America’s Barbecue Battle: An Eater’s Guide

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

Make no bones about it: Americans are passionate about their barbecue. Much like grandma’s potato salad and dad’s lasagna, regional barbecue triggers feelings of nostalgia and deep-rooted hometown pride. The word barbecue here is used as a noun, not a verb. It’s not a casual backyard get-together or hot dogs and hamburgers grilled in the driveway over a propane flame. Barbecue in this context is meat cooked low and slow, usually over wood chips, in hand-built smokers and converted oil drums, till it’s fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth tender.

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Sous-vide, say what?

Cooking meat is hard. At least it is for me, the girl with a perpetual fear of eating and/or serving meat that’s slimy and pink in the middle. When cooking meat on the stove top or grill, I stand over it like a micromanaging boss, constantly assessing the doneness. Once the meat appears that it might, just maybe, be cooked through, I’ll give it a few gentle thwacks with my spatula to test for meat solidity. If it’s not too jiggly, I cut one of the pieces in half to check for pinkness. More often than not, this process continues until all pieces of protein have been cut down into quarters and the exterior of the meat is slightly overdone. This is not an exact science, and as an anal Type A, I hate that. Long ago, I declared the oven as my preferred method for cooking whole pieces of protein. It’s not perfect, but with a meat thermometer and a steady oven temperature I can get the meat done to my liking most of the time.

i burned it

The problem with the oven, as with other traditional cooking methods, is that the heat source blasts the food from the exterior. Even when executed well, these cooking methods leave a small window of time to reach your desired doneness, and by the time the center of the meat comes to temperature, the exterior is often overcooked. Sous-vide (pronounced soo-veed) is an innovative cooking method that eliminates all of this guesswork by utilizing a low-temperature water bath. French for “under vacuum,” the much buzzed about sous-vide cooking process starts with sealing fresh meats or produce in air-tight single-ultimatechefstore_2262_216503682use food-grade plastic bags, which are then immersed in a water bath and cooked low and slow.

This process enables the heat to move evenly around the food, slowly cooking, as it brings the entire food item, outside and in, to a consistent temperature. Since the food is vacuum sealed in its bag, no juices, flavors, or nutrients are lost during the cooking process; the food is infused with its own natural juices and sugars as it cooks, resulting in a final product that’s juicy, tender, and evenly cooked throughout.

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Dining with dad: how to get your pops to chat

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog. 

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The thought of partaking in a lengthy conversation is enough to make most dads grimace. It doesn’t mean dads don’t care; talking just doesn’t come as naturally to them as, say, changing your car’s oil or scaring the crap out of your new boyfriend. Deep down, dads are softies when it comes to their kids, despite the stone faces and frequent radio silence.

This Father’s Day, find your dad’s inner Chatty Charles with one of these one-size-fits-most conversation topics.

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Speaking of dads, if you’re looking for a sweet treat for Father’s Day I have the perfect gift idea. I recently sampled a box of sweets from Heidi’s Heavenly Cookies. These are hands-down the best cookies I’ve ever received in the mail, and honestly better than most I’ve had fresh from bakeries. Don’t get me wrong–I’m an avid cookie consumer, but few get an audible “WOW” on the first bite like Heidi’s do. The cookies are preservative-free, and you can store them in the freezer and enjoy them cookie-by-cookie for weeks to come. My two favorites had similar flavor profiles: the toffee chocolate chip (chocolate chip cookies topped with a layer of crunchy gourmet English toffee candy) and sea salt caramel bars (luscious caramel and Mediterranean Sea salt). As an added bonus, the cookies come in adorable little gift boxes. So, order some for your dad and for yourself (and for a certain blogger whose birthday is in July 😉 ).

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Restaurant Trend: Healthy Eating

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

With spring in the air and bathing suits on the brain, healthy eating is getting lots of attention these days.  It seems each year more and more diet fads appear, and while many people find these fads a bit extreme (Cabbage Soup Diet, really?), few can argue the benefits of swapping a day or two of healthier eating into their weekly eating regimen.

Feeling a little confused on the different healthy eating trends?  Get the skinny on raw eating, juicing, the macrobiotic diet, and Paleo over on the Urbanspoon blog.

 

spring salad

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It’s All About the “O”

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

I have eaten both macaroons and macarons in my day, and though I’ve ordered both as maca-two-o’s-oons (despite their obvious disparities) not once has a server indicated that I was pronouncing the dainty dessert incorrectly. In fact, I believe they too pronounced the name wrong.  Both of these similarly named confections start with meringue:  egg whites and sugar whipped to glossy stiffness.  That’s where the cookies reach the fork in the road, or the spatula in the peaks, if you will:  the difference lies in the execution.

macaron vs macaroon

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***Plus, you can find links to all of my articles on Urbanspoon here***

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Farm-to-face: eating locally when dining out

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

If you’ve ever bitten into a tomato in midwinter and wondered how the mushy, lackluster mass was expected to pass for the vibrant, acidic burst a ripe tomato gives, you’ll understand one of the major perks of farm-to-table sourcing: seasonality.  While some diners expect restaurants to offer leafy green salads adorned with thick tomato wedges regardless of the season, there’s a growing movement focused on eating seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients.

Not only does this farm-to-table approach ensure the snozzberries taste like snozzberries, it also keeps more of your hard-earned money in your town, cuts down on transportation time and costs, click to continue reading

Check out the list of Charlotte’s farm-to-table restaurants!  

If a restaurant is missing, let me know and I will add it!

Roots local purveyors

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16 Gifts for Foodies

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Judging by the creative parking I saw at the mall today, not to mention the mile-long lines in the stores, I’m not alone in my shopping procrastination this year. As the days tick by, people everywhere are frantically searching for last-minute gifts.  Just the thought is making me sweat!

Chances are you’ve got a few foodies on your list. So, before you surrender to buying everyone a gas card, take a deep breath and a big sip of eggnog and check out this list of gift ideas for every type of foodie.

16 last-minute gift ideas for foodies

 Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

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So, what is gluten-free, anyway?

There’s lots of buzz about “gluten-free” eating these days, and separate gluten-free restaurant menus are practically commonplace.  Though I do not follow a gluten-free diet (bread is my soul mate in food form, after all), I do have several close friends who have adopted, at a doctor’s recommendation, GF diets in recent years.  Through them, I have learned the woes of gluten-free restaurant dining.

So, what exactly is gluten-free, anyway?

Well, until recent years, “gluten” was a word few diners cared much about, let alone restaurant chefs and servers.  At its core, gluten is a protein composite generally found in foods containing wheat, rye, barley, malt, and other grains.  It’s gluten we have to thank for making dough rise and for providing airy structure to baked goods.

 Keste Pizza, NYC – photo by PHUDE-nyc

But it’s not all chewy bread and fluffy cakes–for a growing number of people, gluten consumption is the cause of intense intestinal discomfort.  While the degree of gluten intolerance varies drastically, the most severe form is celiac disease.

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Fervent Foodie featured in Creative Loafing Magazine

Recently, Keia Mastrianni of Charlotte’s Creative Loafing magazine asked me how I define the word “foodie.”  Admittedly, I was a little frazzled by the question.  Define foodie?!  Let me counts the ways…  For me, “foodie” is all encompassing.  It’s me.  It’s my world.  It’s my everything.

Check out Keia’s article below, or click here to view a PDF version.

Update:  the article is also posted to the creative loafing website.

 

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