Friday, January 28, 2011

Eating Out: The Anniversary

Well good friends and dear readers, here we are. At a place where, 365 days ago, I’d have probably scoffed at it’s potential for reality. It seems that somehow, by hook or crook, Eating Out Fresno has been posting culinary nonsense about our hometown for a year now!

That first post feels and looks like it was done a lot longer ago than a year. And it was that first dish that helped to establish the belligerently drunk voice by which EOF is bellowed across the cosmos. All started with the wildly inebriated urge while camping for a hearty breakfast to pass out after. I can still remember sitting in the crisp morning air next to the fire, trying to dry out a soaked pant leg and eagerly shoving thyme seasoned potatoes and bacon into my gob with such a sense of happiness and completion. That’s when I knew that it was food that I truly cared about and loved above all other subjects.

And since our dear friend Scurvy had been crawling up our butt for months to get out of the Hobbit Hole and start being creative on my own. It dovetailed nicely with the drunken revelation and Eating Out Fresno was born. Funny that the intent was to focus on restaurant reviewing, yet the first post was a recipe. And that theme has stuck for a lot of reasons, mostly interactions with real Fresno people who are curious about food.

Most often when I’m gabbing about food with actual human Fresnans, more often than not they’re interested in technique or ingredients or curious about entirely new cuisines. But almost none of them are curious as to where they can buy it at a restaurant or are in the least bit curious as to what restaurant is better than another. So really, the reviews we do, seem to be more for my own pleasure at getting to praise or prod a given local eatery based on our given experience. Which I do still enjoy.

Well, enjoy and dread. You see, when I step in to a restaurant, I almost forget that I’m there to be critical. I used to work in one, so whenever I totter into the front of house, I get that “at home” feeling one gets when they’re comfortable at their job. I like to observe how the crew interacts and gets their job done. And should everything run smoothly, I’m so busy being pleased that I’ve almost forgotten that I’m there to be critical. Conversely, when it goes off the rails as we’re being seated, I’m more like the evil secret shopper sent from corporate. Veins bulging, observing every wasted moment, overhearing salty banter from the kitchen, weighing individuals reactions to figure out how much spit is in my entrĂ©e. Really, the asshole that the blog was initially meant to portray.

But overall, Fresno has too many of the former type of experiences for me to reliably write in the latter type of headspace. Mainly because too many good restaurants would get caught in the crossfire. And that would, in my eyes, be a violation of the troth that one swears when they become a kitchenite. Good food and good service deserve to have praise lavished on them. It’s a tough job sometimes and to be able to pull it off in style is praise worthy. At the same time, screw ups, lazy fuckoffs and debutantes ruin meals and evenings. And those fuckers deserve every bit of vitriol that can be spat, simply because they make the star players look like chumps. Nobody wants those types of places and people around, they ruin good times and good ingredients.

Now the types of people you WANT around would be the many friends that we’ve become close to over the year. Of course, there is the aforementioned Scurvy of Cap’n Scurvy’s Ragnarok Hootenanny Jamboree. I’ve really got to offer him my thanks in getting me off of my creative butt. I kept swearing that the blog was just a writing exercise, but in all honesty it has become a pleasurable passion. Then of course there is Chef Delaney Boling from the Not only is he a great chef and blogger, but we also have in common that we’re refugees from the same substandard re-educational gulag! He was one of the first pros in the food world to give us a bit of encouragement and even allowed us to guest blog on his home site. Not to mention we had such a great time catching up on the past and discussing the culinary cornucopia laid out before us at the Celebration of Wine.

Of course, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the mayor of the Tower District and interweb TeeVee phenomenon Chuck Leonard. We met over at the Mike Briggs studios during the lead up to the Rogue Festival. A few weeks later while taking in the show, I noticed that Airplane Jayne was planning on shaving poor Mr. Leonard bald, but they had no shears to make him shorn. So quick like a bunny into the bathroom, I grab my manscaping shears, blow the pubes off the blades and head out to Tower. And wouldn’t you know it, he was so grateful at their pain-free performance (hey, I like a close shave too!) that he offered us a cooking segment on his 2 hour showstravaganza! And ever since, each week we get to pull some harebrained semi-portable meal idea into the studio and try not to fuck it all up in a half hour. I’ve really got to offer my thanks to both Chuck and Mike for giving me the opportunity to have so much fun with food, not to mention getting to feed cast, crew and the awesome locals that pass through the studio.

Who else? Well of course there is the infamous Mrs. EOF, who supports, advises, proofreads, edits, finances and just about everything else for the blog. There is no other woman on Earth who has been as supportive and kind to a drunk loudmouth with a passion. To say Eating Out Fresno wouldn’t exist without her is an understatement. I would know less than 10% of what I know about food if it weren’t for her loving support and sharing in my love and curiosity of all things food. Give me a chefs knife, a cast iron skillet and her and I can conquer the world.

And there are so many more! Joe Osejo, the Eye of Fresno, for giving me my first shot at mixology. Andy, Jeph and Fish for showing me that you can make ANYTHING in a pizza broiler if you’re creative enough. Ben “Evil Robot” Toth for being the first person I ever saw make stuffed cannelloni using only a British commando dagger and a baking pan. Mom, for teaching me to cook. Dad, for teaching me that sometimes you’re a much better cook when you’re blackout drunk.

But the most important kudos have to go to you, the readers. Afterall, if you weren’t reading this, it really would just be a writing exercise. And seriously, the feedback that I get from y’all is like a fresh batch of heroin to Keith Richards. I’m positively giddy any time I get to interact with you or find out that you’ve tried out one of the recipes and made it your own.

So, to show my appreciation to you the readers, we will be putting on: The Eating Out Fresno Mystery Dish Scavenger Hunt! Here’s how it’s going to work. On Monday I will post a list of ingredient clues that you’ll have to guess and then bring home and figure out which of our previously posted recipes that they belong to. Then it’s up to you to cook the dish and post a picture of it on the Eating Out Fresno facebook page (or you can e-mail it to me if you hate social networking). As many as possible who get it right will have their choice between 5 peter pepper seeds OR 1 peter pepper seedling plant. So you too can add pornographically hilarious spice to your cooking! (limited supply on hand, pepper seedlings subject to the fickle hand of Nature, seedlings unshippable, so you gotta meet me somewhere in Fresno, etc)

Happy Anniversary y’all!!