Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Curled Up with My Microwave

'Tis the season, for poop-brown snow banks in parking lots and salt-damaged leather boots. As soon as this bastard blizzard is over, I suggest you get yourself to the Goodwill WearHouse at 72nd and F.

This is where all junk goes to die. It's the last stop before they, who knows, incinerate it? In one of the intimidating blue bins (posted signs warn of sharp objects throughout) I hit a jackpot of vintage books, my favorite being the Better Homes & Gardens Microwave Cook Book, published in 1976. Here I sit, entrenched in the sofa, arm waving lazily towards the fridge in want of a beer, perusing the pages for my next culinary hit. Will it be the Quick Fish Soup? The Golden-Sauced Franks? I can't wait to try out the Egg Salad Sandwich Pizza on my friends. And to think, everything is handily nuked!

The only thing is, if the power goes out while I'm cookin', I'll be screwed.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Food Punk Part II

A few weeks ago a friend of mine made us six courses in his home kitchen. He rolled them out in perfect succession -- though we did have to take a whiskey break right before the bacon dessert.

Click on over and get envious of these mad skillz.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pig Head Monday

So the other day I came home to a pig's head braising in the oven. This wasn't just any old pig's head, rather, it came from a local farm (yaayyyyy, local!) and was apple fed. I don't know why it didn't come with an apple in its mouth, but whatever.

Some folks are elated to eat pig's head, others aren't. I fear we need to let go of that neatly-packaged, pre-skinned, pre-breaded, pre-sliced, pre-cooked, ground-two-weeks-ago, patty-fied, ready-to-eat preference most of us have. If we're that nauseated from the sight of a cooked pig's head, do we have any right eating meat at all? I recall a friend getting grossed out over one loose feather in her carton of farm eggs. Did she think they were manufactured at the Nestle factory?

After all, most hot dogs are made of a mix of mechanically separated meats -- a product known as "white slime" -- and the average American chokes down about 60 of those a year. We've gotten really, really good at forgetting where our meat comes from, wouldn't you say?

Don't worry, I'm not gonna be pigheaded and get all "nose-to-tail" on you. While I do agree it's a more common-sensical, gentile approach to meat eating, it's not that easy. I had to forego the snout and went solely for the cheeks. Still can't quite figure out what to do with the eyeball. Probably throw it in some soup.


Oh, and for those of you who were not aware of any other options other than meat and potatoes here in Omaha, here's one Chicagoans take on it.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sioux She

Feeling disillusioned over the amount of turkey you ate last week? Sick of leftovers, particularly the awkward way the congealed gravy soaks into your stale white dinner roll?

Maybe it's time you splurged on everyone's favorite Asian cuisine from the last twenty years that most Americans probably don't even eat correctly, sushi.

Or maybe you just want to read an article with one of the tackiest headlines ever. Roll into Ponzu.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Delivery from Sgt. Peffer's

1501 North Saddle Creek Road
And another location in Millard
Or, in this case, my bedroom in front of my TV
Open daily 11am - 10pm

Hot Strombo and a side of potatoe salad ($6.50):
"Baked bun stuffed with sliced ham, pepperoni,
mancini peppers, mozzarella and romano"

Today at lunchtime I was faced with the strenuous task of finding something to eat without leaving my house. I foraged through the cabinets, but once the columns of Saltine crackers diminished, and the memories of setting the smoke detector off last night trying to make a pizza came back, I decided on delivery. My experience would have been smoother if I had the possibility of ordering online. In the "Delivery Instructions" field, I would have typed key by key with my index finger from my bed to please bring the food upstairs to my bedroom, along with some plates and napkins, and retrieve the money from my wallet which should be somewhere in the vicinity, but I'm not exactly sure where.

They don't offer online ordering, but to my delight, Sgt. Peffer's delivers. I spent most of the 45-minute wait wondering what's behind the name. What's a Peffer, and why the Beatles mid-career motif?

I intuitively disregarded Sir Paul's veggie crusade and went with a couple of meaty sandwiches. With a name like Hot Strombo, I was expecting something more, ya know, stromboli-like, perhaps a bit more fromagian. Instead, it was relatively light on the cheese, but stuffed with enough cured meats to fill a party tray. On the other hand, the roast beef au jus was just phenomenal.

The potato salad served on the side was one of my favorites in recent memory; it had a semi-pureed consistency, interrupted with bits of crunchy scallion.

As with most takeout, both sandwiches resembled a surgery, or as my dining buddy mused, "John Lennon's brain spatter." But both were much better tasting than the "jelly on stale bread" I would have come up with myself. Thanks, Sarge.

Roast Beef au Jus ($6.50), with peppers, onions and provolone cheese

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Goldberg's II

5008 Dodge Street
Open Mon - Thurs 11a.m. - 11p.m., Fri and Sat 11a.m. - midnight, closed Sunday
Goldbergs in Dundee on Urbanspoon

Cheeseburger  on Pretzel Bun with Curly Fries ($8.50):
Seasoned, juicy patty, toasted pretzel bun and crisp toppings.
Passed all points of the burger inspection with flying colors. 

My recent visit to Goldberg's in Dundee evoked the repetition (in my head) of one of my least favorite adages: "It is what it is."

The cheeseburger was well-proportioned, and in many ways an exemplary model fit for even the most stringent burgerphiles. The atmosphere, marked by straight backed booths, senior citizens yammering on, and even a mural of what I think was Memorial Park, was charming. The decorative details from decades past and the intimate, relaxed feel reminded me of any one of my home city's bajillion Irish pubs.

The soup was clearly not the focus here -- I'd be surprised if it wasn't doctored up Campbell's, served lukewarm -- but the oyster crackers made me smile. No need to quibble over the unimportant. Goldberg's says they're good at "Burgers, Beers & Bloody Marys," and I believe them.

While the food was mostly pretty good, I'd probably have to befriend some regulars to really get the feel for what makes this place so special. And if I never get around to that, I'll still go here next time I'm in the mood to bust my gut with all of the good things in life. I hear their salads are nice, too.

Pastrami Melt, slathered with creamy horseradish sauce,
and sweet potato fries, which chicks really dig for some reason ($9.45).

The Fourth "B," Bread Pudding ($5.75)

Beef broth soup with the occasional grain of barley and random corn kernel ($4.25).

Monday, November 26, 2012

La Casa Pizzaria

4432 Leavenworth Street
Open Tues-Thurs 11am-10pm, Fri and Sat 11am-10:30pm, Sun 4:30pm-9:30pm, closed Mon
La Casa Pizzaria on Urbanspoon

Double slice deal:
Spicy sausage with olives, and
 "Genoa Bianco" with artichoke hearts and mushrooms

As I was bumbling down Leavenworth Street the other day, I noticed a sign next to La Casa's Best Pizza in Nebraska facade advertising a lunch special of two slices and a salad for $6.69.

My addiction is to pizza no secret. When I saw that sign, my excitement was palpable. 

Side salad with creamy Romano dressing

The appetizer lunch salad -- a handful of colorful greens, a blob of house-made cheesy dressing, and a chunk of herb focaccia -- provided some much-needed foliage for the day's diet without killing my pizza buzz. The slices arrived rectangular, and seemed reheated, but with exceptional toppings such as spicy sausage and fresh mushrooms. Another thing that I imagine makes La Casa's schtick special is the dense, flaky, pie-like edges. But strangely unlike pie crust, it buckled under the weight of the toppings and flopped towards the table when I picked it up. Cue the sad trombone sound effect. 

The Hot Italian Beef sandwich was a fine specimen, though if you want to get technical it was more like a French Dip. And the pizza was more like... flatbread? Ok, I'll shut up.

Should anyone ever have the gall to leave Omaha, La Casa now ships its pizzas nationwide (four pies for only $100, plus a nominal $49.99 shipping fee). Because, ya know, there's nothing like it anywhere. 

Hot Italian Beef sandwich --
I wonder if they'd ship one of these to Chicago?

They say sex is like pizza -- "even when it's bad it's still pretty good." But I maintain that bad sex and bad pizza are both pretty depressing. Unless you're drunk, of course, in which case neither exist. Behold this Chicken Caesar slice I ordered recently in a fit of intoxication and you'll understand. I've enjoyed many a lackluster pie in my day, but until I finally attain the status of functioning alcoholic, I just won't understand La Casa's die-hard appeal.

Chicken Caesar Salad slice, Anna Maria Pizza, Brooklyn --
Hot lettuce is not the same as hot sex.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Drover

2121 South 73rd Street
Lunch Mon-Fri from 11-2, dinner nightly from 5pm

Drover Burger ($8.50)

When I think of the '80s, I think of Communism, cocaine, and salad bars like the one at the Drover. Iceberg lettuce, bacon bits made out of soy, GMO cherry tomatoes, and neon orange French dressing. It's for those of us who want to travel back to a time before we gave a shit about food additives.

Since I was only there for lunch, I didn't try the Drover's most prized item, the Whiskey Steak. Instead, I had the pleasure of sinking my teeth into some of the juiciest beef I've had in this town yet. Recent Best Burger lists have snubbed this one, which made it seem that much more hip. And reuben purists might balk at the substitution of prime rib, but it was a welcome change for me. Corned beef is so sawlty! 

The cavelike little room with only a few other tables felt more like a bomb shelter ('80s!), and in such exclusive quarters I could taste some businessman's Old Spice. If you're willing to brave the odd atmosphere, stop by the Drover for some no-frills, well-grilled beefy sandwiches. They rock.

The salad bar, meticulously positioned amongst glistening ice cubes
and ancient wood and tile. 

The masterpiece I fashioned out of the salad bar materials.

Reuben ($9.75):
Sliced prime rib sets this one apart from the rest. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy Hour at the Michael's Cantina at the Market

1102 Harney Street
Open Sun - Thurs 11a.m. - 11p.m., Fri and Sat 'til midnight
More importantly, happy hour weekdays 3 - 6p.m. (half off margaritas and appetizers)

A close inspection of the sign will reveal the word "fine."

There's bad Mexican food, and then there's bad food. I hereby set aside all labels, specifications and standards. I'm throwing out my obsession with authenticity and qualms about the spice level in order to tell you, my dearest fellow diner, that the food here is not worth ingesting. The solitary exception is the South of the Border appetizer sampler, which features four of the usual suspect dips, executed with exquisite averageness, and never ending basketfuls of both corn and recently-fried flour tortilla chips. The point is merely -- and yet also imperatively -- to give you something to do with your mouth in between sips of the deliciously boozy beverages.

From the hours of 3 to 6p.m. on any given weekday, Michael's is the most magical place to get tipsy with friends and coworkers alike. You'll likely have the place to yourselves, which is an added bonus. Jump start your hangover with one of our nation's favorite drinks, the high fructose bomb that packs a powerful punch: the Margarita.

Rocks with salt (Reg $5):
For those of us who haven't yet outgrown the concept of "these will get you wasted."

South of the Border Combination Platter (Reg $9.99):
Colorful, and oh so edible

This concoction is known as the Tamale Float,
and it, along with the hot wings, jalapeño poppers, and taco al pastor,
has about as much culinary appeal as a satchel of silica gel. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New "Street Tacos" at Tommy Colina's Kitchen

RIP Tommy Colina

ChimiChurri Street Taco ($10.49):
Shaved tenderloin, lettuce blend, chimi churri sauce, tomatoes,
Chardonnay onions, fresh mozzarella, pita bread
Umm. Really?

I try my darndest not to be a food purist. I try to understand that terms such as "pizza" and "taco" can be used loosely. I try to lead a life that fosters a mutual understanding that transcends cultures. And by golly, I try to go to church on Sunday.

What have I done to be subjected to this?

When I think street taco, I think of a mound of carne asada with flies buzzing around it, hastily piled into a steamy tortilla with some sort of puree that is mostly jalapeño seeds. But let's not nitpick. One could also consider my dear Doritos Locos to be something of a street taco.

To be clear, my main qualm wasn't the divergence from the traditional definition of "taco." Rather, I was forced to wonder whether its creator had ever bothered to have a bite of one before. For a pile of marinated meat, gleaming mozzarella, and tangy chimichurri, all atop a thick slab of pita, refuses to be folded. The diner is systematically prohibited from eating with his hands, and a troubleshoot with ye ole knife and fork leads to inevitable wax tissue paper ingestion. Oh, the horror!

There's no eating this on any street, unless by street you mean sitting in front of your television with a tray and a bib.

Logistics aside, once I combed through the thinly-sliced beef tenderloin and fashioned a comprehensively edible mass out of the mess in the plastic basket, I rapidly attained a sense of satiety. Does this mean it was tasty? I'm not sure.

To La Familia Colina: Try replacing the stiff, store-bought pita bread with something more tortillaesque, if for no other reason than to facilitate successful consumption of the dish. Viva el taco.

Tommy Colina's is at 3558 Farnam Street, with a new location opening soon in the Wild West (Omaha) at 180th and Pacific Street. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tanduri Fusion

2537 South 175th Street (just north of West Center Road)
Open Tues - Thurs, Sun 11:30a.m. - 2p.m., 5p.m. -9p.m., Fri, Sat 11:30a.m. - 2p.m., 5p.m. - 10p.m.
Tanduri Fusion on Urbanspoon

Spinach Stuffed Naan and Mixed Appetizer

"Welcome to our real nice Family Restaurant," the website reads. Well, ghee, thanks. It was the last place I thought my friend'd pick for her 30-somethingth birthday festivities, but we didn't question it as we loaded into a couple of cars and hauled way out West.

The atmosphere, while "real nice" indeed, was also "generic strip mall," and I was turned off the music was turned off. Still, you don't see purple cloth napkins every day.

The Mixed Appetizer for four ($13.95) was an assortment of scrumptious fried things, although the coating of flour was much thicker and doughy than I'm used to on pakoras. The Malai Shish Kebab -- pieces of seasoned rolled lamb my dining buddies affectionately referred to as "butt holes" -- were the highlight of the first course.

Our minds might have been in the gutter, but our taste buds weren't. The Spinach Stuffed Naan ($3.95), akin to a chemical-free Lean Pocket, was adored by all. I was a hero for spontaneously requesting a side of Maah Dal ($4.25), a creamy and beany delight.

A few friends weren't in love with their biryani and tilapia dishes enough to marry them, but not every entree can be a winner. Make the trek here for Indian that isn't hyped up, like some other places in town. With lower expectations, you won't be disappointed.

Maah Dal --
As with most bean dishes, it's the beauty on the inside that counts.

Mulligatawny (served with entree, or $3.00) --
I found it rather limey. 

Tilapia, and more importantly, mint chutney

Chicken Vindaloo ($14.50) exactly what it should be --
piquant, rich sauce, but not too thick.
MAD PROPS for the chicken not being overcooked into the consistency of a baseball mitt.

Malai Shish Kebab detail

Friday, September 14, 2012

Stella's Bar & Grill

106 Galvin Road South, Bellevue, NE
Mon - Sat 11a.m. - 9p.m.
Stella's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Double Hamburger ($6.50):
Thick, nicely seasoned beef patties, but drier than July in Omaha. Har har har.

I don't know why this place continues to be voted as having one of the best burgers in Omaha. I really don't get it. It's in Bellevue!

But really, people. While I did enjoy the irregular shape of the patty, which is supporting evidence for their claim that they hand-press them out of fresh beef, I did not enjoy the standard temperature of well done. I reckon since they serve them on napkins they have to grill most of the juice out, or else it'd be too messy. The bun did fall apart a little at the end -- I've heard this is a standard Stella's qualm -- but the toppings were fresh and delicious. Something tells me they've been at this for a while. Plus, how often do you eat more than a couple of onion rings at a time? Well, we nearly licked the wax paper clean of any buttery crumb residue. The fries left something to be desired, but fans of Bronco's fresh-cut grease carriers will like these.

I don't understand how, in this pre-apocalyptic world of deforestation and drought with grain prices out the wazoo, they're able to offer a 6.5 ounce burger for $4, but you better get 'em while you can!

My single Cheeseburger ($4.75) had Swiss, jalapeños and grilled onions,
as well as the standard lettuce, tomato, raw onion, pickle and mayo. 

From top left:
French fries ($2), ranch dressing, onion rings ($3)

They invented plates in 1937.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pana 88

3201 Farnam Street
Mon - Sat 11a.m. - 9p.m., Sun noon - 9p.m.
Pana88 on Urbanspoon

Sweet & Sour Chicken ($7.50) --
I hear they love this stuff over there in Asia.
Pineapple, green bell pepper, onion and carrot freshened things up.

I present to you Omaha's newest pan-Asian eatery, which is one of my least favorite labels. Combining and mastering a bunch of distinct culinary styles hardly ever works out. But add a dose of American (Peanut Butter Chicken, sweet potato fries), attention to detail, and low prices, and you have my favorite place for pan-Asian in Midtown Crossing.

One thing is for sure: I will be in for the Scallion Pancakes ($4) again -- maybe tomorrow. The thick, chewy, and slightly greasy dough transported me to the streets of Chinatown USA. Of the three dipping sauces, the chili was my favorite since it provided a real kick in the mouth.

Scallion Pancake ($4):
Soy sauce, garlic chili sauce, and I'll be darned if that's not ranch dressing.

I liked the entrees the way you like that girl you met at the bar that laughs at all of your jokes but doesn't really have any of her own. I appreciated the meticulously cut veggies and the absurdly reasonable portion sizes. The beef was tender and the batter on the chicken was thin and light. The sauces were balanced and there was just the right amount. In the world of fast casual, this is the cream of the crop.

The music, combined with the Shazam app on my phone, provided some hearty laughs. And the three big-screen televisions seemed completely unnecessary. It looked like there were only soft drinks and juices available, so be sure to have your aperitif before you arrive. With a relatively non-adventurous range of flavors, spices, music, and decor, Pana 88 didn't blow my socks off, but it's much more than Midtown's PF Changs, and definitely worth a visit soon.

Mongolian Beef ($7.25):
This might not really be the post-independence National Dish of Mongolia,
but mushrooms, onions, and cellophane noodles combine to form a super pan-Asian treat. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Someone Spilled Beer on the Computer, and Zombie Burger Des Moines

It wasn't me. I don't even like beer. At any rate, that's the explanation for the lack of blogging going on lately.

In the meantime, here's a photo of some gnarly food (gnarly in a bad way) I ate at the Des Moines East Village hotspot Zombie Burger that was every bit as gross as it was gimmicky. Something as bad for you as a "Mac Dog" should taste good. I was overcome with disappointment when I found that I could do better at home with a box of Kraft and a package of Nathan's. I was served cold, bland macaroni and cheese, deep-fried bacon bits with and an off-putting fake taste, and a dog that seemed high-school cafeteria boiled. You might be attracted to the B-side gaudiness and glitz, but you should still pass over this place next time you're in the metropolis that is Dez Moynez.

Mac Dog ($5.49) and the highlight of the fat fest, a side of fries ($1.79)

Thursday, August 16, 2012


1020 Howard Street
Open Tues - Sat, lunch from 11:30am and dinner from 4pm
$1.99 Margs on Tues and Thurs, Happy Hour 4-6 Fri and Sat
Trini's on Urbanspoon

Enchilada de Jocoque (single lunch serving, $6.50):
Chicken in a sour cream sauce with monterey jack cheese,
and a side of "refritos" and rice.

Whether or not you choose to like Trini's shouldn't depend on its mainstream location, or the claim by fans that it's "pretty authentic." I would bus to the end of the Earth (West O) for Trini's, if I happened to be in the mood for supremely honk-ified Mexican-ish cuisine. There's nothing unique about this place, except maybe for the fact that it shares a wall with one of the most expensive restaurants in town. Despite this -- can I just sound like an upper middle class homemaker for a moment? -- the bathrooms, located a hallway and some stairs outside of the restaurant, were atrocious. On the other hand, if you're wandering around the Old Market and want to do something illegal, this is the bathroom for you.

One blackened tilapia fish taco in a deep-fried "puffy" taco shell ($6.95):
In case you're wondering, yes, I felt puffy afterwards.

The Spread

There was something nostalgic about the food in that this is the Mexican I ate as a child. I couldn't quite tell if the chips were made in-house, or whether the mild cilantro salsa was doctored up from out of a jar, but who cares. On the fish taco, the "house chipotle sauce" seeped into the "puffy" taco shell nicely, but didn't offer much of a chipotle flavor. Luckily, the "specially prepared greens" kept things light (kidding). I was impressed by the simple black beans and white rice, which they managed to turn into a rich, buttery treat. Ditto for the Enchilada de Jocoque and the accompanying refried beans. I imagined Julia Child's ghost in the kitchen, whispering, "If you're afraid of butter, use creeeeeeeeeam."

Trini's is great for indulging on standard Midwestmex, especially if you're looking for a nice, secluded restroom where TP isn't necessary.

Soft shell beef taco ($3.35):
Get your Taco Bell without all the late night drive thru hullabaloo.
(I'm looking at you, 38th and Dodge.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Iowa State Fair 2012

August 9th - 19th, 7a.m. - 1a.m.
Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines

Cindy's Place, one of the many food stands,
offers "complete meals" of french fries and nachos to famished fair goers. 

Talk about a sensory overload. There's nothing quite like chowing on a lamb kebob while walking through a sheep barn, tasting the gamey deliciousness while smelling the poo and watching the wool being shorn.

Unlike a lot of outdoor summer events, the food here isn't just an afterthought meant to feed the crowds, should they rustle up a hunger while watching some crappy band or some fat dude swing a bat. The food at the Iowa State Fair is the main attraction. Granted, if I was the proud owner of the biggest boar in the state, I might beg to differ. But strolling past the stalls of mostly sedated livestock, all this city slicker could think was, "Where's the deep-fried butter?"

In the end, we went with this hunk of fried mac & cheese in lieu of the butter stick.
A bunch of pussies, the lot of us, I know.
Breading could have used a little more, err, seasoning.

Here you have the highlight, German Chocolate Funnel Cake,
complete with coconut cream goo, crushed pecans, and deep-fried chocolate batter.
Warm and fuzzy feeling that followed was undoubtedly the sensation of insulin production. 

This cheesesteak, ahem, Philly, was legit:
Fashioned from the mound of sizzling, chopped meat on the flat top grill,
topped with greasy onions and peppers and coated in a generous layer of Cheez-wiz. Real deal. 

Lamb brat, lamb breakfast sausage on a stick, and lamb kebob,
for sale right outside of the sheep barn.

Shorn sheep are very fashionable.

Strange, I don't remember seeing anything with horse meat on a stick?

It was only a matter of time before we hit the Iowa Craft Beer Tent.
Here's a delicious Slingshot Dunkel from Coralville's Backpocket Brewing Company. 

Beef and bean taco in a homemade crunchy corn tortilla,
just like someone's grandma used to make. 

If you've never had this, you probably don't have to.

Apple cider donettes, hot off the doughnut press.

I don't really like apples, but this one was damn good.

Doesn't look like much, but this if you examine closely you'll see Iowa's Blue Ribbon corn,
guarded by several rows of barricades. 

The Butter Cow:
A cow sculpted out of butter.
Making mouths water since 1911.

A cornbrat -- It was at this point my burps started smelling really weird.

Dude, stop hitting on the Pork Queen and get back to grilling your loins.
Her majesty is totally out of your league.

This life-sized, 850-pounder gives a whole new meaning to the term "Chocolate Moose."

"Iowa's Best Pizza" contenders rolling into the judging site. Umm. Yeah.

We came armed with plastic forks in our back pockets, a humble brigade of curious calorie hoarders. At first I thought we left victorious, but on the way home, I got methane poisoning from all the cow farts. Or maybe it was Veep candidate Paul Ryan's stupid checkered shirt and retarded remarks that nauseated me. It definitely had nothing to do with the amalgam of foodstuffs in my tummy.

If you can, do as 100,000 others do (daily) and hit up the Fair before it closes up this Sunday the 19th. As they say, it's "fairlicious."

But of course.