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  • Stuff THIS!

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    The weekend before Thanksgiving Day for me may be the most important couple of days off before a holiday ever.

    I want to start buying items for the big day, and begin prepping. I also like to buy my wine and other accessories ahead of the grand gluttony.

    Here's a little known secret about me...I don't like crowded stores. I don't enjoy busy stores and if I can, I'd rather not wait in long lines. It's not that I have claustrophobia, but I just assume stay out of stores when there's a bunch of people knocking each other over to get at the shelves.

    One of the side dishes I believe can be prepped well-ahead of time is stuffing. I'm not someone who'll need to have stuffing in the bird, or cook the turkey with stuffing inside. I just don't care that much.

    But what I will say is stuffing is one of the most underrated parts of the Thanksgiving meal. If it's bland, stale or just plain sucks...no one really says much except, "that figures." But if it's really good...it can steal the show.

    Here's an article that covers three completely different takes on stuffing and some ideas for tweaking your own recipe.

    Not everyone is a fan of oysters...but I really dig the cornbread stuffing plan. Sage and onion should already be in your stuffing, so that's a good one.  

    And there's even a little something for folks who put sausage in their stuffing...try Portuguese sausage.  Nice.

  • Twin Temptations of Turducken

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    It's now one week until the big day (Thanksgiving to the uninitiated), and today the topic of turducken makes its appearance.

    Even if you've never thought of stuffing a chicken inside of a duck and stuffing that into a turkey, you may have heard it referenced by former NFL head coach and color commentator John Madden.

    Back in the day (when there were only 2 NFL games on Thanksgiving), John Madden would wax poetic about this triple threat of poultry. He even would have it in his bus and on the sideline after the game for the winners. The losers got stuck with that ol' one bird deal.

    As a kid, I had never heard of such a thing.  My cynical nature started early on, because I believed that it was a "made for TV" entree. There's no way anyone would serve such a thing, not in a restaurant, not in my own home. It doesn't exist. Madden made this up on his bus one day after one too many. He HAD to have.

    But as I got older, I realized that turducken is a real deal meal. I would never think to make one, but alas, you can have someone else do that for you.

    Apparently in Maurice, Louisiana, Hebert’s Specialty Meats produces more than 3,000 turduckens every year. 

    The Wisconsin State Journal, however, has decided to give it a go. It's fascinating really, it a, "watching damage from a car wreck," sort of way.

    ********

    But here's the REAL kicker. How about the "turducken of pastry"?  WNFL host and fellow food lover Nick Vitrano, along with Wheels in Motion blogger Jason Miller showed me THIS.

    It's called a Pummple. Here's the description:

    "Apple and Pumpkin Pies baked inside vanilla and chocolate cakes covered with vanilla butter cream."

    This is something of a baking skill which I do not possess. However, it looks so intoxicating, that I might want to try.

    You may ask yourself: Self....who on earth would eat such concoctions?

    Answer: Anyone with taste buds and a deep stomach. Or those who have no self-esteem. 

    Either way, there are people who will order this, lots of them. The Flying Monkey Bakery's top FAQ deals with why they're NOT shipping them, yet.

    That's the part that really irks Vitrano and Miller, along with apparently several others in the building at 1420 Bellevue.

    Who's trying one or both this Thanksgiving??  I hope to say me. 

  • Thanksgiving Wisconsin Style

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    Thanksgiving is just about one week away, so in the continued effort to get you excited about the high holiday of foodstuffs, I present this article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Wisconsin foods that may make a special guest appearance on the table next Thursday.

    Now I tend to be a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving meals. I even shutter at the thought of some folks choosing ham over turkey. I find that a strange part of myself considering I'll eat ham the other 364 days of the year, so what the difference on day #365 is I can't explain.

    Much like some of these other suggestions from the story for Thanksgiving Day I'd have no problem munching on any other day of the calendar year, like smoked fish, venison, wild mushrooms or popcorn.

    Not exactly the traditional mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy that will likely make its way into your belly, but definitely some "out of left field" suggestions that I wouldn't mind having.

    Plus it brings a native Wisconsin perspective to your table, since these foods are grown locally around the Badger State.

  • Fortune Cookie Fun

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    We've all enjoyed fortune cookies from time to time. In fact, I had one this weekend.

    Some would say the best part of a fortune cookie is the fortune itself. 

    The discussion then turns into who writes the fortune, how much do they make and where can I sign up to be the head writer.

    Here are some of the more ridiculous fortunes found inside these tasty Chinese food treats.

    I also thought of the concept of selling frosted fortune cookies. There is a little niche market for frosted cookies (sometimes called "cut out cookies"), at bakeries and other stores.

    But I had some frosting lying around the house this weekend and decided to try my fortune cookie with butter cream frosting. It was AWESOME.

    Someone can steal the idea and market it throughout northeastern Wisconsin. That's fine...I would just like credit...or at least a sample.

  • Soup's On!/Veteran's Day Wines

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    The recent run of cloudy, cool and rainy weather in northeast Wisconsin is a good reminder that some forecasts were tailor-made for meals. 

    We all understand that grilling and fresh seafood dishes go with summer-like weather, while braised and roasted meats and hearty stews are wonderful for the winter months.

    For this past week, one might be in the mood for some soup. The Green Bay Hub (published by the Press-Gazette) has a story about several local spots for tasty meals that come by way of the bowl.

    I've been touting Pho for awhile to people I know, and one story involves my dad. While visiting my parents in El Paso back in June, he was showing me all the changes around the east side of the Sun City and we came upon a Vietnamese restaurant.

    My dad is a fan of "soup noodles" or any sort of Asian-inspired soup with, you guessed it, noodles, vegetables and a meat. The other night he told me on the phone he finally went and got himself a bowl of Pho. He raved about. The portion size was large enough so that he could get 2 meals out of it. My dad's also a fan of both cilantro and jalapenos. Both were plentiful in his meal.

    So the next time you're looking to try something different from Campbell's or Progresso...check out a local restaurant that makes homemade soup. Better yet, give Pho a try.

    ********

    Veteran's Day is coming up on Sunday and I've found a blog that actually reveals the important wine contributions made by veterans.

    Several big name wineries have ties to our military heroes, and they are available in Wisconsin. 

    Don't just treat yourself this weekend to popping the cork on these wines, but also thank a veteran or two or ten for their service.

    And let me personally thank ALL the veterans who've served the United States over the years, you are true heroes and am honored to personally know some of you!

  • Small Bites for Friday

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    The countdown to Thanksgiving continues today with a great companion if you happen to be like a lot of home chefs stressing over getting everything prepared for the big day.

    This re-published article from the New York Times can give you a lot of ideas and tips to prepare a bunch of stuff well-ahead, so you get to be less stressed-out on Thanksgiving Day, but also get to spend more time with your guests.

    For a little tease, I have four words for you:  Sweet Potatoes with Prosciutto.

    Check it out; it may motivate you to try something different for this Turkey Day.

    ********

    I'm sorry to report that according to a couple tweets from the Green Bay Press-Gazette yesterday, that Cat and Jim's Art & Soul Cafe, at 1425 Main Street, have apparently closed.

    I enjoyed the times I've eaten there and wished that it would've remained open so I could have some of their rib tips, catfish, or other Chicago-style soul food favorites.

    ********

    There is a recall that's breaking today involving bagged spinach. 

    Fresh Express is recalling some packages of spinach for possible Salmonella contamination. The FDA says the nine-ounce packages have a use-by date of November 7th.

    The affected spinach was not sold in Wisconsin. They were distributed to stores in Western states and in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

  • The Good and Bad of Amazon's Wine Marketplace

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    It was announced publicly Thursday that Amazon.com launched their Wine Marketplace.

    Right now more than 1,000 wineries are selling their reds, whites, roses and sparklers through this online format.

    It's a really cool idea and layout, with all sorts of different searching methods from price range, state, varietals, to tasting notes and ratings.

    For now, shipping up to six bottles of vino will cost just $10.

    Now the bad news. Those of us who live in Wisconsin can put your stemware away...since Amazon is only shipping their wines to 12 states and Washington D.C. The Badger State is not on that list, yet.

    According to Amazon's press release, they hope to be able to add more states soon. 

    There's one other twist...after looking up some of the wines, the wineries choose WHICH states they ship their product to. So not all of the current dozen states and D.C. get a shot and popping the cork on all of the wines available.

    But if I'm to be an optimist, this is the start of Amazon.com's wine marketplace, and hopefully time will allow Wisconsin to be added and wineries to open up their product to a bigger drinking audience.

     

     

  • The Veggie That Can Keep You Healthy AND Sweet

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    The push to Thanksgiving Day is on...and to continue on that path down Gluttony Drive...let's talk sweet potatoes.

    I'm a huge fan of sweet potatoes and try to eat them as much as possible outside the month of November. Whether in mashed, smashed, fry or chip form, it's an alternative to a regular potato that's welcomed both at home or while dining out.

    This article from the Wisconsin State Journal gives an outstanding look at the health benefits, ways the ingredient can be utilized, along with the difference between a sweet potato and a yam.

    Bet you didn't know there was a huge difference...but there is.

    Another favorite story of mine was the time a woman I worked with at a call center in Tempe, Arizona brought me in some of her home-made sweet potato pie. It was the best home-made pie I've ever eaten. Of course we'll look past the fact that lard was used to make the crust since I'm trying to tout the health benefits of the main ingredient.

    What's some of your favorite ways to eat the bright orange spud?

  • The Wine That Can Save Thanksgiving

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    As we turn the calendar to November, it's time to start talking Turkey Day. One of the most often questions I hear is what is the best wine to pair with Thanksgiving food (the traditional kind made up of turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes, etc.).

    This article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel does a pretty good job breaking down the options, but one area of the viticultural map missing is the great state of Oregon.

    Last year, I chose a Pinot Noir from Erath Winery in Dundee, Oregon. I found it to be an excellent pairing with my meal. Oregon is THE place for Pinot Noir in the U.S., from A to Z, Argyle, and Adelsheim to Willamette Valley Vineyards and all letters of the alphabet in-between. They each offer a great expression of the Pinot Noir grape.

    Another choice for a red is Beaujolais, featuring the Gamay grape. The article makes mention of that.

    If you prefer a white, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay would work.

    Get ready because the drive to a glutton's favorite holiday is just beginning.

  • Taking A Stress Break with Vinous Trip

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    It's been a stressful week for many people, none more so than along the Eastern seaboard who are trying to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

    Here in Wisconsin, our hearts and minds are with them, along with a presidential election that will culminate in just a few days. Not to mention our day-to-day work struggles and life at home.

    So to give you a chance to take a short break from everyday stress, take some time and read this story from Will Lyons of the Wall Street Journal.

    Lyons discusses some of the world's most beautiful vineyards, focusing on one in particular in the Roussillon region of France.

    I'm no psychiatrist, but if I were, I might say take a deep breath and allow yourself to get lost in this story and the descriptions of a picturesque mental vacation. It may just help relax you and give some breathing room between life's problems and where we could all hope to be.

  • Peanut Butter Crazy

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    There's a pretty solid line between those who love peanut butter and those who don't. 

    Folks who aren't in love with the food spread either have a peanut allergy, or just plan don't like it.

    The friends of the peanut butter, however, are a loyal set and fracture into sub-groups like smooth or chunky, flavored or non-flavored, natural or old fashioned. It's enough to make you nuts...get it...nuts....

    Anyway, this article discusses the different ways to use peanut butter, going well past the normal peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

    I'm a fan of chunky peanut butter, with different kinds of jelly. I'm a little unsure about different flavors that you can buy. Odd ones (to me anyway) include Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, Maple, or this one. I guess since you can get spicy everything these days, that shouldn't surprise me.

    Another way to utilize peanut butter is in a homemade Pad Thai dish. Chunky would obviously be better, but either smooth or chunky could work also. 

    What's your favorite way to eat peanut butter, or what kinds do you like?  Let me know below...

  • Chipotle Gets Crafty with New Chicago Offering

    Posted by Jeff Flynt

    The Denver, Colorado-based restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill will reportedly begin selling craft beer at locations in Chicago, according to Chicagoist via the Chicago Tribune.

    The beer is Latin-themed 5-Rabbit Beer, which is a Chicago-based craft microbrew. Chipotle restaurants (some) already sell beer, but this is their first craft beer that they would offer to customers.

    It's a great combination of Latin American spirit and influence, and also quenches the growing thirst of craft beer fans.

    One topic that I've always wondered about, however, is do customers go to chains like Chipotle, Taco Cabana (in the Southwestern U.S.), Fuddruckers and others BECAUSE of the ability to have a beer with their meal. 

    On the other side, would some customers avoid those chains because they sell alcoholic beverages, and take their business to chain restaurants which don't offer booze?

    Let me know what you think.