Thursday, January 31, 2013

1886 @ The Raymond (Pasadena)


After going to 1886 one weekend to try half of their winter menu cocktails, I couldn't wait to return to finish off their list.  The following weekend, we did just that.     

Standing out to me this time around were the Bank Heist, Admiral's Nightcap and the Old Devil.  And while still good, my least favorites were Tenderheart and Huckleberry Sour.  The Bank Heist came with a bag of loot in the form of chocolate gold coins.  The presentation was cute and funny yet functional when paired with this Scotch cocktail.  I saw a few people not tearing into the gold wrappers while sipping their drink.  Maybe they weren't aware that there was chocolate inside?  Or maybe I wasn't supposed to tear into them?  Oops?  Oh well.  What's done, is done.  Would I do it again?  Unless I'm told otherwise, hell yeah!

I don't think I can go another few months til the release of their spring menu, so I'll probably take someone new along just so I can have some of my new winter favorites one more time.  Then again, when a menu is this good, you hardly need an excuse.  The drinks themselves are reason enough!      


Bank Heist.


Made in Peru.

 Alpine Needle Punch.

 Admiral's Nightcap.

Old Devil.

Huckleberry Sour.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Gobble Gobble Turkey Meatballs


Here's a recipe I made that did come out right.  In years past, for Thanksgiving,  I've grilled turkey, roasted a whole bird in the traditional method, I've made a roast out of the breast and smoked it...  I wanted to do something different this year.  Truthfully, I didn't want anything to do with making food this time around but when I came across this recipe I was all in.  I wanted to contribute at least a little something for our dinner meal but I didn't feel like making a traditional bird.  The only other person making food this time was my little brother but he also didn't want to make a whole bird and he prefers making desserts anyway.  He decided to make the main in the form of a beef roast so that cleared the road for me to make something out of turkey. 

The turkey meatballs aren't exactly a side dish but it's not like we had an appetizer course so who cares.  I wanted to use turkey in some way, to truly make it feel like turkey day Thanksgiving.  This dish did the trick.  Most of the elements of a traditional Thanksgiving meal are here - turkey obviously,  cranberries and the stuffing.  Not shown in the pictures below are a bacon gravy I made and mashed potatoes laced with a cilantro and pepita pesto.  Though the balls and mashed potatoes were sides, I plated the balls on a mound of whipped potatoes, ladled gravy over the top and grated some parmesan over everything to finish the dish.  I was more than happy with how they came out.  If you decide to make them, I guarantee, you will be satisfied too.

Thanksgiving in ball.

This was a fun recipe to make.  With the exception of making my own bread cubes (you can use store bought croutons) and chopping some herbs, this recipe was just a matter of dump, mix and scoop.

The recipe I used came from The Meatball Shop Cookbook.  I haven't tried making anything else from it, but if the rest of the balls are as good as these were, I'd highly recommend the book.

But for now, I'll leave you with the recipe for these beauties.  

Gobble Gobble Turkey Meatballs
(Yields about two dozen)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 lb. ground turkey
2 c. garlic croutons (recipe below) or stuffing cubes
1 c. dried cranberries
2 eggs
¼ c. bread crumbs
2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
2 tsp. salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Drizzle olive oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

2. Combine ground turkey, croutons, cranberries, eggs, bread crumbs, sage, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

3. Roll the mixture into golf ball-size meatballs, packing the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, lining them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should touch.

4. Roast 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°.

5. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.

Garlic Croutons 
(Yields six cups)

1 lg. loaf stale country bread, crusts removed
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c. fresh oregano, finely chopped
¼ c. olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 375°.

2. Tear the bread into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl. Add garlic and oregano and drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently to combine and season with salt.

3. Place the croutons on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Stir and continue to bake until the croutons are golden brown and crunchy, checking and stirring every 5 minutes.

A few things I did that deviated from the original recipe.
  • I added an additional tablespoon of rendered bacon fat to ensure juiciness.
  • I used ground turkey, not ground turkey breast.  So be sure to get dark meat in there.  It will impart more flavor and moisture.
  • I soaked the dried cranberries in cranberry juice to plump em up a little bit.  Again, for added moisture and flavor.
  • I used Panko bread crumbs.  The ball will have a better texture for it.
  • Rather than using stale bread I used a day old loaf and cubed it.  I sauteed the cubes in 4 tablespoons butter while constantly tossing them.   I seasoned them with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, fresh oregano and red pepper flakes. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mesa Grill Yellow Corn Muffins


I had been meaning to delete a few pictures of things I had made that didn't come out quite right.  Today, with me being all under the weather, I thought I'd update my blog.  As I was going through my camera, I came across the pictures I just mentioned.  I didn't plan on posting them.  In fact, I planned on posting some feel-good food in the hopes that I might feel better myself.  In the end, I thought to myself, "what better day than to post this crap?"  I'm feeling crummy now so let's get it all out there.  This post, and the previous one or following one (depending on how you're reading this) are my attempts to cleanse myself of some truly bad food I recently made.  We've all been there; just that I'm one those people that happen to document it.  So here goes - my little mishaps.  Minor, but enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Bobby Flay's Yellow Corn Muffins.

Just a little something I had planned to serve on Thanksgiving.

Having been to Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, having enjoyed countless hours of food tv starring Mr. Flay and having cooked out of his books a few times, I thought I would turn to him again for a simple cornbread.  He hadn't failed me before so why not go back to the old well, right?

With the exception of using blue corn meal, I followed his recipe to a tee.

The result was revoltingly salty.  I don't know what I was thinking, or maybe I was distracted by Thanksgiving football on tv because I've caught glaring mistakes in recipes before but this one snuck right in front under me.  If you'll notice on the recipe, it calls for 4 TEASPOONS OF SALT.  Like I said, I pretty much followed the recipe to a tee.  That's all you need to know.  There was no saving this bread.  Once the salt goes in, it's not coming out.  I tried adding honey to off-set the saltiness and it kinda worked.  But even when the flavor was becoming passable, I knew I couldn't serve these knowing full-well the amount of sodium I had put in them.  I'm pretty sure Bobby Flay's cornbread doesn't come out this salty as I'm sure he doesn't add this amount of salt.  The editor either made a mistake before finalizing the cookbook or Bobby mistakenly gave them a flawed recipe.  #Fail      

Sazerac Cooler Cookies


To save a bit of cash on Christmas gifts, to get back to making things from scratch in the kitchen, to warm up the house during the chilly winter, to make stuff I personally thought I'd enjoy... Those were just some of the reasons I decided to try making Sazerac Cooler Cookies.

 The recipe seemed simple enough.  You have your wet you and your dry.

Cream the butter and sugar along with the elements that make up one of my favorite cocktails.  Once it's thoroughly combined, stir in the dry ingredients.

Scoop into little balls and pat down to flatten them a little.

The recipe called for a 15 minute bake time, but after time was up, the cookies were still doughy.  I put them back in for 10 more minutes and the results were fractionally better.  It was at this point that I decided to eat one and it was also the point where I realized these cookies were gonna suck.  Even after returning them to the oven for another 10 minutest to bake, I knew all was lost.  The baking completely killed any Sazerac flavoring.  The end result was a sugar cookie with no character at all.  I didn't gift these like I had hoped and after eating a few over the course of a couple of days, I just couldn't finish them so I tossed them out.  I wouldn't bother making these cookies again.  Sazerac cookies, my ass!  They were barely decent as far as sugar cookies go; no way I'd recommend making these.  #Fail


Friday, January 25, 2013

Downey Brewing Company (Downey)


Mouette A Trois (3 Seagulls) - Karl Strauss Brewing Co.

A portion of the beer menu.

Delirium Tremens.

 I remember the first time having this at West 4th & Jane just before I started this blog.  I thought to myself, "God damn this is some strong stuff!"  Fast forward to 2013.  That was then, this is now.  It's been about 5 years since I last had it.  My thoughts now are nowhere near what they used to be.  I still liked it but now it read more like good solid beer.  My thoughts before revolved around the high alcohol content.  To me, 8.5% was a lot back then and generally speaking as well.  The craft scene wasn't what it is now.  Just a few years ago, beer with this high alcohol content wasn't readily available.  Now, it's pretty standard.  High now, is over 11%.  Where will be be in just a few years??  I can't wait!

I've noticed since my early drinking days while a student at UCI that I like ranch dressing (when i'm inebriated).  I used to walk across the street from my Cornell Court apartment to the now defunct Dublin's Irish Pub inside of the University Town Center.  I used to be a gambling man and win lose or draw, my housemate Brent and I would walk over and celebrate or drown our sorrows with a round of brews.  I was mostly a Guinness drinker and being that I was in a pub, that was my go-to drink.  Something else I would always get, were wings, fries or chicken strips with ranch dressing.  The ranch was always a must.  Even if I ordered pizza, I'd have ranch on the side.  Funny thing is, I hated their ranch.  It was always so damn runny.  It was probably the most watered down sauce I had ever had.  I was do drunk It was so bad that it would drip all over over you, even if you were careful.  But I didn't care.  I had just won a slew of money or lost a slew of money; what did I care?!  Funniest thing was, staggering home afterwards.  See, Irvine cops had very little do to (being the 3rd safest city the United States the year I enrolled) are smart, they'd arrive right around closing time and nail people soon after they drove off.  I'm Mexican and the dude I was with, was a loud drunk white dude by the name of Brent.  Immediately, we would stand out in a primarily Asian campus - especially when we were together.  Well, whether we were in a drunken stupor or just flat-out pretending, the cops would follow us...just waiting for us to jump in a car so they could haul us off.  Thing is, like I said, we lived less than 3 minutes away - on foot!  Hahaha  Memo 1 - Irvine PD 0.  Anyway, I liked ranch dressing then, I like it now.  Here, I had it with cheap fries and chicken strips - neither of which were made in house - but at least the ranch dressing wasn't watered down. 

 Oh no, not this shit again!  

                   Brewed by selected Breweries?  Hmm, remind me to find out what breweries make their "house beer."  And why call yourself a Brewing Company if you don't brew anything yourself??  I call bullshit.

I had sampled a bit of Lost Abbey's Mayan Apocalypse and liked it so I ordered one.  Something I noticed and hate about their pours, if you are going to serve a 10 ounce or 12 ounce pour, use the proper glassware or get some.  Don't serve me a glass halfway full.  Anyway, I liked this beer enough to get it again.  Thing is, with a name like Judgement Day, how often will this thing be around?  Either way, it reminded me of Mexican hot chocolate because of the cinnamon  and dark chocolate undertones.  Good stuff.  The so-called brewery?  Hmm the jury is still out.  A return visit is warranted.  Soon, very soon.  To the bartender that showed interest enough in my beer inquiry to Google things up, thank you.  To the bartender that tugged on the menu away from under my elbow without asking or apologizing, fuck you.  

Panvimarn (Bellflower)


Seldom do I eat Thai food, so when the opportunity arose, I jumped on it.  I was a bit hesitant at first because of the person that recommended it (Lizzie), but we had no plans that night, so we decided to give it a whirl.

As expected and understood, the beer list left a lot to be desired.

Somehow, the menu didn't make any mention of a gluten-free beer - the beer I just happened to choose.  It didn't bother me, but it would have been nice to know.  The beer was too light for my personal taste, but again, I fully understood why.

Money Bags - Minced chicken breast and tiger shrimp sautéed with herbs and spices and wrapped in wonton skin and deep fried.

Filet Mignon Satay with peanut sauce and cucumber salad.

Larb Long Beach - Minced beef, onions, spicy sauce, Thai herbs and spices. Served with cucumber and baby romaine. 

 I likened this to a lettuce wrap. The larb was delicious with a satisfying heat.  You can get this mild or spicy.  For most people mild will suffice.  I liked this dish so much that I decided then and there, that no matter what I thought of everything else, I'd return for it.

 Beef Jerky - The menu described this as marinated tender beef that has been lightly fried.  But c'mon, it's called beef jerky for a reason. How tender could it be or could it have been?  It is what it is.  Tough meat sprinkled with cilantro and a really good dipping sauce.  If you like beef jerky, like I do, you'll dig this.  Still, I don't think I'd order it I return.  Then again, it wasn't my choice to order it to begin with.  It wasn't bad but there were plenty of other things on the menu I would have chosen before ordering this.  

 Something I would recommend is, not recommending the Spicy Shrimp Curry.  I didn't find it spicy but at least the shrimp were plump and moist.  That aside, the curry didn't do it for me.  Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it, but for whatever reason, I didn't particularly like it.  Then again, like I said before, it's not often I eat Thai food so take it for what it's worth.