The Sommeats Junk Food Rankings!

I’m of the opinion that most of the time people should strive to eat real food, food that isn’t full of chemicals and other mystery ingredients that the majority of people have a hard time pronouncing.  However there is no shortage of junk food scattered throughout my home country (America) and really all over the world. Since, like junk food itself, the topic is pretty much unavoidable here are the Sommeats Junk Food Power Rankings!

10. Zingers

What are Zingers you ask? Well, if you are not familiar with them, Zingers are basically a Twinkie with a thin layer of frosting (that apparently makes the Zinger aerodynamic) on the top of them making them infinitely better than the much more well know Twinkie snack cake. These spongy delicious bastards often find their way into my pantry as an impulse buy while doing the grocery shopping.

9. Snickers

Ah Snickers, I’m not proud of it but there have been so many times that I have replaced meals with a Snickers bar. The Snickers bar has pretty much everything you need in a candy bar (chocolate, caramel, peanuts, and nougat) and as far as candy bars go actually makes it feel like you ate something. Plus they have some of the best commercials out there, especially their annual Super Bowl ads, FEAST!!!!

8.  Jack Link’s Beef Jerky

Jack Link’s, way better than its main competitor (slim jim) and Sasquatch approved! There’s a huge variety of Jack Link’s snacks out there and it’s a lot easier to pretend that beef jerky is a “healthy” snack when comparing it to a bag of Cheetohs.  Jack Link’s are my go to Road Trip snack

7. Twix

I hope the kids in my neighborhood don’t like Twix because every Halloween I buy the bag of candy that has Twix in it and every Halloween I hoard as many Twix bars as a can.  Sorry kids I have a candy bar line up to conduct and I need all the Twix I can get.

6. Potato Chips

Vintage Bag of #bettermade Sour Cream & Onion Potato Chips #bettermade85years

A photo posted by Better Made Snack Foods (@bettermade1930) on

The potato chip might be the most well known junk food item in the world.  It dominates the salty snacks aisle and comes in about a thousand different varieties.  In all honesty potato chips don’t really excite me, but if you put a bowl full of chips in front of me more than likely I’m going to snack on them until someone takes the bowl away.

5. Better Made Hot and Spicy Corn Chips

#junkfood rankings coming soon on #sommeats ! #bettermade

A photo posted by John (@sommeats) on

I would have these ranked even higher if I could find them on a regular basis.  These spicy delicious corn chips are normally found on the snack shelf in liquor stores and gas stations and often get over looked thanks to the Hot and Spicy potato chips.  The Hot and Spicy Corn Chips are, in my opinion, the Led Zeppelin of the Better Made family and something I buy a bag of every time I find them.

4. Skittles

Skittles are the definitive fruity candy.  Small, delicious, addictive, and available in a bunch of varieties Skittles just rock.  Like Snickers, the good people at Skittles also give us a great deal of entertainment with some of their fantastic commercials.

3. Doritos

Doritos are another advertising juggernaut that always makes a splash around the Super Bowl, but there’s no doubt these delicious snacks can sell themselves. I’m pretty sure everyone has a favorite flavor of Doritos that they simply can’t resist few companies have built their brand better than that of the Dorito.  These tortilla chips are great and I can already hear the bag in my kitchen calling my name.

2. Oreo

Oreo cookies are perfect.  They are the worlds perfect cookie and in my opinion a perfect desert.  You could fly me to France and sit me with some renowned pastry chef and if you put the fancy pants French desert on one plate and a few Oreo’s on another I’m going to choose the Oreos. All the different fillings they do now as limited release cookies are ok but nothing compares to the original.  Oreo claims to be milk’s favorite cookie, that’s true but milk will have to get out of my way because Oreo is my favorite cookie!

1. The Pretzel

“The Alternate Side” is on #Seinfeld tonight!

A photo posted by Seinfeld (@seinfeldtv) on


The pretzel is the perfect snack food.  It’s salty and delicious and best of all is the perfect companion for a pint of beer or whatever other beverage you might want to consume.  Whether you prefer the classic pretzel rod or a fresh from the oven big soft pretzel topped with some mustard you really can’t go wrong.  Anytime I go to a baseball game I get a pretzel, and every Sunday when the NFL kicks off I have pretzels around.  They’re simple and work for any occasion and, in comparison to things like potato chips or snickers, is relatively healthy.

 

What’s your favorite junk food? What essential scrumptious snack did I leave off this list? Let us know in the comments!

-Cheers!

Federal Jack’s Chowder

Chris Charland’s Chowder:

chris-charland-of-federal-jacksFederal Jack’s chef shares his recipe for a sure respite from the winter weather
A couple of years ago, in my infinite wisdom, I asked Kennebunkport Brewing Company if I could brew with them for a day in February. I had done this back in the 1990’s for an article I wrote about the experience. This time it was February, oh, did I mention that? And even lovely Kennebunkport in southern Maine was a frigid eight degrees. “Dress in layers” was head brewer Mike Haley’s email instruction to me. Well, my layers were feeble and I froze to death until the mashing-in got into full swing, the steam eventually warming the brewery a tad. I should have dressed in seven layers of thick down ski clothes, but I didn’t. Instead, I clutched my cup of coffee and hoped the steaming liquid would warm me. It didn’t. All I could think about while I loaded the grain into the auger, weighed out hops and watched Mike Haley clean out the mash tun (hey, my hands were frozen) was lunch, when I could repair upstairs to Federal Jack’s Brewpub and have a bowl of hot-as-Hades chowder.

We all have that in common in our cold Maine winters. And the one dish we can make and enjoy all winter long, for both body and soul, is a hot, buttery, creamy chowder, thought to come from the French word for cauldron, chaudiere. It’s quick to put together, and gets better if you let it “age” for a few hours or even up to a few days. But if you think you’re going to keel over dead if you endure one more snowstorm, or bombogenesis, as that horrific storm in 2015 was labeled, you are welcome to eat it as soon as you make it. You have my permission.

When the leaves came down this autumn, and the balmy days turned cold, I thought about Fed Jack’s chowder once more. I asked chef Chris Charland if he would share his recipe and he did. No precious Top Chef or Chopped secret-keeping here. Just a simple and easy-but-foolproof recipe from Federal Jack’s chef of over eighteen years, who began as a prep cook and worked his way through the ranks to become head chef.

I asked Chris to tell me something about himself and was delighted to hear that he grew up and still lives in his home town of Biddeford. His cooking background? He attended Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) and was mentored by chef Christian Gordon. But even earlier, as a boy, Chris credits his grandmother with teaching him how to make his way around the kitchen.

“My grandparents had a garden so they did a lot of pickling. My grandmother also taught me how to make a great Thanksgiving dinner, blueberry pies, her delicious southern no-bake cookies (my favorite recipe from her) and what I call “Memere soup,” which is her tomato soup with noodles.”

Of his favorite dishes to make at Federal Jack’s, Chris says, “I enjoy working with local farmers and purveyors. Our weekly special menu is dedicated to doing just that. I take their products and give them my twist by incorporating our beers (made right below the restaurant and the freshest beer possible) into them. I sometimes use the beer itself in a braising liquid, the malts used in beer- making to make crusts for fish and meat and hops to make sauces.”

What do you bring to holiday dinners? “I usually make most of the meal such as turkey or prime rib, ham and some sides like fresh herb and olive oil smashed potatoes, maple roasted butternut squash with sage, or desserts.”
When he has a day off, Chris loves spending time with his two boys, Caiden, age 6 and Carson, 2. “We play sports or build ninja warrior courses for Caiden and go for adventure walks with my youngest.”

20161101_132108CHRIS CHARLAND’S CLAM CHOWDER, from FEDERAL JACK’S BREWPUB
This is a recipe that doesn’t impose amounts for the ingredients. If you have never made chowder before, you can consult another recipe that does give them. I suggest you look at the list and decide what you like and just throw it in there. I prefer chunky chowders and add lots of rough chopped onions and potatoes. For clams, canned are fine. You might luck out if you live near a fish store, like Harbor Fish in Portland, that sells them by the quart. But the supermarket clams from Maine make a delicious “chaudiere.”

Here is our ingredient list
Whole unsalted butter
Small diced white onions
Small diced celery
Medium diced white Maine potatoes
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
Fresh thyme [Kate’s note: I use a few pinches of dried when I don’t have fresh]
Chopped clams and juice
Clam stock [Kate’s note: Julia Child used bottled clam juice!]
Heavy cream
Water
Cornstarch

Instructions:
Melt butter in a heavy pot or pan.
Add onions and celery and seasonings and cook until onions are translucent.
Add clam stock and bring to boil.
Add potatoes and cream. [Kate’s note: I leave the milk/cream out until everything else is done, just to avoid separating.]
Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.
Cook until potatoes are fork tender.
Add chopped clams and simmer until clams are cooked.
In a separate mixing bowl, mix water and cornstarch to make a slurry.
Bring chowder to boil and slowly whisk in slurry.
Bring to boil until desired thickness.
Serve with oyster cracker and a pint of Export Ale.

whats-brewing-cover-2016
kate-coneKate Cone is the author of What’s Brewing in New England, a guide to craft breweries and brewpubs. (Down East Books, 2016 and 1997). She loves to cook just about anything and chowder saves her life every winter. She lives in Waterville, Maine with her husband, Patrick Brancaccio.

Vivant – Can a Brewery have good beer and good food?

From David- Founder of Sommbeer:
I love my daughters.  They just aren’t’ too crazy about brew pubs.  When we announced we were going to Brewery Vivant after we saw the Museum in Grand Rapids, Emm’s response was “you’re going to drink beer while we eat warmed up frozen food”.  I bristled at her harsh response but knew it could be true.  Good breweries do not always measure up when it comes to food.IMG_3759
We walked into Vivant just a few minutes after they opened up for the day (no I wasn’t banging on the door).  We were immediately greeted by a hostess and seated in a booth.  I was already impressed as the interior was a beautifully renovated church.  She handed us all menu’s and I immediately panicked.  Nothing looked familiar. It was all “high end” French food, for the most part.  We coaxed Emm into trying some new stuff and then waited.
IMG_3781IMG_3777
Food: The waiter was super friendly and talked to my family as I researched the beer menu.  Along the conversation, he suggested to Emm, that when she grows up and goes to college she should always remember to go back and visit her parents (Dude! I thought to myself, you just earned yourself a nice tip).  We ordered our food, beers and pops.
The appetizer showed up – Duck Confit Nachos (a mountain of chips smothered in sauce and duck meat).  We couldn’t be happier.
My wife and youngest ordered a hamburger and grilled cheese, both outstanding.
Emm ordered a bowl of wild mushroom soup.  Something she never had, trust me. She loved it.
.IMG_3792
I ordered deer sausage.  Fantastic earthy flavor, I even ate my brussel sprouts.   All the food is super high quality and unique.  In fact it was unique to the point that they took more than a few culinary risks – and succeeded.  Only issue was the cost $$$.  Our bill for two adults and two kids hit around $100.  That said, it was a great meal and we will be going back.
IMG_3798
Beer: Our hostess explained later that Vivant is all about the Belgian wild yeast style of beer.
Update 2017: My taste has evolved since I first wrote this article. Belgian style beers have become one of my favorite styles of beer. It’s not uncommon on many a beer night for my belgians to even edge out my previous favorites – stouts and scottish ales.
I ordered a glass of their Egoiste and followed it with one last glass of Dubelicious – I loved them both.  Here’s what I learned about this style of beer, to enjoy it to it’s fullest I have to prepare myself for it.  Belgian wild yeast style is kinda tangy like sour dough bread.  Doesn’t matter the variety they make it still has that tangy flavor.  If beer is like music (a post on this later) then this tanginess is a high pitched trumpet. My wife ordered their Fat Paczk beer that arrived in a tulip glass.  That beer was out of this world good!  It’s been a week since our visit and she still talks about that one beer.
When we walked out, our hostess greeted us again (the service here is unreal).  My family took this opportunity to start shopping at the gift shop.  I grabbed a souvenir glass and the hostess recommended I purchase some Vivant beer (Acidulated Trip) to pair with my glass!  What an up-sell.
Emm and I avoiding Paparazzi
Emm and I avoiding Paparazzi
Brewery Vivant surprised me.  I have been in search of a brewery that has both great beer and food.  What I found was great food, beer and service.  My daughters are the toughest critics believe me and they were happy.  We will be going back.
Sommbeer – John Fahner @fahrn13 also reviewed some beers from Brewery Vivant.
– David
Check out this beer review for Brewery Vivant –> Solitude

How to make better coffee

Look.  I’m not here to make sweeping judgments about you or the people you care about. But if you use a K-cup or automatic drip, you are a monster.

You know what? I’m sorry about that. Like I said I am not here to…actually who am I kidding? I gotta go back to that K-cup/automatic drip thing. Why are you doing this? Did coffee hurt you in some way? Did someone raise you to believe you should go for the least best way to enjoy life? Including the stimulating dark as night bringer of joy and wonderment, coffee?

And I know we’re all busy. And I know at times we just need caffeine and we don’t have the time to have it in its best form.  But I also think that most of the time, you probably do. And I think you are selling coffee short. Especially since raising your morning coffee experience is easier than you think. So come with me on a journey where we can learn and grow.

Just kidding.

But here is how to make better coffee. It’s not that hard. Grow up.

THE COFFEE MAKER

Stop being a baby and get yourself a French Press. Sorry, I’m just still mad thinking of all that stale pre ground stuff that used to be coffee you have crammed in those K-cups.

But seriously. French Press.

Not only is it a relatively simple system, it is so much better than what you’re using. It’s not even close. Now some will champion pour over or Aeropress. And those people are not wrong. Those methods are fantastic. But they are a lot more sensitive to variables to get it just right. And you don’t need that kind of hassle. You’re a busy man/woman with a winning smile who grabs the bull by the horns. Yes, I am resorting to cheap flattery. But this is serious.

French Press.  Any one from Target or Bed Bath and Beyond will do. Bodum is a good brand and not expensive.

THE COFFEE

If you take nothing else out of this discussion I just hope in the name of all that is decent and right on God’s great earth it’s this: only buy whole bean coffee.

Please. Heaven knows I don’t ask you for much.

Coffee is actually pretty volatile. It goes stale pretty quick. So get whole bean and grind it right before you brew it.

Also, Starbucks is terrible. Find a hipster coffee shop near you and get beans from them. Now, nobody would mistake me for a hipster. But they contribute great things to coffee. Getting fresh roasted, local coffee is best. But if that isn’t possible most non-Starbucks whole bean coffees will do.

Even if you plan to stick with automatic drip coffee this will make your experience so much better. And you can believe me. Because I am always right.

Which brings us to our next element…

THE GRINDER

Invest in a conical burr grinder. I use a Cuisinart I got from Bed Bath and Beyond for 45 bucks.

It’s this one.

Sure, there are better ones, but this is the one I can afford, okay Zuckerberg?

The conical burr grinder is way better than those hand held ones. Those are dangerous for a couple reasons. One, they tend to “burn” the beans. And two, the grind is inconsistent. I’ve seen it compare to randomly chopping a steak all different sizes then throwing it on a grill and expecting it to all cook the same.

The burr grinder produces a very even grind and doesn’t ruin the beans.

If you are using a French Press (did I mention you should?) grind the beans to a coarse grind. If still using auto drip go for medium.

As a side note,  I will say the hand held grinders are still better than pre ground coffee, you animals. If you must use one don’t hold it down. Pulse it twice. Then shake it. Then pulse it two more times. Keep checking the beans until you have a relatively even grind.

BREWING

The general idea is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per 6 oz. of coffee. I tend to do a little more than that cause I like stronger coffee. My suggestion is to experiment during the weekends and times where a cup isn’t imperative or there isn’t a time crunch to get to work. It took me a good two weeks to get it right when I got serious about my coffee.

So, get the ratio right.  Do not be afraid to figure it out. Use you K-cup or auto drip and then figure this out in your off hours. Now, here’s how to brew….

Bring a tea kettle to whistle. Remove it from heat. Then grind your beans. Boiling water will burn your coffee. But waiting 30 – 60 seconds will bring the water down to perfect brewing temp.

Pour the coffee into the French Press. Pour just enough water over the coffee and mix it. It should be like a coffee mud. Let that sit for thirty seconds. It’ll expand. That releases the flavor.

Now, at this point, famous Food Network guy Alton Brown says to add a pinch of salt to reduce acidity. He is right. Not like a tablespoon. Just a pinch.

After that pour the rest of the water, give a stir to mix it all together, and let sit for three minutes. Now über snobs will tell you to plunge it for 30 seconds. But come on. Who has that kind of time? Just do a slow, steady plunge.

RESULTS

You will have a cup of coffee that is worlds ahead of the normal one. Mathematically it’s an 80% better cup of coffee with 10% more effort. These numbers are not official.

If you follow these rules, however, you will make a great cup of coffee every day.