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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Deconstructed Food...or, Lazy Chefs

It seems that "deconstructing" a dish has become quite the popular trend.  Apparently this is meant to showcase each ingredient so it can shine on its own.  I was at one of my favorite restaurants recently and came across the following:

Now, although the "deconstructed crab cakes" sound incredible, it occurred to me that it is pretty much the ingredients of a crab cake NOT made into a crab cake.  Even I can do that.  (probably not) 

This culinary "style" was clearly created by a hungover chef with not enough energy to actually make the dish but enough energy to pull the ingredients out of the fridge. 

I do respect, however, still having enough wit in his most-likely-cloudy-from-the-hangover head to scheme us into believing we are experiencing a whole new level of food awareness. Tricky bastard.

To drive the point home, let's take a look at something a little more difficult to make than a crab cake.  Beef Wellington. 

A dish with beef tenderloin covered in a mushroom ragout, wrapped in a delicate puff pastry and baked to a flaky crisp. 

Or, "deconstructed", you get this...

A Filet Mignon with some chips on top.

(This is an actual picture from Yelp of a restaurants version of a deconstructed Beef Wellington. Thank you, Yelp)

Don't get me wrong, I am all for a Filet Mignon and some chips. In fact, I think it looks more appetizing.  But don't half ass my meal and try to pass it off as a sensory experience.  Make me a damn Beef Wellington and for the love of all that is holy, stop coming in hungover.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cooking on TV

I am not a fan of reality shows. Mainly because they typically consist of self-indulging people with a ridiculous sense of entitlement.  However, there is one exception to my ban of reality absurdity.  Reality cooking shows.

My favorite is Top Chef, but I have recently fallen in love with Master Chef as well.  And, although I think the chefs are excessively rude for the ratings, it is a great show.

For a foodie, cooking shows are like porn.  So, thank you, Tom Colicchio, Gordon Ramsey, Jaime Oliver and Masaharu Morimoto for baring it all and bringing us the best of what food has to offer.

(Don't worry...the Top Five Best Things About a Restaurant is still coming. Re-freaking-lax.)


Top Five – Restaurant Particulars (Part 1)

Restaurants serve food.  However, that’s about where the commonalities end.  Lucky for you, I am here to guide you through things you should always look for in a restaurant and the things that should make you want to backhand the owners.

I am going to start with the things that make a restaurant suck because I am in a particularly feisty mood today and this will make me happy.


1. Bathroom Doors
It is hard to believe that in 2012, people still do not wash their hands after using the bathroom.  However, that is the case, and I have personally witnessed it myself as I have looked on with absolute horror and disgust.  (Note: If you are someone that does not wash your hands after using the restroom, I hope this offends you.  Even more, I hope it offends you to the point that you are embarrassed and you start washing your hands. And if that is the case, the rest of the world now thanks you for the staph infections you will no longer be spreading.) 

Therefore, bathrooms that only offer hand dryers in combination with an exit door that has a handle you have to grab in order to open, suck.

I would like to take a minute to scold those restaurants that cannot seem to grasp this simple mathematical equation:

I get it if you want to be “green” and save the planet by not offering paper towels, but what I don’t get is how you can pay so much attention to saving trees that you forget to realize that if the human population is killed of by the bird flu, there will be no one around to give you your eco-friendly trophy.  Just get a door that opens out so I can use my foot to push it open and we will both be happy.

2. Unfriendly Staff
We all have bad days, and serving is a hard job (although, maybe it is just nostalgia, but I remember it being really great way more often than it being really bad).  But you are in a service industry and most people go out to eat to relax and enjoy themselves.  If we wanted to hang out with someone who made it perfectly clear that they were bored and miserable with the task in front of them and had no interest in making eye contact with us, we would stay home and ask our teenagers to serve us dinner. 

So smile, damn it.  And, if not for us, for the simple pleasure that you are manipulating us into giving you a bigger tip with your fake smile. 

3. Quotations on the Menu
I am not sure if you think you are emphasizing a word by putting quotations around a menu item and/or its description, but you are actually scaring the hell out of us as we wonder if the “Juicy” Steak you are offering is a tender, perfectly cooked piece of meat, or a piece of meat that has been marinated in Kool-Aid. Cause I gotta tell you, if that is the lack of attention you are putting out there, it makes me think it could go either way. Quick writing lesson:

quotation: noun one of the marks used to indicate the beginning and end of a quotation...

underline: noun, verb (used with object) ...2. to indicate the importance of...

4. Food Auctioning
Remember how I gave you my order? And… remember how you wrote it down? Then, why, oh why, are you holding my food while you ask everyone at the table who ordered it? 

Serving Tip: When you write your orders down, write them in the same order for each of your tables. When you pick up the food, refer to previously mentioned written order and distribute appropriately.

If, and only if, you are helping a fellow server by bringing an order to one of their tables, you are excused from the mayhem you are causing.

5. Temperature Challenged Chefs
Two things;

a) If you are going to have your wait staff ask me how I would like my steak cooked, at least attempt to oblige. I have never ordered a steak over medium, yet I have had many well-done steaks served to me. And, while we are on the subject, well-done is the end of the line. “Jerky-done” is not its successor. 

b) Please don’t microwave my food. If I wanted my meal prepared Hot Pocket style, I would have ordered a Hot Pocket.

Well, I think that is enough for today. I can only offer so much awesomeness in one sitting.

And, you are welcome for giving you something to look forward to. (THE GOOD, folks. Pay attention.)


Friday, July 27, 2012

The Mid-State Fair...Deep Fried

Last night we made the two hour trip to the Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles, CA. We mainly went to see Brad Paisley (love, love, love) in concert but it also didn't hurt that this fair, along with most fairs, is filled with deep fried apparently-anything-you-can-gluttoningly-imagine. (I say "most" because it wouldn't surprise me if the fairs in, say, Oregon only had steamed tofu and quinoa burgers...hippies.)

I will venture out to say that almost anything is better deep fried. Case in point...I despise zucchini. However, if you deep fry it, I will make it my bitch. Granted, it is hard to tell whether it is the deep frying or the ranch dressing or a combination of both that makes this greasy culinary method so great, but I would be willing to do a side by side taste test so that you all can be better informed.

We started out with a corn dog, which wasn't the best I have ever had, but was still promptly devoured. That was followed by deep fried artichoke hearts which were tasty, crispy and hot (the three requirements, by the way, for a perfect fried food) but the ranch dressing was a disappointment.

The pinnacle of the night, however, was after the concert (and three glasses of wine). Funnel cake. It was incredible. Someone at work today told me she had never had a funnel cake. And then I was sad for her.

I have yet to try any of the newest fried concoctions that have recently made their debut at fairs and carnivals around the world, but I am certainly not afraid of a fried twinkie, snickers or oreo. I actually have no idea if they even have fairs and carnivals around the world, but it gives my statement an added sense of panache (yes, I got that word from Rob).

I am, however, afraid of fried butter. My stomach is not, but my arteries are, and apparently you need them to live. Therefore, they win that fight.

So, next time you see a Ferris Wheel on the horizon, for the love of all that is holy, follow it until you find sweet sweet smell of old hot oil. You won't regret it. Well, you will immediately regret it, but once the indigestion and bloating wears off, you will left with the lovely memory of deep fried goodness.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Malbec - Pasadena, CA

On our way home from on of our favorite vacation spots, Palm Springs, we decided to take a slight detour to beautiful downtown Pasadena to have dinner.  As I was Yelp-ing it up in the passenger seat, I kept coming across the Argentinean restaurant by the name Malbec.  The only thing that made me go hmmmm, was the multiple reviews touting the Entrana al Chimichurri as the must-have.  This immediately made me question the sanity of the folks of Pasadena, as surely a skirt steak could not surpass the decadency of the veal sweetbreads, the flavor of the New York steak or the traditional empanadas, which also shared the menu.

However, being the Bad Ass that I am, I decided to give it a try.  (Note: I am not really sure how trying a skirt steak is Bad Ass, but I am feeling pretty good about myself today, so just let me have this one) 

I normally don't have a flair for the dramatic, but let me tell you...this dish definitely goes on my top 10.

The colors of this picture, albeit bright and bold, do not even come close to doing this dish justice.  It was incredible.  The boldness of the Chimichurri was by far one of the best flavors on a steak I have ever had.  The restaurant solely cooks over open flame which seared in all the flavor and moisture of everything on the plate.  My love of grilled vegetables was born at this family owned little gem in the heart of Pasadena.

So next time you find yourself traveling on the I-5 (or whatever other freeways are close to Pasadena...I am not Google maps), take the time to detour over to Malbec.  And order the Entrana al Chimichurri.  You will not be disappointed!

Cheers and Chimichurri!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jen Eats LESS Food

Every now and again, I need to take the trip down Calorie Counting Road to ensure that I can continue to entertain you with my tales of food and drink while being mindful of my health...and waistline.

One of the few bad words in my vocabulary is "diet" (other examples are "excercise", "camping", "prohibition"...) so I try not to diet. I know myself and If I say there are certain things I cannot have, I will fail. Counting calories is the only way I can succeed at getting rid of unwanted pounds.

So, after 3 weddings, trips to Kentucky, Nashville and St. Louis, the holidays and my husband's 5 day 40th birthday celebration, it is time to get into gear!

For the next couple weeks, I will strive to eat between 1200 and 1500 calories a day. I have done this a couple of times before and have become a pro at finding the largest quantity of food for the least amount of calories. With the help of Pinterest, Epicurious and Food Network, I will hopefully find some other great ways to cut the calories without cutting flavor! I will keep you updated...

I found the following link on Pinterest ( and I absolutely love that they include cocktails as well...that is usually one of the first things any "diet" tells you to cut out. moderation!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Great Gummi Bear Debate

One of the hottest topics on the debate circle right now is Gummy Bears.  This hot topic, however, is twofold.   Below are my findings on the two questions that have been heatedly argued by many.  Lucky for you, I have a vast knowledge on the subject so obviously these are also the correct answers to both debate questions.


Answer, Haribo.

Trolli and Black Forrest are too gelitin-y and while Heide comes in a close second, they just don't match up to the firm, full-of-flavor Haribo bears.  The reason Heide fails is that their green bear is lime whereas the Haribo green bears are green apple. Along with texture, flavor is a key factor in the rating of the gummy bear. 

One thing that is clear is that the answer to the question above is NEVER the generic brand you buy in a big plastic tub.  You either respect the bear, or you do not.

Debate Question #2: WHAT IS THE BEST FLAVOR (aka color) OF GUMMY BEAR?

Answer, White.

From what I hear it is supposed to pineapple, but much like "grape" flavored items, which we all know are really "purple" flavored, white gummy bears are "white gummy bear" flavored.  And whatever that flavor is, it is incredible.  So much so that bar tenders and Jamba Juice (am I supposed to put some sort of trademark here???  cause I'm not going to), have resorted to creating beverages that match the white gummy bear flavor in order to jump on the flavor bandwagon.

Although Haribo takes the cake on the flavor spectrum overall, it is very important to give Black Forrest credit for their lemon flavored yellow bear.  It is the only yellow bear that tastes more like lemonade than lemons.  Kudos.

So, there you are. The answers to the age old argument.

Cheers to the gummy bear...don't act like you don't want to go get some now. I encourage you all to do the taste test yourself...I love it when others realize I am right!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fresh Healthy Vending

I know I talk a lot about the indulgent foods I eat, including my love affair with chicken nuggets, but overall, Jen Eats Food is a loyal supporter of fresh and healthy eating.  As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite things about living in California's Central Valley is the abundant availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.  We have started to see a move toward a healthier menu with TV shows like Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution", Bobby Deen's (son of Paula Deen) "Not My Mama's Meals" and programs like EBT cards being accepted at Farmer's Markets.

One thing that has made it hard to move toward healthier eating is it's lack of convenience.  As we rush out of the house in the morning, we forget to grab that apple, yogurt or handful of almonds to snack on later in the day.  So, when that 2 pm craving hits in the middle of a busy work or school day, most of us are only left with the option of the dreaded traditional vending machine.  Doritos and M&M's it is. Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Doritos and M&M's.  I love both.  But when it is the only option on a daily basis, we are creating a culture of unhealthy eating.  I absolutely believe that we must all take responsibility for the food we chose to consume, but I also believe there are ways to help us along down the path to healthy eating.

I recently met some wonderful new friends who also share a love of wholesome food.  Ross and Colleen Horn have teamed up with their family to begin a new venture in making healthy eating more convenient.  They have purchased a franchise of an incredible company started in San Diego, CA called Fresh Healthy Vending.  I absolutely love this idea!  As the HR Department at my company knows, I have been pushing and pushing for healthier options in our break room, and there has never really been a company that has been able to offer it.  Or, they offer "some" healthy items and only when they are available in their warehouse.  Fresh Healthy Vending offers a variety of healthy and fresh foods that are also readily available to everyone.  They provide the choice that a lot of us want and that we all deserve.

Please visit their website to see all the great things they have to offer and how easy it is to get a machine in your office or school.

Contact: Ross Horn (click to email)
A Nationwide Initiative Promoting CHOICE through Healthy Vending - Community by Community

Pass it along to your HR Director or the Administration at your school.  This is something I truly believe in, as everyone, especially children, deserves a chance at a healthy life. 

Small steps really can turn into huge leaps.