Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oprah's Favs

I would be lying if I said I never watched Oprah.  Just like virtually every American and millions more across the world, we have all been influenced by the Kosciusko, Mississippi born gab gifted lady.  The 4pm ritual has become as guaranteed as her #1 time slot.  And if you weren't fixated in front of the TV everyday, you were sure to hear about it at the water cooler the next day.

Oprah's magnetic hold can sink the the production of beef or help elect the first African American President.  In addition to her many Oprah-isms, her infamous "Favorite Things" have become an annual event.  In honor of her  farewell episodes and 25 years; I thought I would recap her "Favorite Foods".

In, 2002 she debuted her Favorite Things.  A perfected list of the things that make Oprah say "oohh" and use say "aahh".

Her inaugural food favorites were:

Key Lime Pie


    Garrett's Popcorn

2003 saw a more exact list that included:

    Greenburg Smoked Turkeys

    Melted Chocolate Cake Batter

And though it wasn't food I had to mention she listed
Neiman Marcus Cookbook

2004 had a sole food item and perhaps a indicator that Oprah loves "Key Lime" when she picked
Gourmet Florida Key Lime Bundt Cake

2005 saw the return of Garrett's along with Brownies from Moveable Feast Geneva and Oatmeal Cookie Dough.

For unexplained reasons Ms. Winfrey took a hiatus in 2006.

Catching the trend early, 2007 Oprah fell in love with Perfect Endings Cupcakes from Williams and Sonoma.

Due to the woes of the economy Oprah didn't do her favorite things in 2008 or 2009.

With such a long pause 2010 favorites were back with vengeance.  The list began with the only company to get picked  3 times: Garrett's!

Oprah also picked: Beecher's "World's Best" Macaroni and Cheese and Chicken Pot Pie from Centerville Pie Company.

Mac and Cheese!  Are you kidding?!  My favorite!  What better way to end this stroll down memory lane then with my own CHEESE and macaroni recipe.

  • 2 pounds elbow macaroni
  • 9 eggs
  • 1 cup cubed Velveeta cheese
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 6 cups half-and-half, divided
  • 4 cups grated sharp yellow Cheddar, divided
  • 2 cups grated extra-sharp white Cheddar
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Mozzarella
  • 1 cup grated Asiago
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack
  • 1 cup grated Muenster
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until slightly al dente. about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to keep warm.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until frothy.

Add the Velveeta, butter and 2 cups of the half-and-half to the large bowl of eggs. Add the warm macaroni tossing until the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the remaining half-and-half, 3 cups of the sharp yellow Cheddar, the remaining grated cheeses, and salt and pepper, tossing until completely combined in the large bowl.

Pour the mixture into 9 by 13-inch casserole or baking dishes (approximately 3 (3-quart) baking dishes) and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of sharp yellow cheese and bake until golden brown on top, about 30 minutes more.

Serve hot.

Bon Apetite!

Mr. Foodtastic

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Goo goo for Gaga

I have a secret:  I am a Lady Gaga fan.  It is true; I am a "little monster."  My musical tastes are eclectic but I never saw Gaga coming.  Since the "Famed Monster" got downloaded, it has been a recurring selection.  So when I heard Gaga was heading to the Big Apple, I was on the next thing smoking aka Amtrak.

I have had my fair share of Gaga vision.  I have seen the concert more times than I can count.

Thanks to my favorite "Headbanging Harpist",  I have even made it back stage to see and meet her more than once.


The show is AMAZING.  From a small two bus tour started in 2009, the tour will end next month with a corral of tour buses, a back stage staff of 100+ and one of the most profitable tours in years.  Gaga is quickly approaching MJ status.

Hanging with the stars I became privy to a beatnik hangout that attracts the industry's elite.  The unsuspecting Cafeteria hangs on the corner of 7th Ave and 17th in the Chelsea District.  Initially the word "Cafeteria" conjured images of meatloaf and green jello mold from high school.  But I soon would realize, this is not your "high school" restaurant.

The plain lettering sign out front does not entice you to come in but the energy inside spills out and grabs you through the window views.

The whitewash, art deco-designed eatery is a fashion statement in itself.  You can walk the catwalk over to  the black-marbled bar for a specialty cocktail or vogue in the open dining room or nestle in one of the secluded nooks.  Unabashedly, I am a "people watcher" so I got a table in plain view.

I heard rumors about the mac and cheese.  Could there be one as good as mine? Let's just say, I forked through the ooey, gooey goodness in search of flaws and found very little wrong.  I am rare to recommend a mac and cheese that didn't come out of someone's personal kitchen.  The Cafeteria has been added to discriminating list.

With all day, breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, the rotation keeps the comfort food selections plentiful.  Try the distinctive Croissant french toast for a glimpse into the breakfast menu.  Dip the Cornmeal calamari in the house made Roasted tomato sauce for lunch or dinner.  And end your meal with a very different Apple pie ravioli.

I am a big "breakfast-for-dinner" type of guy.  I sampled the whimsical Green Eggs and Ham.  Honestly this dish needs a little help.  I get that this is comfort food but the attention to detail just was not given to the entire plate.  The scrambled eggs with a proper blend of pesto and goat cheese took a thoughtful hand.  They nailed that!  But the "slab" of grilled ham was just that - a slab!  And do I need to explain my sorrow when I have a less than cared for piece of pork?  The fresh baked biscuit was a great scooper and compliment to the eggs. With a little focus, this can be great, hint-hint.

Wash those cafeteria memories of tater tots and hair nets with your own visit.  You are. You eat -as the Cafeteria puts it.

Bon Apetite!

Mr. Foodtastic

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Books for Cooks

I am do not like the title "chef".  Call me a cook, taste maker, sultan of sauce, master of mixes or guru of the grill, but not chef.  A chef is what I am striving to be.  You see, I am self taught in the kitchen.  I awarded myself my first toque.  Every time I step into the kitchen, I am looking to learn something new which is probably why I have such a vast cookbook collection.  So when I heard about the Bi-Annual Cookbook sale at the James Beard Foundation, I canceled my morning in preps for the rummage.

Embarrassingly enough, the only thing I knew about The James Beard Foundation before becoming a member was that it was a big deal to win an award from them.  HA!  This institution is a foodies' dream!  There are classes, private dinners, lectures series, and a New York-block long list of monthly events with a staff of some of the keenest culinary minds.

The book diving began early Saturday morning.  I hopped #2 express train to downtown - the only way to travel. Patting myself on the back, I walked past the long line outside to get in and flashed my membership card to get in - members do not wait - and I had a one-half hour head start.

Their Bi-Annual Cookbook sale is a lip-smacking delight of recipes in some of the world's best cookbook.  Interested in classics?  There's a book for that! 

Want something uuuhh...different?  There's a book for that! 

Looking to get a bargain on recent best sellers?  There's a book for that!

The elbow-to-elbow room had spiraling stacks of early prints and recent volumes.  Priced from $1 to $20, these post-recession friendly prices got the best of me. 

There was even a collection of "FREE" vintage food magazines.

Before I left, I seriously contemplated some attractively priced silver and stemware.

The end result? 

Six (6) great finds:
Earth to Table 
The conscious cook
Taste buds and molecules
The new book of soups
Kitcho - Japan's Ultimate Dining Experience
Summer in a Jar

This is surely to keep me in the kitchen and inspired to recreate and deviate from the stack of composed recipes.  Betty Crocker has nothing on me!

Bon Apetite!

Mr. Foodtastic

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Restaurant Rewind - Asia Dog

You don't have to take me out to the ballgame for me to want one of the most American foods next to apple pie: HOT DOGS!  Don't scoff when I call myself a connoisseur of the frankfurter.  Great hot dogs are an amazing balance of select ground meats and seasoning encased in the perfect capsule that rarely needs ketchup or mustard.  So when I heard there was another wiener hideaway in New York I simply had to check it out.

There is no shortage of selection when it comes to hot dogs in NYC.  A couple of my favorite hot dogs in the country are there.

There is the recession friendly Gray's Papaya Dogs.

And the contest worthy Nathan's hot dog stands.

But if you want a more sophisticated hot dog; ones with a nouveau look, you have to add ASIA DOG to your short list for a hot dog fix.  Tucked away between Mott and Elizabeth Streets right off Bowery, Asia Dog just opened their doors for business.  The  4X4 walk-in 6 seater has funky charm and a friendly staff to match.

I'll admit it, I'm a fatty.  So when it was time to order I decided all the "Specials" was the best choice.  You know, so I could give my "expert" opinion *wink*

The Dog is a taste bud awakening.  Crisp wasabi  slaw with edadame and a yuzu dressing is a reminder that these dogs have the orient influence all the way through them.  I actually felt like I was eating healthy.

I really really really wanted to try their rendition of The Corndog, but apparently I was not the only one.  They were sold out :(  So, I had the runner up, The Kimchi Pancake Corndog.  Throw out your thoughts of a typical corn dog batter.  The coating  is actually tender with a sweet finish.  Coupled with the "mystery sauce" that is similar to a mild siracha, it is a "nice" interpretation of the traditional.

I saved the best for last.  You could have guessed that I love pork and anything.  But when you take pork and beef burger and mend them into a juice dripping "hot dog" you are my new best friend.  This sexy bite doesn't leave you feeling gluttonous because it's layered with diakon and pickled carrots for a clean finish.  Add a drizzle of their "special sauce" that tastes like a revamped Big Mac sauce and your grin grows with every chew.

Vegetarians are welcome also.  You can choose from beef, chicken or veggie dogs.  Make sure to get your ruffig with their mixed green salad or enjoy the wasabi potato salad.  Wash it down with a house made Limeade soda and you will leave with satisfaction in your stomach while bowing and saying "xie xie" ("thank you" in Chinese).

Meiwei! (Delicious!)

P.S. - Bring cash if you want to eat.  I found out the hard way they don't accept cards yet.  Come on Asia Dog, get it together *smile*