Just a note that the Foo(d) Bar Blog may be down tonight while my ISP migrates the IP address used by the server. The change could take up to 24 hours to reach all DNS servers, so I apologize if the site is unavailable for any length of time during the migration.

Those living in or near Chandler will be happy to know that a new 60,000 square foot Whole Foods Market is set to open on the corner of Ray and Price Roads sometime this summer. Currently, the closest Whole Foods is on Rural Road in Tempe, and a bit out of the way for many of us in the East Valley. For me at least, the new Whole Foods will be a relatively convenient stop on my way home from the office.

Phoenicians rejoice! BevMo Beverages & More, the popular California wine, spirits, and beer giant is headed to the Phoenix area. Their first store in Arizona is set to open on September 29, 2006. Located at 7230 W. Ray Road (across from AJ's), the 13,000 square foot Chandler location will carry upward of 3,000 wines, 1200 spirits, 800 beers, 1000 specialty foods, 150 cigars, and assorted glassware.

Personally, I can't wait for BevMo to open. I find the wine and beer selection in the Phoenix area to be pitiful. While AZ is certainly convenient with beer, wine, and spirits available in grocery stores, what you pay for that convenience is choice. I realize there are a few decent specialty shops and liquor stores in the area with a better selection than most, but I really haven't found a place that I can honestly say I've been impressed with.

Maybe it's because I used to live two miles from a Total Wine & More, where the wine selection was over 8,000 bottles , the spirit choices over 2,000, and more than 1,000 different beers. Maybe it's because I'm tired of paying AJ's inflated prices just for a little variety. Whatever the case, BevMo is sure to make an impact in the area.

Just a quick note that I've gone back in and added additional categories/tags to all restaurant reviews based on location. You can now use the category/tag pod to filter restaurant reviews based on location, both by city and by state. Eventually, I'll use this to drive a Google Maps mashup, but for now it should make locating restaurants in a particular area a bit easier.

File this one under "you learn something new all the time". Last week, Pere and I were in the mood for mussels, so we broke out the Staub Mussel pot I bought her for her birthday and got to work. I had purchased some pretty decent mussels from our local gourmet grocery store, AJ's and was looking forward to enjoying the splurge (at almost $8 a pound).

Following the recipe I found, I submerged the mussels in cold water for around 30 minutes to allow them to filter, just like you would do with clams. After the 30 minutes were up, I went through the 2 pounds of mussels to discover about a quarter of them were dead. Their shells were agape, and tapping them did not cause them to close. I was pretty disappointed considering how much I had spent for them. The ones that weren't dead cooked up very well and were delicious.

Fast forward to today. It's Soprano's night, and we're having Moody and Catherine over for our weekly get together. We usually cook Italian, and I was anxious to make more mussels. This time, I purchased about 5 pounds at a much more reasonable price (about $2.45/lb) from my local Costco. This time, I decided to make up a recipe, but follow the same basic procedure as last time. Before filtering the mussels, though, I decided to inspect each and every one of them. In all, there were about 8 or so with broken shells, and 3 or 4 that looked to be dead (open shells). After removing the bad ones, I put the remaining ones in a big bowl of fresh water. After about 10 minutes, I decided to change the water. Upon doing so, I noticed another 4 or 5 mussels with open shells. Tapping them didn't make a difference. I figured I had just missed these the first time around. After another 10 minutes and another change of water, I noticed more dead mussels. Something was clearly wrong.

After about 5 minutes of Googling, I had my answer. It turns out, you are NOT supposed to submerge mussels in water as it can kill them. Almost every website I came across (except for the one where I found my original recipe) specifically mentioned not submerging them, and only rinsing them under running water while scrubbing away any external debris. Bugger!

I've got another few minutes before I toss the remaining live mussels in my pot. It looks again like I may have lost about a quarter of my original amount. Next time, though, I'll know exactly what I'm doing as far as handling live mussels goes.

Wusthof Classic Decorating Knife (4.5

I have a fairly decent collection of Wüsthof Classic knives. I like the look of the Classic's design, and I really like the feel - especially the weight and balance. I've tried their Grand Prix line, and I just like the blockier style of the Classic better. When I was in Germany a few years ago, I came across the Wüsthof Classic Decorating Knife, a piece I hadn't seen before. It has a 4" jagged, serrated blade that's used to produce "crinkle" cuts in items like carrots, potatoes, and butter. It seemed the perfect souvenir of my trip at the time, so I went ahead and picked it up.

I have to admit that I've really only used the knife a handful of times so far. I usually use it to crinkle cut carrots and potatoes when I make Thai curries. One of these days, I'd really like to learn proper garnishing skills as presentation is one of those things that often seems lacking in my cooking. When it comes to crinkle cuts, though, I have things covered.

Laguiole Waiter's Friend

When I travel, my favorite souvenirs tend to be practical - things I can use often. Most often, they have to do with food and drink. One of my absolute favorite possessions is a Laguiole waiter's friend that I got while on my honeymoon in France. At the time, it was a big purchase for me, costing around $90 or so. I've now had this particular corkscrew for close to 8 years, and together we've opened hundreds of bottles of wine. If you've never used a waiter's friend before, they can take some getting used to. They have a blade, similar to one found on a pocket knife, that's used to remove the foil from a bottle. The actual uncorking is done by lever action. Once you've got the opening technique down, though, you'll never feel the need to switch to another type of corkscrew.

Lately, I've been thinking about ingredients I'm interested in, but for one reason or another have never cooked with (note I did not say I've never eaten). Some are fairly common, some are not. I'm going to try to make a point of using the ten items I'm listing here, at least once, before the end of the year. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Rhubarb
  • Meyer Lemons
  • Goose
  • Aged Balsamic Vinegar (I have my eye on 25 year)
  • Oxtail
  • Fava Beans
  • Goat
  • Japanese Eggplant
  • Chayote
  • Paneer

Mario over at I Am Jack's Brain tipped me off to a new feature on the azcentral website called Chow & Tell. The concept is simple. Take a team of four to five people, give them some cash, and turn them loose on four restaurants of their choice connected by a common theme. After each restaurant visit, the team creates a review and posts it up to the azcentral site where readers are free to comment and discuss.

What's even cooler is that Mario has decided to form a team made up of Phoenix area food bloggers and has asked me to join. We're currently putting together our application and should have it submitted soon. I don't know what our chances of actually being picked are, but regardless, it sounds like a lot of fun. I'll post more info on the blog as the application process progresses. Wish us luck!

Starbucks in Intramuros

I know the world is flat, but I still don't like it when globalization kills diversity. I've been in the Philippines for the past few weeks now, and even here, you can't turn a corner without running into a Starbucks or a McDonalds. They are literally popping up everywhere.

I'm not saying that businesses shouldn't be able to setup shop wherever they want, but I do think it's a shame when multi-national chains insert themselves into otherwise historic spots in a way that imposes their global branding over traditional architecture and asthetics.

Intramuros Globalization

One thing in the Philippines that I do find interesting, though, is that a native fast food chain called Jollibee has been able to go head to head with McDonalds and win. At last count, Jollibee's anual revenue was over double that of McDonalds in the Philippines.

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