Saturday, February 28, 2015

Food Photography Part V

Ok, I realize this is takeout and I realize this is fast food but...damn:


The Choco Loco from L&L Hawaiian BBQ. Two beef patties topped with two eggs on top of rice, macaroni salad, and drenched in gravy. Yeah, it's not on a plate and it's takeout but...damn.

It tasted okay. Canned gravy, beef was just eh. I will say that L&L's macaroni salad is really good, though...but...damn.

Zoiks!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Breakfast Burgers

Many restaurants are starting to jump on the bandwagon of resolving an issue that strains the will of indecisive foodies such as myself: do I want breakfast or do I want lunch? When going to restaurants that specialize in breakfast alongside an equally tasty lunch menu, it's a riveting challenge to try and confidently pick a side. It's like voting in an election between two bozos; you know they're both horrible people and are gonna screw you, but which one is gonna screw you less? This is where the concept of Breakfast Burgers comes into play, as was the case at the Broken Yolk Cafe:

The burger is a beauty but if you can count the number of fries on your plate, then you've got a problem

So Denny's actually has an item called the Bacon Slamburger, which is a beef patty topped with hash browns, bacon, an egg, and a cheese sauce. The Good Morning Burger is a bit different in the sense that it literally combines two meals by topping the burger with two eggs and bacon and bottoming it out with lettuce and tomato. The result is a huge but messy burger that's pretty tasty for the most part.

The problem I have here is with a burger this difficult to pick up, you're basically stuck with resorting to a knife and fork. Unfortunately, last I checked, it's kinda sorta difficult to cut a piece of lettuce with said utensils. That's where the design of this burger fails a bit because it's just not easy to eat. While I love the concept of Breakfast Burgers, you really don't need the extra condiments. It just kinda makes things awkward, you know? One of the eggs was also overcooked; major pet peeve.

I'd probably try it again since it combines two of my favorite vices; big burgers and big breakfasts. However, just be aware that while it's a beautiful piece of gourmet architecture, it does have its flaws. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Return to Blogging

Little bit of a soapbox ramble tonight. I more or less retired as a full-time blogger for nearly two years before deciding to revive Greg's Gourmet and return to the blogosphere. There were two reasons why I stopped: 1) It was getting old posting the same junk food over and over. You can only post a picture of a hamburger so many times. 2) Gordon Ramsay. While the schmuck took my viewership to new heights, writing up nightly recaps for Hell's Kitchen and MasterChef took its toll on me. Pair that with the fact that Hell's Kitchen has been sinking in quality faster than Bob Filner's political career over the past few seasons, so that made it extra arduous to try and come up with content for. That was 2013.

The evolution of the archive

In 2014 I only updated the site once or twice a month just to show that I'm still maintaining it. After putting so much work and effort into Greg's Gourmet over the years, I didn't want it to turn into a digital graveyard. But as you can see, 2013 & 2014 combined doesn't even come close to the kind of content I was producing in 2011 & 2012. So...what changed my mind?

Google+

Yes. Google motherfarking Plus

I was doing a bi-yearly check of my page and was looking at some profiles of my friends when I noticed a new feature: profile views. Well how about that, Joan has 10,000 page views. That's great. Hey, Jett has 80,000 views. Not sure how he managed that but okay. I wonder how many I have?

???

Half a million. Where in the world did that come from? This is far and away more than anyone else in my circles. In fact you can add most of their views together and it wouldn't even equal this. I did some research and the number is "legit" in the sense that there is a formula, though naturally it's inflated because Google has to save some face for its failed social network. Basically whenever a piece of content that you've created is seen in someone's stream then that counts as a page view. They don't necessarily have to click on anything but just as long as it shows up. 

For example, if someone is doing a search for cheeseburgers and one of my pictures shows up in the results then that counts as a page view. Since the formula combines all content created from all of Google's services, there's opportunity here for big numbers. Since Greg's Gourmet is produced via Blogger then it made sense that my pictures have been showing up in a lot of view streams. Regardless of what kind of traffic resulted in that I still think it's pretty cool. It means at some point I was kinda sorta doing something right. That's when I felt my blogging passion return. Don't get me wrong: Google+ still sucks. It's been a failure of Dane Cook proportions and I even wrote a rant on it a couple years ago. But it has served its purpose. 

So here we are in Greg's Gourmet's fifth year of eating and I'm happy to be back. I don't think I'm gonna go as nuts as the early days but I still want to make it as fun as possible. And with a return means a little change of branding, as I'm phasing out the cartoon version of me and sticking strictly to the fire letters. Check out the evolution of the logo:


Starting in the upper left is a sketch drawing that Rich Samuels made of me years ago. This was the first "official" logo as I was developing the site. Then the burger came along followed by the cartoon version of me holding said burger. This is the logo that most people affiliate Greg's Gourmet with. And then lastly we've got the fire letters which is what I'm going forward with. 

So I'm hoping to stay consistent and maybe blog regularly on certain days but whatever I do I'll try to keep it fun.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Steak Vlog

A couple years ago I toyed with the idea of starting a Greg's Gourmet Vlog. See, with Greg's Gourmet I take pictures of the food I eat and post them for the world to see. With a vlog I could take VIDEO of me EATING the food and post it for the world to see! People would be more engaged, it would be in real-time, and of course the audience could dote on my boyish good looks.

Well, the vlog lasted for all of one video in the summer of 2012 before I realized it would be too much work to regularly maintain in addition to all of the food blogging and Chef Ramsay nightly reviews I was doing at the time, so I quickly abandoned the idea. But for your enjoyment, here it is in all of its gourmet glory: The pilot episode of the Greg's Gourmet Vlog featuring a New York Steak from the Virginia Creek Settlement in Bridgeport, California:


And for the stills:

Photo quality pre-dates Greg's Gourmet in HD

Now, I've been to this restaurant twice; once in 2011 and again in 2012. I don't remember if it was this trip or the year prior but one of the owners noticed I was taking pictures of the food and talking about putting them online. With a timid and uneasy tone, she tried to probe me with a couple vague questions to figure out who this internet food critic is. I would imagine bad press would be devastating for a restaurant in a town of 500, but I assured her that I was a fan of the Settlement. I don't quite understand why they serve two pounds of disgusting asparagus with their steaks but, you know, whatever.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Local Author Gourmet

So this past weekend I ventured up to Los Angeles, or "Santa Clarita" as they like to say, for an event at the Newhall Public Library celebrating local authors. My uncle, Rich Samuels, took part in the event to promote his new book, Own the Scrawny, a sequel to his 2012 hit, My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain. The event lasted 5 hours and served as a great tool for networking and exposure. See video below food pics.

Now then, the thing about going to LA is that whenever I'm there I'm gonna eat and I'm gonna eat a lot. My various trips to the City of Angels over the years has left me with stomach aches, internal cramps, gargling gas, food poisoning, GERD, explosive diarrhea, and even a trip to the urgent care following a Thanksgiving leftover incident. Naturally I haven't learned anything from past experiences so this weekend I embarked on a good amount of fine Santa Clarita Valley dining that, amazingly, didn't leave me with any of the above. Let's get right into it:

Restaurants are now carrying more combo dishes to help aid indecisive pricks such as myself

Here we have a Teriayki chicken and beef combo plate from Kabuki. This is the only thing I order when I go to Kabuki because I'm too scared to eat sushi and, really, there's nothing else that can beat it. Why order just Teriyaki chicken when I can have a slab of beef along with it? It's the best of both worlds.

I didn't originally notice but this does kinda look like regurgitation on a plate

Breakfast brought us to Dink's Deli & Bagel Bakery which I'm kinda surprised to learn has a paltry 2.5/5 rating on Yelp at ALL THREE of its locations in Santa Clarita. It had been a while since I last had breakfast here but the food didn't taste as good as it once did. It was just...bland. Filling and unhealthy, yes, but it didn't really do much for me, kinda like the new Hobbit movie; you think in philosophy it's gonna be great but in reality it's just Peter Jackson giving you the middle finger for two and a half hours. This particular Dink's location doesn't carry Yoohoo anymore either. Sad face.

I don't know where people get the idea that I have a sugar problem

Most people will call me crazy for dropping bills at the Sweet Factory, but the truth is that their candy is fresher than packaged, store-bought stuff and they have a MUCH wider variety. See those blue sugary cola bottles? YOU CAN'T FIND THOSE ANYWHERE!!!

Video of the weekend's author event starring Rich Samuels and shot by me!


Monday, January 5, 2015

Why Are There Bugs In My Pistachios?

Hello and Happy New Year! This is actually a very exciting post for me, not because I get to gross you out with the maggot-looking things I found in my pistachios, but because this post marks the fifth consecutive year of Greg's Gourmet! Launched in January of 2011, "The Gourmet" as it was classified, became my playground not just for Internet experimentation but for documenting all of my eating exploits for the world to see. 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and now 2015. That's kinda cool to think about. But if you're reading this post then you probably don't care about that because most likely you've just found something in your pistachio that looks eerily similar to this:

I think I once witnessed Bear Grylls down something that looked similar to this in an episode of Man vs. Wild

Yeah...so what the hell is this? I was enjoying a bag of Wonderful Pistachios when I cracked open this bad boy and found these guys nested inside. Initially I just thought the nut had splintered but upon further review I noticed that a family of maggot look-alikes had decided to set up camp inside my pistachio. The million dollar question: What are these things and what should you do? 

They're called Navel Orangeworms and they're probably as gross as their name suggests. If they survive to adulthood then they become moths, but they're generally known for being pains in the asses for a number of crops in the Southwestern United States, including the Pistacia vera, AKA the Pistachio Plant. Basically they rent out space in the shells of the fruit and while Wonderful can do all they can to get us a clean product, there's no 100% way to ever get a fruit or vegetable into stores without the possibility of something living in it. That's just the way of things. 

Naturally people are in an outrage and there's even a petition out there demanding that Wonderful include on their label a warning that bugs may be found in the bags of their product. As you can see, the customer service representative identifies the larvae and I think it would have been good business to offer a free bag since, you know, no one wants to find bugs in their snack foods, but I digress. I've thought a lot about this and the reality is there's nothing Wonderful can do. It grows out of the ground and bugs make it their home. That's what happens. That's why you may at some point find an apple with a worm or a head of cabbage with a caterpillar. Do you really expect said company to put a label on every head of lettuce to identify the possibility that there may be a small caterpillar in it? It's just not logical. I mean, did you know that every time you eat a piece of chocolate you're also eating small pieces of insects that found their way onto the production line? Shit happens, ya know? 

Will I still eat these pistachios? Yeah, probably. The nut in question actually stood out from the others because it was burned. Whether or not that had something to do with the orangeworm I do not know. 

Besides, it's all protein anyway. 


Monday, December 29, 2014

The Art of the Christmas Sandwiches

If you've known me long enough then you know that I have an affinity for the holidays and, more specifically, the food. Even more specific are the leftovers of Thanksgiving and Christmas which provide the ingredients for the seasonal Christmas Sandwiches (or Holiday Sandwiches if you prefer). Christmas Sandwiches are turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy packed into a dinner roll but there's a lot more that goes into it. As is the error with common sandwich shops or burger joints, you can't just throw a bunch of random stuff together and expect a complete synergy of deliciousness. There's an art about creating the perfect sandwich and today, my friends, I will break down the Christmas Sandwich for you.

Step 1) The Rolls: I've had a lot of problems with holiday dinner rolls over the years with the main problem being that they generally just suck. Really. It's hard to find a good dinner roll. Thankfully the roll doesn't make or break the sandwich so we can be liberal about what we choose. For this demonstration I'm creating a "Christmas Sandwich Sampler" plate with four different rolls as follows:

Four different rolls will give us four distinctly different sandwiches

2) Butter the Rolls: Cut the roll in half and then use butter or margarine or whatever imitation dairy product you prefer and spread it on the interior of BOTH SIDES. Even if you have the dullest, lamest, most disgusting dinner rolls, adding a thin layer of butter will help provide extra flavor.

Just like with mayo, you don't want to be too generous with the butter, otherwise it's just disgusting

3) The Main Ingredients: Obviously you'll need the main staples of a gourmet holiday dinner. I like to try and split the plate into thirds and use an even amount of turkey, potatoes, and stuffing. Then top everything with gravy. It should look like a traditional "day after" meal:

You'll find it challenging not to dig right in following the reheat, but be patient

4) Heating Up and Prep: Microwave your leftovers until everything is hot. Note: the potatoes heat up slower than the turkey and stuffing, so be sure to mix them with a fork during microwaving to speed up the process and keep things even. When everything is good to go, you should have a presentation that looks something like this:

If you think this is gonna be too much food then just think of them as sliders

5) Stuffing the Sandwich: This is the tricky part. Some people have no respect for proper layering or technique which is a big no-no. If you slap all the stuff into the roll like you're working at Quiznos then your sandwich is gonna taste like a regurgitated tissue, and I don't think you want that. It's important to first start with the turkey. The protein ALWAYS goes on the bottom. Top that with the stuffing and THEN use the mashed potatoes as a paste to keep everything in place. Feel free to top with a little more gravy and then put in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (to heat up the bread and melt the butter):

Your sandwiches should look something like this following assembly. Note the layering

6) Closing the Sandwich: If you refer back to the image for step 2, notice that I didn't cut the rolls all the way through. This is a personal choice as when I close the sandwich up I like the idea of being able to gently pack all the ingredients in. Another option is to cut them all the way through and then top the sandwich as if it were a burger. It's entirely up to you.

Christmas Sandwich Sampler

7) Other Options: Sometimes I top the goods with a little cranberry sauce which is entirely up to you. I've also heard of putting in sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and even pumpkin pie. Again, it's whatever you want, but I prefer to stick with traditional ingredients. Once your sandwich is constructed...you stuff it:

With a thin layer of cranberry sauce

Hey, I hope you found this tutorial useful. If you wanna get the most of your sandwiches then it's always important to approach them with a plan. These sandwiches, like all of the others I made this holiday season, were absolutely stunning and delicious. Give it a try. 

Happy Holidays!