Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Best Eatery in the Country (According to Yelp)

Last year, Yelp released a list of the Top 100 Eateries in the Country based on "data". The eatery that holds the top spot and distinction of "Best in the Country" is a little place called Copper Top BBQ located in a tiny town called Big Pine, California. Big Pine, situated in Inyo County (say that out loud) with a population under 2000, rests along U.S. Highway 395 en route to the Sierras. I haven't done the research, but a fun fact is that it may be the only place on the list of 100 that's not a city, but rather a "census-designated place." Another fun fact is that although many entries on this list are in California, Copper Top is the only one I've been to. I haven't visited the others because I suck.

Getting to Copper Top BBQ

So the Sierras are a somewhat regular vacation spot for my uncle and I and the 395 is the artery we take to get there. It's a beautiful scenic drive and, at times, it feels like going back in time. This past October we made a visit to the now famous Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada, but we stopped at Copper Top along the way based on this distinction. How often do you get to eat at the best restaurant in the country? In ANY country?

Typical scenery along U.S. 395

What Constitutes Number One?

On the surface, Yelp seems like a very black and white website; companies with 1 star ratings suck and those with 5 are awesome. But it's a lot more complex than that, and the fact that Yelp's explanation of these ratings is simply "from lengthy reviews to photos and searches, there’s a lot that our data can tell us about small businesses and consumer preferences" is proof.

The truth is, NO ONE understands Yelp's system of doing anything. I tried to understand once upon a time but then made a butthole of myself so that was that. Try figure out Yelp's filtering system; you may learn a few interesting things about how the website works.

My guess is that this list puts more weight onto people with an exuberant amount of total Yelp reviews and those who are Elite status. I applied for Elite status twice in the past and Yelp denied me twice because they suck. In fact, I think that alone is grounds for giving them a 1 star rating on their own website. Seriously, you can actually write a review for Yelp ON Yelp.

The Actual Experience

I gotta say: this really was an experience. We were already on a road trip and this was one of our first destinations and we were truly excited to try the BEST eatery in the country. The actual eatery (notice I'm labeling it an eatery, as it's not really a restaurant, per se) is kinda small but they cook everything outside on their grill or whatever the hell it is so you can see everything as it's being prepared. Big bonus points considering you can actually watch how they do it.

Because we were stupid and didn't bring a cooler, I wasn't able to order what I REALLY wanted, which was the sampler plate that consists of tri-tip, pork ribs, and a quarter chicken. Believe it or not, I just didn't have the stomach for something that big. Look, guys, even Michael Jordan had off games. We went simple and ordered tri-tip sandwiches. While the picture is kind of anti-climactic, it was really very tasty:

You're not gonna find this kind of craftsmanship at a chain, that's for sure. The way they run things here really does make it an experience more than anything else. 

Send in the clowns

Worthy of Number One

The reality is you have to ask what, exactly, are the qualifications of a number one eatery. Everyone may have a skewed opinion of this, but here you have a nice little location that's well maintained, the food is fresh and delicious, and the staff is very nice. The owners here take a lot of pride in what they do so that, I think, makes it worthy of the distinction of number one. I just hope next year we bring a cooler so we don't have to hesitate about making a large order.

Conserving resources is what successful businesses do

And just for fun, here's our vlog from the trip which features Copper Top:

Copper Top BBQ: Greg's Gourmet Approved!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Best Dog Kibble Out There: Orijen and Acana

Being a dog freak, people frequently ask "what's the best food to feed my dog?" My response is usually prefaced by "every dog is different, so what's good for one dog may not be good for another." I usually say that to cover all my bases. The problem is there's a lot of misinformation out there about pretty much everything under the sun, dog food included. For example, the BEST diet for your dog actually consists of raw meat, fruits, and veggies. Is that surprising? Shouldn't be. A natural diet is the best diet for dogs, cats, humans, buffalo, antelope, gremlins, etc.

But I'm not here to preach a raw diet; instead I'm writing this to preach about what I think is the best KIBBLE on the market since that's what people predominantly feed their dogs.

The answer: ORIJEN and ACANA.

Orijen and Acana are actually sister companies owned by Champion Petfoods out of Canada. Simply describing the benefits about the superiority of these foods isn't enough. No, these things need a damn list:

1) As close to a natural diet as you're going to get from any kibble 

Both of these brands pride themselves on being "biologically appropriate", which Champion trademarked as "MIRROR THE QUANTITY, FRESHNESS AND VARIETY OF MEATS THAT NATURE EVOLVED DOGS AND CATS TO EAT." Translation: if a dog (i.e. wolf) is out in the wild, what are they gonna be eating? Will it be the corn or wheat that Purina tries to convince you are part of a healthy canine diet? No, it'll be meat because dogs are frickin' carnivores. 

2) A wide variety of healthy and natural ingredients

First I'm going to introduce you to the ingredients panel of a dog food called "Prize" that was found in the fabled Haggen (soon to be Albertsons, hopefully) down the street: 

Crap dog foods pride themselves on convincing you that corn, soy, and wheat are part of a "balanced" canine diet when, in fact, a lot of dogs actually exhibit allergies because of it. Does your dog neurotically lick its paws? Does your dog get a lot of ear infections or staph infections? How about excess shedding and hot spots? These could all be the result of a food allergy. Let's go through the "Prize" panel piece by piece: GROUND YELLOW CORN is the main ingredient. Bad. MEAT AND BONE MEAL. What the hell does that mean? When you see "meat and bone" without an animal attached to it, that means it's mystery meat. It's basically the leftovers of slaughterhouse waste that wasn't used for human consumption. Think hot dogs for dogs. Sure, I love a good hot dog but eating them everyday would probably make me pretty damn unhealthy. Continuing on we get CORN GLUTEN MEAL, GROUND MEAT, and WHEAT MILL RUN. Corn, wheat, wheat. So far in this food we have a ton of corn, a ton of wheat, and mystery meat. 

But that's not all, as we've got MORE mystery ingredients in the form of ANIMAL FAT and ANIMAL DIGEST. Again, if you don't know what animal it's coming from then you should stay away. 

Now, let's move onto the ingredients panel for the Duck and Bartlett Pear formula of Acana:

I think the big difference between the two panels, other than "Prize" being crap, is that with Acana (and its sister brand Orijen) you can actually READ and UNDERSTAND the ingredients. DUCK is the first and second ingredient. Notice also the use of DUCK FAT as opposed to ANIMAL FAT. They're telling you exactly what you're getting. When you read an ingredient you should ask yourself why it's being used. WHY is the first ingredient in "Prize" corn? WHY is there mystery meat? WHY is there so much corn and wheat instead of meat? 

By now you may be asking what the difference is between Orijen and Acana and it pretty much comes down to a slightly different selection of flavors and Orijen having more protein. In fact, it's pretty much the richest kibble you're gonna find on the market, with Orijen's Regional Red formula leading the way with 38% crude protein, almost twice as much as that "Prize" crap up there. Here are the ingredients for Regional Red, as taken from Orijen's website. Prepare to be blown away:

Boneless Angus beef*, boneless wild boar*, boneless lamb*, beef liver*, boneless pork*, pork liver*, whole herring*, lamb liver*, beef meal, lamb meal, herring meal, salmon meal, Pollock meal, beef tripe*, bison*, lamb fat, whole egg*, red lentils, chickpeas, green peas, yellow peas, green lentils, herring oil, pea fibre, yams*, sun-cured alfalfa, pumpkin, butternut squash*, spinach greens*, carrots*, Red Delicious apples*, Bartlett pears*, cranberries*, blueberries*, kelp, licorice root, angelica root, fenugreek, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, chamomile, dandelion, summer savory, rosemary, Enterococcus faecium.


The first FIFTEEN ingredients are MEAT. FIFTEEN!!! You've also got fruit and veggies in here, not to mention an abundance of super foods (i.e. blueberries and kelp). With Orijen and Acana you do pay more, but you get more, and on a rich diet like this you'll actually be feeding your dog less than you would with some crap food that's loaded with fillers.

3) Champion Petfoods is extremely transparent: 

There aren't any sourcing mysteries here: everything that Champion uses is locally sourced, and they openly list the companies they work with on their bags of dog food. There's nothing from China. You're not going to get more transparent than that.

4) Dogs are carnivores, not omnivores. Their bodies respond well to meat-based diets, not grain-based diets: 

Believe it or not I actually like Purina. They put a ton of effort into their marketing and it's almost like they're blatantly proud of how disgusting their food is. You gotta respect that. They also like to pretend that dogs have evolved into omnivores, i.e. they eat both meat and plants. This is the reason they market "the power of grain" because as an omnivore their systems can easily handle the excess plant protein. But that's not true, and you need to look no further than this simple graphic that, conveniently, was PROVIDED BY PURINA:

Alright, guys, look at the molars on the damn omnivore skull. Those things are for grinding meat. In fact, they're MORE pronounced than the carnivore's and look NOTHING like the herbivore's! AND THIS WAS ON PURINA'S WEBSITE!!! Just look at your dog's teeth. Those are teeth are built for meat, meaning dogs are still carnivores. They may all evolve one day to be plant eaters but today that's simply not the case. This is why a corn diet is not healthy for your dog.

5) My dogs are the only proof I need: 

I've had golden retrievers my whole life. My second golden, Cara, was diagnosed with an aggressive (and becoming all too common) cancer called hemangiosarcoma when she was only 7. She passed away 3 months later. Cara's diet was Blue Buffalo's chicken and rice formula, which was packed with grain and wheat. Her treats consisted of Milk Bones and Blue Bakery, which are also loaded with wheat and grains (Milk Bones also contain the mystery MEAT AND BONE MEAL). For much of her life she would neurotically lick her paws, routinely get ear and staph infections, and shed excessively, even for a golden's standards. Vets gave her steroids and other antibiotics but no one ever suggested all of this could be a food allergy. I don't blame anyone for this because the vets didn't know and we didn't know. Simple as that. During her post-diagnosis stage, she went on a raw diet of fresh meat and veggies. For those last 3 months ALL of these problems went away. You'd think during a time when her body was more compromised (especially after surgery) she'd be more susceptible to allergies but nope. Nothing.

Fast forward to today. Her successor, Jenny, another golden, is 2. She has been on Orijen and Acana for most of her life. Her diet is supplemented with fresh fruits and veggies (blueberries, carrots, radishes, etc.) and her treats contain minimal ingredients, some being purely raw meat. She's healthy as a clam and has never had the issues Cara had on Blue Buffalo. She barely sheds, which is unusual, especially for a golden. Ears are good. Doesn't lick paws. No skin or staph infections. See a pattern here? 

The only real "power of grain" is how sick it can get your dog. Canine cancer is on the rise. The life expectancy of purebred canines is going down. Why? Well, poor breeding is one reason, but how about the fact that the dog food market has exploded over the last half century? Kibble is convenient and most are affordable, sure, but a lot of these big brands are sacrificing healthy nutrition for garbage. That's why it's important to KNOW WHAT YOU'RE FEEDING YOUR DOG! Do your research, ask questions, and think about the ingredients. 

Jenny approves of Orijen and Acana

Orijen and Acana: Greg's Gourmet (and Jenny) Approved. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bison Burgers




Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls; I have just had a perfectly cooked piece of meat. Let me tell you something: I got a steak at Chili's. Asked for medium rare...I got rare.

Got a steak from Olive Garden. Asked for medium...I got a living cow.

Saw the bison burger on the menu of the Pacific Beach AleHouse. How could I resist? I ordered medium...I got an orgasm:


Let me tell ya - this burger was probably the best I've had in recent memory. It was big, it was moist, it was juicy, and it was delicious. Seriously outta sight. And the fries weren't anything to skip on either! Flavorful, seasoned, fantabulous. 

One thing that didn't work, however, were the Rattlesnakes:

Looks like poop on a plate

These are bacon wrapped jalapenos stuffed with some kind of spicy cream cheese sauce. Normally I love jalapenos and anything that they're stuffed with, but these things were hotter than the frickin' fires of Mt. Doom. I was ready to drown my pallet in that ranch because these things were so damn hot. What the hell happened here? Is that normal? 

It's honestly gotten to the point where if a restaurant can cook a piece of meat properly then they're already in the upper-tier as far as I'm concerned. This bison burger, though...a thing of beauty.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Fruit Salad Friday

Hello everyone and Happy New Year. This post marks Greg's Gourmet's sixth year of food blogging, carbohydrates, and fart jokes. Although this blog has been quiet the past couple of years, it had something of a rejuvenation this winter, with nine of 2015's 25 posts coming in November and December. I'm hoping to keep that up.

Anyway, while Greg's Gourmet is generally known for eating challenges, full-fat beef, and intestinal reorganization prior to large meals, one thing I've been steady with for several weeks has been delicious, delicious fruit salads. I find that when I have a fruit salad at work I'm better able to get through the rest of the day. I get a jolt of energy and in general I just feel good. Shouldn't be surprising - the closer you are to an all-natural diet the better you'll feel. Because of my dedication to healthy eating at work, I've created the theme of "Fruit Salad Friday," though it's kind of a formality because technically EVERY DAY is Fruit Salad Friday:

This was actually from Christmas (which, coincidentally, was a Friday), but it exemplifies what I'm going for in a layered, multi-colored concoction of fresh fruit. This one in particular is 10 layers deep: Pineapple, apple, watermelon, grape, kiwi, banana, blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, and Maraschino cherry. 

Here's what the work fruit salads are looking like:

I always try to create some kind of base for each salad, usually a melon or pineapple because, obviously, they're larger fruits. Then you top that with your mid-sized fruits (bananas, kiwis, apples), and then top it with berries. I also like to throw some chia seeds on top for a cheap source of protein and fiber. 

I'd highly recommend giving a fruit salad a chance. Check out Sprouts for the best priced and highest quality produce and create your own. For the work salads like the one above I usually include 5-7 fruits. Give it a try.