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Archive for March, 2011

The Office
Playa El Médano
Cabo San Lucas, BCS México

Websitehttp://www.theofficeonthebeach.com/
Menuhttp://www.theofficeonthebeach.com/en/menus.php

Situation

Adam’s coworkers told us that The Office was a great place for inexpensive and good Mexican food.  Well, that wasn’t quite on target but it still was a neat place.  On one of our first nights there the whole “Real World” crew loaded up into a cab and went down into the Marina to dine at the Office.

Atmosphere

Wow!  If nothing else you have to check this place out to have a drink and appetizers.  Bright colors, fun lighting, live band, and all while your feet are in the sand!

See! Your Feet Really Are In the Sand!

Menu

In terms of dollars, we’re talking $$-$$$$ per person with a drink for dinner.  The menu consisted of seafood, grilled steaks and chicken, and Mexican specialties like shrimp enchiladas, fajitas, and tampiqueña steak.

SIDE NOTE: Apparently the lunch menu is much different from the dinner menu (per our fellow traveler that went there to meet his brother a few days later).  It has a lot more Mexican dishes and is much more affordable.

Meal

After they took our drink and dinner order some of the wait staff came around and gave everyone a complimentary appetizer which I suspect was Queso Fresco:

For our entrée, Adam and I decided to split a meal and chose the special of the night; lobster and seabass for $31.  The sea bass was pretty fishy (in a bad way) and honestly…the whole meal was nothing to write home about.

Meh...It Was Okay

Our friends ordered the burger, which actually did look good and the portion was large enough for two:

Burger for Two

Overall Impression

If you’re looking for a neat place to have lunch or meet friends for appetizers and drinks, this is your place!  Such a great atmosphere! If you’re looking for great seafood or Mexican food at night…I would suggest looking a few of my other posts about Cabo.

The Crew at The Office

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About the Author

Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with John Hughes and Jim Henson. In between making collages and drinking too much Red Bull, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

About the Trilogy

Switched is the first novel in the trilogy that introduces us to Wendy Everly that was convinced at the age of 6 that she was a monster by her mother, who in turn tried to kill her on her birthday.  It isn’t until 11 years later that Wendy discovers that her mother might have been right.

With the help of the ridiculously handsome Finn Holmes, she finds herself in a world that she never knew existed…but isn’t quite sure that she wants to be a part of.

Switched, the second novel, continues with Wendy caught in a moral struggle between two worlds.  Which world would you live in if it were between happiness or taking a wide shot at saving people that you didn’t even know?

Ascend begins with a war looming on the horizon and Wendy’s fate seems sealed. But everything she sacrificed might be in vain if she can’t save the ones she loves.  Her whole life has been leading up to this, and it’s all coming to an end.

How Did I Find This Series?

I saw on my Kindle that these books were on the bestsellers list.  I’m not sure if it was because they were $.99, $2.99, and $2.99 respectively or if it was because they were so well liked.  But either way, I was going to take a shot for that price.  I didn’t find out until after reading them that the author was from Minnesota but I found that intising as well.

When I googled it today I also found out that Amanda is a 26 year old that has been writing her whole life.  Just last year she was still just trying to fulfill her dream of writing and get published being rejected publishing house after publishing house.  So she used social networking online and work of mouth to promote her books, not really thinking much of it.

Then this January she had over 450,000 online purchases of her Trylle Series (and 900,000 of her 9 titles as of today!  AND she just signed a movie deal with some very well known screenplay writers in Hollywood!  It’s like the Cinderella meets a self-publisher’s happy ever after ending!  Almost a million books by self publishing…unbelievable.  As they mentioned in the article, this level of social media advertising might be a game changer for publishing houses across the globe…which is probably good for us but bad for them.

My Review

****/5 stars

Well what an unexpected surprise.  I enjoyed the series much more than I had anticipated!  If you liked Twilight then you will like this.  It’s a little less love and a little more about morals, tradition, heritage, and dynamics of families but there are definitely a few love stories intertwined throughout the series.

I also wanted to note that it had a very strong ending.  Many of my committal issues and fear with staring series is that they’re going to drag on and then dissappoint (hence the Hunger Games) but this delivered and I could tell that she was as passionate about the story and the characters on the last page as much as she was on the first page.

Would be appropriate for anyone over 13 and I would imagine would appeal to a female audience more so than men’s for a variety of reasons.

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Capo San Giovanni
Vincente Guerrero s/n e Cardenas y Madero

Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S. Mexico C.P. 23450

Website: http://www.caposangiovanni.com/contact.php
Menu: http://www.caposangiovanni.com/menu

Situation

I know that this was a while ago and that I’m just going to get mad at myself reflecting back on Cabo since there is still snow on the ground but I just HAVE to share some of the great foodie experiences that I got to partake in while I was there with 6 of our close friends.

The first night that we got into town it was pretty late and we didn’t have a lot of time to look into where to eat so we took the recommendation of the concierge and headed off to what I suspect is Cabo’s best Italian restaurant…and possibly Mexico’s.

About the Restaurant

The chef, Gianfranco Zappalá, is actually from Northern Italy and many of the recipes that he uses are part of his family’s hundred year old heritage.  But you’re probably wondering how he got to Cabo, right?

In 1993, with anxieties to fly, he accepted the invitation from the corporative of the clothing designer and compatriot Giorgio Armani, to become Executive Chef in two of is restaurants ( Armani’s Beverly Hills and Costa Mesa, California ), immediately Gianfranco’s “grandmother’s recipes became famous”. His success extended to the consultancy of five Star restaurants in Phoenix, Sedona, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada. The consulting firm offers a society to the first San Giovanni Restaurant, located in Anaheim Hills.

In November 1997, attracted by the many stories from clients who shared his passion of fishing, they told him of a place, on the south of the Peninsula of Baja California, where the most exquisite tunas, mahi-mahi and marlins could be obtained from the Pacific, decided to visit this beautiful region, and fell in love with the rustic beauty, very similar to his Calabria. As a result of that visit, the Restaurant Capo San Giovanni opened its doors for the first time in March of 1998.

Atmosphere

To be honest, she don’t look like much from the outside but when you walk through the cooking, cashier, and bar area it opens up into an open air dining room with an electric piano player in the corner and white lights, creating a romantic and intimate setting.

The Open Air Dining Area

Menu

Well, we weren’t expecting it but the range was $$$-$$$$ per diner (one meal and one drink) and had an array of Italian dishes that I found unbelievably extensive for a whole in the wall place in downtown Cabo!  When we walked in we passed a group of people who told us we HAD to get the  veal Marsala.  Other dishes included lasagna, spaghetti with calamari, eggplant Parmesan, and chicken Marsala.

Meal

We started out with the girls splitting the brushcetta, which was fresh but didn’t have balsamic (maybe that’s a US thing).  But luckily it was on the table for the yummy bread that was served with our meal.  The boys split the sausage rolls which were homemade hot sausage rolled up with cheese and served with hot tomato sauce.  Both groups were very happy with our respective choices.

Then our salads or soups came out, which were what you would expect with Italian dressing.

In terms of a main dish, since I wanted the veal Marsala but it was a little out of my price range I settled on the chicken Marsala.

Wow

Let’s just say that it wasn’t much of a “settle”.  I’ll tell you what…if all Italian food in Mexico tasted like this Northern Italy would be in some tourism trouble.  Mushroomy, creamy, fresh, FANTASTIC.  Best Marsala that I’ve ever had.

Then Adam had the lasagna.

Adam's Descriptive Analysis: "It Was Good, I Mean, I Don't Remember"

To be honest I was drooling so much over my chicken Marsala that I didn’t even taste it but I do remember that it smelled very good and that the sauce looked super tasty.

Overall Impression

If someone would have told me how much the meal was going to be I probably wouldn’t have went there.  Now that I’ve tasted it…I’ll go back there every time I go to Cabo and gratefully pay for the slightly higher prices.  It was totally unexpected but is some of the most authentic and tasty Italian fare that I’ve ever had.

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Maria’s Taco Xpress
2529 South Lamar Boulevard
Austin, TX 78704

Hours:
Monday 7:00am – 3:00pm
Tuesday – Friday 7:00am – 9:00pm
Saturday 8:00am – 9:00pm
Sunday 9:00am – 2:00pm

From March through October, we are open from 7:00am – 9:00p

Website: http://www.tacoxpress.com
Menu
http://www.tacoxpress.com/menu.php#galleries/dinner_menu/dinner_menu001.jpg

Situation

One of my favorite 90’s songs is “My Maria” by Brooks and Dunn.  The song starts off like this:

My Maria don’t you know I’ve come a long, long way
I been longin’ to see her
When she’s around she takes my blues away

Then the chorus goes like this:

My Maria
Maria I love you
My Maria
Maria I love you

My Maria
Maria I love you

And oh Maria….I do love you…your fake boobs, your ridiculously good tacos, your insane decor and Latin inspired restaurant.  The whole kit ‘n’ caboodle.

This was a place that I had wanted to go since I saw it featured on “Diners, Drive In’s, and Dives” and if I could I all make it possible…I swore that I would.  And OH did I!

Hold me in your arms Maria, just hold me

Atmosphere

Think tattoo shop meets Latin America.  You walk in through an outdoor eating area and there is all kind of crazy stuff going on but that just makes it all that more amazing.  Then you walk up the counter, pick your fair, and wait for your number.  There are people there in suits, locals, college students and I imagine is loved by all!

Maria's Magical Counter of Goodness

Menu

$-$$ per meal if you include a beer or margarita

Maria’s all day and lunch menu includes breakfast tacos, specialty tacos with the likes of pollo, carne, al pastor, picadillo, baracoa, and verde.  Then there are the lunch plates which include enchiladas, gorditas, crispy tacos, and a meat plate.  The restaurant’s dinner menu had many of the same items but in a dinner plate format along with some burritos, fajitas, and salads.  Oh, and let us not forget the chips and guacamole and salsa.

I also took at a peek at her Happy Hour menu which I felt was pretty strong;  $.99 for taquitos, $3.50 for margaritas, and a bucket of beer special of buy 4 get 1 free.

Meal

I asked what the man at the counter what to get and he suggested getting a couple of different tacos, and even let me try a couple of different kinds of meat.  Here’s the sad part…I forget which kinds they were.  I think that the one on the left is pork or beef (Barbacoa or Carne Guisado?) and I think that the one on the right is Pollo Guisado.

Then I ordered whatever it was that I tried out.  I apologize that I didn’t write it down and it’s a damn shame because they were the best tacos I’ve ever had.  SIDE NOTE: I just saw the DDD episode again and I think that it might be El Pastor on the left!

These Tacos Left Me Speechless...First Time For Everything, Right?

There was no way I was getting out of that place without guacamole so here’s the goods:

Chunks of Fresh Avocado with Simple Flavors...Not Overdone Like Many People's Attempts at Guacamole

And since I was eating outside, I did have someone join me halfway through my meal.

Smartest D*mn Bird in the World...Just Look at His Home!

Overall Impression

This little story pretty much sums it up.  After eating I texted my coworker with the following message: “I just saw Jesus in a taco and ate at a place that should be a right of passage for when a boy becomes a man“.

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Green Mesquite
400 Barton Springs Rd
OR
9900 South I35 in Southpark Meadows
Austin, TX

Websitehttp://www.greenmesquite.net/
Menuhttp://www.greenmesquite.net/GM%20Menu%202009.html

Green Mesquite, Austin, Texas

Situation

Upon the recommendation of my friend Guy Fieri (who just doesn’t know that we’re friends yet), me and another trade show patron decided to go to Green Mesquite which was featured on “Diners, Drive In’s, and Dives” and try some of the favorites that were taste-tasted by Guy.

Atmosphere

When you walk in it initially has a small town diner feel.  But once you get through the front area it opens up into a noisy and large open-air, open-sky picnic area with a spot for a live band in the corner.  I thought it was “a beautiful thing” in only the way that a foodie can appreciate!

Menu

$-$$ per person on average.  The most expensive meal on there was the all-you-can-eat BBQ which was $16.99.  In terms of dishes there were smoked and sauced wings ($6.50), fried okra ($2.59), a plethora of sandwiches, burgers, and BBQ plates.  Specialty dishes included fried chicken, catfish, jambalaya, and chicken fried steak.

Meal

Since the wings were what was raved about, we HAD to get an order of wings

Mesquite Chicken Wings: Smoked AND Sauced

VERY good.  Was actually my favorite dish of the night.  You could taste the smokiness come through the heat of the sauce but luckily they had a thinner version of ranch sauce (that I suspect is homemade) which complimented it perfectly.

Next up, the jambalaya that I ordered instead of a side dish:

Holy Meaty!

Since I’m a naive Northerner, I didn’t understand what jambalaya actually was or I wouldn’t have ordered it as a side to my meal!  Holy food!  The dish had lots of flavor, was definitely a generous portion, and had extremely large wedges of chicken, chorizo , and celery.  YUM!

Next up was the 2 Meat Barbecue Plate for $9.59.  My first choice was obvious (brisket) but against the recommendations of the waitress, I ordered the shredded pork.

Brisket = Great, Pork = Weak

Here’s the deal, ALWAYS listen to the waitress.  I just couldn’t imagine that a place like this couldn’t have a great shredded pork but she was right on.  It just doesn’t compare to any of the other dishes I had and should have listened to her.

The brisket had a great smoke ring, was crispy where it was supposed to be and was the best brisket that I had on my trip to Texas.

Overall Impression

I loved the atmosphere (especially in the outdoor eating portion) and would suggest eating outside if at all possible.  And if you are going, GET THE WINGS.  I know that Texas isn’t known for their wings but just do it people, order the wings.  Prices were great, the atmosphere was great, and the food was great (except for the shredded pork).

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Since the snow is now melting… Well, it was when I started this post…d*mn you winter, d*mn you for snowing 6 more inches.

I feel as though I’m thought that was finally in a place where I can could reflect on winter and one of my favorite parts of it, Pickerel Days.

But I’ve often wondered when looking at scenes like this and thought, “where did this thing all start?”.

Ahhh the smell of exhaust...feels like home

Believe it or not, Pickerel Days began as a few drunk guys hopping in the lake over 25 years ago at Jerry Schuh’s Bar.

Once upon a time…there was a gentleman named “Bucky” that had a cabin up in the area.  Him and his friends were so rowdy that him and his buddies were dubbed a team name, “The Menasha Boys”.  This crew would come up in two cars, tear through the bars of downtown Antigo, terrorize the bartenders through Neva (including the Windbreaker) and then finally make their way up to Pickerel Lake and Jerry Schuh’s bar.

Me and my sister Diane; photographer for the day!

Well, one winter a long time ago (over 25 years ago) this dirty dozen decided that they were going to jump into the open water that was naturally there from the spring, near the tunnel that connects Pickerel and Crane lakes after “a couple of beers”.  Then they just kept doing it every year after that…

And thus they started the tradition of the Pickerel Lake Jump In!

Yup, even planes there

I have to thank my grandma, grandpa, and dad for this story as they were the ones that experienced the wrath of “The Menasha Boys” when they stopped by our potato farm like crazy bats out of h*ll (as my dad put it) multiple times throughout the year as one of their stops.

The girls; Steph, Leah, and Kelly

Well, after seeing what I saw at the event this year I took it upon myself to set up a YouTube page in order to showcase a theory that I’ve been pondering about since that day.  On this day every single year I get vividly reminded about the fact that women mature more quickly than men. See below for direct video and photo evidence by clicking on the separate links:

Exhibit A: Beer + Boys + Open Water + Snowmobile = Good Idea?

Exhibit B: Beer + Boys + Open Water + Snowmobile + Waterski Rope + Snowboard = Better Idea?  Maybe?

Exhibit C: Beer + Boys + (Meth?) + Open Water + Snowmobile + Plain Rope + Shopping Cart – Helmet = Bestest Idea?  Maybe? No, Definitely.

Oh no he didn't is what you're thinking....but oh yes, he did my friend.

Exhibit D: Boys standing in freezing cold water.  Boys….you know who you.

Cold feet?

Exhibit E: Boy that was just tripped by his friend and fell over backwards that now has a concussion.  Boys…you also know who you are.

The birthday boy, post concussion

Exhibit F: You’re probably wondering what happens when they don’t make it over…let’s find out:

How emasculating

Exhibit G: Where did this all equate from you’re asking?

The Guilty Culprit

But even though boys are silly, the overall verdict every year still remains….

Yay for Pickerel Days!!

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“Tip off” at our house started at about 5:30 on Sunday.  And I’m not talking about March Madness or basketball, I’m talking about whacking off the tip of a chicken wing.

Forget BWW, check out THIS hot little number

Here’s how this began.  I always get picked on for this but I HATE Buffalo Wild Wings.  I feel like the wings are wimpy, the food is WAY overpriced for what you are getting, and their earth footprint from all of the garbage that they use (versus using plates or anything that is a green product) is ridiculous.  Down with THE MAN and all that jazz.

So, when the Adam and Mike suggested that they wanted to go there for the Basketball games, I offered up something that I have never tried making before, homemade chicken wings.  Let’s just put a forewarning in there that these are majorly labor intensive but majorly more tasty than BWW.

How about that garnish? I've been reading blogs about presentation and trying to pick up some things...

Homemade Buffalo Chicken Wings and Fries (adapted but MUCH changed from Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients

Wings

  • 3 tbsp peanut oil (or vegetable oil) for frying
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 pounds chicken wings (18 wings)

Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce , preferably Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1 tablespoons Tabasco sauce or other hot sauce, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Sides

  • Bunch of celery, cut into thin strips
  • Blue Cheese, your favorite kind or brand

Fries

  • (4) Yukon or starchy potatoes (not reds)
  • Lowry’s seasoned salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions

Let’s start with the taters…

  1. Begin by putting a large pot 2/3 of the way full with water and boil.

    One of my favorite tips from Cooks Illustrated

  2. Peel skin off of the potatoes and slice into thin wedges (see pictures), then drop them into boiling water for about 3-5 minutes and remove them and arrange on a baking sheet spayed with Pam.  I’m not sure why this works but it must do something to them chemically so that they don’t stick to the pan….trust me on this step…it will literally change your life.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and add seasoned salt…I take the liberty of adding liberally but feel free to adjust to your tastebuds.

    Oh so season-y

Now onto the chicken…

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Cutting up the chicken wings from the store into ones that look like the restaurant isn’t as easy as they make it look.  But, I wish that I would have watched this before trying it and saved myself some time.  Watch this video in order to learn how to cut up the wings.  TIP: Make sure that they are un-thawed or this is going to be a beast of a job.
  3. While oil heats, mix together cayenne, black pepper, salt, and cornstarch in small bowl.
  4. Dry chicken with paper towels and place pieces in large mixing bowl. Sprinkle spice mixture over wings and toss with rubber spatula until evenly coated. Fry the chicken wings in batches, in a stove top pan until golden and crisp, then place onto a baking pan (s).

    Fry each side until crispy

    Crispy, crunchy, and ready for the inside to be cooked

Saucy…

  1. Melt the butter in a small pot, then add the rest of the sauce ingredients (hot sauces, Tabasco, cider vinegar, brown sugar) and whisk on low temperature.
  2. Prepare celery and blue cheese.

    Hot sauce (well technically not hot since we wanted it mild)

Worlds collide…

  1. Put the potatoes on the bottom rack and the chicken wings on the top rack.  Cook for 7-10 minutes, flip the potatoes, and then cook the other side for 7 minutes or until to your desired crunchy level.
  2. Toss the wings with your homemade sauce (and a separate one for BBQ if you would like).

Toss it on up!

Tossin' in some BBQ flavored with Farmer's Market honey

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