February 25, 2013

Drop 'Bows On 'Em!

Welcome back to another fun filled post on Food And Such Things. This time around, it's a review of a cool little place located across the street from the Los Cerritos Center. Elbows Mac n' Cheese is the name, and servin' up bangin' macaroni and cheese is their game. So, just how good is their game? You are about to find out.

Elbows is located in the Cerritos Promenade. It's right next to a Starbucks, and it's got a lot of competition food wise in a small area. There are lots of places to eat just in the promenade, not to mention a mall across the street with tons of places to eat. So, why even mention that? Because this place is doing something different. To open a restaurant that specializes in mac n' cheese is risky. To open a restaurant based around an "All American" food in a culturally diverse city like Cerritos is almost insane. But, through all the risk and craziness, stands a unique and fun eatery.

One of the cool things about mac n' cheese is that the two main ingredients are things that most people can get down with. I think most people like pasta in one form or another, and cheese is right up there in that same category. From there, all you have to do is tinker with the extra ingredients to please the masses.

This recent venture to Elbows was my second trip there. My first time visiting, I ordered an Indian spiced mac n' cheese, and it was really good. Bold flavors and a healthy amount of heat. Since that was a while back, I'm not get caught up with that right now.

Like I said earlier, mac n' cheese is their business.They do have some appetizers and salads, but mac n' cheese is really why you are going there. You can go with a pre-set mac n' cheese, like a Hamburger Mac or Lobster Mac, or build your own with a large list of ingredients to choose from. This time around, I chose the Caprese Mac. As you can guess, it had the components of a caprese salad. Except for the balsamic.

I ordered the regular size, and let me say that it is a good size to go with. While the picture above is pretty close, it's enough to fill you up. I think a large would be good to split with someone.

One the best parts of this dish was the topping. It was a little crispy, a little chewy, lots of cheesy, and really fucking good. The bread crumbs gave it a nice texture contrast to the softness of the cheese and pasta.

The sauce was a little more subtle than I expected. I know mozzarella isn't normally a bold cheese, but, with the addition of parmesan, I thought it would be a bit more forthcoming. But, it still was a good sauce. Each forkful I lifted up would stretch like a shot in a commercial.

In my opinion, not having the balsamic element does effect this dish. I think the acidity from vinegar would bring some of that richness from the cheeses down a notch. But, that's just my two cents.

Overall, it's not bad if you are looking for something without meat. As you can see, I cleaned my plate.

That's about it for this one. If you are ever in that area, check this place out.

Elbows Mac n' Cheese 
11405 South Street, Cerritos, CA, 90703 
(562) 865-9999
Sun - Wed: 11:00am to 9:00pm
Thurs - Sat: 11:00am - 10:00pm

Now I'm going to leave you with a picture of a near-by fountain at the promenade. Why? Cuz it looks purtty! Just like your mouth. :)

I'm out.

February 17, 2013


A friend of mine asked me "Why would you still need cookbooks when there is this wonderful thing called the INTERNET?" You know what? He made a really good point. All you have to do is go to a site like Google or Bing, start to type in whatever recipe you are looking for, and a thousand different recipes will pop up. It really is the epitome of convenience. But, for me, there is still something neat about grabbing an old cookbook and casually flipping through the pages. Why, might you ask? Allow me to explain....

The best way for me to describe this would be to compare it to grocery shopping. Most of the time, I'm headed to the store with the intention of buying a set list of ingredients. As I'm cruising the aisles, I'll usually see something that's not on the list and say "Oh, this is on sale. Maybe I'll make ____ tomorrow night." Now, I'm gonna make something that I wasn't even thinking about an hour ago. That's how it is with cookbooks. I'll see a recipe I haven't thought about or made in a long time, and that might inspire to make that or something completely different than what I had originally intended.

So why am I talking about cookbooks in the first place? Well, a recent venture to Barnes & Noble is why. It had been some time since I was last there, and I was pleasantly surprised to find some new books in the bread and baking section.

For some reason, it seems like new baking books only come out once every 5 years. Seriously, it's been a while since there has been a good book on bread published. Now, Ciril Hitz has a book out. If you don't know who he is, let me say that this guy is truly a master in bread making. You can't fuck with this dude.

Since I work in pastries, I tend to gravitate to books in baking and pastries. But, that doesn't mean I don't like to peruse the hot foods cookbooks. When it comes to those, I try and avoid stuff like this:

Any cookbook put out by a major chain is usually shit. They are just going to rehash old recipes and put a new name on it. So, what cookbooks are worth their weight? Well, it depends....

In my opinion, some of the best cookbooks to invest in are school books. I'm talking about ones like The Professional Chef. It not only has tons of recipes, but detailed instructions on everything from temperature to technique. You don't need 10 different variations of this book. One will do. Trust me, this is the kind of book you grab first when you have a cooking question.

For me, when I'm thinking about buying a cookbook, one the first things I look for is how the measurements are done. If the book has recipes in only volume(i.e. Cups), I'm putting it down. The most accurate way to measure ingredients is by weight. Plain and simple.

After that, I'm looking for some originality. I want to see something more than just another goddamn red velvet cake recipe. I'm not even crazy about red velvet to begin with!

Here are a few books I own that I know I can count on:

Out of the three, The Professional Pastry Chef is my go-to. I've tried numerous recipes from this book, and all of them have worked. When I need a base recipe for a bread or pastry, I grab this book.

The book from the French Culinary Institute is just what it says, all about technique. Lots of pictures and explains every action in detail. Good recipes and great book of reference.

The last book might look a little intimidating for the average home cook. But, looks can be deceiving.

Most people in the food biz will tell you that Elizabeth Falkner is a pastry bad ass. In my humble opinion, she kicks fuckin' ass in the kitchen! Everything she does just elevates the food to new levels. I was really hoping for her to win the Next Iron Chef. Fuckin' Zakarian won. Oh well, back to the book!

She has some great plate-ups in the book and really inventive ideas on classic desserts. One thing that stood out for me was that she added a timeline on each recipe for what you could make ahead of time. It might say "3 Days Ahead- make gelato." And it would say how far ahead for each component. A very nice touch.

Again, this is just my point of view. Do you have a cookbook you lean on? Or have you upgraded to apps? Let me know what think.

I'm out.

February 15, 2013

A Trip To Flavortown

I don't think any person with a brain didn't see this one coming. It was only a matter of time before Guy Fieri put his face on some sort of food. Truthfully, I don't blame him. Emeril has his spice rubs and Rachel Ray has her EVOO. I know Giada put her big head on a bunch of pasta products. Why shouldn't he get his? And since I've probably seen every episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, I thought I should give these things a try.

I normally don't buy a lot of pre-cooked frozen foods, so I don't know of anything to really compare these to. In my experiences, most frozen foods are ok at best. I can't recall ever eating something that was frozen out of a box and saying "That was some really good shit!". Needless to say, I wasn't expecting to get my mind blown.

I bought one package that cost $3.99 and it had 4 egg rolls in it. That's ok, I guess. The instructions called for either deep frying these things or using the oven. There was no fucking way I was going to heat up a pot full of oil just for four of these little fuckers. So, in the oven they went.

Since there was so much empty space on my oven tray, I decided to bake some tater tots as well. Pizza rolls and tater tots. Sounds good, right? I thought so.

When they came out the oven, this is what they looked like:

Not too bad, right? What did you think you were going to see? Gold? A finger with a ring on it? That would be pretty cool to see a finger in there. Terrible if you bit into it, but cool to see.

I made a quick dipping sauce by mixing sour cream and Korean bbq sauce. Here is my attempt at plating this up. Please don't laugh.

Hey, I can only polish this turd so much. In any case, it's time to answer the big question: How do they taste? Not too shabby. It tasted like pizza. The wrap had a little chew to it. It was ok. I'm not sure if I'm going to buy it again, but it wasn't bad.

Ugh, I know this wasn't the most exciting post, but rest assured, there is some bomb shit coming in the future.

I'm out.

February 6, 2013

The Taste

Glad you could stop by for another post. To be honest, I've been thinking about doing a post on this show after the first episode. I changed the channel half-way through, so I felt like I couldn't give it a fair shake. But last night, I watched an entire episode. Now, I have to say something on it. Just as a warning, this post will contain lots of profanity. You have been warned.

Before I get into who these folks are, let me brake down the main set-up of this show. These four people are judging a bunch of peoples food on one single bite. But, it's a blind tasting. They each have teams, and they don't know if they are going to send one of their own home. Interesting, right?

First off, that set up is fucking retarded. When I eat, I don't try and shove every single item of food on my plate onto my fork. Not everything is meant to be eaten like that. Yes, the items should work with each other, but to devour all tastes on a plate in one bite is unrealistic.

Now, for these wastes of human flesh, otherwise known as the judges. The two in the middle, I don't know all that well and simply don't care that much about. It's the two mother fuckers at the the end which I have issues with, Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefebvre.

Bourdain has been a professional asshole for years. He worked at a restaurant in New York and now feels its his duty to shit on other peoples food and be a total bitch the whole way through. And how does he get rewarded for his years of arrogance? He gets invited to eat at some of the best restaurants in the world. Yeah, that's how it goes.

Ludo, on the other hand, is a different kind of piece of shit. If you don't know, he's French. So, automatically, he's already kind of a douche. It's in his blood. So what does he do? He becomes the biggest, loudest asshole he can be. He tries to be the poster child for every loud, screaming chef on earth.

I will say this: Ludo can cook. He is a talented chef. Probably the best chef on that panel. Those skills, while good, are no excuse for his behavior.

While I did have a few gripes with this specific episode, there is a bigger question at hand: Does the culinary world need this? Do we really need a bigger stage for assholes to act like even bigger fucking assholes? In my opinion, Fuck No!

I understand that the contestants are all trying to get paid and are willing to be ridiculed as harshly as humanly possible. But why keep making shows like this? How many times do we need to drag Susie Homemaker in front of some judges so they can tell her that the food she made was "Inedible" because it was a little too salty?

There was one thing that really pissed me off about this episode, more than anything else. The main goal in this episode was comfort food. Ok, no problem there. One of the people to get sent home was a lady that made an apple crumble, which is basically apple pie. Because the two Europeans don't know shit about apple crumbles, she got sent home. Sounds like bullshit, but maybe the food wasn't that good. The real kicker is what Bourdain told her.

I'm going to paraphrase here, because I didn't record it and I was too pissed off after it.

"Well, we are all some jaded, picky chefs here. Giving us something sweet wasn't the best idea." Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?! What the fuck is more comforting than a dessert??? What does being jaded have to do with not liking sweets? Plus, the fact that all of the judges nodded their heads in agreement showed they all share a similar ignorance.

For real, how are you going to have a cooking competition and totally disregard baking and pastries? It's just one more reason this show is a fucking joke. I'm telling you, it's fucking clown shoes. Don't waste your time with this one.

Of course, this is just my opinion. If you like this show, let me know why. Is there something I missed?

That's it for this one. I think I need a drink after this post.

I'm out.

February 4, 2013

The Loco Moco

Welcome to another wild ride for this funky little blog. What you see above is...comfort. Comfort in a bowl. It's got rice, gravy, hamburger, and a fried egg. Everything about that basically spells FOOD COMA. Before I get all wordy, let me just break it down like this: It's called a Loco Moco, and you are going to have to be crazy to not want to try this by the time you are done with this post.

To make a long story short, I lived on the island of Maui for a short time, and this was the first Hawaiian dish I had. So yes, it does hold a special place in my heart. But, what really took me back with this dish was the sheer size of it.

What I made above is like a miniature version of a loco moco. When you go to a Hawaiian restaurant that serves it, you will normally get two big scoops of rice, two hamburger patties, an ass-load of gravy, two runny eggs, and a side of macaroni salad. I'm telling you, it's not for the faint of heart. It is some good, rib-stickin' food though. The first time I had it, I wasn't sure I could finish it. I did, but I also get a serious case of The Itis.

As far as cooking goes, I love this dish because there is a lot of wiggle room. There are so many things you can do with this dish to really kick things up. At the same time, it's the simplicity of it that makes it special. You don't have to get fancy with this to make it good.

For me, the part of this dish I try and make special is the sauce, aka gravy.

Sauces are a great thing. They are the role players in every dish, and can play any role you want it to. A sauce can be that supporting character and lend a hand to the star of the show. A sauce can also tie other items of food together. And in some cases, a good sauce can outright steal the show. In the case of this dish, I really want the sauce to stand out and not just be food lube.

First, I chopped up some onion and shiitake mushrooms.

I sauteed them for a little bit before I added water and a beef bouillon cube. Sorry, no exact recipe here. I was wingin' it this time around.

While this was going, I got a roux going. Butter and flour. That's it. I didn't put too much color on it. When the roux was ready, I added the onion and mushroom mix to it, plus any extra water to make sure it wasn't too thick.

With the sauce simmering away, it was time for the meatballs. Oh yeah, I decided to go with meatballs instead of full hamburger patties. I probably should have mentioned that earlier. Well, fuck it, we're here now.

I had the ground beef marinating with some of this:

I found this at the local Asian grocery store. There were 20 other bottles from 20 different companies that all said "Char Siu Sauce". I figured this one can't be any worse than all the others. I know it's for pork, but it can't make that big of a deal, right?

So, after a few hours in the fridge, it was time to get down to business.

I drizzled a little EVOO on the pan and on top of the meat balls. A little salt and pepper and into the oven it went at about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I forgot how long it took. I'd say check it at 8 minutes and go from there. Here is what the finished product looked like:

At some point I made some rice. Again, sorry, I actually made this last month and am just now getting to it. I really should take notes on this stuff.

Right before you plate up, you cook an egg sunny side up and slap that son of a bitch right on top! BAM!

Let's get another look at this beauty.

To be honest, I liked how this all came together. The meat balls tasted good. Not the best I've ever made, but they were juicy and had a flavor I couldn't put my finger on. I guess that's what happens when you use a mystery marinade.

The sauce was pretty much just how I wanted it to be. I also forgot to mention that I added a couple tablespoons of sherry to the sauce at the end. It really brought out every flavor of the sauce to a higher level.

Of course, you can't forget about the egg. Egg yolks rock. Plain and simple.

So, are you drooling yet? I'm gonna bet you are. That just means I've done my job.

If you want to go out and try this at a restaurant first, I suggest finding your nearest L&L Hawaiian Barbecue. That's where I go for my Hawaiian food fix.

That's it for this one. Hope you enjoyed it.

In other news, I just started a Facebook page for the blog. So, when you are done here, drop on by and talk some foodie talk.

Food And Such Things

I'm out.

J. Miller