Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Breakfast Befit the Betrothed

So check this out: I'm going to get married. Yeah, your fatty foodie friend popped the question right after preparing a rack of smoky babyback ribs, baked beans, and sauteed zucchini and yellow squash. That was the last day of our vacation, so on the way back to civilization the next morning we were naturally looking for a local breakfast spot. What we found was the Windmill Restaurant in Holland, Michigan.

Some cursory internet research tipped us off to this place, a cozy greasy-spoon-type place, tucked into the quaint downtown area. This is the kind of joint where you'd expect the service to be as buttery as the food, and I'll be damned if it didn't deliver on both counts. It's pretty clear that they're known for their breakfasts, even though they do have a lunch menu as well.

Words to live by: "Breakfast Served Anytime." This is how you know you're about to eat well and hearty.

Standard diner breakfast fare abounds on the top half of the menu page, but things start to get interesting around the house specialties. I'm intrigued by something called a Bird's Nest: a pile of hash browns and bacon bits, topped with cheddar cheese and two eggs:

I got my eggs over medium because I didn't want a yolk-y mess. Props to the short-order cook for nailing that. As great as that looks, here's the best part:

A BIG FUCKING CINNAMON ROLL!!! Actually, they give you the choice of this, a muffin, or their homemade toast (as in, they bake their own bread, then toast it). I had to put the quarter there to give you a sense of scale, but even that's misleading. This thing was huge. Like, eat it with both hands huge.

As amazing as my breakfast was shaping up to be, I could not have been prepared for what landed in front of Erin. She ordered a little something called the "Hashbrown Omelette," which I assumed would be a traditional omelette stuffed with hashbrowns, which seemed like a nice convenience for those of us who tend to combine our breakfast foods. Wow, was I wrong...

THE OMELETTE IS INSIDE THE HASHBROWNS!!! I'm honestly not sure if there's even eggs in there. I do know that it's a greasy melange of cheese, sausage, and onions inside what appears to be about a pound of hash browns. This sucker is huge too - luckily they offer a half size for patrons who don't want to die of an immediate coronary. Take a look inside. How could you not want to put this in your taste hole?

If you ever find yourself in southwestern Michigan, get thee to the Windmill. Don't be upset by the lack of an actual windmill: the food will more than make up for it.

Postscript: After breakfast Erin told me that I'm never allowed to eat a hashbrown omelette, for fear that the imminent and inevitable cardiac arrest would spell the end of our marriage. 'Til death do us part indeed...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ridiculous Eats IX: Crimes Against Food

During the course of "R.E." thus far I've explored the heights to which people have taken their food obsessions. Absurd, and often absurdly large, concoctions. Heaping masses of food that tip scales and pounds and pounds, and shatter the boundaries of taste and decorum.

And it's been a blast, too! Who doesn't love massive hamburgers sandwiched between two pizzas? Smoked pork bombs wrapped in bacon? Burgers that cost more than our staff makes in a month?

But sometimes these combinations go a little too far. Today's "Ridiculous Eats" is dedicated to unholy flavor unions: The Burgers That Should Not Be!

Offender: The King
Scene of the Crime: Boston Burger Company
The Crime: If you can draw simple conclusions based on names you could fairly assume that the Boston Burger Company's King burger is named for one Elvis Aaron Presley, the King of Rock'n'Roll. One could further conclude that being named for Elvis, the King would incorporate that unholiest of fruits: the hated banana! All of this is, unfortunately, true. A food travesty for the ages, the King is assembled thustly: 8 ounces of Angus Beef is grilled and topped with bacon (hooray!), but the culinary crimes are committed when the bun is slathered with creamy peanut butter--delicious, but not my idea of burger topping--and garnished with slices of banana, rolled in Cinnamon sugar, and fried. Um, this may just be anti-`nana-ist in me, but no thank you. While I might be tempted to try a nibble of a P.B. burger, the bananas are a deal breaker. I realize that some strange combinations often yield delicious results (I'm looking at you Gin and Tonic) fried bananas and hamburgers are a no-go.

Offender: Hot Fudge Sundae Burger
Scene of the Crime: McGuire's Irish Pub, Pensacola, Florida
The Crime: Shit. I love hamburgers. I love ice cream. I also love the combinations of sweet and savory. Few treats are as perfect and simple as a peanut butter--buckeyes if you're in Ohio--or chocolate covered pretzels. But sometimes two great tastes just don't taste great together. The set up of this monstrosity is pretty simple, a 12 ounce Black Angus beef patty is topped with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge and a cherry, what no nuts or whipped cream? So not only are two great foods ruined by one another, but they've also totally half-assed the ice cream component. Food fail.

Let this be a lesson to us all, and remember, just because two foods are fantastic on their own (except bananas which are always terrible) doesn't meant they will blend together well.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Oh Boy, O'Betty's!!!

No trip to Athens, Ohio is complete without a stop at one of the Midwest's finest hot doggeries: O'Betty's Red Hot. A dog joint dressed up like a old tyme house of ill repute, O'Betty's has been serving up daring but classy dogs since 2003. I have to confess, I've never been to O'Betty's while the sun was shining, or while their dining room was open. Being based in this venerable college town, students and other lovers of the nightlife simply line up on the sidewalk to place their orders on the establishment's stoop, and then wait for their name to be called with the promise of imminent, delectable tube steaks.

The night menu is a stripped-down version of the day menu, but there's apparently no difference in the quality of the dog. You can pretty much get whatever toppings suit your fancy, but the suggested combos are pretty spot on. The "Dixie" is a traditional coney dog: chili, cheese, onions, & mustard. The "Blaze" is a delicious combo of bacon and home-made creamy coleslaw. No matter the toppings, the star is the hot dog itself: listen to the natural casing snap perfectly as you bite into that 1/4 pound of all-beef delight.

I was feeling a little adventurous upon my last visit, so I strayed from my favorites (the aforementioned Dixie and Blaze) and scooped up these fantastic franks...

The "Mata Hari": spicy chili sauce and the previously mentioned house cole slaw. Much like the Dutch exotic dancer of the same name, this dog's sly seductive powers come primarily from its combination of hot & sweet.

The "Varla": not sure if this is named after the character in Faster Pussycat Kill Kill played by Tura Satana, or the character Varla Jean Merman played by Jeffrey Roberson in drag. I'm guessing the former, but the latter would make sense if you look at that picture and imagine a heap of sauerkraut on it (the way it is supposed to be served). Like, you can dress it up as much as you want, but there's still a wiener under there. Get it?

ANYWAY, that's bacon, 1000 island dressing and horseradish sauce. I had them leave the sauerkraut off because, well, I think it's disgusting. I wasn't sure how this flavor combination would work together, but it's fantastic. Horseradish is such a great complement to beef, and 1000 island dressing has been trusted to adorn sandwiches as various as the Reuben and the Big Mac. Bacon can not, nor will it ever, ruin anything to which it is added.

In addition to these great hot dogs, O'Betty's also serves some amazing fresh-cut french fries. Get them topped with fresh garlic if you aren't planning on making out with anyone. They're so good they'll make you forget what a loser you are.

Before you accuse me of having some weird hot dog fetish based on previous posts here, try these dogs. They are worth the raves.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

blast from the past

Going through the camera, I found some pictures from a quick summer meal that I grilled up for the lady and myself. It must've been hot that day, because I was thinking about complimentary summer flavors. Hence, you get Tequila-Lime Marinated Chicken, Red Pepper Rice and Grilled Asparagus.

First, I marinated some chicken tenderloins in a mixture of tequila, lime juice, butter and cilantro. While those were sitting, I started my fire and cooked some rice. I also made an asparagus raft with some bamboo skewers. Fire's ready: throw 'em on...

When grilling with charcoal, heat distribution is never even, so you've got to space things out to make sure nothing gets burned or dried out.

While these were cooking, I went back in to check on my pepper and onion sautee. I chopped up a red bell pepper, a yellow bell pepper and an onion and sauteed them in olive oil with some sea salt and black pepper. Uh oh, don't forget about the fire - time to flip that chicken...

Grill food is done! Add the sauteed pepper mix to the rice, plate and enjoy!

I already miss summer...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Workin' on Some Nightmoves

I took this past Saturday off to attend a wedding with Nicole. Saturday morning pre-nup we went for some brunch at Nighttown--re-dubbed Nightmoves by Nicole and her roommate.

Nighttown is a fairly classy joint with decent prices. On my budget it's certainly not a regular dining spot, but definitely not out of the question on certain occasions. Their dinner menu is pretty impressive as is their beer and wine list. The lunch menu has a solid selection of salads and sandwiches and there are daily brunch specials.

I opted for the omelet of the day: three eggs with gruyere, asparagus, and ham, I opted to hold the ham. The eggs were perfect! Light, fluffy, and with an amazing creamy quality that is so often cooked out of eggs by heavy handed cooks. The gruyere added to this, a rich full bodied white cheese, reminiscent of Swiss, but with less funk. The asparagus added much needed texture, perfectly blanched and still crisp, it was great contrast.

Nicole had the lobster Benedict, or lobster Benny as it was listed on the bill, pretty traditional eggs Benedict poached eggs with Canadian bacon and hollandaise on top of English muffins, but this dish got the bump from a healthy sprinkle of lobster meat! I've never been a huge eggs Benedict fan, I'm not wild about Canadian bacon or hollandaise sauce, but the bites I had, with and without lobster, were amazing! The Canadian bacon was perfectly cured and smoked and had a deep, rich smokiness that offered the perfect counterpoint to the creamy, citrus zing of the hollandaise. I think the reason I never liked this before was because I'd never had it properly prepared. It was fantastic on its own and outrageous with a little bit of lobster meat thrown in. Both plates came with sides of maybe the best home fries I've ever tasted. Crispy brown on the outside, light and fluffy inside, a little salt, pepper and a dash of hot sauce were all they needed.

Despite the evening leaning moniker, Nighttown is definitely worth an afternoon visit.

P.S., In a bizarre twist of fate the wedding reception buffet contained lobster ravioli. When was the last time you had lobster twice in one day?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ridiculous Eats VIII: For Rich Snobs Only

Since I started these "Ridiculous Eats" posts back in the very beginning of W.W.E.I.L. I've noticed that a lot of these menu monsters are also tres pricey. Stands to reason, I suppose, that a lot of food costs a lot of money. And in these cases it's capitol-A lot.

So, today on "R.E." we'll examine the ridiculous and the ridiculously expensive. Let's dive in shall we?

The Burger: The Richard Nouveau
Where: The Wall Street Burger Shoppe, New York, New York
How Much: $175
Say What?: You're a plucky young broker, it's you're first day on the floor. You're buying low, selling high, and making flashy hand motions quicker than a deaf guy on speed. Finally the bell rings and you're done for the day. A quick look at closing numbers on the Dow and the NASDAQ reveal you've just cleaned up. You're excited, for sure, but how do you celebrate? Cocaine? Nah, it's the new Willennium and that shit is so 1980s. A few hookers? Not since Giuliani had them rounded up and killed with all the homeless people, the closest you're going to get to a hooker downtown these days is in a can of Alpo. What does that leave? Good old food and drink my yuppie chum (makes great bate for catching wasp fish!). And what better way to celebrate your new riches than a burger whose name says it all. The Wall Street Burger Shoppe's Richard Nouveau is a celebration in bun, if you're into that sort of thing, and is assembled thustly: first foie gras is simmered in truffle oil, then ten ounces of ground Kobe beef is seared in the renderings of the foie gras and truffle oil. The patty is then topped with Gruyere cheese and wild mushrooms before being garnished with shaved black truffles a served with a side of house made golden truffle mayonnaise, sprinkled with edible gold leaf. Oh. La. La. Better keep those figures up and those margins wide, bucko, because there is no way you're going back to Big Macs after this.

The Burger: Mallie's Record-Breaking Burger
Where: Mallie's Sports Grill, Southgate, Michigan
How Much?: $499
Say What?: The big game is coming. The guys are coming over. It's your house so you've got to provide the grub. But what? Wings, maybe? Nah, those little things are too messy and too much work. Besides, the last time you got wings for the game Fat Tony dropped his on the floor and you had to move the couch to cover the stain, Big Louie left a plate of bones out and the dog nearly choked to death, and Polish Mikey (who's actually Czech) bitches about the hot sauce. Nope, wings are for the birds. A six foot sub, perhaps? Sure, if you want everyone to complain about what's on it. Old Joe hates ham, Little Stevie hates roast beef, and Italian Mike is inexplicably allergic to salami. And those things are covered in lettuce and tomato, you want sandwich, goddammit!, not a salad. And don't forget bringing the thing home, a transportational nightmare if ever there was one. But it's a step in the right direction. Burgers are like sandwiches. Burgers might work, but you don't want to spend the entire game grilling. If only someone could cook for you. And maybe instead of a lot of little things, there could only one. Like the party sub, but burger style. That's it! A giant burger! And not just any old giant burger, a record breaking giant burger, like the one at Mallie's in Southgate, Michigan. Mallie's Record-Breaking Burger is a 185.6 pound burger and requires two people to lift it into the oven where it cooks for 14 hours (it should be noted at this point that ordering one of these macro-burgers requires at least 72 hours advance notice). The patty itself tips the scales at 120 pounds and is sandwiched between two custom buns that bulk out a 20 pounds each, the burger is then topped with about thirty pounds of lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese, bacon, pickles, and condiments. Pick up a few cases of cold ones and your game menu is set! And just in case you wondered how it compared in size to small children...

The Burger: The 777 Burger
Where: Le Burger Brasserie at the Paris Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
How Much?: $777.00
Say What?: You're on the strip, shootin' dice, sharking cards, and rouling the ette. You're up and your hot. But all that winning and all those comp drinks are taking their toll. You need to refuel and fast before you cool off like William H. Macy in a meat locker. You could hit one of the myriad buffets that sprawl through the city, but that's for the regular rollers. How do you eat like the champ you are? Hop the nearest limo, already waiting for you, I'm sure, and tell Jeeves to take you to the Paris. Once there ask the guy in the penguin suit at the door to escort you to Le Burger Brasserie, slip him a fifty and maybe he'll even carry you! Once there ask for the 777 and get ready to dine like the gods, well if they had your money that is. The 777 is top shelf all the way. It all starts with a hearty Kobe beef patty that is topped with an entire Maine lobster tail. Not enough? OK, how about some caramelized onions, imported brie, and crispy prosciutto to go on top of that? And now that you're a high roller you can forget about ketchup because now your burgers come drizzled with balsamic vinegar, aged 100-years. Not too shabby, right? But the train doesn't stop there, the 777 also comes with a bottle of Rose Dom Perignon champagne. Granted, the bulk of the price tag comes from the bottle of bubbly, the burger checks out at about $65 on its own, but, shit, you're living the high-life now, you might as well be all in!

Say so long to Burger King. Farewell to Carl's Junior. Bye-bye to Big Boy. You're a rich snob, so eat like it, goddammit!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dinner and a Movie: Bargin Night

Lucky enough to be in Cleveland on a Monday with nothing to do and a few bucks in your pocket, brother, you got it made!

Monday night is Bargain Night in Cleveland Heights and here's where to go:

Start your evening at The Tavern Company (2260 Lee Road, Cleveland, Ohio, 44118)

Their Monday night special is a burger and a beer for just $5. Good luck finding a burger or a beer for that much, let alone both! The burger is standard, but delicious. I ordered mine medium and it was verging on medium well, but tasty nonetheless. A juicy, but not too fatty, third-pound patty served with pickles, onion, tomato, and your choice of cheese, this is accompanied by a hand full of golden fries. That alone is a worthy $5 special, but they also throw in a beer of your choice. When I first heard about this I figured that it would be just the cheap beers, but it applies to anything on their list. I had a Flying Dog IPA, and it was delicious. A special this great is sure to draw a crowd, but we were lucky enough to be seated immediately, however, I'm told this is not the case normally so plan on getting there early or waiting for a bit. All things considered, this might be the best meal deal... um, ever. I dare you to beat it.

Hunger sated and ready for fun, where do you go? Well if you walk down Lee to the intersection of Cedar you will find the Cedar Lee (

The Cedar Lee is the best place to see the majority of independent and foreign films that filter through Cleveland. Yeah, a few of the other theaters get some of the films, too, but not as often and not as wide a selection. And yeah, there's the CIA Cinematheque, but they only run their films for a few showings over the course of a week or two, giving you very little opportunity to see them. Nope, the Cedar Lee is definitely the way to go, especially on Mondays when you can see a show for just $5! (obviously the marquee's a little out of date)

Sensing a pattern? $5 movie, $5 burger and beer? Before tip and tax you've just had a night on the town for $10. $10!!! you can barely see a movie for that anymore, let alone get food and a drink. Not to mention you're in a great part of town, if you're looking for further entertainment you're within walking distance of any number of bars and night clubs and you're just a short drive from the Cedar-Fairmount area and Coventry, both rife with evening activities.

Monday night in Cleveland Heights really is the place to be and I dare you to find a better deal anywhere else.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Liver Punisher: War Journal: Ice Beer Challenge

Last night was the public opening for MOCA's Fall/Winter `09 exhibition, Hugging & Wrestling. Sufficiently wiped out after a long evening at work I decided some cold ones were in order. I stopped at the very last gas station I pass before I get home, or at least the last one that's still open at 11pm. I wandered back to the beer cooler and perused their selection. There were a few surprises, most notably Great Lakes Brewing Company's Glockenspiel. A robust, malty brew with a handful of spices added in for good measure, Glockenspiel is at once familiar and foreign, and if you find a four pack I highly recommend picking one up since it's seasonal.

But this and most of their other oat sodas were a little pricier than I had intended on, so I scooted over a case and checked out their tall boys. A rather limited selection, I considered a few options, mainly that old warhorse Miller High-Life, but finally decided I'd let Canada duke it out for cheap bear supremacy. The would-be pugilists: Labatt Ice and Molson Canadian Ice.

First up was Labbatt, and what I figured would be the winner. We put away a fair amount of Labbatt Blue in college and I've harbored a certain fondness for the stuff ever since. Light and crisp, like any decent lager, the Labbatt Ice still had that certain funk that comes from Ice beers, especially those in cans. Wholly drinkable, for sure, but nothing to write home about, even if home is in Saskatoon.

Second volley in this beer civil was fired by Molson. A solid stand-by beer, and a better choice than most mass market American lagers--I'm looking at you Budweiser and MGD--the Molson Ice managed to edge out the favorite by bringing a rounder, fuller flavor to the party while maintaing that crisp lager-ness. The Molson tasted more like beer than beer flavored drink-liquid.

This isn't to say either one will be replacing that king of bargains Pabst Blue Ribbon any time soon, but now i know what to keep an eye out for next time the gas station is PBR-less.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hot Dog Haji

A lot has been written about the almighty hot dog on WWEIL, and it's only fair that I chime in with my tale of tubed meat...

Under the pretense of recording with our band (SPD GVNR), Justin and I used our trip to Chicago to visit the hot dog institution, Hot Doug's.  As a Hot Doug's virgin, my excitement had been fueled by Justin's countless food-rotic tales.  After waiting in an uncharacteristically short line, we placed our order with Doug himself, took a seat, and was overcome with anxious anticipation.  Then.....BAM!  Payoff!

On the left...the Dave Kingman (formerly the Shawon Dunston and the Rick Reuschel)
Chicken Sausage topped with mustard, sauteed onions, tomato, neon relish, and a goddamned pickle.

The sausage had a nice spicy bite to it, and the toppings were a perfect compliment.  Perfect for condiment whores.  Delicious, but I still hate the Cubs.

On the right...Spicy Beef Hot Link with Coca Cola BBQ Sauce and Applewood Smoked Cheddar Cheese

Woah, nellie!  An immaculate compliment of sweet and spicy...then more spicy.

I'm glad to report that Hot Doug's lived up to it's reputation, and I lost my fancy sausage virginity with a smile on my face.  

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chili School

Every fall, I find myself inundated with fresh vegetables, and invariably some of them go to waste because, seriously, what am I supposed to do with 15 zucchini, Mom? Enter chili, the harvest stew of the gods...

Chili is pretty much omnipresent come autumn, and for good reasons: it's simple to make, it's cheap, and it's delicious. Everybody has their own chili method and everybody will claim that theirs is the best, hence the invention of the chili cook-off. The big, dirty secret is that chili is a lot like pizza: it's pretty much always good, no matter what you do to it.

I don't want to get into all the rhetoric that goes along with chili. The Texas purists (dare I call them "puritans") will tell you that chili with beans is called "bean soup," not chili. To hell with that; try as you might, you're probably not going to fuck up your chili. All these rules were meant to be broken, but it is a good idea to have a solid grounding in what makes a good chili before you go overboard with your special recipe.

Anything that wishes to be called chili con carne will require these 3 things:

Meat. Carne. You can use pretty much anything you want. Beef (as pictured above) is probably the most popular, but plenty of great chilis have been made with pork, lamb, chicken, turkey or even game/roadkill meats like venison, rabbit, or squirrel. Generally, the cheaper the better: tougher cuts respond better to slow stewing than tender cuts. Also, don't be afraid to mix meats for interesting flavor combinations.

One big question is whether to use ground meat or small chunks. Either way is fine: it basically just becomes a texture question once you get to the finished product. I actually like to use both in the same stew.

Chili peppers. People can get really intimidated by this part, especially if they're afraid of hot peppers. You can use dried ground powder, but having big chunks of peppers in your chili is just a lot more visually and texturally appealing. And you don't have to use super hot peppers: the poblano (also called ancho when dried) is a great flavorful option that isn't too hot. Red and orange bell peppers can give you a nice sweetness and depth of flavor. Personally, I like really spicy chili, and I had just happened to come across some garden-fresh habanero, jalapeno, and cayenne peppers (seen above).

Secret hobo spices. You can really use just about anything to get a unique flavor out of your chili. Those puritans will tell you that a pre-made chili powder is cheating, but I find it to be a good starting point; you can always add flavors to suit your specific taste. Pretty much every pre-made chili powder is going to include dried ground chiles, cumin, oregano, garlic powder and salt. That's an acceptable base, but creativity is king when it comes to chili: don't be afraid to experiment. Chili is all about combinations of flavors, so play with sweets (sugar, fruits, chocolate), tarts (vinegar, hot sauce, beer), salts and savories.

So now I'm going to walk you through how to make a batch of traditional Texas red chili con carne. This recipe is probably different from anything you've been offered before, as it contains not only no beans, but also no tomatoes. It's amazingly simple and delicious. C'mon, let's go!

First, chop your meat into small chunks, about the size of a pecan. I'm using stew beef, usually cut from the shank, plate or brisket. These are tough cuts that generally aren't good for much else besides stewing. You'll want to use about 1 pound of meat for every quart of chili you want at the end.

Sear your beef until it turns slightly brown on the outside. The insides will still be raw, but don't worry: they'll cook through in the stewing process.

Add your ground beef and mix it well. I like to use ground beef because it's generally fattier and releases more beef flavor into the mix than chunks alone. Traditional chili recipes call for suet (raw beef fat), but I find this to be a better alternative.

Once you've got some fat in the bottom of the pot, add your peppers and saute them lightly, just enough to release their oils into the meat mix. I put an onion in here too, though it's considered to be a filler ingredient by those Texas chili snobs. I like onion. Fuck 'em.

Garlic time. Same deal as with the peppers, lightly saute to release its essence. I like a lot of garlic in my chili: I'll probably use 1.5-2 cloves per pound of meat.

Add spices. The biggest key here is to remember that the only way to "un-hot" chili is to dilute it, which will mess with your consistency and texture. You can start light and add more spices as you go. I'm making 3 quarts of chili, so I started with 4 teaspoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of oregano, 1 teaspoon of cayenne, and a jigger of hot sauce. Remember, I like it spicy, so these measurements might be too much for you, lightweight...

You'll need to add some fluid to stew all these ingredients in. Water is commonly used and will do just fine. For this batch, I used a 12 oz. bottle of beer. I wouldn't use anything too fancy: really hoppy beers will just make your chili bitter. A good old American lawnmower lager like Budweiser is just fine.

Simmer that mixture for a while. The longer the better, but at least 2.5 hours or until the meat chunks are cooked through. Don't let the mix boil, or else your meat will get rubbery. Stir it and taste it occasionally. Add spices if necessary. I like to counterbalance the hot spice with sweetness. Brown sugar or molasses are nice. Agave syrup might rock your world.

Toward the end of the stew, you'll probably want to thicken the mixture up. Lots of ways to do this (including crushed tortilla chips), but the traditional way is to add masa (corn meal flour). This works the same way as making gravy: add masa a little bit at a time and let it simmer in. The flour particles will thicken as they heat. Don't add too much or else you'll have chili paste and you'll have to dilute it with water.

Your chili is not ready to eat yet. Not even close. Take it off the stove, seal it up in tupperware and refrigerate it overnight. Don't touch it until dinner time tomorrow. All those flavors need to coalesce together. I don't know what the science behind this is - shit, it might just be voodoo magic - but it works. I've eaten chili right out of the cooking pot and again the next day after refrigeration, and it's always better the next day. Put it away. Don't be tempted.

Make your self some cornbread. Chili's perfect compliment. Sweet starch to partner with your spicy stew.

Time to eat! Texas chili isn't necessarily the most beautiful dish, but it's damned tasty.

Look at that spoonful: a chunk, some ground, a couple pepper pieces... YUM!

Time to make more...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brunch and a Movie and Dinner, or: How I Spent My Labor Day Vacation

Oh, Labor Day, you step-child to the holidays, just what are we supposed to do with you? There’s no real way to celebrate you, not traditions to uphold, presents to exchange, or ritualistic sacrifices to perform. Therefore I propose that from this point forward Labor Day shall be International Super-Delicious Food and General Laziness Day!

Here’s why:
With a rare mutual day off Nicole and I decided to have brunch and hang out on this past Labor Day. Our mid-morning repast was to be located at the Inn on Coventry. Located near the Grog Shop, B-Side, and La Cave I’ve peered in the window of this humble eatery many times but had never actually dined in. Actually it seemed so perpetually closed that I started to think the owners just never showed up one day and had left the doors locked and the tables set; a sort of ghost-diner. I learned recently, however, that this was not true when I received a text from Nicole one afternoon singing the praises of their lemon and ricotta pancakes. I was sold and wanted to try for myself.

We arrived around noon, the place was packed, but we were quickly seated very near our neighboring table, Inn on Coventry is not the place to eat if you have space issues. Comfy in our surroundings we perused the short but delectable menu. The Inn is only open until 3pm so their menu is all breakfast and brunch items. With plenty of standard morning fare, eggs, toast, oatmeal, etc. even the pickiest eaters can find something to with which to sate themselves. But the Inn doesn’t seem to be satisfied with merely rehashing old hits, they’re also re-inventing the classics.

Feeling like some Eggs Benedict, but not a Canadian bacon fan? The Inn on Coventry’s got your back with Portobello Benedict. Not a lot of flap left in your jack? The Inn offers a variety of variations on skillet-cooked quick breads. How does orange-whole grain sound? Pumpkin, perhaps? Mango-sour cream? Even the blues-and-chews sounded interesting—that’s blue berries and granola.

How was a breakfast aficionado to decide? It wasn’t easy, but after a mental coin-toss I settled on the huevos y pan de mais. Another of the Inn’s variations on Eggs Benedict, these huevos are poached (natch), but then sub out the English muffins for slightly sweet cornmeal cakes. Instead of back bacon I received a big chunk of spicy andouille sausage. In lieu of the traditional hollandaise sauce, the plate was slathered in a rich, creamy, spicy chipotle sauce! With a side of hearty home fries, this was one of the finest breakfasts I’ve ever had. The eggs were perfectly poached, the yolk still runny, adding to the richness of the sauce. The corn cakes added a much needed sweetness to the dish, and sopped up the fantastic sauce as they crumbled. And the combination of the sauce and sausage was perfect; plenty of heat but not too spicy. The Inn knocked this dish out of the park!

Nicole kept things a little simpler with eggs, toast, and home fries, but added one of the Inn’s amazing, aforementioned pancakes. She opted, again, for the lemon-ricotta pancakes which, from the few bites I had, seemed pretty great. Rich and creamy with plenty of lemon flavor, this was one of the best pancakes I’d ever tasted. Using the bare minimum of flour to hold the confection together, it was almost like eating a sweet, citrus-y cannoli filling, although a spoon seemed to work just as well when it came to eating. Add on their mimosas, Bloody Maries, and modes beer selection, inside a modest, diner atmosphere that places more emphasis on food than décor, and the Inn on Coventry is certainly one of the best brunch stops on the east side.
We spent the rest of the rainy holiday afternoon doing as little as possible, until about 7pm when we decided to see a movie at the Cedar-Lee. The movie: In the Loop, a pretty ridiculous looking British comedy for which we’d been seeing previews recently. The verdict? Amazing! That is, if you like fast talking, swearing, and dry—Sahara dry—British humor; think West Wing mixed with the best dialogue from Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. The movie’s a political farce about a British bureaucrat who makes an errant comment about the possibility of war in Iraq on a radio talk show and accidently becomes a hero for the anti-war politician in Washington DC. When later confronted about his statement by reporters he tries to back peddle and inadvertently gives the hawks a great sound bite. From then on this poor chap’s life becomes a veritable hell as both sides want him to support them while the British government desperately wants to remain neutral. While all the characters in the film are wonderful, the real standout is Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker, the loudmouthed Scottish bully who pushes around our protagonist, Simon Foster, played by Tom Hollander. Tucker’s thick brogue and endless streams of ego rending profanity are masterfully executed, the character’s way with a curse word is masterful, painting lurid pictures with his words and mowing down everyone in his path.

Sufficiently entertained but in need of food we wandered next door to the Charles Stewart Parnell, an Irish styled pub. We ordered some fish and chips and a few Guinness* to wash it all down. I’m not a huge fan of fish and chips, or at least the fish part, but this was really good, especially considering there were all of 5 items on the menu. The fish was well battered and fried extra crispy on the outside, while the inside was tender and flaky, with good, but not overwhelming fish taste. The chips, too, were crisp and flavorful with a beer battering, but really anything with that much malt vinegar on it is bound to taste pretty great.

Well fed and thoroughly entertained we called it a night, but not without reflection that this had been maybe the greatest Labor Day on record, and with no remorse for the Oktoberfest or Great Geauga County Fair that were called on account of rain and naps.

So, next Labor Day when you’re faced with the puzzling prospect of this random, but much appreciated, holiday-like occurrence, remember: use this time to eat well and relax!

*Does anyone know what the official plural form of Guinness is? Guinness? Guinnesses? Guinni?

Monday, September 7, 2009

September's Food Dude and Food Dudette

This month started off with one of the most pleasant days all summer cool and crisp, yet sunny (and no flippin' humidity!) other words, the perfect jacket weather. September is boss because it brings us fall, a season chocked full of the best food known on earth. The rich breeze coupled with the first few trees on the block changing their shade, is a comforting reminder that Halloween is on it's way and soon the grocery store will be carrying apple cider, and pumpkin pie en masse. Everywhere I turn it seems there is another magazine teaching it's readers how to make a cake look spider webed, or like a graveyard (complete with gummi worms). Pumpkins replace flower pots on porch stoops and roadside booths that once sold corn earlier in the year now have gourds and apples. This month is rich with both delectable dishes and novelty noshes, ensuring we will provide you with enough fodder to feed your feasting eyes for weeks! And to kick it all off, this month we have a Dude and Dudette with a hunger for the absurd.

September's Food Dudette:
Kristy, Ann Arbor Michigan, eating yellow watermelon found at a local Farmer's Market

Last thing you ate?
A thick slice of double oatmeal bread, toasted and buttered.

Best thing you’ve eaten recently?

I bought a stove top waffle iron from the Salvation Army for $4.50, and recently made a yeasted waffle recipe. These were ultra tasty, with caramelized sugar in them. They definitely required no additional toppings.

All time favorite food?
Rhubarb. While it isn't easy to come by, and doesn't work with everything, it's my hands-down all time favorite. It's best used in baking, but I normally sneak a few bites of it uncooked here and there. Apparently in some areas of Europe, rhubarb stalks are broken off, dipped in sugar, and then snacked on as a sweet treat.

Favorite dessert?
Honestly, I always enjoy fruit cobbler. It's pretty, easy, tastes ultra fresh, can have differing ingredients from time to time, and is generally delicious. I like large pearl tapioca pudding, but that is much, much easier to screw up.

Favorite local restaurant?
Angelo's. It's a breakfast and lunch eatery close to my home in Ann Arbor. Go for the breakfast. They make their own bread, and also serve a wicked deep fried french toast with fruit. I typically order their eggs florentine on wheat, and they serve it with a thick slice of tomato on top.

Favorite chain restaurant?
I don't know if it's a favorite, but it's definitely something I lean toward - I habitually will order a greasy grilled cheese and fries at Big Boy. It just seems like the right thing to get if I end up at one. If I order something else while there, I always wish I had gotten one of these instead.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink?
I enjoy coffee almost daily. I don't regularly hit up any coffee shops, but I really enjoy a good cuppa. The french press at home has been in use a lot lately. When it gets colder out, the cheapie espresso machine is going to start working some magic. I pick up coffee from a local roaster, Roos Roast. I'm a big fan of their "Rich French Neighbor" blend.

Favorite alcoholic beverage?
I always thought I would love mint juleps, but haven't ever managed to try one. I have, however, enjoyed rye whiskey with a friend from Denmark and it was amazing. That could definitely be my standby drink, if I ever get around to buying a bottle.

Ultimate food day? (i.e. best breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack)?

It would definitely start at the farmer's market. Ann Arbor has a terrific following for locally grown and home grown foods. I love to go there and find out what new items are in season. New on the scene this week: leeks, pears, and sweet potatoes. Ideally, I would have to make something using at least a few of the ingredients when I get home... or after breakfast at Angelo's.

Favorite food to make yourself?
After a long day, definitely a grilled cheese sandwich. On a day when I've got plenty of time to kill, I end up taking on obscenely difficult foods, or ones that have been perceived to be difficult. So far this year, I've made puff pastry, ravioli without machinery or presses, ice cream without a machine, hummus, and pita bread. Let's just say I like to challenge myself.

What do you bring to a pot luck?

Typically, I just ask the host or hostess if there is anything I can bring. It's awkward to hear side comments about not needing any more desserts, or having spaces to put more food. If they have food taken care of, I ask if they need plates or drinks. If it's a real pot luck, then I ask what other people are bringing, or if anything seems to be missing.

What's your least favorite food?

I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't like to make a meal out of meat. I'm very much into smaller portions - you know, the ones that are recommended, palm-sized or even half that. And if the meat is far overdone, there is a good chance that I won't have much of it at all.

Favorite and/or least favorite food celeb?

Possibly an un-celeb. Or an inter-celeb. I don't have cable TV at home, and haven't for years, though I do occasionally look up recipes from Food Network or catch shows (Iron Chef is great). I enjoy the honesty, enthusiasm, and awesome presentation Deb at offers. This woman's photos food-tease me into making those recipes. I can't resist.

What do you do when you're not eating or drinking?
I lead a simple life. I knit, and go to the library. I'm also trying to take in as much of the nice weather as I can before this area grows a layer of snow and ice. I'm not entirely against snow and ice, it's just a bit nicer to take walks when you don't have to worry about windchill.

September's Food Dude:
John, Washington DC, eating a foot long hot dog at the Minnesota State Fair

Last thing you ate?
Coffee Cake, 1% Milk, Spaghetti w/Spicy Italian Sausage

Best thing you’ve eaten recently?
Although many of the items I consumed at the Minnesota State Fair were excellent, the classic foot long hot dog w/grilled onions wins out [it sure does! the proof is in the picture].

All time favorite food?
Apple Pie, made by my mother (awwwwww) with Haralson Apples. Haralsons are tart and crisp, ideal for pie making!

Favorite dessert?
See Above

Favorite local restaurant?
I really enjoy the Commonwealth Gastro-Pub in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC. British food is actually really underrated. The London Broil there is tops.

Favorite chain restaurant?
Chipotle, hands down. Great food, always consistent. I also appreciate their efforts to carry humanely raised meat. I tried Qdoba for the first time recently, and have to say that Alex [August's Food Dude] is 100% wrong. Although when I went, they managed to also screw up my order which didn't help.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink?
Probably coffee, as it is essential to my well being. I know everyone makes some kind of remark about being "addicted" to caffeine, but I am in some serious trouble without my coffee.

Favorite alcoholic beverage?
Gin and Tonic, with Plymouth Gin, and preferably with a lime.

Ultimate food day (i.e. best breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack)?
Breakfast: Huevos Rancheros, with plenty of hot sauce. Yum!
Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwich with sharp white cheddar (Cabot is my current fav) and tomatoes
Dinner: I haven't had as much good BBQ as I'd like to, but Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City is the best I've had. I'd opt for the pork sandwich.
Dessert: Mom's apple pie, or getting a bucket of cookies at the Minnesota State Fair (followed by a visit to the all you can drink milk booth).
Snack: Cat Cookies (For People) from Trader Joe's.

Favorite food to make yourself?
A Japanese curry noddle dish I found in Veganomicon. Tasty for non-vegans too!

What do you bring to a pot luck?
Usually I get lazy and bring beer or chips, but when I'm less of a slacker I bring deviled eggs.

What's your least favorite food?
White Chocolate makes me instantly sick. I also hate Lima Beans and cannot be convinced otherwise.

Favorite and/or least favorite food celeb?
Gordon Ramsay is my favorite, but not the Americanized one that appears on Fox. Watch the BBC version of "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" for the Gordon I know and love. Best reality show ever. Rachel Ray is my least favorite because there isn't anything unique about what she cooks, she endorses a bunch of crap products all the time, and I find her voice fairly annoying.

What do you do when you're not eating or drinking?
Well, since I've been unemployed, not much else. But I do enjoy traveling, watching baseball, and being homemaker for my girlfriend.

I'm happy to announce that there was some tuff competition to be WWEIL's Food Dude/Dudette this month, so thanks to all of you that contributed to this new feature! We look forward to continuing to grow our project to more features like this that will require some audience participation. With your continued support and roaring bellies we can keep it up!

If you would like to be the Food Dude or Food Dudette of the month email us pics of you eating, or making something that'll tickle our ribs and for the shy crowd, you can also leave yourself out the mix if need be and just send us some photos of the process or final product. Hit us up with these along with some description of what's going on at our new personalized e-mail ! I can't wait to see what kind of spooky and kooky things you all come up with for October.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Liver Punisher: Chicago Follow Up

Curious about some of the places I mentioned in my previous post? Here's some more information on (almost) all the stops we made in about the same order as presented yesterday:

Arturo's: (barbacoa on top, al pastor bottom right, quesodilla bottom left!)



Map Room:

California Clipper:

The Continental:

Village Pizza:

Sweet Cakes:


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