Monday, June 11, 2018

Bargarten Bavarian Social Haus + Losing A Legend

Cedar Hills Crossing is Beaverton's largest shopping mall. They're currently expanding to include a variety of new shops and restaurants. One such establishment is the Bargarten Bavarian Social Haus (2905 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Ste 140, Beaverton, OR).

Subject: Bargarten's Fondue | Source: Bargarten's FB Page with their kind permission |
I arrived at the restaurant around noon on a weekday. The bar themed establishment was dimly lit with rows of communal tables in the main dining room. I took a smaller table out on the covered patio where I could enjoy the weather.

I started with the Fondue made with Swiss cheese, white wine & spices, served in a cast iron ramekin. One can have the molten cheese accompanied by assorted German breads, two soft pretzels, or chunks of smoked German bier sausages and assorted German breads. I chose the sausage and breads for $14.95.

For my main course I had the Veal Schnitzel (breaded veal with Cremini mushrooms topped with paprika sauce and served with spätzle) for $18.95. I washed the meal down with a very tall Weizen glass of Hofbräu Hefeweizen for $4.95.

I took photos of my meal, only to get home and realize the phone I used had not saved the photographs. Thus, I had to borrow this photo from Bargarten's own Facebook page.  I asked them for permission to use the picture, but not hearing from them for four days I took their silence as tacit permission to use the photo.

Fortunately, the fondue that you see is exactly what I got. It was warm, cheesy, and wonderful. The chunks of sausage were pleasantly spicy all by themselves and complimented the molten cheese superbly.  The trick was to keep from filling up before my main course arrived.

I wish I had a picture of the veal to show you.  It was fried to a crispy golden brown, topped with large slices of Cremini mushrooms and a delectable brown paprika sauce/gravy.  Accompanying the veal was an ample serving of spätzle peppered with herbs.

The veal was deep-fried to a crispy golden brown, fork tender, and perfectly seasoned to deliver a series of thoroughly savory bites. The mushrooms were meaty with a nice earthy flavor and the piquant paprika sauce tied the mushrooms and veal together nicely.

The meal's only deficit was with the spätzle.  I was served a heaping mound of the rice sized pasta, but it wasn't seasoned well.  The side, which served more as a garnish, needed garlic, cheese, salt, or something.  As it was, it was just... kind of... there.

As for the beer, or "bier" according to their menu, there's not much to be said.  It  was a standard Hefeweizen. The beer was light yellow in color and not too hoppy with a nice citrus undertone.

All in all, I had a satisfying meal. I give Bargarten Bavarian Social Haus an 8.5 out of 10 stars.

Parting End Note: 

Friday morning I woke up to hear a teary eyed Joe Scarborough announce that; chef, author, and TV host; Anthony Bourdain died at the age of 61. I was floored. Not only was he dead but he had killed himself.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.
You have to understand, he was not just another celebrity to me. He was an inspiration to me the way few authors have been. I remember reading Kitchen Confidential for the first time. Bourdain's description of food brought the foods to life. I could almost smell the duck confit as he described it on the page. I've been accused of writing about food in his style, although probably not as well.

Those who have watched his shows and/or read his books were privy to the perspective of a man who loved to live life. This was a man who could enjoy a five star gourmet meal, a hot dog off a food cart, or a meal with a family in the Ozarks. He loved it all. He ate with presidents and paupers alike and he treated them all with respect.

The Berlin episode of his current series, Parts Unknown, aired shortly after his death.  As he ate helpings of; currywurst, chicken sausage, smoked mashed potatoes, and punk rocker prepared roasted meat; I could see an emptiness in his lined weathered face.  Sitting across from a young lady, who was explaining that Berlin's identity is about its future instead of its past, had he already decided to cut his own future short?

I know he had drug issues, but I'll never understand how a man so full of life could choose to leave this world and his eleven year old daughter.  I doubt I'll ever be able to make sense of the loss. Instead I need to remember the man as he was and what he meant to me.

R.I.P. Chef Bourdain.

Source: Publicly traded meme. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

McDonald's Fresh Beef Double Quarter Pounder - A Review


| Subject: McDonald's Fresh Beef Quarter Pounder |
| Date: 06/01/2018 | Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |

Before I begin, I must point out that I am no photographer.  When I took a photo of the burger. I really thought I got a good angle to show the thick beef patties, melting cheese, and toppings. When I got home, I realized I only got a good photo of a hamburger bun. which doesn't do you a lot of good, but there it is.

I had read about McDonald's inclusion of "fresh beef" in their Quarter Pounder and Double Quarter Pounder. I initially wrote it off as an advertising gimmick. I figured it would be no different than their normal burgers, but their Quarter Pounder would sell big for awhile because of the hype. Thus, I was going to do a review in order to prove that the emperor was, in fact, naked.

There are two kinds of burger joints. There are restaurants who are known for their beef and there are ones who use the beef as a platform for their toppings. McDonald's has always struck me as a restaurant in the latter category. They are known for serving flat little hockey pucks with a variety of toppings on them. I did not expect this burger to be anything else.

I was hungry, so I ordered the Double Quarter Pounder with cheese. It came with the standard pickle, onion, ketchup, and yellow mustard. To my surprise I found two thick patties of hot succulent well-seasoned beef. What surprised me even more was the fact that they were medium-rare. Fast-food restaurants are known for serving well-done, even overcooked, beef, but this burger was medium-rare with just a little pink in the middle.

There was nothing bad to say about the Double Quarter Pounder. I have to give it 10/10 stars. I'm as shocked as you are.

I do have a question though.  If McDonald's can use quality beef for their Quarter Pounders, why, oh why, aren't they using it for all of their burgers? If you order the Quarter Pounder, you can have the good beef, if you order the Big Mac, you can get two hockey pucks on a bun. What's with that?

One last note:
I like burgers medium-rare, as a lot of people do.  Cooking hamburger to medium-rare keeps the juices in.  When you take a bite, those juices circulate throughout your mouth delivering flavor to more parts of your mouth.  However, some people feels sketchy about burgers that are pink in the middle.  The color brings news reports of E-Coli, and other nasties, to the forefront of their minds.  If you belong to the latter category you may want to let them when you order, so you can get yours well-done.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Jack's Cholula Buttery Jack Combo Comes Up Short

I've been using Cholula hot sauce (a blend of piquin peppers, arbol peppers, vinegar, and spices) for twenty plus years now. My friend, Loi, a barista at Borders, turned me on to it back in the 90s and it's been a staple in my kitchen ever since. Its complex flavor profile adds a combination of spiciness and mild sweetness to foods without being tongue searingly hot.

| Subject: The Cholula Buttery Jack Combo | Date: 04/10/2018 |
| Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |

The latest addition to Jack In The Box's Buttery Jack line up is the Cholula Buttery Jack Burger (crispy-fried jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, and tomato along with the line's signature beef patty basted in melted garlic herb butter all served on a soft artisan bun). I arrived at Beaverton, Oregon's Jack In The Box (2920 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton) at eleven-ish Tuesday morning and got the combo with Cholula Fries (crispy French fries topped with a white cheese sauce, garlic herb butter, and Cholula hot sauce) and a medium iced tea for $7.79.

I began the meal by diving into the fries. Even with all the sauces on them, they were remarkably crispy, hot, and salty just like a good fry should be. The cheese sauce added a wonderful creaminess while the Cholula added a good kick of heat. I could even taste a hint of garlic from the garlic butter. The ones on the very bottom were a little soggy of course, but that's unavoidable. I've got nothing bad to say about the fries. I have to give them 10 out of 10 stars.

The burger was a different story altogether. I did taste a good bit of heat from the Cholula and the pepperjack cheese. However, the fried jalapenos were just...kind of...there. They were redundant really.  The pepper chips didn't add any noticeable heat above and beyond what the pepper jack and hot sauce already brought to the party.  Likewise, with the crispy lettuce being as plentiful as it was the fried peppers didn't add any perceptible additional crunchiness.

The lettuce and the tomato did serve as a nice counterbalance to the spice. The real problem was the beef. That beef was DRY! I'm not talking, lacking a little moisture dry. I'm talking about leaving the beef out in the desert for three weeks with a blow-dryer on it dry.  When I took a bite, the burger was mealy and grey in the middle. It just wasn't good on any level.

I don't often leave a burger unfinished, but I could only choke down half of this puppy before leaving sad, hungry, and disgusted.  To be fair, if you go to a Jack In The Box that knows how to cook beef, you might have a better experience. But as it was, I have to give this burger a 5 out of 10 stars. I could make a better Cholula burger at home.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

I Drink And I Know Things - Two Boozy Reviews

I am, by no means, a booze hound.  I can go for days, even weeks, without taking a drink, and I have no trouble stopping at one drink after a long dry spell.  Nevertheless, I do enjoy a good drink.  When I do choose to imbibe,  I like to drink outside the box a bit.  I enjoy drinks featuring interesting ingredients and tasty flavors.  In a nutshell, I like my booze to taste as good as my food.  Thus, when I came across two potent potables promising potentially palate pleasing profiles, I had to try them.

| Subject: Heritage Bacon Vodka and Mississippi Mud Black & Tan |
| Date: 03/30/2018 | Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |

I was making a liquor run when I came across Heritage Distilling Company's Bacon Vodka.   Being a fan of bacon, I picked up a fifth for $20.00.

True, Smirnoff and Grey Goose both hands their bacon flavored offerings, but there's are clear colored, like traditional vodka.  I was attracted, rationally or not, by the brown bacon-esc appearance of the bottle's contents.  Silly as it seems, it simply looked more authentic to me, as if it had been in a vat with actual bacon.

First, I used it in a Bloody Mary.  Even without the liquid smoke (see recipe below) the cocktail was smoky, spicy, and, to my surprise, a little sweet. It was easily one of my new favorite cocktails.

A few days later, I used it in a Dirty Martini.  While I didn't get the hit of smokiness up-front as I had with the Bloody Mary, it left a pleasant smoke flavored finish on the back of my palate.  Another home run, I must say.

Distilled from grapes, rather than potatoes, with natural flavors added to give it its amber hue and smoky flavor, Heritage Distilling's Bacon Vodka contains 30% alcohol by volume (60 Proof).  I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

Mississippi Brewing Company's Mississippi Mud Black & Tan was given to me as a gift.  I initially raised an eyebrow at the idea of a bottled Black & Tan.  The traditional drink is a beer cocktail consisting of lager being poured over the back of a spoon into a glass of stout.  The result is a drink with tan lager on the top and black stout on the bottom.  I wasn't sure they could mimic the effect in a premade concoction, and if they couldn't fulfill the drink's first promise, I was skeptical of the taste too.  Still, the 1 quart jug looked cool, so I shrugged and thanked her for it.

I poured myself a glass to go with a bowl of popcorn.  As I'd thought, the beer was stout black with no visible signs of the tan lager.  It had a good strong beer hall aroma though, which was a good sign.  Upon sipping, I found an easy to drink stout with delicious flavors of grain and coffee.  Just like Life Cereal's Mikey, I LIKED IT, I LIKED IT!

I milked four and a half glasses of beer from the jug and drank them ice cold with no sign of funky bitterness.  At 5% alcohol by volume (10 Proof), Mississippi Mud Black & Tan is a find worthy of 8 out of 10 stars.

Below you'll find three relevant recipes which I personally recommend for happy drinking. 

Black & Tan

For those of you who want to make a traditional Black and Tan, all you'll need is;
1 (12 fluid ounce) bottle of your favorite lager,
1 (12 fluid ounce) bottle of your favorite stout,
a tall glass,
and a large tablespoon.

Gently pour half the lager beer into a tall beer glass. Place a large tablespoon, dome side up, an inch or so above the lager beer, with the tip of the spoon pointed slightly downhill. Slowly pour half the stout beer over the tablespoon, so the stout gently pours down the side of the glass in a thick trickle.

Allow to stand a few seconds so 2 distinct layers of beer form.

Dirty Bacon Martini

3 oz of bacon infused vodka
1 oz Dry Vermouth
1 oz olive brine
3 stuffed green olives

Into a cocktail shaker, pour the Vodka, Dry Vermouth and olive brine. Shake well. Strain and pour contents of cocktail shaker into a chilled martini glass.

Drop the olives into the martini before serving.

Bacon Bloody Mary

1 1/2 oz bacon flavored vodka
4 oz tomato juice or V8
1 dash of Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes of liquid smoke
2 dashes of celery salt
2 dashes of hot pepper sauce

(Optional Garnishes)
1 slice of cooked bacon
1 celery stalk - I prefer this one.
A sprinkle of seasoned salt

Fill a shaker with some ice. Add remaining ingredients and give it a good shake. Pour it into a seasoned salt-rimed glass and garnish with a piece of cooked bacon and a celery stalk.