Sunday, April 20, 2014

Blog Policy Shift Plus Applebee's Citrus Lime Sirloin

Chef Anthony Bourdain at Maxwell Food Centre, SingaporeTitle: Chef Anthony Bourdain at Maxwell Food Centre, Singapore | Date: 03/26/2011 | Photographer: Cheryl/miss bake-a-lot | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

My culinary hero, Anthony Bourdain, has been known to knock chain restaurants.  Even though he has confessed to a fondness for KFC's coleslaw, Bourdain essentially rights chains off as being soulless purveyors of mediocre food, and places where no "serious eater" would visit.

Taking a cue from my idol, I refrained from reviewing chain food, on this blog, for a long time.  That policy was a mistake for three reasons.
  1.  Some chain food is friggin' delicious.  Seriously, most recipes, used by chains, have been flavor tested and tweaked countless times to make sure it's something you'll rave about at work the next day.  Even chain restaurants depend on positive word-of-mouth for sustained business.
  2.  Chain food is the food I share in common with many of my readers. Readers from California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey will probably never eat at Tasty 'n Sons or Richie's Taco Truck in Portland, but they can visit their local Olive Garden or Applebee's, and have roughly the same eating experience I had.
  3. I'M NOT ANTHONY BOURDAIN!  I'm not a wealthy chef who can eat at Michelin ranked restaurants on a regular basis.  Most of the places I eat at are chain restaurants.  When I exclude such places, I drastically limit what I can write about.
Thus, expect to see more reviews of dishes from common chain eateries here.

First up is Applebee's Citrus Lime Sirloin, a  grilled 7 oz. cut of sirloin steak topped with; a Latin Chili sauce, chopped cilantro, and lime juice; served alongside a mound of potatoes, zucchini, and green beans for $14.99.
I didn't have my camera with me, but you can click link above to see a copywritten picture of the dish on Applebee's own server.

The kitchen at 1220 N.W. 185th Avenue in Beaverton, Oregon got the steak to my table medium rare, as I ordered it, and hot in a timely manner.  The sauce was pleasantly sweet and spicy without being cloying or tongue searingly hot.  Beneath the balanced sauce, I could taste the tender succulent well seasoned beef.

The veggies were adequately seasoned and maintained a semi-crisp texture, but were nothing special.  My meal included a hefty portion of them though.  Their inclusion as the steak's side, rather than fries or onion rings, allowed the meal to appear healthier, even if, at 570 calories, it doesn't quite qualify for their 550 Calorie Menu.

All things considered, I give Applebee's Citrus Lime Sirloin 7.5 out of 10 stars.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Food Fans Still Have Intelligent Choices

While it's true the first nationally televised cooking show was I Love to Eat, on NBC, hosted by
 Julia Child gives the KUHT audience a cooking demonstration
Title: Julia Child gives the KUHT audience a cooking demonstration | Date: Unknown | Source: KUHT | This picture was made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
James Beard in 1946, it's pretty safe to say that Julia Child's The French Chef, which had its debut on February 11, 1963, on WGBH, brought the food show genre into the realm of main stream pop culture. Those early televised lessons in French cooking sparked a line of publicly broadcasted cooking shows including The Frugal Gourmet, Graham Kerr: The Galloping Gourmet, Louisiana Cookin' with Justin Wilson, and Yan Can Cook among many other 30 minute epicurean tutorials.

Public Broadcasting remained the dominant force in food entertainment until November 23, 1993, when shows such as Emeril Live – hosted by Emeril Lagasse, The Naked Chef – hosted by Jamie Oliver, and Sara's Secrets – hosted by Sara Moulton debuted on the new Food Network.  For the next 20 years viewers were treated to an array of informative how-to cooking shows such as 30 Minute Meals – hosted by Rachael Ray, Barefoot Contessa – hosted by Ina Garten, Everyday Italian – hosted by Giada De Laurentiis, Grill It - hosted by Bobby Flay, and, my personal favorite, Good Eats – hosted by Alton Brown.

While some of these shows still exist, food TV is currently devolving from being an instructional resource, into a gluttony of increasingly silly food competitions.  For the record, I enjoy Chopped and Iron Chef, which show chefs working with unique ingredients in creative ways.  However, on any given day we can see cooks "sabotaging" one another in Cutthroat Kitchen - hosted by Alton Brown, cooks struggling to out cook Bobby on, the OBVIOUSLY rigged, Beat Bobby Flay – hosted by Bobby Flay, and chefs losing oxtails and chicken livers based on a draw of the cards on Kitchen Casino - hosted by Bill Rancic.

Even with the abundance of dumbed down offerings being served up to food fans, there is still hope for intelligent audiences.   One gold nugget, America's Test Kitchen, offers recipes and product reviews back on PBS.  However, I turn to online podcasts for the bulk of my food news these days.

Unless something comes up, Sunday is the day I listen to food related podcasts, including The Splendid Table, America’s Test Kitchen Radio, Wine Life Radio, Beer Sessions Radio, Cutting The Curd, A Taste of the Past, and the NPR: Food Podcast, which have stockpiled themselves on my ITunes through out the week.  I enjoy listening to them back to back, as if they were segments of my own Food Network lineup.

The nice thing about food podcasts, or podcasts in general, is that a listener can work and learn something at the same time.  This week I was made aware of labor issues related to cheese mongering, learned about vintages from Moshin Vineyards, was briefed on the history of culinary knives, and learned that experts are no longer advising people to eat low fat in order to lose weight & stay healthy.

The Splendid Table did a story about capers.  During the segment, their guest, David Rosengarten, explained, "They do make something quite special on the the west coast of the main island of Sicily.  There is a place called Trapani where they make a local form of pesto. They call it pesto, but it doesn't look like our pesto. Our pesto is very basily and green, but theirs is quite red because they make it with tomatoes. They also pound almonds into it and they add, of course, capers to it."  Intrigued by the idea of red pesto, I looked up the recipe.

Pesto alla Trapanese - (Pesto Trapani style)

Recipe found at


500g/1lb 2oz fusilli lunghi or other pasta of your choice
salt, to taste
250g/9oz cherry tomatoes
6 anchovy fillets
25g/1oz sultanas
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
50g/2oz blanched almonds
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
small bunch basil, leaves picked


Put abundant water on to boil for the pasta, waiting for it to come to the boil before salting it. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions, though start checking it a good two minutes before it’s meant to be ready.

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce by putting all the remaining ingredients, bar the basil, into a processor and blitzing until you have a nubbly-textured sauce.

Just before draining the pasta, remove a cupful of pasta-cooking water and add two tablespoons of it down the full of the processor, pulsing as you go.

Tip the drained pasta into your warmed serving bowl, Pour and scrape the sauce on top, tossing to coat (add a little more pasta-cooking water if you need it) and strew with basil leaves.

I haven't had time to try it yet, but my point is that the show exposed me to  variation of pesto, which I wouldn't have considered. In a day when food TV is largely becoming a lineup of food related game shows, it's nice to still have access to productions which provide listeners with actual food related news and ideas.
Recipe prints as a single page for your recipe file or refrigerator.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Omelette with Goat Cheese and Herbs

I'm a big fan of breakfast. Well, brunch these days, since a two meal per day routine is helping me lose weight.  Nevertheless, bacon, sausages, biscuits & gravy, hash browns, pancakes, waffles, crepes, bagels & lox, donuts, and eggs rank high among my favorite foods.

Title: Omelette | Date: 01/09/2010 | Photographer: Stripey the Crab | 
This file is licensed under the 
Creative Commons Attribution-Share
Alike 3.0 Unported license.
The versatility of the egg makes it of special interest to me.  Equally good fried, scrambled, poached, baked, boiled, or cooked into a dish, the egg offers almost limitless possibilities for preparation and consumption.

A few years ago, I posted a recipe for one of my favorite preparations, Baked Eggs with Canadian Bacon, Spinach, and Aged Cheddar, which makes ramekins of savory cheesy gooey goodness, perfect as part of a weekend brunch or as a stand alone breakfast. 

More recently I shared my special occasion recipe for Scrambled Eggs with Brie & Black Truffle.  The Brie gives the scrambled eggs a smooth creaminess and the black truffle shavings added an extra salty/savory quality I highly recommend.

These are good, but time consuming and/or expensive to make.  Fortunately, included a recipe for  Omelette with Goat Cheese and Herbs, from the blog A Thought For Food, in one of their latest newsletter.  I read the recipe, and its elegant simplicity made me embarrassed that I'd never thought of it before.

The Chèvre (soft goat cheese) gives a rich salty creaminess to the center of the omelette while the herbs deliver a fresh savory flavor, making this a well balanced (flavor-wise) way to begin a day.  The ONLY thing I might change is that I might add some dill with the other herbs next time.
Omelette with Goat Cheese and Herbs

Source: A Thought For Food

Yield: 1 omelette

3 eggs
Splash of milk
2 tablespoons butter
Chèvre (soft goat cheese)
Chopped Fresh Herbs (parsley, tarragon, chives)
Salt and pepper

1. Crack the eggs into a bowl and pour in a splash of milk. Whisk for 30 seconds, until frothy.

2. Heat butter in a 10 inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted and becomes foamy, pour in the egg.   After a minute, lift the edges of the omelette with a rubber spatula and tilt the pan to allow the uncooked egg to run underneath.

3. Once the egg starts to set, but is still loose, sprinkle the Chèvre along the center of the omelet.  Using the rubber spatula, fold  Sprinkle in one-third of the filling down the center of the omelet and sprinkle with one-third of the goat cheese. Using a rubber spatula, fold the omelette towards the center over the filling.

4. Transfer the omelette to a plate and sprinkle chopped herbs on top. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with toast or a salad or sliced fruit.

Recipe prints as single page for your recipe file or refrigerator.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Asiago Cheese with Rosemary and Olive Oil - Micro Blog

Being a cheese lover, I was jonesing for something I hadn't had before when I came across a wedge of Asiago Cheese with Rosemary and Olive Oil.  I ate it alongside smoked oysters and a lager.

Plymoth, Wisconsin's version of Asiago is produced with skimmed cow's milk and is infused with rosemary and olive oil, creating a pale yellow cheese with a rosemary/olive oil soaked rind and a semi-hard, slightly crumbly, texture.  The cheese's combination of rosemary and oil, and slow maturation process, gives it a slightly herbaceous sharp flavor.

Asiago Cheese with Rosemary and Olive Oil is excellent in small doses alongside other bold tasting foods (smoked meats, garlicky dishes, full bodied beers, etc...).  However, it can be overpowering if consumed in large quantities, or when eaten against mild flavors.  All things considered, I give Asiago Cheese with Rosemary and Olive Oil 7 out of 10 stars.

Picture courtesy of