Friday, October 30, 2009

Fun Fa(c)t Friday - Food Pr0n (NSFV)*

An ode written between courses - by Elliott Mason


Oh bacon, don't look upon me hastily and lump me with the porkies-come-lately, I was yours from the start. Your sweet, salty, applewood-smokedness has dazzled and held me captive. Others have come and gone, but my love for you has only grown, deepened and matured over time. My earliest memories are of you, lover, like a comforting hug from my grandmother. There was no time when you were not with me, easing other foods into my consciousness. Alone or in harmony with vegetables, lesser meats and offal, bread and even sugary treats, you exemplify casual versatility and porkish perfection.

You complete me.

As is the norm (Norm!) when I travel, my clock gets all screwed up. As such, I realize my readers won't see this, possibly for weeks, since it wasn't posted in the wee hours of a weekday morn. That's okay, since this post is as much for me as it is about me.

In case you haven't already figured this out from my last few posts, I'm smitten with Cleveland, taken by the city's charm. And if you come here, you MUST eat here. There is no choice in the matter. Sure, there are chains, but you shouldn't eat there. Even if you live here, don't eat there. This isn't so much a restaurant review as a foodie's wet dream. They're not paying me to say these things, these are restaurants I would share, will share, with my friends and complete strangers.

I will start by saying that while I thought Michael Symon was a great improvement over "chef" Robert Irvine, that's not saying much. As a personality, I don't have much respect for a man who carries himself like the next Bobby Flay. That lackluster opinion changed entirely when I ate dinner at his restaurant, Lolita, last night.

Some of you might have noticed I'm a bit of a carnivore. And I may have ranted about vegetarians in the past, made some derogatory comments about them. Maybe.

Well, every one of those statements still stands. At Lolita, I started simple, with crispy chicken livers on a bed of soft, unctuous polenta. Atop these little organs was a combo of sauteed oyster mushrooms and bacon. The whole dish was surrounded by a tiny moat of what I can only describe as 'bacon au jus'. I used my bread so as not to waste a single drop.

Following the livers, I opted for the butternut squash ravioli in brown butter. "But Elliott", you say, "that's a vegetarian dish!" Until you toss the brown butter with hazelnuts, sage and matchsticks of prosciutto. Yes, porky, dense, chewy and aromatic cured ham. More vegetables could benefit from this treatment.

Ultimately, I didn't want to leave without trying one more item, just a little tidbit to finish off my meal, and let me finish my ginger-infused vodka with ginger ale and lime. Cut then to the chef's suggestion, the roasted bone marrow. Roasted in a wood oven, the marrow and crostini picked up a beautiful smokiness, coupled with the salsa verde, rich and spicy with raw garlic and parsley, and gently accented by the pickled red onions.

If you're going to be in the Tremont neighborhood (and you should go, really), stop by some of the other bars in the neighborhood, too. Local beers are by Great Lakes Brewery, and worth a taste. (Am I gushing? I'm still food-drunk, what do I know?)

Today for lunch, my client and I walked over to Melt Bar and Grilled, and while I'm not generally a bandwagon jumper, this place has a niche and works it like nobody's business. When being told I would have a 45-minute wait for a table, they wouldn't take my name. Instead, I got to pick a random name from the plastic pumpkin (I got to be Tupac Shakur!). While the wait wasn't that long, the menu was. Some of these sandwiches are simply criminal. Chorizo and hash browns, three kinds of cured pork, crab cakes, all in melt format. I settled on the gentle, daintily-composed Parmageddon - two potato and cheese pierogi, vodka and caraway saurkraut, sauteed onions and cheddar cheese. This eight-pound sandwich was a challenge set before me, there is no other term. This is the kind of sandwich bears would eat before hibernation if they didn't care about cholesterol. Add to this the atmosphere, this is a place to visit at least once on your way to the cardiologist.

Tonight, again wanting something special (and who doesn't), I landed at The Flying Fig. Artsy and a little loud, and I played coy like I was new, but I already read the menu online. I was after the chicken livers, so as to make comparisons and generally enjoy myself. Crispy and soft at the same time, with candied bacon, dressed bitter greens, goat cheese and orange segments, It was bliss on a plate. After that, I was torn. My server, Amanda, knew the dilemma I faced. On one hand, I could eat from the small bites menu, and miss out on a beautiful local pork chop. On the other hand, I could eat the chop and miss out on a stuffed scallop.

Of course, I'm the fat guy. I got both.

The chop was brined and grilled to medium rare, served on a bed of pumpkin risotto and braised red cabbage. So simple, yet so perfect. Every bite rang home just what a pork chop should taste like, from the days before we bred every last little bit of flavor from our meat.

I almost cried.

And of course I got the scallop. Like you wouldn't. Seared and stuffed with braised beef cheek, it gave a steak-like quality to the sweetness of the scallop, served in a beef jus with horseradish mashed potatoes.

I may actually have cried at this one.

Thanks for enduring this, a most personal revisitation, moments I could live again and again. If we're ever in town together, I'll take you.

(*Not safe for vegetarians)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Random Acts of Thursday - A Major Award

Continuing down the primrose path of my visit to Cleveland, I made a discovery:
Yes, that's exactly what you think it is.Despite its being ensconced firmly in your memory and mine as an Indiana-based movie product, the home street in A Christmas Story was actually filmed here in Cleveland (thanks to Mjenks for reminding us that other exteriors were shot in Ontario). And the museum shown above, the original house restored to all of its movieland glory, is there for you and I to enjoy.
Also out there is the Tower City Center, just incredible to see at night. Just one example of all of the awe-inspiring industrial architecture in this city.
In the 'I.M. Pei, you are not' category, we have this little gem:Again, quite the accomplishment. And Johnny Cash's bus parked out front didn't hurt, either. There was some hoity-toity party starting when I was there, I got the impression I wasn't welcome.


Now, since you've endured the never-ending crapulence of my photography thus far, I wanted to share this random thing I saw on a street corner.
Don't know what it is, other than cool.



And then there's my sucktacular videography. I really just don't know what this is. I expected to see the Wicked Witch's imperial guard in the front courtyard.
video

I spotted this on my drive in the other night, and since it was going again tonight, I had to at least try to share it. Sorry it's not clearer, but based on my simple photography skills, you're lucky you got this.
video
I really, really have no idea.

And then I found 'The Flats'. Or some such area. A valley that was probably 50 or 60 feet below the level of civilized downtown. Industrial, gritty, rusty, abandoned. Rockin' cool. There are tons of corner bars, too, almost too many to choose from.
Plus, earlier today I passed this, and thought of Courtney.What are the odds that this boat would be stored there?
I was amused, anyway.
Overall and with all due respect to my hometown of Milwaukee, I think Cleveland might just be worthy of my 'Best Midwestern City Visit of 2009 Award'.
And that's major.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cleveland...um...Rocks!

Regular readers know I travel for work. I travel a lot. Sadly, I rarely get to actually spend quality time in the cities I visit, instead spending all day at a client and all night in my hotel, driving back to the airport on my last day.

However, because I'm here to visit two clients on opposite ends of the city, I get to see a lot in my drive every day. Oh, and what a drive.

They were going to make me drive something called a Kia Rondo. Rondo is apparently Korean for 'unbelievably homely mini-minivan'.
However, because one of my clients is a national union, and I respect American labor, I couldn't show up in a Kia, so I begged for an American car. Can you say free upgrade? Hertz did...
Sure, the Sable is slightly stodgy-looking, but so far, my only complaint is that the turn signal branch is too high up. Apparently I should be clutching my steering wheel at 11 and 1 in fear of the unexpected. I'm a solid 8:00 driver, one-handing it like I'm cool like that.

Because I am.

The car is also fully-loaded, with XM radio, leather seats, auto-headlamps and a sunroof. A-, thanks, Hertz!


Now of course, getting here meant flying, and we all know how much I enjoy that. Of course, I got special treatment in security. Apparently Mr. TSA liked me in the bad way, since I got felt up. Either that or he was just rubbing my belly for luck. What the hell? I don't even own this shirt:
Oh, and I had to go through behind a girl that looked like this:
...only with frizzy hair in place of the bucket. And enough metal jewelry to take down ALL the metal detectors in the place, not just ours.

Late out of Tampa, later into Atlanta, all the while hearing Brook Benton during a bad-weather landing. I had eight whole minutes to travel the three timezones from concourse C to concourse D...until I got there to find that flight was delayed as well. At least that gave my luggage a chance to catch up.
And I got a very nice hotel room, so there's that going for me. (Yes, that's it right there.) I might even have to walk the two blocks down to dance on the steps of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

Monday, October 26, 2009

One miserable, murky Monday

Because cloudy is the weather. Both out there, and in my brain. I leave for Ohio shortly, and even though I've known about this trip for a month or more, I just booked my hotel this morning. I can only hope I get the scenic overlook of Lake Erie the city boasts.


However, the weekend was bliss. We had clear sunny days, cool crisp evenings, and a lot of fun. Thursday we started the Florida Wildlife Watch after picking up Bob and Diane at the airport and heading to dinner overlooking (and overhanging) Tampa Bay. The restaurant lights the water, and since I'm sure plenty of people feed the fish off the patio, it attracts swarms. Huge catfish and a little manta ray.

Friday started off a little slow, because the Dammit had to go to the vet for scratching a hole in the side of his head. Like he needs another one of those. "It stops the scratching of its skin, or else it gets the cone again!" We now have a cone for regular use, and he's also on antibiotics and got a cortizone shot. Dammit the high-maintenance doggy, and the reason we can't have nice things, apparently.

Saturday we wandered about Busch Gardens, and since Lori and I hadn't been there since 2008, there were lots of new things to see and do. I don't do roller coasters, since if given the choice, I don't even do elevators, but Lori and Bob got to ride them all to their hearts content. And I got to do the Land Rover Safari, though the river segment was 'closed'. I have always taken this to mean 'non-existent but it sounds cool', since the ride has been closed every time we've gone. Still fun, since I could almost pet the zebras we were so close. Even got to grill out, big juicy burgers and fresh sweet corn. It was just like summer!

Yesterday we spent the whole day driving along and shelling at the beaches along the Gulf. Growing up swimming in Lake Michigan, I'm still in awe that I can set foot in the ocean in mid-October and not lose a toe to frostbite. We were late, so all the retirees had hit the beaches and snapped up the best picks already, but everyone still found a few gems. We also got to watch the little baby clams feed along the shore and then bury themselves in the sand as the waves came in. Oooh, nature. Sweet, delicious nature.

It was great to have friends visit, especially since it seems we won't be in the Sunshine State much longer (and that's a good thing, it really is). It was nice to take advantage of it from an outsider's viewpoint again, because of course, being a tourist is the best part of Florida, and we could actually enjoy it for a change.

Movie Mania Monday - High in the middle and round on both ends

Great weekend, almost vacation-like. Nothing like taking a Friday off to enhance those original two days off. Of course, today, I'm Ohio-bound for the remainder of the week. Work, work, work. Of course, I scheduled this to publish two hours ago, and just realized that it never showed up. Gaargh!

No surprise contest-wise, but once again, congratulations to Courtney, Iron Quote Guesser and 7-0 so far in Movie Mania Monday, correctly identifying last week's quote from Wild Things.
Now, for this week's contest. Remember the rules. First person to guess correctly the original source of the quote wins a prize - no movie characters quoting other movies. The prize consists of the people's ovation and fame forever (and the title of Iron Quote-Guesser). And maybe one of the little seashells I found on the beach this weekend. This week's quote:

I've never been alone with a man before, even with my dress on. With my dress off, it's MOST unusual.

Allez guessing!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Random Acts of Thursday - The good, the bad and their common car (Updated)

Growing up in the '70's as I did, the American musclecar was ripe in my mind. Rumbling metal beasts were everywhere, and despite my personal obsession with Oldsmobiles, the Pontiac still screamed 'cool' in every way.

The Trans Am and it's tamer counterpart, the Firebird, weighed heavily in the films of my youth. Noteable, of course, is the BAN-1 76 driven so skillfully by the mustache-enhanced Burt Reynolds. And really, Burt Reynolds films really meant more with the mustache. Even James Garner rocked the base model on 'The Rockford Files', and the Hoff really rocked a mid-80's version.

However, there are other films that shared this simple vision as well: raw power on four wheels. I'll name the actor, you name the film. Most correct answers wins. I've tried listing them in chronological order, but I could be wrong, since much of this comes from memory. And 1974 was a big year for the Trans Am. Just sayin.


  1. John Wayne
  2. Keith Carradine
  3. Jeff Bridges
  4. Burt Reynolds (and not as Bandit...)
  5. Steve McQueen
  6. Roy Scheider
Bonus question 1: Which Knight Rider 'star' featured opposite Dustin Hoffman in a film that predates all those I've hinted at above?
Bonus question 2: In addition to McQueen's '68 Mustang in Bullitt, which other actor drove a Mustang in addtion to a Trans Am in the same film?
Hey, these can't all be easy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ask the Nerdy Fat Guy, vol 2

Welcome to another exciting edition of Ask the Nerdy Fat Guy! We here at ANFG Industries are always pleased to offer our services to you, the faithful reader.
Sarah, from Waukesha, Wisconsin asks: "Lutherburger? I'd like to have the breakdown of ingredients, please, because I'm a fan of fattening meat based foods and BACON is king of all food!"
I had no idea my mention of the Luther Burger would prove quite so popular. Named for R&B legend Luther Vandross, the concept is fiendish in its simplicity. A bacon cheeseburger on a grilled Krispy Kreme bun. Of course, this calls for the original Krispy Kreme, I can't imagine what a filled donut would do to the griddle.

But we could find out.

On an unrelated note, it turns out that Luther Vandross' middle name is Ronzoni. Like the pasta.

Sven, from Pipestone, Minnesota asks: "Donut? I thought it was spelled 'doughnut'!"

Again, laziness prevails, and while both spellings are correct, the shortened and 'Dunkin' version of the fried dough is more common in these our United States.

Luther, from Edison, New Jersey writes: "That burger looks good. Any chance you could whip one up for me right now? Also, where can I get a copy of Sarah's newest book?"
While I fully intend to make some of these over the weekend, I doubt they'd ship well. However, at only four ingredients (five if you go a la Holstein), it should be simple enough to do yourself.
Sarah's book, 'Dream in Color', will be available here on April 2, 2010. Keep watching the website though, they already moved the release date up three weeks!

Remember! ANFG, a subsidiary of CDS Enterprises, is here for you and all of your nerd-related questions.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reader's Remorse - a bloggy confession

I don't read every blog to which I subscribe.
Sometimes a writer has a beautifully crafted witty post, followed by clunker after clunker. Sometimes a writer has a beautifully crafted witty post, followed by months of silence. Maybe I started following the blog because the author stated a well-versed opinion or relayed a humorous anecdote in someone else's blog comments. In some cases, I just started following because I thought Lori would enjoy it, and because I don't remember they're there, I never bothered to show them to her.
I just deleted three more, and the list is down to 40 blogs. Forty. The big four-oh. That still seems like way too much to keep up with. I am bleary-eyed and my brain hurts trying to remember even what many of the blogs are about.
But I'm sure I didn't delete your blog. I like you, I really like you. If you post regularly, and I get much enjoyment from what you post, I'm sure I'm reading everything you put out there.

Really.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Movie Mania Monday - Not just a bad Sheryl Crow song

I'm feeling a bit crispy-fried today, seems I finally got accustomed to Pacific time just in time to return to Florida, and now my clock's all messed up again.

A hearty congratulations to Courtney, Iron Quote Guesser and 6-0 so far in Movie Mania Monday, correctly identifying last week's quote from Leaving Las Vegas. Even with her, Rick and Bev, there are still one or two unanswered quotes, and there's no time limit on past contests.

Now, for this week's contest. Remember the rules. First person to guess correctly the original source of the quote wins a prize - no movie characters quoting other movies. The prize consists of the people's ovation and fame forever (and the title of Iron Quote-Guesser). Oh, and the Sonic ketchup packet collection, mustn't forget that. This week's quote:

Before Medea sailed away on the Helios she killed king Creon and the princess, with what? A: A rock. B: Spear-gun or C: a bit of Poison.

Allez guessing!!! Extra points if you know the answer to the question in the quote.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fun Fact Friday - Snot clots are not hot

Friday, Friday, Friday! Weighing in as bright and sunny, another beautiful day in the desert. And bonus, another dead wrestler trading blog!

This time, it's the clash of the politically incorrect ethnic stereotypes!

Fritz von Erich, the Iron Claw...
...versus Wahoo McDaniels!
Trade with your friends! Fun for the whole family, except for your creepy uncle Francine. Void where prohibited by good taste.

I have yet to see 'The Wrestler' with quintessential everyman, Mickey Rourke, but I saw him talking about the cutting that went on to make the matches more exciting. Because blood equals excitement.
Come on, you HAVE to love The Crusher!

Couple that with my visit to the Nevada desert this week, when I'm not yet accustomed to the dry air. My sinuses spent the first five days of the trip crusted with dried blood. This is, of course, normal. Unusually dry climates, especially when one's body is unfamiliar with a lack of humidity (gee, thanks, Florida!), can cause the tiny little vessels in your sinus cavities to rupture, causing nosebleeds.
Of course, the more common cause of nosebleeds is slightly less analog. As in "more digital"...
Yes, I have my nerd hat on today.
And I've been waiting for ages to use this picture:
Notable nosebleeds in history include Attilla the Hun, who drowned in his own blood after suffering a nosebleed in his sleep. And people say history is boring.

Off to Tomorrymorry Land

Except there's no Aunty Entity. But there is a desert, that's something.

Remember: no matter where you go, there you are. And where I am, it's still yesterday, even though it's today at home. This throws off my bloggerization, since part of me still believes it's 2 am, even though the clock says 11. It also means that I'm none too fresh in the matter of gray matter this time of night, so the brilliant ideas I had earlier today don't come to fruition so easily.

But really, if you had expectations of me, surely they've been lowered by now.
Speaking of lowered expectations, I went to Fatburger for dinner. The sign said 'the last great burger in America' or some such rubbish. I was not impressed, even with bacon and a fried egg. Last night at King's Fish House though, dinner was a beautiful shellfishy delight. Everything evens out, I guess.

And lastly: Here's a gratuitous shot of Andre the Giant! Remember, collect the whole set of dead wrestler trading blogs! Share with your friends! Hours of fun for the whole family! Implied guarantee of fun not valid in Kuala Lumpur, Buenos Aires or Padukah.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another Random Act of Thursday - I can read you like a book

When it comes to dead wrestlers, nobody messes with The Crusher, the wrestler that made Milwaukee famous!

As we established last week, I never read 'The Stranger'. I have no shame about this, and don't feel I must make an effort to rectify the matter. Though I might pick up Sartre's 'Nausea'. Because hey, Camus liked it.

One of the guys in my office was reading last week's quiz and offered up that he never read Camus, either. As we discussed taste in authors and genres, he indicated that his wife has set before him a reading list of classics and important works, and the next day he informed me, following discussion of my blog with his wife, the list has now been updated to include both The Stranger and a Vonnegut to be named later. No need to thank me. That's me, ruining people's joy since 1971.

A long time ago (and originally only the day before KV passed away), it occurred to me that I may be an odd reader because:

A) I have books that I have re-read so many times the pages are falling out, books that make me laugh even before I get to the parts that make me laugh, and yet I still enjoy reading them again and again, like old friends.

B) When I got my last library card, I checked out three books from the library to read, even though I was already reading three fiction, one biography, two cookbooks and two non-fiction books already, and I alternate between books without just finishing one before picking up another - think of it as channel-surfing in print form.

I never gave this much thought, but I know this isn't normal, because Lori reads far more than I do, and she reads cover to cover before ever picking up another book. She even reads books she can't stand this way, because not finishing would be wrong. She once struggled through a book (I think it was Crighton) and declared at least twice an hour that it was the worst book she had ever read, but she wouldn't put it down. With rare exception, I don't believe she has ever read the same book twice. We both have a few authors we truly enjoy, few, if any, of them overlap.

So here are my questions, my little turkeynecks:

1) Do you have a favorite book? What is it?
2) How many times have you read your favorite book?
3) How many times would you read a book you enjoyed, if it wasn't your favorite?
4) Do you have a favorite author or authors, or do you pick books at random?
5) Do you read cover-to-cover, or do you jump from book to book (to book...) before you finish the original book you started reading?
6) Do you read for yourself and the joy of it, or because of a task or challenge set forth before you?

Random Acts of Thursday - Camus can do but Sartre is smartre

Everyone be sad. I have just been told that Captain Lou Albano passed away yesterday. As a product of the '80's, I remember him showing up in Cyndi Lauper videos and bad Hulk Hogan documentaries.

As though there are any GOOD Hulk Hogan documentaries.

I am bereft of nerdiness this evening as I write this for you, oh dear reader, since you will be awake and reading this before I even stir in my hotel bed.

But really, if anyone knows what the deal was with the rubber bands, PLEASE don't keep that to yourself. I've wondered since he first screamed 'Whatchoo gonna do wit your life?'
And as long as you've nothing better to do, go pick up the trail of breadcrumbs I've left for you on the 10/1 contest.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Take a little trip, take a little trip with me

All my friends know the low rider.

Okay, not all of them, but maybe most.

Well, some.

Okay, fine, I was just dropping names, I don't even know anyone who knows anyone who knows the low rider. I'm just deliberately wasting your time. Monday when I was leaving for the office, there was a car club loading up their rides for the trip back home. I don't understand, exactly, but apparently one does not drive these cars long distances, even when you've spent the money to buy the vintage window fan.
I guess I understand that, because damn, they're beautiful, and it would kill me to get a stone chip in my hand-striped, silver-leaf-encrusted 64. And note the chubby guy in the blue shirt reflected in the bumper on the first photo. It was almost like I planned to coordinate with my subject. I love the engraving, always so many new ideas, I'd love to have Ruby outfitted as such.

And speaking of taking little trips, I leave in two weeks for the greater Cleveland area to train clients for five days, then I'm home again for a week, and it seems more likely than not that I'll be back in Germantown, MD again.

I'm really racking up those frequent flier miles.

Monday, October 12, 2009

That's all I ask man, just two hours to sleep

Travel takes its toll on me. As it stands, I've been up since 4 am. My body think's it was 7, but even that's way too early to be up, or it would be if I were home. I'm working in my company's Henderson office this week, and it will be a slight adjustment.

Last night, eating dinner outside with Ron and Kathy, in the 'hot Nevada desert', it was 87 degrees and I was freezing my ass off until I got a beer in me. What do you know? It really IS the humidity.
I always thought that was just a line, small talk to keep people from talking about the things that really matter in life.
Am I getting deep here? I don't mean to, but I'm sleep-deprived, last night's wine is still muddling around in my dehydrated brain, and I could really use a Diet Coke. I like that my hotel room is at the back of the casino, I don't have to walk through the din of people slowly spending their childrens' inheritance. (Not that I'm opposed to that, my children stand to inherit 200 Hot Wheels and some old Architectural Digests from the '70's. Aren't they lucky?)

I'm onto the scam already, though. Beautiful hotel, but not what I'm accustomed to. No desk. No coffee maker. 10 channels on TV, and two of them are about the hotel. However, great view. Even now, as I look out to the east, the first glimmers of dawn are breaking, just the bare outlines of the mountains are visible. Here's my view:
And true to form, I've already found the Sonic. It's tradition. It's a disorder, actually, but hey, potayto, potahto.
Enterprise really came through for me, too.
Economy class, my buttocks. I love free upgrades, it's good to be the king.
Great road presence, good pickup and I really feel like I belong in it.

What? You don't think they'd actually upgrade me to a Camaro from whatever econobox piece of excrement the company booked for me? Well...In fact, they did not. Because rental cars being what they are, I always have to get out-of-state plates when I travel. This time, it's an Envoy with Arizona plates. And I do feel like I belong in it, since it's the GMC version of our TrailBlazer. But still, it was a free upgrade, and I'll take it.

And in case there was any question about what a talented driver I am, note this photo from my hotel room of my park job after checking in.
You think that's bad? You should see me color!
More later, skies are pink and full of wispy clouds, have to watch the sunrise before I go to work.

Be nice and share!

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