Monday, December 31, 2012

Monty's Blue Plate Diner, Madison, WI - Review

Link to Yelp Review

Part of the Madison based Food Fight Inc (16 restaurants currently?), Monty's was the first, or one of the first.  They are all different, yet are the same in one way.  They are good places to eat.

Monty's is styled after a 50's diner - counter, chrome, lots of "traditional" diner foods, and a lot that you never got at a diner.  Service is fast, food is good, prices are reasonable (but not cheap) and wait staff is friendly.  Feels neighborhood friendly, although they bring in people from all over the area.  Plenty of good vegetarian options also.

Food is interesting, with lots of things not found in your typical diner.   Coffee is from Just Coffee (that is a bonus feature people - if you like coffee, this is a great place) and many of the specials are made with organic foods.  Want a burger but don't eat meat?  Swap out the Walnut burger - which, as a meat eater, I can say is good.  Certainly better than their hamburger.  Speaking of which...

What is up with that hamburger?  First off, it comes medium well done - no burger should ever be cooked to that.  Second, it is heavily, and funky seasoned.  As in, if I ordered it, it would go back.  A good burger needs salt and pepper.  They add a bunch of stuff.  However my niece who ordered it liked it, so we kept it.

Deserts are very popular at Monty's, but that was our disappointment.  Cheesecake was rubbery and the carrot cake was dry - stale dry.  Really?  I am almost tempted to go to three stars just for that.

Overall, I have to stick with four stars.  Great coffee, mostly really good, and interesting, food, fast, good service.  Without a doubt I will be back if in the area.  But I will skip desert.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Champagne (OK, Sparkling Wine) Recommendations for New Years

This assumes you care what it tastes like?  If you are only getting something to fill a glass, buy what ever is cheapest.  But assuming you actually want to drink it....

Under $10 - Barefoot Extra Dry.  Odd think about "Extra Dry" - it is actually a little sweeter than Brut - however the rules for labeling sparkling wine allow a wide latitude in sugar levels, so it is fairly hard to actually know what you are getting without trying it.  Barefoot Extra Dry is just a touch sweet - really I consider this a dry, very slightly slightly sweet, fruity sparkling wine.  It tastes great with food, and it's fine by itself.  I bought four cases for my daughters wedding ($7.49 a bottle, Festival Foods).  I was not disappointed.  It was great for the toast, and it was good to drink with the meal.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brining Beans? Really?

Apparently So.

One of the many things I love about America's Test Kitchen is that they obsessively try things to find the perfect.  Thus, brining beans.  3tbs salt to 4 qts water to 1 lb beans.

Here is a video on it

I am making my red beans and rice recipe, so we will see

Friday, December 7, 2012

Aldi's K-Cup - Fair Trade Colombian Blend Review

Well, I was a little harsh on one of Aldi's coffees.  If you think saying it was better to cut off your tongue with rusty scissors rather than drinking it was harsh.

Let it not be said that I am not a glutton for punishment - here is yet another review - this time of one of their K-Cup coffees - coffee made to use in your Keurig brewer.

I love my Keurig - it lets me have a decent cup of coffee at work, so I don't drink the office swill.  And since the office coffee is free (and I am cheap), you really should believe me that it is swill.

My usual blend is Newman's Special Blend, which is an "extra bold" roast, and I usually put three of my land o' lakes half and half's into it.  But at $5.99 for 12 K cups, the Aldi's blend met my criteria for K-cups - I want to pay less than 50 cents per cup.  So, what the heck.

First off, it is a "blend", so I don't know exactly how much "columbian" coffee is in it - all, or just a whisper.   However, I don't care that much - it is all about the taste.

Second, for those that care, it is fair trade certified.  Nice, but if it tastes like crap, really, who cares?

So - what do you get?

Labeled a "medium" roast, I would almost agree.  Seemed to be a light to medium roast.  The taste is good, not harsh, but definitely not too strong.  Good if you drink it black.  I did not have cream, but I am not sure if I would use it - seems like it is not strong enough to hold up to it.  But as black coffee - good.

Moderate scent - doesn't knock you over or impress that much

Seems a little thin in color.

Overall - I will buy it again at sub $6 a box of 12.  Decent coffee.  Good price.  If you like a light to medium roast black cup of coffee, I think this will pass your test.

If you want a lot of K-cup reviews, try here - this guys has to much money on his hands, but hey, good for us.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

If you only have one thing in your kitchen, it should be this

Buzzfeed Food is exactly correct.

5.5 quart round Le Creuset Pot

I have owned 3 of them (one now resides at my Son's house), plus a 7 quart, plus a sauce pan, plus the goose pan.

But the 5.5 quart is the only one you must have

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Aldi's Coffee Review Part Deux - Donut Store Blend

After the last fiasco with Aldi's Coffee, where I threw out the cat poop after one cup, I tried a different blend  - Aldi's Donut Store Blend, Whole Bean.  It's a good thing I bought them at the same time, because the first try was so awful.

So - Donut Store Blend.  A pale to medium roast - quite variable between beans.  I ground in our burr grinder fairly fine, then brewed in our drip brewer.  While it is a blonde roast, if  you use enough, it still brews strong.  Daughter #3 liked it well enough black, but it had enough body to taste decent with cream.  Daughter #1's response was a shrug - eh, ok.

So - overall, a decent brew for the cost ($4.99 for 12 oz whole beans).  Not my favorite, but drinkable.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Beans and Pasta (Pasta e fagioli)

Growing up my parents provided a wide and varied table.  No jello salad - we had things like Turkey Ballotine or risotto or a hundred other dishes that, trust me, were not common in the rural midwest.

However, one thing that was not common (or ever) was pairing pasta with beans.  Pasta e fagioli in Italian.  Which is to bad - because it took me a long time before I put the two together, and let me tell you, it is a great dish.  Inexpensive, quick, varied, vegetarian (vegan, if you like).

Now this dish can be made soup like or dry - I, because I am not a huge soup fan, always make it dry.  But anyway you do it, it is great.

Looks and Tastes Great

Basically dirt simple.  Cook beans, cook pasta, mix.  Add whatever else you want.

The above dish is a little more complicated (and not very healthy, truth be told).  But really good.

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained.  You can use any white bean in it's place also
1 can diced italian (or not) tomatoes, drained
4 cloves of garlic, pealed and minced (don't use out of jar, please)
1 tbs Italian Seasoning from Penzey's
4 oz cured olives (order from Cresp, save yourself some money)
8 oz high fiber pasta
2 oz pesto (tastes great without it - if not using pesto, feel free to aggressively use fresh ground pepper)
Parmesan Cheese to taste (grate it fresh please, no jars)
Olive oil
1 lemon, quartered

Mix beans, tomatoes, italian seasoning and garlic with olive oil (at least 1 tbs, if not 2)
Roast in 350 degree oven for at least 20 minutes on a foil lined baking sheet.  The longer you go, the more dried out and nutty the garbanzos will be.
Cook pasta in salted boiling water - DO NOT OVERCOOK.  High fiber pasta is terrible overcooked.  I mean feed it to the chickens bad.
Drain pasta, mix with pesto and a tbs olive oil
When Beans are cooked, mix with beans/tomatoes on baking sheet, plus the olives, put back in oven for 5 minutes to let flavors meld.  Add more olive oil if it needs it.
Serve with fresh Parmesan and lemon - a squeeze of lemon really adds some nice acidity to the beans and pasta, which need it as there is a lot of fat on them.

Really quite a good dish.  Not diet friendly.  If you skip the parm, it's vegan.  Of course this is a fine dish to put sausage or chicken or shrimp in also

Monday, December 3, 2012

Drink Coffee, Live Longer


Money Quote - In this large prospective study, coffee consumption was inversely associated with total and cause-specific mortality. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Worst Coffee Ever

So bad it makes Folgers seem like fresh roasted Sidamo

So bad you would rather drink tea

So bad you would just as soon cut your tongue out with rusty scissors

I love Aldi's.  Cheap.  Good food (for the most part).  So shoot me, I tried one of their coffees.

So I went for the ground, Specially Selected Dark Roasted Ground Espresso

So incredibly awful.

So if you are thinking about buying some of this, remember the immortal words of Nancy Reagan