Blaze of Glory

Our waiter at Hugo’s in Augora, CA, recommended the pork special over the steak.  Suspicious, I read the description: tender pork loin marinated with cilantro-jalapeno pesto (made with pumpkin seeds), grilled and garnished with pico de gallo. Served with roasted chipotle black beans, turmeric basmati rice and fried plantains.  Whenever I see tender on a menu I’m always suspicious, but it was.  And I could taste the Pumpkin.  He was right, for 15 bucks you can’t beat this meal.

But before it got there, just in case it would be a while, we told the waiter that that we had Ralphie May tickets for a show at the night club next door.  he told us it would be okay because all the Ted Nugent protestors from the night before had left the area.

That news occupied us for a while until the conversation eventually turned kids.  We were at dinner with another couple.  Specifically, the age old problem of the stage of kid’s ages.  When they’re younger they’re more physically challenging, and as they get old more mentally.  Essentially, at first you’re too tired to have sex, and then later when they’re older and stuck at home without screen time from being punished, they won’t leave you alone.

We didn’t even need to wait for Ralphie May to provide the perfect denouement for the night.  Our friend’s kids (who are considerably older than ours) joined us for the show.  When the warm-up act (Ralphie’s wife) asked if there were any kids in the audience simultaneously suggesting that would be a bad idea, my friend’s kid made the mistake of raising his hand.  I can’t remember exactly what she said but it had something to do with what it must be like to sit next to your parents while she described having to go down on her husband.





Jackson Bison Smackdown


The Granary at Spring Creek Ranch has a great buffalo burger.  Except they don’t call it that. They call it by its real name, Bison.  And the city is not Jackson Hole, it’s Jackson.  The county is Jackson Hole.  And all those buffalo you see out the window on the way to Yellowstone are actually bison.  There is no buffalo in the US, never has been.  It’s all Bison.  That guy’s real name is Bison Bill.


So be careful.  If you order real buffalo from a restaurant you’re probably getting frozen meat from Africa or Asia.  Buffalo don’t even really look like Bison.  The bison is on the right and the buffalo is on the left.

I learned all this on a recent extended family trip to a dude ranch in Wyoming.  I learned a couple other things too.  Like how much fun family can be if you just relax a little and go with the flow.  But don’t go crazy.  Take baby steps or you might wind up losing all inhibition and doing something like this: BISON SMACKDOWN VIDEO





Donner Pass BBQ

I would like to think that any of my friends who attended a recent dad’s and kid’s only camping trip to Donner Lake would have taken the short straw if it ever came to that.  And believe me there were plenty of spouses who were concerned about what kids on a camping trip like this would end up eating.  Fortunately there’s a Starbucks right outside the entrance to the National Park so nobody had to worry too much.  And not only that, but with the advent of Costco you don’t even have to worry about shopping anywhere else.  You can go straight from there to the campsite.  In addition to selling tents, and in some states ammo, you can buy just about anything else including the fixings to prepare a full BBQ gourmet meal: 1) several grass fed pre-seasoned organic beef tenderloins; 2) some bags of salad containing kale, brussel sprouts, dyed cranberries and roasted pumpkin seeds with poppy seed dressing; and 3) a few whole grain loaves.  And for the kids some chicken and organic sesame teriyaki marinade.

But the trick to open pit grilling is to put a turkey basting tray on top of the meat.  Everyone knows that to grill a good steak you sear both sides to lock in the juices and when done let stand covered for ten minutes so the juices return to the center.  But when grilling on an open pit, there is no cover, so it’s not hot enough to cook the meat quickly.  Thus it has a tendency to dry out.  That’s where the turkey tray comes in.  Boo-ya!

I drove nine hours with a ten and seven year old so in part my kids could meet the kids of my college friends.  It took me a while to realize the little things have a tendency of adding up, and you want to make sure that happens before it’s too late.  The food was pretty good too.  Except for the paper plate and the old school table you could be in any fancy restaurant in Truckee right now.  Another hint: on the first night of a three day trip order out.  Make sure one if the kids coming is of driving age and have them go out for some pizzas or burritos.  It just makes the second night when you cook all that more special.

But the best part is that you won’t be too tired.  That way when you finish dinner and kids don’t eat all the chicken you can tie some of it to a string and fish for crawdads In the lake.











Alive and Well in San Angel

It takes decades to digest certain late dining habits where so much goes unsaid.  “Lo bailado, lo viajado y lo comido no me lo pueden quitar,”‎ flies from the mouth of industrialist Alberto Moreno Galindo as we drive mach one through the pot hole ridden streets of the largest city in the world.   “The dances/romances, travels and foods – they cannot take from me.”  Fatalistic perhaps, but some prefer to die happy chasing the dream.  Count me in.

The last time I tried to get a table, La Taberna de Leon was closed for the dining pleasure of Presidente Felipe Calderón and oligarch king, frequent Forbes topper – Carlos Slim.  While eating well may be the playground of the rich and powerful like Alberto, for me to make the reservation I need persistence and patience for a seat at the table.   I wait.  I persist.  We score.
In an old paper factory with dark wood wainscoting, creaky floors and whimsical touches, it’s reminiscent of the magical realism honed by may of Latin America’s finest authors.   It’s there if we’re open to it.  The neighborhood, San Angel has gentrified into a baroque hipster enclave.  The food is creative eclectic ‎but respectful of Mexico’s proud history. The ambiance is precious but significant.   My focus is food, but this restaurant is part of a larger statement. Mexico’s future is bright, hip, and primed for a breakout.
The Service is impeccable, starting with shrimp consume, fatty tuna carpaccio sporting a cover of thinly sliced jalapeños and fried scallions in a ponzu chulula  sauce.
Albert blurts,  “Ay mamita es este que me quema.”  It burns ‎but awakens atrophied taste buds; next course is cream of garlic soup with jamon serano (Spanish procuitto), pine nuts and goat cheese brochetta.
And on it goes – roasted duck tacos with avocado tomatillo sauce, wild cherry hoisin sauce, radish leaves and warm corn tortillas. It’s the kind of fusion for which you’ll hock your wares for just a taste of these bad boys.  Filet Steak arrives perfectly medium rare with savory roquefort salsa, fries and some vegetable (I can’t remember).
Mexico City is colorful, noisy, quick to make promises, dangerous and perfect. It is the blade runner metropolis now messy up close. Order always comes with distance. Food in Mexico City is world class from $2 tacos al pastor off a steamy street cart to wallet busting Taberna del Leon pointing the way forward‎.  Land ground troops here.
‎”Comer como Leon y dormir como oso.”
Tio Roberto