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.
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-use 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.Read More
Last month, I teamed up with Tropical Foods to create videos for four AWESOME recipes, one of which was created by yours truly! I posted the video for Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars last week, and today’s recipe video features Mexicali Grouper. Take it from the girl who hates fish – this recipe makes for a delicious crusted fish with big bold flavors courtesy of the Mexicali Fire snack mix used coat the fillets.
Speaking of BIG FLAVORS, Tropical Foods just rolled out their How Bold Can You Go site, which features all of their boldest nuts and mixes. Check it out! And don’t forget, if you see something you like, you can place orders online at The Nut House.
Now onto the fun part! Tropical Foods has generously offered to give three lucky readers gift baskets, chock full of the bold nuts and snack mixes used in the recipe videos! There are several ways to enter–check out the rafflecopter below! The giveaway ends at midnight on June 15, 2013.
Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.
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.
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 ).Read More
From the luminescent silk screen Barbies on the walls, to the linen towels in the bathroom, to the liquid nitrogen cloud lingering over your cocktail, at Bubble Charlotte no details are spared. Bubble, which officially opened May 17, 2013 (after years of anticipation), is Charlotte’s first champagne bar and oh so much more. There’s a full-service kitchen, patio area with bar service overlooking the intersection of College and Trade, and not one but FOUR different beverage menus.
Bubble’s main entrance is on the Epicentre’s ground level. Once inside, guests ascend a dramatic staircase to the second floor. The decor strikes a playful balance between sophisticated and fashionable, and the dining area is anything but standard with large round communal-style tables. The aim is a premium (but not pretentious) experience.
So let’s talk booze. Bubble has over 30 champagnes in house, and their Perlage preservation system enables high end champagnes to be sold by the glass, while still maintaining the flavor and integrity of the beverage. Patrons can score a solitary glass of Dom Pérignon for $45, while a bottle can cost upwards of $200.
Bubble’s beverage repertoire spans much further than champagne though, and all of the bartenders are Bar Smarts certified. They offer a “slim list” of sub-120 calorie cocktails, and their much-buzzed-about N’tini cocktail is topped with liquid nitrogen steam, which quickly chills the cocktail and produces a “seductive cloud.” Ingesting liquid nitrogen is hazardous, in fact, a British teen had part of her stomach removed last year after ingesting the chemical. To avoid potential harm, Bubble’s N’tinis should not be consumed until the liquid nitrogen cloud has dissipated. At the press event I attended, Bubble’s operating partner, Bourke Floyd (fka Brady on Dawson’s Creek), was adamant about the safety precautions the bar will take to ensure no one is given an N’tini until it’s safe to drink.
The petite chef-driven menu at Bubble features a handful of small plates: prosciutto wrapped melon, pomme gaufrettes (waffle fries), chef-chosen cheese plates, and fresh, never frozen, calamari served with wasabi cream and Sriracha. As for salads, I enjoyed both the fresh strawberry chevre salad (with goat cheese and Spanish candied walnuts) and the Caprese Napoleon, which is topped with a fig balsamic reduction and a light drizzle of olive oil.
The entrees include champagne poached shrimp, Thai-chili ribs, steak frites, and Mediterranean chicken skewers. There are also four flatbreads, the toppings of which were promising, but the bread itself was horrendous–flavorless with the texture of a hardened shortbread cookie. Dear Chef: please fix this flatbread faux pas ASAP.Read More
Tropical Foods is a Charlotte-based food manufacturer and importer and distributor of bulk and packaged snacks and specialty foods. Phew, that’s a lot of hats! What this translates to is snack mixes, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, dipping chocolates, salad bar mix-ins, and garden chips, just to name a few of Tropical’s thousands of products. The Charlotte production plant roasts nuts and seeds daily (in trans-fat-free oil), and goods are shipped from one of their six locations: Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas, Memphis, Orlando, and Washington DC.
Back in the Fall, Tropical Foods sponsored a recipe contest at Johnson & Wales University here in Charlotte, and I recently partnered with Tropical on a super fun project to create recipe videos for the top three recipes from the contest (plus, one video for a recipe that I specially developed for Tropical). The whole video shooting process was new to me, and it was both fun and challenging! I’ll post more about the videos in the coming weeks including a HUGE TROPICAL FOODS GIVEAWAY, but in the mean time here’s the first of four videos, my official YouTube debut. Enjoy!
Looking for Tropical Foods products? You can buy nuts and snacks direct from their new retail site: www.tropicalsnuthouse.com. Tropical Foods products are also available in many grocery stores, including Harris Teeter and Healthy Home Market.Read More
Life is unpredictable. You get stuck at the office, spend rainy days surfing Pinterest instead of grocery shopping, and sometimes feel just too darn tired to even lift a spatula. We’ve all had these nights–ones when we secretly wish we still lived at home where mom would sense our hunger and home cooked meals would emerge from the kitchen faster than you could microwave some easy mac. Sometimes, all we want is a hot meal ASAP without having to worry about who’s doing the dishes. In the old days, when people wanted takeout, they’d hunt down a menu, scribble down orders, then call it in and pray that the person on the other end could understand over the loud bar noise (is that a screaming goat I hear?!) that you wanted your dressing on the side, and light sauce on the pizza, and ABSOLUTELY NO OLIVES whatsoever.
While this dial-in method works, few can argue it’d be easier and more convenient to browse menus and place orders online in real-time. That’s where BringMeThat.com comes into play. Users log into the BringMeThat.com website to browse menus and place food delivery orders, including special requests (extra cheese, please!). Once submitted, the BringMeThat request is sent to the restaurant, and shortly after the patron receives an email letting them know how long it’ll be til the food arrives.Read More
Whether it’s a hot date, a night out with friends, or a family outing, few will object to dinner and a movie. It’s a combination that appeals to all the senses—the sights and sounds of the film, the smells and taste of the food. And touch? Well, I’ll leave that one up to you.
Studio Movie Grill (SMG), which recently opened in Charlotte’s Epicentre (in the spot formerly occupied by Mez), takes all that we love about this classic combo and mashes them into one in-theater dining concept. The idea is not new to Charlotte, but SMG’s approach is more casual and family-friendly than its predecessor.
SMG movie tickets can be purchased online or at the front desk, and seating is selected at the time of purchase (so there’s no need to rush to the theater to score a good spot). Speaking of the theater seats, these ones are plush and recline slightly, and each seat has a personal-sized swiveling table top, complete with a cup holder and a red “power button” that signals the SMG team you’re ready for service.Read More