Food Snob Chronicles — Selected Letters
If you’re new around these parts, all you need to know is that Thursdays are my grab bag. Be it an interview about culinary history, the lowdown on a popular ingredient or the inside scoop on that foreign-looking ingredients list, the ‘Food Snob Chronicles’ is my chance to put on my reporter’s cap.
This time around, I’m sharing my mail.
I receive many letters. They run the gamut — exciting; boring; surprising; and shocking. Many of them are unsolicited, while others are responses to blog entries, Google+ or Facebook posts … and my Yelp restaurant reviews.
Before you read
A couple of weeks ago, my wife accompanied me to a PR conference in Corpus Christi. Though it is a jewel of a city on the Texas coast, the restaurant scene is equivalent to your neighborhood mall food court.
So, I consulted Yelp and a few friends for a good Tex-Mex restaurant. The consensus was clear. Kiko’s — in business since the mid 1970s.
But I was far from impressed and left this Yelp review after our experience there.
Then, I heard from the (new) owner.
I appreciate you taking the time to write your review. I’m sorry that you and your wife didn’t enjoy your meal, but I have to say I’m surprised to read your descriptions of our food. In fact, your description of the taco shells and the Queso [sic] are inaccurate. There is no way a person can tell one taco shell from another, that’s hilarious! Unless your picture is hiding the truth…Velveeta couldn’t come close to the way we make our Queso [sic]. Although, I take that as a complement [sic]. People desperately try to duplicate the Queso [sic] without success. Regarding the hot sauce, again, you have no idea what goes into a hot sauce. Salt, oh no, no, no… I do agree with you on cilantro, however. Hot sauce should have cilantro as an ingredient, unfortunately, my customers do not agree with you or me. We try it every few years to see if palates have changed and this is what they like. Why change something that has worked for 36 years? Now getting to the shrimp, I agree that the shrimps [sic] not right and have taken action to correct the problem. Again thank you for your words of wisdom. I enjoy reading the good and the bad and look forward to have you dine with us again.
Like any good journalist, I phoned the restaurant to confirm that Marcus is, in fact, the owner — and that he wrote me the letter. He bought the restaurant from his parents this past October. And, yes. He really did appreciate my words of wisdom … and responded accordingly.
I’d never even heard of Marsala wine, much less Chicken Marsala, before 1994 — when I moved to the Garden State. It’s been a regular part of my repertoire since. Be careful to read the Marsala label, because there’s a huge difference between the sweet and dry. (I’ve made Marsala with the sweet and it’s definitely … tangy.)
1 lb – Chicken tenderloins
1/4 cup – All-purpose flour
1 TB – Kosher salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
4 TB – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 – Garlic clove, minced
1 cup – Baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
4 TB – Butter
1 tsp – Dried Basil
1/2 cup – Chicken stock
1/2 cup – Dry Marsala wine
Season chicken with salt and black pepper. Dredge in flour, shaking off excess.
In a medium saucepan, heat oil to medium-high. Fry chicken for about 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Set chicken pieces aside. Repeat.
If all oil is gone, add another TB, or two and bring to medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add butter and mushrooms. Cook for another 2 minutes, or so.
Add stock, Marsala and dried basil. Stir until combined. Continue stirring until reduced slightly and thickened somewhat. Add cooked chicken pieces, making sure that all are coated. Cook for another 2 minutes, or so, then turn off heat.
Cover and allow to sit for about 3-4 minutes. Season to taste with Kosher salt. Serve with pasta.