El Rincon Columbian

I went to my friend John’s wife’s birthday party at a resturant in Strawberry Hill called El Rincon Columbian, which translates to The Columbian Corner.   We had a great time and the food was excellent.  My wife ordered chicken in a Columbian sauce of chopped onions, tomatoes, and saffron for which I am going to find a recipe.  The boy asked for rice and got a tangy, tomatoey chicken friend rice-esque dish that he did not eat (it was red after all) but that Tina snacked on.  I found a bit of the rice which was chicken free and had a taste.  It was very good, though I could not place the tang.  If I had to guess, I would have said red wine vinegar.

I ordered garlic shrimp which came with rice and tostones (mmm….tostones) which are pieces of plantain which have been friend, mashed, and then friend again.  The garlic shrimp lived up to its name.  It was served in a broth that was swimming with minced garlic.  Fantastic.

I liked my dish, but I think that the star of meal was not the protein.  The side dishes are what made the meal. 

 My wife and the boy’s meals came with this salad that was basically like Columbian cole slaw.  It had lettuce, tomoato, and I believe a little celery smothered in a white sauce that may have been creme fraiche because it was not strong enough for sour cream nor sweet enough for mayo.  My tostones were to die for as were the sweet friend plantains (cousins of the banana, though more starchy and less sweet.)  We also ordered a side of yucca, which is a South American root vegetable that was served deep fried.  Hands down, yucca makes some of the best french fries I have ever tasted.

It was a very pleasant experience.  The food was good, the company was better, and we found a new restaurant.  Tina wants to go back for more of her chicken and while I enjoyed the shrimp, I believe next time I will try to huevos (eggs) because they had some really good looking egg dishes.

If you want to go to El Rincon, the address is:
611 N 6th St
Kansas City, KS 66101

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Let’s Talk Turkey: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Okay, the following recipe is not mine…at least not completely.  I came across this recipe one day as I was flipping channels and happend to pass by the Food Network.  There, in primetime no less, was the lovely Paul Deen staring back at me over a mixing bowl.

With her Southern belle smile, she announced she was going to make a pumpkin cheesecake.  While she had me at “Hey y’all,” I sat in rapt attention as she made this recipe.

I had never made a cheesecake before.  I made that cheesecake.

I can bake.  Who knew?

If you decide to try it, follow the baking instructions exactly.  That’s my best advice.  My second best advice would that next time I make the recipe, I am going to add a half cup more sugar and double the spice.  I like my pumpkin pies bold with big flavors.  Paula’s pumpkin cheesecake was good, but it did not explode with sweetness, nutmeg, and clove like I prefer.  That is not Paula’s fault.  Everyone else who has tried the recipe loved it and wanted more. 

And besides, it’s a Paula Deen dessert.  You know it has to be good!

Robert Irvine’s Mission Cook

Over the weekend, I picked up a copy of Robert Irvine’s Mission Cook, a biography/recipe book from the hard nosed, no-nonsense, skilled beyond measure chef from Dinner: Impossible.  If you have not seen this show, it is amazing.  Supposedly, Robert is given no foreknowledge of his task for the show, things like catering a governor’s inaugral ball or feeding hundreds of people a fashion designer’s party, and he is only given eight to twelve hours to buy and prepare the food.

He goes from zero to buffet like no man I have ever seen.

All hero worship aside, his book is well worth the read.  The man has lived an amazing life, starting with the opening pages where he recounted a tale from his days in the Navy where he had to feed over three thousand people who were escaping war torn Yemen with only what he could quickly bring ashore from his boat.  Amazing.

Even better, the recipes are not impossible.  They can be tackled and mastered easily by people of all skill levels including a rib recipe in the first chapter than I have commited to memory.

So Robert, if you read this, I got a Dinner: Impossible for you.  Let’s feed a few hundred people with me as your only sous chef.  Let’s see how you pass that mission!  (Somehow I think it would involve him sending me for groceries while he did all the work. :)) 

Which is okay as long as I get to chop something with his $250 a piece titanium coated knives.

Spice Rub for Poultry

An article I wrote recently required that I find a creative use for Thanksgiving leftovers.  Since I do not tend to keep mashed potatoes, roasted turkey, or sweet potatoes in the ‘fridge, I decided to treat my family to an early Thanksgiving dinner.  As I have alluded to before, there appears to be something in my family’s genetic makeup that does not allow us to cook poultry.  We burn it, we dehydrate it, we make fantastic gravy to drown it, but cook it?  Not so much.

Therefore, every time I tackle baking a bird, I approach it with the same preparation and trepidation as Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay (the first men to climb Mount Everest.) 

  1. I read every article I can on cooking a turkey. 
  2. I read the directions on the package. 
  3. I reread the articles (since the packaging and the articles never agree.) 
  4. Only then do I tackle cooking.

This year, though, I decided to be daring. 

I thought I would change up my rub recipe to see if I could get better flavor from the skin of the bird.  It worked!  In fact, it worked too well!  The skin of the bird tasted far better than the interior.  But that is okay, the next time I have to cook a bird, I’ll turn this rub into a brine.

Without further ado.  Spice Rub Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon shallot pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay
  1. Mix the ingredients in a bowl
  2. Apply liberally to the patted dry skin of the bird

While I did use this rub on a whole turkey, I bet it would be good on just turkey or chicken breasts or used to season the flour for fried chicken.

However, this brings up a question.  Given my admission that I am a poor turkey roaster, does anyone have any advice for me?

Restaurant Review: Dean and DeLuca

First of all, sorry for the week long hiatus.  Things have been just that crazy.

For this edition’s restaurant review, I decided to do something with a little more national appeal.  Last week, my wife suggested that we have lunch at Dean and DeLuca.  About a month ago, I had gone our local Dean and DeLuca and noticed that they had swapped out some of their shelf space for food counters: a sandwich and soup area, a gelato bar and most importantly: a sushi area.  Being close to work, I consented.

Even now I’m not entirely sure how the bill came to $54, but it was worth it.  I ordered a tray of sushi and a tin of lobster, asparagus, and brie macaroni and cheese.  (It’s important I stop here and say that I have never purposefully ordered mac and cheese and even when it was forced upon me, I have not enjoyed it.)  The sushi was good, though it had obviously been languishing for an hour or so.

On the other hand, the mac and cheese was amazing.  I hade it heated until it was warm all the way through and the brie was melty, but not runny.  The bits of lobster flavored the cheese sauce so that even if there was not a piece of lobster on my fork, I still got a pleasant hint of seafood.  The asparagus was surprisingly firm and provided an excellent texture against the softer noodles.  To round out my tasting menu, I also got some spicy lobster dip which again had just enough of the seafood to flavor each bite without being overpowering.  The addition of what I believe was sriracha and a little red bell pepper added a depth of flavor I would call gourmet. 

My wife ordered a sandwich and some spinach-artichoke dip.  I was not fond of the spin dip (the cream cheese had gotten too firm), but her sandwich was huge.  At first I was a little dismayed that she had paid nine dollars for a sandwich, then I saw how bit it was.  That one sandwich could have easily fed both of us.  For dessert, she munched on a lemon poppy seed cupcake from the bakery case.  It was good, but too lemony for my taste.

The low point of the meal were the truffles.  Last weekend we went to a chocolate festival and gotten to try some unbelieveable truffles made by hand in chocolate shops across the city.  Those chocolatiers blew away the mass produced high end chocolates served in the Dean and DeLuca dessert case.

Still, it was an enjoyable change of pace.  Even if the price had not been steep, I am not sure I would go to Dean and DeLuca every day, but for something different, I would heartily recommend it.

Review: Fire Wok

On the recommendation of one of my loyal readers (who really should comment instead of email ;)), Tina, Ethan, and I tried Fire Wok on Johnson Drive by the arts theatre despite a promise to ourselves that we would never eat at Chinese buffets again.  Our aversion to Chinese buffets comes in no small part from the preponderance of fried foods, oils, and those prepackaged cookies that pass as dessert (mmm…imitation Oreos), none of which are healthy.  However, we were in a hurry and we were hungry and we were in the neighborhood–a deadly trifecta.

Fire Wok turned out to be pretty good.  I have to admit that it is hard for me to approach Chinese buffets that same after my conversion to vegetarianism because so many dishes have meat.  However, I was able to find several vegetable only dishes that were good and used my seafood exemption to chow down on the critters from the sea.  Much to my diet’s chagrin, they had fried scallops aggressively seasoned in salt–a masterpiece of fried seafood eatery if I’ve ever seen one or as I told my wife: “The first hundred of the scallops were great.  The second hundred were just okay.”

Tina, still engaging her carniverous side, chowed down on the sweet and sour chicken and the chicken on a stick all of which met her approval (Her comment: “The sweet and sour chicken was unbelievably good.”)  She also felt the egg rolls would be good to most people’s taste (“It was warm and crunchy and tasty.”  But, according to her, they had too much meat.  Even as a vegetarian I’m not sure how you have too much meat.)

On the downside, there was a plethora of fried and heavily oiled foods, leaving us with the choice of either rolling with the grease and suffering a stomach ache or eating nothing but plain fried rice.  In other words, Fire Wok ain’t health food.

All in all, if you are down on Johnson Drive or if you are just hungry for Chinese and do not mind the heaviness, you gotta put Fire Wok on your list.

Shogun

Tonight Ethan and I went to Shogun Japanese Steakhouse.  I have been fairly remiss in not reviewing the restaurant until now because Shogun is the finest sushi place I have eaten and I eat a lot of American-style sushi.

The owner, Andy, is also the head sushi chef and does a lot of work in the kitchen as well.  Always ready with a smile or a story, Andy is an artist and a master at the sushi bar.  His creations are always technically excellent, flavorful, and made with only the finest ingredients.  He is a man who will send back any ingredient that does not meet his standards and he got me to eat uni.  A feat others have tried and failed at miserably.

The one thing I have noticed about Shogun, which some may not like, is that he does not have a bunch of crazy rolls.  Some resturants go out of the way to create over the top sushi roll menus featuring everything in the kitchen.  While Andy does have a large selection of rolls, his creations are grounded in more traditional American sushi unless you ask for something crazy.  Like his seafood crunchy roll or his strawberry cake roll (sushi rice, tuna, cream cheese, and masago combine to make a roll that looks just like a cake.  It was awesome.)

Oh yeah, whatever you do… don’t order the Crown Royal.  Or at least don’t tell him I told you to.  🙂

Shogun also has three teppanyaki tables and offers a selection of vegetables, seafood, steaks, and chicken.  Each is prepared by skilled chefs so that the food tastes terrific, though Shogun can, at times, be lacking in the pagentry and outlandishness that teppanyaki is often associated with. 

All in the food is exquisite and the price is decent (steak and scallops aren’t cheap, neither is raw fish.)  If you are in Kansas City, I highly recommend checking this place out.  And ask for the yum yum sauce.  My wife wants to bathe in it.