The Food in My Beard
Dan Whalen writes the popular food blog, The Food in My Beard, read by visitors from around the world. The blog was originally conceived as a way for Dan to practice .NET skills for his job, but his knack for cooking — and writing about cooking — prompted him to make the blog bigger and better than he thought it could be.
Dan uses the best ingredients he can find to create some really delicious and unique dishes. Recent creations include Chicken Tikka Masala Ravioli, Shepherd’s Pie Burgers and Mofongo. Dan has offered up his well-received and very delicious Ancho-Coffee Braised Short Ribs recipe for U.S. Wellness Meats readers. Read Dan’s blog at www.TheFoodinMyBeard.com. Become a “The Food in My Beard” fan on Facebook here.
Q: How did you get involved in cooking? Was it something you learned to love early on or did you come to it later?
A: I grew up in an Italian-American family and we would have home cooked meals almost every night of the week. I didn’t yet have an interest in cooking, but I sure loved eating. When I got to college, I was shocked and bothered by eating in the cafeteria for every meal, so I started making tacos and pasta for my roommates and me. After college I hosted dinner parties once in awhile, but they weren’t that fancy or gourmet. My real passion for food and cooking came when I moved to Bermuda about 3 years ago. Bermuda restaurants were either really expensive or really bad (or both), but I had to eat. So I started cooking every night and got really creative with my meals. I was researching recipes on a blog one night and thought to myself, “I can do better than this,” so I did.
Q: Why is eating grassfed meat different? How does it affect your cooking? Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
A: To me, the main reason for using grass-fed meat is the taste! Everyone seems to talk about the health benefits, and political and environmental concerns, but what about the taste? You can tell the difference in the meat just by looking at it and smelling it, raw or cooked. Raw beef from the grocery store smells like... nothing. The smell of raw grass-fed beef is like the farm it came from. Very natural.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
A: When I lived in Bermuda, lots of the grocery stores were high-end stores. Things were expensive in general, but for the most part this was because the markets shipped in high-quality products. My choices were to spend less and get something really old looking, or spending a little more and buying something good. The meat department was the biggest example of this, and it is where I started really loving grass-fed meats. When I came back to the states, I was surprised to find that you couldn't find these products at most grocery stores!
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
A: Would you build a house with rotted wood? It seems obvious to me that better ingredients make for a better final product.
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
A: I think that tasting your food as you go, and not being afraid to fail are the main keys. If you remember those two things, you will have more fun in the kitchen and make better food!
Q: What advice do you have for families/roommates/people in the kitchen? Or for cooking “gourmet” while on a budget?
A: A big thing people tell me is that when they cook with a friend or girlfriend or spouse, they fight the whole time. Cooking should be a fun stress reliever at the end of the day, not the cause of arguments. It is easy to fight in the kitchen, but there is a simple way to solve it. Choose one person to be the head chef of the night. This person takes control of the recipe and gives the other person tasks to complete. Switch who is in charge every time you cook and everyone will feel included and in control.