Monday, September 13, 2010

Cholula, Crazy Asian Lady Drivers, and Lots of Beef

I would like to apologize to my avid readers, Mr. Curt Hancock included, that I took a few days off from writing. There was no update on the last week, because I was just too tired to write. I worked 12 hours then drove three hours to chicago, and had a great two days with my sister. The hot dogs at Wrigley Field were unbelievable, all four of them, with relish and mustard, as all hot dogs should be enjoyed. Then, my day off on Tuesday was filled with lots of sleep and video games.

My week was once again a build up to the weekend. I progressively built up momentum until Friday and Saturday when the new menu changes took place. I had to reprep two whole dishes from scratch each day. The tomatoes and lobster dish is off, along with the octopus dish, the foie torchon, and the beet chevre salad. The new dishes included: braised baby leeks with spicy garlic blue prawns and sauce americaine; a pheasant galantine with plum wedges mascerated with soy; a new beet dish with shaved pleasant ridge reserve and crispy bread (PRR is the best cheese in America based on a recent competition); and finally, the most awesome dish on my side, and my Pride and Joy, the roasted delacata squash. We take delacata squash and slice it into rings, season it with clove, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and brown sugar, and roast it. That gets reheated to order, and separately I melt butter with tobasco, now Cholula, and smoked crab meat. I top it with popcorn seasoned with more pumpkin spice.

This dish is just me. When Tory was running through the dish I asked him, "Chef, how do you feel about Cholula?" He responded, "I fuckin love it." For those of you who do not know, Cholula is my heroine. It's the mexican hot sauce that I was introduced to at the roof ballroom by my amigos, and we ate it with everything. I bought twelve two ounce bottles online just so I could always carry some with me when I was at school. I introduced my buddies at school to it, and now that I'm back in middle America, everytime they use Cholula it's like I'm right there, in spirit. My friend/ future business partner Jon even sends me texts about all the stuff he eats with his cholula. Its kind of a big deal. And the popcorn with the dish, there's a pretty funny story about that. After I popped it I took it to Pete for him to taste, and he said to me, "Its good... Hey who's that creepy pedophile on the popcorn box?" Orville Redenbacher was my answer. "Oh yeah wasn't he from Indiana too, is that all you fuckers are good for, popping damn popcorn?" I smiled and laughed and said "Yes sir."

It was a bad sports weekend for me. Manchester United conceded 2 goals in stoppage time to blow a 3-1 lead and wound up tying Everton, and the Colts lost. But hey, I find silver lining in all sports. For Manchester United, no Rooney, and we still scored 3 goals. Berbatov, who has been a flop since he joined United, is playing out of his skin so far this season. And on to the colts. The one quarter of the game that I actually got to see was actually decent. I watched the second quarter at Bdubs after going to the avenue bar only to find out that the local CBS game was the pats and the bengals. Oh well. Its just one game any way. and Peyton plays better when hes pissed off anyways. I told all the annoying packers fans this, "The last time the colts gave up 250 yards on the ground in a loss, we went on to win the super bowl." The same defense that let Maurice Jones Drew run all over them, later shut the leagues leading rusher, Larry Johnson, down and held him to 15 yards in the playoffs. I am not worried about this season. Not one bit. Peyton Manning has proven to me that he can literally do anything. ANYTHING.

On another note, today was one of the best days of my internship. It was the day of the staff field trip to Fountain Prairie Farm, the farm that raises all of our beef. I met with Weinstein at Graze then Ed the former fish cook, now third man in charge, picked us up and drove us out to the farm along with his girlfriend. We got there and the whole staff was waiting for us. There was a massive set of bleachers on wheels being pulled behind a tractor. We jumped on, and the whole tour started.

Let me start by explaining. The beef that we get is Highland Beef, an heirloom breed of cattle from Scotland. It is grassfed then finished on hay and corn just before slaughter. It is some of the best beef I've ever had. The farm is 280 acres of beautiful pastures. They have just over 400 animals on premises. They really did their best to recreate a natural environment for the cows. Natural wetlands, lots of green pastures, and rolling hills of long grass that reminded me of the kind of stuff that I lose my balls in on golf courses. It is breath taking. The cows are extremely happy, and are free to roam around and eat whatever and whenever.

The tour led us to the top of a hill in a corner of the property that overlooked the whole farm. Had I not known that it was a farm, I would have sworn to god that I had just stumbled upon last wild herd of cattle in the world. Weinstein who was standing next to me at the top of the hill looked at me and said, "You know, this is where all beef should come from." And it makes sense. Why more people don't do it like this I don't know. All of the commercial beef in the U.S. is locked up and not allowed to move, fed hay shipped in from other pastures, and the manure produced is shipped out as hazardous waste. The cows at Fountain Prairie graze from the pastures on premises, they walk around so they are happy, and the manure they produce fertilizes the fields and keeps them green. It means less money spent by the farmers, less labor necessary from the farmers, and a happier animal which really does effect the quality of the beef.

Did I mention they have Mangalista pigs on premises... The finest pork known to man. I spent nearly an hour just sitting next to their pen, watching them. Pigs, for those of you don't know, are really entertaining animals. They're like big smelly dogs. We joke about it in my family because my parents say the reason my dog loves me so much is because I'm just like a bigger smellier dog. Which would, by the transitive property make me a pig, which also makes sense. I guess pigs have always just fascinated me. Brent one of the cooks at Graze took a picture of me, I didn't know it at the time, but he took a picture of me, kneeling down by the pigs, just kind of mesmerized by them. I'll see if I can get a copy of that picture and upload it later, but it reminded me of when I was a little kid. My first posession in this world was a stuffed pig. And it is still in my bed to this day. Pig, as he was aptly named, was my best friend as a kid. I remember my evil sister once tried to tell me that Pig was her's first then my dad stole him form her and gave him to me. I was little and just started crying and said, "I guess you can have him back." She for once in her young life, felt some sort of shame and pity, and let me keep what was rightfully mine. I would sleep with Pig under one arm, and with the other hand, I would rub his plastic eyeballs with my fingertips as I slept. It was strange, the thing I noticed most about these pigs was their eyes. They were massive, and so bright. It really made me realize what a beautiful animal the pig is, and how I have to spend my whole life making people realize that beauty.

Cows are smart animals too. They say cow can predict things, they have an extra sense. They can predict weather, natural disasters. They sensed something about me too. The finishing lot, the fenced in area where they fatten the cows up for slaughter when they're mature enough, is right by the barns. All the staff members lined the fences, and the cows seemed unbothered, but when I came to the fence, alone, the cows backed up, and formed a straight line, in exactly a twenty yard radius from me. Something about me unsettled them. I stood by that fence looking at them, and all of them were staring directly back at me. Not daring to move. They were terrified. They could see that as I looked at them, the only thing that passed through my mind was slicing their cheeks off of their faces for a sick braise and carving their ribs off of the rib loins and throwing them in a wood burning oven. As I looked at those cows, ready for slaughter, I smiled and whispered, "I'll see you in about twenty one days." (The standard aging period for all of our beef.)

(Pictured Above): Highland Beef skulls... stored behind the barn at Fountain Prairie Farm

After the farm Ed, his girlfriend Mayu, and Weinstein took me to their hidden gem in Madison. Saigon Noodle. Its a little Vietnamese noodle restaurant on the west side, but on the way, we were almost in serious trouble. Some crazy lady cut across three lanes of traffic and forced us to swerve out of our lane. Ed, who is Korean and whose japanese girl friend was in the car, caught up, flipped her the bird, then when he cooled down said, "Crazy fuckin asian lady drivers." I laughed uncontrollably for about ten minutes.

Saigon noodle was incredible. I had the #19. Its Pho Bo, beef noodle soup, with tripe and soft tendon. I added chili oil and lime juice like I always did at school. It was amazing. Some of the best stuff I've ever had, it put the CIA stuff to shame.

Well I've gotta work a morning shift and its getting late so I'd better go. I hope my extra writing made up for the weeklong absence of blogging... take it easy.


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