Luck O’ The Irish

Drunk (1)

This is not a restaurant or food post, but beer is mentioned several times and thats kinda like what I write about so there.

“Make the pledges get the keg!!”

“Dude, don’t you think thats kinda harsh?  I mean…?”

“Hell no!  We had to do dumber shit than that when we were pledging…make ‘em!”

7 months earlier, I had joined Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.  It was a turning point for me because UNLV (at the time) was mainly a commuter campus; I already knew a bunch of the kids going there from area high schools and wanted to meet fresh faces. Joining up with TKE could provide a social outlet that I was looking for since I couldn’t afford to go away to school.  To this day the boys who turned into men over those college days have remained my closest friends even 30 years removed.

At the time however, we were just looking for cheap beer.

March of 1986 found us at the TKE house throwing a St. Patrick’s Day bash, not unlike many of the others: loud music, coeds and cheap, green beer.  A few broken glasses and hearts notwithstanding, the party was a success.  Despite our best efforts, however, we did not consume all of the green elixir.

A few weeks later, hangovers gone and coursework attempted, a group of us found ourselves at the house with not much to do and even less money to do it with.  Talk turned to beers and we anguished over how to score some.

“Get the keg”, someone chimed in.

What?

“Get the keg, dude.  Its at the bottom of the pool”, he replied.  We looked at him like he was nuts but went outside anyway.

In the light of dusk we peered over the edge of the pool and true enough there was a 15.5 gallon steel barrel, reflecting the scant light like a diamond…a beacon glistening as a solution to our most selfish desires. It appeared that someone, after the March 17th shindig, had punted the keg into the deep end.

“Make the pledges get the keg!” more than one of us decided.

So orders were given and shirts were stripped off.  I don’t remember their names but I’m sure their pledge monikers were something like “Fluffer”, “Balls Deep” or “That Pledge That No One Likes”.  Down into the pool and up with a ¼ full keg of warm, week-old, green Bud Light.  Glorious.

We scrambled to get the manual pump and attach it to the top. A few strokes and we were rewarded with foamy shamrocks of awesome.  We cheered to our industriousness and we cheered to our friendship.  Hell, we even cheered to our cheers.  We were sure that no one was having as much fun as we were.

Soon, however, talk slowed and the energy in the room changed. We sat, elbows on knees and hunched over our cups, nodding to this comment or that opinion.  Something was amiss.  The loud talk we shared and boisterous lies we were telling had decreased to a whisper, until someone stood up first in a haste.

A quick run to the kitchen and the sound of a splash on porcelain. One by one over the next hour we each made our way to that place and commenced unloading the contents of our stomachs into the sink.  Ramen noodles from dinner and the betraying beer, both tinted green, made their way into the white basin.  One of us would come back to the circle and exclaim “no, I’m good…” only to turn pale and run back.

Turns out that the beer didn’t take too favorably to being shoved into a pool and made to percolate for a week in the warm sun of March.  It took its revenge on five 20-somethings, who felt like kings for a small moment in time, only to be brought back down to Earth on green wings.

Happy St. Patricks Day everyone.

Cookie Monster

Last week, K.G. brought home baked goods to our break room at work, which were devoured in short order by our hustlers.  It got me to thinking of the time I was dosed at work.

A long time ago in a restaurant far, far away, there was a young lady working the takeout counter who would bring in brownies, cookies and other snacks she prepared for her very appreciative co-workers.  Everyone loves a sugar rush, especially servers who are on their feet for hours at a time.  “M” was truly gifted in her kitchen, and we were the lucky recipients of her passion for baking.

One time, M brought in a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies.  Large, chewy medallions of awesomeness that I couldn’t wait to try. Wait, what is that taste? Something familiar but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.  I thanked her for the snack, then walked down the hall towards the manager’s office, thinking she had introduced some new spice to the recipe.

After realizing I couldn’t eat just one, I circled back to the break room and asked M for another cookie.

“Are you sure you want another one?” she asked.  I thought maybe she was concerned for my weight or something, but I should have seen the evil glint in her eyes.

You know the look.

devious

“M, what did you put in here thats different?  I can’t pinpoint what I’m tasting”.

“It’s a secret” she replied, a small smirk flashing across her smile as I jammed the entire cookie into my mouth. I left the break room to return to the dining room floor, brushing crumbs away from my face as I did so.

Not long after, I began to feel a strange euphoria.  I mean, I’m a pretty happy guy anyway, but this was like waking up after a 12-hour deep sleep, feeling like you can now conquer the world. This was accompanied by a light vibration which began to course through my body.  I started to feel like I was floating.

FLOATING-MAN

Definitely not unpleasant but what made me realize to my dawning horror what the magic “spice” was in M’s cookies.

Well, not spice, but herb:

“Cannabis (/ˈkænəbɪs/) is a genus of flowering plants that includes three different species, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis. These species are indigenous to Central and South Asia. Cannabis has long been used for hemp fibre, for seed and seed oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug. Industrial hemp products are made from Cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber. To satisfy the UN Narcotics Convention, some Cannabis strains have been bred to produce minimal levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent responsible for the high associated with it and which is obtained through the dried flowers of Cannabis plants selectively bred to produce high levels of THC and other psychoactive cannabinoids. Various extracts including hashish and hash oil are also produced from the plant.”

As I made my way through my shift, goofy smile plastered to my face like an icon, I wasn’t sure whether to be pissed off at M or grateful for the diversion.  Of course, the c.indica, c.sativa and/or c.ruderalis moving through my body wasn’t going to allow anything but peace and harmony for the next few hours. I cranked up the music in the dining room a couple notches.

Of course, the news that Dave Lory had eaten not one but two of M’s cookies raced through the restaurant and I noticed, with some weed-induced paranoia, a knowing smile sent my way every time I passed a team member.

Eventually, I came down from my high and finished the day. Saying goodbye to everyone, I noticed M at the front desk and gave her a quiet “thanks” and a wink. I then whispered to her “don’t ever do that again, k?”.  She smiled sheepishly and I went home and slept.

Enjoy.

Supper Club

Supper Club is a new restaurant review segment for T.R.L.  .

A small but well-earned promotion for me at work was the impetus behind my bride’s decision to take us on a night out.

“I have a surprise for you!” she said, eyes glittering with anticipation. “Make sure you are not working on the 27th”.

As we approached the date in question, I asked if we were staying local or traveling.

“We are driving to LA and spending the night”, she replied warily, as if I were trying to discern our plans in advance.

A little about my wife at this point in the story.  She is a SoCal woman born and bred and has spent lots of time in the great outdoors.  We’ve road-tripped a bunch of places, camped for days at a time in a forest with no plumbing, electricity or, god forbid, cell service.  We’ve taken our bikes on the Amtrak for an overnight to Santa Barbara, cycled all over Catalina Island, vacationed for a week in a Texas lake cabin…you name it.  A quintessential outdoor girl.

However…

When I think of Stephanie I don’t think of sleek LA, with its famed sidewalks and monied denizens…its sprawling concrete and polished steel. But thats where we were headed. Friday the 27th of February arrives, we pack an overnight bag and head north.

We arrive early at our hotel, a non-descript place on Beverly Blvd that we would call home for the next 23 hours. We decided, after taking our stuff upstairs, that we would walk over to The Grove which we passed on the way in.  My wife is still not telling me our plans for the night, by the way.

The Grove is an upscale outdoor mall with shops and restaurants, a movie theatre and special events.  We walked slowly down flagstone paths, people-watching and window-shopping.

We also discovered the LA Farmer’s Market, adjacent to the Grove and containing stall after stall of local and area products: fresh meat and poultry here, just-picked produce over there and specialty vendors touting everything you could imagine: 100 different types of hot sauce, an amazing variety of exotic spices, a vintage toy store, you name it.  We walked through, trying to see it all, stopping only to split a Reuben sandwich (lacking…) and later, a few pints of local brew.

grovefarmersmarket

We made our way back to the hotel for a break, then dressed for dinner.   Earlier I had made reservations at a favorite steakhouse of mine, only to be told by Stephanie to “cancel them”.

“Cancel them?  You know how hard it is to get a decent restaurant reso on a Friday night in LA?!”

“Yep.  Plans have changed”, she said with a wink.

Since parking is the Great LA Nightmare, we decided on Uber for the lift to my bride’s secret spot.  A short 10 minute ride over, we stopped in front of a grey building.  La Boheme. What follows is my review of the experience there:


La-Boheme-Slider-2

When you first walk in to La Boheme, the multi-level dining areas, chandeliers and striking garnet red tones are impressive.  A small, 10-seat bar to the right welcomes you as does a young lady perched at the host desk to the left.  

We sat at the bar and were instantly greeted by the bartender, who handed us drink and food menus and a Happy Hour listing.  Steph told him that we were waiting for friends and would just be ordering cocktails to start.  

“Wait a sec…who do you know in LA?!”  I asked.  Anything north of Anaheim was foreign to her at least in terms of cities and experiences, let alone acquaintances.

“Drink your drink,” she replied with a smirk, then turned to the bartender, asking if the Happy hour items were available in the dining room, since we would soon be adjourning there.  

“Typically not, however since you two are the only ones here right now, I’ll see what I can do”, he said.

Happy Hour La Boheme

His comment caused me to look around and see that, indeed, we were the only ones in the place.  It was early (7pm) but I thought there would at least be some traffic, given my prior LA dining experiences.  Favored places always seem to get cracking right after sundown…

Lost in my mental meandering, I didn’t feel the first tap on my shoulder, but turned at the 2nd touch to see the face of my best friend and crime partner Chris Cox.  I did a quick laugh and shook my head.  Now it made sense.  A few weeks earlier, I had read on his FB page that Chris was going to be performing in LA, but I hadn’t made it a point to remember the date.  Stephanie had conspired with Chris to get me to LA tonight to meet up and then watch him perform at Greystone Manor later.  More about that in a bit.  

With Chris was a couple friends, Ron and Phil, and we decided to go to our table. Introductions all around, then Jeff our server was ready for a drink order.

A short thing about LA waiters.  All of them want to be anywhere but where they are at any moment in time. There is an audition waiting for them, a party, an event….truly something they are missing and in a hurry to attend. Anything but waiting tables.

“Have you made a decision on your water?”, he asked.  A decision on my water…no, stud.  LA tap is just fine. Cocktails were ordered and brought in fairly quick time.  

Phil, Chris’ friend, said that we should order some appetizers. But first, he had a question for our waiter:

“How many pieces in the Bruschetta?” asked Phil

“Six…I think”, said Jeff

We ended up ordering their Avocado and Tomato Bruschetta, Ahi Tartare and (6) Oysters.  

The bruschetta came out on a marble board with 3 pieces instead of 6 as Jeff “thought”, but no matter.  We split the bruschetta into halves and dug in. Unfortunately, the bread tasted chewy and underproofed and was topped with the most boring tomato topping I’ve ever had.  

Ever.

Most versions of bruschetta that I’ve encountered share a lineage of flavor delivered by garlic, some black pepper, maybe a little kosher salt and a dash of balsamic vinegar. This had none of that.  Perhaps a reductionist version was the chef’s goal; that being said, this missed the mark entirely.

Next up was the Ahi Tartare.  At my restaurant we serve fresh Ahi poke, blackened Ahi sashimi and seared Ahi, and I’m used to seeing the bright pink flesh of the tuna take center stage.  This one looked like it had been out at room temp for some time, and was approaching the color of liver. Surrounded by what looked to be a circle of Tostitos blue-corn tortilla chip rounds (?), there was nothing appetizing about the dish in appearance, and soon, in flavor as well.

I dug in with my fork and warily lifted it to my mouth.  I was expecting the light flavor of fresh sea-water combined with the advertised yuzu and soy reduction.  What I got instead was a muddy train-wreck of flavors set off by old, poor quality tuna.  I put my fork down.  

At this point I was unwilling to try the oysters, daring only to move past the disappointing starters and ready to give their entrees a whirl.  My wine glass was kept full, my bride was by my side and good friends, both new and old, were at the table.

For dinner I ordered their New York strip steak.  At this point I should mention that my original desire was to go to Capital Grille, if only because a ribeye was my one goal for the evening.  They do great steaks at CG, but we don’t get to LA often and its always good to try local flavors.

Unfortunately, the medium rare steak came out RARE, which to me is way too underdone.  It took me a long time as a younger man to move from well-done steaks to the (unknown to me at the time) more desirable medium-rare variety.  At that age, I couldn’t imagine eating something that was so “undercooked”, but the balance of time and experience, plus the gentle urging of more sophisticated palates, led me to ordering my steaks in a manner less like shoe leather and more towards juicy and mouth-pleasing.  That being said, going all the way to “spank the cow on the ass and send it out on a plate” was not my goal.

I didn’t send it back, as I wanted to see if perhaps I would enjoy the edges and fight through the center.  But overall, the fair (not great) quality of the steak, combined with how rare it was, made me feel cheated.

For sides, the steak came with balsamic glazed cipollini onions; fat, white orbs which were overcooked and mushy. Instead of their polenta, I opted for simple mashed potatoes which came out creamy and delicious however, the portion size was about 2oz in a small souffle cup; great execution of the ingredients but let down by the stinginess of the kitchen.  Lastly, a grip of broccolini, simply seasoned and with good texture.  

All in all, I felt La Boheme was trading on its decor and its location in WeHo. A beautiful space with potential that’s not being realized on the culinary side.

Dinner Menu La Boheme

After dinner, Steph and I followed Ron and Phil to their townhouse while Chris left for soundcheck.  After a few glasses of wine provided by our gracious hosts, we walked over to Greystone Manor, our destination for the rest of the evening.

Greystone Manor is a multi-use facility owned by nightclub and venue operator SBE.  The layout is very simple with raised levels featuring a dance floor in the center with the DJ booth adjacent. Bars line both sides so revelers can stagger from the dance floor to the bar in short order.

Chris was holding court with some friends and fans and we made our way over to say hey.  What followed from that point was a blur of fun, dancing, cocktails and strange visions such as this:

dancer

Enjoy.

La Boheme

8400 Santa Monica Blvd.

West Hollywood, CA

www.globaldiningca.com

The Grove / LA Farmer’s Market

189 The Grove Drive

Los Angeles, CA

www.thegrovela.com

www.farmersmarketla.com

Greystone Manor

643 La Cienega Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA

www.sbe.com/nightlife/brands/greystonemanor

RECIPE: Sutton’s Beef Jerky

When Sutton was in elementary school, I would pick him and his brother up at the end of the day and one of our traditions on Fridays was to stop by the local 7-Eleven for snacks.  At one point, Sutton started to choose beef jerky as his snack of choice. Years go by and Sutton continues to eat his weight in jerky whenever he can. Pre-packaged jerky can be pretty pricey, so a few years ago I decided to see if I could make my own at home.

For Christmas one year I was given a Traeger Pellet Grill (insert shameless plug in case they want to advertise on my site…). The model I use is the Texas Elite and this combination smoker/grill uses the indirect heat of wood pellets that are augured into a fire box slowly or quickly, depending on how hot you want the grill to get. The radiant heat gives cooks more consistent and even temperatures, food retains its moisture (therefore more juicy) and you can’t burn your food because there’s no direct flames.  The pellets are harvested from different hardwoods such as hickory, cherry, mesquite and apple to give you different flavor options.  I use hickory for this recipe.

traegerTraeger Grills rock!

(If you don’t have a pellet grill, you can do the same thing in your oven at home. Set your oven to 165 and preheat.  Put your marinated or seasoned beef strips onto a wire rack with a sheet pan underneath to catch the drippings.  Remember you are not trying to cook the meat, merely dehydrating it to the texture that you desire.  “Low and slow” is the key is smoking meats AND in creating jerky.  Low and slow worked for Barry White, and it will work for you too. There are also commercial dehydrators on the market.)

I’ve tried a few different recipe versions, using a combination of different meats, spices, rubs, etc.  This is one that I think hits a homerun and Sutton, that judge of the jerky, has declared it his fave.

____________________________________________________

Sutton’s Beef Jerky

2.5# lean beef (I use london broil for this recipe; other great cuts you can use are top round, sirloin or flank steak)

2 cups orange juice

1 cup worcestershire sauce

1 cup teriyaki marinade

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp mill grind black pepper

1 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp garlic powder

4 sprigs of rosemary, leaves pulled and minced

1/2 cup diced white onion

12 pack of your favorite beer

Mix all ingredients (except for the beef and the beer) in a large bowl and place in the refrigerator while you cut the beef.  Make sure you mix the marinade very well to incorporate all ingredients.

rosemarySecret Ingredient – rosemary

marinadeFinished marinade

Trim away any fat present on the beef and then slice against the grain into 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick slices.

(The thinner the beef, the more quickly it dries, but I prefer a little bit thicker cut.)

london broilLondon Broil…and my flip flops.

Whisk the marinade one final time, then pour 1/2 cup of it into the bottom of a 9″ x 14″ glass casserole dish.  Place a single layer of the beef strips into the bottom of the dish, then cover with 1 cup of the marinade. Place the remainder of the beef on top of the first layer, then pour all remaining marinade into the dish. Make sure that all of the strips are covered and even.

in dishReady to refrigerate

Let the strips marinate for 12-14 hours, covered and refrigerated. Drink a beer or several as you have plenty of time.

When you’re ready, preheat your smoker/grill to 180 degrees and place the beef strips perpendicular across the grill rack (don’t want the strips to fall in!). Close the lid and drink another beer.

At one hour, turn the strips over, then close the lid and…you guessed it…drink a beer.  Turn the strips once per hour until done.  Each time you turn the beef, drink a beer to celebrate your amazing cooking skills.

Check the texture at 3 hours in by pulling a beef strip from the smoker and tasting it…that simple.  Depending on the thickness of the beef, it can take anywhere from 3-5 hours at 180 degrees. What you want the final product to be, texture-wise, is up to you. For me, 4 hours is the sweet spot.

grill2.2

When your jerky is done, pull the strips from the grill onto a baking sheet that has wax paper or parchment paper on top.  Put into the refrigerator, drink your remaining beers and let the jerky cool down.

Once the jerky is cool, transfer to a Ziploc bag or other airtight container.  This jerky will keep up to two weeks if kept in a cool, dry place like your fridge.

Have fun with the recipe.  Don’t be afraid to split the steak into two sections and create a different marinade for each.  Cooking is about experimentation.  JUST REMEMBER to write your efforts down.  You don’t want to create the Holy Jerky Grail only to forget what you put in the marinade, due to your excessive beer drinking.

finishedFinished

Enjoy.