Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rotisserie Project

In between the holidays, work, cooking, and helping Brendan with his smoker rebuild, I've been working on my own little project. I converted an old charcoal grill into a rotisserie. I was reading Mario Batali's new book Italian Grill and there is a whole section on spit roasting. One of the recipes is for a turkey breast that was pounded out thin, stuffed with porchetta seasonings and ground sausage, rolled, then spit roasted. Reading that recipe was all it took for me...I would soon be doing some spit roasting (grilling.) One problem: I don't have a rotisserie. I could just go buy one, but that's boring; so I built one. At the moment I have 6 smoker/grills. So I figured I could take one of those and convert it into a rotisserie. I chose the Brinkman Grill King, it has a big area and was already down at my shop. Next thing I needed was the rotisserie. The grill is 36" long so most replacement spits won't do; I needed to buy a big one. I picked the stainless steel model from Jenn Air. It is over 40" long and will hold up to fifty pounds, perfect. I put that all together and was done...well, for a few days anyway. I got to thinking: everything I own is fueled by charcoal/wood. I don't even have a gas grill. I figured I would make this a propane rotisserie. So I went back out and got the largest burner they had and installed it in the grill. Right over the burner I installed a steel grate, that will be perfect to hold a disposable pan to catch any drippings from the meat while it cooks. I brought it home today and it is ready for some cooking. Whole chickens? Leg of lamb? Mario's turkey porchetta? Whatever I do, I'm sure I'll be taking a picture of it.

Here are some pics from the build:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Christmas Leftovers: Sous Vide Prime Rib Sandwich

Christmas dinner was great. Among other things I cooked a 19 pound prime rib. To me one of the best things about a large piece of meat like that is the inevitable leftovers on the next day. My problem in the past with making a sliced beef sandwich is the reheat. Even in a low oven thinly sliced beef can over cook very quick. It can go from perfectly rare to well done in under a minute. Sometimes I will take the beef and just hit in a a frying pan to sear it up; it would still get over cooked but at least it would add some nice flavor. And there was always the option of a cold beef sandwich, the meat would still be nice and rare, but not everyone likes cold meat. So, how can I get a hot beef sandwich, but keep the meat rare? Yep, sous vide. I sliced the rest of my prime rib very thin and stored in some au jus overnight. Today for lunch I took it out of the fridge and put it into a large freezer bag. I got a sauce pan filled with water and brought it up to 120 degrees...you didn't think I was gonna breakout my immersion circulator for this did you? I kept the water between 120-122 degrees with very low to no heat. While the beef reheated I got some sub rolls and toasted them under the broiler. I sliced them, added some horseradish sauce, and some cheese, and put them back under the broiler. When the cheese was nice and melted I took them out and put the beef in the rolls and served.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

IOU Friday Night Food Porn

Homemade Chex Mix

Some in the Blogosphere feel that I owe them a Friday Night Food Porn pic. I apologize that a tree came crashing down, ripping the power lines from our house and leaving us without power for seven days. In the future I will try to be better prepared and think of my loyal readers instead of worrying about trivial things like freezing pipes, spoiled food, and a shivering dog. :)

In all seriousness I am happy that people actually like our food pics enough to be requesting more. This is some homemade Chex Mix that Kris just made for the holiday season. It's a staple in the Eastman family; she can't remember a Christmas without it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Shrimp Sautéed with Crispy Pancetta Topped with Essence of Shrimp Foam

In addition to reading a lot about sous vide cooking I've also been checking out stuff on molecular gastronomy. Lots of chefs cringe at the words molecular gastronomy but my view is this: all knowledge is good knowledge, you just have to decide what's good for you. I did a lot of reading about MG and most of it was way too scientific for me, but the idea of a foam made sense to me. Basically, get a flavorful liquid, introduce air into it, and make it stay that way. Making the liquid was easy: I simmered the shells from the shrimp with carrots, onion, and celery, strained and set aside while I cooked the shrimp. Getting air into the liquid was easy too: a stick blender on high. Getting the foam to stay a foam, that was the hard part. Most recipes tell you to use a foam canister with No2 charges, agar agar, or lecithin. I checked my pantry and I had none of those things. Since lecithin is mostly fat (it's found naturally in egg yolks) I figured I could substitute with butter. So, I hit the liquid with my stick blender, tossed in several pats of butter, and the next thing you know I had a foam. See, no chemicals, nothing scary, just the science of food.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 5

No power yet. The rest of my street has power but because the tree that fell in my yard ripped the power lines down from the pole, I still have no power. Someone was here today from the power company assessing the damage and he said that we were 'low priority' Cool! :) The good news is that I now have my big generator back from my sisters house. I have 5 generators at my disposal and I spread them out around the neighborhood. So, I took back my 5000 watt generator and hooked it up to the downed power lines...it's safer than it sounds. I'm able to power up my fridge, freezer, heat, some lights, TV, and the computer. We're not out of the woods yet, but getting close.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 4

We're still in the dark here at Lakeside. I'm just happy to have a generator to keep my heat and my freezer on. I'm also very happy that I have been cooking outside on my cast iron pan! Tonight's candlelight dinner: pan seared ham steaks. Sorry no pic. :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice storm

Day three: still no power. It's been a long and cold weekend, but were making the best of it. Full report this week (hopefully).

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'm Such a Dork

It's not too often in life you get to see yourself doing something stupid. But this picture made that very possible for me. I was going to use this picture for a Try This Beer post this week. But with the obvious flawed photography and my dumb reflection in the glass, that post flew out the window.

So here's the scene:
I just opened the Trappist Westvleteren that Jed gave me. It found its way from Belgium into Jed's possession. He aged it for years in his refrigerator; long before he even met me. Over the years we became friends. Jed gives me the beer saying "if anyone would enjoy it the most, it would be you." I store it and wait for the perfect night...So the night gets here, it's cold and has the smell of snow in the air. I take out my favorite tulip glass, pour this beautiful, hard to get, beer that I've never had before, into the glass...and I take it's picture?? What a dork! The thing is I don't just take one picture, I take at least 10. Different positions, different angles, close ups, vertical shots; and all the while I should just be enjoying this gift, not worrying about a blog post! But, there I am, after the first smell and sip writing down notes. Then about half way through the beer it hits me: "...enjoy it the most..." So that's what I did. I put down the pen and paper, I didn't worry about my reflection in the glass, I sat outside on that cold night and sipped and savored this wonderful treasure.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Pan Seared Lamb Chop with Rosemary Salt

Well, I'm sure you saw this one coming; I did allude to cooking some lamb in my last post. Tuesday I went out and picked up a whole lamb loin with the intention of rubbing it, and cooking it on the grill. I went outside to get my grill fired up... but, then something happened: I walked by my cast iron skillet. I just can't stop using it. I have been cooking everything in this pan lately. Kris says that I am in love with it; I think she's right. So, I butchered the loin into seven beautiful chops, rubbed them aggressively with the rosemary salt and fresh cracked pepper. Got the skillet extremely hot on my outdoor propane burner and started searing the lamb chops. The instant they hit the pan an amazing aroma of rosemary wafted through the air. After about 3 minutes a side they took on a nice crust. I finished them off in a 350 degrees oven for about 5 more minutes. They were perfectly rare and had a beautiful fresh rosemary flavor.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Rosemary Salt

I love using fresh herbs from my garden when I cook. I get excited when the chives start to force their way up through the dirt in the early spring. Using fresh leaves of basil on a grilled tomato in the middle of summer tastes amazing. Having beautiful flat leaf parsley, thyme, and oregano late in the fall to use in soups is great. But after a couple of frosty nights our herbs start to die off. I have tried freezing them before they die, that does not work too well. I have tried drying them out in my oven, it was OK, not great. Nothing can replace fresh herbs from the garden, it's something I'll look forward to all winter.

One of the most hearty herbs is rosemary; it can survive into the winter. Yesterday I noticed our rosemary was in abundance, so I decided to harvest a bunch of it. I washed it and removed all the stems and sticks. I put the leaves into a food processor and pulsed a few times to get a rough chop. Then I added an equal amount of salt and processed until it all came together to a nice granulated texture.

I can guarantee there will be some grilled lamb in my very near future...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Definitely Not BBQ

Do I really need another hobby? Do I need another way to cook something? If I want a nice piece of fish do I have to break out this contraption, put it out on the counter, and plug it in? Is that cooking? Yes...yes to all.

I have been reading about sous-vide cooking for a while now. I never thought I would get around to doing it because an immersion circulator can cost around $1000. I don't mind spending a wasteful amount of money on something that I would use; but I can't see myself doing that much sous-vide cooking to warrant such a purchase. But still...I wanted one. Usually, when I get something in my head, the want turns to need, the need turns to obsession, and the obsession turns into reality. And the reality of it all is that I could build one. So, that's what I did. I built this from parts that I already had, and a few that I 'borrowed'. The bottom part of the unit is a commercial food warmer. The top is an overhead stirrer, that I found years ago (because you never know when you'll need an overhead stirrer). The paddle came from an old dairy tank that I salvaged from a junk yard back in my brewing days. I put it all together with some stainless steel angle and threaded rod, and now I have an immersion circulator.

I took it out for a test run yesterday. I was able to hold temps from 120 to 200 degrees for as long as I wanted; the temp fluctuations were within 1-3 degrees. Next time I'll actually put some food in it...does anyone know how long it takes to sous-vide a turkey?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Whole Hog Project

These videos were on Serious Eats this week. (Edit on Monday 11/24/08): These videos were put together by Michael Gebert. It was a true farm to table story following the hogs from birth, to the slaughter house, to the table. It might be a little hard to watch for some, but it is well worth it. We are all a little disconnected from where and how we get our food. But these videos show us the entire process. It's more about celebrating the animal, than it is about just eating it. I know I'll be looking at my pork ribs a little different from now on.

Sky Full of Bacon 05: There Will Be Pork (pt. 1) from Michael Gebert on Vimeo.

Sky Full of Bacon 06: There Will Be Pork (pt. 2) from Michael Gebert on Vimeo.

These videos are here by using the embed code feature from Vimeo

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Smoked Turkey

Well, it's under a week till Thanksgiving, so you knew it was coming. Here is a turkey I smoked a while ago. It was brined for 24 hours, then smoked over apple wood at 350 degrees. I find the high cooking temp produces a better looking and tasting skin. But, by all means, if you have the need to slow smoke a 25 pound bird at 225 degrees overnight, I completely understand!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Next Season

Looks like 2009 is going to be a busy BBQ season; many comps to pick from, new and old. I don’t have all the dates yet, but here is a run down of possible comps in the New England area you'll be able to choose from next year:

Freeze Your Butt Off
The Snowshoe Grilling Challenge
Oyster Bay
Peter’s Pond
Rockin’ Ribfest
Lake Placid
Troy Pig Out
Hudson Valley Ribfest
Celebrate Maine Festival
Norwalk, CT
Harvard Fall Festival
Westport Blues Views and BBQ
Battle of the BBQ Brethren

There is also talk about competitions in Rhode Island, Dover, NH, and Amesbury, MA. The Brookline Backyard BBQ Competition might be happening again this year. Hopefully Grilling on the Bay happens again. And I’m sure I’m forgetting a few more. Not to mention Eggfest, NEBSfest, and judging schools!

So, we now have plenty of comps to pick from. But some of these will have conflicting dates with each other; and, for the average team, it would be impossible to compete in all of them. Next year would be a great time for anyone who is ‘on the fence’ about competing to GET OUT THERE! We need teams next year. Another thing I would love to see next year is the 'team split'. Not a break up, just a temporary split. Some teams out there have 47 members. It would be cool to see how the split teams would do against each other. Uncle Jed’s team could easily split into 5 separate teams. The Bastey Boys and The Bastey Girls, IQue2, I Smell Smoke Also, Transformers and Decepticons, The Cold Cuts...For years now we’ve all been wanting more comps in New England…well, here they are. Now what can we do to make them stick around?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Guest Food Porn

I figured you guys might be getting a little bored of our food pics. So, I thought I'd mix it up a bit and post some 'Guest Food Porn'.

This is a wasabi pea crusted, seared tuna from Brendan. This tasted amazing! It was perfectly salty; and a great spicy crunch gave a nice textural contrast to the rare tuna.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Roasted Vegetable Soup With Puff Pastry

Like I've said before: fall is soup season. Roasting vegetables, making stocks, and simmering that goodness all day long. This soup has all that and puff pastry! The beauty of this soup (or any) is that you can make it a day before you're ready to eat it. Here, I put the soup in small ramekins and placed some rounds of puff pastry on top. In about 10 minutes the pastry has risen and the soup in nice and hot. Perfect for a cold night.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

(Can't Wait To) Try This Beer

After the NEBS BOD meeting Monday night, my good friend Jed handed me a plastic supermarket bag and said "here Mike, open this up when you get home." It felt cold and was in the shape of a bottle. I was intrigued and wanted to open it right there, but I waited. The second I got in the car I opened up the plastic bag: Trappist Westvleteren. In the beer world this is gold! As good as it gets; a true Trappist beer directly from the Abbey. Not Belgian style, but Belgian beer. This beer is exclusive and very difficult to get outside of Belgium. I have never had it...but soon that will change. I don't know when or where I'll be drinking it. All I can think of is that scene from the movie Sideways, when the guy's all alone in the diner drinking his treasured wine out of a plastic cup. Great scene, so much symbolism...come to think of it, today would be a good day to enjoy a Trappist Westvleteren.

So, thanks Jed! You've made this Beer Geek very happy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shameless Plug

Winter will be here soon!
If you like to ski and have $5000 burning a hole in your pocket, check out my brothers invention. It's a ski lift that you can install in your own backyard...well, you need a hill of course.

Grab and Go Rope Tow

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Bi Bim Bop His and Hers

Well, kinda Bi Bim Bop...I used some non traditional items like Thai basil because it tastes great on just about anything.

This is a Korean dish that incorporates marinated beef and vegetables with rice, sprouts, and a fried egg on top. Sometimes called Bi Bim Bap; bap means 'rice', bi bim means 'to mix'. I served mine as dol sot, which means that I put the food in hot stone bowls to serve. In my opinion these bowls make the dish. I crank up my oven to 500 degrees and put the bowls in for about a half an hour. After everything is cooked, mostly stir fried, it is assembled in the stone bowls. The rice goes down first and it sizzles when it hits the hot serving vessel. I build everything up from there with beef, carrots; that one goes to Kris, then I finish mine off with some bean sprouts and a fried egg on top. On the side I serve some Sriracha hot chili sauce and some quick pickled cucumbers.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Try This Beer

Harpoon Glacier Harvest '08

Well, it really should read: you should have tried this beer. Because it's gonna be a tough one to find.

This is part of the Harpoon Brewery's 100 Barrel Series. It's session number 24 and the beer is labeled a Wet Hop Pale Ale. Unlike most beers, which use dried hops, this beer has a generous dose of fresh hops added to it on brew day; the same day the hops are picked. That gives the beer a unique fresh, big hop flavor without too much bitterness. I also got the same pungent freshness in the aroma as well. This beer has a beautiful copper color; and the perfect levels of carbonation produce a small lacy head that dissipates quickly. Mouthfeel was spot on, with light to medium body that gave way to intense hop flavor and a slightly sweet finish. Glacier Harvest weighs in at 6.7% alcohol. It would be a great beer to enjoy while doing some yard work on a cool and crisp November weekend. I just hope I can find some more...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Homemade Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

With today being Halloween, I knew I wanted to put up something on the sweet or dessert side. So here is an oatmeal raisin cookie that Kris baked a little while ago. They were light, chewy, and hot right from the oven. She doesn’t add too much sugar to these cookies because of the sweetness from the raisins. A giant glass of milk and 5 or 6 of these cookies is a great way to settle in to any night, Halloween or not.

Have a safe night.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Breaking News

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale is here!!

'That's breaking news?' I can hear them now.

Yes, yes it is. In my world that's exactly what breaking news should be. As a matter of fact I think we should have an all beer television network and an all BBQ one too. They have about 20 news networks, 5 weather channels, 20 sport stations...they even have a golf channel!!! A whole network for watching golf! But not one BBQ or beer network. I'd be happy with BBQ and beer network. That would be cool; imagine a news report on that station.

"Our top story tonight: Sierra Nevada today released it's winter offering. It's bold, malty, and pleasantly hopped. Full review at eleven." Or: "In BBQ news today: New England teams rocked The Jack and a Jesus sighting at Sayville. More at the top of the hour."

To me, this stuff matters. Breaking news should be about the good things in life. Not hurricanes or the Dow Jones crashing. They have plenty of other outlets for that depressing stuff.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In With a Roar, Out With a Whimper...

That kind of sums up our 2008 BBQ season.

The year started off great this spring with back to back Reserve Grand Championships. One at Peter’s Pond and the other at the New Hampshire State Championship in Merrimac, NH. Momentum was great going into the Troy Pig Out which was a New York State Championship. We finished fourth overall but it was one of our best scores of the season. Even better than that we got a first place in chicken! That made us feel great. We had been working on our chicken for over two years and now we finally had a great call for it. Then I got an email that made my summer: we got into Harpoon!! A team backed out last minute and we were next on the list. This summer could not get any better. Harpoon was one of the most fun contests we had ever been to. Unfortunately, we bombed! We got one call for chicken (of all things) but that was it. We licked our wounds and looked forward to the Hudson Valley Ribfest in New Paltz, NY. We received a second place in chicken, and finished in third place overall. That felt great…but now comes the whimper… Off to the Harvard Fall Festival in September. No Calls! That was the first time in two and a half years we did not get a call. Everything finished just outside tenth place. That one hurt. Even though we bombed Harpoon, we still got a call to the stage and walked away with a ribbon. Next we went to Westport, CT. Fifth place brisket and sixth overall, not bad, not great. The last contest of the season for us was the Battle of the BBQ Brethren in Sayville, NY. Second place ribs, but we tanked chicken. Chicken! Again, the chicken kills us. That dragged our overall score way down.

So, there it is: the good and the bad of our 2008 BBQ season. But, beyond the trophies, the BBQ, the prize money; the sunshine and the rain; I will have all winter to remember the good times with my friends. Years from now when all the trophies are in the attic, I’ll still have the memories of our times on the BBQ circuit…and for that I’m a happy man.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Pan Seared Haddock in a Roasted Tomato Broth
By Kris

A few months ago Mike and I were dining out and he ordered a seared sea bass in a clam broth. He loved it! Being Mike he decided to try and do a variation of that dish. What he created was wonderful. He spent an entire day simmering fresh vegetables into a stock which he used as a base for a roasted tomato broth. Next he pan seared pieces of panko crusted haddock. Then he filled a bowl just so with the tomato broth and nestled the haddock into the flavorful liquid. I have had reoccurring dreams of this dish and request it weekly.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ready for Sayville

This weekend we'll be heading down to Sayville, NY to compete in the 2nd annual Battle of the BBQ Brethren. And we cannot wait! I have been looking forward to this comp all year long. It's kind of bitter sweet because it's a great contest, but it's also the last one of the year for us. We competed last year and had an amazing time. When people ask me what makes a contest great I will always start talking about Sayville 2007. The communication with the teams from the organizers before the contest was great. Getting on site was easy. Cooks dinner and breakfast, ice delivered to your site, trash pick up, calls up to 10th place, great prize money, and it was a charity event for breast cancer awareness. This year promises to be the same.

Kris and I will be getting up real early on Saturday morning and driving down to New London, CT to catch the ferry. The ferry will arrive at Orient Point, NY at the tip of Long Island one and a half hours later. Another one hour drive and we'll be in Sayville getting our site set up. This year we'll be competing against 45 other teams for a New York State Championship. Some are on the heels of a victory, some are overdue for a victory, some are veterans of the circuit, and for some it will be their first comp. But, like I always say 'any team, any Sunday.'

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Potato and Ham Soup

Fall in New England can be beautiful; I love everything about it. But for me the best part is the weather. I love cold nights and sunny, but brisk days. So far that's exactly what's been happening. This weather is perfect for making soup; around here fall is soup season. Nothing can warm up your night more than some homemade, soul satisfying soup.

I've added my own recipe for this soup. I've been working on it for a few years now, and I hope you will try it out yourself. I've used all different types of potatoes with this recipe and I still come back to the russet. In the soup pictured here I used Yukon Gold. Yukon's taste great in this soup but don't hold up as well as a good old russet potato. I think what makes this soup go from good to great is the homemade ham stock...it's worth it.

Making ham stock

1 ham bone
1 large onion quartered
2 celery stocks cut in half
2 carrot cut in half
1 bay leaf

Place all items in a large stock pot with enough cold water to cover the bone and gently bring to a soft boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer for 4 hours. Strain well and set aside.

Making the soup

4 cups ham stock
1 cup chicken stock
3-4 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed about ½" x ½"
2 cups of diced ham (trimmed from ham bone before making stock from it)
1 onion, fine dice
1 celery stock, fine dice
1 carrot, fine dice
4 cloves of garlic, fine dice
1 cup of heavy cream or half and half
Salt and pepper
Fresh chopped parsley

Sweat onions, celery, carrots, and garlic with 3 tablespoons of butter in medium stock pot for about 5-7 minutes. Add cubed uncooked potatoes for about 3-5 more minutes. Deglaze pot with chicken stock, cook for 5 minutes. Add the ham stock and bring to a soft boil. Cook until potatoes are fork tender about 30 minutes. Add diced ham and chopped parsley. Now split the batch in two halves. Use a hand or stick blender on one batch to puree. If you don’t have one you can use a stand blender, just be careful. Add the cream to the puréed halve. Then mix the two batches back together. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley or fresh chopped chives.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Maggie's Summer

One of the first questions we're asked when we get to a competition is "where's Maggie?" Or "are you bringing Maggie?" Most of the comps we did this year allowed dogs, but we only brought her to Peter's Pond. She spent most of her summer in Maine; swimming, sleeping, and playing with her cousin Roxy. We are very fortunate that Kris' parents have a place on Sebago Lake in Maine and love to take Maggie up there. When I'm getting stressed at a comp it's nice that I can think of my dog relaxing on her favorite chair. So, to Al and Phylis: thanks...oh, by the way, what are you doing next weekend?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Portsmouth Gas Light Co.

How Does A Restaurant Who Gets It So Right Get It So Wrong?
By Kris

On the way home from a delightful weekend away in Maine, we stopped off in Portsmouth, NH for lunch. We passed many restaurants, but the sweet smell of smoke from a wood fired grill drew us into Portsmouth Gas Light Co. We were greeted and asked what kind of fare we were interested in, upscale or pizza? Both! We were bewildered when we were told we had to pick one or the other. Upscale fare was upstairs, pizza downstairs. We started off upstairs with beer on tap and crabcakes, paid our bill, then continued the meal downstairs on a separate tab with more beer and pizza. I certainly needed the exercise, but I'm still baffled as to why the waitstaff are banned from carrying a tray of pizza up one set of stairs to satisfy a patron. However, the pizza was well worth the trip to Portsmouth, paying two separate tabs, and a jaunt down the stairs. Let me give you my take on The Gas Light.

Atmosphere. Upstairs was comfortable and slightly upscale pubish. Downstairs was a bar atmosphere. Dark with several large screen TV's showing several different sports games. The kind of place where you stop in for a drink on a Sunday afternoon, then stay for a few more and walk out into the sun like Punxsutawney Phil on groundhog day. The beer on tap was the same on both floors. Mike had one of his favorites, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. While I enjoyed a Long Trail Ale Hefeweizen with a lemon. Which brings me to my next subject.

Garnish. Upstairs the lemons were sliced, while downstairs they were cut into wedges. I find this a simple concept, you cannot squeeze a slice of lemon into your drink. Only the wedge can be grabbed just so as to get all the lovely juice into your drink.

Waitstaff. Upstairs the bartender was sweet, talkative, informative, and attentive. Downstairs the bartender was more interested in his Blackberry and hanging on his girlfriend than serving us.

Food. Upstairs we ordered crabcakes. They were sweet and tasty with pungent red peppers. The cakes were nice and firm with a perfect panko crust. They could have used a bit more crab and a little less filler. Downstairs we tried the wood fired pizza with ricotta, mozzarella, sausage, and pepperoni. This was one of the best pizza's I've ever had. The crust was thin with the perfect mix of crisp on the outside, warm soft dough on the inside, and a hint of sourdough flavor. The pepperoni was sweet and the sausage was caramelized on the outside and had just a slight kick of spice. The sauce was mild with a fresh tomato taste and just a hint of oregano. And the creamy ricotta topped it off with perfection. We ordered fries which are only served upstairs and I was just too full and tired for yet another trip.

All and all this place gets the thumbs up (stairs), but the concept gets the thumbs down (stairs).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

By Kris

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it yet, but I must say that I consider myself a fortunate girl! My husband has many amazing qualities, one of them being that he is a great cook. He can whip up a gourmet dinner like it’s nobody’s business; he will research a dish for a week just to wow me for no particular occasion. He will search from one end of Mass to the other for just the right ingredients for a meal. But, cooking a good burger has eluded him for years. Until now! In his quest for wonderful dinners he sometimes has difficulty keeping it simple. But to me the perfect burger is exactly that – simple. He started with a good ground beef with just the right amount of fat for flavor, added just a pinch of salt and pepper; and then introduced the star of the show, a well seasoned cast iron skillet. After just 3 minutes per side these very palatable patties were perfectly rare on the inside and had a delicious crust surrounding the outside. He just touched the buttered buns on the skillet, and then served.

Finally, the perfect burger!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Try This Beer

Unibroue Quatre Centieme

Well, Unibroue does it again. Another great beer to add to their already impressive line up. To say I like all of the Unibroue beers is an understatement. I crave them, I have a need to drink them, I ponder each sip with curiosity...I know it's just beer...but it's damn good beer!

From the back of the bottle: This exclusively brewed beer honours all those who have made 'joie de vivre' synonymous with this amazing city! This beer is an homage to Quebec City's 400th year anniversary. A city that is on my radar for a beer/food destination!

Unibroue sometimes doesn't put their beer into a particular category. As the case with this one, the label only says ale on lees. That's just means that it's bottle conditioned and is 'on yeast.' So, after uncorking the aroma of yeast was instant. With the first pour I noticed a great spice nose with a little citrus. The color was of yellow wheat and the tiny bubbles sped to the top to produce a white effervescent head. The clove and coriander were dominant with the first sip, then I got a slight wheat flavor that lingered, and it finished with a touch of sweetness. The mouthfeel was slightly thin and crisp with a little more carbonation than most of their beers. With only 7.5% abv it's a very drinkable beer. I would put this beer between a Belgium triple and a Belgium wheat beer. But, more important than that, I would put this beer close to the top of my favorite beer list.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Panko Crusted Scallops with Pancetta Risotto

Sometimes the simple recipes turn out the best. As someone who loves to cook it's sometimes hard to show some restraint. I always want to add a little this and a little of that, do a reduction of something, or do an emulsion, an infusion, or a fancy drizzle of sauce on the plate like the chefs do. Don't get me wrong, I do my fair share of that stuff too. But lately I'm noticing the less I fool with the food, the better it turns out.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Beer Update

“Is the beer ready?” I hear that a lot.


“Well…how long does it take?”

That’s a tough question to answer. I usually tell them, “when it’s ready, we’ll drink it.” It’s kind of the same thing with BBQ, when it’s done it’s done. My friends and family have grown to love and sometimes hate my hobbies.

As some of you know I brewed a batch of beer on August 30th. Certainly one month is enough time to make beer, isn’t it? Yes, it is. Most pale ales can be ready in a couple of weeks. But, on the other hand, some strong lagers can take up to 9 months to fully age. I brewed a double bock once that was 10% alcohol and aged it for more than a year! This hobby takes patience. The beer I brewed in August was a strong ale; it had an original gravity of 1.072. That’s just a simple measurement of sugars in the wort pre fermentation. If fermentation goes well (it did) this beer should finish around 7.5% alcohol. So this beer needs some time to age. Can you drink it now? Sure. But, it will be better in a month, so why not wait? Knowing when to serve the beer is almost as important as the recipe itself. The similarities between BBQ and brewing are remarkable. You can have the best meat, injection, rub, wood, and sauce, but pull that brisket too early…and man does it suck! Well, not suck, but not as good as it could have been. So, yes, theoretically the beer is ready. Will I be serving it anytime soon? No.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Inspired By

By Kris

Where does passion begin? Do we stumble upon a likeable situation that turns into something more? Or do certain childhood situations make way for bigger things? I believe it’s the latter. I think that in the process of nurturing our hearts and souls, our families nurture our passions as well.

One of my fondest and very vivid earliest memories is that of Santa making a late night visit to my home. He brought me an Easy Bake Oven. I know it sounds cliché, but that little plastic appliance started my love of cooking. I looked forward to baking little delights as often as possible. Looking back, I find it very impressive to have turned out such tasty delights from a low wattage light bulb.

Before long I was cooking in the real oven. I longed for the holidays when I could practice my new dishes on my relatives. They raved about anything I made, as families often do. And there they were, fanning the passion flame. My grandmother bought me my first cookbook and passed on stacks of recipes on yellowed index cards. From there I developed specialties. Now when the holidays rolled around I actually had requests! Then I moved onto the family parties. Showers, baptisms, graduations, birthdays, anniversary’s, I cooked for them all. Our gatherings became known for good food in large quantities. When I met Mike he was subjected to my family’s praise of my food. Being the competitive person that he is, he tried and succeeded in out doing me. And so there I was, fanning the passion flame.

Who knew that all that nurturing, praise, and love would lead us to competition BBQ. Thanks for all the support.

In Memory of my Grandmother Edith Eastman

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Night Food Porn

Iron Chef Egg Rolls

Last weekend at the Westport contest we competed in an Iron Chef competition. None of us knew what we were getting for ingredients until 5:30 PM and turn in was at 9:00 PM. After the KCBS cooks meeting the organizer handed out to each team: one pork tenderloin, one zucchini, one sweet potato, and a bottle of Newman's Own Marinade.

Weeks leading up to the contest we were trying to think what we were going to do for Iron Chef. It's very tough to plan a menu when you don't know the ingredients. So our thoughts turned to egg rolls. No matter what they give us, we'll make egg rolls. When we got our items, Kris and I just smiled. Pork, zucchini, and a teriyaki marinade! Yeah, that works. So we matchsticked the sweet potato, zucchini, and some carrots that we brought, and got all that into the marinade. I seasoned the pork and got it grilled off. I braised the veggies in the marinade just enough to soften them up. Kris got the chow mein noodles ready, got out the hot mustard and plum sauce and started to assemble the egg rolls. I got the oil ready in my new cast iron pan over the charcoal fire. This was a little scary. I had lots of people watching and I had a few drinks in me. I made sure the fire extinguisher was close by. I deep fried the egg rolls until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Kris did the beautiful presentation.

After the judging many people were coming out of the tent looking for more egg rolls. Reps, judges, and others were telling us that they tasted awesome. We cooked a bunch so we could share with the other teams around us. People really enjoyed them. Kris and I were very happy with that, but it's a double edged sword. We got our hopes up that we would get a call in the Iron Chef category...we didn't. They finished in 6th place, not bad. But after all the late night hype about the dish it was a little disappointing. Most judges gave it great scores, 2 perfect scores and 2 near perfect ones! But two of them said it was average. Maybe it tasted average, that I can accept. But, getting a 6 (average) for appearance was a tough pill to swallow. But looking back on the whole experience I don't think we would change a thing. We were feeding friends and family deep fried egg rolls cooked over a charcoal fire! A little different, a little dangerous, and one hell of a good time.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Blues Views and BBQ Festival

By Kris
This past weekend we competed in the Blues Views and BBQ Festival in Westport, CT. This was a first time event for organizer, Bob Larose aka Bobby Q, and he got everything right! The contest site was great with the teams set up in a parking lot surrounded by games for the kids and different vendors. We were just a few steps away from the Levitt Pavillion, where a few great bands performed on both Saturday and Sunday. There was a farmers market set up on Sunday with fresh local fruits, veggies, and flowers. From a competitors view this contest was terrific. There was free ice, clean portapotties (very important in my book), eco friendly gift bags containing marinade and bourbon, and a wonderful hot breakfast buffet on Sunday morning. They held an iron chef contest on Saturday night providing all the participating teams with pork loin, sweet potatoes, zucchini, and Newman’s marinade and four hours to create any dish they liked. The vibe during the entire weekend was awesome. I don’t know if it was the fact that we were surrounded by some really fun teams, the weather was fabulous, or that we were all trying to get every ounce out of the last of the BBQ Season, but everyone seemed to have a great time. Mike and I topped the weekend off by spending a well deserved relaxing night at the Westport Inn. We can’t wait to be a part of this contest again next year