Wednesday, June 20, 2007


There's a lot to this blog that the readers don't see. Specifically, a number of half-written articles that were never completed. Just petered out of steam. As I was looking through the collection of unfinished entries (for a soon to come "Bits and Pieces" article), I spied this post that was never posted to the blog. I don't know why. It's complete and finished but I must have missed posting it for some reason, so here it is:

Jim. Pat. Geno.

To the uninitiated these are just simple male names. Innocent. Unoffensive. Plain. But to the cheesesteak cognoscenti, these names mean war.

Last week brought us to the epicenter of this ages long battle that pits brother against brother, mothers against fathers and spans generations. We were in Philly and determined to figure this conundrum out for ourselves.


Yours truly and Lindsay at the start of something great.

Across this great nation, from Timonium to Honolulu are places that either mimic the Philly Cheesesteak or develop their own variation. Some are good, others are not, but to understand how all of this comes together, one must journey to Mecca-delphia and experience its' roots.

It was with this in mind that myself, Lindsay and Matt ventured to the City of Brotherly Love.

For the first-time visitor, one only need remember: "south" - as in South Street and South Philly. Our first stop on this tour was down South Street, a funky and hip retail/bar district, to Jim's. It's different than the other two because you go inside, ensconsed from the weather outside - and when you've froze your butt off eating steaks in the dead of winter in South Philly, you can appreciate this seemingly minor aberration.

The basic Philly Cheesesteak fries beef on a griddle, adds sauteed onions and slops it all in a baked roll that's been sliced down the middle and lathered with Cheese Whiz (hence the term: Whiz With - meaning Cheese Whiz with onions).


The Jim's of South Street Cheesesteak.


Motownphilly's Geno's Steak.


Pat's The King of Steaks. With a name like that how can you go wrong? We opted for the full meal with cheese fries and sodas.

So which is the best? That's up for you to decide. After years of trying both Pat's and Geno's, I found myself to favor Pat's. So does Matt. Lindsay thought that the bread was better at Pat's and the meat at Geno's.

Go figure. Try them all.

Just remember that none of them have patience for amateurs. Just walk up with a bit of cocky confidence and say "Whiz With" - even if you don't know what that means.

You'll have a great time.

And let me know which is your favorite.


Paulie Walnuts

Tony Sirico toasts my newfound appreciation for Italian forcemeats.

In my never relenting search for tasty foods, I sometimes "discover" something to eat the old fashioned way: I saw it on TV. Readers of this blog know that I'm a long-time viewer of "The Sopranos" and every once in awhile life imitates fiction.

After a marathon viewing of "The Sopranos" on DVD prior to the series finale, I got a hankering for a hunka "Gabba-Gool."

But what is this mysterious Gabba-Gool?

I hadn't a clue.

But, after watching nearly ten years of Sopranos, I realized that they routine hack away at both English and Italian with weird pronunciations and malapropisms. But I had to know what this "Gabba-Gool" is and tastes like, so I found myself at Cerielli's again looking at their massive display case.

What can I get for ya? asked the counter guy.
Um, well, I heard about something called "Gabba-Gool"? You know what that is? I said, trying to sound cool and knowledgeable.
Yeah, it's called Cappacola. You want it hot?
It comes hot or not.
Let's go with the regular. Quarter pound and a quarter pound of provolone.

The guy goes off and starts hacking away at my order. Alright, I now know what this "Gabba-Gool" is and I've managed to find out without looking too foolish.

Here ya go.
Nice. I got my meats.
Hey, how did you hear about the coppacola?

Crap. Busted.

Here I was at a crossroads. Do I lie and tell them some friends were telling me about it? Or do I stand up and tell the truth that I'm a Sopranos weenie who doesn't know the fine points of Italian forcemeats - and look like a real cafone?

In the end, I told him the truth. I heard it watching "The Sopranos." I'm lame. I decided to take my medicine and admit that I'm just a food jamook. I comforted myself with the notion that I could still go back and not be branded a liar.

I also comforted myself with a nice coppacola and provolone sandwich....


The forcemeat that brought the House of Cards down.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fresh Strawberries

Perhaps part of the reason I'm not feeling so violated about the bank card thing is because I've been eating well lately.

I don't mean "well" in the sense of the delicious, marble fat laden ribeye steak (although that is part of it). I mean "well" in the sense of great quality food.

Take today as an example. After taking care of all sorts of things this morning, I started out with a round of cold roasted chicken and some delicious sweet watermelon. Watermelon so sweet and juicy, there's not need for any beverage.

Then, after a lightning round at Costco, I went over to Belvedere Square for a late lunch and some shopping. A bowl of crab and corn chowder at Atwater's with iced tea and a wedge of fresh bread - deelish! I've been eating quite a bit at the soup stand lately and it's been a good experience time and again. Today's chowder was light, refreshing and had a tinge of "Asian-ness" to it.

After a lingering lunch while reading the latest issue of Saveur on steaks and beef, I made my way through the market, picking up some blood oranges, apples and fresh Virginia strawberries at the produce stand. There's nothing like fresh, ripe strawberries. They're blood red, just beautiful, but oh so delicate. They cost $3 a bundle and what's survived the drive up York Road is now on sale at Spro Coffee until Saturday. Hopefully, my customers will think they're "too expensive" and I'll have a sensuous treat when I open Saturday morning.

So, if you happen to stop by Spro Saturday morning and I look a little tipsy, you'll know I had some champagn with those strawberries.

Swung around to the bakery for some fresh country white bread (sliced, thank you). Then over to the smokehouse for a half pound of beautiful Grav Lox. So tasty-looking, I want to run out for bagels and cream cheese, but I foolishly prove to myself that I have willpower.

Then to Ceriello's for some fresh mozarella and a half pound of prosciutto di parma. That, combined with the provolone and coppacola I have at the shop will make for a killer sandwich in a couple of hours.

I leave the market with bags in tow and the knowledge that I've got a number of wonderful meals in my very near future.

Attack of the Clones

I think I'm supposed to say that I feel "violated."

But I don't.

It started on Saturday with a $1.75 charge declined at a luncheon for my goddaughter Brooklyn. I thought I might have been overdrawn, but there was plenty of money in the bank and chalked it up to the proprietors being cheap about the charge.

Then it happened again on Monday night while I was out with Lady G for a declined $39.67 charge at The Tomato Palace. Hmm, maybe some checks came through and I didn't have enough? Good thing I still carry cash. Made a mental note to check in the morning, but forgot all about it.

Until yesterday at Exxon and the card was declined again - forcing me to actually walk inside the TigerMart and pay cash for gas.

Now, I was pissed and finally called The Bank.

Turns out that someone in Downey, California had cloned my bank card, went on a shopping spree at Best Buy late last week and the bank suspended the card on the "suspicious" charges. "Suspicious" because the card was being swiped both in California by pseudo-me and in Maryland by real-me. Glad to see someone at the bank is paying attention.

After confirming some other questionable charges - like $30 charge for Kate Spade note cards at the paper store, The Bank said they would do a little more research then give me my money back. I mean, who in their right mind actually charges their meal at McDonald's - Three Times??

So, I guess I'm supposed to feel "violated." But I'm not. To be honest, I'm barely fazed by all of this. This kind of thing happens and then it's rectified, so I've lost very little. Of course, if I only had $850 in the bank, I'd be pissed. But this week, I've got a bit more so it doesn't hurt that much.

Meanwhile, I'm trying my hardest to be violated.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Yo Soy Tony Soprano

This Sunday, the HBO series The Sopranos comes to a close.

At the end of anything, one reflects on the beginning. And for me, the beginning of The Sopranos almost got a bit hairy.

I remember catching an episode or two when the first season aired in 1999, but it wasn't until I was in Honolulu months later that I had the chance to watch the entire season. The Bob had purchased the DVD set and one morning, we watched all the episodes from start to finish.

For someone like me, The Sopranos holds a bit of romanticism where anyone can be Italian and anyone can become a Wise Guy. From 7am until about 1pm, we watched the first five or six episodes before feeling the hunger pangs. We decided that we would need to go out and get something to eat.

Watching that much Sopranos changes your outlook on life. It puts you in a completely different mindset. Just a few hours watching and, suddenly, we were "made". In just a few short hours, we were from North Jersey, uttering phrases like "Ohw" and "ugots" and "marone." Hookers, booze, gambling and interstate commerce were on the afternoon's agenda.

Not exactly the ideal mentality for mingling with the public.

Hungry as we were, we decided to head over to Big City Diner for their Kim Chee Fried Rice Loco Moco. For the uninitiated, this is a dish filled with Kim Chee Fried Rice (fried rice mixed with kim chee), layered with hamburger patty, fried egg and lots of brown gravy. For those not familiar with island cuisine, it's complete heaven in layers of fat and gravy.

So, we're sitting there, feeling very Soprano-like, enjoying the discussion and just hanging out when I notice some guy from across the room sitting with his co-workers, staring at me.

What the fuck is this cocksucker looking at?

See, I've already degenerated.

For the next few moments, I'm sitting there, fighting in my mind. The Sopranos-influenced side of me wants to get up, look the guy in the eye and shout :What the fuck are you lookin' at, asshole? - with the total intention of jumping over the table, grabbing the chair and beating him to a pulp if he disrespects me and my crew.

But, what the fuck is wrong with me? I'm an upstanding citizen who's normally laid back and casual. I can't go around beating people because they're staring at me. Or can I?

In spite of the fact that I know he's really just zoning out and staring into space (and not really "staring" at me), it takes me a couple moments to reign my desires from going wild on the guy. My heart's pounding. My palms are slightly sweaty. And I'm scared. Scared of myself.

After lunch, we head back to house for another marathon session of The Sopranos and I decide not to leave the house until the next day when my delusions of hanging with Silvio, Paulie, Chrissy and Tony have subsided and I can go back to being a normal, functioning (and calm) member of society.

Monday, June 04, 2007

French Kissin' In The USA - Lilly's French Cafe

Lillys French Cafe

Anna, le Sherpa famouse (celebre), ponders the wonders of life and the goodness of moules.

Those who know me, and those who dine with me, know that I enjoy French brasserie food tremendously. My need for Les Halles in Washington DC is epic. I can't get enough. No matter where I am.

Luckily, my sister-in-law Polly understands this and after casually mentioning that I had a hankering for some French, she steered us towards Venice Beach to Lilly's French Cafe.

Actually, when we were on the way there, I didn't know we were going to a French place. Hell, I wasn't paying attention to the sign when we walked in, and didn't realize our good fortune until I spied the onglet on the menu. Merci Jesus Cristo.

With Dennis in tow and Anna, that famous Sherpa with her brand new BMW hotness, we sat down for another multi-course meal exploring all of Lilly's French goodness. It's now getting to the point where one dish and one flavor just won't do. We must have all dishes and tastes of all dishes, and that's how it went down.

Starting with a round of onion soup, then the big guns came out: ahi tuna salad, moules mariniere, poulet roti, onglet l'echallote and frites, frites and more frites. We had so much fuckin' frites - it was potato hurricane.

Lillys French Cafe

Ahi, onglet, moules, poulet and frites, frites, frites!

The onion soup was pretty good. Nicely done and a good flavor. When it comes to ahi tuna, as long as it's fresh and raw (at least in the middle), I'm happy. Truth is, I'll eat fresh, raw tuna all day, every day until Judgement Day if I could afford it.

The moules were tasty and cooked just right. Everyone tore into those with reckless abandon. So much so that you'd have thought we hadn't been eating non-stop all week. Scary. The onglet was it's usual kidney-icious goodness. Grilled just right and covered in shallots. The low point was the poulet. The exterior looked delicious but once you got into it, you realized it just looked good but were dry and killed inside. Such a shame.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Unlike most Americans, I try to not watch television. However, I do reserve some time for my favorite shows, one of which has been HBO's "The Sopranos."

It's Sunday evening and tonight's show is the penultimate episode. Next week, the series ends and, hopefully, all questions will be answered. Although, considering it's David Chase's show, there will undoubtedly be plenty of unanswered questions.

There's been much speculation on how The Sopranos will end and I'm going to give in and add my thoughts to the queue.

In the Season Three episode "The Army Of One," after Jackie Aprile, Jr's funeral, Meadow Soprano dresses down Jackie's sister for speaking openly about La Cosa Nostra in front of "outsiders." Since that time, it has been one of my hopes that Meadow would, somehow, rise to take over the DiMeo Crime Family at the end of Tony's rule. Especially since they established that a Sicilian family could be led by a woman in the Season Two episode "Commendatori."

But I think that Meadow taking over is a long shot.

I've been watchin the first four seasons these past couple of days and it suddenly occured to me how the show will end. In the first season, during one of the sessions with Dr. Melfi, Tony reveals that he's afraid of "losing his family." In the episode, the comments infer that he means his blood family of Carmela, Meadow and A.J., but it could be his mob family with the impending war with Phil Leotardo and New York.

I'm going to speculate here that The Sopranos will end not with Tony being arrested by the FBI, not with Tony being killed, but rather with his blood family dead and Tony left all alone.

Right or wrong? Agree or disagree? We're going to find out next Sunday night.

Eating Local

While quality and flavor are high on my list of priorities, I just hadn't been thinking much about "buying local." Sure, I'll buy my silver queen corn from the guy selling it at the produce stand in Hunt Valley, but beyond that, I just don't think too much about it.

Finally, after months of Spike's (of celebrity chef and Artifact Coffee fame) soliliquizing (is that a word?) on the virtues of locally produced everything, I decided to break down and take a visit to Springfield Farm. in Sparks, MD.

It's out in the, well, country - down winding roads, through forest groves and meandering through the lush Northern Baltimore County countryside. It's a fun ride in a truck and I wonder how much better it will be in a Ferrari.

After the twists and turns, the entrance to the farm comes suddenly, then it's a hard right turn into someone's driveway and towards a house. Is this the right place? There's a pond to the left and all sorts of vehicles, ATVs, bed mowers and whatnot scattered along driveway. At first, you're not sure if this is place - 'cause it really looks like someone's house, and maybe they might shoot you.

As you come around the bend, that's when you notice the large metal walk-in cooler and you know this must be the place.

The farm store itself is pretty small. Just a table and a few refrigerated merchandisers holding the products. They've got beef, chicken, pork, eggs, milk, sausage, ice cream - and it's all ready for the taking. Much of the stuff I saw was frozen - evidently, they didn't move as much product over the Memorial Day Weekend and ended up freezing a bunch of stuff.

If it comes from beef, pork or chicken, you can pretty much get what you want. Want some ribeyes? No problem. Need a chicken? Can do. Want an 80 pound pig for a 4th of July roast? Be ready that morning. And all of it coming straight from the farm. Not just some anonymous farm - this farm. Right here. And not too long ago either.

I swear I used some restraint. But I was compelled to try as much as I could, so here's what I bought:

4lb whole chicken
1lb ribeye
1dz large eggs
3pt ice cream
1pk bacon

Then I rushed home to start cooking.

With the chicken, I cut it up and made that fried chicken recipe I've been tweaking. WIth the eggs and bacon, I made those this morning for breakfast. The ice cream I sampled last night while watching The Sopranos on DVD. And the ribeye is still in the fridge awaiting it's time in my hot skillet (with lots of butter, of course).

So, how was this locally produced stuff? Good? Yes, but incredibly different.

Maybe I'm just used to the mass-produced, steroid pumped and feed plumped chicken that you buy at Wegman's because this farm-raised chicken actually had flavor - especially the thigh and leg pieces. But, I'll be honest, that flavor kinda wigged me out a bit. Chicken shouldn't taste like "chicken." It should be plump, juicy but neutral tasting. Or should it?

The chicken reminded me of my trips to the Philippines. Where the chickens aren't plump and they actually have flavor. But this is America dammit, is this how chicken is supposed to taste here???

Well, of course it is, and it was damn good too. Although, I think I need to tweak it with just a little more salt. I ended up adding more salt to the chicken to "pop" its' flavor.

Then there's this morning with the bacon and eggs. Simple right? Wrong. The bacon wasn't that papery thin stuff Wegman's is passing off as good, this stuff was thick - and short so it fit perfectly in my small cast iron skillet. Nice. And the thickness helped it to cook evenly and meaty.

The eggs. These were "large" eggs but, Jesus, these weren't just "large", they were LARGE. Mother Large. So large that the two eggs nearly filled the skillet. So large that, halfway through, I was thinking: Shit, these are large. Note: one "large" egg is enough.

So far, it's been an interesting and exciting journey with locally produced meats. They're beyond my expectation. They're outside of my expectation. It's going to be a brave new world with chicken that tastes like chicken and eggs too huge to mention.

But, this kind of flavor and quality doesn't come cheap. That shopping list above? Seventy bucks. Yes, you read it right: $70. It's not cheap, but it is good.

Guess I just have to buy a Ferrari to make the drive...

Eat My Hot Snake - Hot Doug's

Sliced potatoes fried in duck fat? Sounds like my kind of place. I originally wasn't planning on visiting Hot Doug's (in spite of the insistence of more than a couple of friends in the know), but since I crammed the NRA show into one day (and was thoroughly exhausted to boot), I decided to gallavant around Chicago a bit.

Hot Dougs

Trifecta: French Fries, Rattlesnake Sausage & Chicago Hot Dog.

Woke up with sore muscles from my 24 mile odyssey at the National Restaurant Show and maybe because my friends have been encouraging me to visit, or maybe because I'm just a sissy who's afraid of another day on the show floor, I decided to blow off the NRA Show and do a brief tour of Chicago's food and coffee joints.

Duck Fat Fried French Fries...Jesus, that's gotta be the Touch of God. Problem is, they only serve those duck-i-licious fries on Fridays and Saturdays.

Today is Monday.


Everyone that has recommended Doug has tales of long lines and encouragement to "go early" when they open at 10:30am. That was my intention but lounging around the hotel room is so delicious that I didn't get their 'til 11:30am.

No worries, parking was easy and there were only two people ahead of me. Lucky me.

Doug's got a selection of encased meats, from the hot dog to Italian sausage, Polish sausage, corn dog, hot sausage and his own encased meat selections. There's also a featured dog of the week for the adventurous to try.

Today's "game"?

Rattlesnake Sausage.

Whoa, rattlesnake, you say? That was my reaction too. Smoked Rattlesnake Sausage with Black Currant Mustard and Vodka Currant Cheese. I'll admit, I was kinda put off by this turn of events. I almost didn't order it. Then I reminded myself that "this is not a dress rehearsal" and decided to "go for it."

Hot Dougs

Rattlesnake Sausage with Black Currant Mustard and Vodka Currant Cheese.

There's something ironic about a rattlesnake sausage. First off, what is a "rattlesnake"? Basically, it's encased meat that "snakes" its' way across the ground. So, for a naturally encased meat to be ground up and then re-encased as a sausage seems ironic and comical to me. At least in the latter version, it doesn't make noise and won't bite me with deadly venom - a plus in my book.

The place is small-ish. There's a bunch of faux wood formica tables and small cooking line where a couple of sausage cooks keep things going, with a self-serve soda fountain to their backs and a podium-like spot facing the door where Doug Himself holds court.

Doug's a short guy, about 5'6" wearing dark rimmed glasses and short dark hair. He stands there, taking orders and making chit chat with the regulars and the tourists (like me). Some of the more dense of the tourists (like myself) ask: "Are you Doug?"

Not if you're a process server.

Ah, a kindred soul at last.

The menu is varied with all sorts of hot dog and sausage combinations with cute names, like the sausage formerly known as the "Lucca Brazzi" (no fish) or the "Britney Spears" (maybe tuna).

Standing there, you get the feeling that this place might be like Pat's Steaks in Philly - where you're expected to know how to order properly, otherwise Get The Fuck Out Of The Line. There's certainly a bit of intimidation here - especially with all the locals who know how to order exactly what they want. It's compounded by the fact that the menu items all look tasty and you know you really shouldn't eat them all.

In the end, Doug was friendly and accommodating to this wide-eyed tourist who ordered the Rattlesnake, the traditional Chicago style hot dog, and order of fries and a Coke. There's two sizes of Coke and Doug steered me to the smaller size and told me that there's free refills so just get the smaller one. I certainly appreciate that kind of hospitality.

So how was the food? In a word: good.

Hot Dougs

The Chicago Hot Dog.

I'm really getting into this Chicago-style hot dog thing. It's so different than the Sabrett New York hot dog, but so interesting with it's celery salt, onions, tomato and muther-huge pickle. God knows what a pickle is doing on a hot dog but it's damn good.

The fries were wonderfully done. Blanched and then deep-fried. You can tell just by eating them. They know how to do frites right. God Bless that Doug and death to the fabled process server who wants to take him away.

But what you really want to know is about the rattlesnake. Was it good? Was it bad? Did I start to hiss like I was in a Harry Potter movie? It was good. The meat had great texture and a slight spiciness to it. It was grilled and that was lovely. The black currant mustard and vodka currant cheese were an interesting combination that grew on me as I bit more into the snake.

Hot Dougs

The Rattlesnake Gets Bitten, Bitch.

The rattlesnake, currant and vodka was a combination I never would have thought about and a perfect example of why one must run to Hot Doug's. It's taking something as lowly as the hot dog and sausage - fare usually reserved for griddling with peppers and onions at the neighborhood street fair - and turning it into something new and original. It's taking it out for a drive and never turning back. It's raising the lowly encased meat to a culinary delight.

Run, Run, Run, young gourmand!

And beware the process servers...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Chicago Chop House

One of our earnest readers recently asked if I did, indeed, visit the Chicago Chop House during my recent visit to the Windy City. Well, the answer is: Yes, indeedy! I've had such a backlog of posts that I'm trying to work my way through them and get up to date. Heck, I still have things from April I need to post!

I actually wrote this post the day after while waiting at O'hare after being bumped off my original flight back to Baltimore.


My last visit to Chicago heralded a new level in my dining adventures at two of the best restaurants in America. Those were heady times of abandoned eating and reckless spending. This time, I vowed to be a bit more thrifty.

With only a one night visit, one should only enjoy one dinner. Not to fear, gentle reader, only one dinner ensued.

The Chicago Chop House is, by now, one of my "old Chicago haunts." With the exception of February's visit, I eat there every time I come to this city. It's one of those old fashioned steakhouses where the steaks are big, the sides are big and Al Capone's picture hangs on the wall.

To be honest, I almost didn't eat at Chicago Chop House this time around. A search of the Internet yielded a couple of sites that recommended other steakhouses. But since most of those said that places like Morton's, Smith & Wollensky, Capitol Grille, The Palm and Lawry's were amongst the best in Chicago, I decided against any of those places for the most basic reason that I can go to any of those at home in Baltimore or Washington DC. If I'm in another city, I want to eat at places that I can't eat at home. Morton's? I might as well eat at Applebee's.

It's nice to know that as totalitarianism develops and a police state arises in the United States that you can still find small enclaves of civility in this nation: the Chicago Chop House allows cigar smoking in their bar (if albeit only in the back of the bar).

Regular readers of this blog know that I have a penchant for a meal of meaty steaks and tasty cigars. They're a wonderful pairing and it's becoming all too rare an experience in what once was The Land of the Free. God Bless the Chop House for maintaining some level of sensibility in an insane world.

Oddly enough, The Chicago Chop House (THCC) is located in the heart of the city's tourist district - usually a sure sign to stay away. As such, it's typically dangerous territory to just show up, hoping for a seat. They're open 'til 11pm so I gambled that a seating for one at 10pm wouldn't be too problematic. Luckily, I was right (not to mention that it was a Sunday).

Blanche, my waitress, was attentive, light as meringue but a bit short on the attention span whenever our conversation strayed from menu items to, say, what The Loop is all about.

Chicago Chop House

The First Course.

For starters, Blanche brought out the sauteed butterflied shrimp. Three large shrip sauteed in butter, garlic, lemon and onions. The shrimp were huge and I tore into them. The table bread was equally fantastic. Crusty on the outside, warm, soft and chewy on the inside. Slathered with lots of butter and I wanted to grind the entire loaf - appetite be damned.

Chicago Chop House

The rather unremarkable salad.

The next course was the salad course with a garlic dressing. Hate to say it, but it was pretty unremarkable. Iceberg or romaine? Who could tell since it was mostly the flavorless white ends with a couple baby tomatoes and drowning in dressing. It would have been better if they dropped the salad altogether, although I suspect it's there to appease the tourists who want the most for their money.

Chicago Chop House

Ah, Prime Rib Succulence and the Arturo Fuente Rothschild Maduro cigar. Sublime.

For the main course, I chose the prime rib/ribeye. It's a cut of prime rib that's cooked as a prime rib should and finished on the grill like a ribeye steak. I ordered mine "medium," along with a side order of their fried baked potato.

Chicago Chop House

The crispy potato thingies.

The meat was a perfect medium. Carmelized exterior with a red/pink and cool (temperature cool) interior. Probably the best medium I've ever eaten. And the potatoes? Excellent. Evidently, they're baked potatoes that are sliced and then deep-fried to a crispy perfection with onions.

To top it all off - the cigar. A maduro robusto from A. Fuente just made the experience sublime. To me, there's little finer than a wonderful cut of meat paired with a delicious cigar. It's almost an aphrodisiac. While I say "death" to those anti-smoking gestapo types who deign to smother smoking from God's Green Earth, leave me these little havens where I can enjoy a steak and a cigar and revolution will be thwarted. For now.

Chicago Chop House

Chocolate cake.

Continued on with a dessert course - a chocolate cake. It was good but nothing earth-shattering. Thought for a moment about ordering a coffee, but decided against it.

All in all, the Chicago Chop House lived to my expectations. I got a wonderful cut of meat, excellently prepared and smoked a cigar to boot - what more could I ask for? I was happy and took half the cut home with me.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Funk

For the past two days I've been in a funk. A myopic funk. A foggy funk. An "I don't know what I'm doing and can't see where I'm going and don't have anyone to hug me" kind of funk. One of those funks where you sit around trying to figure out where you went wrong in life and are extremely tempted to call old girlfriends and cry kind of funk.

I'm happy to report that the funk has passed and I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and reinvigorated.

Maybe it's the fact that the Nail Salon isn't happening. Maybe it's the fact that the beverage refrigerator keeps leaking and I can't seem to figure out why. Maybe it's because I lost the USBC and now have to fork out my own money to go to Japan.

Whatever it was, I'm a guy and I'm too busy being "macho" to sit around figuring it out, unless I deign to look like a sissy.

The crescendo came last night, as I'm leaving The Spro, in need of someone to talk to about The Funk, and I'm texting an old flame to see if she wants to chat. She didn't call or return my text. Bitch.

This morning, twelve hours later, I receive this message: "Sorry! I went to bed early. I've been so wiped out this week."

Sure. She was probably busy with whatever current boyfriend she has now.

But it's really a good thing she didn't call me back, I think. After six months of no contact what would happen now? The swirling hurricane starts again? No, I don't think I want to go back to that craziness. That would be, well, just crazy.

So, here I am again, The Spro is about to close after another busy day in Towson, and I'm feeling pretty chipper about things and The Funk is an old memory disappearing into the night.

And I think I should note: No tears were shed during the filming of This Funk.

The Fetal Position

I love my family. I really do. Overall, I'm very close to my family. In the traditional Filipino culture, there really is no "extended" family. They are all just "family" and as such, you're subject to the whims and judgments of everyone.

In high school, one of my aunts constantly nagged me about a girl I was "in love" with. She didn't like this girl and made it painfully obvious to my inexperienced self each and every time I saw her. Which, when you're being nagged about a girl you like was always too often.

Now, that girl is long gone, my aunt and I are still close but a new cloud lingers on my horizon. It's my other aunt.

Don't get me wrong, my other aunt is great. I love her to death. She oversees the company accounting after I've hacked my way through it. She's the one who recalculates revenue, taxes and works with our CPA to make sure things are in line and on-time.

I see her on a regular basis, but I usually hear from her quarterly, when it's: "Jay, we need to talk. I need checks."

Notice the plural in the word "checks." It's never just one. It's always a cascade of checks needed to be issued and sent to either the IRS, the Comptroller of Maryland or some other government agency extorting us for more cash to feed the machine. It's a never-ending cycle of revenue, taxes and checks - and I'm starting to wonder if it will affect my relationship with my aunt.

There are days when I fear her call, because I know it's the call for money to the IRS. But I was going to use that money to put a down payment on a business jet, I think to myself. Not anymore sucka, you got to pay and your aunt is the Agent For The Reaper.

I want to regale you with stories about my aunt calling, the phone wringing and me, crouched on the floor of my basement in fetal position - but it hasn't reached that stage yet. There are still family gatherings and we sit, chat, joke, laugh and gossip about what problems are in the family this month, so things are still good.

Perhaps next year I'll find myself in the fetal position on the floor in the basement...