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Mikey’s Monday this and that

Some random food thoughts for your Monday morning and to start June…..

I think I’ve had just about enough of the spring vegetables. I love asparagus, peas and various spring greens and herbs. But I think almost every stand at the Dane County Farmer’s Market on Saturday had asparagus. My pee is going to smell funny for a month. But anyway, I’m very ready for the summer onslaught–tomatoes, corn, bell peppers, melon, berries….let’s do this thing.

I made meat loaf last night, but not just any meat loaf….Bobby Flay’s Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf. I made it with 2/3 beef and 1/3 ground turkey and I suddenly remembered why I love this recipe so much. The balsamic vinegar/ketchup glaze on top is so good that it’s making my mouth water right now. Next time you are in the mood for meat loaf, you HAVE to try this recipe.

Two summer food shows have started their new seasons–Fox’s Masterchef and Food Network’s Food Network Star. Now, I have nothing against these shows, but sometimes they can be predictable. Masterchef is in Season 4 now, and the best part is that they didn’t drag out the audition part–basically there was maybe one or 1.5 episodes of auditions. And we have our cat fight–between Krissi and Natasha. Natasha is so full of herself but appears to be able to back it up with skills. Meanwhile, Krissi is also talented and she has that east coast “don’t mess with me” vibe. Meanwhile, Food Network Star began its eighth season last night. It’s kind of getting old and stale the way American Idol did. And they seem to pick the same contestants every year–I don’t mean literally, but there are demographics they follow–the tough guy, the Hispanic, the chatty blogger, the dude who can cook his ass off but has no on-camera talent. Oh and this year we have the Ellie Krieger look alike. Of course, I watch these shows like it’s my job, and I don’t see that changing this season.

Have you ever taken a bunch of ingredients and tried to make a meal out of them, sometimes using way more of what you have on hand than you should? I did that last week when I made this chicken dish with bacon and cheese, and somehow tried to incorporate spinach and mushrooms. But I wound up doing the spinach and mushrooms on the side. However, in what should have been a sauce for the chicken, I instead added white wine to the spinach/mushroom stir fry and didn’t cook it out…blech. But I also had an avocado sitting there that I almost used. Sometimes I wonder about myself. I can put cool things together much of the time, but sometimes have cooking slumps. Does this happen to you?

At some point recently, I saw a cooking show about pizza and it may have been one of those competitions between two purveyors of pizza in New York City. And I was struck by the fact that this one pizza chef used canned San Marzano tomatoes as the sauce on his pizza. Those are usually seasoned with a bit of salt and maybe basil and that’s about it. The tomato shines by itself. So I tried this the other night and it was delicious. I’m just one of those people who doesn’t like those garlicky sauces or commercial pizza sauces, but I think this was the best and most natural way to go.

Oh, speaking of pizza…..I have to give a shout out to Scott and Jen at La Fortuna Pizza. I have found great pizza in Madison, and it’s as good as any I’ve ever had. They have a food truck and one of their regular stops in the summer is at the Verona Farmer’s Market, five minutes away. Every Tuesday. And hey, tomorrow is Tuesday! Low carb what?

Preview: Travel Channel’s Feed the Beast

From Travel Channel, the network that has brought us some cool food shows the last few years such as the Adam Richman Man vs. Food franchise, and various Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain shows, comes a hip new gluttonous guilty pleasure–Feed the Beast, hosted by Mikey Roe. The show premieres on Wednesday, March 6 with two 30-minute episodes back to back at 9:00 pm and 9:30 pm ET/PT, with the San Francisco and Austin episodes first in line.

The premise of the show is that Roe is a creature of late night, and appreciates everything that the midnight to sun-up time frame has to offer–from night life, to parties, to–you guessed it–food. And, just like night life in general, the craziest combinations and food offerings are also abundant after midnight. Roe is someone who really appreciates these foods too, and he also appreciates the atmosphere, activities and the alcohol that goes along with that food. He also knows where to go, and as a hybrid of, say, Richman and Guy Fieri, Roe knows how to make you want to try some of this crazy food right along with him. In fact, after watching the screeners on Sunday, my wife and I cooked up some Mexican breakfast for dinner.

You won’t believe some of the things Roe gets to eat, and it’s remarkable that he samples all of the crazy combinations of foods–for example, deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich followed by a jackalope sausage and bacon bloody mary. I don’t know if these were literally filmed in one night, or if there was much editing to be done, but if it’s all in one night, I’m seriously impressed by how much of an iron stomach Roe has.

Fans of some of the above mentioned shows are going to love Feed the Beast, and are going to love watching Mikey Roe take us to these crazy places. I just know it.

Jenny’s chalkboard: Mexican breakfast for dinner

With an assist from food TV–including a new show on Travel Channel called Feed the Beast, which I’ll be previewing before it premieres on Wednesday; and then an hour of Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins & Dives yesterday, and after my wife (i.e. Jenny) and I both had this sluggish, head-achy thing going on, we decided we needed to eat something fatty and greasy. We were not hung over, but that’s what it felt like, and we needed a Sunday morning hangover remedy on Sunday evening. Those shows made me crave eggs and fat and salt, and when I saw we had chorizo in the fridge, I knew what had to be done–we had to make Mexican breakfast for dinner. Jenny agreed and put that on her chalkboard.

So what you’re seeing in the photo and that went happily into our bellies last night is this…..first, I took a leftover baked potato and cut that up, and stir fried it in a bit of canola oil. Meanwhile, as the potato was cooking, I took a link of chorizo (by link I mean it was maybe a foot long), removed the meat from the “fake” casing, and fried that up in a pan for about 10 minutes until it was cooked through and crispy, draining on paper towels. I wiped out the pan, and fried four eggs in it. Jenny shredded some cheddar cheese (full fat kickass Wisconsin cheddar), and I cubed an avocado while the eggs were cooking. I also opened up a can of refried black beans, and chopped some cilantro. As the eggs were set, it was time to assemble this creation in a big bowl–

First, the potatoes, which were nice and crispy. Then a dollop of refried beans and the chorizo. We topped that with two eggs in each bowl, followed by the avocado chunks, cheese and cilantro. Oh, and some Mexican hot sauce for good measure. Suffice to say we both felt so much better after eating this dinner. It was one of those food nirvana moments when you feed your body what it’s craving, and then some. And hey, now I know what to make next time we are hung over….and we hope you try it too.

Mikey’s This and That

A few random food observations on a snowy Madison Thursday afternoon…..

*Is there a reason why many canned soups have this gummy, almost plastic sheen of a taste these days? This is particularly true of so-called diet soups which I think use gummy fillers to make up for the loss of fat–i.e. loss of flavor. But they wind up making a chemical concoction that has totally turned me off of canned soup. I’ve been trying to make more of my own, which always tastes better, but it’s not always easy to find the time. Thankfully football season is over (well not really thankfully) which means more cooking for the week on Sundays with the wife.

*Salads just are not appealing in the winter. I sometimes find myself not getting enough vegetables in the winter, and a big reason is that I have almost no desire to eat healthy salads. That’s a summer thing, right? Maybe I need to make more soups. Where have I heard that before?

*I can’t believe Kristen fell on a sword on Top Chef: Seattle last week and didn’t throw Josie under the bus as she should have. I pegged her as the potential winner. I haven’t watched Last Chance Kitchen…but maybe she still can win if she won her LCK battle. But wow, Josie. Please go away.

*Speaking of Food TV, did you guys catch the first episode of that Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity cook off show on Food Network? That’s one of those reality shows that grabs its players from the depths of wherever they get contestants for Celebrity Fit Club. This season they’ve got the likes of Carney Wilson, Hines Ward and an actress and a socialite I’ve never heard of. And then there was Gilbert Gottfried. The poor dude doesn’t know how to boil water. So the first episode, he makes a peanut butter sandwich. Then, as he’s battling another contestant for elimination in the same episode, he makes a peanut butter sandwich AGAIN. Dude, who is your agent and why would they put you through that?

*I often profess my love for Trader Joe’s on here. But I’ve come across something that’s amazing even by their standards. This Speculoos Cookie Spread. It won their award for customer favorite product of 2012, so I bought a jar. Holy smokes. It’s like peanut butter-like crack in a jar. I don’t even know what it is made out of…but it’s like a “butter” that is sweet and has cookie pieces and hints of cinnamon and….well, just go try it, and if you don’t love it, then you don’t like food. It’s impossible to not like it.

Mikey’s food resolutions for 2013

Happy New Year foodie friends! My first resolution is to post more regularly here. Beyond that, here are some of my food resolutions for 2013, and feel free to add yours in the comments or by e-mail to mikeyskitchen@gmail.com.

1. Create two new original recipes per month. Any of you that are creative types know that getting started is the most difficult part. But once you figure out your medium (meat/veggies/sauce/herbs/spices), the possibilities are endless.

2. Try four new foods I’ve never tried before. This one is tricky as I am not the kind of person who wants anything to do with foods like snails or even squid. But one new food item every three months? I think I can do that without having to try anything too far out of my comfort zone.

3. Make better use of a local specialty. In Wisconsin, that would be cheese. I have had some of the best cheddars of my life here in Madison, and yet there are so many other varieties. Maybe this will also go hand in hand with both #1 and #2.

4. Eat less junk and eat more healthy but tasty food. That means less packaged chips and crackers and more homemade beef jerky or celery with spicy hummus. It can be done.

5. Create a new column or two. The first idea I have is to re-create vintage food items that I can’t find or that no longer exist. The first of these–Buitoni’s toaster pizzas. I think I have written about these before, and I miss them dearly. But I think with some experimentation, even without an elaborate test kitchen, I can work on coming close to re-creation. Intrigued? So am I.

6. Figure out a better way to organize recipes. We have mountains of magazines and cookbooks, and it’s getting scary. I try and clip recipes, and toss magazines when I can, but it’s hard to keep up. But hey, it’s winter time in Madison, and that means it’s freaking cold outside and time for indoor projects. No excuses.

7. Watch more food TV. Not necessarily Food Network, but any of the other food related shows that are popping up on various channels. Or maybe just watch all of the episodes of Sandwich King and Best Thing I Ever Made or The Minimalist on DVR for a change.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Any more, and I won’t even try to keep said resolutions. Now let’s get cooking….

Mikey’s Food Resolutions for 2012

The last few years, Mrs. Mike and I have done New Year’s resolutions together on New Year’s Day. And I must say, we’ve stuck to many of them, often referring to our lists as the year wears on. That’s what resolutions are intended for, but many of us forget about them on or around January 3. But I thought it would be fun to put together a few food resolutions for 2012–feel free to add yours below or on Facebook:

Try one new kind of cheese per month–I started doing this in 2011 and got sidetracked or disinterested. But wait, I live in Wisconsin. Disinterested? Not an option, so I’m going to follow through this time. There are simply too many good cheeses to try in this part of the country.

Try a few things that are out of my comfort zone–I’m not a big fan of seafood, or anything in the organ meat vicinity. But in a meal at Graham Elliott in Chicago this past September, Mrs. Mike and I had a meal that had cooked fish; a deconstructed Caesar salad with a whole anchovy on top; and a foie gras lollipop with watermelon pop rocks. That was enough out of comfort zone for a whole year for me, but the foie gras was phenomenal–and I’m glad I took a step out of my comfort zone to try it.

Eat less junk–and by junk I mean stuff like candy, snack cakes and greasy chips. I am vowing to get back into shape in the New Year, and especially after having back surgery in February. And while I don’t think there is anything wrong with occasional junk food, I ate far too much of it in 2011. Time to start eating more nuts, dried fruit and sensible snacks when possible.

Work even harder to eat what’s in season–we belong to a CSA (community supported agriculture) but found ourselves not using everything in our box before some of it went bad. I want to make more of an effort on that one.

Teach our son to eat better–our four year old, who has autism, is very picky about his food. We work hard on this, but it’s extremely difficult to get him to open his mind with food. I think we can work harder at it.

Revive “a can a week”–that was a fun column I started here but need to revive it, reviewing a canned food item per week, be it a new product or one that we’ve been eating for decades.

Use the deep fryer more–I don’t think I took that thing out at all in 2011, and that’s a shame. Who doesn’t love fried food (except me, when my doctor is reading this!)?

Find more cool restaurants and review them here–We live in Madison, one of the coolest food cities on the planet. Mrs. Mike and I love trying new places to eat but need to do so more often. And I’ll bring you the play by play here.

DVR more food shows–I keep seeing press releases and then forget to DVR the shows.

Eat more tofu–seriously? No, that was a joke. Blech.

Thanks for reading, and happy new year!

Cooking Shows and Food TV on the Rise

A number of new genres of television shows have become extremely popular in recent years, due in large part to the wider exposure of specialized networks and the general expansion that always permeates the entertainment industry. For example, there are a number of shows that revolve around “dark creatures” – such as vampires, zombies, etc. – that have become very popular just in the last two years. However, even more sweepingly popular, because of its variety, is the concept of cooking shows, or rather, food-related shows, which have become some of the most popular items on direct tv. Generally, there are three types of food related shows – informative, instructional, and competitive. Here is a brief glance at each type.

Informative cooking shows strive to show you things about the food or cooking industries. This of course can have a good deal of variety within itself. It may apply to showing an audience the best restaurants in a certain area, or simply some of the best dishes around. Consider “Man Vs. Food” as an example. In this show, the charismatic, food-obsessed host Adam Richman travels the country exploring towns for their most famous restaurants and dishes. Each episode culminates in an eating challenge in which Richman devours something either deathly spicy or shockingly huge. It’s a great show for showing off the top restaurants in popular areas, as well as some decadent treats and dishes.

Instructional cooking shows are more about showing the audience how to prepare certain types of dishes or meals. There are many different shows that follow this basic formula, and often the audience sees fit to literally cook along with the host. One good example is “Boy Meets Grill,” in which star chef Bobby Flay shows his audience different tips not only for how to cook great food, but how to throw an amazing barbecue. These shows, in general, are very helpful for those who have culinary interests or inclinations.

Finally, there are competitive cooking shows, which may well be the most popular. These shows – such as “Top Chef” – feature host chefs, celebrity chefs, and cooking contestants, who compete for who can make the best dish, often with all of them using a single ingredient at the core of the dishes. Generally, contestants are eliminated one by one, until only one chef remains, and is crowned Top Chef. This can be instructional, as you do get to see amazing food created, but it is meant primarily for entertainment purposes.

Two great food shows right now

There are so many food related TV shows now that it gets mind-blowing to try and watch them all or to even DVR them all. But I want to turn you on to two that have new seasons happening now that you should absolutely watch, especially if you are a foodie.


The first is “Top Chef: Texas” on Bravo. I haven’t watched this week’s episode yet but caught the season premiere last week. The production company Magical Elves consistently hits home runs with their shows, especially this one. This year it’s big, just like the state of Texas, and in addition to regular judges Padma Lakshmi (host), Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons, they have added Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson. And they began with something like 30 contestants, but only half or so of which will actually wear the Top Chef chef coats and have a real chance to compete for the title of Top Chef. This show airs on Wednesday nights on Bravo, and if you haven’t seen it, you have to check it out. This is one show that knows how to keep us interested and just delivers quality shows every week. I can’t wait to see how this season progresses.


The other show is “The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs” on Food Network. The “Next Iron Chef” reality show brought us the likes of Jose Garces and Michael Symon, but this season is like no other. This time, they have all celebrity chefs, many of which we have already seen on Food Network such as Beau McMillan, Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine, Geoffrey Zakarian, Alex Guarnaschelli, Michael Chiarello and Marcus Samuelsson. Sign me up! So far two episodes have aired, and it’s clear that the level of competition is maybe like no other show that Food Network has ever seen, mainly because of how incredibly talented each chef is. Whoever came up with the idea of going this route as opposed to finding ten great restaurant chefs we have never heard of? Genius. This one airs Sunday nights on Food Network.

That’s it for now. There are more great shows going on and many more holiday themed shows we can talk about, but I think you should check these two out before the seasons get too old.

Food TV news roundup

Here is some food TV news, and if you have some of the reality shows on DVR, consider this a spoiler alert and click away!

On Food Network this past Sunday, the “Sandwich King” Jeff Mauro took the title of Next Food Network Star. Mauro had a fresh and interesting concept, but more importantly, the judges consistently liked his food, and Mauro, who has worked as a stand-up comic, had a funny and unique delivery that elevated him above other contenders. Mauro beat out Susie Jimenez’ Spice it Up Mexican-inspired concept and second runner-up Vic Moea and his Mama’s Boy theme. Mauro’s show, aptly titled Sandwich King, will premiere this Sunday, August 21.

Another season finale in the food world takes place tonight, as Fox’s Masterchef crowns their Season 2 champ. I had to break my own rule to write about this since I did not see last night’s episode or half of the one before that, and by reading the press release found out that Ben Starr was eliminated last week, though admittedly I still don’t know which finalist was sent home Monday. The final four are Christian Collins, Suzy Singh, Adrien Nieto and Jennifer Behm–four very different, distinct personalities with different culinary perspectives. Thankfully this show continues to excite, unlike Hell’s Kitchen, which jumped the shark about four seasons ago.

This fall, Bravo’s awesome Top Chef franchise returns with an all-new season taking place in Texas, with new judges Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson alongside regulars Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Padma Lakshmi.

Finally, I’m looking forward to watching the screener I received of WE TV’s new series, Family Restaurant, which they say is “drama meets dimsum.” This one premieres tonight so you might get to see it before I do. Either way, let’s re-convene next week to discuss.

Thanks for reading!

Next Food Network Star premieres June 5

Sure proof that the years are whizzing by–Food Network’s hit reality show, Food Network Star, will premiere its 7th season on Sunday, June 5. This season, they have expanded the field to 15 contestants, and promoted Giada di Laurentiis to judge alongside long-time judge and fellow Food Network personality Bobby Flay, and network execs Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson. There will also be appearances by Alton Brown, Cougar Town star Courteney Cox, Paula Deen Guy Fieri, Rachael Ray, Wolfgang Puck and more.

The finalists include: Mary Beth Albright (Washington, D.C.), Justin Balmes (Marietta, Ga.), Whitney Chen (New York), Katy Clark (Long Beach, Calif.), Penny Davidi (Los Angeles), Justin Davis (Minneapolis), Howie Drummond (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Jyll Everman (Glendora, Calif.), Susie Jimenez (Carbondale, Colo.), Juba Kali (New Orleans), Jeff Mauro (Elmwood Park, Ill.), Vic “Vegas” Moea (Las Vegas), Chris Nirschel (Hoboken, N.J.), Orchid Paulmeier (Bluffton, S.C.), and Alicia Sanchez (New York).

For more information about the show including contestant photos and bios, please visit http://www.multivu.com/players/English/46437-Food-Network-Star/ or go to www.foodnetwork.com/star

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