Monday, March 5, 2018

Real Men Eat Quiche Too

Diageo, the company which distills and markets the best-selling scotch whisky, Johnnie Walker, recently announced it would sell a limited-edition 12-year Black Label blended whiskey featuring a woman in a top hat on its label instead of its signature striding man logo.  Jane Walker, is meant to "celebrate women" by making scotch less intimidating to woman, Bloomberg News reports.

While I applaud their efforts to honor women, I'm not sure this campaign doesn't demean women just a little. Keep in mind, this gender shift is taking place on the heels of the recent Doritos debacle.

A few months ago Frito Lays announced they were going to market a less messy Dorito chip just for women. They were putting all women in one box as if they're all "girly."  Thinking of women as dainty little maidens is as silly as thinking of "real men" being too macho to eat quiche.

I don't know about you, but I know plenty of women who enjoy Doritos just as they are. Plus, I have never, and I mean never, met a woman who was "intimidated" by whisky. I've known people of both genders who did not like whiskey, but none of them were intimidated by it.

Of course gender targeted advertising is nothing new when it comes to food. The next time you watch TV pay attention to the commercials. Women are hocking diet meals while men are cooking stuff on the grill. The beer ads feature burly men chugging suds and watching a game.  Meanwhile, the wine ads show the beautiful women wearing short dresses while drinking wine on the patio.  Diet meals and wine are enjoyed by ladies as the men guzzle brews and cook meat with fire.

I'm a guy. I like wine. I love quiche. I've even had a diet meal or two. Yes I know that "big food" companies are targeting niche demographics for maximum effect. I get that however, it seems to me that they are promoting an unnecessary distinction between genders. I know guys who are more girly than any woman you'll meet and I know women who can drink any guy under the table.

We are who we are. It's time to let "big food" know that gender does not necessarily determine who we are or what we eat and drink.

I'm off to eat some quiche.

Quiche Loraine

9-inch pie crust
1 cup white onions, sliced
1/2 of a red sweet pepper
3 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
4 eggs
pinch of black pepper
10 strips bacon

Put your favorite pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate, Flute edge but do not prick. Sautée onions & sweet pepper in butter until onions are soft. Then put in bottom of crust. Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese. Beat milk, eggs & black pepper together and pour into pie on top of cheese. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Top with bacon in spoke pattern, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes or until set around edges and slightly soft in centre. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Crab Quiche

pastry for 9 inch pie pan
1 lb crab meat
2tb chopped parsley
2tb dry white wine or dry vermouth
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup milk
cayenne pepper to taste
1 egg white
paprika to taste

Line bottom of pie pan, cover and refrigerate for one hour. preheat oven to 450. mix crab meat with parsley, wine or vermouth, salt and pepper. in a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk and cayenne pepper. brush pastry with egg white, fill crab mixture. pour egg mixture on top. sprinkle with paprika and bake 10 minutes. reduce heat to 350, bake 40 minutes longer or until set. quiche is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Smoked Gouda And Onion Quiche

1 Tablespoon Butter
1/2 medium Onion, diced
1 Deep-dish pie shell (frozen)
3/4 cup Smoked Gouda cheese, grated
4 Eggs
1 1/2 cups Half and Half
1 1/2 teaspoon Parsley, chopped
Dash White pepper
1/8 teaspoon Salt

Preheat oven to 375. Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the onions and cook until just soft. Set aside. Bake the empty pie shell for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and place it on a cookie sheet. Place the cheese in the bottom of the warm shell. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in the half and half, parsley, onions, and seasonings. Pour into the shell. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the pie is firm. Serve warm or chilled.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Vietnamese Mooncake Mystery

For my birthday, my friend, Whitney, sent me a Vietnamese mooncake from Hawaii, along with three green tea bags. I knew, from her emails, it was a sweet cake with a salted hard boiled yolk of a duck's egg in the center, and it's to be eaten along side a cup of green tea.

Subject: Vietnamese Moon Cake wrapped, whole, and cut in half | Date: 01/28/2018 |Photographers: Whitney Regan | These pictures were taken by a friend of the author of this blog. |
The cake came in a plastic tray wrapped in orange labeled cellophane, and was about the size of a cinnamon roll.  I wanted to know more about the pastry.
  • What's it made of?
  • Why is a cake, which looks like a flower, called a "mooncake?"
  • Did I need to heat it up?  
The problem was, the label was written in vietnamese.  Thus, I had to play detective.

Being a computer geek, I began my investigation on good ol' Wikipedia.  I know, the site has a bit of a bad reputation among seekers of truth.  Yet, if a savvy sleuth pays attention to the cited sources, it can be a superb resource.

After a little digging, I found that each region of Asia offers its own version of the mooncake.  Vietnam offers two kinds of mooncake: "Bánh nướng" (baked mooncake) and "Bánh dẻo" (sticky rice mooncake).

I had the Bánh nướng consisting of wheat flour, cooking oil, and simple syrup boiled with malt. The deserts can apparently be filled with a variety of ingredients including; salted egg yolk, dried sausage, bean paste, sugared pig fat, lotus seeds, or watermelon seeds; before being brushed with egg wash and baked.

But, where'd they pickup their peculiar moniker?  Like I said, mine had been molded to mimic an open blossom.  I had some more digging to do.  My informant, Google, indicated that a certain popular periodical might offer a clue.
Time Magazine explained, the cakes are traditionally consumed during the Mid-Autumn festival, as describe in the Liji (Book of Rites).  The festival involves sacrifices being made to the moon on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.  Since the celebration is based on the lunar cycle, the traditional cakes are known as mooncakes.

With most of the mystery solved, I still needed serving directions.  Luckily, Brandon Lau posted a tutorial on YouTube.  While Brandon's delivery was a bit more tongue-in-cheek than I'd hoped for, he did eat it straight from the wrapper with a fork.  So, I ate mine straight from the wrapper with a fork.

I had my fork, I had my cup of hot green tea, and I had a rip roaring game of Olympic Curling on TV.  I was ready.  Cutting into the cake, I found an INCREDIBLY dense pale yellow cake.  One bite told me the confection was as sweet as it was dense.  Even though I'd found no mention of honey as an ingredient, it tasted like rich honey to me.

After five or six bites, I reached the boiled "salted" duck yolk.  The yolk offered a welcome second texture and a delicate umami flavor, but with no hint of saltiness to speak of.

I don't feel I can rate this product, since I don't know a brand name.  I can say, if I come across one I'd eat it again.  Given the richness of the traditional delicacy however, I'll eat it with three or four other people.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Jack In The Box's Prime Rib Cheesesteak - A Review

Jack In The Box's newest promotion touts three sandwiches inspired by gourmet food trucks.
  • Asian Fried Chicken Sandwich - Crispy fried chicken strips, fresh cucumbers, Asian-style slaw, and gochujang mayo on a toasted rice flour baguette. It's meant to be somewhat of a take on a Vietnamese banh mi  sandwich.
  • Pork Belly BLT - Two strips of seared pork belly, green leaf lettuce, tomato, and tangy honey aioli on a toasted rice flour baguette.
  • Prime Rib Cheesesteak - Strips of prime rib steak, peppers, onions, white cheese sauce, provolone cheese, and a little garlic herb butter on a toasted rice flour baguette.

| Subject: Jack's Philly Cheesesteak | Date: 01/08/2018 |
| Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |
| This picture was taken by the author of this blog. |

I was intrigued when I saw the commercial for this new line of sandwiches. I knew I wanted to blog about it. However, I had a problem. I've never had a banh mi sandwich. I know, I know, I have to give my foodie ID card back. But in my defense, while I like a variety of Asian dishes, Indian Samosas being among my favorites, I lean more towards European and American cuisine.

Likewise, I'm not familiar enough with pork belly to do justice to a review. I've had pork belly before, but the ones I've had have always been fatty and chewy. I don't think I've ever had ideal pork belly. So, I didn't feel I had a good baseline which would allow me to compare Jack's version to what pork belly is supposed to be.

All that being said, I have had my share of cheesesteaks. I've had the good, the bad, and the ugly. At this point, I must disclose that I like my cheesesteaks Geno's style, which features Cheez Whiz. Jack's version is based on Pat's, utilizing provolone cheese. Nevertheless, I thought I'd give Jack's a try.  (Pat's has added Cheez Whiz, American cheese, and mozzarella cheese options to its menu, but is best known for its original provolone version.)

For $4.99 I got a five-inch long sandwich featuring the aforementioned ingredients on a soft roll. I opened up the sandwich to find it loaded with filling. As I ate I found a nice grilled char on the onions and peppers, gave depth to the flavor of the veggies.

The strips of steak were cooked to well-done giving them a slight chew.  A nice garlic flavor pleasantly permeated the beef, but it could have been seasoned with a little more salt.  For fast food steak, it was pretty good though.

What made this sandwich worth the price though was the fact that they did not skimp on the cheese. Ooey-gooey provolone held the filling together and it was present in every single bite.

Yes, you can get a foot-long sandwich over at Subway for the same price, but it won't be the quality that this was. I had my doubts going in, but I have to admit Jack In The Box nailed the cheesesteak. I give Jack's Cheesesteak 8 out of 10 stars.

Side Note:
I find it odd that Jack In The Box is using Martha Stewart to promote this line of "street food." When I think of street food, I think of Adam Richman, Guy Fieri, and Anthony Bourdain waaaaaay before I think of a domestic goddess like Martha Stewart.

Friday, January 26, 2018

I'm Back + Leave Those Kids At Home

I’m back! Long term health issues have kept me from writing anything more than a few lines on Facebook for quite some time. A kind volunteer (shout out to Whitney Regan) let me dictate a few pieces to her last summer, before she left Oregon to grace the shores of Hawaii. Needless to say, I’ve been effectively mute for the remainder of 2017 and the first few weeks of 2018.

I could have covered anything in my first piece back; cheese, wine, craft beer, an up-and-coming restaurant, recipes; anything.  I was working on a piece about fast food, which was going nowhere, when something caught my eye.  Nick Hines published an op-ed on today imploring parents not to bring their kids to "Boozy Brunches."

Hines writes, "Those are the type of places (alcohol rich brunches) that kids should be banned from, because those are the places where the hour and a half of bottomless drinks is sacred. Downing my third Bloody Mary with a kid in a child seat 10 feet away — or worse, crawling under the table next to me — simply isn’t conducive to having a good time."

As far as I'm concerned, this should apply to ALL bar-centric restaurants (unless they have a big red bird as a mascot) and other adult themed restaurants.  I want to enjoy a steak & dirty martini without listening to a toddler scream because his/her hamburger doesn't look like the one from McDonald's.

In 2011, I applauded Pennsylvania restaurateur, Mike Vuick, of McDain's Restaurant for banning children under the age of six from his establishment.  I hoped his example would start a trend that would blaze a trail across the epicurean skyway.  Alas, twas not to be.

At this point you're probably thinking, "This guy's cranky after the year he's had."  Well, that's not it, nor do I hate kids.  I have three wonderful nephews who regularly receive comics, candy, and Happy Meals from their Uncle James.  I simply think some places are for families and some are for adults to enjoy.

Adults can open a good bottle of wine and prepare a nice meal at home, granted.  Yet, some of us go out to get our drink on and unwind.  Others like to enjoy a nice meal and quiet conversation with friends.  The experience of being at a restaurant is as important as the food.

As a rule of thumb, children PROBABLY don't belong at a restaurant if the name of the place contains the words, "Bar & Grill," "Brew(ery)," "Tap House," or "Wine(ry)."  Likewise, if a place features a soothing ambiance and gourmet fare, children PROBABLY don't belong there either.

On the flip side, one should expect a certain level of child generated distraction at fast food restaurants, buffets, and other family oriented restaurants.  True, good parents should use such excursions to teach their children manners.  Yet, it's bad form to express annoyance at the sounds of babies crying, kids talking in excited tones, and/or the laughter of youngsters play on restaurant provided structures.

It comes down to, "right place, right time."  When the family goes out to eat, the aforementioned family oriented establishments are perfectly appropriate places to enjoy a meal and let the kids have some fun.  Yet, when mom & dad want a Wellington and a nice Merlot, it's best to hire the high school girl, on your block, to watch the kids.