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Archive for June, 2011

Grilled Halloumi Cheese

The Halloumi just before it went on the grill.

Grilling Halloumi cheese was a reader request that I’ve been thinking about for weeks.  Halloumi is a stiff, Greek cheese that’s a mixture of goat’s milk and sheep’s milk.   Because it doesn’t melt easily, you can stick a skewer through it, and toss it on the grill for an out-of-the-ordinary cheese dish.

Full disclosure: I had never even heard of Halloumi, and so I have no idea if I did a good or poor job cooking my first batch.  There are probably people out there who make a killer Halloumi, but apparently, I’m not one of them.

I followed a well regarded recipe, where you pour olive oil over the cheese, season with thyme and paprika, and cook on skewers over medium heat.

The seasoning was good.  In fact, I found myself wondering upon what else I could try paprika and thyme. So if you already know you like grilled Halloumi, I can endorse this easy mixture.

 But I didn’t care for the cheese.

I found it salty and rubbery.  I even made sure to cook some of the cheese longer than others, to make sure I wasn’t sampling something that was either undercooked or overcooked.   We all thought the cheese might work if it was chopped and put on something else, like some sort of tomato salad or something.

But as it is, it seems like Halloumi isn’t for me. I guess it’s off to Costco to buy Cheese Poppers instead.

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A pile of brisket from Jones Barbeque.

The whole family went to Jones Barbeque in Columbia City.  I reviewed Jones last year, and declared it pretty good. To recap: They had nicely cooked ribs that were unfortunately swimming in way too much sauce.  So, I figured if you ordered the sauce on the side, you’d probably have a pretty good experience at Jones.

This time, with four mouths to feed, we could do a little better in terms of sampling.

We ordered the ribs again, a pulled pork sandwich and a pile of brisket …. Sauce on the side.  Plus a few orders of baked beans, slaw and potato salad.

The ribs were still the best of the three.  When rescued from the sauce, you could get a good taste. They’re definitely not as good as RoRo, and my wife correctly identified a lack of smokiness. But they’re still pretty darned good.  Also, unlike my previous review, this time I noticed the ribs looked like ribs, and not bone shards left over from the scrap heap.  So, big improvement from that perspective.

The brisket was the second best.  Thinly sliced and tender, I can definitely recommend the brisket.  However, the brisket was a bit bland without the sauce.  I was surprised, because the woman who works there actually gave me a yummy sound when she put it down, and said “that’s my favorite.”   When I took a bite and found it a bit boring, I was disappointed.  After putting Jones sweet and smoky sauce on it, I definitely enjoyed the rest. 

I guess that means Jones is a live by the sauce, die by the sauce kind of place.  With too much sauce, it’s like a brown sugar flavored swamp of a meal.  Without any sauce, it’s a bit bland.

The pulled pork was a good news bad news situation. The good news is (yes!) the pork wasn’t mushy.  Nice, solid pieces of pork that came off as just pulled rather than sitting in a vat for who knows how long. Really nicely done.  The bad news was, for some reason, the pork was noticeable spicier than either the ribs or the brisket, and bluntly, not as good as a result. So to Jones, whoever you are, I ask “why?”  If your sweet smoky saucy approach is what works for you relatively good ribs and beef, why add the totally unnecessary kick to the pork?  Especially since folks who like hot barbecue can easily add the heat themselves once served?

It didn’t ruin it for me, but it was clearly less enjoyable.

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Texas Style twice!

This weekend, I found myself with about 9 hours to kill in a part town I know little to nothing about.  It’s a long story that involves Peggy Lee, Ikea, and a LOT of dancing girls.  Don’t worry, I intend to get my mind right watching Canucks hockey tomorrow.

Anyway, as I started looking for things to do in town, I found one magical corner that had a charming café, a comic book shop and a great looking barbecue called Cedar River Texas Style Smokehouse.  I was so happy, I sent a text to my wife, declaring that may day was off to an awesome start.  What the text didn’t convey was that you could smell the smoke from Cedar River all around the entire block, and it was all I could do not to order lunch at 10:30 a.m.

So, I went to the café, and I had 2 gargantuan cups of oolong.  Then I went to the comic book store, looked at everything, and finally I bought the entire Y Man series.  And then finally, I went to the smokehouse, and I bought a plate of pulled pork with some corn bread.

The arid landscape that was my lunch.

I’m not sure how many pulled pork sandwiches I’ve had in my life, or how many pounds (hundreds of pounds, rather) I’ve cooked myself at this point.  But I can say this.  I’ve had pulled pork that was mushy, I’ve had pulled pork that was undercooked, I’ve had pulled pork that was too spicy or not spicy enough, I even wrote about pulled pork that was just plain weird.

But I have never had a bone dry pulled pork, like the pulled pork I ate at Cedar River.  I kept taking one bite after another, saying “this is remarkable,” because it was just so NOT good.   How was it even possible? “Dry pork shoulder” is like saying “warm ice cream.”   

I can only conclude that I was eating re-heated leftover pork butt from the day before.

So, I’m going to give Cedar River the benefit of the doubt, and suggest that maybe … just maybe … their pork is typically better than what they served me.   But if not, then I’d say it ranks as the second worst barbecue I’ve had in the greater Seattle area.

P.S. The only thing worse than the pork was the cornbread.  Severely overcooked.

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