August 27, 2012

The Memphis BBQ Burger from Carl's Jr.

This is gonna be on the quicker side of things. I was a bit ravenous after work and was in the mood for a burger. I didn't want to go to a sit-down restaurant, so Carl's Jr. seemed like a good choice. Plus, it's on the way home.

I saw this picture when I drove up there, and I gotta say, it looks pretty good right there. Now, I'm pretty sure we all know that the pictures of fast food are usually way better than the reality. This was no exception.

First off, the burger in the poster was the Six Dollar version. I got a double of the regular version with regular fries. Here's a closer look:

Doesn't that just....look....who am I kidding. It's not lookin' too pretty. Let's be real about this. It's a burger, not a fucking Van Gogh.

The taste? Not bad. The burger patty is your standard patty. Nothing new there. The onions are a nice touch, but the only ones that were crispy were the ones that fell off the burger. The rest turned to mush due to the very average barbecue sauce they use.

The pulled pork isn't too bad at all. Very tender and does add a nice little compliment to the beef patty. You don't get a ton of pulled pork on the sandwich, but you aren't just getting two little pieces of pork on there either. They put on a decent amount.

I don't have a judging scale, but if I had to score this, I'd give it a 6.5 or 7 out of 10. Not bad, not great. Good, though.

At the Carl's Jr. I went to, they bring the food to your table if you dine in. I took this pic because 71 is the number I wore when I played high school football. Yes, I got those Al Bundy stories too. :)

This was on the cup. What the fuck does this mean? Eat like I mean it??? How do you eat and not mean it? Do I have to have a serious look on my face when I'm eating to mean it? Should I put on a high school wrestlers uniform before I eat a Six Dollar burger? This is the dumbest fucking thing I've seen in  a while.

For me, the best slogan Carl's Jr. ever used was in the movie Idiocracy. "Carl's Jr. Fuck You. I'm eating." THAT WORKS!!! How can they NOT use that???

Oh well. Maybe they are just waiting for the right time to unleash that one on society.

I'm out.

J. Miller

P.S. I'm on Twitter! Stop on by and say hi!

August 21, 2012

Homemade Mozzarella

This is one post that I've been sitting on for a couple months now. I've been a little reluctant to post this,  mainly because I fucked it up the first time I tried it. But, after some thought, and lack of anything else notable to write about, I said "what the hell".

What you see above is my first completed homemade mozzarella. I say "first completed" because the first run through I screwed up before I could even get the chance to stretch it out. After going back to the store for more milk, I tried it again and made it all the way through.

As far as cheese goes, fresh mozzarella is probably my second favorite. Number one? Homemade ricotta. Hands down. That said, mozzarella is a close runner-up. I love the soft texture and subtle flavor that mozzarella has. Add a little basil, a slice of tomato, and you've just created something magical.

When I decided that I was gonna try my hand at mozz,(I will refer to mozzarella as "Mozz" from this point on) I was really excited. Probably a little too excited. I don't mean that I jizzed in my pants or anything like that. It's just that when it was all over and done with, I was a bit let down on how it came out. It didn't taste bad at all. A coworker tried it and liked it, but I wasn't as happy with it as I thought I would be. I guess my expectations were too high. In any case, see for yourself and tell me what you think.

If you are thinking about trying your hand at mozz yourself, there is one thing you need to understand: It's a process. What I mean is, you can't think about doing this like you are going to make a casserole. There are a good number of steps to follow, and you have to be fairly precise on each step. I don't want to scare you off of making something, but if you have trouble following steps, this ain't for you.

On certain cooking shows, you might hear some asshole talking about going to the local grocer and buying cheese curds. That way, all you have to do is drop them in the hot water and start to stretch. Easy, right? That's fucking horse-shit! I don't know of any damn market this side of the Mississippi that sells curds! If they are selling curds, they damn sure aren't advertising it! Maybe I'm wrong, but I haven't found any place that sells curds.

That leads me to my next topic: Ingredients. To make mozz, you are gonna need rennet and citric acid. I've never seen these items at any store and ended up ordering them from Amazon. It's not that expensive, and in some cases, you can buy a whole kit on cheese making. I just bought the stuff I needed.

After looking at numerous sites on how to do this, I went with the step-by-step I found at Lots of pictures with a clear layout. Check it out for yourself.

Step By Step

Unfortunately, I only have two hands and my photography skills suck balls. What that means is that I don't have that many pictures to show you how it all went down. I'll explain what happens as best I can. Really, I was going by the process I found at chow.

Once I had all my ingredients and tools ready, I started to heat the milk at about a medium-low flame. When the milk hit 55F, I added the citric acid. When it hit 88F, I added the rennet. No more stirring after this point.

When it reached the final temp of 105, I cut off the heat and let it rest for 30 minutes. At this point, it should be set enough to run a knife through.

From here, I scooped out the curds and drained them through cheese cloth. Now, this is where things went awry for me. The Chow link says not to drain the curds completely. I did that. When I dropped the curds in the hot water, the fucking curds dissolved! I was pissed to say the least. The next time around, I squeezed as much of the whey out as I could, and it seemed to work.

Now I ran into another problem: the curd didn't melt right away. The link says to heat the water to 180 degrees. I did that, and the curd wasn't melting. I went ahead and just boiled the water and it seemed to work just fine.

After I stretched the curd to what I thought was good, I rounded the mozz and dropped them into cold water.

Since I was going to do all this for fresh cheese, I went on and made some fresh bread to go with it.

Before I sliced that bread up, I had to try the mozz on its own. It was...good. It tasted like the mozz I remembered. But, I had this feeling like "That's it?". I guess I wanted it to be something more. Maybe the memories I have of it are on a pedestal I couldn't possibly match.

What I do know is that when i dressed it all up, it was lookin' awfully purtty! But not as purrty as your mouth!

To make things worse, my coworker Aimee made some mozz and brought some to work. I actually liked hers better than mine! I told her, too. I also told her that because of that, I was gonna have to hate on her for a while. Every time I walked past her, I would boo her. "BOOOOO!" would be my response to any question she had for me. Or anything in general she had to say to me!

Aimee: Hi Jason.

Aimee: We need 24 baklava Jason.

Then she had to go and help me finish an order the next day. So to be fair, I stopped hating on her. Damn Aimee! Being all nice and shit.

I don't even wanna talk no more.

I'm out.

J. Miller


August 15, 2012

The Return To Cafe Tourane

Going from the title of this post alone, you can figure out that this is not my first trip to this location. In fact, this was one of the first places I reviewed for my blog. I'm not going to give you a play-by-play of the first post, but I will say that I didn't leave there with the best outlook for this small cafe. Click here to check out my first visit.

After my first trip there, I didn't really think about it much. It wasn't until something that had happened a couple of weeks ago that not only had me thinking about Cafe Tourane, but what I am doing here on this blog to begin with. That "something" was simply.....a response.

I get notifications every time someone leaves a comment on a post. When I saw I got a comment on the Cafe Tourane post, I was a little surprised because older posts don't get that much attention. When I saw that the name of the person who commented was Cafe Tourane, I started to freak out a little bit in my head!

"Oh Shit! Are they pissed I didn't like their beignets?.....FUCK!" I didn't say that out loud, but I wanted to. Luckily, I didn't have to worry at all. They were actually really cool about the whole thing.

"Thanks for the post J. Miller :)
Just so you know we have been working on our Beignet Recipe since we opened in January! 
Come back and try some more soon :)"

Yup, they took the high road. I'm not shocked that they did. I guess I was ready to hear something like "Fuck you and your shitty blog!" or "You better not step foot in here again!". Reading what they said actually put me at ease.

To me, the fact that they responded was a huge surprise. Getting comments from other customers is expected. But to have a proprietor respond blew me away. I honestly hadn't prepared for that. In doing so, it put a lot into perspective.

I know I don't have the most popular blog on the web. In fact, I still see this as somewhat of a hobby. After seeing their response, I quickly remembered that for these business owners, it ain't a hobby. It's serious fucking business. As much as I like to joke around on here, I do have to be aware that what I say on here can make an impact on how a restaurant is seen. My review may just cause someone to avoid going somewhere.

In my opinion, I don't think my first review was out of line. You can judge for yourself on that one.

So, with that said, and that read, I thought it was only fair to give them another shot. I mean, why not? What's it gonna hurt?

My next day off from work, I headed over to CT to get some coffee and beignets. I walk in, and instead of seeing a bunch of teenagers, I see a bunch of old folks! With school out right now, no surprise there.

I ordered a mocha latte and beignets. As I'm paying, the guy working the register offers me something that looks like a credit card. He explains that you show it whenever you make a purchase to get points towards free drinks and such. OK, I'm down for that.

Once the order is in, I see someone come out from the back with a ball of dough and start to roll my beignets right there! Made-to-order beignets? I can dig it! I just hope they taste better than last time.

Here is what I was looking at.

The coffee was very good. A nice, subtle chocolate flavor that seemed to work with the coffee instead of overpowering it.

The beignets? They.......they were.......VERY GOOD! A far cry from when I had them the first time. These were little pillows that almost melted in your mouth. Very soft with no greasy mouth-feel. They did a lot of things right here.

Bottom line: Big improvement on the beignets.

So, there it is. A second chance. A second impression. I'm happy that I went back. I'm happy that the people at CT would welcome me back. I think I'll leave it at that.

J. Miller

August 11, 2012

Paneer Poutine

Welcome back for another wonderful edition of the best unknown blog on the net. For this post, I'm gonna try and be a bit more relaxed. The last couple posts, I went from talking shit about homeless people to doing a beer review. Weird, huh? Well, when things get weird, the best thing to do is get back to the basics. For me, that's cooking, foul language, and being a bit of a perv.

What you see above is my take on the Canadian dish poutine. There are a lot of variations out there for this dish, but the basic deal is french fries, cheese curds and gravy. I know, it sounds pretty damn delicious to me too. Truth is, I had never had this dish before making it. It sounded good, but there isn't any place in my area that serves it. So what's a brotha to do? The only thing I know how! Get my big ass in that kitchen and do the damn thing!

To be clear, what I made is not a true poutine. The original dish calls for cheese curds. I don't know where to buy them and I didn't feel like making my own cheese curds. Honestly, making cheese curds was a bit more work than I really wanted to do for this. Remember, there are no rules or safe-words in the kitchen. If you want or need to change things up, go for it. You might end up creating something better then what you had in mind.

To replace the curds, I decided to try and make paneer cheese. What I ended up with I couldn't really classify as a true paneer, either.

Making paneer is very much like making ricotta cheese. Don't know the process? Click here for a refresher course. The big difference with paneer is that at the end, you try and strain out as much liquid as you can from the cheese. What you should get is a spongy little block you can cut into cubes and will hold up against some heat.

After doing a little searching, I noticed that most paneer recipes had only lemon juice and milk. The recipe I used had a small amount of heavy cream in it. So, it seemed like the ricotta I like, just a little bit drier than normal.

With the cheese part done, it was time to move on to the gravy.

I don't have a recipe for you, but you can really stick with any brown gravy recipe you know and go with that. I usually start my sauces with a roux and go from there. I got my roux nice and dark. I know that my scare the piss out of your average french chef. Even in culinary school books, they always show the darkest roux at a light brown. But if you have ever made gumbo, or want to make gumbo, you have to get the roux to a chocolate-like color to give gumbo that great flavor.

I actually did this a couple weeks ago, so I can barely remember what I put in the gravy. I do remember that the main flavor was sage. After that, I added salt, pepper, and some other shit.

The fries were frozen. No big deal there.

When it comes together, it is a sight to behold.

Potatoes and gravy are always a good combination. Throw some cheese in there, and you've got something your doctor might warn you about.

I've heard that this is considered Canadian comfort food. After one bite, I knew it was true. It's a warm, rich dish that will stick to your ribs and any other bone in the vicinity. The cheese was just creamy enough reel in the richness from the gravy. The fries were crispy, so they didn't turn into a soggy mess after being hit with the gravy.

Aside from being a comfort food, it's also great bar food. Poutine and Beer? I'll take 3 of each please!

See, Canada has brought us much more than hockey and disease-ridden whores like Pamela Anderson. Next time you are visiting our neighbors to the north, put down the blunt and all those prescription pills you are getting for your Nana, and get some hot poutine!

J. Miller

August 7, 2012

Black Star Beer

Beer is one of those things that I can be a little moody about. What I mean is, first and foremost, I'm not always in the mood for beer. As much as I like beer, sometimes I'd rather have wine. Sometimes I wanna get drunk quickly and grab the bottle of whiskey. When I do get that taste for a cold beer, the problem becomes which beer to drink. Do I go with an old favorite? Do I try something new? Do I go for the micro-brew with the flashy name and eye catching label? So many choices. In the end, I decided to try something new and went with this one.

Black Star Beer was my latest choice in the "something new" category. I had never seen it before at my local grocery store and it was at a nice price of $7.99 for a six pack.

I took one sip and new I had just found another beer to always keep in mind. This beer is very good! The label says that the beer is double hopped, so I was expecting something a little on the heavy side. What I got was something extremely smooth and a bit on the lighter side.

At first sip, you get a good, solid "beer" taste. I mean, it's not flavorless piss-water like Coors or PBR. I was really happy with that. But the real kicker is the finish. Super clean at the end with a very short finish. Some beers will linger around the mouth for a while. Not this one. You drink it, taste it, then it's gone. That's the lightness I was talking about earlier.

I honestly could have knocked down that sixer without even thinking about it. This is one beer that deserves the slogan "The one beer to have when you're having more than one". If you see this one, check it out. It's good stuff.

I almost forgot, Blackstar is also the name of one of my favorite hip hop groups. Here is a video of them so you can see the awesomeness of this incredible rap duo.

J. Miller

August 2, 2012

Shrimp & Grits...

...And salmon! Yeah, shrimp and grits! WooHoo!! Shrimp and grits are a low country blah blah fucking blah! LOOK! Every damn food show from here to the Sahara has done something on shrimp and grits. Most shows run to some restaurant in North Carolina because the place is known for it's shrimp and grits. Good for them! Honestly, do I really need to get in-depth about this dish? Hell fucking NO! So why am I even showing you this? Besides it being a quick and incredibly delicious dinner, it has to do more with why I made the dinner in the first place. And that the homeless.

CAUTION: Before we go any further, I have to warn you about what's gonna be said. I am gonna say some shit that will seem really insensitive about the homeless. In fact, it's gonna sound mean and make me seem like an asshole. OK, I can be an asshole sometimes. But I'm not some sick fuck running the streets at night beating up hobos like in the movie A Clockwork Orange.

What I'm gonna say may make me sound bad, but it's all going to be my honest reaction from seeing what I saw. If you think that may be too much for you, now is a good time to hit the Back Button. Otherwise, read what I have to say and draw your own opinions on what I'm telling you.

Last weekend, I happened to watch a show called Secret Millionaire. Basically, they take a rich person and throw them in a "bad" part of town for a week to show them how us poor folks are living. When the week is up, they come back and cut a fat check to all the people they ran into. That's your basic set-up.

This episode had a lady staying in Venice Beach for the week volunteering around town. Since Venice has a pretty high homeless population, most of the places she helped dealt with the homeless in one form or another. One of the places she helped out was the Bread and Roses Cafe.

This place was set up to feed the homeless in a restaurant style, with the volunteers bringing them their food to the table. That sounds cool, right?

The next couple things I saw are the points I had issues with.

As a young lady who managed the cafe was explaining the cafe's goals, they were showing behind the scenes footage of the place. They showed a shot of the kitchen line and a cook was sauteing some shrimp and god knows what. After a couple seconds, it hit me. I said "Was there shrimp in that fucking pan?" I hit rewind on the dvr, and sure enough, it was shrimp!

I started thinking "I'm working, I got a roof over my head, and I'm not even eatin' fuckin' shrimp!" I couldn't believe it! "Is that how we do it here in Cali? Even bums are dining on seafood? Goddamn!"

So, I start the show back up and something else gets to me. They show someone seated in the cafe', and he asks a lady "Could I get the vegetarian plate?" Again, I had to pause it. "Wait a minute! Vegetarian plate??? Mutha Fucka you got a choice??? What the fuck???" For real, I couldn't believe they had a choice in this shit! "You gettin' some free food! Take what the fuck you can get and be happy!"

I was too deep in the show to not see the end, so I watched the rest of it. The next day, I bought the stuff for that top picture and enjoyed my shrimp. Yeah, there was a part of me saying "I gots some shrimp too mutha fuckas!" Sad, I know. But it was delicious.

Now, before you call me the devil's son, let me explain why those things got to me the way they did.

First, the shrimp. To me, shrimp is special. Seafood is special. It's not something I buy very often. Even when I go out to eat, I don't usually order seafood, partly because of the price. To see it being given away really took me back a step. After I really thought about, I started wondering if that place was buying that shrimp or if it was donated. If it's donated, fine, no problem. But it they are paying for it, why waste the money on shrimp? Why not buy more meats or starches, things that can stretch farther and feed more people? I really do hope they aren't paying for that seafood.

Now for the "vegetarian plate". I think this honestly bothered me more than the shrimp. I'm pretty sure most people have heard the saying "Beggars can't be choosers". And that's what I thought of seeing that. I wouldn't go to a friends house, get offered a plate of food and be like "I don't eat that, You got something else?" If you are fortunate enough to get a free meal, you get it, take a bite and say "This is so good. Thank you" and go about your business. But when you have few options to begin with, how are you gonna get picky? That part still bugs me.

Lastly, I want to shed a little light on my view of the homeless. I don't look down on the homeless. I try not to look down on anyone. I know that I'm one unfortunate accident away from being there myself. Life is tough and extremely unforgiving. I'm lucky enough to have what I have and be able to do this. I've never had to live on the street, but I have been without a permanent residence for  an extended period of time. Bouncing from motel to motel, crashing at friends places when I could.

So why post this? I think I needed to get this off my chest. I think part of me wants to see if I'm the only one that has the same perspective on this. What I'd like to say in closing is that everything said as I was watching that show, that is what I was feeling. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm not. In the end, it's probably not even gonna matter because this is just one opinion on one tiny little blog.

Feel free to leave a comment and voice your opinion on this.

J. Miller