Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A needle in a haystack

I'm not going to go on about the dangers of high fructose corn syrup.  I'm not.  I can't stand the commercials that come out when more and more people are disapproving of this ingredient.  So, when I'm in a store and find a giant aisle filled with snacks, it is like finding a needle in a haystack, when I look for a snack product with no high fructose corn syrup.

This picture on represents HALF of the aisle.  There is probably a million calories right there, in that picture.  So, after 5 minutes of searching, I find this:
Out of everything, I find one item with no high fructose corn syrup.  What is interesting, is that I have never seen a single product from Entenmann's that has been without high fructose corn syrup, before this day.  All of their other products still have it.  I love donuts, but even the local grocery store claims that they bake their donuts fresh each morning but they have high fructose corn syrup in them so I know that to be false.  So, if you are looking for donuts, these Entenmann's "Softees" are good and without the hfcs in them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ratatouille? Low points?

So, while my wife is on weight watchers, I have been thinking of low point foods or meals to create.  One thing that came to mind was ratatouille.  In my version, since my wife is allergic to eggplant, I used Roma tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash.  I had some vegetable pasta sauce and used that on the bottom of the dish, then sprinkled about a pound of cooked ground turkey.  Then layered the vegetable slices.  What this looks like is this:

Now, in the oven it goes, and I certainly forgot what temperature and how long, but after that it looks like this:

Now my wife made the tomato sauce on the bottom and said it was a point per serving.  The ground turkey added another point per serving but the vegetable layer adds no points.  So, large servings could be eaten for less than 3 points.  Nice huh?  If anyone needs a recipe or questions, just let me know.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Taste: Flawless Victory

The problem with starting off with a title obviously inspired from Mortal Kombat, is that you are now required to use more references of the game series or franchise in your review or metaphors.  I can't.  Well, maybe I can. "My past visit to Taste was like a Johnny Cage ball-breaking punch."  ---In a good way. (As in, when you are playing Johnny Cage and are able to use that un-blockable move that will cripple every opponent, except Sonya Blade of course)

This past Saturday night, I went with 8 other people, which was the largest group I have been to for fun at a restaurant, and we were treated like gods.  Nothing was bad about the whole entire evening, except the rain storm as we were leaving, but I bet that if the Manager at Taste that night could have changed it, he would have.  As my title alluded, the whole night was a Flawless Victory and was so good, I can still hear Shang Tsung laughing in the background.

We started by making reservations for 6 people, a day ahead and that number eventually grew to 9 people.  There was never an angry, dismayed or even a breath of annoyance from the host on the other end of the phone and I was actually amazed that he didn't even make any remarks to me like "are you sure this time?"  He was perfect on the phone, so from the start, everything was working good.  We did the valet, got there without a hitch and a had nice spot upstairs, where we never had been before. 

If you have never been to Taste, there is a small food and wine menu and then a larger menu for cocktails.  On one side of the cocktail menu, there is a list of "Classics" where you will find such drinks as the Cosmopolitan, Old Fashioned or even a Mint Julep.  On this side of the menu though, they also have the estimated date of creation.  Last time we were here there was so many drinks and so little time.  Also, last time I was here, I wasn't feeling as brave as I was now.  So, as we sit down and the waiter asks what I would like, I order a drink, but not just any drink: the Ab-duck-tion.

This drink is made with duck fat infused Grand Marnier.  The first sip is flavored with the citrus and after that you get a hint of creamy duck fat.  It wasn't overly powerful and still subtle with good flavors.  It was a great idea and a great drink.  Hey guys, that's a 5 out of 5 stars from me!

My wife and I order some "snacks" as our appetizers.  We ordered the "Pig Pop" which was basically freshly made pork rinds and an order of some fingerlings in a Spanish sauce.

 These are freshly made pork rinds.  They are salty, spicy and oh so piggy.  Nothing like pork flavor.  They were very tasty and I'd give them a 4 out of 5.  The other thing we ordered set the precedent for the meal.  It was chopped up fingerling potatoes which were cooked perfectly and had this incredible sauce on them. 

 They called it "Spanish Sauce" but it was a mixture of spicy goodness in liquid form.  It was so good, that a friend of mine named Franco, whom was sitting with us, declared that all french fries for the night have that sauce on them.  The potatoes with Spanish Sauce were easily a 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5, they were so delicious.  My friend was hoping that they would now serve french fries with the sauce, a dish he created and we lovingly refer to and call "Franco's Fries".

So, we ordered some more foods, looking for things to try and see if the chefs could top the previous dishes.  Each time, they were able to do so.  I wanted to do something different and while I attempt to try new foods every time I go out, obviously some places have newer foods to try than others.  What I mean by this is while a random burger bar may have a new kind of condiment for their beef patties, it isn't as new and not as a new flavor than something like say...beef tongue on a potato rostini.

Okay, what we have here is the beef tongue dish.  What I received was this and after ordering and looking at it, I picked off a piece of the meat on top and tried it.  It was weird.  To me, the shaved meat on top tasted like the most tender pastrami ever and for others, it tasted like the best braunshwieger.  It was awesome and then that is when it was pointed out to me, that the great tasting shaved meat was actually beef tongue.  This was the first time I had ever eaten tongue and it was freakin' awesome.  I couldn't believe it and even bothered to try the fried potato item on the bottom of the dish.  It was so great and delicious and I have nothing to say bad about this dish.  It is like going through a whole game of Mortal Kombat, while taking advantage of the glitch which allows you to use Liu Kang's dragon kick move repeatedly over and over and beating every single opponent.  It was perfect and I loved it.  So, an easy 5 out of 5 on this.

Then there was the lamb sugo with toasted bread.  This dish reminded me of the last time I ordered beef marrow.  
  What we have here is some great tasting ground lamb, with some spices and vegetables.  You scoop it out of the skillet and then spread it on the bread and it is like a billion times good.  Um, can I give this a 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5.

Now, I didn't order this next item, but should have.  This was the pork burger and the large hungry mouth moving towards it, is exactly its fate.

Ok, let me give you an idea of what this burger is like: imagine your most favorite and happiness moment ever.  Now, take that moment and put it into a burger with perfectly cooked bacon.  Now, the hungry mouth belonged to my friend Franco and while he loved his burger, he still offered a bite to anyone at the table.  The burger went around the table and after 4 other people besides him took a bite, we all had one thing to say: "Oh my god!."  I'm not joking, we all 4, all said independently, "oh my god!".  It was incredible and so delicious.  It was amazing and this single dish was by far better than any dish I remember having at Niche' (Taste's parent restaurant).  This was an easy 5 or even 6 stars out of 5.

What else was eaten?  Well, someone else at our table ordered the curried cauliflower and it was awesome.

Also, something that I though that would never work was my wife's drink.  I didn't catch the name of the cocktail, but it had a sliced jalapeno in it.  I looked at it and thought about how spicy it could be.  But then I tasted it and it was great.

Besides the rain and the thunderstorm, the only other negative thing was the fact that I met and talked with the manager of the night and then forgot his name afterwards.  I think it is bad form to talk about how great everything was and not give high-fives or a cookie to the manager for running such a tight ship.  To the manager of Saturday night, it was great, everything was great and I would say near perfect.  Taste may be my new favorite spot for groups and just going out.  I loved everything and it is easily the best bar in st. louis.  I will tell everyone to go there.  I'm just sorry I forgot your name.  As for Ted, every drink was made perfectly.  Not a complaint.  You guys rock.  Flawless Victory.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Historic Main Street

My wife and I had a few hours to spend on Historic Main Street in St. Charles.  This was my first time and we were not really there for the food, but more so for shopping or window shopping.  This was more of a reconnaissance trek.  We went to see what was there.  We did see some very and I mean, VERY, interesting places but the best one was the Man Cave.

 Inside this historic building, was an old car, some old tin plates depicted pinups with humorous and some anti-female slogans and some old car-related nostalgia.  The place was pretty small.  What got me the most was the owner, who came out to greet us.  I was expecting more of a friendly shop owner, which was a change from what we had experienced so far. (See The England Shop.)  The guy comes out and he first asks "you don't see any candles or stinky jewelry in here do you?  This is the only place you can see on this street that doesn't sell any of that girly crap.  I suggest you get yourself a 6-pack and come on back and we'll drink it here while your little woman goes out shopping."

Well, we left the store.  Not just because the guy was like that, but because my wife was holding her tongue the whole time and I did want to bail her out of jail after she decks this guy.  Really?  What moron of a shop owner insults a probably customer?  Also, a week before Father's Day, who knows how many women think that this shop has the perfect gift for their husband and they get an ice cold reception from the obvious bachelor running it.

It was fun going into the small Espresso shop right off of the cobblestone street.  It felt a bit out of place, like a 1960's police box in the Dark Ages. It was perhaps the only air conditioned area we had stepped in and was attached to 2 more stores: one for hot sauces and one for coffee flavors.

It was weird, a coffee shop in the middle of a historic area.  It had good drinks.  Anyway, it just wasn't as busy overall, as a historic shopping area could be.  It was weird.  We did see plenty of small bars and restaurants and think we will be going back soon to try some of them.  If we do go, I'll let you know how it went.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Two things that are starting to annoy me.

Okay my wife and I normally have the television on all through the night. She grew up sleeping this way as it gives her a background noise and light in the room.  I admit that it took some getting used to, considering my idea of a perfect atmosphere for sleeping is a completely dark and quiet room, but I am slowly getting used to.  So, we used to sleep at night with Nick at night on, but during the night, all through the night, they play Friends. I'm sorry, I may have watched that show a bit when it was first on, but now I don't care at all for it.  So, I don't want to hear the characters wine and talk nonsense so I have been turning the channel to the Cooking Network.  Its like channel 113 or something like that on Dish network.  Anyway, so we fall asleep with some replays of Iron Chef America or some Foodology shows, which is good.

What is not good, is when I wake up in the middle of the night for any reason and this awful show is on.  The show is called Nadia G's Bitchin Kitchen and while most guys would have no problem watching a show with a young, funny blond chef who wears heels while cooking, I am okay until she starts to talk.  I'm sorry.  I really don't know how to say this in a nice way but after watching years and years of food network's next food network star and seeing what they go through, this woman would have been kicked off after day one.  The show reminds me of Beakman's World, for cooking with a strange woman.  The show would have Nadia cooking and telling the camera about how she likes her meat tenderized and then the camera pans over to a guy in a meat locker, with his wife-beater shirt, punching the steak and talking about how he likes to tenderize the meat.  Whether the guy is really Italian or not, is besides the point because everyone has this over-the-top accent going.  The dialogue reminds me of the old movies where they make fun of the Italians in New York.  They start every sentence with "Yo! Check this out!" and then end it with "you know what I mean?"

What is nice to know, as her site just showed me, that the over the top accent and mobster references appear to be an act and she appears to be normal in some instances.  I highly suggest that she stays that way.  I'm sorry, but according to her site, she has a video suggesting that "some are calling her the Julia Child or the next generation."  What?  An icon who made a complicated way of cooking easy to understand for everyone else is being compared to a woman who runs a show at midnight?  If Julia Child's show was re-run on food network, it would get star billing and be before nightfall, most likely.  Not after midnight.

I'm sorry, Nadia, nothing against you personally, but I'd rather watch a marathon of Anthony Bourdain than watch your show.


The proper spelling of words is what separates us from the tweenies.  You know those girls who can sit there on their phones and text the whole Tale of Two Cities in 5 minutes using every kind of strange words and abbreviations?  These are the ones I am talking about.  The ones who spell "great" as "gr8" and the ones who can text "titc" for "that is totally cool."  Now, the typing skills of teen girls aside, using proper spelling and grammar seems to have become a lost art for our American society.  It is such a case as a local gym or fitness club, has used a large grammatical error in their company name and logo.

So, you want to know something comical?  Do you know how you pronounce that word?  It is Xist, as in "Cyst" or "Sist".  It is not "ex-ist" as the makers wanted it to be.  Think of other words that follow this example: Xloid, Xenophobic or even Xeme.  When an "X" is the first letter of these words, it takes on the sounds of a "Z".  It is not an "ex" sound and then the rest of the word.  Check this out:  http://www.howjsay.com/index.php?word=xist&submit=Submit

That above link does the correct pronunciation for words and in this case, just as I mentioned, the name of this fitness area is "sist".  I don't think that the company thought of their gym as being named after a medical item, that isn't a pleasant one.  Or maybe the owners of this gym didn't bother to think.  Here is the thing: if they wanted it to be pronounced like "exist" then they would have had entered a hyphen between the "X" and the rest of the word.  Then it would have been "X-ist" and pronounced that way not like "sist".  This just proves that you don't need a college degree to do the marketing or run a business.  I love driving by this billboard on the road and seeing the rest of the sign: Don't just exist; Xist.  Don't just exist, become a cyst?  Really?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Frozen yogurt?

My wife, who is on Weight Watchers, wanted a low point and thus low calorie snack.  She purchased some cultured milk drink and I put together what is to be an awesome frozen yogurt snack.

Now, what is so cool about this stuff, is that it is just like some super yogurt.  It is plain flavored, but has low calories, high good fat, high carbohydrates and high protein: like good yogurt.  It is also filled with Probiotics, which most yogurts are not as they destroy them.  I don't think most people realize that the probiotics are what makes yogurt so healthy.

So, 3 cups of the above item mixed in a bowl with 1/4th cup of this stuff:

This is whey low powder.  It is a mixture of fructose and lactose and is very low in calories and has low GL's.  It is very diabetic friendly because it has 1/4th of the carbs per gram of regular sugar.  What also makes this interesting, is while it adds sweetening flavor, it also reduces blood glucose levels.  This makes it great for diabetics and it has been testing on type 2. (http://www.wheylow.com/Articles.asp?ID=263#3 )

So, this one says it is specially made for ice cream so that is what I did with it.  Also, I did add 1 cup of squished blackberries.  When it was all finished, it turned out to be very smooth.  Not only that, but this recipe made 6 cups of frozen confection.  What the remarkable thing is: is that each cup counts as a serving size with only 73 calories!  No ice cream has 73 calories a cup!

For recipe information, let me know, but each cup turns out to be 2 weight watcher points.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Weird stuff of Global Foods

So, this isn't a jab at other cultures or meant to be racist or sexist or culturist or anything like that, but I find some things from some different countries to be strange or unusual to what I am used to. So, the title isn't meant to offend anyone, just state an opinion.

First up, melon cakes:
These say that they are the melon taste with a spongecake and I was expecting something, well, more .....spongy.  What was in the package, was a hard cookie, like a meringue cookie.  It had the airy-ness of a sponge cake but was hard and crunchy.  They have that taste of the Chinese melon cake and taste just as sweet.  It was the dry crunch that I was not expecting.  They are a 3 out of 5 for me.  Make sure you have a large glass of water nearby.

Found in the Asian aisle, I had these Sunflower crackers.  They taste like a slightly sweet cracker with a cheap mango creme in between.  The creme is reminiscent of the sandwich wafer cookies.  They are good but not super good where I would eat all of them: a 3 out of 5 for me.

Now the last thing I tried was one of Korean origin:

Yeah, like so many Asian things, I guess this is the traditional version of an energy drink.  This drink, tastes like bad ginseng, almost a strong root/tuber flavor.  It tastes like the stems that are on a parsley plant with an aftertaste of sugar. It was sweet but as I thought about taking a second sip, I still tastes the first in my mouth and chickened out.  I think this gets a 0 out of 5 for me.  Sure, ginseng is supposed to be a near magical herb for strength and vitality, but I'd rather take vitamins every day than to drink one of these.