Friday, June 29, 2007

"What if..." Fridays

If you could be a bird, what would you choose to be?
  • This reminds me of the book, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull". I think this book was one of my roommates' and was just laying around one day and I decided to pick it up and give it a read.
  • There are so many choices and some obvious ones to avoid. Obviously being a dodo would not be good. Hmm, so a parrot or hawk, ostrich, penguin, robin? I definitely would not want to be a game bird or a chicken.
  • I would want to be a falcon, more specifically a Peregrine Falcon because it is the fastest animal on the planet in its hunting dive, the stoop, in which it soars to a great height, then dives steeply at speeds of over 200 mph.

    Courtesy of Wikipedia

    Like a lot of people, I love speed plus this falcon eats a lot of duck! That's why I would like to be a falcon

    FDA Warns Consumers Not to Eat Veggie Booty Snack Food

    Veggie Booty? :) It must be Friday (What if... to be posted later) because that name just cracks me up! And if you must know, yes I am only 16 years old. ;-)

    Risk of Salmonella Contamination

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to eat Veggie Booty snack food, marketed by Robert's American Gourmet, due to possible contamination with Salmonella Wandsworth, bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illness.

    FDA advises consumers to throw away any Robert's American Gourmet brand Veggie Booty they have in their home. Veggie Booty is sold in a flexible plastic foil bag in four ounce, one ounce, and one-half ounce packages.

    Veggie Booty is often consumed by children, so parents are encouraged to watch their children, and seek medical care if they observe signs of illness.

    Individuals who have recently eaten Veggie Booty and who have experienced any of the symptoms described below should contact a doctor or other health care provider immediately. Any such illnesses in persons with a recent history of eating Veggie Booty should be reported to state or local health authorities.

    This warning is based on 52 reports of illness across 17 states, beginning in March 2007. Almost all the illnesses have occurred in children under 10 years old, with the most cases in toddlers. Most persons had reported bloody diarrhea; four were hospitalized. FDA learned of the illnesses on June 27 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted an investigation of the illnesses with state and local health officials. The outbreak is considered likely to be ongoing.

    Salmonella typically causes diarrhea (may be bloody); the diarrhea is often accompanied by abdominal cramps and fever. Symptoms typically begin within one to four days after exposure to the bacteria. In infants, persons with poor underlying health and those with weakened immune systems, Salmonella can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections.

    States reporting illnesses include: California (seven cases), Colorado (five cases), Connecticut (one case), Georgia (one case), Indiana (one case), Massachusetts (three cases), Minnesota (two cases), New Hampshire (two cases), New Jersey (two cases), New York (13 cases), Oregon (one case), Pennsylvania (three cases), Tennessee (one), Texas (one), Vermont (three cases), Washington (four cases), and Wisconsin (two cases).

    Robert's American Gourmet, of Sea Cliff, N.Y., which markets Veggie Booty, and its contract manufacturer, are fully cooperating with FDA's investigation into the cause of the contamination. Manufacturing and distribution of this product has ceased, and Robert's American Gourmet is recalling all potentially contaminated product, including all expiration dates and lot codes. The product is sold in all 50 states and Canada at retail locations and over the Internet.

    FDA will provide updates as the investigation progresses and more information becomes available.

    Thursday, June 28, 2007

    FDA Detains Imports of Farm-Raised Chinese Seafood

    Products Have Repeatedly Contained Potentially Harmful Residues.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced a broader import control of all farm-raised catfish, basa, shrimp, dace (related to carp), and eel from China. FDA will start to detain these products at the border until the shipments are proven to be free of residues from drugs that are not approved in the United States for use in farm-raised aquatic animals.

    This action by FDA, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will protect American consumers from unsafe residues that have been detected in these products. There have been no reports of illnesses to date.

    "We're taking this strong step because of current and continuing evidence that certain Chinese aquaculture products imported into the United States contain illegal substances that are not permitted in seafood sold in the United States," said Dr. David Acheson, FDA's assistant commissioner for food protection. "We will accept entries of these products from Chinese firms that demonstrate compliance with our requirements and safety standards."

    During targeted sampling from October 2006 through May 2007, FDA repeatedly found that farm-raised seafood imported from China were contaminated with antimicrobial agents that are not approved for this use in the United States.

    The contaminants were the antimicrobials nitrofuran, malachite green, gentian violet, and fluoroquinolone. Nitrofuran, malachite green, and gentian violet have been shown to be carcinogenic with long-term exposure in lab animals. The use of fluoroquinolones in food animals may increase antibiotic resistance to this critically important class of antibiotics.

    None of these substances is approved for use in farm-raised seafood in the United States, and the use of nitrofurans and malachite green in aquaculture is also prohibited by Chinese authorities. Chinese officials have acknowledged that fluoroquinolones are used in Chinese aquaculture and are permitted for use in China.

    The levels of the drug residues that have been found in seafood are very low, most often at or near the minimum level of detection. FDA is not seeking recall of products already in U.S. commerce and is not advising consumers to destroy or return imported farm-raised seafood they may already have in their homes FDA is concerned about long term exposure as well as the possible development of antibiotic resistance.

    The FDA action includes conditions under which an exporter can be exempted from FDA's detention action by providing specified information to the agency This information must demonstrate the exporter has implemented steps to ensure its products do not contain these substances and that preventive controls are in place. The additional import controls placed on seafood from China will last as long as needed.

    FDA may allow the entry into the United States and subsequent distribution into the marketplace of individual shipments of the Chinese farm-raised seafood products if the company provides documentation to confirm the products are free of residues of these drugs.

    Monday, June 25, 2007

    Sacramento Ranking: Some good news!

    In the article, "Best Cities For Young Professionals" Sacramento ranks #28.

    28. Sacramento, Calif.
    Not having a single one of our best 400 big businesses or best 200 small businesses really hurt Sacramento's standing, and the 34th ranking for its share of high-powered young graduates doesn't help either. The silver lining: a rank of 10th for its never-married 20- to 35-year-olds.

    My question is, "Where are all these 20- to 35-year-olds?" I have been here about 3 years, but the number of clubs that have an 18+ night are increasing. They must be having fun somewhere without me :(

    It surprising that we do not have any of the big businesses that mentioned. Oh well, C'est la vie.

    Friday, June 22, 2007

    "What if..." Fridays

    If you could suddenly possess an extraordinary talent in one of the arts, what would it be?

    Of course I could say the culinary arts, but whether cooking is an art or a craft that is a debate for another day. Besides food, one of my other passions is classical music, especially the huge symphonic pieces such Beethoven's Symphony no. 9, Berlioz' Symphony Fantastique and Smetana's Moldau.

    The ability to write a symphony with layers upon layers of instruments amazes me. I mean who can write a piece of music that will be played and loved 200 years from now. Anyone from American Idol? Ummm not a chance. Elvis or The Beatles? Maybe, but I think most of the kids nowadays would ask "who?" since the culture nowadays is what is the latest and greatest.

    Back to the original question.

    I would like to write something like Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. The first four notes are probably the most widely known, even if you do not know the name of the piece.

    "da da da dah"

    Something that touches the hearts of men, a musical piece that hits you hard in the beginning, and then dissipates. It builds and builds and builds and comes crashing down around you at the end leaving you breathless.

    That is the kind of piece of music I would like to compose.

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    Bounty Hunter Wine Bar Review

    Bounty Hunter Wine Bar
    975 1st St # B
    Napa, CA 94559
    (707) 255-0622

    Napa Day 2: Lunch

    If you want a bare bones meal and opportunities to try some good wine then this is the place. The only reason I heard of this place is that the guy who gave us our tour at the Del Dotto Winery told us that the Bounty Hunter uses the old barrels of their Cabernet wine to smoke their meat and I LOVE Del Dotto's wines.

    I was torn about which sandwich to order. My significant other ordered the pulled pork, so that left me with The American Kobe Brisket roasted over the barrels of great Cabernet from Del Dotto or the Bounty Hunter Sliders. What you cannot see in the picture of the menu is that the sliders are made of wild boar. Sliders also remind me of my old days of working at White Castle. I decided to go with the sliders. since I am always up for trying new things.

    Pulled Pork Sandwich

    Bounty Hunter Sliders

    The pulled pork sandwich was great. The pork was tender and had a great smoky taste. You can tell it was cooked for a long time to get that tenderness and flavor. The BBQ sauce was a nice complement to the sandwich; just a little bit enhanced the pork flavor. The only thing I can see for improvement is making the sandwich with a little more body and crust, like the bread used for the sliders. Otherwise it was one of the best pulled pork sandwiches I have had in a long time.

    The sliders were a little different. I was expecting a more intense and gamy pork burger. The burgers were juicy with a nice meaty texture. The flavor, to me, was similar to a turkey burger. She tried it and she said it was a little gamy. Hmm... Overall they were good and tasty, but I think I will try the Kobe brisket next time.

    Below is a picture of what I had as a wine flight. All nice big, but soft reds. I liked them all and did not a preference of one over another.

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    Bayleaf Restaurant Review

    Bayleaf Restaurant
    2025 Monticello Road
    Napa, CA 94558

    Napa Day 1: Dinner

    We went to Napa for the weekend to relax and celebrate my birthday. When I started to plan this trip six weeks ago, I originally wanted to go to Cyrus because the menu looked interesting. I was so excited that I made the reservation, not really knowing the location of the restaurant. We were staying at the Silverado Resort in Napa and when I mapped out the directions, it was quite a trek out there and did not know if the 1.5 hour trip would be worth it. So I was lazy and made a reservation at Bayleaf since it was right around the corner.

    We arrived shortly before 8:00 PM, at sunset. When you arrive in the parking lot, you are first greeted by a wall of bamboo. As you turn the corner, the courtyard opens into a few sections. Pictured below is one of the sections. The outside was reminiscent of the French Laundry; French county/Napa country style.

    I know we were in Napa, but I had a couple of rough weeks at work, so for my drink I ordered a martini instead of wine.

    For our appetizer we ordered the Oven Roasted Crab Cake: Saffron Aioli, fennel and Meyer Lemon Preserve, Lobster Demi Glace. The crab cakes tasted fresh and the outside was cooked so that it was nice and crispy. The fennel was caramelized to a dark brown color and sweet flavor; no Meyer Lemon or lobster flavor. As far as the aioli, it tasted like mustard with no saffron flavor. Overall, I liked the crunchiness of the cakes and sweetness of the fennell, but the aioli might as well have been Dijon mustard.

    The entree I had was the Beef Wellington.

    I am surprised that I have never had this classic dish. One of the only reasons I wanted to try it was that Gordon Ramsey always has it on his show, Hell's Kitchen. Let's decontruct it:

    Do I like filet mignon? yes; puff pastry? yes; foie gras? yes; quail egg? yes. So in theory this should be a spectacular dish, right?

    I received my dish at the requested medim rare and started to cut into it and took a bite. Let's step back for a second and ask, "Why is this dish not served in more restaurants?"

    Hmmm. let me take another bite...interesting...Five bites later, I have decided, I do not like this at all. The flavors are muddled, not really complementing or antagonizing each other. With each bite I tasted a litte beef, a little foie gras, puff pastry and a little egg. The foie gras was barely warm, the quail egg overcooked and the filet underseasoned. Too many flavors. What would have been interesting would have been to serve it deconstructed. Sear the beef, sear the foi gras, top the beef with the gently cooked egg and the puff pastry as a base for the foie gras instead of the usual bread. But then again I am not a chef.

    My significant other had Hickory Smoked Babyback Ribs: Watermelon BBQ Sauce, Fries, Wine Country Slaw.

    These were a whole different story. They were tender and you could taste just enough hickory so that you knew they were barbequed and not just grilled. The BBQ sauce had that right balance of sweetness and acidity to complement the pork. These were so much better than my Beef Wellington.

    For dessert we had the special, fig tart plated with a caramel sauce. This was good, but could have been better if they tossed the tart and the plate with the caramel in the oven for like 5 minutes. The caramel was obviously plated much earlier because it was cold, not even warm as was the tart. The other thing is that there was barely half a fig on it.

    In summary, a good start, muddled middle and a decent end.

    So overall I would give this restaurant a 10/20 = average vs. other similar restaurants and as a whole I would give it 10/20 = average vs the entire landscape of restaurants.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Sunflower Natural Food Restaurant Review

    Sunflower Natural Food Restaurant
    10344 Fair Oaks Blvd
    Fair Oaks, CA 95628
    (916) 967-4331

    Just to prove that there is no bias, I AM A CARNIVORE. I truly like vegetables and fruit, but I do not think I could willingly give up meat. I have seen, "Super Size Me" and read "Fast Food Nation", but as Marcus Tullius Cicero said, "Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide. " Now that is out of the way, let's get to the meat (pun intended :-P).

    I went up there this past Saturday and ordered a Nut Taco, a Mushroom Millett burger and a Nut Burger (pictured below) to share between a compared and myself and is the only item I took real notes on. The Nut Taco and the Mushrom Millett burger were good. They both had a nice amount of flavor with out the heaviness of meat.

    As you can see the Nut Burger looks like a real hamburger. Along with the alfalfa sprouts it had lettuce, tomato and I think mayo. I am not sure what kind of nuts were used in the creation, I did not taste any distinctly. The other part of the burger might have been made with some chic peas (garbanzo beans) and the spices smelled like a mixture of curry.

    The alfalfa sprouts and the lettuce make a nice, crisp contrast to the patty. The one thing I am not huge fan of is the chopped lettuce, I prefer my leaves whole otherwise they kind of fall all over the place.

    As far as the texture is concerned it is really close to a nice medium rare burger. Some of the patty was caramelized with a little crunch, some of it was medium firm. The other thing that would have made it better for me, would have been the toasted bread like they do with the mushroom millett burger. That would have made it better.

    Overall the three items I had were good and yummy. I would recommend this place for the vegan/vegetarian or the omnivore who wants something a little healthier.

    As far at rating it, it's a little tough. I have not eaten at another vegetarian restaurant so I have nothing to compare it to. I can compare it to Boca burgers which I regularly eat since red meat is not that healthy for you. I would say it is a lot better than a Boca burger in terms of texture and flavor. I would say it is a better burger than fast food places like McDonald's, but not as good as a burger from some of the better burger places; In and Out, Squeeze Inn, Red Robin, etc...(from a carnivore's perspective)

    Sunflower Drive-in on Urbanspoon

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Samurai Sushi Review

    Samurai Sushi
    12251 Folsom Blvd
    Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
    (916) 353-1112

    This place has become my sushi place of choice, first as a fall back to Mikuni's on Hazel, then for its location, now I genuinely enjoy going to this place for lunch or dinner.

    Like I said, if the wait at Mikuni was too long then we would head over here. For me the quality of the fish and preparation of the sushi is equal and that is what counts. I am into straight sushi and sashimi. I am not a huge fan of the many sauces and other flavors that muddy the freshness of the fish, especially a lot of those of some of the rolls like the, "kitchen sink" roll.


    I was working in this restaurant a few years ago and this beautiful slab of tuna came in and the chef was breaking it down. I was standing there with the pastry chef (who was a cute girl, of course) and he cuts a huge piece off and offered it to the young lady. She was like "yuck!", he's like "you want it?" I was like, "Hell Yeah!" So there I was happily munching away on what was probably an 8 ounce piece of toro (fatty tuna belly) when I think about it.

    Back to the review, I have been there about 7 or 8 times in the last six months for both lunch and dinner. What I like is, it is a fairly large restaurant, so even if it is busy the wait is never very long to begin with. This last time I was there I had the chirashi, I think it was about 3 pieces of tuna and salmon, a couple of the sweet egg triangles, and 3 or four miscellaneous pieces. The sushi rice was cooked properly with a little bit of sweetness and sourness.

    All my pieces were cut nice and clean and tasted (and smelled) fresh. The tuna was nice and meaty and the salmon had that melt in your mouth quality.

    Overall, I would rate Samurai Sushi 14/20 vs other Sushi places in Sacramento and 13/20 vs all food places overall.

    Samurai Sushi on Urbanspoon

    Friday, June 8, 2007


    We had a morning meeting a few days ago, so we decided to host breakfast as my place. One of the things I made was pancakes. I used on of Alton Brown's recipe. When I cook I usually do not measure things to accurately, usually just to taste. BUT, if there is flour and some kind of leavening agent then I will usually weight the flour to make sure that the proportions are correct.

    I am not usually into details, except when I bake since it is fairly easy to mess up a whole batch, especially when you make large quantities. These turned airy, but a little dense to soak up the maple syrup or blueberry compote.

    "Instant" Pancake Mix
    Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
    • 6 cups all-purpose flour (28.5 ounces)
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (check expiration date first)
    • 3 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 2 tablespoons sugar

    Combine all of the ingredients in a lidded container. Shake to mix.

    Use the mix within 3 months.

    2 eggs, separated
    2 cups buttermilk
    4 tablespoons melted butter
    2 cups "Instant" Pancake Mix, recipe above
    1 stick butter, for greasing the pan 2 cups fresh fruit such as blueberries, if desired

    Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350 degrees F. Heat oven to 200 degrees F.
    Whisk together the egg whites and the buttermilk in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter.

    Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don't try to work all the lumps out.

    Check to see that the griddle is hot by placing a few drops of water onto to the griddle. The griddle is ready if the water dances across the surface.

    Lightly butter the griddle. Wipe off thoroughly with a paper towel. (No butter should be visible.)

    Gently ladle the pancake batter onto the griddle and sprinkle on fruit if desired. When bubbles begin to set around the edges of the pancake and the griddle-side of the cake is golden, gently flip the pancakes. Continue to cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the pancake is set.

    Serve immediately or remove to a towel-lined baking sheet and cover with a towel. Hold in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes.

    Yield: 12 pancakes

    Tuesday, June 5, 2007

    FDA Warning on Mislabeled Monkfish

    I like monkfish too! I love food, but not at the risk of dying. I think it is OK for people who choose to eat the puffer fish.
    I would much rather leave this world doing something more exciting like wrestling a bear or fighting ninjas.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers not to buy or eat imported fish labeled as monkfish, which actually may be puffer fish, containing a potentially deadly toxin called tetrodotoxin. Eating puffer fish that contain this potent toxin can result in serious illness or death.

    Tetrodotoxin is not destroyed by common food preparation or storage, such as cooking or freezing. Monkfish do not contain tetrodotoxin.

    The product was imported and distributed by Hong Chang Corp., Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
    Consumers concerned that they may have purchased this fish should contact their retailer and ask if the product was received from Hong Chang Corp.

    The product should not be eaten, it should be thrown away. Care should be exercised in handling the fish, as the tetrodotoxin may be present on the skin and flesh of the fish. Consumers should wash hands thoroughly after handling the fish.

    Two people in the Chicago area became ill after consuming homemade soup containing the fish. One was hospitalized due to severe illness.

    FDA's analysis of the fish confirmed the presence of potentially life-threatening levels of tetrodotoxin.

    Initial symptoms of tetrodotoxin poisoning occur 30 minutes to several hours after food containing the toxin is consumed. Tetrotoxin poisoning is characterized initially by tingling of the lips and tongue. Tingling of the face and extremities and numbness follow. Subsequent symptoms may include headache, balance problems, excessive salivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Consumers experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical care and are encouraged to report their illness to local health authorities. In severe cases, muscles can become paralyzed, and death may follow from respiratory muscle paralysis.
    A total of 282 22-pound boxes labeled as monkfish were distributed to wholesalers in Illinois, California and Hawaii beginning in September 2006. These fish were then sold to restaurants or sold in stores. In one instance, the retailer labeled the fish as "bok," the Korean name for puffer fish.

    The white 22-pound boxes were labeled in black ink. One box panel is labeled as: "FROZEN MONKFISH GUTTED AND HEAD-OFF" and "PRODUCT OF CHINA." A second panel bears nutritional facts and the following: "Ingredients: Monk fish; Imported by: Hong Chang Corp, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670; Product of China (P.R.C.)." A third panel has a checkbox indicating the size as either "0.5-1" or "1-2" and shows the net weight as 22 pounds. There are no manufacturing codes on the box. The fish in the box are individually wrapped in plastic bags with no labeling.

    FDA allows puffer fish to be imported into the United States only under strict provisions that minimize the risk of the toxin being present in the fish. The recalled fish were not imported in compliance with those restrictions. FDA is examining all entries from the Chinese supplier and will take additional action, if warranted.

    Friday, June 1, 2007

    Baking Bread in a Rice Cooker

    Baking Bread in a Rice Cooker?

    Well I am up for just about anything. I found the procedure here.

    I might try it some time in the next week, we'll see what happens!