Friday, July 18, 2014

I Am Simply Done With Some Foods

I'm known as an avid eater.  I'm all for trying new things and eating outside of the box.  I have no trouble eating pickled pig's feet, goose liver pate, calamari, fried alligator, sprats, smoked oysters, or anchovies.  Yet, some foods, which seem to have become popular, simply leave me flat.
 A Krispy Kreme Burger
Subject: A Krispy Kreme Burger | Date: 09/25/2008 | Photographer: Jellorama| This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
  • Popularized by Paula Deen, the Luther Burger, named for singer-songwriter and record producer Luther Vandross, is a hamburger or cheeseburger which uses one or more glazed doughnuts in place of the bun. These sandwiches of ground-beef topped with; lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, mayo, ketchup, cheese, and, sometimes, bacon; between two doughnuts, or a single split doughnut, are not only grossly unhealthy at approximately 1,500 calories a pop, they're a mess waiting to happen. 
 Doughnuts aren't made with the structural integrity to support greasy toppings. Thus, after a bite or two, assuming the eater can get their mouth around the monstrosity to begin with, the doughnuts will begin to crumble, leaving the eater a lap full of ground beef, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, mayo, ketchup, cheese, and, sometimes, bacon.

Besides, ketchup on doughnuts sounds like part of a cruel fraternity hazing. Eeeewwwwww.........
German Laugengebäck Bread
Subject: German Laugengebäck Bread | Date: 12/28/2009 | 
Photographer: Sunbar1 | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
  • Ruby Tuesday's, Wendy's, Sonic, and other eateries are selling sandwiches on German Laugengebäck Bread, calling it Pretzel Buns.  Such buns are made from bread dough which has been given a concentrated baking soda bath to give the buns their dark chewy pretzel-esc exterior.  
 However, it's the Pretzel Salt (large-grained salt that does not melt quickly) which makes pretzels so delicious.  Makers of the hip sandwich buns are leaving the salt off the buns' exterior.  The result is a burger, or hotdog, in a tough bun without the savory payoff.  I'd much rather go to a Pretzel Stand for a good warm salty pretzel and leave my burger on a bun I can bite through comfortably.
IPA (India Pale Ale)
Subject:IPA (India Pale Ale) | Date: 01/15/2007 | Photographer: Dennis 84| This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

  • IPA (India Pale Ale) was invented in the late 1700s as a beer that wouldn't spoil on the voyage from England to India.  Back then, IPAs such as Burton brewer's and Hodgson's, were lightly hopped and would not have been considered to be strong ales.  Today, IPAs are overly hopped bitter brews, which I simply can't choke down.
"Serious beer drinkers," in the U.S., pride themselves in liking bold tasting beers, so they've made IPA one of the top selling beer styles in America.  Personally though, I've never had an enjoyable one.  I'm all for flavorful beer, including; Fort George's Quick Wit, Widmer Hefeweizen, and Blue Moon Belgian Wheat; just to name a few of my favorites.  I simply can't get behind a brew that makes me wince & gag every time I take a sip.

Of course, the world of food & drink is made up of a variety of tastes.  To quote Alan Thicke's popular lyrics from the 80s, " takes, Diff'rent Strokes to move the world. Yes it does. It takes, Diff'rent Strokes to move the world."  However, it seems that once some foods are advertised, or are prepared by a celebrity chef, the masses adopt them as favorites, forgetting that the Emperor can, in fact, be naked.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Celebrate National Ice Cream Month

Ice Cream
Subject: Ice Cream | Date: 06/15/2013 | Photographer: palnatoka|
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
Recently, a friend of mine, Shane, noticed that the "ice cream" in his freezer was labeled as a "frozen dairy dessert" instead of ice cream. Confused, he sent an email to the manufacturer asking for an explanation.

The answer actually lies with the legal definition of "ice cream." According to 7 CFR 58.2825 - United States Standard for ice cream, "Ice cream shall contain at least 1.6 pounds of total solids to the gallon, weigh not less than 4.5 pounds to the gallon, and contain not less than 20 percent total milk solids, constituted of not less than 10 percent milkfat. In no case shall the content of milk solids not fat be less than 6 percent. Whey shall not, by weight, be more than 25 percent of the milk solids not fat."

The product in question didn't list milk or cream as ingredients, making the "dairy" portion of the label a complete mystery.  Nevertheless, the lack of milkfat puts the dessert alongside sorbet, sherbert, and frozen yogurt as part of the category of non-ice cream frozen desserts.

Historians can trace the origins of frozen treats, in general, back to ancient times.  Biblical evidence suggests King Solomon was fond of iced drinks, akin to Slushies, during harvesting.  Proverbs 25:13 ~ "Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master."   Then during the Roman Empire, Nero Claudius Caesar (A.D. 54-86) frequently sent runners into the mountains for snow, which was then flavored with fruits and juices making, perhaps, the first snow cones.

Over the next thousand plus years, such treats began to evolve.  In the late 13th century, Marco Polo returned to Italy, from the Far East, with a recipe which resembled modern sherbet.  The confection found its way to England, sometime in the 16th century, where it morphed into something we'd recognize as ice cream.  By the 17th century "Cream Ice," as it was called, was a luxury enjoyed by the British aristocracy, and appeared regularly at the table of King Charles I.

Catherine de Medici introduced similar frozen desserts to the French elite in 1553.  However, it wasn't until 1660 that ice cream was made available to the general public when the Sicilian Procopio sold a dessert of blended milk, cream, butter, and eggs at the first café in Paris, Café Procope.

The first record of ice cream in America comes from a letter written in 1744 by a guest of Maryland Governor William Bladen.  It was another 33 years before the first advertisement for ice cream in this country appeared in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1777, when confectioner Philip Lenzi announced that ice cream was available "almost every day."

In early America, the "soda jerk" sold ice cream sodas, a beverage that consists of ice cream in either a soft drink or in a mixture of flavored syrup and carbonated water, from eateries called, appropriately enough, soda shops.  The, seemingly innocuous, beverage was popular with young people and ladies, who didn't frequent taverns. 

Yet, religious zealots objected to the "sinfully" rich ice cream sodas being consumed on Sundays.  Thus, a clever confectioner in, Evanston, Illinois, drizzled flavored syrup across scoops of ice cream, left out the carbonated water, and invented the ice cream "Sunday" in 1890. The name was eventually changed to "sundae" to remove any connection with the Christian Sabbath Day.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with "appropriate ceremonies and activities.”  I, for one, am happy to do so.

One can celebrate with any one of a number of desserts, including:
  • Ice Cream Soda - a beverage that consists of ice cream in either a soft drink or in a mixture of flavored syrup and carbonated water
  •      Root Beer Float - an ice cream soda made with ice cream floating in root beer
  • Milkshake - a sweet cold beverage which is usually made from milk and ice cream
  • Ice Cream Sundae -  ice cream topped with a sweet sauce, nuts, whipped cream, etc...
  •      Banana Splitthree sundaes (strawberry ice cream topped with chocolate syrup, chocolate ice cream topped with crushed pineapple, and vanilla ice cream topped with strawberry syrup, each garnished with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry) side by side between two halves of a banana, sliced lengthwise
  •      Hot Fudge Sundae - a variation on the classic sundae made from ice cream, sprinkles, hot chocolate sauce (hence the "hot fudge"), whipped cream, nuts, and a single bright-red maraschino cherry on top
  •      Turtle Sundae - a combination of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce, hot caramel sauce, and toasted pecans
  • Ice Cream Cone - a thin, crisp, hollow conical wafer holding one or more scoops of ice cream
  •     Dipped Cone - ice cream in a cone dipped in chocolate which turns hard
  • Ice Cream Sandwich - a layer of ice cream sandwiched between two biscuits, cookies, or slices of cake
  • Ice Cream Bar - ice cream, on a stick, coated in a layer of chocolate to prevent the ice cream from melting and dripping
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other ice cream creations, and variations of creations, to choose from.  Such creations can be made with almost any flavor of ice cream, including, but certainly not limited to:

  • Chocolate 
  • Strawberry
  • Vanilla
  • French Vanilla
  • Mint Chocolate Chip
  • Cookies and Cream
  • Cookie Dough
  • Butter Pecan
  • Peanut Butter Swirl
  • Raspberry Truffle
  • Coffee
  • Moose Tracks
  • English Toffee
  • Dark Chocolate Chip
  • Double Chocolate
  • Pistachio
  • Cherry Vanilla
  • Butterscotch Vanilla
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Rum Raisin
  • Peach
  • Pralines and Cream
  • Mocha Chip
  • Rocky Road
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla Fudge
  • Mango
  • Butter Almond
  • Macadamia Nut
And a boat load more...

 It's a widely held sentiment that the spirit of America is the spirit of individualism.  President Reagan may have had this idea in mind when he granted ice cream a national month of its own.  Given the variety of  flavors ice cream comes in and the myriad of things one can do with it, ice cream can be made to conform to the taste of any dairy compatible individual.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Redd's Strawberry Ale - Micro Blog

Redd's Strawberry Ale Subject: Redd's Strawberry Ale | Date: 07/08/2014 | Photographers:
James Kiester & Dani Cogswell
This picture was taken by the author of this blog.
I was in the bar part of Red Robin, reading their beer list, when I came across a listing for Redd's Strawberry Ale (*ABV: 5%).  I tend not to shy away from fruit based brews, Sam Adams' Cherry Wheat and Shock Top's Raspberry Wheat already being among my favorite beers.

This offering from Miller Brewing Co. pours as a blonde ale with a reddish tint.  Unlike my aforementioned favorites, which taste like beer with a touch of fruit, Redd's tastes purely of strawberries.  While I see this sweetness as a plus, many "serious beer drinkers" would list it as a deficit.

I must also report that while the alcohol content is listed at 5%, I felt a major buzz after a single bottle.  Still, from a guy who likes sweet, rather than hoppy, beers, I give Redd's Strawberry Ale 8 out of 10 stars.

*ABV = Alcohol By Volume

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Naan Vs. Pita

I was at Bible study, the other day, when the group came across Exodus 16:31, which says, "Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey."  We were trying to decide how to picture manna in our minds, and I surmised it may have looked like an early form of naan.  Someone then chimed, “Oh, you mean pita.”

Indian Naan bread
Subject: Indian Naan bread | Date: 08/10/2007 | Photographer: jetalone | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Pita Bread
Subject: Greek Pita Bread | Date: 03/25/2007 | Photographer: AlMare | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

I knew the breads were different, but I didn’t know enough to be able to articulate the difference.  Thus, I gave a hem, a haw, and a shrug and the discussion progressed.  When I got home I was still annoyed that I hadn’t known what distinguished the two breads, so I did some digging.

Pita and naan are, as I knew, varieties of flatbread, traditionally made from refined flour and yeast.  There are distinct differences though.

Pita is  a flat rounded slightly leavened bread, originally from the Middle East, with a hollow inside like a pocket, which can be filled with food.  Made from a dough of water, flour, yeast, and salt, the dough can be heated in one of two ways.  Baking the dough in an oven maximizes the soft puffy texture, but mellows the flavor.  Conversely, cooking the pita on a stovetop costs the bread some puffiness, but produces crispy toasted spots on the surface of the dough.

Pita comes in 4 different sizes and at least 3 different thicknesses ranging from mini to pocket to the larger loaves. All the types can be used to make sandwiches such as Gyros and Falafel. The medium to thicker ones can also be toasted and eaten with cheese, olive oil, hummus, or other toppings.

On the flip side, naan is a softer lighter leavened flatbread from northwest India.  This version of flatbread consists of flour, water, yeast, cooking fat (e.g. butter, ghee), and yogurt, which gives the naan its softer texture.  Unlike pita, for the bread to be “naan” it must be baked in a tandoori oven to give the bread its characteristic smoky flavor.

Naan is typically brushed with butter and is served along side Indian meals.  However, modern chefs are topping naan in new ways to make everything from Naan Bread Margherita Pizza with Prosciutto and Grilled Open-Faced Sandwiches.

As it turns out, the manna God gave the Israelites probably wasn’t like naan or pita bread.  Theologians believe it was a flaky substance, roughly the consistency of the glaze on an Old Fashion Donut, which the Israelites baked into small honey flavored pancakes.  Still, not only will I be prepared if naan or pita  ever arise in conversation again, I’ll know what to do with these tasty breads.
Naan Bread Margherita Pizza with Prosciutto - from

2 naan breads
2 teaspoons olive oil, or as needed
1 green onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
8 slices mozzarella cheese
1 large roma tomato, thinly sliced
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 slice prosciutto, sliced
6 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Place naan breads on the prepared baking sheet; brush each naan with olive oil. Spread green onion and garlic over each naan. Arrange 4 slices mozzarella cheese onto each naan; top with tomato slices. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper. Top tomato layers with prosciutto, basil, and Parmesan cheese.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until pizza is crispy on the edges and cheese is melted, about 8 minutes. Turn on oven's broiler and broil until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling, about 2 minutes.

Billy Starr's Open-faced Grilled Naan Sandwich - from

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 Tbl. Tikka Masala paste
2 each, 6 oz. chicken breast, cut into 3 each, 1/4-inch thick, long slices on the bias
1 Naan bread, halved for two sandwiches
2 zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch lengthwise
1 vineripe tomato, sliced thin
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup Sriracha Hippy-Shake*
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

The day before, in a bowl, combine Greek yogurt and Tikka Masala paste and add chicken. Marinate overnight. The next day, heat grill pan on the stove top.
Brush the naan bread lightly with olive oil and grill both sides till warmed through.
Remove bread to your service plate. Brush the zucchini slices with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill both sides till just cooked through. Layer grilled zucchini onto grilled naan bread. Top zucchini with layers of thin sliced tomato. Wipe off excess marinade from chicken. Add a touch of oil to the hot grill pan and grill chicken till cooked through. Top your sandwich off with the chicken slices. Sprinkle sandwich with the crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle the sandwich with the Sriracha Hippy-Shake. Eat proudly with a knife and fork.

*Sriracha Hippy-Shake
Makes about 1/3 cup
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 squeeze of a half lemon
In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, Sriracha and lemon juice. Thin with water to a milkshake consistency.

Recipes print as a single pages for your recipe file or refrigerator.