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How to transport pies / cheesecakes

I have been asked to make around 200 miniature pies and cheesecakes for a friend's party. I need to be able to transport them a fair distance and keep them refrigerated for transport and for a couple hours after I get there. I also want to keep them stacked so that meringues don't get crushed, etc.

My best idea so far is to fit 4-inch deep hotel pans into some 150-quart coolers I found - I think I can fit the pans in a 3x3 arrangement to hold around 100 desserts per cooler and just put ice on the bottom. But does anyone have any better ideas?

Sep 30, 2013
nickblesch in Home Cooking

Couple of quick Qs about St. Louis - hotel location, etc

Hey all, thanks for the assist here. I hadn't really spent time in STL since I was old enough to drive and we'll definitely be going back.

Moonrise was a great hotel - cheap and clean and cool, which is really more than I ever expect from a hotel.

Dinner on Friday was at Five Bistro - We both did the tasting menu with the wine pairings. Very happy with the meal overall - morels in the first course were great, lots of goat cheese with the salad, first time I ever had fiddlehead ferns (reminded me of a milder asparagus), and the dessert was this maple panna cotta with candied bacon that was very simple, sure, but one of the best desserts I've had. My only complaint with the meal was that I felt the trout in the third course could have been a bit better - the fish was cooked correctly but the skin wasn't particularly crispy and I think it could have been. Well worth the price of admission and if there weren't plenty of other places to try on our next trip we'd definitely go back.

Breakfast on Sat was at some hippee cafe (Meshuggah?) near the hotel - nothing special but tasty and cheap, which is fine by me.

Lunch on Sat was at Pi - We were eating a late lunch and wanted to save room for a relatively early dinner so we got the thin crust Cherokee St. Pizza. Great flavors that all mixed well together, a healthy dose of the toppings, and the crust was So. Good. I haven't had many thin crust pizzas that succeed so well at getting crispy & crunchy like that. I'm from Indy and we've got some solid pizza here (esp Pizzology), but I would love to have a place here that could do that kind of thin crust.

Dinner Sat was at Pappy's Smokehouse - Got to chat with the exec chef in line; he talked a big game and backed it up. I'm not sure that STL BBQ is my favorite (I have a gigantic soft spot for Carolina-style with gallons of vinegar), but this was solid. Between my wife and I we had ribs, brisket, pulled chicken, and pulled pork, with potato salad, green beans, sweet potato fries, and baked beans. The ribs and the chicken were the standouts - pulled chicken is rarely so juicy, in my experience - and the sides were all good. I think the green beans were frozen, given the texture, and they could've used a bit more seasoning, but given that I wasn't going to be joining the clean plate club anyway I didn't fret about leaving a few of them.

Then we went to the Eve 6 concert at Fubar, a block from Pappy's. The concert was great, the venue was even more divey than I expected. The only good thing about the venue was that they didn't gouge on drinks, and that's something anyway.

Brunch on Sun was at Brasserie by Niche - Wife had the quiche du jour, which sounded like it had too much stuff crammed in it (chicken, mushrooms, spinach, and like 4 other things) to be good (imho) but was easily the best quiche I've ever tasted - perfect crust, tender eggs, etc. I went with the french toast with lemon curd on the server's rec over the waffles, and I tipped him double what I would have because the french toast was good enough that it was worth paying for twice. We also split an order of the beignets and they were as good as everything else.

Other notables:

Slar Clipper comic shop was the nicest comic shop I've ever been in, and I can't wait to go back. It's got a great mix of American comics and manga, which is perfect for my dorky self.

Women's Closet Exchange is a consignment shop on the south side that my wife fell in love with - she got several super-fancy dresses for less than 20% of the original price, making it a shopping trip that left us both happy.

Apr 13, 2012
nickblesch in Great Plains

Couple of quick Qs about St. Louis - hotel location, etc

Thanks for the tips, everyone. I'll make my reservations this afternoon and do my best to report back with any useful information afterward!

Mar 28, 2012
nickblesch in Great Plains

Couple of quick Qs about St. Louis - hotel location, etc

Hello all,

My wife and I are going to be in St. Louis over Easter weekend. I'm not terribly familiar with St. Louis (a couple trips to the science museum and the zoo, like, 20 years ago).

The primary purpose for our trip is a concert in a bar by SLU on Sat night, and since it's like a block from Pappy's Smokehouse, that seems like destiny. Delicious, smoked destiny.

Question 1: I'm between Moonrise Hotel (which looks funky and cool) and staying in the Central West End. We like walkable / shoppable areas - rather it's hippeish vintagey stuff or more urbane - and I'd like a hotel where we can head out Saturday morning / afternoon and go exploring. Is there a location between those two that is better? Or somewhere else entirely?

Question 2: I'm guessing Easter Breakfast/Brunch plans should have been made, like, a year ago, but I didn't even start planning the trip until like a week ago. Oops. :P Brasserie and Home Wine Kitchen, if open and if available, seem consistently highly rated but we're down with good greasy spoons as well. Any other suggestions?

Thanks!

Mar 27, 2012
nickblesch in Great Plains

Good Mexican Restaurants in Indianapolis?

The best Mexican I've had is at the Tamale Place: http://www.thetamaleplace.com/

They started their business making fresh tortillas and discovered that Indy didn't have the market to support that, so they segued into making phenomenally delicious tamales (which are also quite large) as well as tacos, etc. It used to be takeout only but there are a few tables inside now. Everything is fresh, well-prepared, AND cheap.

The full range of everything but the tamales is available all day, but they only make certain tamales on a daily basis and they can run out of tamales early if lunch is busy. It's easy to get to from 465 on the west side.

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Tamale Place
5242 Rockville Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46224

Jan 16, 2011
nickblesch in Great Lakes

Indianapolis - Chicago-Style Italian Beef Sandwich

I'm not familiar with the place Danimal is referring to, but Fat Dan's in the Broad Ripple area has excellent chicago-style Italian beef / sausage / combo and hot dogs. Although there's obviously some ephemeral authenticity lacking when you're eating a regional food outside of that food's home region, I'd say that Fat Dan's holds up well taste-wise and compares well with Portillo's.

The french fries are absolutely delicious if you ask for them crispy - and you HAVE to ask - otherwise they're soggy and horrible. I can't fathom why any place would serve soggy french fries by default, but knowing that going in will save you.

http://www.fatdansdeli.com/

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Portillo's
555 E 81st Ave, Merrillville, IN 46410

Jan 16, 2011
nickblesch in Great Lakes

Indianapolis - Best Burger

I'll second Bub's and Boogie Burger for local places. Five Guys is, of course, always great though.

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Boogie Burger
927 E Westfield Blvd, Indianapolis, IN 46220

Five Guys
4320 Charlestown Rd, New Albany, IN 47150

Jan 16, 2011
nickblesch in Great Lakes

Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch in University Park or Highland Park

Hello hounds,

My wife and I are attending the wedding of a couple friends in Dallas this weekend and we'll have Friday lunch, Saturday breakfast & lunch, and possibly Sunday brunch free - and I would appreciate any recommendations y'all have. :D

We're staying at the Hyatt Summerfield at 8221 North Central Expressway, which is (according to Google Maps) north of the University and Highland Park areas. We're from the Midwest and neither of us has ever been to Dallas before.

We like just about anything, really, and our only particular preference would be a request for a good Tex/Mex place for lunch. We'd rather not break the bank, either; casual and cheap are just fine. :D

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

Oct 07, 2010
nickblesch in Dallas - Fort Worth

Adding a swirl to homemade ice cream

I'm a huge fan of sweet corn ice cream. I usually serve mine with a quick blueberry or blackberry sauce, but for whatever reason it never even occurred to me to try it caramel-corn style. Great idea!

(Now you've got me wondering if I could somehow make a cheddar sauce for it that wouldn't be totally gross...)

Jul 28, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

Cooking with Sour Cherries

I have an easy method for pitting, so long as you don't care what condition the cherries are in - for instance, in a sauce that's going to be cooked down, etc: use the flat bottom of a glass (or anything else, I suppose) to mash the cherries in groups and just pull the pits out. Make sure you cup your hand around the bottom of the glass as much as possible, as otherwise cherry juice will spray everywhere.

In your case, I'd think that even mashed cherries would look pretty good in a jam. If anyone says anything, tell them it's "rustic." :D

Jul 28, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

Great Cilantro Salad Dressing??

From Rick Bayless:

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

He recommends it over jicama and watercress, and I have to agree; it's super tasty. The lime compliments the cilantro far better than red wine vinegar, imho.

Jul 28, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

My Back is Out & I Need Simple Recipes

There's not much better than Marcela Hazan's simple tomato sauce discussed here:

http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/01/tom...

It's 3 ingredients dumped in a pot and stirred on occasion; boil some pasta to pour it on and dinner is served. :D

Jul 28, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

Do you boil potatoes in flavored water?

I've used flavored water or other liquids entirely to cook rice (e.g. adding lime to the water or just cooking the rice in orange juice), but I've never tried it with potatoes. Typically I just salt the water, but admittedly that's because my potato preparations are generally simple.

Given my absolute love for salt & vinegar chips, though, this sounds like an excellent idea. :D

Jul 21, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

Watermelon

Watermelon + feta is a great combo with a vinaigrette (I like champagne vinegar or lime juice) and some herbs - mint is the best, imho.

I've actually never done watermelon and chocolate, but I'd try it. :D

Jul 21, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

Corn & Blueberry salsa/relish

Thanks for the tips!

The next farmer's market is on Weds, so I'll pick some some goodies and give it a shot with (slightly) cooked corn. I might check with a few, but I suspect that smashed up raw blueberries would leave unappetizing skin pieces everywhere. I think it'd taste fine, but I just don't know how it'd look. So I don't think I'll smash up the blueberries, but giving them a bit of a cookdown can't hurt, either. (Using the frozen/thawed berries would probably work really well, but I just can't in good conscience buy frozen blueberries in July!)

That said, I suppose deconstructing things a bit with a blueberry sauce and a corn salsa would actually work just fine. All things considered, that might actually be a lot more attractive on the plate - I'm hardly an artist with my cooking, but I have some squeeze bottles and it's be fun to actually use them to fancy up a plate. :D (And that would lend itself well to a similar dish with blackberries as well. Mmm.)

I suppose I could consider myself particularly cool if I make a rustic version for the wife and I but tart it up a bit for company, heh.

I'll report back with my findings later in the week!

Jul 12, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

Wow, peas! Now what?

They make a great hummus-style spread:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

I've also seen them blended with a bit of cream and herbs to make a tasty pasta sauce that can be fairly light if you don't go overboard with the cream and use a bit of stock and the pasta cooking water to get the consistency you want.

Jul 11, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

Corn & Blueberry salsa/relish

Hello all,

Just under 2 years ago my wife and I were on our honeymoon and while at Clyde Common in Portland OR we had a delicious dessert involving sweet corn ice cream and blueberry sauce. The dessert became an instant tradition, and I'll be making the summer's first batch this week. Indiana may not be a culinary mecca, but man-oh-man do we know how to grow ourselves some corn! :D

Anyway, I am convinced that there must be more ways to use this flavor combo, and I've been experimenting with a blueberry & corn salsa/relish that would be good with pork chops. I'm having trouble getting what I want, though, and I thought I'd ask for any input others might have.

So far, the best I've come up with is a mixture of raw corn (good sweet corn is tasty even when raw), blueberries, a bit of red onion, a bit of jalapeno, mint, lime, salt, and pepper.

The biggest problem is that it's hard to eat properly - the blueberries are too big to fit on the fork with a bite of pork chop, and the whole mixture just doesn't gel together. It's not like a salsa (even pico de gallo) where you get the flavors all mixed together. It's more like a pile of corn with the occasional blueberry.

So: raw may not be the way to go, then. Blueberries can't really be cut in half, so it's whole or not, and I think if everything cooked down a bit it would give the flavors a chance to meld.

But if I'm cooking the ingredients into more of a sauce, I feel more inclined to skip the red onion/jalapeno/mint/lime and head more towards some thyme and...? I like thyme with berries, but I'm open to other herbs. I feel like some wine could be worked in there, but I'm only now discovering the joys of cooking with vino, and I'd be afraid that a white wine would be overpowered while a red wine would itself overpower the sauce.

Anyway: that's my late-night rambling about some ideas I've got.

Anyone else made something similar or have suggestions?

Thanks!

Jul 11, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

What to do with quinoa?

Some excellent recipe ideas here:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3294...

My fave uses for it are southwestern-inspired (black beans, corn, jalapeno, red onion, lime, cilantro, and other ingredients like tomato, bell pepper, avocado, etc, as available) and Greek-inspired (tomato, cucumber, red onion, feta, lemon, oregano, mint, etc).

Jul 11, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

Napolese in Indianapolis: a brief review

I do enjoy Turoni's - I grew up 2 blocks from the Main St location and I never say no to walking over there for dinner when I'm back in town. The beer is great, too.

Personally, however, I really enjoy Roca Bar's original location over on south Kentucky. It's not gourmet in any sense of the word, but it's old-school as heck and I love it. Their big salad with all the pepperoni/etc is delicious. Maria's in Fountain Square is almost identical to Roca Bar, right down to the ridiculous time it takes for the food to come out, and I'm okay with that. :D

Deerhead (3 blocks from my rents' house in Evansville) is another decent pizza place, but I usually end up geting a strom there. I haven't found a decent strom in Indy, which is heartbreaking after moving from Bloomington where there are a ton of good stroms.

Jun 28, 2010
nickblesch in Great Lakes

Napolese in Indianapolis: a brief review

Ahh, I should have mentioned that. The restaurant was quite loud, especially given that it was over half empty (we got there a bit after 9:00 PM). I think it'd be okay if you had a group going out for pizza and some beer/vino, but it's not exactly suitable for a date - unless you sit outside, I suppose.

As for the crust, it was a pleasant rustic shape and the outer crust had good flavor and was crisp. The crust under the toppings, however, couldn't hold up and the pizza was, for lack of a better term, floppy. You're not going to eat it with your hands, to be sure. As people's preferences on crust vary widely I'll say simply that the crust was fine, all things considered, but that it wasn't anything special to me.

Jun 28, 2010
nickblesch in Great Lakes

Indiana's Best Kept Secret

Although not four star by any stretch, I would nominate My Thai in Bloomington and the Deerhead in Evansville.

Although reaosnable people could certainly disagree, My Thai is my favorite Thai in B-town. The food (to me) is fresher tasting and better prepared than what you get at Esan Thai, and the service is much, much better than its competition.

The Deerhead is someplace I usually try to go at least once while I'm back in E-ville. The hot subs / stroms are some of the best in town, and the pizza is pretty solid if not anything particularly innovative.

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My Thai Cafe
3316 W 3rd St, Bloomington, IN 47404

Jun 27, 2010
nickblesch in Great Lakes

Tasty, affordable Indianapolis food?

Went to Napolese last night - review here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/716841

Short version is that Napolese is fine but Pizzology is divine. :D

Jun 27, 2010
nickblesch in Great Lakes

Napolese in Indianapolis: a brief review

The wife and I checked out Napolese last night.

First, rather than bread, they provide a dish of olives for the table. This is sensible for the restaurant because they're cheaper than bread, store forever, and there's no labor cost at all other than scooping them into the dish. It's excellent for the (olive-loving) consumer because it's something different.

We ordered the ricotta / pancetta spread as an appetizer. The spread was tasty enough, but heavier than expected - I think a dash of lemon (or a bit less pancetta and pepper) could make the dish a lot better. The ricotta was almost totally lost in the spread. That said, it may have been the case that I was simply expecting a bowl of ricotta with a bit of stuff mixed in when the dish is more of a bowl of stuff with some ricotta mixed in. The spread comes with a bowl of bread that has been grilled. The bread was good, but it was cut into long, thin strips that made it difficult to put the spread on - it needed to be cut into thick strips or wedges instead.

For dinner, we each ordered a pizza (and each took half a pizza home, so dinner tonight is covered). The wife ordered the Meridian Kessler (Italian sausage, mushroom, aged provolone) and like it a lot. The sausage was good & spicy, although perhaps nothing special. I ordered the BLT (bacon, caramelized leeks, taleggio). The bacon was almost (but not quite) burnt, which if done on purpose was great but I'm not sure if it was intentional. The leeks were excellent and gave an oniony flavor without overpowering the pizza as onions can do.

The sauce had a solid tomato flavor and wasn't too sweet. It was, however, a surprisingly bright red. The crust under the pizza was fairly forgettable - it was thin but not crisp - but the edge was good and crispy and made an excellent vehicle for scooping up the remaining ricotta spread. For those of you who are concerned about such things, this is knife & fork pizza, at least until you get close to the crust.

To drink, the wife had an amaretto cremosa that was well made and very good. I had an Oberon. (Neither of us is a huge wine drinker - given the option, I almost always get beer instead. The wine list looked good, to me, but I wouldn't take my word for it, heh.)

Overall: I liked Napolese, but it doesn't compare to Pizzology. People in Indy will argue about where the best non-gourmet pizza can be found (for me, Some Guys > Jockamo's > Bazbeaux, but I'll gladly go to Maria's as it reminds me of my favorite pizza back in Evansville), and if I want a "regular" pizza I'd happily go to any of those places. But if I'm in the mood for more than pepperoni and sausage on my pie, I would always drive the extra distance for Pizzology over Napolese.

Jun 27, 2010
nickblesch in Great Lakes

Bugs eating basil leaves.....

I feel like drowning them is too humane, lol. I (so far) seem to have had some luck by not watering the basil plant for a couple of days (90-ish degrees here) and letting wilt. The beetles all gave up and left, I started watering it again, and so far they haven't returned. /fingerscrossed

Jun 24, 2010
nickblesch in Gardening

What simple cooking mistake inspires disproportionate rage?

This thread is bringing up so many painful memories! :D

My wife wanted some cookies to take into work a couple days ago, and I wasn't feeling particularly inspired (nor did I want to run to the store for anything not in the pantry), and so I decided to just make plain ol' nestle's chocolate chip cookies. What could go wrong? Somehow, and I swear I followed that recipe to a T just as I have a dozen times before, I oversalted the cookies. Like, really badly oversalted them.

I *almost* sent them with her with instructions to say that they were chocolate-covered pretzel cookies ("the pretzels are ground up in the dough, honest!")...but I decided to just make another batch with the other bag of chips - and with half the salt that the recipe called for, just in case. The second batch tasted fine. :D

Jun 09, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

The "rules" of cookie baking--how important are they?

I forget where I learned this tip, but if you just put a bit of wax paper around butter and go to town on it with a rolling pin, it softens the butter in about 15 seconds. And it's rather satisfying in a primal sort of way, lol.

Jun 09, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

Best sandwich I ever invented

I didn't invent it, but ham, melty cheese, and apple butter on a croissant (or any bread, really) is a great combo.

Jun 09, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

What simple cooking mistake inspires disproportionate rage?

I'm guilty of frying/sauteeing at low temps. I'm slowly but surely overcoming my fear of the flame, though, as I upgrade my cookware to stuff that can handle the heat. :D

Personally, the thing that makes me lose it is cookies where the dough was too warm. It's never plainly obvious to me when the dough is too warm and you end up with a flat, greasy mess the exact size of a half-sheet pan rather than chewy chocolate chip goodness. And by the time you realize the mistake has been made, it's far, far too late to do anything about it. :P

Jun 09, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

Orange Cupcakes - how to use OJ for flavor?

Hello all,

I have a go-to lemon cupcake recipe from the June 2006 Bon Appetit that I've successfully adapted into a number of different recipes - the original calls for 3/4c buttermilk, 1/2c lemon juice, and 1/4c lemon zest.

(The best adaptation thus far involved using sweetened condensed milk and key lime juice & zest. Mmm!)

My wife loves orange things, and I would like to adapt the recipe for said purpose, but I'm afraid that fresh orange juice this time of year would be too watery - and for that matter, even good quality carton stuff might still be too weak.

Does anyone have any experience using OJ as a flavor in cake batter? Should I buy fresh/carton and reduce it down to strengthen the flavor, or would I be better off buying frozen condensed OJ? My only real goal is to avoid using extract - while I do actually like the flavor of orange candy, it tastes nothing like oranges. :P

Thanks!

Jun 09, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking

How do I start cooking?

It's been repeated a bunch of times here, but it bears saying again: don't be afraid of messing things up. As long as you don't leave the kitchen unattended with things on the stovetop or under the broiler, you probably won't damage anything terribly, and if your family already eats out a lot or order pizza (as mine did growing up), then the wrost-case scenario if you make a bad meal is that you just go out or order pizza. No harm, no foul. :D

When you're first starting out, it's perfectly sensible to look for cookbooks that cater to beginners - ones that explicitly explain terms and things like that. I'd recommend a trip to your local bookstore or the library to look through the introductory cookbooks until you find one that clicks with you and where you really understand the instructions it gives. Then take it home and give some of the stuff in it a try.

The biggest thing I recommend to my friends who are trying to learn how to cook is to learn a few basic recipes or concepts that can be easily adapted into more complex stuff or that can be varied in a number of different ways so that you don't get bored even if you're not feeling inspired. Suggestions along that line include: learning how to scramble eggs (you can add so much stuff to them or eat them with just salt and some pepper); how to make a basic tomato sauce, with or without meat; how to cook a versatile cut of beef like flank steak (good in tacos, on a salad, or with a side of potatoes); how to bake chicken breasts; and so on...

Jun 06, 2010
nickblesch in Home Cooking