My Fat Weekend (and assorted tales)

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In my defense, I went to the gym Friday after work, successfully bookend-ing the week with visits to the meathead factory. That may have been the last healthy life choice in the decadence that was Saturday and Sunday. The weekend included a visit to my aunt’s, Walmart, Taco Bell and the un-mapped region known as Aurora.

The culinary highlights were numerous. After driving to pickup our ceramic creations at Terra Incognito, Leann and I wandered the street (yes, singular) of Forest Park. Not in the mood to day drink or buy antiques, we ventured to Taco Bell. After uttering “I don’t know the last time i’ve been to Taco Bell,” I educated Leann on the many wonders of their menu. The lesson concluded with the dictum “You can’t go wrong.”

What did I have you ask? Those that know me, know my order when ringing the bell. But this particular Saturday I deviated from my standard order to try the quesarito. I had read numerous descriptions but had to see how they repackaged their core ingredients into a new package. The only real difference from any other items on the menu is the black foil wrapper. The contents are beef, beans, rice, nacho cheese sauce, sour cream and a spicy sauce. It’s essentially a grilled beefy five-layer burrito.

We rolled to Aurora to sample Leann’s first attempt at making tiramisu. I had my reservations, not for her ability to bake, which has yet to be matched, but for the effect of the espresso granules and coffee-soaked lady fingers on my fickle body clock. I don’t drink coffee. Bold statement. I know. But I just pass out occasionally at my desk and blame our nation’s reliance on carbs. So when I was spooned a small portion at 7PM, I hoped the morsel wouldn’t impact me the same way that the coffee-laced desserts in Roma had. Fast forward a few hours when I kept waking up every 45 minutes and we can give this victory to caffeine.

Today started with making my favorite breakfast: french toast. We added a splash of Kahlua to the batter for a little extra coffee zip. I snagged a recipe from All Recipes.

  • 6 thick slices bread

  • 2 eggs

  • 2/3 cup milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

nachos, fat
Giving up on life

The weekend wrapped up meeting mi amigo at the driving range to hit a bucket. The weather was ideal. After spraying balls in every possible direction, we grabbed lunch at the course’s restaurant. Then I made another stellar decision: BBQ Chicken Nachos.

If you’re giving up on your life, why stop at french toast?

After everything I ate this weekend, I fear this may be the only tent that fits me.IMG_4464

#TortillaChallenge | A Gringo's Mission

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What would you do if you only had one tortilla?

This was the question that consumed me Sunday night as I warmed my last tortilla on my Weber grill while the chicken breasts finished cooking. The obvious answer is “buy more,” but what if it were the very last tortilla IN THE WORLD?

What would you fill it with? Chicken, steak, fajita veggies? Would it be corn or flour? Cold? Warm? Crispy or soft? Folded in half for a quesadilla? Salsa verde or roja? Or would you make enchiladas?

Friends often send me articles about the best taco joints or every time Taco Bell or Chipotle is in the news. They also treat my photos like a variation of “Where’s Waldo?” Surely there’s a tortilla in that photo somewhere.

I am a tortilla-eating fiend. Think of the Cookie Monster, but with tortillas. I will use them in place of plates. I will eat them on their own. I prefer flour to corn, mainly because I’m a gringo. But yellow corn tortillas tend to fall part each time I use them.

Incapable of going a day without my beloved, I went to the store Monday night and restocked with a 36 pack of small, white corn tortillas.

Thus begins the #TortillaChallenge! Post your ideas in the comments or use the hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.

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For the next 36 tortillas I will do my best to make different dishes and highlight the supreme versatility of the circular wünder food.

The first three tortillas were dinner on night one. After warming the blanco discs, I sprinkled shredded cheddar cheese, then topped the melting queso with slices of grilled chicken. Arugula and halved cherry tomatoes came next before a light drizzling of #BBANCH.

Each tortilla was delicious. But I can do better.

Thirty three tortillas remain.

Are you up for the challenge?

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Do you hear the bells?

“Leann. Your phone is going off.”

“Huh?” She said groggily. “That’s not my phone.”

This morning, our last in Venice before flying to the city of lights, started with the familiar sound of bells faintly chiming. I mistook them for the alarm set on the phone and woke up my regazza. It wasn’t her alarm, but the real bells. It was 7am. Our water taxi out of Venice departed at 6:50.

After a Home Alone moment, we jumped into the clothes we had set out for today, hurriedly ransacked the room (like Venetians and their gold booty), and charged down the stairs and out into the misty morning. I managed to twist my ankle on the last stair.

Taking a boat to a plane seems like the Kanye thing to do. The boat/cabbie was bumping hits like “baby come back.” He was one Adele song away from making me ask if he wanted to talk about the breakup.

The previous day in Venice was lackluster. We wandered around the city, shuffling behind tourist groups and couples. The canal is pretty and the abundance of bridges is a neat feature. The absence of crazed drivers on Vespas was a welcomed respite. If Venice were in Redfin it would easily receive a walker score of 100. There are water taxis and your feet. Those are your transport choices.

The ongoing struggle with Venice, and the other Italian cities, was where to eat. I don’t often eat out so having to choose where to eat twice a day is taxing, especially when Chipotle isn’t an option. Most of our time was spent wandering the streets looking at menus.

Venice has its perks and can serve as a delineator for what type of traveler you are.

Do you like to make lists?
Are you a fast walker?
Do you like going with the flow? (Or “flowing with the go” as my friend Marissa learned from an author of a book by that name)
Do you walk around a new city seeing it through your iPad?

Venice is well suited for those looking to unwind or those ok with not having plans. One of the challenges is finding a particular address or place. The streets wind like a massive rat maze, replete with cheese shops. During our first dinner in Venice, I spotted a mouse scurrying out of the darkness around the corner. In that moment I commiserated with that mouse. For the majority of my time on the island, I was darting around looking for sustenance.

After the Murano incident and our general meandering, we decided to try one last time to find a particular restaurant. It had been rated highly on yelp and was in Cannaregio, an area my boss recommended as being a hot spot for the remaining locals. I asked our concierge, who had a penchant for whispering, if he could call the restaurant to make sure it was open. He gladly assisted us and informed us we had until 9. That gave us 60 minutes to find our way. Pressure cooker.

Uncharacteristically, I successfully navigated our way to the area (the top part of the fish). We eventually spotted the restaurant and sat down outside for our last supper. Leann chose tortellini in a cream sauce with prosciutto. I went Jesus style. Linguine alla pescatoro.

The dinner was good and our most substantial amount of food. Leading up to that dinner we had eaten: yogurt, croissant, mini sandwiches, two nectarines and a creme-filled donut. The food came out Taco Bell drive-thru fast. Maybe I’m just going though taco withdrawal. It’s been 10 days since I’ve had Mexican food.

The evening was the perfect temperature for pants and a tshirt. The food was fresh, good and fairly priced. We lingered finishing our half liter of vino rosso. Then we wandered into the maze one last time. Eventually we found our way to piazza San Marco to shake off the rose and laser pen salesmen, and to take in the orchestral sounds one last night.

Venice was a reminder to relax. You’re on vacation and there’s nowhere you have to be. Enjoy wandering. Enjoy stumbling on a scenic view. Enjoy the charm or reconstructed Byzantine architecture. Just enjoy being alive.

All too soon I’ll have to return to the real world of scheduled conference calls, navigating the streets I know and the suburban sprawl I call home. But for now, I’ll bid Venezia arrivederci and grazie mille for the reminder to enjoy being a tourist. 20140526-172052-62452856.jpg20140526-172053-62453289.jpg20140526-172052-62452533.jpg

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