Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rusty Trombone

My first musical instrument was a trombone. I was maybe 4 and I wanted to grow up and be in the marching band. (Early indication of what a dork i would grow up to be...) I would practice marching around the house and yard playing my trombone, swinging around like I saw the big kids do. I even got to march with the high school kids at half time once. I don't know if this trombone was rusty or not, but the slide didn't slide easily. It was either under-oiled or I was too small and weak to stretch my arm out. Anyway, that dream came to an end one day I was marching around and let the nose drop into the grass, jamming the mouthpiece into my lips! Ouch! I was driven to the hospital (over an hour away and across the state line) to get several stitches leaving 2 lumps in my not quite as talented lips that can still be seen today. And just as big a traumatic loss, I missed out on having the oh so rare soda when the carbonation burned my stitches. That is when I learned how to pout. I put down that dangerous trombone and decided I wanted to be involved in safer activities, like football! OJ Simpson became my new hero! I could run in slo-mo, spinning around defenders/living room furniture and diving into the end-zone/couch. Of all the things that I have hurt myself doing, football wasn't one of them. Later I took up the saxaphone, which I played until high school, when all band geeks had to be in marching band. My tramatic experience with marching band (and the increase in dorkdom I would be subjected to) made me quite band once and for all. Even though, I still grin when I think of 76 trombones leading the big parade.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Taco Threekend

I had heard mixed reviews for this new taco stand. Opened by the Burger Stand people, why isnt it The Taco Stand? I guess they want up-scale, and that is one of the complaints, "$3 tacos!" Well, I had the 3 tacos com, choosing
  1. Steak

  2. with chimichurri sauce, spicy peppers, onions and potatoes

  1. Peruvian Potato

  2. roasted purple potatoes, roasted garlic purée, poblano-corn salsa

    1. Chicken

    2. salsa verdé, queso fresco, tomatillo relish and toasted almonds

Each very good on their own , making a quite a nice meal. Chips and Salsa while we waited was appreciated, since it was EOF night and way past dinner time. The plate came with my 3 tacos in bed of red cabbage, pretty and functional, holding the tacos together. The Potato came highly recommended, and did not disappoint. Kind of like tasty and colorful garlicky smashed (rough mashed) potatoes with a nice garnish served in soft corn tortilla's. Steak taco was good, but came in last place on this plate. I have been known to pour salsa/taco/hot sauce on all of my mexican foods, but these tacos didn't need it. A little dab of the tasty salsa on the steak was about all the adulteration my dinner required. The Chicken was my fave! Salsa verde and tomatillo relish, if you have been following you know how I feel about green, were just delightful! Fresh and tangy with shredded chicken and tortillas that didn't disintegrate when picked up, yummy! Only downside to the meal was the Dos Equis lager that they had to build for me like a Guinness. Not quite cold enough and foamy, but a nice compliment to the tacos. My friend had a Dark n' Stormy, an illegal one, since it Goslings Rum has registered the name, and there wasn't Goslings Rum in the drink. Despite that, it was very good, lending the credit to the Goya brand Ginger Beer I saw poured into it. I will have to go back sometime just for that, and have a taco just because!

Saturday Border Bandito. Border Bandito has been around forever. There is a list of restaurants in Lawrence that have failed in the 35 years or so they have been open. The 3 pages read like a trip down memory lane, some good, some bad memories. Though all the changes in Lawrence, this place has stayed the same. Same blurry TV. Same self-serve soda fountain with Pepsi products. Same Taco Bar, menu, decor, and the owner still assembling the burritos himself. Ahhh. I used to go here regularly for cheap Texas Burritos Sunday special. We had a group that would desend on the place and devour our burritos and countless sodas and leave nearly cleaned plates in our wake. Good cheap dinner. They are no longer open on Sunday's, so I guess there is change, and the prices have gone up, but the Burritos match those of my memories. The Texas Burrito is a huge flour tortilla wrapped around beef, beans, cheese, sour cream (I get the combo) and covered in a red sauce resulting in a foot of smothered burrito goodness! Grab a free basket of fresh tortilla chips and a bottle of the hot sauce and head for a table or booth and prepare to dig in. Half a bottle of the yummy hot sauce goes on the burrito. They have a mild sauce I have never had, and a green sauce that I think is just ground jalapeños, plenty hot but not quite the flavor I am going for here. The chips make nice scoops and pushers to get the burrito on the fork and in the mouth, this is not a pick-up-and-eat burrito! Fifteen minutes later I am resisting the temptation to like the last of the sauce off my plate, knowing that I better get up and start moving before I get stuck in the booth. MMM,mmm, MMM. The Taco Bar is also pretty good, with seasoned ground beef and chicken fillings for hard shells, soft shells, buns or taco salad shells and an extensive salad bar for your fixin's then queso dip and chili con carne to top if off. Available side dishes of little fried burritos, tater tots and sopapilla anchor the feast, and on weekend you can get enchiladas, too. Retro Mexican food (before everything was covered in cheese) that is coming back in style.

Sunday Tortas Jalisco. This is now my favorite Mexican in town! I liked my meal (Carnivorous Combo) so much, I made it the destination of my B-day dinner when I had another profoundly tasty meal (Fish Tacos Diablo). Quick descriptions, the Combo has thin sliced beef and pork steaks, seasoned and grilled, served with rice, beans, avocado salad, jalapeño and warmed tortillas. The Fish tacos were cubed Mahi-mahi marinated in diablo sauce then grilled and served in soft corn tortilla filled with pico de gallo and beans and rice. I like foods that allow me to get my hands messy and both of these are multiple napkin meals. I sliced the meats and put a couple pieces on part of a tortilla with a little beans, slices of jalapeño and avocado and some of their spicy salsa.. yummy! The jalapeño has been slightly cook somehow, to soften the outside skin while leaving the inside hot and fresh, a magical thing. At the B-day dinner at least 5 people pleased they ordered this after my endorsement. The Fish tacos were what I want when I think of fish tacos. 1- corn tortillas, 2- grilled fish (not fried), 3- spicy (without having to add anything) and the pico was delicious, a little saucy with chunk of stuff including pineapple which perfectly complimented the heat of the diablo sauce.
Not one to normally get desert at a taqueria, both that where brought out where excellent. Little triangle unstuffed sopapias and some lady finger/cheese caky things were shared with the table and elicited raves.
OK, so that is the end of my 9 days of tacos. I missed a day, but the first friday's dinner was unexpected bonus. Learned from this was that while quick and cheap, fast food tacos are just that, fast food, and you get what you pay for.
Viva Tacos!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


So I popped into one of my favorite retail establishments this morning as I drove from my old office to my slave camp. It has been a long time. It has been remodeled and I had to get assistance. Of course dressed for work in slacks and a polo (and flip flops) the staff was very helpful and willing to point me in the right direction. I took indirect route, absorbing all the colors and tactile sensations along the way. This might be the happiest place in OP! Soft and silky, smooth and cottony, slick and velvety, what a sensory overload! Intricate curves, patterns and designs inspire the imagination. It has long been thought I should get a job here, I could spend hours folding and sorting, directing and recommending. People would come from far and wide to tap into my expertise. I am a little out of practice, but I think I could get back in the groove pretty quickly, returning to the legendary form of yesteryear. I would walk around the store with a tape measure draped around my shoulders, in position to sort things out. I wonder if management would want me to wear mittens... :( ... I would say "No, you cant do that. Would you put a jacket on the Venus de Milo? Does David need pants? No, you cant cover my artistry."
Back to reality as the clerk asks if I found what I was looking for. I did, and so much more as I walked out of Victoria's Secret smiling even more on the inside than outside. This is my disney land!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sushi x2

I ruined my run of tacos on Thursday when I had noodle leftovers again for lunch and sushi for dinner. I figured sushi was worthy of an imperfect taco game. We went to Kobe instead of the standard Yokohama because of the Sidewalk Sale. Downtown would be chaos and crowded and I had heard a good review of Kobe's sushi, so we tried someplace new. Well, it wasn't Yokohama, or even Wa. Not that it wasn't good, but for me so much of the dining experience, especially ethnic or fancier meals, is ambiance. Yokohama can be a little loud, especially when a table of kids start in with the sake bombs, but the dark and neon atmosphere is cozy and the din of liveliness is comfortable. Wa is a little more stately, not quite to pretentious, but more adult. By comparison, Kobe might as well be on the other side of the river. (Nothing against the other side of the river...) At 7pm in July, the sun makes the place glow from all the windows, illuminating things better left in the dark and kind of making it hard to read the menu. Looking around the room there were a couple Springer episodes. There was the 40-something mother, daughter and 5 grandkids, one of little girls shrieked when ever the Japanese grill flared up, or the pregnant teen dining with her mother and a pimple faced boy, relationship undefined. I amused myself by making up their stories...
Overall the food was decent, but the miso soup was a let down, the chunks of tofu were little flavor voids. The little dinner salad was silly, compounded by the efforts of eating dressing coated lettuce with chopsticks. My seaweed salad was yummy, as was the 9 pieces of sashimi. Spicy Tuna handroll was fun to eat, a big cone of seaweed stuffed with tuna, but nothing special. I was really looking forward to the roll I got, but was disappointed to see it swimming in secret sauce. I had pictured it to have a thin line of sauce, but it could have been applied with a ladle. scraping off as much as I could, I enjoyed the rest of the roll.
The beverage selection was disappointing, too. Besides BMC, Fat Tire and a couple Japanese beers there was a box of sake and assorted liquors and mixed drinks. The Asahi was a nice dry compliment to the meal, but if i were to return with the wife, there would have to be a taste sauv blanc option.
Not wanting this to be the sushi experience of memory, I jumped at a chance just 2 days later to go to Yokohama. The 4 of us devoured a large boat, several extra rolls, a bottle of pearl sake, a couple beers apiece, and all the fresh environs the place had to offer. Ahhh, sushi sated...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

more of the taco story

Wednesday, Cielito-Lendo. I met some friends at Anglers for a couple beers, then braved the heat and walked down to the old Dos Hombres. I almost fell over laughing when asked if we wanted a seat outside, it was still over 90 degrees. The four of us squeezed into a booth and ordered large margaritas. Not bad for what they were, better than the last big marg I had. I got the Chili Colorado, I was looking at the Chili Verde (i like the green stuff), but sacrificed my order for someone else. I was able to steal a couple bites, thought. Both dishes remind me fondly of dining in New Mexico. Everything there you could get with Red or Green Chilies. I could never make up my mind, most places the Red was hotter, but others the Green was. And the flavors varied, all good, and i wanted it all. Then I discovered I could have it all. It was called "Christmas Style", Red and Green!! It truly was like Christmas for me, I could have it my way! I got some strange looks sometimes when I ordered "Christmas Style" on something that didn't really call for it, but I didn't care, it was the season of giving over and over again. The best was the Navajo Taco/Pizza. Similar to the Indian Tacos around here, but served flat, layer of bean sauce, wonderfully seasoned meat, peppers, cheese, and maybe some other veggies, and chili sauce covering the fry bread from edge to edge. When ordered "Christmas Style", it came looking like the yin yang symbols, a scoop of each tasty chili sauce ladled on starting on opposite sides, diminishing as it came around to the other side. And like the symbol, the chilies were like complementary opposites within the greater whole, balanced duality. Yum!
Anyway, my Cielito-Lendo experience fell short of existential. Probably would have been better if it didn't remind me of my most blissful memories of NM, but the meal was almost as enjoyable as the company.

to be continued...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Taco 2

Tuesday, Taco Johns:
I did not make the Green chili- black bean chicken enchiladas last week. I am kind of sad about that, but i was just too busy... or lazy. Being Taco Tuesday, i did not get the 6-pack and a pound but a couple tacos, side of beans and a grilled stuffed taco (or something like that). I made the mistake of going inside (they F- you in the drive-thru) and had to wait for a family squabble to play out before I could order. But I was able to get the mix of hot and super sauce i like, (or i used to). Very mediocre meal. The highlight was my muy picante sauce to the rescue. I felt like such a guy, sitting in my underwear, drinking a Corona, eating fast food and watching Manswers on Spike TV. Probably not the dumbest show on TV, but in the running. The leading question (and the last one answered) was "Do Boobs Float?" I had to wait for that Manswer!! Answer, Yes and No! Real ones do, as they are 90% fat, fake ones do not, both saline and silicone are heavier than water. Take home message being that while Barbie's big tata's look like a life raft, the real ones will keep you afloat.

to be continued...

Friday, July 16, 2010


I like leftovers, maybe even too much sometimes. I look at them as a challenge on several levels. How many meals can I make of this? Do I divide it into single servings now or later? How many days is dish-X good for, is this safe? Will 2 minutes in a microwave freshen it up a bit?
It may kind of be like a race. A long race, this is no sprint. I have been in training for years, eating dodgy foods, pushing the edge of the envelop, working through the gas and bloatiness, and when it knocks me down, i get back up (off the pot, usually) and do it again. I vary the workout routine, 3 day old pizza, week old Chinese, some soup that doesn't seem to have anything growing on it yet and still smells like cumin and garlic (as well as freshly prepared food and beverage, but that hardly count, those are like the easy workout days). A note about hydration during the workout. I find that beer is the best liquid for washing down aged culinary delights, that not being possible for lunch M-F, an ice cold Diet Cola beverage works too. Water, Tea or juice doesn't cut it, maybe the carbonation is the key. Another ingredient to a successful workout routine are supplements. What goes on that dish can be just as important as the wattage of the microwave. It varies from the twice grilled, now nuked hot dog dressed up just like it was fresh, to the ham and bean soup that cries out for hot sauce to make it new again. The all-around-best is Sriracha sauce (also known as "that red rooster sauce"), as it can go in stir-fry, pasta, chili, soups, stews, sandwiches or just on a cracker. It can buffer just about anything, and in proper doses, make you sweat.
Another reason I like leftovers is it just the right thing to do. Like recycling cans or turning down the furnace, eating leftover is the ecologically responsible action that can lead to a more sustainable future. Kind of like composting, but rather than a messy pile out back it is in my belly. And like cans or heat, it saves money. Not one of those buy a $23,000 solar roof that will pay for itself in 17 years sort of saves money, but dollars a day! Would I rather have a hot off the grill burger and fries, maybe, but I just saved $5. Is there lower risk in a PBJ or Ham and Swiss sandwich with a little bag of chips, sure, but last nights stroganoff will save that 50-75 cents worth of food for another day. Then there are the frozen dinners, so healthy and cheap, but a couple dollars is a couple dollars. Over the course of a week, I probably save enough for that 6-pack of beer, maybe.
The downside of living on the edge can be guessed. This week work provide lunch on Monday from Noodle & Co, a perfectly mediocre buffet of several dishes more differentiated by their color than their taste. All the leftovers were packaged up and put in the fridge. Tuesday the whole GIS department did their parts to eat more, Wednesday it was just a couple of us, by Thursday I think it was me and one other guy. Wednesday my abdomen was voicing its disgruntlement, despite a generous dose of Sriracha. When I finally got home, a beer settled my stomach down. Surprise, surprise, it was my stomach was even louder in its disapproval. Struggling to not offend the office, several trips to the bathroom or outside relieved the pressure a bit, but it wasn't until I got to the car... yeah an enclosed car on the day with 100+ heat index, that the methane bubble escaped. Windows down and AC on required...
Lessoned learned? Yes, at the end of the day, I came out ahead!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Hmmm, what am i going to ramble about?
The original #2, Poop?
My favorite things that come in pairs?
Taco 2-sday?

Why am I doing this? I am a second, named after my grand-father. He is a wonderful writer (if not a bit morose) and has been keeping a journal for probably 80 years. I have long wanted to keep a journal. Back in the day I wanted to keep track of all the movies I saw, keeping a paper journal that I could tape ticket stubs into and a brief note of who, what, where when. Other collections could be date journal, job journal, beer journal... all great ideas without follow through.
So this is my continuation of the RCW journaling. I apologize for the rough, disorganized style, I hope to polish my writing as I do it more. I hope that it is more the vomit though the keyboard. I hope to entertain both of us. We shall see.
below is a part of a letter from #1
I suspect you two are busy as usual, and I am wondering if you have been on some big trips seeing great things. Old people trapped in gilded cages have to rely on you younger, mobile ones to tell us something of the passing parade. Our lives here plod along. Dick says to me that "attitude is everything" and he is right. I have trouble finding meaning here, and no doubt the fault is in me. I would like so much to be home where I can do useful things. But at the same time I have to recognize that my ability to do useful things has been drastically reduced. Making lemonade from the lemons I have been given is the challenge I am not doing well with.

However, the other day when I fell in the bean patch, sprawling over the vines and flattening some of them, I slowly got my bearings and decided that nothing was badly hurt as the ground was soft. So while summoning my strength to get up if I could, I saw right before my eyes, not three inches away, were dozens of beans hanging from their vines quietly wondering what I was doing down there on the ground.

It was then that I thought of the lemonade metaphor, and, reaching for the pail I had in my hand when I fell, I laid there and picked the beans that were so close. Never before had I had so close an encounter with the beans, and I think I was the better for it. And then I knocked down more vines getting up.

and that is my #1 (on a good day)

Taco, Taco, Taco

OK, I have been thinking about tacos all week! By tacos I don't just mean crispy hard corn shells filled with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sauce. I use it kind of as a generic term for Mexican-ish food. I like it!!
So I am on day 5 of my taco run. my wife has left town so I have dedicated this week to tacos. Tequila Jalisco's on Friday, where I had the house fajitas, a huge plater of grilled beef, chicken, shrimp, pork ribs and chorizo! (and all the other fun stuff, too) Also had a mediocre margarita to wash it all down with, its only saving grace being its size, served in what was possibly 32 oz beer mug. I wished for some good salt on the rim, though.
Saturday, I swung through Burrito King for 2 beef and 2 chicken hard tacos. Good tacos with the grease dripping though the foil, but not particularly tasty. I needed more sauce, I guess. I was still hungry after wolfing those down, so I visited the Taco Bell drive-thru for a Fresco Bean burrito and a Volcano taco, garnished with Fire sauce. I have a thing for that bean burrito, full of fiber and cheap, and it likes the Fire sauce, as do I. the taco was more flavorful than the BK ones, but still needed the Fire to kick it up a notch.
Sunday was brew-day, which was finished by margaritas on the patio. Really good Margaritas. (yes, they deserve to be capitalized!) As it started to get dark, the gas was lit and skirt steak and veggies were grilled up for the house special fajitas. Mmmm... I have to say i like fajitas with beans, meat, veggies, sour cream, cheese, and the perfect salsa. For me that was a good fresh Verde Salsa. The right combination of tangy and spicy, pulls it all together perfectly!
And Monday. Exhausted from all the errands and chores I wasn't able to share, I didnt get around to dinner until 8:30, about 2 hours later than normal. I considered running down to Taco Johns for a 6-pack and a pound, but I felt way too sweaty and dirty for even that place. But tacos it was! Farm fresh burger with a considerable dose of Spanish Garden seasoning (double the norm) AND the Valentina Salsa Picante Muy Picante (hot) taco sauce I have just for me. La Tiera taco shells, small, thin, crisp and good, lightly toasted, filled with my taco meat, cheese, a dab of sour cream and a diced tomato from the garden, and just a touch more of my muy picante... perfect!! The meat was spicy enough that I didn't need more sauce than it could hold... I barely needed a napkin. That was a happy belly!
Today I think I am going to make Green-Chili-Black-Bean-Chicken Enchilada casserole. No, I am not going to roll anything up that just gets lost in the sauce and cheese. I will post about its outcome later.
Have a spicy day!