Monday, April 30, 2012

Guadalahonky's: Draper, Utah

The second Saturday of each month is reserved for dinner with Rachel's family. Each sibling and her parents take turns choosing the restaurant. It varies from fast food to authentic Diners. For our dinner this month we went to Guadalahonky's: Draper's original Mexican restaurant. As a self-proclaimed Food Snob (a title also given to me by my wife), I was hesitant. Draper has let me down many times in the food arena. It seems to be all chain restaurants, places lacking in quality; or both. Nevertheless, it's Rachel's Dad's favorite restaurant, so off we went.

Since it was a Saturday night, the wait was about 30 minutes; but that was for eight of us. Immediately after sitting down, the waitress brought out their homemade tortilla chips and fresh made salsa. It was delicious and the salsa had just enough "fire" to it. The chips were thin, crispy, and addictive. The only problem was that she refilled our chips and salsa three times, so that by the time the food got there, we were getting full.

The dish which caught my eye: Honky Asada Tacos: three 7" white corn tortillas grilled and stuffed with cheese, seasoned strips of new york steak, lettuce, and pico de gallo salsa. Served with Spanish rice, black beans, and sour cream.

I began by eating the black beans. You know what you expect with black beans: bland, gritty, dry. It was none of these. They were moist, delicious, and with a hint of sweetness. The Spanish rice was soft, fluffy and had the right amount of "fire." Usually Spanish rice is 3 days old and hurts your mouth to chew. Definitely a surprise. The tacos were fabulous: the meat was moist and tender; not fatty and gristly like so many "asada" tacos and burritos. The pico de gallo salsa added a fresh and spicy bite to the dish. The corn tortillas were grilled perfectly-meaning that they did not fall apart while eating.

My Father-in-Law was as giddy as I had seen him in years. So much so that he even picked up the check. Thank you for a great night and for great food.

If you are driving hungry on Interstate 15 through the south end of the Salt Lake Valley, get off at the 12300 S. exit, head east, stay in the right hand lane and turn into Guadalahonky's. It is the best restaurant in that busy commerical area.

136 E. 12300 S.
Draper, Utah, 84020

Happy Eating.

Guadalahonky's on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 27, 2012

Risotto alla Milanese

My Parmesan Risotto post on April 18th, generated a lot of buzz. I had a good friend who tried the recipe, loved it, and even send me a great risotto recipe that he had just made. I have not tried it yet, but it looks delicious.

Risotto alla Milanese
Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything p208

Note:  True risotto alla Milanese contains bone marrow, which is not that easy to come by.  If you have some, add it at the beginning.
4-6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water
½ teaspoon saffron threads
2 tbs butter or extra-virgin olive oil
Plus 2 tbs butter
1 medium onion, minced
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
½ cup dry white wine (I used water)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1.        Warm the liquid in a medium saucepan over medium heat, crumble the saffron into it, and leave the heat on.
2.       Place the butter or oil in a large saucepan or skillet, preferably non-stick, and turn the heat to medium.  When it’s hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.
3.       Add the rice and stir until it is coated with butter.  Add a little salt and pepper, then the white wine.  Stir and let the liquid bubble away. 
4.       Begin to add the warmed stock, ½ cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so.  When the stock is just about evaporated, add more.  The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry.  Keep the heat medium to medium-high, and stir frequently (constant stirring is not necessary).
5.       Begin tasting the rice 20 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but with still a tiny bit of crunch.  It could take as long as 30 minutes to reach this stage.  When it does, add the softened butter and Parmesan.  Check the seasoning, adjust if necessary, and serve immediately.  

Now where can I get some saffron and bone marrow?

Happy Eating

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Harmon's City Creek: A Fabulous Date Nite

Relaxing; you could stay here all afternoon

Two weeks ago my Sister-in-Law and her boys took Ruby to Cabela's for the evening. With that precious free time when our kid was away, Rachel and I went to Star of India in Downtown Salt Lake. Dinner was delicious and we had time to spare after eating, so we drove around the new City Creek development. As we crossed State St. we saw the new Harmon's grocery store and it was beckoning us to come inside.

View from Mezzanine level

To sum it up: Amazing! What a way to spend a date nite. There is a fresh salad bar, wok bar, olive bar, sandwich station, pizza station, delicious bakers, chef prepared grab and go meals, and much to Rachel's delight: a gelato bar. We went upstairs to the mezzanine level to eat and people watch. There we found a Cooking School with a class in progress. Let's see: lots of delicious fresh food, cooking classes; if there was an apartment in the building, I may never leave.

Olive Bar

Chinese Food

Creminelli's Meats

I have seen nice grocery stores before, but this had an extra "WOW" factor. Definitely stop by and check it out. Am I weird to fall in so much love with a grocery store? Probably, but at least I embrace my eccentricities. The rest of you have to live vicariously through me.

Open Seating Area

Fantastic Olive Oil and Vinegar Aisle

Happy Eating.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dragon Diner

A few years ago I remember how delicious Sampan Chinese restaurant was. I say "was" because it seemed to go downhill fast (look for that review in the future). Around the same time I got hooked on Dragon Diner. It is the perfect Chinese comfort food. Rumor has it that the Chef at Dragon was formerly the Chef at Sampan. I have never been able to corroborate this but it seems very likely.

It's usually about once a month that I get that uncontrollable craving for Chinese food. A quick call to Dragon, 20 minute round-trip drive, and it's dinner in front of the TV. The decision is especially easy if the Money Mailer has sent a $3.00 off coupon.

The other night I had the A Dinner combination with General Tao's Chicken. Dinner combinations include your choice of entree (of which there are many), soup of the day (always egg drop or hot & sour), ham fried or steamed rice, egg roll or cream cheese wontons. All of this for $8.75. You can also do a B Dinner combination which includes fried shrimp but no soup, wontons or egg roll.

Rachel ordered the Tangerine Chicken which is delicious. There is a mild amount of heat to it but nothing overwhelming. The General Tao's Chicken has a little more heat which I prefer. Both of these dishes have the prefect amount of breading and sweetness. I also highly recommend the Pon Pon Chicken if you like spice.

General Tao's Chiken with Cream Cheese Wontons, Steamed Rice and Hot & Sour Soup

Most of the dishes that I have tried at Dragon are wonderful so I will tell you the dishes that are not; there are 2: Lemon Chicken and Orange Beef. The Lemon Chicken is nothing more than a pan fried chicken breast sliced up with lemon sauce poured over it. It's definitely missing something. As for the Orange Beef, it's just a bad mixture. Orange chicken is wonderful but trying to pair that with beef, leaves an odd marriage in flavor and texture. The fact that it is still on the menu surprises me.

If you are having a craving for Chinese food, please try this place. It's located kiddy corner from St. Mark's Hospital in the Millcreek area. I have been so faithful to Dragon that I haven't tried many other Chinese restaurants in years. Do I dare? I have seen that there is a "New Dragon Diner" in West Jordan; same owners?

Dragon Diner
1331 E. 3900 S. 
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84124 

Happy Eating

Dragon Diner on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 20, 2012

Proud Papa Moment

Reprint from an earlier column. I loved it so much that it had to be shared again.

A couple weeks ago some friends from the neighborhood came over for dinner. I made grilled pizzas. Grilled Rosemary-Crust Pizzas with Spicy Italian Sausage, Bell Peppers, Onions, Tomatoes, Cheese, and Garlic with a Balsamic drizzle to be more precise. They are quite popular. So much so that once my nephew said that if he were on death row, he would prefer these grilled pizzas as his last meal. To his credit, if any of my relatives are to be on death row one day, I have no doubt that it would be him. And if that brings some notoriety to my homemade grilled pizzas, then I would accept that.

Now to the moral of the story: Our friends that came over have a 4 year old boy. He comes over once a week to play and Ruby goes to their house once a week. He loves corndogs and chicken nuggets and we keep some in the freezer. Most kids love to have corndogs and chicken nuggets any chance they can get. What kid wouldn't? Our friend warmed up a corndog each for both her little boy and Ruby. I couldn't help but be so happy when Ruby would not touch hers but was chowing down on my pizza instead.

What a proud Papa moment.

Happy Eating.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Parmesan Risotto: a delicious side dish!

Each time I am either asked for a recipe or post one here, I have some fits of anxiety. I am not the best at following recipes and even when I look them up for reference, I change the proportions. Regardless of my lack of discipline for recipes, risotto is a dish that I have made many times with great popularity. My lack of contentment in cooking drives Rachel crazy. If it worked well once, do it again; instead I add this, take away that, a little more here and there. Somehow it all works out.

Parmesan Risotto

1 cup arborio rice
1 cup diced white onions
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 quart chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
1/2 fresh lemon

Sweat (cook until translucent) the onions, celery and carrots in 3 tablespoons butter. Add arborio rice and saute until rice kernels begin to brown. Begin to add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of stock at a time until absorbed; stir continually. When you feel the rice is properly cooked (not an easy task), add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, fresh thyme, squeeze in lemon juice, fresh cracked black pepper to taste. Remove from heat, add Parmesan, stir, and enjoy.

Cooking time is approximately 30-40 minutes. I mentioned above that cooking risotto can be a tricky task. There is a very short amount of time between when it is still too crunchy and when it turns to mush. It is as if you stand at the stove, stirring diligently as you coax each grain of rice into soaking up stock.

Coaxing each grain of rice into soaking up stock.

The onions, celery, and carrots give it a sweetness; the butter and Parmesan, a creaminess; and the thyme is a subtle touch of freshness.

You can do so much with risotto; I have added mushrooms in the past. You can add lobster or layer a roasted duck breast on top. My friend just sent me a recipe (let's see if I follow it) for Risotto alla Milanese. one of the ingredients is saffron threads. I can hardly wait to make it. Stay tuned!

Ruby and Risotto are a great match.

Happy Eating.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Firehouse Subs

I know what you are saying, "Jeff went to a chain restaurant?" Let me explain: At my office yesterday, Chris (a devout Hometown Slop follower), walked in and asked if I had plans for lunch. I replied that if he was buying, I was going. He said that he would buy and I replied that I would accept him paying and that he could pick where we go. He said "Oh no, you are the Foodie and I love reading about all these restaurants you go to that I have never heard of." At this point he had both agreed to pay and was deferring to me as to  where we were going to eat. It doesn't get much better than that.

Chris did not have time for the restaurant that I did choose; or so he says. He realized that he gave away the farm and was now trying to squirm back into power. We decided to drive down Ft. Union Blvd. and go to where we felt called. Firehouse Subs was on the left in the Ft. Union shopping center. The red, yellow and white sign was definitely calling to us.

The busy interior

As we walked in, the first thing that struck me was the kindness and helpfulness of the Employees. One gentleman immediately walked up to us and showed us the ropes. It was a great start. The menu looked fabulous. Chris ordered first. He asked for either the Engineer Sub or the Firehouse "Hero" Sub. I asked for the New York Steamer Sub on a toasted wheat roll, to which Chris immediately asked the Employee "Is it too late for me to change to that also?" "Respect for the Foodie among us?" I replied.

Happy Chris with his "New York Steamer" Sub

The New York Steamer Sub has corned beef brisket, pastrami, melted provolone, mustard, mayo and Italian dressing. In other words, it is absolutely delicious. There are a lot of sharp flavors in this sandwich; which is something that I love. If you crave sweetness in a sandwich, this is not for you. There are however, plenty of options. This may be a chain restaurant but it has the taste and feel of a mom & pop establishment. I would highly recommend it. Please do, however, get the 12" sub; the 8" is a little small.

The place was crowded was the service was fast. The longest line ironically, was for the Coca-Cola freestyle machine. As for the price, definitely worth it if someone else is paying. I honestly don't know what it cost. Thanks Chris for the great sub. There are 3 locations in the Salt Lake Valley: 3798 S. 700 E., 1008 E. Ft. Union, and 10325 S. State St. Try it out.

Since I first saw a "Coca Cola Freestyle" machine at Crown Burgers, I have been in love with it. 120+ combination possibilities.
Happy Eating.

Firehouse Subs (Midvale) on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 13, 2012

To Grill or to Smoke?

No, I am not referring to smoking cigarettes. I am referring to smoking meat on the grill. Ironically, this is something that I have never done except in cooking class. My grill uses propane and was purchased for $35 at a garage sale back in 2005-thank you Rachel. It still works beautifully. I love to grill (see blog post here). Just last night we grilled some burgers; last week chicken; and the week before that we grilled pork tenderloin. 

The $35 wonder. We have had it since 2005 and it is wonderful.

The reason for my consternation is the desire to do some smoking. Having indulged in some good BBQ lately (see post here), it's difficult to repress the desire to enjoying some fabulous meats with a perfect smoked flavor. All winter I have dreamed of this. While visting Mississippi and Tennessee last fall, I met some people who know what grilling and smoking is all about. A devout Ole Miss fan told me that the football team wasn't much this year but that the food at the tailgating parties was still wonderful.

Hard to see but this Ole Miss Fan's grill was towed by his truck. There are actually 3 grills on the trailer. It was such a beautiful sight; one of the most beautiful sights in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Here are a couple friends I made in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. They run the Big City Deli in the town square. You can see the grill in front. It was made from a 200 gallon propane tank. On the menu that evening: chicken and pork. They even invited us back for karaoke later.

I am requesting any suggestions for smokers and your great recipes for smoking ribs, brisket, chicken, etc. I may just invite you over for a Saturday of smoking, watching baseball and eating fabulous food.

Happy Eating and Smoking

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Herbed Garlic Mashed Potatoes: YUM!

Doesn't this just sound delicious? It definitely is. Last month, this dish was part of a cooking class I took. With all the other food we cooked in class, I don't remember trying this. Wanting to taste them and knowing that Ruby loves potatoes, I went to work.

It might take a few minutes longer than regular mashed potatoes but you will never go back.

2 3/8 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 pound butter
1/8 cup basil, cleaned and chiffonade (cut the leaves while rolled up)
1/8 cup parsley, cleaned and chopped
3/4 tablespoon rosemary, cleaned and chopped
1/8 cup garlic, minced
1 1/4 tablespoons kosher salt
3/8 tablespoon white pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into 1 inch thick pieces and place in pot.

Steam the potatoes until tender, 50-60 minutes.

In a sauce pan, warm the butter, garlic, herbs, cream and mil together to steep the flavor.

When potatoes are cooked, mix them in a mixer on high speed until smooth.

Add the milk and butter mixture to the potatoes and mix in slowly.

Add the salt and pepper and whip on high.

Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

One of the most important steps is #3; warm the milk, butter, cream & other ingredients before you add it to the potatoes. Usually we pour cold milk & butter into the potatoes. This doesn't allow for the flavors to properly develop since you are throwing cold ingredients into very hot potatoes.

Another note: you cannot overcook potatoes. Put them on the stove and forget about them for an hour. I guess you could eventually burn them but if you manage a way to do that, find another hobby.

Rachel and Ruby loved them. I received this text from Rachel yesterday: "Eating yummy potatoes! Good thing I have a toothbrush for when I'm done :-)"

You will definitely need a toothbrush after you eat. The garlic is very strong. The herbs add a flavor combination to the potatoes that you wouldn't think would work. It does work; works well. It definitely makes it more than a side dish.

Enjoy. As I said, you will never go back to simple mashed potatoes.

Happy Eating

Monday, April 9, 2012

Citris Grill: A Hidden Gem in Salt Lake's Millcreek Neighborhood

A couple of weeks ago a good friend inquired about going to lunch. He left it up to me as to where we would meet. Since he lives in the Holladay / Canyon Rim area, I was thinking of restaurants in the neighborhood. Citris Grill came to mind. I had not been there in a while and remembered thoroughly enjoying the food.

The atmosphere inside is very calm and comfortable. You could stay there for a couple hours without feeling rushed to leave. The food has always been wonderful and includes great appetizers, sandwiches, salads, burgers, pastas, wood fired pizzas, and entrees. There is always a daily special. On this particular outing I ordered the daily special which was a pork tenderloin sandwich. After ordering, I had second thoughts. Maybe I should have ordered the citris hamburger or the southwest chicken wrap. Too late. I engaged in conversation and waited for the food.

When the sandwich came out and I began eating, I was ecstatic. The pork was tender and moist with a chipotle aioli on a soft bun. I loved it and enjoyed every bite. I only wish I had ordered one to go for dinner.

Some of the items on the menu I would highly recommend would be: black and white hummus appetizer, ham and havarti sandwich, southwest chicken wrap, asian wrap, smoked turkey sandwich, number one wood fired pizza, citris hamburger, shroom burger, and the cobb salad. This is everything I have ever tried here. I am sure that most all of the menu is delicious.

Should you have the opportunity, please do not hesitate to eat at Citris Grill.

Citris Grill
2991 E. 3300 S.

This past Thursday another friend asked if I could go to lunch. I said yes and he asked where I would like to go. First words out of my mouth: Citris Grill on 3300 S. This time I had the southwest chicken wrap. It was delicious. The smoked jalapeno sauce definitely adds some "fire" to the wrap. Make sure you have a glass of water nearby.

Southwest Chicken Wrap

Happy Eating. Citris Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 6, 2012

Homemade Mac & Cheese

This is a dish which can be prepared quickly and with ingredients that most homes have on hand. Ruby especially loves this and it's a perfect answer to the question of "what are we going to eat?" if it's getting close to dinner and you have prepared nothing.

I love making this dish because it applies some of the fundamentals I learned in the "Fine Art of Cooking" series at Orson Gygi. This includes making a roux (butter cooked with flour as a thickening agent); a bechamel sauce (cream added to a roux); and a mourne sauce (cheese added to a bechamel sauce). A mourne sauce mixed with noodles = mac & cheese.

Homemade Mac & Cheese

1 lb. elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and white pepper to taste

Boil elbow macaroni in salted water. In a saucepan mix butter and flour; when cooked together in a paste, add heavy cream 3/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly. When sauce is the consistency of gravy, add monterey and parmesan cheese; cooked until melted. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Mix with cooked noodles. Enjoy.

Note: use real parmesan cheese, not the powdered Kraft type that you shake over your spaghetti.  

I hope that you enjoy this dish as much as my family does.

Happy Eating.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dessert Anyone?

About 3 - 4 times per week, Rachel's Sister and her two boys come over. They are great to have and our daughter Ruby sure loves them. Both boys have taken a liking to cooking; Sam likes to create things from scratch and Jesse prefers to follow recipes.

One evening we were figuring out a dessert. We had ice cream in the freezer but desperately wanted a topping to jazz it up. I sliced up apples, pears, and bananas. The boys began mixing butter and sugar in a saute pan to make a caramel sauce.

Lesson #1: if you add too much sugar, and cook for too long, you get a hard, caramel candy. Delicious but not conducive to what we were attempting to accomplish.

Lesson #2: cooking bananas and pears in hot butter and sugar leaves you with a banana & pear tasting gel. Also delicious but visibly, all you see are the apples.

In the end, we had an extremely sweet caramel fruit sauce over vanilla ice cream. Not the best thing for Ruby when we are getting her ready for bed but wonderful nonetheless. The hard caramel chunks from Lesson #1 above, were broken up and sprinkled on top.

I have never excelled at making dessert; probably because I have never given it much effort. For anyone who has any great dessert recipes, please pass them along.

Happy Eating.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Star of India: Authentic Indian food in Downtown Salt Lake

Makhni Chicken

Indian food is one of my favorites. A couple weeks back, I spent the evening cooking a few Indian dishes along with some other Indian food lovers. Something about the spices, texture, and preparation is all appealing to me. Cooking these dishes take a long time. With this in mind, one evening last week Rachel and I went out for Indian food.

Star of India is located is just west of State St. on 400 S. After dark, the place can be hard to find. It's dimly lit and doesn't have a lot of street frontage. We were only a few feet away on the sidewalk before we saw it. I wasn't sure if it had closed. The interior is a little drab. I think that they got all their booths from the most recent Dee's closing and had them re-upholstered. But for the most important thing, the food, it was fabulous.

For an Appetizer we ordered Nan & Raita. Nan is an Indian bread cooked in the tandoor (clay oven). Raita is a whipped yogurt blended with cucumber, tomatoes, potatoes and mint. Sometimes I eat the raita with a spoon instead of a sauce. It's that good. Rachel could eat the Nan for a meal. This is a delicious bread, doughy in the middle and crispy and the outside.

I ordered Makhni Chicken for an entree. It's a Tandoori chicken cooked in a classic tomato & fresh butter sauce. Very delicious. The creamy sauce and chicken over a basmati rice seems to make everything right. On the side, I had them bring some mango chutney. I would pour this over the dish. The multiple flavor combinations seemed to compliment each other.

I would go hear again in a heartbeat. Be careful, however. The menu indicates that you can order your dishes "Mild / Hot / Hotter / Very Hot / Very Very Hot." I ordered Hot and thought that is was only the second tier of heat so I would be fine. After every bite, I had to take a drink of water.

If you are downtown, please don't hesitate to go to Star of India. Truth be told I have rarely been disappointed by any Indian restaurant in Salt Lake.

Happy Eating.

 Star of India on Urbanspoon
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