Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

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

Monday, June 30, 2008


Though it is starting to be grown in the Pacific Northwest, real Wasabi is rare and expensive. But, Wasabi the restaurant is just around the corner. When Grandma took the girls allowing us a rare date together, we thought we'd give it a try, and it was fabulous. It won't replace Mike's in my heart or tummy, but it's really, really good!

We had the Love Boat. Sorry, no photos. Among other things, we forgot the camera.

Hey, an evening of Sushi, Eddie Izzard, and Sean Bean as Sharpe is tough to beat!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dining in San Antonio - Day 2

We started the day with some trepidation. The evening before, at the bad BBQ place, the person sitting next to us recommended a local tradition for Tex-Mex called Mi Tierra. The trepidation was caused by the fact that this gentleman was enjoying the bad BBQ. He had traveled to SA for it.

But he was a Hispanic- American, and that has to count for something in a recommendation, don't you think?

So we started off the day with one mile jaunt to the Mercado (Market) District, the kind of place tourists go to find stuff for their kids, or if you really need a Chilli Pepper Kippah, as at right.

Mi Tierra may be the first restaurant to challenge Salvatore's of Buffalo for an excess of kitsch, all in a Tex-Mex way, but the food was everything I had hoped for. The Ranchero sauce was a perfect blend of flavors. The flour tortillas a revelation, warm, and fluffy even.

When hot sauce was requested by me, it came not in a bottle, but two ramakins of housemade salsa, one rojo and one verde. Yum.

We ended up making a second hike to the Mercado that afternoon, after a visit to the Alamo, and stopped at La Margarita, a sister restaurant. If you look at the photo, only the right hand third of the bottom shelf is not Tequila. We had a frozen margarita that went down nicely, and it wasnt the last time I would be there!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Here's A Partial Score - George Carlin 42

To anyone from my generation George Carlin was a comedy god. Want me to rattle of the seven words - they are impressed upon my memory engrams! So, under the rights guaranteed me by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, and with no intent to cause public disturbance, I intend to come up with a recipe for Pizza Tits. Or maybe Tater Tits. or . . . .

Requiescat in Pace, George!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Anatomy of a Burger, Part Two – The Cheese

Once I had decided to focus on a variation on a Bacon Cheeseburger, one of the toughest questions was what cheese? I was totally focused on cheddar, my favorite burger cheese, but I knew that what I sought lay somewhere in between a Keen's cheddar (which would be wasted on a burger) and a Land o Lakes piece of plastic.

So I needed expert help, and that meant Premier Gourmet, the place with the best cheese selection in town. And as Andrzejewski suggested, that is a horrible fate to be condemned to.

You see, the deli manager at Premier is a quite lovely lady named Amanda. Better yet, she knows her job and she knows her cheese. After a few pointed questions about what I was trying to achieve with the burger, the sweetness and smokiness of the bacon, the same of the mushroom ketchup, Amanda asked perhaps the most important question in the entire process of developing the burger - why cheddar?

What a great question! Why cheddar? I was focused on it because that's what I like on my burger, a slice good sharp cheddar - sharp enough to cut through the usual condiments. But this was a new playing field.

Amanda selected the first cheese and offered a sample. Marvelous. A flavor I had never contemplated. We spent the next twenty to twenty- five minutes sampling different cheeses - old friends and new. But, in the end I went with Amanda's first choice. The instincts of an expert are worth listening to.

The winner was Beaufort, a raw cow's milk cheese from the Savoie region of France. It is classic mountain cheese - think Gruyère on steroids. It has fruity sweetness, herbaceous notes, and a distinct tang that did all that I wanted from cheddar.

The bottom line, if you live in WNY and want cheese advice, go to Premier Gourmet and talk to Amanda. If you live elsewhere, it pays to get to know your local cheesemonger, and other purveyors. Every cook needs outside advice on occasion!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dining in San Antonio - Day 1

Before I get to San Antonio, a brief word about our layover at Newark. When you have a lengthy layover stuck in an Airport, your food choices can be limited. But our hopes were raised by a neighbor at the school bus stop who told us there was a diner type place with a decent burger at Terminal C. (For the record there was also a steak house with dry-aged ribs and short loins on display, and a Tex-Mex place which seemed redundant considering our destination, don't you think?). The diner was The Garden State Diner.

Yes it's a chain, but I draw a distinction between a local chain like Ted's and a national chain like the Olive Garden. This falls into the latter category.

Irrespective of that it was a good burger at a good price, and a decent meal for an Airport meal.

We got into SA at about 5:30 Central Time, checked into the hotel and met some of the friends we'd be spending the next few days with. We wandered a bit about the Riverwalk (part wonder, part tourist trap). About 7:30 we were really hungry, and the aroma of BBQ beckoned. Texas BBQ was one of the goals on this trip - this wasn't it.

I have said before that I don't do restaurant reviews, so I am not going to identify this place. A
Google search will give you the answer. The meats were properly cooked. The sauce sucked. There is debate in Texas as tho whether the sauce is slathered on the meat or served on the side as a condiment, but nothing I have ever read expresses a description of Texas BBQ other than the Wikipedia definition:

"Texas sauces are tomato based, less sweet than Kansas City and spicier, and are not generally used during cooking, but are used as a table sauce." Look, this may have been an old family recipe, handed down through the generations, but it was sweet and cloying and it looked and tasted an awful lot like Cattlemen's or another foodservice brand.

When you trimmed the sauce off the brisket, it was lovely. And the hot links, minus sauce, were quite good. The sauce gets a big thumbs down.

Oh, and the restaurant was a chain!

But the day did introduce a new friend:

Shiner Bock!

The Anatomy of a Burger, Part One – The Bun

Yes, I really have what Andrew refers to as Cooking Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I made my own buns for the Burger Smackdown.

In repertoire bread and related there of three types I have yet to be fully satisfied with the final product: Rye Bread, Bagels and Hamburger/Hot Dog Rolls. The perfect bun will be somewhere between those 8 packs of insipid grocery store buns and a crusty sourdough roll. I want a softer crust than the latter, as well as a lighter, less dense crumb – soft enough not to obscure the burger, but tight enough to absorb the juices without dissolving.

My current recipe is a constantly evolving variation on David Rosengarten’s Philly Cheesesteak Roll. I have changed over time from oil to trans-fat free shortening and reduced the flour, but it’s still not there. I need a slacker dough. I have even been thinking of experimenting with cake flour.

But the real purpose of this is to raise a variation of a theme that Michael Ruhlman posted on a about six weeks ago – the importance of a kitchen scale, with flour as his primary example. Flour measured by dry measuring cup can vary in weight by as much as 3-4 ounces per measured cup, sometimes even within the same brand. That is why the best books on baking measure by weight as well as volume, the best of the best give that weight in more accurate grams.

But there is another variation between packages of flour, moisture content – not just moisture caused by kitchen humidity, but the moisture content of the flour itself. When we are between trips to the Clinton-Bailey Market, where we usually buy all purpose in 25 lb. bags - bread flour in 50 lb. bags, we get a usual supermarket type brand.
The last 5 lb. two bags, bought at the same store on the same day, were very dry. Both Trish in her sweet baking, and me in my bread work, noted how thirsty the flour was. One loaf of a regularly made bread took almost an additional cup of water.

Whether it was how it was milled, or stored, or how long it was stored, this flour was dryer than usual.

Bottom line, the best cooking tools aren't one you buy. Your eyes, nose, ears, fingers and taste buds are bettere than any machine - and with practice, awfully accurate!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Go West, Old Man

We head for San Antonio tomorrow, a trip that includes a 3.5 hour layover at the Newark Airport. Woo-hoo! I will be posting while away (including some that have been hanging like pregnant chads) and I'll let you know what I have eaten, where I have been and whether the Alamo really has a basement.

Stay tuned!

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

Life's too short to eat bad food -