June 25, 2012

Zoka Coffee Roasters

Over the years, I've really started to develop a taste and love for coffee. Maybe it was my taste buds maturing as I got older. Maybe it was that my job has me starting work at 5 o'clock in the morning. Whatever the case, I'm happy that it's in my life. And as time goes on, I've been able to try a wide variety of coffees, everything from the bitter and acidic to the smooth and robust. Now, I feel like I can honestly say what is my favorite coffee: Espresso

When it comes to a lot of food and drinks, I tend to take on the saying "Go big or go home". When you are gonna go big with coffee, you go the espresso route. You get the boldest flavors and the most kick out of a shot of espresso.

My favorite espresso to this point isn't the one pictured at the top of the page. It's actually Illy. To me, Illy is the top dog when it comes to espresso. Smooth, rich, with no bitterness to be found. Plus, it's strong as hell. One shot before work will get you flying!

As much as love Illy, it's not the only one out there. I've tried a few other and have been greatly disappointed. I started searching Amazon and came across this one. There weren't that many reviews, but all were good and the price was comparable to Illy.

I placed an order, and about a week later it arrived. Before I even opened up the bag, the aroma of the beans hit me and I knew I was in for something good. Then it hit me that I ordered whole beans and don't have a grinder.

Ok, before we go any further, let me just get this out of the way. Yes, I've been drinking coffee this long and didn't have a grinder. I had always bought ground coffee and was comfortable doing it. After tasting it fresh ground, I realized I had been making a HUGE mistake. Don't worry, I've been kicking myself in the ass since I tasted it.

After a quick trip to Target, this is what I came back with:

Now it was time to try my new coffee. I ground up a few tablespoons of beans and brewed the espresso through my stove-top espresso maker. When it finished, I poured myself and small cup and gave it a taste before adding anything to it.

Before I even tasted it, I saw that the color was a little lighter that what I'm used to seeing. That isn't a bad thing at all.

In most cases, all I add to espresso is a little sugar. I try not to mask any flavors that are naturally there. I tasted the coffee pre-sugar, and it was a bit much for me. I then added about 1 teaspoon of sugar to it. And guess what? It was too sweet! So, I knocked back that sugary concoction and used only about 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar in cup number 2. Now I could get a better sense of what I was working with.

Like the bag said, it did have a slight nuttiness to it. It was very smooth with a strong finish, but not strong enough to back you off after a small amount. It did seem like there was a tiny amount of bitterness to it. If you take your espresso with steamed milk, that would probably be more than enough to cover any bitter taste that is there.

Overall, I'm really happy with my purchase. I still think Illy is better, but Zoka is a pretty close runner-up.

Check out the link and see for yourself if Zoka is something you might be interested in.

Zoka Coffee

Stay safe my friends!

J. Miller

June 20, 2012

Meet Nadia G. And The Baron

If you have no idea who either one of these characters are, don't fret. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you'll want to see for yourself what all the talk is about.

The lady on the left is Nadia G, host and creator of the show "Nadia G.'s Bitchin' Kitchen". The gentleman on the right with the raised eyebrow goes by Baron Ambrosia. He is the host of "The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia". These two have a few things in common besides being the topic of this post. First, both of their shows can be seen on The Cooking Channel. Second, both shows had their humble beginnings as series' on the web. Thirdly, without a doubt, these have to be the most unique and creative food shows on the air right now and possibly ever. They really are something you have to see to believe.

Since I believe in ladies going first, we are gonna talk about Bitchin' Kitchen. The show will start off like many cooking shows do. She will start each show by explaining the inspiration behind the meals being prepared in the episode. The inspiration could be something like preparing dinner for the in-laws to cooking on a meager students income. And that is where the show stops being like all the other shows.

Once the show gets going, you can quickly see this isn't your average cooking show. From the bright colors of the set to the high heels she's got on, there's a lot coming at you visually. And it doesn't stop with her, in the most literal of terms. She isn't the only character on the show. She is joined by a trio of guys to help explain some of the ingredients being used in finer detail. Here they are:

From left to right we have Panos, Hans, and the spice agent. Panos is the meat and fish guy. Hans is the food correspondent and usually has no shirt on and explains the heath benefits of certain foods. The Spice Agent talks about......SPICES! Never would have seen that comin'!

What I forgot to mention earlier is that everyone on the show is CRAZY! From Nadia to the three stooges pictured above, all of them are a bit nuts. And it's that insanity which makes the show hilarious.

The food isn't bad at all. I think it is about par with a lot of the other shows out there. I do like that she uses raw sugar in place of regular granulated. But, to be honest, It's not the food that brings me back. It's all the characters and quirkiness of the show that has me looking forward to each episode.

Now for the Baron.

If I had to compare this show to any other show out there, it would be Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. He doesn't actually cook anything himself. He visits small local eateries showing what any tourist would probably never see. And that's where the similarities end. The Baron's show is more like a sitcom than a cooking show. There is a plot to each episode, along with some fairly bad acting. But that's ok! The show is meant to be campy.

The show is unique in that food just happens to be there. If you take out the food, it would still be a show. There's that much going on in each episode.

One of things I like about this show is his weird sense of humor. One episode, he was given a food that he was told was an aphrodisiac. After tasting it, he responded "This is the type of food I would have before a date....with an entire harem.". That's the kinda shit I'm talkin' about!

There are also a couple other things I really like about him and his show. First is that he reps the bronx to the fullest. I can respect that. Second, he always gets a lot of black and brown faces on his show. He is all about ethnic flavors. I absolutely love that. You'll see more black faces in one episode of his show than you will see all day on Food Network.

Here's a trailer for his show before it got started.

Now check out Nadia G doin' her thang.

All in all, both shows at least deserve a look. I like 'em. Some people can't stand 'em. It's really your personal taste. Honestly though, how many times can we hear "My take on a classic" at the start of a cooking show and not feel like we've seen that a million times? While these two shows may not be the prototype of future cooking shows, I believe that they are gonna open up the doors for creativity in the cooking show realm. If the web can spawn these two delights as well as other hits like Epic Meal Time, I think the future of food television is headed for big things.

J. Miller

I claim no ownership of the pictures presented in this post. All pictures were found online through google search.

June 16, 2012

Los Cotijas Taco Shop

When I make that decision that I'm not going to cook dinner, I start going through the list of "Usual Suspect" restaurants that I can depend on for good, inexpensive grub. When I'm in the mood for Mexican food, I know this place will do the trick.

Now, this isn't the type of place you take a date to. At least one you plan on spending more than one night with. It's more of a hole-in-the-wall with only a few seats to go around. I almost always get my food to go, but since I was just getting off of work, I figured it would be nice to sit down for a bit and relax.

This place claims to have one of the best fish tacos in the O.C. I've had them before, but it had been a while since then. I knew they were good, so I ordered 2 fish tacos, 1 shrimp taco and a drink. Here's what I was looking at:

Now, I'm not an expert on fish tacos. I can't say whether or not they have the best fish taco in town or not. What I can tell you is that I really liked it. The fish was fried perfectly, the slaw on top was good, and a squeeze of lime brought it all together. It was really good eatin'!

Here's a closer look:

I love shrimp, so ordering the shrimp taco was a no-brainer. Check it out:

This taco kicked ass! Plain and simple. No elegance needed for this one. It was fucking good! I don't know what they cooked it in, but the sauce with the shrimp was delicious. It had a little heat while not overpowering the shrimp.Not overcooked at all and became a great pairing along side the fish taco. 

While the fish taco was good, it was also a little tame. The shrimp taco had fire to it. A brightness and intensity to it that was a pure delight. OK, that last line was a bit more refined, but the taco still kicks ass!

If you ever happen to stop by this place, order these two together. If you aren't a fan of fish, then I'm shocked you even kept reading! But don't worry, they have lots of good stuff on their menu.

11951 Euclid St.
Garden Grove, CA 92840
(714) 636-3944

That's it. 

Well, that's not quite it. I wasn't even going to share this, but since this happened there, I'm gonna tell you.

After I placed the order, I sat down and started using my phone. At that point, a woman stepped up to the counter to place her order. She had her back to me and, as a guy, I did what I usually do: I checked out her ass. And you know what? It was nice. There's a lot I would've done with that booty. Then she turned around, and I noticed something that put all those previous thoughts to rest. She must have been 6 or 7 months PREGNANT!!! I was shocked! I honestly couldn't tell from the back view.

I felt a little bad about it. Eye-Fucking pregnant women is not my M.O. I'd like to think that I draw the line somewhere. 

So, that is officially it. To sum it up, Tacos are good. Eye-Fucking pregnant chicks is not good.

J. Miller

June 12, 2012

Thai Famous Cuisine

I've been plugging away with the recipes, so I thought I'd switch it up a bit and do a review! OK, that's not entirely true. Part of the reason I'm doing a review is that work is really starting to get busy, so I don't have as much time as I'd like to try new recipes. So please bear with me the next couple weeks. Don't worry though, because when I do come back with the recipes, it's gonna knock you on your ass and have you begging for more. For now, you are gonna have to settle for this back-alley quickie.

This little spot is actually right around the corner from me. I don't know how long it's been there, but I've never had anything bad from this place. The family that owns it are always really friendly and it shows as soon as you walk through the doors. A hearty "Hello" and big smiles are always appreciated in my book.

For some reason, while at work, I got it in my head that I wanted something spicy for my after-work meal. Not that painful, I just ate a ghost chili and want to shoot myself kind of heat. Nor that weak, timid, pussy whipped, underlying heat. I wanted something hot! Make me sweat and clear out the sinuses kinda heat! Lucky for me, and the rest of the world, Thai food has no problem delivering the heat.

On the menu, they have little pictures of chili peppers next to the spicy foods. I decided on the spicy beef with rice. To be sure, I asked how hot the dish was. The owner said "It's medium heat. Would you like it hotter?" I swear to God I didn't say a word to him that I was looking for the heat, but HE KNEW! I said "Bring it on bitch!" Well, I think just thought that. The reality was probably more like "Yes, please do." but I can't remember for sure.

I first got a small bowl of vegetable soup. No pic there because I was hungry and didn't think to take any pics. Then I got the full meal and it did not disappoint! Great flavor and a healthy amount of heat. I was loving it!

I also got a Thai Tea with it. I don't know what was in it, but it was good. I do know that it had cream in it, because it certainly helped cool my mouth down.

A few minutes after I got my meal, the owner asked if it was hot enough. "Oh yeah! Thank You!" was my response. I actually remember saying that. But I suspect the little beads of sweat on my forehead had already given him his answer.

For a little over $9, I got a great meal. Tender, spicy beef with perfectly cooked rice and a cool, refreshing drink. It was exactly what I was looking for. If you are ever in Garden Grove, check this place out. Ask them to turn the heat up for you, too. Just don't say "Bring it on bitch", I'm almost positive I didn't say that. Well....almost. :)

Thai Famous Cuisine

11891 Euclid St
Garden Grove, CA 92840
(714) 534-3316

June 6, 2012


As I was getting ready to start writing this, I realized that I didn't have any good opening pictures. Normally, I'll have some sort of plate up in mind when I'm making something for the blog. I'll be tossing around ideas all day at work about what I'm going to make and how I want to present it. This time, it was far different. I really wasn't planning on taking any pics at all. My only intention was just to make my lunch for work.

As much as I enjoy hummus, I was never that inclined to do a post on it. Let's face it, to make hummus, you throw some chickpeas and other stuff in a food processor and blend away. Not a whole lot of magic going on there. But, like that underrated indie movie that ends up winning all the big awards, it's the subtle little nuances that make hummus a special treat.

For me, hummus is something I love to indulge in. It's not even the great taste or the limitless ways to flavor it that sell me on it. The whole act of eating it is a treat unto itself. You tear a piece of warm bread off, dip, and enjoy.

Because I enjoy this so much, I tend not to make it for lunch at work because I like to take my time with it. At the job, it's eat now, taste later. Sometimes, though, it's good to have a nice treat during those 8 hours or more of hell.

I'm not giving out a recipe on this for numerous reasons. The first time I made hummus, I used a recipe. That was also the last time I used a recipe to make this. It's not that tough, and it really comes down to trial and error. You're gonna have to play around with it to get it where you like it. To be fair, here is a place to start if you want look for a recipe.

I start my hummus with canned chickpeas. You can go the fresh route and soak them overnight if you'd like. I'm pretty impatient though. If you go with the canned stuff, you gotta rinse them off good. I don't trust that brine they keep it in.

If you don't use chickpeas often, or at all, you might notice a translucent skin falling off a few of the peas as you are rinsing them. That's perfectly ok. Here's a closer look.

(side-note: Notice the kitty bowl in the pic? I really need to examine these pics better!) There's a bit of debate about the skin. Some people say lose the skin, some say leave it. From my searches on this topic, I feel that most westerners leave the skin on. It seemed like most people from everywhere else said lose the skin. To me, it's not a big deal to leave the skin on. If you want your hummus as smooth as silk, you have to peel them. There's no debating that.

The next thing you need is Tahini. To me, it ain't hummus until you add the tahini. It should look something like this:

Tahini is just ground sesame seeds. Nothing more, nothing less. For me, it just adds that extra "Umph!".

I buy all the stuff I need for this at a market in my local little India. I recommend you do the same. The jar I bought of tahini was about 4 bucks. I saw a smaller bottle at Ralph's for 11 dollars! What the fuck is that all about! So please, don't get reamed by the big markets! And don't be scared of the little culture-specific markets either. You can find some great things there.

This time around, roasted garlic was going to be the main flavor of the hummus. I also added some red onion to it and a touch of ancho chili powder. Then the usual cast of characters went in: Salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and tahini.

Once everything is in the processor, this is what you do:

You use your finger, or any other appendage, and turn the machine on. Sometimes, when no one else is in the house, I might use that appendage that only a man has to turn the machine on. Don't freak out about it, I always keep those clorox bleach wipes around just for these special occasions.

If you keep the skins on, your hummus will look something like this:

It has a much smoother mouth-feel than how it looks there.

Honestly, the flavors worked well this batch. The garlic and chili balanced well together, along with enough lemon juice to brighten it all up. Everyone that tried it seemed to like it. I gave some to a few of my coworkers, and they all dug it.

On that last note, a quick story about my coworkers. I left a few of them some hummus and one round of naan to kill off during their lunch. When they finished their break, they said they didn't kill it all off and left me a little bread and hummus. Cool, right? That piece of bread they left was about 1 square inch big! Really guys?!?! Just kill it off next time, ok?

Then again, I appreciate the thought. :)

J. Miller

June 1, 2012

Let's Get Gnudi!

I'm no photographer, but those three cheese balls in the picture above look pretty damn good. And as good as they look in the picture, they tasted even better! They tasted, dare I say, Incredible! But, this delicious meal came at a very steep price. My heart had sunken to a new low and a sickening feeling washed over me as one fact was painfully clear: I was inspired to make this from one chef I truly despise. Who is this son of a bitch that I possibly have to thank??? The one, the only, Scott fucking Conant. :(

If you don't know who this cock-sucker is, good for you. If you watch the show "Chopped", you know him all too well. He's the judge who has a huge stick up his ass about pasta being cooked correctly. Because of that, and his many other bullshit critiques, I can't stand him and can only watch that show for a little at a time.

Then....it happened. I caught another show called "Best Thing I Ever Made", and he was making something on there. My first thoughts were "Fuck You! I'm changing the channel now!". But then I saw a quick preview of what he was going to make, and I was intrigued.

He said it was called Gnudi, which means "Nude" in Italian. It was basically a ravioli filling that you would prepare like gnocchi. Now I had to watch this.

By the time he was done, I new I had to make it for myself. I was also really ticked off it came from him! Was I really going to make something from this fucking guy??? I guess so.

I was tempted to just write this up and say I saw it elsewhere. But I gotta be honest with myself. So, I put it like this: If it comes out good, I'll stop calling him a fucking asshole. If it comes out shitty, I might have to break his legs for wasting my homemade ricotta. Sounds fair, right?

In the show, he served the gnudi over a mushroom puree'. I didn't have the recipe, so I decided to make a mushroom soup based off the recipe from the Les Halles Cookbook. I used less chicken stock to keep it on the thicker side.

I didn't really measure this part, so please bear with me a bit. I chopped up a small red onion and sauteed that in butter. I then sliced up 1 large container of button mushrooms and added that to the pot after about 5 or 6 minutes. I added some salt and pepper and cooked down the mushrooms for almost 10 minutes, give or take a few minutes. I then added enough chicken broth to fully cover the mix and simmered for about 45 minutes.

My blender is broken, so I used my immersion blender to puree the mix.

I added a drop of sherry at the end and stirred that in.

Now for gnudi! Here's the recipe I went by:

1 lb ricotta, sheep's milk 
2 eggs, yolks 
¼ cup spinach, blanched and chopped fine 
½ cup Parmesan 
4 tbsp flour 
3 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs 
To taste nutmeg, grated 
To taste salt 
To taste pepper 

I ended up cutting this recipe in half because I didn't have that much ricotta left.

He said to drain the ricotta overnight in a strainer to get the excess liquid out. I make my own ricotta, so I didn't have to worry about that step. When you make it, you get all that excess liquid out at the very beginning. If you buy it, you are gonna have to do this.

To make this is just like making gnocchi. Shape them, blanch and shock, then saute to finish. But, you have to test one first to see if it won't fall apart in the boiling water.

Even when this asshole was making the mix, he said you might have to up the amounts of bread crumbs and flour a little until it gets to a firm enough consistency. SHIT!!!! This part got me worried. To be safe, I added a spoonful or two more each. Here's a pic of my balls. :)

I let them rest for a little in the fridge after I rolled 'em up. Now it was time for the big test. I had to drop one in boiling water and cook it until it floated. Then, I would take it out of the hot water and drop it in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Truth be told, I was really fucking nervous. It's been a while since I've felt like that when it comes to cooking. Normally, I dive head first into a new recipe. Something about this one had me shook. To be perfectly honest, it was a bit humbling. It made me remember that I'm not quite the bad ass yet. I'm almost there, though.

So, after putting on a diaper, I dropped a ball in the boiling water. Low and behold, it held up! WooHoo!!! With the first one out of the way, I did the rest and was now on the home stretch.

That fucker Conant finished his in butter and sage. I didn't have sage, so I used thyme instead. I dropped the balls onto the pan and cooked them just a little. As they cook, they will develop a nice little crust if you don't move them around too much. I got the plate ready by dropping a few spoonfuls of the soup on the plate. I placed the finished gnudi on top and garnished with freshly chopped parsley. 

Here's another finished pic.

Aw hell, one more for the road!

Now it was time to eat.

I was almost speechless at how good this was. If beauty was a flavor, that's what this tasted like. Everything worked so well together. The mushroom base was in perfect harmony with the cheese and spinach. The cheese was soft and warm, but not a gooey mess on the plate. Even the parsley added a brightness to the finish. This was something that I will certainly remember for a long time.

One of the best things about it was that it didn't taste like MY cooking. We all have our own unique cooking style. After a while, you know what dinner is gonna taste like before you even buy the ingredients. I know I went in that kitchen and made it, but it tasted like I had gone out and ordered this. If you want to impress a date, or better yet, impress yourself, try this one out. Every part of your body will say 'Thank you' for doing so.

With all that, there's still one more thing for me to say: Scott Conant, you hit a home run with this one. Thank you. And, because I liked this one so much, I'm gonna stop calling you a dirty sheep-fucking piece of shit. At worst, I'll just call you a bastard, but only if I see you acting like one on "Chopped". That's fair, right?

J. Miller