Sunday, September 21, 2008

ybor and mj's, saturday, sept 20

so, i took the pig-wrapped, pig-stuffed pig campaign to the people today. i printed up some cards with information about the dish and voting, then went out to the ybor saturday market where the national tour of top chef. i figured that is as good a demographic as i would find.

they had a big tractor trailer truck with slide outs. inside, there was a tiny kitchen and 38 chairs. the chefs presenting were carlos fernandez from season 2 and richard blais, who was a finalist in the most recent season. richard is one of my favorite contestants from any season, so i was looking forward to seeing his demo.

anyway, i got there at about 945 a.m., which was 45 minutes before the first show. i wasn't looking forward to walking around and talking to strangers, but i figured my vote total needed a boost, so i needed to do it. and it was actually sort of fun. everyone -- well, almost everyone -- seemed happy to hear about the contest and what i could win. and most said they would go right home and vote. i gave out about 400 cards. so far, i've had a bounce of about 50. hoping that i get more tomorrow, but i was hoping for a 20 percent return, and that seems highly possible. i mean, of course, i don't know that all of them were people from ybor today, but i'm sure it didn't hurt.

i gave a card to blais and talked to him briefly. he seemed genuinely nice, which he seemed on the show. he said he was going to vote for me. i was rooting for him on top chef, so nice that he's returning the favor here.

he made sweet tea ice cream in the demo. he made it with dry ice, which i have seen happen on tv before, but never tried. it was pretty awesome. he made the ice cream base, and while it was still hot, put it in the bowl of his kitchen aid stand mixer. with the mixer running, he started adding the dry ice, and fog started billowing out of the bowl. it looked like a movie prop. we got to taste, and it was really good. it tasted like carbonated ice cream. i want to do this. oh, and i'm looking forward to my next trip to atlanta. richard is opening an upscale burger joint there. i'll go. oh II: while i was in ybor, i had lunch at mema's alaska tacos. i guess what makes a taco an alaskan taco is that they fry the tortilla. i had a gator taco, which was kind of cool. they were good, but kind of small and kind of expensive. shrug.

so i secured some votes. hopefully enough, and got to meet someone i respected on tv and learned that he deserved it. good day. and it wasn't even over yet. ...

so after a day of talking at ybor, i came home and crashed in front of the tv and watched the rays. then, all of a sudden, it was 730 and i was hungry. so we took a suggestion from laura reiley and headed over the mj's martini jazz and tapas bar. they asked us if we had ever been there before. we said, yes, but the last time we had been there, is was about seven years ago, and it was a steak & ale.

i want to go back and try everything on the menu. we started with the mussels a la tara, a nice bowl of mussels in a wine-butter sauce. sweet. portabello mushroom stuffed with goat cheese and spinach. sweet. we also had the slow-braised burgundy short rib. the description on this dish was just "with gratitude and respect for chef boulud." so i asked the waitress if the chef worked for daniel boulud, and she said yes. that was pretty cool. daniel is someplace i'd like to go someday. the short rib was good, though not quite as tender as i might've hoped. the sauce was really good. and the potatoes were good.

pam got the pan-seared salmon which had a lavender honey. i got the pan-seared duck breast, which came with a sour cherry sauce. this was awesome.

for dessert, i didn't have to choose, they had a sampler. a little taste of four different desserts. new york cheesecake, and the open cannoli were my favorites, but the carrot cake and the chocolate almond torte were good too.

they have something called bananas sorta foster. i need to go back and find out what that means.

all the plates were small, which is always fun. you could go create your own tasting menu. tapas is a great plan.

so, pam brought some of the cards that i took to ybor saturday morning, and we gave some to the waitress, told her the story and asked her to get all the employees to vote for me. she said sure. as we were getting ready to leave, i saw the waitress in the kitchen showing my card to the chef, domenica macchia. they seemed to be animated. then i saw her coming out to the dining room. so i waited. she seemed really impressed with the idea and the opportunity, and said she would vote for me. it was fun talking to her, too. i'm definitely going back. so should you.


Anonymous said...

The voting site is having problems for the past few days I have been trying to register and it comes back with a dialog box of sorry errors encountered.

Anonymous said...

I had to comment because you mentioned Alaskan Tacos. You haven't had a taco, until you've had a genuine, and I do mean GENUINE (as in authentic, the real thing), Navajo Taco! I stayed on a Navajo Indian reservation for two weeks a few years back (what an experience, but that's a long story). Anyway, we actually LIVED with the Indians on the reservation (like camping, but even harder, and I'm not a camper by any was something else!), well they made us Navajo Tacos and it was, even up to now, the best testing taco I have every had in my life. They use their Indian Fry Bread as the shells, and I could live on their Fry Bread. It is the most awesome food ever! We tried to recreate it when we got home, but even with their recipe, we could never do it right. Let me just say they use a LOT (and I do mean a LOT) of Crisco to make it and they make it with just about every meal. It's funny, because they are poor people. When you go into one of their homes (which are often just "mud huts" and one room) they will have cans and cans of Crisco all lined up and stacked in one corner. I have never seen so much Crisco in one place in my life, not even the grocery store. Seeing what goes into their fry bread I KNOW it can't be healthy for you, but it does make the best Taco ever and is, by far, some of my favorite food ever!