Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Got Apps! - Pesto Pinwheels

I know I still haven't finished my reviews from our Nashville trip in April, but I'm pretty damn tired of writing restaurant reviews right now.  Please click here for further explanation of my feelings on this matter.

Instead, I'm going to tell you about some delicious appetizers that I made for Mr. FvF's birthday dinner.  Appetizers are one of my favorite categories of foods to eat, but one of my least favorite to make.  Basically the concept is taking something that's great in its regular-sized form, then making 100 tiny ones. Pain in the ass, cue sad trombone.  You almost have it made, however, when you can basically still make a giant version and just cut it up into smaller pieces.

Enter crescent dough!  I always use the Pillsbury Recipe Creations dough, specifically to avoid pressing out all of those funky perforations.  This is one of the easiest, quickest, cheapest apps I've ever made, and it could be tarted up in any manner of different ways.  Here's what you'll need (makes about 24 pieces):

1 can crescent dough
1/4 C+ basil pesto
4 slices of prosciutto, chopped into bits (salami or very thin ham will do, too)
1/4 C hard Italian cheese, shredded (I used Romano)

Cut the dough into four rectangles, spread each with about a tablespoon of pesto, then sprinkle evenly with prosciutto and cheese.  Roll each dough sheet up lengthwise, so that you could cut 6 small slices out of each.  But wait, hoss - don't cut yet!  All the oily pesto + the butter in the dough + the heat of your fat little paws makes it impossible to slice.  Keep the rolls on a cutting board and toss them in the freezer for a few minutes, then get them back out and slice into 6 pieces per roll.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jack's BBQ - Nashville, Tennessee

The day after the atrocity of Rippy's BBQ, we planned on filling up at on Jack's for an early lunch.  We must have hit right at the magical hour, where there were only about 5 people in line in front of us, because they sure as hell piled in behind us.  The biggest difference between Jack's an Rippy's besides the food is the atmosphere.  Jack's is a bit beat up, wood as far as the eye can see, cafeteria style.  In my opinion, the way BBQ should be served if at all possible.  You wait in line, tell the guy with the cleaver what kind of meat you want (but don't dilly dally, he doesn't have time for your shit) - and if you're not a dick, you can probably get wishes granted like middle piece, end piece, charred or lots of bark. Then you tell the next employee on the line which sides you want, then another gal rings you up.  The cashier also does not have time for your shit - but not because she has a newly developed line of 15+ people to feed, but she's busy taking a personal call. 
You'll also need a keen Spidey sense to get a table.  If you have someone with you and know what you want, one of you can order and the other can grab a table if one is open. There are only about a dozen or fewer tables in the main room, and more upstairs on the roof.   

I got the brisket plate and Mr. FvF got the smoked sausage plate.  I got hooked up with the brisket, because dude took a new slab out of the cabinet instead of giving me what was left of the one he'd been working off of.  To boot, he asked if I wanted middle or end since I was getting first pick.  Pile on the bark, please!!
When I sat down with my plate, another couple actually admired my brisket (I get that a lot), mentioning that it looked much better than what they'd been sliced off just a few minutes earlier.  I picked cucumber salad and baked apples for my sides; the Mister got corn and mac & cheese, and we both had cornbread.  

I failed to get awesome pictures of the food, but you get the idea. I do wish I could have gotten better light on the brisket, because you could see the smoke ring a mile away. It was so beautiful I almost wept, and it tasted just as good.  The perfect amount of seasoning, smoke and moisture.  A lot of other places couldn't get away with serving their brisket with nothing but styrofoam plates and flimsy plastic forks (Hickory River, I'm looking in your direction), but Jack's manages to achieve even plastic-fork-tenderness.  I think they had 3 sauces - mustard-based, traditional and hot.  I think I tried some of the gold sauce and liked it, but for the most part, sauce wasn't required.  

I wasn't nuts about the cucumber salad, but I can't remember why (yet another reason to not get two months behind on entries).  The apples were super tasty, but it was pretty damn hot out, so it felt a bit too heavy to finish them.  But, the brisket portion was more than enough to fill my belly, and I still ended up giving some to the Mister.  

Mr. FvF was probably happier with this smoked sausage than anyplace he's ordered it outside of Texas.  We traded bites and it was *super* tasty.  It wasn't greasy at all, and the skin had that crispiness to it that snapped when you bit into it, which is what sells me on it.  The inside was perfectly tender and well-cooked and it had a nice, strong smoke flavor without being too salty or overpowering.  He said the corn was really sweet and memorable, the mac & cheese not so much.  Cornbread was so-so - a bit mealy for my taste, but not really dry or lacking in flavor.  

For about $9 each, this was a lot of food for a fair price.  I'm not sure either of us fully finished ours.  the couple that commented on my plate was proof positive that an ill-timed visit to Jack's may not yield as perfect results, but we certainly lucked out.  They were just prepping for their lunch rush, and nothing had been sitting around for that long.  As always, I base my reviews on MY experience, not what someone else has seeded in my head about the place.  Service is a bit inapplicable, but if you're looking for bubbly and jovial, you're in the wrong place.  Know what you want when you get to the counter.  Other than that, be prepared for a short wait in line, getting creative to find seating and some kick ass BBQ.  

5 out of 5 sporks! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rippy's Smokin' Bar & Grill - Nashville, TN

Yeah, remember how I went to Nashville six weeks ago?  Well, I'm finally getting around to telling you about it.  I'd gone a few years ago and remembered really liking Jack's BBQ, but not bothering with Rippy's BBQ.  A good friend of ours went about a year ago and insisted that Rippy's was 100 times better than Jack's.  Despite the piss-poor reviews of Rippy's on Yelp! and UrbanSpoon, I wanted to go back and try both, just to settle the debate.

We got into the 'ville just before dinnertime, so we freshened up and promptly hit the town.  Our (shitty) hotel was practically in Printer's Alley, so we were within a close walk of almost anyplace downtown.  There was a hockey game happening, so the streets and shops on Broadway were getting crowded fast.  I decided we'd try Rippy's the first night because I didn't want to end the trip on a sour note in case it sucked. Good thinking on my part.  

It took a while for us to be greeted, and regardless of the fact that we asked for a booth, the waitress sat us at a high-top table right in front of the window.  As long as we sat waiting for beverages, we put our order in right away in fear of how long it might take.  We both opted for the pulled pork basket with different sides.  

 The pork was okay - just okay.  they sprinkle some kind of "proprietary seasoning" over top of it that perhaps is supposed to make me think it's been dry-rubbed.  All it makes me think is, "I wonder if Longhorn is pissed that Rippy's stole their patented Prairie Dust?"  Our friend had also raved about the sauce, which I tried in spite of my better judgement.  We've been over this, eaters - good barbecue does not. Need. Sauce. I'm willing to try and give a sauce kudos to complimenting the meat when warranted, but this was not one of those times.  It had a decent spice to it, but was a vinegary disaster.  The Mister didn't care for his baked beans because they had big chunks of onions mixed in. That doesn't mean they were bad, just not for him.  Fries were decent, but likely of the frozen persuasion.
My onion rings were mighty tasty, but didn't make up for the sub-par pulled pork, or the diabetes-inducing sugar-laden cole slaw.  I'm a big fan of a sweet, dairy based slaw, but this bordered on unrecognizable. Plus it was hot inside and out, and I don't think the slaw had been well refrigerated.  Regardless of where it's from - if the slaw's not cold, I ain't the kind of gal to eat it.

Service is to Rippy's what a pleasant experience is to your local bargain theater.  They're not mutually exclusive.  The water glasses were mostly left empty and our server never asked if we wanted refills on our cocktails.  Our buddy had asked us to bring him back a bottle of their  barf amazing sauce, which we asked for twice and never got.

2 out of 5 sporks! 

Rippy's Smokin' Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 9, 2011

Food vs Face-Off: Gluten-free Waffle Thunderdome

In order to get my warm weather figure back on track, I decided I had to start eating breakfast again to get my metabolism going in the morning.  I'm not the world's biggest yogurt fan, have teeth too sensitive for cold cereal in the morning, and refuse to leave myself time to make a proper breakfast.  Pile that on top of my body's general disdain for wheat products, and I'm a bit short on options.  A few weeks ago when I was passing over the crunchy hippie in Kroger - y'know, that small area between produce and the bakery where you assume nothing tastes good - I noticed more than one option of gluten-free frozen waffles.  Van's has bold, clever packaging and caught my eye right away.  I'd always known Van's products to be superb to most frozen varietals from my dieting days, so I was amped to try it. And the magic word - SALE.  Kroger has pretty much consistently had these waffles on sale for over one month - 2 for $5.   I picked up a box of the Van's g/f Blueberry Waffles and decided to give them a whirl.

The next morning, I recalled from leaner times (not with weight, just with money) that frozen waffles never really get warm enough in the middle from toasting alone, so I nuked it for about 10 seconds first.  A little butter and some maple sizzurp and you've got yourself a fine breakfast, even for the tenderest bellies.  These waffles not only have blueberries in them, but are also sweetened with fruit juice, so it is actually apparent that you're consuming a blueberry product.  As for the texture, a gluten-eater wouldn't know it from an Eggo.  It's crisp on the outside, soft and chewy inside.   In the following weeks I also tried the plain (too plain for this gal, even dressed up) and the apple cinnamon, but neither won my heart like the blueberry.

The photos below aren't mine - I had to steal them from the interwebs because the last thing I'm thinking of in the morning is taking photos of my food for you guys.  I need that time to saddle up these sweater monkeys and clean my shotgun.  More importantly, I'm pointing out the source because this philistine put peanut butter on a blueberry waffle.

The following week, I was equally tempted by the sales price of another brand - Kinnikinnick.  You have no idea how long it took me to type that shit.  I grabbed a box of their Brown Sugar & Cinnamon G/F Waffles for just under $3.  Out of the box, they were visibly wimpier than the Van's, but I was willing to let that go if they had the flavor and texture on lock.  Prepped one the exact same way as the others, nuking it just slightly beforehand, then toasting.  Buttered, sizzurped, and dove in expecting a whirlwind of rich cinnamon & brown sugar flavor.

No dice.  The hint of flavor was just that - and the texture was all wrong.  Was I sleepwalking at Kroger again and picked up some kind of fancy dog food waffles?  These were rubbery and spongy, nothing like my beloved, buttery, crispy Van's.  That's what you get for buying Canadian, kids.

G/F Waffle Thunderdome:  Van's is victorious! 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

El Mazatlan - Cave City, KY

 Finally got a chance to put my UrbanSpoon app for Droid to great use.  Starving, and in an area of Kentucky that's only known for Dinosaur World and Stucky's, I locked in on a price point and shook my phone furiously until it provided a result that sounded good to both Mr. FvF and I. We whipped around the corner to El Mazatlan, which wasn't packed, save for a late lunch crowd.

We were greeted, seated, and had our drink orders taken right away.  They had a pretty decent looking menu, and the Mister was thrilled to see Huevos con Chorizo on the menu.  I didn't see anything out of the ordinary that really jumped out at me, so I stuck with the old standby - flautas.  I know, I know - but I'm a sucker for giant taquitos.  We had no more than each smoked a cigarette (Kentucky can be awesome!) before our orders came a'sizzlin' to the table.  As usual, I sampled Mr. FvF's and kept all of mine for myself - so I can attest that they were both really flavorful.
 Maybe Los Reyes in Kettering can find out where they get their chorizo, considering it actually tastes like something. My flautas were crispy and juice, but not greasy - plenty of well-seasoned meat and I think just a hint of melty cheese in there, too.
Beans and rice were...well, beans and rice.  I probably haven't had better, and I've certainly had worse.  Large draft beers were only $2, which was cheaper than a soda.  Yeah, I know it was just shy of 2 p.m., but I was on vacation, you Puritans.  Service was fast, friendly and we got out of there for under $20.

5 out of 5 sporks! 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Michael O'Toole's - Columbus, Ohio

I'll start off by saying that I added and removed the tag "Irish pub" from this post at least six times before just leaving it there. No matter how drunk I was when I got there, this place was no more Irish than my Uncle Mario. The most Irish thing about Michael O'Toole's is the name itself, which is a complete misnomer. I have a feeling that the person who came up with the concept feels that serving pasta and ribs is as authentic to Ireland as clover tattoos on St. Patrick's Day and Celtic tattoos on fat, pasty white folks.  If you're a dirty mick, people just deduce your heritage when you spit on cab drivers or your husband openly mocks your drinking problem.  At least that's what I hear.  At any rate, you don't have to go advertising it, and false advertising is even worse.

That said, they had a good looking beer list, and a decent, yet incoherent menu.  We ordered an appetizer sampler, but nothing was really memorable. My entree, the prosciutto and Gorgonzola stuffed chicken was tasty, but small.  When I read "whole airline chicken breast" I was expecting a fair amount of bird, but what arrived on my plate was somewhere under six ounces.  They left the skin on, which I think is great.  There are several different opinions about this, but in fancier-pants cooking, skin-on is the way to go.  It retains all of the moisture and a fair amount more seasoning than boneless-skinless.  The bird was well-seasoned and you could actually tell what it'd been stuffed with, without having read the menu description. 
I didn't get much scoop on the food that the other gents ordered.  You see, as much as I always detested Seinfeld, there was a lot to George Costanza's theory about worlds colliding.  It's a bit of a push for me to report on dining I did on business trips, but I'm certainly not going to ask my co-workers how their dinner hits their palate.  FvF world must stay completely separated from regular work world, as well as in-law world. 

Service was okay - just okay.  Nothing to write home about, and he wasn't very knowledgeable about their wines or top shelf bar items.  The price points, in my opinion, are a little steep, considering portion sizes.  The part of the menu that almost made me stroke out was the side orders.  Mac & cheese, cole slaw, fries, wild rice, any of them - $5 each.  Yeah, American dollars.   Shut the front door!  Do they have a special decoder ring in them?  Are they gemmed with gold bullion?  Will they be spoon-fed to me by an oiled-up immigrant?  Chewed up by my server and spit back into my mouth like I'm a baby bird?   If the answer to any or all of those questions is no, then I can see that we're quite finished here. 

3.5 out of 5 sporks!