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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> lunch

New Ideas with Barbecue

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Yes, barbecue has a great historical tradition and many BBQ cooks use techniques several hundred years old.  That said, you can't keep restaurateurs from experimenting.  Here's what innovative restaurant chefs are doing with barbecue these days.

BBQ Omelet ($9.50): Slow-roasted pulled pork and smoked Gouda cheese folded into an omelet.
--Old Vine Cafe, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Pulled Rib and Brisket Chili ($5.95): Award-winning chili with beef and pork, loaded with sour cream, Cheddar cheese, onions and jalapeños.
BBQ Quesadilla ($9.95): Tortilla stuffed with chopped brisket, pulled pork or chicken, with peppers, onion, Cheddar cheese, Memphis sauce, guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo.
--Old Glory Bar-B-Que, Washington, D.C.

BBQ Spring Rolls ($7.95): Rolled chopped barbecue served with chili glaze.
The North 40 Salad ($9.95): Brisket, Jack cheese, bacon and mesclun greens.
--Jake’s Dixie Roadhouse, Waltham, Mass.

Dixie Chips ($6.95): Tri-color tortilla chips with pulled pork spiced with a blend of chili seasonings and mixed with black beans, corn, barley and tomatoes. Salsa, jalapeños, sour cream and Cheddar cheese top it off.
Bar-B-Q Rueben ($7.50): A traditional Reuben sandwich with a twist: smoked corned beef.
--One-Eyed Jacks Mokehouse Grill, Lockport, N.Y.

Brisket Chowder ($2.99): Slow-cooked brisket, potatoes, green onions and sour cream.
--Brisket Basket, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Lone Spur Pasta ($11.50): Smoked chicken or Cajun shrimp with penne pasta and fajita vegetables in chipotle-Alfredo sauce; served with Texas toast.
--Lone Spur Grill and Bar, Minnetonka, Minn.

Rattler’s Minis ($6.99): Barbecued meatballs or barbecued tri-tip on a freshly baked roll.
--Rattler’s Bar B Que, Santa Clarita, Calif.

Pig Skins ($6.99): Four half potato skins filled with pulled pork, cheese and jalapeños with a side of  barbecue sauce.
--Hog Heaven Open Flame BBQ, multiple locations

BBQ Nachos ($9.95): A huge portion of fresh tortilla chips topped with BBQ beans, Cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, sour cream, guacamole and house-made pico de gallo.
--Southern Hospitality, New York City

Toasted Ravioli “St. Louis Style” ($11.95): ravioli with braised pork and smoked-tomato sauce.
--Blue Smoke, New York City


Am I a Food Elitist?

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: restaurants , lunch

A recent post entitled "How Restaurants Lose Customers," here, generated the most number of page views and comments so far on the new SuperSite Fiery Front Page launched last September.  In one of the comments, John Marks criticizes the post, which of course is his right to do.  But I'm going to briefly discuss his objections.

"What's the problem? Restaurants can serve soup from a can, a bag, powder, or made from scratch." I guess this is true if you like to eat at McDonalds.  I don't, and expect that a restaurant calling itself a "bistro" and offering a soup they call a "St. Clair signature" would make it from scratch.

"Just because you happen to know the brand they are supposed to give you the soup for free?" John misses the point.  I didn't want free soup, I wanted them to address why they were serving me canned soup.

"Here's a clue: restaurants charge more for what they sell than it costs them. It's called capitalism." Thanks for telling me something I never knew before:  that restaurant owners want to make a profit.

"Sure, you can buy the VERY SAME soup at the store, and so what? You are paying for the fuel to heat the soup, the dishwasher, the manager, the atmosphere, the waiter, and all the other things you can't get at home for your $1." Again, John misses the point.  I know all this and I have no objection to restaurants marking things up to make a profit.  But please, mark up the raw ingredients and the chef's time, not a processed soup from a can.

"What they did was neither illegal or unhealthy. You are just being a food elitist with a big ego." I've been called a foodie and a food expert, but never a food elitist.  Am I one, and if so, is this a bad thing?  One definition of elitism holds: "Elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals are members of the elite—a select group of people with outstanding personal abilities, intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes."  Well, then, I guess I am a food elitist rather than a food populist who eats at Burger Doodle.  Jeez, I'm a sinner with a big ego too.  So sue me.


How Restaurants Lose Customers

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: restaurants , recipe , lunch , fiery foods

July 30, 2009

I went to one of my favorite Albuquerque restaurants, St. Clair Winery & Bistro, for lunch and because of what happened, and how I was treated, I will never return.  Before I explain the details, let me say that I am a huge supporter of local restaurants.  For example, I have eaten lunch at The Quarters on Yale about once a week for 35 years.  More about that later.

Today, at the other restaurant, I ordered the soup of the day and a salad.  The salad was wonderful but I had a problem with the soup.  It wasn't the server's fault, so I asked to speak to the manager.  He came over to the table and I introduced myself as the producer of the National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show and the author of more than thirty cookbooks.  He knew who I was.

“I like your restaurant and eat here often,” I told him,  “and I also visit your other restaurant in the southern part of the state.  But when I go to a restaurant, I don't expect to be served soup out of a can.”

His face fell.  Busted!  “What do you mean?”  he asked.

“This soup is Wolfgang Puck's Italian Wedding Soup.  I know because I've eaten it more than a dozen times, and we can buy it for a dollar a can at Big Lots.”

He blushed beet red.  “Uh, sometimes we don't make everything from scratch,” he stammered.  “But we do add stuff to it like wine.”

“Food service products are one thing because the consumer can't buy them,” I explained.  “But a famous chef's soup from a can, heated up for four times the price, is not acceptable.”

“Sorry about that,” he said, backing away.  When I got the check, the soup was still on it.  I paid the bill, thanked and tipped the server and left, never to go back.

What should the manager have done?  At the very least, taken the offending soup off the bill.  At the most, comped the meal, given me a certificate for another lunch, and agreed to take canned soup off their menu.  But he didn't do any of these—obviously an incompetent manager.

Now why have I eaten at The Quarters more than 1,700 times?  Because Connie Nellos knows how to run a restaurant.  The food is good, with substantial portions.  They pour a generous drink.  The servers are well-trained and very nice people.  My wife was a bartender there in the '70s, working her way through graduate school and she made good money.  And Connie takes care of his customers.

One time at lunch at the Quarters, my wife reached for her coat and a splinter from the rough, wooden wall got embedded painfully under her fingernail.  Connie came over, apologized, and said he would take care of all the medical expenses, which was essentially a trip to the emergency room at Presbyterian.  He was a man of his word and paid the bill I gave him later.

That's just one example of what keeps customers coming back.  Food made from scratch is another.

So, how hard is it to make Italian Wedding Soup from scratch?  You decide, from the following recipe, which, of course, I have spiced up.

Spicy Italian Wedding Soup

This Italian-American dish is popular in Ohio and Pennsylvania.  The term “wedding soup” is a mistranslation of the Italian language, minestra maritata (“married soup”), which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together.

1/2 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup minced Italian parsley
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
Garlic hot sauce, such as Tabasco®, to taste

In bowl, combine the meat, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, basil and onion powder; shape into 1/2 inch balls.

In large saucepan, heat the broth to boiling; stir in parsley, orzo pasta, chopped carrot, and the meatballs. Return to boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook at slow boil for 10 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.  Add the hot sauce, stir, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Varies



I went to the South Valley Farmer's Market looking for lettuce, since ours had peaked a month or so ago, and found some beautiful leeks.  But what to do with them?  But then I found a corn chowder recipe in the latest Saveur magazine and realized that I could adapt it and substitute the leeks for the onions, use fresh green chile and corn, which I also purchased there, and make a lunch feast.  Combined with a fresh tomato and cheddar cheese sandwich on gourmet buns, the meal was outstanding and only took an hour to fix, with most of that time spent in cooking the chowder. I know that purists will scold me for cooking a chowder in the summer, but I don't care!

 

4 ears fresh corn, shucked
4 strips bacon, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek (white part only), chopped fine
1 rub celery, chopped fine
1 bay leaf
6 cups milk
2 small red potatoes, quartered
¾ cup chopped New Mexican green chile that has been roasted and peeled, seeds and stems removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 cup chopped fresh basil for garnish

Cut the kernels off the corn and cut the cobs in half.  Reserve.

Heat the bacon in a large pot and fry, stirring occasionally, until it's crisp.  Reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish and leave the remaining bacon in the pot.  Add the butter, thyme, garlic, leek, celery, and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes.

Add the reserved corn kernels and cobs, milk, and potatoes, cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are cooked, about 25 minutes.

Skim any foam off the top, add the green chile, and cook for 2 minutes.  Discard the cobs and the bay leaf.  Transfer 1 cup of the mixture to the blender and puree.  Stir the puree back into the pot, season with salt and pepper, and serve garnished with the basil and reserved bacon.

Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Medium


MJ's Easy Tostada Lunch

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: recipe , lunch , fiery foods

 After a visit to Pro's Ranch Market, which is the closest food experience of Mexico in Albuquerque, Mary Jane pondered what to do with the ultra-crisp, giant tostadas I had bought on a whim tinged with curiosity. She came up with this combo, which is quick, spicy, and utterly delicious. Eat these with your fingers and a dark beer.

 

4 crisp 4-inch tostadas, or whole corn tortillas fried in vegetable oil or baked until crisp
1 cup cooked black beans, mashed
3/4 cup hot bottled salsa, drained
1 1/2 cups chopped leftover brisket, or substitute any cooked meat, chicken, or fish
1 cup grated Mexican manchego cheese, or substitute pepper jack cheese
1 ripe avocado, diced
Shredded romaine lettuce for garnish

Start the broiler in the oven.
Place the tostadas on a baking sheet. Spread the mashed black beans over the tostadas, going to the very edge of each one. In a small pot, combine the salsa and the brisket and heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Cover the black beans with the salsa-brisket mix and spread. Add the cheese and place under the broiler until all the cheese melts and bubbles.
Remove from the oven and top with the avocado and lettuce.
Yield: 4 tostadas
Heat Scale: Medium



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