The Hungry Man Eats

Monthly Archives: January 2014

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Dinner at Brio Tuscan Grill

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I recently had the good fortune to take a friend out for dinner on her birthday, for the second year in a row, she chose Brio Tuscan Grill and it was well worth the repeat visit.

The ambiance and interior didn’t have a strong Italian feel to it, I actually had more of a Cheesecake Factory vibe from their décor but without as cavernous of a feel to it, they have an open kitchen which you can observe from most spots in the house.

The meal started off with a very mild disappointment when I was informed that they had run out of Peroni, which is a pale lager from Italy. If I am eating out a restaurant that has a specific type of ethnic cuisine and I am in the mood for beer, I will choose a beer from the same place that the food is from, hence Italian/Tuscan food = Peroni. They had no other Italian beer options (on draft at least) so Sam Adams Winter Lager it was, not a terrible substitution to have to make at all.

When the drinks were brought, they also provided us with a basket containing a warm half loaf of sourdough bread and several flaxseed crackers with butter on the side. The bread was crusty with a mellow sourdough flavor and the crackers seemed to have a slight roasted garlic flavor to them as well.

We each ordered something for before the main course, I chose the Shrimptini off of the light menu and my friend selected their Caesar Salad. The Shrimptini came with about a half dozen medium size shrimp that seemed to have been lightly coated in an Italian tasting dressing served on a bed of shredded lettuce with cocktail sauce on the side. A flaxseed cracker for garnish hung jauntily off to the side of the glass. My friends Caesar Salad had crisp romaine lettuce and as delicious dressing with a subtle but pleasant anchovy flavor. Although my friend normally dislikes anchovies, she liked the flavor they provided to the dressing.

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For the main course, my friend chose the Pasta Fra Diavolo with shrimp described as:”Campanelle with a spicy tomato cream sauce and green onions.” The campanelle pasta was a fine pasta to use as it took the sauce on well and had lots of ripples and ridges for the sauce to stick. The last time we went my friend ordered this dish and we both thought it may have been served with penne pasta instead. The sauce had some pep to it, but you weren’t going to find yourself reaching for your water glass to quench a fire in your mouth, it provided a low grade smolder instead.

For my main course I chose the Shrimp Verduta (pictured at top) described as: “Angel hair tossed with shrimp, garlic, sundried tomatoes, roasted artichokes, caramelized onions, Feta and spinach, topped with pesto bread crumb.” What the description from the menu does not state is that the sauce in the dish is lemony, like what you would find in a piccata dish and that there were also several thin slices of lemon as garnish on the top. It was almost too lemony, though my opinion may be colored as I accidentally ate two of the lemon slices that were on top (they really blended in and hid themselves). Other than that it was a dish I would gladly recommend to others.

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For dessert, we each got a dolcino style dessert, my friend picked the Milk Chocolate Caramel Cake, described as: “A decadent chocolate cake, layered with milk chocolate ganache, caramel, rich chocolate frosting and vanilla whipped cream” I selected a peanut butter mousse with chocolate ganache, interestingly I could not find this option listed online, perhaps it was a unique selection for the location I was at. Hers is on the left in the picture above, as she was the birthday girl. Her dessert was moderately chocolaty and the chocolate ganache and caramel were just as noticeable flavor wise as the chocolate in the cake. My peanut butter mousse was not very strongly flavored, the chocolate ganache overpowered the peanut butter flavor, a touch more peanut butter flavor would have been welcomed.

The meal was very, very good and the prices were reasonable, if perhaps a dollar or two more than you would think you should be paying for the size dishes you got. Brio Tuscan Grill is a restaurant I would gladly take friends, family and dates to and would feel like most items on the menu would be as good as the selections we got.

Hungry Man Eats Score: 86/100

Brio Tuscan Grill has over 50 locations with an almost nationwide reach excluding the west and northwestern most states.

McDonald’s Dollar Menu: A Closer Look

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Well, I wasn’t planning on writing about McDonald’s again but you never know what you stumble across that makes for a good post. If you eat much at McDonald’s or have just been following the food biz news much, you likely heard that McDonald’s revamped their dollar menu and are now calling it the Dollar Menu and More. This revamp includes not just more offerings, but also higher prices. I’m not really going to get on McDonald’s case for increasing the prices of some of their dollar menu offerings, it has been over 11 years since the dollar menu debuted and prices for all kinds of food items have climbed a lot since then, but I am going to point out some of the interesting things they have done, and also point out some things that they may not want you to notice:

  • All the new items are sandwiches. Three of them are chicken and two of them are burgers, two of them are $1.00 and three of them are $2.00.
  • Those new $2.00 sandwiches, what do they all have in common? Bacon! Bacon has always been considered a premium style ingredient and to have bacon on these sandwiches (as well as cheese on two of them) makes it easier to be willing to pay the $2.00
  • The McDouble went up 19 cents and was likely the most popular dollar menu item over the years.
  • What is the difference between the McDouble and the Double Cheeseburger? The Double Cheeseburger has a second slice of cheese. You pay 30 cents more for that extra slice of cheese and tack on an extra 50 calories to your meal.
  • So about that $5.00 20 piece Chicken McNugget selection on the dollar menu? In my opinion, it is not there as a legitimate offering on the dollar and more menu but it is actually a menu decoy. What’s that? A menu decoy is a higher priced item on a menu used mainly to make the other surrounding offerings look more reasonably priced in comparison. It is not just the most expensive item on the dollar menu but it is three dollars more than the next highest set of items.
  • Did you notice what is missing now? Would you like fries with that dollar menu burger? Go ahead and order some, but you’re not going to get them from the dollar menu anymore, you will have to pay a bit more for some small fries off the regular menu.
  • Same deal with the beverage offering, you used to be able to get a small soft drink off of the dollar menu, but now your only choice is a large sweet tea.
  • That’s 32 ounces of sweet tea in a large, the tea mix must be even cheaper than the soda mix and soda has a reputation for being one of the highest profit margin items for any restaurant, not just fast food.
  • The two pies for a $1.00 have hit the road as well, but you can still have your cookies or an ice cream cone. The fruit and yogurt parfait is still on the menu as well which has a reputation for being a steal at just $1.00 considering what you get in it (fruit) and it’s fresher quality compared to some of the other dessert selections.

I will have to get out and do some field research to see how good these new dollar menu sandwiches actually are.

Srirachapocalypse Averted!


In case you were not aware, Huy Fong Foods Sriracha sauce aka “Rooster Sauce” experienced a bit of a crisis towards the end of last year. The city of Irwindale, California filed a lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods. Why? Apparently residents of the town near the factory complained that the spicy odors were causing lung and eye irritation. It should be noted that the judge in the case said that there was a lack of credible evidence that actually linked the complaints and symptoms of its citizens to the factory odors, but that it could be reasonably inferred that the factory was the source of those odors and symptoms.

Things got worse in December when the California Department of Public Health said that the three hot sauces the company made could not be distributed for 30 days to ensure contents of the uncooked sauces were free of microorganisms.
The city of Irwindale, California, best known for their numerous gravel pits and an ill fated attempt to lure the Los Angeles Raiders to town by getting Al Davis to build a new stadium on the site of one of the gravel pits would have taken a serious public relations hit had the first issue above not been resolved and the factory unable to resume production.
Texas would have welcomed them with open arms so that the company could move to a place with fewer regulations to worry about.
But for now, all the above issues have been resolved and Sriracha shipments will resume later this month.

Christmas Sticky Buns, aka Monkey Bread

Final Step

Well, its 2014, Christmas has come and gone and we are even past New Year’s Day now. Lots of new and exciting things to be posted here and on my other site this year to come. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves here, let’s step back to Christmas, specifically Christmas morning breakfast. For the last 20 years or so my mom has made the sticky bun recipe to follow on Christmas morning, actually Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning.
In our family we don’t open any gifts Christmas Eve, we open our stockings Christmas morning, then have breakfast and open all the gifts under the tree after breakfast. The sticky buns go into the oven and are cooking away while we look at what is in our stockings. As far as I know, the only time my mom makes this recipe is for breakfast Christmas morning.
Rather than using a refrigerated biscuit dough as some recipes use, my mom’s recipe uses a frozen dinner roll dough that thaws and rises overnight. Most of the monkey bread recipes I have seen out there call for a granulated sugar and cinnamon mix to toss the raw bread dough in and also assembling and cooking the monkey bread in the same cooking session. When its Christmas morning, you would rather spend less time prepping and more time relaxing and eating, with this recipe, all you have to do the next morning is put the bread in the oven and let it cook.
You can make this recipe any time of the year you wish, it makes for a great breakfast or brunch dish, especially when it is cold out, but for my family this will always be our Christmas morning treat. Check out the recipe below the pictures…

Adding the dough:

Step 1

After pouring the sauce over top:

Step 2

Keeping it weighed down in the pan with a layer of aluminum foil on top as it will rise overnight:

Step 3

It rose by the next morning:

Step 4

After baking but before flipping onto the serving platter:

Step 5

Christmas Sticky Buns
Serves 6
A style of monkey bread with pecans
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup chopped pecans
  2. 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  3. 1/4 cup dark Karo corn syrup
  4. 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  5. 1 tsp cinnamon
  6. 24 pieces frozen roll dough
Instructions
  1. Add the chopped pecans to the bottom of a 12 cup non-stick bundt cake pan
  2. In a microwave safe measuring cup add the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar and cinnamon
  3. Microwave the mixture for 1 minute on high and whisk the heated mixture together after microwaving.
  4. Fill the bundt cake pan with the 24 rolls, evenly distributed.
  5. Drizzle the syrup mix over the rolls in the pan, making sure to cover all exposed rolls completely.
  6. Cover the pan with a layer of aluminum foil, and add a plate and something else heavy on top as the rolls will rise overnight and you do not want them to escape the pan.
  7. Sleep the night away.
  8. The next morning, remove the weight and dinner plate and cook at 350 for 25-28 minutes or until top rolls are golden brown.
  9. Carefully flip the pan over upside down onto a serving platter at least 12 inches in diameter so that the syrup mix and pecans can drizzle back down over the rest of the rolls.
Notes
  1. Make sure you use a 12 cup non stick pan and at least a 12 inch diameter serving platter otherwise there will be a mess while cooking or a mess while serving.
The Hungry Man Eats http://hungrymaneats.com/

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