Friday, May 31, 2013

The Julian Pie Co. Apple Cookbook's Pork and Apple Pie

     This is a special post for me.  This is where my journey with the Restaurant Industry began.  The Julian Pie Co. in Julian/Santa Ysabel California.  Little did I know then the seed of my passion for making great food and making people happy via that food was planted.  I began working there in the summer of 1997, the year I graduated High school.  At that time is was the perfect job for me.  I was terribly shy and prone to mischief.  If you have ever worked at a bakery then you know the hours.
     Start at 3 A.M. peeling apples so bakers had fresh product to work with when they arrived at 5 A.M..  Those hours really put pressure on my partying.  I thank the heavens for that, because damn, I don't want to think what would have happened.  Julian is a small town 60 miles north east of San Diego, the most amazing place to grow up.  I wish I had known then what I was doing and where I lived was so unique.
     In this day and age of processed foods and  rapidly expanding business models Liz Smothers, owner and master baker has done everything to fight to keep her family run bakery local. She refused to compromise quality for expansion.  So unless you are in San Diego county, where they do wholesale pies to major and smaller markets like Albertson's and local deli's, you will have to get on their website and order one.  The Smothers family was part of a revolution though I doubt they realize or would admit it.  Local food, made from scratch, with the most available local products.  Keeping local means giving local.  I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the Smothers family.  You all have done so much for the community you are a part of and I thank you for all the positive influence you have had in my life.

     The Julian Pie Co. has the apple lovers dream of a Cookbook.  The Julian Pie Company Apple Cookbook.  I love this book.  It is a collection of local recipes from appetizers to deserts including a "Specialties from and for children" chapter.  This is the first of many recipes from this book I plan to blog about.  Pork and Apple Pie!
Here is What You Need:
1 pound lean ground pork
 1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 medium onion chopped
Dash of black pepper
3 cooking apples, I prefer Granny Smith for this recipe for a sweet/tart balance
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Two 9 inch round pastry or pie crust
9 inch baking tin
1 table spoon melted butter
Non stick spray or butter to prevent crust from sticking to pie tin
     Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.  Get your onion chopped and apples peeled and cored. Rub the peeled apples with lemon juice to help prevent oxidation of your apples.  Start browning your ground pork and onion. While that is working you can move on to finishing the apple prep.  Slice two of the apples and chop the last one. When your pork and onion mixture is done browning remove it from the heat.  Toss the chopped apple in 1/2 table spoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.  Add the chopped apple, chicken broth, salt, black pepper, bread crumbs and mix.  Toss the sliced apples with the remaining cinnamon and sugar.  Line your pie tin with whatever it is you have chosen to help prevent sticking then add the bottom pastry.  Spoon in your meat mixture and top with your sliced apples.  Place the top pastry on and flute the edges, brush evenly with the melted butter for a nice brown finish to you crust.  Place in oven and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until pork has reached at least 165 degrees and your apples are cooked thorough.
     This is a family and friend favorite.  A classic American style dish with harmonious flavor profiles.  The paring of pork and apple is a beautiful sweet and savory combination.  I have made this recipe my own, if you want the original recipe by Rheta Kar, you will have to order the book from the Julian Pie Company yourself! See what I did there, trying to kick some business your way Liz!  If you are an apple addict like I am then you will not be disappointed in your purchase. 
     I made this for my new roommates, this was our first dinner together at the house.  Of course I was nervous even though my family loves it.  They had never really experienced the pork and apple combination and were skeptical.  They LOVED it!  The next day at work John had told everyone about it and all my co-workers are trying to order one from me.  So here you all go, here is the recipe, make it and enjoy!  I served mine with butter roasted herb potatoes and sweet carrots.  This will  be sure to impress and pleasantly surprise your guests at your next dinner gathering or pot luck.
Love Food, Live Life!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

La Michoacana Taqueria

     If you are looking for that street food thrill I found a place for you!  The food is still rather Americanized in some aspects but most certainly more authentic in others.  It is cafeteria style and you have several options for ordering, allowing you to mix at least two flavors per plate if not more.  They offer Horchata, Tamarindo, and a few other traditional beverages.  I suggest walking up and taking a look before you order for a couple reasons.  First reason being if you pay at the cash register, outside the dining area, you need to still pay before eating and your food gets cold.  Plus I think that is how it works, you take your ticket from the register to the cafe and they fill your order.  The second reason is you are eating in a meat market.  Now I am placing my reputation on the line every time I recommend a place to eat so I have to be honest, and I know you expect me to be honest.  You really need to take a good look just like at a buffet but with a more critical eye.  I say this because it would be sill to think they are cooking gourmet cuts of meat.  I would have to say it is how they make up some profit margin I'm sure.  That is just my personal opinion though.

     OK now on to the FOOD!

My Mom has gotten to be bolder and more adventurous with restaurant and food choices since she has become my partner in dine!  Haha!  I was not going to ask her to order out of her comfort zone since just trying the cafe was bold enough.  When she learned the enchiladas were potato and not meat or cheese she almost said no. "No, you really want one I said, it is not what you expect."  The cook gave her a sample enchilada and she was sold.  They where perfectly seasoned and cooked.  Not mushy or crunchy; the potato with the corn tortilla and red sauce is just a natural combination.  The beans were fabulous as well.  Not re fried but more of a ranch style which I prefer.  The rice was not so good.  It was dry,stale, and overcooked to the point of no flavor.

My Aunt had Carne Asada Tacos that brought me back to Guadalajara.  Small corn tortillas and flavorful beef and onions.  Simple and done right no need to fudge around with the classic.

I had to be more bold and go for the Lingua (Beef Tongue).  I had some carnitas to go with it, a safer choice so I did not leave hungry if I did not like the Lingua.  I have to say it was very intensely flavored beef.  Cooked Chili Verde style in a green salsa it was very tender and melted in my mouth.  The carnitas was actually the fail here.  It was just a greasy mess that lacked seasoning.

On my new Four Fresh Apples Scale,
0- Avoid

1- Good

2- Fresh Food, Good Service
3- Outstanding Food, Outstanding Service
4- This Place is a Destination 

     I pick one Fresh Apple for this restaurant.  I felt like the lack of spice and care on two standard dishes and the fact that the payment method lends to and awkward back and forth between the cafe and register.  Some of the food was really very well done though and you just have to approach it like a good street food cart.
Love Food, Live Life!
La Michoacana Taqueria

1508 Midwestern Pkwy Wichita Falls, TX 76302
(940) 761-3938

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Guide to Modern Dining Etiquette Part 5: Your Table and Server

     You made it!  You chose where you wanted to spend your hard earned money.  You waited in the lobby, it's a busy Saturday night which made for a hectic and loud 40 minute wait.  You have your 6 year old and your 10 month old children with you so just making it to the table in a good mood was a challenge!  Now your heading through the dining room to your table, you requested a booth so there was no surprise when your table comes into view.  If you did not make it known you needed a booth rather than a table don't be shocked when your Host/Hostess guides you towards a four sided dinner table...

     Here we are again! :-)  I took some time off and it's long over due that I get to writing and cooking more often, and above all else sharing with friends, family, and friends to be; my thoughts on FOOD.  Why?  Well that is a good question that I plan on answering in length in my "I love my lil' kitchen!" post.  To sum it up quickly, it's who I am.  It's how I connect with people.  It's how I make a living.  It's how I try to maintain my health.  It's pretty much all I think about.

     The fact that your here could be for several reasons I know.  Maybe you Tumbled on to my page.  Perhaps you are a foodie just cruising blogs for ideas.  Or maybe just maybe you actually searched "Modern Dining Etiquette"!  Well what ever brought you here I hope you read on and find this series of articles fun, entertaining, and educational.  This is the point of view from someone with more than 17 years in the restaurant industry.  I also have 34 years of dining out experience!  I enjoy both sides of  the industry, being a guest in a great restaurant is a hobby of mine. 

     ...Do not be rude about it, I know you are stressed out from the kids and the wait but you choose your attitude.  You could choose to be snobby and point at a booth and say "Why can't we sit there?".  You can't sit there for several reasons I am sure.  The number one reason is that the Host/Hostess hates you!  They are out to get you man!  They come into work every shift with those beady eyes and devious smiles.  Tapping her finger tips together in classically maniacal bad guy fashion the hostess cackles "Who can I screw over today? Hahahahahah!"  Really??? Come on.  You know dang well that is not the case.  There is an order and structure to seating.  If you do choose to ask about the booth just be polite about it.  They may have no problem with it, it may even be in the same section of tables so you actually do not interrupt the flow of service.  Notice the word interrupt thrown into that last sentence?  Know that if you do switch tables on the fly you may have to wait longer.  That is why you were being seated at the table.  That server is more prepared at the moment to greet you and get your dining experience moving into full gear. 

     You should always let the woman choose her seat first fellas.  This is just classy and simple courtesy.  Beyond that I am not gonna try to tell you how to seat your children.  They are your kids and I am going to venture to guess you know best.  Once we get all settled in, everyone is in place and hopefully comfortable.  Now this is where location comes into play.  The concept of the restaurant you are in is going to dominate your experience from this point on if allow the staff to do their job and just enjoy your visit.  I feel a common factor for most tables gone wrong in my own experience comes from dinners who feel entitled and act as tho they are above me and try to do my job from their seat. I consider myself a professional server.  I am not the collage kid working through school.  I do it because I actually love it.  If you allow me to do my job your visit will be AWESOME! Toot toot! Yea that was my own horn LOL!

     Granted you are paying so I understand a level of expectation.  But be realistic.  Are you at the local Claim Jumper?  Burger joint?  Or did you treat your self to a restaurant with prestige and reputation?  If you are at an average family style restaurant it will be a loose experience with lots of room for you to control your experience in many pleasant fashions.  If you are at a nicer establishment you actually start giving up control over your experience.  You will be guided by professionals of mixology, and the menu you will be ordering from.  They will share their ideas and passions with the art of service and food.

     If you are at a family restaurant, especially a corporate restaurant, your server will have a short speech of offerings.  They are required to spout out all this information about specials and other offerings in the restaurant, and they do this over and over and try to make each speech unique.  Nothing like hearing your server rattle off the same robotic speech to the table next to you.  This can make the guest feel like just another table which will cause them to loose confidence in the service.  As a guest you should let the server inform you of specials and offerings as you may just be sold into trying something new and have a culturally blissful moment.

     I am going to go with a happy prompt hello from your server.  "Beautiful day out toady" He exclaims cheerfully.  The sincerity of his smile and the confidant eye contact strikes you.  This chap is in a good mood or really loves his job.  It's infectious.  My name is Charles and I will be taking care of you tonight, Nikki over there," he does not point but gracefully motions towards another server, "She and everyone else is happy to help you tonight so if you need anything you don't hesitate, you just let us know."

     Now if you had been in just a horrific mood for some reason and cut your server off you may, I know that I am, have been reluctant to ask another server for help.  That is just a sample of how I greet my tables when I serve.  I am also obligated to inform you of new items and specials.  I happen to work at a fabulous restaurant that changes the menu often and they allow us to try all the new dishes.  I go to my table with an understanding of what I am selling and I will be honest with you.  If I don't like I will say so and inform you why.  This may seem a strange selling technique but I understand several things.  My taste and your differ and I have confidence in the food and the kitchen.  I have had plenty of people order my least favorite item on the menu after they question me about it.  It's because I don't leave off on a negative.  "I have to admit I don't care for that particular dish, I do not like a sweet sauce, but it is my Mothers favorite dish."  Hopefully as a guest I established a trust.  I was not that robotic server again who just loves the whole menu, I was up front and honest.  I also did not bash the menu and try to steer them away from something they found interesting.  I informed them why I did not like it and backed it up with a solid endorsement from someone I know who absolutely loves it. 

     The point I am going for is as a guest I look for a confident server.  I want to know they know the menu and when I tweak my order they are not coming back to the table to tell me "I apologize but onion is actually it the Ravioli so changing the sauce will not solve your allergy issue I am so sorry." As a server I take pride in my knowledge of the menu, I cook at this restaurant as well so I am really getting to know the food intimately.  As a guest I let that server guide me through a culinary venture, that is why I dine out, to experience something.  If you are just going out because of time constraints, or out of town don't forget that even tho it really is necessary and your not doing it for the joy of it; does not mean you still can't enjoy it for what it is meant to be.  Again I bring you back to the phrase, You choose your attitude!  So guests and Employees alike let's choose to be kind and courteous to each other while me make a brief pit stop in each others lives. Let us....

Love Food, Live Life!