Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Adventures in Copycatting - Chorizo Pollo

You might remember me mentioning a few weeks back that we had dinner at Las Piramides and loved every second of it. Mr. FvF, especially, had a huge hard-on for the Chorizo Pollo he ordered. It's really only three basic ingredients, so I figured I'd give a whirl of recreating it in our own kitchen. Here's what you'll need (serves two, multiply as needed):

2 boneless chicken breasts, pounded out to 1/4"-1/2" thickness*
1 link chorizo sausage
1 cup white Mexican cheese - about anything but queso fresco will work
*I seasoned mine with stuff I always have on-hand: salt, pepper, garlic powder, lime juice, onion powder, cumin and cinnamon

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until it's fast in the pan, then season the chicken breasts and toss them in. Once they've started cooking, get going on your chorizo. Start another smaller pan over medium heat, remove the casing from the sausage and crumble it into the pan. Chorizo has a bit of a Spam-like consistency, so a lot of the crumbling will happen naturally as it cooks. Just keep stirring and maybe adjust the heat a bit lower, since it's very greasy and tends to pop a lot as it cooks.

Once your chicken is browned on both sides and cooked through, sprinkle the cheese over, cover the pan and let it get nice and melty. If you've started them consecutively, your chorizo should be done by the time the cheese melts - about 3-4 minutes, covered.

Move the cheesy chicken to your serving dishes, then cover it with the cooked & crumbles chorizo. Serve with veggies like tomatoes, avocado and seasoned black beans.

'Tis the Season - Warm Cinnamon Apples

The minute there's a chill in the air at night, I want everything smell and taste like one of the following: pumpkin, apple, cinnamon or caramel.

I haven't made it to the orchard for the good apples yet, but I had some Gala apples from Kroger and a sweet tooth, so the time was nigh to fry them up.

If I have a fairly hearty fruit on my hands and want something sweeter than fresh fruit can offer, I add a little sugar and butter and fry those sons'a'bitches.
Basically, a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of sugar, and cinnamon to taste (at least 1/4 tsp, and Saigon Cinnamon is ideal for this) per diced apple should yield a tasty result. Cook them over medium for at least 5 minutes, or until they're as soft as you like them.

Pasta with fresh veggies & cream sauce

Last week, the Mister had to go to the Dayton School of Advertising Art and talk to some folks about how he uses Adobe to create some of his fabulous comic art. Naturally, I took the opportunity to make something he'd never dream of eating, then watch some x-rated movies.

This was one of my favorite dishes to make as a single gal, and I realized I hadn't eaten it since he moved in. I should note that I wouldn't know shit about making fancy pasta dishes if it weren't for my friend Billiam. I would have never attempted to make my own sauces before seeing him make it look so effortless.

Here's what you'll need (serves 1-2):

long, thin pasta of your choice, cooked al dente (I used whole wheat linguine)
3 sliced of bacon, chopped and cooked
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped coarsely
1/4 - 1/2 C chopped yellow onion
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 tomato (I used roma), diced
1/2 C white wine (I used pinot grigiot)
1/2 C half & half or heavy cream
parmesan cheese (at least 1/3 C)
olive oil

Start some olive oil in a sautee pan over medium heat.* Once it's fast in the pan, add your onions and garlic, but careful not to scorch the garlic (you will never know a more awful smell or taste). Cook those down until the onions begin to get soft & translucent, then add your tomatoes and a tablespoon or two of the white wine. Reduce the heat and let the tomatoes start to release their juices and cook down, then add the bacon & spinach. Simmer for 2-3 more minutes.

Once everything is looking beautiful and smelling groovy, start to add the rest of the wine and let it warm up with the veggies, then add a bit of grated parm and a few pinches of salt. Once it's all the same temp, start slowly stirring in your cream and bring the heat up to just below medium. Add the cream slowly so that you know when you've got enough. This will always cook a bit differently, so sometimes you don't need the whole 1/2 cup. The sauce should start to thicken, and once it does, adjust the heat back to low. Let is simmer for just a few more minutes, then add some more grated cheese and your cooked pasta, and toss it all together. Also, do yourself a favor and get a nice brick of aged parmesan instead of using that powdered shit that comes in the green canister. The stuff keeps forever!

*If you cooked your bacon in the same pan, it's perfectly okay to leave some of the droppings there. Just makes it taste better!

Another day, another burger

We always have plenty of cheese on hand for snackin', so a lot of times, I'll put stuffed burgers on the menu for the week and have no clue what I'm going to do with them until the moment hits me. This past week, Kroger had some decent looking smoked gouda on sale - and few things go better with gouda (besides more gouda) than bacon (which of course, we also always have on hand).

Bacon & Smoked Gouda Burgers

1 lb ground chuck (80/20)
4 oz smoked gouda, cut into cubes
3-4 tbsp bread crumbs
4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp & coarsely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Garlic Paprika Aioli
3 tbsp mayo
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 minced garlic clove
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika

Combine all of the ingredients with your hands until very well mixed and form into patties. My personal preferred method is to make them into giant meatballs and flatten them just slightly - that way they don't cook too quickly or overcook. If you spy any of the cheese cubes poking out, thumb them back in and cover it up with ground beef. This will keep the precious cheese from oozing out during cooking when it starts to melt.

Toss them onto a hot grill (or cast iron, if you're sans grill) for about 3-5 minutes per side, or until they've got just a little give left to them, much like a medium steak (should create the same resistance as touching your nose with your finger). Don't squish the burger with the spatula. Love your burger, and let it keep all of it's juices. Love it!

As loyal readers know, Mr. FvF hates onions, otherwise I'd stuff those in, too. So, I like to caramelize some for myself and top the burger with it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Slyder's Tavern - Dayton, Ohio

There wasn't a lick of food in the house once we got back from Mexico, so we rode out the last of our gift cards and hit Slyder's for an early-bird dinner on Saturday. The Mister had never been there, and it'd been a good 2 years since I'd been. I opted for the patty melt, while he chose the bacon cheeseburger with fries. Our peach of a waitress also informed us that draft mini pitchers were only $3 and wings were just 40 cents each, so we threw in an order for both of those as well.

Mr. FvF loved his burger, and said the jumbo sized wings were top notch. The fries were just okay, but seemed of the frozen variety.

My patty melt was ridiculously massive and delicious. By far the biggest burger I've ever seen on a patty melt, and probably the best I've ever had. The rye bread it's served on was fantastic, the onions were soft & fragrant, and the whole thing was just swimming in melted Swiss.
Service was tops, as it usually is in these little local joints. Our waitress knew the menu enough to help me decide between two sandwiches and give recommendations. The manager also went around checking on tables and making sure folks were well taken care of. Food arrived around 10 minutes after we ordered, and our glasses (and pitcher) were never empty. So, for two burgers with fries (and chips), two mini pitchers and a small order of wings, we squeezed out of there for under $25 before tip. Total win.
I should add that Slyder's has killer onion rings, but since I was already loading up on them with my sandwich, I was trying not to totally gross out my new onion-hating husband.

5 out of 5 sporks!

Slyder's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Brookwood Farms BBQ - Charlotte, NC (Airport)

On the way home from the honeymoon, Mr. FvF and I decided to grab dinner in the Charlotte Airport since we had such a long layover before heading back to the Gem. We'd spotted a BBQ place when we caught our connecting flight on the way to Cancun earlier in the week, so we already knew what we'd be having.

It's a good thing I filled up on snacks that I bought at the airport during our flight, because this was pretty disappointing. I ordered the pulled pork, and the Mister had the brisket, each with two sides, a fried pickle and cornbread.

The fried pickle and broccoli cheese casserole were the highlights of my meal. The pork was not only over-sauced, but the sauce was a Carolina-style red that was overwhelming with vinegar. My cole slaw had a shitload of raw onions in it and was bland aside from that. The cornbread was stale and dry. I tried a bite of Mr. FvF's brisket, which was also drenched in the same sauce and registered around "meh" on the taste-o-meter.

The service aspect is pretty much null & void, since it's a food court atmosphere - they just ask what you want and ring it up.

2 out of 5 sporks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rodizio Brazillian Churrascaria - Riviera Maya, Mexico (inside Barcelo Palace)

Mr. FvF and I stayed at the Barcelo Maya Palace for our honeymoon, and were super excited to try all of the different restaurants throughout the Barcelo property. The first night we ate at the buffet, which was surprisingly vast and delicious. For the rest of the week, we made reservations at the fancy-pants restaurants. Tuesday night we checked out the Brazillian steakhouse, a gluten-free/low-carb lover's dream.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of going to a churrascaria, it's ALL about the meat. The first course typically consists of a tapas bar - cured meats, salads, small seafood, cheeses and breads. The main course is a selection of meat that have been fire-roasted, and come to your table still on the rotisserie, to be carved. Rodizio's meat selection consists of seven - yes, SEVEN meats. Green chorizo, chicken, turkey, veal, sirloin, ribeye, and pork loin. I didn't manage to get photos of everything, because they were bringing it to the table faster than we could put it away.

Green chorizo

If all veal was this good, I might have a dangerous new vice.

Best pork loin I've had in my life. No joke.

The beef dishes were sort of meh, but I had the pork loin to keep going back to.

Also, I happened to snap a pic at just the right moment, catching the server at the table next to us serving up dessert coffees of FIRE.
So, you thought we'd be done eating after seven plates of meat? Well, you'd be wrong. All aboard the gluttony train - wooo-wooo! We're never done when there's dessert to be had. I ordered the flan, but Mr. FvF made the better decision and got chocolate mouse.

This was an easy 5 out of 5 sporks!

Filling Station - Dayton, Ohio

I didn't want to have a full-on bachelorette party, so I decided to get some of my gals together for dinner. The Filling Station is right down the street from at least half of the gals I invited, and I know they have good food and a great beer list. The last time I went, just after they'd opened, I wasn't at all impressed with the service. I was hoping that a year later, that would have changed and they'd all be a bit less green.

The food and atmosphere: tops. Everyone's food was plentiful and tasty, with a friendly, fun crowd and a good game room - where unfortunately, most things were still broken (as they were on my first visit). On the phone they'd told me since I had a large party, we could use the banquet room at no cost, since no one was in there that night. We got there and the hostess looked sort of put out and started asking waitresses to move tables together to accommodate us. Not sure what she didn't understand when I explained the phone call I'd made just an hour earlier about the banquet room. We had a server who had a trainee tagging along with her, which is normally no big whoop - except the "experienced" one didn't know what any white wines were, despite chardonnay. They then informed us that they were out of basically every white wine, and delivered my sister a glass of Chianti that she didn't order. Luckily, they had Maker's Mark - so at least I was still in business.

They took our the table's order in three different waves, so no one got their food at the same time. When we were ready to retire to the patio, it took almost 30 minutes for everyone to get their checks. Oh, did I mention some of our party walked in on our waitress sobbing hysterically in the ladies' room? Good times. Not awkward at all.

Again, I'll reiterate that the food was very good. I ordered some sweet chili wings and sampled the fries, club sandwich, quesadilla and cheese sticks, and they were all great. But, I doubt I'll be rolling the dice on their service many more times. Maybe restaurant owners could take a page from Figlio's book and start hiring people with excellent customer service backgrounds, instead of assuming that a lot of restaurant experience makes someone a good server.

3 out of 5 sporks!

Filling Station on Urbanspoon

Beef O'Brady's - Centerville, Ohio

I met up with two of my best gals, Ginger and her adorable daughter, a few days before the wedding for a little ladies' lunch. Beef's is right around the corner from them, so I met them there to make it easier, in case they wanted to walk.

Long story short, I wasn't terribly impressed. The food was pretty good, but not outstanding, and the service was laughable. We stood around for a minute upon entering, considering the sign said "please wait to be seated," but waited around for a guy to tell us to sit where ever we wanted. He seemed overly flustered, considering most of the tables were empty, and didn't bother offering us a high chair or booster seat for the little one until after Gin had pilfered one from another table.

It took almost 40 minutes for our food to arrive. If I'd been on a regular work schedule, I would have walked out by this point. I ordered the Smokin' Jack Sliders with pineapple cole slaw and mashed potatoes with Guiness Gravy.

The sliders were good, but nowhere near what they were billed as in the photo or description. The taters & gravy were good, but honestly - not much more impressive than KFC. The cole slaw was just regular slaw - not the slighest hint of pineapple could be found.

I sipped on an empty cup a few times, until a girl came to refill it. The great part was, she'd take off with the cup and be gone for five minutes instead of bringing me another one, while I tried to finish off my salty food with no beverage.

Pretty disappointing, and it's safe to say I won't be back.

2.5 out of 5 sporks!

Beef O'Brady's on Urbanspoon

Not Entirely Edible: Wedding Vendor Reviews

As a lot of my readers already know, Mr. FvF and I made it official last Sunday, and tied the knot right here in the Gem City. All of the vendors I chose did such an amazing job that I want to commend them all here, so that you might be enticed to use them for your next event.

First and foremost - Christopher's Restaurant Catering. Holly, the catering manager, was a pleasure to work with and so accommodating. We had originally done a tasting of some wonderful plated dishes, had everything picked out, then had to completely re-evaluate our budget and start the menu over from scratch. We chose the picnic option, with fried chicken, pulled pork, Calico beans, cole slaw, creamy dill potato salad, focaccia and soft drink service. We also chose to have Christopher's make homemade pies for our desserts, forgoing the traditional wedding cake (which is terribly expensive and never that good). The price was really, really right and we could not have asked for better food. Everyone raved about everything, including me. The two servers that they had working the kitchen (whose names, ladies, I'm sorry to say I forget) were just tops and went out of their way to make sure we were taken care of.

We had both the ceremony and reception at Benham's Grove - a historic property owned by the City of Centerville. They have a beautiful landscape, plenty of room, and it's a bargain compared to most other venues. We dealt with Margo, who was wonderful - but everyone there was extremely helpful and always friendly. Note: if you or your folks live in the city limits, you get a 20% discount. Score! They also allow you to bring in your own booze, so we ordered all of our wine from Arrow Wine & Spirits.

Jay Madewell (who you might know from dance nights all over town) served as our DJ for the evening, and did a great job of getting everyone off their asses and dancing after dinner. His prices are much lower than most "pro" wedding DJs, who usually just end up getting drunk and playing inappropriate songs in front of the old folks. He managed to fit in almost all of the songs we'd requested, kept it all pre-1990 (with the exception of pre-requested songs), played jams that everyone knew and liked, and even had Grandma dancing. Very easy going, easy to work with, timely and professional.

Digital Shorts on St. Clair St. took care of printing up our save-the-dates, invitations and RSVP cards after Mr.FvF designed them, and it was an absolute steal. We paid less than $50 for everything.

I purchased my dress from Lillian's Bridal & Formal Boutique in Kettering. It was literally the only place within three states carrying the dress that I found online and lusted after. This was a MUCH better experience than any I've ever had or heard of anyone having with a mega-retailer like David's Bridal. Huge selections from all types of designers at all price points, a fancy boutique layout and feel, and fabulous service.

Edited to add: two other wonderful vendors! Melanie Crow of Damselle Jewelry designed a stunning necklace to match some vintage earrings I've been holding onto for years. She did an amazing job matching the earring style to the vintage piece for the necklace, and with absolutely exquisite craftsmanship.
Ladies getting hitched, or just feel like treating yourself to a one-of-a-kind jewelry piece, check out her Damselle store on Etsy.

Also, I scored my veil from another place on etsy called YJdesigns. Got it for a steal at $27, plus $10 for shipping to America. Keep in mind, these veils start at $80 in most bridal stores. It was simple, thrifty and just what I needed to compliment my tea-length ball gown.

Everything else was DIY all the way. On that note, I have to thank all of my amazing friends and family for helping out and busting ass the way they did. You guys are aces!