Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mexican Burgers at Jalapeno's...huh?

Jalapeno Burger and Fries from Jalapeno's, Murdock & Waco
Today I tried Jalapeno's, the reincarnated restaurant, formerly known as Pimiento's, which is located on the SE Corner of Murdock in Wichita.  I read that the new owner was planning to keep much of the old Pimiento menu in tact, but is adding huge burgers served Mexican style. I heard HUGE BURGER, and had to try it.

Upon entering the place, I noticed the lights were all turned off...including the area behind the counter. It was just a weird entrance. But the funny thing was there were several tables of people and they were all acting like it was no big deal.  And it wasn't. But it was certainly weird...at first.

I proceeded to study the menu, and asked several questions of the young lady at the counter.  She was not very helpful, as her English was relatively broken. At one point, she walked away and the owner helped me with a few options.  I made up my mind that I was going to order a burger, and save the tacos for another time.  Pimiento had very good authentic street-style tacos.  But it was burger time.  I didn't know what most of the burgers were served with, as there were no descriptions (Off-put #1). This made it difficult to decide, so in the essence of time, I order the restaurant's namesake burger, Jalapeno ($7.00).  It was simply described to me by the owner as having grilled jalapenos and bacon, served with fries.

On a side note, I ordered a water to drink and noticed my bill didn't add up. When I questioned the extra dollar charge on my ticket, the cashier told me the restaurant charges $1 for water.  When I asked if I could just have the small drink ($1 as well on menu) she said that they only have large drinks and they are $1.75.  This was off-put #2.  #3 off-put was no soap in the bathroom...not a pleasing thought of no hand soap for employees and guests to use.  But I brushed this aside, and awaited patiently for my burger.

I was pleased to find out that my order came with basket of chips with salsa.  The chips were warm, and extra salty. And the salsa is like a mild picante salsa, and had a simple flavor that was pleasing. Not overly tomato'ee, and nicely balanced with the vegetables.  It had a good amount of acidity, but overall, with the over-salted chips, this was not the purpose for going to Jalapenos.  In fact, the chips and salsa were not really any benefit to my burger meal.

The burger arrived tightly wrapped in a white wrapper like a tuxedo.  It was as if I was about to eat the messiest burger. The wrapper was a convenient way to grab it, but I quickly realized it wasn't necessary to eat the large sandwich.  The bun was huge, sporting a dark color and sesame seeds on top.  It was thick and bready, just like the bread you get at the Mexican bakeries (which I'm sure it's where they come from).  The thinly, smashed burger came topped with melted white cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, grilled jalapeno halves, avocado and bacon.  The bacon was not ordinary bacon you fry up or properly cook in the oven. It was gray in color, flimsy and not prepared in any way I would have wished...I like it a little crispy. It had a nice smokey flavor, but it's texture really didn't have it going for me.  It was simply off-putting (#4).

The actual beef patty was a little under seasoned, and lacked the grill or flattop flavor I really enjoy.  I like the thin burgers to be crispy on the edges, but the meat still be tender-like it was hand formed. This burger was a little bland and overworked. It appears that it may have been a institutionally-formed burger patty. Boo!

The whole sandwich lacked powerful flavors (except the jalapeno heat). The jalapenos were super hot, which I liked, and which it needed.  They were grilled until tender, and they sort of heat-stained the entire sandwich. The other toppings were plentiful and filled the space between the huge buns. After all, the thin burger patty was not that impressive in size...there needed to be something the to bring up the value.  The avocados were soft, but not overly flavorful. The raw onion and lettuce gave the burger good texture, and the bacon added smokiness that cut through the rest of the ingredients.  The sight of this burger really got me excited, but the actual experience left me less than impressed.

The burger came with french fries, which were not homemade. They were insignificant and a let down! Fries are a staple side item with burgers. The least thing a restaurant can do is fry their own. They're cheaper, better food cost and the TASTE BETTER when done right.  The good "fry" restaurants in town know who they are and how to do it. I rest my case.

To sum up my first experience at Jalapeno's, I have to say that it was certainly a unique culinary experience because I have not seen other Mexican restaurants specializing in burgers.  However, I just wasn't very satisfied with my meal.  The overall experience was a little underwhelming.  I may still give it a try to check on their tacos. If Jalapeno's kept the same recipes and prepare tacos the same was as the former Pimiento, then it's worth the trip back.

I give this meal 1 out of 4 "Eat-Eats".

738 N. Waco
Wichita, KS
Hours: 11am to 9pm daily

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Four foods that shouldn't be in your fridge

With the farmers market season here early, here's some good info to pass along.  Foodies may know already, but it's a nice reminder to take good care of your food!  Thanks to my friend, Tyrena, that sent this to me earlier today!

4 Foods That Shouldn’t Be In Your Fridge
author unknown

Guess what?  The refrigerator is not the go-to storage unit for all your produce. Below are just some of the things that do NOT belong in there…

Tomatoes. If you’ve ever grown tomatoes, then you know that they love the heat and hate the cold. Turns out even after they’re plucked from the vine, they still hold their aversion to cold. The fridge is not the ideal place to store tomatoes.
Store them there and your perfect tomatoes turn into a mealy disappointment. They’ll still be good for cooking, but not the best for eating fresh. Instead store them on your counter (not in direct sunlight) and enjoy them when they’re ripe.

Potatoes. Potatoes like cool, not cold temperatures. They do best at around 45 degrees F, which is about 10 degrees warmer than the average refrigerator. Most of us don’t have a root cellar (a cool, dark place to store root vegetables like potatoes), so keeping them in a paper bag in a coolish spot (like a pantry) is best. Why paper? It’s more breathable than plastic so potatoes won’t succumb to rot as easily. And why not the fridge? Storing potatoes at cold temperatures converts their starch to sugar more quickly, which can affect the flavor, texture and the way they cook.

Onions. Onions don’t come out of the ground with that protective papery skin. To develop and keep that dry outer layer, they need to be “cured” and kept in a dry environment like a pantry, which is not as damp as the refrigerator. Also, lack of air circulation will cause onions to spoil, as will storing them near potatoes, which give off moisture and gas that can cause onions to spoil quickly. Store onions in a cool, dry, dark, well-ventilated place. (Light can cause the onions to become bitter.) Scallions and chives, however, have a higher water content, bruise more easily and have a shorter shelf life, so store these alliums in the fridge.

Avocados. Avocados don’t start to ripen until after they’re picked from the tree. If you’re buying a rock-hard avocado, don’t store it in your refrigerator, as it slows the ripening process. On the other hand, if you have a perfectly ripe avocado that you’re not ready to use, storing it in the refrigerator may work to your advantage by prolonging your window of opportunity to use it before it becomes overripe. So the bottom line on storing avocados is store hard, unripe avocados on your counter and store ripe avocados in your refrigerator if you’re not going to eat them right away.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Reviews and News about Nuts

The cat is out of the bag. Wichita Eagle dining writer and blog princess, Denise Neil, has invited about a dozen of her followers and fellow foodies to join her in writing reviews for restaurants she may have missed in the past, or restaurants that may have been reviewed many years ago. We will choose a restaurant that is at least 6 months or older. That's the main criteria.  Our reviews will be published about once a week, and each of us will get the chance to write one about every few months.  It's an honor to work on this project. I'll take it seriously, however, if anybody knows me, there should be some humor in my writings. Photos Link

I completed my first review dinner. I won't spoil anything, as I promised that I'd wait until after it is published via the Eagle.  However, I will be posting the unabridged version here...Apparently the print space on the Eagle comes at a premium!

Just a quick recap of some fun food experience I have had recently.  This past weekend, a buddy and I from out of town made a trip over to Bite Me BBQ with a mission. Nuts. I have never tried Mountain Oysters, and I figured this was a good chance to try something different. I'm willing to try just about anything once. There are some things I don't like to eat; olives top the list, and right below is tripe.  I read a quick note about the restaurant re-opening in Old Town, and decided to add nuts, along with fried lobster, to our culinary eats.  The lobster was very good. Buttery (or greasy, depending on how you view it), even without the drawn butter. Fried lightly, they were tender and plentiful. The server said the tail pieces came from a 6oz lobster.  I expected an entire tail fried based on the description, but the bites proved to be very good. 

Now for the nuts.  Mountain Oysters are probably very similar to livers, but they're not as chewy. Slightly chewy, the nuts were very flavorful and not overly gamey like I expected. They were fried to a golden brown, and served up with a cream gravy (yea, no kidding!).   My friend, Jay, made the comment, "They're a little salty!"  And he wasn't kidding. I had to take another bite to know he wasn't just being funny. But they were not overly salty...just right, I guess!  While nuts are not the thing that I'd go back for, they were certainly worth trying. Especially if you have not ever had mountain oysters.  As for the lobster, I only got a few bites as we were busy chewing our way through a basket of nuts, and my pregnant wife and 19 month old son were busy eating the $15 basket of lobster!  Truth be told, I like them both. But neither were worth going back for on their own. The next trip to Bite Me BBQ will be for BBQ...that is, after they have their beer license.  We were there only for nuts and lobster.  We had a date with a huge slice of pizza at Picasso's Pizzeria!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Long overdue UPDATE...

Since my last post, a lot of time has past. And a lot of fun stuff has happened.  I completed Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain's breakout book.  Since then, I have read his follow up books, A Cook's Tour, The Nasty Bits and his most recent addition to the library, Medium Raw.  I'm not much of a reader, but I have to say that reading these books was time well spent. If you are a foodie, you MUST read all of these in sequential order. Make time!

Another fine book I read was one called Life on the Line, which is an amazing story about a young chef earning his keep in the restaurant business, and ultimately battling a dangerous cancer that almost took away his sense of taste.  The story about chef Grant Achatz is another good read.  Put it on your list!

My son is now 18-months old and I have one due in July. My wife is totally ready for this one to come, but I'm not sure I'll ever be ready for this much responsibility.  The best part about having kids is that once you have a due date, you have no choice but to suck it up and be a good parent!

The 2011 garden was a bust. I'd say lots of it was due to the extreme heat we had in Kansas, but I can't put the blame on something else. I was just too busy and didn't take care of it.  We lost the greenhouse in July 2011 to a massive wind front that blew it to pieces. Boo! 

But 2012 will be better.  I reconfigured the garden to be more efficient with our space.  My mother-in-law moved closer to us, and has been helping us with our planting. I have 12 tomato plants in the ground, of all varieties.  8 pepper plants, cauliflower and broccoli, brussel sprouts, eggplant, beets and two types of lettuce.  We herbs and asparagus coming back up.  We have more to come, too. Squash and beans are next.

My last bit of update has to do with a new foodie group I have been invited to participate in.  Denise Neil, food writer and restaurant reviewer for The Wichita Eagle, has created a panel of local foodie bloggers and followers to help write restaurant reviews for restaurants in Wichita and the surrounding area.  Our main focus will be older restaurants, or restaurants that may have been missed or overlooked by the Wichita Eagle staff and have been open at least 6 months or longer. We will take turns each week reviewing these gems, and hopefully give the readers a different perspective of food in Wichita.  Watch out restaurants...we've released about a dozen critics on you!  But no worries; we're out to show Wichita where the good stuff is!

Happy eating!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I'm reading Anthony Bourdain's first book, Kitchen Confidential.  If you have ever seen his show, No Reservations, you can imagine how descriptive his written media could be.  Among the countless stories of drug use and kitchen foul play, you find an intertwined theme lurking behind the debauchery.  As much as most people (non-chefs) hate him, you have to admit this guy really knows his stuff. He is a culinary master of all things good.  The one thing that this guy really advocates for is high-quality, fresh and we'll thought out food.  He is concerned about where the food comes from. How long since the fish came out of water? How well was it prepared?  At the heart of it, this guy is a true foodie. He's willing to eat anything once.  And it all began when he was young.  He made the conscious decision to try anything that he could get his mouth on.  Oysters, I believe, were his turning point.

This is what it is all about. Setting the landscape for which my son may grow up trying things that he wants to eat.  Of course, while I consider myself somewhat adventurous, I have a ways to go.  I realize that much of what I have never eaten or ordered is simply because I'm afraid that I won't like it.  But there are so many great dishes to try, and I've decided to cave into my fears, and try anything once.  One thing I must be clear on:  The food that I hope to eat, and bring to my son, must be made with the heart and soul of the person that creates it.  That's the catch.  Anyone can go to McDonald's and get a garbage piece of beef and call it dinner.  For me, the food I eat should be as local as it gets, made with pride by someone that has a story to tell with the food, and be as fresh and natural as possible.  I'm not only interested in feeding my son for his nourishment...we're feeding his brain, too.  It's a culinary culture-fest.

Besides culture, food needs to be healthy. And this means a lot of different things to a lot of people.  Just knowing where your food comes from is important.  Too much of what we eat as Americans is processed so far that you cannot even begin to know how unhealthy it could potentially be.  Why wouldn't you want to know where your dinner came from?  It's possible to sniff the restaurants out and get info. Get to know the meat purveyors, or the fish guy at the local store.  Grow your own food, which is what we're attempting to do.  Buy local, and support the local stores that help to educate you.  Around Wichita, you can go to Food for Though or Green Acres. You get good ideas, and education about your ingredients.  Better yet, you get a better sense that the people that work there actually care about your health, and not your wallet.

Coming in May, just before the beginning of the Old Town Farmers Market, a friend of mine is hosting a screening of the movie, Food Inc.  I have not yet seen the film, but I understand it is life changing for some people.  The movie will play at the Orpheum, and is sponsored by some of the businesses we need to support.  You can get tickets at various sponsor locations, such as Johnson's Garden Center and Food for Thought.  Go shop there, and pick up some FREE Tickets.  $5 at the door if you forget to snag one.

Next post will show my progress. To date, I have 32 of the 46 pods of Heirloom tomatoes growing, and 17 of 23 Pepper Plants in my indoor garden.  I really need to get the lettuce and greens in the garden, but with being out of town, that will have to be put off a week.  But one good thing...I got my sprinkler system installed last Friday.  I now have an awesome valved zone dedicated to the garden. Zone 10 is the key to consistent and thorough watering.  We'll see... Til then.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Long time no see...

So, it's been a while since I've posted anything. Like a lot of things that go on in my life, I end up getting behind on lots of stuff. For one, I'm training for another 1/2 Marathon in Vancouver, May 1.  That consumes my weekend, as it slams me to the bed after the run, thus, getting nothing done. And anyone with kids knows that week day nights are worthless for anything extracurricular.  So, my admitted laziness has allowed me to procrastinate, and now I'm miserably behind.  So far behind, that I'm really not very happy with myself.

However, with that said, I do have much progress to show all at once.  Let me make this clear...I'm not anywhere close to where I wanted to be.  You garden people (the real garden people) will get it once you see my progress.

The first thing I did do right was to get my soil tested by the KSU Extension Office. They are the local non-profit garden authority, and they got me good results back in about a week.  And only $17!  What did I do with the results?  Mostly looked at them for about 3 weeks!

So, if you know me at all, you know that I can tend to work in spurts. Meaning, I can be lazy for 3 weeks and then magically do 10 days worth of work in 6 hours. That is what I did.  It all began by waking up one day and calling 2 places around town that sold compost. When the first claimed they couldn't deliver same day, I called #2.  It just so happend the owner was off to Vegas that afternoon, so heck yea, his calendar was clear!  He had 12 tons of 3-year old compost covering my driveway in 55 minutes from the time he got off the phone. And that included the time it took for him to finish his donut and coffee at the local shop in Rose Hill, KS.

After I got off the phone w/the dirt guy, I made a call to Stu-found him on Craigslist.  He moves dirt for $45 and hour. I figured that 12 tons was more than I could handle in a week, and a guy with a tractor...a small tractor...could do it a lot quicker than me.  Stu showed up an hour after the dirt was delivered.  And yes, he had a nice little tractor that amazingly made it through my small gate that I had fashioned for this exact purpose...to allow a larger piece of machinery through.  Paid off, because an hour and a half later, Stu had successfully tossed over all 12 tons of dirt into my garden area.  First, he filled up my newly made beds in the West end of my garden, and the rest over the fence.  Best part about Stu besides his price:  Santa Claus was ridin' a tractor through my backyard.  Katie was looking out the window over the kitchen sink, and saw him ride by. She was freaking out...this guy looked just like Santa. Best of all, he actually plays Santa each year for those photo shoots at Town West Mall.  You bet your ass my photo-taking wife is all over that. A Santa w/out a contract is a hot commodity.  We have already laid out some details, so keep your holiday calendars open for shots with your kids and families.  We're looking for a few locations to do photos during the holidays.  I may be calling you to make it happen!

Before Stu arrived, I thought it may be good to fire up the old Roto Tiller.  Good thing I did. It didn't work.  Jumped back on Craigslist and found a guy that ended up driving over and taking my roto tiller back to his shop.  Re-delivered it by 1pm.  What a deal. $50 too!

So, now I got 12 tons of compost and a working tiller.  I went to town on the old soil I never tilled last year.  I began incorporating the compost into it, and within half an hour I was basically done.  I moved a bit more around, and called it done.  I then took remnant pieces of my old fence I tore down to build my greenhouse tables.  I makred off my paths, and built somewhat of a raised bed.  Really, it is for the walk ways. The dirt is 6 or more inches deep with the tilled earth and the 3 or 4 inches of compost on top. It really just gives me a visual of where to plant.
Dad and Weston marveling over the new space!

Me and the boy...
 So, you're probably wondering why I've written about the outdoor garden, but haven't mentioned the indoor starter garden I said I was going to begin...well, that actually came late.  Thanks to my wonderful wife, we finally got organized.  I can't even begin to explain how overwhelmed I got when realized how big my little garden was getting.  Coupled with the fact that I have a baby to raise, how was I ever going to get that going. Well, with a little extra caffene and some baby-nap time, we were able to organize the seeds and get out the heriloom tomato samplers Katie's mom was so kind to make for us.  We ended up planting 46 tomato plants, which represents 20 different unique heriloom varieties.  If this works, we'll more darned tomatoes that we could ever want. We'll keep what we want, and give a few away. But these are amazing tomato plants, so we'll only give them to people we love. We'll sell the rest to pay for Weston's college. We were also able to plant red, green and yellow bell peppers and some jalapenos.  Again, way more than we need. But we feel inclined to give away a few.

Filling the starter soil.

Adding the seeds.

Lots of Tomatoes. 46 planted, 20 varieties of herilooms.

Now I'm ready to get my other in-ground goodies going. I have Kale, Swiss Chard, Leafy lettuce and Romain to plant, along with two varieties of beets and carrots. We'll also plant brussel sprouts, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, butternut squash and lots of herbs. 

The boy and his toy...

Finshed tomato planter

Watered down tomato patch

One thing we won't be planting again are snake gords.  Anybody want one?...or 10?
Don't plant these. Snake gourds suck. They don't grow all painted and pretty like the package said!

Lastly, my wonderful wife fed my baby boy his first vegetable.  Butternut Squash.  And he loved it.  This is what it is all about.  Giving my son the best choices is how I plan to hopefully influence his decision making to want to become a healthy eater, but also a foodie like me.  You see, food is more than fuel to me.  While I have been known to make poor decisions for eating, I am changing how I think about food and where it comes from.  I want to teach my son the importance of being aware of where food comes from, and why it is important to know about it.  We'll see how it goes!
Until next time....not sure where we'll be. Maybe some sprouts to share.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fun with Food!

It was a great weekend. It began with a hot date with my wife and Tanya Tandoc....you say, what the ----? That's right. We attended a fantastic food filled night making fresh pasta with local celeb chef, Tanya Tandoc (Tanya's Soup Kitchen-yay! Soon to be re-opened!)  She was teaching a great class on handmade pasta, and my lovely wife was so sincere to get 2 tickets...one for me and one for my mom (Cooking at Bonnie's Place).
That's me in the background...hangin' w/Tanya

But alas, mom had plans to be in KC with dad, so by default, Katie was my hot date.  Completely out of her element, she was forced into getting her hands dirty and having some fun learning the trade of pasta making.
Katie rolling pasta and having fun!

I learned a few new techniques which will come in handy later in life. The fun of cooking this sort of food for family is that it is fun, and the kids can get involved. It's also good to know where you food comes from, and when pasta is made from flour, salt and eggs, you get only the best food.
Our group

Making Fettuccine w/Tanya and Jo
We prepared ravioli and fettuccine, and got the luxury of eating a fantastic butternut squash salad and olive oil lemony cake! 
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad w/Parmesan

Ravioli w/Chard and Ricotta, with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

it was...Fettuccine w/Aged Cheddar, Bacon and Hazelnuts

Olive Oil Cake w/Lemon

But the best part was spending time with my wife doing something new, and getting to know Tanya a little better.  Please go visit her new restaurant when it opens!

I'm thinking that this experience will keep me enthused about cooking at home. I love to go out to eat, but that is not a good thing for us in the long run. There is too many good things to make at home.  Sure, there are a lot of good things to eat at restaurants.  But fresh pasta, for example, was generally easy, and fun to make. Using fresh tomatoes or sage from the garden will be the key to making fresh food from the garden. Maybe incorporating fresh herbs or flavors from the garden into the pasta would be a good thing to try. Lemon and herbs mixed in the pasta dough will be fantastic.  Look for that someday in the future.

Until then, I'll need to get my indoor seed garden going. I have about a week until the seeds need to be in their temporary homes. That will be my project of this week.