Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Recipe of the Week: French Bread

While growing up, my family wasn't very excited about cooking. But every now and then, the smell of cooking food would permeate every room of the home and send me running into the kitchen. Often, this smell would come from my father making bread.

He tried various recipes, and at one point even had some sourdough starter taking-up a semi-permanent residence in our refrigerator. But usually the bread had a hard crunchy crust, with a warm soft interior that just called for gobs of butter.

These memories have stayed with me. And late last year, I found myself trying to bake bread for the first time. It took a few tries before I was happy with the result. After all, getting a crunchy crust on a french bread is hard unless you have a professional-grade oven with steam injectors!  But the recipe below resulted in a tasty and tender bread that wasn't overly dense, and it had an almost perfect crust.

Make perfect bread with a pizza stone like this from Sur La Table.

First, there are some tips you should be aware of:

#1) If you want an awesome crunchy crust, steam is your friend. If placing the loaf on a pizza stone, or an upside down cast-iron skillet or baking  sheet, you'll want to place 1/2 cup of water in an open oven-safe container (i.e. pie tin) AND throw 1/2 cup of water onto the bottom of the oven once the bread is in the oven.  The water thrown into the oven flash-steams, while the water in the container evaporates over time keeping the oven more humid.

#2) Use a pizza stone, cast iron dutch or an upside-down cast iron skillet.You want something that is thick, retains and radiates heat. If you don’t have one of these, don’t worry, just use a good-quality, thick baking sheet -- upside down

Click "read more" to get the recipe

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Meat Ragu

Ragu recipe cooking
Ragu and ziti pasta cooking
on stove-top.
I've been on an Italian kick lately.  Last weekend we made Bolognese. The week before we visited an Italian restaurant.  And before that, we visited ANOTHER Italian restaurant. Needless to say, my wife wasn't surprised when I decided to try making a new meat sauce.

The below meat ragu recipe is based on the recipe in the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I honestly can't say enough good things about this book. When I was learning to cook, a friend recommended it.  And it is now the most used, destroyed and beloved cookbook in our kitchen.

This is an awesome cookbook is made by the same people who made the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, mentioned above:

This meat ragu came out very hearty with a strong beef flavor. In some ways, it almost tastes like my favorite beef stew.  However, the Pecorino Romano cheese and the Ziti noodles all but made me forget the resemblance. If I were to modify this recipe, I'd try to give it a more Italian flavor by adding oregano, a couple cloves of garlic and more tomatoes.

Click Read More for the ingredients and directions.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cafe 100

About a week ago, on a Saturday morning, my wife and I wanted a big breakfast. But we REALLY didn't want to do any dishes. In addition, we wanted something closer to our house than Davidson or Mooresville. So, we decided to finally try Cafe 100.

On the former location on Toast, Cafe 100 has never been among my top "must-eats" of the area. I loved the Huntersville location of TOAST, and I really didn't like seeing it go. So I held onto the grudge for as long as possible, but eventually my tummy won the debate, and I found peace with trying this restaurant.

The inside still looks almost identical to Toast: wood paneling, tables, chairs, counter near the kitchen; it's all still there. However, now there is artwork on the walls (for sale), and some of it is pretty good. Once we arrived, a waitress told us to grab any seat we wanted. So we chose a table for two against a wall in the back room.

Shortly thereafter, our waitress asked for our drink orders. We begged for coffee, and it was brought out shortly along with some slices of pound/coffee cake. That was good!

The coffee was never refilled. That was bad.

Click "read more" to get the full review and score of Cafe 100

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Recipe Wednesday: Grilled Cheddar Eggs

As you may know, I LOVE grilling over charcoal. The flavors and the aroma of food that's grilled this way just can't be beat. So, when I ran across this article about using a grill to cook eggs, I snapped to attention.

Just a quick FYI, the eggs in this recipe are more like a quiche. And red bell peppers are used like a pie tin.  But that's the beauty of this recipe, by using the pepper, your minimizing your dishes and maximizing your flavor.

Speaking of maximizing flavor, I added some pre-cooked chorizo to the recipe below. Feel free to add whatever pre-cooked meat you like (bacon, ham, sausage, etc.) or none at all. What's important is that you like it.

If you're using charcoal or wood, the trick to this recipe will be keeping the temperature on the grill low enough so that you don't destroy the pepper. While keeping the temperature high and consistent enough to thoroughly cook the egg mixture. If you're using a gas grill (ACK!), use a medium-low heat.

Advertisement: Get a great charcoal grill, at an amazing price, from

Click read more to get the ingredients, directions and wine pairings.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bad Daddy's Burger Bar

After reviewing all the new choices in Birkdale, I was left wondering, "What do I feel like eating?" There are just SOOOO many tasty options to try in Birkdale. So, I did what any destiny-defying, independent, alpha-male would do.

I asked my wife.

Surprisingly, she was in the mood for burgers. And off we went to Bad Daddy's.

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, just a few minutes after 12 p.m. The place was already packed and I figured that we'd have to wait. Fortunately, there was one table left and we grabbed a seat about half way back, along the window.

Continue reading for the summary, score and restaurant info:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Birkdale Renaissance

A while ago, I was starting to lose faith in the Birkdale restaurant scene.  Several restaurants had closed, and the others had been there for a while.  It seemed as if, Birkdale was starting to get stale.

Sure, there were the nicer restaurants with American fare, Red Rocks and Dressler's, and eeZ has always had great Asian food. Then for quick meals, you had Qdoba (burritos) and JD Rockers (sandwiches). For family friendly pizza, there's Brixx. And if you want to drink like a frat guy while watching a game, there's always Fox & Hound.

However, this limited choice was leaving me uninspired. After visiting these places time and time again, my taste-buds were starting to get bored.

Fortunately, things have changed, and in case you haven't noticed, over the past year or so Birkdale undergone a restaurant Renaissance.

The new kids on the block: Zoe's,Which Which, Baja Soul, Bad Daddy's Burger Bar and Bonefish Grille have all added some much needed flare to the Birkdale menu.

Zoe's Mediterranean inspired menu offers a healthier menu than most casual fast restaurants. Which Which offers a great sandwich selection that Quizno's (located in the same location) could never match.  Baja Soul offers a much nicer atmosphere than Qdoba -- and the food goes FAR beyond burritos.  Bad Daddy's offers a wide variety of burger selections, and Bonefish brings a formal(ish) flare while specializing in seafood dishes.

Between all these restaurants, what am I to do??  Why eat at all of them of course!

So, what do you think of the Birkdale restaurants? If so, VOTE below! Got a favorite dish?  Leave a comment, and let me know!

Also, I'm trying to get back into writing reviews.  So, check back here, or on my Facebook Page, to see my upcoming reviews.

Bon Appetit!

What's your favorite Birkdale Restaurant?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Valentines Day Reward

I just had to post this. It's a photo of my Valentine's Day gift: a bottle of Trefethen Chardonnay and a bottle of Sanford Chardonnay. Trefethen has always been near and dear to my heart, and this 2009 is young enough that a couple of more years of aging will really let it shine (my experience with it usually has shown that it peaks after about 5-7 years).

However, the Sanford is a 2007. For those of you familiar with the movie Sideways, it's the first winery shown on the screen, and it has some very good stuff. Since this one is a little older, and already at the 5 year mark, I'll probably have this one pretty soon.

Honestly, I can't wait to open either! It's a win-win situation!