Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just the Facts

A few facts about bagels that you may or may not know:

  • A bagel should never have a soft cakey texture.

  • A bagel is born chewy.

  • A bagel with a thin crusty top is not stale – it was born that way.

  • If you can’t eat the bagel on the day it was born then freeze it.

  • Bring your fresh bagels home in a paper bag, and only put them in a plastic bag immediately before you put them into the freezer, assuming you want to save some for later.

  • A bagel frozen on the day it was born will be born again on thawing day.

  • A classic bagel contains flour, water and yeast.

  • A classic bagel does not contain egg, onions, sesame seed, cinnamon, poppy seed, chocolate chip, raisin, cranberries, garlic, rosemary, jalapeño, or blueberry.

  • A bagel does not have to be toasted to be enjoyed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vintage Rally and Pie

The north Houston KOA in Montgomery, Texas was this year’s location for the Texas State Vintage Airstream Rally. Hosted by the Texas Highland Lakes Unit of WBCCI, turnout for the event was terrific with 83 Airstreams in attendance including about 26 vintage trailers. I was there in my not so vintage Airstream for the five day event, and had a great time.

Fortunately, the rally’s schedule allowed time to explore, and I was delighted to discover the Pie in the Sky Company. Pie in the Sky is located on Loop 360, just south of SR 105, in Montgomery, Texas, and serves both breakfast and lunch. When I got there it was too early for lunch, and since I had just enjoyed a good breakfast in our Airstream, there was only one alternative; I had to buy a whole coconut crème pie.

No I didn’t eat it all at once, and I even shared it with my wife and friends – OK, not friends as in plural, but I did give one slice to a neighbor.

Pie in the Sky makes and distributes pies, and as reflected by the ingredient list for their coconut crème pie, (incorrect spelling and all): Cocnut, eggs, milk, Vanilla, Sugar, Vegetable Shorening, (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Monoglycerides, Soybean Lecithin, Artificial Butter Flavor), Potassium Sorbate, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil Sodium Caseinate, Soy Protein Concentrate, Polysorbate 60, Carbohydrate gum, Soy Lecithin, Xanthan, Gum, their pies are in no way “homemade”.

For the most part the chemicals listed, with the exception of the partially hydrogenated fats, function as preservatives or emulsifiers intended to extend shelf life, are commonly used in the food industry, and have been qualified safe for us to eat by our USDA. Trans-fats, as you are no doubt aware, should be eliminated from our diet (along with high fructose corn syrup).

In my experience most restaurants that take the time to make their own pies do not use preservatives. Apparently, they don’t have to since the things disappear so quickly. Although, every now and then, when I am served a slice of crème pie that’s custard has just started to separate, I don’t get uptight because the proof that the dessert is mostly preservative free is in plain sight.

However, restaurants that take the time to make their own “preservative free” crème pies, and then cover them with an artificial whipped topping in lieu of whipped cream are oxymoronic. I mean how dumb is that, who do they think they are fooling?

Pie in the Sky Company obviously knows how to make a good crème pie, so I wonder why they can’t make one pie, preservative free, to be served in their restaurant, and another necessarily loaded with chemicals, to be shipped wherever. Until they do I won’t be returning, and that’s sad because their hamburgers look darn good, and that pie was indeed delicious.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The American Club Sandwich

It used to be that the American club sandwich was made with fresh roasted turkey not that vague resemblance to the real thing; slices from a processed turkey roll. I mean who in their right mind thought that a few slices of a turkey roll, probably roasted in some far off commissary, and tasting of salt and who knows what else, could ever take the place of the real thing.

I don’t know why, even after many disappointment, when I spot a club sandwich on the menu, my mouth begins to water. Always the optimist, and believing that this time the result will be the real thing, I ask the server, “Will the turkey in my club sandwich be fresh roasted?” The answer is usually yes, but sadly, the unhappy result is usually no.

Next time, figuring I must have asked the wrong question, and the sliced stuff that was in my sandwich was somehow my fault, I rephrase the question. “Will the turkey in my sandwich be from a whole turkey, roasted by the restaurant, or will my sandwich include slices from a turkey roll?” When the reply is, “We only use fresh roasted turkey”, with no reference to whole turkey, I know that the server either doesn’t understand the distinction between slices from a roll and meat from a whole turkey, or the answer is simply intended to obfuscate.

OK, I know what you are thinking, give up, it isn’t worth it. My answer is, it is worth it, because every now and then I am rewarded with the real thing, a magnificent club sandwich.

The classic American club sandwich is constructed of thick pieces of breast meat carved from freshly roasted whole turkey, with crisp bacon, iceberg lettuce, slices of vine ripened tomatoes, layered between three slices of toasted white bread spread with real mayonnaise, and served sliced on the diagonal into quarters held together with a carefully placed toothpicks. It is one of the best sandwiches in the world.

By the way, did you know if you order a club sandwich in the UK, it will include chicken, not turkey?

Which came first the chicken or the turkey?