Wednesday, March 30, 2005

News Flash!

Fazoli's has announced, that beginning April 1, they will begin baking their breadsticks with ZERO trans-fats! Yay! For all of us who love those breadsticks, smothered in garlic, the good news is you can go back to eating them. Just go get some exercise afterword!

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The Color of Food

I was reading an article recently in Baking Business which underscored the need for food to look as good as it tastes. While many consumers are looking to 'upgrade' their eating choices to a more healthful stage, they also want food that looks appetizing. A study done by the R&D firm of DD Williamson of Louisville KY, shows that while something may say it's a healthy choice, may have a sufficient amount of proteins, carbohydrates and fiber, unless it looks good, we're not eating it. So manufacturers are finding the need to still add artificial colors to give the food a palatable look.

Color plays a huge role in a consumers perception of good food. Does anyone really want to eat blue ketchup? Well, okay maybe there are a few children out there that will find it exciting, however most adults are still grabbing the red version of ketchup. Color of food actually sets off neurons in the hypothalmus. Interestingly enough, food must look good enough to eat before a sighted individual can be convinced of it's food-worthiness. So when a company fails on a food product, it may not be the marketplace, it could just be it didn't "look" good. Kind of reminds me of the Billy Crystal - Ricardo Montalban schtick!

So what do you do when your food doesn't look good? Well, for manufacturers they turn to the old stand-bys: Certified colors. You know them. You've seen them on just about every food label printed. There are only seven certified colors! Wow only seven! They are, in no particular order, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. They add a specific amount of these colors to bring out the best look of a product.

For baked goods Yellow 5 is the most commonly used. It makes food look rich. I should say it helps food appear rich. The food itself is rich, however it has a coloration problem. You could say it's like George Hamilton, until he gets a good tan, he just doesn't seem all that appealing. Thus the color addition.

So don't be put off by a color addition in your favorite foods. It's there for a reason, and it probably wouldn't be your favorite food for long without it. We are emotional beings. Go with the emotion of color and let it work it's magic for you!

We'll talk about natural colorants in another post soon.

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Friday, March 25, 2005

Food or Bait?

This evening we were in San Diego. We stopped at a tackle store to take a look at some lures for the Big guy. I step away because I'm suddenly getting the urge to buy a license and go rent a boat so I can sit all day in the hot sun and hope something bites the end of my line.....not.

I am bored and am walking around looking at stuff trying to look interested. Something catches my eye, here's how the conversation went:

Me: Wow! Live crawdads! Mmmmm. Dinner?

Guy in line: No, breakfast! heh heh.

Me: Well, I could cooked you up a really good serving of Etouffe' for ya if you'd like. :-)

Guy in line: ha ha, let me see if I can get a fish to take the bait first. If not I'll give you a call!

I think I found a new catering gig! LOL, I'm also wondering if these little guys are cheaper here than at the fish market.

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

IMBB 13 - My Little Cupcake or Muffin!

all cupcakes
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
Yay! I did get these finished. This is my second entry in IMBB. My first was with Pim's rice IMBB-4. That entry was just emailed it to Pim, prior to my having a blog.

I have to say thanks to Makiko of I was just really very hungry for hosting this months Is My Blog Burning. This has been such a fun event! I think most people have a favorite cupcake or muffin so I predict the entries wil be plentiful!

My entry is tiny cupcakes. You can see the regular sized cupcake in the back of the picture for scale. I always try to keep sweets to a minimum. One because they're so cute that way, and two because no one ever really knows how many you ate!

I started this evening with a simple chocolate cake recipe. My favorite is from Hersheys. Their Deep Dark Chocolate Cake is the one I usually turn to if I need a chocolate cake.

I then put together a white cake mix. See my post from February about my search for the perfect white cake. I used that recipe tonight. I also added a few chopped cherries to the batter for some of the cupcakes.

I poured three different sizes of white and chocolate batters. I mixed in some macaroon coconut into a half cup of the white batter and spooned a half teaspoon full on three of the small chocolate ones. I love chocolate macaroon cupcakes! I also put a dab of seedless raspberry preserves in three.

The fun part was decorating these little cupcakes. I frosted using a simple butter frosting. Half pound of unsalted butter, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, powdered sugar until just sweetened. Beat the butter together with the vanilla, then begin adding the sugar until it is at the right consistency but still a little stiff, add a couple teaspoons of milk or half anf half to bring to a spreadable consistency. I used the white to do the cherry cakes and the teeny chocolate ones. I then added a clue to the frosting to indicate inside flavors - Cherry, raspberry dots, coconut on the chocolate macaroon, etc.

After finishing with the white buttercream I added some cocoa powder to the remaining frosting, whipped it up and frosted the others with chocolate. Of course going into the piping bag there was a white residue so I frosted the smallest ones that were left over with the marbled frosting. cherry cupcake

As you can see, some basic cake and frostings you can be creative and make some pretty good looking sweets even when you have a terrible pain in your jaw! (see previous post)

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On Tuesday I went ot the Endodontist. That was a good thing, yet my first mistake. He told me in order to complete the root canal my dentist began a week ago, he had to use some really icky chemicals to kill the nerve. It would be sore for a couple of days and then in about three weeks they'd take another look at the tooth and make sure it could be crowned. Ugh. I wasn't in any pain until last night. I have had a really painful left lower jaw for about 24 hours now. I had hoped to participate in IMBB - Cupcakes. I have them baked, but I am not sure I will have the stamina to get them frosted and completed in time. Oh the pain, I usually have a really high threshold for this kind of stuff, but this is really kicking my hiney. Ick, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Exedrin and hot compresses are not touching this thing. I think I need real drugs.

Hopefully I'll get the cupcakes done. See you soon.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

HACCP, HACCP, who has the HACCP?

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points that is. HACCP is a program that was adopted by the USDA and other food regulatory agencies in 1997. It gives critical guidelines to help a food manufacturer, processor, restaurant or other food related business to establish a written protocol to ensure food safety and cleanliness down to the microbial level. HACCP is not a mandatory program at this time.

Food. We all love eating, until we eat something that disagrees with us. Was it the food? Was it the flu? Was it the way the food was handled by someone else? Did someone who was ill at the salad bar sneeze on my food? Ick. These are things we as consumers really don't want to think about, however, forewarned is forearmed.

Many restaurants and food processors are beginning to display their HACCP certifications. Large firms, of course, are the first to stand up and be counted with regard to HACCP programs. I noticed one, when we stopped for breakfast one morning before the Fancy Foods Show in San Francisco, displayed in the restaurant's front lobby. Most consumers wouldn't take notice of the certificate of participation. That's why I'm talking about it now.

HACCP is a good thing. It's not just another regulatory entity out to make one's life miserable. Recently, while participating in our bi-annual FDA inspection, the inspector (those guys are authorized to carry guns now!, whole other post later) informed me that HACCP helps establish guideline protocols. The food facility actually sets their standards according to the feasibility, cost and effectiveness for thier establishment. However, he cautioned: "Be careful in setting your standards too high. If you've set a standard, and are in violation of your own standard, and I come in to inspect, you're in violation. Be prudent, but don't make your standards impossible to follow."

What should a consumer expect from the manufacturing/production sector including restaurants. Good food, that is within acceptable hygiene standards, kept warm or cold (depending on the food), on a timely basis. Some restaurants or food establishments will excel, other will be average while others will ignore this all together.

In the book, The Secret Life of Germs, by Philip Tierno Jr., PhD, Dr. Tierno discusses the nature of germs and their effect on us - the buying public. Interestingly enough he says that most of us come in good contact with germs all the time without really being bothered by them. He also says that the occasional bug gives our bodies a way to build up immunities and assist in keeping us healthy. The germs we really want to stay away from have gained some noteriety in the past few years: the dreaded E-coli 0157 and Staphylococcus. Those little, unseen germs can wreak havoc on even the heathiest of people.

So what should you watch for when you purchase food?

1. Certain raw foods: heat kills bacteria. When heat is not present in processing food bacteria is not killed, and there is a risk of increased infection in some people. Raw eggs - we used to love them in Ceasar Salad - some people can still eat them without a problem, however, take note and be prudent. Don't allow small children, pregnant women or people whose immune systems are already at risk due to other illnesses to consume rhese types of food. Raw meats, unpasteurized cheeses and juices can also be problematic.

2. Foods that encounter numerous people in the manufacturing process: Salads containing raw and cooked foods are a good example. Go back to our Ceasar salad: The restaurant's garde manger (salad guy) had to go back to the grill to get the chicken, cooked by someone else, when you made it a 'Chicken' Ceasar Salad. Point being: more than one person handled the food. A garde manger is not the only person who would make this salad, I've seen them for sale at fast food places lately. When you have it trucked in from a distribution center, factor in the refrigeration of the warehouse, the trucking company, the chicken processor and the weather all as contributors to the freshness and stability of this product. Again be prudent.

3. Salad Bars: Main thing to check? Is it cold? If not, take a by and order something else. No need to pick up a cold while at lunch on a nice sunny day. Anything creamy, milky, fish-y or egg-y, must be kept cold!

4. Another contributor to the food safety process: Old foods at home. Not necessarily just in the fridge. Any food that has been around a while, whether canned, frozen, or fresh has a life. It is best to eat it when it is still in a good timeframe. Storing food for emergencies? Store what you eat, eat what you store! Rotate it out so you rarely have anything older than necessary. Of course somethings can be store for quite a long time under the proper storage conditions but admit it, how many of us really have a refrigerated garage that keep foods at a lovely 68 - 72 degrees all the time? And that's just the canned stuff.

5. Last but certainly not least: Personal hygiene. We can prevent a lot of "food related" illnesses if we are mindful of where our hands go and when we really should give 'em a good scrub. What's a good scrub? When you've got them lathered up, sing happy birthday to yourself twice, then rinse. A friend of mine did a study for her graduate program in college: She taped a sign on a stall in the bathroom of a very popular place on campus. She 'hid' in that stall and recorded how many people really washed their hands, and if there was anyone else in the bathroom at the time. Most people, if they were alone in the bathroom, left without scrubbing up. Only when other people were present did most people wash their hands. So next time you want to blame that food professional for the bad food - did YOU wash your hands?

Food safety is simple. Keep it clean, keep it fresh, keep it at the right temperature, and don't introduce pathogens that can cause problems by being careless.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

Kitchen Facts and fiction about knives

Occasionally I will go out on a limb and underscore some of the kitchen facts and fiction floating around out there. At the top of my alltime kitchen facts and fiction is: Knives. Is there a more controversial subject in the kitchen? Well of course there is, but we'll start here anyway.

Retailers have convinced the buying public that you MUST have an expensive set of knives in order to be a successful chef, cook, homemaker, or occasional griller. If you go to the usual suspects, any one of many, Williams Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, Target, Robinsons May, Dillards, etc etc etc., you'll find a gorgeous array of blades. Sometimes cruising through channels on TV will also get you thinking I really need that boning knife! I won't even mention the internet. There are Henkels, Wusthofs, Philipe Richard, Calphalon, Cuisinart, Farberware...on and on. So what do you do? I'd love to say just listen to me, however, there are better people to confirm this myth than me. Ask a chef. They'll tell you what I will say here, but with even more authority.

What most people need are three basic knives. A good chef's knife, a serrated knife (8 inch) and a good paring knife. When I say good I don't necessarily mean expensive. You can spend as little as $15 on a good knife. Then when it gives up the ghost in a couple of years, you won't cry when you replace it.

Chef's knife: 8 - 10 inch blade. Use whichever length works for you, there is nothing worse than a knife too big for the user. So if an eight inch knife does the job well, while wrestling with a larger knife is awkward, go with the smaller one. Chef's knives are for chopping vegetables, cutting up meat, smashing garlic, if that's your method, and dicing vegetables.

Your serrated knife will be your best friend when you need to slice something. It will cut cleanly without crushing the most delicate of fillings. DO NOT use it for chopping anything, it will not cooperate with you, it knows what it does best. It loves tomatoes, citrus, pies, cakes, cooked meats, and the occasional meringue.

Paring knife: a 3.5 to 5 inch knife will be used for intricate work as well as peeling. Use it with all types of food stuffs. Your paring knife will cut through the softest of fruit without bruising it and will slice apples for pie in no time. It's great for mincing herbs, garlic and shallots. It also will double as a corer for strawberries and tomatoes.

The most important thing to look for when purchasing your knives, is that it is "fully forged". This means that the blade, the bolster (the part where it becomes one with the handle), and the tang (the handle) are forged from a single piece of steel. You really want to see that the steel runs through the handle. There is nothing worse than having the bolster and blade loosen from the handle and have a wobbly knife. Knives should also be balanced well. This means that the blade should be no heavier than the handle or vice versa. A good way to check this is to put the knife at the bolster, on a strong finger, it should balance equally there without a wobble in either direction.

I currently own 2 chef's knifes and I am in the market for at least two more. Paring knives - 4 currently. And one serrated edge knife. All the other stuff is just fluff and clogs up usable drawer space.

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Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Wonderful World of Blogging

Why do we do it? There is a reason for every person with a weblog. Exhibition. Journaling a life. Keeping up with friends and family. Writing for the love of writing. I could go on and on, I won't though. For me it is a connection. We have become a world of anonymous masses. Funny, I say that because I blog under a pseudonym! The blogging world gives us a chance to establish neighborhoods. A chance to correspond with people from all over the world. I think it is a wonderful way of getting to know people. Because we all have a story. As mundane as our lives may seem, up close and real to us, others find it facsinating that we overcome challenges, try new ideas and have little fear, or huge amounts, in stepping out to try new things.

I have become a part of several "neighborhoods". I have friends in places I've never been. Some places I've always wanted to go, yet not had the time or opportunity to travel. It is an adventure - like reading fiction - I can go wherever I choose to go!

A couple of days ago I went to New York City. I had been there, in the 1980s, when I was a stock broker in another life. I have not been back and I know there is more to see than Wall Street. So I went back to visit. This time to catch up with a new friend: Samantha of Pastry Elf or as I know her "slouching towards ganache". (read her archives and find out why she uses that phrase) Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to get to know Samantha. She is a brave soul. Why? Well, she's left behind the comfort of the corporate world. A great job, doing marvelous and exciting things, making a nice income. For what you ask? To pursue a dream!

Samantha decided to chuck the corporate world and become a pastry chef. She has gone to school, graduated, and began working in "the life". Not only has she done this, but, she has documented it very well. I like her style too. She records her days as I would: The joy of baking a wonderful creation, the sheer exhaustion of a new pursuit, the frustration of posting frustrations. I like that I know some of Samantha's dreams, to be in Maine with her wonderful husband, having her own business. Or maybe moving that dream to upstate New York, near the CIA, possibly. I like that I know she knits, on the subway at that!

It is great to have a peek into so many lives. I'm not a voyeur. I just love the "human-ness" of it all. We all are in this together, we might as well get to know each other. Go get to know Samantha, she'll share her triumphs and her trials, you'll be glad to say you know her too. Just think, maybe someday we'll actually plan a trip just to buy cupcakes from her!

Watch for other "friends" I've found along my journey!

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Sugar High Friday - Stuck on You

SHF Caramel
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
I have been thinking of what to do ever since I read what Debbie of Words to Eat By, chose to use caramel for this month's Sugar High Friday. My first choice was to do this entry, but I wasn't sure I could pull it off quickly enough after a day at work.

Talked to my sister this morning, she suggested homemade Samoas. you know those great Girl Scout Cookies with coconut and caramel. I am glad I didn't because Debbie's version looks so good! Mmmm.

So here we have the working girls version of Toffeefay candies. They were a favorite of mine in high school. I love caramel. I love hazlenuts. And I LOVE chocolate. Toffeefay (?) has an outside chocolate candy shell filled with chocolate hazlenut ganache, topped with a 'cap' of caramel.

So I started out formulating this in my head and took lots of shortcuts. I melted and tempered some chocolate I had in the cupboard. It's Peter's Newport - dark, semi-sweet - chocolate. Poured it in the molds and set it in the fridge to cool quickly, If you look carefully in the picture, you can see a shell that cracked coming out of the mold.

Then I grabbed some Nutella from the cupboard and filled a pastry bag. Piped it in the chocolate shells almost to the top, leaving just enough room for the caramel top.

The caramel top I chose was Mrs. Richardson's caramel topping. Next time I do this I promise to make real caramel, but I just didn't have the time today. Still, I scooped a half teaspoon of the caramel out and carefully loaded it onto the center of the hazlenut cream so it would spread evenly over the top. Voila! Instant Toffeefay!

It's a sweeeeeet treat. 1 or 2 is plenty. I have already heard from two family members that they turned out great. I still haven't tasted them, but I'm headed to the kitchen right after I post this, for a simple, sweet, dessert.

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Walk don't run... to get some great Vanilla

But definitely walk! After a fiver year surge in Vanilla prices, Vanilla growers and co-ops are telling us there is a glut of vanilla on the open market and they have no other choice than to lower prices. Yay! Yay! Yay!

Nielsen-Massey produces some of the finest vanillas on the market. They sent letters to their customers in January announcing a price drop between 40 and 60%. Retailers should follow suit. We should be able to purchase our favorite vanilla at a substantially lower price, somewhere between 30 - 50% decreases by late March or early April. Mark your calendars now to take advantage of this price drop!

I expect to see new bottles of that fine vanilla in everyone's cupboards soon.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Art as food, Food as art

I have two wonderful sisters. They are each unique in their own way. I have enjoyed getting to know them better through the years and see in them what I couldn't see years ago when they were just the "little girls". (Another post someday)

Life is an interesting journey. We each see attributes in others, especially siblings, that we envy or enjoy, and wish we could be like them. Each of my sisters have incredible amounts of artistic talent. Each can use paint, draw, create, and do amazing things artistically. I use paint to cover large areas of wallboard, after consulting others regarding said paint colors. I have always envied the ability to create. I can follow a pattern and sew together an article of clothing, as long as I can get someone to help with buttonholes or zippers, or do a quick quilt. A pattern is necessary always, unlike my sisters' abilities to create from scratch.

Enter Flo Braker. Flo Braker found the artist in me. I have always enjoyed baking. Regular cooking is my husband's forte. Baking a pie or a cake for holiday gatherings is simple preocedure. A recipe is followed, and is thought of as an "anyone can do this" task. It was not until 1987 or 1988 that Ms. Braker opened a new chapter in cooking for me. Reading an article from Bon Apetit, or another cooking magazine, Sweet Miniatures was featured. It was intriguing - one could create small, bite sized treats. Not just sweet things, but savories also! I literally ran to my local bookstore. There on the shelf, was the cookbooks of all cookbooks. I have worn one out, and replaced it with a second copy. Using Ms. Braker's techniques, all kinds of difficult looking, yet simple to make, treats began to replace the repetoire of cakes, pies and cookies. I could create small, bite sized, heavenly creations that were fabulous. At first glance people would oooh and aahhh. They're so cute! Upon tasting, the exclamations would be "these are heavenly, these are so tasty, I can't believe how wonderful these are!" The best part of the entire experience was what I learned. You can adapt a recipe, change it a bit to meet your needs, and still have it be scrumptous.

Flo (if I can be so informal) taught me it's okay to color outside the lines.

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Monday, March 14, 2005

Bristol Farms

I mentioned in my earlier post that I drive 1 -2 hours a couple of times a month to go to my favorite grocer. I am spoiled. I, as you know if you've read previous posts, am a veteran grocer. I worked for the GIANT store on the corner and thought I knew what I needed to know about the grocery business. That is, until I moved to Texas. Then I was spoiled. HEB's Central Market was an amazing store. It understood customers so well. It reached well beyond any regular grocer, not just compete and earn your business, but to make sure you never wanted to shop any where else. Well the methodology was not wasted on me. Saturday mornings were like going to the fair. A sampling fair. They flew in special chefs for product demos, they encouraged local Texas food manufacturers to come and sample their wares, they had a cooking school in the store. It was marvelous. Then we moved back to California.

Ugh. No more Central Market. It was depressing. I went to the GIANT a few times looking for even the slightest reflection of the wonderful offerings in produce, meat or fresh foods. It wasn't until I went on a trek one Saturday later in the year. I stumbled upon Bristol Farms in Mission Viejo and discovered a mini Central Market. The employees were friendly, informed, excited to help the customers. Bristal Farms had the best produce section I'd seen since leaving Texas, they even had Haricot Vert beans! The meat section was second to none. The fish was plentiful and fresh. The grocery aisles were filled with many of the items I had grown accustomed to using in Texas. It was utterly amazing. Bristol was where So Cal'rs could find food that was worthy of eating. I have been going back for almost ten years and have never been disappointed with a purchase.

I just wish they were closer to me. At a produce show we attended, we had the pleasure of meeting a couple of people from corporate Bristol. We chatted and, I admit, I gushed about how wonderful their stores were. Emails were exchanged and just last year I decided I had had enough of the two hour drive. A new shopping center had been built in an area close to me and there were prospects of even larger development coming soon. I began an email campaign to get Bristol to build in my area. I emailed three times and got an email back from the guy whose email I had. I had never really read the fine print K... D.... company president stated the reply email. Eeeek. I didn't want to become known as the crazy lady from far off places and accepted his reply graciously. The company had limited resources. They were planning on expanding, however, due to distribution channels, they needed to be closer to their base. Ugh! I sent him back an email that said if they ever do decide to expand out of their circle of influence please make my area first.

I keep hoping for the day that takes place.

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

M stand for Maggiano's

Yesterday we make a pilgrimage to our favorite grocer. I say pilgrimage because it is an hour and a half drive away on a Saturday. Two hours on a weekday. While driving into Orange County is a 'treat', for those of us who live in the desert, the traffic takes most of the fun out of it. So when you plan a trip it usually includes several stops. Our trip this time was to attend Bristol Farms Spring Catering Fair - primary reason - then to stop by a Container Store, an Apple store, and of course, a stop at a favorite restaurant to enjoy a late lunch.

I'll talk about the other destinations in other posts, this one is dedicated to Maggiano's. Maggiano's is an Italian restaurant we discovered when our middle daughter was gravely ill during her pregnancy last year. We would spend the day at the hospital, then duck out to find some dinner, and go back to the hospital to spend the rest of the evening waiting for traffic to subside before driving home.

Maggiano's is located at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. It is a family style dining restaurant. The food is simple yet complex. They strive to have the best service, best food, and the best wait times between courses. They encourage family dining by having a menu specifically for a family dining experience. For $24.95 per person (tables of four), two appetizers, you select two salads (or two of the same if it's your favorite), two pastas, two main courses, two vegetables, and two desserts. You can also order off the menu a variety of pastas, steak, chicken, veal or seafood if you so choose.

Yesterday, we chose to order off the menu since there was just the two of us. We began with the Bruschetta. It was marvelous. Chopped fresh tomatoes, blended with roasted garlic, basil and olive oil. The relish is served over toasted sourdough slices and topped with parmesan slices. It was the perfect temperature, the toast still mildly warm and the relish icy cold. The blend of garlic to basil to tomatoes was perfect. The parmesan slices bring out the flavors of all. In fact yesterday the combination of parmesan and tomatoes brought forth the flavor of strawberries as I scooped up the trailings on the plate left after the toast had been consumed.

We both ordered the Chicken Parmesan with a side of Spaghetti with Marinara sauce. The chicken was cooked well, not mushy, as I've experienced it in the past other places. with just enough mozzarella and sauce to accompany it. The pasta was cooked slightly al dente, my favorite way to eat it. (We had dined Friday evening with friends in town at another pasta place and the difference in the technique to cooking the pasta correctly was clear.) There is nothing worse then ordering a plate of capellini and having it come to you in such an over cooked mass as to resemble large fat spaghetti noodles. Ugh. But that's another restaurant indeed.

We have dined at Maggiano's on several occasions. A word of advice. Believe the server when he tells you at 9 p.m. that it's okay to order 1/2 portions as they are generous and filling. Or be ready to cart home tomorrows' lunch. I recommend the Angel Hair Coach Joey Z's Pomodoro, the Linguine with Chicken, Pesto and Pinenuts, the Lasagne, the homemade Gnocchi with Vodka Sauce. To finsh off the meal we shared a Profiterole. Mmmm!

The family environment of Maggiano's is what I enjoy most. The tables are close, the witers are prompt and the music is loud enough not to be obnoxious though. Everyone seems to really enjoy the atmosphere and the general sense of implied family. I highly recommend you stop in and sit with the 'family' to enjoy a meal sometime. The price range for two - $30 -$100 depending on what you choose to order and if you have dessert.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Importing Jobs, again.

Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
First we have the exportation of jobs to other countries. Then we have the problem with bringing in outside workers from other countries.

The Modesto Bee is reporting this morning another story of imported workers. These workers work at the same rate as their American born workers, but they are considered to be the premium employee this year. This employee does what he needs to do, goes about his work without demands, and has assured his employers that he will never have a workmen's comp claim. Who is he?

He's the Australian Honey Bee. He has been imported this year due to a mite problem with American hives. Almond growers use about 1.5 million hives during the pollination season and this year were about 400,000 hives short. Normally they rent hives from around the country but due to the mite problem and a rash of ants being in hives, they had to turn to alternative sources.

The bees arrive boxed, including a queen, are placed in a new hive and within a week begin to produce honey for the Queen and her offspring.
Farmers were a bit wary of these foreigners. They are coming from a warm climate this time of year, and with the rain being as heavy as it has been, farmers weren't sure they'd perform as well as native bees. The Queen settled in, began laying eggs, and the worker bees have gone in search of almond blossoms.

Amazing how agriculture finds a way to get the job done. I'll tell you how date farmers use wondra flour some time.

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Random Thoughts

I know It has been a while since I updated. I have not been sitting idly by watching the rain or even the clouds blow by. I have been working - hard. It is good. I take to my bed in the evenings, and fall asleep almost as my head hits the pillow.

In the last five days I have made enough tartlett dough for 750 tartletts and baked 212 of them. Baked a 12 inch cake and a 8 inch cake, slice them in preparation of being frosted, put them in the freezer to chill. Wrapped 300 sets of knives, forks and spoons in napkins. Sifted 10 lbs of confectioners sugar. Ran all over town looking for a transport box for 300 plates. And did all types of other various and sundry things in preparation for this wedding Saturday.

I have also worked full time at the business I manage. It has been a challenge to do both. However, I am up to the task and it won't be all that long until the mangement job comes to an end. I have managed this food production facility for six years. It has been a good learning experience and I have expanded my knowledge base quite a bit. I am glad to see it end, and look forward to new and exciting things in the future.

I will also be embarking on a new production facility in the near future. This time my own. I will journal the process of building, acquiring equipment and employing people over the next year and a half. It should be an interesting journey. One thing I know for certain, it will not be in California. OSHA has made life to difficult for business owners here. I am building in Arizona. The new land of milk and honey, sans ocean views. That will be my biggest regret in leaving California - other than family ties that are here - nothing can replace the calming effect of salt water. Arizona isn't that far away and we will welcome all who come visit.

I will post pictures of the tartlett process more than likely tonight. Thanks for reading!

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