Mouf Links

Mouf Links

mouf links

  1. Elvis Rolls (Bacon and Legs) – It’s hard not to shake your hips at any food with the Elvis-inspired combination of banana, peanut butter and bacon, but Fontina Turner’s idea to roll all that legendary goodness up into a cinnamon roll will definitely have you all shook up for breakfast. Breakfast?! Let’s not kid ourselves, this is late night drunk food at its finest (and possibly a hangover cure).
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  2. I Had A Terrible Experience At This Restaurant Because I Am A Terrible Person (Clickhole) – I’m a sucker for parody sites like Clickhole and The Onion (hence, the foodgawker Rejects post), so OF COURSE I’m going to love anyone poking fun of yelp reviewers. The title alone makes me laugh, because it’s way too true of many Yelpers out there. If only there were a way to rate the reviewers themselves…
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  3. Lessons from Ice Cream Maven Jeni Britton Bauer (Food and Wine) – If you’ve experienced the foodgasmic properties of Jeni’s Splendid ice cream, then you’ll understand me when I say the founder, Jeni Britton, is the Steve Jobs of ice cream. If you haven’t experienced a scoop of her brilliance, then go order some Brown Butter Almond Brittle right now. This interview/masters class on ice cream making will make you wish Jeni was a politician, ’cause she could fix this country one scoop at a time.
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  4. Planet Money Podcast:  Episode 555 – Why is milk in the back of the store? – In another fine podcast, the folks at Planet Money attempt to answer why milk is always at the back of the store. Maybe it’s because the grocery store gods want to manipulate you into walking through the entire store just for a gallon of moo juice. Maybe it just makes more logistical sense and helps facilitate the “cold chain.” Either way, the podcast is great fun, especially the friendly debate between food writer Michael Pollan and economist Russ Roberts.
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  5. SamePlate.com – Did you know there’s a dating site for foodies?!  Screw eHarmony’s 29 dimensions of compatibility and just find a partner with your mouf. (Through FOOD. Talking about food, here…)
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Thought Nuggets

PieCake Theory

piecakemath

I was a bit of a picky eater as a child. Vegetables had little place in my diet, experimenting with new foods was a rarity, and my parents’ conversion to a health food/vegan lifestyle (before vegans were cool) was a huge hit to my Slurpee and candy bar diet. I spent many meals complaining, rather than embracing what was on my plate and exploring potential new foods to eat that fit within the healthy/vegan box.  I was just a stupid little boy who knew nothing about PieCake Theory.

Confused? Good.

My mom recently made a PieCake. Although it sounds like a mythical love child between the Greek Goddess Piesyith and God Cakeus, it’s really much less interesting. In fact, it’s exactly what its name implies, an entire pie baked inside of a cake. I was excited to try it, because it’s yet another hybrid food gimmick that had the potential for deliciousness.

My excitement quickly diminished, as I found myself eating around the cake simply to get to the pie. And because the cake was being a real pie-block, it upset me even more. I JUST WANTED THE PIE. (Sidebar: In case you’ve not picked up this from my numerous tweets, subtle references, and Instagram pictures, I love pie like no other food. And cake is… Cake is the food equivalent of shrugged shoulders.) Anyway, back to the PieCake.

It’s odd that a dessert could bring out so much vitriol and I wasn’t quite sure why. I love pie and I don’t hate cake, so shouldn’t the simple addition of Pie + Cake = PieCake result in the following relationship:

PieCake > Pie > Cake

My mouf would disagree.

As I thought about it more, I realized that when two food items are combined, the end result is only greater than the sum of its parts if the person eating enjoys each individual part equally. Instead of the food items cooperating and elevating each other, they balance each other out in terms of deliciousness. It’s a little more complicated than simple addition, rather it requires some seventh grade algebra to illustrate.

I could eat pie almost every day. Conservatively, let’s say that I could eat pie every day except on Tuesdays (I’d need a caloric break at least once a week). Assuming there are 52 Tuesdays per year, that means I’m eating pie on the other 313 days of the year (what a fantastic year that would be). So, my Desired Annual Consumption Value (DACV) would be 313 pies / 365 days or .86. Notice that this is essentially a percentage (which I’ll get to in a second) and the highest possible DACV is 1.00.

Cake, on the other hand, I could probably eat once every other week. (And I’m talking about really good flourless chocolate cake with berries and two pounds of fresh whipped cream. Not those vegetable shortening-soaked grocery store rectangles of gluten.) A cake every other week would mean that my DACV would be 26 cakes / 365 days or .07.

Clearly my desired annual consumption value for pie of .86 is MUCH higher than my desired annual consumption value for cake of .07. We could convert the values into percentages and essentially say that during 86% of all days each year, I want pie, while in just 7% of those same days I would enjoy a cake. (Notice that the two percentages do not add up to 100%, as they are independent values. Also notice how quickly you begin scrolling down for more pictures.)

Okay, now that we know my cake and pie DACV, how does that relate to the PieCake hybrid? Well, the pie is baked inside of the cake (rather than a cake baked inside of a pie, which would be a CakePie), so by default the dish is predominantly a cake. Based on eyeballing the PieCake, I’d say it’s about 60% cake 40% pie. Those of you who are astute might recommend I calculate this part based on the ingredient measurements or weights, but this isn’t Nikola Tesla‘s blog, so please adjust expectations accordingly.

If you’re still with me (as if you’re THAT busy at work), then to figure out my cumulative DACV for PieCake, we would have to multiply each DACV by its corresponding percentage and add those together:

.86 Pie DACV x 40% = .34
.07 Cake DACV x 60% = .04
.34 + .04 = .38 PieCake DACV

Thus, the PieCake DACV is .38, which falls between the pie DACV of .86 and the cake DACV of .07

OR

Pie > PieCake > Cake

So, assuming each individual component is not equally delicious, the PieCake Theory kind of makes sense and explains why I was dissappointed and was forced to search out only the pie. However, if you follow through on the math and assume that you love each individual component equally, the results would indicate that no hybrid foods could ever taste better (only equal to) their individual components.

But what about the CRONUT?

By my theory above, even if you loved doughnuts and croissants equally at the highest level possible, the best case scenario would always result in equality across all three foods:

Cronut = Donut = Croissant

But that’s simply false, because I would argue that based on taste, texture, and the glorious sounds of heaven that herald me when I bite into a cronut, that the actual relationship is:

Cronut > Donuts = Croissant

Now that makes no freaking sense at all (from a seventh grade algebra standpoint).

E X A C T L Y.

Eating is NOT a science. Cooking might be, baking definitely is, but eating and enjoying food cannot be predicted with numbers, calculations, and made-up theories from a nobody food blogger.

Just because I don’t like PieCake and I can sort of prove it with a faux-theory (based on my own flawed estimates), doesn’t meant that YOU won’t love it. And it doesn’t mean that I won’t eventually find a PieCake that I do enjoy. And that goes for all food.

So, PieCake Theory isn’t about calculations or even really pie and cake. It’s about the idea that you should give all food a try, regardless of past experiences or whether somebody else likes it or not.

And to my younger self, just because I tried a few vegan foods that I didn’t care for, I shouldn’t have assumed that I would hate them all. If I had based all vegan eating on my childhood experience with “wheat meat,” then I never would have opened up the possibility to enjoying an outstanding fried tofu dish at Maple Ave Restaurant (which will eventually be discussed in a later post).

And yes, it’s odd that a dessert filled with dairy and eggs could teach me something about vegan eating, but pies are powerful.

Cakes are okay, too.

PIECAKE RECIPE

PIECAKE

Pardon the poorly-lit iPhone photo.

My mom used this recipe from the Home & Family television show, with some modifications. She used a cherry filling rather than blueberries and made a half-recipe (one layer). I recommend skipping the part with the cake.

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Thought Nuggets

foodgawker Rejects

foodgawker reject

The deeper into food blogging we immerse ourselves, the more we’ve discovered the power of foodgawker. Acceptance from them can lead to an explosion of hits on your site, while rejection helps to load the bullets of a gun pointed at your ego. Without knowing of its ALMIGHTY POWER, I submitted a photo from our deviled egg post and was rejected for being too dull. No biggie. It probably wasn’t quite up to the level that it should have been anyway.

Maybe spending years aspiring to be a screenwriter somehow prepared me to expect a very high amount of rejection out of life. Maybe I have low self-esteem (BWAHAHAHHAHA). Or maybe we just haven’t been rejected enough times to build up a hatred/envy/hunger for foodgawker acceptance.

Part of me is afraid to submit too many photos–not necessarily for fear of rejection, but for the fear of addiction. I picture myself staying up late, running off the high from submitting photos. Calling in sick to work so I can compulsively check my phone for acceptance emails. All eventually leading to a binge of cocaine and heroin for “creative inspiration.” And is foodgawker going to pay for my rehab?

Too real. Anyway…

To help facilitate the hunger for acceptance, foodgawker recently tweeted a PDF of submission guidelines to remind everyone of what they’re looking for in a food photo. While the tips were technically accurate, I think they were a little too “dull” (to use their word). Sometimes it helps to know what NOT to do. So, I thought it might be helpful to offer up a few specific samples of “foodgawker rejects” and what their corresponding unedited rejection comments might look like.

after photo
Rejection Reason:  What happened to the food?

foodgawker reject
Rejection Reason:  We do not, nor have we ever accepted selfies. And why are you eating a slice of bread in what appears to be a bathroom?

foodgawker dog
Rejection Reason:  This is just a picture of your dog. Yes, you have a handsome dog, but this is a #foodporn website.

food porn
Rejection Reason:  Not that kind of food porn…

foodgawker threat
Rejection Reason:  We don’t respond to grammatically incorrect threats.

I heart foodgawker
Rejection Reason:  We do not accept bribes. And come on, a dollar?

toast gawker
Rejection Reason:  Closer, but this is just a piece of toast. Have you even been to our website?

foodgawker bread
Rejection Reason:  This is clearly just a photo of our website. And WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE BREAD?!

Maybe one day (far into the future when we’ve completed rehab), we’ll be able to provide a post full of useful advice and examples of accepted foodgawker photos. But until then, there WILL BE BREAD!

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Mouf Links

Mouf Links

Mouf Links

  1. Foodie Brunch at Casa Oaxaca (Adventures of the Repatriate) – I was fortunate enough to participate in a lovely bottomless brunch organized by Jessica of Adventures of the Repatriate. It was a great time comprised of a few of us #FoodieChats participants in the Washington, DC area. Considering so much blog interaction is online through social media, it was nice to meet some fellow bloggers and foodies in person. It may very well be a reoccurring event, so drop me or Jessica a line if you’d like to be kept in on the loop for future meet-ups. And as you can see by her pictures, the food and beverages were delicious (guava mimosas > normal mimosas).
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  2. Brown Sugar Peaches and Cream Grilled French Toast (Half Baked Harvest) – It’s almost as if Tieghan somehow snuck into the deepest crevices of my mind and compiled some of my favorite food components into one super breakfast. The title says it all, so just click the link and commence drooling.
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  3. The Best Iced Latte in America? (The New York Times) – I stumbled across this article a few weeks ago about Los Angeles based G & B Coffee and their almond-macadamia nut latte, which is purported to be the best iced latte in America. Ever since then I haven’t been able to shake the idea of a coffee-spiked macadamia nut milk latte; I literally think about it a few dozen times per day. But until I have a chance to visit LA, I guess I’ll be ordering a nut milk bag so I can try to recreate this cold, caffeinated moo-free beverage at home.
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  4. Gluten Free{dom} (Poor Man’s Feast) – An eloquent and personal take on the gluten free “movement,” Elissa Altman tries to unite the naysayers and the yaysayers by underlining the bigger, almost simpler issue at hand: real food > processed food. If you hate reading (then why are you here?), you can also check out her interview on the Go Fork Yourself podcast.
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  5. Novel:  The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill - I don’t read nearly as many novels as I should, so there will be very few book recommendations on this blog. Fortunately, during our recent trip to Puerto Rico, there was plenty of time dive into a couple novels. I was turned on to the book when Alton Brown mentioned on the Alton Browncast that it was one of his favorite novels and also happened to take place in the restaurant industry. Beautiful prose, a tragically unique protagonist, and plenty of narrative #foodporn make this a perfect book to read during a vacation.
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Travel

Five (mostly food-related) Things We Miss About Puerto Rico

Condado Puerto Rico

I’m not sure what we were expecting of Puerto Rico, but I feel like we went into the vacation with relatively low expectations. Part of it was our love of California, so taking a trip to Puerto Rico meant we’d have to wait even longer to go back to San Francisco and/or San Diego.

Part of it was the fact that everyone we told about our trip had the same emotionless response of “Oh. [long pause] That’s cool.”

And part of it was reading a few too many articles about the drug trade in Puerto Rico (despite the fact that very little crime is directed at non-drug dealing/buying tourists).

Needless to say, we didn’t expect to leave Puerto Rico with any feelings of loss or sadness. We figured by the end of our trip we would be more than happy to head home and look forward to our next vacation (hopefully on the west coast). But by the time the trip was almost over, we realized that we really enjoyed this sort-of-foreign place. We found some new food, a little bit of adventure, and even made a few friends along the way. Going home meant that we’d have to say good bye to some of our new favorite things:

Banana Pancakes Ben & Jerry's

The best damn banana pancakes in Puerto Rico

  1. Banana Pancakes at Ben & Jerry’s Café
    “But isn’t Puerto Rico known for its plantains?” Sure, we ate plantains at every meal, but one of the culinary highlights was breakfast at a Ben & Jerry’s. Confused? Don’t be (and yes, I’m talking about the ice cream place). It’s a weird co-branded ice cream café, but what’s not weird is the fact that these pancakes were ridiculously good. So good that at one point I started to plan our days around eating multiple plates. Thankfully Tina was there to reign me in. They had a crisp crust on the outside and despite being a pancake, had a banana-y crepe taste that would make you sell part of your soul to the highest bidder. And the guava jam…oh that guava jam… Alright, I’ve just booked a flight back.

    Mahi Mahi Chicharonnes

    Taro chips and guacamole on the left, Mahi Mahi Chicharonnes on the right

  2. Mahi Mahi Chicharonnes at La Concha Resort
    We’re not travel experts, so I’m not going to review La Concha Resort. I’ll say that we had a great time and would absolutely go back.  Room service was good, despite the usual high resort prices (go for the omelet and skip their pancakes), but the real bright spot was the Mahi Mahi Chicharonnes served from their poolside restaurant Solera. These little fried bites of fishy deliciousness are something you don’t see much of in Northern Virginia. And sure they’re not technically “real” chicharonnes, but “fish nuggets” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    Yokahu Tower

    View from Yokahu Tower @ El Yunque

  3. Robert of Sunset Tours
    I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve gotten into an unmarked white van with a stranger. This was the one time. And no, Robert did not lure us in with candy and promises that “he’s a friend of our parents,” rather we were drawn to him by a near perfect TripAdvisor rating. Aside from being knowledgeable and friendly, he was just a great dude to hang out with for a day. We were in a small group of just four people (shout out to our partners in crime, Saville and Ashley!), so it felt like a very special private tour of El Yunque rainforest and Luquillo Beach. During lunch he even went out of his way to find some vegetarian options for Tina (which was not easy*) and took care of ordering food for everyone from the local food kiosks. OH, and he even slowed down to avoid hitting a stray dog on the way back to the hotel. Big bonus points for that. We would go on a thousand more tours with Robert of Sunset Tours and so should you.

    El Jibarito

    El Jibarito = Delicious

  4. .El Jibarito in Old San Juan
    This restaurant came recommended from our buddy Robert (see above) as one of his favorites in Old San Juan. We ended up hanging out with our new pals, Saville and Ashley in Old San Juan, so not only did Robert give us an awesome tour, but because of him we met two really cool Texans who kept us laughing the whole time. Nobody was disappointed in El Jibarito and even Tina with her meat-less plate left the restaurant craving more rice and beans. I ate the pork-filled “Christmas Special” which was accurate because when my plate arrived, I felt like little Timmy on Christmas day. Plantain pork tamales, roasted pork, rice and pigeon peas and (of course) fried plantains. Feliz navidad!

    Chicken Asapao

    Asopao de pollo (chicken gumbo)

  5. Asopao de Pollo at Cafe Del Angel
    Asopao = Gumbo. That’s all you need to know. In fact, I wish I had known that Puerto Rico had its own gumbo equivalent. Everyone always talks about the mofongo. Mofongo this. Mofongo that. Yeah, mofongo was fine and about as good as mashed plantains can be (not better than mashed potatoes in my opinion), but this rich, gumbo-like stew was comforting. Luckily I found some that tasted like my grandma would’ve made (if she were Puerto Rican) at Cafe Del Angel (right across the street from La Concha). The bowl was enough for two meals, which came in handy because I ate the leftovers for dinner the next night. I NEVER eat leftovers on vacation (and waste another chance to explore more foods?!).

These aren’t the only things we’ll miss, but at a certain point it would absolutely bore you to death if I started writing about every single grain of rice we ate (most of them delicious), the thread count of the sheets, and the way the warm sand felt betwixt our toes. And honestly, Saville and Ashley deserve their own category of awesomeness, but I won’t embarrass them here (I’ll save that for a future “Things we miss from Texas post”). The bottom line is that Puerto Rico is a great place to visit and we can’t wait to go back to explore more attractions (with Robert!), more islands, and of course MORE FOOD. Just make sure you bring plenty of sunblock, because the Puerto Rican sun is NOT the same sun we have in Virginia. Now I know what a crème brûlée feels like. ALSO, if you live in the U.S., you do not need a passport to visit Puerto Rico. So, that’s a plus for folks who are lazy and have not yet applied for a passport (stop looking at ME!). Seriously, I’m going to get that passport this month…

*Yes, you can find vegetarian options. And you can even find vegetarian restaurants like Verde Mesa. However, if you’re just having a chill vacation in the Condado area of San Juan and for convenience you want to hang out near hotel La Concha, your options will be less plentiful. If you go to less-touristy places in smaller towns, you may want to just eat pork. Those damn vegetarian-friendly California vacations have spoiled us rotten…

 

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Mouf Links

Mouf Links

Mouf links

  1. Every State in the USA, Ranked by its Food/Drink (Thrillist) – I’m sure some people might be upset by this list (which ignores Washington, DC), but it’s still fun. Virginia is at 32, which I think is nearly accurate (albeit a bit too rough). Of course Virginia doesn’t really have much of its own food identity, but hey we’re like RIGHT NEXT DOOR to Washington, DC. Spoiler Alert: California wins the top spot. That’s about right. .
  2. Vanilla Ice Cream without an Ice Cream Maker (Ice Cream Science) – This is actually an older post from last December, but I just discovered Ruben Porto’s blog this week. With Alton Brown-like perfection, this guy is clearly an ice cream scientist and his ‘how to’ post/video are entertaining and informative. You will feel smarter after visiting his blog and I really wish I could’ve taken this as a high school science credit instead of biology. .
  3. Alton Browncast Episode #48: Andrew Zimmern – In general, Alton Brown’s podcast is like the culinary version of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. If you’re unfamiliar with Zimmern’s backstory, you’ll enjoy this conversation about not only Bizarre Foods, but also stories of his pre-cable show fame and struggles with addiction. .
  4. Food Photography Blunders (Fork & Good) – In a world of perfectly staged food photos with glistening afternoon sun rays and a background of reclaimed barn wood, it’s nice to see Emma poke fun at some of her old food photographs. While you’re there, stick around for some tea (she LOVES tea). .
  5. Thanksgiving Leftovers Tacos (Cook In / Dine Out) – It’s not November, but it’s never too early to start talking about Thanksgiving! This is one of those ideas where it’s so brilliantly simple that I get angry and jealous that I didn’t think of it. But come this November, I’ll certainly be THANKFUL (see what I did there?) that Andrew posted this.
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Recipes

Chocolate Cake, Hold the Flour

Chocolate Cake, Hold the Flour

In my opinion, a chocolate dessert should include three key components:

  1. A rich (nearly sinful) chocolate centerpiece
  2. Something fruity with both sweet and tart elements
  3. FRESH whipped cream

Notice the use of ALL CAPS. Manufactured “whipped” cream in a can has no place in our refrigerator. And don’t get me started on non-dairy whipped toppings…

Cocoa Powder Sifting

Aside from my militant attitude toward whipped cream, it’s a pretty straightforward template that can be utilized for a quick dessert. If you’re feelin’ fancy, it can be as complicated as a an espresso chocolate waffle topped with orange raspberry compote and a mint whipped cream. But, if you’re in a lazy mood (like me on a Sunday afternoon), you could buy all the required ingredients at a 7-11 and serve dark chocolate candy bars topped with strawberry jelly and whipped cream (Slurpee pairing anyone?).

Ingredients

Luckily this Franken-recipe (sewn together from Bon Appétit and Ina Garten) is somewhere between that espresso waffle and a trip to 7-11 and is as easy to make as any cake. Actually, it’s easier because there is one less ingredient in this cake: Flour. Addition by subtraction. Which also means that it is…

Gluten-free!

What?! How dare I sneak a gluten-free post into what is normally a blog filled with chicken wings, doughnuts, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts turned into French toast? Well, Sherlock, the title says “hold the flour,” so it wasn’t that sneaky…

Flourless Chocolate Cake Batter Pour

Since Tina has removed gluten from her diet to see if it helps reduce what appears to be un-diagnosable abdominal pain (possibly our very own Monsters Inside Me premise!), we’ve been a lot more aware of gluten-free products and recipes lately. It’s definitely tough and forces us to be a bit more creative when eating out or dining at home, but this recipe doesn’t feel like anything is missing. I’d actually prefer eating this flourless chocolate cake over any other flour-filled chocolate cake out there.

Fresh Strawberries and Blueberries

So, in a gluten-filled world, a flourless chocolate cake can be a decadent beacon of hope. Don’t be afraid to go towards the light…

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Mammollop of Whipped Cream

Notice that you can barely see the chocolate cake because of the mammollop (“mammoth dollop”) of whipped cream. It ain’t quite as pretty, but that’s how we eat it. And its likely that I’ll run out of whipped cream before I’m finished with my slice. Yes, I have a problem.

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

This recipe is not modified at all from its original version. Bon Apétit doesn’t mess around, so no need to mess with their recipes!

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) Butter, cut into pieces
  • 8 Ounces Semisweet Chocolate Chips (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Sifted Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 6 Large Eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Lather up a 10-inch-diameter springform pan with butter and line the bottom with waxed paper.
  3. Stir butter and chocolate in heavy large saucepan over low heat until melted.
  4. Mix sugar and cocoa in large bowl. Add eggs; whisk until well blended.
  5. Whisk in chocolate-butter mixture slowly (unless you want a scrambled egg cake).
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  7. Bake until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
  8. Cool cake completely in pan on rack.
  9. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides.

TRIPLE BERRY SAUCE

This is a slightly modified version of Ina Garten’s Triple Raspberry Sauce featured as part of her Mixed Berry Pavlova on Foodnetwork.com.

  • 1 lb Fresh Strawberries (sliced)
  • 1 Pint Blueberries
  • 1 Half-Pint Fresh or Frozen Raspberries
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Raspberry Jam (12-ounce jar)
  1. Place the raspberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes.
  2. Pour the cooked raspberries and jam into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth.
  3. Gently mix in blueberries and sliced strawberries.
  4. Chillax in the refrigerator.

FRESH WHIPPED CREAM

  • 1 Quart Heavy Whipping Cream
  • ½ Cup Confectioners Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  1. You can use a hand or stand mixer, we use the latter. The sugar is also adjustable to your sweetness preference.
  2. Chill the bowl and whisk in the freezer for about five minutes.
  3. Throw in all of the ingredients and mix on medium-high speed for about five minutes or until the cream has thickened to your preferred state.
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Thought Nuggets

10 Reasons Not to Live in the ‘Burbs if You Enjoy Good Food

Reason #1 Ratio of food trucks to chain restaurants

  1. Ratio of food trucks to chain restaurants
    Aside from an ice cream truck (which for some reason plays creepy Christmas music in the middle of summer), you won’t find any food trucks out in the suburbs. Instead, sustenance is provided in the troughs of chain restaurants, where you’ll be squeezed into a booth and forced to choose the least offensive offering from a plastic ranch-stained menu. Sure, there are a few decent chains, but the lack of a food truck scene removes nearly all of the potential culinary creativity. If you love dry chicken fingers and bland (yet over-salted) French fries, you’ll be in luck! But, if you’re craving a Coca-Cola braised pork bun with savory cabbage and preserved yellow mustard seeds, you better buy a plane ticket to San Francisco. 
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  2. Reason #2 - No Coffee Shop Within Walking Distance

  3. No coffee shop within walking distance
    Maybe it’s just me, but I have this weird fantasy about how enjoyable it must be to simply walk to a local coffee shop. Get a little exercise, enjoy the weather, fist-bump a few homeless people on the way… You know, the American dream. Unfortunately, I’m living in the other American dream. The one where they squeeze eleventy-billion identical townhouses next to each other, thus making it impossible for anything to be within walking distance. Having to physically get into a car and drive to a Starbucks makes the whole process feel more like refueling a work truck than connecting with my inner muse. And there’s a drive-thru, so why would I get out of my car and use my legs (which are nearly atrophied from lack of use anyway).
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  4. Reason #3 - Every Night is Kids Night

  5. Every night is Kids Night
    Kids are cool. They say funny things and are a great way for their parents to live out their own failed dreams. I get it. But, why does it feel like every night is Kids Night in the suburbs? Red Robin is a solid chain that gets a lot of take-out business from us. However, I always have to mentally prepare myself to battle the hundreds of small humans that will undoubtedly be crowding the entrance. On a Tuesday night the last thing I want to do is hurdle several Eddie Bauer strollers while dodging red balloons, before I get into a fist fight with a four-year old over who gets to high-five Mr. Robin. And that’s white sand beach peacefulness compared to Chick-fil-a…
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  6. Reason #4 - Lack of Hipsters

  7. Lack of hipsters
    Say what you will about hipsters, but clearly the weirdest, most creative food is created with a strong hipster influence. I mean, you can’t NOT find good food in Portland or the Williamsburg neighborhood of NYC. Maybe the county could introduce tax benefits to hipster families who move into the suburbs. Yes. A hipsterfication of the ‘burbs is long overdue. Lets replace strollers and red wine with handlebar mustaches and craft beer.
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  8. Reason #5 - Not a Decent Donut in Sight

  9. Not a decent donut in sight
    With donuts hopefully replacing cupcakes as the “it” dessert in many cities, I’ve been waiting patiently for a hip donut shop to open up nearby. Unfortunately, the suburbs are generally at least ten years behind all the major food trends (In fact, I’m still waiting for the cupcake trend to make its way out here…). For now, Dunkin Donuts has the monopoly over donut lovers around here with no competition in sight. On the plus side, the grocery store chain Safeway is offering their version of a cronut. Is it any good? Who knows, because we have nothing to compare it to and probably won’t until 2024.
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  10. Reason #6 - The Wholefoods Void

  11. The Whole Foods void
    I’ve spent hours wandering the aisles of Whole Foods. It’s a great place to spend a few hours and $500. In order to get to the nearest Whole Foods, we have to make sure the dog is fed, pack a lunch, fill the car with a full tank of gas, and plan our whole day around it like a trip on the Oregon Trail. Alternatively our nearest grocery store is Safeway. Blah. I have a love-hate relationship with Safeway. I love the fact that they have cronuts, but I hate everything else about the nightmare of a grocery store. The products cost twice as much as every other grocery store. Everything is cramped, so you can barely walk around without accidently grinding on Grandma. And the organization of the aisles is about as logical and efficient as the IRS tax code. It took me 45 minutes to buy a dozen eggs once. So, although the trip to Whole Foods sometimes feels like a trip out west, there are many times when I would’ve rather gotten dysentery than shop at Safeway.
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  12. Reason #7 - Froyo is Inescapable

  13. Froyo is inescapable
    Although the suburbs aren’t the only areas with an infestation of frozen yogurt shops, it certainly feels worse due to the lack of other dessert options. As much hyperbole as I try to include in here, there is no stretching of facts when I say that every single shopping center in proximity to our home contains one fro-yo joint. Sweet Frog, Orange Leaf, Zinga!, Pinkberry, Fartberry…We suburbanites apparently don’t care what the name of the place is as long as we can fill up a cup full of diabetes and pay by the pound. This speaks more to the fact that suburban entrepreneurs are more interested in capitalizing on a proven money-maker and have no interest in investing in a more risky, yet creative endeavor. I understand the risk aversion, but it would be great if at least one of these small business owners would take some of their yogurt profits and introduce something new to the area (like a homemade ice cream sandwich shop). Until then, the Orange Leaf employees better get the sample cups out, cause I want to try them ALL.
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  14. Reason #8 - Farmer-less Markets

  15. Farmer-less markets
    Do you envision a farmer’s market with overflowing greens, fresh fruit exploding from barrels, and ears of corn stacked taller than your head? Yeah, I’ve heard about those types of markets, but they’re not in the ‘burbs. Sure we do have a farmer or two, but the suburban markets are more a way for yuppies to try to make money selling mediocre BBQ or cupcakes (is that still even a trend?!).  Even more Ludacris is the fact that on more than one occasion I’ve seen produce that have the grocery store stickers still on them. Weird that an apple imported from Mexico is considered “local” to northern Virginia.
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  16. Reason #9 - Food Service Workers are Dead Inside

  17.  Food Service workers are dead inside
    Local family-owned restaurants are motivated to make you happy, because if you don’t eat at their restaurant and have a good time, they don’t eat, period. But, when the food scene is dominated by chain restaurants, the “trickle down effect” is that the food services workers generally don’t care enough to make the experience enjoyable. Your community college-enrolled server is much more interested in retweeting Kimye than refilling your iced tea. And when she does remember that refill, your glass will be filled not only with tea, but also entitlement and angst. And can you blame her? I certainly don’t care if Applebees hits its goals. But, don’t stiff the server on her tip. Over-tip so she can pay for her books next semester and eventually move out of the suburbs. Just be sure to try and not write on the check, “Take me with you!”
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  18. Reason #10 - Vegetarians Not Welcome

  19. Vegetarians not welcome
    Aside from a few veggie burgers and salads, vegetarians will most likely have to order from the “side dish” section of the menu. If you enjoy seeing blank looks of confusion, just ask your server if the soup du jour is vegetarian. (Luckily they’ll already be on their iPhone, so they can Google it.) Until the hipsters move into town (or someone opens up an Indian restaurant), enjoy your Meatless Monday with a double order of French fries and two pounds of froyo.

Yikes, that was more depressing than I intended, but that’s okay because there is one positive aspect that helps offset all of the above:

    • You can control your own kitchen
      Since going out to eat and finding good food is so difficult, it forces us to become more creative at home. Why would I order a pizza from Papa John’s when I can make a beautiful charcoal-grilled rosemary potato pizza at home? Yeah, it’s more work but that’s part of the fun and how you can create a lasting memory of something so simple. Do you remember every time you’ve ever eaten at McDonald’s? No, but I bet you’d remember a homemade pork banh mi burger with Sriracha-Maggi glaze, picked daikon,  and cool cucumbers. So, even though you can feel trapped in the ‘burbs sometimes, it can be overcome* by simply firing up the grill and inviting your friends and family over.

*That still doesn’t fix the donut problem, so somebody should get on that ASAP.

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Mouf Links

Mouf Links

mouf links

It’s only Wednesday?! Here are a few links for your mouf that will help you get up and over the mid-week hump.

  1. 5 RABBIT INSPIRED DECONSTRUCTED LATIN-STYLE LOBSTER ROLL (theblueberrybison.com) – Yeah, that title is a mouthful, but after checking out this insanely creative dish (inspired by a craft brew from 5 Rabbit Cerveceria) you’ll wish your mouth was full. I mean the base of the dish has orange pork belly tortillas!
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  2. PornBurger.me – Mat Ramsey’s site delivers exactly what you’d expect from something called “PornBurger,” glorious burger porn in the form of uniquely beautiful (and delicious) creations. Burgers include creative twists like the Sookie Monster (with a “bun” made from fried pimento cheese grits), a Game of Thrones inspired burger called The Kaleesi, and even a breakfast creation, the Wake-N-Bacon, which features a bun made from apple fritters, sharp cheddar cheese, caffeinated maple espresso syrup, and a bacon-wrapped burger patty. If you’re in the Washington, DC area, you can even score a chance to be served by Mat Ramsey himself, in his own kitchen, with his pop-up burger bar, Bar R.
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  3. Mini Cherry Clafoutis with Chocolate Whipped Cream (climbinggriermountain.com) – Do you know what a clafoutis is? Until this week, I did not (and I probably would not have guessed that it was food). Lauren’s version of this french, flan-like baked dessert looks impressive and you can’t go wrong with fresh chocolate whipped cream! And let’s face it, it’s just fun to say “clafoutis” even though I’m pretty sure I’m not saying it correctly…
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  4. Go Fork Yourself Podcast:  Guy Fieri – If you haven’t already discovered the Go Fork Yourself podcast with Andrew Zimmern and Molly  Mogren, you’re missing out on some great food talk. This particular episode was fascinating, as they interviewed the polarizing Guy Fieri. Guy gets a lot of hate for being a sell-out, catch-phrase injected cartoon character, but this interview addresses who the real Guy is and how he deals with all the antagonism. It was a quick interview and I actually wish they had time to delve deeper into the off-camera Guy a bit more, but it was sufficient enough give you his perspective and allow for some empathy for Mr. Fieri.
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  5. Dizzy Pig BBQ Rubs – This is not a paid endorsement, I just really love this local spice rub company. And when I say “local” I mean their shop is literally less than a mile from our townhouse. It would be difficult for me to pick a favorite, as you can’t go wrong with any of the rubs, but I’ve been using the “Bayou-ish” to kick my sandwich up a notch (thanks, Emeril) and “Cow Lick” is a great deviled egg topper. Don’t just take my word for it.
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Reviews, Shopping While Hungry

Chef Barb’s B Sweet Hot Bread Pudding

Chef Barb's B Sweet Bread Pudding

It’s midnight, you’re wide awake and hungry. Possibly drunk, but there’s no way to confirm that…

For absolutely no reason, you start thinking about that trip to New Orleans that you took a few years ago. Normally gumbo is the primary focus of your memories, but this time you begin to fall into a paralyzed state where your only memory is of the bread pudding you had at one of the many great NOLA restaurants. Eggs, cream, butter, and an addictive Irish whiskey cream sauce turn already beautiful french bread into a dessert that could make a grown man squeal with joy.

Now you can’t sleep for fear of this bread pudding entering your dreams like a certain striped-shirt horror film character. There seems to be only one way out in order to fight this craving:  YOU MUST EAT BREAD PUDDING.

You may or may not have all the ingredients to  make the dish, but even if you do, it’s MIDNIGHT (and you might be drunk). Do you really want to spend all that time in the kitchen, in the middle of the night? WHICH, coincidentally, is the exact situation in which you’re most likely to be attacked by ninjas. So, you can either be killed by ancient warriors while trying to make bread pudding from scratch, or you can fall asleep and become trapped in a dreamworld, drowning in eggs and cream.

Luckily Chef Barb Batsiste has a third option for just this scenario. (You might know Chef Barb from her successful LA food truck and catering company. I’ve never eaten from the truck, but my sources in LA tell me it’s worth checking out.) Chef Barb’s B Sweet Hot Bread Pudding is a microwavable frozen bread pudding found in the freezer section of  your local Target stores. Thanks to Chef Barb, you’re never more than six minutes away from this warm, rich dessert.

B Sweet Bread Pudding

Of course this is a great idea in theory, but how good can frozen bread pudding be? Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to sample the goods. Flavors include Apple Pie, Glazed Donut, Cookies and Cream, and Fudge Brownie. Here’s what I thought of them, along with a few “grocery store hacks” to elevate this ready-to-eat treat:

Apple Pie with Caramel Drizzle

Aside from the fact that I’m a sucker for anything with “pie” in the name, there was nothing about the taste, texture, or appearance that would lead one to believe that this was ever frozen, let alone microwaved. What made this one stand out the most was the fact that the apples weren’t over-cooked mush that resembled apples–they were still al dente. Joining nine pints of random ice cream, the Apple Pie bread pudding will be a new staple for our freezer.

B Sweet Bread Pudding

Grocery Store Hack:  I haven’t tried this, yet…but I bet if you flatten any left-over bread pudding into patties, lightly coat in flour, and fry like pancakes it will taste awesome. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to complete the a la mode of your dreams. Yeah, that hack basically combines most of my favorite things (pancakes, bread pudding, and PIE), so I will probably be trying that soon…  UPDATE:  I finally got a chance to try this “bread pudding pancake” (check it out on Instagram) and I must say that it was fantastic (and I’m starting to realize that ALMOST ANYTHING can be made into a pancake or French toast). No, it will not win any “healthy eating” awards, but you’re not coming to this blog for tips on losing weight.

Glazed Donut with Icing Drizzle

If you love Krispy Kreme donuts and you have a sweet tooth, THIS is the bread pudding for you. Nearly as rich and decadent as my doughnut french toast, Chef Barb finds a way to make donuts even more fun. Although I love desserts, this one was a little sweet for my taste, but my Dad (who used to eat sugar out of the bag when he was a child) couldn’t get enough of it.

Grocery Store Hack:  Add fresh berries to insert a touch of tartness to complement the sweet, rich deliciousness. I had a few blackberries lying around, so that’s what I used. A minimum “one berry per bite” rule typically applies in our house.

Chef Barb's B Sweet Bread Pudding

Cookies and Cream with Icing Drizzle

A quick confession… I generally don’t love cookies and cream things. Aside from an occasional milkshake, I won’t search out this flavor profile and I’m not a huge fan of Oreos (the original “cookie and cream”). BUT. I do like chocolate bread, which comprises half of the equation in this bread pudding. The icing drizzle ties it all together in a pleasantly sweet way. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be scraping the sides for all the icing, as this bread pudding is probably the least sweet of the bunch (a good thing in my opinion).

Grocery Store Hack: I had some left-over Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to crush them up and sprinkle on top. The texture really helped sell the “cookie” part of the bread pudding.

Chef Barb's B Sweet Cookies and Cream

Fudge Brownie with Chocolate Drizzle

The chocolate bread wasn’t overly rich and went well with the pockets of dark custard and chocolate sauce. It doesn’t beat out Apple Pie as my top choice, but it’s not really a fair fight, ’cause…well…PIE. If you’re prone to brownie cravings, keep this on hand for such emergencies (it might also work as a good diversion when being attacked by ninjas, but the container does not confirm this).

Grocery Store Hack:  I like the way coffee enhances chocolate, so serving this “affogato” worked well. One hot scoop of bread pudding, splash of cold brewed coffee, all topped  with melted vanilla ice cream. You won’t be adding a sprig of mint if it’s midnight, but you also won’t be taking pictures of your food.

fudge brownie Chef Barb's B Sweet Bread Pudding

So, now that your midnight bread pudding craving has been satisfied by B Sweet Hot Bread Pudding (ahem…found at local Target retail stores…ahem), you can worry about more important issues like climate change, the economy, or ninja attacks. Although, like I said, I’m pretty sure this bread pudding can help with the ninjas, too…

Legal blah blah blah:  My fictional attorney, Bob Loblaw encourages me to mention that although I was provided samples of the product, I was not provided compensation for this review. All opinions expressed in this post are mine (with some strong influence from my wife).

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