Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Greatest Thing Ever, Ever

Yeah, I know you're sitting there, checking this website 500 times a day for the next post on Puerto Rican food. Yeah, right, and Soylent Green ISN'T made from people.

...RIP, Heston. We hardley knew ye.

So, I was working on that one, but had to brush up on a program for a project with the work that pays me more than $0.15 per Google Ad click.

Anyway, I messed around with it and came up with another installment of future Internet Celebrity Emeritus, Rob Fitzgerald. Study those dance moves; they may be part of a short-lived wedding line dance someday (and why hasn't a "Macarena 2" manifested itself yet?!).

I figure this is my best chance for some comments. I'm a middle child. I need validation:


video

Friday, May 29, 2009

Distracted by unbridled awesomeness (sp?)

Was working on my Puerto Rico post (prepare yourself for the splendor of mofongo), but got sidetracked with something awesome.

How awesome? If awesome were a sandwich, they'd have to invent something called "awesome sauce" for it, because no other condiments or combinations thereof could do it justice.

Okay, it's a homemade video. I'm just trying to figure out how to get the size down. Plus, I have to make enough room for the side of awesome sauce.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A desperate need for Puerto Rican food, part 1

Recently, I rode the coattails of my event-planning wife and got to slum around in the Caribbean; more notably, in Puerto Rico. Previously, this was all that I knew of PR:




One viewing of the Puerto Rico episode of No Reservations, and I was hooked. I wanted to taste every delicious food around. And, while every cotton-headed ninnymuggins out there tells you to stay on the resort property when in the Caribbean (sorry for the strong language), how can you possibly experience a new place?! Sure, the Starbucks was clean and comfortable at my resort; sure, everyone spoke English and made me- Mister Gringo- feel "comfortable", but I really wanted to get out and "do as the locals do".

So, our plan was to head out from Fajardo and go to Guavate/Cayey, exactly where Bourdain stuffed his grateful maw with delicious roast pork, or lechon:


View Larger Map



Surprisingly, we made it there alive. I can't believe that we weren't carjacked, kidnapped, murdered, killed by druglords, or sold into slavery. C'mon! It was a regular drive through some beautiful country! Nothing sketchy. You'd think- reading some of these travel review sites- that every country outside of San Francisco is a cesspool of corruption and militant coups: sort of like the country that Schwarzenegger single-handedly destroyed in his most-artistic opus, Commando. Frankly, everyone we met was EXTREMELY friendly; some didn't speak English, but I tried to pull a little spanish out of my cabeza, and we always seemed to figure it out.


My skills from my modeling career coming back to me on cue.


Tucked away from the Highway a bit was Lechonera Los Pinos. We passed quite a few to get to this one, but it was worth the drive.


My friend- whose English was almost as nonexistent as my Spanish- hacking our lunch off the beautiful roast beast.

Case and point: there was a serious disconnect as I got spanish-speaking stage fright at Lechonera Los Pinos, but somehow, Heather and I ended up with this spread, all for under $15:


Incredible Lechon. Crispy skin and tender meat. Actually, when cooked without smoke (as we know in BBQ shacks), it's actually more like roast turkey. The big difference is the crispy skin. Oh, the crispy skin.


Some of the best rice & beans I've ever had. It's a shame it took me 10 minutes to figure out how to order them. Yeah, I know the words "arroz" and "frijoles", but they had like 5 different kinds of each.


Morcilla, a type of blood-sausage, gets its dark color from- yes- blood. I've always been told that it's something I have to try. I did, and man, it's pretty dang good. Stuffed with rice, garlic, and other great flavors. Seriously (and unlike the chicken feet in a previous post): don't knock it 'til you try it!

Too much good food to talk about...to be continued...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Back to my Brew-ts (like "roots"...c'mon, work with me here!)

Before I was a self-proclaimed oenophile (and hopefully soon an accredited one through the Society of Wine Educators!), or even the ace blogger* you know and love (*denotes sarcasm), I liked to brew beer.

Yeah, a few years ago, I had an awesome* double-procedure of septoplasty/turbinate reduction and tonsillectomy. Obviously blessed to be an expert in wine tasting*, I'd been living life with a crowded mouthful of tonsils and a 90% blockage in my nose. Needless to say, the recovery period from having my head cleaned out like the cavity of a Thanksgiving turkey put me out of commission of a while. So, while sitting on the couch for 2 weeks, unable to work by decree of Human Resources and half-cocked on liquid codeine, I quickly realized that sujection to daytime TV was a worse fate than my painful circumstance. So, I sent one of my caretakers (thanks again to my Mom and my wife!) to fetch some books at the store; I wasn't prepared to recreate Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Once my rations arrived, I went right to reading this one:



Fascinating stuff. If you're into cooking, and especially food science, you should definitely try to brew beer. I've done a few batches, and How to Brew definitely is a good one to get you up to snuff.

Anyway, the youthful exuberance of my beer-curious buddy Booty has inspired me to get back into it. Who knows, soon you may be able to create memorable hangovers with one of our soon-to-be famous signature brews.

With summertime pretty much in full swing where I live, we decided to start out with a hefeweizen, or wheat beer. It was supposed to be an adapted version of a blood orange hefeweizen, but most of the blood oranges I bought ended up being regular oranges, it was to look more like the color of road rash...thus:




The ingredients for homebrew (clockwise, from top left): Liquid Malt Extract, Oranges, Malted Barley, Hops (pellets)


Basically, the first step: steeping the grains in 150-160 degree water to extract the "goodness". These are scientific terms, of course.

Not a step for most beers, but here we're making a syrup with the "blood" oranges. Stupid grocery store.

Boiling the wort (unfermented beer). This gets proteins to coagulate out, and carmelizes some of the sugars.

Adding hops. This is done several times during the boil to add bitterness, flavor, and aroma. Making a creepy facial expression does not effect the process, but apparently I thought it was important to do so.

Adding the yeast is the final step before fermentation. Different strains produce way different beers...same goes for wine and athlete's foot.

Booty, looking incredibly excited* about getting ready to bottle the beer a week later.


Bottling the "Scraped Knee" up. How will it taste? Only time will tell!!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rollin' the bones and shuckin' the stones

"Welcome to our craps table. Yes? Hi, Ed from Kansas City. It's a pleasure to meet you! Play all you want, but don't you dare touch the dice."

Yes, our friendly and firm greeting/mantra to all those who slunk up to our golden-goose of a craps table at Paris. We were all looking for that roll that would catapult us into financial freedom; surely on a gravy train to endless seafood sammiches and Royal Crown Cola...or at least a free Coors Light here and there.

But Booty and I were on the way: pockets lined with green and black chips; bellies sloshing and brains swimming with liquid nerve. We couldn't lose. From 2 AM to 8 AM, it was the hottest craps table I've ever experienced...courtesy of the concept of the "DS", or "designated shooter" (not a paragon of originality, but what our strung-out noodles could muster at the time). Ever seen an entire craps table pass the dice to the last person who shot? A thing of beauty; a utopian society of degenerate gamblers, all putting ego aside for the common good. When a "DS" decided to leave, auditions would be held for the next one. Hit two points, maybe a 7-way "yo", and you're it. But there was no pressure. For but a moment in time, the dice...just...cooperated. They were part of the team, and we were freakin' loving it!

Ah, Vegas. The latest trip was yet another one for the history books. The highlight- no doubt- this 6 hour craps roll that was truncated only by physiological necessity for sleep and breakfast. As you can see, the aftermath was gruesome:


Being lulled to sleep by oatmeal and mimosas outside Paris

However, as with any trip to Las Vegas (at least my trips, anyway), there was more to the story than the hot gaming (formerly "gambling"..."gaming" sounds much less degenerate). For me, this is certainly one of the best food towns in the States. Sure, not a great food town in the sense of street food or long-tenured regional classics. There's just not enough history for all that. Remember: Vegas looked like a setting out of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome before 1905. But with the city's popularity virtually unmatched as a resort destination, and with the somewhat-disturbing rise of the celebrity chef, everyone wants to get his food to Nevada, where it will no doubt collide with the thundering herds of Croc-clad touristas, exposing them to the 5-star experiences that they would normally have to schlep the globe to find (pretty sure this sentence is a run-on...sorry to all my English teachers from years past). Anyway, all this great food is in one place. And no doubt, the crowd's come with the money to pay for the experience.

While dropping $500 on a meal is almost certainly going to guarantee you a meal sure to disarm your embarrassing food boner, I find that getting good food on the cheap is the real cat's pajamas. And, since there's really no "local" specialty to try, I felt perfectly fine tucking into a hell of a meal at Joe's Prime Steak, Seafood, and Stone Crab.

Joe's located in the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace, has another location in Chicago, and is no-doubt a spin-off of the legendary Joe's Stone Crab in South Beach, Miami. Stone crabs are native to those waters around Miami, and the population has been maintained by regulations only allowing one claw to be removed from the crabs at harvest, which they will regenerate while having the other one to survive. Sure, it sounds a little harsh, but not as harsh as killing the little guys. Besides, once you've tasted these delicious morsels, you'd probably be complaining that they only take one claw. Man, you're sick sometimes.

Bottom line: $21.95 lunch special was 7 claws, coleslaw, hash browns, and bread. Paired it up with a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (I think it was Kim Crawford), which I feel is always a good match with flavorful shellfish. Killer. And to top things off, I waddled out of there, feeling more full off shellfish than my last visit to Orlando's Boston Lobster Feast- with much less shame for humanity- and proceed to finish the night with the amazing craps roll that surely hooked you into reading this boring anecdote about crab claws.

Gotcha.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bottle Recap - 3 of 3

Stretched out entirely for your anticipation and enjoyment (with absolutely none of the delay a product of the J-O-B, my backyard renovation gone awry, sweeps week, beer-drinking opportunities with friends, the Certified Specialist of Wine studying, or a newfound love for homebrewing), I present the final bottle from the other night:

Kokomo Winery's 2006 Chalk Hill Malbec, Windsor Oaks Vineyard. Chalk Hill is a seperate AVA (American Viticultural Area) within the larger AVA of Russian River Valley (you've probably heard of that one). It's in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, and is generally known for growing white grapes.

Malbec, however, has thrived in the foothills of the Andes in Argentina, so by taking this grape and planting it at the highest elevation on Chalk Hill, the grower has kept it warm (away from the low-lying cool fogs that roll into the Russian River Valley), thus making it riper, which combined with the high natural acidity of the Malbec grape, creates a nice balance of fruit flavors, sugar, and acid in the ripe grapes.

Okay, so what the hell am I talking about? Well, the sugars translate to a good bit of alcohol in fermentation, and the balance of alcohol, fruit, acid, and tannin (bitter, "mouth drying" element in a red wine) is what can make a wine soar (or suck). Think of lemonade with too much lemon and not enough sugar. Or, a liquor drink like the ones you always wanted in college, with not but a drop of coke in the Jim Beam...did the trick then, but tasted pretty bad. However, a perfectly blended long island iced tea (or trouble mug) not only tastes great, but makes you look much more handsome.

The Kokomo folks (and good folks, too; I think they went through a bunch of red tape to make me their first wine club member in Georgia) did a pretty good job with a grape that isn't really at home...at least not yet in California. While I think the best stuff still comes from Argentina, I dig that they're experimenting with some new stuff, and not just making the usual Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Check them out at http://www.kokomowines.com/, or stop by their very laid-back tasting room (tasting warehouse, really) if you're ever on Dry Creek Rd...my pretension sensors were at zero there. Sadly, I can't say that for a lot of other wineries, especially in hoity-toity Napa Valley.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Twitter feed

Okay. I'm liking this Twitter more and more. I've added my feed down on the right. Call it "one stop shopping". I'll keep messing with it and make something useful out of it.

Drank a wine last night that smelled like creamed corn. Dead serious. Bogle 2004 California Cabernet Sauvignon. Creamed corn. Same thing.


Friday, May 15, 2009

I feel much more athletic

I've been hearing the gang berate Gary [Dell'abate, producer of the Howard Stern show] all week about this pitch he made at the Mets game last weekend.

I felt bad for the guy; this is probably one of his dreams. I thought, "man, how bad could it be?" So, I finally looked it up on Youtube...Yipes!

To his credit, Baba Booey was supporting an autism benefit. I'll have to say that his charitable spirit outweighs his COMPLETE lack of athletic ability.....BARELY. And, I've got to say: he's taken the criticism and humiliation with grace and a sense of humor. If this had been me, I'd have long left the country seeking the solace of anonymity in a 3rd-world country, as you enjoyed the writing styles of Esteban Jones and his blog, "El Suburban Wino".

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bottle Recap - part 2 of 3

Terrible job keeping up...gotta keep bread and skittles in the pantry for the misses and I, so I've been focusing on the "real" job (ugh). Also am tendrils deep in the CWS program, trying to acquire vast amounts of wine knowledge for your amusement.

Anyway, the 2nd bottle from the recap was a V. Sattui 2005 Ramazzotti Vineyard Zinfandel. It's been one of my favorites: full of berries and peppery spice; truly a classic zinfandel.

Sattui does a pretty good job with zinfandel. They are usually selling several single-vineyard bottles, as well as just about every varietal you can imagine. You may think that this would cause them to spread themselves too thin and cause quality to suffer. However, the quality across the board is pretty darn good (at a pretty good price for the quality). Furthermore, it's a nice place to visit if you're ever in St. Helena, towards the north end of Napa Valley.

Unfortunately, I don't know if this wine is still available, but perhaps they'll bring it back in a later vintage. In the meantime, you can only buy V. Sattui wines at the winery or through their website. Check them out, keeping in mind that buying wine online (or joining wine clubs) is indeed the most sophisticated form of crack addiction. Watch your wallet.

Monday, May 4, 2009

No computer on vacation

Sorry. Love you guys who are reading, but I'm not gonna nerd it up blogging when the delights of the Caribbean are all around.

Now that I'm back and there's nothing to bring me diversion or entertainment, I'll return to pumping out content for your amusement.