Monday, February 28, 2011

The best that Vegas has to offer, so far....

If you read my posts here, you will see that I have become a fan of Rick Moonen.  Unlike other chefs who seem so full of themselves that they place themselves on a pedestal above everyone else, Rick seems and acts like he is still a regular person.  I have followed his Facebook page and his blog on blogger here and decided that since I have gained some respect for the man and his ideals, I thought I would visit his restaurant.  I didn't want to do the downstairs but RM upstairs: the fancy place.  My wife and I made reservations and sat down in the waiting area, had a drink and a relaxing time.  

Secondly, let me explain something that you may have picked up on if you have been following my blog:  I have a bad history with seafood.  My mother's idea of letting us experience seafood, as a child and in my childhood, was with Gorton's Fish Sticks.  Fish sticks are not really fish and not really sticks and just sorta made me hate fish.  Also, with me being in St. Louis, for the longest time, fresh fish is hard to come by.  So, even at Red Lobster, things tasted fishy and shrimp tasted rubbery.  A few years ago, I started anew and was willing to try anything, even seafood.  I have tried crab legs and they were okay, I've tried mussels and didn't like them.  Some fish I have tried, some sushi I have tried and I'm always open to new things. So anyways... 

We sat near the bar while we waited for our seats.  I had a nice conversation with their excellent bartender about making drinks using caviar made through molecular gastronomy, which I have been doing myself at home.  Our discussion led to me talking about The Aviator(Aviation) and then he suggested that I try one, that he has altered and I was all for it.  My wife ordered a drink called the Garden Party.  A few minutes later, we moved to our seat, a nice booth in a dimly lit dining area.  We were immediately greeted by a Sommelier and then we had our waters filled and a waiter came our way.  The first small let-down from RM came from the waiter after he asked us if we had any questions.  I asked about the Moon'n doggie, or the Moonen dog or whatever it was called. He told us what it was and then said something such as :  If you want to go downstairs and eat that kind of food you are welcome to as we usually keep the upstairs menu for the more discerning of guests.  But you are welcome to go downstairs if you wish.   I felt like it was a jab at my wife and I about whether or not we could either afford the food upstairs or even like it but I let it slide later after he came back and after taking our order apologized that he forgot about asking if we were allergic to anything.  While not a real common ingredient, my wife is very allergic to eggplant and we had to make sure there was none in anything she ordered.  My wife ordered the 7 course and I did the 3.

I usually pay closer attention and try to get pictures of each course but this time I didn't.  The main reason was, I was too busy eating.  As I said, there was a wedding reception in the big room there, complete with an Elvis, it could have been the real deal...  But the waiter did apologize again, ahead of time, saying that the wedding party is taking a lot of resources from the staff and they will still try to the best of their ability to take care of us.  Good save.  You have a big restaurant, you know that you are busy and you come out with good customer service ahead of any incidents or issues.  While it may not have been the best move, it felt like a good one in my book.  I would rather be told that my food will take a while than just have it take a while and be wondering all night long.  Nevertheless, the waiter and head waiter kept bringing things out; compliments of the chef, and I will never turn down free food.

First that came out was a razor clam appetizer.  I forget what was on it but it sat in front of me as I stared at it, as it taunted me to eat it.  My wife quickly one-bites it and gives me a thumbs up and I look again at it, first seafood I try for 2011 and take a big bite, expecting that fishy taste.  And there was none.  There was no fishy taste, no salty taste, no tasting like where it comes from, none of that.  It was clean and simple.  I liked it.  Sure it may have been plated so perfectly that it looked like a white flower but it was good.  5 out of 5 chef!

Then we were given an oyster with lemon, vanilla and mint.  My wife first went for hers and she wanted to make sure it was good, before I tried it.  I looked over at her after she one-bited the thing and then gave me a thumbs up.  She asked as to whether or not I wanted mine and from before I could answer, she ate mine as well.  She said it was very good, had no fishy taste, and was flavored perfectly with the lemon and mint. 5/5

Next came out with our first courses: my wife had the Marinated California Octopus and I had the Salsify Black Truffle Soup.  My wife loved the octopus, saying that it was firm yet crunchy, not chewy at all like most octopus is served and it was cooked the best that she had ever had. She gave it a 5/5.  My black truffle soup came with crab meat inside as well as some extra on the spoon. I felt adventurous and poured my crab into my soup, stirred it once or twice and then took a taste.  It was awesome.  I then tried the crab and liked it.  The crab wasn't fishy at all.  Sometimes when I try new things and I think they are alright, I will eat around that item and still try the rest of the dish, effectively eating just what I like.  I liked it all, so much that I was actually fishing around and looking for the crab to ensure I had a piece in every bite with my soup.  It was great with a perfect 5/5 from me.

Marinated California Octopus with sweet peppers, black tomato and falafel  
Salsify Black Truffle Soup with king crab and granny smith apple
My wife had a Smoked Sturgeon and Heirloom Potato come next.  My wife enjoyed it giving it a 5/5 saying that it was smokey, had a crunch to it and was not fishy at all.  It also had an amazing sauce to it.

My wife then had the Peruvian Lantern Scallops.  She thought this was cooked well and liked how mustard was in everything, from the greens served with it to the sauce.  She gave this a 4/5. 
Peruvian Lantern scallops with pork confit, mustard greens and Anson Mills polenta
About the same time that my wife was served with the Cobia dish, I received my second course: my entree.  My wife had the Cobia and she only remarked that it was very yummy and had a great sauce.  She gave it a 4/5 stars.  I had the Cervena Venison Loin.  I was speechless towards the venison.  Venison, which is the gourmet term for deer meat, usually is quite gamey and you know you are eating a meat that isn't part of the usual 3: pork, beef and chicken.  Like lamb, venison has an off taste that most game meats share, a bit of a sour and other-worldly spice, an unknown flavor that enhances it and sets it apart from other meats.  The more wild a meat, the more of this game-taste it has.  The venison, had almost none of this wild or game taste, making it seem like it should be in with those other meats.  It was perfectly cooked being rare in the center and a ring of color cooking outward, like a well smoked meat.  It went from an almost deep purple to a red and then a pink where it hit the outside where a nice salty and peppery crust lay. It was so thick and yet tender and juicy.  I would dare say that it encapsulated a degree of umami that a large thick steak would offer as well.  It was so good that I was eating the Brussels sprouts, onion and sauce with the meat.  I had never tasted any meat so good and so perfectly cooked, it was a thing of beauty.  It got my attention and if I allowed myself to go over 5 stars and give anything a 6 out of 5, I would have.  5 out of 5 stars on this just seems so tame and timid to what it actually deserves.
Cobia with black olive, pomegranate and cauliflower
Cervena Venison Loin with Brussels sprouts, Cipollini onion and pear butter
My wife had her 5th and 6th courses while I was busy enjoying my venison.  She had a Labelle Farms Duck Breast, which was with a quinoa pilaf, celery root and purple kohlrabi.  She enjoyed it and loved the quinoa especially, thinking it was very 'yummy' and gave it a 5/5. Then she had her smaller portion of the venison and at times it seemed that we were making a "mmmmmmm" sound in unison.  She gave that a 5/5 saying that it was delicious but she was expecting it to have that game taste that is so famous with game meats.

Before dessert came, they offered us a few things, such as a dish that had freshly made ice cream balls, like 'dipping dots' with some chocolate ice cream on top.

 They then presented us with a small sampling, above.  At the top of the plate was a mini apple crumb cake-like dessert.  Next came a flavored meringue and then towards the bottom was a chocolate truffle snack.  It was all very nice and a good change to dessert at a 3 out of 5.

To finish off my wife's 7 course meal, she was given a Tropical Creme Brulee.  She liked it, giving it a 3/5, suggesting that with the lineup of courses, a stronger flavor profile should have been used to finish the line.  The creme brulee was very light and fruity and I guess that is why they gave us two desserts before this one, to help seq way it in.  The creme brulee was with passion fruit curd, marinated pineapple and papaya-aloe.

My dessert was the Chocolate Car Bomb.  The chocolate car bomb, with an obvious take on the Irish car bomb drink.  This dessert was served in a 'spilled' glass, on its side, on a plate.  It had Guinness ice cream, Bailey's Irish cream and beer suds, along with pieces of chocolate.  To be honest, I really was split on this dessert.  Everything on it was great, except for the beer suds and the chocolate pieces.  It seemed that the chocolate pieces were bittersweet chocolate and the tartness in that matched with the tartness of the Guinness, which may have been what the pastry chef was going for, but just tasted like a big bite of tart.  The beer suds were also tart, much like they were made with an IPA or something that had a very strong hops flavor.  The ice cream and the creamy item below were very good, although hard to get to because at first inspection it looked as if it was just a glass on its side on a plate and I wanted to lift up the glass and empty the contents on the plate, for easy access.  However, the glass was glued on to the plate in that fashion so it was actually quite difficult to get to the good stuff, in the bottom of the glass.  I would give it a 3 out of 5.

Chocolate Car Bomb with Guinness ice cream, Bailey's Irish Cream and beer suds

Overall, it was a great experience and there are some things that we experienced that don't really add into the meal but should in any review of the meal and restaurant:

1.  The bartender.  I didn't get his name, but the guy is a genius.  He took the traditional Aviator(Aviation) drink and made some changes to it.  He made both version for us and his version is sweeter and all around tastier than the original.  You can always tell how good a bartender is by what he does and he took an old drink that hardly anyone orders anymore and made it even better.  It reminds me of when I go to bars and order my usual drink: a Rob Roy.  You have no idea how many bartenders look at my cross and ask me how to make it.  Sure, the Rob Roy drink is something that men in their 70's usually order, but it is one of my favorite go-to drinks and most people don't know how to make them anymore.  This bartender here at RM, should get a raise and next time I'm in Vegas, I'll teach him how to do the Aviator using maraschino caviar and float them in the glass with the rest of the drink.  If I had a bar or restaurant, I'd hire him, or give him a role training the rest of my staff.  If he liked sugar free donuts, I'd send him some, end of story.

2.  The Service.  While there was one minor slip-up when the waiter implied that my wife and I didn't belong in the upstairs dining room, everything else was flawless.  He never really apologized for that but seemed overly nice the rest of the evening and I let that comment slide.  I think he meant to say something but it just came out wrong.  We had water when we needed it, we had food right in the right order and we thought it would be a challenge but the waiter and kitchen staff worked out a good mix so my wife with her 7 course and mine with my 3 course would get food in the same intervals.  Meaning that there was never a time when we both were without a dish in front of us. 

3.  The bathrooms. For as nice as a restaurant and as big as it was, there was a single person bathroom for both sexes.  This came to prove as a problem that night as the wedding party was also using the bathroom and at times, there would be a line.  The bride frequently used the bathroom to change her clothes which left the women in the restaurant, sometimes popping up and down from their seats to check on the availability of the bathroom. 

4.  The digestive.  As soon as the waiter pours the first bit of water into our glasses for dining, he leaves the water carafe on the table.  As soon as it was empty, he would pass by, sometimes like a Ninja, placing things into the carafe.  First he dropped in some spices, likely cloves to give it a nice scent as we sat.  Then came some orange peel and more and more spices came, very secretly.  After we were through eating and ready to ask for the bill, the waiter came back with a pitcher of hot tea, which he poured into the carafe, which then turned into a very aromatic drink.  He then poured a bit of dry ice into it, allowing it to explode its wonderful perfume into the cold white vapors as he wafted it all over the table, allowing us to breathe it in.  He then poured it out into two small glasses for us to enjoy.  It was supposed to calm our stomachs down and tasted like a warm, citrus spiced mulled-wine or similar drink.  It was very tasty.

But that's it.  The place was an overall success and had me happy to spend what I did there in time and money.  I highly suggest to anyone to go to RM and go upstairs for some fine and romantic dining.  I also highly suggest that you play "try to stump the bartender" and order anything you like.  My bet, is that he will not only make what you ask for, but make it taste better than the original. 

Rick, I want to eat at your restaurant every day.  It was better than Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, it was better than Delmonico's and it was better than Pearl.  In St. Louis, we don't have a restaurant at the level and caliber as yours and if I had the money I would so try to invest with you top open a place here.  OR, if you opened a restaurant in a closer city, like Chicago, it would give us a reason to do the 4 hour drive.  We did drive up there one year just to eat at Rick Bayless's place but then I would drive up at least once a month for your place.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My name is Max.....

Because my mind has been warped with cultural references, when someone mentions the name "Max" I don't think of Mad Max, which is what I just thought of now, but instead think of the character named Max, from The Great Race.  

The Character of Max, was played by Peter Falk and while we never learn his last name or his full name, his calling card is one-liners and an ingenious mind. He is a mechanic for the overly flamboyant Professor Fate.

Under last year, the above personality is what I thought of when it came to that name.  The past year, I have caught up on my Doctor Who and learned of Max Capricorn, who is a billionaire who owns a space company.  He has a personlity that is very full of himself mentioning many times that you have to believe what he says "because my name is Max". 

While in Las Vegas, my family stopped in for a snack in the Forum and found ourselves in Max Brenner, which is a chocolate restaurant with many cartoons of "Max" with statements like, "the best chocolate from a bald man" or something like that.  What being bald has to do with chocolate is anyone's guess.  I immedietly thought about it and wondered to myself, I may not be a huge name or know of everyone in the dessert world, but why does Max Brenner NOT ring a bell?  Oh yeah, he doesn't exist.  The person, is actually two people who combined their names to create a character for their chocolate ideas, which I have to say, coming from a lifelong chocoholic, are only 50% good.

The table of people I was with contained not only me and my vast eating experience of chocolate but also my wife, who until just last year, hated the flavor of chocolate.  She is newly enjoying and experiencing it so I figured we were both good testers.  We ordered the Sharing (tasting for two) and also the Dessert pizza.  Let's start with the tastings, first:  There were some hard cookies, a tasty eggroll that had peanuts and chocolate sauce inside, chocolate 'bark' which was okay, little chocolate covered puffed rice pieces, an apple pie and white chocolate layer cake and some chocolate sauce.  Everything on that plate was good and as a whole, I would give it all a 3 out of 5.  For a character that seems like a super advanced chocolate chef, there was nothing really fancy or unique on the plate.

WE also had the fondue pot as well as a small cooker with some banana, strawberry chunks and some marshmallows.  The chocolate fondue was served over a small cup of water, which was then over a candle tea light heater.  It was the equivelent of serving a double boiler to the table, so the chocolate didn't burn or caramelize.  Unfortunately for Max, that was the only thing that was smartly done.  It was a small bit of brilliance that you don't find in any other places that serve chocolate fondue, but not enough to gain extra stars, maybe style points though.  The small fire had flames shoot up and occasionally shot sparks out at us, which was not very safe.  For what little was offered in food, it was a 2 out of 5 stars.  For the double boiler technique and serving, I give a million style points.

We also ordered this dessert pizza.  Back at Old Country Buffet, there used to be a dessert pizza on the menu and we used to make it for fun.  It started with snickerdoodle/sugar cookie dough in a small half inch half line pan, and then when the cookie crust was cooked, it had some strawberry sauce on top of that, dollops of white icing and some chocolate chips and blueberries.  It was awesomely delicious and evil at the same time.  The pizza here at Max Brenner's was just one half of a pizza with a flavorless dough crust, with a small layer of chocolate sauce, banana slices, mini marshmallows and some peanut butter flavored sauce on top.  It was all very simple and the dough, as I stated, was completely flavorless and slightly undercooked.  Uh, I would give a 2 out of 5 stars on this one.

I think our dining experience would have better if we had better service.  We told the host that we had a group of 6 and she asked me us to check out the store and someone would come and get us.  Well, 15 minutes later, no one came so we went back to the hostess and she asked "didn't someone get you yet?"  Um, no.  They finally sat us upstairs as a young man came by, took the orders of just two out of the six of us and disappeared for 10 minutes.  He came back with the two drinks and then when we wanted to order the other drinks he asked "you guys didn't order yet?"  Um, no!  This kid was either on drugs or his first day in a section of tables that he couldn't control.  I think it took him 25-30 minutes just to get drinks to everyone. I can imagine if we were getting something super fancy but how long does it take to get that Diet Coke or that ice tea?  What was he doing most of the time?  We saw him standing around and chatting with the female fellow employees instead of working.  I say, fire that guy, change the food so it is inventive instead of just okay and you have yourself a place that people will want to go and not just decide to stop in now and then.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Time off...

I don't think I have had a proper vacation for almost a year now, with my last trip being to Beirut and most of Southern Lebanon and then to London, England for a few nights.  That was a while ago.  Now, on Friday, I leave for Las Vegas.  I will be doing less Vegas stuff and more 'other' stuff.  I will be going to Red Rock as well as Hoover Dam (I hope the Legion and the NCR are not there). 

It shows that Chef Rick Moonen follows this blog and if he really does, then he will know that I intend to visit RM seafood with my wife one night in the next 7 days.  I only hope that he is there the night I am, so I can meet him, officially, and take his picture :)

I will have pictures of the food from his restaurant and my best impressions of what his restaurant is like as well as the food.  I will leave you all at that and should have a new entry/post on next Thursday.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What did you miss this past Friday?

This Friday was the first time that there was a food and wine festival/fair at The Market Place in Columbia.  It started as an idea of one of the employees, Kathy, and turned into a great walk, through the store.

It all started with a sample of some chocolate covered strawberries and some wine sampling.

Then there was a large buffet set out of snacks and desserts.  They had baklava, mini chocolate eclairs, cheese and crackers, along with toasted ravioli and some savory things as well.

This table has some frozen smoothie mix.  It had no added sugars or even HFCS and the gentleman was giving out these little sample glasses.  I tasted the strawberry smoothie and was great.  They come frozen and can last for several weeks upon opened.  You just add ice and they are ready.  

They had some poppyseed dressing and a nice salad for sampling.
Would you like some crab ragoon or toasted ravioli?  It is interesting to note that all of these items are sold at this Market Place store, so everything you can try, you can buy anytime.

Fruit flavored vodkas and chocolate flavored wine.  Let me tell you though, for me, a chocoholic, that chocolate wine tastes like a badly flavored Bailey's Irish Cream.  The chocolate flavor is only slightly there.  If you want the same thing, buy some generic vodka and add 1 tablespoon of chocolate milk.  The chocolate flavor is not rich or even very lasting.

Here we have some cookies and some yogurt.  I think the reps were from General Mills and they were happy to give my kids yogurt and even happier when they liked it.
The last table we passed had some sweet beers and wines and overall was delicious.  The things offered at this table could beat the chocovine, out of the water in an instant.

I think the best thing of the night was the chocolate covered strawberries and those pre-frozen smoothies.  The wines were good, cookies were good and the food from the deli, showing off their buffet, was good as well.  It was a highly enjoyable evening and it looked to be a successful one.  I hope there are many more in the future.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

This tastes strange....Let's make a healthy tonic out of it.

Throughout human history, is something natural tastes horrible, it is instantly deemed good for you.  Such a thought seems to contradict any holistic professional, who believes that science has caused plants to evolve their fruits in order to increase the chances that creatures eat and spread the seeds. Contrary to this thought, when early humans discovered natural mineral spring water, they believed and still do, that the water has a health increasing effect. 

Some of the earliest records suggest that the Arabs first took advantage of this and made a mixture of this mineral water with herbs and other flavors to produce what could be first health tonics.  These natural carbonated mineral waters were hard to find and in the 18th century, scientists started to devise ways to artificially create carbonated water.

But these were not recreational drinks.  Since they had a history of being for increasing health or having 'healing properties' these first started to show up in pharmacies. In the early 1800's, pharmacies started to infused the soda water with natural flavors in order to make drinks with curative properties. In the 1950's pharmacists started to add phosphoric acid to a drink combined with some orange flavor with soda water to create a healthy drink.  The only thing that I can figure that phosphoric acid is good at, is removing plaque on the teeth.  Even Coca-Cola started out as a flavored soda water beverage that could allegedly heal the person of diseases. The difference is that Coca-Cola originally was made with real cocaine.  Other flavors could be cherry to celery and all was originally done with juices but now flavors are all artificial.

While originally thought to have special healing or curative properties, studies now show that none, not a single one of the early to modern soda drinks, has any good health benefits.  They are now made with acids, high fructose corn syrup and worse. 

In games, soda has different effects.  In the Bioshock games, soda can replace EVE, a required item that allows the player to use special abilities in-game.  In the Fallout series, drinks such as Nuka-Cola and Sunset Sasparilla add health to the character and appear to be soda-pop.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A saving's grace...

My previous visit to the Stable, for brunch was so bad that it seemed to have garnered the attention of the restaurant's owner.  Upon being asked if there was anything he could do to make my dining experience better, I responded that the menu items that needed a change, NEED to be changed.  I don't ask anything for myself, as the money I spent on that fateful day was a loss and I just have to accept that.  While not entirely a trip back to re-try the brunch, I did get a chance to go back to the Stable, again, for dinner.

Originally, I was to try the Blackthorn Pub as the pub is continuously being written up in the RFT for their great pizza.  There was a few issues with me dining in the pub, this past Saturday night.  The first and foremost being space.  The small pub is home to perhaps 5 booths and about 6 tables, together seating probably no more than 40 people, if packed like sardines.  The bar had every seat taken and since there is no seater or host or hostess, you basically have to either stand in a line or stand across from the area that you want to sit at.  This reminded me of my time at Old Country Buffet when old people would make snarls and strange faces at the people who were in "their" spots until those people finished up and left so the "regulars" could have "their" favorite spot.  I saw an old couple at the pub, staring at couple, likely on a date, attempting to intimidate them to finish up quickly so they could have that booth.  After watching a small party of people leave from an 8 person table and then watching 4 people take that table and use the extra seats to house their coats and purses, I felt like we would not get a seat within the hour.  It was already 7:15 and after waiting for 5 minutes, as our stomachs growled, we decided to leave. 

I don't know if I will get a chance to dine there at the pub again, unless I come about 2 hours before I intend to eat and then when people stare at me and try to get me to feel uncomfortable enough to leave the pub, I should stare back at them with this "I will take you down" look and hope they stand in front of someone else's table.

Lucky for myself  and my two buddies and fellow foodies, The Stable, was about 5 minutes away and maybe longer as most of the city's residential roads were about as clear as mud.  After finding a lucky spot right in front of The Stable, we went in.  We were seated quickly and greeted just as quick.  The waitress was very patient with our slow choice of beers or drinks and even food.  She even played along with our random decision making as my father asked her to pick a number, in order to make his beer selection. 

We started with some starters: like the basket of bacon, which is always good.  But also added the bacon wrapped dates and the Cajun steak bites.  The bacon wrapped dates were juicy and sweet.  The bacon's maple flavor brought out the sweetness of the dates and added to the juiciness. The dates changed the bacon from a savory dish to a sweet dish, even when dipped into the red pepper sauce.  The bacon wrapped dates was easily a 5 out of stars as it just blew each of us our of the water.  It was the highlight of the meal and after we had finished our entrees we still came back and finished off the dates.
The other one we had, were these Cajun steak bites. What it was, was basically the most tender, mouth watering, fall-apart in your mouth piece of not too spicy but full flavored steak that you have ever had. They took about 3 chews to swallow and the flavor was not too overwhelming but also not deaf but just right.  These were a 4 out of 5 stars.

Next came the entrees and we were set for something different.  I really was caught between making the choice of the "plate of food" or one of their sandwiches.  I chose the sandwich.  One of my friends chose a different sandwich and the third picked a plate.  My father chose the Mixed Grill, which was a mix of sausages and some home-made res skinned potato salad.
My other friend picked the steak sandwich which was then topped with onions and peppers and cheese.  I appeared to have been good enough that he ate the whole thing and left nothing, not even a crumb.

I picked a grinder, which is a sandwich made up of ground beef that is stuffed into a piece of French bread.  The one I ordered was the Pizza Grinder, which had pepperoni and mozzarella cheese on top.  It was awesome.  It wasn't what I was expecting but definitely good. The ground steak, wasn't too flavorful but in a good way because if it was, it may not have worked well with the pizza-like theme.  I gave the sandwich a 3 out of 5 stars.  Overall though, even though it wasn't Brunch, which I have yet to re-try, I will say that our dinner selections were very tasty and helped convince my father that The Stable could be trusted again and should be visited again.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

hey, to everyone that has snow!

Don't eat the yellow snow!

Also, I will be trying out the Blackthorn Pub's food and pizza this Saturday night and the review and pics should be up on Teusday.  Be on the lookout.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Semi-homemade blogging..

Unlike chefs who have their own restaurant, I like to make thing at home instead of buy them.  Why spend the money on bread, donuts or even a plate of perfectly cooked steak and potatoes when you can do it yourself?  I tend to want to justify my passion for cooking by wanting to create good things for my family and friends.  However, also being a father, I understand that after I am finished with my job and come home at 6:30pm that I don't have the most of time in order to prepare something great for my family.  While short cuts seem like a great idea, more often than not they are but still don't count as much.  For example: I could tell people that I made my own pot roast, with gravy, steamed vegetables and fresh noodles.  To the average person, unless they taste it, they will only understand that I could have heated up an already prepared pot roast, threw some veggies into a steamer-bag and then boiled some water for the noodles.  For a time when I want this dish to taste fantastic, I would do my own meat, steam my own veggies the long way and even make my own noodles.

This past Sunday I woke up with my 4 year old as my wife and the 2& 1/2 year old continued to sleep.  I was craving doughnuts already and when I looked over and saw the package for her dry coffee creamer, I had an idea.  It was Vanilla Caramel flavored and I thought how cool it would be to make vanilla donuts with a caramel sauce.  Well, like many others around town, since the original doughnut shop in town closed, like so many other local joints, the grocery store's baking department has taken over. Even in this town, the local grocery store's bakery department has their own doughnuts and Krispie Kreme.  The issue with either one is that it is chalk full of calories and fat and has more ingredients than their should be in a doughnut.  While the doughnuts I make are baked, I also try to make them better tasting that those store bought ones.

Did you know that flour has a smell? Packaged all-purpose white flour has a distinct smell to it as does whole wheat flour.  They smell good, on their own.  Most people don't know that flour has a smell and most adults have never touched or seen flour, other than second hand.  More and more things are made outside of the home and then brought home that people have seemed to forget what home-made is. I know that in this day and age, when sometimes both parents have to work, coming home from long hours and then cooking doesn't seem ideal to either one.  The solution is to buy something already made.  I know that in some cases, Sandra Lee's show is a big hit as it appeals to these hard working people who don't want to spend an hour cooking after spending 8 hours working.  But as I said above, sometimes the extra time and effort is worth it.

This is my kitchen and I currently had 6 things cooking at once.
In the hour that I had on Sunday night, I prepared whole kitchen worth of food, to all come together to form just 3 dishes.  Everything was done by hand and the true nature of semi-homemade.  I believe that some current cooking shows think that semi-homemade cooking is making pot roast from store bought and cooked pot roast, a can of gravy and a box of instant mashed potatoes.

Here we had freshly made pizza dough, being mixed and ready in my bread machine, a large pot of boiling water and noodles, some sausage cooking in a small skillet, some meat sauce being prepared in my sauce pan, some tomato sauce in a small pot, some finger sized potatoes in the steamer and some beef, beer and sauerkraut in the crockpot.  The pizza dough and sauce were made from scratch.  The sausage was store bought and so was the cheese, finished, it was a nice sausage pizza for the kids.
Sausage pizza, anyone?
The pasta was finished and cooled off and went well with the bolognese sauce, which was homemade; the pasta was store bought.
bolognese sauce

There were potatoes in the steamer, since they go well with anything.

The last thing was in the Crockpot.  We had marinated some beef pieces in beer 24 hours before and poured that beef in the Crockpot with some dark lager and some sauerkraut.  We left it on low and cooked it for about 11 hours.  It looks so yummy.

I think overall, if you plan on making anything at home that is semi-homemade, please do something or make some part of it.  Don't get lazy and not do any part of it, like certain cooking shows would like you to be.