Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tatanka -- the perfect drink!

I have discovered what may be the perfect drink and it's very easy to make! Take one part of Żubrówka, a Polish Vodka, and add two parts of apple juice, then serve over ice. Yes, it's that simple.

But what is this Żubrówka? Żubrówka is called "bison grass vodka" because it is flavored with an extract of bison grass, a grass that grows in the eastern part of Poland where the do indeed have bison native to that region. Each bottle of Żubrówka has a blade of bison grass in it, showing that it's authenic.

When I was in Poland in September, we stopped at a bar and asked the waitress for a suggestion of a good vodka. She did not speak much English--and we spoke little Polish--but she enlisted the help of a patron, a nice young man who spoke excellent English. He suggested Żubrówka. We fell in love. It is an excellent vodka for sipping and has a wonderful fragrance and a soothing taste. I'd say it has notes of vanilla and cinammon in it, though other taste other flavorful notes. No matter, it's a great vodka for sipping, especially if you keep the bottle in the freezer--which I do.

Which brings up the question of where to buy it. Well, the only place I know of in Orlando that carries it is Total Wine. It is worth the trip to get it and worth the price, all ~$23 for a 750 ml bottle. Now, in Poland I was able to buy a half liter for about 20 PL or about 7 dollars.... but i'm telling you, it's worth every penny. Best danged vodka I've ever had.

So, head out to Total Wine, get a bottle. Stop at Publix and pick up some apple juice. You are all set and instore for an excellent drink. I guarantee it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Brickyard Lounge

I figured there must be some reason that so many reviews on raved about the burgers at Brickyard Lounge, so on a recent Saturday night, my friend Tommy and I went there to investigate for ourselves. I was pleasantly surprised.

We arrived a bit late on a Saturday evening. It's really more of a bar than a restaurant, but in the back there are maybe a half dozen tables that'll hold up to four people. We were lucky, there was one open. We sat down and were quickly greeted and a drink order taken. We also ordered the Jalapeno Popper's for an appetizer.

Brickyard Lounge is not a very large place. It's rather narrow and has a very small kitchen near the front. Yet they seem to put out a hell of a menu from that tiny kitchen.

In due time our Jalapeno Poppers arrived. They were pretty typical, though the remoulade that was served with them was very good. A jalapeno had been slice in half and the seeds/ribs removed, stuffed with a cream cheese mixture, breaded and deep fried. They were decent enough, but nothin exceptional. Just good. But the remoulade was very good.

We both ordered burgers. I had a cheeseburger with Cheddar cheese, medium, and with onion rings instead of the fries. Tommy also had a cheeseburger with cheddar cheese, medium well, and with the fries. Both of us had the coleslaw.

First off, I liked the presentation. There was a small container of coleslaw, but it was certainly overflowingly packed. That was nice. My burger, though ordered medium, was actually cooked to a solid medium well. I was, however, really excited by the outer char that it had--it was very nicely charred and that added alot of flavor to it. It was said to be a half pound of sirloin, and I believe that to be so. In any case, it was very good, tough at medium well, just slightly on the dry side. Still, it was very good. Same thing for Tommy's burger, he liked it a lot.

Overall, we had a very nice meal here. The burgers were indeed very good, tender and flavorful. Though it's more bar than restaurant, they do a fine job with the food and I'd recommend them. A job well done!
Brickyard Lounge on Urbanspoon

Fish & Chips Restaurant

I've long wished to visit Fish & Chips Restaurant in Altamonte Springs, and a recent Friday evening was my lucky night. Yes, it sure was lucky, as we had a great meal here.

I miss having a good Fish Fry place in the Orlando area--I'm originally from Wisconsin where they have a Friday tradition of a great fish fry. So when I heard about Fish & Chips Restaurant and saw the rave reviews they'd gotten, I knew that I had to get here, sooner or later. That day finally came!

My friend Tommy and I went here on a recent Friday evening. It's a small place and very homey. It was a bit busy when we arrived but cleared out rather quickly. We sat at a small table, but as soon as a larger table cleared, the waiter asked us if we'd like to move. That was great, but we stayed put, we were satisfied. Our drink orders were quickly taken and drinks quickly returned. In short order our waitress appeared. I'm guessing she was the wife of the chef and one of the owner. No matter, she knew her stuff and quickly suggested we try the crab cake, and we did. And we ordered.

Tommy ordered the She Crab Soup. It was a good choice. I had quite a few good sips of this soup and it was excellent, very, very good. It had a nice bit of a crab flavor, but also a very savory flavor. I suspect the ingredients had been simmered together for a very long time. The care that was put into this soup showed--it was excellent.

I ordered the crab cake at the suggestion of our waitress. Let me tell you, I have never, ever, had a crab cake quite like this one before. It was mostly crab! Now, I'll say it was mostly backfin meat, not a lot of huge pieces, but it was mostly all crab with just a bit of mayo to bind it. Certainly not a lot of filler like most of the other crab cakes I've experienced before. This crab cake was dipped in bread crumbs and then fried, but not at all greasy. It was exellent. It was served with a remoulade that was also very good. This was a great appetizer, I'm so glad we ordered it.

Both Tommy and I ordered the Fish and Chips for our main course, I had the cod, and also substituted onion rings for my chips. It was all very good. First, a comment on the coleslaw--excellent! Very good coleslaw, and decent sized portion too. The onion rings also were very good, nicely fried with a good breading that was just right. But the star of my plate was the cod. It was cooked perfectly, not at all overdone or dried out, as can easily happen. It was tender and juicy and flavorful--well, as flavorful as cod can get. But it was very good, the breading did not overpower it. I liked it a lot, about as good as any fish fry I've had in my life, and I've had plenty.

Tommy ordered the haddock fish fry with french fries. Again, it was very good. The french fries were very nice, thicker slab-style fries. And the haddock was also cooked just right. 

We were very pleased with our meal here and can fully understand why this place has had such good reviews. Our service was attentive and accurate, too. We'd go back in a flash. There aren't any good authentic fish fries in the Orlando area, but this is about as close as it comes to perfection!

Fish & Chips Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sweet Potato Pierogi

My second cousin asked me if I had a recipe for Sweet Potato Pierogi. Well, the answer is, "yes and no." You see, I've thought about this for a while now. And I think that what I've come up with in my head would also work for Pumpkin Pierogi as well. That said, here's my recipe, straight from my head.

First things first: keep in mind that this is a developmental recipe. There is not absolute, no right or wrong. I am just giving some guidelines. Above all, taste things as you go along. So, here goes.

Take about a pound of fresh sweet potatoes, make sure they're clean. Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil (trust me, don't admit this or you'll be stuck in "cleanup hell"). Slice each sweet potato into large chunks, 2-3 inches apart. Then put them in a 400 degree oven and roast for 40-60 minutes. They are done when a sharp knife gets no resistance and comes out cleanly. 

Let them cool until you can handle them. Hot sweet potatoes contain a lot of sugar which gets very hot!  Once cool enough to handle, simple use a tablespoon to scoop the meat out of the skins. Put the skins on your compost pile, and the meat into a large bowl. Now you are ready to begin. 

For sweet Sweet Potato Pierogi, add the following:
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  •  1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated Nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt (1/8 teaspoon if you like to measure things)
  • The zest of 1-2 Oranges
  • (optional) 1/2-1 Tablespoon of Grand Marnier
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecan chips
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (or substitute maple syrup for half of the brown sugar
  • (optional) 1/4 cup chopped coconut (give it a few spins in the food processor first to make it easier to fill the pierogi)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten.
That's it. Now mix thoroughly with the sweet potatoes and chill for a bit until somewhat stiff. You can also perpare this ahead and make the pierogi the next day.

For savory Sweet Potato Pierogi:
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove or garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh Sage (if you are not a big sage fan, substitute Basil for the sage!)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh chopped Thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • 1 cup of Ricotta or Farmer's cheese
  • 1 egg plus one egg yolk, beaten
This first part is optional, it depends how far into "savory" you want to adventure: Melt the butter until it foams, add the shallot and stir a minute or two until soft, then add the garlic and stir another 30 seconds or until fragrant. Remove from heat and add to sweet potatoes.

In all cases, add the remainder of the ingredients and mix well. Chill untill a bit more firm and easier to handle. That's it.

Now, make your favorite pierogi dough and fill them with the Sweet Potato mixture of your choice. Boil them until cooked (they'll float when cooked), then drain.

For the sweet recipe, fry in a bit of butter, then serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a bit of sour cream. Yumm.

For the savory recipe, cook some butter until it foams, add a bit of sage, then add the pierogi and fry in this brown butter until a bit browned. Serve with a bit of the browned butter.

There, now you have it, fresh from my mind to your kitchen. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Alive After Five for November

Today is Alive After Five in downtown Sanford, 5-8 PM. Come on down, get some free food samples, enjoy the music, tour the shops. The weather is supposed to be fantatic. And, if you want, meet me. I'll be wearing my bright red "Polska" shirt with the Polish white Eagle on it, because today is Polish Independence Day, and I'm going to celebrate it. See you there!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stuffed Sausage Bites

I created a new appetizer a few weeks ago. It's called Stuffed Sausage Bites, and here's what I did.

I boiled (cooked) some mild Italian sausages in beer until done, then cooled. Once cooled I put them on the grill and grilled then until nicely charred. Then I set them aside to cook, and refrigerated.

Once nicely chilled, I took a sausage and sliced it longitudinally almost all the way through (butterflied it) and then split it open. Once open, I used a sharp melon baller to remove a "trench" of the sausage from both sides. See the picture at left. Now I was ready for the stuffing.

To make the stuffing, I softened a cake of cream cheese, then i took two chipotle peppers and chopped them finely. I added them to the cream cheese with about two teaspoons of the adobo sauce and mixed it thoroughly. Now i was faced with a dilemma--how to keep the filling in?  Easy! I took a piece of thinly sliced turkey or chicken lunchmeat (a nice, neutral flavor) and laid it flat. Then i took a "rope" of the creamcheese/chipotle mixture and rolled it up, cut it to length then place it in the sausage. I closed the sausage (gently), then placed 8-12 toothpicks about 3/8" to 1/2" apart and sliced the sausage, then did the rest, placed them on a bed of lettuce, and served.

They were at their best once they warmed up a bit. All I had to do was sit back, watch them get gobbled up, and enjoy all the compliments! Bardzo Smaczne!