Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Monday, May 26, 2008

Burger Smackdown - The Photos

L to R: Mike, Andrew and moi. Below are some other shots from the event.

Birthday Present

One of the fun things that occurred at the Burger Smackdown is that I finally was able to recieve my birthday present from my friends, Fred and Maggie. Aside from being a good friend for a long time, Fred got me into the cooking business. I was his opening Chef at the late, lamented Fredi and I still cater with him.

The gift is very thoughtful - a piston style sausage stuffer - but it will be a bit before I use it. I know this type of stuffer often has leakage around the piston so I want to investigate materials to create a flange for the end.

But it's really cool! Thanx Fred and Maggie.

Easy As Pie

The remains of the pie below are of a Rhubarb Custard Pie from page 306 of Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook. From making the crust, to slicing the rhubarb, to making the custard filling, to cutting the "lattice pieces" with a fluted pastry wheel, this pie was entirely made by my 9 year old daughter Ellie.

It was yummy!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Mother of Invention

No not Zappa (though Apostrophe(') is in the CD player in my car).

No, this is about something you find in the sinks in many commercial kitchens - an overflow tube (lift the lid on your toilet tank and you find a similar thing). The idea is that with this device you can allow water to flow into a sink and when it reaches a certain level the water goes down the tube, so you can have a continuous flow of fresh cold water. It's good for thawing large objects, or cooling soups and stocks. Ice bath's may be best, but I don't have room in the freezer to stockpile ice, so I end up buying it when the stockpot cannot be put in a snowbank.

The commercial versions won't work in a home sink - the drain is too big - so I fabicated my own. The base is a basic home sink drain plug.

I cut off the "knob" portion, and used a glue/sealer from Locktite to attach a measured piece of 1 1/4 inch PVC pipe to it. I think, after trying it, that I may trim another 1/4 off the pipe.

The result is placed in the drain and voilà!

Of course a home sink has the drain in the center, but I just had a 16 pound turkey in there, and stock in a Cambro bucket fits just fine. Not perfect, but it works!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stupid Steve

OK, this is not food related, but Stupid Steve is my brother!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Great Editorial

From the Buffalo News. The actual Pew Trust report is great reading. Money quote:

The present system of producing food animals in the United States is not sustainable and presents an unacceptable level of risk to public health and damage to the environment, as well as unnecessary harm to the animals we raise for food.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Ugly, The Bad and The Good

What a great time - everyone really enjoyed themselves. Gosh darn it, I had a great time even though I didn't win. It was one of those wonderful events where old friends and new just gather for a fun afternoon (hey, what is the likelihood of going to an event at a new friend's house and meeting a young man who was in Pre-K with your daughter three years ago!)

So let's get to it:

The Ugly: Round One: Burger only - the meat-centric class that focuses on what happens to the patty, and cooking technique. Served on standardized buns. My naturally raised Niagara County Beef Chuck vs. Andrew's locally raised Waygu vs. Mike's dry aged Delmonico, with cheese and a condiment..

I put this round right in the tank. Big Time. And it turned out to be my best chance to score a win! You know you are in trouble when the burger you hold back to share with your co-competitors is light years better than the one you sent to the Judges. I just couldn't get in the zone. Yes there were several external distractions (and I'd tell you about some, but one would make my wife not speak to me for a while), but this round was my fault. I screwed the pooch.

Having said that, given the choice of enjoying the convivial atmosphere of the event, or trying to recreate the intensity of the line, I'd pick the former.

The Bad: The Weather. It could have been a heck of a lot worse, but after a relatively rain free April, with above-average temperatures, Sunday was lower than normal with frequent rain. The competitors huddled under tents, and the onlookers stayed inside. As I said, it was a hoot, but the idea that people would be milling about sipping cocktails in the sunshine was dashed.

The Good: Round Two: Burger dressed as the chef desires - where special buns, toppings, etc can come into play. This burger sang. I knew I was in good shape after Lydia, Andrew's daughter and our designated server, came up and whispered "they love it". My co-competitors and onlookers agreed. Dave Cloy and his troops did a SUPURB job with the beef - it got raves! Alas, I lost to Mike - which is as it should be. As I have said before, he's the best cook in town.

One postscript though. I was at the competition less than 5 minutes when I realized that I was was working out of a different playbook than Andrew and Mike. Nobody's fault, just "failure to communicate" as Strother Martin once said. The bottom line is that I never thought this was about anything but beef. Andrew made an absolutely delicious Lamburger with Israeli Feta, and Mike used Ahi for his burger, flown in from Hawaii. It was amazing. There may be no one in WNY who handles seafood better than Mike - even Kuni Sato.

And a final note - if invited to a grilling cookoff, don't bring a side dish that needs to be grilled!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Burger Smackdown - The Burger

Here is the Burger - wish me luck:

The Rolls:

Homemade from bleached all-purpose flour, water, yeast, non-transfat shortening, sugar and salt. Source: My Home

The Mushroom Ketchup:

Portabella, Shiitake, Oyster and Maitake mushrooms grilled with Vidalia onion, combined with Garlic, Molasses, Balsamic Vinegar and Chipotle Chilies.
Source: Wegmans, Sheridan Drive.

The Cheese:

Beaufort - a French Raw Cow’s Milk Cheese from the Savoie region often called the Prince of Gruyères. A classic mountain cheese. Source:
Premier Gourmet, Kenmore

The Bacon:

Pork Belly - cured in Grade B Extra Dark Amber Maple Syrup and Maple Sugar. Smoked over Pear Wood. Sources: Valint’s, Tonawanda; Maple Glen Sugar House, Gowanda; My Mother-in-Law’s backyard, Buffalo.

The Beef:

Eye of Chuck – naturally raised Niagara County Beef, cared for and cooler hung to perfection by Dave Cloy. Source D.H Cloy and Son, Ransomville.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Strike Three?

One: the weather for Sunday is cloudy, breezy, high of 53 and a 40% chance chance of rain - at least no snow.

Two: I woke up at 2 am this morning with the stomach/intestinal virus that has been going around my wife office. At a time when I have the most intensive prep, I don't want to be around food.

These things usually happen in threes - take my poll and vote for your favorite!

ETA: Things did change overnight - the chance of rain is now 70%!

ETA: Game Day - Rain 90%

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mother's Day

Two bottles of Il Prosecco, six glasses and a prty ice bucket -- what could be better (yes, it's going to the burger smackdown.

Food Comic For Today

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Reflections on a Bowl of Chili

Served with cornbread. Somewhere during our dinner conversation, as we spoke of the Burger Smackdown and Andrew's scallion pancake recipe from Sunday's paper, we came to observe that all three contestants have a partiality towards the cuisines of Asia. I don't know if there is any meaning to this - but it is interesting.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Tale Of Three Meals

Some final thoughts about my road trip last weekend. When traveling in unfamiliar terretory, food is often a problem - especially on limited access roads with a 7 year old who will only eat overprocessed chicken nuggets, not fingers, etc. The other three of us are happiest at a truckstop or diner - the kind of place that still serves meatloaf sandwiches and liver and onions. So the first meal was at a Wendy's.

Meal 1: Back when I was in my fast food is only food phase, Wendy's was my favorite. Of late I have found that any fast food makes me physically ill. We aren't talking food poisoning, but massive indigestion. I felt ill on the road. I felt ill at the hotel. I felt ill at the Temple. I felt ill at my Sister's and didn't get to enjoy the lovely buffet she had.

Meal 2: Same problem, with time constrained we talked about a chain, but instead decided to take a risk. A wrong turn took us to beautiful downtown Danbury, and Royal Guard Fish & Chips - run by a Pakistani couple. Crisp and flaky batter around sweet fish, with what appeared to hand cut chips. Delightful. No aroma of overused oil at a great value. Wake up Buffalo! This is what a fish fry should be like!

Meal 3: The Bat Mitzvah. Was the food as good as it was at my cousin Nicole's last fall? Not quite, but then her father rented the FRAKKING Ontario Science Centre for the party! Of course the food was fabulous. The Salem Golf Club did a super under what I personally know to be difficult circumstances. The salad was interesting and tasty, the salmon moist and delicious. but, so much is going on at an event like this that you don't get to enjoy the meal.

The best of the three is, therefore, the fish and chips shop. An accidental discovery enjoyed with family is always the best!

Oh, and one of the distractions at the Bat Mitzvah was finally demonstrating that I am the Graet American Chef! ;-)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Burger Smackdown Update

It is one week until the Great Burger Smackdown. Much of my product is in hand. I will need a few bits of produce as the week goes on, and Dave Cloy has my meat hanging, and will prep it for me Friday. I have done a test run of the condiments and other ingredients. This is going to be fun!

Am I being coy, secretive, evasive, PARANOID? After all I was in Law School, a place where if you get up to use the head you might come back to find your notes gone. Of course I am paranoid!.

Actually, not really. I kind of figure that my fellow contestants don't want to be distracted by what I am planning any more than I want to be distracted by what they are doing. Look, if I try to go head to head as a "chef" with Mike, I lose, and I deserve to. Andrew is a dedicated amateur and knowledgeable food writer, similar to where I come from, but with the potential of a Rocky Balboa knockdown. I hope to thread the needle.

The bottom line is that I look at this as a picnic with friends (new and old). And I am bringing Pomegranate Margaritas!

Keep watching the skies!

Farming and Food Redux

The Buffalo News weighed in on the corn for ethanol in today's lead editorial. Money quote:

"Corn-based ethanol is not the solution to America’s energy woes, and laws that force us to act as though it were are a huge step in the wrong direction."

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all of you Mothers out there. Brunch was Eggs Benedict and Mimosa's (the photo is from a previous brunch).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008


I kid you not. Imagine all the flavor. Don't bother to go to England like delGrosso, get your Fish 'n Chips in a bottle. Yum.

Back From Connecticut

Well I am back from a wonderful weekend in Connecticut for my niece's Bat Mitzvah (she was PERFECT). These are a food related items that have caught my attention as I decompress from this event:

The results of my poll were hardly conclusive, but it's an odd coincidence that this article appeared just after the poll closed - it looks like the Japanese are breeding "safe" fugu, and the traditionalists are up in arms:
“We won’t approve it,” Hisashi Matsumura, the president of the Shimonoseki Fugu Association and vice president of the National Fugu Association, said of the legalization of fugu liver. He added, “We’re not engaging in this irrelevant discussion.”

Harper's has a great article about Raw Milk, at the same time a Pennsylvania farmer was arrested and his Raw Milk product seized. I have mixed feelings about the latter, as I noted some time ago at A Hunger Artist. ETA It appears the farmer in question has been fined $4,300.

It appears that if you serve foie gras from geese fed naturally, rather than by gavage, you can still find your restaurant picketed.

I have touched upon food for fuel and its affect on food prices well you are going to really start feeling it at the market.

Finally, the Dodge Road Elementary production of The Little Mermaid opens today featuring my youngest as Ursula, the Sea Witch - break a leg, Beezil!

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -