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….”