Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wedge + Kobe Burger = 10,000,000,000 Calories

I needed a burger tonight. Here is how the decision of where to get it went down: Fast food? No. The Mint? I don't really want to drive to Belgrade. The Garage? No, I just don't feel like dealing with the on-the-street-ness of it all. Okay, Ale Works it is. Thankfully, Ale Works abandoned the all-too-bread-y-and crusty ciabatta for a proper soft roll (burger to bun-ratio rant forthcoming, can't anyone make a brioche roll in this town? errrggg). Also thankfully, Ale Works is one of the few places around these parts where one can fetch a local "Kobe" (Wagyu, yes? MT is not in Japan...) burger.

The local wagyu tastes great, with full beefy flavor. If you take a deep whiff, it almost, just barely, gives off a bit of iron-y-ness and game-y-ness - in a good way. I order mine rare - and the kitchen provides accordingly. This is one of the few burgers I eat naked. No cheese, no sauce of any kind, no plants, er..vegetables. Just the salt and pepper the broiler dude (or dudette) applies before slapping the patty down on the flat top. $16 is a bit steep for a burger, sure. But a $16 steak would be cheap, no? Thus, I justify the order...

Ale Works fries are good. Not great, mind you. Take away the generous coating of parm and black pepper and they might not be that special. This doesn't stop my from consuming most of them.

Before all that beef, I did have my vegetables: 1/3 of a head of iceberg lettuce covered in about 1 cup of dressing and a few rashers of bacon. The lettuce, cool and crisp; the bacon, warm. It's like the McDLT in spherical form.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

I'm #1? Google Search and "Substantial Sandwich"

Looking for any measure of success these days, I have stumbled across this modestly pleasing factoid:

When Google searching "Substantial Sandwich" my original Blogger link now pops up at the first result.

I'm not letting myself get too excited just yet: While the words "substantial" and "sandwich" do contain enough data to track in Google trends; "Substantial Sandwich" apparently has the search volume of  "Spam Donkey" and thus, is not tracked by GT. 

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Feeling Existential? Work it out with Cake!

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Tour de France, Lance Armstrong, Cake, and Mortality

I used to race bicycles a very long time ago. Campagnolo still used friction shifting, the shifters themselves lived on the down tube, and didn't have anything to do with the brake levers. Racers shaved their legs and attached tires to the rims with glue, not wire (or kevlar?) beads.

It was 1988 or '89, and Lance Armstrong was making his move from junior triathlete to road cyclist. I raced for a scrappy bike shop team in the Dallas area, and on Tuesday evenings teams from around the area would gather in a park and race criterium-style around a 1 kilometer loop course. As a then category-3 racer, I held on with the big boys in the 1-2-3-pro category each week. Lance, newer to the sport and the culture of road racing, was kicking our butts. Everyone else was kicking mine, too, mind you. There were some strong guys out there who raced for big teams, and Lance readily smoked them each time he bothered to show up.

I have distinct memories of Lance muscling his way to the start line at the head of the field just seconds before the start. I can also remember him riding off the front of the bunch like we were sitting still. I could often look across the course and see a lone rider - going at it pursuit-style - who would eventually catch up and lap the main field. Clearly this guy was different.

Fast forward twenty years (yikes) and here we are today. Lance is still instructing lesser riders on how to properly race bikes.

On stage 15 of Le Tour, however, on the ride up to Verbier, Lance did not attack. Lance soldiered on with the lead group, on purpose, or not, and maintained.

Is this the end of the Lance Armstrong era? Again?

While my racing career ended long ago, I must admit I always held out a little glimmer of hope. Guys "my age" were still kicking butts and taking names, right?

Funny, I have let the Tour de France create an existential issue for me. I see just a little bit of my old self in Lance.

This whole internal argument kind of reminds me of the Mr. Mastodon Farm song by Cake:

You see birds fall from the window ledge above mine.
Then they flap their wings at the last second.
I can see their dead weight
Just dropping like stones
For small loaves of bread
Past my window all the time.
But unless I get up,
Walk across the room
And peer down below,
I don't see their last second curves
Toward a horizontal flight.
All these birds just falling from the ledge like stones.

Now due to a construct in my mind
That makes their falling and their flight
Symbolic of my entire existence,
It becomes important for me
To get up and see
Their last second curves toward flight.
It's almost as if my life will fall
Unless I see their ascent.

I don't know about the birds, but for the next five days I will be glued to the Tour de France. I will be cheering on Lance has he works it out in the Alps for his team, himself, cancer survivors, and...existentially-challenged 37-year old former bike racers.

Go Lance...put the hammer down, buddy, and show those kids how it's done.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Vegetarian, The Cowboy Ribeye and Fresh Ricotta

An unlikely combination for sure...but rounded out with a salad of quinoa, arugula, tomatoes in a caramelized onion/balsamic dressing, a few sauteed mushrooms, and the dessert containing the home made ricotta with berries, honey and mint? An unlikely, but enjoyable combination none the less.

I rubbed the big rib eye with coffee, New Mexico red chile powder, cumin, salt, and brown sugar. Grilled to medium-rare (more medium unfortunately), the steak had a lovely char on the outside yielding to a nice red (or pink) center. Tender, juicy and infused with the slightly smoky flavor of the rub, the steak was a carnivore's delight.

To work with our vegetarian friend, we made a quick salad dressed with the balsamic onion spread we picked up from All Things Italian and some olive oil - and a bit more good balsamic vinegar.

The star of the evening however, was the last minute dessert of fresh ricotta - which we made to prove how simple this process was - with fresh berries, honey and a few slivers of mint leaves. The dish was pretty in a red-white-and-blue kind of way and it tasted fresh and AWESOME.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

WeeBees Cafe

Bozeman's WeeBees Cafe is an attractive alternative to the downtown scene with their creative American cuisine and focus on local and fresh ingredients. Summertime diners are rewarded with great views of the Bridgers (and the neighborhoods of NW Bozeman) from the second floor deck.

We dined here for two reasons tonight: a co-worker was also going here and I was fixating on good food all afternoon -and- we were feeling lazy and grocery-challenged at home.

It was a good "special" day for me...LaTinga's enchiladas at lunch and now: Local Wagyu sirloin with morels and bacon/cheddar mashed potatoes for dinner.

For the record, I was going to get a salad.

Now I was having fresh gazpacho with a tasty Domaine de Fontsainte rose; and the aforementioned special with a nicely acidic Rioja...and a bite of Jen's strawberry rhubarb shortcake.

To top it all off, I was wearing flip-flops. Indulgent!

Before we head out, I take a moment to bump into my now dining co-worker and her friends to annoy them with bad jokes and weak metaphors.

The low-angle light makes their lettuce wraps look extra good. Next time....

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LaTinga: Enchiladas With Tuna, Potatoes, Olives and Yellow Chile

I *love* Bozeman's LaTinga. They know your name. They make fresh corn tortillas. They make me happy; and judging from the line out the door on most days, they make many others happy too.

Whether I go for the indulgent Tex-Mex-y nachos (with home-made chips and scorching hot salsa) or one of their more authentic tingas, moles, or rellenos I am almost always glad I did.

Today's lunch special was a bit more exotic than usual: Enchiladas with tuna, potatoes, olives, and yellow chile.

A enchilada version of the classic salad Nicoise?

Salty olives, chunks of tuna and potatoes produced a savory filling to the fresh corn tortillas that did their best to hold together the goodness within. A few bits of cilantro and onion brighten up the flavor.

....All of this glugged down with an extremely refreshing cantaloupe juice drink.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

"Grilled" Pizzas with Teleme cheese, Balsamic Onioin Spread and More...

Not wanting to heat up the house by pre-heating a 550-degree oven for an hour or so has spawned an innovation in our home: using the grill as pizza oven.

Initial attempts at grilling pizzas destroyed several "pizza stones". As it turns out, these common items don't like high heat, and actually break apart rather violently with a nice "pingk!" when over heated.

Subsequent attempts at the cousin of the pizza, the calzone, were more successful. These could be slid directly onto the grates and flipped.

Which is exactly what we did with our pizza tonight - flip it.

Sliding a bare rolled out crust onto the grates - and flipped a couple of minutes later - then topped and finished - worked pretty well. Hot (and cool) spots on the grill must be known and accounted for.

Tonight we made two pies using ingredients we picked up at the Bozeman's All Things Italian:

Teleme (an American rif on Tallegio) and The Gracious Gourmet Balsamic Four-Onion Spread
Fresh Mozzarella and a mix of thinly sliced hot and sweet sopresetta

First, the Teleme and four-onion spread pizza was basically inhaled. Crack junkies likely go through their stash slower than this pizza was consumed. Okay, we were hungry and this was the first one off of the grill, but...dude...that creamy oooey-gooey melty cheese and sweet onion spread were REALLY good buddies. Spread these two ingredients on just about anything and you will make new friends and influence any people you serve it to. Not to meniotn, Jen's dough was behaving nicely - and produced a very good product tonight.

The more traditional pie of sopresetta and mozzarella was quite good - although I over-charred one corner (again...know your hot spots, kids). As for the Mozzarella, it did pretty good - but the Teleme blew it away in terms of texture and flavor. Don't get me wrong, the mozz. was very fresh and good - just not the supreme melter that the Teleme (or the other mozzarella in the case at ATI) is. This mozzarella tonight would be perfect for a Caprese salad application with it's slightly firmer texture.

I should also mention the Fra’ Mani Gentile traditional salame that started the evening off. The creamy and chewy texture of this hard salami is true to the cause. Loaded up with the Teleme and onion spread it was deadly. Yum.

Thanks to the ever-helpful folks at All Things Italian for the hookup on the great new cheese and onion spread where the fully-stocked case of meats and cheeses is one of Bozeman's best.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Public Enemies and a New Posterous Feature

We just checked out the latest Johnny Depp film today, Public Enemies. It was fun, especially since I am not feeling that great and outdoor activities were out of the picture. As for the movie, Johnny Depp is pretty good as a smirking, bank-heisting-badass. Summary: if you like CSI-like scenes of sucking chest wounds and gurgling last breaths, wrapped up in 1930s machine-gun fire fights all while pegging the Depp-O-Meter, this flick is for you.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Poor Economy + Mandatory Time Off = Live Tour de France and Coffee

What a great day to have off - nice weather and, oh by the way - the first mountain stage of the Tour de France.

The coffee was good and properly poured; the racing was spectacular; the huge crowd of bike geeks at Rockford Coffee makes me happy to call Bozeman home.

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Emergency Food: Ted's Montana Grill

I suppose that it is a good thing that I feel the need to explain myself when choosing to dine at a chain restaurant. goes:

-We have no "real food" at home right now
-We were in possession of a $10 gift card from Ted's
-The restaurant is four blocks from the office
-They make fresh french fries

Tonight it was the "Buffalo Margarita" ice cold and chugable mix of Sapphire Gin, Cointreau and fresh citrus juice; chopped salad of iceberg, corn, chickpeas, salami, red onion, basic vinaigrette; and the fried fish sandwich - with fries of course. The squishy dark rye bun is a nice companion to the crunchy and tender fish.

I actually had to add some salt to the dish - a rare activity when supping on chow at a big chain restaurant.

Guilty as charged...I actually enjoyed my meal.

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Lance Armstrong's last tweet, before he headed out today, the first mountain stage of the 2009 Tour de France:

"First mtn stage today. It's for real now. Long day (224 kms) and summit finish. Pedaling for keeps."

It looks like homeboy is going after it. Today might be a fun day to watch the TDF...just a guess.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wedge Issue

Summertime makes big hunks of iceberg lettuce taste better. Especially when layered up with Point Reyes blue cheese dressing. And bacon.


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Centerville, Texas: Woody's Smokehouse

When the BBQ joint is inside a gas station you pretty much know that the grub is either going to be great - or just scary. In the case of Woody's Smokehouse in Centerville what you get is great.

Here's how it goes down at Woody's:
Find a place to park.
Get in BBQ serving line.
Place paper-lined cafeteria tray on top of counter.
Select BBQ products of your choosing: brisket, baby back ribs, chopped beef, smoked sausage, bacon wrapped quail.
Receive instructions on beans, ice tea and location of napkins and white bread from salty BBQ server.
Sit down at huge communal tables.
Pig out.

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Behold: O glowing cooler of meat!

Strolling aimlessly after our recent dinner at Dallas's Local restaurant, I stumbled on the glowing storefront of Rudolph's Market. Two things stand out: the frozen-in-time nature (the counter, walls, decor that scream old-school-butcher-shop); secondly, I spy an enormous cooler of meet. Many cuts are represented from what I can tell through the slightly hazy glass of the front windows. I can only imagine the hanger steaks, head cheese, blood sausage and other goodies that surely lie within.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Bryan, Texas: Los Norteños Cafe and Huevos Velveetos

In the interest of fairness, this post contains no photos. Just my words - whatever that's worth. Also: they DO NOT have a dish called "Huevos Velveetos" on....

After downing a tasty coffee in the LaSalle hotel's lobby, we decide that it is time to take on some breakfast calories. We wander across Bryan's Main Street to load up at a local institution: Los Norteños.

I have good - make that great - memories of this place. Home-made tortillas, creamy lard-enhanced refried beans, etc...basic, but good Tex-Mex.

I seemed to recall that the breakfast burritos were big. This theory is further reinforced when I ask our server if we would need one or two of these to fill up (at $3.99 each); when she states that one is plenty since it is made with six eggs.

I guess I didn't fully process that last bit, you know, about the SIX eggs. I was thinking surely she must have meant the equivalent of six eggs....easy eggs in a bag sort of thing....talking big, but really meaning two or three.

Judging from the Nerf-ball sized migas burrito that arrived at the table, they really do mean six eggs.

Also not mentioned is that they include about, oh, 24oz. of Velveeta in each burrito.

I am stopped, abruptly, about half way through this monster. I imagine my aorta filling with Velveeta, straining to pump the thick goo that I have ingested.

Check please.

We proceed back to the LaSalle and down Americano's to counteract the impending food coma that we surely deserve.

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Bryan, Texas: River Bridge Grill and LaSalle Hotel

Bryan's LaSalle Hotel was immortalized in the classic Robert Earl Keen/Lyle Lovett tune, Front Porch Song:

This old porch is a steamin' greasy plate of enchiladas
With lots of cheese and onions ans a guacamole salad
You can get them at the LaSalle Hotel in old downtown
With ice tea and a waitress who will smile every time
Oh yeah, I left a quarter tip on my ten dollar bill

The LaSalle now serves up "coffee by Starbucks" and not enchiladas; but the spirit of old Bryan, Texas is palpable in the ornate brick storefronts and buildings that make up downtown.

For dinner we wander across the parking lot to the River Bridge Grill and find exactly what we need after a day of moving heavy items out at the old Saxon ranch: cold beer, simple iceberg lettuce salad with blue cheese dressing, really good crispy home-made onion rings, marbled and tasty rib eye steak, and home-made fries. I was encouraged by our server's response when I inquired about the quality of the sirloin vs. the rib eye - when he said that he was just "debating this with the chef the other day"....stating that both were good and sourced locally...but the rib eye had more flavor. Sold. Thank you, unknown waiter, for the tip. Our server earned further respect when he brought out our desserts of bread pudding with a strawberry anglaise  and apologized for the "sloppy" presentation. It looked good to me - gloppy for sure - but good.

After dinner we wander the largely empty main street in downtown Bryan watching the fading light and soaking up the lingering heat from the day. Warm (hot?) nights are pretty rare back in the Bozone and the 90-degrees-at-10:00pm thing proves fascinating and slightly shocking as we walk off our sizable dinners.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dallas: Going "Local" in Seven Courses

It seems that the word "local" comes up often in the food world these days - and for good reason. Local food usually tastes better, is better for you, travels less, and provides regional and seasonal framework to cuisine.

Local restaurant in Dallas popped up on my radar this trip through the various forums and reviews on Chow and the local newspapers. Local's "modern American upscale" menu pretty much falls in my sweet spot. As I scan the menu, I detect a focus on clean, classic flavors and innovative uses of high quality ingredients.

After the first look of the menu, and an internal assessment of the staff and restaurant, we determine that the Chef's tasting menu is the way to go to tonight. We further rationalize the high-dollar purchase by noting that my birthday was just "last month" and we were "almost closed" on that real estate deal. Maybe visa will "sort-of" post the whole charge?

For the record, I LOVE tasting menus. A chef is going to crank out 7-13 courses of something really good for me - and pair said courses with wine? Bring. It. On.

Here's how our wonderful dinner broke best as I can remember:

Amuse bouche: Pureed fava bean soup (with some really good oil drizzled on top, mind you)

Soup of summer squash with crispy leaks

Salad of heirloom tomatoes, green beans, blue cheese and pickled fennel

Maine lobster cake, crispy beet and frisee slaw

Foie gras with cherry reduction and "Texas toast"

Intermezzio: Texas peach sorbet

Salmon with fava bean and potato puree

Filet of beef with arugula toss and crispy potatoes

Blueberry cake....adjectives and other descriptives escape me here.

The food was very hand made...well seasoned...and at times, packed with restrained and carefully crafted the perfect balance of spice and smoke on the filet. The source of the smoke notes remain a mystery; as when I inquired with the staff if the smoke came from smoked sea salt, or other means I was told that it was "a trade little secret from the chef." Fine. You don't want to show your hand...I was just geeking out on your delicous food. Who doesn't love a mystery anyway?

Of the wines, the 2006 Vincent Pouilly Fuisse was clearly a favorite - paired wiht the salmon/fava bean puree. The other pairings ranged from the traditional (chardonnay with lobster) to the, well, traditional (a smokey cab with the aforementioned smokey filet). If I were to pick one downer during the meal (like a free Ferrari in a color I don't care for); I would have preffered a Sauterne or Royal Tokaji to go with the lovely rich sweetness of the foie course.

Set in the heart of Deep Ellum, the decor was decidedly hip and delightfully mellow at the same time. Lovers of Bozeman's Plonk would feel right at home in Local.

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