Health Freedom Expo

Posted on April 4, 2009. Filed under: hodgepodge, review |

The Long Beach Convention Center played host to the Health Freedom Expo over the weekend. New age hippies flew on their positive energy powered magic carpets of healing just as quick as they could. Hucksters and snake oil salesmen rejoiced.

I’m all for stepping out of Western thought and finding a balance in life. I’m clearly for a whole food approach to eating. Traditional medicine can be a very effective tool in treating many ailments. There are many things about wellness I don’t understand, so therefore shouldn’t judge. Good. Fine. I get that.

I also get that, as a whole, we can be way too concerned for out health & well being. Instead of looking for long-term, sustainable ways of living, we look for the quick fix, the magic bullet. So people head to places like the Heath Freedom Expo to spend money on complete crap.

There were many devices for sale that make your water “pure”. A ctually, I take that back. Some made your water “pure”, while others infused it with positive energy. There was even one device that would cleanse you AND the planet. All you had to do was pay $300, and stick your feet in the magical tank.

In addition to healing through water, you could also heal yourself with berries. Berries! One better than the next! Antioxidants! Don’t get me wrong, I love berries. I’m sitting next to a giant basket of strawberries (bought from the farmers’ market because some bastard keeps stealing my garden berries) right now. They’re fantastic, they taste great, and yes, they are very good for you. They don’t however, create miracles. So when someone tells you that drinking a special juice made from them will cure cancer/headaches/insomnia/low sex drive/memory loss/the recession, you should laugh at them, not buy their berry juice. Because here’s the thing: NO SINGLE FOOD SOURCE CAN CURE EVERYTHING.

Some of the vendors really believe in what they sell. And that’s fine. The mind/body connection is a real thing, and if you have the funds & think your ion water is helping, be my guest. But you should realize that a lot of the products being sold are scams & pyramid schemes (I’m looking at you Mona Vie), so use caution. Most of what was for sale at the Health Freedom Expo will do you no good. Spend your money elsewhere. (You can spend it funding an awesome cooking show…mmmm, funding.)

There was one pretty awesome thing for sale at the expo- Kangoos. They are ski boots with cleverly shaped rubber attachments that make you walk/job like a kangaroo. Really fun to use, and very low impact on your joints.

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Be Lazy: Frozen Brown Rice

Posted on March 23, 2009. Filed under: hodgepodge, review |

Ever since I tried to make yogurt, I’ve been thinking about what is worth putting in extra effort and what is not. Generally, I try to make everything I eat from scratch- it’s more satisfying, and nearly always tastes better that way. However, there are times when laziness is rewarded. Such is the case with frozen brown rice.

Brown rice isn’t difficult to cook, but it does take some time- about 40 minutes. Now, if you’ve been reading This Man’s Kitchen for awhile, you know I’m not afraid of slow cooked food. However, why take 40 minutes to do something when it can be done in 3 minutes. Three minutes. That’s all it takes for frozen brown rice.

So, clearly the frozen stuff wins the time contest. What about quality? Well, I have no problems here, either. The master scientists who designed the freezing apparatus (grains look individually frozen) and the steamer bag deserve some sort of prize. I never thought I’d say this, but: Frozen microwavable rice is at least as good as the rice I’d make on my stove top. Wow. The rice is organically grown, which is a nice bonus.

You can find frozen brown rice at both Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s. Currently, they sell for $4.69 at Whole Foods. With 6-9 servings per box, it’s a pretty good deal!

The only downside- the unfortunate name of the brand sold at Whole Foods. It’s called “Rice Expressions”. Who was the genius that thought of that?! Lame.

In other news, there is strong evidence that First Lady Michelle Obama is a HUGE fan of This Man’s Kitchen. Alice Waters spent over 20 years lobbying for a White House vegetable garden. 20 years! I write about it on a Monday, ground is broken on the garden just a few days later.

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Read This (Extra Credit Edition) : Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This

Posted on March 4, 2009. Filed under: hodgepodge, review |

When people speak of food, they often speak of how it makes them feel.  It’s a pretty esoteric thing.  Rarely do we speak of food in scientific terms.  Unless, of course, we are Herve This.

This, a French chemist, is (along with Nicholas Kurti) considered the founder of the culinary movement known as Molecular Gastronomy.  It’s a scientific approach to food- thinking in terms of physics rather than feelings. For most of us, the phrase “food science” is associated with processed foods.  For a select few, though, food science means exactly what is says- the science of food.
That is the genius of “Molecular Gastronomy”.  Science equals flavor.  This, through careful experimentation, investigates the scientific rational behind many culinary theories and myths: Why do we brown meat before stewing? What makes a Spanish Ham so special?  Is there a way to perfectly control the texture of a boiled egg? This, being French, also explains wine appreciation though science.
The downside to “Molecular Gastronomy” is that it is boring.  Very boring, in fact.  Unless you get excited by chemical equations, you’re going to have a hard time getting through parts of this book.  Happily, there’s a pretty easy solution- skimming!  
This, true to his scientific background, writes in a very clean and logical form.  None of the 101 chapters exceed three pages.  So, if all the science begins to hurt your brain, skip non-essential chapters like “Papillary Cells” and “Algal Fibers” in favor of the bits that you find interesting.  
“Molecular Gastronomy” isn’t a must buy.  But, if you have some spare time, pop into a bookstore or library, and skim a bit.  A knowledgeable cook is a better cook, and the knowledge in this book is something you won’t find anywhere else. 

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Snapple, Made from the Best Stuff on … WHAAAAT??!

Posted on January 30, 2009. Filed under: hodgepodge, review |

When you’re in New York, you notice many things.  One of the things you notice most is that Snapple is everywhere.  Every store, deli, lunch counter, Snapple is the iced tea of choice.  As a tea drinker, this presents a problem, because Snapple is crap.  It claims to be made from “the best stuff on Earth”.  This, as they say, is a lie.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients listed on the most common Snapple beverage, Iced Tea with Lemon:
Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Tea, Natural Flavors
Alright, water is a good ingredient.  I’ll give you that one, Snapple.  But, high fructose corn syrup?  Please.  That’s the main flavor in Snapple- cheap sugar.  Call me crazy, but I’d like the main flavor in my ice tea to be tea.  But tea is listed second to last, meaning, there’s not a lot of tea in Snapple.  There’s more sugar than tea in my iced tea. There’s more citric acid than tea!  
Citric acid is added to make Iced Tea with Lemon seem…lemony.  Why did they do that?  Well, the did that because there is no lemon in the iced tea with LEMON!  Oh boy.  Doesn’t seem “best” to me.  The “lemon” comes from citric acid and natural flavors.  I don’t have a problem with that, per se, but, come on, when rating best stuffs, I’d say actual lemon ranks above chemicals made to seem like lemon.
Sadly, most of Snapple’s beverages are no better.  Various tea and fruit drinks are made of mostly sugar water and flavors, with a teensy bit of tea thrown in to make you feel good.  There are a few rare exceptions- the “classic” line, with 3 varieties, are decent.  Still too much sugar for me, but only by a wee bit, and the sugar is actually sugar, not HFCS.  
Maybe Snapple should change the motto to : “Snapple, Made from a Bunch of Crap and a Little Bit of (Probably Not Very High Quality) Tea”.  Just a suggestion. 
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Home of Chicken and Waffles

Posted on December 29, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge, review, travel |

I was exploring the Jack London Square farmers’ market yesterday (good market!), and a wonderful smell was in the air.  After much exploring, my nose led me to…Home of Chicken and Waffles.  Now, I might be a Yankee & a Jew, but I love soul food like a fella from Mississippi.  As soon as I walked through the door, I knew I was in the right place.

The Home of Chicken and Waffles began as a franchise of the famous Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.  In 2004, the family decided to spilt from their parents and take the reigns themselves.  This was a smart move.  The strong family ties are evident on the wall- each menu item is named after a family member, their portraits (with the dish) are painted on the wall by a local artist.
The food is soul food at is best.  Although the protein is limited mostly to fried chicken, the array of sides more than makes up for the lack of smothered pork chops.  Truth be told, the fried chicken is so good that you might run the risk of missing it if you had other options!  Some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had in fact!  It’s crisp, juicy, sweet, and without a hint of greasy.  As for the sides, it’s a hit list of soul food champions: grits, mac ‘n cheese, yams, greens, peas.  All menu items are accompanied with a suggested side or two.  While you can swap sides for 50 cents, you probably won’t feel the need to do so.  Oh, and the waffles?  Heavenly.  
Service at Home of Chicken and Waffles is fantastic.  Personable, fast, and funny.  They make you feel like you’re popping by their house for a meal.  Indeed, the diverse clientele all seem equally at home there.  Hipsters sit side by side with families on their way home from church.  Old and young enjoy the sweet sweet chicken.
I believe the join is always open, as hours aren’t listed and they tout themselves as the perfect place to go after a night out in downtown Oakland.  I couldn’t agree more.
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Review: Dan Tana’s

Posted on December 8, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge, review |

It’s not often I feel compelled to write a restaurant review, but my family and I really enjoyed this place, so there it is.

Change is good.  We can all agree on that.  However, some places should always stay the same.  Dan Tana’s has embraced that philosophy fully.

Basically, picture a stereotypical East Coast, Italian American restaurant circa 1973. You know: red checkered table cloth, Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling, dim lighting, 8454355 lbs of garlic…

Warning: If you hate the idea of that, if you think that today’s Italian food should be all butternut squash ravioli in sage brown butter, you’re going to hate this place.  Fine.  Hate it.  Because, frankly, the place is a little cramped and I’d be happier if you weren’t there.

For the rest of us, this is a little bit of heaven.  In a city that often struggles with authenticity, Dan Tana’s is dripping with it.  This place isn’t cliche- it’s where the cliche started. 

Service is attentive.  Fast, helpful, and with a little bit of attitude that lets you know you’re in good hands.

The food?  Well, aside from the forgettable prosciutto and melon, it was all fantastic.  Amazing.  Get what you’d expect to get at a classic Italian joint: something parmesan, something big fat steak, something covered in garlic and butter. 


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Review: Thai Basil

Posted on October 14, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge, review, travel |

Thai Basil is a tiny eatery located in downtown Capitola, CA.  If there was no sign on the outside, you’d probably just walk by, thinking that an old Thai lady was serving a few friends a meal in her living room/speciality shop.  

I really wasn’t sure what was happening when my friend led me into Thai Basil.  It’s a tiny place.  Five tables, I believe.  One wall is covered in various imported sauces, all available for purchase.  I assume that these sauces are the base for many of the dishes.
Speaking of dishes, it’s pretty amazing that there is such a variety on the menu.  Amazing because…this place is run entirely by one woman, Tan Manichanh.  She takes your order, then walks into the kitchen an cooks it.  I suppose that’s why there are only 5 tables!
The food was hot, and fantastic.  Thai peppers and coconut milk seem to be the base for just about everything, and that’s alright with me.  We had a rich clear chicken soup (not clear at all- the soup was red with pepper), a sweet beef curry special, pineapple chicken, and a really interesting and intense mint noodle dish with roast pork.  My only complaint is that duck
 wasn’t available to throw into another dish!  
Overall, Thai Basil is a tasty, and unique experience.  I’m looking forward to returning and jumping deeper into the menu.  One thing to take note of- be prepared to spend some time here.  Ms. Manichanh might be a great at making Thai home cooking, but, that’s what you’re getting, home cooking.  Nothing is fast.  She cooks each dish to order, so even if it’s just your party and one other, things are going to take awhile.  It’s worth the wait.
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Sunday Night Dinner: Mandarin Restaurant

Posted on September 25, 2008. Filed under: hodgepodge, review, travel |

My family used to always go out for Sunday dinner when I was a kid.  One of our favorites was to get Chinese food at Mandarin.  It’s located in a large plaza in New City, New York.  You’d never find it if you didn’t know it was there.

When I visit New York these days, one of my culinary priorities is to rent a zipcar and drive 45 minutes to New City.  It might seem crazy to some, for me, there’s no doubt about it.  I have to have my Mandarin.  Sure, there are many that would argue that there are ‘better’ Chinese restaurants, but I would be hard pressed to agree.  Give me a this hole in the wall joint, serving Americanized style Chinese food any time.  So what if they haven’t redecorated since I was 5.

My meal started with wonton soup.  Glorious, flavorful broth, spiked with green onions.  The thick, east coast style wontons are stuffed with a simple pork mix.  Thin matchsticks of roast pork are the only other additions to the soup.  I think there might have been some spinach in there when I was a kid (I remember taking it out and putting it on the side!), but nothing else now.  Wonton soup the way I like it, simple and tasty.  You can keep your West Coast, loaded with 543 ingredients soup for yourself, brother. (Literally, brother.  We moved to CA when he was young enough to form his palate in a much more west coast style.  He prefers the western, more traditional Chinese food, to the eastern, more Americanized version.  Poor brother.)

Next, roasted spare ribs.  Notice there isn’t a picture above.  I was so excited by the glistening pork goodness that I forgot to take out my camera.  By the time I remembered, all that was left were a bunch of stripped bones, and a fat & greasy me!  The ribs are roasted to perfection.  They’re unglazed, allowing the natural sweetness of the pork rib to shine.  Simply fantastic.

My main course was chicken & broccoli.  In my youth, the sauce was white.  Once day, they switched to a brown sauce, and I was very sad.  Since then, I’ve gotten over it, and then some.  This is the dish I dream about, the dish that propels me up the Palisades Parkway. Pure happiness on a plate.

The meal was finished with a fortune cookie (good things are coming my way!) and a nice cup of Chinese tea, smokey and strong.

Good thing I brought a bunch back with me, writing this made me crave more! 

Edit:  Mmmmmm, leftovers.  
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