Monday, December 8, 2008

She's done it again

What the F#@%! Is there anything in this world that she has not dipped her little grubby fingers into? I was watching television the other day and saw a commercial for Rachael Ray's newest embarrassment in the retail world.
Announcing Rachael Ray’s latest venture, “Nutrish.” It’s even got the appeal of that cute, vomit inducing vernacular that she so loves speaking. It also contains her favorite ingredient... EVOO: "For a shiny coat." She is also spawned dog treats, labeled "Isaboo Booscotti," and “Isaboo Grill Bites.” I bet they are absolutely “Yummo!”

Now, I know a percentage of the proceeds will go to helping sheltered dogs or something like that. As a dog owner and lover, I am all for that. But how far are we going to let this woman go? I wanted to find a slew of information critical of this atrocity, but really the only thing I found is that it contains lots of “fillers,” when it is labeled as containing "no fillers." The grill bites contain high fructose corn syrup, by the way, which is not a natural ingredient, much less a "Nutrish" food product to be feeding your dog.

It’s probably a fair product, and some of the money will go to help the abandoned dogs, but I’m sticking with my “Beneful.” The dog likes it, it produces less farts than other ones we’ve tried, and cleans up easy in the back yard. And best of all, there's no picture of that woman anywhere onm the bag.

Maybe Rachael has finally realized what I have believed for years: That her cooking techniques are more suited for creatures that eat out of a bowl on the floor.

There’s a cool blog called Gallery of the Absurd, which posted other dog foods that food network celebrities may enjoy funding. It’s worth a look and a laugh.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Art of a Good Sauce

In my years of cooking professionally, I have had the chance to work with some really great chefs and cooks, in many different restaurants. I have taken from them a lot of different tips, styles, and techniques. By far the one that had the most impact on me was an instructor from College, Gilles Syglowski. Gilles was a French guy from the Alsace region, and taught the most meticulous class: “Soups, Stocks and Sauces.” He had the knack of just looking or smelling your sauce, and knowing exactly what it needed. His stocks were things of beauty. Thick, rich, and gelatinous. His consommés were as clear as spring water. He taught me so much of the nature of these principles. As a result I have a very high opinion and expectations about my employee’s sauces, and my own. Here are some tips that I have learned and taught my cooks over the years to make their sauces. As always, there are exceptions and addendums to these rules to great to list them all here. Just use better judgment and a little common sense to adjust these rules to your recipe.

1. Use a heavy bottomed saucepan. You will be able to control the heat much better, and your sauce will not stick to the bottom during a long period of simmering.

2. Heat a little bit of fat (bacon fat, olive oil, vegetable oil, etc.) at the bottom of the pan and add your aromatics first. Aromatics include hearty herbs, onions, shallots, leeks, garlic, etc. If garlic is being used, add this to the fat first, allow it to quickly roast to a golden brown. This will take away any acridity of the garlic and sweeten and round out its flavor. If using hearty herbs (thyme rosemary, oregano, sage), add them here very briefly, and allow the oils from the herbs to mix with the fats in the bottom of the pan. This will help to distribute the flavor to the entirety of the sauce. (Never use fragile herbs in this step (basil, cilantro, parsley), as the delicate oils are likely to burn out before having any advantage.

3. Onions or shallots are next, and again, allow to slightly caramelize before adding other ingredients.

4. Add wine, beer or liquor at this point, if required in the recipe, and scrape the bottom of the pan. All those little brown bits stuck to the bottom are pure, concentrated flavor. If there is no alcohol listed in the recipe…..get some. Remember: “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker”

5. Make your own stocks if called for. The steps and idiosyncrasies of a good stock are too numerous to mention and explain. (Maybe another post in the future) Check out this link at There’s a lot of good information about making a stocks, and even a couple of videos.

6. Reduce that stuff. Let the liquid simmer for an extended period of time. The length of time varies on how much liquid you’re working with, how concentrated your stock is (if used), and some other variables, but reducing will allow the flavors of your ingredients to blend together and also concentrate the flavor and texture. It is also very important to stir the sauce as it reduces.

7. Use roux and slurries sparingly. They both ultimately change the texture and, sometimes, the flavor of your sauce. Reducing is the best way to go, as you get a smoother, more refined sauce. If you can reduce until thickened, that is always the best procedure.

8. Roux for cream based, cornstarch slurry for broth, fruit, or vinegar based. Clarification: Cajun cuisine usually uses a roux (blond, brown, or dark roux) to thicken most of their sauces, gumbos, soups, etc. Go with it. It is essential; to the flavors of Cajun cuisine. Always remember: The darker the roux, the less strengthening power, but fuller the flavor. Dark roux is a necessity for gumbo.

9. Add additional herbs at the very end. When you are using more fragile herbs, the very end is the time to put them in. After you turn off the heat, and are ready to serve, mix these in at the very last minute. The fragrances in the herbs are from the oils, and any long term amount of cooking will make them dissipate into the air before you can even taste them. Hearty herbs could be added again at this time to, to give it a little extra flavor.

10. Season to taste. The difference between a good cook and a great cook is the ability to season properly. Salt is not just an ingredient to add salinity, it also enhances the flavors in everything you cook. You are not going to be able the taste the herbs, vegetables, beef, chicken, etc properly if they are not enhanced by the salt. But, this is also a very tricky thing to master. Too little and your not going to get the right flavor. Too much, and there’s not a whole lot you can do to tone it down. This step takes a lot of practice and experimentation. My advice: add a little bit at a time, until it tastes just right.


12. Mounting at the end means to add a little bit of cold, unsalted butter to the sauce. This is not a necessity; however, it adds a great shine, and smoothes out the texture of the sauce.

13. Ultimately, you have to use high quality, fresh ingredients.

Will these tips help you to become the next great saucier? Probably not, but your sauces might be better for it. There are so many variables involved, that it would take a volume of Blumenthal proportion to properly touch on this subject. Plus, it would probably be quite a boring read.

Other chefs and home cooks feel free to comment and add your own 2 cents on the subject if you wish. Or if you have questions, feel free to post here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gnocchi, not Gnyucky

Sorry for not posting in a while. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, with lots of new developments. More on those in the weeks to come.

I was prompted by an old post written by my friend Nick at “Foodie at Fifteen” (This kid is quite remarkable. If you haven’t checked him out yet….do it), and it dealt with a classic preparation for potato gnocchi, of course, as prepared by Thomas Keller.

Gnocchi are little pillow (or shell depending on your specific Italian region) shaped dumplings made with mashed potatoes, flour, eggs and salt. The name "gnocchi is litterally translated into " a stupid person," but for the life of me I can't find any reason or explanation why. Gotta love those kooky Italians. Sometimes, there are the additions of extra virgin olive oil, asiago, parmesan, or other various, regional cheeses, herbs, etc, and there's always the heated debate of whether it should have grooves on the outside or not.

When I started working for the new and upcoming, Sotto Sopra back in ’96, the chef, Riccardo, was from a town near Milan called Bergamo. He taught me to make the ricotta gnocchi that, I guess, is the Northern Italian counterpart to the potato variety. In this recipe, you drain ricotta cheese (very important step) and combine it with eggs, flour, salt, parsley, and of course, grated Parmigiano Reggiano. The result is a light and airy pillow, which can be served with just about anything. At that time, we were serving the dish tossed in a lightly browned butter with sage, and lightly drizzling them with a red bell pepper crème (fonduta). As described in one of our first restaurant reviews,

“The house made gnocchi is the stuff of dreams, feather light and interestingly sauced.”

- Baltimore Magazine…… Best of 2007

Damn right, the stuff of dreams.

Draining the ricotta is the most important step in making the dough the right consistency. Too much moisture will have you putting too much flour in the mix, and as a result, too heavy and dense. On the reverse, too little flour will allow the gnocchi to disintegrate into the pasta water, leaving you with a gloppy, salty goo. Our pasta maker, Carmen, was an expert at knowing just how much flour to put in without turning my pasta water into runny pâté a choux. We usually let it strain in a fine chinois or tamis for at least 12 hours, if not more.
After years of trying to perfect this recipe on my own, here it is. I converted the recipe to a small batch, so some of the home cooks could do this at home without buying a large amount of ricotta cheese from their local Costco. For my chef readers that would like to make a larger batch………. you should know how to convert this, what’s wrong with you.

Classic Ricotta Gnocchi
Serves 4-6 depending on appetites

1, 16 oz tub whole milk ricotta cheese (for the love of god, do not get the part skim)
1 large egg
½ c. grated parmesan
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tbsp fresh, chopped, Italian flat leaf parsley
2 cups all purpose flour, (for mixing the dough and for flouring and rolling purposes)
4 oz unsalted butter (1 stick) Hey, I didn’t pull this one out of “Cooking Light Magazine”
1 bunch fresh sage (dry is not okay….do you hear me?...Not okay)

1. In a chinois, tamis, or a strainer lined with cheesecloth, allow the ricotta to strain, refrigerated overnight or for a minimum of 8 hours.

2. In a large bowl, (an electric mixer is preferred) whip the ricotta to break it up, add the egg, and mix until combined. Add the grated parm, and a pinch of kosher salt. (I say Kosher salt because iodized salt adds a unfavorable flavor, and any other finer salt is too hard to control the amount used) Taste and adjust seasonings.

3. Add the flour, about ¼ cup at a time, until pliable, and unsticky enough to handle. (3/4 cup is the maximum amount you should be working into the dough. Reserve the rest of the flour for rolling and cutting)

4. Take the completed dough out of the bowl and roll into strands about 3/4 inch in diameter, being liberal with the flour, to keep them from sticking together.

5. Using a knife or pastry cutter, cut these strands into 1 inch lengths, and dust, liberally again, with a more flour. Transfer to a wax paper-lined cookie sheet or sheet pan, and refrigerate for at least one hour. They can be frozen without much harm being done, despite what the gnocchi critics say. But, as always, fresher is better 95% of the time.

6. In a large saucepan or stockpot, bring a good sized amount of salted water to a boil. (taste the water, damn you, taste it)

7. Drop gnocchi into the boiling water, and turn heat down to medium high setting. The gnocchi will float to the top and be slightly firm to the touch in about 3-4 minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon or spider strainer.

8. While you’re waiting for the gnocchi to cook, melt the butter in a medium to large sized sauté pan and add sage. Continue to cook the butter until the milk solids have lightly browned (browned not burnt), and remove from heat.

9. Transfer the gnocchi into the hot, browned butter and toss to coat.

10. Eat as is, with a little grated or shaved parmesan, or serve with your favorite sauce (marinara/ pesto/ beurre blanc/ roasted red pepper crème/ etc.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Every year around this time, the school my kids attend has a huge fundraiser called “Marketfest/ Fall Fest.” (The name changed this year to Fall Fest, which I thought was a great idea) And every year, I make a copious amount of clam chowder to sell……. 48 gallons of clam chowder to be exact. It started 3 years ago when the task of making the chowder fell on various parents of the school. Each assigned parent made about a gallon of soup each, combined it all, and heated it up in the very small kitchen at the school. (That year I think we made about 10-12 gallons all together) I volunteered, being a chef, and they liked it so much, they asked me to take it on myself the following year. I usually get some of my vendors to donate product, and use my work kitchen to complete it, as the quantity necessary would take days to cook in my house kitchen. The three weeks prior to the event, one of my vendors, which I won’t name, but it rhymes with Wysco, informed me that they could donate all the items needed for the chowder, and it would be no problem. The week before the event, I called up my rep to confirm, and again, he said it would be no problem, and that I should get an order on Wednesday, so the items could piggy back on that order, and I would be able to start prep. Wednesday comes, and no product. I give my Wysco rep a call, and he says at that point, that they must reluctantly back out of the donation.
“Two f@#*ing days before my event? Are you f@#*ing kidding me? We give you half a million dollars every year in business, and you won’t swing a couple hundred of tax deductible dollars worth of product?”
I was pretty livid. After I slammed the phone down, I uncertainly tried to persuade a couple of my other vendors. My seafood rep, Metropolitan, and my brand new produce company, Hearn Kirkwood (we’ve only used them for about 3 weeks now) came to my aid and donated all of the items I needed. And what’s more, they shipped them all to me the very next day. A big thanks goes out to Anton at Metro, and Rick from Hearn Kirkwood for bailing me out, and taking up the slack for the jerk offs at Wysco.
I have to say, this year was the best year ever. Although, I worked a ridiculous amount of hours at work this week, and did not complete the chowder until 2:30 in the morning the day of, everything went off without a hitch. We sold all but about 8-10 gallons of chowder, which went to Cookie’s Kitchen, (they donated their time and all of the other food that was prepared and sold), and we made a good deal of money from all of the other events and sales. The kids had a great time. An athletic club down the street donated the use and labor for their rock wall, we had an Australian face painter doing all sorts of cool things, Master Lee of the A+ martial arts school did a fantastic demonstration along with his students. We had the steel drum musical stylings of a local reggae artist, Riley Hoffer came all the way from Arkansas to give a presentation on how kids can go “green.”
On a funny, side note, there was a guy who made a flourless chocolate cake for the bake sale, a school bake sale mind you, and demanded that we put a $100 price tag on it. He, supposedly, had a restaurant that closed a few years ago, that was a “Baltimore Institution,” and this was one of the most requested items on the menu. I wanted to tear it apart to see if a diamond was in there, or at least a kilo of cocaine or two. Come on, dude, are you serious? You better take that thing home and sell it on E-bay. I’m still waiting to see if it sold. With about an hour left in the event, we reduced all the bake sale and chowder prices to half price, but even then……… I don’t care if you flew all the way to Colombia to get heirloom mayan cacao beans………. If you immediately obtain total spiritual consciousness, after eating it…………If it’s 10 times better than sex…….No 8” bake sale cake is worth $100. Well, on second thought……. I might pay for that last one.
Anyway, an immense thank you goes out to all who volunteered precious time and goods to make this the best Marketfest/ Fall Fest ever. It was a great feeling to walk away feeling good about how everything went, albeit extremely tired and drained.
Now……… now comes the time for me to pass out.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pumpkin Masters

Here is a picture of the first Jack O' Lantern of the season. Every Year about this time. Kevin and I spend around $200 to $300 of our company's hard earned money on a pallet of extra large pumpkins. In fact, they came in on Friday, and Kevin has already carved about 5 or 6.

While surfing the internet, looking for some new and different ways to carve my pumpkins, I came across this website: The Pumpkin Gutter. This guy is awesome. I know my kids are going to want me to carve the yoda and the storm trooper.

I actually never thought of carving them 3-D, but it makes sense. As long as you find one that has a good amount of meat along the walls, you can carve just about anything. Being that this was my first attempt, I decided to go for something really advanced. It didn't work out very well, the idea was scrapped, and I decided to go with something a little easier. Instead of throwing out the pumpkin, or cutting it up for soup, I decided to improvise. So this is what I came up with:
I wasn't very happy with the eyes, or the shape of the head, but not bad for the first one. Notice the hands on either side. It's kind of hard to see right away in this picture.

You got a purdy mouth.

I'll be trying more as the days progress. I'll be working a double again tomorrow, so I might have a little time between service to knock one out.
Here's another cool one that, I'm sure, the kids are going to want me to do.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Perfect Egg

The other night, we had breakfast for dinner, as I’m sure a lot of families do from time to time. Daddy just needed a little coffee……Mom wanted eggs, and the kids just wanted pancakes……..”Banana Pancakes, Daddy!” So I continue to fulfill my duties as short order cook for the night (Gimme’ an Adam and Eve, on a Raft, and a Heart Attack on Rack), and Xavier exclaims that he wanted another egg. “Can I make it, Daddy?”
So we go through the whole process of making a “sunny-side-up” egg, his favorite. It always gives me a great feeling when the kids want to cook. Cedrick, last week, made a Bolognese Sauce (meat sauce), that would make Molto Mario look like a chump. (okay with those clogs and that ponytail, that's not saying much, but that’s what I’m going with)

But Xavier did so awesome last night, I had to take a picture and write about it. His first attempt was pretty good, but the yolk broke from the bottom as he was moving it to the cooler side of the griddle. He sat down, devoured that one, and again, asked for another one.
His second attempt was a thing of beauty. The white was moist and perfectly cooked. The yolk, creamy yellow, and sitting perfectly round on top. It was a masterpiece. I took a bite ….. perfectly seasoned with salt ….. no pepper because “it’s hot” …. and as moist and delicious as it looked. Great job Xavier!
Next time ………. you're making breakfast.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Worst salumi, ever.
The similarities are just too great to let it go.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Magic mushrooms

Last night's ala carte service:
I carved these mushroom roses for our ala carte service. I made them for the wild mushroom stuffed chicken dish we were serving.

I figured, with all the other delicious items we were serving, those people who chose to order the chicken should be rewarded. "How many chickens are we going to sell tonight anyway?" So, I carved about 12 of these babies, and went about the rest of our garnish mis. Half way into service, were at chicken number 16, and I'm carving these things to order. Me and my big fat mouth. I hear some of you asking, "why didn't you just throw some chopped chives on the plate and call it a day?" I'm a perfectionist..... I always teach my staff, "The first plate goes out the same as the last plate." So to save face around my cooks, I carved away at the mushrooms. Just my luck.....the night that we sell more chickens than any other item........and I end up being Picasso with a paring knife.

It looks a little brown in this picture. I eventually soaked them in lime juice and water to bleach them out a bit before service.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

100 things to try before you die

100 things to try before you die, by Dr. Seuss

Not Really..... I came across this list of a hundred things, that is supposed, all omnivores should try in their lifetime, and was compiled by Andrew Wheeler at Very Good Taste. This comes from a British website, so some of the names could be unfamiliar. I've put a link on some of the terms that even I didn't know, I've bolded the items that I have tried, and I also put a list of things that I think should be included.

Please feel free to copy and paste, and try it yourself.

1. Venison, (I slayed, cleaned and butchered the entire thing. It gives you a great appreciation for where your food is coming from)

2. Nettle tea, (nope sorry)

3. Huevos rancheros (Si, tengo los huevos de un toro)

4. Steak tartare (with a nice quail egg and ponzu....not the tradition French, but it was awesome)

5. Crocodile (Alligator….. not croc, but I think that counts)

6. Black pudding (The breakfast staple in the UK, has never crossed my lips)

7. Cheese fondue (are you kidding me? top 100......)

8. Carp (we have a recetly opened International market down the street. They have the most unbelievable fish department with live carp and eel swimming in tanks)

9. Borscht (I've had the Russian, rich beet soup, but not a good version)

10. Baba ghanoush (like little Armenian hush puppies/ Alladin's in Columbus always make a good one)

11. Calamari (My 9 year old's favorite)

12. Pho (is there anything that can compare with bowl of hot steamy noodles?)

13. PB&J sandwich (probably a thousand of them, in every which way you can dream of.)

14. Aloo Gobi (What? This is one I had to look up. Curried Potato and Vegetable Stew okay...I guess)

15. Hot dog from a street cart (my chef stomach is immune to 3,465 strains of bacteria......bring it on.)

16. Epoisses (I have not had this apparently, very stinky, ripened, French cheese. Brillat-Savarin himself classed it as the "king of all cheeses," but I have ingested some of the most appalling, foul, cheeses to ever grace your nose……and love all of them.)

17. Black truffle (I have had white, but never black….It’s not a racial thing)

18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (cherry, dandelion, apple, cranberry)

19. Steamed pork buns (I’ve had Potstickers….but never buns)

20. Pistachio ice cream (Graters Columbus is the best)

21. Heirloom tomatoes

22. Fresh wild berries

23. Foie gras (bring it on)

24. Rice and beans (ffffrrrrtt)

25. Brawn, or head cheese

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (Oh yeah…on a dare…it kicked my ass…..uh, literally)

27. Dulce de leche (Si, Si señor)

28. Oysters (east coast, west coast, whatever…my favorite is still Chincoteague or Bluepoints)

29. Baklava (and every other Greek phyllo pie you can imagine)

30. Bagna cauda, (Italian anchovy fondue....what's with this guy and fondue?)

31. Wasabi peas

32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (my clam chowder is famous)

33. Salted Lassi (nope)

34. Sauerkraut (Uuggghh. The only time I will eat this atrocity is on New Years Day. It’s said to bring fortune in the coming year, but after the track record (0-31) I’ve had, I might just give it up all together)

35. Root beer float (A&W, baby)

36. Cognac with a fat cigar

37. Clotted cream tea

38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (what man or woman born after 1950 hasn’t downed a couple of jello shooters)

39. Gumbo (I garontee! )

40. Oxtail

41. Curried goat (On my one and only trip outside the US: Mexico circa 1991)

42. Whole insects (not on your life, but maybe a cricket or two)

43. Phaal (huh?)

44. Goat’s milk (When I was younger, our uncle used to give us goats milk soap from his goat in Toledo. That’s zestfully clean!)

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (Bloody right I did)

46. Fugu

47. Chicken tikka masala

48. Eel (just look at that crispy, broiled unagi, how could I not?)

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (Resch's Bakery in Columbus Ohio has them beat a million fold……hugh, Krispy Kreme.)

50. Sea urchin (one of my favorite Nigri sushi items)

51. Prickly pear (I make an awesome prickly pear and tamarind BBQ sauce with Perfect Purees from California)

52. Umeboshi

53. Abalone

54. Paneer (Indian cheese)

55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (this only gets a ½ bold, only because I feel so bad after eating it)

56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini

58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine (I thought this sounded farmiliar. It's french fries topped with fresh cheese curd, brown gravy, and various other artery clogging accôutrément. And I thought the midwest was bad)

60. Carob chips (why?)

61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolinite (this is a food additive and can also be used as a pesticide. So, whether we like it or not, most of us have probably eaten this anyway.)

64. Currywurst (this just doesn't even sound good)

65. Durian (Tastes like a mushy mango, with a little pineapple flavor in the aftertaste)

66. Frogs’ legs (Straight from the creek on a wood fire, in Ohio Power capming grounds. Remember that Pat?)

67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (yes, yes, yes, and hell yes. Growing up in the mid west, we served funnel cakes at every meal. Our state fair even had deep fried snicker bars, twinkies, and deep fried chocolate chip cookie dough.)

68. Haggis

69. Fried plantain (Tostones made by and old woman I worked with who had made them almost every day of her life. That’s perfected delicious.)

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette

71. Gazpacho (Ain't no Gazpacho like my gazpacho)

72. Caviar and blini (I get bonus points for adding champagne)

73. Louche absinthe (Nope, but I’ve had some really good mushrooms)

74. Gjetost, or brunost (again, artisan cheese)
75. Roadkill (no way, dude)

76. Baijiu (ouza, grappa, raickia……all some forms of moonshine made a local people, and made from the ingredients they usually have ample amounts on hand)

77. Hostess Fruit Pie (Apple is the best, and if any of you say cherry, I’m going to punch in the kidneys. You disillusioned freaks.)

78. Snails (sorry about the swelling Aunt Jenn.)

79. Lapsang souchong (apparently a smoked tea from China)

80. Bellini (I still have aversions to the smell of peaches from making so much of this mix at a previous job.)

81. Tom yum (various versions of Taiwanese hot and sour soup)

82. Eggs Benedict (We had to make so many of these during Sunday brunch, that the name alone send shots of adrenaline through my body.)

83. Pocky (I have seem this so many times in the supermarket, but never picked any up. Here’s my excuse to.)

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (sadly…

85. Kobe beef

86. Hare

87. Goulash

88. Flowers

89. Horse

90. Criollo chocolate

91. Spam (no. I actually have a can in the pantry at home. My wife seemed sickened by the fact that I’ve never tried spam. And there it still sits. No spam, no scrapple for you eastern folks……no spiced lunch meats……but I’ll eat the hell out of some well prepared head cheese (see number 25)

92. Soft shell crab (pan fried right on a toasted baguette with a little remoulade, spiked with Old Bay Seasoning)

93. Rose harissa (Chili paste)

94. Catfish (Visiting relatives in Florida, and grilling freshly caught ocean catfish from the Gulf, right on the pier with a little salt and Tony's Chachere.)

95. Mole poblano

96. Bagel and lox (How about some sliced lox, straight from the curing container, on a piece of Colleen Vickers toasted foccacia with a little dollop of house made crème fraiche, and a That, my friend’s is a chef’s breakfast)

97. Lobster Thermidor (the only cheese that is acceptable with any fish is the American cheese on a Filet O’ Fish Sandwich at McDonald’s. Lobster Newburg is about as close as I will get to this dish)

98. Polenta (the creamiest, most delicious polenta, with a light whipping of Italian Fontina, straight from the Bergamo region)

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (I’ve had good coffee, but I’m not sure)

100. Snake (Never had the pleasure)

Things I think this guy missed

1. Ann's Dairy Creme Footlong Chili Double Dog with cheese served with a chocolate milkshake

2. Resch's Bakery Apricot Danish, the ones in my childhood memory

3. A really good, I mean, really good, fresh baquette

4. Uncle Bill's Pancake House avocado and monterey jack omelet with two of their fluffy pancakes

5. Veal Osso Bucco Milanese

6. Properly made Chile Relleno

7. Hand pulled chinese noodles

8. An entire meal cooked outside over an open fire and not MRE's

9. My Tiramisu formula

10. A Donato's Hawaiian pizza, complete with cinnamon and almonds

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Good Bye to “Starchy”

The other night, we said good bye to "Starchy," one of our front of the house employees. We coined the name, “Starchy” for this guy because of his loving affection to corn starch. Not because it’s an easy, fast thickener, or keeps sauces and soups crystal clear when thickening…. Not because it keeps our chicken tempura crispy while it sits in the pass through window….. His affection lies in the moisture absorbing qualities when it is applied to the groin and buttock area. (Another disclaimer: I, too, enjoy the qualities a light dusting of cornstarch will get you through the latter part of the night) But every day, we would see a large, coke line-shaped trail going from the bathroom to the main area of the kitchen. “Who the hell keeps getting cornstarch all over the place?” I would always yell. He would stride his lazily, sluggish gate (his other nickname was “Zippy the Wonder Slug”) out into the dining room, leaving a dust cloud behind, like some grown up “Pig Pen” from the “Peanuts”……his black uniform pants looking like he was fresh from a scene from “Blow.”
I hated to let him go, but we gave him enough chances.'s to you "Starchy." Good luck to you in all your endeavors. I'm sure if we need to find you, all we need to do is follow for the white, powdery line stretching into the sunset.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Along with a passion for cooking, I am also a self taught musician. This is actually quite common in the culinary fields, because, just like the good chefs, good musicians are creative, obsessive nut jobs. I taught my self how to play, guitar, piano, harmonica, and some other, various instruments, along with the help of my wife (she’s a musician as well). Over the past 15 or so years, she and I, have amassed a large quantity of instruments and equipment. For Father’s Day, 2 or 3 years ago, the kids bought me a recording interface for the computer, and I began to experiment with writing and recording.
I was messing around one day on the synthesizer, and came up with some really cool hip hop sounding tracks. I’ve never been shot…..I‘ve never joined a gang….I’ve never been caught in a drug raid (but came close a couple of times, more on that later)……I thought about what on earth I could boast about in the spirit of true hip hop fashion.
It was perfect. I was going to write this song about what it meant to be a chef. All I need was a copy of The Cooks Companion, and that would give way more than enough rhymes to go around. After about 2-3 days of writing and rewriting, “CHEF” was complete. You may listen to the song by pressing play on the music player located on the sidebar to the left

You may download a free copy here:

There lyrics are as follows:
Emeril Lagasse aint got nothing on me,
I Crack the can, and then “BAM,” it’s the essence of me
I’m a true cook of the real gastronomy
On the line, there’s no time for celebrity
You’ll be amazed when you gaze upon my crudités
A work of grace when my vegetables are all displayed
It’s insane the cascade I can make with a blade
Monet would faint eating off my stunning buffets
Sautéed, flambé, canapés, soufflé,
Hollandaise, fish fumet, bouillabaisse, cassoulet
Rabbit legs, lightly braised, add some wine and deglaze
Veloute, béarnaise, consommé, just to taste
The crème bruleé, that I create, are from the stuff that dreams are made
The formulas, they fabricate, are from a state, of constant grace
The berries that macerate, they make you want to masturbate,
They illustrate and demonstrate, and take the shape of something great
Whether it’s foie gras, demi glace, special sauce, demi tasse
Artois, bear claw, whatever you need
Butter beans, green peas, confit, Kobe beef,
Candy beets, pigs feet, mince meat, let’s eat
Thin sheets, in between, crispy leaves, pumpkin seeds
Lean and mean, when I bleed, it’s a stream of heavy cream
Green beans, almandine, would you like an aperitif?
I’m the only iron chef, “Allay Cuisine”

My mis en place, is all collected,
My favorite tongs, they’re all selected
The flames are hot and burning steady
When service starts, you better be ready

I’m a modern day Escoffier; I cannot stand that Rachael Ray
She makes me hang my head in shame, every time I hear her name
It’s humiliating, every time, I see fellow chef of mine,
Selling souls to corporate slime, hanging out on billboard signs
Advertising everything from crispy crème, to apple bees
And selling heaps, of worthless things, of gadgetry and doohickeys
Shopping sprees of disbelief, hocking things like luncheon meats
Faces on a box of beef, thieving every pound of steam
But enough of them, here’s more of me,
Time to lean, time to clean side towel on my apron strings
Cause you best believe, it’s time to see, the endless need
Of guests to feed, from Ala King to chicken wings, and everything that’s in between
Like quinoa, brunoise, mirepoix, baklava,
Nicoise, beurre noir, even pate de canard,
Even the sushi I produce, would have Nobu, getting loose
And my lovely chocolate mousse, make you want to reproduce,
It’s no use when my en croute, makes you want to follow suit
Tag along in my pursuit, in the magnitude of food
All the food magazines, want to sample my terrines,
All the restaurants in town, they all want my recipes,
Like my luscious baked brie, make the fearless want to scream
Cause I want to make you see, just how food is supposed to be
I use fat back, and stack the flap jacks so that
Your lips smack, so fast, your chin strap snaps back,
My lamb racks attack the fact that you have
The knack to cast back, a mass of snack packs
My resume is so extensive, portfolio is so impressive
I convey with me a vital message, to the ones in our profession
With out a single question, jam sessions of digestion
Courses in succession, always using wise discretion
God bless all you chefs, day to day in the stress
It’s the ones that obsess, to make their food a great success
Tireless, in the mess, 80 hours more or less,
Bring respect, and perfect, a profession of rejects
I would take no less, this is the life that I profess
To connect, it’s the best, living life being a chef

Monday, September 8, 2008

86 the Fish

Welcome to 86 the Fish. I tried this once before.....with the same blog title I might mention. It fell by the wayside because I get too busy at work and with the kids, and I lost interest. But now I'm going to try this again. This blog is supposed to be about everything related to food, drink, and, in general, the quirks and high jinks of the food service industry.
I have had the pleasure of working at many different establishments over the years, and worked with some really great chefs and cooks. None of them are famous, or hold Michelin stars, or have a series on Food Network. Most of them are just your average guys, trying to earn a living doing what they love, and what comes naturally to them.
From my first job at a grease pit in Columbus, Ohio, I knew this profession was for me. The intensity, the adrenaline, the searing hot equipment, the sharp objects everywhere… If you know me personally, you know I’m running on full cylinders all day long. This fast paced and constantly changing environment was the perfect fit. Cooking just makes sense to me.
So, welcome, and thanks for reading.
More later