The End of a 14 Year Quest

You know what this means…

Tea, Strawberry Jam - it must be diner breakfast!

Those of you who have been following my tasty adventures for a while know of my search for good Corned Beef Hash.  If you’re new or want to refresh your memory of my last dissapointing search for good CBH click here. Well kids – I have found it – and it is good.

Rumor has it Eddy’s Deli has 2 kinds of CBH.  1 is from the can and 1 is home made…  You just have to ask. Oh man, Oh man, Oh man  I’m so excited I can’t sit still!

Eddy’s Deli http://www.facebook.com/eddysdeli

Jeff and I arrive Sunday morning around 11.  The place smells of fried things and bleach.  Trust me this is a good thing.    It’s happily busy but there’s a booth for us.  The service staff is made of what I can only assume is family members and people who have been there so long they have become family members. 

Our server stops by to see if we’re ready with a slightly tired look in her eyes. She doesn’t look mean, just worn and tired. I asked her if the home made CBH had peppers and onions.  She said no.  I asked if it could have peppers and onions and she said yes.  Her eyes turned kind and she perked up a little.  I mentioned that I was excited to try their special home made CBH because I heard such good things and she offered to throw the peppers and onions in the potatoes and eggs as well.  She wanted to take care of us. In an instant she became my grandma that thought I needed to eat.  She took the same care to note Jeff’s order and preferences. 

The more I sat there the more I got excited.  The more excited I got the more I told myself to calm down because it couldn’t live up to my expectations. 

It did!!!!!

The peppers and onions are jewels in the beef and potato mine

A mountian of tender corned beef and diced potatoes. Both have been left on the flat top just long enough to have toasty edges. The beef has been shredded enough to mix well but is still intact enough to keep it’s texture.  You can pick out and identify a piece of beef, a far cry from the pink goo found in most cans. The potatos on the side are cut into larger pieces but also have just the perfect amount of grilled crispy bits. Both the CBH and potatoes have an ample amount of sauteed green peppers and onions. 

Crispy goodness

A splash of Frank’s Red Hot and I was in heaven. A touch of heat, salty meat and potatoes and fresh peppers are a wonderful, comforting taste combination. Adding the peppers and onions gives some light crunch to the plate.  The beef has a good chew when left in large pieces and the potatoes walk between crispy edges and soft comforting centers.  The whole dish has a variety of textures that has you hunting for your favorite parts.  My only regret was that I ate in the last two days and could therefore not finish the bounty in front of me. Oh it was delightful.  I have no idea what Jeff ate.  Apparently it was good.  All I know is that I came close to tears twice and I left a 50% tip.

If you need me Sunday mornings I’ll be at Eddy’s.

Until we eat again,

Jen

 

 
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For the love of Bacon!

So Jeff has been telling me about the “bacon place” for about 2 years now.  Extolling the virtues of the best. bacon. ever. The only problem is that they close at 3 pm. even on the weekends. Sooo yeah – I’ve had to endure stories of  this fantasy bacon land for 2 years.

Today victory and bacon was mine!

Fred’s Diner http://www.fredsdiner.net

Fred’s motto is “Eat, Pay, Get out”.  I love it. My biggest pet peeve at restaurants is waiting forever for your check or waiting for them to take your card.  This is not somewhere you go for the ambiance of a leisurely breakfast.

Claim a table as soon as you see it’s open or someone else will.  Servers are quick but not rude.  I asked about the corned beef hash and she quickly told me it was canned.  No problem I’ll pick something else.

Jeff and I both ordered breakfast special #2. 2 eggs, homefries, toast and choice of meat (bacon, sausage or ham).  I chose scrambled, white, crispy potatoes and bacon.  Jeff had his eggs over medium and rye toast.

Holy crap look at that bacon!

The potatoes were simple but crispy, in fact everything on the plate was in its most simple pure form.  Eggs were light and fluffy and bread was toasted nicely.  But the bacon, oh the bacon.  There was a huge portion of perfectly cooked, meaty, smokey bacon.  I hear other tables teaching newbies to go for the bacon.  There is a mountain of bacon in the back that they grab from for each order.  Jeff assures me that the “side” of bacon is not the two strips you find at most places but about a half pound – for under $3.  It’s quantity and quality.

Our bacon fest only came to $18 after tip.  Now that’s dangerous – good breakfast that’s cheap.  We might have a problem.

I hear the BLT is an inch and a half after you smash it down, just sayin’

Until we eat again,

Jen

 

 

 

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An Untraditional Thanksgiving Recap

It’s that time of year.  After days of prep, fighting lines at the grocery store and agony of how to make Thanksgiving low-fat, low carb, vegan, south beach friendly or gluten-free you have planned the not quite perfect – but it will do- menu.  No one will really like it but at least the seven family members you don’t really like anyway won’t complain about the one side dish they can’t eat.

Yeah – I don’t put up with that crap.

Thanksgiving in my house is pure fun.  No food issues dictated by people you didn’t want to feed in the first place.  No visits from crazy relatives.  No house guests.  No stress.  No desire to cook or eat something you wouldn’t eat any other time of year just because it’s tradition.

Want to know how I pull it off don’t ya?

Matt and I used to hide.  You heard me.  We would get a hotel room and not tell anyone where we were.  Cell phones ruined that magic. People still call.  They still intrude on my day of joy.  Other than a few phone calls around the country I can still keep my boundaries. I follow some basic rules:

  1. Look at the guest list as any other day that you happen to have off.  Who would you spend it with?  These are the people I call my chosen family.  The people I truly want to spend some extra time with and can relax around.  This is not the time to worry if I am impressing anyone, out doing anyone, living up to someone’s high expectations, earning over due respect or otherwise stressing myself out about the same family trauma we all face. 
  2. Since there is no family pressure to be better than yourself you can be better than they give you credit for – you can be you.  Dress comfortably and relax.  Stress at the holiday season causes people to turn on the ones they actually like.
  3. Plan activities and entertainment that support the above rules of stress-free living.
  4. Treat the menu as if it were a get together any other time of year.  DO NOT cook something just because it is tradition.  Make something that tastes good and makes you happy.
  5. Repeat holiday plans as necessary throughout the holiday season.

No set of rules for event planning would be complete without examples.  The following Thanksgiving is to be used for discussion purposes.  Please do not feel obligated to copy exactly as this would violate the essence of the Thanksgiving rules listed above.

Guest list: The Mr. of course and our best friend Jeff.  That’s it.  While the door is open for many others we know that most feel the need to partake in the traditional Thanksgiving.  Without fail each of them will tell us days in advance how they are not looking forward to their plans.  Text us through the day to plea for us to teleport them and for days afterward regret their decision.  Let’s face it though – It take pretty big cojones to tell Mom you’re not coming home for Thanksgiving.  That’s ok.  We’ll be here next year when you’re ready. 

Dress comfortably and relax: Jeans, hoodie and slippers.  For those of you who know me this is a shock.  I am one of those people.  I attempt to put myself together each day before leaving the house.  I do not leave my front door in pajamas, scrubs, chill pants, sweats, or any other abomination of what passes for a wardrobe today.  Never-the-less on Thanksgiving I am warm and cozy.  No need to wear the ugly shirt your Aunt got you last year as she will not be there to see it.  No need to dress up like school picture day and fidget with your tie all day.   Since you will be comfortable in your clothes you will be more relaxed. 

Activities and entertainment: Horror movies – bad ones.  There are two Thanksgiving traditions that make me truly happy.  We did watch A Christmas Story and listen to Alice’s Restaurant. After Ralphie shot his eye out and Cleveland Street went to bed we watched a few truly terrible horror movies.  Later in the evening we packed in the car and went to see the new Muppet Movie in the theater.  We laughed loudly through out and sang along. Life was good. 

The Food:  I know this is a food blog and you’ve just suffered through 700+ words on my thoughts on family values.  It was important to understand the surroundings.  If you are looking for a great Turkey and cranberry recipe you clearly have not been paying attention, please leave.

For the rest of you, here was my Thanksgiving menu:

Breakfast was a maple bacon cupcake from Couture Cupcakes http://couturecupcakesohio.com.

Spiced cake, maple buttercream frosting sprinkled with bacon.  Decadent, moist and delicious.  $24 for the dozen makes you feel like you’re getting away with something.

Through the rest of the day we grazed, a little of this, a little of that.  When you’re hungry, get some food.  When you’re not, don’t.  We generally go for foods that can be left out on the table for most of the day and can be eaten at room temperature.  Beverages included a sampling of beers from our trip to Jungle Jim’s earlier this month. Egg nog spiked with bourbon and plenty of Ale 8 (Cincinnati ginger ale).

Highlights included Jeff’s stuffed jalapenos made with cheddar and pimentos and Jeff’s had crafted nachos.  The man is a master at the no nacho left behind technique.  Jeff layered whole chips on a baking sheet while Matt cooked down some black beans with onions, cumin and other treats.  Jeff ensures each chip is topped with cheese, onions, chilies, olives and beans before baking in the oven at 350.  Two full layers of chips and toppings can take up to 25 minutes.  Check every 5 after 15.  You’re done when the edges get toasty and start to brown.

There was a huge bucket of my Chex mix recipe.  I start with the basic recipe but use 4 cups of the cereals instead of 3. 1.5 cups each cashews, pretzel twists and the original goldfish crackers (not the cheddar). I add slightly more than the standard dry goods because I add a ton of the sauce. Increase the butter to 14 Tablespoons and use 2x the seasonings (go a little easy on the season salt).  Add a dash of liquid smoke.  Please take the extra time to do the oven version, not the microwave.  The crisp of the end result will be your reward.

We nibbled on spinach dip in a pumpernickel bowl.  No veggie in the house was safe. Green, yellow and red peppers, celery, carrots and mushrooms all met their fate in the creamy spinach dip. We use the recipe on the back of the season packet but swap the water chestnuts for diced celery and use fat-free sour cream.  Trust me it help in this rich dip.  A dash of hot sauce or crushed red pepper never hurt anything either.

Instead of a large bird we went for a large fish.  I poached a 2.5 lb salmon filet and served it cold with a caper dressing.  Since the salmon is served cold we could do it the night before leaving more time for goofing around during the day.  Pull the fish out of the fridge 20 minutes before serving.  The result is a delicate flavor on the fish, not at all briny with a good flakey texture. The sauce is creamy and savory with a touch of saltines and acid from the mustard.

  • 1 large hunk of salmon figure 1/2 lb per person (I like to have one large piece and leave the skin on. It helps keep the fish together during transport)
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 spanish onion sliced
  • 4 sprigs parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • The juiced lemon sliced

In a large pot combine all ingredients except salmon.  Bring to boil/reduce to simmer 15 to 20 minutes.  Meanwhile rinse fish and check for bones.  Pat dry with paper towels and wrap in parchment.  Place fish in deep roasting pan.  Cover fish with poaching liquid and either bring to boil/reduce to simmer another 20 to 30 minutes on the stove top or place covered in oven at 250 for 40 minutes.  Remove from roaster and chill.

For the sauce just blend the below ingredients and let sit overnight with the fish:

  • 1Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1Tbs white wine vinegar
  • 2tsp dry mustard
  • 2tsp anchovy paste
  • 2Tbs fresh parsley finely chopped
  • 1Tbs minced onion
  • 1/3 cup capers drained
  • 1/4tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup mayo

Dessert was Matt’s eggnog ice cream with chocolate bourbon swirl.  Since he never writes anything down I cannot share it with you but if you own an ice-cream maker it had something to do with replacing the whole milk with the egg nog.  Yeah – I live with this all the time.  He makes fantastic dishes that can never be reproduced again.

All in all we had a great day with wonderful people and shared food and activities that support our bond – sounds fairly traditional after all.

Until we eat again,

Jen

 

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A Pilgrimage only Foodies Understand – Cincinnati 11/11/11

Before we begin I must tell you, this is a story about so much more than a grocery store.  This is a story about people who share something in common, coming together to do no harm, and simply enjoy the fact that food is so much more than the fuel of life.

Ok, so by now you’ve figured out that this food blog isn’t about eating the healthiest, cheapest, or most convenient foods.  It’s about remembering that life is an adventure and the most common yet varied language we can use to share the adventure is food.  Food tells us so much about who we are and the culture around us. 

Now imagine if a group that shared this vision came together, let’s call them “Foodies”.  These foodies might need a meeting place, a place to discuss what they have found and share the experience from other cultures.  They could learn from wiser foodies and experiment in strange flavors. Designated scouts from far regions could bring back treasures and report to the group.  Well kids, I am that scout and I am back from Jungle Jim’s International Market to report the news.

Wednesday Matt, Jeff and I set out on our yearly pilgrimage to Jungle Jim’s International Market.  The three of us orchestrated 2 weekdays off together and planned an epic road trip.  Any road trip planning does require a few essentials.

  1. Jeff Drove – He has the largest vehicle
  2. 2 large coolers with ice packs
  3. Road snacks including hot coffee and tea to start, energy drinks, water, 2 kinds of trail mix, popcorn in Banana Nut and Cherry Cheesecake, mixed nuts, jordan almonds, buffalo chicken jerky and protein bars.
  4. 2 Ipods
  5. A hotel reservation

This was Jeff’s second time to the jungle.  As we drove the 4+ hours to Cincinnati we discussed sections we would hit, areas we needed to be careful about budgets and dreams of the beer selections.  We compared pictures and emails our friends and coworkers sent us of wish list items. 

We arrived in Cincy around 1pm.  Much like any other holy land there are small shrines to the central cause as you get close to the epicenter.  We stopped at the original Skyline Chili restaurant for lunch.

www.skylinechili.com A Cincinnati classic!

Matt grew up on the stuff and it has been made clear to me that no one can love it as much as a native.  The rest of us either love it or hate it.  Cincinnati Chili has no beans, a velvety smooth texture and a hint of chocolate – I’m sold.  A few coney dogs loaded with onions, mustard, shredded cheddar and a healthy splash of hot sauce later we were refreshed.

After checking into the hotel we took some time to explore a few local museums and grab a beer before checking in with Matt’s Parents.  We stopped at a local bar near his parents’ house as we were still a bit early.  The bar and the beer were unremarkable but the Bartender had a suggestion for dinner that we took.

www.beersellar.net There are three locations, we were at the Newport, KY location right on the river.

Unfortunately the menu online is a bit out of date.  The beer I saw online was not available but there was something far more valuable in its place – a knowledgable bartender.  I mentioned that I liked something dark and not far from the porter/stout style.   I was presented with the Southern Tier Chocolate Stout.  I have had a few things from Southern Tier and am becoming a big fan.  The stout was smooth almost creamy with a dark chocolate and coffee taste.  While it was almost too sweet it was very strong at around 11%.  Matt went with a local option, Rivertown’s Roebling with a similar but less coffee taste.  Jeff chose a flight sampler getting 4 small 3 oz selections.  The Roebling was in there as well as a Leinenkugel Big Eddy.  The Eddy was an Imperial Stout with a malty hint of tobacco.  The New Holland Cabin Fever Brown Ale was light and toasty.  The surprise of the evening was the Killians Irish Stout, very dark in color but light in taste.  We all agreed the Killians was a good “gateway stout”.  The beers were enjoyed with live music and pizzas but it was time to rest up for tomorrow’s excitement.

www.junglejims.com – I have arrived

It’s hard to explain the lure, the size, the variety.  The first time I visited Matt’s family in Cincy they offered to take me to the grocery store.  Ok, I like a good grocery let’s go!

No

I was not prepared.

Start Your Carts!

It was funny reliving the shock and amazement when we took Jeff last year.  You have to keep focused.  It is hard to get through the whole store in 8 hours.  You heard me – 8 hours.  More than that and you buy stuff just because it’s there and your tired feet and hungry stomach make dumb decisions. There is just so much to look at.  They give guided tours of the store for $5.

This year we went for dry goods first, checked out and had lunch before going back for beer, cheese, hot sauce and produce. Since none of us were rookies we could focus a bit.  Even Matt who used to do his once a week groceries here gets caught up in it.  In just under 7 hours this time we were able to grab some good deals on usual stuff like Cliff bars and Tasty Bite lunches.  We explored relaxation drinks by Bob Marley and treats from Spain, Scandinavia, Morocco, Indonesia, Mexico, England, Greece, Italy, France, and about 30 other countries.  We devoted quite a bit of time to the 4 isles of hot sauce before investigating a wall of assorted rices. I found some powdered peanut butter for my business and scored some Ale8, a ginger ale we can only get in Cincinnati. Our produce selection included dragon fruit, plantains, grapefruit, honeycrisp apples and some great looking orange and yellow peppers.

Beer – Oh the beer. We spent the better part of an hour in the beer section. Singles or six packs. There was a ton to explore. 

One of 6 aisles of beer

Matt and I picked up a few winter weather necessities including a winter ale, a few saisons, and abbey ale or two and a few stouts and porters.  You know, just the essentials.  A quick trip through the cheeses and kitchen gadgets and we were on our way.

Between the three of us we spent over $350 and we were trying to behave ourselves…

The jungle has some basic departments like fish, meats, cheeses, chips/snacks and produce but they are each about the size of a regular grocery.  The rest of the store is grouped by geographical region, purpose or product.  There is an entire section of mustards! My father in law scours the Gluten Free department regularly for new treats.  The funny part is that in a far corner tucked away there is a regular grocery store.  Yes you can buy Kraft Ranch Dressing, Tums and contact solution.

Check out the sneakers! Who's he running from if he's about to eat himself?

The rest of the store has a such sense of humor about it.

We packed up the coolers and started the long drive back home.  Along the way we discussed our desire for a spring trip, our strategy for the next tour and relocating our hotel choice to Newport Kentucky closer to the Beer Sellar. All of this between bites of Jerkey in strange varieties like Ostrich, Antelope, Pheasant, Kangaroo, and Wild Boar found in the deli department.

Hmmm, anyone know a good recipe for Kangaroo medallions?

 

Until we eat again,

Jen 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ll stop the world and eat grilled cheese with you

I would like you to participate in an experiment.  Please call your best friend, mom, spouse or anyone else you would like to spend some time chatting with.  Ask them how the prefect grilled cheese sandwich should be constructed.  I’ll wait.  When you’re done, come back.

 

Welcome back!  I’m sure that was a lovely hour and a half you just spend debating cheeses and bread textures.  Now imagine if there was an entire restaurant that only made grilled cheese sandwiches.  Yeppers – Grilled cheese sandwiches.  Not only do they make several varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches but they have a really cool sense of humor about it and a cult following to go with it.

Melt Bar and Grilled www.meltbarandgrilled.com

Most Clevelanders have at least heard of this popular hang out but it has been growing so much recently that two new locations have opened – one just 3 blocks from my office!  The lines out the door attest to the great food, which catches the eye of travel and food shows, which draws more people in…

The magic of Melt begins even before you have to choose your cheese.  A close look around and you see grilled cheese sandwich tattoos.  Yes, if you declare your permanent love of all things cheesey you get 25% off for life.

Everyone in our office was thrilled when we heard the newest location was walking distance from our building.  A few of the girls went over for lunch one day and the wait was 45 minutes for a to go order.  They were told that we could call in an order ahead of time.  Upon hearing this angels rejoiced, the sun came out and everyone stood up a little straighter.  Our office was putting together a to go order!

For days we pondered over the Parmaggedon (pierogies on a GCS), the Big Popper (cream cheese and japalenos on a deep fried GCS) or the Godfather ( homemade cheesey lasagna, fennel pasta and spicy sauce with provolone inside a garlicy GCS).  I eventually chose the Choriso and Potato, but (and here’s the best part) I traded for vegan cheddar!  Clearly I am not vegan but damn if I’m not lactose intolerant.  Melt will swap vegan cheese or goat cheese for a small up charge.

Technicalities aside time to eat!  I was presented with one of the largest sandwiches I’ve ever seen, a mountain of seasoned fries and a cup of cole slaw topped with a pickle.  This sandwich started with fresh baked bread 3/4 of an inch thick that had clearly been introduced to and made friends with butter.  Grilled to a beautiful toasty brown color it was then topped with a layer of vegan (still melty and gooey) cheddar, a heaping portion of choriso and diced potatoes, another layer of cheddar and finally, the other slice of bread.  The entire thing was then cut in half.  Each half was the size of a homemade grilled cheese but about 4 times thicker.

The texture of the whole thing was amazing.  The bread was crispy on the outside and soft and airy in the middle with a rich buttery flavor.  Gooey cheese mixed with spicy choriso is always a treat but finding the little potatoes studded throughout were like  little hidden treasures.  The sandwich was far less greasy than I was prepared for and had very complex flavors. 

For all the richness the slaw was a perfect counterpoint.  Crunchy and bright this was a vinegar based slaw not a cream based mix.  The veggies were super crunchy and refreshing.  The fries were the only so so part of the meal.  I think this was more because of the fact we made a take out order as they were a little cold by the time my co workers returned and sifted through the 14 sandwiches we ordered.  They were well seasoned with plenty of black pepper but had lost their crunch.

I’ll admit I am intrigued by the perogies.  I am dying to taste the Mom’s Meatloaf with mashed potatoes.  You know how I feel about Elvis themed sandwiches but the best part is I get to try all of these ON A GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH!!!!

 

I’ll have to eat more salads on my off days as this could all get very dangerous.

 

Until we eat again,

Jen

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