Saturday, October 31, 2009

Boo Part 2

Okay, love me some Groovy Ghoulies but Halloween is for gettin' skeert so here's the trailer for the TV-movie of Salem's Lot....also from my early days. Watching it again, the effects are cheesy and the acting lame and yet, I'm still as creeped out as ever. That kid in the window....

Happy Halloween





On this day of ghosts and goblins, my darkest fear is the dreaded Bridezilla as we prepare for tomorrow's bridal show. I'm fairly burnt out on the bridal biz after a long season but we'll regroup and sell like the wind tomorrow. It's always cool to catch up with the vendors and score wedding cake samples. Catty commentary during the bridal runway show is always a guarantee. Oh, and just when I thought I had seen the tackiest groom's cakes....yikes!

Our latest wedding was one for the record books. Let's just say it involved flying rings and American Idol. No, not David Cook, either.

The video is from another of my childhood Saturday morning cartoons. I actually thought I imagined this one and recently learned it was real! Groovy Ghoulies is the name and it's my Halloween toast to everybody.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Debut of the Grey Goose






















We took the Grey Goose aka my new car out for her first visit to downtown tonight. She's my new Camry and she is fierce and sweet at the same time. We went to Sweet Tomatoes, a chain salad buffet restaurant in Ward Parkway. Helene, the ever-present German greeter sent us on our way to convincing ourselves once again we were eating healthy because it's SALAD after all. Never mind the molten lava cake for dessert and the antacid I hit when home. Sigh.

The animals featured are our cat Tyson hanging out in the bathroom basin and my co-worker Jenai's pups all done up for All Hallow's Eve.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Parental Guidance


As I continue to delve further into the world of cooking, I have been seeking to create family history through food. I want to find out more about what the specialties of my grandparents and their parents were. I grew up among some outstanding cooks so I know the stories are out there so I plan to research my family's life in food. I have found old recipes of my Mom's and have spoken with Aunt Bonnie and other relatives about gathering old recipes and possibly creating a family cookbook. The extended family has given me overwhelmingly positive feedback. My own parents are a different story.

My mother and father's ages are 85 and 89, respectively. They still live in their small but cozy home in St. Marys, WV. My father has grown alarmingly more frail in the past few years and my mother suffers from Alzheimer's disease. My Mom has no recollection of her abilities as a cook. I have extremely fond memories of her baking amazing warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies. She was fantastic at coming home from a meal elsewhere and soon display her uncanny ability to duplicate it. If I ask her about it now though, she doesn't remember and sometimes becomes combative about the subject.

My dad was a cook on a ship in the Navy during World War II. The man can make chili and hot dog sauce that won raves from his fellow Navy boys and continued to earn him kudos through the years from Men's Fellowship picnics at church to his own family. Dad is not only a great cook but oh my, can the man eat! Even today in his fragile state he can put away a bigger, badder plate of food than I ever could and believe me, I'm no slouch.

I asked Dad recently for his takes on hot dog sauce as well as his awesome potato soup. He very carefully told me his methods of preparation while working them out in his head. Mom made this very difficult as she argued with every statement he made. Her disease causes her to be increasingly difficult but my Dad just lets it pass and loves her just the same. I managed to write down all of his instructions in the end.

When I return home on Nov. 12, I will be telling my Dad he can no longer drive as he is a danger to himself and others and will take the keys away from him. I will be telling a former Navy man who worked dangerous jobs in construction and raised three children and walked up frozen hills in winter to deliver food baskets to families in need that he is no longer competent to drive. I know it's for his welfare but it still feels disrespectful.

I want to learn to be a fine cook like my Dad. I want to cook his specialties to help me always feel close to him. If that also helps me become even half the man he is, I could not ask for more.


Click on the title of this post for a music video of Rufus Wainright singing his take on the Beatles song "Across the Universe". It was the song I was listening to when I wrote this post and I wanted to capture the moment, so to speak.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Stew Doctor is In


The first tastes of the Italian Beef Stew were underwhelming to say the least. The word "bland" comes to mind. I created the stew in a slow cooker as directed and to the letter. Two ingredients I used but hadn't worked with prior to were fresh fennel and prosciutto ham. The recipe called for the entire fennel bulb chopped and boy could you taste it. It was seriously strong. The recipe just didn't work for us as prepared.

We really liked the ingredients, though, so we decided to rescue the stew. My old friend from college, Michelle Grimsley Tallman is a seasoned cook who tries recipes than deconstructs them to see what worked and what she can improve on. This is an ability I want to attain but I wonder if it's learned or if it comes naturally. We realized that the stew was overwhelmed by the fennel. It called for the entire bulb, chopped. So we doctored. Added veggies and corn and some garlic powder, oregano and Italian seasoning. Keith then said and I quote, "Now we'll let it fester a bit." I suspect he will not be hosting his own cooking show soon. We improved the stew immensely and were happy with it in the end. I'm not sharing the recipe as I didn't feel it was successful in it's original state. But when the doctorin' began.....it was fun to create goodness from disappointment. Not only did we rescue the dish but it keeps me motivated despite a bland setback.

I really dug bein' able to rescue a dish. No food waste is a good thing. All hail the Stew Doctor.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Killer Finale to a Madcap Wedding Season














Yesterday's wedding was the endcap to a productive but crazy season. Weddings were slightly down this year but the events themselves more intricate which in turn demanded harder work. The nuptials yesterday were seemingly simple on paper but proved to be monstrous to coordinate in the course of the day. The cake's flavors were wrong, the DJ had numerous issues with his equipment and the string duet tried to cancel at the last minute. These issues only capped off a string of personal disasters the bride faced in the course of the week. Astoundingly, all ended well and the bride could not have been happier. I also could not have been happier as this was the last big wedding of the official season.

Trying to shake off the exhaustion today, I was way late to start an Italian beef stew that takes nine hours in the slow cooker. It is still simmering at the moment so we'll be able to check it out tomorrow.

Quick, yummy appetizer I put together tonight: Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits topped with Cream Havarti cheese and Boar's Head Pepperoni.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sold to the Highest Bidder









The Healthcare Foundation Dinner was being held at the hotel tonight. Following the dinner a silent auction would take place. Among the items were several foodie baskets. Those of particular interest to me were the ones featuring chocolate and wine. If those suckers were still around tomorrow, I'd be bidding for sure...

Tomorrow's wedding caps off an extremely crazy two months and a long wedding season. This event will be interesting to say the least.....tune in tomorrow for pics.

I came home to build the first fire in the fireplace of the cold weather season. A little cozy relaxation before the madness...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gleeful Grocery Shopping



It's like an episode of Glee at the Piggly Wiggly! If only life were like this...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pardon My Pesto Pizza
















Those slow-roasted tomatoes and red peppers found their way onto a delicious pesto pizza tonight. The pizza needs a pardon though as I sold it to a couple of friends as being more homemade than it was. We intended to make our own crust and due to time constraints, it didn't happen.

So it's now about an awesome dinner done quickly. We used Mama Mary's gourmet thin pizza crust with honey, Buittoni pesto and shredded Sargento's Bistro Italian blend cheese. We spread the pesto(lots) and the cheese(of course,lots) on the crust along with some crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Now, I have to say I'm not a big fan of bleu cheese as it's a tad too pungent for me. I've tried several dishes with bleu cheese and it always seems to overpower everything else in the dish. Keith loves it, though so we went for it. Topped them off with those slow-roasted veggies and in the oven for 15 minutes at 425.

That pizza was totally excellent. The tomatoes and peppers set it off and the Gorgonzola was subtle. Next time we'll go for the homemade angle.

The autumn colors are goin' out in a blaze of glory....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tasty Tomes (and the new nook!)






















I had no sooner stepped into the house and I was surrounded by a heavenly aroma emanating from the kitchen. Keith had been slow-roasting tomatoes and peppers from our garden for three hours with olive oil and Italian seasoning. We'll be using these for some homemade pizza tomorrow night. Stay tuned...

The last couple of days have been all about my beloved book world. Sunday, Jim Brickman performed at my Barnes and Noble, grand piano and all, in our second-floor solarium. I missed it as I was working for the hotel but by all accounts it was superb.

The big announcement today was Barnes and Nobles entry into the e-reader world. The company introduced the nook which at first glance appears to be all kinds of awesome. The nook can hold up to 17,500 books, has a sleek design with touchscreen and includes the ability to even lend others an e-book. You can pre-order now(and Keith did) and we will sell them in stores as well. I have mixed feelings about e-readers as I love the printed page but the nook does seem quite cool. Take a closer look at www.bn.com.

I recently finished John DeLucie's book about his colorful life and behind-the-scenes peek at the renowned Waverly Inn in NYC where DeLucie is executive chef. It was a good read and a titillating glimpse into Graydon Carter's world. Mr. Carter is the editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair as well as the owner of the Waverly Inn and thus the restaurant is quite the celeb magnet.

I'm presently reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. It's an eye-opening read so far and I'll talk more about it when I've finished it. I can say that if Mr. Boudain cooks as well as he writes(and by all accounts, he does), he must be a fierce, passionate chef. I'm already looking forward to reading the Nasty Bits.

Completely unrelated to food is a children's book called Nubs: The Story of a Mutt, a Marine and a Miracle. This book tore my heart out. It's about two heroes and an unforgettable friendship between this soldier and a dog named Nubs. I can't say anymore other than to wish gourmet meals for Nubs for the rest of his life.

I must say that as a voracious reader that I will continue to talk about books occasionally. I defer the expertise, however, to my good friend Charlotte who was an invaluable resource in helping me create this blog. Char has a particularly awesome book blog called Charlotte's Web of Books. Check it out.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blanc Burgers and Bottles









































This place is already one of my new favorites. I had high hopes as all of the reviews have been raves and sure enough, the praise as well-earned. Blanc Burgers and Bottles is a hip gourmet burger palace in Westport. The decor is sleek and stylish. The food was far easier to select than the beverages. Their wine list is large and impressive as is the beer list. They also feature milk shakes either made with Shatto Milk and frozen custard or "grown-up" with different liquors.

Keith got a blueberry soda and I got a Samuel Smith IPA. We ordered cornmeal-dusted calamari fries which we loved. They were served with a yummy lemon-lime aioli dipping sauce. We then split a burger called the American Kobe which featured a Kobe beef burger with port-wine grilled onions, mustard aioli, truffle butter and watercress on a salt and pepper brioche bun. We also shared an order of Boulevard Pale Ale battered onion rings that were served in a cool mini-grocery cart. The rings were perfectly battered and seasoned and served with both a chipotle aioli and a vinegary made-from-scratch ketchup. The burger was melt-in-your-mouth goodness. If I wasn't so overly full, there is so much more I wanted to try. Still, we got some of those chocolate shakes with the Foo's Frozen Custard to go. They were so good I didn't want them to end.

Simply put, I can't wait to go back.

Outfest '09













It was a sunny but chilly Sunday at Outfest at Hyde Park where myself, Keith and Kevin manned a booth for the hotel. We actually moved our booth once to stay in the sun and hold off that ill wind that kept blowing through. That same wind created a colorful autumn visual,though as leaves fell all around us throughout the day.

There were many booths represented and the entertainment was diverse ranging from the Heartland Men's Chorus to the Madness Girls featuring the incomparable Spencer Brown. The brothers from Amazing Race were there also! They are actually from Liberty. Congrats to Mitch Levine and the GLCC for a great event.

I will say that I seriously need to take my big behind to the gym tomorrow morning not to mention give the wallet a break. All three meals were eaten out and all were delish as I literally felt my waistline grow. Breakfast was one of mine and Keith's favorites at Einstein's Bagels. The Santa Fe Wrap features turkey sausage, ancho-lime salsa, pepperjack cheese and jalapeno cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla. Lunch was takeout from Panera. Hot and hearty black bean soup with the Sierra Turkey sandwich on multigrain bread.

Dinner was in a class by itself and deserved a post of it's own....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wedding Scramble


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Prior to arriving at work, I truly felt prepared for a smooth day of wedding work. Best laid plans were true to form as the day turned out to be anything but. We weren't actually coordinating today's two weddings but we may as well have. Both events went really well but you can tell exhaustion is setting in for all involved as we near the end of our season. In the course of the day, I helped set up banquet rooms, set up fruit and cheese displays, popped multiple Champagne corks and helped with the plate-ups. The whole day seemed a mad scramble but we all pulled through.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Meal at the Merc













I've mentioned the Willow Spring Mercantile(aka the Merc) in a previous post and today I finally got to experience lunch at the bistro instead of takeout. The bistro is all kinds of charming and owner Daphne's eclectic flourishes are evident in every corner. I met my co-workers Kim and Julie(with Julie's adorable daughter) there. They both sampled some tasty wraps and I ordered the latest incarnation of their fantastic roast beef sandwich which is now on a croissant. As a side, I got some seriously excellent roasted red pepper soup. The soup was packed with flavor and featured some enormous croutons. Once again, check them out at www.shopthemercantile.com. And ask for that roasted red pepper soup when you go in person.

When I got home from work, Keith had fired up the new deep-fryer we bought and also baked some nice shrimp in the oven. So nice to be home before 8 pm on a Friday night. Weddings on the way tomorrow....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jiminy Cricket! It's the Relish Cooking Expo








After a long day at work, we headed to the Liberty Community Center to man a trade show booth for the hotel at the Relish Cooking Expo. It was a smaller show but well-attended for their first ever.

Our friends Gina and Janet own Ooey Gooey Chocolates in downtown Excelsior Springs and they were one of the sponsors for the show. They were set up in the backstage VIP area with a bountiful display of their luscious cupcakes. Between the show and the ones I took home, I tried them all. French Vanilla. Carrot with Caramel Icing. Chocolate and Strawberry. Sweet, sweet sugar overload. Their chocolate-encased bottles of wine make for terrific gifts. I also tried some tasty jalapeno and pepperjack sausage from Paradise Locker Meats in Trimble, Mo.

The cooking demo was hosted and produced by Relish magazine. The demo kitchen on the stage was an impressive set-up complete with hightop cocktail tables with floor-length linen for some of lucky attendees. Jon Ashton, a cheeky lad from Liverpool, was the guest chef from Relish. He tends to start every statement with "Jiminy Cricket!" Between Ashton's Brit wit and an auditorium full of the Real Housewives of Liberty the show at times was downright bawdy. I won't go into detail other than to say the first recipe involved meatballs. 'Nuff said.

The show was a kick and the first food expo we had done. Jon Ashton was an amiable host but we could have done with a little less performing and a little more cooking. We only made it halfway through the show and needed to pack up and head home as we have even bigger days ahead.

At Barnes and Noble, we just started carrying a truly unique gift item. They are called "Don't Break the Bottle" puzzles. They are wooden puzzles designed to be placed on a wine bottle. You gift the bottle with the puzzle attached and the person has to solve the puzzle in order to open the wine. These puzzles also include a corkscrew inside. Fun and slightly sadistic.

Lunch today was from Noodles, which is rapidly becoming my fave fast food. They do everything fresh and healthy, including my favorite Noodles dish, the Tuscan Multigrain Pasta with Parmesan Chicken. So flavorful and I always typically end up wearing part of it.

Those sauce stains on my shirt are the equivalent of a starred review.