Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Bite Takes You Home- #TheHundredFootJourney Philly Cheesesteak

What Bite Takes You Home - The Hundred Foot Journey

I was born and raised in Philadelphia but moved to northern California when I was 20 so I’ve lived here much longer than I did in Philadelphia and call California my home. But my tastes were shaped in Philly and whenever I go back there I can’t help but search out my favorites and my most favorite is the Philly cheesesteak. 

In Philadelphia there is a pizzeria or steak shop on every neighborhood corner. Like small family restaurants everywhere they vary in quality. Some years ago on one of my visits to my parents in Philly I decided to indulge in some serious cheesesteak research. I’d eaten my fair share of cheesesteaks when growing up but found that this was one impossible to obtain sandwich in California. Since this was the early days of personal computers the internet was barely up and running so I was confined to print media. Thankfully my mom and dad were voracious readers and there were plenty of years worth of Philadelphia Magazine and their annual Best Of Philly articles stacked up in the basement. I went through years worth of articles and also used the local newspapers to compile a list of restaurants. Armed with my list off to culinary over indulgence I went. I quickly found that the most famous cheesteak places, Pat’s and Geno’s in South Philadelphia where I had eaten as a child were also among the worst today. They may have invented the cheesesteak but these places are now tourist traps serving greasy, tasteless sandwiches. A good cheesteak is never greasy but rather juicy from fine quality, well seasoned meat and cheese.

Slowly over several years I ate my way through my list, adding and subtracting restaurants and coming up with some great results. You can’t go wrong at places such as Cosmi’s Deli, Delassandros, Tony Luke’s, Jim’s Steaks and Steve’s Prince of Steaks but the best of the best for me turned out to be just about the ugliest little shop imaginable in an industrial part of South Philadelphia called John’s Roast Pork. 

Now John’s Roast Pork specializes in, of all things, an incredible roast pork sandwich but their cheesesteak is what I went there for and it’s the best or among the best according to Philadelphia Magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Food Channel and the Travel Channel just to name a few. John’s also won the James Beard Award for Culinary Excellence and is routinely on top ten lists of Philly cheesesteaks everywhere but this national attention all happened years after I discovered the place. When I would visit Philadelphia I would take a red eye flight so I could get to John’s just after they opened at 6:45 in the morning and have a cheesteak for breakfast on my way from the airport to my parents’ home in northeast Philly. On my way home I would also arrange my flight so I could have another cheesesteak on my way to the airport to fly back to California. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I like my cheesesteak simple and traditional, just meat, cheese and onions although most of the chains in California think you need mayo, ketchup, peppers, mushrooms, pizza sauce, etc., on your sandwich. You can certainly get that in Philadelphia but that isn’t really the way a cheesesteak should be.

So just what makes John’s so good? John Bucci Jr. the son of the founder of John’s Roast Pork still man’s the grill. He does a few things differently than the normal cheesesteak shop. First off rather than use the traditional Amoroso bakery roll that most shops use John uses Italian rolls from the Carangi Bakery, a local Philly bakery, that are a little crustier than the normal roll and are seeded. He then removes a bit of the interior bread so as to better hold the 12 ounces of top quality, paper thin, sliced beef loin plus fried onions and cheese that he piles onto the sandwich. Most cheesesteak places will have a pile of lovely, browned chopped onions waiting on the side of the grill to grace the sandwich but John starts off with the raw sweet onions on the grill and then tops them with the beef so that the caramelizing onion flavor permeates the steak. He then seasons the meat and leaves it alone for a couple of minutes to brown up. Then he chops up the steak and onions on the grill and again does something different by toping the steak with chunks of extra sharp provolone cheese, waiting a moment for it to melt a bit and then chopping the cheese into the steak so that with every bite you get cheese, perfectly seasoned beef and onions in a mouth watering combination. A regular shop would put slices of cheese on top of the browning steak, let it melt for a moment, scoop it on to a roll and add onions. These simple differences in ingredients and technique are what I think makes John’s cheesesteaks the best. 

I’ve heard tell you can get a good cheesesteak in Los Angeles but here in northern California it just doesn’t exist. You can forget the chain cheesesteak places. They simply don’t use quality ingredients. There are a couple of places in the south bay area where you can get what I would consider a decent neighborhood cheesesteak but nothing approaches the rarified heights of John’s Roast Pork or any of the other places I mentioned above. This is the one food I miss from my childhood and this is the one that takes me back to the place I was born.

What Bite Takes You Home? #TheHundredFootJourney Chicken Tortilla Soup

  Chicken Tortilla Soup by Dawn Gosdin
Notice my Mickey Flatware
 How to make it:

  • Peel, clean and wash all vegetables. (Give them a bath & a massage)
  • Place bell pepper, onion, celery, carrot and cilantro in a food processor and chop fine.
  • Heat sauce pot over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add butter, olive oil and bacon fat.
  • When the butter has fully melted, add the vegetables, white and black pepper, chili powder and cumin, salt, and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent and slightly brown. While the vegetables cook, chop the tortillas in the food processor until fine. Add tortillas to the sauce pot and cook until soft.
  •  Add the chicken stock to the sauce pot and bring to a boil.
  • While the soup is coming to a boil, prepare the roux (Roux is a mixture of equal parts fat and flour used for thickening sauces and soups.) Heat a 6-10-inch sautĂ© pan over med-low heat. Add butter and melt fully. Add the flour and mix thoroughly using a wire whip. Cook roux for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add roux to the soup using a wire whip. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add diced chicken breast.
  • Finely chop the tomatoes in food processor. Add corn and tomatoes to the soup and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Ladle soup in equal parts into 8 heated soup bowls. Garnish each with fried tortilla strips, shredded cheese and Pico de Gallo and you’re finished~ VoilĂ 

“Chicken Tortilla Soup, “takes me home” even though I only live two blocks from my parent’s, lol! Woot*O*


What Bite Takes You Home- #TheHundredFootJourney Meatloaf & Whoopie Pies

“What Bite Takes You Home”

Cheryl Giardi

Mary’s Meatloaf

A recipe handed down from an unknown source but my Mom “Mary” has mastered this “take me home” meal.  The “sauce” is what distinguishes this dish!
1 ½ lbs. hamburger
½ cup pf breadcrumbs
1 TBSP instant onion
1 egg beaten
1 ½ teaspoons salt and pepper
2 – 8 ounce cans of tomato sauce
½ cup water
3 TBSP vinegar (apple cider)
3 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP Mustard
2 TBSP Worstershire sauce

Mix beef, breadcrumbs, onion, egg, salt and pepper, and ½ can on tomato sauce together in a large bowl. Mix and form into meatloaf shape.  We line pans with foil.
Take the rest of the ingredients and mix together.  Pour half on top of the formed meatloaf. 
Meatloaf goes into the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Throughout cooking take large spoon and continue to spoon on the “sauce” you created to keep the meatloaf moist. 
When done, set aside for 15 minutes.  Serve with the remaining “sauce”.

Nana “Dot’s” Whoopie Pies

Yes, it’s true you can buy them anywhere these days but these are the REAL DEAL!  My Nana “Dot” made these for every family event.  Even following this recipe, to date no family member has been able to duplicate her delicious treats!  It seems a little vague so maybe that is why!  But.. we will continue to try!

½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs yolks
1 cup milk
5 TBSP cocoa
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Drop by teaspoon on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees until they look set.
The filling:
2 egg whites
2 cups of confectionary sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
Mix until smooth.

Make you whoopee pies!

What Bite Takes You Home? - Fried Green Beans- #TheHundredFootJourney

My mother worked at our family's restaurants while going to nursing school.  After school, the bus would drop my sister and I off in front of the restaurant.  We would do our homework and then spend the rest of the evening rolling the plastic flatware in napkins or assembling the cardboard boxes for takeout orders.
Sitting so close to the kitchen granted us a few privileges; the most important was smelling the wonderful food that came from the kitchen and snacking on whatever my grandmother happened to be cooking at the time.  Both of the restaurants, one run by my grandparents, the other by my great aunt and uncle, were seafood restaurants.  Patrons could pick their fish from the counter, it would be cleaned and fried to perfection and the join the requested side dishes in the cardboard boxes we'd assembled.  The deep fryers were always going and my grandmother and her sister could fry anything.

What Bite Takes You Home? #TheHundredFootJourney Our Family Favorites

Next week, audiences across the country will be treated to a culinary delight whenThe Hundred-Foot Journey” comes to life on the silver screen and touches our hearts, souls and stirs our appetites in more ways than one. In DreamWorks Pictures’ “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” the opening of a new Indian restaurant in the south of France next to a famous Michelin-starred eatery is nearly cause for a heated battle between the two establishments, until Le Saule Pleureur’s icy proprietress, Madame Mallory, recognizes her rival’s undeniable brilliance for preparing masterful meals. 

The Hundred-Foot Journey” abounds with flavors that burst across the tongue. A stimulating triumph over exile, blossoming with passion and heart, it is a portrayal of two worlds colliding and one young man’s drive to find the comfort of home, in every pot, wherever he may be.   And like any great meal that leaves you thinking about your next perfect bite, what is that perfect bite, that perfect meal that says home to you?

Yesterday I shared that growing up, my favorite part of school was lunch. It wasn’t because it meant that we were free to play and the rigors of class were left behind, at least for 45 minutes, but because lunchtime meant going to grandma’s house where I would find a heaping bowl of macaroni (it wasn’t called pasta back then) smothered in butter with of course all of the gumdrops I could smuggle out of the candy jar on my way back to school.  I’m not sure if it was the meal or the fact that I was spending time with her, but to this day macaroni and butter is my go to meal when I’m in need of comfort. When I posed this question to my own family, the answer I unanimously received from all of them was my homemade lasagna and so today’s challenge will be to try to recreate that family favorite here for you.  To check out how to make our family lasagna dish, just Click Here.  Today  our Disney Gal Team will be bringing you some of their favorite foods that say home to them with just one bite.  Be sure to be checking throughout the day to see if any of ours are the bite that brings you home too. 

In the meantime, don’t forget DreamWorks Pictures’ “The Hundred-Foot Journey,”opens in theaters everywhere August 8.

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Today In Disneyland History.....July 30, 1956

The Mineral Hall

July 30, 1956

July 30, 1956 marked the opening day for The Mineral Hall, located in Frontierland.  Operated by Ultra-Violet Products, the Mineral Hall featured a free exhibit, which includes a mineral display lit by black light. The Mineral Hall shop was located next door to the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train/Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland ride.  Rainbow Caverns Mine Train was a narrow gauge mine train ride through the  then new Living Desert. After the scenery was again redone in 1960, it was also upgraded and became 1960–1977, Mine Train Through Natures Wonderland. 

The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad  attraction replaced this sedate train ride with the “wildest ride in the wilderness”, The only attraction that remains from the scenic vistas is the mighty waterfall tumbling from Cascade Peak into the Rivers of America, visible only from various boat rides around the Rivers. The structure that formed Cascade Peak and its waterfalls was demolished in 1998 after it was found to be suffering structurally from the decades of water that flowed over it. 

Back in the day, before closing in 1963, The Mineral Shop sold related gifts and mineral samples. Selling anywhere between 10 & 50 cents, the Disneyland-themed mineral samples were labeled Walt Disney's Mineral Land - Rocks & Minerals. An inscribed window reminds guests of one of Disneyland's attractions of a time gone by. The window and former Mineral Hall location are currently part of the Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante dining area. While you're in Frontierland, be sure to check out the new The Legends of Frontierland Interactive Game And that’s what happened today in Disneyland history.