January 29, 2011
It’s Oscar season! Which means two things: (1) I’m watching a lot of films, and (2) I’m eating a lot of popcorn. But not just any popcorn. Truffle popcorn.
Truffle popcorn has been around for several years as upscale bar food, but I first tasted it at Fleur de Lys in San Francisco, one part of a truffle trio appetizer. It was such a simple yet amazing concept that I took the idea back with me to southern California. There are a few truffle popcorn recipes floating around the Internet, but here’s the one we use at home:
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons black truffle oil
Heat 1/4 cup of cooking oil and 1/3 cup popcorn kernels in a large pan with lid. Cover pan with lid and move back and forth over medium heat until popping slows to one pop every few seconds. Remove pan from heat. Transfer popcorn to bowl and toss with olive oil and black truffle oil. Season with salt. (To distribute the oil more evenly onto the popcorn, we use a Misto sprayer.)
Eat it fresh at home or bring it in a container to the movie theater. (Pair it with a glass/concealed thermos of white wine for a higher fancy factor.) This is easily a tastier yet healthier snack than what they offer at the overpriced snack counters.
January 22, 2011
Though I don’t eat nearly as much fried, greasy goodness as I used to due to a desire to stay in single-digit clothing sizes and a fear of heart disease, I still love a good burger. It’s nice to indulge once in a while. To pat yourself on the back and treat yourself to something yummy after a long week of slaving to The Man (or The Woman, or The Persons). That’s how my and my husband — let’s call him Mr. Vivante — ended up at Slater’s 50/50 on a Friday night. Slater’s 50/50 is a casual restaurant/sports bar tucked away in a strip mall in Anaheim Hills. On sight alone, it seems pretty unassuming and not unlike your standard suburban eatery, but it’s been featured on The Travel Channel for showcasing items like a burger with a 50% ground beef/50% ground bacon patty, a bacon brownie, and even a maple bacon milkshake. It’s one of those places you have to check out at least once, at the very least to confirm the amount of fried pork on the menu.
Once we rolled into the parking lot a few minutes before 7:00 p.m., my nose picked up on the smell of meat, meat, and more meat. (Those poor women who work out at the Curves location next door. Yes. It’s directly next door. That’s an amazing sort of cruelty.) Inside, Slater’s 50/50 is nothing special. It separated into two sections: a room where only drinks and appetizers are served, and another room that offers the full menu and has a view of the open kitchen in the back. The bar, tables, and booths are nice-looking, sturdy, but simple. There are a few flat-screen TVs set up throughout the place and various framed pictures are hung on the walls. The space is full, clean, but is not elegant or chic by any means. The message is clear: you’re here for food, drinks, and sports. And many, many people were there for that when we visited. On this particular night, Slater’s 50/50 was packed and several people were sitting in the waiting area or standing outside the front doors waiting for a table. When I asked the hostess for a table for two, she informed me that the wait was going to be at least an hour. No problem, I said, we’ll eat at the bar. Luckily, there were two empty chairs right in front of us.
Though I can’t comment on waiter service, I can say that service at the bar was friendly, attentive, and quick. Our drinks, shared appetizer, and entrees were all out within a half-hour. The first thing we ordered, of course, were alcoholic beverages. Slater’s 50/50 does offer a small, basic selection of California wines for those inclined, but to get the full experience, order something from their extensive beer menu. They serve a large variety of domestic, imported, and craft beer, which greatly pleased Mr. V, a burgeoning beer snob. He asked for Goose Island Matilda and I requested Left Coast Tangerine Wheat, both on tap. As for appetizers, they are fried, fried, fried. Specifically, French fries, sweet potato fries, onion strings, fried artichoke hearts. They also serve typical American pub fare like cheese dip, buffalo chicken strips, and mac n’ cheese. Mr. V and and I split an order of fried dill pickle chips. The beer batter was light but not terribly flavorful, but the pickle chips overall were cooked well and hit the spot. My beer complemented the taste.
With our appetites whetted, we we ready to pick out our burgers. There are unique, signature items like the Thanksgiving Burger (turkey patty, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce) and the Peanut Butter and Jellousy (ground beef patty, peanut butter, jelly, and bacon). Mr. V went with the traditional route and selected the 50/50, which also features a medium fried egg, avocado mash, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle mayo. I decided to build my own, healthier sandwich: a turkey patty on a honey wheat bun with Gruyere cheese, sage mayo, sprouts, tomato, and yellow onion. The turkey was excellent, very savory and moist, and all the elements I chose were fresh and worked well together. I had a few bites of the 50/50 as well, and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I was expecting the beef-bacon patty to be too salty and rich, but it was quite tasty without being overwhelming. The whole sandwich, in fact, was delicious and balanced, despite the strange, seemingly random mix of toppings. We also decided to share an order of the french fries as a side to our burgers. I am a great lover of potatoes, and these potatoes? Rocked. They were cooked and seasoned perfectly: golden, not too crunchy or soft, not too salty or bland. We were two satisfied customers.
We didn’t have room for milkshakes or dessert, but it’s alright. We’re definitely coming back when we’re ready for another sodium-filled adventure. This is a far cry from the McDonald’s I had when I was a kid. It’s comparable to the burger big leagues. As we were leaving Slater’s 50/50, my husband and I talked about how the food was as good as the offerings at Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar in Las Vegas. Sure, the ambiance isn’t as cool or sleek, but the burgers are just as yummy and don’t require a plane ticket.