Tag: food

An Amazing Steak Dinner

The boy has been asking for steak for a while now. Kelly and the girls don’t eat steak, so I make it infrequently, and when I do, I usually grill it. But I told the boy I’d make steak on Friday and on Friday, I made steak. I bought a nice thick rib-eye to split between us, and rather than grilling it, I opted to pan-sear it, and made a red wine pan sauce to go along with it. I also made fries and fry sauce.

rib-eye before cooking
Bringing the steak to room temperature before putting it in the pan.

Now (to paraphrase Dr. Seuss), I don’t like to brag, and I don’t like to boast, but this steak turned out perfect. Of all the things I’ve made over the years, I rank this steak the best. We both like our steaks medium rare, and I seared this steak until the center was 120°F. After that, I let it rest while I made the pan sauce. I’ve eaten in good steak joints in my life, but in recent memory, I can’t remember having a steak as good as this one. This is unusual for me because when I cook, I am usually my harshest critic. Over the last few months, I made rosemary chicken three times, and it was only on the third try (after making numerous notes from the first two attempts) that I felt it came out reasonably well. But this, this steak and the accompanying sauce was perfect.

steak with warm red center

One measure of success was the boy’s first bite, after which he said, “Wow! This is really good!” Another measure of success was that he asked for seconds, something he rarely does. But perhaps the best measure of success was the smile on his face while we ate.

The boy likes his steak.

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I Dream of In-n-Out

I have a confession to make: it has been 730 days since my last Double-Double. If that number sounds familiar it is because it also happens to be the same number of days in exactly two years. Yes, two years ago today was the last time I had an In-n-Out burger.

My last In-n-Out meal in July 2019

I’m not going to debate the relative merits of whether In-n-Out burgers are better than, say Five Guys, or Shake Shack. For me In-n-Out burgers and fries are superior to all other chain burgers and fries I’ve ever tried and that’s good enough for me. But I will recall here a recurring day-dream I have. It goes something like this:

I wake up in the morning, and grab my phone to scan the news. After scanning the headlines, I usually checkout the local Patch site for local news. On this particular morning, the top story on the Patch news for my town is a banner headline that reads:


In my reverie, this is some of the most exciting news I’ve ever heard. Forget election results, or billionaires in space, I am just giddy over the fact that there will be an In-n-Out nearby.

Some people imagine winning the lottery and what they’d do with their fortune. I prefer to daydream that an In-n-Out opens nearby. That would be like winning the lottery to me.

I never take my day-dream beyond the discovery that an In-n-Out will be opening locally. I know everything after that will be something of a disappointment. The food, of course, would be fantastic, but I could only imagine the crowds that a local In-n-Out would attract. People would wait hours to get a burger. Parking would be impossible. It would, in all likelihood, be a tease. The restaurant there, within reach, and yet impossible to get food from thanks to crowds and parking problems. It might as well be in Santa Monica for all of the good it would do me.

The reality is, I’m glad there is no In-n-Out anywhere near where I live. It makes the rare visits when I am back in California for work all that more special.

I have a good imagination, and when I have a clear vision for something, I usually manage to achieve it. I’m confident that I’ll get to have another Double-Double someday. For now, I’m happy just dreaming about it.

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Food and Phases

I tend to think of myself as omnivorous. I’ll eat (or at least try) just about anything. About the only things I won’t deliberately eat are yogurt and cheesecake. I’ve disliked yogurt since I was a young child and tried some plain yogurt. The awful memory of that has stuck with me and is too firmly ingrained in my tastes to warrant a retry. My kids find this amusing since I usually will try anything. “You’ll like it if you try it today?” they say. “I bet you’d like it if you didn’t know it was yogurt,” they say.

Well, a few weeks ago we had a salad and poured on the dressing that came with the salad, and took a bite. Something about the dressing didn’t taste right to me and my brain immediately flashed YOGURT! YOGURT! YOGURT! “I don’t about this dressing,” I said. “It reminds me of yogurt.” Kelly looked at the packaging. It turned out it was a yogurt-based dressing of some kind. This impressed my kids.

Cheesecake is another matter. I’m not sure why exactly I dislike it. I think it is just too rich for me. But that’s okay. Setting aside cheesecake and yogurt, pretty much everything else is on the table. Indeed, I like to try new things, despite being a creature of habit. The latter means I don’t try new things as often as I should, but I make enough decisions during the day and for meals at least, I try to keep decisions to a minimum.

One thing that bothers me at a restaurant is how granular the servers can get when I order my food: “Cheeseburger,” I’ll say. Then comes the flood of questions: how would you like that cooked? What kind of cheese? Onions? Pickles? Bacon? What kind of side would you like with that? Fries, you say? Regular or sweet potato? I’ve taken to revising my order as follows: “Cheeseburger, medium rare, with everything.” Enough questions.

I get into these phases with breakfasts and lunches. I’ll go for a few months eating the same breakfast and lunch day-in and day-out. Over the winter it was Stofer’s lasagnas for lunch. This spring it has been a turkey, bologna, and cheese sandwich. Sometimes, it is peanut butter and jelly, day after day after day. I don’t mind. It is one less decision to make each day.

Dinner is where I tend to branch out, especially if we go out to eat (there hasn’t been much of that over the last year, but I’m hopeful now that we are fully vaccinated). I like all kinds of meats. I’m particularly fond of lamb and duck. The Little Man has taken to duck, but Kelly shudders at the thought of either. If there is something unusual on the menu, I’m usually willing to try it. On a date night a few weeks back we had an appetizer that included charred cauliflower that was outstanding. I remember an appetizer of buffalo octopus a few years back at bar in Santa Monica that was also outstanding.

I like Caesar salads with anchovies. Servers never believe me the first time I ask for the anchovies. (I also like anchovies on pizza, but rarely order it because no one else eats it.) I’ve had my share of unusual foods as well, from turkey nuts to durian fruit (in the parking lot of a hotel at a science fiction convention).

Writing about food right before lunch has made me hungry for something other than my usual turkey, bologna, and cheese sandwich. Alas, I’m tired today and don’t feel like making a decision about what to eat. I think there might be some leftovers in the fridge. Maybe I’ll just eat that.

The Blueberry Muffin Situation

The situation with the blueberry muffins has become alarming. For six months now, when I wake up each morning, I feel compelled to eat a blueberry muffin.

I trace the origins of this compulsion back to an innocent vacation we took with my sister’s family to an isolated part of coastal Maine where we’d rented a large house on the water. We all brought food with us to backstop any grocery shopping we’d do. My sister and brother-in-law brought a large package of large blueberry muffins. I had them for breakfast a few times, and they seemed perfect.

Arriving back home, I sought out blueberry muffins. On my morning walks, I discovered that the local 7-Eleven had fresh blueberry muffins so I’d pick one up each morning and bring it home. As the winter got colder, I discovered that the local Safeway (the big Safeway, not the little one, which is more convenient) sold 9-pack of fresh blueberry muffins in the bakery. So I started buying those. Now, if I don’t have a blueberry muffin in the morning, it doesn’t feel like morning.

Eating a blueberry muffin is something of a technical challenge. Do you pick it up like an apple and bite in? Do you slice it in half to make it easier to handle? To add to this complexity, it turns out that the top part of blueberry muffins are the best part. I don’t know why this is, since I assumed the top contains the same ingredients as the rest. I am “save the best for last” when it comes to eating, which means, as you might imagine, I eat my blueberry muffin upside down. Since the only flat part of the muffin is the bottom, it means that when setting my muffin down on the plate, it always tips over onto its top. I try to eat my muffin in the privacy of my office so that no one else in the family makes fun of me for eating it upside down.

Occasionally, I will announce to everyone that I am going to “have a muffin.” This is a little disconcerting because when I hear myself say this, I hear my Dad saying the exact same thing. Maybe I am genetically disposed to eating blueberry muffins.

Sometimes, if I am hungry, I will have blueberry muffin just because it is there.

I have tried other muffins, but none are as good as the blueberry ones. It is always a sad day when, out of blueberry muffins, I head to the store to get more, and they are out too. “Why not try the chocolate muffins?” the baker at the Safeway asks me. I give them a look of horror at the thought.

Well, I have a full day of work ahead of me today. My big software system roll out is tomorrow, and I need to get started. So if you’ll excuse me, there is blueberry muffin calling my name. Really. I can hear it taunting me, “Eat me… Eat me…”

You Say Tomato, I Say Blah

I can no longer remember what a good tomato tastes like. Every tomato I’ve consumed over the last ten years or so has no discernible flavor. This came to a head on Thursday when I ordered my usual sandwich for lunch. I order the same thing for lunch every day. I do this because I like it, but also because I know exactly how many calories the sandwich has, and because it is one less decision I have to make. On Wednesday, the tomatoes on the sandwich were so tasteless that on Thursday, I ordered the sandwich without tomatoes.

I like tomatoes, and I recall a time when they were sweet and juicy. Now, it seems, all of the flavor has been engineered out of them. I’ve tried organic tomatoes from the grocery store: same result. And I’ve tried “farm fresh” tomatoes from the farmers market. No luck there either. It makes me skeptical about just how farm fresh those farmers market veggies really are.

The strange thing is that things made from tomatoes taste the same as they always have. Spaghetti sauce, ketchup, tomato soup: these haven’t changed. Perhaps there was never much tomato in them to begin with, or perhaps the other ingredients have a stronger taste than the tomatoes. I suspect that some tomatoes are grown specifically for these products, and these tomatoes still have their flavor. Those are the tomatoes that I want.

My dad used to drink tomato juice, and I’ve often wanted to like tomato juice, but it tastes just awful to me. I tried it recently, and it still tastes awful, but even that has more flavor than the bland slices on my sandwich, or in a salad.

Other vegetable still taste good to me. At least, they still have flavor. Tomatoes seem to be the big exception. That’s too bad because I love to make the occasional B.L.T. sandwich, and nothing makes the B.L.T. as much as the perfect tomato slice. That means gone are the good B.L.T.’s

There will be people out there, I’m sure, who will attribute the tomatoes loss of flavor to genetic modification. Tomatoes have been tinkered with to the point where they last forever, and the side-effect of this is the lack of flavor. Perhaps that’s so, but I have a different theory. I think the tomatoes just got fed up with us, and decided the best way they could avoid being eaten would be to lose the one thing that made them edible.

A shout-out for Christopher’s Confections

For Valentine’s Day, Kelly got us a box of chocolates to share. She got the chocolate’s from Christopher’s Confections as part of a fund-raising shindig for one of the Little Man’s Gymboree teacher’s who died unexpectedly a few months ago. We were actually so busy on Valentine’s Day evening that we never got a chance to try the chocolates, but for the last two nights, we’ve had two of these chocolate bonbons each and they have to rank among the finest chocolates I’ve ever tasted.

What makes them unique is their flavors. Kelly got us a box of 12, which contained 6 flavors (2 candies of each). Among the flavors are:

  • Champagne
  • Peanut Butter Caramel
  • Chambord
  • Extra Old Cognac
  • Butter and Scotch
  • Noisette

They are all just so outstandingly good. So far I think my favorite is the Extra Old Cognac and the Champagne. Sadly, tonight will be our last night. There are four candies left and we’ll each have two after dinner.

The candies are pricey, but (a) it was for a very good cause and (b) they are well worth the price. They are works of art themselves and you almost don’t want to eat them because each one looks so beautiful.

If you are in the market for some outstanding chocolates, both Kelly and I highly recommend Christopher’s Confections.

Crickets, please!

My sister and brother-in-law came through town this weekend on their way home from a beach vacation. And they came bearing gifts. Among those gifts was this item, picked out especially for me:


Yes, that’s right people. Bacon & Cheese flavored crickets. And here is the back of this box which describes the various parts:


And just in case you doubt the main ingredient of this little delight, check out the ingredients list:


No, I haven’t given them a try yet. I suspect they don’t taste like chicken. My guess is that they taste like crunchy bacon and cheese. Don’t I have the most thoughtful siblings? 🙂

Do you like food?

I mean, really, who doesn’t right?  What about cooking?  And funny?  Do you like funny?  Well then, forget Julie and Julia and take short link hop over to the Mouse House Kitchen where gives you food and funny all in one heaping helping.  Think of it as George Carlin meets Rachel Ray:  you know, like the seven words you can’t say while spreading your EVOO once around the pan.  But don’t blame me if you come away hungry.  Or with soap in your mouth…

Oh what a night

I definitely need to chill out a bit when I got home from work this evening. So I spent the last couple of hours in front of the TV. I’m about to get into bed but I figured I’d share my evening with you.

For the first time since moving to the D.C. area, I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. I used my own secret recipe and it proved two things: (1) it was a fantastically delicious sandwich; (2) the stomach cramps I now have illustrate why I’m dangerous in the kitchen. Still, grilled cheese and a caffeine-free Coke was just the anodyne I needed from my day.

I sat in front of the TV and watched two shows that Tivo diligently recorded for me. First, Inside the Actors Studio (Tom Hanks), followed by the season premier of Heroes. Both were good.

Spoke to Doug and he110_sunshine on the phone this evening.

I got the latest issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN in the mail today and it looks like a fascinating issue dedicated to the future of space exploration. I can’t wait to pick my way through it.

And now, I’m off to bed and bid you all a good night!

Lobsters while leaving Athens

Written at about 8:52 PM July 9

We all met up for dinner in our main dining room at 6:15 PM. We were told that tonight, lobster would be on the menu, and sure enough it was. Even though I had lobster last night, when lobster is on the menu, I simply can’t pass it up. But I was not as gluttonous as I was over the last several meals. I ordered the lobster tails (which were delicious, and which were served with rice, cauliflower, and broccoli), and also ordered a plate of hummus to share with the table. It was a very pleasant dinner. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before but our table is on starboard side of the ship, right next to a window, which gave us a great view of our departure from Athens. We’re heading to Mykonos tomorrow. For dessert, I had a brownie and, of course, the chocolate mousse.

Since then, I’ve been here in the Wheelhouse lounge writing up the last two blog entries (which total more than 2,000 words!) We are having some satellite reception problems, so I’m not sure when they will get posted, but I will post them as soon as I can.

First and second dinners

Posted at about 5:30 PM local time, on July 9

Tonight, we had dinner reservations at one of the two specialty restaurants on the ship, Sabatini’s. These restaurants charge a cover charge, but otherwise, the food is included as part of the cruise. I made the reservations for 9:30 PM because I thought that it would be nice to have a late dinner.

Having done that, and having completed the vow renewal ceremony for Mom and Dad, I decided that I wanted to go to our regular seating at dinner as well, which is at 6:15 PM. At first I don’t think anyone else was planning on going, but everyone ended up going after I decided to do it. I stuck to three courses for First dinner, which turned out to be a good thing. For my appetizer, I had a mushroom torte with truffle oil. For dinner, I had a salmon steak. And for dessert, of course, I had the chocolate mousse.

When I finished dinner it was just after 7 PM and I decided I needed to relax. I grabbed my laptop, went to the Wheelhouse lounge, and played Solitaire for an hour or two, listening to the live music, which I thought was very good. Then it was time to get ready for dinner at Sabatini’s.

We arrived on scheduled and were seated and they explained to us how it works. We pick our main courses, and then they basically bring us everything else on the menu to try. In essence, it is a 10 or 11 course meal. I know some of you enjoy the descriptions of the food here. If you don’t, you’ll want to skip to the bottom. Here is what I had and keep in mind this is just 3 hours after eating first dinner. I was at my most gluttonous.

Read all about the gluttony

Cheap lunch

I had a really cheap, but excellent lunch today, and I discovered the bargain courtesy of my friends Todd and Karl. Harris Teeter, a local grocery store here in the Virginia area, has a weekday special on their deli-made subs. These are fresh subs, made to order, just like at Subway, only they are about 10 times better than Subway. And ten times cheaper.

I got the special today (a turkey sub, on wheat with all the fixin’s), along with a half liter bottle of spring water for a grand total of $3.42 and that includes Virginia’s outrageous 11.5% sales taxes.

That is a bargain no matter how you slice it. It also avoids the crowds and outrageous prices of the mall.

Oh, and the sandwich was delicious!