Saturday, January 27, 2007

Restaurant Review - Master Burger

I figured since my first review was a very positive take on 5th Street Diner - I'd post a lousy review. I wanted to make sure I could adequately explain why I dislike a place. Problem is - we have been eating out less and less in recent months so it was difficult coming up with a place where I could remember why I hated it.

Yesterday, I was provided the perfect example. Master Burger is located in the food court at the Berkshire Mall in Wyomissing PA. If you don't live near Reading - don't make a special trip.

Driving by the mall almost a few weeks ago, I noticed their sign announcing "Master Burger now open!" I though - hmm, never heard of it. So I researched it, googled it, asked around - no info. If it's a chain, it's not from around here, and it's probably not very big.

I was really hoping it would be something impressive - maybe like Fudruckers, or even 5 Guys. So, when a couple of us husbands needed a place to get some chow last night while our lady companions scrapped around at some kind of party - we decided to check it out.

At first, we were pleased to notice they prepare their burgers as they are ordered. Then we noticed that they prepare them one at a time. Then we noticed it only took them 30 seconds to prepare each one. Yup - there were burgers sitting in some kind of steamer device, which were then thrown onto a grill for a few seconds, slapped onto a stale bun, then topped with bitter LT&O. I discussed the quality with my companion and his 3YO son (who had quite possibly the world's nastiest looking chicken nuggets I've ever seen). We agreed at the time that the burger itself was better than a typical fast food burger, but certainly disappointing.

After sleeping on it - I'm going to have to take that back. If I really put Master Burger up against any other burger joint, I'm pretty sure it might never win. Oh, and the fries were pretty lousy also.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Easy as... soft pretzels?

Anyone out there ever made soft pretzels?
If you answered yes - then why didn't you tell me how easy it was? Furthermore, why didn't anyone tell me how cheaply they can be made in comparison those places in the mall?

Annie Anne's (which I used to love) charges something like 2 bucks for a dried out, flavorless greasy mess. There are 2 places in the Fairgrounds Farmer's Market in Reading where we go, and hopefully some fair or market near you that really know what their doing. But a pretzel still costs at least a buck. I'm pretty sure the red-head and I made the equivalent of 15-18 or so pretzels for less than a TOTAL of 2 dollars. We're talking flour, yeast, salt, water, brown sugar (just a touch), and baking soda. That's it.

But back to the food itself. They were quite good, crusty on the outside, fluffy and warm on the inside. There's no way the cook can take credit for this - as you can see, it took us a while to get the shape right - but it was tons of fun. This was probably our best batch of standard shape:

This would be a great baking project for kids to try. I can attest that every single shape cooked at the exact same rate. So little hands making fun pretzel shapes would not be a problem, in fact, it would be even more fun to experiment. Maybe have the little tykes spell their name? Give it a shot. Here are some shape experiments - sticks and nuggets:

Friday, January 19, 2007

Tagged by a foodie!!!

Perhaps you've all seen tag played in the blogosphere. If you skip around from blog to blog learning and reading, and commenting, you end up with what I call blog-o-buddies. People that you wouldn't otherwise know, but happened across their blog and put it into your regular rotation. Well, Kate (In the Kitchen) tagged me recently, so here it goes...

6 Weird Food Things About Myself

1) I am addicted to chocolate and often crave it like fool. Dark chocolate and anything combined with peanut butter really get me. This addiction started about 6 months ago with a craving for dark chocolate nonpareils.

2) I pretended to only like sushi, when I actually loved it. I was treated to it for the first time by a work associate, and I didn't want to freak out my wife - who's grossed out by it.

3) I tasted cat food a few times when I was little, even once as a teenager.

4) Spoon pizza is one of my favorites. Yah, spoon pizza. It's easy to make when you're prepping real pizza or with leftover ingredients. It's exactly what you're thinking. Just enough sauce, toppings, and cheese to fit on a spoon. What a great snack. A good friend tipped me off to spoon ice cream sundaes as well. The red-head claims to have introduced me to spoon pizza, but I don't remember this event. I'm pretty sure I coined the term.

5) Speaking of which - I love ice cream, sundaes, and milk shakes. But I hate banana splits. Can't really explain it.

6) I love to eat spicy food to any level of hot-ness (I'm also a little obsessed). I've got a bumper sticker for eating atomic wings at Quaker Steak and Lube to prove my love for serious heat. They were gross by the way. Hot as all get out, but gross.

Stromboli from our own oven

I'm sure most of you know that I love pizza. If you don't know - get this straight - no one loves pizza more than me. No, seriously, NO-ONE, NO-BODY, NOT a SINGLE PERSON, NOT EVEN CLOSE. I looooove Pizza. I have pizza kids books, I research pizza whenever I get a chance. I've been known to take any crust type food, any sauce type food, and any cheese, and just slap together a pizza.

Got some leftover pancakes, half a jar of store bought spaghetti sauce, and part of a block of baby Swiss you never used at the party last night? You've got enough ingredients for pizza!
Of course, most of the time, I plan it out a bit more. Prep the pizza dough the night before so it can slow rise and ferment in the fridge. This makes for a crispy and tender crust with lots of flavor. Sometimes I make my own sauce, but I often use Del Grosso, Furmano's, and lately we've been using Don Pepino. It's also fun to switch up the cheeses and toppings as well.

I usually just assemble as normal, and bake in a crank up oven up as high as it'll go - ours goes to 550. Note that most pizza shop ovens are set at around 650-750 or even higher. Surprisingly this even works for cooking frozen pizza, thicker crust pizzas, and as I learned today - Stromboli
This was actually the time I've made a Stromboli for a long time. We went with a chicken cheese steak Stromboli, partly to trick ourselves into thinking it was somewhat healthy. Certainly, this was better for us than regular cheesesteak or Italian style (with all kinds of Italian meats). Oh how I long for the days of packing away the world greasiest and tastiest cheesesteak Strombolis from the Sugar Bowl at Millersville (we used to call it the grease bowl - it accounted for most of the "freshman 15").
We made individual bolis, but could only manage to eat half. Both had grilled onions, thinly sliced chicken, pizza sauce, plus a little provolone, mozzarella and ricotta. The wife added mushrooms, and I added hot peppers. We were both skeptical that it would even work out, as Stromboli is a strange looking beast before cooking. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture before baking, but here's what it looked like right out of the oven.

One of the things I worry about with a blog like this is that I don't want to seem like I'm bragging. But, I must say - this Stromboli was beautiful and tasted fantastic.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Light lunch in prep for CJ

Today was our home visit with our wonderful social worker from Bethany - our adoption agency. A little more info on that can be found on my adoption blog.

We had lovely salad with home-made red wine vinaigrette and scrumptious Quiche Lorraine (quick edit - for those of you who might not know, quiche is basically a creamy egg pie - make 1 crust pie shell, and fill it with an mixture of about 4 eggs and 2 cups of cream - throw in some meat, veggies, and cheese, then bake it for an hour. Ths one had Gruyere cheese and bacon).
Did I ever tell you my wife makes the world's best pie crust? Desert - lemon bars - yum.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

A very special sausage

A couple of posts ago - I asked about some of your food interests. I you did not get a chance to respond, I'd love to hear from you. I'm the type of person that loves to try local and ethnic cuisine made the way locals would try it. So I often seek out recipes, ask advice from "those in the know." This often leads to game meats, which is really why I asked the question. For a lot of my co-workers, hunting is a big part of their lives, so while the game meat might not be a huge part of their diet, it does become traditional for them.

At any rate, I'm not really into game meat, but I did come across this web site for exotic meats. I'm not sure if I would actually buy any of this stuff, but I had to share this lovely sausage product that you can enjoy for the low price of $11.40/lb!

That's right, it's kangaroo sausage. Don't worry, it's not going to end up on my grill anytime soon. Any one know why it's kindof blue-ish purple? That's just plain weird!

Oh yah - for another laugh, take a look at how they identify the yak patties.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

The Red-Head's pies

Just to change things up from all the smoky goodness the other day, here's a few pics of some equally tasty items. My wife makes the most outstanding pies. Part of the magnificence comes from the flaky yet moist crust, part of it comes from the fresh ingredients, and the rest comes from practice.

Let's just say that in our house, a frozen or otherwise pre-made pie dough and canned pie filling would be practically sacrilegious. Over the years I've enjoyed apple, pumpkin (not one of my favs), pecan, chocolate cream, lemon meringue, cherry, blueberry, raspberry, peach, strawberry, mixed berry, and probably a few more I can't thing of at the moment. My favorite is probably apple, followed closely by pecan, chocolate cream, and blueberry.
Here are a few examples. Note the nifty magazine like picture with the lemons, just in case it wasn't obvious what was under the meringue! The apple pies is from this year's T-giving, and I can't even remember the raspberry - but it looks delicious (and like it has almonds)!

Monday, January 1, 2007

Smoked Pork BBQ - Part 6 - the pulling

The feast is over, it's a New Year, and I look forward to continuing my quest for a hollow leg. In the mean time, here's a wrap up of the BBQ.

At about 4PM, I wrapped the roast in heavy duty aluminum foil and stuck it in a warm oven for another hour. This was mostly so I could prep the grill for grilling some wings (more on that some other time). The temp became much easier to maintain during the day as I added charcoal and wood chunks almost exactly once an hour. This means a total smoke time of 11 hours, and continued roasting for another 1 hour wrapped. Oh yah, then another 90 minutes or so resting on the counter, still inside the foil. After unwrapping, the pork was still steaming hot and smelled fantastic.

The darn thing nearly fell apart as I transferred it to a cutting board for the pulling. The crust was sweet and peppery, and the inside was moist and smoky - exactly what I was looking for. Four of us feasted on the pork and sauces below, and we still have enough left-overs for another meal's worth (some sent some home with our guests) for everyone. I used almost an entire bag of charcoal (6 bucks), a bag of wood chunks(5 bucks). Add that to the pork itself (12 bucks) and we ended up with what should be 8-10 meals for 23 bucks (not including rub and sauce ingredients - which were all pantry items anyway). Smoking large hunks of meat might just be the most affordable way to eat! Anyone interested in joining me for a giant brisket sometime?