Sunday, March 30, 2014

Steers - 2014

A little warning, there are a few pictures in this post you might not want to see. It will be significantly less graphic than the slaughter and packing posts were last year, but this is once again about the slaughtering and butchering of two steer. There are a few some pictures of meat that isn't in steak form. If that isn't something you want to see or read about, press "back" on your browser. I'll try to put a jump in, but I'm not the most technically proficient blogger out there so hopefully this jump works and you don't see anything you don't want to see.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Summer in February - Mid March Edition

Usually around Valentine's Day or school's winter break, we get together at my in-laws for Summer in February (also known as Rib and Pierogi Day). The day is essentially a summer barbecue to help break up the middle of winter. Due to a number of scheduling conflicts and a seriously cold winter, the annual celebration was pushed back to this past Sunday.

Sadly, I haven't fired up this barbecue pit since last February. Which is too bad because it is fun cooking food over coals. Have I mentioned propane sucks lately? This is just a square of old concrete blocks that have slowly started to crumble but can hold it together enough to support and old commercial oven grate. I rearranged some of the blocks Sunday morning and I was one course off. So I took a few similarly sized logs and put them around the top. A piece of stainless steel sheet metal goes on top of the logs as a lid. The burn barrel in back is used to burn wood down to coals.

I had three racks of ribs in there and about three pounds of sausage at the end. The came out pretty well. I should have trusted my instincts instead of the clock and pulled the ribs a little sooner. I think I have mentioned this before, the coals go on the ground in a pit like this. Not a problem in the summer, but in the winter the ground thaws and puts out the coals (ask me how I know). Buried under the coals is an old cast iron grate to keep the coals off the ground.

Here's Aunt Carol hard at work getting the pierogi cooked.

She brings her own frying station and sets up in the garage. It is actually a pretty slick setup. She's got two electric fryers and an electric warming tray. I believe it only tripped the circuit twice.

After a handful of appetizers - taco dip, a warm spinach/artichoke dip, shrimp cocktail and some killer stuffed mushrooms (these were my downfall - I ate a lot of those), dinner was ready.

There were ribs and pierogi, sausage, salad, deviled eggs and potato salad (my mother-in-law makes a superior tater salad).

For dessert, there was an apple square and a few flavors of ice cream. If you went home hungry, it was your own damn fault. It's been two days, I don't think I've fully recovered yet.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Well, Winner Winner Chicken-less Dinner.

A few weeks ago, I left a comment on the Albany Eats blog as an entry to win a three course dinner for two including wine at Creo in Stuyvesant Plaza. Looking at our calendar, it pretty much had to be this weekend. I contacted the restaurant, set up a time, and spoke with the manager about any allergies or disliked foods. With one daughter at a sleepover party and another at our house with a sitter, we set off for a 6:00 reservation.

We were warmly greeted, our coats were checked and we were led to a table set for two with glasses of ice water already poured for us. After a brief wine discussion and a visit from Chef David Gibson, we opted for glasses of the chef’s selection for each course instead of a bottle. The first round was a light, California Pinot Noir. I was only taking mental notes so I don’t recall which wine it was exactly, which is too bad because I think my sister-in-law would have liked it. Bread and butter were brought to the table while we waited for appetizers.

I commented on the fancy balls of butter and my wife said, “They’re probably ice cold.” She was pleasantly surprised to find that the butter was room temperature. It was a nice touch. The appetizers arrived and we were presented with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Kung Pao Calamari. I’ve got to tell you, the Brussels sprouts were really quite tasty and neither one of us are huge Brussels sprout fans. The best bites were of the very roasted leaves that flaked off the sprout. Fried calamari is one of a few dishes that have a “The Best I Ever Had” memory. My fried calamari gold standard was at a Todd English restaurant in Boston that has unfortunately closed.  Being one of those select few dishes, mental comparisons are going to be made. This Kung Pao calamari was very enjoyable and kind of similar style the Todd English calamari, but the champ is still the champ. Since I’m nitpicking, this dish is probably better in the summer when the diced tomato in the dish isn’t a February tomato. And, unable to resist the jab: a former local restaurant reviewer’s husband would probably really like them.
 (there was a phone malfunction and we dug in before I got a picture)

After the appetizers were cleared, any crumbs on the table were brushed off and we were brought two palette cleansing sorbets. One was peach and the other was honey/mango. Both were silky smooth and delicious. So smooth and crystal free that I wondered if there was a little cream in there. Either way, a small scoop of dessert before dinner is always nice.

The next round of wine was delivered. This one was a Renieri Invetro Toscano Super Tuscan. I had never heard of a Super Tuscan making it much easier to remember. Plus, since I have a 12 year olds sense of humor, I had mental images of a Mighty Mouse styled Italian wine super hero. (Here comes Super Tuscan to save the day.) This was a much more full bodied wine. Even to the point where this wine felt heavier in the glass. Our chef selected entrees were brought to the table next. We were given one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, seared Ahi tuna with soy mustard vinaigrette. The tuna was served on a bed of crispy, fried shoestring potatoes. The fish was a nice medium rare and the sauce was delicious. We at the fish first since the Super Tuscan paired with the other entrée which was pork Osso Bucco. The Osso Bucco wasn’t on the menu Saturday night and the incredibly tender meat was served with a mushroom risotto and sautéed rappini. I really enjoyed this dish and since my wife wanted to try the desserts, I got a little extra of the braised pork.

Last but not least were the desserts. A vanilla crème brulee and a rum raisin bread pudding. Both were very good and before we left, both were very gone. 

This was the first time we had been to Creo and we really liked it. Since we didn’t really get to look at the menu, guessing from the online menu the meal we had would have cost about $120 before tax and tip. Certainly not cheap eats, but between the two of us, we could have easily skipped one of the entrees and had enough to eat. I believe there might be future opportunities to win a similar dining experience, so keep your eyes out on the local blogs for another chance to win dinner for two. If you aren’t lucky enough to win dinner, Creo participated in the City Dining Cards. When Daniel at the FussyLittleBlog was giving away cards a little while back, a 10% $10 off of a $30 purchase card from Creo was one of the cards I received in the mail. I’m looking forward to using it.