Carnivorous Feeding Frenzy de Brazil

Oh well, another week or so goes by, how the hell did that happen? We’re working off a bit of a meat hangover here at Chez Geeque, because we met some good friends for dinner at the nearby Texas de Brazil in Schaumburg and ate a large quantity of delicious slow-roasted meat. We groaned contentedly when offered dessert, came home, watched Stargate: Universe and Numb3rs, and fell into bed.

This morning we both moved very, very slowly and tonight for dinner – vegetarian! But it was a wonderful meal, and the setting and serving style lent a great sense of occasion and even drama.

Our friend Jim from Utah was visiting with a friend nearby, and we thought this was a good excuse to get together with our local friends Jon and Amy, who are big fans of this Texas de Brazil and eat there pretty frequently. They recommended the place and we made our way there from several different directions.

Jim and his friend Michelle were coming from Madison and had the longest distance to travel, so we greeted them with a glad “Hurray! Let’s eat!” and got settled. Our servier was Fabiola, a favorite of Jon and Amy’s – she’s the greatest – and she told us how it works. There are little cards at each place, along with sets of tongs in addition to the usual table setting (including steak knives). Keep the red-bordered side of the card up, get salad and soup from one of the most impressive buffet bars I’ve ever seen, and when read for the meat, turn the card over.

Immediately, servers bearing charred flesh converge on the table. You can get something cooked to order, but everything is normally medium rare. They come over, offer some generous but not overwhelmingly large portion of tasty meat, and either they push it directly onto your plate from a sword-sized skewer, or they slice off a nice piece, which you grab with your tongs as they slice and place on your plate.

Oh. My. God.

This was some serious meat action. I was of course reminded of the infamous “Meatblock” task on Amazing Race years ago, which consisted of four pounds of meat, handed to you on a tray, that you had to eat. All of it. Or you took a penalty, which was light enough that most people calculated that they’d still get to the pitstop and check in early enough to beat people who decided to stick it out chewing on 4 pounds of meat and meatlike gristle.

However, our meat was all delicious and varied. I think my favorite was the garlic top sirloin, which had incredible flavor. However, the bacon-wrapped filet mignon was also very good, as was the leg of lamb, the flank steak, the parmesan chicken, the Brazilian sausage, and whatever that rolled-roast house special was. I’m sure the pork ribs and lamb chops were good too…

Thing was, I forgot to flip my card over, so these handsome fellows bearing swordsfull of roast meat kept coming over, and David would take an occasional slice because it was right next to him.

Fortunately, I managed not to disgrace myself by eating EVERYTHING offered to me. Just most of it.

We laughed and talked, and Jim and Michelle seemed to be enjoying themselves in spite of the decor, which looks pretty Satanic what with the blood red walls, flames, and skewered flesh now that I think of it. Fabiola was delightful and charming, and so I’m sure we’ll go back again and ask for her. Just not as often as Jon and Amy, because it’s more of an “occasion” type restaurant for us rather than a weekly or twice-monthly snap decision.

But oh yeah; handsome Brazilian men bringing me hot meat on sharp sticks: bring ’em on!

Mom’s Macaroni Salad Recipe | Simply Recipes

Made this just now, tastes incredible even though I forgot the fresh parsley. Roasted the red pepper on the gas flame for pyro fun!

Mom’s Macaroni Salad Recipe | Simply Recipes

Think macaroni and deviled egg make love child and you’ll be in the vicinity. There is a hard boiled egg, some roasted red bell pepper, chopped spring onions, a generous amount of mayo, and seasoning with sweet paprika. Perfect for a summer BBQ or picnic salad.

Stonyfield Yogurt – Beef Stroganoff

I just made Beef Stroganoff using a Stoneyfield Yogurt recipe that I’ve had for years (David avoids dairy food but can tolerate yogurt). The funny thing is I’ve never actually used Stoneyfield, just whatever plain nonfat yogurt I found at the store. This time I used a Greek yogurt called Chobani that I found at Meijier, and notice a marked improvement in taste and texture. Result: very creamy and smooth, nice and thick, and VERY tangy. Stoneyfield is fine, too, but this Chobani stuff is strained Greek-style, and thus isn’t watery or “loose” when combined at the end. The Dijon mustard is a squeezable “Honey Dijon” type, not exactly according to Crocker, but also bringing a little something to the party.

I’ll be trying some of Chobani’s recipes this summer, for sure.

Stonyfield Yogurt – Beef Stroganoff
Ingredients:
1 lb beef loin, sliced into 1 inch strips
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, thin sliced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 cup plain lowfat yogurt
(I always throw in 2 or 3 tablespoons of Worcesterchire sauce with the mustard and yogurt)

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced beef loin, onion and mushrooms, sauté until meat begins to brown. Add flour to the mixture, and continue to cook for two minutes, stirring constantly. Add tarragon, paprika, wine and beef broth, reduce the heat to medium, and allow to simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in dijon mustard and yogurt. Serve over egg noodles.

Yields: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories 340; Calories from Fat 150; Total Fat 17g; Cholesterol 70mg; Total Carbohydrates 13g; Protein 29g, Fiber 2g

End of the Oregon Trail

Flickr

Overnighting in Seaside, walking the Prom

UPDATE: Seaside, Oregon is definitely a place I’d visit again, perhaps as a base for exploring and photographing the Oregon Coast. We picked it at random as it was about as far as we felt driving the first day, after going through Astoria and Tillamook (did stop for some squeaky-cheese curds, which I worked on all day).

Seaside is one of those places that’s got some authentic charm and history, although there are a lot of big new high-rises along the prime beachfront spots of its classic “Prom” or promenade. You can see the Wyndham timeshare on the right hand behind the Lewis and Clark statue. We had stayed in a Comfort Suites (that was very comfy and a sweet deal) and I left David in the room to explore on my own for a bit. I walked up the “North Prom” and enjoyed the sea breeze and looking at the cute beach cottages. One in particular caught my eye with its carved picket fence (many feature front lawns and fences, no doubt for family play space). The pickets were carved in the shapes of birds, maybe pelicans or seagulls, and it had the birds carved on an old-fashioned garden gate, too.

The main drag of Seaside is an old-fashioned street of small shops and attractions buildings painted in pastel colors, very pleasing to the eye. The “tacky tourist” look of some beach or resort areas was not as much in evidence, so clearly the local zoning people wanted to keep Seaside looking a little like it did in its glory days of the Twenties (aside from the highrise condos and some of the hotels). When I walked back, I was struck by the sight of an old-fashioned candy shop proudly displaying a fresh log of fudge on a marble worktable in the front window – and I do mean a LOG of fudge. It was about the size of a railroad tie, elaborately worked and swirled so that the top took on a braided appearance.

I ended up getting some fresh warm caramel corn and a bag of salt water taffy. The taffy has made it all the way to San Francisco, as a gift for my teammates. The caramel corn lasted until the next day on the road.

We ate dinner that night in a nice little Italian place called Guido and Joe’s, where David had some very good but spicy cioppino. He later noted that he maybe shouldn’t have enjoyed so much of it, but sometimes one must suffer a little after enjoying good food. Fortunately, I brought plenty of antacid stuff.

Ginny
I can has iPhone?

Via: Flickr
Title: End of the Oregon Trail
By: GinnyRED57
Originally uploaded: 26 May ’09, 6.42pm CDT PST

BLTT&C at Hump’s Cafe in Clatskanie

Flickr

Ginny

I can has iPhone?

Via: Flickr
Title: BLTT&C at Hump’s Cafe in Clatskanie
By: GinnyRED57
Originally uploaded: 26 May ’09, 3.30pm CDT PST

UPDATE: We drove towards the Oregon Coast and down towards San Francisco in kind of a random fashion, and next time we’ll do it a little differently to minimize long driving days and maximize hanging out in interesting places days.

We stopped at this funky local place after crossing a bridge from a very industrial area of southern Washington into Oregon. It was a pleasant surprise once inside, full of quirky decor and homey touches. The food was quite good, and I really liked this “Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Turkey, and Cucumber” sandwich.

Buy Pepsi, Piss Off The Fundies

As seen at Pam’s House Blend:: The American Family Association has nothing better to do than harrass Pepsico:

Here’s four good reasons I’m going to buy more Pepsi products… no, make that five good reasons.

  1. Pepsi gave a total of $1,000,000 to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) to promote the homosexual lifestyle in the workplace.
  2. Both HRC and PFLAG supported efforts in California to defeat Proposition 8 which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. HRC, which received $500,000 from Pepsi, gave $2.3 million to defeat Proposition 8.
  3. Pepsi requires employees to attend sexual orientation and gender diversity training where the employees are taught to accept homosexuality.
  4. Pepsi is a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

5. Buying PepsiCo brands will not only show support for their inclusive and enlightened policies, it will really piss off Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association if their boycott backfires.

The sex-obsessed, reality-rejecting fundamentalists led by Wildmon are issuing a clarion call for a ginormous boycott of all things Pepsi, because the soft-drink conglomerate refused to be blackmailed bullied into cancelling their financial support of P-FLAG, a well known national support group for families and friends of gay people, and for failing to be bigots and asshats and get all discriminatory towards employees and their loved ones who happen to be gay.

Whew.

Check out this extremely bland, factual and polite “FOAD” letter that a PepsiCo spokesman wrote to the Wildmon people after they complained about Pepsi’s social activisim and financial support for gay civil rights initiatives, in addition to their enlightened workplace policies. Note that the quote sticks to the company employee diversity initiative – way to stay on message AND tell your whirly-eyed cherry-picking God-botherer where to go!

Response from Paul Boykas, director, public policy to Donald E. Wildmon (November 18, 2008):
I’m responding to your letter to our Chairman. In 2008, the PepsiCo Foundation awarded a grant to Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to support a national program specifically designed for workplace environments.

The initiative seeks to promote further understanding and equality in the places where people spend much of their time at work.

Among the values promoted by the PepsiCo Foundation is ensuring a work environment that is respectful and where associates are valued for their contributions. I hope this helps clarify this grant by the PepsiCo Foundation.

Typically, we have Sprite around the house, but Pepsi’s only lemon-lime drink is (gag) Sierra Mist: sorry, but the Sprite stays. We both prefer Pepsi to Coke but haven’t had stocked the fridge with it lately. Maybe I’ll try some of the no-caffeine stuff.

I can get on board with the rest of my personal anti-boycott, fortunately. Although David will enjoy the occasional Mountain Dew, I’ll have to settle for a frosty Mug root beer or a full-on Pepsi, or maybe a Frappuccino when the weather warms up. I do like the SoBe ready-to-drink “teas” and “juices” (especially that Wisdom one that supposedly chills you out: let’s hear it for the placebo effect). Also in the Pepsico portfolio: various Quaker Oats products and Frito-Lay snacks (such as the Tostitos we have to have on hand, and the Sun Chips I occasionally have at lunch during the week).

Yeah, not a lot of healthy stuff aside from maybe the Quaker Oats and the Sun Chips. Oh, well. It’s for a good and joyful cause!

Singapore Style Noodle: Seven Luck NOM NOM NOM

We order from this Chinese restaurant that’s about the only one in the area that will deliver. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall kind of place that doesn’t really have seating beyond maybe a couple of small tables. It’s a takeout/delivery place, but we were delighted to find that what they don’t expend on ambiance, they put into the food.

The poor guy that delivers for them knows our address by heart, and tonight being so cold I made him come inside to finalize payment – usually he stands outside the door and we watch to make sure Rileycat doesn’t get too curious about the open entryway. He was absurdly grateful to come in for a couple of minutes, so he’s probably been delivering all evening.

We tend to stick to the same few favorites; David likes shrimp with lobster sauce, and I’m generally having Happy Family Chow Fun because I like the tender noodles and the savory gravory. But tonight I’m having Singapore Style Noodle, which is just spicy enough to be what I call “authoritative” without being overpowering or even imperialistic. I felt the need to pack a little interior heat, if you get my drift.

See their website at Seven Luck Restaurant. It’s a little wacky, with animated graphics on the splash page, but kind of endearingly so. They’re in a strip mall on Roselle Road in Schaumburg, right behind some outlier chain restaurant – Taco Bell? They’re well worth a try if you’re in their delivery area.

A cook’s favorite, sturdy tool | csmonitor.com

A cook’s favorite, sturdy tool | csmonitor.com
Years later, my brother came to the rescue. He hollered at me for washing my skillet with soap, and sternly informed me that it should only be cleaned with water, coarse salt, and hot oil – never soap. He seized my trusty-but-iffy skillet, scrubbed it with handfuls of coarse salt, and snatched the canola oil, pouring in a very small amount onto the skillet. Next, he proceeded to quickly heat the skillet to a high temperature, spreading the oil with a paper towel. When he was finished, it was smooth and clean.

Meson Sabika: Flamenco Holiday Party

We went to the holiday party last night for David’s office. In recent years, it’s been an enjoyable enough affair, especially after they stopped booking the DJ nobody liked… but the experience we had was somewhat beyond our wildest expectations of a nice evening.

Meson Sabika was the setting, a large mansion in Naperville, which is one of the few Chicago suburbs with a sense of its own history. First settled in 1811, it’s set in gently rolling country, with a vibrant and architecturally appealing downtown, with public space and art everywhere. We drove down after work, and I was in my typically grumpy “I HATE GETTING DRESSED UP” frame of mind on the way. All that changed as soon as we walked in the door.

The Willoway Mansion was built in 1847 and sits on a pristine four-acre estate near downtown Naperville. After a meticulous renovation that brought back the mansion’s original charm as well as added modern conveniences to the restaurant, Meson Sabika opened it’s doors in 1990.

It goes without question, that the restaurant offers an unmatched dining experience. Guests can dine indoors and enjoy the grace and charm reminiscent of a European Villa or can choose to sit outdoors on the terrace while enjoying the ultimate alfresco experience underneath 150-year-old oak trees which cover the estate.

Guests will find that each item on the menu offers a taste of Spain. Whether it’s enjoying hot and cold tapas, sangria, an entrée or a vintage wine – there’s always a pleasant combination of exceptional food, friendly service, and unique atmosphere where family and friendship can live life in celebration.

The entrance is the original foyer of the mansion, with a sense of rooms and people and festive celebration taking place in rooms all over the house. The hall was gorgeously decorated, with a beautiful old wooden staircase leading to the second floor. We checked in with the staff and they took our coats away. We were ushered through lace curtains separating the former front parlor from the hall, where familar faces told us we’d found the right room. We were a few minutes late, and the drinks service had just started. Handsome waiters moved smoothly through the room, distributing glasses of wine and cocktails (open bar). It was a lovely old room, with 4 long dining tables set for dinner, in two rows with a central aisle. We filled it, with each department tending to keep to itself. So at our table, we were the Dev people, and the Sales people (always a boisterous bunch) were the next table down.

The first appetizers came out, a couple of variations on potato salad; each table got two big platters to pass down each side, serving ourselves family-style. The hot appetizers, same drill.

And then a guitarist began to play, another set of lace curtains separating the parlor from the big bar area were opened, and the flamenco dancer began to stamp out her passionate rhythms. The old wood floor was perfect for her snapping, gunshot-loud steps.

It was an extra-special evening, with a wonderful holiday mood set by the beautiful old home, the decor, and the family-style seating. I’d definitely like to return.

The food was amazing – also, they had Spanish beers and wines. My husband David’s co-conspirator had been to Spain and was really pleased to find Spanish beer on the bar list. It seemed like conversation flowed more easily at this party than at previous years’ shindigs; something about the antique-y, homelike setting put us all at ease. Even those of us spouses (or spices) who only see these people once a year.

David even won a gift card, well done. If you check the link, you’ll see the holiday menu choices for groups. We had the third option, which was plenty of food (although rather heavy on the dairy, and light on vegan choices).

I was stupid not to bring my iPhone. I thought I would be tempted to play with it “when I got bored.” That would not have been the case, and I could have gotten some decent shots of the hall and the dining room.

David took the picture of the dancer. The lighting was not optimal but this pose came out pretty well.

Via Meson Sabika’s Holiday Menu

Just Do It: My Turkey Anxiety

I admit it, I have Turkey Anxiety. I’ve never actually cooked a complete Thanksgiving meal, and in fact I very, very, very rarely cook at all. David handles most of the day to day stuff, although I have a few things that I make for the two of us. We never entertain, because the house is almost never company-ready. There’s too much stuff to put away and no place to put it, and yadda yadda.

But every now and then, I get the wild urge to make a turkey dinner around the holidays, with the side items that are my favorites that I haven’t had in more than a decade and a half.

Just Do It | Tackle the Turkey – The Moment Blog – NYTimes.com

Why all the turkey anxiety? One friend has never cooked a whole bird, and is still haunted by memories of her aunt’s dry turkey. Another says his oven was inconsistent, not to mention that it takes too long to cook. The third wants to focus on the sides, and the turkey takes up too much oven space.

By addressing each of their concerns, I was able to convince them that roasting a turkey is easy enough: Rinse bird, pat dry, massage with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and plop in the oven.

That sounds fairly simple, and I did have good success with the roasting pan and rack we bought a while back (we made roast chicken in it once). The gravy-making method sounds simple enough:

4. Prepare the gravy. Strain the juices through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the solids. Skim off the fat. It should measure 2 cups. (Add water as needed.) Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook over medium-low heat until brown and nutty smelling, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the strained juices, add the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Simmer until reduced to the desired consistency (preferably until it lightly coats the back of a spoon). If it gets too thick, loosen with water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf.

Okay. Then that leaves the stuff that I hanker for that doesn’t seem to appear at my husband’s family Thanksgiving gatherings: green bean casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, and light, fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes. And then there’s the desserts, some of which I’ve made before and others I haven’t: Baba au Rhum, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and Stollen.

But the thought of actually “making a turkey?” Very fraught. We’ll see how I’m doing for time closer to the Christmas holidays.