Netflix and Grill

Summer is hurdling at us faster than hipsters flocking to a vintage flannel sale in Williamsburg, which means the time to prepare is nigh.  No longer can you get away with making a Lasagna, a Sunday Sauce, or a Chili for your friends when they visit.  The time for one pot meals is behind us and we are staring directly into the heart of the most epic and somewhat daunting cooking season there is.  That is right people, this is not a drill!  It is time to buy way to much food, invite a shit-ton of people over, drink heavily (But Responsibly…Stupid Lawyers!), light inappropriately large (But Manageable…I H8 Lawyers) fires in your suburban back yards, and grill, damn you, grill, until all of your guests tap out like the late great Kimbo Slice in rear naked choke.

For those of you that saw the title of this post and thought it was going to be about which movies are the best to watch while you Netflix and Chill, I apologize.  For those of you that don’t exactly know what Netflix and Chill means and just clicked the link above to find out, I am looking at you Mom, have no fear, there is no porn here.

This post is about the Top 5 titles on Netflix to Binge Watch prior to the start of summer to get your creative juices flowing and assist you in formulating a plan for each and every backyard get together that is in your future.  There will always be a place on my grill for burgers and dogs, but to supplement those staples, I like to go off-book and the following shows get me “in the mood”, so without further ado let’s Netflix and Grill!

5:  Chef (2014)  

ChefFilm

This feature length film is for everyone that hates documentary style movies and television shows.  I for one can watch a Chef wield a knife, talk about the perfect turnip, and pontificate about the need for 300 varieties of rice for hours on end, but I understand that those types of shows are not for everyone.  This 2014 Dramedy is about a prominent Chef that loses his job and decides to open a food truck to reclaim his culinary passion and spend some quality time with his son.  The cast is a recipe for awesomesauce as Jon Favreau and John Leguizamo add a cup of comedy, Sofia Vergara throws in a bunch of Tablespoons of Sexy, and Emjay Anthony steals the show with more than a pinch of epic acting.  After watching Chef, if you don’t know why you started cooking, hang up your tongs, turn off the gas, and get the fuck away from the grill.

4:  Cooked (2016)

Cooked Netflix

Quite the opposite of my first selection, Cooked is the epitome of Documentaries, but that is exactly why I freaking love it.  This four episode mini-series is based on Michael Pollan’s 2013 book, by the same name, and discusses how varying cooking techniques impacted mankind and transformed the world as we know it.  Each episode is named after one of the four basic elements of nature; Fire, Water, Air, and Earth to further drive home the deep connection between our evolution and the food of our ancestors, predecessors, and ourselves.   After watching the Fire episode, Episode 1, you will want to kick your Grill’s tires, let some fires, and sear something that was recently slaughtered, but if you are anything like me you will have to binge watch the rest of the episodes first.

3:  Good Eats (1999-2012)

Good Eats

The host of this oldie but goodie, Alton Brown, is a combination of Julia Child, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Mr. Rogers, and Pee Wee Herman.  Good Eats, at times maybe funny, satirical, and nostalgic, but it is always informative and educational.  Whenever I am cooking something for the first time I turn to Mr. Brown, because he does not just give you a recipe like all the other Chef’s kicking around your cable box, he explains why and how the given ingredients in that recipe work.  Good Eats doesn’t focus on what you cook, it concentrates on teaching you how to cook, and that is why is the perfect show to watch before manning your meat maker.  As of right now the only episodes that are available on Netflix Streaming is a selection of 25 episodes called the Good Eats Collection, but that should be enough to give you some solid ideas for your future backyard Soirees.

2:  Mind of a Chef (2012-    )       

Mind of a Chef

Thanks to Executive Producer/Culinary Cowboy/Narrator Anthony Bourdain and PBS, Mind of a Chef entered our lives in 2012.  Wait…Wait…Wait… come back, PBS is so much more than Opera and Pledge Drives.  This revolutionary show feels as if the producers gave some of the most innovative Chefs in the world a camera crew, a kitchen, and a Black AMEX and said, “show us why you became a foodie.”  What came from this magnificent concept is a show that truly allows you enter the mindset of Chefs that are changing the very culture of cooking, one dish at a time.  You begin to identify with the Chefs that are showcased as well as see how their influences, hardships, cultural backgrounds, and relationships shaped them into the culinary juggernauts that they are today.  “Enter the Mind Of A Chef.”

1:  Chef’s Table (2015-    )  

  Chef's Table

If inspiration is what you are after, look no further than this gastronomic Netflix Original Series.  Each episode introduces you to one of the world’s most renowned Chefs and invites you into their unique culinary world.   The show includes an in-depth tour of the world’s best restaurants, stunning food porn; detailing the remarkable food these establishments serve, and of course a glimpse into the Chef’s inspiration, passion, and life experiences.  After watching this awe-inspiring documentary one cannot help but be motivated to create food that not only tastes good, but looks as beautiful as any piece of art hanging in the Louvre.  *Warning*  By watching this show, you will add several restaurants to your Dine Before Death list and none of them are inexpensive.

There you have it folks.  The Blue Collar Foodie’s Netflix and Grill list.  Now get to binge watching because a backyard barbecue without creativeness is as enjoyable as drinking a non-alcoholic beer on a Saturday Night while you Netflix and Chill sans partner.

The Blue Collar Foodie gets his Fro-Yo fix on Plaza Road

The summer and I have a slightly cantankerous relationship with one another.  You see, I hate the sun, the heat that comes with it, and the fact that everyone want to go DTS, or down the shore, where sand finds a way to creep into every crevasse of my body.  On the other hand though, I love backyard barbecues, swimming pools, baseball, and of course ice cream.  So I will find the shade like a twinkling vampire in Seattle, jump from air conditioner to air conditioner, and take seven showers a day to remove the sand from places on and in my body that my wife has never seen, in order to partake in my favorite epicurean summer delights.

One of the aforementioned summer treats that I swoon over once the mercury in the thermometer goes above my comfort level is Ice Cream.  There are very few of us in this world that have not been subjected the Pavlovian conditioning of the Ice Cream truck.  There is something about those bells, whistles, or children’s songs being played over the loud speaker of a rusty box truck that is filled with overpriced ice cream bars that makes even an adult squeal with joy.  Unfortunately, as a 32 year old, childless, adult if I approach said Ice Cream Truck, I will look guiltier than Aaron Hernandez being led out of his mansion in handcuffs.  Furthermore, if I intend to go DTS, I would rather not be 40 pounds overweight sporting a muffin top over the elastic band of my once slim fitting bathing suit.

WWF

Best Ice Cream EVER!

There is however an alternative to having to deal with Chris Hanson approaching you while you spill out of your bathing suit like a sleeping bag that was poorly packed while trying to order a WWF Ice Cream Bar that hasn’t been made in 20 years.  This tremendous, low-fat substitute, and much less shady looking choice is none other than the frozen yogurt shop, and Fair Lawn is home to its very own.  Yogurt Plus, located at 14-25 Plaza Rd. Fair Lawn, NJ 07410, or the clock tower plaza for all the Fair Lawnites, is serving up delicious frozen yogurt complete with all the fixings.

Yogurt Plus

Yogurt Plus

Kat and I have started a weekly pilgrimage to Yogurt Plus every Wednesday evening.  After we get done with work, exercising, and dinner we walk the ¾ of a mile down the road with our dog, Lilly, to indulge in whatever magnificent flavors of Frozen Yogurt  are being served within the wondrous walls of this establishment.  For those of you that have never been to a Frozen Yogurt joint, you need to know a few things.

Fro-Yo Machine

Fro-Yo Machine

First off, the flavors rotate sporadically so you can always try something new and exciting.  There are only a limited number of machines at Yogurt Plus, so each machine churns a different flavor, thus creating a random flavor line-up from night to night.  If you are anything like me and enjoy variety, this system creates the same anticipation as going to a craft beer bar with a rotating tap list.

Toppings!!!

Toppings!!!

Secondly, and more importantly, the best part of these Willy Wonka-esque eateries, is not the Fro-Yo itself, but the bountiful toppings that are provided to create the perfect summer sundae.  I for one love my ice cream to have more junk in its trunk than J-Lo circa 1999, so this process is perfect for me.  Every time I go, I pile on cookie dough, chocolate chips, brownie bites, waffle cone crumble, Reese’s pieces, cookie crunch, and five or six other tasty calorie filled garnishes so my once healthy treat is about as good for you as deep fried green beans.   Kat on the other hand tries to keep her summertime delight a wee bit on the fitter side and adds more fruits than candy.

This is how I roll!

This is how I roll!

The last thing a Fro-Yo neophyte should know is that you pay by the ounce when visiting these shops.  This is something you should keep in mind when you are piling the toppings on your already full bowl of yumminess.  If you are not careful when building your leaning tower of deliciousness you may very well be creating a 10 dollar sundae.  Granted, I assure you that Sundae will be well worth the money, but if you are on a budget be conscious of what you are crafting.

Kat's Cup

Kat’s Cup

 

Most people think that they can eat Frozen Yogurt every day because it is 100% healthy for them.  The reality is that it is not healthy per sea but it is much better for you than traditional ice cream.  With that said, if your diet forbids you to have something that you truly love, like the delectable, smooth, and refreshing taste of Ice Cream, than perhaps you need to find a new diet.  I for one believe that moderation and making good choices is the key to nutritional bliss.  So the next time you get a hankering for some Ice Cream, stay off the neighborhood watches radar, forego the Ice Cream Truck, and walk down to Yogurt Plus for a guilt free treat that tastes great.

Yogurt-Plus on Urbanspoon

Muscle Maker Grill Is A Welcomed Change To The Often Mundane and Unhealthy Fast Food Culture

 Your Health In Mind

     For some foodies the rudimentary idea of calorie counting, dieting, and eating healthy is an unfathomable notion.  These words and phrases in the foodie community can be met with the ire of a grandmother that just heard their innocent little angel drop the C-word, and you all know what C-word, I am talking about, THE ONE AND ONLY C-WORD!  The thought that any meal that is good for you, simply could not taste even half-way decent, is extremely widespread throughout the foodie community.  So, as I got older, and my pants got tighter, I thought my days of being a foodie were over.  I grieved longer that Artie Lange did, when he found out that Hostess Cakes went out of business, thinking I would have to eat turnip salads with okra nuggets for the rest of my life.  Fortunately, I learned through necessity that this notion is and always was completely untrue.  Not only can healthy food be just as delicious as unwholesome food, but one can splurge every now and again on bacon wrapped bacon bites, as long as it is not every day.

RIP TWINKIE

Rest In Peace, Indeed

For those of you who still are under the impression that nutritious food can’t tantalize your palate I suggest that you make a voyage to Muscle Maker Grill and check out their healthy yet scrumptious offerings.   I will pause for a moment to allow the grumpy cat fan club grumble and murmur about chain restaurants, and how they destroy the very fabric of foodie culture, and blah, blah, pretentious know-it-all gibberish, blah.  Are you good now haters?  You got that out of your system?  Can we move on?  Sure, Muscle Maker is a chain restaurant, but my problem with franchises has nothing to do with the idea of them ruining some silly pompous notion of the epicurean elite, I have always found that they tend to scrimp on ingredients, forget about freshness, and serve calorie laden unimaginative meals, once they turn to the dark side of the gastro-force.  Thankfully, this is not the case with Muscle Maker Grill.  The Muscle Maker Grill that I chose to visit for the purpose of this review is located at 14-29 River Road, in Fair Lawn, NJ, but that is the beauty of franchises, you can search to find one closer to you.

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

Before ordering from Muscle Maker, Kat and I went for a rather vigorous two hour hike and neither of us was in any mood to cook, so we decided to get take-out, before we started Googleing recipes that involved cooking and eating our dogs and cats.  (Relax PETA people, I am joking, I love my pets like family.  Furthermore, why are you reading a foodie blog? Go eat some kale that is dressed with your salty tears because you are crying about how the pesticides that treated your organic shrubbery that you are eating most likely killed a dozen bugs.)  Kat and I inspected the menu and found that the selection at Muscle Maker was much larger than we expected, and to add to the robust selection, when ordering most of the menu items, you can choose the type of protein you would like to have in your meal.  In addition, every menu item lists the caloric intake for the entire world to see, unlike many other “fast food,” restaurants that conceal the nutritional information of their food, as if they were protecting Carmen San Diego.

Where in the World is Carmen San Diego

Carmen San Diego

Kat and I both chose the El Mexicana, which is described as fajita grilled chicken breast or steak, sizzling onions and peppers, reduced fat cheddar cheese, and salsa over brown rice and beans, garnished with tomatoes and scallions for $9.99.  Kat decided on the chicken breast, while I chose to upgrade my order, and went with the shrimp.  As I was on my way to pick up the order, I began to have orders’ remorse,  I was very nervous that healthy merely meant small portions that are designed to fill up a dainty bird like lady, not a large land mammal such as myself.  I fretted and worried the entire drive over to the establishment, and then even more while I fidgeted with my phone at the counter while my food was placed into bags.  With our Muscle Maker Grill in hand, I raced back to the house, filled with apprehension and foodie anxiety.

As I removed our meals from their plastic confines, I was relieved to see that my trepidation was all for not.   The food not only smelled and looked fantastic, which is a feat in amongst itself while be housed in take-out containers, but the portion size was extremely generous.  I began to eat my entrée and observed that the ingredients all fused together flawlessly to create a tremendous amalgamation of zesty flavor.  There was no one ingredient that overpowered the dish, and half way through eating it I completely forgot that this flavorsome meal was low in calories and chock full of nutritious morsels.  I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the menu, that each of these entrees is large enough for two servings, but I was definitely full when I was done with my meal.

El Mexicana from Muscle Maker Grill

Our Meal

All in all, Muscle Maker Grill provides healthy food at the speed of most fast food joints, and the prices are sensible to boot.  As the heartless cold nights of winter give way to the warm embracing days of spring, even foodies have to begin to think about shedding some of the winter weight their hibernation has welcomed.  So, next time you are too tired to cook, don’t grab a Big Mac or some Lo Mein; give Muscle Maker Grill a whirl, your belt and pants will thank you.

Muscle Maker Grill Fair Lawn on Urbanspoon