52cookbooksYOLO is what Z kept calling this burger.  I suppose because of two things.

1.  The burger is called the Lola, after Mike Symon’s eponymous restaurant in Ohio and he kept thinking YOLO instead of Lola.

2.  Because it annoyed me and it gives him joy when I ‘fight’ back.

Either way, this burger could totally be YOLO or Lola because of the sheer amount of stuff on there.  Crazytown city.  It is bunned up on an English muffin.  If you haven’t used an English muffin in place of a hamburger bun-you should!  It was the suggested thing on here and I thought it was a nice change.  I put on a bit of butter and toasted them in the oven.  The burger is so loaded with stuff that it needed the sturdy bun to even attempt at being eaten.  In looking into this restaurant I see he now has taken the burger and moved it to his new burger joint, B-Spot.  Lola has gone upscale from what he says in the cookbook, Mike Symon’s Live To Cook.  He actually has done a couple of cookbooks after this one that I don’t have and am not so interested in but I do really like this one.  I’ve cooked a number of things from it’s pages including pan roasted ricotta gnocchi and his spicy Sriracha Tomato soup.  The recipes are easy to follow and I’d call them All-American in their mix of flavors and ingredients.  This is stuff made of the melting pot that is the midwest.  I’d like to east at his restaurants but haven’t, as a rule, made Cleveland or Detroit a destination.  But, if I had a reason to go, I’d check them out.yolo

Back to the burger, it is topped with spicy ketchup, cheddar, bacon, pickled onion, dill pickle and a fried egg.  You do only live once to eat that kind of mess.  It was stacked up to tipping and made me nervous as I plated it all up and got dinner on the table.  It tasted good-hitting all the burger notes.  Fatty. Spicy. Savory. Delicious.  YOLO!



52cookbooksSo, you know Bobby Flay doesn’t really fail us often but one of the things that I really truly like about him is that he ‘competes’ with the small local big guy and often loses.  I think he loses by design.  The premise of the show is this.  Small local guy doing one dish really great that they are known for.  Bobby challenges them to a ‘throwdown’ to see who does it better.  Bobby creates something that is that thing in essence but in a modern or tweaked out kinda way.  They are both judged.  Depending on the judge, but most often, the classical presentation (the Local folks) win!  A few weeks ago Z picked out a recipe from the Throwdown Cookbook for our 52 Cookbooks dinner and it turned out to be out of Throwdown.  A recipe for green chile queso burgers.  So, in essence, we were going to use his recipe to beat someone making a Hatch green chile burger.  I seriously love me some spicy Hatch chiles.

True story and side note.  My final year of college and I decided to go home for Spring Break.  My parents decided we should road trip down to Santa Fe for some good eats.  Not our first rodeo to this destination.  We hit the road and about six hours later (from Denver) we were there in the freezing cold spring slurry rain of Santa Fe.  We were there to eat breakfast burritos smothered at Tia Sophias, Chile chowder at the Blue Corn  and not less than one sopapilla (think beignet with honey instead of powdered sugar) at Thomasitas.  Oh, and see art galleries on Canyon Road.  It was pouring down rain and I had to buy a hat because I was cold-still have the hat and the memories of a really nice visit.   I hope that I can someday take Z there because he would enjoy every minute (except probably for the art galleries.)throwdown

Anyhow, back to the burger.  He chose this burger and I have to say, it’s solid.   First I pickled some red onions using Bobby’s recipe and only letting them steep as I made the dinner-they were perfect and tart crunchy.  I made a pepper jack queso-easy, thick and a little spicy.  I made beefy patties and toasted the buns  For good measure I crisped a couple of slices of bacon and made some tots.   So, here’s where I went sideways and made my own life easier.  He gave a great recipe for roasting the chiles and steaming them to remove the skins.  Honestly, my grocery store doesn’t have great produce.  So, I used canned green chiles.  Dumped them on there and Bob’s your uncle (and mine coincidentally) dinner is served.

This cookbook is fun and self deprecating and modest which is usually how I find Bobby Flay to be.  He is good but he doesn’t say, hey, I’m good.  I like that about him.  He may not be real but he definitely feels like it.  We use this book as a jumping off place to create and mod our own things, just like this burger.  Our muffaletta comes from here initially but we’ve made it our own.  That is a good place to be.

Hit the road

Have you seen all the things that are within, say, 200 miles of your house?  I’m guessing most people have not.  Life gets busy with any and everything to suck away time and energy.  Our mid-late winter has been busy and I am surely exhausted.  One of our friends is working on his list of 30 before he turns 30 and one of those things was to go to St Augustine.  Florida celebrated 500 years since the Spanish landed in St Augustine last year and this was a fun place to go to catch a little history and to get a little bit of fun relaxation and help our friend celebrate within his 30th year.  We hit the road by 8:30 am for the roughly two hour drive to the coast and made it with a brief stop for a doughnut and coffee en route.  We bought trolley tickets that were for an on-off at will ride around town that were actually good for up to three days.  A fair deal if you are spending the weekend in St Augustine.  We jumped on and headed for the fort.  In my imagination I can romanticize the days of the fort trying to hold back the wily French with my modern notions of running water and flush toilets but I’ll bet it wasn’t the most comfortable place to be.  The Spanish battle flag still flies high.  I love history!  St Augustine is a bit of a double edged sword because it is clssically historical (in an America old sort of way) but it has also gone commercial in that sort of schlocky touristy kind of way.  battleflag

Our next stop was the old market street and the best part of this for me was actually a gourmet fruit ice pop (ie Popsicle)  from Hyppo.   I had strawberry datil (a locally grown hot pepper) and it was really nice.  Z and our friend picked up other weird (and I can’t remember) flavors and didn’t fare as well as I.  Actually, theirs both had stringy mangoes which contributed to their less happy purchase decision.  Hyppo is literally 10 square feet in an outdoor closet in a tiny courtyard.   There were quite a few Spanish shops and tapas places.  I’ll have to put more work into seeing those in the future.IMG_3599

After lunch at a funny beach place called Barnacle Bills where we had various shrimp & burger baskets (not bad and we picked it because it was there.) we jumped back on the trolley and …got off on the wrong stop.  So, we walked up to the San Sebastian Winery.  San Sebastian is a tiny offshoot of the local to Orlando Lake Ridge Winery and I have to tell you something.  I don’t like muscadine grapes.  There was one red – a blend that I could imagine served cold over ice with fruit a la Sangria that I didn’t mind.  The rest.  Meh.  But, here’s the winner.  Same street.  Brand new.  Local.  Distillery.IMG_3601

The St Augustine Distillery is brand new.  Literally had only been open for tours for five days.  They have so far made and bottled only Vodka in giant gorgeous copper pot stills (is that really the name-feels so bootlegger) and at the end of the short (15 or so minute) tour that started with a cute small one room history of the building, which is an old Ice Plant and a video that includes how they got started and how they are working with and helping local farmers and ending in a kinda random would-be speakeasy bar where the tour guide turned bartender and make us a Florida Mule.  Vodka, Ginger Syrup, Bubbles and Mint I think. Like any good museum, they got our emails (good job marketers!) and emailed us the recipe.  It is a well done and super cute hipster kinda place.  I totally had a weak moment and bought a bottle of vodka, some Jack Rudy tonic syrup and a bottle of celery bitters in their oversized, well curated gift shop.  I appreciated the overall Exit through the gift shop and well thought out merchandise strategy.  The building is history come alive again and they mention the restaurant housed in the other half and give a good plug for their shared space neighbor.  We decided to come back and have dinner after we finished our trolley tour.IMG_3610

After the trolley tour wrapped up and made it’s way through beach town end of day traffic we headed for the Ice Plant.  It is styled like a speakeasy and serves up all manner of exotic complicated cocktails and very tiny (6 items I think) dinner menu but a fair sized starters and bar menu.  The bar menu explains each drink and gives a visual view of the type of ice you will find in that drink and the drinks are built around how that ice works in the drinks.  They show five varieties right on a dedicated page of their website-shaved, rock, long rock (!), sphere and pebbled.  I ordered the funnest drink with shaved ice.  It came out in a cutey coupe glass heaped with shaved ice and thyme leaves and they poured my drink over and let it melt into cold ginnyness.  I love gin.  That’s weird.  But here’s why.  It’s herbal and it’s clean and it vaguely tastes of piney Christmas.  It pairs so well with lime which is decidedly my favorite flavor.  So, I had a ‘Snowbird’ which encompasses all those things.  Death Door Gin, Lime, Sugar, Thyme and Shaved Ice in a Coupe.  Funnest. I so enjoyed it and the ice gives some glamour.  We ordered a couple of starters, notably one of medjool dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon.  I’m going to say that everyone should eat that once in their life.  Salty. Sweet, Dense. Savory.  It has all the notes.  I had a great big crafted burger with a fried egg for dinner and that should have put me straight into a food coma.    No room for dessert for me.IMG_3625

After supper we got a little bit sketchy and drove out to the lighthouse for a quick walk through someones side yard to see the rising moon hanging low in the sky over the lighthouse which was closed to the public although there were definitely some people and lights playing in the windows at the top.IMG_3636

A good drive with all the Florida crazies and tourists and we were home.   We all saw something new and expanded our view, if not just a little bit.  What’s the best day trip from your house?

Kind of Good Stuff

52cookbooksThis was one of the worst dinners I’ve made in a while.  Worst technically.  I don’t really know if it was the cookbook or if it was just me but OH boy.  Halfway through cooking and half burned I was ready to chuck it and order a pizza.  I have had pretty good luck with Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff cookbook in the past, whipping up burgers and a wedge salad or two.  I have noticed an error or two in the writing, notably the cheese sauce measurements and the lack of sauce for the mac & cheese but they were fairly easy catches for me as a home-cook.  I’m not sure everyone would be so happy when they tried the cheese sauce and it’s way over population of flour.    I can usually spot errors quickly and compensate.   I don’t know if this recipe just got me on a bad night or what.  Fried Chicken sandwiches and honey mustard sauce.  Seems relatively easy right?  RIGHT?!  goodstuff

Ok, the honey mustard, I halved because I couldn’t imagine needing two cups of honey mustard …Ever.  But, I reduced as stated and ended up with a thick mass of ginger and mustard flavored honey.  I used about 2 Tablespoons and dumped a cup down the drain after dinner.  That was kind of a messy waste.  I made the patties and chilled them, as stated, before dredging in flour, egg and breadcrumbs.  Those breadcrumbs burned before the chicken was anywhere close to being done.  I ended up throwing the whole thing in the oven to bake so that we could actually eat the way underdone chicken.   Not my best effort.  While I like a few of the burgers in this book, particularly the ‘Prez Obama‘ the whole thing is a bit overwrought I think.  If you are in DC it would probably be better just to go to the restaurant.   What’s the worst thing you ever made?

Pinterest for the win!

if you follow my ‘that looks good’ board on Pinterest you will mostly find things that appeal to me for two reasons.  The ingredients and the photo.  Of course the photo.  If the picture is bad and there is a total lack of styling and there is ugly text you can just forget it. So, really the fact that I pinned this at all is a total laugh.  I pinned a recipe for a Big Mac.  That’s right.  Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.  I used to torment my parents from the back of our VW Rabbit singing this song as they drove my friends and I to camp.  TORMENT.  We didn’t even go to McDonalds often-only the occasional burger if my parents were going out for dinner somewhere fancy or we’d pick up nuggets on the way out of town in our motorhome.  twoallbeefpattiesspecialsauceBut, the reality is this.  For all the finer foods that I love I also really like some of the dodgiest ones too.  Home. Made. Big. Macs.   We usually use turkey but I went ahead with beef.  Delicious.  I don’t like sesame seeds and I figured we didn’t need ten buns of bread so I chose slider buns and used two bottoms-one for the bottom and one for the middle to get that authentic Big Mac thing going on.  I made the special sauce too instead of picking up some thousand island dressing.  It was just so good.  Sharp cheddar instead of American cheese.  Pulling out all the stops here.  Sliced spicy McClure’s dills I got in a pickler bucket from my sister for Christmas. That’s another story.  Z insisted on wrapping one up so it would come out of the paper all squashy and real.  That was the picture I liked best.  I baked some restaurant style fries in the oven and we just went to town on that stuff.  Seriously, I’d make this for guests and they wouldn’t be sad about it.  Pinterest for the win on this one.  Accessible things because you have a veritable encyclopedia at your fingertips.