Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I like energy drinks...

I do enjoy energy drinks.  Maybe it is the flavor that they have, the amount of caffeine or the amount of vitamins.  Either or any of those may be correct but I'm always looking for something to drink and to be my coffee.  I don't like coffee, I don't know why and can't explain it.  I admit that the coffee aisle at Dierbergs' is perhaps the best friendly assault on your nose.  I thoroughly enjoy smelling the scent of freshly ground coffee beans mixed with other flavors like vanilla, hazelnut and even chocolate.  It smells divine but the taste is vastly different.  If coffee smelled like it tasted, I would love it.  It is as if coffee escapes all the known laws of molecular gastronomy.  Chocolate chip cookies smell like they taste.  Fried chicken smells like it tastes.  But coffee doesn't smell like it tastes.

So, I will start trying different energy drinks so I get my buzz in the morning and I can tell which ones taste the best and are likely best for you.  I have already tried the sugar free and regular Red Bull and wrote about them in conjunction with the regular and sugar free Monster.  Today, I have a new Monster flavor:

You read it right, the drink is called "Rehab".  It says that it has tea, lemonade and energy and is not carbonated.  The drink is odd as it tastes like someone mixed lemonade with lemon tea.  You get that warm feeling as a simple lemon tea drink and then you have that citrus bite that you have from lemonade.  I isn't that bad.  On the back of the can it lists the normal stuff, like C, B3, B5, B6, B12 and other antioxidants.  What makes this different is the inclusion of lemon juice, black tea extract, milk thistle extract and coconut water.  Unlike the other Monster drinks or other energy drinks so far that I have seen, this one actually has real things in it, like black tea extract or lemon juice.  I always wondered why people don't have lemon juice or a citrus juice in their energy drink for the vitamin C.    

If I was to grade this, I'd give this Rehab from Monster a 3 out of 5.  It is good, but not super tasty.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I am so proud of myself...

So, on Friday, Good Friday, I wanted something to eat and the only thing I had in the fridge was some old Pizza Hut pizza and breadsticks, which were stale from 3 days old.  I was thinking about chefs who at their height could come up with a dish out of anything and I wanted to be a chef who could do this.  Chefs who have to sit and work off of recipes or cook the same thing baffle me.  On cooking shows like Chopped or Top Chef, the chefs are asked to come up with new and never before seen dishes.  So you know what they come up with 90% of the time?  Dishes from their restaurant.  If they cook a dish with the secret ingredient of beef, then it shouldn't be a dish from their menu.  That would be like cheating.

Well, what did I make?  Stuffing.  I took the garlic breadsticks and chopped them up.  I then added one chopped up celery stick, one diced onion, 1 egg and some Chervil.  I chopped it all up and added it to a bowl to mix it together.

So, I slapped it all in a pan, cooked it at 450 degrees for 20 minutes and out came some tasty bread stuffing/dressing.

That is why I am proud of myself because it tasted so good.  I took a dish, that was likely going to be thrown away and made something delicious out of it.  Try that Iron Chef!  They should have a secret ingredient of "Leftovers" and have whatever food was in the green room before taping.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Yellow curry in a jar.

I made a discovery the last trip to Schnucks.  It was this:

This is basically, yellow curry in a jar.  Everything is there and you just add some vegetables and meat as you boil the contents for a few minutes.  The problem with this jar is: it is tasteless.  I do not mean that it was done in such a way that goes against the culture or some group or community but in the way that the flavors are so subtle that I found it very unflavorful.  I have even tried to add to the dish and add more coconut milk and spice but it still didn't taste like anything.  A 1 out of 5 is what I give this jar.  If you want yellow curry, just go to the Thai House.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

The story of Mr. Corp.

Long ago in a land far away there was a man named Ne1.  Ne1 was a quiet man who spent his time mixing chemicals together in order to produce compounds for use in food.  One day, Ne1 was mixing some things together when he discovered a result that was twice as sweet as sugar, cheaper than sugar but had the small side-effect of blowing up those who ingest it.

Well, even though it was highly fatal, Ne1 was approached by Mr. Corp, who wanted to pay him more money than he could possible imagine, for this magical chemical, he named X.  Mr. Corp, knew that when used in food, no one would buy something with an ingredient called X, so he re-named it Happy.  Soon, every product had Happy in it, because it was cheaper than sugar and was able to incorporate more easily into all sorts of foods and products.  

Yeas later, people in other countries started to see that there was some side-effects to large amounts of Happy/X.  They noticed that they were becoming fatter and obese, quicker, then exploding.  So, this country, tested it and found that it was very unsafe and thus banned the chemical from their foods and their store shelves.

Now, back in the original land, where Ne1 lived and discovered chemical X/Happy, he noticed the bad side-effects as well as people were exploding after ingesting large amounts of the chemical.  When Ne1 tried to contact Mr. Corp about the harmful effects, he ignored him.  Furthermore, when Ne1 tried to contact the government, Mr. Corp had paid off the members of the congress to not make any rules or laws restricting his business and the creation of more Happy/X.

Now, does the above story sound familiar?  When you have groups called things like the Corn Growers of America, which didn't show up until there started to get some bad publicity from High Fructose Corn Syrup.  It is amazing how quickly this type of stuff works and how quickly people can pay someone to cover it up.  You are in luck.  I have noticed that most other countries have banned HFCS in their foods and are using real sugar now.  Real sugar, while it may be the bane of many nutritionists and doctors who really don't know crap, it is WAY better for you than HFCS.  I find many good items at Global Foods, where a quick run through any country's isle looking for snacks, candies or cookies will prove fruitful for a non-High Fructose Corn Syrup taste. If High Fructose Corn Syrup wasn't bad for you, then why are so many large companies getting rid of it?  Pepsi Throwback, is just Pepsi made with real sugar instead of HFCS. 

If you are bored and looking for a challenge, try looking for something to buy that doesn't have HFCS in it.  You will be amazed at how many things had it.  I have found it as a main ingredient in everything from bread to fruit juice to cupcakes.  You would figure that if you were like me and you have made bread in the past, that you would understand that the only sugar you need in bread, is for the yeast, to provide it with something to eat so it can create gas and help your dough rise.  Also, if you notice something, most breads with HFCS also have sugar.  Why?  The sugar is most likely for the yeast and the HFCS is to make the bread taste sweeter.

If you don't believe me, take a look.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I present to you, the Iron Fork

What is it about St. Louis and events?  Why are they always so crowded and why are there always so many drunk people around?  Iron Fork, advertises itself as a food sampling, bartender and food competition and a night of fun.  For $35 you got tickets to allow you entry as well as a single beer, glass of wine and a rum cocktail.  This event was held at the Marriott at the Union Station, downtown.  The night was nice and we made our way into the ballroom for the event. The first thing that hit me was the amount of people.  When you offer alcohol, in any amount, you are going to get tons of people, in St. Louis.

First of all, besides the large amount of people, there was a small problem:  people were running out of food.  The event started for VIP's at 6 and everyone else at 6:30.  By 8:00 there were restaurants that were out of food.  How can you be a restaurant giving out samples and be out of food just 2 hours after open, when the event was supposed to go until 11:30???

Now, what we did try was a good selection of foods from a variety of places that I wanted to go, so we did pretty good on the samples and made some quick decisions on what to do.

The above picture was a chicken piece cooked in a mole' sauce from Milagro.  The chicken was fall-apart tender and the mole' sauce was very tasty.  It was sweet enough that you could taste the cocoa and spicy enough that you could taste the chilies. This made me want to visit them. A 4 out of 5 on the sample.

River City presented us with their own version of a roast beef sandwich.  The beef was extremely tasty and was not dry out as well.  A simple sandwich, mustard on one side and butter on the other doesn't really give me an idea of what the restaurant does, unless this is one of the main dishes.  A 3 out of 5 because it was good.
House of Savoy, which we did think about going to before, had their Head Pastry Chef, giving out some basil and tomato bisque as well as a salad with chicken and cherry tomatoes.  The salad was bland and the soup was good so what should I give them?  I did a 3 out of 5.
Okay, here is a fun one.  This is the Station Grill, the restaurant at the Union Station Marriott hotel.  They presented us with a spoon with a nice sauce, like a mustard sauce, with a fried shrimp in the middle.  I took a chance and ate it.  The shrimp, tasted good.  I could tell that it wasn't chewy, crunchy or even 'fishy', so that meant that it was somewhat fresh from somewhere or handled and cooked perfectly.  The spoonful was great, a 4 out of 5.

For a dessert sampler, there was The Cup, and from what we could tell, was a cupcake bakery.  We had a piece of white cake and chocolate cake and let me tell you my honest opinion, which was also a thought of other people around us: they didn't taste all that great.  I heard someone else say that they have had good box cakes that taste better. Also, the bakery charges more than $2.50 per cupcake!  Um, I give it a 2 out of 5 and unless I win the lottery, I will not be at that bakery anytime soon.

 A lot of people tend to want Thai food, as a healthy food choice and more places are springing up.  Pearl Cafe claims to be run by real Thai owners and chefs and it claims to have real Thai food.  I'm a strong proponent of the Thai House, in Columbia Illinois, which is also run by a Thai family.  This Thai Family, from the Thai House, has their main chef go back to Thailand at least 3-4 times a year, for sometimes months at a time.  This means that the food tastes as good as it really is in Thailand.  Pearl Cafe gave us some curry and after trying it, I felt like it was a sad representation of their version of curry. It was bland, had no spice and was very watery.  A 2 out of 5 comes from me.

Square One Brewery, which I have already reviewed, sent out some dessert bruchetta.  This was some goat's cheese with a sweet basil sauce and some strawberries.  It looked like the savory counterpart but tasted better and fresher.  I gave it a 3 out of 5.

Ka-Ka-O, gave us something of a treat.  They had two mini desserts, like petit fours.  The first one was a melon gelled thing that tasted like honeydew melon.  The second was a homemade coconut marshmallow and after making marshmallows a few nights ago, I know how hard they are to make. This was an easy 4 out of 5.

  The Wildflower had a perfect piece of BBQ rib as well as some bread pudding.  The bread pudding was great and the BBQ was super tasty and tender.  So, they got our attention with this 4 out of 5 dish.

RFT.  Having an RFT event and then having a writer from the RFT as a judge looks bad, like they couldn't find anyone else.  And who is Patrick Clark?  Here is the deal, it is a food and foodie show, why isn't there some celebrity that holds their status due to food? 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Its not for girls....

My family and I go shopping at Global Foods about once every two weeks.  It is there that we buy our new produce for the most part as well as restock any Lebanese food we have used, since my wife is Lebanese.  For those not familiar, Global Foods is perhaps St. Louis's best international grocery store.  It has aisles devoted to a few countries and it is always fun going through the aisles.  You can get foods at this store that you cannot get anywhere else in St. Louis.  It is always fun for me to get some strange thing that I have never seen before and use it.  It was at this store that I bought and then first used cactus leaf, cactus fruit as well as my most recent purchase: parsley root.  Who would have thought that the root/tuber from the parsley plant could be used as a food ingredient?  My wife's family is still in Lebanon and in this world where parsley is almost in every dish, parsley root isn't mentioned in their cook books.

While finding and making savory foods is fun, what I think is even more fun, is to pick up a few sweet items from some of the regional aisles.  This time, I picked up two candy bars from the English aisle as well as some cookie like sweets from the South Asian aisle.

 First we have the Yorkie.  As you can see, it's not for girls.  This candy bar comes from the UK and tastes like a chocolate bar.  Nothing but pure milk chocolate make up this confectionery treat.  I give it a 3 out of 5.

This is Boost, a candy bar from the UK as well.  This one, on the wrapper, says "Get boosted with milk chocolate caramel & biscuit energy."  Well, what is it?  Its a Twix candy bar, but instead of having the caramel on top of the cookie, in the chocolate, they are side by side.  It was good and a 3 out of 5 as well.

 These little cookie things are made in the Philippines and have a savory crust with a semi-sweet peanut butter filling.  The shell, the crust, is very much like a simple cracker, allowing the inside filling to overcome both with the flavor.  Pretty tasty, the bag was like 39 cents and was tasty for a quick snack.  I'd give it a 3 out of 5 as well.

This is a sherbet candy with a black licorice whip right down the middle.  When you open it up, or at least my experience, the sherbet candy, which was supposed to be like a powder so you can lick the licorice and then dip in the candy.  Well, it turned solid, like an almost solid candy but with every bite, it turned to powder.
This is what pulled out of the container.  Now, the thing is this:  While it wasn't what it was supposed to be or how it was supposed to be presented to me, the idea of having a candy powder that tasted amazing like lemon sherbet, worked well and that licorice was some of the best I had ever had.  I think this was also under a $1.  All in all, I would give this a 3 &1/2 and of 5, because of the quality of flavors.

Stay tuned for next time when I try some more different and unusual snacks.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What is Soy Lecithin....?

Soy Lecithin is an ingredient that has made its way into almost everything, just like High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Invented in 1847 by a French Chemist, lecithin was then isolated from egg yolk.  It is used mainly as an emulsifier and helps to prevent sticking when used in food.  Soon it became able to isolate the lecithin in soy and hence is where we are at now.

The problem is that soy lecithin really is in so much different types of food and some people are starting to develop allergies to it.  It is derived from soy so it is expected that some people who are allergic to soy products would henceforth be allergic to soy lecithin but that is not always the case.  Some common allergies are gas/bloating, nausea, diarrhea, rashes, itches, and difficulty breathing.

What I want to know, is why soy lecithin is in things in the first place.  Chocolate covered raisins, for example, used to be made with tempered chocolate and sugar and it covered the raisins.  You would get some dark chocolate and melt in and stir some sugar and melt and keep warm until properly tempered and then you would dip the raisins in it.  Now, that same end product has sugar and high fructose corn syrup in it, as well as a load of preservatives like perhaps sodium bicarbonate or even soy lecithin.  The thing is with chocolate, that if the chocolate was tempered and mixed properly, you will not need soy lecithin.  This means that it makes it so less quality or production can be used to still make a good product.  But what starts to falter is the ingredients as with every new preservative or thing that comes out, there isn't any new research done.  Europe has banned high fructose corn syrup from their food and candy.  Why?  Because there hasn't been enough research to make it safe and while you may think that it can't be an issue, then why are so many American products coming out with sugar again and without high fructose corn syrup?  Pepsi Throwback, soda made with real sugar, that's insane!

Monday, April 4, 2011

My problem with No Reservations: Ozarks.

On Monday the 28th, the aired an episode of No Reservations that I was dreading.  When Anthony was in the Fox, he was asked if he was coming to St. Louis.  His response was that he was coming to the Ozarks.  Now, as a St. Louis native, that would be like me saying that I am coming to New York and then skipping New York City and instead going to Mooers, which is a small town of less than 4,000 people.  Missouri is filled with large cities and most people from either coast do tend to forget that there is a world of culture between those two coasts.  St. Louis, is so much in the middle of everything that it was even considered to be the nation's capital.

Now, the Ozark area is home to what most of the world consider back-wood, backward, redneck or hillbilly.  These people do exactly what is often thought of them: they drink, enjoy shooting their guns, like to go hunting and will eat things that most people would think as inedible.  The episode started off with Tony learning how to dress a squirrel.  Those little things don't look like they have much meat on them but he learns how to peel the fur off, chop the head and tail off and have it ready for cooking.

He then went fishing with one of his favorite authors, at night, and his favorite author slipped and dislocated his shoulder.  Well, he was out of the show after that.  There then was some duck hunting, raccoon hunting and then cooking everything.  You had duck hunters who never tasted duck cooked properly which made it seem like the producers found the only duck hunters who didn't really like duck.  Combine that with Bourdain going to a restaurant and eating chili on spaghetti and thinking it so strange.

As I said, earlier, covering a state by not going to any of the larger cities when he has already been to other large cities like New York, Boston, and even Chicago, makes me feel like he really does hate Missouri.  What is sad is that there are people out there who think this way.