Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Game-Changing Cookbook

Nathan Myhrvold's 2,400-page 'Modernist Cuisine' upends everything you thought you knew about cooking

Here's the recipe for the most astonishing cookbook of our time: Take one multimillionaire computer genius, a team of 36 researchers, chefs and editors and a laboratory specially built for cooking experiments. After nearly four years of obsessive research, assemble 2,400 pages of results into a 47-pound, six-volume collection that costs $625 and requires four pounds of ink to print.

To call inventor Nathan Myhrvold's "Modernist Cuisine: The Art & Science of Cooking," on sale next month, a "cookbook" is akin to calling James Joyce's "Ulysses" "a story." The book is a large-scale investigation into the math, science and physics behind cooking tasks from making juicy and crisp beer-can chicken to coating a foie-gras bonbon in sour cherry gel. There is precedent in this genre—science writer Harold McGee has published popular books explaining kitchen science, and chefs Thomas Keller and Ferran Adrià have written about sous vide and other techniques of avant-garde gastronomy—but nothing reaches the scope and magnitude of Mr. Myhrvold's book. While it will likely appeal to professional chefs, within its pages are insights that even the humblest home cooks can use to improve their meals. The book puts traditional cooking wisdom under scientific scrutiny, destroying old assumptions and creating new cooking approaches.

The man behind the tome is a former chief technology officer for Microsoft and an inventor of hundreds of patents (he invented an electromagnetic car engine and is seeking a patent for his French fries treated with starch and placed in an ultrasonic bath). Though many of Mr. Myhrvold's 51 years have been devoted to math and science—by the age of 23, he held two master's degrees and a doctorate in mathematical physics from Princeton—in the 1990s, his passion for food began to loom large. First, he got deeply into barbecue (he was on the "team of the year" at the Memphis World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in 1991), and then moved onto haute cuisine.

"My career at Microsoft really was getting in the way of my cooking," said Mr. Myhrvold. After leaving Microsoft in 1999, he launched Intellectual Ventures, an invention and patent firm, and in 2007, with help from two young, scientifically-minded chefs, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, he began work on the book. When publishers balked over the size and scope of the project, Mr. Myhrvold said, he ditched the conventional route and decided to self-publish through his publishing company, the Cooking Lab.
Among the book's revelations: Expensive pots and pans are a waste of money. Organic food is no healthier than non-organic. Black coffee cools off faster than coffee with cream.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Tower Bridge Bistro in Sacramento

Dining at the Tower Bridge Bistro was literally, one of the best restaurant experiences we've had in Sacramento.  My wife and I really enjoy dining out and it's not often we find a place  like Tower Bridge Bistro that has all the best qualities and attributes of a great restaurant  working together so very well.   (Ambiance, Service, Food).

It was easy to maneuver our way to the restaurant from 50 to J street, to 3rd, then down Capital Mall, with a quick left into the Embassy Suites just before Tower Bridge.  Parking became immediately convenient with onsite valet parking. The restaurant is located inside an Embassy Suites and this hotel chain really knows how to wow its customers with an inviting great lobby that not only has fine art, sculptures and beautiful architectural views, but also many conveniences  and amenities for the hotel guests as well.

The location and views from Tower Bridge Bistro are outstanding as they are located near old town Sacramento,  on the river directly adjacent to the famous Tower Bridge.  Inside, the decor is very classy with fine woods and stone work thru out.  Beautiful views from nearly every table are afforded by the floor to ceiling glass walls that look out to river and the bridge.  We can't wait to go back during the summer to dine on their outdoor patio.

We were greeted and seated immediately and met by our waiter David, who proved to be a very knowledgeable and gracious gentleman who made our dining experience all the better with his culinary knowledge, fast service and excellent recommendations including wine pairings.

After ordering some wine and perusing the menu we decided on a few items and entree's to share together so we could get a good sampling of what Tower Bridge Bistro had to offer.

The French onion soup, the roasted quail and spinach salad, the scallop and shrimp appetizers , the seared duck breast and beef tenderloin entree's and even the decadent chocolate mousse dessert that we tried were all prepared to perfection,  and exceeded our expectations.  All the ingredients were fresh and colorful and the sauces and sides were well thought out and worked very well together.  Everything we tasted was  top notch.  Our compliments to the chef!  We cannot say enough how excellent all the food was that we were served.

I highly recommend trying the scallops appetizer, the French onion soup, and the beef tenderloin, but really, no matter what you order, I am sure it will taste great.  

To summarize our experience at the Tower Bridge Bistro:  the location is great, the ambiance fantastic, service excellent  and the food outstanding.

We have found a new favorite restaurant in Sacramento and we plan to go back often.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Smash Burger in Folsom

The NorCal Burger with fries

A new to Northern California burger joint opened in Folsom a few months ago.  It was highly anticipated as a place that makes burgers really well and has some unique combo's.  I was also told they also have very good shakes made with dryers ice cream.

So I had to go see what it was all about.  Smash Burger is located in Folsom at 703 E. Bidwell near Wales St.

I decided to try the signature NorCal Smash Burger which consisted of Brie Cheese, Apple wood smoked Bacon, sliced balsamic-marinated tomatoes, grilled onions, lettuce and mayo on a sourdough bun.

It was a good burger, had a very good presentation, service was nice and the burger and fries were tasty.  The combo of flavors was good, but I must admit, not my favorite.

All in all it was a good experience, but I think I'll stick to making my own gourmet burger combo's.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Red Meat - Q & A from WebMD

Does eating red meat increase the risk of dying from heart disease or cancer?

It’s a question that keeps coming up, fueled by research and high-profile campaigns by advocacy groups on both sides of the debate.

WebMD asked the experts, looking for answers about disease risk, health benefits, and what role red meat should play in the diet.

Here’s what they had to say.

1. Does eating red meat increase the risk of cancer and heart disease?

A: For heart disease, the answer is pretty clear. Some red meats are high in saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease.

When it comes to cancer, the answer is not so clear. Many researchers say they do raise the risk, especially for colorectal cancer.

A recent National Institutes of Health-AARP study of more than a half-million older Americans concluded that people who ate the most red meat and processed meat over a 10-year-period were likely to die sooner than those who ate smaller amounts. Those who ate about 4 ounces of red meat a day were more likely to die of cancer or heart disease than those who ate the least, about a half-ounce a day. Epidemiologists classified the increased risk as “modest” in the study.

The meat industry contends there is no link between red meat, processed meats, and cancer, and says that lean red meat fits into a heart-healthy diet. A meat industry spokeswoman criticized the design of the NIH-AARP study, saying that studies that rely on participants to recall what foods they eat cannot prove cause and effect. “Many of these suggestions could be nothing more than statistical noise,” says Janet Riley, a senior vice president of the American Meat Institute, a trade group.

2. If eating red meat does increase the risk of cancer, what’s the cause?

A: That’s not clear, but there are several areas that researchers are studying, including:

  • Saturated fat, which has been linked to cancers of the colon and breast as well as to heart disease.
  • Carcinogens formed when meat is cooked.
  • Heme iron, the type of iron found in meat, may produce compounds that can damage cells, leading to cancer.

3. Are there nutritional benefits from eating red meat?

A: Red meat is high in iron, something many teenage girls and women in their childbearing years are lacking. The heme iron in red meat is easily absorbed by the body. Red meat also supplies vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and keeps nerve and red blood cells healthy, and zinc, which keeps the immune system working properly.

Red meat provides protein, which helps build bones and muscles.

“Calorie for calorie, beef is one of the most nutrient-rich foods,” says Shalene McNeil, PhD, executive director of nutrition research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “One 3-ounce serving of lean beef contributes only 180 calories, but you get 10 essential nutrients.”

4. Is pork a red meat or a white meat?

A: It’s a red meat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The amount of myoglobin, a protein in meat that holds oxygen in the muscle, determines the color of meat. Pork is considered a red meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish.

5. How much red meat should I eat?

A: Opinions differ here, too. Most of the nutritionists that WebMD contacted suggested focusing on sensible portion sizes and lean red meat cuts, for those who choose to eat it.

Ask yourself these questions, recommends Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, professor of nutrition at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

  • Are you taking in more calories than you’re burning off?
  • Is red meat crowding out foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains?

“People don’t need to give up red meat,” says Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, a nutrition professor at Georgia State University. “They need to make better selections in the type of meat they eat and the portions.”

6. What are some of the leanest cuts of red meat?

A: For the best red meat cuts, look for those with “loin” in the name: Sirloin tip steak, top sirloin, pork tenderloin, lamb loin chops.

  • Beef: Also look for round steaks and roasts, such as eye round and bottom round; chuck shoulder steaks; filet mignon; flank steak; and arm roasts. Choose ground beef labeled at least 95% lean. Frozen burger patties may contain as much as 50% fat; check the nutrition facts box. Some grilling favorites are high in fat: hot dogs, rib eyes, flat iron steaks, and some parts of the brisket (the flat half is considered lean).
  • Pork: Lean cuts include loin roasts, loin chops, and bone-in rib chops.

7. What are the criteria for a lean cut of red meat?

A: Meats can be labeled as lean if a 3-ounce serving contains less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.

If you’re buying beef, check the U.S. Department of Agriculture grading, too. Beef labeled “prime” is the top grade but is also highest in fat, with marbling, tiny bits of fat within the muscle, adding flavor and tenderness. Most supermarkets sell beef that is graded as “choice” or “select.” For the leanest red meat, look for a select grade.

8. Is grass-fed beef a leaner red meat choice than grain-fed?

A: Grass-fed beef is leaner than grain-fed, which makes it lower in total fat and saturated fat. Grass-fed beef also contains more omega-3 fatty acids. But the total amount of omega-3s in both types of beef is relatively small, says Shalene McNeil of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Fish, vegetable oil, nuts, and seeds are better sources of omega-3s.

9. Can grilling red meat cause cancer?

A: High-temperature cooking of any muscle meat, including red meat, poultry, and fish, can generate compounds in food that may increase cancer risk. They’re called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

10. How can you reduce potential cancer-causing compounds when grilling?

A: Several steps help prevent these compounds from forming or reduce your exposure to them.

  • Choose lean red meat cuts when grilling to reduce the chance of flare-ups or heavy smoke, which can leave carcinogens on the meat.
  • If grilling, cook over medium heat or indirect heat, rather than over high heat, which can cause flare-ups and overcook or char meat. Limit frying and broiling, which also subject meat to high temperatures.
  • Don’t overcook meat. Well-done meat contains more of the cancer-causing compounds. But make sure that meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature to kill bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses. For steaks, cook to 145 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit; for burgers, cook to 160 degrees.
  • Marinate. Marinades may reduce the formation of HCAs. Choose one without sugar, which can cause flare-ups and char the meat’s surface.
  • Turn meat frequently. Use tongs or a spatula rather than a fork to avoid releasing juices that can drip and cause flare-ups. Do not press burgers with a spatula to release juices.
  • Don’t grill as much meat. Instead of a steak, try a kabob that mixes meat, fruit and vegetables. Plant-based foods have not been linked to HCAs.
  • Trim fat from meat before cooking, and remove any charred pieces before eating.
  • Consider partially cooking meats and fish in the oven or microwave before finishing on the grill.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chicken Soup For The Soul

Grandma always said, "Chicken soup is good for you!"

It's winter time, the weather is dreary and dark... and it's cold outside, but it makes for a nice setting to make a large batch of chicken broth.

Cooking up a batch of broth always warms the entire house with a very nice aroma that lasts all day long as I slowly cook the broth on the stove for hours on end. Chicken broth is nice to have around - it's used in a wide variety of recipes for soups and sauces that we make.

I like to make a big batch of broth and freeze it in small containers and jars to have on hand whenever a recipe calls for it. Sure I can (and do) use the packaged broth and the cubes to make broth, but to me, having home made broth is the absolute best, and for me its fun to make.

Chicken broth is good to make when you have left over chicken or turkey bones and parts from a prior dinner - why waste them? Make a good batch of chicken broth and you can get more bang for your buck out of your poultry and you'll have some home made chicken broth on hand when you need it.

I found that occasionally the supermarkets have chicken on sale and you can get a whole chicken or parts (thighs etc 4-5lbs) for around $5 or $6 dollars, which will make about 5 quarts of broth.
My favorite, and what I consider a good basic recipe, is the one by Alton Brown. It's got a good foundation and I like his ideas for techniques to get the most out of all the flavors.

Grab a very large pot that can hold 2 gallons of water, and a steamer basket (see photo)

Here's the recipe which can be found on the Food Network website


4 pounds chicken carcasses, including necks and backs

1 large onion, quartered

4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2

4 ribs celery, cut in 1/2

1 leek, white part only, cut in 1/2 lengthwise

10 sprigs fresh thyme

10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems

2 bay leaves

8 to 10 peppercorns

2 whole cloves garlic, peeled

2 gallons cold water


Place chicken, vegetables, and herbs and spices in 12-quart stockpot. Set opened steamer basket directly on ingredients in pot and pour over water. Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer. Skim the scum from the stock with a spoon or fine mesh strainer every 10 to 15 minutes for the first hour of cooking and twice each hour for the next 2 hours. Add hot water as needed to keep bones and vegetables submerged. Simmer uncovered for 6 to 8 hours.

Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids. Cool immediately in large cooler of ice or a sink full of ice water to below 40 degrees. Place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Prior to use, bring to boil for 2 minutes. Use as a base for soups and sauces.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I've been seriously slacking on posting new recipes, stories and photos for the past few months, I blame the holiday season - but I've been cooking up a storm with my lovely wife, so we've got lots of new material to share. We've tried out a bunch of new dishes, some turned out great, some so so, its all about experimenting with flavors and seeing what works... and what doesn't.

I've been working on the photos and recipes, I'll be posting a bunch in 2010 - stay tuned

In the meanwhile, here's my new favorite website for really good simple easy to make recipes www.thepioneerwoman.com and in addition to the recipes, the gal who runs the site does a great job of posting stories and photos, she's pretty good actually - check out the site.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Cooking with Spices

Spices for taste

Spices are what make food better tasting and the mixtures and results are the science portion of culinary art. There are so many flavors, sweet and salty, the mixtures and concoctions of blends are endless.

Wikipedia has a nice description of spices:

A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, leaf, or vegetative substance used in nutritionally insignificant quantities as a food additive for the purpose of flavour, colour, or as a preservative that kills harmful bacteria or prevents their growth.[1]

Many of these substances are also used for other purposes, such as medicine, religious rituals, cosmetics, perfumery or eating as vegetables. For example, turmeric is also used as a preservative; liquorice as a medicine; garlic as a vegetable. In some cases they are referred to by different terms.

In the kitchen, spices are distinguished from herbs, which are leafy, green plant parts used for flavouring purposes. Herbs, such as basil or oregano, may be used fresh, and are commonly chopped into smaller pieces. Spices, however, are dried and often ground or grated into a powder. Small seeds, such as fennel and mustard seeds, are used both whole and in powder form.

Tonite on Today's Menu was Sri Lankan Beef Curry. The blends of the spices coriander, cumin, fennel, tumeric, black pepper and salt made for a savory beef with a nice texture and heat added with the coconut milk and minced jalapeno's.

Recipe from


8 servings (serving size: about 2/3 cup beef mixture and 3/4 cup rice)


  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless sirloin steak, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 red jalapeño peppers, minced
  • 3 cups light coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 (1 x 3-inch) lemon rind strips
  • 6 cups hot cooked basmati rice


Cook coriander, cumin, fennel, and turmeric in a small saucepan over medium-low heat 7 minutes or until toasted, stirring occasionally.

Combine toasted spices, black pepper, salt, and beef in a large bowl. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour.

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, ginger, garlic, and jalapeños; sauté 3 minutes or until onions are tender. Remove onion mixture from pan. Recoat the pan with cooking spray. Add half of beef; cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining beef. Return onion mixture and beef to pan; stir in milk, vinegar, and rind, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours or until beef is very tender. Discard rind. Serve over rice.


Comfort Food

Comfort food comes in many forms

This night it was Meat Loaf, Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli

Always good for the family

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Soup's On

Fall Weather, Time for Soup

On Today's Menu (last night) we made homemade Oriental Hot and Sour Soup that was cooked in the Crock Pot all day for 8 hours. It's simple to make and very delicious.

4 cups Chicken Broth
1 8oz can Bamboo Shoots (drained)
1 8oz can sliced Water Chestnuts (drained)
1 6oz can sliced Mushrooms (drained)
3 Tbsps quick-cooking Tapioca
3 Tbsps rice wine vinegar or vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tsp sugar
1/2 Tsp pepper
1 8oz package frozen peeled and deveined shrimp
4oz tofu cubed
1 beaten egg

In a 4 quart Crock Pot combine broth, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, mushrooms, tapioca, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and pepper. Cover, cook on low heat setting for 8-9 hours or set on high heat setting for 3-4 hours. Add shrimp and tofu cook for 50 minutes more. Pour egg slowly into cooker, stir til egg cooks and shreds. Makes 8 appetizer servings.

To go with the soup I also made Chicken and Lemon Pot Stickers with Soy-Scallion Dipping Sauce. Here's the description of the ingredients: Ground chicken, bok choy, and Asian aromatics nestle in pleated wonton wrappers.

Make the filling and sauce a day ahead, but assemble the pot stickers just before cooking. They're just as good at room temperature as they are when warm. Sprinkle the baking sheet with cornstarch to keep the bottoms of the pot stickers crisp.

The pot sticker recipe can be found HERE



Meats, herbs, spices, sauces, broths, oils and more are what make up the every day meals we eat.

The above ingredients were for a recipe for Oven-Roasted Sea Bass with Couscous and Warm Tomato Vinaigrette. (missing from the photo is the bass)

It's amazing how many things go into a food creations