Thursday, January 27, 2011

An easy, quick way to spice up any sandwich

Go to your grocery store and get a can of chiptole peppers.  They will come in a kind of sauce.

Take a pepper out, remove the seeds and chop it fine.  Mix it with equal part of mayonnaise and use that on a sandwich.  Trust me it is killer.

Some fine chopped chiptole peppers are also great in chili con carne

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why America is soo fat?

I put a question mark at the end of the title because I feel I only have part of the answer.  I would like to do some thorough research and get some figures and statistics for you all in a future blog.

I have lived in seven countries, including the United States and travelled to many more.  I have found that while living abroad and coming back to the U.S. for a visit, I always ate like a pig.  I would eat even when I wasn't hungry.  I never understood why until I returned to the U.S. last year.

I know part of it is because there is a lot of food you can get in the U.S. that you can't get or is very limited overseas so whenever I would return to America for a visit I would eat everything I couldn't eat abroad.  For one thing, Mexican food is virtually non-existent in the countries I have been overseas.  I don't understand it really; everyone likes rice, tortillas, tacos and burritos but for some reason that cuisine just doesn't work. Italian food works in every country.

A sandwich overseas just doesn't compare to what is available here in the U.S.  Go to Katz's deli in New York and you will see what I mean.    There used to be a place in Washington D.C. on M street that had killer steak and cheese sandwiches and I would always make that one of my first stops when I visited D.C.

One of the most noticeable things about living abroad is there is less processed food available.  You can find potato chips, sodas, frozen food and other convenience items but it is nothing compared to here.  Christ man, you go down the snack food aisle at any grocery store in America and the selection takes up an entire aisle. 

Overseas you may have three to four flavors of potato chips but here.....Holy Shit! Ranch flavored, BBQ, Cajun spiced, sour cream and onion, mesquite smoked, jalapeno, black pepper, baked, oh and of course, regular flaovred.  Did I leave any flavors out?  Then there are different cuts of potato chips too.  Thick, crinkle cut, thin, shoestring cut, etc. That is just potato chips I am talking about. I haven't even gotten into the countless varieties of cereals, frozen dinners, granola bars, candy, etc.

I have also noticed that some companies change the flavor of their product to suit different tastes in different countries.  Mountain Dew is my favorite soft drink but in every country I have been it tastes like medicine so I never drank it abroad.  Coca Cola seems to be the most consistent, however in the Maldives it tastes funny.  Sometimes things you may not expect or be aware of come into play.  I knew one dude who worked in the Seychelles and he told me that the Sprite had a cloudy, muddy type color.  Come to find out, the Seychelles had run out of white sugar so they substituted brown sugar when bottling the Sprite.  Can you believe that?  How funny is that? An entire country ran out of white sugar.  Hilarious!

I also noticed that processed junk food is not so prevelant overseas as well.  I just never noticed it before.  I went to the auto store a few weeks ago and what did I see on a rack right as I walked in?  A rack of candy and other junk food. I mean, this is a friggin' auto store for Christ sake.  There should be oil filters and spark plugs there, not junk food.  That got me thinking about how in the U.S. we are constantly surrounded and bombarded by junk food and processed food.  Think about it.  Junk food is everywhere. Gas stations now are more like a supermarket.  It is almost like the gas is an amenity to the supermarket. You can eat a complete meal in a supermarket nowadays. I had a pizza from one last week and I must say, it rivaled Domino's. Go to your local video store and the checkout aisles are filled with junkfood. I went to the bookstore yesterday and again, junkfood lined the checkout aisles.  Watch TV and all the food commercials are for junk food.

Unfortunately it is also cheaper to eat junk food than heating natural food. Have you ever noticed that in your average supermarket about 90% of the stock in the store is processed food?

Our nation's children: What is also unfortunate is that some of these food companies that serve and sell this unhealthy, processed food pay schools to serve it. Yes, the shools make money by having junk food vending machines in their schools. How would you like your kids eating some processed, unhealthy food day in and day out over the course of each year they are in school? Plus, with the hormones some of these companies are injecting into their meat it is no wonder boys are starting to grow tits during puberty and teenage girls are filling out more quickly.

I was watching a documentary on this very subject and at the time, Governor Schwarzenneger of California signed a bill banning junk food vending machines in all schools in California. This documentary showed parents protesting and even handing their kids junk food through the school fence since they couldn't get it in the school.  Maybe in america we want to be fat.

In America we are lucky to have such an abundance of readily available healthy food, but we are some of the most obese peole on the planet.  Something just doesn't add up.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dubai and Bombay

After living in Bombay for two and a half years I moved to Dubai in early 2006.  I had visited Dubai a couple of times while living in Bombay and it was nice because it was a quick two and a half hour flight. It was a good place to go for a weekend getaway. Plus, you can't eat beef in India so how else was I going to have  a steak?  I suppose that is normal for most people, flying to another country for a steak.

Dubai was nice to go to because it was so clean and pristine compared to the filth and poverty of Bombay. Of course, Bombay has culture and character, Dubai does not.  On the other hand, Dubai has an indoor ski slope. (not that I care, I don't ski)

You don't see beggars in Dubai but the beggars in India are persistent as hell.  In any other country I have visited, if a beggar approaches you and you tell them "no," they leave you alone.  In India those dudes don't leave.  If you are in a cab and stopped at a red light they just stand there staring at you. Don't make the mistake of giving  one person some money because you will get swarmed by others.

There was one thing I noticed Bombay and Dubai had in common; they are both cities where you wouldn't just stroll along the sidewalks. I mean, they both have sidewalks but it isn't like taking a walk in New York or a city in Europe. Bombay's sidewalks were soo crowded, a simple stroll would quickly turn into a struggle to just walk in a straight line. To give you an idea what it was like, picture this: Have you ever seen a video of all those sperms trying to fertilize the egg?  Well, there you go.

Dubai is kind of funny because it is a cool place to visit but living there wasn't soo cool. It is really just shopping malls, hotels and sand.  There really isn't much else to do.  I would take Bombay over Dubai any day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dubai......prostitution central

I lived in Dubai for about a year in 2006.  After living there I came to the conclusion that Dubai is should change its name to "Contradiction."  I was in the City Center Mall one day and bought a few magazines.  I bought a copy of FHM, GQ and Guitar World. I was at a friend's place flipping through FHM and noticed that some of the pages had been ripped out. I was pissed off.  I put the magazine down and then started thumbing through the GQ magazine.  It also had pages ripped out.  I told my friend that some asshole must have been through my magazines first.  He said, "no dude, they have people in Dubai that go through magazines and rip out the pages with questionable content." I was like, "are joking me?" He quickly replied "no." To think some dude gets paid to sit and take out magazine pages.  Fucking hell! I think that rivals the poor schmuck that has to sit there and put those damn stickers on each apple or bell pepper.

In Dubai you can't even go on questionable or pornographic websites in the privacy of your own home if you can believe that shit. Talk about controlling people. For Christ sake, the country is like 70% expats.  It is only a Muslim country by its location, not by the demographics of it's population.

Here is where the contradiction is: If you go to any club or bar, it is like 90% hookers. It isn't like you go to some "speakeasy" where the hookers hand out either, it is out in the open. Hyatt has two top hooker spots that I know of.  There is the Premier club in the Hyatt Regency Dubai and Spasso in the Grand Hyatt Bangkok.

It is hard to meet a legitimate chic in Dubai if you are in a bar.  It is quite frustrating as well. Plus, the hookers there are aggressive.  I can remember times in the past when I was dating a woman in the U.S. and told her I would meet her at a bar or something and she would tell me to make sure I arrived first because so she wouldn't get hit on by strange men.  I never thought a woman sitting alone was such a big deal.  I didn't understand it but after living in Dubai I understand it completely. If you go to a club without a woman the hookers don't stop coming on to you.  It is more like men are the goldfish and women are the sharks.  Or maybe an Amercan way to put it is the men are trailers and the women are tornadoes....LOL

There is one club in Dubai called Cyclone. I had just moved to Dubai and asked the concierge of the hotel where I can go to meet women and he told me to go to Cyclone. He was kind of smiling when he recommended it but I didn't think anything of it at the time.  When you walk in this club, one side is all blonde Russian hookers and the other is all Asian hookers.  It is like Pimp Moses parted the sea of hookers or something. I walked in, ordered my usual Black Label on the rocks and lit up my favorite Monte Cristo no.2 cigar and just enjoyed the view. A hot Asian chic approached me and started making advances.  I thought to myself, "this is great, I don't have to make the effort."  She started showering me with compliments like "are all American men as handsome as you?" Note to readers: no, not all Amercan men are as handsome as me:) She then told me I could have her for 600 dirhams, which is about US$200.  I told her  "no thanks." It was then that I started to realize the type of club that concierge sent me to....bastard!

Since I was sitting on the Asian side of the club I was only approached by Asians.  It was like there was this imaginary border that nobody crossed.  The Asians didn't go to the Russian side and the Russians didn't go to the Asian side.  I wonder if they pay rent? It was like some street gang thing that controls certain city blocks or something.

Then another hooker approached me and I turned her away.  Then another approached me and another.  I felt like a piece of fish food thrown into the fish tank.  If you have ever had fish and you put a piece of bread or something in the tank that is too big for the fish to swallow whole they just swim around it taking  little bites of it until it is gone.  That was me in this club.  It was at that moment that I finally understood why single women don't like going to bars alone.

I asked the bartender if he knew of a club that wasn't infiltrated with hookers and he said "this is Dubai, all the clubs are like this. How do you think they get all the businessmen here?"

One time I was in this bar called the View which is located on the 52nd floor of the Emirates tower.  It has windows for walls so you can sit there and have a drink overlooking Dubai.  It is quite nice, and like everything in Dubai, it is expensive. It is more upscale so I figured it wouldn't be riddled with hookers and I turned out to be right. Actually, I am always right....except when I am wrong:)

I was sitting there and a blonde Swedish chic sat next to me.  We ended up talking for a couple of hours and had a good time and I was thinking she wasn't a hooker which was a relief.  Plus she didn't fall into the prerequisite of hookerness in Dubai by being Russian or Asian.  As the bar closed she offered to give me a ride home so I was thinking I would get lucky.  When she pulled in front of my apartment I asked her if she wanted to come in but she said "I can't, I am a hooker."  I was puzzled to say the least.  I was tempted to pay since I got that far and didn't want to go to bed alone but I just told her goodnight. I went to bed thinking, "this really sucks." That is like looking forward to going to the Sizzler buffet all week only to find the salad bar doesn't have Ranch dressing.

It cracks me up that in Dubai they try soo hard to control what you see in print and on the internet but the clubs are filled with hookers. I don't have much tolerance for hypocrisy. At least you can eat pork there.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A tip when preparing soups

Here is a good lesson I learned years ago.

Anytime you make something liquid based (such as a soup, chili, stew, etc.) that has vegetables in it, make sure the vegetables are cooked prior to adding your liquid, otherwise you may get some of that raw flavor in your soup.  Plus, sauteeing vegetables as opposed to just throwing them in your broth and boiling them gives a better flavor. With experience you will learn when to put vegetables in as each vegetable takes a different amount of time to cook.  In other words, if you are using different vegetables, you will add them in stages. To further illustrate let's say you are making a vegetable soup and you have: carrots, fennel, eggplant, onions, celery, garlic, peppers and zucchini. Assuming your vegetables are cut in soup-size pieces, I would add them in the order listed, cooking each vegetable for a few minutes before adding the next one.  I would add the onions, celery, garlic and peppers at the same time, finally adding the zucchini at the end prior to adding my broth or water.  I would then simmer the mixture for about an hour to allow flavors to develop and you are done.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The problem with vegans

Ok, I am going to piss off a small segment of society but I have to get this off my chest.  I just don't understand vegans. 

I lived and worked in India for two and a half years and for those of you who don't know it, India is about 75% vegetarian.  Living there I learned there are different types of vegetarians so for today's lesson I will explain them to you.
Fishitarians-vegetarians that eat fish (if you are puzzled by this you are not alone).
Jain vegetarians-in addition to being vegetarians, don't eat anything from the ground, such as potatoes. That must suck. Not even French fries?!
Egg and Cheesetarians-vegetarians who eat eggs and cheese
Full-on vegans-don't eat anything even related to a living animal or wear leather or animal products.
For those of you who don't know, the definition of a vegan is: one who consumes no animal food or dairy products and one who abstains from wearing animal products, such as leather. I bet most of you didn't know that a proper vegan should not even wear animal products.  I do believe they can own a cat though.

To be clear, I don't have a problem with vegetarians, many of my friends are vegetarian. I don't care what someone's choice of diet is.  To each his own I say.  It is certainly healthier to be vegetarian than not to my knowledge but I just love my steak too much. The problem I have is with this last class of vegetarians: Hypocritical vegans.  I don't know how many times a vegan has come in to a restaurant or hotel I have been working in and they eat cheese or eggs.  On top of that I see them wearing leather! I mean if you are going to call yourself a vegan than be a vegan.  I mean, are you going to call yourself a Muslim and then go to Denny's and have the Grand Slam breakfast complete with bacon? Don't think so.

Here is my favorite vegan story. The hotel I worked in India had a restaurant with an open kitchen where we served Sunday brunch. A guy approached the kitchen and I asked him if he would like some eggs or an omelette.  He said "no I am a vegan." As he told me this I couldn't help but be puzzled by his brunch choices. He had a plate full of desserts that all had eggs in them.  Friggin' cheesecake, chocolate cake, mousse and so forth.  I asked him, "sir, not to be rude but every dessert on your plate has eggs in it but you won't eat an omelette?" He replied "in these desserts I can't see the eggs."
I had no idea how to respond to that.  I was dumbfounded.  Freak!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Olive oil, Salt, Vinegar and Mustard

I am often asked what food items a cook should keep in their kitchen. The answer to that may vary depending on the type of food you like to cook and eat, but here are a few things you should have on hand and how to be smart about using the products you buy.

Remember you can't make great food with poor quality ingredients.  You don't need to have the most expensive food products available but there are some items where the expense is worth it and shows. It is also about how you are using food products.  Here are some examples.

Olive oil-have a good bottle on hand and store it as you would wine. For those of you who don't know how to store wine, two things are important.  Consistent temperature (not hot) and out of the light.
It doesn't make any sense to buy a $30 bottle of olive oil if you are going to use it for cooking. If you are going to saute or cook with the oil, then get a basic olive oil or even blend.  Once you heat the oil to high temperatures it won't matter anyways.
If you are making a salad or drizzling olive oil over a piece of cooked fish then use a high quality one. 

Salt- spend a little bit on a top quality sea salt.  My favorite is the Camargue brand but there are many others.  There are also many flavors now such as red wine infused, black salt, red clay salt and so forth.  I really like a high quality smoked sea salt on a piece of meat, fish or poultry.

Vinegar-There is a huge difference in a salad made with a top quality vinegar and oil as opposed to one made with cheaper quality products.
If you go to the store and purchase a few nice greens, toss them with a little high quality olive oil (don't drown them), vinegar and sea salt you will see how much different a simple salad can be.

Here is my favorite salad.  Baby red romaine, endive, hydroponic bibb lettuce, green oak and baby arugula tossed with Frantoia extra virgin olive oil (about $32 per bottle), Banyul vinegar and high quality sea salt.
Try it. 

Mustard-I absolutely love mustard. I put mustard on everything.  Steak, lamb, chicken, sandwiches, hot dogs, hot cats, everything! Maille is very good.  My favorite is Edmund Fallot.  Grill a piece of steak, sprinkle some of that smoked sea salt and serve it with a dollop of Edmund Fallot dijon, tarragon or green peppercorn mustard..BAM!!!

Remember this important rule when using any of these ingredients: Use them for simple preparations.  It doesn't make any sense to use a top quality oil or salt if you are making, for example, a stew, casserole, braised item, lasagna or anything like that because you won't be able to taste what you spent your money on. Remember, you want to be able to taste these items.
Grill a piece of meat, fish or poultry and sprinkle some of that nice olive oil and salt on top. 
If you are making barbeque sauce with vinegar in it don't use the high quality one.
Basically what I am saying is you don't want to cook with any of these items.

You will find that a top quality oil, vinegar, mustard or salt will be expensive but here is the good thing: they will go a long way because you won't be using large quantities of them.

Happy cooking