the bk blunder...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


i guess technically, it's a restaurant in the fact that it serves something resembling food. not necessarily nutricious, but "food" just the same. this lovely tidbit is more of a horror story than my usual food driven critique.
fast food joints are fast food joints. (with the obvious exception of white castle, which as far as i'm concerned, could be chopping up kittens and/or small children and serving it on those incredibly delicious steamed buns and i would still order a sack!) but you know the rest: the royal family of burgers, the irish mc-grease joints, etc, etc, etc. my local "royal" establishment is quite a gem. i very rarely go there, mostly because of all the shady people that work there. anyway, i go there the other day. my mom was at my house, and asked me to pick up some lunch on the way home. she of course, being my lovely difficult mom, can't just say "get me a #1 with a coke;" she says get me a double cheeseburger (which they don't have anymore) with no lettuce and extra pickles. well, we all now how easily an easy order gets screwed up at the drive-thru, so i knew this was going to be an issue and went inside. so i'm in. this royal establishment, by the way, is a throwback. they don't have the "high tech" computer screens hanging all over the place- they still have the microphone thing. so you order with the counterperson, they type it in their 1970's register and scream your order through the microphone to the apparently deaf and uber-stressed out burgermakers. i ordered. i payed. i waited. and waited. and watched...
i watched the dude making my whoppers with cheese barehand EVERYTHING he needed. no gloves. no tongues. barehand. bun? barehand. burger a.k.a. grease patty? barehand. lettuce? tomato? onion? pickles? BAREHANDED!!! and the worst part, is he saw me watching him. he had to know it was mine as there was no one else in the nastyass joint. he watched me watch him raw-doggin' my burgers and thought nothing of it. the counterguy throws them in a bag, hands them to me and says "have a nice day." i laughed and told him he could keep the manhandled burgers and the money. and to use the money to go buy burger boy some gloves.
now i know what you're thinking... that's not just in south jersey, that's everywhere. and i would say that you are right and wrong. you are right, all similar places do nasty shit like that once in a while. but... you are wrong because at least in north jersey they use some tact and do nasty shit in the walk-ins or in the privacy of the dishpit. not here my friends, not here...

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polly-o cheeseplate...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


i went out to dinner the other night, first time in a while. i felt like eating steak, but didn't feel like cooking one myself. this lovely (sarcastic) island that i live on has a steakhouse that people actually come to from off the island; i'd heard good things. "steaks'r'us" as we'll call it, does good business all year round on an island that is mostly deserted in the off season. i'd only ever been there for drinks, and never to eat, so i figured it was time to give it a try. i went in with two friends of mine, both happen to also work in the industry. we had a few cocktails at the rawbar while waiting for our table, no complaints there. the oysters were great, and the shrimp was not previously frozen. we get to our table and order a cheeseplate while we were checking out the menu deciding on our entrees. the cheeseplate was described by our server as having on it- (i wrote this down on my napkin as soon as the server walked away because i thought it was so funny) "smoky gouda", "salty manchego", "stank blue cheese", and "a special for tonight, fresh mozzarella handmade by the chef". cool, sounds good, and it's all served with grapes and fig preserves and pita crisps. i was excited for this cheesplate, we all were. now although this combination of cheeses is not exactly a combo that i would put out together, they are all great in their own right...you'll see why later. read on my friend, read on... so it comes out. very nicely presented on a wooden cheeseboard, that happens to have a star shaped burn mark on it from being left on a gas burner, but we didn't see that til we finished the plate.
the gouda: was indeed "smoky" as our server so cleverly stated, and was very delicious. a bit nutty, and paired very well with the bottle of 1999 backsberg estate cabernet merlot that we were drinking from south africa. (we later found out that this "smoky gouda" was actually old amsterdam gouda from holland. A )
the manchego: i don't know that the term "salty" would be in any part of the description that i would have used to describe this cheese, but again a great cheese. a bit tangy and very creamy and delicious with the fig preserves. (this, we later found out was queso manchego from cuenca, spain. A again)
the blue cheese: "stank", although a term i might expect a chef or cook to use to describe blue cheese is not, in my opinion, a word that a server should be using to describe any item on a menu. unless maybe you're dining at dick's last resort. as soon as the girl said the word "stank" i immediately thought of a nasty hooker, call me crazy. although it was good for a laugh, the blue cheese turned out to be great. very creamy and naturally pungent, i guess would describe it best. not over powering, but strong flavored. excellent with the green apple slices on the cheese plate. (again, this turned out to be an A cheese. great hill raw milk blue cheese from massachusetts.)
the mozzarella: without a doubt the most laughable part of the evening. before i start, let me say this- mozzarella is not traditionally a cheese that you would see on a cheese plate unless it's smoked or you're at an italian restaurant; nothing on the plate would compliment the "fresh mozzarella" and almost semmed like an afterthought. but nonetheless, we thought maybe this chef was trying something new, making fresh mozz and figured he would throw some on to the cheese plate to get some reactions. it's all good. until we tried it. "fresh"??? try polly-o string cheese. that's what it tasted like. the texture was NOTHING like fresh mozzarella. it looked, and turned out to be, a store bought brick of mozzarella cheese that was cut with a round cookie cutter into a cylinder and then sliced to look like slices of fresh mozzarella. i wonder if anyone was fooled. i'm sure some poor soul thought that it was the most delicious mozz they had ever eaten, as they don't know much about good cheese in these parts. thrown on a pita crisp with a little salt, it tasted like a mini ellio's pizza slice at best. (this turned out to be, thankfully, the only F for the evening.)
long story short, i got my porterhouse steak with porcini demi and broccoli souffle and was very impressed. my friends also enjoyed there steaks and had no other complaints. after finishing up and settling our bill, we left the restaurant and headed to our cars. but on the way, we stopped in the back of the restaurant for a quick smoke while we chatted. a few minutes after standing there, two guys came out of the rear kitchen door for a smoke break as well, one of which the three of us used to work with during my casino days. we went over to chat. the first thing on all of our minds was that mozzarella incident. after a brief hello and introduction to the chef, i came out and said it- "dude, what's with the "fresh mozzarella" on the cheeseplate? it tasted like polly-o." he eagerly admitted that it was. the chef made homemade mozzarella and everytime a cheese plate went out, it came back because the people said that the mozzarella was disgusting, inedible, etc. so they ran to the grocery store, the illustrious shop 'n' bag and picked up shitty mozzarella and the complaints haulted. it wasn't polly-o though, it was white rose. generic mozzarella cheese tastes better than homemade mozz to these people down here in the dirty south of jersey. the chef gave each of the three of us a ball of mozz to take home since he wasn't going to use it in the restaurant, and i must say i was impressed by it. definately better that the polly-o, excuse me, white rose. damn near, and i'm not lying here, some of the best fresh mozz i've ever had. a shame all the work went to waste for the restaurant. need i say more?

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mr. big...

Monday, November 19, 2007


a last minute dinner party the other night sent me in search of shrimp. as you can imagine from previous posts, i had every intent to steer clear of the elustrious shop 'n' bag. besides the fact that i didn't want to kill my guests with some 2 month old "fresh" shrimp from the place, i honestly didn't have time to peel, devain and prepare 15 pounds of shrimp on top of all the other things that i needed to do. so i decided to head over to the wonderous restaurant depot. that's where this story begins... i grabbed an industrial sized shopping cart and headed inside with my list. i grabbed the produce i needed and a couple cans of san marzano tomatoes. oh look! fleur de sel is on sale, so of course i grab a box. i'm almost finished, just need shrimp. so i'm in the frozen seafood area, in case you aren't familiar, the restaurant depot is like a grocery store for restaurants, so everything is big, much better quality than your grocery store, and much more affordable. anyway, i'm not really experienced in the frozen shrimp buying business, so i'm reading the boxes and comparing the brands, when this super-psyched guy comes over and gives me his opinion on which box of shrimp i have to buy. he gives me some pretty believable b.s. about the brands and i decide to take his word for it. then we start talking. 'john' tells me he bought a restaurant a few months ago, a 40 seat italian b.y.o.b. says he uses these frozen shrimp all the time in his place. among other things, he tells me he makes spaghetti sauce, and yes, that's what he called it, from hunt's ketchup and FROZEN TOMATOES! i just kept shaking my head as he excitedly kept on going. little did i know that it was going to get even better. so i asked about his menu, and he tells me that he does everything big. "it's gotta be big, i love everything big!" he continues, thinking that i am uber-impressed with him and his creations and that i'm extremely jealous; "i have 32oz. pork chops and 18-20oz. fish portions and 40 oz. steaks. i told you i like everything big!" he says. i was disgusted. who goes out to dinner and finishes a 32oz. pork chop? that's 2 pounds of pork! 18-20oz. of fish? are you kidding? try 8-12oz. in a real restaurant. i can only imagine his food cost, it's got to be through the roof. he gave me his card and told me to go in for dinner, i think i'll pass. if for no other reason, the guy was annoying. this guy has a complex that he feels he needs to impress people with big, big, big. people who truly appreciate a good meal, are looking for quality, NOT quantity. but maybe i'm wrong, maybe in the 51st state of south jersey, a pound of dog shit tastes better than an ounce of caviar. if that's the case, i stand corrected. today i salute you, mr. giant pork chop cooker...

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the cantaloupe key test...

Sunday, November 18, 2007


sorry that it has been so long since i updated this blog; it's not that i haven't been in contact with anymore culinary retards, i just haven't had the energy to sit down and write. but this, this was just too good to pass up. this episode happened in the same store that the infamous bread incident happened in. the glorious 'shop 'n' bag' of brigantine, new jersey. i was on a trip to buy onions and garlic for my semi-famous roasted garlic and sundried tomato bisque. i'm walking through the produce section looking for where they hid the whole heads of garlic. (apparently in this town there is not much call for fresh garlic, as it's always hidden and that nasty bottled stuff is everywhere you look! polaner can make me jelly anytime they want, but NOT garlic, thanks anyway.) i got frustrated looking for it and broke down and asked the, and i use this term very loosely, 'produce guy' where i could find it. he gave me a strange look, as if to say 'duh, where else would we keep garlic', it's over by the citrus fruit. silly me, what was i thinking? (in fact i was thinking: what a fucking idiot, i gotta get out of this town.) anyway so i go to the citrus fruit/garlic section of the produce department only to find a woman trying to choose a cantaloupe. the first thing that pops into my mind is: why would you buy cantaloupe in the middle of december - then i remind myself that these people don't know any better. then i'm thinking: this lady is going to be disappointed - no matter how she checks the cantaloupe for ripeness. and finally i think to myself: what kind of microwave environment was that cantaloupe grown in. anyway, let me get back to the 'checking for ripeness' issue; that's where this story get's good (as in entertaining!). in my travels of grocery stores, produce vendors and markets, i've seen people, including proffesionals checking the ripeness of melon in many ways. i've seen sniffing of the skin, molesting of the flesh, knocking for that supposedly 'perfect hollow sound', and in one instance i even watched a guy roll honeydew melons across the floor to see if it wobbled as it rolled. (he said "if it wobbles as it rolls, it means that it's juicy and has a high sugar content!?!?") whatever you say mister. that method seems normal compared to what i watched in the brigantine cantaloupe incident. this old lady is standing there, next to the citrus fruit and garlic, looking for the perfect cantaloupe. she's got a cantaloupe in one hand and her car keys in the other. i grabbed my 5 pounds of garlic and stuck around to watch this new technique. i should have left. if i knew what was about to go down, i would have left. she jabs the melon with her car key, spins it around to make a nice little hole, and then scoops out some of the flesh and tastes it from the end of her key. when it didn't pass her 'test' she put it back on the pile (key hole down of course) and moved on to the next. i watched her stab 5 or 6 melons before she decided on one, put it in her cart and walked away. eventually, she realized that i had watched what she had just done, she looked up at me and all i could do was shake my head and walk away. as i walked away, she said quite loudly "if i'm paying $3.99 for a piece of fruit, i want to make sure it's good!" very unlike me, i didn't say anything, i just continued to walk away shaking my head...

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"quality" boxed wine...

Thursday, November 15, 2007


wine. here we go again. i'm in the liquor store picking up a bottle of 'cheap' white wine the other day. i, as most chef's do, keep a bottle in my fridge for cooking. in culinary school, the chef-instructors always told us "never cook with wine that you wouldn't drink." it makes sense. but at the same time, i'm not going to go and make coq au vin with a bottle of opus one. not in your wildest dreams. so i tend to go for the middle of the road; a few steps above sutter home, and a giant leap away from franzia in the box. so i pick up a bottle of cypress chardonnay. i'd had it a few times, it's a good bottle of wine, and it's on sale for $18 - i'm happy. so i'm walking over to pay for my bottle and i overhear these two ladies talking about wine. the one lady has a bottle of beuhler white zin. in her hands, and the other has...not even kidding here...a box of almaden blush wine. the lady with the bottle, (who obviously knows more about the length of my toenails than about wine) asks the other lady if what she has is good to bring to a dinner party. box lady replies..."that's not worth the money, almaden is the best white zin. you can buy." (funny, that's not what she was buying!) she continued..."almaden is the same as sutter home...they just call it almaden because it comes in the economy pack." economy pack? is that what they call box wine? i thought it was called 'white trash gourmet.' i'm not knocking it, i'm guilty of having a box in my fridge once in a while, but even while i'm drinking it, i know that it's shit and shouldn't be called wine. for some odd reason i felt pity on this lady. little miss economy pack wine went over to pay for her goodies and i went back to save the dinner party lady from being totally embarassed upon arrival at her yuppie party. i went over and showed her a nice 'foxy lady blush wine' from hunt country vineyards up in the finger lakes of ny. (beautiful winery and amazing wines, by the way.) $7.99 a bottle, pink gold. i'mnot really an advocate of pink wine, but this shit is outstanding. i explained to her that miss economy pack was spewing bullshit from her lips, and gave her the lowdown on the bottle she was now purchasing, so she could impress her volvo-driving yuppie-buddies at the party. she picked up 3 bottles, thanked me and went on her way. i did my good deed and laughed all the way home. see what i'm dealing with here people? in south jersey box wine = good, bottle = bad. i'm stuck with a whole lot of people who are......whatever the opposite of gourmet is......oh, thats right...'white trash gourmet!'

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"atlantic city style" italian bread...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


italian bread. one of life's simple pleasures. a loaf of good italian bread can be as good as, i don't know, sex or a porterhouse steak. ok, maybe not sex, but it could come in a close second under the right circumstances. in north jersey italian bread was always one of those things that you had to be to the bakery 'in time' for. once the day's loaves were gone you were shit-outta-luck; off to the shop-rite to pick up a loaf of, and i use this term loosely, bread. in complete contrast, in south jersey, it doesn't matter what time you get to the bakery, the bread sucks. it could still be warm, fresh out of the oven and it tastes like hell. i realized this soon after i moved here, but yesterday i finally realized why it sucks. i went to the store yesterday for a loaf of 'italian bread.' i squeeze the loaves to check for the crust and consistency of the center. shit, shit, shit, shit, and so on. every one, shit. i finally find one with some type of crust. i open the bag and inside is, not even joking here, pizza dough stretched into the shape of a baguette. first problem, baguette is french. second problem, if i wanted pizza crust, i'd buy a damn pizza. it was the exact texture of overcooked pizza crust. no thanks. as i'm putting the loaf back in the basket i see on the label it says proudly: "ATLANTIC CITY STYLE ITALIAN LOAF." garbage. this is when i realized that if the area's prideful baked good tastes like hell, and it's their specialty, of course they are not going to know how to make "new york style" well. i've had better new york style bread in wyoming!!! i've had better new york style bread in culinary school, and that was made by some pimple-faced, virgin, freshman 'pastry arts' student...

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