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Gastronomic Fight Club SM

Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sous Vide for the Home Cook

posted by snekse
Sous Vide Ribeye Steak cooked for 4 hours at 120 degrees F by snekse on Flickr
I've long been enamored with the method of cooking sous vide. I first learned of the technique after seeing Alinea prepare broccoli sous vide at 170F in their food lab prior to opening. After reading up on the subject, I began to appreciate the problems it could solve. Ultra tender spare ribs cooked for 36+ hours. Never overcooked seafood prepared oh so delicately. A photo perfect steak cooked an exact medium rare from edge-to-edge. Beyond just the control the method provides, I was also very enthusiastic about the forgiveness allowed through that control. No longer would you need to baby sit a piece of fish with a trigger finger ready to pull it off the heat at the precise moment it was done, lest you overcook it. Imagine being able to drop dinner into a water bath before you left for work, then when you walk through the door at the end of the day, you simply plate your perfectly cooked food. That theory is all well and good, but the question remains:

Is sous vide practical for the home cook?

The short answer is not really. At first, the answer was almost certainly not. The equipment was expensive, large, and not aimed at in-home use. Of course that didn't stop the passionate food community. Finding immersion thermal circulators on eBay became more and more difficult as the hard core foodies and restaurants snatched them up. For those not willing to sacrifice the space or money for large lab equipment (even used circulators are still expensive), DIY alternatives were devised such as connecting a PID controller to a slow cooker or rice maker. For those without a soldering iron, products started hitting the market like the SousVideMagic. And of course some people just opted to monitor the temperature of a pot of water on their stove, but that's not exactly the most practical solution, especially if you want to make 36 hour short ribs. Not to mention the potential dangers with not having the water circulated.

SousVide Supreme
The latest buzz has been about true sous vide equipment designed from the ground up for home use. The SousVide Supreme™ "water oven" just hit the market in January 2010. It's "designed specifically to bring the gourmet sous vide cooking method into home kitchens". And it does a very good job of it, but that's our next article. Before you go out and buy one, you have to decide if it's right for you.

I don't want to cover all of the pros and cons of sous vide, but I do want to cover what I think are the most impactful for the home chef. But first, let's start with a quote from Thomas Keller, author of Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide , on cooking sous vide at home:
"It's not necessarily for the home cook yet. They can try to understand what sous vide is, but most of the applications in the book are industry-oriented. To incorporate sous vide into the home, chefs first have to embrace the technique so that home cooks become more familiar with it. I think we'll start to see that soon."

Benefits of Sous Vide Cooking

  • Precision: Being able to just set a dial and know your food is going to be cooked to perfection is an amazing ability.
  • Forgiveness: Because of the precision, you won't need to worry about overcooking something nearly as much as you would with other methods.
  • Time: If you're the kind of person who likes to Feed the Freezer, sous vide could help. There's also the aspect that not having to tend a dish frees up your time to do other things.
  • Parties: If you throw lots of dinner parties, sous vide is for you. Cook lots of portions at once, all done perfectly and consistently. Not to mention with a little planning you could cook a multi-course meal just in your sous vide machine, giving you time to interact with your guests.

Drawbacks of Sous Vide Cooking

  • Cost: Not only is the equipment still pricey, but you also have to factor in the cost of bags.
  • Time: Though it could save you labor time, the fact that it might take you 4 hours to cook a steak is definitely a negative. There's also upper limits on time that I'll address more in a bit.
  • Knowledge: It's tough to acquire knowledge about how long to cook something and at what temperature. It's gotten easier to find these answers, but it's still tough.
  • Size: Though the SousVide Supreme is relatively small in size, it's still about the size of a bread box. If you also have a vacuum sealer, then that's more counter space you have to account for.
So who is sous vide right for? I'm sure I'm going to miss large groups here and make some people mad (check the comments for differing opinions), but really I could only think of two types: party people and stay-at-homes. And it all boils down to one issue: Time.

Sous Vide Party

If you're the constant entertainer, but you're always in the kitchen as your guest mingle, this could help alleviate some of that. Drop some asparagus in before your guests arrive. When the first one shows up, drop the temp but leave the asparagus in the water. When it gets low enough, add a bag of diver scallops. When the scallops are cooked, you just need to sear them, but every scallop will be cooked perfectly in the middle and your asparagus will be warm, ready to eat and correctly tender without being too crunchy or mushy.

Sous Vide for the Stay-at-Home

You're someone who stays at home for most of the day and you're expected to have dinner on the table when everyone comes home. Chances are pretty good that you have other things going on during your day that you could use a little extra free time. Being able to prepare lunch and dinner at the same time could really come in handy. Make some mac-n-cheese for lunch and drop some pork chops into a water bath at the same time. Then when it's dinner time, just pull the chops out, sear them off and a few minutes later, dinner is served.

Who is Sous Vide Not Good For?

Everyone else; unless you have money to spare on a toy that you may not use every week. Again, the problem is time. Remember how I said one of the benefits is that you can't "over cook" food? Well, that's technically correct, but you can over tenderize food. If you leave a piece of protein in a water bath far longer than you're supposed to, the texture will become mushy and mealy. Not pleasant at all. If I can't leave something in to cook all day long or if I can't come home and finish dinner in 20 minutes, then it's not really practical for my lifestyle.

Here are the caveats to my argument. If you don't mind eating the same thing all week long, then making lots of steaks on the weekend, then searing them as needed throughout the week might be a good option for you. The other possibility is to use the water bath like a slow cooker. It would have to be a type of dish that doesn't need that roasted, reduced liquid goodness quality that comes with evaporation of the liquids, but it is a possibility.

Don't forget the "sous vide" in sous vide

Pork with spices onions and apples in a Ziploc handi-vac bag.
Unfortunately, none of this addresses the other part of the equation, and the real heart of sous vide: the under pressure part. At the moment there are three common methods used to vacuum package food in the home. The most common is to use a consumer vacuum sealer like a FoodSaver device. I think what has become a quick second place is the new Handi-Vac from Reynolds. The final method is to just double bag your food in ZipLoc backs and try to suck as much air as possible with a straw.

None of these methods match the industrial vacuum chambers restaurants use. They work well enough, but liquid is their Achilles' heel. Liquid in the bag can make a mess as it gets sucked out of the bag and into your device. Worse yet, it can prevent the bag from sealing. I often double seal my bags just to be safe. One way around this is to turn your liquid into a solid by freezing it if possible. Just one more thing to keep in mind.

I know that's a lot to consider, but hopefully this helps you make an informed decision when considering if sous vide something you want to try and if it's something you want to invest in the proper equipment for. Similar to smoking meat and frying whole turkeys, it's not for everyone, but if you're passionate about it and you put some effort into it, the results can be amazing.

Auber Instruments Sous Vide Cooking Controller
Sous Vide Supreme Review via Popular Science
DIY Immersion Circulator
Scallop Sous Vide at 49 and 51 degrees C
Sous-Vide Scallops in a Rice Cooker
Sous vide Lobster tail at 60°C
Sous Vide Lobster, Creme Fraiche, Caviar
Lobster and Hen of The Woods Mushrooms
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Monday, August 10, 2009

MAP: 100 things to eat in Iowa before you die

posted by snekse
I stumbled upon this list just recently. It was compiled by The Des Moines Register back in 2006. It's a great list, but unless you're really familiar with Iowa, it's really just entertaining reading since you wouldn't know where half the places are located. So we decided to create a map of all 100 places - that way you can attempt all of the food on your own. Or if you're not quite up to that, you can see someone attempt the list at Roadfood Digest.

And of course we have to start a Nebraska version of this Midwestern foodies' bucket list to compliment the Iowa list. So tell us what, where and why (and when if applicable) are the 100 things to eat in Nebraska before you die.

Entry Form: 100 things to eat in Nebraska before you die

100 things to eat in Iowa before you die

___ 1. Taco Pizza, Happy Joe's, locations across Iowa

___ 2. Sweet corn, Sweet Corn Festival, Adel

___ 3. BBQ Ribs, Claxon's Smokehouse & Grill, Altoona

___ 4. Sauerkraut Salad, Colony Inn Restaurant, Amana

___ 5. Rhubarb wine, Ackerman Winery, Amana

___ 6. Schild Brau Amber, Millstream Brewery, Amana Colonies

___ 7. Sauerbraten (beef marinated in a sweet and sour sauce, made with spices and Amana wines) with potato dumplings, Ronneburg Restaurant, Amana

___ 8. Saucy Southerner Sandwich, Hickory Park, Ames

___ 9. Chicken Tequila Fettuccine (Chicken, onions, peppers and tequila-soy cream sauce on spinach fettuccine), Aunt Maude's, Ames

___ 10. Denver-Style Crust Pizza, The Great Plains Sauce and Dough Co., Ames

___ 11. Gyro, The Gyro Guy outdoor cart, Campustown, Ames

___ 12. Margarita, O'Malley & McGees, Ames

___ 13. Fresh Beer-Battered Onion Rings, The Redwood Steakhouse, Anita

___ 14. Angel Cream Coconut Cake, Peppercorn Pantry Tea Room, Aplington

___ 15. Nutty Bar, Arnolds Park Amusement Park, Arnolds Park

___ 16. Prime Rib, The Feedlot Steakhouse, Atlantic

___ 17. Homemade fudge, The Mean Street Grill, Atlantic

___ 18. Spaghetti Soup and Red Raspberry Pie, Breitbach's Country Dining, Balltown

___ 19. Sink Cookies, Granny Annie's Bakery & Cafe, Cedar Falls

___ 20. Raspberry Coffee Cake, Barn Happy, Cedar Falls

___ 21. Kolaches, Sykora Bakery, Cedar Rapids

___ 22. Cabbage Rolls (ground beef with rice wrapped in a cabbage leaf with a tangy tomato sauce) with potato or bread dumplings, Zindricks Czech Restaurant, Cedar Rapids

___ 23. Pork Ribs, Al & Irene's, Cedar Rapids

___ 24. Onion Rings, J Bruners steak restaurant, Clarinda

___ 25. Black Dirt Cake (cream-cheese frosting layered between ground Oreo cookies), That Place Restaurant, Conrad

___ 26. Garst Farm sides: Corn Casserole, Four-Way Bean Dish and Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage, Garst Farm Resorts, Coon Rapids

___ 27. Hot Fudge Sundae, served with a pitcher of fudge on the side, Lagomarcino's, Davenport

___ 28. Pond-Raised Catfish with Western Baked Potato, The Enchanted Inn, Davenport

___ 29. Regular (pepperoni and sausage) or Around-The-Garden Pizza, Mabe's Pizza & Restaurant, Decorah

___ 30. Breakfast buffet with made-to-order omelets, homemade waffles, biscuits and gravy, and pastries, Cronk's Restaurant & Lounge, Denison

___ 31. Burritos Jimador (cheese-sauce topped burritos stuffed with steak, cheese and lettuce), El Jimador, Denison

___ 32. Bone-in Delmonico, 801 Steak & Chop House, Des Moines

___ 33. Margherita or Sausage Pizza, Chuck's Italian-American Restaurant, Des Moines

___ 34. Peach Ice Cream, Bauder's, Des Moines

___ 35. Chicken Spiedini, Tursi's Latin King Restaurant, Des Moines

___ 36. Corn dog, Campbell's Concessions, Iowa State Fair, Des Moines

___ 37. Chocolate Bonbon, Chocolaterie Stam, Des Moines/Windsor Heights/West Des Moines

___ 38. Tom Ka Kai, Thai Flavors, Des Moines

___ 39. Steak taco, Tasty Tacos, Des Moines

___ 40. Hot Sausage Sandwich (made with Graziano's sausage), Norwood Inn, Des Moines

___ 41. Trappistine Creamy Caramels, Trappistine Nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey Monastery, Dubuque

___ 42. Bison Tenderloin, Pepper Sprout Midwest Cuisine, Dubuque

___ 43. Caramel Apple, Betty Jane Candies, Dubuque

___ 44. Gunderburger, The Irish Shanti, Elgin

___ 45. Stuffed Pork Loin, The Danish Inn, Elk Horn

___ 46. Crepes, La Petit Paris, Fairfield

___ 47. Vegetarian Salad Bar, Maharishi University of Management cafeteria, Fairfield

___ 48. Sunday Vegetarian Breakfast Buffet, Everybody's, Fairfield

___ 49. Wood-Fired Pizza, Revelations Cafe & Bookstore, Fairfield

___ 50. Semmel (a dense German roll, baked fresh daily), The Bistro at the Gortz Haus, Grimes

___ 51. Chicken Walnut Salad, served on Wednesdays at Kelcy's, Grinnell

___ 52. Cream-Filled Coney, (doughnut with cream filling, shaped like a hot dog), Danish Maid Bakery, Grinnell

___ 53. Homemade Triple Berry Pie, Picket Fence Café, Guttenberg

___ 54. Cherry Pie, Crouse Cafe, Indianola

___ 55. Spicy Yam Pate, Red Avocado, Iowa City

___ 56. Green Papaya Salad, Thai Spice Restaurant, Iowa City

___ 57. Brie Beast Sandwich (Niman Ranch roast beef, brie cheese, roasted sweet peppers, lettuce and tomato on farm bread), New Pioneer Co-Op, Iowa City and Coralville

___ 58. Tuscan Tomato Soup, Bread Garden Bakery & Cafe, Iowa City

___ 59. Vegetarian Falafel Sandwich, Oasis Falafel, Iowa City

___ 60. Smoke Trout Pate (served with stone-ground wheat crackers), Linn Street Cafe, Iowa City

___ 61. BBQ Chicken, Camp David, Iowa Falls

___ 62. Fried Chicken with homemade bread, mashed potatoes and gravy, The Red Barn Bistro, Keosauqua

___ 63. Bob Dog (natural-casing wiener topped with loose meat), Bob's Drive-In, Le Mars

___ 64. Tenderloin Tips (cubes of tenderloin beef sauteed with mushroom, white wine and oregano in a white wine and garlic-butter sauce) Somebody's Grille & Bar, Manilla

___ 65. Tortellini Carbonara (tortellini with homemade Alfredo sauce, bacon and green onions), Phat Daddy's, Marengo

___ 66. Half-pound burger, Marquette Bar & Cafe, Marquette

___ 67. Maid-Rite, Taylor's Maid-Rite, Marshalltown

___ 68. Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie, Stone's Restaurant, Marshalltown

___ 69. Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie, Twisted Chicken, McGregor

___ 70. 16-ounce Ribeye (heart-cut, bacon-wrapped), Rube's Steaks, Montour and Waukee

___ 71. Homegrown Muscatine Melons, late July until first frost, The Good Earth Restaurant, Muscatine

___ 72. Seven Seas Seafood Soup, Guadalajara, Muscatine

___ 73. Grilled Sirloin Meatloaf (Wood-fire grilled meatloaf served on Texas toast with BBQ sauce, topped with mashed potatoes and onion straws), The Button Factory Woodfire Grille, Muscatine

___ 74. Blue Cheese, Maytag Dairy Farm, Newton

___ 75. Bratwurst, Woudstra Meat Market, Orange City

___ 76. Loaded Hash Browns, Otho Pub, Otho

___ 77. Loose meat sandwich, Canteen Lunch in the Alley, Ottumwa

___ 78. Dutch letters, Jaarsma Bakery, Pella

___ 79. Cast-Iron Seared Filet with a Blue Cheese Crostini, Carmelized Mushrooms and a Maple-Bourbon Demi-glaze, David's Milwaukee Diner, Perry

___ 80. Fajitas, Sabor Latino, Postville

___ 81. Hamburger Buns, Postville Bakery, Postville

___ 82. Broasted Chicken, Red Rooster, Postville

___ 83. Pita and Falafel, Kosher Community Restaurant, Postville

___ 84. Country Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Vegetables, first Sunday of the month, Elks Club, Shenandoah

___ 85. Tuna Sushi, Fuji Bay Japanese Restaurant, Sioux City

___ 86. Onion Peels, Tastee In and Out, Sioux City

___ 87. Pork Tenderloin, St. Olaf Tavern, St. Olaf

___ 88. Fruit-of-the-Forest Pie (fruits in season), Susie's Kitchen, Stanton

___ 89. Swedish Meatball Soup, Boz Wellz Pub & Eaterie, Storm Lake

___ 90. Caramel Truffles, Kristi's Kandies & Heirlooms, Storm Lake

___ 91. New York Strip Steak, The Embers, Storm Lake

___ 92. Raspberry Pork Tenderloin (Grilled pork tenderloin with a raspberry sauce), The Cottage on Broad, Story City

___ 93. Dutch Salad, Coffee Cup Cafe, Sully

___ 94. Steak DeBurgo, Sam & Gabe's Italian Bistro, Urbandale

___ 95. Cinnamon Roll, Iowa Machine Shed, Urbandale

___ 96. Prime Rib Twister (Grilled prime rib with Cajun seasoning topped with grilled mushrooms, onions and grilled shrimp), AK Corral Steakhouse & Lounge, Ute

___ 97. Muskie Burger, Muskie Lounge, Ventura

___ 98. Black Forest Cake, Martin's Brandenburg, Waverly

___ 99. Chocolate malt, Wilton Candy Kitchen, Wilton

___ 100. Apple Dumpling, Iowa 80 truck stop, Walcott

An Item-by-Item map of the Iowa list
MAP: 100 things to eat in Iowa before you die

A City-by-City map of the Iowa list
Food To Eat In Iowa Before You Die

Thanks to RoadFood.com for a great site that helped us create this map.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

REVIEW: ThermoWorks Splash Proof Thermapen

posted by snekse
It looks like someone at ThermoWorks saw my Review of the Original ThermoWorks Super-Fast Thermapen and liked what I had to say. They offered to send me their newest model ahead of it's official release date (June 1st, 2009). Um, hell yes, bring it on.

Introducing the all new and improved, been in design for 2 years...

ThermoWorks Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen thermocouple thermometer

Yeah, they could have picked a smaller, catchier name.

So I'm not going to rehash all the things I loved about the Original Thermapen. I'll let you read that review first to get up to speed. Go ahead - I'll wait. Alright, now that you're back, let's talk about what's been improved, what's been messed up and what flaws were never addressed in this new design.

First let's go over what Thermoworks considers to be the highlights of their new Splash-Proof Thermapen:
  • 3-second readings!
  • Improved accuracy and durability
  • Water-resistant design
  • Biomaster anti-bacterial additive
  • °F to °C reconfigurable
  • 0.1° resolution full range to 572°F
  • Auto on/off—no buttons!
  • 1,500 hour battery life
If you're interested in the nitty-gritty spec details, you can check out their website. I'll cover what I think is important.

We'll start with the name. I wouldn't have felt the need to seal the case and make it splash proof until a couple of weeks ago when my mother was hand washing dishes and washed my original Thermapen. It came out fine, but I'd have been less worried if the case was sealed. It's still not meant to be submerged, but it's a good start. Now if they made it dishwasher safe, that would be really cool.

Speed and accuracy are next on my cool improvements list. This thing is even faster and more accurate than the original. It's usually in the ballpark in under 1 second and will have a pretty accurate reading in about 3 seconds. And by accurate, I mean within ±0.7°F with the digital display now showing the temperature measured in 0.1° increments, so you'll know if that 64°C for your perfect molecular gastronomy inspired soft boiled egg is really 63.6°C or 64.4°C. These are actually my favorite improvements.

Jumping back to the splash proof design, let me point out what's changed. There is now a rubber seal merging the front and back of the Thermapen. This seal makes rotating the pen into the "ON" position seem stiff at first, but I've read this should only impact new thermometers. The new case design has also made it almost impossible to stand the device upright. I have mixed feelings about this, but I don't think it will be something that will bother me at all in a couple of weeks.

The area around the digital display has also changed. The screen is now flush with the Biomaster anti-bacterial molding to prevent grime build up; it is also slightly larger and has been moved to the left. This makes the numbers a little easier to read, but I think it lacks the contrast that the original screen had, which makes it a little harder to read.

The opening for the battery compartment has also been re-designed. The new battery, which is expected to last 15 times longer than the original, sits in a round compartment on the back with a tethered cover. Unfortunately I think the plastic latches are too thin since mine either arrived with one of the latches broken or it broke soon after arrival. I'm sure ThermoWorks would address the issue if I sent it back to them, but still a spot for improvement. ***UPDATE*** ThermoWorks called me on the Monday after I posted this. They are sending me a new unit with a return shipment label so I can send the original back to them. I've heard from others they have great customer service; I'll concur.

Inside that battery compartment are a series of tiny switches. These switches allow you to customize some of the behaviors of your Thermapen. Are you like the folks at Cook's Illustrated and would prefer the unit to not automatically turn off? Just flip a switch. Want readings in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit? Flip a switch. Nice options to have, but I like the defaults.

The unit is still expensive, but again, there's really nothing else close on the market. The new Splashproof Thermapen is about $20 more than the original super-fast Thermapen. Is it worth it? Well if you have the original, I think there's no need to upgrade unless you work at Sea World or something. But what about those who don't have either? Is it worth the extra money to get the newer design? I guess it depends on what you plan on using it for. For me, the quicker I can get a ballpark temp, the better. And at this price point, an extra $20 doesn't seem like a whole lot more.

So I still highly recommend either of these Thermapens, I just can't flatly recommend one over the other. I've given them both the same score based on functionality and price. Now if I could get them to send me an Infrared Thermometer to review...

Rating: 90

REVIEW: The Original ThermoWorks Super-fast Thermapen Thermometer
BUY: The Original Super-Fast Thermapen from Amazon
BUY: The Original Super-Fast Thermapen from ThermoWorks
BUY: The New Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen from ThermoWorks

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Monday, June 02, 2008

REVIEW: ThermoWorks Thermapen Super-fast Thermometer

posted by snekse
My fingers just aren't sensitive enough. And timing only works when all the variables are the same. So what's a dad to do when he's tired of the Thanksgiving turkey or the 4th of July steaks come out raw or over-cooked. Sure you can buy one of those Polder kitchen thermometers, but come on - this is your dad. Show him you love him and get him something he'll be proud to show the neighbors. Get him the Super-Fast Thermapen by ThermoWorks!

So I first heard about this device on CookingForEngineers.com. But after I saw the Cook's Illustrated review, I decided it needed to go on my wish list. How's this for a glowing review from the folks at Cook's Illustrated:
Highly Recommended
Simply the best: fast, accurate, and easy to use. The Thermapen also has the widest temperature range (-58 to 572 degrees).
Luckily for me, someone loves me and shelled out the $80+ for what has become one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

So what makes the Super-fast Thermapen so special? It's fast. Really fast. It can be in the ballpark in about a second and be accurate to within 1° in under 4 seconds. Most thermometers aren't even in the ballpark in under 4 seconds. This can be very useful when you want to take the temp of something without pulling it out of the oven or items that change temperature quickly. Also handy when you need to take the temperature in several spots on something like a chicken. The small probe helps keep fluid loss to a minimum when you're doing those things. The large digital read out is a nice feature. And the whole thing just looks pretty cool.

It's not perfect, however. First and foremost, it's expensive when compared to the basic kitchen thermometers. But the technology is far different, thus the disparity in cost. The other annoyance is a bit of a design flaw or feature, depending on your point of view. When vertical, the housing lacks a flat bottom that would allow you to stand the thermometer upright in a stable manner. I think it was designed this way to discourage that practice. You'd be pretty upset if Johnny bumped your grill and your Thermapen fell to the ground and shattered. Not that I think that would happen. The casing is pretty durable, but I guess if you left the pen extended, the probe might snap off. Which leaves me to my next gripe.

This is a pen, not a corded probe or one of those newfangled wireless devices. There is no "stab it and leave it, we'll alert you when it's ready" feature on this. So if you want to know when that turkey is done, you have to check it yourself. ThermoWorks does sell a model with interchangeable plugs which includes a corded version, but even that one still lacks an alarm. Not to mention it's the same price as the Super-fast pen, and comes with zero probes in the box.

So if you want to treat your dad this year, consider the Super-fast Thermapen or the grand-daddy of them all plug-mount pen. If you are on a budget, or you just don't like your dad that much, consider getting the CDN ProAccurate Quick Tip Digital Cooking Thermometer DTQ450 which was also Highly Recommended by Cook's Illustrated, but is less than $20. Either way, you should be eating better food in no time.

ThermoWorks has replaced this model with a new, faster, more accurate splash proof Thermapen. Check out our review of the ThermoWorks Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen.

Original ThermoWorks Super-Fast Thermapen

  • Very fast read times
  • Very accurate
  • Thin probe
  • Very cool
  • Expensive
  • Beveled bottom
  • Fixed probe
  • It's not the über-cool plug-mount model
Rating: 90 RELATED LINKS: ThermoWorks Pictures of the super-fast ThermaPen Foodies Guide to Father's Day Gifts The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2009: The Year's Best Recipes, Equipment Reviews, and Tastings Tags || | | | | | | more... |

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Foodies Guide to Father's Day Gifts

posted by snekse
Over the next week we'll be highlighting some products that we think will be enjoyed by all the dads out there that are foodies just like us. Happy Father's Day.

Foodies Guide to Father's Day Gifts

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Michelin 2007 - France

posted by snekse
Michelin Fork and Spoon Logo
For those of you who care, the rumors are already starting to fly about the 2007 Michelin Guide. I'll admit my ignorance in this area and instead point you to Pim for the tids and bits. Or if you can read French, get it straight from the source.

*** UPDATE ***
It's official. You can read about the highlights along with the 65 page press release at Chez Pim

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Foodies Coupon Guide for Omaha

posted by snekse
I'm a cheap bastard.

I'm such a cheap bastard, I have not one, but three different kinds of coupon books for Buy One, Get One Free (BOGO) coupons. And I use the hell out of them. They're great though, and I think every serious foodie should have at least one. It allows you to save money on your everyday dining so you can afford to go to the more expensive places more often or eat at those prohibitively expensive restaurants that you've always wanted to try.

So this is my Christmas present to you: "A Foodies Coupon Guide for Omaha" (because I'm too cheap to buy you something nice).

Below I have listed several coupon books available in the area, their suggested retail price (MSRP), the price range you might expect to pay, as well as some Pros, Cons, and additional thoughts on why you might or might not want to purchase each set of coupons. Enjoy!

A Foodies Coupon Guide for Omaha

The Entertainment Book
MSRP: $32 Discounted Price: $22-27

The ubiquitous coupon book sold around the nation. Offers discounts for almost every family restaurant in town from Arby's to Olive Garden. Non-franchise places are included as well, though most of the better discounts are only available through the website when you register your book.

  • A bazillion coupons for a bazillion places
  • Even more coupons are available through their website
  • Includes coupons for things other than food and for areas well outside of the Omaha area
  • Most coupons can be used as BOGO or 50% off a single item Unfortunately this is no longer true for the Omaha book. Almost all discounts are solely BOGO coupons.
  • Almost all coupons are limited to restaurants below the Upscale Casual tier
  • The range of coupons means you're paying for a lot of things you'll never use
  • You have to drag that dang book around (Coupons vs. Discount Card)
  • The cheaper restaurants makes getting your money's worth more difficult
  • Finding a coupon for a specific place or area can be difficult at times
This is the best option if you often dine alone since it's the only one that offers 50% off coupons. I also think it's the best for families since there are coupons for so many different places. Most places offer unlimited 10-20% off coupons through the Entertainment.com website so you may never pay full price for a meal again.

Omaha Originals Dining Club Card
MSRP: $30 Discounted Price: $25-30

A truly cool and unique card. This card entitles you to BOGO offers for what I consider some of the best places in Omaha. Each of the locations is a locally owned restaurant that started in the area. No Cheesecake Factory here.

  • Some of the best restaurants in town
  • Features restaurants that rarely offer discounts
  • Words like "Not to exceed $30" - now that's a BOGO!
  • Seriously, check out their restaurant list
  • Heavy restrictions including blackout days
  • Each restaurant has different restrictions
  • No repeat usage
  • Flimsy card stock, so card is easily damaged
    The 2007 cards are printed on a laminated heavy card stock.
  • Many restaurants are located east of I-680 (That's a con for me at least)
  • Darwin isn't on here :-)
One of the best values *if* you have the ability to eat at a sit down restaurant midweek. Best for couples with jobs that have empty cubicles at 5:00 (or retired couples). If there's a list of restaurants that you always hear people talk about, wanted to try, but you just haven't had a chance to try them yet, chances are, this card has at least 2 of those restaurants on it.

The Omaha Prime Card
MSRP: $20 Discounted Price: $10-20

A "fund raiser" card with more places on it than a typical card sold for fund raisers, but just barely more useful.

  • Great for lunch with a co-worker or a quick dinner option
  • Can be used for a BOGO up to 20 times at most locations
  • Poor training means you'll usually get more than 20 uses at each location
  • Weak restaurant list - mostly fast food
  • More than a few offers are NOT Buy One, Get One
  • Many of their discounts are offered for free on the back of grocery receipts
  • The disproportionate amount of coupons for coffee/smoothie/frozen dessert places
  • The non-food discounts are worthless for the most part
Not a great card, but if you can pick one up for $10, you probably get your money's worth very quickly. I use it a lot because my wife and I often get stuck at the office and don't feel like cooking when we get home. Burritos or sandwiches work well in a pinch. The "fund raising" aspect of this card seems a bit questionable to me though.

** UPDATE **
Have a couple more to add to the list that you might want to check out.

Omaha Dining Deals
Omaha Dining Deals strives to provide our visitors with the most complete information about dining discounts in the Omaha, Nebraska area. You can find a range of specials on this site including daily promotions offered by restaurants to availability of coupons and where to find them. This is a free, user supported site.

Neofill offers 50% off coupons for Omaha restaurants, but their selection is limited. Still worth a look.

Part of COUPONS LIMITED, LLC. Limited selection, but worth a look.

Spartan Coupons have a decent selection of coupons that are free and printable. They also publish a free coupon book distributed through local stores.

So there you go, a frugal foodie guide to eating cheap in Omaha. Here are some parting tips to get you in the penny pinching mood.
  • Don't forget to check the back of your grocery receipts. The food coupons on those have gotten much better over the past year or two.
  • Sign up for email lists at your favorite restaurants. They'll often send you special offers and coupons.
  • Next time you go to Starbucks, instead of your $4.00 coffee, order a Ghetto Latte.

If you're just looking for more coupons in general, or some free sample offers, be sure to check out some of these sites as well:

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