Wearing their “throw-back” jerseys, the Steelers played the Washington Redskins this week. Despite looking a bit like bumble bees dressed in prison inmate costumes (or maybe because of it), the Steelers made a strong showing and won with ease. Finding a culinary specialty from the D.C. area for the Steeler Opponent-City Challenge was not quite as easy. Our nation’s capital may be known for partisan politics, cherry blossoms and American monuments and memorials, but the district doesn’t seem to be famous for any particular food item or cuisine. After considering (and rejecting) an Obama vs. Romney favorite-food-face-off and briefly entertaining the culinary possibilities for donkey or elephant (not really), we settled on a D.C. “carryout” specialty — wings and “mumbo” sauce. According to our sources, D.C. has an abundance of Chinese carryout restaurants, and a staple of those eateries is a tangy, sweet sauce with a bit of spice that is typically served with fried chicken wings. A lot of our research described mumbo sauce as a cross between BBQ sauce and Chinese sweet & sour sauce, which didn’t really sound all that appealing at first. But we persevered and the mumbo sauce beat our expectations, much like the Steelers beat the heck out of the Redskins (unfortunate jerseys and all.)
Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:
My parents were in town last weekend, specifically to visit the Chihuly exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum, now that the weather is cooler. And to watch football — my mom is a die-hard Tennessee Titans fan (her allegiance goes all the way back to the days when they were the Houston Oilers — Luv Ya Blue!), but she only gets to watch them when their games are on network TV. In order to follow his beloved Steelers, Dan has the NFL package on Direct TV, which allows us to view any (and all) NFL games every week. So at least once a season, we try to plan a football weekend with my parents — all football, all Sunday loooong. (Lest I sound bitter, we love visits from my parents and they are welcome here any time. Love you guys!) Anywho, back to Chihuly. We packed a picnic lunch of cheeses, salami, crackers and “Le Sandwich” (our interpretation of the sandwich Dan ate every single day in Paris last Christmas — a baguette with good butter and proscuitto. It’s a lot more amazing than it sounds) and headed off to the Arboretum. After about 25 minutes of waiting in a line of cars later, plus a drive to the off-site extra parking, plus a wait in line to get on the shuttle, we had arrived. A gorgeous day, plus the Arboretum’s seasonal Pumpkin Village, plus one of the final weekends of the Chihuly exhibit — equals a very crowded Arboretum. But we found a perfect out-of-the-way spot for our picnic and thoroughly enjoyed our day, crowds and all. Good news — the Chihuly exhibit has been extended through December 31, so go if you can — it’s well worth the trip!
For our lunch on football Sunday, we thawed some of our leftover pulled pork and made fantastic nachos — chips, plus bean dip, plus pulled pork, plus cheddar cheese melted in the oven, plus garnishes of tomatoes, lettuce and homemade pickled jalapenos — equals the best football food ever. And bonus points for all the favorite teams (Titans, Steelers and Texans) all winning their games that day!
We have a new shortcut for thin-crust pizza on a weeknight — lavash flatbread. It comes in white or whole wheat and is a crazy-easy way to make a quick “pizza.” All you have to do is brush both sides of the lavash with a little olive oil, heat it in the oven (at 425 degrees) for about 3 minutes to get it crispy, then top with whatever you like (we did tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil for a margherita pizza) and put it back in the oven for another 6-8 minutes until the cheese melts. The only easier and almost-as-fast way to get pizza in your pie-hole would be to have someone else call a pizza place and order it to be delivered to your door. Bonus points — the lavash freezes well and thaws in about 10 minutes. Which is awesome if you happen to over-crisp your first 2 pieces by accidentally leaving them in the oven too long. Not that I would know.
We are heading to the Boston area to visit our niece and nephew today and could not be more excited! We love those kids so much and take our roles as Aunt and Uncle very seriously. So much so that we had to check out a couple of local Halloween stores looking for ghoulish (but still age-appropriate!) treats to bring to the kiddos for the upcoming holiday. Their parents will be happy to know that we did NOT purchase the tiny plastic pumpkin scream machine, but only because we are going to be there and the kids love to wake us up in the morning. . . On a related note, a small package is on its way to our other beloved nephew in New York. . .
Sometimes a new recipe from a tried-and-true cookbook is a bit like the promise of a new day after a particularly trying one. Feeling confident that a dish is going to turn out delicious, even if you’ve never previously cooked it, can be as comforting as knowing that frustrations or disappointments of a previous day won’t seem nearly so grim after a good night’s sleep. We have that kind of confidence in Ina Garten’s recipes and cookbooks. The Barefoot Contessa knows her way around the kitchen, and she is often our go-to source when we want to try out a new recipe. This panzanella recipe is just one of many we have tried from her book, “How Easy is That?” and we have to say, not only is it pretty darn easy, but it’s addictingly good with fresh ingredients (rustic bread, cucumber, red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, red onion) and Greek flavors (olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, dried oregano, Dijon mustard, feta cheese and kalamata olives.) And just like that, we have a new favorite salad to add to our rotation.
When we saw the Steelers’ schedule and found out that they played the Cincinnati Bengals, we knew we would be making Cincinnati Chili for the Steeler Opponent-City Challenge. Cincinnati is famous for its chili — so much so that during the pre-game hoopla, they played a clip of this peculiar chili being spooned over spaghetti and hot dogs, we suspect from one of the most famous Cincinnati chili restaurants, Skyline Chili. Cincinnati chili is different than any other chili we’ve ever had, from the flavor (a mix of sweet, warm cinnamon, and spicy) to the way it is served, over spaghetti. We affectionately refer to this chili as “peculiar” without intending any offense — we liked the chili a lot, but initially had our doubts when we saw that the recipe we adapted called for boiling the ground beef and combining a pretty unusual mix of ingredients (e.g., cocoa powder and Worcestershire??) We had similar initial concerns about the football game (and Mike Wallace’s seeming inability to catch a pass), but both the chili and the Steelers ultimately turned out to be winners, bringing the current S.O.C.C. record to: Steelers 3-3, Foodie Lawyer 5-1.
Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:
After the show “Homeland” won so many Emmys this year, we figured we should give it a shot. We downloaded Season 1 so that we could watch a couple of episodes on the iPad when we flew to Chicago, and have been obsessed with the show ever since. Almost as obsessed as Carrie herself is with exposing Brody as a terrorist. She missed something once before, and she can’t let that happen again.
Our roses are thriving in their Fall bloom stage. This is an unedited shot of our coral-pink roses; we also have light pink and peach ones.
Some of you may be surprised to learn that Dan briefly had a part-time job as a clown, back in the day. (If you know him in real life, you will not be at all surprised by this fact.) As part of his clown duties, he learned how to make balloon animals. He doesn’t do it very often, but couldn’t say no to the opportunity to help raise some money for the United Way campaign carnival at his office this week. Being out of practice, he made a few at home the night before the carnival while I made our favorite shrimp dish.
We were lucky enough to attend another movie screening this week — we saw the movie Lincoln at Studio Movie Grill and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even if you’re not a history buff, it is a very entertaining film, and Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as Lincoln is absolutely incredible. Five (out of four) forks up!! (This is the only photo I could get to memorialize the occasion because we had to leave our cell phones in the car — and they searched purses and wanded us before we went into the theater — they were serious about preventing any illegal recording!)
I’m always on the lookout for any type of kitchen gadget or tool that will make cooking easier (for me.) This cookbook stand turns out to be even more handy than I expected it to be. It will hold cookbooks (even heavy ones), printed recipes (you can display 2 different recipes at once!) and the iPad, and having the recipes sitting upright instead of flat on the counter makes them SO MUCH easier to read and follow. And makes me less likely to spill food on them while I’m cooking. But the best part? The stand folds up into a small book shape, so when you’re not using it, you just put it on the shelf with your cookbooks. This makes my clutter-hating heart happy.
During a recent trip to the grocery store, I was delighted to see tiny olive trees for sale (cheap!) and couldn’t resist buying one for our patio. It probably won’t ever actually yield any olives, but it’s cute and reminds us fondly of Italy and Napa, some of our happiest places on Earth.
In the Thursday game last week, the Steelers played the Tennessee Titans. Coming up with a food for which Tennessee is particularly well-known for the Steeler Opponent-City Challenge wasn’t easy. And apparently neither was playing the Titans, since the Steelers lost the game that they were heavily favored to win. Since the Titans play in Nashville, we focused our search on that city and discovered Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, which is famous for, you guessed it, their “hot chicken” — fried chicken sauced with a very spicy paste. Prince’s is also famous for the story behind the chicken. The current owner of Prince’s explains that she had a great-uncle who was quite the ladies’ man and once got caught by his live-in girlfriend after cheating on her with another girlfriend. To get back at him, the jilted girlfriend made him a breakfast of super spicy fried chicken. Her hot dish of revenge backfired, however, because he loved the chicken so much that he started serving it in his restaurant (and reportedly continued sleeping with other women.) The dish was a hit with the locals and became so popular that there is an annual city-wide festival and competition honoring it. Understandably, the actual recipe for Prince’s Nashville Hot Chicken is a closely-kept secret, but we found this recipe, which we adapted by using coconut oil instead of lard to make it a bit more healthy and about half the amount of cayenne pepper to make it tolerable for our delicate constitutions. Continue reading “Nashville Hot Chicken”
Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:
We had a quick getaway to one of our all-time favorite cities last weekend — Chicago. It’s such a beautiful city with historical architecture, tons of shopping and amazing restaurants. The streets are always immaculate and well-appointed with flowers and greenery. We usually go in the summer, when blooms are plentiful, but were pleasantly surprised to see that they bust out the mums and other fall foliage to change with the season. Wonder what they do along the streets in the winter? Pretty sure we’re never going to find out. We love the Windy City, but not enough to brave it in January.
Whatever the season, for Dan, no trip to Chicago is complete without deep dish pizza. It’s like a pizza pie, without the top crust. The bottom crust is crisp and buttery, then it’s layered with cheese, meat andor veggies of choice, then topped with rich, tomato-ey red sauce. Most deep dish aficionados are strictly loyal to their brand of choice. Among the most popular are Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s and Gino’s. After much sampling, we have decided that Lou Malnati’s is our favorite.
In other Chicago food news, we had one of our top 5 ever dining experiences at Topolobampo. We didn’t take any pictures because we were too busy enjoying the food, and any description in this blurb of a post would not do the restaurant, the food or the service justice. We can only say that if you’re ever lucky enough to go there (they suggest making reservations 8-10 weeks in advance, they are not kidding, and it is absolutely worth the advance planning), we highly recommend that you do one of the tasting menus. And make sure that at least 1 person in your dining party orders something with mole sauce (as long as that person is willing to let everyone have a taste.)
While in Chicago, we also ran a marathon! Just kidding. We watched thousands of other people run by our hotel (at around the first mile-marker), then went out for a huge breakfast. It was a cool thing to see — very inspiring (but not inspiring enough to make us want to actually train for a marathon. Or even run a single mile.)
We got to see a screening of the movie Argo this week and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s an entertaining film with edge-of-your-seat thriller moments relieved by the occasional laugh-out-loud one-liners and rounded out with top-notch acting performances across the board. The movie is even more compelling when you know it’s based on actual events. We give it 4 (out of 4) forks up!
Today we participated in the 5th Annual AlixPartners Chili Cook Off. It was our third time to compete (click for the first and second), we were defending our First Place Champion title (co-title actually — we tied for First last year, if you must know the truth), and all was going well, right up until the fire. No big deal, just a small, propane-cylinder-changing accident that resulted in 8 foot high flames that melted the burner and caught the tablecloth on fire. Oops. We’re still not sure how the fire happened, but nobody was hurt and thanks to quick thinking and action by the AlixPartners folks and several of our chili competitors, the fire was put out quickly, our chili was rescued and we were back in business in no time. Seriously, the people from AlixPartners literally lived up to the slogan on their website that they provide services “when it really matters — in urgent, high-impact situations.” Like the business equivalent of when a table is on fire. We’re so glad they were there! And, although we didn’t win for our chili (we did win the “burnt spoon” award, for obvious reasons), we had a lot of fun, met a lot of great people and ate some really good chili. To Jeffery from AlixPartners — please add a small fire extinguisher to our ingredient list for next year, thanks!