Adventures in Food

Be A Considerate Restaurant-Goer

Okay, dudes. I just have to rant a little bit. Bear with me here, please.

If you go into a restaurant where a host or server seats you, let them fucking do their job and seat you. Unless you have a legitimate need to be in a specific place, and you tell them about itthen deal with where they put you. Chances are there’s a system in place to keep the servers from becoming overwhelmed and to keep seating fair between the sections. When you request to sit somewhere other than where they’ve already started to take you, you’re wasting their time and you’re probably going to be viewed as an asshole. Because, more than likely, you are.

Mars must have been in freaking retrograde or some shit tonight because every other table we got requested to either be moved or to sit in a section other than the one we were taking them. There was one baby on one half of the restaurant, and three freaking tables decided that the actually quiet baby was going to absolutely ruin their dinner so decided to take it upon themselves to let us know how to seat.

One table decided, after being seated, that they liked the look of another booth better. What. The. Actual. Shit. I’m sorry, did I hear you correctly? That table looks better? What is it? The identical upholstery? Were the salt and pepper shakers in better alignment? Fuck off, dude, and sit where we take you.

Also, if you know when a restaurant closes, chances are when you go in fifteen minutes before that time and order full-on dinners, the server (and the cook!) kind of hates you. Then, when you order dessert 24 minutes after close, they really just want to stab you in the chest with the ice cream scoop. Then, when you tip them 12%, they never want to see you again.

So please…be courteous. You can have preferences, just communicate them early and effectively. Please. And don’t be that guy and go in one minute to close and shout upon entering “I have a reservation for one minute to close!” Because that’s actually happened before. And because thems fightin’ words, asshat.

I have been thinking about this blog post all night. Hopefully it wasn’t too intense. Kind of not sorry if it was.

Until next time, folks! Love to you all! (unless you’re shitty to your server!)

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An Ode to Gallo Pinto

Gallo pinto is a traditional Central American dish that consists of rice and small kidney beans. Basically, it’s magic in food form. I started writing this poem while I was in Nicaragua and I just finished it tonight. I have made gallo pinto a few times since returning to the states and every time it simultaneously comforts me and makes me miss Nica even more. It’s delicious- it tastes like home. It is an incredibly simple dish that serves up a whole load of complex emotions for me and for that I will always love gallo pinto.

It has always been interesting to me that tastes and smells have such power over our memories. One bite of gallo pinto and I’m back in Nica, sweaty and tired after a day teaching our kiddos, and so incredibly happy that my favorite meal is being served. That meal being absolutely anything served with, you guessed it, gallo pinto.

So, without further ado, enjoy my awful attempt at poetry!

So simple,

Beans, rice, onion

Oh, but so complex,

The textures

The flavors.

I thought I would be sick

Of you by now

Since I eat you

At least once a day.

Oh, but gallo pinto!

You cheer me with your chewiness,

You charm me with your crucnch.

You make lunch and dinner,

And even breakfast,

Much better.

You bring pizazz to huevos fritos,

Pulled chicken,

Even marinara sauce gets better

Because of you.

So, thank you gallo pinto.

Thank you for making everyone jealous

That I can’t eat gluten

And for accompanying me on every plate

At every meal.

You taste like the memory of Nica.

I love you as I loved the mountain view,

And I can’t wait to experience you

Again in your hometown.

Until tomorrow, folks!

Christmas in Miami, Day One

Hey folks!

So, as some of you know, I went to sunny Miami, Florida for a few days to spend Christmas with my older brother, J. We ate a ton of food at some pretty incredible restaurants and spent some awesome quality time together. Since he moved down there I only see him twice a year if I’m lucky, so it was really special to be able to spend two Christmasses with him in a row (my AWESOME sister flew him up in secret last year!). Anyway, I’m breaking up my vacation into a few posts because I’m milking my available ideas for posts and also because it’s eleven and I need to post this by midnight!

miami skyI arrived around ten thirty on Christmas Eve. My brother and his lovely girlfriend picked me up from the airport and we drove to their apartment so I could put my luggage away and change out of my crafty Cleveland layers. After a solid twenty minutes of hugs, Christmas gift exchanges (the ones to them from me, mom, and sister), and dog lovin’, we left for lunch.

kiddo

Kiddo, the best dog ever.

We went to a place called Blue Collar in the MIMO district of Miami. It was a teeny tiny restaurant with seating for maybe thirty people including the outdoor seating. They had an incredible assortment of seasonal vegetables that were available, cleverly displayed on a colorful chalkboard at the front of their kitchen. Their menu had a ton of choices, which ultimately led to J, L, and I getting way too much food (you’ll find that this becomes a pattern) by getting two appetizers to start and an entree each for lunch. Sorry for the lack of pictures, guys, but I didn’t realize that I should be taking them until dinner and also I was too excited that I was with my big bro!

Our appetizers were their pork n’ beans and shrimp n’ grits. I could have bathed in the shrimp n’ grits. Holy wow it was creamy and well-seasoned and overall really freakin’ awesome. The beans weren’t cooked as well as I’d hoped, but it tasted good and the sausage was pretty bomb. As for entrees, J got braised lamb neck with mashed potatoes, L got a chicken breast with two veggie options and I got four of the veggie options. In total, if memory serves me correctly (man, I should have written this shit down) we had kale, sweet potato fries, a sweet potato plantain mash, artichoke hearts, curried cauliflower puree, and maple roasted carrots. Everything was deeeeelish except the sweet fries, sadly. As one of my favorite way to eat sweet potatoes, fries are a huge selling point for me. They tasted like they weren’t made with nearly as much love as everything else. The chicken was moist and had a good flavor and the lamb neck was the bomb.com. We left fully sated.

Enter: more dog time, taking L to work, and hanging out with the broski.

My brother and I went to DB Bistro Moderne for dinner. He used to work there, so it was a cool experience just being there with him. It’s slightly humorous to see a chef on the other side of the restaurant. Because of his charming demeanor, I’m sure, the staff there love him and decided it would be a good idea to make us eighty pounds heavier in one meal. They tried very hard. We got sent an awesome charcuterie with some freaking incredible house made meaty delicacies (I really couldn’t try to name what kind of sausages or whatever we got- it would be an insult to the chef(s), which I’m sure this whole blog post probably is- sorry guys) and it included my favorite meat on the whole planet- jamón iberico AKA bacon and silk’s sweet, sweet love child. They sent out soup, some sort of paté on a cracker for J and on a slice of endive for gluten-free me. How sweet, am I right? Adorable. After those we got scallops with hazelnuts (again, delicious to the point where trying to describe it would be an insult) and a kale salad. In the shape of a wreath. With little bows made out of pomegranate leather! WHAT. SO FREAKING CHRISTMAS.

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Iberian ham

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Kale salad

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Scallops with hazelnuts

Blah blah blah, whiskey in many different formats and I think I drank tequila in a way that actually made it taste awesome to me.

Enter: dinner! Since it was a Christmas Eve meal, J got (Christmas) goose and I got pig, because I can’t resist pork. Om nom, we devoured our meals (gosh, my pork was incredible- served with pears and some awesome vegetable I can’t remember) and hoped that the pastry Chef didn’t get too many bright ideas. (Spoiler: we were wrong)

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Holy crap, guys. DO YOU SEE THAT? THAT IS AN EDIBLE ALICE IN WONDERLAND SET. That is where Hansel & Gretel TOOK PLACE. ON A PLATE. WITH EVERYTHING DELICIOUS AND ABLE TO BE PUT IN MY MOUTH.

Mr. Jerome Maure, you are an artist. You are incredible. Of course, this wasn’t the only thing he sent out. We got chocolate cake with a brandy ganachey filling with mocha ice cream and another dessert similar to this one. But this one takes the cake (pun pardon, please). Do you see this? You understand how gorgeous this is, right? It tasted better than it looked. Everything worked together in such a way that I felt the party in my mouth. Gnomes and fairies exploded with applause at their home being devoured by two giants that really didn’t need to be eating this much chocolate.

An absolutely perfect day with an amazing brother (and his kickass lady), great food, and this masterpiece to end it all. I’m salivating just writing about this stuff, so I’m going to go have a snack. It won’t be nearly as stellar as our dinner (and especially dessert) at DB, but it will help fill the void now left in my heart by not having Jerome anywhere near for his casual humor and inordinate amount of talent.

Thanks for a perfect Christmas Eve, J, L, and the great people of Blue Collar and DB Bistro Moderne.

Until tomorrow, folks!

Food Adventures: West End Tavern, Lakewood

I’ve started to branch out a bit around town and sample the divine culinary variety in and around the Cleveland area. I hope to continue my adventuring to include not only food but for right now that’s just about all I’ve done. These aren’t going to be “reviews,” per se, but just recounts of my adventures including who I was with, what we ate, and how we liked it.

Soooooo without further ado, here’s the account of my first trip to the West End Tavern in Lakewood.

A few weeks ago I went to the wedding of two friends of mine from Heidelberg. I got to see a lot of awesome  friends I hadn’t seen in a long time and we got really drunk. On Sunday, upon waking, the only thing one friend wanted to find was “a place that served alcohol and breakfast” that was close by. We ended up going to brunch at the WE Tavern.

We had to sit at the bar, because it was absolutely packed. Two friends got mimosas, I got a bloody mary. Because, of course, the only thing to cure an open-bar-wedding hangover is more alcohol. Also bacon. But we’ll get to that part later. The mimosas were super pretty and also pretty delicious! They were served with flowers in them and had a good amount of sweetness. The bloody mary was incredible! I never really liked them that much (alcoholic beef stew, ew!) but it was soooooo good. Spicy and tart and also a little savory. It blew me away so much I just had to get another one. Whoops.

Okay, so, the food. I got the West End omelet. I didn’t get toast because, well, gluten. The omelet was the bomb! It was a good size (I couldn’t even finish it- though that might have had something to do with the one and a half bloody marys I had just ingested) and had a sizable amount of all the fixins. The home fries weren’t the best (not crispy and kind of under seasoned), but  I was hungover and there was ketchup so I ate all of them.

The staff was friendly and expedient, making sure we always had anything we needed. Prices were awesome and totally worth it! I was going t think of some algorithm to effectively rate and compare my dining experiences, but instead I’ll just tell you I liked it a whole hell of a lot and I will totally go back there sometime!

Thanks for reading, folks! Comment to let me know if you’d like to know anything different about my adventures with food or if you’d like to suggest a place I should adventure!

Coming up in the Food Adventures “series:” Happy Dog, Jack Flaps, West Side Market, and Brown Sugar Thai. 

Week One: Plantai-kin’ it Easy

Hey folks!

Okay, so I made plantains in four different ways this week!

Way one: Mashed plantains!

SO GOOD. They were a little bit sweet, a little bit savory. It’s certainly a new taste, but it was awesome in addition to roasted chicken and veggies. I don’t know how much of the recipe you want, so for now I’ll just say that I boiled partially ripe plantains in water with garlic and onions, then simmered with milk and spices, and then mashed ’em all up when they were soft. Sister was iffy, sister’s boyfriend liked them!

(Here is where a picture would go if WordPress wasn’t having problems uploading pictures. Imagine there are pictures for all of these! I will try to get them up soon)

Way two: Dessert plantains!

Pretty awesome. I was craving something sweet, so I took my plantain with the most black and least yellow (AKA most ripe) and sliced it thinly on a mandolin. Then I fried the slices in coconut oil, sprinkled them with cinnamon, and served with some chocolate sauce. They weren’t incredibly sweet (I’m trying to limit my sugar intake) but they were tasty and I can imagine dusted with powdered sugar they’d be pure heaven. My friend Kelci liked them! At least I think she did…

Way three: Curry-spiced plantains!

These were a tasty lunchtime snack! I sliced two relatively un-ripe plantains thinly lengthwise and sauteed them in coconut oil with some onions. I then added some fresh garlic and curry powder. They got super soft on the inside but had a nice caramelized , crunchy outside and the curry flavor goes better with plantains than I expected.

Way four: Roasted plantains with cheese.

For this super easy recipe I took an unripe plantain, sliced it down the middle about a 1/4 inch deep (with the peel still on) and stuck it  in the oven for about thirty minutes. I then ripped the peel off ( I would say “took,” but it definitely made a ripping sound) and put some of my fancy applewood smoked cheddar I got from West Side Market and put it in to broil for a few minutes. Oh. My. Goodness. Without any spices, this was one of the most flavorful things I’ve eaten in a long time. The plantain got all soft and sweet, with a little bit of a sweet potato sweet/savory flavor, and the cheese was SO GOOD in it. Wow. I will definitely make this again.

There you have it, folks! Four different ways to eat plantains! I still have about half of my supply left, so I’m open to suggestions! I am really enjoying finding ways to make them a savory side dish, because my sister can’t eat potatoes without getting sick (Google “nightshade intolerance” if you’re really interested). Using plantains, I can hopefully show her (or just make her) plantains acting like potatoes! Maybe this week I will try a “french fry” type plantain. The possibilities are endless!

Let me know if you’d like me to post any of my recipes on here!

See ya later, alligators!

21 Day (Plantain) Fix

Hey Folks! Lots of stuff happening over here in the Greater Cleveland Area. Too much for one post, so I’m going to keep this one pretty centered on the weird title.

The 21 Day Fix is a workout program offered by Beachbody, a corporation built on helping people live healthy lives. The program consists of a 21-day workout and meal plan. The meal plan is pretty cool, it has something to do with your weight and how much protein, carbs, veggies, etc. you need in a day and they give you cute convenient containers that portion out your stuff. I didn’t follow the meal plan per se but I did make sure I was making healthy choices while my sister followed the meal plan rather strictly. I did actually commit to working out with my sister each day of the Fix. There are 7 different workouts that all offer something a little different so you work different muscle groups each day and don’t get bored with the same routine. They’re 30 minutes long and Autumn Calabrese, the creator/host-lady of 21 Day Fix, is pretty awesome and motivational.

I’m telling you this because this is the first time in my life I have committed to a workout routine, or even just slightly regular health guidelines, and stuck with it. I missed two workouts due to not being home for one of them and being lazy for another. Other than those, I did it! And I lost 11 inches! What! Fitness is cool! I’m now starting a 60-day program my sister created combining LesMills Combat, PiYo, and 21 Day Fix routines. I’m excited. Fitness adventures!

So, that covers the 21 Day Fix part of the title, “but what is this plantain business? ” you may be asking. Well, my sister and I went to the West Side Market (love!) on Saturday and when you go an hour before closing, the vendors try really hard to make you some awesome deals. I was going to buy four or five plantains at 79 cents each, but was offered a 10 pound box for five dollars. I love plantains. I love a challenge. Why not? Thus, I have ended up with 21 plantains of varying ripeness. I am a pretty good cook, but I’ve never done much with plantains, so I saw an opportunity. I’m going to try at least seven different recipes for plantains over the next couple of weeks. I may try more but my goal is seven. Right now I’m looking into plantain dumplings, plantain soup, and plain ole’ fried plantains.

My delicious Nicaraguan breakfast of gallo pinto, fried eggs, and sweet plantains.

My delicious Nicaraguan breakfast of gallo pinto, fried eggs, and sweet plantains.

This morning I took my most ripe one, sliced it on a mandolin (about 1/4” thickness) and fried them lightly in coconut oil. The effect was close to the fried sweet plantains I had while in Nicaragua and they were absolutely delicious. But I’m not going to count them as one of my seven recipes because I knew how to make ’em already.

Well, that’s about it right now. I have some big news about my recent big-girl decisions to relay sometime this week!

Please comment with one of your favorite recipes, with or without plantains. I love to share food ideas!