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Gonzo Gourmands, Frugal Foodies & Crazy Culinarians

Dishing Out What Food Lovers Really Crave

News and discussion on all subjects concerning food: the food industry, chefs, celebrity chefs, culinary luminaries, heritage breeds, natural/organic/sustainable foods, craft beers brewers/soda makers, artisnal purveyors, cookware/tableware/kitchenware, cooking gadgets/equipment, food porn, and more!

Gonzo Gourmands, Frugal Foodies & Crazy Culinarians - Dishing Out What Food Lovers Really Crave

Is “Foodie” Becoming a Badge of Shame?

For some time now, I’ve been known as “The Frugal Foodie,” and I even had it embroidered on my Chefs de Cuisine of San Diego chef’s jacket.  However, after  serious consideration, I’ve changed my moniker from “The Frugal Foodie” to the “Gonzo Gourmands.”  For several years, there has been a lot of discussion online and in print about the term “foodie” becoming a slur.  (Actually, I’ve heard the same applied to the term “celebrity chef,” and I will go further into that on a different blog installment.)  At first, I viewed this usage of “foodie” like Anthony Bourdain‘s “Kitchen Confidential” Les Halles crew calling the outer boroughs and NJ patrons the “bridge and tunnel crowd.”  Not so much being disdainful, but rather a time-tested categorization for a certain type of patron with a predictable set of preferences.

I assumed that the majority of people casting these aspersions were wealthy culinary elitist snobs. And, I could easily understand why some people in the industry were inwardly bristling at self-proclaimed “foodies.”  Unfortunately, some foodies think they know it all because they watch the Food Network, Bravo Channel’s Top Chef, and bought all “the best” home kitchen equipment touted by the Food Network or a sales associate at Macy’s.  Heck, these people make me wince!  But the vast majority of people in the industry are truly appreciative of the booming interest in great food, and chefs are happy that the spotlight is shining more on the “BOH” (back of house) more than the “FOH” (front of house) staff these days.

But still, I see the word “foodie” is quietly becoming a condescending slur for uninformed food faddists or celebrity chef chasers who rely on mass market branding and expensive prices as a measure of quality.  And no, it’s not some snobbish pronouncement by the upper echelon of the wealthy culinary elite.  If anything, it’s the exasperated sigh of sweaty, sleep-deprived chefs in the trenches without a TV show, book tour, or chain of restaurants.  At the mere utterance of the word “foodie,” I’ve seen industry people  make eye contact with each other and roll their eyes.  But don’t get offended. What I had at first perceived as a sardonic smirk and dismissive air, should have been more accurately  interpreted as a grimace of exasperated resignation.

Really great food is tirelessly being crafted by passionate, hard-working chefs in small neighborhood restaurants all over this country.  And keep in mind that many of them do it out of love for their craft, and not for the money.  U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics show that the median wage for a head cook or chef in May 2010 was less than $41,000 per year.* Let that be a warning to teens who think they are going into the culinary field for the big bucks.

Like in professional sports, reaching that top percentage of income earners takes a lot of extraordinary work and dedication. Wolfgang Puck, Jeremiah Tower, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Mario Batali, and Tom Colicchio  did not rise to culinary heights by going from culinary school to a TV show competition. Unless you are prepared for a long term commitment to long nights, weekends and holidays, then I wouldn’t sign up for one of those culinary programs to rack up a debt of up to $70,000.  Especially when most entry-level chefs jobs will run $10 – $15 per hour!

So, to distance myself from the uninformed “foodie” herd, I have coined the term “Gonzo Gourmands.”  I don’t mean “gourmand” in a gluttonous sense, but to mean someone who has a healthy interest in all food.  And as much as for the alliteration, I added “gonzo” to mean an adventurous person, or someone who is not shy in their appreciation for all kinds of food.  Gonzo Gourmands are not squeamish about their food being attached to bones or having a face.  I don’t mean to say that we are proponents for the extreme exotic fare seen in the early episodes of Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern or even Anthony Bourdain’sA Cook’s Tour,” the precursor to his “No Reservations” and “The Layover.”  However, Gonzo Gourmands are appreciative of the efforts made by Andrew Zimmern, and chefs like Fergus Henderson, Chris Cosentino, Mario Batali, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Donald Link.  These chefs have been on the forefront by putting some “low on the hog” cuts and offal onto the menus of higher end, and hopefully, more mainstream restaurants.

Gonzo Gourmands are frugal, but not cheap.  Meaning we are against being wasteful, and this is why we advocate nose-to-tail eating, and strive to find use or recycle all food.  Also, Gonzo Gourmands are interested in the breed and quality of life of the animal before it came to the dinner table.  Just as there is a difference in the composition of human tears of stress from normal every day lubricant or basal tears, Gonzo Gourmands believe animals raised in a natural, stress free environment (not confined in a small, uncomfortable cage 24/7) will taste better.  I hope you can appreciate and embrace the Gonzo Gourmand philosophy and become one of us by “Like”-ing us on Facebook, Twitter and subscribing to my blog.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gonzo-Gourmands-Social-Media/101724446541356

* http://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/chefs-and-head-cooks.htm

Restaurant.com has saved me and my friends LOTS of money!

I always try to avoid paying the regular discount price at restaurant.com; and, I wait until they offer a “code word” so the price drops to $2 or $3 for a $25 certificate. Always check for the lowest minimum purchase of $35 and other fine print. The closer you are to $35 without going under, the better the return on your dollar.  The current promo code is “Hot.”   http://www.restaurant.com/

Bargains for the week of June 9 – June 15

BEN & JERRY’S Chocolate Fudge Brownie QUART $1.99 at GROCERY OUTLET!!!
This is NOT a pint, but a FULL QUART!  I don’t know how they do it, but DO let them know their efforts are appreciated!  They also have Delice de France Double Creme Brie 16 oz. & Alouette Brie 20 oz. $3.99! (or $3.19/lb.)  Also a better bargain than the Delice, are the smaller wheels of Alouette Baby Brie Original & Baby Brie with Herbs both at 13.2 oz. $2.99!!!  (or $3.62/lb.)  Still, any one of these bries still beats out the lowest priced brie at either Trader Joe’s or Costco!

Bing Cherries – Sprouts $.99/lb.  Last week Frazier Farms had the cherries at $.99/lb. and now their price is up to $1.49/lb.  The same can be said for the price of blackberries and blueberries.

Blueberries – Stater Brothers $2.99/18 oz. pkg. I almost missed this.  I didn’t whip out my calculator until the last minute, & then realized that this calculates to $.73/4.4 oz. pkg. and beats Frazier Farms $.99/4.4 oz pkg.  Last week Sprouts had blackberries, blueberries, & raspberries on sale for $.99/4.4 oz. pkg, and now their price is up to $1.50/4.4 oz. pkg.  (And shame on you if you didn’t grab some raspberries at that price, cuz I’d be surprised if we saw that price again this season!)

Boneless Chuck Roast – Ralphs $1.99/lb.

Boneless London Broil – Stater Brothers $1.97/lb., Albertsons $1.99/lb.

Bargains for the week of June 2 – June 8

I see that Albertsons currently has a BOGO, or “Buy One Get One FREE” sale. When you see a good deal, always take the time to figure out the cost per pound.  Albertsons three different price tiers for their meats: Select, Choice and Choice Angus (Stockman & Dakota).  Like Vons, Albertons “brands” their Choice Angus beef to distinguish it from their cheaper Select grade of beef. Albertsons BOGO Boneless Chuck Steaks sounded like a good deal until I called the meat dept. & found you had to buy the “MaxPak” quantity of Stockman & Dakota at $6.49/lb.  so that is just under $3.25/lb. and $1.38/lb. more than Food for Less.

Boneless Beef Chuck Steaks – Food for Less $1.87/lb. And the next best price is Von’s Rancher’s Reserve $2.27/lb.

Red Cherries – Frazier Farms $.99/lb. This is not a good deal, this is an awesome bargain! The regular price at other grocery stores has been $1.99/lb. – $2.50/lb.

Yellow Peaches -Food for Less $.77/lb. This is another awesome bargain because the regular price has been hovering around $2.49/lb.

Raspberries, Blackberries, Bluberries – Sprouts $.99/6 oz. basket

Here is a recipe for Bulgogi Beef marinade that you can use with the beef. This is enough for 1 lb. of beef or one of last week’s bargain chickens from Stater Bro. Marinate the thinly sliced beef, or the chicken cut into serving pieces, at least 2 hours or overnight in the frig. Bring meat in marinade to room temperature before grilling.

Bulgogi Beef Marinade
Mix thoroughly until dissolved:
•3 Tbsp chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
•3 Tbsp soy sauce
•2 Tbsp sugar
•1 Tbsp honey
•2 Tbsp fresh squeezed juice from an Asian pear
•1 Tbsp Japanese rice wine (mirin)*
•1 Tbsp sesame oil
•3 green onions, finely chopped (including white part)
•1 tsp pepper

Here is a reprint of my Super Easy Fruit Cobbler recipe for those the peaches and berries:

Super Easy Fruit Cobbler
1 stick melted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
4 C. 1 inch pieces of fruit or berries
Mix all the above together and pour over fruit or berries. Then sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over batter. Pour 1/2 cup water over sugar and batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Note: For really watery fruit like strawberries, pour only 1/4 water over sugar and batter.