Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Denny's Lumberjack Slam

Bands end up at Denny's. It's not always favorable, but it is inevitable. Since my high school days of photocopying fliers in the library, bumming rides to Guitar Center, and coming up with awfully clever song titles, nights have ended at the only 24 hour spot that welcomes this type of riff raff.

Sunny Ali and myself (the Kid) found ourselves in a Denny's in Alexandria VA at 3am with the Kominas and Omar Waqar of Sarmust. We were waiting for a call from punk legend Jello Biafra that would later lead us to a late night meeting in the lobby of the Silver Spring Crown Plaza where he questioned and advised us on the burgeoning scene dubbed Taqwacore at its inception.

But anyhow, back to the breakfast. I was never able to get a Grand Slam before and would always end up watching one from behind my short stack across the table. In an attempt to bridge my former favorite with this new Adventure, I got the Lumberjack Slam; a short stack, hashbrowns, two eggs, bacon, little sausages, a hunk of ham and some toast. The eggs and toast ended up being a charitable donation to Basim Usmani. The porcine components, I kept for myself...and enjoyed thoroughly.

Maybe it was my road nourished appetite, but I thoroughly enjoyed a full strip of bacon for the first time. Through this Adventure, I learned this about myself: I don't like it crispy! The greasy strips were positively floppy and for the first time it was perfect, although it wasn't the highlight. It finally made sense to me pork is such a major part of the American breakfast. Beef and chicken are hardly agreeable morning meats, but ham fits in perfectly somehow. The slightly rubbery texture contrasts with the softness of hashbrowns and eggs. Add in the rest of the pork elements and what you have before you is an amusement park of a meal. The ferris wheel is the glass of orange juice to my left.

Regarding the sausage: I'd like to conduct a blind taste test of beef and pork breakfast sausages. I was unable to identify any differences. This was a first. I was happy to note this parallel before thinking again and wondering if I've been buying the wrong Brown and Serve all these years.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lilly's 'That Bacon One'

Though I might not share it, I understand the affinity for bacon. I understand what it means to add it to anything, and I understand why people think it's delicious. I don't, however, understand what makes it an obsession. What allows bacon to become the centerpiece of so many experimental dishes?

As I continue the Adventures, I find less and less evidence of any actual substance to America's love affair with bacon. I'm leaning more toward believing that it's almost a rite of passage. What kind of American doesn't love bacon? Or football? Or the soggy smell of badly made light beer? Being an American who did most of his growing up outside the US, these are all things that I was more or less required to get used to in order to downplay my FOB status (look it up if you don't know).

It reminds me of something the Japanese swear is delicious but is notably not: nattō. This stuff looks and tastes like baked beans suspended in camel snot, and every Japanese person you meet swears it's delicious. If you ask me, it's the only Japanese food that will never blow up. Sushi may have gone Hollywood, but nattō will be Japanese and Japanese only forever.

Not that I'm saying bacon tastes like crap. It's good, just not great, and because I was never indoctrinated, that's the most objective perspective you'll ever hear.

So, while in Cleveland, I was told of a pastry shop that incorporated bacon into their cupcakes. This spoke volumes to me about the novelty value of bacon, and I had to try it, if only to debunk its appeal. When this pastry prospect came up, I was surrounded by Taqwacore bands, as well as the director of the film we were here to perform in conjunction with. Needless to say, we were rolling mad deep. We arrived only to find that they no longer carried the porcine confection. I was afraid that this trip out would end without fulfilling a peripheral endeavor. Luckily, the cupcake folk told us of a chocolate shop right down the street that had bacon truffles.

We caravan-ed down there, myself at the helm, moving with the quickness and trying to get this excursion over with. And there it was: 'That Bacon One'. I got two of them, exchanged a few pleasantries with the cashier, who must've been a little freaked out by the entourage I was traveling with, and bit into the first one. Some chocolate, some sweet yellow goo, no bacon. I popped the second half into my mouth as the lady behind the counter explained that in the center of this chocolate was a tiny piece of bacon and that the substances encasing it were meant to bring out the smokey flavor. It was a nuanced, balanced, and delicious chocolate, but the only evidence of bacon was the momentary crunchiness that disintegrated a moment after it was discovered. Nothing really bacon happened at all. I ate the other one, thanked the folks at Lilly's, and headed out.

The next thing I ate stuck in my memory a little more. I got 3 up from this place. Beef franks, making it not an Adventure, but amazing.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Cleve

I'm taking a couple of days off of pork writing to be in Cleveland. My band, Sunny Ali & the Kid, is playing at the Cleveland International Film Festival with our friends the Kominas, who did the soundtrack for a film playing here.

While this trip is keeping me from diligently maintaining the Adventures as I usually do, I'm allowing it for the love of something I cherish more than food experimentation; playing music. I hope you'll forgive me just this once. I will be back in Philly and snacking in a couple of days.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Los Taquitos de Puebla's Chorizo Tacos

When I was growing up in Thailand, my mom had to struggle to get us packaged American food. Though I was rather unfamiliar, having left the US shortly after my birth, my brother had all the unhealthy hankerings of an American kid. Because of its scarcity, our encounters with such items became a welcome treat, and my mom found herself making more trips to the incredibly overpriced supermarket for expatriates on Sukhumvit.

The items she trekked into the city for were as basic as bread and milk (neither of which were an integral part of the Thai diet at the time), and as novel as canned peaches, apple juice, and Oreos. In her quest to inspire an appetite in her two skinny, gangly sons, she brought home something she had loved in the US: Tacos. We treated that family pack of Old El Paso taco fixings like a regular trip to Pizza Hut (in Thailand, Pizza Hut is an actual restaurant and not simply a purveyor of circular garbage like it is in the US). Of course, the good folks at Old El Paso led us to believe that hard shell tacos were authentically Mexican. It wasn't until I came to the US, and even then not until I ventured past Taco Bell, that I discovered what a real Mexican taco was like...and I was disappointed.

Something about the authentic soft shell taco didn't give me the same satisfaction as the build-your-own hard shell experience my mom had created for us. As I experienced more and more authentic Mexican food, I found that it used some of the same spices found in Thai cuisine (cilantro, hot peppers, etc) but in far less appealing series of homogeneous preparations. Never did the suggestion of Mexican food meet an exuberantly positive reaction from my taste.

When I discovered the wonders of Philly's Italian Market years later, I found that there was a growing presence (albeit not a welcome one in the perspective of the entrenched Italians) of Mexican establishments. It was the first time I'd seen a Mexican diaspora with a concentration of restaurants, and I damned my previous notions regarding the cuisine and started anew.

La Lupe was my early favorite, although inconsistency in food quality (particularly the sometimes perfectly mushy and sometimes impossibly dry plantains), increasingly shitty service and price increases on the menu led me to abandon this standby for Veracruzana just up the street. Gradually, I found myself tiring once again of the various forms of tortilla-meat-beans.

It was a small squad of unusually boisterous attorneys that urged me to venture into the wonders of Mexican pork at a newer joint on 9th street called Pueblas, or 'Black Awning Joint' for ease of reference. My old friends (and likely my future legal council) Tony, Niev, and Jon noted that my blog was lacking in the true Mexican dish of chorizo tacos. On a beautiful day in South Philadelphia, I set out to fill the void.

I walked into an empty Pueblas and ordered from a menu filled with animal parts. I ordered the chorizo tacos with a side order of scallions. Waiting in the tiny orange table area, I perused the photography on the walls, pictures from Mexico and of Mexicans in Philadelphia, dressed in indigenous garb, celebrating, parading, cooking in kitchens, sitting on stoops, gathering, laughing, and before I got to the end of the series, my food was ready. To my order, I added two little glass bottles of Coke (unfortunately the American variety sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and not sugar). With the spoils of my journey in hand, I scampered home.

The tacos were very basic, the diced and cooked chorizo laid out on top of three overlapping taco tortillas with a single fried scallion to top it off. My side order revealed a dozen more of these green onions. I squeezed the limes provided over everything and began. The first bite revealed a texture not unlike ground beef, but far chewier and more pleasing. The slightly rubbery portions of the chopped sausage mingled with a purely meaty texture to completely eclipse the tortilla, which was simply a vessel for the filling. The combination between the inherent saltiness of the sausage, the added peppery hotness and the tartness of lime completely zapped any potentially off-putting pork flavors. Once again, dry sausage made it happen. Chorizo beat the crap out of most beef tacos I've had (although I'm still partial to beef tongue tacos).

As I ate, I periodically bit into a scallion. It's preparation left it crunchy in all its layers, making it one of the most pleasing cooked vegetables I've had the pleasure of biting into. My teeth cutting through each layer as I bit down and the explosion of sour-salty flavor that followed is a sensation that could, on its own, bring me back to Pueblas on a regular basis.

I was finally satisfied to have tried some real Mexican, and this category of food has risen out of obscurity in my mind. I'm excited about the prospect of all the great Latin American traditions of pork. I'll have to trek out to the Barrio soon.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fado's Irish Breakfast - Happy St. Patty's Day!

Tom told me I was missing out, but it didn't look like it from where I was sitting. In a little restaurant just off the main drag of the Temple Bar district in Dublin, I watched his hangover woes disappear from across the table. He braced himself for the joyous meal and began prodding the tray of oddities laid out in front of him. Meanwhile, the old Irish man serving us brought me my meatless breakfast, little more than eggs and toast. Tom looked up momentarily and, with a mouth full of what appeared to be both black and white pudding, let out a cackle that pierced my whiskey smashed ears. I weakly lashed out by telling him that his breakfast looked like eight different kinds of animal shit laid out on a lunch tray. As always, he returned with a quip that left me stutter-laughing, and continued devouring the least appetizing pork dish I've ever seen.

If you remember from earlier posts, this is the same Tom that I was with in Rome, the one that fed me that first sinful bite. In the summer of 2007, we clobbered our way through five European cities, beginning and ending in Dublin. He influenced my pork eating with a two pronged attack; inflating my temptation, and ridiculing my falterings. Needless to say, it worked and Tom hasn't made any statements of encouragement since, at least in regards to my eating pork. That is, until two days ago when he reminded me of the upcoming Irish holiday and the breakfast that complements it.

I'm not sure where to go for Irish food. Edibles hardly seem to be the focus of most Irish establishments in the city. I decided on Fado downtown for its proximity to Brian's house. We both got the same thing; a full Irish breakfast; two eggs, two bangers, black and white pudding, ham, mushrooms, fried tomatoes, toast, and a triangular piece of drywall I was told was a potato pancake of some kind. And of course, no breakfast is complete without alcohol. We ordered pints of Guinness to wash it all down.

I went at the puddings first. Tom had mentioned that these were his favorite components, and I was curious to feel out something called 'pudding' that appeared completely solid. I started with the black, tinted enough by the pig's blood in it to make it a little intimidation. The texture, and even the flavor to some degree, reminded me of falafel: a crispy outer layer concealing a soft interior, each layer as grainy as the preparation allows them to be. The white was about same, only with a touch less of the hard textures in the black.

I moved on to the bangers. Brian said that these were cooked just how he liked them. They were nearly burnt to a crisp on the outside, the insides remaining positively gooey. Though it was salty and good, the consistency of the inside was a bit too reminiscent of the various types of meat-waste used to make it.

The ham was ham and didn't make an impression on me on its way down. Perhaps I've reached a point with iconic pork meats such as ham in which consumption doesn't phase me. I recognized that this particular part of the Irish breakfast was to me and would hold no surprises, making it easy to eat without much thought.

Though I was never enticed by the Irish breakfast, it's something that I can now cross off the list. It had to be done for this day, a day celebrating a Haram that so many Muslim's my age breach without hesitance. Interestingly, I won't be doing any drinking today. Lately, alcohol has been making me tired, and it's the middle of the week for Pete's sake! Other Haram's will continue as usual.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Han Dynasty's Pork Belly in Garlic Sauce

When I was in Tokyo for my semester abroad in 2005, I chose Seoul as my destination for the only trip I took outside Japan when I had the chance. Though I have no regrets about that decision, I really wish I'd made it to China. Friends of mine, a pack of architects (including recurring Adventures in Pork character Brian O'Keefe), returned from their trip to Shanghai and Beijing with tales of what actual Chinese food was like; in short, the noble origins of the bastardized, MSG infused concoctions of the yellow signs. I decided then that if I ever got a chance to make the trip, I would make it a food trip...well, I guess every trip I make is at least partially a food trip.

There's no Chinese culinary tradition as celebrated for its diversity as Szechuan cuisine. When Brian and Justin mentioned Han Dynasty in Old City, they were quick to note its lack of similarity to standard Chinese food. This is an important distinction in Philadelphia. Indeed, even what you find in Chinatown may be apt to have Dutch Masters sold alongside. It was raining like hell when Brian, Justin, Rachel, and myself walked into Han Dynasty.

The layout of the menu jumped out at me immediately. Each dish listed meat options to combine with the preparation; chicken, beef, pork, shrimp. We went with a couple of chicken dishes and a plate of pork with long hots, but what really made an impression on me was pork belly the likes of which I had never tried.

While many Chinese curries have put me off in the past with excessive greasiness, these slices of uncured belly piled in a hot, oily garlic sauce was nothing by pleasing. Utilizing my chopstick skills, I used each slice to wrap a bit of rice and a small piece of cucumber also swimming in the hot oil. The pork smell that so often repulses me was present, but in a manageable amount. What I mostly tasted was the garlic sauce, which was soaked into every little slice. The other pork dish, prepared with long hots, was there and did its thing, but in the end the pork belly stole the show.

I have to note that just after the pork belly appetizer showed up, our friend Hal walked in to Han with the most ridiculous mustache I've ever seen. Laughing my ass off and enjoying pork belly at the same time was a combination of pleasures so good it should be illegal. Hal, if you read this, please send me a picture. The world needs to see.

Another notable memory from this meal not soon to be forgotten was an encounter with a deadly spice. At one point Brian paused and said he'd bitten into something that made his mouth go cold and prevented him from eating for a solid three minutes (not an easy feat). The culprit was finally isolated and Justin passed me an innocent looking little pod and told me to taste it. What tasted familiar at first quickly became a bombardment of my taste buds that was in no way pleasant. Drinking cold water only made it worse, as the Novocaine sensation spread over my tongue. We asked the owner who told us this was the infamous Szechuan peppercorn. Go to Han, but look out for these little bastards while you're there.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Herr's Pork Rinds

In the world of packaged meat snacks, pork is the lowest common denominator. You won't find chicken, beef, or fish snacks in the chip aisle. You will, however, come across something as synonymous with sports spectating as it is with minor heart palpitations: pork rinds.

I was celebrating my article getting into the Philly Weekly by collecting issues of my best clip yet with Brian and Justin. As we walked toward Reyes Grocery on 22nd, both my compadres came out with the same recommendation. They were right, I'd never tried pork rinds. I was skeptical as to whether there was any actual meat in a back of pork rinds. The list of ingredients snubbed my lack of belief with a succinct ingredients list: Pork rinds, salt.

That was it. The simple formula for a cheap and tasty snack. It amazed me that something composed of animal parts could cost the same or less than any number of items containing only potatoes. Says something about the value of a pig.

When we got back to Justin's crib, his cats immediately knew what was up. They gravitated toward the bag of pork rinds like it was a decaying bird carcass (the only thing they like more than balls of yarn). Dodging their attempts at snatching the contents, I opened up the bag and pulled out a bulbous, yellow, impossibly light cloud of pig flake and stuffed it into my mouth. After a chew or two, the mass flaked into the flavor of pure grease and salt. It actually tasted pretty damn good.

The three of us finished the bag while discussing its contents. Brian warned that, though they were tasty and easy to scarf down, eating a whole bag would leave you feeling like you're having a heart attack. I noted this after I'd eaten a number of rinds; a slight nausea, similar to what I feel after eating a really greasy samosa. This sensation raised the question as to why they sell such an item in enormous bag sizes at certain stores. Of course, that question ignores the American affinity for general unhealthiness.

Nevertheless, I won't shy away from a pork rind or two next time they're in front of me. Though if I find myself in the chip aisle anytime soon, I'll be inclined to pick up a snack with a little less after burn.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Paper

By sheer luck, the Philly Weekly is doing an issue about pork this week, and what better way of introducing the mutant king of meats than with a guy who's just discovering it.

The article

Grab a copy from the yellow box if you're in Philly.

Thanks PW!

For anyone new to the blog, I'd recommend reading the very first post and then checking out the more recent food posts. I'm currently eating a bag of pork rinds. You'll be hearing more about them soon.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Extracurricular Activities

Believe it or not, I do a handful of things other than eating pork and writing about eating pork. One of those things is playing the drums, which I have loved doing since I was ten. Most recently I've made a friend, he's a cowboy, who plays the guitar and sings while I play the drums. Someone decided it would be a spectacle to see this two man show on stage before a few other acts, and now it's happening.

We're playing at the Ox (2nd and Oxford) in Philadelphia this Thursday, March 11th.

We're called Sunny Ali & the Kid. I'm the Kid.

recent interview

Pork Roll at Teri's

Three years of high school in North Jersey, and I have almost no memories of food. The peaceful homogeneity of Morris County brought nothing of interest to the table, usually one at a diner under Greek ownership. Or perhaps food is the last thing on the mind of an emaciated 16 year old with blue hair.

Of the things that didn't make a blip on my radar, there is one that is a New Jersey point of pride. Taylor Ham was introduced to the world by a Trenton gentleman named John Taylor, credit to whom is omitted as soon as you cross a bridge. In Philadelphia, this creation is called pork roll. After trying it, I've simplified it further by calling it 'slice of giant hot dog'.

Seriously, what is the fuss about? I'd describe it further, but if you've had a hot dog, then you know. And if you haven't, health organizations would likely suggest that you continue the trend.

Don't get me wrong, I love hot dogs. Believe or not, I've spent a little time working long shifts behind the counter at a 7-11 (yeah, that's right), and those slowly rotating grease tubes were my fuel. But I'm not into incorporating a giant form of this disgusting staple into my breakfast. New Jersey, you can have it.

Also, I wouldn't mind if Teri's refunded the hour and a half of my life I spent waiting for a mediocre breakfast.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Paesano's Arista

I gave roast pork another shot, and this time I went with the gourmet options. Yes sir, no more street side joints built for post-Phillies game munchies for me. Upon a number of recommendations, I hit up the new Paesano's at 9th and Christian. Of the many delicious-sounding sandwiches on their chalkboard menu, there was one that I had to try for the sake of the Adventures.

The Arista is a roll filled with roast pork cut off of a suckling pig (that I imagine they're hiding in the back somewhere), broccoli rabe of a higher quality than the mushy, diced affair at most joints, and the sharpest of sharp provolone. It looked amazing, and it's smell enticed Brian and Leah from across the table. I, on the other hand, was a little freaked out.

There it was again, that smell that only I can smell. Turns out it wasn't just Tony Luke's roast pork that I'm averse to. The odor of slightly rotted beef pierced through the strong scent of the cheese. I was hungry enough to ignore it and plunge in with a big bite. I immediately made a noise of disgust that caught Brian and Leah by surprise. "You don't like it?!"

They couldn't believe that I wasn't into this sandwich that they both love so much. I ran through my boilerplate explanation: I'm sure it's not a bad sandwich, I'm just not used to this. This is something I can confirm now that a gourmet sandwich has turned me off. Everyone who knows pork swears that roast pork sandwiches are great, and that Paeano's is one of the best ones around. My aversion to it is a lot like the common dislike for lamb that Leah described as she moved in on the uneaten half of my sandwich. It's a completely subjective thing. Perhaps it has nothing to do with my anti-swine training. But then again...

When a friend of a friend named Kate recommended Paesano's, she specifically mentioned that they had a 'whole suckling pig' sandwich. Being unfamiliar with the exact definition of the term, my imagination ran wild. What I essentially pictured was a whole piglet, deboned, and laid out on a hoagie roll. At once I felt disgusted that I was definitely going to eat this thing, and a little excited that...I was definitely going to eat this thing. The reality was a little less graphic, but it beat me out anyway. Perhaps a little of that gruesome image was with me, egging on my defeat.

I will return to Paesano's, but only to try the amazing sandwich creations on their menu that don't involve pork.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Adventures in Raw

That's not pork.

Justin got back into town from Alabama today. He'd had a rough excursion and arrived in Philadelphia to some bad news about his job situation. I decided that morose son of a bitch needed some company and we headed to Dahlak for dinner.

Yup, Ethiopian. I know you're thinking "there's no Ethiopian pork dishes". Well, you're thinking right. There's nothing on Dahlak's menu that I have negative emotions toward. On the contrary, it's got one of my favorite things.

Raw beef always looked delicious to me, but it wasn't something my mom would ever have let me try as a kid. When I came across a Vietnamese style carpaccio at one of the places down on Washington Ave, I went nuts for it. The chewy slices of raw beef wrapped around a wad of basil, fried garlic, and crushed peanuts, smothered in lemon juice became a staple on my pho eat outs and pick ups. This got me started, trying every raw beef dish I came across. Of course, you don't often see rawness on your average menu. Perhaps restauranteurs don't want to take a needless risk. Thankfully, the folks at Dahlak have no fear.

Ketfo (sometimes spelled 'kitfo') is shredded up beef seasoned with spice infused butter which gives it a nutty taste that goes perfectly with its gooey texture wrapped in spongy injera. The sheer volume of a full serving at Dahlak will leave the inexperienced adventurer positively tripping. I get it every time i eat there.

Once we'd ordered, Justin said something that intrigued me. He said he couldn't really handle raw beef dishes. It wasn't the taste, it was the thought of what he was eating. All his life, his parents had told him that eating raw meat will make you sick. He feels about raw beef how I feel about pork.

I realized that I too had always been told not to eat raw meat, and yet eating it for the first time didn't phase me at all. I didn't think about what I was eating too much, or picture the animal in my head like I do with pork. Considering that eating raw beef is likely more risky than eating pork health wise, it's amazing how much stronger my aversion to pork is.

Now I eat both. Look at that.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Picanha's Grilled Sausage and Chicken Wrapped in Bacon

I've mentioned that I'm not crazy about Mexican food, and my mind allowed this preference to infect my views on other Latin American food, none of which I ever find very interesting. I noted my ignorance when I went to my first rodizio in Harajuku, an intentionally funky neighborhood in Tokyo. I had heard of this style of restaurant from my brother, who once marveled at the experience of eating something impaled by a sword. Simple seasoning, preparation, and presentation yielded an unusually engaging meal that seemed never ending. While I was quite taken with the chicken hearts and picanha, I naturally avoided the sausage and chicken wrapped in bacon. I concluded that the best stuff was within my range of edibility, and therefore wasn't bothered by what I missed.

It was one of those good things that I didn't expect to find in abundance at home, and when I returned to Philadelphia, I became mired in the pho scene, leaving my Brazilian love affair to simmer. It wasn't until three years later that I was taking over the job of a Brazilian woman who, while training me, uncovered my adoration for her country's food. She recommended the place in Philadelphia's Brazilian neighborhood that all the actual Brazilians went to. I was amazed that I had lived in Philly for years without knowledge of this alleged neighborhood until she mentioned that it was in Northeast Philly, which may as well have been a different country, as far as my experience with it went.

I did a little research and found that, unless I wanted to pay a hundred dollars a plate at one of the places downtown, the closest place to get sword meat was the place recommended by my coworker. My mom and I ventured up 95 to get lunch at Picanha, named for the beef rump that so many claim as their favorite. We went with the $20 all-you-can-eat option and stuffed ourselves as our waiter continued to shave slices of meat off of a sword and onto our plates. A new experience that first time was the salad bar. I had never had South American food so different from the Mexican standards that litter Philadelphia. Lots of fresh vegetables minced into salads, potato and rice dishes, stewed meats, and a distinct tasting fish casserole complemented the array of meats. It was at Picanha that I learned the magic of hearts of palm.

Picanha, the cut and the restaurant, quickly became a favorite of ours, though its distance from our house certainly limited our motivation to head all the way up there. In early 2009, my mom planned a trip for us to visit my uncles in Rio de Janeiro. We knew we had to practice, and we suddenly had a great reason to increase our Picanha frequency. When we arrived in Brazil, we told our hosts of our feelings about Brazilian food, and our requests were indulged by our gracious hosts, leaving us overfed and sleepy in the aftermath.

Returning to Philadelphia, my mom and I had clearly killed the novelty. Even with plenty of time to kill, we wouldn't bother to make the drive to Picanha. Visits on my own dwindled to about four in the past year, and those few times only to show friends one of the best meat places in a city fraught with barbecue joints. On our way back from Guitar Center on the lazy Sunday that led to this week, Joe, Hassan, and I decided to shoot up the highway and stop in for some sword.

This was the first time I'd entered Picanha since my meat openness policy took effect, and I knew exactly which offerings I needed to try: chicken wrapped in bacon, and sausage. I grabbed a piece of picanha too, for old times sake. The meat was laid over a bed of veggies, rice, beets, and the most magical greens in the world. The guys, new to churrascaria, loved the idea. We sat at a booth, our plates piled high, as a beautiful girl came over to take our drink orders. Our table's focus suddenly shifted when we deduced that she was flirting with one of us. But who? For the moment, the mystery was less captivating than our food, and we began to chow down. Joey noted a short while later that our waitress was doing some 'deliberately close sweeping', reviving the conversation surrounding her. The volume of food with the waitress interaction thrown into the mix proved to be an overwhelming amount of stimulation. After exhausting the scenario of its comedic value, we made our way home, full and happy.

Neither the sausage nor the chicken wrapped in bacon beat any of the beef offerings. The small sausage links were overly salty to tongue not used to it. Grilling sausage often stiffens the casing and leaves the inside as soft as a hot dog, which I didn't find very pleasant. Between the texture and the saltiness, I decided once was enough.

The chicken wrapped in bacon was, after all, mostly chicken. After being grilled, the bacon had formed a partial shell around the chicken that I would have been inclined to peel off before a second serving. None of the crunchy/chewy goodness of breakfast bacon was present here. Once again, the bacon didn't do it for me.

As always, the beef was perfectly seasoned and grilled to retain its moisture. It was as good a picanha as I'd ever had and led to a personal resolution to make it up there more often. Just not for the pork.