I get a lot of emails from the PR folks for local chains. I don’t mind them, but I generally don’t focus on them. It’s not that I don’t eat at them– I’m pretty sure that I should have budgeted La Rosa’s delivery in my moving expenses (I moved this past week, and I didn’t want to cook, and La Rosa’s delivers…)– but wine me, dine me tends to just… not focus on them.
So, when Barbara, who does PR for Gold Star Chili, contacted me– she mentioned that she had an alternative proposition for me. I was intrigued. Her spin? Things you can do with Gold Star Chili that are a little more gourmet. I was game– I like creativity. So, I journeyed a few blocks from my office to the Gold Star in Mason to try some alterna-chili products.
I was greeted by Barbara and Chef Mike Tremblay, who came to Gold Star after a long career in the restaurant industry. He’s their corporate chef, and is responsible for many of the new menu items you see– stuff beyond the chili and was pretty thrilled to show off some of his experiments.
We talked about the Cincinnati taste profile– what Cincinnati chili, La Rosa’s and Montgomery Inn have in common– and that’s sweet. Cincinnatians like their savory with a good dose of sweet. Gold Star, I’ve found, isn’t quite as sweet as the other chili in town (he disagrees), but there’s still that sweet spice that we seem to love. He used that flavor profile to create his dishes.
Speaking of the spices– they’re all mixed in Cincinnati, at a commissary near Lunken Airport. There are four people who mix the spices, and none of the folks who do it know the whole recipe. The spices, which come from all over the world, are all ordered from different purveyors, so that the secret is kept safe. I think there’s a copy of the recipe in a safe somewhere– but they definitely keep the spice mix a big, huge secret.
We started off with something that wasn’t exactly gourmet– a walking taco. Not familiar? You take a bag of corn chips, top it with chili and cheese (and in this case, a spicy Ranch dressing) and eat it with a fork. This isn’t sold in stores, but I actually thought this was a neat idea for the Gold Star in the airport. I’m sure it would sell easily in their restaurants too.
Next up was a Cincinnati Eggs Benedict– poached eggs on top of a sweet corn cake, topped with chili and cheese. I loved the corn cake– again that sweet paired with savory– and commented (repeatedly) that this would be really great “drunk food”– you know, the stuff you eat when you’ve had a few too many, and are hungry for grease and carbohydrates at 3 AM.
Then, to cleanse the palate, a salad with blue cheese, raspberry vinaigrette, mandarin oranges, and fried onions. This is available on their regular menu– and was very fresh and different, not at all what I expected. Chef Mike mentioned that they were trying to change the salads seasonally.
Now here is when the creativity starts.
Chef Mike explained that the chili spice packets you get in the grocery store are good for more than just
First up, shrimp– grilled with Gold Star spices, and the rice and mixed vegetables in the center were also seasoned with the spices. Very good– it works far better than I thought it would have– just a little bit sweet. Chef Mike said that you generally should cut the Gold Star packet with something, and that you only need a little bit– it’s powerful stuff.
|Gold Star Grilled Shrimp|
|1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp (any size)
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp garlic salt½ tsp GS Spice Pack
½ tsp Old Bay Seasoning
Drizzle enough oil over the shrimp to coat.
Sprinkle paprika, garlic salt, GS Spice and Old Bay
Place on wooden skewers which have been soaked in water for 1 hour.
Put on grill, cooking until shrimp tails turn white. Flip and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more (depending on size).
Squeeze lime over the cooked shrimp and serve as an appetizer, accompany other meats or add to corn tortillas for shrimp tacos.
Next up, steak, grilled with Gold Star spices, and topped with creamy blue cheese and vegetables, also seasoned with the Gold Star spices. Very nice combination– if you like your steak with a rub, try this. The recipe doesn’t say how many steaks, but my guess is that this mix would be good for between 2-4 strip steaks, or you could use your favorite cut of steak.
Gold Star Strip Steak
1 Gold Star Spice Pack
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Prepare a “rub” by mixing GS Spice and brown sugar. Coat or “rub” steak with mixture and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
Grill steaks over high heat (2 minutes each side for Medium).
Last (but definitely not least) is my favorite: Gold Star Ribs. This one
These were ridiculously good– some of the best ribs I’ve had in a very long time. The ribs were first rubbed with the Gold Star spices and sugar, and then slow-roasted in the oven. Then, they were basted with Gold Star spice-infused barbecue sauce, until they were sticky, sweet and spicy. It’s a good thing he served this to me last– otherwise I might’ve eaten the whole thing. They’re that good. The next time I do pork ribs– and I haven’t in a while– I’m using this recipe.
|Gold Star Grilled Ribs|
1 c. Soy Sauce
1 c. honey
1 c. BBQ Sauce
Slow roast Ribs in a SEALED deep pan at 250 for 4 hours. Mix Soy Sce, Honey, BBQ & GS Spice pack. After ribs are done, remove from oven and cool over night. When cooled, pour sauce over ribs to coat. After about 30 minutes in this mixture, drain and remove and place in 9×13 pan. Pour barbecue sauce over the ribs and place in 375 oven for 30 minutes. If you prefer, grill and BASTE with sauce. Turn frequently.
I was really pleasantly surprised at what Chef Mike ended up creating for me to try, and how easy they would be to duplicate at home. It’s fun to turn something so traditional- Cincinnati Chili– into something fun and different.
Gold Star Chili has offered a prize to one of my lucky readers. You may have heard about Gold Star’s “Your Way” promotion– how do you like your chili? Me, I’m a 4-way onion kind of girl, but I hear there are folks who like them “wet” or “inverted” or any one of a number of ways. What’s your favorite way? Tell me in the comments and I’ll randomly pick a reader to win a T-Shirt with their choice of “way”. Deadline for entry is Monday– so get those entries in!
(Just a note– I’ve not been compensated in any way (except for sampling the food) by Gold Star or anyone else for this post. And if I didn’t like what he did, I wouldn’t post about it!)