Saturday, December 18, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
One of the reasons haven't been updating much is the iPhones unfriendliness to quickly snap out a picture and submit a blog entry (which, I've been doing a lot of via facebook) I'm thinking about moving to wordpress...any thoughts? suggestions? iphone apps?
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
I've been meaning to write a few posts about this subject for a while, but now just getting around to it.
First, let me disclaim: I am a fashion nightmare, a style idiot, and a pop-culture moron. I make no claims that I'm hip on anything fashion related. I also don't really even need to dress well for work like a lot of folks who work in the finance/corporate world.
That said, I feel there are a few essential items every guy must have.
I could put together a bunch of advice, quotes, etc. from people who know more about the subject than me, but trust me, if you work for a living, at some point, I don't care if you are a construction worker or an investment banker, people will look at your shoes.
If you have to wear something other than chucks or slip on vans at work, I'll begin with a nice pair of versatile shoes. Think about it. Shoes are like your mattress, you spend half of your life in them! For most guys, like myself, who don't own 20 pairs of shoes because well, I'm a guy, and I don't think THAT much about my wardrobe. I go for one-size-fits-all-type things.
Now, these could be different for different people. For instance, I wear khaki and/or jeans most of the time--so the shoes I wear most are shoes casual enough for jeans and dressy enough to wear with khaki and a shirt. I also don't actually like wearing sneakers (or tennis shoes for you weirdos who call them that) other than for running. My last pair of 'shoes' (that I wear at least 5 days a week) I've owned for 10 years. I think I paid ~200$ for them at Macy's, and have 1000's of miles on them in probably 10 different countries. Alas, I made a few youthful mistakes that when they finally gave up the ghost, I had to replace with a new pair of shoes. I'm hoping some getting a first job college grad will read this and not make the same mistakes I made.
First my mistakes:
- I bought a 'current trend' style, after 10 years, they were now out of style.
- I bought rubber soles that were not serviceable/replaceable by a cobbler.
I loved those shoes, but they had to go, the newspaper inside just wasn't filling the holes in the sole anymore. It was hard parting with them as we've been through a lot together. I couldn't stand to have that heartbreak with another pair of shoes again so I made a list of some requirements. I thought this through this time. At least I think I did. You tell me.
- Had to work with khaki and jeans, since that's what I wear most.
- Had to be brown/match (see above)
- Had to be a timeless and classic style--I wanted the style to be 'in', 50 years ago as well as 50 years from now.
- Leather, serviceable soles.
- Durable in all weather.
- Finally, made in the USA - Not because I'm a 'crazy made in the USA only nut', but I was a little upset that I couldn't find a pair of new Levi's made in the USA recently, so, for some reason, this was on my list. Perhaps I'll have chance that my 'American' classics won't go away if I support them more. (I can at least try)
My search (and believe me I searched, and searched) brought me to a few choices.
They fit all of the above requirements. (note: A good cobbler and some bespoke/custom shoes made was an option, and I had thought about it, but with the above two options, I couldn't justify the cost compared to the above) Yes, they are still rather expensive (300-700$), but think about it, if my old shoes weren't out of style and had rubber soles, they would have lasted MUCH longer than 10 years. Investment.
You can find 20yr old Alden's on Ebay, and guess what? they still go for $200+ and are in fantastic shape! Believe me, I 'wanted' to go with used shoes, why buy new if there are perfectly good pair of used shoes out there? Well, my toes were hanging out of my shoes, and I couldn't wait around for my size to come up on Ebay. You know where else you can find them? Estate sales of dead rich people...
Between the two, I went with Alden, based purely on trying them on and finding them to be a little better quality and fit for me than the Allen Edmonds.
I went with long wingtips style, because it's timeless, classic and works with both jeans and khakis due to it being really casual.
I went with brown shell cordovan ('cigar' actually) because cordovan leather is durable and more waterproof than calf-skin. This almost doubled the price of the shoes though. For those who don't know Shell Cordovan is horse leather. I won't get into it, but you can read about it here.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Stage Left had a cocktail party/class, wine tasting, and pig roast at Bakers farm in East Brunswick. Great time.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
It doesn't surprise me, yet I don't really understand it. It does bother me enough to warrant a blog post....
WHY can you go to any 'chain' establishment and it be busy, yet next door, better quality and better service can be had, yet it is empty?
Case in point (a few of them): Where I live there are 2 'chain' Italian restaurants...both horribly horrendous...yet, there is a line out the door always, and right between these 2 places are 2 independent Italian restaurants with better food and better service. Yet, they are likely going to go out of business....
Yesterday, I admittedly, have become too lazy to go get my haircut at my usual place which is a few towns over, and have been getting it cut at a big chain by work or another big chain by the gym. Last night I walked into said big chain by the gym, and it they informed me that it was over an hour wait...for a haircut.
I walked over to another place across the street, that I saw a big neon sign undercutting the pricing (looking like 'hey, the chain moved in now we get no business') and I was the ONLY person there. The establishment was owned by an Asian husband and wife who barely spoke English. This guy spend so much time and care cutting my hair that it was one of the best hair cuts I've ever gotten, and I didn't have to hear about what club he was going to that night or any other chatty annoying cosmetology licensed girls bitching about something...and he wanted to charge me but 11$ after all was said and done...
I guess I answered my own question. Laziness....
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich post run today...a little while later, I was a still hungry. It seems over the long weekend we were away, our (2) tomato plants have since departed us. They left about 10 tomato though, so I wanted to get rid of them. (geez, that sounds like I'm aborting them) I grabbed some basil from the pot, a can of cannellini beans, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and some really good extra virgin olive oil, S&P. It made enough for a snack and for lunch tomorrow...
1 14oz can of cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup chopped tomato
...as much basil as you see in the picture? or more...or less...you decide.
~1-2Tbs Extra-virgin olive oil
~1Tbs balsamic vinegar
S&P to taste
Or, more of less of any of the above....to taste, of course..if you have poopy offseason tomatoes, don't bother, use something else in season.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
It now is looking like this....
It will come back together...slowly but surely. It will give me a chance to fix everything that bothered me about it before....
at least the garage is clean now...
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Everyone has them on their menu nowadays...it's usually listed as 'Kobe Beef Sliders' and...if you're going to grind up perfectly good Waygu beef, you're already an asshole.
I made mine with twice-ground chuck, about 80% lean.....loaded up some cabbage on them, topped it with a fried quail egg and some Sriracha sauce on a butter toasted bun.
I loved the cabbage! It sort of made it like a White Manna burger, only with cabbage instead on an overload of onions.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Wow LONG time no post....sorry everyone, my day job has me pretty busy.
We went to Chicago right before Christmas last year and despite it being a blizzard and cold, we absolutely LOVED it. I'd say it's one of the best foodie/culinary city in the US. We also have some friends there so we decided to take a 4 day weekend and call it mini-culinary-getaway, since our new jobs don't let us have an official 'vacation' this year.
We flew out of JFK...not because it's easy or cheap....but because we actually enjoy Jet Blue's terminal 5 dining! Crazy right? but both JFK and Newark have some really good places to catch a bite. In JFK we usually go to 5teak and in Newark there is a nice wine bar I go to. I know this is crazy, and coming from a guy who is a huge spoiled cocktail nut who's very picky...but the bar at 5teak makes the BEST manhattan. They don't do much anything different, so I can't tell you 'what' it is...but it's just...good.
The cheapo plane ticket is worth it JUST to go to Rick Bayless's restaurants. He has three, Xoco, Frontera Grill, and Topolobampo. Last trip we went to all three, this year we only went to Xoco and Frontera Grill as we saved a the higher end dinner for......(surprise I'll tell you down below)
Here are some pictures from Xoco. It's Rick's 'fast food' type place. Imagine what Chipotle SHOULD be like. x100.
Laurie got the same thing, only in a salad...
After lunch I went inside to hit the head and as I'm coming out, guess who's walking by! The MAN himself. Chef Bayless!! I said hi to him, shook his hand and that was that. Little did he know that so far this is my second trip to Chicago, PRIMARILY to JUST visit HIS restaurants!
We didn't fill up too much, because that night, we had a 'special' reservation....ALINEA! 26 'official' courses (more like 30) and wine pairings (~12). 6 hours. we sat down at 7 and didn't leave until around 1am! I was a little apprehensive as 1.) It's expensive. Not that we don't like spending money on food, we spend astronimical amounts for good meals...I'll drop 500$ on a dinner without blinking if the food is good...but the last 'big' dinner in Chicago we had was Charlie Trotter's and at 800$, it was less than good, and actually quite 'bad'. 2.) I'm not the biggest fan of molecular gastronomy (or whatever the cool kids or the anti-cool kids are calling it nowadays.
Well, it was THE most expensive meal I've ever had, but also one of THE best dining experiences I've ever had! We knew it was going to be an awesome experience so we invited another foodie couple to enjoy it with us. I'd say this meal is best done with a 4-top. I won't even get into every detail or I'd have to write a book, so I'll give you the short.
- The staff was awesome - very unpretentious, very knowledgeable, very down to earth, very funny (and they laughed at OUR jokes too). Best line of the night? Staff, after handing Kelvin a bite of something and Kelvin asking what it was 'just put it in your mouth'...Kelvin: 'Oh, I've been to one of THOSE parties before'
- The kitchen was manned by no less than 20 people, possibly more.
- after 26 courses and 12 wines...no matter how 'small' the courses are, that's a good amount of food!
- Chef Achatz made our dessert, not tableside, but tableTOP!
- Best dish? way too many to list a favorite. really. but probably the spring roll with pork belly you made yourself.
- Worst dish? for me, the crab dish, BUT only because I don't care much for crab at all.
I can't even explain the dessert. (well the LAST dessert). 1.) I was a little buzzed by then... 2.) I just can't even explain it...there was liquid, there was smoke, there was nitrogen, there was chocolate, and there was menthol. BUT....it was SO DAMN awesome.
I can't even explain the experience...I know this sounds silly, but I felt like it was the NYC marathon of dining, in all ways.
Here is our menu, if you want to view it. The 'bubbles' are the size of the portion compared to the others...
So what's a guy to do to cure a food coma hangover? Mexican BRUNCH at Frontera Grill!!
We ate brunch, but we really didn't feel like eating a dinner, so we went to The Violet Hour. A speakeasy cocktail bar that serves some great cocktails.
From the outside there is no sign, just a kinda hidden 'door'.
Out last night, we had reservations for another place we went to last time The Publican. It's basically a concept that seems to be the trend in newer restaurants nowadays...casual dining, community type seating, meat, and beer. It was pretty awesome as well. The company was great too!
Funny, 3 seats down...guess who is also dining there? RICK BAYLESS! ha. we know how to pick'em.
Before our flight, we hitched a ride to Chinatown and ate at a place recommended by Joe...Lao Sze Chuan. It was great!
Another Honorable mention, the place we ate at the night we arrived, because they had a late night menu, was the Purple Pig on Magnificent mile....very cool small plates menu and great wine list.
Our only complaint was the food options at O'hare...come on guys, get your act together!
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Ran about 12 miles today, peanut butter (almond butter actually) for lunch, simple roast chicken for dinner....
1 chicken, stuff with lemon, garlic, thyme, on a bed of potatoes in a cast iron skillet in a 425-450 oven....sit on couch while it cooks.
artichokes in the pressure cooker with.....garlic and lemon.....for 20 minutes.
Healthy, (especially the artichokes), easy, and good....this is a once a week staple in our house.
Last night was real bad in NJ....my basement was turning into a lap pool, and we ended up playing 'save the xmas decorations and pile everything high in the soon to be very dark lap-pool basement' all night.'
But, we needed to eat. So, we made Cod and Fava beans steamed in white wine (vermouth).
The electricity was out for 13 hours or so. Sorry for my poor pictures and presentation....ha. I basically put everything in aluminum foil, wrapped it tight, then put it into my dutch oven for a bit.
Oh yeah, I haven't updated for a little while, sorry...the new job and running season has been consuming my life.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
9 Mount Bethel Road Warren, NJ 07059 firstname.lastname@example.org
A 'foodie friend of ours' (you know who you are ;) haha.), invited us to UpRoot on Tuesday. He had been before and had given a good review. A few other friends gave it a good review too, so we had pretty high expectations.
The space, while in a 'strip mall', is fantastic. That strip mall feel goes away as soon as you walk into the door (but take a right after you walk in the door, to find the actual door. The decor in the entrance is neat, but...don't go IN drunk. The bathrooms are a little strange, they reminded me of The Violet Hour in Chicago, no mens or womens, just a few single bathrooms. Awesome decor, but it was a little weird the paper towels were on the exact opposite wall of the sink...
We sat at the corner of the bar, and looked at the cocktail menu. It's a pretty good short list of real cocktails, covering the gammot. I think, like Nicholas in Middletown, that it's going to be hard to get your customers to change from apple-sugar-tini's and cosmos to Sazeracs and Rye cocktails, but kudos for trying, and it's surely a plus for my wife and I.
We saw a Sazerac on the bar menu, which seems to be the quintessential classic cocktail now, and happens to be our favorite cocktail. We've also had the cocktail made for us about 1500 times in 1500 different ways (from Dale DeGroff even). We kinda use it to judge a bar/bartender. Our very nice, and very ambitious bartender with the hip faux-hawk (which I'm sure is a MILF magnet come Thursday night at that place), shook our Sazeracs. eek. A quick prodding and poking, and he realized his mistake and made another that was good. He made a good Manhattan as well.
We had the chickpea and garlic confit (read: hummus) with tortilla chips for a bar snack, it was good.
So far so good...the decor of the place and the bar area is pretty neat. Big area bar, with a lounge area in front of it.
We moved to a table when our friend arrived and got to the ordering. We ordered A LOT of food, and the Sommelier/Maitre'd, we trusted to pick out some good wines.
To start we ordered (quite) a few plates:
Seared scallop with wild boar belly
Salmon Belly with citrus
Lamb stuffed Quail
Cocoa crusted seared tuna
We all (that is, the 3 of us gluttons) each tried everything.
We had an amuse of scallop that was tasty.
The chef, Anthony Bucco, definitely has a strength for cooking seafood. Honestly, I'm not a seafood eater. I don't really enjoy shrimp, lobster, etc. I think I've ordered by choice, a seafood dish on a menu, maybe 5 times in my life, but I can say that the seafood dishes were outstanding and better than the others, in my opinion. The seared scallop dish, was the best dish of the night for all of us. The salmon belly, which I actually DISLIKE salmon, was sous-vided perfect and was second best dish for me. The wine that the Sommelier paired the first course with, 'a Chenin Blanc from the Anjou appelation of the Loire Valley', was perfect and stood up to everything.
For mains, we had:
Red Snapper (can't remember the rest of the dish)
Prosciutto wrapped Cod
Roasted and Confit duck
Again, the seafood was the winner as Laurie LOVED the wrapped cod dish. She wasn't even sure exactly all the components of he dish, but she's still talking about it. My duck was good, and prepared well, but not nearly as good as the other two dishes. Our main was paired with a Burgundy, a Pinot Noir from Gevrey Chambertain Burgundy, that went fantastic too. Our new years resolution is to learn more about wine, as we drink so damn much of it. Our friend is a wine guy, but we let the Sommelier choose the pairings and they were fantastic. With Sommeliers like that, I wish everyone was that good, then I could scrap that resolution...he was quite knowledgeable, and our wines were reasonably priced. Kudos on that end, as it's one less thing I need to think about when I order. The wine list was extensive and seemed to have some really neat/different wines on it.
Service was great, and non-intrusive in clearing the plates. Everything came out at a good time, spaced perfectly. The plating was very nice. If I had to gripe about one thing, it would be the pretty microscopic 3 dots of garnished sauce on some plates.
Icecream and sorbet tasting
Frozen pineapple souffle
Carrot cake twinkie.
The carrot cake twinkie won out. Very awesome. The pineapple
All in all, shit...I may be a seafood eater now. Aside from the screw up with the cocktail, and a few dots on a plate which I had to dig deep to gripe about, this place was pretty awesome. We heard some questionable 'lounge' type music going on towards the end of the night, but were assured it was simply an experiment and would never be played again. ever......ever....
I'm not sure what the check came out to actually, Ill have to check, it was comparable to any other fine dining place, but well worth it.
They certainly seem to 'know' fine dining, rather than just a few random people who want to have a fine dining restaurant. [b]Highly recommended.[/b]
I know it's kinda passe to 'compare' restaurants/chefs, etc...in reviews, but screw it, I'm not a reviewer, I'm just a dude who loves to eat.....this place's atmosphere reminded me of Elements in Princeton but with fantastic food, Sommelier, and service, that was of Nicholas caliber.
I've been having some pretty good dining experiences as of late, 2010 looks like it's going to be a good year.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Tonight, I was going to cook a recipe for my other project, Cooking my way through Nicholas - The Cookbook. In the grocery store, we started thinking about tomorrows lunch and dinner and since I had made some homemade chili powder, my wife said 'we should just make some chicken taco's tomorrow with your chili powder'. That turned into 'we should make it shredded chicken, and braise it!' (Oh, the life of a foodie). I had everything, but the chicken, so the plan was to make the chicken tonight, and then reheat it for tomorrow. Well, the dish smelled so good, that we scrapped making anything else, and ate it tonight.
We recently took a trip to Chicago, on a purely culinary getaway. Our only goal was to eat at every single Rick Bayless place, and we did. Awesome. Food. Pictures of the trip can be found here. I've been inspired by Diane Kennedy and Rick Bayless since I started learning how to cook a few years ago. Mexican flavors (side by side with Indian) are my absolute favorite.
This is one of the few recipes I can say that I 'created' myself, and I'm proud of it. I can't think of a name for it, so if anyone has any suggestions, I'm open. For now I'll call it...
'Wish I was in Oaxaca' Chicken
Ingredients - Serves 4
4 chicken breasts, on the one, skin on
2 Tablespoons of Chili Powder, divided (I made my own, I use Alton Browns recipe believe it or not!)
1 Bottle of Beer (Tecate)
2 Jalapeno Peppers, sliced with seeds
1 White Onion, sliced
3 Cloves of garlic, sliced
2 Chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
1 7oz can of Chipotle Sauce
2 14.5oz Cans of Hunts Fire Roasted Tomatoes
3 cups of Chicken Stock
1 Pinch of Mexican Oregano
3 Tablespoons of Grape seed (or vegetable oil)
Salt and Pepper
1. Preheat oven to 325. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of chili powder. In a dutch oven or large, oven safe pot, heat oil on Medium High and Brown chicken. Approximately 3 minutes each side. Remove chicken and set aside.
2. With pot still on medium high, throw onion, garlic and jalapeno in and cook for approximately 5 minutes.
3. Deglaze with 6oz of beer, scraping up all the brown bits from the pan, and drink the rest,
4. Combine the rest of the ingredients + the rest of the Chili Powder, with the onions, peppers and garlic and place the chicken in. Pour in chicken stock to just cover the chicken, if necessary, and bring to a simmer. Tear up 2-3 corn tortillas and toss into pot.
6. Remove chicken from the pot and set aside. Use an immersion blender, or carefully pour braising liquid into a blender and blend until smooth. Taste. Season with Maggi seasoning and pepper to taste.
7. Plate chicken in a shallow bowl, ladle over a spoonful of sauce, and garnish with cilantro to taste. Serve with corn tortillas.
My wife says - 'I'd serve this dish to Rick Bayless if we had him over for dinner!'...and she's damn picky. That was enough to satisfy me! It makes up for my debacle of a dinner last week where I had thought through this lamb loin dish for hours, everynight before I went to bed, only to completely fail at the dish, throw it out, and ended up going to Stage Left in New Brunswick, NJ for a burger.
As I publish this post, I just received a message from Rick Bayless. His response? "Looks Beautiful!".
I think I'll sleep good tonight...
...Knowing I have some left over for lunch tomorrow...