Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stay Thirsty My Friends

Summer is my jam. I love everything about it.  The sun, the hot temperatures, the need for liquid refreshments; you get the picture. I’m a beer and martini guy, but every now and then I feel the need for something fruity and refreshing.  I was looking through my fridge for some interesting and tasty items to put together, and after some experimentation, came up with a very enjoyable and tasty  drink.  I call it, “A Kick In The Pants.” 

1 ½ ounces of your favorite vodka.  Mine is Grey Goose.
3 ounces of Raspberry lemonade.  Pink if you can’t find raspberry.
1 ounce of orange juice.  No pulp PLEASE!
1ounce of cranberry juice
1 squirt of MIO pomegranate juice

Shake with ice and strain into an ice filled glass.  Garnish with some fresh raspberries and enjoy!

Monday, June 25, 2012

How Many People Does It Take To Plant A Tulip?

You may have surmised from some of my past musings that I really don’t have much of a green thumb.  The upside down tomato plant debacle, my hatred for mowing and my rather pathetic standard of what makes an acceptable lawn.   If it grows and it’s green, it’s okay.  For years I was the scourge of the neighborhood.  As my neighbors would toil on their lawn trimming, mowing, and fertilizing, I would happily repair to my patio, sip a beer and toast the other jerks as they wasted a perfectly good Saturday afternoon. 

I once got ambitious and decided to spruce up my backyard by planting some tulips.  I went to Home Depot and bought a large box of assorted bulbs.  The picture promised a garden worthy of a gold medal; healthy plants, bursting with color and beauty.  It went into the garage and sat for a year.  When cleaning out the garage I stumbled upon this winsome box.  I decided that they weren’t going to plant themselves, so I ruefully walked out to the yard, spade in hand and began to dig.  I carefully arranged the bulbs, covered them up with dirt, and cracked open a beer to celebrate my new garden.  Fall comes and goes, winter arrives and finally ends, hinting away at spring.  I anxiously look to my new tulip garden with excitement.  I wait, and wait, and wait.  No tulips.  Okay, maybe these are late bloomers.  Summer arrives and still nothing.  This is not good.  I complain to my wife and she suggests that we dig and check out what went wrong.  We dig up the tulips and much to my chagrin I find out that each carefully arranged bulb was planted upside down.  Apparently tulips and tomatoes prefer to be planted as nature intended it to be.  Correctly. 

Well now, that was a kick in teeth.  I decided last year that what I really needed to improve my lawn was a new lawn mower.  Everyone in my neighborhood had a riding mower except for me.  Their lawns rivaled golf courses they were so nice.  Maybe that’s the secret.  I begin my detailed investigation into the best mower out there for my money.  I settled on a John Deere because it had the best cup holders.  I put aside money each pay period and finally the day arrives.  We go down to Home Depot and purchase my new Deere.  Two weeks later I notice that the Depot is having a special, if you purchase a new Deere you get a free cart.  My wife went back to complain.  She ended up having to return the mower and then repurchase it.  The cart sits on the side of shed waiting for me to haul something.  I also purchased a dethatcher to pull up all of the dead grass that has sat undisturbed on my lawn choking the life force out of any blade of grass foolish enough to attempt to put roots down on my lawn.

I dethatched the lawn and was quite surprised at the volume of stuff being pulled up.  I mean piles of brown grass, a few lost dog toys, an old shoe.  I was astounded.  I then fire up Buttermilk, yes I named my new mower, and off I went.  I’m driving this thing around like I am in the Indy 500.  This is a sweet ride.  I complete the lawn in record time.  I had so much fun with mower that I mowed the lawn the next day.  My wife is looking at me as if I lost my mind.  My neighbors are all abuzz wondering who just moved into the Scott house and is actually taking care of the lawn.  I just motor on; a Romeo and Juliet cigar clamped between my teeth and a Harpoon UFO comfortably nestled in the cup holder.

After a few weeks and many mows later, my lawn is starting to look pretty good.  A few more and it’s looking better than my neighbors.  Green, lush healthy.  I would even go so far to say verdant.  Trust me, I don’t use the term verdant loosely.  Pretty much because I just found out what it means.  Anyway, I’m pretty happy with my lawn now.  I still have my share of weeds and stuff but overall it’s looking good.  Now, I’m on my way to Home Depot to find some bulbs.  Light bulbs, not tulips.  They only go in one way.  

Read my other trials and tribulations 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Aladdin Halal Restaurant and Pizzeria

I was cruising through Yelp the other day, and much to my surprise, I discovered a Middle Eastern restaurant two minutes away from my house!  How did that happen? Am I that unaware of new food offerings literally in my backyard?  Apparently, I’ve been sleeping.  I love food from the Middle East so a field trip was in order.  My wife was out of town, it was too hot to cook, so off I went.  Aladdin Halal Restaurant and Pizzeria, was my destination.  It is located in a strip mall that previously housed a pizza joint, whose former occupant was a pizza joint, whose preceding owner was a pizza joint.  And on, and on.  So a couple of Syrians rent a space with a pizza oven in Berlin Connecticut and decide to cook Middle Eastern.  Go figure. 

We all know who Aladdin is and pizza, well I won’t even dignify that, but halal?  Halal is the Arabic version of kosher. Like kosher, it specifies how the animals are to be slaughtered and what can and cannot be eaten.   Yes, there are differences such as it is halal to eat shellfish, but not kosher.  Both halal and kosher forbid the eating of pork.  Camel meat is halal, but not kosher.  Cheeseburgers are halal, sadly they are not kosher.  Check this website for a cool take on halal vs. kosher.

Anyway I decide to try two of my favorite foods; Falafel and shawarma.  Falafel is a chickpea fritter served in pita bread.  Shawarmas are meats that are cooked on a vertical spit and grilled; also served in pita bread.  I had my first falafel in college many years ago and my first shawarma in, of all places, Johannesburg, South Africa, again, many years ago.  I’ve loved chickpeas ever since I was a kid.  I love my mom dearly, but one of the few things that she cooked without ruining was a can of Progresso Minestrone soup.  I would always save the chickpeas for last.  When I tasted my first falafel, oh man, I was in heaven.  I seek it out, any chance I get. 

I walk and a few Arabic ladies with traditional head coverings are waiting for their order.  That’s a good sign when people native to the culture are eating there.  We actually have a mosque in Berlin so there is a sizable Muslim population in the area.  I order both a falafel and a chicken shawarma and have a seat.  The place was freaking hot,  on the hottest day of the year.  I had a few other places to go, so I didn’t feel like schlepping home.  Note to self, get it to go next time.

After about ten minutes and the loss of few pounds, the food arrives.  That is two huge, overstuffed pitas.  Oops.  I can immediately tell I ordered way too much. Oh well, let’s man up and dig in!  I go for the falafel first.  The pita was very fresh.  The falafel was crunchy on the outside, soft and grainy on the inside. They were nicely spiced with a slight heat at the end. The cool, crisp lettuce, combined with the citrusy tomato and the sour snap of the pickles was a nice contrast to the  falafel.  The tahina was a little too thin for my taste though.  I like a thicker tahina with a more sesame punch. 

I crush the falafel and tear into the shawarma.  This is gigantic.  It is stuffed with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and red onions.  The chicken is tender and flavorful.  The grilling adds a nice char to the chicken.  They really put a lot of chicken in the pita. I was very surprised at the amount. The sauce is very flavorful, but I can’t get a handle on it.  I ask the server what it is.  He explains that it is Arabic mayonnaise (which he says is different from American) combined with tahina.  Okay then.  I’m groaning at this point but I manage to finish the shawarma.  It was awesome.    

There is a ton of stuff on the menu such as pizzas, grinders, pastas and soups.  I go to Pepe’s and Da Vinci’s for pizza.  As for pasta; I eat it at home. Their Middle Eastern food is the real deal and I can’t wait to go back.