Archive for September, 2011

29th September
2011
written by Arthur

I’m still steaming about a recent experience with a mostly M.I.A. waiter at a mid to upper priced place (think $15 to $18 an entrée).  It has me rethinking my philosophy on tipping.  Here’s the story.

My dinner companion and I hit the restaurant just as the height of the dinner rush was passing.  After being seated it was 10-15 minutes before the waiter stopped by.  No question about if we wanted drinks–just an “are you ready to order?”  The waiter took our order in a sullen hipster silence and left.

Maybe the waiter’s brevity was due in part to our luck at being seated at worst table in the place.  A table  right near the kitchen and right on/in the servers’ path to the main dining area–there is a constant stream of traffic past the table that the table’s waiter inevitably has to block.  But the thing is I’ve eaten at this restaurant before, at the same table, and the waiter some how managed the miracle speech.  But not this time.

A food runner brought our food and took away our dishes.  The plaid clad server returned once our leftovers were neatly packed and the restaurant about 70% cleared out.  He didn’t even speak at this point, I just asked for the check which he silently retrieved.  The second sentence he managed all night was to ask if I wanted change (I was paying cash).   Not thinking about the service too much I calculated $9 as a 20 percent tip which I couldn’t give without change.  What happened next is what REALLY pisses me off: the asshole  came back with a 10 and 1.  I don’t want to get all Reservoir Dogs (see below if you’re confused), but what in god’s name made this man think that he deserved more than a 20 percent tip?  In retrospect I wish I had just left him the $1 (well maybe not, the food runner hopefully gets a cut).  I’m not asking for a show or to be dazzled but there is no reason for me to pay you if you don’t do ANYTHING.  When I’m paying $15 plus for a plate why should I give a waiter anything for a disinterested attitude.

The last time I had a bad waiter experience was months ago at Sette.  And that was a totally different experience.  At Sette my waiter was probably  having a horrible day–in my recent experience maybe that was true, but all that came across was laziness and indifference  that I hear is becoming more common.  I’m not sure how I’m going to handle such an experience if and when that happens again–but I am extremely tempted ask myself WWMPD (what would Mr. Pink do?).

27th September
2011
written by Loren

As I mentioned earlier, my roomie Tyler is something of a gardener. This year he grew two kinds of tomatoes, several kinds of cucumbers, pumpkins, butternut squash, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, lettuce, eggplant, 4 kinds of peppers, brussel sprouts, and watermelon, plus the herb garden. Well, seeing as how we live in the tundra, we had to pick pretty much everything we could last Wednesday because it was forecasted to freeze overnight. Lemme

Minneapolis, round about the start of November

just run that one by you one more time. Last Wednesday was September 14. The last day of summer is September 22nd. And it was supposed to freeze. [Editors note: Please ignore the dating issue above resulting from the delay in posting this.]

Anyways, we suddenly had a massive amount of veggies to do something with. Tyler will be stewing the heirloom tomatoes, and he made some pickled pumpkin which I think will turn out to be pretty good. I took all the cherry tomatoes to make this quick and easy tomato sauce. My favorite part about this recipe is how fast you get a rich, full flavored sauce compared to the normal methods which require an hour or more of stewing.

Combine 4 cups of halved cherry tomatoes with 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar, 5 cloves of minced garlic, 1 pinch of red pepper flakes, 1 tbsp of minced fresh oregano and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Mix that all together and then spread it out on a sheet pan lined with tin foil, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until the tomatoes start to get a bit of browning. Once the tomatoes are done, throw them in a food processor along with some fresh basil leaves, 1/4-1/2 cup of shredded parmesean, 2 tbsp of EVOO, and 1/2 tsp of red wine vinegar. Process that all together until it’s smooth, and you’re done. Although you don’t have to be done, you could add the sauce back to a pan full of spicy italian sausage. Nothing wrong with that.

Now a word about the tomatoes you use: I don’t think you would need to use cherry tomatoes for this recipe to be good, we just happened to have a bucket of cherry tomatoes which needed to be used up. But I do think that, in general, the cherry tomatoes you find in grocery stores tend to be more flavorful than the full size tomatoes, unless your grocery store is selling heirloom tomatoes. In a perfect world, you would grow your own tomatoes. I was listening to The Splendid Table the other week and the guest of the week spent about 10 minutes convincing me that Florida tomatoes (aka the vast majority of tomatoes you find in North America all winter long) are just about the most evil fruit to ever exist. Because of the humid environment and soil which is almost solely composed of sand, it takes 7-8 times the amount of fertilizer, fungicide, herbicide and pesticide to grow tomatoes in Florida as compared to someplace like California. There is also a long history of using slave labor to harvest tomatoes in Florida. If you want more information (and really, you should check out this stuff) you can download that episode of The Splendid Table (August 20th episode), or go check out the writings of Barry Estabrook in his book Tomatoland.

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20th September
2011
written by Arthur

This cheese is amazing.  I’m almost at a loss for hyperboles.  When I took my first bite, all I could think was “oh my god, this is what cheese should be.”  I know, I know, there are lots of different kinds of cheese that have their own qualities, but for the moment I’m in love.

The initial flavor is a wave of savory.  After a few moments, and maybe a few pieces,  I realized that taste was a play of nuttiness, salt , and sweetness.  The flavor fills your mouth making you want more.  I have not idea what you should eat this with, I just ate it by the piece.

It’s a hard cheese with little granuals.

The cheese is made with raw cow’s milk.  Normally, Gruyere is aged 5 months.  This bad boy is aged at least a year and every day of it seemed to only improve the flavor.

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19th September
2011
written by Arthur

If the crisp chill in the air didn’t full alert me to the coming of fall, this evening’s stroll past the beer cooler at the corner store confirmed that the season has changed.  I was looking for a cold one to sip while watching Monday Night Football and saw a pumpkin ale.  And, as sure as oktoberfests, the coming of the pumpkin ales warn of amber colored leaves.

This was the first I’ve seen of a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, but I trust the Dogfish Head brewery to turn out a great brew. The ale was good.  It’s actually an ale with balanced pumpkin pie flavor and not just a nutmeg bomb.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I’m going to need find at least one nutmeg bomb before the season is over.

The Details:

ABV: 7.0 IBU: 28

Appearance:  It would be cliché to say that it has a pumpkin color–and somewhat untrue as it has an orangish rust color.

Smell:  Nutmeg, pumpkin pie, and molasses.  It’s smells like a kitchen the morning after baking a pumpkin pie–a lot of light balanced smells.

Taste:  To be sure, the flagship flavor is nutmeg, but it doesn’t dominate the drink as with most other pumpkin beers. Under the nutmeg is sweet and pumpkin with a hint of hops that builds as you sip.

Mouth: Creamy.  Light carbonation.

Overall:  A great fall drink.  Even if you aren’t normally a fan pumpkin of beers you should give this one a try and let it change your mind.

 

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13th September
2011
written by Arthur

I just remembered this and laughed out loud a little.  My inner 8th grader is very happy right now.

Ten cool points for the person that can name the source of this flawless graphic.

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12th September
2011
written by Arthur

Yes, yes, as Loren so eloquently pointed out in his last post: it’s football season once gain.  Like Loren, I slowly developed a serious interest in the Vikings and was lured in to the game all together by my first fantasy team last year.  This year, without homework to fill my Saturdays, I’m hoping to develop a casual following of college ball.  It’s not the NFL and, having gone to Macalester College, I never experienced seriously cheering for my alma mater’s team–but I’m always up for a chance to watch a good game with a good beer and some great food.

For this weekend’s NFL opener it was time to fire up the grill for some burgers.  Lately Nick has been mixing some BBQ sauce (among other undisclosed ingredients) into the burger meat before forming the patties.  The result is a flavorful moist burger with little caramelization.  But there is a problem:  the patty become too moist and falls apart easily during grilling.

My thought on Sunday was to use a little honey, some onion, and some dry spices to get a similar flavor without the structural problems.  But when I went to the spices I got distracted and decided to try something crazy and went the curry route.  That’s right, curry hamburgers.  The result was a mean tasting burger.  I just kind of threw stuff together, but here is an approximation of a recipe:

 

  • 1 lbs ground beef
  • 3 table spoons of honey
  • 1/2 a small onion finely chopped/diced on the large side
  • 1-2 table spoons of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of curry powder
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Put that all in medium sized bowl, mix well, and form larger sized patties.  (I actually decided to make this batch cheese filled, but just cheese on top would work great.)  Cook the burgers to taste over low-medium heat on the grill.  Don’t use higher heat.  The honey will give a nice crispy outside on low-medium and anything more risks unpleasant over charring.
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The flavor is sweet curry, but with a smoky burger flavor and nice crisp texture on the outside.  For condiments I kept it simple and just went with a stone ground mustard and a little mayo.  I think that, given the flavor burger, there is a lot of room to play with some fun sauces.  I’m thinking of something like a yogurt cucumber sauce or some other riff on a Mediterranean theme.
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But grilling was just lunch.  For the night game there was pork shoulder slow cooked through the day of football from 11am until 7pm.  Pork shoulder is cheap at $1.29 a pound so I see more experimentation with this protein on many a Sunday this football season.
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11th September
2011
written by Loren

The NFL won't be the same without you, Randy.

 

Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends! Well, actually it ends every spring. And this offseason it almost ended for a full year thanks to greedy owners. BUT IT’S BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER! I think every year I become more of a football fan. Back in the mid-90’s I followed the vikings very casually. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s I became a rabid Vikings fan (even after the gut wrenching 98 NFC championship and the 41-doughnut debacle against the giants just 3 years later). In the mid to late 2000’s I started to get interested in the other NFL games not featuring the Vikes and now that I started fantasy football last year I am an unabashed football addict. Between the months of September and January, nothing can get me down because I always have Sunday and Monday to look forward to. And in a couple of years, when the NFL starts selling Thursday night games to non-premium channels, we’ll have that too. And there will be much rejoicing.

And now that football is back, we’re going to resurrect the on-again-off-again Football Food series. This week: Beer Cheese Dip. I tried this for the first time at a work potluck (love my job), and it was incredibly addictive. It’s a nice combination of tangy beer, sharp cheddar and onion flavor, and creamy cheesy goodness.

Combine in a bowl: 2 bricks of cream cheese, softened; 2 cups of shredded cheddar; 3/4 cup of beer, I used Summit EPA because a) it’s my Minnesota beer of choice and b) I wanted something with enough flavor to shine through all the cheesyness; 1 packet of ranch seasoning; 1 bunch of green onions, chopped. Reserve a bit of cheddar and green onions to sprinkle over the top when you’re done mixing.

Eventually I would like to work out a version of this dip that uses fresh garlic and herbs in place of the ranch seasoning packet, but in the meantime this is a tasty addition to your sunday football buffet. As for your dipping item, I think this would taste pretty good with plain ol’ potato chips but the dip is probably too thick to maintain chip integrity. Stick with pretzels or veggies. Also, this makes enough dip for 6-7 people. If it’s only you and Brundage watching football, you might want to cut the recipe in half.

 

Football Predictions:

I don’t know that we’re going to keep up the Vikings weekly football prediction segment we  had going last year, but here are some general predictions for the NFL season which we’ll re-visit at the end of the season.

  • Barring injury, Adrian Peterson will rush for 2,000 yards this year. While we don’t have the greatest O-line Minnesota has ever seen, the reports are that we have abandoned the zone-blocking crap which plagued us in the Childress era.
  • The Colts will be in contention for the first overall draft pick by the end of the season. This team is GARBAGE without Manning. He ran the whole offense and he elevated a team that has drafted crap the last several years. (Sub-prediction: this will create endless ESPN contaversy about whether Peyton will allow them to draft Andrew Luck) UPDATE: Houston leads Indy 34-0 at halftime. I like this prediction.
  • The Houston Texans will finally make the playoffs. I mean, they kind of have to. Jacksonville and Indianapolis will be terrible, and I just don’t think the Hasselbeck-led Titans will steal the division away from them.
  • The Lions will still fail to hit the .500 mark. I know everyone is in love with them and they have certainly created a monster d-line, but Stafford is made of porceline and I still think they need another season to wipe out the stink of 0-16.
  • Lastly, the GB Packers will fail to make the Superbowl this year. Because they’re evil. Superbowl pick: New England over Philly.
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11th September
2011
written by Arthur

 

1st September
2011
written by Loren

One of my favorite dishes at asian restaurants is always fresh spring rolls. The beauty of the thing comes from it’s simplicity and contrasts. The perfect spring roll has fresh, crisp vegetables wrapped in smooth and silky rice paper wrapper and a dipping sauce that’s subtle enough to not overpower those less pronounced flavors.  There is also a certain challenge to the aesthetic of the spring roll (read: it’s a stone cold bitch to roll them and make them look good) which adds to your enjoyment when you finally get to chow down.

You can make these with almost any variation of ingredients but I find it generally boils down to these groups:

  • Protein

You can use shrimp, pork, chicken or beef pretty much.  And it doesn’t really matter how you cook it either. I’ve had my best successes by marinating one of the above and grilling it as the grill flavor really comes through in the end.

  • Leafy greens

Usually lettuce or cabbage of some kind, cut into strips.

  •  Herb

Typically Thai basil or mint leaves, but normal basil and cilantro are also good choices.

  • Crispy veggie

Take your pick: carrots, cucumbers, celerey, bean sprouts, bell peppers, eggplant maybe. Anything along those lines, julienned.

  • Sometimes noodles

You can omit these if you want a more veggie filled spring roll, otherwise get some thin asian noodles like mai fun/cellophane noodles/glass noodles.

 

You’ll want to get everything prepared beforehand so once you get a rice paper wrapper moistened you can turn it into a spring roll asap. Get the protein cooked and sliced, all the veggies julienned, and the noodles boiled. Then set everything up assembly line style.

 

Spring roll wrappers start out as very stiff and fragile, and they also curl up on themselves when they hit water, so to soak them you really need a vessel which is wider than the wrapper and fairly shallow so it’s easy to get out of the water. I use a large dinner plate and it’s just big enough for the job. Pour some boiling water in the plate and let it sit for a minute or so until it’s cool enough you can get the wrapper in and out without burning yourself. It only needs 10-20 seconds under the water to get properly moistened, then take it out and try to keep it from a) tearing or b) sticking to itself.  Lay it on a flat surface which is slightly wet, to keep the wrapper from sticking.  Then start adding the ingredients. You will want to make a little pile of the filling about a third of the way up the wrapper, not right in the middle.

The order of how to place the filling doesn’t really matter, but whatever you want to show through the rice paper is what should go down first. If you’re using shrimp, they look good on the outside, otherwise maybe start with the herbs. You really don’t want to overfill these or it will be close to impossible to wrap them. After rolling a few of them you will get a good idea of the appropriate amount of filling.

Once you have everything piled up, take that bit of wrapper closest to you and start to roll that up on top of the filling. Once you have basically covered the filling with that piece of wrapper, fold in the two sides kind of like a burrito. After that, finish rolling the whole thing up and you are good to go. The wrapper will stick to itself so no need to use any kind of food adhesive to close it up. I know these are served as appetizers at most restaurants, but these things are so good I usually just end up making a meal out of them. One last thing to consider: the wrappers will dry out slowly if left in the open air. Usually when I’m making these for other people I try to finish making them as close as possible to when they will be eaten. Otherwise you could try keeping them in a tupperware with a moistened paper towel draped over them, that would probably help them keep for another hour or two.

The only other thing to figure out is what you’ll be dipping them in. Peanut sauce is a good choice, as is sweet and sour sauce.  The Food Network has some good recipes for dipping sauces. Or if you happen to live with someone who makes a killer jalapeno jelly/syrup concoction, use that. That’s what I did.