Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Illustrated Shamrockfest 2009 Survival Guide

Once again, it's time for Shamrockfest, the not-quite St. Patty's Paddy's Day debauchery at RFK Stadium (let's see you top that, FedEx Field).

Hopefully, I will have finagled another VIP pass, thanks in part to this and previous years' exhaustive blog coverage of the event (that there is what we call a full disclosure in the blog biz), though I would have been going anyway, since I'm apparently the only social media type in the entire Eastern Seaboard not going to Austin for SXSW.

Anyway, since my AOL layoff guide was such a raging success (good luck, by the way, folks -- at least know that Rondy are out the door, too), here are a few tips for new Shamrockfest-goers:

* To VIP or not VIP? Whether or not you should spring for VIP passes really depends on the price you get (remember, tickets cost more at the door, though check Craigslist, too -- they're easy to transfer and print) and your alcohol tolerance. It looks like the main stages are a lot closer to VIP this year (see the map), whereas they were a bit out of the way previous years.

I guess that's my only semi-substantive tip. Weatherwise, the high currently looks to be about 50, so dress accordingly. I usually make fun of people who bring their own beads and trinkets, but I guess it's the environmentally correct -- green, ahem -- thing to do.

Other items that could be construed as guidelines:

DSCF0601Watch out for guys with axes

DSCF0592The bigger the hat, the cooler the action.

DSCF4193Suspenders go best with striped socks and flinty looks.

DSCF0599Did I mention the socks? Tights are also acceptable.

DSCF4175Mug management skills are crucial.

DSCF4200Just as in Irish English, "Pants" are rubbish.

DSCF0622Don't forget to get something for the ride home.

I know there'll be a good blogger contingent out there, too, which may or may not be an incentive for you.

See you on Saturday.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Brunswick Stew: Electric Boogaloo

The title is a lie -- this is actually my third time slow cooking a Brunswick stew.

First off, it passes the spoon test quite handily (it's thick enough so that a spoon will stay standing up):

Passing the spoon test.

It's got some heat (due to the chili paste, some cayenne and Sriracha sauce), but it's not too hot -- just enough to overwhelm the taste of the stew, which unfortunately isn't very flavorful. It's also not as sweet or tangy as my last try, since I used less cider vinegar and Sriracha.

Ingredients, this time around:
* 4 chicken drumsticks
* Some olive oil for the skillet
* Cooking spray
* Handful of garlic cloves, minced
* 2 medium sized red potatoes
* 2 onions
* 1.5 cups frozen lima beans
* 1.5 cups frozen sliced okra
* 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
* 2 cans of corn (I used 1 can creamed, 1 can kernel. Just because)
* 2-3 tablespoons of chili paste (in retrospect, a bit too much)
* Couple of squirts of ketchup
* Couple of squirts of Sriracha sauce
* 2 splashes of cider vinegar
* The rest of a mostly empty bottle of Worcestershire sauce
* Half-cup or so of chicken stock (leveling out the ingredients)
* 2 chicken bouillon cubes (for extra chicken and MSG)
* Assorted powdered spices: salt, pepper, onion, cayenne, chili -- whatever's handy. Plus a bay leaf or two. Season to taste.

* Spray nonstick cooking spray into the crock pot.
* Heat oil. Start browning the chicken in a saucepan.
* Impatiently start chopping potato, garlic, onion.
* Inefficiently dash back and forth between the cutting board and stove until the vegetables are chopped and the chicken is browned.
* Add potato, garlic, onion. Place chicken on top.
* Add rest of ingredients. Place slow cooker on high. Go to bed.
* Wake up 6 hours later, to find that the stew has reduced, by bubbling all over the kitchen counter. On the plus side, the chicken has fallen off the bone, so strip the bones and shred the chicken.
* [Optional: Level off with some more lima beans, corn and okra, steamed.]
* Cook on high for 2 more hours.
* Book it. Done.

The taste is... nontraditional, mostly due to the chili sauce. I think I used too much. On the plus side, it's plenty thick

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Who Is Pecos Bill, or How I Outsmarted Myself Yet Again

Tuesday, I took my second shot at Trivia Night at Jimmy's Old Town Tavern in Herndon.

As with last time, my tablemates were quite good in getting us past the written-answer qualifying round, where they could use their Internet-enabled cellphones to look up the answers (although I did my part in the tiebreakers), and then clammed up to the point of near-uselessness during the Jotteopardy portion, where it was my butt on the line onstage.

After a slow start, I worked my way into first place, cleaning up in the American folklore category (notably, I remembered that it was Pecos Bill who used a rattlesnake as a lasso).

And I discovered that my teammates' true role was not to help me, but rather, to hurt the other contestants, by yelling out incorrect and distracting answers ("Paul Bunyon! Paul Bunyon!", which was wrong even for the relevant question).

Going into the final round, I had a slight lead, though not enough to place a safe, boring bet. The category was "This Day in History/Magazines", so I felt pretty confident. However, the question was, "On this day [March 3] 1923, this magazine was the first weekly newsmagazine in the US."

At first, I thought Newsweek. Then I thought Time. Then I thought, "Aha! Time is far too obvious, it's got to be something more obscure... like, say, The Saturday Evening Post!" So I went with that.

Of course, the correct answer was Time. Or at least, the answer they were looking for, especially in the "This Day in History" bit of things. (One might be able to make a case for The Saturday Evening Post, though it wasn't exclusively a news magazine.)

Anyway, it was a good time. Smoky, though, which is par for the course -- we'll see how the smoking ban legislation changes things in December.

Oh, and I came up with a working name for our Spring kickball team: Package Stimulus. We'll see if it sticks.