Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bring on the Road Food

Saturday morning dawned sunny and warm, pregnant with possibilities (I've been dying to use that expression all WEEK!) These are the days I dream of when beaten down by winter snow drifts and 5 lb servings of casseroles. Matt & I came up with a vague plan and an excuse for a road trip. We peeled down the top and hit the road. We decided to find an outlet mall. Our friend Andy's birthday party was to be held later that night at Nye's and I could use a new pair of shoes. Or a new skirt... Maybe a nice top?

We cruised down 35E South until eventually it was just 35. I pointed out all of my favorite suburban roadside attractions. Oh! Applebees! There's Aisha' Honda dealership! Can you believe she drives all the way out here for an oil change? Road kill!! What the hell was that thing?

My favorite was a van full of dudes trying to change a tire. It was apparent that the most precious cargo of the van was probably the guy who's face was plastered all over it. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say they were touring. And there they were in the hot mid day sun on the side of the road halfway to Iowa, which is pretty much halfway to no where fun for them. Feeling sympathetic, I pointed and laughed.

We should have known that the shopping excursion would prove fruitless. There was NOTHING worth spending any money on in this dump. I couldn't find anything to buy at a Gap outlet. Do you know how wrong that is? And why would anyone need to go to a Payless outlet? You PAY LESS!! Is a discount on some $12.99 Ked rip offs worth it? Well, shoot, might have been, if I'd found anything int here other than Dora the Explora slippers and some gold frappe lame` heels. I'll spare you the tedium of the Old Navy and a place called Mustard Seed.

A new plan was devised for our retreat. We would need to find a country road, long, twisty and with as few stoplights as possible. Cty Road 3 suited us just fine and would provide a leisurely reproach to the city. We re-applied our sunscreen and took off.

"Hey, look! It's the guys in the van again!" This time the van was on a flat bed tow truck. "HA HA!" I pointed. This road wasn't as pretty as the country roads that Wisconsin had to offer, but it was a good place to start off the convertible season. Matt had been starving for hours and we vowed to stop at the first roadside place that showed promise. Although we slid by some cute little towns, really there was nothing. I even got off the path and cruised down the main drag in Fairbault. What I didn't know about Fairbault is that they have some amazing gingerbread, old Victorian houses. Huge, beautiful houses! And apparently the people that live in those houses either eat at Burger King or Subway 'cause that's all they got.

Back on the road again, we were fast approaching the cities, although most of the Suburban trappings were history. I didn't see any super Wal-mart's or maybe I blocked it out. While winding up a large hill, we did spot a place called Cooper's. I would have preferred that it wasn't addressed in Eagan, but we were hungry and they had a patio. I had to squint my eyes to adjust to the cool darkness inside. I saw a couple of plates of food and they were just what you'd expect: heaping mounds of French fries and a Prime Rib sandwich the size of your head. Nice. We made our way out to the patio that was breezy cool and perfectly shaded. This place was gorgeous. Over my shoulder in both directions I could see high hills and spotted a pair of red-tailed hawks.

The nice couple already seated out there told us that the waitress was swamped and laughed heartily at Matt's t-shirt that proclaimed: "Jesus Shaves." I'd gotten over the joke long before, but they loved it.

Matt just went in and ordered for us. When he asked what I wanted to drink, I impulsively yelled, "Blue Moon!" Seeing the advertisement on the back of a menu. What I got was one of the biggest beers ever served to me in my LIFE! It was delicious, but a meal unto itself.

The food took a while and we realized that the reason it was so slow is that the waitress was the only one working. I hope someone was in the kitchen, but there wasn't even a bartender! She was great, though. We'd ordered a BBQ bacon burger and the onion rings. The onion rings were perfectly cooked! Nice, crunchy shells wrapped around juicy, sweet onions. They were served with a side of mustard dipping something that I was leery of until I tasted it. There was so much mayo in there! It was mustard, honey and a whole lot of mayonnaise. I loved it! And it perfectly complimented my rings.

The burger was really good, too. It was nicely seasoned, they used good bacon and the BBQ sauce tasted like KC Masterpiece, my preferred bottled variety, if push comes to shove. Now, this was nothing compared to the meals I've tried at La Belle Vie or even the elegant burgers at Craftsman, but this was just exactly what hit the spot, our first foray into summer convertible weather road food.

We left just in time, though. As I was licking my fingers, the soft melody of what I can only describe as a Spinal Tap cover band came wafting out of the overhead speakers. What.the.hell.was.that? We jumped into the car as Marilyn Manson was covering a Depeche Mode song(What's darker than dark and more depressed than I was at 14?) I turned up Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros on the CD player and sped away singing, "Coma Girl." Hell, to each his own.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Best of the City

Okay, so last year I went a little overboard in my review of the City Pages Best of the City article. I couldn't help myself! I'd just experienced a wretched dining experience at dubplex and I was pissed off. And you don't know pissed off until you see this girl denied a decent dining experience,and left $45 poorer. Oh, that was so bad, I don't even want to think about it. I'm leaving it in my past like the nightmare parking of Uptown. I have moved on.
Now, I'm happily living in the same city that gave us the best restaurant of the year and the best chef. It is true, Heartland is amazing. I only wish I could save up the ching to get into that regular dining room. But, the more casual wine bar suits me just fine.
This year they also got the Best Chinese food right by selecting my new love Little Szechwan. And, it's true, really. I know that you might be afraid of the heat, but go, embrace the pain. It's the good kind. Plus, all those peppers leave you feeling a little high, which is probably why I'm like a junkie for this place. I must get more TOFU!!! Can't you see I'm hurtin' real bad!?
I saw that on that listing, the readers selected Rainbow Chinese, which is better than LeeAnn Chin, and their Szechwan wontons make me weak in the knees, but it's just not fair to compare bean curd to Ma Po Tofu.
Also, I've finally got some new joints to go check out. It's been a while since I hit a new restaurant, but it seems like nothing new has opened lately to interest me. You will not ever, EVER catch me setting one foot inside this chain Fogo de Chao that just opened up a block away from where I work. Nor will I be dining in a strip mall in Woodbury anytime soon.
But, Best Outdoor Dining went to Swede Hollow, which I have got to check out. It's up the hill, just on the East side of St. Paul up by the Metro State University. I thought that was kind of a shady part of town, but I like the sounds of this little cafe. Also, best expensive Italian went to I Nonni and I'm one freeway exit away from them! It does look pricey, but don't I deserve a nice dinner out with the one I love? I think so.
And the best seafood place went to Sea Salt! That's the little stand that they opened up (a year ago?) in Minnehaha park. I love Minnehaha park! I was just at that Dairy Queen. If I can happily dine on soft serve dipped in chocolate while some stranger's dog is licking my foot, what would I do if I could actually be sucking down fresh, briny oysters!? Really good seafood in Minneapolis? Is this possible!? Maybe not, but I'm willing to give it a try.
And not one of those new places is far from me. Although, my battle with the kitchen of the St. Paul house is far from over, maybe my desolation in the Eastern city is evaporating. Finally, with fresh spring green eyes, I'm seeing that this really is a pretty beautiful place.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ba'Donka in da Tonka

Yeah.... doesn't quite have the same feeling as Rumble in the Jungle, but there's really not much out there for rhyming with Minnetonka. Where's Don King when you need him? Bad hair aside, Andy had summoned a diverse cross section of her friends for her first attempt at organizing a game night.

No matter how many times I play games and have fun, I'm always reluctant, but this was a super fun crowd coming and Matt(2) & Sherry were bringing their Wii! Besides, if nothing else, I knew that there'd be plenty of good wine and food to distract me from losing - which I most certainly did. There was no "A" for effort, either. I throw myself into all competitions like Daria throws herself at that volleyball. (Besides, last time I approached a Nintendo anything resulted in the great meltdown of '98, when while playing Mario Cart I threw down the control and stomped out of the room saying, "I don't wanna play this stupid game anymore!!" Yeah, at 21 yrs of age.)
Instead, I focused on where I almost always win, the food. I made the 1 minute salsa again. This stuff is amazing. And when I tossed in a little avacado, it was even prettier (that was before it was gone and before I remembered the camera.)

After lots of wine sipping and catching up, it was time for the events to begin. Unlike most good fights, the main attraction of the night was the Matt show down was the first to take place. Like many instigators before me, I picked a fight and then hid when it was time that the score was settled. I sent out a whole lotta bitch talkin' about how 2 Men Named Matt Would Enter... Only One Would Leave. Now, this is completely unfair because not only is the Wii Matt's, but my Matt has only played it once, with his nephew, for approximately 20 minutes. Not exactly the training that most athletes cram in before the big match. I was betting on a combination of beginners luck and uncontrolable limbs. Maybe, if he didn't blind Matt(2) he might break the game and I wouldn't feel too bad about being a quitter. Well, not that I did anyway.... But, the battle royale began!

Matt (2) and Matt - Mine

Just look at those techniques!! Matt v2.0 is playing left handed... an interesting choice. Is it because he knows other Matt has little to no limb control? Is he just winding up a good cross arm swing to pop Matt in the eye? Or is he just messing with him?

The audience is on the edge of their seats, breathless with anticipation. Who will reign supreme in the Isle of Wii Tennis!? Who will claim the throne as the one and only M A T T!?

And [HERE] is where I would put the victory pose, were I not distracted by this bronze, silver and gold line up:

Oh, I love you, my little Crianza Temperanillo. And Garnacha! Amazing showing! Well done. Who would have ever believe that the little blue bottle, coming all the way from the back hills of Spain would have her Cinderella story tonight and bring in the bronze for her region? Congratulations to the winners!!

While some continued with the Wii, the next game was gathered. Apparently, I'm the only one whose never heard of this, because I kid you not as each guest arrived they said, "Oh! Mexican Train Dominos! FUN!" WTF? They're dominos, right? Dominos? When I asked Matt what he knew about this game, all I got was him slamming his hand down on whatever was near and yelling, "Domino, Mutha F*cka!" Yes, very helpful, dear. Here are your pills.

I decided to give it a shot, since I was kind of being a game party pooper. Here's my hand:

Yeah, I don't know what it means, and I never did really figure it out. I did hang in there for two hands because Matt REALLY wanted to be the blue train and I wanted to milk that for a little bit.

Sherry was actually a Mexican train playin' Madwoman! She was throwin' down all kinds of stradegies and really whupping butt, driving both Matt & Eric really crazy. Andy and I were placated by the wine and my complete unwillingness to learn. Wasn't it time to make some more food?

Andy, Sherry and I stuffed up some little egg roll wrappers with gueyere and ham or carmelized onions and brie, then fried.

We baked a batch, too and I loved those! What an easy and fun party food. I'll defintely try something like that the next time I entertain. ( someone else's house...)

There was just enough time for one more game of Mexican domino cheatem whatever. Grendel couldn't WAIT.

Sprung into a Summertime bliss

Friday night Matt & I loaded up on groceries and headed over to Tony & Sarah's house. I meant to bring my camera to document everything for you. Well, I did bring it, I just never got it out of my bag.
It was an unseasonably summery day, so we decided to have a cook out. I've been after the two of them for a while now to join my list of Kitchen Take-overs. Theirs is perfect for me! The house is of a certain area, as many are in that part of South Minneapolis(near Grand and 46th.) All of the people that must have lived there when it was built were about my height. The counter tops are nice and low, the sink has a lovely deep porcelain basin and all the woodwork, which is everywhere, is a deep hue. I love their house. Not only do they have a proper kitchen, but they also have a breakfast nook with a little bench AND a full dining room. I'd hate them, were they not so awesome.
I went to work on this salsa recipe that I'd pulled out of one of my Cook's Illustrated. Because they didn't have a blender or food processor I diced all of the ingredients so it wasn't the "One Minute Salsa" the page had promised. It was ONE DAMN GOOD SALSA! Because tomatoes are kind of iffy right now, I spent plenty of time figuring out which were the best. There were these juicy orange ones that smelled delightfully fruity and the stems had a minty little tang. It was so good that we gobbled it up in about one minute flat... Maybe that's what the title was referring to?
Sarah had bought some wonderful cheeses. One was an ultra creamy brie, a nutty, salty Manchego and the most amazing local sheep's cheese with honey mixed through it. This was almost dessert cheese! It was wonderful. I grabbed a few hunks and chucked it into a bowl of lettuce and dressed the whole works with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lavendar honey and a little S&P. It was crispy, sweet refreshing. Almost like a honey crips apple of a salad, but with cheese!
For dinner I devised the best catch all turkey burger concoction ever. Don't believe me? I DARE you. Try it and tell me that as basic turkey burgers go, this isn't the best. I took a pound of turkey meat, 2 minced cloves of garlic, one small hunk of ginger grated (about the size of the tip of my thumb), salt, pepper, 1 small shallot minced and chives. They were so good! While grilling, I put a slab of the triple creme brie on top and let that ooze all over. They were super juicy and amazing. While sitting outside we sipped wine and watched two little falcons goin' to TOWN. Watching wildlife get busy never gets old, no matter what your age.
For dessert they served some Sonny's ice cream that was just outrageously good. There was the fabulously flinty chip yum-tumminess of the Chocolate Mint Chip - the beloved green Bridgeman's stuff has nothing on this, and the deliciously decadent, and loving predictability of their deep chocolate. Heaven.
Somewhere between the bird, burgers and bottles of wine (and beer) the first perfect summer night floated by, nearly undetected.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Conquering the Kitchen

Fresh from the tangine success I decided it was time to tackle my kitchen. Seriously, I've got way to long to live at this place to allow for horribly remodeled monstrosity get the better of me! I'm a really good cook dammit! Plus, I'm a continually cash-poor cook, so Saturday night I decided to haul out the pasta maker. The machine, I'm sure was a fortune, but was a wedding gift (thank you best sister in law Jill!!) Once you've got a machine, though, a really good fresh pasta costs pennies! And, it's relatively healthy.
So, I started out with a basic recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook, which I think this was probably the first time that I have ever cracked that sucker open since Stacy gave it to me ages ago. So, first - mix the pasta in a bowl. I did not and it made a mess and stuck like glue to the ugly counter tops. Secondly, take off your rings because the dough will also stick like glue to those and become very difficult to remove, especially if you have nothing to clean them with. Alright. Now, you're more prepared than I was.
I measured out a cup of flour and made a little well into which I cracked one egg. (We got the most amazing eggs last weekend from the Mississippi Market up on Dale and Selby. That is so my new favorite store. These things were amazing.)

So, I slowly mixed that together to form a dough. Then I dusted the counter top, realizing my error and started to knead it. It was really sticky, so I kept adding flour. Then I mixed in some Ancho powder, which didn't add any heat, but made it a pretty color.

(Note the gluey, club fingers. Yeah, that's not coming off without a fight.)

The next step was to slowly feed it through the rolling mechanism of the pasta machine at it's widest setting. It kept sticking and tearing and I couldn't figure out the right speed until I realized that I should probably FLOUR the machine. Once we learned that, things went smoothly. Slowly Matt ran it through getting the dough thinner and thinner.

We had to pull the sliding cutting board out to latch the stupid thing to something because all of the counter tops in the kitchen are oddly fat, which also makes them about half an inch too tall for me. But I wasn't letting anything deter me now!

We fed the dough through the fettuccine attachment, boiled for about a couple of minutes until al dente and served with an Arrabiata sauce that I made - successfully copying and improving the Amore Victoria recipe! I'll never miss that place again... Until I get a craving for tortellini alla pana. All told the whole shebang probably cost about $2 a serving Yummy!

Arriabiata Sauce

1 diced large shallot

1Tablespoon chopped garlic

1 large can of Italian diced tomatoes with basil, drained

2 chopped pepperioncini peppers

3 Tablespoons chopped olives

1 teaspoon capers

1 teaspoon chili flakes

Splash of balsamic vinegar

Saute the shallot in a little olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and saute a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and allow to reduce for a couple of minutes until thicker. Serve over homemade pasta and top with a little bit of fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Inhale bowl and forget to take final product photo!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Best Foods with Best Friends

Friday night Andy was kind enough to invite Matt and I over for a little cooking and dinner. I was thrilled at the chance to get into her kitchen and cook. My new passion has been to try to exploit my friends for their open, friendly kitchens. Hers is a cute little thing that opens up to a bar with two stools. So, not only is there a nice cooking set up, with a good amount of counter space for a small area, there's a place for me to have... an AUDIENCE! Ta Da!!
Of course, I leaped at the opportunity to cook over there, but what were we going to make? For her birthday last year I'd gotten her this cookbook that was titled the 12 Best Foods Cookbook. I knew that Andy, like many of us, was always looking for ways to eat healthier. Plus, the recipes actually sounded really tasty and the photography was beautiful! Well, that was about a year ago and we'd yet to make a single thing together. She suggested a chicken tangine.
"But you don't have a tangine?"
"What? I have the recipe, I've made it before. It's really good."

"What's in it?"
"You need to get a parsnip, sweet potato, regular potato, carrot and a thing of chicken broth."
"...There's no cousous in there is there?"
"Did I say anything about cousous?"

"Well, usually a tangine has cousous and some stupid dried fruit. God help you if there are any dried apricots in there. I detest dried apricots."
"Shut up."
She was pretty exasperated with me at this point, then she added an orange to the list of things that I had to buy. I was suspicious. I mean, I get it, it's healthy, but a pot full of veggies in some chicken broth? It sounded bland and overly healthy for me. Still, I like Andy, I like her kitchen and best of all, she was plying me and Matt with Vina Cantanbria and Hendrick's gin. Hell, we could drink in the tastiness even if our stone soup pot was bllaaahhhhh.....
When we arrived I started flipping through the book while demanding my promised glass of wine (I'm probably a terrible house guest.) Well, there in the pages I saw what I'd originally loved about the book; this looked like some damn good food! Blueberry and Onion Compote, Stuffed Pork Chops on Sweet Potato gravy, Chipotle Chocolate Chili!? Yes please! Alright, here was this dish inspired by a Moroccan tangine. The recipe list is a mile long, so forgive me for not transcribing it. Besides, really, we used it more as a guideline. We browned some cut up chicken in the spices Cinnamon, sweet paprika, cumin and ginger. We added sweet potato, potato, butternut squash, onion, parsnip, carrot and garlic. I tossed in some tangerine rind and a couple of chopped up wedges. We added the chicken broth, some honey and a splash of balsamic vinegar. It was amazing. We just set it on the stove and adjourned to the living room to guzzle wine, martinis and catch up. It was such a great, unhurried weekend dish. A perfect dish for a night like that, still blustery cold, wind whipping around the balcony, howling like Grendel never has.
And then we dug in with crusty loaves of garlicky ciabatta. It was amazing, with more layers than a Minnesotan on a cross country ski trip.
I just couldn't believe it. We had something luxurious, healthy and gorgeous pulled together all after 3 drrty martinis, 2 gin and sodas and a bottle and a half of wine. We're amazing!!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough go to their Neighborhood Bar

Thank God for Pete Skinner. Finally, finally, finally I had a great meal, great conversation and a happy, full tummy. I was so put off by food after my weekend experiences that I've really barely been eating for days. Honestly, I had half a baked potato and some lettuce on Monday and that was just fine for me. Plus, there's the whole annoying, continually broke problem that's been nagging at me.
I arrived a little early, ahead of Laura. Matt poured me a frosted glass full of Schell's dark and I settled in. My buddy Steve was sitting next to me. This guy is a gem. He's been a Navy man, married four times and hails from South Carolina. He teaches Lit at the Minneapolis Community and Technical college to veterans of war. Now, most people hear that and picture Vietnam area vets, but his classes are mostly full of these kids coming back from the gulf. Kids that maybe didn't do so well in school, but now need the tools to be able to find a good job now that they're out of the service. After the hell they've been through; I can't imagine. He's a hell of a guy and can toss 'em back like nobody's business. Huge, large man, he makes me feel comfortably girlie and dwarfed when sitting next to him. Sometimes I get him to tell me about the last Mrs. He'd been living in a house, 'bout a block away from where I live now, and he'd decided to put a pond into the back yard. He took the bathtub out of the bathroom and proceeded to bury it in the backyard. ("Seemed like a good idea at the time!") The wife didn't appreciate the creative gardening and kicked him out on the spot. Being the kind of guy that's lived plenty of his life out of a duffel bag, he packed up his stuff and walked to his buddy's house, across the alley and said, "Man, I'm outside. Can I stay witcha?" He stayed for something like four years.
Matt & I ordered some of their boneless wings and settled in to the bar, chatting Steve up a bit. The boneless wings are just big hunks of seasoned batter wrapped around a little chunk of chicken and deep fried to golden, salty perfection. On the side you can either have the Ranch or the honey mustard, both housemade fresh by Pete every day. They were so goood. The perfect compliment to the icy cold beer I was nursing.
As the boothes started to fill up I settled myself into one, assuring that Laura would have a place to eat, and pulled out a new library book. I'd gotten the Tender Bar and thought of the appropriateness of the title. It's a memoir about a guy who basically grew up around his neighborhood bar. It was basically unreadable. His whole unremarkable prologue is dedicated to some misguided attempt to philosophize the neighborhood bar. That's just something unwritable, lighting in a jar.
I remember the experiences that I had growing up, my dad, a glint in his blue eye as we were trapped at some unbearably stuffy family event. He'd subtly jerk his head toward the door, "Wanna go for a ride?" We'd drive all over Northern Minnesota, duck down back roads to find a comfortably dingy bar with the game on. We'd settle onto a couple of stools, beer for him, Mt. Dew for me and he'd strike up a conversation with the guy sitting next to him. They'd talk like they'd known each other for years. And maybe, in a sense they did. A joint like this is a dime a dozen, at least around here and the blessed county roads of Wisconsin. You know these guys. They work hard for what they get and they laugh loud, play rough and drink a lot. These are good people. And that's what most of the folks at Skinner's are like. It's a type of family and more of a community meeting grounds than some people in the surrounding communities would like to admit.
There was a whole dust up in the Pioneer Press not too long ago about Pete Skinner receiving money from the city for building the new patio on the back of his building. Fingers pointed and cries went out saying, "It's all because he's friends with Pat Harris!" (city councilman.) No it is not. Really. Matt's older brother Andy, Pat Harris, Pete Skinner, Joe Bob Harris, these guys all grew up together. And I'm not talkin' befriended each other at a tender age, I mean grew up together. They were friends by birth by approximation. Raised by Joanne Harris, Carol Summers, these were community mothers who dealt with the roaming hoards of children running rampant in the Highland Park community in the 70's. Of course Pat and his right hand man John Marshall (of whom I'm a big fan) come in and have a few beers in the place, everyone does. It's their grown up clubhouse. Besides, other bar owners in the area got much more money than Pete ever saw. In fact, the first time he asked for funding the city turned him down because he didn't ask for enough. But that's all over and done with.
The concern now is that with the smoking ban. While it is infinitely more pleasant to be in the bar; I don't reek when I go home and Matt's definitely working in a better environment. It's not a better, more successful business. The people who claim this hasn't hurt these business aren't paying close enough attention. My cousin's husband, Mitch owns the aptly named Mitch's in West Duluth. The smoking ban has been slowly killing this family business for years. (His dad owned the place before him.) It's alarming to think that these last bastions of the blue collared may slowly dry up. These communities, the sense of community would be irrevocably damaged. But, with smoking illegal, what's next? Booze is basically a legal poison to many people. I know that too well, losing my dad to demon liquor a few years ago.
But that's not what I was thinking about last night, and it certainly wasn't even remotely related to that pretentious bull crap in that book.
I heard a commotion at the door, "Loberg!"
"Heya Matt, how are you?" My cutie blond friend was there wrapped in brown, puffy down jacket, pulling her gloves off.
"I'm doing good. I'm doing good. What can I get you?"
I waved happily as she collected her drink and joined me. We were getting one of their amazing pizzas, pepperoni. Crispy thin crust, perfectly seasoned sauce with oregano and basil, topped with ridiculous amounts of cheese. It does a range girl's heart good.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sour Beer, Cream and Disposition

Great effing Pumpkin in a monsoon rain, what the HELL is going on with my cuisine these days!? First, the bad bar food, which, you know, I can expect. One does not order the happy meal when expecting untainted, ethical food. But, seriously, these low expectations are starting to toy with me. I got through the weekend and had to spend a whopping $40 at Rainbow. But then, I had to go to Kowalski's to get the lunch meat, because theirs is actually not a mix of cardboard and molding clay. Also, I wanted to stop at Breadsmith because their bread is tasty, cheapish and completely devoid of High Fructose corn syrup. Yum! My favorite!
But then as I'm exiting the parking lot at Rainbow I see this guy who's oddly hunching over onto the sidewalk. Why did I look? Why! It's University Avenue! Ignore that it's 10:30 a.m. Who cares if it's a respectable hour for families to be out and about, frolicking in the springtime rain? Not this guy, who's systematically spewing some white vomit all over the sidewalk. Why wouldn't you at least aim for a shrub or a garbage can? Totally disgusting. So, while I was momentarily happy about my grocery bill, "Wow! $40! Why don't I shop here more often?" My rhetorical question was unceremoniously answered at least twice as I was driving by. Oddly, I was happy to think that he looked like he hadn't eaten a solid meal in days. Groan all you want, it could have been worse.

So, I reluctantly finished my errands and headed home. Just before pulling up to our place, I decided to head on over to Stransky's liquors, owned by an amiable fellow named Chin. Chin apparently tips Matt well when he occasionally stops by Skinner's, so I like to throw him a couple bones now and again. I was really hoping that they'd have Schell's Dark, my new favorite beer, one of the few that I will occasionally order. But they didn't have that. They really didn't have anything other than the usual cheapies. Mick light, Bud Light, eff that! The closest that I could find was Newcastle. I've had a couple o' tasty Newcastles in my time. Also, I needed a darker beer for the pot roast that I was planning to make for dinner. Part of my uber cheapie plan was to make this bad boy and make a million other dinners out of my one hunk of meat.

So, later that night, the alchemy begins. I've peeled and diced rutabaga, leeks, carrots and dehydrated shitakes. I seasoned up the meat and browned it in my casserole pot, tossed in my veggies and cracked a beer. I took a nice, long pull and blech!!! I had to spit it out in the sink. It was expired! Stale! Disgusting! I poured the rest into the pan, wouldn't hurt the meat and waited with glee until Matt tried to take a swig himself. What?! It's April Fool's! Well, almost. Anyway, that turned out fine. I put it into the Oven of Great Destruction wavering in between 325 and 350, while set at 300. And it was tasty. It would have been better if I'd had a beer to go with it, but whatever.

I cracked a bottle of Chateaux St. Michelle Cabernet Sauvingon and.... watched the chunks and detritus float to the bottom of my supple wine glass. Bad cork. Not great wine in the first place, but since when do you get the chunks on the first pour! I decanted the bottle with use of my fine mesh sieve and was disappointed to see that it didn't look so much like cork in the bottom as whole grape stems and branched at a time. And it tasted like shit, but I'd already half expected that! My liver was probably thankful for the break, but when the hell has he ever gotten a vote?

Rawr. Chin is dead to me.

At least the meat was pretty good. I should have let it braise a little longer, but I wanted to keep it in good shape for all my leftover plans.

The next day Matt & I went on a lovely nature walk through the drizzling rain. Our neighborhood.. sigh. Want to know where Highway Harry sleeps? Right under the 35E overpass by the empty bottles of Liberty vodka! Once you're up the hill on Randolph, things do get much better and there really are some cute houses up there.

For lunch, we decided to make some crazy nachos. I sent Matt to the Holiday across the street to grab some sour cream. I grabbed half a baggy of shredded chicken that I'd squirreled away and tossed it into a pot with some chicken broth and chipotle salsa. I seasoned it further with the hot Spanish paprika my mom brought back for me from Spain and the pickled Turkish paprika that Eric brought back for me from Turkey. There were to be The International Nachos. I let the sauce cook down until it was almost gone. Meanwhile, I toasted some tortilla chips seasoned with pepper in Del Oven and shredded some cheddar and pepper jack cheese. I put all my fixins on the chips and tossed them back into the oven, just until the cheese was melted. Matt was waiting on the couch, finger ready on the remote control for Season 2 of Arrest Development. I put the tray on a trivet on the coffee table and went to grab the condiments. So, of course I expected the salsa to be a little light, I'd used plenty for the sauce. But the sour cream? It was new....? So, I took off the lid and saw that the "safety plastic" had already been pealed away. In fact, half the sour cream was missing!! How does that happen? All I can think is some pissed off (stoned?) clerk decided to dig in to some chips and sour cream and then... put it back to avoid having to pay for it? Still, that's weak. Who uses sour cream solo with chips? More importantly: GROSS!!

I've had enough of this! What has gone wrong in this world that I can't manage to get through any meal without something being, rotten, off, stale, used or defiled? Really.

And what is all this focus on my cheapie foods at home you might ask? Well, that's very simple. It's because I had to spend $260 on my hair earlier this week and have been left with virtually NO petty cash. What kind of an idiot does that? Well the same kind of an idiot that does this:

You might not be able to count it, but I can tell you that I have at least five distinctly different hair colors going on up there. I was like the human Popsicle. Were I still working at a mall, this would be fine, but I like to think that I'm a little more mature than that. Besides, I tried to rock it for a solid week and felt more and more like Tracy Turnblad every day. So, in addition to fixing the hair, I've also not been eating much. Thankfully, after this, I will never be referred to as the "zaftig charicature made famous by Riki Lake."
Thank God for small favors.