Saturday, July 31, 2010

Café Orient, RIP

Back in August '09, I told you about some of my favorite defunct Nashville eateries, one of which was Café Orient in Antioch. Here's what I said about the place:

Café Orient was owned by a chap from Japan who also had (and maybe still does) a pretty popular catering business. The sushi served there was first-rate, but it was the Thai-inspired dishes that I enjoyed most.

One particular dish featured juicy chunks of pork, and long strips of green peppers, jalapeños, onions, and carrots, which'd been simmered in a spicy, garlic-filled sauce. I would take a spoon and ladle the sauce over white rice, and eat the meat/vegetable mixture and rice separately. It was like getting two different dishes in one ... and I always had plenty of leftovers!

Café Orient didn't stay open for very long, a victim perhaps of the fact that it opened right across the street from the well-established - and damn popular - Your Choice Asian restaurant.

I was driving past the strip mall in which Café Orient was located today when I spied this on the big sign out front:

I drive past that sign every day on my way home from work. I'd never noticed that Café Orient was - and is - still being "advertised," four years after it closed. Now I'm not going to be able to not look at that sign every time I pass it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mmmm, lasagna

Yesterday was National Lasagna Day (I didn't know there was such a "holiday" until today, or I would've posted this last night). In honor of Day-After National Lasagna Day, I'm finally getting around to posting my famous lasagna recipe -- famous to the many co-workers who've sampled it over the years, some of whom got to sample some last week (which you see in the picture above).

Anywho, here's the recipe ...

Joltin' Django's Famous Lasagna


1 box of Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles
2 eggs
2 15-ounce containers ricotta cheese
3 cups pre-grated (in a bag) mozzarella cheese
3 cups fresh-grated mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 1/2 lbs ground Italian sausage, browned
Tomato sauce (recipe here)


Preheat oven to 375°.

In bowl, combine beaten eggs, ricotta cheese and the two cups of the mozzarella cheese and parmesan.

In a 13x9x3 pan, spread 1 cup of sauce on bottom of pan. Layer 4 uncooked lasagna noodles (they will overlap), then 1/3 part of the ricotta cheese mixture, half the browned meat, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and 1 cup of tomato sauce.

Next, layer 4 uncooked lasagna noodles, 1/3 part of the ricotta cheese mixture, and 1 1/2 cups sauce. Then layer 4 uncooked lasagna noodles, remaining ricotta mixture and remaining meat, and 1 cup of sauce.

For the top, layer 4 uncooked lasagna noodles, remaining sauce (spread it so that it drips down the sides of the pan), and three cups fresh-grated mozzarella.

Bake covered with foil for 60 minutes.

Uncover and continue cooking until all the cheese is melted on the top (10-15 minutes).

Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Company I won't be keeping again

About ten years ago, a friend of mine embarked on an ill-fated adventure as a bar-owner on Nashville's 2nd Avenue. I him do some work on the interior of the bar when it was in its "opening soon" phase, most of which was gratis (with hopes that I'd be able to drink gratis once the place got up and running). He did, however, treat me to lunch several times, and one of the places in which we regularly ate was San Antonio Taco Co. on Commerce Street.

I didn't really remember much about my dining experiences at San Antonio Taco Co. (or "Satco" to the hipster doofi set), but I must have been thoroughly underwhelmed by the place 'cause it took me a long time to go back. Well, I did go back; and I must say that I don't care if it takes me another ten years to go back to a restaurant that serves tacos that're only marginally better than the tacos served at Taco Bell (I'll have more to say about Taco Bell at a later date).

Prior to a recent Bluegrass show at the Ryman Auditorium, a friend and I visited the ducked into the Commerce Street San Antonio Taco Co. for a quick pre-concert meal. I'd forgotten that you don't just walk up to the counter and place orders. You write down your order on a little slip of paper, and then you walk five feet and hand said slip of paper to an employee who was just scratching his ass while you searched for the one pencil - out of 50 on hand - that will actually write. Now, while the f'ed-up ordering system at San Antonio Taco Co. is pretty bad, the food is even worse.

First of all, I made the mistake of ordering some chips and guacamole as an "appetizer." They chips-'n'-guac consisted of a small tray containing about 2 lbs. of chips and 2 ounces of guacamole. The guac was pretty good, but the chips were coated with enough salt to line the rims of about four-dozen margarita glasses. I think my systolic went up by 20 after about four chips. Then came the tacos.

It's pretty difficult to mess up a taco ... but messed up tacos seems to be all San Antonio Taco Co. serves. There was hardly any beef in the beef tacos I ordered, or any chicken in the chicken tacos served to my friend. That was strike one. The tortillas were cold, like they'd just been taken out of the refrigerator, and they didn't taste like they were "homemade," as says they are (maybe "homemade" is Satcospeak for "storebought"). That was strike two. And my friend and I stated several times that we would've been better off stopping at Taco Bell for cheaper tacos with just as meat in 'em as the ones we were eating. That was strike three and four.

They only good thing about my visit to San Antonio Taco Co. -- and, yes, I was able to find something good there -- was the salsa and pico de gallo served on the fixin's bar. Both the salsa and pico tasted very fresh, and both were loaded with cilantro (always a plus for me). If not for the heaps of salsa and pico I loaded on to my tacos, which you can see in the picture below, I doubt if I'd have been able to finish my meal.

I'm sure there are some folks who really enjoy the San Antonio Taco Co.'s food. Actually, I know people enjoy it because the place was packed when I went there. How anyone can eat that dreck, though, is totally beyond me. Needless to say, someone will have to literally drag me into the place if I ever find myself inside the San Antonio Taco Co. again.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tomato n Duke's

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes?
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love and homegrown tomatoes

-- Guy Clark

Anyone who knows me personally is well aware of the fact that I start getting bummed out around the first of June. That's when it really starts to get hot in these parts, and there're few things I hate more than 90-degree temperatures on a daily basis. One thing I do look forward to in the summer, however, is homegrown tomatoes -- my homegrown tomatoes, especially.

This year, I shook things up a bit by abandoning my preferred beefsteak tomatoes in favor of Bradleys. Having samples some two-dozen tomatoes from my personal vines I must say that I made a wise decision. Bradleys might not grow as big as beefsteak tomatoes, but they have a much sweeter taste ... and dammed if they don't taste a whole lot better on a tomato sandwich (with Duke's mayo, of course).

Ask nicely and I might give you some!

UPDATE: Mister Jimmy has a post 'bout Tennessee tomatoes. Check it out here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A man could buy a lot of Nathan's hot dogs for $69

Man, somewhere Ben Matlock is reading this ... and he's rolling his eyes (as am I):

New York City's Serendipity 3 restaurant has a history of doing stunts to make the Guinness World Records. They've scored twice before -- with the World's Most Expensive Ice Cream Sundae and the World's Largest Hot Chocolate -- and on Friday, they did it again with the World's Most Expensive Hot Dog, which will sell for $69.

So how do you get a hot dog to cost nearly 70 bucks? First, you start with a regular Serendipity 3 foot-long beef hot dog, which already sells for $8.50 -- a little more than your average street dog in New York (and a lot tastier, I'll admit). Then you use the tried and true pre-recession stunt of chefs around the world: Add foie gras, then add truffles, repeat as necessary until the price tag explodes. (The other surefire fancifier -- caviar -- would taste a little gross on a hot dog, though Serendipity 3 puts it on a burger.)

To be more specific, this particular "Haute Dog" (as it's being marketed) is grilled in white truffle oil and is served on a chewy pretzel-bread bun (sort of like a cross between a soft pretzel and a baguette) that's toasted with white truffle butter. It's topped with foie gras pâté with black truffles. Condiments (served on the side) include Dijon mustard with black truffles, caramelized Vidalia onions and ketchup made with heirloom tomatoes (more like a tart tomato relish).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Okay, now I'm officially back ...

After trips up North, and trips down South, and lots of work -- lots of work -- in between, I will finally be posting on a regular basis again. I know I promised such a few weeks back, but this time I really mean it. Promise.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned ...

Joltin' Django

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A thing that makes me go, "Huh?!"

From the Louisiana Cookin' blog:

Only in Louisiana

Here's a new twist on how to serve burgers and if you don't cook, give this handy little guide to someone that does and request them.

Handmade ground beef patties, topped with sharp cheddar cheese, wrapped in a bacon weave, then the next step, add hotdogs as the heads, legs with slits for toes and tail.

Next step. Place on an oven rack, covered loosely with foil and baked for 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees. A little crispy, not too crunchy ... just how a turtle should be, no?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Re: L'olio d'oliva

Given that you can purchase bottles of "extra virgin" olive oil for $2-3 at your local Dollar General, this shouldn't surprise you none:

Many of the olive oils lining supermarket shelves in the United States are not the top-grade extra-virgin oils their labels proclaim, according to a report from the University of California, Davis.

Researchers analyzed popular brands and found 69 percent of imported oils and 10 percent of domestic oils sampled did not meet the international standards that define the pure, cold-pressed, olive oils that deserve the extra-virgin title.

"Consumers, retailers and regulators should really start asking questions," said Dan Flynn, executive director of UC Davis' Olive Oil Center, which conducted the study in partnership with the Australian Oils Research Laboratory, in South Wales.

Funding for the study came in part from California olive oil producers and the California Olive Oil Council, a trade group that works to promote locally produced oils.

Although the survey's sample size was relatively small and selected at random — 19 widely distributed brands purchased from retailers in San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and Los Angeles — the study held the claims on their labels to a scientifically verifiable standard, said Flynn.

The results came as the U.S. Department of Agriculture prepares to adopted scientifically verifiable standards for nomenclature such as "virgin" or "extra virgin," in an effort to clear up concerns about labeling accuracy. The standards will be implemented in October, and are similar to those upheld by the International OliveCouncil.

The "extra-virgin" designation indicates that the oil was extracted without the use of heat or chemicals, is pure, satisfies a taste test and falls within chemical parameters established by the IOC.

The United States is the world's third-largest consumer of olive oil, 99 percent of which comes from foreign producers.

For the record, this is Joltin' Django's preferred extra-virgin olive oil (don't look for it at your local dollar store) ...

Friday, July 09, 2010

How now, chow chow (redux)

I'm a man who's gotta eat who loves him some good chow chow:

My grandmother canned all kinds of things. Green beans, pickled cucumbers, stewed tomatoes ... you name the vegetable and chances are she canned it at once time or another.

Something else my grandmother canned -- or "put up," as she called it -- was chow-chow. My parents and I'd drive down to my grandparents' house on a Sunday and chow-chow was always on the table. We'd scoop big portions of the stuff onto the pinto or mixed beans my grandmother always served when she cooked a big meal.

For the uninitiated, chow-chow is a Southern relish made out of chopped cabbage, onions, peppers, mustard, vinegar and sugar. It's used to give a sweet-and-sour kick to soups, stews, or slow-cooked beans. Some folks, my self included, don't need to be eating soup, stew, or slow-cooked beans to enjoy chow-chow; indeed, I often spoon it on meat, or just put a big pile of it on my plate to enjoy alongside whatever else I'm eating.

Speaking of chow chow ...

I'm hoping to get up to Granny's soon. Stay tuned for details.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Another one bites the dust

Back in April, or maybe it was March, I took notice of a little Indian joint, name o' Bombay Garden, located near a music store I frequently frequent (for guitar string-purchasing purposes, you see). The "$5.99 Indian Lunch Buffet" sign strung atop the restaurant's storefront drew me right in, and, lemme tell you, I enjoyed the hell outta the food I ate there.

I snapped some pics, two of which you can see here:

and here:

I so enjoyed my eatin' off o' the Bombay Garden buffet so much, I failed to jot down -- or even make a mental note -- of the names of the dishes I was eatin', all of which were clearly noted on the buffet table(s.)

"Not to fear," I says to myself upon leaving the place, "I'll go back in a couple o' days, and I'll take more pics, and I'll make a note 'bout everything I eat -- and I'll post it all up on A Man's Gotta Eat."

Well, sad to say, it took me more than a couple of months to find time to go back to Bombay Garden; this is what I got to see in Bombay Garden's window when I returned:

Bombay Garden is still on vacation. Indeed, the folks who own it are SO on vacation that they took the restaurant's tables, chairs, and other fixtures with 'em.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

"What the ...?!" pic of the day

I was travelling past the Steak Out on Lebanon Road today when I spied this banner hangin' in the window:

The fact that the Tennessean's readers think Steak Out serves the best burgers in town -- instead of Rotier's, Brown's Diner, Gabby's (I can think of about a dozen different restaurants that serve better burgers than Steak-freakin'-Out) -- says a lot about ... well, I think you know what I'm talking about.

Men eat meat, women eat chocolate

Interesting ...

So what is it with certain foods (and drinks) getting the boys vs. girls treatment? There may be a few male stars — like Joaquin Phoenix and Tobey Maguire who are vegetarians, and women may be joining the ranks of bloody-aproned butchers, but in the American consciousness, real men still don't eat quiche and women stick with chocolate, tofu and yogurt. This could easily be the handiwork of the evil geniuses on Madison Avenue, but might these clichés also arise from some long-buried grain of truth? Are genetic differences responsible for our gendered eating? How many of our eating patterns come from gender socialization, and how many are hereditary? And why is it that food rarely seems to be categorized this way outside the U.S.?

Marcia Pelchat is a sensory psychologist specializing in food and beverage selection at the Monell Chemical Senses Center. Women, she said, are genetically predisposed to prefer sweeter tastes, with greater sensitivity to bitterness. As a result, cocktails and alcoholic drinks aimed at women tend to be sweet — as an attempt to mask the burn — and colorful (because, you know, pink will make anything more palatable). Drinks for men, on the other hand, tend to let the bitterness take the fore: "Men who drink hoppy drinks don't just not notice the bitter taste, they actually like it," Pelchat said.

Others, like Yale University’s David Katz, said some of our gender-driven eating can be explained by evolution. Men, as hunters, see meat as a reward and also need more protein than woman in order to build muscle mass. "Men and women have differences in physiology which might have to do with access to different kinds of food," said Katz, who is the director of Yale’s Prevention Research Center. That is, the different caloric requirements of men and women may be because we had differing access to foods as cavemen and cavewomen. We’re only continuing along those patterns today.