Saturday, December 20, 2014

Perky Jerky!

Once upon a time there was a brand of beef jerky that wanted to do things a little differently. As the 21st century marches on so do the marvels of modern research and the ever expanding knowledge we're obtaining about the gourmet that we put into our bodies. No longer should we have to be at the mercy of large companies that want to tell us what we should be eating because they can afford large marketing budgets to deliver their messages. No longer should we have to settle for healthy alternatives that taste like coagulated horse spit because we can't make vegan cheeseburgers taste like the real thing. No longer should we be trying to replicate the great tastes of unhealthy food when the right choice of action is to instead INNOVATE AND CREATE SOMETHING NEW.

That, my friends, is the badass sensation known only as...Perky Jerky.

I'm such a newb that I cracked into one of the bags BEFORE taking a picture. Yeah, I'm not perfect but I'm pretty damn close

So what we got here as far as I'm concerned is the new leader in beef jerky. Unless you're getting something that's locally harvested and sold in the bed of Farmer John's truck then you're probably not gonna find many other jerkies out there that maintain as high a quality as this one. Let's check out the plusses here:

All Natural: Well, as my mom says, heroin is all natural so you can't always take "all natural" to mean something you can pig out on. But when you look at the list of ingredients you can actually PRONOUNCE THE WORDS with the first ingredient ingeniously being REAL SLICES OF BEEF.

Gluten Free: I actually have no idea what the hell this means but for people who can't have gluten this is good news, right?

No Nitrates: Nitrates are crap. You find a lot of them in deli meats and of course other brands of jerky stock you up on the stuff. Check Jack Link's site and you'll see sodium nitrates in the ingredients.

No MSG: Yeah, unless they're talking about Madison Square Garden I have no idea what this means. BUT ALRIGHT! NO MSG!

No Preservatives: I think nitrates are actually used in the preservation process so while redundant this reinforces the idea that there aren't any nitrate crappers in here.

Further, these are MADE IN THE USA and just in case you haven't wet the front of your pants from excitement, they also donate a portion of their profits to research and care for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Down Syndrome. What's not to like? And at $5 it's actually cheaper than whatever gargantuan amount Jack Link's is trying to sell their stuff for these days. 

The jerky itself is really good. Truthfully I couldn't tell much difference between the three flavors in the picture but you definitely get the contrast of sweetness and heat with a hint of almost a fruity savoriness to it. 

I had actually gotten out of the jerky thing when Jack Link's inflated their jerky prices from $5 to $7.50 in the span of two years. Yeah, beef is expensive but what's the point of spending my lunch money on a snack? Further, Jack Link's rode the shoulders of Sasquatch into the Greg's Gourmet Hall of Shame a couple years ago with the pathetic marketing ploy of a "Bonus Bag: 10% More FREE" promotion. Their goal, of course, was to make you THINK you're getting more product but when you're a smartass food blogger like me you learn to see through those things. Sure enough, the weight and portion sizes were exactly the same as their normal bag and when I contacted them for an explanation they admitted that it's just a bigger bag, nothing more. Yes, they were trying to sell a bigger bag to trick you into thinking you're getting more product. Companies do this all the time but this was so abysmally bad that it earned a front-row ticket to my equivalent of the Razzies. 

Anywho, Perky Jerky: Greg's Gourmet approved. Give it a try. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Greatest Mashed Potatoes in the Universe

Let me break it down for you: my mashed potatoes are the best in the world and quite possibly the universe. That's not arrogance that's just honesty. The truth is that mashed potatoes in general are made with flaws because to get the perfect creamy texture you have to actually put some work into them that a lot of restaurants don't want to spend time on. As a result you get a lump of white gunk on your plate with chunks of whole potato in them, no seasoning, and generally looking like a microwaved pile of regurgitated French fries.

My friends, I'm gonna let you in on the greatest cooking tip that you could ever want. I'm gonna show you what I did with my recent Thanksgiving potatoes that turned out ***SPOILER ALERT*** perfectly. Dudes, if you can master the art of mashed potatoes then you will be idolized more than Gordon Ramsay's short temper or Joe Bastianich's sleek bald head. True, potatoes are a side dish but they go with EVERYTHING. That's what makes them so damn important and why YOU need to master the art of mashing potatoes. So, let us begin:

***NOTE***I'm experimenting with picture sizes, so I've slightly adjusted the page's dimensions to cater to larger pictures. If something seems off on your screen then please let me know.

Boiling the potatoes usually makes people anxious because they don't know if you'll be able to pull off such a large amount of awesome just an hour before dinner

So I boiled about 15-20 potatoes for dinner and there was some anxiety as to how the hell I'd be able to pull off boiling, peeling, and mashing such a huge amount of potatoes just an hour before dinner. But alas, a kitchen crusader such as myself shows no fear in the midst of culinary challenges. These potatoes are like cadets at boot camp; I'm gonna mash 'em, smash 'em, and grind 'em down into the best damn potatoes they can be. Boiling can take a while so be sure to fill your pot with enough water so it's covering every potato and COVER IT so the heat doesn't go anywhere. Takes 20-30 minutes.

My troops, my soldiers, MY MINIONS!!!

As the waters boil and you eclipse 20 minutes of the submerged potatoes, start periodically poking them with a fork. If your fork slides through like a knife through butter then they're ready. 

I'm so badass that I peel hot potatoes by hand

Peeling potatoes with a girly peeler takes forever, so I suggest you try to be as manly as I am and peel the potatoes with your hands. Yes, it's gonna burn as hot potatoes tend to demonstrate, but run them under cool water and do it quickly. You'll save yourself tons of time at the expense of a couple second degree hand burns. And don't dump the skins down your sink cause that'll just clog stuff up.

Exhibit 1: commence mashing

Exhibit 1: The beginning of the mashing process. I recommend regularly working out during the year so your arms are totally ripped when it comes time to mash these bad boys, otherwise you'll look like a weakling if you begin to struggle. Remember: it's better to over-mash than it is to under-mash. 

Exhibit 2: taking on a shape

Exhibit 2: As you mash your potatoes down to a white fluff, begin adding your butter and milk. I actually used a butter substitute that wasn't as high in fat but you can use whatever. I used about 1.5-2 cups of 2% milk that was microwaved for about 40 seconds to give it a lukewarm temperature. Keep in mind that butter will give the potatoes texture while the milk will take it away so it's important to mix in a little bit of both at the same time. 

Exhibit 3: the five seasons

Exhibit 3: As you mix in your milk and butter you'll notice your potatoes beginning to take on more of a face. Now you can start mixing in your seasonings to give your potatoes the ultimate flavor experience. 

Exhibit 4, the near end product

Exhibit 4: Almost complete. At this point I have mixed in salt and pepper (don't be shy about using pepper; it gets absorbed and gives the potatoes a kick), as well as smoked paprika and the real stars of the dish: onion powder and garlic powder. These two worked in tandem to give these potatoes a massive amount of flavor that would have made Flava Flav frickin' jealous.

Exhibit 5: The Greatest Mashed Potatoes in the Universe

Exhibit 5: And here we are, plated in a beautiful bowl, topped with smoked paprika for a little color, and with plenty left in the pot for leftovers. And believe me: they were needed. I was wise to make so many. 

To recap, here are some rules that we learned:
1) Make sure the water covers all of the potatoes and don't pull them until you can easily slide your fork through the skin
2) Peel them by hand. Don't be a baby
3) Add a little butter and milk bit by bit. Adding too much of one could ruin your texture
4) You want your potatoes to have ZEST so use fun seasonings
5) For the love of Donald Trump's toupee: TASTE, TASTE, TASTE!

Feel free to experiment but the reality is you're not gonna find any potatoes better than mine. It's a craft and an art that few have been able to master since the beginning of time. You can't just boil and mash potatoes; you've gotta go through a process and nurture them into the final excellent product that you know they can be. I hope this was a fun read and you didn't stop too many times other than to perhaps take some notes.

Happy holidays! 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving - you know I did! :)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Greek Corner Cafe

Happy Halloween everyone!

Instead of an arsenal of candy, here's a picture of a large plate of food featuring a Louisville Slugger-sized slab of steak:

Just like Inception, this steak is on a layer of rice which is on a layer of pita bread and salad

You know how people throw pies at people? I think they should throw plates of food like this instead. Minus the skewers of course. Very tasty combo dish from the Greek Corner Cafe which has restored my faith in Greek food. Up until now my experience of Greek gourmet has largely been based on the mediocre chain Daphne's and the even more mediocre Athena in Pacific Beach which, for some reason, everyone seems to love. I mean, the staff there doesn't even know how to pronounce gyro. The menu at the GCC actually takes the time to give you the pronunciation. 

Anyway, it's a charming little spot. Good to sit outside with your dog. Nice menu, prompt service. I like. 

Happy Halloween! 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies

A new seasonal delight is making the rounds that I finally got to try yesterday. Pepperidge Farm's Pumpkin Cheesecake cookies have been making waves, but when I opened the bag I got a different kind of tidal wave of destruction:

Smashing Pumpkins

The cookies themselves are just alright but the presentation could use some work. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Panera Dread

Do people really like Panera Bread? Like, really? Seriously? I had it for the first time a few weeks ago. My sister brought it in, so this experience is based solely on the food. She got me a turkey & bacon sandwich. Pretty simple, right? Well, here's a graphic that will demonstrate the magic of photography and prose the question as to who the hell actually eats sandwiches like these?

Believe it or not, these are supposed to be the same sandwiches

Those pieces of romaine lettuce are the same size as the frickin' pickle that came in the bag. I mean...REALLY??? And notice that there's still MORE lettuce on the sandwich even WITHOUT the garnish of the two nuclear torpedoes. I'm gonna go ahead and take a wild guess that their model sandwich wasn't made with romaine. 

I looked on Instagram and it seems kinda back-and-forth as to whether Panera Bread regularly uses romaine on their sandwiches. Some had it, some didn't. But to me this is absolutely disgusting. I'd rather eat fried mushrooms than this romaine crap. I sent the graphic to Panera on Facebook and Twitter and much to my surprise they actually did respond that the sandwich wasn't made properly. Maybe only one piece of a Paul Bunyan romaine head is supposed to make it onto each sandwich. We'll see what they say. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Not Domestic Violence, It's DiGiorno!

Congratulations to DiGiorno for becoming the newest case study that will be discussed about in marketing classes for years to come. And congratulations for generally just being complete jerks in the middle of a serious discussion about domestic violence. Really, that's a level of prickery that not even the most seasoned trolls could dream of attaining.

The big news in the sports world was the "surfacing" of the video of Ray Rice beating the crap out of his then fiance, which was finally enough inspiration for the Baltimore Ravens to cut him and for the NFL to suspend him indefinitely. I find it highly unlikely that neither the NFL nor the Ravens had previously seen this video, so I'm sure more will come out about the kind of scumbags who are calling the shots. But this is a food blog, not a football blog.

In the wake of the Ray Rice video, two phrases were trending on Twitter: #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft, Both served as an outlet for discussion of victims of domestic violence. Women worldwide were participating, were supporting each other, were forming as one...and then the little 12 year old dillweed who manages DiGiorno's Twitter chimed in with this: #WhyIStayed You had pizza.

Needless to say, there was a massive outrage aimed right at DiGiorno and the Tweet was immediately deleted. That was two days ago. Their stream has been very quiet since then with the exception of two BS apologies that if you do a little research on you could probably find out the joker who was managing this page knew exactly what he was doing:

Let me break it down for you here: a lot of corporations do not yet understand the critical importance of social media and a solid digital marketing strategy and for a second I actually believed them about not reading the hashtag beforehand. But then I looked at their stream from the previous several days and found that they are EXTREMELY active on Twitter and their page looks like it's run by some idiot 12 year old. A technologically savvy 12 year old, but an idiot nevertheless. This guy knew EXACTLY what he was doing when he posted that Tweet. It's possible the above apology was written by someone else in the company, but the "You had pizza" Tweet was posted because the hashtags were trending. A day later they posted this next apology:
This one seems more accepting of their mistake and acknowledging that they did something really, really stupid but it doesn't forgive that a major brand like this just made themselves look like a giant ass in the crack. These are the only two Tweets they've had in the last 48 hours since the blowup. I'm guessing the social media manager, who is likely Mr. DiGiorno's son, got his ass fired and rightfully so. What's shocking is the majority of the company's tweets are WRITTEN IN CAPS LIKE THIS HAHAHAHAHA AND JUST LOOK REALLY IMMATURE HAHAHAHA. I mean, I'm all for a certain tone and humor with social media but keep it professional. My guess is the company has no clue what digital marketing is all about and were doing Mr. DiGiorno a favor.

If I were Mr. DiGiorno, here's what I would do for damage control: make several sizable donations to groups for victims of domestic violence, donate a surplus of your products to women and children's shelters including Baltimore since that's where Ray Rice played, and then hire me as your social media manager and I'll make sure you get everything back on track. This company needs to learn2internet. 

Don't fight or lie to the Internets, it just doesn't work. My guess is the company will come out with some kind of damage control in the next day or so and then you're gonna see a whole new voice on their Twitter.