Monday, April 28, 2008

Bachelor Party

My brother came to Orlando for his bachelor party this past weekend. (He's getting married to a great woman in two weeks.) Actually, it was his third bachelor party. Apparently he's popular. We didn't participate in most of the typical male activities for a bachelor party, such as tic-tac-toe sand bags and horseshoes. Sure, we went out Friday night and poured beer on ourselves and everybody around us, champagne style. But Saturday we just played golf and then hung out at the black hole for the evening (with a brief trip for some margaritas at the Beacon). In order to nourish our bodies and soak up some of the alcohol, I made a meal of marinated flank steak, lemon and teriyaki marinated chicken, french fries, corn on the cob and some broccoli. As usual, we ate on the beer pong table which has pretty much turned into standard operating procedure. But the food was either really good, or we were really hungry. Here's a picture of the bachelor party participants digging in.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spicy Fries

French Fries are my favorite food item on the planet and they are almost always better when actually fried, but they can taste quite good from the oven and I've been told it's healthier that way. I buy the shoestring fries and heat the oven up to 450 degrees. I put the fries on my baking sheet, making sure that they all touch the actual sheet so they get crispier. I then sprinkle them liberally with all sorts of seasoning before I put them in the oven. My favorite seasoning is: Cayenne Pepper, McCormick's seasoned salt, pepper, paprika, pepper flakes and finely chopped fresh parsley. Yeah, it will light your mouth on fire, but that's what dips are for. You can kind of see them in the picture. And yes, I served yet another meal on the beer pong table. I will grow up someday, I promise.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Grilled Chicken Kebab

I cooked Chicken Kebabs a few nights ago. The meal went along with my recent theme of multiple flavors in one meal. The tapas or meze sensation if you will. Growing up, I experienced 3 flavors every night. A meat, a vegetable and a starch. My meals were far from boring, in fact, I grew up eating gourmet EVERY NIGHT. The 3 footed meal works and it will be my bread and butter for the rest of my life, but having multiple flavors will excite your palate in new ways.

This particular evening I prepared Chicken Kebabs, Shrimp Kebabs and accompanied it with brown rice and spinach salad. The Chicken Kebabs were marinated in pretty much everything I could find in my fridge: garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, vinegar, creole seasoning, pepper, soy sauce, a ton of parsley, chicken broth...I think that's it. I then grilled the kebabs on a stick with red bell pepper, onion and zucchini. (Yeah, that's my DeLonghi Indoor Grill. My condo doesn't allow normal grills. Who in their right mind could do that?!?!?)

The shrimp kebabs were marinated in garlic, white wine, old bay seasoning, lemon, parsley, fresh ginger and olive oil. They were skewered with onion and pineapple.

I also made a nice, refreshing dip for the chicken. It's mayonnaise, with a bit of lemon zest and lemon juice, a ton of parsley and salt and pepper. It's refreshing and delicious with the spicy chicken and shrimp kebabs. It actually makes for a nice dip for anything spicy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I lived in Madrid, Spain for about a year and while traveling throughout the Iberian peninsula, I experienced the true essence of Tapas bars. You would go into a bar, have a beer or a glass of wine accompanied by a pincho of this, or a bocadillo of that, a piece of Jamon Serrano, some olives, a croqueta, chicken, shrimp, beef, whatever. You basically have a specialized tapa at each bar , have a drink and a tapa, and move on to the next, it's called a tapeo when you move from bar to bar. The beauty of it is that your palate never gets bored and you experience something new every bite. Logrono in La Rioja region was especially magnificent. They have La Calle de Los Vinos (The Street of the Wines) where each Bodega (Vineyard) sports their own vintage wine and 1 particular tapa. The street is about 15 feet wide and there are 50-60 different bodegas represented. Incredible!

That made me wonder why I don't relive my Spain memories more often. A few different mini dishes. I did it last night. I made Chicken Teriyaki, Spicy Asian Shrimp and a new chicken that I have no idea what it was called, but was the best chicken I have ever eaten. It was all accompanied by some rice and a small side salad with my moms vinaigrette dressing. So there were 3 distinct meat flavors, a salad and some rice.

On to the chicken. You can see by the picture how good it looks. It tasted better. All I did was cut up some onions, tomatoes and mushrooms. I cooked the onions for a few minutes in butter, added the mushrooms, added the tomatoes, added some pepper flakes, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and some other spices here and there that I could find. I let it saute for a few minutes and than added about a quarter cup of chicken stock. Once that came to a boil and reduced a bit, I added the cut up chicken and cooked it until it was ready. I have no idea what this is called, but it was absolutely amazing! Especially combined with the Asian Spicy Shrimp, Teriyaki Chicken, Asa's salad and the brown rice.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My favorite Pan

I have a favorite pan that I use. It's an All Clad - Emeril Lagasse edition. I have cooked everything in it. Shrimp, Chicken, Steak, Fillet, Crab Cakes, Vegetables, Pork, everything. This pan is involved in every meal I make. This pan is probably my prized possession. I mean, we've gone through a lot together. Hundreds of dinners, hundreds of washes, I've dropped it hundreds of times, etc. And to think, this little old thing has brought nurishment and enjoyment to hundreds of people (I actually probably haven't cooked for hundreds of people, but "tens of people" doesn't really make sense). All this glory from a molded piece of metal (I think, I guess it's steel or something, who knows) . This pan has been with me through it all. Pan, I salute you.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Making a good Caprese Salad is really just about getting quality ingredients. I went to Costco a today and got an excellent ball of mozzarella cheese (as well as 8 bottles of wine). On my way home I passed by Whole Foods and purchased fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. I cut up the tomatoes and mozzarella in about a quarter inch slices and laid them on each other. I then took the basil and scrunched it up in my hand (apparently that brings out the flavor, but I'm not so sure it really matters) and then cut it up into little pieces (I believe the French call that chiffonading) and spread it on the tomatoes and mozzarella. I then added a touch of olive oil and some really good balsamic vinegar. That should be enough for flavor, but if you want to add some spice to it, add some salt and pepper and whatever other spice you like, but you probably won't need it because it is so fresh and good anyway. This was the appetizer for the evening. The main course was spicy meatballs with mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and homemade gravy. Rick, the guy in the picture, did not eat the mashed potatoes. In fact, he has lost over 40 pounds in 3 months. Incredible! He did it by minimizing carbs and constantly eating small meals all day long. Good job Rick!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Two shades of dining in Thornton Park

When you walk into a restaurant everything counts. From the front door hostess (usually a female), to the decor, to the ambiance, even down to the bathrooms and cleanliness or not so cleanliness of the chefs. Everything can add or take away from your dining experience. I believe it comes down from the owners, through the management, and all the way down to the person who cleans the toilets.

For example, there is one restaurant close to where I live that does not get it. I won't mention names and I don't care to bash them, I'll just say that when you walk into the place the hostess seems to be way too busy to help you. Isn't her only job to help seat people who walk in?!? So immediately the experience is diminished. Compare that to Shari Sushi Lounge, which is also close to where I live. The hostess is always attentive. There are always a few people ready to take care of you at the hostess stand if she is not around. The staff seems like they all want to be there and that they're having fun. The sushi chefs all seem to be having fun. The manager with the weird shirts could crack an extra smile here and there, but even that guy clearly exceeds and takes pride in his work. The food is excellent, the service is excellent, the decor and ambiance is excellent. No wonder it's packed all the time.

Anyway, I just have never and will never get laziness and stupidity when it can so easily be replaced with energy and pride. Restaurant #1 has the second best location in all of downtown Orlando and they're just plain blowing it. Restaurant #2 has an excellent location and has been killing it for years. Both places have good food, one has good service.