Kitchen Jackpots 01

Every once in a while all the stars align, the cooking Gods give you a fist bump, and you really hit the jackpot in the kitchen.  We have to take solace in these seemingly small victories, as they help make up for the less than stellar incidents that our kitchen witnesses at times (read: ghee is not supposed to be brown, Ryan).  Here are just a few wins in our book:

source

ONE: a perfectly ripe avocado

This is my number 1 jackpot item for a reason – the house odds aren’t in our favor at kitchen/casino gomez-glass.  We buy avocados on the regular, and I’d say about 75% of them succumb to the “scrape off the dark bits” salvage attempts before being thrown away.

TWO: having all the ingredients for a brand new recipe

Nothing stops my motivation to try a new recipe out faster then realizing I don’t have all the stuff I need.  Especially when it’s a one-off ingredient that we don’t normally cook with.  Luckily, the pantry and spice cabinet have been carefully curated over the past few years, so I’ve recently found we have that exact random thing we’re looking for. . . Chinese 5-spice, coconut flour, anchovy paste, SCORE!

THREE: your favorite knife/bowl/pan clean and ready for use

We run a little fast and loose with the dishes policy in our kitchen.  While things are generally tidy, we often find dinner prep remnants waiting for us to clean the next morning.  I personally can’t start cooking a new meal in a messy kitchen, so when I walk in to find all the things I need, clean and ready to go, it’s a victory.

FOUR: successful scavenge

Both of us like to pretend we know what we’re doing in the kitchen.  Sometimes that works out great, and other times we end up with asparagus too sour to eat, thanks to a heavy handed lemon squeezer (guilty). The times that we wing it in an effort to use up whatever is in the fridge, and it actually works out, is a huge success.  Like this, this, or this.

Fingers crossed and good luck charms abound for you to hit your own kitchen jackpots, friends.

Eating Well, Two Ways

WCD

I posted a picture of a donut on instagram a while back and happened to notice that we lost 3 followers.  This could be coincidence, and it’s highly likely I’m over analyzing the whole sitch, but it got me thinking about finding our balance. . .

When we were doing a round of Whole30 in January, we posted photos regularly using some of my favorite Whole30 and healthy eating hastags, during which we gained quite a few new followers. Since then, I’ve found I am overly conscious of when we post anything not of the “Whole30 / Paleo” genre for fear of ostracizing ourselves from the food priorities or habits of our new found friends. Which then got me thinking about overall lifestyle choices and realistic goals. . .

Here’s the thing, kids. . . I’m never going to never have pizza, ya know?  Cheese 4 life.

source

All we can do is keep it real, and that means nothing more than a truthful combination of veggies + indulgences taking up space in our camera rolls.  I’ve found that in order to set ourselves up to succeed, it’s all about finding a realistic balance of eating well for health and eating well for choice. . .

Eating Well [HEALTH]

carrots

In June of 2013, we endured a self-imposed, radical overhaul when it came to our relationship with food.  The pantry and fridge were purged of junk and we’ve never looked back.  We are committed to eating real, whole, fresh foods.  We are full on label-reading, sugar-avoiding, farmers-market-frequenting, local-seasonal-organic-sustainable-clean-eaters.  It’s not a trend to us, it’s a lifestyle choice.  Annoying and dramatic language here is intentional, SOAP BOX – I’M ON IT.

As Ryan has mentioned, the nitty gritty foundation that we’re aiming for is really driven by our own goals of becoming healthier*. Figuring out what works for us, long-term, to make better choices and feel good about how we’re fueling our bodies. It just so happens the habits which have been most successful for us are fairly in line with all things paleo.  Usually, I’m happy to identify with this label, and in the exact same breath, I’ll also identify with being human and strategically choosing to make very much NOT paleo choices sometimes.

Eating Well [CHOICE]

IMG_5336

If drastic changes to our diets have taught us nothing else, what eating well is really all about is CHOICE.  We’ve spent a big chunk of time and effort (and money!) to get where we are now.  We’ve read, and watched, and googled, and tried, and cooked, and bought, and learned, and researched, and ate. What we aren’t going to do, is abandon all of that to choose a big mac.  The results of not paying attention to what’s in your food and where it comes from, isn’t a mystery – we were living with the 30+ year consequences first hand (ahem, also see: obesity rates in the US).

So when we intentionally decide to have burgers, you can bet your ass they’re going to be some of the best damn burgers in all the land, because that is what makes it really worth it to us. Food is an experience, and community (#phxfoodculture), and it goes hand in hand with travel, friends, family traditions, meeting new people, and creating memories.  We indulge when it’s justified to us, as the exceptions, not the rules to eating well.

 

*To clarify, healthy for us is not just about losing weight, though we do have those goals too. Our intent is to really live a healthier life overall.  That means our doctors give us the high-five come annual check-up time, we sleep well, move often, have strong immune systems, and take better care of our bodies.  When you’re in your 30’s this shiz really begins to hit home, and we are big believers that food is where it all starts.

Phoenix Burgers | Welcome Diner PB&B Burger

Welcome Diner PB&B Burger

Note: I scheduled today’s post for later than usual, because Welcome Diner doesn’t open until 5pm, and showing you a great local burger that you couldn’t buy for several hours seemed like a uniquely awful form of torture.

Admittedly, I was hesitant to try this sandwich for over a year.  We lived in The Roosevelt, and yet I resisted making the trip a few blocks over to try what had been lauded as one of the best burgers in town.  After all, there is no way that peanut butter, chunky peanut butter, belongs on a savory cheeseburger, right?

Wrong.  Boy was I wrong.

Read on to hear more about how this unassuming, neighborhood spot continues to produce flavor-forward dishes that will make you wish they were open right now.

The Meat

As the name indicates, Welcome Diner is probably as close to a classic, Streamline-era diner as one might find today.  Last time we were there, the staff described it as “a place to chill-out really hard”. Work that one over in your head for a bit.

Each time I’ve had the PB&B, the Niman Ranch beef patty is cooked to a perfect Medium. Well-seasoned and well-seared, it’s never overcooked and still manages to provide enough heat for the peanut butter proofing process I’ll describe below.

Maybe the better way to say it is that, while on the PB&B the eater is clearly focused on the unique toppings, the meat itself is good enough that Stephanie ordered their “classic” burger above any of their amazing chicken and biscuit offerings.  If you’ll turn down fried chicken and honey biscuits for an unadorned burger, you know that meat is top-notch.

The Bun

If anything in this sandwich can be called “standard fare”, it’s the bun.  Given the juiciness of the burger and toppings, this plain, toasted bun does a remarkable job keeping my shirt and hands presentable. Not too much “great, my mouth is full of bread” action, just enough to encase the savory, salty burger and convince you that you probably don’t need to put it down…ever.

The Toppings

[Warning: Topless Burger Pic below]

With a name like “PB&B Burger”, you know that the toppings is where this burger really stands out.  Crisp, thick bacon from The Meat Shop (hooray for ethically raised pork!) brings a bit of texture to the saucy/gooey proceedings.  Cheddar cheese; almost never go wrong there.

And then of course, comes the guest of honor: crunchy peanut butter. You’d think* that peanut butter would make each bite unbearably thick, sticking to the roof of your mouth and slowing down the noms.  The truth, however, is that the peanut butter melts over the cheeseburger becoming the perfect, slightly sweet/mostly umami quasi-aioli you could imagine.  Rather than slowing your chompers down, it turns into a beautiful sauce that keeps you from wanting to set the burger down between bites.

Manners be damned, the PB&B Burger is a lesson in fun, flavor, and hard-core chilling-out.

Woohoo! Spring Break 2015!

* Unless you’re a scientist or someone else familiar with the characteristics of viscous plasmas under heat.

Tea | I’m Steeply Into It

tea from Good Coffee in PortlandFragrant Leaf green tea brewing in a Kinto one-touch teapot at Good Coffee in Portland

If you take a look at the Rogue Pepper Instagram feed, you will probably notice that I spend a lot of time at coffee shops. Doing homework, eating brunch, hanging out to write, or having less-formal meetings; the coffee shop is a terrific “third place” for me and so many others.

The thing is, I can only drink so much coffee in a day.

(It’s an unpopular opinion, I know.  Try not to hold it against the other great articles on this blog, eh?)

There are plenty of times when I want a hot beverage, but don’t want the supreme rush that comes with a quality coffee drink. Likewise, between work, school, commuting and side projects, quality coffee drinks aren’t always accessible. In my office, for example, we have a Keurig machine and a cafeteria that sells several varieties of powder-based, sugary instant coffees. With the closure of two nearby cafes last year, and the limited hours at Rollover Coffee & Donuts, usually the only brew within a mile radius is that small, Seattle-based chain called Starbucks.

So rather than lament the dearth of choices, I decided a while back to take things into my own hands and start exploring that ancient beverage so many of us have turned our back on.

That Lipton Stuff?

When I was a child, our mother would make iced tea, and none of us would drink it. I blame this on two factors:

  1. It was a bunch of bags of supermarket tea that was probably more sticks and bark than anything else.
  2. In a pitcher/jug, the tea could easily be mistaken for grape Kool-Aid, which resulted in a shocking reaction from a young version of me that thought he was about to drink some delicious purple concoction straight from the jug.

Either way, as I entered adulthood, my only experience with tea were those ill-fated gulps that were probably karmic retribution for bad manners. So when I decided a while back to start taking tea as a serious alternative to other caffeinated beverages, it was without much foundation.

What I Like about Tea

As we have friends who are seriously into artisanal coffee or craft beers, I wish I could say that I had a particular expertise in tea preparation, brewing, regions, etc.  At this point, though, I am best classed as a “passionate amateur”, if anything.  That’s not to say, however, that I cannot at least share some of my favorite aspects from the exploration so far.

Ritual Behaviors – All forms of tea have at least some of the same procedural/habitual aspects of quality coffee preparation.  If you want the best possible drink, you need to be mindful of getting the right amount of water to tea and steeping for the appropriate amount of time and not much longer.  If one were really serious about quality, I’m told there are elements to consider surrounding the vessel for brewing/serving, and even the method of heating your water.

Tree-mendious varie-tea* – Green, white, oolong, pu-erh, herbal, the range of flavors, intensities and kick provided by a cup of hot tea are so variable, I’m not certain there is much need to drink the same cup of tea twice in a lifetime.   This part may be intimidating to some, I didn’t know where to start when I first dove in, and I’m sure I drank some poor quality teas, or badly mangled some good leaves with amateur mistakes. Luckily you’re the only one who has to know, and trying again isn’t that costly.

Social experience – I’m sure when you started reading this post, one of the images that came to mind was either a butler pouring tea into little white cups, or a stereotypical grandmother doing the same.  What’s clear is that we have a deep association between tea and conversation. Sitting around, enjoying a hot beverage and good company is one of the best, most rewarding experiences we can share with our friends and family, and one that tea supports very well.  Around the office, too, tea is a lot more tradable than coffee, and has encouraged a few conversations among folks who don’t normally work together or collaborate. Bonus, none of us have to lament Keurig-quality instant “coffee” drink.

Calming/Meditative/Soothing – We all live busy lives, I’m sure mine is no busier that most reader’s, and it’s tough for us to really set aside the time we should be taking to either enjoy the day or at least catch a breath between our other demands. With a cup of tea in my hands, though, each sip gives me a moment’s respite.  I can use it to appear thoughtful as I consider the next thing to say at work (pretty much the behavior that Twix turned into their ad campaign), or to just silently shut the world out for a few seconds.  With a disposable coffee cup in your hand, the expectation is “go, go, go”, but nobody looks at you weird when you take your time after sipping tea from a mug. Hooray for unspoken expectations!

kettle

So What Have I Been Drinking

Work – Lately I’ve been making a double-matcha green tea from Republic of Tea at work, and mixing it up with a coconut and green tea from Harney & Sons.  The double-matcha makes a great, frothy first cup of the day, and while the second steeping can’t compare because of the absence of the free-floating matcha dust, it does a fine job of providing energy and clarity of mind through some longer meetings.

Out & About – If I skip my morning almond milk latte at Royal Coffee, I’ll have them make me a cup of jasmine green tea, which I can credit with helping me conquer my statistics test prep last semester.  I’ve also been switching to a hibiscus green tea after a certain hour when studying at Lux.

Home – By the time I get home, it’s usually later so I’ll go lighter on the caffiene, opting for a “gingerly jasmine” from Tazo.  With green tea, jasmine, ginger and rose, this tea hits several levels of flavor, with just a little bit a sweetness.  One of these days I’m sure I’ll be raving about someone recreating the mint tea they had in Morocco.

I know these are all on the “big brands” sort of tea producers, but I assure you that the trend won’t continue.  We’ve been picking up some great teas on our travels, I just haven’t had them enough to give a quality review of each one.

—–

* I’m rather confident this particular pun will get cut by the editor, but can’t blame me from trying.