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Archive for the 'Food' Category

I Don’t Want It My Way

leaving empty handed

Sometimes I don’t even know what my way is!

I think Burger King started it all with their “have it your way” campaign but now everyone is following suit. It is almost expected now for companies to offer at least five color variations or a minimum three types of cheese for every dish. I appreciate that they are allowing this customizability but with all these options, the paralysis of choice creeps in. Case in point, my trip to Subway last week.

I have not been to Subway in over five years. I don’t like fast food sub shops and if I do eat at one, I prefer Quiznos. However, I recently saw commercials on TV advertising their new pastrami sandwich. I love pastrami so I knew I had to try it. I recruited my friend Sudip to go with me. He’s a regular there. Here’s how things went down

Me: Hi, I’d like to try your new pastrami sub

Subway Manager (SM): We don’t have pastrami.

Me: What?

Three huge signs in the window and two more inside advertising this new sub that just came out 3-5 days ago.

SM: We don’t have any pastrami.

At this point I am really confused. I haven’t been to Subway in a very long time so it’s not like I had a fallback plan. I don’t know what the “Big Mac” or “iced vanilla latte” of Subway is. People behind me are getting annoyed as is the Manager. He’s not used to people taking this long.

Me: How about your Chicken & Bacon Ranch. 6 inch please.

SM: What type of bread?

Wait, what? Ok here’s the weird part. Subway has a real menu; an actual listing of sandwiches they invented and gave names to. Items that their corporate chefs have invented that have specific ingredients. But this doesn’t mean anything because they want to give you choices. So now I am really confused because I don’t know what should go on a Chicken & Bacon Ranch. I squinted to make out more detail from the picture

Me: Italian roll please

SM: Cheese?

Wait, what?

Me: Are you asking if I want cheese or what type of cheese?

SM: What type of cheese.

Me: I have no idea. What cheese is supposed to come with it? What are my choices?

The Manager is not happy with me right now because I am the only customer who didn’t memorize their six types of cheese. He points to the sticker on the glass

Me: Umm I guess the Swiss?

Now I get passed off to one of the other workers down the assembly line

Worker: Lettuce? Tomatoes?

Me: Yeah, I guess

Worker: Anything else?

Anything else? What the? You tell me. What else is supposed to on this sandwich. I have no idea, so to play it safe

Me: No that’s it

I am ready to pay now and while the cashier is fumbling with the register, I look over to see what else I could have added. Six different condiment choices!

Let’s see what really goes into a Chicken & Bacon Ranch:

A toasted sub with all-white meat chicken breast strips, melted Monterey Cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, ranch dressing, lettuce, tomato, onions, green peppers and black olives served hot on freshly baked bread.

The sandwich I ended up with was a weak representation of this. I am afraid of going back.

| Photo by Will Lion via Flickr |

Amano Artisan Chocolate Giveaway


I know for some of my friends, the last two words of the post title should already have them interested. For the rest of you, all you need to know is you may win a year supply of chocolate. This translates to 10 bars per month for a year!

I first heard about Amano about 2-3 years ago when I was sent some bars to try out via a food blogger network. I was actually pretty surprised I was given the opportunity since a lot of people applied. Anyway, I really liked how intensely “chocolate-y” the bars were. I love all kinds of chocolate and think there’s even good cheap (priced) chocolate but tasting an artisan bar and comparing it to a Hershey’s bar is like night and day. I ended up using most of the bars for baking, believe it or not, and my desserts never came out better. Lastly, I like that this is an American company (Utah of all places) that is devoted to a timeless craft and has a philosophy rooted in quality, using scientific methods, and working to ensure the best product from bean to shelf.

To enter the contest, all you gotta do is click over to this link and guess the country of origin of their cocoa beans. Just fill out the form with your answer and you’re all set. By the way, to help you out, here’s some interesting information on cocoa (aka cacao) beans.

Things I Am Digging

Here are some things I am really digging around the internet

The 25 Japanese Creatives You Need to Know

The Complex blog always surprises me. Sometimes they cover the lamest topics but other times they come out with works of genius like this. If you ever had any interest in Japanese fashion, art, and culture, you’ll recognize some of these names. But, I bet you’ll also see new names and faces. They went through a lot of trouble to make this piece, even going as far as having sound clips to show you how these Japanese names are pronounced. The only failure is Complex loves to spread their articles into small pages. So it’s 100 separate pages to learn about 25 people.

A Winning Formula for Traditional Espresso

A former Italian barista champion, is now working with Illy to spread proper technique to American coffee shops. He lays out in easy to understand terms the correct way to make an espresso.

A Pasta Worth Waiting For

Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s writes about the newest darling of the pasta world. Rustichella’s Primo Grano, which comes in three shapes – Penne Lisce, Sagne a Pezzi,a nd Chitarra. I ordered all three plus a bunch of other pasta from Market Hall Foods recently. At upwards of 8 times the cost of the normal pasta I buy, this better be as good as they say.

Omakase at Kobachi


When Kobachi, an izakaya style restaurant, opened up in Santa Barbara a few years ago, a foodie friend and I started an experiment. How would the kitchen react if we asked for omakase each time we visited? All Japanese know what the word omakase means (“it’s up to you"; entrust) but besides very dedicated high-end sushi bars, few Japanese restaurants are equipped to handle such a request.

Given these odds, it was surprising how we kept persevering. We never pushed and until recently the results could have been anyone’s guess. I’ve had the following experiences:

  • Flat out denied (kitchen is too busy, or just plain no)
  • Asked how much I want to spend (tricky situation for both parties)
  • Was allowed omakase and I got to tell them when I was full. Then an arbitrary total was presented.
  • Was told that there was a set price and a set number of dishes

It seems from talking to my friend and my recent experience this weekend that the last choice is what the chef has settled on. It is not a true omakase in that two out of the three variables (food, number of dishes, and price) are set, but I suppose it still holds the spirit of chef’s choice.

I hadn’t been to Kobachi for about two months and have not had omakase from there for at least twice as long. When I found myself without any dining companions and a craving for Japanese, I packed up some Saveur, Food and Wine and GOOD magazines and went to the restaurant alone. I asked for omakase and was immediately met with excited confusion. The waitress went to consult with the other workers and then the chef and she returned giving me a whole spiel and then a price. I accepted.

What came next was one part chaos and one part deliciousness. The food, as always, was great, and the first dish was a great example of the inventiveness of the chef when given carte blanche power over his dishes. At the same time, the dish represented a major issue with the experience. I was served two whole blocks of tofu, each with separate toppings. On one there were thinly shaved onions, a miso paste, and avocado slices. The other had a vinegary sauce and salmon roe. It was enough for a full meal. That’s right, I was full after the first course.

The next three courses came out at once. All at once. Now on my tiny 2-top, I had 4 courses. By now I was struggling to eat as much of the food as I could. When I was done and told the waitress I didn’t want any boxes, she exclaimed “are you serious?!” clearly upset and appalled that (it seemed) I hadn’t even touched one of the dishes. When she picked up my credit card slipped, I offered a few suggestions – smaller portions and stagger the dishes. I assured her that the chef was being too generous with his portions and I would gladly still pay the same price for half the food.

I hope that over time, Kobachi finds it’s omakase “identity” sort to speak and it becomes more formalized. I should caution though that I never want it to be a prix fixe or even a pseudo-prix fixed like Julienne. There needs to be an element of freedom and mystery in a omakase but not confusion.

Kobachi remains, in my opinion, the most innovative and one of the most tasty Japanese restaurants in SB. They certainly are under no obligation to agree to an omakase request and I am certainly glad when they do. I think with proper friendly feedback they can make a good thing great.

Philips Robust Collection


I am really digging this new appliance collection by Philips. The Robust Collection has a really nice clean, almost industrial, design that I am instantly attracted to. The trend for kitchen appliances (blenders, juicers etc) has really moved towards an emphasis on design and aesthetics. Compare the Breville appliances, for example, to the Kitchen-Aid’s and Cuisinart’s that have filled American countertops for the past 25 years.

Philips (which I think is a very strange company because it’s so multi-faceted) foray into the appliance market is a strong one. There are five pieces -blender, juicer, food processor, mixer, and cordless hand blender. The first three have an impressive 15 year warranty on them which shows a lot of confidence from Philips.

I have not found any place to purchase the items but if the pricing rumors are correct, they are aiming for a luxury market. For example, the hand-blender which I expected to be the cheapest item and the one I was most interested in, is quoted at $319. Wow.