Friday, December 31, 2010

For the new year...

I wish for you for the new year...

A knife that is sharp and a pot that is clean
Home-made corned beef hash and eggs served sunny side up
Your steak rare and your hash browns crispy
Your Mashed Potatoes full of cheese and your gravy free of lumps
The courage to try new things, and the palate to enjoy them

Growing up in South Florida, Skipper Chuck used to say, "Peace, Love, and Happiness."

I wish you, "Peace, love, and Hollandaise Sauce"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What you should be listening to... #2 Pendant Audio

...Shameless plug...

I have done a little work here so I guess this is a plug, but I wouldn't mention them if I didn't love their work. To quote from their website,

"Pendant is an audio production group dedicated to making radio dramas like the old radio serials of the '30s and '40s, only modernized for today's audiences.

Think of them as movies without the video feed."

"We make no money whatsoever off of this, and do it purely for fun and entertainment."

Let me tell you. The product they put out is awesome stuff. I look forward every week to listening to new episodes of Superman, Supergirl, Batman, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Seminar, TWIP and now Star Trek Defiant. You should be too!

Right now the BIG EVENT is INSOLITUS which is the DC crossover. Zombies, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Bizarro, wow! GOOD STUFF! I will not describe any more; spoilers - you understand.

While I am waiting the 3 weeks til the next installment I am catching up on some of their other productions, specifically Star Trek Defiant. I just completed Episode 25 (I am waaaaaaaaay behind). If you are a Star Trek fan, you will enjoy this well written well acted series. This was the first series that Pendant produced and it shows the most growth. The voice acting also shows remarkable depth. I want to make special mention of Pete Milan, whose work as Gul Otek has been outstanding.

In addition to the Fan Podcasts, Pendant produces many original podcasts including Seminar. Seminar is an anthology science fiction/fantasy/horror series in the same vein of The Twlight Zone or the Outer Limits. It is also well produced and is a spring board for many of the newer actors (at least I hope so, as I have had several parts here).

I could write all day about Pendant, but it wouldn't do it justice. Go to and download some of their dramas. I think you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Monday, December 27, 2010

a little clarification

Just in case anyone was wondering, this is a sandbox for several different concepts. It will not only be food writing, I promise. For example, right now I have about 25 different stories in various states of development and some of these WILL be making an appearance. My wife and I are also working on a not-for-profit concept we hope to open in the next year which I'll chronicle here. Oh yeah, then I have more "What you should be listening to" and some expanded reviews from "Criticker".

So stay tuned!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

100 Things you should eat before you die: #3 Polenta

3. Polenta

(This is the first one I've had that's on the list.)

Polenta is boiled corn meal mush. Sounds appetizing, huh? Well it is good stuff. In my opinion, it has more flavor than grits and is more versatile. It also has hundreds of different variations. I tend to prefer mine savory and a touch salty, but some people like maple syrup on theirs.

Growing up my mom referred to it as peasant food and wouldn't make it. (She didn't like grits either). When I got out on my own I finally tried it and discovered that I really enjoyed it, ensuring it a place as a staple in my pantry.

My favorite way to make it is to boil it then chill it. When you boil the corn meal, it develops a smooth and creamy texture. This is due to the gelatinization of the starch in the corn. This gelling also allows you to mold the polenta into a log. Once I chill the log I like to slice it and fry it in a little butter and garlic.

When I have described polenta to friends I remark that it is sort of like scrapple or livermush, just without the unknown pig parts. This description doesn't do it justice, but it at least can give you a reference point.(2)

In doing research for this blog I ran across a couple of different recipes. The first hails from the city of São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil. This town is noted for its restaurants specializing in frango com polenta (fried chicken with fried polenta).

Frango com Polenta (1)
Serves 4


  • 3.5 lb whole chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 tsp. canola oil, or other neutral vegetable oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 japapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion, green parts only
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal (polenta)


  • In large heavy-duty pan (I always recommend cast iron), heat the oil then fry the chicken pieces until nicely browned on all sides. Fry in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding. Use additional oil if required to avoid sticking.
  • Return all the chicken to the pan, then add the salt, garlic and turmeric, mixing well to cover all the chicken with the seasonings. Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for approximately 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken to a large serving platter, cover with half of the cooking liquid, sprinkle with the green onion and cilantro, and keep warm.
  • Return the remaining half of the cooking liquid to the heat, and when simmering add the cornmeal in a slow, steady stream, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Cook, stirring constantly, just until the cornmeal begins to thicken enough to retain its shape on a spoon. If the polenta becomes to thick, add hot water to thin it out. The consistency should be like oatmeal.
  • Place the polenta in a bowl, and serve it and the chicken immediately.

Recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brasileira by Abril Editora.

The second recipe I found involves lots of cheese and sausage (two of my favorite things!). It also introduced me to a great website (and now I need to learn Italian).(3)

Polenta con Salsiccia, Fontina e Gorgonzola


  • 1 pound Italian Sausage
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces Fontina cheese
  • 8 ounces Goronzola cheese

  • Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat.(4)
  • Add the butter, and stir until melted. Cut cheese in chunks and mix with cooked polenta.
  • Cut sausage into pieces about 1 to 2 inches long. Brown in olive oil over medium heat. Add red wine to pan. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Pour the polenta into serving dish, make a hole in the center and pour in the sausages with all the cooking liquid.
In reality, Polenta is not that rare, even here in the land of grits. What's your favorite method for preparing polenta or grits? Post a reply with your recipe.

Bon Appetit!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

What you should be listening to...

Here's what I'm listening to this week:

The Moth

"The Moth features people telling true, engaging, funny, touching and eye-opening stories from their lives. Hailed as "New York's hottest and hippest literary ticket" by the Wall Street Journal, The Moth has been producing sold-out storytelling shows for over ten years. Stories are told without notes to a live audience by a wide range of people."

That hasn't been more true than with the 12/13 story by Richard Garriott, the world's first second generation astronaut. This story had me smiling from ear to ear. Richard is a geek's geek, much in the same vein as Wil Wheaton. If you have ever played"The Keep on the Borderlands" you'll relate. For that matter, if you ever read Rocket Boys (made into the movie "October Sky") you'll fit right in too. Did I mention he wrote the Ultima series?

I listen to The Moth podcast regularly, however if you are lucky enough, your local public radio station may carry it (mine does not).Check out to find a station near you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pizza night!

Tonight was pizza night! Every once and a while we'll go mess up someone else's kitchen. Last night we were at our friend's house for a Christmas party and she put out one hell of a spread. As we were getting ready to leave, we got to talking about leftovers and I mentioned pizza. Pizza is a very versatile flavor delivery device. In this case she had lots of different things, but not huge amounts of one particular item. With such a large array of ingredients, it was easy to convert them into pizza toppings.

With toppings available we need a crust. Here's my favorite quick crust:

Beer Pizza Dough

4 cups Self-Rising Flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 12 ounce bottle of beer

Take 3 1/2 cups of flour (reserve the remaining 1/2 cup) and combine with salt and sugar. Add olive oil and beer. Mix thoroughly, use a dough hook if available. Remove dough ball from bowl and work remaining 1/2 cup of flour into dough until ball is smooth with a slight shine (sticky is okay). Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes, covered with a warm, moist towel or heading pad.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Divide ball in two. Roll out ball on floured surface to desired consistency and depth (I prefer about 1/4 inch thick). Cover pizza stone or pizza pan with light coating of corn meal. Place toppings on pizza and place in oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

One note, if you are going to be placing A LOT of moist ingredients on the pizza or you plan on grilling the pizza, I highly recommend you par bake the pizza for 5 minutes before you place the toppings on the crust.

These are very basic instructions and there are definitely lots of things you could do with this recipe.

Here are some ideas:

1) Deep Dish Pizza
Substitute 1/4 cup of vegetable shortening for olive oil. Use a cast iron skillet instead of pizza pan. Layer Italian sausage (removed from casing, on bottom, cover with slices of mozzarella cheese and sauce. Cook ad 350 degrees for between 45 minutes to 1 hour.

2) Honey Porter Caramelized Onions
Substitute 2 tablespoons of honey for the 1 tablespoon of sugar. Use 12 ounces of Porter. To enhance the flavor of the onions, cook slowly over medium heat stirring constantly. Add another 6 to 12 ounces of porter to the pan to help deglaze the pan and add in color and caramelization. cover pizza dough with onions and shredded Swiss cheese.

3) Continental Pizza
In a medium saucepan pour 1 cup port wine and 1/2 cup of sugar bring to a simmer. Quarter and core 3 small pears. Place pears, cut side down into pan and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Place pears on dough. Cover with Gorgonzola, Fontina, Mozzarella, caramelized onions, and chopped hazelnuts.

4) Moroccan Pizza
Take left over lamb and shred. cover dough with layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle cinnamon over sauce. Add lamb, mozzarella, and crumbled feta cheese

5) Pizza Verde
Use Pesto sauce, sliced chicken breast, and Italian sausage. Cover in fontina and mozzarella cheese.

Remember, the beer will flavor the dough, which may overpower the toppings. I use a lighter beer like Corona for most dough, but a stout or a porter can provide wonderfully rich flavor as well.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reprint from my 2006 Holiday post

Several years ago I posted this in another blog. As Christmas is around the corner I wanted to share it with you. I have edited it to bring it up to date and included an afterword, but otherwise it is intact. Don't think of this as a rerun... think of it as a "best of" episode

People around here just don't understand how the Holidays are done! They think it's just Turkey and Ham and and sweet potatoes (I HATE SWEET POTATOES*). We've tried to serve a traditional Italian feast to our friends before, and it was not a pretty sight. Between the courses and the additional items, most of them are quite confused. And by the time we are done, most of them won't want to eat again for a week.

Here's a typical holiday dinner at my home:

Before you begin you have to warn your guests, "This is a multi-course meal. Don't fill up on the first course." But they never listen.

First you start with the antipasti. The looks you get when you serve cold cuts and cheese first are priceless. And then when they bite into a piece of fennel when they expected the taste of celery. OMG!

Then then comes the soup. They can handle the soup. In fact, if I cook, I usually make wedding soup and they love the little meatballs. I get some funny looks when I put escarole in it though. ("Dear? Why did he put lettuce in the soup?" "Humor him. He's not from around here.")

Next of course is the pasta and sauce with the meatballs and sausage. And of course if it is Thanksgiving, it would be lasagna or stuffed shells. If my wife made the sauce they'll like it. If I made it, we'd have to skip this course. About this time we have to warn them again, "There is still more to come, don't fill up." But of course, they still aren't listening.

About this time, I like to break out the first bottle of wine. Now people here where I live are for the most part of two minds about wine. Either wine is alcohol and alcohol is evil, or wine is alcohol and alcohol is like Kool-Aid. Luckily, most of my friends do not fit into either category, but I have served meals where people have stopped talking to me because I put a bottle of wine on the table. This is an argument for another post.

As soon as the plates are cleared, the main course is served. Usually two roasts: a turkey and a roast beef. Maybe I'll serve lamb or pork loin. Rarely will I serve ham. For really close friends that have been through one of our feasts before I may serve duck or goose or even individual Cornish game hens. If it's foul, I'll make my brown rice, sausage and apple stuffing. Then we'll have potatoes with gravy and two other green vegetables. No sweet potatoes though. I HATE SWEET POTATOES!*

If you have ever seen a Tex Avery cartoon you will understand they way that people's eyes will bulge out when they have had too much. Despite all of my warnings, they didn't listen and our friends have filled up on earlier courses. ("Dear? I think he's trying to kill us with all of this food!" "I shouldn't have stopped for that Big Mac on the way over here!") I'll also bring out a second bottle of wine at this point. Now my guests are completely confused, but that's okay by me.

Once again the plates are cleared and now the salad is served. If my guests were able to get through everything else, they are usually completely befuddled by the lettuce making an appearance at the end of the meal. This is European style. It is the way I was raised, it is the way I serve my meals and frankly it is better for digestion.

Now the table is cleared again. Coffee is made and cookies are served. Usually Italian cookies and Biscotti. Why the Italian cookies when nobody really likes them? Well you never know when some relative is going to stop by and they just wouldn't understand why you didn't have those nasty little holly-leaf-cookies-filled-with-jam-and-covered-with-powdered-sugar. And you wouldn't want to offend an aunt or a cousin that might have been expecting those cookies. Biscotti is another story though. I like homemade biscotti (sans anisette thankyouverymuch) and like to have them with my coffee after a big meal.

Once everyone has had an opportunity to digest a little and relax, the dessert is served. Depending on the meal that was served before it, we may have a cheesecake, or key-lime pie or an apple pie or maybe even a pumpkin pie; but that's usually only there as an appeasement to our guests. Well you never know when some guest is going to stop by and they just wouldn't understand why you didn't have those nasty little pureed-orange-gourd-pies-served-with-nutmeg-and-cinnamon. And you wouldn't want to offend a friend or co-worker that might have been expecting that pie. Of course these same friends and co-workers now think I am completely insane for having brought out this much food and then following it up with this much dessert. They should have listened.

Now depending on the crowd, I might offer and serve an after dinner aperitif; sambouka or crème de menthe or maybe Kahlua. At this point, if they were offended by the wine on the table, I doubt they'll think any less of me for bringing out the real stuff.

As the guests leave, I will usually get some comment on the amount of food or maybe the quality. Someone will probably make some not-so-clever remark about eating disorders and I'll politely laugh and invite them back for Easter dinner.

Then they'll all be gone and the house will be quiet. The only noise will be the dishwasher in the background.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and wish you all the happiest of holiday seasons.

*As for Sweet Potatoes, I don't hate them as much as I used to. I'll post a recipe and pictures of my Sweet Potato Custard soon.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

100 Things you should eat before you die #2: Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

2. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
I’ve never had it. And at over $100 a pound, I probably never will.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a coffee purist. I used to say snob, but that wasn't accurate. A snob would insist on a specific variety of coffee bean, from a specific roaster, that had been brewed exactly at a specific temperature, and only brewed with imported bottled water that was from a specific French spring. REALLY? That's nuts! That's putting more importance in prestige than a fine cup'a'joe.

I'm a simple man with simple tastes (stop laughing!). My routine in the morning involves making a fresh pot from whole beans. I use Eight O'Clock roast beans, kept in an air tight container, in the freezer. I grind right before I brew and I get a superior cup of coffee. I don't use anything fancy, just a Mister Coffee and a coffee grinder.

Where I'm simple, conesiuers of Blue Mountain are not. According to Wikipedia, "Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is a globally protected certification mark, meaning only coffee certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can be labeled as such. It comes from a recognized growing region in the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica, and its cultivation is monitored by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica."

France uses the same type of system. The Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), grants certification to certain French geographical areas for cheese, butter, wine, mustard, and other agricultural products. The certification tells the consumer where the product was produced and may be extremely specific, sometimes down to an area of less than 10 acres.

You may notice that I have not listed Kopi Luwak coffee on this list. Kopi Luwak, also known as civet coffee, because the beans are eaten and then digested and, ahem, excreted by the Asian Palm Civet. The digestive process of this strange little Asian critter seeps enzymes into the coffee berries. Even though they beans are thoroughly cleaned and dried, I don't think I could drink it. Supposedly the whole process produced a much less bitter coffee and it is the most expensive coffee in the world.

Coming back down to Earth, and wandering the aisles of the supermarket for good coffee can be confusing. From Moscow on the Hudson 1984:

Vladimir: Coffee?

Supermarket manager: Aisle 2.

Vladimir: Coffee line, please?

Supermarket manager: Aisle 2. No line, though.

Vladimir: Taster's Choice... decaffeinated... Maxwell House... El Pico... Chock Full of Nuts.. espresso, cappucino... Café Français... Sanka... Folgers... Cafe Caribe... coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee! Coffee!! COFFEE!!!

While Robin Williams's character has a nervous breakdown, let me simplify it for you. Consumer Reports confirmed in March 2009 what I had long known, Eight O'Clock Roast is the best buy for your money. Almost all stores carry it, it roasted almost perfectly and makes a superior cup of coffee. Therefore, don't waste your money on Starbucks or anybody else. Go to the store and buy a bag of Colombian roast. I also recommend that you get a good coffee grinder. (In fact get two, that way you have an excellent spice grinder and your coffee would taste like cumin and mustard seeds - yuck!)

Grind your coffee FRESH when you are ready to brew and NO SOONER. Use a reliable coffee maker and be prepared to brew a few test pots to determine how much coffee and how much water you need to meet your tastes. Once you know, you'll be set. Don't trust my opinion? Here's what Consumer Reports said:

Consider how you take it

Coffees judged very good taste fine black. Milk and sugar can improve a mediocre coffee, but not even cream is likely to help the lowest-scoring decafs.

Choose a good coffeemaker

The best from our January report reached the 195º to 205º F required to get the best from the beans and avoid a weak or bitter brew. A top Michael Graves model costs just $40.

Consider grinding for fresher flavor

Even the best pre-ground coffee can't beat the best fresh-ground when it comes to taste. One top grinder from our January report, the Mr. Coffee IDS77, costs only $20.

Caribbean Coffee

  • 1/4 cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain® Coffee
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup of ice cream
  • 1/4 cup of whipped cream
  • 2 tbsp of dark rum
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  • Brew the 2 cups of water with the 1/4-cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain® Coffee
  • Add sugar
  • Chill in the refrigerator
  • Put the chilled coffee, ice cream, whipped cream and dark rum into a blender and blend
  • Pour into a glass
  • Sprinkle the top with chocolate sprinkles and serve

100 Things you should eat before you die

A while back, I found a great post regarding this meme
(check it out here)

Now as part of the MyTasteOfTheDay blog, I am planning on reprinting the list, along with my opinions, recipes, etc. For now though, I will post it here. Please take a look at it and comment back.

I have a broad palate. I am willing to try most things, but this article intrigued me. Take a look at the list. What do you think is missing? What would you never eat and why?

Starting today I'll review the list and share some of my comments. I'll let you know if I've eaten it, if I won't eat it, and hopefully some interesting information along the way.

1. Snake

Snake? Really? Ok, I'll start with a "No" right here. I don't think I could eat a snake. There are plenty of other things that I would try that are probably more disgusting then Rat Snake Au Gratin or Cobra du Jour.

According to Wikipedia, there are over 2900 species of snakes. While many are deadly, most are not venomous. In our Western culture, snakes are looked down on and considered evil mostly due to Biblical accounts in Genesis. Some other cultures revere the snake and place it in a place of honor.

For the most part, Western cultures do not eat snakes. An exception is rattlesnake, which is sometimes consumed in the western United States. In other cultures, snakes are considered a delicacy, sometimes with medicinal powers. Personally, I can't get past the revulsion factor here, but maybe you have a stronger stomach than I do.

from the Rattlesnake Recipe Page:

Rattlesnake & Italian Lentils

1 large onion, chopped

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

handful Italian parsley, finely chopped

1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. thyme

2 tbsp. dried basil

4 1/2 cups water

1 package dry lentil beans

2 lb. rattlesnake meat

juice from 1/2 lemon

Simmer rattlesnake in water and lemon juice for 1 hour, remove and separate meat from bones.

Combine de-boned meat with the rest of the ingredients in a crockpot and slow-cook for 6-8 hours, or bring to boil in large cooking pot and simmer for 2 hours.

Personal preference aside, I noticed several similarities between recipes: 1) The rattlesnake needs to be simmered in water and lemon for an hour, then 2) it has to slow cook for 6-8 hours. Also it appears that you can purchase cleaned and packaged rattlesnake meat through for $40-60 a pound.

If Rattlesnake & Italian Lentils doesn't "bite" you, how about Cantonese Snake Soup? (link)

150g done snake meat

egg shreds
pork shreds

dried mushroom shreds
white fungus shreds
dried longan pulp
dried orange peel grains
delicious soup
dark soy
rice wine
gourmet powder
watered starch
chive oil
sesame oil

1. Clean the killed snake. Put it in boiling water, then add chives, ginger, wine, and stew for half an hour. Take the meat and tear it into shreds. Steam them together with the chives, ginger, wine, and delicous soup for 2 hours. 2. Put the snake meat shreds and the seasonings in 1000g delicious soup in a pot. Braise them to boiling and then take away the foam. Add gourmet powder, watered starch to make paste. Pour in chive oil, sesame oil and place them in a casserole together with crisp chips, chive shreds, ginger shreds, fruit peel shreds, white chrysanthemum, and other seasonings.

If you have the intestinal fortitude to try snake, please let me know.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Two posts so close together? Deal with it.

I have lots of irons in the fire right now:

Toastmasters International
-In working towards my Competent Communicator and Competent Leader certifications I may post some speech drafts and ideas

Pendant Productions
-Although I'm no more than an occasional extra, I really enjoy doing the voice work. Maybe with practice I'll be able to expand my resume.
-I am also working on a number of script ideas. I will probably bring some of those over here.

My Taste of the Day
-Phyllis and I have been working (on occasion) on this project for a couple of years. This will be a food blog and e-commerce shop. For now, it's just a place holder.

-Computer work, specializing in small office/home office (SOHO) environments. Sales, Service, Repairs, Networking, Training, and Consulting.

-Continuing Education courses offered through Wilkes Community College include:
  • PC Literacy
  • Introduction to Windows 7
  • Microsoft Office 2007
  • MS Word 2007
  • MS Excel 2007
  • MS Access 2007
  • MS PowerPoint 2007
  • additional classes available upon request
All of this is just my non-work, non-family stuff.

I'll get to "Work" and "Family" in a future post.

But my muse of the evening insists I include her picture:

Welcome back

So this morning I decided I was going to post a comment on Facebook before I left for work. The Comment turned into a "note". It was just a bit of random musings, but that's pretty typical for me. However, I've been thinking all day about how much I enjoyed just spending a couple of minutes writing.

As I pondered over restarting blogging, my friend Brit started a new blog. Call it envy, call it being a follower, but I decided to do it.

I have written several other blogs over the years. Live Journal and other places have hosted them but I have let them all go. So I'm going to start again.

There are lots of things going on in my life right now, some creative, some not... so join me on my journey... let me know our opinion, help guide me.