Tuesday, March 31, 2009

¡Me pasaron por la piedra!

Very loosely translated (or not at all because it's an entirely different term), this means highway robbery. In my native English language, I just say "bullshit." Five bucks for a printer friendly version of a tamale recipe? It's likely that I won't even use the computer version on principle. Buen provecho.

The Funniest Thing I Heard Yesterday

D-Tron sez:

"I want another steak w/Sriracha. Sriarcha goes well on anything. Sometimes I put it on itself and eat it."

Amen, D-Tron. Amen.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cheesesteak Tally

Pat's: 5
Geno's: 0
Delassandro's: 2
Steve's: 1
Street Meat: 4
Other: 7
Total: 19

Even after four hours of open bar (with two of those hours dedicated solely to vodka and energy drink. Where do I think I am, studying abroad in the year 2000?), a later dinner at Bar Ferdinand that involved tapas, locating a missing Gastro-in-law (then forgetting he was located and attempting to locate him again), and vomiting in the bathroom (sorry, Barf Erdinand, er, Bar Ferdinand), and an even later show at Johnny Brenda's, it's never too late to hop a cab over to 9th and Passyunk. Buen provecho.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Why Did I Eat This?

There was a six month period in 2003-2004 when I would buy the Costco version of these by the dozen, relapsing on an old high school habit that my father turned me on to as a replacement for his love (love = love handles = blame your parents for your shortcomings). So with the same tinge of nostalgia the led me back into the arms of Taco Bell, I treated myself to a "Flame Grilled Cheeseburger" aboard the Amtrak train, where seeing actual open flames would probably be a bad thing. Luckily I've been down this road before, and it was no surprise to see it emerge from a commercial grade microwave, piping hot except in the middle, where it's always cold unless you want to chip your teeth on an overwaved bun. I would have been much happier if there were microwave french fries to go with it, but a bag of Utz was just fine.

Tearing back the microwave-safe wrapper, I recognized some old friends: leathery cheese, asphalt patty, cloud white bun. Biting into it, I remembered a time when I would knock out two or three of these in one sitting. Artificial grilled flavor ranks up there with artifical grape flavor. Sometimes, the artificial flavor is what you crave. Without the nostalgia, it probably would have been just as good, but for $5.50, I think I would have rather had 30 chicken nuggets from Wendy's (that's a lie. I just like the 99 cent value menu metric). Buen provecho.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Iron Hill, Take Two

After a successful meal from start to finish the first time around at Iron Hill Brewery, our expectations may have gotten the best of us. Or it could have been that our server, Steve, was just a jerk. In his jerk defense, however, he was also manning a 12-top. Still, I'm a damn good tipper. So what happened? How about another list?

1. Steve completely forgot the cheesesteak eggroll appetizer. It didn't show up on the bill, but there was no apology regarding the forgetfulness. And I was really looking forward to these.
2. No water refills. No check-ins. At least not for us. The 12-top was another story.
3. Fish and chips was probably a mistake after the filet-o-fish meal for lunch. And I already knew about the fries. Thankfully, malt vinegar is quite the cure-all.
4. The dressing on Mrs. Gastro's salad was so bland that all you tasted was the greens. I like greens, but I like delicious dressing much more.
5. Damn you, Steve.

I'll be back (lord knows it's not my last time at Babies 'R' Us), and hopefully the third time will be the charm. If you make it there in the meantime, just be sure you don't get stuck with Steve. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cheesesteak Tally

Pat's: 4
Geno's: 0
Delassandro's: 2
Steve's: 1
Street Meat: 4
Other: 7
Total: 18

You gotta love out of town guests. Buen provecho.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why Did I Eat This?

Even more upsetting than watching the NY Rangers get creamed on the ice this past Saturday (as best I could see from the top of the house) was the fact that I had to take advantage of the McDonald's "Score for Four" promotion. If the Flyers score four goals, you and your ticket stubs are lovin' it with a free breakfast sandwich the next morning. I suppose that's the answer to "Why did I eat this?" Otherwise, I would have spared myself the abdominal cramping that Spurlock daintily refers to as the "McGurgles." These things are truly shitty, especially when you put one in the fridge for later consumption. This morning, I felt like Thomas (my bitchin' dog), angrily gnawing at the day old disaster like it was a chew toy. If you happen to be at a four goal-scoring Flyers game, do yourself a favor and accidentally lose the ticket stubs. Then go and make a smoothie for breakfast. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Am Still an Italian Grandmother: Homemade Pizza, Take Two

This a brag post, not a blog post. I knocked it out of the park on my second attempt. I finally solved the brittle mozzarella mystery (turns out the curds-cum-cheese need to be too hot to handle for best fusing results), and the end result was a shreddable softball*. Instead of slices of garlic and chunks of onions, Mrs. Gastro blended the two into a pastelike substance that imparted flavor to the sauce without being a nuisance to the texture. And the "cup of water in the broiler" trick gave the crust an audible crunch that it lacked in the first attempt. Top the whole thing off with some sweet italian sausage (procured from the Chestnut Hill Farmers' Market), and you're saying "holy shit" all over again. Buen provecho.

*While making fresh mozzarella cheese is wonderful fun, the price of a gallon of milk and the resulting yield is about the same as you would pay for a real Italian grandmother to make it (mozzarella di lehigh valley dairy, not mozzarella di bufala).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Local Celebrity

When you show up at the wrong Beef and Beer, people tend to take notice. When you show up at the wrong Beef and Beer for three years running, you're downright famous. Among the reasons for said fame: a blog post, a conga line, and a raffle winning streak. This year was another success for the Finley family (a bunch of real freakin' awesome people), and from the looks of it, the party is gaining steam.

Once again, I overdid it with the food. I blame the serving spoons. The "zeets" was even better than last year. More cheese, less sauce, less healthy. Exactly how I like it. There was a surprise dish of BBQ beef brisket on the serving line, which was a tender and smoky treat. I could barely move after my third plate. I could also barely drink, but that didn't really stop me. There was less dancing this time around (my dancing partner, Mrs. Gastro, was unable to attend this year), but I did manage to lead a conga line. The initiative netted a Harry Potter train set, which means I will be taking up model trains in my spare time. Immediately following, the giant candy bar dance-off was set to the Electric Slide, and although I sure had the boogie, I was unsuccessful yet again*. I drowned my sorrows in another pitcher of Miller Lite and waited eagerly for the raffles. I put the lion's share of the family tickets in the most popular of the baskets (sorry Gene, no tickets in the "Chicks Dig Gene Finley" basket): a week at the shore, a golf package with greens fees for two courses, and a 42" flatscreen TV.

I have been known to win a flatscreen TV in my day (I won a 40" at a golf outing a few years back), so I figured I would be walking out the door with that. The chances of winning the other two, judging from the heft of the ticket bags, were slim to none. Through the haze brought on by 4 or 5 pitchers, I listened to foreign number combinations, and watched as all three baskets were claimed by others, along with everything else (including a gardening basket won by the Gastro-in-laws). But there's no reason to be a sore loser. I didn't go home empty handed, but even if I did, I had such a blast that it wouldn't have mattered. Gene and the rest of the Finleys, thanks for another great night. Buen provecho.

*Gene pulled me aside, however, and hooked me up with a box of Nestle Crunch.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Iron Hill Brewery is Neither Made of Iron, Nor is it on a Hill. Discuss.

Perusing the aisles at Babies 'R' Us is great for the appetite, especially knowing that in a few months' time, eating, drinking, and other daily activities will sink to the bottom of the priority list (along with showering and sleeping). Eschewing the national chains for a local one, Mrs. Gastro and I satisfied our hunger (and my thirst) at Iron Hill Brewery's North Wales outpost. The verdict, in convenient (and lazy) list form:

1. Incredible service, to the point where you could get drunk just by asking for a taste of each of the beer offerings.
2. Despite the brownish color, the fish chowder had the most classic of tastes. Subtle and meaty fish, perfectly cooked potatoes, and a portion that was great to split before tucking into our giant sandwiches, speaking of which...
3. Mrs. Gastro's portobello mushroom burger was a bit messy, which caused the loss of the bottom bun, and ultimately led to a fork and knife operation. Even still, a decent take on the pub food vegetarian option.
4. My burger, the Brewsky, was also messy, but I opted to eat with my hands anyway. Topped with both sauteed mushrooms and bacon, it was a bit much. The meat was cooked nicely, however.
5. I'd bet dollars to donuts that the fries showed up earlier that day already julienned and frozen.
6. Pig Iron Porter is almost as good as Polygamy Porter, and Iron Hill's Belgian offering was no slouch either.

I'd go back multiple times, if only to get through their extensive beer list and even more extensive menu. Our food was delicious, and everything we saw on the other tables (even the salads), looked worth a try. Buen provecho.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Why Did I Eat This?

When the snooze bar wins, I don't get waffles, and by the time the train pulls into Suburban Station, I've convinced myself that the oatmeal in my bottom drawer can suck it, and that a greasy breakfast is in order. Further justification to eat such crap came in the (square) form of turkey sausage and no bread, and the result is the Wawa Breakfast Bowl above. Zero points for presentation (although the lady behind the counter was singing along to "Let's Hear it for the Boy"). The "eggs," which contain cheese, according to the asterisk, didn't taste half bad. A bit powdery, but a hint of black pepper took your mind off that. The turkey sausage patty, which I saved until the end (big mistake), had dried up and become rubbery, but again, the flavors came through (sorta). So, if we're judging on texture, this breakfast bowl can go the way of the oatmeal and suck it. I should have stuck with the heat lamp sandwiches. Buen provecho.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Fifth Sandwich

In November, I made an attempt at a top 5 list of sandwiches. I could only manage four. There were suggestions from the three people that read this, but not having tasted their suggestions, I left the list untouched. Then, in a flash of genius, nostalgia, or whatever else you'd like to call it, the fifth popped into my head yesterday: the California Chicken Sandwich from Powelton Pizza. How could I forget such a simple and unhealthy creation based around the chicken cutlet? In college, if I ever needed respite from cheesesteaks (seems unlikely, but if you sweated whiz like I did, you'd do the same), this would be the order. Chicken cutlet, spinach, bacon, mozzarella cheese, fresh garlic, and tomato, artfully shoehorned into a hoagie roll. Almost 10 years out of college, I reunited with this magical foodstuff once again, and I am happy to report that it's just as good as it was back then, and that Powelton Pizza, located across the Schuylkill on 37th and Lancaster, will deliver to Center City. Buen provecho.

You can get your own damn California Chicken sandwich (and you should, immediately) by calling 215-387-1213. Alternatively, you can order from campusfood.com or walk yourself over to 3651 Lancaster Ave.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Cheesesteak Tally

Pat's: 3
Geno's: 0
Delassandro's: 2
Steve's: 1
Street Meat: 4
Other: 7
Total: 17

Reason #6 that Mrs. Gastro is without a doubt my soul mate: Her words following a lunchtime suggestion, "I'd love to go to Pat's."

Reason #319 that Pat's is a glorious place: The lunchtime entertainment was a XL-size adult wearing youth-size sweatpants haggling with one of my peoples (a Messican) over a 1993 Ford Contour. Buen provecho.

I Am an Italian Grandmother

Some days, I stand over my food and say, "Holy shit, look what I made." Then I eat it. The pizza pictured above is a great example of this because I managed to make the dough, the sauce, and the cheese from scratch. The dough recipe is courtesy of the Cease, whose pizza making experience includes a day with the big dogs and a subsequent homeschooling, not to mention the many undocumented pies that have graced his pizza peel. The sauce came from Batali, a fragrant and chunky mess that lent a rustic touch to my amateur pizza (I think I went a little heavy on the herbs). The mozzarella cheese was another "almost there" attempt on my part using Ricki Carroll's recipe (I'm hoping that a few more tries will finally yield that stretchy consistency I'm after). The prep ate up most of my Saturday, but knowing exactly where my food came from (almost) makes the time spent in the kitchen totally worth it. Buen provecho.