Archive for the ‘Other Reviews’ Category

Review: McDonald’s Real Fruit Smoothies

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

This isn’t the kind of thing I would normally review, because it’s not the kind of thing I would normally buy. I’m not that into sweet drinks, and I’m not a big fan of drinking your calories. But I’m recovering from multiple root canals and a wisdom tooth extraction, which has put half of my mouth out of commission. It’s also had me eating a lot of soft things, like oatmeal, yogurt, pudding, applesauce, and, well, smoothies.

I had the Strawberry Banana flavor, and I have to admit that the taste was surprisingly good. It tasted like “real fruit,” as advertised. Mostly strawberry, but with a touch of banana. This created a good balance of tart and sweet. There were strawberry seeds in the mix, and tiny bits of fruit, so it seems as though there’s some actual fruit in there somewhere. Not something I’m going to order all of the time, but I was surprised at how much I liked it.

The nutritional information wasn’t THAT bad, either. For the small size, the smoothie is 210 calories, only half a gram of fat, and 2 grams of fiber, (or 4 Points, for those counting). That’s a little on the high side for a snack, and a disaster if you buy a burger and fries to go with it, but if you were craving something cold and creamy like a milkshake, this is a pretty reasonable substitute. Just to compare, the same size Triple Thick Strawberry Shake will cost you 420 calories, and 10 grams of fat (9 Points) and a Strawberry McCafe Shake is even worse at 570 calories, 17 grams of fat, or 13 Points. In comparison, the smoothie seems downright angelic.

So do I recommend it? If you’re there, and looking for a cold treat, this is a pretty good option. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to get to McDonald’s for one of these smoothies, but I’m not a big smoothie fan in the first place. The small costs $2.29 here which seemed pretty reasonable, but again, I’m not a regular at Jamba Juice or other smoothie places, so I don’t know how that compares. I liked the Strawberry Banana, but I’ve heard that the Wild Berry is a lot sweeter, which certainly wouldn’t be to my tastes.

The Girl and the Goat: Worth the Wait

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been following the blog at all, if I have a favorite celebrity chef, it’s got to be Stephanie Izard. She won season 4 of Bravo’s Top Chef to become the first (and so far only!) female Top Chef. She’s from Chicago. And ever since she won “$100,000 to help make her culinary dreams a reality, furnished by the Glad family of products,” I’ve been waiting impatiently for her restaurant to open.

If you remember, we got the chance to meet Stephanie at a little get together at her house, thanks to a contest in the RedEye. And you may or may not know that David and I traipsed all over the city trying to get our hands on tiny little goat buttons, hoping to win tickets to a premiere party for the new restaurant. The whole goat button thing didn’t really work out for us, but David was kind enough to make us reservations after the restaurant opened a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s my rundown:

The decor

The restaurant has high ceilings, and a kind of rustic decor. The kitchen is open, and you can see Stephanie hard at work with the whole kitchen staff. We sat in the center of the floor, so had a good view of the kitchen and the bar. The kitchen is dominated by huge wood-burning ovens–the better to wood-fire some pizzas, my dear. Overall, the restaurant has a comfortable feel. The servers were dressed in jeans and sneakers, which is fine by me, but the patrons were fairly over-dressed for the decor, on the whole. Probably because of the whole new-and-trendy aspect.

The linens were minimal, and in keeping with the rustic feel of the space. Water is served in re-purposed wine bottles, which looked cool, but didn’t exactly keep the water cold.

P.S. We had a decent view of the kitchen, but the restaurant layout has two two-seater tables actually IN the kitchen, so if you want to spend your date that close to the fire, try to reserve one of those spots! I tried not to geek out about seeing Stephanie at work in the kitchen, but we saw that at least one women went up and got her menu autographed, so I guess she’s used to the attention by now.

The drinks

I really should let David tell you about this, since he was the one to order a drink. The bar menu was loaded with great wine selections, by the bottle or the glass, something like 30 different craft beer options, and some very meticulously designed mixed drinks. David ordered something called a “Smoking Jacket,” which featured smoked bourbon or something of the sort. I didn’t taste any, but he enjoyed it. His only “objection” is that it was probably the first pink-colored drink he’s ever ordered in public. We didn’t expect it to come out pink!

The food

This, of course, is what we came for.

Everything is served as small plates, and they recommend two to three plates per person. The menu is sorted into Veggie, Fish, and Meat sections, though as our server warned us, those aren’t strict categories. He offered to make accommodations if we were vegetarians, but as a couple of carnivores, we weren’t too worried. We skipped the oyster selections (we felt brave, but not that brave) and started instead with the “veggie” version of the bread, which was a fresh-baked loaf served with chimichurri and sweet onion butter. All delicious.

From the Veggie plates section, we chose a salad made with fresh mozzarella, yellow cherry tomatoes, and yellow plums. These were served over greens with a vinaigrette and a cilantro-herb paste. Very tasty. And our server told us that that particular dish made the menu that day because Stephanie had been inspired by the cheese and tomatoes at the Green City Market that morning, which was a nice touch.

From the Fish section, I ordered seared scallops, served with braised veal and caponata over marcona almond butter. It was awesome. David’s not a seafood fan, so I didn’t even have to share, but I did get him to try a bite. Even he agreed it was kind of tasty. The scallops were seared perfectly, with an awesome crust on each side. Nestled between the scallops was a very flavorful tender veal. I would order the veal on it’s own any day. The saltiness of the veal, the creaminess of the almond butter, and the subtle sweetness of the scallop melded together perfectly. Can we go back yet? I want this dish again! (If you’re not familiar, caponata is a kind of vegetable salad. Don’t worry, I had to look it up, too. I’m not sure exactly what was in Stephanie’s, but it was very tasty, and definitely added to the dish texturally).

From the Meat section, we ordered two plates: ham frites, with swiss cheese dipping sauce and a sun-dried tomato aioli for dipping, and a skirt steak with pickles, beets, carrots, and cilantro over a salted goat’s milk caramel sauce. The ham frites were basically bacon french fries, and they were as delicious as that sounds. Yes, they were glorified cheese fries, and yes, every bite was delicious. The skirt steak was cooked perfectly (for David–I’m one to over-cook my meat, but I know he was pleased). I enjoyed the pickles so much more than I expected, and the carrots were crunchy and sweet, but my favorite part was the caramel sauce. It was an unexpected sweetness, but a great contrast to all of the other flavors.

Then came dessert. On the one hand, we were stuffed. On the other hand, we were intrigued by most of the selections on the menu. We ended up ordering something called a fudgecicle. It was aptly name, as the foundation of the dessert was frozen chocolate mousse that tasted like a fudgecicle, but with so much more depth. The fudge mousse was topped with a sweet wafer, which was in turn topped with…Olive Oil Gelato. A couple of spoonfuls of a warm sauce made of Dragon’s Milk stout and other goodies softened the frozen bits around the edges and brought all of the flavors together perfectly. And I’m not a beer fan, by any stretch.

P.S. About that gelato: David and I were amazed by the flavor. I can’t describe it to you except to say that it tastes exactly like it sounds, really, but also, so much better than it sounds. Sweet, creamy, with a clean, clear taste of olive oil. I might not have predicted beforehand that I’d like such a thing, but I can tell you now that it was delicious. I’d absolutely order the dessert again.

The conclusion

Can you tell I was pleased? We both were. I don’t think we were disappointed by anything we tried, and we saw a lot of tasty-looking dishes being served to our neighbors as well. Much of what was on the menu was outside of our comfort zone, but in the end, I think that’s what made it fun. I feel like I expanded my culinary horizons, and had an excellent meal. Our server was knowledgeable and attentive. The atmosphere was welcoming. The food, obviously, was excellent. And we were pleasantly surprised at the tab—-after a drink, a starter, two plates each, and a shared dessert, we managed to spend less than $100, including tip. That’s more than we spend on most Wednesday nights, sure, but well worth it. Considering I’ve been psyched for this meal for about 6 months now, as I followed Stephanie on Twitter and waited for the restaurant to open, I’d say our meal was definitely a success. I had high hopes, and I wasn’t disappointed.

And even though I would order any of these dishes again the next time we go back, I’m excited to know that the menu will change often, and that the next trip could be a completely different meal. That’ll be worth the wait, too.

The details

Girl and the Goat; 809 W Randolph St, Chicago IL; Cost: Varies, menu is small plates, two to three plates per person are recommended, and range in price from $6-$17/plate.

Product Review: Chobani Greek Yogurt

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

I’m going to put aside my grilling recipes to plug one of my favorite treats these days: Greek Yogurt.

If you like yogurt at all, you HAVE to give Greek yogurt a try. It’s so much richer, creamier, and more substantial than the watery old yogurt you’re used to. I’ve tried Fage, Trader Joe’s, Stoneybrook Farms, and Dannon’s greek yogurts, and they’re all good, but my favorite is Chobani’s fruit flavored varieties.

I’ve tried the Raspberry, Strawberry, Blueberry, Strawberry-Banana, and Peach flavors, and they’re all delicious. They’re fruit on the bottom, which I never used to be a fan of, but the fruit actually resembles fruit, unlike the blended yogurts I’d gotten used to. Most of them avoid artificial sweeteners, but also manage to not be loaded with sugar. Have you checked the label on your current yogurt lately? If you aren’t buying fat free or light yogurts, there’s sometimes upwards of 40 grams of sugar in that tiny little carton. There’s only 28 g of sugar in a Snickers bar, by comparison. Just something to think about.

Not to get all “nutrition nutrition nutrition” on you all, but there’s also way more protein in Greek yogurt than regular yogurt–twice as much.

Like I said at the beginning, if you like yogurt–you’ve got to try Greek yogurt. It’s popping up all over the place, and it’s worth the extra few cents.

P.S. I don’t think this needs to be said, but in case you’re wondering, no one is paying me or asking me to talk about any of the brands or products I write about here. I just write about things I love. 🙂

Restaurant Review: Wow Bao

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

I’ve had these tasty little dumplings in my mind for a long time. Last year, Dave, Leah, and I sampled some bao from Wow Bao at the taste of Chicago, and I’ve thought about them often ever since.


If you’ve never tried them before, Baozi, or simply Bao, are chinese bread dumplings. They’re light and doughy, with a vegetable or meat filling. Steaming them gives them a soft, slightly sticky texture. They come in about a million forms and flavors, and while I’m anxious to try my hand at them at home, so far, I’ve only had them from Wow Bao. A few weeks ago, Leah and I stopped by Water Tower Place to do a little shopping, and stopped and had lunch at Wow Bao.

We shared a six-pack of Bao, and had the chance to try the BBQ Pork, Chicken Teriyaki, Spicy Mongolian Beef, and Thai Curry Chicken. They were all delicious. My favorite was the Chicken Teriyaki, while Leah enjoyed the Thai Curry Chicken the most. The Mongolian Beef was tasty, but a little too spicy for me. The BBQ Pork was good, but that was the one we happened to try at the Taste the year before. Leah also had a super-tasty pomegranate ginger ale. (I stuck with Diet Cokie. Shocking, I know).  I’d like to try one of the sweet varieties next time–they have Coconut Custard and Apple Cinnamon dessert flavored Bao as well as a whole menu of noodles and potstickers and soup and salad.


They were an awesome shopping snack, but if you aren’t close enough to one of their three Chicago locations, you can apparently have frozen bao or potstickers shipped from their website right to your home to make yourself.

Restaurant Review: Rockafeller’s Virginia Beach

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I’m travelling for work. And though I don’t normally do this, I thought that my dinner tonight was worth mentioning. After a long day of meetings, my coworkers and I set out to find dinner on the beach, or as close to it as possible. We got some recommendations from the locals, and made the short drive to the shore, where we stopped first at Mahi Mah’s. It looked okay, and came highly recommended, plus it had an awesome patio overlooking the ocean–but it was a little loud for what we were looking for tonight (In large part due to the live band).

So we drove a bit further (about half a mile) to our second recommendation, Rockfeller’s. The place was super casual, but a bit more low key than Mahi Mah’s, so we decided to stay. The restaurant is nothing fancy, but it’s certainly not trying to be, either. The decor reminded me of Red Lobster, but in a good way–like Red Lobster was copying this place. The smallish restaurant overlooking the inlet full of fishing boats is decked out in nautical gear. As it should be.

The menu wasn’t expansive, especially if you wanted to avoid seafood. Luckily, we were there to eat seafood. 😉 For an appetizer, we split a pound of steamed shrimp. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, spiced with old bay seasoning, and very tasty. Though they did have to be peeled, and I’m not a huge fan of peeling my own food, we were all happy with the appetizer. The fresh french bread was passable, but the cornbread was awesome: warm and sweet and crumbly.

For my entree, I ordered a platter with fried shrimp, scallops, fish, and crab cakes. The sides were simple, but tasty: steamed red potatoes and green beans. But the seafood was the star. The scallops were the best I’ve had in recent memory. Sweet, tender but meaty, and the size of a half-dollar. The crab cake was excellent. The fish and the shrimp were good, though not fantastic. All in all, I was impressed with my dinner.


And for dessert, we all shared a sampler platter, which was a nice option for a group. It came with a small piece of Key Lime Pie, a slice of coconut cake, a thick, rich chocolate mousse, and a small Jamaican rum cake. Out of the bunch, the rum cake was my favorite. For one, I don’t have rum cake that often, and this was very, very tasty. The cake was rich and moist with a delicious rum glaze. I’d forgotten how much I liked real rum cake. The key lime pie was alright, though I feel that mine is better, by far. The crust was fine, but the filling was too sweet, not tart, and it was just barely chilled. I’m going to be a jerk and say that my coconut cake was better, too. This was moist, and it was pretty good, but the coconut cake that I make uses real coconut, not the shredded, sweetened kind–and for the first time, I really noticed the difference in flavor. The real coconut is a much more subtle taste–the processed, sweetened kind is cloyingly sweet. It almost tastes too much like coconut. The chocolate mousse was good, but it was my fourth taste on the plate, and so, so rich for a last bite. It made me wish for a glass of milk!

All in all, we really enjoyed our dinner. The food was all good–some of it great–and our server was awesome. If I was a local, I think Rockafeller’s would be a place to frequent.

Restaurant Review: Homemade Pizza Company

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

We picked up a pizza from Homemade Pizza Company again tonight. There’s one close to our place in Chicago (they have a few storefronts scattered throughout the city), and a couple of weeks ago, after a long Sunday afternoon spent cleaning this place, we decided that we deserved pizza for dinner and tried it out.

And tonight, we went back again.

Homemade Pizza does “Take and Bake” pizzas, a concept that I was never quite sold on before. Basically they roll out a pizza crust, load it with your choice of toppings, and then you take it home and bake it in your own oven. I always wondered why, really, you’d want to bother baking your own pizza. And I thought that your home oven never quite managed to make pizza as well as a big restaurant pizza oven. Homemade Pizza has me convinced though.

I love their ingredients. They use all-natural, high-quality stuff to make their pizzas, and offer a huge variety of toppings while they’re at it. We ordered a pizza with Asiago cheese in addition to the mozzarella that’s traditional, and topped it with sausage and canadian bacon. It was delicious. The Asiago cheese is a little saltier and a little more tangy than the bland mozzarella most pizza places toss on their pizzas. The sausage had a good flavor, and they use whole slices of canadian bacon, which I had never seen before, but approve of completely. The crust wasn’t too thick or too thin and baked up very nicely.

They boast the #1 cheese pizza in town with their Four Cheese special and I’m certainly excited to try it sometime: Asiago, Fontinella, Wisconsin Mozzarella, and Ricotta. Yum!

The menu also includes a several tasty looking salads and even take-and-bake cookie dough, to bake up a hot, fresh cookie at home.

Check out the menu yourself. Most of their combinations sound delicious, actually, even when they contain ingredients that I’m not that crazy about.

Their prices seemed pretty reasonable as well. A large pizza will run you about $18, so it’s more expensive than frozen pizza, but in line with any decent pizza restaurant that will deliver to you. And they don’t charge for delivery (obviously, since you pick it up yourself!). 😉 They seem to make coupons available fairly often, and have a club card program that allows you to earn a free pizza after so many purchases.

Bottom Line: I expect we’ll take advantage of this place being so close fairly often. Since it’s close by, it’s actually faster than getting a deep dish pizza delivered, and will be a nice weeknight option, for those nights when you just don’t want to cook a meal from scratch.

The Spice House

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

It was a lazy Saturday morning. Well, it was probably (technically) a Saturday afternoon, but I hadn’t been awake for long. I didn’t have any plans for baking or an elaborate dinner, like I often do on the weekends. I didn’t really have any plans at all, and I was getting bored. Already. I’d bounced from my laptop to my kindle to the TV to back to bed to my kindle, all in approximately half an hour. I couldn’t even count on the Cubs to entertain me (they were scheduled for a night game).

Then, David perked* things up. He told me to get dressed, that we were going out. And wouldn’t tell me where.

“Should I eat something?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said, refusing to elaborate.

So we got ready, and we walked to the El. We changed trains, ended up on the Brown line, which I almost never take. As we walked down the street, I slowly recognized the neighborhood, from the charity events we’ve attended at Second City. We turned and walked through the wrought-iron gates labeling the neighborhood Old Town.

As we walked, I asked David for hints, pretended to believe that we were going to get a puppy (so not happening right now!) and just badgered him in general. He wouldn’t crack. Finally, we arrived at our destination: The Spice House.

The Spice House is, well, what it sounds like mostly. It’s a store that sells spices and spice blends of all kinds. You might be thinking, “But my grocery store has spices, why do I care?” The cool thing about The Spice House is you can buy what you want in just about any quantity, AND the store is set up like a Bath and Body Works, with samples and testers everywhere.

When we walked in, there was a long set of shelves to the right of the door that showcased individual spice blends for each historical neighborhood in Chicago. Like the “Greektown ‘Billygoat’ Seasoning,” a blend of salt, garlic, Tellicherry black pepper, onion powder, Greek fancy oregano and powdered lemon peel. Or the “Bridgeport Seasoning,” a blend of red peppers, romano cheese, salt, toasted onion, thyme, rosemary, cayenne, basil, white onion, and Tellicherry pepper. I really enjoyed tasting each of the spice blends they had available.

We ended up buying five things:

1. “Little Italy Herbs,” an updated version of classic Italian seasoning. I picked this one because we were out of dried Italian seasoning (I use it quite a bit), and even though David thought I should get something a little more out of the ordinary, I am very happy with it. Much tastier than the basic grocery store Italian seasoning we were using. I think it’s the lemon peel.


2. Adobo Seasoning. This is a Mexican spice blend made from salt, onion powder, garlic powder, Tellicherry black pepper, ground cumin, and powdered Mexican oregano. It’s along the lines of a taco seasoning, but without the chemicals and added sodium. Also, without the spice. This adds lots of flavor, but no heat, so you can control the flavor and the spiciness separately. I used it to make Mexican Risotto last night.


3. Toasted White Sesame Seeds. I use sesame seeds in a lot of different recipes. I sprinkle them on rolls, over Chicken Baseballs or Pot Pies. I also include them in any kind of asian or stir fry recipe, even if it’s only my portion. I really like sesame seeds. When I’m making Baked Brown Rice to go along with Pepper Steak or Stir Fry, I’ll add sesame seeds to the dry rice before I add the water. It lets the seeds add flavor to the rice. I was almost out of Sesame Seeds, which is why I chose this one, but they are very tasty. Perfectly toasted, and much more reasonably priced than the last sesame seeds I purchased.


4. Herbs de Provence. This is a classic blend of herbs used in French cooking. I’ve been meaning to buy one of these blends–it pops up often enough in the ingredients list of The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook, which I love. I haven’t used this yet, but I’m looking forward to trying it soon. This blend is made from rosemary, French thyme, tarragon, basil, savory, cracked fennel, lavender and marjoram.


5. Italian Salad Seasoning. This spice blend is the basis for Italian dressing. Mixed with oil and vinegar, it makes a tasty dressing. So far, I’ve used it to make pasta salad (one very reminiscent of my favorite Suddenly Salad brand), but I’m really looking forward to mixing up a creamy Italian dressing, which is hard, if not impossible to find outside of certain restaurants. I also think it will make a good dip for veggies.


Bonus item: Chinese Five Spice Powder. David picked this up for me at The Spice House shop up in Evanston a few weeks back. I add it to Pepper Steak and Stir Fry dishes pretty regularly now.


Verdict: I love The Spice House. I’m excited to go back and bring home a few more things. Like the hickory smoked salt, the “true” cinnamons, that Bridgeport potato seasoning, Cocoa nibs, buttermilk dressing blend, crystallized ginger, and…well, whatever strikes my fancy at the time. I had a hard time choosing this time, though I am happy with my choice. I loved the selection at The Spice House, I loved being able to taste and sample my way through the spice racks, and I thought the prices were very reasonable, especially considering the quality is much better than the more expensive spice blends that are sold at the grocery store.  I also like the option to buy in zip top bags or glass jars–if you don’t need a jar, the price is lower.

*It took all my willpower not to write “David spiced things up.” Pun obviously intended.

Cooking Class Review: Pasta Workshop

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

I finally got around to taking that Pasta class at The Chopping Block. If you remember, part of my Christmas gift from David was my choice of cooking classes from The Chopping Block, a culinary school for home cooks here in Chicago.

I was anxious to take this pasta class in particular because I also received the pasta rolling and cutting attachments for my KitchenAid mixer for Christmas from my parents.

I really enjoyed the class. The Chopping Block’s kitchen is spacious and well-stocked, and these hands on classes are really fun. You start with the recipes for the day, and given instructions to prepare each ingredient as you go. All of the ingredients for each dish are brought to you station and everything is cleared for you, which adds to the fun (who wants to clean up?). The equipment is plentiful, high-end, and in good shape.

For this Pasta Workshop (which seems to be revamped every so often to include seasonal ingredients) we learned to make regular egg pasta dough and spinach pasta dough to start. Then we rolled out and cut our own pasta and used them to make three different dishes: Spinach Fettuccine with Prosciutto & Peas; Artichoke, Sun-Dried Tomato, & Pesto Lasagna; and Ricotta Stuffed Tortelloni with Mushrooms, Asparagus & Parmesan Cheese.

The Fettuccine dish came together really quickly. We basically crisped up the proscuitto, added cream, and reduced it for about 10 minutes to thicken the sauce. At the end, we tossed in a cup of fresh peas, sliced roasted red peppers, and some parmesan cheese, along with the cooked spinach fettuccine. Yum.

The Lasagna was a little dry, actually, but that would be easy enough to correct next time. For one, our teammates messed up the layers a little bit, and the top layer didn’t have any sauce on top of the final layer of pasta. For two, the pesto they had us make was extra thick, and a thinner sauce would have helped. For three, there wasn’t enough ricotta or mozzarella for my tastes. That being said, I have some good ideas for making this dish to my liking, and I’ve never liked a vegetarian lasagna so much.

The tortelloni wasn’t perfect either, but again, our teammates forgot to salt the water for the pasta, so that was a large part of it. I also think they may have undercooked the pasta just a little bit so that the filling didn’t have time to meld. Finally, I am not a fan of asparagus. Losing the asparagus would improve the dish a lot for me.

We finished up everything with about 1/2 an hour to spare, and sat down to eat a delicious lunch. The Chopping Block provides wine pairing options as well, and though I didn’t have a glass yesterday, I appreciate the option.

Finally, I love that The Chopping Block offers discounts in the store following every class. They give students 10% off on anything in the store after a class, or 15% on anything you used during your class. There are so many tempting things in that store for me, it’s kind of a dangerous offer, but I managed to control myself and just bought a cookbook.

I really enjoyed the class, and I can’t wait to take my next one.

One last note: My dad came with me this time, and I think he enjoyed the class, but I can say for sure that I enjoyed it more than I would have being there alone. Most people seemed to have a friend along, and there was a lot of group work going on, much moreso than with the knife skills class. If anyone out there is interested in going to one of these classes, let me know. I’d love to have a buddy go with me!

Cooking Class Review: Knife Skills

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

As you might remember, David’s Christmas gift to me included cooking classes from The Chopping Block, in downtown Chicago. He planned for me to take the pasta making class (to get me all set to use my new pasta making attachments for the Kitchenaid), and another class of my own choosing, plus the Knife Skills class I took today. As a part of his gift, I got to choose my own fancy chef’s knife after the class.

All of this turned out to be a wonderful gift, because I LOVED the class.

Unfortunately, I was a little bit late; apparently David and I have trouble reading a schedule. But nevermind that.

I really enjoyed the entire class. There was an informative session at the beginning, with information about how the best knives are made, plus more info about buyng, caring for, and storing such knives. Then we started the actual chopping. The class was set up with stations for each person, with several different brands and types of knives to use. The teacher would demonstrate a technique, and then we’d try it at our station, while the instructors walked around correcting our technique and helping out.

During the 2 hour class, I diced and julienned an onion, julienned and brunoised a carrot, diced celery, chopped fresh herbs, finely diced a jalapeno, diced a green pepper, sliced a zucchini, and minced some fresh herbs.

The weird part is that I technically knew how to do most of those things (in my head), but I was able to follow along in a way that I never really managed to on TV or from a book. I really enjoyed the entire class.

And then I got to choose a knife!


I tried out several different types throughout the class: Henckles, Global, Shun…I ended up choosing a Chroma Type 301. Another cool thing about the class: The Chopping Block gives students a 10% discount on anything in the store the day of a class, and 15% on any cutlery, since that’s what the class was about. So we got a good deal on the knife as well.

I already used it at home to chop all the veggies for coq au vin and mashed potatoes for tonight’s dinner. And I love it!

Review: Food Network Magazine

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

As you may have noticed, we watch a lot of Food Network around here. I like to have it on in the background. Even when they’re making something I’d never want to eat, I can usually learn some helpful tecnique or learn about some unknown ingredient…I just like to watch. So when Food Network announced that they were coming out with a magazine, I was ready to subscribe. In fact, I did subscribe, sight unseen.

Weeks later, I’ve had the chance to read two issues of the magazine, and I am impressed.

The layout of the magazine is very clever. Recipes divided into weeknight cooking and more advanced weekend cooking. In addition to the standard table of contents, there’s a recipe table of contents and a chef table of contents, so you can easily find tips and recipes from your favorite Food Network personalities.

In addition to a well planned layout, the magazine is full of excellent content. There are details about Food Network chefs, interviews with various people involved in making Food Network shows happen, behind the scenes stories about Iron Chef America, or Bobby Flay’s home kitchen. They’ve included interesting features on wine selection, kitchen gadgets, travel, and gift giving guides. And of course, the recipes.

Every time I turned a page, I found something else I wanted to make, like homemade papparadelle, garlic spaghetti, caramel delite sundaes (just like the girl scout cookies), and bacon (!) popcorn. That last one sounds just crazy enough to work. I’ll have to let you know when I try them out.

The conclusion: Two issues in, I think my subscription to Food Network Magazine was $15 well spent.