Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Say it ain't so, Joey--More on the ketchup and hotdog debate

Recognize this actor? It looks like some New Yorkers like ketchup on their hot dogs after all. Actually, Matt Le Blanc isn't a real New Yorker. He only plays one of television. According to Wikipedia, "Matt has said that with the one ketchup commercial he was able to buy a house, a car, a motorcycle, and a wardrobe full of clothes."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Orville and Wilbur's--the hot dogs

Last summer, the Daily Universe ran a story on the Orville and Wilbur's, the "secret snack bar" at the bowling alley at BYU (basement of the WSC). They offer hamburgers (which didn't look very special), chicken wings (which give the place its name), and the Cougar Dog, which some people claim to be a rip-off of J-Dawg's. I dropped by one day to investigate that claim, but first I want to comment on this sentence from the article:

"If a Chicago-style hot dog with sauerkraut and tomatoes, is what students want, the staff can make it. If a New York style hot dog with mustard and ketchup would please the palate, that option is available too."

First of all, sauerkraut and tomatoes don't make a hot dog a Chicago dog. True Chicago dogs don't even have sauerkraut. They have that radioactive green relish that you can apparently only get in Chicago. In addition to the relish, the distinctive features are really the tomatoes, the hot pepper, and the celery salt. For the true Chicago experience close to home, visit The Hotdog King on South State in Orem.

Second, ketchup on a NY hot dog? fuggetaboutit! That's hot dog heresy. (In NYC, ketchup is for kids--or french fries.) There is a famous scene from one of the "Dirty Harry" movies (which I confess not to have seen) where Harry and his partner investigate a scene where some guy has just been gunned down. They're looking down at the guy eating hot dogs. Harry remarks, "That is absolutely sickening." The partner replies, "Yeah, the guy was in the prime of his life, and now look at him." Harry responds, "No, not him, you just put ketchup on a hot dog!" (Anyone got a source for this one?) In Sudden Impact (1983), the writers return to this gag. After confessing that this job is starting to get to him, Harry indicates that it's not the blood or the violence--it's the fact that his partner keeps putting ketchup on his hot dog. He says, "Nobody, but nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog."

By the way, I had the Cougar Dog with barbecue sauce and onions (the same way I order the J-Dawg). It bears only a slight resemblance. I think the BBQ sauce was probably KC Masterpiece (which is still a good bottled sauce, but not J-Dawg's homemade). And the hot dog was Vienna beef cut the way the J-Dawg's cuts theirs. The Cougar Dog also has a really good bun, but the whole combo isn't as good as the J-Dawg. The Cougar Dog bun would be really good for a cheese steak.

Baked Olives

Karen Pierotti, a friend and co-worker here at BYU, recently brought to work a great Mediterranean side dish--baked olives.

This dish had two kinds of olives, small black olives and large green olives. (One recipe suggests nicoise olives and kalamata olives. I think you could use any combination you like.) There was a mixture of Italian herbs (thyme?), some sliced garlic, orange peels (without the pith) and a some olive oil sprinkled over the mixture (probably with some of the orange juice squeezed over the top). Bake this on medium heat and serve, or prepare in advance and then reheat.

You could do a lot of variations on this. The point is olives, citrus, herbs/garlic, all heated up.

Here's a recipe for a version of this from the BBC. This version adds a bay leaf (which you should remember to take out).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"No thanks, I ate bugs for lunch . . . ."

In one of the few really good scenes from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Kate Capshaw's character dines on some exotic and extreme (but not very realistic) Indian food. When one of her fellow diners asks why she isn't eating, she replies, "I ate bugs for lunch."

I'm currently reading Christa Weil's Fierce Food: The Intrepid Diner's Guide to the Unusual, Exotic, and Downright Bizarre. This is an alphabetical listing of extreme foods from Armadillo to Yuba. (Armadillo is apparently tasty, but a major carrier of leprosy--caveat omnivore.)

Weil is a London-based fashion journalist, whose other books are Secondhand Chic and It's Vintage, Darling!. As far as I can tell, this is her first foray into food writing.

These are brief and interesting discussions of exotic food from around the world, most of which just sound too disgusting to eat but a few of which might be interesting. Weil has developed an interesting rating system for each item, indicating for example whether the item "has eyes," "tastes like chicken," or "may cause pain/disease/death."

This book provides good bedtime reading because each entry is only a page or so long, but you might end up with some strange dreams. (You can buy the book used on Amazon for 1 cent plus shipping.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fish and Shrimp Tacos at Cabo Grill

Cabo grill is an American Fork original, but it's been facing some tough competition from Cafe Rio and Bajio (which have both opened on the West Side of town over by Walmart). But we're determined to keep them in business. I usually get a taco (either pork, chicken, or steak) but with no rice or beans. This time I decided to try a fish taco and a shrimp taco. I've had these before at Cabo, but these were better than I remember. The fish taco is halibut (not pollock, an inferior fish found at most other places). It is lightly breaded and deep fried with the traditional shredded cabbage and light mayonnaise sauce. The shrimp taco had a lot of shrimp with a great guacamole. Most guacamole around here is pretty bland (I'm talking about *you* Los Hermanos), but this had minced jalapenos to give it a little bit.

I'm on a quest to find the best fish taco in Utah, and for a long time, I had favored Rubio's. (I know it's a chain, but I still like the fish tacos.) But I think Cabo has been working on their recipe, because it tastes a little like Rubio's. (There used to be a Rubio's in Provo on 1320 North--where the L&L is now--but now the only Rubio's restaurants are in Salt Lake City, one on 400 South and 700 east and the other in Sugarhouse.)

According to Sunset magazine (March 2000), some of the best fish taco in the West are found at the Lone Star Taqueria at 2265 Fort Union Blvd in Salt Lake City. I've driven by, but never stopped in (more's the pity).

Easy Bread Sticks

The other night we had spaghetti with some easy bread sticks made from a recipe that AnneMarie got from her sister Susie. Here it is:

1 1/2 cups water, warm
1 T dry yeast
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Mix all the dry ingredients together (including the yeast) in a large mixing bowl. Then add the water. Knead in the bowl for about three minutes, adding additional flour as needed. (The dough will be a little stickier than bread dough.) Press the dough into a greased pan and cut into desired lengths. Drizzle with 1/2-1 stick of melted butter and sprinkle with garlic and parmesan cheese. Let rest for 10-20 minutes and then bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Flour Girls and Dough Boys

A new artisan bakery has opened in Utah Valley, Flour Girls and Dough Boys, at 35 N. Barrett Avenue, a location that was previously the Naborhood Bakery, which looks like has moved to Gardner Village, and before that Bryson Bakery, which has moved to Orem.

Before the run of bakeries, this was the site of Barrett's Hardware.

I haven't been there yet, but AnneMarie and her friend Cheryl went there for lunch. This looks like a great place, and it's getting rave reviews on various blogs. Cheryl had tried some of their bread at the Farmer's market at Thanksgiving Point.

AnneMarie had the turkey, swiss, and cheddar panini on the asiago bread. Cheryl had the cranberry walnut, turkey, brie (which is probably what I would have had. She took home to her husband Dale the ham & swiss panini on rustic country. AnneMarie also reports that they have monster brownies, mint or regular, for just $1.50. (Brownies are my weakness--along with chocoloate milk.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Two Great Tastes . . .

I don't know who first thought of combining chocolate and peanut, but it was genius. Maybe it really was accidental (as in those old Reese's PB cup commercials). Yesterday, I work I bought a Twix PB out of the machine. Apparently, the Twix PB replaces the peanut butter Twix, which has been around off and on for several years. Like the Peanut Butter Twix, the Twix PB replaces the caramel with peanut butter, but PB has a chocolate cookie base, instead of the sugar cookie. A quick Internet search shows mixed reviews, but I liked it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Little Caesar's Hot N (Hardly Ever) Ready Pizza

I may come across as a bit of a pizza snob, and I do confess that I do have strong preferences, but I understand that part of the appeal of pizza is its convenience. There are some nights when you just want to get everyone fed in a timely manner. This need is answered by Little Caesar's Hot-N-Ready pizza, guaranteed to be ready for pick up.

But when it's not ready, it starts to lose its appeal. Little Caesar's has an adequate taste, but it's only really worth eating because it's cheap and fast. When it's not fast, then what's the point?

AnneMarie says that there has always been pizza ready whenever she has gone--except for the time she went with me. Perhaps I'm the problem. Tonight I only had to wait about ten minutes (someone had just come in and bought 17 pizzas for a Church youth night activity. It does say "no limit.").
Once I made the mistake of going in on a Friday night, when it was raining hard, and there was football on TV. That all adds up to no pizza. They told me I would wait for 20 minutes, but it ended up being 1 1/2 hours. (I stuck around because I had already paid. I was trapped.)
Part of the problem (apparently) is that some people confuse the Little Caesar stores in American Fork and Lehi. They'll call in one place but try to pick up in the other. I imagined on this night stacks and stacks of pizzas at the Lehi store with a bewildered crew wondering where all the customers were. It's Friday. Raining. Football. Why not make a whole bunch more pizzas? Although the service at LC's is usually adequate, this night it wasn't exactly the "A Team."
Let me try to explain this. They would run out of cheese pizzas, so they would start cooking a bunch of cheese pizzas. Then they would run out of pepperoni, so they would start cooking more pepperoni. They never seemed to have both cheese and pepperoni at the same time. I like cheese, and my kids say they like pepperoni (but then sometimes they eat my cheese pizza). On top of this, if someone came in just wanting cheese or just wanting pepperoni, the LC's crew would move them ahead in the line, ensuring that those of us who wanted both would never get our pizza. (While you're making all them there pepperoni pizzas, would it hurt anything to throw in a cheese pizza or two? Just in case? I only need one.)
So although the pizza is never ready on time, at least it's always hot.

Food Memories--Jeno's Pizza Mix

I got off the phone with my mom last night, and she was talking about how she had an upset stomach from eating pizza at lunch--the pepperoni is just too spicy for her. I gave my standard speech on the virtues of cheeze pizza (now my favorite kind--particulary in New York). And then I had a food memory of eating Jeno's pizza as a kid. This was the pizza that came in a box. You mixed the flour with the dry yeast, spread out the dough, put on the sauce and seasonings, and then added the cheese. It came in two varieties: cheese and sausage. But because my mom was feeding a family of hungry boys (and one girl), she added hamburger and cheddar cheese (including additional parmesan from the green container). My mom used to spread out the dough on a rectangular cookie sheet, so you ended up with rectangular pieces. And the pieces in the middle had no crusts. (Later, pizza companies would call hamburger/cheddar pizza "cheeseburger pizza.")
My taste in pizza has certainly matured, and we never buy the paramesan in the green container. Good parmesan cheese is something worth spending extra money on. It doesn't have to be the fancy reggiano, but it shouldn't be somthing that looks like sawdust either. (I have to admit, however, that I used to eat handfuls of Kraft cheese out of the can when I was a kid. I think I liked the saltiness.) But I still have a fondness for hamburger and cheddar cheese on rectangular pieces--just not out of a box.
And did you know that Luigino "Jeno" Paulucci, the food entreprenuer between Jeno's and Totonio's pizza, begin his career with the Chun King brand of "Chinese" food? He said, "When I started Chun King, my mother said to me, 'What are you doing in the Chinese food business? We're Italian.' I told her some day I'd pack her sauces." His tribute to his mother is the Michelina's line of frozen Italian food.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Ever since Dippidee opened, I've wanted to stop by and check out the "sweet surprises," but I was afraid they might go out of business before I have a chance. (If a new food place opens in Utah county, you better get there quick, because some don't last very long.) But Dippidee is still around, and it's easy to see why.

Dippidee specializes in made to order desserts, particularly wedding cakes, and these are the real deal. But if you stop by their shop, you can also get really good cupcakes (very trendy at the moment, associated in particular with New York's Magnolia Bakery) as well as other pastries and chocolates (including a Ghanaian single-origin chocolate that I'll talk about later). Dippidee is by the Costco in American Fork.

AnneMarie and I split a chocolate cupcake with vanilla filling and chocolate frosting. (They also have a really nice website.)

Getting Caught Up

I got pretty busy in November and December and fell behind on the blog. Here are a list of topics that I need to cover:

  • Good Earth store opening in American Fork
  • Almond butter machine at Good Earth (as well as ideas for making your own nut butters)
  • Toaster Oven restaurant opening in American Fork
  • Checking out the Chicago Dog at Hot Dog King in Orem
  • Dagoba Xocolatl bar
  • Single Origin Chocolates
  • Pirate O's
  • Lon's Cookin' Shack (with the deep-fried pickles)
  • Cinnamon-roasted almonds at the BYU basketball games
  • Mo's Seafood Restaurant in Newport, Oregon
  • Shoot's Chinese cuisine in Provo
  • The Orange Chicken wars (Panda Express claims to have the original orange chicken. Now there is orange chicken at Rumbi's and Applebee's. But isn't OC just a variation on General Tso's chicken?)
  • Trip to NYC (including the Brazil Grill, the Morning Star Cafe, the Moon Rock Diner)