Wednesday, July 29, 2009

(obligatory Paula Deen reference)

This weekend the LOML and I went to Savannah, GA to see our good buddies, Fef, Clay & Wyatt, and also to get a little R&R before the school year starts. This was my first trip to Savannah, but after this weekend, I’d put it in my Top Five cities to live in one day.

Saturday morning, we drove over to the beach at Tybee Island. Savannah doesn’t really feel like a “beach town” and I knew it was surrounded by “marsh land,” but I didn’t know it was so close to a “real” beach (excuse my excessive quotations). It was seriously, the warmest ocean water I’ve ever felt, and the LOML did a great job documenting my first experience skin boarding (I’m sure the picture looks a lot more impressive than I actually was). Saturday night we drove around downtown, walked down River Street (Savannah’s version of Bourbon Street) and had dinner at Huey’s. I don’t know if it was the Miley Cyrus movie filming in town, but Savannah was HOPPING Saturday night!!

After church on Sunday, we left Fef & Clay and headed to the 1895 Inn. I found it on Trip Advisor, and after reading 5 Star review after 5 Star review (there were literally nothing but 5 Star reviews), I booked us a night in the “Sovereign Room” (apparently, the Mrs. and I have turned into “B&B people”). Ed, the owner, was hilarious, informative and an all around great host (he and the Mrs. talked about interior design for about 30 minutes if that gives you any idea about "fabulous" Ed). The Inn could double as an art museum, and had an original Picasso, Toulouse-Laurtrec (the LOML knew that one, not me), and Thomas Hart Benton (Jackson Pollack’s mentor) amongst others.

After checking in, we walked around downtown, took touristy pictures, any had dinner at Six Pence Pub. The food was pretty mediocre, but they did have tasty Fat Tire Ale (in 22 oz bottles!). And for all you JULIA fans, this is where they filmed a scene in Something to Talk About (I had no idea, but the LOML told me).
Speaking of touristy pictures, the “Life is like a box of chocolates” scene from Forrest Gump was also filmed in Savannah at the Chippewa Square. The actual bench was a prop, but we acted out the scene on a random bench that looked pretty good. After dinner, we got ice cream at Leopold’s (famous for creating the flavor that inspired the song “Tutti Fruitti” . . . I got a sample, but I didn’t think it warranted a full scoop). One of the founder’s sons, Stratton Leopold, grew up to be a big time Hollywood producer, and the place is covered in REALLY random movie posters (Bless the Child, the General’s Daughter, Paycheck, Tango & Cash).

Savannah is probably the most pedestrian friendly city and has 21 town squares with little parks and monuments, etc. The Mrs. was a good sport Monday morning while we took our own walking tour of the city. We passed by Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home, saw the fountain at Forsyth Park and walked by Mrs. Wilke's Dining Room (and the line that went out the door). We grabbed lunch at SoHo South Café, then went to the SCAD bookstore and headed back home.

Did anyone else know SCAD is only like 30 years old?? Yeah, me neither, and the school has pretty much taken over downtown. The LOML got a SCAD t-shirt and I got some sweet SCAD sweat pants (I’m sure if they were Sean John, it would be no problem).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Steal the Crumbs

When I moved to Birmingham, I was really bummed there wouldn’t be a Young Avenue Deli here in the Magic City (NOTE: the Bottletree has done a nice job filling the Y.A.D. sized hole in my heart). Not only is the Deli a great place to grab lunch, it’s also hosted all your favorite hipster-tastic bands that came through town. I’ve seen Yo La Tengo, Drive By Truckers, Bright Eyes (wow, that was 1997), Snowglobe, and LUCERO (probably fifteen plus times) over the years. Before heading over to “the Big One” Saturday afternoon, we grabbed lunch at the Deli and enjoyed the outdoor patio. I ordered the Curry* Turkey Wrap and split an order of Sweet Potato fries with my sis. I’m a sucker for anything listed as a “Deli Favorite.”
I’ve been hearing things about Fresh Slices Sidewalk Café and Deli since it opened a few years ago, but this weekend was my first time to go. I pictured more of an organic, Whole-Foods-y, O’Carr’s type café, with tons of fresh fruit, but this restaurant had burgers, pasta, steak, fish and a ton of other choices, I ordered the Evergreen Chickamauga Club (named after the Uncle Tupleo song??) which consisted of a grilled chicken breast, pepper-crusted bacon, swiss cheese and creamed spinach . . . CREAMED SPINACH?!?!? (I’m also a sucker for anything that you’re not likely to find at any other restaurant). The sandwich was pretty good (creamed spinach on a sandwich is kind of a weird textural thing), but I don’t think I’d order it again.
I also need to shout out my Mom and sisters who whipped up a feast among homecoming feasts Friday night. Here’s one of two Bandaniel-approved Fruit Pizzas, my sister, Laurie, made for dessert. My family knows how to cook.
*Speaking of curry, our good buddy Jay is doing a three month tour of duty over in India right now. Even with his “tax-ing” schedule, he’s done a great job documenting his Indian adventures. He passed on my suggested blog name “Debit, Not Credit” (think about it, it’ll come to you), but you should still check his blog “One Indian Summer” out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Back Where I Come From

Five or six years ago, I bought the Kenny Chesney cd that had that song on it. I’m not a Kenny Chesney fan, (I didn’t even listen to country music until college) but I really dig that tune (the rest of that album is pretty awful). I remember playing that song while driving to Tunica for Brad’s bachelor party and feeling all “Southern” (especially in front of Brad’s “Northern” friend Isaac). My favourite part is where Kenny drawls out the “I’m uhhhhh Tennnn . . . ehhh . . . sseeeeuhhnn” . . .

Anyways, after an extended absence, the LOML and I returned to Memphis to hang out with the fam this past weekend. We ate a lot of good food (future post to follow!), went to the Memphis Flea Market (aka “the Big One”), and took a driving tour of my youth (6 years old and under). We debated on whether or not we should bring the Pheebes to Memphis, but we ended up bringing her. My family really likes her and we thought she might get a kick out of meeting my Mom’s dog, Jesse, and my sister’s dog, Teddy (who I strongly dislike, BTW). Here she is with Teddy:
I’m not sure how long it’s been since I went to a Flea Market, but this one sold so much CRAP!! Seriously, I don’t see how these vendors earn enough gas money to make their trip worthwhile. The only thing worth a second look (besides the people watching in general), were the Sugar Gliders. I’d never seen or heard of a Sugar Glider, but they’re about the size of a hamster and look kind of like a flying squirrel. They’re also $250 a pop.

After church Sunday, Mom took us (well, I drove, so I guess I took us) on the TMF’H residential driving tour. We lived in the same house from the time I was in kindergarten until after I graduated college, and I had not seen the first three houses we lived in since, uhhh, a long time (I knew where the house I lived in from 4-6 yrs old, but couldn’t tell you where those first two were). So with the LOML and Mom’s husband, Larry, in tow, we set off for Central Gardens.

House #1 - 1601 Linden Avenue (I was so Midtown)

House #2 – 2329 Lynnfield Road (Headin’ East)

House #3 – 7965 Farmingdale Road (Germantown Represent!!)

And then I found $20 . . .

O Captain! My Captain!

Sarah posted a very fitting tribute to Steve Collums earlier today. He was one of those teachers who really “made a difference” and whose legacy will live on for many years in the lives of his students. His sophomore year English class was one of my favourites at ECS. He will be missed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I'm so Excited

Picked up my new iPhone 3Gs today on my lunch break!!!

Woooo Whooo!!! No more crappy cell phone photos!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Make Dinner, Not Nuclear War

This post goes out to my co-worker, Josh. Josh is half Korean, but was raised in the booming metropolis of Luverne, AL, and therefore, 100% country (Josh, I love ya, man. You know work would be 10x more lame if you weren’t here). Anyways, Josh says the only Korean food he’d ever try is his grandmother’s, but I bet he’d like this, too.

This recipe is from Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee’s Quick & Easy Korean Cooking (via the May issue of Gourmet magazine) and just like Gourmet’s writer, I was surprised it used ONE CUP of cornstarch!!! Also, the thought of ketchup in Asian food doesn’t really get me excited, but if you think about it, ketchup is just tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and spices. That doesn’t sound too freaky, right?? **

Korean Seasoned Fried Chicken
3 chicken breasts, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces (yes, there were leftovers)
½ onion, grated
1 clove garlic, minced (with my handy new SLAP CHOP!!)
1 large egg
1 C cold water
1 C cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable Oil (I added some Sesame Oil)
3 Tbs Korean chile paste (I used Sriracha)
5 Tbs sugar
4 Tbs ketchup
2 Tbs toasted sesame seeds
Juice of ½ lemon (I forgot to get a lemon, so I substituted ½ C of OJ – I realize this totally changes the flavor, but in a good way)

First I marinated the chicken with the onion and garlic for about 30 minutes in the fridge. While the chicken was marinating, I made the sauce/glaze by combining Sriracha, sugar, ketchup, sesame seeds, and OJ in two separate bowls. Since the pregnant LOML is extra sensitive to strongly spiced foods, I made one bowl without the Sriracha, and one with (PS – If you do use the Sriracha, you will get a tasty sauce, but it has some HEAT!!). I added a little soy sauce and garlic powder to hers to help “Asian” it up.

For the batter/breading, you combine the egg, water, cornstarch, salt, and pepper together until just moist. I’m not sure how to combine until “just moist” because my batter was completely wet. Was there a phantom dry ingredient I missed??

After the chicken had marinated, and the sauce and batter complete, I heated the vegetable/sesame oil over medium heat, until a drop of water sizzled. Then I dumped the chicken pieces into the cornstarch mixture, and dropped them in the hot oil, making sure the pieces didn’t touch each other.

I imagined the batter would cling to the chicken a little better to make light and crispy breaded chicken, but honestly a lot of the batter came off in the frying pan. Maybe I should have kept that deep fryer JD gave me two years ago??? Anyhow, basically you fry the chicken on both sides (maybe 10-12 minutes total) and then drain on a paper towel. Afterwards, toss the chicken with your sauce and BOOM, dinner is served.

** Speaking of freaky, did anyone ever see that Kids in the Hall sketch where the two guys ate nothing but Kraft Macaroni & cheese and ketchup?? Now that made me a little queasy . . .

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Happy Anniversary

I love you, dear!!


Monday, July 6, 2009

Man vs. Blog

Does anyone else watch Man vs. Food on the Travel channel?? Although it seems like a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives rip-off, I’ll admit I’ve been sucked into an episode (or seven) this past year. When host Adam Richman visited Minneapolis, and tried a “Jucy Lucy” I thought to myself, I must try one!!

The LOML and I had our 2nd annual Fourth of July Party on Saturday, and while the general admission guests had regular hamburgers and hot dogs (and chips, watermelon, cherry cobbler, etc.), I had reserved one “special” hamburger for myself . . . the TMF’H Lucy!!

Ok, so basically, a Jucy Lucy is just two hamburger patties with cheese in the middle that melts whilst you cook it. I took two 1/6 patties, and squashed them pretty thin using a meat mallet, before putting them in the freezer to firm up. Next I took a slice of cheddar cheese and folded it over twice (that’s a thickness of 4 slices) to get a nice square block of cheesy goodness! After “crimping” the edges, it went back into the freezer to firm up some more.

(Note: I’m such an idiot, and took a really sweet “Before” picture of the two hamburger patties and the cheddar cheese all set out separately before assembly. What did I do when reviewing my photographic achievement?? Deleted it!! Doh!!)

Here is what the TMF’H Lucy looked like after assembly!

Here is the TMF’H Lucy grilling up nicely. I think “freezing” the hamburger for an hour or two before hand helped to keep it from over-cooking on the grill.

And finally the finished product!

What did my old roommate, lil mane Andy think??


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Life's Worth Living in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Hello from beautiful Fort Smith, Arkansas!!! That’s right, nine years after I came to “Hell on the Border” for a CUTCO regional training; I am back . . . And ready to count some fishing lures (seriously)!!! Now for those of you who haven’t been to the Ft. Smith Regional Airport, it is straight out of a 1980’s Southern Baptist church foyer. But I shouldn’t rag on Ft. Smith. Janice at the Budget rental car was super friendly. And the Courtyard here seems well kept and relatively new.

If I had more time to explore, I might visit Miss Laura’s Social Club, the only former “house of ill-repute” that is on the National Register of Historic Places!! Somehow, I don’t think a souvenir t-shirt would be appropriate at the next church family picnic.

I had a brief layover in Memphis and treated myself to half a rack of ribs at Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ (I usually opt for pulled pork). I love me some BBQ. If someone asks me where to eat BBQ in Memphis, I’ll recommend Interstate over Rendezvous (OVERRATED!) every time.

I know people say this all the time, but the meat fell off the bone! I’m no BBQ expert, but apparently you don’t want your BBQ to fall off the bone?? I still thought they tasted great. The slaw was chopped fine, a bit runny, but still got me a little nostalgic. The baked beans (with smoky pieces of pulled pork) were awesome. The sweet tea, ehhh . . . sorry Memphis, Birmingham has ya beat.

Also on the flight from BHM to Memphis, was University of Wisconsin’s head wrestling coach, Barry Davis. Very nice gentleman, and we had a good discussion about Malcolm Gladwell (I started Blink on the flight . . . finished Moneyball last Friday). I guess you never know when you’re going to sit next to an Olympic Medalist???