Thursday, March 31, 2011

It sure ain't the 90's anymore.

When I dedicated myself to the culinary arts as a profession there was a lot of buzz about cooking, chefs, restaurants, and nutrition that gave birth to the celebrity chef. You had to seek out a cooking show on television back then. Liquid Nitrogen and agar-agar where things I saw more of in chemistry labs than kitchens. The last decade of the past millennium completely turned professional cooking upside down. The champion of the guys I started cooking with was Charlie Trotter. We shared his cookbooks, watched him on PBS, and shared little bits of news about him and this Chef’s Garden place. I still look through a few Trotter books I have. While they do seem a bit dated to me since I’ve looked through them 100 times over the past 12 years, there is always a source of inspiration to be found.

David Kamp writes a piece in the New York Times this week about the rise, but mostly the lack of what we all wanted 22 years ago, a Charlie Trotter Restaurant Empire! It is a good read especially for those of us who can wax poetic about the one chef, for a time and especially to us was the only Chef we were interested in.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

56 West last night

Went to 56 West last night. It is a smallish restaurant in the heart of Lakewood, Oh. I’ve been looking for a reason to go there for a long time now, and last night we decided to roll the dice.

It was very pleasant. The kitchen is in full view as you walk in the door, but most of the seating is in a long rectangular room next to the kitchen. The table and décor is sparse, which I kind of enjoy most times. We were approached as soon as we walked in and seated in a half full dining room….on a Monday night after 7…not bad!

The menu is arranged very nice. There are no set entrees. Rather you have the choice of a few proteins, some salads, and an even mixture of sides. It is an interesting idea that I can appreciate. We shared the Thai Mussels which I truly enjoyed. It had an upfront spice that I really appreciate. It pops on your tongue, but five minutes later your taste buds are back to normal. We both ordered a beer off the small yet well stocked drink menu, and those drinks arrived exceptionally cold and tasty. We decided to share a little bit of each other’s entrees so we went with the vegan sandwich and Dr. Pepper braised pork sandwich on a pretzel bun. One came with sweet potato fries topped with a house blended spice mix that made them very unique. For the other we ordered a three cheese gratin (it had a cool hipster name I don’t remember.) Both sides were great. The pork sandwich was pleasantly sweet and the pretzel bun was nice and soft. If you know me I might owe you a new keyboard because you just spit your coffee up after hearing me admit I actually order something vegan. It was really good. It would have been great with a few slices of pastrami on top, like most vegan things I enjoy.

Our server was exceptional. He was on top of things and very pleasant to exchange conversation with. Everything came up promptly, hot, and exactly as ordered. The only downside I can possibly see is that it would only take 25 or so people to fill up the space. Good for them though!!! Check out 56 West ASAP I waited way too long. I’m sure I’ll be back again

Only one of these statements is true....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Current Links of Interest

Every couple of months I stumple upon a few interesting links, but it seems silly to post about just one. Even if it is a really good one. I've accumulated a small batch that might be of interest. Ismail the Chef is a nice site with a chef's blog with a local connection. C2 Catering Concepts presents some interesting menu ideas and nice photos. Nutrition53 is the home to a line of performance enhancing products that have the support of both Bill Romanowski and Jim Rome. I haven't ordered anything yet, but I really want to try the Lean1. Tricks of the body puts forth some interesting remedies to common problems concering bodily functions. A fun read for sure. Best of French Food website is a very pleasantly put together area full of chef bios, recipies, and tricks to make all that fancy French stuff more approachable. FoodPairings provides two very worth while applications. First you have access to how you can replace one food with another. Second, as the name implies there are very intersting visual maps of which foods combine well together. GeneralLoko, or chef Eddie Huang out of NYC has a great blog that centers around food, but also provides ample access to the chef's opionions and musical interests. Ever wonder if the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition? Well if you did go here for a thorough investigation. Interested in some new music for you Ipod? I'm liking The Flies right now. Streaming music can be heard here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Re-visiting Winters Pleasure

The current winter blast has blown off the zombie like hand reaching out of the frozen tundra reaching for those ramps, fiddleheads, and morels. So be it lets warm up next to the fire for what be the last time of the season with a nice warm artichoke dip.

I live to lightly fry pita bread as a side, but it’s defiantly a more healthy option to reach for some crackers or pretzel chips.

Artichoke Bake

one eight ounce can of artichoke hearts
one ounce of parmesan cheese
one heaping tablespoon each mayo, ricotta and sour cream
a bit of thyme chopped up
one leek diced and sautéed half of a red bell pepper

Sautee the leek and pepper in butter adding the thyme at the very end. Chill this mixture before combining everything. Top with some more parmesan in a baking dish and cook until warm and golden on top, most likely about 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Top Chef All-Star Finale

Top Chef All Stars Finale

You know I disliked the All-Star Top Chef season as a retread of ‘losers’. For the most part I went out of my way to NOT watch the first few episodes, and I feel I was wise not to. There were chefs, especially those hungry to be on TV that felt a need to venture outside their proven knowledge and experiences. It is most likely and now proven that this will lead you nowhere other than packing your knives.

It has been my guilty pleasure of watching the past 3 weeks of Top Chef. I have been surprisingly pleased with how things have progressed. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t see a bit of content about the previous episodes, but for the most part I didn’t care about that rubbish.

The past few episodes have given us exactly what I like to see from top chefs; the ability to use their skills in professional kitchens with time being the most looming obstacle. These situations have proven to me that marking this season a “retread of losers” was quite a bit out of line. The judges table has been a tough place to play recently. No one has made any glaring mistakes or failed completely like how we’ve seen a few participants go down in the past even so late in the game. When that panel of super critics can’t decide who to send packing, well that is good TV in my opinion.

The finale is just around the corner pitting Richard Blais against Mike Isabella. Mike has been on a roll and his ego has grown by leaps and bounds at this point. He has worked his way into the chef we love to hate even if he does do a hell of a job. I have always liked Richard’s food and his demeanor especially interacting with Mike with a “just look at the score board” attitude. I don’t see either of them making any mistakes next week in another gut wrenching judges table. I’ll have my popcorn ready and be pulling for Richard.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guinness Mac & Cheese

With the upcoming celebration of a mass snake killing I’m putting forth my most thought out ‘Irish’ themed items. Let’s go with the supper hipster Mac & cheese. M&C is the culinary equivalent of tight jean'd black skateboarders in neon Nike’s speaking lyrics about tough times in the suburbs. Completely under the radar, but somehow it’s cool.

Guinness…I’m so hipster I’m not even going to lower myself to investigating it…you know what a search engine is so bing it out damn hipsters. Hopefully you won’t spill your $8 mucho grandee café’ NOT.

Guinness Mac and Cheese

Three pints of Guinness beer
One large teaspoon cornstarch
One quart heavy cream

One large onion diced
One pound thick sliced bacon
One cup of cheddar and whatever other cheeses you enjoy

One cup bread crumbs
A bit of herbs like thyme, parsley, basil, ect.

One pound cooked pasta

I totally wrote the recipe in a mixed up order because that is So Fucking Hipster! Wait a second while I reposition my bow tie over my flannel shirt and slick back my dome after laughing so hard at my statements. You guys owe me a new keyboard and grandee gaucho café because I’m so hip I spit my coffee all over my lap top…ok, ok, ok, enough is enough.

Cook the bacon till almost crispy, then caramelize the onion in this bacon/fat mixture. This is a great effect that allows the bacon to caramelize yet keep a chew factor instead of turning into ‘bits’ Add the beer and cornstarch. Reduce this mixture to about one cup, add the HC and bring to a boil reduce the heat and add the cheese. Toss with pasta and bake with breadcrumb/herb mixture on top.

I suggest having light American lager with this dish, maybe a Bud Light or a Miller High Life…NOT.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bubbles and Squeak

Due to the upcoming event this Thursday to celebrate the banishment of snakes from a small island in western Europe we here in Cleveland take to the streets spending large sums of money on anything green and coming to a point of alcohol intoxication that matches none other except when our beloved Browns take on the unanimously hated Steelers. Young women will swing around old white haired men who want little more than to finish their pints and move on like most other nights. Young men will look to fight the same mild mannered white haired older men for ‘hitting’ on their ladies….all the while drinking copious amounts of shit American beer and shots of Bushmills or Jameson, and that is decided on who put the biggest advertisement in the front window. If you are going to put in a proper session at a pub for bloody sake don’t attempt it this Thursday.

That being said come Friday and assuming you had the sane mind to save some of that rubbish corned beef and cabbage dinner that you ordered at 5pm just before passing out, Friday gives you a chance at redeeming yourself and preparing an ethnic gem. For those with a true hang over opt for the authentic Irish colcannon which is traditionally just mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale. For those looking for a challenge give the ‘overachieving’ British version a try. Without much of an effort, less passing out again you can put together a good batch of Bubble and Squeak in no time. The difference in the two is that the BS is composed of whatever is left over after a good beef, cabbage, potato and vegetable boil, while the Irish go out of their way to create a dish of cabbage and potatoes. That is not all. The Irish version is just a good mixing of two ingredients where the BS is more of a cooking method in which the mixture is browned in the pan adding a depth of flavor unique to the BS. I’ll give you my best recipe.

Bubble and Squeak

Everything left over from the past nights roast

In a mixing bowl mash up all the bits from the left over roast meat dinner while in a pan heat the butter to med-high and add the mashed up bits. When the bottom starts to caramelize flip it over, and once the bottom starts to caramelize again mix the whole thing up and repeat 3-4 more times. Grab a fresh pint, a few pickles and have at it.