Queso Critique – Polvos

It seems like the last few posts I’ve written have included an announcement of some sort – new jobs, big moves, confessions of murderous rage, etc. Well, hold onto your hats because another one’s coming:

My queso quest is coming to an end. Sort of.

Deep breaths. It’s okay to cry. I’ll pause for a second so you can grab some tissues.

In a couple of months, my same-named cheese-friend/co-cheese-judge/co-cheese-conspirator Amanda is moving  quite far from this area – to a place in Texas where wildflowers are scarce, but love of queso is still plentiful. To a place so far away, that if I were to take a horse-drawn carriage to visit her, it’d take me at least a fortnight to get there.

Sadly, the distance will make it too difficult for us to keep reviewing on a regular basis, so we’ve decided to press the “pause” button on the project for now. It’s not a full stop, because there may still be occasional reviews when one of us visits the other.

Before you get concerned about me experiencing dangerous cheese withdrawals, I assure you that I’ll continue eating fermented dairy at a frequency that the medical community would find concerning.

With all the sad stuff said, Amanda and I decided that one more queso review was necessary before she moves. She and her kids visited me for a weekend of adventures, and in between touring beloved Austin sites, we squeezed in a visit to Polvos. Before leaving my apartment for the day, her kids performed an impromptu (and rather unprofessional) video interview of the queso judges.

At the restaurant, we quickly ordered the Choriqueso, and then cheerfully sang along with the music, which unexpectedly featured a lot of Beatles songs for a Tex-Mex place. I hear that Ringo was a big fan of enchiladas and carne guisada, so this makes perfect sense.

Here’s a beauty portrait of the queso when it arrived. Swoon.

polvos

As we munched, Amanda and I began reminiscing on our cheese journey and all the quesos we’ve been experienced thus far. We decided that despite the variation in scoring, these dishes all fall into one of three categories:

  • So disappointing that I want to cry into the bowl, which isn’t a terrible idea, as the salt from my tears might make it taste better
  • Enjoyable, and would order again, but is not all that memorable
  • So delectable that I want to eat whatever this cheese touches, including the napkin and my own face

I’ll cut to the chase: the queso at Polvos falls in that middle category with a score of 3.8. It was of the baked flameado style, which is dear to our hearts. This variety  is meant to be lovingly scooped and coaxed into tortillas, and the consistency of this dish was perfect for that task. There was also no shortage on meat and poblano peppers, which provided lots of flavor.

However, the cheese in this dish was quite mild and didn’t provide much flavor of its own, which kept it from reaching that elusive 4-point rating. It doesn’t stand out like the ones above it do.

Still, not a bad queso to pause our journey on!

To read up on our specific judging criteria, OR to see a ranked list of all the quesos we tried, visit Queso Scoring.

 

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Symptoms of Move-itis

Y’all, March has been somewhat of a booger-bear for me, through no fault of my own.

Okay, that’s a lie – the insanity of this month is entirely my fault.

You see, I thought it’d be interesting to schedule both surgery AND a move to a new city within the same month! And I was correct. It is interesting. Interesting in the way that makes you want to commit yourself to a mental hospital just to get some rest. Forget the idea of this month being named after a Roman god – I’m pretty sure the name March means “Life’s gonna march across your face, sucker!”

Let’s take a look at the month:

March 17: Had my wisdom teeth forcibly ripped from my gums. Interestingly, I am still numb on the right side of my face/mouth. I don’t feel a thing, even when I poke at it with knives and fire! According to the surgeon, this means one of two things: 1. The nerve has gone dormant, and will return to normal within the next few weeks, or 2. I’m turning into a cyborg.

Stay tuned for the outcome of Amanda’s face, coming soon to a theater near you.

March 31: I will finally, thankfully, after 3 months of commuting, be moving to Austin! It’s an exciting change, but as you all know, even exciting changes come with stress-induced acne, sleepless nights, unforeseen expenses –- and a crap-ton of cardboard boxes.

 

 

 

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If you’ve ever moved before, you know that the process is somewhat daunting. Dishes need to be carefully wrapped, boxes neatly packed, and holes in the wall gingerly spackled. But you also still have to live in the hellhole you’re trying to leave, which means re-using the same plastic fork, re-wearing the same outfit, and making weird meals out of hotdogs, noodles, and Jello.

It’s no wonder you start to get a little frazzled. It’s a condition that I like to call, “Move-itis.”

Symptoms of Move-itis:

  1. Second-Guessing. Happens in the beginning stages of a move, when you realize how much you have to do, and how many places you have to contact with your new address. You start to think maybe you should just stay put to avoid the whole circus. Forever.
  1. Anxious Tetris. When you find yourself overly concerned with packing the boxes so perfectly, that a single grape could not fit inside, and yet – it’s not overstuffed. It’s neatly filled to the brim. This feat of engineering is basically impossible, so you find yourself trying a number of different combinations with frustration, before finally giving up.
  1. Rage-filled Unpackings. Taking several minutes to thoughtfully pack a box and adhere it closed with several layers of tape, only to realize you need an item from inside of it. This symptom may be met with amusement and mild-mannered face-palming the first 7 times it happens, but on the 8th time, you’ve lost patience with yourself and with the whole idea of moving, so you find yourself ripping into the box with your talons and fangs, and soon all you can see is bits of tape and cardboard flying everywhere, and all you can hear is the sounds of growling and roaring, and then you realize it’s all coming from you, but it’s not enough to stop you until you’ve reached the goddamn item you so stupidly packed.
  1. Box Begging. You run out of boxes and containers, but still have a lot left to pack. You wander into various businesses and ask them, with desperate eyes, if you can have theirs. In the severe stages, you may stalk people in the grocery store for signs that they may have recently moved and therefore have boxes to share. (Sign 1: They’re sweaty, dirty, and buying large appliances.)
  1. Cyclic Wandering. Being unable to find the packing tape, so you wander around your apartment looking for it, only to get distracted by the pile of bedsheets you meant to box up earlier. After filling the box, you realize that you need the tape again, so you go look for it in the kitchen, only to notice the growing pile of trash and be reminded that you need to take it the dumpster. On the way back in, you see all the open boxes and go hunting for the tape again, but this time you see your bed looking all lonely and decide to take a little nap. The longer this cycle goes on, the more severe your syndrome is.

If you suspect you may have Move-itis, call your doctor immediately. He won’t be able to cure it, but maybe he can prescribe you something strong enough to find the whole situation highly amusing.

 

 

 

Ketchup and Mustard

I feel like I haven’t been posting as often lately, or even putting as much time and effort behind the things I do post. I think I have some splainin to do. My world has been busier than usual, and I want to catch up with you guys. Except I don’t like ketchup, so I say we mustard up!

mustard

I apologize if that immediately made you hungry for hot dogs. I understand.

Here are a few things that have been going on the past few weeks:

Diseases
My charming little eyelid infection both looks and feels much better, but is still technically hanging around. This little bugger is like the Donald Trump of my face. It’s arrogant, purposeless, and annoying, and yet I’m morbidly impressed that it’s still around after all this time, despite all the attempts to take it down.

It might also be sexist and xenophobic. Not quite sure yet.

On the upside of having frequent eye appointments, my eye doctor and I seem to have become bffs. We passed through small talk a long time ago, and have gone straight into serious conversations about my career plans, in which she forcefully encourages me to go into private practice. We also laugh about the intrusive nature of our small town, where neither of us can go anywhere without running into patients/clients. I assume, as her bff-patient, she’s not talking about me in those conversations.

She’ll probably ask me to be godmother to her son soon. And my answer will be yes, but only if there will be cake at the reception.

Babies
I just started volunteering in a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at a hospital in Austin. Parents cannot always be with their itty bitty offspring 24/7, so volunteers are brought in to hold and rock the infants while their parents are away. Human connection is important for all of us, but it’s VITAL for the healthy development of a newborn. If you have some free time and are interested in doing something like this, contact your local hospital and see if they have a program available 🙂

I’m sure I’ll write a more detailed post about this at another time, but let me sum up the experience for you by saying it’s awesome — minus these rigid rules I have to follow:

  • Rule #1: Do not attempt to hurl tiny infant across the room like a football, despite tightly-swaddled and football-like state.
  • Rule 2: Do not kidnap infant. Despite his/her cuteness, he/she does belong to other people and is not yours to take.
  • Rule #3: Do not even joke about #1 or #2. Parents and hospital staff don’t like it.

 

Projects
As I briefly alluded to in a couple of previous posts (here and here), I’ve been doing some researchin’ and writin’ about personality disorders for a particular project that I’m patiently putting together. (If you appreciated the alliteration that occurred just now, I shall give you an internet high five. If you hate alliteration, then you’re a monster, and I hope your fingernails spontaneously fall off.)

 

…Anyway, this project is kind-of-sort-of-maybe-hopefully going to be a book. I feel very timid using the b-word for some reason, which is why I keep referring to it as The Project, which sounds vague and cool at the same time. I’ve told very few people about it – not because I’m not excited about it (because I totally am), but because I fear that, for whatever reason, it won’t come true.

 

Maybe I’ll get tired of it, and stop working on it all together. Maybe I’ll finish it, but nobody will want to publish it. Or else, maybe I’ll finish it, AND a publisher will love it, but a freak tornado will come along and wipe out the publishing company,  taking my precious manuscript with it.

 

Either way, it seems like the more people I tell about the book The Project, the more times I’ll have to explain why it didn’t come to be.

 

Does anyone else tend to keep new and exciting things to themselves, in fear that it won’t work out? Whether it’s a possible job promotion, a new hobby, or maybe even a new exercise regimen, I think a lot of us find it easier to keep quiet about these things so that we don’t have to have embarrassing conversations later. But that’s such a bummer,  isn’t it? I’m dorkally excited and hopeful about The Project, and I shouldn’t keep it to myself just to avoid an uncomfortable conversation that may not even happen.

 

Besides, if it doesn’t work out, maybe all these people I tell will say supportive and nice things, and regale me with stories of their own letdowns. They might help me feel better. And even if they don’t, I still shouldn’t view my losses as embarrassing – if nothing else, I can say I tried something new, and I learned a lot of interesting things.

 

 

Hmm. That sounds suspiciously like Therapist Me coming out, because Real Me wouldn’t have such a mature view of failure. I think I shall reward my inner therapist with some chocolate.

 

Happy Birthday, Just in Queso!

This blog-child of mine has officially been in existence for one year now! Yay! In honor of this event, I’ve decided to write an EPIC  poem that shamelessly links back to previous posts.

Just to be clear, I’m not calling it “epic” in order to compliment it. (Although I DO compliment my blog. I love you, blog. You’re beautiful.) No, an epic poem is one that is long, and usually about some sort of heroic feat.  The definition doesn’t stipulate what “long” means, nor does it specify what entails a “heroic feat,” so I’m going to take advantage of this loophole and refer to my work here as epic.

After all, one MIGHT say that keeping a blog is a heroic feat. I don’t know who that person is, but they very well could exist.

I’m just going to leave this here and back away slowly before you can argue with me…

It’s my one-year blogiversary
And of that, I’m pretty proud
So I thought I’d write a little ditty
Reliving my posts out loud.

How many posts have I written?
The answer’s one hundred and seven.
And in a moment of poetic perfection,
My followers are two hundred and eleven.

As you may have figured out by now,
I am a dedicated fan of cheese
I’ve tested many quesos in this joint
In search of the ones that please.

Texican Café’s was too greasy, and
Super Taco’s was way too thin.
Chili’s was a revelation:
Calling that shit “queso” should be a sin.

Shady Grove was pretty good, but
Even better was Jack Allen’s Kitchen
I could really go for some of that right now
That pork was really bitchin’.

The most recent trip: Texas Chili Parlor;
The journey started with Kerbey Lane.
Sazon was in the lead for months,
Until Mamacita’s set us aflame.

Some quesos are spooned in tortillas
Others have been dipped with chips
Some let us make our own concoctions
But they all had us licking our lips.

Let’s move on from queso now
‘Cause I could talk about it hours.
Don’t believe me? Read this love poem
That stuff has magical powers.

I’ve written about my hatred of birds
And my love for all things dolphin
I’ve admitted my desire to kidnap dogs,
Which would be an easy feat in Austin.

I’ve  penned a letter to my router
And another to my laptop
I’ve made a Christmas drinking game
And I’ve narrowly escaped a cop.

Let me think what else I’ve done
Oh! I’ve house-sat like a boss.
I’ve learned a lot from Jerry Springer,
And I’ve also defended Ross.

At times I’ve confessed to telling lies
Like that time I called 911
Or that genius scheme to steal all the chocolate,
Or what I do for Sunday fun.

My family isn’t safe from spotlight –
You’ve heard about Mom, Dad, and Grandma.
They weren’t too thrilled with my “pantyless” tale
(But they should be used to my choices by now.)

In an ideal world I’d include ALL my posts
But that poem would be meters long.
My brain is too full of useless info,
But for my finale: here’s the carb song.

Thank you to everyone who’s taken the time over this past year to read my posts, and even better, leave comments with your thoughts! I love you all, and if I were having a birthday party for my blog, I’d totally invite you over for cake. Unless the cake was that multi-layer fudgy chocolate kind, and then I’m not sharing any. You understand.

I’ve had a lot of fun so far, and am looking forward to the next kabillion years of blog-keeping! ❤

blogiversary

Queso Critique – Texas Chili Parlor

It’s been many a fortnight since my friend and I have gone on a queso quest, so we decided to pay a little visit to the Texas Chili Parlor on Saturday night. For anyone who may not know, my friend Amanda and I taste-test chips and queso at different restaurants in the Austin, Texas area. We judge the melty cheese on its consistency and flavor, and give it a score between 0 and 5.

Texas Chili Parlor is set in the spleen of downtown Austin, so naturally, our mission began with a $20 parking garage fee.  Don’t you hate parking garages? They suck you in, spin you in circles, and then spit you out on the opposite side of the building, so you have no idea where you are. They’re like concrete tornados. They’re also creepy and shadowy and murdery.

Not once have I died in a parking garage, but I’m pretty convinced that it’ll happen one day.

After leaving the concrete pit of doom, we had a short walk to the bar, which turned out to be the diviest dives of all the dives. The word “parlor” makes me think of wicker furniture and china tea sets – and this place was the exact opposite of that, complete with a flickering Bud Light sign, and a painted mural of a jungle scene. It was perfect. To add to the ambiance, a giant TV was playing the University of Texas football game, and every time they scored, the bar blared the UT fight song from the speakers. Luckily, this didn’t happen often… if you get what I’m saying.

The menu offered several different types of chili, made with various forms of animal flesh. Upon our server’s advice, we ordered our queso containing the Red XX chili, and anxiously awaited its arrival.

texaschili1

Hey, Queso. How YOU doin’?

Before we mixed the chili and queso together in righteous harmony, it was important to take a few bites with only cheese. You know, for science. We both agreed that the queso had a nice cheesy flavor, but no spice. It was also rather drippy in consistency. Sans chili, this dish would’ve been ho-hum.

But the bites with chili and cheese together? An extravaganza of yum. The meat was clearly the star of the show, but the cheese was a respectable accompaniment, and together, they created beautiful music. All of my troubles melted away. I forgot all about the concrete tornado. I didn’t even touch my margarita after the food came, which should show you how distracted and in love I was.

I was fighting to keep from eating it like a soup.

This wasn’t our first experience with chili-filled queso, but this is the only one that really counts in our hearts. We gave Texas Chili Parlor an impressive 3.9 score.

The deliciousness didn’t stop there. Feeling adventurous, Amanda and I decided to order two different kinds of the Chili Mac & Cheese – one with Venison, and one with White Pork – so that we didn’t have to leave having tried only one type. Both chilis came with beans, which goes against the usual Texas tradition, though I’m not sure why.

Probably, our state just doesn’t want food to be nutritious in even the slightest of ways.

We tasted our own orders, and then quickly traded bowls and tried each other’s. It was practically an orgy of chili and cheese. If you’re disturbed by that thought, then you’ll feel even weirder to know that things got a little sweaty. No, seriously, the place was pretty warm already, and then with all the spicy chili we consumed, we got hot.

The food doesn’t look that beautiful, and the terrible lighting makes it look even worse – but it certainly tasted beautiful. The White Pork and Red XX were our favorites, with the Venison one proving somewhat inferior, yet still tasty. I will definitely be back to this place. Possibly tomorrow.

 

I usually post a link to the restaurant’s website, but the classy parlor doesn’t have one. If you’re new to my blog, visit The Reason for the Cheesin to understand this cheesy project.

Failure of Flapjacks

Back in August, I told you fine humans about a pancake contest I had entered. Austin’s beloved Kerbey Lane Café challenged area bloggers to create an original recipe using the restaurant’s own pancake mix.

As a fan of pancakes, and an even bigger fan of Kerbey, I was totally up for this challenge. I spent weeks brainstorming and attempting various concoctions before finally settling on three recipes to submit. Last week, the contest participants were emailed the results, and it turns out…

(Drumroll please)

friends4

I didn’t win. Womp womp.

But you know what? NOT WOMP WOMP. Yes, I entered a pancake contest and lost. Yes, I’m apparently a failure at flapjacks. But I had a lot of fun creating different things, and I got to eat a lot of yummy creations along the way. In this particular case, failure tastes pretty flippin’ good.

Get it? Flippin’, like in flipping pancakes? No, DON’T YOU DARE close out of this post! You have to give me this terrible joke. It’ll be worth it in the end.

I thought my fellow food lovers might enjoy taking a stab at one of my recipes and experiencing the pancakey joy for yourselves. It was tough to decide which one to share, but the one I’m ultimately going with is the only one that contains cheese, and this blog is pretty devoted to dairy, if you haven’t already figured that out, but even if you’re new here, you probably noticed that this blog has cheese in the name, albeit in a different language, but it’s food-related foreign language, so I don’t think that even counts, and I’m starting to run out of things to say, but this is a spectacularly long run-on sentence and I kinda want to keep rambling just to see how long I can keep it going, but by now you’ve probably skipped over this giant paragraph in order to get to the good stuff, and I have to understand, because I also have a short attention span when it comes to food, so for your sake and mine, I’ll stop, but for the record, if you’ve made it to the end of this disaster, that is really quite impressive, and you totally deserve to make pancakes for yourself now.

Whew.

Here is the Kerbey Cristo Sandwich (named for its similarity to the Monte Cristo Sandwich). Take a look at this baby.

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Stop it! Stop licking your computer screen! You’ll frighten the children.

This recipe calls for Kerbey’s pancake mix, but you can definitely substitute any other brand of mix. I mean, probably. I haven’t actually tried it, so the measurements might be slightly off, but it’s not like the pancakes will explode or anything. Maybe. I don’t know for sure.

Liability release: if your food or kitchen appliances explode from using the wrong kind of pancake mix, you can’t sue me, or Kerbey Lane, or WordPress. You can still sue the internet though.

If you give this recipe a try, please let me know what you think!! If enough of you like it, maybe we can assemble an army of righteous pancake fans, and show up at the contest  judges’ houses with fire and pitchforks. Or we could all just sit down and eat some pancakes together. Either way’s fine.

Kerbey Cristo Pancakes

 1 cup Kerbey Lane Café Buttermilk Pancake Mix
¾ cup milk
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
2 slices of Hormel Applewood Smoked ham
2-4 slices of cheese (American, Cheddar, and Gruyere all work great)
1 tablespoon butter

Whisk the first four ingredients away to a romantic night in Cancun. Kidding. Just whisk them in a small bowl until batter is free of lumps. Lightly grease a large pan or griddle with nonstick spray and place over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, measure ¼ cup of batter for each pancake and pour it on the pan. There should be enough batter for 4 pancakes.

Cook pancakes until the tops look dry and a few of the bubbles pop. Flip the pancakes over and cook for another couple of minutes until both sides have obtained that perfect summer tan. Transfer pancakes onto a plate, but do not turn off heat.

Slather butter on the pancakes and place one cake butter-side down on the hot pan. Lay on a slice of your favorite cheese and then slap on some ham, because darn it, you’re a nice person and nice people deserve ham! If you’re feeling daring, throw on another slice of fermented dairy product and top with a second pancake, butter-side up.

Grill until bottom pancake is crisp and browned. Flip sandwich over and continue grilling until cheese is melted and attractively gooey. (Pancakes will not have the same “grilled” appearance to them that traditional grilled cheese sandwiches have, but they’ll be beautiful in their own way.) Repeat steps to make the second sandwich.

Transport sandwiches to a plate and attack them down the middle with a knife. Pause for a moment to admire the cheese as it oozes out. Chow down on your cheesy, hammy sammich. Share it with someone else, if you’re feeling particularly generous.

 

 

 

Queso Critique – Lupe Tortilla

Lupe Tortilla – Austin, TX

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

When shopping near a Mexican food restaurant that might potentially serve you queso, enter said restaurant, demand piles of cheese, and write a review for your blog.

That second phrase may not be as catchy as the first one, but it’s great advice.

Saturday, I ran errands around Austin, eventually meeting up with my fellow cheeseketeer at a mall, where she was shopping for school clothes with her kids. The trio was tired and in need of sustenance, and I’m rarely one to turn down delicious foodstuffs, so we all decided that Mexican food was in order.

The wonders of the Internet lead us to a nearby restaurant called Lupe Tortilla. After being seated at a table with a sombrero light fixture, we ordered a bowl of Chile con Queso with taco meat, mentally patting ourselves on the back for ordering the regular size, instead of the large. We’re such health nuts.

As we waited for the food, we sat back to admire the restaurant’s ant-pig-gecko-swordfish theme. Take a moment to let that artistry soak into your brain.

Nonsensical? Probably. Festive? Definitely.

Before we get into the queso review, I want you to see this picture of four tiny baby fajitas that the restaurant gave us just for being first-time patrons:

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I felt overly affectionate toward these little guys. Their cuteness had me wanting to wrap them up and take them home with me to keep forever in a special refrigerated shadow box.

On the other hand, their deliciousness had me wanting to shove my friend’s kids out of the way, so I could devour the fetus fajitas on my own.

Soon after polishing off my one fajita, the queso arrived:

lupetortilla2

Amanda’s ravenous and cheese-loving children were eager to offer perfect scores, but my friend and I exchanged dubious glances. The queso had a decent consistency – it was liquidy, but not  too runny. It also had a nice level of spice, and the meat was relatively flavorful.

However, we were 100% convinced that this queso was made primarily of Velveeta, or one of its spongy cousins. To be fair, Velveeta is probably added to many of the quesos we’ve tasted,  because it lends a creamier texture. BUT, ideally, the dish should still taste like some kind of real, actual cheese. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

It’s just cheddar that way.

We settled on a score of 3 for Lupe Tortilla’s Chile con Queso. All in all, we found the dish to be stable, but not amazing. In other words, it was the exact opposite of Britney Spears.

The reason for the cheesin’

Queso scoring

Lupe Tortilla’s website

The Angel of Pancakes

 

Months ago, I did a queso review of Kerbey Lane Café in Austin, Texas. Kerbey is a bit of an institution in this area –  nowhere else can you eat queso-covered eggs, follow them with a fried-chicken-and-pancake combo, and then wash it all down with a $2 mimosa. For the lazy and hungover hermits of the world who can’t be bothered to put on pants and go out for their food, Kerbey even sells their very own pancake mix in local grocery stores.

To my eccentric glee, the restaurant recently challenged Austin-area bloggers to create an original recipe using the beloved Kerbey pancake mix. The recipe could be savory or sweet, pancake or non-pancake, as long as it contained any flavor of their mixes.

As you can probably guess, I’ve been a pancake-making monster over the past few weeks. Well, let’s face it. Someone who spends a lot of time making piles of pancakes is no monster. I’m a pancake-making SAINT.

A breakfast food humanitarian.

I’ve come up with different concoctions by flinging random ingredients into the batter and taste-testing it until it seemed remotely edible. Then, I’ve carefully poured the batter onto a hot skillet, or shoved it into a hot oven, and left it there until it successfully bloomed into something else. I’ve even taken careful notes of the way the results looked and tasted and smelled, so that I could more efficiently alter the recipes for improvement.

Forget sainthood, I was like a pancake-making mad scientist.

Take a look at the chemical combinations I created in the lab over the course of a month:

I attempted to de-sweetify the pancakes by adding savory ingredients…

pancakeham

I created a s’more-like dessert using a blondie, marshmallow, and chocolate icing (and instantly developed diabetes after one bite)…

pancakesmore

Then, I made a peanut butter bar topped with, once again, chocolate icing. Simply looking at this one will give you 8.5 cavities…

pancakePBchoc

Taking a break from the sweets, I made some cheesy, garlicky biscuits that had the look and texture of cheesy, garlicky dryer lint…

pancakebiscuit
As Monica Geller’s mom would say – It did not taste good.

All in all, I probably made around 10 different creations before finally hitting the FLAPJACK JACKPOT. Say that five times fast.

I’ve submitted the recipes and photos for these three beauties:

Caramel-pecan pancakes topped with…well…chocolate icing again. Stick with what you know, ya know?

pancakecarmpecan

Grilled ham-and-cheese pancake-for-bread sandwich, which has a terrible name, but tastes similar to a Monte Cristo sandwich. A beautiful marriage of sweet and savory.

pancakecristo

Peanut Butter Bars, now sans chocolate icing…

pancakebars

The winner will receive a $250 gift card to Kerbey Lane Café. I tried to tell myself that I was doing this contest for the simple fun of it, and to not get my hopes up, but then my queso-and-mimosa-loving little heart collided with my irrational competitive streak, and now I really want to win.

Cross your fingers for me! And also maybe your legs. You know what? Just go ahead and cross all of your body parts for me, including your eyes and lungs and toe nails. I need all the luck I can get!

Have you ever participated in a cooking contest before? How did it go? If you were doing this pancake contest, what kinds of recipes and combinations would you have tried?

Queso Critique – The Shady Grove

The Shady Grove – Austin, TX

Gather ’round, children. It’s cheese-related story time.

Once upon a time, a cheese blogger and her friend thought it’d be fun to walk a mile in the late-afternoon Texas heat. To be more specific, they’d thought it’d be fun to attend a free concert in a park, and as it turned out, the Walk of Death was part of the package.

Soon into the walk, the two out-of-shapers were red-faced and out of breath, and sweat was pooling in places that it shouldn’t pool. And running down places it shouldn’t run. The two briefly wondered if perhaps they’d gotten trapped in the gym sock of a sweaty giant. They began to see mirages made of frozen margaritas.

The delusions and hallucinations were a clearly a bad sign.

Then – behold! A restaurant appearing in the distance! With patio tables and people drinking cold things. The weary travelers clung to each other in desperation, and then quickly let go because they were sweaty and it was gross. But, they weakly encouraged each other to continue just a little longer, and soon they were seated in the cool air conditioning of The Shady Grove, sipping icy drinks.

The evil hot ball in the sky had zapped their appetites, a rare phenomenon in the journeyers’ lives. However, the two knew it’d be important to eat something in order to continue the long and sweat-filled journey to the park, so they agreed to split a snack. They opened their menus, and, pleased to see bowls of melty cheese available, ordered one with pulled pork, pico de gallo, and guacamole.

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Even in their fatigued and dehydrated states, they were able to accurately judge the queso and render a verdict. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Consistency: While other porky cheeses have been rather runny, this one was pleasantly creamy. (“Porky cheese” doesn’t sound right, but I’m sticking with it.)
  • Spice: Had a bit. Could’ve had a bit more.
  • Flavor: The pork was the best we’ve had so far – very tender and flavorful. The cheese had a “real” taste to it, not like a certain brick-shaped synthetic cheese product we all know and love. Still, it certainly could have been cheesier.
  • Extras: The guacamole was simple and clean – quite good!

Score: 3.4

Fortunately, the drinks and queso love nourished the worn-out travelers enough to get them safely to the park for a night of laughter and free music. And dog-petting. All the dogs.

The reason for the cheesin’

The Shady Grove website

 

My American Week

I had a bunch of little stories (or storylettes, if you will) from this week, but none of them were interesting enough or detailed enough to deserve their own individual posts, so I decided to combine them all into one big one.

It’s a smorgasbord of hilarity.

By happy accident, my storylettes started to develop an oddly “American Way” theme to them. In honor of Independence Day (not the Will Smith movie, but the holiday), I decided to continue that theme with pride.

Love of Television

This past week, I had a case of the “blahs.” You know what I’m talking about. The “blahs” are when you feel bored and unmotivated to do much else other than sitting at home, pantsless. Rather than fighting or denying that blah feeling, I fully embraced it by watching A LOT of television every day after work.

Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret about TV-watching. But you can’t tell anyone, because the FBI will probably show up and revoke my U.S. citizenship for criticizing this great American pastime.

The secret is that I re-remembered for the zillionth time that it doesn’t make me feel better to come home from work and stare at the TV for 5 hours until I go to bed.

Hold on, I just heard a noise. Gonna go check to see if any agents are hiding in my bushes.

I’m back. It was just a squirrel.

I don’t think TV is evil, but for me, it needs to be balanced with other activities, such as reading, a little exercise, some more reading, and maybe even some sunset-appreciating.

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Taken just outside Austin, TX

Adding a little balance just makes me feel better about my world.

Manners

I ate a dinner of biscuits the other night. Not biscuits with eggs, nor biscuits with fried chicken. Just biscuits.

This one was surprisingly upbeat after being forced from its tin home and baked in a 400-degree oven:

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Look at that smirk. Bastard knows he’s good looking.

I’m not sure what this section has to do with America, aside from the fact that I just wanted to share it. I guess this biscuit, like Americans, is pretty friendly. There. I justified it!

Hot Dogs

Over the weekend, I went on a little road trip with Cheese Friend to drop her children off at their grandfather’s. Supportive of our inspirational queso project, Cheese Friend’s dad (hereby known as Cheese Dad) offered to make us a pot of the cheesy, spicy substance.  We tried to turn him down, but Cheese Dad insisted, so we gave in. Also, we didn’t really turn him down in the first place.

Cheese Dad kindly dictated his recipe to me so that I could share it with my fellow dairy lovers. Fair warning: simply reading this recipe might cause your arteries to instantly harden.

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Somehow, a few hot dogs accidentally fell into a pot of boiling water, and then made their way onto bun-shaped life preserves, where they were soothed with a smattering of chili. And then this happened:

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Hot dogs with chili and queso. If you’re keeping count, this meal contained 3 different kinds of meat. ‘Merica

“Patriotism”

I encouraged my best friend to act like a nationalistic fool while she’s visiting Ireland. This is how I show my loyalty and love to my country.

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Dehydrated animals = Heaven

On our trip back from Cheese Dad’s, Amanda and I stopped at a store called Venison World, where we stocked up on treats like deer jerky and chocolate-covered almonds. If that isn’t already USA enough, this store exists in a town called Eden.

A meat-themed store in a town named after paradise? Why, it just don’t get any more ‘Merica than that.

…Unless a bald eagle had swooped down and stolen the jerky right out of my hands. And then carried it off to a nest of baby eagles being guarded by a camo-wearing eagle holding a shotgun.

 

So! How were your 4th of July celebrations? Are you going to give me up to the FBI for mildly criticizing America’s favorite technological pastime? Perhaps most importantly, how do you feel about smiling biscuits?