Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: H Butler Bar-B-Q

Why is it that as of lately, taking a chance on a new place to eat equates to massive disappointment? I remember not too long ago stopping in at a new mom and pop restaurant meant someone put their heart and soul into providing you with an experience that would be comparable to dining at their home. You know, something they would be proud to serve and say; "This is our family recipe." I'm not sure if this was once the scenario at H. Butler BBQ, but it's certainly not the scene there today.

My dining companion and I were famished this afternoon having sustained ourselves on coffee and sugar free butterscotch candies during a seminar we attended earlier. We found ourselves driving down El Camino looking for a place to get some lunch. Amass the countless now vacant restaurants we happened upon a sign that said BBQ. As we are barbecue lovers we decided to give it a try.

Walking into H Butler's BBQ did not set off any immediate alarms. It was approaching 2:30 so the few patrons inside would not be an indicator of the heinous BBQ violations that would unknowingly be committed. It's not the cleanest restaurant in which I have eaten, but if you know BBQ, you will know that some of the biggest dives produce some of the greatest food! Unfortunately, not the case here!

There were a couple of patrons at booths and no one in line so we walked straight up to the register. There was no one on the other side of the counter but the owner arrived in a reasonable amount of time. We ordered two lunch combo #4s; brisket and ribs, one with slaw and beans, the other with mac and cheese and beans, and both with corn muffin. Since I had decided I would review this place I ordered some sliced pork and a polish sausage ala carte. Denied! I was informed by the owner that they would no longer add extra meat to any orders since it would cause a huge slowdown in the kitchen and this would create a line or a crowd. Are you kidding me, there were three people in the place including the two of us? I told him I wouldn't force anyone to take more of my money than they wanted and concluded our order.

After about twenty minutes the first plate of food came out. It was accompanied by some crusty silverware that I asked the server to replace. The second plate of food and the new crust free silverware came about seven minutes later. I guess it's hard not to get side tract when you are walking across an empty restaurant.

On to the food, and I have to say I'm glad the owner wouldn't let me order any more. Can we talk brisket? I should rather starve than to eat this lousy brisket! It resembled a desiccated pot roast you might find in a hospital cafeteria. There was no smoke ring, no pinkness, and no flavor! I take that back there was a flavor, and that flavor was salt. It was so salty that it was barely edible at all; perhaps that's what drew all of the moisture out?

The pork ribs were a little more on the edible side. The seasoning was not as obtrusive, but also not great. I tried to put some barbecue sauce on them to help with the flavor only to find that it was fermented in the bottle. Prison wine with your brisket anyone?

The side dishes were equally horrendous; there was the bland and cold mac and cheese, baked beans straight from the can to the microwave, and the overly sweet and mushy, water logged coleslaw. I think the corn muffin deserves its own description as it was quite a bit worse than the other sides. This was without a doubt the single worst pastry I have ever put in my mouth. It was as if the muffin was perhaps baked from the corn husks instead of the corn itself. There was not even any butter served to help lubricate the walls of your esophagus enough to choke it down. I can only assume the baker ran out of flour and ground up a sheet of drywall to use in its place.

While H Butler's BBQ is permanently scratched out of my book of places to try, I still have hope that the mom and pop restaurant is alive and well. We need the charisma and personality of local, independent businesses to rise up and succeed so we are not left with just the cookie cutter chains and franchises.

568 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
(408) 738-4996

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Foodbuzz Tastemakers: Emeril's Gourmet Chicken Broth

Our good friends at Foodbuzz have sent us a selection of fine Emeril's products to sample and report out findings. One of those items
was some of Emeril's gourmet chicken broth. We decided to make a local favorite meal that would definately feature the full flavor of Emeril's broth; Chicken PHO.
Below is the recipe we created. This dish can be made with a variety of noodles; we cooked three kinds to suite everyone's desires. The tasty PHO was equally delicious
with both egg and rice noodles, and was even great with low carb shirataki noodles.


2 ounces rice or egg noodles

1 piece ginger root
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 spring onions, chopped

3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped

6 cups Emeril's chicken broth

4 ounces raw chicken, sliced in strips
1 bunch baby bok choy

4 large carrots peeled

2 ounces bean sprouts

1 small bunch fresh cilantro stems

4 cloves

2 star anise

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 lime


1. Add the ginger, garlic, bok choy, carrots, fish sauce and lemon grass, and spices to the broth and simmer for 45 minutes.

2. Strain and reserve.

3. Add the chicken pieces to the strained stock and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Cook the noodles in boiling water for four minutes.

5. Drain and divide the noodles between the soup bowls.

6. Pour the soup over noodles.

7. Garnish each bowl with some of the bean sprouts, cilantro and a wedge of lime.

Serve with Hoisin and Sriracha hot sauce.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Foodbuzz Tastemakers: Nakano Rice Vinegar

Thanks to the great people at Foodbuzz and Nakano brand foods we have the opportunity to bring you a great recipe from their booklet.

The awesome flavor of the Nakano rice vinegar gives this soup that wonderful tang that is reminiscent of your favorite Chinese food restaurant. This soup is incredibly easy to make at home and as delicious as any restaurant will produce. All the ingredients are available in most regular grocery stores.


4 cups (32 oz.) chicken broth
2 Tbsp. lite soy sauce
114 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes or 1 tsp.
hot chile oil
4 ounces firm silken tofu, well drained,
cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 can (15 oz.) sliced mushrooms or
straw mushrooms, drained
1/2 cup drained canned bamboo shoots
3 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 egg white, slightly beaten
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tsp. dark toasted sesame oil

Combine broth, Nakano Seasoned Rice
Vinegar, soy sauce and red pepper flakes in a
large saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to medium; simmer 2 minutes.
Stir in tofu, mushrooms and bamboo shoots;
heat through. Combine water and cornstarch,
mixing until smooth. Stir into soup; cook until
soup boils and thickens, about 5 minutes,
stirring frequently.

Remove from heat. Stirring soup constantly in one direction,
slowly pour egg white in a thin stream into soup. Stir in green onions and sesame oil.

Ladle into soup bowls. Serves 4 (makes about 5-1/2 cups).

Tip: Silken tofu is sold alongside regular tofu
in the produce section of your supermarket.
Its creamy texture is excellent in soup. If
unavailable, diced cooked chicken or pork
may be substituted.

Total preparation and cook time: 25 minutes

Nutritional information per serving:
111 calories; 7g protein; lOg carbohydrate;
5g fat; Omg cholesterol; 1,573mg sodium