What The Hell Are You Eating?

Sauce on the Side by The Good Chef John July 30, 2008

Filed under: The Good Chef John — whatthehellareyoueating @ 5:07 am
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There I was, in the middle of a Friday night in the 50 seat Italian Bistro in which we had been on a wait since 6:00.  Now it was quarter to nine and sweat was pouring down my face as another cook and I pumped out dinner after dinner.  As I finished plating up a six top I heard the computer spitting out an order, which I grabbed and put it in the line of orders still hanging.  I looked at the order and my blood began to boil, it read:


Chicken Picatta

No pasta sub zucchini

Sauce on the side


Defeated I uttered a word which rhymed with the word duck.  It wasn’t that I had to run into the walk-in find a zucchini, slice, season and grill it.  No, we get special orders all the time, and while it taxes any cook I’ve come to expect it in our restaurant.  What really got me was sauce on the side.   Don’t they know that I make the sauce with the chicken filet, and the chicken and the sauce won’t be as good if I make them separately?  Grudgingly I made the dish and finished out the night.

Driving home that night I couldn’t seem to get those four words, sauce on the side, out of my head.  I wonder when this phenomenon began.  It seems like America is in love with sauce on the side.  No doubt most nationwide chains and franchises have already figured this out and just put the sauce on the side as a rule rather than the exception.  What are we, a bunch of kindergarteners that can’t handle our food touching, are we not sophisticated enough to eat dishes the way they are intended?  Maybe for women it’s the “When Harry Met Sally Effect” wanting to immulate Meg Ryan in that memorable diner scene with Billy Crystal.  Or for men it could be “The Five Easy Pieces Effect” men doing their best Jack Nicholson.  Either way people seem to want to call the shots. After meditating on this I think I know where this atrocity “sauce on the side” came from- the dinner salad.  Yes, the dinner salad let me try to explain.

You see one of my biggest pet peeves is that dinner salads are just plain horrible in most instances.  The dinner salad is always an after thought in restaurants.  First they are usually made by the wait staff and not the kitchen staff and thrown together.  The wait staff is there for tips not hourly wage and so time spent making and putting together salads is wasted time to them, so invariable they are put together hastily and with little care.  With little knife skills the customer ends up with watermelon rind size cucumbers, onion ring size onions, a quarter of a tomato, and boxed croutons.  The hunks of lettuce used is usually washed but not dried, so when they are thrown in a fridge they wilt faster and accumulate a green liquid on the bottom of the bowl.  And then the final straw, the dressing is not tossed with the salad but rather slopped on top so the top layer is saturated and the bottom layer is dry. 


To combat this problem brilliant restaurant minds came up with a solution- dressing on the side.  Now the customer can dunk its vegetable into a ramekin of dressing turning the salad into nothing more than a bowled cruditite.   Salads are not meant to eaten this way, they are supposed to a true community, everything working together to support the whole.

Maybe I’m just behind the times because you wouldn’t see “sauce on the side” written into menu if it wasn’t a popular trend and what the public wanted.  I however would like a little mystic, creativity, and personal touch when I dine.  I like to look at each plate as its own entity and not ingredients on a plate.  Dining should be like a symphony, tastes melding together as each coarse comes adding from the last.  If this trend keeps up we will be serving chicken salad with a pile cooked chicken, a pile of celery, a pile of walnuts, a little bowl of mayonnaise and a salt and pepper shaker.  I am hopeful though, if restaurants can take back the dinner salad and treat it with the respect it deserves maybe the public can see the beauty of composed food and we rid the world of “sauce on the side” forever.



A Conversation About A Granny Smith Apple July 29, 2008

Filed under: Ezra — whatthehellareyoueating @ 3:48 am
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Uncle Joe (That’s me):  Hey, Ezra do you want an apple?

Ezra:  Yes.  With Peanut Butter?

Uncle Joe:  Ok

The apple is served, cut into sections with a large dollop of organic peanut butter.

Ezra:  What’s that?

Uncle Joe:  It’s an apple.

Ezra:  Oh, right.

Uncle Joe:  I thought you said you wanted an apple.

Ezra:  I do, what’s that stuff?

Uncle Joe:  It’s peanut butter.

Ezra:  It looks like poop.

Uncle Joe:  I promise it isn’t poop just try it.

Ezra tries the apple with the “poop” style peanut butter.

Ezra:  It tastes like poop too.  Do we have that other peanut butter?

Uncle Joe:  Yes.

I give Ezra a second helping of peanut butter and he continues to eat them.

Ezra:  Uncle Joe?

Uncle Joe:  Yeah, dude.

Ezra:  Can you do something about these?

Uncle Joe:  What?

Ezra:  These apples have poop on them, wash them off/

Uncle Joe:  It’s peanut butter not poop but I will wash them off.

Ezra:  It’s poop and I want it off my plate.

Uncle Joe:  You’re so weird.

Ezra:  No, you are.

Uncle Joe:  No, you are.

Ezra:  No, you are.

Uncle Joe:  I’m not the one who ate a bunch of poop apples.

Ezra:  POOP APPLES!!!!

Uncle Joe:  Just finish them.


Fruit Review: The Pluot by Ezra

Filed under: Ezra — whatthehellareyoueating @ 3:39 am
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Half purple stuff, half gross.


Zinburger July 28, 2008

Filed under: Burgers — whatthehellareyoueating @ 6:55 pm
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Gourmet burgers.  Do we really need them?  I’m not so sure.  While I can’t afford to drop 150 dollars on a hamburgers stuffed with a fucked up duck liver, I can spend fourteen on one that is supposedly made with Kobe beef at our local “Wine and Burger Bar,” Zinburger but I don’t know that I should.  I’ve eaten many a standard burger that could top the one I had at Zinburger but that isn’t to say that Zinburger is without charms.

Cal and I went down on a Tuesday and the place was in full swing.  We were lucky enough to find us deep within a happy hour that includes half of beers and sides.  The happy hour makes Zinburger worth a trip to try some of their sweet potato chips or double truffle fries both of which made their appearance at our table.  The sweet potato chips came with a nice yogurt dip.  The truffle aioli that came with the fries leaned a little hard to the mayonnaise side.  It sort of tasted like an almost turned mayo you found at the back of the fridge but, shit, they were only two fifty.

We tried none of these things.

The burgers were tasty but hardly worth fourteen dollars.  I’d say they were perhaps eight or nine dollar burgers.  I mistakingly got both avocado and tomato on my burger and it slid around like tectonic plates between the bun.  I had to knife and fork it.  In some cases this can be a compliment to your burger but to others it could be a serious problem.  Here it was just my short sightedness of ordering the avocado and tomato together.  Cal had no such problems and thoroughly enjoyed his.

I just have one other question about Zinburger, why the fuck is it so loud in there?  Cal and I sat outside but when we walked through the dining area, it was a barrage of idiotic speak bouncing around the walls.  It most be acoustically mapped out that way.  Also, the bathroom was creepy.  Really creepy in a Brave New World/1984 way, I loved it.

I have to say that Zinburger is probably my favorite of the Fox restaurants, a position that I previously awarded to Montana Avenue.  I’d say it gets seven fries dipped in weird mayo.



Sandwich Rule No. 6 July 22, 2008

Filed under: Sandwiches — whatthehellareyoueating @ 3:30 pm
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A sandwich is as much about texture as it is about flavor.  Differing layers of crsipy, chewey, gooey, crunchy, dense, light or slippery can turn your sandwich from mere lunch to a tasting experience that you won’t soon forget.  A good texture tenant to stand by is that the sloppier the filling the rougher the bread.  That means grilled cheese and PB&J’s are better on toast.  I think we can all agree on that.  Some people might ask, “What about the sloppy joe? You don’t eat sloppy joes on toast.”  To which I would reply, “Try toasting the bun, amatuer.”  That goes for all barbecue style sandwiches.  Toast those buns and you’ll find out what I’m talking about.  Now as for a denser, ok meatier, sandwich, you have to have soft bread.  We’re talking about meatball sandwiches or cheese steaks here.  I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions here, rules are merely rules.


Current Taco Standings July 18, 2008

Filed under: tacos — whatthehellareyoueating @ 5:50 pm

1. Valarie’s Potato Taco

2.  Pico De Gallo’s Birria Taco

3.  My Chicken Taco (No Fooling, I’ll make it for you)

4.  Martin’s Chicken Mole Taco

5.  Chile Con Sol’s Carne Asada Taco

I have many, many places left to go.


Chile con Sol

Filed under: Mexican,tacos — whatthehellareyoueating @ 5:44 pm
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Chile Con Sol is located on sixth street just west of Campbell in what used to be a crappy sub shop next to a laundromat across from the U of A. Sort of an auspicious location for a decent restaurant, most places so close to campus cater to drunk students. While I’m sure Chile Con Sol does its fair share of business in that department it does so with a little more attention to detail.

It’s an awkwardly shaped building with a small dining area toward the rear of the restaurant. I went there for lunch the other day. Alone save my New Yorker. I decided to give three tacos their shot at making it to my best taco in town list. I went with a red chile, carne asada, and a shrimp. My very sweet waitress told me the shrimp tacos were the best with the enthusiasm of a Ron Paul supporter before they realized he was crazy.

The interior design and atmosphere of Chile Con Sol is relaxing and subdued. The walls are a really soft magenta that plays well with the tile floor. There was one television behind the bar playing ESPN on mute. It was the exact right amount of interference for a lonely lunch patron with an interesting article about how Haruki Murakami became Haruki Murakami.

The tacos were good. Not best in town good, but good enough to crave again. The shrimp wasn’t the best, mainly because it came with melted, gooey cheese all over it. I’m a fan of cheese in most contexts but not in a shrimp taco. The red chile con carne was soft and juicy like a little meat sponge. The carne asada was the winner here. It was salty and delicious with no rubbery fat pieces. My only real complaint was the amount of lettuce festooned about the tacos. Is that really necessary? Lettuce is almost always a distraction, especially on an otherwise decent taco.

I’m going to give Chile Con Carne a solid seven and a half gooey shrimps, with a possibility of an amended score should I try something besides tacos.