Queen Bee Cupcakes – Seaside

You ever have one of those days where nothing seems to be going right?  The day I discovered Queen Bee Cupcakes started off being one of those.  The first sign that I was in trouble came from the weather.  Since the farmer’s market is a good 45 minutes away I had to get up early and leave just after sunrise, yet when I was getting ready to go, it was still dark out.  Upon further review, it was storming out… and not one of those nice little showers, I’m talking gale force winds here, people.  Oh well, I needed to get milk and eggs and by Jove I was going!  I grabbed my black umbrella (no use taking Jess’ pink one as a spare) and trudged out through the soggy grass and pouring rain to the car.  The entire ride up to the market the rain didn’t let up, in fact, it seemed to get harder the closer I got.  Eventually I arrived to find just two lone vendors waiting for me, with me being the only customer.  Luckily the two just happened to be the farms I buy my milk and eggs from, so it wasn’t a total wash.  As soon as I got a few steps from my car, a mighty gust swept up and promptly turned my umbrella inside-out, and snapping two of the metal rods.  Well, looks like I’d be getting a little wet… lovely.

Hail to the Queen...

Hail to the Queen, baby.

While helping Renee from Twin Oaks hold down her tent, we got to talking about the Airstreams I saw lining the street.  She told me that she didn’t know what all of them had, but she pointed to one of them and informed me that she knew that they had cupcakes.  Cupcakes, people!  I’ll admit, I was a little incredulous, to be honest and at best I thought they’d be just a mix from a box… nothing to write home about.  Either way, I was intrigued, so I trudged through the downpour over to the shining silver van.  With the rain falling around me, I purchased and ate what became one of my favorite cupcakes of all time.  I don’t know how, but that cupcake turned the entire day around for me.  I was wet and cold, but standing there eating a salted caramel cupcake while smelling the warm sweet air coming through the window just made me forget all of that.

Queen Bee

Pretty fancy!

Queen Bee

Every. Day.

Queen Bee

Choices...

Queen Bee

...and specials!

Queen Bee Cupcakes stemmed from a simple conversation Jennifer Green (one of the two owners) was having over a couple drinks.  It was noted that while Seaside had many other great shops, it didn’t really have a good place to get dessert.  Over drinks and more discussions the entire plan came into being… Jennifer would sell cupcakes from an airstream parked right along 30A in Seaside.

Queen Bee

Waiting...

Queen Bee

Yes! Real butter!!

Queen Bee

Massive mixer

Queen Bee

Nice oven

Over the course of the next few months, and with a couple delays, Queen Bee Cupcakes opened for business on June 1st, 2009.  Since then they’ve been packing in the customers ranging from the locals, to the yearly visitors, to even British royalty.  As they close in on their first year anniversary I had a few minutes to sit and chat with Jennifer and get a tour of the airstream.  The biggest thing to note is that it is much bigger on the inside than it looks.  The second is that it seems perfectly suited for baking cupcakes with their giant mixer, oven and baking racks.

Queen Bee

How to frost.

Queen Bee

Plenty of room.

Queen Bee

Cupcake, please!

Queen Bee

Mmm... frosting!

When it came to the cupcakes themselves, Jennifer told me that all the recipes were originally perfected at her home and once she started baking in the van she realized that they just wouldn’t work.  The temperature and humidity difference of cooking outside by the ocean completely wrecked her cupcakes and ended up causing her to reformulate every single one.  Luckily she pulled through and came up with a cupcake that is moist and a frosting that stays on top even in the burning sun and salty air.  The other amazing thing to realize is that Jennifer never wanted to open a restaurant… it’s true.  It turns out that her father had a restaurant when she was a child and the family pitched in to work to keep everything up and running.  That amount of stress was something she never wanted to put herself through again and instead focused on marketing.  Even though the work is hard, she told me that she is happy she went through with the idea and started the shop.  It allows her the chance to express her creativity and make people happy… and isn’t that what it’s all about?

Queen Bee

Great advice

Queen Bee

Ooh... sprinkles!

Queen Bee

More frosting...

Queen Bee

If given lemons...

Over the past few months I’ve gotten the chance to sample a good twelve flavors or so and each one is very unique.  They have a set of “everyday favorites” which consists of key lime, chocolate w/ chocolate frosting, chocolate w/ pink vanilla frosting, vanilla w/ chocolate frosting and vanilla w/ pink vanilla frosting.  Along with these, they usually have between one and three “special” cupcakes of the day that range from coconut to vegan chai latte.  You never really know what the special will be and I’ve yet to show up to something I’ve had before.  My top three flavors (so far), in no particular order, are coconut, Italian cream, and salted caramel.  Jess, on the other hand, has only one true love: Coconut.  Not only is it her favorite flavor, she requests a half-dozen if they happen to be the special that day.  I’ll admit, that is one of their best flavors and usually one of the first to sell out when they have them.  Along with cupcakes, Queen Bee also serves up a nice, fresh-squeezed lemonade like mom used to make… how nice is that?

Queen Bee

Oh my...

Queen Bee

Goodness...

Queen Bee

Cupcakes 4ever

Queen Bee

Half done

If you’re ever around the gulf coast, be sure to take a trip over to see Jennifer and the others that help make these awesome snacks.  They’re open from 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, seven days a week… sometimes even earlier, so you have plenty of time to stop by.  So, if you’ve visited the shop, please tell me your favorite cupcake as I’ve not tried them all.  In fact, why doesn’t everyone share their favorite cupcake flavors… perhaps they’ll find themselves being sold in a van down by the ocean.

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Kitchen Witch’s Whoopie Pies

Today is Food Geekery’s One Year Anniversary!  Yep, one year ago today this site came online (though it wasn’t completely live for a couple of months) and over 70 articles later we’re still going strong!  I really want to thank all my readers and twitter followers for being so great as I stumble around the world of food.  I still have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, but I’m learning a lot and that’s the most important thing!  When it came to today, I wasn’t going to do anything special to celebrate, but then, what’s this?

A present?

Perishable is a good sign!

A present?

Spookily tasty!!

A present?

I love little notes like this!

A quite perishable present?  For me?  Whatever could it be?  Kitchen Witch, eh?  Hmmm… I’ve got a very good feeling about this!!  Yes!!  Whoopie pies!!!  Perhaps one of my favorite chocolate “cakes” of all time!!  Courtesy of Casey over at Kitchen Witch.

Whoopie!!

Whoooooopie!!

Whoopie!!

Wow... no artificial ingredients!

Now, a lot of you may know Casey as the woman behind the popular Taste Stopping, but it turns out she’s a bit of a baker!  I’ve talked with her quite a bit and these desserts mean a lot to her.  You see, after she had her first child she started looking at baby food (and other labels) and realized that most of them had very troubling ingredients.  She created Kitchen Witch for other mothers (and people with little free time) to be able to buy their families snack foods without any artificial ingredients, preservatives or hydrogenated oils.  The business takes about 15 – 20 hours from her week (about 2 – 3 hours a day go into mixing, baking, packing, etc), but she doesn’t mind as she enjoys knowing that she can produce healthier alternatives to what lines the store shelves.

So… how are they?  In a word: Awesome!  They remind me of eating Devil Dogs as a kid (you may know of the Suzy Q) and I instantly wanted to sit down and eat the whole bag.  Besides the ingredients (will get into that in a second), one big difference is that these are very filling.  It’s tough to eat more than one of ’em, as opposed to being able to eat multiple of the other snack cakes.  They’re very dense and moist and chocolaty and sweet and everything that a good snack cake should be.  I’ve decided that the best way to eat it is to refrigerate it, then bite off the top layer of chocolate cake, leaving an even proportion of cake and cream (I know, I know… I’m 5, I get it).  Honestly, I’ll be ordering more from her in the future (or maybe some of her other products) as they bring me back to the snacks I had as a kid. Yum… don’t these look just awesome??

Whoopie!

Don't try an eat this, it is just a picture... really.

You know you want some… so, go get ’em here: Kitchen Witch on Etsy

Now, the ingredients… this is the most telling difference between these and what you can buy in a supermarket.  Here we go:

Kitchen Witch Whoopie Pie

Unbleached Wheat Flour (Hard Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin, Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Brown Sugar, Buttermilk, Milk, Unsalted Butter, Shortening (Expreller Pressed Palm Fruit, Soybean, Canola Seed and Olive Oils), Confectioner’s Sugar, Cocoa Powder, Egg, Baking Soda, Salt, Vanilla

Drake’s Devil Dogs

Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening (Contains One or More of: Soybean, Cottonseed, Palm, or Canola Oil), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Dextrose, Corn Syrup, Cocoa, Contains 2% or Less of: Sweet Dairy Whey, Nonfat Milk, Soy Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Soy Protein Isolate, Salt, Leavenings (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Mono and Diglycerides, Sorbitan Monostearate, Polysorbate 60, Propylene Glycol, Egg Whites, Sodium and Calcium Caseinate, Buttermilk, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Propionate, Sorbic Acid and Potassium Sorbate (To Retain Freshness), Caramel Color.

Hostess Suzy Q’s

Sugar, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Ferrous Sulfate (Iron), B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)), Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Contains One or More of: Soybean, Cottonseed or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Dextrose, Corn Syrup, Cocoa, Sweet Dairy Whey. Contains 2% or Less of the Following: Whole Eggs, Modified Corn Starch, Guar Gum, Cellulose Gum, Leavenings (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Cornstarch, Soy Lecithin, Soy Protein Isolate, Polysorbate 60, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Calcium and Sodium Caseinate, Wheat Gluten, Calcium Sulfate, Sorbic Acid (To Retain Freshness).

If that doesn’t sell you, then nothing will. Not only is there a huge difference in the sheer number of ingredients, but you’ll notice that the whoopie pies lacking in the trans fat area.  I will tell you, since refusing to eat trans and interesterified fats (PDF), it has gotten tough to find snacks that aren’t the usual cookies and such.  Sometimes you just need a cream-filled cake, you know?  Luckily it looks like Kitchen Witch is leading the charge and has fired the first shot in the war against man-made fats in snacks!  Honestly, if you’re a fan of snack cakes and haven’t been eating them due to all the trans fats and other stuff in there, give these a shot… you won’t regret it!

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Jennifer James 101 – Albuquerque

So my job sends me away to do site installations every so often and it takes me around the country to places I would have never stopped on my own… because vacations are expensive. While on these trips I am given a set amount of money to eat with… as long as these meals are “free” I make it a point to enjoy some really good local cuisine based on things I’ve heard or seen on the internet, TV, and word of mouth.

This last trip took me through Albuquerque on my way to Clovis, NM. If you get the chance to go to Clovis… skip it, I had a few meals there, and one of them made me sick for the rest of the weekend. If you are from Clovis and you know of somewhere that can prove me wrong, please tell me, I have to go back again. The week of travel was non-stop and I really only spent about four waking hours in the city of Albuquerque. If you have four hours in Albuquerque, I highly recommend spending at least one of them at Jennifer James 101.

Jennifer James 101

Definitely can't miss that now can ya?

Not difficult to find on Menaul Boulevard, the small restaurant welcomes you into a comfortable atmosphere that mixes fine dining with the comfort of your own kitchen… assuming your kitchen houses a current nominee for a James Beard Award.

The restaurant and kitchen seem to blend unnoticeably into each other with only short walls between them. The kitchen in this restaurant is the cleanest kitchen I have ever seen, the place was spotless. And I must say the service was great…  it being a Thursday night, just before close, I ended up being the last guest there. I was able to mingle in the kitchen, asking questions, taking pictures, talking food, and reading FoodGeekery with the staff while my dinner was being prepared.

Jennifer James

The dining room

Jennifer James

View into kitchen

Jennifer James

Jennifer James

Jennifer James

A sudden cameo!

They have a rotating small menu concept with a first course appetizer and a second main course. The responsibility of making a new fresh menu is rotated amongst the staff which includes a teacher of the culinary arts, and a food writer, who was responsible for my dish that night. Local fresh vegetables are used throughout the menu, while fish is flown overnight to the restaurant from the Pacific NW. Being a small place, there is little storage place for large amounts of food… a guarantee of freshness.

The start of your meal there begins with a grandmother’s pickled cucumber recipe. First, don’t think of your average sour dill pickle. These were sweet and delicious, a great start while you talk at the table and wait for your meal. Marinated in a sweet onion sauce, these cucumbers had just enough crunch along with the onions to produce a taste that I literally ate throughout the entire meal.

Being a fan, and a sucker for crab cakes, I started with the dungeness crab cake on top of a grainy mustardioli with a fine herbes salad.  It is honestly one of the best crab cakes I have ever eaten. They were crispy on the outside with fresh lump crab and not full of filler. Seasoned just perfectly, the pan fried cake was complemented with a mustardioli that gave the crab a sharp delicious accent. Fully satisfied with those two components of the dish, I added the herbs to the next bite. The greens really balanced the sharpness of the mustardioli and made each bite better than the last.

Mmm... pickles!

Grandma sure knew her pickles.

Doesn't make me crabby!

This crab cake doesn't make me crabby!

My main dish was a sautéed sea bass on top of a parsnip puree, tatsoi & daikon, with a gingered carrot nage. The color of the greens on top of the puree was vibrant against the background of the bright orange nage. After a discussion about the amount of lime that should be squeezed on top of the dish, it was determined that a quarter lime was just enough to make the sea bass pop without disturbing the mellowness of the parsnip puree. Each ingredient was fresh and delicious. I had never had tatsoi, it was similar, or potentially a type of bok choy. The fish was crispy on the outside and cooked perfectly through the inside. Each component was great on its own, but got better as I started making different combinations with each bite. The nage was just sweet enough to take the parsnip puree to the next level.

Sautéed sea bass

Sautéed sea bass w/ parsnip puree, tatsoi & daikon, and a gingered carrot nage

The serving size was a bit large; I only wish I had the stomach to eat it all… I was notified that there was red velvet cake on the premises. The dessert was again a family recipe and had to be taken to go. It was quickly consumed in front of the TV in my hotel room later than night; the cake was moist and the frosting was not too sweet.

One cake to go!

One slice of awesome to go, please.

Recapping this experience, I must say this is one of the best meals I have ever had. It is very apparent why she is up for the James Beard Award. The food is fresh, beautiful, and delicious. Simply put, go there. Take a friend, bring your appetite, and also say hi to Jennifer for me!

Ed. Note: This is the first post by our newest contributor, Jonathan!  Please wish him well and look forward to future reviews as he gets sent to random cities around the country!

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Around the Web 3

As most of you have probably done yourselves, I’ve happened to stumble on some interesting food-related articles/sites in the past few days and thought I’d share!  All links come with an excerpt, but you should really visit the sites for the full articles.

1. Where is My Milk From?

Many people are interested in finding out where their food comes from. Other people are interested in supporting their local economy. You’d be surprised. Did you know different brands of milk often come from the same dairy – and the same cows? Often, the same dairy provides milk for store and brand names, only differentiating them by their label!  Most dairy products, especially milk have a state and plant code. Go get the milk out of your fridge and, and find out which dairy it comes from.

2.  Why a Big Mac Costs Less Than a Salad

We’ve got a lot of problems when it comes to our food system, but one of them was clearly articulated with a simple graphic. How do food subsidies affect what we’re eating?  [The] graphic was recently published by the Consumerist, with the few words, “This is why you’re fat.”  […]  Thanks to lobbying, Congress chooses to subsidize foods that we’re supposed to eat less of.

3. Trying to Make a Greener Orange Juice

How green is your orange juice? A couple of years ago, PepsiCo, which owns the orange-juice brand Tropicana, tried to size up the carbon footprint of the popular morning tonic. It found that each half-gallon carton of OJ is responsible for 3.75 lbs. of CO2. What was particularly surprising was where much of that CO2 was coming from.

4. Rapid Rise in Seed Prices Draws U.S. Scrutiny

During the depths of the economic crisis last year, the prices for many goods held steady or even dropped. But on American farms, the picture was far different, as farmers watched the price they paid for seeds skyrocket. Corn seed prices rose 32 percent; soybean seeds were up 24 percent. […] The Justice Department began an antitrust investigation of the seed industry last year, with an apparent focus on Monsanto.

5. A Matter of Bad Taste

On March 5, New York State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, introduced  legislation that would “prohibit restaurants from using salt when preparing customers’ meals.” A restaurant would be fined $1,000 each time a chef cooked with salt.

I feel I need to comment about number 5.  If you read the full text of the proposed bill, seen here:  ( Bill A10129 ), it says:

Prohibits the use of salt by restaurants in the preparation of food by restaurants.

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:  To prohibit restaurants from using salt when preparing customers’ meals. Customers will have the discretion to add salt to their own meal after it has been prepared.

JUSTIFICATION:  This legislation will give customers the option to addsalt after the meal has been prepared for them. In this way, consumers have more control over the amount of sodium they intake, and are given
the option to exercise healthier diets and healthier lifestyles.

A report issued by the World Health Organization indicated that three quarters or more of the sodium intake in the United States comes from processed or restaurant foods, Studies have also proven that lowering
the amount of salt people eat, even by small amounts, could reduce cases of heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks as much as reductions in smoking, obesity, and cholesterol levels. The study also stated that if
everyone consumed half a teaspoon less per day, there would be between 54,000 and 99,000 fewer heart attacks each year and between 44,000 and 92,000 fewer deaths.

Now, trust me, I understand where they’re coming from.  Americans eat way too much salt in their diets, but I guarantee it’s not all from restaurants.  I’m all for helping people, but by de-flavoring their food completely I don’t see how you’re helping.  What if these people now over-salt the very bland dishes they are given?  Do you then ban salt all together?  Where does it stop?  Personal responsibility needs to be required.  Example from me:  I don’t eat at restaurants I know to be using TransFats.  Period.  You don’t have to ban them from using it, but make them tell you and make sure the public understands why it is bad.  The end.  That’s all you need to do.

Seriously, people!

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A more stout chicken soup

It was Monday night after a long trip, I hadn’t gone shopping and suddenly it dawned on me: “I need something for lunch, tomorrow!”  This wasn’t good.  I didn’t want to leave the house as I was feeling very lazy and I didn’t even know what I needed.  Nope, this time I’d be eating whatever I could create from my pantry and fridge.  It was my own hellish version of “Chopped.”

Throwing open the fridge I noticed that I had a package of chicken breasts that had been left to thaw for a meal that was never made on Sunday.  Great… got my protein, now I need some veggies.  I pulled out the veggie and fruit drawers to see what was in there to work with.  Yikes… not much there.  I had some carrots, celery, parsley, cilantro, thyme, collard greens and a few lemons.  Well, it’ll do.  I took everything except the cilantro and continued to look around.  Did I have an onion laying around anywhere?  Turns out… no, I didn’t.  However, I did have a large shallot.  Score!  The shallot in hand, I also grabbed a partial bulb of garlic.  Looks like I’ll be making chicken soup!  Grabbing my turmeric it suddenly dawned on me that my chicken stock was still frozen.  While that usually wouldn’t be a problem, I wanted to be in bed at a decent time, so I’d just have to find a replacement flavoring agent.  It was at that moment Jess asked if I could get her a Guinness.  That was it… I’d just use beer!

My lunch.

Sorry 'bout the presentation. Cell phone + work lunch container... still tasty, though!

About an hour later, with my very dark chicken soup in hand, I realized that this was probably one of my greatest “food improv” moment, ever.  So, if you would like to recreate this dish, here for your enjoyment is the recipe.  If you don’t happen to have all the ingredients, just wing it like I did… who knows what’ll happen!!

Ingredient Breakdown:

  • 2 Chicken Breasts, skinless, boneless (about 2 lbs)
  • 2 Large Carrots, sliced thin
  • 2 Celery stalks, diced small
  • 1 Large Shallot (or small onion), diced small
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 2 c Collard Greens (or other leafy green), thick chiffonade
  • 1/2 c Flour
  • 1/4 c Parsley, minced
  • 3 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Thyme, minced
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 1 – 2 Bottles (12 oz) Guinness Extra Stout (or your fave stout)
  • 3 – 4 Bottles of Water (12 oz)
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  • Corn Starch (optional)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

You’ll note the “1 – 2 Bottles Guinness” and “3 – 4 Bottles Water” there.  We’re looking for around 5 bottles of liquid, but it’s up to you to decide how strong you want it.  I went with 1.5 bottles of Guinness (the other half found its way into my stomach somehow) and 3.5 bottles of water.  Also, when I say “bottles of water” I simply mean filling up the beer bottle with water… beats a measuring cup.

Instructions:

  1. Spread flour on a plate, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Coat chicken with flour, tapping off any excess.
  3. Pour olive oil into a large soup pot and heat over medium.
  4. When hot, add chicken to pot. Let cook for 4 minutes, then flip and cook another 4 minutes.
  5. Using tongs, remove chicken to another plate and add the garlic, shallots, carrots and celery to the pot.
  6. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 6 – 8 minutes, then add the turmeric and stir.
  7. Add the chicken back to the pot, add the beer and water, then turn the heat to high.
  8. When it begins to boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for 45 minutes.
  9. While it boils, periodically skim off the “foam” of gunk from the surface.
  10. Remove chicken and put on a plate to cool.
  11. Add greens and thyme then let the soup simmer for another 15 minutes.
  12. Coarsely shred chicken and re-add to the pot.
  13. Turn off the heat, add parsley, then season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

That’s it!  Now, if you want the soup thicker,  remove about 1/2 c of the broth to a separate bowl and mix in 2 Tbs corn starch.  When completely smooth, just re-add to the pot.  All done!  This is a very filling soup and it isn’t filled with rice or noodles or any other fillers.  To be honest, for a completely off the cuff dish, I’m very proud of it.

So, have any of you had a late-night cooking improv that came out with great (or funny) results?

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Gravel Road – Seagrove Beach

Back in Omaha we had a favorite breakfast place… Bailey’s.  Even though I never officially reviewed them on this blog, they were awesome… in fact, the last day we were in Omaha we started off breakfast there, as we did at least a few times a month (I ended up taking photos for a review, so look to one in the future).  Ever since arriving in Florida, Jess and I have been on a quest to find a great breakfast place as Jess loves breakfast to death.  I would say it is probably her favorite meal of the day… if prepared right. So when I was pointed to the breakfast at the Gravel Road restaurant (by one of their sous chefs, no less) while wandering the Farmer’s Market, never being one to hesitate, I finished up my shopping and headed right over.  I grabbed an order of biscuits and gravy to go for Jess and ran back home.

When it comes to biscuits and gravy, Jess is very particular.  She likes the gravy thick, flavorful, white, not greasy and lacking in sausage bits.  The biscuits must be soft, but not mushy and need to have flavor.  Now, when presenting her the dish from the Gravel Road, she wasn’t impressed.  The gravy was thin and full of sausage, but luckily she enjoyed it.  Well, let me correct that.  She liked it as long as you didn’t call it biscuits and gravy.  She said as biscuits and gravy go, it was bad, but if it were called something else and presented to her, it would be great.  I guess you’d have to eat it to understand (or perhaps you’d hafta climb into her head).  Due to her enjoyment, we decided to stop by and do breakfast “properly.”

The first thing you need to know about the Gravel Road is that in its current location (it recently moved), it is very easy to miss.  I blew past it the first time looking for it and you can see why from the photo below:

They need a bigger sign.

They need a bigger sign.

There we go.

Really... needs to be much bigger.

That little sign is the only thing informing you of tasty eats.  Otherwise it looks like just another building.  Well, there is another sign closer to the road, but it is also pretty small.  Either way, memorize this building if you’re gonna visit.  Once you’re inside, you get treated to a warm and inviting dining area and bar (with a view of the kitchen).

View of the bar.

View of the bar.

View of the back.

View of the back.

You may note the ATM in the back (as well as the message on their door)… one slight issue with the Gravel Road is that they take check and cash, but not plastic.  As long as you know this going in, it isn’t an issue… otherwise you’ll be paying a few bucks worth of ATM fees to eat.

The breakfast menu is nice and simple with about a dozen things to choose from, ranging from Eggs Benedict, to pancakes, to a breakfast pizza.

The full breakfast menu.

The breakfast menu... basic, but that's rarely a bad thing.

Since she tried them before, instead of going with the biscuits and gravy, Jess chose the “Eggs on Fire” which is an Eggs Benedict with a soy-sauce marinated steak in place of the ham.  Besides the standard English muffin, eggs and hollandaise, the plate also comes with a side of hash browns and a vegetable medley.

Steak and eggs!

Nothing quite like steak for breakfast, is there?

Instead of choosing from the menu, I decided to go with their special of the day, which was seared Amberjack over Gouda and garlic grits.  This was topped with two eggs, hollandaise and arugula.

The first time I've ever had fish for breakfast.

The first time I've ever had fish for breakfast (and definitely not the last).

Jess loved the vegetable medley and thought the eggs were cooked perfectly (over-medium), but wasn’t a huge fan of the meat.  The slight taste of soy just didn’t quite work with everything, giving it a weird taste that was quite hard to place.  In fact, the meat isn’t advertised as being marinated, she asked the waitress who checked with the chef to figure out why it had the flavor it did.  If it wasn’t marinated, she said that she’d probably get it again, but as it is, she won’t.  This also brings up a little point… if you have allergies or foods you don’t wish to eat, always ask if the food has it.  Jess didn’t think to ask if the steak was marinated and it wasn’t shown as such on the menu.

My dish was amazing… the amberjack was cooked perfectly, wasn’t dry and had a wonderful sear on it.  Like Jess’ dish, the eggs were cooked perfectly (over-medium), and worked amazingly well with the fish.  The gouda-garlic grits had to be my favorite part, though.  They were nice and thick, but not overly cheesy, so the flavor of the grits still showed through.  The arugula added just the perfect bit of bitterness to the entire thing.  To be honest, this is one of the best breakfast dishes I’ve ever had.  I could honestly eat this meal every week.  No lie.  Even Jess liked it… in fact, she actually enjoyed mine over hers and said that it were around next time, she’d get it (if anyone from there is reading… please make this a standard menu item, it’s glorious).  When it came time for the check, the bill for both of our meals (with tax) came to just $25.68… not too shabby for a breakfast that filled us up for quite awhile.  If you care to try it out yourself, here is the address and hours:

Address: 4935 E. Co. Hwy. 30-A, Seagrove Beach (Santa Rosa Beach), FL (click for map)
Hours: 7:00 am – 10:00 pm Mon – Sat, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm Sun

So far, while not perfect, it has been our best breakfast experience since landing in this area.  Also, as breakfast is their newest course (I’ve been told that Gravel Road used to be lunch and dinner only), we’ll have to revisit them later in the day next time.  We’re still on the lookout for the “perfect” biscuits and gravy, so keep your fingers crossed that we find them (and if you have a favorite breakfast place, please share)!

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Chili – Mark I

Nothing helps fix a cold day quite like a bowl of chili, you know? The weather here in Northern Florida continues to stay in the 30’s and 40’s so I needed something pretty warm to keep me going throughout the day as well as fill me up right.  I was digging around my spice cabinet and decided that I would make chili, but instead of using a recipe or “chili powder,” I’d go ahead and make the whole thing from scratch and winging the whole thing.  I admit, this could have gone horribly wrong, but amazingly it came out great.

Chili!

Mmm... chili and chips! A better combo was never invented.

To be completely honest, Jess thinks it could be a tad less spicy, but I do so love the burn, so you’ll notice quite a few peppers in here.  If you make it, feel free to leave ’em out or sub some less spicy ones (example, I use the spicier dried New Mexican Anaheim pepper instead of the more mild Ancho).

The funny thing about this chili is the fact that I ended up adding more ingredients to it than I planned as I had them laying around.  Luckily the whole thing turned out tasting pretty darn good.  Example: Jess was making some salsa and had a leftover tomatillo… into the pot it went.  I also misjudged the amount of beans needed and ended up having to use some garbanzo beans I had to spectacular results.  So, follow along with me as I throw random kitchen ingredients into a pot and somehow emerge with chili!!

Spicy.

Mmm... toasty.

Spices.

A bit o' spices.

Saucy.

Made a mess.

Veggie.

Nice lookin' veg.

Ingredient Breakdown:

  • 6 Chipotle Peppers (dried)
  • 2 New Mexico Peppers (dried)
  • 1 lb Ground Turkey
  • 2 slices Bacon (thick), diced
  • 1 tsp Coriander Seed
  • 2 Whole Cloves
  • 1 tsp Whole Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Allspice berries
  • 1/4″ Cinnamon stick
  • 2 Tbs Cumin
  • 2 tsp Mexican Oregano (dried)
  • 1 tsp Epazote (dried)
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 15oz can Tomatoes (diced), undrained
  • 1 can White Beans
  • 1 can Black Beans
  • 1 can Garbanzo Beans
  • 3 Tbs Tomato Paste
  • 1 Poblano Pepper, diced
  • 1 Medium Onion, diced
  • 1 Tomatillo
  • 1 Carrot, diced (small)
  • 2c Chicken Stock
  • 5 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 Habanero Peppers, minced
  • 3 Serrano Peppers, diced (small)
  • 1 c Corn (frozen or fresh)
  • Chayote Squash, diced
  • Avocado, diced
  • 1/3 c Cilantro (fresh)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions:

  1. Seed, then soak dried peppers in 2c of boiling water for 30 minutes. Use a plate to keep peppers submerged.
  2. Toast coriander, cloves, peppercorn and allspice for 5 minutes over medium heat.  Careful not to let it burn.
  3. Add toasted spiced to spice grinder and pulse until powdered.  Add to other dry spices & reserve.
  4. Add soaked peppers, 1/2 onion, chicken stock and 1/2 tomatoes to blender.  Blend until smooth.
  5. Heat a pot over medium heat and add diced bacon.  Cook until looking crisp, but not burnt.
  6. Add poblano, remaining 1/2 onion, garlic, carrot and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook for 8 min until veggies are softened.
  7. Add habanero, serrano and spice mixture. Cook for one minute, stirring so everything is well coated.
  8. Add turkey and cook for 5 min, or until cooked through.
  9. Add 1 Tbs tomato pastes and 1 cup of sauce from blender. Cook 8 min, or until reduced by 1/3.
  10. Add remaining tomatoes, corn and squash.  Stir and cook another 3 minutes.
  11. Add remaining sauce and beans. Cook another 10 minutes, or until your desired thickness.
  12. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Turn off heat.
  13. Add cilantro, tomatillo and avocado.  Enjoy!

That’s it!  As I mentioned above, many of these ingredients can be changed around or left out and the results would probably still be very tasty!  This is my first time trying to make chili without a recipe, so any advice is welcomed!  On that same note, what’s your favorite chili recipe?

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Garden ’10: Weeks 1 – 4

Tomorrow will be the fourth week since attempting my garden this year.  All I have going so far are peppers, but I plan to get a few other things going here in the future.  During my first gardening attempt last year, I bought 99% of my plants already as seedlings and while that worked out pretty well, I had a problem doing that this year.  You see, while Omaha had a ton of plant nurseries, this area of Florida doesn’t.  Really… I’ve looked.  This means I get to really garden this year, meaning that most everything I grow will be from seed.  The main issue with that is simply that I have absolutely no idea how to grow things from seed. Oh well, guess it’s time to learn, huh?

The first thing I need to do is just decide what I wanted to grow.  After some thought, I decided I really wanted peppers… hot peppers and I have become very close friends.  The second thing I needed were the seeds themselves.  I took a drive out to a few stores and found very little in terms of seed selection, which was very sad.  Then I suddenly had an epiphany!  I have a ton of dried peppers I use when cooking… perhaps the seeds from these will germinate if I plant them!  I started going through the dried peppers I had along with a couple seeds I purchased.  In the end I ended up with:

  • Bell Peppers – Seeds purchased from store, colors unknown.
  • Jalepenos – Peppers were smoked, test to see if the seeds will still germinate.
  • Naga Jolokia – Leftover seeds from peppers I purchased at the Omaha Farmer’s Market last year.
  • Chocolate Habanero – Same with Naga… leftover from Farmer’s Market.
  • Poblano – Seeds taken from dried ancho chiles.
  • Bird’s Eye – Seeds taken from dried peppers simply marked “Thai.”

So, now that I have my seeds, what do I do with them?  I’ll tell you what I should have done: I should have asked someone.  Instead of asking, I decided I’d figure it out I went along.  Another trip down to my local garden center and I grabbed a little seedling starter kit, planted the seeds (on 01/30/10), put the whole thing high up on a shelf near a light.  Perfect, right?  Not quite.

After the first week the first seedlings began sprouting and I was very excited.  By day 16 I had quite a few little seedlings, but a slight problem.  It turns out a normal light, placed about 3 feet above seedling, is just not enough light.  My little plants were all growing very tall, but didn’t really have any leaves. I started worrying that they would fall over, so I ran to my local Internet and started searching.  Turns out the peppers were becoming “leggy” due to the lack of light.  Also, I was beginning to notice some while mold/fungus growing on the soil.  Seems this is due (usually) to lack of air movement.  Of course the room I put these guys in had no ventilation… talk about good planning on my part.  I was beginning to panic and started researching lighting until Jess reminded me that I had an AeroGarden in storage.  Now, I didn’t want to make these peppers grow in the AeroGarden as I had way more peppers than it’d support (also, they’d had already started growing), so I decided to tinker a bit.

Behold… the PepperDome:

Behold!

Behold... the Device!

Hope this works!

Hope this works!

Grow!

Grow baby, grow!

What you see is my AeroGarden unit rigged with some tape so the water doesn’t run, but the lights work.  I have the plants sitting right on top, with foil on the sides to reflect any light (as the tray is a little bigger than the opening for the aerogarden).  The fan over on the right is used in the mornings to move air over the soil so the white stuff goes away (it has worked, believe it or not).  You can see what I meant about the plants, though… very long and skinny.  Jess made fun of my setup, saying that I made a “fort for [my] plants,” and while I disagree on the “fort” part, I do hafta say it looks a little weird.  If this works out this year, perhaps next year I’ll have a better looking setup.  Either way, after 8 days in this new setup you can see how much better the little guys look:

Growin' good now!

Alright! Now we're growin' good!

That was taken this morning, now 27 days into my gardening for this year… not too bad!  You will also notice that the smoked seeds failed to germinate.  This is what I thought, but I had wanted to try and see as some seeds actually will grow better after being smoked (a long shot, but SCIENCE!!).  From the left to the right we have the Naga, Habanero, Thai, Non-Existent Jalapenos, Poblano and Bell.

My watering schedule is about a squeeze from my water bottle every morning.  The water is room temp and has about a capful of plant food added.  The little cloth under the plants catches any excess water (of which there shouldn’t be any), just in case.  The lights are on from around 6:00am to around 9:00pm, giving them a decent 14 – 16 hours of light.  I’ve positioned the lights around 2″ above the plants as instructed by many and now we just wait!  The temperatures outside are still very cold (highs still in the 50’s with lows in the 30’s) and I can’t put these guys outside until the low temps are over 60° F, so they’ll be inside for at least another few weeks.  The hardest part is the waiting, I tells ya!

Wish me luck and stay tuned for updates!!  So what are you guys all growing this season?

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New and improved!

In honor of our upcoming first year anniversary, less than one month away, I’d like to welcome you all to the new and improved Food Geekery!  When first building the site I was in a rush to get it done and didn’t really focus that much on usability… mostly just content.  Unfortunately over time as the site got more and more visitors, I just wasn’t impressed with what I tossed together and decided that it had to go.  While a lot of when existed was fine, there were many things I thought needed a change and this is the culmination of many, many changes.  For those of you who are new (or just don’t remember what the site used to look like), here is a side-by-side of the front page in both the old and new format showing the exact same items:

Compare!

Click to see the full side-by-side comparison.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the old theme has a lot of wasted space, so that just had to go.  I’ve increased the size of the thumbnails (and rounded the edges) as well as increasing the amount of preview text shown.  I did away with the custom excerpt and now it displays the first few lines of the post itself.  I wanted to do that originally, but the way the previous theme was setup it wouldn’t allow it.  Speaking of preview text, I’ve made sure to add it down below where before it only showed the post title.  It isn’t much, but some content is better than none!

One major change with the front page was the doing away with the “Featured Article.”  In the old theme I had a featured article that was displayed at the top, but unfortunately it took away from newer articles.  In the new theme the “featured article” space is reserved for the latest post and is automatically replaced as new posts come around.

Besides front page tweaks and minor cosmetic changes, I also changed the way the search and archives work.  In the old theme they didn’t look the same and had quite a few bugs, so I spent plenty of time fixing them to not only look the same, but be pretty much bug-free.  It now tells you more details about the post instead of just a couple lines and a title.  I’ve added the thumbnail, page views and more.

Inside the posts themselves I didn’t alter too much.  The biggest change was that I removed a lot of the “meaningless” bits and expanded on the (possibly) related posts.  The last major change that took place involved my 404 error page… now instead of just getting an “Error: Page not found” message, you get some options that can help me to fix the issue (if it is on my end) as well as a few suggestions of other pages.  Any help is better than none, right?

One last thing to mention regarding this change is that when working on it, I had a few people take a look to make it compatible with IE6, and unfortunately none of us could get it to work correctly.  I decided that instead of spending any more time on it, I’d make a very basic alternate theme for Internet Explorer 6 only.  You can see below what it looks like, and yes, it is very basic.  I added a warning that their browser is out of date as well as a link to upgrade if they could.  I’m aware that some people can’t due to being in a workplace that doesn’t allow it, but many others just don’t know they’re on an old browser.

IE6

What IE6 sees... scary stuff.

I figure it’s the best of both worlds… the content still exists and I don’t have to waste time (mine and others) on trying to code this to work.  If anyone wants to know how I did it, just let me know.

Last thing regarding the changes… I now have a lot more space on the sidebar, so I would love to exchange links with fellow foodies out there!  If you’d like me to add you to my list of food bloggers, just shoot me a message and we’ll get it done! Thanks for sticking with me for the past year and hopefully you’ll continue to follow along as time goes by!

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Potato emergency!

Let me set the scene.  I just had a long day at the office, Jess is at home, and to be  nice she decided to make dinner so I didn’t have to.  I knew it was some sort of meat pie, but hadn’t exactly read the recipe… it was to be a surprise, I was told.  I’m about 5 minutes to my door and my cell starts ringing.  It’s Jess.  The next words I will never forget: “You need to get home fast.  There is a potato emergency!”  You see, it turns out that one of the instructions was to mash the potatoes after baking.  This is where the problem started.

Fresh from the phone call I run up the stairs, go inside, and set down my things.  Standing in the kitchen, cursing at my food processor, is my lovely wife.  I asked her what happened and she relayed the story back.  She had just taken the potato out of the oven, and even though it wasn’t soft enough, she was sticking to her schedule and that meant it was time to mash.

I’ll pause right here to note this first issue, in that she didn’t bake until the potato was soft… she was cooking on a schedule and if she didn’t move on to the mashing she’d run out of time.  While not a major issue, it didn’t help.  One of the biggest rules of cooking I try to follow is that I’d rather have good food later than bad food now.  In other words, your cooking time needs to be based on the food, not the schedule.  As I said, this wasn’t the primary problem… let’s continue on with the tale.

You see, when Jess couldn’t find a potato masher (as I don’t have one) she decided to use the next best thing, which was (in her mind) the food processor.  I never realized it, but in all the times I’ve mashed potatoes over the years, she never noticed what I used to do it… who knew?  Either way, the potatoes were now whizzing around the food processor on their way to being mashed, or so she thought.  Apparently it started out well, and then the machine started struggling and the blades began moving slower… and slower… and slower.  This is when I walked in and where her story to me ended.  In short, I came in to a food processor filled with glue.  Edible?  Yes.  Tasty?  No.

Believe it or not, one ever told Jess that putting potatoes in a food processor (or blender) will turn them into a very glue-like substance.  Nothing against her, though, as a quick look around online shows a multitude of people who have done the same thing.  Why does this happen?  Well, if you’ve ever played with a “pure” starch like tapioca flour or corn starch, you’d know that just by adding some water the powder will form a very thick and gluey paste.  In fact, you can even make children’s toys (of sorts) with it.  So how does this explain the potatoes demise?  Well, potatoes are full of two things:  Starch and water.  The cells of a potato are full of starch, and as long as they remain intact, nothing happens.  Once the cell walls are torn apart by a very sharp, fast moving blade, the starch rushes out and combines with the liquid already inside the potato. What you’re then left with is, well, glue (a bioadhesive if you wanna get technical).

So why doesn’t this happen when mashing by hand or by using a hand mixer?  While you’re still going to break through the occasional cell wall, you’re nowhere near as good as the fast moving blades and would take a very long time to get there.  If you want great mashed potatoes fast, use a simple hand mixer, otherwise you’re getting book binding.  Delicious.

After explaining to Jess what went wrong, and realizing that there was no way we were going to be eating a meat pie now, I decided to boil up some rice and turn the dish into an Asian fusion sorta thing.  Some fish sauce, chinese eggplant, radish, culantro, soy sauce, chili paste and other fun things were tossed in the pot and it was delectable.  So I luckily made culinary gold out of this lead potato, but you may not be so lucky.  Take it from Jess:

Potato + Blender/Food Processor = Potato Emergency.

So, while we’re on the subject, what kitchen skills/tips have you learned simply by accident?

Posted in Random Thoughts | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Durian – Hail to the King, baby.

When most people think of tropical fruit they think of bananas or mango or even guava… most don’t think of the durian.  To tell the truth, many people in this part of the world have never heard of this fruit, but once you see one, they’re pretty hard to forget. Seriously, check this beast out… it’s like a punk version of a coconut:

Hail to the king, baby.

Hail to the king, baby!

Not only does it look like it could physically hurt you, but anyone who has eaten one will tell you that you shouldn’t open it inside your house.  Ever. You see, the durian has a fragrance about it… a certain air.  How does one put it?  Let’s let Anthony Bourdain, a durian lover, help me out:

“God it stank! It smelled like you’d buried somebody holding a big wheel of Stilton in his arms, then dug him up a few weeks later.”

“Its taste can only be described as…indescribable, something you will either love or despise. […] Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.”

Yes, that is what someone who likes it thinks… so in case you think he’s biased, here’s what Richard Serling has to say:

“[I]ts odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away.”

Oh yeah… are your tastebuds watering yet?  Now, I want to tell you that while the fruit does smell, the taste and texture is something you’ll never come across again.  The texture of the fruit is something like a flan or a pudding: soft and creamy.  The flavor is quite hard to describe… I tasted a ton of tropical flavors that I likened to mango, banana and papaya and other flavors I couldn’t quite make out.  The little downside to eating the fruit is that when swallowing and you breathe in, you suddenly get a smell of the fruit and that may take some getting used to.

When it comes to the smell, I can best describe it as taking a bunch of ripe bananas and delicately setting them on a pile of rotting onions.  While nothing in the smell specifically screams “onion” to me in particular, something in it just triggers that.  Others I talked to didn’t get onion, rather they got a strong cheese.  I assume it is more of an association thing rather than the smell itself… either way, it brings out very interesting responses from people.

Due to the massive scent, scary exterior and awesome texture, durian has taken on the moniker of the “king of fruits” and it is easy to see why.  So, when out looking for some fish sauce, you can understand why I instantly had to buy this after seeing it sitting there… waiting for me.  Upon lifting the thing (using its safe mesh bag) and bringing it to the counter I was greeted with great excitement from the woman up front.  It seems not many people are fans of this fruit and she was hoping that I either was or would become one.  She even went so far as to tell me that if I like it she can get me other things, such as durian cake.  Interesting!

After buying my fruit and taking it home, I sat it on my counter and went about doing some research.  The first thing I wanted to know was: “Why does it have a black spot on it… is it bad?”

Frostbite?

Frostbite?

Digging around told me that it was a cold injury and that many durians purchased in the US will probably have it.  Why?  Well, it seems that the easiest way to transport a durian is to freeze it, then ship it over here and defrost it.  Unfortunately most places still consider it to be “fresh,” but if I took a watermelon, froze it, thawed it and gave it to you, while it’d still be a watermelon, it’d be a little “off” when it came to flavor/texture.  I’m told that the durian is the same way and that the cold actually dampens the smell and, like an avocado, stops it from ripening fully.  That being said, if you want to try one outside of Asia, this is pretty much it. Even though the durian has many, many cultivars, only one is available to the international market… sad, no?

So, what else to do but crack it open, right?  Traditionally you lay the fruit on newspapers, but all I had was line paper… guess it had to do!  I will suggest to you that you do not skip this step, though, as it greatly helps with the cleanup.  The second suggestion, as noted by everyone, is to open it outside.  While you get a little bit of a sweet smell from the outside of the fruit, it really disguises the scent from within.  Using a large kitchen knife I split the beast in two, being careful to not cut myself on the very sharp spines and then leaned down to take a whiff.  Yep… it works as advertised, no missing that scent.  Within a couple minutes the smell spread out from just at the fruit to the entire balcony.  I’m happy that it wasn’t a hot, sunny day or else I have a feeling that many people would be wondering just what I was hacking away at up there.

Karate chop!

Karate chop!

Braaaaainsss!

Braaaaainsss!

For SCIENCE!!

For SCIENCE!!

Do not eat!

Do not eat!

You can see that the fruit surrounds a hard seed, which, unfortunately, I found out is edible if cooked after I had already disposed of them. Next time I’ll have to give that a try.  A quick warning, though… uncooked durian seeds are toxic, so do not eat them raw.  Seriously.

Fresh durian seeds contain […] cyclopropene fatty acids including sterculic, dihydrosterculic and malvalic acids […]. Due to the toxic and perhaps carcinogenic nature of these substances, it would be unwise to ingest uncooked durian seeds.

A fair warning to all of you getting ready to eat one of these: They’re messy. Expect to have your hands covered in fruit while digging it out from the shell and deseeding it.  In fact, many people eat the fruit with their hands, as it really is easier than using a spoon and/or fork.

When you’re all done eating, I’d suggest taking out the remaining seeds, putting the flesh in a baggie, then that in another baggie and either refrigerate (if you plan on eating it the next day) or freeze it.  Be warned, you may need to use a few bags, as the smell actually makes it through the plastic and will quickly make everything smell like durian.  I ended up freezing mine and later in the week I made durian cake (recipe will be coming) with the leftovers.

So, have any of you folks tried durian?  Have you tried it fresh (over in Asia) or thawed elsewhere?  Your thoughts?  Honestly, I think I like it!  It is so unlike anything else that if given the chance, I’d recommend everyone give it a taste!

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Remembering Omaha

Originally this was supposed to be my last post before leaving Omaha.  Unfortunately due to a wedding, car trouble and horrible weather, we had little time, ended up leaving a day early and taking three days to drive what usually takes 20 hours.  More bad luck struck as I lost my Godfather just days after arriving and left to attend his funeral.

Luckily the dust is settling and what was once my last post from Omaha will be my first post from Panama City.  Today I fondly remember some of my favorite food-related places around town.  This list will hopefully help newcomers, visitors and current residents alike.  This list isn’t in any particular order, just as I remember ’em.

Tomato Tomato

Do you need something from the Farmer’s Market, but it’s not Saturday (or it’s the off season)? No worries! Odds are they have it here!  Say “hi” to Jodi, Dallas and all the others for me!

The Boiler Room

I took way too long to eat here, so don’t make that same mistake. This is, perhaps, the greatest restaurant in all of Omaha with a menu that changes daily and a ton of local products.

Frank’s Pizzaria

This is real pizza. The end. All those other places saying they’re NY pizza are lying. Frank is a guy from Brooklyn who makes a perfect pie. Make sure and grab the “white pizza” as it has always been my favorite!

Bailey’s Restaurant (PDF)

When I wasn’t up to cooking breakfast or wanted a quick lunch, this is where I came. Jess says they have the best biscuits and gravy in the entire city. Here’s a tip: On the weekends ask what the soup of the day is as it is never listed.

Shucks Oyster Bar (PDF)

From the people who brought you Bailey’s comes Shucks! Perhaps the freshest fish in the city cooked just wonderfully. I’ve heard they now have two locations!

Sushi Japan Yakiniku Boy

The sushi here was great, but my favorite thing is that they have traditional Japanese food like Oyako Donburi. I wish more places served that!

Omaha Farmer’s Market

Not just food, the Farmer’s Market down in Old Market is an experience.  People busking, lots of random crafts… it’s a great way to spend a few hours.

Village Pointe Farmer’s Market

Want the food with none of the fuss? Come up to Village Pointe.  Almost all the same foods, no crafts, buskers, or anything else separating you from the goodies.

The Tea Smith

My mornings just aren’t right without a blend of Yerba Mate and a black tea of some sort.  The Tea Smith were the suppliers of my wakeup juice and won’t stop being so any time soon. Trivia fact: The owner of Black Sheep Farms is the son of the owner of the Tea Smith.

Village Grinder

How I feel about the Tea Smith is the way Jess felt about Village Grinder.  When I first saw them, I thought they were a sub shop, but it turns out they’re even better. Stop by and try one of their many coffees or baked goods (and make sure you say “hi” to Emily for me!).

Aki Oriental

Every town has that one great Asian market… this is Omaha’s.  Whenever I needed any hard to find ingredient from that mystic of continents I knew they would have it there waiting for me!

Whole Foods

When I couldn’t find my ingredients anywhere else, I always knew I could count on Whole Foods to hook me up.  Jess was partial to their vegan cakes and I was always a fan of their whitefish salad.

There were/are many wonderful food related places in Omaha and I’m truly sad to not have had the pleasure at eating at them all.  Perhaps next time I’m up north I’ll stop by and grab a bite to eat.

Former/Current Omaha residents… what are your favorite food joints?  Did I miss some that others just have to visit?

Posted in Random Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Let’s get moving!

I’m sure more than a few of you have noticed a slight slowdown in the number of updates going on the site. This actually isn’t because I have little to say, rather, it has to do with the fact that I’m moving. That’s right folks, in just a few weeks this blogger will be posting live from sunny Florida, rather than snowy Nebraska. The reason for the move is simple: Got a job offer that was hard to refuse (also, happens to be near my family). This will be a challenge for me, though, as Northwestern Florida isn’t known for its food scene. In fact, I don’t think it has one.

The first thing I looked for was a Whole Foods, but the nearest is 4+ hours away. Yikes. The closest thing I could find was the Fresh Market, but even that is over an hour away. I’ve luckily stumbled upon a few farmer’s market type things, such as Off the Vine and Zen Garden Market, but I dunno how they will work. I also recently got in touch with the people at Twin Oaks Farm and was told that Seaside has a year-round farmer’s market as well (again, about an hour away). We’ll have to play it by ear for the first few months, but hopefully I’ll be able to locate what I consider the necessities:

  • Farm Fresh Eggs
  • Pasture Butter
  • Grass-Fed Beef
  • Locally Grown Produce

If I can locate these things, I’ll be just fine. The other things I need to find are some decent regional markets, namely Asian and Hispanic. Luckily some of the things I’ve grown to love up here (Penzey’s and The Tea Smith) allow you to order online, so I don’t have to miss out.

So, anyone out there know of some great restaurants in the Panama City area? Good places to get local food? If so, please comment and help a soon-to-be transplant out!

Posted in Around the House | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Vosges Bacon Caramel Toffee

While doing my shopping for Thanksgiving at Whole Foods, this week, I didn’t actually think I’d find one of the best taste combinations I’d ever eaten.  As I walked past the big tower of chocolate my eyes instinctively locked in on a word that is, sadly, not often seen outside the meat dept: Bacon.  I almost dismissed it, assuming I had seen Mo’s Bacon Bar, one of my guilty pleasures, but no… this was different.  This was… toffee.

Yes, from the people who graciously brought us the bacon and chocolate candy bar comes the next generation.  Say hello to Vosges Bacon Caramel Toffee… it is pleased to meet you, I’m sure.

Baconated Toffee

Chocolatey baconated toffee goodness

You’ll notice that it not only is a bar of baconated toffee, but that it is also covered in milk chocolate.  I don’t know how the people at Vosges get their ideas, but I need to find a way to make it my own.  They are truly chocolate gods.  From their mouths:

Some combinations seem to be written in the stars. Our sought after Mo’s Bacon Bar was destined to collide with our addicting crunchy toffee. Applewood smoked bacon and Alder wood smoked salt are embedded in our original crisp, buttery toffee. A layer of 41% cacao deep milk chocolate embraces top and bottom. And you thought the Mo’s Bacon Bar and Caramel Toffee were addicting…

So, for the people out there thinking that this is not a wonderful combination I say to you:  Try it.  Just try it.  I promise you, it’s awesome wrapped in a chocolate shell, topped with a bow.  The flavor of the salty pork against the very sweet caramel and rich chocolate just comes together in ways you’d never think possible.  To try and convince you of how great it is, check out this close-up shot:

You can see its bacony soul...

You can see it's bacony soul...

You see, don’t you want to just eat that and never stop?  As Gwen Reyes (Reel Vixen) put it when we discussed it on Twitter:

oh my god, YUM!! I hope they serve that in my heaven

Yeah, it’s that good…

So, what’s your favorite bacon-related candy?

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