Sweet Mae and Spicy Sambal

I was fortunate to learn from one of my culinary heroes, Kevin McElroy, at his two restaurants, The Local Table and Tap and Barrio Kitchen, that he co-owns with Rich Watt in White Lake, New York. Chef Kevin is CIA trained, no not the spy agency, and Chef Rich also has culinary training as well. Both men were able to give me many tips throughout my many visits to the restaurants.

One of the many things that they did teach me about was expanding my palate. As someone who walked into a professional kitchen with no experience, I learned extremely quickly how demanding the job can be. But I also learned how rewarding it can be for the chefs when they push out over a hundred covers on a slow night. Quickness was one of the key skills they preached but using that speed wisely was more important.

One of the smallest recipes I learned from the two men was a recipe for a burger/fry dipping sauce that combined the spiciness of Sambal Oelek, the sweetness of Mae Ploy and the richness of mayo. An Asian Aioli that can be modified for spiciness or sweetness depending on your palate.

What you’ll need:

Two cups of mayo

1 jar of Sambal Oelek

1 bottle of Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce

Mix all three ingredients together in a bowl. If you want a spicier sauce use more Sambal Oelek or more Mae Ploy for a sweeter sauce. You are looking for a sauce the color of French dressing. Be sure to taste the sauce as you mix and add, you don’t want it too thick but not too drippy either. Is good on sandwiches or anything else you would like to enjoy it on!




Warm Beer And Bread

It seems fitting to start the re-design of the blog with a post about bread, a food that has been around for thousands of years.  Something that one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Jimmy Buffett, talked about in his famous song “Cheeseburger in Paradise:”

“Warm beer and bread,” they said, “could raise the dead.”

As a fellow Pascagoulian, I hear you Jimmy.  Ever since I learned how to make bread, one of my favorite pastimes is to make bread and drink beer, just not warm beer – but I will if I have to!

“So how do I make my own bread,” you may ask.

“Don’t I need a bread maker?”

All you need is the right ingredients, an oven, a KitchenAid mixer if you can get one (but a bowl will do just fine), and a baking pan.

Red’s Bread

1 and 1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbs sugar
1 Cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
3 Tbs room temperature butter
3 and 3/4 Cups + Bread Flour (preferably King Arthur Flour)
1/3 Cup Milk (can be 1%)
Nonstick spray if necessary

  1.  Put your yeast, salt and sugar into a bowl (the KitchenAid bowl if using) and then pour in the water to begin the fermentation process.
  2. Wait at least five minutes or until the yeast begins to foam.
  3. Combine the milk, butter and flour to the mixture.
  4. If using a Kitchenaid, put the bowl into the mixer with the bread hook attachment and mix into a ball for at least five minutes until smooth.  Otherwise mix in a bowl until you get the same smooth consistency or mix on a lightly floured countertop.  If dough is too moist add a little flour otherwise if it is too dry add water a tsp at a time.
  5. Dump dough ball into a lightly greased container to rise for at least an hour.
  6. After at least an hour, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Push dough into a bread pan (if not nonstick make sure to use a nonstick spray).
  8. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into and enjoying with a touch of butter a cold beer.Cheers!

It’s Who We Are

In my latest blog post I asked questions about the world around us or to be much more general – the world around me.  What is real?  Is what I see the same thing that you see?  How would we ever know if that is true until it is completely over?

Those questions resonate at the heart of a lot of fear.  For someone who likes to know the answers I struggle with the unknown. Who was D.B. Cooper?  Is there a Yeti?  What was that object I saw over Roanoke in the fall of 1997?  Yeah, yeah go ahead and tell me there are no aliens but I know what I saw that afternoon was not of this world,

As a person who demands resolution, life proves to be a bane of my existence.  Can someone please tell me what our goal is?  Furthering society?  Making ourselves better?  Proving that we can destroy the planet?  Hell we don’t even know what happens when we die.  No one has ever been able to come back and supply us with a conclusion – well maybe that’s not the best word?  Do we truly want a conclusion to life?

There are many people who wish to spend hundreds if not thousands of years on this planet alive.  At the time that their bodies cease to give their brains oxygen, a service comes in to freeze and preserve those cells until such time that we can recreate that “life” in another form.  From what I understand baseball legend and hitter extraordinaire Ted Williams had his grey matter put into a vat until such time that it could be placed into a suitable life container.

What is Williams’ life state?  Is he currently experiencing a dream state?  Based upon what I know of our bodies I would think there is no brain waves in that organ so isn’t he technically dead?  Aren’t we trying to create an Igor without understanding how the mind works?

If I’m not mistaken our bodies are full of electric currents or parts that conduct that form of energy.  When we tell our feet to move as we are walking we are sending that signal in the form of a charge to the muscles to make them move.  When we dream and our body moves, our brain is still active and sending that wave to the part in question.  If you take a battery and put it the freezer you are just storing that energy until it can be used because it is not connected to a circuit or device asking for that signal.

So Williams’ brain is frozen and in a neutral state, somewhere that none of us know what it is going through or what will happen when it comes out of.  With that in mind there’s no way to know what the brain will “see” if it ever does get connected to a body or what it will even “remember.”  After all , these things are all a matter of perception.  What I perceive to be real, you most certainly may find to be fake.  Again it comes back to the state of reality.  How you describe the world around you verses how I describe it.  Is green the same shade of a color to you as me?  It can’t be – otherwise we would not have “color blind” people.

What does it all mean?  Are there any answers?  As far as I can tell it’s the same thing that smarter men and women before me have been asking for years and years.  What I have come to realize is that for every question and every answer the most important thing is to realize that we are human.

For every good thing we do we tend to screw up something else.  We can’t take ourselves too seriously.  We can get mad at something but we have to keep from taking it out on someone else.  We have to realize that the same material that makes up the stars makes up us.   One day the star that we call the “Sun” is going to burn out – that is a day we will never see but it will happen.  When that happens the world that we know, the real to us, will cease to exist.  Everything from America to Europe to Asia will suffer if it still exists.

We are simply who we are.  We have the ability to make choices, or even the curse of making choices.  We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.  But choose we must.  We struggle to understand that this choice is ours and not something that has been granted to us our even pre-determined.  We would like to think that some higher power pushed us to a resolution or a conclusion just so we don’t wrestle with the problem of being in control of our lives.  But we are confined to this determinism.  It’s the reason that we turn to our friends and family and ask what we should choose, we sub-consciously struggle with making decisions.

One of the greatest minds of the 20th century, Jean-Paul Sartre, who ironically I didn’t understand when I took philosophy as a 19-year-old, said the following:

“Man is condemned to be; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.  It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”

Once we start to realize that we have the curse and the blessing to make the choices that control our lives, the same lives that are short, we are the only ones who are in control of the short time that is our reality.  Or better yet, your reality, not mine.

Reality Buffet

Another year of my life has past and the more I think about it – the more I realize what I’m left with is memories of yesterday.  Thoughts of what happened in the years some – five, ten and even twenty years ago.  When I was able to run a mile without feeling like my back was going to fall apart or even the days of my youth.  The details are hazy but the picture is still there.

But the question becomes – “what is the past?”  Is it anything more than something that happened the day before?  As the days of a calendar go forward how do we even understand the past?  All we have are our memories and sometimes those can be deceiving.  Turning 40, I can remember all those times when the people who were older than me talked about that number like it was a “halfway point” or some kind of moment in life when their life would go downhill.

However, as I aged I stared into the face of time, memory and the future and asked the question – “what is reality?”  It’s a question I still can’t answer.  I still haven’t been able to come up with answers to questions that I’ve been asking since I was 19 years old and sitting in a philosophy class taught by a Roman Catholic priest.  Most importantly “who are we” and “why are we here?”  Those two questions pale in comparison to the major conundrum that I pose to the ether – “is what I see the same thing that every one else sees?”

To be fair I’ve spent the entire length of this webpage discussing sports issues with a human slant but I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t something more?  With all the changes in the world and the growth as an individual I question the cosmos.  The same stars that have been shining for billions of years.  The same stars that may be already dead or they may be the home of a more intelligent life form (which is a completely different conversation).  Imagine the thought that thousands of years before us humans saw the light from stars that have already burned out – it is an incredible and scary emotion to me.

Is there a way to answer the question of why are we here?  I guess it depends on who you are and what you believe.  For me, I have spent the years since that philosophy class trying to figure out what we are.  Who we are.  We rule this planet and destroy this planet.  We enslave animals and control nature to an extent.  But at what cost?  What for?  Sure, when my reality is long gone they say the sun will burn out.  But how do I truly know that?  All I know is the now.  All I know is what is going on in the now.  All I know is what I can control in front of me.

While that is a very selfish position it is a position I can control.  I don’t know what you see when you look at a blade of grass.  It might be “green” to you – but what is “green?”  Green might look differently to me than you.  A square might not look the same to me as you.  I can describe it as four equal sides but we all know that things don’t always look the same to everyone, case in point is going to an art museum.  What I see as crap you might be influenced by.  Or even music.  I can describe a song differently than you.

So who are we really?  As individuals we stare into the abyss of death every day and brush back the clouds of doubt and fear of nothingness.  No matter what situation we are presented with we seem to overcome it.  Our minds put up barriers and somehow we seem to overcome them.  But why?  What is it that we are supposed to keep going for?

I’ve wondered at times if we aren’t an experiment – some alien race put us on this planet and is watching us from a distance.  Kind of like playing a computer simulation on a larger scale than our tiny brains can comprehend.  So what if we are an experiment?  I’m not the first to ask the question – I’ve heard a 12 year old ask the same question.  Are our memories and thoughts implanted to see how we react?  Who can truly tell me they are not?

We can try as hard as we want but we don’t know what will happen when our bodies die.  Is there something inside them?  Is there a soul?  Is it something more than the “life” that we go through every day?  No one has ever come back from the “dead” to tell us what is out there.

Ask yourselves – is there anything more than the current day?  The now.  Who knows what we are.  There are so many people in the world that have the ability to end the world as we know it – whether it is a dictator in foreign country with a nuclear weapon or the many weapons that can snuff out our lives.  But yet we keep going.

Why?  Is it the money?  Is it the promise of a better life?  Is it a guarantee of something more?  Or is it the human spirit?  A spirit that may or may not exist.  Something that we may just be making up in “our reality.”  A reality that is full of good and evil yet incomplete – because we can’t be sure it truly exists.

With all these questions being posed and no answers being presented I have nothing but a few sentences.  Live every day like it is your last.  For all I know, it’s already over.  It may be done and I’m just looking back on what’s been done.  Then again, I can’t remember a lot of what I’ve done – in many ways that’s a good thing.  Maybe there will be a time when I come to find peace – but then again as a work in progress I’m just another man.

Missing The Ice

It’s been almost a year since the last time I laced up my Bauer skates and scratched some ice. My last experience left a lot to be desired however and I was determined that I was going to get better once 2017 came along. “After all ,” I thought,”this is one of my dreams and I’m doing something I always wanted to do.”

Then I hit one of those potholes in the road that someone forgot to patch up. Kinda like the department of transportation around here. I found myself staring down a bucket of onions and peppers. Tomatoes and avocados were on the other side. I heard pans and pots being moved, the unmistakable sounds of a professional chef chopping cilantro and a printer that seemed to never stop even when I thought there was nothing left.

Yeah, I’d seen Gordon Ramsey and other celebrity chefs on television who advertise their show is what restaurants are really like. But they are not what restaurants are really like. I thought I was good cook – I had no training and I went into the kitchen to learn from two culinary trained chefs (one C.I.A.). I had my pride handed back to me in the first hour. You can’t walk in a kitchen and know anything.

Honestly, some of the best things I learned from the chefs were to stay alert and be humble about your abilities. Be quick. Be prepared. Don’t do two things when you can do one. If you did something to a dish – own it. Don’t let it go out and come back. Don’t ever stop learning.

One of the biggest moments when I was learning was when I was struggling to fit in with one of the line cooks. He was very vocal to everyone. He yelled and made jokes about everything. Being the new guy it was my turn to face the wrath of him. He watched me like a hawk. No matter what chef said – this cook would take me to task whenever I did the slightest thing wrong.

“Move your ass,” he’d scream at me.

“Are you still chopping onions? You’ve had 20 minuets.”

Oh p.s. – nothing prepares you for the already hot kitchen with no breaks and no time to eat or drink until the rush is over. Just FYI.

It took me some time to realize that he was trying to push me and make me angry to do better. He saw that it was a button to push. By the end of my learning experience with the kitchen I considered him a friend and held no reservations for the way he treated me at the beginning even if I didn’t understand it. Keep pushing yourself even if you think you can’t.

Since that experience I wanted to try to get back on the ice and see how my willpower has changed. Life gets in the way. There’s no way to push aside the barricades that get thrown in your way sometimes. Mostly you have to do things you don’t want to. You have to suck up your pride, swallow your fear, look deep inside yourself and believe there’s something there that can push you forward. At least that’s the attitude I had when I started hockey. It’s something that translates to the kitchen too. It’s something we have to be reminded of from time to time. But it sure would be great to get back out there again.

Number 8 Will Always Be Number One To Me

There was a time when the NBA allowed high school basketball players to jump directly to the league without any college experience. There was no talk of “one and done” players joining University ranks before being drafted into the Millionaire Club.

One of the players who paved the way for the NBA of today came straight from Lower Merion High School outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A man who did exactly what I wanted to do, a player I admired for being the talent that everyone said he couldn’t be, a guy who created a legacy around one name: Kobe.

Say what you will about the 18 year old Kobe demanding to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. Maybe at times during his career he played with a swagger that certain fans did not like. His inauguration into professional basketball came at a time when Jordan was ruling the league. No one wanted to see the King dethroned – certainly not by some flashy teenager straight out of high school that could speak Italian fluently and signed with Jordan’s shoe rival Adidas.

But I did. I believed that 18 year old kid was just like me – wanting to live out a dream and I wanted to live out my dream of basketball through him. As much as I don’t like the Lakers I always wanted Kobe to win. When Kobe came out with shoes I got them – I’ll never forget the “spaceman” shoes – I still have them.

Now that the NBA has moved on from Kobe and my dream, the league is different. 20 years of Jellybean Bryant’s son and now he’s gone. Life moves on and as I watch Kobe as a man and not that 18 year old kid – I realize that I’ve grown too. I fight the feeling that I’m getting old, but seeing the years on Kobe’s face I realize we both have aged. It doesn’t matter to me about the championships or the awards or points. What matters is Kobe did the things I wanted to do at a time I wanted to do them. Kobe was me.

A Cubs Fan Finally Gets His Championship Ring – And I’m Fine With It!

The Chicago Cubs are giving Steve Bartman a World Series ring this week for all the hell he's been through since that ill fated night in Wrigley Field 14 years ago. Bartman has led a sheltered and very secluded life after the death threats he received in the wake of the Cubs 2003 National League Championship Series loss. Cubs fans hit the radio waves to express discontent for the man they believed caused the team to never reach their destiny. A man who had to be escorted from the stadium after reaching for a foul ball.

Among many sports fans a debate has raged about whether the Cubs are breaking an unwritten rule of professional athletics by handing out a ring. Questions like Bartman didn't play with the team so why give him a ring? Or does doing this cheapen the accomplishment of the 2016 champs? What if the other clubs decided to just hand out rings to whomever? Should Bartman even accept the gesture in the first place?

For all the questions, the answers aren't as clear as one might think. No one can truly say but Bartman whether he should take the offer from the club. He is the one who has had to separate himself from the team he loved so dearly. Can you imagine your team winning after 107 years and not being able to be at the game to celebrate? Much less having the ability to show your face in public all because people thought you were the reason a team lost?

Teams can do whatever they want with their rings. If New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft can give one of his Super Bowl rings to Russian president Vladimir Putin how can we criticize a team giving one to a fan? A ring from a championship is merely a symbol of a win, something that most players simply lock up and put away in a safe only to come out at special events. A championship win by players builds bonds and families within a locker room that no piece of jewelry or banner can match. How is it any different than any other memorabilia that is sold after the playoffs? In fact, players sell them all the time.

I'm not sure if there is a team that doesn't do what it wants when it comes to victories. In 2016, the Denver Broncos took the Lombardi Trophy to a late fan's funeral. The 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers gave rings to janitors and food vendors. Why is everyone getting so excited about the Cubs? Give Bartman some peace finally, he's been through hell.