Tuesday, February 28, 2012


The following is an open letter to Brooke Johnson at Food Network in response to an unfortunate incident that happened over the weekend... The incident involved 4 hours of Food Network programming and me without duct tape to prevent my head from exploding, decided writing a letter would be better than climbing a clock tower or running through a store naked with a rescue flare up my butt. Here is what I wrote her...

Dear Brooke,

Bored out of my skull with every episode of Top Gear checked off and every H2 channel show already accounted for, The Cat using a little skulduggery treated me to four excruciating hours of hell on earth. No it wasn’t a “Hello Kitty” collector show, nor was it a documentary on “Le Chat Noir.” What we are talking about here is four hours I’ll never get back, and I may have actually lost grey matter in the process. I watched four complete episodes of Food Network’s, “Worst Cooks in America.” But as I endured this little slice of hell, it got me to thinking this might actually be a good show… except it would have to be completely different... or maybe not at all.

Remember back in high school when the really big cool kids picked on the defenseless little nerdy kids? Well if you look back on that fondly Brooke, you’re gonna love this show…and then someone should steal your lunch money and beat you with your own book bag for being such a d-bag. Anyway, that’s the premise of the show Food Network has cooked up for my entertainment. You take these self-admitted failures of culinary arts, and then proceed to give them all verbal and mental wedgies for the entire hour until finally kicking off the worst of the worst. So I have some notes for you that will go completely ignored, but will release some aggravation and save valuable couch time at my therapist’s office for subjects that dearly require some attention like: Why can’t I beat The Cat at chess?

Here is the basic format of the show as I see it Brooke, and you can tell me where I am wrong: Showcase multiple people who can’t cook in the least by presenting the two team leaders and accomplished chefs with food they made at home. They show them waiting in long lines which means the contestants have been there holding their food for a long period of time in the heat, and so by extension are holding little petri dishes of clostridium botulinum. Here’s where we cue the wrinkled and turned up noses of the team leaders, who then proceed to make snide comments and berate the large number of hopeless cooks. Out of these contestants the team leaders see fit to name sixteen of these hapless cooks, as the worst cooks in America. Which I know not to be true, as I have yet to see any of the women from my grammar school kitchen anywhere!

So after these poor schlubs have proven they were useless enough to be chosen for the show, they receive an apron and then they must cook a signature dish to really put their lack of creative cooking talents through the wringer. Here come the upturned noses again followed by a barrage of head nodding and shaking as the two culinary professionals taste and lament how these are such awful cooking mistakes. (Uh, I believe these people may have already mentioned this to you) So after the tasting ends the team leading chefs choose one person for their team (presumably the best of the worst) and one for the other team (this would be the worst of the worst) so by the time you get to the end of the picking you get what must be the middle of the worst?

After that confusing mess, the chefs do a demonstration showing the aforementioned aspiring culinary idiots how to make a dish based on their own recipes. Then with this knowledge the contestants attempt to make the same dish and hilarity ensues while the chef leaders shout down from a balcony at times, and at other times are mysteriously right next to the contestant so that they may each receive an exacting dose of humiliation. After this segment is over (leaving some contestants sobbing and shaken), the chefs taste the results and continue berating the efforts until begrudgingly a winner and looser are chosen from each team. The loser’s must then relinquish their apron and I assume are damned to the dark corners of hell for the lost souls of cookery. While weeks two through eight are spent weeding out the worst of the worst to find the best of the worst who then cook a meal for a panel of chefs who declare one winner, who is the best of the worst cooks in America…I think.

So after watching this sad mess for nearly four hours, here are a few notes for you Brooke… feel free to pull out a crayon and write this down. I’m surprised you don’t already know this but I'll let you in on a little secret. Nobody really likes to see somebody beat down on a bunch of underdogs unless the underdogs can come back and whoop some arse. Instead of eliminating people after every show, you should keep them on for all the episodes and just choose one person out of the bunch to represent the team. The fact that you're showing industry professionals(both of whom I respect) riding obviously horrible home cooks like show ponies for cheap laughs is not only a sad representation of your network, it’s  just sad in general. But if you think it’s funny, let’s get you on a Tennis court and have Andy Roddick serving up 155 mph aces while screaming “you suck” after each one…come to think of it, I just might watch that for ten seasons!

Getting rid of the worst of the worst after each week is just silly. Those people should be examples of worst to first, or at the very least vastly improved. On the show they use the term culinary “boot camp” which should mean several weeks of rigorous training designed to improve one’s skill set. I’m pretty sure if boot camps were only a day or two long; the Goth Guy at my local coffee shop would have been an Airborne Ranger for a day so he could have some “really cool” jump boots instead of paying full price for a pair of Doc Martens.

Keep those folks on the show as an example of what some face time with a world class professional can do for a home cook. The ancillary benefit is that the home cooks you’re targeting might also learn something if they aren’t too busy flipping between your show and” Hillbilly Hand Fishing.” (Lucky for me I DVR’ed it) It would be good PR for the Network and it doesn’t make the two Chefs look like a couple of asses, unless that’s what you’re shooting for. In which case, keep up the good work as I’m sure you’ll have them reduced to handing out Spam on Triscuits by the time the next Sandra Lee book signing rolls around.

Instead of having the worst cooks in America why not bring in the cockiest cooks who don’t work in a restaurant or have a culinary certificate? You could have them showing the world just what kinds of “mad” kitchen skills they have, then the chefs could rip them a new one. Nobody minds seeing these arrogant cooks being shot down by industry professionals after producing epic failures…You would probably even see people tuning in en masse. What did you say Cat? Oh sorry my bad, Kitchen Nightmares has apparently already taken this idea.

Seriously Brooke, three seasons of the worst cook in America and you can’t find the worst yet? Maybe if you advertised it on a network people tuned in to you’d have more success, have you considered G4? Maybe you’ve been at Food Network for too long and there are other networks that could use your skills. C-Span couldn’t suck any more than it already does, but I’m confident you could fix that in just a few short months with a little effort. Look at the bright side; it wouldn’t have all that far to fall.  You could have Guy and Rachael boring the hell out of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar by talking about the merits of his 11.5 billion dollar budget and incorporating phrases like “yummo” or “driving the bus to flavor town” into the conversation. Meanwhile the Food Network could rise from the ashes, brush off cupcake wars or whatever other awful shows you have going on over there and become a network devoted to food again.



P.S. ~ I hope this hasn’t hurt my chances of becoming head of programming over there. My offer still stands. XXOO
P.P.S.~ As a condition of my hiring, The Cat would like an office, his own secretary pool and some Mardis Gras beads....whatever that means...

Saturday, February 25, 2012


If you were from Northern New England you will know that some people don't use the word dinner except when referring to a fancy restaurant or perhaps at a night wedding at anyplace that isn't the town recreation center or VFW. Instead we prefer the term supper, and if further you are from Maine which is to say a Maine-iack, you will have no furtha use for the R at the end of the word and simply say Suppa. The same thing that makes us Northern New Englanders endearing is the same reason Stephen King makes so damned much money on his books...we're a little on the touched side.

We like to think we are from God's country, and this would be true is God came from a land of maple syrup swilling, squirrel worshiping circus freaks. Although we do come in handy when you get your H2 Hummer and BMW X5 SUV's stuck on your way to the ski slopes...Isn't that right flatlander?! Here's a place that's also handy to know next time you're passing through Portland Maine. After you've had to pay a kings ransom in tolls past the combination Six Flags and Mall of America of Liquor Stores on the ten mile highway through hell in New Hampshire, and driving through the gauntlet of  unmarked police speed traps they lovingly call the Maine Turnpike.

The Cat and I went to Portland Maine for a couple days to chill out and get away from it all. By get away from it all, I mean go to a place that is at least one zip code digit away from my town to any hotel that realizes its February in Northern New England and charges accordingly. This trip also requires a hotel staff that is generally tolerant of my traveling companion’s penchant for mischief, and turns a blind eye when he deposits something other than a cigarette butt into the receptacle outside the hotel that is filled with cat litter.

Despite our differences with regards to food (my casual to his more refined tastes), and drink, (I’m a Jameson man to his dirty martinis) we managed to find a place that fits both our palates and more importantly, my price range. I had heard of this place at one of my favorite restaurants the night before and the next morning we had corned beef hash there that was amazing. I remembered thinking I couldn’t wait to go there for dinner which they just started serving. The next night, we did just that…

The slant that Hot Suppa takes on its dinner menu is a southern menu incorporating local products, leading to Northeast meats Southeast. When you think about it, the two locations have a lot in common. Abundant seafood, good availability of great produce plus an amazing array of nylon meshed baseball caps and pickup trucks with forty-four inch mud tires. Sorry southeast, you don’t have the corner on rednecks, we just don’t call them that here…we call them woodchucks.

After studying the menu I decided I’d have the fried green tomato appetizer. This was a traditional cornbread coated thick cut fried green tomato but these were served with chilled lightly smoked Maine bay scallops and slightly spicy remoulade with a lemon wedge. I used to get a similar dish in Alabama that was served with a lump crab and spicy hollandaise which I loved, this Hot Suppa version was every bit as good. The combination of crispy hot green tomato paired well with the chilled and lightly smoked bay scallop’s spicy sauce and a hit of acid in the lemon. The only thing I may have done different was perhaps add a bit of pickled onion or shallot in lieu of the lemon or lemon with a sprinkling of lemon zest on top of the tomato, but then again I’d also like a backrub as I eat and perhaps a pedicure so I guess I’m picking gnat crap out of pepper here.

The Cat went with fried oysters served on a salad of baby spinach, red onion and bleu cheese vinaigrette. This salad was also very well done. The vinaigrette was not heavy handed as most places tend to do, and really rounded the sweetness of the oysters and onion. I wouldn’t have changed anything. It would be interesting to see this dish with wilted spinach and deep fried capers. It would also be interesting to see a flock of pigeons fly out of my butt dragging barbed wire, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t necessary.

Next came entrees, I desperately wanted the BBQ but as I wanted to be able to get up from the table and move at a pace in keeping with something other than a banana slug, I opted for the Cast Iron fried Chicken, which came with one side. I had chosen the maple braised collard greens as my one side and then I had to order an additional side of hand cut fries as well. This was the one sticking point I had with the menu. I would have liked to have chosen my sides and had at least two of the twelve. It would be great if it could be an upscale play on what southerners call a “meat n’ three.”

The chicken was excellent with a seriously tasty and crunchy crust. I like my fried chicken to have a lot more spice than this did, but with an economy sized bottle of Sriracha on the table, problem solved. The collards were cooked wonderfully although I didn’t get much in the way of maple flavor, which was fine with me as I like pepper vinegar with my mustard greens, beet greens or collard greens. It might also be the Acadian in me that craves all things drowning in vinegar if not creton. The hand cut fries couldn’t be better, as they were simply very well done.

The Cat opted for the BBQ Shrimp and Grits as his entrée, and after several threats of violence and “grave consequences,” (I believe were the exact words) I managed to snag a taste of that as well. The butter was nicely browned, and the shrimp carried just the right amount of heat that I would hesitate to call BBQ, but rather… heaven. The grits had been cooked well and complimented the spicy shrimp with their smooth creaminess. The shrimp were medium in size and plentiful. This was something The Cat kept lamenting while looking over the menu taking a tortuous amount of time figuring out what to order.

All in all The Cat loved everything as did I. They had a bread pudding with a bourbon sauce that I would have snipped every whisker on the Cat’s face to get a taste of, but had absolutely no room for. I stood at the bar afterwards talking with Alec who is one of the owners. How in the name of red hot dogs, did two brothers from Gorham, ME come up with a southern inspired menu? He said his brother went to college in Tennessee, he’d go down to visit several times and they were just digging the regional foods. Eventually they went on a bit of a road trip through the southeast finding out the local flavors and favorites. The rest is, as I’ve never heard anybody say… history. They had been doing breakfast and lunch until only recently, when they finally had everything in place to do a proper dinner service.

The restaurant has garnered attention from several magazines including Bon Appetit as well as newspapers and the like… and now they have their PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE… Moi…Lucky them! On a serious note the food is good, seriously good. I plan on going back and trying everything they have on the menu and after I get done with that, I’m gonna start all over again. It’s a super little place with excellent service and staff, and the prices are so reasonable as to allow you a great night on the town without me having to wake up with no eyebrow hair and a reverse Mohawk because the cat did in the name of scientific research. I’m not sure how you make money on that but I’m sure The Cat wouldn’t have done that just for a laugh… on second thought.

BBQ Shrimp and Creamy Grits
Get up and find your way to Hot Suppa after you finish shaving the rest of your head and letting some of that eyebrow hair grow back out, so you don’t end up looking like the banjo boy from “Deliverance." Suppa is the word they use in northern New England for dinner; Hot Suppa is the word I use for a great happy hour and a fantastic dinner. When you get there tell Alec that Pav said hey... and The Cat says he’s sorry about “the incident.”

Fried Oysters with Baby Spinach and
Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette

Fried Chicken with Collards and hand cut fries

Fried Green Tomatoes with Chilled Smoked Bay
Scallops and Rémoulade .

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


When it comes to trying new breakfast places I’m always up for the task. This is because most breakfast places are sadly, not worth becoming emotionally invested in. I go to new places with the hope that I’m going to see something new, something fresh, or for the love of all things pewter…something just done well. Unfortunately I can’t remember the last time I went to breakfast and came away saying wow, BREAKFAST! Then along came “Hot Suppa” in Portland Maine…and now when it comes to deciding where I should go for breakfast, I’d happily make the hour drive each way.

Breakfast, the thought usually invokes a sigh immediately followed by a laundry list of past and present awful restaurants that I have to sort through to get to the lesser of the evils. They all have the same menu of simple favorites that in theory should be easy to execute, but almost always come up short. You know the places, I don’t have to name them because invariably they’re all the same. Wow, wafer thin bacon that is pre-cooked and tastes nothing like bacon. This always makes me ask for the owner or manager so I can proceed with a five minute lecture on everything that’s wrong with restaurants today, and a good dose of embarrassment for whomever happens to be unlucky enough to be with me.

The Cat seldom cares as he is usually done with his breakfast at this point and has headed to the parking lot let the air out of that BMW’s tires because the owner cut us off on our way to the parking space. I look around at the sheepish people ordering this awful bacon and settling for it in lieu of what bacon once was…long slabs of crispy fat with nice bits of lean, and rounded out by smoky and salty goodness. I say these people are sheepish, but I’m not sure it’s being very fair to sheep… these people probably aren’t as smart or assertive as sheep.

Hash browns, these are potatoes that have been shredded, julienned, riced or diced and then pan fried or grilled until brown. It’s in the name of what they are and yet, somewhat mysteriously most places I go to for breakfast still manage to serve hash whites! There is no excuse for this food sin as most of these places aren’t even going through the trouble of actually doing the slicing, grating, dicing, etc… they’re simply throwing them frozen on the grill and undercooking the hell out of them.

Corned beef hash should be my favorite breakfast dish because I love everything that goes into it. When I make it at home I error more to the side of English “bubble and squeak” as I always have cabbage, potato, corned beef, onion and carrots left over from a boiled dinner. Most restaurants don’t bother going through all the trouble of actually cooking the carrots, or the onions, the potato or even the corned beef. Why bother going through all that trouble when all these restaurants feel all you really and truly need for proper corned beef hash, is a can opener.

In all fairness I’ve had this canned product before and I’ve even bought some to take with me camping, on a mountain, in New Hampshire, in January when it got down to nearly minus twenty degrees F. I also bought Beef stew in a can and liked them both for what they were, calorie packed food that would help keep my body from turning into a Pav-sicle. But when I am at home or in a restaurant, have unlimited gas for cooking, and readily available ingredients for what must be one of the easiest meals to make on the planet… it is unforgivable to buy it in a can then serve it to anybody other than a would be freezing person.

Eggs are not easy, go ahead and read it again I’ll wait. Eggs are not easy, and you can learn a lot about a cook by the way the cook eggs. Ok, let me show you how eggs aren’t easy. Fried eggs that are laced and crispy brown around the edges with a hard yolk, to runny whites and unset or even broken yolk are some of the many fried egg sins. Scrambled that are either a runny mess or cooked to super- ball consistency that we’ve seen served to us and piled into buffets. Poached that look like Picasso’s “femme en pleurs” on an acid trip, or cooked to have the look and texture of a lamb testicle, without any of the flavor. Eggs are not easy because you can’t hide your mistakes when you’re cooking one item. Technique and practice is the remedy to this disease, unfortunately nobody seems to know they’re sick.

I was in Portland eating at one of my favorite restaurants. I always sit at the dinner bar which overlooks the kitchen so I can chat with the cooks and it’s always a good time. The sauté guy smiles at me and using his head, points to the couple beside me. The woman is saying “are you alright” to her date that is just about to nod off into his brussel sprout salad. He is clearly comfortably numb, but on the up side not bothering anybody. She looks over to me somewhat embarrassed and says, “It’s nothing a little Hot Suppa corned beef hash can’t fix tomorrow.” I was looking confused at his plate trying to figure out how bacon and apple brussel sprout salad was going to become hash tomorrow morning but she interrupted…”You know on Congress Street, Hot Suppa?!” “They have the best corned beef hash.” With this comment, I knew where I’d be eating breakfast.

I arrived at Hot Suppa not knowing what to expect. I had driven by several times but never thought to stop for breakfast. I’ve been to several other places in Portland but so far, have always been disappointed. On several occasions I’ve ended up having breakfast at whole foods which would either be a bowl of noodles or some kind of lunchtime sandwich and chips… not a super breakfast. The place was very purple, and also very busy with a great laid back vibe. The customers all seemed to be local which is always a good sign, and I got a booth quickly as I perused the dinner menu. I was confused as the dinner menu seemed to be a riff on southern/Cajun food. This was the same as another failed breakfast place I had been to in the area, and that ended poorly.

I ordered coffee and looked over the breakfast menu already knowing what I was going to get. Pretty standard breakfast fare except they have waffles instead of pancakes and they also have 7 grain porridge along with a breakfast burrito and “HOLY CRAP, real bacon! They accidentally tried to deliver a plate to my table that had bacon the size, shape and thickness of my 7th grade Rossi ROC 210cm skis! For those not well versed in late 70’s ski equipment, suffice it to say the bacon is beautiful. I ordered up my breakfast (Corned Beef hash with poached eggs, hash browns and rye toast) I asked for the dinner menu to read while I waited.

Sufficiently impressed by the dinner menu and the Bacon I saw earlier, I was cautiously optimistic about breakfast. When it arrived I began to tear up a bit while I took a couple of pictures. Perfect, absolutely perfect to look at in every way except I noticed only one poached egg, the waitress assured me the chef had messed one up and the other would be out in seconds. I couldn’t understand what I was hearing so I asked her, “He did what?” She said, “The egg wasn’t right so he’s doing another one.” I can’t remember when if ever, I’ve heard a waitperson say a cook wanted to make something right for breakfast. Usually they will put it in front of you as if, I dare you to tell me it’s wrong.

The food tasted as amazing as it looked. The hash browns were brown and crisp, but at the same time fluffy with a hint of creaminess. The corned beef was shredded and the carrots were still a bit toothsome with potato and onion serving a supporting role as the corned beef was the star being both perfectly cooked and abundant. The marbled rye toast was a perfect complement to the meal as it was local and very tasty.  Just a really super breakfast all around, and I’m blushing a bit because I feel giddy like a six year old school girl about breakfast again, and it’s about time! I can’t wait to try everything on the menu.

So if you’re within, oh I dunno…three hours of Portland Maine and you’re looking for something to eat for breakfast, wing on in to Hot Suppa and get some Corned Beef Hash, you’ll be glad you did. Don’t go to that same old place that doesn’t care about you or your breakfast food, daring you to find something wrong with it then further daring for you to speak up about it. You know afterwards you’ll feel more ashamed than a whore in church on Sunday after just getting paid. I’m so excited about this place, I can’t wait to go there for dinner!

Hot Suppa
703 Congress St.
Portland, ME 04102

Saturday, February 18, 2012


You ever have one of those nights where you just don't feel like cooking? Last night was "that night". I sometimes stroll through the frozen section looking at the frozen prepackaged meals to get a little inspiration, then set off to collect ingredients for my version of whatever frozen hell I just left. Since I wasn't that hungry, (because of a late lunch) nothing really sparked my enthusiasm.

Determined to go home and pick at leftovers, I headed for the door. Just as I was about to leave the frozen aisle something caught my eye, a bag of Combination flavored Totino's Pizza Rolls. SCOOOORE!!! BOBBY ORR!!!....in my head all I could hear was John Cusick the play by play announcer for the Boston Bruins in the early seventies?! What the...

I remember being a kid in Worcester, MA and my father would have friends over to watch the Bruins play. One of the go to favorites was Totino's.  I remember them coming out of the oven, and aside from being almost crunchy in texture, they were also lava hot and had a ton of flavor. Nice hunks of pepperoni, a nice sausage flavor and gooey cheese. It was a test of will's putting one in your mouth for the first five minutes or so.

So I bought a bag, and filled with nostalgia...headed for home. I cooked them as instructed for the oven (is there any other way?!) and like a kid looking through the window on a rainy day, just waiting for them to be done. Scanning through the channels I looked for a Bruins game, then any game...Oh crap! I then remembered that hockey is coming off the All-Star break, so no hockey. Just then the oven timer sounded....it won't be the same without hockey, but the taste alone will sure bring back some great memories. I peeked back through the window and waited another minute or so until I caught one just starting to spill its guts (guts term, compliments of Robyn Lee)...the magic moment had arrived!

I fixed myself a drink and headed for the living room. Now mind you, I have had Totino’s since the Bruin’s 71’-72’ season. Maybe as often as twice a year, but I’ll level with you kind people if you promise to keep this between us. Whenever I find myself eating pizza rolls, it’s usually because I’m looking to counteract my medicine. (Pointing at a bottle of Jameson) So, I can’t say that my palate would have been what one might call…”sharp.” “How far back” you ask?… I’d say, in or around 1987. So now, with a clear mind and palate… I grabbed my plate.

OK, so here comes the battle of mind over lava. I have a particular way of eating pizza rolls that I have developed over the years, designed to prevent the flash searing and instant blistering of the skin on the roof of my mouth. I pinch the pizza roll guts towards one end, and like a tube of toothpaste out they come. This saves you from doing the “Curly” while eating them. Then I eat the pizza roll “shell” as it were, after.

The first problem was, neither was very good by itself. So I decided to try eating them the way I used to when I was a kid by biting one down through the middle. Keep in mind I had only eaten one at this point and they had been out of the oven perhaps 3 minutes tops. Biting down through the middle was more or less hot, but not scalding as I had remembered. Problem number two, the texture was off, more spongy than crunchy.  Also, I actually think they are smaller than they used to be. Maybe because either I have sausage fingers now, or had tiny tyrannosaurus rex kid’s hand back then.

I tried a few more trying to get my taste buds around something that didn’t resemble  pepperoni, sausage or even cheese…I don’t know what the cheese tasted like, as it all more or less tasted the same. Like spaghetti sauce cooked by someone who had never heard of spaghetti sauce, based on a recipe by someone who had never tasted spaghetti sauce before. I read the package and found that there is no real cheese or real anything else for that matter…..ugggh! On top of that…trans-fat, 1gram every 6 rolls…Yaaaay Suckville!

I ate a few more as I thought about how they had changed.  I ate them in silence remembering how disappointed my father was when I told him I was a Montreal fan, and only now realizing this is how he must have felt. The one thing that I thought I could count on, to remind me of those Bruins games with my dad…were gone forever…

Or at least until the next time I’ve had one too many Jameson’s and The Cat is walking around in a Bruin’s jersey talking smack … Vive Les Habitants!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Ah Haaaaa! You thought this was about a bar didn't you?! What ever would make you think I'd hang out at a bar?! Anywhoway, this is about one of those old school candy bars...the Sky Bar. You know the one, it's got four distinct flavors in one candy bar, fudge, caramel, peanut and vanilla nougat. Yeah, that one! Well I was checking out of the grocery store yesterday and I saw one. I thought...what was my brother always going on about?!

Back in what seems like the 1700's, my brother and I would ride our bikes to the lake and spend the day swimming and eating whatever we had brought for a bag lunch. My parents would give us each a dollar so we could get a soda and perhaps an Ice Cream, or candy at the snack bar at the beach side shop. Yes, I know people... today my parents would be locked up in a Siberian gulag, and be part of the twenty four hour news cycle on TV for child abuse, for actually giving us money for the purpose of buying candy or soda.

But remember dear PC people, this was the 70's and 80's, before candy was evil. This was also a time when kids did stuff like...play outside, used their imaginations, climbed trees, rode bikes without helmets, had and used cap guns without being arrested..... They weren't sitting in front of an XBox game console while texting the friend who was sitting right next to them! Mine and my brothers cell phone came in the form of a dime, tucked into that awful little cheese cloth pocket inside of our swim trunks that only seemed good for holding on to copius amounts of sand. So please cut mom and dad a bit of slack.

I was no dummy when it came to candy bars. I wanted the biggest bang for my buck and almost without fail, would make a grab for a strawberry Charleston Chew which they kept in a fridge so you could crack them on the table and eat them in pieces. My other go to was the Zero, and the reason I liked that one was because it's super dense and no chocolate...I reasoned it to be packed with goodness and because there was no chocolate, HEALTHY! I was looking at it as a 70's version of the Powerbar.

My brother was a little more discerning in his selection. He would reason that he wanted a variety of different flavors to savor, so he almost always got the Sky Bar. We would sit on the back steps of the snack shack and I would tear into my candy bar with reckless abandon as I knew with a Charleston Chew, if you didn't start strong, your jaw would seize up like the tin woodsman in "The Wizard of Oz" and you'd be left with a melted mess. This was a candy bar only those with a bionic jaw could finish in one fail swoop. 

Meanwhile there were only four measly pieces for my brother to eat. I'd be working my candy bar like a man on a mission watching as he'd put a piece of his into his mouth and just sit back and let it melt to the center where he could first enjoy the chocolate, then the center at different times. More times than not I'd be done with my candy bar and be waiting for him to finish his. Sensing an opportunity to have not only my candy bar but a piece of his was too much. I would always ask for some, but alas, he never relented. I had to sit for what must have seemed like forever for an eleven or twelve year old, to watch in silence while he finished his Sky Bar...Until today...

Sky Bar is manufactured by the New England Confectionery Company out of Revere, MA. It was introduced in a revolutionary skywriting campaign in 1938. To this day it is the only candy bar that has four distinct separate flavors. The first flavor I go for is the fudge...

Uh, fudge...Ok, I guess that's a fudgey flavor, but to be honest I've always thought chocolate when I think fudge so ok, it's fudge...after that first piece I still get that sort of sour chocolate flavor you get after you eat a Hershey bar...it just sort of hangs there in the back of your throat. Can't say I'm a fan, but I move on to the vanilla...

The vanilla is fine, I'm not sure why they don't call it marshmallow, but hey...it's not my candy company so vanilla it is. It does have a distinct vanilla flavor but it is somewhat overpowered by the chocolate flavor that's hanging around in the back of my throat..... maybe I'd better have some water to "cleanse the palate."

I go with the peanut next. It starts out as chocolate and slowly but surely the peanut starts to appear, and intensifies just a bit before again being outshined by the sourish chocolate... I can't believe my brother found this taste that appealing. But I guess as kids of the seventies and eighties, after eating our share of Jumbo Pixie Stix, Sweet Tarts and Tootsie Rolls, this was probably high end chocolate to our well muted sugar coated tongues....anyways on to the caramel.....

The caramel was last as I always eat things in order of least to most favorite. This is why the vegetables go first, then the starch followed slowly by the protein....mmmm....GO MEAT! So the caramel, was fine if not good but the overlying problem with this candy bar was the chocolate. I suppose if I had eaten it a lot when I was a kid, it would have provoked memories of the warm sand and cool water of Swanzey Lake... but instead it made me wish I had a Zero bar and the balogna and American cheese sandwich with mustard mom would have packed, just to get the taste of that chocolate out of my mouth!

What kind of soda did I get you ask? I didn't... there was a water bubbler out back of the Snack Shack, I usually just doubled up on candy bars or bought a pack of Topps baseball cards and flipped through them while chewing that cardboard flavored gum. This would have been done after lunch while waiting the excruciatingly painful thirty minutes you had to wait before going back into the water so you wouldn't get cramps and die...or was that ten minutes? Sorry mom...

Monday, February 13, 2012


Valentine’s Day has never been especially important to me as far as holidays go. Arbor Day holds more significance to me as, well, who doesn’t like trees, or Arbor Day costumes….err….something. If you have found a significant other and have somehow tricked them into liking you, Hallmark, Lindt, (insert jewelry store name here) and Victoria’s Secret should be the last people you should look to for ways of expressing your true emotions. There are more practical and longer lasting ways to show how much you care for each other.

Hallmark for their efforts are going to charge you five or six bucks for a card that once read, may as well be a drink coaster. Lindt is only going to perpetuate that nagging age old question, “Do these jeans make my butt look big?!” You could make the argument that jewelry will last a lifetime, but then again so will the credit card statements you bought that uni-tasking honker of a ring with.

Victoria’s Secret…Well, it’s no secret what you’re looking for when you come home with what amounts sixty bucks worth of a couple of snaps and a Band-Aid’s worth of material in the two inch by two inch bag. Nice, for you guys? Yes. Nice for her? The jury is still out on that. But let’s face it guys, you’re out sixty bucks for something that took longer to put on than it took to come off. Seriously gentlemen, it’s not like she’ll be putting it on for game night, while your folks are in town for a visit from Sarasota. This year try buying gifts that will last a lifetime, and bring some true enjoyment and satisfaction to the both of you.

It dawned on me while walking through Home Goods the other day that P.T. Barnum was right. A sucker is born every minute. I was looking at these ridiculous block knife sets with as many as twenty four pieces, and in my mind they were twenty four pieces of crap. If you want to get something nice for him or her, get them a nice knife. I myself have a chef’s knife, a paring knife, an offset serrated knife and a five inch santoku. I have other specialty knives, but for 99.9% of all my day to day kitchen work, I use these four.

If you’re doing a lot of butchering get a boning knife, but aside from a few butcher friends I have, very few people are breaking down a side of beef or a whole hog in their kitchens with any sort of frequency. Fileting knives are fine if you are into fishing or you buy your fish whole, but for the most part you can skip this one as well. A bird’s beak paring knife is great if you’re going to culinary school and need to tourné root vegetables into little seven sided footballs. But, as most of you will not become the next Escoffier, leave the bird’s beak paring knife alone.

A slicing knife is good but really only used around the holidays or if you’re doing a lot of roasts. This one you could make an argument for buying, but I tend to use my chef’s knife and it does an adequate job so, coin toss on that one. Make sure your knives are of good quality, heavy, well balanced and fit comfortably in your hand. The brand doesn’t so much matter as there are some good inexpensive ones out there as well as the Wusthof, J.A. Henckels, Shun and Sabatier’s of the world.

My friend Kris has some Oxo Good Grip knives that I like. But knives without honing steels or a sharpening stones are useless, so get one of each and learn how to use them properly, as a sharp knife is a safe knife. Honing steels should be used each time you use a knife to keep the edge true. Sharpening stones are to be used every three to six months, or when the honing steel doesn’t have the desired effect on the edge, depending on the amount they are used the time in between sharpening will vary.

Knives aren’t cutting their way into your Valentine’s Day gift plans? Ok then, how about a nice set of pots or pans? I mean really, how long have you had that current set, you know, the one pan that you can never seem to cook anything in because it burns. The pan without a cover that fits is missing its plastic handles and is dented but you got as a wedding gift from your Aunt Boopy so you hate to throw it away? Do yourself a favor and grab a set of well-constructed heavy bottom pans at your local restaurant supply store. Brand name isn’t important here, even though I know some of you get all dreamy eyed at the mention of All-Clad or Le Creuset. I got a perfectly good set of heavy copper core bottom, riveted handled cookware for under a hundred bucks about ten years ago, and they are doing just fine with daily use.

My set happened to include a stock-pot, large and small sauce pan, sautoir, and two sauté pans all with matching glass lids that can be used on the stove-top or in the oven. I also happen to own several other pans such as a cast iron skillet, enamel coated Dutch oven, canning pot, non-stick sauté pan, bain-marie and a stock pot with a strainer insert. They all get a good amount of stove time and all are capable of handling multiple duties.

Stay away from the junk pans, you’ve seen them…The omelet pan that’s hinged and folds over so you can flip your omelet from one side to the other. The thin pans that you could literally roll like a newspaper or the pans with the plastic handles are useless. One of my favorite pans is the one with the top that turns into a strainer of sorts, and if the holes were a bit bigger might be useful for something like recycling cat litter.

Gadgets, well what can I say about gadgets except for the vast majority of them are terrible. I bring you the banana peeler, banana slicer, egg slicer, egg poacher, egg scrambler, egg separator, slap chop, berry huller, melon baller, that crazy thing you put veggies in and push the cover down to chop things or make French fries with, just to name a few. But let’s use our heads people. If it’s something that cuts or slices something else, chances are, your knives can do the same thing just as well. If it can’t, you need to practice more. The only thing I need in my kitchen that only preforms one job and I won’t get rid of, are the little miniature corn cob thingy’s that poke into the ends of corn cobs to keep from grabbing the hot cobs. What can I say; I’m a fragile flower…

I can give you a few ideas for gadgets that are worth taking up drawer space and will help nearly daily with your cooking. When it comes to slicing a few potatoes or other vegetables for a gratin, or making some gaufrette style fries, the mandoline slicer is a great easy to use tool and fairly inexpensive. Wooden spoons well, that one is self-explanatory. Silicone spatulas, pastry brushes, pads and muffin…uh…tins, all come in silicone and are easy on the wallets and light on the elbow grease when it comes time for clean-up.

If none of that tickles your fancy, here’s a good one that might…and might even be considered romantic. Take a cooking class together! Almost every town has some kind of cooking class or school that does classes, or you’re within driving distance of one that does. Sign up for a confection class, or a sauce class, Tuscan adventure class, French classic dishes class or whatever else you may find interesting, and go together. It’ll be a fun way to spend the day together, you get to eat what you make, there’s usually a glass or two of wine, and you’re almost guaranteed to learn something that you’ll carry in your cooking repertoire for the rest of your life, even if you decide to get rid of the significant other.

Look, I know there is nothing sexy about pans and for some people bringing home a set is akin to bringing home a set of wrenches or a vacuum cleaner. I know, I know, I can hear the argument already guys and gals…(screeching angry woman voice)”So, I suppose this means the house is dirty?!  Kate’s husband got her some nice chocolates you miserable bastid! I just knew I should have listened to my mother!” and Ladies when you give the guy the wrenches it’ll go something like this…(beaten down hen pecked man voice)”thanks….what’s for dinner?” I kid, neither one of you are gonna be thrilled. Now let’s look at another **scenario…

Male: “Hey baby happy Valentine’s Day! I got you a couple of things… open this one first”
Female: “Awwww….chocolates, I love these, thank you!”
Male: “Now open this one.”
Female: “A set of pans? We’ve needed them but…”
Male: “Yes, for us, but tonight, they’re only for me because I’m making you a special dinner!” “Then later, we can make…dessert!”

**Disclaimer, ok I could have had her bring him some pans, but then she would have been cooking dinner, so I couldn’t have won either way….but hopefully you all get the picture. If all else fails, Guy’s, get her that jewelry and Gals, have fun squeezing into spandex/satin hell, just remember….you had options!

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Fiat justitia ruat caelum! Is a Latin phrase meaning, “Let Justice Be Done (Though) the heavens fall.” It’s not a perfect phrase for this article, but then again I don’t write perfect articles. (I did see the misuse of an ellipse in a piece I wrote some time back so technically…)So I'm pretty sure the ancient Romans will be ok with it. But the one thing I try to be is fair. Food and by extension the food world is not perfect. So to be judicious I am going to try and be fair with what’s bad in food.
Bacon and pork belly…”Uh, Pav…Bacon and Pork Belly were also in your piece, “What’s Good In Food!”” Yes, yes they were, and if you give me half a second I’ll tell you why. Fatty pork (which could also be my middle name) in my never humble opinion is one of the tastiest foods on the planet. It’s right up there with duck fat and foie gras. (Collective moans/ gasps and the clickity clack of keypads sending hate messages) I know, I know… now get over it. But with bacon and pork belly so omnipresent in restaurants these days, there are cooks, chefs and food companies putting these two ingredients in, either places they don’t belong, or cooking/ producing them in a manner which make them…terrible….stop the madness. If you can’t cook it properly, don’t. If it seems like it doesn’t belong in a recipe, it doesn’t and Whichever manufacturers are making the pre-cooked wafer thin stuff that won’t even leave the smell or taste of bacon on your breath and tastes of burnt tobacco leaves and salt…..STOP IT!… now let’s move on.

Foie Gras…Holy Toledo Pav, you said it again! I know, and it’s not in this article for the reasons you would think. So smite me almighty smiter! It’s not in here because I think foie gras is bad. As I pointed out in the previous article, I think it’s quite good, tasty even. I’m not going to use words like humane, or ethical. Foie has been produced and eaten for thousands of years, and it’ll continue to be eaten for…well as long as my apartment isn’t covered with three hundred feet of Atlantic Ocean. Foie is bad if it is raised improperly, and by improperly I mean abusively. I have seen firsthand, farms that do a good job raising foie. Check out hudsonvalleyfoiegras.com Not eating foie because you want to stop producers from making it, is like not eating corn because you think they’ll stop planting it… it doesn’t make sense to me. Neither does poor animal husbandry of any kind. But feel free to not eat foie, or other meats, just leave me off your “pester Pav because he’s an evil omnivore” list…and we’ll get along famously.

Processed Organic Foods and the people buying them make me laugh. Processed is processed people, and I’m not making the judgment that it’s no good. On the contrary, I have had some of these “organic, all natural processed meals”, and they can be quite tasty, in the same way a Swanson’s Hungry Man frozen dinner can be tasty…the exact same way. But then again I’m cibo, and not a food snob foodie. So if you are really all about eating organic, all natural, etc… Stick to the outside of the store where you find produce, meats, fish, dairy, whole grain breads and the like. But stop kidding yourself or trying to kid others that these meals and you, are somehow better than the meals and the man standing right next to you looking into the frozen food case. You know, the guy with the “FBI”, Female Body Inspector hat on…yep, you’re eating habits are almost identical even if your wardrobe isn’t.

Social Media…Yes, I know kind and polite friends. This was also in the “what’s good” article. But trying my best to juggle the ying and yang of foods while at the same time trying to figure out what the voices in my head are saying, left just enough brain matter to tell you the downside of social media. Let’s look at applications like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Facebook and the like. First off, there are the people with an ax to grind, former employees, awful writer’s saying things like “I wish I could give this place a zero…”, obsessive writers, “I asked for a clean fork and they gave me another and I can’t believe the first fork was dirty I mean who would have dirty forks?!”,  Chefs firing back at the offended/slighted reviewers posting pictures of the reviewer complete with names numbers and addresses if available and then telling them to sod off! Let’s address some of these…

Dear Chefs, if someone is putting down your food, you, your restaurant, your service, etc… Just say “I’m sorry you had a bad experience; please allow us to make it up to you with…” That’s it, berating them because “Well they ate damned near the whole prime rib, and they also had a dessert, and besides they didn’t leave a tip either!” Only serves to make you look like an ass.

Yelp-folk, Please don’t say “I wish I could give them a zero, but I can’t.” or the like… Say, “I’ve been here several times and on every occasion, managed to take home a doggie bag with a piece of meat so dry I found it to be more effective than kitty litter, thus the grade of one.” “But I would like to know if they plan on producing a line for Tidy Cat in the near future.” Be interesting or be fun, being a bore only makes you…boring.

Oh, and Twitter, for you Chefs/Restaurant Managers/Restaurant Staff… is for tweeting fun, or, did you know type things….as well as a nonstop barrage of plugs…. Mix it up a little. Tweet this for instance; Guess the color of my sous chefs thong/thigh highs, win free entrée, ask for sous chef to take a guess…his name is Frank #sexy #buttfloss.

Specials…Today’s specials include, A roast farm raised rabbit crepinettes by Smith and son’s three valley farm with Bob’s Red Mill bulgar wheat which has been ground to a double 00 consistency, a vanilla jus reduction that has been kissed with a ninety percent cocoa powder that was custom ground for us in Kona Hawaii, next to a salad of micro greens consisting of baby arugula, baby frissee otherwise known as curly endive, finely diced daikon radish, lardon of double cherry wood smoked bacon from crazy pig farm in Essex, and the owners name is Raymond, chopped fresh duck egg from Huey, Dewey, and Louie Farm in Albany, the dressing with that is a red cabernet vinaigrette reduction with a twenty grain bread crouton baked yesterday morning about five a.m. in house by Chef Margaret Busybody and dusted with fennel pollen and marjoram….now, our second daily special is… SERIOUSLY!?

I mean holy grasshoppers people this could have been summed up thusly: Rabbit, Bulgar wheat with jus, salad with bacon and wine vinaigrette. I don’t want to feel like I’m getting lectured on this stuff, just give me a general idea, if I’m interested, I’ll ask the questions. Otherwise, it just sounds like you’re quoting the digits after 3.14 in Pi….and the only upside to this is my mind drifts from those voices I hear, to “Chocolate Town” where people are juggling raspberry filled jelly doughnuts and riding a giraffe made of cotton candy.

The Bistro, what does that mean to you? Well unfortunately some of you thought about the “Pizza Hut Bistro” or something of the same ilk that have just about ZERO, to do with what a bistro actually is. A bistro is a small restaurant, which actually prepares home cooked, robust earthy dishes and slow-cooked foods, like cassoulet for instance. By slow cooked, I’m not referring to a crappy pizza that took an hour to arrive at my table. But again, bastardizing food and food terms is what we like to do in America…have a cream cheese “Sushi” roll lately?!

I could go on for hours about water waiters, restaurants with numbers in the name, crappy cheese platters, and paying for a sauce to put on the piece of meat you just paid fifty bucks for. But I have to stop someplace; otherwise this would be called a book and not an article… I would then be an author, not an underpaid food blogger. If I were an Author I’d be busy doing Author things, like eating at 11 on Main, while listening to the daily caviar specials in detail, drinking an imported Icelandic Spring water that was recommended by my water waiter Angelique...... then phoning The Cat, to figure out which Island he has run off to with my three hundred foot yacht!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


I was back in my old stomping grounds last weekend to meet with a couple of old friends for pizza and a few laughs. We agreed to meet at Athens Pizza, because that is where we always used to go, and also because they had “really good” pizza. We ordered a couple pies and talked about old times, old friends and things we wished we could forget. (Like telling a girl the Jeep out front was mine thinking that would impress her, just a minute or two before the actual owner jumped into it and drove away…The kick is up, it’s long enough, it’s high enough, WIDE TO THE LEFT….NO GOOD!) Before we knew it the pies were ready. We brought them back to the table to tuck into a slice of sweet nostalgia…except it wasn’t.

I looked at my buddies after a couple of bites to see if they had noticed the same thing. They were chomping along happily, without a care in the world. “Does this taste different to you guys” I asked? “No, it’s Athens” was the reply. I walked back up front to see the owner who has been there since I was a kid and who still knows me by name. “Did you guys do something different to the pizza?” “No, the kitchen has been changed around, but everything is still the same.”
We chatted for a bit, then I went back to rejoin my friends and continued eating. It’s not that the pizza was bad, it just wasn’t… the same. My friends who still live in the area, have continued to come here as their pie of choice since I left town about 25 years ago.  I grew up eating this thinking it was the end all be all of pizza. We would come here after baseball and football games. We hung out here just about every weekend during our high school years. Well we did when we weren’t busy hanging out at McDonald’s or driving around the town square acting the way adolescent boys act…which is to say, like idiots.

I guess what I’m getting at here people, is that although some things never change, other things do. Things that are supposed to be as you remember them as a child just aren’t all they are cracked up to be. The pizza didn’t taste the way I remembered it, and apart from being in that building with old friends, there was no nostalgia at all. I guess my taste buds have moved on, or had they grown up?

On the two hour drive back to the coast I started thinking about other things that just aren’t as good, or aren’t as I remember them. Totino’s pizza rolls are fine if you like trans-fat and heartburn, but are nothing like they once were. In all fairness, they stopped putting real cheese in them some time ago and so technically they have changed, and much like Liza Minnelli… not in a good way.
Marshmallows might as well be packing peanuts for all the flavor and nostalgia they deliver. I remember eating about half a bag before ever getting one on a stick to roast over the coals when I was a kid. I tried one the other day and all I could think of while eating was I finally figured out what happened to all those Nerf footballs that got lost on the roof of my elementary school.

I never realized corned beef came from anything but a can. My mom would use it to make red flannel hash and a croquette of sorts with potato, onion and green peppers then cover it with breadcrumbs and pan fry it. I used to love those dishes and made them myself after I had moved away from home.
My dad, being more Spartan in his approach to this mystery in a can, would just slice a few pieces off from the square pasty cube, fry them and put between two slices of bread, add a little mustard for what I thought a pretty tasty sandwich! Now, I just can’t.  What animal did this supposedly come from? I like to think somewhere in Brazil there is an animal the locals actually call a corned beef that is in the rodent family, and that’s how they get it into this country as technically being  “Corned Beef”.

Cream Horns… I’m not sure if all of you have heard of these as I see them in some parts of the country and not in others, so work with me on this. Picture a cannoli but instead of a hard shell, it’s a flaky pastry shell filled with a vanilla flavored cream. Sounds great right?! I bought one at the grocery store a month or so ago. If the manufacturers are interested in truth in advertising they might change the name to,” sweet whipped lard in a cardboard like cylinder! Instead of a clear package they could wrap it in sparkly black paper and put a smiley faced Jolly Roger on it… but I’m guessing that wouldn’t have kids lining up to spend their hard earned paper route money.
There’s the old joke that any strange meat you try, be it frog legs, alligator, kangaroo, newt tongues, etc… tastes like chicken. I’m happy to report to you that these things no longer taste like chicken, as chicken now tastes like absolutely nothing. I have a chef instructor friend who says, “People order chicken because they either don’t know what they want, or just don’t want to look like idiots eating a lobster.” I think he was pretty close.

People like to order rack of lamb because it tastes like lamb, regardless of whatever it has been crusted with. People order chicken Marsala because they like the taste of mushrooms and Marsala. The chicken is just a vehicle for the sauce, and at the same time, bulk filler. I used to love chicken when I was a kid as there was a butcher nearby who used to get them fresh from the farm. It used to actually have a real honest to goodness flavor….sort of like… frog legs.
There are plenty of foods out there that still bring me back to when I was a kid or memories of that time. Amongst them but not limited to, Cheerio’s, Bazooka Bubble Gum, tangerines at Christmas, orange marmalade, fig newton’s, waffle cones and soft serve vanilla ice cream, beef stew, Chiclet’s, A&W Root Beer, Mary Jane’s  and those damned Snickers bars.

So I guess it’s fine that some things don’t evoke the same feelings and memories the way they used to. We grow up, our taste buds and senses become aware of different tastes and better sensations that set a new bar of what something should now be. I’ll bet if I already haven’t named a few, you are thinking of other things that do. Things that bring you back to that first day of school, first school dance, day at the beach, first date pizza… or the day you got bitten by a German Sheppard on your paper route and dad took you for a soft serve vanilla ice cream with rainbow jimmies.
For you young people who don’t know what a paper route is…They once had these things called newspapers, and you’d bring them around to people every day to read, and they’d pay you money once a week. Now I got a guy named Tony who’s in his sixties who drives within falling distance of my front door and still manages to miss the doorstep by thirty yards. Why would someone do this you ask? Well, all we had were four snowy channels on a black and white TV, and a game console called Coleco, that basically played three kinds of table tennis, and a father that kept saying “It’s too nice to be inside!” So we had to do something…You want to know what? What’s a snowy channel?!....Oh, hell… never mind…

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


In my formative years I loved strawberry Charleston Chew candy bars, just due to their sheer size (I was always a quantity over quality person when I was younger). As an adult, I have become somewhat of a Zero man when it comes to candy bars, as I can't find a strawberry Charleston Chew anywhere, add that to the fact I'd look ridiculous eating such a big candy bar now.  As a child living in the days of adults thinking candy bars are a good source of energy, I can tell you I've had my share of them. These were never offered by my mother as after school type snacks, but rather something to eat before football, hockey practice, camping, hiking and weightlifting tournaments.
As children often are without jobs, and therefore penniless vagabonds, I wasn't always the decision maker in what got bought as a snack for such arduous activities. Invariably I had to bend to the whims of my mother with regards to the world of candy. Her go to candy bar of choice was the Snickers bar.

The Snickers bar was never my favorite. I didn't hate it, as I love most any candy that has nuts as a main ingredient. But with chocolate having such a unique flavor, and peanuts likewise having their own distinct flavor, it always seemed as though the two tastes in one candy bar sort of competed with each other. Leaving a sort of stinging sweet aftertaste to linger in the back of my throat, long after the bar was eaten.
I never complained to my mother, and she kept buying Snickers bars. My reasoning was thus, I'm getting to eat chocolate and caramel. The peanuts are a small price to pay for the privilege of eating something, that would in any other circumstances be considered fare more suitable for Beelzebub. So I continued to eat them until I left home to strike out on my own.

I haven't really been much of a candy bar eater since I left home except for the occasional sugar fix maybe once or twice a year. I became aware of the Snickers with almonds about 2002 or so and thought; finally somebody fixed the damned thing. Too bad it was fixed twenty plus years after it would have been useful to me. But as I was more or less set in my ways, I'd always reach for a Zero or Milky Way bar when it came time for my bi-annual sugarfest.
I was grocery shopping with my mother yesterday and we happened to be standing in the check-out line talking about the candy bars in front of us. I already knew her favorite and couldn't help but confide in her that it was never my favorite. She laughed and said "well you sure ate enough of them!" I explained that they weren't horrible and that it was the peanuts that were the issue, she saw the Snickers Almond and picked one up telling me, "problem solved."

I laughed and went to put the bar back and she said. Well, aren't you going to see if almonds make it better? She did have a point, and it had been a while since I've had a candy bar so I decided to try one. We threw it onto the belt to be bagged with the rest of her groceries, and I drove her back to my childhood home to try.
Snickers, owned by Mars, Inc. has been around since 1930 and was named after the favorite horse of the Mars family. It wasn't available in the UK or Ireland until 1990 as it was called a Marathon bar. This is all fine and well as when I was in the UK in the late 80's I was too busy being perplexed at why the Milky Way Bar wasn't a Milky Way Bar, and what the heck was a Lion Bar anyway?! Can't they standardize candy worldwide for my own personal convenience?!

The Snickers Almond has been out since 2002 and is exactly the same as the regular Snickers except for the choice of nuts. What can I say, it was the problem. From the first bite to the last, everything was great about the Snickers Almond. The toasted almonds complimented the caramel and then hints of nougat and milk chocolate danced around, then took a bow and disappeared. Overall, very satisfying.
I'll never be a candy bar man in a way candy bar manufacturers would like me to be. But from now on when I'm looking to have my own personal sugar-palooza, it’ll definitely be a toss-up between a Zero and Snickers Almond. Now if only I could find a damned strawberry Charleston Chew.

Monday, February 6, 2012


I was raised by parents who taught me, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I guess either I wasn't listening, or I'm just a baaaad toad of a son. Either way, I do have some good things to say regarding food...contrary to what you fine people may have believed after reading several of my posts.  So let’s take a look at some foods, food trends and people in the food industry that deserve a thumbs up…we will get to the thumbs down another time. So sit back and enjoy the glittery rainbow with a happy face, covered in pink ribbons and chocolate sprinkles…or whatever it is that positive people think about.
I know what you’re gonna say and you’re right…Bacon and pork belly are everywhere, and it’s gotten out of control. Ok, so you’re only right until the end of the sixth word, then you got all crazy on me! Bacon and pork belly, more precisely good bacon and porkbelly…are everywhere. Applewood, cherrywood smoked, maple bacon, peppered bacon, thick cut, bacon pieces, jowl bacon, bacon ice cream, chocolate dipped bacon, braised pork belly, Asian spiced pork belly, porchetta done with pork belly, oh baby… I could go on forever!
Tell me you didn’t smile and think about grabbing a skillet just then. Trust me when I tell you there are worse things out there than good bacon or a nicely done pork belly anything. If you don’t believe me, get up tomorrow and have some nicely cooked over easy eggs, lovely toasted brioche and a side of wheat grass. Come on people….give pork a break. I’m a child of the 70’s and 80’s I know what overdone is...Exhibits A and B: ABBA and Phil Collins…I rest my case.

Food awareness…What the?! Oh man, Pav has gone soft in the head! No, now think about this for a moment people. Remember growing up and the most exotic thing in the produce isle was a banana?! Now look at the place, you’re hard pressed to find the banana’s now. I spend more time walking through produce trying to figure out what I’m gonna have for dinner because the variety and possibilities are endless. It’s like walking through the menu at Cheesecake Factory! (Which for chain food, I really like by the way.) Not just produce in stores, but with the rise of farmers markets and CSA’s, we have the ability to get some really great produce on our tables…if you’d just push the sloppy joe to the side once in a while.
It’s not just produce that has improved over the last ten years or so either. Look at the amount and variety of ethnic foods. I grew up in a virtual ethnic desert. French, Finnish, English, Irish, Swedish and maybe 4 Italian folks were what made up my little corner of Nowheresville, NH. When it came time to go to the grocery store to get creative with my inner Asian, La Choy was all they had. This made my inner Asian very sad, and not very Asian. Now look at what you can get, black vinegar, black bean paste, all manner of Asian sauces, noodles and ingredients…At this rate, I’ll be able to become full on Asian within five years… just as soon as I figure out how to speak any of the languages.

Social Media, I seriously don’t even know where to start here folks. Once, all we had to go on to find out if a restaurant was good, were food critics. That was if you were local, and your tastes jived with said critic. If you were away from home you were pretty much on your own, or you found yourself listening to the twenty year old receptionist at the hotel you were staying at pin down “insert pizza joint name” just up the street, as the “go to” restaurant in town. Now with Yelp, Trip Advisor, Chowhound, etc… You can see what’s good anywhere you go. Restaurants just about all have Facebook pages so you can look at menus and house specialties, and daily specials can be received via Twitter.

Street food now compared to just four or five years ago is getting crazy good, and the variety is endless in some cities.  Korean BBQ, Waffles, Ice Cream, Taco’s, crème brûlée, Thai, Soups, Sandwiches, Sausages and the list keeps growing by the month. Growing up the only food truck in my town was “The Hot Dog Man”, Today…well, today there are three food trucks, all three are stationary, all three of them serve Hot Dogs… the one at the home depot has branched out and also does Italian Sausage, but for those towns not the midway point between purgatory and hell…the future is looking bright…very bright!
Pho and Ramen…Yeah, I said it…Ramen, but not the ramen you’re thinking of. Good Ramen may sound like an oxy-moron to some, but Pho and ramen shops are starting to pop up all over the place using some super ingredients and producing some excellent stuff. Feel free to go to a local ramen shop and have a bowl, just don’t tell them you want the “Oriental” flavor you remembered having with the ten for a dollar ramen noodles you got at Wal-Mart.

Food people, and  by this I mean people that are out there talking about food and have some kind of forum to promote food awareness. The scary thing is, I don’t just mean the likes of Eric Ripert , Anthony Bourdain , Michael Pollan or the like, I’m also talking about (God help me) Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis and most of that crowd. Because for as evil as I think the latter group is, they at least are a catalyst for getting people who never thought about food before, to think about food in a somewhat serious manner. There are a few whom I give no credence to, and in my opinion do more harm than good. But as this is a positive article, and we are all thinking of baby penguins and cotton candy I’ll let you Google “Kwanzaa Cake” on your own. As for me, primum non nocere...second, get some ice cream.
Also included in the food people, are food blog’s and blogger’s. Not just the Serious Eats and Chowhounds of the world, but the everyday people, plus cooks and chefs alike. They care about food, they love food, and they want to share that love and passion with everyone to make this world a tastier place. From the simple to the complex, hamburgers to caviar, the foods these people blog about, or provide recipes for are a means to share an experience. An experience we can all learn from and should share with others. There are cooks and chefs out there who bellyache and moan about food bloggers, cibo people, and the like… but they’re missing the point.

Food for cooks may be about perfection, about an endless, mindless pursuit of robotic like repetition, so that the very last plate of Herb Crusted Dover Sole with Crab Brandade and Chive Emulsion looks exactly like the first …these “bloggers” can never hope to understand this, nor do they want to. But to these bloggers food represents more, much more…The food they write and talk about is a celebration. Not a celebration of how well they made a cupcake, or a celebration about how they made a perfect Consommé Doria…but rather food, is a celebration of life.

I know I missed quite a few things here people, but it’s a start. Maybe I’ll do a “What’s good in Food II” sometime in the near future…right now I’m feeling way too happy and positive about myself.  Maybe I’ll go and challenge The Cat to a game of Chess (He likes to call it "the game of kings" little smarty pants) Seeing’s  he has beaten me the last eight out of ten games, I’m sure that’ll have me back to my old curmudgeonly  self in no time…until then… I bid you peace.