Monthly Archives: August 2013

Forecasting Food Prices.

“Forecasting the Consumer Price Index for food has become increasingly important due to the changing structure of food and agricultural economies and the important signals the forecasts provide to farmers, processors, wholesalers, consumers, and policymakers” ~United States Department of Agriculture.

Many of the world have experienced food shortages at some point and we in the US are no different with the soup lines after the Great Depression of 1929. But this country was a lot younger then and there were fields to plow and farmers that would cultivate the land. But the farmers are dying off and there is no longer the next generation ready to step into the shoes of their ancestors, pick up the hoe or pitchfork and continue the toil, granted farming has come a long way with regard to machinery.

The regrettable outcome of this scenario has already caused food prices to rise in the restaurants and at the check out line. It is time to empower ourselves as a people and continue to shop and eat out (when desired) in not chain restaurants. Even the word ‘Chain’ is disturbing as it suggests being beholden and captive to a source we need to rely on. 

Living in Queens, NY clearly there is a wide array of places to shop for whatever food it is that I am buying, yet I always remain vigilant in locating local farmers markets and making the pilgrimage to spend my money with the producers. From the upstate dairy farms that peddle their wares of butter and cheese, other farms offering vegetables and fruits. 

Last week I purchased a bunch of carrots among many other farm fresh produce. The carrots had tall green tops that were not chopped off in the factories of Arthur Daniels Midland or Cargill. I stared at the tall green shrub and took close note of its fragrant small , sturdy root and deeply brilliant green color. I placed one atop my small barbecue with dying grey embers below and a farm fresh beet adjacent to it. Once I removed it, you could see the charring of the skin and the softening flesh which had a pliable crunch and a delightful taste. Would this be the outcome with the corporate bagged topless type of carrot? I do not think that would be the case at all. 



Local breakfast options for those on the run, that won’t cost you over $5.00. Yes. We have that.

But this morning I was in the mood for something different, the breakfast special seemed to fit the bill. One egg with your choice of ham, bacon or sausage on a roll, add .75 for American cheese. 
Just because there is no open flame cooking for the eggs had little bearing on purchasing a fair priced and good tasting breakfast sandwich. Glendale bake shop had been doing that for years, additionally the owner offered up the cook preparation, before getting to work on my order. 
Having open flame cooking requires a massive monetary investment to punch through to the 2nd floor, to the roof assuming you have the landlords permission. 

When speaking to the owner, I mentioned that I remember the prior business, which was called Hye Grocery. “That was 27 years ago” she offered with a kind smile “and I have been here ever since”. 

Personally I find breakfast the second most enjoyable meal of the day. Dinner will always hold top billing, as the preparation time, anxiety and excitement of options has just about all day to build.

Lunch is great and I do not intend to minimize the meal that keeps the energy level up and is useful for uninspiring first dates, second job interviews where you sit there wondering “Once they hire me, how many months until the unfortunate reality sets in of ‘I know more than 3/4 of the people here, why am I not in charge?’

Breakfast can be as unexciting as a bowl of oatmeal, yet I do find grits quite interesting and exciting,  not the instant. But can take on dinner like attributes of cooking such as poaching and baking, turning out items such as souffles, crepes and the simple yet comforting Italian Frittata, a personal favorite of mine.

Perhaps these advanced dishes are not easy to come by due mainly to location, but is an egg McMuffin really the next step down for a hot breakfast outside of the home? I must confess I see the blueprint of that disturbing scenario looming ever closer, as it an impending outcome already decided.

That’s not America folks, we are the country that was built on asking questions, not a country that will not ask the questions and accept the current state of affairs. But as a microcosm of the broader picture, what will be our options if these small Mom and Pop locations all are forced to close their doors and fall by the way side, eventually becoming a distant memory.

A bakery that serves a limited breakfast open for twenty seven years is an impressive amount of time for any business to survive. Add to the fact that Metropolitian Avenue experiences the marginal foot traffic and food & beverage establishments do not have an extended shelf life on The Avenue, between Ascan Ave and 68th Avenue.

Break the Chain! Support your local merchant and help put Local back on the map and menu!

Speaking of fast food, specifically hamburgers.

McDonald’s really is not review suitable as everyone you know and everyone I know that lives in this country and in many cases overseas, have found ourselves under neath and inside, the golden arched establishment.
More and more it seems that McDonald’s is becoming a place for families to eat many of their evening meals, as food prices continue to rise and jobs are becoming more scarce which I find so sad and troubling. I see car loads waiting patiently for the drive through representative to take their order.
The comparison:
You need $5.00 for four ears of corn or $10.00 for a few pounds of potatoes, basically the cheapest non bagged and non canned produce available, which one still needs to prepare and there is no protein to balance the meal.
However $5.00 will get your family four cheeseburgers and maybe a Coke to share. The burgers are unhealthy, saturated fat laden, grey frozen disks of future heart disease and other health complications, but drastic times sometimes call for drastic measures–but just how drastic is putting ones health and the health of his/her family at risk?
Other than the 3 month scenario of: grab a NY Times (toilet paper of record, but quality writing) the dog, as this location has a outdoor eating area an Egg McMuffin and a coffee, fast food chains across the board have nothing for me.

The fascination of Five Guys Burger and Fires remains a mystery to me.

There is a level of truth to the idea that I grade multi state, chain fast food restaurants with a thicker and bolder red pen. But I do feel their presence, outside of middle of America’s highway and byways is taking away from local individual entrepreneurs to take a shot at their own independently owned and operated food service businesses.

Yet, I still keep my reviews unbiased and always willing to give high marks if the chain is deserving of them.

My first experience with Five Guys was in South Carolina and I was quite disappointed. After reading a NY Times article about America’s Fastest Growing Companies, which Five Guys was written up quite well. From their humble beginnings right up to the point of burger super power  that they have become and remain today, my excitement was high but was once again left with a high level of disappointment . Highly greasy, high fat, low quality chopped meat and inferior ingredients in all other toppings. 

**How I miss the wonderful In and Out Burger in SoCal.** (Southern California).

The South Carolina experience aside, I hoped again that the locations in NY would be better. New Yorkers demand better quality food, so my thinking was reasonable in theory.

Strike up the sound of the the incorrect answer buzzer sound  from Family Feud- AAAhhhahHHa-not the Louie Anderson toned down buzz, no. The Richard Dawson buzzer: AAAhhhahHHaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

The Little Bacon Burger was an overpriced greasy mess served to me in a thin piece of greasy aluminum foil. How about offering the customer a complete roll of paper towels for an up-charge of $1.00, which I would have happily purchased.

$6.96 bought me a hamburger with no drink, no french fries. The bacon was the size of flooring splinters and so charred  were they in color and taste, they held absolutely no flavor, the lettuce and tomato amounted to one slice of each and were as wet as a pair of Sunday afternoon swimming trunks.

The workers were all under 25, realistically closer to 20. They did their jobs well enough, friendly, smiling, respectful and helpful, which was the bright spot in my experience, if you want to find a bright spot, flickering candle in a hurricane.

I can not at this point convince myself to revisit any of the Five Guys locations, as I just do not see my experience becoming much better.

Desperately Seeking Taco’s in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Taqueria El Maguey

3910 4th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11232
(718) 768-2846

Right off the rip, this small storefront looks a similarly like one of the Los Angeles little Taqueria joints from the outside. Painted an interestingly harsh sea-green, the color looks as if it was chosen straight from the 64 pack of Crayola crayons some of us colored with as kids-with the sharpener in the rear was the only way to go. I sauntered inside to see what was looking good for lunch, as there was no street side chalk boards denoting the daily specials which is common among the areas restaurants. Personally, I find the chalkboards not only interest piquing and attention catching, but can readily wrestle up an appetite even from a partially hungry tummy.

On to the food: The few tacos I ordered after reading the menu cover to cover, were what one has become to recognize as the typical taco meat choices. Unfortunately they were out of  the one’s I had wanted to order, this came to me as quite a shock as being out of one or two items can occur, but three and the first three I ordered? “This experience can only get better?, right”? was the shred of hope I forced myself into believing in the moment as the only other option was just to offer a sheepish “You know, I am not really hungry after all, have a nice day” But I stood strong in my resolve to walk out with tacos and walk out with tacos I would, just not what I wanted.

 Tripa, (translation: Tripe, which is the belly, gut and intestine portion of he cow) “Sorry, we do not have that today”  Alpastor (translation: Shepherd-and the way the pork is prepared, which is spicy, marinated meat. ” Umm no, we do not have that either” Cabeza (translation is head, but includes the brains and cheek of the cow. “Nope” 

Left in a quizzical state of mind on which menu item I should order next, I went with what I hoped was a sure bet in a very unsure taco cubbyhole, as it is a fixture in every Mexican food location

Please pass the darts, the dartboard and the menu again please…

Fourth attempt in my ongoing food request challenge, BINGO, H7 (Battleship) attacking New Guinea (RISK) whatever your preference in making a successful connection with the opponents opposition forces-

Enter the Carne Asada and Pollo Asada taco’s, (Grilled meat, grilled chicken) Feeling hungrier by the second, I thought to order the Enchilada’s de Queso as well because ordering food that does not exist certainly works up an appetite..

Enchilada’s de Queso was unusual looking dish from my experiences with Enchilada’s and cheese, not only in color and texture but in flavor profile as well. Spice throughout every bite and a pungent aroma to  boot. Credit for the boldness of having such a fiery menu item with no forewarning disclosed on the menu, like the little red pepper that has the heat lines above it. Unlike most all tacos I have had the immense pleasure of eating through out my travels, the taco’s here at Taqueria El Maguay, had diced yet chunky pineapple bits as a standard ingredient in both taco’s I ordered. so I assume it is a standard ingredient for all taco’s. Adventurous and refreshing upon my first bite, turned to a growing desire to pick the pieces out as my consumption continued. The pineapple addition just did not awaken the flavor, but did change the texture and took away from the cooked meat. Perhaps it may be a nice add on item.

Overall the rating I feel is appropriate for Maguay is two out of a possible five stars. This rating is the result of an unfriendly staff,  an un-kept dining area, which was only ten seats but rice and drink spillage upon some of the tables and floors. Additionally, not having 3 taco options in a row and over charging me for my total meal, by $4.00, which I noticed immediately and the cynic in me did feel that this was not a mistake of common mathematics, more of a opportunity.