Would You Like Fries With That?

  • Posted on January 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Stella took her first trip to Indiana over the holidays.  She loved Indiana, except for the part where she threw up five times. Luckily, I was there to catch her puke in my hands (oh my god what was I thinking why did I stick my hands out and why did I do it it MORE THAN ONCE. Because, like, god forbid we get a little throw-up on the changing pad. The machine washable changing pad.)

No one’s first trip to Indiana is complete without a trip to Steak N’ Shake. Behold, the family tradition:

Brandon, Eric and I after our first trip to Steak N' Shake, 1994

Brandon, Eric and I after our first trip to Steak N' Shake, 1994

This picture was taken when my family went to Indianapolis to buy a house in February of 1994. Steak N’ Shake was a novelty to us–hello, Steakburgers? Milkshakes? Skinny little french fries? We thought we were soooooo funny, wearing the hats and the bibs. The photographer (my mom) caught me mid-sentence, my mouth hanging open so that I look like a big grungy dummy. (It was 1994, almost 15 years ago. Kurt Cobain was still alive and flannel was, like, cool.)

And now, 15 years later:

Stella at Steak N Shake, 2008

Stella at Steak N' Shake, 2008

It looks like they’ve updated the hat slightly–notice the sleek new double line look. The bibs, however, are exactly the same.

(P.S. I’m playing around with the look of the blog–so please excuse the dust while we remodel.)

The Other Eighth Wonder of the World

  • Posted on July 26, 2008 at 8:38 pm

My brother Brandon and his girlfriend Amanda are spending the summer in Peru, where they are living in a hut atop a mountain and saving the lives of hundreds of Peruvian llama farmers (or something equally noble and selfless. I’m not even sure if they have running water or heat or STARBUCKS.) The other day, they posted fabulous pictures and a blog post about their trip to Machu Picchu, “the eighth wonder of the world”.

In homage to them, Larry, Stella and I ALSO went to Machu Picchu. Here is our story, told in photos.

Larry consults the PRESHUS iPhone for a map. Adventurous hat? Check.

The Preshus iPhone shows us the way to Machu Picchu.

Father and Daughter scan the horizon before embarking on the great adventure.

Larry’s hands grip the steering wheel as we drive through the wilderness. Knuckles white. Gaining altitude, losing breath.

A local boy, selling his wares on the streets near Machu Picchu. Could only afford a simple sign on cardboard, drawn with a marker.

The roads and signs here are confusing. We could barely decipher the signs pointing the way.

Another sign. On the right track. Bailey X Roads=Bailey’s Crossroads? Si?

A local wearing long white robes.

We saw the vestiges from a great civilization looming in front of us. Also, they drive like crazy people here. We narrowly avoided several collisions.

More locals, hanging out in front of a gas station. I guess they have nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon?

A family crossing a 5-lane highway IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET. Not at the crosswalk. Apparently, they needed to get to the entrance ramp?!? (Note the young child. Is this any lesson to teach your children? Why do people do this?)

More locals, hanging out at the Seven-Eleven. Again with the nothing to do.

The road to Machu Picchu. So quaint.


A tour guide? A local? An Incan? I don’t know.

Who knew that Machu Picchu was so close to the middle east? You can get kabobs here.

Larry and Stella approach the door.

The grand hall, honoring many great nations and lost civilizations.

Ooooh, classy. Leather menus.

Ancient Peruvian snack of half-popped popcorn.

Ancient Peruvian appetizer of shrimp, fish and squid ceviche with a pile of onions.

The adventurous Larry, without his adventurous hat, takes a bite of the ceviche.

An egg on top of a steak, plus three starches. Starchy McStarcherson. (Who knew that Peruvians can make delicious rice?)

Peruvian Fried Chicken. Close relative of the Peruvian Char-grilled Rotisserie Chicken, which is popular in Northern Virginia, Peru, and Larry’s belly.

Stella, hiding behind her toy Ken. All the starches scared her, I guess.

A shrine to Machu Picchu…with Buddha? Please explain. How did Buddha end up in an ancient Incan civilization? Does this have something to do with Pangea and sled dogs?

What a view.

Thank you, come again. (look at those ta-tas!)

One last shot as we drove away. The other eighth wonder of the world. Machu Picchu.

The Great Outdoors

  • Posted on September 7, 2007 at 8:44 pm

Last weekend was a whirlwind of activity, eating and emotions. My brother Eric was visiting from Indianapolis, and we managed to do some fun junk outdoors, eat way too much food and laugh a lot, in spite of some other really awful things that happened. (I’m still processing how to even write about one of them, it’s so intense and extreme and scary, so right now I’m going to stick to happy thoughts.)

One highlight of last weekend was our trip to the National Zoo on Friday-we spent eight hours walking around, and I think we managed to see every single animal there except the elusive liger baby anteater. However, by the end of the day, we were all so physically worn out, and my legs hurt so bad that I could barely walk back to the car. I did manage to get some pretty cool shots of animals with my nifty zoom lens:

Cute Panda

Gharial–sort of like a crocodile with a really funny mouth

Strange Creature
unidentified mammal with the speed of a liger and the wit of a mongoose.

We ate SO MUCH FOOD this past weekend. I am sure I gained 11 pounds. There were too many good meals to review them all, but a few of the highlights were: Fogo de Chao (again–we cashed in one of our free lunches), Mannequin Pis–an amazing Belgian restaurant that was an instant favorite, and Jaleo, which is always a winner. I am still full. (Okay, not really.)

Come back anytime, Eric!

Chocolate Decadence at the Ritz, Part Deux

  • Posted on August 26, 2007 at 9:38 am

On Friday evening, Larry and I joined our friends Amy, Kirk and Blythe at the Ritz Carlton for the return of Chocolate Decadence. Last spring, the Ritz held a Chocolate Decadence event every Friday night, an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet of unimaginable sweetness. Amy, Blythe and I attended the spring event, which I blogged about here. When I found out that Chocolate Decadence was back again this summer, I just had to go.

The theme this time was ice cream–four flavors of chocolate-based ice cream, with about 20 gourmet toppings to garnish with. A regular ol’ ice cream social. They had toppings like brandied cherries, chocolate peanut sauce, nutella, and peanut brittle, but none of the traditional toppings like sprinkles and hot fudge. I was a little disappointed at the small portions of ice cream we were given, but I made friends with the pastry chef and was able to finagle more scoops from her.

The ice cream was delicious, but the whole thing just didn’t have the same WOW factor as the first chocolate decadence, maybe because we’d already been there, done that, or maybe because ice cream and toppings don’t look as impressive as all the cakes, pies, pastries and mousses that they had displayed last time. Also, we burned out of the ice cream way more quickly than we had expected to, and had to order some “real” food.

Although the chocolate may have been a tiny disappointment compared to the last Chocolate Decadence, the company more than made up for it. We had a great time.

In Search of Soup Dumplings

  • Posted on August 19, 2007 at 5:35 pm

Yesterday, Larry and I went to Chinatown in search of soup dumplings. We first saw soup dumplings a few weeks ago on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, when Anthony took a trip to Shanghai. The soup dumplings he ate at Nan Xiang restaurant in Shanghai were pillows of dough enveloping a rich soup broth. The smaller variety look like they burst out soupy goodness in the mouth, and the larger ones are big enough to suck the broth out with a straw. Ever since I saw the episode, I’ve been obsessed with soup dumplings. Must have soup dumplings.

After some research, I found that Chinatown Express in Chinatown (where else, with a name like that) serves the elusive soup dumpling, although their specialty is the hand-stretched noodles you can watch them make in the window. They’ve got chickens, pigs, and ducks hanging in the window, which I think is super cool. We ordered the soup dumplings (duh), some seafood dumplings, stir-fried noodles with beef and the roasted half chicken.

The soup dumplings were…disappointing. They didn’t really have much broth in them at all. They were good for pork dumplings, but these are not the dumplings I saw on Anthony Bourdain. The noodles and the chicken were really delicious. The noodles were one of the best Chinese noodle stir-fry dishes I have had, for sure. I will definitely be back to Chinatown Express. But I guess we’ll have to go to either New York or San Fransisco for soup dumplings. Or Shanghai for the real thing. Sigh.

Chinatown Express

Restaurant Week: Bistro Bis

  • Posted on August 11, 2007 at 10:02 am

Last night, Larry and I had our second Restaurant Week dinner at Bistro Bis in Capitol Hill, and our buddies Greg and Martin joined us. My manager at work had decided not to use her reservation, and she offered it to me. Larry and I tried to say no, because going out to eat all the time is expensive, but our Foodie brain cells would not let us. We cannot resist. Will power, what is that?

The food was good–I had a pork pate de campagne, duck confit and peach mille feuille. Larry had mussels, steak frites and opera torte. Of course, I forgot to take pictures of the food, so you’ll just have to use your imagination. I thought everything was delicious and very Francais.

Bistro Bis offered pretty much their entire menu for restaurant week, with up-charges for certain dishes. This is so much better than restaurants that offer you a paltry two or three selections, like a chicken and a pasta dish. Restaurant Week is a chance for these restaurants to attract new customers, so why would they want to give you crappy selections? It’s a double whammy–you probably wouldn’t go back, and you wouldn’t recommend it to your friends. Bistro Bis definitely did right with their menu.

My one complaint is the service–we experienced the dreaded Restaurant Week service slump last night. It took over a half hour just to place our orders, and our waiter just rubbed it in when he finally came to our table and said with a smirk, “do you know what you want, or should I leave you alone for even longer?” When we were leaving, he said “I hope you come back again, so that I can actually spend some time with you.” Yeah, I hope so, too.

There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch

  • Posted on July 30, 2007 at 7:22 pm

Remember when Larry, Martin and I went to dinner at Fago de Chao a few weeks ago? Well, as we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, high on animal protein, Larry and I dropped our business cards in the “win a free lunch” bowl at the door. Just for kicks. Does anyone ever really win a free lunch?

You can win a free lunch. Two free lunches. Both Larry and I received gift cards in the mail congratulating us on being the week’s winner. How cool is that? Lunch for four, a $118 value. Good Monday thru Friday only, which means we might have to take a half day on a Friday, because I’m not sure that going back to work after eating there would be such a great idea.

Did they give out two gift cards, and we just happened to win both? Or do you think everyone who puts their business card in gets a free lunch?

Yay, free meat. And salad.