Monday, October 25, 2010

Bacon Takedown....Really, What Else Can You Say?

For the first time in my life...I was almost bacon-ed out.

The Bacon Takedown at Brooklyn's The Bell House (which is becoming one of my favorite new venues) was pretty epic:  21 savory and sweet treats all showcasing the smoky and salty flavors of the candy of the meat world. Instead of taking you through all of the entries, I'll just give you some of the highlights. Honestly, I don't even know how I survived having one of  the most severe cases of the itis...ever.

It was super crowded in there, man. We wanted our bacon!

Even though it looked crowded, the food was obtained quickly. I basically piled my food on my plate (s), said a quick Hi-De-Do to the contestants, and forged on.

I know, kids. I don't like goat milk either. But this is proabably one of the best things I've ever tasted. Candied bacon. Smooth goat's milk avocado gelato. Creamy. Salty. Rich. Decadent, with only a hint of sweetness, and a tiny bit of tang from the goat's milk.

I must know what I'm talking about, because this girl won the whole shebang.

My aching paper plate, resplendent with the sheen of my porky payload. There was some bacon macaroni in an intense tomato sauce, bacon rice crispy treats with cinnamon-sugar apples, apples fried in bacon fat with candied bacon and maple cream, prune bacon cake with fried basil leaves, bacon pralines, pulled pork sandwiches BRAISED in bacon...

Not to mention....

Candied Pig in a Fig.

I can't make this up, folks.

And yes. It was delicious.

Here are even more piggy pictures from one of my fave sites that keep me in the food loop: Metromix!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Burgers From the Metal Gods? Grill 'Em All's Waste 'Em All Burger w/Truffle Fries

LA's Grill 'Em All Truck, the winners of Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race, started their "Victory Lap" around NYC yesterday. Even though I'm WAY SICK, my friend John made sure that we secured our reservation at Duke's in Gramercy, their first stop. Sometimes in life, you just gotta man up and eat the beef.

Now, according to Burger Conquest's site, the burgers on the menu that night were supposed to be  the Hannah Montana (a cheeseburger w/lettuce and tomato), the Molly Hatchet (fennel smoked sausage gravy, applewood smoked bacon, and maple drizzle) and the Blue Cheer (cranberry gastrique, maytag blue spread, and munchos potato crisps). Alongside, double dipped truffle oil fries. OBVIOUSLY, I was all over the idea of the Molly Hatchet because it involves two of my favorite things: gravy and bacon.

We got to Duke's (an hour and 15 early...what can I say, we were excited), and when we were finally seated I looked at the Grill 'Em All special menu and my chest tightened with horror: NO MOLLY HATCHET. Apparently, Burger Conquest must have made a typo, because the Waste 'Em All burger was there instead. Massive failboat express. We forged on and ordered it, and we decided to split an order of the truffle fries.

As you can see, the burger is packed with beer soaked onions, pepper jack cheese, and marinated chillies. The fries came with three sauces, a chipolte ketchup, a garlic aoli, and some sort of mustard. This was a serious burger, y'all. I bit the hell out of it.

The meat was cooked to a perfect medium well, juicy and flavorful thanks to a blend of porterhouse and chuck. Everything tasted good individually, but together, I felt that the flavors were sort of muddled.  Maybe if the chillies were pickled instead of marinated, or maybe if there was a salty disk of cotija cheese in the middle...something to make the flavors pop. This was a good burger! But not the best I've ever had. John concurred.

The fries on the other hand, oooooh mamma, I could eat these forever. Super crisp, earthy from the truffles, and when dunked in the ketchup, pure fry heaven. I didn't really care for the other sauces though.

Did the Grill 'Em All guys live up to the hype? Ehhh, sort of? I loved the heavy metal ball to the wall concept, the energy and the obvious love for the food, but even with my impaired tasting abilities, this definitely could have been better.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Brats in Chelsea (Not the Dolls...The Sausage!)

This isn't your mama's beer garden.

Housed in a narrow nook of warm wood and bar stools, Brats is doing Austrian sausages and beers (well, not beer yet, they don't have a liquor license yet) their way...and I'm loving it.

Their menu is pretty diverse in the sausage department with everything from your basic beef dog to a duck doggie slathered with a layer of pate. My friend John and I weren't that adventurous yet, but we did get get some yummy stuff. 

We started with the giant pretzel....which was exactly that. Fuckin massive, warm, yeasty and delicious. Now I hate mustard and mayo (I do like good homemade mayo though), but this came with blueberry mustard and OLD BAY mayo (house made!) so you could dip. Yum. The mayo was rich and creamy without being nauseating and had just the right amount of Old Bay seasoning. And the mustard wasn't super duper sweet, just a bright tart sweetness and some heat.

For the main, John went traditional with the beef wiener (heh, wiener) with horseradish mustard. I said to hell with that and opted for the German sausage doused in tomato sauce and dusted with their house curry blend.

His dog was nice and snappy, and definitely beefy. Balanced mix of seasonings, but not overpowering.

As for my choice, OH YES. I really made the right move with this one. Tangy tomato sauce combined with the tender sausage, and the hit of curry blend...WOW! I had never thought of mixing curry and tomatoes together, and I was blown away at how much the flavors intensified each other. Gooble gobble please.

And now for the grand finale: dessert. We decided to split the malted vanilla milk shake topped with....bacon confetti. Yes. Yes. Yes.

I usually really dislike malted things because I think they're extremely odd tasting, but this shake had just a touch of the malted flavor with just a hint of vanilla. Not too treacle-y, but just right. The bacon could have been a bit crunchier, but otherwise its salty presence helped to offset the drink's milkiness. Super refreshing.

Amazing food and the great service should help this place blow up...but hurry up and get a liquor license!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Apple of My Pie - An Exercise In Last Minute Baking and My First Baking Contest!

I tend to live my life in a last minute fashion. It makes planning things a little bit of a challenge, but that's what makes life exciting...right?

Wednesday, September 22nd, I was scanning The Skint, a great email list that lets you know of all the fun/free/low-cost events going down in the city. Mixed in along with the usual music and art listings I saw something that involved one of my favorite foods: PIE.

Greenpoint Open Studios in Brooklyn was going to be holding a pie bake-off to raise money for their programs. First Prize? A dinner for two with the Brooklyn Edible Social Club, the exclusive underground supper club with secret locations and luscious five-course menus. I just had to enter! So what if the contest was the next day?

I emailed the moderator, Joanne Kim, for the scoop. She replied with the quickness, letting me know that I'd have to bake two pies and that I'd be going up against at LEAST 30 other contestants. THIRTY FREAKIN PIES. What would be a recipe that would really wow them, something modern, but comforting.

Everyone loves apple pie (and if you don't you're a cyborg), and most people I know love combining salty and sweet. My favorite apple crumb pie that I make combines a couple of recipes that I've enjoyed, and I add my own little spin to it. I use 3 types of apples, a variety of spices to compliment, and a couple of other tasty tweaks, so I knew I What else could I possibly do to put it over the top? The idea came to me in a flash.


I implored the assistance of my good friend John in making the pies (I was going to make an extra pie to bring to my coworkers), and for the use of his kitchen, which is way nicer than mine. We started at about 7:30-8....and didn't finish until 3am. We got a little delayed during the actual baking due to the firefighters that came because the of the clang of the smoke alarm.

No people or pies were harmed in the making of this post!!! This will be a picture heavy post because I'm: 1. lazy and 2. not posting my recipes for the pie or or sauce. Maybe one day, but for now it'll be a secret. :-)

Apples! I used three different kinds. Got a nice balance of textures and flavors.

Here are the apples soaking in all sorts of tasty stuff...including Calvados.

A closer look....oh God. These smelled so delicious...and gave up a lot of juice too.

Crust makin'! I used a mix of butter and shortening because I wanted a nice combo of flakiness and tenderness.

The three bowls of apples with some of their ingredients.

Time for crumble topping!

It was super warm in John's kitchen from preheating the oven. I had to work fast to form the crusts.
Finally throwing down some crumble.

Ready for the oven!!!

Caramel and pies. No pictures of the caramel process because it was almost 3 in the morning and we were DEAD TIRED. Plus it was my first time making the stuff and I wasn't trying to burn it and have the fire dept come around...again.

Here are some pictures from the contest itself, which took place at the Diamond Bar in Greenpoint.

The pie, up close and personal.

A Root Beer Pie!

Butternut Squash Ginger Nut....
Crawfish!!! Savory.

My pie was the first to arrive, thus I was assigned the number 1 spot.

These lovely ladies preparing the Banana Jackfruit Coco Cream pie...OMG SO GOOD.

Pear Rasberry Pie from the yiEATn camp. Delightful.

Prob one of my FAVORITE pies to make: Banoffee Pie (Banana Toffee). Hers was good...but the one I make is better.
In all there had to be at the very least 33-35 pies. So many different and exciting ideas and tastes! I became full very quickly.

Now, I didn't win (someone had a BACON BOURBON PECAN PIE, sigh..), but the pie went like freakin' hotcakes. It was pretty exhilarating to have all these people love what I made. I cook for my friends all the time, but this was my first time doing something like this for complete strangers. I can definately say that I've caught the bug and now I'm prepping for my next contest: Enid's Apple Pie Bake Off at Enid's in Brooklyn.

Wish me luck!!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oneshot: Supplemented Cravings….Grilled Cheese and Broke-Ass Thai Style Peanut Noodles

I know, I know.

Where’s the post from the pie contest?

Why are you being lazy?


I swear I do love you guys! Real life/work looms ladies and gents, IT LOOMS. So I’ve had to step back and get some stuff done. But I swear I’ve got some goodies coming up for you!

In the meantime though, have you ever walked past a food and just gotten a craving? It could be a picture, an ingredient, or the dish itself, and it triggers something on your tongue, in your loins, or in your stomach, that you just can’t get outta your head?

I was in my kitchen, lamenting the lack of food in it, when I walked past a jar of Jif peanut butter.

Sauce, it whispered.

“Huh?” I said, thinking it was one of my nieces pulling a prank.

Make peanut sauce, it quavered once more. I love a good spicy peanut sauce over noodles. But I’ve never thought to make it at home on my own. This needed to be changed. I looked around my pantry and found a pack of ramen. I threw away the spice pack and set some water to boil to cook the noodles. This way the sauce and pasta would be done at the same time.

I took a couple of spoonfuls of Jif (I think natural PB would be better next time, but this was all I had), and loosened it up with a couple of teaspoons of the hot water. I added some red chili flake and a clove of fresh garlic. I only used a clove because I didn’t want the flavor to overpower it. Added a tip of canola oil to stretch the sauce, and some hearty dashes of soy sauce (I LOVE soy sauce). Sea salt, fresh black pepper and a little parsley to round it out. I was hoping there’d be some coconut milk around to lend a little authenticity, but alas, none in the house. I kept tasting as I went, and finally was rewarded with a really robust, creamy sauce. While the noodles soaked in the hot H2O, I fried up a grilled cheese, for a nice side dish. Yes, I’m calling that a side dish, and I’m not changin’ it.
I kept a tiny bit of the hot water from the drained noodles and combined the pasta and sauce.
Oh yes, this hit the spot quite directly. It looks hideous, but it tastes good. And when you’re hungry, sometimes that’s all that matters.