Personal updates and what to expect from Explorer of Food

So what’s new with me?  Well, the last couple months have been extremely busy for me, which is why I haven’t had the time to put out any new posts.  Studying for finals this past semester was brutal for my friends and myself.  It left everyone burned out and ready for summer.  I’ve also been working to get myself a job that will actually help me further my career once I’ve graduated.

What about my interest in food?  It’s still there and going strong.  I’ve still been trying new food, new restaurants, and new kitchen gear.  This spring has led me down a new culinary path as well.  After being gifted a propane smoker for Christmas and reading about barbeque all winter longer, I’ve been putting it to good use this spring.  I’ve been sampling new brands and styles of beer and have found what I believe will be one of my all time favorites as well as a few that I won’t likely be buying again.

So stay tuned for some good content to come!

TRÖEGS JavaHead Stout

Troegs Java HeadIt’s been a while since I’ve made a post, so I thought I’d dig a little more into my beer tastings.  Some of the better grocery stores near me let you fill up a six pack with assorted single bottles of a wide assortment of craft brews.  This is really great for a newbie like myself as I can try a lot of stuff without buying six of everything.

Here’s one of the brews fro my last assorted six pack: TRÖEGS JavaHead Stout.  So here is my still very amateur review of this wonderful sounding stout.

JavaHead poured black with a tan head.  It smelled wonderful; roasty like chocolate or coffee.  Tasting it brought hints of coffee and roasted malt.  It was slightly bitter, but balanced well by the rich flavors.

Overall, this was a good brew that I would drink again.  It was really my first departure from traditional stout beers and I enjoyed it.

Troegs Java Head

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Being a college student, who lives at home and likes to cook, I often find myself cooking dinner for my family.  I went digging into the freezer to find something one morning, and came up with a couple pork tenderloins.  I really wanted to fire up the grill, but the nice break from typical January weather we were having ended the day before…

So I jumped on line looking for a good roasting temperature and time.  I came up with a couple different things, but settled on one.  I also decided to combine a couple recipes I found on foodnetwork.com.  Here’s what I did:

First Time French Press Coffee

Over the past couple years I’ve started to enjoy coffee.  What I once thought of as a bitter, watery caffeine delivery system has become an enjoyable treat.  My journey started with god awful gas station coffee supplemented with flavored creamers.  The occasional glass of iced coffee made with what was left over from my parents’ morning pot was good, but also flooded with creamer.

I slowly started to drink better coffee when it was there, but I still wasn’t completely sold on the stuff.  While at a gathering to mourn the loss of a loved one, one of my relatives made Syrian coffee.  Being adventurous with food, I gave it a try.  Black, no sugar, no cream.  It really opened my eyes to what coffee could be. It was strong, it was pungent, and was like nothing I had ever tasted.

That brings me to my current position.  I learned one of the reasons I never like my parents’ coffee was they made it quite weak.  I started experimenting and found I like a coffee with about twice as much grounds per cup of water.  Since then, I’ve been enjoying quality beans, usually shade grown (and free trade), but still made with a cheapo blade grinder and standard drip coffee maker. Continue reading

Toledo Favorites 2: Pub Food – Nick & Jimmy’s Bar and Grill

I’m not big on going to bars. In fact, what usually gets me to a bar is the food.  I’ll usually have a drink, but the food is why I’m there.  For that reason, Nick & Jimmy’s has become one of my go-to bars.  Nick & Jimmy’s is one of a few restaurants owned by the same restaurateur.   These include the Village Inn, Basin Street Grille, and the Temperace, MI Nick & Jimmy’s.

Upon entering the restaurant, there is a section of seating and of course the bar. Off to your right is another small seating section and a room with two pool tables and a shuffleboard table.  Off of that room is another small bar.  There are a few arcade games throughout the bar like pinball.

I am rarely in there for dinner or later with the bar crowd.  My friends and I will grab a late lunch after class occasionally.  It is usually not very busy in the middle of the afternoon. We usually eat with a beer, then go play some pool, which is $1 per game. Continue reading

BGump’s 101 Restaurant & Lounge

This was my first time at this fairly new Sylvania, OH restaurant.  It’s located on Main St. just north of Brint Rd.  We had a large party of 12, and were seated at a row of tables in the corner of the bar/lounge area.  It was a snug fit, but not uncomfortable.  The atmosphere was nice, if not a little dark.  We were seated right in front of the fireplace, and it was hot through most of our dinner.  I will say now, I grabbed my Canon XSi with Canon 40mm f/2.8 “pancake” to throw in the pocket of my leather jacket, as anything bigger won’t fit.  But it was so dark, I couldn’t get any pictures with the lens, I really needed to bring the 50 f/1.4.  So I apologize for the lack of pictures.

The menu features a wide range of a dishes from the expected Cajun classics like crawfish etouffee, to steak, even Black Angus meatloaf.  Every one of the twelve of us found something that sounded good.

I took at look at their very different draught beer list.  Basically all craft brews, many I had never heard of.  I ordered an Ommegang Three Philosophers as the description intrigued me and sounded like a beer I would enjoy.  This was the first quadrupel I have tried.  It was served in a small branded glass (due to the moderate alcohol content of 9.8%).  It was very good;  malty and sweet, but not overly so.  It was not bitter to me at all.  I may have to find some of this to try it again. Continue reading

Back at QQ Kitchen!

This seems to be the place I end up when I’m craving some Asian food.  This trip, I got to share the experience with my dad after we ran to a couple places close by.  At 7:30pm the tables were full, and one just emptied as we walked in.  We both looked over the menu, my dad having never been there, and I me not knowing what I wanted to try next.

I ordered the Pork Bulgogi, sliced pork pan fried and served with spicy Korean barbeque sauce.  It came with a side of white rice, and I ordered a side of Kim Chi.  My dad started with a bowl of hot and sour soup and then the Chow San Shen.  I’d also like to apologize now for the pictures.  I can’t take my DSLR with me all the time; these were the best I could get with my Razr, even with its better than average cellphone camera.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android AppLike I’ve said in my blog before, I’ve never been a big fan of the super sweet, heavy sauces that most Chinese restaurants sell.  So soup is usually one of my go to items.  This is hands down the best hot and sour soup I have ever had.  It was served piping hot with some fried wontons  Besides the fantastic flavor, it was full of ingredients, not loaded with tofu as a filler like too many others I’ve had.  It consisted of bamboo, woodear mushrooms, tofu, carrots, and even chicken.

The Chow San Shen is shrimp, scallops, chicken and vegetables in their house white sauce.  The seafood and chicken was cooked perfectly, the sauce was not heavy and sugary at all.  In fact, it was light and very good.

Finally, my Pork Bulgogi:  The pork, onions and scallions were covered in a thick dark red Korean barbeque sauce that hit me with a ton of flavor before the heat kicked in.  The heat is definitely there, although I don’t personally think it was overwhelming.  If you don’t care for spicy foods, stay away from this flavor packed dish.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android AppThe staff at QQ Kitchen is small, but friendly.  You can sit at the bar and watch your food be cooked or just be served at a table.  Our waitress was attentive without being annoying, which can sometimes be a problem in such small restaurants.

This is obviously not my first time at QQ Kitchen, and it surely won’t be my last.  There’s so many things on the menu that sound good, I don’t know how I’ll try them all.  But trust me, I eventually will!QQ Kitchen  on Urbanspoon

Toledo Favorites 1: Pizza – J&G Pizza Palace

We’ve been going to J&G Pizza Palace since, well, as long as I can remember.  It’s located on Main St. in downtown Sylvania.  This is your quintessential hole in the wall restaurant; a dive, in other words.  The free standing building is small and old.  Parking is limited to a small lot and along Main. St.

When you walk in, the small waiting area faces right into the “kitchen” where you can watch them toss pizza dough, pull pizzas in and out of the oven, and slice up generous portions of their gyro meat.  You can also watch them make pizza dough and assemble the pizzas through the front window.

The seating area is small, with only a hand full of booths and a few long tables.  There is usually a wait for a table and people constantly coming and going with carry out orders.  Now on to the good stuff: the food!

J&G’s pizza is different from any other pizza joint in town.  A thin cracker crust is loaded with toppings (our favorite is the house special), then a hefty layer of cheese is laid on.  Their pizza definitely makes my top 3 in Toledo.

One of their other specialties is gyro.  They start with a homemade meat mixture, which is what makes it so great.  We often carry out a large gyro appetizer, which is plenty for a couple people, even more if paired with one of their Greek Salads.  You can also get a gyro sandwich, served on pita bread with onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.  The sandwich is huge, and it’s very reasonably priced.

If you’re in the area, I’d highly recommend you check out J&G Pizza Palace.  You won’t regret it, I never do when going there.
J & G Pizza Palace on Urbanspoon

Sori Sushi

My dad and I were looking for some place new to go tonight when he mentioned he wanted sushi.  I had heard some good things about Sori Sushi, so we headed over there to give it a try.  It’s located on Monroe St. in Toledo, OH.

20130109-Sori Sushi-0002.jpgThe restaurant is small, but with a nice sized sushi bar.  We took a couple seats right in front of the owner and sushi chef, Kenny.  We were immediately served by his wife, co-owner and namesake for the restaurant, Sori.  She gave my dad and me each a small plate with dish containing cucumbers, a piece of crab, and a gingery dressing.

We took a brief look around the menu and filled out our order sheet. I chose a Sori Roll (~$12) as well as an Eel and Avacado hand roll, or Temaki (~$6). I also ordered one piece of sushi, mackerel, since I’ve never had this fish.

The Sori Roll is loaded with tuna, white tuna, salmon, snapper, crab, egg, and spicy tuna rolled up in a cucumber katsuramuki (thin sheet). It was 20130109-Sori Sushi-0001.jpgserved with tobiko in each slice and daikon radish.  The presentation was simple, but nice.  The roll was very good.  I actually took one piece apart to try its ingredients separately.  The fish was good, and the egg was sweet.  The spicy tuna was not very spicy, but had good flavor.  I would definitely order this one again.

I’ve been really liking hand rolls lately, and my eel and avocado one had good flavor.  It could have been rolled a bit better, but the taste is was counts.  And besides, I didn’t lose 20130109-Sori Sushi-0005.jpgany of the delicious filling out the bottom; no harm no foul, I guess!  I actually decided to order another hand roll, and I had Kenny make me a soft shell crab one for dessert (~$9).

The mackerel sushi ($2) was served with thinly sliced scallions and had a nice seafood flavor.

My dad ordered the Spicy Tiger roll (~$11), tempura shrimp with spicy tuna and tobiko on top.  I usually prefer a panko breaded shrimp to a real tempura one in rolls, I just think they stand up better.  Like I usually find, the tempura was a little soft, but it tasted good.  I love the spicy tuna, and the fact that it’s got some texture to it and not just mush.  It had only a little heat (how I like my spicy tuna); I’d say it would be fine for even though who don’t like spicy foods.  He also ordered a piece of octopus ($2.25)  and a piece of eel sushi ($2.75).

20130109-Sori Sushi-0006.jpgWhen I ordered my second temaki, my dad also ordered another roll, the Dancing Eel (~$12).  It comes with smoked almost, cucumber and cream cheese inside and is topped with eel and avocado.  He doesn’t like cucumber, so he subbed avocado.  This roll was my favorite of the night.  I could have used a bit less cream cheese, but it didn’t distract from the flavors.  The eel went very well with the smoky flavor from the salmon inside the roll.

Overall, it was a good time and a good meal.  The restaurant is nice inside, and the bar was fairly roomy for the two of us (although there weren’t many people sitting there).  The value for what we got was good.  The prices seemed about average from what I’ve had in Toledo.

Right before we left, Kenny and myself got talking about knives after I spotted the gorgeous yo-gyuto next to his work station.  He was friendly and very enthusiastic.  Besides, you gotta love knife talk!

While not my absolute  favorite, Sori Sushi is probably in my top 5 sushi restaurants in Toledo.Sori Sushi on Urbanspoon

New Year’s Eve and Seafood

For many, New Year’s Eve and seafood go hand in hand.  It’s no different for my family.  Our tradition has been to get a big pan full of king crab legs and eat nothing but that and butter.

This year was really no different except for the fact that over the last year I have really fallen in love with mussels.  We also had a couple more people than usual (my sister who doesn’t live here and my grandma). So I ran out to the store in search of mussels.
I came back with a few things:  two pounds of mussels, a couple shallots, flat leaf parsley, thyme, and a bottle of dry white wine.  A few cloves of garlic, some salt and pepper, and I was ready to go.

Sweated the shallots, then added in the finely chopped garlic cloves.  At this point, I poured in some white wine, brought it to a boil and added in the mussels.  I covered the pan and steamed the mussels for about 5 minutes.  I added in the chopped parsley and let steam another 2-3 minutes.New Year's MusselsI served them with another sprinkle of fresh parsley and a few lemon wedges.  And boy were they delicious.  I never realized how easy cooking them is, even if the prep is a little work.  I’ll definitely be experimenting with more mussel recipes.  If you’ve got any good ones, please share!