Friday, August 28, 2009

Random Thoughts

$1 beef tacos and $2 Cuervo shots at the Riverwood in Lakewood every Wednesday, what a deal!

Finally every tomato I pick up is perfect. I’m eating the little cherry ones like grapes they are so tasty.

The classic reuben might be the most perfect sandwich every created.

Frank Bruni is now ‘former’ NY Times restaurant critique.

The Bristol in Chicago looks like a very interesting place.

Thin mint Blizzard is available at Dairy Queen, and it sure is good.

Linden Tavern is a 25 year old restaurant that we just discovered, and I’m glad we did. Pot roast, perogie, and perch…you can’t go wrong.

Salmon Dave’s Happy Hour is a good one. King Crab Potstickers blew us away. Chilled shrimp cocktail was also very good.

Nature’s Bin in Lakewood has seems to have an increased selection of local produce that is labeled with a farms name and location. I had some small Italian plums and local grapes that were surprisingly very good.

I’m contemplating ending my subscription to Art Culinaire. It seems so distant from the cooking I do on a daily basis. Then again, it’s nice to dream.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top Chef Overload

I was all wrapped up in Top Chef yesterday. Not only did I commit to, and go out of my way to view the three hours of prime time, but my day was filled with watching old Top Chef Episodes throughout the day. This was a commitment there is no discussion. Watching Top Chef for longer than your average extra inning baseball game is a commitment in my book. Was I glad to have made that commitment, well yes I am?

By 7:30 or so I was online reading up on the bios of the Vegas contestants. I planned on making some predictions, and I did. Thankfully I wrote them down, and they will show up eventually. At 8 pm on the dot I got the call from the living room, “mike!!!! Are you watching Top Chef?” as if there was a question about it at this point. I quickly shuffled my papers, made my predictions and settled down to a mini Top Chef marathon complete with cheap Chinese delivery food and plenty of bourbon.

First up, the second to last episode of the Masters series. I am very happy with how the Masters episodes turned out. There was a huge focus on the chef’s food, and their reaction to things became a big part of the show. Skip ahead an hour and the final is a perfect example of this. These accomplished chefs are asked to present a culinary biography. They embraced the task with such enthusiasm. It was great to see that they really had something to convey, and where able to do it the best way they knew how…through cooking. The final twist, and a positive one was the arrival of their second hand men, their partners, the Calvary sent in to up the ante. The most difficult thing about the Masters was that in my opinion the final three where of such tight competition the discussions must have quivered on certain subjective observations, which in some ways was out of the chefs hands.

In a lot of ways Michael reminded me of Stephan. Having seemingly topped every challenge he entered, perhaps a little more effort at the end was all he needed. I saw a lot of Harold in Rick meaning a cool confidence running through his veins. Lastly, Hubert, who I will remember on Top Chef Season one sent off the first contestant for using his finger to taste a sauce. Somewhere out there a chef who’s name none of us remember was screaming into the television every time Hubert so much as breathed in an unsanitary way.

Finally my predictions. I really thought Zavala would have lasted a little longer. She seemed like a middle of the pack kind of chef, but she took the bait. You know damn well there is some Top Chef Production assistant who snuck that seitan onto the set and is laughing is ass off today.

First to go:
Ron ‘two tongues’ Duprat
Robin’golden chip’ Levanthal
Mattin the frog

Last three:
Jennifer ‘the golden child’ Carroll
Michael ‘my brother sucks’ Voltaggio
Eli ‘I’m cooler than Richard’ Kirshtein

And my pre-season pick for winner of Top Chef Vegas is Jennifer Carroll! Good luck to the chefs, and all of us watching.

By the way, did you every wonder after a commercial brake that maybe you hit the wrong button and went to the National Geographic show Taboo about tatoos and body piercing?

Seitan, are you kidding me!

Seitan is a food made from the gluten of wheat. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch dissolves, leaving insoluble gluten as an elastic mass which is then cooked before being eaten.

As prepared in macrobiotic practice, seitan consists of powdered wheat gluten, which is extracted from whole wheat flour by washing the flour and rinsing away the starch. The gluten powder (also called vital wheat gluten or gluten flour) is then mixed with just enough water to form a stiff paste, which is then kneaded in order to produce a firm, stringy texture. The dough is then cut into pieces and cooked via steaming, boiling, frying, or other methods. While seitan is itself rather flavorless, it holds a marinade very well.

Bet you didn’t know that! I’ve tried seitan. It’s not very good. I tried it in the shape and under the guise of bacon. It didn’t taste or feel like bacon. I’ve been to some nice restaurants in my time, and never have I been offered seitan. The stuff is funk. Tofu looks like a prime cut of dry aged rib eye compared to seitan. If my bike had a flat tire I would use a piece of seitan to patch it up with…if you know what I mean. Does seitan have a niche to fill, sure it does, and that niche is far, very far from mainstream.

Who's Welcome Back Poll Results

Wow, the most recent poll is an absolute blow out, a straight forward single winner drag race. It’s like Forest raced his Beamer against my Explorer…not a chance. Anthony Bourdain is the single most adorned foodie TV personality to visit Cleveland recently. Give Guy a chance since his Cleveland show hasn’t aired quite yet, but the buzz that he was in town reached volcanic proportions. Once, in an era long long ago, a single pretty lady named Rachel Ray ruled the airwaves. She came to Cleveland, taped at the restaurant I was working in, and I managed to get my face on FoodTV. Okay, a split second of my back, but still, I know it was me. Unfortunately for her, time has wasted on that gimmick and we have moved on.

My vote went with Mr. Bourdain like most of you. I can assure you though; this decision is not based on his previous work about Cleveland. While upon my first viewing of the No Reservations Cleveland edit, I was neither impressed, nor deplored, I’ve become more and more critical of that episode to the point it’s difficult to watch again. The ‘Cleveland is a dump where Ruhlman lives so I’m gonna make fun of it on the down low and hang out with Peekar and his slow friend’ storyline is thin, and only makes for an occasional awkward giggle.

No Reservation is a show that is only so much concerned with food. There are plenty of social, political and environmental insights. From getting rolled over by an ATV on a sand dune, to freezing in Norway, Anthony comes across as someone who after a few beers would have a great story to tell. Could he riddle a better story about Cleveland, I think so, but does anyone outside of North East Ohio care? I don’t think so. Bon Voyage Tony, when you want to sit in a dark bar, watch loosing sports teams, sip booze at record pace, and watch the world whirl around you, then we are here for you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

At Least Something is Selling

While restaurants in Ohio continue to suffer devistating losses liquor sales are through the roof. For the complete story check here, or for the highlights.........

The total gallons sold this fiscal year was 10.6 million gallons, 3 percent more than last year, which also was a record high year.

The top ten selling bottles:

• Kamchatka vodka, 209,661 gallons
• Jack Daniel Black, 181,143 gallons
• Bacardi Superior Light, 164,552 gallons
• Jagermeister, 142,919 gallons
• Captain Morgan Spice Rum, 142,604 gallons
• Smirnoff No. 21, 140,128 gallons
• Crown Royal, 137,822 gallons
• Absolute vodka, 135,660 gallons
• Black Velvet, 129,509 gallons
• Korski vodka, 123,030 gallons

New Season Starts Tonight

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Search and Explore

With the close of the last poll there are no surprises. We admit to searching the internet up and down to cure our itch for foodie adventures. There is an endless amount of information. With blogs that get updated multiple times daily it doesn't take a long list of favorites before you have a daily reading list that just might take a bite out of your daily routine. Technology is in our favor though sifting through and sorting through what you actually want, and finding what you’re looking for is quite efficient.

There is something wholesome about the printed word. There just seems to be more importance, more truth once something is committed to paper, even a periodical, let alone a hard bound book. I would prefer to flip through the pages of Food & Wine instead of point and clicking. Classic editions like The French Laundry cookbook are so special, it's impossible to deny their overall importance in our foodie explorations. But with the endless stream of information we can find online it's only fair that we go there 9 times out of 10 for a quick fix.

I've added 5 new sites to my 'Links' section to the left. Hopefully you find something new with them.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The State of Cleveland's Restaurant Scene

The Plain Dealer Business section gave us a nice article about the state of the restaurant scene in the area. The piece can be found here.

In short: Over 200 restaurants have closed in the area this past year which is above the national average, which in turn is the worst so far this decade. Customers admit to going out less and spending less when they do. Panini's bucks the trend opening 2 new outlets this year pushing under $10 sandwiches. Doug Katz praises local restaurants for their ability to quickly adjust to the situation.

The article is well written from a neutral point of view presenting facts, and letting the opinions of those interviewed move the story along.

What's lost in this piece, or to continue the discussion would be to consider the little guys, the workers who are affected. Considering just the kitchen, if every restaurant that closed this past year averaged 12 employees then about 2,500 people are unemployed. Specificly in my situation the market is now flooded with people looking for the same job I am. The optomist might say, "but restaurants have opened," but inreality they are not opening at nearly an equal pace, and what can be added to the number of restaurants that closed are the numbers from restaurants that closed for lunch, or cut back staff. It looks fairly dismal if you look at it too long, so look away and go cook something!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Amazing Chick Pea

While chickpeas might not be the sexiest food stuff around they have a lot going for them along with a long history. Chickpeas are high in protein and one of the earliest cultivated vegetables. 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East. For those of us you look for protien from alternative sources the chickpea is perfect consting of nearly %25 protien and almost no fat.

Over 8 million tons of chickpeas are harvested anually with three quarters of the yield taken from various Asian nations. Most chickpeas are processed. They are either dried, canned, or ground into a flour. I've used fresh raw chickpeas a few times. Pinching each pea from it's single lonely pod is a finger numbing job in and of it self. Fortunatly the resulting pea is unique from it's processed cousins. Fresh chickpeas cook and eat much like other green peas, have a light fresh flavor and lack any hint of starch.

Hummus, or hummous--chickpeas mashed to a paste with lemon juice, olive oil, and sesame paste--is widely eaten in the Middle East as a sauce and dip for bread. Mashed cooked chickpeas are formed into small flat cakes and fried for falafel, a popular Israeli snack. In southern Europe, chickpeas are a common ingredient in soups, salads, and stews. A kind of meal or flour is also made from chickpeas. Canned chickpeas can be fried to a light crisp consistancy.

I've stumbled upon some nice flavor pairing with chickpeas recently and wanted to share. By no means are they unique, but sometimes we need to be reminded of what's good.

Curried Chickpeas with Spinach and Tomato.

2 onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 tblsp oil

1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp corriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 cloves
3 green cardamon pods

1 cup water or chicken stock
1 8 oz can chicpeas, drained
1 cup fresh tomato, rough chopped but small
4 oz spinach

Carmalize onion in oil until very dark, this should take about 20 min. on low-med. heat. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add all the spices and stir into mixture, once fragrant add water and chickpeas. Cook this mixture for half an hour, season with salt and pepper. Search out and remove cloves and cardamon. Add the tomato and spinach right before serving. The spinach should hold some texture, and the raw tomato/acid flavor is what we want.

This curry has no heat, but is inviting some cayenne to the party. I turned an old batch into new with the addition of sweet corn. While nice on it's own, this makes a great summer side dish to grilled meat, specifily lamb.