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Gonzo Gourmands, Frugal Foodies & Crazy Culinarians

Dishing Out What Food Lovers Really Crave

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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

Can you throw a dinner party for 20 people for $20? I can!!!

The main focus of this blog is something I’m passionate about – – upscale entertaining on a beer budget.  I will still keep up on my side column links to bargain events around San Diego county, but more of my focus will be on entertaining at home. 

Currently, I’m unemployed.  However, even when I was gainfully employed and could afford to spend more, I loved the challenge of entertaining on a bargain budget.  I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah, I buy stuff on sale when I invite people over.”  I’m not talking “on sale,” I’m talking “bargain.”  For example, at certain times grocery chains will have Foster Farms whole chickens “on sale” for $.99/lb.  I like to wait for the price to go down to  $.69/lb.  Now that, is a “bargain.”  When that happens, I like to buy the limit (and maybe go back the next day), cook one, and put the rest in the freezer.

Did you know you can save yourself a lot of money by buying a whole chicken instead of buying one already cut up?  I looked at the online prices for Vons & Albertsons on May 11th, and you can save $2.45 – $6.00 per chicken.  (Depending on which store you choose and using a 3.5 lb. – 5 lb. chicken.)  If you bought a chicken twice a month, that would be over a $120 each year saved by cutting up a chicken yourself!

So, what did I feed 20 people for $20?  I served approximately 18 lbs. of corned beef plus some cabbage and potatoes.  The corned beef was $.99/lb., cabbage was $.15/lb. and $.99 for a 10 lb. bag of potatoes.  I play Texas Hold’em No Limit poker tournaments with a set of smart players who love to eat, and nobody went home hungry!  Every time we had a break to color up chips, we had a few players going back for seconds until there was nothing left.

Each week I will be sharing my takes on current “bargains” at the local markets.  I will be posting withing the next 24 hrs. my bargains for the coming week.  Here is a sample of what I wrote last week for my Frugal Gourmet Foodies http://www.meetup.com/The-Frugal-Gourmet-Foodies/
Bargains for the week of May 6 – May 11th
Good to see stores competing to have the best price for several same items this week:

Alaskan King Crab – in the 16-20 or 16-22 count size, but Ralph $6.99/lb. is the cheapest.

CornSprouts $.19/ear beats Frazier Farms 5/$1

Bone-in Ribeye Steak – Albertsons, Vons $3.97/lb.

Blackberries – Stater Bro/Sprouts $.99/5.6 oz basket

Avocados – Frazier Farms 5 medium/$1

Roma tomatoes – Frazier Farms $.77/lb

Sliced Mushrooms – Frazier Farms $.77/8 oz. pkg.

Russet PotatoesStater Bro. $.99/5 lb. bag only Fri 5/7 – Sun 5/9 (Note: Frazier Farms is actually cheaper per pound if you don’t mind buying 10 lb. at $1.50.

Beware of the lobster tails at Albertsons for only $3.99! They are only 3 oz. each, which comes to $21.28/lb.!!! And you may say, but this is only the tail so I don’t have to pay for the weight of the shell on the claws & body. But I say, I can get over 3.5 lbs. of whole Maine lobster for that same $21.28!

Terree’s Frugal Foodie Finds Wed April 28 – May 4

I like to share the really big bargains at the grocery store (plus recipes they can use with these ingredients) with my friends.
Vons – only Sat May 1st & Sun May 2nd
$2.99/lb. Frozen Medium Shrimp – we just feasted on shrimp recently, but what about shrimp cocktails or shrimp scampi on pasta this summer? These are sold frozen in 2 lb. bags $5.98 each. You can keep in the freezer until we do a seafood get together, or defrost at your leisure for an inexpensive treat for dinner. If you must have large shrimp, then see Frazier Farms below.

2/88 cents Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light Tuna – I prefer Solid White Tuna, but at THIS price, I can stand to mix it with a little mayo, Dijon Truffle Mustard (for kick), and slap it on some whole wheat bread with sprouts. Or put it on 1/2 an avocado.

2/$1 Large Hass Avocados – put in a salad, a sandwich, or some of the tuna salad above on 1/2 an avocado.

$1.99 for Safeway Select Artisan Angel Food – top a slice with berries and Fat Free Cool Whip, FF Vanilla Pudding, or my favorite – Yoplait Lemon Yogurt with some berries to make a guilt free dessert.

4/$1 CORN – Frazier Farms has the same price, and usually sweeter.

Albertsons
$3.97/lb. New York Steaks – these cuts I find are best BBQ’d. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to me that it is quite warm enough for BBQ’ing yet.

$1.99/lb. select Lean Cuisine – for those of you who want low calorie convenience. As cheap at fast food, but better for you.

$3.99/lb. Wild Alaskan Cod – if you didn’t get enough fish last Sunday, this is a wonderful mild, white fleshed fish. Cod (or pollack or halibut) can be used to make Poor Man’s Lobster (recipe below)

$0.59/lb. Chicken Leg Quarters – these are sold in frozen 10 lb. bags. This is tough for singles to take advantage of unless you are willing to eat a lot of chicken legs, or have a lot of people over who eat dark meat. (Last month, I bought 10 lbs. of fresh chicken leg quarters at $0.39/lb. (cooked half, froze half)

Bargain & REDBOX Fans NOTE: Look for the EARN $5 OFF your next shopping trip PLUS 5 FREE Redbox one night rentals when you buy $20 or more of participating products.* Several of these products are at a great price and (most of) you WILL need them eventually, and they won’t spoil before then. (*Tide, Charmin, Bounty, Tampax, Bounce, Febreeze, etc.) It is tough for singles to meet the quantity/dollar amount requirements sometimes, so combine with a friend or neighbor!

Frazier Farms
10/$10 – Artichokes
4/$1 – Corn, never have been disappointed by the flavor of their corn. Always sweet!
$5.99/lb. Jumbo Wild Mexican White Shrimp 21-15 count – for those who must have the larger shrimp.
$1.89/lb. Fresh All Natural Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts – you may see this as low as $1.77/lb. occasionally at Albertsons, but the meats at Frazier Farms are always natural without hormones, added water weight, etc.
$2.99/lb. Bonelss Beef Short Ribs – it’s cold, it’s still stew time. And this cut is particularly flavorful in a stew or in the slow cooker with BBQ sauce.

NOTE: every store is having some Cinco de Mayo “Specials” and though there are some good deals, I didn’t see any big bargains to rave about. If you are going to buy flour tortillas, Vons has Mission Flour Soft Taco Tortillas 99 cents. However, I much prefer the Guerrero Requisimas Flour Tortillas 99 cents at Albertsons, and I’ll tell you why.

When you pull a Mission tortilla in half, you get a break that can best be described as cracking along a crumb line. When you pull a Guerrero tortilla in half, you get more of a tearing along a flake line. That is because the Guerrero tortilla has more gluten. The difference in quality becomes even more pronounced when you warm each over an open flame, and do a blind tasting with a little butter.

Poor Man’s Lobster
white fleshed fish (Cod, Pollack, halibut) cut in chunks
2 quarts water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
Juice of 1 lemon

Combine water, salt, sugar and lemon juice in large kettle; bring to boil. Drop in the fish and boil, just until fish rises to the surface. Serve with melted butter and lemon juice.