Gastronomic Fight Club SM

Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Menu for Hope 6 - American Wagyu Beef by Morgan Ranch

posted by snekse
Most of our long time readers by now are familiar with our end of the year fund raising efforts for Menu for Hope. For those not familiar, let me briefly explain.

At the end of each year, food bloggers across the globe have united to run a world wide raffle to raise money for charity. The UN World Food Programme has always been the beneficiary of this charity drive. That has not changed this year, however, we will be supporting a new initiative called Purchase for Progress (P4P).
P4P enables smallholder and low-income farmers to supply food to WFP’s global operation. P4P helps farmers improves farming practices and puts more cash directly into their pockets in return for their crops. This will also help buoy local economy by creating jobs and income locally. We food bloggers understand the importance of buying locally and supporting our local farms, P4P helps do the same for farmers in low income countries around the world.

Cool! How can I help?

For each $10 you donate, you will get one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. At the end of the campaign (December 14-25), the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim.

Like what kind of items?

How about dinner in New York with New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov? A dinner for two with wine pairing at Manresa? A wine vacation at Meadowood Resort in Napa? A custom made Japanese chef's knife? Dinner for 8 at Momofuku Ssäm Bar? Lighting kits for the photography nerds? These have all been items raffled off in the past. You'll be able to check out this year's bid item list on Chez Pim. They are divided into regions by blogger, but you can bid on items from any region. Or you can save yourself some time and just put all of your raffle tickets towards our great bid items.

Morgan Ranch - Gourmet American Wagyu/Kobe Beef

Midwestern American Wagyu Beef
Once again, Morgan Ranch has been generous enough to provide us with amazing prize packages. Morgan Ranch has been breeding Wagyu in Burwell, Nebraska since the early 1990's using genetic stock acquired directly from Japan. One of the first Wagyu breeders in the United States, Morgan Ranch was also one of the few to pass stringent genetic, management and production requirements for shipping the prized beef back to Japan. Morgan Ranch remains one of the largest producers of Wagyu beef in the country.

So a special thanks goes out to Morgan Ranch for providing us with, not one, but two different Wagyu Beef bid items to be raffled off.


Morgan Ranch American Wagyu Coulettes

Wagyu Beef
Taken from the sirloin, this French cut gives the Wagyu (American Kobe) Steak an exceptionally soft and sweet flavor. Since the Morgan Wagyu coulette steak is bit leaner in its makeup, its subtle, pleasant flavor makes it great for serving either carved as medallions or whole as a Chateaubriand. You'll receive 2 coulettes.

$125 value** BID ITEM CODE: UE28


Morgan Ranch American Wagyu Family BBQ Collection

Morgan Ranch American Wagyu Family BBQ Collection
This combination is perfect for a family barbecue. With 5 lbs. of ground beef, 4 sirloin steaks, and a pound of kabobs, adults and children alike will all find a favorite dish among this collection. It's a perfect way to become familiar with Wagyu (American Kobe) Beef.

$125 value** BID ITEM CODE: UE29


**Includes free 2nd day shipping within the continental US.

How Do I Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle?

Here's what you need to do:
1. Choose a bid item or bid items of your choice from our Menu for Hope main bid item list.
2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation.
3. Please specify which bid item you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per bid item, and please use the bid item code.
Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02 - 2xEU01, 3xEU02.
4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Monday, January 18 for the results of the raffle.

Good luck and thank you in advance to all who donate. Happy holidays to all!

BID ITEMS LISTS:
Europe (hosted by David Lebovitz)
Asia Pacific (hosted by Ed of Tomatom)
USA: East Coast (hosted by Helen of Tartelette)
USA: West Coast (hosted by Shauna of Gluten Free Girl)
Canada (hosted by Tara of Seven Spoons)
Wine prizes (hosted by Alder at Vinography)

Donate: At the Menu for Hope 6 donation site on firstgiving.com.

RELATED LINKS:
Sponsors: Thanks to Morgan Ranch for supplying us with some great gourmet wagyu beef to give away.
Taste Magazine Takes a Look at Morgan Ranch's Wagyu Beef and Falls in Love!
Wall Street Journal Puts Morgan Ranch Wagyu To The (Taste) Test.
HOW TO: Wagyu Beef Cooking tips
Help the Omaha Food Bank
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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



RELATED LINKS:
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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Monday, June 08, 2009

Kobe Beef Hamburger Recipes

posted by snekse
Father's day is upon us and we're full on into grilling season. So what to give dear old dad? Last year we wrote a Guide to Gifts for the Foodie Father. This year, for some reason, I've only had one thing on my mind - Wagyu Beef. So that's what I think you should get pops for Father's Day.

Wagyu Beef Burger from Plan B
Plan B's "Famous Wagyu Beef Burger".
Photo by greatlettuce. Licensed under CC 2.0
Wagyu beef is also known as American Kobe Beef for the breed of cattle from which it's produced. Typically in the US the Wagyu you'll find is actually a mixed breed of Wagyu and Angus. It's prized for it's high fat content marbled throughout the meat beyond that of USDA prime. The US and Japan have their own grading scales for this prized beef. USDA prime would score at most a 5 or 6 on the 12 point beef marbling scale (BMS). The other scale ranges from C1 to A5. The highest rated A5 BMS 12 Kobe beef is: mostly white with flecks of pink meat, is $1,200 a pound and takes 4 to 6 weeks for delivery in the United States.

We won't be cooking with that. And to tell the truth, it would be a waste to make burgers from such a rare selection of meat. Instead, we recommend finding a local supplier who can provide a better value for something not so insanely marbled. There are several Wagyu beef suppliers in the Midwest, including Morgan Ranch in Burwell, Nebraska.

Morgan Ranch supplied us with a generous donation to raise money in support of the Menu for Hope IV in 2007 and the Menu for Hope V in 2008. We encourage you to check them out. As a bonus, Dan Morgan frequently makes trips to Omaha, so if you call them up, you might be able to arrange a pick up of your order while he's here to avoid paying shipping charges.

In preparing for this article, I emailed Dan at Morgan Ranch to get some recommendations for prepping and cooking Wagyu. Most of his suggestions will be obvious to foodies such as don't get in the way of the product by masking the flavors with lots of herbs or rubs. Also, try to let the meat get as close to room temperature as possible before cooking. At this temp the meat is ready to cook and relaxes as compared to shrinking up and condensing. Remember, the melting point of the fat and lipids in Wagyu is much lower when compared to your standard beef. The one tip that surprised me a little was his recommendation to sprinkle some sugar on leaner cuts, such as sirloin and ground beef. This brings out the sweetness in the meat and also creates a glaze on the meat. Great idea.

With that, I don't really have a recipe for Kobe Burgers. I'm kind of a purist and think that salt, pepper (and a little sugar) is all you really need. Get some nice toasted buns and you're good to go. Maybe get a little fancy with some caramelized onions, garlic aoili, crisp bitter lettuce greens, heirloom tomatoes and toasted brioche.

But that's probably not what you wanted to hear, so I've gathered up some recipes, but I also encourage you to leave your own recipe in the comment section below. To get your mind churning, check out these recipes from famous chefs around the world.

Kobe Burger Recipes

Kobe burger from chef Michael Mina of Stonehill Tavern

I'm sure Michael Mina has about a dozen kobe burger recipes from his about a dozen other restaurants. But this one sounds excellent. A decedent Kobe burger with truffle brioche buns, pickled onions, oven-dried tomatoes, truffle aioli. Recipe for Stonehill Tavern Kobe burger

Kobe Bleu Cheese Mini-Burgers with Cipollini Onions in Balsamic Reduction by Robert Irvine

From "The Catwalk Chef" episode of Dinner: Impossible. I've seen several recipes call for Bleu Cheese, but I'd be afraid it would over power the burger. Could be good though. Recipe for Kobe Bleu Cheese Mini-Burgers

DB Burger by Daniel Boulud from DB Bistro Moderne

This burger has become famous. Some argue this burger started the gourmet burger craze that started several years back. "The DB Burger is composed of an exterior of ground sirloin with a filling of boned short ribs braised in red wine, foie gras, black truffle and a mirepoix of root vegetables. The homemade bun is topped with toasted parmesan and layered with fresh horseradish mayonnaise, tomato confit, fresh tomato and frisée lettuce." At about $27, this was one of the most expensive burgers on the market when it was introduced. Recipe for the DB Burger by Daniel Boulud

Chef Carol Wallack's Wagyu Burger of Sola

This was one of the entries in the Amstel Light Burger Bash hosted by Rachel Ray. I thought this was unique since it was served on a pretzel roll with cambazola cheese. Recipe for Carol Wallack's Wagyu Burger

Mini Prime Burgers with Remoulade and Aged Cheddar Cheese by Wolfgang Puck

A pretty basic burger actually that relies on a Remoulade Sauce to bring some major flavor to the party. Like a refined slider. Recipe for Mini Prime Burgers with Remoulade and Aged Cheddar Cheese by Wolfgang Puck

Wagyu Burger from chef Justin North at Plan B in Australia

An entry from down under. This is one of the most unusual recipes as it calls for Madeira, pickled beetroot, and a binding filler of an egg with breadcrumbs. No judgment here though. It was good enough that someone wrote to Australian Gourmet Traveller to ask them to obtain the recipe. Recipe for the Wagyu Burger at Plan B in Australia

Hamburger Cookbooks

I couldn't find recipes online for these last two, but they are both a little iconic, so I felt I should include them.

Burger Bar: Build Your Own Ultimate Burgers by Hubert Keller

Daniel Boulud may have started the expensive burger trend, but Hubert Keller has seemed to have trumped all efforts at least for the moment - well, kind of. The FleurBurger 5000 is really only $75, but if you want to do it up right, you order it how it was intended to be ordered, for $5,000 with a bottle of 1990 Chateau Pétrus. The burger itself is, of course, a Kobe beef burger, served with truffles and foie gras and topped with a smoked onion and walnut bun. Sounds pretty darn tasty to me. There is a more economical version of the FleurBurger 5000 in Keller's Burger Bar book. Buy the Burger Bar: Build Your Own Ultimate Burgers cookbook by Hubert Keller

Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking


One of the first upscale burger joints, BLT Burger paved the way for many other restaurants to charge $10 or more for every burger on their menu. Laurent Tourondel also helped re-popularize the American Bistro with restaurants like BLT Burger. Buy the Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking cookbook by Laurent Tourondel

If you're still looking for more inspiration, check out this Burger Bonaza article and the other most expensive burgers in the world.

And don't forget to share with us your ideas, recipes and results!

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Menu for Hope - Morgan Ranch Wagyu Beef

posted by snekse
As many of you know, at the end of each year food bloggers have united, under the coordination of Chez Pim, to hold a massive raffle to raise money for charity. In 2007, we raised over US$90,000 to help the UN World Food Programme. The UN World Food Programme has been choosen again as the benefactor for this charity drive.

Cool! How can I help?

For each $10 you donate, you will get one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. At the end of the campaign (December 15-25), the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim.

Like what kind of prizes?

How about dinner in New York with New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov? A dinner for two with wine pairing at Manresa? A wine vacation at Meadowood Resort in Napa? A custom made Japanese chef's knife? Dinner for 8 at Momofuku Ssäm Bar? Lighting kits for the photography nerds? You can check out this year's Menu for Hope prize lists below. They are divided into regions by blogger, but you can bid on items from any region. Or you can save yourself some time and just put all of your raffle tickets towards our great prize.

Morgan Ranch Wagyu Beef Package

Wagyu Beef
Once again, Morgan Ranch has been kind enough to provide us with an awesome prize package. Morgan Ranch has been breeding Wagyu in Burwell, Nebraska since the early 1990's using genetic stock acquired directly from Japan. One of the first Wagyu breeders in the United States, Morgan Ranch was also one of the few to pass stringent genetic, management and production requirements for shipping the prized beef back to Japan. Morgan Ranch remains one of the largest producers of Wagyu beef in the country.

So a special thanks goes out to Morgan Ranch for providing us with a Wagyu Beef combo package to be raffled off. The package includes a wagyu beef carving roast, perfect for these winter months and 10 pounds of ground wagyu beef to throw a killer summer barbecue once the temperatures start rising again (or if you're impatient, make a meatloaf like no other right now).


Morgan Ranch Wagyu Carving Roast

Wagyu Carving Roast
All the qualities that make Wagyu beef worth enjoying also make it worth sharing with our Morgan Ranch Wagyu Carving Roast. The most flavorful of all the roasting cuts, it offers unmatched tenderness and texture as well. Its generous 7-pound size makes it the right size for every occasion.

$100 value**


Morgan Ranch Wagyu Ground Beef

Morgan Ranch Wagyu Ground Beef
Now everything you make tastes better with Morgan Ranch Wagyu Ground Beef. Create steak burgers unlike any you've ever had -- grilled or pan-fried. Averaging 81 to 84% lean, it offers a flavorful selection as part of a healthy lifestyle or as part of your favorite sauces and meatloaf recipes. Includes 10 1-pound packages.

$90 value**



PRIZE CODE: UE40 (We're part of the East Coast Prize List)
**Includes free 2nd day shipping within the continental US.

How Do I Donate?

Check out all the items up for raffle benefiting Menu for Hope 5. Pay attention to the prize code listed next to the item(s) you want to win. Once you decide which prize buckets you want your raffle tickets to go towards, visit the donation site and follow the instructions. I'll post a winners announcement when it becomes available on January 10th.

Good luck and thank you in advance to all who donate. Happy holidays to all!

PRIZE LISTS:
Eastern US Prizes at Steamy Kitchen
Western US Prizes at Matt Bites
Europe *including* the UK at Ms. Adventures in Italy
Canada at Hooked on Heat
Asia Pacific/Australia/New Zealand at Tomato
Wine Blog Host at Vinography
Donate: At the Menu for Hope 5 donation site on firstgiving.com.

RELATED LINKS:
Sponsors: Thanks to Morgan Ranch for supplying us with some great gourmet wagyu beef to give away.
Taste Magazine Takes a Look at Morgan Ranch's Wagyu Beef and Falls in Love!
Wall Street Journal Puts Morgan Ranch Wagyu To The (Taste) Test.
HOW TO: Wagyu Beef Cooking tips

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gorat's Steak House - Omaha, NE

posted by snekse
With the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder's meeting coming up, I figured I should finally write a review about Warren Buffet's favorite steakhouse: Gorat's.

Gorat's Steakhouse bills themselves as serving the finest steaks in the world. In Omaha, where the city's motto was once "Rare. Well done.", that's a common claim. But Gorat's is one of the few old school steakhouses left and one the the richest men in the world counts it among his favorites, so maybe there's something to the claim. We decided to find out for ourselves and it was certainly an interesting dining experience to say the least.

The decor is a little drab, boring and cheap with the exception of the lounge, which is just plain loungey looking. Run down, off the strip, Vegas lounge looking. But who really cares. It's a steakhouse and an old one. It's part of the charm I guess. Along with the crass waitress who took our order, but not our gruff. She had attitude, but she was actually a lot of fun. And if the steaks are good, nothing else really matters. Because of that, I give them points for explicitly stating on their menu "Gorat's is not responsible for well done steaks." Amen.

A little rant here. Why is it that so many people from the Midwest insist that their steaks be gray in the middle? This is supposed to be the land of beef. Shouldn't they know better? Is it because they prefer it that way or is that just what they were taught and grew up on? Did they only eat cheap cuts of meat that are tough and chewy when cooked rare, so they think all steaks need to be cooked for a long time to make them tender? I'd really like some feedback here.

Anyway, so our table pretty much ordered Prime Rib and Steaks. I mean why else would you come here? Warren Buffet's favorite thing to order is the T-bone steak (cooked rare, thank you very much) with a double order of hash browns and a (diet) cherry coke. I opted for the bone-in strip steak and my wife got the small prime rib. Each entree came with a small side salad, pasta or vegetable and choice of potato. Pretty standard for the American-Italian steakhouses here. The salads and pasta are pretty much a joke. Pretty standard for the American-Italian steakhouses here. The hashbrowns were pretty good. Nice and crispy and what really goes better with steak? My steak looked pretty nice (while I could see it - more on that in a bit), but didn't taste near as good as it looked. It might have something to do with the griddle they cook it on. Yes, Gorat's cooks their steaks on a griddle - at least according to Wikipedia. For some that may be a draw, for others, a huge turn off. I'm a bit in between leaning more towards the negative. I'd imagine it can be done right, but Gorat's just doesn't pull it off. It's a bit boiled or steamed tasting. A juicy steak that is flavorless. Luckily, the prime rib was much better. Really cooked to perfection with good flavor and tender the way prime rib was meant to be.

Then the lights went out. I'm not being poetic here. The lights went out. Right as we got our food, the entire place went pitch black save a lone emergency generator light. It seems tornado season isn't the best time to go eat in the older parts of town with exposed power lines. Unfortunately, that was probably the most memorable part of our meal. I can't say I have any desire to return. I'm glad I've been, and if you're a disciple of the Oracle of Omaha, you should probably pay homage to the spot at least once, but other than that, I'd have a hard time recommending the steaks here over the many other options in Omaha.

Rating: 74

Gorat's Steak House
50th & Center

4917 Center St (Map)
Omaha, NE 68106

Phone: (402) 551-3733


Hours of Operation
LUNCH:
  Monday - Friday: 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
  Saturday - Sunday: CLOSED
DINNER:
  Monday - Thursday: 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm
  Friday - Saturday: 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm
  Sunday: CLOSED

Gorat's Steak House on Urbanspoon

RELATED LINKS:
I'm not alone in my opinion
PHOTOS: Gorat's Steakhouse
The Drover Steakhouse - Omaha NE - Review by GFC

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

2007 Health Ratings - Omaha, NE

posted by snekse
Time for an update to the ever popular Douglas County Food Facility Sanitation Ratings.

I can't say there are too many surprising things about the 2007 list. That's unfortunate. Most of the places that scored an EXCELLENT rating, did so last year as well, demonstrating a commitment to quality and their customers. Sadly, many of the places scoring a GOOD-FAIR rating were also in that same spot this time last year.

The trends in the bottom seem to be Ethnic restaurants, cheap eats and bar that just happen to also serve food. I also saw a lot of bakeries, including JAMES SKINNER BAKING CO which sells product in local grocery stores. [***UPDATE*** Looks like the James Skinner Baking Co. has cleaned up their act. See comments below.] Will any store managers have the guts to make a stand and pull their product if they don't get their ratings up? Speaking of grocery stores, I was a little surprised to see WOHLNERS GROCERY still on the bottom. And a little disgusted to see MATSU SUSHI on the bottom. No sushi place should ever be on the bottom of a list like this. Yuck.

Have a happy and healthy 2008!

*** UPDATE***
See the 2008 Health Ratings - Omaha, NE


THE EXCELLENT LIST
CLANCY'S PUB7120 PACIFIC STEXCELLENT
GENJI JAPANESE STEAKHOUSE14529 W CENTER RDEXCELLENT
HUHOT MONGOLIAN GRILL17660 WRIGHT ST # 14EXCELLENT
JOE TESS PLACE5424 SO 24 STEXCELLENT
KING MANN3720 FLORENCE BLVDEXCELLENT
KOBE STEAK HOUSE OF JAPAN120 REGENCY PKWYEXCELLENT
OLD COUNTRY BUFFET14525 W CENTER RDEXCELLENT
STOKE'S GRILL & BAR646 NO 114 STEXCELLENT
TEA TROVE (THE)12100 W CENTER RDEXCELLENT
UPSTREAM BREWING COMPANY WEST17070 WRIGHT PLZEXCELLENT
V MERTZ RESTAURANT1022 HOWARD STEXCELLENT



THE NOT-SO-EXCELLENT LIST
ABSOLUTELY FRESH SEAFOOD CO1218 SO 119TH STGOOD-FAIR
BAGEL BIN INC1215-19 SO 119 STGOOD-FAIR
BILL'S BAR-B-QUE4414 NO 24 STGOOD-FAIR
BILLY K'S CAFE12025 BLONDO STGOOD-FAIR
BLIMPIE SUBS & SALADS14510 W CENTER RDGOOD-FAIR
BLIMPIE SUBS/GOODRICH577 N 155 PLZGOOD-FAIR
BREAD OVEN (THE)1202 SO 119 STGOOD-FAIR
BRUEGGER'S BAGEL BAKERY228 NO 114 STGOOD-FAIR
BUTSY LE DOUX'S1014 HOWARD STGOOD-FAIR
CAPPY'S5059 SO 108 STGOOD-FAIR
CARIBBEAN DELIGHTS2304 NO 72 STGOOD-FAIR
CECIL'S CAFE4971 DODGE STGOOD-FAIR
CHINA GATE7923 BLONDO STGOOD-FAIR
CHINA KITCHEN17676 WELCH PLZGOOD-FAIR
CHINA ONE RESTAURANT10803 JOHN GALT BLVDGOOD-FAIR
CHINA PALACE RESTAURANT661 NO 46 STGOOD-FAIR
CHINA TOWN3720 LEAVENWORTH STGOOD-FAIR
CHOICE MEATS6225 SO 90 STGOOD-FAIR
CICI'S PIZZA3205 OAKVIEW DRGOOD-FAIR
CICI'S PIZZA346 NO SADDLE CREEKGOOD-FAIR
CLANCY'S PUB777 NO 114 STGOOD-FAIR
D J 'S DUGOUT636 NO 114 STGOOD-FAIR
DAIRY QUEEN1922 NO 72 STGOOD-FAIR
DONUT STOP1256 SO 13 STGOOD-FAIR
DOWN UNDER BAR3804 LEAVENWORTH STGOOD-FAIR
DRAFT HOUSE1203 SO 180GOOD-FAIR
EL BUEN PAN BAKERY1344 PARK AVEGOOD-FAIR
EL RANCHITO4318 SO 24 STGOOD-FAIR
FERD'S BAKE SHOP8927 J STGOOD-FAIR
FIESTA BREAD COMPANY4209 SO 87 STGOOD-FAIR
FORGOT STORE (THE)11909 CALHOUN RDGOOD-FAIR
FRANKIE'S DRIVE-IN1208 SO 24 STGOOD-FAIR
FUDDRUCKERS16920 WRIGHT PLZGOOD-FAIR
GERDAS BAKERY INC5180 LEAVENWORTH STGOOD-FAIR
GLOBAL FOODS GROCERY1533 NO SADDLE CREEKGOOD-FAIR
GODFATHER'S PIZZA3141 NO 108 STGOOD-FAIR
GOLDEN PALACE4040 NO 132 STGOOD-FAIR
GOOFY FOOT LODGE1012 SO 10 STGOOD-FAIR
GOYI STORE1024 SO 74 PLZGOOD-FAIR
GRAND FORTUNE CHINESE REST17330 W CENTER RDGOOD-FAIR
HAPPY FAMILY RESTAURANT2316 NO 72 STGOOD-FAIR
HILLSIDE BAR3906 L STGOOD-FAIR
HOMESTYLE CAFE8807 MAPLE STGOOD-FAIR
HONG HING5411 NO 90 STGOOD-FAIR
HONG KONG CAFE664 NO 114 STGOOD-FAIR
HOUSE OF HUNAN2405 SO 132 STGOOD-FAIR
HOUSE OF LEE5446 NO 90GOOD-FAIR
HOUSE OF POULTRY4111 NO 30 STGOOD-FAIR
HUNAN GARDEN5916 CENTER STGOOD-FAIR
IHOP #53384707 NO 72 STGOOD-FAIR
INDIA GARDEN2819 SO 125 STGOOD-FAIR
JAMES SKINNER BAKING CO4538 SO 90 STGOOD-FAIR
JJ'S BAR & GRILL3201 SO 24 STGOOD-FAIR
KELLY O'S PUB2514 LEAVENWORTHGOOD-FAIR
KING KONG RESTAURANT3362 SO 13 STGOOD-FAIR
LA FLOR DE MEXICO4808 SO 24 STGOOD-FAIR
LA GUERA4233 SO 24 STGOOD-FAIR
LA HACIENDA RESTAURANT7211 FARNAM STGOOD-FAIR
LA MICHOACANA4002 1/2 SO 24 STGOOD-FAIR
LA TIA HOT TAMALES CAFE3572 LEAVENWORTH STGOOD-FAIR
LIGHTHOUSE BAR & GRILL15676 W MAPLE RDGOOD-FAIR
MANCHU WOK3001 SO 144 STGOOD-FAIR
MANDARIN FUSION4412 SO 42 STGOOD-FAIR
MATSU SUSHI1009 FARNAM STGOOD-FAIR
MCKENNA'S7425 PACIFIC STGOOD-FAIR
MICKEY FINNS SPORTS CAFE12107 EMMETGOOD-FAIR
NAUGHTY LOUNGE10730 PACIFICGOOD-FAIR
NEIGHBORS (THE)4689 LEAVENWORTH STGOOD-FAIR
NEST LOUNGE (THE)2638 SO 158 PLZGOOD-FAIR
NEW ASIAN SUPERMARKET4615 SO 26 STGOOD-FAIR
NEW YORK CHICKEN & GYROS5832 SO 144 STGOOD-FAIR
NICK'S GRILL3229 HARNEY STGOOD-FAIR
NICO11201 DAVENPORTGOOD-FAIR
NORTH STAR8509 NO 30 STGOOD-FAIR
O'BRIEN'S LOUNGE INC1014 SO 74 PLZGOOD-FAIR
OMAHA TROPICAL MARKET2312 NO 72 STGOOD-FAIR
PATTY'S COCINA4109 L STGOOD-FAIR
PAULI'S4016 LEAVENWORTH STGOOD-FAIR
PITSTOP PIZZA14513 W MAPLE RD #102GOOD-FAIR
PIZZA SHOPPE6056 MAPLEGOOD-FAIR
QUIZNO'S CLASSIC SUBS302 SO 16 STGOOD-FAIR
RALSTON OLD MKT SPAG WKS8531 PARK DRGOOD-FAIR
RICHIE'S CHICKEN & RIBS3528 CENTER STGOOD-FAIR
RIVER CITY SALOON1802 VINTON STGOOD-FAIR
ROSY'S TAQUERIA4623 SO 33 STGOOD-FAIR
RUSTY NAIL INN14111 PIERCE PLZGOOD-FAIR
SEASON BUFFET7415 DODGE PLZGOOD-FAIR
SENOR MATIAS2505 SO 90 STGOOD-FAIR
SIZZLER STEAK HOUSE #048514323 ARBOR STGOOD-FAIR
SONS OF ITALY1238 SO 10 STGOOD-FAIR
STADIUM CLUB (THE)414 SO 10 STGOOD-FAIR
SUBWAY2717 NO 90 STGOOD-FAIR
SUBWAY/GOODRICH15761 W DODGE RDGOOD-FAIR
T BONES GRILLHOUSE17857 PIERCE PLZGOOD-FAIR
TA CHAN BUFFET601 SO 72 STGOOD-FAIR
TACO JOHN'S8303 MAPLE STGOOD-FAIR
TACOS TOO210 SO 16 STGOOD-FAIR
TANDURI FUSION INDIAN RESTAURANT2537 SO 174 PLZGOOD-FAIR
TAQUERIA EL PALENQUE840 SO 24 STGOOD-FAIR
TASTE EXPRESS697 NO 132 STGOOD-FAIR
TASTE OF INDIA3001 SO 144 STGOOD-FAIR
TOKYO KITCHEN14132 ARBOR STGOOD-FAIR
TRACKSIDE LOUNGE1506 SO 60 STGOOD-FAIR
TRINI'S1020 HOWARD STGOOD-FAIR
VILLAGE INN #7877837 DODGE STGOOD-FAIR
VINCENZO'S RISTORANTE1818-22 NO 144 STGOOD-FAIR
WHEATFIELD'S EATERY-BAKERY1224 SO 103 STGOOD-FAIR
WOHLNERS GROCERY5205 LEAVENWORTH STGOOD-FAIR


Rating List Information

Monday, December 10, 2007

Menu for Hope IV - American Kobe Beef

posted by snekse
At the end of each year for the past 3 years, food bloggers have united, with the help of Chez Pim, to hold a raffle to raise money for worthy charities. In 2006, Menu for Hope raised US$62,925.12 to help the UN World Food Programme feed the hungry. So who is the beneficiary of this year's campaign?
"Once again we've chosen to work with the UN World Food Programme. WFP is the world’s largest food aid agency, working with over 1,000 other organizations in over 75 countries. In addition to providing food, the World Food Program helps hungry people to become self-reliant so that they escape hunger for good.

With a special permission from the WFP, the funds raised by Menu for Hope 4 will be earmarked for the school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. We chose to support the school lunch program because providing food for the children not only keeps them alive, but keeps them in school so that they learn the skills to feed themselves in the future. We chose to support the program in Lesotho because it is a model program in local procurement - buying food locally to support local farmers and the local economy. Instead of shipping surplus corn across the ocean, the WFP is buying directly from local subsistent farmers who practice conservation farming methods in Lesotho to feed the children there."

So how can you help?
For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on a prize of your choice. At the end of the two-week campaign (December 10-21), the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim.

Like what kind of prizes?
How about a chance to meet Thomas Keller, Harold McGee, or Ferran Adrià? Or maybe a dinner of a life time at a Michelin starred restaurant? Or better yet, the opportunity to work in the kitchen and learn from great chefs like Grant Achatz. All of these have been or will be items raffled for the event.

Unfortunately, we here at GFC don't have that kind of pull. However...

Wagyu Beef
To tempt your taste buds and help coax your charitable side, we've enlisted the help of Morgan Ranch in Burwell, Nebraska. Morgan Ranch has been breeding Wagyu since the early 1990's using genetic stock acquired directly from Japan. One of the first Wagyu breeders in the United States, Morgan Ranch was also one of the few to pass stringent genetic, management and production requirements for shipping the prized beef back to Japan. Morgan Ranch remains one of the largest producers of Wagyu beef in the country.

So a special thanks goes out to Morgan Ranch for providing us with the following two amazing items to be raffled off.



Morgan Ranch Wagyu Sirloin Sizzler Pack - $150 value**
A steak for every taste -- the Morgan Ranch Wagyu Sirloin Sizzler Pack showcases everything there is to love about the unmistakably intense flavor, tenderness and fine texture of the sirloin steak. Features 2 8-ounce Bavettes, 2 8-ounce Tri Tip, 2 10-11-ounce top Round / Center Cut, 2 8-ounce Sirloin Filet and 1 lb. of Kabob / Cubed Beef. Perfect for the grill, kabobs or even hot rock.
PRIZE CODE: UC02


Morgan Ranch Wagyu Carving Roast - $100 value**
All the qualities that make Wagyu beef worth enjoying also make it worth sharing with our Morgan Ranch Wagyu Carving Roast. The most flavorful of all the roasting cuts, it offers unmatched tenderness and texture as well. Its generous 7- to 9-pound size makes it the right size for every occasion.
PRIZE CODE: UC03


**Both include free 2nd day shipping within the continental US.

So now what?
Check out the 150+ items up for raffle benefiting Menu for Hope 4. Pay attention to the prize code listed next to the item(s) you want to win. Once you decide which buckets you want your tickets to go into, go to the donation site and follow the instructions. I'll post a winners announcement when it becomes available on January 9th.

Good luck and thank you in advance to all who donate. Happy holidays to all!

RELATED LINKS:
Event Coordinator: Chez Pim
Central US Host: Kalyn's Kitchen
Complete Prize List: Chez Pim
Donate: At the Menu for Hope 4 donation site on firstgiving.com.
Sponsors: Thanks to Morgan Ranch for supplying us with some great gourmet wagyu beef to give away.
Menu for Hope V - Morgan Ranch Wagyu Beef

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

2007 Testicle Festival

posted by snekse
Not much to really say on this one. We went. We ate. Once was enough. I might post more commentary later. Bookmark this page if you care.

RELATED LINKS:
Nut Nibblin'
The Testicle Cookbook - Cooking with Balls

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dario's Brasserie - Omaha, NE

posted by snekse
I like beer. Dario likes beer. I like Dario.

Well, to tell the truth, I only met him briefly, but he seemed like a nice enough guy. And I figure a person who quits a perfectly good job so he can open his own restaurant because he "wanted to do more beers" is okay in my book. Oh, and he makes pretty good food too.

Dario's Brasserie is located in the heart of Dundee on the Northeast corner of 50th & Underwood. Parking is limited, so unless you get lucky, plan on walking a block or two. Also, if you have your heart set on dining on a Friday or Saturday night, call ahead to make a reservation. They are enjoying a fair amount of popularity at the moment, so walking in at 6:30 may mean you're going to wait awhile for a table. You do have the option of eating at the bar located in the back of the restaurant, but with less than a dozen barstools, you'll be playing the odds.

Aside from the sidewalk chalkboard, the outside of the storefront is fairly nondescript with large blank windows and an uninspired red awning. As you enter, you are greeted to a space more welcoming. For some reason the contrast reminds me of Mikado Japanese Restaurant in Oakland. Nothing fancy, but a good warm local neighborhood feel.

The restaurant is about 3 times as deep as it is wide. Unlike most restaurants, the bar and waiting area are located in the back. I think it makes sense in this case to make the best use of the front windows. The entire restaurant is a little dark, so combined with the French(-ish) menu, I think it feels a little more upscale than the owner wanted it to. From what I understand, the original plan was to have a family oriented place. The lighting, beer selection and food descriptions seem to suggest otherwise.

Not that I'm complaining about any of this. Honestly, I think "upscale" is a misnomer in this case. It is very much the epitome of a Brasserie, or at least what I would like to imagine a true French Brasserie is like. I like to think the French do food right, no matter what the setting. A country where eating mussels is as common as eating chicken nuggets is in the States. And beer or wine, as long as it's good, goes well with everything and anything. So for me, Dario's fits right in with my romanticized view of one of those places you go to specifically for good beer and interesting food, but as you begin to unwind, the food and drink become an after thought. So you're really there because it's a place you and your friends feel comfortable sitting for hours ordering a constant stream of food and drinks while you ramble on endlessly about pointless, but riveting topics.

Did I mention I like beer?

So what makes for good beer and interesting food? Well to begin with, offer me something that I can't find at a well stocked grocery store. This means something beyond Fat Tire, Anchor Steam or Pete's Wicked Ale. Not that those beers are bad, but if it's on Old Chicago's beer list, then I've probably had it before. Same goes for the food. Give me something I can't find at Fill In The Blank Bistro. It doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to taste good.

And how does Dario's do in living up to these goals?

The beer list focuses on Belgian beers not commonly found in the area, though the lack of selection beyond that style is a bit disappointing. Not being very familiar with the Belgian styles, let alone the breweries, can make the list a little intimidating. Thankfully they have fairly accurate descriptions listed for each beer. You do have to be a bit strategic in your ordering though. These beers are much higher in alcohol content than American beers and most are sold only in 750ml bottles. So even though a 750ml bottle may seem like only two regular bottles, it's impact is closer to four.

The beer I had was a bit of a surprise winner for the night. I'm a bit partial to dark malty beers, so I ordered a 750ml bottle of Urthel Vlaemse Bock - the description of which sounded the closest to what I tend to enjoy. It was served in a wide mouthed goblet which prompted me to notice at least 5 different styles of beer specific glassware on hand - very cool. The beer had a nice dark, yet slightly reddish mahogany color and a distinct fruit aroma. This made me a bit worried. I can't honestly recall a fruity beer I've enjoyed. Luckily this drank much differently. It was an enjoyable hearty beer with a hint of spice, perfect for the frigid weather outside. It's flavors were complex, but I found some great tasting notes on BeverageBistro.com and the indispensable Beer Advocate.

To go with the beer and the weather, I was looking forward to ordering the pheasant ragu with mushrooms on fresh fettuccine. Unfortunately they were out of that for the night, so I decided to give the Shepherd's Pie with Duck a chance. I was certainly not disappointed. It was *perfect* for the weather and went very well with the beer. It was pure comfort food. As a matter of fact, everything placed on our table was comfort food. Comfort food winner of the night: Mussels with blue cheese and bacon in a white wine sauce served with a large cone of pommes frites (yes, I consider mussels comfort food). Oh, and almost everything on their menu is served with frites.

This unique country French cuisine was a welcomed change from what is normally available in Omaha, though I admit I'm not sure I would have pegged all of the dishes as French in origin. One thing that struck me about Dario's menu is that the beer, not the food, seems to be the focus. It's almost as if the beers were selected first, then food was chosen to be paired with the beers so carefully selected. So central is this passion that beer is even an ingredient in more than a handful of dishes, including a beer float dessert!

Brasserie, not Bistro

So, again, how does Dario's do in living up to these goals?

Not bad, not bad at all. Quite well actually, if you are evaluating everything in the context of a brasserie. Nothing was really a complete knock out, but there were several items we tried that came close enough to make a trip back worthwhile. And like I said, it's really a place that I would visit because I was already planning on going out with friends and we just wanted a place where we could kick back, scarf some mussels and pommes frites, while lubing our gab boxes with some fine Belgian beer.

My only complaint for the evening was service. It was horrid. I'll give the place the benefit of the doubt - maybe it was just not our server's night, but keep your ears open about what others are saying regarding the service. I can't possibly imagine the place would still be open if every guest was busing their own table like our table did. Again, I'm giving them a free pass here.

[**UPDATE**] I just wanted to say that we've been back to Dario's many times since we did this original review and the service has improved greatly.

Rating: 87

Dario's Brasserie - Make a Reservation: (402) 933-0799
Dundee at 50th & Underwood

4920 Underwood Ave. (map)
Omaha, NE 68132
Phone: (402) 933-0799

Hours of Operation
Monday - Saturday: 11:30am - 3pm; 5:50pm - 10pm
Sunday: CLOSED

Dario's Brasserie on Urbanspoon

RELATED LINKS:
Foodies of Omaha visit Darios
FOOD @ Dario's Brasserie
Dario's adding panache to casual, comfort foods
The Omaha World Herald
Chef Chat: Schicke whips up Belgian, French fare
The Omaha World Herald
Dundee’s Double Dipper
The Omaha Weekly Reader
Flickr Photo Set
Dario's Brasserie - Omaha, NE
Dario Schicke discusses sous vide cooking

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Netshops.com

Friday, January 12, 2007

Be Your Own Brewmaster

posted by snekse
I thought this was going to make my TODO list, but at $10 a 6 pack (at minimum), I think I'll stick with the domestic micro-brews and the occasional splurge on some Samuel Smith Taddy Porter.
Be Your Own Brewmaster
@ The Aksarben Brewing Company


That’s right, you. And we’re not talking about that stuff your neighbor made in his garage, we’re talking about fantastic micro-brewed beer made from the highest quality hops and barley of your choosing.
If you do decide to make your own brew, you can save yourself a little bit of money by purchasing a gift certificate at 50% off.

UPDATE:
Behold the power or marketing - or the lack of power from the lack there of. It looks like The Aksarben Brewing Company has closed shop.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Darwin Bistro - Omaha, NE (CLOSED)

posted by snekse
***UPDATE***
As of October 21st, 2007, Darwin Bistro has closed it's doors.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

This post is either late or really late, depending on how you look at it.

So here's my holiday gift to you all: I'm going to let you in on my new favorite restaurant in Omaha. I might dare say it's also the best, but I think I'm too biased at this point to make that call.

So it's been just over two months since I first ate at Darwin and they've been open a mere 90 days or so (thus the really late gift), but they have hit Omaha with a bang. A quiet bang maybe, but a bang none the less. It's the kind of place that you find yourself making excuses to drag people to or maybe even eat there alone because you're "in the area". By the way, no one's complained that I dragged them there.

Duck. Tartare. Saffron. Carpaccio. Those are not words you see on too many menus in Omaha. Amuse Bouche. Truffles(the tuber, not the confectionery). Foie Gras. Foam/Powder/Paint. Those are words you hear even less. Darwin has used them all, thus the origin of my bias. Yes, let it be known - you can put a down payment on buying my love and affection by using ingredients, techniques and presentations usually reserved for fine dining establishments. And if you can actually make everything taste good, consider the deal closed.

So it goes without saying that the food here is good. It would never be called my favorite restaurant if it wasn't. I will not boast that this will become your favorite restaurant. I will, however, defy you to tell me their food sucks or is even mediocre for that matter. For my personal tastes, I think they have the best food in Omaha. When you serve dishes like Duck Confit Empanadas, Bacon-sherry Braised Cabbage, and Lobster Truffle Mac-n-Cheese, it's hard not to think that. Executive Chef, Paul Urban, is pretty much fresh out of culinary school, though you'd never know by the food he presents.

Despite all of that, it is not great food that earns Darwin the "favorite restaurant" title. What puts it over the top is the sense of place. I love that you can get great upscale food in a cozy upscale casual atmosphere. White table cloths and linen napkins - but jeans are acceptable. Let me preface that by saying if you show up in ripped jeans, a T-Shirt and sneakers, you might feel a little under dressed, but a tie, or even khakis are not required (nor discouraged). I think the staff helps tremendously in creating this atmosphere. They are professional, but always genuinely friendly - and they treat their regulars well.

What may actually be the reason this place will thrive is the pricing. It's not cheap, but it's by no means expensive. The average dinner entree is about $18. Lunch is even more reasonable with the average entree being about $9. If you frequently take clients out to lunch, this is a perfect spot at the moment. It may not be in the future as more people find out about our little secret and pack their 40-some seats from 11:00 to 1:00.

Which brings me to the faults I've found so far. Continuing with the thought of bringing clients in for lunch, make sure you make a reservation. Darwin is a very small place and parking is tight during the lunch rush. Also, keep in mind that the kitchen currently consists of Paul and his sous chef. I think they're still finding their groove and can get a little overwhelmed at times, so relax, take your time and don't expect to be in and out in 45 minutes during prime feeding times. This may have been a factor in the next item - seafood. Sadly, I must report that we don't have conclusive proof that the kitchen can properly prepare seafood. We ordered 3 seafood dishes on the same night and all of them were overcooked to varying degrees - though it could have been a service issue as well. Again, they've only been open for a little over 3 months.

For the oenophiles out there, consider bringing something from your own cellar. Their wine list is a bit anemic and doesn't do the food justice. Oh, and they need to replace their furniture. It's basically patio furniture. The chairs leave you with waffle butt and the table legs insist on occupying the space closest to your heels, thereby becoming a tripping hazard as you leave the table and preventing you from scooting the back of you chair any closer than 18 inches from the table. [ UPDATE: New chairs are in and I'm told they are much more pleasing to sit on and move around. ]

Those are my thoughts on Darwin. Admittedly, I'm biased because they make the food I want in an atmosphere I enjoy. So I encourage you to try it for yourself and let me know what you think. Is it the best? Or at least a new favorite? In the mean time, here are the pictures I've taken since they've been open.

Darwin Bistro & Catering Photo Collection
Lots of pictures of Darwin Bistro


Rating: 92

Darwin Bistro & Catering - Make a Reservation
Miracle Hills Plaza at 114th & Dodge

650 N. 114th Street
Omaha, NE 68154
Phone: 402-933-6600

Hours of Operation
Monday - Saturday: 11:00-2:00; 5:00-close*
Sunday: 10:00-2:00 (brunch); 5:00-9:00
* They close when it gets slow, so call first

Menus
Brunch Starters | Brunch Entrees
Lunch Menu | Dinner Menu | Tasting Menu

RELATED LINKS:
Foodies of Omaha @ Darwin Bistro
INTERVIEW: Paul Urban, Executive Chef - Darwin Bistro (Omaha, NE)

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Omaha's Best Dining Experiences (2006)

posted by snekse
A theme appears to be developing here.

John Keenan, dining critic for the Omaha World Herald, recently published his best dining experiences for 2006. An interesting read. Nothing really shocking on there, but I was a little surprised that Liberty Tavern was nowhere on the list. The list was heavily represented by V. Mertz, Paxton Chop House and Jack Binion's Steakhouse. I've only been to V. Mertz, but if the other two are comparable, then I'd be hard to find fault in the list. I would have also liked to have seen Sage get a special mention, at least for the experience aspect.

It's not entirely clear, but I think he also named a best of list that is linked in the upper right-hand corner. Whatever it is, I've posted it here.
  • The French Cafe ~ A five-star experience
  • Jack Binion's Steakhouse ~ No gamble with these dishes
  • O Casual Dining ~ Inventive chef equals exciting menu
  • Paxton Chop House ~ New presence in downtown fine dining
  • The Tasting Room ~ Come for the wine, stay for the cuisine
  • V. Mertz ~ Seemingly effortless elegance
Though their food is good, I doubt we'll see The Tasting Room on that list next year. There are just too many places in Omaha that are stepping up their game to let your menu become as stagnate as there's has become. Hopefully we'll see Darwin on there for 2007 and see Liberty Tavern get back some limelight.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The lists that started it all

posted by snekse
So I figured I should give a little background on why I decided to list the Health Inspection Ratings for 2006.

I try to keep up with all of the local news and reviews about all things food related for the Omaha area. Yesterday I read Jim Delmont's list of top ten dining spots of 2006. I won't go into how unexceptional his list is since every list gets attacked for various reasons.

Instead, I want to focus on one specific pick: Hong Kong Cafe (Miracle Hills location). I have never eaten at this restaurant, yet I believe it's made this paid food critics list on more than one occasion. The reason this surprises me is because of the article below. Would you trust a critic that recommends a place cited for keeping chicken at 63.8 degrees outside in a bucket?

Eight Omaha Restaurants Get Poor Health Grades
Inspectors Rate Restaurant Good-Fair In 8 Cases

http://www.theomahachannel.com/news/4180873/detail.html

POSTED: 12:24 pm CST February 9, 2005
UPDATED: 8:52 am CST February 10, 2005

OMAHA, Neb. -- Health department records obtained by KETV NewsWatch 7 find eight Omaha restaurants with a pattern of code violations. Each restaurant has received the health department's lowest rating on four consecutive inspections.

Investigator Carol Kloss went behind kitchen doors to see how health inspectors are trying to ensure that your dining out experience is a healthy one.
Video

With cameras rolling, Kloss dropped in on the eight restaurants. The Douglas County Health Department inspects every restaurant twice a year and gives them a grade. The highest grade is "excellent, " then "excellent-good, " "good" and the lowest grade is "good-fair." Anything lower than that and the health department would shut the restaurant down.

"To actually shut a place down on the spot, we need to have an immediate health risk to the public," said Jeff Radcliffe, a Douglas County restaurant inspector.

Radcliffe said that is rare. He's been inspecting restaurants in Douglas County for 16 years.

"The inspector has to look at the overall restaurant and try to conclude, are these people trying to keep a clean restaurant and address problems, or are they letting things slide?" Radcliffe said.

Radcliffe said the restaurants that let things slide get the "good-fair" grade. Kloss went to visit those establishments that got a "good-fair" four times in a row. The visits included:


Cascio's Steakhouse, on South 10th Street
China One Restaurant, at 108th Street and John Galt Boulevard
Don Carmelo's Pizzeria, at 35th and Farnam streets
El Palenque, on South 24th Street
Hong Kong Café, at 114th and Dodge streets
Lee's China, at 75th and Pacific streets
Richie's Chicken & Ribs, at 35th and Center streets
The Sitar, at 125th and West Center Road

Kloss dropped in on each of these restaurants, checking if they've made improvements since their last health department inspection.

"I don't want you guys in here this time," someone at Richie's Chicken said upon Kloss arrival.

This wasn't the first time Kloss had dropped in at Richie's Chicken & Ribs. The last time Richie made the list was in 1998. He cooperated with camera crews that time, but not this time.

Richie wasn't the only one that didn't let Kloss in. Cascio's owner wasn't available to give permission to see the kitchen. A manager on duty tried to reach the owner, but no one answered the phone.

Some restaurants did let the camera into their kitchens.

"Sure, you can come take a look," said Albert Mah, the owner of Hong Kong Cafe.

During its last inspection, the health department cited the Hong Kong cafe for storing chicken at temperatures above 45 degrees. When Kloss checked, temperatures appeared to be just at or below 45.

Kloss: "That looks pretty close. Before they said the chicken was at 63.8 degrees Fahrenheit."

Mah: "That must have been at time when the chicken was outside in a bucket."

Kloss: "Do you have chicken in a bucket right now?"

Mah: "No. Everything's stored in there."

At Don Carmelo's, the inspector didn't find any temperature problems, but she did find a back room in disrepair and with improper lighting.

Kloss: "Have there been improvements made?"

Pat Mischo, Don Carmelo's owner: "Yeah, I've put this light in. I'm trying to get this ceiling painted."

At the China One Buffet, cold foods are now below 45 degrees at 41.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Kloss also looked at the hot foods, and found they were kept about 135 degrees -- just as the health inspector ordered.

China One Buffet had also been cited in 2004 for mouse droppings in a the utility room. Kloss revisited that room, and took her tape to pest expert Dennis Ferraro.

Kloss: "Are these still mouse dropping back here?"

After looking at the videotape, Ferraro said that's exactly what they were. Some of the droppings have been here awhile, he said.

"You have the white ones, which means they're very old, and the black here, shiny, that's fairly fresh," Ferraro said.

A representative with China One Buffet was asked whether mousetraps are used where the droppings were found. He said there are traps out and they have been catching mice.

Kloss video also showed a gray mass on the floor.

"Gosh, it almost looks like fur," Ferraro said. "That's much bigger than a mouse, and it's not the color of a mouse."

Ferraro said it could be shredded material that the mice have turned into bedding. Not even the pest expert knows for sure. But he does know that China One has some kind of serious rodent problem.

"There should be very little tolerance for rodents, especially the house mouse," Ferraro said.

But it is apparently not serious enough to shut China One down.

"No," inspector Radcliffe said. "That wouldn't necessarily be enough to say, 'Hey, you're closed right now.'"

China One does have proof of regular visits from the pest exterminator. But Ferraro thinks the restaurant could make better use of traps and bait stations inside and out to get rid of mice once and for all.

"They could be reproducing on the inside, and that bait station on the outside isn't stopping the reproduction of mice indoors," Ferraro said.

Radcliffe agrees that all of the restaurants on Kloss list could do better. He said it's no excuse for restaurants to say they're old or impossible to keep clean. He said owners just need to show some effort.

Eight of Douglas County's 1,393 restaurants got the lowest grades. When Kloss checked 5 years ago, 13 made the list, and there were 132 fewer restaurants in the city then.

COPYRIGHT KETV
POST TYPE: EDITORIAL
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