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  1. Holy crap, I haven't signed in here in so long that I don't even know what email address I used to use. Yeah I had great luck for about a dozen years using the Poppery II hot air popcorn popper, and have only ever bought my beans and supplies from Sweet Maria's. About 2 years ago I bought a Behmor roaster from a friend, and that would be a great investment for anyone who is remotely serious about being a home roaster. As simple or as insanely nerdy as you want to make it. If you're brand new, hot air popper is the way to go. You can get one for super cheap on eBay, just stick with a model recommended on Sweet Maria's because some do not work well roasting beans. It is probably the best and easiest way to learn about 1st crack, 2nd crack, etc. Just keep a close eye on your roast, especially with a brand new popper, because the one drawback is how quickly they roast. Too quickly isn't as coffee nerd-friendly, and you will, for sure, at some point completely destroy a batch, lol.
  2. For my wife's birthday I decided to try my 2nd ever recipe from the Milk Bar Cookbook (first attempt was crack pie....really good). I love the book, and figured if I was successful with one of Tosi's layer cakes, I should have a good shot at making the majority of the recipes in the book. Other than my slightly smaller than called for quarter sheet pan causing a little bit of over-hang around the cake edges, I really didn't experience any hiccups. This Chocolate Malt Cake is insanely rich....with the small size (6 inches in diameter) one would think getting 8 or 10 servings out of it was unthinkable, but the cake is potent, you don't need much. The main things I did differently was use a double batch of the fudge sauce minus what was needed for the cake instead of making that sauce just for the cake and then a batch of the malted fudge sauce. I figured the additional chocolate couldn't hurt anything, and it would be easier to spread in the layers as well as top the cake if I used extra. I cut back on the amount of malted milk crumb between the layers in order to top it with the crumbs instead of the charred marshmallows....and I think that was a wise choice because the extra bit of salt and crunch adds a lot to the flavor. Oh, and instead of making the milk crumb recipe and then adding the additional white chocolate and Ovaltine for the malted crumbs, I just omitted the final addition of milk powder when making the crumbs and did Ovaltine/white chocolate for the finishing step.
  3. Dinner on Saturday night....fish tacos made with Gorton's fish sticks.
  4. I’ll throw this in just out of curiosity…how about non-alcoholic offerings in a craft cocktail bar? When drinks are painstakingly created around a particular spirit, I’d like to hear any opinions or experiences about removing alcohol altogether and what the realistic expectations should be. Is asking for no booze any better than asking for “bad” booze? I was still drinking when the speakeasy/craft cocktail trend started, and I would enjoy one or two just to be sociable when in NYC or Chicago, but it was always just to prime the pump for bourbon consumption on a scale little seen in the modern age. Now that my drinks are soft and purely about enjoying the flavors, I do appreciate a well constructed non-alcoholic beverage, and generally find that the bartenders who make the best “fancy mixed drinks with custom ice” fall into one of two camps as far as non-alcoholic offerings…..they love the challenge and will leverage elements of their shrubs and mixtures to come up with something truly unique and delicious, OR they have one or two canned recipes, usually citrus based. Now, I’m not too emotionally invested one way or the other….I don’t take offense if a serious bartender isn’t dying to entertain me with their skills, but at the same time I’m someone who will happily pay what a liquor drink would cost me if they put out something like, for example, an onion based shrub someone made for me in the last year or so to pair with my steak. Just curious if this subject is even on the radar in popular establishments. And if you have examples of specific drinks with which I can challenge my favorite local bar folk, then bonus.
  5. Honestly, I think all I ate was a couple of bites of funnel cake to make sure it was ok and half a meatball from one of the tasting stations. It was one fast and furious evening, but Howard Hanna and Michael Smith put out some amazing looking plates of food. Howard did some fried cod that in hindsight I really wish I'd eaten. Thanks for the congrats! Chef Pope is an incredibly nice guy and I know kryptos would agree that he is a patient and efficient teacher as well. rotuts- I don't think they keep their webpage updated with any consistency. There are a few local spots like that, social media and word of mouth seem to be more effective channels. As far as their current selection, some favorites of mine are the goat chorizo, housemade scrapple, any and all headcheeses, and the miso honey bacon. Alex Pope and team are all about huge flavor....I use the bar scene in It's Wonderful Life to illustrate my point, it's the meat version of "This bar serves HARD drinks for men who wanna get drunk FAST!"
  6. All I know is, as someone who became a parent a little over 2 months ago....I can't imagine a scenario other than being drafted into a war where I would have missed the birth of my daughter. My wife didn't like the guy for the majority of the season, then started warming up to him, and last night when we watched the episode she hated him again. Hindsight is 20/20, but he would have been far more likeable as the chef who skipped his first chance at TC to be with his wife and competed during the next season....vs. the dude who missed something like a birth and then got sent packing.
  7. Thought I’d do a quick followup here….WE WON! The event was Monday night and benefited a local school for visually impaired children. They auctioned off the 4th judge’s spot as we were cooking, and I think that alone went for $1100, so this was a pretty significant fundraiser and event. The chef I assisted was Alex Pope who currently owns and operates the butcher shop Local Pig here in KC (got a recent mention in the New York Times), and the other chefs were Howard Hanna from The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange (my favorite restaurant in KC), and Michael Smith from Extra Virgin and Michael Smith restaurants. The format was part Iron Chef and part Chopped…we had a cooler of items that had to be present in at least one dish (cod, skirt steak, walnuts, piquillo peppers, cheddar cheese, La Quercia salami), and then the secret ingredient that was revealed right before cooking began was sweet potato. All in all, the food items were ones the chefs could work with pretty easily, and the pantry was well stocked. I’d been in contact with my chef prior to the contest, and we agreed that if I could make pate a choux and work that into whatever dessert we were planning, pretty much any secret ingredient could be worked into that. So I basically just practiced until making choux dough was a reflex action, and we talked about frying it so I did that a few different ways as well. We had at least an hour or so before the cooking began to look over the pantry and we also knew what was in the cooler…huge help. So Chef Pope ended up doing a steak tartare with sweet potato chips, an awesome cod dish that utilized the majority of the ingredients in the cooler as well as sautéed sweet potatoes and onions (a particularly insane piquillo pepper and saba sauce was included here...I think this dish is what locked in the win), and while he did most of the work I stuck with the choux and worked on cooking some sweet potatoes in piloncillo and water until they were breaking down and then we folded that into a bunch of cream cheese. “My” (and I use the term very loosely) dessert was a fried funnel cake dusted with citrus zest sugar, sitting on some Amarena cherry juice and sautéed pears with the sweet potato cream cheese mixture on the side. The thrill of the night (besides WINNING) was when two-time Top Chef Masters contestant Debbie Gold clapped her hands when the funnel cake arrived. So anyway, a bit of a recap. Thanks again for all of the suggestions. It was one hell of an experience in many ways, a fantastic charity, and I still have absolutely no plans to ever step foot in a professional kitchen, lol.
  8. The cheftestants walking into a hotel room to find Padma and Nigella in bed in their robes is a moment that has no equal for me.
  9. Seriously, thanks for all of the advice so far! I was emailing w/the chef this morning and needless to say he does not have the performance anxiety that I do. His initial thoughts were to plan for a pasta course and maybe a fried dough based dessert...it's all about what can be done fast and can more than likely accomodate almost any secred ingredient (last year it was parsnips). The judges are not random people off the street, but they also won't be expecting some Jose Andres minibar action either. I'm going to start thinking in that direction, work on a couple of sauces, get my knives sharpened, chop through a few bags of onions, carrots and potatoes, maybe commit a basic cake recipe to memory in case something like a trifle would be a good option for dessert. For a non-professional I've just had way too much good fortune when it comes to dining and making great friends, so whatever I can do to help get people with deep pockets more excited to help a children's charity is a pretty fun obligation.
  10. Wait....Nigella has gotten too skinny? I'm glad I saw this before I watched it on DVR. Just criminal.
  11. Figured this was a good place to ask about the best preparation for an event in a couple of weeks where I’ve been asked to assist a local chef in an Iron Chef-style charity event. This is the first year that three top KC chefs are being partnered with one civilian-ish assistant (they are calling us their sous chefs, but I don’t want to soil that title, lol). Anyway, secret ingredient, one hour, three dishes for four judges, pantry will be stocked with secret ingredient-friendly items, and I believe all cooking equipment will be provided with the exception of specialty tools for sous vide, vacuum sealers, etc. I’m a decent home cook…with lots of prep time and my cookbooks I’m very comfortable doing dinner parties or cooking for groups of 20 or 30. Momofuku, Joe Beef, Ad Hoc at Home cookbooks…I like doing “theme” dinners that venture outside my comfort zone. BUT I’ve never cooked in a professional kitchen, have erratic knife skills, and don’t have a wealth of recipes/ratios committed to memory at all. I’ll be meeting with my chef over the next couple of weeks, but any sous chef preparation advice would be appreciated in regards to: Equipment to bring with me (taking my knives, peeler, apron, towels, Japanese mandolin, Microplanes, things of that nature). Realistic agenda for practicing veg prep…specific vegetable cuts to have down for sure (the chef is a butcher, so in that regard we’ll be covered). Most versatile sauces or sides that can be committed to memory, grain to water ratios…just thinking out loud. Also- a basic cake recipe, quick breads or dough recipes that are easy to memorize, or anything that could be handy when making a dessert (with the secret ingredient being the great unknown). I’m thinking I could be of value here as far as contributing AND staying out of his way, depending on the overall strategy. Thanks for any input on these or any topics I didn't think of. As far as supporting the chef, I work clean, take direction well, learn/replicate quickly, and my feelings don’t get hurt. It’s for charity, it’s only one hour, it’s going to be a lot of fun, but the chefs are all talented and philanthropic people I respect very much and if I can prepare in advance to lighten my chef’s burden even a little I’m willing to spend some hours learning between now and then. And if I can outshine the other two chef’s assistants….BONUS!
  12. Congratulations! I always have an assortment on hand, and we're very lucky to have plenty of chefs in the KC area who use a variety of RG beans.....the best recent dish was from Max Watson at Remedy- pork belly and pancakes topped with fried scarlet runners. Steve, when you're back in town you've got some good eating to do!
  13. Ditto on ScoopKW's crazy earth-mothery hippy talk as well, lol. When I try a new restaurant I'm never expecting it to be my new favorite place, where in two short years the whole staff is like family and they send treats home with me for my pregnant wife....but I know from experience things like that happen, so I generally give a restaurant a good bit of wiggle room to work with me.
  14. No ice in the water glass. I've started noticing this trend quite a bit over the past few years...refrigerated bottles of tap water, but no ice. It's easy enough to ask for it, so I don't get too emotionally involved, but unless there are some compelling non-alcoholic beverage choices I stick with water. During a 2-3 hour meal it's nice to have a cold and refreshing sip at the ready.
  15. Pretty funny, but I've been doing these same reviews (but not as family friendly) out loud WHILE walking through Williams Sonoma for years.
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