Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Food, Glorious Food

I love food.

If I weren't a naturally thinnish person, I would be miserable, because I would have to be a lot more restrained in my food choices. As I approach middle age I am finding that it's getting harder to justify, say, eating an entire large pizza all by myself or eating an entire box of Girl Scout peanut butter sandwich cookies, feats I accomplished when I was a young pup. But I don't really have to deny myself much as long as I exercise to make up for it, and for that I am ever so grateful. Except that I fear I might be becoming a "foodie."

Here lately, I feel a wee little bit obsessed with food. I have been visiting Food Network's site daily trolling for new recipes, I choose to watch Rachel Ray or Paula Deen or Ina Garten on the TV attached to my favorite elliptical trainer at my gym, and I plan days in advance what restaurant I want to go to for our one evening a week we go out to eat as a family. I am obsessed of late with food.

Saturday I ran the River Run 5K (and posted my second-best 5K finish ever--HOORAY!) and ever since, I have been battling food cravings. It's only 3.1 miles, not like I ran a marathon or anything. But I pushed myself really hard, darnit, and I didn't have much of an appetite while my vertigo was at its height, so I have been using those things as an excuse to gorge myself over the long holiday weekend.

Monday afternoon while I was cleaning up from lunch (grilled hotdogs from our own grill; does it get much better than that?) I noshed on a bag of Archway circus animal cookies. You know the ones from your childhood; they are completely frosted in brightly-colored hard, sugary icing and then dipped in rainbow sprinkles. Sunday at mass the priest talked about how God provided for his people with manna; in my mind, those biblical sweet cakes either look and taste like those frosted animal crackers, or Frosted Flakes. I hadn't had those manna-like cookies since I was a kid, and saw them on sale at Kroger. Before I knew it, I had put a large dent in the volume of the bag. I had to hide them from myself.

So, given my recent obsessiveness, I want to blog about some of my favorite foods. Try not to drool on your keyboard, and make sure you chime in with some of your faves.

Cranky's First Annual Food Favorite Awards

The restaurant I could visit every day until I die and be happy:
Easy. Chipotle. I would eat there every weekend now if the hubby didn't occasionally grow tired of it. My current favorite there is a vegetarian "bol", with black beans and rice, mild and hot salsa, cheese, lettuce, and guacamole. But for years I ate steak or chicken soft tacos with the medium green salsa and some lettuce and cheese. So, there's enough variety there to feed me for life.

My favorite home-cooked meal:
If I am cooking, that would be white chicken chili (D.R.'s recipe; I can't take credit for that one.) It cures what ails you.

If my mom is cooking...sauerkraut and weiners (go ahead, indulge your inner middle-schooler and laugh) and mashed potatoes.

If Jason is grilling...rib eye and a baked potato.

My favorite "fancy" food from a restaurant you have to get dressed up to visit:
We have a restaurant in downtown Cincy called Palomino. We can only afford it on special occasions, but we both love it, so it has become THE anniversary spot three years running. Every time I go I get some variation of pan-seared sea scallops. Every time, they're ten kinds of awesomeness. One of these days I will learn how to pan-sear a scallop...but since the morons on Hell's Kitchen are on a frakkin' cooking reality show contest and can't do it, I am guessing it must be hard.

My favorite food to have with a beer:
Buffalo-style chicken wings. Or warm, gooey beer cheese and soft pretzels. Don't make me choose.

The only food item I could stomach the first 12 weeks of my pregnancy:
Potatoes. I ate them baked, fried, or mashed daily. They're the only things that tasted good. And boy, did they taste gooooood. Every Saturday we would go to Penn Station and I would nibble on my greasy sandwich but inhale the hand-cut and flash-fried fries with the skins still on them. The funny thing is that potatoes are just about the only food Ainsley doesn't like now. She only eats french fries, no mashed or baked potatoes and they cannot have the skin on. I guess I burned her out in utero.

If I were on death row, my last meal would be...
Filet mignon, steamed snow crab legs, and coffee ice cream.

Best comfort food:
Chicken and dumplins, fried okra, and turnip greens cooked in ham hocks until they have no redeeming nutritional value, from Cracker Barrel. When I need to feed my soul as much as my body, this is where I want to go. Thirty-six hours after my first chemo, when I learned that to my surprise I would be able to keep food down while undergoing cancer treatment (even though most foods tasted like they had been baked on the hood of my car), I decided I wanted my favorite southern comfort. It tasted incredible that night. Cracker Barrel is also where I have to stop when I'm making any road trip longer than 6 hours. I don't know why. But I do know the location of any Cracker Barrel off of I-75 between here and Florida.

Best food find of 2008, so far:
The Neely's chicken tenders and homemade honey mustard sauce. Here's a homework assignment from Cranky: make this for your special someone(s) this week. It's sooo easy, and it's like nothing else I've ever cooked. They look and taste like something you'd get in a restaurant. And I mean that in the best possible way. The recipe says to deep fry them, but I pan-fried them in about a half inch of peanut oil and they were awesome.

When American fare just won't do:
I never thought I would like Indian food, but this fall I was introduced to Guru, a great little Indian place in northern Ky. that you can always get into with no wait, even on a weekend. Ainsley loves the rice, so it's a good choice for us as a family. And in the same little strip, there's a wonderful Thai restaurant where Ainsley will actually eat a California roll. (!) I crave one or the other on a regular basis.

Favorite fast food:
As I get older, McDonalds is losing its charm. If I have to go through a drive-thru window for lunch or dinner, more often than not I will show my Cincy pride and hit a Skyline chili. Sometimes you just gotta have a 3-way (not that kind) or a cheese coney, no onions. Not from this area, you say? Never had a chance to grow addicted to that unusually sweet chili that Cincinnatians devour over noodles, topped with a mound a of artery-clogging cheddar? Your loss, but also your gain; there's a reason Cincy is one of the "fattest" cities in the midwest.

Favorite junk food:
Grippo's barbecue potato chips. Another Cincinnati-made thing, though my family first became addicted to them when we all lived in southeastern Ky. I don't know why they migrated there before other parts of the state, but my mom, sister, and I favored them and took them for granted; when I went away to college in Danville, they were nowhere to be found. A hallmate from Williamsburg and I used to talk lovingly about them when we would walk together at night, and when she went down home she'd bring me a bag back. Eventually the Super America right off campus carried them, and one night while I was face-down in a bag watching a UK game one of Jason's fraternity brothers stopped by to hang out and yelled, "Grippo's! I didn't know white folks ate Grippo's!" Turns out this non-Cincinnatian had enjoyed them in his hometown, too, only to not find them in central Kentucky, and assume it was a brand unique to his community.

Best dinner I ever had:
When we went to Las Vegas a couple of years ago, we ate at one of Emeril's restaurants in the MGM Grand. My entree there, while great, was no better than something I would get at a Cincy fine-dining establishment. No, what made this so memorable was the experience. We were treated like kings and queens. We had a host, a wine server, and a food server who seemed to be waiting only on us. I ordered my first full bottle of wine at a restaurant and had to go through that whole process. Then there were the desserts, which were the best I've ever had. I wanted something "simple", so I chose a house-made lime sorbet served in a small physics-defying cylinder frozen with a shot of Cuervo Gold in the center. Who would have thought something that plain could be so awesome? Jason and our friends shared a flourless chocolate cake, a banana cream pie, and an apple cobbler a la mode. They still talk about it.

Which brings me to...

My favorite sweets:
I have a sweet tooth, so I can't pick just one. Krispy Kreme donuts, still warm (and our area's lone KK went out of business, darnit!) Snickers bars. Lindt truffles. Chocolate cheesecake. Graeter's ice cream. Blackberry cobbler. The complimentary creme brulee Palomino treats us to on our anniversary. Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Peanut butter milkshakes made with chocolate milk. The coconut gelato I had at the Bellagio in Vegas. The cream cheese danish I had at the Bellagio in Vegas (I want to go back there so badly, as much for the food as for the gambling.) Jason's grandmother's pecan pull-aparts. A fruity smoothie made by a good friend. The occasional bag of Skittles. And tequila creme liqueur.

Are we starving yet?

Talk back below. And then go have a snack.

1 comment:

Melmart said...

Your welcome for the Neeley's recipe tip!!! I loved those chicken tenders too. Mikey was too sick to eat them so, I'll have to give it another try....maybe tomorrow.