Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gyudon (Japanese Beef Bowl) - Recipe

RECIPE VERDICT - Make this Japanese staple at home.

I lived in Japan for a couple of years and gyudon is a staple there.  Yoshinoya (now with locations in the United States) was the place to go for a delicious, fast lunch.  The Yoshinoya here in Las Vegas is pretty darn close to its Japanese counterpart, but I live nowhere near one.

Ingredients:
Thinly sliced beef (read below)
1 medium onion
Dashi (read below)
Rice (Nishiki is my house preference)
Shichimi togarashi (red pepper mix) (optional)
Pickled ginger (cut) (optional)

Boil dashi.  Dashi is a very important part of any gyudon.  Dashi is basically a flavorful fish stock even though the final product does not taste fishy.  In my search for dashi, I went to my local Japanese market and asked.  They pointed out a rather expensive bottle that needed to be mixed with sake and mirin.  This is probably what I should have done for the best flavor.  However, I'm cheap and I bought a box of dashi powder.
This box came with 5 packets and no instructions in English or Japanese. 
I'm rather shy when it comes to fish flavored food.  I really did not want to eat fishy beef.  I used 1 packet in 6 cups of water, which might be weaker than it needed to be, but err on the side of caution, I say.  Salt the water.

Bring to a boil and add the onion, cut in half and sliced.  Boil for three minutes and add beef.

The beef has to be sliced super thin (seriously thinner than you are thinking).  Many American butchers can't do it.  Sometimes you can teach them, just have them freeze the beef for an hour or more before slicing and then slice it thinner than they think is possible.  The other option is finding an Asian market.  The beef used for shabu shabu is perfect.  This time I used beef brisket point which is flavorful, but not as delicate.  In the case of gyudon, fatty, marbled meat is a plus.
I have never understood the green plastic garnish.  It's everywhere in Japan. 
Put the beef, slice by slice, into the water.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Serve over rice right away if you are hungry.  If you want more flavor, put in the refrigerator for a couple of hours and reheat.
Traditionally, top gyudon with shichimi togarashi and sliced pickled ginger.  However, these are totally optional and acquired tastes.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Depression Spoons - Recipe

RECIPE VERDICT: A quick, easy dessert to make when making an effort drains you of energy.  Perfect for Golden Girl marathons.
This is all you need....in life.

INGREDIENTS:

Chocolate or chocolate/hazelnut spread
Peanut butter
Spoon
Goat (optional)
Golden Girls marathon

This recipe is a perfect last minute creation that you make as you eat it, just like fondue or teppanyaki.

DIRECTIONS:
Put a desirable amount of peanut butter on spoon.  Dip spoon into chocolate spread.  Enjoy.

Gordon Ramsay's BurGR

VERDICT: A very juicy burger served as dryly as possible that makes you question the very nature of existence in the ambiance of a hospital cafeteria in hell.

This is Gordon Ramsey's burger joint in Planet Hollywood in Vegas.  I don't usually review Strip restaurants, because it is usually overpriced tourist trap fare.  I figure that BurGR would provide, at the very least, a unique burger experience.  I had cousins visiting to watch a hockey game and was given the parameters that they wanted a burger or steak.  It was a perfect opportunity to try BurGR.

First, you are greeted with an artistic wall of fire where you wait to be seated.  Nothing is more welcoming after being in the 115 degree summer heat than a nice hot furnace to stand by.  I guess this is some sort of German existential performance art piece.  You get to experience the horror of Hell's Kitchen.  The pain, the suffering, the agony I suppose only add to the culinary experience.  You must suffer before you know pleasure.
Make sure to be seated in the "No Exit" section for a full sensory experience.
The service was excellent.  I would describe the decor as "newly decorated hospital cafeteria in the seventies".  Which I think is in vogue?  I don't know.  Of course, there are televisions broadcasting all the latest in sports, because the world caters to sports lovers and sports are one of two things you'll ever see on televisions in restaurants.  The only other thing being, of course, menus.

The burgers did take a while, but that was to be expected.  One of my cousins ordered a plain burger with nothing on it, which leads me to believe that he gets the whole German existential culinary experience better than I do.  I got a burger with fancy cheeses on  it.  We also split two orders of fries.  So, 4 burgers, two fries, and three sodas came to over $90.

I have a hard time describing the burger, because it was both good and bad...like life.  This would be ideal if I was taking a course in philosophy, but I wanted an all over good burger, not one sprinkled with the bitter disappointments of a life spent in agonizing self-contemplation.  The meat portion was perfection.  I truly have not had a burger patty done to such high standards ever before.  The bun, however, was dry.  I don't mean just without condiments, I mean dry like it had built-in desiccant.  Any juiciness of the burger was offset by the moisture destroying sponges on the top and bottom.  My saliva was not enough.  I found I needed to down food with water.

The fries were unexceptional.  The garlic Parmesan fries did little in the way of flavor.  They were basically a regular order of fries with a sprinkle of Parmesan and garlic on the top, definitely not worth the extra money.  The fries came with different condiments, one of which was curry ketchup, a staple in many European countries and a condiment that just can't seem to make it in the United States.

I'm mixed as to whether to recommend this restaurant or not.  I feel it's great if you want an expensive total sensory German existential philosophy adventure making you see through the veil-covered illusion that is life.  Or if you got the money, try it once.
BurGR on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pin Kaow

VERDICT: Some food is done very well.  You have to know what to order or you'll be sorry.

Let me start by saying what I don't like at Pin Kaow.  Their curry is not very good.  I don't know what flavor it is that sets me off, but it reminds me of uncooked flour.  I actually can't stand the flavor.  The other thing at Pin Kaow that is horrible is their chicken.  I don't know if they age their chicken before serving it or what.  Their chicken has a strange texture and is quite flavorless, unless, of course, you love the flavor of uncooked flour.
Authentic?  I hope not
Now let's talk about what is good.  Their Thai beef jerky is addicting to the Nth degree.  If you've never had Thai beef jerky, you must try it.  It is one of the best foods in the world.  They take strips of beef and dry them and then, the best part, they deep fry them.  It's served with a sweet and spicy sauce.  It's truly a mouth orgasm that you have to experience.

The other item that I recommend is the Tom Ka Koon, a delicious spicy soup made with coconut milk and shrimp.  The Tom Ka at Pin Kaow has an amazing complex flavor that only comes with good Thai food.  It's another must try.

That's it.  That's all I ever get and all I ever need to get.  As far as I'm concerned, Pin Kaow should change its name to Thai Beef Jerky and Tom Ka Koon store.  Delicious!
Pin Kaow Thai on Urbanspoon

Saffron Flavors of India

VERDICT: Indian food in my neighborhood and almost in my price range.


I have no idea why Indian food is so expensive.  I'm sure it has more to do with supply and demand than actual pricing.  Seriously, a reasonably priced option would do an amazing amount of business in Las Vegas.  It's not like Indian food is gourmet in its native country.

In any case, the majority of Indian fare in Las Vegas is centered around the strip or to the East.  Samosa Factory was my go to restaurant, but is now gone.  I was certain that my joy of Indian food was over, but then luckily Saffron Flavors of India came to occupy a strip mall a mere few blocks from my place.  I can go there everyday.  Or rather I could, if I could afford it.  Despite being in a "not-ideal" location, Saffron has the pricing of a strip adjacent Indian restaurant.  Maybe I'm being a little harsh, it may be a couple bucks cheaper.

Now that I've complained about the price, how is the food?  It's good.  Although, I had a really disappointing lunch buffet when they first opened.  While I haven't risked the buffet again, the dinner is delicious.  They will even make a lamb korma (not on the menu) which is delicious.  The quality of the lamb (or mutton, I'm sure) has not been consistent, but I can't complain.  Their dum mutton biryani is superb and I have to get it every time.

They have you give a number for the amount of spicy that you want.  Little Greg, whom I've trained to tolerate more and more spice, likes it at a 5 or 6.  I prefer 7 or 8, but don't recommend that level on a date unless you don't mind having a runny nose in front of a prospective sexual partner.

Oh, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't mention something about quality Indian food.  If the chef has used the correct spices, it should not give you stomach problems.  In addition, when you leave the restaurant there is a little dish with fennel seeds in it.  Eat a small spoonful to avoid later explosions, if you know what I mean.

Saffron Flavors of India on Urbanspoon

Hummus - Recipe

RECIPE VERDICT:  This recipe has built in flexibility, so every time you make it, it gets better.

I was so overwhelmingly disappointed with hummus recipes online.  They always end up disappointing, but what was I to do?  All I had to go off of is the recipes I find.  They usually don't offer much in the way of variation.  Sometimes the comment section provides different tips, but alas, even those proved fruitless. I even read a comment where someone was upset that their hummus didn't taste like store-bought.  What?????!?!?!?  Store-bought hummus is not the goal!  Store-bought hummus is the hummus you buy because you can't find real hummus.  It's the frozen pizza of hummus.  You don't make pizza at home and then lament when it isn't as good as frozen.  That's crazy.

I was in search of restaurant style hummus or home style hummus (if your home happened to be in the Middle East).  I had given up hope....until...I was in home of a female chef from Israel and saw how she made it.  The secret?  Lots of tahini!  I've only found recipes that have such a minuscule amount of tahini.  I've read comments where people have stated that they put in less tahini, because it overpowered the hummus.  Bah!!!  Bah, I say!!!  Tahini is delicious.  It is the ingredient that makes hummus so addictive.  It is also one of the more expensive ingredients and therefore often omitted from store bought products.

In any case, this chef was making hummus.  She tasted it and decided it needed a little more tahini and proceeded to dump half a large jar of tahini into a large batch of hummus.  The result was undeniable.  I didn't get to see the first part of the recipe, so I don't know if she used canned or fresh garbanzo beans, but I did see everything else that went into it.  I came up with my smaller batch canned version.

This was a thick batch.  Subsequent batches were thinner and to my liking.
 Ingredients:

1 can garbanzo beans and ALL of the liquid in the can (that's right....ALL!)
1 medium sized clove of garlic (I love garlic and honestly, this is all you need)
The juice of one lemon (I don't want lemony hummus.  One is more than enough.  I even might try without.)
A ton of tahini
Olive oil
More olive oil and paprika on top
Sour salt (citric acid)  I don't have this, but the chef used it.  I think it is fine without it.

Put it all in a medium sized food processor and voila.

I prefer my hummus thin.  That's the first hummus I tried and has always been my favorite.  Most recipes call for the a small amount of liquid from the garbanzo bean can.  Nope, put it all in.

For a recipe this size, online recipes call for 1/3 cup tahini.  While I learned from the chef not to measure, I would say that I put about 1 cup of tahini per batch and would feel comfortable adding more.  Tahini is delicious by itself.  I don't mind if a little garbanzo bean gets mixed in with it.  I don't recommend tahini that comes in a can.  It can be notoriously hard to mix once separated and the canned variety separates a lot.  Sometimes, that's all you can find though.  You make do with what you get.

I find that olive oil tastes good by itself.  Using that logic, I drizzle a lot of olive oil into the food processor while blending.  I just make sure that the hummus is a smooth consistency and forms the equivalent of soft peaks.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Great Harvest Bread Co.

VERDICT: Come for the delicious bread, leave for the atmosphere.

I really like Great Harvest Bread Co.  They do regular sliced bread a service, by making it fresh, preservative free and delicious.  The difference between Great Harvest Bread and Panera is dramatic.  Great Harvest shies away from croissants and danishes.  Instead they focus on white, wheat, and various other basic sliced breads.  They are really good though.  It really makes you detest going back to the normal grocery store fodder.  The downfall, as is with quality, is the price, about $5-$6 per loaf.  They also have cookies and a few bready desserts.
Part deux of this review really has to focus on the experience and atmosphere.  First, I was really excited to find a Great Harvest over by my Costco on Decatur.  I forced Greg to pull over and rush in.  However, there was a group of six or so teenage n'er-do-wells also approaching the store at the same time.  I was determined to get to the store before them and told Greg to hurry or they were going to beat us to the door.  He said, "don't worry, they'll eat up the free samples and you'll get a fresh loaf to sample".  He just said that because he is a lollygagger and hates to "pick up the pace".  I must be getting old since I've already used the terms "n'er-do-well" and "lollygagger" in this post.  Anyway, I let the hooligans beat me to the store.

Inside the narrow store, the teenagers turned out to be less of a threat.  It appeared to be closeted gay boys with their Christian-youth-group-approved girlfriends out having a wild time by venturing to the bread store to get a couple of sandwiches and get an inappropriate amount of free samples.  You know, basically being complete rebels.  They were kind of too outwardly excited about their bread samples in a wholesome way, saying things like "I love bread" and "bread rocks".  It was like those Totino pizza roll ads where the kids wax feverishly about their love of frozen food.

This process actually took a long time, giving me an ample amount of time to give Greg the I-told-you-so eye for being a lollygagger.  Something I'm sure he was oblivious to noticing.  During this time, I was also able to look around at all of the customers sitting at tables.  There were quite a few of them.  I would say at least ten people scattered through the sitting area.  Then it struck me as being incredibly odd.  Every single person was facing the counter.  Every single person was not eating, drinking, or talking.  They were just staring at the counter.  I felt this existential feeling like I was starring in Sartre's "No Exit".  They were the audience and I didn't know that I was in the play.  It was bizarre.  I know, I know, I often accuse restaurants of being cults, as in crEATe and the nearby Salad Creations, but I think I'm on to something. It was odd.  I have no idea what is going on there.

In any case, I get the counter with my Dakota wheat bread (sooooo gooood).  I get my choice of free samples and the girl behind the counter offered me the heel of the bread.  Those n'er-do-well, hooligan, gays and their beards stole my chance for a decent sample.  And Greg's lollygagging didn't help either.
Great Harvest Bread Co. on Urbanspoon