Sunday, December 27, 2009

Perfect chocolate chip cookies, great recipes, and some restaurants... writing for Examiner still

Granted, I'm not doing such a great job of keeping up with writing on this blog like I used to. It's difficult to come up with great material on one topic in two places, and frankly, I get paid to write for Examiner. So, while it's perhaps less than any readers I have left might hope for, here's another link-dump to stuff I've been writing on there as the Knoxville Gourmet Food Examiner.

Since it's coming up so soon, in case you missed it or just ran into this blog, you should definitely check out my list of New Year's resolutions that involve food and drink. I've already started doing some of them, and even if you're reading this in mid-April, it's never too late to start a new, healthy habit like trying out new foods or learning to cook.

In as big a surprise to me as it will be to many of you, Vienna Coffee Company (a popular topic here on The Untrained Gourmet because it's local to my Maryville/Knoxville area and because they do a great job) has thoroughly impressed me (and my wife and coffee-snob brother) with their high-quality Colombian coffee roasts that can't be missed.

Some of you might remember JB's beef and potato stew from way back when. I liked it so much the last time I made it that I decided it needed more exposure in my quest to have it be shared with the world on Examiner, so do check it out (especially if you're new here and don't remember it!).

I went to eat at Metro Pizza in Alcoa (between Maryville and Knoxville) recently and was quite pleasantly surprised. I'm glad to know there are still a few good non-chain pizza places around. I wrote a glowing review for Examiner that's worth looking at if you like Metro Pizza or are interested in checking it out. Metro Pizza serves authentic New York style pizzas that are hand-made by folks that know and love what they're doing. It's also a family-run operation, which is nice in the corporate-jungle world we live in today.

Another classic from this blog, way back when, the Madagascan chicken in coconut milk, akoho sy voanio, was also featured due to my belief that everyone should find (and love) this fantastic dish. Have a look!

Who doesn't like potato soup? A great variation on the classic using fried potatoes for a different taste and texture can be found on Examiner now thanks to my recent article on the matter. Oh, and if you don't like it, you probably just need more bacon in yours. That's a tip to take home with you.

My mom makes the best chocolate chips in the universe (probably). In fact, they're so good that I violate my long-standing, otherwise-firm rule about vegetable shortening to enjoy them (the rule is: don't eat anything containing vegetable shortening). I put her secret best chocolate chips in the world recipe up on Examiner for the world to find and profit from (with her permission). Thanks, Mom!

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Friday, December 11, 2009

More great stuff on Examiner.com from the Knoxville Gourmet Food Examiner (ME!)

So there's a project going on over at Examiner.com where we're supposed to try to write articles about New Year's Resolutions. At first I thought: "damn, I too bad I'm not in fitness/health/exercise; I'd be all over that!" Then I realized how many cool ideas there are for (gourmet) food and drink related New Year's resolutions (just in time for me to make some for myself, even). The link in the previous sentence takes you to a central article I wrote connected to all of the others. Take a look if you want cooking and food to be on your New Year's resolution list (resolutions that are easy to stick with!).

Here are the individual articles, to tell you more clearly what's there:

  • New Year's Food and Drink Resolution #1: Wine of the week. This is a project my brother and I did for months after I bought The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil (a must have for wine enthusiasts or anyone that wants to know more about wine). It was one of the best ideas I've ever had. For a while, it was even more social when we had "Wino Wednesday," in which we got together on Wednesday nights, shared wines (with a purpose of learning about them) and food, and discussed philosophical ideas until late, late, late. Way fun, way cool. I might have to look into doing this again, actually.
  • New Year's Food and Drink Resolution #2: Cheese of the week. Given Resolution #1, this doesn't sound too creative until you visit a major cheese display and realize how little you know about cheese (or go read about cheeses of the world on Wikipedia!). It also pairs perfectly with Resolution #1 since cheese and wine go famously great together. Cheese was very, very frequently another central feature of "Wino Wednesday." If you want a list of great cheeses to consider getting started with, check out this article on 6 excellent gourmet cheeses to try (with food pairing and drink suggestions).
  • New Year's Food and Drink Resolution #3: Food with friends. This also isn't a copycat, particularly when you take my idea of "using" one of your gourmet-skilled friends as a teacher (paid in the food and drinks, of course) and you use it as an excuse to learn and practice your own cooking, which is kind of the goal: let learning to cook be your resolution.
  • New Year's Food and Drink Resolution #4: Learn to cook. This here is what the real resolution for next year should be -- upping your skills. Everyone knows that chicks only want boyfriends (husbands) will skills. From personal experience, I can tell you that "cooking skills" win a lot of points with the lovely wife. Resolution #3 is a system of accountability and camaraderie to facilitate this resolution.
  • New Year's Food and Drink Resolution #5: Get out and try new things. This resolution really serves Resolution #4 by keeping you inspired, and it provides lots of great meal opportunities, vacation ideas, and potential dates to go on, not to mention all of the increased knowledge you'll have to impress said date with if you do #5 solo first for a while.
So, get a fitness-based New Year's resolution like everyone else... you'll need it once you start up some or all of these interrelated food-and-drinks-centered ones (all of which could very possibly improve your life immeasurably if you stick with them).

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gourmet food articles I've written for Examiner.com

As you know, I've taken up the gauntlet as the Knoxville Gourmet Food Examiner, writing for Examiner.com. Since I'm trying to put nearly all original content on there, check out what I've had to say. There are a lot of great recipes and ideas there that you shouldn't miss.

So... if you're not visiting my Knoxville Gourmet Food Examiner page and keeping up with it (why not subscribe and make it easy on yourself), then you're missing the best of what I have to say about food lately! Check it out!

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thunderhead Perk in Townsend, TN

"Far away from the daily grind," they say. Indeed. This place is magnificent. A tiny treasure that's all too easy to overlook just outside the lovely Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Townsend, TN.

To save you from seeing them twice, see my recent review of Thunderhead Perk as the Knoxville Gourmet Food Examiner. My wife and I had a great early-morning coffee date there today, and I can say with certainty that as coffee shops go, this one is a must-visit.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ginger root! Uses and ideas

I love ginger root (it's actually a rhizome, not a root, but this isn't that kind of blog). It's got to be one of my very favorite spices. I use it almost indiscriminately... well, okay, that's not true. It goes in an awful lot of my soups, stews, teas, and desserts, though. Why? Because it makes them all better!

I get the impression from folks that a lot of people don't know what to do with ginger root, but it doesn't have to be a mysterious ingredient. It's basic character is that it's spicy with a distinctive flavor that might be described by some as being a bit soapy. I don't think soapy is quite right, but spicy is. It's hot but not like peppers.

Actually, ginger is splendidly spicy, and its characteristic flavor can be great in teas, desserts, and many dishes. Plus, it is quite good for you. As an added benefit, Chinese medicine says that ginger root is warming (good for winter) and excellent for digestion. In fact, it is also an effective aid in reducing motion sickness, it's stomach-calming effects are so potent!

Although the rhizome looks a little alien, don't be afraid of ginger! Here are some ideas on how to use this wonderful spice, fresh or dried:

  • Gingerbread is a holiday favorite. If you don't just buy some ready-made and want to make your own, check out this popular recipe from The Food Network. Making gingerbread and designing gingerbread houses is a wonderfully fun thing to do with the kids around the holidays.
  • Ginger can go a long way to making tea a more warming and satisfying drink, particularly when it's cold outside. Slice fresh ginger root thinly into "coins" and drop one to three of them, according to your tastes, into the bottom of your teacup or teapot before adding the water to infuse your tea. If you use tea bags, that's fine too. You can eat the ginger if you want, but it's quite spicy!
  • Adding ginger to teas isn't just tasty, it's healthful too. Ginger is very warming, and adding some to tea, particularly black tea, in the fall and winter, it can help keep you warmer and healthier. I have it on good authority that a cup of black tea a day during the fall and winter is a very good idea to "keep out the cold." Adding ginger can help even more. Also, even though Chinese medicine labels green tea as "cooling," a few coins of ginger can really counteract that. It also is a great aid to digestion during this season of overindulging at the table.
  • Add fresh ginger, either in thinly sliced coins, matchsticks, or by mincing it to your beef stews. It's surprisingly good. Usually about "an inch" of the root for a large stew is appropriate, but use this seasoning to your tastes.
  • Any Asian fried dishes or soups will call for ginger. These are great with your homemade pasta, particularly the shaved pasta, which is very common in Chinese home cooking.
  • Add a little dried ginger to the filling mixture for cinnamon rolls, which are absolutely delightful this time of year. You can find a popular recipe for cinnamon rolls here, from The Food Network.
  • A small amount of finely minced fresh ginger is absolutely delicious in peach or berry pies and cobblers. Shh... that's a major secret of mine. Actually, in July when it's the right time, make your blueberry pies but add one peach, sliced very thinly and a half an inch of finely minced or grated fresh ginger. It will blow your mind!
  • Add several coins of fresh ginger to your stocks or some matchsticks, grated, or minced fresh ginger to your soups (like this one and this one) for a nice depth of flavor and a bit of indistinct, pleasant spiciness.
  • For the bold, flavor-loving, experience-seeking types, slice fresh ginger into very thin coins and enjoy them raw. It's quite spicy with a distinctive, interesting flavor.
  • Make very small matchsticks with fresh ginger and add them to salads. This is particularly good if a very light touch of sesame oil is added to the dressing.
  • Add half an inch or an inch of ginger to your fresh juice recipes if you are a fresh juicer. In fact, this much ginger with several apples and half a lemon, mixed evenly with club soda, makes a quick and easy drink similar to ginger ale. Several apples and a whole lemon (peel and all) with this much ginger makes a wonderful ginger-lemonade that can't be beat!

To make ginger "coins," slice the ginger in thin cross-sections to obtain a nearly round coin shape. To make matchsticks, stack up several coins and cut them into thin strips, all in one direction. To obtain a fine dice or mince on your ginger, take the matchsticks, and cut them into tiny pieces cross-sectionally.

Thanks go to the Knoxville Gourmet Food Examiner (that's me, haha!) for this article, which can be found on Examiner.com in a slightly different version.

Oh, and if you've missed it, here's another article I wrote on Examiner.com highlighting some of what was best in food last week from other food Examiners around the region and country. Check it out for some great ideas, particularly for holiday recipes!

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Fresh squeezed juices from the Fresh Market, a product review

Fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice from the Fresh MarketI love beverages. I particularly love them when they're sweet, and especially even more so when they're good for me too. Hence, I go to The Fresh Market way too often to buy their freshly squeezed juices (and usually who knows how much other stuff as well!). In fact, because there is now an Earth Fare almost as conveniently located to where I work as there is a Fresh Market store, these juices are the primary item that keeps my patronage at TFM. This one, obviously, is the grapefruit juice, and as you can see, I've already dipped into it a little. That's because it's crazy good and impossible to resist... plus it's sort of the inspiration for this post, and I needed some direct inspiring.

For more about these juices, you can check out the article I wrote about them on Examiner.com as the Knoxville Gourmet Food Examiner. If you do, also check out the related post on tangerines and other citruses, perfect for the season since this is their season, including several awesome uses for the juices.

I'd call these juices one of the secrets to my success, if success can be measured in terms of how much happiness I think they bring to my life (plus some nice nutrition and vitamin-C!). Definitely check them out!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Knoxville Gourmet Food Examiner

I've recently been named the Knoxville Gourmet Food Examiner, writing for Examiner.com. Click on the link on my title to check out my profile, which contains links to all of my articles, to see what I've got to say for them!

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