The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 Foodie Gifts under $30

Top 5 Foodie Gifts

‘Tis the season of yule tide cheer fueled by Spiked Eggnog, lighting the menorah, hopefully this one, and decorating your house and Christmas tree like a Griswold, in an attempt to be the first house to be seen from outer space. Unfortunately this time of year also signifies the dreaded anxiety disorder that is caused by the commercialization of the holiday season, known as giftphobia. The symptoms of this common ailment include procrastination, stagnation, agitation and overall aggravation.

Lucky for you, I am here to help!  If you have a foodie in your life that you need to purchase a gift for this year for Christma-Hanu-Rama-Ka-Dona-Kwanzaa, have no fear, the Blue Collar Foodie is here.  The following in no particular order are my Top 5 Foodie Gifts under $30 bucks for this holiday season!

#5:Cast Iron Skillet

Cast Iron Pan

Cast Iron Pan

Most of you are thinking, “A pan? Really? That is about as exciting as a lecture on the French Revolution taught by a one armed mime,” which by the way is equal to monotone in the speaking world. I would have agreed with you five years ago, that is until I received this supernatural gift from a foodie friend of mine and it changed my culinary prowess.

This remarkable cast iron cooking device, which has been used for hundreds of years, is not just a pan, but it is a paradigm shifting scientific instrument that will forever change the way your friend cooks protein. Instead of frying a steak leaving it oily and tasteless or cooking it on a sheet pan leaving it dried and stringy, now your friend will be cooking their steak using the same method as countless high end steak houses. This pan is so important it was the star of Season 1 Episode 1 of Alton Brown’s show Good Eats. You can ask Kat, it cooks the steaks to a perfect succulent medium every time with a seared outer layer that locks in the flavor.

Steak Cooked In Cast Iron

Steak Cooked In Cast Iron

One thing to remember though is that not only is cast iron different from all other pots and pans in the way it cooks; it is also different in how it is maintained. It is not hard to take care of cast iron but I suggest forwarding the following links to your friend as part of his/her present, to ensure his/her new pan lasts for generations.

First and foremost the cast iron pan must be seasoned before using it, most companies state that the pan is pre-seasoned, but I don’t cook on anything until I wash it and once you wash it you have ruined the seasoning. Secondly, the pan has a specific cooking method that is somewhat counter intuitive and downright incredible. Finally, the pan is not cleaned with soap but salt, which most people would never think of. If your friend follows these steps he/she will be cooking steaks and chops using this method for years to come, and I bet you get a few tasty steaks out of the deal as well.

#4:Alton Brown’s Gear for Your Kitchen

Gear for your kitchen

Doc Brown’s Book

If you have read this blog before you know damn well that I am all about Dr. Alton Brown, and yes I did just give him an Honorary doctorate because if Mike, “I eat ears” Tyson has one, Mr. Brown should have one too! For my younger readers, the gift I just mentioned above is a book, I know you have only probably seen them in a book museum, or library, as us old folks call them, but back in the day these archaic artifacts made of paper and ink were given as presents all the time.

I understand that cookbooks are antiquated and generally useless since any and all recipes your friend could potentially want/need are easily found on the Googles. This book, however, is not full of boring old recipes but of inspiring foodie science. Alton Brown discusses not only what gear you should have in your kitchen, but in true Alton Brown fashion, why you should have these items. There is also an entire section of the book devoted to getting rid of needless kitchen items, which is great for us that have a rather small kitchen.

Kitchen Clutter

Kitchen Clutter

I recommend this book for the gadget oriented foodie who buys every new cooking device that hits the market. It is difficult to buy something for this type of person because you never know what they have hiding in their drawers and cupboards. Dr. Brown explains every aspect of cooking in detail in this well written book complete with hundreds of illustrations, that, if I could, I would go back in time at 88mph and would read it much sooner than I did.  (If you got that joke you are reading the right blog.)

#3:Digital In-Oven Thermometer

Digital Cooking Thermometer

Digital Cooking Thermometer

If you have ever served under cooked meals, by accident of course, to any of your houseguests, you will fully understand the necessity of this kitchen gadget. This thermometer is literally the gift that keeps on giving every time you insert the probe into any type of meat. (That’s what she said.)

Armed with this device your now well-equipped foodie friend will be able to follow the mantra of late night infomercial lore, set it and forget it!  Once the probe is inserted into the protein, this magical little object will allow you to keep your oven closed while your meal is cooked to the perfect temperature every time, leaving you free to cook the rest of your meal and drink a beer or two with your guests.

Cooked Steak

This Steak Is Done Man

Although the standalone Meat Thermometer is an great addition to any kitchen, if you really want to spoil your foodie friend, get him/her a Thermometer with a remote receiver that allows the chef to roam around the house while being able to check the temperature of his/her concoction which is wirelessly transmitted throughout the house to the remote device.  This is the one that I have, and I now I could never live without it.

#2:Cookie Cooling Rack

Cooling Racks for Bacon

Cooling Racks for Bacon

Wait! Wait! Wait! Come back, at least let me explain. I know that a cooling rack for cookies does not sound like it would make anyone sing out Fa La La La La, but what if I told you it was not cookies at all, but it was for bacon!  Not only is it for bacon, but it is for crispy, perfectly cooked, uncurled, porkgasm inducing strips of yummy delicious salty goodness, unlike any other bacon he/she has ever cooked before.

This gift like others in this list, and of course the Transformers, is more than meets the eye. You are not only buying your foodie friend a cooling rack, you are buying them the gift of properly cooked bacon. Once you see the method to this madness you will join the oven cooked bacon cult and most likely purchase yourself a drying cooling rack immediately. Watch this video that explains the cooking method and you will realize that this gift is a necessity for anyone who believes that swine is simply divine.

Bacon Cooked Properly

Mmmmmmmm. BACON!

Since the racks are only $10, might I suggest going to your local butcher shop or pork store and procuring (see what I did there) a pound of bacon to accompany this thoughtful foodie gift. Then make sure you invite yourself over for brunch one day and sample the perfectly cooked bacon that was all because of your gift. Remember friends don’t let friends improperly cook bacon.

#1:Belkin Kitchen Stand and Wand

Belkin Kitchen Stand

Belkin Kitchen Stand

If your foodie friend happens to be a bit of a geek like me, a gift that combines their affinity towards technology and their love for all things food couldn’t be more perfect. Enter, the Belkin Kitchen Stand and Wand for Tablets. This kitchen gadget allows the tech savvy foodie to utilize their tablet/iPad in the kitchen without smearing salmonella all over the screen.  This simple device is designed to hold your friend’s recipe wielding tablet upright so he/she can read it while he/she works in the kitchen, without pausing every 12 seconds to wash up. Furthermore the wand, which in the muggle world is called a stylus, is washable so it can be handled with their gooey hands without spreading mad cow disease to their entire family, thus causing the Zombie Apocalypse that we all know is coming.

This gift is not only on my Christmas list but I will be giving a few to my foodie friends this year as well.  As of right now my tablet stand is named Kat and the stylus she uses is the same finger that is usually pointed in my direction after I bellow from across the house to get her to assist me in the kitchen.

BONUS: Whiskey Stones

Whiskey Stones

Whiskey Stones

After a long day in the kitchen fighting with the aforementioned gadgets and gizmos, it is always nice to sit down after a long meal with my remote control and a glass of Single Malt Scotch. I don’t think I am alone in thinking this, so if you can’t decide what to buy your foodie friend or he/she has everything that is listed above, I suggest a package of whiskey stones and nice scotch glass.

These stones are usually hand crafted out of 100% soap stone and are designed to slightly cool your adult beverage to below room temperature to allow the flavors to open up in the glass.  Ice tends to water down good Scotch and a watered down good Scotch is bad! If your foodie friend seems to be a connoisseur of fine Whiskey, Scotch, or Bourbon then this may be just the right present for him/her.  If your friend drinks Georgia Moon Corn Whisky Moonshine from the Jar, I don’t think they will appreciate these.

Moonshine

Granny approved moonshine

If you followed the links that I provided for each item you may have recognized a common thread, Amazon.com. Although, once upon a time, I was a Mall Rat, I cannot stand the malls during the holiday season. As Kat would say, “It makes me want to punch babies.” Kat and I either shop on Amazon.com to take advantage of their super cool free shipping, which all the items above are eligible for by the way, or we shop locally.  However you decide to shop, I hope this little gift giving guide helped make your holiday season a little easier.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my subscribers, readers, followers, and Facebook friends for stopping by and reading my blog. I enjoy writing this article immensely and every time I see a comment or a new Facebook like it makes me smile. I want to truly wish you and your family all a happy and safe holiday season and may all your foodie dreams come true.

Happy Holidays from Dog

Happy Holidays from Dog and I

The Blue Collar Foodie Rocks out with Rony in Glen Rock , New Jersey

As most of you know my blog is published on the Patch.com, and since I live in Bergen County I also subscribe to most of the area’s Patch.com sites to keep up to date on the Über local news that is provided by the Patch. While I was perusing the Ridgewood-Glen Rock Patch,  I noticed an article about a relatively new Hamburger shop in Glen Rock that needed some community support to get off the ground.  After reading the article, I decided it was not only my civic duty but my foodie duty to give Rony’s Rock Burger, located at 192 Rock Road, Glen Rock, NJ, a whirl and see if he was making some Blue Collar Foodie worthy Burgers.

Kat and I invited a special guest foodie with us; we will call her Ms. Pupin, to partake in Rony’s Rock Burger.  Since this was the first time that any of us had been to Rony’s Burger place, as I drove down Rock Road I asked Ms. Pupin and Kat to keep an eye out for the restaurant so we did not miss it.  Kat and Ms. Pupin failed at this game so I turned around and tried once again, this time around they spotted our destination and then the parking spot pursuit began.

As a former Glen Rockian, I know that parking on Rock Road is about as much fun as listening to Ben Stein read the phone book, but such is life and Rony’s Rock Burger cannot be blamed for the lack of parking in the down town district of Glen Rock.  Once a parking spot was procured we ventured inside Mr.  Rony Alvarado’s burger joint, and right off the bat I was impressed.  The walls are full of rock memorabilia that comes from a time when rock, well rocked.  Pictures and records of Elvis, Hendrix, Morrison, not Van but Jim, Rolling Stones, Guns and Roses, and a plethora of other Hall of Famers decorate Rony’s Rock Burger and give it the ambiance that a true burger joint should have.

Now, this is not an interior design blog, so honestly if the walls looked pretty but the food tasted like New Jersey smells, I would not be writing this blog post.  The truth is, after one bite of Rony’s Rock Burger I was transported to Paradise City via a Crystal Ship, where I was All Shook Up with Satisfaction.

The Menu at Rony’s Rock Burger reads like a who’s who list of American Rock and Roll, using the rock stars name and personality as the inspiration for each item. For Example, I ordered the Bob Marley which is described as a burger with Cajun spices, topped with grilled onions, bacon and cheddar cheese to which I also added avocado.  I, of course, opted to make it a combo and added the upgraded curly fries and a drink, for the reasonable price of $10.75.

Kat chose the Stevie, after Stevie Nicks I would presume, which is described as a burger topped with American cheese, pineapple, bacon, lettuce, tomato and Rony’s signature Terriyaki-Based Waka Sauce.  Kat also opted to make her meal a combo, and chose to upgrade her side dish to the onion rings.  Kat’s burger also set us back a sensible $10.75.  Kat also decided to add the avocado, which, she asked me to add, was freshly sliced, and just ripe enough.

Ms. Pupin went off the reservation and opted for a black board special called the Rage Against the Burger which was described as a burger topped with Bacon, crumbled Blue Cheese, and buffalo sauce.  Ms. Putin decided to try the original Rony’s fries, so her meal only came to an economical $8.75.

After ordering our food from Rony himself, who was apparently acting as owner, host, waiter, and cook, which is why I love mom and pop eateries, we took our seats and waited for our food to grace our table.  Within minutes, Rony brought our food out and I swear I heard the angelic chorus of cherubs in the distance, alright so I was hungry, sue me.  Once the food touched our lips there was a moment of silence as the flavors collided with our taste buds and then we began to discuss our orders with one another.

The Bob Marley that I ordered was fantastic, the Cajun seasoning was not just dashed on top of the burger like some other Cajun burgers that I have had in the past, it was actually mixed into the chopped meat allowing the flavor to be evenly dispersed.  The Bacon was freshly cooked and crisp, and you could easily tell was not made by Oscar Meyers.  The burger was so damn good, I did not have to put any condiments on it at all, which really says something, because I literally have an entire shelf for condiments in my refrigerator at home.  As for the curly fries, they were seasoned to perfection and not overly salty like so many of the curly fries that are served at the foodie hamburger joints that are popping up throughout New Jersey these days.

Kat’s Stevie was unlike any other burger I have ever had before.  The pineapple combined with the Bacon and the Waka Sauce, an all-purpose tropical pepper sauce native to the Philippines, made for an interesting party in my mouth.  Even though the burger was great, the real star of Kat’s meal was the onion rings that were deep fried and crispy, surrounded by just the right amount of flavorful batter.  These onion rings would make other inferior onion rings leap off the table to their own demise, due to the shame of not being a Rony’s ring.  They were so yummy; she was forced to share them with the table.

Ms. Pupin’s Rage Against the Burger was equally as tasty all thanks to what appeared to be the fresh blue cheese that overflowed from the bun.  The Buffalo sauce was not too tangy but had a slight kick which complemented the burger instead of overpowering it, which was a welcomed surprise for a sauce that tends to be a bully.  Ms. Pupin’s regular Rony fries were equally as impressive as my curly fries and if you are low on funds when you give Rony’s a whirl, I would suggest skipping the upgrade and sticking with these classically good shoe string potatoes.

While we were eating our meal, Rony himself came over to chat with us, and supply us with a free sample of Rock Sauce, which I highly recommend as a dipping sauce for your fries by the way.  He asked if we were locals and discussed his food with us, and as you can see I like to talk about food, so I was in all my glory, with a burger in one hand and a fellow foodie to converse with.  Rony explained that all his food was made fresh to order and that the meat he serves is not only homemade, like damn near everything else that he serves, but high quality as well.  While speaking to Rony, I could tell he has a passion for not only preparing the food he sells, but preparing it properly and with the best ingredients he can find.   Rony is truly a diehard foodie at heart and he happens to be serving some of the best hamburgers in the area.

So the next time you have a hankering for a hamburger, don’t go to SmashBurger, BoomBurger, or any of the other dozen or so chains that are bursting onto the foodie scene, support a local business man like Rony Alvarado, not just because you want his business to survive but because his Burgers are the real deal!

Judgment

Overall:                  4 out of 5

Taste:                     5 out of 5

Presentation:        4 out of 5

Value:                     3 out of 5