Where's my dough?!

Daring Blogger November Challenge - Potato Freakin' Bread!

A big shout out to Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups for picking a potato bread recipe for this month's challenge.

I went through a phase about 8 years ago where I made homemade bread every weekend. No shit. I loved beating the hell out of the bread dough - it was a great stress reliever. Actually - I just went through a yeast raised whatever phase - rolls, cinnamon buns, bread, coffee cakes - you name it, we were eating it. My family was in heaven. Then I stopped. I don't know why - most likely a combination of ennui and a crushing work schedule. My family was very sad - my hubby even tried to bribe me into making sticky rolls. So now - after that great hiatus - I decided that yes, I would make potato bread. There was much rejoicing from the peanut gallery!

The first thing I would like to say is - I found the way the recipe was written was confusing. I had to read it about 4 times before I got everything squared away. I even read the whole thing out loud to the hubby (a technical ghost writer by trade) who made me re-read parts so that he could make sure he understood everything. I will try to point out several items that I thought needed clarification from the get-go as we talk about the process.

If you haven't made bread before, I would say there are better recipes to explore first. Why, you ask?

First, it is an atypical recipe. It uses some unusual ingredients compared to most bread recipes - All Purpose flour and potatoes. The recipe calls for 6.5 to 8.5 cups of flour - but the initial dough only accounts for 4 cups of that flour. The rest of it gets processed into the dough as you knead it for 10 minutes. (BTW, that was one of the things the recipe was not specific about. I would have liked to have seen a specific breakdown of how the flour was to be used at the beginning rather than have to extrapolate the information by deduction.)

Second, the dough is unusually wet and sticky. It reminds me more of a cookie or cake batter than a bread dough at "the mix everything together" stage. (I would have taken pictures of this step, but my hands were coated in goo!!) This is also not typical of most bread doughs. Combined with the need to knead in the additional flour, it really makes it hard to tell when the dough has come together. With traditional bread, you can almost feel the dough get glossy and smooth under your hands as the gluten develops. Not so in this case. It was still sticky even after I had added an additional 4.5 cups of flour. This also effected the shaping of the loaves and rolls as well. I was not about to stick this stuff onto my peel and try to slide it off into the oven. True, I could have used parchment paper - but better safe than sorry. (It was scary!!) I opted to bake the loaf in a glass pan. (I also thought the recipe was vague on the handling of the finished dough. It also talks about using a pan - then it talks about putting your loaves on a baking stone- but these were never individually addressed.)

Another thing that kinda bothered me was that I could not bake the rolls and the loaf at the same time. My oven is pretty darn small. So I placed the dough in the fridge to retard its rise while the rolls went full speed ahead. I got the loaf pan from the fridge about 20 minutes before I wanted to bake it and it ended up being perfect. I might try doing a slow overnight rise at some point just to see if it can be done. As a beginner, I would have had no idea what to do in this case.

Two other bitchy points and then I'll shut - I mean - sum up:

The recipe also said to mash the potatoes well - but the description said it should have 'lil chunks of potato. That seemed a contradiction to me. Using russets, I ran the well cooked potatoes through a ricer so that the potatoes had a almost fluffy texture, then dissolved into the water when it was added. So no 'lil chunks of tater for me.

I also thought that 1 cup of wheat flour wasn't enough to really give any flavor to the dough. I would trade out more wheat for white if I were to make this recipe again.

So over all - how did this bread rate?

Well, the bread came out of the oven very bland. We started eating the rolls as soon as they were cool enough and were not impressed. My hubby was very sad. However, upon letting everything set overnight, the flavor of the bread really came out. We ended up toasting the rolls in the toaster and then eating them with cream cheese and jam. The bread is still moist and fresh tasting two days after it came out of the oven.

The texture was soft and it had lots of nice nooks and crannies for holding melted butter. Even made nice sandwiches as it held up to lots of turkey and mayo without sagging.

It really wasn't a hard bread to make once I had puzzled out the instructions. It was a little bit fussy compared to my everyday loaf and much softer than I was used to. I kinda doubt I will make it again unless specifically asked to - and even then I will be looking for shortcuts to make it more "schedule friendly".

So to give folks a little clarification on the base recipe:

If you plan on making this bread, four cups of white AP flour and one cup of whole wheat go into the dough during the initial stage- you then knead in the other 2.5 to 5.5 cups of white AP flour. The dough will still be soft and a little sticky after the remaining flour is worked in.

If you are covering your rising bowl with plastic wrap, I would suggest hitting it with a little oil first. The risen dough will stick like glue to the wrap if you don't.

Baking time for the 9 x 5 loaf pan: I started at 450 degrees for the first 10 minutes and finished the loaf at 375 degrees for about 35-40 minutes. I baked it until the loaf sounded hollow when tapped on the bottom. I could not say if the same times and temps would hold true if you were to throw this same amount of dough onto a baking stone. If using a baking stone - definitely use parchment.

So that's it! The November Challenge is OVER! Bring on December!!

Tender Potato Bread
(from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid; who also wrote Hot Sour Salty Sweet)
Daring Bakers Challenge #13: November 2007

Host: Tanna (My Kitchen in Half Cups)
Post Date: Monday, November 26

Makes 1 large tender-crumbed pan loaf AND something more; one 10X15 inch crusty yet tender foccacia, 12 soft dinner rolls, or a small pan loaf

Suggested Toppings:

For Loaves and Rolls: melted butter (optional)

For Foccacia: olive oil, coarse salt, and rosemary leaves (optional; also see variation)

For Anchovy-Onion Focaccia: Instead of oil, salt, and rosemary, top with onions slow-cooked in olive oil or bacon fat, a scattering of chopped anchovy fillets, and flat-leafed parsley leaves.

Alternate fillings, seasons, shapes are up to you.

Conversion Chart for yeast:
1 oz/ 1 Tablespoon of fresh yeast = 0.4 oz/ 1.25 teaspoon active or instant dry yeast = 0.33 oz / 1 teaspoon instant or rapid rise (bread machine) yeast. Reference: Crust & Crumb by Peter Reinhart


4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
Tanna Note: For the beginner bread baker I suggest no more than 8 ounces of potato; for the more advanced no more than 16 ounces. The variety of potatoes you might want to use would include Idaho, Russet & Yukon gold, there are others.

4 cups(950 ml) water, reserve cooking water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups (1 kg to 1350g) unbleached all-purpose
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (130g) whole wheat flour

Making the Dough (Directions will be for making by hand):

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well. Tanna Note: I have a food mill I will run my potatoes through to mash them.

Measure out 3 cups(750ml) of the reserved potato water. Add extra water if needed to make 3 cups. Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in. Let cool to lukewarm (70-80°F/21 - 29°C) – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.

Add yeast to 2 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Note about Adding Yeast: If using Active Dry Yeast or Fresh yeast, mix & stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes & water and let stand 5 minutes. Then add 2 cups of flour to the yeast mix and allow to rest several minutes. If using Instant Dry Yeast, add yeast to 2 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.

Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated.
Tanna Note: At this point you have used 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups suggested by the recipe.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft. Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.

Forming the Bread:
Tanna Note: It is at this point you are requested to Unleash the Daring Baker within. The following is as the recipe is written. You are now free to follow as written or push it to a new level.

Divide the dough into 2 unequal pieces in a proportion of one-third and two-thirds (one will be twice as large as the other). Place the smaller piece to one side and cover loosely.

To shape the large loaf:
Butter a 9 x 5 x 2.5 inch loaf/bread pan. Flatten the larger piece of dough on the floured surface to an approximate 12 x 8 inch oval, then roll it up from a narrow end to form a loaf. Pinch the seam closed and gently place seam side down in the buttered pan. The dough should come about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled in volume.

To make a small loaf with the remainder:
Butter an 8x4X2 inch bread pan. Shape and proof the loaf the same way as the large loaf.

To make rolls:
Butter a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake pan or a shallow cake pan. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball under the palm of your floured hand and place on the baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between the balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 35 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled.

To make focaccia:
Flatten out the dough to a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches with your palms and fingertips. Tear off a piece of parchment paper or wax paper a little longer than the dough and dust it generously with flour. Transfer the focaccia to the paper. Brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle on a little coarse sea salt, as well as some rosemary leaves, if you wish and then finally dimple all over with your fingertips. Cover with plastic and let rise for 20 minutes.

Baking the bread(s):

Note about baking order: bake the flat-bread before you bake the loaf; bake the rolls at the same time as the loaf.

Note about Baking Temps: I believe that 450°F(230°C) is going to prove to be too hot for the either the large or small loaf of bread for the entire 40/50 minutes. I am going to put the loaves in at 450°(230°C) for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 375°F (190 °C) for the remaining time.

Note about cooling times: Let all the breads cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Rolls can be served warm or at room temperature.

For loaves and rolls:
Dust risen loaves and rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter or olive oil (the butter will give a golden/browned crust). Slash loaves crosswise two or three times with a razor blade or very sharp knife and immediately place on the stone, tiles or baking sheet in the oven. Place the rolls next to the loaf in the oven.

Bake rolls until golden, about 30 minutes. Bake the small loaf for about 40 minutes. Bake the large loaf for about 50 minutes.

Transfer the rolls to a rack when done to cool. When the loaf or loaves have baked for the specified time, remove from the pans and place back on the stone, tiles or baking sheet for another 5 to 10 minutes. The corners should be firm when pinched and the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

For foccaia:
Place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, if not use a no edged baking/sheet (you want to be able to slide the shaped dough on the parchment paper onto the stone or baking sheet and an edge complicates things). Place the stone or cookie sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450°F/230°C.

If making foccacia, just before baking, dimple the bread all over again with your fingertips. Leaving it on the paper, transfer to the hot baking stone, tiles or baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack (remove paper) and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.


Gobble Gobble!

Well I hope everyone had a great Turkey Day! We lost power at our house from 10am until about 4pm - I just ended up putting the poor turkey in the oven at 5pm then making mashed potatoes and green beans for the sides. We ate about 9pm. Fortunately I had finished the pumpkin pies the night before. So while it was a small dinner - I suppose I should be thankful that it wasn't nearly as fattening as it could have been. I feel healthier already!!

This is not the first time Thanksgiving was called on account of technical difficulties. About 15 years ago, my mother lived out in the boonies North of New Albany. We woke up and started getting our prep work done for the big day - I got Mr. Turkey out of his package and took him over to the sink to get his bath. I turned on the faucet. No water. Mom came over - assuming I was pulling her leg. Still no water. Went into the basement to check the softener system. Nope. No water there either. A hurried called to a well specialist confirmed that the pump had picked the worst possible time die. (Oh - I didn't mention we had a well? - sorry about that - I mean, it was the boonies!) So we called all the family and said "No turkey for you!!". We ended up eating at Ryan's Buffet. Ryan's was the only place serving at the time. It was - bar none - the worst Thanksgiving dinner we ever had. (Sorry Ryan's - you suck!)

So not having electricity was not a huge disaster. It was just a minor setback. I actually got to go see a movie. We saw Beowulf. I loved the book - now I had to see the motion picture. (Yes, I am that kinda geek. I also loved reading the Iliad and Odyssey as well.) A quick review - I love Neil Gaiman. I think he is a good writer and I was eager to see what he had done to one of my old favorites. Here is a review in a nutshell: The animation was kinda spotty. Some parts were great - like the battle scenes - and others were so-so. The so-so scenes reminded me of cut scenes from video games. The story was well written and engaging, but the unevenness of the animation would distract you from the story. If you are going to see it - spring for the Imax 3-D experience. At least you will reap the rewards of the axes flying out of the screen at you.

Now for something completely different!

Last Sunday, the 2007 Cookie Confab was held at the Hong Kong Buffet at Reed and Henderson. After much discussion, it was decided that we would be cutting back on the amount of cookies made this year. Part of it was a time consideration - the other part a cost consideration. Baking for the masses is costly and with the price of gas and other commodities eating into our budgets, we cut back on the number and types of cookies. The one cookie we all agreed on was Stroopwaffles. The damn things are so addictive. Crispy cinnamon scented cookies with caramel sandwiched between them - who could resist? Also making the list were Pecan Diamonds, Sandies, Decorated Cutouts and Gingersnaps.

The other thing we decided was to expand into candy this year. Specifically toffee, sea foam and something called Kentucky Creams that Debbie found a recipe for in the Columbus Dispatch. The creams intrigued me - they are a pulled candy. This means you take the sugar, butter and cream mixture and boil it to the softball stage, then pour it out onto a marble slab. (Yes - Gail has a marble slab. She has a thing for heavy stone objects. Here are some of the other items in her collection - statues of family members, outbuildings and birdbaths.) Once it is cool enough to handle, then you pull it like taffy until it looks "creamy". If you pull it properly, it will soften and get creamy. If you pull it improperly - well one lady suggested passing it off as fudge!! So yet another challenge for the Cookin' Trio!

I will try to take pictures of our candy making adventures. No promises though - I might be too busy pulling out the candy! It all depends on who draws the short straw.

Next up - Another Daring Adventure!!


Old Mrs. Hubbard went to the cupboard...

Let's talk about the other factor in this recipe - the pantry.

I am not going to give you a list. While it would be amusing, I doubt if it would be of much use unless you cook the exact same things as I do. Which I am betting you don't - at least not every single item. I have basics - oil, flour, sugar, salt, pepper -things like that. I have the exotic - like lime pickles and sesame oil. And I do have a few items that I bought on impulse - like Lyle's Golden Syrup. (Strictly for my pecan tassie recipe -yum yum!) But your pantry will come to reflect what recipes you make on a regular basis.

One such item for me is canned tomatoes. I have several types in the cabinet at any one time. I keep an eye out for types that I use on sale. My favorite brand right now is Dei Fratelli. Why? They are raised and canned here in Ohio. A chance to "eat local" out of my cupboard all year long. Plus I like the quality. If they sucked - I don't care how local they are, I would not use them.

What can you do with canned tomatoes? Cream of tomato soup, chili, pasta dishes, "salsa", veggie soup, stewed tomatoes - hell that is just off the top of my head. I am sure you can think of at least a half dozen more.

Something I don't have in my cupboard? Canned green beans. Can't stand mushy bland beans. I use frozen instead.

As you develop your recipe repertoire, your pantry will adjust accordingly. The pantry I had in college - IE peanut butter, grape jelly, Wonder bread and ramen noodles is a far cry from what I have today. I still have ramen for the quick dinner - but I've dumped the pb&j and added capers, curry powder and whole wheat bread. Maybe in five years, you won't see a caper in sight.

Everything I used in the recipe below was either a pantry staple or something I had purchased as a loss leader. I do not normally buy roasting chickens - but they were on sale at an earlier time and I bought a couple for the freezer. We had roast chicken with rice pilaf and green beans Sunday night. Now I was stuck with half a chicken. Hmmm - what to do?

I always make stock with the carcass. Period. It's a free bonus. Don't have time to keep an eye on a simmering pot? Get out a 6 qt crock. It works great.

That leaves the leftover meat - It could mean a casserole, a soup, chicken salad - it's a blank palate ready to go.

So why did I make Chicken and Dumplings?

Here is the answer you were waiting on with baited breath - I splurged when I did the Bostini cakes. I bought cake flour. I never have cake flour in the house. I rarely ever bake cakes - from a mix or scratch. And I just couldn't stand the thought of the rest of the Swan's Down going to waste. So I pulled out the dumplings. (True - you can use All Purpose, but the dumplings just aren't as tender or light. And screw Bisquick. Nasty.)

All pantry baby!

The thing is, the base recipe is really similar to a couple other soups I do:

Potato soup - leave out the chicken and dumplings.Keep the herbs to a minimum. Add about 3 pounds of potatoes cut in 1 to 1.5 inch cubes. Cook until all veggies are tender. Add a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream at the end of cooking and "smash" the potatoes a little bit to release their starch.

Chicken and Noodle Soup - just throw in noodles (preferably homemade) cook until noodles are tender. Put the precooked chicken in the bottom of the bowls and pour soup over it.

Having a pantry and a standing repertoire of dishes means you are ready to go no matter what the occasion. It's that lil black dress you always wanted and were afraid you would get too fat to fit into...so what are you waiting for!? Get cracking!


Now don't be chicken....

Last week, as I was driving to work, it snowed.

Not much but still - brrrrrrrrr.

So it is now officially "that time of year" and I can start pulling out the stick to your ribs recipes.

While driving home, I was thinking about what to make for dinner. I had the remnants of a roast chicken - IE: broth I had made the night before plus some of the meat I had salvaged from the carcass prior to immersion in simmering water. I always have veggies like carrots, celery and onions in the veggie drawer. I had some once-fresh herbs I had stuck in the freezer (Thanks Lorence!!). Hmmmmmmm...

The it hit me - Chicken and Dumplings!

I had not made them in years. There is something about the light texture of dumplings that makes them fantastic comfort food.

Now here is a questions I am sure a lot of you are asking - If the dumplings are so damn good - why haven't you made them in years?

Good question!

The answer is - well -we'll cover that later.

However - before we proceed - let's talk a little bit about your recipe repertoire.

I can't remember where I read it - but someone somewhere mentioned that every cook should know how to make at least 40 different recipes. I am going to suppose that the person didn't mean that all those recipes had to come from memory - I would be S.O.L. in that department. That being said - I do have basic ways of making certain things that I can use as a base recipe. That recipe, with the addition of various items or others, allow me to come up with a variety of dishes from memory.

This is one of those recipes.

This also means - there are no written recipe for a big chunk of it.

To be truthful - it is also one of the reasons I have so much trouble blogging sometimes. I make the same recipes fairly frequently. No, I am not the "meatloaf every Tuesday" kinda gal - but my family will request my standards on a regular basis. Pot roast, fried chicken, Spaghetti Carbonara, Pasta Puntanesca (Or however it is spelled), stovetop mac and cheese, sauteed green beans, sauteed spinach, meatloaf, salmon patties plus quite a few other recipes. They live up in my head and at anytime, I will just pull out one of my "old faithfuls" and whipped together dinner from a combination of what I have in my pantry plus whatever is on sale that week.

I know some bloggers seem to spend a lot of time chronicling their food adventures - about how they try new recipes all the time, about how they got a new cookbook then ran out and bought a whole bunch of ingredients and tried new recipes out over the weekend. I tried that. I got tired of it real quick. The whole process is a waste of money and my time - both of which I have just too little of these days.

It doesn't mean that I don't try new things. I read cookbooks constantly. But my rules for trying a new recipe are more strict than a casting director weeding out the herd from a cattle call. I ask myself things like:

  • Do I already own most of the ingredients?
  • If I have to buy special ingredients, will they bust my household budget for the month? I allow some wiggle room in my food budget just in case, but is this recipe worth blowing my slush fund on?
  • If I am buying new food products, will my family be likely to eat them? Wasted food is wasted time and money.

Take my chicken and dumplings - a fine example.

Here is the base recipe:

12 cups homemade chicken broth

1/4 stick of butter or 3-4 T of veggie oil

3 large carrots halved then cut into 1/4 slices

3 - 4 stalks of celery sliced about the same size as the carrots

2 medium onions diced

1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt, Pepper and various herbs (dried, frozen or fresh)

3-4 cups of pre-cooked diced chicken


1 cup cake flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1 egg


Base instructions

Heat butter or oil in heavy dutch oven. Saute onions and garlic until transparent. Add celery and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add carrots and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add broth and herbs. In this case I like to use thyme, sage, dill, black pepper, seasoned salt a dash of red pepper and a couple of bay leaves. I wanted a very herb-y flavorful broth to offset the blandness of the dumplings. Cook until the veggies are all soft but not mushy.

That's it! Easy Peasy!


Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Break egg into measuring cup and beat. Add enough milk to the egg to make a 1/2 cup of liquid. Add to flour mixture. You want the batter to be stiff. If the flour is not totally incorporated, add tiny bits of milk until you have the proper consistency.

Have your soup base at an even simmer and drop the dumpling batter into the pot. I use a big serving spoon - I like big dumplings. You can do them small as well. As soon as all of the batter is in the pot, put the lid on. Do no peek for about 8 minutes. You are steaming them done. To test for doneness, use a toothpick or skewer. The wooden item of choice should come out clean.

To serve:

Divide the cooked chicken evenly amount 4 bowls. Dish out the dumplings and stew over top of the chicken. (Please remember to remove all the bay leaves.) Give 'em lots of broth. The dumplings will soak it all up when you cut them open.

This is what the whole thing looks like when ready to serve.

It was tasty.
And the change of pace made the family happy.

So that's it for now - I have the 2007 Cookie Confab to head out to!! Gail, Debbie and I are making our big plans for the holidays - and a lot later than usual because of my frequent business trips this fall. Tune in later in the week for more about pantries, recipes and of course - cookies!


A word to the wise...

So let's play a little word game...

What does "Grand" mean?

According to the dictionary it can mean:
1. Large and impressive in size, scope, or extent; magnificent
2. Rich and sumptuous
3. Wonderful or very pleasing

How about "Oriental"?
1. Of or relating to the countries of the Orient or their peoples or cultures; eastern.

And "Buffet"?
1. A meal at which guests serve themselves from various dishes displayed on a table or sideboard.
2. a. A counter or table from which meals or refreshments are served.
b. A restaurant having such a counter.

So to sum up - a grand oriental buffet should be a thing of great beauty - a chance to eat a variety of tasty exotic treats with your family and friends in a casual serve yourself kinda setting.

Oh but you are so, so, so wrong!

I learned that putting those three words together mean none of the above! I lay the evidence before you so that you may judge for yourself.

Getting off of work late, I instructed the mate and female offspring that we were going out to eat. On the way home I had noticed the grand opening of a new Chinese buffet. Great! Perfect! Everyone will be happy! No bickering! No stress!

We head over to the Grand Oriental Buffet at 900 East Dublin-Granville Road.

We pull up at about 6pm - prime dinner time. Hmmmmm- don't seem to be too crowded. Well, it is a Wednesday. We'll try it anyway.

The first thing to greet us as we go in the door is the brand spankin' new green card from the Columbus Health Department. It was dated for the day before - a good sign.

We go in...it's kinda creepy. The place is huge. It has the prerequisite fountain in one corner. It has artwork done in a vaguely Asian style. All these trappings had been added over top of the decor from the previous tenant - a failed Italian joint.

We are lead through the maze of empty dining areas to where our fellow diners are chowing down on what looks like standard buffet fair. Tony and I order iced tea, Annie a soft drink. We then head over to the rows of steam tables.

This is when we start getting bad feelings.

There was scum on the egg drop soup.

The desserts looked dried out.

Many dishes hadn't been disturbed in so long that they had started to form a hard crust.

So we picked out some things that might be ok. None of us had eaten since noon - we were desperate!

Upon sitting down, I took a drink of my iced tea - and spit it out. The ice tea had gone over.

As I was getting ready to warn Tony that the tea was bad - he spit out a bite of shrimp. "It's rotten!" he said as he gulped down some iced tea. "Blegh!!!" he said as he realized the tea was bad as well.

We sat stunned for a moment.

Annie looked at us as we sat gaping.

Then I said "Put on your coat. We are leaving."

The hostess came over and asked if anything was wrong. Boy was her timing off. I let her have it in the middle of the dining room. I told her I had never eaten rotten food in a restaurant before, that they would eventually get shut down for giving people food poisoning and that there was no way we were paying for a damn thing. The other diners sat staring at us as though we were insane. And then kept on eating as we left.

We drove over to Mimi for pho. It's where we should have gone in the first place I suppose.

I will say - without question - that that was the worst experience I have ever had in a restaurant. Ever. Bar none.

So don't eat at the Grand Oriental Buffet. Tell all your friends and family not to eat there. Unless it's the uncle you never liked - you can tell him. I won't rat you out.