Friday, August 7, 2009

Finishing up -- sort of

I finally posted my Chicago adventure today. I thought I already had, but I found out today, after getting back in here, that I hadn't. So sorry to all of you who were waiting to hear about Chicago, I failed you. I have had some feedback -- disappointment that I didn't finish the blog (Joy, Pete) so this is for you! The truth is that the last leg of the journey home was so tough -- it was a continuation of the rain we dealt with all week. We didn't stop in Cleveland to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, nor did I get my giant corned beef sandwich. I just wanted to get home! I also hated typing on my daughter's MacBook or whatever the stupid thing is called. I really need a laptop of my own so that I can write about food as I'm watching shows about food!!

I also have a page on Facebook now, and would love for some of my friends to follow along. I do love food, and I love writing about food, but sometimes life gets in the way! I do want to continue the blog, because it seems there's always something about food going on, whether it's cooking experiences (wait until you hear about the S'mores Brownies), or going to a local restaurant, or even out of town trips. I also want to share the food adventures of other friends who travel! That's what it's all about, so if you want to follow my and my friends' food adventures, become a follower and I will try my best to inform and entertain you!

So this is a short post about the last leg of our journey, or what I can remember of it, from Chicago (I heart you, Chicago) to home. Rain, rain, rain!! It wasn't great. Suffice it to say that a chain called Eat 'n' Park, which intrigued me on the way out, was not very good. It was basically a really good place for old people. It was a revamped Big Boy, with some of the same menu items. I have liked some Big Boys (Tipp City, OH comes to mind), but this wasn't one of them. It took over half an hour to get our food (breakfast for dinner), the salad bar was nothing to brag about (by sight) and the whole thing was just generic. We had been hoping to eat at the same Texas Roadhouse Kevin and I visited on the way out, but the line was just tooooo long, so we ended up at the Eat 'n' Park and you know the rest. Lunch was at Steak 'n' Shake (the theme of the day was restaurants with 'n' in the name, apparently) in South Bend, Indiana and I actually had food with my shake, which was a first for me. Food wasn't great, shake, of course, was. And we just pushed on through the rain until we reached Fairport at about 10:00 at night.

So the trip didn't end with a bang. Let's face it, anything after Chicago is anti-climactic. But I do have to end this post with a rant. Why can't we in New York eat at some of the places we see advertised on TV or other places that are all across this great country? I see ads for Sonic, White Castle, Dairy Queen, CiCi's Pizza, Golden Corral all over TV, and I can't go to any of them! I'd love to go to a pizza buffet for five bucks and change! (CiCi's). I want a Sonic shake! I want my Dilly Bars!! What is up with that? If we can't go there, don't advertise to us!! Don't tease us that way!! There isn't a Dairy Queen anywhere around here! The closest Golden Corral is in Erie, PA! And don't even get me started on Steak 'n' Shake and Chick-fil-A! Why can't we New Yorkers partake??? I kept seeing signs for a place called Max and Erma's. I have no idea what that is, but someday I intend to find out. Apparently, I'll have to travel outside of NY to do it!

And . . . it's nearly impossible to get a Milky Way Dark west of the Rockies! You'll have take your own stash! It seems that they like things a lot sweeter out west in general, so dark chocolate isn't as popular there. I remember when I lived in Utah I would go into a bakery and ask for a plain donut and people would look at me like I had two heads. "Why would this doofus eat a donut that isn't covered with icing and sprinkles and filled with jam when she can have one?" they were clearly thinking. As proof, there were never any plain donuts available. They just didn't think that way!! Well, suffice it to say that some things are better out west (Brazilian grills) and some things are better here (bagels and dark chocolate).

Thus ends my cross-country adventures with food for a while, but hey, there are plenty of other places to visit in the good ol' USA, including good ol' Wappingers Falls, NY, where, I hear, they're getting a SONIC!

P.S. I just heard the Obama family went to lunch at a place called the Good Stuff Eatery in D.C. Not that I want to associate myself with the Obama family in any way, shape or form, but I do want you to know that we ate there last summer and it really was good stuff. Try the marshmallow shake, it's unbelievable.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Chicagoland Chow

We are now on our way home, possibly stopping in Cleveland to spend the night, maybe just driving through to get home, we're not sure yet.

I also want to apologize for our utter, deplorable lack of pictures. The internet connections of late have been very slow and spotty, but I promise when we get home we'll be updating. We've been taking pix all along, and I don't want to waste them.

I can't even begin to describe how much I love Chicago. I love falling asleep to the sounds of the city. I love going down to the Loop and just walking around, looking at everything. I love going to what is now Macy's, but which will always be Marshall Field's to me and exploring everything. I love the skyline. I love window shopping on the Magnificent Mile, which is one of the last places on earth where you can really window shop. We did all of this, including going to the Chicago Board of Trade (visitors' center) (Tara and I are anxious to use the trading hand signals we learned about when we play our next game of Pit), and taking in the exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago (free on Thursday nights from 5:00 till 8:00) -- we saw a lot of original masterpieces -- it was a thrill and you couldn't wipe the smile off my face, I was so, well, DELIGHTED!

And I love the food. And I love the fact that I actually was able to go to two Chicago institutions, both just about 6 blocks from our hotel, the very nice Comfort Inn and Suites on E. Ohio Street (2 blocks from the Mag Mile -- I highly recommend it). When we arrived on Wednesday night, we headed to Harry Caray's which was described as a sports bar and steakhouse. I've heard a lot about this place -- even Alan Valoris told me to be sure to go. So Tara and I hopped out of the hotel and hit Harry's for some famous steak. Except that the steak was very, very expensive ($29 - $40). No matter -- I had heard great things about the Chicken Vesuvio. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I knew there was a lot of it, so we ordered the boneless version and asked to split it between us, which they were more than happy to do. A note here: you all know I love my road food, but it was such a treat to sit in a real restaurant and have a white-aproned waiter attend to you in the old style. Our waiter, Jesse, was courteous but not stiff, friendly but not overbearing. It was refreshing, after so many nights of ordering food over a counter. So our chicken came, covered with fresh, fresh peas and with potato wedges. These are not the kind of potato wedges you stick in ketchup. These were softly crisp but soft, almost mashed on the inside. Cut in pieces and dipped in the Vesuvius sauce, they were sublime. And the chicken -- perfectly cooked in a garlic and white wine sauce which was slightly black peppery. It was almost like a piccata, but there was no lemon flavor. That didn't matter -- the sauce was so flavorful. I enjoyed every bite, and we both enjoyed every bite of our salads -- mine the classic Caesar, with real shaved Parmesan, Tara's a house with house balsamic vinaigrette. Our experience was profoundly enjoyable. If that's what they can do with chicken, I can only imagine what they can do with steak. Just around the corner from our hotel was another place I had always wanted to try -- the Weber Grill. They actually cook your food on a Weber backyard grill! They even have a life sized, big ol' Weber grill on the top of the sign! We did not end up going there there the next night, in lieu of going to another Chicago institution, but I'll get there someday. They also offer a breakfast buffet starting at 6:30 a.m. for $14, but we got breakfast free at the hotel (and a very decent breakfast it was!), so we never went for that.

On our walk back to the hotel, we stopped in a little food store to get some fruit, and what did we come across? Something called a "Three Tier Chocolate Cake." I don't know if people in Chicago can count, but I'm telling you, there were a lot more than three tiers in that cake. There were a couple of layers of chocolate cake and a layer of white cake and more, countless layers of chocolate mousse and ganache and whipped cream and heaven knows what else. And it was only $6 for a huge, huge, uh, I guess you would call it a "slice" -- more like a "loaf". So we went back to the hotel and devoured half of that puppy. I will be posting a picture of that.

The next day as we explored the Loop neighborhood, we found ourselves on Michigan Avenue searching for the free Trolley (which we never found, and which, we found out later, didn't run anymore, except to Navy Pier, so it was an imaginary free trolley!). Anyway, I pointed out a restaurant called Noodles and Co., which Tara said she went to when in Utah. She said they had good mac and cheese. I was intrigued (again, it doesn't take much), so instead of waiting in the rain for the next bus, and knowing that the further north we went on Michigan Avenue (the Mag Mile), the higher the prices would be, I said, "I wouldn't mind eating lunch there!" and Tara was happy to comply, because Tara loves her mac and cheese. I may have to bury her with a little black plastic Stouffers dish of the stuff. Once inside, I, of course, changed my mind about the mac and cheese. The deal was that for $7.50, you got your choice of a noodle dish with a sauce a meat and a salad or soup. So it was kind of like a Panera thing, where you ordered your choices from the menu and they put it all together for you. I saw that mushroom stroganoff was one of the noodle choices, and they had a little suggestion that it was "great with braised beef!" And OMH (Oh My Heck!) it was! It was just perfect. Nice hot wide egg noodles, just enough sauce, plenty of very tender, very flavorful beef, and the portion size was perfect. I kept saying to Tara "I should open one of these up in Rochester!" Of course, I also said the same thing about Zupa's and Steak and Shake. Anyway, Tara ate her mac and cheese (which was good, but not gooey cheesy enough for me), with Parmesan crusted cheese, and we both had Caesar salads (in case you couldn't tell, I love Caesar salads). And two diet Cokes. I'm really hopped up on diet Coke this trip.

After shopping on the Mag Mile (the Hershey store, the Ghirardelli store, Crate and Barrel, my only purchase was a $100 sweater for only $10 at Filene's basement) and our trip to the Art Institute (so much fun!), we headed back up north to Gino's East for real Chicago deep dish pizza. This place is, as I men.tioned before, a Chicago Institution, and nearly impossible to get into in the summer months, but I figured we were pretty safe. We got right in, but we had to wait an hour for our pizza -- they warn you about that when they seat you. So Tara and I occupied ourselves with the kid's games and coloring the pictures on the back of the placemats (I did an absolutely fabulous job coloring a character named Pete Za, considering my limited color choices of crayon -- I'm so proud of it I'm putting it up on my fridge at home).

I'm now spoiled for regular pizza -- it's as simple as that. That Gino's pizza was so unbelievable.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

3 states in 1 day!

Dear, dear followers, I am sorry I have neglected you for so long, but I have been utterly exhausted!  It’s not easy driving across the prairies for 10 to 12 hours a day.  And now I am nursing the beginnings of a sinus infection!  I have not, however, been lacking for food experiences, however, and I promise to catch you up from the last two days. (Pictures will be added as soon as we get some reliable internet!)

On Monday, we spent most of our day finishing our drive across Nebraska, and then through Iowa to Nauvoo, IL.  Nauvoo is the last place that the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) lived before going to the Rocky Mountains and ending up in Utah.  I can’t help but think, as I see Nauvoo, that they had to have been really, really disappointed in seeing the Salt Lake Valley after living in Nauvoo.  But more on that later.  We’re currently on our way to the Second City, Windy City – whatever you call it, it’s a city I love – Chicago!

Sunday night in North Platte left us with few choices for dinner, and I am embarrassed to say we ate at Perkins.  It  was okay, just average.  I had soup and salad.  After all of that traveling, I just wasn’t hungry.  So enough of my confession.  I promise you it gets better.

The next day we stopped for lunch in Lincoln, NE.  Breakfast at the hotel was actually quite decent, as we could make waffles and there was plenty of juice and some really good hot chocolate.  As we cruised O Street (yes, that’s really the name of the main drag), we decided a sub would satisfy us, and we saw a little place called Mr. Goodcents, which featured subs and pastas.  Maybe it was just our appetites, but it really hit the spot.  Yes, it was subs, like Subway but the meat was sliced after you ordered.  You could choose from white, wheat or garlic pepper bread, and from six cheeses.   I was surprised that there were a lot of Italian type choices were offered.  They also had a small sub called a “Satisfier” which is what I had, for only $2.89, and it was just the right size.  You could get any of their subs in this size, and I decided on turkey.  Tara had an Italian with ham, salami and cappicola.  We were extremely pleased with this place.  The prices were reasonable, the food was fresh, the service was extremely friendly.  They also offer a few pasta dishes, including Chicken Parmesan, which I did not try but I think would have been very good. Mr. Goodcents is a chain, with 3 stores in Lincoln and more across Nebraska and Kansas.   Throughout Nebraska there is also a chain called Runza’s – you’ll see them all over.  They specialize in pierogies, which they call runzas in Nebraska.  If you have the choice between Runza’s and Mr. Goodcents, take Mr. Goodcents.  Their website is

For dinner, I finally got to go to a place actually featured on TV.  Yes, I like to stalk places recommended by food shows!  The plan was actually to go to a place in the Amana Colonies called the Ox Yoke, recommended by my friend Shannon Bartholomew, who used to live in nearby Iowa City.  But halfway through Iowa, we were hungry and just plain sick of the rain.  Not just rain – pouring rain.  We had been driving in some sort of precipitation since Sunday, and now it was just unrelenting.  So I suggested we eat at a place called the Iowa Machine Shed, which was in Urbandale, kind of a suburb of Des Moines (translation: some Moines).  I had heard about these giant cinnamon rolls they were famous for, plus I was just itching for some fried chicken.  So we found it, very easily I might add.  It was 4:00, so the place was empty – and we got the last cinnamon roll of the day.  So we actually had it warmed up and ate it as an appetizer.  It actually wasn’t a roll – it was more of a loaf ,  But it was big – we saved the rest for breakfast for the next day.   It was pretty good, it probably would have been better if it had been fresh, but I have to say – I’ve made cinnamon rolls before that were actually better.  I don’t want to brag, and after all, I don’t have to make a humongous amount to feed the masses, but there it is.  Anyway, I had my fried chicken for dinner, and I think the Colonel’s is better, even though the menu description of the chicken told the Colonel to move over.  It was also served with “family style” (translation, two small bowls, which were not refilled, as I thought they would be) of cottage cheese and cole slaw, both very fresh and helpful for my calcium and veggie daily requirements.  Tara had the fried chicken salad, which was just crispy pieces of chicken over a salad with cheese, eggs, etc.  it was big, she couldn’t finish it, but we did manage to put away a big ol’ piece of chocolate cream pie to end our meal, which was very good.  I also had a ginormous sweet potato with my chicken, which our waiter, Randy, was hesitant to give me, for some reason.  He was supposed to ask me which side dish I wanted, but never did, and then he brought out mashed potato.  I asked for a sweet (this girl needs her beta carotene) and he gave me attitude, even though the menu clearly stated I had a choice.  So he took it back and brought back a sweet.  All in all, I thought it was pretty pricey.  The meal came to $27 before the tip, and the food wasn’t really anything special.  But, as you recall, I wanted to see for myself if some of these places were really as good as they say, and I found out for myself that this one wasn’t.

Then on through Ottumwa, Iowa, home of Corporal Radar O’Reilly from M*A*S*H (I’m trying to mix in some pop culture stuff here), about three more hours driving (through more rain) to get to Nauvoo. Cute little motel with a little hospitality suite with hot drinks and cookies anytime you want them.  We rolled in late and a cup of herbal tea (with a Fig Newton) set me up very nicely for the night.

Since this is primarily a blog about food, I won’t bore you with the details about our trip to Nauvoo.  Think of it as kind of a Mecca for Mormons.  Not that we have to go there, but most Mormons do at some point, because there is something indescribably special about the place.  There is a spot where you can stand and look across the Mississippi River, and it is the spot where the exodus to Utah began.  I cannot stand on that spot without thinking about what those people went through as they were being exterminated (literally) from their homes and the beautiful city they had built.  So many of them didn’t even make it to the Salt Lake Valley, they died along the trail.  My eyes kept going back to the beautiful temple on the hill, an exact replica of the one they left to be destroyed by mobs in 1846.

We ate lunch at a cute little bakery in town, called Nauvoo Mill and Bakery, with good fresh sandwiches and soup, with great prices.  Tara was able to see her friend from BYU, Meghan, who is serving a mission in Nauvoo, so that was very exciting for her.  Even more exciting was being able to eat dinner at Bennigan’s.  She loves the Monte Cristo, and we don’t have Bennigan’s in Rochester anymore, so it was a thrill for her.  This Monte Cristo is deep fried – it comes out on the plate looking more like a fish fry than a sandwich.  So we split one sandwich and I couldn’t even eat all of my half.  I think I am completely over the Bennigan’s Monte Cristo, and as good as it is, I think I will never need to eat one again in my lifetime.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Goin' 80 on I-80

Not much to tell about today’s adventures – just driving, driving, driving.  Not the greatest weather in some spots either, particularly through parts of Wyoming and Utah, but we’re about 125 miles into Nebraska right now, and we’re starving.  I may disappoint you and go to Denny’s, because already Tara is complaining about complying with my food choices, and it’s only the first day.  Tomorrow I’m planning on going to a farmhouse type spread in the Amana Colonies of Iowa, and she’s not happy about it, which I really can’t understand, since it’s just like Good and Plenty down in Amish Country in Pennsylvania.  Tough darts, we’re going.

Last night I had the worst food experience of this trip, and possibly one of the worst of my life.  There is this chain out in Utah (and I’ve seen signs for them in Wyoming too) called Wingers.  Their claim is that they’re “An American Diner.”  I went to one out in Provo on one of my previous trips (I passed it, incidentally, and it had been turned into an Indian restaurant, which looked pretty silly since it’s a big old silver diner looking building, but I digress), and I wasn’t really impressed with it, but we decided to give it another try and it was possibly one of the biggest mistakes of my life.  As far as being a “diner,”, well, that was a big fat lie, because it was all about chicken and especially about wings and their “original sauces”  It had nothing to do with diner food.  For another thing, the free popcorn they’re supposed to give you never materialized, because the popcorn machine was broken (this information was never volunteered to us, we had to ask).  The food was extremely overpriced.  Kevin got a chicken fingers dinner which consisted of about 4 fingers with some fries and a teeny tiny pot of coleslaw.  Ten bucks.  Tara got the same thing, only with “sticky fingers”, which was a unique sauce they bragged about.  More about that later, because a big surprise is coming.  Ten bucks.  I had “chicken finger sliders”, which was two sliders with the same sticky sauce, only on little hamburger buns with tomato, lettuce  and red onion.  One big red onion ring that was bigger than the bun, so basically, when you tried to eat it with the teeny chicken finger, you couldn’t, because once you passed the big ring outside, there was no onion in the bun.  And the whole thing just fell apart as you ate.  Small as they were, I gave up trying to hold the whole thing together halfway through the second slider.  Plus, I asked for a different sauce, and my request was ignored.  Seven bucks for that.   And the fries.  I can’ even begin to tell you how completely devoid of flavor they were.  Granted, they were hot and they weren’t greasy, but they were tasteless and the insides were mealy, and not in a good way.   I said something to the waitress about my disappointment in the fries (and in the entire meal) and she said the fries were supposed to have some kind of Buffalo seasoning sprinkled on them.  Well, there wasn’t a speck of Buffalo dust anywhere on any of our fries.  So everything was screwed up.  And did they take anything off the bill?  That would be a big fat NOOOOOOO!!!

 Three bucks for a cherry lemonade.  After tax and tip, this mess cost me $37.00.  There is fortunately, a toll free number to call on the receipt.  If I call within 72 hours I get a free dessert.  Which will be useless to me, since a) I’m moving away from all Winger’s “diners” as fast I can, and b) I’m never stepping foot in another one.   But you bet I’ll be calling that number anyway.

 Here’s the best part.  The “sticky” sauce on my sliders was vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I tasted one of Tara’s fingers (chicken, of course), and I realized – It was Rochester’s own COUNTRY SWEET SAUCE!  I’m absolutely positive of it!  So much for their “unique” sauce – I can have it at home!

 Lunch today was at Sonic.  It was pretty good, but I don’t think it lived up to the expectations those commercials give you.  There was a lot of bun and not much burger, but it was a flavorful piece of meat and I liked the fact that I could get their excellent flavored limeade as part of the combo at no extra price.  If I pass any more in my travels and the time is right, I want to try one of the $1 Candy Shop Sundaes.  However, that’s a lower priority than another shake from good ol’ Steak ‘n Shake.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Last Licks in Provo

So today, in this post, I'm going to write about Friday's misadventures.  I wrote about Thursday last night (Friday night), and they'll both be posted on Saturday.  Follow???

Yesterday was Graduation, Part II, where Tara walked across the stage at the convocation for
 her college to receive her diploma.  Or, rather, her diploma case with the lovely sample diploma inside. We had great seats, and we could actually see her during the event, as opposed to trying to find her in a sea of faces.  We had to be there at 7:15 a.m.  Needless to say, we didn't get any breakfast.  The ceremony only lasted, miraculously, about 1-1/2 hours, so we were out of there by nine and heading to the "Cougareat" 
on campus for a snack to tide us over while we took more pix.  BYU Mint Brownies have always been the inspiration for my world-famous mint brownies that I make at Christmas, so I got one of those and a lovely, coconutty thing they call a Bismarck, which is a raised donut with filling (lemon in mine), frosted with buttercream frosting with a whole lot of coconut imbedded in that.  It has been over 20 years since I had one of those -- I had forgotten all about them.  It was awesome.  The mint brownie was good, the mint flavor a bit more subtle than in the ones I make, and Kevin actually liked that better, so he said maybe this Christmas I should cut back on the mint a little bit.  I don't know if I'll listen to him or not.  I mean, as I said, mine are world-famous (well, Fairport famous, anyway), and if it ain't broken, don't fix it, that is my motto!  Then we actually went to a real breakfast at a great little bakeshop chain called Kneaders.  They had all you can eat French Toast for $4.99, which included strawberries and whipped cream, so we all had that and relaxed a little, though all I could eat was less than one plateful, considering that Bismarck adventure.  Kevin and I went to Kneaders a few years ago and loved it.  It's just good, fresh breakfasty foods and sandwiches, and they have stuff for lunch and dinner too.  Well, we hit the food wall and the sleepiness wall at that point, so we went back to our respective places and took naps!!!  Sorry it wasn't more exciting than that.  

Then it was party time!  
Our nephew Tom and his wife, Laura, live in Spanish Fork a few miles south of Provo and a few miles north of Payson, UT, where the lovely and talented Miss Tara was born, and Laura and Deena (of Adam and Deena fame, see post above -- Tom and Adam are brothers, sons of Kevin's brother Tom) decided to have a big blowout graduation party for Tara at Tom and Laura's house.  We invited family members who are local, such as Kevin's sister Dianne and her family, complete with grandkids, Kevin's cousin Donna who we haven't seen in about 20 years, and some friends from Binghamton and Fairport who moved out here.  We had such a blast.  
One of the girls who came (and she's still a girl as far as I'm concerned, even though she's now a mother of three), Julie Brecht Hadlock (hi Jules!) used to babysit Tara.  Her mom and dad, whom we just adore, moved out here a few years ago, and they came too.  Julie's hubby came, and even though he's only met me a few times, he said I was one of the few people from Binghamton he actually remembered.  I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  Anyway, we also had former Fairportians, the Sherwoods, make the drive down from Provo, as well as the Rowes, who are here from Fairport for their son's 

graduation.  So it was a good, good, time, lots of laughter, lots of reminiscing, lots of fun for Tara.  Laura (who, by the way, along with Deena is another person I would give my right arm for) served a gorgeous fruit salad along with something called "Lane Ensalada".  Laura is Hispanic, so this was her own creation based on a local favorite restaurant called Bajio.  Tom grilled homemade flour tortillas, which were pushed into bowls and into which we piled rice (spanish or white), then shredded pork or chicken, black beans, corn, lettuce, tomato, tortilla strips and tomatillo dressing.  So it was kind of like a taco salad, but better.  The tomatillo dressing was cool and not too spicy, absolutely perfect for the dish.  It was just a really nice idea for a crowd, you know, and it was delicious, and everyone could have exactly what they wanted.  And of course, we got a big vanilla cake with cheesecake filling and white buttercream frosting, custom designed (but not baked) by Tara herself. 

I can't thank Laura and Deena enough for hosting this party for our baby girl.  I tried to thank them with Dinosaur BBQ sauce, but I don't think that, delicious as it is, it can make up for their kindness.

Repentance for my neglect

Dear Followers, I know I've been neglecting you, but it has been two whirlwind days o' fun and excitement and absolute exhaustion! The big event for which we came to Provo, the graduation of our baby girl, Miss Tara, took place on Thursday and Friday. Thursday was the big ceremony for the entire university. I'm not sure how many graduates there were, (around 6,300) but BYU has a student population of around 32,000, so you can imagine how many there actually were. I didn't think I would get emotional about it, but when the graduates were asked to stand while their degrees were conferred on them, well, the sight of all of those people made me kind of lose it. It was just so inspiring. I kept trying to find Tara in that sea of faces, but I never could. And you can imagine the fun everyone had trying to find each other after the ceremony!! But of course, with the help of cell phones, we did find each other, and here is a picture of our graduate.

The only food story of the day was our lunch, before the graduation, at this great Brazilian grill called Tucano's. We got together with the Dickens family. They actually live just a couple of streets away from us back home in Fairport, and it's pretty funny how we sometimes have trouble getting together in Fairport, with life getting in the way -- but we can somehow manage it all the way across the country. Besides, Lynne said she wished she were going on this food journey with me -- now she had her chance! We were also anxious to see their daughter, Maren, who is Tara's friend and one of my second daughters, and her husband, Jordan, who live in Utah. The Dickens are some of our favorite people -- they just seem to get us, which is no easy feat! Anyway, on to the food. What a blast. A huge buffet of all kinds of salads, soups, potatoes, pasta -- even beef stroganoff. I had been here once a couple of years ago, so I knew how to work the system, but Jordan made a point of telling the Tucano's virgins to not load up on salad and to wait for the meat to come around! (I made a point of telling everyone not to eat the quail eggs, because they really are disgusting. ) The meat is brought around on huge skewers. The waiters carve off pieces of the meats to the upraised plates of the diners, who then chow down and wait for more. 
There is garlic sirloin (Tara's favorite), chicken, something called Pequena which was more of a filet mignon, barbecued pork and even beef brisket so tender it was falling apart. They also brought around whole pineapple which had been cooked on the skewers and even chicken hearts. Pineapple, yes, chicken hearts, no freakin' way! Everything was, as you can imagine, excellent -- and what a fun dining experience! I mean you're sitting there eating meat and then they just keep bringing you meat and you just don't get tired of it!! You just keep saying "Oh yeah, I gotta have some of that" and that goes on for about an hour and you laugh yourself silly through the whole thing!
But the best part of the meal was watching Maren putting it away. She's just this tiny little thing and I truly believe she has the ability to eat the entire BYU football team under the table. And then, just when we had emptied our plates, Maren decides we have to have chocolate cake! Cake is Maren's favorite food anyway, but I couldn't believe she'd be able to eat more after the meat gorging fest we had all been through, but she said "It's for the whole table!" Well, some of us did, ahem, partake of the biggest slice of chocolate cake I have EVER seen, but I honestly think that she and Jordan could have polished it off with no problem.

And, of course, half an hour later, I was ready for a Dairy Queen sundae. I am truly pathetic. Only it wasn't so good, the strawberries tasted, well, artificial. I should stick to Dilly Bars and cherry dipped cones.

Again, no dinner -- how could we after that? As a matter of fact, after the ceremony and the pictures, the day would have passed in kind of a blur, but for the fact that our dear friends, Debbie and Steve Ledingham, had called earlier to invite us over to their house for the evening. Now, we have known them since before their first child was born -- and he's now married! 
They also have a daughter just about the same age as Tara, and another son, and everyone was there to greet us and really, to make us feel at home, as they always do. We only get to see them every few years, but it always seems like we just saw them yesterday. Debbie said she wanted to make a special graduation treat for Tara, and Debbie likes any excuse to make angel food cake! 
rarely (as in once) make angel food cake, so this was fine with Tara! Debbie cut the cake in three layers and made up some whipped cream with pineapple and coconut to ooze out of the layers. It wasn't until it was almost gone that we remembered that we hadn't taken a picture of this lovely creation. So we decided to take one anyway:

Ah the memories we have made!

Side note: Kevin and I were married on April 23, 1983. In a million years, we never would have dreamed that on that same day, 26 years later, we would be watching our daughter graduate from college. Kind of neat, huh?

It's bedtime. Tomorrow I will write about the second graduation ceremony (the convocation) and our food, fun and family experiences of the day (Friday).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Our first "full" day in Provo -- and I do mean full!

I slept like a baby last night, and awoke to the thundering noise of Jared and Emily, our great-nephew and great-niece, who are the adorable and extremely smart kids, along with red-headed two year old brother Eric, of our nephew Adam and his wife Deena, who volunteered their home to us a couple of years ago when it became apparent that Tara would make it through all four years of BYU. It's a fun group, it really is! Today we were scheduled to take Tara and a bunch of her friends out to lunch. 
When parents of her friends came to town in the past, they would take Tara and some of the gang out to lunch, and I wanted to do the same. Tara chose a place called Zupa's, which is a lot like Panera in concept, but with bigger portions and more choices. Almost everyone had the "Take Two" combo, which meant you could choose two of either a soup, a salad or a sandwich -- for $7.99. And we're talking a whole sandwich and a big bowl of soup. Kevin had the tomato basil soup with orzo, which was excellent, and a Thai(!) Peanut Chicken salad. Of course I tasted his soup and it was excellent. It actually looked and tasted like a squash soup to me, which is a whole lot different than tomato basil, but either way, it was definitely yummy. I had a Turkey Bacon Avocado Panini and a Chipotle Chicken Ranch salad. The salad could have used a little more dressing (they actually toss the salad in the dressing before they serve it), and that's saying a lot for me since I don't use a lot of dressing on salad in the first place. But it was extremely fresh and tasty, and the Panini was absolutely amazing. The most fun was the drinks. The usual soft drinks were offered, but at the soda bar were bottles of flavored syrups you could add to your soda. Mango, raspberry, lime, lemon, orange, cherry -- all kinds of fun things were there. Tara actually put raspberry syrup in her diet Coke. That was really fun. I loved treating Tara's friends and getting to actually meet some of these people she's been through 4 years of school with. She is glad to be graduating, but she's going to miss this gang.

And, of course, to repay Adam and Deena for their kindness, we took their whole family out to dinner. They have three places they like to go to, and we were glad that one of their choices was a Mexican restaurant called Los Hermanos, in downtown Provo, right on the corner of University Avenue and Center Street. We used to go there all of the time when we were a poor married couple living in Provo and finishing school. Since that time, another location was opened in the northern part of the county, and we always ended up going to that one, since it just seemed to be closest to wherever we were in our wanderings. Tonight we went to the old location, and wow, did it bring back memories. Kevin had thrown me a surprise birthday party there when I was pregnant with Tara, and tonight we ate at the very same table! I ordered the same thing I always order -- a cheese enchilada. I can make cheese enchiladas. I've had cheese enchiladas in other places, but Los Hermanos cheese enchilada is just the best I've ever had. The sauce is just smooth and rich and flavorful, the cheese is never grainy -- I don't know, they just really hit the mark. 
Adam also said we should order the Nachos Supreme for all to share. Remember that plate of cheese fries from Lotawata Creek? Well, put that picture back in your minds, only with tortilla chips and refried beans. We did a pretty good job on that, but we didn't take before and after pictures, so you'll just have to trust us on this one. And Los Hermanos makes the best Spanish rice, hands down. It's just a great place with the best Mexican food I've ever had, and they give you lots of it at very reasonable prices. Even the obligatory chips and salsa are the best. And at the end of the meal, glory be, they gave us a mess of Utah Truffles -- some mint, some almond. 
Of course I had to try both flavors. They were, well, everything you would expect of a truffle. I can't really say any more than that. Los Hermanos also offers an "Eternal Coupon" -- buy a T-shirt and you get a free, non-alcoholic specialty drink when you order a meal if you wear the shirt when you come in. I actually have one of those shirts -- but I left it at home! But Deena had three, so we got three free specialties -- one of which was made, amazingly with AVOCADO. It didn't taste much like avocado, which I like, but it did remind me ever so slightly of (gulp) watermelon, which is one food I really, really hate. I know, it's unAmerican to hate watermelon, but there it is. Those frosty drinks really filled us up. It canceled Tara's plans to hit a shake place around the corner where they make milkshakes where they blend in an ENTIRE PIECE OF PIE. Amazingly, this does not appeal to me. I like pie, I love ice cream, heck, I like pie with ice cream, but blended? I don't know if I'm that open minded. But I suppose I will have to find some time to try this, since this is a food blog, and, now that I brought it up, you're all anxious to hear about it, right?

Tomorrow is the big graduation ceremony for the entire university, but beforehand we're going to lunch with the Dickens family (friends from Fairport who we actually never get to see much of when we're actually in Fairport) at Tucano's, which is a Brazilian grill. I was there once a couple of years ago and it is outstanding. It will undoubtedly be the only meal we eat all day, because after eating at the lunch buffet there, dinner will not be an option. I can guarantee that tomorrow night I will not be eating a milkshake, a piece of pie, or any combination of the two in any form!