Archive for August, 2010

I trust the locals more than I do online reviews.

When I travel I like to search the internet for local eating establishments.  If I get the chance, I also like to get recommendations form the locals.    During a trip to Fort Wayne Indiana some locals suggested Don Halls Old Gas House for dinner.   Not being familiar with the area, I searched the Old Gas House on the internet and found several negative reviews.  I was hesitant to take the advise of the locals, but I have never been steered wrong in the past.  This place has been in business for more than 50 years and they must be doing something right to remain in business that long.   Don’s Old Gas House building houses two restaurants.  Don Hall’s Takaoka of Japan is located on the second floor and Don Halls Old Gas House is on the first.  The Japanese food is very noticeable when you walk into the building.  I didn’t venture upstairs but I could tell that a large amount of fish was being served up there.  Once seated the fish aroma left me and I was able to enjoy the music from the jazz guitarist playing in the far corner.   Service was one of the complaints that I read about online and I was prepared to run out of tea and possibly wait awhile before placing an order.  This wasn’t a big concern since I didn’t have any plans after dinner and wasn’t in a hurry.  To my surprise, two waitresses kept my tea glass filled and the food was ordered and delivered promptly.  I wondered if I had read reviews for the wrong restaurant.  This place was great!!!  Live music, fast service and a good selection on the menu, but how good is the food?  Bland was a word to describe the food on a few online reviews.  So far the reviews were incorrect, but I was still thinking about what I had read earlier.  Instead of ordering a steak as planned, I chose the Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken and a Caesar salad.  The salad arrived with less dressing than I prefer, but it was a good salad.  So far so good.  Not bland.  Next, arrives the Fettuccine with beautiful pieces of chicken on top. They know how to make a presentation on the plate, but will it have the taste to match?  The answer is “Oh yes!”  To date, Don Halls Old Gas House has the best alfredo sauce that I have ever eaten. Nothing bland at all about this meal.  I hope to eat there again in the future.  Unfortunately for me, it takes approximately 7 hours or more depending on weather to fly to Fort Wayne, so I will not get to visit there often.

Don Hall's Old Gas House Restaurant

Don Hall's Old Gas House Restaurant

Don Hall’s Old Gas House Restaurant   (260) 426-3411
Conveniently located in the heart of historic Fort Wayne, the Gas House is the place for downtown business people and office workers at lunch hour. The Gas House’s casual atmosphere and friendly service also makes it the perfect destination for a leisurely afternoon lunch with friends.

Since 1957, The Gas House has been serving Fort Wayne exceptional food and drinks in a friendly, casual atmosphere, and from steaks and lobster to sandwiches and salads, the Gas House has an option for any taste or appetite. Enjoy your visit in our family dinning areas or come down and relax in the warm, neighborhood atmosphere of the famous Gas House Saloon. Just blocks from uptown attractions, a visit to the Gas House makes a complete evening with a concert or performance at any of Fort Wayne’s uptown theaters.

Not Dr. Pepper. Just pepper.

Bell peppers, hot peppers, jalapeno peppers, banana peppers, I’m a pepper, your a pepper….I sometimes get carried away.   I am not a fan of many veggies, but I do love a good selection of peppers.  The jalapeno is probably my favorite that I enjoy on burgers, salads, and subs.  In the past I have enjoyed throwing some peppers on the grill to brown them slightly.

The sweet varieties of peppers, especially the bells, traditionally have been by far the most popular in the United States.   Hot pepper varieties have also enjoyed a rebirth of popularity recently, mainly due to various ethnic cuisines that use their unique flavors and heat creatively. I like a small amount of “kick” that a hot pepper provides when added to a variety of dishes.

red peppers

red peppers

Shape
A= Pasilla: Pod length is 6-12″ long and 1-2″ wide. Fruit color is dark green, turning brown at maturity. Usually dried before use in moles and salsas.
B= Cayenne: Mature red fruit are 5-10″ long and wrinkled. Irregular in shape, highly pungent, often used as dried, ground powder. Also used fresh in salads, sauces and dishes.
C= Long Green: (Hatch – New Mexican – Anaheim) chili. Fruit are from 4 – 12″ long & 2″ wide, green to red at maturity, but also may be yellow, orange to brown. Many different varieties abound. Range from sweet to hot. Used green as fresh, canned or frozen. Mature are usually dried and ground into chili powder or paprika if sweet. Also used in salsas.
D= Wax: Yellow when immature, orange-red at maturity. Can be pungent or non-pungent. Vary from 2-8″ long and about 2″ wide. Used pickled or fresh in salads and relishes.
E=Jalapeno: Fruit are thick walled, conical shaped, dark green when immature turning red at maturity and most cultivars are highly pungent. Fruit may show cracking or corkiness, which is a desirable trait in Mexico. Length varies widely. Used canned, pickled, salsas or fresh. When dried by smoking they are called chipotle.
F= Ancho: (Poblano) The fruit are heart shaped, pointed, thin walled with an indented stem attachment. Immature fruit are dark green with mature fruit being either red or brown. Fruit are 3-4″ long and about 2″ wide and are mildly pungent. The pepper of choice to make chili rellenos.
G= Cherry. Like the name suggests, round or slightly flattened, green to red, hot or sweet. Similar use to wax pepper.
H= Chinense: (Habanero. Scotch Bonnet Bahamian- Jamaican) In this species, diversity is enormous. Popular in Jamaica, Yucatan and Brazil. Very, very hot and persistent, but aromatic. Fruit are 1-2.5″ long and 1-2″ wide. Green to variable mature colors of yellow, orange, red or white. Used dried as a spice, fresh or processed. Plant starts slower than most other pepper types.
I=Serrano: Fruit are 112″ wide and 2-3″ long. Medium walls and shaped similar to Jalepeno and is the pepper of choice in Salsa Verde and other southwestern relishes.
J= Red Chili: 1/2″ wide by 2.5″ long fruit are green when immature to red at maturity. Fruit have thin walls, taper to a point. and are used for drying, processing and sauce. Hot!
K=Thai Hot: Green fruit to red at maturity, very hot, tiny 3/8″ wide by 1″ long fruit. Popular in oriental markets.
O= Ornamentals: Peppers classified, as ornamentals do not carry a characteristic that makes them in edible. They are individuals from the many groups previously listed that happen to have leaves and fruit that are particularly attractive and give them ornamental value.

Quick tip to surviving the hot pepper – Counteract the hot taste of a chile pepper by consuming milk, bread, or rice to absorb the intensity of the capsaicin.

For more detailed information about peppers and cooking preparations visit www.recipetips.com

(Source – backyardgardener.com, recipetips.com)

Cooookiiiieeee!!!

One of our family traditions when visiting any mall is to find the cookie shop.  Great American Cookie Co, Mrs. Rich’s Bakery or  Mrs. Fields Cookies.   Most of these locations have a nice selection of cookies as well as cakes, ice-cream and drinks. Be prepared to stand in line at most of the cookie shops.  I do not mind waiting.  A line of customers is sometimes good sign that the food is worth the wait.

We like a variety of cookies from the basic sugar to the Double Doozie cookie sandwich.  The cookies are great snacks for the trip back home after a few hours of walking and shopping.

mall cookies

Double Doozie

Garnish: Jewelery for food.

A Garnish is an item or substance used as a decoration or embellishment on a prepared food dish or drink. In some cases, it may give added or contrasting flavor, but a typical garnish is selected first to augment the visual impact of the plate, not necessarily to affect the flavor. This is in contrast to a condiment which is primarily a flavor added to another food item.

Do I want to be dazzled or excited by garnish?  Not really.  Although the garnish makes a dish look “pretty”, I’d prefer to have more of the item that I am going to eat.  Give me some more rice or extra sauce and I am happy.   I will agree that garnishing is, indeed, an art form.  Some of the additions that i have seen before appear to have taken longer to produce than it did to prepare the meal underneath.

garnish

garnish

Check out the TLC Cooking website, if you are interested in more details about garnishing.  There are a lot of cool ideas there.

Sour Cream. I don’t hate it. It’s just not good.

I am breaking my rules again and posting about a food item that I do not eat.  Sour Cream.  Sour cream or soured cream is a dairy product rich in fats obtained by fermenting a regular cream by certain kinds of lactic acid bacteria.  Commercially produced sour cream often contains additional thickening agents such as gelatin, rennin, guar and carrageen, as well as acids to artificially sour the product.   The description is not very appealing, but I know that it will not prevent others from eating it.

From what I see and hear, baked potatoes and mexican dishes require the fermented cream as a condiment.  I will eat it if it’s mixed with onion dip, but that’s the only time.  I have probably had it in some other dips or sauces and am fine with it as long as I don’t know about it.

sour cream

sour cream

FYI – Sour cream is not fully fermented, and as such must be stored under refrigeration. As with other dairy products, it is usually sold with an expiration date stamped on the container, though whether this is a “sell by” a “best by” or a “use by” date varies with local regulation. Food authorities, such as the USDA, advise that sour cream with visible mold should be discarded, as it may be contaminated below the surface and could contain dangerous mycotoxins and aflatoxin

(Source – wikipedia.com)

An apple a day keeps the doctor away?

I honestly do not know much about apples and do not eat them very often either.  So, I do not have much to say about the forbidden fruit, other than there are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples.  Until I researched, I had no idea that there were that many varieties.    I know red, green and yellow.  I like the green, sour, apples purcjased at fruit stands in the mountains.  Apple pie?  Not one of my favorites, but it does smell good.

apples

apples

Momma’s Apple Cake

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup soft butter
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 6 North Carolina Apples-peeled, cored and medium diced
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Combine the sugar in cinnamon-set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix until blended-do not over beat.

Add walnuts and apples by hand.

Pour batter into greased 13 x 9 pan. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture over top of cake.

Bake 350-degrees for 45 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean.

Production Facts:

  • North Carolina consistently ranks in the top apple producing states, usually 7th to 9th.
  • North Carolina produces 1 to 2 percent of the total domestic crop.
  • North Carolina typically produces 115 to 170 million pounds with a farm gate value of more than $18.5 million.
  • There are approximately 10,000 acres of apples in North Carolina.
  • Annual production costs range widely; the average cost for a well-maintained orchard is approximately $1,800 per acre.
  • The majority (60 to 70 percent) of North Carolina apples over the past 10 to 20 years have been sold through processing and juice markets; the remainder is sold through fresh markets. However, with increasing retail markets for tourism in North Carolina and diminishing prices and markets for processing apples, growers are striving to sell more apples through fresh-market channels.

Production Regions:

North Carolina has four primary apple production regions, all in the western part of the state and each with a different geography and climate. The major production region is in Henderson County where 70 to 80 percent of the crop is produced (Figure 1). The second largest production region is in the Wilkes/Alexander County area followed by the Cleveland/Lincoln County area, which includes the lowest elevation orchards in North Carolina. Orchards in the Haywood County area have the highest elevation, the shortest growing season, and the coolest temperatures.

(Source – ipmcenters.org, ncagr.gov)

Mini Donuts at Disney!

Most people enter the Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon waterparks and rush to claim a locker and a lounge chair for the day.   I choose to find the Mini Donut shack!

Hot mini doughnuts rolled in sugar or cinnamon with chocolate dipping sauce can be found at both Walt Disney World waterparks.  Grab a dozen or more if you are nearby the Mini Donuts shack.  The doughnuts are very soft and practically melt in your mouth.  Sometimes the line for doughnuts is long, but these treats are worth the wait.  The bottom of the bag is the best, because that’s where the extra sugar lives.

Freshly Made Mini Donuts
1/2 Dozen – $3.50
Dozen – $6.50
Donut Dipping Sauce – $1.25
(raspberry, chocolate, white chocolate)

Orange Cranberry Club Sandwich. Yum!!

The first deli was opened in 1989 in a renovated gas station.   By 1995, McAlister’s Corporation was recognized by INC. Magazine as one of America’s fastest-growing, privately-owned companies.   There are currently has over 300 locations in 22 states.  The closest location to Rockingham is located on Highway 74 in Monroe.

My all-time favorite items is the ORANGE CRANBERRY CLUB sandwich.  The sandwich consists of Smoked turkey, hickory ham, applewood smoked bacon, cheddar, Swiss, lite mayo, lettuce, tomatoes and orange cranberry sauce on harvest wheat bread.  Some delicious potato salad on the side and a large cup of McALISTER’S FAMOUS SWEET TEA™ completes a great meal.

McAlister's Club

McAlister's ORANGE CRANBERRY CLUB

“Dine in or carry out, McAlister’s has all the fresh, delicious menu selections for a great meal and a great moment to relax and recharge — whether you come in to dig in (and linger over bottomless glass of McAlister’s Famous Sweet Tea), or call in or order online for a carry-out feast.

Get all your favorites, including our Famous Sweet Tea by the glass or by the gallon.”

(Source mcalistersdeli.com)

Banana Pudding! A Southern U.S. cuisine.

Banana pudding is a dessert generally consisting of repeated layers of sweet vanilla custard, cookies (usually Vanilla Wafers or ladyfingers) and sliced fresh bananas placed in a dish and served, topped with whipped cream or meringue. The wafers absorb the custard. I prefer the wafers to be a tad bit soggy from the custard.

It is commonly associated with Southern U.S. cuisine, however, it can be found around the country. Furthermore, it closely resembles an English Trifle in that it is assembled in layers and includes custard, fruit, sponge cake, and whipped cream.

banana pudding

banana pudding

It can be prepared using a baked or refrigerated method, with the latter being the more popular, particularly among home cooks. Moreover, many recipes have been adapting using vanilla pudding instead of a true custard. Other recipes omit the wafers. An early Banana Pudding recipe was published in “The Kentucky Receipt Book,” by Mary Harris Frazer, in 1903. However, even this recipe does not include wafers.

* 1 (12-ounce) box Nabisco Nilla wafers
* 2 boxes Jell-O vanilla pudding (not instant)
* 4 cups milk
* Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
* 4 very ripe bananas (make sure they have brown specks on the skin)
* 1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup raw, unbeaten egg whites (from about half a dozen eggs), room temperature
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1. Line the bottom and the sides of an 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish (about 2-quart capacity) -oven safe and nonreactive – with a layer of the vanilla wafers. They should just cover the bottom of the dish.

2. Prepare the vanilla pudding according to the pudding directions on the package (you will need the 4 cups of milk to do this). While the pudding is still hot, stir in the nutmeg; set the pudding aside to cool for 5 minutes (but no longer).

3. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

4. Peel 2 of the bananas and slice them into rounds that are 3/8 inch thick. Top the layer of cookies in the bottom of the dish with the banana slices. Top the banana slices with a second layer of vanilla wafers. Peel the remaining 2 bananas, slice them into rounds, and distribute them evenly on top of the second cookie layer. For the final layer, top those bananas with another layer of cookies.

5. Pour the still-warm pudding over all. Shake the dish carefully, and tap it on the counter, to remove any air holes within the layers.

6. Make the meringue. Add the egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice to the medium-size bowl of a standard kitchen mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk the mixture on medium speed until it just holds a peak. It should be light and fluffy; do not overmix it.

7. Using a rubber spatula, top the entire surface of the pudding evenly with the meringue. Dip a spoon into the surface of the meringue and pull it out quickly to create little peaks all over the top of the pudding.

8. Place the pudding on the top rack of the oven. Bake just until it is nicely browned on top, about 3 minutes. (It can burn very easily, so watch it carefully.) Remove the pudding from the oven and let it cool down for 1 hour on the countertop. Then place in refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours, but not more than 5 hours.

Some people prefer banana pudding warm, just out of the oven. I like it after it’s been i the fridge for a few hours. Very refreshing on a hot day.

(Source: wikipedia, splendidtable.publicradio.org)

River City Cafe – Myrtle Beach

river city cafe

river city cafe

I enjoy a good hamburger and don’t have a problem being surrounded by license plates for a great hamburger.  I walked nearly two miles to River City Cafe during my most recent trip to Myrtle Beach.   The walk was worth the effort.  however, the walk back was a little difficult since my belly was full of delicious food.

The building may look out of place among the sky rise hotels along ocean boulevard, but it has been a part of Myrtle Beach for more than 25 years.   They stay busy, but very efficient in preparing meals to get you back on the beach.  Waiting is not a big deal to me.  A basket of peanuts is enough to keep me patient for a while.

river city cafe

river city cafe

The peanut shell covered menu is the closest food photo that I have available, because I devoured the hamburger before I realized that I had not taken a shot.   The two mile walk made me very hungry.    River City prepares a Jalapeno Burger as good as the way that I do and the tea is sweet as tea should be.   Just imagine what it could have looked like on a plate surrounded by french fries.

There are seven River City Cafes in the area, but I have only been to the one on 21st Avenue.

River City Cafe

404 21st Avenue

Mrytle beach, SC

(843) 448-1990