Category Archives: blogging

I Got Mugged. Again.

It was a typical Saturday morning in our home. I woke up earlier than everyone else and snuck down to the basement to punish myself for an hour on the elliptical. Then I went back upstairs, showered, got dressed and came back downstairs to make breakfast for everyone like the moonlighting wannabe short order cook that I am. We all marveled at the glorious goodness that is the first cup of coffee & we laughed as I broke the yolk on one of my fried eggs again. I am blaming it on having to switch to a new spatula but that is blog that has already been written and is irrelevant to this particular story. When breakfast was over, I asked my wife if there were any errands I could do for her and she gladly handed over the grocery list. I gladly accepted since I know my wife hates going to the grocery store on the weekends (or any other day for that matter too) and because I actually like to try and beat the store at its own game when it comes to pricing & specials.

Now if I hadn’t still been in somewhat of an Aloha State of Mind due to our recent vacation I might have paid more attention to the date. I might have noticed the parking lot was full to bursting with cars, people & wayward carts. I might have noticed the crowds around the doors. But I didn’t and I plunged through the chaos with my basket in hand to further my quest to conquer the list & beat up on the store.

After I successfully negotiated the crowded aisles & the mounting obstacles around the checkout, I made way back toward the exit and the chaos that was still the parking lot. As I stepped through the doors into the broad daylight and slipped between two slow moving carts they struck. There were five of them and I recognized all five of them instantly because they were the same five that had mugged me in this very same parking lot a year earlier. I looked at them & they looked back at me before the one that was obviously the ringleader said with a quirky smile,

“Hey Mister, want to buy some Girl Scout Cookies ?”

Twenty bucks later they had trashed my diet and they were moving onto their next victim. As I watched Thin Mint, Tagalong, Trefoil, Samoa & Do Si Do (my names for them, not theirs) walk away, I heard their troop leader merrily gloat , “Thank you Sir & see you again next year”.

My waistline & wallet shuddered at the thought.

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But Can They Really Call It #Pizza ?

To me, Pizza, is and always has been a large regular cheese with a thin crust. If you can’t give it a good New York Fold then it isn’t pizza. Sorry Chicago, if you need a fork & knife to eat it, it isn’t pizza. I also have to admit that I am not a fan of greasy meat on my pizza either so you can keep the pepperoni & sausage but I would never look down on a pizza for having it. Veggies on a Pizza ? Well, aren’t we all really ordering pizza for dinner so we can avoid eating veggies and doesn’t the tomato in the sauce count anyway ?

The reason I bring this up is that we receive a countless number of food porn magazines in our house. We claim to buy them for the recipes & articles but we really spend all of our time looking at the pictures. A recent issue came in that really caught my eye because it claimed to have 5 Fab Pizzas in their Global Gourmet Issue. The picture on the cover was tantalizing so I flipped to the article in the back of the magazine beyond the centerfold.

In recent years an appetizer has shown up on menus called Flatbread, which to me is nothing more than a piece of dough with some stuff tossed on top of it and tossed into a pizza oven. It is usually of an abstract or rectangular shape so essentially, it’s masquerading as a pizza. It reminded me of years ago when we would buy a Boboli Bread Shell and make “pizza” with it. As I began to peruse the pictures & the recipes in “Pizza” article I had to ask myself, if a flatbread is round, can you really call it a pizza ?

No. You can’t and here is why.

Now I understand the need to be different in a crowd in order to get noticed. I understand how you have to push the envelope on flavor combinations & creative ingredients because I watch CHOPPED & TOP CHEF and all the other cooking competition shows out there but just because you put some cheese on a crust does not make it pizza. The first problem I found with the pizzas in this article were the mix & match crust options. I understand the desire to be healthy so I have no problem with whole wheat or gluten free crusts but CAULIFLOWER CRUST ?

Seriously ?

The word “cauliflower” should never be uttered in the same sentence as the word “pizza” unless that sentence has something to do with ingredients that should never ever be included in a pizza.

The next problem was with most of the pizzas themselves. The Pizza Albondigas was probably the closest thing to a real pizza in that it was a spanish meatball pizza. True, the meatballs are traditionally used in soup. Makes me kind of wonder what a Pizza Soup might taste like ?

The second pizza on the list was a Chicken Spanakopizza that had greek yogurt, feta cheese & spinach among the many unorthodox items on it’s ingredient list. The only two ingredients that even closely resembled pizza were the crust & mozzarella cheese. This really seemed more like the Greek Salad you get at your local diner than a pizza.

The Turkish Lahmacun Pizza lost me at Lamb but then went on to add in cinnamon, paprika, allspice & lettuce. I’m sorry but lettuce never has and never will belong on a pizza. Case closed. There will be no further argument.

As egregious an offense as the lettuce was to the World of Pizza, the recipes continued to offend me in more ways than I thought possible. Coconut Curry Vegetable Pizza has everything going wrong for it from the very first word. I may stray and eat the occasional Hawaiian Pizza with Ham & Pineapple on it but I can’t think of any pizza that needs or wants coconut on it. We already know how I feel about vegetables on pizza but this recipe actually called for 2 cups of chopped CAULIFLOWER. (SEE ABOVE CAULIFLOWER RANT) Throw in the peas, chickpeas, carrots & potatoes with the curry seasoning and what we really have is some sort of middle eastern side dish on a thicker piece of Naan. How in the world is this considered a pizza ?

But that wasn’t the worst “pizza” on the list and I am being generous when I use the word “pizza” here. Just the name alone was enough to bring back hazy memories of eating hungover leftovers on a Sunday afternoon from the back of the fraternity refrigerator in college, Chicken Lo Mein Pizza. The recipe is really nothing more than taking leftover chinese food and dumping it on top of a pizza. There are some lines that are sacred and should not be crossed and I realize that Tostino’s Pizza Rolls cross that line in the other direction but if you are going to dump chinese food on a pizza, at least pick a dish that doesn’t include noodles. It’s just a crime against all that is holy & glorious in the world of the $1 Slice.

I am sure that there are those out there that will tell me I am narrowminded and that all of these are great recipes and I am sure for someone out there they are but can they really call them pizzas ?

And come back next time when we talk about how I got mugged again this past weekend by a bunch Girl Scouts.

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10 Food-Ball Thunks About The Super Bowl

ImageTwo weeks ago in the Mile High City, Peyton Manning “Omaha-ed” the Denver Broncos to a victory over the Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll (who is now paddleboarding in Costa Rica with Barbie) & the New England Patriots in the American Food-Ball Conference Championship Game. While up in the louder than an airplane taking off home of “The 12th Man”, Richard Sherman deflected away Colin Kaepernick’s final pass in the Seahawks’ end zone and sparked a controversy when his mouth began to celebrate before his head could catch up with it in National Food-Ball Conference Championship Game. What that all means is that it’s “Mann vs Mouth” (with credit to the New York Post) in Super Bowl XLVIII – The Denver Broncos vs The Seattle Seahawks.


As a longtime Denver Broncos fan, I remember when the Seattle Seahawks played in the AFC West. I was never a fan of Jim Zorn, Steve Largent, Dave Krieg, Curt Warner or least of all Brian Bosworth. (Does he still have Bo Jackson’s footprint on his chest ?) I didn’t hate the the Seahawks like I did the Raiders, Chiefs & Chargers, they just annoyed me. I have to admit I was glad when they were moved to the NFC in the most recent expansion realignment. My disdain for the franchise had remained dormant until now. Now the Seahawks are my mortal enemy again and they are all that is standing in the way of a Denver Broncos Super Bowl victory on Sunday. So with a tip of the chef’s toque to the Monday Morning Quarterback himself, Peter King @SI_PeterKing on Twitter, let’s get to 10 Food-Ball Thunks About The Super Bowl.


1. Every year I try to come up with dishes to represent the two teams playing in the Super Bowl. In the earlier rounds of the playoffs I pick more whimsical recipes in part to spark controversy & to play on stereotypes. Come Super Bowl however, I pick recipes that I am actually going to make & eat so I try to come up with something good. When I first moved to Denver in 1982 the closest I came to Mexican food was driving past Taco Bell. The guys in my office used to take me to The Riv off of Colorado Boulevard once a week just to see me sweat. So for the Denver Broncos I am thinking of taking a Phyllo Cup and filling it with first a scoop of a Spicy Denver Omelet, then topping that with a scoop of Buffalo Burger, some Mexican 3 Cheese Mix and then tossing the whole tray under the broiler. Maybe top it with a scoop of guacamole at the end.

2. When people stereotypically think of Seattle, they think of throwing & catching salmon, starbucks & coffee, McDreamy & McSteamy and the color Black but Seattle and the state of Washington are so much more. The food scene is over the top and don’t forget about the incredible apple & cheery crops growing out in the eastern part of the state. With all that in mind and far too much time on a train in the morning to think, I have decided to roast chunks of salmon on a wire rack and to marinate & glaze them in a Cherry & Wine sauce using a chardonnay (white with fish) from a local Washington vineyard like Chateau St. Michelle. In a tribute to the “Legion of Boom”, I will have to kick it up just a notch at the end….but not too much.

3. Other Super Bowl menu items will include standards like Chicken Wings, Ribs, Deviled Eggs with Cheddar & Bacon, some sort of dip and of course, Alligator Chili. I did have someone review my Coconut Conch Chowder recipe the other day and while I don’t have any conch this year in the freezer, I did just get 10lbs of frozen crawfish tails sent to me from Louisiana. Of course I will be making a few items from the RITZ Recipe Collection and there will be other items too that I will reveal on Game Day as I make them.

4. You heard it here first. The Polar Vortex is moving out and the weather will not be a factor in this game. The only thing the two teams may have to worry about are the swirling winds in Giants Stadium but both quarterbacks played here this year (both beat the Giants handily) so that shouldn’t be much of a factor. Both kickers have guns for legs so I am not worried about them either.

5. The Seahawks & Broncos have actually already played this season. They met back in the very first week of preseason when the guys the Seahawks were going to cut beat the guys the Broncos were going to cut by a score of 40-10. It meant nothing then and it means nothing now.

6. No one cared about the Super Bowl commercials until 1984 when Apple made a commercial that never mentioned their product but is still talked about today. Now you can see teasers for commercials on every social media outlet known to mankind before the game. Can’t say that I am looking forward to any one commercial in particular but I am sure there will be more than few that will make me say, “$4 million for that ?”

7. When I first moved to Denver, John Elway still belonged to the Baltimore Colts and was playing baseball in the minor leagues for the Yankees and George Steinbrenner. I wasn’t an Elway fan at all. He went to Stanford & my Mom went to Cal. (Go Bears !) Now I believe in “Elwayism”. When I die, I believe that John Elway himself will throw my soul into heaven.

8. Yes, I will be wearing my John Elway apron when I am cook on Sunday.

9. I can’t wear my jersey on Game Day. Bad Luck. I can only wear team colors. This year the lucky shirt & shorts have been a blue & orange tee shirt from Maui and orange running shorts. I have only worn them during games and have yet to wash them. Superstition – it’s only crazy if it doesn’t work.

10. I flew last week for the first time this year. The only thing that has changed is that more people who have no clue what they are doing have been granted TSA Pre-Check status. This hasn’t made the process of flying any easier, faster or safer for frequent fliers like me. I also learned last week that if a “deadheading” pilot has to sit in a middle seat, he gets paid 50% of his hourly wage as compensation. I offered to change seats with the disgruntled pilot in the middle seat for half of his 50% but he said no. Guess sitting in the middle isn’t so bad after all. Speaking of middle seats, based on their commercial, Expedia can get you the middle seat in the last row of coach and you have to pay for your bag to be checked. Is this really an ad for orbitz or Travelocity.

11. (because I can’t count) Back in 1990 I flew on Alaska Airlines from Oakland to Seattle. My plane was called Seahawk One and I sat in a seat that was reserved for the Linebackers Coach. The flight was on time but it may have been the most miserable flight of my life.

12. (why not an even dozen) If it hadn’t been for a recent basement remodel and three bathrooms needing to be redone, I might have tried to get tickets for the Super Bowl. To be honest, I would rather my first Super Bowl be somewhere warm like New Orleans or San Diego. I have been to Giants Stadium and it doesn’t excite me. Neither does an average ticket price of $3,600 and rising with the temperature.

13. (a Baker’s Dozen is even better & 13 is our family’s lucky number) My prediction for the game – It’s the best offense against the best defense and in most cases, the best defense usually wins. However, the Seahawks haven’t faced a team with as many offensive weapons as the Broncos have. The Broncos not only have Peyton Manning calling the plays/audibles at the line of scrimmage but they also have four receivers who all scored 10 or more touchdowns and they also have two running backs who can ground & pound as well as catch the ball. The Legion of Boom is going to have their hands full trying to cover everyone. When the Seahawks have the ball, quarterback Russell Wilson has Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch to hand off to and a nice collection of receivers to throw to. The Broncos have to contain Wilson when he drops back to pass because he can scramble. The Broncos weakness has been their defensive secondary so if Wilson can evade the pass rush and find his receivers downfield, it could be long game for my Broncos. However I see it coming down to late in the game and Steven Hauschka kicks a long field goal to take a 26-24 lead but hold on, here comes Peyton Manning and with less than 2 minutes to go he finds Julius Thomas in the end zone for a 31-26 lead. The final Hail Mary pass from the Seahawks will get knocked down in the end zone and the Broncos will win their third Super Bowl.

So give me your menu & prediction if you want and next time we can all talk about how right I was.

Go Broncos !

(Sorry Seattle)


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The #RITZNYBlitz Recipe Review

ImageThe Countdown Clocks to the Big Game are winding down. The temperature in New York City has bottomed out and is starting to head back up. Broadway has been turned into “Super Bowl Boulevard” and there is even a 60 foot high by 180 foot long “Toboggan Run” that can be ridden for $5 a ride. Yes, the Big Game is almost upon us so that means it’s time to start finalizing your Game Day Menus. So why not consider some of the incredible #RITZNYBlitz recipes available within the RITZ Recipe Collection at that were conceived & developed by my fellow Allrecipes All Stars and a few of New York City’s most iconic restaurants? I know I plan on making more than a few of them myself.

 The All Star Recipes and the blogs behind them can all be found right here:

 RITZ Pushcart Hot Dog Bites created by My Recipe Journey

 RITZ Cuban Minis created by Renee’s Kitchen Adventures

 RITZ “Everything” Bites with Lox & Schmear created by Country Girl Gourmet

 RITZ Fried Raviolis created by Flavor Mosaic

 RITZ Hazelnut Gelato Sandwich created by The 7up Experience

 RITZ Spicy Asian Wings created by Life Tastes Good

 RITZ New York-style Mini Crumb Cheesecakes created by The Life & Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch

 And RITZ Steakhouse Bites created by Behind The Shades

 The iconic New York restaurant recipes from the #RITZNYBlitz collection can all be found right here:

 RITZ Pastrami & Corned Beef Mini Sandwich created by Carnegie Deli

 RITZ Country Fried Ribs with Zesty Buttermilk Ranch Dressing created by Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (and blogged about by me here)

 RITZ White Pizza Meatball Dip created by Lombardi’s Pizza

 RITZ Humble Pie with Peanut Butter Mousse created by Serendipity 3

 It’s going to be an exciting game so why not add some excitement to your Game Day spread. I know it’s been fun for me to help create & promote these recipes and I hope it will be fun for you to make & eat them too.

 Go Broncos !

 (Sorry Seattle)

 I participated in a campaign on behalf of RITZ Crackers. I received a sample to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.

I am an Allrecipes Allstar brand ambassador (a voluntary position) and I’m not
compensated for my work with

Products received from advertiser are only used for experienced-based reviews
on BEHIND THE SHADES. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are purely the sole opinions of Doug Matthews.

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January 30, 2014 · 2:26 pm

Tales from the #Commute – 8 Quarters

Monday through Friday I never leave the house without 8 quarters in my pocket. Superstition, routine & necessity are all ingredients in my daily grind into NYC and in some ways they all relate to why I have 8 quarters in my pocket as we speak.

I started carrying quarters in my pocket so I could have exact change for newspapers since they were all 25 cents and available only in newspaper boxes. As I moved around the Metro area and newspaper stands came to my stations the quarters became more of a backup in case I needed to use a newspaper box. The number of quarters in my pocket has fluctuated over the years depending on the price of the various newspapers I would buy. I started with 4 quarters and then it jumped to 6 when the Star Ledger & NY Post both raised their price. It dropped back to 5 when the Post had to go back to matching the Daily News for a little while. Steadily the number of quarters in my pocket went back to 6 then 7 and now 8 since the Post is a buck.

I know I jingle a little when I walk and in today’s mostly cashless society, coins are quickly becoming more of a nuisance but I couldn’t imagine leaving my house on a work day without them. I will even go out of my way at times to get a few extra quarters in change so I don’t run out. I guess my wife must have noticed my bucket was almost empty the other day because when I came home from my business trip I found 2 rolls of quarters in my bucket.

8 quarters a day – that’s just how I roll.

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The National Food-Ball League Conference Championships

Getting to the Conference Championship games in the National Food-Ball League Playoffs is a lot like having a Soufflé in the oven. You have put a lot of work into this masterpiece of yours and you are just one step away from achieving either glory or gloop. This Sunday the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers will be putting their recipes to the test. And now I am here once again to give you some insights as to Who will win & Who will flop and what kind of food best goes which each team on this our final weekend of real football (the Pro Bowl NEVER counts) in the National Food-Ball League.


Last week in the Divisional Round my heart got one game out of four right while my head predicted the eventual winner in each game. The favorites all won, sorry Carolina fans  – you really weren’t expected to win that game, and the National Food-Ball League got a final four teams that any combination thereof would be able to spin the resulting media out of control for two weeks. Ultimately what the National Food-Ball League will get is a matchup between one of the greatest old school quarterbacks versus one of the best new school quarterbacks. It’s almost like a battle of Comfort Food vs Nouvelle Cuisine and that’s how we are going to look at the matchups here.




New England Patriots at Denver Broncos


(If you only want to talk food, skip to the next paragraph) Just in case you have been hiding under a rock this past week, this will be the 15th time that Peyton Manning has faced off against the Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll and the 4th time that they have met in the playoffs. The Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll does hold the advantage in the playoffs and does hold a 3-1 lead in Super Bowl rings but all that goes out the window this coming Sunday when these quarterbacks quit facing off in the media and get to settling things on the field. Now football games aren’t won at just one position and it’s very true for these two teams. While New England may have one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, they also have a hoodie wearing coach who may look like he is down to his last dollar but he is one who knows how to stretch & get the most out of the talent he has available. At the beginning of the season, no one knew who was going to catch the ball. Now that they are one game away from the Souper Bowl, everyone knows that the Patriots have people who can & do catch the ball but they still don’t know their names. I don’t think the average football fan could have named even one of the Patriots running backs but last week LeGarette Blount scored 4 touchdowns and now everyone in Boston can’t forget him. The Patriots defense is forgettable in that no one is anyone you have ever heard of but they can be thrown on and throwing the ball is what Peyton Manning does best. He has four of the best pass catchers in the game and a 1-2 punch in the backfield with Moreno & Ball that led the Broncos to a record number of points this year. Scoring will not be an issue on Sunday for the Broncos. Stopping the Patriots may however be a little more troublesome. I haven’t been sold on the Broncos defense all year and with injuries to the line & secondary in the past few weeks, they have become even scarier to watch. No lead is safe.

But let’s get to the FOOD, shall we ? The Patriots really have been the equivalent of a boiled/steamed/broiled lobster for quite some time. Its that one dish that is always looked up to more for its pedigree than its actual taste. Then one day you realize that you are sick of lobster and it is not what you want anymore no matter how much someone tries to push it on you. That’s how the Patriots are with me and I am sure with a lot of you too. That is why I am going to pull out an old tried & true insults recipe that worked last year when the Baltimore Ravens beat the Patriots to get to the Souper Bowl. It seems that the Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll lives part of the year with his Barbie Doll wife in New York. That is almost as bad as having a Red Sox fan be the Mayor of New York (Looking at you Bill deBlasio). So when it comes to the Patriots (again this year), I am going to have a nice Manhattan Style Clam Chowder represent them at the table. As for the Broncos, well last week taking a bold dish that spoke for itself like Elk Chili worked as the Broncos vanquished those nasty catfish (thank you gderr) tacos also known as the San Diego Chargers. Well this week the Broncos are again going to need to be represented by something bold yet familiar. Something that is powerful in its ability to strike. This week my Denver Broncos are going to be represented by a big bowl of Rattlesnake Chili. (Quick – someone send me a recipe) It should be a great game but I am leaning (in a very biased fashion) toward Denver beating New England.




San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks


There are some people I have heard say that this game is the real Souper Bowl and that the game in two weeks will be anti-climactic in comparison. I will say that this does line up to be one hell of a game. The two teams met twice during the regular season and each team won at home. This game is in Seattle inside a stadium that has been dubbed the loudest stadium in football. Even ESPN Sports Science looks into it this claim and found that during games not only does it get louder than standing next to an airplane at takeoff but that the fans have actually been responsible for a few minor earthquakes. (It should be noted that touchdown runs by Marshawn Lynch caused both of those) The 49ers however won’t be impressed or intimidated. This team has already gone conquered Mount Lombadi and thrown Cam to his own Panthers in his own den. The 12th Man & The Hawks Nest are just what the Niners want to see. They are essentially the same team that made it to New Orleans last year and Colin Kaepernick is playing like he wants to come to New York this year. Of course the Seahawks will have a lot to say about. Their quarterback, the undersized Russell Wilson, has won 15 of the 16 games he has started in Seattle. The Seahawks play like beasts at home and they have one of the more intimidating defensive secondaries in pro football. They do however have a small chink in their armor in that in recent weeks, Wilson has looked human and the Seahawks did lose at home. Will any of that matter though when they kickoff on Sunday night ?


The 49ers are more than just a San Francisco treat and Rice-a-Roni would never do as a food representative for this great city. When I lived in the Bay Area back in the late 1980’s & early 1990’s there was a great steakhouse by the name of IZZY’s that I would love to use here but I am saving the steakhouse references for the Souper Bowl. Instead, I am going to stick with what got the Niners where they are today – a nice complex bowl of Cioppino and some Sourdough Bread. The Seahawks need something a little more. Seattle is a home to some real groundbreaking cuisine and Pike Place Market is wonderful place to visit & snack. When I think of Washington, I think of Apples, Cherries, Coffee & Salmon. I love all of them. Maybe I’m missing it somewhere but while I love to rub my salmon with RUB WITH LOVE from Etta’s, I have yet to find a coffee rubbed salmon. So that is what I would love to have someone come up with for this game, a Coffee Salmon with some sort of apple/cherry dessert. As for who wins ? My head says Seattle but my heart, which I left there for a little while back in 1991, says San Francisco.


Am I right ? Am I wrong ? Do you have better foods to represent your team ? Are you starting to plan your Souper Bowl Menu too ? Let me know and we will be back next week and the week after to not only talk football but to more importantly talk FOOD-BALL.

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RITZ Country Fried Ribs with Zesty Buttermilk Dressing #RITZNYBlitz


I almost never fry food. It’s not that I don’t like fried food, everyone does. (It’s just that I am not very good at frying anything other than a couple of eggs and if you have seen any of my recent egg flipping VINE videos you may even question whether I can do that correctly. When it comes to Ribs, I am low & slow cook in the oven and then eat them with sauce all over your fingers & face kind of guy. So the concept of RITZ Country Fried Ribs both scared me a little & confused me…a lot.

Now when RITZ decided to get involved with the Big Game coming to New York City in the first weekend of February, they partnered with various iconic restaurants in the New York area and asked them, like they did with the Allrecipes Allstars, to come up with a spin on one of their dishes. Then each of the Allrecipes Allstars was paired with one of the restaurants. I got the famous Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Restaurant (started in Syracuse, NY and now here in NYC) and their recipe for RITZ Country Fried Ribs with Zesty Buttermilk Dressing.

I have to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised by my results with these ribs and not just because I didn’t mess up the frying for once. The RITZ Cracker coating was light & very flavorful. If anything, you could have actually added the Cajun seasoning to the coating instead of dusting it like the recipe calls for you to do. The coating held well to the ribs during the frying process and its coloring was rich golden brown. I think the Zesty Buttermilk Dressing could have been a little thicker & a little zestier but those are both changes that the home cook can make without having to think about it too much. I know that the next time that I make these particular ribs, I am going to add a little chipotle seasoning to the dipping sauce since I like a little more kick.

So RITZ Country Fried Ribs with Zesty Buttermilk Dressing are now a part of my GAME DAY MENU repertoire and now you can make them part of yours too. You can watch the video on how to make them right here. Fried Ribs aren’t really as different as they may seem.

You can see all of the #RITZNYBlitz recipes by visiting the RITZ Recipe Collection or Game Day Hub on

and you can read about & find more RITZ Cracker recipes from the Allrecipes Allstars by clicking on the blog links below (and I will update the links as the blogs get written):

RITZ “Everything” Bites with Lox & Schmear

RITZ Steakhouse Bites

RITZ Cuban Minis

RITZ Spicy Asian Wings

RITZ Push-Cart Hot Dog Bites


RITZ Fried Ravioli

RITZ New York-style Mini Crumb Cheesecakes

and RITZ Hazelnut Gelato Sandwich

I participated in a campaign on behalf of RITZ Crackers. I received a sample to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.

I am an Allrecipes Allstar brand ambassador (a voluntary position) and I’m not
compensated for my work with

Products received from advertiser are only used for experienced-based reviews
on Behind The Shades. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are purely the sole opinions of DOUG MATTHEWS.


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The National Food-Ball League Playoffs – Divisional Round

Last week in the Wild Card Round of the National Food-Ball League Playoffs (where yes, they actually compete to win) the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers & San Francisco 49ers all came away victorious. That meant that I was perfect with my picks on Saturday and perfectly awful with my picks on Sunday. They say you can’t win them all and that is probably why the Las Vegas Casinos throw a ticker tape parade whenever I come to town but that is neither here nor there and irrelevant to this story. It also means that we are a week closer to determining who is going to wind up playing outside in Giants Stadium on that first Sunday in February.

Now if the Souper Bowl had been played this week, the Polar Vortex that gripped the nation would have been quite a factor in the game. I can tell you from personally pounding the streets of Manhattan that it was cold and the wind was fierce. In fact, with conditions like the ones we had this week, soup was on the menu at lunch just about every day, which led me to consider various types of soup when I started previewing the matchups this week in the National Food-Ball League Divisional Playoffs. So without further ado, let’s break out the ladle & bowls and start dishing on the games. (Boy did that ever sound cheesy) 

Saturday January 11

 New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

 Who Dat think they going to beat The 12th Man ? This is a re-match of a midseason blowout where the Seahawks dismantled the Saints like a fishmonger dismantles a salmon down at The Pike Place Market. Last week however, the Saints broke a franchise long losing streak of road playoff games by winning in Philadelphia so the Saints are on a high. The Seahawks have looked somewhat human over the last few weeks but the week off and the controversy over Marshawn Lynch not speaking enough to the media are really all the fuel that Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks will need. While I do love me some Gumbo of just about every shape, flavor & size I do feel that the Salmon Chowder that the 12th Man will be bringing in from the tailgating parking lots is going to seeing the next round of the playoffs.

 Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots

 The chic pick by so-called Football experts is the Colts. Everyone fell in love with their wild second half comeback last week against the hated (by me) Kansas City Chiefs but now they have to come to Foxboro to face the Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll Quarterback & his Hoodie wearing coach. The quarterback of the Colts may be named Luck but in New England his luck is going to run out. The ball won’t bounce off the turf & directly into his hands like it did last week on the game winning touchdown. In Foxboro, the Gods of Football tilt the field in one direction and one direction only. (I still don’t know how Baltimore won last year) So you can pair that Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich from Indiana that I heard so much about in the comments last week with just about any soup out there and it isn’t going to beat the good old fashioned creamy thick New England Clam Chowder that Giselle will be serving up after the game.

 Sunday January 12

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers

At the beginning of the season no one could have seen this game coming. The Carolina Panthers were not a team on anyone’s radar other than a North Carolina State Trooper’s. The 49ers were the defending NFC Champions and were expected to waltz easily to the Championship Game. Funny thing happened, they actually played the season and during the season, the Panthers even beat the Niners in San Francisco in a smashmouth game 10-9. This time the game is going to be played in Charlotte in front of some seriously playoff starved fans who can somewhat remember what a Souper Bowl tastes like. The Niners however, unlike the Panthers, are road weary & battle tested after their trip to the Frozen Tundra at the foot of Mount Lombardi. I fully expect Colin Kapernick to be serving up a big bowl of Cioppino (and I won’t slice off a part of my finger eating it) to counteract the Hatteras Style Chowder that I just googled as the top regional soup in North Carolina for Cam Newton & the Panthers. The Sourdough on the side may have been the tipping point.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

The Chargers were the team I least wanted the Broncos to face in the playoffs in that they are hungry, have nothing to lose and they know the Broncos all too well. Quarterback Philip Rivers is full of so much swagger & bravado at the moment that he thinks that a Bolo tie is high fashion (too some yes, to me, no – it’s a source of ridicule). He also has an overachieving undersized running back in Danny Woodhead who is playing larger than life and like I said last week, rookie WR Keenan Allen is just plain deadly as he slices through the secondary. Don’t count Peyton Manning and his aerial offense out though just because the Chargers dealt him his worst game of the season in Week 15. All four of his double digit touchdown grabbing receivers & running back Knowshon Moreno are ready to go & ready for revenge so they only pre-game tears we will be seeing are those the chargers fans getting ready for their beating. As for the soups, well last week that lousy tilapia fish taco somehow beat out a bowl of Cincinnati Style Chili but this week that lousy tilapia fish taco is going in a blender and being served alongside an Elk Chili that stands as proud as the Rocky Mountains that spread across Denver’s skyline. (I thought about using Colorado Buffalo but the Buffaloes up in Boulder were HORRIBLE this year on the gridiron so we really don’t want to cross contaminate)

So there you have it. This week’s picks are The Seahawks & their Salmon Chowder, The Patriots & their Creamy Clam Chowder, The Niners & their Cioppino with a sourdough side and The Broncos & their Bugling Elk Chili. What do you think ?

Come back next week when we review where I was right & where I was wrong in this week’s game while giving you insights & recipes for the Conference Championships.


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ImageNot many people today can picture going to or watching a football game without thinking about the food that goes with the game. The Game Day or Tailgate Spread for any game (and especially for me) is usually a well thought out menu that combines local flavors & preferences with a healthy dose of Game Day traditions. That is why when RITZ asked for help in coming up with New York inspired Game Day recipes for the biggest Game Day of the year, I jumped at the chance.

I may live in New Jersey but I have worked in New York for most of my professional life and one constant has always been that when a client comes to visit from out of town, we all go eat at a steakhouse. New York has some of the finest steakhouses in the country so with that in mind, it made sense to me to see what kind of a steakhouse inspired Game Day Bite we could come up with using RITZ Crackers. It was then that I suddenly remembered an ad I used to hear on the radio every morning as I drove to the train where the owner of a very famous steakhouse said that you could always find him in the kitchen with his spoon in the creamed spinach. It was in that instant that the concept for RITZ Steakhouse Bites was born, a RITZ Cracker with a spoonful of creamed spinach on it, topped by a slice of steak & a drizzle of Béarnaise Sauce. It’s a classic New York steakhouse taste in just a single bite.

Now when it comes to cooking, I have always been a fairly straightforward kind of cook who does well with the basics. To put it into football terminology, I am a “3 yards & a cloud of dust” kind of chef so putting a little razzle dazzle into my kitchen playbook could have been somewhat daunting but it wasn’t and if I can make them, so can you. First I’ll give you recipe and then I’ll give you a few tips on how to make it so you’ll be dancing in the end zone with your guests on Game Day.

RITZ Steakhouse Bites


Creamed Spinach:

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 (6 ounce) package baby spinach leaves

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch of black pepper


Béarnaise Sauce:

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup melted butter

18 RITZ Crackers

3 ounces thinly sliced, cooked beef tenderloin, but into bite-sized pieces



Heat olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add spinach and cover for 1 minute to steam. Uncover and stir spinach until it is wilted. Drain spinach, dry between paper towels, and chop. Melt butter in the same pan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté for a minute. Add heavy cream and nutmeg; stir to combine. Add chopped spinach and combine thoroughly. Remove from heat when spinach is creamy. Add salt and pepper. Set aside.


Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a separate sauté pan; add shallots and white wine vinegar. Cook until all liquid has evaporated, about a minute. Remove from the pan; set aside to cool.


Add egg yolk and lemon juice to blender; slowly blend in half cup of melted butter until mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour into shallots mixture. Stir in chopped fresh tarragon.


To assemble bites, place about 1-1/2 teaspoons creamed spinach on top of a RITZ Cracker. Place a slice of steak on top of the creamed spinach, then drizzle with about 1-1/2 teaspoon béarnaise sauce over the steak

Now for some of those tips I promised. Creamed Spinach is really quite easy and the baby spinach leaves will wilt quickly. Do pat dry the spinach after you have let it drain for a little while in order to make sure you don’t have too much excess moisture. If you don’t have fresh spinach, frozen will work but it really needs to drain. You can always add more butter or cream and keep a lemon handy to brighten it a little with a quick squeeze rather than adding more salt.

Trust me, Béarnaise Sauce is easier to make than it is to spell. The hardest part is separating the eggs. I have found that despite the small batch being made, that it is much better to use a blender than it is to use a small food processor. The one time I used a food processor, the sauce came out a little thin.

Tenderloin or Filet Mignon are the true New York Steakhouse steaks that you want to use for these Game Day Bites on the biggest of Game Days but slices of any cut of steak will actually do if you make sure the slices are thin enough to chew easily.

Now there are a great many more New York inspired RITZ Game Day Bites recipes by other Allrecipes Allstars and by RITZ for you to try & enjoy. They can all be accessed by visiting the RITZ Recipe Collection or Game Day Hub on

And in my next blog we are going to do just that. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has come up with one of their own RITZ inspired Game Day Bites recipe (RITZ Country Fried Ribs with Zesty Buttermilk Ranch Dressing) and I am going to make them because BBQ was made for Football and Football was made for BBQ.

Bring a taste of New York to your Game Day parties with RITZ Crackers and be sure to follow all of the RITZ Game Day Bites action on Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest by using & following the hashtag #RITZNYBlitz

I participated in a campaign on behalf of RITZ Crackers. I received a sample to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.

I am an Allrecipes Allstar brand ambassador (a voluntary position) and I’m not
compensated for my work with

Products received from advertiser are only used for experienced-based reviews
on Behind The Shades. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are purely the sole opinions of DOUG MATTHEWS.


January 8, 2014 · 2:21 pm

The National Food-Ball League Playoffs – Wild Card Round

Over the past 17 weeks The National Football League has played a total of 512 games on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays. Some teams won more often than others and when the three yards and a cloud of dust finally settled last Sunday night, there were 12 teams left standing to compete in the National Football League Playoffs. Those 12 teams all have one goal in mind, they all want to make it to New York in the first weekend of February for Super Bowl XLVIII and I am here to tell you each week who is going to win & why. But this is a food website and not a sports website so that means that we need to put a foodie spin on pigskin prognostications so without further ado, let’s get right to the 2014 National Food-Ball League Playoffs.




The Denver Broncos, led by Peyton Manning, his record breaking golden arm & a squadron of receivers more lethal than the Red Baron, and the New England Patriots, led by their Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll, both have the week off this week due to their superior play during the regular season. This leaves Seeds #3-6 to do battle.


(Notice of Full Disclosure – I am a Denver Broncos fanatic and HATE all the other teams in the AFC West)




To me, the San Diego Chargers are nothing more than a bad tasting fish taco. In fact, a bad tasting Tilapia fish taco is more like it. (If you read my predictions & follow up blog a few seasons ago you would know how I feel Tilapia and it’s not good). They did finish the season on a roll winning their final 4 games and they did get lucky when the refs blew the call in overtime in the final week and they snuck in with some help from some big time chokers. Looking right at the Ravens & the Dolphins with that comment but we will leave that for next September. Quarterback Philip Rivers does have a new toy to play with in rookie WR Keenan Allen but I do think that this week, their luck runs out. The Cincinnati Bengals have been a quiet surprise in the AFC North all season. Quarterback Andy Dalton has had the finest season since Carson Palmer knew how to play and AJ Green is a legitimate threat to score every time they touch the ball. Of course when I think of Cincinnati in a culinary way, I can only think of Cincinnati Chili. I have to admit I have never had Cincinnati Chili not have any idea what makes it different than any other regional chili, I just remember that there was a Cincinnati-style Chili Restaurant in Denver back in the late 80’s that I drove by over a hundred times but never stopped in to try it. If I still lived in Denver, this would be the week for me to stop in since I am definitely taking The Bengals & the Chili over the chargers & their nasty tasting tilapia taco.




There is only one team in professional football that I hate more than the Kansas City Chiefs and they haven’t made the playoffs in years so we don’t even need to mention their name due to how terrible they are. Oakland Raiders. That being said, the Chiefs were the darlings of the first half of the season as they ran off 9 straight wins over a schedule of teams no tougher than a bowl of overcooked limp noodles. New quarterback Alex Smith utilized the spectacular feet of Jamaal Charles & the hands of Dwayne Bowe to rack up points on offense while the defense beat people up. The second half of the schedule did show some weaknesses. They remind me a bit of the BBQ that Kansas City is famous for. Looks good and starts strong but really is a a bit overrated. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they are playing the Colts and a quarterback named Luck who seems to be able to pull off game winning drives like his name has nothing to do with it. The Colts have been inconsistent but have played well on the bigger stage. Familiarity within the league can sometimes cause a 2nd year player to suffer a Sophomore Jinx but that wasn’t the case with Andrew Luck as a lot of teams still couldn’t quite figure him out. The same can be said about me with the food of Indiana. In years past I have had people suggest Milk Pie and a Wild Rice dishes but to be honest, my only real experience with the food of Indiana goes back to 1981 when I spent the night in South Bend and ate dinner at a Godfather’s Pizza across the street from the Best Western. A year later Godfather’s Pizza went public and I bought some stock because I thought the pizza was good. The stock went through the roof a year later in a takeover bidding war and I wound up with enough money to buy a Subaru Station Wagon and that is a good enough reason for me to pick the Colts over the chiefs despite the fact I am sucker for good barbecue.




The Seattle Seahawks led by a smothering defense, a too small quarterback and bruising running back who almost set off an earthquake himself a few years back absolutely ran away with the NFC this season. The other 5 teams are going to really have to step up their games to take away the Seahawks expected February jaunt to New York. One team that could step up that challenge has done so all year in a very surprising fashion. I don’t think anyone is going to sleep on the Carolina Panthers now like they did during the season. Next week will be a big tell as to how serious a threat this team really is to the Seahawks.




There is nothing about Cajun food that I don’t like and on the surface, there is nothing about the New Orleans Saints on the surface that you can’t not like either. Drew Brees is a master at tossing the ball to his catch happy receivers & running backs. The defense, such a sore spot last year, has come back with a vengeance under Rob (get a haircut already, you look ridiculous) Ryan. Unfortunately for the Saints, there won’t be any home cooking on their menu as they have to go on the road to Philadelphia and the Saints have been less than good away from home. Kind of like a day old Po’ Boy. The fried fish is cold & greasy, the fixin’s are limp and the bread is soggy. The ingredients are all there, they just don’t come together. Can’t put that kind of sandwich up against a Philly Cheesesteak and expect to come away victorious. Under first year coach Chip Kelly and reserve no name quarterback Nick Foles, the Eagles have ridden the Shady McCoy hard & fast all the way the top of the NFC Least, one of the two divisions nobody wanted to win. They play an exciting brand of football and they play better away from home. This could be a case where the fans in Philly get to boo like Santa is wearing a Cowboys jersey. A hot Po’Boy beats a Philly Cheesesteak in my book (mainly because I am a New Yorker at heart and hate everything about Philadelphia) so I am hoping that the Saints can keep this one warm enough to get the job done.




The Niners have owned the Packers of late but when you are playing playoff football on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field at the base of Mount Lombardi, home of the Football Gods, nothing is safe bet. San Francisco went to the Super Bowl last year on the arm & legs of Colin Kapernick and they will need him to respond under the bright icy lights in order to keep them on the road north to Seattle. The Niners do remind me a bit of a tray of wine & cheese – everyone’s fallback for cocktails with nothing really memorable about them. The Green Bay Packers won the other division, the NFC North, that no else seemed to want to win this season. It wasn’t until their injured photobombing discount doublecheck quarterback came back that the Packers snuck a receiver behind the should have been suspecting Bears secondary for a last minute expected victory. Much like I expected the Packers to win that game, I expect their fans to tout their brats & beer cheese soup. Give me the choice between wine & cheese and brats & cheese and I am going to take the Wisco food every time. I haven’t had a drink in 25 years.


So in conclusion, the picks are as follows:


Bengals over Chargers (Chili over tilapia fish tacos)

Colts over Chiefs (Pizza memories over my love of BBQ)

Saints over Eagles (Po’Boys beat cheesesteaks)

*Upset Special* Packers over Niners (Brats & Cheese over Wine & Cheese)


Now tell me what you think – football or food-ball.

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