Thursday, December 9, 2010

EmulsifiedBlog now featured on FoodNuts!

Hello Followers (I mean you, Jahan)

My thoughts on food and eating are now available on Food Nuts at:

Food Nuts Website
Twitter (@foodnuts)
Facebook (FoodNuts!)

I will be creating some exclusive content for them in the coming months and will be reposting some of my favorites from EmulsifiedBlog as well.

I will usually put out a link or callout here on the site when this happens. Be on the lookout for the first post on my top-5 eating experiences from 2010.

See you then.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chef Tips - Prepare for Thanksgiving Part 2 - Tips & Timing

Well, it is the day before D-day (or T-day) and I have some tips and tricks to make the day go better. Best we just start with a top-10 list of things you do NOT want to do tomorrow, so getting them done today will make you happy. Seems like these are the simple things but are always getting overlooked and can set you back 30, 60 or even 90 minutes.
  1. Cut bread for stuffing
  2. Set the table
  3. Make desert
  4. Go to the grocery store
  5. Do dishes
  6. Clean the kitchen
  7. Clean the fridge (as mentioned before)
  8. Forget to take time for a shower (please still do this on Thanksgiving, just make a plan for it)
  9. Ignore your guests
  10. Have a terrible time

I believe the question I get the most is "how do I get everything to finish on (or around) the same time?" Obviously, the more you get done the day before, the easier timing will be on Thanksgiving. I have some simple calculations that will help you plan the day and make sure everything is hot and fresh.

Tip #1 - The Turkey should rest for 30 minutes before you cut it
This is great for you because it is the perfect amount of time to bring everything together. During this time you should; make the gravy from pan drippings, get your veggies ready and to the table (flash fry your green beans if you have previously blanched them), scoop the stuffing out of the bird and put in a dish, bring out the mashed potatoes, and get everyone a fresh drink and headed to the table. You may be surprised just how long the last one takes!

Tip #2 - Don't wait to get the Turkey in the oven
Depending upon the size of your turkey, you may need as little as 3 hours and as many as 6 but here is the secret. By adjusting the temperature in your oven you can extend the cooking of a smaller bird or speed up a big one. So don't wait, get up get the bird ready and into the oven, then just adjust the heat throughout the day to match up with your desired eating time. 165° internal temperature is what you are aiming for.

Tip #3 - Do your mashed potatoes early
Mashed potatoes always take longer than expected. I cook mine with the skins on in 1/2 milk and 1/2 cream with garlic, thyme and a bay leaf. Once cooked I have to peel, put through a ricer and re-incorporate with the milk, cream and butter. If you put your finished potatoes in a disposable tin tray, cover with plastic wrap you can hold them for 4-6 hours over a pan of simmering water. This way they are not holding up the meal.

Good luck out there and I will see you at the table. Here is my menu from this year, hope you will share yours with everyone as well.

1st Course
Blue Cheese Gougéres
Ribeye Crostinis with Horseradish Goat Cheese
Catalan Olives w/ Italian Sweet Peppers

Main Course
Free-range Organic Turkey
Chanterelle Mushroom & Leek Stuffing
Garlic Cream Mashed Potatoes w/ Gravy
Lemon Vinegar Green Beans
Orange Cinnamon Cranberry

Vanilla Bean Apple Pie a-la-mode
Pumpkin Pie w/ Whipped Cream

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chef Tips - Prepare for Thanksgiving Part 1. - The Small Stuff

Thanksgiving is my favorite. Period. Now as a former Chef and food enthusiast there are not a lot of holidays centered around food so maybe this wasn't so hard to figure out. However, I know so many people who love food, love to cook and who pull their hair out each Thanksgiving. I am here to try and help them (and you) discover that a little preparation goes a long way in hopes our favorite holiday is actually pleasurable this year.

No silver bullet here, no magical recipes (I will leave that to the other guys) and no magical elves who come an bail you out at the last minute. Actually one of the first things Chefs learn in culinary school is the term 'Mise en place' - the concept of being totally prepared before making a meal. Normally this applies to a recipe or a single meal where you can check off on all of the ingredients and tools before getting started. For Thanksgiving you have to have your Mise en place for the entire day, day before and even week before to make things go simply, finish on time and be up to the quality standards we all set for ourselves.

In this entry (and in Part 2) are some tips I personally follow as I sit down a week or so before the big day to get started, so get started already. Disclaimer: for as many as I put here I am sure there are more you use and those I have forgotten (buying napkins, creating a peanut-free desert for you nephew, et. al.) so please add your favorites to the comments below.

Plan, Plan, Plan - Figure out your menu and write it down, analyze it and picture in your mind who is going to eat what and how much. It is hard not to make just the dishes we like, but those dishes everyone will eat and enjoy. This is also where your guest list comes in. People who are coming over for Thanksgiving usually want to participate (sometimes too much) so take control and give out jobs. If you really want green beans with almond slices then assign them to someone, don't allow them to show up with a dish that is not on your menu. Better yet, if you know one of your guests makes something great (Uncle John's crab cakes) incorporate them into your menu and ask them to shine, they will love it. This goes down to the smallest detail. You know you want a certain brand of Pinot Grigio? Assign it to one of your guests to buy, they are happy not to have to make the decision themselves and it is one less thing to worry about. Now, see how simple that was? A lot of your work is done and you can feel confident with what is going to walk in the door on Thanksgiving day.

Thoughts on making something new. Why? Why do we as recreational chefs put ourselves through this time and time again? Musicians don't wait until their largest concert to play a new song for the first time, but we always feel the need to do something new on Thanksgiving. Don't get me wrong, professional chefs feel the same pressure, they just have smaller audiences and more chances to try things out before the big day. Instead, spice up those dishes you already are good at by adding new ingredients, flavors and textures. Lower risk, high reward.

Try some of these:
  • Add Sausage (italian or chorizo) to your stuffing
  • Don't use enriched bread for your stuffing- try sourdough or rye to add another flavor profile
  • Reduce some white wine to put into the gravy, add tarragon and green peppercorns for a new kick
  • Leeks, if you are not using them now start immediately and substitute a leek where you used an onion before or mix the two together
  • Serve Champagne or Proseco as guests arrive before breaking into the wine and beer
  • Soup, this is a great time of year for butternut squash soup as a side dish or starter
  • Still holding out and using the canned cranberry? Try fresh this year, easier than you think
Now, you have your menu and all of your guests have their jobs, there are a couple more things you can do this weekend to get ready before you actually start preparing food. First, clean the fridge. No matter what, this always seems to set people back on Thanksgiving. You need to get so many things out of your fridge and into a cooler (or the trash). Sweet pickle relish, chinese hot sauce, take-out containers, sodas, beer and so many other things I don't even want to think of. It should look barren in there come Wednesday, and you will thank yourself on Thursday.

Get some other things ready as well. First of all, get enough butter (I prefer unsalted). However much you think you need, go ahead and get another pound. Now set at least a pound out in a covered dish. You need a lot of room-temperature butter on Thanksgiving and the microwave never seems to get it quite right. Buy kosher salt, if you don't already use it this is a great time to start. It breaks down a little slower, is non-iodized (for my father-in-law) and will get down into your bird to make sure it cooks evenly. On that note, don't forget to salt the turkey cavity! This is always missed by most cooks and you need that salt in there to breakdown from the inside - more to come in Part 2. Finally get more tin-foil, there never seems to be enough and if we can avoid a trip to the store on Thanksgiving morning, my mission is accomplished.

Now go clean your silver and stay tuned for Part 2 - Food prep and timing on the big day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Menu Planning

Wow! I just found out I am about to get 15 guests for the big day this year. Time to get menu planning. Actually planning the menu and the day before Thanksgiving are my favorite, I tend to block out the price tag and this year it is going to get bigger.

Organic - I know how I feel about pesticides, eating local and using seasonal products, I am all for it. However, it is so easy to "fall off the wagon" in today's society. I am committed, at least, for this Thanksgiving to get it done. First item, free range, never frozen, organic Turkey. Last year was the frozen super market $9 bargain buster and I say never again.

I will post my final menu and recipes (with photos) for this year as I develop them over the next week or so. I will be in Toronto next week, which gives me some time on the plane to get my thoughts together. Also, look for a new Toronto review up on the site as I plan on visiting someplace special down on King Street West.

So, start cracking out those cookbooks, visiting websites and calling Grandma for her favorite recipies. The time for planning has arrived. Happy Hunting.

P.S. Don't forget the beer, there should be some late Autumn microbrews out there which will complement the meal nicely, but not be too spiced like Christmas Ales. Sam Adams Octoberfest is a staple, but I will include both beer and wines on my menu and you should too. Don't leave it up to guests to bring the right wine or beer, give them a hearty "suggestion" to bring what is on the menu.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicago's Hub 51 is Salty and Sweet

Hub 51 on Urbanspoon

I was recently in Chicago for a convention with some co-workers, as it would happen my company also has an office there. An office that services the beer industry, so let’s just say that they have been know to throw a few back.

On one such night, a happy hour turned into “hey its time for dinner” so we decided to eat where we were already sitting, at a place called Hub 51. As of this posting, I am not quite sure if it is a chain, but it seemed a little too polished to be a “one-off.” My guess is that it is part of a larger restaurant group without any flagship brand names but I will update as I find out more.

Overall, I will say some great things about Hub 51, mostly that I would return on future visits to Chicago.

I will start where you are not supposed to, with desert. Simply one of the finest deserts I have had. Wow, I cannot believe I just wrote the statement, but it is true. Butterscotch Pot-de-crème with salted caramel. This treat was the perfect size, possessed bright flavors and a presented a little, salty surprise with each bite. Served in an oversized shot glass, the butterscotch pot-de-crème took up about 80% of the room, with the remainder a gooey caramel. The crème was not too heavily flavored while being light and creamy. Whether the salt was applied between the crème and caramel or inside the caramel, it activated the sweet flavors and this dish would not have been the same without it.

I will mention that before my meal, I enjoyed some smoked, pulled chicken nachos with freshly sliced jalapenos. I was in the bar watching Roy Haladay pitch a no-hitter in the playoffs. Nice to see an Arvada kid do well and someone take ‘bar-food’ seriously enough to use fresh ingredients and great preparation.

Stay with me here but I ordered both Sushi and Filet Mignon Tacos maybe not the first combo you think of but I saw an order of sushi go by right before ordering and had to have some. Spicy tuna is sometimes not the way to go with sushi. Some places take the liberty to mix up the tuna with other ingredients so it is hard to determine the firmness / freshness of the fish. All of the tuna here was in neat little cubes, firm and very fresh. Mine also came with a spicy mayo on the side, something I have not dipped sushi in before. I am sure purists would scoff but I enjoyed the creamy sauce on mine.

Why waste filet mignon on tacos? Well because it is great and it gives you an excuse to eat some freshly prepared guacamole and salsa. It was not until I enjoyed these that I realized many steak tacos I eat have less refined cuts of beef. Often chewy or hard to bite through, I might have a tough time (pardon the pun) ordering them in the future. By contrast, the meat in these tacos was soft and flavorful almost melting in my mouth.

Overall, the service, selection and meal were all pretty darn good and I look forward to working out of our Chicago office soon so I can have another happy hour come dinner at the Hub.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer break has ended...

Well, Summer break has ended and it is now time to get back at it. A preview on what is to come in future posts...

B&G Oysters and Sorellina in Boston
Sweetwater Grill and Tavern on the Park in Chicago
Plus Terry's Turf Club in Cincinnati and my day at the Great American Ball Park.

Next, you will get to follow my first ever Fantasy Football blog, can this be the year I actually win?

Finally, I am thinking of starting a blog about my crazy kid and the one I have on the way...maybe a cathartic way to deal with what millions go rough every day but I am experiencing for the first time.

New posts up by Aug 1st, see you then...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Inventive and Wonderful Casa Mono in NYC's Lower East Side

Casa Mono on Urbanspoon

Most reviewers, and those who know 8th grade Spanish, will tell you this is the monkey house. I, however, think that title may be better reserved for the Olive Garden in Times Square. Casa Mono is definitely all of the things the OG is not, intimate, dark and brimming with truly original takes on Spanish tapas. Out of the way on the lower
east side (walkable from the 6 train) it was a welcome spot on a cold and rainy Manhattan night in April.

I sat at the bar in a space where there may be as many counter spots as their are tables, make a reservation if you hope to get in with more than yourself as company. My meal started with a frisee salad, progressed to mussels and finished with rabbit three ways. To hear me describe the dishes, you would think french food but the influence of flavors leaned toward Spanish and Italian with classical French technique.

I got to watch the chefs preparing dishes from my spot and waited in anticipation after ordering each course. The salad was dressed with a quince vinaigrette. Frisee has a great, earthy flavor not quite as peppery as arugula and my wife absolutely hates it, which gives me an excuse to eat hers all of the time. Great big slices of Manchengo are why I ordered the dish, such a great flavor and texture, which this dish is all about. The Quince added a great sweetness to the dressing to balance out these flavors and set the stage for the dishes to come. Although alone, I got to think about my wife with the salad and I could not get my brother's voice out of my head as I heard him doing his best Rosie Perez from White Men Can't Jump... "Fooots tha start weeth the letter Q, Quince."

First, mussels are one of my favorite foods on the planet and when paired with spicy chorizo in a great broth I could have eaten order after order until passing out. Fortunately the portion size was perfect for me but also to share with 1 or 2 friends. This is what I love about the emerging trend toward small plates in the US, the ability to share and savor a wide variety of tastes within one meal while reconnecting in person.

Finally, the rabbit three ways took me back to my days at culinary school and the origins of French cooking where they have long applied the correct techniques to various parts of the animal and then served them all together. My favorite of the three was a skewer featuring what I can only say tasted like an adobo (chipotle) bar-b-que sauce. I had soft, spicy, sweet, and crispy in the form of a fritter. This is one dish I will order again and share.

Sorry to the OG and Times Square, but Casa Mono is now one of my favorite stops in NYC. 

Friday, April 30, 2010

My Vision for Shopping with the iPad

An example of how tablets represent a window into the future, not just a better way to watch movies and play games.

I remember when the SyQuest 44Mb disk was going to change the future of computing, and it did. When I wanted to modify a Photoshop file and create the CMYK layers for printing, I could use 4 of them to send out for separations. At a cost of about $80 for the disks and $15 to the delivery driver (sorry to say the 3300-baud modem would have taken longer than if I had given the disks to a guy with a walker going the wrong direction) it was a small price to pay for the future! To use this example is to say that the future of computing has always been about processing speed and memory. While the newest tablet devices promise to be a mix between laptops and mobile computing there is one incredible difference. Memory is now being eradicated from the equation. For users of Gmail this is already a concept easy (or not so easy) to understand. None, and I mean none, of your emails are on your computer, they are all neatly stored somewhere inside a mountain or at the bottom of the ocean or, well, somewhere… This promises to be the future of tablet computing, where there are no files and the operating system is a very sophisticated web browser capable of running local “Apps” which (eventually) will be nothing more than speedy gateways to greater content. Applications like MS Office? Web Based. How about Media, like my ever-growing iTunes library? All web based.

There is a story about Google saying the first version of Gmail did not include a “delete” button. “Everyone will have unlimited memory, why would they want to delete something?” was said to be heard by a developer. Why indeed! Well, it turns out that the human psyche (or something like that) demands we need one, but that is another story. The developer was on to something, when you run out of memory on the web, simply apply for some more, don’t go out and upgrade your computer. What this really means is that new Tablets are the first generation of devices connected to ever growing content and memory and will be less dependent on faster processing speeds as bandwidth increases. Now what does that have to do with shopping? Well, you don’t see many (or any) people shopping with a laptop, but a Tablet has the potential to be more convenient and powerful at the same time.  It will not be long before you have your first glimpse of someone shopping with theirs and I am sure someone is working on a device to mount it to a cart as I write today.

Software and good ideas are always waiting for hardware it seems, like a patient man holding his wife’s purse outside of a dressing room. In this case the Tablet and “Tablet enabled shopping” has been waiting for two things, one, successful application development platform on mobile devices and, two, universal WiFi access. Sure there will be versions with built in cellular connectivity but the types and sizes of files we are talking about making the tablet ultimately useful need WiFi. Finally, both of these items are reality for the most part and the iPad is currently setting sales records across the country with Apple profits up 131%. Technology? Check.

People want their shopping to be many things; faster, easier, smarter and they want integration with coupons and loyalty cards to make sure they are getting the best deal. Over the past couple of years as Walmart has tested RFID chips to total your basket as you insert items, this enables the “faster” part, but it is a passive system and what shoppers want is a conversation.

Picture here a future shopping trip for my wife, 2 toddlers and myself. Let’s say we are heading over to our local SuperTarget for some groceries and household items. Using my iPad and a Target App I have been managing an ongoing list of items I need during the past week. During this “gathering” phase, the Target App also prompts me based on past purchasing behavior as to this week’s specials on products I have previously purchased as well as having a Tablet version of the newspaper insert.

Upon entering the SuperTarget of my choice, my pad device automatically connects to the store’s WiFi network and a number of things happen instantly. First, the items on my list are auto-updated with pricing info, aisle location and any manufacturer promotions or rebates available at the store. My family gets an automated greeting with local messages and store-specific promotions; there is even a “community bulletin board” access (gotta have those Girl Scout cookies). And, if I choose, social networking sites such as foursquare are notified of my arrival and updated, so I might even see my family’s name on a video screen or be entered into daily giveaways. So, I have a quicker way to shop, I am shopping “smart” and already have a good idea on what my basket total will be when I get to checkout.

Wow! Something has just caught my eye in the electronics section and my son is holding a new video I have never heard of. A quick check on the tablet shows me this TV is the highest-rated model Target carries with 12 positive customer reviews and that video content is not suitable for a 4-year-old. That TV still interests me, so I think I might want to price shop it at some other retailers after wrestling the video away from my son. A quick jump on the Web tells me it is $50 cheaper at Best Buy so I hit the “price match” button on My Target App and try to convince my wife we need yet another flat-screen.

We have now made it to the checkout with a reasonable amount of impulse-buys and are ready to pay. As I swipe my pre-registered credit card (or enter my email if I am paying by cash) my list and my cart come together and instantly update. The cashier is notified of any items on my list that I did not buy so she can ask if I was unable to find them or if the store was out and actually be of help. My receipt is automatically entered into my App, which tracks my lifetime purchases for planning and budgeting needs.

I still have to make it out to the car in the snow and wrestle with multiple car-seat belts but my shopping experience was actually better. And, ultimately, one of the best litmus tests for new technology is still “does this make my life better?” I think shopping with the tablet will be a definite “Yes.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Vert in Denver - Wash Park Neighborhood gets a great sandwich shop

Vert Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Went to Vert today in Wash Park. Vert is, of course, french for Green and when you put a French name on your restaurant, I am going to judge it a little more closely. French cooking is about technique as much as it is about ingredients, it includes presentation and is about complementing flavors. I usually give places a pass on some of these things, but when you are French you are getting the press, if you know what I mean.

Vert delivers, a great space in a great neighborhood helps. Across from an elementary school and far enough west of Logan to get a true small neighborhood feel. When you walk in, there is a smattering of small tables, high-top bar tables and seats along the wall. There is more seating in the back but it seems to me to be a place that will always be full.

To start we had the white bean and spinach soup. Good beginning, not over seasoned, beans were cooked well, some simple onions, baby carrots and chiffonade of spinach passed the test. A toasted french crouton elevated the presentation. French, good, now I can relax.

I tried the braised pork shoulder. Super soft and creamy in what was described as a BBQ sauce, but I don't think that description is quite right. This sauce was sweeter, tomato and herb based. Complemented by an Aioli, a little cabbage and lettuce this was a good and filling sandwich. My biggest surprise was the roll, a very thin, very crunchy outside with a soft center. At first it looked to be one of those heavy rolls that often overpower the ingredients and make some sandwiches hard to eat, not here. Again, what I look for is that all of the flavors work together and here nothing stood out, I experienced the softness of the roll, chewiness of the meat and crunch of the veggies. This is good, how it is supposed to be when you have a french name.

My companion had the curried chicken sandwich. This is a bold choice and I see a lot of people try to do curried chicken salad and fail miserably because of too much or too little curry and no sweetness to balance the spicy taste. Here, ripe green apples added a great touch and sweetness to balance the herbs and curry. I will say on this particular day the Tarragon stole the show. Part of a fresh herb mixture dressing the sandwich, little else came through. It is hard working with fresh herbs coming out of winter into spring as their tastes become intensified and you have to adjust the amounts of each to get that right balance - I say taste your food, something all chefs forget to do from time to time. Again, very impressed with the bread, nice light crunch on the crust with a soft and creamy center.

Both of our dishes were dressed with some potato salad. I expected the traditional quenelle but got more of an artisanal smear. Still, all-in-all a great presentation and great meal, I will go back. Great to see they are emphasizing good ingredients and good technique, two things that will never go out of style.

Author's note: Well done to the staff on telling me the sandwich featured Aioli, not "Garlic Aioli" which seems to be everywhere these days. Guess what? Aioli means garlic mayo, so say garlic mayo or aioli, not both.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Urbanspoon Rocks

Hey everyone, don't miss catching my blog posts on Urban Spoon - you can search and add me as a friend. While there, visit my profile as I try to update all of the restaurants I like in each city I visit. They might not all have a review, but if I like it I will always give it an "I Like"...


Monday, April 5, 2010

Chalk Food + Wine in Covington - (Still) My Favorite Place

Chalk Food + Wine on Urbanspoon

Chalk continues to be my favorite restaurant in the greater-Cincinnati area. Located across the river in Covington, Chalk puts together a great, seasonal, menu and I noticed on my last visit, an emphasis on local wherever possible.

This was my 5th visit and I am still looking for something to top the duck “sloppy Joe” and venison pot-stickers, which helped me fall in love with the place. I hear they have a pulled-duck sandwich on their new lunch menu, so I will head back as soon as I can to try it out.

On this night, I started with a French country goat cheese, topped with plum jam and accented with spicy oil, you could smell the quality long before tasting it. The saltiness of the cheese and rich oil were balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the jam. Another sweet and savory treat was the fennel soup. A rich green color with little pools of Spanish olive oil provided the surprise of the night. This soup actually started out sweet and finished with a savory richness. I was not expecting this from a fennel soup, which I pictured to be a lot like an onion soup I guess…

I switched menus for my next little treat and enjoyed goat tartar. An addition to their small bites menu for restaurant week, this dish delivered. The only other time I have eaten goat is when my sous-chef used to take a 6-week sabbatical to go and visit his family in Mexico. He would bring back slow roasted whole goat. It was rich and tender, like pork. This goat, being raw, had a slight game flavor like you might get from venison. The texture of the meat was much like a beef tartar, but with an added layer of flavor. Complemented with a ginger, orange and fennel salad to add a bit of acidity to the deep richness, this is a must have if you visit.

Finally I had the Bluegrass Spring Lamb. When I eat lamb, I need a crust, to know that the pan was really hot to caramelize the fat and seal in the juices. As with a lot of meat, aside from the source, cooking technique is a must. Poorly seared, under-seasoned or cutting it too soon can just as easily ruin a very good piece as a bad. This lamb has it both, a great (local Fair Ridge farm) farm and the excellence in technique, which is a standard for Chalk. Crusty, juicy and full of flavor this dish was the perfect completion to the night. The sautéed spinach was great, the seasoning perfect and Chalk’s take on pierogi by deep-frying added a needed crunch to the plate.

I can’t leave without mentioning the beer. While Chalk’s name includes Food + Wine, I always find a great selection of beers to complement my meal. I had the amber selection from Mt. Carmel Brewing, the third I have tasted from these guys and it was great. Not too sweet and a very balanced amber ale that did not overpower my early courses and stood up very well to the rich goat and lamb entrées.

Overall, not my favorite meal at Chalk but definitely my favorite meal of the trip and best of the year so far in Cincinnati.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Arnold's Meatball Sandwhich in Downtown Cincinnati - Bring an Extra Napkin

Arnold's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

How about a meatball sandwich in a 149-year-old bar in Cincinnati? Oh yea, and a beer to go with it and some very German potato salad. This place does exist, it is Arnold’s and all we are going to talk about is the meatball sandwich. Sure they have other dishes, but if you are reading this and you have not been there before then you can save them for your second visit because (did I mention?) you are having the meatball sandwich.

Spicy red sauce, which I suspect is good on the spaghetti and meatballs enjoyed by my friend, provolone, tender meatballs and lettuce. What? How dare you say lettuce on a meatball sandwich, but I do and the crispiness and crunch complete the sandwich and balance the salty tang of the meat and sauce. Before eating it, I would have said I need a toasted bun but Arnold’s does theirs soft and I am not going to argue. I really like when separate ingredients come together to create something greater than themselves, no one overpowering in taste or spice, and this sandwich did it for me.

Now, the potato salad. From this picture, you can see it is a simple side dish, which looks as though it was served from a vat with an ice-cream scoop of some sort. For the cooks in the back I am guessing it is a chore that some new guy has to make so they have enough for everyone. But this is a solid German-style potato salad that has to be a recipe from someone’s mom or grandma from the old country. Again simple ingredients of skin-on red potatoes, some mayo, some crunch (celery & onion?) salt and pepper. Melts in your mouth, the kind of dish you may almost forget about because it is satisfying without being brash or showy, kind of like that German grandma I suspect.

My other dining companion had the Greek Spaghetti (the house specialty), a take on Pasta Puttanesca, the whore’s pasta. I am guessing it is the house dish because Arnold’s use to be / be near a brothel as with many a “big city” watering hole in those days. I say a “take” but really, by definition, Puttanesca is comprised of whatever you have around which for many Italians was extra olives, capers, some peppers or tomatoes, olive oil and some salty cheese. This one is good and worth ordering if you like the dish.

Arnolds is nothing fancy to look at, on a side street near the ubiquitous P&G headquarters which dominates downtown Cincinnati. First thing you notice about Arnold’s walking through the swinging door is that this is a bar where you might feel comfortable whiling away a day (or two) just sitting. This skinny room with big bar gives you a glimpse of what it must have been like in the late 19th century with a few horses parked outside. (Do you park a horse?)

Walk around the side of the bar and the space opens up into a huge courtyard covered from the cold and heated on my visit in February. There is a stage for live music and when this place is full I am sure it is a very good time. I promise to visit in the summer and update this posting with some photos and stories about Cincinnati’s music scene.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bay Guardian Bruce Brugman - Monopoly Crusher (or Builder?)

Nefarious characters throughout the history of this great nation, wait...just throughout history, have always sought to do ill under the guise of nobility. It is through delusion or narcissism of great magnitude which they convince themselves their actions are justified, even a footnote to history.

The Bay Guardian's Bruce Brugman seems to be one of these characters ( ). There is an old joke that goes "I looked (blank) up in the dictionary and saw a picture of you!" which comes to mind here...

Anyway, let's see if I can sum this up correctly (a step-by-step list to empire building!):

1. Accuse competitor (the only competitor) of being a Monopoly through obscure law
2. Disguise own faults / behaviors / same practices
3. Run competitor out of town, thus being the only man left standing
4. Use status to advantage by determining future of ad rates in said area
5. Look up "monopoly" in dictionary and summarily ignore what you have now become

Sound about right? It does to me after everything I have read about a very public feud with SF Weekly, whom Brugman sued and is now running out of town. He claims they were creating a "monopolistic" environment - what is the logical reaction? Why, create a monopoly of your own, of course.

I am a true capitalist (If you get a chance please read The Soul of Capitalism by William Greider) and believe competition does create a better marketplace. In the absence of competition I suspect the Guardian will become stale and irrelevant in an era where newspapers struggle for just this thing everyday. In this case I say "be careful what you ask for" as you just might get it.

New (Unexpected) iPhone Reality - The 20/50 Phenomenon

I love my iPhone, don't get me wrong. Used correctly I can sometimes make it through an entire day without needing my computer. It rocks for everything I do. It is somewhat easier that I have always been an Apple guy and the iPhone functionality is just an extension of what they have been building for decades now.

My office is also a "Mac Office" being an ad agency with all of our "creative" talent, it just makes sense. Along with all of those Macs comes literally hundreds of iPhones and iPhone users. Because of this, at 10 until the hour and 20 after the hour, thanks to time being synched by AT&T, it is like a clock shop, ding, dong, ding, ring, (insert JayZ ringtone here).

Our office is mired in meetings, one after another until the only time you can get work done is after 5 or before 8 in the morning. I will save my comments on that for another time, but now everyone's iPhones (in the default setting) are reminding people of meetings that are coming up in 10 minutes. It is so funny that most people look to the "top of" or "bottom of the hour" as their signals for time passing, not for me, now it is 20 and 50, dare I say just like clockwork?

It's not annoying and really somewhat funny as everyone looks down at their phones in unison, sometimes even the presenter in the meeting, as though this meeting just showed up and they have no idea how it got there. I hear it outside of my office like a cascade of sound breaking the white noise machines above our cubicle farm.

By the way, everyone is still late for my meetings, just as it was pre-iPhone. My suggestion for future iPhone versions is to set the default to 1 minute after the meeting starts. I can picture it now... everyone grabbing their iPhones as the tone rings, getting their stuff and running off to the next meeting sure to be cut short by synchronous tones of technology.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Susur Lee makes Lee’s a Toronto Destination

Lee on Urbanspoon
Lee’s sets a new standard for French / Asian fusion cuisine in the City of Toronto, from its signature dish to desert, it is complete with taste, artistry and execution.
Since I started travelling to Toronto, I have set out to really try and define what the city means to me from a food perspective. My business colleagues in advertising are no strangers to good food and restaurants, sharing their time between Toronto and Manhattan. So, when they suggested Lee’s I did not hesitate for a second to go, skipping lunch in anticipation.
Susur Lee’s claim to fame in their eyes is somewhat kitschy as the “Iron Chef of Canada.” For my associates, he takes national pride into the arena with him, maybe unknowingly. Now, I happened to go during the two week of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and on the day of a Canadian win in women’s hockey, so the nationalism may have been a notch or two above normal.
The first thing I mentioned to my dining companions was how the space Lee’s occupies reminds me more of Portland than Toronto. This part of town is previously home to textile warehouses at the western end of the “entertainment district” on King Street. Exposed wood ceilings, low-slung pin lights and orange “up” lights along the wall set the scene for a great dinner. Floor to ceiling windows allow you to see the snowfall out on King Street and the tables are see-through plastic. Although tinted orange, I mention they resemble plexi-glass hockey boards, maybe a nod to oh-Canada? What the tables accomplish is taking a small space and making not feel so crowded. I think a good sartorial tip for Lee’s (and really anytime) is that shoes make the outfit. In the back, the ceiling is slung low over a horseshoe bar with deep red walls and an oriental red fabric lamp. A subtle and perfect nod to the Asian-inspired food you are about to eat.
On to the food…Kirin in hand, I hit the jackpot as this night was going to be a sampling of the chef’s favorites. Dishes are served “family style” but the portions are such that an individual can order one by themselves, kind of like large tapas. However, this format allows Mr. Lee to do some more interesting things that deserve to be shared like the duck confit wrapped in pastry and topped with goat cheese. Complemented with dried pineapple to bring some sweetness, this dish was sublime, offering different textures and a balance of flavors all meant to be together.
It all started with the signature dish, Singaporean style slaw. People at the table were all shouting in anticipation “it has 16 ingredients”, “No! it has 14”, “No. 18” and on and on. I think I may have even heard a “niner” in there. Those who know me, understand my irrational love of cole-slaw, well this takes it to a whole new level. Crunchy, sweet, spicy, soft, then a hint of sesame oil, next bite, more ingredients an entirely different sensation. Hard to describe but very easy to eat, get one to share and become a Lee insider.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Let's Get This Party Started

Welcome to - this site serves a a personal archive and recepticle for my thoughts on the world of advertising and for my love of all things culinary.

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