Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is that fake or real?

For fun, when I was last in Rural King, I purchased something quite peculiar: Babyback Rib flavored potato chips.  Now, I have to wonder about a few things.  First I think about how far we have come, as food product scientists and inventors.  20 years ago, the idea of having a food flavored product was around but just didn't work that well.  40 years ago, the idea of food flavored item would be cool but would likely have tasted too much like the real thing.  I have seen many different flavors of strange flavored chips and snacks and while they exist in other countries, here in America, the idea of shrimp flavored potato chips doesn't go over too well.  So, the manufacturers have been working on ideas that would be accepted by the mass of people.  Shrimp flavored chips, no.  BBQ meat flavored chips, yes.

Doesn't that picture look delicious?  Mouth watering, tender, fall apart in your mouth BBQ baby back ribs.  Can you imagine the taste and feel in mouth as you eat those perfect morsels of food?  So wonderful and tasty.  But imagine if you could have that same flavor and experience, maybe even with just a cut of the umami, but in a potato chip.  Wouldn't that be great?

Sadly, it is not the case.  To me, these chips taste like really good BBQ chips.  Sort of like the Lays KC Masterpiece BBQ chips with a more smokey flavor to them.  I won't say that I don't like them, because I do, but they do not taste like the meat, just the seasoning on the meat.

What am I looking forward to in the future?  I want to see a BBQ steak flavored salmon.  I want to see doughnut flavored ice cream.  I want to see a fried balogna sandwich flavored cupcake.  If we are going to get creative with flavors, lets get creative, as long as it tastes like it is supposed to.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A stab at vegetarians and vegans everywhere...

Who do you use to fight against the Vegan and Vegetarian thoughts of the world?  Bill Cosby, aka: Leonard Parker.  In this movie, dubbed the worst movie of all time, Bill Cosby plays a CIA operative who fights against an extreme animal rights activist and vegan, using meat and ballet slippers.

"Bill Cosby plays Leonard Parker, a former CIA spy. According to the opening sequence of the movie, the title refers to the idea that this film is actually the sixth installment of a series of films featuring the adventures of Leonard, as parts one through five were locked up in the interests of world security.
The movie starts with Parker being re-recruited by his former employers in the CIA to save the world from an evil vegetarian who brainwashes animals to kill people. The film ends with Leonard infiltrating the vegetarian base, fending off the vegetarians with magic meat he received from a Gypsy, freeing the captive animals and flooding the base using Alka-Seltzer. He escapes by riding an ostrich on the roof of the building, with the ostrich flying him down."-Wikipedia

Um, if you know anything about me, then you know that I am against vegetarianism and veganism.  So, this movie is awesome.  Its bad like Police Academy is bad.  It is PG as well.  If you can find it, I highly suggest watching it.

At one point in the movie, Bill Cosby and his wife are being held captive and are attacked by lobsters.  They escape by using the lobsters to cut their binds.  Bill Cosby uses some melted butter that he received from a gypsy, to threaten the lobsters and to back them off so they can escape.  In the factory as well, it is run by a group of vegetarian workers.  These men are muscular and wear sleeveless shirts.  Bill Cosby uses 100% all beef patties to threaten and cause these men to back away.  In some cases, he pressed the raw meat against their chests and it burned them, like a holy object to a vampire.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

what to do, what to do....

I admit it, in between shoveling the snow off of my driveway and now, I am lost on what to write about.  I have covered a lot in a while here on St. Louis restaurants as well as other cities and want to know what people think themselves?

Does anyone have any questions for me or anything at all?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I scream, you scream, we all scream for molecular gastronomy!

Let's face it, nothing can cool a hot body like a big bowl of ice cream.  Although it is not always effective at cooling down a hot body, wink, wink, it a tasty dessert that may have had it's origins in the ancient Arab world.  The most common idea is that ancient Persians used to gather ice or snow from their mountains and then pour fruit juice on top, making what we call now: a snow cone.  It was later, around the 10th century that the Arab world started to use milk or cream, combined with sugar and ice to produce what we love today: ice cream.

Ice cream, is technically a frozen foam as fat globs from the milk or cream are suspended within a frozen sugar and water structure.  While air gets trapped within the structure as well, durning churning or mixing.  Modern ice cream makers have introduced such great hydrocolloids to this traditional method to help distribute the fat and the air better to make smoother and more creamy concoctions.  They can also use natural gelling agents to help create the same consistency without the sugar structure or the fat globules.

 Even though I grew up miles away from what is considered the best frozen custard in St. Louis, Ted Drews, and grew my whole life thinking that when people say "ice cream", they mean Ted Drews or Baskin Robbins, the best ice cream I have ever had was not found in this country. Sure there is gellato in the Italian shops in Las Vegas or shaved ice in other areas, but none of them come close to the texture and flavor that I had experienced while in Beirut.  It would figure that somewhere within the birthplace of ice cream would have the best ice cream. The shop I went to had maybe as much as 50 flavors of ice cream and each one had a robust flavor to it.  Not a spicy one, but bold as in, the rosewater flavored ice cream tasted like someone had stuck rose petals within the ice cream. It was also in Beirut that I was introduced to the cherimoya fruit and they had an ice cream for that as well.

For the past few years, I have been making regular ice cream and sugar free ice cream for my family and friends using a Cuisinart ICE-20FR ice cream maker.I thought everything was good with this device and for the price, it is a good maker. With this machine, there is a bowl that you have to take out and freeze at least 24 hours prior to making ice cream.  This does prevent you from doing the spontaneous ice cream making ritual, which does sometimes pop up with my family.  I believe that this model runs between $40-$50 and is good for those who like to make ice cream every once in a while.  It is a bit noisy, so I would recommend placing it in another room while it churns.

Now, by a strange case of luck, my mother-in-law parted with her ice cream maker to me.  This is a nice thing.  This is the Cuisinart ICE-50BC commercial ice cream maker and makes ice cream in as little as 30 minutes!
This device retails, new, for about $300 so there is a price difference between the two, but I would highly suggest this one after just a few uses.  With this model, it has everything all together.  All you do is plug it in, pour the ingredients in and turn it on.  That was easy!  I did a simple vanilla recipe using a cup of milk, a cup of cream, 3/4th cup of white sugar and two tablespoons of vanilla extract.  I did toss in some broken chocolate chip cookies.  When the 30 minutes were up it created a runny soft serve consistency and that was placed in the freezer to harden.  Now, with the other ice cream maker, when you finish the mixing, it has to go in the freezer to get to ice cream but in most cases, it gets too hard, like frozen solid milk.  This one, even after many hours in the freezer was not frozen solid and was still as soft as it was upon completion. 

So, if you love cream, get this commercial one, right above.  It is even cheaper than I thought on amazon.  I highly suggest using it to make your own ice creams.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Donuts or Doughnuts

All throughout the Christmas shopping season, I had my eyes on this nice and little mini-donut maker.  How simple it would be to make a batter, pour it into the little molds, close the lid, and within a small time limit have wonderful cake donuts.  Well, I didn't have time to get the device and waited until after Christmas when I thought I may be able to find one at a discounted cost.

Well, little did I know, they were sold out, of everywhere.  Bella Cucina had this special deal with Macy's and according to one store clerk, they were so sold out that they were not allowed to order more from the Macy's warehouse.  Not a single store in the St. Louis metropolitan area, had one of these donut makers left.

I was sad.

Next came my wonderful wife who was with me and dragged along with our kids to at least two different Macy's in two different malls, looking for this rare and impossible to find device.  I didn't want to order it online as it was as much as $10-$15 for shipping on a $25 item made it definitely not worth my time.  So, my wife looks on Amazon and gets me a donut pan as well as a donut cutter and cookbook and I am ecstatic.

Here is a run-down of what I am doing:  I am making baked donuts.  That would be the great tasting donuts that you know and love but without the frying and grease part.  It would also cut down on calories.  Now, making a baked donut also means that besides the calories that I am cutting out from the act of frying, I can also alter the recipe to a more sugar free or even fat free method and reduce the calories even more.

My pan:
My pan with some chocolate chip cookie donuts:

Now, if you follow a simple recipe, your donuts will be perfect every time.  No more greasy wheels of sugar but instead perfectly light and simple shapes of goodness. So, for everyone who wants to make donuts, I highly suggest this donut pan.

Well, completely unrelated to this, a few searches in Flickr proved interesting in regards to donuts:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It breaks me heart...

One of my most favorite restaurants in St. Louis is called The Stable.  Ever since I first wrote about this a few years back, I personally have known as many as 50 people who started to go there.  Not all of them are foodies but just people who wanted to get a good meal.  Now, this Saturday my family is going to throw my grandmother a party and if I am not mistaken, she is turning 88.  I decided to take her and my father as well as the rest of my family to The Stable for brunch.  What occurred once we entered the door may have been one long string of not-so-great events that culminated with a bad feel and an apology from the waiter.

Now, we did The Stable because I looked at their brunch items, which looked reasonable.  We arrived, were seated quickly because of our reservation and waited for about 15 minutes before our drink order was taken.  About 5 minutes later we got or drinks.  After our drinks came, it too the waiter no less than 1 hour to come to take our food order.  My grandmother ordered the Elvis toast, my father ordered the Cajun biscuits and gravy, my wife and I both ordered the Bauernfruhstuck and we got the Farmer's breakfast for the two kids to split.

This is where things started to go wrong:
The menu says that the Elvis toast is "French bread drudged in and cinnamon egg custard and pan fried.  Topped with peanut butter, bananas and bacon."  Now, from the picture you may notice something right off the bat: there is honeydew on the toast, not bananas.  Instead of bananas, which they were out of, they offered another fruit choice.  Well, my grandmother thought that the fruit change likely wouldn't matter that much because there are still two large pieces of French toast.  Well, that wasn't French toast.  Apparently, "French bread dredged in and cinnamon egg custard and pan fried" means to just make toast and burn it on top.  It wasn't French toast or even remotely soft on the inside!  It was rock hard toast.  With peanut butter and the substitute fruit.  We complained to the waiter and he explained that they get a lot of complaints on this menu item.  So, not only do we probably give it a 2 out of 5 since it wasn't anything like what was advertised on the menu.  But, if it is a menu item that has had that many complaints, maybe someone should have said "hey, let's fix this or remove this."

The Bauernfruhstuck, was steak, grilled onions and peppers, hash browns, eggs, toast and bacon. 
The whole plate and the eggs were all cold.  The hash browns were undercooked and rubbery.  That was it with mine, but cold and rubbery is enough for me.  2 out of 5.

My kids had their food as well, which was also cold.
My kids, both were starving, because it took an hour for our food to arrive, but this was a very normal food dish; albeit cold.  I was told that they were short staffed and I can see why.  It looked like maybe the waiter was the one cooking all of the food.  The brunch hours are till 2pm and while this was a planned event, I find it very unlikely that we will return for another brunch.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How much is too much chocolate

Yes folks, God is smiling down upon our tiny human minds as he has given us, with the help of a talented writer, a cookbook: an instruction manual, of how to infuse our favorite desserts with alcohol.  Sure, you may think that your chocolate pecan pie is good, but can you imagine how good it will taste with a cup of whiskey?  :)

Before we settled into our Christmas vacation, I made my favorite recipe from the book, to be given to my son's teachers at his school.  The recipe in question: Jagermeister Fudy Brwonies.

The book is called Elegantly Easy Liqueur Desserts and is where all of these great recipes are from.

This is the book that has great things like the Jack Daniels Whiskey and chocolate pecan pie and it is delicious.  There are also some great creme brulee recipes and other fun things that would make your next party look like some fancy swing-dig.

This brownie recipe has 1/2 cup of the tasty liqueur in the batter and then some more in a chocolate glaze for on top of the brownies.  Let us not forget to mention the 6 ounces of chocolate in the batter and the 9 ounces in the sauce.  The recipe calls for walnuts, which I omit, and it still comes out with a perfect consistency and texture.

This book is highly recommended and for that price , I suggest you pick it up.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The new year resolution...

 I live in Columbia, a small town right to the Southeast of St. Louis.  Columbia, which has a population of about 8,000 people has many of the amenities of a bigger city but the old-world, small-town feel of a small place.  Columbia is only starting to slowly come out of the shadow of St. Louis with its own specialty restaurants and stores.  For instance, I heard recently that the Thai House, has only now been mention in the River Front Times and now readers are becoming aware of it.  The thing with Columbia is: it only has a few of these restaurants.  As I have already reviewed, it has at least one bad bar-pub food restaurant and several good ones, such as Joe Boccardi's and The Thai House. However as the stltoday writer mentioned, there is only two coffee houses, or cafes within the whole town:

As a New Year's resolution, I would like to review more of what Columbia has to offer the Metro area.  I have reviewed only one restaurant in town and friends of the owner insist I just had a bad time and assure me that the bad restaurant experience I had was not normal.  They tell me that I definitely need to to go back and try again. There are just a few restaurants in Columbia and I would also like to review both of the coffee houses or cafes in the area.