Thursday, April 26, 2012
Cooking Without A Chef

End Note:: I'm not really dinking around--although I know you wouldn't know that from the length of this blog entry. I'm sitting through a conference call that really didn't need my participation.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Yes, I'm still trying to produce edible, tasty food myself. Life can't all be walking across the street to Whole Foods and buying something fresh and delicious every evening.

After my empanada success, I gave up on those for a while to experiment with other ideas. (As delicious as the second empanada test was, I can't always be stopping during the day to fry meat and, anyhow, most of my successful recipes are beef-based and I wanted to expand my repertoire and, yes, I spelled that correctly on the first try, excuse me while my innate spelling skills continue to amuse me.)

So, I'm thinking--pizza.

I haven't historically been a huge pizza fan. I can go a decade or so without eating it and without missing it. But, as far as things you can easily make at home go, it seemed like a good candidate, yes?

I started with one of those pre-made Boboli crusts because it was a fast and easy solution (and those are two words I value in the kitchen). The calorie count struck me as a bit high at 190 calories for 1/2 the 8" pizza crust, but it was a place to start.

For the record, after the two crusts in the package were gone, I switched to the small size of flour tortilla. You save about half the calories and decrease your "evil while bread" consumption. (Saving calories on the crust is important to me since I see it just a way to get the toppings to my mouth.) If you're cooking for more than one person, don't substitute a larger tortilla--it won't firm up as well. Just make a tortilla for each person. (Or, you know, make two for yourself, each with different toppings. Cut each in half and you have two meals.)

Anyhow. Simplicity itself.

I mix and match to create a single pizza:

Fresh mushrooms
Red onion
Canned black olives (sliced)
Canned artichoke hearts (small or medium size)
Asparagus (I buy frozen & 'nuke one stalk at a time)
Grilled chicken (chopped small) (unless you're vegetarian)
Salt & pepper to taste (I'm sure there are other spices that could be used--I haven't branched out that much yet.)

Thinly slice or chop a fresh mushroom. Ditto a bit of red onion--one thin slice, chopped is enough for a single tortilla/pizza.

Rinse a tablespoon or so of the black olives in cold water, dry, and set aside.

Rinse the artichoke hearts thoroughly. Take one or two (depending on size) and chop into small (about 1/4" - 1/2") pieces. Dry.

Chop one spear of steamed, dried asparagus into 1/4" pieces.

(Rinsing and drying the canned or steamed veggies is important. Otherwise, your pizza is watery.)

I bought some roasted garlic cloves (thank you again, Whole Foods) and have sprinkled those on as well--if you've a garlic fan like I am, it's a very tasty addition.*

Chopped, seeded fresh tomato could be very nice--I'll have to buy one.

I've used both reduced-fat provolone cheese and shredded low-fat mozzarella and they both worked. The provolone had a slightly better flavor with veggies.

I guess you could probably just load your toppings onto the tortilla, sprinkle on the cheese, and heat it all up at this point, but I tend to be a little more cautious. Also, I like to make sure the raw veggies cook or at least start cooking, since I like the flavor that way.

What I do:

Put tortilla on cookie sheet. (I line with a bit of foil because I'm too lazy to wash up). Put meat (if desired) and all veggies except olives on tortilla. I slide the cookie sheet into the oven and heat at about 250-275 for 15 minutes. This starts the veggies cooking and gives the tortilla time to start firming up. Sprinkle on the grated cheese and the black olives, turn the oven up to 325 or 350, and heat for another 8-10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Ridiculously delicious. Once you take the pizza out of the oven, the tortilla can be picked up like any pizza after it sets up for 30 seconds. It holds a surprising weight of toppings, too, and I tend to load them on.

For the gourmets, substitute a sprinkle of feta in place of the other cheese. You don't cook it--sprinkle the feta on as soon as you take the pizza out of the oven. (And it's another calorie-saver! Swanky and healthy.)

For those with a real commitment to cooking, almost any roasted veggie could work. After experimenting, I decided the extra time and effort was more than I wanted to invest, but YMMV. Those of you who go around roasting veggies regularly can just make a bit extra next time.

Before I got so lazy, summer squash and thinly sliced yam were both successful for me. I bought some julienne-cut, sun-dried tomatoes at the store the other day. I'm going to try them today even though I'm a bit doubtful about that sweetness. Maybe if I roasted some yam and some parsnip, both also sweet, it could be interesting with some rinsed and dried pineapple chunks?

You can make any kind of pizza you want. The fattening "evil" of pizza is largely in the crust and the full-fat cheese. Substituting a 100-calorie tortilla and low-fat cheese lowers the calorie count (and saturated fat level) down to something reasonable and you can load on veggies to your heart's content.

Variety is the spice of life and whatnot, so feel free to buy some thinly sliced pepperoni at the store, along with some prepared pizza sauce. You can spread the sauce on the tortilla, sprinkle it with pepperoni, pile on the sliced mushroom and/or yellow onion or whatever you like, and still wind up with a delicious meal for a reasonable number of calories. It doesn't take much meat--the sliced pepperoni I buy is wafer-thin--to add a meaty taste for those of us who love it and want to have that kind of pizza experience.

You can use tomato-based pizza sauce with the veggie option of this dish--although you might need to experiment with your veggie mix until you figure out what does or doesn't work with the pizza sauce flavor.

Fruits love you, so love them back! Raisins and ham are a surprisingly good combination. Pineapple works with both ham and chicken. I'm not a mango fan but I know that chicken and mango are a good combo. Very thin slices of apple could be lovely on a veggie pizza.


_____________________


* Caution! Garlic, even roasted, has a delicious aroma that you probably don't want clinging to your fingers four hours later. You can add the cloves to your pizza whole or do what I do--spear a couple of cloves with a fork and chop them into smaller bits with a knife. Use the knife and fork to transfer to the pizza.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:30 AM | Comments (0)



Sunday, April 22, 2012
I'm Always Eating

OMGosh, I forgot to tell y'all about my recent Adventures In Food!

First, I got together with the remaining Café folks a couple of weeks ago. We met up for lunch at Shiraz, a Persian restaurant that I've seen a lot, since it sits next to my favorite sushi restaurant in south Denver.

My companions all selected some version of kebab, but when my eyes hit the entry "Saffron Chicken" on the menu, I knew it was the only possible choice.

Mmm. Tender chicken, creamy sauce, and rice. Simple and delicious. It didn't quite measure up to my rose-colored memories of the Saffron Chicken at the regrettably defunct Saffron's, but it was a darned close second.

The Café crowd were all fine. We had a good time chatting--they filled me in on what's new and what the Corral has been up to. (I was amused to realize that they were telling me of some of the changes--things that would have affected what I did--with considerable trepidation. I knew I was becoming that one cranky, old bitch that every office has! I'm so glad I bailed when I recognized that fact.)

From what they said, performance from the 'net continues to decline. I regret that--and I really regretted hearing that last year's candidate for breaking $1M in sales is struggling to reach half that this year--but staggering out of bed at 8:00 or 8:30 each morning, as the mood strikes me, instead of struggling to achieve up, bathed, dressed, and present in the office by 8:00 is worth it. (When I say, "not a morning person," you have no idea how serious I am.)

We agreed to make it a monthly 'do and I'm hoping we go back to Shiraz again. In fact, I'm going to email them today and whine about it.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)



Tuesday, February 21, 2012
I'm so adventurous!

Today's culinary experiment--chicken pot pie.

I don't know why this recipe attracted me--I don't even like chicken pot pie. I took no liberties with the recipe, aside from skipping the crust since it adds a billion unnecessary calories.

It's in the oven now. Excitement!

________________________________

P.S. Clients? Still mostly crazy although two show indications of developing sanity.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)



Thursday, February 16, 2012
Wherein I Have Eaten

Empanadas!

I tried again, this time maintaining a strict focus on the cuisine in question. Success!

The successful recipe, for anyone still reading, is to lightly saute some onion until translucent--the recipe called for butter but I substituted a spritz of Pam--then fry your hamburger in the pan until brown. Add salt & pepper to taste, toss in your other spices (I used a tsp each of paprika and cumin and a few hearty shakes of crushed red pepper and stir it all up on medium-low heat until the spice have a chance to get acquainted with the beef--say, five minutes.

Spritz the sheet of foil on your cookie sheet.

Lay out egg roll wrappers, spoon ingredients onto half, staying 1/4" - 1/'2" from the edge, fold over the edges, wetting the inside rims with water to make them stick together--press firmly or use a spoon or a fork to seal--carefully, so as not to poke a hole in your dough. Place wrapper on foil, spritz top so it will brown, cook at 350-375 until wrapper is crispy. Say, ten or fifteen minutes, depending on how hot your oven cooks.

Eat.

I feel very brave. Next time I'm going to get creative with a tiny bit of cheese or olives.

The egg roll wrappers are still just too big. Next time, I'll also try halving or even quartering them.

I also joined the legion of the Ladies Who Lunch this week--going out for lunch for only the second time since I commenced my new career.

I met the R.C.. at Elways, so named for the football guy, yes. He put his name on it and for ten years I staunchly resisted passing through the doors--my silent protest at having half the city named after a guy who was apparently very good at football, a pasttime I find paralyzingly boring, and whose name I was already tired of long before the end of the last century.

I think, in retrospect, I'm glad about that.

I mean, if I'd know ten years ago how absolutely delicious the food was, I'd probably weigh 200 lbs by now.

Spicy steak chili. Lip-lickin' good.

I'm not talking about work stuff because all my clients are still crazy.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:38 PM | Comments (6)



Monday, February 6, 2012
Teach Me Food

I haven't been amazingly adventurous on the Food Front recently, but one thing I did do was to sign up for a session at Whole Foods across the street.

The topic was Argentinian Empanadas and I'm a huge pig for good empanadas, so the R.C. and I braved the threat of a major (even "epic") storm forecast and toddled over to take a look.

An empanada, for those who don't know, is a pastry filled with tasty (pre-cooked) fillings of various varieties and fried or baked.

Mmmm.

We learned to make the dough and to fix the fillings, getting to taste two variations with recipes for both, along with links to websites offering other filling recipes. Well worth the price--which was nothing.

Me, being me, I came home resolved to DIY so I could try a few things for myself. (Experimental cooking is hobby of mine. Thankfully, the fact that I'm a lousy cook means little of what I make winds up on my butt. Most of it goes in the trash.)

First, dough.

The traditional recipe calls for heaping helpings of lard. Our chef provided us with an alternative recipe using only butter, instead.

#1 - I am astonishingly lazy.
#2 - Making dough didn't strike me as "part of the fun" to be had.
#3 - Nor do I own a food processor, the gadget needed to make the dough in two minutes or less.
#4 - Nor do I have the patience to make the dough and let it "rest" in the refrigerator before I continue playing cooking. Who's in charge here, anyhow? Me or a sack of flour?

Also, I am no longer allowed to eat things where one of the first three ingredients is "X sticks of butter."

To save time and fat calories, then, I decided to substitute egg roll wrappers for the homemade dough. It would change the final result a trifle but each wrapper (made of soy) is 100 calories and no fat. Healthier!

I had both chicken and "'salad size" shrimp on hand, so when lunchtime approached today, I decided to try them both.

I sauteed a bit of onion in two pans, then diced and cooked the meats (in the different pans). Removing the meat from the pan(s), I added some diced veggies (not an ideal mix--just what I had on-hand which was green beans, baby carrots, and sweet corn) and pan-seared them in the small amount of liquid leftover from cooking the meats. I added, variously, salt, pepper, ginger, garlic, and a very small amount of hoisin or oyster sauce to each pan and hotted it all up again. (I know--weird sauces for an "Argentinian" recipe. I blame the egg roll wrappers--once I got started cooking I was thinking "egg rolls" instead of "empanadas.")

While the fillings cooled a bit, I sprayed a piece of tinfoil with some cooking spray.

I laid out two egg roll wrappers and put about 3 tablespoons of filling in each. The empanada recipes call for 1-2 tbsp of filling but egg roll wrappers are larger, so I added a bit more under the theory that I was only going to be eating half of each initially anyhow. As it turned out, even 3 tbsp was not quite enough since when it came time to roll, I had more wrapper than filling, but whatever.

I rolled and wrapped the fillings, placed them on the tinfoil, sprayed the rolls with some more cooking spray, and poked them into the oven.

In about 6-1/2 minutes, I should know if any of it is edible or not.

It's very exciting!

Still. Next time, I think I'll stick with "approved" recipes from people who know what they're doing the first time I try something new.

Also, there are a lot of vegetarian empanada recipes I want to try, along with some sweet versions and, as long as I have a stock of egg roll wrappers now anyhow, I'm thinking that homemade eggrolls, without the frying, would be a tasty thing to be able to make for myself.

2 minutes and 20 seconds!

How's your life?

____________________________


Don't Do This At Home:

Ugh. Forgetting, in the middle of cooking, what cuisine you're experimenting with is not a good idea.

Also, too complicated. Too many flavors going on. I see, now, why all the empanada filling recipes I see online are so simple. One main ingredient, one accent, and a couple of spices.

I think I have some hamburger in the freezer. I'll try again, in a few days, but focusing this time.

I'm happy to report that the egg roll wrappers were a success. They crisped up nicely. If nothing else, I can congratulate myself on having eaten only 100 calories of processed soy at lunch instead of half a stick of butter, a cup of white flour, and however much oil those ingredients were able to soak up during the frying process.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:15 PM | Comments (3)



Friday, May 6, 2011
Anne Eats Out

This has been the week of Anne Eating Out in a big way. I've taken myself out to lunch--not once, not twice, but three times--this week, on a mission to actually try out some of the restaurants I see in my travels but never stop at.

One experiment was Bam Bu. Walking in, it's very Pei-Wei (do you have them?) with the large, standing screen-menu and the fast-casual dining area. The pan-Asian mix of cuisines is also very reminiscent of Pei Wei.

The food is a bit different. For instance, Bam Bu offers lighter sauces. Flavorful, but not as thick. I'm not prejudice against a light sauce, although a heavier one that clings to the meat is my personal preference.

Portion size, if it matters to you (and it does to me--if I spend $10 on a meal, I expect to have leftovers), well, the first dish I tried was big--certainly more than I needed to eat at a single sitting.

On that first visit, I had the Bulgogi Bowl, described this way: "Thin slices of beef with onions simmered in a sweet Korean sauce filled with herbs and spices served with your choice of rice."

And, okay, there were a couple of tough lumps of gristle in the beef and I don't call chunks of red and green peppers either herbs or spices, but that doesn't mean the dish wasn't delicious because it absolutely was. Rice was a big part of the portion size, of course, but dishes with a sauce that yummy needs some kind of sauce-soppin' component.

My second trip wasn't quite as successful. The Pei Wei - Bam Bu comparison having occurred to me, I felt I had to go back to BB and try their version of Mongolian Beef--arguably Pei Wei's 'signature' dish and in all ways crave-able.

Beef - fewer lumps of gristle than yesterday's meal.
Veggies - mostly large chunks of celery, broccoli stalks (not florets), and a heaping helping of red & green peppers. The usual onions and some carrot slices added additional texture.

The sauce was very different from Pei Wei's thick, almost carmelized beef coating. More of a broth, albeit a broth with a lovely, sweet finish. Sadly, I wasn't able to eat most of the sauce, because the dish didn't come with any sauce-soppin' rice! It never occurred to me that the dish wouldn't come with rice--the cashier asked me for my white/brown preference. Still. No rice.

Decision: I'd go back, definitely. I wouldn't order the Mongolian Beef again, but the Bulgogi Bowl was definitely worth a second visit.

My final dining adventure this week was more adventurous. Instead of a chain restaurant, no matter how ethnic, I found myself walking in a door I've been passing indifferently for 20 years.

Across the street from where I live, there's a strip mall. In that strip mall, I've noticed the laconic sign announcing, "Ramen" many, many times over the years. Only recently did it occur to me to actually walk in the door and check it out and this week I finally walked in Oshima Ramen's front door.

First impression: Messy. I am dubious. The counter where hungry diners have shoveled-and-shoved-off was a bit dirty. (Reviewers at the link cover the topic well.)

Second look: Tiny A counter for ten diners and maybe half a dozen 2-person tables besides.

Third concern: Gastronomic disaster! This is the first restaurant I've ever been in when I've actually seen someone who appeared to be a health inspector testing the hot/cold factor of various supposed-to-be-hot/cold devices.

Still. The inspector was smiling, the chef was reasonably friendly, and I was there, right? Live dangerously, I told myself. You're too old to to worry about dying young.

Although the 11B ramen is the place's "signature dish" (and the one they won Best of Denver from Westword for, years back), I'm a yakisoba fan and I got the yakisoba.

Delicious. Absolutely. And the portion size was huge - I wound up having four meals off the one order.

Still. I have an incredibly strong urge to pull a Monica--march in there with a bucket full of cleaning rags and solutions and give the place a really good going over.

I don't doubt I'll be marching back in soon. Even without a mop, the yakisoba is more than enough incentive.

Next, I might decide to give Street Kitchen Asian Bistro a try. The Vallagio at Inverness is reasonably close to where I work--certainly close enough to take the time to visit for a luncheon adventure. (Especially with such a divine-looking menu. I wonder if they do take-out?)

Or, there's a Persian place very close to here that gets good reviews from my co-workers. Maybe I'll start there.


Posted by AnneZook at 03:38 PM | Comments (2)



Thursday, May 5, 2011
Come And Get It!

Last weekend's Adventures In Cooking involved no--I repeat no--bodily injury. I cooked two dishes and bled on neither of them. A personal best.

Dishes included:

1) Beef stew - a long-time staple. Not surprising or delighting, but nourishing.
2) Chicken Piccata with lemon-caper sauce, accompanied by roasted garlic new potatoes.

I'm surprised and pleased to be able to report that 2) was amazingly delicious. Quite the tastiest thing I've made in a very long time.

I won't be making it again. As much fun as it was on my tongue, the clean-up from actually frying food--something I haven't done in years--was just yucky. (Yes, I own a splatter screen. No, I did not use it.) (What part of "haven't done this in years" is not registering with you?)

I'm working on a way to faux-fry the chicken tenders in the oven, to avoid the mess and calories. If I can work that out, I'll try it again.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)



Monday, November 8, 2010
Post-Celebratory Post

Good morning.

Be warned. I feel chatty. This could go on for a while.

It's a Monday, after a very good weekend. (Meaning: I like my job and my coworkers, but I'd be happier if I were elsewhere.)

Saturday's temperature hovered around 78, which fell perfectly in line with our (the R.C.'s and my) plans to spend a leisurely day out puttering around.

First, we lunched sumptuously at Andre's.

The R.C. had Chicken Pie, sliced tomatoes topped with cilantro and minced onion, and a green salad. I had what was billed as Goulash but was actually fork-tender pot roast. It came with mashed potatoes and gravy. Mmmm. (It also came with "beet salad" which turned out to be diced pickled beets and some ramifications but I despise pickled beets, so I stole the R.C.'s tomatoes and ate those instead.)

It sounds evil, but Andre's has a prix fixe menu and I promise you the servings are--not small--but precise. When my plate arrives, I always taste the dish and wish they'd served me three times as much but by the time I finish dessert (included), it's always the perfect serving size. Very dainty and ladylike.

Dessert this time--I can't remember what they called it, but it was essentially a four-bite éclair. A light cake surrounding silky custard, enrobed in dark chocolate. I'm not a big dessert person - I generally take a bite or two for manners and stop, but this time I cleaned my plate.

We took a two-hour postprandial stroll around a sort of outdoor shopping area. It's not an 'official' walking mall - just a square parking lot with strip malls on all four sides, but it works for me when I feel like pretending to shop because it has the kinds of stores I find interesting but not dangerous. (No bookstores. A game store, but off in a corner that I'm usually able to avoid.)

For instance, I rarely buy anything from Dress Barn (an inexpensive woman's clothing store) except a silk tee or some other layering piece, but I find their displays interesting. Just to prove I'm not wasting my time with all that looking, this weekend they turned out to have exactly the jacket I've been wanting for the past ten months. ("Rarely" isn't the same as "never.")

We wandered through Ulta (make-up) where I was tempted by dozens of products in colors that would have been risky when I was 20, much, less--what I am now.

I very nearly bought a frame for one of my birthday cards (how often is a card so perfect that you want to keep the picture around for years?) in Michael's but their lines are always long and move slowly, so that's $6 saved.

In Office Max, the R.C. picked up a few things she'd been needing and I scored something that's going to be a great Christmas gift for her.

Maybe it doesn't sound enthralling, but it really was a lovely day and not the least of the loveliness was getting home around 3:30 and realizing I had the rest of the day to play with my birthday presents.

This year's loot is seriously fabulous. Three books, two games, a magazine subscription, a movie, a boxed set of DVDs, some of that tasty-but-expensive Starbucks instant coffee, and a kitchen toy.

I broke out the first game (Rune Factory 2) and read one book (The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs). (Also, you know, laundry and stuff.)

Saturday evening we tried to watch the movie, Frogs (Today the pond. Tomorrow the world!), I'd asked for.

I swear I remember it as being just the kind of campy, cheesy monster movie that amuses me but after the first hour, I begged to turn it off. It was--just yuck.* (Footnoted for the squeamish.) The only moment of amusement was the scene where a spiteful iguana knocked half a dozen jugs of various gardening liquids off a high shelf and the resulting toxic stew asphyxiated a (not at all gay, in spite of spending the entire movie arranging flowers, look, I have a girlfriend!) guy. There's something inherently amusing about a spiteful iguana.

We watched episodes of Glee instead. That show has done some episodes where the music has left me cold (Lady Gaga? That's, like, a real musical thing/person?) but at its best, it can be just riveting.

Sunday I read part of a magazine, played the same game again (for hours), and started one of the other books (Pratchett). (Also, laundry and cleaning.)

And I played with my new kitchen toy, the fabulous Pasta Boat!

Yes! As Seen On TV!

I'm a sucker for those weird "as seen on tv" gizmos and gadgets.** I'd never heard of this one, but the R.C. found it in a store and picked it up for me. It cooks pasta and steams veggies in the microwave.

I tried it out last night and while the Boat itself is a teensy bit too long for our microwave (gets stuck and doesn't rotate), it did steam vegetables beautifully. (I tried squash, yams, and parsnips.) (I'd never eaten a parsnip before. The funny name fooled me--I had no idea it had the texture of a potato and the sweetness of a carrot. I'm officially a fan!)

Also, the R.C. bought some Miracle Junk and sprayed the oven yesterday afternoon and then a couple of hours later she (we) wiped it off and I did not remember it was that color inside!

That oven has been preying on my mind for six months, but the amount of elbow-grease it was going to take to clean it was such a daunting thought that I never quite got around to getting started. How the R.C. knew about the Miracle Junk, I don't know. (I mean, I've seen "no-scrub oven cleaner" in the stores but always assumed it must come with toxic fumes that would result in us having to move out of the apartment, if not the state, until the EPA declared the region safe for habitation again. But this stuff didn't seem to have a smell at all!)

And then we watched more Glee and I read more and gamed more.

My kind of weekend. Some eating, some reading, some games, some DVDs.

Tonight I must load up the second game on the laptop and try it out and also finish the magazine so I can pass it to the R.C. for whenever she's done with the books on the finding of Tutankhamen's tomb she's reading.

I'm really not sure I have time for a full-time job. Not now, when the weather is lovely and I want to be out in it*** and I have half a dozen enthralling new toys at home, just begging to be played with.

I hope your weekend was equally entertaining!


_____________________


* There was one grotesque spider sequence that the R.C. (ever-alert to prevent me from having a catastrophic meltdown) helped me not to watch. Aside from that, it was all lizards and snakes and frogs--none of which bother me, but the movie itself was just close-up shots of ponderous iguanas and fingerling lizards and croaking frogs and unlikely snakes (you don't get a lot of timber rattlers in swamp country), interspersed with a cast of unattractive characters in script that was trying to hard to be meaningful. It managed, in some odd fashion, to be both icky and boring.


_____________________


** Sometimes, they're great. The Windshield Wonder was so handy I went back and got a second one, so I'd have one in the house for glass and mirrors, as well as one in the car.

_____________________


*** It's close to 70 outside and the heat is on full blast in the office. In spite of the giant fan blowing a gale through my cubicle, it's about 90 at my desk.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)



Post-Celebratory Post

Good morning.

Be warned. I feel chatty. This could go on for a while.

It's a Monday, after a very good weekend. (Meaning: I like my job and my coworkers, but I'd be happier if I were elsewhere.)

Saturday's temperature hovered around 78, which fell perfectly in line with our (the R.C.'s and my) plans to spend a leisurely day out puttering around.

First, we lunched sumptuously at Andre's.

The R.C. had Chicken Pie, sliced tomatoes topped with cilantro and minced onion, and a green salad. I had what was billed as Goulash but was actually fork-tender pot roast. It came with mashed potatoes and gravy. Mmmm. (It also came with "beet salad" which turned out to be diced pickled beets and some ramifications but I despise pickled beets, so I stole the R.C.'s tomatoes and ate those instead.)

It sounds evil, but Andre's has a prix fixe menu and I promise you the servings are--not small--but precise. When my plate arrives, I always taste the dish and wish they'd served me three times as much but by the time I finish dessert (included), it's always the perfect serving size. Very dainty and ladylike.

Dessert this time--I can't remember what they called it, but it was essentially a four-bite éclair. A light cake surrounding silky custard, enrobed in dark chocolate. I'm not a big dessert person - I generally take a bite or two for manners and stop, but this time I cleaned my plate.

We took a two-hour postprandial stroll around a sort of outdoor shopping area. It's not an 'official' walking mall - just a square parking lot with strip malls on all four sides, but it works for me when I feel like pretending to shop because it has the kinds of stores I find interesting but not dangerous. (No bookstores. A game store, but off in a corner that I'm usually able to avoid.)

For instance, I rarely buy anything from Dress Barn (an inexpensive woman's clothing store) except a silk tee or some other layering piece, but I find their displays interesting. Just to prove I'm not wasting my time with all that looking, this weekend they turned out to have exactly the jacket I've been wanting for the past ten months. ("Rarely" isn't the same as "never.")

We wandered through Ulta (make-up) where I was tempted by dozens of products in colors that would have been risky when I was 20, much, less--what I am now.

I very nearly bought a frame for one of my birthday cards (how often is a card so perfect that you want to keep the picture around for years?) in Michael's but their lines are always long and move slowly, so that's $6 saved.

In Office Max, the R.C. picked up a few things she'd been needing and I scored something that's going to be a great Christmas gift for her.

Maybe it doesn't sound enthralling, but it really was a lovely day and not the least of the loveliness was getting home around 3:30 and realizing I had the rest of the day to play with my birthday presents.

This year's loot is seriously fabulous. Three books, two games, a magazine subscription, a movie, a boxed set of DVDs, some of that tasty-but-expensive Starbucks instant coffee, and a kitchen toy.

I broke out the first game (Rune Factory 2) and read one book (The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs). (Also, you know, laundry and stuff.)

Saturday evening we tried to watch the movie, Frogs (Today the pond. Tomorrow the world!), I'd asked for.

I swear I remember it as being just the kind of campy, cheesy monster movie that amuses me but after the first hour, I begged to turn it off. It was--just yuck.* (Footnoted for the squeamish.) The only moment of amusement was the scene where a spiteful iguana knocked half a dozen jugs of various gardening liquids off a high shelf and the resulting toxic stew asphyxiated a (not at all gay, in spite of spending the entire movie arranging flowers, look, I have a girlfriend!) guy. There's something inherently amusing about a spiteful iguana.

We watched episodes of Glee instead. That show has done some episodes where the music has left me cold (Lady Gaga? That's, like, a real musical thing/person?) but at its best, it can be just riveting.

Sunday I read part of a magazine, played the same game again (for hours), and started one of the other books (Pratchett). (Also, laundry and cleaning.)

And I played with my new kitchen toy, the fabulous Pasta Boat!

Yes! As Seen On TV!

I'm a sucker for those weird "as seen on tv" gizmos and gadgets.** I'd never heard of this one, but the R.C. found it in a store and picked it up for me. It cooks pasta and steams veggies in the microwave.

I tried it out last night and while the Boat itself is a teensy bit too long for our microwave (gets stuck and doesn't rotate), it did steam vegetables beautifully. (I tried squash, yams, and parsnips.) (I'd never eaten a parsnip before. The funny name fooled me--I had no idea it had the texture of a potato and the sweetness of a carrot. I'm officially a fan!)

Also, the R.C. bought some Miracle Junk and sprayed the oven yesterday afternoon and then a couple of hours later she (we) wiped it off and I did not remember it was that color inside!

That oven has been preying on my mind for six months, but the amount of elbow-grease it was going to take to clean it was such a daunting thought that I never quite got around to getting started. How the R.C. knew about the Miracle Junk, I don't know. (I mean, I've seen "no-scrub oven cleaner" in the stores but always assumed it must come with toxic fumes that would result in us having to move out of the apartment, if not the state, until the EPA declared the region safe for habitation again. But this stuff didn't seem to have a smell at all!)

And then we watched more Glee and I read more and gamed more.

My kind of weekend. Some eating, some reading, some games, some DVDs.

Tonight I must load up the second game on the laptop and try it out and also finish the magazine so I can pass it to the R.C. for whenever she's done with the books on the finding of Tutankhamen's tomb she's reading.

I'm really not sure I have time for a full-time job. Not now, when the weather is lovely and I want to be out in it*** and I have half a dozen enthralling new toys at home, just begging to be played with.

I hope your weekend was equally entertaining!


_____________________


* There was one grotesque spider sequence that the R.C. (ever-alert to prevent me from having a catastrophic meltdown) helped me not to watch. Aside from that, it was all lizards and snakes and frogs--none of which bother me, but the movie itself was just close-up shots of ponderous iguanas and fingerling lizards and croaking frogs and unlikely snakes (you don't get a lot of timber rattlers in swamp country), interspersed with a cast of unattractive characters in script that was trying to hard to be meaningful. It managed, in some odd fashion, to be both icky and boring.


_____________________


** Sometimes, they're great. The Windshield Wonder was so handy I went back and got a second one, so I'd have one in the house for glass and mirrors, as well as one in the car.

_____________________


*** It's close to 70 outside and the heat is on full blast in the office. In spite of the giant fan blowing a gale through my cubicle, it's about 90 at my desk.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)



Tuesday, December 22, 2009
A Dozen Also-Rans

Minor thoughts I'm bored enough to share....

#1 - The R.C. introduced me to a new restaurant last week. Andre's is, from what I'm told, one of those long-time institutions, and one of the R.C.'s favorite-ever dining places. (Her excuse for not having introduced me to in any time in the last twenty years or so was that she thought it had closed.) (Right.) It's a fabulous little prix fixe patisserie tucked away just off of a major thoroughfare. It has atmosphere. I love a non-chain restaurant, don't you?

#2 - Those of us toiling away at the Argonut Café are getting a four-day weekend at New Year's as well. While I love the idea of having such lovely, long weekends, the (teeny-tiny) mature part of me knows that the remaining winter months, with no holidays at all, are going to be long and gray.

#3 - The first season of Glee is due to be released on DVD at the end of this month. The R.C. has it on pre-order, so I'll be able to get caught up before the new season starts (in April, I think). In the meantime, the network is showing two episodes this Wednesday evening and two next Wednesday, so I can get started watching ever before I get started getting caught up.

#4 - I did not practice Frugality around Christmas this year. Considering that I only really exchange gifts with the R.C. (and send small gifts to the L-i-K-S, Rapunzel, and Pippi), there are an astonishing number of packages under our little Christmas tree. While many of them are of the very small "stocking stuffer" variety, another heaping helping are not. So far I have refrained from poking, prodding, or shaking any of the interestingly shaped boxes. I'm very trustworthy that way.

#5- One of the aforementioned parcels, embarrassingly enough, is from NewBoss Anais, someone for whom I not only didn't buy a gift, but didn't send a card.

#6 - Another friend surprised me with a bag of very good coffee. I like knowing someone thought of me and do try to accept gifts in that spirit, but I'm always flustered when gifted from someone with whom I have not previously made gift exchange plans and, yes, I'm aware that this sentence could have been more graceful but I don't care that much.

#7 - The R.C. was insufficiently inventive when it came to providing a wish list for gifts this year. I had to take some chances and I'm a bit concerned about one or two of them.

#8 - Gidget and I don't gift, but I did manage to convince her not to pay me for The Gidget Co work this month. She's short of money at the moment, so that amount really will be useful to her. Anyhow, I finally remembered to bill Bernie for the work I did this fall so I'm flush, and as I told her repeatedly, I haven't had that much time to spend on her accounts the last three weeks and I'd be ashamed to take money at this point.

#9 - When I lunched with Gidget and Vela last week, one of them mentioned the rumor that CEOJason had gotten canned. I can vouch for the fact that he's still showing up here every day, but the rumor (they have a pipeline into the Shadow Board that rules us all) does have me wondering....

#10 - I don't think I mentioned the Argonut Café Holiday get-together, did I? It was the evening of the 11th, at ChaosManager Daenna's home. Each member of the 10-person staff here at the Café was warned that there would be two dozen attendees and asked to bring enough of their dish (it was a pot-luck) to feed twenty. I suspect I'm the only person who thought about it and realized that if ten people each bring food for twenty, you have enough food to feed two hundred people--especially taking into account the American hostess's ever-present fear that there Won't Be Enough* which she inevitably insures against by providing a ham, two pies, home-made cookies, and six kinds of dinner rolls. We ate, they played pool or foosball or air hockey and then, endless hours later, we played a gift game--a variation of the dreidel game--and I wound up with two free movie tickets, big thrill, then everyone was getting tipsy and it was 11:00 p.m., so I went home. The end.

#11 - The last week or so, work has been a peculiar mixture of urgent tasks and "nothing to do." Because of the holidays, people who might ordinarily be searching for our services are now searching for things almost but not quite what we do. It would be a mistake, as I keep telling myself, to interpret any of the stats for the latter half of December as representative. So, basically I'm either doing four things at once, or sneaking over to read H. Rider Haggard novels online. I don't normally (aside from the occasional blog entry) goof off on company time. I'm not sure I really enjoy it, either. I think the days pass much more quickly when I'm working.

#12 - Am I lame if my favorite-ever Christmas movie is A Muppet Christmas Carol?


___________________

* Culturally, Americans seem to have some kind of weird issue around enoughness. Our entire society sometimes seems fixated on getting what's there to be gotten before there's not enough left to go around.

Without getting excessively political, I still want to say that I'm amused that the major oil contracts in Iraq are not being awarded to Chump & Cheney's Corporate Cohorts or, indeed, any US-based oil companies.

Right now, Dick and George are probably sitting there, stewing--thinking that killing a hundred thousand or so Iraqis should have done the trick and wondering what a guy's gotta do these days to get a guaranteed payoff.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)



Monday, August 3, 2009
Curses! Fooled Again!

Drat those evil fast food empires! I went to lunch with co-workers today (birthday celebration) and thought I was ordering a lower-calorie alternative with the bruschetta chicken breast sandwich. I mean, I laid the bun daintily aside and ate only the chicken, which was lightly (okay, liberally) spread with (probably swiss) cheese and lightly daubed with a sort of aoli-and-mayonnaise sauce.

Idle curiosity led me to check the calorie count online when I got back to the office and, even though I skipped the bread, it looks like I gave the diet a big setback. At a whopping 830 calories (with fries*), I've pretty much maxed out my calorie allowance for the day.

I don't even know why I do things like that. In my own defense, when I accepted the invitation, the restaurant chosen was an Asian place where I knew I could get a good, light meal. And I don't want to eat that heavily any more. I feel sick.

Anyhow. Monday, Monday.

The weekend was productive in its own way. I worked about eight hours on Saturday and about six hours or so on Sunday. A lot of Gidget Co work, account maintenance and miscellaneous stuff for a new website she was putting together and a huge chunk of the Bernie project.

Today I'm doing month-end reporting. Tomorrow I'm out of the office at a Webstrainer seminar that the Argonut Café astonished me by paying for. Wednesday I'm in the office. Thursday I'm actually taking off to (with luck) largely finish the Bernie project and do some follow-up on my Gidget Co work. By the time Friday of this week arrives, I am going to be on top of all these projects! That's a good feeling.

Unlike, for instance, the feeling in my stummick right now. Yuck.

___________________________

* I know fries are evil. I--I just love them. I only let myself have them once a month or so. *sob* And these were garlic-parmesan and just fabulous. But. Seriously? I had more than enough food to eat without eating French fries, so now I wish I'd asked them to keep their stupid fries.

Posted by AnneZook at 03:41 PM | Comments (2)



Thursday, March 29, 2007
Dining Well (unexpectedly)

So, what else is new?

I met up with a couple of friends last night for dinner and chatting. They're part of the local Stitch and Bitch group. I'm not a member, but I go along to see the two of them once a month or so.

This time we met at The Market at Larimer Square.

Larimer Square is a shopping/dining/see-and-be-seen part of downtown Denver. Just off the 16th Street Mall and close to LoDo (Lower Downtown), it used to have a reputation for being where the Monied went to shop. I hadn't been to the area in years and was surprised by how, well, trendy it seems to have become.

And popular, even on a Wednesday evening. I had to circle the blocks forever to find a parking space (no easy task in an area of pedestrian walking malls and one-way streets. Finally, and in defiance of my Unemployed state, I gave up on finding a meter (two hours for 50 cents) and had to pay a parking lot ($12!) for space.

The Market was like finding a little slice of funky LoDo right in the middle of swanky Larimer Square. The Market turned out to be a little grocery store/coffee bar/pastry shop/restaurant combination with some very good food.

Thanks to the kindness of a stranger, a man who took it upon himself to advise us about the menu as we stood at the counter and agonized over our choices, I ordered the spinach stuffed boneless breast of chicken. Tasty, indeed. The stuffing was thick and flavorful, the chicken moist without being undercooked.

Portions were ample. In fact, some dishes were incredibly generous. Ruth had them package up her leftover pasta dish to take home with her and she had enough left for one or maybe two more meals.

I pretty much finished my dish, but had I not passed on the dinner salad, I don't know if I could have managed it.

I was tempted to try the desserts, which included some amazing-looking cheesecake (served in giant slices, as I saw when two youngsters received their strawberry drenched orders) but I was mindful of one friend's diet and my own extra five pounds, so I passed.

I'm going back to The Market, some day soon, though. I didn't have nearly enough time to browse the pastry cabinet or drool over the candies or look at the strange and wonderful specialty packaged food offerings or sample the cappuccino and/or hot chocolate.

The meatloaf has to be worth a try. The BBQ beef brisket smelled fabulous. They have an extensive sandwich menu and I'd like to sample almost everything on it. The pastries and desserts...if they're half as good as they look, they must be fabulous.

Any restaurant that offers a dessert called "Chocolate Oblivion" is worth a second trip.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)



Friday, December 1, 2006
Food, belated

When I created this category, I honestly meant to blog all of the cool and interesting restaurants I've eaten at in Denver. Because, while the Rocky Mountain region isn't famed for food, if you know where you go you can eat some fabulous food in Colorado's metropolitan areas.

There was the place on Boulder where I first tried and loved sushi. What was the name of that place again?

And that fabulous tapas place just off the mall that I still fantasize about. Also in Boulder. Someone, quick! Tell me the name of that place! I must go back there!

There's the place that used to be my favorite Denver restaurant, a little corner place called Saffron's where they served a saffron chicken dish that made my taste buds sit up, bed, and offer cash prizes. The sort of dish that you wake up in the middle of the night hallucinating about, if you go too long in between tastings. Sadly, no longer in business. The chef is at a new restaurant and serving a different menu, so my taste buds and I will never again taste the creamy tart butteriness of that saffron sauce. (It's been years, and I can still taste it....)

There's Samurai, thankfully still in business. It's a little hole-in-a-corner, "you have to know it's there to find it" Japanese restaurant that offers the best tempura I've ever eaten, bar none. And sushi! Lunch boxes to drool for. A Chicken Katsu sauce that has to be tasted to be believed. A teriyaki sauce with the perfect blend of tart and sweet.

There's the new place (the name will come back to me in a minute, I'm sure), Land Of Sushi, that just has to be a sister restaurant to Samurai. It serves the same fabulous Chicken Katsu and also offers an Oyster Roll that I gorge myself on every time I walk in the door.

There's Tokoyo Joe, which is a chain, but a purely local one I think. Good teriyaki chicken but what's really fabulous is their peanut sauce. They serve a chicken skewer in peanut sauce appetizer that's almost a meal (for me, anyhow). You can get the same peanuttier-than-peanut sauce in one of their bowl dishes, but I don't find white rice a particularly interesting addition to the flavor. (And it makes a dreadful presentation.) Also, since the sauce is very thick with bits of peanut in it, it's almost cloying if you eat too much. The appetizer size is perfect. Leaves you wanting more.

Maggiano's. I don't know if it's a chain or not, but there are two in Denver. One tucked into a nook on the 16th Street Mall and another in a castle-like building out south, by the Tech Center. Exceptionally good Italian Food. I've never had a meal there I didn't love.

We are gathered here today to listen to me babble on about my latest find. Thanks to Bernie, who insisted on taking me out for lunch yesterday to celebrate my 40th (shaddup) birthday last month, I can now add Le Central to the list.

Again, it's one of those only the cognoscenti know places. (Which, in this case, seems to mean, 'everyone but me' since everyone I've mentioned it to had already heard of it.)

Located in a garishly painted corner-block of older buildings on Lincoln, a bit north of 6th Street with the entrance tucked away on the north side, you probably wouldn't give it a second look unless you were wishing there were more zoning restrictions around tasteful paint choices for building exteriors.

The restaurant has the charm of two separate indoor dining areas and a closed-in atrium area that's drenched with sunlight during the day but protected from the winter winds. Simply and cleanly decorated, taking advantage of the building's structure but declining to participate in the shell of bad taste that houses it, it's a tiny, affordable French restaurant.

I selected a cup of the French Onion Soup and the Omelette du Jour, a "traditional French omelette with house smoked salmon, fresh basil and Brie cheese".

The soup was delightful. They used chicken broth instead of the more traditional beef, and it created a light but flavorful variation of the soup that was really delicious. The omelette was really too much of a good thing. Three eggs, four or five ounces of salmon, and a liberal melting of Brie. I managed about two-thirds of it before I gave up in despair. ($8, total)

Bernie chose the Panini du Jour, which was "Canadian bacon, basil and pine-nut pesto, tomato, red onion and fresh mozzarella within our house made fougasse bread." Vagaries of menu punctuation aside, he was very impressed. ($7)

Affordable, indeed.

There were many other items that tempted me. Paillard de Poulet (Pounded chicken breast, pan-seared, and flavored with basil and pine nut pesto, served over house salad tossed with tarragon vinaigrette. $7) Sandwich Jambon Fromage (Ham and Brie with tomatoes and pesto served on a grilled baguette. $7)

Among the starters that tempted my taste buds were two in particular. Escargots à l'Ail (Six escargots sautéed in butter and garlic and flambéed with Pernod served on baby red potatoes.) and L'Ail, et le Brie, et les Croutons (Baked whole garlic head, Brie cheese, and toast) ($7 each)

Filet of sole, grilled pork loin, numerous other salads, trout, there were so many choices! All of which looked fabulous.

But what the restaurant is famous for (and what I'll have to go back to try) is mussels. Les Moules et Frites

Basilic - White wine, shallots, garlic, fresh basil, and diced tomatoes
Provençale - Garlic, butter, parsley, Pernod; topped with bread crumbs
Petits Lardons - Shallots, white wine, butter finished with warm bacon and tomato vinaigrette
Safran - Shallots, cream, saffron, onion, garlic, and chopped tomatoes

And so many more....

The waiter explained that it's hard to say what will be on the menu - it changes twice daily. I look forward to going back (they're open for brunch from 11-2 on both Saturday and Sunday) to see what else they have to offer.

And, at $9 for a "bucket" of mussels (and I can't wait to see that presentation) I just gotta give them a try.

So. You know. In case you're ever wondering if I can talk about anything but drains and trains?

Yes, I can.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:40 AM | Comments (6)



Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Wholly Edible

So, last night, the R.C. and I did a Philanthropic Thing and supported the Denver Center for Performing Arts with a $25 donation (each) that, not incidentally, also garnered us access to the Sneak A Peek at our brand-new neighborhood Whole Foods.

What a very odd and interesting event.

Me, I could have lived without the group doing covers of Frank Sinatra standards. Yes, I understand there's some kind of performance of same running at the DCPA right now and it was, after all, a benefit, but still.

As it happens, I do like Frank Sinatra's music. As a matter of fact, I have a particular fondness for the old Big Band and Swing music.

I just feel that a group (with accompaniment) belting out standards through an amplifying sound system in a warehouse-shaped grocery store not designed for purity of acoustics was a bit much. I might have felt differently if they hadn't been miked. As it was, all I heard were echoes and distortion.

But Whole Foods! I hear you asking, "what did you think of the store, Anne? And what did they give you to eat?

The store was...expensive. The prices are, yes, approximately 50% over what you'd see in a normal grocery store.

And it was amazing. I loved the "natural" and "organic" and "unprocessed" signs everywhere. That kind of thing appeals to the cootie-fearing snob in me.

And I loved the food. They offered tastes of the brisket, meatballs, sausages, rotisserie chicken, summer sausage, and smoked salmon, and I tried them all. The brisket was tender, the sausage was spicy and had a good texture, and I'm a sucker for good summer sausage, which this was, being made in-house. (The favor was a teensy bit bland, but that probably had more to do with the fact that I'd just been eating jalapeno meatballs and sausage than to any problems with the summer sausage.) The chicken was moist and the salmon was, for smoked salmon, very tasty.

And the cookies and cakes. (The R.C. had cake. I was still working on a plate of mashed potatoes and chicken when we got there, but I found time to eat two cookies.) And the fruits.

And the pizza (I passed).

And the beef with balsamic vinegar onions. (Yum. I could have eaten a pound of this.)

And the wine (we passed).

And the salsa (we didn't, personally get to try this because the line was too long, which suggests to me it has A Certain Reputation, so I'll be trying it later.)

And some kind of tangerine punch or fruit juice.

And shrimp salad.

And some fabulous salad with greens, blueberries, and walnuts that I'll definitely be searching for in the future.

And chocolate-dipped strawberries that were only surpassed by the breathtaking display of brick chocolate and truffles that we got to see, but not sample.

And there was a giant display of cheese that we also weren't allowed to nibble on. Very sad.

The smoked salmon quesadillas are the only thing we tried all evening that we really didn't care for and that's mostly because neither of us are big smoked salmon fans. But we like salmon and they offer wild (not farmed) salmon year-round! (There was even, in the ready-to-eat section, a description of a prepared halibut that I'd be happy to try, and normally I can't stand "fish" at any price.)

When the store opens, they'll have a huge ready-to-eat section that will include Indian food, Mexican, "American" (the aforementioned chicken and whatnot), Japanese, pizza, sandwiches, and I can't remember what else. Polenta, fixed three different ways! I adore polenta.

I don't remember seeing advertisements for any of your rubbishy macaroni-and-marshmallow salads so beloved of Middle America's Picnicking crowd, which was another excellent sign.

There's an in-store dining area (and café tables outside) or you can take it with you.

And they roast their own coffee blends, in-house. (We got to watch and I tried the mocha java, a blend I'm particularly fond of.)

It would be far too expensive to use as a replacement for a "regular" grocery store, but I can easily see myself walking over 2-3 times a week and picking up something fresh and ready-made for dinner that night. Assuming the quality remains as high as it was last night, which, considering the reputation of the stores, I think can be assumed.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)



Monday, June 13, 2005
Rodizio Grill

This weekend's Dining Adventure was the elegant Rodizio Grill.

We showed up on Saturday afternoon, around 1:00. The restaurant never got busy while we were there, possibly the $10 - $15 range for meals is a bit steep for Denver Diners during the lunch hour. The restaurant had been recommended to us by a coworker of my Dining Companion, and we were prepared for an adventure.

I wasn't sure what to expect from a "Brazilian Steakhouse" restaurant but since I'm back on The Diet and since I was told I'd be served a lot of protein in nifty, sample-sized portions, I was game.

To begin with, the location was delightful. The lower end of LoDo, with Union Station footnoting the north end of the 16th Street Mall promenade, is rapidly becoming a favorite area of mine. Not only is Tattered Cover's LoDo location part of the neighborhood, but it's dotted with restaurants and coffee shops in abundance and home to some of downtown's most interesting (if unsung) buildings.

We picked a perfect day for it, as well. Warm, but not too warm. A hint of a breeze. Mostly blue skies with a rare, high drift of clouds to help keep the heat down. If I hadn't been so hungry by the time we reached the restaurant, I might have wanted to walk around the block a couple of times just to enjoy the summer air.

Since I was hungry and my Dining Companion was starving, we elected to eat.

Once inside, we were shown promptly to an immaculately set table, glistening with white cloth and spread with the usual utensils and, my first hurdle, some kind of tongs. I foresaw Social Embarrassment in my immediate future.

There were no menus. Our waitperson recited the three dining options available to us.

There was the "Full Rodizio," an all-you-can-eat salad bar and unlimited meats. Then the "Limited Rodizio" with full salad bar and a sampler of any two meats. Last, but certainly not least, the Salad Bar option.

We immediately realized that the Full Rodizio was the only way to go.

We placed our drink orders (tea and water, we're not boozers, especially at lunch) and took off to examine the salad bar.

I saw the Feijoada and the Arroz Branco (Black bean stew and Brazilian white rice) but was unable to identify them, so I passed. In hindsite, I do regret that.

I dove in with enthusiasm on some of the other dishes, though. I was mindful of warnings about pacing myself, and took only a couple of bites of each dish:

Couve (collard greens and bacon, sautéed)
Salada de Frango (chicken salad)
Salada Rodizio (Rodizio salad)
Pastrami de Peru e Azeitonas (turkey pastrami and olives)
Caesar salad
Salada de Siri (crab salad)
Mixed fruits

They were all good and certainly at least a touch above the general "salad bar" offerings in Denver restaurants. Everything was very fresh and the presentation was worthy of praise in itself. (There were four times as many dishes as I've described here. For instance, quail's eggs were on the buffet. I eyed them for a moment, then decided that that was more adventure than I was prepared to undertake.)

The Rodizio salad had a lovely crunch with caramelized walnuts in a smooth, light dressing over mixed greens. It was a touch less flavorful than I hoped, the Caesar was more to my taste, but I'd certainly make a point of having both of them again when I return. Both salads were at a lovely temperature, not warm, but not so cold the greens seemed to be frozen.

Couve is a dish known to the USofA southern states but probably not their northern neighbors. It's a nice dish. The collard greens have a slightly bitter flavor, but the bacon comes across with a smooth, smoky taste that complements them nicely. It's not a dish I can eat a lot of, but the three of four bites I had were very good.

The Salada de Siri was merely...uneventful. I'm not a major fan of seafood salad, though, so that may be my failing.

The mixed fruits were noteworthy in that all of the fruit had been ripe before being cut for the table. Too often I find the fruit offerings in restaurants to be hard, bitter, and green. I didn't have that problem this time. If I hadn't been saving space for the rest of the experience, I could easily have gone back for seconds or thirds.

By the time I'd sampled only two or three of the above-mentioned items, the waitperson was back with the appetizers I hadn't realized were included with our meal. (All three options are accompanied by the Rodizio appetizers.)

The appetizers, like everything else we ate that day (except the salad bar) had been cooked fresh when we sat down to order.

We were served:
Bolinho de Arroz (spiced rice, rolled into a ball and fried)
Pastel (flakey pastry with a meat filling)
Mandioca Frita (Fried yuka root)
Polenta (fried in sticks with dipping sauce)
Banana Frita (sugar/cinnamon covered fried banana)

Sadly, the fried items were simply...fried items. Not many foods can stand up to being fried without developing a sort of bland taste and texture. Once I got past the fried layer, the rice was lovely. The Mandioca Frita was delicious, but I've never had yuka before and I'd no idea what to expect.

And...speaking of the unexpected...I certainly didn't expect a sweet, that early in the meal. The banana was a big surprise. It wasn't overcooked, it had been fried just long enough to give the coating a dark color (to which the cinnamon contributed) and to soften the fruit itself without turning it into paste. My Dining Companion, who has a sweet tooth and is very fond of bananas, surprised me by rejecting this dish. I'm not a huge banana fan, but I had a couple of bites. The flavor was interesting. Cooking the banana intensified its flavor without losing complexity.

The service was leisurely. We never felt ignored, but we didn't feel rushed either. We had plenty of time to visit the salad bar two or three times, if we'd wanted to, but two seconds after we signaled that we were ready to move on, the first meat course arrived.

Signaling was part of the fun. You were given three blocks, green, yellow, and then red, glued together in a stack. When you wanted the Grill Servers to stop by your table, you put the green block uppermost. Whenever a server brought a new course from the kitchen he (or, "they" in our case, since we had a trainee server being monitored by a more experienced employee) stopped by your table, explained what he was carrying, and asked you if you wanted it. (When you had enough for the moment, you turned the red block uppermost and they didn't stop. And then, when you were done, you laid the stack on its side.

We signaled, a server stopped by.

Coracao. Grilled chicken hearts.

We passed.

Next up, Assado, Brazilian pot roast. We both tried it. This was my Dining Companion's favorite dish of the day. My opinion was initially not so positive; by accident my first serving was all fat. I agreed that the chunk of potato was beautifully cooked and very flavorful but it wasn't until we got a second chance at the Assado later in the meal that I was able to taste the fork-tender meat. It had to have been slow-cooked for hours, judging by the way it wrapped itself gently around my fork. Lightly flavored, the strongest was the delicate taste of garlic, and beautifully moist, I could easily have made a meal off of that alone. It was lovely.

Of course, I felt that way about almost everything I tried.

Next up was Picanha, top sirloin. This is where the tongs came in. The meat server makes a slice in the steak, you grab the edge with your tongs, and then he finishes cutting off your slice. I got it wrong at first, naturally (the prophesied embarrassment), but I soon got the hang of it.

The menu on-line describes the Picanha as "sophisticated" and that's the perfect word. My mental notes got as far as Oh. My God. Seconds later I was calculating just how big of a glutton I was willing to be. I contemplated tripping the Grill Servers the next time they passed my table, but, as my Dining Companion said repeatedly, "you have to pace yourself," so I held back.

The presentation of the meat was as balanced as everything else. The Picanha, which I would have thought impossible to surpass, was followed by Peru Com Bacon, tender lumps of turkey, wrapped in bacon, and roasted over a slow fire.

I haven't been able to bear turkey since I ate it daily for six months when I was dieting, but I ate this. I ate it again when they brought it around a second time, and I'd have eaten a third helping, if it had been offered. It probably helps that the strongest flavor was that of bacon, but it was a gorgeous mouthful any way you looked at it.

The next offering was Lombo, a marinated pork loin. Mild, not at all salty, and as tender as the other meats we'd tried.

Then we were treated to Linguica, a pork sausage. It was moist without being greasy, flavorful without being so spicy that it overwhelmed the rest of the meal, and very tender. Definitely a '10'. When the chance for seconds came around later, I happily accepted.

At this point, my Dining Companion complained of getting full and returned to the salad bar for more fruit. I accepted the Grill Servers' fruit offering instead, warm, sweet Abacaxi, roasted pineapple. It was sweet beyond sweet with some kind of glaze, but the tartness of the pineapple (even the ripest pineapple has that tangy flavor) kept it from being cloying.

My only regret was that it hadn't been served when I still had some of the Lombo on my plate. Ordinarily, pork and pineapple make a great combination. It would have been interesting to see how Rodizio's pork and glazed pineapple complemented each other.

Next were chicken thighs, redolent with rosemary. Do I have to repeat that the meat was tender and moist?

The last fresh meat offering was Fraldinha, beef tenderloin. Mmmm. My favorite cut of meat and they did it justice.

There was a grilled veggie course, as well,Legumes Com Parmesao, grilled green peppers, onion, and two kinds of squash, all with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

It was after this vegetable course that the second meat courses came by. While my Dining Companion toyed with a few pieces of fresh fruit, I went through most of the meat menu for the second time. My Dining Companion accepted a second serving of the Assado. I accepted seconds on everything.

I could have gone on...there are few limits to my gluttony, but at the last moment, common sense held me back. We tipped the serving blocks on their side, leaned back, and sighed happily.

Moments later, our waitperson was at the table, asking if we'd like dessert.

If you're going to pig out, then pig out, I always say.

"What have you got?" we asked.

She wheeled up a trolley and started naming the dishes. My Dining Companion and I knew which one we wanted the moment we heard the description.

I've forgotten the name, but it was a warm cinnamon pastry with a cream/egg custard filling. On the side, a scoop of cold, vanilla ice cream, and the entire concoction was drizzled with caramel. An additional decorative border of chocolate finished the plate.

We waited a few minutes for this to arrive (the pastries, like everything else, were cooked when we ordered them) and gently digested the first part of our meal.

About the time we were looking around for it, the dish arrived. Two forks.

My sweet tooth is not large. I contented myself with one spoonful of ice cream and three or four bites of the unusual (but delicious) pastry.

We lingered over our so-swanky beverages of iced tea and water for a couple more minutes, then made our way back out into the Denver sunshine.

Two very happy hours, we'd spent in the restaurant, and I promise it seemed less than half that long. (I did, however, decide to skip dinner that evening.)

It's a leisurely dining experience, but I enjoyed it enormously. Now, all I need to do is to find someone willing to go back with me. (My Dining Companion claims she won't be ready to revisit the scene for at least a year, but I'd love to go back soon.)

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Posted by AnneZook at 07:02 PM | Comments (7)