Category Archives: Food

Man’s (Mad) Ingenuity

I read somewhere that the only difference between men and apes is the former’s ability to use tools. So were it not for our simian friends’ lack of access to a Tool Depot credit card, we could see chimpanzees driving down the freeway or flying planes1. And although we have seen rudimentary behavior by apes using branches or twigs to extract ants out of the ground, they still have a long way to go before they invent an air-compressed bolt extractor.
Which brings me back to Man: is tool-invention still part of our mental process? Since every tool has already been invented, do we still strive to create new ones? The following pictures show that the answer is a resounding YES.   These are creative uses for everyday items and are sometimes referred to as Life Hacks2.

But call me an apostate, I don’t believe everything I read on the Internet.  My comments follow each life hack below, and there’s even a fun video presentation that is a lot more entertaining than my dry prose.

lifehack1

 

My take: If you use the lid as a coaster, you can now spill your drink.  And if you pick up the cup, the coaster comes with it.  Looks strange, but it would work.

 

lifehack2

 

The proposal: All pots are designed to allow you to rest your spoon on the handle.

My take: The pan hole was made primarily to hang the pan on the wall.  You could use it to hold a spoon, but only if you found a spoon that fits the hole.  I suspect that some “creative” whittling was done to make it work.

 

lifehack3Was the soda can designed to hold your straw in place?

My take: Soda can tab was modified in order to save material.   It just happens to also function as a straw holder, if you rotate it.  But then, why was it  made to rotate?  The rotation serves no purpose.  I suspect it’s a manufacturing side effect (to attach tab to can)  and not intended to facilitate your straw holder configuration.

 

 

lifehack5The proposal: Tic Tac boxes were expressely designed to dispense *one* Tic Tac at a time.

My take: I believe this one.  But could someone tell me what happened to the “Toe” in tic-tac-toe ??  Someone got paid really well to come up with this name, incredibly.

 

 

And here is a video that will put it all in perspective.  Enjoy.

 

POSTSCRIPT:  I promised that I would add a life hack of my own so that you can promote/criticize it. Turnabout is fair play, as they say !

 

lifehack8My proposal:  Cut an empty tube of toothpaste in half and clean out the bottom part (throw away the part that has the cap).  You can now flatten the other half and put it in your pocket for a handy-dandy drinking cup.   As a kid, I loved the telescoping plastic drinking cups and bemoaned the fact that you cannot find them anymore.  But this flexible, unbreakable, plastic tube becomes a nice drinking cup.  You can make it shorter for convenience and you can fold the top to prevent it from getting cruddy with pocket lint (yuk).

  1. They were admirable astronauts in the Mercury program, but that’s another story []
  2. visit www.lifehacker.com for more of these []
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Vacation Dining – Las Vegas and OC

It’s been a while since my last post, been busy working and eating. It would be nice if I could say that I’ve also been working out, but mostly I’ve been eating. I had a chance to go to Las Vegas a few times and also hung around with the family close to home. In both instances, I took a chance to try a few new food items and also to remind myself why I like some items in the first place. And here are my random musings — definitely not a comprehensive list, but hey, I was on vacation !!!

Las Vegas

I definitely wanted to have a good Pastrami sandwich in Sin City (I mean, every cardinal sin is represented there, so why not gluttony?) As it turns out, I found a place that had a very nicely put-together sandwich and did not leave me feeling stuffed: Greenberg’s Deli  in the New York, New York Casino. They had matzo ball soup, which was a very nice touch to accompany my pastrami. I passed on the yummy potato salad, I was feeling somewhat full. This place was recommended by CT team members as better than the Carnegie Deli elsewhere on the strip and it delivered the taste. And better priced too….

I also took my son to the Las Vegas Grand Prix  and besides having 3 tracks of go-karts (kiddie, medium, expert) they also had a pretty good deal on cheese pizza ($5.00 for a large with 1 topping). Heck, given the price I would overlook bad taste, but it was actually pretty good !! The trick is to ask them to put extra cheese as the free topping. And the crust was nice and thin; you can’t go too wrong when you have thin NY-style crust.

I also tried another comfort food, Smash Burger Las Vegas . This is another burger joint in the In-N-Out price and quality category; more so, they are actually located about 100 yards from In-N-Out !! Now that’s confidence. As it turns out, these 2 restaurants are so good that they actually support each other by providing a destination hamburger experience. Why go to a cheap hamburger place when you can try a better burger for a little more cash? Smash Burger offers choices of toppings and flattens their patties so that they overlap the bun. Not sure if this improves flavor (I would think it would make them drier) because I prefer to order their Chicago dog. But their rosemary fries are the best I have tasted. Ever. Even better than my all-time fast-food favorites at McDonalds.

Finally, I had dinner at Prime at the Bellagio; I wanted to try their dry-aged beef. Would it compare to my experience at Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Paris last year?? Sad to say, the answer is no. The view of the famous Bellagio water fountain show is definitely better at Paris, across the street. And the beef, despite the premium price, was not a totally memorable experience. It was very tender and the taste was good, especially when coupled with the various chef’s sauces that were proferred. But the experience did now compare favorably with the Roast Duck I had at Paris. But hey, I’m comparing apples and oranges, so it’s not really fair. Still, I will be going back to Eiffel Tower Restaurant next year. The Eiffel Tower is also cheaper, although not as nicely decorated as Prime; but you never notice the decor because you are staring out the window panes: the view is what Paris is selling and it is pretty nice.

Back Home

At home, I’ve been doing the Food Truck circuit. I was able to visit 2 events where several food trucks were present but I still ended up eating at Grill Them All Burgers both times. At the Fullerton Food Truck RoundUp  it was tough to pass up all of the other trucks but I was interested in trying the H-100 tater tots at Grill Them All. Seeing someone eating a $12.00 lobster tail on a stick was a pretty tempting suggestion, but I stuck to my guns.1

At today’s Din Din Food Truck Event, I had to pass Central American tapas and Lomo Arigato food truck to complete my tour of the top 3 burgers at Grill Them All. But I’ve now had the three that I wanted: Waste ‘Em All, Molly Hatchet, The Behemoth. You can read more about them here.  You may not be a burger aficionado, but you should be able to find other delicacies at these gourmet food trucks. They also post their locations on Twitter and on their own websites, so you can find them easily.

  1. The picture shows a really long line in front of Grill Them All; they tend to be one of  the more popular truck in the circuit. []

You Eat Too Much

A few years ago, my roommate asked his his mother (a nurse) for a book on nutrition. She got him a book that was basically a pictorial guide to calorie counts, which is not what he wanted. However, I now realize that I should have borrowed that book, because now that restaurants have to tell you how many calories their dishes have, I’m learning exactly how much I’ve been overeating over the years.

For instance, I went to Islands and discovered my usual chicken breast sandwich is 1,000 calories. Nothing particularly evil about it: mayo, Swiss, mushrooms, lettuce, and tomato. Not breaded and deep fried, no bacon, no avocado. That doesn’t even include the 480 calories for the side of fries it comes with. In other news, Islands (like Red Robin) now offers bottomless fries with their meals, and will happily oblige your request for a side of ranch dressing. So with a second helping of fries, you get 2,000 calories in one meal. More if you get the bottomless Coke. That’s all your calories for the day, consumed in 30 minutes. Insane. I made a 5 oz. turkey burger at home, a smaller version of the above sandwich, and it still came to 480 calories.

If coffee shops had to list calories in the pastry case, their sales would plummet. They’re about 500-900 calories and half of that is fat. Plus the coffee, which is probably a whole milk latte with syrup. This time you only had half a day’s calories as a between meal snack.

Bottom line: everything is horrible for you, and twice as bad if you’re sedentary.

A Culinary Tour of NJ (with a stop in NYC)

I was just in Jersey for ThinkTank1’s wedding (congrats!), and spent most of my free time eating. I hadn’t been there for a few years so I had a lot of catching up to do. Some stuff was as good as I remember, some wasn’t, and a few places were brand new. Here’s the rundown.

New Jersey

Dunkin Donuts
After years of gushing praise about their coffee from several CT agents, I finally got some – a regular iced coffee with cream and sugar. I was really disappointed. It tasted like a glass of whole milk with a splash of coffee and some sugar on the bottom. I thought it might’ve been one time screw-up so I ordered it again at a different DD – same thing. McDonald’s iced coffee is WAY better. My local guide said DD’s coffee has gone downhill in recent years. I have a hunch it was due to their push into supermarkets.

I also got a French cruller that was alright, and a butternut which was just OK. I guess I forgot the one I love is the chocolate butternut, which are very rare. The regular ones are strangely lemony. I should’ve stuck with the chocolate glazed; they really can’t screw that up.

Pete & Elda’s Bar / Carmen’s Pizzeria

96 Woodland Avenue

Neptune, NJ

This place has been rock solid for years – exactly how I remembered it. It’s got the thinnest crust pizza I’ve ever seen, but it’s not just a gimmick – it’s very good. They have a deal where you get a t-shirt if you can eat an entire XXL pizza by yourself. I’ve done this a few times, but decided to pass this time. Besides trying not to be a glutton, the t-shirts tend to be ugly as sin. The only mark against P&E is that the water was foul – I had to get a soda to mask the taste.

River’s Edge Cafe

35 Broad St.

Red Bank, NJ

This is where the wedding reception was. I had the salmon in a lemon dill sauce with rice and string beans – it was excellent. I expected the salmon to be overcooked since this was for a large crowd, but it was perfect.

The big endorsement is from ThinkTank1 and his lovely new bride, who chose it for the reception. For those who don’t know Jersey, downtown Red Bank is pretty much the only cool part (although East Rutherford had a cool area – see below). There are several restaurants here, but they keep returning to this one and have eaten most of what’s on the menu. The prices look very reasonable and the food was great, so I can’t blame them.

Zebu Forno

20 Broad St.

Red Bank, NJ

Whenever possible, I choose the mom and pop coffee house over Starbucks or other chains and – big surprise – I’m almost never disappointed. Zebu Forno is a small chain with a handful of locations, but we could definitely use more of them. I’d say they most closely compete with Panera, but I dug this better.

I walked in and was greeted by an incredibly cute and friendly girl. I ask if they take credit cards, but it’s a $10 minimum and I’m only getting coffee. “How much do you have on you?” $4. “That’s good enough.” At this point, I’m in love.1 In fact, now I have to take out cash just to tip her a buck for being so understanding. And cute.

I got a double mocha, which was good. The next day I went back for breakfast. This place has a huge menu of all sorts of stuff, and amazingly it all looks good.2 I went with the pork roll with egg and cheese on a roll. It wasn’t real Taylor Ham with the thick, round slices, but it was still tasty and the roll it was on could not have been better. And I got yellow American cheese, not the white I’m always stuck with in California. So damn good.

Eros Cafe/After Athens

17-19 Park Ave.

Rutherford, NJ

While they have a full lunch and dinner menu filled with Greek cuisine, we came here for coffee and dessert. It’s got a cool atmosphere (yes, this also means hot girls) and is open late – 3AM on Friday! Personally, I think they should’ve changed the channel when the Greek station started playing some gay shirtless voguing videos, but at least it wasn’t in my face. And that’s probably normal for Greece.

I got an iced mocha, which was OK, but I felt they skimped on the chocolate. TT1’s Mexican hot chocolate was good. For dessert, I got a strawberry crepe with vanilla creme. The problem here is that I expected the strawberry filling to be hot, which would have made this perfect. Since it and the creme were cold, the whole thing was just luke warm and turned cold quickly.

So overall the food was just OK, but they had a lot of other stuff that looked good, like a chocolate peanut butter brownie cake, creme brulee, etc. I would definitely return, if for no other reason than it’s open late. It’s a much cooler, hipper alternative to a diner. One tip: they don’t bring you your check – you have to go to the counter to get it. On the plus side, we never felt rushed.

Cluck U Chicken
This used to be my favorite chicken chain. I’d always get a chicken parm sandwich, a Roman (mozzarella and a garlic cream sauce), or a Red Roman which combines the two. The chicken breasts they used were huge. Now they’re advertised as 1/3 lb. and they’re pretty clearly pounded flat to seem bigger. And the Red Roman wasn’t as good as I remembered – I should have gone for the regular Roman.

My regular side order was their real, red skinned mashed potatoes in a turkey (or was it chicken?) gravy. Now it’s just instant mashed with brown gravy. And to top it off, they serve Pepsi instead of Coke. Sigh.

It’s clear they’ve been doing a lot of cost cutting in the years since I last visited. If they kept the quality high they’d have more customers. I might give them another chance, but I really regret picking this over White Castle as one of few places I got to (re)visit.

New York City

We used Yelp to help decide where to go, based on which places had the most reviews while maintaining a decent rating. We also took into consideration how easy it would be to get from one place to the next, considering it was a Friday night. It worked out great; short, but sweet.

The weather could not have been better – about 65 degrees and, dare I say it? Balmy! Yes, balmy in NYC in October. I’ve never seen so many hot women in NYC, they definitely dressed for the warm weather and a Friday night on the town. I guess I usually visited during the day or a weeknight, but NYC never struck me as a city of babes. I was happy to be shown its better side.

Katz’s Delicatessen

205 East Houston St.

New York, NY

We were debating whether to return to The Carnegie Deli, where I previously had the best sandwich of my life (and the best knish). But Katz’s was higher rated on Yelp and we’d never been there, so what the heck.

We took a cab from Port Authority. As we entered the place, a security guard gave us a ticket. You hand it to the cashier when you pay, who marks it for the guard when you’re leaving. I’d wonder what happens when you don’t get anything, but I imagine they take you straight to the looney bin.

It was a no brainer what to get – a pastrami sandwich on rye. The only question was mustard or Russian dressing. I’m a Russian dressing guy.3 We walk up to the meat cutter and tell him we want pastrami. He walks off without saying anything. Then I see him returning with a whole, steaming pastrami. It must’ve been right out of the smoker. He slices some off for us to taste.

Heaven. Now I know what gave Meg Ryan that orgasm in When Harry Met Sally.

We get our sandwiches and a beverage and sit down to what is now the best sandwich of my life. Now, to clarify, Carnegie Deli pastrami is also awesome. Both delis make it themselves. Both are leaner and more tender than anything I’ve had elsewhere. I think the Katz pastrami was more moist, having been so fresh. A big point is that the Carnegie sandwich is noticeably larger; it’s the king of the mile high sandwiches. Katz’s was smaller, but still big, and it only cost $14.50. I remember paying close to $20 for the Carnegie sandwich, and that was in 2002! A lot of people say the Carnegie sandwich is too big and impossible to finish. I’d agree if I didn’t eat the whole damn thing, then polish off half a knish the size of a Nerf football. But I’m a fatass. That said, I did feel really full after Katz’s sandwich, and we were happy to have a bit of a walk to our next place.

Pommes Frites

123 2nd Ave.

New York, NY

For those not familiar with them, the big deal about about Belgian fries is that they are fried twice. They’re traditionally served with various mayo-based sauces. This place was good, but I have a specific idea of what Belgian fries are, and these weren’t it.

Back when the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica was cool, there was a Belgian fry place called Benita’s Frites. These were square-cut fries, crispy and greasy on the outside, soft on the inside. The perfect fry. They offered about 20 different sauces like garlic mayo and remoulade.

The fries at Pommes Frites are good, but they’re more like steak fries and aren’t that crispy. They also have a large sauce selection. I had the roasted garlic mayo, which was a little too sweet; I would have preferred a regular garlic mayo. We also had a pesto mayo, which I must admit was spot on.

They also offer poutine, a French Canadian treat that consists of fries with brown gravy and fresh cheese curds. I’ve had it at Peel Pub in Montreal and it’s great pub food. If this place wasn’t the size of a broom closet and I could guarantee a place to sit, I would definitely try that next. But standing around on the street with a cone of hot fries and gravy is just too much of a hassle for me. They definitely need a much bigger seating area.

  1. No, it doesn’t take much. []
  2. Although there’s no way I’m getting pizza from a coffee shop/bakery. []
  3. BTW, in a Jewish deli, Russian dressing is very similar to thousand island dressing. In the lazier ones it’s identical. But it looks or tastes nothing like the bottles of Russian dressing you see in the supermarket, which appear to be a combination of ketchup and sweet and sour sauce. []

Single Guy Chef: Kalua Pork

Kalua Pork (or pig) is one of my favorite Hawaiian dishes. It’s a smokey, salty pulled pork dish served over white rice, with optional katsu sauce.1 When I found out how you make it, I was stunned at how easy it is.2 It takes a long time to cook, and there’s some work involved, but it requires no skilled labor, much less murdering a pig with a knife while sobbing. In fact, I thought it was some half-assed way to make it, but a friend who is very wise in the ways of Hawaiian cooking told me nope, that’s the way everyone makes it on the island.3 And after making it, I can honestly say it matches the one at my favorite Hawaiian restaurant. Kick ass!
Continue reading Single Guy Chef: Kalua Pork

  1. Thanks to Agent Doubledeuce for the tip. []
  2. But don’t worry, I’ll still explain it to you like you were held back a few times. []
  3. Not counting those supermen who actually dig a hole, add fire, and roast the whole pig all at once. []

The Best Post-Workout Protein Shakes

Last Update: 9/2

As I am wont to do, I was reading about nutrition in an effort to procrastinate on… well, everything, but one of those things was actually working out. This effort was successful, even though it does motivate me to actually work out just so I can apply what I’ve learned.

In this case, I’ve determined best protein shakes to take post-workout,1 which isn’t as simple as you might think. The basic answer is whey, because it’s absorbed the quickest.2 When you finish your workout, your body can use protein right away to optimize recovery. But whey is still a vague answer, since there are so many different types and brands.

It turns out the best form of whey is called whey protein isolate (WPI), which is better than the concentrate. Anything that says “blend” is suspect. Not bad, per se, but not optimal. After that, you want to make sure that the protein is undenatured, which is kinda like saying it hasn’t been damaged during the collection process. If you see that the protein is manufactured via ion-exchange, the protein is denatured. Technically, you get more protein per scoop this way, but it’s less effective protein. Ironically, you’ll find several companies bragging that they use 100% ion-exchange WPI. What you’re looking for is some form of low temperature filtration process. You might see cross flow micro-filtration (CFM) specifically.

After that, I look for little to no soy, since soy inhibits testosterone production and can lower sperm count. I also want as little sugar and fat as possible. Note that you do want carbs post workout, so the protein is used for building muscles and not replenishing your blood sugars. And fats are important for generating testosterone. But I want control over what types of carbs and fats I eat.

Of course, it should also taste good, but that’s subjective. Some taste good in milk, but bad in water, but others are good all around. Using skim milk isn’t bad, but can double the calories. I suggest you start out with a small container, or find a place with a money-back satisfaction guarantee. I think most nutrition shops offer this, but ask. Once you find something you like, look for a bulk discount online.

Here is the list I came up with based on label information, supplemented with forum opinions. It’s not comprehensive, but I think I have most of the quality brands. There may be other products from the same brands that use the same protein, but double check.

All The Whey – Whey Protein Isolate
This is my preferred choice. I tried vanilla with the Micellar Casein,3 and it has a very light taste. Almost too light. When I added frozen berries, I needed to add a tablespoon of raspberry syrup. Cupcake Batter is sweet enough so that no syrup was necessary. I’ll add frozen blueberries and have a blueberry muffin smoothie, or frozen strawberries and make it strawberry shortcake. Another great flavor is Cinnamon Bun. This tastes more like cinnamon coffee cake, but I love that, too. One of my favorite new post workout shakes is cinnamon bun whey, skim milk, 1/2 an apple (cut up and frozen), and a packet of instant, steel cut oatmeal with flax. It’s like drinking an cinnamon apple cake! But it’s also the best flavor to drink with just skim milk. And I’ve heard some people add it to their hot oatmeal, which I’ll have to try.

Allmax Nutrition – IsoFlex I picked this up in Chocolate. Later, I noticed it the label said “with real chocolate chips” and thought, wouldn’t they just sink to the bottom? They sink to the bottom. I guess it’s good if you’re throwing it in the blender with ice, otherwise you just eat them at the end, which does leave a better taste in your mouth. Yes, it does mix in water, but it doesn’t taste that great that way. I had to either use skim milk, or use water but add a splash of fat-free half and half. So far, Muscle Milk is the only thing that tastes decent in water, but it also has a lot of fat and sugar.

4ever Fit – Whey Protein Isolate In fruit flavors.
4ever Fit – 4ever Whey In traditional shake flavors (chocolate/vanilla).
Syntrax – Nectar/Sweets Nectars are fruit flavors, Sweets are dessert flavored. Fuzzy Navel, Roadside Lemonade, and Green Apple seem to be favorites.
VPX – Zero Carb Protein
Universal – Ultra Iso Whey
Bioplex – Pure WPI
Pure Nutrition – Whey Protein Isolate Not the same as above, and uses a natural sweetener I’ve never heard of.
Applied Delivery Systems – Lean Mass Builder

Ultimate Nutrition products look good on paper, but I’ve read a few bad reviews regarding taste.

Here are my references:

The Whey It Is: The Truth About Whey Protein by Will Brink
Soy health risks for men at Wikipedia

  1. Or other athletic activity, preferably within 30 minutes. []
  2. There might be some super-protein out there that’s better, but I couldn’t find any overwhelming evidence pointing to anything specific. The data backing whey, however, is pretty extensive. []
  3. I picked up casein mainly to curb hunger, but then I read that whey is better for that. Makes sense, since it’s digested faster. []

When you think authentic Chinese food, what name comes to mind? That’s right! Sullivan: the name you’ve come to trust for authentic Chinese food.

Sullivan Authentic Chinese Cuisine

Visit our sister restaurants at O’Grady’s Fine Italian Dining and McDonald’s Ethiopian Cuisine.

Single Guy Chef: Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

I dig coffee. Specifically, espresso drinks with milk and sugary flavorings. People are always suggesting that I brew coffee at home, but I hate brewed coffee as it tastes so watery, and if you add enough milk to fix that, it tastes too weak. Then they suggest that I buy an espresso machine. Then I explain that I don’t drag them to coffee shops for the coffee, I’m there for the birdwatching. If buying an espresso machine would bring hot girls into my living room, I’d do that. Unfortunately, I doubt even a $10,000 La Marzocco would have that effect.

And sometimes I just need caffeine, but there’s nobody around to ogle girls with me. Then the coffee house suddenly feels much farther away (if it’s even open), and $4 feels overpriced when you’re not staying to enjoy the view. In these situations, I was getting by with a packet of hot chocolate and some instant coffee, but that’s less than satisfying.

Then I learned about cold-brewed coffee. It doesn’t require any expensive equipment and results in coffee that is 67% less acidic. It’s smoother and tastes better and can be stored for 2-3 weeks in the fridge. It’s also so strong it can be used as an espresso substitute in iced coffees, which amazingly taste like a real iced latte (or in my case, iced white mocha).

The concept is simple: You add 2 parts filtered water to 1 part coarse ground coffee, wait 12 hours, then filter out the grounds. You’re left with coffee concentrate.

The easiest way to cold brew is to use a Toddy Cold Brew System for about $30 at Amazon. It takes a pound of coffee and yields about 6 cups. Toddy has been making these systems for about 40 years and they’re very highly rated.

Next easiest would be to use a 12-cup French press (4 cups coffee to 8 cups water) and pour it into a glass pitcher. However, this is only good if you already have the French press, as you could buy two Toddy systems for the same price. And if your press isn’t good about filtering all the grounds, you’ll have to pour it through a paper filter.

Finally, there is my “what do I already have?” ghetto brewing system:

Equipment:

  • 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup1
  • Fine-mesh sieve
  • Paper coffee filters
  • Coffee machine grounds basket2
  1. Combine 1 cup of ground coffee and 2 cups filtered water in the measuring cup. The coffee will float, so use a spoon or fork to gently mix it so the grounds are completely wet.
  2. Cover the measuring cup with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 12 hours.
  3. Put the filter in the coffee ground basket. Pour the coffee through the sieve into the basket.
  4. Dump the remainder of the grinds and rinse out the measuring cup. Place the cup under the basket spout and hold it so the coffee drains into the cup.

Iced White Mocha

First heat the coffee in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and add the white chocolate powder. Trying to dissolve the powder after adding cold milk is an exercise in futility (you’ll need a hand mixer).3 Add milk and ice to taste.

Tips:

  • I initially tried this with normally ground coffee and it turned out fine, as the paper filter removes all sediment. If you’re using a Toddy or French press, you’ll have to get the coarse grind.
  • You can wait up to 24 hours for a stronger brew, but it will also have higher acid and caffeine levels and hence taste more bitter. I like the concept of more caffeine, but not at the expense of smoothness. If it’s not strong enough, you’re better off just using a bolder roast or less water.
  • I find it’s easiest to prepare it at night and finish it in the morning. If you do it late on a weekend, you should have enough for the week.
  • Check out Smart & Final for a great selection of syrups and coffee supplies.
  • I’ve never tried it, but many people simply add hot water to the concentrate to make a smoother brewed coffee that’s gentler on your stomach.
  1. You can get by with a plastic one. []
  2. Make sure your basket has a spring loaded spout/drain stopper and not just a hole in the bottom. []
  3. Syrup would mix better than powder, of course, but the white chocolate syrups go bad quickly (3 weeks) and are only sold in huge, restaurant-sized bottles. []

Smart & Final: Coffee Supply Mecca

I had been searching high and low for white chocolate syrup or powder to use in my cold-brewed iced coffee at home. Peet’s (the best), Coffee Bean, Starbucks, Ralphs, Vons, and even Trader Joes – no dice. Someone mentioned on the Interwebs that they found Ghirardelli powder at Smart & Final. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a warehouse-style supermarket, like Costco or Sam’s Club without the membership fees or the riding mowers. Bulk items sold cheap. I figured there was little chance that the one near me would have it, but I gave it a shot.

Holy crap. They have everything. Four shelves hold almost every Torani syrup they make – and the pumps! Plus Ghirardelli syrups and powders in several forms. And a bunch of other brands. Literally half an aisle is devoted to “coffee supplies” – basically, everything you’d need to start your own coffee shop. And the prices are in line with Amazon, with no tax or shipping!

My mind reeled with the possibilities of recreating my favorite coffee drinks: the Cocomo (chocolate coconut) and Black Forrest Mocha (chocolate raspberry) from (the now defunct) Equator Coffee; the Mayan mocha from Diedrich’s/Kean; the white mocha from Bean Town. I was in heaven. And soon after that, a diabetic coma.

I ended up with a 3 lb. can of Ghirardelli Sweet Ground White Chocolate. I wanted the syrup, but I learned that Torani’s goes bad after 6 weeks, and Ghirardelli’s spoils after only 3.1 Did I mention these are 64 oz. bottles intended for restaurants? There’s no way I can crank through that so quickly, as I don’t drink it daily. As it is, I will probably be serving white chocolate from that 3 lb. can to my grandchildren.((Update: actually, it only lasted 4 months.)) I just wish I had the balls to bring it with me into Starbucks.

  1. This is specifically the “sauces” found in plastic bottles. The Torani syrups in glass bottles last much longer. []

Single Guy Chef: Newcastle Steak Chili

I’ve made chili several times with several different recipes, so I figured I could wing it and create something new. I was in the mood for a steak chili and this is what I came up with. It’s a very tasty, super hearty chili that should last you several days.

4 lb. beef roast, cut into 1/2″ cubes
I found sirloin tip on sale and used that. I was going to use tri-tip as that was cheaper, but it was already sold out. London broil could work, too. Avoid chuck. Cut out any fat and gristle/tough connective tissue when you’re dicing the beef.
2 bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale
1 large onion, diced
I used a 10 oz. package of pre-diced onions as I don’t have a food processor and hate dicing onions.
18 oz. of tomato paste
8 oz. tomato sauce
8 oz. salsa
Your choice, but it should be red (tomato) not green (chile or tomatillo). I used Pace Picante sauce, medium.
15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chili powder
There is a lot of variation here. I’m talking chili with an I, not chile with an E. The former is a spice blend – look at what it has in it and decide if you like it. The latter is a single spice; it will work, but it won’t taste as good. One note.
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil

Optional:

diced chile peppers
Must be fresh, not canned. It will be faster to just buy a chunky salsa and add more of it.
cayenne pepper
Add to taste if it’s not hot enough. Again, you can just go with a hotter salsa and/or chili powder. My chili powder already has cayenne in it.

First, get everything ready. Dice, open cans, drain, rinse, measure spices, etc. This will lower your stress while cooking.

Dicing the beef will be a pain, but this is steak chili. You can ask your butcher if can do this. I doubt he can, but ask anyway. If he offers to grind it – even a chili grind – say no. Might as well buy ground beef if he’s going to do that. Instead, perhaps it’s time to pass those knife skills you’ve acquired on to a small child. Just remind them to let the knife do the cutting – don’t press hard. Hey, they gotta learn sometime.

Brown the beef in the olive oil over medium heat. Stir often, don’t cook it. There might be a little pink, but that’s better than overcooking it. Drain it.

Put it back on the stove and add the onions. Add just enough beer to cover it; for me that was 2 bottles. Bring it to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often to remove carbonation. This will tenderize the beef, allowing you to buy cheaper cuts.

Stir in the other ingredients (in this order for best results). Mix it up good before adding the next ingredient:
tomato paste
tomato sauce
salsa
chili powder (don’t dump it all at once)
garlic powder
garlic salt
beans

Simmer for an hour, stirring every 10 minutes.

At this point, you can eat it. However, it will taste better if you let it cool and throw it in the fridge overnight. The flavors combine and intensify overnight, so unless you find it way too bland, don’t add anything until the next day.