Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chicken Fried Steak - God's Gift to the Carnivore

How do you make a steak taste better? Deep fry it!

Many Americans will agree that frying something (ie. chocolate bars, ice cream, etc.) is the best way to improve the taste of anything. I don't know if I agree fully with this concept, as my first and last experience with a fried snickers bar, left me hurting. But in the case of Chicken Fried Steak - I must concur.

Many sources attribute Chicken or Country Fried Steak's development to German and Austrian immigrants to Texas in the nineteenth century. I personally think it was a gift handed down from the Gods and as a child I would look for it on the menu everywhere we went, all over the United States.

The best Chicken Fried Steak I ever had was at a little train car diner in Jefferson Texas. The steak had been beaten thin and the breading around the meat had been fried perfectly crispy, while still maintaining the juiciness of the meat inside. At the young age of ten I was asking the waitress what was in the gravy that made it taste so good! It was then that I learned about Bacon Gravy. And not long after I learned to make the sinful stuff.

Well, I am a long way off from Jefferson Texas, but I have to tell you that I am fortunate enough to have a superb version of the old Texas classic, right down the road from my home in Redlands. That place is Carolyn's Cafe.

The steak is done just the way I like it, crispy on the outside and juicy and well seasoned on the interior - but the best part about their dish is of course, the sausage gravy smothered all over the top. You can actually see large pieces of their breakfast sausage dotted throughout. If it's good enough for a self-proclaimed Texas raised CFS expert, then it's worth giving a try yourself. If your disapointed, well, then you don't really know what CFS is to begin with 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bacon Strip Pancakes

Maple Bacon, pancakes, crunchy, soft, savory and sweet. What's not to love. This is a great recipe for camping or for any time anywhere you happen across a warm griddle and the following ingredients;

Bacon Strip Pancakes
Original Recipe on the back of a box of Rath Black Hawk Bacon - 1961

-Maple Bacon (or flavor of your choice)
-Pancake mix with whatever it calls for...egg, oil, water, etc. OR your own pancake batter.
-Real Maple Syrup

- On hot griddle fry bacon to perfection....Your perfection of course. Everyone has a different idea of perfect when it comes to bacon.
- If you are making this recipe for small children you make want to use kitchen shears to cut your bacon into smaller pieces to fry, resulting in shorter Bacon Pancake Strips, or circular, silver dollar sized Bacon Pancake Strips.
- While bacon is frying, prepare your pancake batter.
- When bacon is done, keep griddle at a 325-350 temp and pour or ladle the pancake batter over each slice of bacon.
- Let the pancakes cook until most of the bubbles rise and pop. (About 2-3 minutes)
- Flip the pancakes revealing the bacon on top and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer the Bacon Strip Pancakes to a plate and serve hot with 100% Pure Maple Syrup for dipping.

Desssert Gastropub? Yes, please.

Brother and Sister and Brewcakes Co-owners, CJ and Sarah Sillers
Check out my article for the story about how Kiddough's Bakery became Brewcakes. They are doing some amazing things with food and I can't wait to see how this place keeps blossoming into their end goal; a dessert gastropub. Go to Redlands Daily Facts online to see the full article.

A La Minute Creamery in Redlands Celebrates One Year Anniversary, Interview with Owner Ryan Berk

Ryan and Cassandra Berk, Owners, A La Minute Creamery

I had such a great time interviewing A La Minute for this article. Here is the transcription of the Q and A for the interview with owner Ryan Berk;

What’s On Tabetha’s Plate?
à la Minute Un a Plus Tard (One Year Later)
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year but Friday, March 1st, À la Minute celebrated its first Anniversary. Hinting at things to come they planned to give out house made chocolate covered strawberries and espresso rolled truffles starting at 4:18 pm. The time commemorated their first ice cream sale one year ago to the minute.
I arrived right at four and a significant line had already formed. Owners Cassie and Ryan Berk, ever the hands on husband and wife team, personally handed out the free goodies smiling and thanking people for being such great customers. Earlier in the day Ryan and I sat down to discuss the success of the business and what it means for them to get to work in a community like Redlands. 
TW: What kind of risk did you take to start this business?
RB: I used to work as a Sou chef at Casino Morongo with forty plus employees under me and Cassie was the controller at Arrowhead Orthopedics. It was the biggest risk of our lives to leave our careers but we are young and knew now was the best time to try something new. We rode everything on this project. We had a mortgage payment but took a chance anyway. We knew if it failed we could go back out and get jobs elsewhere. So far it has paid off and been a huge success. We never expected the community to support us like they did right from the beginning.
TW: What was it like in the beginning?
RB: When my wife and I started the business we had no idea what was going to happen. We even feared no one would show up. The first three days it was just the two of us and we were slammed. We called our parents and they came into help out then our friends and more family showed up so we could keep our heads above water.
TW: When did you realize you had made it?
RB: After the first month we broke even.  We had hoped to do that within the first five years so we couldn’t believe it but that’s when we knew.
TW: Who makes up your customer base?
RB: I would say ninety percent of our customers are from Redlands. The local community is a huge part of everything we do. Facebook is our main marketing ploy. We haven’t paid for marketing at all. We exploit our specials every week on the Facebook page and people just show up.
TW: Have you had any special guests visit your creamery in the past year?
RB: Not necessarily anyone famous or a celebrity but we get a lot of customers coming from LA or San Diego. We have groups of people coming through doing Yelp tours of highly ranked places in our area and that’s fun. 
TW: What has been most memorable about the last year?
RB: Collaboration has been the best thing and getting to know people better in the area. The whole year has been a great experience. Making moscato snow cones with Ryan at the Dregs was a highlight. Being able to have a European mentality about the food we are creating has been great. The idea of using what is around you, cheese from the local cheese maker, meats from the butcher down the street, etc.  I work with Jacinto Farms, Three sisters Farms, Rolling Hills Farms, 123 Farms and so many local restaurants and vendors.
TW: Speaking of collaboration, I know you work with Sugarbird Desserts for your cream cheese ice cream topped cinnamon roll muffins on Sundays and Crepes of Wrath for ice cream topped Crepes at Market night. Who are you enjoying working with most right now?
RB: All the collaborations have been great. Most recently I have been doing some things with Saverino’s Deli. We made a great ice cream using their mascarpone cheese.
TW: I noticed you added homemade waffle cones to the menu recently and am wondering if anything else new is in the works?
RB: We are making our own chocolate now. The process is described as “bean to bark” where we make small batches of chocolate. First we source out beans from an orchard, roast them, crack them, winnow the nibs and grind the nibs into cocoa liquor. Then we refine, temper and mold the chocolate.  
Right now we make eight to fourteen pounds a week for our own use in the ice cream but we are currently purchasing equipment that will allow us to make around one hundred and forty eight pounds a week. Currently Farm Artisan Foods uses our chocolate in their flourless chocolate cake. In the next four to five months we are going to open up a separate chocolate shop downtown. It will have a visible kitchen where people can take tours and see the whole process up close. Ideally we will become an exclusive chocolate producer.
TW: How exciting. Are there any plans down the line to expand or open another ice cream parlor, if at all?
RB: I want to open three to four other locations in Southern California counties. I don’t want to ever franchise because I want to have control over utilizing community vendors. We always want to be able to keep a part of our soul in everything we do.
TW: I know you have a mainstay menu but also do weekly specials based on what is in season. Over the last year what has been the most popular flavor you have presented?
RB: Salted Caramel. Every day people go crazy over it. Second to that is Strawberry Balsamic which we just brought back because strawberries are in season again.
TW: What has been the least popular flavor?
RB: Nothing has been a flop. Tom Kha Kai ice cream was insane, so many flavor profiles, but it was extremely well received. It literally mimicked the Thai soup but without the saltiness.  It sold out in one day and I had made enough for weeks. It was extremely abstract especially for an ice cream but people’s palates are defining themselves and they are open to all sorts of flavors.
TW: What is your personal favorite ice cream flavor on any of the menu’s you have created in the last year?
RB: Espresso Chip, and the affogattos that we serve on Sunday only. Making the affogatto was a labor of love. We collaborated with Augie’s coffee and it took a month for us to perfect. We pour an espresso shot over a Madagascar vanilla bean infused ice cream. It has tons of flavor and tastes a lot like a refined latte.
TW: In a few words can you explain why your ice cream is so delicious?
RB: Liquid Nitrogen. There is a “wow” factor in making the ice cream in this manner but that isn’t why we use the method. It simply minimizes the ice crystals and makes the ice cream creamier. It allows us to have control of flavor.
TW: I know you are involved in all sorts of ad hoc events and fundraisers and that you do catering. What event have you participated in that has been most meaningful in the past year?
RB: We did a Ronald McDonald House event in LA and raised a couple thousand dollars. We also did something similar at Loma Linda Hospital. It’s always great to see the kids enjoy the process of making the ice cream when they are going through so much. It takes them out of that painful world for a moment and lets them enjoy something wonderful.
TW: Why do you think your ice cream has been so successful?
RB: The Redlands community. Our price point is the same as other chain ice cream stores but we don’t charge sales tax. We may lose less profitability but it’s worth it. People are coming to an awareness of supporting what is local and that is what we are all about.
In closing, I have to say I am thrilled that two people with such an extreme focus on quality and using local ingredients have been so wildly successful. In many of my interactions with restaurants and food related events in our area I always hear Ryan Berk’s name mentioned as a champion of developing partnerships, mutually beneficial relationships and fostering teamwork among local vendors. He has, in short, become a common thread among the Redlands food scene and it is to all our benefit.  I want to congratulate them and the Redlands community on how they have supported the good work they are doing both in and out of their ice cream parlor. I look forward to being a customer for years to come and can’t wait for what the future brings where they are concerned.


Ahhh, coffee. I actually didn't start drinking the stuff until I was in my early 30's. I know what you are thinking, "All that time wasted..." I know. It haunts me everyday.

One coffee joint am really enjoying in Redlands is Augie's. They are taking the coffee thing serious, latte art throwdowns, career baristas, in-house roasting and all. They are also cross-pollinating into the ice cream world working on Sunday only affogato's with a la minute creamery.

If you aren't sure what an affogato is then check out this you tube video of them making one.
A La Minute and Augie's Coffee Affogato Collaboration

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Seat at Tabetha's Table; Isabella's in Redlands

Isabella's Italian restaurant in Redlands has one of the best lunch values in town and their food is simply divine. For as long as I have lived in Redlands Isabella's has relentlessly advertised a buy one get one free dinner or lunch coupon all over town. Most of their dishes on the lunch menu cost approximately ten dollars and around eighteen at dinner time. Each meal at both services include a generous portion of either a mixed green salad or home made soup. Are you starting to see the dollar signs? What's the catch, you ask? The only catch is that you have to purchase two beverages with your meal. Even if you get two o their delicious unsweetened fresh brewed raspberry iced teas you could still will still save at least five dollars at lunch and possibly three times that at dinner. Did I mention the food is stunning? Many of their specialties are cooked in a Northern Italian style with cream based, butter or olive oil prominent sauces but they also offer traditional Bolognese style sauces and other meat heavy entrees traditional to Southern Italy. Each dish is made to order and served piping hot. Two of my favorites include the Spaghetti Carbonara and the Gnocchi ala Pesto. The Carbonara surely contains thousands of calories, but that is exactly why it is so ridiculously delicious. You wouldn't spoil yourself with this kind of richness at home. The Gnocchi is insanely fresh and authentic. Lots of restaurants like to make gnocchi out of all sorts of crazy ingredients with similarly quirky sauces these days. However, if you have never had an original version of the potato dumpling style pasta, you simply must give it a try as it's rare to find it so fresh and tasty. One last note would have to be how refreshingly quiet and sophisticated Isabella's setting can be amidst the an overwhelming number of overcrowded and bustling deli style lunch spots in Redlands. For the same cost of your overpriced sandwich you will be delighted not to be rushed in and out and how easy it is to enjoy the company of your dining companions.