Thursday, September 29, 2011

Martha Stewart Enameled Cast Iron Recalled. That Sucks!

Okay, here's a post I never thought I would write. First, I am no Martha Stewart fan. Incredible personal history and entrepeneur, but still, not one of may favorite people. She's certainly no Julia Child. Second, Macy's. Love hate there. Any glimmer of a decent retail experience took a nose dive when Macy's bought out Marshall Field's and rebranded the Sioux Falls store. Again! Actually, I miss Dayton's. But occasionally, one can get a decent deal on merchandise at Macy's with the proper combination of sales prices, coupons, and a Macy's charge card.

So, I was out trolling for bargains in the old cookware department a couple of weeks ago. I was hoping to add to my collection of enameled cast iron.

If you haven't used enameled cast iron, you are seriously missing out. Some of the more famous brands are LeCrueset and Staub. A 5 to 7 quart covered enameled cast iron pan is, in my opinion, perhaps the single most valuable piece of equipment when it comes to cranking out authentic French food. The pot itself is called a "casserole" in more authentic French cookbooks, such as Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So, if you tried to make ratatouille in the short dish you used to take that Tater Tot Hot Dish to the First Lutheran Pot Luck last month, now you know why it didn't seem quite right.

LeCruset and Staub casseroles are spendy. If you can find a decent size for under $200, grab it! Macy's had a great alternative though. I mean, look, it's a heavy cast iron pot covered with enamel. How crazy can that be? Well, apparently simple enough that Martha got some factory in China to kick out ones that could be sold for less than a hundred bucks retail, on sale. Unfortunately, they got recalled. Here's the bulletin from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

I think there is something to this recall because my own casserole has a few spots where chips of enamel are missing. The Secret Salad Fork was relieved to hear about the recall, because until that time, grossly negligent dish washing technique had been identified as the cause of the chips.

So, take that sucker back to Macy's and get some semblance of a refund. I understand Macy's will roll out an improved version later. Chances are I am going to undergo a chronic case of Boeuf Bourguignon withdrawal that I expect will coincide with the fist snowfall of the season. I hope my Macy's refund will at least get me a down payment on a LeCrueset.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oh, The Humanity!! McNally's Messes With Lamb Burger

Last Fall, McNally's devised a seasonal menu that included something rarely seen in these parts- a lamb burger. I raved about it and some molten hot dip that was also on the special seasonal menu in a post last year. I made it a point to go to McNally's as much as possible to get that lamb burger (which was especially delicious with some Guinness) and to convert as many of my forkie-friends to the cause as I could. I preached the gospel of the lamb burger and was sad to see it go when the menu had to change.

Well, I had a chance to visit McNally's this week. I was pretty excited to go because I heard my beloved lamb burger was back. Oh, the anticipation. The longing I had endured. The chance to once again savor that tasty lamb with cheese, prosciutto, braised onions and fresh tomato. I was nearly shaking as I opened the menu.

My anticipation evaporated and my life flashed before me as I scanned the menu only to learn that the lamb burger was there, but HAD CHANGED!!! WTF??!! (What the Fork)

So, how did it change? Three major ways in my opinion. One- the lamb is mixed with sausage. Probably a reason for this. Lamb can be kind of lean and some sausage can add some fat to keep the meat moist. But sausage is sausage and lamb is lamb, unless of course it's lamb sausage, but that is a different story. If I want lamb, I want lamb, not sausage. I hate it when people mix a meat that is perfectly good on its own (like lamb) and make it taste like sausage. Two- cumin. Cumin is one of the most distinctive spices I can think of. It's right up there with saffron and fennel. I can pick cumin out of just about any spice blend. It has its place, usually in some Indian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. The reason it bent my tines on the lamb burger was because it told me the whole thing was taking a Mediterranean/Greek/Turkish twist. Three- yogurt sauce. Bingo! That confirms it. Maybe it was even served on pita bread. I don't know, I was too forked off to read on. Besides, turns out McNally's had run out of them, so even if I wanted to give it the old college try, no go.

Okay, okay, so I hear you saying, "How can you sit there and complain about something you didn't try? You might like it." Yeah, well, you have a point there, a small one, but fine, a point. Maybe it is good and juicy and sausagey/Greek tasting with creamy cucumber yogurt tzatziki sauce. I DON'T CARE!

Here's my point: When you make something good, you shouldn't screw with it. Ask Coca Cola about that.

My other problem is, this is just a tad too trend-oriented. Why does everyone seem to associate lamb with Greek flavors? Sure, lamb is stereotypically Greek. Remember the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the aunt says to the finace', "What? You donn eata meat? Okay, I'll make lamb." Also, this Greek gyro tzatziki burger thing isn't new or unique around here. Bros. has a lamb burger on the menu that bears the same description. Now, instead of putting last year's tasty burger on the menu, McNally's is content to follow suit.

Last year's lamb burger, the REAL lamb burger was tasty. Great combination of ingredients. Best of all, it really showcased the flavor of the lamb. When it was cooked just right, so it was hot and super juicy, it was without peers in the local burger universe. I miss it dearly. Maybe I will try one of the new trendy lamb burgers. But, more likely, when I want something with that flavor profile, I will probably go to Nick's and get a phenomenally delicious gyro made out of that spinning meat loaf on a stick. If I try one, I will let you know.

But, for the time being, shame on you McNally's. Last year you showcased lamb. This year, you're just showcasing a trend. Woo Hoo.

By the way, if you want to try a burger with a composition that is pretty close to the REAL lamb burger, go to Granite City and try their Napa Valley Burger. No lamb, but pretty nice.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Old B-Dubs Remodeling

The original Sioux Falls Buffalo Wild Wings location on West Avenue is under construction. The place is still open and serving icy beers and spicy wings, but it is a bit of a mess. Apparently the game plan is to generally update the appearance. Presumably you are going to see more of the corporate cookie cutter sort of motif like the new West Side location.

When chatting with out server about the changes, we learned that part of the plan is to expand the bar area. Presently, errr, previously, when entering, the bar was on the right and a more resturanty seating area was on the left. Separating the two was a sort of no-man's land. I am pretty sure that center area was not open seating, but I know for a fact that it was treated that way more than once. Not that I know anything about commandeering a table before a Stampede game when the place was packed and a line of people were standing patiently waiting for tables. Anyway, opening up that area and making it more definitively bar is a great idea. My guess is that people who want to take their kiddies to eat wings and drink Mountain Dew are headed to Louise Avenue and the extra bar space will be very handy during televised football games and pre-live games at the Arena.

Keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks if you are heading out there. It looks like the construction is going to get a little more serious and a brief period of closure might be required. You might want to call ahead before making the jaunt.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Breaking News: Shonna Haugen Leaving Parker's

Wow! I was just literally writing a glowing review of Parker's. I think they have done a remarkable job of getting the whole operation into high gear in the last year. Shonna Haugen, Executive Chef at Parker's deserves a lot of credit for that. It's not easy to crank out consistently great product night after night and also to change and develop new twists on familiar ingredients. This is especially remarkable to me, because as far as I know, Shonna does not have any formal culinary education.

As I am working through my post, I just happened to jump over to Shonna's Facebook page and noted the most recent post stating that she just completed her last Saturday evening shift at Parker's and her last day will be Thursday, 9/22. She is apparently heading over to Carnaval Brazillian Grill.

I don't know quite what to make of that. I think Shonna and staff have done a remarkable job with the food at Parker's. (Despite a slight leaning toward Asian-Fusion on occasion that I personally do not particularly care for.) I am not necessarily a Carnaval fan, but will be interested to see what touches Shonna brings to a menu that is comprised mostly of protein on a stick. Best wishes to Shonna with her new endeavor.

As for Parker's, I am sure Stacy Newcomb-Weiland has her bases covered. Stacy and Parker's have undergone a change in the culinary team line-up previously. The guys who opened Bros. were the original Parker's culinary staff. That transition was seamless and I am sure the next one will be, as well. It will be interesting to see what changes a new Executive Chef might bring.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New B-Dubs is Open!!

Buffalo Wild Wings has finally opened the long-awaited new location on the West Side. The new location is in the former Sportsman's Warehouse building along with some furniture stores.

For those of you who have only experienced B-Dubs at the West Avenue location by the Arena, this will be quite a change for you. From what I know, the new spot is created in the image of the standard B-Dubs layout. If you have been to B-Dubs in Rapid City, or another community, you know what I mean. Much different feel with the black and yellow color scheme everywhere. Family/restaurant style seating is in the front, and a big bar area in the rear.

One of my foodie friends, the Secret Soup Spoon, and I love B-Dubs at the West Avenue location. It sets a pretty high bar for tasty, spicy, suck-the-sauce-off-your-fingers wings and good service. The Secret Soup Spoon and I were worried the new Louise Avenue location wouldn't be able to live up to the high standards set by the original location. In a word, they have. Good service. Tasty wings.

Two cool features to check out at the new location. First, there is some upper deck seating above the bar area. A person could perch themselves up there and have a commanding view of the entire place. It's pretty cool. Second, the place is absolutely loaded with TV screens, including what has to be the biggest projection screen in Sioux Falls. So big in fact, that you might want some Dramamine if you have to sit up close to the huge screen in the bar. This place is seriously loaded with TVs. If you suffer from epilepsy or an advanced case of ADD, you might want to head back to the cozy confines of West Avenue.