Thursday, September 29, 2011

19 years

19 years.  That is how long it has been since I've talked to my college roommate, Mike.  Our lack of communication had nothing to do with a fight, disagreement or general distaste for one another.  It was simply, life.  Through the years, I've thought of Mike many, many times.  I was a groomsman at his weeding and through our two years together in the dorms at Purdue, we were inseparable.  After unsuccessfully stalking him across social media (he abhors it), I had recently heard an update through his brother-in-law/fraternity brother of mine I recently connected back up with.  Mike was great; married with kids and happy.  Much, like I always knew he would be.


So, when Mike's brother Chris dropped a surprise email (thanks to my love of social media) inviting me as a surprise guest to Mike's 40th birthday party in Las Vegas, I couldn't make my reservations fast enough.  One, I never turn down a trip to Vegas.  Two, it was Mike.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous.  As I told several friends, this was a big deal.  It's not like you can plan on a whim to reconnect with a friend who you have not seen in almost two decades.

To sum up our meeting.  I knocked.  He answered.  He asked where my hair went.  I observed he hadn't changed a bit outside of dropping his mullet and with a snap of the fingers, it was like there was never a 19 year gap.  Everything just clicked.

Mike & Mike

My memories, stories and laughs were Mike's memories, stories and laughs.  I found it reassuring that of all the things I thought were funny, were actually funny and most importantly, correctly recounted.  With two guys named Mike, our last names again became our first names.  It was truly if we never lost daily contact.

Not only was I able to meet up with Mike, but his brother Chris, and their great group of friends.  They were all great guys and they made the trip incredibly memorable.  As a group, it was a unanimous decision that our three nights in Vegas really felt like six.  We completely lost track of time and worked ourselves into the ground.

So, how exactly did we manage to have so much fun?  One word.  Keno.  Yeah, bingo.

Yes, Keno...

Crazy, I know.  However, when you want to do something that is fairly slow paced, provides "free" drinks (Sierra Nevada, folks) and has a relatively low buy-in, Keno is where it is at.  Yes, the older crowd was somewhat amused by our unified exuberance over the numbered ping pong balls, but it really was a great way to spend a day.  Plus, the seats where fairly comfortable and most importantly, when you figure in the beer to betting ratio, we all either broke even or came out a little ahead.  Try that playing blackjack.

Cabana Time

What else was great?  The cabana Chris rented at New York, New York.  For 10 hours, we had a pool side cabana which included a fridge, TV, Xbox and bar credit.  We didn't have any trouble filling the day with Mantivities, that's for certain.

Chris, Mike, Mike

Although we rode the NY, NY roller coaster about 3 times too many and were moderately concerned every time one of the life guards took his chair and fell asleep, it was a fabulous way to spend a hot Vegas day.

Probably one of the most amazing things I learned during our trip, was that Mike worked for a brewery...and not just any brewery, but Deschutes Brewery in Oregon.  Mike and I have always liked our beer and I guess it should come as no surprise we both love great beer.  Hearing Mike talk about the magic of cask ale literally brought a tear to my eye.  Who would have guessed that for guys that once thought Bud Dry was the next great thing, we would one day discuss the virtues of a fine IPA or porter.


Using the local rep, Mike found Deschutes served at Paris.  We swung by and walked away with mugs of their Mirror Pond Pale Ale.  Yes, "walked away".  Did I mention I love Vegas?  The max event, was the discovery that Todd English's Pub at City Center has Deschutes on cask.  After a long day of playing Keno, I was overjoyed to try both their Black Butte Porter and Inversion IPA.  Both were on cask and both were great.  Todd English's Pub is always a must stop for me.  Now, even more so.

Words cannot really sum up what this trip/reunion/birthday celebration meant to me.  Mike and I were two guys, from different parts of the country, who were thrown together for this thing called college.  We didn't just get along, we got along.  For two solid years we shared a ton of experiences and as we discovered, many of these, even 19 years later, will never be forgotten.  I have a feeling our Vegas adventure is part two of our friendship.  Even after our paths split, our love for life, laughs and incredibly great beer prove we've been running on parallel rails for all of these years.  Even, if we didn't know it.  Cheers, Mike and happy birthday.

Back together

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's on the Grill #229: Grilled Asian Steak with Greens & Ginger Dressing

When it comes to steaks, I am pretty much stuck in my ways: steak with a minimal rub, grilled hot and served whole.  However, as the great freezer thaw continues, I opted to change up my ribeye: steak with sesame seeds, sliced to serve and drizzled with a dressing.  Crazy, I know.

Stranger still, when I do go off the deep end on my steak prep, I typically go with marinades or mega rubs.  I seldom, in fact I can't recall if I have ever, tried an Asian theme.

Sesame Seeds

Thanks to the magic of the Epicurious iPad app, I was able to easily cobble together a recipe out of the steak and greens I had on hand.  My steak dinner is suddenly new again.  Sometimes it's nice to break from habit.

Grilled Asian Steak with Greens & Ginger Dressing
Adapted from Epicurious via Bon Appetit

2 T soy sauce
2 T seasoned rice vinegar
4 1/2 t vegetable oil, divided
1 T minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 t Asian chili-garlic sauce
1/8 t plus 1/2 t Asian sesame oil, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 12-ounce rib-eye steaks
2 T toasted sesame seeds
8 cups mixed greens

1.  For the dressing, mix together the soy sauce, rice vinegar 1 1/2 t vegetable oil, minced ginger, chili-garlic sauce and 1/8 t sesame oil.  Add in the cilantro and stir.

2.  Rub each of the steaks with the remaining sesame oil.  Sprinkle the steaks with the sesame seeds, salt and pepper.

Solo Steak

3.  Prepare the grill for direct high and cook the steaks approximately four minutes on one side, flip and then grill an additional 4-6 for medium rare.  Remove from the grill and allow to rest.

The Rest

4.  Thinly slice the steaks and place over the greens.  Drizzle on the dressing and serve.

Grilled Ribeye with Asian Dressing

I'm not sure how I left this to the end, but the only thing that can make a meal even better is a great beer.  A few weeks ago while hanging out at Boston's, my local, I had the pleasure of meeting David Cole, Co-Founder of the Epic Brewing Company in Utah.  Over the last month, I've noticed Epic's beers showing up at my various haunts.  Epic just started distributing to Ohio and David was in town leading the charge.  Although we only spent a short time together, one thing stood out.  David has a real passion for great beer.

Since we spoke, I have been working my way through the Epic line.  David's passion has certainly made a way into their beers.  So far, they have all been amazing.

Smoked & Oaked

Which brings me to Epic's Smoked & Oaked.  It tasted of sweet apple, vanilla and maybe even scotch.  It had a smokey finish, followed by a "secondary" woody finish.  The simple note I made to myself? "Lovely".

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What's on the Grill #228: Grilled Duck with Honey Mango Chutney Sauce

I've had a duck in the freezer for a couple months waiting for just the right time to thaw it out and throw it on the grill. "Just the right time" happened to be our extended power outage a few weeks ago.  This wasn't exactly the moment I hoped for.  On the bright side, when you have a lot of rapidly thawing frozen food, at least it's a great excuse to put the grill into overdrive.

Sliced Breast

I've talked before about how much I love duck.  Any chance I have to order it or eat, I take.  It is a magical meat I really treasure.  Fortunately, if you can grill a chicken, you can grill a duck.  The process is similar and really the only difference is the scoring and piercing of the duck's skin to allow all of that great duck fat to drain out when rendering.

For something extra, I added in a Honey Mango Chutney Sauce.  Although the meal certainly wasn't planned as originally intended, it worked great.  I mean it's duck, what is there not to like?

Grilled Duck with Honey Mango Chutney Sauce
Sauce adapted from Epicurious

1 4-5 pound duck
1 T olive oil
salt & pepper

1 T vegetable oil
3 mangoes, peeled, pitted, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup honey
5 T white wine vinegar
1 T minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1.  Prep the grill for indirect medium heat.

2.  Prep the duck by scoring the breast skin and piercing the skin in several other places with a sharp knife.  Rub the duck with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Trussed Duck

3.  Place in the grill, over a drip pan, and cook for approximately 1 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees F.

Donald is Done

4.  For the sauce, heat oil in a large pan.  Add in the mangoes, onion, red bell pepper and garlic, cook until soft, then add in the stock, honey, vinegar & ginger.

5.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 1 - 2 hours.   Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

6.  Carve the duck and serve with the sauce.

Grilled Duck with Honey Mango Chutney

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What's on the Grill #227: Grilled Salmon with Peach Red Pepper Salsa

Although based on the amount of red meat I talk about, photograph, stare at, play with and ultimately eat, I like fish.  A lot.  Yes, I know much like the revelation that Santa Claus and the Keebler Elves aren't real, it is true that throwing fish on the grill is something I relish.

Perhaps one of the reasons fish aren't thought of as "grill friendly" is the misconstrued belief they always stick to the grates.  In reality, just as long as your grates are clean, oiled and the cook is timed right, fish does not stick.  See:
Look, no stick!
Even if you are still a disbeliever, there are still plenty of other ways to grill fish without worrying about sticky grates.  However, in the end, there really is nothing better than fish grilled right over steal and fire.  Add in some incredible peaches, which are currently in season all over Ohio, you have the setting for a great meal.

Grilled Salmon with Peach Red Pepper Salsa
Salsa adapted from Epicurious

1 Salmon filet - about 1 lb
2 T olive oil
2 T finely chopped fresh basil
1 T finely chopped fresh mint
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large firm but ripe peaches (about 1 pound), halved, pitted
1 large red bell pepper, quartered, seeded
1 T cider vinegar
Prep the grill for direct medium heat.
Halve and pit the peaches.
Sliced Peaches
Mix together the olive oil. basil, mint and garlic.  Brush half of the oil mixture on to the peaches.
Grill the peaches over direct heat for approximately 2-3 minutes, or until soft.  Remove from the grill and cool.

Grill the red pepper over direct heat.  As the pepper begins to blister, turn, until the entire pepper is completely charred, approximately 8-10 minutes.  Remove the pepper from the grill and place in a paper bag.  Fold the bag closed.

Once cooled, remove the charred skin from the pepper.  Cut the pepper and peaches into half inch pieces and place in a bowl.  Add the vinegar and the remaining oil.  Stir.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Grilled Peach & Red Pepper Salsa
Clean and oil the grill grates.  Grill the salmon, flesh side down, for approximately 7 minutes.  If cooked long enough, the fish should easily release from the grill.  If you feel resistance, give it a few more seconds and try again.  Flip the fish over and grill for approximately 3 minutes more, or until the flesh easily flakes.
Slice the fish into strips and serve with the salsa.
Grilled Swordfish & Grilled Peach & Red Pepper Salsa

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

In the real world, I suppose more than one person wishes I was "wordless" on Wednesdays.  However, on my blog, I feel a little guilty that I am.  The verdict is out on what my readers feel.

For some time, there has been an Internet meme called "Wordless Wednesday".  In essence, bloggers post pictures, without any accompanying text or description.  The pictures speaks for themselves.  I know of several blogs I read who follow this approach: Not Exactly Bento, Victory or Death in the Kitchen, Tastes Like Home and Vanilla Sugar.

So, when I have a few seconds to grab a camera and not put fingers to the keys, I present APPs Wordless Wednesdays.  Enjoy.

Steak, Grilled

Saturday, September 03, 2011

What's on the Grill: Labor Day Edition

Good bye, summer.

Summer's Ending

Hello, fall.

It's that Octoberfest time of year...

Not so nice to still see you here, 90 degree weather.

Although this is Labor Day weekend, the line on the calendar marking the end of summer and the march towards fall, you certainly wouldn't recognize it by the weather outside.  It's hot.  Still.

This is the time of year where swimming pools close, kids start back to school and grills get their last big workout before fall hibernation.  Well, some grills, not mine.

As you fire up your grill this weekend, here are a few tips and selections to see you through:

1.  Grills just aren't for your main course. Potatoes and vegetables are great to nestle around open grill space.

Top Rack Spuds

The side burner does wonder with skillets.

Stir Fry Beans

And grill baskets work really well over the coals.

Vegetable Topper

2.  Take it outside. When it is hot outside, stay cooler by keeping your oven or range off and move your meal to the grill.  If it can be cooked inside, it can be cooked outside.  I do just that with chili.  Add a little wood to the coals and you end up with a meal impossible to replicate indoors.

Chili on the Grill

3.  Oil those grates. A little bit of vegetable oil on a paper towel makes the difference between dirty grill grates and beautiful grill marks.  To keep your food from sticking, give the grates a quick oily clean.

Grate Prep

If you are looking for ideas on what to make these weekend, turn to the APP pages for some ideas or inspiration:


Wings on Wood


Sizzle, Sizzle, Sear


The End of the Ride

No matter what you put on your grill, have fun and have a great weekend.  Happy Labor Day.