Marcus Vause-Cape Island Foods
Albert Wilklow – Bad Seed Cider Co
Conversations John Globecki-Orange County Distill
New York, NY
Posh burger, squash burger blah, blah, blah…. Yes, I’m back after an all too lengthy absence to fill these pages with opinions, rants and hopefully things that will give you a laugh while making you salivate a bit too.
Aren’t you all tired of the “faux” gourmet burger movement?!? We all know of the places to which I refer. Just because they’re better than the Red-nosed Clown Burger doesn’t make them good. Ok, I’ll admit that there are a far greater number of establishments serving truly elevated burgers than there were ten years ago but those aforementioned just don’t make the cut. However, I’d like to tell you about a couple of my favorites that do.
If I’m in NYC or Miami and Jonesin’ for a ground beef fix fortunately I have my friendly neighborhood cholesterol pushers. The Minetta Tavern-this piece of old New York Greenwich Village is truly a classic. Dark and wooden but warm and welcoming at the same time. First stop the bar, where I proceed to get just slightly lubricated-well, it was cold out and the old bones needed a little grease. One very powerful Manhattan later it was time to transfer ourselves to the table. What to order? Appetizers aside there was only one choice, the Black Label Burger. This “grandfather” of the modern high-end burger movement never misses. A perfectly ground blend of what appears to be 8-10oz. of purportedly dry-aged rib eye, skirt steak, brisket and short rib. Softly packed, not over charred and cooked just as ordered-yes, medium-rare here actually means medium rare. Simply accompanied by caramelized onions and served on a Balthazar bun. It’s everything a burger should be. Is it expensive? Yes but worth all $32.00. As to the fries, they’re fine but not really my style. Correctly cooked and crispy with just enough salt but nonetheless a bit thin for my taste.
It’s way too cold for me in the northeast, I’m heading south. After a day of doing not much of anything, I started to crave…… On the edge of the Design District a quick ride but a million miles away from the touristy throngs of South Beach is the Cypress Tavern. A recent incarnation of the former and more formal Cypress Room, this place feels like it’s been on the scene for a long time. What appears to be Cypress paneling and vintage pictures of Miami gives the room that “old shoe” feeling- Sorry if I’m wrong on the wood species but I didn’t have my copy of Hugo Cuttindown’s A Lumberjack’s Field Guide to North American Trees- Dining alone that evening I planted my ass at the bar and ordered a Fashionably Late. What is a Fashionably Late? Well, that’s kind of an ongoing commentary on my punctuality or lack thereof but in this case think of it as rum Old Fashioned with a couple of different bitters and what was said to be all-spice simple syrup. Damn good! Time for the burger. At $22.00 it’s a real bargain. This offering I was told is made from chuck and one or more cuts of dry aged beef. Again in the 8-10 oz. range and perfectly cooked with a mouth-feel that is neither too coarse or fine nor too fatty or dry. Complimented by Jasper Hill Landaff, onion marmalade and thrice cooked fries-now that’s a burger and fries.
Do I have a preference between these two? Not really, other than Cypress Tavern has better fires and is a better deal- I’m guessing staying off the beach saved me at least eight bucks. This level of burger nirvana is rarely achieved. Enough so to perhaps turn Ebenezer Scrooge into Mr. Fezziwig.
Until next time Happy Eating and Drinking…….
Hungry Uncle’s Kitchen – November 16, 2015
I know you’ve all been feeling a little neglected. You’re used to some kitchen guidance from these pages. Hopefully my lackadaisical approach of late hasn’t prevented you from having fun behind the stove or grill. Hey, I really do have an excuse, developing a new barbecue sauce is hard work. Of course you’ll know that since you never, ever…EVER have missed one of my posts 😉
In an effort to change the format a bit I’m going to try something new. Instead of providing a recipe with an exhaustive ingredient list and step by step cooking instructions this will serve more as a guide or framework. You will be the best judge of what to add, subtract or alter. It’s all about creating a dish with input from your taste buds.
No matter where you go in the world any seaside culture has one or more seafood/fish stews or soups. The French have Bouillabaisse, the Italians Ciopinno, the Thai Tom Yum Talay and the Spanish Mariscada; not to mention countless variations around the USA.
One thing they all have in common is that they were generally born out of fisherman making use of local ingredients. These were not grand creations for gourmet dining by the wealthy but rather dishes of the common people who cooked with what ingredients they had- it’s truly amazing how many things throughout culinary history have gone from the tables of peasants to the tables of royalty. Did you really think you’d see the day when I didn’t weave some sort of history or at least irreverent commentary into my writing?
Call it soup, stew or whatever you’d like but here’s the concept. You create a broth using fish stock, chicken stock or whatever you can get your hands on. You can add wine to it or go without. You can add tomatoes, onions, leeks or potatoes if you’d like; even a touch of cream-I think you’re getting the idea. Herbs and spices always add a boost of flavor-thyme, rosemary, basil or paprika ….adjust them based on the fish or seafood you’ll be using. You never want the broth to overpower the protein. Just remember cook things like onions and leeks first so they have a chance to soften, then if you’re using potatoes boil them in your broth until tender Once you’ve gotten the “soup” to where you want it add the fish or seafood of your choosing based on their individual cooking times. Shrimp cook VERY quickly and should be added last, squid takes longer and should be added earlier. Fish fillets will vary in cooking time based on thickness and density. As you experiment you will inevitably have some misfires, everyone does. Not to worry it’s all part of the learning process. When you get it just where you want it, how good will you feel? It’s always appropriate to do a little chest pounding with friends and family and proclaim the success of your own recipe…with just a little help from Hungry Uncle.
Ok, now what are you still doing here? Get off the computer and go cook. Remember, with Hungry Uncle, “yes you can…” Ok that is a shameless rip-off of the horrible Atkins diet commercial with Sharon Osbourne. I just couldn’t resist and never thought I’d actually have the opportunity to express my feelings about it.
Somehow that voice of hers always went right through me. Quite frankly I’d rather watch Ozzy in his Black Sabbath days biting the head off a bat……
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Syracuse NY October 26, 2015
As I pulled up to the original Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Syracuse, NY my mouth immediately started salivating from the fabulous aroma of smoked meats. If you’re a barbecue fan I’m sure you know of the exact smell I’m speaking of and that you may be a bit green with envy.
Since there were no available seats at the bar I was able to get the last remaining high top table in the bar area. Couldn’t ask for a better seat in the house. I’m surrounded by walls filled with paintings of jazz musicians, expired license plates and old concert posters while listening to some classic rock and roll such as Jimmy Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and the Beatles. This place is jammed packed at 6:30pm on a Wednesday night.
As the waitress came to take my order I couldn’t disclose to her that I was on a “secret” mission. I’m here to do a guest blog for Hungry Uncle who just happens to be my boyfriend and the creator of some pretty amazing sauces. She insisted I try the combo of St. Louis ribs, pulled pork and brisket with sides of coleslaw, macaroni and cheese and some black beans. Verdict; there wasn’t anything left of the pulled pork and macaroni in cheese. Of the 2 ribs that were served about 1 1/2 were left and about a 1/4 of the brisket remained. The creamy coleslaw was a nice compliment to the smoked meats which started off with a sweet taste and ended smoky.
All in all I had a very good bbq meal. I will look forward to returning on my next trip to Syracuse.
Dinosaur was Dyn-O-Mite…..
Hungry Uncle’s House
October 26, 2015
As your never very humble Bard of Barbecue most readers of these pages know that I’m rarely at a loss for words. This is no exception.
Did you ever wonder what I do on weekends? Well, probably not but I’ll give you a glimpse or two regardless. As it is on most there is food, wine or other imbibing and gluttonizing.
At the very strong urging of Hungry Uncle’s Better Half I decided to leave the cooking to others. Probably a good idea since cooking for a group of ravenous friends and family usually prevents me from fully enjoying the gathering and inevitably ends with an artful tapestry of obscenities emanating from the kitchen-and you thought skillful weaving of that magnitude reached its apex with Joseph Marie Jacquard. Being an accomplished cook in no way qualifies you to prepare multiple dishes for more than twenty people. Somehow I always make it through without too many scars but it ain’t easy-hats off to all the guys and gals who do it every night!
What was the impetus for this past weekend? Reverse gears to the month of May. I had just left several hours of eating and drinking in Chicago at an event organized by Vibrant Rioja and produced by the Taste Network www.tastenetwork.com . “Vibrant Rioja is a partnership between the governing body for wines from the region of Rioja, Spain called the Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja (now, you know why we simply say “Vibrant Rioja”) and Wines From Spain, under the auspices of the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX). Our goal is to introduce the extraordinary wines of Rioja to American wine lovers, both to those with a new interest in wine and to experienced wine drinkers. At the same time, we want to introduce you to the region of Rioja, its scenic beauty, welcoming people, extraordinary architecture and wonderful cuisine.”-from their website. As a long-time lover and collector of Rioja I had looked forward to this event since it had been announced several months prior. While I had left, the event still had another hour or so to go but a visit with some local cousins took precedent. About two minutes after walking out the door I received a call from my girlfriend telling me that I must return as I had just “won”. “Won what ?” was my reply. Unbeknownst to me every attendee was automatically entered into a drawing for one of each of the 130 plus bottles that had been poured that day. I returned, participated in the PR photo shoot and then back with the cousins. Of course the food and drink didn’t end that night but continued with local friends for another day or two. It was then decided to use the weekend as inspiration and have our own miniature celebration of Rioja and Spanish food using -of course- the victor’s wine.
First problem, getting the wine back to New Jersey. Driving from Chicago to New Jersey is about as exciting and intellectually stimulating as watching Public Access TV or even worse the hosts of “The View”. Since shipping via air is absurdly expensive, bring on the boredom. There was however one great diversion. While driving across the flatness of Ohio my traveling companion suddenly blurted out, “did you see it? We just crossed under Fangboner Road.” That’s right, Fangboner in Freemont. Yes, this is extremely sophomoric but just the name alone not to mention the perfect alliteration of Fangboner in Freemont did provide more than momentary comic relief and for a minute made me forget I was in Ohio which isn’t such a bad thing now is it 😉 For those of you who find this too low brow, loosen up it’s just freakin’ funny! Ok, diversion over. Problem two, coordinating schedules. After several failed attempts, all agreed on October 24th.
Unfortunately this is where the story must end. They’ll be a couple of pictures below but they will only provide a glimpse into the food and wine. To post anything else might result in swift retribution from the FCC, ATF or God knows what other three-letter Federal or State agency; agencies that I’m sure we’d all be happy to describe with one or more four-letter words. Was it really that out of control, maybe/maybe not? I can only promise that there was no injury to human beings or domestic animals. As to the crustaceans, swine, poultry, grapes and other produce I plead ignorance…. Cheers
Hungry Uncle’s Kitchen
October 13, 2015
I know it’s been a while since my ramblings have graced your screens and for that I’m truly sorry. Perhaps it’s left a void in your life? Well, give me a little credit. I like to think that I provide greater enjoyment than being overrun by those babbling idiots we call our elected officials and oh yes-the equally as inane talking heads of the mainstream media who try to inundate every minute of our day.
And don’t forget with the soon to be upon us national elections it will only get “better”. Yes, I know, you’re all feeling as fed up as I am. With all my hostility towards politicians building what have I done to stay calm? I’ve spent even more time in my secret test kitchen working on the newest BBQ sauce that I first brought to your attention this past summer.
Creating a tasty concoction that’s not only good for barbecuing but can also be used for roasting, grilling…..is no easy task. Not only do I have to create something that will have broad taste appeal but it has to be composed of ingredients that are readily available, take well to cooking in large batches and is as “clean” aka free of artificial preservatives as possible. In addition, the cost to produce it must be kept under control. What good is a sauce if you need a second mortgage to by a bottle? No, my products aren’t the $1.29 items of the mass-market food world but they do seek to offer a balance among value, quality and taste. Part of creating this balance involves a lot of experimentation in the kitchen. Just when I thought it was ready for production an issue would arise. The latest was related to one of the base ingredients. While most sauces used for BBQ, roasting or grilling start with a simple base such as ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce or mustard this one doesn’t. Despite having the flavor and consistency right where I wanted them, the cost element threw up a major road block. I spent weeks trying to find a suitable alternative to no avail. Finally luck prevailed but only briefly. I found what on the surface appeared to be a winner-readily available, reasonable priced, and devoid of artificial preservatives-unfortunately the taste was simply put, foul. Back to the internet and the phone. Ok, now this one appears to be an option. Again, no such luck. Not difficult to source and economical too but it was even more flawed. It contained chemical preservatives which in my mind turned it into nothing more than purportedly edible toxic waste. After summarily striking out in my search for this elusive product I was left no choice. I must create it myself. Having to go through this process will certainly slow the launch of this sauce and require countless additional hours behind the stove. That’s Ok too; creativity doesn’t like to follow a time line and inevitably has many ups and downs. For those of us who truly love to cook this can be part of the appeal. In end when you’ve developed something that can be enjoyed by many or just a few it is all then worth it.
Now that I’m pretty close to solving my big problem in the kitchen maybe I can figure out a way to deal with our current political landscape. Hmmmm, since reconstituting the likes of Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin is quite unlikely, all can do is take some small solace in the words of Will Rogers, “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for….”
August 24, 2015 – Hungry Uncle’s Kitchen
As we move into the final stretches of summer the bounty of the fields is really shining. Enjoy it while you can. Before you know it the leaves will be falling and then-don’t even get me started. Yeah I know, you winter-sport types love that time of year and even I have enjoyed snow shoeing, ice climbing and other adrenaline fueled endeavors but let’s be honest only the partially insane truly like being out in that frozen white crap. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…. but it’s so fresh and invigorating. Really, you look forward to having no circulation in your fingers, toes and other appendages?!? Listen, I’m not Dr. Phil and I’m NOT here to discuss your feelings………..now back to the subject at hand, poached cod with a Provencal inspired sauce and zucchini.
For the cod-
- About ¾. lb. of skinned, deboned cod cut into equal portions.
- Black cod, aka Sablefish, is too strong and not appropriate for this dish.
- 4 medium size sea scallops.
- 1 quart of chicken stock.
- A shallow pan large enough to hold the fish covered by the stock without too much extra room. If you use too large a pan you’ll have add extra stock.
For the zucchini-
- 2 medium-large zucchini sliced into ¼ inch discs.
- A 4 quart pan filled about half-way with water.
For the sauce-
- 1.5 cups of freshly, peeled and seeded tomatoes. If you can’t find fresh you can substitute canned.
- 1 tsp. of sliced garlic.
- ½ cup of scallions sliced into 1/8 – 1/4 inch rings
- 2 tbsp. of minced flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
- ½ tsp. dried thyme-fresh is preferable but wasn’t available at the time of this recipe. As general rule if you use fresh as opposed to dried, triple the amount (i.e. 1 tsp. of dried equals
- 1 tbsp. or 3 tsp. of fresh)
- 1 tsp. dried basil.
- Smoked salt.
- Sea salt.
- Ground black pepper.
- 1/3 cup of off-dry white wine. If that’s not available you can compensate by adding pinch of sugar when you add the wine.
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter.
- A large bowl filled with ice water.
- A medium frying pan.
- A 3-4 quart pot filled half way with water.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Cut shallow slits in the tomato skins starting at the bottom (non-stem side). Come up the tomato just an inch or two. You’re creating more or less an “x”.
- Put the tomatoes in the boiling water.
- Remove them with a slotted spoon after 25 seconds and put immediately into the ice water for about a minute to stop the cooking process. Remove the tomatoes and discard the ice water
- It will now be very easy to peel the skin away.
- After peeling, cut into quarters, remove the seeds with your fingers and chop into ¼ inch pieces.
- Place the chopped tomatoes back in the bowl.
- Slice the garlic and scallions and mince the parsley. Place each in a small bowl.
- Measure out the thyme and basil and place in a small bowl.
- Preheat your pan to medium and add the butter.
- When the butter has melted add the garlic and cook just until it become fragrant- about two minutes. If the garlic starts to brown turn down the heat.
- Add the tomatoes, turn up the heat until the mixture reaches a high simmer/low boil. Cook for about 3-4 minutes (tossing or stirring occasionally) or until the liquid has reduced by about 2/3rds.
- Add the wine and dried herbs, cook for about 2-3 minutes ( again tossing or stirring).
- Add the parsley and cook for about an additional two minutes (tossing or stirring).
- Turn off the heat and season with the smoked salt and pepper.
- Note- the sauce should still flow when moved around in the pan. You want some liquid but definitely not soupy.
- Take your fish and scallops out of the fridge for about 20 minutes before cooking. They will cook more evenly.
- After adding the tomatoes to the sauce pour the stock into the pan and warm on medium-low heat. It should never come to a simmer or boil. You should be able to dip your finger without getting burnt.
- After adding the dried herbs to the sauce, place the fillets into the warm broth. It should take no more than 3-4 minutes to poach. If the fillets are of uneven thickness, start the thicker ones first. If a fillet is too thick to be covered by the broth you will have to carefully turn it over half-way through cooking by using a spatula and your fingers. The fish is very delicate at this point and can fall apart if you’re not careful.
- After about 2 minutes of cooking add the scallops.
- When the fish just starts to flake it will be done. Using a slotted spatula carefully transfer the fillets to a warmed plate. The scallops should be done cooking around the same time. Don’t overcook them unless you want a large pencil eraser.
- You want your pot of water to be boiling around the time you add the fish to the stock.
- Add the zucchini and boil for about 90 seconds. You can cook more or less depending on desired degree of doneness.
- Drain through a colander.
- Place ¼ of the zucchini slices on a plate and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste.
- Top the zucchini with some of the sauce.
- Place a piece of the cod on the zucchini and top with two scallops, season with sea salt and pepper.
- Finish with some more sauce
Wasn’t that more enjoyable than listening to me rant about the winter. Until next time happy cooking and eating.
BBQ Zone – Clifton NJ – August 10, 2015
We’ve all heard the hackneyed old saying “never judge a book by its cover”. I’ve always tried to keep that in mind when trying a restaurant for the first time. I was meeting a close friend and regular dining companion for dinner and as usual we tried to find a locale with taste bud exciting food. There would no compressed wheat germ cakes on a bed of pea shoots with a dressing of ionized carrot juice emulsified with cod liver oil and reverse osmosis apple cider vinegar….God, that sounds really foul; kind of like rabbit food meets medieval medicine-where did it come from? I have no idea. Strange things must be afoot in the brain of this writer.
Located in a small non-descript strip mall, you are greeted by an un-cramped space that can be best described as “upscale fast food restaurant”. Clean and bright with a counter for ordering and a couple of self-service beverage coolers. I looked at the menu and something stuck me as a little odd. Touted as a BBQ restaurant, the place seemed to have a rather “un-barbecue-ish” menu. Yes, there were the classic options of chicken, brisket and ribs but also many non-typical choices such as burritos and beef/chicken shawarma.
They also had a create your own salad area which my friend told me turns out some tasty, fresh options. We both chose the ribs. One with a classic BBQ sauce and the other with a garlic butter type dressing. We’re the ribs good? Oh yes quite so. In fact, I’ve been to very few hardcore barbecue only restaurants that could come close to these. To be fully transparent, I usually prefer a smokier than not rib when eating BBQ. These may not be of that variety but it in no way detracts from the enjoyment. Flawlessly cooked full spare ribs with an outstanding crust. There’s nothing quite like biting into a fall off the bone rib to be met with a frim charred exterior “bark” followed by succulent, juicy pork meat with just the right amount of fat. Despite being full, I continued to devour the ribs until my stomach put up a closed for business sign. I boxed up the rest and had enough left for lunch the next day. All this for $14.00, you’re hard pressed to find a much better deal.
It would have been easy to have skewed my opinion of BBQ Zone based on it having an atypical menu for something touted as a barbecue joint. That would have been a big mistake. This concept may be a bit unusual but it works. It is a place where you can eat quickly and without being subject to the toxic waste known as fast food. From their website, “We now live in a world where people live very hectic lives , eating on the go is not so much of a choice as it is a necessity. BBQ zone will meet that need with a healthier alternative to your typical fast food restaurant. While maintaining comparable prices we aim to make BBQ zone a cornerstone of the neighborhood.” To the McRib sandwich….may you R.I.P once and for all…Lazarus doesn’t need any competition.