Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rounding Third And Heading To My Tummy

A beer vendor yelling ... cold beer

The beautiful green grass of the ball field cut so perfect.

The smell of hot dogs roasting as they spin.

You guessed it, today was opening day for the Cincinnati Reds.  When I say opening day I mean to say its a area holiday.  No one goes to work, they either go to the game or watch it at home or at a bar.  For me I was at a catering event so I was only able to hear it on the radio, which I feel is the best way to experience the game if your not at the ballpark. 

I have so many memories from opening day, and I guess that is what makes me look forward to it so much.  Years as a child I can remember it was one of the days my Dad and I would listen to the game together if I was home from school in time.  A very special day because Marty and Joe on the radio always got me out of doing my homework for at least until the game was done.  As I got older I went to a few opening days with friends which was always an event, beer beer... hot dog... beer beer... well you have to forgive me but that is mostly what I remember from those years.  Sad thing about it is that I haven't gone to an opening day since I got stung by a bee in 2002 and had to go to the hospital because I am allergic. Completely lame I know.

Although with anything I do it always has to do with food, and usually it means eating a lot and always too much.  At the ballpark is no exception, from hot dogs to funnel fries and everything in between you can gorge yourself with almost anything fried.  Unfortunately to do this you may need to be paid up on the credit card because unlike when I was a child, the prices are steep.  But in the grad scheme of things food at a baseball game is a necessity so go ahead and list one of your kidneys on Craigslist. 

When I was scrolling through some recipes I came across this one that you may want to try the next time you have friends over the game.

 Ballpark Pretzels

1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 quart water
1 egg, beaten with
2 teaspoons water
  Sea salt, to taste


Combine water, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl; set in a warm spot. After 15 minutes, it should begin to foam and bubble. Add the salt and half the flour; mix well with a wooden spoon.

Turn dough onto a floured surface; gradually knead in the remaining flour to form a smooth dough. Knead for 5 minutes; transfer to an oiled bowl and coat evenly with oil. Cover bowl with a towel; set in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450F. Punch dough down and roll into a log. Divide evenly into 12 pieces; roll each into a 16- to 18-inch rope. Shape pretzels into a traditional pretzel by tying dough into a knot and pinching ends across loops.

Combine baking soda and water in a saucepan and boil. Lower each pretzel in boiling water until it floats, about 30 seconds. Drain; transfer to a greased baking sheet. Brush with egg mixture; sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Cover pretzels with a cloth and let rise again for 5 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes.

Serve hot with cold beer and mustard. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Love To %$#!ing Curse

I noticed today at work that I curse like a sailor.   And not just a normal sailor, more like one who perpetually is stubbing his toe on stuff on the ship.  Not sure when I ramped up my cursing at work, but I certainly have, and I am not sure if it is good.  I know people don't like it but I would normally not worry about that as much but I do have to work with these folks so this may be a problem.  Now to my defense while working in a kitchen there is a certain level of acceptable cursing involved and almost expected.  Like when you are doing salads and use the wrong salad dressing on a salad and have to re-due it... Shit!

When I was a teenager I remember my folks cursing at me and each other effortlessly and with such great elegance.  I can remember just sitting in awe when my Dad would curse the TV while watching the Bengals game.  I am sure if he  was still around today he would be doing the same thing, and I am sure he would be telling Mike Brown where he could go and what to do when he got there.  But I can't solely lay blame on my folks for my potty mouth.  No, I can remember in high school is when I became friends with John, John made cursing not only a sport but a ballet of words that would even make my parents want to call him son.  John was able to just roll off multiple curse words off in  a way that I still envy when I have one of my kitchen cursing triads.   Haven't talked to him in a while but I am sure he is still cursing and making his momma proud.

So where does this leave me?  Should I try to cut back on the cursing or should I start writing the new Rosetta Stone program for other folks who want to take up cursing as a second language?  Well either way I am sure it is not good overall, because i am sure there are fellow co-workers who don't like it, and well I would have to agree.  Also  if I curse all time then I am taking away from all of the times I really do need to curse and make a point.  So I think I will be confident in my cursing abilities and only curse when it is called for and when I deem it necessary.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

All Thumbs

So I have finally spent enough time in a working kitchen to be given a nickname.  Well it is not a cool nickname, its Joey thumbs, or Thumbs for short.  Now I will telll you it is not for any cool reason.  The reason for this nickname is because I keep cutting the shit out of my thumbs.  Two weeks ago I was cutting endive and I sliced my left thumb pretty bad, bad enough to make a stop at the ER for 5 stitches.  I think it would've felt better to slice my thumb completely off because the stitches hurt.

So tonight just as the left thumb was beginning to show signs of healing I sliced my right thumb showing my friend Bill one of my knives I had.  Epic fail right.  So as blood was streaming down my right thumb I was taking crap from my fellow cooks and rightfully so and they decided on the nickname "Thumbs."  You know in the alphabet of nicknames you can be given in a kitchen I would say thumbs is ok.

What I have learned is that knives are sharp.  I know, who knew right?  It seems they cut into flesh very easily.  I have had a ongoing issue with cutting myself up.  In my first two cooking labs for school I cut myself pretty bad and well that wasn't anything compared to the self mutilation I have committed lately. I suppose I should slow down and a bit and pay attention when a sharp object is anywhere near me.  You would think I would already know this, but just like most things in my life I have to learn the hard way.

The hard way may not be the easiest path but you tend to learn most from taking it.

Last night we lost two valuable cooks from the kitchen.  Bill and Stephanie will be missed.  Without you two there will be a certain void that will not soon be replaced.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Once You Go Green


Slow-cooking the beef in the traditional Irish drink helps the pie
develop a sweet deep roasted flavor of stout. You can cook the beef
In advance to allow the flavor to permeate. For this pie I use a
traditional shortcrust pastry, but you could use a puff pastry as an


750g/ 1.6# lean braising/ stewing steak
4 tbsp plain – all purpose flour
Freshly ground salt and pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato purée
500ml/ 2 cups Guinness
350g/ 12oz shallots peeled
Few sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup beef broth
500g/ 1 block short crust pastry
1 free-range egg yolk mixed with
1 tbsp water


Dice the beef into 2.5cm/ 1 inch cubes. Place the flour in a medium-
sized bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Roll the beef in the
flour to coat. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the beef until golden
brown in colour. Add the tomato purée and cook for 1 minute, stirring
well. Then pour in the Guinness and add the shallot, thyme, bay leaf
and garlic.  If you beef is not fully submerged, top up with beef
broth/stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 1½ -2
hours, until the beef is tender and falls apart with a fork.  When the
beef is at this point, remove the bay leaf and discard.
Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6/ 390F. Transfer the meat to a 20cm/ 8
inch pie dish 5-7cm/ 2-3 inches deep. Roll out the pastry and cover the
pie. Scrunch the pastry to the edge of the dish and trim around the
edge, leaving 1-2cm/ 0.5 inch overhanging. Brush the top with the egg
and season. Transfer to a baking tray and place in the oven. Bake for
15-20 minutes and serve immediately, along side some vegetables and
mash potato.

Monday, March 14, 2011

No Go For Brio

Before I step up on my soapbox I want to say that I don't normally like to bash restaurants.  I am not  a critic and I not really interested in being one just yet.  If you want restaurant reviews there are plenty of local blogs who do a great job with that.  Although this week indulge me if you will, its time for me to get my soapbox, I will be right back.

Ok as I am firmly planted on my soapbox I want to share with you one of the worst dining experiences I have ever had in my life.  Yes my life, ok well that may be a little dramatic but as you will see this was truly a horrible dining experience in my opinion.

What is your expectations when you plan on spending between 70 to 100 dollars for dinner?  Well depending on how fancy you are maybe that is like going to McDonalds, but for me it is a pretty big chunk of change for dinner out.  Especially when I know I can spend half and cook the same meal at home.  When I go out to dinner I expect a certain level of attentiveness and individuality.  What I mean is that I would think that the server for my table would treat me like a guest at their home.  This was not the case tonight.

brio /ˈbrio/sostantivo maschile
  1. liveliness, verve;
    essere pieno di ~
    to be full of bounce o go  
 So we decided to head down to the Newport on the Levee to have a nice relaxing dinner at Brio.  It wasn't my choice but I have always heard good things about this place so I said ok.  I have been there once before but I believe that was some years ago.  When I walked in we were seated very promptly which I expected being it was after 7pm on a Sunday night.  The first thing I noticed was that the menu was way to big physically.  I didn't know whether to read it or fan myself with it like a large palm leaf.   I noticed also that the place was very loud and that wait staff seemed to have trouble holding on to plates and glasses because they dropped quite a few of them while I was there.  So at this point I pretty much felt like I was at an Olive Garden not fancy dancy Brio.

Introducing are buddy Ron entering stage left, the guy who would single handily ruin our dining experience for night.  From the start he didn't even introduce himself to us or even make us feel welcomed.  He really made us feel like cattle that he wanted to feed and send us on our way.  His posture and body language didn't indicate that he really cared about our dinner at all..  Which stinks because with being the in the business I love to reward great service with a good tip and normally a mention to the manager on my way out.  By the way I know his name was Ron because it was listed on the check..wink wink.

So we ordered some wine and that was brought to the table along with some water.  Then we ordered our first and second courses which was  two salads and two main courses.  Now I am not going to break down the food piece by piece because it was average but not horrible and it is not the reason for this rant.  Chain restaurant food is well... "it is what it is."

So as we waited for our salads I looked around the dining room an noticed that the staff really didn't move to much vigor or "liveliness" as the name Brio would indicate although I was hungry and I could see Ron with my salad in his right hand but there was a problem.  The problem was that Ron's left hand didn't have the other salad we ordered.  He dropped off the first salad and walked away.  Well maybe Ron couldn't carry two salads at a time so we waited and waited ...... yeah the other salad didn't make its way to the table.  So as I looked at my Fazoli's style Caesar salad I noticed someone was heading our way and it wasn't Ron.  Only after a few bites of my wanna be Caesar salad there is another server running out our dinners.  In aggravation I explained to this innocent server that we were short one salad and that I wasn't ready for my dinner yet.  The poor guy I know felt ambushed but he gave us the option to have the dinners taken back and kept warm but I just told him to take the Caesar salad.  He apologized and that was nice to hear, but unfortunately the damage had been done.  As for Ron yeah no where to be found and again not showing that liveliness in which the name Brio would indicate.  Actually according to the Brio website this is what they have to say when it comes to service and quality:

Our goal is to be the "Best Italian" restaurant company in America. We are a quality driven company, not a quantity one. Our number one focus is the Guest Experience. Consistently high quality food, superior service, good value and a unique atmosphere all contribute to our Guests' satisfaction. We differentiate ourselves by offering classically prepared food items from original regional recipes using the highest quality, freshest ingredients.
So back to the situation at hand, after letting the innocent server know about our predicament  I saw him tell the manager.  After a few minutes she came to the table.  She offered her apologizes and took our salads off of our bill and offered us the free dessert.  I hate the free dessert, the free dessert doesn't fix anything and never will, so stop offering it please as a way to fix your lack of trained employees.  Be creative or at least have the waiter apologize to us for the lack aptitude and attention to detail.  Which after all that we never got from our buddy Ron.  Not only that but when Ron came to the table to offer us dessert he never offered it to me.  Finally we did order one Creme Brulee for dessert and wouldn't you know they didn't have anymore left.  At this point I couldn't get to the door quick enough so I could bid farewell and good riddance.

I would say if you have to have chain Italian food just go to the Olive Garden.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Off Night

Tonight was just an off night for me at work.  Not sure what it was, but I just seemed off and not on my game.  I liked the food that went out but it wasn't my favorite and I wasn't very proud of it to be honest.  I am not sure if I am always totally happy with all the food I send out, I am always thinking it could be better.

Its nights like this when I have to calm myself down and just sit quietly and be thankful for the life I have and the great folks I get to work with daily.  First of all I have a job, sure it doesn't pay much but its a job with food and I can curse some... ok a lot.  Most of folks I work with are very helpful and have a good attitude which I am very thankful for .  I have worked some jobs were the people can make you hate to sit down at your desk or even wake up in the morning.  I never want to feel that way again, its horrible.

So I think tonight's reflections is less about the food and more about the team.  Tomorrow we will all unpack our knives and go at it again.   Because making wonderful food is what we want to do and if we work together we will. 

Good food only happens when good honest folks make it.