Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Junkie

Monthly Feature
Melissa delves into fast food...one item at a time!

Jack in the Box’s Grilled Bourbon BBQ Sandwich

To be perfectly honest, I consider Jack in the Box to be a trendsetter in the fast food industry. Jack, in all his wisdom, gave fast food diners healthier options with the addition of salads to his menu. While keeping the good ‘ol fashioned hamburger available, Jack has delved into the realm of fajita pita pockets, teriyaki bowls, sourdough sandwiches and milkshakes made with (gasp!) real ice cream. Not food not typically found on a drive-thru restaurant’s list of fare.

I also give Jack big props for allowing patrons to order off the full menu at any time of the day. When I was pregnant, I craved meat. Specifically hamburgers. But only at "non-traditional hamburger eating” times of the day. Do you know how hard it is to find a hamburger at 8:30 in the morning? But thank goodness for Jack. I was there so often on my way into work that the drive-thru worker and I got to be friends. He was the most beautiful he/she I had ever seen. He would tell me stories about his pregnant sister who also craved weird things. I would question him about his favorite makeup application techniques. It was a match made in drive-thru heaven. I wonder if he ever got that sex change….

But I digress. Back to the point.

For this month’s fix, I frequented the new Jack in the Box down the street from my house in Katy. Upon driving up to the big board o’ deliciousness, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to order. My plan was to be inspired by the bright colorful pictures. Bingo! A new sandwich….the Grilled Bourbon BBQ Sandwich was just released and it looked like a winner. Grilled? Good. BBQ? Good. Bourbon? Good!!!

So I ordered, paid my $7.77 and brought it back to the house to see if Jack had scored another hit. Here’s the low down.

Visual Appeal: 7
Upon opening the wrapper, I was impressed that the bread was indeed grilled. It was very crunchy and actually had remnants of dusting flour on each piece. The sandwich was cut in half (it was pretty big) and when I pulled it apart the cheddar cheese oozed out. Score! I love melty cheese!

Overall taste: 2
Big disappointment! I took a bite and almost spit it back out. The meat was bland, chewy and had a slight slimy feel. I’m not sure if that was the BBQ sauce or not but either way it was not pleasant. Upon closer inspection, the meat had a gray tint and looked like it had been sitting out a while. The cheese and sauce couldn’t mask the horrible flavor of the meat. And speaking of the sauce, there was hardly any on the sandwich. I pulled back the bread to see if it was even there. It was, but just a very tiny amount. I tried the sauce by itself and it had an alright flavor. Nothing outstanding but not terrible. I put the sandwich back together and gave it another try. My second bite was even worse. I got a piece of gristly meat that was so tough my dog could barely choke it down. Fool me once Jack, shame on me. Fool me twice and I feed your stinking sandwich to the dogs.

Health Rating (Scale of 1-10): ???
I checked the Jack in the Box website to find the nutrition facts and the Grilled BBQ Bourbon Sandwich isn’t even listed. I guess it’s too new. Or else they know how bad it tastes and they're not wasting their time adding it to the site. I doubt it will be around long.

After Effects: Only the sadness that I wasted $7.77.

Would you eat it again?
Absolutely, never ever again. Maybe up North where they know nothing about real BBQ the Grilled Bourbon BBQ Sandwich is a big hit. But I caution any true-blooded Texan to stay far, far away from this sandwich. I’d rather chew on my own hand than eat this thing again. Thank goodness for the curly fries or I would have gone hungry.

Sorry Jack. The Grilled Bourbon BBQ Sandwich is a loser. But keep your head up! I’ll always be a fan of your Chicken Fajita Pitas, Jumbo Jacks and those delicious real ice cream milkshakes. Leave the BBQ to someone else. Anyone else.

Mighty Good Recipe

It's Tuesday...time for a Mighty Good Recipe!

Spaghetti Pie III
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Spaghetti-Pie-III/Detail.aspx

Think of this recipe as a culinary canvas…it’s a good starting point, but you may want to change things up a bit. I’ve made it before, and followed the directions and ingredients precisely. It tastes great, but it’s WAY unhealthy. If you don’t want your family’s hearts exploding...try these suggestions:
  • Go ahead and cut the cream cheese down to ¼ a block. It still gives the overall dish a creamy texture. Also, cut all the other cheese amounts in half.
  • Ditch the sour cream.
  • Substitute ground turkey for the beef
  • Chop up a cup of fresh spinach and throw into pasta when boiling.
  • Finally, roast one eggplant (415 degrees for 45 minutes). Remove eggplant skin, give the insides a good chop and mix in with the pasta. It’s very healthy and the kids will never know it’s there.

Monday, August 30, 2010

He Said, She Said

It's the end of the month...and guess what's due...another He Said, She Said for Carrie and me. Here’s how it works:
  • We went to the same Houston-area restaurant at different times.
  • It's our first time eating at the restaurant.
  • We read no previous reviews.
  • We write our reviews separately.
  • Once written, the reviews are not changed.

Daniel Wong’s Kitchen

4566 Bissonnet Street
Bellaire, TX 77401-3102
http://www.danielwongskitchen.info/

He Said Atmosphere: (1) Star
Let’s see…where do I begin? Just walk through the door and you’re blasted in the face with a smell that’s reminiscent of my sixth grade gym locker. That sure does get the stomach growling. Random pieces of art are crookedly hung on the walls. The general look of the restaurant is that of a two-star, 1980’s Florida hotel room. Only reason this place didn’t get zero stars is that I fancied a few pieces of art.

She Said
Atmosphere: (2) Stars
Don't expect much in terms of atmosphere here. Kind of a strip-mall feel...random artwork, lattice walls...not much to write home about. I was slightly disturbed by the dirty 70's highchair we were given for the baby and the description my husband gave me of the bathrooms (which are through the kitchen). Enough said.

He Said
Menu Selection: (5) Stars
Very unique ingredients for a Chinese restaurant…crawfish, turkey, lamb, okra….just to name a few. Maybe I’m a bit sheltered, but these are items I’ve rarely, if ever, seen on a Chinese restaurant menu.

She Said Menu Selection: (5) Stars
With 78 dinner items, it's hard to give Daniel Wong's anything but 5 stars. And, the website indicates that if your favorite Chinese item is not on the menu, please ask for it. Does it get any better than that?

He Said Taste: (1.5) Stars
We ordered one cup of won ton and corn chowder each. Average…nothing special. We followed that up an order of Garlic Lovers’ Pork, Good Morning to You, and Crispy Hermann Park Duck with Vegetables. There were elements of every dish that were appealing (mostly the vegetables), but every dish as a whole just lacked in certain areas. The chicken in the Good Morning to You was thinly sliced, tender, and very tasty. This dish included whole okra…which I think needed to be cut into pieces. The pork dish was ok, but salty. The Crispy Hermann Park Duck was the real head-scratcher. Beautifully prepped veggies were the star. The duck was awful…tasted as if it was gunned down in Hermann Park and dragged into the restaurant. In all fairness, maybe I’m just not familiar with this type of duck preparation.

She Said Taste: (4) Stars
We started with an order of Crispy Spring Rolls and Crispy Crab Puffs. Yum! Clearly, Daniel Wong's has their grease at precisely the right temperature. Spring rolls and crab puffs were crispy, as advertised, and not at all greasy. The menu stated that the crab puffs are made with fresh crab and since I could not detect any strange red imitation crab, I'll believe them. Gotta love that! Following our server's recommendation, we ordered the #74 (Rib Eye Steak Kew with Fresh Green Beans) and the #75 (Stir Fried “George” Shrimp with Fresh Garlic and Onion). Both were very good. The steak was cut into bite-sized chunks which was a welcomed change from the usual paper-thin steak served in most Chinese dishes. My only complaint was the fat visible on the steak. I will readily admit that this is more of a personal issue, as I generally perform surgery on my meat to eliminate any traces of fat. What did I expect on a rib eye at a Chinese restaurant, right? Anyway, the steak was perfectly cooked and well seasoned, as were the green beans. The shrimp dish was good, but not outstanding. Good flavor, but rather greasy, and because it lacked any veggies (except onion, which really doesn't count), I felt a little gross after eating it. Regardless, we finished off both entrees for dinner the following night. I love leftovers!

He Said Service: (5) Stars
Great service…nice people…liked the kids.

She Said Service: (4) Stars
Fast, helpful service that passed my two tests – made a recommendation when asked and refilled my drink without being asked. And, oohing and ahhing over the baby didn't hurt, either.

He Said Pricing: (3) Stars
Maybe a $1 more per entrée than the usual Chinese restaurant, but I attribute that to a more exotic menu.

She Said Pricing: (4.5) Stars
$2.50 for two spring rolls, $3.75 for 6 crab puffs and $13 each for our entrees. Most entrees were$8.50 - $11, but even $13 was good, considering we got two meals out of each one.

He Said Overall Opinion: (2) Stars
Good service and nice elements to certain dishes are not enough to rate this restaurant as even average. Given the wide variety in menu selection, maybe it’s just about ordering the right dish at Daniel Wong’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that…and doubt I’ll ever go back.

She Said
Overall Opinion: (4) Stars
Good food, large portions and friendly service make Daniel Wong's a winning establishment. However, I would probably opt to make this a take out location, as the décor and grimy highchair left me unimpressed.

Restaurant Review: Austin

Mondays are for restaurant reviews. Tracy checks out Mulberry in Austin.

Mulberry
360 Nueces Street
http://www.mulberryaustin.com/

First Encounter

First and foremost: space is limited, so you may want to make reservations. Patio dining may be the best option for intimate conversation with a group of 4 or more. Otherwise, you may get stuck at a bar, facing a mirror. The menu does change frequently, as does the wine list. This is a great thing.

The Food
I hesitate to call Mulberry a “wine and tapas” bar because that does not give the food the credit it deserves. Portions are tapas-sized and it’s almost mandatory to share with your party so you can taste everything on the table. I highly recommend listening to the wait staff and sticking to the specials. Our waitress paired our food and wine perfectly. We started with a round of “snacks,” which included the Devils on Horseback, a lovely blend of fig, cheese, bacon, and awesome. We also had the watermelon salad with a side of bruleed goat cheese, which was heavenly and refreshing (in reverse order). They have a fabulous cheese and meat selection, so we had a plate of Prosciutto Di Parma, Delice d’Argental, Coppa, and Salami Nostrano. All were very high quality; none were disappointing. The next course was a real treat - we had the (special) ratatouille which was so good that my friend nearly licked the dish, a (special) delicious white fish with vegetables, and (menu item) Truffled Porcini & Cremini Risotto, Parmigiano. Believe it or not, we still had room for two wonderful desserts: a Mixed Berry Cobbler and the Butterscotch Brulee.

The Wine
Now we’re speaking my language. I really enjoy wine, but I did not recognize several of the labels on the menu - many of them were European. Unfortunately, our first choice was out, so we went on a blind recommendation from our waitress. The Grenache she chose was so perfect that we let her guide us on our next three bottles. Yes, three. But in our defense the last was only a half bottle. Mulberry does serve by the glass, and there is an extensive list, but ordering by the bottle appeared to be more economical (and fun).

Overall
I think Mulberry was a great restaurant and cannot wait to go back. It was a perfect evening with friends on the patio and the food and wine were just spectacular. I noticed several couples stopped in for a glass of wine and a snack and left quite satisfied. If you are ravenous, be prepared to shell out quite a bit of money. There are several vegetarian dishes, but vegans may have to stick to a liquid diet!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

He Said, They Said

Monthly Feature
Two opinions are better than one. Mike takes on the Houston Press and here's how it works:
  • Mike takes a random restaurant already reviewed by one of the Houston Press writers.
  • He only reads the headline to get the name of the place...nothing more...scout's honor.
  • Mike writes his review of the restaurant.
  • We'll post Mike's review, plus a link to the Houston Press review and see the similarities and/or differences.
As an added bonus this time around, we'll also include a link to a review written by Htownchowdown. BTW, great food blog.

Sam’s Deli Diner
11637 Katy Freeway

First Impressions
Sam’s sits in a nondescript retail center, nothing fancy. Ample parking is a plus.

The Menu
Sam’s is your typical diner fare. They offer an impressive 15 types of burgers as well as standards like chicken fingers, club sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, fries, rings, milkshakes, etc. Pretty run of the mill.

What I Ordered
Bacon cheeseburger, onion rings, and a buttercrunch (butterfinger) milkshake. Burgers come standard with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion.

Okay, how did it taste?
First thing we did when we sat down was talk to some ladies sitting next to us. One of them mentioned she used to ride her bike to Sam’s when she was a kid. And she’s still coming back – guess she likes it.

The burger was pretty plain looking, but that’s not a bad thing. It resembled something you might make at home. There was little to no ooze coming from my burger, not very greasy at all. The patty was dense and heavy for a 1/3 lb. burger. The vegetables were crisp and fresh (I got mine with no lettuce; there’s no place for it on a burger, in my opinion). Overall, it tasted above average, but not anything that overwhelmed me.

The onion rings were above average as well. They had a good, beer battered taste. I wish they had been a bit more crisp, and I lost some of the onion when I bit into them. Good, but not as good as my standard bearer for rings (Christian’s Tailgate).

The shake was outstanding. Sam’s uses Blue Bell and that makes all the difference to me. Beats soft serve anytime…

Value
Everything I ordered above, plus a coke was $11.60. I thought the value was excellent, considering the quality of the food. I would have paid upwards of $15 at a place like Fuddrucker’s and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did Sam’s.

Overall
I give Sam’s Deli Diner a score of 4.5 stars out of 5. The only things to improve on are the quality of the rings and the burger could have been marginally better. Definitely a good place for a burger and a great value.

Houston Press take:
http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2010/08/i_admit_to_having_an.php

Htownchowdown take:
http://htownchowdown.blogspot.com/2010/08/sams-deli-diner-how-mighty-have-fallen.html

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Test Kitchen

Every Saturday I'll try out a new recipe I just found on the net...you'll see the good and the bad of it.

Dijon Garlic Salmon
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Dijon-Garlic-Salmon/Detail.aspx

Description: I’ve been on a bit of a salmon kick lately. Last week’s recipe was a hit. This week…yeah, not so much. I wanted to find something completely different. I succeeded in that area. This one lives up to its name…heavy on the mustard and garlic.

Recipe Difficulty (Scale of 1-10): 2
It’s just a matter of dicing a few things, mixing together, and slathering on the fish. That’s the great thing about fish in general…it’s quick and easy. It took me about five minutes to prep and 30 minutes in the oven. Given the ease…I really wanted this recipe to be good.

How it turned out: BAD!
First thought…would you like some fish with that mustard? Too much mustard...too much garlic… and too much red onion! It looked pretty, was extremely healthy, but definitely missed the mark.

Would I make again: No.
I followed the recipe precisely, so I’m not taking the blame. On a positive note, the salmon was very moist. I ended up scraping the mustard spackle off the top and was quite pleased. I mixed the topping with potatoes and that worked. Saved!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Vegetarian View

Monthly Feature
Molly gives us a peek at a restaurant through the eyes of a vegetarian.


Bowl

607 Richmond Avenue
Houston, TX 77006
http://www.eatatbowl.com/

Overall Vegetarian Selection: (5) Stars
Brief Take: Sometimes I think the two words “vegetarian” and “salad” are synonyms, well at least at Bowl. Bowl is a salad bar in Montrose where you choose from an overwhelming amount of ingredients (many organic) and then the salad masters behind the counter whip up your fresh, made-to-order salad.

Bowl receives five stars for a vegetarian selection because they offer 64 vegetarian salad toppers, wow! (Vegans, there are a lot of choices for you here too, including the some salad dressing options.) There is a wide variety of vegetarian salad toppings such as star fruit, zucchini, pistachio, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas…this list could go on forever. I like Bowl because they have unusual salad toppings, not just the run of the mill tomatoes, carrots etc.

There are four base salad greens to choose from. You can combine any of them if you wish, but I usually go for just the plain spinach. Bowl also has 10 cheeses to choose from. My friend goes bonkers over their soft goat cheese but other tasty options include, but are not limited to: buffalo mozzarella, smoked gouda, manchego (if you are in to sheep) and feta. Bowl has 13 salad dressings and all are vegetarian. Bowl’s creamy lime cilantro, tomato basil and raspberry vinaigrette dressings are some of their best.

I’ve never ordered any, but Bowl also has 10 sandwiches, two of which are vegetarian - the Hummus Veggie and Portobello Mushroom.

Ordered Dish: (4) Stars
Brief Take: Bowl has two salad options. First is Solo - your choice of greens, 10 toppings, one cheese and one dressing. Second option is Doppia which is your choice of greens, 15 toppings, one cheese and one dressing. (If you want to add a protein, they offer six kinds of meat for an additional $3. Since this is the protein category, I would really like to see a tofu option here which is why Bowl received four stars instead of five.)

I ordered the Solo salad with spinach greens and tomato basil dressing. The toppings were numerous so I won’t list them all but my favorites were the broccoli, avocado, heart of palm and asparagus. The broccoli was some of the freshest I have ever tasted! When ever I eat uncooked broccoli now I always compare it to Bowl’s. The asparagus was perfectly ripe and how can avocado ever go wrong? I could have slurped up the tomato basil dressing with a straw. All of the ingredients were A+ in quality but my small issue with Bowl, and why I gave them four stars instead of five, is the small serving portion. I’ve been to Bowl several times and while each time I was impressed with the quality of the vegetables, I didn’t leave completely full. Maybe a Doppia salad option is the solution to this? I don’t know.

Healthy Rating: (5) Stars
Brief Take: My salad at Bowl easily receives five stars for the healthy rating. All of my toppings were nutritious and high in fiber. Plus think about all those vitamins in the vegetables! I didn’t get cheese on my salad but if I did, that would have knocked off the healthy rating just a tiny bit. The tomato basil salad dressing was one of their healthier offerings but the creamy lime cilantro….not so much.

Overall Opinion: (4) Stars
Summary: Bowl is a small eatery on Richmond with an even smaller parking lot that is shared with other businesses. If you want to visit, go early or you will be stuck parking on a side street, which can sometimes be scary.

The inside of Bowl is decorated nicely and I like the chalk board menu behind the counter. The restaurant was very clean and the employees were friendly and chatted with you as they made your salad. Even though they are making the salad from scratch, the service is fast. The prices at Bowl are a little on the high side, especially for their small portions but I guess that is to be expected from the restaurant location and high quality ingredients.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Coming Soon...Like...in the Next Week

He Said, They Said

New Monthly Feature! Mike takes on the Houston Press. Okay, that's a bit dramatic...but I did get your attention. This will be a similar set-up as our monthly feature of He Said, She Said. Here's how it will play out:
  • Mike takes a random restaurant already reviewed by one of the Houston Press writers.
  • He only reads the headline to get the name of the place...nothing more...scout's honor.
  • Mike writes his review of the restaurant.
  • We'll post Mike's review, plus a link to the Houston Press review and see the similarities and/or differences.
What does this random picture of a groundhog taken on my Sedona trip have to do with all this? Nothing!

Happy Hour

Get ready for the weekend...Thursday Happy Hour!

Guerrieri’s L’Amico Ciliegia

My brother-in-law Scott and sister-in-law Rachel are opera singers. They spend their summers in Italy roughing it. They eat fresh pastas and exotic cheeses, frolic in the vineyards, and bathe in tubs along the Tuscan hillsides (sorry, that was in a Viagara commercial). Anyway, upon their stateside return, they generally send me a couple bottles of this fine wine. It’s cherry wine…and it’s just about the best d@mn thing I’ve ever consumed. I’m guessing it’s meant for after dinner imbibing, but for me… anytime is a good time. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. It’s smooth, without that heavy, syrup taste associated with some ports. The sour cherry taste is beyond good. Here’s the bad news. I don’t know where to find this stuff. If you do, please drop me a note. I did some google searches on the brand and then cherry wine in general. Please help! This is my last bottle. Please! Any cherry wine will do.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Natalie the Nomad

Monthly Feature
Natalie is back in Dayton, Ohio this month for a little Turkish cuisine!

Pasha Grill

72 Plum Street
Beavercreek, OH - 45440
http://www.pashagrill.com/

The Scene
I want to go ahead and start this review by defending myself… A few hours before the review, I had participated in a half marathon, so the copious amounts of food I inhaled are perfectly justified in my mind! Pasha Grill was regal from the get-go, with huge wooden doors and private dining rooms separated by curtains. I’ll admit that I didn’t really walk around the restaurant much but from what I saw, it’s your typical Middle Eastern décor, and although it all seemed very warm and inviting; we opted to sit outside instead.

The Food
Appetizer:
As soon as we sat down, we were met with fresh, hot bread and a sundried tomato/olive oil/rosemary dipping sauce. It was VERY good. Something very simple, but I tucked this in the back of my mind and promised myself that I would whip some up back at home. We ordered the small appetizer sampler. This included sections of Hummus (Puréed chickpeas flavored with a hint of garlic, tahini, fresh lemon juice and olive oil), Ezme (Finely chopped tomatoes, onions and hot peppers mixed in olive oil and herbs), Babaganoush (Smoked eggplant Purée flavored with tahini, olive oil and garlic), Tabuli (Cracked wheat tossed with tomatoes, sweet onions, fresh peppers and parsley. Dressed with olive oil), Haydari (Thickened homemade yogurt with fresh dill, mint, garlic and walnut) and Soslu Patlikan (Cubes of lightly fried eggplant combined with fresh red peppers, onions and garlic in our homemade tomato sauce). All of these where pretty good, but to say that I absolutely loved the babaganoush would be an understatement for sure. Others at the table favored the Tabuli as well as the Hummus, but with that said we didn’t leave anything behind either. Mercimek Cobra (lentil soup – red lentils combined with puréed potatoes, celery, carrots and onions.) was also ordered by a huge lentil fan, and I was told that this soup did not disappoint. It also had a bit of a bite to it, but it certainly was not a problem.

Main Courses:
Chicken Kebab: This dish was huge, presented well, and you could smell the freshly grilled chicken from across the table. I’m lucky that I was dining with my parents, because my arm dashing across the table and snagging a piece was expected. This was served with mixed vegetables and a bed of rice. I couldn’t tell what seasoning they put on the chicken, but it was great and was perfectly moist.

Etli Turlu (Vegetable stew w/lamb): I did not get a chance to sample this dish, but was informed that it was the real deal. My dad has spent the majority of his life travelling the globe, and has spent time in Turkey. This plate came very close to what he lived on, and was ‘only missing the country of Turkey itself’. It literally just looked like a tomato based stew over a bed of rice, and again, this dish was pretty danged big.

Mousakka (Tender minced beef and lamb layered between slices of eggplant and topped with a bachamel sauce): This was HUGE. I honestly could not finish it, and that says a lot, considering I ran 13 miles earlier… I will say that I enjoyed this dish, but the chunk of mozzarella on top of the meat got to be a little much. It definitely needs to be a smaller slice, but cheese lovers would flip out of they saw it. This was also served with rice, and combining it with the juices was perfect. Think of this as a lasagna, but substitute the pasta layers with eggplant.

Dessert:
While we were all full from dinner, I coerced my partners in crime to have some desert. I ordered the Baklava (Sheets of phyllo dough stuffed w/crushed pistachios), while my parents ordered Keskul (Our homemade almond pudding topped with almonds and cream.). Anyone who knows me, knows that I LOVE baklava, and I always it eat it as soon as it is put in front of me. Pasha Grill certainly did Baklava well, and I would have had more if it were available to me. The Keskul was the perfect palate cleanser, the subtle hint of almond eradicating the previous meal.

The Verdict
Their portions were a bit large, and we even went when it was still considered “lunch”. This place IS a little pricey, but we happily did the damage to ourselves!! An appetizer, 3 main courses, 2 deserts and a tip came out to an even $100. But I can say with ultimate confidence that it was worth every penny. This place is definitely worth the visit, and it’s also conveniently located right off the highway in a growing shopping center. I would also recommend visiting said stores and walk off the meal a bit.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Bi-Annual Mighty Choice Awards

The Mighty Rib is 6 today…months that is! To celebrate the occasion, I’m going to move up this week’s Unique Randomness one day and replace it with…The Mighty Choice Awards. Think of it as a “Best Of” from the past six months. I didn't include any links...if you're interested in something, just do a "search" in the box on the right.

Best New Drink Recipe
Cherry Fizz Bomb
This one just agreed with me…simple ingredients and very refreshing.

Best New Recipe

BBQ Marinated Flank Steak
There were many to choose from, but in the end, I fancied this one the most.

Best Dinner Club Food Item
Carrie’s Mussels
I could have eaten the entire beautiful plate by myself.

Best Dinner Club Dessert
Molly’s Coconut Angel Food Cake
Just like grandma would make!

Best Dinner Club Drink
Warren’s Swamp Drink
Tasted great, but the scary green color won it this award.

Top Service at a Restaurant
Heights West (Houston)
I went two times…both times ended with either myself or someone in my party hugging a staff member. That...like...never happens.

Top Five Dishes at a Restaurant
5. Mushroom Swiss Burger-Christian’s Tailgate
4. Duck-Heights West
3. Bread Pudding-BB’s Cajun Cafe
2. Rueben Sandwich-Chompies (review pending)
1. Signature Pork Chop-Perry’s Steakhouse
I still wake up in the middle of the night and think about that pork chop. Ok, I don’t…but it was d*mn good. I want to go back…soon!

Best Line from a Monthly Columnist

Natalie the Nomad in her review of Minnie’s: “Summertime in Georgia is hotter'n a hooker’s doorknob on payday."
I don’t usually LOL…this one made me LOL. How many people really LOL when they claim they LOL? Probably not a LOT.

Best Follower
Margie
This self-proclaimed nutso had me running for the restraining order. She’s settled down, been very complimentary of my awesome posts, and seems to be fairly normal…I think. Her comments are steady and the blog would be a better place with more readers like her.


Best Food Blog I’ve Come Across
Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures
http://viveksurti.wordpress.com/
I think this is a fairly new blog and I just love reading it. Why? Great pics and great recipes. I’ve wanted to jump through the monitor several times and grab what’s cooking. Plus the blog is simple and straightforward. I’m a little sick of these food blogs filled with ads and promotions. This one’s a great read….and eat!

Bi-Annual Humanitarian Award
This award is shared by all my wonderful contributing writers…Molly, Carrie, Natalie, Melissa, Andrea, Bryan…and everyone who has written a restaurant review for me (Lettie, Tracy, Amy, Mike, Rich, Scott, Rachel). I can’t thank them enough for their hard work. It’s done out of kindness, and I greatly appreciate it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Restaurant Review: Houston

Every Monday you'll get a restaurant review.

La Plaza Mexican Restaurant

1803 Bingle Rd
Houston, TX 77055

The Scene: I love the scene. Just a good, old-timey vibe right when you walk through the door. La Plaza was established in 1964, and from the looks of it, not much has changed. I'm glad…wish I saw more of that around Houston. This relatively small restaurant has bar seating. Park yourself there and stare endlessly at the simmering pot of beans in the open kitchen. The place is adorned with college sports memorabilia (mostly UT) and has a few tables along the outer walls.

The Food: The menu is simple and includes several of the Tex-Mex classics. They don’t overdo things at La Plaza. I went with the Chili/Cheese Ground Beef Burrito. I was hesitant to order this at first. On paper, it sounded like I was about to consume one of those heavy brick-like burritos. Not so. The chili gravy was fairly light and they didn’t drown it in cheese. The burrito wasn’t overstuffed and oversized…it was just right. I enjoyed the mild taste of the gravy topping and kicked things up with some hot sauce. Oh yeah, the pre-meal consists of the standard chips and salsa (more like hot sauce). The hot sauce was a beautiful orangey red color with a nice slow burn. It came in those plastic ketchup bottles and I was squeezing that shizz on everything. La Plaza also includes a nice cup of queso at no charge. Nice touch.

The Verdict: Loved it. I will definitely be back, and next time I’m bringing the fam to better gauge this place. I went for lunch, but I’m guessing breakfast is really where it’s at. Prices were reasonable, not cheap, but certainly not expensive. The service was excellent and the place was clean. La Plaza even has a little outdoor patio area. La Plaza is a Houston hidden gem.

Note: Cash only spot.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Calorie Worthy

Monthly Feature
Hey there, my name is Andrea, I’m a personal chef and an avid diner outer. I’ll be appearing monthly to give you a top ten list of personal favorites, ranging from cooking to restaurants. This month’s list focuses on cooking in your very own kitchen using one of best inventions next to the Flowbee,(how hilarious were those infomercials?), the mini prep food processor!! (cue horns)

Top Ten Ways to use your mini prep food processor
We’ll do this David Letterman Style and count backwards…

10) Thickening Soup - stop yawning, the beginning of a top ten list isn’t suppose to be exciting. If you desire your soup to be a little thicker, simply pour about a ¼ of it into a mini prep processor, blend away and add that to your soup in the pot. Taa daa! Thicker soup!

9) Making a “crust” for Fish or Chicken- Throw a few handfuls of walnuts, pecans or almonds into the mini prep and you’ve got a fine mill of nuts, perfect for crusting that piece of fish or chicken.

8) Homemade Breadcrumbs- Now something you’ll come to learn about little miss Andrea is that I do not enjoy using processed products. If the box has ingredients that I cannot pronounce, forget it, I’m not eating it! Homemade breadcrumbs are super easy to make and way better for you than what you’ll purchase in a tin! Throw some bread in a toaster, butter the bread, tear apart into pieces to put into mini prep and add some seasonings. Pulse away you now you have your very own homemade breadcrumbs!

7)Finely Chopping Veggies- Raise your hand if you’re lazy! (I’d raise mine, but it’s too much effort) Well, for those of you who did raise your hand, or at least thought about raising your hand, finely chopping veggies can be an extremely taxing task. “Rough chop” those puppies and throw them into the mini prep…D-O-N-E. Donesville.

6) Fresh Salsa- Boil two Roma tomatoes with a Serrano pepper in 1 ¼ cup of water for about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes, pepper, and water they boiled in into the mini prep along with a small wedge of onion and a little garlic with some salt. Process until smooth and it’s delicious!

5) Whipped Guacamole- Love this! 1 Avocado, 1 chopped Serrano pepper, little garlic paste, salt and 3 tablespoons of milk into the mini prep….so good, you have no idea.

4) Fresh Salad Dressing- My favorite and easiest dressing to make is to take 1 Shallot, 1 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard, 1 teaspoon Sugar, 1 tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar (the good kind, not the Safeway brand, folks) and some Olive Oil…this dressing is wonderful over any fresh greens and also good over green beans!

3) Olive Tapende- Get a mixture of olives, add to them some lemon juice, garlic and olive oil…that’s it, chop and blend them in the mini prep! It makes a great fancy looking appetizer over some crusty bread.

2) Hummus- I like traditional hummus. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas, boil in 1 ½ cup water for 20 min. Drain, but reserve the liquid. Throw into mini prep. Add to that 2 tablespoons of Tahini, the juice of one lemon, 1 tsp of garlic paste, ½ tsp salt and about ¼ cup of the cooking liquid. Process that mixture for a bit, then add some olive oil and continue to process until smooth.

And the number one way to use your mini prep food processor is….(drum roll)

1) PESTO!! -Me. Loves. Pesto. Grab a bunch or a package of fresh Basil leaves, combine in mini prep with 1 garlic clove, handful of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, 2 tablespoons of walnuts or pine nuts, whichever you’d prefer, squeeze of lemon, a little red pepper flakes, and some olive oil. You may also add some salt and pepper.

For a fancy trio, serve some pesto, hummus and olive tapende at your next party! Look who’s fancy now…all thanks to your mini prep food processor.

Peace out and Peace with your food.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Test Kitchen

Every Saturday I'll try out a new recipe I just found on the net...you'll see the good and the bad of it.

Broiled Sockeye Salmon with Citrus Glaze
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/broiled-sockeye-salmon-with-citrus-glaze-recipe/index.html

Description: Any salmon will do for this recipe, so don’t get scared off by the “Sockeye” in the title. This piece was about 1.5 lbs.

Recipe Difficulty (Scale of 1-10): 1
You know I typically go for the easier recipes. This one definitely fits into the “Easy” category. Just go to the grocery store and buy a big slab of salmon. The remaining ingredients are few in number and easy to find. I will say that it is absolutely critical to have a hand zester for this one. It makes life a lot easier. I used one lemon and one orange just to mix things up.

How it turned out: DOUBLE AWESOME!!!
There are so many good salmon recipes out there and this one is no different. And it’s the trifecta of greatness…good presentation, tastes great, and less filling. Sara and I were both impressed by the simple ingredients producing such a nice range of tastes. The sugar, salt, and citrus play off one another quite well.

Would I make again: Yes...absolutely yes.
We are trying to eat fish once a week, so we’ll be seeing the Salmon with Citrus Glaze again. It’s just too easy and too tasty not to put in the mix. Just be a little careful with the cooking time. Depending on your thickness of fish, you may want to leave it under the broiler a couple extra minutes. Just remember to flake the fish before removing from the oven. As you can see....I flaked mine, then took out a big sample chunk.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Back to Basics

Fridays are for the beginner cooks.

Sauteed Spinach

Remember...Fridays are for beginners...so don't judge. Preparing a little spinach is about as easy as it gets. It certainly adds to the presentation of any meal with its beautiful green color. And last, but certainly not least...spinach is very healthy. Also...for lack of a better word...cooking up some spinach can really get you out of a "bind" in the kitchen. Why? Let's say you're preparing fairly complicated and time-consuming meat and starch dishes. The spinach ties it all together and only takes about three minutes to prepare. Here's how I do it:

1. Take a bag of pre-washed spinach. Throw into a pan.
2. Toss in some minced garlic, a decent pour of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Turn burner to Medium and cover.
4. Come back in less than five minutes...give a good mix, and you're done! It's that easy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Happy Hour

Get ready for the weekend with Happy Hour.

Dry Comal Creek: White Black Spanish
http://www.drycomalcreek.com/

I’ve written about this winery before, but my previous post highlighted the Comal Red. Today’s entry features Dry Comal Creek’s White Black Spanish. I’ve had just about every Texas wine, and in my opinion, this winery produces the top wines in the state. I believe the White Black Spanish is their top seller. It’s quite versatile, can be eaten with just about anything, and takes on a completely different taste when slightly chilled. I enjoy mine at room temp. To me, it falls somewhere between a blush and a red. I’m sure that’s not a technical wine term, but who cares? Although we head up to the winery once a year for a case, we are also fortunate that Dry Comal Creek wines are found in H-E-B’s and at Central Market.

Note: Some of you have written me about the lack of focus on beers. Don't worry, I like a nice beer from time to time and there will soon be a Monthly Feature focused solely on beer.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Unique Randomness

My random thoughts...brought to you once a week!
  • Sara and I love the show “House Hunters” on HGTV…we never get tired of the formulaic concept. Raise your hand if your favorite part of the show is making fun of the couples? Does this sound familiar…”He’s a teacher and she’s a stay-at-home…why is their budget $500K”? Here’s an added twist to the show. Next time you’re watching, count how many times you can add “that’s what she said” into the mix. It’s astounding!
  • I love commercials…well, making fun of commercials. Have you seen the latest from Subaru? Dude is standing in-between his totaled Subaru and his sparkling new Subaru. He gives one more farewell to the old one, professes his love for the automobile, then takes the gear shift knob from the totaled car and drives off into the countryside. It begs the question…what is he planning to do with that knob?
  • We took a quick trip to Austin last weekend…stayed at the Barton Creek Resort. Nice place, not such a good breakfast bar, but the resort was awesome. On a side note…ate at the Jimmy John’s down the street from the resort…great sandwich shop. I hope more start popping up in Houston.
  • Syd, my one –year-old, enjoys dropping a deuce by walking over to the coffee table and hugging it out. Interesting tactics.
  • Recently, I went to an average winery in Sedona, AZ. I bought a bottle, walked out to the patio for consumption, and noticed they had two separate sitting areas. One area was a regular patio with chairs. The other area was fully covered, with leather chairs, and sweet tables. But that area was marked for “Members Only”. At that moment, I didn’t even want to be a “Non-Member”.
  • Gym Membership: Racquetball Dude: Racquetball Dude is 45-50-years old…sports the double knee braces, goggles, and headband. He comes to the gym for one purpose…that’s to play him some r-ball. R-ball Dude typically has a gut, is terrible at racquetball and sweats obscenely. If you are unfortunate enough to bump into R-ball Dude, take an immediate shower.
  • Facebook Folley of the Week: Day of the Week Guy When did Sunday become Funday? Or…why is Tuesday…Snoozeday? Day of the Week Guy never misses a chance to tell us about the current day and how it makes him feel. Do you know how it makes us feel? Oh, and I am especially thankful for the countdown to the weekend. I understand that once we hit Humpday, we’ve got tunnel vision for Super Saturday.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mighty Good Recipe

Tuesdays are for delivering you a Mighty Good Recipe!

Potstickers

Adapted from a Dorothy Huang recipe (from Central Market cooking class)

Ingredients
1 lb. ground pork
2 TSPN fresh ginger (minced)
2 TSPN green onions (chopped)
12 oz. frozen chopped spinach (squeeze well to remove excess water)
2 TSPN soy sauce
1 TSPN sesame oil
2 TSPN canola oil
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 package dumpling wrappers (found at Central Market or Asian grocery stores)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup water

Directions
1. Take a large bowl and add pork, ginger, green onions, spinach, soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper. Get dirty...mix with hands.
2. Take one dumpling wrapper and dip fingers in the cup of water. Rub wet fingers on the inside edges of the dumplings.
3. Place a small spoonful of mixture in the middle of wrapper. Fold over and press together, forming almost a taco. Make sure there's no openings in wrapper.
4. Place canola oil in saute pan. Make enough dumplings to fill entire pan (should be around 20). Once the pan is completely full, turn burner to Med-High heat.
5. Wait 6-7 minutes and pick up one dumpling to check the bottom. If it's a crispy brown, pour 1/4 of chicken broth into the pan, turn burner to Medium, and cover pan. Let cook for 6-7 minutes. Give pan a good shake.
6. Remove top of pan and transfer dumplings to plate. Repeat process for the second batch.
7. This recipes yields about 40-45 dumplings.

This recipe is the culmination of our Asian-themed recipe series. And it's the best recipe in my arsenal. Be patient...the more you make these pockets of joy, the better you'll get at it. Enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Restaurant Review: San Antonio

Thanks to Tracy for sending in this review.

The Cove
606 W. Cypress St.
San Antonio, Texas 78212
http://thecove.us/cove/index.php

First Encounter
I received 5 emails in one day from friends all over the states, inquiring if I’d tried this restaurant yet. Strange? No. They’d all been watching the food network and were dying to hear first hand if The Cove was all it’s cracked up to be. I usually avoid a restaurant for months after it’s been featured on tv, because I hate being hungry and having to wait. I also like to forget about it so my expectations aren’t too high. In this case, I could wait no longer after looking at their menu online.

When you arrive, you order in the first building. The pressure is on, so you might want to look at the menu online, before you get there. Otherwise, grab a menu from the counter and step aside for the ravenous people behind you. They’ll give you a number and you head to the next building or the patio to grab a seat. I prefer indoors in the summer in Texas because I’m not one to share my food with the flies.

The Food
We ordered the organic hummus to start and it was quite good. the bella burger is a grilled portabella mushroom burger with sauteed spinach, red onion, jack cheese, and a spicy poblano sauce, and it is fantastic. Messy, but so worth the mess. The sweet potato fries were a nice compliment. My husband had the Lisa’s Special - 2 fish tacos and a spinach salad. The tacos were delicious and the sauce on them was just right. The Cove is known for their lamb burgers, but I just can’t bring myself to eat lamb. I try to go veggie most of the time, but upon moving to Texas, my inner carnivore has emerged. this place makes it easy to swing either was with unique options on both sides of the fence.

The Atmosphere
If you’re with friends and the weather is just right, I can see the patio being an excellent spot to spend an entire evening. If you have kids, they’ve got you covered. there is an outdoor play yard (you can cage them in!) and a basketball court. the inside dining area is another great option, very artsy and loaded with personality. They offer over a hundred types of been and wine at the bar and even have wine and beer tastings throughout the month. you can also enjoy live music several nights a week. Overall, The Cove lived up to the hype!

Restaurant Review: Houston


Disclaimer: I am friends with the owners. They also run a catering business called
The Business Lunch. I’ve used them once before. They were on-time and everyone loved the meal.

Griff's

3416 Roseland Street
Houston, Texas 77006
http://www.griffshouston.net/

The Scene: Griff’s is practically a Houston landmark. Entering the establishment at noon on a nearly 100 degree August day is like detaching yourself from reality. The door slams and you are consumed by darkness and the faint smell of old cigarettes. It had been years since my last visit, but I quickly remembered why I liked this place so much…it’s a bar’s bar. But I wasn’t here to drink…I was here to eat and drink…a little.

The Food:
It’s fairly simple. I was told to get the cheeseburger. I sat down and ordered one along with a St. Arnold’s. It came out with an order of fries. The burger basket is a microcosm of Griff’s…no frills, but done right. The 1/2lb. meat patty was topped with a good portion of tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and American cheese. The sesame seed bun was fresh and already cut in half for me. Given the size, I was glad the cook did that. I polished off the burger and finished about half the fries (watching my figure).

The Price: Reasonable. Think I got out of there for around $10-11 (remember that I also had a beer). Lunch starts at 11:00.

The Verdict: I’ll be back to Griff’s, and not just because I know the owners. There’s something to be said for parking yourself in a dark atmosphere, having a good beer and burger, and watching sports highlights. It’s quite relaxing. So much of how I judge a place is based on feel. I loved the vintage Astros banner, the stacked-up Lone Star Beer cases, and the corner pool tables. The menu selection is pretty decent, especially for a bar. However, I’m sticking with the beer and burger.

Note…During the day, parking is plentiful. If you’re looking for quick service and a good meal, Griff’s is a great option.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tip Jar

You'll get a tip every Sunday...take it or leave it!

Farmer's Market


More specifically...find a farmer's market in your vacationing town or city. All the knowledge is there. Why? Because all those people are local and locals know where it's at. Here's an ideal concept...you don't know everything...so ask and listen to the people who do. I chatted it up last week at Sedona's Farmer's Market with a dude who makes flax seed. I can't stand that crap, but the guy was nice and gave me some wonderful things to do on vacation. He recommended that we take a afternoon trip to a small town called Jerome. I listened, we did, and it was the most fun I had on the trip. And I bought a package of his flax seed. Gotta support the little guy!

Reader Questionnaire


Wanna send one in? Email me at:
wcshalin@hotmail.com. Also...check out Amy's great food blog. The link recipe below will get you there!


Name:
Amy
Current City: Dallas, TX

Do you cook? All the time!

What is your favorite meal to cook? Tex-Mex! I love these enchiladas- they're always a big hit. http://www.singforyoursupperblog.com/2010/03/14/knock-your-socks-off-chicken-enchiladas/

What food do you absolutely hate? Fennel, anise, and anything else liquorish flavored. YUCK!

What is your favorite dessert? My great-grandmother's peach cobbler- it's amazing!

What food have you never eaten, but wish you could try? Chicken and waffles - it sounds so appealing to me!!

What is your favorite restaurant and what do you order? A local Mexican restaurant called Joe T. Garcia's - I always get their chicken fajitas and a BIG margarita!

You’re on death row, what’s your last meal? Hands down, my grandmother's fried chicken and my great-grandmother's peach cobbler.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dinner Club

Monthly Feature

Each month...six friends get together for great food and good times! Check out the recipes and rundown.


The Shalins hosted and made the appetizers and entree. The Shooks brought over tasty beverages, and the Jaegers were in charge of dessert. Here's how it broke down:

Theme: Herbs Galore

Appetizers:
Panzanella a la Kevin (recipe below is similar...I recommend adding a cheese like Fontina)
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/panzanella-recipe/index.html

Asparagus and Green Beans with Tarragon Lemon Dipping Sauce

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/asparagus-and-green-beans-with-tarragon-lemon-dip-recipe/index.html

Main Course:
Flank Steak with Saucy Mushrooms
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/flank-steak-with-saucey-mushrooms-recipe/index.html

Sides:
Smashed Potatoes
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/chive-and-garlic-mashed-potatoes-recipe2/index.html

Roasted Orange Cauliflower with Greens Beans and Zucchini

Toss vegetables in olive oil, salt, cayenne pepper, and fresh garlic. Bake in a 425 degree oven fo 15 minutes.

Dessert:

Lemon Wow Cake
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Lemon-Wow-Cake/Detail.aspx

Drinks:
Traditional Mojitos
http://www.bacardimojito.com/features/mojito_recipe_01.htm

I've never chopped so many herbs in all my life. The food and drinks were perfection. Molly ate about 75% of the Panzanella. Everyone else got a bite and seemed to like it. I loved the mojitos. The Lemon Wow Cake lived up to its name...and even kept with the theme by containing trace amounts of dried tarragon. Finally, steak smothered in a tri-mushroom sauce is never ever a bad thing. Conversation spanned from highly intelligent to borderline insane. All and all...another great Dinner Club!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Reader Questionnaire


Wanna send one in? Email me at: wcshalin@hotmail.com




Name:
Jessica
Location: Conroe, Texas

Do you cook? Yes, almost everyday. The one and only reason I won't cook a big meal is because of a bare pantry. I love cooking big and saving the leftovers!

What is your favorite meal to cook? A big pot of seafood gumbo. I married a Cajun and have been making it for YEARS because I love eating it- with fluffy rice! Making the roux is an hour long back breaking process, with frequent stirring in a black cast-iron kettle pot. On a mission to Kroger to find a shorter roux route, the one and only possibility was Tony Chachere's instant roux. I thought it worth a try. All I did was follow the simple instructions and found the roux tasty, delicious and effortless. I could then save my energy for the fun of chopping my mirepoix and seafood. The convenience is worth every bowl!

What food do you absolutely hate? Maraschino Cherries.

What is your favorite dessert? NY style cheesecake with fresh strawberry sauce.

What food have you never eaten, but wish you could try? Duck pate

What is your favorite restaurant and what do you order? Goode Seafood Co., both locations equally for its own unique atmosphere and the delicious food. I usually start with an appetizer of the seafood gumbo or seafood ceviche. Then order the redfish smothered with crawfish ettoufee. I will clean my plate as best as I can and will have no room left for dessert.

You’re on death row, what’s your last meal? A big bowl of spaghetti alla Bolognese, with a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan cheese, a piece of garlic french bread and a cold Dr. Pepper. If you get dessert on death row, I will have the cheesecake.

Back to Basics

Fridays are for the beginner cooks.

Grilled Corn...Sort Of

This week's Back to Basics is all about sprucing up a very common food item, but still keeping it EASY. Who doesn't love fresh corn on the cob? Probably people with dentures. But for the rest of us, we can't get enough of it. Take a look at how I prepare it:

1. Take 4-5 ears of corn and shuck.
2. In bowl, combine 3 TBSP butter, 3 TBSP fresh cilantro, one squeezed lime, 1 tsp and salt/pepper.
3. Boil corn for 10 minutes. Take out and coat with mixture.
4. Throw on grill for about 5 minutes.
5. Coat with mixture again.

6. Serve. (top with Parmesan if you'd like)

Boiling the corn first makes the entire process a lot easier. The grill adds a nice flavor and char. The green cilantro is a perfect compliment and adds to a great presentation (especially if you have a big date!).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Happy Hour

It's Thursday...need a drink yet?

Page Springs Cellars 2009 Vino del Barrio Blanca

I hadn't highlighted a wine in quite some time. Whenever I'm on vacation, I generally check out a few local spots. Sara and I have a fun goal to hit a winery in every state. We're getting there. Scratch Arizona off the list. This is a nice white wine...peachy overtones, or some crap like that. I don't know...it's good. I'm not a wine snob, and people who describe it to the umpteenth degree need a kick in the groin. We'll be enjoying this bottle at Dinner Club this weekend...along with some mojitos.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reader Questionnaire


Another reader questionnaire...wanna send me one? Just shoot me an email at: wcshalin@hotmail.com



Name:
Scott
Current City: Cleveland, Ohio

Do you cook? Yes

What is your favorite meal to cook? Manchego cheese plate (Riesling or Prosecco), Smoked Pork Shoulder (Hickory, Oak & Mesquite) (Malbec), Fresh corn & pepper salad, Chocolate brownie with a port/berry reduction (Port)

What food do you absolutely hate? Caviar - tried the best and still think it's disgusting, I'll try it again in a few years to see if my tastes change.

What is your favorite dessert? Bread Pudding

What food have you never eaten, but wish you could try? Poi

What is your favorite restaurant and what do you order? Very Difficult Question - so many experiences tied to wonderful memories, great company, amazing food.....Here are Three:

Sentimental reasons: Jekyll's Kitchen Chagrin Falls, Ohio. my wife and I were married there and this restaurant has a spectacular view of the falls, and good wood fired oven fare- I order whatever is on special and done in the wood fired oven.

Culinary experience: Osteria del Cuccu Urbania, Italy. Fantastic food, fun atmosphere and meals that will make lifetime memories. I order whatever Donatella is preparing, for the evening. Though usually try to get a pasta with Zucchine, or melanzane and a secondo of Coniglio or Pigione.

Great Memory: Rosebud Naperville, IL. This was probably the first meal in the states that rivaled a dinning experience in Europe, three hours (maybe four) family style dinning 6 courses, prosecco, bianco, rosso etc. with good friends Jon and Lisa to celebrate their recent marriage. All time best Risotto I've eaten.

You’re on death row, what’s your last meal? I fly in my friend Francesca from Urbania, Italy and we make a fabulous meal from the suitcase full of fresh ingredients she's brought woth her from Le Marche. Hopefully some black truffles have fallen into her suit case as well as some fiore zucchine, fresh olive oil, pecorino and whatever protein she judiciously decides to use. Her handmade Tagliatelle is of course a pre-requisite as she traces the history of the ingredients, the region, civilization and culture, and dinner lasts well into the night. Wines in this order: Prosecco, Verdicchio, Bianchello del Metauro, Colli Pesari, Rosso Piceno, Rosso Conero, Vin Santo. If She wanted to bring Donatella along from Osteria del Cuccu I would have no objections.

Unique Randomness

My random thoughts...brought to you once a week!

I recently got back from vacationing in Sedona, Arizona. Cool place. Here's a pic to prove it. While I was sitting in the airport the other day, I and tried to think of ten things I like about the whole flying experience. I figured there's just too much negativity surrounding the process. Consider this a "glass half full" look at flying. I promise no sarcasm.

Top 10 Things I Like About the Airport Experience

10. Wifi: Tell me if you've seen this one before at the airport..."Signal Quality: Excellent". Just does my heart good when I see that.

9. Moving Sidewalk: Does this ever get old? It's as fun now as it was twenty years ago. Great invention.

8. Rechargeable Phone Chord Stand: I've never had to use it, but it never fails to catch my eye. In fact, I've never seen anyone use it. Maybe that's why it catches my eye.

7. Duty-Free Store: I was never big on this store. That was until we missed our connection in Toronto and had an eight-hour layover. Reading the bottles kept me busy.

6. Parking Shuttle: I know this is a little weird but I enjoy riding the shuttle from the parking place to the terminal. It's probably the closest I'll get to a limo.

5. Bottled Water: What? Does your parking lot give you a free bottled water upon exiting? Mine does. And guess what? I'm always thirsty. Always. Why does flying make your mouth feel like a desert?

4. Chipper Airline Employee: You know the guy/girl. He's nice but no one's this friendly. "Hi Miss Natalie...where are you flying off to? Wanna sticker?" You know the dude has to sit in weekly meetings about how to be overly kind to kids. It's still a nice touch, and I appreciate it.

3. People Watching: Quick...name a better place for people watching. You can't. Such a place doesn't exist. The airport is the absolute best. You see it all at the airport.

2. City T-Shirts: Where else can you get your very own Houston, Texas t-shirt? D*mn, slipped up on the sarcasm.

1. Restrooms: Those who know me well, know that I'm a bit of a germaphobe. Not like super crazy germaphobe, but me and germs don't get along. That's why I love the airport bathroom. It's no touch...that includes: urinals, faucets, paper towel dispenser. It's just great...and hopefully all public facilities will catch on.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mighty Good Recipe

Tuesdays are dedicated to bringing you a Mighty Good Recipe!

Fusion Spare Ribs

Ingredients
4 lbs. pork spare ribs
2 packets of spare rib marinade
1 cup bbq sauce (sweet)

Directions
Take spare ribs, rinse under water, and place in a Zip Lock bag. Pour pre-made marinade mix over ribs and let sit for at least four hours (overnight preferable), Take ribs out and place rib side down on deep baking sheet. Cook for 1.5 hours in 250 degree oven. Remove...toss with bbq sauce. Throw on low flame grill for about 3 minutes on each side.

This is another recipe that goes along with our Asian-themed entries from this month. What dinner isn't complete without a side of spare ribs? It's a perfect recipe to make after visiting a specialty market because they have those packets of marinades in a variety of flavors. I chose a Hawaiian bbq marinade. After the ribs were done in the oven, I tossed with a cup of Stubbs bbq sauce and threw on the grill. This crisps up the ribs and adds nice grill marks.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Junkie

Monthly Feature
Melissa delves into fast food...one item at a time!

The Intro
Let me start out by saying that I consider myself a true fast food connoisseur. I spent the first 3 years after graduating college as a sales rep for a large gift-ware company. My territory was not as big as Texas but it sure felt like it was. I spent 5 days a week driving from small town to small town selling stuffed animals, scented candles and all the other knick-knack junk you give your mom on Mother’s Day. I frequented fast food drive-thrus at least twice a day, developing a palate for great fast food. I’ve had the good (Chick-fil-a) , the bad (Long John Silver’s) and the ugly (Taco Bell). After my stint as a teddy bear hawker, I moved on to bigger and better things in the job world. But I never lost my love of chowing down on a good burger, order of fries and ice cold Coke from the comfort of my car. Even now as a self-employed business owner, I would rather be served lunch from a drive-thru window than from an overly perky waiter. So when asked to write fast food reviews for The Mighty Rib, I was more than excited. I was downright stoked!

With that being said, here are the ground rules for my reviews.


First,
I consider a restaurant a “fast food” restaurant if it meets at least one of the following criteria:
1. It has a drive-thru window.
2. You stand in line to place your order.

3. Tipping is not required, nor expected.


Second,
I will review menu items that I have not yet tried. I’ll give you my first impression without any prejudice or predisposition.

Third,
I’ll focus on both healthy and not-so-healthy choices. While fast food has had a long-standing reputation of grease, grease and more grease, many fast food eateries have done a good job of “beefing up” their menus with healthier choices. I’ll try to find the ones that don’t taste like cardboard.

With the ground rules laid, let’s get started.

KFC’s Doubilicious

There are very few fast food commercials that get my attention. As much as I love fast food, very rarely does the food you actually get ever look like the food featured in the commercials. So when the KFC Doublicious commercial came on, I was quite surprised when I actually stopped Facebooking long enough to watch the commercial. So what got my attention? Easy. Hawaiian sweet bread.

Not only does this new Doublicious feature the triple power punch of chicken breast, bacon and Swiss cheese, it goes even further by adding the deliciousness of a Hawaiian sweet bread bun. Put it all together, throw in a tasty sauce and you’ve got yourself a KFC Doublicious. For this review I decided to stay true to the roots of fast food and chose the crispy, Original Recipe chicken breast. For those wanting a healthier version, grilled chicken is also offered.

Overall taste (Scale of 1-10): 8
In a word? Yummy! I was really pulling for this sandwich and was not disappointed. The chicken breast was very juicy, well seasoned and didn’t leave a greasy aftertaste in my mouth. The Hawaiian sweet bread bun was soft, warm and really delicious. While the bacon wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked it, it wasn’t overly soft and chewy. I hate biting into a sandwich where the bacon falls out after I take a bite. The Dublicious had a sauce that blended very nicely with the other ingredients and wasn’t too overpowering. I would have liked had a bit more sauce but the juiciness of the chicken breast overcame the lack of moisture.

Visual Appeal (Scale of 1-10): 8
The Doublicious came in a box rather than a wrapper. Big plus. I always feel like sandwiches that come in a box are a bit more “fancy” than a regular, wrapper-wrapped sandwich. Call it a marketing ploy but it works with me every time.

The sandwich was larger than I expected, which was a nice surprise. The bun was big and fluffy. It smelled great and I took pictures quickly so I could take my first bite.

Health Rating (Scale of 1-10): 4
According to KFC’s website, the Doublicious has a whopping 480 calories and 23 grams of fat. Had I chosen the grilled chicken breast instead of Original Recipe, I would have consumed 380 calories and 11 grams of fat. 480 calories and 23 grams of fat is hardly healthy so I’ll have to give this sandwich a lower health rating. While the sodium level in the Doublicious wasn’t as high as other KFC menu items, it certainly wasn’t healthy.

After Shock?
I can’t say I had any negative after effects. The Doublicious was big enough to satisfy my appetite but didn’t leave me feeling like I was walking around with a lead basketball in my gut. I was left with no funny aftertaste or other uncomfortable repercussions.

Would you eat it again?
Totally! But next time I’ll go for the grilled chicken breast and save myself 10 minutes on the treadmill. The Hawaiian sweet bread bun really made this sandwich a winner. The sweetness of the bread and the seasoning of the chicken was a great combination. Add bacon, Swiss cheese and that sauce (which I am now on a mission to figure out) and you’ve got yourself a fast food chicken sandwich that doesn’t taste like fast food.