Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy New Year

Prescription for a happy 2009...

Embrace the good times and kick the bad times in the ass. Then embrace the good times again.

Keep your head up, eyes forward and try to see beyond the end of your nose.

Do more listening than talking.

Be quick with a kind word and good deed.

And, did I mention embrace the good times?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

(What's Left of the) Chocolate Fudge

Yesterday the spirit moved me to make chocolate fudge. This is something I've never done before, so it was somewhat of an adventure, wedged between MoJo's basketball game and the Ravens/Cowboys football game.

I found a recipe in old faithful - James Beard's American Cookery. And, as luck would have it, we had all the necessary ingredients in the house, so it required no runs to the store. And while the recipe calls for nuts, we skipped those and went with only the bad-for-you stuff.

Now, me making fudge is akin to an arsonist making matches. In the end, it's a dangerous proposition. But fortunately, with a house full of kids and a wife with a chocolate addiction, I was mercifully spared the possibility of eating the entire batch all by myself. I did, however, share in the indulgence.

Again, keep in mind this was my first effort. I'd welcome hearing from any of you black belt fudge makers with suggestions on how to improve on my next attempt.

Chocolate Fudge

2 cups sugar
2 Tbl corn syrup (light or dark)
2/3 cup rich milk or evaporated milk
2 to 4 Tbl butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup corsely broken or chopped, lightly toasted nutmeats
1 to 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, milk, butter, chocolate and salt in a 3 or 4 quart saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil. Cook to 234 to 236 degrees (use a candy thermometer).

When it hits the proper temperature, remove the saucepan from the heat and place on a rack to cool.

When the bottom of the pan is cool enough that you can put your hand on it without shrieking in pain, take a spatula and slowly work the fudge from the outside to the center of the pot. When it cools to a point that it starts to look dull instead of shiny, stir in the vanilla (and nuts if you're using them).

Pour out the fudge onto a sheet of wax paper or aluminium foil and let cool. Cut into squares. Eat and enjoy!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Pirate Life for Me

As the newspaper biz continues to fold in on itself, I think it's time to consider a fallback career.

Piracy seems to be a growth industry right now. And from what I can tell, the Chesapeake Bay represents a market opportunity.

I've got an 8-foot dinghy and a trolling motor to attach to it. All I need is a scurvy crew. And a few bottles of rum. And an oil tanker to hijack.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Michigan at Ohio State

It's that week again. This year's Big Game will be played in Columbus this Saturday with less at stake than usual. Michigan is suffering through perhaps its worst year ever and Ohio State, with two losses, is still in the chase for the Big Ten title but is (mercifully) out of the running for a national crown.

To get you in the mood for the game, here's a link to last year's post, which is chock full of links to the history of the rivalry, and the recipe for delicious peanut butter buckeye treats.

Go Bucks!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Black Eyed Peas (not the band)

Time to get back to important matters on this blog, like good food.

Lately I've enjoyed rediscovering a favorite of my southern upbringing - black eyed peas. Last night the Remarkable Marcy pulled a Vegetarian Times recipe for Black-Eyed Pea Patties with Corn and Cilantro. We served it with a side of Collard Greens prepared with a recipe off my friend The Chef From Hell's blog. Great stuff!

One of our favorite BEP dishes actually was the result of a mix up when I screwed up the recipe of the traditional Hoppin' John dish. I can't remember exactly how I managed to use bulghur instead of rice, but the result was terrific. Here's the recipe for Hoppin' Sully.

Hoppin' Sully

2 T canola or olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
3 cups cooked bulghur wheat
2 cups cooked black eyed peas

Heat oil in large skillet and saute onion and garlic.
Add tomatoes, water and spices. Simmer covered for 5 minutes.
Add bulghur and beans, pinch of sea salt and pepper.
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until golden-brown crust forms on the bulghur.

A liberal shake of Tabasco atop this really helps warm body and soul on cool autumn and winter nights.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Real Deal

The (un)official, (un)scientific Sullicom Presidential Poll proved remarkably accurate, as Nov. 4 saw an Electoral College runaway for Barack Obama in the presidential election.

Among the key states captured by Obama were Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, California and New York. Some of the states that went for Sen. John McCain were Texas, Indiana, Brigadoon and Munchkinland.

It was an historic night.

Yes We Can

I knew that "Bob the Builder" post was prescient.

Sing along.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Presidential Poll Results

The (un)official, (un)scientific Sullicom Presidential Poll is closed and the voters have chosen Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain and long-shot Food Network candidate Alton Brown.

With 98 total votes cast, Obama gathered 46 votes (46%), McCain 34 votes and Brown 18 votes.

So, this bit of fun is done. Thanks to all of you who voted. To those of you who didn't, I hope you were simply holding back for the real deal.

Tomorrow's the day - get out there and vote!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Regurgitating Tales

Halloween is tomorrow and I thought I would spit up a couple of stories I posted last year at this time.

First is "The Curious Case of the Mandy Tree," a story about a ghostly tree in my hometown of Madisonville, Kentucky.

Then there's "Ghost Story," the tale of my personal encounter with a spook at the Buxton Inn in Granville, Ohio.

Have fun tomorrow night. Don't eat too much candy.

Congratulations Tampa Fans

You have successfully completed Part 1 of your application for true baseball fandom. Your team's loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series has given you your first taste of losing at a high level, falling just short of ultimate success. Yes, we know it hurts. But it's a good hurt. Success followed by failure. That will make ultimate success all the sweeter when it comes.

Now for Part 2 of the application. Put some meat in the seats of that sorry stadium before the month of September next season. You've got an exciting young team that deserves to have more fans at home games than the opposition. Show your support, win or lose. Upon receipt of this portion of the application you'll have earned street cred among the real baseball fans out there.

And now, I leave you with words of wisdom from a life-long Cubs fan - "Wait 'til next year!"

Monday, October 27, 2008

Presidential Poll - The Home Stretch

There's only one week left to vote in the (un)official, (un)scientific Sullicom Presidential Poll.

Nine votes were registered in the past week and Sen. Barack Obama picked up five of them to slightly increase his lead over Sen. John McCain, who picked up the other four tallies. The margin now stands at 41-29. That gives Obama 48% of the 85 votes, a 14% lead over McCain.

The Food Network's Alton Brown failed to pick up any support this week and is stuck at 15 total votes.

I anticipate that the two candidates, along with their vice presidential running mates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, will be running hard this last full week before the real deal on Nov. 4. Listen to what they say and evaluate how it matches with your own positions on the issues. Then get your butts up and out next Tuesday and cast the votes that really count!

Monday, October 20, 2008

GSC In Da House

We picked up the Girl Scout Cookies yesterday. No surprise that in the mile between pickup and dropping them at the house, two boxes were opened and sampled. Not just by me, but the entire family.

Dulce de Leche are everything I feared they'd be. Buttery sweet caramel with a little bit of a crunch. Marcy allowed me one, then I sneaked a couple more. I'm hoping this sampling will get it out of my system. If not, does anyone know of a rehab center for this sort of stuff?

Presidential Poll Update

Two weeks to go and Barack Obama continues to lead John McCain in the (un)official, (un)scientific Sullicom Presidential Poll.

We're now up to 76 (how patriotic!) total votes and Obama now holds a 37-24 lead over McCain. That actually represents a slight uptick for Senator McCain who has picked up 6 votes to Sentator Obama's 5 votes in the past week. Perhaps a bump from Joe the Plumber?

The Food Network candidate, Alton Brown, continues to run a distant third. He picked up four votes in the past week, and now sits with 15. I'm still anticipating a late rush of support - maybe absentee ballots - that will if not vault him into the lead, at least make his showing much more respectable.

We've still got 15 days before the election. Plenty of time to change the course of history. Get out there and work the neighborhoods and help bring out the vote!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On Being a Baseball Fan

Lemme 'splain something.

If you've been following Sullicom on Twitter, you'd think I hate the Tampa Bay Rays. I really don't. I think the team is talented, exciting and possibly about to accomplish the unthinkable. However, what I don't like are the suddenly-there Tampa fans. Much like I disliked the once-suddenly-there, then just-as-suddenly-gone-again Marlins fans of 1997 and 2003.

I recall watching games in mid and late September when the team was still trying to clinch a playoff spot and that excuse for a stadium was far from packed. Most nights it was far from half-packed. The "fans" still had not bought into this team. Now the place is filled, but I wonder how many of the "fans" are wearing Rays hats and shirts more than a few weeks old.

In Thursday night's wild game in which the Rays blew a 7-0 lead, right before the fold I swear I heard an announcer say something like, "The city of Tampa has waited 10 long years for this." Let me tell you what ran through this Cubs fan's mind. "Ten years? You've got to be kidding me!" Frankly, the reaction was a tad more profane.

Put it this way, I'd hardly consider you a fan if:
- your first game of the season was a playoff game
- you've never been to a game in September in years when your team had been mathematically eliminated in August
- you don't have any fan gear with "Devil Rays" (the team's name prior to this year) on it.

However, if Boston does what Boston does, and that's come back from a 3-1 deficit to crush your new-found dreams, that's your first real step into the brotherhood of fandom. No pain, no gain, you know. I'll be the first to give you a hug. Then, if you're back at the park next season, not when the Red Sox or Yankees are in town, but to root on your team against the Orioles or Royals, I'll buy you a beer and toast your card-carrying acceptance into the club.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bob the Builder

In the interest of fairness, here's equal time for another skilled laborer.

Joe the Plumber

How long until we start hearing songs about America's newest folk phenom?

Above is the CNN video introducing the man whose name was evoked multiple times by both John McCain and Barack Obama during the final presidential debate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Song to Barbecue Sauce

I ran across this in the Threadgill's Cookbook recently and was surprised that I had never posted it to this blog before now. It's a little ditty by Roy Blount, Jr.

Brush it on chicken, slosh it on pork,
Eat it with fingers, not with a fork.
I could eat barbecued turtle or squash -
I could eat tar paper cooked and awash
In barbecue sauce.

Nothing can gloss
Over barbecue sauce.

Beautifully put.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Presidential Poll Update

We're about three weeks out from the real deal and Barack Obama maintains his lead over John McCain in the (un)official, (un)scientific Sullicom Presidential Poll.

As of this morning, we're up to 63 total votes - nearly as many as voted in the last presidential election. Since last week's update, Obama has added four votes, McCain two and the gap has widened to 32-18.

The biggest gain of the week, however, comes from Food Network powerhouse Alton Brown, who more than doubled his total from the previous week, jumping from 5 votes to 11.

There's still plenty of time for each candidate to grab more support between now and Nov. 4. So, get out there and start knocking on doors and tell your friends, family and neighbors to vote!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Presidential Poll Update

Have you watched the debates? How do you think they've gone? Will they influence your vote?

Speaking of votes, as of this morning Barack Obama holds a 28-18 edge over John McCain in the (un)official, (un)scientific Sullicom Presidential Poll. Food Network heavyweight Alton Brown lags way behind with a mere 5 votes, although I'm still awaiting a late rush from his supporters as we draw closer to Nov. 4.

I'm a little surprised that Sen. McCain hasn't received a bigger bounce from running mate Sarah Palin. Gov. Palin's recent debate with Sen. Joe Biden. But we've got three-and-a-half weeks to go and we'll see how this plays out for real.

Until then, do like we used to in Chicago - vote early and vote often!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

World Champion Chicago Cubs!

That's right - World Champion Chicago Cubs! That is the first time in my life I've ever typed that combination of words.

Of course, I'm referring to the 1908 team, pictured above. The celebration enters its 101st year. Yee hah.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Dodgers 3, Cubs 1

I'll just rerun last year's season-ending post. All you have to do is change the third paragraph to read, "Next season marks 101 years since their last World Series title."


Friday, October 03, 2008

Dodgers 10, Cubs 3

Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Dodgers 7, Cubs 2

It's only one game. But it was the series opener. At home. And they blew a lead. Big time.

I've struggled all season to keep my expectations low. Easy to do, having been a fan of this team since I was a wee lad.

But this is getting ridiculous. Rooting for the Cubs, the Bears and the Buckeyes has given me the best and the worst of payoffs in the past three years.

7-2. Ugh.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

They're Baaaack!

It's that dangerous time of year when MoJo comes home with the Girl Scout Cookies order form. Actually, this is merely the prelude to the most dangerous time - when they're delivered.

It's not like they're enough of a problem for me and my dieting effort already, but they've introduced a new one this year, Dulce de Leche, which they describe as "rich, indulgent cookies... rich with milk caramel chips and stripes." But, there are 0 trans fats! So, I guess they're good for me.

At the bottom of this page, you'll find my playlist widget which includes NRBQ's tribute to GSC.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Presidential Poll Update

We've got five weeks to go to the election, and based on Sullicom's highly (un)scientific poll, Barack Obama is building a sizable lead over John McCain.

The margin now stands at a whopping eight votes, as Obama holds a 20-12 lead over McCain as of this morning. Food Network personality Alton Brown, who I thought would be a formidable third-party candidate, is surprisingly far back with only two votes.

I'm a little surprised that Senator McCain didn't get more of a bump here from the selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate. But then again, he's taken lumps from the media with a bunch of seemingly paranoid missteps in the past couple of weeks. That includes the entertainment media, especially last night after David Letterman took him to task after McCain cancelled an appearance on his show, but kept his date with CBS News anchor Katie Couric. My friend and colleague, David Zurawik, has the story of the stand up on his blog.

Politics aside, again my greatest surprise here is the poor showing to date of Alton Brown. In past polls on this blog, he's been a force. Alton's Army was impressively organized and there was no contest in the Sullicom Food Fight.

I think, considering the seeming stumbles the McCain camp has made of late, it might be worth the Senator's side to seek out what remains of Alton's Army to bring their skills to his campaign.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cubs Win!

I've learned to take these things one at a time and savor them for what they are.

Yesterday the Cubs clinched the National League Central Division with a 5-4 win over arch-rival St. Louis. And they did so in ironic fashion, as former Cardinal Jim Edmonds, a mid-season pickup, caught a fly ball to center for the final out.

The win also provided a historic footnote in that it was the first time the Cubs had won back-to-back division titles (or league titles) in a century. And as everyone should know by now, it's been a century since the team's last world title.

But let's not go there yet.

I've been a Cubs fan since I was 10. That has provided good life lessons in how to deal with disappointment. The great Cubs teams of the late '60s and early '70s always found a way to come up just short. The teams of the mid to late '70s were amusing if not competitive. One of my favorite players of that era was Carmen Fanzone, a second baseman who was much more proficient playing his trumpet during the National Anthem than he was at doing anything else the rest of the game.

But then, in 1984, they put together a team of kids and former Dodgers and Phillies that won a division title for the first time since WWII. The Remarkable Marcy and I traveled from Columbus, Ohio to Pittsburgh on September 24 of that year to see the clinching game. They jumped up on San Diego two games to none in the best of three, then proceeded to drop three straight to the Padres.

In 1989, the team again won the division. I was in Wrigley Field to see them beat the Giants and former Cub "Big Daddy" Rick Reuschel. But it was their only win in the five-game series.

In 1998, Sammy Sosa hit a million home runs and the Cubbies were the National League wild card team. They ended up getting swept by Atlanta.

2003 was the year my son, Courtland, learned the true meaning of being a Cubs fan. Behind a pitching staff led by Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, the Cubs won the division. They were up three games to one against the Florida Marlins and had Prior and Wood coming up in games at Wrigley Field. In game five, with Prior pitching strong, the Cubs were within five outs of getting into the World Series. Then it happened. First, there was the Bartman Play, in which a foul ball drifted into the left-field stands, just out of reach of Moises Alou. A fan, Steve Bartman, reached out to grab the ball. I don't know if Alou could have made the catch. In any case, the real turning point came two batters later when shortstop Alex Gonzales muffed a routine grounder. That was the moment at which I turned to Courtland and said, "Now you know what it is to be a Cubs fan. I'm sorry." The Marlins ended up going ahead and winning that game, beat Wood the next night and ultimately took the series. Could it have been the curse of the goat?

Last year the team staged an unlikely climb from mid-season doldrums and won the division. They then proceeded to get swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But here they are, back again. Seeming to be a little more confident and aware that the season is not yet done. Will they win? Don't know. This is the point in the season where I take each victory for what it is, each series win for what it is.

When I was a kid I used to pray, "God, don't let me die until the Cubs win the World Series." I've always felt assured of a long life up to this point, but now, who knows?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"I Hate Banks"

Not an editorial comment, but the title of a wonderfully timely song by Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper.

I hadn't heard this thing for about 15 years, but WRNR FM in Annapolis was playing it this morning. Could be an anthem for our times.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stain Stink

This morning right before leaving the house I managed to get some ink on my nice white shirt. I remembered seeing one of those Tide stain erasers on one of the kid's dressers yesterday, so I went up and applied it to the stain.

Well, the stain mostly came out, but the stuff in the stick smells like vomit. So now my shirt looks clean, but smells like I puked on it.

Not sure why that's necessarily better than having the ink stain.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Presidential Poll Update

The poll has been up for a little more than a week and it's been interesting to watch for a number of reasons.

By way of disclaimer, let me acknowledge that the response hasn't exactly been overwhelming. Nevertheless, the dynamics are worth noting.

As expected, it didn't take long for Alton's Army to show up. An Alton Brown fan out there was first on the scene, registering a quick vote for the Food Network star.

Then came the McCain camp, fresh on the heels of the Republican National Convention. McCain grabbed five quick votes and held a commanding lead heading into the weekend.

But slowly the support for Obama began to show itself. As of today, the Democrat has pushed into the lead with 9 votes, compared to McCain's 5 and Brown's single vote.

It's also been pointed out that I've left a significant name out of the poll. It's not Sarah Palin or Ron Paul, but Ralph Wiggum, who seems to have a swell of write-in support.

The election is still a long way off - 51 days from the date of this posting. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Disabled List

The images above were taken yesterday during our son Courtland's surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The labrum is a lip-like ring of cartilage that helps hold the arm in the shoulder socket.

Courtland damaged his during a high school baseball game in the spring during an at bat (at least he got a hit, and a big one at that). At first, we thought it was a simple dislocation and he continued playing in that game as well as the next. But it was clear that something was wrong. We went to the doctor and had it diagnosed. Not overly serious, but not good either. With the doctor's blessing, he continued to play baseball all summer long, but was only allowed to pitch and play in the field. His batting for the year was through until we got the surgery. He ended up having a very good summer (here's a link to a nice story about him and his team), but he really missed getting in his licks at the plate.

The photos above are one of two pages of scope-shots taken by the surgeon during the procedure. They're a little hard to see unless you click on the photo to bring it to full size. The scenes are magnified 6.5 times. The top two rows show different angles of the shoulder. It's in the third row where you really start to see the damage and how it was repaired. Row three, column one shows the labrum torn away from the shoulder socket. Same row, second column shows the tool used by the surgeon to start anchoring the sutures, and the fourth row shows the sutures being pulled through to lace the labrum back to the scapula.

Post-op was an interesting experience for us, too. Courtland is a high school senior and isn't the most talkative kid around. But as he came out of the anesthesia, he was amusingly chatty. It was kind of nice to have him open up.

His left arm is now immobilized in a sling that he'll have to wear for at least three weeks. He's now learning how to get through the day using just one arm and it's been an education for all of us to realize how inconvenient that can be. Just putting on a shirt or pulling up pants has required more strategy than you might think.

If all goes well, the sling will come off after three weeks. Then he'll begin some simple isometric exercises as he begins to rehab. Following that comes physical therapy to build up strength in the shoulder. Our target is for him to start throwing a baseball again in mid to late December. We hope he'll be able to start swinging a bat again sometime in January. That puts him on pace to be ready for his senior baseball season in the spring.

It's pretty amazing to me that they've got the ability to diagnose something like this. And maybe even more so, to go in and knit the thing back together. But I'm grateful that they can.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Presidential Poll

Let your voice be heard!

Cast your vote at the right in the Sullicom Presidential Poll. Who do you feel is the most qualified candidate to lead our nation - John McCain, Barack Obama or Alton Brown.

Vote now!

Monday, September 01, 2008


I was doing a little blog housecleaning and discovered this post that I forgot to publish.

Back in May, I went to the middle school band concert and saw listed on the program "A traditional Korean folksong
called Arirang."

I said to myself, "Could this be the same song I learned one night long ago at the Black Forest Inn with Jim Leickly?

The Black Forest was a small tavern just north of the Ohio State campus. Once a week, a small, sweet ladynamed Esther
Craw held forth on stage with her accordion, leading buzzed college kids in kitschy singalongs.

Jim, a friend from journalism school, and I were something akin to Esther groupies.

One night, a couple of Korean guys were in the audience and Esther asked them if they had any requests. One of them asked
if she knew Arirang. Esther didn't but said she could fake it if the guy could sing a little. He did, singing in Korean, and Esther
quickly picked up the tune.

She asked him what the song was about. As I recall, his interpretation of the story behind the song went something like:
Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl's family does not like the boy and moves to the other side of the mountain. Boy
goes to the other side of the mountain. Boy finds girl and... ARIRANG! (wink, wink)

I contacted Jim to tell him about this and he said Esther recently passed away. "Great lady," he said. Yes, she was.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tofu Time

It was about this time a year ago that I first posted about barbecued tofu. It was a favorite recipe from back in the days when yours truly was a dedicated vegetarian.

Now Flannery, our 13-year-old has gone meatless, so we're trying to introduce her to some of our old recipes. With the help of her little sister, MoJo, I whipped up the maranade and sauce, baked the tofu fillets, then served them with a salad and some couscous.

Although Marcy and I made this recipe many times before, it was particularly tasty this time. Maybe because we were sharing it with our kids, which makes everything special.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Pits

A couple of weeks ago I made my first effort at a couple of local favorites - Baltimore-style pit beef and pit turkey.

When we first got to town almost eight years ago now, I was intrigued by these little roadside pit beef shacks that were scattered around. Sometimes they were in the parking lots of restaurants, sometimes they were attached to fruit stands, or gas stations or just sitting by themselves. When I finally pulled off and ordered one of the sandwiches, I was hooked.

It wasn't like the bbq I'd enjoyed in Kentucky, Texas or Chicago. There's no sauce applied during the cooking and sometimes not even a rub added before. The beef, grilled over direct heat has a crunchy crust and is sliced as thin as possible, then piled high on a kaiser roll and slathered with a horseradish sauce.

Pulaski Highway, which runs through Baltimore's east side, is Pit Beef Alley. Chaps is perhaps the Mecca of pit places, drawing well locally and bringing in aficionados from all over.

I prepared the beef and turkey the night before grilling, using a rub attributed to Big Fat Daddy, who used to be among the Pulaski pit bosses. The recipe is:

1/2 cup Season-All seasoned salt
1/4 cup paprika
4 tsp garlic powder
4 tsp oregano
2 tsp ground black pepper

After rubbing the beef (3 lbs top round) and a turkey breast, I covered both with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator overnight to cure.

The next day I prepared the Weber for direct grilling and when the coals were ready, put both meats side by side over the coals.

I turned the meats about every five to seven minutes to make sure they cooked evenly. After about an hour over the coals, both were nicely blackened on the outside and cooked to temperature inside (about 150-160 degrees for the beef, whenever the plug popped out of the turkey breast).

I brought both in, tented them on a cutting board for 30 minutes, then began to slice as thinly as I could. I also mixed up the requisite horseradish sauce:

1 cup Hellmann's mayo
1/2 cup prepared white horseradish
1 Tbl lemon juice
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste.

I don't know if I'm quite ready to open my own roadside pit joint, but it wasn't too bad for a first attempt.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Last night we saw John Hiatt in concert at the Hot August Blues Festival in Cockeysville, Maryland. It was the fourth time we've seen Hiatt in concert. Great shows, every one.

The first time I heard of Hiatt was in the mid-1908s when we lived in Chicago and WXRT FM was playing Memphis in the Meantime. To this day it's still my favorite John Hiatt song.

There's a line in the song I didn't think about much until last night, and it jumped out at me - "At least we can get ourselves a decent meal down at the Rendezvous." Rendezvous? Why does that sound familiar?

Today I figured it out. I was just reading about the Rendezvous in Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA. It's the Vergos family's bbq restaurant in Memphis. The Rendezvous is famous for mouth-watering ribs, pork shoulder and leg of lamb. And you can order just about anything off their menu and they'll ship it to you.

Now I have a reason to like the song even more.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Peace, Love & BBQ

There are two things I miss most about Austin, Texas, where we lived during the late '90s and early '00s - the music and the food.

Marcia Ball calls to mind both. A bluesy, soulful mainstay of the Austin music scene, we saw her a couple of times in downtown restaurants, where she was eating, not performing.

The clip above preserves that duality and is a perfect fit for the theme of this blog.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Tube Steaks

Looking to flaunt my grillmanship this weekend, I stopped by the butcher and picked up a pound of his finest, all-beef tube steaks.

While the beefy links were still fresh, I prepared the Weber for direct grilling. Once the coals were white hot, I carefully placed the links perpendicular to the grate, to give them a lovely striping of grill marks.

These doggies cook quickly, so I hovered over the fire with tongs at the ready. Since these things are round, there's really no "side" to cook them on. I allowed them to rest for roughly 45 seconds before giving each tube a nudge with the tongs to expose another section to the flames.

Within 2-3 minutes, the meat was perfectly browned and the skin was bursting open. I carefully removed them from the grill and placed each in a soft, elongated roll that was split down the middle. They were then dressed with a line of mustard and a sprinkling of dill relish. They were complemented by a side salad of baby spring greens with a balsamic reduction and a perfectly chilled glass of Chardonnay.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The BBQ Song

Calamity Jeff sent me the link to the above video, which is Rhett and Link's musical review of bbq across the southern states. Great stuff!

You can see more from them here.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Head Case

The older I get, the more my head looks like an egg.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cincinnati Chili

A week ago or so, a couple of my colleagues had a running debate over fast food and whether or not Cincinnati chili qualified as a fast food and, if so, whether it ranked among the best.

Here is John McIntyre's post on the issue.

And here are Elizabeth Large's two posts. The first one, and the second.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Creative Parenting

I recently guest-blogged on my friend Kate Shatzkin's "Charm City Moms" site.

It was a recounting of an episode that sprung up during one of the Remarkable Marcy's business trips when I was left in charge of the brood.

Here's the link.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Texas Tornado

I finally got around to posting this footage of a funnel cloud that I shot eight years ago when we lived in Texas.

At the time, the kids thought it was a flying "tomato" and they were fairly unimpressed with this one. That's because it wasn't the first one that flew over our Texas home. The first one had occurred a couple of years before. I was sitting with the kids in the family room and look out the window and saw what I thought was an unusual number of buzzards circling a kill. I got up and went outside to get a better look and discovered it wasn't buzzards, but shingles and other debris whirling around inside a funnel. It was maybe a mile away and considerably bigger than the one in the video above. The kids joined me outside and we watched until Courtland, who was six at the time and considerably wiser than me, said, "Shouldn't we be hiding or something?"

He was right. Where we lived in Texas, the ground was so hard that few people had basements. The houses were built on slabs and the tornado protocol was to find a center room and hunker down there. We did that, while also donning baseball and hockey helmets for extra protection. A few minutes after we found shelter, we heard what sounded more like a passing helicopter than a train, but you could definitely hear it going over us. It lasted maybe two minutes, and once it passed, the skies turned yellow and the hail started falling, followed by brief but heavy rains.

We were lucky. The funnel hopped over our house, then touched down about a mile away on a shopping center, tearing the roof off a grocery store, blowing out windows of a video store and worst of all, destroying my favorite liquor store. It hopped again to a subdivision about two miles from there, where it did considerable damage to some homes.

All that paled compared to what it had done before it reached us. About 25 miles to the north, it had ravaged the town of Jarrell, shearing homes from their foundations and killing 27 people.

Tornadoes are the types of things that are hard to look away from, but very easy to respect once you've experienced the deadly force they bring.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pulled Pork

The prodigal bbq blogger returns for a report on the annual pulling of the pork.

The summer has been incredibly, but enjoyably, busy with the kids' baseball and softball tournaments filling up just about every weekend. But now softball is over and we have a weekend of no games before the final baseball tournament. Wayne, the baseball coach invited the team and families over to his house Saturday night for a cookout and party, so with the extra time on my hands during the day, I volunteered to smoke a couple of pork shoulders for the event.

At 6:30 in the morning I was out back, setting up the grill for indirect heating of two, 7-lb. pork shoulders. Because they took up so much space in the Weber, I had the coals and chips on only one side of the kettle, with a drip pan taking up the other half.

I used a recipe for the Lexington Pulled Pork Shoulder Rub out of Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA, but doubled the batch because of the amount of meat I was preparing. Here's the single-batch recipe from the book:

4 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

By 7:15 a.m. I had the meat on the grill. I'm not sure how many neighbors awoke to the aroma of smoking pork, but I received no complaints.

While the meat was cooking, I mixed up the old family recipe for Kentucky BBQ Dip, a perfectly peppery vinegar-based sauce that my dad used to mop on ribs, chicken, pork and mutton when I was growing up.

I checked the kettle about once an hour, adding more charcoal and soaked wood chips as needed, then started checking the temperature of the meat at about four hours in.

The photos above show the shoulders at one and three hours in. And I've discovered that they also repulse the Remarkable Marcy, who is a great fan of pigs in any form but food.

At noon, the meat thermometer in one of the shoulders surpassed 190 degrees and I pulled it from the grill. I brought it inside, covered it with foil for about 30 minutes, then began to pull it apart. By 1 p.m., the second shoulder had cooked to the proper temperature and it also came inside for cooling and pulling. When both shoulders had been pulled, I put the meat on a cutting board and chopped it up.

The pulled, chopped pork went into a foil pan where it was topped and mixed with about two cups of the bbq dip.

A couple of hours later, with the pork, additional dip, buns and a couple of side dishes, we went to the party. There were the standard burgers, dogs and sausages, but the bbq added a bit of southern flavor and class to this bash.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Gonna Be One of Those Days

Here's how my day started.

I was on my way to work and had just pulled onto the ramp to enter the beltway when I heard a loud "THWOP" and felt something hit the side of the car.

My first reaction - okay second reaction after shouting aloud a couple of expletives - was to look in the mirror to see if I'd hit a deer, dog, person, bike, tree or some other seemingly invisible item.

Then I saw the feathers.

A flurry of little gray tufts of feathers started wafting forward from the back seat. Apparently a bird had flown in through my sun roof and met its end against the passenger-side door in the back.

I was too icked out to look over my shoulder to see the results, and drove the rest of the 20 minutes to work, fanning the occasional remnant feather away from my face and knowing that I would have to remove the bird when I pulled into the parking lot.

After arriving at work, I found a plastic grocery bag in my trunk. I opened the back door of the car and there was the bird. It was small, gray and fortunately, mostly intact. I shrouded it with the bag and deposited it in a nearby bird mausoleum (aka trash can).

Let me offer this small tribute to the late bird:
Birdie, birdie in the sky
Wait until my car goes by,
'Cuz if you fly in through my roof,
You'll hit the door and then go poof.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

25 Years

It was a mere quarter century ago - almost to this very moment - that the Remarkable Marcy and I were forever joined in holy matrimony. That's the happy couple above.

Actually, it was a civil service that day for reasons I will explain in a longer post some other time. But we had our union blessed in church for our 10th anniversary, so now we are wed in the eyes of the law and the Lord. Never hurts to cover all the bases.

It's been an enjoyable 25 years, not always easy, but never dull. I can honestly say I love her as much and have as much fun with her now as when we first met. Maybe even more.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Vote for Jason

Jason at Jason's BBQ Adventures has his own Food Network video in which he shares his recipe for stuffed jalapenos. Check it out and give it a good rating at the end and we might end up seeing it on Bobby Flay's show.

Well done!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Beer, Bourbon and BBQ

Earlier this week, when I first heard about the “Beer, Bourbon and BBQ” show, my gleeful reaction was, “They’ve finally come up with a show just for me!” It turns out that it was a show for me and what seemed like 100,000 others like me.

The show, at the 4-H building on the state fairgrounds in Timonium today (Saturday, 4/5/08) drew a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of beer-swigging, bourbon-sipping, bbq-chomping humanity. Most of that humanity was male and in what seemed to me to be the 20-35-year-old range. I wasn’t surprised that it was mostly male and I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how young the crowd was. For the $35 entry fee, you could get samples of beer and bourbon from the exhibitors, limited only by how much those exhibitors brought with them. The food at the show cost extra.

It took about 10 minutes of shuffling in line to get into the building, where after paying for entry you picked up a glass for sampling. It was by the door that I also saw the first of a few long lines of people waiting to get into the restrooms. This was the point at which I decided to forgo the beer and stick to bourbon.

I believe I hit most of the bourbon booths that still had samples available, and by the end of my day I had sampled five small-batch brands. Three of them I had had before – Bookers, Wild Turkey Rare Breed and Woodford Reserve. Two were new to me – Buffalo Trace and Evan Williams. I was very pleasantly surprised by the Evan Williams, which I found to be very smooth and not too sweet. The Buffalo Trace, a brand I had gotten good reviews about from a co-worker but have found hard to find, was a little too sweet for me. The others, all of which are among my favorites, didn’t disappoint.

In between the bourbon samples, I wormed my way through the crowd. In addition to the food and beverage booths, there were other exhibitors pushing salsas, spices, t-shirts, brand new windows and other odds and ends. The only booth I saw with no action whatsoever was for the National Guard. Almost out of pity, I stopped to talk to them. They said things tend to pick up for them after people drink for a while, once they start to become less inhibited, one of the guardsmen said. I asked if guys try to enlist their drunk buddies as practical jokes. They explained that they’re not allowed to actually enlist people at the event, but if a name winds up on their list, they do indeed follow up a few days later with a phone call.

After an hour and a half at this four-hour event, I started to see the first signs of trouble, as a few people were starting to stagger. I had spaced out my five shots, wolfed down a delicious pulled-pork sandwich from Kloby’s and was feeling like I’d gotten out of the event what I’d wanted. Being smart enough to know better than to drive myself, I phoned my wife, who was my pre-appointed designated driver, and she came and picked me up.

Am I glad I went? Yeah, I think so. If I hadn’t, I would have just moped about not going. Would I go back? I don’t know that I would. It’s one of those things that would be a lot of fun for someone in their 20s (21 and up, of course) and 30s – and there were plenty of them there. But for an old fogey like me, I think I’d prefer to line ‘em up on the bar with an intimate gathering of friends or loved ones.

Friday, March 21, 2008


When I was in the fourth grade I created a cartoon character named Fick. Fick was a little boy with a big nose that had three nostrils. What was amazing about Fick (if the big nose and three nostrils weren't enough) was that he could blow enough air out his nose that he could fly. He discovered this one day after a sneeze. Before then, all the other kids used to make fun of him. But once he took wing (nose?), he was not only cool, he was something of a super hero.

Our youngest, MoJo, is now in the fourth grade and I recently shared Fick's story with her. Now she has picked up pen and has started to draw her own adventures of Fick. She came to work with me today and did the drawing posted here. You might have to click on it to enlarge it so you can read it. A very talented young one, she is.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


It's officially spring today. For me, anyway. Today, my current hometown team, the woeful Orioles, play their first game at spring training. But today they're not woeful. Not yet anyway. No teams suck yet and everybody has a chance.

The other day on the radio I heard two baseball analysts saying the Cubs and Indians could be in the World Series this year. And they weren't kidding! If that happened, it could signal the end of the world, or at the very least lead to the end of my marriage (Marcy is a cradle-Clevelander and I've been a Cubs fan since the mid-1960s).

On this day, it's not far-fetched to consider a Cubs-Indians series match up. Heck, you could even be optimistic about the chances of the Orioles on this day. No losses yet.

Hooray for baseball!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Five Easy Pieces

Erika at Tummy Treasure tagged me for a meme. She was working off two of her own, so I took the easier of the two - the "Five Little Bits Meme." So, here are five things about me, and five other bloggers I'm infecting with this thing.

1. I didn't know what a meme was. I had to look it up, which was a little humbling for someone whose job is steeped in multimedia and webby things. I wasn't sure if it was pronounced "me-me" (it isn't), "meem" (nope) or "mem" (yep). For those of you whom I've tagged who might find themselves in the same situation, your charge is to list five things about yourself, then "tag" five more bloggers by naming them in the post, then leaving a comment on their blogs to let them know they've been tagged. If they don't want to play, that's fine. No jail time, no tickets, no public humiliation. Just drop them from your Christmas card list next year.

2. I'm bald thanks to a Portuguese barber. I once had a full head of long, thick, brown hair. When I hit my mid-30s, it began to thin on top, but there was enough there that it was still serviceable. This was at a time when I worked in the Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago. Tucked away on an upper floor of the tower was a two-chair barber shop run by a Portuguese man named Alberto. Alberto charged only $8 per cut, but nobody really went to him for the haircut. His claim to fame was an electric massager he strapped onto his hand that he would run over your head, neck, shoulders and arms for about 10 minutes after the haircut. Once I discovered Alberto, I started booking appointments on a weekly basis. It was probably after the third consecutive week that the top of my head was cut so short that I officially and undeniably passed into the category of bald guy. It was quite a shock when he spun me around to look in the mirror. And I think it may have been more of a shock for the Remarkable Marcy when I got home. The shock was short-lived. The baldness, however, is still with me. We've been out of Chicago for 11 years now and of all the things that I miss, Alberto is still near the top of the list.

3. Some movies make me cry. But they're mostly sports movies. When those guys are running on the beach in Chariots of Fire, I'm verklempt. And when Kevin Costner has a catch with his dad in Field of Dreams, I sob like a baby.

4. I invented a natural lava lamp. It was a total accident, but very cool. Chill some diet Sprite or 7-Up in the fridge. Take it out and pour it in a glass with no ice. Add some green seedless grapes. Wait a couple of minutes and voila!

5. I worked with a clown. My first job was at a TV studio in Columbus, Ohio, where I had the privilege of working with Flippo the Clown. Flippo was legendary in Columbus and anybody who lived in the city or went to Ohio State in the '50s, '60s and '70s spent afternoons watching his afternoon movie show. Flippo was like a Vaudeville comedian dressed in a clown suit and he hosted a studio audience and did wraparound segments for whatever movie happened to be on that afternoon. Nobody watched for the movie. In the late '70s, Flip was hired away by the QUBE cable system, an interactive cable experiment that was the world's first interactive anything. I was hired there following an internship and spent the first four years of my career there. One of my most enjoyable assignments was working on an interactive game show in which Flippo played the viewers' hand in card games with local celebs (it's a little hard to make that any less abstract in this amount of space. Perhaps a longer post at another time). In the name of research, we used to play cards all day, and Flippo - out of costume during this R&D stuff - was still spouting out the jokes. It's hard to believe I was getting paid (but not much) for that sort of work. Flippo, aka Bob Marvin, also led a jazz band and his band played at the reception at our wedding. Flippo died in June 2006. I can only imagine the fun they've had in Heaven since then.

Okay, now it's your turn. I'm tagging...

Chef JP at the Chef From Hell blog, whose recipes are in large part responsible for the weight I gained last year.

Natural Woman at Thinking Out Loud, who offers a great spin on life, family and technology.

Pete at My GPS Camera Phone, a great photo site which has recently undergone a redesign.

Olga, The Traveling Bra, my favorite travel blog because it makes me laugh.

My buddy Alan, author and animator at Adventures in Pond Scum.

Sorry for assigning you the work, but am looking forward to reading what you come up with.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My What?!!

Every now and then something will jump out of an innocent conversation and smack me up side the head like a baseball bat.

I just had one of those conversations.

Brother Dave was talking about the impending birth of his daughter, Emily's, and her husband, Dave's, first child. I wrote about this a few months back when the happy news first broke.

Anyway, tonight big bro referred to the incoming family addition as my "grand niece."

My what?!! Holy crap! I'm going to have a grand something! I've never been on this side of the grand thing. When did I get this old?

Ugh. I need a stiff drink to help me deal with this.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why BBQ Is Good For You

I was watching TV recently and there was a commercial for the Maryland Lottery. They were talking to a recent winner by the name of Mark Dayton, who won $100,000 back in January.

I swear he's one of the counter guys at Big Bad Wolf Barbecue on Harford Road in Baltimore. While the commercial didn't identify where he works, they showed him inside the place, which is pretty unmistakable.

Good for him, and proof that smoking bbq brings good karma.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Resolution #3 - Learn How to Juggle

Everyone needs a skill they can fall back on in these tough economic times. That's why this year I've resolved to learn how to juggle, which is different than multitasking which I've been doing way too long.

You can learn along with me.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Poll

No more fighting. 2008 will be a peaceful year.

I want to know what you think. Vote now.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

We're No. 2!

Again. Ouch.

For the second straight year my Buckeyes come up short in the BCS Championship Game. I can put a positive spin on it when I consider that they've only lost three games in the past two years and two of those losses were to the national championship teams.

Ah, now I feel better.

My suggestion for the folks at the BCS: Make the title game sudden death. First team to score wins.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Alton Brown, King of the World

Okay, I'm convinced. Alton Brown 58, Ron Paul 1.

So ends the Food Fight. Alton uber alles.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Alton Brown vs Ron Paul

Okay, curiousity got the better of me. Everybody's been crowing about the Internet organization behind the campaign of Libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul. I say it's nothing compared to Alton's Army.

New poll is up: Who'd win a fight between Alton Brown and Ron Paul?

DING! There's the bell...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Food Fight, Results of Championship Bout

And the winner is...

Come on, you know who it is. There was never any doubt in this Food Network Food Fight once the highly orchestrated following of Alton Brown found their way to the Sullicom blog.

By well over 100 votes, Alton diced, minced and pureed tiny Giada De Laurentis into the ground. The final tally - 136-8.

To celebrate the victory, here is a link to one of Alton's recipes that goes right to the heart (in more ways than one) of my Southern upbringing - his prep for Country Ham.

Before signing off today, I want to wish everyone the happiest and most prosperous of new years. I've thoroughly enjoyed this blogging experience the past few months and appreciate the precious time you've spared from your busy days to drop by and read what I've written. I'm undecided at the moment if this blog will continue in its current format. While it's been fun, it takes a great deal of commitment to churn out content that makes it worth your while to read. It has also been dangerously tempting to write about comfort foods and I confess that I've resorted to eating lots of them in the name of research. The result has been a gain of about 20 lbs., which I don't even need my doctor to point out is not wise for a middle-aged man with a family history of cardiac trouble.

So, while I join millions of others who have resolved to lose weight in this new year, I'll try to figure out what to do about the blog. In the meantime, I'll continue to drop in on your blogs to enjoy what you've written. And when it does become clear what Sullicom wants to be when it grows up, I'll let you know and I hope you'll take a look.

Happy New Year!