Friday, November 15, 2019

Tasting The Past

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Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. The promise of roast turkey, savory dressing, and coffee with pie already tickles the tongues of eager Americans. It’s a fun time to be a food lover, unless you've been a food blogger for more than a decade.

In the past, I’ve recommended Gew├╝rztraminer as a wine pairing for turkey, I’ve examined the probable menu for the “first Thanksgiving” feast, I’ve written about Thanksgiving appetizers, and shared my recipe for oyster dressing more than once. In fact, here it is again; why not?
I have nothing new, culinarily speaking, to say regarding Thanksgiving. Nothing. Bupkiss. Sure, I could surf the internet for unique recipes, such as “Sour Cream & Chive Biscuits,” and pass them on to you, but unless I take the time to tweak such recipes, making them my own, I’m committing plagiarism.

Perhaps having nothing new is OK though. If Thanksgiving is about anything it’s about tradition. It’s about passing time honored recipes from one generation to the next. There's much to be said for doing that special dish the way mom used to make it. Taste can connect us to our past in a way old photos and crocheted wall hangings simply can’t.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Seasons Eatings Revisited

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I’d finished writing the following blog before I realized I’d written a similar blog, on the same topic, four years ago. Nevertheless, some things deserve to be addressed again, especially when they keep coming up in conversation.
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BBQ for Summer, Hearty Pastrami Sandwich for Fall,
Smothered Pancakes for Winter, Baked Eggs Florentine for Spring | 
All pictures taken by James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |
If you have read this blog for any length of time, you've seen my best friend’s name credited for many of the photographs I’ve used here. While we’re as close as two platonic friends can be, we don’t always agree.

We were watching Pioneer Woman make a hearty stew, and I commented that it would be a good dish for fall. She floored me when she said there was no such thing as seasonal food. She’d eat anything she liked any time of year.

Granted, no matter what the calendar says, I’m not going to turn down a medium rare steak or a double cheeseburger. However, I do find myself gravitating toward some foods over others, depending upon the time of year.

Spring – I tend to lean toward fresh greens, salads, and light crisp white wines.
Summer – I want fair/ball park foods. Hotdogs, ice cream, and garlic fries all washed down with a easy drinking pilsner or lager are on my checklist.
Fall – Now is the time for rich stews and soups, stuffed turkeys, and smoked meats & cheeses alongside bold red wines and stouts.
Winter – The line between fall and winter foods blurs for me. I find myself wanting many of the same cold weather foods during winter that I wanted in autumn. However, during Christmas I want my nut covered cheese ball and standing rib roast washed down with plenty of eggnog and/or mulled wine.

Of course, these are very generalized examples in order to illustrate a much broader rule of thumb. I’m sure you can think of a myriad of other dishes which you only crave during certain times of the year.

Leave a comment with some of your favorite seasonal dishes.

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!