Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Vacation, all I ever wanted.

If ever there was a good week to be kind of unplugged from reality, last week was it. As luck would have it, we were on the road. In a rented minivan. Because of a fender bender. My wife got hit driving through a parking lot. Just in time for our road trip. Not a big deal, just a pain in the ass. The vacation began with dropping off a car at a collision center and bringing home the rental. We loaded that bad boy to the roof and headed south. Day one, we drove to Maryland and stayed in a hotel. Day two, we continued driving south to North Carolina. Now we knew we were heading through Goldsboro, NC and pretty close to the legendary BBQ joint named Wilbur's. Wilbur's has the best pulled pork I've ever had. We used to stop in when my brother and sister in law used to live in Raleigh. I haven't been there in 11 years. The GPS said we were going to be about 20 miles away. After sitting in a lot of traffic, it was going to take too long to stop in so we skipped it. Until, we came around a corner and it looked very familiar. and then there it was.

After swerving across a lane of traffic, we parked and went in. We had eaten lunch already so I picked up some pulled pork to go. A pound of damn good pulled pork, 4 buns, 2 dozen hush puppies, and a container of slaw...I got change from $11. From Wilbur's, we had about 2 more hours on the road. We checked into the condo and this was the view we were going to have to deal with for a week.

Rough, right? We were down there with another family and we had a great time. A lot of swimming in the ocean. There was a sand bar on this beach so you could be 40 feet out into the water and it was still only 6 feet deep. The waves would gently pick you up and put you back down. The weather was perfect all week and there was only one day that the waves were a little choppy. And this happened too. In front are my kids, my friend Joe and his kids. That little fin in the back is one of several dolphins that swam by.

We saw sea turtles at a rescue center.

And this happened every day at 4:00. Nothing like some beach side grown up quiet time juice.

Margaritas are just better with sand between your toes. I had never heard of this, but apparently sharks go through a lot of teeth. These teeth fall out and then fossilize in the salt water. Once you know what too look for, you can find a lot of teeth.  Some are still pretty sharp and others have grooves. My friend Joe is a shark tooth hunter savant.


We also popped into an old peanut plantation. It was an interesting tour. The family that owned it was pro-union during the Civil War but had about 50 slaves. Here's an old peanut picker. Kind of looks like a Rube Goldberg contraption.

The plantation had a blacksmith shop too. Check out this huge bellow.


One last look at the beach before heading north.

We spent the night in Newark, Delaware. In the morning, we headed to Citi Field for a Mets game.

I'm not a huge baseball fan, but if I'm picking a team, it's the Mets. And while they might be in a new stadium, not much has changed. It was a close game with the Mets down 1-0 for most of it. They rallied in the bottom of the 8th to tie it up. They bring in their closer while blasting Journey's Don't Stop Believin' - possibly the worst song to pump up the crowd. They cut the song off just before the "Some will win, some will lose, some are born to sing the blues" line. Here we go. First pitch...home run. Then they get the next 3 batters out. The Mets go down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th with the last batter being called out on a check swing. What more could you want from a Mets game?

It was a good time. I'd do it again. How's next week looking?

Monday, July 28, 2014

I'll have what he's having

Last week, I was on the road for work and spent a night in Syracuse. Harry, my road trip partner in crime, asked Alicia at the hotel check in desk, "Where is the best pizza in the area? Not necessary nearby. Anywhere in greater Syracuse. Where's the best?" She directed us to Nick's Tomato Pies and off we went.

Unfortunately, Nick's Tomato Pies must be running some kind of summer hours because they were closed when we got there. Nick's is in the Armory Square section of Syracuse and there are quite a few dining options. I had heard someone else at the hotel talk about Pastabilities and after looking around a little bit, we decided to give it a shot. While sitting at the bar waiting for a table, Harry noticed a sign that said "Guy Ate Here." So after we were seated we talked about it with our waitress. Turns out, there was and episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives filmed here. Which is a little confusing because having looked around the place, it clearly isn't any of those things.

After looking the menu over, we decided to try what Guy had. First up, their Spicy Hot Tomato Oil. As soon as you order, you are brought a basket of house made bread and a plate that is thinly covered with tomato sauce. If you want bread and a big bowl of tomato sauce, that's $5. You can also buy this sauce in jars at the restaurant, online and I think they said Wegman's too. Guy gave the sauce and bread combination the Triple D rating, "That's Craaazzzy." The bread was good, warmed up would have been better but it was good. And the sauce is tasty too. Got a little sweet, a lot of fresh tomato flavor, a good amount of oil and a slow after burn of heat that isn't overwhelming, just nice. It's a good sauce but I think you could make something similar at home. When eating it, I thought they had used a chili oil, but after watching the video they used a chili paste. It kind of looks like the Secret Dipping Sauce (SDS) that was going around on Serious Eats awhile back. 

Next up was the Duck Bacon Pizza. Here's the description:

Pasta's Duck Bacon Flatbread Pizza $15
house-cured smoked duck bacon, Humboldt Fog aged goat cheese, mozzarella, tart cherries, shallots,
pomegranate drizzle, cracked black pepper, on our bakery fresh pizza dough

Alas, no pictures. I tried to take one of this pizza and the flash went off like lightening in the middle of the restaurant. Then I tried to take some without the flash and it was too dark. But here's the photo-less pizza story. After we had each had a slice, our waitress stopped by to ask how we liked the pizza. We said it was good and I think she was a little offended. We were clearly supposed to have had our minds blown. To give credit where credit is due, the flavor combination of the toppings is absolutely inspired. The duck bacon (house cured and smoked duck breast) is something I will try to recreate in my kitchen someday. Who am I kidding, I'm going to try and copy the whole pizza some day. But when I copy it, I will only copy the toppings because that crust doesn't deserve to be in the same restaurant those those toppings. And if you watch the video you'll see why. At about 1:50 in the clip, they start to top a pre-made flat bread that goes into the oven for 12 minutes and then under a salamander to crisp up the top. Guy said, "The crust on this flat bread is righteous." While his looked better than ours, the crust was tough to chew and the bottom tasted like uncooked flour. I think their pizza dough is their bread from the first course pressed into an oval. It is better as bread. Guy goes on to say (of the toppings), "Funkalicious," "One of the best duck dishes I've ever had," and "You jackpot-ted on that one, girl." He's pretty much right. The duck pieces are fantastic and the flavors on top of that tough, hard to chew not-pizza bread are pretty spectacular. Sorry about that last dig on the crust.

Moving on to the main dish: Wicked Chicken Riggies. I'm not sure why Syracuse sometimes seems to try and steal from Utica. Sure, my affection for Utica is unhealthy, but this almost seems like sibling rivalry. In the video, it is described as "an Upstate New York dish" but if Wikipedia can be trusted, the first line of the Chicken Riggies entry reads: "Chicken riggies or Utica riggies is an Italian-American pasta dish native to the Utica-Rome area of New York State. It is a pasta-based dish usually consisting of chicken, rigatoni and hot or sweet peppers in a spicy cream and tomato sauce, although many variations exist."

Anyhow, when Pastabilites says "Wicked," they aren't kidding. While those who are into spicy foods will enjoy this level of heat, I think it is more than the average person wants in an entree. It seemed a little to much for Harry, and he isn't a spice wimp. This version also had more cream than most versions I have had and all the spice was in the sauce - no chunks of pepper. While watching the sauce get prepared, Guy said it looked like "spicy tomato al Fredo" and that's a pretty good description of the sauce. After tasting it, Guy made a few guttural noises and then the cook said "Winner! Winner! Wicked Chicken Dinner!" and robbed of us of whatever bizarre combination of words Guy was about to share with us.

So we had what Guy had. Some of what he said was right on, other things he said were just hype. If I ever returned to Pastabilities, I might give the pizza another chance but I'd go with a different entree. There are better Riggies out there. I'd start looking about 60 miles due east.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Running out of time

When the Hoffman's first announced that they were going to retire and were looking for someone to buy their amusement park, I thought for sure some local, incredibly wealthy benefactor with millions to spare would buy them out and continue to run the park as a long term land investment. This benefactor has millions to spare. As long as the park could support itself and break even, why not?


It didn't happen. And while that didn't happen the lot next door began to get developed. Not sure who planned that, but I have no idea why it is so close to Route 9. Seriously, you should have pushed it back a bit. Looks like there will be a Bellini's (never been), Jimmy John's (never been or heard of), Burger 21 (also never been or heard of), and a Dunkin Donuts which in my mind is incredibly silly since you are already in a car and have either just foolishly driven past Bella Napoli or have about a quarter mile more to drive to enjoy a Bella Napoli doughnut.



During this same period of time when no benevolent multimillionaires stepped up to the plate (this is Albany after all, we know you're out there), I came up with a pipe dream that was just outside the realm of possiblity. I would win MegaMillions and take matters into my own hands. When Liz Bishop arrived to interview me and asked, "What are you going to do with the  money?!?!" I would calmly answer:

"I'm going to buy Hoffman's Playland."

I wouldn't renew Subway's lease and I'd replace it with a small wood fired pizza place. You probably could have guessed that. But for the most part, I think I would try to freeze it in time.


We've got a lot more Hoffman's pictures but they reside on a different computer that currently isn't hooked up. My absolute favorite picture is of a friend's kid while she was making an angry face on kiddy boat ride. It is priceless and I look forward to showing it to her future husband in the receiving line at the wedding. Alas, time is running out on Hoffman's Playland. I don't have that many more chances to win the lottery and buy the place.

But there's still some hope. I have tickets for tonight and tomorrow's drawings. And should you win Powerball this month, consider buying Hoffman's. I'll help you run the pizza joint.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

IRS Scam

Earlier in the week, I came home to an almost completely unintelligible voice mail. Originally, all I could get out of it was a menacing "Internal Revenue Service, the IRS" and after a few more listens there's a veiled threat to arrest me.

Let's see if I can upload a video. Take a listen yourself:


Here's my best shot at a transcript

This message is intended for Jonathan $%^$.
Hi, Jonathan, my name is Rian Cruz. I'm calling you from Internal Revenue Service, The I!R!S! -garble- purpose of my call is to certify that we have receive a legal petition-autics against your name under your Social Security Number regarding a tax fraud. So before this matter goes to federal claims court house and you get arrested, kindly call us back on our number 202-719-0249. I repeat the number, 202-719-0249. Good bye.

At first, you hear anything involving the IRS and you get a little wave of panic. But this message was just so over-the-top ridiculous. So I looked up IRS scam. Seems to be a lot of this going on these days. I also learned that the IRS's first contact with you will be in the mail. They may be intimidating, but they don't use "call us back immediately or you will be arrested" as an opening move. That's a little comforting.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Spotted Zebra

I going to bury the lead here and start with some history. After my wife's maternity leave was up, the kids went to a daycare center. As my oldest left the pre-k and headed off to kindergarten, we weren't as happy with the center as we were two years earlier. We found The Spotted Zebra and really liked the space and the staff seemed great. It's an integrated program meaning special needs kids and kids without special needs were in the same classroom. And I'm going to be honest, I had some concerns that this was a bad idea. Would my daughter be on track for kindergarten when she left? I was assured by her lead teacher that she would be ready to go in the fall, and she was clearly ready for school when she left. But it's not just that The Spotted Zebra got her ready for school, they were fantastic.

Let me give you an example. My daughter went through an "I hate sunscreen" phase. She's a fair skinned redhead. She needs sunscreen. Since everybody brings in sunscreen for their kids, the teachers basically had some of every brand/type of sunscreen on the market. They set up kind of a sunscreen "tasting"for her and determined the brand of sunscreen that was the least offensive to her. That's the level of care The Spotted Zebra staff has for the kids they have been entrusted to teach. My daughter's time there was great and if you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, there's a 90% chance she'll tell you she wants to be a special needs teacher. Probably not the most common answer you get from an 8 year old.

Onto the actual story: The Spotted Zebra just got bigger, moved to a new location and invited everyone with a connection to the school to the Grand Opening yesterday. It was a very nice opening complete with touching speeches and a very cute ribbon ribbon cutting which involved lots of kids and safety scissors.

The new space is huge compared to the old space. Plus, they've added a Bizzy Beez center which looks like it will be very well used. They've got a balance skills surfboard, new tactile centers, a wall with lit targets to hit with balls, a very cool exercise bike...

They also have a something that I could only describe as a calming room. If a kid is all worked up and needs to be away from it all for a few minutes, there's padded seats and lots of calming lights that are just relaxing. Here's me and Casey lying down on a a mat looking up at the lights and our reflection.

To me, the biggest "tell" if something isn't quite right in a child care center is staff turnover. At the center we left, the director had changed a few times in a few years and staff seemed to be leaving and getting replaced fairly frequently. My daughter left The Spotted Zebra 3 years ago to go to kindergarten and I was surprised how many faces I remembered.

So if you have a kid that needs a little extra attention or you are interested in an integrated program, you might want to check The Spotted Zebra out. Their new location is on Computer Drive East off of Wolf Road. The old school was a special place. The new school will be too.

Here's a link to their website.

And a confession: About 5 minutes after the doors opened, I dropped a cracker covered with artichoke dip on the floor. I cleaned it up pretty well, but I think I may have been the first person to spill something in the new school.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Trenton Tomato Pie Tour

This Sunday, I put my lack of parenting skills on display by bringing two kids under the age of 10 on a one-day, 7+ hour car trip, for the sole purpose of gorging on pizza. At least with our earlier New Haven tour, the eating and driving were more spaced out making the experience seem less like child abuse. The kids were game for the trip and excited to go. I’m not sure if that is an argument for nature or nurture. Maybe both. I had heard of the Trenton Tomato Pie but never had one before heading to New Jersey this weekend. There’s a thread on the style over at One of these days I’ll get around to reading it. It will probably be a much more interesting read now that I have tasted the subject matter. Let's begin.

Albany Jane picked us up around 8 in the morning and off we went. A little before noon we got to Daniel’s place in Princeton and hopped into his van. This daring group of pizza samplers included 3 "adults" - Daniel, Albany Jane and me, and 3 kids my daughters Allison and Casey along with Young Master Fussy. It was a short ride and by 12:15 we were at our first stop, Gennaro’s

After we ordered, I went to go take a look at the kitchen and told someone behind the counter we had just driven down to try Tomato Pies and he clearly thought I was nuts. But this little kitchen visit revealed a few secrets. A door with an Employees Only sign was open and I could see into a storeroom. I saw the brand(s) of tomatoes they use and the type of flour. I’m not sure they liked that, because after we sat back down out our table (which was in a nice outdoor patio), a few blinds were abruptly lowered. I’m probably being paranoid, because you couldn’t really see the kitchen through the windows anyway. But trade secrets are trade secrets and pizza shops have them.

Here’s what we were served at Gennaro’s

The pizza had a crisp crust and the tomato was delicious. I’m glad I know what tomatoes they use, but I don’t think knowing that is enough to make what they put on this pizza. Allison and Casey also liked this pizza.

Conveniently located next door was a Halo ice cream bar. Daniel has mentioned Halo a few times on Twitter and Facebook and I was glad to be able to check it out. I should note that at this early and highly optimistic point in the day, we had delusions of buying several $2 pints of ice cream to share later in the day. Looking back at this moment with 20/20 hindsight makes that notion seem completely laughable. Allison went with a half scoop of cookie dough topped with a half scoop of cookies and cream. Casey selected a half scoop of M&M and a half scoop of mint chocolate chip. I went with a half scoop of Tahitian vanilla. With tax, title and licensing fees that ice cream order came in at the low, low price $5.50. Compared to a recent stop at Guptils after a softball game, that’s practically free and the ice cream was significantly better. Living near one of these places is would be fattening and is probably frowned upon by most doctors.

Finished with the first stop on our pizza tour and refreshed on this warm Sunday afternoon with ice cream, we headed off to Papa’s. I didn’t remember the name, but once I saw that they had a mustard pizza I remembered seeing this shop on the Cooking Channel show Pizza Cuz. A few photos of the television appearance on the wall confirmed my memory. 

We ordered two pizzas – a tomato pie with half sausage and one of the mustard pies with half anchovy. There is a note on the menu saying the sausage goes on the pizza raw so the pizzas with sausage might look a little well done. Here’s what came to the table. The mustard pie

 And the tomato pie with half sausage

Once again, the tomato pie was good. I really liked the crust but thought the tomatoes on the Gennaro pie were better. The sausage was also very good. A coarse grind of pork and pork fat mixed with salt, pepper, and fennel. As sweet sausage should be. I’m glad I tried the mustard pie, but I doubt I would do it again. At the very least, I wouldn’t order it again plain. I don’t know if anchovies are your thing, but it was a completely different pizza with the salt/flavor bomb that is an anchovy. Maybe the mustard flavor would go well with the sausage. Casey wanted no part of the mustard pizza and Allison took a bite of it before giving me the rest of her slice. Casey was just so-so on her slice of tomato pie and Allison enjoyed the sausage/tomato pie.

We were still feeling pretty good after two stops. Next up was Corleone’s.  

Here, we ordered a cheese pizza, a tomato pie and a deep fried calzone. My only experience with a deep fried calzone was at Pizza Town, USA. There, they only deep fry the small calzone. That calzone will fit in your cupped hands. This calzone, also a small, was more football sized.


I only ate a small piece of it. The dough had a nice flavor but I thought the filling was over the top. There had to be a pound of ricotta in there. Here's the Corleone's cheese pizza



And the tomato pie

The crust was just so-so here. It looked like the center of the pizza had been stretched too thin. I thought the tomato pie was much better than the cheese pizza but neither was better than the earlier two stops.

Maybe it was the two pizzas or maybe it was the deep fried calzone but as we were leaving Corleone’s I could have happily gone to sleep for the rest of the afternoon. The plan was to visit two more pizza shops. There’s no way that was going to happen without a break. Daniel knew of an ice place not too far from the next stop across the bridge in Pennsylvania. Off we went to the Yardley Ice House.

The "water ice" (not sure how it got the name) was refreshing - I went with strawberry lemonade, Casey chose cookies & cream, Allison picked mint chocolate chip – and we took a little walk around the town. I’m not sure if it was Allison or Casey, but one of them spotted a little park so we headed in that direction. The three kids climbed around and when we got back to the van, eating more pizza was was suddenly feasible. We headed off to La Villa.

Earlier in the day I had joked that we were going to go to a Pizza Hut. I’m not sure if she has ever been, but Casey hates Pizza Hut. I let her know that I was just kidding and all was well. But it turns out that La Villa is in a building that clearly was once a Pizza Hut. The only outside shot has a woman I've never met with a weird expression on her face. I'll spare her the online picture. Think Pizza Hut building in the middle of a parking lot. We ordered a large tomato pie.

This was the only pie of the day that was square. The first thing you taste when you bite into the pizza is garlic. Not that garlic is bad, but a tomato pie is meant to showcase the tomato and there was a lot of garlic. I didn’t really care for the crust here. I thought it was a little tough. It was the kind of pizza that you had to bite into and then tear the crust with a little bit of pull. To me, the chew on the crust and garlic knocked this down to the bottom of the list of tomato pies although I would probably come back here before returning to Corleone’s. Allison gave it an “eh” but Casey really liked it. I think she ate two slices.
We didn’t make it to De Lorenzo’s, a well known Trenton Tomato Pie institution. Personally, I blame them for not making the list. If they had opened before 4 on Sundays it would have been much easier to get there and see what they had. From what we ate, I think the best pizza would be a Franken-pizza combining the crust from Papa’s and tomatoes from Gennaro’s. But that is probably outside the realm of possibility. One can dream. Here’s the day’s breakdown:

Time Spent on a Pizza Quest: 6 hours of pizza touring
Number of Pizzas Ordered: 6 pies
Side Dishes: ice cream, water ice, fried calzone

Favorite Pies of the Day
Casey - Villa Rosa
Allison - Gennaro’s
Jon in Albany - Gennaro’s
Albany Jane - Tie between Gennaro’s and Papa’s w/anchovy
Daniel - Papa’s Sausage
Young Master Fussy - Doesn’t like pizza and would prefer to go eat soup dumplings

Acknowledgements: I’d like to thank Albany Jane and the Profussor (Daniel) for inviting us on this tour. We he had a lot of fun. The girls very excitedly recalled the trip to their mother tonight at dinner. I’d also like to thank the creators of the Nintendo DS and Mario Versus for making long car trips like this possible.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Market Bistro's Cooking School

I was invited to attend a cooking class at the new cooking school inside the the revamped Market Bistro Price Chopper in Latham. The cooking school is right behind the full service restaurant near the front of the new food court area. I had my doubts about how successful this full service restaurant would be when I toured the new Bistro section of store when it opened. There were several tables of diners and while I didn't eat any of the restaurant's offerings the plates of food being served looked pretty damn good.

On to the cooking school... I was invited to a 90 minute class titled Two Guys and a Grill with a focus on Certified Angus Beef. The school kitchen is pretty sweet. There are three islands that hold up to 5 students each for the hands on classes. There are also long tables for more of a lecture style class.Here's a picture I took from the second row. You can see the three islands and a pretty slick kitchen setup.

There's a camera on the back wall that projects onto the two screens for close ups of the lessons.

The beef was cooked by Chef Michael Ollier (from the Certified Angus Beef organization) and the side dishes were prepared the the cooking school's Chef John Winneck. First up was a top round London broil. This was marinated in a Central Market Marinade named Neil's Favorite Marinade, apparently Neil Golub likes it. These steaks got an overnight soak in the marinade, a sear on the stove-top grill, and then a bake in a 225 degree(F) convection oven.

Then a sweet corn souffle was prepared. During this preparation, each chef offered their opinion as to why eggs should be separated cold - Chef Winneck says the albumen doesn't stick to the yolks as much and Chef Ollier says the yolks are firmer and less fragile. News to me, and that's the kind of thing I like about cooking classes. Just some spontaneous, off-topic pro tip.

The souffle was had an interesting texture. The bottom turned into a corn spoon bread and the top was a soft egg. The beef was thinly sliced and still had a nice chew to it. I thought the marinade had a nice flavor but was a little sweet for my tastes. I gave the marinade bottle a quick look and MSG and high fructose corn syrup were on the ingredient list. Neil and I differ in opinion here. I don't think the marinade needs either but that's a matter of personal taste.

The next up was a petite sirloin seasoned with Central Market's Quebec seasoning, some bacon caramelized Brussels sprouts, and a twice baked potato gratin. The Quebec seasoning looked to be a Central Market riff on Montreal seasoning. Here's the petite sirloin and potato gratin.

Both were good. I'm a food snob, so I'll nitpick a little - I forgot to look at the ingredient list on the Quebec seasoning. It had mostly a coarse cracked pepper flavor and none of the garlic, onion or mild heat that I associate with Montreal seasoning. But in fairness, it wasn't advertised as Montreal seasoning. I really liked the flavors of the potatoes, but if I were to make the recipe at home, I think I would make mashed potatoes and then just stir in everything else. Again, a personal preference...and a completely different recipe.

Then some trimmed up New York strip steaks were grilled. It looked like all they got was some salt and pepper, which I would argue is all a good strip steak needs. You could probably even skip the pepper. The steaks were grilled and served with the caramelized Brussels sprouts and a chimichurri sauce.

I liked everything on this plate. I was also impresses with the amount of char Chef Ollier was able to get on the steaks while maximizing the amount of medium rare in the steak with what looked like and over sized grill pan. Again, some more personal preference, I'd probably skip the chimichurri sauce with a strip steak. A good, properly grilled strip steak doesn't need dressing up.

Everyone in the class was given a folder with all of the recipes and a shoppping list for the menu. Some of the items on the shopping list don't exactly match the recipe (I'm nitpicking again), like apple wood smoked bacon on the grocery list and Hatfield bacon in the recipe, but I'm being a jerk here. Although on the comment form, I mentioned that there was a lot of product placement in the recipes. Several Price Chopper brands were called out, the Hatfield bacon, some Cabot cheese, Eggland's Best.This class listed for $40. Most of the other evening cooking classes run longer and seem look to cost $55. I'm sure prices will vary by course.

My favorite part of my time in the cooking school was the discussion about what qualifies to be Certified Angus Beef. It starts with genetics, the steer needs to be Angus. Then it comes down to marbling which is determined after the animal is slaughtered. One in four Angus has the proper marbling to be Certified Angus Beef. I had to ask, if you are packing large cuts to be broken down in the store, how do you know what the marbling is going to be like?  A cut is made between the 12th and 13th rib, which is the cut made to quarter the side of beef, and the view of the prime rib is used to make the marbling decision. They've even done studies to make sure that view is an accurate insight to the rest of the cuts on that side of beef. Who knew?

Certified Angus Beef was my go to beef before I got mixed up in raising our own so I used to eat it all the time. This was probably the most beef I have eaten that wasn't ours in over two years. The beef was good...I like ours better. But I'm biased.

Back to the cooking school, they are planning to do quite a bit of teaching there. The schedule is available here. They do private events - got 10 people that want a class in something, that can be arranged. They also do some kid classes and it sounds like they had their hands full with a Frozen themed class.  The kids classes are going to broken up by ages, 5-to-8 and 9-and-up. The staff was very friendly and Cooking School Chef John Winnek is a capable teacher. Not everyone that can cook can teach. He can.

Full Disclosure: Besides being plied with beef, I was given a Certified Angus Beef gift bag. I don't know if that's a standard practice at all the classes. I know some local programs either send you home with food or have an in-store discount after the class. Anyhow, the gift bag contained an instant read thermometer, a spice rub, little pad & pen, a chip clip, a little meat guide that you can probably pick up at the meat counter and a coupon. I'm keeping the stuff this time because I'd like to try the spice rub and my mother-in-law needs an instant thermometer. So, it's hers. The kids will do something with the rest.