Where not to go in Brooklyn this weekend.

March 29, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comments Off on Where not to go in Brooklyn this weekend. 

I don’t usually spend too much time thinking about places I don’t like or won’t return to, but these two deserve some special attention.

Brooklyn Social is a bar I should like.  The bar is new but the building was at one point the site of more or less an actual Sicilian social club.  I should have liked this place, and I did when I walked in.  Like most bars in areas like Brooklyn, this one came equipped with the required touches to let everyone know it’s a “cool” place.  Bartenders with facial hair.  Faux-vintage clothing inclusive of vests and bow ties.  A drink menu that merely lists the ingredients and tells you nothing about anything.  Indie bands you’ve never heard of on the 70’s-era speakers.  A record player.

Good stuff when it works, sad and pathetic when it doesn’t.  Nothing worse than a bar trying too hard.  Alright there’s a lot worse than that but anyway.

We ordered our drinks and they were average.  Mine tasted like it had no alcohol in it, and this fact was eagerly confirmed by all present.  It was supposed to have a whiskey base; no hint of alcohol whatsoever.  Not out of the question, as some flavors do counteract any hint of spirits.  But the waitstaff was too preoccupied with being hipster to tell us anything about the drinks.

I walked up to the bar to speak with the bartender.  What follows is an exact transcript of the conversation.

Me: “Just wondering, this drink tastes like there’s no alcohol in it?”

Jackass bartender: (glares at me for a minute) “Well I’ll give you more whiskey but you’re wrong.”

Me: *too stunned to respond*

He takes out the bottle of whiskey and pours it all over my hand, all over the bar, and manages to get a drop or two in my glass.

You’re wrong?   You’re wrong?!?  Oh you’re right, because YOU paid ME to come in here and drink from you. Right.   You know that scene from Desperado where Tarantino tells the bartender the joke about a guy pissing all over his bar, all over him, all over his customers?  I wanted to be that guy.  In reality we just walked out.

Fast forward to a few nights ago.

A bar we’ve wanted to check out for a while called Zebulon just a few blocks away from the apartment.  They always have live music, and they play movies on a screen so large  you can see it from Fire Island.  Anyway we were there a few nights ago to see a concert so it was pretty crowded.  Now nothing actually happened to me, but rather to two of my friends.  Zebulon only takes American Express, no Visa or MC.  This has got to be some sort of stupid hipster/ironic thing they are trying to pull off.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dive bar that only takes Amex.  Very weird.  So this will inevitably lead to problems.

Padraic orders a round of drinks, and comes back with an odd look on his face.  He repeats the following no less than ten times.
“So I order the drinks, and only have $35 on me.  The total for five drinks is $31 and she won’t take my card.  So I give her $35 and she says “A $4 tip for five drinks?  Ugh whatever.” She didn’t really say that did she?  Did she?”

He manages to convince himself that she did not in fact say this to him and goes on watching the concert.

Kerry then orders double whiskeys for a few of us, and also comes back from the bar completely pissed.  She had ordered $44 worth of Jameson, about 6 drinks.  She finds out that again, they only take Amex.  She has $50 in cash.  So she hands this cash to the bartender who replies: “That’s okay, you can bring the rest of the tip later” “THAT’S OKAY YOU CAN BRING THE REST OF THE TIP LATER.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but a tip is something given for good service.  At least that’s what it means when you don’t expect 20% regardless of how completely terrible your attitude is, while you’re being pissed off that we dared to come in, sit in your section, and interrupt you checking your Twitter feed.

So Zebulon and Brooklyn Social.  Stay away.

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Been a while…

February 22, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · 1 Comment 

It’s been a while…I basically skipped 2011.  It’s not really my fault though.  Two things happened that kept me from updating.  1 – I was stuck in Steinhausen, Switzerland for about three months.  This place is a virtual black hole – I was told that my wireless connection was weak because I closed my door.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that kind of the point of wireless?  In any case, it was just short of traumatic and I sincerely hope I never see Steinhausen again as long as I live.  2 – I can’t fit in to skinny jeans.  And if you can’t fit in to skinny jeans, you are legally not allowed to go out in Brooklyn.

As a quick recap – I spent 2011 moving to New York (Williamsburg, Brooklyn actually), trying to figure out what would give dinosaurs high cholesterol, whittling a new set of kitchen implements, small-batch producing absinthe in recycled oil drums, wrestling musk oxen with my bare hands, bottle feeding endangered swallows on their migration south for the winter (some swallows are non-non-migratory), and practicing my axe throwing skills with the Midwest Knife and Axe Throwers (I’m currently a Hobbyist but should be Expert soon).

Something strange happened in 2011, and a few people have commented on it.  Food seemed to jump the shark a bit.  Everyone is now  (ok and this has been approaching nonsense for years let’s be honest) organic, natural, farm-raised on grandma’s plot of land she settled on in 1734, wholesome, and most likely full of s**t.  And not in a compost-is-full-of-manure way either.  I don’t need to “experience” my water or the way my silverware curves match the ceiling tiles.  In fact, if it’s truly an experience, you don’t have to tell me that.  This goes along with the whole “if you’ve gotta say it, it’s probably not”.  See: clean coal, safe nuclear, the Philadelphia Eagles “dream team”, and Michelle Bachman’s “I’m a serious candidate for President.”  No you’re not.

Also stop drinking drinks that end in -tini anything.  Just because. The Crafted Cocktail hates you.

So now we’re stuck with a small class of people who actually are changing the way we experience food, and pretty much everyone else.

I think we should just kind of agree to chill out, shop at our local farmer’s market, buy from our local butcher (or fishmonger, which I can allegedly do now), drink a microbrew and stop being so damn fussy.  We’re not that cool anyway.

Unless you own a vintage duck press.  Then you probably are that cool.

Either way, let’s get this thing started again.

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Since I’ve Been Gone

May 3, 2011 · Posted in Travel · Comments Off on Since I’ve Been Gone 

Yeah this has been fun…

And this…

Note – the upward graph means the dollar is getting weaker.  I got here March 15th.  Fun!

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One Hot New York Minute

February 16, 2011 · Posted in In My World · Comments Off on One Hot New York Minute 

Phew.  What a few weeks it has been.  New city, new job, new…..apartment….sort of?  It’s a small space in Hell’s Kitchen, about the size of my old bathroom.*  And that’s saying a lot, since my old apartment wasn’t big at all.

Outside of a few excursions to Blue Bottle and Saltie’s, this guy is pretty lost so far.  Granted it’s only been a couple of weeks, and I’m sure by fall it will be a whole different song.

Thankfully our foodiverse never seems short of ridiculous things to keep us busy and somewhat amazed.

I’m going to go with the recent okay’ing by the Obama administration and FDA of certain GMO’s.  And possibly to follow some form of “salmon”.  Mark Bittman’s op-ed in the Times is a great place to start.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/why-arent-g-m-o-foods-labeled/?hp

This is nothing more than a sweetheart deal for corporations, and there’s no way to disguise it.  As Mark points out, 87% – 87%!!! – of Americans are opposed to GMO’s.  There may in fact be something we can agree on after all!

If you’re a conservative economist this should rankle you to the absolute core.  Before you go quoting Milton Friedman on me, remember that he valued choice and access to information.  One of his most wide-read books is called “Freedom to Choose.”  How, pray tell, can one choose if you don’t know what you’re buying?  87% of the people oppose this!  That’s the market talking.  The market has said we don’t want this.  If it’s less profitable for companies to produce something the market doesn’t want anyway, then those companies shouldn’t be producing those goods.  This is barely Econ 101.  Or maybe first week of Econ 101, I don’t know.  Either way – the American people have stated pretty conclusively that they want these foods labeled.  So we can choose what we put in our bodies, and choose what we feed our families.

Okay perhaps that’s not enough for you.  Perhaps you don’t care about what you eat.  (Which begs the question why you’re reading this blog but…I digress.)  How about this one?

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/auditors-find-federal-oil-and-gas-oversight-still-lacking/?hp

Thaaaaaaaaat’s right, now that you’ve read it.  Potentially billions of dollars of oil and gas are being extracted from our soil…from American soil…without companies paying anything for it.

In the meantime let’s not fix this problem.  Let’s cut the Peace Corps and pell grants.  Let’s make it more difficult for underprivileged children to get to college.  Bravo, government!

Now this one’s my personal favorite, if only because it combines the Tour de France AND factory-farmed meat!  I watch the Tour pretty religiously if I can, despite the doping and slightly ridiculous nature of the whole thing.  It is truly the first Amazing Race, and if you don’t watch it, you should tune in for at least a couple of stages.  Preferably a mountain stage so you can at least enjoy breathtaking shots of France.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/sports/cycling/16contador.html?ref=sports

Basic gist is this.  Contador, a three-time winner, failed a drug test.  This drug is a common steroid called clenbuterol used to fatten cattle.  He claims he failed the text because he ate bad meat.  AND HE MIGHT BE RIGHT!  The article states that of 28 non-athletes who traveled through and ate meat in China, 22 tested positive for clenbuterol and would have failed a drug test.  China is known to use this chemical in their livestock production, as is Mexico.  So “conventional” farming and livestock methods are now depositing levels of chemical and steroids in humans that are so prevalent as to cause failed drug tests.  What about this seems wrong?

Know your meat people!

Also, and ostensibly for comedic purposes, this article describes a table tennis player who was suspended for failing a drug test because of clenbuterol-laden meat.  Who knew table tennis players even TOOK drug tests!!!

That’s about all I’ve got for now…

Until next time –

JG

*slight exaggeration

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Second City, second to none.

January 31, 2011 · Posted in In My World · Comments Off on Second City, second to none. 

I’ve reported murders, scandals, marriages, premieres and national political conventions. I’ve been amused, intrigued, outraged, enthralled and exasperated by Chicago. And I’ve come to love this American giant, viewing it as the most misunderstood, most underrated city in the world. There is none other quite like my City of Big Shoulders.

– Irv Kupcinet, who began Kup’s Column in 1941

I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail.

– H. L. Mencken

It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago-she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.

– Mark Twain “Life On The Mississippi,” 1883

It is often said every Chicagoan, at some point, moves away for a time but is inevitably drawn back.  For what, the reasons differ.  But we do.  We return, despite the wind, despite January and February, despite the Cubs, and despite the incurable traffic.  Time and time again this pattern has played out, but it is up in the air if it will for me.  As I sit in a room of packed boxes with a one-way ticket, it is hard not to reflect on the city that raised me, influenced me, was always there, and will I have no doubt beckon me home from time to time.

The hog butcher to the world, the City of Big Shoulders, she raises you right if you let her.  As you brace against her winter, you learn to dig your heels in and refuse to budge an inch.  As the sun warms in spring, and North Avenue Beach erupts, you learn to take time for the small, seemingly insignificant but important things in life.  As your sports team continues to disappoint, you learn the meaning of the word commitment, and just how long a lifetime can be.  It’s not for the feint of heart, nor for the weak of spirit.

Chicago will never come right out and smack you with what you’re supposed to know.  It takes time, takes effort, to get to know her secrets.  She won’t automatically invite you in, but once she does you’re in for an amazing ride.  Whether it’s a jazz bar with a piece of cardboard as a sign, the sunrise around the corner of the Shedd Aquarium, Kuma’s before it was Kuma’s, or the leftover goosebumps you get from the Jordan era at the United Center, there are treasures to be found almost no matter where you look.

But as I said goodbye to my friends, I realized the best “secret” is and always has been the people.  My cousin, who studied “out east”, asked me skeptically when she moved here – “Does everyone always smile at you?”  I had to explain to her that, yes, people do that out here.  We will welcome you in, we will invite you into our homes.  I can’t help but feel lucky that I have had the experiences here I did, and been invited into the homes I have been.  The fact that it’s hard to leave, in my mind at least, means I did something right while I was here.  If not I wouldn’t care about missing what I know will be happening in my absence – and that weirdly gives me solace in an otherwise sad goodbye to my city.  I will miss everything that makes us Chicago, but none more than the personality that makes us Chicago.

As I lay my head in Chitown tonight…for the last night in a long while…I can’t but be grateful for everything she has given me over the years.  Thank you to every single one of you who has helped make Chicago such an amazing experience for me.

To be continued…

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When the Rivers Run Dry

January 13, 2011 · Posted in Book Review · Comments Off on When the Rivers Run Dry 

Since one of my philosophies is Stay Informed, I read a fair amount about food, the environment, and how our choices are in fact all connected.  My most recent read is called When the Rivers Run Dry, by Fred Pearce.  While it focuses on water, its main theme is one well-known by anyone with even a slightly environmental bent to them.  He casts his gaze on dams and hydrological attempts to maintain rivers and provide irrigation.  What he exposes is that time and time again we over-estimate our ability to control mother nature, and wind up doing much more harm than good.

To start, why do we build dams?  For primarily three different reasons.  We want flood control, hydro-power, and upstream irrigation potential.

As Fred demonstrates, the only one of those aims that comes close to being met is the hydro-power, but that’s only in developed nations.  In most developing nations, the power source is oftentimes not hooked up to the main power grid but rather gets diverted directly to private corporations and their mining/farming/extracting interests.

Flood control fails for two different reasons.  The first is that instead of creating a reservoir that will hold all possible floods, we create a reservoir that will create bigger floods when they do break.  “Once in a lifetime” floods are now occurring much more frequently, as he cites throughout the book.  When and if a dam breaks or reservoir fails, the resulting flood is much bigger due to the sheer volume of water sitting behind.

And what happens when that water breaches the dam?  On that previous river, perhaps there were floodplains or wetlands.  These areas were periodically flooded, but did a pretty good job of retaining water and limiting further downstream damage.  Now, because of the damn, floodplains and wetlands disappear.  They dry up, and their soil becomes caked and brittle.  There is no natural stoppage for this water anymore.  So a larger volume of water rushes over a less-hospitable area, causing quicker and more severe damage than in the past.

Pearce also shows that the promise of better upstream irrigation falls far short of actual goals.  Overall the idea is that better upstream irrigation will grow more food, feed more people, and increase output.  Well, to hit those goals you at minimum need to cover the costs of destruction created downstream as soils die and farms become deserts.  The economic benefits of dams have been greatly exaggerated, and in many cases cause much more economic distress overall.  The politicians and some corporations may win, but the people that depend on the land for their livelihood lose in almost every single case.  One of the book’s best passages is a discussion with the old director of the Bureau of Recreation.  He says “and the actual contribution made to the national economy by these dam projects was small in comparison to the alternative uses that could have been made with the public funds they swallowed up.  We are now spending billions of dollars to correct the unanticipated impacts such as lost fisheries, salinized soils, and desiccated wetlands.”

All of these costs translate in one way or another to human beings.  Reduced fish stocks, worse soil, harsher floods, more deserts where there used to be wetlands – these things all effect local populations, and sometimes in extremely drastic ways.

The World Bank used to finance large dam projects, but has stopped doing so.  The impetus for this change was a simple cost-benefit analysis.  It didn’t occur for about 30 years, but it still happened.  They found enough corruption, cost over-runs, delays, and downright failures to warrant closing their dam projects.  Perhaps the worst though, is that they found that their damn projects had resulted in the forced resettlement of over 10 million people.  10,000,000 people.  For power lines that go nowhere, loss of fish to eat, destruction of wetlands, and ruining our soil.

He does point to some hope though, and helps illustrate how we are all in this together.  Using examples from China to India to South Africa, he showcases rainwater harvesting, and shows several different possibilities for generating local water based on the available resources.  These efforts are of course local, and so won’t ever feature prominently in some political agenda.  But they work, and they make a difference in the lives and health of the local populations.

In the end, it’s one more example of something that, as a human necessity, should not necessarily be nationalized, corporatized, and commoditized.  Water is obviously essential to our lives, and local communities can and should be responsible for their own water whenever possible.

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Side of antibiotics with your steak, Sir?

December 14, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · 1 Comment 

Last week the FDA released its first report on antibiotic use in livestock in the US.  It was a short report, with almost no press.  But it said that in 2009, livestock producers used 29 million pounds of antibiotics on their animals.  Some, yes, are used to treat sick animals.

But antibiotics are also used to treat perfectly healthy animals that might get sick, or that live in unsanitary conditions as a precautionary measure.

Why is this an issue?

Many strains of e.coli exist in parts of livestock we wouldn’t normally eat anyway, like the intestines.  (Yes you can eat them, but you don’t often see them for sale at your local supermarket)  They spend their lives with other bacteria, playing cards and doing whatever it is bacteria do when they’re not infecting people.  They are harmless and would continue to be that way if the animals were properly cared for.  But when antibiotics are used merely as a precautionary measure, drug resistant strains begin to develop, and have been developing for years now.

Which means you could get sicker, and in a manner that we are not yet able to cure with existing medicine.  Hmm.  Frightening.

In 2009 the FDA released a report detailing safe use of antibiotics in livestock.  Included were these choice phrases:

Misuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs creates selective evolutionary pressure that enables antimicrobial resistant bacteria to increase in numbers more rapidly than antimicrobial susceptible bacteria and thus increases the opportunity for individuals to become infected by resistant bacteria. Because antimicrobial drug use contributes to the emergence of drug resistant organisms, these important drugs must be used judiciously in both animal and human medicine to slow the development of resistance. Using these drugs judiciously means that unnecessary or inappropriate use should be avoided….

In regard to the use of antimicrobial drugs in animals, concerns have been raised by the public and components of the scientific and public health communities that a significant contributing factor to antimicrobial resistance is the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in foodproducing animals for production or growth-enhancing purposes.

So not only can you get fatter, you can now also get sicker.

Here’s a very clear, slightly revolting example of why preventative antibiotic use should be avoided.

One of the most harmful strains of e.coli is O157:H7.  This strain exists in the intestine of most cows, and doesn’t usually cause an issue with them.  In order to infect a human, it has to exit the intestinal tract and be ingested by a person.  If that’s not clear enough – you got sick because you ate fecal matter!

Cows that require preventative antibiotics spend their lives in confinement, close to other cows and usually without proper sanitation for their byproducts.  They are quite literally covered in manure.  When they go to get butchered, the knives, saws, what have you cut through whatever layer of feces is on the cow’s hide to butcher the animal.  This bacteria is then transferred to the meat, which you then ingest and get sick.  Really though, we’re not supposed to be eating manure so you shouldn’t be too surprised by the connection there.

So, in order to eat less crap, consider shopping at your local butcher, your local farmer’s market, at Whole Foods, or at a place like La Cense Beef, which is a great online supplier of grass fed products.

Less poop.  More meat.  Happy eating!

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Will travel for bacon.

December 10, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comments Off on Will travel for bacon. 

“Run faster, the zombies are chasing you!”

That’s how, by mile 2, I knew I was going to love running the Dallas marathon.  This seemingly simple, pointed trip turned out to be much more fun than I anticipated.

Due to a SNAFU, I had to find lodging via a good friend of mine in Milan.  As in Italy.  So Jenny hooked me up with her friend Nick, and this guy was nice enough to let some random crash at his place for a few days.  The main purpose of this trip was to run the Dallas marathon, but on Thanksgiving I was watching a TV show about bacon and the first stop was a little cafe in Dallas called the AllGood cafe.

Perfect.

Truth be told when I got off the plane I knew I was going to have fun.  I saw two guys walking toward security with maroon shirts that said “Don’t touch my junk.”

What made it better was that one guy was tipping the scales at over 300 lbs, and one guy was…well…vertically challenged?  I don’t know what the politically correct term is.  Either way they made quite the pair, shuffling up to security telling the TSA clearly what they thought.  And since the TSA is the US government’s form of a practical joke, staffed with ex-convicts, these guys were instantaneously new friends.

The marathon itself was about 95% excellent.  Good expo, mostly good race organization, a great course, and some pretty interesting fans.

One entire block was set up as a luau, with all the people wearing grass skirts, handing out leis, and passing out cans of beer to any runner who wanted one.  One guy was also holding a gigantic baking sheet mounded with bacon.  If it wasn’t only mile 8 I would have taken some of both.

By mile 19 I was eating the sugar glazed donut holes people were passing out though…

At mile 21 one of the local Hooters restaurants was staffing the hydration station.  I don’t think I really need to go too in depth here…it was pretty amazing.

Not to be outdone by the Hooters girls, mile 22 had an interesting group of characters.  We encountered two rolling hills, and just before we passed through them was a sign.  “You are now entering the Dolly Parton hills.”  Fantastic.  Except that the “Dolly Parton’s” were all dudes dressed in drag with enormous fake man-boobs.  I preferred the Hooters girl, but you can’t knock their effort!

After setting a new PR by 5 minutes, I rested most of the day on Sunday, in preparation for breakfast on Monday.

On my way to the airport I stopped off at AllGood Cafe and took some mediocre pics with my phone.

The place itself is very cool.  It’s got a small stage, and they host shows there all the time.  I saw signed posters by Wilco, Steve Earle, The Old ’97s, Paul Simon, and Los Lobos.

When I walked in the four cops sitting in the middle of the cafe just glared at me, like they could smell the Yankee on my coat.

To my dismay, they were OUT of chicken fried steak.  Out of it!  Thankfully they still had bacon.  I settled on a “mega breakfast sandwich” and a side order of bacon.

Ham, fried egg, avocado, bacon, cheese, mayo, and dipped in tabasco sauce.

If you like your meat thick and full of spice…

If you’re in Dallas make sure to swing by The AllGood cafe.  And look for the “Kinky for Governor” signs.  As one of them says – How hard could it be?

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How To Braise Short Ribs

November 22, 2010 · Posted in Recipes · Comments Off on How To Braise Short Ribs 

Braise (n) : to cook meat or vegetables by browning in fat, then simmering in a small quantity of liquid in a covered container.

– American Heritage Dictionary

Braising is easily one of the most satisfying and rewarding ways to cook a meal for yourself and guests.  The technique at its core is easy, you use cheaper cuts of meat, and it makes your house smell amazing for hours.  It will also impress everyone, and make them think you’re a much better cook than you actually are.  You don’t have to tell them you were really playing Call of Duty for the three hours these short ribs sat in the oven, slowly soaking in that amazing flavor.

In a sentence, you brown your cut of meat, saute the aromatics (vegetables), create your braising liquid, and then simmer this mixture for a few hours, depending on your cut of meat.  We’re going to go over short ribs so for our purposes it will be about 2 hours in total.

Braising is probably my favorite way to cook, even over grilling.  You can constantly experiment with your recipes, your techniques, and results are almost always spectacular.  This is a fairly straightforward base you can use with short ribs, brisket, or any other tougher, cheaper cut of beef.

Ingredients

Two bottles of a heavier red wine

4 lbs short ribs, bone-in or boneless, whatever you can get.

3 to 4 tablespoons butter or oil. (Really, you should use butter)

One medium onion, chopped
One medium carrot, chopped
Two to three stalks celery, chopped
Two cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sugar
Two cups chicken broth
One spring each rosemary, thyme, oregano. (ok to substitute dried herbs if you need)

Again, this is a basic blueprint.  We’ll give you some advanced tips at the end.

How To:

Pre: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, chop everything, maybe throw on the soundtrack to Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

1) Open both bottles of wine.  Immediately pour glasses for yourself and guests.  (This is a how to PROPERLY braise short ribs, not just some recipe.  Also, you aren’t really cooking short ribs for yourself, are you?  Are you???)

2) In a heavy, cast iron pan heat two tablespoons butter over medium high heat.  Take turns browning the short ribs on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side.  Do this in multiple batches if need be.  Scrap up any burned bits from the pan when done.

Short ribs loving them some butter

"Fired up, ready to go!"

3) Once the short ribs are all browned, and back outside the pot (like in the picture above) it’s time to create the base for the liquid.  Melt the remaining butter over medium high heat, and saute the onion, celery, and carrot until they start to soften.

4) When the vegetables begin to brown, add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Then add the second bottle of wine, stock or broth, sugar, and herbs.  Stir to combine.

5) Add the meat back to the pan, cover, and put into the oven.  Cook for about two hours, until the meat falls apart with a fork.  The great thing about braising is that it’s very difficult to overcook the meat.  Check it maybe twice during cooking, to make sure the sauce isn’t boiling but other than that just let it be.

6) When the meat is ready, remove the pan from the oven and spoon the meat out.  Place the pan over high heat and reduce the sauce down by 2/3 or more.  The more you reduce the sauce, the more concentrated the flavor gets.  Season with salt and pepper if you need to.  You can also add butter or flour as a thickening agent at this point.

Braising liquid reducing.

7) To serve – plate some mashed potatoes, a parsnip and celery root puree, polenta, etc.  (You didn’t make any?  Well maybe if you weren’t playing Call of Duty you would have had time to!  Not my problem.)  Spoon one to two short ribs on the plate, and top with sauce.  It should look like this.

You don't have to go to Jared if you can do this.

How to Take This to the Next Level

Okay, a few tips on really making this thing incredible.

1 – Marinate marinate marinate.  Take the short ribs and place them in the bottle of wine for 24 hours before you start this process.  Well, maybe take the wine out of the bottle and put it into a baking dish first.  Getting short ribs into a bottle of wine would be pretty amazing.  Something the guys at Alinea probably do for fun.  To the wine, add your herbs, whole peppercorns, maybe garlic?  Lots of options here.

2 – Cook this whole thing a day before.  Prepare through step 5, and then let it cool and refrigerate until tomorrow.  Then reheat, reduce, and relax.  If you combine 1 and 2 here, you all of a sudden have short ribs that took three days to get to plate, but trust me it’s worth it.

3 – Purists may insist you strain the sauce before reducing, taking out all meat and veggies.  This is fine, but I don’t have a dishwasher and don’t like making unnecessary work for myself.  So I reduce everything together.  But you can get a thicker sauce if you strain everything.  But keep the veggies – they taste awesome.  Again, to the sauce you can add butter, salt, spices, flour, anything to spice it up.

4 – Replace some of the red wine with port.

5 – Use bacon fat instead of butter.  Add the reserved bacon to the sauce a few minutes before the reduction is done and serve like that.

That’s a pretty solid braising recipe.  Check out Molly Steven’s book “All About Braising” for some great recipes, utilizing every kind of meat around.

Check back soon – we’ll be deep frying turkeys on Thanksgiving!

Happy Braising!

P.S. – Guys, this is a can’t-lose recipe for that special someone in your life.  When you say you’re going to “take meat, add wine, and make it tender over a copule hours of low and slow heat” she doesn’t think you’re just talking about the short ribs.  Trust me on this one.

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Before you grab that Twinkie.

November 10, 2010 · Posted in Policy · Comments Off on Before you grab that Twinkie. 

Ah El Rushbo.  Once again over-simplifying and missing the point.  Many of you may have seen this story on CNN that describes how a professor lost 27 pounds eating basically Twinkies.  Rush enjoys this, and in the meantime manages to make attacks on Michelle Obama’s wardrobe, fruits and vegetables, and gives horrible advice to anyone listening.  Some selected excerpts are below, but for the full transcript go here.

What have I told you about diet and exercise?  Exercise is irrelevant.

“Before his Twinkie diet, he tried to eat a healthy diet that included whole grains, dietary fiber, berries and bananas, vegetables –” basically he ate cardboard

It is what you eat.  It’s the content.  It’s not all the health food garbage. It’s calories in versus calories out, pure and simple.  It’s not health foods; it’s not exercise, pure and simple.

One of the reasons I know what I know is that I know liberals, and I know liberals lie, and if Michelle Obama’s gonna be out there ripping into “food desserts” and saying, “This is why people are fat,” I know it’s not true.  “Rush, do you really believe that? It’s that simple to you, liberals lie?”  Yes, it is, folks.  Once you learn that, once you come to grips with that, once you accept that, the rest is easy.  Very, very simple.  Now, my doctor has never told me to restrict any intake of salt, but if he did, I wouldn’t.  I’d just spend more time in the steam or the sauna sweating it out.

Rush’s political rantings aside, this is dangerous dangerous stuff to be mindlessly repeating.  About the only salient thing Rush says is that it’s calories in versus calories out for weight loss.  That much is true.  But let’s dig deeper into the story before we rest our case. A few facts.

1 – This story details weight loss over a two month period, full stop.  It does not measure long-term health, wellness, or any other of a number of measures that would indicate whether this “diet” was in fact a good idea.  As we will see in an upcoming post, food additives are incredibly harmful to our bodies and our environment.  Eating whole foods, fruits, veggies, grains etc that are minimally processed is the only way to ensure what is going into your body is actually food, and meant to be consumed by humans.

2 – Outside of weight, yes his cholesterol and body fat percentages went down.  We’ll obliterate this further in a minute, but first note that Dawn Blatner, a dietician, is quoted in the article saying being overweight can cause increases in cholesterol and obviously body fat.  So of course as this man loses weight those two measures will drop.

Here’s where it gets really stupid.

3 – A “normal” man Professor Haub’s size eats 2600 calories a day, the article claims.  I checked this math, calculated his BMR and all that – on this point the article is mostly right.  HOWEVER he would eat 2,600 calories per day if he were MAINTAINING his weight.  Since we can assume he has gained weight, perhaps slowly, over time, this number is actually probably low.  So he’s eating slightly more than 2,600 calories per day.  I also included a low amount of exercise since most people overestimate how many calories they burn during workouts.  If he’s working out “moderately” as he says he is, his caloric intake to maintain his weight actually increases.  This 2,600 number is most likely low for a man who was in Prof Haub’s position before this study started.

4 – He eats only 1,800 calories per day.  1,800.  He effectively cut more than 30% of the calories he eats in one day completely out.  That is by any standard a drastic measure.  If you eat three balanced meals a day, that’s essentially cutting out lunch or dinner.  I can’t imagine a scenario where your “average” person would be functioning after cutting out 30% of their caloric intake.  And would stick to it for TWO SOLID MONTHS.  No, instead we’ll have a public running around eating Twinkies, deciding they’re hungry later on, and pounding down some fast food because they want something salty to go with their sweet.  (Another of El Rushbo’s awesome suggestions – caramel popcorn at the movies to lose weight!)

5 – It’s calories IN versus calories OUT right?  So where’s the discussion of the OUT part?  Right.  Nowhere.  It’s irrelevant.  And yet….and yet…  There’s this funny feeling I have that if we exercised and burned some calories, that would count as calories OUT, would it not?  Should we even get into resting metabolic rate?  Or the fact that consistent exercise makes your metabolism more effective all the time?  Or that something like eating a proper breakfast will help you burn more calories throughout the day?  Nope.  Let’s sit on our couch eating 1,800 calories worth of Twinkies every day.

This “professor” shouldn’t be allowed around young people, and shouldn’t be spreading this kind of nonsense.  CNN, really?  We have an obesity epidemic costing our country over $100 billion annually and you publish a story that glorifies eating Twinkies?  Really?

Until we as a country stop looking for an excuse to eat garbage, we will have an obesity problem.  There just is no easy answer, no matter how hard we look.

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