IT’S ALL ABOUT FOOD and LOVE                12 - 22 - 2018                 TAMPA BAY,  FLORIDA





WELCOME TO MY TAKE ON COOKING, 

LOCAL EATERIES,  AND KITCHEN TOOLS

Cooking is all about food and love.  This website is about my thoughts about and cooking tastes with the tips, easy recipes and tricks of the trade to make some of your attempts at cooking more professional, appealing and fun. 

Cooking is as old as time itself and is constantly changing.  We have chronicled the first episodes in the development of cooking going back to the caveman and his discovery of fire which meant food could be cooked!   

And today with HSN and celebrity chefs touting all kinds of innovations, gadgets, pot, pans, copper, and ceramic, the abundance of product, some good innovation, mostly nothing but rehash and slick marketeers. How can you fail? The tools do all the work except seasoning and adding things like forethought, talent and creativeness, taste, texture and trial.

With temptation, the “ But wait” angle doubling the offer, and lots of salivation from the second stooge on the set promoting the incredible taste and value how can we not whip out the credit card and make those four payments of 39.95.  If you think this Chinese pallet load of low-end crap will make you a better cook, good luck.

If you went into the kitchen of an active successful restaurant, a place you pay for the privilege of not having to cook, and looked around, I don’t think you will see the wonderful gadgets pushed by shills on these network shows.  Yes, once in a while some hole in the wall does a promo for them and claims their griller will work in a commercial place.

Like everything else, the professional is results oriented, not a gadgeteer.  He has a knowledge base of food and its preparation, he doesn’t need the CHOP-O-MATIC still selling as new gadget after forty years on TV.  Some things never die.


THE CAVEMAN DISCOVERS FIRE...
In the beginning,  I can see the first caveman discovering the joy of a good pulled Pork- a -Saurus  sandwich, or Pterodactyl wings  and Buffalo fries while observing the NFL, The Neanderthal Fighting League.  It was an era when men were men and women looked like men.  It was when man really got into this food thing.  It was that or starve.

It was the Cromagoons vs. the Neandermen, an outstanding game only if you were the winner. It was heart and sometimes head breaking for the losers.  Food, water, and shelter were the prizes for survival and the Cro-Magnon were up by ten points by the odds makers, better adapted to surviving the Ice Age than the Neanderthals. 

CROW,  GROG, HANDAI, E’UMMGLICK and BIENDOVER

Our hero, we’ll call him “ CROW” also probably discovered beer about the same time as the Ice Age and that was an even better revelation.   Cold beer and hot food, what a combo!   Fortunately since they had no coolers , remnant glaciers of the ice age kept the beer cold, and a few Neanderthals stupid enough to reach for the beer, fell into crevices looking for those six-packs. They are still there, occasionally with the earth warming up, one pops up from time to time.

Cooking the Pork-E-Saurus and burnt Badaydoes presented new problems for Crow, his pal GROG and their gang since they held the meat with their hands in the fire. Fortunately Crow had a smart sidekick from another Cro-Magnon named Handei since it was his arm Crow was shoving in the fire to hold the meat.

HANDAI
Who was now a respected male Cro-Magnon leader, simply being the only one able to walk after the last confrontation, came to his aid with discovery of controlled fire.  He started a business, was working as a door to door salesman, think of him as the first Weber guy, and showed the cavemen the benefits of charcoal, making a circle of rocks, and slow cooking.  

Grog, quick to learn, looking back at the smoke in his burnt cave, and still smarting from his burnt hand,  he thought this was a good plan and he liked Handei and called him his Handai-Man from that day forth and they started a company. 

Cooking was time consuming and took away from hunting and breeding.  Mans favorite pastime to this day.  So he enlisted the help of the ladies of the cave which led to equality. He taught his wife BIENDOVER to do the cooking since he almost burnt his arm off four times.  She invented the stick to hold the meat.  

ED. NOTE:   Wives invented sticks to cook, men invent clubs to club.    Almost true to this day. 

E’UMMGLICK and BIENDOVER
Was the first caveman restauranteur couple to attempt Grog’s cooking techniques as published by First Stone Publishing.  His creation was steaks, chops, legs, tail and faux gras on a stick and proudly announced, “ It tasted great, last time it tasted more of hair and burnt nails, now I use a stick!” 

Business doubled and he decided to franchise his operation and offer Pterodactyl size pigeon wings and choice parts of Brontosaurus for the Holidays.  Then for entertainment he added dancing girls and we had the first sports bar.

THEN ONE EVENING
But then on a busy night, at the bar, his wife 
“ BIENDOVER’   said it was her idea to use sticks, that did not sit well with E’UMMGLICK.   He turned around and clubbed his wife, one more time and that was too much for her.  While asleep, he was mortally slammed by her and she even used his own club on him.  

Three days later she was looking for a new mate,  and to entice new suitors and customers to the fire pit cooked up a great meal featuring testicles.  His testicles, and to this day,  it is a Serbian custom.  Thats his member in her hand she used for the stock.

MY KNIVES - SHUN COLLECTION - NAKIRI




TAMPA BAY FOOD AND MY MANTRA

I live in Largo, a city of 80,000 which is just one small part of the Tampa Bay area.  As the barren stretches between towns disappeared, filled in with houses and malls the borders vanished.  The circle of eateries I frequent now puts miles on the car, but I’m willing and interested enough to travel to the unique. I’ve expanded to Tampa Bay...

That also gets more competitive which is good for the eater who enjoys “Diverse ethnic food once in a while” amidst the mechanical, redundant and usually boring offerings by the chains and franchise’s that frequent this area.  

It’s a very aggressive and constantly changing community, one restaurant location located a mile from me has had four different owners and themes in less than two years.  No one makes it there regardless of their theme.  Yet we are alive with diversified foods and new food challenges.

In a one mile stretch of East Bay Drive a Pizza Hut  actually folded and went out of business while three new Pizza, Stromboli and Spaghetti places opened within a half mile away on both sides.  This was the one I slammed after six attempts at getting a Pizza.   Batting 1000, Go figure!  There was market, this is lazy town cookery country and Pizza works, but not if the product stinks.

We have two other locations we call the revolving doors.  A theme sports bar comes in, or a family place and weeks later they are gone.  Both now are two of the Pizza locations.    Rule one of the Restaurant Code... Location, location, location.


JUDGING FOOD - PICKING A WINNER - IT CAN BE A CRAPSHOOT... 

•  The first clue in judging... besides location is a combination of the physical properties of the restaurant, location to parking, staff, cleanliness, even available parking and the informal greetings of customers by the staff counts.  Combined with the heighth of the bar in quality and freshness on their product they serve, the service they give and if it is maintained. 

•  The second part is the actual experience itself.  As they say when the rubber meets the road. It’s a personal experience. And because we are all different, we will experience it differently.

•  And the third part of success is consistent control which is the financial success of the business with a strong, substantial controlled business model resulting from good management able to make adjustments and accommodations to changing market conditions. So with some places we go back to see if there is consistency.


STRUCTURE
People frequent places they are comfortable in, by prior visits or personal recommendations. We go out to eat for one of two reasons. We all have to eat,  usually close to work or home and we go out to eat as a celebration or an event, or holiday.

In a way, the better places are self critiquing and require little policing.  The expensive places are not affordable on my daily turf,  I am self supporting and do not take freebies, so I go after the entire spectrum.  

I adopted Remy, a resident of Paris, who appreciates good food and has quite a sophisticated palate. He would love to become a chef so he can create and enjoy culinary masterpieces to his heart’s delight. 

The only problem is, Remy is a rat. When he winds up in the sewer beneath one of Paris’ finest restaurants, the rodent gourmet finds himself ideally placed to realize his dream.

I make anyone I coach watch this Disney movie about the passion, the chef must have to be creative and not a corporate zog.  It is a movie that kids should see because it teaches them that success comes from passion and perseverance.

The most important part is daily sustenance.  The eateries that exist for the plebeians, us, the everyday folk looking for a decent meal.  Occasionally we have a glorious adventure into the upscale culinary world when affordable or someone else is buying and usually they know where the good is.  But there are the other 364 days of the year and you have two choices, become a better cook, or a better chouser of where you do eat.

Some of the places mentioned here I have been eating in since the sixties and they are the same as they were then.  Thats part three, consistency, they were good, they are good and will stay good.  Downside, all the crap foods processed by corporate guano testers (aka fast food, burgers and pizza, Mexican, some Asian and chain restaurants)  have moved the bar on obesity two hundred percent in the wrong direction.   FAST food is a reliance on deep frying, just a small part of it

It’s not a joke, it’s just a national catastrophe of fast food, fast lives, and laziness.  Thus the score card reads obesity is close to 60% and suicides are up 30% in the US alone.  You just got facts, I call it being dumb and dead.  It is true, the organization, the CDC, estimates that 3/4 of the American population will likely be overweight or obese by 2020. The latest figures from the CDC as of 2014 show that more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults age 20 and older and 17% of children and adolescents aged 2–19 years were obese.


DIVERSITY IS GOOD
We have ethnic diversities with Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Greek, Philippine, Thai available.  Growing each year, one family has three Vietnamese Pho restaurants growing with popularity, offering what we call Asian Fusion. 

Fusion simply take the diverse popularity of Southeast Asia treats and cuisines from China, Japan, Thai, and, Vietnam, Lao, for the break needed from the usual themed or chained establishments offering a different slant on things.  

Mostly owned by locals and incredibly creative they offer a pleasant exit from corporate manufactured food.

Besides the fusion Pho’s we also have rib joints and a few soul food eateries.  We host two of the largest ethnic food parties in the South Rib Fest SPIFFs’ andthat draw huge crowds.  Tens of thousands attend these functions every year. 

Food like music is both wide and diverse, and are the cornerstones of communication between different people.  Tampa truly brings new meanings to the phrase melting pot.  I never melted one, but I did scorch a few almost beyond repair.   I have an eclectic appetite, I love tempting the food Gods with combinations of common sense and burnt taste buds.  Once in a while I score.  The beauty of cooking is that it is endless.  There is no beginning and there is no end, it’s all based on your curiosity.  

The tools are the same. It's what you throw in the pot and what you season it with. The basic skills, never ending or changing are easy to learn.  Your taste and perhaps on occasion, a fast trip to the bathroom will guide you. I made these recipes simple with easily obtainable ingredients to wean you off junk food.     

Having grown up in an Italian-Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn and having a friend whose Dad owned the local pizzeria and meatball sub emporium, I probably changed my blood type to “O” Positive which stood for Oregano Positive for sure.  I had so many Italian friends (I’m Jewish) I was made a member of the Kosher - Nostra early in life. 


THE TABS AT THE TOP


🔝 THE TAMPA BAY FOOD DIRECTORY 
Features places the locals enjoy or tolerate, the selections offered by the major corporations wringing every ounce of profit they can from in some cases highly modified synthetically enhanced food to the best of Tampa Bay to suit the most sensitive palate and stainless steel esophagus. 

🔝 THE INTERNATIONAL CULINARY CORNER
Is a hodge podge of food ideas I have created or cooked myself.  Some from friends that will fire your palate, some won accolades and a few requiring a liberal dose of Alka Seltzer, the fire extinguisher of the over indulger.   Part of that section contains some of my favorite delights from around the world, couple of bailouts of mine, and My Mom’s kitchen. 


🔝 TOOLS FOR THE CHEF IN YOU
The knives, cutting boards, mandolins again, some good, some very bad, some really dangerous and some should never be seen in a kitchen.  And some people should never find them. 

And like everything else the cooking phenomena has been eclipsed by the Celebrity Cook syndrome, AKA "The Endorser".  If they can stuff it in a bag and put his or her name on it and it sells, they have been successful.  

I have said it again and again buying a kitchen product because some hack put his name on it is like voting for a really bad politician. And Congress is full of them, on a smaller scale.  Thats another thing I write about. Congress and it’s just as critical as what I think of food.    http://www.aljacobsladder.com. 


🔝 The FOOD INDUSTRY TODAY
Human trafficking, dirty dinning, county enforcement are really several topics of importance.  I covered the use of illegal aliens and other violations of good human code,  and the first line of defense the TV stations like Channel 10 in Tampa who report dirty, filthy unsafe restaurants to the public.  

The last section of the industry involves the Kitchen Police.   In Florida, Inspections are performed at the County Health Department (CHD) level by the Environmental Health section. Each CHDs Environmental Health section is responsible for all DOH-regulated food service establishments located within their county.  

Like most Federal and State agencies , they are understaffed and fighting the budget battles.  Most good owners love them as they eventually get rid of the bad guys and the bad guys hate them because they get caught.  Nothing is more important than the health of the general public.  And Tampa needs this enforcement, I see violations all the time. Some disgusting beyond belief and never seem to get better.  But some never get shut down permanently. 

Better to read what you see on the websites by the Kitchen Police than read the menu at the stomach pumping room at the Emergency Room.

🔝 THE BURGER WARS
The truth about Americas favorite food and that 3 to 3.5 inch slab of something on a bun we all favor so much, you’ll be surprised at what you find out here.  Mostly corpo-guano hype and very little of the good stuff.  Pre-processed and processed foods that only some mad scientist could create.  

And you wonder why America has become the obesity capitol of the world.  It can only come from one thing combining two phrases, “The computer phrase crap in, crap out” adding  “If you throw enough against the wall, some of it will stick”.  In this case the walls of your alimentary canal can only absorb so much of the crap you eat.

🔝 SOUPS AND SPICES
It’s all about the things that give food its taste explained. And a lot about peppers, taken for granted Peppers are the universal condiment food source.


MY MANTRA

COMMENTARY

  • Places to eat fall in categories, I will start comparing these groups using simple terms like check marks, in other words simple scores. 

  • I maintain the competition on an equal basis because I have been in small home grown family stores that serve better food for the same money the chains do.  I go after both if the foods bad.

  • Some think I’m a little harsh on these corporate places because they enjoyed their meal there.  I’m harsh because I saw or spotted something that was not right.  Besides, I am an advocate and inspector and do know a little about poor practice or process in the industry.  There also the sub par or lousy stuff on the menu and I’m not shy about that.

Numero Uno: We all have differing palates.  Mine has had a lot of practice.
Numero Dos: Some of us in the industry really know what going on behind closed kitchen doors and most people don’t. You would be lost in a commercial kitchen.
Numero Tress:  Most “taste reviewers” haven’t the experience and a large dose of salt or herbs can mask bad cooking and worse dirty or bad techniques. 
Numero Cuatro  You want to really see what is out there in the public arena, watch Gordon Ramsey on Kitchen Nightmares. It’s a reality show but close to the truth.
Numero Cinco:  “Fresh does not mean Frozen and Thawed”
Numero Seis:  “Catch of the Day” is not indicative of the toss of the month old fish from the freezer to the chef

  • Fact: In the last ten years we have a 40% rate of obesity and the rest of the world starving, corpo-guano or processed food is alive and well.  Heath is superseded by sales.  When your food is processed to make cheap parts taste good or poor quality like cheap meat saturated with everything from Papaya juice to chemicals that I cannot pronounce, I will go after them.

  • And I love open kitchens, I hate the places that cook in back rooms that you don’t get to see.  And possibly the techniques and bad habits you wouldn’t want to know about.  Just about every day we see on the TV or in the news an article on Listeria, Salmonella and a hundred other bugs or viruses in our foods and adding bad habits in the kitchen just adds to the possibility of illness, not wellness.  You would be better off eating at home or one of the better rated places.

  • NOTE 12-22-2018  --  RECALLS
    We have had a ton of recalls on fresh food this year for meat, turkey, from the Midwest  a lot of produce from California, Romaine with Salmonella, Listeria, and stuff I can’t pronounce or spell.   And then the surprise...

  • NOTE 12-22-2018 -- DOCTORS VISIT
    Florida is going through an outbreak of Hepatitis and I just had my year end physical.  Two popular restaurants, one of them close to me on the beach serving hundreds of tourists daily were closed due to employee(s) testing positive to Hepatitis. We have an outbreak.  We are heavy in the Holiday and Tourist season so threat levels are high. 
    My Dr. secured a Hep-A-Vaccine Shot for me as I have never had the disease.  
    Many blood tests are now including a Hep report.  Mine indicated no markers, never had it, so he suggested (firmly) that I get the vaccine shot since he knows I work as a volunteer chef/cook/ line cook, even server whatever they need me for with charity events, many homeless people and in some cases, my exposure to or with food or people could be high.
    I have a very good Doctor, he trains new residents, that gives me the preferred status in his office of Guinea pig,  so I get three physicals for the price of one and then they compare notes.  Wow, I don
    ’t mind at all since he does take good care of me.  He’s patient and he explains everything... and I do as he says.


IN DEFENSE, IT LED

TO MORE OFFENSE

  • Another point I have to make is that some stores are better run than others. I am merely trying to make you more cognizant of your surroundings and what you eat.    Places visited on this list might have the date and time I visited when I remember to put it in my recorder.   And I check a place three times before I clobber it with accolades of pleasure or criticism. 

  • If it doesn’t look like you are getting either your money’s worth, or the food isn’t right, COMPLAIN and MAKE IT LOUD!  Sometimes loud enough for the next table to hear.   Bring it back to the counter and either demand a refund or replenishment. They should get the message and when they get it often enough, they respond. 

  • I’m not looking to get the hired help in trouble.  Problems come in all levels.  
    • They start with middle level ill-trained managerial failures who have survived and are not good trainers
    • It progress’s to corporate bean counters writing processes, and who never flipped a burger.    
    • Employee turnover, underpaid and understaffed.  Those employees who took a job either under or over their talent or pay grade and the problems arise when the help feels franchise food is not personal service. You are a register receipt from oblivion.
    • And we understand the “ flakiness” of the fast food operation when ten cars are stacked up in the drive and the manager is having a meltdown because,  “Some lady is screaming about the lack of softer eau-de-toilette paper” in the bathroom.

  • Some places think they are appealing to Moms and their kids, but customers with screaming kids actually cost some places business.  Worse some of the Moms are already stressed out because those idiots made food a toy store.  If you think those toys and games are needed to get your kid to eat, just starve him for a few hours and watch what happens.

  • But these corporations who confuses eating and customer retention with bottom lines and I’ll bet most of the board members don’t frequent their own food products  and you can see trends in some places over weeks, “ Going downhill” I believe is the expression.

  • I didn’t have to travel far to find bad. As I travel, I will simply point them out. They might call it unfair, I call it public service. If they wish to challenge me,  I have the photos and in some cases recordings and really good contacts at our local TV and Newspapers. But I am also fair...

  • We went back and rechecked a few places this year. Good food and getting involved is the Food Court section and we look at food not only as a critic but as a consumer, and without hesitation I will tell you some places improved and some fell off the wagon, one or two made the bad food list and one was just absolutely abominable. 

  • Not surprising,  most of the bad were still bad, or gone, most of the good were still good except for a few.  Because we are not really in control of what we eat all the time, we end up eating out and at the mercy of the food prep God’s.  A few have the nether God’s like Colitis and Diarearus on the payroll preparing their fare, and thats not fair to the consumer.
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