Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Which One?

Just as the Mid Life Crisis arrives unannounced, so has your mood to try something new from the grocery store shelf. You say to yourself, "Self ! Why have I continued for years to buy the same ole stuff when there are 100s of different versions of that product to chose from?"

Since you had no logical answer to that $100,000.00 question, you decide to make a change in your habit of buying. Thus, here you are standing in the aisle of a grocery store that was perfectly empty when you started studying the containers, the color of the ingredients, reading every little fine print written on the labels and all the while starting to get that blank stare of “This is confusing the hell of me" look.

Then you notice that the aisle traffic is now looking like the Birmingham Interstate at rush hour, not because the people need stuff on the aisle, but they are curious why you have been standing in one place for three hours. Now! You have the security team, the store management, the cleaning people and the homeless man who lives in the dumpster looking over your shoulder to see what is so interesting.

You’re trying to figure out just how to get out of this dilemma. So! The first thing you do is check your bank account to see if you have the extra $500.00 to just buy every sauce on the shelf. Nope! So! Now! You’re down to making that fateful decision of "Am I wasting my money or is this going to be the holy grail of sauces?”

But wait! Before you step into the deep water, there is one more option. You can look at Trader Evaluates occasionally to see if he has already wasted his money on the same thing and is telling you about it, so that extra $5.00 can be used on something meaningful like a Tennessee Lottery Ticket. It would be a shame that fate would have it that $5.00 you just squandered on a bottle of crap really cost you $100 Million because you didn’t buy the ticket that would have made you an instant millionaire. So! With that ringing in your ears as to why you should be reading the rest of the article, allow me to fill you in on what I found with the items I have purchased lately.


It comes in a 16 oz. plastic bottle with a very well designed marketing label to catch your eye. That is about the only good thing I can say about this sauce. On the bottle it says good for Chicken, Baked Potato, Pork, Veggies, and Bread. They describe the sauce as dirty looking and zesty. Dirty I agree with. Zesty? Well, like President Clinton says, it depends on your definition of Zesty.

I want you to know I did not have “zesty” with that sauce. In my definition the first letter “Z” of zesty is nowhere near this sauce. The first bite I took sent me into shivers. I am not sure if it was the vinegar, lemon concentrate, low grade mayo, or what? But my group I had with me when I opened the bottle did not stop there. We put it on chicken, pork, and poured some on steamed broccoli. A vote was then taken as to give it the trash can pitch or keep it on the table. You should have seen the beautiful arch it made as it hit the edge of the trash can and sank into the bottom of “Never To be Seen Again."

Great Value Rising Crust Pizza

Wednesday had been one of those days. I am sure you have been there--get one thing done and two more things are added before you finish with the first. As I entered Wal-Mart on the way to the house, my stomach was telling me my throat had been cut since early that morning and it needed something fast. I could feel my body shrinking as I walked down the aisle and stopped in front of the Great Value Shelf containing all different varieties of pizza. Now! I usually make my own pizza, but tonight was going to be one of those get in the mouth quick meals and I selected the Chicken, Bacon and Ranch Sauce.

There was no particular reason why I chose this one, and I didn’t expect much in taste above cardboard standard. Taken out of the carton and still wrapped in the plastic it had about as much eye appeal as roadkill, and I was starting to have second thoughts such as Peanut Butter and Jelly or this sitting before me. But I followed thought with my original thought and put 'er in the oven for the required amount of time which was about 25 minutes. I looked at it for the first time when the timer went off and was surprised at the caterpillar to butterfly metamorphosis that had taken place. Sitting before me was a fluffy white sauce, slightly brown topped pizza with...Yes! Folks! large chunks of chicken and lots of bacon bits as toppings. After cutting it into the usual 8 piece configuration, I shuffled two pieces on a plate and coated them with 6 inches of crushed red pepper, grabbed a cold one from the fridge and set down in front of the big screen.

The first bite indicated I had made a good choice. The crust was crispy, yet soft on the inside. The sauce and the ingredients blended well and for the price was “Good Value.” So! If you're in a rush and need a quick meal, this one you might want to try.

Brain Fillers: The word is Al Dente in Latin means “to the tooth.” It indicates a degree of doneness when cooking pasta. When someone says that it is slightly chewy and firm they are saying it is Al Dente.


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Thursday, August 19, 2010 Now in Sheffield is now open at their new location 401 Cox Boulevard, Sheffield, Alabama. Their new phone number is 256-710-8692.

I was in recently talking with Jim and Cindy about how much work they had done since I had seen them only eight days before. When I last saw them they were standing in a building stacked with boxes, furniture, counters not installed, nothing on the walls--and that was just the front.

The new kitchen which tripled space for them was even in more of a mess. When they gave me the date they would be opening I thought, "Well! That is a good goal but you should at least make it realistic." Little did I know the capabilities of these two hard working people. Not only did they make the date, but they did not look in any worse wear for it. Well! At least Cindy did not look as if she had stormed “Pork Chop Hill.”

As we talked they mentioned that
earthmomma, one of my favorite posters on the TimesDaily Forum, had dropped by to see their new location. While there she had ordered a Melted Cheese Sandwich. They were telling me about the sandwich they served her, and it sounded so good I ordered one.

Now! I’m not so sure this is the same type cheese sandwich since they have so many versions, but this one was my pick. It had three different types of cheeses, sauteed onions, cucumbers and tomatoes. The cheeses blended well together with the other ingredients. The bread was toasted to perfection and had just the right crunch that made it a probably one of the best melted cheeses I have had in a restaurant.

Over the years Jim and Cindy have built a good business with just plain good food and wonderful service. So! If you want to be treated like family and not a customer I suggest you drop in and give them a try.

Until next time, don’t let the grease pop on ya!


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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ichiban - Sheffield, Alabama

In the Japanese language Ichiban means “The Best” or “Number One.” This is presently one of the newest Asian Cuisine locations in the Quad-Cities and has rapidly become one of the most popular restaurants in the Shoals area. Being a Sushi fanatic, when I travel throughout the Southeast I invariably attempt to find the best Sushi spots at least once on the trip. Over the years I have experienced some of the best and some of the worst of that particular cuisine. Thus, I have come to recognize there is an extreme difference between what is bad, mediocre, average, good, excellent, and at the top of the game Sushi.

I never thought I would be able to say this, as I was born and lived a good many years in this area, but for me to even think about, much less say that Sheffield, Alabama, is the home of one of the finest and talented Sushi Chefs in North Alabama would have never crossed my mind a year ago. But I firmly believe that you will not find any better Sushi or experience any better Japanese or Asian style food than at this little building directly across from the Helen Keller Hospital.

I have learned as I travel if I really want to know where the good eateries are, I start looking at the parking lots of the restaurants. In rural areas I look for how many pickups are parked in front, for those farmers know where the farmhouse tasting grub is located. If it is lunch time in an urban area, then I simply look for the place that has the most cars along the side or parked along the street because their parking lot is already full.The locals have found Ichiban is one of those places. Either through experience or through the grapevine they have learned you can get a dining out experience at eating out prices here. It is not unusual to see the place packed with hospital staff taking their lunch break there as it has become one of the favorite places for the HKH employees to grab a delicious meal and be back at work in the allotted amount of time.

It has been my experience there are many things that go into a good dining experience. The atmosphere of Ichiban, including the décor, cleanliness, sound, demeanor of wait staff, dress of the wait staff, service of the wait staff, and of course the appearance of the food is exceeded only by the taste. I assure you the attention given by their wait staff, dressed in their colorful attire, is beyond question one of the best in the Shoals area.

We arrived at Ichiban on a Saturday afternoon around 5:30 p.m. as we wanted to get in and be seated before the evening crowd started to arrive. This being our third time there, we were as usual met at the door by a very pretty waitress, and immediately taken to a table. She took our drink orders and while we waited we began to go through the menu that offered Teriyaki entrees, Katsu dishes, Tempura, Select Noodle and Rice entrees, the usual Chinese Dishes, Bento Box combinations, and for those who want to really spice up your evening, Thai cuisine. Phew! And I have not even got to the Sushi selection which contains the usual Nigiri pieces, Spicy rolls, Tempura rolls, and Sushi combinations. Then we get into the Specialty Rolls, various Sashimi and Sushi Combos and an allotment of hand rolls. It is by far a Sushi Lover's dreamland.

The first Appetizer to arrive was “The Red Snapper Sashimi ” ($6.95). The beauty of the display alone was pleasing to the eye, but when the freshness of the snapper met the taste buds it was a match made in heaven.

This was followed by the second Appetizer “The Jade” ($6.95) on which I walked over and watched the Sushi Chef apply his trade on. The Jade is a whole avocado cut in two, then stuffed with a mixture of fresh crab, various sashimi, avocado pulp and a variety of sauces that created such a wonderful medley of flavors complimenting each other well.

The first entrée to arrive was the Chicken Teriyaki ($9.95). I bet you have never really thought about what is Teriyaki Sauce or even how it is made. Well! I knew that you were just dying to know, so here goes. The noun “Teri” refers to shine or luster. “Yaki” refers to the style of grilling or broiling. The Sauce is simply a combination of soy sauce, mirin or sake along with honey or sugar. This mixture is then cooked into a thick sauce which is then used as a marinade or brushed over the meat of choice such as chicken, beef, lamb, pork or various species of fish. This dish was served with steamed broccoli, sautéed onions, mushrooms and several pieces moist and tender chicken breast. The dish is well worth the price, and I highly recommended you give it a try. It is served along with a choice of Miso Soup or a Ginger Salad. We ordered both with the Ginger Salad costing a $1.50 extra.

The Lobster Roll ($10.95) is a beauty to behold for any Sushi Lover. It is a mixture of Sashimi Salmon, Tuna, Yellow Tail Snapper, Avocado on the layered over a huge portion of Spicy Lobster and Tobiko Fish Egg, then layered with a spicy sauce which is the crowning taste that places it up there with one of the best Sushi dishes I have ever tasted.

The Volcano Roll ($9.95) is a large California roll in the center topped with lots of Spicy Tuna, Snow Crab, Masago, Scallions, and a then layered with a very spicy sauce. The name is perfect for this dish that is a delight to the person who likes a kick to their food. I highly recommend it as it met every expectation I had regarding this dish.

So the next time you crave a unique treat where not only your eyes and taste buds will be delighted, but your pocket book will still have funds when you leave, think of “The Ichiban.” I believe it will be placed in that category of your favorite places to eat.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Give Trader Your Input

Have a favorite chicken biscuit? Tell us about it. E-Mail Trader at:

Trader has already been hard at work evaluating various Shoals chicken biscuits, but he wants to be sure he's tried all the area has to offer--in the name of fairness, of course.

Look for his review coming soon. In the meantime, be sure to visit Trader's Facebook page and become a fan: link

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Miracle Egg

I don’t believe I can say enough about the versatile egg. Not only does it stand out as the one item used in so many different recipes, there are hundreds of ways the egg can be used as the meal’s main course.

The reason doctors use the egg in diets for the young and old is because it is loaded with complete protein and tremendously nutritious to the body. The egg contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin D, and if this is not enough to impress you, the amino acid composition within the egg protein is about as close to a mother’s breast milk as you can get. If that is not enough, it also has the minerals iron, phosphorous and lecithin within the yoke. It does not make any difference as to whether it is large or small, the benefits are the same. In fact, when measured with beef for the same amount of protein, it is 50% cheaper.

The Size of the Egg

The size of the egg is based on the weight of a dozen eggs. The Standard Weight Scale is set by the U.S. Agriculture Department and has classifications of Jumbo, Extra Large, Large, Medium and Small.

Does Size of The Egg Affect The Taste?

Taste of the egg or how it will look when cooked is not affected by the egg’s size. Size only indicates the amount of egg on your plate. The egg’s quality and appearance after it is broken open and laid on a plate is graded by AA (The fancy size which has the perfect rounded appearance, thick white, yoke firm with both standing high in uniformity. This egg is best for frying or poaching as they have the best eye appeal), A (This egg will cover a moderate area with the white and yoke standing firm and high. It too is good for frying and poaching for appearance reasons), B (This egg covers a wider area with some of the white thick but the outer layers will spread out thin. The yolk will be somewhat flat and spread out), C (The yolk itself will greatly enlarge like a pancake with a very thin white surrounding. The appearance sometimes after frying lends to the eye the yolk burst, when it actually didn’t). The B and C Class egg is really an all purpose egg and used mainly in baking, casseroles, sauces, etc.

Which Eggs Taste the Best?

Actually the size or grade does not play any part in the flavor of the egg. All eggs bought today have a uniformity of flavor except for the ones produced by Free Range Chickens or Chickens fed a special diet of grains to give the yoke a deeper color and more robust flavor. If you are going to use the egg for a general purpose then the B or C grade will be the one to pick. For Frying or Poaching, I would get the AA or A in the Free Range Carton or the Carton that says Natural. They will have a better appearance and the flavor you have been craving for that special breakfast.

Does Color Of The Egg Make A Difference?

The answer is no. The Shell color is based on the breed of the chicken laying the egg. Egg shells come in white, light tan, dark brown, speckled, light green, lime, deep green, green with slightly blue tint, light orange, rust, etc. While all of the colors create an appearance of beauty, if the chickens laying these eggs were given the same diet the flavor will be the same. Remember the taste is based on what the chickens eat.
I personally have someone I go to for the eggs I am going to use for breakfast. The Chickens are allowed free range across a large area where they can not only eat the 7 grain diet but also bugs and worms they find during their daily forage.

The taste of the eggs are beyond description, except to say I have bought the farm raised eggs for the last 8 years from these growers and will continue to do so as long as they are in business. I highly recommend that you find a Local Egg Producer close to you and then talk with them. See what they are feeding the chickens and if the chickens are allowed free range. If they are given free range and the opportunity to forage, I bet you will love their eggs and will be a regular customer. The cost can vary, but most are cheaper than you will buy at the store because you have removed the distributor from the cost chain. I pay $2.25 a dozen which is way below what a carton of Free Range Eggs will sell for at the grocery store.

Egg Production Time Frame

Hens will have a high lay production toward the late summer and early fall. During the winter months, the hens will take a break and not work so hard. Thus, I suggest toward the end of early fall stocking up on a few dozen for the fridge.

How To Store Them

Eggs will keep for several months if kept in a cool environment and stored in an air tight plastic container. If you use them quite readily, then just let them stay in the cardboard cartons. The large ends should be up as this suspends the yolk properly within the white of the egg. It is best not to wash the eggs when you store them. Mother Nature provides an invisible shield around the shell of the egg to protect it from bacteria. When this is washed off, it allows the egg to reach the spoilage stage faster.

What To Do Before Using The Egg

If you plan to use the egg in the morning for breakfast, then take it out of the fridge and let it set out overnight. If you forgot to do that, then get it out about 30 minutes before time to use it and let it reach room temperature. If you don’t have that time, simply place it or them in a pan of warm water to take the chill off the egg.
Why? I knew you were going to ask that! Because this will allow the white to swell and set better when frying and also prevent the yolk from breaking so easily when you flip it. If you are going to beat the egg whites, it allows the white to reach a peak faster and have a better texture to the whipped whites. If you are going to boil them, this lessens your chances of the egg shells cracking during the boiling process.

How To Boil

You probably have heard the old saying, “They couldn’t boil an egg!“ Well! The truth is eggs should not be boiled at all. They should be simmered. Boiling an egg is one of the fastest ways to turn a good egg into a rubbery, tough, strong flavored, dry mass of stuff, totally different from what you set out to do.

Rule One: Never let the water come to roiling boil with the eggs in it. You can bring the water to a roiling boil, then turn the heat down and put the eggs in to simmer, but NEVER put the eggs in the water and allow to boil and toil like a Witches' brew. Eggs coagulate when the temperature of the egg starts to reach 145 degrees and have reached that stage at 158 degrees. Since water boils at 212 degrees you quickly notice the water does not need to reach boiling stage to accomplish what you set out to do, which is cook the egg in water until it reaches a soft stage or hard stage depending on what you are intending to do with the egg once this is accomplished.

Rule Two: Only cook the eggs in a glass, enamel, or stainless steel pan. Cooking the eggs in an aluminum pan will turn it dark inside.

Rule Three: You should have a large sewing needle in your kitchen to use as one of your kitchen appliances. It is advisable before putting the egg in the water, to punch a small pin hole in the large end of the eggs to be simmered. This allows the amount of egg that has been captured inside the egg to escape and prevents the air from expanding and cracking the egg shell.

Soft-Cooked Method

Utilizing the Cold Water Technique you simply place the eggs in a pan of cold water. Place on the eye of the stove to bring the water temperature up. As you see the bubbles start to break the top of the water, which should be about ½ inch over the eggs, into a boil take them off of the eye, cover with a lid and allow setting for 4 minutes according to a timer. Then remove with a slotted spoon and place under cold water to stop the cooking action. The yolk will be soft but not runny with the white completely set and flavorful. The texture of the white will be soft and will not show any rubbery tendency at all.

The Hot Water Technique is different in that, you place enough water in the pan to cover you eggs. (DO NOT PUT THE EGGS IN YET.) Turn the eye on and bring the water to a roiling boil. Once this is reached, simply take the pan off of the eye, put in the eggs and cover. Allow to stand in the hot water around 8 minutes, then remove with slotted spoon and stop the cooking action with cold water.
You can make up several of these ahead of time and place in fridge. When you get ready to use them, simply run some tap hot water and place the egg in it for about 15 minutes. (Change the water about 2-3 times during this process, as the coolness of the eggs will lower the water temp.) It will be brought back up to eating temperature, yet not over cooked.

Hard-Cooked Method

In the Cold Water Method simply increase the time to 15 minutes. In the Hot Water Method increase time to 20 minutes and you should get your desired results.

Peeling Eggs

If you are utilizing a newly laid egg for let’s say Deviled Eggs, you are going to be in for a real surprise. Newly laid eggs are almost impossible to peel without tearing the congealed white of the egg. When you do this it destroys the white to the point you cannot use it to put your yolk mixture into. So! If you have just picked them up from your grower and they say these were taken out of the nest today, it would be best to wait at least 3-4 days and use the older eggs you have in the fridge.

To assist in peeling the eggs take them out of the hot water and plunge into a pan of ice water to stop the cooking action and cause the inside film that attaches the shell to the egg to shrink. To crack, roll in your hand until the entire shell is fractured. Place in the cold water pan and start to peel or place under cold running water. The force of the water helps push the shell away from the egg and washes the bits of the egg shell away also.

How To Tell If The Egg Is Fresh And Edible

Simply shake it next to your ear. If it makes a sloshing sound or a gurgling sound don’t use it.

How to Tell If An Egg You Find In The Fridge Is Raw or Boiled

Simply roll it across the counter or Table. If is raw it will stop rolling. If it is boiled it will continue to roll.

Can Eggs Be Frozen?

Eggs can be frozen but not in their shells.

What Size Egg Are They Referring To In Recipes That You Read?

The Standard is Large.

Can I Cook An Egg In A Microwave?

Yes you can, but keep in mind the yolk will cook faster than the white. You cannot microwave an egg in its shell as it will explode and make one of the biggest messes you have ever seen.

Breaking the Egg

Remember the yolk is at the larger end of the egg. So break the egg and pour the large end close to the skillet grease. This will allow the yolk to come out first and the egg white to cover the yolk. It will spread naturally giving you the perfect fried egg.

What Is The White Stringy Piece Attached To The Yolk?

No! It does not mean the egg is fertile and what you are seeing is the semen of the Rooster. It is called the Chalazae, and has a thick white rope like appearance. You will see it attached to the yolk. It is actually the anchor that keeps the yolk in the center of the egg. The presence of the prominent chalazae indicates the egg is of high quality. It is a normal part of the egg and considered a very wholesome part of the egg white.

The Composition Of The Egg

Because the egg white can trap bubbles, it acts as a raising agent. Because of its coagulation properties it is considered a binder and keeps loose crumbly ingredients together. Whipped egg is used as a thickening agent in custards, puddings and sauces. It is an emulsifier which keeps liquids like oils in an emulsion state, thus prevents them from sticking together. Whisk some egg whites and brush it on things you are baking and it produces a golden brown glaze. The yolk adds color, and egg whites also control crystallization in sweet recipes. The shell is 11% of the mass, the yolk is 31% and the white (Albumin) is 58%.

Storing Separated Eggs

Sometimes you will have a dish that calls for either the whites or yokes only.
Whites can be stored in an air tight jar for one week. Yolks can be stored in a jar covered with boiled cooled water, milk or oil for 3 days. This allows you enough time to incorporate them into anything you are cooking during that 3 day time period and prevents waste.

Beating the Egg Whites

Rule # 1
- The bowl should be completely dry and free of any oil. Any of these will interfere with the formation of the foaming process.

Rule # 2 - Always use your oldest eggs as the chemical change in the protein of the egg allows the air to infuse better.

Rule # 3
- Always wait to the last possible moment before beating the whites. If you beat them to soon the whites will lose some of their fluffiness and start to fall.

Rule # 4 - Always allow the whites to be at room temperature before starting to beat as this will allow the protein in the egg to react better with the whipping motion and it will expand more as it allows the air to incorporate better into the egg white. The results will be a light and fluffy creation.

Rule # 5 - As you start, add just a pinch of salt then begin at a low speed, this allows the proteins to firm up. As the foam begins to become stiff add a pinch of cream of tartar, or one drop of lemon juice, as this will prevent the bubbles in the foam from releasing and going flat. Increase your speed to high to bring the whites into a beautiful peak. If this is to be used for a dessert topping add a teaspoon of sugar right at the end of your high speed time. That is why you see some toppings really thick with beautiful peaks and some that are thin that have that flat or collapsed look.

Rule # 6 - If you have an unlined copper bowl, use it to whip the whites as the chemical reaction between the copper and whites will produce 1/3 more stability to your foam. Thus it is easier to handle when folding on to your item.

Rule # 7
- When folding the whites into a mixture try use a rubber spatula and use a gentle folding motion, as this preserves the air in the whites. Failure to do this will in most cases will create a very flat egg white covering.

What Is The Best Way To Make An Omelet?

The argument on how to make an Omelet has been going on for centuries. There are many styles as there are Nations. Here I am going to discuss three methods that are extremely popular. Chances are you have tried at least one of these methods at one time or the other. These are the French, American and Spanish.

French Style - The Yolk and Whites are beat together until it begins to foam to indicate a certain amount of air has been incorporated into the egg mixture. In this technique the Omelet is completely cooked on top of the stove. The egg mixture is poured slowly into a layer of melted sizzling butter at the bottom of an iron or enamel skillet. As the egg congeals and starts to set the egg is lifted slightly to allow the remaining egg to run back under the congealed layer and cook. As it becomes firmer ingredients are added if required by the recipe. Then one side is lifted by the spatula and folded in half. The Omelet resembles a moist scrambled egg.

American Style - When finished it will look like a soufflé. In this technique the yolks and whites are separated. They are then beaten separately with the now fluffy and stiff whites folded into the beaten yolks. Poured into an iron or enamel skillet with melted butter or bacon grease and allowed to start to congeal. As the bottom starts to set, ingredients are added as desired and then the egg is folded over the ingredients. Once folded it is placed in a hot oven. (Some say high heat others say medium heat. I get better results at 500 degrees.) The egg is allowed to cook at this temperature until it puffs up almost 3 times its original size. The end result will be an omelet that is unbelievable airy. It will be one of the lightest omelets you will ever make.

Spanish Style - The yolk and whites are beaten together until very foamy. The mixture is then poured slowly into melted butter and allowed to start to congeal in the iron skillet, on top of the stove. As the Omelet starts to set like a large pancake whatever ingredients required are then added. Once congealed enough the entire omelet is flipped and allowed to brown on the other side. It is then placed on a plate and served with whatever sauce you desire and toppings such as sour cream. The texture will not be as fluffy or light to the taste. Remember all Omelets should be served on a heated plate. If you put it onto a cold plate the cold temperature will make the bottom of the Omelet tough.


This is a French word for a light, airy dish. They fall into two categories. Dessert and Hearty Ingredients such fish, beef, chicken, vegetables, etc. They can be made into the main course, however, keep in mind no one can be late for dinner. This is one dish that requires almost perfect timing. In fact it is best that you have the guest seated at the table as it is in its final stages of cooking. The soufflé has the tendency to start falling as it starts to cool. So for texture and appearance you want to dig in just as soon as it comes out of the oven.
You should start the dessert soufflé about mid way of the dinner. This will put the peak of the dessert just about the time you finish the main meal and your guests are ready for dessert. Do not let this scare you off, for it is by far one of the better dishes you can make for yourself and your guest Remember! Do not grease the pan or dish you are making the soufflé in, as it needs the ungreased sides to climb higher and higher as it tempers to the heat.

The Deviled Egg

We have found no one to place a stake of claim of invention on the varieties of deviled eggs. History does tell us that creating spicy eggs was first recorded in ancient Rome. We know they were served frequently in the 13th Century in Andalusia, and the name of “Deviled Egg” was first recorded in the 18th Century. In 1786 the word referred to highly seasoned, spicy and boiled dishes. We know by the cookbooks of that time period the yolk of the boiled eggs were seasoned with very hot peppers and mustard. The mixture was then stuffed back into the egg eaten only by the brave of heart due to the hotter than hell taste…thus you can see where the deviled egg seems to have acquired its name.
However, in the modern times the word deviled egg does not equate to something really hot any longer. Instead it refers to an egg mixture that has been highly seasoned many different ways. Today they are served as finger foods, or side dishes. In some countries several varieties are served as the main course.

I owe the “Mighty Egg” a nod of respect for getting a Command Chef Award for creativity a few years back. The United States Coast Guard was having a major banquet in Mobile. I was told the officer in which the occasion was being held, wanted me to do a Low Land Country Theme Meal for his guests. One of the items required to be on that list was to be Deviled Eggs as it was one of his favorite finger foods.
As the Coast Guard’s Lead Command Chef for that Event, I came up with 31 different Devil Eggs such as, Cajun Devil Eggs, Spinach/Bacon Devil Eggs, Tex-Mex Devil Egg, Shrimp Devil Egg, Crab Devil Egg, Boudain Devil Egg, Avocado/Pimento/Cactus Devil Egg, Roast Beef/Horseradish Devil Egg, Black bean/Corn/Tomato Devil Egg, Corn Beef/Potato Devil Egg, etc. By the time we were through, my Command Kitchen Staff had made over 500 Deviled Eggs, and everyone including me hated the smell of them.

It took two days to make them and an overnight in the cooler for some of them to set so they could be garnished. The end results were the guests were astonished at the variety and my kitchen staff warned me under the penalty of death never to suggest that again.
I hope you have found this article informative about that little white plain looking item you have resting in your fridge, for as you can see it most definitely has a colorful history and a lot of reasons to have bragging rights.

Until the next time, I think I will sit back and have a small glass of fermented grape…


Monday, June 14, 2010 in Muscle Shoals


1203 Woodward Avenue

Muscle Shoals, Alabama 35661

Phone 256-389-1330

There are many eating places in the Shoals area, all having their own unique draw that keeps regular customers coming back. Anyone who has seen food businesses open and close knows this is one industry with a high casualty rate. If a new establishment can make it the first year, the odds then start to lean in their favor, but even then not much. As each year goes by, the odds get better and better for survival. Jim and Cindy Clark can relate to what every restaurant owner has thought a few times. Will we be able to keep the doors open next week?

As Jim and Cindy said during many of our conversations, they have some very high traffic days and then a few when they wonder if the town has closed down. The best they can hope for is it all averages out in their favor. During the past seven years, those averages have done just that, and each year has gotten better with the opportunity now to move to a new location with more table space and a larger kitchen area.

None of this happens without hard work and hours that make a 40 hour week look like a vacation. Being from Chicago, they not only had to fight the normal barriers of building a successful restaurant, they were what some considered to be “Come Here’s.” They didn’t have the benefit of several generations of family or friends here to give them a hand as they took a dream and made it into a reality, but both of these people come from good stock who understood that just because something is hard and even sometimes difficult to achieve, it doesn’t mean success can’t be had.

This was their American dream, so with scant working capital and a strong religious faith they began. They put together a menu that sometimes seemed foreign to the Southern taste bud--things like Italian Wedding Soup, Vienna Italian Beef Sandwiches served with thin gravy to dip it in, sandwiches with a relish called Hot Giardiniera, and Chicago Hot Dogs with celery seed buns that had cucumbers and tomatoes smothering the dog. Yep! That is what I said--no chili, no slaw, no cheese, just a hot dog that barked “Chicago” when you bit into it. Then to top it off they added this Greek sandwich called a “Gyro” that some pronounced “Ji’ro” in our Southern dialect.

They wanted a place that was more than just a place to eat. Their dream was to create a place like the bar “Cheers” without the alcohol. They wanted it to be comfortable and unassuming with a laid back atmosphere. Thus, the interior is mostly decorated just like your own kitchen or dining room. Some of the tables have soft executive chairs to relax in as you eat. Got time to relax for a bit, then go over and get one of the many used books off of the shelf to read. If you like the book, you can purchase it at a discounted price way below what it originally sold for. In this place you are not # 213 or # 562, instead they know your name and use it quite often.

You and I have been in places where their attitude was, “This is all you are going to order?” Why did you even come in, as I am too busy for such a small order? Well! Not ever in a million years I don’t believe you would see that attitude from Jim or Cindy, as their hearts are bigger than their sandwiches, but not much. You walk into this place and you know just by the smiles and laughter of people, this place is like going to your relative’s house and sitting down. You never have to wonder if you're welcome here, it is evident with not only how Jim and Cindy treat you, but the interaction you start to have with the regulars there. It is not long before you find you are going back there on regular basis just to see the once new that are now just friends.

It is a place where you get to experience many of the varied styles of Coffees, Latte’s, Espresso’s, Breve’s, and Smoothies that are brewed daily without the Starbuck prices. You can buy it by the cup and, if you like it, purchase it by the 1lb bag to take home.

Last Friday I decided to run by and pick up some sandwiches for the evening dinner. One of my favorites is the Greek Gyro. The Gyro is a Greek dish consisting of meat, tomato, onion, tzatziki sauce, then wrapped in Plain Pita bread and covered with feta cheese. In their version they use thin slices of spiced lamb. The Tzatzike sauce is a mixture of yogurt, minced cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, pepper and sometimes dill.

Their sandwich list has names like Maxwell Street Polish Sausage, Chicago Dog, Italian Meatball, Italian Sausage, Philly Cheese Steak, Chicken Philly, Wraps of various kinds, Sonny’s, Kimmy’s, Chicago Fire, Reuben, and Chicago Flicker. The Flicker is a Pastrami, Salami, Pepper Jack cheese, Jalapeno concoction that is a killer for the ones who want their mouth to feel like Lava after they finish eating. One of my favorites is the Meatball and Italian Sausage loaded with sautéed onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and slathered with a red tomato sauce that makes you start speaking Italian immediately without any studying at all (this saves hundreds of dollars that you would spend on a language course), then if that is not enough they load it down with melted Mozzarella cheese so deep and thick you know the other stuff is down there somewhere.

It took a while, but I picked the Italian Beef Sandwich as my second order, which consists of Shredded Roast Beef, Sautéed Red Bell Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms, covered with cheese and nestled in a Gonella Roll. Along with it comes the large bowl of Au Jus to dip the sandwich in. Let me stop and say something about the Gonella Roll. This roll has been a tradition in Chicago for over a century. It is widely used in various styles of sandwich shops throughout the windy city and in order for you experience the real thing they have this roll shipped in from Chicago just like the Poppy Seed Vienna Bun for the Chicago Dog. What makes it so unique is not only its flavor, but its ability to absorb the juices of a sandwich, yet maintain the integrity of the roll so it does not fall apart on you. This sandwich is so large they give you a knife and fork in case you think you need it.

I have eaten at a lot of sub and various sandwich places in this area, but I have yet to come across one where the sandwiches are larger. The size greatly exceeds the money you put out for their sandwiches. In fact, now that I think about it, they should change their name to “Over Stuffed” Sandwiches because at $6.49 this is a Po Boy’s Bargain.

If you are in the Muscle Shoals area, you owe it to yourself to at least treat yourself to a one of a kind sandwich. I believe you just may become one of their regulars just like me.


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Friday, May 28, 2010

What Do You Intend to Do with that Flour?

So many times we purchase groceries without having a clue. We have just set ourselves up for either failure or a Ho-Hum dish before we even get home with them.

This is one phrase you will find that is so true in baking. To avoid some of those pitfalls, I highly encourage you to make a copy of this article and the one I recently wrote, “Hamburger: Everything You Wanted to Know.” Simply take the articles with you and use them as a guideline in what you purchase until you remember the information like the back of your hand.

The one item that people buy regularly is “FLOUR.” If you are one of those who think any type of flour is okay to keep in the pantry for when you need it, then your views may change after this article.

The first rule of thumb:

When you are standing at the shelf containing Plain, All Purpose, Self Rising, Cake Flour, and more versions of flours than you thought possible, you need to do one thing. STOP! Ask yourself what am I going to do with this flour?

If you ask some people where flour comes from, you will get a look that says, "That’s a dumb question. It comes from the farmer. Where else would it come from?"

However, I am proud to say, this is not the case with my regular readers. I have found you have the skills that match or exceed many of the Food Network's Culinary Stars. Being a member of a very elite group that knows flour comes from many different sources such as wheat, rice, millet, flax, corn, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and know one type of flour does not have all the properties to give you the best results of every baking need, you stand out above the mass of humanity.

Studies indicate you have an above average intelligence, are better looking or prettier than most, your children are well behaved and have honorary adoption papers in the Walton Family, with a table seat at the right side of John Boy. Best of all you have a higher income range of most Americans, and if you do not at this time, just the knowledge gained here will have the direct effect of increasing your future income.

Of all the flours purchased, All PURPOSE FLOUR is the flour that goes in the grocery cart the most. To make this flour they simply blend soft red winter and hard red winter wheat having about a 10-12% protein content. But then did something that made it even more confusing, they made it either bleached or unbleached. Bleached means treated with chemicals while it ages and Unbleached means allowed to bleach naturally as it ages.

What is the difference?:

If you are in the mood to make a Pie Crust, Cookies, Quick breads, Pancakes or Waffles then use bleached as it has less protein than the unbleached. (Some taste tests say bleached flours have a slight flat or metallic taste.)

If you are hankering to make Puff Pastries, Strudels, Éclairs, Popovers, Cream Puffs or Yeast Breads then unbleached is your pick.

Why can’t I use the All Purpose Flour or Self Rising Flour for cakes if I have it already? The answer is you can and the cake will be good. But if you really want to put on the dog and make a cake that puts you up there with the pros, then get a bag of CAKE FLOUR. The difference in the cake will amaze you as this flour is milled from soft wheat, has a finer grind with a greater starch content, and a protein percentage of 9%.

It is then chlorinated to make the flour more acidic causing the cake to set faster. This hedges against the cake falling during the first 20 minutes of baking time, and allows the fat to distribute more easily throughout the batter.

This not only improves the texture but also balances the moisture within the cake. The end result will be a very soft, moist cake that feels light on your fork and in your mouth. There is one thing you need to remember, once you open the bag, put what you don’t use in a Zip Lock Storage Bag to keep the humidity out.

BREAD FLOWER has more gluten and a protein level of around 12 %. This style of flour gives a chewy texture and sturdy dough to work with. The flavor is more intense with the outer crust having the ability to be a little crispier.

WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR is a great subject to have available to discuss with perfect strangers. It is good vetting tool to weed out the individuals who do not match your superior intellect. The question to ask is, do they know the three elements of the wheat berry? If they know the answer, then I highly suggest you invite them home because these folks know their stuff. Just to refresh your memory, the answer is the outer bran layer, the germ, the heart of the berry, and the endosperm.

To make traditional whole wheat flour the entire berry is ground, unlike white flours where only the endosperm is used. This flour does not store well after one month, so if you do not use it all within 30 days of opening, put it in the freezer.

I hope you have become so enlightened the next time you go to the grocery store you can stand by the flour section and tell all within hearing distance why they should pick one flour or another. By the time you are through they will be wanting you to come home to cook for them.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Rice Box - Seven Points Shopping Center

I had read several comments on the TimesDaily Food Talk Forum about the Rice Box. Comments such as, “Best Egg Foo Yung,” “Best Asian food in town,” “Packed all the time,” and others gave us the indication we could expect at the least an average meal if we decided to give it a try.

After receiving e-mails requesting an evaluation, I put it on the list as one of my future places to try. I have been on the road for the past couple of weeks and had not had the time to complete some of the evaluation articles I had already started. I had no intention of starting a new evaluation without finishing the others first, but as you all know life often does change your time frame on things.

I had gotten in late Saturday afternoon from Chattanooga and did not feel like slinging pots and pans. So it didn’t take much arm twisting for E to accept my offer of eating out, and off to the Rice Box we went. She was hungry and I was really hungry, which in my book means anything will taste good if it has sauce on it. The Rice Box is really not hard to find if you are familiar with North Florence. If you aren’t, simply head North on Wood Avenue from downtown Florence until you come to the Seven Points Shopping Center on your left. Turn into the Center and you will see The Rice Box on your right near the street.

The Arrival

As we entered, a young lady met us at the door. She inquired about how many were in our party and informed us there was a wait or we could go to the Sushi bar area, implying we would be waited on a lot quicker. We decided to take her suggestion and selected two seats at the bar just down from the sushi work station. We started watching the Chef as we waited to be asked for our drinks and given a menu. We waited, waited, and then waited some more. Several waitresses and a waiter walked by, with one even backing up to the bar next to us, yet never inquiring if we had been waited on.

After a lengthy time of waiting, I went over to the young lady who met us at the door and asked for a table, since we had no luck in getting any attention at the bar. We were directed to a small table for two and it was not long before the menus were placed on the table and our drink orders taken.

The Atmosphere

Let me stop here and make you aware that if you are expecting to enter a place that creates thoughts of Romance and lots of A’more” for dessert back at the old home place, this AIN’T it. There is no soft oriental music or any culturally clad waitresses to settle your nerves down for the evening. Instead what you are going to experience is a toned down Décor that matches more of a small diner with the exception of a few oriental figurines displayed here and there.

One Food Talk reviewer stated this restaurant is always packed, and I believe that statement, as it was most certainly busy during our visit. Unfortunately that comes with the one thing that will be your constant companion if the interior has not been designed to absorb noise. The din of conversations, with each person attempting to talk louder and faster, creates the same atmosphere as if you were sitting in the middle of a packed college sports bar on steroids. Thus you get this magpie of sounds that ricochet off the interior walls like an 8 ball rack shot. All they needed was a bucking dragon and you would have just experienced the atmosphere of the Sundance Saloon at the same time.

The Drinks

E ordered an Asahi Japanese beer ($2.50), which according to history was first brewed in 1892. It is now one of the most popular beers in Japan and over the recent years has gained a following in America. This brew has a light straw color with a very thin body taste. Being made from rice, corn and light grains it has a grassy hops flavor with just a slight hint of apple. The finishing taste that lingers is a slight crisp dryness on your tongue. If you like the taste of lite beers you will love this one. It goes well with most oriental dishes, and in my thinking is more suitable for that category of food. If you lean toward a robust, deep bodied beer that can stand on your tongue and dance an Irish jig, then I suggest you don’t turn the cap on this one.

It was not long before the waiter brought our drink orders and set the Asahi bottled beer down without offering a cold or frosted glass along with it. My Sake was also set down on the table, and without a word the waiter left. Just so you can discuss the history of Sake at your next Sunday School Class I have taken the liberty of giving you a little information that will make you seem like a genius. The earliest recorded history of Sake being made was in the 3rd Century BC. The Japanese have a word for it--Nihonshu, meaning Japanese Sake ($5.99) which in English we call Rice Wine. The traditional Sake is the end product of a fermentation and filtration process using 100% rice, rice koji and water.

However, since World War II, the Japanese have started adding alcohol to it to increase its volume due to the reduction of rice being grown during that time. This process has continued with some brands today. In fact, you have a whole class of Sake’s listed as Special, Premium, etc, with each being classified on its quality of taste just as our spirits are. You can order the Sake two ways, cold or hot. I prefer the hot as to me it activates the intense flavor of the rice and gives you a warm glow as it hits the stomach. It is served in a small ceramic container to maintain the temperature of the drink as long as possible. You simply pour small amounts in a ceramic holder similar to a demitasse cup and sip it during your meal.

What really caught my attention was the fact the waiter had set the drinks down and walked off without waiting to see if the temperature of the Sake was correct, or if E needed a cold glass. (When you see this poor display of service, it falls back on the lack of wait staff training given by management.) Picking up the Sake, I poured a cup full and took a sip. The “Luke Warm” liquid caught me by surprise. In fact, another sip indicated that no real attempt was made to heat up the Sake as requested and was more room temperature than warm.

The Menu

When you open the menu, you find a slew of dishes all named and items designated as T-4 or P-5. Your choices are almost endless in nature, which will take you a while to read through. Most of the items are ala carte, meaning priced separately, so you have the choice of just how much you want to spend on your meal. Be careful though, because in a lot of ways this is an extremely good way for a meal to cost you more than when certain side items are listed with the dishes main meat.

The Appetizer

E ordered as an appetizer a small cup of Hot/Sour Soup ($1.59). There are many versions of this style soup--Chinese, Thai, etc. They usually start with a chicken broth, then add red rice vinegar, white rice vinegar, Tofu, Shredded Pork, Egg, Sesame Oil, Mushrooms, Bamboo, etc. It is very spicy in nature and is used to clear the lungs and head if someone has a cold.

When it was brought to the table it was neither Hot in temperature or Spicy. I would label it as one, if not probably the saddest versions of Hot and Sour Soup I have ever seen offered at any oriental place. In fact it was so bad, as you see the picture, we left it on the table. I was now getting the feeling things were headed down hill fast.

The Main Meals

E ordered the The Moo Goo Gai Pan Dish ($5.95) which is slivered slices of sautéed chicken, mixed with snow peas, watercress, slices of mushroom, carrots with a white sauce with the sides of fried rice and spring roll. She took a bite, and I could see by the look on her face that things were not going well. She pushed the plate to me and said, "You try it." I selected a portion and felt the “Luke Warm” white “GOO” of a sauce start to spread over my taste buds.

To describe the taste I have to give you something to compare it with. Take a tablespoon of cornstarch and mix it with tepid water until it is a thin sauce. Do not add anything to it, now take a big spoonful and place it in your mouth. That, my friend, is how you get to experience the same thing we experienced with this dish. It was totally tasteless and unappealing in any shape or form.

But in an attempt at being optimistic, she said, "Well, at least I have the spring roll," and took a bite. The spring roll piece she had bitten off, hit the plate at the same time she laid the larger piece back down. I thought, it can’t be that bad and took a bite myself. I was totally wrong and laid the remaining portion of the spring roll back on the plate. The roll was cold, and the inside ingredients were similar to soured grass.

I had ordered the Spicy Yellowtail Roll ($5.25) and in the process stressed to the waiter to tell the Sushi Chef to make the roll very spicy. I did this to offset the high oil content of the fish which tends to dilute the spicy sauce somewhat. Basically the Roll is yellowtail minced, mixed with minced scallions, slivers of cucumber, then blended together with wasabi and a spicy sauce. A sheet of Nori (Seaweed) is laid on top of a bed of sushi rice and the mixture is spread on the Nori and pressed down. It is then rolled in the sushi mat into a tight roll. Most Sushi Chefs, after making their cuts, will then place a drop of spicy sauce on each piece for additional flavor and looks.

What I actually got was a Yellowtail roll that had very little spicy sauce within the roll itself, and none placed on each individual piece. While the portions were adequate and the freshness was there, the taste of the roll in general would be considered bland in nature when compared to the same type of roll I have gotten at other sushi bars. In fact, the taste was so bland I had the waiter bring some extra spicy sauce for the dish, and he brought around approximately a tablespoon full in a small dish.

My second Sushi Dish was the Rainbow Roll ($10.95). The Rainbow is a standard among Sushi Chefs and is fairly easy to make. The foundation for the Roll is usually a mixture of a California Roll which mainly consists of shredded fish cake (imitation crab), avocado and cucumber. Once the foundation is tightly rolled, the top of the foundation is layered with salmon, tuna, avocado and a mild white fish of choice. The Japanese refer to this as Tazuna Sushi. The presentation of the roll is very colorful, thus the name “Rainbow Roll.” I had also requested that the rainbow roll be made very spicy, which is normally not done. As in the yellowtail roll, the word spicy was apparently left out of the order and it didn’t happen. The freshness was there, and in fact it was a good quality Rainbow Roll.

By the time we (or let's say I since E does not like Sushi) finished eating, E was about to starve. Not willing to order anything else she just wanted to get out of there and go get a burger.

The Service

I would say something about the type of service you could expect from the wait staff, but they never came back to the table after they delivered our orders, so I guess in a way I just did. I am one of those people who tip according to the quality of service that is given. Being in the food business myself at one time, I am very aware how hard these people work, so always use that as a guideline as to the amount of the tip. Thus, I will allow you to guess the percentage of the tip.


Needless to say, the possibility of A’more went out of the door about the second bite of the Moo Goo whatever it was. I was told in no uncertain terms that if I ever suggested coming back to this place I would be in a for a tongue lashing. If you ask E, the $35.00 spent was money wasted. So! I believe you can probably figure out and write my recommendation for me.

Their Hours

Their posted hours are 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. week days and 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday.


When I took on the responsibility of writing about the food experiences at the many places I visit, I made the decision to be truthful in my assessments. The above review was not a joy to write, as I had much rather have told you how good the Rice Box was and give it a glowing recommendation. I still could have done that, but that would not have been an honest viewpoint based on my one experience. The end result would have been that I was unfair not only to you but to the Rice Box management also. Keep in mind this could have been an off night due to many circumstances and this might not be the standard quality of service or quality of food they offer. This was just our experience, and you should give it the no more or less weight than it deserves.

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