Monday, December 27, 2010

Lamb Shanks for the Cold

I was supposed to go make sausage with a co-worker today. Didn't work out. Lamb Shank happened instead.

Follow along. Questions at the end.

Temp on the stovetop is medium.
Herb you didn't see a label for was thyme.
Time between each veg shot before the shanks went back in was about 4 minutes.
Chicken stock, people. Chicken stock. Halfway up the shanks in the pan.
Bring it to a boil on the stove top before you put it in the oven. Gives the liquid a chance to come up to temp before it goes in the oven. That's a nice warm bath.
Time in the oven was about 2 hours.
Yes, that was butternut squash, carrot, cremini, celery, onion, and garlic with the shank-tasticness.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Simple Pleasures: Breakfast

Needed help moving a few things around. Carl needed a spot to watch the games. I had a gajillion pounds of veg and fresh food in the fridge after my mammoth shopping extravaganza. I was anticipating the slow down at the office and potential to actually cook my own food. It sorta worked...

Mise en place. That's French for "put it in a friggin' pan with eggs and Gruyere," right? Some asparagus (from Peru, please forgive my lack of purity), shitake, shallots, orange bell pepper, and garlic.
Ummmm, I'm okay with this picture. You can try and make a traditional omelet. I'll just saute my veg, add the egg on the stove top and let the bottom just set then shred more cheese on top and pop it in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes.
When you start the 1pm kickoff at the table with this to get you through the first offensive series, you win no matter what. Some sourdough from Waverly that I'd saved in the freezer and a few strips of bacon that tasted of nothing by pork and salt.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

New Pie In CRW

I was in town for a long-weekend visit and had a tasty dinner to tell you about. That Fayetteville place opened its Charly-West locale a couple weeks ago. Downtown. Good thing. Charleston's a big enough town for two high-end pizza joints, and it'll give folks who don't live in South Hills and get off work at the crack of 3pm a chance to get a table and a pie!

I've been to the Eastern Outpost several times and always came away a happy (and full camper).

Good beer, good pies, and a good crew working there. Ms. Chez and I arrived relatively late on the first Saturday they were open and it was still packed. But they don't reserve the bar seats, and we don't care what flat surface holds up our pizzas.

Start with a salad. And share. That's a small, and it's a monster for one person. The gorgonzola dressing is not super tangy but is delicious.

Can't decide what you want on the pie? Get a large and half-n-half it. We rocked the chicken gouda with red onions and bacon on one half and the steak and mushrooms with roasted garlic sauce on the other. And it was bueno. Chewy crust and heavy toppings means it's a hybrid on some slices (knife and fork for the first couple bites and then it's a finger-food slice).

That's a nice lookin' pie.

Both sides were excellent. The gouda and bacon is a classic flavor combo and the chicken was tender. The steak and mushroom also had a tangy bit of gorgonzola and tasted like an open-faced cheesesteak. That is a very, very, good flavor.

I can attest to the 'next day' value of the pizza too. They travel well.

That's a good lookin' crust too.

The oven is a large multi-layered spinning gizmo with a window showing through to the bar so you can watch all the pies spin their way to bubbly, golden-brown awesome.

The kitchen staff got a bit spooked by my camera wizardry. Trust me fellas, it was good. Just like other photographers, you take pictures of pretty things (landscapes, flowers, people, etc). I take pictures of good lookin' food. And y'all have some.

Manager gave us a free dessert. We accepted. Not sure if it was camera/obvious-blogger related or not. But I told you here out loud, so you know, s'okay. Plus, we were going to split something anyway just to see what the new joint had to offer. We went for the multi-layer chocolate/peanut butter concoction with chocolate sauce. File under "Get That When You Go."

Pies & Pints on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 7: Cartagena and Thanksgiving

Let me start at the almost ending. You are a lucky person, I believe, if your feet are propped up on a centuries-old city wall with a cannon to your right, a rum punch in your hand, and the sun setting on the Caribbean on Thanksgiving night.  I am a lucky person. 

Karl asked where this one ranked on the all-time international  sunsets with cocktails and friends. I'd have to rank it number one in that particular category. I've seen fire in the sky on Spruce Knob with a  cold beer and the best friends in the world. I've run up the dunes to watch the sun set on the Atlantic with the Gironde and my family behind me and a  glass of Bordeaux in my hand. And I've seen gold run through the trees and marshes as thousands of birds swirled, fished, and dashed through the Okavango swamp delta when a river couldn't find the sea in Botswana.

But there in Cartagena we were four friends with a  view and some tasty rum punches, pina coladas, and Mai-Tai's in hand.

And then there was the beach. Four hours on the sand and in the water with books, waves, and a view.

But in the beginning, there were empanadas. You knew that right?

(Post-Trip Aside: I hate hot pockets more and more since this trip. They have RUINED the empanada for the American palate. Why couldn't they have just let more people travel to Colombia, find the real deal, and then make a better product??? Seriously. This bugs me. A lot.)

Rolling out of the hotel about 10. Empanadas around the corner on our way to the beach. Tried a couple of new varieties including an Arepa Karl had that was actually a sweet corn bread like American yellow-sweet and studded with the Colombian mozzarella. A bit to crumbly for Karl and I, but DrChillyD was so about it she rocked it again the next day. 




More options.

Beach good.

In the ocean is even better.

I, however, found the omega. The be all.

And there were sales options abounding on the beach.

But then there were the creepers.

There was really only one time I didn't feel 100% safe the entire trip (well two if you count safety of cake, but we'll get to that at dinner tonight) and that was only feeling a bit creeped out by the beach walkers. Especially by the Massae ladies. There were carts of ceviche (w/ dubious if any refrigeration); ladies with what appeared to by multiple varieties of shredded coconut goodies; gents with crap t-shirts, sunglasses (offered even when all four people had shades on), and 'coral' jewelry. Some guys carried coolers with (somewhat) ice 'cool' beers and sodas.

But the massage ladies take the cake. I was offered a massage in Cartagena more often than some strange dude would ride by me on a bike in Amsterdam in 2000 and offer me X. And they were persistent even in the face of "no, gracias" clearly enunciated. After you said that, they actually leered in closer to you and tried to touch your leg (as if that act would ratchet down the 'get the hell away from me vibe').

Okay, I've already spent more time thinking about the words here than any of us really did that day, but it stood out, so there you have it. Pissed me off a bit that they were all such vultures. I didn't want to stop one of the coconut fritter ladies for fear I'd be buried in an avalanche of Afro-Caribbean massage and coral vendors; never to be heard from again.

Back to Submarino after the beach for another round of shrimp ceviche. Such a tart and spicy concoction of garlic and citrus with amazingly fresh prawns.

Geeking in full force.

After the pool and some down time at the hotel we headed to the old city for Thanksgiving night. Cafe del Mar for a cocktail at sundown and then we'd wander into the city for dinner.

It was, in fact, worth the trip just to be here.

Mai- Tai, Cartagena-style.

After this we headed in for dinner and found a El Bistro, a Continental joint owned by a German guy and we found Thanksgiving bliss.

There was papas puree on the menu. That's mashed potatoes for the rest of y'all. The cevice came with a type of yams. Check, check on sweet potatoes. And because it was German-owned, so there was Apple Strudel on the menu too. Check, checkity on apple pie. Damn near a full Thanksgiving meal.

Amazing filet mignons, a massive bone-in porl chop, more ceviche (sea bass this time) and one of the few meals in Colombia that comes with salads.

Only downside was the lady at the table next to us. We were discussing what we'd order for dessert and DrChillyD was waxing awesome about the empty plate of former chocolate tart she was going to have. Karma-soon-to-bit-you-in-the-ass-lady got up for a minute and when she came back I (being the closest to her table) heard her say "I just pre-ordered the last piece of chocolate tart."

What, what?

You walked up while you were behind us in meal service and ganked the chocolate tart from someone because you heard them talking about it?

I wanted to throw a friggin' bucket of water on your Wicked Witch of the East shameless self.

Instead, we all found serenity

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 6: Bonus Video - More Romancing the Stone Hilarity

Days 6: In My Mind I'm Going to Cartagena

If you don't get why this is a funny embed...wither go see "80s, decade of bad movies" on whatever wiki floats your boat or get you to a Netflix queue right quick.

When we left Bogota we were heading to Cartagena. And it was slightly more comical than a Kathleen Turner bus ride. We headed to the coast by way of Barranquilla because it was cheaper to do it that way than fly directly into Cartagena. And because everyone in Bogota swore was an hour or hour and a half drive.

Always start with a healthy breakfast. Unfortunately, we didn't start quite that way. I had calentao at Frisby, a sort of McKentucky Fried Empanada King. But not nearly as good as Tudor's. Calentao is traditionally the leftover rice and beans from yesterday's lunch with arepas, a fried egg, and a couple types of meat including chicharrones. I would be fine with that. This little scrimpy piece of bacon was an affront to pigs everywhere. But the rice and beans were decent and the arepas were actually pretty tasty. This was a not-totally-sucking fast food at the airport breakfast. But it could have been so much better.

It could have been better because the empanada guys were not on the streets at 6am when we were getting into our van from the hotel. So we decided to grub at the airport. We needed to get there a good hour and half before our 8am flight...or what we thought was our 8am flight. It was not our 8am flight. The airline staff kept walking by and pulling people out of the big line to get them queued in front of the ticket agents for their individual flights. We kept asking about Barranquilla and they kept telling us to wait. They finally pulled out their sheet and told us the 6am had already flown and the 10am wouldn't board for a while... Show this lady the e-mail confirmation that shows we have an 8am...oh...really?...that 8am was the option we looked at on the other airline but didn't actually buy? we are on that 10am flight?...yeah...ummm...let's go get some breakfast (WHICH COULD HAVE BEEN EMPANADAS FROM THE TRUNK OF A CAR)...

I have to admit that as early as that morning (once caffienated) we were able to start talking about how this was going to be a funny hah-hah part of the trip very quickly.

But in the total spirit of 'just not being with it' we chose Frisby and had meals like that calentao above and then checked in at the airline and headed upstairs to board and saw the 3,592 other food options that we could have taken before going through security.

Live. Learn. Try new culture's fast food.

 At least we were able to find inner peace once we got on the plane...

Our plan of course was to hire a private driver at Barranquilla to take us the 90 minute jaunt to Cartagena. But instead, because the airport is locked down by the licensed cabs, and because there are no large public cabs in all of bag didn't make the 'room in the trunk' cut and was strapped to the top of a very small car into which our driver stuffed four 'Mericans and their luggage.

For the 2 1/2 hour long ride to Cartagena.


Fortunately we had some nice chats, a few yogurt-covered blueberries and trail mix, and the countryside to keep us occupied.

And then DrChillyD saw an anteater. And the one conversation we had with our driver occured. Because someone knew just enough Spanish to ask if you could eat anteaters.

Dude must have been the Grand High Poohbah of Anteater BBQ University or something. He didn't just answer us, he damn bear blinked, opened his mouth, and turned his the same time! Of course you can eat them. They are delicious. Of course they are very good with cheese.


Anteater. With cheese.

Since we didn't go to Peru and I wasn't going to get to eat any guinea pigs (which I gotta say are high on my list to try), I was going to see about a traditional coastal Colombian spot that might feed me anteater. I failed...

But once you get here having seen the Caribbean coastline jog in and out of view around the bends on the toll road linking the two cities; you're less tense about the ride or the seach for anteater fricasee and more 'bueno.'

We started talking about happy hour. Every time I contemplated the 'fruity rum cocktail' Karl would start and say "Did you say FREE rum cocktails?" And I'd have to clarify that I did not have some magic guidebook that got me free drinks in Cartagena.

But I kinda wish I did because when we finally did get rum cocktails they were GOOD and free would have made them even BETTER.

That's a view of Boca Grande from the eastern edges of downtown Cartagena. Boca Grande is a spit of land that juts out from the city and houses a huge collection of hotels, beach ware stores, and empanada stands along the beach.

We chose our hotel location well...
It was a block and a half from this place.

Where we could get this every day if we wanted...and most of us wanted. The ceviche was tart with citrus and screaming with garlic and onions. A small was enough, and several mediums were ordered. This was a ubiquitous site on Boca Grande with dozens of beack shacks and even more men with beicycle or push carts wandering up and down the beacc trying to sell to you.

Our first night we tried the ceviche and then headed to a shack on the beach called Bony for beers and more grub. There I tried the national liquor, aquardiente. It's an anise flavored liquor (think Sambucca) that's served shot-style and chilled. Good stuff actually, and a nice way to end a long day of planes and automobiles.

In addition to our beers and shots, we discovered there were arepas con huevo. Karl investigated further. To the arepa and huevo they added carne (that's beef y'all) and queso. I also ordered one of these pockets of goodness (though I must admit a personal preference for the empananda with the crisp shell over the doughier cousins or the arepas).

Sharing is caring. And we cared a lot on this trip.

Arepa. Stuffed. Fried. Pre-Eaten. The corn meal tasty treat that keeps on giving.

Did some reading when we got back to the hotel and realized that Bony is kinda a big deal with the locals. Former national boxing champ is the owner. Good thing we didn't pick a fight.

That was the end of a fair day in wrath, cabs, and ceviche on the Caribbean. The next day was Thanksgiving and a search for spuds that ended in bloody beef and pork chop nirvana with a German guy, a story about a Thanksgiving dinner in Rome circa 1997, and a cake-stealing American witch to whom karma will shortly deliver a swift kick in the face.