Category Archives: Food for Thought
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On a recent Friday evening, a friend asked if I wanted to attend happy hour at a nearby establishment. Since I’m not usually into the bar scene (been there, done that), I was pretty ambivalent about going to another gathering of strangers to make superficial small talk at the end of a long and tiring work week.
The term “happy hour” always seem weirdly strange to me. Are the people who attend really “happy” or is this type of gathering ever limited to an hour?
From what I’ve read, it seems that the idea of holding “happy hours” is an attempt by restaurant owners to attract customers to frequent their establishments during the slower times of the day between the lunch crowd and the evening dinner crowd. Therefore, during the 4 pm to 8 pm time slot, owners would entice customers with reduced drink and appetizer prices.
According to Acton, Adams and Packer (2006), in their book, Origin of Everyday Things, the term “happy hour” originated with the United States Navy in the 1920s, when boxing and wrestling matches were scheduled on-board ships to entertain sailors on long voyages.
During the Prohibition years (1920 – 1933), the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation, and exportation of intoxicating liquors within the United States were prohibited. As a result, citizens began operating illegal drinking establishments to produce, distribute, and consume illegal alcoholic beverages. Therefore, people could still enjoy a few cocktails before going to dinner at a restaurant where alcohol could not be served. These illegal drinking establishments held “Happy Hours” for citizens who were daring enough to break the law.
After some mental deliberations, I decided to attend this particular “happy hour”, in part, because I wanted to try out a new lens. The lens is the Sony DT 35mm F1.8 for APS-C sensors, providing the full frame equivalent of 53mm. As a DT lens and a member of the Sony “easy choice” lens range, it is very affordable, turning in a stellar performance. Check out the excellent review here.
This particular happy hour was held at Jackson’s, in Reston, VA. As I approached the place, I sensed the cool and dry evening, with the sun beginning its journey below the horizon. As I train my eyes on the establishment, the mob of bodies was clearly visible a block away, like a gathering of assorted animals at a water hole in the arid Serengeti Dessert; there were big ones and small one, short one and tall ones. Some were colorful, while others were quite drab. The odor of pheromones was not too noticeable, though certain peer-to-peer stereotypical behaviors were easily observed.
Walking through the front door, I had an uneasy feeling in my gut, scanning the scene for the leader of our pack. After a few minutes of wandering around, I settled among a group of familiar people.
The evening turned out better than I had anticipated. Although the liquid refreshments never wavered from the usual, the local food in this section of the Serengeti was quite satisfying. I met a number of interesting denizens, providing me the opportunity to test my lens. A couple of us broke away from the masses to sample the local flora and fauna.
Sesame Crusted Tuna
A chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeno, used primarily in Mexican or Mexican-inspired cuisine. It is also part of the name of a well-known chain of “fast-casual” restaurants in the northern Virginia region, specializing in burritos and tacos. The restaurant chain, Chipotle Mexican Grill, can also be found throughout major metropolitan areas in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Sampling its menu, I have come to appreciate the restaurant chain’s fresh ingredients of rice, chicken, pork, steak, beans, vegetables, and salsas. In addition, service is very quick, despite the long queue, especially during the mid-day or evening meal times. The picture above was taken during a recent visit for a quick meal. It’s located at the corner of Duke St. and N. Jordan St. in Alexandria, VA. It was shot with the Nikon s8200 (f/8.8 @ 1/1000 sec; ISO 800).
My favorite menu item is the Burrito Bowl… all of the freshness, heartiness, and robust ingredients of a burrito, but without the messiness from the drippings of the tasty ingredients all over one’s hands. Enjoy!
What to do if you’re lactose intolerant and wishing for some comfort food after a dreary Monday workday. Well, here’s the answer… a quick lactose free mac & cheese. My friend Judy perfected this simple, quick, and care-free recipe.
2 small packages veggie sliced cheddar cheese
1 lbs macaroni shells
1 stick non-dairy margarine
1 can condensed tomato soup
Begin by cooking the macaroni shells until al dente. As the macaroni cooks, combine the margarine, soup, and cheese together in a medium sauce pot and heat over medium heat until the cheese and margarine have melted. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Once the cheese and margarine have completely melted and all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together, pour over the cooked macaroni in an oven proof casserole pan. Bake for an hour at 350 degrees.
Serve with a side of your favorite vegetables. Enjoy!
Instead of heading to the nearest Chinese take-out and grabbing another order of greasy and fried foods, here is a twist on a favorite that can be easily prepared at home. It emphasizes the use of fresh and prime ingredients. Great for a quick after work meal or a Friday night dinner at home. Frozen cut vegetables can also be used to reduce the preparation time.
1 rib-eye steak, cut into small strips
1 cup julienne red and green peppers
½ cup julienne yellow onion
½ cup thinly sliced carrots
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp low salt soy sauce
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp fermented black beans
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
¼ cup water
salt to taste
Begin by adding a couple of pinches of salt and the olive oil to a 10 inch skillet over medium heat. Swirl the skillet to evenly distribute the oil around the bottom. When the oil starts to smoke, add the sliced steak, and stir-fry a few minutes until the strips start to lose their red color, but not cooked through. Add the vegetables and continue to stir-fry a few more minutes, thoroughly mixing all of the ingredients. Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, fermented black beans, and water; mix thoroughly. Bring the sauce to a boil and cover. Continue cooking over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until the vegetables reached their desired tenderness. If necessary, add more water to increase the sauce volume.
Serve over rice. Enjoy!
Here is a slight twist to the traditional spaghetti and meat sauce meal. Made with ground chicken or turkey, there is a significant reduction in saturated fats. For this recipe, I used:
1/2 lb lean ground chicken (turkey also works)
1 can Italian styled chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup regular tomato sauce
1/2 cup Cabernet Sauvignon, though any robust red wine will also work
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb spaghetti (or your favorite pasta)
First, begin by cooking spaghetti (or your favorite pasta) to barely al dente with plenty of water. As the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce by spreading the olive oil in a 12 inch skillet, and warm over medium heat until barely smoking. Next, add the chicken, and saute for a few minutes, until thoroughly browned. Mix in the can of chopped tomatoes and continue to saute for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce and red wine. Mix thoroughly and continue heating to reduce the sauce to a desired viscosity. Fold in the cooked spaghetti. If the sauce is too dry, add more red wine. Cover and continue cooking on low heat for 5 minutes or until fully hot and the sauce is boiling.