Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mad Dogs of UT, LLC

Mad Dogs of UT, LLC Cart

With as much exposure to food and different places around the world that I've had, one thing remains consistent...my love of street food.  Salt Lake City has just received a tasty new gift, wrapped in bacon.

Mad Dogs of Utah, LLC is the type of food cart others should aspire to be.  The factors of food cart success are all there - quality ingredients, attention to detail in cooking, and amazingly friendly service in the form of Rudy.  If you ask him, he will tell you all about how service is what sets you apart.  He pays attention to his customers and will chat you up if you like, wait patiently as you pore over the many options, or even take your order over the phone to make your delectable bite handoff even quicker.

What caught my eye, then my stomach, and finally my heart, was his offering of a bacon wrapped dog.  Rudy takes premium hot dogs, wraps them just like little gifts (to your tongue) in bacon, and then lets them bubble and crisp on the grill.  While this is happening, he also grills your bun and will grill mushrooms and/or onions to pile atop if you like.  If you want a side of conversation, he is happy to oblige.  More of the silent type? No pressure - he'll leave you be.

Rudy of Mad Dogs of Utah, LLC and Menu

The bacon dog is indeed delicious.  Due to the elements of seared fat and hot dog casing, your dog will gleefully crunch under your bite.  If you want to add a little kick or yin to your yang, you can add A1 sauce or syrup.  

Bacon Dog with A1 Sauce

Mad Dogs of Utah, LLC also offers breakfast.  Biscuits & gravy, hash browns, breakfast sandwiches (a buck and a half? Can he be serious?) and more.  At lunch, Rudy also offers a French dip, hamburgers, turkey sandwiches, and tacos.  He is also happy to make an item gluten-free upon request.

So if you love food carts - and bacon - you must visit Mad Dogs of Utah, LLC.  He is a Salt Lake win! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Deliciously Delightful Bran Muffins

I've been eating these bran muffins for as long as I can remember - and making them since I could stir.  Over the years, I've had many roommates (and now husband) taste them and fall in love with them.  Why?  They're relatively healthy - and they taste like cake!  Literally - from roommates who were on Weight Watchers to men who could care less about fat and calories - these are loved by all.  So, by request - here are my grandmother's bran muffins.  Enjoy!


2 c Kellogg's All Bran Buds
2 c Boiling Water
1 c Oleo (i.e. vegetable oil)
2 1/2 c Sugar
4 Eggs
1 qt Buttermilk (you can also use your regular milk and add some lemon juice to transition it)
4 c Fiber One
5 c Flour
5 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Salt

Okay - yet another simple recipe!  Start off by combining the All Bran Buds with the boiling water in a bowl.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, add 1 c oil and 2 c sugar.  Stir.  Add 4 eggs, one at a time and stir after adding each.  Add the buttermilk and Fiber One cereal, using a hand mixer to blend well to break up the cereal.  Next, add the water-soaked bran.  Blend again.

Finally, add the baking soda and salt.  Stir.  Add the flour, one cup at a time, stirring in between each cup. Let mixture sit for an hour to help the bran gain moisture.  Grease your muffin pans.  The batter should be enough for approximately 48 muffins.  Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full.  Bake at 375 F for 25 minutes.

Because this recipe makes so many (which makes me happy), I normally divide the batch and place some in freezer bags for later.   Depending on where you live, you can store them in a ziplock bag on the counter or in your refrigerator.  Enjoy plain or with butter and/or jam.

Bon Apetit!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wild Grape Bistro

I know there's been a lot of discussion regarding group deals as of late (i.e. Living Social, Groupon, etc.).  I see many possible benefits for consumers and businesses IF both use them correctly and intelligently.  I actually did a marketing evaluation in my MBA program on Groupon.

Anyway, the reason I mention this is that a LivingSocial deal allowed me to try out Wild Grape Bistro - a restaurant that has been on my list since it opened.  I had an email warning me to use my deal soon or lose it - so use it I did.

Wild Grape Bistro took over a restaurant location that seems to have experienced a lot of turnover.  When they first arrived, I wondered how long they would last.  Here's to hoping they continue.  My meal on Saturday was superb.  Have a glimpse into my experience.

We started with a small plate of Potato Gnocchi, served with braised beef, mushrooms, spinach, truffle oil, and a dusting of parmesan.

Delicious.  I'm a sucker for gnocchi.  Pretty much anytime I see it on a menu, I need to try it.  A large part is due to the fact that good authentic gnocchi seems incredibly difficult to find.  I'll be honest - the gnocchi here were good but not what I consider gnocchi done right.  The flavor was there but the texture too squishy.  Good gnocchi should be somewhat firm.  These were closer to potato dumplings.  The real winner of this dish?  The braised beef.  It was incredible.  Tender, pull apart, but with the right amount of chew so you still felt like you were eating meat.  My next visit will include their tenderloin just so I can taste the magic they create again.

Next up - Grape's Bison Burger.  8 oz. Colorado Bison, house-made steak sauce, blue cheese, fried onions, spinach, bacon, and served with house cut fries.

Sadly, due to pregnancy food restrictions (which also prevented me from ordering their Arugula salad which sounded ridiculously good for a summer day) I had to withhold the blue cheese.  The sacrifices I make....anyways.  I hadn't experienced Bison before.  For those who are a little more on the reserved side when it comes to game meats or meats not normally seen in the grocery store I'd say go for it!  It's an incredibly mild tasting meat but delicious.  I assume the grind wasn't mixed with any beef suet but it's possible.  The burger was exquisitely composed with the right layering and thickness of bun to burger with a lovely crunch of onion and sweet tang from the steak sauce.  Another win for Wild Grape Bistro.

Lastly, we finished with a Organic Chicken Breast, served with Moroccan roasted vegetables, polenta fries, and smoked eggplant.

I had wondered what the "polenta fries" would come out as.  I love polenta, and tend to prefer a firmer style.  This was perhaps a bit too firm for me and resembled more of a coarse corn bread than polenta.  The chicken was moist and slightly garlicky.  And the vegetables were the real win.  Tender, well-seasoned, and summery.  I fear it was unfair to the chicken to have followed the braised beef.  If you're in the mood for chicken, it was well cooked and satisfying but not memorable in the way the braised beef was.

So, while some may argue that group deals are of the devil (and some consumers abuse the system to make it so while some businesses overestimate their ability to fulfill), it proved successful for me.  Wild Grape Bistro?  I happily recommend your fare.  Your service was great and patio seating on a lovely summer day are hard to not love.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year! Homemade Potstickers FTW

I've been a lover of all foods Asian for as long as I can remember.  I'm sure it helps that I originated in the Bay Area where Asian culture reigns supreme.  Chopsticks were my utensil of choice (I swear eating with them makes your dish taste better).

So to honor Chinese New Year, I am posting a tribute to potstickers, one of my favorite snacks/meals.  I think most people love anything that is essentially a pocket of deliciousness.  Beef Wellington, falafel in pita, momos, or even Hot Pockets (which I know you secretly love).  

Potstickers, or Chinese dumplings, are far easier to make than you might have imagined.  Especially if you cheat and use wonton wrappers - which I do.  Also, if you happen to be planning a party or just happen to love all things Asian, you will use almost the same ingredients if you would like to make Vietnamese spring rolls at the same time.

What you'll need:

1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 medium head cabbage (Napa), finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
2 slices fresh ginger root, finely chopped
1 1/2 shredded carrots
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 (14 ounce) package wonton wrappers
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chili oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

It's actually really easy from here with one exception - but we'll get to that.  

  1. Toss everything from the ground pork down to the sesame oil in a medium bowl.  If you're not squeamish, get your hands in there and mix.  If you are, well, get a spatula and get to it.  Mixed?  Great, move on.  

  1. Get out your magical wonton wrappers.  One of the happiest pre-made products you can buy.  Lay out your cute little circles and get read for the slightly more difficult part.  Add a spoonful to each little wrapper.  Less is more for the inexperienced because this next part is a little trickier.  Maybe only do one at a time to start to find the right level of "fullness" for your dumpling folding skills.

  1. Have a small bowl of water to dip your fingers in.  Fold your wontons into cute little half moons and start pressing together.  Now, here is the part some people struggle with at first.  Start folding. I start in the center and fold a quarter inch to a half inch fold and work towards one end.  Then I go back to the middle and go the other way.  Don't get your fingertips too wet or your wonton dough will get sticky and be a royal pain to work with.  However, you will want to add a little moisture to help your folds really stick together.  Now repeat about a million times until you're out of dumpling filling or wonton wrappers.

Cool.  Now you have two choices.  Cook now or throw in a bag and freeze.  Because I was making these just for me (and my husband, sort of) I chose to cook half and throw the other half in a gallon size freezer bag.  That's what makes these even more awesome - they freeze well and make for a very quick and low maintenance dinner in a pinch.

If you choose to cook now, your journey is almost over.  I like my dumplings and sauce over rice so I'd get that cooking now if I were you.  Then you'll toss your vegetable oil in largish pan.  I used a 12" pan to do my bidding.  Arrange your potstickers in the pan, laying on their more flat side.  Once they're looking pretty like a fan, turn your burner up to medium.  Go ahead and add the water and then cover with a top or if you don't have one, just use a cookie sheet and let it have a small opening to vent.  Let this cook for about 10-12 minutes.

All cooked?  Last step.  Mix the chili oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar in a small bowl for dipping.  Or you can get crazy and throw it in the with the potstickers once they're done and stir to get them coated.  Hey, it's your life. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shiny New Product Review: Taco Bell's Beefy Crunch Burrito - An Epic Fail

It breaks my heart to say this.  Taco Bell, you have really failed this time.

It all started with my bi-weekly visit to Taco Bell to pick up my usual, a Crunchwrap Supreme and a Grilled Chicken Burrito (and don't forget the all important Baja Blast).  I noticed there was a new item on the menu - a Beefy Crunch Burrito.  It looked and sounded delicious.  When I pulled up to order, I asked what happened to be in this appealing new item.  Most importantly, what made it crunch?  The answer?  "Layers of seasoned ground beef, rice, warm nacho cheese sauce, reduced fat sour cream and Flamin’ Hot (R) Fritos(R) wrapped in a warm, flour tortilla."  

I'll be honest, the Hot Fritos threw me.  What had initially sounded so amazing suddenly sounded a little not so amazing.  I love Fritos.  The thing that was bothering me more than anything was the scary bright orange color - Frito deliciousness this was not.  

Curiosity got the best of me and a few weeks later I made the giant leap.  Here's the real failure.  Taco Bell began their failure path years ago when they got rid of my beloved Chilito.  If you're not familiar with the Chilito, it was only Taco Bell's greatest creation.  Now here comes another one.


The Beefy Crunch Burrito?  Not crunchy.  Either the worker bee totally forgot to put the crazy orange Fritos in my burrito or by the time I got home (a matter of minutes) the crunchy had turned into the same soft texture as the rest of my burrito.  I kept taking bites searching for some crunch, but alas, no crunchy peep from my burrito.



Fail Taco Bell.  Have you had any Taco Bell failures that hurt your heart a little?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bittersweet Moments Sweetened With Mini's Cupcakes

Today is my last Thursday at work. Meaning, tomorrow is my last day at my current employer. There have been definite highs and lows at my job. The highs, absolutely being the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most magnificent people I will ever come into contact with.
Evidence of this?

Mini's Cupcakes. My favorite Salt Lake cupcakery, for good reason.

Why do I love Mini's? I've eaten about a million cupcakes. Although, it certainly felt like the majority was in a span of two weeks while we were searching out the best cupcake in New York at Serious Eats. I've never been so sugared out in my life. After eating all these cupcakes, and swearing them off for a period of time, I was able to return to Utah, and return to Mini's.

They are the perfect size. Enough to satiate but not so much that you wish you could die or pull all of your teeth after consuming one. More importantly, they are always moist, have excellent flavor balance, and have frosting and ganaches that are blended well and not grainy or sickeningly sweet. As an added bonus, Leslie has incredibly fun and delightful flavors that tease the palate into wanting more.

What did my wonderful friend and co-worker delight me with? From top left: Black & White, S'More Please, Diva. Bottom left: Twister Sister, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Chocoholic. Leslie (the owner and baker) pretty much had my heart when she started combining salty and sweet - and made delicious ganaches.

Mini's also does seasonal flavors. This holiday season, I was fortunate enough to experience a Gingerbread with Cream Cheese, Eggnog (filled with eggnog custard) topped with Eggnog Buttercream (and an optional splash of rum), Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate with Dark Chocolate Peppermint Ganache, and a Dark Chocolate with Nutella spread. Wowee - my heart did little flutters when I saw what was coming out.

Lastly, you should see what my breakfast of champions was completed by. (If you didn't see this coming, you haven't figured me out yet)