Saturday, September 25, 2010

Do Oregonians Understand Barbecue?

So, the question raised by tonight's little visit to Adam's Ribs Smokehouse in downtown Salem (across from Willamette University), Oregonians understand ribs at all? Pork ribs should be moist and melt in your mouth delicious. Except for a visit to a Tony Romas which has since unfortunately closed in Salem, I can't recall ever eating really great barbecue in Oregon--unless we make it.

Okay...maybe Buster's Texas Style Barbecue in Portland gets the concept--but apparently no one else! (When Buster's tried to open a restaurant in Salem, they could never seem to duplicate the Portland quality, and they finally closed. I think they must have kept the meat sitting around too long...waiting.)

Tonight's meal, for instance, was so bad that you couldn't even separate the ribs without a knife and a lot of effort. They were hard and dry, resembling door stops more than a barbecue dinner. The barbecued chicken, likewise, was hard and relatively dry and tasteless. Even our table was filthy.

Two thumbs down for Adam's Ribs of Salem, Oregon. Sometime before too long, we'll share how real Texan ribs are prepared. My wife happens to make the best around!

Do you want to try REAL barbecue? Stop by Spring Creek Barbecue in Texas. Now, that's barbecue...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jambalaya and the Fixin's--& Chocolate?

Here's something new for my fellow northern readers to try: jambalaya. This southern recipe was found on, and it's simply named Joe's Jambalaya . This is basically a hearty stew made of sausage and seafood. It can contain multiple kinds of seafood, but we just used shrimp. (When I had this in a Cajun restaurant, I think it contained some critters I could probably have done without eating.) It really hits the spot on cool northwestern days. Have ample supplies of hot sauce handy!

The main change we made was to add okra and use jasmine rice. While the jasmine rice is great, it does require more liquid. We served this jambalaya with a side of fresh corn bread.

By the way, here's a great dessert treat: Sipping Dreams Drinking Chocolate . We tried this product from Whole Foods for the first time this evening. It is perhaps the best hot chocolate I've had in years, very rich with strong cocoa flavor and hints of vanilla. Keep in mind that one bar of the chocolate only makes a cup of the drink when added to milk--so buy enough for everyone!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oregon Coast Clam Chowder

If there's one dish I enjoy, it's a good bowl of clam chowder. We've sampled clam chowder in fine restaurants from Victoria to Monteray, and I really can honestly say that our recipe is hard to beat. That said, my recipe owes a debt of gratitude to my own family. In fact, perhaps I should call it Eastern Washington Clam Chowder? No, I guess not.

Besides never scalding the milk, the central thing to keep in mind for this recipe is to keep experimenting and perfecting it. That's one aspect I enjoy--that each batch is slightly different than before. I usually add a one or two of a rotating list of seafood together with the clams: shrimp, crab, scallops, smoked salmon, etc. (Freshly caught seafood is particularly good, but make sure you have selected the right kind of clams if you've dug them yourself. Sadly...the Ericksons are not the best clam diggers.)

I also recommend making it correctly the first couple times before trying to concoct a healthy version. After all, this isn't a side dish, it's the meal. We almost never use real cream, for instance, but it does greatly improve the texture and flavor.


almost five pounds of cut and peeled potatoes
4-6 small cans of clams or 1 of the large can
half a stick of butter
2 diced onions
about a quart of whipping creme
1-2 cups of 1% or 2%
*have available instant mashed potatoes

Seasoning (to taste)

cracked pepper
dried parsley
basil (fresh preferred)
Be creative!

At the same time your boiling the potatoes, begin to saute the cut onions in a skillet with some butter. Once the potatoes are sufficiently tender, remove from the heat. Cook the onions until they begin to become translucent. If the potatoes are too big, cut to smaller pieces. (You can cut them within the pot and save time.) Carefully, pour out a little more than half of the potato water. Add sautéed onions to potatoes, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Don't add the milk or whipping creme yet!

Once everything has come to a gentle boil, add the milk and whipping creme last. Keep stirring and lower the heat. This prevents the milk from scalding. If the consistency is not right, slowly stir in instant mashed potatoes. Keep in mind, however, that using too much can really ruin the chowder--especially for the next night.

Everyone (except me) in my household likes ice cold peas dropped on top of the chowder to help cool it down at serving time. I still believe that this is a great affront to the chowder gods. Consequently, you will not see peas in my chowder--unless, of course, my wife Kimberly has prepared it. :)

Suggested toppings: crumbled pepper bacon or oyster crackers.

Variations: try cooking the potatoes in half water / half homemade chicken broth.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Two Great Places to Eat in the Salem/Portland areas

We've had some good news this past week or so, and we've ended-up eating out a little bit more frequently than usual for us. What began last week with a horrible dining experience at a local Mexican restaurant has ended on a much more welcome note.

First, Spoons Gourmet Deli in south Salem is a remarkable little place. We drop by every few months, and it seems each time we come away really pleasantly surprised. Well, they've done it again this time. On our last visit, I had what I was expecting to be a simple hamburger, and my wife had a turkey/cranberry sandwich. Both were prepared to perfection. The hamburger was, I think, the best I've had in Salem for a few years. The first bite yielded a surprisingly intense flavor. The buns, first of all, appeared to be freshly-prepared. The hamburger was cooked to perfection (medium well) and each mouthful of hamburger yielded a symphony of flavors. (We're going to try to simulate it today by mixing spices and seasonings in the hamburger before cooking, but I'm sure it will not compare.) Topping off the burger, were two delicious fried slices of tomato and assorted greans. Hats off to Spoons Deli! I'm only sorry I don't have an extra hand so that I might offer three thumb's up!

Next, we also greatly enjoyed our visit yesterday evening to Sweet Tomatoes in Tigard (just south of Portland). The dining experience was excellent as usual--except for a little wait due them being full. For those who haven't tried this chain before, it's basically a salad buffet restaurant, but they also serve fresh bread and soups. This month, they're featuring creations with a Greek flair, which included delicious Greek salad and humus with pine nuts. The corn cheese chowder was particularly good. In short, it was all excellent as usual.

I thought I'd make a final note on costs. Surprisingly the worst food we've eaten in the past week at a restaurant was also the most expensive. In the case of Sweet Tomatoes, signing-up for the "Veggie Club" will get you rather good coupons in your inbox every month, or so.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

No Thanks on Muchas Gracias

This will be a quick post tonight... I've always been pretty easy-going when it comes to Mexican food, but we had maybe the worst Mexican food we've ever had this evening at a Washington/Oregon chain called Muchas Gracias. Looking for something fast and cheap we stopped by this restaurant's location in south Salem. Besides tasting awful, the food was not particularly cheap--in cost.

First, the nachos one of our group ordered included small pieces of beef, about one third of which tasted like gristle, the rest like...well, let's not go there. My son's burrito was sitting in a pile of drippings. He described the flavor and texture as being something like eating bad taco soup. He was particularly excited with the prize accompanying his meal: a long hair inside one of the buritos. That really made his day.

As for me, I can't seem to get rid of a metallic flavor in my mouth since dinner. I am not pleased a pleased reviewer. As John Hodgman might say, "that is all."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Crepes with Blackberry Compote

Today, I'm sharing warm crepes with fresh blackberry compote. (My photo also includes toasted challah bread with Dunkin Donuts' coffee.) For a basic crepe recipe, please see the I suggest enhancing this with a tablespoon or two of sour creme as well as a tablespoon of sugar. If you're making crepes for a family of four, you should probably double the recipe.

For the compote, we had a fresh blackberries the family had recently picked. I cleaned the berries and placed them on the stove at a low heat. (It was probably about four to six cups of berries.) I added a little bit of butter followed by about a tablespoon of sugar to sweeten the berries. After it had been simmering for about fifteen minutes, I added a small amount of tapioca to thicken the mixture.

When done, it was the perfect topping for rich, homemade crepes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Famous Texas Rolls

These are absolute favorite mouth-watering biscuits--straight from family in Forney, Texas. For some mysterious reason, they're called biscuits down south and rolls up north. Either way, though, they taste incredible. Thanks to Mildred for the recipe. It's one of our favorites.

Grandma’s Angel Biscuits

5 c. flour 1 pkg. Dry yeast

3 T. sugar 5 T. warm water

5 tsp. baking powder 2 cups buttermilk-ROOM TEMP.

1/2 tsp. Soda

1 1/2 tsp. Salt 1 cup melted butter

3/4 cup shortening

Sift dry ingred. together. Cut in shortening with pastry blender.

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add yeasty water mixture and

buttermilk to dry. Mix Well. Roll out to ¼ -inch thick. Cut

with round cutter. Dip in melted butter and fold in half. Bake

on cookie sheet at 400 F for 15 min. May be frozen before

Baking. (I never dipped, or folded my biscuits- turned out just

as good.)

These rolls may be kept in refrigerator 1-2 days before baking.