Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Half baked

Well, in all honestly, it's more like 2/3 baked. When you have caramel/peanut butter/other ooey-gooey, sticky-icky, sugary goodness sandwiched between two already amazing brownies, what you get is the Killer Brownie (r) from Dorothy Lane Market!

The name says it all, but still doesn't do it justice. The Killer Brownie (r) is 1/3 of a pound of awesomeness. These things are legit (so legit that they are actually trademarked)! I was actually kind of psyched out when I got them in the mail and realized that this was some Man vs Food type of business! The photos I've attached do not do it justice, I measured them out when they arrived, they measure out at 1.5" x 2.25" x 3" (each).

I got 4 of them, but I had to eat them 2 at a time (immediately after a long workout). Even by limiting my consumption (somewhat), I still got a sugar buzz that not even a Red Bull can rival. After eating two of them, I ran around the house about 75 times and then passed out in a sugar comma.

Now that I have you all scared to death, these things are truly epic! If you are ever in the Dayton, Ohio area, you should stop into Dorothy Lane Market and grab one. Or if you are like me and have no idea when you will be anywhere Dayton, you are in luck because they ship/deliver! See descriptions of the Killer Brownies (r) that i have tried below:

Pictured to the right (in order from left to right) are The Original and the Brookie. The Original is about what it sounds like: caramel sandwiched between two traditional brownies and covered with powdered sugar (contains pecans). This brownie is for the brownie lover that is on the quest for something more. The Brookie (nut free, for those that are allergic, or just do not like nuts): a chocolate chip cookie-brownie-caramel sandwich. This brownie is perfect for someone who cannot decide weather they want a rich brownie, or a rich and gooey chocolate chip cookie. The solution is here... ...have both!

Pictured to the right (in order from left to right) are Blonde Ambition and The Peanut Butter. The Blonde Ambition: Macadamia nuts, Heath mix, and white chocolate sandwiched between two blonde brownies. I actually slept on this brownie before tasting it, boy was I wrong! This was possibly my favorite of the four. It tasted like you came home from trick-or-treating, dumped your candy out on the floor, then ate it all at once (simply incredible)! The Peanut Butter (pretty self-explanatory, nut allergies beware): some THICK peanut butter sandwiched between two peanut brownies. This one was probably my wife's favorite of the four.

Lastly, if you order the Killer Brownies (r) to be delivered to your house or business, they come in this awesome tin that I have repurposed into my blog contact business card holder.

Dorothy Lane Market (Springboro) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getting Baked!

This past weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to take a tour of Farm to Market Bread's new downtown bakery. This is exciting to me, firstly because my wife and I love the product and love downtown businesses. Secondly because, being an engineer and having worked in/on a few food plants in my day, I am known to nerd out when it comes to processes and industrial machinery.

Farm to Market Bread has taken over the old Hereford House event space in The Crossroads district. Not the original restaurant (that the owner was just convicted of burning down), but the second one (that also used to be a Paddy O' Quigley's, across from The Cashew). My wife and I smell the delicious bread baking every time we are jogging down Main Street. We had always wondered if they had a shop inside the bakery that sells the bread, and they sadly do not... yet, but it is in the works. They hope to have a bread shop and event space open in front of the bakery soon.

Buns in the oven.
(for Blanc Burgers)
Now to the bakery: It is exactly that, a bakery. Going into the tour, I had expected something much more mechanical, much more automated, much more of a factory setting. But I was wrong, it is very much a bakery, where the bread is made by people that know about the science of making bread and love making it. This is not a Wonder Bread bakery (too soon?).

The bread making process at FTM is almost a 24/7 operation. FTM bakes and delivers fresh bread to local grocery stores and restaurants 7 days a week. That means you have people coming in at 3 AM to start mixing dough, then you have activities going on throughout the day (shaping, proofing, baking, packaging, etc). Then to make sure that grocery stores and restaurants get the freshest bread, drivers show up at about 2 AM the next day to take the bread to it's final destination.

Dough in the new proofer.
Don't get me wrong, there are some awesome advancements in the new bakery that any bakery would love to have. For example: They have a huge new dough proofer (warm humidity) and dough retarder (cool humidity) that are both twice as large as those in the previous bakery. Proofing is a very important part of the bread making process. Not enough time in the proofer, the bread will not rise to the desired height. Too much time in the proofer, and your bread will go flat.

The bakery's HVAC system is made up of a canvas-like ductwork that blows cooling air upward, instead of downward (which would dry out the dough). <-- I told you that I was about to nerd out!

The breads: FTM bakery has the most amazing breads! As I told you, my wife and I love their breads, even before being invited in for a tour. They have both oven baked breads and hearth baked breads. We love the Wheat bread and Grains Galore for sandwiches. The hearth baked Sourdough is incredible! <--Try it with the Rachael Ray tuna melt that I posted about a few months ago.

These are a few of
my favorite things
We were given an awesome tip during our tour. If you have a problem eating a whole loaf of FTM before it goes bad (as it is made with no preservatives - it will not last forever - unlike Twinkies, too soon again?) then put it in an air tight ziplock and stick it in the freezer. This will keep your FTM bread fresh until you are ready to enjoy it.

They even have a couple holiday offerings - that if you have yet to pick up something to take to that Christmas potluck, I have the perfect offering for you - Stollen and Panettone. Stollen and Panettone are both traditional Christmas breads, from Germany and Italy, respectively. Both are a sort of fruit cake-breads, made with sweet candied fruits, and are just fantastic (just like every other bread from FTM).

If you have not yet enjoyed a loaf of FTM bread, do yourself a favour and go pick one up. If you already love FTM, I hope you enjoyed the pics!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Atole Ice Cream

Every month or so, a group of current and former co-workers of mine go to lunch to catch up on life, work, and college athletics. We always try to pick somewhere local and new to at least half of the group. Our most recent lunch landed us in the dining room of Frida's Contemporary Mexican Cuisine.

Frida's Contemporary Mexican Cuisine is aptly named. Both the ambiance of the dining room and the food presentation are unmistakably contemporary, which I did enjoy. My personal favorite touch was the Agave plant painting that you can see in the picture below, on the right side of the photo. The presentation is nice, but most important to me is the flavour of the food. 

Frida's tacos came highly recommended by an attendee's wife. She claims that they are the best tacos ever. I have to respectfully disagree. However, I have stated many times that my frame of reference is much different than most Gringos, I have had some great tacos in my day! The tacos at Frida's were street style and were not bad, just not the best I have had. If I go back again, I will probably get the Tamal that is stuffed with goat cheese and poblano pepper. This is what my gut told me to order in the first place, but I mistakenly went against it.

Right now, you are probably asking yourself "Where is the awesomeness that he always writes about?", hold on baby birds, I'll feed you. The awesomeness at Frida's comes in the form of a happy accident. As it was told to me, this dessert was created completely by accident. Frida's used to (and may still upon special request) serve Atole, which is a masa based drink that is a sort of Mexican cinnamony-hot chocolate. One night they accidentally froze the Atole mixture and the result was a wonderful ice cream-like substance. Everyone that tried the masa based ice cream loved it, so Frida's began serving it as its own menu item. The frozen Atole comes sprinkled with cinnamon & nuts and drizzled with house-made goat's milk caramel. This dessert is out of this world! I highly recommend a trip to Frida's, even if you are a taco snob like myself, solely for the frozen Atole! You will not regret it!

Frida's Contemporary Mexican Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Food Truck Roundup (Part 4)

Sorry for the wait! I know that November is pretty much the swan song on food truck season for most trucks and I did want to get this post out before they go into hibernation for the winter, but I had to let the Aaron Sanchez post marinade for a couple weeks (for my own vanity) before I made another one. I apologize once again, but I promise that it was well worth the wait, because I have 3 new (or maybe just new to me) trucks (2 actual trucks and one pizza oven trailer) that are going to rock your world!

First up is Prairie Fire Oven Prairie Fire Oven on Urbanspoon. PFO is an open air wood-fired oven experience that also serves up some  pretty awesome thin crust pizza. Although the pizza is thin crust style, it is not dry and rock hard (like some thin crust pizzas) because of the properties of the wood fired oven. When the wood is burned in the wood-fired oven it releases the moisture that was contained in the logs and produces a moist heat that does not dry out your crust (you won't get that at Domino's).

The pizzas from PFO have a bit of kick to them. We had The Margherita and The Duo, both were made with super fresh ingredients (which does make a difference) and both had a medium amount of kick to them (depending on who you ask, of course). Both also go great with the Mike's Hot Honey that is offered up with the standard Parmesan cheese and pepper flakes. A little bit of the Mike's goes a long way! (Tangent Alert: Mike's is a Brooklyn-made imitation of a South American honey infused with chilies. A guy named Mike from Brooklyn came across this creation in his South American travels, decided to bring it back Stateside with him, and started making it for distribution.) David and Nancy (the owners of PFO) fell in love with it and thought it would go great with their pizzas. They are right, it is killer! You can even order an off-menu pizza (although I may be overstepping my bounds by letting out this secret, oops) called The Bee Sting that is made with Mike's Hot Honey and then fired in the oven, this is for serious heat-seekers only.

David and Nancy also let me take a peek inside the oven, jealous?

Next up on this tour is Jazzy B's Jazzy B's Barbeque Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon. Jazzy's is where you go for some far out food that will leave your stomach full, your taste buds blown away, and you scratching your head saying "how in the world did he come up with that?!?". Brandon (the owner of Jazzy B's) and Adrian (the owner of Indios Carbonsitos) are constantly going back and forth over which one of them has the best tacos, the best burger, and overall the best menu. Both are incredible and if I had to choose between the two, I would claim that I had to taste each of them again, solely as an excuse to get more food!

Brandon has incredible sweet fries that are plucked from a fryer and tossed in a secret blend of brown sugar and other sweet flavours. The brisket tacos are out of this world! They abide by the corn tortilla rule, he told me that he tried flour tortillas, but there was just something missing. The brisket is juicy and tender, the slaw is tangy and adds the perfect crunchy compliment to the tender brisket. Brandon does a smoked-fried-chicken, he decided that smoking the chicken wasn't enough, that it needed to be fried to get that crispiness to it. He even has "Armadillo Eggs" and the "Armadillo Egg Burger". Lets just say that mixing gourmet jalapeno poppers, bacon, and a burger is a sure fire way to get EatingAwesomeness to eat at your food truck window. I will definitely be coming back for the AEB! 

Last up on this tour is Little Italy food truck Little Italy Food Truck on Urbanspoon. I really wanted to try more from Little Italy, and will soon, but I was completely stuffed by this stage of the night. I could not however pass up the risotto ball that I had been dying to try for weeks. A friend of mine went to Rome over the summer and kept telling me that the best thing he had while he was over there was "this rice ball thing", when I saw the risotto ball from Little Italy I knew that had to be what he was talking about. It did not disappoint! The risotto ball was delicious and even donned an Italian flag when it came out of the window. Imagine a creamy risotto ball with a crispy shell, covered in marinara sauce, assolutamente fantasitco!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My Sit Down with Aaron Sanchez at Mestizo

The thought of getting a chance to have a sit down meeting with Chef Aaron Sanchez is the type of thing that will get even the most even keeled food blogger's heart racing. Not only was my heart racing, but I was as giddy as a school girl, when I got a chance to meet Chef on Thursday afternoon. When I first got the confirmation email for my meeting with Chef Aaron, I couldn't believe it, I even questioned if it was real. It was in fact real and he could not have been any more personable!

Therealjohnleach with the real Chef Aaron Sanchez
(not the winner of the Mestizo anniversary look-alike contest)

When Chef walked into his Leawood restaurant, Mestizo, he exchanged pleasantries with every person that he passed. Before he came and sat down at the table with me, he even complimented a waiter's new shoes (granted they were MOZO shoes, but the point is that Aaron noticed such a small detail). I believe that is just the way that Chef Aaron is, a nice genuine guy that cares about others.

I had completely geeked out and typed out all of the questions that I wanted to ask Chef Aaron, but when he came over and sat down with me at the table we began to have a conversation like old friends just shooting the breeze. After I thanked him for taking the time to sit down with me and apologized for being slightly (okay, maybe a little more than slightly) star struck, he thanked ME for coming in and asked me about my blog.

My biggest question for Aaron: Having multiple restaurants in New York City, what brought him to KC? It turns out that one of his business partners is from Wichita and told him that KC's culinary scene was where it was at. They put together a "kickass" team, and now they are celebrating their first anniversary at Mestizo. We then went on to talk about everything from our favorite places in Mexico (check out Chef Aaron's new show, that he just finished taping, where he visits multiple destinations in Mexico) to the awesomeness of the tongue tacos at Mestizo.

Chef Aaron is far from an absent owner that simply puts his name on a sign and cashes a check. He is in KC for about a week each month. The menu is comprised of many items that will be familiar to anyone who has read his most recent cookbook. He even went on to say that he enjoys the Food Network shows that he is on, but that he is a chef and restaurateur first and a Food Network star second. If you met him on the street, and did not know who he was, you would never guess that he is a celebrity (or even a professional chef with his apparent lack of stereotypical chef ego).

It was such an awesome experience getting to sit down and talk with Chef Aaron, although I had much more that I wanted to ask him, I am very thankful that he took time out of his busy day for me (just some schmuck with a keyboard and internet access). And to be fair, I could probably spend a whole day with the man and still not have time to ask all of the questions that I would like to ask. All of that being said, here is the reason for the meeting, the food.

The Food:

Everything I have had from Mestizo has been awesome!

The chips and salsa are fresh (and as you know, I don't judge Mexican restaurants on chips and salsa, but will make note of it if it is really good). The table salsa has a very distinct (but not at all overpowering) taste of garlic that is undoubtedly cooked as described in the Garlic-Chipotle Love recipe in Aaron's book Simple Food, Big Flavor. Mestizo serves 6 different salsas, that can all be purchased in to-go containers (if you just can't get enough), ranging from mild to sweet to spicy.

The Corn Chowder is perfect on a cold fall day, it warms your insides and is like Mexican comfort food. The sopa (yes, we are doing Spanglish for this post) is creamy (but not too thick) with crunchy corn, small chunks of potato, and poblano chiles, garnished with ultra fresh cilantro. As you can tell from the before and after pictures, I didn't really like it.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, the tongue tacos are awesome (and a subject of conversation between Aaron and I). Beef tongue, when done correctly, is one of the most tender meats you will ever eat. However, when done incorrectly, it can be very chewy. Aaron says that the tenderness of the beef tongue is directly related to the time taken in the braising process, a slow braising (in water or lard) is the best method Chef says that a perfectly done beef tongue is the definition of the word "unctuous", a word that those in the biz often misuse. When the time is taken to do it right, the end result is magnificent (like the tongue tacos at Mestizo). The tacos are served on made to order corn tortillas with tomatillo-avacado salsa (which is like a very thin guacamole with the deliciousness of roasted tomatillo), cilantro, a fresh lime wedge, and what I believe to be radish pieces (instead of the onions that you would typically find with the cilantro). You can even watch the corn tortillas be made at the cold station while you wait for your food. The tacos also come with Drunken Beans, which are delightful smokey flavored beans cooked in Dos XX. (Please pardon the scatterbrainedness of this paragraph, I just get so excited about tongue tacos)

I was also able to preview three new menu items, that are being unveiled this week. The first of which was the citrus salad. The citrus salad features in-season citrus (today was tangerine, but blood orange is also in the future plans), lightly pickled onions, and bleu cheese that has been aged with figs. This bleu cheese would make even the realist of bleu cheeses say "THAT is some real bleu cheese!". This is not the cheese form the Cheezit commercial that thinks trick candles are funny. I love strong blue cheese, so this salad is perfect for someone like me, but if you do not like bleu cheese, then this salad may not be for you.

Then came the pork cheeks. The pork cheeks come served on a bed of rich creamy pozole. Pozole is sort of a ground hominy soup, if you will, that can be tomato based or cream based (this one happens to be very creamy, insert smiley face emoticon here). This dish is amazing! The tender pork cheek meat and the creamy pozole are a match made in culinary heaven.

Last, but certainly not least, the roasted quail stuffed with chorizo cornbread (yes, that is right, chorizo cornbread). When I first read Simple Food, Big Flavor, the recipe for chorizo cornbread was one that I pointed out to my wife that we had to try. And let me tell you what, it is just as good as it sounds! Awesome compliment to the quail meat! It is served on a bed of wilted spinach and roasted cherry tomatoes.

If you are like my friend Adrian and love the flavor of the food at Mestizo, but need some more heat, tell your waitperson that you want your meal made "En Fuego".

You still have a couple days to get out and partake in the anniversary festivities at Mestizo. Do yourself a favor and go do that, you will have a great food and an awesome time! (Also noteworthy, the wait staff could not be more awesome!)

Mestizo on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Not Just Meat and Potatoes!

Providence New American Kitchen is the new contemporary American restaurant that resides inside the President Hilton, in the space that the old Drum Room dining room used to occupy. The old Drum Room has been separated into what is now Providence New American Kitchen and the new Drum Room bar. The Drum Room bar has been transformed into a modern mixology bar that doubles as an amazing place to watch a game, with 4 big TVs encircling the bar area.

President Hotel
New Drum Room Lounge
Old Drum Room Dining Room (Photo stolen from Hilton.com)
Providence New American Kitchen
The President Hilton is owned by Ron Jury, a native Nebraskan, who felt that his hotel needed an American restaurant that serves dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. I know what you are thinking right now, "I see salmon, scallops, and shrimp on the menu. How is all of that locally sourced?", as I thought as well. Everything that can be locally sourced, is (even the wood that you see adorning the new dining room). Everything that cannot be locally sourced is single sourced to a local farmer/purveyor near the area that the product is indigenous to. This is also the reason that the restaurant does not open until 11am daily: Chef Eric is at the markets, personally selecting ingredients.

Providence takes its name from the Secret Service's code name for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, not from the city in Rhode Island. The dining area is enriched with vintage Americana pieces, such as the tattered flag on the wall and the filament light bulbs in the vintage light fixtures. The menu is also full of classic American favorites, but is not just your grandfather's steak and potatoes. Steak and potatoes are on the menu, but there is also so much more!

Vintage Light Fixture
My wife and I were taken care of by a tag-team duo of Sirish and Jeff. They were both extremely knowledgeable of the menu (both able to explain everything on the menu), helpful, and pleasant. We could not have asked for a better experience! We sampled the lion's share of Providence's menu items, and there were no weak links. Below I have included a photo of each item that we tried, followed by a brief description. I will try to do each dish its due justice. Do keep in mind that we requested sampling sizes of each dish and that the actual dish sizes may be much larger than pictured.

The Vino:

Immortal Zinfandel
The Immortal Zinfandel is an amazing mate for any of the red meat dishes at Providence. The full bodiness of this wine pairs wonderfully with the complex flavours of the dishes that we sampled. You also cannot go wrong with the Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon, especially if you like a more oaky flavoured vino. Also of note: The Parducci Pinot Noir has been so immensely popular that they have already sold out of it (a week and a half after opening).

The Starters:

Buffalo Carpaccio
The Buffalo Carpaccio: extremely thinly sliced buffalo, arugula salad, pieces of shaved hard cheese, and some aioli dressing plated with crustini to eat it all with. The buffalo was so thinly sliced that Jeff told me it was a secret how it was even sliced.

Dungeness Crab Cake
Dungeness Crab Cake: Probably 90% crab and 10% cake. There were just enough bread crumbs in the cake to keep it from crumbling into pieces and to give it a little colour, not any more. The lump Dungeness Crab meat with just a dab of the Sriracha Mayonnaise was incredible! Possibly the best crab cake you will find outside of the Northeast.

Loaded Potato Pierogi
Loaded Potato Pierogi: American twist on this Polish classic. What's better than a crispy pierogi with that creamy potato center? Only a crispy pierogi with a creamy potato center that has been loaded with cheese, bacon, chives, and sour cream. This thing was gigantic too!

Grilled Shrimp Bruschetta
Grilled Shrimp Bruschetta: Wonderful bruschetta that is topped with fresh (never frozen) shrimp, roasted pepper salad, and tomato vinaigrette. I love bruschetta anyways, but you put grilled shrimp that tastes as fresh as the second it came out of the water on top of it, and you have a masterpiece. The shrimp tasted just as fresh as the shrimp that we get on the coast.

BBQ Glazed Pork Belly
BBQ Glazed Pork Belly: This was my favorite of the starters that we tried. Borderline bite sized pieces of pork belly (I say that because chomping the whole skewer will yield a very full mouth, something I found out the hard way), covered in a maple chili glaze and Japanese Seven-Spice, on a skewer with a piece of tart Granny Smith apple to balance out the spice. Perfecto!

The Salads:

Blue Note (left) and House Salad (right)
The Blue Note salad was incredible! I would have never thought that mixing blueberries and bleu cheese would yield such an awesome combination, but it does! The House Salad did not punch me in the mouth like I had hoped and expected when we were told that it is served with a Tank 7 vinaigrette, but is a solid option when you want something with a lighter taste.

The Entrees:

Pan Seared Rainbow Trout
Pan Seared Rainbow Trout: A very light piece of fish served with a thin piece of lobster sausage and baby potatoes. Great for anyone trying to add some Omega-3 to the diet, yet doesn't like a strong fish taste. The house made lobster sausage was probably my favorite part of this dish.

Smoked Chicken Ravioli

Smoked Chicken Ravioli: Sort of like a ravioli deconstructed. Delicious tender smoked chicken thigh and baby spinach served with a ravioli that is lightly filled with a ricotta filling.

Apple Wood Smoked Meatloaf

Apple Wood Smoked Meatloaf: My favorite entree! Meatloaf made with veal, pork, and beef (yes I know veal is a form of beef, but lets not split hairs here), slow smoked and then grilled. The sides that come with this entree are equally awesome: sour cream golden russet potatoes on top of wild mushroom gravy, grilled mushrooms, grilled seasonal veggie cubes (carrots, butternut squash, etc), crisp green beans, and lightly pickled onions (vinegary yet still crisp).

The Desserts:

Nothing goes with dessert like coffee
Ricotta Doughnuts
Ricotta Doughnuts: I never thought that doughnuts and key lime would go well together, but they do, deliciously. These doughnuts are fantastic: sweet doughnuts, tangy key lime dipping sauce, and a wonderfully light white chocolate mousse accompanying it all.

Carrot Cake
Carrot Cake: The Carrot Cake is great. Served with orange sherbet and topped with candied roman carrots.

S’mores Flavors
S’mores Flavors: This is essentially a deconstructed S'more: graham cracker crumbles, graham cracker ice cream (yes you read that right, graham cracker ice cream), molten brownie (I couldn't think of a better descriptor for this brownie myself, it is indeed molten), and marshmallow fluff that has been hit with a torch. This has to be one of the best desserts I have ever had in my life! This dessert alone would be worth the drive for a South Kansas Citian! Just incredible! Words cannot describe it!

Hotel President at Night

Everything at Providence New American Kitchen was awesome! We will definitely be back for some of our favorites, as well as to try other dishes (such as the Bully Porter Braised Short Ribs). As we were walking home, discussing our favorite dishes (that we had just gorged ourselves with), and stopping for a couple photo ops, we were reminded that we live in a pretty sweet city!

Buenas Noches

Providence New American Kitchen on Urbanspoon