Friday, August 27, 2010

Food Joke Friday - Pandas Not Served

A panda walks into a restaurant, sits down and orders a sandwich. After eating, the waiter brings him the bill. The panda pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter, dead.

As the panda stands up to leave, the manager shouts at him, "Hey! Where are you going? You just shot my waiter! You didn't even pay for your sandwich!"

The panda yells back at the manager, "Hey man, I'm a PANDA! Look it up!"

The manager opens his dictionary and sees the following definition for panda:

A tree dwelling marsupial of Asian origin, characterized by distinct black and white coloring. Eats shoots and leaves.

Monday, August 23, 2010

ACME Burger Company – High Concept, High Price

I'd always been curious about gourmet hamburgers and their restaurants. I got a chance to try one out in Salt Lake City – the ACME Burger Company. Part of me is wishing I hadn't.

My oldest daughter and I were waiting for a show at the Rose Wagner Theater and both of us were hungry. Fortunately, there are several restaurants nearby. Right next to the theater, back behind P.F. Chang's, we noticed a promising burger place: the ACME Burger Company. I thought, why not? It's got to be better than the chemically altered meat patties masquerading as hamburgers at McDonald's.

As we entered the place, I was struck with how interesting and modern it felt. It seemed like a cross between a family burger joint and an upscale haute couture restaurant. The atmosphere was bold, but comfortable. I liked the table layout and the seats at the bar. If it hadn't been raining, we might have sat at the small set of tables outside.

The walls had some great paintings. They were like modern expressionist works but had fun inside jokes on them like, “don't forget the fry sauce.”

We were promptly seated by a cordial host and soon met our waiter. He was a tall fellow with a kind face and slightly amused smile who was more than helpful. He struck a perfect balance between being helpful and getting out the way that some service people lack.

Then I saw the menu. It took me a bit to figure out the categories, but that wasn't what drew my shocked attention. That was the prices. Oh... My... Word... I'd heard of spending $14.00 on a burger but when I saw the prices ranging from $8.00 for the Classic to over $20.00 for the Colossal, that was just for the burgers, my heart backed up in my throat on it's way to throttle my brain. Maybe my brain was trying to get down to throttle my stomach; I'm not too sure. I was feeling a little light-headed at the time, whichever it was. Simply put, the prices are too high, in most cases, for what you're getting.

Screwing up my courage and checking for my credit card, I decided to stay. I wanted to at least try it out for the experience. Besides, my daughter Writer Girl and I were hungry. At the very least I'd have something to blog about.

Writer Girl ordered the Classic burger, and I ordered the Kobe Beef burger with Korean BBQ sauce. She really liked the Classic. “It's really good” was the best I could get out of her, though. Maybe I need to get her a thesaurus. I was tempted to ask her for a bite of it, but I didn't. It did look like a great burger.

The Kobe burger was very tender, as I expected it to be, but there really wasn't enough “char” on the outside. If they'd have turned the burner up higher, and cooked it for slightly less time, I'd have still gotten a slighty pink interior with good caramelization on the outside. The Korean BBQ sauce was tasty, but somewhat overpowering. It occurred to me that paying extra money to get ground up Kobe beef didn't make much sense, either. In hindsight I'm not sure why I did. The appeal of Kobe beef is the extremely even marbling. That's going to happen anyway when you grind it up, isn't it?

I had a chance to try the Classic burger when I went back a second time. My daughter was right. It was really good. But it wasn't $8.00 good.

The one thing both Writer Girl and I could agree on was the thick cut fries. They were excellent with just the right combination of crispness and softness. They were easily the best part of the meal. The fry sauce was, unfortunately, rather pedestrian. Not as good as my fry sauce by a long shot.

Bottom line? If money isn't an option, or you just want to see what gourmet diner food is all about, it might make a fun night out. For the rest of us, I can't recommend it. If the prices weren't so high, maybe. I can justify a larger bill for a full dinner and truly fine dining. I just can't justify $35.00 for what amounts to two burgers, a large order of fries, and two sodas.

2 zucchinis

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Free Recipes on Kitchen Monki

I just realized that I've been playing on Kitchen Monki way too much. After two weeks, it's still pretty cool. It's just that I've been putting up recipes there, so I can add them to my weekly meal plans, and ignoring my good readers, here.

Some of the recipes I've put up on Kitchen Monki have come from the blog, and so you already have free access to them. There are a few, though, that I've posted at there that aren't here.

And vice versa.

Now that I've confused myself, here is a list, along with links, to the new recipes I've posted at Kitchen Monki. When I get time, I may post them here, too, along with the stories that go with them.

Cozy's Easy Lasagna

Spaghetti with Tuna and Garlic

Lemon Battered Fish


Pizza Margherita

I hope you enjoy them!

Photo by Linnell Esler

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Family Meal Planning with the Monki

Are you looking for a way to make family meal planning easier? I have been. I have and older recipe book / menu planner for my computer, but it's interface isn't all that intuitive and it's been giving me fits trying to run it on Windows Vista.

Yes. It's that old.

Looking for a new (and cheap) solution, I came across Kitchen Monki. Touting itself as the “Ultimate Kitchen Utensil” I got curious. It's sort of a cross between an online cookbook, menu planner, and grocery list maker tied into a social network for cooks. After using it for a full week, I'm hooked. Planning meals for my family has become much easier.

Searching for recipes on Kitchen Monki is simple. It automatically searches through both the titles and ingredients lists for whatever you type in. I didn't find it as robust as the search features at All Recipes, nor to have as many recipes. Kitchen Monki hasn't been around nearly as long, though. The underlying theme of Kitchen Monki seems to be simplicity of use, so it's minor shortcomings are easily forgiven.

Rating and commenting on recipes was certainly easy enough to do. Like a few other recipe sites, Kitchen Monki will calculate the ingredient amounts for you if you want to change the number of servings. I find that especially useful for dinner planning when I know guests are coming, or if one or more family members won't be home for the evening. Recipes can be bookmarked to make it easier to come back and find them again, much like All Recipes “My Cookbook” feature.

Adding your own family recipes is easy enough. I find putting recipes in any cooking program a bit tedious, but Kitchen Monki is certainly more intuitive than most. One thing I found interesting was that after you put the ingredients in, you can actually assign ingredients to different steps in the cooking process. The nice part is that it's not hard to figure out what ingredients you need to deal with, in what step. The downside is you have too look in more than one place to get all your ingredients together. My 15 year old really likes this feature. I'm undecided which way I like best. I'm used to the ingredients being all in one place, but it is nice to have the measurements in the step I'm looking at.

One thing I find interesting is the “Recipe Queue.” Queuing a recipe puts it into a virtual staging area so you can do something with it later on. That use may be sharing it with friends via Facebook or Twitter. More importantly, it's the way to add recipes to the menu planner and create grocery lists.

The shining part of Kitchen Monki is its meal planner. There may be more robust meal planners on the market, but this one is plenty useful for family meal planning. It's remarkably easy to use. You simply select a day and then drag and drop queued recipes into the meal you want to plan for. It's meal options are breakfast, lunch, appetizer, dinner and dessert. So far, I've only been using it as a family dinner planner.

Another nice thing about the menu planner is that you annotate each meal with whatever extra info you need. For example, last Sunday we made a slow-cooker pork roast. I found the recipe on Kitchen Monki, put it in my recipe queue, assigned it to dinner for that day and then made a note that we were also going to have mashed potatoes and some microwaved frozen veggies. I could have put in other recipes for those, but I had planned on pulling those items from my food storage. How much direction do y need for instant mashed potatoes and nuked veggies?

The power of Kitchen Monki's meal planner starts to show when you print the menu. After selecting the days (I plan Monday through Sunday), you simply hit “Print PDF” and it will quickly generate a PDF file that includes the entire meal plan, and the recipes. Print that out and you, have the complete meal plan laid out in front of you, including the recipes so you don't have to look the recipe up in online, in a cookbook, or re-decide what to make that evening. It's all in front of you, along with the notes you may have left. This has worked wonders for my family meal planning. Now my wife and kids are getting into the act. Each family member, except my youngest, is cooking good food for the whole family, instead of just microwaving burritos or eating cold cereal.

The next step in the process, and the next jump in the “coolness factor” is the automated grocery lists. Once you've created your menu plan, you can automatically create a grocery list from the listed ingredients. You can do this either by simply printing every ingredient required, or selecting only those ingredients your pantry lacks. What's great is that it will organize the ingredients based on the area of the grocery your likely to find them in. They've even got the layout of a few chain stores to choose from, not just a generic one.

I've got a feeling that family meal planning this way is going to help us save money on our grocery bills. By planning ahead, we're only buying those things we know we're going to use that week. More things we buy will get used before they go bad, simply because we decided to make something else. We can plan our meals around using food storage items and better take advantage of the sale items listed in the newspaper.

All in all, I'm liking Kitchen Monki. It won't calculate the nutritional value of meals (that I'm aware of, anyway), but it is making meal planning and grocery shopping a lot less stressful.

5 Zucchinis

Find the Mormon Foodie on Kitchen Monki.