Archive for January, 2011

Post, Brag, Copy and Chat … With Foodies Just Like You

Thursday, January 27, 2011
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Here’s a pretty cool new website to check out …

Do you take pictures of your food and post them on Facebook? Do you like to show off what’s cookin’ in your own kitchen? Do you like chatting with others about great recipes, cooking tips, unusual ingredients, funny cooking stories or even food catastrophes?

If so, Los Angeles-based Chef Jeffrey Nimer (owner of HauteChefsLA) has created just the site for you. Welcome to the Social Culinaire Network (www.socialculinaire.com), a new online community celebrating all things edible!

You can upload your own photos, create a profile, make your own food photo albums, find out about upcoming events – or simply just join the national “foodie” conversation. Enjoy!

Hankering for Something New? Try a Belgian Brew

Sunday, January 23, 2011
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If you’re looking for something fun (and delicious) to do this week, check out Bridge Road Bistro’s “Belgian Beer Tasting” at 6 p.m. Tuesday. You can sample four different Belgian-style beers – each paired with food to complement it – for just $29, plus tax and gratuity.

On the menu:

  • BAVIK PILS: A light Belgian pilsner with a fine white head, great aroma and forward aftertaste. It will be paired with smoked salmon tartar with avocado and tomato.
  • WITTEKERKE: An unfiltered Belgian wheat beer, which will accompany a grilled duck and Thai basil spring roll with citrus chili peanut sauce.
  • PIRAAT: A Belgian Triple Ale, which is much more bold and rich. You’ll sample it with grilled skewered flank steak seasoned with Caribbean mango jerk.
  • GULDEN DRAAK: This Belgian Dark Triple is a dessert-like sipping beer similar to barley wine. It will be served with a rich flourless chocolate torte with caramel sauce.

Reservations are required by calling the restaurant at 304-720-3500.

Celebrating National Pie Day? Here’s a Little Help

Sunday, January 23, 2011
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So today’s National Pie Day is an especially sweet celebration for pies everywhere. Everyone from Rachael Ray to the New York Times to countless food bloggers are predicting pies will overtake cupcakes as this year’s hottest confection.

But while pie may be the latest treat to tempt taste buds, a recent poll conducted by the folks at Crisco® say Americans still need more than just a little help when it comes to preparing one on their own.

  • Almost three-quarters (74%) of all survey respondents describe their pie-baking abilities as “beginner.”
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) agree that making the crust is the hardest part of baking a pie from scratch.
  • And 59% say pie is the hardest dessert to prepare from scratch.

So for aspiring chefs who plan to attempt their own homemade pie today – or any day of the year – Crisco offers a little expert advice to prevent weepy meringues and soggy crusts. The Crisco Pie Hotline is a one-stop resource to help you bake pies to delicious perfection.

Pie experts can be reached live Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 877-FOR PIE TIPS (877-367-7438). You can also visit www.crisco.com for new recipes, step-by-step instructions, visual demonstrations and helpful hints and tricks.

Chug-A-Lug, Then Chug Some More

Friday, January 21, 2011
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This Double-Big-Gulp, Super-Sized, Triple-Venti drink trend has gotten TOTALLY out of hand.

Before my wife (mostly) kicked a recent crippling Diet Coke habit, I used to make fun of her for walking out of the 7-11 with a vat of soda in her hand. I mean, really, can you be THAT thirsty? Heard of water?

And although a recent bump of corporate guilt-driven downsizing shrank dranks for a while, it looks like those ounces are starting to creep back in. Take a look at this motley crew of the most-searched jumbo drinks on Yahoo:

Top searched XL Drinks on Yahoo!

1.       KFC Mega Jug (64 oz.)

2.       Sonic Route (44 oz.)

3.       7 Eleven Big Gulp (44-40 oz.)

4.       Dunkin Donuts Coolatta (32 oz.)

5.       Gatorade Thirst Quencher (32 oz.)

6.       Starbucks Trenta (31 oz.)

7.       Jamba Juice Power (30 oz.)

8.       Monster Energy Drink (24 oz.)

A 64-ounce soda and a 31-ounce coffee. Seriously?

There’s a Day or Month to Celebrate Just About Anything

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
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If you caught today’s column
(http://charlestondailymail.com/foodandliving/TheFoodGuy/201101181199), you already know there’s a day or month to celebrate just about anything you put in your mouth.

I mentioned that tomorrow is National Cheese Lovers Day, Sunday is National Pie Day and January is National Soup Month. But it’s also Bread Machine Baking Month, National Candy Month, National Egg Month, National Meat Month, National Hot Tea Month, National Oatmeal Month and National Wheat Bread Month and – are you ready for this? – National Prune Breakfast Month.

Plus there’s a food-related celebration almost every day of the year. (No kidding, check it out.)

The list goes on and on, but how do you keep track of it all?

A reader sent me this handy link (http://www.thenibble.com/fun/more/facts/holidays-january.asp) offering a nice round-up.

We just missed Peking Duck Day (yesterday, dang) but can make up for it with National Popcorn Day (today), National Peanut Butter Day (Sunday) and Chocolate Cake Day (Jan. 27).

But if all those treats get you a little, uh, irregular – never fear. February is National Fiber Focus Month.

A Dessert Disaster Turned Tasty Treat

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
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Mousse is one of those desserts I had never made at home because I mistakenly thought it would be too complicated – or just time-consuming – to prepare. I mean, how could something so delightfully luscious be easy, right?

How wrong I was!

I ran across a super-simple recipe last night and whipped up a fantastic dessert in mere minutes. Plus I learned a valuable lesson along the way. (More on that later. Oooh, foreshadowing!)

Here’s all you need to do:

  1. Whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form and place in refrigerator.
  2. Melt 5 ounces of chocolate, any style or flavor, over a double boiler, whisking until smooth. (I used chopped-up milk chocolate bars, but would’ve preferred dark. You can use chocolate baking squares or chips, too.)
  3. When chocolate melts, stir in a splash of vanilla and your choice of liqueur, for added flavor, if desired.
  4. Then fold chocolate into whipped cream until combined and spoon into dessert cups. Chill until set.

So easy, but oh so good.

And I also successfully  – for the first time – rescued chocolate that has seized. If you’ve worked with chocolate much, you know what I’m talking about. If chocolate comes in contact with even the tiniest amount of water while melting, it immediately hardens into a clumpy mess, rendering it unusable. When this has happened to me before, I’ve tried doing what all the books say – just add a bit of cream or butter or oil and stir it back to its proper consistency. Never works.

Last night my chocolate revolted when I added a little  Bailey’s Irish Cream. Turns out the cream base was the problem, so next time I’ll use the rum or brandy suggested. But never fear. I just returned the pan to the double-boiler for a minute and the hardened chocolate quickly re-melted to the same perfect consistency I had before. And once it was mixed in with the cream, no one knew a thing.

Until now, I guess!

The Best Baked Plans of Hungry Men Often Go Awry :(

Thursday, January 6, 2011
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It should’ve worked.

I had some fresh spinach on its last legs, a delicious chunk of seasoned goat cheese on my hands – and a plan! I could take a few items I needed to use up and turn them into a deliciously different dinner for the fam: Yummy Stuffed Chicken. After a quick trip to Kroger for fat chicken breasts, I was ready to go …

I sauteed the spinach in garlic and olive oil until soft and fragrant, then browned the chicken in a hot pan with just a touch of bacon grease to get a nice sear, not to mention added flavor. After removing the chicken to a plate, I carefully cut a slit in each breast and stuffed them with the spinach mixture and a thick slab of the seasoned goat cheese. Then I put them in the oven to bake to juicy perfection.

Which they did.

I checked them when the timer went off and they were gorgeous, juicy and perfectly cooked. I shut the oven door to grab oven mitts and … was immediately distracted by three little hooligans engaged in battle in the living room — armour, Lego artillery, screams and all. By the time I ran in to living room to make sure all were still breathing (and then raced back faster to retrieve my prized poultry) the dang dish was overcooked.

The filling was tasty and the flavors were spot-on, but the meat itself had dried out. Sigh.

But everyone ate, no one complained and the “battle” ended in three boys laughing hysterically on the floor. So I guess we can overlook a little dry chicken.

Bridge Road Bistro Does a Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Dinner

Monday, January 3, 2011
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For those who were intrigued by last week’s post, I gotta tell you that New Year’s Eve at Bridge Road Bistro totally rocked …

We enjoyed toasting the end of 2010 at the restaurant that night with some really great food. (See the full four-course menu a couple of posts down.) My wife had the crab cake, beet salad, striped bass and apple tart, while I enjoyed the quail, baby bibb salad, lamb chops and decadent chocolate cake. Not a sub-par dish in the bunch.

Love that Bistro!

So I Kinda Love “The” Olive Garden, What of It?

Monday, January 3, 2011
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I know I’m supposed to be a serious food writer and all, but I kinda dig the Olive Garden. (And fans do say THE Olive Garden, even though “the” is not part of its name.)

Once the butt of many a chain restaurant jokes, the Olive Garden back in 1999 teamed up with the Culinary Institute of Tuscany in an effort to reinvent itself.

Yeah right, I thought, and was horrified when my editor at the time asked me to go review the new menu for a restaurant critique. “Olive Garden?” I squealed – this is before I became a fan, thus no “the” – “At the mall!?”

But I reported for duty, skeptical wife in hand, to sample some of the new wares. Wow! This was not the Olive Garden I remember.

We started the evening with delicious new appetizers, ended it with impressive baked desserts, and filled the middle with delicious gourmet entrees and nicer quality wines. Amy still talks about the pork loin we enjoyed that night – and it’s been more than 10 years.

Now I seriously don’t go back that often, but I’m always pretty impressed when I do. I think it’s one of the rare national chains that actually keeps getting better instead of resting on its “lowest common denominator” laurels. I adore the Braised Beef and Tortelloni (sliced short ribs tossed with cheesy pasta, mushrooms and a basil-marsala sauce) and just this week I sampled the delicious Vino Bianco Pork Scaloppini featuring pan-seared pork cutlets served with asiago cheese-filled tortelloni tossed with roasted portabella mushrooms and green onions in a white wine cream sauce. (That last one’s only being offered for a limited time, so rush in if interested.) And I usually manage to sneak a bite from other plates that are just as tasty.

Sure, there’s too much fat and cream and salt. And it’s really unnecessary to shred cheese over EVERY SINGLE THING they bring to the table, as they are want to do. The garlic breadsticks aren’t all that – and I think it’s socially criminal that they offer them to overweight Americans in unlimited quantities.

But I can say no to a tsunami of cheese, stop after one breadstick and actually enjoy my meal. Which I do, every time.