IT’S ALL ABOUT FOOD and LOVE   07-02-2016



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.  

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. 

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 the 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 one pops up from time to time.

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

Handei who was now a male Cro-Magnon leader, came to his aid with discovery of controlled fire.  He was working as a door to door salesman, probably the first Weber guy, and showed him 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 Handei-Man from that day forth. 

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 to do the cooking since he almost burnt his arm off four times.  She invented the stick to hold the meat.  Wives invent sticks to cook, men invent clubs.  Almost true to this day. 

E’UMMGLICK, was the first caveman to attempt Grog's cooking techniques as published by First Stone Publishing.  His creation was 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!".  And then he turned around and clubbed his wife, "Biendover" one more time. Thats was too much for her.  While asleep, he was mortally slammed by his own club.

Three days later she was looking for a new mate and to entice new suitors cooked up a great meal featuring testicles. His, and to this day it is a Serbian custom. The food, politely called “White Kidneys” in Serbian is believed to be rich in testosterone. In the Balkans, it is considered to help men’s libido.  It’s true read on! 

TAMPA BAY FOOD
I live in an area that has merged into what we can all call Tampa Bay rather than the four or five cities defining their borders circling the bay as individual towns and serfdoms.  All our inconsistent sports teams all start with the “Tampa Bay”  something like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tampa Bay Lightning and so forth.  

All noted they win something once and thats it, totally unlike some of our food here which will constantly repeat on you.  Then they go elsewhere and suddenly coaches do better,  John Madden and the Chicago Cubs, Tony Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts.  Must be something in the water..., I have the answers, but if I say it, my house might blow up next week.

As the barren stretches between towns disappeared with housing and business the circle of eateries I frequent now puts miles on the car, but well worth it.  I’m also traveling more so you will see reports from some unique places when something occurred or frankly grabbed my interest.

I found a delightful place to eat, original recipes, incredible food  in a small town in Florida and a lousy restaurant experience in a nationally known chain in Las Vegas Airport.  I wrote about both.  The good and the bad.

I’m willing and interested enough to try the unique and 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.   Yet we are alive with diversified foods and new food challenges. And there are THREE PARTS = SUCCESS

1•  combination of the physical properties of the restaurant, location, staff, cleanliness, even parking and the informal greetings of customers by the staff counts.  
2•  Combined with the heighth of the bar on their product they serve, the service they give and it is maintained. People frequent places they are comfortable in,  by prior visits or personal recommendations. 

3•  And 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.

In a way, the better places are self critiquing and require little policing.  The expensive places are not affordable on my daily turf,  so I go after the entire spectrum, the eateries that exist for the plebeians, us, the everyday folk looking for a decent meal and an occasional glorious adventure into the upscale culinary world when affordable.  Some of the places mentioned here I have been eating in since the sixties and they are the same as they were then.

Tampa Bay offers ethnic diversities with Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Greek, Philippine, Thai and growing each year are the Vietnamese Pho restaurants growing with popularity, offering what we call Asian Fusion. 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. 

Tampa BAY is food diversity:  We have fusion joints, rib joints and a few soul food eateries.  We host two of the largest ethnic food parties in the South Rib Fest and SPIFFs’ that draw huge crowds.  Tens of thousands attend these functions every year. 


THE TABS 
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. (PLACES TO EAT OR AVOID)

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.   

The next section contains some of my favorite delights from around the world, couple of bailouts of mine, and my Mom's kitchen. I share them with you and while some of the dishes might not be familiar as steak and potatoes on the grill,  it may require some resourcefulness as they might just mean a trip to the grocery store or ethnic food supplier.  On the other hand they are simple and in street English.

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.      

In a mixed community like Tampa we are fortunate to have Philippine, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Mediterranean,  Cambodian, Lao, Viet  Nam and Mexican specialty groceries within 10 miles of my location.  

For some Westerners, it could be the same thing as a trip to Klingon or Romulon if you do not or have not experienced a world wide palate. 

Food like music is both wide and diverse and 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.

TOOLS FOR THE CHEF IN YOU  are 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.  Just like Congress 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 is really several topics of importance.  It covers  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.

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.

SOUPS AND SPICES - It’s all about the things that give food its taste explained.


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 will 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.  We all have differing palates and some of us in the industry really know what going on behind closed kitchen doors.  Most “reviewers” haven’t the experience and a large dose of salt or herbs can mask bad cooking techniques. 

•   In the last ten years we have a 40% rate of obesity and the rest of the world starving, corpo-guano 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.

•   The places 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 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.

🍔  OK... maybe I was harsh when I said Steak and Shake used Dr. Kevorkian’s methods for training chefs because they killed the meat so efficiently with the clanging, banging and re-sizing to fit the bun, of a deficient undersized hockey puck of meat, its quick and tasteless aura weighing in at 1.8 ounces.

🌮🌮 Or when I accused Taco Bells new Flabouta Extreme as having less meat than my grandsons diaper and a few of my green card native born Mexican workers asking me what that was. NO MAS! NO MAS!

🐂🌭Or were you aware of the meat vs. fat content of the burger you just ate.  Do you know what size means on 5-1 or 8-1 of the hot dog you made disappear and what was that hot dog made of.  Prime meat, Choice, Chicken, pork and what parts were used and ground in that hotdog?   

🕍🌭 Did you know the purest and healthiest hot dog was Hebrew National with the lowest fat and no synthetics added of all the hot dogs and that the meat only comes from the rib area, no butts or mysterious parts.  Wonder why it cost a few pennies more than the economy stuffed garbage?  Theres more to Kosher meat than supervision!  

🐓 First, there are the fast foods from Taco Bell, Mickey D’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.  Burger wars all trying to upgrade and diversify offering salads and real chicken.  What a treat!  Holy Shit, They are bragging about the new Real Chicken!  WTF were they serving you before? Does that mean we were being served unreal chicken? 

🌋 The stuff that was rarely hot, and may be dripping with grease, fry oil or both.  In 2014 they all started to find religion and now touting new menus and guidelines for better food.  Thats because sales are so far down, McDonalds is forced to close 900 stores. That tell s a lot. Maybe, hopefully people are getting wiser. 

TAMPA HAS VARIETY
🍲  The middle theme park scale places are the Olive Gardens, who pretend to be Italian, The Red Lobster’s who pretend to be Seafood Geniuses, Chili’s, and Applebees who fake SouthWest, Joes Crab Shack which was a low-blow upscale themed boring honkey tonk.  
They average about fifteen to twenty dollars for a full meal with beverage and the food is usually fresh and hot but theme oriented, priced for profit, and served to you.  At Joes Crab Shack, the prices were higher,  the value and food not up to the competition.  A joke really...  And when they can, all these places push the booze, which is the good profit maker.  A four dollar bottle of wine for twenty dollars is a good hit.  And they are always house brands or bottled for retail.

🍷 The Top-shelf  dining spots like Ruth Cris, Schulers, Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber, and Bern's Steak House average $40-80 per person with beverage and will go higher with a good 1991 Chateau Pinot LeFarte.   These are the places you go out to have a celebratory (anniversary, birthday, romantic, etc) decent meal, consistently good track records, some outstanding even when pitted against their own franchises and many reasonably priced for the food and service they offer.

🍜  The next group are specialties, the family owned ethnic or generational Mom and Pops, some independents and the climbing, upscale nouveau riche places, some being born in the food truck business. Some of the older family places are still surviving because of their consistency and great followings.  A few of the ethnic places, not on the beaten path, still serve their unique cuisines and adherence to family recipes are still favorites of mine.  An ethnic Vietnamese restaurant looking very plain on the outside in a strip mall has some of the best fresh PHO dishes in town. When it says little and the place is mobbed, many Vietnamese in attendance it must be authentic. I ate there the food was good. 

🚚 The last group are the food trucks so popular and the range in quality and style is like Texas, big and diversified.  It’s hard to keep track because if a foodie truck does well, his or her next step is going to be  sit down hard location.  Some are like rabbits, “Hare today and gone tomorrow”. But the food truck is a chance for an up and coming chef to get a start and show what he or she has behind the knife and build a following.

🍱Their success is small menu’s, consistent, perfected, and duplicated.  Then they get a store and expand. St. Petersburg, Florida’s New Downtown is now a food mecca and reborn inner city, and probably it had a lot to do with the aggressiveness and zoning of the city council, new high-rises, new businesses and you got to feed the people.  The popularity  of the food trucks was interim till the hard locations developed and had a lot to do with the rebuilding of the downtown.  


RULES OF THE ROAD

🦄  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 stick into your belly.  Places visited on this list might have the date and time I visited when I remember to put it in my recorder.  

😡  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, and progress to corporate bean counters writing processes, and who never flipped a burger. 

🐻  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.

🙂  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 eau-de-toilette paper” in the bathroom.

🎩  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.

😏  What we did notice with the new menus were cost cutting and portion control more in evidence.  Food well into its old life served, gathered at closing, stuffed in the chiller, served the next day and called fresh.  This was quite common at most of the buffets.  Cooked the night before for lunch, thus cooked, chilled, recooked.   This was the policy at most buffets and very apparent at GOLDEN CORRAL where one of the managers admitted they did that.  So the food you were getting was:  Frozen then cooked then put out on display then removed and into chiller then stored 12 hours then reheated up then put on service again all in 24 hours.

👎 Meanwhile this has been a struggle year for McDonalds whose antics and clowns and corpo bullshit easily exceed the quality and content of their food. My suggestion to them is fire the scientists, get rid of clown central and hire some good chefs and cooks.  If TRUMP was running McDonalds the theme would be “Make America Obese

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