January 28, 2009
Good stuff in the New York Times today

I read the New York Times every morning. Today there were some especially good articles I will share with you. As one of the last families in America to actually read the news on paper daily, you might have missed these gems.

Bacon Explosion - Looking at the net's love of bacon

A Last Bastion of the Necktie Throws in the Towel - The last restaurant in New York to require a man to wear a tie gives in to casual

Superbowl logos, past present, and other possibilities - My favorite is the logo intended to make football appear to a new audience, geeks. (obv, the 40 on the 20 sided die is a huge mistake...)

Of course, the Los Angeles Times makes a good effort:

Soda pop love - The Rootbeer Revival

Forget chicken wings for the Superbowl, it's all about turkey wings!

Posted by michael at 07:01 AM | Comments (0)
January 21, 2009
Scenes from Inaguration Day

A few scenes from Inauguration Day

Me wearing a special tie for a special Tie Tuesday
Me wearing a special tie for a special Tie Tuesday

Yes We Can (find a babysitter and go out on the town, that is)
My brother Matt and sister-in-law Yvette at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball

Video of the Obamas arriving at the Neighborhood Ball, taken by my brother.

Video of the Barack Obama's closing words at the Neighborhood Ball, taken by my brother.

Video of the Inauguration from near the Washington Monument, taken by my friend Sean.
Posted by michael at 11:52 AM | Comments (2)
January 19, 2009
Landrin Chocolates

A few weeks ago, I received an email from the folks at Landrin Chocolates asking if I want to try their new stuff. I'm not one to turn down free candy, so I said "Sure!".

Amazingly, I received a case from Landrin with six boxes of candy to try. 3 boxes of Coconut Almond Perfection and 3 boxes of Hazelnut Chocolate Perfection to try. There was even a presentation about Landrin where I learned that they are a Russian company, founded in the 17th century, trying to make it's way into America.

I'm not one that would usually choose a candy like this, it seems a bit complex.

Each candy is individual wrapped. The two kind of candies are basically the same. There is a ball made of wafer, with a filling on the inside and chocolate and nuts on the outside. The Coconut Almond Perfection has shredded coconut on the white chocolate outside with a creamy coconut filling with a whole almond inside. The Hazelnut Chocolate Perfection has chopped hazelnuts on the chocolate outside with a creamy hazelnut/chocolate filling on the inside.

At first, I didn't know what to make of the Landrin. It's a complex flavor combination. The more we ate, the more they grew on the family. The Coconut Almond Perfection is the family favorite. I like them both, but the lightness of the Coconut Almond Perfection is nice. I enjoy hazelnut, but am not a hazelnut fanatic.

I made a short video of opening the packages. I like the package design a lot.

Opening a box of Landrin Waferatto from Michael Pusateri on Vimeo.

After having some time and enjoying the Landrin Waferatto, I can say that we do like them a lot. We agree that the aren't the kind of thing we'd pick up at the supermarket when we have a sweet tooth, but they are perfect as gifts or for putting out at a party.

I don't know how much these will cost in stores when they go on sale, I got my for free from Landrin. Hopefully the price will be reasonable since they are great for serving/giving for special occasions.

Posted by michael at 10:56 AM | Comments (2)
January 18, 2009
Making Sausage From Scratch

Ever since I read the book, Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn , I've wanted to make my own sausage from scratch. Last weekend, I just that.

The basics of sausage are fairly simple. Grind up meat, herbs, and spices then stuff them into a casing. I decided that for my first sausage, I wanted to make a spicy Italian sausage, my personal favorite.

I used the recipe from Charcuterie. The sausage is mainly pork shoulder, with a healthy amount of fennel and coriander seeds, red and cayenne pepper, fresh basil and oregano, paprika, salt and pepper. As you can see, I cut the pork shoulder and back fat into cubes, chopped the fresh herbs, prepped the spices, even toasting the seeds to bring out the full flavor. To me, fennel is the essential flavoring of an Italian sausage.

I mixed all the ingredients together to prep for the grind. Once everything was mixed, I place the bowl into the refrigerator to cool down before grinding.

To grind the meat, I used the food grinder attachment for a Kitchenaid mixer. One key trick to good sausage is keeping the fat from melting until cooking time. To do this, the bowl that receives the ground pork is sitting a bowl of ice to keep the temperature as low as possible, preventing the fat form melting.

The Kitchenaid grinder works great. I had no problem grinding up the five pounds of sausage mix. Using the small die, everything came out perfect and I could see the fat distinct from the meat. Once ground, back into the fridge while I cleaned up and prepped for the next step.

The next step is binding everything together. This is known as the 'primary bind' and is similar to what you do to turn ground beef into meatloaf. I used the paddle attachment to mix the meat. I also added a little water and red wine vinegar.

Once the bind is done, the mixture holds together rather well. I cooked up a small piece in a skillet to make sure the flavor was good.

Now the trick was to get the sausage mix into the casing. Traditional casings are the cleaned intestine of hogs. People get a little squirmish when they realize this, but if you are going to eat meat, does it really matter what part? You can buy casings made of collagen, but I chose to get some real hog casings to be more authentic. I slid the ten feet of hog casing onto the stuffer attachment.

Above you see the stuffed casing. This was much harder than I expected. I used the food grinder with a stuffer attachment and it didn't work very well. It was a huge pain in the butt to keep the mix flowing through the tube and fill the casing evenly and without air bubbles. It took me about an hour to get this done and much it was done by hand, squeezing meat along. At one point the casing broke and I had to start a new sausage. When I make sausage again, I'm going to get a dedicated 3 or 5 lb. stuffer. Using the grinder style just doesn't work.

Hard work aside, I was ecstatic to have stuffed the casings. After a bit of twisting, they actually looked like sausages.

The real test is cooking and eating. I slow cooked the sausages on the grill with indirect heat. After the first bite, I was happy, it tasted like a spicy Italian sausage! I was really surprised how good the flavor was. I could taste all the herbs and spices and the texture was great. A real success for sure.

I enjoyed the process, except the stuffing problems, and will probably make sausage again. I definitely want to get a real stuffer that makes to easier to push the mixture out in a constant flow. I heartily recommend picking up the Charcuterie book. It is a great guide with good diagrams and straightforward recipes.

Posted by michael at 01:10 PM | Comments (5)
January 17, 2009
Rocket Chocolate

At the local 7-Eleven, I spotted a box of Rocket Chocolate. I had to give it a try.

Rocket Chocolate is pretty simple, chocolate with caffeine.

According to Energy Fiend, Rocket Chocolate has ~42mg of caffiene per piece. That's not a lot. Most sodas and energy drinks have much more.

The flavor is OK, but not something I'd crave. To me, the Rocket Chocolate tastes like a dark chocolate truffle with a hint of mint and a little bitterness. Not unpleasant, but not lip smacking good.

I think they would be great to keep at your desk for a quick pick-me-up when you don't have time for a cup of coffee or soda. More for the casual caffeine user, not the hardcore energy drink aficionado, like my brother. In his world, these would be fairly weak sauce.

Posted by michael at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)
January 16, 2009
Altoids Chewing Gum - Pining for the fjords?

Everyone has a brand of chewing gum they prefer. For me, I like Altoids Chewing Gum. The small tin package is nice, the amount of gum in each little piece is good and it does a great job of freshening my breath. I've never really like breath mints, so Altoids Chewing Gum is a great solution.

Over the last several years, I've grown accustomed to having a tin in the car and the office so I can chew before I head to a meeting after eating or drinking coffee. Recently, I noticed that I couldn't find the gum anywhere. After looking in at least a a dozen supermarkets and drug stores, I'm convinced that Altoids Chewing Gum has gone the way of the dodo bird and is longer a product I'll find easily on the shelves.

I went to the Altoids web site to find out what's going on, but the Altoids site is all Flash and completely full of lame, bereft of any real information. They didn't reply to an email I sent them via their contact form. More lameness. Finally I found out that Altoids are made by Callard & Bowser, and that Callard & Bowser is owned by Wrigley. I called the Wrigley 800 number and they informed me that the Gum was NOT discontinued and is still in production and just tired from a long squawk. The customer service person was nice and tried to look up where I could buy the Altoids Gum in my zip code and was amazed to find that there was no place. She suggested looking online.

After a bit searching the Google, I determined the best place to stock up was at Amazon. You can pick up a ten pack of Altoids Chewing Gum for between $15-$20. That's a pretty good price. I was routinely paying $2 a tin at a store.

Now I have 10 tins of my beloved Altoids Chewing Gum and am considering stocking up even more. I like the Spearmint and Peppermint flavors, but not the Cinnamon. I can't seem to find Wintergreen anywhere. If you can find Wintergreen, please let me know.

Posted by michael at 10:03 AM | Comments (1)
January 14, 2009
The New Year

I got a note from my friend Sanjay that I had not posted for a while. He's right.

There are a lot of things I could write about, but for some reason I can't get into the groove of The New Year.

Both my personal and professional worlds have been stressful for the last few months and I'm a bit 'overextended'. Nothing terrible, but enough that I need to focus on staying healthy and relaxed. On the bright side, I've been getting more sleep and exercising more. But I've been spending less time on the computer, and obviously, less time blogging here.

Time to shake off the cobwebs and get rolling again.

Here are a few things I have enjoyed that I would like to share with you:

Motherf***ing Parking Ticket
Caffiene can cause hallucinations
Make chicken stock using supermarket rotisserie chicken
The truth about marriage
Go play Left 4 Dead, you can add 'cruftbox' in Steam
For Left 4 Dead fans, Boomer's Day Off

Posted by michael at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)