Thursday, July 30, 2009

Random Thoughts

I’ve been contemplating becoming a vegetarian. Not for any political-social reason, just to help ensure I make more healthy dietary choices? Most likely I’m lying to myself here.

What is healthy to drink these days? Water I guess, but even Gatorade is being diluted due to our over indulgence. I think of that situation like this: For every full strength Gatorade I buy I get a G2 free if I fill it up with water once I’ve drunk half of it. Brilliant!

I haven’t had a coffee drink on over a month, it’s just too hot! I don’t feel tired, lazy, or lagging. Caffeine, it’s all in your head.

Jobs are like pebbles on the beach. You just walk over most of them. A few catch your eye, and if you’re really lucky one looks good enough to put in your pocket to take home…..upon which you forget about it for 6 months till you step on it in your bare feet in the middle of the night and curse it out. Once morning it is gone.

Cabbage, bacon, and sweet corn are a nice combo! Good job sis. If you’re reading this try some vinegar!

Working on a farm would be nice. I mean it would be a nice little break from the norm. If all I had was working on a farm I don’t think I’d be so excited about it. Do you think it works the other way?

I watched ‘Life Aquatic’ the other night, it’s very similar in style to the Royal Tenenbaums…What do you think a movie like that centered in a kitchen would look like. I’m laughing already.

Would it be funny if a vegetarian got trampled by stampeding cows or chased by a wild boar or attacked by a goose?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Market Safety Poll Has Closed

It’s a real breath of fresh air how this poll has turned out. It seems that a little common sense goes a long way with these pollsters. While the government might have strict guidelines to enforce, the average market going customer has the most powerful input in that they will choose to purchase perishables at the market or they will not. While a few people are skeptical of the market, this seems the saver option in my opinion compared to those with blind faith in farmer’s implementation of food safety.

I do not have a long history of buying meat, dairy, or prepared food at the farmers market. I have bought eggs, ground chicken, and ground beef far and few between. The meat I bought was taken from a cooler and handed to me in a rock hard frozen state. Eggs on the other hand come right off the table, but I’ve had no problems with them. The table top farmers eggs are of higher quality than the ice cold ones at the grocery store any day. Surely if I was handed a warm mushy pack of ground beef I would think twice, but that isn’t what’s happening at the farmers market I frequent so I’m not worried. As long as I can see a cooler, and continue to be presented with frozen meat I’ll continue to purchase these types of products from the market, and I suggest it’s in everyone’s best interest to use common sense over government enforcement in how our local farmers market is run.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Good Idea

Using Veggie Trader is free and easy. It works like classified advertising. You post a listing describing the excess produce you have and what you'd like in return, and then you wait for a response...

Or, if you're looking for local produce, you simply enter your zipcode and see what your neighbors have available.

Sounds great right!!!

I stumbled upon this very cool website in the early spring when not much produce would be available in my area. Unfortunatly it hasn't caught on as there is not a sinlge listing within 60 miles of Lakewood, Ohio. Maybe there is some activity in your area, or you might want to use the Veggie Trader in the Lakewood area.

Beer Cheese Soup

I'm not a big soup eater. Kari almost always chooses soup, especially a French Onion, or Beer Cheese. I usually taste it after watching here add an unthinkable amount of salt, and I'm almost never impressed. The beer cheese soup is usually overly thick and bland. For this reason I've never taken on the task of making a quality beer cheese soup figuring such a thing was left for those who consider 'making' soup nothing more than pouring it out of a bag. Here is my recipie, and like always, starting with quality ingredients is key.

Porter and Chedder Soup

1 onion
1 tblsp flour

2 quarts each chicken stock, heavy cream, Great Lakes Edmond Fitgerald Porter

1 1/2 pound Cabot extra sharp chedder
1 tblsp Frank's hot sauce

Dice the onion and carmalize in butter. Make a quick roux with the flour right before adding all the liquids. Bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer for half an hour. Add the cheese, hot sauce, and salt to taste. Ideally using an immersion blender the cheese needs only to be large diced. If you want to shread it then a wisk is fine.

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Poll About Food Safety

The question of food safety at my local farmers market isn't exactly a new one. The vegetables are usually dirty and need a good wash for starters. The idea that all this food is sitting out in the hottest part of the day lays down a second layer of inquiry. Moving from just fresh vegetables more and more we find prepared food, dairy, and meat at the market. Fortunatly fresh picked fruits and vegetables are hardy, so is the human body, and unfortuantly for us in this situation so are bacteria.

Last week the Plain Dealer let us know about a few instances where the Department of Health sent vendors away for inappropriate refrigeration. The article can be found here. Insisting on mechanical refigeration might be a step too far? How concerned are you?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Farmers Market In Full Swing

Yesterday the Lakewood Farmers Market, and I'd assume all of them across the area are currently running at full capacity. I really enjoy the Lakewood market because of it's size and available parking. I don't want to park a mile away only to walk through 12 vendors all with pretty much the exact same vegetables.

Finally the market has just about everything you could want such as, beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, bread, beets, beans, squash, cukes, broccoli, berries, onions, apples, and even fresh corn!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Event Food Poll Final Results

The ‘event’ food poll closed with a flurry of voting near the end that put ball game dogs ahead of gyros by a single vote. The two together compromised slightly over seventy five percent of total votes. When I posted this poll I was thinking about which food is made better by the event part of the equation, and I think those voting understood that by how they voting. Ribs at the cook-off aren’t really all that much better than you can get at a variety of restaurants around town. Meatballs at The Feast are good and all, but a letdown after walking 3 miles to get there and forking out 8 bucks for them. Popcorn at the movies is such a classic combination I would have guessed it to have garnered more votes, but in reality fresh popcorn at home is so much better tasting. Even the stuff out of the microwave, don’t even get started with the idea of fresh butter or parmesan cheese.

The gyro has a relatively short history. The earliest interpretation arrived with a cook from Constantinople who landed in Greece during the 1950’s, with the first gyro shops showing up some 20 years later. The gyro’s origin can be traced back to the Turkish doner kebab, which originated in Bursa in the 19th century. The international gyro can be described as meat, tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce served on a pita. In the United States gyros are almost always served using a processed meat combining beef and lamb. The introduction of the gyro to the US occurred through Chicago in 1968. Since then the iconic spinning cone of gyro meat has spread coast to coast. Recently, pre-cut loafs of gyro meat have started to become popular as no special equipment is needed to cook them. All the while the classic tzatziki sauce of cucumber and yogurt has stayed the same.

In my opinion freshness is what makes a good gyro. The tomato and onion need to be crisp. The meat should have a sear, but not dried out. The tzatziki should be thick, and well seasoned. I’ve become a big fan of the gyro at The Mars Bar in Lakewood. From what I can see they slice warmed meat off the cone then sear it on a flat top to get really nice carmalization, and cut to order tomato and onion. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Unfortunately this kind of care can’t be given to the hundreds of gyros made at any Greek festival, which is why it perplexed me the adoration for the Greek festival gyro.

The idea of putting a sausage between bread and eating it must have came only seconds after the first sausage and loaf of bread where in the same room. Let’s just assume that happened a long long time ago. Fast forward to 1870, on Coney Island where a German immigrant began selling small sausages served on a sliced roll from his small shop, not long after that in 1893 a businessman named Chris von der Ahe, owned the St. Louis Browns, a brewery, and sausage shop introducing the trinity of sport concessions for years to come.

There are only two instances where I, and most people think to themselves, “Wow, lets get a hot dog.” They are while at a cook out, and at a baseball game. While freshness was important for the gyro, a hot dog can take a beating and keep delivering. If you are into the ball game, the dog comes to you. I remember when the vendors carried around small boxes filled with water and hot dogs and put them on the bread just before handing it to you. These days hot dogs come pre-wrapped, but seem to hold up rather well considering. A regional difference in the topping of hot dogs varies enormously. Luckily, in Cleveland we keep it rather simple, start with a hot dog, top it with stadium mustard, and raw onions, that’s it.

The connection between the hot dog and a baseball game has a 115 year history. A hot dog is a weird bland sausage on soft bland bread, unless you are at a ball game, then it’s something special, something you can’t do without. People take pride in their dogs, from their stadiums, just like their teams. Besides, shopping for hot dogs is a crap shoot; you have to match the number of dogs to the number of buns, not to mention you have to buy 8 of them at one time. Now that’s a commitment.

All the little facts and dates came from Wikipedia.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Cleveland Ethnic the Book

I’ve seen the book Cleveland Ethnic Eats on the rack before. I’ve even picked it up, flipped through a few pages only to put it back on the shelf declaring, “I’m from Cleveland, what do I need a ‘guide’ for.” Well, as it turns out in its 8th edition, there is plenty to learn from Cleveland EE, even for a home grown foodie like myself. With over 350 entries, almost 60 of them new since the last edition, I have a whole new perspective on the vast landscape of ethnic eats in my own backyard.

You don’t have to go far into the book to find a great explanation of why this guide is so good. On page XI of the Introduction a section labeled, “How the restaurants and market were chosen” explains things clearly, and includes all the points that make this book a great reference. First, all the restaurants are chosen because they exemplify a discernable ethnic character that is authentic and appreciated by its local following. Just because it’s popular or new in town, you are not going to find it in this guide. Ethnicities are not twisted or manipulated to find space for the newest, hottest burger joint by calling it German either. Sticking to this strict idea keeps the guide focused on why we picked it up in the first place.

In a similar statement, the book lacks acknowledgment of national chains, and ‘fusion cuisine.’ This guide is about Cleveland, by Cleveland, for Cleveland and leaving out the big chains encourages all of us to support our local restaurant scene. Without saying anything bad concerning major chain restaurants the guide stays focused and what we want to know about the local scene. We already have the chain restaurant national catch phrase hammered into our head all day long through commercials. Turn off the TV, and pick up this book!

With the exemption of one specific paragraph in the Introduction the word “I” is almost never used in this guide. It’s much appreciated. The summary of every restaurant is written in a very honest way, but lacks any form of judgment or rating. There are clear descriptions of the food, service, and d├ęcor of every restaurant. Examples of menu items are given, some items seem to be suggested as what the restaurant has best to offer, but never is anything negative said. Certainly every restaurant has its ups and downs, and a lot of times these are a matter of perspective. What the guide lacks in comparing and contrasting restaurants is an objective statement about the restaurants atmosphere, pricing, and neighborhood. If you read this into the full description you can get a good feel for the type of place you’re headed into.

The first time I took a good look at Cleveland EE I missed a lot, the second time around this is what I found most interesting….. The Introduction is worth reading. I usually skip over this part as it’s a sappy story about the author’s family or experiences writing the book, but not in this case. Very important issues like described above, as well as a section called “Using this book” will help clear up any confusion about how many money signs means what or why pilo is spelled phyllo. Also, a nice little map puts all the neighborhoods and major streets into perspective. Ideas of ‘near east’ or ‘farther south’ are kind of arbitrary. From a guy living on Lake Road in Lakewood, Lorain road in Cleveland is South, Parma is far, and Akron is almost a day trip…fortunately a map is provided in the guide so we are all on the same page, and not my page as it goes.

So you have a short attention span, don’t want to read a bunch of reviews, or maybe you know exactly what you want? The Index of Cleveland EE is great. Restaurants are segregated by name first, then a list by area, then by ethnicity, then into themes, such as romantic or al fresco, lastly by street, yes street since a lot of ethnic restaurants are grouped together entrenched in a few block radius of specific ethnic area. This Index far exceeds my expectations, and is quite useful in and of itself.

One unique quirk in all the descriptions of the restaurants is a quick synopsis of the storefront and parking situation. Not that this would sway my decision to go to any specific place, but to know there is plenty of parking around the corner, or the storefront is set off the street behind a sign, down a dark alley just helps me get there.

I suggest before you go searching for parking at your local ethnic restaurant you park yourself on the couch and take a long hard look at the ethnic Cleveland you’ve seen, but have yet to really look into via Cleveland Ethnic Eats.


Cleveland Ethnic Eats is authored by Laura Taxel who has her finger on the pulse of Cleveland’s dining scene. Her book is published by Gray & Company which is one place you might find it available for purchase as well as and many local retail bookstores, at quite a reasonable price I might add.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

New poll of summer events

With summer in full swing we are knee deep in outdoor activities. Like every good foodie I associate some type of food with every event. I mean what's it worth if there isn't any food involved? So I tried to pick some of the areas popular summer events, pair them with the food most connected with it, and I'm asking you; which summer food activity combo do you most enjoy?

You can select more than one answer.