The Mongrels say . . , Thank You !

Possibly just getting back into this writing thing . . . it hurts.

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First thing when I got home today was get on this thing and see what my stats look like. I began to look at my site’s most visited pages and found some very interesting things. Seems there exists a mystery as to the words I use and other persons search terms to get them to my site. Terms like Jack Daniels, Mongrels and Mexican liquor bottles.  Our Mexican liquor bottle opening video on YouTube has received nearly 1,700 views. You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eV-F6DsauM. I just watched it . . . stupid humor.

 

In passing the search terms, I happened upon the CritDicks profile “About Us“. There, at the bottom, I found all of the wonderful comments folks have posted about my site and my writing over the years. It was then I decided to share my thoughts for the night . . . should they last! First I want to say “Thank You”! It was also then I began to think why I haven’t been keeping my loyal fans full of my weekly stories, that have been slowly tapering off since my father’s passing just last month or so. Probably more “or so”. I actually haven’t been cooking or writing since my graduation. I also have almost lost a desire to pursue any thoughts of ever entering the FB&H industry. I have though since purchased a few more “gotta have” kitchen gadgets. Like the very cool induction burner. I’m not too sure I’m used to it though. Kinda tricky with the “on-off” cycles. Well, that’s what I noticed about it.

 

I’m really not sure why this bazar behavior. Perhaps it’s everything going on . . . Dunno. One thing I do know is . . . I have a fan base I enjoyed sharing my culinary adventure with beyond that which many may believe they have a following. What? Yeah, I said you . . . my viewers and readers are why I’m writing tonight. I don’t necessarily have any inspiration to write tonight, perhaps it’s just writer’s block. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t visited any restaurants lately . . . nonsense, I’m actually sick of going out . . . , . . . I think I’m mostly sick of paying for it. I think I permanently spoiled my family.

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If you have been holding on, you’ve noticed I found use for those preserved lemons. Seeming just about everything can be made interesting using preserved lemons . . . except, maybe hotdogs. Dunno, haven’t tried it. I have been using much time catching up on the endless yard-work around this place. Thank God for weed killer. Also, lately, thank God for strong boys. Yeah I recently have also been off-handedly been diagnosed with a compressed sacrum. Yeah, my tail. Turns out my lower back pain for sometime has been attributed to that little thing . . . I hope that’s little . . .

 

Anyway, I wanted to get this out tonight quickly. I have my hoodie on and the headphones in. Everyone else was currently out! Yeah, that’s the way I like to write. I think I can also attribute my blank head from the endless activity around this house lately . . . the furniture . . . the boxes of?, has been accumulating steadily since around mid-year last. Oh well, sell everything!

 

Which also reminds me. I recently got a new very badd ass truck to replace my daily driver. Don’t ask how I got it . . . just hope I enjoy it as much as my old Avalon. I really miss the JBL audio system that was in there. But I’m now working on building a JL Audio system around my stock head unit (full-on navigation, Bluetooth, the works) and subwoofer plastic compartment built specifically for this vehicle. My hope is to somewhat recreate the JBL experience with the JL Audio system, yet maintaining cost minimums and retaining all of my usable space in the 2011 F250 Lariat, 4X4, 6.7L Turbo PowerStroke. There’s another complete story around that one. Nor will I show it. What I will show you is THIS

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This is the 2001 Suburban, 2500, 4X4, 8.1L very badd ass, and very proven, truck that used to pull my trailers, boats, bikes; and has still made it through nearly every imaginable obstacle like this:  http://www.jeeptrailinfo.com/trails_arizona/desertbar.html. I’m really gonna miss her. I think a lot of people are. I’ve had her for over ten years.

 

Have fun! I hope to be back here soon . . .

 

Dicks

 

I think I have a smile on my face . . .

Lemons again? The Birthday. Customer experience. Olive Garden Restaurants.

So I used them again. The preserved lemons made their way back into the mealset, Tonight I used them in the teriyaki marinade of these breast strips. I think I may have found my new meat.

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As part of my son’s birthday, we give the kids an opportunity to select where they would like to go for dinner. Benihana . . . I think not, tonight! Olive Garden (San Diego, Tri-City, El Camino Real shopping mall) happened to be the selection for us this evening. We are a party of 7 so I expected a small wait. No problem, I’ll see you at the bar.

Once at the bar I noticed a small group forming around me since my son, now 21, and his brother, now 26 dummied up . . . and I mean dummied up to the bar and quickly pointed at me and said, ‘on him”, as I ducked my head anticipating an expensive night.

Once at the bar and gaining control of the bartender that night, I asked what he had in bottle beer. I’m sorry, I don’t remember his name; “The bartender” hesitated just less than a moment and I didn’t want to appear ill prepared, so I trumped his hesitation by claiming I’ll have a (something on tap). The bartender was quickly getting busy yet countered by saying, “I was catching my breath” and began to rattle off the entire bottled bear menu . . . then proceeded to open the fridge directly in front of me so I can make a visual selection.

Just about that time I met Seajay, the Manager that evening as he assisted the bartender by ringing up his bar tabs and identified my beer by leering at it with some serious “stink eye”. I noticed his momentary ponderance of evidence in front of me and claimed, “hey, did you just give my beer stink eye?” Seajay and I began a night of friendship and introductions to other staff members such as Scotty, our server. Seajay assured us, once we were seated that Scotty, would be taking excellent care of us that night . . . and that he did!

Scotty professionally dealt with every table scenario encountered, like a lactose free selection and the serving, and quickly replacing, an incorrect beer order. Not one instance went by that Scotty wasn’t on it, from waters to extra sauces. He even got my special order right . . . albeit, the butter was burnt, by still edible.  Scotty made my visit easy . . . especially when giving him the tip. Wow and an extra $10 on top of the already rounded 20+%. Scotty deserved it, yet Seajay, the manager deserved it as well. The manager precluded my visit by quickly accepting my stupid “Dick” humor and taking one of my business cards while at the bar.

Just as we had entered the car to go out that evening, my son picked up a book I had placed behind the passenger front seat in my truck. The book was titled something like, ” Managing the Customer Experience”. I explained to my son about meeting the expectations and maintaining the customer experience we expect from going to “Olive Garden” that evening. I explained that we have had experienced Olive Garden in the past and we are arriving with an expectation of what we had previously experienced before at other Olive Garden locations. I then explained about the customer experience and meeting or exceeding that expectation to achieve the “experience” we had before during our visits. Well tonight was a perfect example of our experience . . . a perfect example of providing the customer experience we hoped for; yet exceeding that expectation to provide a wonderful evening for my family. Perhaps that equates to Olive Garden’s slogan “when you’re here, your family”.

As for those lemons. Keep using them in new stuff . . . try new combinations. The teriyaki tonight was good, yet could have used more lemon. It really began to cut through the teriyaki and brighten up the dish. BTW, the breast chicken meat was super moist and delicious. I normally always use thigh meat. Not tonight. The green beans, perfect. And the rice was nice and sticky. And this food was a “must cook” tonight combo before everything turned south in the fridge.

Dicks

Lemons & Leeks … and Granola

CritDicks:

Here’s a perfect use for those preserved lemons. The Risotto . . . not necessarily the granola.

Dicks

Originally posted on Photos and migraines:

LemonsAndLeeksVertR Lemons and LeeksR I have been utilizing my new cookbook, “It’s All Good,” by Gwyneth Paltrow, a lot lately. It’s pretty good. And healthy to the point my migraines have been considerably reduced! Whoo Hoo!

Anyway, I plan on trying a risotto recipe this week, and decided some of the ingredients needed to be photographed.

I have not tried this recipe yet, but it looks pretty good.

RISOTTO WITH PEAS & GREENS

1 quart vegetable stock
1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 leek, white and light green parts only, thoroughly washed and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Leaves from 6 sprigs of thyme
Coarse sea salt
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups baby spinach or any other baby greens
1 cup fresh English peas (you can substitute small frozen peas)
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper

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Showing up “Spectacular!”

RoTelVelveetaWell if you know the history, you would better understand. I can’t just arrive at an event with just a bag of chips, I have to have them (the chips) arrive in spectacular fashion. They cant just be thrown on a the table with some jarred or canned salsa or cheese. No it’s gotta be a chip throwdown. Now that I’ve got this education, people expect to see something . . . something . . . everything! The word gets out even before I arrive. I’m labeled somekind of “chef”. But I’m not . . . I don’t necesarrily like being called a chef, and I have never worked in the industry. I was never working in the capacity of a chef, therefore I feel as though I am undeserving of the title. Yet, I arrive, and people already know, they are expecting something from me. I can’t just show up and plop a bag of chips on the table. I have to show up and somehow be spectacular.

“Bring some cheese and crackers”, she says . . . knowing it’s me . . . my bestest friend, knows I know. How does she know? Her son too graduated from the same university as I. Her son too graduated with a BS degree in Culinary studies. Actually he chose the hospitality side in which I had considered marrying with my previous aviation degrees. For that I had figured they married well in the airline industry. But no, I went Culinary Management. Her son is off to a rock solid career as a result, already a Sous Chef at a notable retirement resort community here in San Diego.Moscato

Well, I show up with some crackers and cheese. Actually, wine too! I had used a bit of my education to marry a slightly melted Brie cheese, pomegranate seeds, fresh squeezed lime juice with lime zest garnish. It was around the holidays so the colors were white, bright/deep red and green zest. It was a pretty plate. Sorry no picture (I don’t normally take pictures of my presentations at parties). Now what are your expectations of taste? Rich buttery cheese, bitter-sweet pomegranate crunch and tart lime. But see, I needed to break up the elements of those flavors and introduce a sweet element. My son had purchased a very sweet Moscato D’Asti  from Italy. The comments were very positive. It was a wonderful combination . . . but you had to try it with the wine, otherwise it was seeming meaningless. Then, after you tried the first bite, I could care less what you did.

Next time, I’m showing with some raw squid and pickles. Let’s see if that gets a reaction . . .

Dicks

Recognizing Awesomeness – The Passing . . .

If you are a regular to my endeavors you should have noticed a reasonably significant change in the quantity and diversity of my latest writings. Yes, things have been going on. Just before Christmas of 2013, I had just graduated with some degree I was told came with a piece of paper. Shit, 3 months later and I think they may have reconsidered.

Just before the holidays began last year, my father (91) took, what all of the family thought to be nothing, a small spill. Turns out weeks later developed into a pulmonary embolism. That, combined with his previous 3 open-heart surgeries, had finally taken their course for the big guy. My father passed away just a few days ago.

Dad and his paella

You see, my father was an older-day culinarian. Why do I say that. Older days . . . , if I may call it that, didn’t recognize that word . . . culinarian. Yes, I’m sure it was a word, a life, a habit . . . whatever; but, was “culinarian” as universally recognized as it is today?

My father, whom I share the same name . . . , yes, I’m a Jr., also shared many things. First, I now have immediate possession of everything with his name on it. Do you know how much shit that is? Half of it, is not discernible without his “D.D.S.” or something like that to identify it as being specifically his. So now I have all of these engraved pens, placards and awards from just about every conceivable place of volunteer or  history that his life brought forward. His legacy rests with me. I too, have his name. I too share similar passions about food. My father helped me create and perfect my signature “Sea Monster Ceviche”. He would like textures and extreme flavors. He would pick out the raw (now cooked from the citrus) garlic and the Serrano slices. He would back away from some stuff with his characteristic “uuah . . . huh . . . huh”, indicating that bite was a bit hot . . . or? Then he’d go back in for another sample.

He used to love going to the beach to meet us every time we went . . . then the years started catching up to both Mom and he, . . . and he would still go . . . he and Mom would just leave earlier because of the cool air settling in along the beach sand. Often times he would hear that I had a campsite on the beach and he was there waiting for me to arrive. Dad loved being in the sun . . . the outdoors; but especially warming himself in the sun. If you knew my dad, you would have probably witnessed his afternoon nap on the patio, asleep in the sun. Dad!

My father found out we were making paella on the beach one day; and, . . . as in Dad’s spirit . . . was always at the campsite, stubbornly working his way into whatever we were cooking . . . and would reach in and grab a taste as he welcomed your hug. Raw, frozen or cooked . . . he would be the first to sneak tastes of everything. He was one of my biggest CritDicks. My dad used to eat and cook. I watched him over the years. I grabbed ideas, techniques and ingredients, . . . because he too, could not follow recipes. He too would grab ideas and techniques, but the ingredients always took a velocity of their own. Read my previous blog to learn more about velocity.Dad and his paella2

My dad chewed my ass, hugged me and kissed me as Italians do. He looked to me for car repair advice. He often times would help me work on the cars . . . but only after retirement. You see, he was a Dentist. He practiced for years and I was also his Guiney pig. Since I was the youngest, I always got to be the experiment of his latest oral rejuvenative equipment; whether it was the Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas) or the shockingly cauterizing machine. I was the one that was available. I was the kid that hung out in his office and played (broke) with all of the equipment. There are a lot of memories about my father. I remember him breaking his pinkie finger once while riding dirt bikes with us when my sibling brother and I were transitioning through that phase. That was the last time Dad did anything that could ruin his fingers . . . those were his livelihood as a Dentist.

I say he was a culinarian. I say that because he would eat everything. I don’t care if it’s an eyeball or a tail. . . earwax to toe jam . . . my dad was gnawing on it. He grew up old school, eating every part of the animal . . . because that’s what they did, or their families did to get through depressions and wars. Speaking of which; he too was a veteran. Another WWII vet and Korean War vet has been piped over the side. My father served in both the Navy and the Air Force. It wasn’t until just a few short years ago, he was convinced by me to sign up for benefits from the Veteran’s Administration (VA). I had tried for years, but that wasn’t in his plan . . . so it threw him off. Dad was stubborn like that . . .

Dad’s final days were tough for him. He was very active with his mind and body. When he fell ill, I witnessed his frustration with being unable to not do what he used to. I have said recently, “the most pain he was in, was when he was not in pain”. Meaning, the various hard times he had with his recent health, were mostly masked by the various narcotics that were being used to keep him comfortable. When he was alert and not being sedated, was when that frustration came out and he would again writhe in pain . . . mentally. Luckily, his time confined to a bed only lasted about 4 months.

Over the years my mom and dad had moved next door to me, then we moved slightly across town, then they moved to a smaller, more carefree facility. The food was always prepared and my father was officially out of the cooking business. He tasted all of my food as I attended culinary school, the good, the bad and the ugly. From Dad’s bed, he smiled when I told him I had finally graduated from school. While in bed watching the 2013 Super Bowl (played January 2014) he ate more of my Sea Monster Ceviche. The characteristic “uuah . . . huh . . . huh”, came out and he said, “enough”. He just didn’t enjoy food anymore. That frustrated him even greater. He would be able to smell things, but couldn’t taste them anymore. He gave up trying. It made him weaker . . . Well, I’ll never get to show him my graduation paper.

Dad and his paella3

 

Dad is missed. He will long be missed by the countless people he has touched. They all say he was special . . . he was! Dad was Awesome!

Dad

“Culinary Velocity” – defined!

Velocity diagram 1Why do we struggle with our art? Are we not worthy of such emotion? Lady Gaga recently said on a Howard Stern interview that she feels such deep emotion when engulfed in her art. At that moment, I began to think about the culinary arts . . . or science; and about what it takes to evoke emotion as a culinarian. Is this an art? Is this a science? Is this the only life evolution that culminates the two on a level only comprehendible by those that understand this modern-day extrapolation of ideas? Think about it. Is the culinary art, the only art that can bring in attributes . . . heavy attributes (bull shit . . . “serious attributes) from the sciences? Wow! Do I recognize that as being “velocity” in the culinary arts? Interesting stuff here jack!

So just what is culinary velocity? Velocity is defined as speed with direction. Culinary velocity can therefore be defined as “directed influence”. Such would be the case with molecular gastronomy where science meets art in the form of creative experiments with food . . . presented in a very unique way.

Let us now look at the marriage between music and food. Did I not make the correlation between the two sometime ago when I married Adele and Chef Achatz? Such is also the case with the direction I am attempting to steer my ship. Seems everyone enjoys great food and everyone also greatly enjoys great music. I happen to also enjoy other things, . . . like miracles of engineering feats as well as scientific things like what can be found on the Discovery Chanel. Am I weird or, are there extremes from many influences that shape us, . . . that point us in the direction, yet maintaining a speed at which we choose.

I have found I tend to enjoy great musical performances regardless if live or a studio recording. Living and breathing are hard enough on our body and emotional factors that influence our behaviors tend to create stressors that tear at the body even more. Part of our lifecycle REQUIRES us to replenish our nutrients with food. Sensory factors enhance or lives like taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. Cooking our food helps prevent disease and allows us to consume things that would otherwise be toxic to our bodies. Adding in the sensory factors of taste, touch, smell and sight can be accomplished with just one plate of food; only a sizzling platter of fajitas (or similar) now brings in the hearing portion of this equation. Extrapolated, this equation can allow a musical performance to evoke climatic crescendos of a culinary performance; and likely a similar reversal if performing each live in front of the guest. What I’m talking about here is a live musical performance and live dining performance married in the same event, in a setting of additional sights, sounds and smells that can bring on eye shutting, illusionary thoughts of ecstasy.fajitas

In this case I talk about culinary velocity as being my self centered desire to achieve that ecstasy in some fashion, form or cause. I think there is a place, yet not established, that can resolve my culinary velocity. That of bringing a passionate blend of a great musical performance and a great culinary performance in one setting that enhances the mind, and allows the spirit to open and become enveloped in these married performances . . . on a recurring basis. Something that can be perfected enough that its weekly routine would become synonymous with perfection . . . and anticipated by its guests to get the same quality (or better experience) every time. Think about the possibilities. Now again think back to a married performance of greats like Adele and Grant Achatz. Can this not be achieved?

Dicks

What is “hospital time!”

I have spent a very fair amount of time at the local hospital recently; Tri-City Hospital.  Have you ever wondered why everyone hates taking the quick trip to the emergency room? It’s not because of the cracked-out meth freak sitting next to you attempting to bite his own elbow; or the guy sneezing, that has figured out how to graffiti using the space between his fingers as an HVLP paint sprayer. No, the reason is because of “hospital time”.

monkeyI’m getting the picture. I believe hospital time’s equation looks something like “hospital time is = or > stated time, plus two hours”. You see, I think it has to do with processing of patients and availability of resources. There should be no doubt that more staff and larger facilities wouldn’t solve the problem. Perhaps That would only change the equation, not resolve “hospital time”.

During my visits . . . with an ‘s’, I had casually asked several staff on the hospital floors if they know what “hospital time” is and if it exists in their profession . . . or, perhaps in this hospital. I feel the overwhelming response favored the existence of hospital time in the hospital. But just how was it explained back to me? Many just chuckled and snickered, then would claim about an hour-and-a-half; explaining to me that “it’s the time that you wait”. But since the hour-and-a-half that you wait is never an accurate number . . . remember, we’re talking quietly while in the emergency room area . . . among all the sick, screaming, and drunk . . .

Crowded emergency room waiting area.The time you wait can be a long time, so let’s use my equation. If that staff member said it was an hour-an-a-half, let’s plug that in. A simple high fever and crankiness for a toddler can take an hour-and-a-half. Add two hours because you’re in the emergency room. So, at a minimum you’re drinking a minimum of one cup of coffee from Eric outside in the coffee cart. Now, let’s consider a slightly different scenario where a young Pop Warner football player comes in with Mom and Dad just after being injured in the big game. The child and mother are favoring his leg. 1.5 hours + 2 hours = 3.5 hours. During the visit, the doctor orders a CT scan of the knee that is now dependent on that department. Different department is just like starting the equation over. Let’s see, that’s 3.5 hours to start. 3.5 + “1.5″ hours (staff) = 5 hours . . . oh, don’t forget the addition of the “plus two hours” for a total time this evening of 7 hours or two “grande” sized lattes and mochas from Eric.

I’m going to say the staff is correct claiming hospital time is 1.5 hours. Yet I feel I am also correct is adding the 2 hours atop the stated time. The way I see it is the immediate moments spent in the emergency room waiting area among the infected, seemingly pale in comparison to the amount of time spent looped into the emergency room stronghold, for them to finally say . . . “you need see a specialist”, but give a nice $850 parting gift that supports the knee while waiting for the consult appointment.splint

Good thing there’s decent food for many of those hours available in the cafeteria. Tri-City’s café is a very decent support system below decks.tricity

Dicks

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