Saturday, November 21, 2009

Barley's Brewing Co.

Barley's Brewing Co., originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Porter from Barley's.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Crispy Pork Belly

Crispy Pork Belly, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Crispy Pork Belly with Parsnip Puree and smoked mushrooms at Mecklenburg Gardens.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


You just can't go wrong with Campus Pagliai's....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cuba, eh? Take 'er down Smithers!

Being that it has been such a great day, I made a point of enjoying a nice glass of the Laphroaig with a recently purchased cigar.

Look, we just came back from Canada. You do the math.

Stupid embargo...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Presti's Bakery

Presti's Bakery, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Mocha and Chocolate Chip Cannoli at Presti's in Little Italy.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009


Laphroaig, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

My boss is THE most awesome boss ever. EVER...

Monday, September 14, 2009

You tell me it's the institution...

You know what I know love about Steaks au Poivre? Absolutely every fricken' thing possible.

There is something about fork tender beef, f**kloads of fresh cracked peppercorns, a healthy dollop of butter and cognac.

The first time I ever tried a Steaks au Poivre was at SamB's in BG, and it was the only dish I ever ordered until those pricks took it off the menu. Actually I recall going there less after that too...

Anyways, I was immediately captivated by this dish. Outside of the Brown Jug at Trotters, there is no better way to serve a steak. Yeah, that is a bold claim. But I stand by it. Whenever I go to a restaurant which prepares steaks, I always look for an au poivre option. Most places, however, don't. The Grand Finale in Glendale is the only place I know of around here but Kerrie and I only make it out there once, maybe twice, a year.

So you can imagine my excitement, my pure bliss, in scoring a few filets of beef - perfect for steaks au poivre and a nice bottle of burgundy.

To make a good au poivre, only a few essential items are necessary. A heavy pan, some beef filets, heavy cream and cognac. Butter, Sea Salt, Olive Oil, and Peppercorns should be part of your on-hand inventory.

Peppercorns, are the key ingredient in this dish. They form an amazing crust, not entirely spicy. On top of that, they balance with the creamy cognac sauce.

The other dirty secret about steaks au poivre is that is stupid-easy to make. If you know the rules, and have your prep ready, this dish comes together in mere minutes.

Steaks au Poivre

1 T Olive Oil
1 T Butter
2 Beef Filets
Sea Salt
Crushed peppercorns (enough to coat both sides of the beef generously)
1/3 cup Cognac
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1 T Butter

Start by bringing your beef to room temp, about 1 hour.
Lightly rub the beef with a small amount of Sea Salt on both sides.
Press the peppercorns into the filets on both sides. Don't be stingy.
Over medium heat, melt 1 T of butter into the olive oil in a pan big enough to hold both filets.
Sear the filets for 4 minutes on each side for medium rare.
Set steaks aside and remove pan from heat.
Quickly, but carefully, pour the cognac into the pan and scrape up all the fond that is stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Return pan to heat and add the cream.
Reduce the sauce, stirring constantly, until thickened - about 5 minutes.
Finish the sauce with 1 T butter and divide between the two filets.


The French serve this dish with fries. I'm partial to garlic mashed potatoes and field greens. Either way, you really can't go wrong with a dish like this. You just can't...

At Steak 'n' Shake and can't figure out if the bracelet the waitress is wearing is from The Office 'rabies' episode or not.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Take5, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

1/4 Pound Angus Burger with Saratoga Chips from Take5 grill.

Kinda bummed out. Take5 no longer has a Cajun Chicken sandwich. Meh. I'll try a burger...

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day

Labor Day, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Packo's Hot Dogs and homemade Saratoga Chips.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Graeters Mini Scoops

Graeters Mini Scoops, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Vanilla with the Bean, Caramel, Toffee Chip.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Who says that's not the way it should be?

Every year I get together with a former co-worker and we work a festival at St. Joe's Parish in Kentucky. I can finally say "every year" seeing as this was number 3 and we're already confirmed to come back next year.

Erik, or BigE as he is sometimes called, and I always meet up at the University around 9:00am on whatever Sunday we're needed and trek down to Crescent Springs. It's weird, because Erik and I only see each other this one Sunday out of the year (despite the numerous phone calls between us) yet it instinctively all comes together.

Immediately we start on our prep. There will be hundreds of people stretching for what seems like miles waiting for Fried Chicken and Roast Beef in a just a few hours. Erik's first task is to slice 30 pounds of beef and get it rolled, placed in hotel pans and covered with au ju. Right away I start knocking out the green beans and getting the endless stock pots of water up to a boil for potatoes.

We both make pan after pan of gravy, adding bits of fried chicken breading, and do a constant rotation on dishes so they (and WE) don't get behind. Our only goal is to have EVERYTHING ready at all times. I think we congratulated ourselves a few too many times yesterday, but I also realize that we knocked that sumbitch out of the park. Seriously, most of our day was standing at attention waiting for what was needed next. And the second we took out one pan we were refilling a backup.

For some reason, BigE and I share a minor celebrity status when it comes to doing this. People go out of their way to greet us and make it clear how high up on the chain they are and how happy they are that we came back. It's strange to take this all in, but we manage.

The day, admittedly, is a long one. Or at least it feels long. 9:00am till 9:00pm. It's not like a regular job with breaks and all that OSHA bullshit. It's a do-or-die, get IT done, no-fail scenario. Make food, be praised for it, get paid.

By the end of the day, my back and legs are stiff and I'm grimy. I'm covered in a thick film of mashed potatoes and dirty dishwater. I'm way too sober and I'm singing Kung Fu Fighting while I'm scrubbing my work table. And yes, I did the white-guy Karate moves... Everything feels good.

Finally, we say goodbye to Jane and she makes it clear she'll be calling in April for NEXT years festival. We thank her and she thanks us. It becomes a battle of who's more grateful, but we let her win. We WANT to come back. Despite being tired, hot, and dirty, we love this gig. As I drive back home to meet up with Kerrie for dinner at Steak-n-Shake (our yearly tradition) I contemplate how much I love doing this. I crank up the AC and put on some Massive Attack, and while heading up the highway I realize that THIS is why I got into this messed up life-consuming career in the first place. And I loved every minute of it...

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Festival, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Why the hell is it so hot in here?!?

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Dinner, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Skirt steak tacos.


Dinner, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Lime and Black Pepper Skirt Steak.

Dinner Prep

Dinner Prep, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Mojito, lime, fresh cilantro.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Dinner, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Sliders with wedge cut fries. (Chipotle, Montgomery Inn BBQ, Ketchup & Stout Dijon)

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Dinner, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Chocolate Cherry Chicken Mole.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Lunch, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Grilled Cajun Chicken sammiches. I miss Junction...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Roasted Rosemary Pork Loin for lunch. Moist, tender and slightly salty: All the things I love about pork...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Dinner, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Whole wheat spaghetti with Zinfandel Marinara.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza

Homemade stuffed crust pizza...

Friday, July 24, 2009

You know the thing about chaos? It's fair...

Give the phenomenal success last summer of The Dark Knight, I feel less dorky writing out this little blurb...

When I was a kid, my mom was pretty vigilant about making a proper breakfast for my brother and I. Not just a quick cereal or pop-tart type thing, but an actual hot meal made from scratch. One of my favorite breakfast meals, and one that was frequently requested, was from the uber-campy D.C. Super Heroes Super Healthy Cookbook.

The Invisible Bat Banana French Toast was, and I recently realized still is, one of my favorite and utterly simple childhood recipes. I remember when my mom would make, that I always thought of it as some laborious chore. Something complicated and time consuming? But hey, it was mom and mom had it all under control.

Okay, let's skip the fact that Robin (with a huge grin on his face) just suggested putting the "banana" IN The Batman, and jump forward to the summer of 2009. For my birthday my mom got me a Calphalon Double Burner Grill/Griddle. Immediately I was thinking of things like fajitas or shawarma, but I was struck with a fond memory of the Banana French Toast so I had to make it.

Banana French Toast
2 Eggs
2 Bananas, cut into chunks
1 t Vanilla
1/4 cup Milk

Puree all ingredients in blender until smooth. Batter with be thick.
Soak bread slices briefly in batter to coat, cook on griddle over medium heat until golden.


Paired with maple sausage patties from Jungle Jim's, enjoying this breakfast was something so very comforting. It made me miss a time I had almost forgotten and it made me REALLY wish Heath Ledger hadn't Darwined himself.

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Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard - Why So Serious
Found at bee mp3 search engine

Rib City

Rib City, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Riblets, corn, garlic toast and french fries at Rib City. Excellent BBQ...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ragu Sammich

Ragu Sammich, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Ragu Sammich on Ciabatta.

Just had a piece of Lime Cheesecake. Perfect balance: not too tart, not too acidic...


Sammy's, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Cheeseburger ' Fries at Sammy's in Blue Ash. Great burger, a tad pricey though...

Blueberry Muffin and a cup of coffee? Perfect... Blueberry FLAVORED coffee? Not so much...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sudden craving for Chocolate covered Caramels with Sea Salt. Possibly with a nice Brandy? Or Pino Noir?

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Fondant, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Making Rolled Fondant...

Sunday, July 05, 2009


BBQ, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Smoked Chickens at my brothers place...

Friday, July 03, 2009

Toledo Botanical Gardens

Toledo Botanical Gardens, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Foie Gras in its natural element.

Toledo Botanical Gardens

Toledo Botanical Gardens, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

I really need my own private vineyard...

Trotters Tavern

Trotters Tavern, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

The Brown Jug. THE best steak ever. I'm starting to miss BG more and more...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Grounds for Thought

Grounds for Thought, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Coffee at Grounds for Thought. It has been FAR too long...

Monday, June 29, 2009

New Message

New Message, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

New Message

New Message, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

New Message

New Message, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

New Message

New Message, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Birffday Dinna!

Birffday Dinna!, originally uploaded by johnnytao2000.

Dinner at BJs Brewhouse - PM Porter in hand...