Cheesesteak Sandwiches with Homemade Buns

Cheesesteak

We didn’t have plans for Sunday.  Mrs. NH was kind enough to brave freezing temperatures to go for a quick supermarket trip while the girls and I puttered around the house and watched vacation home movies on my newly reconditioned Windows Media Center.  Of course in the Not Hemingway household, a day without plans usually leads to cooking of some sort.  This Sunday was no exception.  Over the course of the afternoon we churned out a hearty Italian vegetable soup, chicken salad, homemade soft sandwich buns and cheesesteak sandwiches.

We’ve made cheesesteaks before but have always been at the mercy of awful Czech supermarket rolls.  Czech bread is an absolute abomination.  The problem is, there is a wide selection of shapes and sizes of buns and rolls at the supermarkets but all taste pretty terrible.  The sandwich buns are always awful, dried, grainy affairs.  To add insult to injury, they have a picture of the American flag on the bag.  Not cool, peeps.  Not cool.

BunsOn Sunday I took matters into my own hands and made the sandwich buns that I had been threatening to make for years.  I followed this recipe that I found online and was quite pleased with the results.  The finished bun was firm and dense but fluffy – just firm enough to hold up to our gooey cheesesteaks and I can only imagine they would be a fine match to a juicy burger.

For the cheesesteaks I halved and sliced two large onions and caramelized them over low heat.  After they finished I set them aside and threw a little over a pound of super-thinly-sliced sirloin, trimmed of the majority of fat.  I’ve been making these sandwiches ever since we moved here and have learned a few things along the way.  There’s no need to freeze your beef to get thin slices – just make sure you knife is sharp.  Also, get your pan as hot as it will go before throwing in your beef.  As it hits the pan it gives off lots of liquid.  If your pan is hot that evaporates and your beef gets a nice brown crust.  If the beef is cooked slowly, it boils in its own juices and that ends up in tough and spongy meat.  Not good.  Last but not least, make your sandwiches like they do in Philly.  Mrs. NH and I frequented Pat’s every chance we got and we always ordered our steaks “wit’ Wiz.”  That’s with Cheese Whiz for any of the uninitiated.  It’s an everyman twist on some real comfort food.  Adding provolone just seems to high falutin’ now.

Paired with the new buns, the steaks were out of this world.  With no tough bun to contend with, I really appreciated the tenderness of the steak, the sweetness of the onions and the salty, tangy punch of the Whiz.  We paired our sandwiches with some sweet potato fries and a couple bottles of Delirium Tremens.  Now that’s a Sunday dinner.  Thanks for the memories, Passyunk!

One Day in Tbilisi

Tbilisi01

Have you ever taken an extended trip by yourself?  I do on a fairly regular basis for work.  I find myself to be an utterly terrible traveling partner.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, though.  I’m different when I’m with people.  I like having a good time with people.  It’s just that it’s not so easy to do that by yourself.  Especially in another country.  A far, far away country.

I woke up in Tbilisi today, already having planned out my day.  I was going to complete the following:

1) Walk a good part of Tbilisi.
2) Have a big damn meal of Georgian food.
3) Buy a postcard for my girls.
4) Ride the gondola up to the top of the hill and take pictures.
5) Buy and consume plenty of Georgian wine.

Scanning the ring of grassy peaks around the town, churches catch the eye as well as the shining monuments left by the Saakashvili administration.  The both loved and reviled wine bottles lying on the side of a hill.  Actually, they are a concert hall and convention center under construction.  With a new Prime Minister in power, some are calling for them to be torn down.  I call them perfectly Georgian.

I paid my three Lari ($2) for a round trip ticket for the gondola that begins just next to the wine bottles and ends at a silver statue of a maiden clutching a bowl in one hand and a sword in the other.  Her features are distinctly Georgian, in my view.  The bowl is raised high while the sword rests just under her waist.  Welcoming but intriguingly dangerous.

Back down at the bottom of the hill I walk through the old town of Tbilisi.  Wooden houses perched next to the river.  The thin wooden columns and picket-type fences that adorn the front seem strangely out of place in this rocky, sulfur aired capital city.  As is, they represent the warm, soft underbelly of a city that has seen countless invasions, sackings and fights regularly to keep its borders intact with varying degrees of success.  Out of place and at home in the same instant.

After looking in vain for the Saturday market that I was told way by the “dry bridge,” I decamp to a restaurant around 3:30 in the afternoon for some classic Georgian Food.  Cozy and hungry in the brick interior, I order veal ribs that sound incredible on the menu.  I neglected to ask the waiter if they were spicy.  Would he even have understood?

I have a 6 hour ride to Yerevan tomorrow morning.  The ribs arrive in a clay pot surrounded by the aroma of the sweetness of the meat and slightly suspended above a bubbling broth.  “I should have asked if they were spicy,” I think as the twinge of spice from the aroma reaches my nasal passages.  I dig in.  One bite and I knew that this dish would not be dinner.  As the meat pulled effortlessly away from the bone, the spice reached my tongue and my mental warning lights flashed.  A 6 hour car ride, across a border, with a belly full of Texas-worthy, spicy ribs?  Not this time.  Maybe next.

I made a strategic retreat to a crispy, flaky plate of traditional khachapuri.  Imagine cheesy bread mixed with saganaki and you have an appropriate approximation.  Three pieces went down with some sort of local Georgian beer and I was off to the wine store to taste the fruits of the land.  It wasn’t the food orgy I had hope for but caution seemed the order of the day considering the schedule for the next.

Wine aged in clay.  That is a typical Georgian method for wine-making.  I haven’t read up on it but I can only imagine that it is a process as old as the Caucuses themselves.  The flavor is completely different than any wine I have tasted.  They also have wines aged by “European methods” but I bought one of the classic wines for my cellar at home.  I’ve never tasted anything like it and likely never will again.

I walked home with a nice buzz adding a cottony warmth to the cool December air.  In front of the old Parliament building, workers were busy stacking the pieces of the Christmas trees that would soon adorn this meeting point of the city.  The denizens of Tbilisi passed buy in a blur of black.  Black shoes, black coats, black hair.  I had taken note of this before setting out and was dressed in the same fashion.  Granted, the graying of my brown hair may have been a tell-tale sign but the headphones in my ears kept all but the most tenacious of street hustlers from noticing me – and me them.

Now, back upstairs in the generic comfort of my hotel, I wish I could travel again out into the city.  Out into the dark streets that I only casually strolled during the daytime.  Into the bars and cafes that looked like they were furbished to match the beauty and mystery of this city.  Just past Freedom Square.  Where the lights glow a pale yellow and the stones of the sidewalks jut up at perilous angles.

This is a city worthy of a family visit.  A long weekend to show my wife and kids that there are no strollers on the street.  Here, mothers carry their children in their arms until they are old enough to walk.  When they can walk they do so.  A different currency and no spaghetti on the menu.  A city under siege.  A city pushing back with all of its might.  And at the same time completely beckoning and welcoming.  Completely different, completely foreign.  Completely Tbilisi.

Duck Confit and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Oh, the life of a bachelor.  Canned food.

Of course, if you’re this bachelor, it’s duck confit from a can.  Don’t cry for me, Argentina.  Er, Prague.

Yep, duck confit and these sprouts that I have told you about before were dinner on Sunday night.  Crackly skin, puffy almost candied chunks of garlic and a good Pinot made the night quite enjoyable.  It almost made it easy to forget the fact that my family was just minutes away from some of the best BBQ in the world.  Almost.

Salmon Tartare

There’s something fishy going on at NotHemingway.com.  It’s a guest commentary from the culinary troubadour, Fredericksburg Flash.  He first brought you a commentary on the Salt ‘ till ya Drop post a few years back.  The spirit has moved him again and he’s decided to contribute even more great food experiences to the blog.  This man has tasted food in more countries than I can count so if Flash says it’s good, take note.  Welcome back, Flash!

6 March, 2012, by Fredericksburg Flash

Awhile back while traveling, Mrs. FF and I saw an item on the menu that piqued our curiosity. It was listed in appetizers as Salmon Tartare.

Something must have had a greater attraction, because we did not order it that meal. It has always been in the back of my mind, and last week I decided I would experiment with a recipe. I should explain that Mrs. FF and I both really enjoy cooking but I rarely use a strict recipe. I will attempt to give you the building blocks I used, but feel free to add your own flavor touches.

Start with a skinless salmon fillet. Cut into 1/2” chunks and in a nonreactive bowl, squeeze the juice of a couple limes over the salmon. As in ceviche, the lime juice “cooks” the fish. Stir to expose all of the fish to lime juice. I then refrigerate for no more than 2 hours. Now I add Dijon mustard and whole grain mustard. Add just enough to coat the fish. This also acts to stop the cooking process. Next add capers, sea salt and lots of fresh dill weed. Cover to seal and refrigerate for a couple of hours to let the flavors marry. I served it with a slice of just baked “One Minute Ciabatta”, as previously presented on NH’s blog. Mrs. FF and like wine…all kinds of wine. Not being wine snobs, we don’t always follow all of the”Wine Rules” We chose a Merlot from Cap Rock Winery, Lubbock, Texas. We also had a baby spinach salad with a light coating of quality olive that we recently brought back from Tuscany.

I think presentation is always a major part of the meal. We had purchased 16, two ounce martini glasses from Crate and Barrel. We’ve used them for other appetizers and drinks, and they worked well for this. I’m pretty sure this will be featured at our next home dinner party.

Canned Cassoulet au Confit de Canard

Roasting duck is a pretty involved process.  I’ve done it once or twice in the past and have always been pretty happy with the results.  However, the process of rendering the fat off the bird is not for the faint of heart so if I can avoid it, I do.  I order duck out at restaurants often and when I’m in France I buy a lot of it in a can.  Yep, a can.

I buy big old honkin’ (pun intended) cans of six leg/thigh combos packed in enough duck fat to swim in.  The confited fowl work well in the oven by themselves or I’ve also used them to make a delicious sauce for pasta that includes a squeeze of fresh lemon.  Flavor city.  I have never eaten that meal without a short nap afterward.  It’s that good.

So imagine how intrigued I was during my last visit to France where I sampled duck cassoulet.  I’ll admit that I had never had cassoulet before but I’m glad I tried it.  It’s a good mix of beans, sausage, spices and tasty duck legs.  Little NH managed to steal most of the pieces of duck off my plate.  I was willing to share just to let her widen her gastronomic horizons.  Eating it at the base of a castle didn’t hurt my mood either.  Or the wine.  But I digress…

Fast forward to the last day in France where my wife told me to stop at a grocery store to stock up on wine and any other local goodies.  For me that means wine, foie gras, canned duck and, lo and behold, canned duck cassoulet.  Très bien! (Or, SCORE! in English.)  The cans ran about 15 euros if I recall correctly.  They’re big and they expire in 2015.  Not that they’ll last that long.

I opened one up last weekend and surveyed the goodness inside.  Beans, four duck legs and four sausages.  I quickly split it into four equal portions and froze two in ramekins for a bit later.  The flavor was better than anything from a can deserves to be.  The duck was perfectly prepared, the sausage was delicate and full of flavor while the beans and seasoning helped to balance the whole dish and act as a counterweight to the intense richness of the meats.

I paired it with a Chardonnay to cut some of the heaviness of the dish.  It would have worked just as well with a light French red.  I can also imagine doing this with a Duvel and having it work out very well.

So yes, great things do come in a can – and not just those hot tamales I used to eat back home.

A Perfect Day in San Sebastian – Part 2

“Siesta” marks a huge split in the day in Spain.  I have been told that for those Spaniards in the corporate world, it is a thing of the past.  However, in the small hill towns of La Rioja and even the winding back streets of “La Parte Vieja” of San Sebastian, it is still very much a part of daily life.  Therefore, we planned our day to deflect the gap that is sometimes left by siesta in order to pack as much into our last Sunday in Spain.  (This article is part two of the article that began here.)

Stop 5: Ostertz – Coffee and Sherry and Regional Education

After a big morning and early afternoon of feasting, some good digestion was in order.  Mrs. NH and I settled on a small, busy cafe/bar right along the waterfront on the opposite side of La Concha Bay – facing the new town of San Sebastian.  We weren’t the only family that sought shaded refuge and something to sip on for continued strength.  After our coffees, I opted for a nice fino Sherry and Mrs. NH suggested that I, “Ask if they can make me a rebujito!”  Discovered while touring Jerez a few years back, a rebujito is a drink that consists of Sprite or some kind of bubbly lemon drink mixed with fino Sherry.  I prefer not to pollute my fino with anything.  However, Mrs. NH doesn’t ask for much so the least I could do is ask at the bar keep.  My inquiry was met with incredulity from the bartender and eye rolls and independent commentary from another patron inside the bar.  “This isn’t Andalucía,” he offered.  Luckily, I had ordered my fino puro first and was able to believably pass off my request for what it was – a request from my wife.  When I returned to the table with a fino and a cerveza clara, I marveled with my wife about how truly regional Spanish food and drink is.  I also relayed the fact that despite almost being laughed out of the bar for my order, both bartender and patron were curious to know the exact ingredients and proportions of a proper rebujito.  The best part, they asked the American!

Stop 6: Merry Go Round and Potato Chips

As a father, I’ve seen a lot of playgrounds in a lot of towns in a lot of countries.  If you have kids of your own, you know how it is.  If they see a playground, they want to stop.  Same goes with merry go rounds.  My girls are good travelers so if there is time in the day,  I don’t mind spending a bit of it doing things they like.  I feel it ads harmony to the overall trip experience (as well as the obvious “carrot” for good behavior).  So, kid fun time completed, we proceeded to the paved mosaic waterfront of San Sebastian.  On the way we saw a man selling 1.50 euro bags of potato chips and did not waste any time in forking over our coin for a modest bag.  The reason we shelled out almost $2.25 for a small bag of chips?  Experience.  Spanish potato chips can be really tasty – like the ones sold in La Plaza del Salvador in Sevilla.  The ones in San Sebastian were no exception.  Thick cut, salty, slightly greasy and really satisfying.  Between that and the sunset walk along the ocean, it was the perfect primer to an evening of tapas and delightful Spanish mayhem.

Stop 7: Ormazabal

Part of Little NH’s fascination with Spain comes from a part of the Spanish tapas bar culture that seems entirely counter to everything she has been taught about cleanliness.  At first, she was terrified to toss a used napkin on the floor of Spanish a tapas bar.  However, by the end of the trip, she was asking, “Daddy, are you done with your napkin?  When you are, give it to me so I can throw it on the floor.”  When in Spain…, right?

For our second to last tapas stop of the evening, we hit Ormazabal for a round of family favorites from our last several days in Spain.  The friendly folks behind the counter made a couple recommendations and even delivered the items right to our table – and we had a great time bantering in English, Spanish and sorta-French with them.  Our orders consisted of some of the best food we had eaten in Spain and included: meatballs (albondigas), spinach croquetas, peppers stuffed with bacalao, octopus in its ink and beef cheeks.  Having settled into a comfortable table in the back with room for the stroller (which at this point in the trip resembled more of a covered wagon), we decided to stay put and made this tapas stop more of a meal.  We ordered 2-3 more rounds of food, each accompanied by great banter with the help, and departed very satisfied for a very modest price.

Unfortunately, for Little NH, not all restaurants in Spain cater to the “napkin on the floor” tradition – including Ormazabal.  So, we had one more stop.

Stop 8: Munto Jatetxea Redux

One good turn deserves another, right?  As we were heading north to France the next morning and Little NH2 was asleep in her stroller, we decided to head back to Munto Jatetxea for our last plates of tapas.  Mrs. NH had not had enough pimientos de padrón on this trip and I had no problem helping her gobble up the heaping plate while our youngest slept in the stroller amidst the din of the patronage in the bar.  At the other end of the hyperactivity spectrum, Little NH stood outside in the pedestrian traffic only street and danced and sang to a tune residing somewhere deep inside her head.  Folks alternately chuckled at her, danced with her and dodged her.  We all got to do what we loved best.  Of course, Little NH took a break every now and then to come inside, sip some juice and toss down my used napkins.

A Perfect Day in San Sebastian – Part 1

Sundays in Spain are pretty hard to beat.  One can choose church in the morning or, if you were like us, opt to let your 4 year old and 8 month old sleep in after a typically late Spanish Saturday night.  The majority of the morning was rainy and gray so we hunkered down until around 11:00 as the clouds drifted away leaving a blue sky and gleaming cobblestone streets.

Stop 1: Churros

Mrs. NH and Little NH were determined to start their final day in Spain with the classic churros con chocolate.  Considering our late start, we had to travel to the “parte vieja” to find a restaurant offering the tasty breakfast.  The one we found seems to offer delectable churros 24/7.  With breakfast out of the way, it was time to begin on the rest of the culinary day out.

Stop 2: Basque Lessons

I have a pretty good conversational grasp of Spanish.  In the preceding week, I hadn’t missed a lick of conversation with any Spaniard.  However, in La Cepa I was fairly lost.  To this day, I’m not sure if the first conversation I had with the man behind the counter was in heavily accented Spanish or Basque.  Yes, I muddled through and got a plate of delicious pinchos, but I was left stuttering as if it was my first day speaking Spanish.  Confused, I brought the pinchos, sangria and zumo de manzana back to the family; the fellow behind the counter winked and gave me a small brochure with English, Spanish, Basque, Catalan, Dutch and other translations of common phrases and words.  “Ah, ha!” I thought.  “When in País Vasco…”

We gobbled up the pinchos and finished our sangria.  Having studied my translations, I was ready to make my next order as a local.  A Basque local.  “Bat sangria!” I hollered to my ostensible new professor.  He smiled and winked, “Eh, sangria bat! Pero gracias!”  It was a correction, and a good natured ‘thanks for trying.’  It was also my first word in a new language.  No one will ever confuse me for a linguist!

Stop 3: ¡Foie!

San Sebastian is Basque country and that means there is a good mix of French influence in this region.  Considering my weakness for foie gras, it was also a culinary jackpot.  We pulled up napping Little NH2’s stroller outside of Munto Jatetxea and I went in to place the orders in the midst of a bustling Sunday crowd.  I ordered stuffed peppers, out-0f-this-world croquetas for Little NH, and the aforementioned foie.  Ordering the foie gras was almost as fun as eating it.  I relayed my order in Spanish to the sprightly girl behind the counter and she repeated it with incredible vigor over her shoulder to the open door that contained the kitchen.  Seeing my reaction and smile at the power of her voice, she filled a caña and a clara and handed to me with a wide grin.  I. Love. Spain.

Stop 4: Plaza de la Lasta and the Waterfront

Fat and happy from several tapas we decided to take a break from eating and stretch our legs for a short walk to the waterfront.  The sun was now shining brightly and the town of San Sebastian seemed to be cast in Technicolor.  We sat on the pier for an hour, digesting and soaking up the sun while Little NH practiced her Spanish on a group of boys wrestling with a fishing pole twice their combined height.  Approaching them, she yelled, “¡Hola!”  They all gave her a disinterested look and went back to untangling their line.  Realizing that it won’t always be that way, I laughed and began plotting the rest of the day in my mind.  Across the way, a string of seaside restaurants beckoned.  Am I ever not hungry in Spain?

Continue to Part 2.

Absolut Rhubarb: Rhubarb Infused Vodka

Yes, I know I’ve blogged this before.  But it is worth repeating.  I guess having two daughters makes you like pink.  Especially when it is in the form of this great concoction.  After 24 hours of infusion I have something that will help cool off a muggy summer evening.  Yes, it is pink, but it’s still vodka.  It tastes great straight, with a splash of soda and a twist of lime, or for an adult dessert, mix it with vanilla infused vodka.  It tastes like a dish of homemade vanilla ice cream topped with rhubarb sauce – in a tumbler glass.  Yum.

Shiner Brewery Tour – Shiner, TX

On the road between Houston and Austin and have an hour or two to spare?  Set the cruise to 74 on some back roads and hit the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas.  Any old GPS (or map) will get you there and it will be worth your visit.

I’ve visited a few breweries in my time and almost no one gets it as right as Shiner does.  It was a quick, informative, free and tasty tour.  On the beer trivia front, it was interesting to learn that Shiner has the capacity to bottle almost 500,000 bottles of beer a day.  Not to mention, it brews everything from a “Light” to a “Bohemian Black” and can switch its bottling line from style to style in about 20 minutes.  How’s that for old world beer and German engineering brought to small town Texas?

Finally, our gracious tour guide Anne, made it clear that some of the old world is still in this delicious Shiner brew.  The hops.  Yes, the hops come from “Germany and the Czech Republic”.  When we queried our hostess on pinpointing the actual home of the hops, she demurred.

All that and a secret recipe, to boot.

Cleaning with Vodka

Mrs. NH and I are expecting the 4th member of our family in February.  The lead up to that occasion has caused me to reflect on some of the ways our life changed way back when were expecting Little NH a few years ago.  I remember the biggest bummer for me was that I had to take a more active role in house cleaning.  Mopping floors was a more physical activity that Mrs. NH convinced me wasn’t advisable in late pregnancy.  That I could handle.  But I also had to switch from Mr. Clean, Ajax and 409 to vinegar, baking soda and vodka.  Well, maybe the vodka wasn’t that much of a stretch.  But I preferred it in a glass, not on a sponge.

The reason we did it didn’t have anything to do with the environment.  Instead, it’s the feeling you get on your hands after scrubbing a counter with 409.  I don’t know about you but after using that stuff I always washed my hands.  With vodka, I don’t have to.  Yeah, I may smell like a martini but some of you know that’s commonplace anyway.  I’m not as big of a fan of using vinegar but Mrs. NH uses it all the time to clean fruit and vegetables.  Finally, I’m struck by how well baking soda works on a dirty tub.  It requires no more elbow grease than Ajax and you don’t end up smelling like a pool after you use it.

Sure, I’m sure our mom’s did plenty when we were in the womb that didn’t totally deform us.  But if stuff works this well and is considerably cheaper, why shouldn’t we use it.  Not to mention, if some sort of natural catastrophe hits, you’re going to have a hard time pickling anything in Mr. Clean, much less kicking back with a tumbler of 409.

International Truffle Festival, Alba, Italy


One doesn’t need to linger long at this site to know that Mrs. NH and I have acquired a real taste for truffles while living over here in the old country.  Of course, while many of my readers see this as just another example that NH has gone all high-falutin’ euro-style, I see it as more of a matter of supply and demand.  You see, over here, they charge a premium for crappy tacos.  Brisket?  Can’t buy it.  Cheeseburger?  $15.  Oreos?  No way, José.

But truffles are relatively plentiful in some of the places we frequent.  For example, you can’t go to a restaurant in Istria without finding several truffle dishes on the menu.  So, since eating locally is in fashion these days, we’ve worked the truffle into our home menu.  We have a cabinet full of them, to be exact.  We’re truffle hoarders.

Interestingly, that came in handy last month while we were in Piedmont at the exact same day that they were having the International Truffle Festival in the quaint, rustic town of Alba – in the heart of the Italian Truffle basket.  The fact that our cupboards are already full of truffles meant that we didn’t have to fork out any dough other than the 2 Euros for entry and a few more Euros for wine tastings.  But we got to witness some of the biggest and most beautiful truffles in the world in a unique, “how did this become my life” setting.

Up until my recent trip to Moscow, this was the most fun I had ever had at a trade show.  Truffles were the main attraction to be sure but another 50% of the show was devoted to regional wines, pasta, meat, cheeses and desserts.  The best part, they were giving out samples.  Truffle cheeses, goat cheeses, truffle sausage, chocolate truffles, wines and even some cheeses that looked like things that had been scraped of the bottom of my shoe.  I tried ’em all.

Then, there were the people.  Let’s not forget, these people are Italians.  They take their food and drink very seriously.  They’re also quite engaging after you ask them a few cursory questions about their product.  Americans seemed in short supply at this show and being one might have actually helped us score an extra nibble of sausage or a little taller pour of wine.  (The myth of Americans being hated in Europe is happily just that, a myth.)  I picked up some of the best Barolo’s and Nebbiolo’s I’ve tasted for a hair over $10 a bottle.  Italian’s know how to do wine.  They make sure it’s all very good.  Then they charge a reasonable price and make their money that way.  By selling all of it.  If it is exceptional wine, they charge a little more, but generally in this part of Italy, wine snobs are the exception to the rule.  With two college education funds to contribute to, I’m thankful for that!

If you’ve ever entertained the slightest thought of visiting this festival – do it.  If you’ve entertained the thought of visiting Piedmont but aren’t a hard-core truffle head, plan your visit around the time of this culinary trade show and you will be a convert before you drive out of town.  It’s a real European curiosity and a particularly awesome part of Europe.

BBQ = World Peace

I believe the NH clan did Texas proud Thursday night.  The brisket was tender and the ribs were fall-off-the-bone moist.  Brits, Slovaks, Australians, Czechs and Canadians were gorging on slow-cooked meat saying things like, “So you can get this stuff everywhere in Texas?  Now I see why you like it so much.”  Mrs. NH’s mac ‘n cheese was devoured by the forkful as I informed many of our guests what a brisket is.   Skinny European wives were grabbing nibbles of the tender cut off of the serving tray with no utensils and no shame.

I’m proud.

I’m also glad to have such good friends to come to such a party.  In a moment outside in front of the grill, away from the cacophony of  about 8 kids and twice as many adults, I paused and marveled at just how lucky our family is.  Friends and family are two of the most precious things in life.  Getting to enjoy both while eating BBQ was a trifecta.

Meringue Ghosts and BBQ

I’m cooking ribs and brisket and Mrs. NH is in some sort of a Halloween cookie frenzy.  Pumpkin-orange icing and pointy hooded ghosts abound in the dining room.  We’re finally making good on our promise to have our local friends over for Texas BBQ tomorrow.  The beer is chilling, the ribs are resting and 8lbs. of brisket are primed and ready for the oven.  Between that Mrs. NH’s mac ‘n cheese extravaganza, it should be a helluva Thursday.