Monday, November 30, 2009

1st Annual Turkey "Best Bird" Photo Contest

Turkey #1 (3 Votes T-2nd)

This beauty was submitted from Ingrid and Scott from Chicago. Notice the seasonings have created a nice crust on top, and the even browning screams, "This is not my first rodeo".

Turkey #2 (Winner Winner Chicken Dinner 5 Votes)
Ok this one is a little awkward, and then there is the turkey. This bird submitted by Nathan shows a dedication to a bit.

Turkey #3 (2 Votes)
As if the poor bird hadn't suffered enough before Nate molested it, here is what it looked like before the ugliness.

Turkey #4 (2 Votes)
This delicious bird comes from Lisa in Chicago. You can tell it was delicious as the camera could not beat the hungry onlookers to the bird. It's a plump one.

Turkey #5 (2 Votes)
Being an inaugural photo contest, I didn't post any rules for submission. Therefore this artistic interpretation is of Fred and his birds. At least it has a turkey in it, and even one is edible.

Turkey #6
Like father like daughter. Here is Sara showing off her bird as well. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Turkey #7
Here is the actual bird, a nice juicy specimen that makes me hungry for Thanksgiving all over again.

Turkey #8 (T-2nd 3 Votes)
My Pop actually makes a mean turkey as well. The general rule is that my moms sticks to Indian food, and my pops does the American food. I think his thermometer lied to him, but it's the winner in my book.

I will disqualify myself. This is my turkey from the last time I cooked one. As you can see, eating makes me happy.

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to submit a photo of their turkeys this year. Hopefully this contest will only be larger over Christmas or even next Thanksgiving. There will be a prize for the winner, so please vote at the top left of this page and feel free to stuff the ballot box with friends. Good luck to you all and Happy Feasting. Please leave any comments or additional pics below!

It wouldn't be a complete post without some silly links, so here you go. If you have kids to entertain, or for those of you who are kids at heart, here are some Thanksgiving (and Christmas) coloring book templates to color in at home. Maybe you can't draw and don't want to let a piece of paper tell you where you can or can not color, then you can create your own funny turkey right here.

Have fun, and if this is your first stop at this site, please feel free to peruse my previous posts of when this site used to bring you the hard hitting news from the Food Festival circuit.

Monday, November 23, 2009

#18 Roadtrips - New Orleans, LA & Los Angeles, CA

#18 Roadtrips - N'Awlins & LA

No festival this weekend so Best Bird Contest on the site. Send me a pic of your bird if you have a chance, maybe even a prize to the winner!

The festival season seems to be coming to an end. Apparently people don't want outdoor festivities in the Wintertime. Unfortunately this has had a negative impact on this site, as I haven't been able to find any to attend. Yet, I have struggled on in my pursuit to bring you culinary "marvels" from around the Mid-West. I have used my time wisely, and took some road trips to warmer climates to bring you this edition.

One of the best burgers in the country hands down. This is the 1/2 pound cheeseburger at the Port of Call in New Orleans. These behemoths could not be contained by some measly fries, so it comes with a baked potato slathered in butter. Is it healthy? No. Is it flippin' delicious? Yes. A theme revisited here. See the greatness for yourself at the Port's website. It was as if I couldn't stop eating it, and by the end I'm not sure if I could have eaten anymore.

I'm not sure if I was even hungry the next day, but somehow someway I managed to put away this delicious samich. This is the Peacemaker Po' Boy from the Acme Oyster Company in New Orleans. Somehow I steered away from something called a "gumbo poopa" on the menu, and ordered this medley of fried oysters, shrimp, and Tabasco infused mayonnaise on a baguette. Needless to say it was excellent.

I know this picture makes this dish look like heaven on a plate, but I'll have to tell you that it was even better tasting. This is the Hickory smoked duck atop sweet potatoes with candied pecans at Emerill's NOLA Restaurant. The duck was moist and flavorful, the sweet potato a nice sweet counterpart, and the pecans gave a nice textural change. Sadly I had to substitute the sweet potatoes for the intended cornbread pudding which apparently used bacon. Regardless, this dish was excellent and inspiring.

My trip to New Orleans concluded with the iconic N'Awlins breakfast, beignets and chicory coffee from Cafe Dumond. It's really a pretty simple concept: fried dough with powdered sugar and a cup of coffee. Yet, there is something special about having this break in the day on a bench in Jackson Square. Essentially though a beignet is a funnel cake variant, and thus very appropriate here.

Of all the iconic LA food fare, I kept hearing about the In-N-Out burger, so I had to try it the second I got there. Within 30 minutes of my arrival I found myself at an In-N-Out and ate this cheeseburger with fries (Note the extra packet of "spread" I ordered). Although the burger itself was approximately 1/8 of an inch, it was fresh and flavorful for when I could actually taste the meat. The toppings were fresh and overwhelming, and then there is the sauce. The super secret sauce that everyone raves about was good, but I always thought it was called Thousand Island dressing. Don't get me wrong the burger was good, and although the fries were soggier than I like they were fresh cut. Tasty, but nothing to fly 1,000 miles for.

Ahhh...the Churro. I have memories as a child when I was last at Disneyland discovering this treat for the first time. Another version of the funnel cake, it is soft and moist in the middle but crisp and sweet on the outside. Instead of powdered sugar it is coated with granulated sugar and cinnamon. It is delicious but must be eaten quickly, as it gets fairly mediocre when it's cold. Again, another funnel cake variant.

My last meal in Los Angeles was definitely my favorite as we ate at the legendary Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. The chicken was a little greasier than I like and the waffles were soggier than my preference, but the combination was pure Magic. Magic I tell you with a capital "M". The chicken was moist and crispy and the sweetness of the waffle was nice, but the syrup tied everything together. I could eat this dish every day if I knew my arteries wouldn't clog up on my 4th day. As if it needed to get better, the Long Beach location even had a live music lounge on the other side of the entrance. Now that's a Saturday night: chicken, waffles, and MoTown music.

Video of the Week: My brother is a Whack-A-Mole King. Notice his focus, his steely determination, and the hand-eye coordination that makes Mr. Miyagi catching a fly with chopsticks look easy. The man was a machine that fateful night, and the poor kids he beat shouldn't have spent their lunch money trying to take him down.

As I mentioned, festivals have been harder to come by as the weather continues to cool. I already hated winter just because of the cold, now I hate it for taking away my festivals. I will continue to search for festivals and continue to post to this site, but the postings will be longer between so keep checking back for more. Then again, I've paid for this site through next May so I'm sure I'll do something with this site as I sit at home shaking my fist at Ol' Man Winter.

Please feel free to email me any suggestions for where this site should go during this idiocy we call winter. Now that we have cars and the internet, why the heck do those crazy Eskimos, sorry Inuit, decide to live in houses made of ice? I digress. Anyway have a Happy Turkey Day and thanks for the support this year. If you have time submit a picture of your Thanksgiving turkey or meal, and I will gladly make that my next post. It's all about the food and Festive Festival Festivities, and there is nothing more festive than a holiday dedicated to eating. Maybe some reader submitted pictures of food festivals could be interesting as well.Any other ideas? Email your suggestions or photos here.

No festival this weekend so Best Bird Contest on the site. Send me a pic of your bird if you have a chance, maybe even a prize to the winner!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

#17 Apple Butter Festival, Kimmswick, MO, October 24, 2009

#17 - Apple Butter Festival - Kimmswick, MO - October 24, 2009

They call it Apple Butter, but it really is not butter whatsoever. There is no churning, no shaking, no bacterial changes, and no delicious fat globules bonding together. Instead Apple Butter is simply applesauce mixed with a couple of aromatics and cooked down by a man in a silly hat. Then it is bottled and sold to suckers like me. It is pretty damn tasty though.

I was getting hungry watching that man stir the sauce, and I came across what was described as a Deep Fried Cajun Turkey Sandwich. I pictured some crispy skin and spicy seasonings, or maybe even a giant fried turkey leg on a bun. Instead I got this. The turkey was in fact tender, but since it was held in a makeshift crock pot all of the juices came with the meat turning the bottom bun into a sponge. It was bland and could have used that magical something, but it did get my juices flowing in anticipation of Thanksgiving. I like to eat.

I have avoided these treats at the festivals thus far, but I could not elude their siren song when I saw them offered as one combo plate. Meet a combo plate of a fried twinkie, fried oreos, and fried pickles. I can't explain it, but somehow these items were in perfect balance of sweet, salty, and damn good. The twinkie tasted like a warm piece of cake with a sweet custard filling, and the oreos were like fudge brownies. The pickles were actually good when I copied the locals by dipping them in Ranch. I wonder how long before Ranch overtakes ketchup and salsa as America's favorite condiment.

What kind of festival would it be without meat on a stick? The Sweet Meat stand promised the best 12 inches in the Midwest. After deciding I was secure enough in myself, I tried the meat. It was amazingly tender and had a sweet smoky finish. The meat came off the stick with ease as I explored the mazes of Kimmswick.

This was odd, so I took a picture. I'm not going to pretend I understand the appeal of taking your picture with a chimp, but if you were in Kimmswick you could have. Apparently Kenzy has been on E.R., Hogan Knows Best, Speed Racer the Movie and the local news. He even has a myspace page. I'm not sure why I am giving this chuckle head the promotional power of this site, but it was definitely different than your normal festival vendor. I'm sure PETA is not happy about Kenzy.

Video of the Week: I don't know what his name was or even if he was an official part of the entertainment. He may have just been sitting outside with his accordion and decided to play a few diddies on such a nice day. For some reason that is exactly what I expect whenever I go to a small town. Regardless, it was a nice change of pace and a reminder of olden times.

This festival was surprisingly the largest one I had been to thus far. I mean they shut down the entire city, and filled every inch they could with vendor booths. Granted the town only has 150 permanent residents and you could literally walk from one end to the other, but the promoters say 100,000 people descend onto the streets of Kimmswick, and I just may believe them. In fact the sheer maze of booths made the festival surprisingly hard to navigate, and I am sure I did not make it to every booth during my visit. What apple buttery goodness did I potentially miss?

As I mentioned earlier, Apple Butter is not so much butter as it is reduced applesauce. I thought apple butter was either butter made from apples or butter that was infused with apple. Wrong on both counts. In fact if you want to make your own apple butter at home from fresh apples, or even store bought applesauce, then here is a recipe in a slow cooker. If you want a creepy guy showing you how to make actual butter at home in under 7 minutes by shaking a jar, then
click here. After watching the two videos, you will wonder why you thought butter could be made from apples in the first place. Or I am just an idiot.

With all the booths that sold Apple Butter at the festival, I was surprised I couldn't find a hot biscuit booth. In fact this would be a perfect opportunity for next year as a vendor. So what else can you use Apple Butter for? This site had some suggestions from cottage cheese to a salmon glaze. They all sound good, but they can't beat apple butter on a biscuit. Alas there were no biscuits to slather my apple butter on, so I had to wait until I got home. For all the whining I did about apple butter not being butter, the apple butter was excellent. It is smooth, rich, sweet and simply tastes like a warm autumn day on the porch. Maybe that is what the gentleman with the accordion already knew.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

#16 Kansas City Here I Come, September 25-27, 2009

#16 Kansas City Here I Come, September 25, 2009

Jack Stack BBQ came very highly recommended and it was a beautiful location. I had a combo BBQ plate which included Beef Ribs, Beef Rib Tips, Potato Salad and Fries. A feast so large and promising that no amount of Bugles along the way would have spoiled my appetite. Unfortunately the tips were tough and chewy, and the ribs were the same. I ended up eating it straight off the bone, since using a fork and knife just didn't work. Ribs are finger food anyway.

I was told my original picture for Jack Stack was kind of unpleasant for the food and myself, so I bow down to my loyal reader. Yet if you have the stomach for it you can click here.

Then I was off to a Kansas University football game. I wasn't concerned about KU football, or if they won or not, or even that Southern Miss gave a gallant effort and were barely beaten by a score of 35-28. I had side bets to win, like if a Southern Miss player would use the stationary bike to warm up or not. I circled the bike in question in the photo, and for the record #17 was addicted to it. He couldn't stop getting on the bike and I might have won a clean dollar and a quarter off it.

The Wing Challenge at Buffalo Wild Wings. The challenge: 12 Blazin' wings (their hottest ones) in 6 minutes. Now one wing every thirty seconds doesn't sound too difficult, and I had practiced my technique with a salt shaker prior to this challenge. In the end, it wasn't the heat that hurt as much as the amount of chicken I was trying to quickly eat. Yes, I completed the challenge. Yes there is a picture of me in the restaurant's hall of fame (listed as Rocco Riz). Yes, I did win a T-Shirt. Yet, it was the pride and prestige of such an accomplishment that I will remember. I could see the envy (or pity) from those seated at tables near us. Man Vs. Food has nothing on me, and you can tell his happy self that I openly challenge him any day of the week.

Ahhh...the White Boy Uniform. I'm not sure if this is regional, and hopefully my faithful reader will let me know. I've noticed that every Caucasian person I know owns the following outfit: a horizontal stripe polo shirt worn over jeans. I tried to fit in as best I could in America's Heartland and even purchased my only pair of jeans (no I didn't own a pair of jeans prior to this) and a polo shirt for this trip. Although you couldn't tell, the whole "outfit" cost a total of $15 at Wal-Mart. Man, Ocean Pacific brand has certainly gone downhill since I was a kid.

Meet the Beef Brisket sandwich at Gate's BBQ, accompanied by three sauces (sweet, regular and spicy). This sandwich was amazing with perfectly tender meat and I couldn't even decide which sauce I liked best. Gates had none of the glitz nor glamour of Jack Stack, but it focused on the meat, and I recommend you know what you're ordering before you get in line. A waitress was kind enough to help me in line, and I was grateful. Gates was very good, but in all fairness, I didn't try the brisket at Jack Stack. I may need to return.

We even had time to catch a Royals game at Kaufman Stadium on Sunday. For maybe the only time all year, the stadium was actually sold out. So, we got some cheap standing room tickets where we stood in a beautiful standing section in the outfield surrounded by cascading waterfalls. It was a beautiful day in a great stadium, and we witnessed Zack Greinke pitch another gem (he deserves the AL Cy Young). Thanks but I'll stick to the river and the streams that I'm used to (I need to stop chasing waterfalls), go Cardinals in 2010! Is baseball still going this year?

Video of the Week: My man the ODB (Original Dream Boat). The Morton Pumpkin Festival was on my original schedule, but I had to cancel it. Luckily someone else was able to not only attend the festival, but record my favorite festival musician of all time. Enjoy yet another gem from Matt Barber with his trusty light show by his side. Please click the Matt Barber Experience for more info.

Ok, so this wasn't really a festival as much as it was a road trip. My thanks go out to Matt, Tim, and Nathan for their company and the laughs they provided. Although this wasn't planned as a ?Triple "F" (Festive Festival Festivities) trip, I noticed just how much food was involved in the trip. Thus I eventually decided to post it.

Kansas City is one of the Kingpins of the BBQ world, and I was surprised to see the old staple I had known as KC Masterpiece is now out of business. Now I had heard many a Kansas Citian(?) tell me about Jack Stack, Gates, Arthur Bryant's or Oklahoma Joe's as being the best BBQ I would ever eat. I will need to return for a more in depth review, but so far Gate's is definitely in the lead.

BBQ has a history as old as time as both a cooking method and as a type of food. If you don't want to take my word for it you can check out someone else that has done a lot more research than I have here. Or, you can check out this TIME magazine article, sorry but I wanted a link to a TIME article in the sad hopes of some future return link (yes I'm talking to you TIME). There is so much information on BBQ out there, but to be honest every real man out there has their own version of a secret sauce/rub. In fact if you meet a man that doesn't claim to be a great BBQ artist, I would suggest running away or discussing the latest fashion trends. But that is neither here nor there. I've always liked Steve Raichlen since I saw him on PBS. Now he can be a little too much at times, but he definitely knows what he is doing. In fact, he has his own BBQ University and that's fairly impressive within itself.

KC and Lawrence, Kansas were both fun due to the company and for the locale. I can't fight the feeling that I didn't eat enough in my travels in this trip, so Kansas City Here I Come again sometime soon.