Another Day in Paradise with Dave & Lisa
De-mystifying the Foodie Universe since 2010.
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012
A pie like no other – Klausie’s Pizza
Mike Stenke pays a tremendous amount of attention to detail. The Michigan born former technical writer is the proprietor of
, a truck-borne enterprise that serves
in The Triangle. It is this extra effort that’s earned quite a following. One recent Friday, we were talking in his truck about cheese.
“I have to use
,” he said. “Can’t get it locally.”
“You imported it?” I asked.
“From Wisconsin. Nobody can do it locally.”
I asked him if it made that much of a difference and he shook his head.
“Nothing else works,” he continued. “It’s got to have a really high butterfat content.” I asked if that mattered. In retrospect, it really was a silly question.
“Yea. Most of the cheese you can get locally will either brown or melt. It won’t do both.”
“And brick cheese does?”
‘Yea and it’s the only one that does.”
Mike has been in and out of food service for more than 20 years, starting as a biscuit maker when he was a mere lad of 14. When one of his previous writing gigs wound down, he had to come up with something else. With a bit of support from
, another Michigan native and owner of
Cloos’ Coney Island
, Mike perfected the oh-so-important crust that makes a Detroit-style pie unique. The crusts are brushed with butter and baked twice in rolled steel pans that look like parts bins out of a car factory. The process allows a Klausie’s to hit a seemingly impossible trifecta: the crust is crisp and chewy and sweet. If it sounds like a contradiction, it is. And it works astonishing well.
But the crust is only the beginning. Once the crust is baked, it has to be cheesed, and this is where the brick cheese comes into play. Mike covers the crust with cheese and bakes until it turns from translucent to white and the edges start to brown. He then pulls the cheesed crust out of his oven and lets it rest. Only then is it sauced and returned to the oven for two minutes with toppings.
I recently picked up a take and bake pie, which came complete with toppings, sauce and instructions. It came fully baked and cheesed so that all I had to do was sauce and top the pie. While it was relatively small – 9 by 16 inches – and by pizza carryout standard a bit pricey for a fill loaded pie – $25 – there were leftovers after Das Kinder, her BFF, Her Imperial Majesty and I had at it. Honestly, eating two pieces made me feel like Jabba the Hutt afterwards. It was an amazing value.
I did ask if there was a brick and mortar location looming off and his future and he said yes. The exact location is yet to be determined. I, for one, look forward to it. That rainy Friday I spoke to him, he was parked behind a catering hall that he leases space from. Normally, he drives all over The Triangle. It would be nice in my book, to know where will be every day. Chasing the truck down can be a lot of extra effort for a slice of pizza. But its worth the extra effort. Just like the cheese he imports from Wisconsin.
Owner, operator, head chef, mechanic, driver, plumber
Various. Follow Mike's travels at
A food truck and everybody knows how I feel about that
Listen to the sidewalk
Are you crazy?
Cash and credit cards.
We rank restaurants in five categories: Extraordinary***** Excellent**** Above average*** Average** Fair*
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Of world cities, chicken and honey
Just recently, I ran into the concept of the “Alpha” or
. The concept is really rather self-evident: some cities have outsized or disproportionate impact on the world economy and culture. In short, some cities matter more than others.
The idea is really quite useful. Some cities really are centers of finance, industry and culture. Moreover, there is a pecking order of sorts. Researchers at
ranked worlds cities according to their own criteria and published the results. They broke them out in three groups: Alpha, Beta and Gamma, with Alphas being the largest, Betas being smaller and Gammas being smaller still. Each group had sub groups and so on.
As for the Alpha ++cities – the biggest of the big – the list is what most would suspect; it begins in New York and ends in London. The Alpha + cities – one step below in globe girdling importance – were Chicago, Dubai, Hong Kong, Paris, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo. Further down in the Gamma+ section one can find Charlotte along with such notables as Hanoi and Nairobi. Nowhere on the list can you find Raleigh.
Sorry boys and girls, nobody really thinks we’re that big a deal.
Now, one might say “this is all well and good and may certainly help me the next time I audition for Jeopardy™, but what does this have to do with food?” and it would be a good question.
Recently, on the occasion of Her Imperial Majesty’s 29
birthday, we had lunch with the family at
Beasley’s Chicken + Honey
. It came with hipster-written rave reviews so it seemed like a good bet for lunch.
The space is large with a few individual tables as well as a long communal table in running through the center of dining room. On the morning we arrive, it was bright and sunny giving the whole place a crisp, urban feel. Our server was attentive, bringing out the brunch menus as well as answering our questions about the menu items on the chalkboard.
Das Kinder had the chicken and waffles. The chicken was serve bone-in and was fresh and hot, doused liberally with honey. The waffle was waffle-ish. She was happy but she likes syrup. Her Imperial Majesty had a chicken biscuit, this time served with a small boneless chicken breast and topped with pickled green tomatoes. My two bites concluded that the chicken was okay, the pickled tomatoes were interesting and the biscuit was forgettable. My sister had an apple waffle, which wasn’t really an apple waffle, but rather a waffle artfully topped with crème fresh and three slices of green apple. She scraped the toppings off to the side. Big Tom and her Imperial Majesty Le Grand Dame split a quarter of a chicken and three sides. I didn’t hear any complaints but didn’t expect to. I ordered the chicken pot pie and was served a chicken stew with a perfect shaped piece of puff pastry floating on top. My guess is that the chicken and vegetables floating in the “gravy” we left over from the night before. I also ordered the amazing sounding Pimento Mac and Cheese for the table. It arrived as bright orange cube. All sampled it. None finished it. Rather bland, actually.
I suppose I, of all people, should know better. Of course the Chicken Pot Pie is leftovers. Of course the apple waffle was destined to be a failure at a place that advertises chicken and honey. The star is supposed to be the chicken, not the sides. But you see that’s the rub; it’s not that good. I’ve had better elsewhere and you probably have too (see
Dame's Chicken and Waffles
in Durham). And the sides, which have to be ordered ala carte at three of nine dollars, aren’t particularly good either. All in all, it’s was a very mediocre meal and I won’t recommend it.
Perhaps it’s because Chef Christiansen opened Beasley’s and two other restaurants at once, all the while maintaining Poole’s Diner. Maybe she spread herself too thin. And that despite all the good press and forays into Food TV, she’s moved beyond the limits of her talents. Open three restaurants at once is a big deal for anybody. And getting everything right at all of the time is something that maybe she’s can’t pull off. I don’t fault her for that. But her sycophants, toadies and lackeys in the local alternative press aren’t doing her any favors either. They continue to protect her with an echo chamber of her triumphs, because it is their interest that she succeeds on a really big stage.
Not that the clientele will ever notice. The inside the beltway crowd will pat themselves on the back that they’ve found world class food culture because they need to. With the oh-so-hip Beasley’s inside the beltway – presided over by genius Chef Ashley – and the yearly avalanche of America’s Best Place to Live lists, they’ll convince themselves that they’ve made the Global cities list.
Sorry break to this to you; Beasley’s Chicken+ Honey isn’t going to advance the cause. Hipster chic is a deep as a mirror and all their rave reviews notwithstanding, this isn’t great and even very good. Raleigh has a long way to becoming a World City.
Urban hipster paleo -- complete with Dyson Air Blade hand dryers -- served as a side of irony
Beasley's Chicken & Honey
200 South Wilmington Street
We rank restaurants in five categories:
***** Extraordinary – Intense attention to ingredients and preparation and devoid of pretense. Everything's right.
**** Excellent – Attention to ingredients and preparation; in down scale environs, something that’s true to its DNA.
*** Above average – Good but not great. Or, as Her Imperial Majesty says, "I'm not that crazy about it".
** Average – Will do in a pinch but not worth a journey.
* Fair – Don’t bother, as it probably has a help wanted sign in the window, which is always the harbinger of a bad time on the horizon.
Beasley's Chicken + Honey
chicken and waffles
Dame's Chicken and Waffless
Monday, January 9, 2012
Sue Sue’s perfect muffins and Eggs McMalawer
When I was in high school, I had a crush on a girl named Sue for about two weeks. Then I discovered that she didn’t know who I was.
Like so many other tempest tossed romances, mine ended with nary a whimper. It could have happened 500 year ago or last week and the results were the same: a heart broken on an adolescent level. Indeed, the only difference between tragic romances of today and those back then is that back then, we weren’t all vampires.
However, I have been able to rekindle relationships from those cheery days at
albeit the long distance kind through the magic of Facebook™. In the 30 some years since I left the perfect small town, we’ve more or less become whatever we were supposed to be. In my case, I busied myself in cold world of data in my software universe. Sue stood by the warmth of her hearth and became a baker, and a good one at that.
Baking to me is one of the Dark Arts. I can cook anything on top of the stove. I can roast like nobody’s business. But baking? Impossible. During one recent exchange, she said she was going to make some English Muffins. I was dumbfounded. Baking English Muffins? From scratch? I don’t understand. How can you make an English Muffin?
There was humor in response and an invitation to sample some of her glorious fare. They came out of the oven on Thursday and arrived on my doorstep on Friday. But what to do with these magnificent muffins? There was only one possible use – Eggs McMalawer.
Her Imperial Majesty likes a poached egg on an English Muffin, so I decided to pull out all the stops, obtaining thick slices of Canadian Bacon from
The Meat House™
Hardware -- sandwiches
Bake Hampton™ English Muffins
4 large eggs, poached
4 slices thick top Canadian Bacon
4 slices American Cheese
Hardware – Hollandaise
2 egg yolks
1/3 slick of butter, melted and hot
Pinch of salt
Technique – yields two servings
In a food processor, combine the egg yolks and salt (you can add a pinch of cayenne pepper but I don’t). Next, with the food processor on low, slowly drip the hot butter into the eggs yolks until froth up and they double in volume. Set aside in a warm place until it’s time to plate.
Fork separate the muffins and lightly toast. (Sue will get mad if you use a knife.)
In a skillet, sear the Canadian Bacon until lightly browned. Set aside.
Poach the eggs in salted boiling water.
The Bake Hampton muffin as the base, topped with cheese, the Canadian Bacon and the poached egg. Drizzle with Hollandaise Sauce. Garnish with fresh cracked black pepper or a pinch of cayenne.
The difference between the Sue’s Bake Hampton muffins and what I would find at the store, can best be explained by her Imperial Majesty Junior, who said succinctly, that “they taste more like bread”. When I asked her what she meant, she said “they taste more like real bread – like a baguette – that the others.”
I asked Sue about her baking and her career choice. Her younger brother Bobby is a chef and her older brother Mark is spice importer to the high end Trade in Manhattan and The Hamptons. "As far as family career choices, yes it is bizarre," She says. "We always gave Mom the credit, as she was a foodie way before foodies were in fashion."
I think that sums it up pretty well; the difference between Bake Hampton’s English muffins and what I can get at any grocery store is the difference between the bread they serve at the local franchised sub shop and what one can get at the corner bakery in Paris. It wasn’t manufactured in a factory; it was created by an artisan. And that makes all the difference in the world.
21 Wilder Estates Drive
Alexander, NC 28701
The Meat House