Thursday, June 7, 2007

#44

by Xani


So a few months ago I stumbled across this list: Esquire Magazine's 60 Things Worth Shortening Your Life For. Now, as soon as I saw this list I was intrigued. Right away I saw some things I could already check off (#s 14, 38, and... um, 33, among others), some I knew I would NEVER check off (#12, #30), and some that I would try my best to get to in this lifetime. As it turns out, for #44, someday was yesterday.


From Esquire:

44-48. The Five Most Decadent Burgers in the United States of America:
#44 The cheeseburger at Shady Glen Dairy Stores in Manchester, Connecticut. Four carefully arranged pieces of cheese extending far beyond the border of the patty melt directly on the grill, creating a chewy crust that is as difficult to describe as it is to digest. $4.95.


My latest business trip took me to Agawam, Mass, just a short drive from Manchester, CT. Manchester is also the hometown of BCD Dad, and we've been visiting family there regularly for my entire life, but yet I have never been to Shady Glen! Dad said he remembered the place from his childhood, but couldn't remember this decadent burger they had-- I knew I had to get there and see for myself.



After work one day I kidnapped my two co-workers (Mike and Catie) and dragged them to Shady Glen for a late lunch. The place has been open since 1948, and it definitely had an old-timey feel. We sat down and the waitress gave us tiny Dixie cups of water (ok, I don't know if that was as much old-timey as it was just weird, but whatever). Then came these doilies-- so far, I'm not impressed. But it was about to get much, much better:






REAL cherry Coke. As in, fountain Coke with the actual cherry syrup in it. So delicious. Mike got vanilla Coke and he loved it so much he giggled like a little girl. Also, free refills.




Catie and Mike knew full well why I insisted on driving 25 miles away for lunch: the cheeseburgers. We each ordered one (off the menus posted on the wall, also old-timey), plus an order of fries.



Lunch arrived promptly and, behold:





They are not kidding about the cheese on these things! Between the 3 of us there were TWELVE pieces of cheese on the table. Yum. The burgers themselves were really delicious; the cheese hanging off was chewy and crunchy, and had a great flavor. I topped mine with pickle, onion, and mustard.



The fries were classic-crinkly cut, and perfectly cooked. Just needed a sprinkle of salt. Yum.



Now since Shady Glen is a dairy store, that means its the kind of place that probably has great, homemade ice cream, and lots of it.






We couldn't resist.



Mike got the blueberry sundae with blueberry ice cream, blueberry sauce, blueberries and whipped cream. I got a scoop of chocolate caramel crunch and a scoop of cookies and cream, and Catie got the same. The ice cream was really rich and just sweet enough, and tasted homemade. We thought about buying a pint or two to bring back to the hotel (for dinner!) but we had a long drive back and we thought it would melt.


And now, I can officially cross #44 off my list. I am not sure how much this decadent lunch actually shortened my life-- But probably not THAT much so I think it was worth it.


So, which numbers have you done? Which should I do next??



X

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

First MoBlog*

by Xani

On the road again! I'm in Agawam, Mass and the good news is they have Dunkin'. Bad news is they didn't have Toasted Coconut- this is Butternut. Ok, but not the same!

X

*My understanding is that "MoBlogging" means mobile blogging, i.e., I posted this from my phone!

Monday, June 4, 2007

First Party of the Summer!

by Xani and Erin

This weekend, we threw our first party of the summer at Xani's house (codename: "TinyHouse"). Although we were concerned that not everyone would fit in TinyHouse (weather was calling for a slight chance of rain and we needed every square inch of the patio to hold everyone!), as you will soon see it worked out quite well and it was a great time!



Here was the menu for the party:


  • Bucket of Margaritas

  • Chips and Salsa/Guacamole

  • Spicy Black Bean Salad

  • Chipotle-Butternut Squash Quesadillas

  • Chicken and beef fajitas with peppers and onions

  • Mini Cupcakes


Most of the recipes we used were tried and true, and were big hits at the party (or so we're told). Although it does not conform with our usual snobbery, the guacamole, salsa, margaritas, and cupcakes were...store-bought - gasp! Sometimes you just gotta know when its not worth the time and energy if you can buy something that is just as delicious right out of the packaging, right? We think so.


The rest of the menu, however, was made from scratch. Let's begin with the black bean salad. Both of us have made this dish for our various parties, and brought it to others' parties - let me tell you, it will be a hit! Erin brought it to a party once and now is known as "black bean salad girl" to those who were at the party who can't remember her name. It is a title she wears proudly.




First, drain and rinse two cans of black beans (use more or less depending on how many people you are serving). Add about half a large red onion, finely diced. One of the most interesting and powerful ingredients in this dish is chipotle in adobo - it is key and we use it liberally! Add one chopped chipotle pepper, plus some of the adobo sauce. Then add some finely chopped jalapeno (taste the jalapeno first - if its hot, lighten up on the amount; if its not hot, don't worry about adding too much) and a handful of chopped cilantro. Then throw in about a tablespoon of garlic pepper, 1-2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (though we used cider vinegar since we didn't have any red wine vinegar), 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the juice of 1-3 limes. All of these amounts are to taste - we are not very exact when we make this dish, its definitely very "a pinch of this, a handful of that," but sometimes thats just how cooking goes! Toss all together and let sit in the fridge for an hour or more. The flavors really come together with time so if you make this, its best to make it early in the day! The black bean salad is good either as a side dish (you would eat it with a fork) or as a bean salsa (you would eat it with a chip).






Next, we made the fajitas. For the chicken, we used a marinade our Mom has made for as long as we can remember. Important note: we used chicken thighs for this dish since they do not dry out like chicken breasts, and they are a lot more flavorful. For the marinade, place the chicken in a zippy bag, and add lime juice, olive oil, oregano, and salt and freshly ground pepper. Let sit for an hour or more in the fridge. We also marinated the peppers and onions in the same marinade.







For the beef, we placed about 3 pounds of beef (thinly sliced "fajita beef" from our local Mexican market) into zippy bags, added a can of beer, some orange juice, handful of cumin, salt, and pepper. Let sit for an hour or more in the fridge.



We then grilled all the meat and sliced thinly in preparation for our guests to make their own fajitas. (Note: It was SO HOT during the day that we probably could have cooked the meat on the hood of a car. Instead Xani sweated over the hot grill.) We did not grill the peppers and onions, but rather Erin cooked them in a pan - otherwise they would have been incinerated on the grill (or maybe she just wanted to stay in the air conditioned house!)!



We served the meat and vegetables with flour tortillas and we also put out sour cream, cheese, salsa, and guacamole for the make-your-own-fajita station.



Lastly, we made Chipotle-Butternut Squash Quesadillas, a recipe Xani invented a few weeks ago. We took the butternut squash (a favorite ingredient of Xani), peeled it, cut it up into cubes, and basically, cooked the hell out of it. We microwaved it for about 10 minutes until it was super-mushy, and mashed it with a potato masher until it was smooth. We added more chopped chipotle peppers and adobo sauce, and some chili powder. We wanted to add cumin but we used it all on the beef - oops! We let the squash mixture cool to room temperature and assembled the quesadillas and cooked them as the party start time came closer. To assemble them, we spread the squash on one side of the tortilla, then sprinkled shredded jack cheese on top, then added the other tortilla. On a lightly-oiled griddle pan, we cooked the quesadillas until they were golden brown and the cheese was melted.







We also made a cilantro-lime sour cream to serve with the quesadillas. It was very easy: just add finely chopped cilantro and lime juice to sour cream!



When the guests finally arrived, it had cooled down considerably, and the threat of rain had passed. We managed to comfortably fit almost 20 people in the house/patio! Everyone seemed to enjoy the food, drinks, and atmosphere. Thank you to everyone who came by and made it a great night! It was a fun first party of the summer, hopefully one of many!


Happy entertaining,


E & X


P.S. See all our party pics here:
Tinyhouse party

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