Friday, January 30, 2009

Hell's Kitchen Season Five Begins

Tonight was the opening night of Hell’s Kitchen season 5; the show where renowned celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey berates a ragtag team of wannabe cooks. These 16 cooks are vying for Ramsey’s attention in hopes that they will win the prize of a quarter million dollars and a position at the Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City.

At first impression the teams that were chosen for this season seemed to be of higher caliber than the prior season with more executive and sous chefs in the line. Once the tasting of their opening dishes commenced it was clear that some of the contestants were clearly not destined for greatness. Ben seemed to do well with his version of Peking duck in contrast to Colleen’s “Diaper” of enchiladas. As it turns out Colleen the cooking instructor actually has no formal cooks training. There seemed to be a few stand out dishes but for the most part Chef Ramsey spent a lot of time spitting out food.

As usual most patrons in the Hell’s Kitchen dining room don’t get fed until the 5th or 6th episode. Having so many trained cooks on the line; one would think they could get out a single service for dinner, but that would not really make great TV would it.

The red team (girls) had a few issue right from the start with buffet cook Lacey quitting during prep. It seemed that the ice cream machine had gotten the better of her. Once the work was done she miraculously pulled herself together to join the rest for dinner service announcing to her team that she had never worked on a line before and would need to be helped. That’s when Coi called her out in front of Chef Ramsey and threatened to take care of her if she got her kicked off the show.

The blue team (boys) were not without their problems when Wil with one L, seemed to lose all semblance of what a cook does, and Seth; who has already alienated himself from the entire team, could not seems to put out a lamb chop to save his life. Ramsey has taken to calling Seth Forrest, as in Gump and need not worry about what to call Wil as he’s already been eliminated. It truly does suck the worst to be first.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Processor Knowingly Sold Contaminted Peanut Products

The Georgia peanut plant linked to a salmonella outbreak that has killed eight people and sickened 500 more across the country knowingly shipped out contaminated peanut butter 12 times in the past two years, federal officials said yesterday.

Officials at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have been investigating the outbreak of salmonella illness, said yesterday that Peanut Corporation of America found salmonella in internal tests a dozen times in 2007 and 2008 but sold the products anyway, sometimes after getting a negative finding from a different laboratory.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just Simply Great Products!

Our friends at Just Simply Good Stuff sent us a box of sample to check out and we have been dragging our feet or tongues, getting to the taste tests. So recently we went on a total taste test rampage and dove head first into this box of savory spice blends.

Robin Carter’s seasonings are all created from scratch using her own recipes. They grind and mix individual chilies, herbs, and spices to create unique dry rubs and blends, and salt is only used to enhance the blends not weigh them down. Their spice blends are all natural, contain no MSG, and are simply delicious.

As it turns out Just Simply Good Stuff is more like Really Great Stuff! It has taken us quite some time to get through all the items that we received because they are so versatile we kept finding new uses for them. A favorite of our; the Lemon Lime Salt is fantastic on Beer Can Chicken. The Wild Game Rub elevated my Grilled Tri-Tip to new heights, and the Smoky Jalapeno Rub was extraordinary as a pre-seasoning for hot wings. We also used the Lemon Lime salt to make some remarkable Tequila Lime Prawns!

For those of you whom have been to the Just Simply Good Stuff website you know there is a library of recipes and serving suggestions that show you great ways to use these wonderful products. We went through and recreated a few of these to get a feel for how Robin intended the spice blends to be used. We were very pleased with the results! Here are the recipes that we used:

Smoky Jalapeno Corn on the Cob

Butter corn, sprinkle with Smoky Jalapeno Rub & Smoky Mesquite salt. Wrap in foil, grill or bake. This recipe is especially handy when you're feeding a crowd. Just unwrap the corn and you're good to go! (No need to pass around all of the butter and salt & pepper… it's already done!)

Grilled Zucchini

Slice zucchini lengthwise, layer 3 - 4 sheets of paper towels, lay slices on and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt, let set for about 20 minutes to draw out some moisture, rinse lightly and pat dry, brush both sides lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle on Mediterranean Medley and Lemon/Lime salt lightly on one side; grill (2-3 min) until you get golden brown grill marks, flip & repeat. Remove, sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately while hot.

Holiday Prime Rib Roast

Prime Rib Rub

1 Prime Rib Roast 7-8 lbs (or about 4-5 ribs)


Ask the butcher for the small end of the Prime. Season generously on all sides with our Prime Rib Rub, Place Roast bone side down in a hot pre-heated oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees and cook about 20 to 30 minutes per pound. Test the beef with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the roast (center of the eye) being careful not to touch the bone. Remove the roast when the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees for rare, 140 for medium rare or 150 degrees for medium. Cover the roast loosely with aluminum foil and let sit for 1/2 hour. The internal roast temperature will continue to rise about 5 degrees even after you take it out of the oven.

You can see how simple it is to get great results with Just Simply Good Stuff products. Try some of these unique and delicious blends and soon you will have your own favorite way to prepare Simply Great Food!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Dinner: Soy Sauce Roasted Chicken

Today’s Sunday Dinner was inspired by some samples delivered to us by the people at Wan Ja Shan. Their soy sauce products are so vibrant and delicious it makes cooking a great meal a simple task. It’s true that when you start with great ingredients you get great results!

This dish is prepared classically as a pan fried heavily sauced dish served over rice. We chose to lighten it up a bit and use the sauce as a baste for the whole roasted bird.

1 whole roasting chicken
1/3-1/2 cup soy sauce (use low sodium if you like)
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/4 cup rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, crushed
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1-2 piece star anise
2 cloves garlic
chopped hot chiles (optional)
1 stalk scallion, chopped
sesame seed

Mix all ingredients, except chicken, scallions, sesame seeds in a deep roaster over medium heat.

Add chicken, and then roast at 375degrees for 15 minutes per pound. Baste chicken occasionally.

Chicken is done when the juices run clear or the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees in the thickest part.

Remove chicken from the sauce and set aside in a platter to rest.
Skim fat from the sauce, thicken it with cornstarch mixture (1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 TB water) and pour the sauce over chicken.

Sprinkle scallions and sesame seeds and serve with rice and steamed broccoli.

Need a Recipe? Got a Recipe to Share? This is a great place to do it! Email us with your recipe and we'll add it to the list and give you some props too!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quaker Changes the Rules In The Granola Bar Game.

Today in the mail we received a nice treat from the Quaker Oats company. As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaster program we have been given the opportunity to sample and report on the new Quaker True Delights brand of chewy granola bars that are about to hit the shelves at your local market. We could not wait to dig in to these healthy and delicious looking snack bars!

Quaker describes the True Delights - Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut bar as a taste of the exotic with our captivating blend of toasted coconut, ripe banana and rich, buttery macadamia nut. Your taste buds will be tropically transported when they encounter this decadent flavor combination. We found this flavor was pretty close to their description, perhaps without the teleportation aspect. The banana flavor is more of a background note that carries through the experience of this bar. Up front is the coconut and a sweet honey like flavor. The large chunks of macadamia nuts definitely add to the decadent rich buttery flavor. It’s hard to believe something this tasty is also good for you.

Quaker describes the True Delights - Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond as a responsible decadence. With the surprisingly rich flavor combination of dark chocolate chunks, luscious raspberries and whole almonds, you might not be able to stop yourself. And why would you? It is packed to the hilt with chunks of bittersweet chocolate, whole almonds and bits of dried raspberry. This is a great flavor combinations the raspberries tart flavors explode in your mouth. The bittersweet chocolate chunks play of the berry tartness and the whole toasted almonds bring all the flavors together. So far these are proving to be some of the most complex flavor combinations you will see in a snack food like this. Bring on the last flavor!

Quaker True Delights - Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry is described as the best of both worlds. Our chewy granola made with whole grain is combined with sumptuous honey, roasted cashews and mixed berries for a crunchy, chewy snack that will delight your taste buds. This is definitely my favorite of the lot. The first bite is reminiscent of a salted caramel as the honey and salty rich cashews play off each other’s subtle flavors. The whole thing is rich, buttery and toasty with a tangy berry finish. AWESOME! These are truly a gourmet granola bar. Forget about what you think you know about granola bars, Quaker has just changed the rules.

Hopefully I was able to give you an idea of how wonderfully tasty these new granola bars could be, but why take my word for it. Quaker is willing to give you your own free sample. Just click the link and fill out the form!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cowgirl Chocolates; A Concert of Taste and Texture.

The Last Bite recently received a small box of unique and delicious sweet chocolaty treats from Cowgirl Chocolates. The eclectic flavors were divided into two categories; spicy and mild. Included are flavors such as Spicy Double Dark Chocolate, Raspberry Lemon, and Habanero Caramel.

While I love chocolates and spicy foods I gathered a group of four tasters so as not to put myself into a diabetic coma. We found that the common thread amongst all the delicious flavors was the super creamy and rich texture of the truffle centers and the crisp sweet chocolate shells.
On the mild side the flavors are Double Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Ivory Orange, and Raspberry Lemon.

The spicy side of the box was filled with flavors such as Raspberry Dark Chocolate, Double Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut Milk Chocolate, Cappuccino, Habanero Dark Chocolate, and Habanero Caramel.

The presentation of these fine chocolate screams of quality and makes you want to devour them immediately upon receipt. Once you tear open the red paper and remove the ribbons, a myriad of shiny colored foil wrappers entice you with their hidden secrets.

As a group we pretty much agreed on the favorites. While we loved them all, there were definitely standouts in the bunch. We all enjoyed the Ivory Orange Truffle; crisp white chocolate encases a velvety milk chocolate spiked with tangy orange essence. Chocolate and orange is a classic combination, but the ivory white chocolate elevates this truffle beyond the ordinary.
Removal of the aqua colored foil reveals a favorite flavor of chocolate lovers, the Double Dark Chocolate truffle. The dark bittersweet shell is filled with creamy dark bittersweet ganache. What more could you want from a tasty chocolate morsel; more of them.

The spicy side of sweet brings a whole new perspective to chocolates. I’ve had spicy chocolates that were ok, and some that were not good at all. The spicy treats in this little red box were nothing short of greatness. The spiciness was well balanced in all the various flavors. The favorite of the spicy menu was definitely the Habanero Caramel. While there was no chocolate on this one it was one of the most remarkable caramels I have ever tasted. The caramel itself was buttery and had sweet vanilla undertones. There were several layers of flavor before the spiciness of the habanero pepper beat its way to your taste buds. The sweetness of the creamy caramel offset the heat of the habanero enough to let you enjoy the caramel without too much pain, but enough of the habanero comes through to make sweat a bit. It was the perfect combination of pain and pleasure.

The other standout on the spicy side was the Cappuccino Truffle. It had the added element of texture; as if the spiciness was not enough to wow your taste buds the outer shell of cappuccino truffle had a crystallized coffee crunch to it. Combined with the rich sweet cappuccino crème center and the ever so present spiciness this chocolate bite was certainly a concert of taste and texture.

All of us at The Last Bite thank the people at Cowgirl Chocolates and Foodbuzz for the opportunity to sample and report on this awesome taste of Fine Chocolates!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Road Trip: Jim Neely's Interstate Bar-B-Q Memphis, TN

Do you have a food that you are totally nuts over? For me, and a few of my friends it’s barbecue. There is not one thing about BBQ that we don’t love. Even the act of walking into a new barbecue joint is a joyous event. So when I say we drove a 545 mile return trip for a single BBQ meal you should not be surprised; especially when I tell you that this was a road trip to the famous Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q in Memphis, Tennessee!

Our motley crew was comprised of Eric from, a friend of his named Cecil, and of course myself. We all packed into Eric’s car for the 4 and a half hour drive from Madisonville, Kentucky to Memphis, Tennessee. Armed with only our coffee, our appetites and about two and a half hours worth of small talk we started our journey to one of the World’s most famous BBQ bastions.

In 1978, Jim Neely purchased Interstate Grocery at 2265 South 3rd Street. Not only would the grocery store provide his son with a job, Neely thought the store might provide himself with a way to supplement his income once he retired from the insurance business. The store was run down and had become a place for a rough element to hang out, drink, take drugs and get in the occasional fight. Most people probably would never have imagined the store could become a prosperous business. People asked why he came to this location, "It's not the land, it's the man," says Neely. "I had a vision for what this place could become.

In 1979 He purchased the property and then converted the store to Interstate BBQ Restaurant. This established the Neely name on the Memphis BBQ scene. Today Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q has fame status and is well known in barbecue and foodie circles all over the world.
When we finally arrived at our destination we were immediately revitalized by the prospects of an incredible barbecue meal. As strange as it sounds, just stepping out of the car in the Interstate Bar-B-Q parking lot felt like it was already worthwhile. It was as if we knew it was going to be great without really knowing, if that makes sense.

When you enter the doors to the restaurant the aroma hits you like a velvet wall of smoky goodness. Your mouth starts to salivate in anticipation of the delights that are about to come. The place itself shows its age, but not in a bad way. It is like you are entering a historical landmark; the history of great BBQ was made here.

I ordered the Bar-B-Q Sampler and an unsweet iced tea. In the south tea is either sweet or unsweet and sweet means SWEET, so you better be ready if you order it that way. I figured the sampler would give me the widest assortment of Interstate Bar-B-Q experiences without causing me permanent and irreparable damage.

The sampler is made up of Pork Ribs, Beef Ribs, Links, Beef Brisket, Pork Shoulder, B-B-Q Spaghetti, Beans, Slaw and Bread. The Sampler Platter is described as “A Trip to Hog Heaven”! This was really a stand out barbecue meal everything on the plate was clearly top notch; the pork ribs were fall off the bone tender, the beef ribs had just the right amount of texture and were not tough at all, links were made in house and were incredibly seasoned. The chopped brisket was tender and smoky with a hint of tangy sauce, and the pork shoulder was pulled and sauced and was incredible on the plain white bread with some slaw. To me the star of the sampler was the B-B-Q Spaghetti, it had the perfect amount of sauce and meat and the flavors were far more complex than I expected. The side dishes were all great as well, there was tons of meat in the beans and they were hearty and rich. The slaw was both tangy and creamy and cut through and enhanced the sweet rich pork.

We finished the meal with a piece of the Sock-it-to-me cake which we all shared. It was described to us as a pound cake pumped up with sour cream and love. That it was for sure, there was a cinnamon crumble center and a sweet glaze over the cake. It seemed like it would be the lighter of the desserts on the menu. I’m looking forward to some sweet potato pie on my next visit.

If you find yourself in Memphis or you are willing to make the long drive out from wherever you are, the ride to Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q will be worth time and travel. Taste some barbecue history for yourself. On the way out we thanked Jim for an excellent meal.

Let him know that we sent ya!

Jim Neely's Interstate Bar-B-Q
2265 S. Third Street
Memphis, Tennessee 38109
901-775-2304 - Restaurant
901-775-3149 - Fax and Order by Fax

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Year of the Ghost Pepper!

Did you know that 2009 is the year of the ghost? No, not on the Chinese calendar, on the Chile-head calendar.

It seems that there is finally enough of the incredibly hot Bhut Jolokia pepper commercially available not that a plethora of ghostly hot products have hit the market running.

The Naga Jolokia (also known as Bhut Jolokia, Ghost Chili, Ghost Pepper, Naga Morich) is a chili pepper that grows primarily in Assam state of India, but also in northeastern India (Nagaland, Manipur), Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. In 2006, it was confirmed by Guinness World Records to be the hottest chili in the world, replacing the Red Savina.

In 2000, scientists at India's Defense Research Laboratory (DRL) reported a rating of 855,000 units on the Scoville scale, and in 2004 an Indian company obtained a rating of 1,041,427 units through HPLC analysis. This makes it almost twice as hot as the Red Savina pepper. For comparison, pure capsaicin rates at 15,000,000–16,000,000 Scoville units.

In 2005 at New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute near Las Cruces, New Mexico, Regents Professor Paul Bosland found Naga Jolokia grown from seed in southern New Mexico to have a Scoville rating of 1,001,304 SHU by HPLC.

In February 2007, Guinness World Records certified the Bhut Jolokia (Prof. Bosland's preferred name for the pepper) as the world's hottest chili pepper.

Last year Dave’s Gourmet, famous for their Insanity Sauce released the first 2008 Ghost Pepper Private Reserve in the well know wood coffin caution tape wrapped packaging. This year the Return of the Ghost Pepper Private Reserve 2009 is making its debut and apparition like disappearance. Hundreds of the ghoulish hot sauce has been pre-sold prior to its release and current inventory is flying off the shelves. We anticipate that in a very short time you will have to hire yourself a ghost hunter to locate this spicy specter.

While we don’t have the actual Scoville rating of the 2009 Private Reserve the addition of Jolokia peppers insures that these will be some of the hottest reserves ever made by the spicemeister.

In other ethereal hot sauce news from Dave’s Gourmet, Ghost Pepper Naga Jolokia Hot Sauce, the newest member of the insanity line has just been released. This sauce is “So Hot It’s Spooky”, and it says so right across the top of the label. A quick review of the ingredient declaration shows that Jolokia peppers are the primary ingredient in this sauce, and if that’s not enough for you it’s spiked up with hot chile extract. In case your taste but are not completely flambéed roasted garlic is added to round out the flavor. Don’t be fooled though, the primary flavor in this new hot sauce is PAIN! This stuff should have no problem getting your endorphins rushing to ghost bust your horrifying agony.

Who You Gonna Call?