Monday, December 29, 2008

Not-So-Slow Food

Cindy and I just got back from Portland, where we celebrated the holiday weekend with my family. We had a good time hanging out with them, as usual. On the way home, we stopped by a Taco Bell for a quick bite to eat. Now, this is the kind of place we'd normally try to avoid, but it seemed like the least offensive option amongst the various fast food joints that lined the highway during our long drive. So imagine our amazement at the plethora of bizarre food items on the menu. Forget about tacos and burritos; most of what comprises the current Taco Bell menu is hardly recognizable as anything remotely Mexican (or American, for that matter). I ordered the Bacon Cheddar Gordita Crunch and a side of Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes. The latter item was relatively simple: deep fried potato chunks topped with nacho cheese sauce and sour cream. I don't know why I ordered it- I guess I was just fascinated by the idea of such a ridiculous and unhealthy side dish. Or maybe Taco Bell's marketing magic was actually working, luring me to their strange, Frankenstein-like food creations against my better judgment. Whatever the case, I still can't explain why I ordered the Bacon Cheddar Gordita Crunch. Containing a whopping 37 grams of fat (a regular taco has 10 grams by comparison), this thing consisted of a regular taco topped with "Zesty Southwest Cheddar Sauce," wrapped in a pita, with a layer of melted cheese and bacon pieces in-between. I'm no health food nut, but I'm pretty sure I killed off the natural flora of my digestive tract with that meal. The whole experience reminded me of a hilarious SNL skit I saw awhile back. Looking at it again, it seems like a vision of things to come:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Slow Food

Hi friends,

Brrr! Winter is here, and what better way to warm up than with a hearty, home-cooked meal? Cindy and I recently discovered the joys the crock pot, one of the most underrated and unfairly maligned cooking utensils of all time. I know what you're thinking: how can a cool, hip dude like Mr. Concord possibly be excited about something as stupid as a crock pot? I realize that the words "crock pot" automatically conjour up all sorts of negative images: suburbia, the 70's, blandness, grandma's house. Okay, there's nothing negative about grandma's house, but you get the idea. Anyway, I'm here to tell you that crock pots kick ass, and here's why: 1) Meat cooked for 8 hours in a crock pot becomes amazingly tender, to the point that it practically falls off the bone. And get this: IT MAKES ITS OWN GRAVY. 2) You can find them for around $5 at garage sales everywhere. 3) It's no-brainer cooking: just throw a bunch of stuff in the pot and turn the knob. 4) You can turn it on before you go to work, and when you come home dinner is ready. Plus, the whole house smells delicious. It's like someone lit a beef-scented candle in the room.

So there you have it. Has married life turned me into some kind of domestic monster? Or am I actually the coolest guy on the block because of my love for outdated cookware? I think the answer is obvious. Next week: fun with casseroles!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bamboo Shoots

Last week, Cindy and I had dinner at Snappy Dragon, a Chinese restaurant in the Maple Leaf neighborhood of Seattle. In addition to being a nice place to eat, Snappy Dragon (or "Snappy D", as it is known to my friends) is one of the first restaurants I discovered when I moved to Seattle over a decade ago. Restaurants come and go, but Snappy D is still going strong after all these years. Maybe it's the neighborhood, which seems to have escaped much of the hype that infects trendier locales such as Ballard or Capitol Hill, or maybe it's just the lack of good Chinese food in North Seattle. Whatever the reason, this joint will always hold a special place in my heart. It is, after all, the place where my friend Dave once left a one cent tip (he was upset that the food took longer to arrive than it does at McDonald's); how can I forget that? So anyway, we had dinner there last week, and one of the things we ordered was chow mein with homemade noodles. It's an old favorite, and it was as good as it's always been. But then I realized something that I hadn't thought of before: this dish would be so much better without bamboo shoots. In fact, I don't think there's a single dish out there that is improved by the presence of bamboo shoots. Why? Because they are nothing more than filler. They are the Asian equivalent of celery, i.e. they're added to foods not for flavor but for texture. Unfortunately, both bamboo shoots and celery tend to get mushy when cooked, so the texture they add is actually kind of disgusting. Ultimately, both bamboo shoots and celery reduce the quality of dishes they are in. So here's a challenge to all the Chinese restaurants out there: make your food without bamboo shoots, and your customers will be happier. And to all the other restaurants: cut out the celery!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Running for Life

Hey there! Remember me? It's been three weeks since I last posted, and Thanksgiving has already come and gone. What the hell happened? Two words: tryptophan coma. Anyway, I'm back, so let's get started.

As most of you already know, my brother-in-law Steve will soon be undergoing a bone marrow transplant. He has found a donor (9/10 match), and we are confident that everything will work out fine. Not that it's going to be easy, though; he will first need to undergo intensive chemotherapy and then go through the slow process of recovery after the transplant. We've all been impressed with Steve's courage, determination, and spirit in the face of cancer, and we can't wait for him to kick this disease once and for all. And yet, there are still ways that you can help not only Steve but others with his condition as well. Read on.

Steve's fight against leukemia has inspired my friend Trevor to enter the Ironman 70.3 Boise, a triathalon being held in Idaho next June. You may know Trevor as the mastermind behind the Mad City blog. So where do you come in? Trevor is simply asking that you support him by signing up for the National Bone Marrow Registry. That's right, Trevor's going to run, bike and swim over 70 miles, and all you have to do is pay $52 and take a cheek swab. Not a bad deal, huh? And who knows, you might just end up saving someone's life. Check out Trevor's post here. Go, Trevor, go!

Steve's story has also inspired one of his friends, Nic, to participate in another insane athletic event. Nic is running in a series of 13 marathon-length races over the course of 12 weeks in order to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He's named his event "13 in 12", and you can read more about it on his blog here. Thanks, Nic!

So there you have it: two good reasons to donate to a worthy cause. Concords Are Better wishes these super athletes the best of luck!