Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wild animal flesh and beer? I'm in.

This past Sunday, the Beerhouse at the awesomely awesome River City Casino had a special event.  This type of event only happens on the third Sunday of each month.  For the month of September, the event was a wild game and beer pairing.  The beers came from a small brewery in Oregon, called Dechutes, and they are just starting to enter the Missouri market.  The Beerhouse executive chef, John Johnson, worked with the brewery to make dishes that paired well with beers from the brewery.

So, the first dish, was a roasted Northern Pike with some peach risotto and some grilled asparagus.  The fish was seasoned well and cooked so well, that I enjoyed it.  If you have been reading my articles for a while, you know that I'm not a huge fan of seafood, however in some cases, I am learning to like it.  In this case, it was good.  The peach risotto was good enough that my wife suggested I go home and make some for the kids.  The grilled asparagus, was grilled fresh, not frozen or a few days old.  You could tell because even as it was grilled, it was still tender and had a crisp or crunch to it.  Old or frozen asparagus when cooked is stringy and a flimsy.  This dish was paired with the Chainbreaker White IPA.  I'm not normally a fan of IPA's, but this one had a very high citrus flavor in it which made it work great with the fish, risotto and asparagus.

Then came the Antelope rarebit, with polenta fries and cole slaw.  So, they made a play on the Philly Cheese steak sandwich by having a crunchy piece of French bread, made into a garlic bread, and then having little chunks of Antelope smothered in cheese on it.  It didn't look nor really taste all that strange.  I'm not a cheese person either which was odd because I was eating this dish and my wife would comment about the cheese and I would say "what cheese?"  The polenta fries were sticks of polenta, which if I had a side of ketchup would be awesome replacements for any hamburger.  The creamy slaw was tasty and perfectly seasoned and lent a bit more creaminess to the dish.  The pairing with the tart Mirror Pond Pale Ale, gave the acidity in flavor to counter the sweetness and richness of the other items on the plate.

The next dish was one of the entrees, and was a grilled Elk loin chop, with a chanterelle spaetzle and glazed baby carrots.  The chop was cut in what I believe to be a tomahawk chop, where there is a long bone sticking out of a circular cut of meat.  It had a nice sear to the outside and was pink, juicy and cooked perfectly on the inside. The Chanterelle spaetzle didn't have a strong flavor to it, which was nice paired with the dish.  The glazed baby carrots were perfectly cooked.  Most of the time, when baby carrots are served at restaurants, they are either too mushy or still hard.  These were perfect.  (I will have to say that this goes into one of my biggest complaints about spaetzle: the pronunciation.  The word is "spaetzle" and it is pronounced as "spetzel".  I know that people on food network or wherever sometimes pronounce it as "spayt-zel" or "spet-zley" but those are incorrect.  Having grown up eating spaetzle cooked from scratch from my German grand-mother, I know that it is pronounced as this.  It just irks me when someone says, "this is paired with some spaytzle".  I always say under my breath, "its pronounced "SPE-TZEL", like "pretzel"!)  This was paired with a very nice Inversion IPA.

The second entree' came out as a wild Boar schnitzel with sweetbreads and a potato hash with crispy brussel sprouts.  The boar schnitzel was a huge piece of breaded and deep fried happiness on my plate.  Then again, I'm happy to eat anything deep fried.  The big thing on the plate, the main factor for me, was the sweetbreads, of which this was the first time trying it.  You know, it was good, it wasn't what I expected it to taste like.  Yeah, I know it is cooked testicles, but it was good.  It was creamy and rich and reminded me of pork fat; of which I am a huge fan of.  The beer that this one came out with was the Black Butte Porter which was a good heavy beer.  It was heavier and darker than my normal favorite: a Guinness.  The super heavy and dark beer gave me this European setting as I ate my Wild Boar schnitzel.

The last dish in this tasting was the dessert and in this case, it was a chocolate bread pudding and a cinnamon ice cream.  The beer that went with this dessert was the Stoic and was delivered to us in a Brandy Sniffer glass and had a very nice, relaxing flavor to it.  The chocolate bread pudding reminded me of a fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate brownie.  The cinnamon ice cream was fantastic, partially because I have had cinnamon ice creams at other places and they always use the "red hot" candies for their flavoring.  This ice cream was made with what tasted like real cinnamon, not cassia.  The flavor was almost a light vanilla flavor with the soothing cinnamon flavor at the front and end.  The beer, went well with this and almost took the place of a dessert wine.

The Beerhouse in the River City Casino does a special meal with beer pairing, every third Sunday of the month.  So, be sure and go there for their Halloween special meal, in October.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What is in my Big Mac?

I know that there are secret ingredients in our food, in America.  It should be no secret.  But what is a secret is the amount of in-depth information that has to be given to the people.  My in-laws frequently order salads from McDonalds.  They offer salads, within all of their high fat and high calorie foods to appear that they care about the customer.  But, its a trick. There is a glaze on the South West Chicken salad with corn syrup, sugar and high fructose corn syrup in it.  So, you may think you are being healthy, but you are not.

What are you eating today?  What about, a big Mac, large fries and large Coke.  What could possibly be bad in this when they say on the commercials that the hamburgers are made with 100% natural beef?

Well, according to the company website, you are getting these in your Big Mac:
Big Mac®:
100% Beef Patty, Big Mac Bun, Pasteurized Process American Cheese, Big Mac Sauce, Lettuce, Pickle Slices, Onions

Seems fair enough, right? Well, let us break this down further. Or, would you be happy and content with the above description?  (I have highlighted all high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup or sugar so you get an idea of where the calories come from.)

* The 100% beef patty has 100% beef in it.  They claim that they don't use fillers or even binders so I am guessing that they get freshly ground beef and use that.

* Your Big Mac Bun has "Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar,
soybean oil and/or canola oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, wheat gluten, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride,
dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides,
ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide), calcium propionate and/or sodium propionate (preservatives), soy
lecithin, sesame seed." 

Ammonium Sulfate is commonly used as a soil fertilizer and ammonium chloride is commonly used as the nitrogen source is fertilizers.  So, every time you eat your bun, you are eating fertilizer...nice.

* Pasteurized Process American Cheese has "Milk, water, milkfat, cheese culture, sodium citrate, salt, citric acid, sorbic acid (preservative), sodium phosphate, color added, lactic acid, acetic acid, enzymes, soy
lecithin (added for slice separation)."    So, no one can provide cheese, made from milk?

* Big Mac Sauce has Soybean oil, pickle relish [diced pickles, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, vinegar, corn syrup, salt, calcium chloride, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative),
spice extractives, polysorbate 80], distilled vinegar, water, egg yolks, high fructose corn syrup, onion powder, mustard seed, salt, spices, propylene glycol alginate,
sodium benzoate (preservative), mustard bran, sugar, garlic powder, vegetable protein (hydrolyzed corn, soy and wheat), caramel color, extractives of paprika, soy
lecithin, turmeric (color), calcium disodium EDTA (protect flavor). 

* Lettuce.  This is probably the only thing on the menu that doesn't have an additive.  Why should it, after all?  I have had sandwiches with crisp lettuce and I have had sandwiches with wilted lettuce.  I don't think they care how it is.

* Pickle Slices have Cucumbers, water, distilled vinegar, salt, calcium chloride, sodium benzoate (preservative), natural flavors (plant source), polysorbate 80, extractives of turmeric
(color).   I believe that the polysorbate 80 is used to keep the pickles from becoming mushy over time.

* Onions have chopped onions.

So, you can find everything you need here:

It is interesting to see what exactly is in your food.  But, that was just the sandwich.  What about the French Fries: Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*, citric acid [preservative]), dextrose, sodium acid
pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to
preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

What about the Coke?  Coca-Cola Classic:
Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors (vegetable source), caffeine

My advise: stop eating mcdonalds.  I'm working on it now.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fuddruckers in St. Louis

While I know that it is a chain and that it was started in Texas, Fuddruckers is a St. Louis thing.  There is only one location in all of St. Louis and it has been off of Watson for as long as I can remember.  If you have never been there, or if you have been with John Carter on Mars, it is a burger place with your usual and unusual fare.  Fuddruckers was designed as a burger restaurant and lets you order your burger as it is cooked to order, the way you like it.  The buns are made from scratch and cooked in the same location.  There is also a bar for all of the 'fixings' so after you get your burger, you can put whatever you want on top: tomatoes, lettuce, chilies, etc.

The fries are cut and cooked well, the sweet potato fries are sweet and tasty and the onion rings have a nice crisp to them.  Nothing is without flavor.  Besides having your choice of a 1/3rd, 1/2 or 2/3rds pound all 100% beef hamburger cooked to order and never frozen, you can also choose from some exotic meats: buffalo, elk or even wild boar.  The exotic meats have a completely different texture and fat ratio so they make for a great and different tasting burger.  You still get access to everything you need for your meal.  There is also a large assortment of sauces, from nacho cheese sauce to a St. Louis style BBQ sauce.  What I also admire about Fuddruckers, is that unlike other burger places, they offer Malt Vinegar for your fries.  Malt Vinegar is a simple thing I learned to love during a trip to Ireland and I have loved it and noticed how it is coming up in popularity in St. Louis; especially European style pubs in St. Louis like McGuirk's.  

So, I ordered a simple 1/3rd pound burger and fries and this is what it looks like.  Do you see something different?  See those black marks on the burger?  Those are areas that have been affected by a Mallard reaction: aka: heat has touched and caramelized the natural sugars in the meat, thus giving this browning effect.  This is the indication that unlike other places that server burgers and fries and other "fast food", this location does not get frozen patties and microwave them.  These are real and cooked on a hot grill.

Well, how well does a hamburger stack compared to other burger places?  Well, I think it is better than McDonalds, better than Ruby Tuesdays, better than Burger King, Sonic or even Steak n' Shake.  I think it can be on par with 5 Guys.  I have to say that for what it is, which is just 100% beef, no special cuts, no Wagu ground steak or Kobe beef, it is good burger.  You can rely on it to always be a good burger.   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Porn and Food

Not together; get your mind out of the gutter.  I was thinking of a clever article for my Tuesday writing for when I was thinking of food porn.  Made me wonder how it came to be and why it is that way.  The term was most likely originally coined in 1984, when Rosalind Coward suggests that the way that we enjoy cooking and eating food can often be compared to something else that we enjoy. (hint, hint)

Other places have suggested that the use of food in advertisements, to make them appear as a metaphor for parts of the female body, seem to suggest that food can be sensual or erotic.  And still others have suggested that food porn is directly related to attractive hosts or hostesses on cooking shows such as Nigella Lawson.

I remember watching the movie Down With Love, in which the lead female character suggests that women no longer have a need for men, because eating chocolate can cause the brain to emit the same feelings as those released during sex.  It was a big deal in the movie because it suggested that women may not need a man at all.  Well, truth is that chocolate does have a chemical in it, trypotphan, which your brain uses to make serotonin, which is the same chemical that is released in your body during sex.  Therefore: chocolate makes you feel good.  So, perhaps chocolate is the ultimate in food porn?

Now, I think that for men, in general, the image of bacon cooking is or a large slab of bacon seems to be our version of food porn.  While, I'm not into sploshing or other food fetishes, I will say also that seeing a perfectly cooked slab of bacon ready for my enjoyment does make me happy.  BUT, it is not a substitute for sex.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The impossible color

Or, if you prefer a more sinister title... "The Color out of Space", ala: Howard Lovecraft.

Here is the thing, I have a 4 year old and a 5 year old son.  This means that there is already a lot of energy flowing their our house.  As you probably well know, or are slightly aware of, children for the past couple of years have been branded as ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder, if they show any signs of being hyper or unable to focus in school.  This is a made up disorder which didn't exist when I was young and didn't exist until the 80's, most likely.  From what I have seen, the best ways to help treat for ADD is medication, or that is what the medical field wants you to believe.

We have been doing some research and we have found out that there have been some research links between additives, preservatives and artificial colorings and hyper-activity in children.  (I know this may sound strange to you but it was really done.  This is easy to debunk though, just like when experts suggest that perhaps High Fructose Corn Syrup is the cause of obesity in children in America.  Parents all agree that it is something else.  Then you find out that some children get fed cereal with HFCS in it for breakfast, then eat lunch with HFCS in the bread, drink, cheese, meat, jam or peanut butter.  Then the parents are too busy to prepare dinner so they drive through the Golden Arches for dinner and get a nugget happy meal.  The nuggets have HFCS in the batter, and then have you seen their sauces?  HFCS is the first ingredient in the BBQ sauce.)

So, speaking of how hard it is to avoid things, have you any idea how hard it is to avoid artificial coloring in foods?

I bet you, that if you went to your local grocery store, not counting any health food location or Whole Foods, I bet that you would have a difficult time finding something that did not have a fake color.  Quick difference: if it says that it has carrot juice or beet juice, for color, then it is a natural color.  If it has something like "Red#5 or Yellow#3, then it is fake.  The issue is that the food colorings that you can buy in any baking aisle at any store, are far cheaper than getting the real thing.  I always love when you look at some jams or jellies and there is an artificial color listed in the ingredients.  Really?  Strawberries are already red, why would you have to add red food coloring to anything with strawberries???

So, it is hard finding real coloring in food?  I would say so.  Even harder finding things for kids without it.  Ever find candy without lab-made colors?  No, didn't think so.

So, as I suggest up there and leave you with the thought of how nearly impossible it is to find food without fake colors, I want you to look at what is in front of you.  Is it a soda, a candy bar or even a whole meal?  Is there anything like "yellow#5" or "red#30" in it?  Or does have it have something listed and then has "(for color)" in parentheses?     

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I think I just became a little dumber...

Okay, earlier yesterday, I was subjected to one of the most horrible tortures known to man: car work.  My truck was due for the 60,000 mile, sit in the waiting room all day, service.  I was prepared, I had a snack, a drink and my I-pad.  So, as I waited, and waited, I just tried to play my games and avoid the uncomfortable feelings that arise from other people as they look at you like you are nuts and then try to avoid sitting in the seat right next to you. 

So, while sitting and trying to relax, the show comes on.  The waiting room has one television, stuck on one channel and playing at one volume level; so there is no escape. But wait, could I be saved? No.  What was on?  The Today Show.

I used to, as in used to know of the show when it was on and my parents watched it when I was young, but now don't care.  There is no TV at work, which I think is where some of the people who watch this show should be at.  I don't care nor see any reason as to why anyone needs to know about what shoes are in style or where to get the best cereals.

There were two parts that really bugged me, besides the show in general: 

First of all, there was a segment on packaged foods.  It was called "Eat Smart Today" and they wanted to showcase the best packaged foods for women.  They didn't have a medical expert, but has a contributor for Woman's Health magazine.  Keri Glassman has written several books on nutrition and has a practice in New York City and claims to help millions of people by being in the media.  (This is odd, because this means that if millions of people have a chance of reading this post, I too, am helping millions of people.)  Still, looking at a segment showing off a few items and quickly talking about how great they are, seems a bit of a waste instead of talking more in depth about one thing that matters to women, like calcium intake.

There are some cereals and while cereals are great, cereals that have dark chocolate, cocoa butter and other fattening things in them, while pushing the protein and whole grains ideas, still have fat.  For instance, if someone was on weight watchers and wanted to eat this cereal, this most likely would be a high point value cereal.

The idea of someone talking to "millions" of people and endorsing one type of cereal over another because you don't like it, is something else.  Special K is a good cereal for women and some of them have added nutrients and vitamins.  I'd say that they are just as good.  But I wonder if any of the parent companies of the featured products had commercials supporting the Today Show...       

The next thing was this segment called "What's on the menu":

I was expecting something, like food being cooked or something being prepared, and you know what?  They didn't have any of this.  The hostess for this segment was Maureen Petrosky and she is listed as a lifestyle expert.  I'm a lifestyle expert too.  So, besides looking at how to use a large towel to wrap up some wine bottles or making mixed drinks ahead of time and storing them, by portion or serving, in mason jars until needed, or using a special soup jug, which could be purchased or one like it at Dierburgs fr $7 or at someplace else for as much as $40.  Nothing, not even cutting the top of a fig and placing a glob of blue cheese on top is enough to make the segment work for me.  Why?  Because when someone asks, "what is on the menu?", it usually is an indication that they wish to order something to eat.  The are not interested in seeing someone put blue cheese on a fig and call it a dish anymore than someone who puts a cherry on ice cream and calls it a Sundae.  Thy don't care about tying up wine bottles or how to store a soup, expensively, or their mixed drinks.  I bet, they are interested in see what is available for consumption.

I just have to say this: I will try now, even more harder, to avoid this useless dribble on television.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thinking of a clever metaphorical phrase using a vine, grapes and leaves....

I can't think of anything.  The Vine is a great staple restaurant for those who are looking to add some Lebanese cuisine into their lifestyle.  The cuisine seems to be mostly vegetarian with ample use of items in ways that Americans don't think of.  For instance, there is a dish where grape leaves are filled with a rice stuffing and then rolled and cooked.  Anyways, St. Louis is in great need for some good and authentic Lebanese food.  The problem is: service.

The Vine has the possibility of being a great restaurant and making the owner enough money that he could open many more locations around the city.  The obstacle in his way, is his staff.  I have probably been to this restaurant 10 or 11 times within the past few years and every time, service is the thing that is lacking.  Sometimes it is the waiter who attends to the people dining outside over our table of 6-8 people.  Sometimes it is the manager who isn't there at all and no one has a clue as to what is happening.  Most of the time, the waiter, male or female, is as forgetful as Lisa Kudrow's character from Mad About You.  You remember her, the ditsy forgetful and sometimes rude waitress who never could get anything correct and didn't care?

The food is good, most of the time.

Here is the tabbouleh and fry sandwich.  Tabbouleh is a salad, made from bulgur wheat, onions, tomatoes and tons of fresh parsley.  Parsley is to lettuce in this salad version.  It has some olive oil and lemon juice to balance the savory and sour flavors.  This dish is then wrapped up in some flat bread with some perfectly seasoned French Fires.  This is the cross-section of the sandwich and it is awesome.  I say a 4 out of 5 for this one.

The Vine offers hookahs to be available for people to use as well.

The restaurant is nice, as I said, what is lacking is the service.  The last time I went there, we ordered our food and within 10 minutes, one dish, one thing that we ordered out of 8, was brought out to us.  We ate it and then we waited, 20-25 minutes, until everything else came out at the same time.  One of my biggest pet peeves in some St. Louis restaurants has to do with the water.  While I know that St. Louis has some of the cleanest and freshest tasting tap water, when I am at a restaurant, I don't want to have a glass of it as well as a second glass filed with a primary beverage.  So, when you first arrive at the Vine, they do not ask you first, but go ahead and bring you glasses of water for your whole table.  I don't like this.  The reason is that as I mentioned above, I would then order a soda, like a Diet Coke, which they deliver in a can.  So, then now in front of me, in what limited space I have on the table, I have an empty can, a glass of diet coke, which I filled myself and a glass of ice water, now going undrank. My thought is that what space can be used for food, use it for food, not water or ice water.  Nothing can take up space where food is supposed to go.

I don't want to be mean.  The Vine has great food, nine times out of ten.  That 10% of the time, some key ingredients are missing or dishes are slightly changed.  Say there is an addition of mint in one of the dishes that isn't there on a normal basis.  Or perhaps there are onions where there were no onions the time before.  Overall, as I mentioned the food is good and I suggest dining at the Vine, ONLY, if you are not in a rush or do not have children with you.  (Children tend to go crazy while being forced to sit in one location for a long period of time.)

Still, so many great food items are here and you should come by still.

To the management of the Vine, train your wait staff so they all follow the same rules and ordering process.  This way, you will get more people coming back and thus more money.