Monday, April 5, 2010

Matt's Toughest Critic

Since starting this blog, my husband has taken on a job as the Executive Chef at a local restaurant called Matt The Miller's.  It's a nice restaurant, it fits in the area, and has some wiggle room for him to be a bit more creative then his last position.

First of all, I would be lying if I didn't say that I am a single mom.  With this job, Brian is away from the home more hours than he has been in years, and it has taken almost a year for us to get gist of what was going to happen to our marriage, our children, and our home life.  We have sort of adjusted and every once in a while we still have the "I miss Daddy" days.  But for the most part, we try to schedule our fun days around him being home on Sunday's and Monday's.  The most popular two days for a chef to take off.  I plan on putting together a "survival guide post" for those who have fallen in love with a chef and want to get married, but that is a different post for sure.

As the Executive Chef, Brian has a bit of culinary freedom, and I get to be the official taste-tester.  Many nights when I should be in bed, Brian arrives home with a "to-go" box full of goodies to be consumed and critiqued and enjoyed.  First of all, let me start by saying that my body by no means needs these treats and goodies past 8pm.  However one of the rewards after a long day at work and mother the box full of goodies I may be getting as a reward for all of my hard work.

Last week I was told to sit tight and watch the TV while he toiled away in the kitchen at 10pm plating me up a  new discovery.  As I sat in anticipation I wondered what delightful treat I was getting.  I had a hankering for sushi, but I knew that was pushing it.  Sushi is not on the menu (but not out of the equation).  My mouth started watering.  As he walked out of the kitchen with a grin on his face, he was holding a plate of what looked like chips.  Instantly I was a bit let down, as I was looking for something a bit more than just chips.  However, as he handed me the plate he said, "You know that Ahi Tuna flatbread that you love, try this."

I looked it over and in the center of the plate was a pile of Asian slaw on top of what looked like spicy tuna.  Aha, and the sushi is alive.  He explained that Craig, the owner, was looking for an Asian influenced appetizer, something that had never been done.  In my experience, whenever Brian creates based on the wants of someone else, it's never as good as if he had just done it on his own, or collaborated with me.  Not that I am the culinary queen, but I have a knack for knowing what flavors and ergonomics tend to work well together.

At first glance this plate was a complete mess of chips, dip, sauces, and stuff all competing for attention.  The fried won-tons were too fragile for the tuna, and kept breaking and made it impossible to pick up the goodness in the middle of the plate.  Other than the fact that it was messy, the flavors were very good.  The slaw in the middle had a sesame flair, tossed with wasabi and rice wine vinegar.  The spice on the tuna was just enough to cleanse your palate and was well balanced.  I couldn't stop eating it, even thought I thought it was very messy and not at all the proper tribute to the style of cuisine.  In my opinion, something as delicate as spicy tuna needs less on the plate, less mess, and should not be paired with "chips".  It just doesn't sit well with my, "it's not an indulgence dish".  As much as I love spicy tuna...and trust me...I love spicy tuna...I just cannot see anyone needing more than a few teaspoons to deliver the correct portion, and flavors that are required to pull this dish off.  Even though it is one of those, "meant to be shared", dishes, it still seemed a bit flawed on execution.

Of course, I say all of this to Brian and he takes it all to heart.  He understands what I am saying and he knows that it is a bit of a messy dish.  He also knows that the owner is begging for this to be executed, and he is doing his best to make it work.  So he and I collaborate to make it better, disguise the chips and make the portion less messy.

The next day he tells me that his sous chef asked what my thoughts were, as they both know that I am very bold, and opinionated with food.  I am not afraid to tell them both when they have failed.  I am also very willing to give praise when it is due, and there are a few dishes where I deliver my praise over and over again.

So I sit watching TV, waiting for my next tasting challenge.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Organic Indulgence!

Last night Brian and I ventured into the Short North.  It's been ages since we've been able to go out of "date night" and this was a spectacular evening that ended with this incredible find. 
If you live in the area, and need some "grown-up cream" (it's not that I don't think the kids would love it, but they don't have the usual Cotton Candy and Superman on the menu- so unless you have kids like mine, this may be an adult experience), I highly suggest an excursion to Jenni's Splendid Ice Creams on North High St. (they have other locations, but this is where we visited).  Upon arrival at this parlor, Brian and I noticed a line all the way out to the sidewalk.  In our culinary opinion this is always a good sign.  If people are willing to wait in a line that long, then this must be something spectacular.  Jenni's is a locally sustainable organization that uses Ohio Grass Fed Organic Dairy to make it's ice cream.  What a concept!  Ice cream that you can feel a little bit less guilty about eating....hahaha.  If only organic meant zero calories...sigh.

As we take our place in line, I am inclined to read the chalkboard easle that is on the sidewalk.  It is a for a Manhattan Float: bourbon soaked cherries, dark chocolate ice cream, exotic fizzie drink, topped with real whipped cream.

I finish reading and then just pull Brian's arm and say, "Read that."

"Ohhhh wow!" he says in his French Chef accent.  "I can't wait to see the rest of the menu!"

We continue to stand in line.  As the anticipation grows, wafts of freshly made waffle cones tantilize our nostrils, and we are reminded again of why we are waiting for this Organic Grass Fed Ohio Dairy treat.

Finally we step across the threshold and are greeted with a chalkboard menu the size of the back wall.  On it are flavor combinations that are a chef's dream:

Salty Caramel
A traditional French-style caramel, with caramelized sugars, butter and sea salt.

Bourbon Buttered Pecan
A big bourbon bite with toasted, buttered and sea-salted pecans.

Toasted pistachios with Ashland County honey.

Black Coffee
Cream steeped with just-roasted coffee from Stauf's, a local roaster. No water — which makes our coffee ice cream rich and dark, not icy and bitter. It tastes the way coffee smells

Thai Chili
Krema Peanut Butter (a Columbus company since 1898), with toasted coconut, cayenne and coconut milk.

Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries
Blue Jacket Dairy goat cheese with roasted Michigan cherries—like a fluffy cherry cheesecake, but even better.

Wildberry Lavender
Complex. Intense lavender with hints of exotic spices and lots of brambly berry flavors.

Berries and Burgundy Sorbet
Deep, dark berries with growing hints of red wine; sophisticated and grown-up.

I know what you are thinking...these sound a bit extreme. Yes, but that is the beauty. If you are a true coinsure of ice cream, then you get it.  It's not about the fact that these flavor combinations are extreme, but how they taste within the realm of the cold creamy deliciousness and a flaky vanilla crusted waffle cone.

Therein lies the mystery. Go ahead, take a sample, don't be afraid. What your mind is saying and what your tongue is saying may contridict eachother in the first moment the ice cream meets your pallet.

I chose the Bourbon Buttered Pecan that yes had quite a bite of Bourbon, but then the salty pecans broke through the alcohol and took me to a land that was coated in ice cream goodness. 

Moooove over Grater's, I think you have met your match!

Jenni's also ships!  Click here for more information!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Need A Sweet Fix?

This weekend I found a real treat.  At our house, popcorn is a staple product.  We keep both the fresh to pop in our Stir Crazy and then of course our favorite microwavable bags.  However, there is just something to be said about fair quality popcorn.  We made a small trip into Port Clinton, Ohio this weekend on the edge of Lake Erie, and found the most marvelous popcorn shop.  It is almost unrealistic to think that you could make the sweet and savory vairietions of the Great Lakes Popcorn Co.

I am going to try and do this justice.  We sampled a few varieties and then decided on Vanilla Butternut.  At first I just thought it tasted sweet like candy, but there was so much more.  As I let the popcorn melt on my tongue, I got a creamy butter taste coated with vanilla sugar like eating the sugar and butter combination from the mixer before adding the dry ingredients to a cookie batter.  It was delicious!

The boys were there for a different reason.  They wanted candy, and this popcorn had a lot to offer in that category.  There are flavors of bananna, green apple, blueberry, raspberry, cherry.  You name it, they have it! So, to satisfy all 100 flavor combinations, they also have a jelly bean variety that mixes them up.  I thought this would be gross, but if this kids want it...who am I to stop them?

We got our bags, and left taking home two sweet smelling treats in the car.  Later that night while watching a movie, we dumped out the popcorn into a bowl.  I decided to try the jelly bean.  I don't like jelly beans, so I was very weary.  I ate one at a time, and I got the candy taste, but it was soon replaced with salty goodness.  After eating a few, I realized that I didn't feel like I was eating a bag of candy.  The coating was light on sweetness and a perfect match to the salty popcorn underneath.

In my opinion, this is my new favorite place to get popcorn.  We will have to make a popcorn run just to satisfy my craving!  If you can't make it to Port Clinton, you can have it shipped!  Yippie!