Monday, August 12, 2013

Seared Scallops, Good Dog Bar and Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA

We've all seen would-be world-class chef's royally screw up the scallops on those competitive cooking shows. Whenever I see Scallops on the menu I can hear that combative scottish-brit voice shouting "RAW!!!!!" or "RUBBER!!!!!" - that said- it is easy to mess up scallops- mere seconds are the difference between raw, overcooked, and just right. It takes a deft hand to evade that mad Chef's wrath...

Maple Bacon Candy

Sometimes a picture tells you all you need to know. Melville's hand poured Maple Bacon Savory Lollipop was a tasty treat brought to me by a relative from parts unknown. The candy has a good, solid maple flavor, and is studded with actual bacon bits. There's just no way to go wrong with that.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fried Pumpkin Blossoms

My Sicilian grandmother always used to make a big deal about getting a hold of fresh squash blossoms (usually Zucchini), breading and frying them. Often they would be stuffed with something special such as cream cheese as well, but they were an interesting snack even without the stuffing. This story starts with the area of my yeard where I intended to put up a garden this season. Early on, a stray plant that looked vaguely squash-like sprouted out of nowhere, so I let it grow just to see what it would become. A few weeks later, my vegetable garden was out of the question- the mystery plant was a pumpkin plant, and it took over basically my entire proposed garden area. The good news is that the plant is now so big, I can pick the flowers at will without stopping the plant from producing plenty of pumpkins. I've never fried pumpkin blossoms before, but the idea works just as well for just about any squash or gourd flowers.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Royal Warsaw, Elmwood Park, NJ

Many people find it easy to overlook Polish cuisine. While not as flashy as French, or as well known as Italian, it stands up against them very well. In general, you'll find Polish food remarkably simple, but very comforting. This is no-nonsense, straightforward, good food. I've had the pleasure of having authentic Polish food on several occasions, and I've never left the table hungry or unhappy. It's certainly worth a try.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Home-made Smoked Pork Ribs

A few weeks ago, I completed my preparations for summer by purchasing a new charcoal grill/smoker combo. I almost immediately used it as a grill to cook up the usual batches of burgers and dogs that most people associate with summer cookouts, but I had bigger ambitions than that for my new toy. I've never used a smoker before, and a rack of ribs seemed the bet place to start experimenting.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bacon infused Mac and Cheese

Everyone loves Mac and Cheese. Yes, I'm sure even the Vegans secretly lust after it. So how do you improve on a classic? Simple, just add bacon. This is a riff on the classic Macaroni and Cheese Casserole like my mom used to make- only I add bacon, a whole lot of bacon. And if that isn't enough, I make  use of the bacon grease as well.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Art Restaurant at the Four Seasons Seattle

On my trip to Seattle, I didn't realize just how much of the city seems to shut down relatively early. By relatively "early" I mean early for someone more accustomed to the nightlife in to so-called city that never sleeps (New York)- So I made a critical mistake- I was killing time, and waiting to decide where to eat. When 10pm rolled around, and I still had not eaten, I was left with few choices, so I went back to my hotel and ordered room service from the attached restaurant instead of searching for a late-night bite in an unfamiliar city only a few hours after arriving.

Friday, April 5, 2013

SkyCity, Seattle, Washington

Seattle's biggest tourist attraction is the Space Needle- a 605 foot tall tower topped by a flying saucer shaped structure that houses it's observation deck, and the SkyCity Restaurant - the oldest revolving restaurant still in operation. As a tourist attraction with a long, and interesting history, it's easy to dismiss the food as overpriced or sub-par. I won't argue too much with the "overpriced" complaints, but the food is clearly better than the typical fare found in most tourist traps.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pike Market, Seattle, Washington

So, as luck would have it, my travels for my day job have brought me to the city of Seattle. I had the good fortune of staying in a hotel just a few blocks away from the famous Pike Market. Naturally, I couldn't resist the opportunity to take a look and snap a few photos...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Eggs in Purgatory

It is easy to get bored of cooking the same old things the same old way. This dish is a welcome change- take your basic eggs, and some leftover tomato sauce (or gravy rather), and a nice piece of bread to make something memorable and a little different- eggs in purgatory.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bourbon Potatoes

I get a real kick out of making something interesting out of otherwise boring leftovers. It's a few days after St. Patrick's day, so I have plenty of leftover small boiled potatoes sitting around. I also have a bottle of good bourbon. I don't need much else to make what's becoming one of my favorite leftover transformations- Bourbon Potatoes.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Buffalo Grilled Cheese

It's been quite a while since I last visited my mild obsession with grilled cheese. What would be better than combining elements of two classic comfort foods into one? Here I take the distinctive flavors of a buffalo wing, and present them as a grilled cheese sandwich.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

That's One Juicy Lucy!

So, if you ever end up on a business trip to Minneapolis, this is the first place you should go when you get off the plane. The 5-8 Club has been around since 1928, and is the area's iconic "Dive Bar" - that is also home to the burger that should be featured on the city's flag. There is an apparent debate about where the Juicy Lucy was invented- at the 5-8 or at neighboring rival "Matt's Bar" - but personally, I don't care, I just wanted one. 5-8 was on my way and only minutes from the airport, so there I went.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ham and Cannellini Bean Stew

This was one of those thrown together dinners that I really had no intention of photographing- but it turned out to be a great surprise. Take some leftover ham steaks cut into chunks, add a can of cannellini beans, a chopped onion, and a diced tomato, toss them in a pot, add a little salt and pepper to season, and enough water to cover everything. Let it simmer for two (or more) hours. At the end, you will have a thin broth- thicken it up with a slurry of warm water with a little dissolved flour, and serve it over a bed of rice. As simple as it sounds, it is greater than the sum of its parts- all the meatiness of the ham permeates the dish, and plays really well with the beans. I love the fact that it's a dish that can take leftovers, add a few new items, and transform them into something great. I'll be keeping this one in my bag of tricks for a while.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tortilla Crusted Grouper - Rose Tattoo, Philadelphia PA

A trip to the Rose Tattoo Cafe in Philadelphia with a few business associates turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The special was a tortilla crusted grouper, that turned out to be a fantastic dish. The fish was flaky and moist, with a nice nutty flavor from the tortilla crust. The sauteed spinach under it had the right amount of earthy flavor, and the hash of sweet potato, grape tomatoes and shrimp in a spicy sauce had a surprising amount of kick, balanced out by the starchy/sweet sweet potatoes. This dish was a home run in my book. My only regret was not getting a better photo. This one does the dish small justice.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Panettone French Toast

Panettone is a classic Italian dessert bread/cake studded with raisins and candied citrus zest and usually enjoyed during the holiday season. It originally came from the city of Milan, and was something distinctive to Northern Italy, however, it's popularity has spread far and wide- there is actually more Panettone consumed in Southern Italy and places such as South America than it is in Milan. It has a texture that sits in an odd halfway point between a light, sweet bread such as a brioche, and a cake- it is soft and pliable inside, but still has structure and form like a bread. I had a leftover Panettone from the holidays, and I wanted to use it in a somewhat un-traditional manner- so making it into a french toast breakfast seemed like the way to go- not something you'd normally do with a Panettone, but it isn't really a huge stretch of the imagination- and I thought the kids would like it too.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Calamari Fra Diavolo from Pizza N' Pasta, Manville, NJ

Next door to a local airfield that flys small aircraft is a bar and grill that has become a local fixture in the town of Manville, New Jersey. I'm talking about a place set up in the format of a bar and grill, but the "grill" portion of the business is really a full-fledged Italian restaurant serving all manner of classic Italian-American favorites. That place is called Pizza N' Pasta.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Blessed by Mario...

An old classmate from High School, who has gone on to become a professional chef, has been slowly gaining some very significant attention from the media and may very well be on her way to becoming a full-fledged Celebrity Chef... She's made her mark with kid and family-friendly cooking  spots on the Disney Channel called "That's Fresh", but has recently had a big break- making an appearance on "The Chew" - and recieving the greatest of compliments from the one and only Mario Batali. Please allow us to introduce you to- Helen Cavallo:

Read about Helen's experiences on the sets at her own blog here. And find out more about her on the That's Fresh facebook page. Congratulations Helen!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Stuffed Shells for Christmas Dinner

Stuffed shells are one of those classic baked pasta dishes that many people pass on making- simply because they can be very labor intensive. They contain practically the exact same ingredients you would use in a simple baked ziti- just organized differently. The thought of cramming individual portions of cheesy filling into each one of those shells is the heavy lifting part- however, there are ways to speed things along.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013