Sunday, March 29, 2009


What's impressive? Size? Big house? Big car? Big TV? Super-size it. That's our culture. The more we get, the better it is, right? Sure, I would rather watch sports on a bigger TV and have the luxury of a larger house, but what do I gain from a bigger meal?
Super-size it, Biggie-size, King-size are all synonymous with an overindulgence in food, fast food more specifically. While it's easy to pick on fast food, since they're an obvious target, it's almost not fair. While many crave fast food and sit in long drive-thru lines, there is an understanding that it's not great for you. Let me pick on a place that I have previously targeted, Maggiano's. For those of you unfamiliar with the place, it's a rather popular Italian restaurant that is a part of the same parent company as Macaroni Grill and Chili's. One would say that it is probably more high-end than the others, however it's by no means upscale. I have never seen any one leave this restaurant without a doggie bag. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is Maggiano's goal. Their hope is that you are so full, you take leftovers home. The food is okay, but that's all it is. Instead of producing great food, they wow with huge portions. Similar to a magician using misdirection, they have you excited about how much food you're getting that you don't notice the lack of quality. Remember, we like everything big. We want to think that we're getting a good deal. "Look at all this food for a great price!" "Wow, and I get to take home leftovers for tomorrow!" Is that why you go out to dinner? You hope for another meal for the next day? How is that different from grocery shopping? What's impressive about a restaurant giving you more food than you can possibly consume in one sitting?
To me, it's all about quality--not quantity. I know I'm always mentioning Europe, but they've set a pretty great standard when it comes to eating. Your meal comes out, and you might think, "this isn't enough food;" however, when you're plate is clear, you're full. Note, this isn't an uncomfortable full, a full that requires a desire for an elastic waistband. It is a contented full. You no longer want more food, but you're not in pain. Unfortunately, I've been within earshot of American tourists in Europe who complain about the size of their meal. They think they're getting ripped off because it's not enough food to take home. Sadly, we're pre-programmed to think that we need a lot of food. There are some great domestic restaurants that refuse to cater to our American ways. They insist that they're going to serve an amazing meal in a small (read normal) sized portion. To the uncultured eye, you might think this is not worth the cost until you move your fork to your mouth. There is nothing greater than realizing that a chef sacrificed quantity for quality. Eating a small plate of homemade pasta is far better than several pounds of dried pre-packaged pasta. When I leave a restaurant, I don't hope to be a holding a bag full of what I couldn't finish, I hope to be holding on to the memory of a fantastic meal and hopes to return again.

(My goal isn't to put down anyone that likes this type of food or accuse you of being uncultured. My goal is to get you to question how you think about eating. Do you want quality? If so, seek it. I promise you'll be greatly rewarded.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Favorite Cooking Gadgets (Part 1)

How should this be written? A poem or an ode of some sort? That's probably a bit on the odd side, but you don't see enough chefs talk about what gadget they can't live without. Not that I'm a chef, but I do enjoy cooking often. I thought, why not feature a gadget that makes life easier? First up, is the great food processor. Some people don't know what they're missing with the absence of this wonderful piece of machinery. I still am coming up with new ways to use it. My personal favorite is in the making of guacamole. Throw in some peeled avocados, barely chopped tomatoes, cloves of garlic, cilantro leaves, lime juice, salt, and pepper and press 'ON,' briefly. Just like that, you have delicious guacamole. Now, I'm not trying to sound like an infomercial, but it makes some stuff a lot easier. Mincing garlic, done. Chopping larger vegetables, done. Making a pie crust, done. Pureeing soup, done. Throw on a different attachment and you can easily grate cheese and julienne vegetables, such as squash or zucchini. This was featured first because it's probably my favorite gadget. Some of the things it has done for me are, mix ice cream ingredients, make guacamole, puree soup, grate cheese, julienne vegetables, chop herbs, and puree fruit.
If you don't have one, I highly encourage that you make the investment. It will make your kitchen work much easier.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I enjoy eating. I think I've made that rather obvious by now. One of my favorite things about eating is having a craving, particularly a craving that you know will be satisfied. The easiest example is Thanksgiving. You almost always know what food is coming, and you usually look forward to at least one of the dishes.
When I visit my homeland of Texas, I always begin craving Mexican food. I get excited a few weeks before, waiting for some delicious Tacos Norteños. The anticipation is almost as great as the experience itself. Sometimes, during the week, I crave bacon. I really really like bacon. Sure enough, I have to satisfy that craving on the weekend with some toast and eggs. Mmmmmm.
The most difficult cravings are those that occur during the day. As I mentioned before, we're Americans, so we have no patience, especially with food. During the day, I can rarely satisfy those cravings, so I have to wait. Other times, there's no chance of satisfying those cravings. Do you know how many places in Denver serve escargot? (The answer is not many). There is nothing worse than craving something that seems far away. A meal you had long ago in a small town in France. Or the meal you used to always eat at your favorite restaurant, but they've since shut down. Or my craving for Mexican food that cannot be quenched within Colorado.

I guess the question is, is it better to crave and not satisfy than to never crave at all?

What are your cravings?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Denver Restaurant Week (Finale)

My favorite time of year has finally come to an end. I was able to knock out four restaurants, which is definitely an improvement over last year's two. Was it worth the cost? You bet. Should I have done one more? I'll probably be asking myself that last question until 2010's Restaurant Week. Some people may question going out four separate times at approximately $52.80 per meal, but doesn't everyone has something they spend money on? What better way to sample some of Denver's finest restaurants? Other people are sitting at home microwaving dinner while I'm enjoying a three-course dinner, so I don't feel guilty about the price.
We ended our two weeks of epicurean bliss at Kevin Taylor at the Opera House. It was a wonderful setting for a restaurant. They set the mood of lounging in an open wheat field under the stars. The tables are set rather spaced apart under a ceiling not unlike a planetarium with maple wood floors. Walking down the stairs towards the host stand reminds one of parading gallantly into a palatial ball. At least that's what I imagine a palatial ball would be like. The service is reminiscent of other Kevin Taylor restaurants, in which one is treated with delicate professionalism. I cannot give them ratings as high as Restaurant Kevin Taylor, however they did very well. I began the evening with the Roasted Red Kuri Squash Purée. It was excellently displayed in the bowl with a thinly sliced piece of Granny Smith apple and the cardamom cream. The soup was then poured into the bowl at the table. There was an excellent contrast of savory and sour with the creaminess of the soup and the tartness of the apple. The main course was a Dry-Aged Colorado Strip Loin served with Yukon Gold Potato Mousseline, Broccoli Rabe and topped with a dab of Prosciutto Butter. It was an excellent portion and of course everything complemented each other. I was able cut my steak with a butter knife, which certainly signifies a good cut. Last and not least was dessert. I went with the Milk Chocolate Bombe, Housemade Toffee, Malted Anglaise, Cajeta Caramel. To be fair, I'm not a big chocolate fan. Chocolate on the dessert menu is probably one of the last things I'll choose next to a bread pudding. That being said, they nailed this one for me. Despite it being completely chocolate on the outside and on the inside, it was not overwhelmingly chocolatey. Am I making sense? I feel like this dessert would unite chocolate and non-chocolate lovers.
It was a wonderful meal and a great ending to two delicious weeks even if it wasn't the best meal out of the four. As I've mentioned before on this blog, get out there and have a good meal. Enjoy the experience and savor it.