Thursday, September 12, 2019

Has Sonic Hit A Home Run In The Cheesesteak Game?

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I love a good Philly Cheesesteak sandwich, so when I heard Sonic Drive-Ins added one to their menu I went to my local Sonic (7380 NE Butler Street in Hillsboro, Oregon) to check it out.

| Subject: Sonic’s Cheesesteak |
| Date: 08/27/2019 |
| Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |
Consisting of grilled steak, caramelized onions, cheese sauce, and mayonnaise all atop a soft warm hotdog bun, Sonic’s sandwich is reminiscent of a cheesesteak from Pat’s, “wit wiz,” rather than a Provolone topped sandwich from Geno’s.

One of Sonic’s, “Carhop Specials,” includes a six-inch cheesesteak & medium sized tots for $2.29. However, I ordered the foot-long bad boy for $4.49 and paid extra for my fries.

Right off the bat, I was impressed with the bun. It was soft, but sturdy enough to support the weight of the filling without falling apart. As for the filling, the sandwich contained a generous helping of thin strips of beef. I’d have preferred a medium rare cook on the meat, but being a chain restaurant, they served the meat well done to ensure safety. As a result though, the meat was savory but a bit tough.

The onions were cooked until translucent, and delivered a sweet flavor with a nice kicking of onion heat on the finish. The majority of the flavor came from the wonderfully salty robust chemicals sauce. The sauce also brought enough moisture to the party that the mayonnaise was redundant.

All things considered; Sonic Drive-in is serving a decent Philly Cheesesteak sandwich for a fast food restaurant. I’d give it a solid 8 out of 10 stars.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Good Eats Is Still Good Viewing

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If you've read my Culinary FAQ, and shame on you if you haven't, you know that I list Good Eats as the best instructional cooking show, bar none. Not only do I enjoy the way Alton Brown talks about the history & science behind the foods he’s cooking, but we have the same off-beat sense of humor, which my assistant, Dani, will attest to. If I can't make her roll her eyes at least once a day I’m falling down on So, as you read this, you should keep that bias in mind. -

| Subject: Alton Brown & Me At Powerful Books In Beaverton, Oregon |
| Date: 10/11/2016 | Photographer: Alton Brown's assistant with my camera |

| Note: I debated whether to use this picture or not, but I figured so many of my
 readers already know I'm in a wheelchair that I'm not going to hide it anymore. |

Last November, I wrote about a show called Good Eats: Reloaded.  In that show, Alton Brown reexamined past episodes of Good Eats and tweaked recipes which, in retrospect, could’ve been better.  This isn’t that.

On August, 25th, 2019, Food Network began airing two all new episodes, at 10:00 pm & 10:30 pm, under the banner, “Good Eats: The Return.”  Well…, sort of. While the title features the words, “The Return,” the current season is numbered as season 15 of Good Eats. It’s a bit confusing, but OK.

Alton hit the ground running by showing viewers his take on, the Italian/American classic, Chicken Parmesan.  From the kitchen diehard fans remember, and utilizing guest players such as Vickie Eng as “W” (an allusion to 007’s gadgeteer Q), he demonstrates how to prepare the dish using two kinds of cheese.  He also explains how to disperse the sauce without making the chicken soggy.  I could’ve watched him prepare food like that all night.

Then the second episode aired, in which he prepared dishes using quinoa and chia seeds.

I need to interrupt this blog to confess my prejudice against quinoa.  Not only have I never had a quinoa I liked, but for a three-year stretch, every food blogger I know, including my favorite cheese blogger, rode the quinoa recipe bandwagon.  Thus, I’m pretty quinoaed out.

While I wasn’t a fan of the subject matter, Brown was true to form delivering tidbits of 17th century history and humorous quips.  I did find more interest in the second half of the episode, when he turned chia seeds into a breakfast pudding.  The idea of a healthy chocolate pudding makes me happy.

All in all, I’m very happy to see Alton Brown back in the culinary instructional saddle, instead of wasting his talents on mindless clap-trap like Cutthroat Kitchen.  Personally, I’d prefer to see one episode per week, instead of two, so the seasons will last longer, but that's a little thing.

Episodes 3 & 4 air tonight at 10:00 pm on Food Network.  Can't wait!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Is Burger King's Impossible Whopper Impossibly Good?

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A few months ago, Carl’s Jr. came out with a fast food veggie burger. Since I’ve never had a decent burger at Carl's Jr., I didn't bother to try it. Recently, Burger King came out with a veggie burger of its own. I’ve never been a vegetarian, nor do I ever plan to become one. However, I understand people adopt the life style for health and/or ethical reasons. My own ten-year-old nephew doesn't want to see animals killed, so he’s adopted the life style. Therefore, out of curiosity, I decided to try their plant based Impossible Burger.

Before I tried the burger, I did some research. Rather than developing their own veggie patty, Burger King is using one invented by Impossible Foods, thus the name Impossible Burger. According to Impossible Foods' Website, their plant based burger patty is made from, "Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), and Vitamin B12."

| Subject: Burger King's Impossible Whopper |
| Date: 08/14/2019 | Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |
Once I knew what was in the thing, I visited my local Burger King at 18975 SW Tualatin Valley Hwy. in Aloha, Oregon. For $5.59, I received a Whopper sized sandwich with a veggie patty, pickles, onions, mayonnaise, and ketchup. I had them hold the lettuce and tomato to suit my personal taste, and I had them hold the cheese to keep it pescatarian. I could’ve gone straight vegan by sacrificing the mayonnaise, but I was only willing to go so far for the sake of my blog. I like my mayo!

I noticed two things when I opened the sandwich to photograph the contents. First, the patty was a solid brownish gray color with no visible grill marks. If they flame broiled this puppy they missed a,.. I say, they missed a spot. Secondly, but arguably more disturbing, the patty had an indentation as if someone had bitten into it.

Nevertheless, I decided to close the burger and have my lunch. Well, I had part of my lunch. When I got home I realized there were no fries in the bag. Leo Getz was right about the drive thru.

It didn't taste bad. The pickles, onions, mayonnaise, and ketchup all did their jobs and tasted good. While the vegetable patty chewed like beef, it didn't bring anything to the flavor party. The reason I go to Burger King is because I like the grilled taste of their beef. This patty merely served as a platform for toppings. Therefore, I can only give Burger King’s Impossible Whopper 6 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Gordon Ramsay's Filling The Gap Left By Bourdain's Passing

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From 2005 until his death in 2018, Anthony Bourdain took viewers around the world providing his audience with an honest look at food.  While there were plenty of other hosts doing food travel shows (Samantha Brown, Guy Fieri, Andrew Zimmern, etc.…), Chef Bourdain’s blatantly raw honesty set his work apart from other TV offerings.  

Everything wasn’t, “the best thing he ever ate.”  If something was good he said it was good.  If a dish was terrible he said that too.  He called it like he saw it, and he didn't give a flying f@#k who agreed with him.  Not just anyone could have filled the gap left by his passing. 
|Subject: Gordon Ramsey | Date: 06/15/2007 | Photographer: jo-marshall |
| This work has been released into the public domain by its author |

On July 21, 2019 the National Geographic Channel aired the premiere of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted.  Like all culinary travel shows, Uncharted features its host, in this case Gordon Ramsay, trotting the globe to show the audience little known forms of cuisine from other cultures.

What makes the show comparable to Bourdain’s body of work is Ramsay’s unfiltered honesty.  The first episode took the chef to the mountains of Peru where he ate high grown mangos, a pale colored jerky, and insects harvested from a cliff grown tree among other Peruvian delicacies.  Again, if he liked something he said so, if not, he said that too.  Plus, like Bourdain, he had no qualms about dropping F bombs which had to be bleeped out in post-production.

While parallels between the works are undeniably evident, it would be a mistake to give the impression one is a clone of the other.  At least in the first episode, Ramsay challenged a local chef to a cook-off, which would take place at the end of the show.   Then, Ramsay spent the episode "searching for ingredients" to use in the contest.  The structure gave the episode a loose kind of plot.  If this hook carries on throughout the series, it will help distinguish it from its predecessors.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted airs Sunday nights at 10pm on the National Geographic Channel.  Unfortunately Season 1 is only six episodes long, so if you plan to catch an episode you need to hurry.