Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Persian Apology

Wow.  It's been too long.  Some of it is laziness.  Some of it is being busy.  Some of it is trying to save money.  But I'm going to say that most of it is not wanting to leave my comfort zone.

As I mentioned before, I no longer live with my parents.  My first attempt at living alone (but with roommates) has really dulled my self-proclaimed adventurous streak.  When I'm done paying bills and taking my cats to emergency vet appointments, I just want to eat mac and cheese.  And when I get home from work, I just want to play video games or binge a show on Netflix until it's time to make dinner.

But a few weeks ago, Joey and I braved the cold and treated ourselves to dinner.  I felt better about paying for an adventure because we walked to and from the restaurant.  We went to a restaurant that we have passed countless times on our way to one of our favorite bars, a Persian restaurant called Noon O Kabab.

I ordered the Noon O Two.  Two giant kabobs and some grilled veggies and cucumber salad in a giant pita.

I was not exaggerating the size.  The pita even obscures the second kabob!

I was nervous waiting for it to come out.  The Noon O Kabab menus were rather vague when describing their seasonings.  They simply say "Persian seasonings," as if that covers all the possible spices that could be used.  There are so many spices in this world, many of them originating near Persia!  Many of them dreadful!

My serving platter was set before me.  I cut off a small corner and tasted it, ready to douse any fires with moosir.  But I must say I was pleasantly surprised! "Persian seasonings" are apparently subtle, complimenting the meat instead of transforming it entirely.  Truly delicious.

And it lasted for two meals!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Send-Off Adventure

My little baby sister isn't so baby anymore.  In fact, she just left to study abroad in Northern Ireland.  Before she left, I took her out for a lovely, fancy Italian dinner.  We had four courses!  And I splurged and bought the absolute cheapest bottle of wine on the menu!

We talked about cats, and boys, and how much we were going to miss each other, and how we were getting a little tipsy on wine.

But what is adventurous about that?  I love pasta.  No one can question that.

The adventure came with the dessert course.  I decided to get a crème brûlée.  I'm not sure why they were serving a French dessert, but they were.

The last time I had crème brûlée, I was in college.  A somewhat pretentious campus photographer decided to brûlée up some dessert in our third floor dormitory kitchen.  Because what college kid doesn't have crème brûlée ramekins just lying around his dorm room?

Long story short: It sucked.  It tasted like a horrible caramel-coffee-fire-mess.

Somehow I decided to give it another try.  Maybe it was the wine.

I started eating it before I took the picture.  I blame the wine again.

Maybe it was because this one was made by professional cooks/chefs in a professional kitchen.  Maybe it was the lack of coffee in this recipe.  Maybe it was the wine.  No matter the reason, this crème brûlée was amazingly delicious.

I miss my sister, though.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Long Overdue (Just Like My Library Books)

Wow.  It's been quite a while.  In my defense, Joey and I did move this month.  And we're on a shoestring budget right now.  Whatever we make for dinner is pretty much the only option that night.  So I can't really afford to adventure.

Unless it's for free.  This is where political campaign fundraisers come in.

My father has long been a supporter of a local state politician.  He actually goes out and campaigns the old-fashioned, Chicago way: walking door to door and handing people political flyers.  I kid you not, he has almost been vehicularly manslaughtered by the footmen of the competition.  Chicago politics are intense.  When my sister and I were younger, we would get bundled up and go with him (Chicagoans spend about half the year bundled up).

This dedication has paid off in the form of free bowling and food once a year.  Other people pay upwards of $500 for this event.  Our invite always comes stamped "COMPLIMENTARY" right over all the three- and four-digit dinner options.

For years, I have avoided the salad at this event.  It's a pre-mixed Caesar salad.  I'm all for salad.  I think salad is wonderful...with the right dressing.  Caesar dressing is spicy!  There's way too much pepper in it!

But the meal was free.  And it might be my last adventure for at least a couple weeks.  So I grabbed a plate.

Exactly what it says on the tin: a plate full of salad.

And I started eating.  And it was spicy!  And I accidentally got a crouton, which Miriah was generous enough to eat for me.  Still, I adventured.  I have to take advantage of every adventurous opportunity that I can nowadays.

It was spicy.  But I ate it all anyway.  Just call me the Merriweather Lewis of political campaign fundraising dinners.

All of that salad was consumed by me!  I'm amazing!

I rewarded myself for having such an adventurous spirit with a hot dog.  Hot dogs are the best.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Year of Adventures

One year ago, I decided to actively eat disgusting foods.  But I had (and still have) a very skewed view of what qualified as "disgusting."

My views were not affected by morals.  I do not categorically avoid foods because I am vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, fruitarian, or any other type of eater restricted by ethical or religious qualms about eating certain things.

(Uh oh, cue minor rant about privilege....) Yes, when possible, I try to get meat and produce from companies that I know treat their animals well or better yet from farmers' markets.  I prefer Heartland meat over anything I can get in Jewel.  But I can afford to prefer that.  Other people cannot afford to buy grass-fed beef over industrial beef.  I respect that and do not judge what people eat based on how it came to be on their plate.  I judge it based on if it's gross.  (End rant.  Thanks for sticking it out!)

But my views on what makes a food gross are also not tied up with cultural norms.  I understand why people eat grasshoppers, squid, livers, testicles, you name it.  While I would not seek out a testicle as part of my meal, I might feel differently if I hadn't grown up in a very specific part of the world.  I also find culturally "normal" foods for my region to be disgusting.  Pickles, for example.  In the Midwest especially, people eat pickles off of sticks like popsicles.  They are disgusting.

Pictured above: Nightmare fuel.  Photo from

But a lot has changed in a year.  I have had many adventures, with varying degrees of success.  There are foods that were securely on my "Do Not Eat" list that are now very securely on my "Do Eat" list.  And I have come to terms with the fact that I may occasionally have to eat birds.

These are the foods that have made the jump to the other side:
  • Bell peppers
  • Beans
  • Cooked tomatoes
  • Cooked onions
  • Squash
  • Small amounts of pepper
  • Larger amounts of mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
If I can make that much progress in my first year adventuring, imagine what I can accomplish in my second!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rocky Mountain Adventures, Pt. Two

My dislike of eating birds has been mentioned before.  While I have definitely made peace with the idea of eating winged animals, I would never choose chicken or turkey over pork or beef.  (I would include lamb in that list, but I'm too poor.)

My exceptionally low tolerance for spiciness has also been mentioned before.  I love salt, but most other spices are too much for me to handle.  I say progress has been made on this front.  Joey says I am a baby.

In Colorado, we took turns making massive dinners.  One of the last nights, Joey's lovely first cousin once removed (also known as his mom's cousin) made a chicken dinner.  With jalapeños.  Progress or no progress, I definitely do not eat jalapeños.

But I am adventurous now!

All those green flecks are potentially deadly.  Or they're bits of parsley.

So I cut off a piece of Joey's chicken of death.  And I tried it.  It definitely had a kick, but it actually wasn't too bad.  The little bits of jalapeños were easy to avoid.  I managed to get the gist of the spiciness without any of the real fire.

It would have been better with pork, though.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rocky Mountain Adventures, Pt. One

On our recent vacation to Colorado, Joey and I ate what might be considered by some to be too much.  But we were on vacation!  We were allowed to over-indulge!

Because vacations are meant to be relaxing, I didn't make adventuring a priority.  When we went out to eat, I ordered the cheapest thing that I knew I would like.  That's my usual restaurant strategy.  And it's a good strategy.  When we ate the house, I ate whatever I felt like from the large group meals that were prepared (one of ours was a very successful previous adventure!).

Nevertheless, two adventures were had.  One at a restaurant and one at the house.

Let's talk about the restaurant first.  There were fifteen of us, so (to save money) we only ate out twice as a big group.  The first time, we went to a restaurant a few miles from downtown Estes Park.

I picked a pretty safe entree and the table ordered some appetizers.  One of the appetizers was a pretty delicious Hummus.  Joey also put in an order for Spicy Corn Dip.  He's a sucker for anything that says "served with sour cream."

The aforementioned sour cream on top of slightly digested corn--I mean corn dip!

As an appetizer, I was allowed to adventure with very little financial risk.  It did not look particularly appetizing.  But it did look adventurous.  So, knowing I could wash any foul tastes out with yummy Hummus, I sampled the Spicy Corn Dip.

Kind of a disappointment.  Not the adventure I had been mentally preparing for.  It was very mild.  The sour cream immediately balanced out all the spice.  The corn was too sweet for the whole combo of sour cream and mildly spicy.  It was like those pizzerias in the Midwest that will throw corn on your pizza for no additional charge just because it's lying around.

As much as I like corn, there are things I wouldn't pair it with.  This dish either needed more spice (the first time I've ever said/written that!) or no corn.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Pre-Vacation Adventure

Few things are as American as baseball, apple pie, the Ferris Wheel, or barbecue.  So when Joey and I ate out before heading to the Rocky Mountains for more adventures, barbecue seemed a natural choice.  Except that barbecue is scary.

Barbecuing is not grilling.  These two cooking methods are very different.  You grill a hot dog or hamburger.  You don't barbecue them (adding sauce after cooking is not barbecuing).  Grilling is applying open flame to a meat to cook it.  Like pan cooking but without the pan.  Barbecuing is steeping meat in sauce and then applying the smoke of an open flame and some of the heat to cook it slowly for hours till it's so tender it practically falls off the bone.

I can hear your confused cries.  "But that sounds delicious!  Meat so tender it falls off the bone!  How can you possibly go wrong?"

I'll tell you.  It's the sauce.  The sauce is what makes barbecue so scary.  It's also what makes barbecue so popular.  There are so many different sauces.  America has practically a thousand different barbecue sauces.  Most of them involve scary spices such as pepper or mustard.

"But, Kayla," you say, "you have come so far!  Surely a little mustard or pepper doesn't scare you anymore!  This a meal where you don't even need teeth!"

You see this was not a meal I was eating in the comfort of my own home, where I could make another dinner if I didn't like this one.  This was not a meal that I assembled at a fraction of the cost of what I would pay in a restaurant.  I paid to take the L to this restaurant where I paid to eat food that someone else made and, if I didn't like it, I was just going to go home hungry.

Thank God I know I like cornbread and mac and cheese!

I ordered Carolina Pulled Pork.  Joey said I would probably like.  He's known me long enough that I trust his judgement.  Also, I really like pork.

I was nervous when it was brought out to us, and not only because I would be one of those people who takes a picture of their food in a restaurant.  I had gambled a lot of money on this plate.  I really hoped it would good.

It was better than good!  It was delicious!  Carolina Pulled Pork seems to use a lot of brown sugar, and that cuts the bite of any pepper or mustard.  It was super tender and delicious, and I was so glad I ordered it!

I think I can say with confidence that I enjoy Carolina barbecue.  Maybe Kansas City will be next....