starts to turn clear, add tomatoes, thyme, parsley, and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the chopped peppers with a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Make sure to take out and reserve about 4 tbsp of the mixture for later.

Take the four types of vegetable you have chosen and slice each one into circles about 1/4th of an inch thick. Place the above mixture into a cooking dish and then layer the vegetable slices on top of the mixture. Layer them so that one is on top of the other allowing the bottom one to slightly stick out a bit. Arrange in a spiral around the dish. Repeat until pan is filled. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Take1 tsp of minced garlic, 2 tsp of oil, 1/4th tsp of thyme and salt and pepper to sprinkle over the top of the dish and the vegetables. Cover with foil tightly and place in the oven for at least 2 hours.

As it is cooking, take the reserved mixture and place into a small pot. Add tbsp of oil, 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of thyme, chervil and salt and pepper. Warm a bit, stirring.

When the dish is finished and out of the oven, serve dish using a spatula. Scoop some onto the spatula and then place on plate, turning spatula 90 degrees to fan out the vegetable dish. Place a little of the sauce on around the dish. 

Now, if you look at the recipe and the top picture, you will see that there are carrots in this recipe.  The real one does not have carrots but has eggplant.  My wife is allergic to eggplant, so that is why there is a switch.  This rustic French meal is the perfect thing to prepare and eat on these cool and rainy St. Louis days.