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Wanna plan a foodie road-trip

I believe Luella's has moved from South to North Asheville, on Merrimon in the building that used to be Boston Pizza (just south of the building that used to be The Hop).

Aug 18, 2009
JepJonson in General South Archive

Baking Supply Store in the Triangle?

As long as you don't spray or splash water directly on the heating element, the door, or the light bulb, you should be OK. The big advantage of cast iron is that it has a lot of mass to hold a lot of heat -- if you don't want to wait to season your skillet, spray the sides of the oven and the tops of the loaves, or splash the water on the floor of the oven.

The Bread Baker's Apprentice may be a little more accessible than Hamelman, but I don't find it as thorough or as accurate. A couple of examples: Reinhart advocates a full window pane test (p.58 in my edition); Hamelman explains why "[a]ppropriate gluten development does not necessarily mean full gluten development.," and discusses how overmixing may increase gluten strength, but at the cost of flavor (p.8). Reinhardt still refers to the degassing procedure as "punching down" (p. 66), which is misleading and a term not used by any serious bread bakers I know. Hamelman uses the current, more accurate term ("folding") and gives clear, explicit instructions (pp. 15-16). Reinhardt's discussion of how to score the loaves prior to baking (pp. 90-91) is general rather than specific, and the baguettes in the photograph (p.90) are badly scored. Hamelman's discussion (pp. 78 - 81) is far more detailed, comprehensive, and accurate, and the line drawings illustrate the process of scoring as well as the finished score. In drawing "A" at the top of p. 80, the first example of what not to do shows the problem with the baguettes in Reinhardt.

If you follow Reinhardt, you will still make fine bread -- but you will also pick up bits of misinformation (these are what I refer to as baking "folklore") that may keep you from making bread as good as you might otherwise. And I have found that once you learn these things, it's hard to unlearn them. This is one of the reasons I'm so high on Hamelman's book -- he contradicts much of the baking folklore I've read in books and was never able to duplicate in practice. It's easy, when you see something written in a book that doesn't jibe with your experience, to assume the book is right and you're doing something wrong (ie. mixing to a full windowpane). Hamelman validated many things I had observed in baking that ran counter to the received wisdom of other baking books.

I have seen comments that Hamelman is too technical, or inacessible to beginners. Since I had been baking a long time before I read Hamelman, I'm probably not the best judge of this, but most of the really technical stuff he puts in side bars, which you can read when you feel you need that specific information. I find his prose to be very clear, even when discussing technical information in detail. And his is the only bread baking book I know of that shows what it means to think like a baker -- the decisions you make at each stage of the process that accumulate to make huge differences in the final loaf.

Another book to consider is Baking with Julia (written by Dorie Greenspan) , the companion to the PBS TV series. It's not as detailed as Hamelman and Reinhardt, but covers an impressive range of baking (pastry as well as bread) in a surprisingly condensed format. It is written specifically for home bakers, and it favors how-to instruction over molecular chemistry (I don't remember much discussion of enzymes). If you learn to make just the basic doughs at the front of the book, you will already be a pretty accomplished home baker.

Aug 18, 2009
JepJonson in Southeast

Baking Supply Store in the Triangle?

There are any number of different ways you can steam your oven, from a spray bottle (don't spray the oven light!) to preheating a cast-iron skillet in the bottom of your oven and tossing in a few ice cubes or some water.

I would recommend you stick to instant yeast (SAF Red is instant yeast and works great). Fresh yeast is very perishable, has a shelf-life of 2 weeks (you never know how long it's been sitting in the cooler at the store), and near the end of its shelf-life it will appear OK during the first fermentation and then crap out completely. There's a lot of pure folklore about yeast, but commercial yeast in any form is basically the same. Differences in taste, if any, are due to differences in the way the yeast gets handled, not due to any differences between the forms of the yeast you're using. If you have a recipe that calls for fresh yeast, replace it with one third the weight in instant yeast and two thirds the weight in extra water. Dry yeast (not instant) has to be rehydrated, which I don't recommend -- too much trouble, and instant yeast produces identical results.

If you haven't done so already, find a copy of "Bread" by Jeffrey Hammelman. He's the baker at King Arthur, a former captain of the US national baking team, and his book is far and away the best bread-baking book I've ever seen. And most important, I have yet to find any inaccurate folklore in it -- it is the only bread baking book I can say that about. He is also a very fine teacher (class schedule on the King Arthur website) if you have the interest, time, and finances to travel to Vermont.

In the end, though, you're going to learn most just by baking. Every batch will be different, and even your failures will be delicious. Good luck!

Aug 17, 2009
JepJonson in Southeast

Vegetarian in Winston Salem?

Quazi, Lilyanna -- Thanks very much for the ideas. Would I have better luck if I included Greensboro as an option?

Feb 09, 2009
JepJonson in Southeast

Best roll/bun for pulled pork?

The traditional bread really is a plain old hamburger bun, but I prefer less plain hamburger buns (for hamburgers as well as BBQ) which I make out of Challah dough. Any good yeast bread will make good burger buns. Divide into 4 oz (120gram) pieces, and round the pieces into rolls. Cover and let rest until you can flatten them (about 10 or 15 minutes, depending on how stiff your dough is). Flatten them (either by hand or with a rolling pin) into discs about the size of your fist and about half or 3/4 inch thick. Put them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, close together so they're just touching. Brush tops with a beaten egg and proof away from drafts until risen and puffy. Egg wash just before baking for extra shine (optional) and bake at 375 until brown.

Feb 07, 2009
JepJonson in General Topics

Vegetarian in Winston Salem?

I'm taking a vegetarian colleague to dinner and am new to WS. Any recommendations? Needn't be an entirely vegetarian restaurant (are there any in WS?), but would like a place that at least puts some thought into their vegetarian options. I assume the local Indian restaurants (Nawab, Turmeric, Golden India are the ones I've heard of) would have a good selection; any preferences? Ethnic is fine, but not required -- really just looking for something good.

Feb 07, 2009
JepJonson in Southeast

Novice baker seeks cake yeast in Asheville

Fresh yeast (also known as compressed or cake yeast) is pretty hard to find. If you can't find it at the store, one of the local bakeries may be willing to sell you some (generally a 1 or 2 lb block) but if you befriend the baker he or she may just give you a small amount. Or you can substitute instant yeast (2 teaspoons instant yeast plus 2 1/2 teaspoons water equals one 0.6 ounce cake of fresh yeast), Mix the yeast in with the flour, add the water to the rest of the water in the recipe. Make sure you use instant yeast not active dry yeast. Fleischman's sells it variously as Rapid Rise in pouches or as Bread Machine Yeast in a jar, or as Instant Yeast in 1-lb vacuum-packed bags available at Sam's Club -- it's all the same. There are lots of myths and legends about the differences between the variuous forms of yeast. They are all the same yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae) differing in the fineness of the particles and the amount of water they contain. Active dry is the least convenient because its particles are course and it has to be rehydrated before it can be mixed into the dough. Fresh yeast is perishable (2 weeks shelf life, inclusive of however long it's been sitting in the refrigerator case at the store) and, as you've discovered, it's hard to find. Instant yeast has much finer particles than active dry, it absorbs water easily so it doesn't have to be rehydrated and can be mixed right in with the flour. I used to use fresh yeast, now I use instant exclusively. There is some controversy (and misunderstanding) about Rapid Rise, which is a brand name Fleischman's uses for its instant yeast. Some folks think Rapid Rise is bad for bread because it rises too quickly and doesn't give the bread enough time to develop flavor. Rapid Rise is actually the same instant yeast. Fleischman's just puts a little bit more of it in the envelope, which does indeed make the bread rise faster, but it's purely a marketing ploy -- the yeast is the same. If you measure or weigh it rather than using the whole packet, you'll get the same results as with other instant yeasts. Red Star, Fleischman's, and SAF are all brands of yeast. Each has their own version of instant, active dry, or fresh yeast.

Oh, and good luck with the bagels!

Jul 31, 2008
JepJonson in General South Archive

Best Indian in the Triangle, NC?

Thanks for the tip on Turmeric; just the kind of information I come to Chowhound for. Where is Turmeric? Couldn't find it at triaddiner or on Google.

Mar 28, 2008
JepJonson in General South Archive

Boone, NC- Red Onion Cafe or Cafe Portofino For Casual Dinner?

I'd go to Portofino and check the board for specials. I've been to Red Onion only once, and I just don't remember much about it -- don't remember that it was bad or good, just that when I left I had not temptation to return. Bert at Portofino's does flavorful things with seafood and pasta -- several variations on crusted fish (usually salmon or mahi) with pasta and a sauce. Doesn't overcook the fish. His sauces are nicely balanced -- flavorful, not too rich, and they bring the pasta and seafood elements together. Portofino is also my "go to" place when I get a spaghetti and red sauce craving and I'm too tired (or too lazy) to boil water at home.

Feb 21, 2008
JepJonson in General South Archive

Cast Iron Confusion

Usually, after each use I put a little oil and some coarse salt in my pans and rub them with a paper towel. Rust spots take some extra rubbing, but once you get the pan well seasoned, rust won't be a problem (although if you don't use them regularly, even well seasoned pans will rust). For the OP, I think any of the methods you mention will work, but rather than burning off all the old seasoning and starting over, try rubbing out just the spots where the seasoning has failed, keep the pans oiled, and keep cooking. Until you've developed a good patina, frying is better than any cooking method using liquid, and definitely avoid tomatoes or other acidic liquids.

Oct 13, 2007
JepJonson in Cookware

Asheville's Best Restaurants

In deference to the near universal acclaim for Limones, I've refrained from commenting on their "Spanish paella." I had it some months ago -- as I remember, it was one of their specials -- and even to call it paella is a travesty. More like yellow Uncle Ben's with seafood and vegetables. Even if I could forgive their using long grain rice (which I can't if they insist on calling it paella), I can't overlook that they cooked the rice in water instead of stock (and didn't even bother to salt the water, at that), and that if there was any saffron in the dish at all, which I doubt, it was only enough to turn the rice the palest shade of yellow. No flavor whatsoever, to the extent that the only elements of the dish that tasted of anything at all were the peas and the mussels. It was served in a bowl, rather than a paella pan, and the complete absence of any crispy rice, combined with the lack of flavor, tell me that the ingredients were cooked separately and combined just before service. If the rice were over or undercooked, if the seafood was tough, if the peas were too al dente or mushy -- any flaws of execution I could have chalked up to a bad night in the kitchen and given them another chance. But the dish I had was simply not paella, it was not even good food, and its flaws were in its conception and design, not in execution. And they are cynical flaws, corners cut in a way that only the mendacious would try to pass off. So even though Limones gets rave reviews elsewhere on this site, I haven't returned and don't intend to.

Oct 01, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Anyone Been to the Mining Company in Boone?

I can't find any information about the Mining Company. Did the listing you saw give an address?

Sep 07, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Blowing Rock, NC--Storie Street Grille

I prefer Bistro Roca to Storie Street

Sep 05, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Boone, NC dinner out

I don't get to Blowing Rock very often, but I've enjoyed Bistro Roca for wood-fired pizzas (duck breast, goat cheese and dried cherries was particularly nice) and their wine and beer. Good food, attractive room, knowledgeable staff who like to eat and drink well. I've had mostly good luck with the Best Cellar in Linville -- the original is in BR -- apart from desserts. Last time there I did get an astonishingly icey sorbet (botching the sugar concentration is easy enough to do, but not the mistake you would expect from professionals). However, I have to confess I have an ongoing beef with desserts in the High Country; although the Best Cellar does run the same, dull list of usual suspects on their dessert menu, they USUALLY execute them better than most others up here. But I won't be ordering their sorbet again.

Sep 05, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Bill Spoon (BBQ in Charlotte) dies

Thank you, goodeats, for a succinct and eloquent tribute to Mr Spoon and his BBQ. My next trip to Charlotte I'll make it a point to stop in and remember him in exactly the manner you prescribe.

Aug 29, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Boone, NC dinner out

I like Vidalia's quite a lot -- neuveaux Southern, not quite as upscale (or as expensive) as Mast Farm Inn or the Gamekeeper. It's a small operation, run mostly by chef/owner Michael Vetro with a few helpers. His pimiento cheese is among the best I've had [idea, perhaps, for a separate thread -- good places for pimiento cheese, which is something akin to southern caviar].
The last two times I went to Casa Rustica, I was disapointed with the food and the service. Very inexperienced college kids running the front of house without apparent adult supervision. I've heard from a reliable source familiar with Italian food that Sorrento's in Banner Elk has an Italian visiting chef for the summer who is spectacular. Don't know if he's still there.
Avoiding any form of Asian food in the High Country is still, unfortunately, your safest option.

Aug 29, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Updates on Jim Leff's Rec in Boone, NC?

Had BBQ ribs at Foscoe Country Corner (the name of the Citgo station) last night -- very good. Nice smokey flavor without tasting like a tree stump. The meat was tender and moist, and appropriately "toothsome.," ie. falling off the bone in whole pieces, not in shreds. The sides are pedestrian, except for the green beans, which are half-runners (the absolute exemplar of the southern green bean) and delicious.

The smoker, incidentally, is in a little shed out back, and when they fire it up it perfumes the whole neighborhood with the smell of hickory. I can't say I've ever had that experience at Bandana's or Baxter's, Baxter's has a tiny smoker out front in the parking lot (obviously just for show) and even this display smoker conceals a little propane tank. That pretty well summarizes the taste -- very little smoke, more pork roast than BBQ.

Although I liked the ribs at the Foscoe Country Corner, I agree with Jim's original assessment of the pulled pork -- nicely smoked, but I don't care for the sauce (too sweet). Scpierce is indubitably correct -- the sauce would be improved by a touch of whisky. Better yet, two touches -- one for the sauce, another for the diner.

Aug 18, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Vegan Cake

Try Earth Fare on Folly Beach Road -- they used to do vegan cakes several years ago.

Aug 16, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Updates on Jim Leff's Rec in Boone, NC?

Jonson's Bakery (aka Kersh's Old World bakery) at entrance to Mill Ridge just south of greater downtown Foscoe on 105.
Thu -- Sat 8:30 - 10:30 and 1:30 - 4:30
Sun 9:30 - 3:00
(828) 963-5668
Muffins, scones out at 8:30
Sticky buns, brownies around 10:00
Breads around 3:00
Breads also available in Earth Fare in Boone

Aug 15, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Strategic Guest Ejection

In college, I used to start reciting the prologue to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English. Don't think I ever got past the "smalle fowles makken melodye."

Jun 21, 2007
JepJonson in Features

Vegetarian options in Boone / Blowing Rock NC?

Melanies is still there (644 W. King St). Moon Shine, which is in the Old Jail House, might be another option. I think it's run by the same people who started Angelica's and the Coyote Kitchen, and has an emphasis on organic/local ingredients, which usually correlates to vegetarian and vegan options. I haven't been, so I can't comment on its chow-worthiness.

Jun 14, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Why can't I make pancakes?

Chloe -- from your description of pancakes that are either burnt or mushy, it sounds like you need to adjust your temperature. Probably the easiest way is to get an electric griddle with a thermostat. I don't have one (and like you, I have an electric stove), so I experiment with burner settings until I find the set point for making the best pancakes, then I remember that set point. I use all 4 burners when I make pancakes. Not only does each burner have a different set point, but each pan also cooks differently, so I use the same pan on the same burner each time.

Jun 02, 2007
JepJonson in Home Cooking

Early Girl (Asheville) - A Review

Congratulations to your grandmother, and -- as they say down here -- Bless her heart. I haven't tried Sunny Point, but have been tempted to based on yours and other posts. Although lard is unbeatable for a flaky, tasty biscuit, I think the problems with Asheville biscuits (having learned that even Sunny Point can't make a good biscuit, I'll generalize that Asheville is not biscuit country) is one of technique rather than ingredients. Butter makes a fine biscuit. When I was a kid, most everyone made biscuits out of Crisco (back then, shortening and margarine were considered healthier than butter) -- the buttermilk carried the flavor, and they were flaky, tender, and light. I think even a vegan biscuit should be light and tender -- Spectrum non-hydrogenated shortening or Eath Balance margarine, soy or rice milk with a little vinegar -- the basics are still the same as long as you cut the fat in right, get the moisture content right, and work the dough just enough but not too much.

Oh... you're probably right about the healthy living, but if I have to give up good biscuits and side meat or ham hocks in my greens and beans, I just don't know that I really want to live that long.

May 31, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

How do I make cheese grits?

For savory cheese grits (when I'm making shrimp and grits, for example) I throw a bunch of spices into the boiling water before I add the grits -- garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, paprika, salt, white pepper. I go through the spice drawer and put in a very small pinch of whatever I have on hand that matches the flavors of the rest of the dish. Then I cook the grits low and slow, stirring often enough to prevent scorching, and add grated cheese at the end. I use a water:grits ration of 5:1 and plan on cooking them for about 45 minutes (turn the heat down until only the occasional bubble breaks the surface). They start out very runny, but thicken as they cook and end up creamy and good.

May 30, 2007
JepJonson in Home Cooking

Early Girl (Asheville) - A Review

I suspect this is boiling down to a difference in what we consider a good biscuit. EG's biscuits do have the virtue of consistency -- I last ate there the end of March, early in the morning, and the biscuits were as they always are. I still think my earlier description is accurate -- it's not so much that they taste bad, but that the texture doesn't resemble anything I've experienced from the hands of a long line of family biscuit makers. I have made biscuits myself that resembled EG's, but that was when I was a mere sprat of a baker, and even then I recognized that they were what they were -- mistakes. I do prefer a biscuit that tastes good to one that looks pretty; the Doughboy's biscuits in a tube, for example, promise to be paragons of aery delicacy and nothing this side of puff pastry beats them for the number of layers, but they taste like a mouthful of chemicals. EG's, I grant you, don't do that. And it's not that I've ever sent one back as inedible. But if I -- or, for that matter, any biscuit maker in my family -- made biscuits of that texture, we'd probably save them for stuffing the Sunday chicken.

I hesitate even to write this -- and hereby aplogize for not yielding to my hesitancy -- Lord knows there is already enough high dudgeon to go around about the sanctity of Southern foodways, and only BBQ is guaranteed to squeeze out indignation by the bucket more than momma's biscuits. So it certainly is not not my intention to fan the conflagration, or to diminish the enjoyment others get out of EGs breakfasts. But sometimes I wonder if Ashevilleans haven't gotten too used to some of the compromises perpetrated in the name of healthy / organic / macrobiotic / vegan foods (or here substitute an adjective of your choice). EGs biscuits remind me of the vegan biscuits at Earth Fare -- not bad for vegan, but not very close to the Platonic ideal of a biscuit.
Now, pardon me while I cower behind my computer screen and wait to be pelted with biscuits -- but please not with Early Girl biscuits, they're just too damned hard.

May 30, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

British Theme Party Suggestions?

Roasts of any kind, particularly with horseradish or mint sauce (much better than mint jelly)
Roasted veg, particularly root vegetables
Offal
Game
Plaice, Dover sole, cod in cream sauce, sprats, pilchards, anchovies, whitebait
Savory pies (game, fowl, seafood as well as beef, pork, etc.)
Veal, lamb and mutton
Sticky toffee pudding
Lemon tarts (with lemon curd)
Shortbread
Things on toast (Welsh rarebit, devils on horseback, angels on horseback -- kippers, anchovies, asparagus, egg yolks scrambled with anchovy paste, goose liver, herring roe, finnan haddy, marrow)

May 30, 2007
JepJonson in Home Cooking

Early Girl (Asheville) - A Review

My other gripe is their biscuits, which are dry, dense, hard little hocky pucks. Fortunately they provide butter, honey, and preserves to doctor them with. True, they are made in house, but not by anyone with a real "biscuit hand." Otherwise, the breakfast is a step above the usual Waffle House fare.

May 30, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Charlotte to Boone, NC on US-321

Sonny's is the place downtown Blowing Rock that looks like a 1950's lunch counter. As I understand it, after Sonny died, his family ran it for a while. Not sure what, if any, connection there will be with the new place, or if they will keep or change the name.

May 25, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Charlotte to Boone, NC on US-321

Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock -- casual but not seedy. Good selection of wine and beer, knowledgeable staff (many are themselves enthusiasts), comfortable bar. Wood-fired oven, food is imaginative without being bizarre. Last time I was there I had a pizza with duck breast, goat cheese and dried cherries, which I liked quite a bit.

For meat and taters or a good breakfast, try Knights on Main. Good meatloaf, fried oysters on Fridays, southern-style vegetables with sweet pepper relish. Desserts aren't much, but that's pretty much true throughout the high country.

Frederick Coffee (formerly of Coffee's in Boone) and Tina Houston (formerly of The Old Jailhouse in Boone) are opening a breakfast and lunch place in the old Sunny's Grill in Blowing Rock. From what I understand, should be open by the time you're here. Based on track record of Frederick and Tina, worth a try.

May 24, 2007
JepJonson in General South Archive

Southern-style dinner party ideas?

App: Pimiento cheese on homemade crackers (jalapeno or chipotle pimiento cheese even better)
Salad: wilted cucumber salad (cucumbers and onions in a sweetened vinegar dressing)
Pie: Buttermilk pie (lighter than chess pie -- really good with fresh raspberries and a fresh raspberry sauce)

May 19, 2007
JepJonson in Home Cooking