April 20, 2009

Reliving Youth

I readied my self on the starting line, beads of sweat dripping from my brow. The air was stifling. My hands were moist in an uncontrollable anticipation to hear the go-ahead. My knees angled in preparation to gun it out of the gate. Then finally,

“3…2…1…DODGEBALL!!!”

I made a mad dash for the middle of 3 lined-up balls waiting for my arrival, and prepared to battle the opposing team in a fury of dodgeball chaos. I scanned the parameters in search of a vulnerable foe. My heart started beating rapidly, my arm steadily rising. Then suddenly, like Maverick in an F-14 Tomcat, I zeroed in on my target, locked him and wound up.

My arm delivered a swing unlike any other I had experienced. The ball, my weapon, tore through the air cutting its palpable mustiness, and it was headed straight for my opponent. Suddenly, within a millisecond, the enemy ducks, and my cannon ball NAILS another player dead in the head. In this league, that warrants an ejection from the current round.

At last, the game was over. “What next?” I asked.

To the bar.

This is XOSO. A sports and social league supported by hundreds of players from the Sacramento area - formed to “bring fun, sports, exercise, and drinks to the masses.” A league that also offers Spring/Fall Kickball, Summer Volleyball, and many weekends of Capture the Flag, on top of their many seasons of Dodgeball.

What makes these sporting events even better are the after-game trips to the bars (did I mention drink specials and free pitchers for the winning teams?) where teams continue the competitive spirit in trash talking and going head-to-head in intense games of Flip-Cup.

Then there are the occasional Sunday BBQs at the park, which I happily endorse. Yes, there’s nothing like scarfing down a burger, with a beer to wash it down, after you just ran the bases in kickball. It also gives a chance for the many grill-masters in the league to show-off their cooking abilities. XOSO also hosts many pub crawls and nights out in Sacramento’s Downtown/Midtown scene.

Want to know where to get in on all the action? Check out http://www.xososports.com/ for more info on joining the fun.

Play, socialize, drink, eat, and play some more.

April 13, 2009

Kitchen Confessional #1: The Olive of Dissonance


I often wonder if my taste buds would ever join the rest of the world and embrace the so-called mysteriously delicious flavor of the olive. I can’t deny that it’s a staple in many a cuisine. In fact, I cook with olive oil for most of my dishes at home. It’s just the actual fruit that I cannot come to appreciate. There’s something about a food that resembles the abdomen of a black widow (minus the crunch) that just doesn’t scream out, “Enjoy me on your next salad!” Not to mention their metallic taste and rubbery texture.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried olives many times. However, my pursuit to fit in and understand this ancient fruit often ends in failure. Picture a nightclub:

Once said olive enters the primary gates to my stomach and gets past the incisor guards, initial contact with my tongue occurs, and the now-mashed olive patiently waits in my body’s foyer for approval. Noticing the olives horrible style and taste, this is typically followed by a rejection to enter my stomach, coincidentally called “The Gastro Club,” where most fruit and veggies are allowed admission. More often than not, the unwelcomed guest is 86’d, and a clean linen napkin is ruined. The olive is then banished for 6 months until I’m brave enough to try to like them again.

Though, it’s not just the flavor that confuses me, but also the obsession. I have memories from the restaurants I’ve worked and the bars that I frequent, of seeing fully grown women eating these stuffed edible spheres with relentless passion, dribbling olive juice along their jaw lines, and washing it down with an extra dirty martini, with 3-4 extra olives. If I’m not mistaken, this is an olive addiction, where two olives no longer yield the desired gratification.

The mania starts young, too. It seems that every family BBQ I attend, there are at least a thousand kids putting black olives on the tips of their little olive-loving fingers – and barbarically eating them right off. This behavior carries on into adulthood, which then turns into said addiction.

However, women and children are not the only ones affected. Men also make up this strange olive obsession. Working in a pizza place during my youth, I’ve seen men demand the black rings on their pies.

TRUE STORY: A man once came into the Me-n-Ed’s Pizzaria where I worked as a teen and brought in a pizza that he had ordered from the night before. Noticing the discontent expression on his face, I had asked him if there was a problem.

“Yeah!” he said, and insisted that there were not enough olives on his family size combination. I looked in the box (more than half the pizza missing) and counted several dark loops and deemed it necessary to point this out to the angry man.

“Are you stupid or something?! There are no olives!” He refuted.

I replied, “Hey, take it easy. How about I make you another one?”

“Keep your pizza you punk kid! I know the owners of this place! And I will RUIN you!” He boldly stated as he stormed out.

My thought? Olives ruined this man’s life.

So I confess, yes I am an olive-phobe. I may not enjoy them like the rest of you, but I think O-live.

A bit of humor:


Upon researching this subject, I learned I wasn’t alone. http://antiolive.blogspot.com is a blogger who shares my disdain to an extreme.(Art from antiolive.blogspot.com)

April 3, 2009

Fires aren't the Only Thing Heatin' Up in Palo Alto

Hot sauce. To some, it is a nice addition to certain meals - but to the Palo Alto Firefighters, it is a necessity. Since 1994, Palo Alto Firefighter Lee Taylor has been growing the peppers that go into the savory sauce, right out of the fire station’s backyard. Seems odd that a person outside of the culinary field can create such a delicious recipe, but honestly, who better to make this amazing hot sauce than the firefighters of Palo Alto? These guys really know how to control heat, and it shows in their signature pepper sauce.

The sauce adds an incredible zest of flavor to all dishes. It offers a sharp and peppery tang with a medium level spiciness. The aroma alone awakens the senses and causes your tongue’s natural waterworks to overproduce in extreme anticipation of that initial taste.

Description:

-Explosion of flavor that takes your taste-buds to a new world of happiness

-Redefines “Zesty, Tangy, and Piquant,” to warrant a new word called “Zang-quant”

-Aromas awaken causing extreme salivation

-Goes GREAT on BBQ, pizza, morning eggs, potatoes, Bloody Marys, and just about anything else

-But mostly, it tastes even better when you know that all proceeds go to charity

Thank you Palo Alto Firefighters for bringing this California gem to the kitchen tables of many. To order, follow the link:

http://www.paloaltofirefighters.org/pepper_sauce.htm

April 1, 2009

Long Live the Martini!

If you invented a time machine and traveled back 5 years, you might find a young Cresencio appreciating a deliciously cold Bud Light over a Carne Asada Torta from The Red Wave Inn in Fresno, Ca. Yes, it was a simple time, a wonderful time. A time of friends, college, cheap beer, and awesome pub grub. Back then, I was a na├»ve young lad and didn’t take the time to really appreciate what else existed in the foodie/bevie world. Little did I know that half a decade later, I would be writing about my absolute love for a new favorite drink, the martini.

It was 2006 and I was getting ready to catch the latest Bond film, Casino Royale. The flick was great, but one part in particular stuck with me the most. It was a quote, the sole reason that inspired me and got me hooked on my then, latest personal discovery.

“Dry Martini…Three measures of Gordon's; one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel.”

Sounded like 007 had it right with his signature “Vesper” Martini.

I wanted one. I wanted one just like it. Bond’s martini. So I tried it, a modified version, but tried nonetheless. As I raised the chilled glass up to my lips and got that initial aroma of complexity, my world changed and suddenly I was in a tuxedo. There was a gun in my sock and I was the chip leader at a high stakes poker table. I shook it off and proceeded to sip. Once the coveted liquor covered my taste buds, my tuxedo slowly started to vanish, and I was back in the faded button up shirt and the Express jeans I came to the bar wearing.

I remember thinking, “Wow, that wasn’t what I was expecting. That’s not good at all.”

Determined not to give up on the martini, I decided to take it a little easier. I made up a drink that I still order to this day and would recommend to anyone - something a little more novice.

In an order that would make Daniel Craig himself jealous, I calmly ordered.

“Excuse me. Can I get a martini, 1 part Disaronno, 2 parts Goose, splash of sweet vermouth, with a twist? Up please.” (The tuxedo was DEFINATELY back on at that moment).

It was a much better martini for a novice at the time - also a martini that even a pro could have appreciated. This very drink then launched me into my latest, long standing drinkie adventure. It sent me to a new world of class and sophistication. A world where the nice guy didn’t finish last. "A world of never-ending happiness, where you can always see the sun, day or night.” Where Sinatra tunes were the soundtrack to life, and everyone was wearing evening garb.

But how can one appreciate a martini without knowing its true origin? Well that can be difficult. According to Swankmartini.com, the martini can be credited to a few long standing claims. The first, and probably most popular, revolves around the city of Martinez, Ca. during the 1850s. It was there where gold prospectors ordered a drink named after the city. It contained gin, vermouth, bitters and Maraschino. Based on the ingredients, an evolution of the drink is definitely feasible. A simple tweek of the ingredients and BAM! You’ve got yourself a martini my friends.

Another theory comes out of San Francisco, from a one Jerry Thomas, bartender at the Occidental Hotel in the 19th century. Legend has it that this bartender is the rightful inventor of the famous drink, mixing gin and vermouth for his guests daily.

Nowadays, martinis come in various form. There are more choices in flavor, appearance, distinction, texture, garnishes, and price. One thing is for certain, the martini is one drink that has withstood time. In a changing alcohol culture of bartenders, sommeliers, mixologists, drinkologists, and this that and the other - along with its increasing popularity in movies, bars, and Rat Packs alike - there’s no question that the martini is the most popular drink of all time.


Don’t know where to start? I personally like to stick with a gin martini with little to no vermouth at all. A nice Sapphire, up with a twist does the trick, every time. Too simple? Most restaurants put their own spin on the martini. There is bound to be one out there that is just right for you. Just ask your local bartender. Most of them are just dying to show off their martini-making skills for you.

Cheers, Salud, Chin Chin, Prost, Salute, and Bottoms Up!