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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cajun and Kobe in the Arizona Desert

For reasons best left unknown to the general public, Spicy Food Guy was out and about in the world.  This time SFG was engaged in a quick flyby of Phoenix, Arizona, with only a day or so to try out the local cuisine.

Fortunately for Spicy Food Guy, his accommodations were located right across the street from Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen.  Let's just say it didn't take long for SFG to determine where he was headed for dinner.

SFG knows how to eat out when he is by himself on the road.  Roll up the sleeves.  Sit at the bar.  Quaff the local microbrew.  On draft.  Spread out.  Eat big.  SFG  knocked down the Cajun Combination, a cup each of seafood gumbo, crawfish etouffee, and chicken and sausage jambalaya.  Plus coleslaw.  And garlic bread.   The gumbo was particularly good: earthy broth and tender chunks of shrimp and other seafood.

The more interesting part of the trip began the next day, when Spicy Food Guy's services were needed at the Phoenician, located in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The Phoenician, by any standard, is one of the stateliest and most elegant resorts anywhere in the US.  It doesn't just exude wealth, it exudes the look and feel of America's wealthiest.  Think the Greenbrier in WV, or The Breakers in Palm beach, FL.

Spicy Food Guy read a book once, Conspiracy of Fools, an accounting of the rise and fall of the Enron Corporation.  At the height of Enron's power and prestige, the Company had their annual executive offsite at the Phoenician.  As Spicy Food Guy surveyed his surroundings, he could just picture Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow striding across the marble and granite bridges that crisscross the swimming pools.  They would be sporting expensive sunglasses and wearing their arrogant infallibility like a tailored suit of Armani armor.  With blazing blue skies and a resort that backs up against the stark Camelback Mountain, it is just a given that the Phoenician houses Captains of Industry.  SFG swears you can smell corporate deals in the air.

But Spicy Food Guy digresses.

Since it was warm outside and SFG lives in a cold place, he elected to eat lunch at the Oasis Pool Bar and Grill.  Spicy Food Guy decided to try the Kobe burger because he hadn't had one before and the Japanese beef is said to be second to none.

No lie on the Kobe.  It's juicy, flavorful, a burger's burger.  And poolside at the Phoenician is a damn fine place to try one's first Kobe.      

As delicious as the burger was, SFG is simply not a Kobe guy.  Or a Phoenician guy.  SFG would just as soon knock back a hot dog and brew at a baseball game.  Preferably at PNC Park.  There are places you go and marvel at the beauty and wealth, and there are cities you live in that slowly capture your heart, and you come to love it there.  That's home, baby.  Home. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Fabulous Breakfast Sandwich at the Place You Never Go To

You know that dive restaurant you have driven by 248 times on your way to somewhere else and said to yourself "sometime I need to stop and eat at that place" but you never do?  Spicy Food Guy ate there.  And you are missing it, because it's pretty good.

But Spicy Food Guy digresses.

Spicy Food Guy was having lunch.  But not just any lunch.  The very best kind of lunch.  SFG was joined by not only his lovely daughter home from college, but also the boy, who is finishing his freshman year at Mt Lebo High School and just had golfed 20 strokes better than his Dad.  On nine holes.  He is really good, I suck.  I have come to peace with that.

Time was not long ago when the three of us ate together all the time.  As a divorced Dad who had his kids over every other weekend, the three of us ate out all the time as a matter of course.  Eating out removed us from my (then) tiny apartment and gave us some bonding time.  Back then our eating out was a matter of convenience, now it's a treasure.  I suppose it was a treasure back then, too, but I missed it.  SFG supposes that this is the manner of things; we miss the treasures in front of us.  A daughter's laugh, a perfectly cooked over easy egg, the boy's smile, laughing.  Treasures.  SFG sees them much better now, these moments to be savored.  

So back to the diner SFG had driven by so many times.  Tom's.  Great place.  Spicy Food Guy had the breakfast sandwich that has gyro meat, egg, and cheese on Italian toast.  Tasty!  Really good.  To the point SFG wondered why he had never seen, much less eaten, one before.  The girl had pancakes.  The boy wolfed down eggs, bacon, pancakes, toast.  The boy is ravenous, all the time.  You have to watch your fingers.

So here's the thing.  Spicy Food Guy has kids he does not deserve.  They are wicked smart.  The two of them have posted up 24 years of education, with maybe a B or two on 98 report cards.  Everything else an "A".  Since they came from a broken home, they should have issues, right?  Instead, both of them are caring, kind, quick to comfort others, funny, good people to be around.  They get lead roles in plays, get elected class officers, they are beloved. 

SFG is not.  Spicy Food Guy is cantankerous, grumpy, intimidating.  Spicy Food Guy caved into peer pressure in high school and made bad decisions that hurt good people (my apologies, PF, wherever you are).  SFG still sucks at stuff.  SFG doesn't have half the character of his kids, and he is twice and a half their age.

Spicy Food Guy ponders all this.  He is either a fabulous parent beyond measure (unlikely), or random shit has occurred in the universe that has blessed him with the best of children.  Or maybe all that is moot and we all just grab a good diner breakfast when we can, because it's all finite.  The stars, the laughs, the sunrises, walruses, anxiety-ridden dogs, and bad golf outings.  Breathe it in.  Embrace what you can.  SFG senses his mortality, and he's ok with it. 

Peace out.  

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