Gettin' My Kicks!

So, while all of you were innocently getting up in the morning, pouring caffeine into your tired overworked bodies and heading out the door to work…I snuck away to LAS VEGAS!!!

Tony and I were attending a convention full of professional magicians. Magicians love doing three things – eating, drinking and talking. Besides magic, that is. I saw some really great performances. (If you are a magician, drop me a line and I’ll hook you up with all the dirty details!)

The one thing I will say about Vegas is that I ate too much and slept too little. The time difference always kills me when we head out West, so when we finally landed, we were famished. We checked into our hotel, made our hellos and then headed out to eat at Sushi-mon.

Tony and I had read about Sushi-mon online when doing research on Vegas eats. All you can eat sushi? We were rather skeptical. What kind of quality would you get at an all you can eat place? Pre-made sushi like you would find at the grocery store? Our friend Max, who lives in Vegas, swore to us it was not only was it edible but damn excellent.

Braving Max’s driving skills, we headed off to sushi heaven. Well that is what we hoped for anyway…The store is located in one of the millions of mock adobe strip malls that adorn the desert landscape. When we pulled up, the joint was packed. We hung out and watched folks packing in the food, both at tables and the sushi bar. There were at least five sushi chefs working at the time.

After about 45 minutes, a table opened up and we were seated. Max immediately ordered some miso soup and seaweed salad (excellent, by the way) for all of us, while we looked over the extensive menu. The rules run like this: the fee is $25 per hour per person. You must eat everything you order, or you will be charged full menu price for the items left on your plates.

The menu was huge –not only did they have a full selection of nigri but dozens of specialty rolls as well. We just started ordering tons of different stuff. Max recommended the 911 roll. I think Max just wanted to see if we really liked spicy food as much as we said we did… Boy howdy – was it spicy! But damn good…

We also got a Chubby roll…there were some not so thinly veiled jokes made at the hubby’s expense.

The one item that really caught my attention though was the tempura squid. It was perfect. Light batter, the squid still tender…hmmmmm my mouth is watering now..dammit….

Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, the waitress brought out tempura ice cream. Yes, it is a Japanese version of deep fried ice cream like you would get at Chi Chi’s when you were a kid…but so much better…

We then waddled back to the hotel and collapsed. So – I guess all you can eat sushi can be good…I figure it is not as good as what you would get in Tokyo, but it was a far sight better than what you can get in Columbus. Verdict: Sushi-mon will definitely be on my itinerary the next time we decide to motor West…

Stay tuned for more updates as they become available....


We the people...

Before you read this entry, you need to read this first.

I’ll wait.


What the hell? Why is the federal government deciding it has to play big brother when it comes to our eating habits?

Yes, yes…it’s all "in our best interests". The same as with other invasions of our privacy like the so-called “Patriot” Act. Tap our phones – regulate what foods we can buy and eat – it all infringes on our individual right to do what we please without other people butting into our business.

I stand by the notion that the government who governs best is the one who governs least. Am I not over eighteen? That makes me an adult who is supposed to be allowed to make decisions concerning my own business without interference from others.

The health police have gone too far already with city wide smoking bans. The individual owners of businesses should have the right to decide whether their establishments are smoking or not and patrons should have the right to choose whether to frequent establishments that allow smoking. If non-smokers choose not to frequent an establishment because of the owner’s policy, that’s natural selection. The success or failure of the business would be in the hands of the owner, not in the hand of the government.

Now, how long before the government decides that we, as adults, needs to have our hands held when it comes to our eating habits? Are they going to regulate what we eat? One city has already banned foie gras. The views of a few individuals are now making government policy for the many. That is wrong. That infringes on my right to pursuit of happiness. If you don’t like foie gras, if you don’t like how it is produced – simple solution: don’t eat it. That is your right as an individual – but don’t you dare tell me what I can and can’t do.

All I can say is: Commies! Actually, this is more socialistic behavior – but if we are a socialist country, we are piss poor at it. The government wants to tell us how to run our lives, yet we have excessively expensive private health insurance and retirement benefits.

So my message to the government: Stay out of my business! I am an adult and I will make the decisions here! If I choose to eat fatty foods and smoke like a stack, if I choose to disregard your “advise” – then so be it. There isn’t a damn thing you can do. You ain’t my mama.

I am now off my soap box.

Thank you for your support.

Book Cookin'

I went to the main library downtown last week. It is cookbook heaven. Aisles and aisles of nothing but food related volumes. It's amazing how all those authors feel that they have valuable input on the subject. True, food is one of the few common denominators we all have. Everyone has to eat, and everyone wants to eat well. Write a book about it - you have a built-in market. You are bound to get your share.

That being said - a lady recently sent me a cookbook to review. (Yeah I am willing to prostitute myself for my art - are you?) The book is "I Want My Dinner Now!" by Renee Pottle and is published by Hestia's Hearth Publishing and Design. The book is 144 pages long and is soft bound (aka paperback). It retails for $12.95 and can be purchased from their homepage or from Amazon.

While the cover touts this tome to be “Simple Meals for Busy Cooks”, it is really a beginner’s cookbook. It covers basic cooking tasks such as how to boil an egg or cook bacon. There are also pantry lists, discussions on basic spices and some unusual ingredients the average American may not be familiar with. The one thing that I thought was missing was a discussion of basic kitchen ware. If I am not familiar with cooking, how am I going to know what pots and pans to buy? Sure, you can buy a big set, but who needs a tiny skillet if you are feeding a family of six? (On the other hand, if you have a family of six, you are probably concentrating on something other than cooking.)

The recipes are fairly basic as well. While there are recipes such as Vegetable Curry and Paella, the recipes have been altered to fit American palates and pantries. For example, the Vegetable Curry calls for sour cream to be stirred in at the end. There is a heavy use of canned goods and dried herbs as befits a book that extols the virtues of a well stocked pantry. The one thing I found really disturbing is the use of dried garlic and onion in lot of the recipes. It only takes a couple minutes to peel and chop some onion and garlic, and those items are things that I was taught to always keep in my pantry. Plus, basic knife skills are always a good thing to practice. Just ask Jason Vorhees.

I do like how the recipes are formatted. Each one has measurements for 2 and 6 people. If you need to cook for 4 - just double the ingredients for 2 servings. Each recipe also spells out a grocery list, what items should be in your pantry and what you will have to buy at the store. It makes it easy to plan a week's worth of meals while leafing through the book.

So in all fairness, I should make something from the book to test it out. Problem is, most of the recipes held no real appeal for me. As an established cook, I have a repertoire of recipes and my dishes have been honed to meet my family's tastes and my cooking style. I just don't use canned mushrooms. Bleck. And I definitely don't put sour cream in my quick potato and chickpea curry. So I decided to let a member of my kitchen posse, Debbie, take a whack at producing some of these recipes.

Debbie chose to make Better Than a Burger Meatloaf. The description of the recipe says “The version of our favorite comfort food includes all the usual burger trimmings". I would amend that to say "everything but lettuce." I hear it doesn't do well in the oven.

When I was growing up – my mom would say to me, “Why don’t you like meatloaf? It’s just like a hamburger, but baked instead.” Well, my mom’s burgers were pretty dry and tasteless, and her meatloaf even worse. The title of the recipe did not really instill a whole bunch of confidence in me, but I trusted Debbie’s judgment.

There was my first mistake. Did I mention Debbie could cook? She does, and rather well at that. That is a problem though. An experienced cook can’t help but toss in a little of this and a little of that, improving and experimenting along the way. Debbie’s first attempt at the meatloaf was really good. But it wasn’t the recipe in the book.

Feeling a little guilty, Debbie made the recipe again the following week. This time she followed the recipe exactly. The recipe ended up rather bland and the texture was dry. Most meatloaf recipes call for some type of vegetation, such as onions, that will exude moisture into the mix as it cooks and help replace the fat lost during baking. I mean it wasn’t as bad as my mom’s meatloaf (nothing could be that bad), but it wasn’t all that great either.

If I were a student in college or a widower just learning how to cook, I would have been impressed with my first attempt at meatloaf following the recipe. But as an experienced cook, it left a lot to be desired. Of course, top anything with enough ketchup…

Over all, "I Want My Dinner Now!" is a good book for a novice cook. It contains basic recipes with easy to follow instructions, ingredient lists and variable serving sizes. Will it be coming off of my cookbook shelf any time soon? Nope, but that is because I am experienced cook, not because the cookbook is bad. However, when my daughter goes off to college in three years, this book will find its way into her household, because she is going to need all the help she can get.

P.S. I have attached a pdf of the recipe to this review so that you can see the formatting of the book as well as the recipe.

P.P.S. The side dish that Debbie made to go with the meatloaf was peas and artichokes from a Greek cookbook her sister in Chicago gave her. It was fantastic. I will have to wrestle the recipe from her soon...


Amuse this!

Ok - I tend to be a pretty down to earth gal. I tend to call ‘em like I see ‘em and sometimes – just occasionally- I get tired of all the hoity toity terms used in food circles.

Take my most recent pet peeve – amuse bouche. I was over at The Restaurant Widow’s joint. She talked about the wonderful radishes she got and how she paired them up with bread and butter to make an amuse bouche. Ya know – when I was growing up – that was called a pre-dinner snack. It’s the kind of thing my mom would give to the starving children so they wouldn’t waste away before dinner hit the table in twenty minutes.

If I were dining at the French Laundry – I might expect to get something called an amuse bouche. Hell, for $210 per person, it should be a freaking hysterical bouche. It better be a “front row seat at my favorite comedien” bouche or “The kid in 5th grade who always made me laugh so hard milk shot out my nose” bouche.

Next thing ya know - they will be offering amuse bouche at your local Mickey D’s. I mean they got oranges and fresh soy beans in their new salads – why not grab onto a new buzzword as well. “Hello, Welcome to McDonald’s. Would you like to try one of our new McBouches?”

So, to keep my taste buds amused, I am pleased to say that I have been snacking on fresh radishes from the garden – pretty damn tasty. Plus some fresh baby spinach…that I am going to use in a pasta dish tomorrow night – I might even post pictures if it tickles my fancy.

Tonight, however, I decided to warp a recipe from Bourdain’s book – Frisee aux Lardons. (It’s ok for me to use French words here – it’s a French dish.) Basically, it is what my mom would have called a wilted salad, which she adored. It takes frisee – more commonly know as curly endive - and tosses it with crispy fried bacon bit and shallots, and topped off with chicken liver vinaigrette that has been warmed in the same skillet that was used to fry the bacon. It is served with toasted baguette rounds smeared with a nice strong blue cheese. Excuse me – bleu cheese.

Not having chicken liver vinaigrette hanging around the kitchen, Mr. Bourdain will have to forgive me for substituting in a nice red wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette instead. I also added two poached eggs on top (having picked up some fresh eggs from the farmer’s market this morning) which mixed nicely with the bitter greens and vinaigrette. Pared with a crusty roll, it was an awesome dinner. And my mouth was laughing all the way.

Rosie’s Frisee aux Lardon (or Wilted Salad with Bacon and Eggs)

Two medium heads of curly endive or frisee
Half pound of bacon, cut into coarse dice
½ cup of thinly sliced sweet onion
¾ cup red wine vinaigrette (homemade using the basic ratio 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 oil)
4 eggs, poached

Clean the endive. Wash well and tear into bite size pieces. Dry and place into large bowl. Add the thinly sliced onions to the bowl.

Brown off the bacon until crisp. Put aside. Do not sample while making rest of recipe. Drain all but two tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan. Add the vinaigrette to the pan and bring to a boil. Take off heat and immediately pour hot dressing over salad. Toss to distribute evenly.

Divide the salad into serving bowls and top with bacon.

Poach eggs over simmering water. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and allow to drain before placing on salad. Top with salt and freshly grated pepper.

To Eat: Break eggs and mix with dressing before eating. Use crusty bread to wipe up last of dressing.