Big Changes Already Happening at Mr. B’s

Ten weeks in and Mr. B’s (the pub I took ownership of July 2014) is moving quickly in the right direction. The cook-from-scratch philosophy is being embraced by patrons and it’s really starting to show.MrBBar

We started with our burgers . . Better meat, better buns and lessons on patty-making and seasoning have given us a huge jump-start. House-made chips and salsa, true queso cheese and authentic Mexican seasoning have transformed our south of the border fare. Fresh (and vegetarian) Jamaican Black Bean Soup and Sweet Corn and Yukon Gold Chowder have replaced frozen pre-packaged soups, and recently, I made my first batch of Posole, a traditional Mexican style chili.MrBPizza

Our calamari is now buttermilk-drenched and breaded to-order with a tangy roasted pine nut and caper arrabiatta sauce, and it’s winning a lot of fans. We’re now topping our pizzas with house-made Italian Sausage and we tested our first batch of chocolate chunk cookies, prepared in-house of course.

We’ve got our new equipment in and we’re beyond excited. Gluten-free chicken tenders and potato skins will be flying out of our new ovens and bacon and pastrami will be coming out of our new smoker. I just can’t wait! The whole new menu is slated to be out in September. Hope everyone gets a chance to stop by and try some truly great eats!

Family Reunion Korean Barbecue Style

College Days Baby Back Ribs

Recently, I trekked my way to the west side of Michigan (the state I live in) to join in the fun of our annual family reunion. It’s always great fun matched with great food. While historically my brother-in-law and I have prepared all the tasty fare, the last two years we’ve started enlisting the younger generation to help prepare the meals. And what a treat!

My nephew and his sweetheart, Christina, prepared a wonderful Korean Barbecue. Barbecue Beef Ribs (my version here), Pork Belly, Marinated Tofu, Kimchi Pancakes, Omelets, Rice, Seaweed Salads, Mung Bean Salads, and multiple dipping sauces provided a feast of flavors that had everyone delighted. While Korean food may seem exotic to some, it really is rather straight-forward to prepare, once you understand the flavor profiles.

Soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and chili pastes are really all you need to get started. You can combine these to make the marinades and glazes for the meats. Then you can mix them in different proportions and add scallions and garlic to make wonderful dipping sauces. A touch of Korean bean paste or miso can also be added to the mix. Then serve everything with a nice pile of shiso leaves to use as wraps and there you have it — a beautiful Korean flavor fest! This food is light, fresh and packs a lot of flavor. So go visit a Korean market and load up. You’ll be glad you did. . .

Preparing for the Bounty of the Harvest

tomatoWhat a fantastic year for growing a garden! I have to admit… I went a little overboard planting this year. I now have four vegetable patches situated under some warm and sunny spots.

And what a difference the sun makes! My tomatoes are growing wild. I also took the advice of an old friend and fed my gardens once a week for the first three weeks. Wow… I have had to reinforce the stakes on my tomato plants twice so far. My eggplant is twice the size of last year and I have already harvested wax beans and pea pods. It’s going to be a banner harvest season.

peas

So now is the time to start plotting a strategy for the bounty that’s soon to come in. I seem to always have an excess of hot peppers. I love to make fresh salsa, so of course hot peppers and tomatoes are a major planting for me. But I always seem to give away a lot of hot peppers. Not this year… I’m going to be pickling them! Pickling works great for hot peppers. You can mix in carrots and onions like our friends south of the border, or just keep them plain. I’ll be able to make salsa with them all winter long!

peppers

A Special Marriage Inside of My Kitchen

coffeeWhen Sara and I renovated our kitchen several years ago, we made a number of small decisions. One of which was to put an instant hot water dispenser by the sink. Another was to eliminate as much clutter from the counters as possible so we had clean lines, lots of available workspace and the ability to view and appreciate our granite and tile counters. So we punted on the traditional automatic coffee maker that usually had a permanent home on the counter, and instead we started using French Presses.

French presses are much smaller, fit in the dishwasher easily and make an incredibly good cup of coffee. We each have our own press, partially because of size and partially because I drink decaf. It’s extremely simple to use a French press with instant hot. One scoop of ground beans, turn on the faucet and in about 30 seconds you’ve got a pot going. Let it sit for three minutes to steep and BAM − great cup of coffee.

We have been doing this for several years now and a few days ago my instant hot started to sputter about five seconds into the pour. The filter was clean so I think we’re watching the beginning of the end for this little appliance. But for about $150 bucks I can buy a new one and keep enjoying the good java for another several years. I just love it.

Who knew an instant hot and a French press could bring you that special little joy when you wake up on a groggy day!

Johnny Prep Takes Over Management of Iconic Mr. B’s Pub in Royal Oak

I have some good news to share. . . Earlier in June, I took over over management of Mr. B’s Pub, the iconic, 30-year-old restaurant on Main Street in Royal Oak, Michigan. I’m officially a restaurant owner!

mrbspub1The B’s brand has been popular for a long time, and my plans are to build on that reputation. The team will enhance the menu by making more dishes, condiments, sauces and soups from scratch, and creating a culinary culture that’s focused on fun.

mrbspub2Diners will notice these changes as they are rolled out in stages over the next several months. I’m also planning on including an updated menu that retains Mr. B’s’ most popular items, state of the art sports viewing, live blues and jazz music in addition to existing DJ-driven dance nights and an expanded catering and events opportunities in the banquet facilities.

A little history. . . Mr. B’s was among the first sports bars in metro Detroit. It has expanded over the decades and now occupies 9,000 square feet at Main and Third Streets. In 2012, Mr. B’s added a martini lounge that flanks the main seating room. I plan to use the upscale space for craft beer, wine and food tastings.

I’m excited for this next venture! If you are ever in the Detroit area, come out and see me at Mr. B’s.

They Make Me Cry, But I Can’t Get Enough Onions!

Grilled Turkey Cheeseburger Double SlidersI just love onions. They are foundational to so many dishes, but by themselves they’re a star. The transformation that occurs from a raw onion to a cooked onion is incredible. That’s because they have so much natural sugar built into them. Yup, natural sugar, not the processed stuff in which people seem to perpetually overindulge.

And as the onions cook and start to turn brown, those sugars start to caramelize and the bite-y onion turns into a soft, sweet, savory gem. As I’ve been developing recipes for the pub I’ve purchased, I’ve decided to really highlight caramelized onions.

So I went to my restaurant supply store recently and bought some fresh onions that were already sliced. Making a few pounds of onions a day is no big deal, but if you’re going to go through 20 or 30 pounds a day I figure buying them peeled and sliced would save someone a lot of tears.

Wow, did this make things easy. I whipped up 20 pounds of caramelized onions in about 30 minutes. Worked like a charm. Of course, when I experiment in my studio kitchen at my house, I need to find people to eat these babies. But the beauty of these is that they keep very well in the fridge for a few weeks if you store them properly.

Seeing these babies in the fridge inspired me to whip up a Swiss Onion Soup. If you have the onions in the fridge and keep some stock around, this soup will take about 20 minutes to make and… what nice flavor. Then I needed a good salad dressing, so I took some of the onions and threw them in the Vitamix and whipped up a delicious caramelized onion and garlic dressing. Not to mention that our sliders and sandwiches have been kicked up a few notches for the last few weeks as well.

So next time you’re working with onions, make a few extra. Throw them in a pan with some butter or olive oil and cook them gently until they are nice a golden brown. A little salt and pepper and you have onion magic!

Second Annual Clash of the Cooking Crews a Success!

My second annual Clash of the Cooking Crews at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital here in Michigan kicked off last week, and it was another fantastic success getting kids engaged with cooking and learning. Thanks to the Detroit Free Press for the write-up!

While Milford Muir took the top spot, all the kids came away winners, said Prepolec, who coached all the teams before and during the contest.

“They all did awesome, and all had nice presentations,” he said. “What was cool is they all did one egg omelet and realized it’s filling.” — Detroit Free Press

WXYZ-TV Channel 7 also came out to cover the event. . . Check out the kids in action learning how to cook healthy in the clip.

To learn more about Clash of the Cooking Crews, please visit the main website!

Are You Yearning for the Great Flavor of Mushrooms?

With Morel season just beginning my taste buds are yearning for some great mushroom flavor. With this really crummy weather, the season has been slow in arriving, so I’ve been making some mushroom duxelle to top my steaks and burgers and fulfill my desire for the taste. Mushroom duxelle is simply rough chopped mushrooms that are sautéed and then reduced with some liquids to make an incredibly flavorful sauce. It’s not overly saucy, but rather coats the mushrooms with just enough extra liquid to cover the meat it is served with.

Here are the tips: Clean and dry your favorite mushrooms and cut them into quarters or halves if they’re small. Get a large frying pan really, really hot. Then add a very small amount of vegetable oil (like one tablespoon). Toss the mushrooms in the pan and don’t stir them. The mushrooms will actually start to softly squeak as they initially shrink from the high heat. This technique is important, because it keeps the liquids from oozing out of the mushrooms and it lets you get a nice caramelization on them.

Once the mushrooms are cooked, add about a cup of Madeira or Marsala wine and reduce it until it is almost dry (au sec). Then add a cup of cream and once again reduce it in half. Then season with salt and pepper to taste. This stuff tastes incredible and will top a steak, chop or even a breaded eggplant and turn it into heaven!

Homemade Dessert? Or Bought From a Pastry Shop?

apple-pieI saw a killer-looking dessert the other day. It truly was visibly impressive. I HAD to have come out of a pro pastry shop. I still had that delicious dessert on my mind, and though that it quite possibly could be an incredibly easy dessert to whip up yourself if you don’t mind using store-bought ingredients.

So for those who are looking for a simple approach to impressing your guests, here’s what I would recommend: Buy a good quality apple pie. Turn the pie upside-down on a serving platter. Buy a very good quality caramel and chocolate sauce. Heat the sauces to soften them and pour them alternately on top of the upside-down pie. Then take a can of mixed nuts, or any nuts you prefer, and while the sauces are still warm, spread a healthy helping on top. Let the sauces cool to a thick consistency and serve.

This desert will wow your guests and it will taste incredible, and it just called for a little creative thinking. I strongly encourage you to make your own dessert next time around, if for no other reason but because cooking is fun and inventive!