Review: Jake’s Atomic Salsa

I first heard of Jake in an article in Chile Pepper Magazine. Jake is a youngster that lives in Texas that makes his Jake’s Atomic Salsa to help pay for college. I figured, well, if nothing else I gotta give the guy major kudos for looking down the road and planning for his future. So I went online and ordered a few bottles of each heat level of Jake’s Atomic Salsa. And boy am I ever glad I did.

Jake’s salsa has a great texture to it. It reminds me of the authentic table salsa at our local Mexican restaurant. Not mega chunky, not at all. Not thick and gloppy, nope. Nice and smooth and not runny. Perfect for tortilla chip dippin’ because you don’t have to worry about the salsa running off your chip before you get it to your mouth.

This salsa is not overly tomatoey, not overly anything. Just good stuff with the right mix of everything. This is my kind of salsa. Authentic stuff, with a fresh taste and feel to it. As Jake says, it’s “straight from the grill to the mason jar” with a nice light char to it.
Jake’s Atomic Salsa comes in 4 levels of heat.

Molecular Mild is pretty darned mild, and is perfect for well, my mom or dad. They can’t handle the heat and I know they’d thoroughly enjoy the mild.

Foreshock Medium is your pretty-much-fantastic salsa for a crowd. No one is going to run out the door screaming that their mouth is on fire, but the head-lovers (like me) will still be happy.

Things start to take a turn with the Aftershock Hot salsa.Oh yes, it has a burn, but it’s a very pleasant heat. It’s a very addicting heat. All of a sudden you’re like… where did all my salsa go?

… and then there’s Nuclear Atomic. As Jake says, “Don’t say [I] didn’t warn you”. Yeah, well, it’s hot. Very hot. Get ready to sweat. A lot. If you can’t handle it, tame it down a bit by mixing in some mild or medium.

My only complaint about Jake’s Atomic Salsa is that I can’t get it here in Indianapolis. I bet that’ll change, because this is mighty good salsa. In the meantime, I’ll keep ordering it online. The salsa is reasonably priced, packaged well, shipped quickly, and rates highly on my ‘Mater Rater.

Review: John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day

John Currence's Big Bad BreakfastThe Amazon Kindle has a great bookmark feature. You just tap the upper right corner of the screen to ‘dog ear’ a page for future reference. You can tell when I really, really like a cookbook by how many bookmarks I make. In the case of John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day, I bookmarked almost every single page in the book. Page after page, I kept finding recipes I am going to make, and make soon.

Even though I rarely eat a real breakfast in the morning, I often make a big breakfast for dinner, and this book definitely gave me tons of new recipes and ideas for better and bigger breakfasts. Big Bad Breakfast is wonderfully written, and it’s even quite funny in places. Actually, it’s very funny and it’s a great read. Even though there are tons of recipes, it’s almost like a novel in ways.

In case you’re not up on these things, Chef John Currence is a James Beard-winning chef that has been on tons of TV shows and in lots of magazines. Big Bad Breakfast (the book) is a result of Chef John’s years of owning Big Bad Breakfast (the restaurant) in Oxford, Mississippi. Oxford remains on my bucket list to visit because of it’s fantastic restaurant scene. BBB is another great example.

Big Bad Breakfast (back to the book) covers every aspect of breakfast, starting with breads and muffins (lots of great sweets), proceeding to eggs (with a fantastic detailed lesson on how to cook eggs the various ways), omelets and frittatas, pancakes (the Silver Dollar pancakes are #1 on my list for this week), cereals (homemade Frosted Flakes!!!), sandwiches, sides, and drinks. See? Everything you could ever want for a great big breakfast.

John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day is packed with tons and tons of great breakfast recipes and a few great stories and tidbits and advice to boot. It’s well worth the price, and then some. I scored the book high on the ‘Mater Rater.


For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Dave Anderson’s Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook

The first few times I saw Famous Dave Anderson on TV he was competing on BBQ cooking shows. He didn’t always win, but he always made food that looked amazing and just as important, he always came across as genuinely nice. I thought what a welcome change from the sometimes-a-bit-too-much-over-the-top folks you see compete in food contests.

At the time there weren’t any Famous Dave’s restaurants near us. And in fact, I wasn’t particularly sold on the idea of chain BBQ, but when a restaurant finally opened in Indianapolis I went with an open mind and empty stomach. I came away thinking to myself “shame on me for thinking that some corporate chain couldn’t turn out BBQ just as good as our local joints”. And I came away thinking that I’d just had some of the best side dishes I’d ever had from anywhere, be it BBQ or fine dining.

Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook is packed with great dishes, perfect for your next outdoor cookout. Don’t expect copycat recipes from the restaurant. Instead, you’ll find a wide range of recipes, from simple dipping sauces (the Cajun mustard is perfect for dipping chicken nuggets or just slather some on a hot dog bun) to a cooling avocado potato salad to Tex-Mex fajitas.

One thing I really, really enjoy about Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook is that there’s nothing ‘weird’ in it. I have just about everything I need on-hand to make most of the recipes in the book. And although most of the dishes are ‘normal’, they are all super-flavorful versions of things you may have had before. Like cocktail weenies. Dave’s BBQ Smoky Porkies take them to a new level, adding pickles (yes!), bacon and cheese, served with a fantastic apricot BBQ sauce for dipping. Take that, ‘normal’ cocktail weenies!

Famous Dave’s Barbecue Party Cookbook is packed with tons and tons of recipes and a few great stories and tidbits and advice to boot. It’s well worth the price, and then some. I scored the book high on the ‘Mater Rater.


For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke

I’m a huge fan of Steven Raichlen. From his various PBS shows (I’ve seen them all) to his many cookbooks (I have them all), I’m intrigued by everything he cooks, from the familiar to the very new. Steven Raichlen’s latest TV series and book, Project Smoke, is as amazing as anything else he’s ever done. The Project Smoke cookbook (it’s really more than ‘just’ a cookbook) is packed with 336 pages of amazing recipes, stories, tips and tricks.

The first part of Project Smoke is great for beginners, describing the equipment and techniques you’ll need no matter what kind of smoking (from cold to hot) that you are going to do. The next section contains appetizers and, as with any Raichlen book, there’s an incredible attention not only to detail but also the history behind dishes and approaches. you’ll know exactly what tools you’ll need and how long each step of the process will take. there’s no guessing here, Raichlen has thought it all out for you.

The photography in the Project Smoke (just like on any of Raichlen’s PBS TV shows) is incredible. The picture of the smoked planked Camembert with jalapeno pepper jelly is worthy of printing and framing, and so are many others. All of the recipes in the book are awesome, and some are completely new to me. For example, smoked bread. I’d never considered smoking flour to make a loaf of bread. After you form the flour into a dough and let it rise, you bake it over charcoal until done, serving with smoked butter or smoked honey. that just may be one of the coolest (no pun intended) smoking ideas I’ve ever seen.

Project Smoke continues with smoking beef, with much detail on smoking briskets including the required pros/cons of wrapping. Raichlen also discusses one of my absolute favorite things to make on my smoker: pastrami. If you haven’t made your own pastrami, you should. It’s amazing

Next up is pork. Even if you’ve smoked 100s of racks of ribs like I have you’ll find Project Smoke informative and full of interesting twists on the ‘usual’ way of doing things or the ‘usual’ ingredients.

Lamb is next, and I have to say, I have never smoked lamb, so i found this section of Project Smoke to be very interesting, though short. Raichlen definitely has convinced me that i need to smoke lamb this year.

Burgers, sausages, poultry and seafood are covered next. Like the previous sections, these are again filled with great recipes, techniques and photos. The smoked shrimp cocktail with chipotle-orange cocktail sauce instantly went to the top of my to-smoke list.

Next up are sides and the like, including smoked slaw. If your guests are tired of your (still very good) mayonnaise- and vinegar-based slaw, smoke the vegetables in an aluminum pan before making the salad. Raichlen’s approach is perfect, and interestingly different.

Project Smoke finishes with desserts and cocktails, both of which are often over-looked in books about smoking. there’s not a lot of different recipes in these sections, but like with everything else in the book, the desserts and cocktails are also fantastic.

Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke rates high on my ‘Mater Rater.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: John Besh’s Besh Big Easy 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes

I can’t recall the first time I saw Chef John Besh on TV. Perhaps it was on Top Chef Master, or on his really, really great PBS show. Or maybe it was competing on The Next Iron Chef. But, it really doesn’t matter where it was, because the result was the same. I could tell instantly that Chef Besh was real. I could trust him. I could believe his stories. I could fall in love with his food. Nothing about the chef was over-the-top or staged. He was sincere about his passion for food, and that’s very, very important to me. I think that passion comes across in every dish. You know, like when your grandma says “this was made with love”. Same sort of thing.

So of course when Chef Besh’s new cookbook (his fourth so far), Besh Big Easy 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes came out for the Kindle I grabbed up a digital copy, and like the dishes I’d end up making from the cookbook, I devoured ever word.

There are so many great recipes in Besh Big Easy 101 that I can’t even begin to describe them. Many are rooted in tradition. Recipes from friends or family or traditional recipes that you’d associate with the Gulf region. Most contain ingredients that I can find here in Indianapolis, so I don’t have to worry about the cookbook sitting on my shelf (or in my Kindle) gathering dust. I reference it often.

Each recipe starts out with a hint, or saying, or some relevant passage about the dish. Such as “whenever we’re lucky enough to have a crawfish boil, one of the added benefits is the potato salad that we make the next day from the small red potatoes that were boiled in all those delicious spices.”. You feel more connected to Chef Besh and his food, and hey, the tips are great too! Besh Big Easy 101 is a great read and a great reference.

Besh Big Easy 101 scores high on the ‘Mater Rater scale.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Review: Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots

I have been watching A Chef’s Life on PBS since it first aired in 2013. It is a fantastic show centering around Chef Vivian Howard from Deep Run, North Carolina and her restaurants in Kinston, NC, Chef & the Farmer and the Boiler Room. But A Chef’s Life isn’t a cooking show, it’s a show about life in the south, life around food, and food history. It doesn’t matter to me how many times I’ve seen an episode, I always watch when it comes on. Che Howard’s book, Deep Run Roots, does the show justice and then some.

Reading Deep Rut Roots will making you feel just like I feel when I watch the show. You hang on every word. You can smell the food, taste it and feel it as Chef Howard talks about everything from grits to beets. You sense her unending desire to learn and stay connected to her food past.. You want to put Velveeta and crumbled Jimmy Dean sausage on rice as she did as a kid. You want to pick blueberries. You want to make squash and onions not because you’re a fan of squash, but because her mom made it. And you’ll flash back to your childhood as you read Chef Howard recall about how as a kid it was so hard to eat a watermelon while avoiding the seeds.

At the end of the book you’ll know Chef Howard better than you know most of the people in your life, and your head will be full of fantastic recipes and visions of food and places. And you’ll learn. A lot.

Deep Run Roots is full of over 200 recipes and stories to go with them. I found that the recipes aren’t intimidating nor are they complicated and they don’t contain items that are obscure. You’ll make the dishes in this book because they’re easy and they sound and are fantastic. I should say that I am biased. I lived in the south for over 10 years, and I love southern cooking. I’m biased for a reason though. It’s good food!

Deep Run Roots scores high on the ‘Mater Rater scale.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center

Twenty plus years ago I went to the Gayloard Opryland Resort and Convention Center near Nashville, Tennessee for a convention. After all those years, Anita was able to join me in returning, this time for a few days of rest and relaxation. The Gaylord is the largest (2700+ rooms) non-casino hotel in the United States. It’s huge. Big. Massive. And oh does it ever have some great interior spaces. Plants, flowers, waterfalls, rivers, you name it. All under a massive roof. The plan for our trip was to enjoy the hotel, saving the local attractions (except for the mall) for a later visit.

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesOf course, there’s a huge convention space. And about 14 restaurants. And it’s right next door to the huge Opry Mills mall. But other than me saying that all of the restaurants we ate at in the hotel were fantastic, I’m going to post more about the beautiful indoor grounds. I should say though, make sure that you get a Cobb salad at Fuse, a pizza at Paisano’s Pizzaria, a crazy good Jack Burger (with fried green tomato, brisket and pimento cheese) and the burnt ends at Jack Daniel’s. We didn’t have time to enjoy all of the great restaurants, but I also recommend grabbing some cocktails at The Falls. You’ll find the service to be great everywhere.

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesSo let’s start with a gander around some of the open spaces at the Gaylord, which is divided into 3 large atriums: Cascades, Garden Conservatory, and Delta (which our room overlooked). Each is very well designed, from beautiful paths to lighting, to plants and flowers. If you can, get a room with a balcony overlooking an atrium. It’ll cost you a bit more but it is worth it.

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesGaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesGaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesRemember, I said that the Gaylord is huge. You’ll get a map when you check in. Never, ever, go out without one. There are maps all over the resort, but you’ll want your own personal copy to study. And you do want to study it. Anita and I spent hours on our balcony watching lost people wander around the Delta. It was quality entertainment.

Also note that the color of the carpet in the hall in your room matches the area you are in. That colored carpet will help get you back to your room, specially if you’ve been hopping between the many bars in the resort. Trust me.

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesGaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesGaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesThere’s a river flowing thru the Delta atrium. Besides being able to walk around it on beautifully landscaped paths, you can jump on a guided boat and float around the area. Along the way you’ll see waterfalls, plants, and even tropical fruit. And an alligator. Well, not a real alligator.

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Spaces

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesGaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesThe glass above the atriums is 1 3/4″ thick, and there are just miles of it. Three football fields to be exact.

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesBesides more traditional ‘indoors’ eating areas, you can also grab a bite in an open space, such as here in the Cascades or The Falls.

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Spaces

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesThe Gaylord has changed a lot (for the better) since I was last there. They’ve added more rooms, more atriums, and recovered from a horrible flood in 2010.

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center SpacesYou don’t have to leave the resort for anything, if you don’t want to. Yes, there’s golf nearby. And you can take a ride into downtown Nashville. Or walk over to the General Jackson and take a river boat ride on the Cumberland River. We opted to stay in the hotel and just enjoy the sites and restaurants.

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Structures Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Structures Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Structures Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Structures Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Structures Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Structures Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Structures Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center StructuresThe Gaylord has 20 full-time gardening and landscaping experts, and they do their jobs well. I have no idea how many different plants there are, but it’s just amazing. Everything is landscaped perfectly.

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and Fauna Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center Flora and FaunaWe really enjoyed walking around the Gaylord and we enjoyed our stay immensely. Now, if you check the reviews online you’ll find that some folks haven’t had quite the same experience that we have. Yes, the food prices are higher than other places. And yes, you have to pay for parking and internet and other ‘amenities’. I knew that going in, and I also knew that the place is amazing. Where else are you going to go with these kinds of views? The costs of maintaining the amazing grounds have to be unbelievable. So go, and enjoy and don’t sweat the small stuff. Bar hop. Walk the gardens. Eat great food. Enjoy the fantastic indoor weather. People watch. Have a great time!

I give the Gaylord high points on my ‘Mater Rater.

'Mater Rater Restaurant Score 5-5-5-5

 

Pepper Palace Wing Master Mega Garlic Sauce

If you are in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, area make it a point to swing by a Pepper Palace store. They have several stores in the area, including a new one in Sevierville in an area called The Island. The store is packed with hot sauces and salsas, from the hot to the mild. Me, I always head straight to the wing sauces and in particular, Pepper Palace’s own line of Wing Master sauces, including this Mega Garlic sauce.

Pepper Palace Wing Master Mega Garlic Sauce

As soon as we returned from our recent trip I threw a few seasoned wings onto my Weber Performer grill outfitted with the Vortex insert. When the wings were done I tossed them with the Mega Garlic sauce and dug in. The Mega Garlic sauce has, as you might guess, a tremendous garlic flavor. And not just a bit of garlic either. Hence the word ‘mega’ in the name. It’s loaded with garlic. Tons of it. Lovely, great yummy garlic. With a bit of a wing sauce kick, too. It’s a very enjoyable sauce. I definitely wish that I’d picked up a few more bottles!

Pepper Palace has a wide range of sauces, from the extremely hot to the nice and mellow.

Pepper Palace Wing Master SaucesYou can order Pepper Palace’s sauces online but if it is well worth stopping in at one of their many stores.

I absolutely love chicken wings, cooked any way, with any sauce (or without). I love them so much that I created a free eCookbook that is full of my favorite wing recipes.

Pepper Palace Wing Master Mega Garlic Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8 servings
 
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place wings in a large resealable baggie or container.
  2. Add the oil and rub, seal, and shake to coat.
  3. Refrigerate for 1-3 hours.
  4. Cook wings as desired. Click here for our guide on cooking wings in a grill, smoker, deep fryer, oven, or a Char-Broil Big Easy.
  5. When wings are done, transfer to a bowl and drizzle with the sauce. Toss to coat.
  6. Serve with Ranch dressing and lots of paper towels.