Category Archives: Tent Revival

An old school Unsaved Loved Ones post…

I really haven’t done anything here since I started Hunter S. Fatback and switched gears to doing more professional writing, including publishing my first book.  I just thought my most recent post over there deserved a spot on my original blog that goes all the way back to some classic drunken screaming religious angst.  No more drinking for me, it will be 9 years in a couple of weeks, but the insanity of the current administration and the support it gets from millions of fake Christians inspired this:

Hunter S. Fatback- Saving Your Kid from God of Your Childhood

 

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An Anniversary, A Birthday, Some of the Meals…

Okay, this experimental post is what we’ll call “how much shit can I cover in one hour because I don’t want it hanging over my head all weekend, plus I just got a new Sous Vide Supreme so you know I’ll be wanting to write about THAT soon….”  Lots of photos….very shitty quality as is my custom.

Since we last spoke I’ve had lots of good meals, a wedding anniversary, a birthday, and next week is the big 2 year “other” birthday.  Busy summer so far…the markets are in full swing, my golf game continues to improve, and I’m in that “chill out on the eating so you don’t embarrass yourself when you go in for your yearly checkup” phase. Once some target-dining is done in a couple of weeks we’re going to try a lean meat and vegetable cleanse my wife read about somewhere.

Sooooo, where to begin…..I GUESS I should start with The Rancho Gordo Dinner at The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange a few weeks ago.  You know my dining is very Rieger-centric as of late, but I didn’t even know about this dinner until a friend called to tell me that a 12-top cancelled and they were needing diners. No brainer. I was in.

The dinner was to honor the products of Rancho Gordo….beans and various heirloom products out of California. Excellent food, incredibly nice people. 

Red wine braised octopus with Alubia Criollo, Bone Marrow Puree and Cucumber

Good stuff…the octopus was actually saran wrapped tightly and cooked, then sliced across in order to create short little bits and bites in the beautiful display you see here.

Scallops, Shrimp, Oysters,Canchas and Citrus

Ceviche dish with the equivalent of corn nuts…..totally excellent.

PORCHETTA!

That’s Howard Hanna holding the entire thing prior to slicing….it’s essentially a huge section of the pig going from the skin inward to the loin/tenderloin. It is wrapped around a paste of various herbs and spices and then roasted to perfection.  He’s been serving this since they opened late last year, only on Saturday nights, and I have to say this was the best version he’s done so far. 

Heirloom Bean Salad, Yellow Indian Woman Beans with Pecorino and Sage, Braised Tuscan Kale with Garbanzo Beans

I guess I didn’t remember to take a picture of this dish…..but it sure was good. So was the chickpea and kale dish I didn’t capture a photo of either.

Susan’s Meyer Lemon Chiboust,Piloncillo Cake and Canela Whipped Cream

 

I’m all about puddings, trifles and things of that nature. This was very tasty…and as anyone knows who has had the misfortune of dealing with piloncillo in your kitchen….someone was doing God’s work here. Great end to the meal.

AND ONWARD…….

We just celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary, and I think the tradition we’re going to try and keep is to take a roadtrip every year.  Last year we took the train to St. Louis, but THIS year was the real deal…..we decided months ago that Deadwood, South Dakota was the perfect destination.  Why?  Because the HBO series fucking ruled.  Sound logic.  Well, due to the huge flood of 2011, our route had to be modified, but we still managed to see some great touristy sites.  On the way up, we spent a night in Sioux Falls, where every single business doubles as a casino.  Our first vacation meal was at “Poppadox Pub”, because it was rumored that they had the best chislic in all the land.  What in the fuck is chislic, you may ask?  I hadn’t heard of it either, but it’s basically just deep fried chunks of sirloin, so how bad can that be?  The chislic was good, the wings were fantastic, and apparently Poppadox is an alcoholic’s paradise because they have drink specials like $9 pitchers of well drinks.

Poppadox, and….CHISLIC!

The Corn Palace!

A little farther down the road we stopped in Mitchell, SD to visit the Corn Palace. Actually, WAY cooler than we expected and everyone was incredibly friendly with the ironic exception of Cornelius….the Corn Palace’s mascot who shows up to mug for the camera twice per hour.

THE Wall Drug!

I don’t even know what to say about this place. It’s fucking crazier than any Travel Channel program can possibly describe. The number of people pouring into that place….and the sheer size……great homemade donuts, free ice water, I’m done talking about it.

DEADWOOD!

There are two things to do in Deadwood- drink and gamble.  So I guess not much has changed in the past hundred and fifty years.  Not as many whores as back in the days with Al Swearengen, but my guess is that is only because it wasn’t bike week.  We did see some of the roughest trade imaginable though…..woof.  We stayed in the ultra-luxurious Bullock Suite in the Bullock Hotel.  Great room, and we managed to find plenty to do during our stay without feeling rushed.  I played some golf, we went to Mt. Rushmore, visited Mt. Moriah Cemetery, toured a creepy mining museum, ate dinner in a train car…..but one of the most memorable things about the trip was our dinner at The Corn Exchange, about an hour away in Rapid City.

This place would be a rare find for most towns, and as far as I can tell this is about IT for the entire state of South Dakota when it comes to “real” dining with “real” service.  Great experience, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Young and enthusiastic waitstaff, an owner who isn’t shy about waiting tables on a Saturday night, and truly top notch food. A picture of Chez Panisse greets you at the front….rightfully so.

This course is a corn pancake topped with smoked salmon and a cucumber sauce. Dynamite dish, my wife has been craving it ever since.

Here are some perfectly cooked tiger shrimp in a lobster saffron sauce with fresh English peas….other stuff too…can’t recall. 

Homemade pheasant ravioli with more of those same tasty peas.  The filling for these was very well executed by someone who was well trained…close to a mousseline but with more texture, and you knew you weren’t just eating chicken.

This is my bone-in pork chop with an addictive tomato and pepper jam.  Maybe one of the best cooked pieces of pork I’ve ever eaten. 

Unfortunately, we did not capture a photo of the butterscotch pot de creme before devouring it.  Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about the Corn Exchange in the time I’m allowing myself. This is a must-visit if you are ever even close to the area.

“EL COMEDOR” in the Port Fonda Airstream!

The food truck craze has hit critical mass.  But that is all bullshit you can forget about.  The only place you need to put on your hipster to-do list is Port Fonda.  And if you’re like me, and have a knack for booking the most awesome seats on the planet, you and five of your friends can snag one of the four seatings they do each weekend inside the redesigned and well appointed Airstream trailer.

I like Chef Patrick Ryan.  He’s Bayless-trained, he cusses as much as I do, and has that same whore with a heart of gold persona that I attempt to exude.  He’s the shit. And he can cook.

Our four course dinner started off with us roasting at approximately 175 degrees….First Friday on the hottest day of the year thus far. That was quickly forgotten when the food started hitting the table. Oh, and Howard Hanna sent over a bottle of wine with his compliments because he also rules the fucking earth, and I love him enough not to bust his balls about the fact that I can’t drink.  Just great people…and we had a SUPER stellar group of diners to feed off of as we were feeding. 

First course was a roasted corn app with crema, shown above. Good start, a teaser.

Second course were the chilaquiles….hard to see in this photo but it’s kind of like if Jesus Christ turned the water into Frito pies at the marriage feast and then topped the fuckers with a perfectly done Campo Lindo egg and a tomatillo and pepper sauce.  Honestly, so far beyond the best version I’ve ever had it makes me sad for all the rest. And the bonus…it’s on the regular menu pretty often so you don’t have to get a seat inside to enjoy it.

The main course is basically one whole cured, roasted, and glazed pork butt that you tear apart like animals with tools and weapons, fighting for chunks of the brulee-candylike pig skin in order to create a perfect bite as shown above. All sorts of fixin’s and homemade tortillas come with this pork orgy.  Goddamn what a good meal. Made me sad I’ve only got about 1/6 of a stomach.

And after all that you don’t expect a “real” dessert, but Patrick is a trained pastry chef so the final mind-raping of the evening was his deep fried “tres leches/horchata” ricotta fritters with a tres leches sauce and chunks of local fresh peaches.  I’ve had a hundred versions of the ricotta fritter, and THESE sent all of THOSE to timeout. 

The best. Cool staff, some of my very best friends, and a total bargain…..$250 bucks for the table minus tip….I’ve spent more than that on one meal by myself in NYC or DC, and while the food was great it wasn’t even close to as much FUN. Sweating like animals, eating like pigs, joking around all night, going over to fuck with the staff at The Rieger (Port Fonda parks in their parking lot)…..man, this was the real deal.  I SHALL return….as soon as possible.

And that’s about it for me, pricks. My hour is up and I am OUT.  I MIGHT come edit later….or not!

48 Hour Shortribs in the Sous Vide Supreme AWAIT!  Golf is CANCELLED!

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100th Post! The Greatest Meal of My Life…

100th Post!  What took so damn long?  Oh boy!  I eat the fancy food!  I eat the fancies!  And the pretties! The pretties and the fancies!

To the most logical extreme within the boundaries of my level of supreme over-spending on dining, I’ve eaten some pretty good stuff. It’s much easier to justify that incarnation of a crippling addiction…it’s socially acceptable, delicious, and fun to talk about.  I forget how far from normal I am sometimes with the OCD sourcing, dining, planning and cooking. But the freakishness makes me the go-to guy for people who need a recommendation.  Either I can point you to “the very best of whatever”, or I have resources that can handle whatever I can’t answer. “Your death row meal”….”best bite you’ve ever eaten”….and a thousand other topics that have sparked Penthouse letter level discussions of meals gone by. A topic about restaurant health violations on another blog had me going back and rattling my memory for horror stories, and it made me think of the best meal I’ve ever had. It was not the pretties.  The fancies….about as far from the fancies as a mule pissing on a flat rock and having it splash way down into your shoelaces.  However, what was arguably the best meal I’ve ever eaten in my life was in the spring of 1990, while sitting in a gutter in Tepec, Mexico. I was 20.

This was back during when I was trying to decide what I wanted to do in ministry, and I spent a year in The Masters Commission program in Phoenix, Arizona.  Basically, it’s a ministry school of sorts where the church gets free unlimited labor for a year, and you get to send a TON of timber up to your mansion in heaven.  That was the year my brother died, and upon returning to Phoenix after his funeral and the holidays I was a bit out of sorts.  Filtering the grieving process through God’s will and all of that…an existential crisis that had to be wedged into the confines of black and white redneck theology.  But FANCY redneck theology…this was a superchurch that predated superchurches…Phoenix First Assembly…and I was one of the lucky few chosen for The Masters Commission/We’re Better Than The Mormons program.  If Jesus had a Seal Team 6, we were it.  So anyway, no less than a million stories THERE, but back to Tepec…

A bunch of people in the program got peeled off to go on a missions trip to El Salvador for a couple of months. I was kind of “in jail” because of my attitude and inability to let the Holy Spirit rush me through my grief, so I didn’t get chosen for that.  Two guys were picked to drive a 1973 school bus all the way from Phoenix to San Salvador, as a gift for the children’s missionary who ran the ministry that was hosting the group. Obviously, I wasn’t chosen for that task either. BUT there was no task that was crazier, more dangerous or just “out there” in general…so I had to go for the glory and street-cred and get in on some of that.  I called up Lloyd, our leader, and asked if I could not only go on the missions trip, but also be on the bus….I felt “led” to ask him, and I thought it was something that could give me a much needed boost.  No idea what my real motivation was at the time…glory and popularity chasing mixed with a bit of a deathwish…but long story short, he agreed to it, in part, because “even though you’re not old enough for us to insure as a driver on the bus, you will be good at keeping the other two from killing each other”.

Mark was a great mechanic and Andy knew Spanish.  They could both drive a bus. And someone really may have died if it was just the two of them. As it was, Mark and I had a very serious discussion about whether or not we could muster enough Spanish to get through the borders of Guatemala and El Salvador without Andy. Andy was a total douche who often put us in unnecessary danger, and as we drank two highly-forbidden bottles of Corona we weighed our options and by the slightest, tiniest margin decided NOT to leave him on the side of the road in southernmost Mexico.  Our leader’s instincts were correct…even though I did not drive the bus one foot during the 2000+ mile, eight day trip, my contributions were vital. Nobody died. And that was mostly luck. It wasn’t a big deal playing referee with those two or anything, there are just five million different ways to get killed on a trip like that and we bumped up against twelve thousand of them.  

At this point anyone who knows me has stopped reading because they have suffered through twenty years of the same El Salvador stories and are horrified that I have found a new audience.  I don’t think I’ve abused this particular story that badly, because it’s not as fun to tell as the ones where things were exploding…this was at a time when fierce fighting between govt troops and rebels was just winding down.  But it was like Monte Carlo compared to that goddamn bus.  The way it worked was this: Since you only have a few hundred miles of actual highway as you head down the Pacific coast of Mexico, it takes way, way, way longer to get anywhere.  Especially when you are driving a twenty year old school bus that has been freshly painted bright white with neon red lettering down the sides spelling out a poorly translated slogan “Because The Children Need Jesus”, that happens to be loaded down with a ton of puppets, toys, canned goods, and a bunch of other crap that gets rifled through five times each day by federal troops searching for drugs. A translator with the most broken sense of comedic timing and the assumption that all Mexicans have the same sense of humor tends to lose you some time as well. We’d have to drive from sun up to sun down, between twelve and sixteen hours per day and it still took us about eight days to get to our destination.  At night we’d stop at whatever town was closest, and normally two of us would get a cheap (even by Mexican standards) hotel room and the third guy would sleep on the bus to keep an eye on it. A lot of well meaning, well travelled, upper middle class liberal white people would lead you to believe that there aren’t any dangerous places in the world because bad things can happen anywhere…and it’s inherently bad and downright rude to put labels on anyone or anything.  Well, take it from me when I tell you that if you’re travelling through the entirety of rural western Mexico, when it gets dark you want to be in a well populated area for the night.  Time never moves slower than when your Jesus-beacon bus is broken down between two towns with thirty miles of jungle road separating them, and it is long past dark. It is a worst case scenario that we tried our best to avoid, and is what landed us in Tepec.

We skipped solid food for at least a couple of days based solely on the conditions of the Pemex gas station bathrooms. That, plus the fact that once you get into the more tropical parts of Mexico there aren’t many great places to pull off to the side of the road and walk into the jungle for a dump. The terrain is unpredictable and there is stuff alive out there. And as I mentioned before, towns can be very far apart and twenty miles can turn in to five hours.  The oppressive heat also makes it easier to stick to fluids.  While I never really regretted volunteering for the adventure, it was one of those things you knew would look a hell of a lot better in hindsight.  If I remember correctly, the day leading up to our stop in Tepec was extraordinarily brutal.  The high elevation scenery was not unlike Tony’s arrival in Colombia in the movie Scarface. Very scenic, green, misty, other-worldly. And you’d catch glimpses of that in between shit like staring wide-eyed every time you rounded a bend in the road to see whether or not your lane had been washed down the mountainside. Or the ubiquitous cow in the middle of the fucking road.  Or learning the unwritten Mexican law of the mountain road “if I rear end you and you can still drive your vehicle, I don’t have to stop”.  It was just a bad day, but they were all pretty much like that. And I think our plan was to try and make it to whatever town was past Tepec, and even though we arrived there right as it got dark we probably would have kept going.  But that fucking place just swallowed us up.

Most nights, one of us would be stuck sleeping on the bus. Which was total shit, because the “children who need Jesus” would stop by in droves to see what was up, and those little fuckers are mean…terrorizing you for not throwing open the doors and giving them toys at 3am, beating on the doors, throwing stuff at the windows…and you know as soon as you flip out on one of them you’ll have a whole Mexican village drawing and quartering you.  On a couple of occasions, all three of us were stuck on the bus all night. After trying to navigate through a maze of freakishly narrow streets to either find a hotel or the way out of town, Tepec was just such an occasion. That town sucked. And either we kept circling in the worst neighborhood, or the whole city is just cursed. If you’re one of those annoying people who get all offended and assume any negative comment about another country is spoken by an “ugly American”, go fuck yourself. The ‘hood is the ‘hood, in any language, and I’m quite familiar with the fine line between the types of areas where white people venture in order to get some level of liberal-guilt street cred, and the types of areas where you just do not belong. This particular area was just south of somewhere we did not belong, so we found a parking lot and planned to hole up there until morning.  The rest of Tepec might have gold-paved streets for all I know. We just happened to stumble upon the area where the workers who pave those streets go raping.

I don’t remember what we’d talk about on those nights when we’d all have to sleep on the bus.  Once we were just so wiped I don’t think we said anything at all…until about 3am when a soldier came beating on the door and we realized we’d pulled over to sleep at the entrance of a huge military base. We were pretty big on re-capping anything insane that stuck out in particular from that day. And we talked about food quite a bit. Overall, we were in pretty good spirits…this was all for God and we were looking forward to meeting up with our friends who had already flown into El Salvador.  You’d chit chat until you were ready to pass out though, because there’s no good way to sleep on a school bus. The floor is too filthy and there is zero air movement. The seats are too narrow and short to get a good position.  In the end, the best you can hope for is putting boxes or something in the aisle between the two seats to give your legs someplace to rest. But still, lying across the seats means those little bastard kids can crawl up to the windows and almost be in your face. And it was usually very hot.  Hot enough for me to get over any fear of going shirtless in front of others when it was time to get to sleep.

I wish I could remember the logic we used to get off of the bus in the middle of this neighborhood in the middle of the night in order to go and break a solid-food fast with something that was sure to have us soiling ourselves for days to come.  I think there was some talk of just two of us going, one to still watch the bus and be ready to come pick us up if something started happening…or power in numbers if three of us went.  Whether we all went or not is hard to remember, and what we’d find once we got there was a total pig in a poke. What I do recall is lying there generally pissed off, bored, and a little scared when the smell of cooking meat made its way across the parking lot. Grill smoke is a universal language, and we were starving.  The little cart/stand was about half a block from where we sat, and by this time in the evening it’s not like it was being overrun with people…which made it a little scarier actually. Some elaborate trap to lure us gringos out into the open with the promise of grilled meats.  In reality, we were about fifteen hundred miles away from anyone who cared being able to hear us scream, so if we were dead men we were already dead, so may as well have some food.

The little food stands are just everywhere in Mexican towns.  Tepec was the point at which we went from avoiding them altogether to the OTHER extreme…we started eating anything and everything we could find.  We avoided the bags of juice drinks kids sold because of the water, but other than that we ate a ton of stuff that would be Travel Channel-worthy.  In the ‘hood in Tepec, it was your typical little family food stand where they were selling some and feeding the family at the same time.  If I were the culinary genius back then that I am today I’m sure I’d have some involved descriptions of the food and condiments. Surprisingly, instead of tacos, tamales and things of that nature, we arrived to find…hot dogs and hamburgers.  Well, by Tepec standards perhaps.  The relatively identifiable shapes of the meats and buns were the only things giving them away. The hamburgers were slider-sized and overcooked, with a tiny bun and way too much of a mayo/crema/onion/pepper mixture on top.  The hot dogs were really different….think of a freakishly fat leg stuffed into some kind of spandex, with random slits in the fabric where the fat presses out…and instead of tied/twisted off ends to close the hot dog the casing is just open with some meat coming out.  All I can remember is some kind of green hot sauce with those.

Now, I’m not going to pretend I have some Mexican hot dog poetry planned here…there isn’t some crescendo that surpasses all of the words I’ve dedicated to temples of gastronomy in New York and San Francisco.  I was a twenty year old kid with several days worth of filth on him, hungry and dehydrated, sitting on a curb in Mexico with his feet planted in a nasty gutter, eating deliciously charred mystery meats like his life depended on it.  It’s funny what you can be thankful for when you’re at a place way on down the road you never expected to see, and you find something familiar and comforting in the scariest of surroundings.  We ate with a speed and volume that amused anyone who happened to stop by for a meal, and we downed God knows how many sodas.  Without question, the best meal of my life thus far. It was a turning point that happened in the midst of a much larger turning point that I can look back at now in the comfort of the past twenty years and know in my heart there isn’t a hell of a lot in life as nice as finding something good to eat instead of worrying about whether or not you are approaching the twilight of your existence.

 

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Tasty Enough To Satisfy the Pickiest Human Centipede…

Switching things up for a little while…it’s not like it will have a huge impact one way or the other since I only get a couple hundred unique hits in a week’s time with periodic big spikes of traffic depending on what I’ve posted…

Anyway, I was talking with my wife the other day about how we have become pretty involved in the food community here in Kansas City…we have a favorite farmer who provides much of our weekly produce, at this point I’m pretty well known at my butcher shop, we know and love a lot of the local chefs, have our “go-to servers” as well as our “backup servers in case the go-to isn’t there” at our favorite restaurants, and pretty much 100% of our dining is at locally owned establishments…from the taquerias in downtown KCK to our favorite “faincy date night” locations across the metro. The majority of our meals are cooked at home, and my wife manages to do most of that. I can cook, but I’m a fraud to some extent…I would rather eat soup straight out of the can than think about daily cooking. She’s the executive chef at our house. I’m just the guest chef who pops in from time to time. My cooking has to involve the crazy OCD which has been chronicled on this blog many times. I’m a diva like that, cooking for the power and glory…but man, my kung-fu is strong as hell. If I can source the ingredients and have the proper equipment, I can cook damn near anything.

 So if I’m going to keep blogging with any regularity it can go one of three ways…I can pop in from time to time with the religious or political stuff and rant away (which is not without its own merit), ramble incessantly about my love of golf and guarantee nobody ever reads my stuff again, OR I can just write about the thing that prompted my gastric bypass: FOOD. Right now is a great time for that, the farmer’s markets are starting to percolate and my wife and I are eating way differently due to our weekly CSA. Food makes me happy (though I’m about 15 pounds up from my lowest weight…another topic for another time), I’m good at cooking it, I can talk about it all day, and Kansas City has some AMAZING culinary talent. Honestly, we could provide a food tour of this town that goes from the gutter to the inner sanctum of the Great Oz himself. And we host some fucking top notch get-togethers at our house on our newly refinished deck. Our tomato plants are getting big, the herbs are pouring out of their pots, I just bought 55 pounds of Piedmontese brisket (points-only because burnt ends are all that counts beefwise in BBQ), I’m coming up on 2 years of sobriety, we’re eating a fancy taco dinner in an airstream trailer on July 1st, I’ll be doing a week long KC-centric food blog on eGullet this summer…so much going on I am passionate about that is also positive.

Oh, now please allow me to say…I’ll always have my edge. I’ll always include enough profane imagery to weed out the frail little pussies, and I reserve the right to drop everything and steamroll over another lying hyper-charismatic moneychanger like Bill Johnson. I try not to expend too much energy when it comes to the grievously offensive examples of “those called by God to ministry by default because they have no other viable options”. Being a man of God first requires you to be a man; responsible, accountable, hard-working, honest and trustworthy. The ability to use your marketing skills and charisma to sell fake miracles and build a church doesn’t cut it. Neither does creating your own poverty and hardships through your lack of the most basic work ethic, initiative, self esteem, and responsibility to you and your family, and then counting all of the adversity as part of your testimony and dedication…ministry being the logical conclusion after a series of really bad decisions. Fortunately, the former are usually exposed and the latter are a dime a dozen who burn out and go away when confronted with ACTUAL work. All of the ranting and pontificating I’ve done based on a lifetime of witnessing the phenomenon over and over again boils down to that…and there isn’t a hell of a lot there within my control. All I can do is sit back and hammer the shit out of them once in a while. BUT way more of my time is spent on happier thoughts and pastimes than this crap….so I guess something as mundane as more food-related content may have its place. And this is just experimental to see how I like it….

Our food and cooking dynamic at home is pretty simple for the most part- my wife cooks most of the nightly meals and we focus on pretty simple, healthy-ish food.  We really don’t eat out much during the week unless there is some kind of event, and very, very rarely get any kind of drive-thru food.  Sonic happy hour drinks and a sandwich once in a blue moon, Taco Bell about two or three times per year…but mostly we eat at home and do try to use as much local, seasonal produce and meats as possible.  Factor in the desire for weight loss, and you get the idea…if it were not for my wife I’d literally eat the most basic, boring protein-based meals you could imagine. I’d eat the same thing night after night until I literally could not take it anymore and then move on to something else. If you go back into my blog right after I had surgery I did this with things like cheeses and canned meats. Fortunately we have a good thing going, she’ll do the daily lunches and dinners and then we’ll figure the weekend out ahead of time.  Friday night we’ll generally stay at home with some carryout Italian or Mediterranean….but with all the good stuff from the market lately we have been mixing that up a bit as well.

Just a few random shots of our home-based cooking….first up a pizza my wife made with some fresh morels I had just sauteed.  This thing was awesome….best $25 homemade pizza I’ve ever eaten.

Just got these things last week from Crum’s Heirlooms…they are radish pods. All the things we love about fresh snap peas and the earthy burn of radishes all rolled into one miraculous little package. They are, in a word, fucking amazing.

Here are some burnt ends I made with an Akaushi (Kobe) brisket for a big fancy BBQ we hosted a couple of weekends ago to celebrate the new deck. Great menu…in addition to the burnt ends we had pulled pork, spicy smoked Asian wings, cornbread with fresh corn kernels, bacon and homemade maple butter…a sriracha mayo potato salad, candied jalapeno cole slaw…homemade Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream with Ginger-Cinnamon Cookies…I’m probably forgetting something…

 

Now DINING OUT is where things get interesting.  We’ll generally do a “date night” level meal about twice per month, which consists of places like Lidia’s, Café des Amis, Justus Drugstore, Bluestem and the darling of the moment…The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange. We try to keep those types of dinners down to once a month, but you know how that shit goes. Other dining options are almost all ethnic…taquerias like Bonito Michoacan, Café Cedar, Vietnam Café, Cupini’s, Swagat. And of course there’s good old fat and grease at temples such as Frontier Steakhouse and an occasional trip to The Corner Café.  We’re all over the board with our dining, way, way too many places and too much stuff to include here but my plan will be to chronicle all of that much better in the months to come. No chain dining except for maybe a yearly trip to Red Lobster, which I demand because I’m straight up ghetto gangsta. Seriously. I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I’ve got way more than my share of the ‘hood in me. And from time to time, the ‘hood in me demands an Admiral’s Feast. Or a gizzard/liver full combo with extra G-Sauce from Go Chicken Go…with either some Fanta Strawberry pop or a red cream soda.  But ANYWAY, you’re liable to get sick of hearing about The Rieger pretty quickly, we just love it so.

This is the softshell crab sandwich I had last month for lunch at The Rieger….sadly, the season is over as of this writing but I will say that Howard Hannah could compete with anyone when it comes to his softshells.

And here is one of the best salads ever made. Again, from The Rieger, but this was part of a dinner we had when my sister in law was in town. I’m horribly inconsistent with my picture taking and the picture quality, but other than the softshell main courses this salad was the rockstar of the evening.  Fresh greens from Crum’s along with their radish and aforementioned radish pods, topped with some grilled grainy bread and a sunny side up duck egg.  We recreated this pretty well at home last weekend…and will do so again this weekend if we can still get some radish pods.

 

And if you desire more information about The Rieger, you can always peek into the gateway of their love at-  www.theriegerkc.com

Our quaint local market where I go ever single Saturday morning during the season is- www.parkvillefarmersmarket.com

Here is where I buy my MEAT!  – www.paradisemeats.com

Anyway, more when I’ve got something worth sharing, we’ll see how this particular direction turns out….

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So What’s Up With Crazed Pro-Lifers and Self-Circumcision?

So I guess it’s worth mentioning that Osama Bin Laden was killed, and the rapture didn’t happen. And no, this isn’t the “classic” post you’ve been waiting for….springtime has just killed my angst.

Not a lot of spin I can put on the Bin Laden thing one way or the other….it doesn’t make me  feel like singing “God Bless the USA” nor does it make me squeamish or worried about how we got the intel that led us to him, or the fact that he was unarmed. A lot more people need to die for a hell of a lot less, AK-47 in hand or not. My main thought is that we officially have the baddest motherfuckers on earth available to go and kill people…for better or worse. It was kind of annoying to hear all of the usual tea bagger spins on it. You know, the same people who got all misty eyed when Dubya announced how we’d won in Iraq in his ill fitting flight suit. It must have just shrunk their already small genitalia to nothing when their hearts were so conflicted in those moments before they found a way to completely bypass Obama when handing out credit. But overall. Yay. One small step towards justifying the insanely large defense budget that is our untouched and unquestioned sacred cow.

I know I’d get called on it if I let the Camping rapture prediction pass by without even a mention. The funniest thing to come out of that are all of the church folk who want to distance themselves from him while still scaring you with the threat of the imminent Great Tribulation. (Sort of like the pro-lifers who don’t REEAAALLLLYYY mean it when they say it’s wrong for people like Dr. George Tiller to be gunned down because he provides abortion services.) I’m not a REAL theologian, but I know enough to say that anyone who possesses the ability to truly parse the book of Revelation with proper exegesis and hermeneutics is not going to be in the camp of those who choose to scare people into submission instead of doing what Jesus asked of them. The pre-tribulation rapture theory is something that people who do not know how to read ancient near eastern literature properly use to confound, coerce and generally freak out people who are even dumber than them. It’s a control thing. Can I tell you what it all really means?  No. But I CAN tell you there is no existing evidence that the author can be identified, and that it was just one in a huge list of apocalyptic books (which all sound exactly like it) that were argued and debated before it was included in the existing canon. WHICH by the way is how the Bible was created….by a bunch of guys fighting over what was worth including and what wasn’t over a period of a few hundred years. Lots of bargaining, compromise, intrigue, and of course it needed a “Biiiig FINISH!”….and Revelation fit the bill. Do I believe in the gospel? That the Bible contains the word of God? Yeah, I really do. As crazy as that sounds. But the Bible didn’t magically fall from the sky one day. The actual text was written and re-written over long periods of time, translated from the original languages, and then compiled by church leaders with various motives. The nugget contained therein that makes Christians who and what they are is pretty simple and easily understood….no matter how bad the various translators, scribes or politicians were who cobbled it all together. BUT people like to keep it all mystical and complicate it as much as possible. Again, an ego and control thing. The Bible, for our purposes, is very very simple. Unfortunately,  its main function these days seems to be for people who like to tell other people how to live without actually doing it themselves. But hey, it’s a great failsafe if you lack the drive and determination to actually be a productive member of society. If you lack the motivation, intelligence or skills to hold down a real job with actual health benefits and self-awareness isn’t something you strive for, then maybe a fledgling ministry is for you. Lots of people dumber and weaker than yourself will confuse your profound shamelessness and hypocrisy with charisma, and the people who are already stuck with you are betting against the house again as you march off into yet another very poorly planned and executed scheme to finally be somebody without actually working for it.  

Whiiiiich takes me from a few dozen “pastors” I have known back to Camping….  FIRST OF ALL, if you are a Christian is it a REQUIREMENT for you to believe that every single species of animal and insect that exists on this earth today LITERALLY spent forty days and nights together on a big boat? I know, I know, “well the Bible says it, so I believe it!”. So essentially you don’t HAVE to believe it to be a Christian, you’re just not as GOOD a Christian if you can’t rationalize the entire event with shit like “Just because it doesn’t SAY how God fed all the creatures doesn’t mean he let them starve! Didn’t Jesus feed the multitude?”. And that is literally how those conversations go….OR you get some dipshit who hasn’t heard yet that the answersingenesis website has been utterly refuted and also abandoned by those who wrote much of it, and they try getting all scientific on you. “You know how I know the earth is only 6000 years old? Because I can prove that science isn’t perfect. If Science isn’t PERFECT, and the word of God is perfect…then people walked with dinosaurs and the earth is only 6,000 years old….SO LET PRAYER BACK IN SCHOOLS!”….and yes, that is exactly how those conversations go as well. 

And I only bring the flood thing up to underscore the fact that Camping used THAT as the baseline for his rapture prediction. The flood plus seven thousand years because to God a thousand years is a day and he said he’d destroy the world in seven days EQUALS….one hell of a great moneymaking scheme. And if you’re reading this and you even remotely believed what that idiot was selling (and actually continues to sell….May 21 was just a “silent” judgment), I literally hope child services comes and takes your kids from you. They’d have a brighter future if they were adopted by a big ol’ family of molesters. I’m being literal here. IF you are reading this….and you in any way related to or believed Camping’s scam AND you have children….THOSE CHILDREN (please pause to take a look at them or a picture of them) would have a better chance at leading a productive, happy and normal life if they were ripped from you and placed in a series of foster families; each one a worse child trafficking operation than the last. THAT is how stupid you are. My main point here was to make sure I underscored that well enough to avoid any grey areas. But don’t worry, only slightly smarter than you are the followers of Bill Johnson who think nothing of him skating off to Hawaii for an “extended rest” on their dime. The Bible is a pretty handy thing….you can make it mean anything you want. Not only is the laborer worthy of his hire, the laborer who bases his theology on prosperity can build a theology around “extended rest” and his followers will write him a blank check for a kick-ass vacation on a tropical island. Not a bad payday for a guy who has literally never provided evidence for a single miracle he has claimed to perform. Whoever it was that started the fake “Bill Johnson Quotes” page on Facebook is the one who deserves the vacation, because they are awesome and hilarious. I’m sorry I didn’t get a copy of everything before it got yanked.

But back to my original question before I move on….what IS up with the militant pro-lifers (always men, usually with beards, the majority of the time never married who subscribe to the most misogynistic translation of the New Testament) who have God suddenly speak to them and tell them they need to circumsize themselves?  I’m NOT making that shit up, look into it for yourself. And what about the ones who were already circumsized? How can THEY show how dedicated they are?  Whole other psychosis for a whole other time, but I often wonder what sociopathic activity these guys would partake in if they didn’t channel it into hatred of women disguised by a false rage over babies being killed? Definitely too crazy to be plain ol’ rapists….and the doctor killing has been too overdone so it wouldn’t feed their ego enough…..who the hell knows….I’ll just stick with all of these saucy baby killing whores out here.

Oh, and I’ll play golf!  Going on nearly 2 years of sobriety and the best I can give you now is……golf. That just has to sound shitty from where you’re sitting, but it’s like crack to me.  Golf and all of the seasonal cooking.  The weekly haul from our CSA and eating out on the newly renovated deck like a gay.  But I guess I’ve put in my time with alcohol, drugs and ultra-violence…so I’m still a man!  I’m just some Under Armour clad fag stalking deals on kitchenware on Amazon, but I’ve seen and done enough darkness to really not give a shit.  Dress me in a nice summer dress and put me on the back of a unicorn while I twirl a lacey umbrella and I’ve still got enough street credibility to piss on a few dozen of these little oxycontin chewing pussies who go off and die from a damn fentanyl sucker or getting shot ONCE!  Whatever happened to people being able to handle their shit?  You need to wait until you get WAY too good at something like I did before you give it up altogether and go learn to play an old man’s sport. I didn’t stop drinking because it was going to kill me, I did it just to leave at least SOMETHING for future generations to work towards! From what I’ve seen all these kids today can do better than everyone else is be ugly! Seriously, these little bastards need a grungy teen anthem called “Smells Like Thalidomide”.

Man, that Smells Like Thalidomide thing is a keeper…..people are going to get sick of me recycling that joke in the extremely near future.  It has spit-take potential when I sneak that fucker into a conversation. I know it’s obvious enough already, but this blog is kind of a place where I just keep rambling until I get some kind of nugget of wisdom, crass humor, or human horror…..and Smells Like Thalidomide is what I was shooting for without even knowing it. But you can feel free to use it as well, just honor it….timing is everything. 

Coming up on two 2-year anniversaries here actually….wedding and sobriety.  And however it happened, spring has become my favorite season…it used to be fall. This is a great time of year for a road trip….we’ll be heading up to Deadwood soon. But I won’t say any more about that because it will eat in to the no-brainer post I could drum up shortly afterwards.  I’ll do my best to get some pictures of our female dog hump-raping our new one-eyed female cat…it happens about ten times per day.  I’m just going to leave now and let that sink in….

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Those Who Can’t DO, Preach…


I’m collecting stuff for an upcoming post that has the potential to be one of my “classics”, but I wanted to at least get something written just to get my brain moving a bit. Slowly but surely, my writing is coming back around without the need for a complete derangement of emotion. It’s kind of like recovering from a stroke…bit by bit the pieces come back to life, but it takes time and a lot of work. I like the voice that I have here, and that’s what I want to achieve again minus the mood altering highs and lows that used to drive it. I see glimpses of it, but it’s missing the flow.

The Saturday 8am meeting this week revolved around “anger”. Anger is something I very good at….it can drive me like a glass pipe full of crystal, zeroing me in with focus and purpose that is all-encompassing and more than likely damaging. At the meeting I said “I have to treat anger like that first drink…whether my mouth is opening to take a drink or to speak the brilliantly poisonous words I’ve crafted, it has the potential to be the end of all things”. And it’s totally true. I still get explosively angry at stupid, stupid little things like trying to put together patio furniture, but that energy is very short lived. If you’re not in “grenade range” of me during those few seconds, there is no danger. What I’m talking about is the big stuff….religious hypocrisy, my federal team lead trying to get me fired without cause, Tea Party dipshits…..I can dance around with all of that stuff, but if left to my own devices it can go completely off the rails. The amount that I used to drink is equal to how angry I can get. I used to be able to drink a lot. If you’re an alcoholic, you know what I’m talking about….our “a lot” comes from a completely different equation. My wife and I were watching the documentary on Lemmy from Motorhead this weekend, and it didn’t gloss over the way he drinks or does dope. As it went on, I said somewhat proudly yet still sadly…”I partied like Lemmy”. Anyone who has witnessed it would have to agree. I’m not bragging, it’s the definition of total insanity, it’s absolutely fucked up….but yeah, I partied like Lemmy. Not just the amount or frequency, but “the way he does it”. Exact same style, mentality, persona and self-loathing. Ozzy and Alice Cooper both chimed in and gave props to the way Lemmy could party….praise from Caesar to the nth degree….so I guess all I can say is I’m pretty happy to be alive. But I took it to the wall, man. There’s a whole lot I’ve shared in this blog, but there’s a whole other chapter I might get to the point where I can share someday, and it’s kind of like one of my oldest friends used to say….”If you say you can drink me or Jerry under the table, what you are really saying is you need to check in somewhere and get help”. The irony in that statement is pretty hilarious considering how I got to where I’m at now, but I say all of that to say…..I can get that angry too. Some of the things I’ve said and done out of anger are just horrific. It makes me sad that I can get to that point, just like it makes me sad to remember what it was like right before I left for rehab.

Everything about anger mirrors the mood-altering aspects of drinking…..the deliciousness, the temptation, that initial rush as your bloodstream adapts, and especially the hangover…the regret, the embarassment. So NOW I work on saving myself the humiliation….I just don’t go there. And with the way I think, and write, and my knack for dissecting someone’s soul…it is not always easy. Quite simply, you have to take “the things I cannot control” to heart. Overall, anyone who knows me now would say I’m pretty low-key…obsessive and focused on some stuff…but generally no huge displays of emotion or anger.  BUT I do have situations that could kick off an extinction level event if I were to let it go to its logical conclusion. My co-worker/former team lead…someone who has only ever worked for the government in the same place, in the same role, no drive for upward mobility, for 25 years…exactly what you think of when you picture a stereotypical government employee. Long story short, I don’t know how many times I went under the bus whenever she’d be under pressure to do actual work. Her lack of productivity was somehow caused by my imcompetence and laziness. Everyone all the way up the chain of command knew she was lying, but I’m a contractor and she’s a fed with enough years of service to be “untouchable”….so thankfully I got moved to another project. She would have kept going and going until I finally lost my job over absolutely nothing…..good example of something I could waste days and days of my LIFE being angry about, much less the energy that would go into getting even. But when it comes down to it…I love my life, and she hates her life (something she vocalizes regularly). If I got fired, I have mad skills that would eventually get me another job….she would never be able to find a job outside of the government with her resume. I have family that I love, she’s on her fourth marriage, her oldest daughter has disowned her and her younger daughter is a criminal. I mean….there are so many levels of things I have no control over when it comes to her defense and coping mechanisms in the office that at MOST it would be like kicking a crippled person if I went after her. The joy of leaving work and not having to think about it until I come back the next day, and the things I get to enjoy in my personal life make me far beyond lucky…..and I could destroy all of that with anger just as pathetically and needlessly as I could with alcohol.

In addition to people who generally display all of the same fear and control-based dysfunctions as an alcoholic minus the alcohol, I do my best to avoid the black hole that is the American Hyper-Charismatic movement….Bethel Redding, IHOP, Vineyard…any of the places just north of the Assemblies of God. Oh, and the Assemblies of God. I did spend an inordinate amount of time chronicling the fake resurrection stories that came out of Bethel, and it was HARD not to keep going on that….especially since I literally mapped out the way the entire story would unfold just hours after the initial reports. It’s kind of like the old definition of insanity- doing the same thing and expecting different results. I knew in my gut that when an evangelical organization is caught in a lie, they defend the lie by making the whole thing about something else. That’s what Bethel did, and no matter how angry I got towards the end….I finally had to realize that no matter how right I was they’re going to do what they’re going to do. All you can do is be wary of those types of people and situations.

The very specific types of lip service, all-for-show Christians are a bigger hurdle, because they are everywhere. I think my next post will be a good one to help exercise the muscle that deals with all of THAT without being damaging…it took a while to get there. Again, the things I can’t control.  After doing a lot of reflection and witnessing enough really horrible examples, I got some level of disturbing comfort from the fact that I’ve never known one solitary “Christian” individual who puts an inordinate amount of focus into their hell and punishment theology and also comes close to living up to the standards they are preaching. Back to my old “fat preachers too stupid to recognize their hypocrisy w/the gay thing”. They allow themselves the luxury of some glaring, sinful inconsistencies, and somehow think people either won’t notice or they’ll do enough good works to make up for living a lie. And I can either focus on taking their inventory every moment of every day, or just let it go. Chances are nearly 100% that the more a person downplays grace in favor of fear, hell and/or punishment, the less likely it is that they are living a life beyond reproach….not just beyond, but even close to it. And when they say they are doing it out of love for someone, or out of concern….they are lying. If not to you, then to themselves…because that “love and concern for your soul” is what they use to allow themselves to judge you while still holding on to their own secret, and sometimes not so secret, sins. They have no concept of forgiveness and channel that unresolved anger into their obsession with proving their theology is correct simply because it is a stricter interpretation (of cherry-picked phrases). The more scripture they have to use to defend their point, the less they have let the gospel work in their own life. In my experience, this is without exception. It’s not an excuse to write off the whole thing and fly into libertinism, it’s simply recognizing that the type of control they are after is an illusion. Every time I bring this up with someone, the response usually has something to do with “but if you let people think they can do whatever they want….etc., etc.”. If THAT is your biggest concern, it is because you have failed horribly at providing a viable example of what a Christian should be. You have never been an example of love or understanding and have never been someone a “non-believer” feels like they can trust. You make it all about YOU. In secret, you know all of the ways you are abusing God’s grace, but you can hide it well enough to pretend you are a good enough example to either be an authority or have authority. Or in some cases you can’t hide it, and you don’t realize what a complete fool you look like to those who aren’t in the insulated clique that is comprised of people who are either weaker than you and admire you, or others who have given themselves over to the same arrogant disease. Your life is a distillation of “the pot calling the kettle black” in its purest form. That is why I don’t think you should pay these people a salary. Ever. You get way too many who are “called”, who come to that conclusion by default because they are either unable or unwilling to take responsibility and make a real living….they can’t manage their own life, so why not give them HUNDREDS of lives to shepherd over?!?!?! Church is their last shot at realizing a Republican Jesus American Dream…being too short on smarts and/or ambition to make the MONEY, they go for the next best thing….STATUS (coated with a thick layer of false humility, of course)! I’ve seen it all, for years and years, no exceptions, and those people you are not going to change….they always have an answer and they always surround themselves with enough likeminded fools who feed their rationalization. They interpret their emotional childish whims and flights of anger and joy as “the voice of God” or a “word from the Holy Spirit”. Porn, prostitution, infidelity, financial fraud, thievery, swingers, wife beaters, drugs and alcohol…I can’t even estimate the instances I’ve witnessed or known about that were “swept under the rug” by the same men and women who seem to pick and choose where grace, kindness, discretion or love are applicable. It’s a monstrous machine. Beautiful in its frightening, broken yet airtight logic. And if I want to write off all of the joy and all of the reflection I have coming to me in the next hours and days…all I have to do is keep yammering on about it. As fun as it is to put myself on auto-pilot and outline inconsistencies that are probably already obvious to everyone, it’s more fun to NOT process all of that emotion and focus on pretty much anything else…from golfing to 12th Step work.

Did I already mention I had a sponsee?  Can’t recall if that came up already or not. Yeah, poor bastard. I’ll error on the side of saying almost nothing about him other than to mention I got a pretty easy first pigeon….smart, well educated, damagingly introspective, boiling judgmentalism, loves bourbon…lots of similarities between us, and he definitely does as much for me as I do for him. Now I realize that since all AA does is tell you that you can pray to a door knob, we’re just fooling ourselves….it’s all about being a self-improving secular humanist with absolutely no room for anything outside of doorknob worship, but somehow we soldier through. To be completely honest, I find that I’m at my best when I force myself to be a meeting leader for a quarter. Saturday morning is great, but if I lead a meeting then I’ll generally make it to at least one more, and I’m good. I’m really trying to bring a lot of the principles into my physical health…I haven’t totally ballooned weightwise, but I DID start this blog as a gastric bypass reporting tool, and as anyone with a few years under their belt knows, it’s easy to slowly gain weight. As long as I get off of my ass and avoid too many carbs, I do okay, but 12 stepping it to some degree will be a big help. As cheesy as it sounds, and as unlikely a person as I am to champion something like it, the 12 steps really are a program for living your life and would fall well within the parameters of what hyper-charismatic freaks would consider “kosher”. Biggest problem is that status, power, fame, control, ego and money don’t play a big enough part for it to be considered church-worthy, heh heh.

Soooo…our deck is repaired and refinished, I’m in the middle of putting the patio furniture together, work on the yard will begin this week as will the yearly planting of the herbs.  Cookouts and dinners will begin at the house soon, and we’ll hopefully be taking out the one kitchen wall in order to make more space. Going to see Jay and Silent Bob Get Old at the Midland here pretty quick, and we’re going to celebrate our 2nd anniversary with a roadtrip to Deadwood. Christina Hendricks needs to just get naked as a gift to the planet, if you’re poor but still so Republican that you think higher taxes for rich people is bad because you trust them to pass the wealth on to you you’re one loopy cunt, I’m going to start cooking more authentic Mexican food and will pioneer a Vietnamese coffee ice cream recipe, I think it would be funny if hypocritical single-issue right to life voters realized how much of the money they spent on the goods and services they are too selfish and lazy to live without went towards funding abortions, The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange is our favorite new restaurant, my favorite new Google search that landed someone in my blog is “unshaved pits and piss porn” and I’m getting a Sous Vide Supreme machine as an early bday gift. Golf, nature trails, all sorts of shit…..looking forward to a great spring and summer.

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DC Grub 2011: Citronelle

Wednesday night at Citronelle

     I know it has taken me too long to get to the best meal of my trip….but I’ve had a lot going on and I wanted to do it justice. And it truly was….the best meal of the trip, and I would also add it to my top five ever. And this post is going to be extraordinarily too long, because I feel like it! I have a love/hate relationships with “real” food blogs and bulletin boards. I pretty much owe the fact that I even considered Citronelle to eGullet, because without the utter overkill of humorless and self-aggrandizing banter over there, I would not have the ability to sift through ten tons of bullshit in order to find some true diamonds. The fact that I’m food-obsessed and still manage to make fun of people whom I think take their self-importance too far is not lost on me….and neither is my constant abuse of proper grammar and improper handling of tenses within single sentences. I GET that shit, I’m just constantly amazed at the topics people will beat into the ground, sounding like they are auditioning for imaginary “foodie scouts” with every fucking syllable. I’ve met some very cool people via food boards, and those online communities really are no different than any others….just a different niche that also imagines itself to be the most important one of all. And like all other types of online communities, its value is measured in the total number of topics, posts and views….so you have to keep yammering away long after the horse is dead in order to keep it relevant. But hey, you can get something like seven thousand words on topics like…..the world’s best wooden spoon.  Or chime in on extremely stupid, stick-up-someone’s-ass topics like “is there any place for profanity in food writing?”.  Yeah, so thank you and fuck you and all that to the dining elite out there…..I do realize I sound exactly like you stiffs to everyone BUT you when I do a write-up like this one. But I use profanity to set myself apart, because it’s unique! And I lack the skills, vocabulary, intelligence, and social grace to do it any other way! And ONE DAY, Tony Bourdain will show up here and go “WOW! You’re one of those harsh but lovable heart of gold types! Would you like to be on the teevee with me?!?!!”. And then I’ll go back on eGullet and have a five hundred post thread dedicated to me….but it will be titled something like “Zeemanb’s Varying Flatware Usage- Distracting?”.

     And now that I have the “I always have to take the piss out of something right up front” portion of the post completed, I can get back to talking about the greatness of being a white man in America who drops close to three bills on a single meal and then won’t shut up about it. And this time I even included photos, despite having to constantly push my erection out of the frame. That is how good the food was…it was nail-driving good. And in all seriousness, that is EXACTLY what I was expecting….anything less and I would be yammering on and on about THAT. Oh, you have no idea…..I literally gave up a seat at minibar to keep my reservation at Citronelle. I got a call from Bonji at Café Atlantico around 3 in the afternoon letting me know she had a cancellation….and oh my God what a little piece of fortune it was to be chosen from the throngs of those on the waitlist….but I just had to try Citronelle. So I was expecting perfection. And it has nothing to do with the money, price is worth mentioning here….you have to throw all of that cost shit out the window. Your willingness to spend enough money to feed a family of four very well for a week on a single meal is fine, it’s your choice….but when you start picking the meal apart based on what you paid….you sound like a total dick who loves to bitch and eats at these places because it is your birthright, not because you love the food. I know people who would spend thousands on a Superbowl ticket……I don’t do this type of dining often, it’s kind of like my Superbowl.  Well, the French Laundry or El Bulli would be my Superbowl…..but anyway…..

     I know I’ve mentioned this several times….I don’t know what it’s like for the rest of the lone diners out there, but I get some great treatment. Most of that is, of course, because when you go high-end the service SHOULD exceed your expectations. But I do my best to gild the lily, and if I had any advice to give it would be to use OpenTable to make your reservation if possible. Call to confirm and all that too, but the thing is- the restaurant reads the additional notes/requests for the maitre d’ that you type into your reservation . I don’t go all Eddie Haskell in there, but I’ll generally note that this is my first time dining there, coming in from out of town, looking forward to the chef’s tasting….stuff like that. And it’s a party of ONE, so they know you are there for the food. Nine times out of ten, shortly after I arrive someone mentions something to do with my comments. At Citronelle it was literally like they were waiting for me to walk in the door….I think I met everyone on the staff between the front door and my table. I do not remember the captain’s name, but my server was Eileen and I also spent a lot of time talking with Jean-Jacques, the GM/Maitre D’. The little perch that they gave me was pretty perfect; just above the first set of steps in the main dining room, looking directly down into the fully open, glassed-in kitchen (I wrote “fully open/ glassed in” just to fuck with anyone’s OCD tendency to question that description). The workings of a very large, high-end kitchen is worthy of posts of its own, but I will say the seamless action is pretty riveting. And no matter where you eat, the chefs all guzzle water out of strangely humongous plastic cups or bowls.  They get thirsty.

     About the service….I guess that five star/Michelin star, however you want to label it, service deserves its own topic, but I don’t experience it often enough for comparison purposes, so I’ll just ramble about it here. And I am keenly aware that Citronelle does NOT have a Michelin Star, and that there are about five billion places across Europe where this level of goddamn service is the norm ….blah blah blah….. But, this is the kind of service that could really weird people out. I absolutely love it….not the pampering or ass kissing aspect, but the level of professionalism and dedication to the art. Everything is anticipated, and these people have seen it all. Everything you want or need is right there….and the level of service will magically morph into your personal expectations to a great degree. For example, at the beginning of the meal I wasn’t getting as much detail about each dish as I needed, and as soon as I asked the first clarification question, both the server and the captain provided detailed descriptions of every dish going forward. When I wanted to slow the pace of the meal down by just a few extra minutes between each course….done. It is a pretty amazing thing to watch, actually. The captain knows when each dish is being fired, runner is there at the pass, comes out through the dining room and stages the cloche-covered course on a small table across from yours…the server and the captain walk over, uncover it to inspect it, cover it back up, bring it over to you, the big reveal, and then the details of the specific dish, any necessary Q&A, etc. When three drops of Armagnac-peppercorn sauce dripped on the table when the server was placing the dish, a clean napkin was placed over the spot as soon as the table was being prepped for the next course. And this is going on all across the dining room…with a personalized level of service for each party; Japanese businessmen, a couple’s anniversary, big tables of crazy-rich regulars, etc. You know how I always like to be “buddy” with my servers whenever possible, be more casual and get their input about food and stuff in general…well that isn’t going to happen at Citronelle. Very, very friendly service, not stiff or stuffy in any way, just…..professional. Now, Jean-Jacques works the living shit out of the room, I guess he’s worked with Chef Richard for something like thirty years, and he’s the man for any buddy-duty….and I’ll mention, just one hell of a nice guy. So sit back and enjoy the choreography.



It only took about a thousand words to finally get to the food. And I did get some pictures. It’s a nice place, but the vibe seemed appropriate for picture taking….or I should say there were people who were WAY more conspicuous about it than I would ever be, so my camera phone was practically invisible. PLUS there were about five different birthday/anniversary celebrations throughout the course of the evening, each one with its own miniature pyrotechnic display. So here you go…crappy, dark Android phone pictures of the highest quality food. As much as it may sound like it sometimes, I’m not some fanboy ready to drink the kool-aid just because I’m at an expensive or popular restaurant….in fact, when I hear someplace is “the best” I put it under the microscope. I’ll find something usually, even if it’s being handed a glass that came out of the dishwasher too recently and is still too warm to hold wine, etc. I judge a place by the level of food and service that they claim….and Citronelle claims to be among the best. Well, no shit, they indeed deliver.

Amuse Bouche

Okay, here was the one strange thing of the evening…..when they brought the initial plate over to me I looked down and it contained one completely intact and cleanly severed human finger with about 3/4  inch of the bone Frenched and the end inserted into pickled icicle radish.

Don’t I wish! Actually it was just an oyster shooter and some excellent tuna tartare in cute little dishes on a lit stage. Okay, I’ll admit it’s not the most cutting edge presentation in the world but it beats the hell out of Tramonto’s damn fighting fish bowls.

Split Pea Soup

I did not get a picture of this just because it would have looked like a bowl of split pea soup.  Had I been so bold as to say “wait while I take  picture!” prior to them pouring the soup you would see several thinly sliced rounds of a mild cured sausage arranged around a bed of confit of leek fresh from the ring mold.

Definitely a sign of the richness to come…the sausage wasn’t overly strong or fatty, which is a good thing with the comparatively light flavors of the pea soup and leeks.  Very good shot to the system on a chilly night.  And the BREAD….it was French style loaf, sourdough-y. I wish I could have handled a lot more of it, the table next to me just kept getting it refilled about five dozen times….it had something like three full layers of airy crunch before getting to the soft insides.  Great for sopping up soup! And they literally give you all the butter you can eat! They’ll just keep bringing it!

BUTTER!!

Blanquette of Nantucket Bay Scallops

Had it not been for the sauce from the next dish, these scallops would have been without peer on the “gay jock hate crime of love” scale for the entire trip (long story for those just joining us, that’s my version of ‘five stars’ from a few posts back).  I wish the picture was better, but I guess I don’t really care because I actually got to eat these things.  Insane amount of butter in the sauce, leveled out with a little bit of celery/celeriac and I believe a small amount of roasted cauliflower.  And the scallops themselves were unlike any I’ve had before….I’ve generally only associated a great scallop dish with the big diver version.  Any bay scallops I’ve ever eaten have been the deep fried Red Lobster version, or cheap ones I’ve gotten on sale in the freezer section…..but these were FAR sweeter, and even more tender, than their dinosaur-sized cousins. And just the perfect doneness…which is hard to get with these little bastards.  The perfect translucent center, but across the top it was like someone had waved it under a broiler only long enough to barely caramelize the very tops and edges.  This dish was perfect. I mean perfect. And yes, while it was rich beyond comprehension, the flavors were so clean and clear, each one distinct and solid…..a magical feat.

 

Halibut w/lobster saffron broth

Ok, so these people know how to cook seafood.  Here you basically start with an absolutely perfectly done, meaty and tender piece of halibut…..you put some nicely cooked little veggies around it…brussels sprouts, caramelized onion, baby bok choy, things of that nature.  So far, a damn fine dish.  Then comes the insanity in an innocent enough looking little gravy boat.  They pour a modest amount of the broth around the perimeter of the fish, and then leave what remains in the container on the table right in front of you.  I won’t even try to describe this sauce/broth….lobster and saffron, that’s all I know.  Butter is in there somewhere to be sure.  Between this and the scallops, back to back “GJHCOL” level deliciousness.  Just crazy, crazy good….and when you bring it up to the staff it’s like they already know exactly what you’re going to say about it. If I didn’t have to watch it with the richness making me sick if I’m not careful, I would have made a little bread bowl and poured what was left in the dish into it and devoured it.  Lots of delicious lobsters gave their delicious carcasses to make the stock that went into THAT……

Lobster Burger w/chips

And speaking of lobster, here we have a miniature version of the extremely popular Lobster Burger from Central.  Which came first, the one here or the one at Central?  I have no idea.  But here was a fun “comparatively light” dish after the last two….and smaller, so that was good. Wee little crisp potato chips, a wee little hamburger bun, and a little piece of lobster that was the most tender of my whole trip.  It seems like I ate lobster in some form at every meal, and I had no complaints about any of them, but this was tender like a barely poached langostine is tender, even a little bit of snap to the texture.  A flavorful punch to boot…I’m not sure what all they added, maybe a little lobster roe or something of that nature. 

You can see that little potato chip cone standing upright there….I just kept imagining some poor Mexican kid in the kitchen cursing as the dishes came back in and he had to keep chipping away dried globs of glue.

BUTTER!  They’ll just keep bringing it!  I’m being serious!

Boneless Rack of Lamb, jalapeno cumin sauce

It seems like I’ve been eating way more lamb (and rabbit!) these days. I know that here in the U.S. we are way behind much of the world when it comes to lamb consumption, and being raised on beef, pork and those tiny frozen scallops I’m no exception.  Before this dish I’d say that there was nothing better than a medium rare, fatty, Colorado lamb chop with nice caramelized crust on the outside. I don’t know where they source their lamb at Citronelle, but THIS version was outstanding.  Sometimes with lamb you miss the actual lamb flavor….this dish definitely had the distinctive flavor without being overpowering. The quality of the meat itself was excellent. The preparation, however, just took it far, far over the top.  The-most-perfectly-executed-medium-rare-center…..like it was sous vide and then finished finished in the oven…but it wasn’t sous vide…..so I just sat there wondering what Jedi power they muster in order to get a perfect center AND a perfect crust.

60 Hour Braised Short Rib, Peppercorn Armagnac Sauce, Tater Tots

Shortribs.  Very good to eat.

Cheese

Oh, if anyone besides my wife catches the reference in my shortrib review you’ll be my personal hero for quite a while.  But now it was time for another goddamn CHEESE COURSE….and it has nothing to do with my newfound lack of love for the cheese course, but I FINALLY caught these pricks doling out something that was NOT to my liking.  They serve a couple of kinds of bread with the cheese, one of which is a sunflower seed roll.  THE SUNFLOWER SEEDS ARE NOT TOASTED!  CAUGHT YOU!  DICKS!  Okay, just my personal preference, but I had to find SOMETHING I didn’t like about this place. Just ruined the night. I almost packed up a bindle of that butter and skedaddled.

The great thing about THIS cheese course is that you get to choose the cheeses and how much you want, so I got a small amount of three…Grayson from Virginia, a French Petit Basque, and something else. The Grayson was really, really good. I’d seek it out actually. 

Eggs-Ceptional Lemon Meringue

It’s not an egg!  So don’t slap-palm your forehead, bug your eyes out and yell “They feed you a raw egg! AN EGG! For that kind of money they oughta COOK THE DAMN EGG!”.  Because it’s NOT a raw egg…it’s a trick! 

I’ve eaten my share of humorously recreated dishes, and this was a tasty and impressive one. The shell is made of white chocolate, the egg white is meringue and lemon curd for the yolk. The “hay” it’s sitting on is just a bunch of sweet crumbly and crispy bits.  Very tasty in addition to being beautiful.

Pear Vacherin

Okay, all you egg-yelling (pronounced AAYYGG) people don’t start in about how they ought to at least peel the damn pear for that kind of money.  It’s not a pear!  It’s a crispy meringue shell sitting on a small puddle of chocolate, stuffed with pear sorbet and little chunks of poached pear.  I’m not a huge fan of that type of meringue, but the insides were out of sight. Good and light after such a rich meal.

Petit Fours

By the time they come by with the tray of petit fours, you’re just dying.  I was like “Baby please, I’m not from Havana!”.  Could not take one more bite, so I had them packed up and took a picture before devouring them while watching Top Chef.

So THIS is the tale I am telling about my dinner at Citronelle. Perfection and kindness from start to finish.  At one point after the meal Jean-Jacques asked me if I would write a little note to the staff so he could read it to them before service the next evening….I’m telling you, these people take the craft seriously.  So I did that, and it was heartfelt. I do anticipate eating there the next time I’m in DC.  I’ll have to decide what meal or meals I’m going to have to give up in order to do it, but the overall experience was well worth it. High end and formal, but also like going to a friend’s house.

BUTTER!!!

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