Blog Posts by Blue Ribbon Hunter

  • America’s Best Coffeehouse

    For many of us, coffee is something we can’t live without! It gets us going in the morning, it boosts us in the middle of the day, and it’s something we socialize around. So what makes a great cup of coffee? Blue Ribbon Hunter traveled to New York’s Coffee Fest 2013 to find out.

    The highlight of Coffee Fest is the America’s Best Coffeehouse competition, where coffeehouse teams compete to see who makes the best cup of coffee.  Coffeehouses from all over the country submitted applications and videos in order to enter the competition, and seven finalists were invited to New York to compete live.  The teams were tested on their knowledge of the equipment, their attitude and teamwork, and of course the look and taste of their coffee.  The winner was Peregrine Espresso from Washington, DC.  Their tips for making a great cup of coffee are to start with a great bean, grind it fresh, and use good water.

    But great coffee isn’t just about taste, it’s about looks too, and that’s what the Latte Art

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  • Cheese Balls: How They Are Made

    Utz has been around since 1921 when Bill and Salie Utz began making potato chips out of their home in Hanover, Pennsylvania. As the company grew, they began making other snack foods such as pretzels, and their now famous cheese balls. In celebration of National Cheese Ball Day, April 17th, we headed to Hanover, PA to the Utz factory to see how they are made.

    Utz started making cheese balls in 1990.  Sam’s Club, one of their biggest customers, approached them and asked if they could package the cheese balls in a barrel rather than in bags.  The design team came up the plastic barrel and infamous purple label that can now be seen in many stores, and have even been featured in shows like NBC’s “The Office” and the “Alvin and the Chipmunk” movies.

    So, how are they made?  Well it all starts with coarsely ground corn meal that is brought to the factory in 2,000 pound bags.  That corn meal is then deposited into what they call an extruder, which is a machine that exerts enough pressure onto the

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  • The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata

    Zillion Dollar Lobster FrittataIf you take a look at the breakfast menu at Norma's Restaurant in the Parker Meridien Hotel in New York City, you might do a double take when you see "The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata". Accompanied by a line that says, "Norma's dares you to expense this", this frittata costs $1,000.00 and is the most expensive omelet in the world. ("Frittata" is an Italian word for a flat omelet.) We met up with chef Emile Castillo to learn all about this omelet and how it is made.

    What's In It?

    The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata boasts six eggs, a pound and a half of roasted lobster, chives, potatoes, and a lobster sauce made with the tomalley of the lobster, whiskey, and heavy cream. But the real bank-breaker is the 10 ounces of Sevruga caviar that gets piled on top of the omelet. The caviar alone comes out to around $1,000.00 anyway, so if you think about it, you are actually getting a good deal!

    Who Orders It?

    Since the hotel does tend to host an upper-class business crowd,

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  • Cupcake Tips from the Cake Boss

    CupcakesCupcakes are delicious and fun to make at home. Bakers love them for their simplicity, and cake lovers love them for their size and portability. However it does take mastering a few basic tricks to make the perfect cupcakes. We met up with Buddy Valastro, owner of Carlo's Bakery and host of Cake Boss and Next Great Baker, to get his tips for making the perfect cupcake.

    Add Custard Cream to Cake Batter

    The perfect cake should have a spongy, tight grain to it so that it has a velvety feel in the mouth. The way Buddy gets this is by adding a little bit of custard cream to the batter. It will help your cake to achieve the desired consistency and stay moist.

    Oven Temperature Controls Shape

    Depending on your vision, you may want a large, rounded dome on your cupcake, or maybe even a flat top. If you want a dome, bake your cupcakes at a higher temperature. If you want a flat top, bake them at a lower temperature (25 to 35 degrees lower). They will still cook all the way,

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  • The Story of the Sweetheart

    NECCO Sweethearts have a place in the hearts and minds of the many of Americans, especially around Valentines Day, but most people don't know much about them. So we traveled to the NECCO Factory in Revere, Massachusetts to meet up with Jeff Green, the Vice President of Research and Quality at NECCO, to learn everything there is to know about this iconic candy.

    The History

    The founder of NECCO, Oliver Chase, and his brother were English immigrants. They loved a popular confection in England known as a "cockle" that had a message inside of it and wanted to create something similar with their own candy. In the early 1860's, Oliver's brother found a way to print on the candy that they were already making (NECCO Wafers) and decided to experiment with different shapes. As Valentine's Day became more popular and marketable, they decided to stick with a heart shape with romantic or popular sayings. The early Sweethearts were larger pieces of candy with whole poems

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  • Aspen SoupSkol

    The only thing better than a day at the slopes in Aspen, Colorado is a hot soup waiting for you when you get back -- especially when it is -8 degrees Fahrenheit! We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Aspen which was just a short walk from all of the festivities of Aspen's annual winter festival: Winterskol. We witnessed snow carving contests, snowboarding rail shows, and of course attended the annual soup competition. We tried some really amazing soups from New England clam chowder, to loaded baked potato soup, to a spicy shrimp bisque, but the winner was a very unique type of gumbo!

    Winning Soup Recipe: Jackalope Gumbo

    By Chef Tom Slanga and owner Mike Goldman of Aspen Square Grouper

    Yields 5-6 quarts

    8 ounces flour

    8 ounces butter, bacon drippings, or duck fat

    2 pounds boneless chicken thighs

    1 pound jackalope sausage (mix of rabbit, antelope, and pork)

    1 pound onion

    1 pound green bell pepper

    1 pound celery

    6 cloves garlic

    3 jalapenos

    1 ¾ pounds

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  • Forbes Island

    Forbes Island isn't what it appears to be...Forbes Island isn't what it appears to be...If you look out from the pier at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, CA, you can see what appears to be a small island right off shore. But if you watch this island carefully, you will see that it bobs ever so slightly in the water. That's because this is Forbes Island, and it's really no island at all, it's a houseboat-turned-restaurant!

    The man behind this island is a houseboat designer named Forbes Kiddoo. He originally built this "island" for himself as a place to live. It began as a sandy beach with a few palm trees, surrounded by rocks and with a living area under the beach where he had his captain's quarters, living room, and dining room. He lived there off the coast of Sausalito, CA for 17 years until he decided to turn it into a restaurant.

    Today, guests are picked up in a shuttle boat right off of the pier at Fisherman's Wharf and taken to the island. As soon as you step foot onto the island you feel like you have been transported to a fantasy world. It is only

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  • Unique Ways to Dine

    Going out to eat is always a good time, but if you are looking to take your nights out to a new level, here are three unique dining experiences worth trying:

    Dark DiningDining in the Dark

    Dana Salisbury created Dark Dining Projects after she ate an orange with her eyes closed and realized that when you can't see, your other senses are heightened and it makes food taste that much more delicious. Today she throws private dark dining parties for groups of all sizes. In dark dining, diners are blindfolded before entering the dining room and then served four courses paired with wine. The blindfold is removed after the diners leave the room, so they never actually see the space they are dining in. We visited Camaje Bistro in lower Manhattan where we were able to try it out ourselves. Chef Abigail Hitchcock explained her method for creating a menu for "blind" diners and how smell and texture are that much more important. She prepared a crusted salmon dish over a bed of kale, and it was a lot

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  • World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off

    Nothing represents Cajun-style cooking better than gumbo, especially when it's made by gumbo cooks from New Iberia, Louisiana for the World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off. We went to New Iberia looking for the best mélange style gumbo (mélange basically means anything goes) and we found it!

    Gumbo

    Award-Winning Mélange Gumbo

    By Aaron Guilbeau (and the "Just Havin' Fun" World Championship Gumbo Cooking Team sponsored by LoveWorks, The Camp Lounge, and Mr. and Mrs. Pat Stamand)

    Makes 10 servings

    Prep time 1 hour

    Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes

    Ready time 3 hours 30 minutes

    Ingredients:

    1 cup flour

    1 cup vegetable oil

    1 ½ gallons of water

    2 cups of onions, diced

    1 cup green bell pepper, chopped

    1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped

    1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped

    1 tablespoon minced garlic

    2 ½ pounds of smoked sausage of your choice, sliced

    1 pound of Tasso

    5 pounds boneless, skinless turkey thigh meat cut, seasoned and

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  • The Perfect Bite Recipe

    The "perfect bite" is like the holy grail of the food world and that's why it makes the perfect challenge for the 14 competitors at the Food Experiments World Championship at the Brooklyn Brewery in New York City. People came from all over the United States (and Sweden!) to battle it out to see who could master the right combination of flavors and textures to make the perfect bite. And the winner is:

    The perfect biteJewel Crusted Shrimp with Avocado Wasabi Aioli

    By Chef Charles of One World One Kitchen

    Shrimp

    40 large shrimp

    Shrimp Marinade (1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 olive oil, 6 cloves of minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste)

    1 cup flour seasoned with sea salt, black pepper and parsley dust

    3 large eggs

    3 tablespoons milk

    The Crust (1 cup Panko & 2 cups of mixed finely chopped pistachios, cashews, wasabi peas, dried cranberries, 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 teaspoon mixed fresh herbs & 1 teaspoon crushed dried chili)

    Vegetable oil for deep-frying

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