• Category Archives Food
  • Why I don’t Ride with the ALR anymore – Part II

    OK… I said I don’t ride with them anymore, but this past weekend they decided to do a ride up to Lake City where the Laky City American Legion was hosting a chili cookoff. Well, that was enough for me, so I went with them. Hey… it’s chili.

    Of course, this just reminded me of why I don’t really want to ride with these guys anymore. First, they ran late. The email said to meet up at the post at 10 am for the ride, as the cook off was going to start at 11 am. When did we finally get rolling? An hour later! I had to stand around waiting for these guys to get their butts in gear and ready to go… and three of them, long standing members of the Riders, didn’t even bother with riding their bikes… they instead drove their big truck instead. So add to the list of reasons why I don’t want to ride with them is that they are tardy as hell, which is surprising given the nature of ex-military personnel who are accustomed to fifteen minutes prior to fifteen minutes prior.

    And then the ride. This really reminded me why I don’t go with these guys… because they are dangerous to their own. I chose to ride at the back of the pack, so that I can see what is happening in front of me and so that I don’t have idiots to my rear… and it turned out to be a good idea, because the bike in front of me, who has been riding for dozens of years, apparently never learned how to ride in formation with a group of bikes. No, instead of riding staggered the way it has been taught to every riding group I have ever been a member of, a lesson which has been put out to this very group many times before, a lesson that he HIMSELF has issued to others, decides to ride the entire way sitting directly behind the bike in front of him at the far right edge of the lane. So if the bike in front of him has to slam on the brakes, he is screwed, because he doesn’t have time to maneuver around, doesn’t have time to get on the brakes himself before hitting the bike in front of him, and frankly due to his age barely has the reaction time left to maneuver around things that come up in front of him normally. So he puts himself, his pillion rider (wife), and the rider in front of him in peril.

    I chose to ride home solo instead of riding back with them.

    Oh, and the chili wasn’t all that good either. I need to learn that these chili cook offs that are hosted by Harley Davidson or Veterans groups are being hosted by old people who apparently don’t know anything about making things spicy. They instead cater to the lowest common denominator, which means bland as hell. Once, just once, I need to cook for one of these contests and put up a sign reading something along the lines of “This chili is spicy. It will burn your dick off. You have been warned.”


  • No way to respond to Yelp articles

    OK… here is the thing. I sometimes see reviews on Yelp that simply don’t make sense. They post something, give a horrible rating, and then base that rating on only one thing. Or, in other cases, they state something, then go off in a completely different direction with their actual meal plans. I just wish sometimes that they would think about what they are writing before hitting that post button.

    Case in point: A rating article written recently for 4 Rivers Smokehouse, a local chain in North Florida. Personally I am not a huge fan of them, as I find them to be relatively generic and somewhat overpriced. However, I have also heard (though not tasted) that their brisket is bar-none the best in the area. I am not a huge brisket person, and prefer pork ribs, but that is beside the point.

    So the article… https://www.yelp.com/biz/4-rivers-smokehouse-gainesville?hrid=J9fVA9oq7cv40-8y0xxYHQ

    The reviewer gave it four stars… OK, fine. But her opening statement says that she saw the Hot Brisket sign in the window which is what enticed her to come in in the first place. She then goes on to describe that she bought an order of ribs, burnt ends, and a couple of sides, and proceeds to review those. Note the items she bought vs. what attracted her in the first place… no brisket was bought. It just seemed… inconsistent.

    Anyway, rant over.


  • Conastogas Restaurant

    Went to this restaurant on Monday night as a part of an American Legion Rider’s meeting. Normally we meet at the legion hall and do our business there, but ’tis the season and all, and the president decided that the organization had enough money to treat us this time around by buying dinner for us all at the restaurant.

    The American Legion Riders is a sub-organization of the American Legion, and we ride motorcycles, do charity work, and represent the Legion and Veterans. You know, that sort of thing.

    So how many members (there were about twenty of us that showed up) actually rode in for this event?

    Me. Just me. It wasn’t even really raining! (It had rained earlier, and there was still wetness on the roads, which is why I showed up with wet jeans, and it did rain while we were inside again, but still…)

    Our group was seated in a large private room that still has a view on the street. Un-shelled peanuts in a bowl greeted us as we made small talk and the waitress got our drink orders. More small talk as we waited for the drinks to arrive and then our meal orders were taken.

    I ordered the “Stogie” Burger with Bacon and cajun fries. We then proceeded to talk for about another half hour before our food started to trickle out of the kitchen. It seems that their kitchen is not designed to handle a twenty seat order at once. Nor does the restaurant appear to realize that for a group of twenty, you really need more than one waitress to handle everything. I really do mean everything in this case. She had no help when it came time to deliver the food, when it came time to fill up the glasses of iced tea, which pretty much everyone had, etc.

    Finally, our food did start to arrive, oddly enough in reverse order of the sequence that it was ordered… oh well, no big deal in that regard. The Stogie burger is a 16oz patty on a decent sized bun with all of the usual accoutrements for a burger… lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese, bacon. I passed on the pickle, because American pickles are crap. The burger was done to specification, and was a good burger. I mean, there was nothing spectacular about it, nor was it bad. It was a large burger that comes from a Western themed restaurant… so it was what I would expect.

    Really, you are getting what you would expect from a restaurant such as this, and the value is there for the money. The one niggly little thing that I would bitch about would be their claim that they have the largest burger in the country, referring to some place in Oregon that serves a 36 ounce burger. So apparently this place one-upped them with a 48oz burger (basically three Stogie burgers stacked on one another). Whoo! Sounds like no one would be topping that, right?

    Wrong.

    Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub in Pennsylvania has a number of different challenges… their 48 oz challenge is there, just like Conestoga’s, but they also have a 96 oz challenge (yes, that is SIX pounds). There are a number of other challenges that they have which are just scary to even look at.

    Anyway, that is my quick review of Conestogas Restaurant. I would recommend it if you want a typical Western style restaurant that serves burgers and steaks, as they do a decent job, but be aware that you are going to be swamped with a bit of kitchy western stuff along the way.

    http://www.conestogasrestaurant.com/


  • Dos Mama’s Eastside Eatery

    So, this past weekend, after I had participated (OK, it was more a witnessing… my Civil Air Patrol cadets did the participation part) in the Wreaths Across America ceremony at Forest Meadows cemetery, a group of us went to Dos Mama’s Eastside Eatery here in Gainesville.

    http://www.dosmamascatering.com/

    The food there was quite good. I didn’t take any pictures, and I am starting to refrain from doing so when I go out to eat these days because it has become so… gauche… to do so.

    The fare there is classic American… hamburgers and stuff. I had a simple steak and cheese sandwich, but it turned out to be huge! It was put on two nice hot dog bun like pieces of bread, and it was simply too much for me to eat in one seating. I took half of it home, and for those of you that have met me, you know that me doing something like that is rare. I saw the hamburgers that were delivered to some of the others at the table, and the hamburgers were also of high quality, with meat patties that were nice and think and covering the bun. They looked quite good as well (I just wanted a steak and cheese sandwich for once, darn it!)

    I spoke with the co-owner (they were both there… obviously this is a business that has only just started up in the last year and is still working on getting clientele) and she was very enthusiastic about getting more business. The business gets a strong turnout during the lunch period in the week because of all of the light industrial businesses in that area, and also a good showing for breakfast, but apparently supper time is very light for them (face it, workers at the end of the day just want to go home…) so she is looking for ways to increase the business during that time of day. One thing she is doing is getting groups to hold meetings and stuff there, where they can grab a bite to eat while talking.

    So, my recommendation for Dos Mama’s Eastside Eatery is certainly a thumbs up! Go there!


  • Picky eaters

    So, one of the things that I do on a semi-regular basis is cook food for a semi-charitable organization (I say semi-charitable, because they have yet to file all of the paperwork necessary to become a true non-profit where they can give tax write-offs to people who donate. Don’t get me started on that… just… don’t)

    Anyway, when I cook for this group, it is usually for a group of between thirty and sixty people, depending on the event. There are usually decent facilities for me to produce the cooked food needed to feed these folks, and I do actually enjoy it.

    Unfortunately, when you are preparing meals for this many people, you do run into people who have allergies or objections to certain foods due to religious principles, etc. (You know, the vegetarians, those that have to remain Kosher, and various allergies… the biggest allergy that I have to typically deal with is gluten, though I did have a really odd one recently with garlic and vinegar…) I actually don’t have any problem with those things. Nor do I really have a problem with having to make the food somewhat bland in the first place, because a lot of people can’t handle the spiciness of food that I prefer. No big deal… I make food that everyone I am serving can handle, and then I make some special things that I warn them not to mess with. They understand, and no issues are had.

    So now we get to the crux of this post…. Picky Eaters

    This past weekend I had one kid (OK, he’s sixteen… whatever) who basically would not eat anything. Note that I said “would”, not “could”. There is a difference. This kid, when he saw the beef stew, rabbit stew (yes, two different stews… who gets to eat rabbit stew?), and vegetarian chili that I was serving, came up to me and stated that he does not eat stews.

    Does not eat stews

    Who the hell doesn’t eat stews? What kind of fucking limitation is that? I just stared at him for about a minute after he told me this drivel. Then I made a mistake…

    I tried to placate him by finding something that he would eat.

    Instead of just blasting away at his idiotic little bullshit about not being able to eat a fucking stew (note that it was not the ingredients in the stew that he was whining about, but the way that it was prepared) I went into the kitchen and figured out something that he could eat. I kick myself for doing this now, but at the time I was just stressed and not thinking clearly.

    Frankly, I don’t really blame this kid. He’s sixteen. He was apparently raised in a home that allows him to get away with being the pickiest eater I have ever met. I almost hold pity for this kid, because what the hell is he going to do once he enters the real world and he is at some luncheon with his boss, and when he looks at his menu there is nothing that he will eat on it? Is he going to whine and moan and complain about there not being anything on the menu to eat because the kids menu isn’t visible?


  • Home lunch replaced with garbage from school

    Original article: Preschooler’s homemade lunch replaced with nuggets

    To me, this is a total travesty. It is an indication that the nanny state of our government has over-reached its bounds. From the article: “…a state agent who was inspecting lunch boxes decided that her packed lunch — which consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice, and potato chips — ‘did not meet US Department of Agriculture guidelines'”.

    So what did they do? They replaced the child’s lunch with a cafeteria tray that had chicken nuggets on it. Frankly, I consider the kid’s sandwich to be a hell of a lot more wholesome than those nuggets… do a search on just what chicken nuggets are typically made from (these probably came from a frozen package distributed by Sysco or something) and tell me that a turkey and cheese sandwich is less wholesome than reconstituted chicken parts that have been bathed in ammonia to kill off E Coli and other bad stuff.

    I think that the mother should be developing a lawsuit against the school. I think that Jamie Oliver should be up in arms (actually, he already is, but perhaps hasn’t focused on this particular story yet). I think Anthony Bourdain is probably just shaking his head and saying “I told you so!”

     


  • Quick chili recipe

    OK… not really a chili, since I use baked beans in mine… let’s call it Beanie-Weanies from Hell instead…

    First, you need a decent sized crock-pot… not one of those little ones…

    Now, the ingedients…

    • 1 can of baked beans, 28oz. I usually use Bush’s, because they go on sale 2-for-1 at Publix on a regular basis.
    • 2 cans of diced/chopped/whatever tomatoes. If they have flavoring in them like chilis or something, that is fine. Do what you like in this regard.
    • 1 can of Hormel chili. (Optional – I used it because I had it in the pantry)
    • 1 can of chili beans
    • 1 large onion, or two smaller ones, chopped. It isn’t a chili without onions. I suppose if you have some pearl onions you could just peel them and throw them in whole… that would be nice too.
    • 1 carrot (optional – They work in a chili, and I had some in the fridge) Chop it up into bite size pieces… or not… heck, it is your chili!
    • 1 Kielbasa sausage, chopped. OK, you can use just about any sausage you want, but I recommend something along the lines of a kielbasa. Hot dogs will work fine as well.
    • Chili powder
    • Sambal

    Throw all of this in the crock pot and stir it up. Get it nice and mixed together. Then turn it on and wait.

    Realistically, my philosophy on chilis is that they are a garbage bin for things in your fridge, sort of like a stew… After a little while, your fridge starts to accumulate end bits of things that just don’t really make a meal on their own… but if you chop them up and throw them into a chili, they can be used as a filler.

    Throw in the chili powder and sambal, making it as spicy as you want. Let it stew for a number of hours.


  • Dinner at Kouzzina, Walt Disney World Resort

    My mother and I went here on Saturday night after a day of walking around EPCOT center and sampling some of the foods at the Food and Wine festival. We had an 8:20 reservation, which we were just in time for.

    First, it seems that they bunch up the reservations like this for a first and second seating arrangement at the restaurant. While this does seem to make sense in some ways, in others it means that there are some flow control issues, and you get a lot of bunching up of things. Ah well, we didn’t mind waiting for our little buzzer to go off, as it has a decent range and we were able to go out on the pier and watch a performing clown do a show with hats. Quite entertaining.

    As we were being seated, the hostess explained to us something about the restaurant, detailing how it was a restaurant featuring the recipes of Cat Cora, how the kitchen was laid out in the open so that everyone could see what was going on in the kitchen, etc. Very reminiscent of the California Grill on top of the Contemporary Hotel. I don’t know how much of a change this is compared with Spoodles, but I don’t mind the layout… it works. The room itself is semi-high ceilinged, and while conversations of guests do carry to some extent, it is not excessively loud in the eating area, something that I am not a fan of. While there is guest noise that carries, it isn’t to a point that it becomes bothersome and you find yourself yelling across the table just to be heard. If they could tune it so that it was a little quieter, it would be better… perhaps some sound baffling in the ceiling or something. Come on Imagineers! Get to work!  🙂

    Seated, we were introduced to our server (almost said waitress there, but decided to keep it more neutral, keeping in line with what Disney apparently wants to present) who had a strong southern drawl (hey, we are in the south… no biggie!) She was sweet, but a bit distracted by things that were going on around her. I’m not sure if this was considered a busy night, caused by it both being a Saturday night and having the Food and Wine festival just down the path in EPCOT, but it seemed like the wait staff were a little short-handed… and when I say a little, as if they were missing maybe one or two people and therefore each server’s area was an extra table or two larger than normal. No idea, really. I would have to go on a weekday night when things are typically quieter to see.

    First came the drinks, of course. I am not a drinker, and really the only thing I drink in the alcohol range tends to be things like ice wines. I did look over the mixed drinks quickly, but as they were all the standard Disney World drinks, I passed and went with a pomegranate lemonade… more on that in a bit. My mother ordered the Retsina wine, which surprised the waitress… I’m not sure why, since Retsina is a classical greek wine and this was a restaurant featuring greek food. I tried a bit of the wine… not something I would order myself, but interesting… it is a dry wine with an interesting pine taste to it. Not really horrible, but then, I also can enjoy Beverly from EPCOT’s Cool-Zone, where you get to sample different Coca-Cola beverages from around the world. (However, they have been messing with the mixtures there… just about everything is sweeter now, and Beverly isn’t nearly as bitter as it once was…)

    Looking over the menu, we decided against any of the appetizers. They just didn’t seem appealing to us at the time. My mother is somewhat picky in what she selects in restaurants, and the appetizers just weren’t in her list of things she wanted to try. Mom wanted to try the beets dish, until she realized that the beets were chilled. I might have gone with the Kouzzina Sampler, which is a choice of two skewers with olives, cashews, dolmades, tzatziki, hummus, grilled pita, and a choice between prawns, lamb meatballs, or chicken.

    I went with the lamb shank, which has oven-baked gigante beans and a pepper sauce, along with a side dish of brussel sprouts (I know… I know… Brussel Sprouts? Are you nuts? Hey, I like them, particularly if they are done right) with capers and lemon. My mother went with the Kouzzina Trio, which is a tasting size portion of Greek-style lasagna, char-grilled lamb burger, and cinnamon-stewed chicken with orzo, along with a side of herbed orzo with olive oil and kasseri cheese.

    The food arrived on the table very quickly. I don’t know if they had it ready to go in back somewhere and just microwaved it or what (I’m kidding… I am sure they prepared it properly) but it was on the table in no time.

    Let’s start with the Kouzzina Trio: The cinnamon stewed chicken was amazing, and afterwards my mother said she would happily order that as a full dish instead of the trio. The lamb burger was good, but we both felt that there were too many toppings. The burger would have been better without some of the toppings taking away from the taste of the lamb itself. I tried eating just a piece of the lamb burger meat alone, and it was quite good, so the toppings just took away from that taste. The lasagna, while quite good, also had cinnamon in it, and thus it was somewhat reminiscent of the chicken dish. We both felt that pairing it with the cinnamon-stewed chicken was a bit of a mistake, and that the third dish should have had some contrasting flavors. While it was good, it just didn’t fit quite right with the other two items on the plate.

    My lamb shank was wonderful, and combined with the gigante beans it was a very good dish. The lamb was baked to perfection, and we were both happy with it. I don’t really have that much to say good or bad about this dish. It is what it is, and if you are in the mood for lamb, it is certainly worth having.

    The herbed orzo side dish was also quite nice, and added a nice contrast to the items we already had. I found it to be a nice palate cleanser so that when I switched to different dishes I would have a clean taste going in. The cheese that was melted on top of this dish was also perfectly suited for the dish. A welcome side dish to just about any entree you happen to select.

    Finally, the brussel sprouts. First of all, I received a bit of a look of surprise from the server when I ordered this. I don’t understand why, because brussel sprouts, when done properly, are wonderful. I assume that because we were obviously American, we were not big brussel sprout eaters. I beg to differ… I love the bloody things. The sprouts were quite good, and the saltiness from the capers brought out the flavor of the sprouts. My only comment on the dish is that less oil should be used in the preparation, and more capers should be used. In my book, another nice side dish to complement a main course.

    The only other issue that occurred with this meal was the server’s inattentiveness. She did a good job of keeping us going with the meal, and was not intrusive with asking us if everything was going well (something I hate… I swear they are trained to ask this question exactly when my mouth is full.) However, I found the pomegranate lemonade to be extremely sweet, and would have preferred to switch to something else after the first glass. When it came time for a refill, she asked if I wanted a refill (which is fine), and when I started ask her a question she nodded and turned to another table, blithely ignoring the fact that I wanted to ask her something. She came by after about five minutes with a full glass of the lemonade again. I didn’t comment at the time because it wasn’t that big a deal, but it still bothered me, and that was reflected in the tip at the end.

    We are slow eaters, and we took about two hours to eat. When we were done, the restaurant had pretty much cleared out.

    Would we go again? Absolutely. My mother said she would like to try the whole fish at some point, and I might like to try either the flank steak or the seafood stew… both looked quite good, at least on the menu. I never got up to walk around a bit and see what other folks were eating, which I now realize was a mistake.


  • Food and Wine Festival, 2010. EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World

    Went to the Food and Wine Festival this weekend, and had my mother with me for the first time so that she could experience it. The past couple of years that I have attended, I have tried to sample everything that even sort of piqued my interest.

    Not this time.

    This time around, we were a lot more selective about what we went for. We would go up to each booth, look at the menu and decide whether anything even sounded remotely interesting, then watch the booth as other people would buy the different items. If they looked good, then we would get in line and give it a shot.

    This only happened a couple of times.

    The new Singapore booth was one that we sampled substantially. They had two different food items (I differentiate this from the wine aspect of the booths, as well as dessert items) which we sampled, both of which were excellent.

    The first item was a shrimp cake with Singapore noodle salad. We had to wait a while for this, since the shrimp cakes were taking a while to cook up on the grill. Unfortunately, they were rushing a bit, and our cake was underdone. It was still tasty, but the fact that it was underdone was kind of offsetting. The noodle salad was also stone cold, though we are now thinking that this was on purpose, and not something that happened simply because it sat out for a little while. The noodle salad was quite good, and had a nice spiciness that made us want more.

    The second item was a coconut braised beef rendang with jasmine rice. This was the best thing we had all day from the festival. While the rice was something that you could get anywhere, the rendang was exceptional. It had a nice sweetness to it before a bit of a spicy kick came out at the end. I am now looking for recipes for this one, because it was that good.

    The second (and last) booth that we stopped at was Argentina, where they had a roasted corn and cheese empanada. This was quite tasty, the filling just right, and the flaky crust beautifully made.

    That was it for booths that we actually sampled! Yes, just two. We looked very hard at what was being put out by Australia, but when we passed by the second time the barramundi fish just didn’t look as appealing as it did the first time around (we were no longer anywhere near as hungry), and the lambchops seemed very small for the price… not to mention we both have racks of lamb from Australia sitting at home in the freezer waiting to be cooked up.

    One other place that we looked at was the lettuce wraps with roast pork and kimchi slaw from South Korea. Unfortunately, the second time around when we looked at it again, it had also lost it’s luster.

    We finished off the day at EPCOT with a meal from Japan, a rice bowl with curried beef and potatoes that is always available from the Yakitori House up on the hill behind the pagoda. It is a substantial amount of food, and certainly enough for two people. One of my more favorite places to get food at EPCOT these days, because it is one of the more economical quick food places.