Cincinnati – Terrys Turf Club

Last weekend we made a trip to Cincinnati for a short Fathers Day visit with my dad.  Having been rained out on our Father/Son/Grandson fishing trip Saturday morning we quickly moved to the Plan B activity.

Just a small example of the outdoor signage

Located in the East End/Mount Washington area of town sits what some could say is a neighborhood eye sore but in this case Terry’s Turf Club actually improves the otherwise run down neighborhood.  As we drove to Terry’s for lunch I could not help but wonder if there was a mugging in my future.  When you see couches on the sidewalk and mattresses in the front yard you start to realize you might be in the wrong neighborhood (or we missed one hell of a party last night).

With it’s abundance of neon lights (inside and out) and motorized arm-waving signs it’s impossible to miss this place.  Diners Drive-ins and Dives did a segment in 2010 and the restaurant looked very intriguing.  I’m not a Guy Fieri stalker by any stretch of the imagination but I’ve been to a few places featured on his show.  There’s a lot of disagreement on the Internet about the places he picks, etc. but so far I have to say he’s exposed some gems to the Food Network audience.

Back to Terry’s…  We arrived around 2pm and there was a small group of people standing around outside.  We lucked out and scored a parking spot right in front of the place (including a perfect parallel parking job if i say so myself).  There were cars lined up and down the street a good 200-feet in either direction and a light drizzle was bringing people in under the awning.  We added our name to the list and settled in for a 30-minute wait (my limit to wait for ANY food by the way).  I’m curious if the DDD exposure contributed to the popularity of Terry’s or if it’s just one of those places that draws a crowd on its own.

My dad brought out a bowl of in-shell peanuts for the kids (and us) to help pass the time.  We watched groups of people going in and out of Terry’s and those exiting all looked happy.  My dad asked one lady how it was when she came out and she answered “wonderful”.

Neon, Neon & more Neon

It was our turn to be seated & we were placed right inside the door at a tall 4-top that was converted to a 5-top.  A little cramped but workable, plus it was right next to the electronic jukebox with 5 song credits ready to be picked and played.  I’m not a fan of the raised chair/table combo and prefer having my feet on the floor when I eat but I’m not going to let this ruin my experience.  Neon signs are definitely the predominant decor at Terry’s.

The menu at Terry’s is simple yet complex.  They are known for their burgers and the vast array of toppings, some of which are surprising (Fioe Gras, Halloumi Cheese, Crab, Pate, Scallops…).  If you’re not careful your $8.00 burger could easily exceed $15.  I went for the Burger (medium), Bacon, Swiss, lettuce, raw onion & a portabella cap ($10.75 total).  My son ordered a similar combo but with shitake mushrooms instead.

My grease stained slip

My dad ordered a burger with Brie (one of my least favorite cheeses no matter what you pair it with).  The girls ordered their burgers and we split 2 orders of fries among the table (plenty of fries by the way).  Each food order was written on it’s own slip and your name was added to the top for good measure.

After we placed our orders and selected a few songs on the jukebox it was time to start looking around the place in a little more detail.  There could not be any more than 40 people in the place and the noise level was a little high.  If you are thinking about bringing kids here be sure they can take a little noise without being uncomfortable.  I was a little concerned about how our son would react to the chaos (he’s not a loud noise fan)  but he was a trooper.

Unfortunately the humidity, air conditioning, and exposed HVAC ducts right above my left shoulder resulted in a few shockingly cold drips during our meal.  Nothing major but a little annoying nonetheless.  After the mixed reviews on Urban Spoon I was wondering how long it would take for our food to arrive.  10-15 minutes passed & our orders were delivered (not bad at all) .  All burgers were all cooked & dressed as requested & the fry’s looked great!

The final product

Everything was served on paper plates & the forks were plastic.  If you want a knife to cut your burger they bring you a giant slicer and return it to the holder on the wall after you use it.  I doubt Terry has a dish washer on his staff since the only thing that needs to be washed are the tables and the soda cups.  This was a little surprising considering the price of the food and toppings.   But, if you look at it another way, this definitely cuts down on the table turnover time which is important when you have a constant line of hungry patrons.  None of the customers really seems to care and it was served that way when DDD was shooting the segment.

The burgers were good really good.  Cooked to order, dressed to order and generous in size.  Lots of “Yums” at the table as everyone dug in and took the first bite of their sandwich.  I was surprised to find not one but TWO nice-sized portabella caps on my burger.  This created a mushroom to beef ratio nearing 1:1 and required the jaw separating ability of a snake.    A little squish, lots of juice, and some trial and error finally got this burger in my belly.  If I had one “complaint” it was the little-to-no seasoning of the portabella caps.  Everything else was spot on.  A little seasoning on the mushroom would have gone a long way.  Having tried a bite of my son’s (seasoned) shitake topped burger confirmed this suspicion.

Throughout the meal the staff was attentive and everyone had a good experience.  The check came & totaled just under $100 (5 burgers, 2 fries, 3 sodas & 3 beers).  A little steep but not unexpected after reading various reviews online.

Terry’s Turf Club was a great change from the “normal” burger joint. It’s quirky, uniquely decorated and efficiently run.  The burger “accessories” are over the top and the location is a little sketchy.  This  it all works to give residents and visitors alike something to talk about when discussing good food in Cincinnati.  Besides, how much can be said about Chilli, and don’t get me started about my disdain for Goetta.

We’re going to be back in the area soon and I’m going to seek out Zip’s which I hear is the local competitor to Terry’s Turf Club.  I’ll be sure to write up a review of that one as well.
Terry's Turf Club on Urbanspoon

Lemon Custard Ice Cream

This is a family recipe that I grew up on.  I promised in the Maple Bacon Ice Cream post that I would share.  Since it’s a custard the lemon flavor is smooth and sweet, not tart.

Ingredients:
2 C. whipping cream
2 C. half-and-half
1 C. sugar
1/3 C. finely grated lemon zest
6 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 t. pure vanilla extract
3/4 C. fresh lemon juice

Directions:
Bring the cream, half-and-half, sugar and zest just to a boil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Whisk the egg yolks and salt together in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the cream mixture to the yolk mixture and whisk until blended.

In a slow steady stream, add the remaining cream mixture, whisking constantly, and continue whisking until blended.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until the custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of a wooden spoon when a finger is drawn across it; do not allow the mixture to boil.

Immediately pour the custard through a strainer into a bowl and stir in the vanilla. Let cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally. Refrigerate, covered, for 3 hours, until thoroughly chilled.

When ready to freeze, stir the lemon juice into the cold custard, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The ice cream will be soft but ready to eat. For a firmer texture, transfer to a freezer container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

Yield: 1 1/2 quarts.

007 is Back!

I started reading the latest James Bond book called “Carte Blanche” by Jeffery Deaver.  Mr. Deaver has modernized 007 and readers will find a younger, more “hip” Bond.  All of the old characters are still there & so far it’s a great read.  It’s kind of hard to put down!

This is the first Bond book that I’ve read on the Kindle & I think I’m going to purchase the back catalog so I can re-read the classics in the new electronic format.

If you’re a Bond fan I think you’ll enjoy this latest book.  Although the author is new to the Bond franchise you can definitely tell he’s a fan & I’m looking forward to more of his books.

How to Ruin a $30 Batch of Ice Cream

Nothing brings back the childhood memories more than making homemade ice cream. When I was growing up my Grandmother had one of those electric models that used ice and rock salt. The smell of the electric motor mixed with the super cold ice/salt mixture is so distinctive it can take me back to the breezeway in a heartbeat.

Having obtained her recipe for Lemon Custard Ice Cream (future blog post I promise) I purchased the necessary attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer (specifically for that recipe). It consists of a double walled stainless steel bowl filed with a freezable liquid and a plastic dasher. The Kitchen Aid churns the mixture to a semi-frozen state which, once achieved, you eat it right away soft serve style or put it in a container and freeze overnight.  The entire freezing process takes about 30 minutes.  Sounds easy, right?  Read on…If you’ve never made homemade ice cream, I mean really good quality homemade ice cream, you probably don’t understand the amount of work, time, and expense that goes into the final product. This time around I opted for a new creation that my daughter and I thought up while talking about food one evening.  A quick Google search located a recipe that looked promising.

Maple Bacon Ice Cream.  Yes, Maple Syrup, Heavy Cream, Egg Yolks, and Candied Bacon frozen together into a delicious treat that covers that sweet and salty spectrum we all love.  So far so good, what can go wrong?  Let’s investigate this crime scene piece by piece…

Work

The first step of the process is reducing the maple syrup by about 1/2.  This is easily done and takes about 20-30 minutes.  You need to keep an eye on it though as it tends to bubble up.  Once complete, you set this off to the side and work on the next step.

To achieve the ever so highly desired creamy consistency you need to make custard.  This, in its simplest form, involves cream, sugar, and egg yolks.  This recipe also has three additional ingredients, Bacon, Maple Syrup and Brown Sugar.

The first step is to “scald” the milk.  This just means heating it to 180°F (no more, no less).  Once the proper temperature is reached you add the sugar stirring just enough to dissolve. Pour the milk mixture into the reduced maple syrup and heat everything to 160°F stirring so the syrup incorporates into the milk.

Next you beat the egg yolks until pale and start tempering the eggs with the heated milk mixture, beating with a whisk the entire time (unless you want scrambled eggs in your ice cream).  After you slowly add about 1/3 of the heated milk to the eggs (whisking the entire time), you pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining 2/3 of the milk.  You’re still whisking like a maniac, right?…  RIGHT?

Now you are well on your way to a good, basic, custard.  Keep stirring, and cooking slowly, until you get a semi-thick consistency.  This will take about 10-15 minutes.  Remove the custard from the heat and pour into a heat proof bowl.  Make sure you press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the custard to keep the top from forming a skin.

Cool the custard bowl on the counter for 30-45 minutes and then put it into the fridge for 12-24 hours.  Yes, 12-24 hours.  You’re done for the day.  Start cleaning up your mess and find something else to do!  Make sure your ice cream making equipment is in the freezer too.  Regardless of what you’re using you will want to make sure everything that touches the custard tomorrow is cold.

Time

OK Ben (or is it Jerry?), it’s the next day.  You waited the proper 12-24 hours, right?  Time to start the next step in this ice cream making marathon…

Start by cooking your bacon (however your normally do it).  I use the oven and bake on parchment paper at 350°F for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool.  This was the mistake that ruined the final product.  Keep reading for the nasty details.

Time to set up your ice cream making equipment…  It can be the old fashioned hand crank (good for making the little ones miserable with the promise of sugar for their efforts), electric crank, or the modern multi-function kitchen appliance method.

This step is easy.  Fill your bowl, insert the dasher, turn said equipment on and set your timer for 25-minutes.

While you’re churning, sprinkle brown sugar on the bacon strips and place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes.  Flip and repeat.  Allow the bacon to cool again and then chop into bite sized pieces.  A brûlée torch would be a great replacement for the broiler process.

That $7 container of high-end custard form the store down the street is sounding pretty good right now isn’t it?

Once the 25 minutes is up you should have a semi-solid product.  Add the candied bacon and continue to mix until just incorporated.  The ice cream can now be eaten as is (soft serve style) or placed in a container and frozen for another 12-24 hours.   I opted for freezer time and was anticipating digging in the next day.  We shared some bites of the soft server off the dasher and determined this was going to be a winning recipe.

Before we get to the final product let’s review what we have in this so far…

Expense

Making your own ice cream at home is fun.  It takes some time but the end result is usually worth the effort.  In this case we were into this recipe for about $30.  We used some of the best ingredients we could get our hands on and were happy to know exactly what was in our frozen treat.

  • Heavy Cream $6
  • Organic Brown Eggs $4
  • White Sugar $2.50
  • Brown Sugar $2.50
  • Indiana Maple Syrup $10
  • Nueske’s Aplewood Smoked Bacon $5

I actually did not add all of this up until after the fact and realized how expensive this little adventure turned out.

Final Result

The ice cream has had its 24-hour rest in the freezer.  To be honest I almost forgot about it since we started this process 3 days ago…

The end result was firm and very smooth frozen custard with chunks of candied bacon.  Exactly what we were trying to accomplish!  This is GREAT!  Let’s dig in…

But first, let me ask you this…  How many of you keep a little stash of bacon fat in the fridge for fried eggs and things?   OK, we have a few virtual hands raised out there, good.  Now, how many of you would take a spoonful of said bacon fat and place it in your mouth?  Really, no one? OK…

Remember a few steps back where we put sugar on our bacon and placed it in the broiler?  Notice how I neglected to remove the bacon, drain on paper towels and place on a fresh piece of parchment before starting the candying process?  Once the sugar is melted it all kind of blends together and in the rush to melt the sugar, and not burn it, you sometimes fail to notice these things.

I scooped a generous portion into a dish and dug in.

First bite?  AWESOME!

Second bite? Really good!

Third bite?  Uh oh… what is that?  It’s like a piece of butter or something…  Wait, there’s no butter in this…  Eww, it’s all over the roof of my mouth and covering my tongue.  Why can’t I taste anything?

Oh, crap…  It’s frozen bacon fat.  It’s not just a little frozen bacon fat, it’s a lot of frozen bacon fat.  The tell-tale white streaks are running throughout the custard…  Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present… Maple, Bacon, Bacon Fat, Custard!

It was awful…  I wanted to like it but that mouth coating of bacon fat just ruined it for me.  I still have it in the freezer of any brave soul wants to come on over and try it out.  It’s being thrown out tomorrow.  The bacon fat was not noticeable when the custard was in soft server form (and directly out of the ice cream machine.  Only after it has time to solidify did it become noticeable..

In retrospect, the maple custard was awesome by itself.  I think the addition of some toasted pecans would make it really good.  The next time we make this I’m substituting bacon for nuts.  In fact, I may be tossing that little container of bacon fat I see every time I open the fridge.  It’s going to take a little time for me to get over this one.

As with any recipe, the devil is usually in the details.  Had I thought to properly drain and blot the fat off the bacon I’m convinced this entire experience would have ended quite differently.

For those of you interested in making this for yourself, I’m including the recipe below.  Be sure to learn from my mistakes and drain that bacon!

Enjoy!

Maple Ice Cream with Bacon

  • 12 oz of the best maple syrup you can afford
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 20 oz heavy cream
  • 14 oz milk
  • At least six strips of caramelized bacon, cut into bacon bit sized pieces (I used brown sugar for the candy coating).
  1. Cook the maple syrup down to 1/2 its volume about 3/4 of a cup. This stuff tends to boil over so take it slow and low. Check it frequently and do your best to keep it away from a full boil.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cream, and syrup reduction. Stir to dissolve the maple syrup reduction. Bring to a bare simmer. Depending on the temperature when it is added, you may find that the syrup reduction solidifies. Do not fear. When you get above 160 degrees F, it will easily mix into the liquid.
  3. While the milk and cream are heating, mix the yolks with the salt. Beat well.
  4. Temper the eggs with the dairy mixture by slowly adding about 1/3 of the liquid(in two or three additions). Remember to whisk constantly during the tempering process. Add the eggs mixture to the remaining milk mixture. Stir constantly until the temperature reaches 175F.
  5. Cool to room temperature overnight. Freeze in your ice cream machine and add the caramelized bacon at the last minute or so of freezing.

 

 

Tilt Shift Photography

I’ve been seeing the Tilt Shift process more often lately & I find it pretty incredible.  Real landscapes and city scenes look like little toys.  Sometimes you have to really study the picture to determine if it’s real or a picture of a miniature set.

If you’re not familiar with this type of photography here’s a Google link to hundreds of examples.   There are software tools that let you take just about any photo and give it the Tilt Shift perspective.

I’m finding that a lot of these images make great desktop wallpaper on the computer.  The process can also be used for movies as seen in the following video.  This totally looks like some kind of claymation movie…

The Digital Pen That Delivers

I was in a meeting a few months ago and one of the vendors had an unusual looking pen. I quickly did a Google search and discovered the pen was called a “LiveScribe” pen and it has quite a loyal following.  The pen digitizes your handwriting, records meeting audio and a whole lot more.  After some online research and the discovery of a great deal on eBay I had one to try for myself.

The first thing I noticed once I unpacked the pen is its size.  I’m used to full sized pens with the daily use of my Dunhill Sidecar but this one was just a little bit chunkier (and all plastic).  The weight is well balanced and it’s pretty easy to get used to the feel of the pen.

The “secret” to the LiveScribe system is a special Moleskine like notebook with micro-dot paper and a pen with a infra-red camera in the tip. Navigation “buttons” at the bottom of each page control various functions of the pen.

If you don’t want to use the Moleskine type notebooks you can print your own pages if you have access to a 600 dpi color printer.  Other notebooks are available in various form factors.

After you turn on the pen (important) and take notes, you plug the pen into your computer and the software downloads a copy of your notebook.  The mico-dots tell the application what notebook and page the notes were written on.  You can have up to 8 notebooks in the system (200 pages each) before you have to start archiving data.  It’s pretty impressive how well this all works.  Individual pages from multiple notebooks can be grouped together into a virtual notebook within the software.  All pages can be printed for more flexibility.  Being left handed I found the spiral bound started notebook to be a little difficult to use but the Moleskine type books are working great.

The latest software upgrade allows you to draw a double line anywhere on the page and write “email”, “Facebook”, or “Evernote” and once you sync the pen your notes will perform that pre-defined action, such as email a copy of your notes as a PDF.

A built-in audio recording function allows you to record meetings and directly tie the recording timeline to your notes.  After the meeting you can tap any word in your notes and the recording will start playing what was recording when you were writing that particular word.  I have played with this feature a few times but very few of the meetings I attend really need to be recorded.  I did use it for a 2-hour vendor seminar and it worked perfectly.  The 4GB model will record up to 400 hours of audio.

Livescribe offers various applications such as foreign language translations and games such as hangman.  One of the most used features, besides the pen, is the calculator.  Inside the notebook covers (front and back) are calculator “buttons” that you can tap on at any time to perform just about any calculation.  If you need to perform scientific calculations an optional app and calculator card can be purchased for around $6.

For those of you that use Evernote, all of your notes can be synchronized with the online service.  An optional OCR application can even turn your handwritten notes into editable text!

This pen has a lot of powerful functions built into a small package.  The development of applications is a little slow but the apps that are available are solid and work as advertised.

The biggest thing you have to get used to is turning the pen on each time you use it.  If you don’t turn it on the pen will not capture your notes electronically & it works just like a (dumb) pen.

The Livescribe system, which includes the pen and a starter notebook is priced as follows:

  • 4GB Model $149.99**
  • 8GB Model $199.99
  • Journals vary in price from $9.99-19.99

**I was able to find my 4GB model on eBay for about 1/2 price.

It remains to be seen if the Livescribe pen is a toy or a productivity tool.  For now I’ll have to say the concept is working quite well and I have been happy with the purchase.