December 08, 2006

Pizza with extra poison, please...

So anyway, I wanted a pizza so I drove to a pizza place that I'd passed by a b'zillion times but never stopped at.

I looked at the menu on the wall for a few moments until the proprietor said "That menu's no good. Have a look at these." He motioned toward two stacks of papers; one blue, one yellow. "The blue sheet is our regular menu, the yellow is our smoked stuff."

I shrugged off the yellow menu and grabbed a blue one. I ordered my usual: Small pie with hot cherry peppers. After a few minutes -- and spread the dough and sauce and cheese and stuff -- I remembered to ask: "Can you make that well done? I like it crispy." "Sure...!", he said.

I bided my time by perusing the blue menu. It had the predictable assortment of appetizers, calzones, chicken wings, salads and subs. But, after a few minutes, I became curious about the yellow menu.

Now, there were two guys in this place. The guy who took my pizza order seemed to me, at the time, to be the blue menu guy, while the other guy seemed to lurk about in the back area and perhaps was the yellow menu guy. It was just a feeling I had. Anywho, I plucked up a yellow menu and saw that it was full of chicken and pork dishes. Mainly pork.

Pulled pork sandwiches, ribs of all kinds, chicken parts, whole chickens, BBQ sauces and such. Then I noticed the small print at the bottom.

All of our meat is pulled by hand, and we may miss a bone or two every now and then. Please be aware while enjoying this great southern cooking. Consumer advisory -- These items may contain raw or undercooked ingredients. Consuming raw or undercooked meats increase your risk of food-borne illness, especially if you have a certain medical condition.

Ooooookay. I read it again. Then I read it again. I didn't really think about it at the the time, but I noticed that the "other guy" was watching me. I folded the menu to put it in my pocket, but then grabbed a blue menu as well. I suppose that I didn't want to bring attention to myself but perhaps I already had.

I presume that y'all are aware of the whole Taco Bell e coli thing going on. Well, just as I was pocketing these two sheets of paper, the local news playing on the TV set in the restaurant aired an item on food poisoning. Seems a guy had eaten undercooked chicken at a restaurant and ended up paralized from the neck down for a while. He had to learn to walk again, talk again, etc. They reported about safe handling of meat and, among many other things, mentioned that your refridgerator should be kept at 40 degrees or lower. Strangely, I hadn't even connected the yellow menu and this news item. I watched it because it was interesting, but undercooked meat and this pizza place didn't really connect in my mind even though I'd -- just a few minutes earlier -- pocketed a disturbing menu.

"Interesting piece on undercooked chicken, wasn't it?" the other guy said. Now, I'd been in the place for probably ten minutes by then and he'd been a lurking, distant, shadowy presence up until then.

"Oh, yeah. How 'bout that," I said, quickly readjusting to smalltalk-with-a-stranger mode. "Ain't that sumpthin'?"

He seemed very eager to talk to me about proper hygiene re: food. A little too eager. "Cooking chicken... When I went into the restaurant business I had to take a class." I got the distinct impression that hee was trying to convince me of something; to prove himself. Odd. And uncomfortable to me at the time.

"I think that most people," I rambled, "understand that chicken and pork need to be fully cooked, but... at a restaurant..?"

"That should never happen," he said, shaking his head at the TV.

"Interesting thing about keeping the refrigerator at 40 degrees or lower," I said.

"Oh, yeah," he nodded enthusiastically. "I always keep it at 38. And, when the weather gets cold, it'll easily get down to 36."

It's not just that he wanted to talk to me, but that he was so into it. I was his new best friend for a few minutes. It was only after I'd left the place that I remembered that I'd grabbed that yellow menu with the disclaimer about the raw and/or undercooked meat warning.

So, I wonder. Did he think that I might've been an undercover cop? Health inspector? Insurance lawyer? Blogger?

I dunno.

The pizza wasn't all that, by the way.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:13 AM | Comments (1014) | TrackBack

November 03, 2006

Great Old Song Of The Day

Good morning! :)

Click this.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 04:18 PM | Comments (1255) | TrackBack

May 20, 2006

Maybe I'm a little bit pregnant

So anyway, last night I had a craving for lettuce and cucumbers soaked in vinegar. Oh, yeah. Then I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Oh, that was goooood.

Then I went to bed a dreamt that Jonah Goldberg was asking me to try to get the phone number of some gal who had tickets to an event observing the fifth anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death. Very strange.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 03:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2006

McDonald's is looking for some actual customers to test-i-fy about their grub

If you've been to a McDonald's in the past two years or so you've noticed that whole "I'm lovin' it" campaign slogan thang. The paper cups and bags that they give you your food and drink in have these grainy black & white photos and some innocuous text about how they all just can't enough McFood. It started out with models posing like hip young teenagers and/or young adults saying things like "Are we going to Mickey D's?" "You have to ask?" "Oh, I'm lovin' it!". Pretty annoying and downright insulting stuff. If you're over the age of 12 and you're heading for McDonald's it's because it's fast and cheap, not because it's good.

Anywho, then they started featuring Olympic athletes and stuff. But, now they want to give regular ol' customers a chance to get their mug on a bag.

OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) - Want to get your face in front of 50 million people? Here's your big chance - have it featured on a McDonald's cup or bag.

The world's largest fast-food company announced what it called an online casting call Monday, giving customers a chance to be featured on its packaging used daily in more than 100 countries.

As many as 25 winners will be chosen from consumers' entries at , where hopefuls must submit a personal story of what they love in 100 words or less - in any of 16 languages - and a digital photo capturing the essence of their story.

It's all part of McDonald's Corp.'s latest push behind its ubiquitous "I'm lovin' it" advertising campaign.

The company said it will select its new packaging "stars" based on submissions that capture the "I'm lovin' it" spirit with themes of inspiration, passion and fun.

"Our first online global casting call uses technology in a new approach to bring the energy and spirit of 'I'm lovin' it' to life by connecting with consumers and giving them a stage on which to express themselves about the things they love," said Mary Dillon, McDonald's global chief marketing officer.

Today's featured story is from a gal named Macy from Hong Kong who just looooves karaoke. Go here before midnight and see the joyful glow with which Macy shares her love of amateur crooning and robotic cuisine. I think we have our first winner!

Maybe I oughta send in an entry. What do I love? Deliberately ingesting industry standard leftovers that've been equine-glued together in order to induce vomiting, followed by a long moonlit walk off a short pier.

Much like the Arch Deluxe, I'd be a shoe in.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!


Ah, the one day of the year when it's okay to say that gluttony is good.

The pilgrims arrived in the New World in November, 1620. Being outside the bounds of English law, some passengers began -- while still aboard the Mayflower while anchored off of Cape Cod -- to assert their complete freedom from obedience to the leaders and to the group. In order to make their first attempt at their new life (and with the coming winter), the passengers negotiated the Mayflower Compact in which all of the men agreed to follow laws drawn up by the group as a whole. Democracy had arrived in America.

After a brief stay in what is now Provincetown, Massachussetts (and a not-so-friendly run-in with the locals, they sailed further up the coast and settled in Plymouth on December 21st, 1620. The winter was harsh and the available food was precious. They had gotten used to fasting regularly in order to conserve what was available and to pray for success during this difficult time.

In the spring they planted and while the soil was rich, there were many mouths to feed and it took a while for the plantation to show what it could do. After the harvest someone called for another day of fasting to acknowledge that the harvest would need to last the winter and to pray for another successful year in the New World. But then someone else called for a feast in order to celebrate the bountiful harvest and to give thanks to G-d for having provided such a fertile new home. The feast idea won out, and the first Thanksgiving Day was celebrated.

Every year since that autumn day in 1621, a day of Thanksgiving has been observed. So, with that in mind, have some appetizers all day, fill the house with the aromas that come with cooking a twelve course meal and eat up!

Lots to read about the original pilgrims' voyage and early settlement here. I'm off to my sister's house for the annual gathering. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 29, 2005

Vista D'Agora

D'jever notice that the eggnog you buy in a carton contains no eggs? Maybe it's high time I bottled some authentic kick-ass eggnog. I'd be rich. Oh, yeah.

Well... It's prolly 'cause eggs have a potential to culture salmonella once they're out of the shell and/or out of the fridge. Maybe I'll stick to perfecting my pickled egg recipe.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2005

Y'Know What The World Needs Now?

Canned Grapes.

I was chowing down a fruit cocktail yesterday afternoon and noticed that I was less interested in finding the scarce half-cherries as I was in the yummy grapes. "No big whoop." I thougth. "I'll just pick up a can o'grapes on the way home."

Y'know what? They've got canned and jarred peaches, pears, pineapple and even cherries, but no canned or jarred grapes.

There are canned oranges, grapefruit, mango and papaya. I've even got a large can of plums in my cupboard that I bought a few months ago and have yet to open. I only bought them because I'd never seen canned plums before.

Fresh is usually better, but there are some exceptions in my book. I prefer canned pineapple and pears to fresh. And grapes. Canned grapes. That's what these troubled times call for.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 17, 2005

Waldorf Salad, Where Have You Been All My Life?

So anyway, while operating heavy machinery and daydreaming the other day, my thoughts turned to Fawlty Towers. Among the far too few episodes is one where an American and his English bride stay at the hotel. The American is, of course, dissatisfied with Basil's operation for many reasons -- one of which is that Basil doesn't know how to fix a Waldorf Salad.

The American has to repeatedly remind Basil of what's in the salad. "Oh for... Apples, walnuts...! Celery, grapes...! In a mayonaise sauce...!" I have to say, the thing didn't sound very appetizing.

But, last night, I did some googling to find out how to make a Waldorf Salad. There is, I was quick to discover, not one recipe, but many variations on the original. The original recipe was invented in the 1890s by the maitre d' of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York and included only diced apples, chopped celery and mayonaise, and it was instant hit. Walnuts were added soon after, and grapes soon after that.

I read a few variations of Waldorf Salads last night. There were ingredients that sounded good, and some that I could do without. So, I made a list of ingredients that I liked and went shopping this afternoon. About an hour ago I made a Waldorf Salad. Oh, my. This is good.

Now, mind you, all I've had so far is a small room-temperature sample. The bulk of the mix is chillin' in the fridge for later. I didn't write down exactly how much of each ingredient I used, but that's okay. If memory serves, here's how a bowl of my version of Waldorf Salad ended up in the fridge:

I soaked a handful of raisins in some warm water to puff 'em up.

I mized about four tablespoons of mayonaise just a some sugar (maybe a tsp), a few dashes of cinnimon, some lemon juice that was squeezed from two thin wedges, and some pineapple juice that sat in the bowl after I'd cut a pineapple ring in it. (The pineapple juice was an unintetional ingredient, but so what.)

I cut a small Fugi apple into bit sized pieces -- say, half-inch squares. (The lemon juice in the mayo is supposed to keep the apples from turning brown, I hear.)

I, as I mentioned, cut up one canned pinapple ring into bite-sized pieces.

I took about 15 green seedless grapes and cut them in half lengthwise.

I chopped one stalk of celery. First I split it lengthwise, then I chopped it crosswise every 1/4 to 1/2 inch.

I used about a half of a small bag of chopped walnuts -- the little snack bags that cost about $1.50.

Then, just because I could, I grabbed a small handful of mini marshmellows. The ones I used were actually four-colored and four-flavored mixed together. The pink ones are cherry, the green ones are lime, the yellow ones are lemon and the orange ones are orange. flavored.

I threw the apples, raisins, grapes, walnuts, celery and pineapple into a bowl and dumped in the mayonaise sauce. Stirred it up good. There should only be enough mayo to coat the fruits and nuts. This is one yummy snack I tells ya.

Traditionally, this is supposed to be served over a bed of soft lettuce. And, from what I can taste, lettuce would be a perfect way to finish this off. But, I don't have any lettuce so I just ate it off a plate. I've never been much of a fan of walnuts, but walnuts & mayo, along with everything else, are an outstanding combo.

The bowl should be chilled about know. I think I'll be having some more soon. Aw, hell, I'm having some now...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 05:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 21, 2005

For some Reason...

For some reason this image makes me happy.
Maybe it's the horsie. Maybe it's the girls. Probably it's both.

Maybe not work safe for prudes and puritans...

NATCH I am hereby defying accepted protocol and declaring this beautiful image to be safe for work:

Changed my mind...

Here 'tis...:


This photo makes me want to drive to Vermont and look up every single person I've ever met up there and grab a horsie and get nekkid!

Bu-u-u-u-t a horse is just a horse, of course, so therell be none of that. **shakes fnger**

Where are the blankets and picinic baskets when ya really need 'em....?

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 01, 2005

location, location, location

When you own a business, location doesn't matter so much if you do manufacturing or "niche" work. Customers will find you. But, if you want to own a deli or a gas station, location is vital to your success.

In the small shopping plaza where I work there is one unit in the opposite corner that has changed owners quite a few times in the past eight years. For the past several years it's been three differant Chinese restaurants. The first two -- with forgettable names -- tried and failed. The new one -- it openned about four months ago -- is called Lucky Corner.

In a nearby strip of shops, called Red Bush Plaza, just off of the main road is a unit that used to be Richie's Texas Chili & Deli. Richie was a great guy, but he had horrible food except for his award-winning chili. He had a great location on the Post Road in Milford (next door to us) and, throughout the '70s and '80s, did great business.

About eight years ago the strip we were in was bought by Town Fair Tire and we all had to find a new locale. We, being a print shop, weren't as location-dependent as Richie was. My boss chose our current spot. Richie chose a bad spot. If he hadn't died of cancer six years ago his business would have died five years ago. Hope yer, Richie!

The unit was empty for some time until along came Tom and his Max's New York Deli.

Tom's food was worse than Richie's -- to me, anyway. He had the basic Boar's Head selection and, with a good location, could have done a brisk business. But he was in a bad spot and he didn't even have Richie's chili to save him. Oh, he had chili, but it wasn't Richie's chili. I rarely ate there, and when I did I usually regretted it. Everything was greasy. I'd order a grilled ham and cheese with tomato on rye and threre'd be liquid dripping from the thing as I tried to eat it. Tom never built up a good customer base and, somewhere, he just stopped caring.

Most of his money was in his free delivery. Sometimes he had an employee, but usually it was just Tom and a sign that read "Back in 5 minutes". About six months ago I noticed that Max's New York Deli had gone dark.

About four months ago my old boss asked me if I knew what had become of Tom. "No," I said, "why do you ask?".

Apparently he'd been living in his car and the store for some time, he was a few months behind in his rent and he'd, well... disappeared. The police were on a manhunt.

Two months ago the unit re-opened as Emilio's Italian Deli & Bakery. They've been dark for the past week and a half. I start to wonder if prospective business owners at a rental property ever ask whatever happened to the previous tenant.

At least Lucky Corner is still there. For now.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 11:33 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 18, 2005

What am I, NUTS?!!!

Temperature-wise, it's reaklly not that hot. It was 80 degrees at about 7:00. But, this humidity...!!!

Just walking down the street will make you sweat bullets. Standing still doesn't really draw sweat, it just made you all clammy. Ick!

So, here I am, in my room with the windows open, no breeze, no fan, no A/C, and what did I just make for dinner? Two pork chops and a baked potato. Crikey, I'm sweating just for having them set in front of me! I'm gonna EAT these piping hot things?!!!

Just waiting them to cool....

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 06, 2005

Damn. Just damn.

So anyway, my mother bought me a crockpot as an earlier birthday present so's I can save a little money on food by preparing large batches and taking them to work for lunch. I finally tried it out yesterday.

I spent the afternoon searching for good crockpot recipes online, then went out to get some ingredients that I needed.

I made a big batch of chicken cacciatore. 2 1/2 pounds of breast meat in a sauce made of 1 can of stewed tomatoes, a can of condensed tomato soup, some water, a chopped onion, minced garlic, a dash of corn syrup, and seasoned with oregano, basil, cilantro, rosemary, salt and pepper. I may have even added some cayenne powder.

I set the crockpot on Low and started it up at around 6pm. I wanted to go at least 8 or 9 hours, but that meant that it'd be ready at around 3am. So, I decided to just let it go the few extra hours and turn it off in the morning. A few hours into the cooking time and itwas smellin' gooooood.

I got up and went downstairs. The crockpot was Un. Plugged. And. Turned. Off. My housemate, Chris, must have thought I'd mistakenly left it on all night, turned it off before going to bed, and left it sitting on the kitchen counter to rot.


I was so steamed I just stormed out the door and headed for the bus stop. Thing is, I had less than ten bucks to my name and that has to last a few days. I had no money for lunch.

I got home at around quarter to eight, starving, and openned up a can of Chef Boyardi ravioli. I ate about half of it and couldn't stomach any more.

Then I went upstairs and knocked on Chris' door.

"Yeah...?" he said. I openned the door and looked at him for a second.

"You do know that a crockpot is a slow-cooker, right?" He just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. "I was making chicken cacciatore, enough for lunch and dinner for two days. I had 2 1/2 pounds of chicken in there. $12 worth of food is ruined and I have nothing substantial to eat. This was supposed to save me money, not waste it."

Again he just shrugged and said, "I just thought you forgot to turn it off."

"Yeah, I know. I'm gonna cook a pork roast later. It's gonna go all night 'cause I need something to eat tomorrow, okay?" He just nodded.

How does someone not know what a @#$% crockpot is? Yeesh. Now I'm off to open up a can of pineapple slices. Damn...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:04 PM | Comments (5)

April 08, 2005

What the huh...?

So anyway, I was looking through McDonald's "Full Serving Of Nutrtion Facts" pamphlet.

Reading through the ingredients of the Chicken Selects® Premium Breast Strips/Sauces section I saw this:

...,seasoning (salt, monosodium glutamate, chicken broth, natural flavor (vegetable and animal source), malodextrin, spice, autolyzed yeast, chicken fat, ploysorbate 80, gum arabic),...

Gum arabic?! Gum arabic is what I use to sensitize my metal rollers and plates.

When rollers or plates get "sensitized" they lose their natural dyne rating which makes it more difficult for them to pick up and transport water or, specifically, "fountain solution". A coating of gum arabic re-sensitizes the plate or roller and helps to maintain an optimun ink/water balance.

This seemed like an odd ingredient to put in a fried chicken seasoning mixture. So, I checked the label on my gallon jug of gum arabic.

INGESTION: Induce vomiting if victim is conscious. Obtain medical attention immediately.


Jus' throwin' that out as food for thought.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:38 PM | Comments (3)

March 30, 2005

Do This:

1 cup of whipping cream
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

Whip with a blender/electric whisk until it's whipped cream.

Mix with a drained can of sliced peaches.


"Non-dairy whipped topping" is for slackers. Trust me!


Posted by Tuning Spork at 10:15 PM | Comments (3)

March 08, 2005

I just lo-o-o-ve food shopping

Some people always know exactly what they want when they go into a supermarket. They gather what's on their list (or in their head) and head for the register. "Grab what you came for, do yer business and get out," is their motto.

Me? I like walking up and down the aisles; exploring the shelves for interesting items that might give me interesting ideas. Most of the time I like to leave the store with at least one thing I've never purchased before.

Today's never-before-purchased purchase: fresh papaya.

Now, I've had canned papaya several times. But, this was the first time I'd seen fresh papaya in the produce section at my local Stop&Shop.

The thing is huge. Cut in half lengthwise, it's even bigger that the largest eggplant I've come across. Watermelon-green on the outside, cantalopy-orange in the inside, with little black seeds around the hollow - like a squash.

So, I got home, unwrapped the papaya-half from the plastic wrap and grabbed a large knife. The thing is as soft as cool butter; rind an' all. Removing the seeds and inside skin of the hollow is almost like skimming cream. No effort required at all. Cutting away the rind is easier than cutting away the crust from a slice of bread.

Tasting a chunk, I was first struck at how moist it is. Very light; it practically melts in your mouth.

Secondly, the taste. A hint of honeydew, two hints of cantalope and eight hints of mango. Very moist and very sweet, and the actual flavor is a bit subtle.

In fact, it's kind of sickly sweet. Kinda like it was a normal fruit that was cultivated in sugarwater. Almost like a piece of water-bloated, air-pumped, mango/melon flavored maple candy.

One other thing. Unlike most fruit, the fresh papaya actually made me thirsty. It also made me want to eat more papaya.
Assuming it's a close relative of mango, it must be loaded with B vitamins. For some reason the combination of the vitamins and the sugars made me grab a glass of iced water. And it's frickin' cold around here.

Evaluation: mixed. It's a good plate if you're in the mood for a very sweet and light fruit. But, that's it, 'cause the actual papayaness (flavorly speaking), while tasty, seems to have been merely an afterthought when the nature gods came up with this one.

How does fresh compare to canned? The canned variety has more flavor and more of a firm texture. But, what I don't like about canned papaya is the intensity of the tastes. The mangoesque flavor and the sweetness are more pronounced after canning. Fresh is much easier on the taste buds, but, it also has a slighter emphasis on the sweetness.

I much prefer this fresh papaya to the canned papaya. But, I'd add, I prefer bananas and peaches to papaya.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:11 PM | Comments (1)

October 16, 2004


Every six months or so my friend Lawruh and I get together to prepare an experimental dinner for her family and ourselves.

It is time.

Tomorrow we'll be caged in her kitchen making up stuff as we go along. Well, it wont really be so haphazzard; we've got a basic menu planned. We're going with a harvest theme this time.

What delicious dishes Lawruh will be whipping up:

Roasted Roots
(White potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, onions and one or two others I've forgotten, tossed in a garlic, parsley, fennel and olive oil coating... until she decides to change something. And there'll be ceyenne ovcer half of it for those of us who like it spicy!)
Butternut Squash Couscous
(She's good at making the couscous.)
Corn Chowder
(She says she's not sure if she's gonna do this one, but she can't stop talking about it so we'll likely be eatin' corn cowder tomorrow.)
Cranberry-Corn Relish
(Boiled in apple juice, not water, then chilled to be a topping for...)

What delicious dishes Tuning Spork will be whipping up:

Grill-Roasted Turkey Breast
(With a dry rub of paprika, cayenne, garlic, onion, black pepper, red pepper and whatever else I wanna throw in; slow-roasted over water in the charcoal grill for 2 hours.)
Whole Wheat Raisin Bread with a Plum Sauce Swirl
(I've never attempted this before, but it should turn out pretty good if my theory is correct. [If all goes well, recipe will be posted.])
Peas and Pearl Onions in a Lemon/Pepper/Butter Glaze/Sauce
(Lawruh has her doubts about the lemon-on-peas motif. I'll show 'er...)
Twice-Baked Apples for desert
(I've already posted that recipe. This time I'll be making it for 7.)

The specialest thing about this particular cook-off of ours is that it'll be videotaped. We're gonna present a frickin' cooking show! :D

Just hope the kids and dog can get in and out of the kitchen without tripping the tripod...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:33 PM | Comments (3)

October 09, 2004

Twice Baked Apples

Well, thankfully my long week of hell at work is done and I can relax and actually have some time to read some blogs and come up with a post.

This a yummy treat that I thought up on Wednesday afternoon.
I told my co-worker, Lawruh, that I was planning on making some apple sauce and we got into a debate about recipes.

I said that I was going to use cinnamon and nutmeg to spice it up, but that I was also going to try, for the first time, raisons.
She then suggested adding some brown sugar and suddenly I realized that those would be all the usual ingredients of a baked apple.

Then it hit me. Twice-Baked Apples!

I finally got around to making two of 'em this afternoon and have just finished chowing one of 'em. Mmmmmmm.
I'll probably wait a while to eat the other one; probably for desert in about an hour or so.
Aw, hell, where's that spoon...!

Wanna try it? Here's what t' do!

For 2 apples you'll need:

3 large Cortland apples (should weigh in at about two pounds total)
tbsp brown sugar
a few dashes of cinnamon
a dash or two of nutmeg
about 1/3 cup of raisons

(I specify Cortland apples because that's what I use. The only other baking apple I've tried was Rome Beauty and they, in my experience, have always been too soft and tend to collapse under their own weight if ya look at 'em sideways after baking.
I hear Granny Smiths are good, too, but I think a baked apple should be red, not green. Or yellow. But, that's just me, I guess.)

Preheat the oven to 350o.

Peel and core 1 of the 3 apples and cut it into large chunks. (I cut it into wedges and then just cut the wedges in half.) Toss 'em into a medium-sized saucepan. Also, cut away any good apple from the core and add it to the pan.

Cut of the crowns of the two remaining apples. Peel and save the good apple from the crowns. Add it to the saucepant. (I also threw in some pieces of apple peel for good measure.)

Peel off the top 1/4" of the apple shells.

Using a melon baller or teaspoon or grapefruit spoon, carefully dig out the guts of the two apples leaving a 1/4" wall.
Be careful not to use the apple's shell for leverage while you dig; we don't wanna end up makin' twice-cracked apples here!
The Cortlands are pretty soft and you should be able to empty the shell pretty easily if you do it slowly and carefully.

Toss all of the good apple that you dug out of the shells into the pot and discard the pieces from the core.

Add just a little bit water -- 1/8 cup or so -- to the pot and turn it up to medium-high heat. Once the apples start to simmer lower the heat until you get a nice consistent simmer going.

After about 5-10 minutes of simmering the apple sauce, put the apple shells into the 350o oven and bake for 20 minutes. The apple sauce will be done at the same time as the shells.

Add the dashes of nutmeg and cinnamon and the tablespoon of brown sugar to the applesauce and stir. Stir the sauce every few minutes as the apple chucks soften.

5 minutes before the shells are done (15 minutes after they'd gone in) add the raisons to the sauce and stir 'em in there. The kitchen oughta be smellin' real good about now.

Grab a potato masher and mash the apple chucks a little bit or a lot, depending on how you like it. I like it half saucy and half chunky. The chunks are soft and will fall apart very easily, so I just do about 5 or 6 mashes and it's perfect.

When the shells are done take 'em out of the oven and turn off the oven and range top and turn on the broiler.

Scoop the applesauce into the shells. You wont have any apple sauce left over; the shells will be just slightly heaping with the apple sauce.

Sprinkle some sugar over the top of each stuffed apple and broil for about 3 minutes to caramelize the sugars on the surface.

Remove from broiler.
Turn off broiler.
Let 'em cool for a few minutes.
Put on It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Grab a teaspoon (or two) and eat 'em up!

(Okay, so these aren't technically "twice baked". I just thought it was catchier than "half-simmered, half-baked, once-broiled".)

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:30 PM | Comments (3)

October 06, 2004

Fine dining on a thin budget

Boston Post Road
Milford, CT 06460


In my many years of Restaurantouring I've come across many surprising and exotic dishes. But, rarely have I come across an establishment with a menu that seemed so familiar and, yet, surprised me by the uniqueness of the fare.

Such was the case with my sampling of the entres and side dishes at one McDonald's Restaurant.
It is located in Milford, CT, but word has it that there may be several other locations as well.

As I like to try several dishes over a few days or weeks to get an overall sense of the eatery, I returned several times over a two week period, ordering a different assortment of courses each time. Or, at least I tried to. But, more on that later.

I presume that the proprietor -- a Mr.Ronald McDonald -- is of either Irish or Scottish descent, and the menu reflects that heritage very well. Though my attempts to speak with Mr. McDonald were to no avail. When I asked employees if I could speak to Ronald McDonald I was consistently met with a blank stare followed by an exasperated "Sir, he's just a clown."
I came to presume that his employees wished to protect him from being bothered with questions from a restaurant critic because he may be an excentric personality. That would also go some way in explaining much of his food.

Let me begin with the breakfast menu.

There is a menu item that Mr. McDonald has dubbed the "Egg McMuffin." What this is is a fried egg, Canadian-style bacon and cheese served on an English muffin. It is essentially an Eggs Benedict without the Hollandaise sauce, and served as a sandwich rather than open-faced.

The egg is fried and the yolk unbroken, yet, cooked; not runny. The most interesting feature is that the egg is perfectly flat and round, as if cooked in a shallow round tin. I've never seen anything like it. It also seems to be seasoned with salt. (Not for nothing, but I like to add my own salt to my eggs.)
All in all, it's not a bad item. But there are better and more interesting concoctions to choose from.

The sandwich is served (if you wish to pay for an "extra-value meal") with a side of hash browns. These are like no hash browns I've ever encountered before.
The taste is familiar enough, but the oddest thing is that they are carefully shaped and set into a sturdy flat oval shaped patty. The breakfast chefs must spend a considerable amount of care while grilling the finely-diced potatoes in order to get them to hold their shape.

I'm not sure that such aesthetic creativity is worthy of a simple side of hash browns. But, I must admit it had me somewhat impressed.

Another breakfast item that I sampled is called "The Big Breakfast". The only thing is: it's not particularly big.
It consists of what seems to be approximately 1 1/2 scrambled eggs, a sausage patty, a bisquit and the ever-present side of hash browns.

The scrambled eggs were tasty enough after I sprinkled some black pepper over them. But, they had an almost stale quality to them. Not outright rubbery, but close enough that I began to wonder if they had been cooked much earlier and then simply reheated when I had placed the order.
But, that would just be silly, wouldn't it? Why in the world would anyone pre-cook something that takes only about a minute to prepare?

The sausage patty was pretty standard fare. It had a nice spicy zing to it that was improved by a sprinking of black pepper.
It, like the fried egg in the aforementioned "Egg McMuffin", was perfectly flat and round. Perhaps the chef is pounding the sausage material into a flat plank and using something akin to a circular cookie cutter to achieve such a consistency of size and shape.

On one occassion I attempted to pay my compliments to the chef on his remarkable ingenuity in implimenting such unusual means of producing a sausage patty, but was unable to get past the language barrier. He didn't speak English and I don't speak what I presume was Gaelic. He was a kind gentleman, though unusually dark-featured for an Irishman.

The bisquit, however, was not so impressive. My advice to Mr. McDonald is to hire a new pastry chef.

The bisquit was not at all light and fluffy. It was, rather, heavy and somewhat greasy. The grape jam that I added made it a bit more palatable. But, after having eaten about half of it, I set it aside.

The third, and last, breakfast meal that I sampled is a strange sandwich called a "Bacon, Egg and Cheese McGriddle".
The egg is of yet another uniquely McDonaldian variety. It is a scrambled egg that is folded over thrice into the shape of a perfect square. I tell ya, my fellow connoisuers, these chefs must be very well compensated to bear with the exacting standards that Mr. McDonald has laid down for his restaurant's culinary offerings.

I was also very impressed with the bacon. It wasn't too rare and neither was it overdone. The grill chef has a mighty fine feel for his craft. My compliments again.

But, the most astounding pieces of this parquetresque puzzle were the handles of the sandwich. They are akin neither to an English muffin, a bisquit or a bagel; they are more like two pancakes. The most original aspect of the taste is that they seem to have maple syrup cooked within the pancake batter!
A more unique combination of tastes I have never endured than I did with each bite of this masterpiece.

Another strange feature of the pancakes was that they each had a stylized "M" seemingly branded into them. Yet another indication that Mr. McDonald spares no expense nor effort to make sure that his selection is unlike any other dishes that could be found in any other fine restaurant.

I've also sampled several items from the lunch and dinner menu. Yes, singular; menu. They are identical, and I have no words of recommendation for any of the dining options.

But, that's for another column.

So, 'til next time,
Bon apetit!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:32 PM | Comments (3)

July 14, 2004

Oookay, where was I...?

Y'ever had Japanese food? I refuse to call it "cuisine". Cuisine is a French word and only the French have cuisine. There's no "Japanese cuisine" or "Italian cuisine", m'kay?

Anywho, some people love it and some people hate it. I'm willing to like it but I haven't had anything Japanese so far that I've liked that didn't end with the word "teriyaki."

There's a Japanese resteraunt called East in the strip-mall where my print shop is located. They must be a football field away from me, but they keep their dumpster about 100 feet from my back door. Why? Because it reeks.
It's full of fish tails and fish guts and roly poly fish heads and on a hot and humid day it'll stink up the entire back parking lot.

The owner of the neighborhood Chinese take-out place asked me "Who owns that dumpster; Hometown Buffet?"
"No, that's Japanese East."
"O-o-o-h, Japane-e-e-ese..."
he said with dirision. (I've always had the sneaking suspicion that every Asian who isn't Japanese hates the Japanese.)

I remember once reading somewhere that the imigrants that came through Ellis Island in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had to be fed in groups based on their nationalities because they wouldn't trust each other's "cuisine." F'rinstance: German imigrants would be confused and disgusted by spaghetti and would refuse to eat it.
I don't remember the name of what I ordered during my first visit to a resteraunt six years ago, but it almost made me feel like I was dining on frickin' Rigel IV.
Okay, it was just some seafood, but it was food from a sea that I'd never eaten out of before. You couldn't identify the pieces as part of any creature -- though some had tentacles so it was some kind of octopus or squid or something. Some pieces were tender and some were kinda rubbery. All of it was weird.

What the heck is miso soup? It's a briny sodium bisque that tastes like Long Island Sound, that's what. Why would anyone sip on a bowl of this crud?!

Okay, it's interesting to look at. It had some kind of... of... of... cloudy particular substance that - when the soup is at rest - kind of looks like a sponge sitting in broth. When you stir it up the "sponge" disolves in the broth and it's just a homogenous murky mess. Then the soup settles and the illusion of the sponge reappears!

The first time I visited the resteraunt was about six years ago and it was the first time I'd ever heard of miso soup. There was a table of a party of 5 or 6 who were placing their orders with the waitress. The waitress had a Japanese accent and I'd heard her trying to figure out the miso soup orders.

"Miso soup for you, but not for you...oh, no, miso soup for you, so...3 miso soup..."

I kept hearing her voice saying "miso soup... miso soup..." over and over and all I could think of was "Me so ho-o-o-rny... Me so ho-o-orny... Twenny dolla love you long time!" It was all I could do not to bust out laughing while the poor girl got the order straight.

Anywho, the food was okay, but hardly worth the price. It's not like a Chinese joint where you can get a big lunch for $4.25. If you want to do lunch at this place you'd better be prepared to shell out fifteen bucks. I'm curious but not curious enough to make Japanese East a regular visit.

And can someone identify for me that green gingermint paste that they keep glopping onto the side of whatever I order? A drop of that on your tongue and you start to wonder if it was invented for American diners in retaliation for Hiroshima. What IS that stuff?!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 09:44 PM | Comments (6)

February 23, 2004

Foggy Memories: MUSHROOMS

(Here's the entry that I tried to post last night. Yep, I wrote it again! This is, I believe, the 5th time I wrote it. It was so easy this time 'cause I know it by heart now. Heh.)

Whenever we had mushrooms with dinner, while I was growing up, I was always told (and I can hear my Grandmother's voice the clearest): "Now, don't you go eating mushrooms that you find outside 'cause you never know if they're poisonous."
My kid logic always responded with "If you never know if a mushroom is poisonous then why the @%#$ are you feeding me mushrooms?!"

Even when I was old enough to know that my fear of poisoned mushrooms on my plate was irrational, it still stuck with me.

For years and years I always pushed the 'shrooms away -- to the point that I had no recallection of what they tasted like. Friends would occassionally ask "Why aren't eating the mushrooms?" "Dunno..." I'd mumble, "...jus' don' like 'em. Half the time I was barely aware that I was pushing them aside and probably, at the time, didn't remember the reason why.

Then one day, circa 1990, I was eating lunch in the company cafeteria with my friend and fellow pressman Hector. As I ate the beef entre -- avoiding the 'shrooms -- Hector began to moan "Mmmm...I just lo-o-o-o-ve mushrooms..."
Then they started to look good. Did I dare sample one or two of these potentially deadly morsels of fugal evilness? I did; and they were goooooood.

Now I make mushrooms all the time. I fry 'em in butter and garlic, I stuff 'em and bake 'em, I braise 'em in beef gravy. I can't get enough of 'em!
So, I guess my point is: If you refuse to eat certain foods -- foods that you can't imagine the taste of -- there's a chance that the boycott is keeping you from enjoying a tasty dish. Tastes change over time; and not just in food, of course.

So, enjoy those mushrooms, kids! Just don't go eating the ones that you find outside 'cause you never know if a mushroom is poisonous. Mwuh huh hah haw hee haw!!!

Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:21 PM | Comments (3)

Foggy Memories: Mushrooms


Posted by Pixy Misa at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

February 22, 2004

Oops, I Did It Again

I just spent two hours composing a post at the login page, clicked "Save", and it brought me back to the Main Menu. *snap* and it's all gone. When will I learn?!


UPDATE III I re--wrote the post in notepad and it has been lost. Then I wrote an update that explained why (because I accidentally clicked "paste " rather than "copy" and the post was replaced with a link) and that update has also been lost for the same reason that the original post was lost and I don't give a shit anymore and I quit.


Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:52 PM | Comments (6)

February 07, 2004

A Sweet and Sour Sensation

Sometimes walking around the supermarket can inspire me to do things I've never done before or haven't done in a while.

I was in the A&P produce department this morning picking out grapefruit and tomatoes when I noticed - out of the corner of my eye - a bag of lemons. "That's it," I resolved, "dag nab it, I'm making lemonade!"

I haven't done this in probably 12 or 13 years, but it's so easy. There are only three ingredients: lemons, water and sugar.

Here's what I do:

Squeeze the bejeezus out of six lemons. That should give you a good cup and a half of lemon juice.

Dump the lemon juice and 4 cups of cold water into a large pitcher..

In a small sauce pan bring 1 cup of water, 1 cup of suger and the cut up rinds of two of the lemons to a boil.
Let it boil for a minute or two.

Strain the sugar water (discard the rinds) into the pitcher.

Chill it for a few hours in the fridge. Drink. Swoon. Repeat.

I like my lemonade lemony and some might prefer less lemon juice. You might wanna try it with 5 lemons, but, at the very least, you should have 1 cup (about 4 lemons) of lemon juice.

Sure, it's easier to buy lemonade in a carton or can of concentrate, but there's something special about the taste of the fresh, pure and simple fruit of one's own loin labor.


Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:09 PM | Comments (3)

January 17, 2004

Home-made Spaghetti-O's with Sliced Franks

I ambled through my front door at about 8:30 the other night. Having spent the past 2 ours commuting, and having just walked the 25 minutes home from the bus station, I was cold and achy and tired and hungry. But I was in no condition, mentally or emotionally, to prepare dinner.

"Why can't I just open a can of Spaghetti-O's with Sliced Franks, or something...?" I moaned. Oh yeah, I don't have any Spaghetti-O's because I hate that stuff.

I used to looooove Spaghetti-O's when I was a kid, but, I tried a can a few years ago and it was godawful. I wanted some Spaghetti-O's with Sliced Franks that tasted as good to me now as they did 30 years ago. So I made some!

I heated up some pasta sauce in a saucepan (I usually make my own, but being so short on layin' around time lately, I bought some Newman's Own "Sockarooni" sauce. It's pretty good stuff considering that it comes out of a jar.)

In another large saucepan I boiled a sliced hot dog and some rigatoni for about 12 minutes.
I drained the dog/rigatoni in the colander and grabbed my vegetable slicer.
The slicer looks kinda like a garlic press, only it's about 4 times larger and slices.
(It's great for slicing mushrooms and plum tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs and stuff.)

Using a pair of salad tongs I then loaded the slicer with rigatoni (about 5 or six at a time), held it above the pan of simmering pasta sauce and pressed. Out popped a mound of 1/4 inch thick home-made "Spaghetti-O's"!

After slicing all the rigatoni (it took about 5 minutes) I stirred in the sliced franks. A few dashes of Texas Pete's Cayene Pepper Sauce, and a few more seconds of simmering, and I was ready for some chow.

And it was gooooooooooooood! Without having to chew up them big ol' full-sized rigatoni logs, I was able to shovel it in with abandon. Mmmmmmm.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 07:34 PM | Comments (4)

September 07, 2003

Chocolate and Banana Cheesecake

Well, I need something to post today (I hate having those blank days on my calendar), and Jennifer has posted a cheesecake recipe of at Munuviana which inspires me to finally post my chocolate and banana cheesecake recipe. YUM!!

What you need:

An 8" round aluminum foil pie tin. (If you have a springform pan, use that!)

1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers. (You can a box of pre-crushed graham crackers at the supermarket rather than crushed them yourself [which takes a while]. You can also just buy a pre-crushed crust in a tin at most supermarkets, so if you wanna skip the whole crust making thing then go ahead. I just have an irrational aversion to not doing everything from scratch.)
1/2 cup of melted butter. (if your making the crust yourself)
1 1/2 package of cream cheese. (warm it in the oven to soften it.)
3 large ripe bananas. (peel 'em and get rid of any stringy stuff.)
1/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate morsels, softened in the oven (in a glass measuring cup), but not completely melted. (the tinier the better.)
1 cup of sugar.
2 tablespoons of flour.
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
2 extra-large eggs, beaten.
1/4 cup of milk.

Preheat the oven to 375. (if you have an oven thermometer, use it.)
For the crust; mix the crushed graham crackers with the melted butter 'til it's nice an consistent, and press the crackers into a crust in the tin. Try to make is consistent as possible, building the sides is the most tedius, but it's not so bad.

In a large mixing bowl mix crush the bananas into a paste, then mix them with the softened cream cheese. (If you have an electric mixer, I'm jealous.)
Mix in the sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla. Stir until homogenous.

Gently mix in the softened chocolate morsels in small doses using a teaspoon. Try to spread them evenly, but not mixed completely. You want little pockets of chocolate, but not too chunky.

Pour the filling into the crust and pop it in the 375 oven for 45 minutes.

Let it cool for an hour, then, with scizzors, cut the sides of the pie tin vertically to get the cheesecake out.
Leave it in the fridge for a few hours before cutting and inhaling it.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:37 PM | Comments (2)

July 16, 2003

bacon egg & cheese mcgriddle


^originally posted Wed. July 16, 2003 10:15pm

Posted by Tuning Spork at 12:15 PM | Comments (5)

March 08, 2003

teriyaki salmon

Wow! It's been a full week since I last attempted a post. Yeesh!
It's not that I have nothing to say; it's just that I've noticed that I can "write" whole essays in my head on a certain topic while at work, and by the time I get home I have no patience to put it all together again. *sigh* I'll try to do better.

But I did make some awesome teriyaki sauce for my baked salmon tonight!! And, unusually, actually thought to write down what I was doing so I could reproduce it! (Can't tell ya how many times I've made tasty treats and could never do it again. Damn culinary impulsion...)

I searched the web for some teriyaki sauce recipes and wrote several down. Then took some elements from that batch (based on what sounded good and what I had on hand) and came up with a plan. Put the plan into action; and found teriyaki salmon heaven!)

What'd I do? I took notes! So, here's the dope:

For the soy sauce; use one that ain't so dang salty. Lea & Perrins is too salty (their Worchestershire sauce had my blood pressure rising just from tasting it on my finger-tip). Kikkomon is better, but still border-line ('specially taste-wise). Check the label and compare mg of sodium on the nutrition info chart. De facto premium brands (meaning: expensive brands you may have never heard of sold in smallish bottles) are usually the best bets for quality taste. In this recipe I used Kikkomon Light (low sodium).

1 cup of Soy Sauce

3/4 cup light brown sugar (I used light because it's what I had. Might actually be better with regular; though you may need a sledge hammer to sift it...)

2 tsp jarred crushed garlic (because I didn't have the patience tonight to mince fresh garlic. If you want to chop yer own I'd suggest limiting it to one large clove or two small &/or medium cloves).

3 tbsp powdered ginger (I say powdered because I've always found fresh ginger to have a sharpness that overwhelms the tastiness; though, like garlic, the simmering may mute that to some extent.)

4 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (I used Heinz Is there any other?)

4 tbs orange juice, freshly squeezed (strain out the pulp)

2 tbsp corn starch

1/2 cup water (more for a thinner consistency [*see below].)

Preheat the oven to 375 as you mix all the above ingredients together in a small sauce pan and bring 'em to a boil. After the sauce reaches a boil immediately lower the heat and let it simmer. STIR IT OFTEN!

When the oven is heated (and the sauce has been simmering 15 minutes or so [more if yer using fresh garlic and/or ginger, and not immediately baking it]), pour the sauce over the salmon steaks (I'm presuming you've already laid them out in a baking dish), and pop 'em in the oven. Let 'em bake for about 30 minutes.

Snatch the salmon from the oven and serve hot with the side dishes of yer choice (I made mushrooms and butter-slathered peas...I haven't learned to make miso soup yet).


Posted by Tuning Spork at 08:26 PM | Comments (0)
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