Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bennigans and Steak and Ale - no more???

Looks like the mortgage crisis has affected the restaurant biz as well. S&A Restaurant Corp filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Not sure if this means the franchises of Bennigans and Steak and Ale will be gone forever.

Kinda sad, since my mom used to treat me to Steak and Ale as a wee lad...always fun, since this was the first time I would create my own dish at the salad bar. Oh well, all good things come to an end...I wonder if Butters would flip out about Bennigans closing?

Ruth Chris Deal...

Looks like Bennigans and Steak and Ale aren't the only ones struggling for customers. Ruth's Chris is offering a 3 course meal for 2 for $89 - great value considering a steak there usually runs $40. Just to let you know, I've been there twice and the steak was decent, but way overpriced imho. However, this deal seems to good to pass up. Not sure the exact details, but I believe this deal is available till the end of the summer at select Ruth's Chris locations, so call before you go...

Ginga Kougen

Ginga Kougen Silver Bottle*
by Ginga Kougen

5% ABV
40 IBU (speculation)

I stumbled upon this beer Saturday on my way to a friend's house for dinner.
We were asked to bring some ingredients vital to the meal so we stopped by at Sunrise Market in the East Village.
This might be the most pleasant Hefe Weizen Beer I've had in recent memory.
There were a variety of imported beers from Japan and this unfiltered wheat beer bottle caught my eye.
It seems these guys adhere to the strict German beer laws and the malts and hops are all imported from Germany.
Head - Super White Head
Body - Medium Tan, Slightly Muddy Brown

Nose - Very Pleasant
Taste - Surprisingly flavorful with great balance. Makes for easy drinking.
Finish - 5 second finish
Recommended Pairing - Probably great with sushi.

Star Ratings
*** Out of this world
** Very very good. Order it when available
* Solid / Great beer

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Breville Juice Plus

Received the Breville Juice Plus as a great wedding present. The first juice I made was fresh apple juice. It is unbelievable in flavor, unlike anything you'll ever have. The sweetness and the flavor of the juice will have your guests thinking you've added sugar or artificial really is that sweet and amazing. Also, incredibly easy to use. Just drop halved apples in the shoot and watch the juice pour out.

Definitely a fun toy, but here are some issues that I have.
  • Cost to make juice - Although the apple juice was phenomenal, it takes a ridiculous amount of apples to make apple juice. I used 10 apples which equated to about $15 to make 2 quarts of juice - hella expensive.
  • Frothiness - there's a froth remover, but it looks like it leaves half the juice content behind. The froth is different from the pulp...the pulp is strained out in a different container.
  • False advertising - The juicer advertises that it can fit whole apples without peeling or coring the apple. It definitely does not fit whole apples...had to always cut my apples in two.
With that said, I do love the juicer and I think I need to include things like watermelon or oranges to get more juice per dollar. My main use of the juicer will be some fruits that I can't know, just check your fridge out. There's probably some apple or orange that's been there for a week or more. Good way to prevent waste.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bluefin - Extinction?

Looks like the sushi craze is spreading to China. Big problem according to this article from AFP. I guess when the most populous country in the world starts consuming sushi, there is a big concern on the extinction of bluefin tuna. The problem still lies with Japan as they consume 85% of the tuna in the world. Curious to see if consumption of salmon sushi would affect the salmon population as well...usually when I think of sushi in the US it's always tuna or salmon...

Hop Devil

Hop Devil
by Victory Brewing Company

6.7% ABV
90 IBU

High bitters. As suggested, the 90 IBUs is quite overwhelming. Hoppy nose and initial flavor is pleasant. But the bitters are one dimensional and doesn’t harmonize with the malts very well.
Head - Medium White Head
Body - Brown

Nose - Hoppy. Piney and Citric
Taste - Strong bitters with very little balance with malts. Not very impressed.
Finish - 3 seconds
Recommended Pairing

Star Ratings
*** Out of this world
** Very very good. Order it when available
* Solid / Great beer

Monday, July 28, 2008

Light Summer Time Cooking 2008

Went back to visit the parents and decided to make them a nice light summer dinner. I wanted to do some Indian spices offset by some sweet fruits. The meal came out great - nice and light, but very flavorful. Great eating outdoors on a breezy summer day.

Waldorf Salad
I love a waldorf salad, which is perfect for the summer time. When you have fresh ripe fruits, you get this combination of awesome textures and flavors - creamy, juicy, crispy, and sweet. Traditionally, I believe the Waldorf Salad is apples, grapes, and walnuts only. Use whatever fruits you like - just make sure you get some crispy and juicy fruits. I like adding the arugula since it's a little crispy, but very peppery which plays a nice contrast to the sweet fruits. One of the rare recipes that does not require additional salt.

2 Ripe Peaches cut in 1 inch cubes
3 Fuji Apples cut in 1 inch cubes
3/4 cup red seedless grapes halved
3/4 cup toasted walnuts broken into smaller pieces
1 lime
1 cup Arugula
1 cup Kefer (yogurt with some fiz going on)
1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1) Whisk together Kefer and mayonnaise in a bowl - make sure to taste and adjust. Kefer will add the tang/pop and the mayo will add the fat. The dressing should be runny.
2) Add peaches, apples, grapes, and walnuts to the dressing. Squeeze half lime juice over the fruit to prevent browning and to waken up the flavors. Combine thoroughly for even coating.
3) Add arugula and stir together gently to not crush the arugula. Should still be crispy and hold it's shape. Like all salads make sure that it's not drowning in dressing. Everything should just be coated enough without sitting in a pool of dressing. Serve immediately otherwise the arugula will be soggy.

Salmon Tikka with Moroccan Cous Cous
Been wanting to cook a tikka dish for a while and figured the summer would be a great time for it. This dish is jam packed with flavors. Complex spices cut through the fatty salmon, which is very refreshing when eaten with the waldorf salad. The cous cous also has this complex flavor with the cinnamon and cumin. The juicy raisins and crunchy walnuts adds a nice textural contrast and balances the complex spiced fish. Light, refreshing and more importantly flavorful and satisfying.

1/2 cup garlic minced
1/2 cup ginger minced
1 bunch cilantro
1 cup whole fat yogurt
1 1/2 pounds salmon pin bones removed, skin on
1/2 onion thinly sliced
1 lemon
1 package shan chicken tikka bbq spices (I find Shan to be the best in Indian/Pakistani spices)
1 cup golden raisins sitting in 1 cup of white wine for 1 hour
1/2 cup toasted walnuts broken into smaller pieces
1 cup cous cous
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt

1) Add 3/4 cup spice mix and completely cover the salmon. Make sure to pat the spice in.
2) Combine garlic, ginger, 1/2 the cilantro, and yogurt in a large zip lock bag. Add the salmon in and massage yogurt mix into the salmon. Seal up the bag and let sit for 4 hours in the fridge.
3) Pre-heat oven to 375F and put a baking try inside. After 4 hours, remove the salmon from the fridge and let it sit for 15 minutes. Remove the salmon from the bag and remove the excess mix. Add to the tray and let it cook for 8-12 minutes until medium rare. Remove, sprinkle the rest of the spice mix on and let sit for 10 minutes tented in aluminum foil.
4) Add the cous cous, 1 cup of water, cinnamon, cumin, and white wine from the raisins to a small pot. Cook over medium low heat until cooked completely - 5 minutes. When finished, add the raisins, walnuts, and most of the remaining cilantro leaves - mix well.
5) To plate, add the cous cous to a plate, top with slices of the salmon. Drizzle the lemon juice on top, and top with clinantro leaves and onions to garnish. Buono appetito!

Here's a picture of a beef short rib dish my mom made from the Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way book. Not sure how she cooked it exactly, but I think it was sear the beef in a pressure cooker then add the potatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic; cover with wine and cook in the pressure cooker for 30 minutes. It was incredibly tender and and flavorful!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Racer 5

Racer 5 **
by Bear Republic Brewing Company

7% ABV
70 IBU

The hops blew me away. The moment I stuck my nose in the beer, it was all HOPS. Love it. Beautiful white fluffy head with great lacing. Light amber body and goes down your throat perfectly.
Enjoy this great Californian IPA chilled. Our summers are better with Racer 5 IPA.

Head - Bright White Head
Body - Light Amber

Nose - Big Hops.
Taste - Great flavors. Hoppy (Columbus and Cascade)!
Finish - 10 seconds of bitter, followed by mild malts.
Recommended Pairing -

Star Ratings
*** Out of this world
** Very very good. Order it when available
* Solid / Great beer

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cheese Steak in Burlington, VT

It is currently 11:58pm Wednesday the 23rd.

Just wolfed down a cheesesteak from Kounty Kart Deli on Main St.
It was pretty f'n good.
No joke. Top 3 all time.
The beef was flavorful and stuck to the cheese very well. The bread had this day old flavor to it that some how made the beef and melted cheese taste that much better.
Solid food!
What a way to end the night.

As for Burlington...
Everyone here is very friendly, and the majority of the population are girls. 5 to 2 ratio it seems.
The locals tell me this place is nicknamed "Girlington".

The local karaoke scene is pretty intense as well. People were belting out good 'ol rock tunes like Billy Idol, Black Sabbath, and even our beloved BonJovi. And doing it well.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Paulaner - Hefeweizen

Paulaner Hefe-Weizen
by Paulaner Bauerei (Munich, Germany)

5.6% ABV
20 IBU

Cloudy orange, with big fluffy off-white head.
A great thing about hefeweizens are that you get to really practice your pour.
Pretty refreshing beer. Has great citrusy flavors. Some say they detect spices and herbs. I guess I will just have to taste more.
Head - Big and fluffy
Body - Cloudy orange

Nose - Citric and viscous
Taste - Quite refreshing
Finish - 5 seconds
Recommended Pairing - ?

Star Ratings
*** Out of this world
** Very very good. Order it when available
* Solid / Great beer

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Indian Food Takeout

So, here's a great tip the next time you want to get some takeout for lunch. Try hitting up an Indian buffet. can get take out at some Indian restaurants using the buffet dishes. The other day I was craving some chicken tikka masala. Called up the local Indian restaurant for some Chicken Tikka Masala. The cost - $16. A tad bit too much for a basic lunch, but surprisingly they offered a take out deal where I could fill up a styrofoam container with all the items in the buffet. This was a dream come true. Not only could I get my tikka masala from the buffet, but I added 4 other curries in the container as well. Add the nan bread and you get a spectacular $10 deal. Now, I'm not sure if this deal is offered at all Indian joints, but it doesn't hurt to ask...and you're welcome!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dogfish Head 90

90 Minute IPA ***
by Dogfish Head

9% ABV
90 IBU

My absolute favorite beer right now.
My first sip was something magical.
It was like kissing a girl for the first time. Sensations raced through my veins, and like Remy in Ratatouille describes it, "flavors exploded in my mouth".
A parade of tastes marching on my tongue.
Considered an Imperial IPA because of it's higher ABV(alcohol by volume).
This Indian Pale Ale is brewed by the boys at Dogfish Head (Milton, Delaware).
Pairs very well with dishes with garlic and strong flavors. I'm going to attempt pairing this with Kalbi (Korean BBQ)
Charcuterie would also work well I think. Dogfish's 60 would this it's little brother.
Head - Puffy White Head
Body - Dark Amber Body

Nose - Amazingly floral. Citric Hoppiness.
Taste - Full flavor. Refined complexity with their hops and malts. Great balance.
I got hints of liquored raisins, floral citric hops, and slight smoke.
Finish - Huge finish. 20 seconds of bliss.
Recommended Pairing - Instead of a big Merlot, I'd have this with a nice grilled steak any day.

Star Ratings
*** Out of this world
** Very very good. Order it when available
* Solid / Great beer

Friday, July 18, 2008

Double Smoked Bacon

Schaller & Weber has been making sausages and processed meats in NYC for over half a century now.
71 years to be exact.
Their products are always great, and it feels good to support local craftsmen these days.
They minimize their use of products that have been raised with hormones or antibiotics. Their plant is state of the art and consistently scores the highest marks with the USDA and other food inspections.

But enough about the company.
I want to talk about their Double Smoked Bacon.
Yah, this one of those things you should keep in your refrigerator at all times.

I can not stress how good this is. There's just so much good smoke in each bite. There's something from Tennessee that's in the market right now that rivals this bacon. But when it comes to NY or Tennessee, why not support the local guy?
It makes for a great flavoring component when making soups. You can also cut it up and simply sautée them for a little bite sized snack.
No matter how you serve them, people will ask where they can pick up a pack.
It really is that good.


Specially dry cured and slowly smoked the old farm style to give it a hearty smoke flavor. Use to flavor vegetable soups, salads and, of course, terrific with eggs. ( Vacuum Packed )

nutritional facts

Total Fat(g)......................................................3.5
Saturated Fat(g)...........................................1.5
Trans Fat(g).....................................................0
Total Carbohydrates(g)...........................1

Vitamin A 0% | Vitamin C 0% | Calcium 0% | Iron 0%

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pesto Sauce made with Fromage Fort

Had a ridiculous amount of leftover basil from the ratatouille and leftover fromage fort, so I said pesto makes sense to me. This was definitely the best pesto sauce I've ever had any where. The fromage fort adds an intense cheese flavor to the pesto which is surprisingly very, very good. The pesto was uber juicy (the key to most pastas) without being watery. Add that to perfectly cooked chewy (al dente) pasta and I'm definitely happy happy.

Ingredients (all are guesses, since I never measure)
3 cups basil
1 1/2 cup Grated Refrigerated Fromage Fort(recipe here)
1 cup toasted Pine Nuts (cook pine nuts over medium heat with no oil in a pan for one minute)
1-2 garlic cloves
2 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup pasta water
1/2 box penne (preferably De Cecco)
Salt and pepper

1) In a food processor (or pestle and mortar), add the garlic cloves and pine nuts and pulse a couple times until everything is relatively fine. Avoid the temptation of adding loads of garlic cloves, since that overpowers everything else. Scrape down the bowl and pulse some more. Add the basil and fromage fort, drizzle in a little olive oil and pulse until completely combined. You may need to add more olive oil and repulse until you get get a relatively loose consistency (maybe one cup of oil total). Add salt and pepper, repulse and taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Deposit pesto in a large bowl.
2) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a large handful of salt and cook the pasta till perfectly al dente - 15 seconds of the recommended cooking time, maybe like 9 minutes. Make sure to reserve at least 1/2 cup of pasta water.
3) Remove pasta from the pot, add to the pesto and stir together. The pesto sauce will be a little tight, so add some pasta cooking water and stir some more. The key here is again to get the pasta juicy without it being watery - you will notice that the pasta will be a little shiny. Add a little bit at first, since you can always add more later. You know if you've added too much water if you see any excess water at the bottom of the bowl. Unlike most pasta sauces, pestos are never cooked in the pan - cooking definitely mellows out the flavor too much. Buono Appetito!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Palo Santo Marron

Palo Santo Marron **
by Dogfish Head

12% ABV
55 IBU

This dark brown ale is awesome! Huge dark chocolate start, mid vanilla and finishes with burnt caramel and brown sugar. Also finishes with heavy bitters.
The beer is aged in Peruvian Palo Santo Wood and in addition, wooden planks are thrown into the tank for extra flavor.
I got a bit of Cream Cola as well.
Head - Very light head, thin dark brown head. Very little carbonation.
Body - Pitch black

Nose - Chocolate
Taste - Dark Chocolate, Vanilla, Burnt Caramel, Cream Cola. 25/75 Hops to Malts on the tongue.
Finish - 8 second finish. Leaves nice coating of caramel and cream cola behind.
Recommended Pairing - I can imagine some hearty sausages would go great with this beer.

Star Ratings
*** Out of this world
** Very very good. Order it when available
* Solid / Great beer

La Fin Du Monde

La Fin Du Monde *
by Unibroue (Sapporo)

9% ABV
60 IBU

This triple fermented ale is very good. Very easy on the palate.
It's a pretty beer with very controlled hops and malts. Well balanced.
Head - Fluffy White Head
Body - Decent Lacing.

Nose - Great initial nose. You know you are about to drink something pleasant.
Taste - Light spices. Hints of Coriander seeds and Cloves. 50/50 Hops to Malts on the tongue.
Finish - 8 - 10 second finish. Leaves a clean finish on the palate.
Recommended Pairing - Went well with Roncal cheese. Good synergies.

Star Ratings
*** Out of this world
** Very very good. Order it when available
* Solid / Great beer

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lagers vs Ales

Last week, we ran a little Poll regarding preference between Lagers and Ales.
And thank you all who participated.
The question was...

Which of these are you most likely to drink next?

Lager (e.g. Pilsner, Helles, Dunkel, Bock, Oktoberfest, etc...)
Ale (e.g. Pale Ale, IPA, Porter/Stout, etc...)

and 85% of you replied Ale.
I'd like to think our viewers have great taste, because I voted "Ale" as well.

Here are some startling statistics of national and worldwide sales of these two styles of beers.

National (USA) :
98% Lagers
2% Ales

Worldwide :
95% Lagers
5% Ales

Beer in general was discovered over 2700 years ago.
And the original beer was an Ale. A top fermenting yeast was used and though accident or miracle, something special was discovered.
Over time, and through many accidents and tremendous patience, Lagers (bottom fermenting yeasts) were made and the trend in beer drinking shifted to this lopsided statistic we have today.

Great lagers are delicious. But for the most part, we have (bad lagered beers) Budweiser, Heineken, and Corona doing their thing here in the states and taking up a lion's share of the sales.

A bit of trivia...
-In the US, Budweiser commands 52% of the market share.
The produce over 100 million barrels of beer a year.

-At the brewery, Anheuser-Busch reports a 1.5% spillage during bottling.
That in layman's terms means they spill more beer than a Craft Brewery like Sam Adams makes all year.

Latest News...
Budweiser and InBev
Does this mean no more original Bud? Or just that Budweiser now has more markets to sell their watered down beer?
For those of you who may not know... InBev already owns many familiar names.
Beck's, Bass, Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, Leffe to name a few.
And now, all of Anheuser-Busch's repertoire.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rustic Ratatouille

I recently watched Anthony Bourdain's Into the Fire and Ratatouille (the movie) immediately afterwards. Watching both back to back is great since they both detail exactly how a kitchen is run in a weirdly similar fashion. Unsurprisingly, Bourdain is mentioned in the Ratatouille credits so I'm assuming he had something to do with that. Any who - watching both episodes inspired me to make (surprise, surprise) ratatouille. In the movie, Remi make a bayardi which I feel does not have the complexity of flavor as a ratatouille. I've made ratatouille in the past, but there's always issues with mine, so I decided to tweak the recipe a little. In the past I cut the veg into 1 inch or 1/2 inch dices, but I decided to make the dices much bigger this time around. Also, I cooked the eggplant separately, since that usually turns to mush or is the opposite and is spongy. Below are my results and they came out surprisingly good - meaty, sweet, and juicy vegetables. I steamed catfish for the protein and it made for a ridiculously satisfying meal.

1 medium Eggplant cut into 2 inch dices
2 small Zucchini cut into 2 inch dices
2 small Yellow Squash cut into 2 inch dices
3 Plum Tomatoes cut into 2 inch dices - seeded
1 yellow onion sliced 1 inch thick
3 garlic cloves thinly sliced
1 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup White Wine
1 tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves (or pinch of dry)
Fresh Basil Leaves
3/4 pound catfish fillet skin removed (make sure this is the freshest)
Sea Salt and pepper
Slices of multigrain bread

1) Over medium heat, cook the eggplant in 1/4 cup olive oil in a large sautee pan. Add salt and pepper. Brown the eggplant lightly on both sides (maybe 3-5 minutes). Add 1/2 the wine, lower the heat and cover for 3-5 minutes. Taste the eggplant. It should almost be cooked all the way through - and slightly spongy. If not, continue cooking until you get to that point. Remove eggplant.
2) Remove all but 2 tbsp of oil and return heat to medium. Add zucchini, yellow squash, and onions. Add salt, pepper, and thyme. Brown on both sides.
3) Add garlic and tomato. Cook for another 2 minutes. Make sure to scrape the brown bits (fond) on the bottom of the pan.
4) Add eggplant back and gently stir everything together. Lay fish on top. Salt, pepper, and drizzle olive oil on both sides of the fish. Add white wine, tomato seeds, and some fresh basil (reserve some for later). Reduce heat to low. After 10-12 minutes, check the fish - it should be moist and flaky.
5) Toast the bread with olive oil, salt, and pepper (toaster oven or oven only please).
6) To serve, make sure to get a bit of everything in the bowl. Top with fresh shredded basil and the remaining olive oil. Eat with the toasted bread. could toss it with pasta which is a favorite of mine...or toss it with rice pilaf. Buono Appettito!

I Made Flan

I wasn't thinking about doing it when I woke up or anything. In fact, I'm really not a flan fan (pun intended). But I was invited to a friends' place, and when I asked the typical "what can I bring, and don't be shy" question, they answered with the typical "wine” but then added “or dessert - flan if you can find it" and then chuckled , since it's not like going to the grocery store and picking up pound cake. Well... because they are good hosts, I decided to be a good guest. And I tried my hand at making flan. I didn't have a lot of time, since I still needed to get ready, buy ingredients, etc., etc., etc. I went through several links online to get a general idea, but in the end, it was this URL by LaGasse that I took the most notes from, mainly because it looked quick:

Though I grew up eating flan, which is probably why it bores me, I'm not a connoisseur by any means. I know what it's supposed to taste and look like, and I can tell which ones taste better and have better texture, but after that, I don't get excited over it like my friends do whenever seeing it on a menu at a Latin restaurant. In fact, I don't think I've ever ordered it myself. I give that disclaimer so you have that in mind when I describe the outcome.

For me, I was quite impressed with the way it looked. Everyone else at dinner seemed to have had the same reaction. The really enjoyed the caramel topping and how reflective it was and the silkiness of the actual flan itself. I served it to everyone and actually let everyone take a couple bites before I even served myself. I made sure they felt comfortable to give me proper feedback and not be shy, and they genuinely seemed to like it. Some a lot, in fact. One person did mention the caramel part seemed bitter, but I did see her spoon some more over her own piece of flan and even go in for seconds. For me? It was, well… flan. Nothing else. Boring ol’ flan that I’m used to. It did, however, have a hint of a burnt taste to it. It wasn’t burnt or anything, but to me, I just tasted it. Nobody concurred.

All in all, people seemed to like it. Perhaps I’ll make it again another time, since I see how easy it is. I may even experiment and throw in some cream cheese, maybe fruit, or substitute/add cinnamon instead of nutmeg, try coffee, etc. If I do, you know I’ll post it here.

And while I’m blogging on this flog, I can’t pass up mentioning my hosts’ spaghetti dinner. The sauce was quite good. In fact, if they left me in the room alone, I would have finished a lot more than the two servings that I had including thoroughly licking the bowl clean. Meatballs? No. We’re talking Italian sausage, baby. Da good stuff. Had a little spice to kick up the heat. The rest of the sauce had the health factor with large chunks of carrots and other goodness. Now I’m thinking I should have asked for leftovers. Two days later, and I think that sauce should probably taste even better. I wonder if she’s free for dinner. Hmmm…

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The World's Hottest Curry

Here's a link to a news article about a London restaurant serving the world's hottest Indian curry. Interesting fact in the article - I always thought the Habanero pepper was the hottest pepper in the world, but I guess that distinction goes to the Indian Naga Pepper which is 100x hotter than a jalapeno.

David Chang at Momofuku Noodle Bar

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Harpoon IPA

Harpoon IPA
by Harpoon Brewery

5.9% ABV
50-60 IBU

Orange Amber pour, with very little head.
You may have to pour aggressively to get a little white head.
It is bitter from beginning, middle to end.
Other than the bitters, there's not much else.
Head - Minimal. White.
Body - Orange/Amber. Kinda like a Brandy.

Nose - Slightly hoppy and candylike.
Taste - Bitter
Finish - 5 seconds of bitterness
Recommended Pairing - ?

Star Ratings
*** Out of this world
** Very very good. Order it when available
* Solid / Great beer

Allagash White

Allagash White
by Allagash

5.5% ABV
35 IBU

An OK Belgian style white.
Cloudy (due to the yeast in the bottle) but crisp.
The spice noted on the bottle is hard to detect.
Head - White Head
Body - Cloudy. Like a Usu-nigori for Sake.

Nose - Mild Yeast
Taste - Not much to write about. Somewhat your average good Belgian White.
Finish - 5 second finish.
Recommended Pairing - Nothing has stood out for me yet.

Star Ratings
*** Out of this world
** Very very good. Order it when available
* Solid / Great beer

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dogfish Head 60

60 Minute IPA **
by Dogfish Head

6% ABV
60 IBU

A fantastic India Pale Ale brewed by the intense boys at Dogfish Head (Milton, Delaware).
Surprisingly paired very well with Chinese food.
Head - Puffy White Head
Body - Dark Amber/Orange

Nose - Citrusy Hops
Taste - Piney, strong bitter hops with malty undertones. 65/35 Hops to Malts on the tongue.
Finish - 5 second finish. Leaves slight dryness on palate urging you to take another sip.
Recommended Pairing - General Tso's Chicken (give it a try. it was a pleasant surprise)

Star Ratings
*** Out of this world
** Very very good. Order it when available
* Solid / Great beer

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Science Experiment Gone… Right!

I made a pizza but wanted it to be uber-healthy. Besides the cheese and the crust, I think I accomplished it nicely. I should have taken pictures along the way, but quite honestly, it looked like a train-wreck. That is, until I pulled the finished product out of the oven. So many times I leave my camera in the car on purpose but later I regret it. This was one of those times. You could have seen the ugly duckling changing into a beauty of a swan. The taste was even better. Even next-day leftovers were delicious. Here’s how –

Boboli pizza crust (I know, I know)
Boboli pizza sauce (I know, I know)
Crushed red pepper
Cayenne pepper
Thiiiin sliced red onions
Sliced garlic
Sliced mushrooms
Fresh Basil
½ Orange pepper sliced into thin strips
½ Red pepper sliced into thin strips
Blue crab meat
Cheese = some from Mexican blend and some from bag of 4 cheese mix

I put a crust on a pizza stone, and I put another crust on a cookie sheet. I had 3 packets of the pizza sauce, and I used all of them. I sprinkled crushed red pepper and Cayenne pepper onto the sauce. I put down a thin layer of cheese. You could still see the sauce. While I was doing this, I pan roasted the sliced red onions and garlic. I began to lay down the flat toppings so down went the basil, shrooms, spinach, garlic/onions straight from the pan, and the orange/red pepper strips. Another thin layer from each of the two bags of cheeses. A little more than last time, however. Finally, the scallops and shrimp went down and topped it off with the blue crab meat. The meat was crumbled, and I tried to make crab balls; that didn’t work too well. I sprinkled the meat on top, so this pizza was looking thicker and uglier and uglier. I topped everything with some more cheese, and into the 375 degree preheated oven they went for 27 minutes. When the timer sounded, I was kind of worried on what I will see. When I opened the door and turned on the oven light, I ran to get my camera. It was a thing of beauty. I let them sit for about 5 minutes so the roof of my mouth won’t turn to bloody spaghetti, and dove in. Yum-o. (Hi Rachael!) It was nice to have a scallop or some other morsel in every bite. The presentation was nice with shrimp and other bits rising from the cheese. I did notice a big difference from using my pizza stone to the cookie sheet where the stone won. The sides were crispy, and made it more enjoyable. The only downside was the center of the crust was much softer than the outer edges. I think the way to cure it is to add fewer toppings in the middle and use a hotter oven.

Next time, I’ll make the sauce and either make my own crust or get one from the local pizzeria.

Gimme a "C" and a Manhattan Special

Whether I like it or not, Jersey's my home state. And therefore it's special to me.
And if I had to make a short list of 5 things that sum up Jersey, they'd be :
Bon Jovi, Atlantic City, the Jersey Shore, Sinatra, and Hoboken.

And in Hoboken there's a very special eatery known to the locals as Biancamano's.

M & P Biancamano

1116 Washington St
Hoboken, NJ 07030
(201) 795-0274

This little mom and pop hole -in-the-wall serves one mean sub.
Aramis pointed this place out to me when I asked him where I could find a "Manhattan Special".
He said that Biancamano would have it and that I should order a "C" sandwich with the drink.
Manhattan Special was highlighted in the New York Times this past weekend.

So off to Biancamano I went.
The "C" is one monster of a sub.
Filled with :
Soprasat (Soppressata),
Gabagoo (Capicola),

Proshoot (Prosciutto),
fresh Mooz (Mozzarella),
Peppas (Roasted Peppers),

on a hard roll.

I can't put my finger on it, but it works. Although they use Thumann's meats, which basically is a poor quality product, they manage to pull it off with a surprisingly delicious sub.
The sports analogy says it best.
The "team" is greater than the sum of the individuals.

When we put all these things together, it's just so damn satisfying.
It's juicy, yet resistant, has great chew, but not too much. And has tons of flavor.
Suck this down with a Manhattan Special and you know you're in Hoboken.
You can almost hear Sinatra in the background and see imaginary kids playing stick ball out on the street.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Leftover Soup and Fromage Fort

After making a simple salad, I decided to apply the same concept to soup - again ala Jacques Pepin. The hook here is using a simple base and tossing in vegetables that aren't in prime condition. Now, I'm not saying putting in rotting vegetables, but vegetables that you wouldn't necessarily buy from the supermarket. In this case, the chicory from my simple wasn't rotting, but it definitely lost it's crispiness. Need to amp up the base flavor, but in a pinch this is still a satisfying and flavorful soup and a great way to not waste food.

1/2 head Chicory that was cut into salad sized pieces (or any other vegetable shredded - aka zucchini, carrots, cabbage, etc.)
1 onion thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
3 cups good quality chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp white wine
Salt and Pepper
Multi grain bread sliced - surprisingly Garden of Eden's is great and Whole Food's is below average
Fromage Fort (recipe below)

1) Sautee onions and bay leaf with 1/2 the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat stirring and making sure not to burn.
2) Once the onion turns a light golden color toss in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Toss in the wine and cook for 15-30 seconds until the alcohol evaporates.
3) Add the chicory, chicken broth, salt and pepper and cook for 15-20 minutes.
4) Toast bread with olive oil, salt, and pepper
5) When finished taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add soup to bowl and add olive oil to taste. On the side smear the fromage forte on the bread. The nutty bread mixed with the rich cheese, dipped into the soup makes for some hella tasty eating.

Fromage Forte
Picked this up again for Mr. Jacques Pepin. Basically a good way to get rid of a bunch of old cheeses. I used good cheeses (not supermarket ones) that were developing mold. According to the dudes at bobolink, they mentioned good quality cheese are still good after they develop mold - just cut it off and it should be OK. I would ask your local cheese monger to double check before doing this though. Any who - when you blend the cheeses, you get a very strong uber cheese flavor.

A whole mess load of grated or cubed cheeses - I used Piave, cheddar, and a stinky brie
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic finely minced

1) Add butter and garlic in a medium sauce pan over low heat.
2) Add grated cheese and white wine.
3) Whisk until completely smooth maybe 7-10 minutes. Make sure to watch out since the cheese can burn easily. This can be prevented by whisking often. Enjoy, you basically made a fondue...

Tasty Sushi in VT

Due to work, I find myself in various places off the beaten path lately.
And I am fascinated with what the locals eat and rave about.
The pics in this post are from Asiana House in Burlington, VT.

The food here is adventurous and tasty!
Traditionalists will cringe, but seriously, we're not here to compare Tsukiji with Burlington, VT.
Tons of crab sticks and mayo.
Seriously... what's there not to love?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

August - Brunch Review

August - Recommended (for brunch)
30 W 26th St, New York 10010
Btwn 5th & 6th Ave
Phone: 212-255-4544

Met up Mr Risotto for brunch and wanted to find a nice outdoor joint. Did some research on the Internets and came across August which we've always wanted to do for lunch. Solid brunch, albeit worthless outdoor seating - it was almost 20 degrees hotter outside since their patio was encased in glass. Overall, I give the restaurant a 84/100

My Menu

1) Fritatta of the day (braised lamb) **
2) Swiss Potato *

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way
* Good

** Great

*** What the F – in a good way

Dish Comments
1) A great fritata - creamy eggs, a pinch of fresh jalapeno (very nice touch), and ridiculously flavorful braised lamb. It was so good, it totally makes me want to make a frittata at home.
2) Basically a rosti, which is grated onion, potato, and cheese. Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside. Onion added a nice depth of flavor and sweetness to it. The rosti's I've had in the past had a layer of gruyere on the top, but this didn't have one.

Overall Restaurant Experience (84/100)

  • Food 8.5/10 – Very solid brunch that gets cooked in a wood oven, which imparts nice flavors.
  • Service 8.5/10 – The host and waitresses were very friendly and easy on the eyes. Food came out promptly.
  • Atmosphere 8.8/10 – Definitely dig the feel of the place - kinda like Peasant with the brick walls and the wood burning oven for all to see. But like, most joints in the area the place is very tiny maybe seating like 30 people inside. Like I said, the outside maybe nice during the fall but during the crazy hot NYC summer it's ridiculously hot. Crowd consisted of young couples, and groups of female friends. Arrived at 12:30pm on a Sunday and we were seated as soon as Mr. Risotto showed up...caveat that everyone there had a reservation
  • Price 8.0/10 – About $12 a plate for the brunch. For the flavor and service, it was definitely worth it.
Closing Comments
Solid brunch location that I am 100% coming back to. Gotta try the dinner menu next time.

Monday, July 7, 2008


So phase II of operation "Van Choc Stout" was completed a few days ago.
We needed to rack the beer and remove it from our dry hop bag and also the unwanted funk floating on top.

As you can see in these pics, our first fermentation tank was a total success and pretty much on it's way to being a great brew. (sorry... inevitable parental pride)
Don't want to jinx it, but just can't help it. It's utterly exciting.

Here you see a clear "racked" carboy of the beer.
Another 2 weeks of fermentation and then we are ready to bottle condition.

The "Van Choc Stout" is a triple fermented Stout so when we bottle, we are going to add a small amount of sugars into the batch and ignite one more stage of fermentation. This is called "Bottle Conditioning".

It's been holding steady at 75 to 78 degrees F for the first 2 weeks (State I fermentation).
I have set the thermostat to 76 degrees for the remainder of Stage II fermentation.

Link to previous post
Stage I

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hot Chestnut

I'm at the gym today doing healthy stuff, and as usual, ESPN is on TV. The sport? Nathan's Hot Dogs on Coney Island's Annual Hot Dog Eating contest. It had everyone's attention. And for the second year in a row, Joey Chestnut won. Actually, he tied, and then won in overtime. Read the story here:

This part of the article made me chuckle:

“Hot dogs are extremely unhealthy, especially when eaten at high volume,” he said. “They’re really processed, they have high cholesterol and too much salt.”
And thanks to the quantities the competitors ate, they’ll likely suffer nausea, bloat, headache, and possibly high blood pressure for several days as the body slowly digests the food.
“One is bad for you, five’s worse and 50 is terrible,” he said.
Luckily for the svelte first and second-place winners, being in better shape helps in digesting the food.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Peasant Revisited

Met up the fellas for some drinks at Burp Castle and I was craving Italian, so we hit up Peasant - a good old standby. I've always had issues with the service, but the food has always been tasty. This night, we actually found out that downstairs there's the Peasant Wine Bar that serves the same menu as Peasant. Great times and as usual solid food. Standout was the linguine special - nicely cooked pasta with a rich butter sauce and meaty duck livers. Surprisingly, the same lamb dish that I had last time was much worse this time. Much less intense lamb flavor, but overall still tasty. Service was actually much better - an Italian lady served us and was very prepared to sit next to people you don't know, since it's hella tiny.

Our Menu
1) Antipasto Plate **
2) Linguine with Duck Livers (special for the day)**
3) Porchetta *
4) Gnocchi with Fava Beans *
5) Agnello con Polenta *

Happy Birthday USA

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jacques Pepin Inspired Simple Salad

After three weeks of binge eating during the wedding / honeymoon, I wanted a light salad. Reading Jacques's book, I came up with this inspiration. The salad is incredibly light and flavorful, but the poached egg and avocado also make it rich and satisfying. The toasty garlic bread is phenomenal with the poached egg. Previously, I would never eat bread at home (starches for me are reserved to pasta and rice at home), but this really works out and makes it very satisfying...after reading the book, I'm definitely a convert.

1/2 bunch Chicory cut into bite size pieces
2 Cobs of Corn - shucked, kernels cut (scrape the cob down and reserve the corn milk)
Tomato, diced into 1 inch pieces (reserve tomato water and seeds)
1 Avocado, seeded and sliced
4 Eggs
1/2 cup white vinegar
Bowl of Iced water
Multi-grain baguette cut into large slices
1/2 cup Sherry Vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/tsp Apricot Honey
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove minced, 1 garlic clove thinly sliced
Salt and pepper

1) Make the dressing - whisk together corn milk, tomato water/seeds, garlic, vinegar, mustard, honey, olive oil and salt/pepper. Taste and re-season if necessary. The mustard acts more as a binder and adds some flavor. The honey balances the acidity out - don't want it necessarily very sweet.
2) Make the poached egg - bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the white vinegar. Drop the egg directly into the water. Lower to a simmer and immediately begin moving the surface of the water to prevent the egg from falling to the bottom. After 3-4 minutes, remove the egg and add to iced water. Repeat for the other eggs.
3) Place sliced bread in a toaster oven. Olive oil, salt/pepper the bread; then add 1 or 2 slices of sliced garlic on top. Toast until lightly browned - watch to make sure garlic doesn't burn.
4) Combine the corn, tomato, chicory (make sure to get equal parts white and green) - salt and pepper. Add a tiny amount of dressing and mix together...remember to not drench the salad. Plate the salad mixture, add the poached egg, sliced avocado, and toasted bread. Bon Appetit!

Stretching "YOUR" Dollar

This is a picture of finished Iced Chai Grande from the Starbucks in Edgewater, NJ.
I am assuming this is just corporate headquarters instructing all managers to fill their cups up with as much ice to make even more money from the already very expensive beverages they sell.

I mean seriously, I'm paying for a bevie, not ice a-holes!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Rhong-Tiam: Review

Rhong-Tiam - Highly Not Recommeded (for service)
541 La Guardia Pl, New York 10012
Btwn Bleecker & W 3rd St
Phone: 212-477-0600

Our first meal back from Mexico and I wanted some Thai food. Read about this place from the NY Times as they raved about the food comparing it to the great Thai restaurants out in Queens. The food is good, but no where near my fave Sripraphai in Queens. New restaurant, so I know there's always issues but this place is terribly run. Overall, I give the restaurant a 40/100.

My Menu

1) Panang Curry *
2) Drunken Noodles *

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way
* Good

** Great

*** What the F – in a good way

Dish Comments
1) A good panang, but slightly sweeter than I liked. Nothing to really rave about, since this is equivalent to most of the generic panang curries I've had. I wish the flavors popped more. Nevertheless, still tasty.
2) Drunken noodles is my favorite dish from Sripraphai and this is very solid, but nowhere near as good. The NY Times claimed this place is spicy, but I love heat and this dish in
particular could be much spicier. However, it was still very fun to eat - much better than the panang curry.

Overall Restaurant Experience (40/100)

  • Food 7.8/10 – Solid Thai food, but not worthy of the Queens Thai food comparison the NY Times made.
  • Service 0.0/10 – My wife got there and sat in the waiting area and no one spoke to her until I showed up. Then, it took another 15 minutes before we even got a menu and I had to say something to get it. No apologies...then, after ordering, we got our food after 30 minutes even though we ordered 2 easy to make dishes. This is again, after we complained. I understand it's a newer place, but they have no idea what they're doing. Most of the time the waiters were just talking to each other not doing anything...oh and there's this maitre'd with a clipboard and a fancy hat that does absolutely nothing. What a joke...btw - this wasn't just us either as I heard other people complaining about the same things as we left.
  • Atmosphere 7.8/10 – A nicer looking place packed with couples older and slightly younger. Lots of large groups of older men and women as well. Got there at 7pm on a Thursday with no reservations. Were seated promptly after asking to be seated, since no one was talking to any of the customers in the wait area.
  • Price 0.0/10 – If this was for food alone, I would give a score of 7.5/10 since the price wasn't so bad ($12 for a curry)...but the service is so bad, paying for that crap is ridiculous.
This reminds me that service really is a key part of the overall dining experience. If Rhong-Tiam was the best Thai food ever, I would still consider never going back...