Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Green Chile: Worth the Food Miles

A recent article posted in the Atlantic's food section gives a nod to Mormon cuisine, an ironically sacreligious mess of processed and highly caloric foods laid atop a jiggly foundation of Jell-O (I suppose procreating at a methamphetamine-addicted rabbit's pace leaves little time for food).  Growing up there as a triple minority (poor, Messican, and Catholic), I was not privy to many of the staples mentioned in the article (although I do reserve a special place in my heart for Cool Whip).  Had I been, I'd probably be a lot fatter than I am now.  Instead, every year just before school began, I was shuffled into the backseat of a car at 4am for a no-stops-allowed-just-pee-in-this-cup drive to New Mexico to pick up enough beans and green chile to last us the whole year.  Bland was not an option in the Gastro household, and neither was anything from a can.*

Years later, there's very little I miss about Salt Lake save for my folks (and their delicious Navajo tacos), and it was their own green chile addiction that has resulted in them now being forced to stuff their suitcases with it every time they visit (not that my father really needs much room for the only things he packs, a ratty Penn sweatshirt and a threadbare t-shirt he's worn since I was 10).  Only now--when I'm even further away from the land of enchantment--do I appreciate my folks' effort of a 13-hour drive and a marathon week of roasting burlap sackfuls of green chile. I suppose being an outsider did have its perks.

On its own, roasted green chile adds a unique flavor and texture that opens your sinuses without making your eyes water.  In a stew prepared with chunks of pork, tomatoes, garlic, and onions, it will warm your soul's soul.  Recently, I had the chance to spread the gospel of green chile to Marc Sanders of Burgatory.  We topped his signature burger and homebaked buns with the stuff, and the results were both mindblowing and tongue-numbing.  Paired with a helping of sweet potato home fries and a few pale ales, it made for a great Sunday afternoon.  If you're ever in New Mexico, make sure to order green chile on everything, and not just because you can.  If you're out here on the east coast, drop me a line, and I might be willing to share some of my stash with you.  Buen provecho.

*Full Disclosure: After my folks opened a restaurant, there was little time for home cooking, so there was a time when I did eat a lot of fast food/processed food/canned food, the same crap I continue to eat to this day.  They still managed to make the trip each year, but I figured it should be known that home cooking was not exactly the norm during my teen years.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Or, Thank Gaga It's Friday And Honest Tom's Taco Truck Is In Center City. If you think that's a mouthful, wait 'til you get a load of the tacos themselves. Typically reserved for Dragons, Quakers, and the staff that cater to those punk kids in West Philadelphia, Honest Tom's is using the spring break hiatus to bring the truth to Center City. Foobooz says that the truck says (not the actual truck, because talking trucks only exist in the land of make believe) there's a possibility of coming to Center City every Friday and that location suggestions are welcome.  I would be perfectly happy if they stayed put at 18th and Vine, where they are right now, serving up delicately cooked fish tacos topped with a pineapple salsa.  And if you need something to wash them down, they've got cold brewed Stumptown iced coffee by the jugful.  An infinitely better choice than the shrimp taco disaster of last week.  Buen provecho.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why Did I Eat This?

The Butterfly Effect was a really stupid movie. On the contrary, the concept of one event being able to change the outcome of your situation is fascinating. Case in point, the haircut lady I normally go to quit/was fired from the place in Suburban Station, so instead of switching up my look from a fat Justin Bieber to something a little more grown up/professional, the time spent doing so was immediately reallocated to tracking down Taco Bell's latest offering, the Pacific Shrimp taco. Suspending all better judgment in the name of "Why Did I Eat This?", here's a rundown of what surprisingly didn't suck as much as I thought it would (but still sucked pretty bad):

1. The shrimp, which I imagine (hope) comes pre-cooked, were not texturally offputting, and they had a decent kick to them.
2. The sauce, a thinned out mayonnaise with flecks of dehydrated herbs, was bland, and most of it leaked out after a few bites.
3. Three bucks for one taco makes me feel better about the quality of the shrimp, but it also makes me feel stupid for spending three bucks on a single item at Taco Bell.
4. The rest of the composition was standard issue yellowish brown lettuce, mealy tomatoes, and a damaged tortilla to hold it all together.
5.  I didn't eat the thing too long ago, so the possibility of getting really sick from eating shellfish at Taco Bell is still very real and very frightening.

As the impending doom digests, I leave you with this: if you must partake in the unholy union that is seafood and fast food, do yourself a favor and stick with a Filet-o-Fish.  Buen provecho.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

My Friends are Cooler Than Your Friends: Gene Finley

There is no better way to capture the essence of the Claire Finley Memorial Beef and Beer than interviewing the man behind the magic, especially when the interview is shot with an iPhone and the audio sucks because neither of us are wearing a mic and the background noise is fueled by endless pitchers of beer.  The camerawork leaves even more to be desired (sorry, Matt, you won't be winning an Oscar for cinematography anytime soon).  Regardless, mistakenly attending this event four years ago has allowed me to watch it grow like a weed, and in case you can't hear the interview that well, Gene's been able to raise some serious cash for scholarships awarded in his sister's honor.  If there were more people like this in the world, I would sleep better at night.  Gene, congrats on another successful year*.  Buen provecho.

*Success limited to the fundraising of the event only. After three years of winning baskets, Team Gastro was shut out this year. The box of Baby Ruth bars was a nice consolation prize, however.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Picking Up My Slack

Consistency is not my strong suit.  Furthermore, depriving myself of modified corn products for the past two weeks--the -ases and the -oses--has given me meat and dairy tunnel vision.  Luckily, the good folks over at Hamburger Calculus have remained in the processed food game, and they have located (and eaten) another one of Herr's snack food science experiments.  Behold, Grilled Cheese Flavored Cheese Curls, housed in another bag unlikely to win any design competitions.  Buen provecho.

Picture used without permission. I hope they don't mind.