Chili’s and the Menu from Hell

So I was at Chili’s the other day.  I know, I know… but we had to bowl for our fun league and that’s the only restaurant that’s near by – and if I have to eat there or at the bowling alley… well, I think Chili’s eeks out a win by a smidgen or so.  (Although the bowling alley does have fried pickles, which sounds strangely good, but I have yet to have them.)

The first thing I notice is that it is almost impossible to get anything even remotely good for you on this menu.  Oh, sure, they have their “Guiltless” section – but that only claims that the meal is 750 calories or less.  750 calories is “guiltless?”  WTF is the rest of it, then?  The thought scares me.

Second, a certain salad catches my eye:  The Quesadilla Explosion.  Now, again – I’m no marketing genius, but putting the words “quesadilla” and “explosion” in the same sentence seems like a bad idea.  Also, since it’s obviously not “guiltless” – I pass.

So, I ended up getting the basic Old Timer burger but had them sub the burger for a black bean burger.  Then, I get home and look it up and even that has 650 calories!  WTF?

No wonder we are a nation of fat-asses.

From Adam to Zane

Meet the hosts of my new favorite two shows: Man vs. Food and Three Sheets. Adam Richman (left, above) hosts Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel where in each episode he travels to a different city, stops by a couple of local joints to eat some junk food, then finishes each episode with a cringe-inducing food challenge, such as eating a 8 lb. giant hamburger or eating 20 super hot wings in 20 minutes.  Most of the time he wins the challenge, and it makes me almost throw up watching him.  Yet, I cannot look away.  (Fellow Travel Channel host/chef Anthony Bourdain was recently quoted as asking someone at the network, “”Did this guy sign a 30-page liability waiver? You’re going to kill this guy!”)  I’ve also noticed that he seems to have gained a considerable amount of weight between seasons this year, although he claims to work out twice a day while on the road and wear the same size pants as when he auditioned. Not sure I’m buying that. Coming in 2011:  Man vs. Echocardiogram.

Zane Lamprey hosts the fun and informative Three Sheets on the FLN Network (I know: the what network?  Never heard of it before this show…) where in each episode he travels to a different country, stops by a couple of joints to drink different alcoholic drinks that the region is known for, then ends each episode showing us all the fun he had while getting drunk during each trip, like drinking marijuana in Jamacia and lots of champagne in France. The difference is the Three Sheets show actually teaches you something about the region and/or the drink being consumed, so at the end of the episode you feel like your learning something instead of like on Man vs. Food where you feel dirty for watching a man stuff 10 lbs of food down his gullet. I’m sure you can figure out which one of these jobs I would like to have.

Frankly, I think they should just combine these two shows into an hour-long glut-fest of drinking and eating.  Kind of like Thanksgiving every episode!  Zane could drink until he passes out, and Adam could give us lessons on how they put together the 6 lb burrito he just ate.  Although Zane is cuter, Adam is funnier, so together they could be the perfect host.

And put it on a network I’ve heard of…  are you listening Bravo?

Recipe: Green Goddess Chicken Salad

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I realized that it’s been awhile since I posted a real recipe!  I made this last week for dinner, and I have to say it was absolutely delicious.  It was the cover shot on this month’s Food & Wine magazine.  It’s not an every day meal, as I wouldn’t call it exactly “diet friendly” but sometimes you just gotta enjoy things that are good, regardless. (It’s especially good if you use fresh herbs from the garden, like I did.)    Don’t skip the anchovies – even if you don’t like them – it is intergral to the taste of the dressing.  Also, I couldn’t find piquillo peppers to save my life, so I used pickled cherry peppers instead.

Enjoy!

GREEN GODDESS CHICKEN SALAD

SERVES 6

Ingredients:

2 oil-packed anchovies, drained
1 garlic clove
1/2 c. packed fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4 c. packed fresh basil leaves
1 TBS. fresh oregano leaves
3/4 c. mayonnaise
2 1/2 TBS  fresh lemon juice
2 TBS fresh snipped chives
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb. loaf of ciabatta, bottom crust removed, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 2 lb. rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded, meat pulled into bite size pieces
3 inner celery ribs, with leaves, thinly sliced
8 piquillo peppers from jar, drained and quartered
1/2 c. pitted kalamata olives, halved

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, pulse the anchovies, garlic, parsley, basil, and oregano until coarsely chopped. Add the mayonnaise and lemon juice and process until smooth. Fold in the chives; season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the ciabatta with the chicken, piquillo peppers, celery and olives. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Make Ahead:

The dressing can be made up to two days ahead and refrigerated.

Eggs Benedict: Best Invention Ever.

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God, I love Eggs Benedict.  I completely hate poached eggs in any other incarnation, but when they are nestled atop a toasted english muffin with Canadian bacon and the perfect Hollandaise sauce – pure heaven!  I think I first fell for the Benedict in college when I dated a guy that worked at the Pour la France chain in Aspen where they had three or four different benedicts on the menu.  I used to sit at the bar and get them for free, so I ate one practically every day he was working. (I also discovered the Mimosa this way.)  My favorite was the Veggie Benedict, which was avocado & tomato instead of bacon. The guy was a total tool – I think I kept on seeing him because I enjoyed the free Benedicts.  Yes, I was an Eggs Benedict Whore.

Anyway, my love affair with the Eggs Benedict has endured long past my days in Aspen.  When you get a really good Eggs Benedict, there is nothing better.  When you get a bad Eggs Benedict, there is nothing worse.  The best Eggs Benedict I have ever had was at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida.   The secret to great Eggs Benedict really lies in the Hollandaise, an unforgiving sauce that you must make from scratch – anything in a bottle is nothing short of an abomination.  I have had the best luck with the basic Hollandaise found in the eponymous Mastering the Art of French Cooking from one Julia Child.  I have included her sauce below, along with her recipe for classic Eggs Benedict.

 

 
FOR THE HOLLANDAISE SAUCE
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or more, if needed
6 to 8 ounces very soft unsalted butter
Salt
Freshly ground white pepper

FOR POACHED EGGS
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar per 2 quarts water
4 large eggs, the fresher the better

FOR THE EGGS BENEDICT
4 slices English-muffin halves
Butter
4 thin slices Canadian bacon
Thin slices of black truffle (optional)
warm poached eggs
1 cup Hollandaise Sauce

MAKE THE HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

  1. Whisk the yolks, water, and lemon juice in the saucepan for a few moments, until thick and pale (this prepares them for what is to come).
  2.  Set the pan over moderately low heat and continue to whisk at reasonable speed, reaching all over the bottom and insides of the pan, where the eggs tend to overcook. To moderate the heat, frequently move the pan off the burner for a few seconds, and then back on. (If, by chance, the eggs seem to be cooking too fast, set the pan in the bowl of cold water to cool the bottom, then continue.) As they cook, the eggs will become frothy and increase in volume, and then thicken. When you can see the pan bottom through the streaks of the whisk and the eggs are thick and smooth, remove from the heat.
  3. By spoonfuls, add the soft butter, whisking constantly to incorporate each addition. As the emulsion forms, you may add the butter in slightly larger amounts, always whisking until fully absorbed. Continue incorporating butter until the sauce has thickened to the consistency you want.
  4.  Season lightly with salt and a dash of cayenne pepper, whisking in well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding droplets of lemon juice if needed. Serve lukewarm.

POACH THE EGGS

  1. Fill the pan with water to a depth of 2 inches or so, add the vinegar, and bring to a slow boil.
  2. Rapidly crack and open each egg into the water, holding the shell as close to the surface as possible. The eggs will cool the water; adjust the heat to maintain a slow simmer. After a few moments, when the whites have just begun to set, drag the back of the slotted spoon gently across the top of the eggs, to move them off the pan bottom so they don’t stick. Cook the eggs for about 4 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.
  3. To test for doneness, lift 1 egg from the water with the slotted spoon and press both white and yolk. The whites should feel fully set but not too firm, and the yolks very soft. Poach longer for firmer eggs.
  4. When set the way you like them, remove the eggs from the saucepan with the slotted spoon or strainer and immerse them in a bowl of warm tap water to wash off the vinegar. Set the spoon on a clean towel (or folded paper towels) for a moment to remove excess water, and serve eggs immediately.

ASSEMBLE THE EGGS BENEDICT

  1. Just before serving, toast the bread circles or muffins lightly, butter both sides, and warm the ham and the optional truffle slices in a frying pan with a tablespoon of butter.
  2. Center a toast round on each warm serving plate; cover with a slice of ham and then a poached egg. Spoon hollandaise sauce generously over each egg and top with an optional warm truffle slice. Serve immediately.

St. John Dining Update

stj15

I just returned from two weeks on St. John and realized I hadn’t updated any St. John dining posts in awhile, so here is the latest:

RESTAURANT OPENINGS & CLOSINGS

Chateau Bordeaux Closed.
One of my favorite restaurants has closed, Chateau Bordeaux on Bordeaux Mountain.  This location is my absolute favorite view on the island and I am sad that the restaurant (and adjoining cheeseburger shack) is gone.  According to the Coconut Telegraph, the owners (who also own Asolare, Paradiso and Chloe & Bernards) had recently revamped the menu to reflect the “new” economy (read: cheaper prices) but still weren’t getting enough customers to make it work.  Hopefully they will sell or reopen soon, as this location is a true gem. 

NEW OPENINGS

La Plancha del Mar
In better news, a few new places have opened – most notably the new La Plancha del Mar in the Marketplace, which has been getting stellar reviews from all over the place.  La Plancha is in the old China Shack location, and is smaller than I remember.  It has about 8 tables and a nice bar surrounding the “plancha” – or the plank they use for cooking.  The food was good – especially the grilled items such as the prawns and steaks – but frankly, I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.  Yes, the gentlemen that run the place are very, very nice, but the prices are astronomical for what you get – even for St. John.  I had a cheese plate appetizer that had three cube-size portions of cheese with some commercial trail mix and an interesting strawberry/mustard sauce and it was like $12!  The dinners were pretty small portion sizes as well and more expensive.   We shared a dessert that everyone talks about, a chocolate waffle with ice cream.  It was good, but not the chocolate orgasm I was expecting from the conversation with the drunken table next to us.  (They need to lose the novelty long-plate-presentation as well as it doesn’t add anything to the experience  – except maybe making you realize that you’re not getting much.)  Overall, a good place – but really nothing spectacular to justify the high prices.  There are better places to go if you want to spend a bundle on dinner.

The Surly Cantina 
A new and already-popular spot is The Surly Cantina, located across from Slimman Parking in the Wharfside where the old Paradise Cafe used to be.  I had heard that not only were they great, but cheap – something increasingly rare on STJ.  Well, the rumors were half right – the food was fantastic, but hardly cheap.  We weren’t that hungry, so we decided to share 3 fish tacos and two margaritas.  Total bill?  $47!  Okay, it was kind of our fault for not paying too much attention to what we were ordering.  It turns out tacos are $2/ea + extra for meat or fish.  We got the fish which was an extra $5 PER TACO.  So, that’s $21 for three tacos.  Ouch!  (Oh, and the remainder was the margaritas – we ordered top shelf which I should have noticed was listed on the menu, but had no price next to it.  You do the math on that one.)  The tacos were fantastic.  Probably some of the best fish tacos I have ever had.  Oh, and that margarita – it may have been worth the price as I could hardly function for the rest of the day and I only had one!

Jake’s
Jake’s is the new spot in the Lumberyard that is in the old Chilly Billy’s location.  It is run by the same people who used to run the Front Yard, and kind of keeps the same hours as they advertise they are open until 4am.  I can’t imagine who is in there at 4am as most stuff shuts down pretty early in Cruz Bay, and even the bars close at 2am.  Anyway, we stopped in for a quick lunch as we had to pick something up at the Lumberyard.  I had a BLT and the man had a cheeseburger and it wasn’t bad at all.  No frozen hamburger bun, which is the bane of my existence in the Caribbean – and my bacon was cooked crispy as I asked, so extra points for someone finally cooking my bacon correctly.  They were out of potatoes, which was funny because the sides are all potato-related except for pasta salad, so this is what we had.  Totally Kraft Italian Dressing on my pasta salad, so points off for Kraft crap.  Other than that, it was good food and probably great to scarf stuff down at 3:45 am for sure.

Wharfside Pizza
When the old Senorita Pizza closed at Wharfside a few months ago, I wasn’t too sad as another pizza place opened in it’s place: Wharfside Pizza.  And, this place had the added bonus of installing an actual pizza oven in order to cook the pizzas.  How hard can it be to make a good pizza?  Hard, I guess.  We picked up a couple of pies on our Day Zero in to town as we’d gotten in late and I had some drunken ladies on my hands.  Even in my inebriated state, I knew deep down that the pizza sucked.  Tiny toppings (many obviously canned), doughy crust, tasteless sauce and a really long wait all added up to a disappointing experience – especially from the same owners of Mojo Cafe and Waterfront Bistro, which always get good reviews.

SOON COME

I saw a few signs that a new Chinese restaurant called Lucky Pagoda will be opening “soon” (that could mean next week or next year using the Caribbean timetable) in the Lumberyard where the old Polly’s used to be.  Not sure STJ was really missing Chinese food since the awful China Shack closed last year, but it sure can’t be any worse.  I guess sometimes you need a good eggroll, but I’d rather have a fish pate from Hercules.  (Update: I read today that the Lucky Pagoda is set to open tomorrow, March 11.  Saw a copy of the menu and it looked pretty basic.  The real trick is getting an ample supply of asian ingredients like water chestnuts, bamboo, bok choy, etc.  Good luck to the Lucky Pagoda!)

My New Favorite Website

za

 

This is Why You’re Fat is my new favorite website.  The collection of disgusting – but yet strangely alluring – dining options  (which mostly seem to be in the United States, of course) may be the motivation I need to try and stick to eating things that are good for you.  If you want to see pictures of bacon-shelled tacos, deep-fried coca-cola and my personal favorite – the “romelette” (and omelette made out of Top Ramen,) then this is the place for you.

thisiswhyyourefat.com

(Extra points for them using the correct form of “you’re” in the title and the domain name!)

Your Best Meals Evah

I just got back from a nice and warm trip to the Dominican Republic.  This is the second time I have been to the D.R. and I have to say that pretty much all the food there is incredibly good.  The last time we were there we went out to dinner with a local friend who – when I told him what I thought – explained that because the D.R. is so large (it’s 5x the size of Puerto Rico) and so varied in geography, they are one of the few islands in the Caribbean that don’t import a lot of things.  Meaning that the fish you are eating was probably swimming that morning, the shrimp is local, the vegetables fresh.  I don’t know if it was hyperbole, but I chose to believe it.

While at the resort I had such a good preparation on a red snapper, that I had to have it twice!  It was so fresh and so awesome, I’m thinking of never ordering red snapper again because I know that I will never get it as good as this one.  This particular resort has an on-call fishing fleet where you literally see them bring the day’s catch in a big basket to the kitchen.  They simply gut it, fry it, and place it – whole – on your plate for you to enjoy.  No spices, no sauces, no “reductions” or – thank god – balsamic vinegar.  Just, good, fresh fish.

I’m almost sad because I’ll never get to experience it quite that way again, but glad that I got to do it anyway.  Ya gotta live for the moment, I guess.  (Sorry no picture – I was living so in the moment, I forgot to take a picture so I could relive the moment.)