IROCO RESTURANTE

October 27, 2017


Is there anyone out there who does NOT like to eat?  Anyone who would turn down a wonderful gourmet meal?  OK, I don’t think so.

A few years ago, my wife and I cashed in a few Delta frequent flyer points and flew to Madrid for our anniversary.  Just the two of us!!!!  The city was in the process of making repairs due to an Olympic bid so there was construction on many of the main streets, including the one you see below.   Calle Vasquez was located in Central Madrid and in walking distance from our hotel.  The IROCO Resturante was recommended by the hotel staff as being one destination that would give us a taste of authentic Spanish cuisine.  This turned out to be the case.  (You do NOT eat “American” when you visit Spain.)  As you can see, orange barrels and construction signs on Calle Vasquez marking repairs and construction for the entire length of the street.  That did not stop the determined from making the trip.

The logo for IROCO is given below.  This placard was positioned prominently on both sides of the main entrance.

As we entered the building and what I thought was the main dining hall, I was NOT impressed.  I discovered after a few steps that we were being directed to a marvelous garden adjoining the kitchen. Wonderfully lighted with tables and umbrellas well-positioned throughout the garden.  The digital photograph will indicate the basic layout of the garden.

 

It’s hard to tell which is leafier—the dining room walls covered with botanical prints or the back-garden terrace where tables sit among potted trees and shrubs. Either is a good place to enjoy contemporary Spanish cooking that sometimes roams the globe for ingredients. The delicious plate of paella-style rice with cilantro and crisply fried squid is stained black with huitalacoche (corn smut) to make a lighter and more original version of a Catalan arròs negre, or black rice. Iroco’s slow-roasted, boneless kid glazed with honey and served with a turnip purée makes goat a revelation. Garden service carries a ten percent (10%) surcharge but worth the price.

Even though we ate in the garden, the “cave” was really intriguing.  This was a below-ground annex to the garden with additional tables, a wine cellar and a fully-stocked bar with just about any liquor you would ask for.

As you can see from the digital below, there is seating in the “cave”.  You can enjoy a drink or order from the full menu.  We chose the garden because it was a beautiful clear night with not-to-hot temperature and a very soft breeze blowing.

We went all out on this one including desert and were not in the least disappointed with the offerings or the service.  I can certainly recommend this restaurant to you if and when you are ever in Madrid.  As always, my recommendation does not mean that much so I want to indicate what others are saying about IROCO.

As always, I welcome your comments

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BELA LISBOA

October 21, 2017


My wife and I heard rave reviews about a new restaurant in Chattanooga called Bela Lisboa so we decided to visit very early this past Friday afternoon.  (When I say early I mean early.  It was just past five o’clock as they were opening the doors.)  We were their first customers so please do not be put off by the vacant tables.  Bela Lisboa has been open for approximately three (3) months.  Our server, YaYa indicated their busiest hours were from seven to nine in the evening.  One very important note:  there is “free” parking in the back.  The location is 417 Frazier Avenue in the North Shore area and parking can be a real problem during the evening hours.  Park in back.

It was a MARVELOUS experience and an unexpected surprise. The food was excellent, the service was flawless—every dish was extremely well-repaired.  If I may, let me give you a digital tour of the evening.

As I mentioned, we were their first customers although people began entering as we were finishing our meal.  You can get a feel for the seating arrangement and decorations from above.  There are additional tables to the left of the photograph and tables positioned towards the front of the establishment.  There is also a bar which is not shown in the picture.

Our server was a young lady named YaYa.  She was very knowledgeable regarding the menu items and the specials for the evening and very attentive and yet not “hovering”.  (We don’t like hovering!) Not a native of Chattanooga but resident for ten (10) years and was one of the first employees of Bela Lisboa.

OK, let’s go to the food.  We decided that since we had not been there before, we would order multiple dishes from the “starter” menu.  That turned out to be the best thing we could have done.

Let me state emphatically—I do not like HUMMUS—never have for some reason.  This dish was the first served and it was wonderfully well prepared.  I am now a believer—at least in the hummus served by Bela Lisboa.  As you can see, the bread served was based with olive oil.

Breaded Calamari Rings with House Spicy Marinara. Notice the yellow pepper added to the dish.  I do love calamari which is one of the favorite dishes in Portugal.  The spicy sauce was great but not “three alarm”.  It was delicious on top of the rings.

Fig-infused Goat Cheese with Honey, Walnut, and Balsamic Reduction.  OK, this is a mouth full.  Once again, I’m not really a fan of goat cheese but this was truly good with a capital “G”.  This could have been my meal alone.

Poached Shrimp in Garlic & Olive Oil. Who does not like shrimp? Served in a skillet and piping hot.

Salmon Tartare With Red Onion, Mango, Coriander, Olive Oil. In years past, I had a bad experience with steak tartare so I was a little nervous about this one also but it was fabulous.  I mean really fabulous.

The owner and chef of Bela Lisboa is David Filippini.  He is from Portugal and has owned restaurants in Portugal prior to coming to the United States. We did not meet him this evening but we meet the manager during dinner and had a conversation with him as we were leaving.  We certainly indicated what a great experience this was.  Bela Lisboa is the only restaurant serving Portuguese food in Chattanooga even though our city is becoming much more oriented to food from other parts of the world.

Now, I would like to show you reviews from others who have enjoyed the experience.  Take a look at the several given below.

CONCLUSIONS:

The good news is—Bela Lisboa is in Chattanooga.  The bad news is-Bela Lisboa is in Chattanooga and most of you reading this post are not in Chattanooga.  One good reason to make the visit to the “sunny south”.  Also, I want to portray the fact that Chattanooga is a marvelous town and one which has become a “destination city” simply due to the great scenery, the wonderful and welcoming people, marvelous restaurants such as Bela Lisboa, and just plenty of “stuff” to do.  When visiting, you MUST try Bela Lisboa!  Please come take a look for yourself.

CONSIDER THE COSTS

July 7, 2017


I’m pretty sure most people, like me, ALWAYS consider the costs of purchased items.  I do NOT buy a pack of bubble gum without asking “how much” nor do I envy those who have enough money to purchase without consideration of “how much”.   The list below is totally random but does represent the fact year after year things we need and want increase at an alarming rate. (At least in my opinion.)

  • One dozen organic eggs- $3.50.
  • Hatsan Nova 0.22 Air Rifle–$749.00
  • IRS estimated value of Michael Jackson’s estate– $434.00 million
  • Average cost of one American wedding–$26,700.00. (I’m blown away by this one. Happy I have all boys.)
  • Wedding statistics released in 2017 by The Knot show the price brides are willing to pay for their gowns has gone up. The 2016 national average spent was $1,564, and the year before it was $1,469. Apart from venue, photographer, and planner, the wedding dress was one of the costliest items of the whole event.
  • According to Cost Helper, traditional metal dental braces cost between $3,000and $7,500. The duration of treatment ranges from one to three years depending on the how severe the problem is for the patient.
  • Estimated costs to decommission a nuclear reactor in France–$322.00 million
  • Stock bonus given to Glenn Kellow, coal executive who led Peabody Energy through bankruptcy-$15.00 million.
  • Amtrak locomotive–$6.50 million.
  • One WWII B-17 in 1945–$238,329.00
  • Apple i-phone 6–$549.00
  • Month of fitness classes in Ohio-$129.00
  • One barrel of Brent Crude Oil as of 7 July 2017–$49.15
  • A 2008 prediction of one gallon of gasoline in 2015–$9.15.
  • The cost of one day in the hospital.
    • State/local government hospitals–$1,878
    • Nonprofit hospitals–$2,289
    • For-profit hospitals–$1791
  • Each university online course cost around $300 or $400 per credit hour. On top of that, several classes had application fees in the $30-$50 range.
  • Investments in US wind projects over the past ten years–$128.00 billion.
  • Global airport security market by 2023-$12.72 billion.
  • Cost of rumored purchase of home in LA for Beyoncé and JayZ– $93 million for 30,000 square feet, 10 bedrooms, 20 bathrooms.
  • Next generation wind technology for R&D through 2026–$36.90 billion.
  • Johnny Depp’s yacht–$33.00
  • The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is $3,895, according to the January 2015 Citi habitat market report.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of the world’s population remain low-income or poor, living off  ten ($10) or less a day, according to a new Pew Research Center report that looked at changes in income for 111 countries between 2001 and 2011.  On July 4, 1776, we claimed our independence from Britain and Democracy was born. Every day thousands leave their homeland to come to the “land of the free and the home of the brave” so they can begin their American Dream.  That American Dream has allowed our people to succeed, fail, and try again.  Without our system of government, even with all of its flaws and shortcomings, we just might be one of those third-world countries in which ten dollars per day is the norm.  Happy Birthday America.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

April 13, 2017


Each year the Brainerd Baptist Church of Chattanooga sponsors a “Spring Garden Party”.  As you might expect, this event determines Spring is not only here but winter will NOT come again for several months.  It is a marvelous event for their church and serves to get everyone together celebrating the beginning of the season.  Anyone living in Chattanooga can only look at the pollen count to know that bushes, shrubs, flowers, trees, etc. are in full bloom.  One great thing about the event is the marvelous creativity shown by table settings individually “constructed” for each table.  Brainerd Baptist facility is called the BX, and houses two basketball floors, weight room, in-door track, meeting rooms, and small diner.  It really is the meeting place for not only members of the Brainerd Baptists Church but the neighborhood in general.  We are going to take a pictorial look at several striking examples of the creativity demonstrated for each table. Not much narrative with this post—only digital photographs.  One thing I’m going to ask—please notice the great variety in table settings themselves.  Plates, utensils, napkins, etc.  They are unique for each table and definitely complement the overall theme for each table. I’m going to apologize up front for the photographic quality of several JPEGs.  I used the camera in my phone. Sometimes a hit and sometimes a miss.  Let’s take a look.

Above the stage was a three-panel sign announcing the event and welcoming the participants.

As you can see, the floor is immense and obviously large enough to accommodate approximately fifty (50) tables seating eight (8) individuals.  The efforts expended by the church members occurs over an entire week.  Each table is numbered with occupants of each table being asked by the host of that table to join the event.  A roster of table numbers and names if provided at the entry.

The Table 6 host has place settings that look like cabbage leaves.  Please note the purple cabbage leaves wrapped around the glasses.  Really unique.

You might have to look, but there are three (3) crosses displayed in the planter for this table arrangement. Notice the intricate design on the plates.

We all love popcorn.  This table represents an afternoon at the movies.

Table 21 is the jelly bean table.  The colors do not show up that much but there are beans in each jar.

Table 20

Table 13 is decorated with typical spring flowers called forsythia found in the Southeastern portion of our country.

The host for this table has gone international.  Beautiful centerpiece representing clothes worn in other countries.

The center piece displays white tulips.  I have no idea as to where the host found these beautiful flowers. Please note the napkins and utensils.

Table 4 shows a lamb as the centerpiece. Definitely a religions theme. Again, please note the salad plates showing a picture of a lamb.

We all love Easter bunnies.  The eggs are real hard-boiled eggs.

Table 17—Tea Cups

This table setting was by far the tallest with sunflowers or daisies gracing the centerpiece. You cannot really tell from this JPEG but each individual plate has the name of the person that will be sitting in that position. Really creative.

While walking the indoor track, I took a picture of tallest center piece from above.

This table featured the plate shown above at each of the eight positions. The color of the place mats varied from chair to chair.

Table 36 shows hot air balloons floating away.

The photo of Table 35 is a bit washed out but the colors were striking with this one.

Table 38 shows a vase with coffee beans as the center piece.  Really creative and colors were contrasting which gave a distinctive appearance.  If you look very carefully, you will notice individual Frappuccino “offerings” as favors.

You cannot imagine the beautiful spring flowers created by the host of table 30.

I certainly hope you enjoyed the tour.  Not much text—just beautiful and creative displays.

PECAN LODGE

December 8, 2016


This Thanksgiving my family and I traveled to Dallas, Texas to visit our youngest son and his wife Sarah.  Even though we are East Tennessee “ridge-runners” we love Dallas.  It’s a great place to visit with “tons” of wonderful restaurants, museums, and other terrific things to do and see.  If I may, let me recommend to you the following five visits that we consider “must see and do” experiences.  We have visited each of the following sites and I can attest to experiences.  Here we go:

  • Dallas Arboretum and Gardens–The gardens are truly outstanding but bring your walking shoes.
  • Dallas Cowboy Stadium—Seating 80,000 rabid fans, it sits prominently in Arlington, Texas
  • Ross Perot Museum—Downtown Dallas
  • Downtown Dallas Skyline—A wonderfully modern skyline with truly cutting-edge designs.
  • Pecan Lodge Restaurant—Best ribs and brisket in Dallas and voted one of the best four in the world.

OK, I know there are many many others but if you have only two or three days you might consider these five.  Dallas Cowboy Stadium is out of town but is a remarkable engineering and architectural feat—it is a must see.  Put that one high on your list.

This may be a little off-the-wall, but I would like to take you to the last one on the list—The Pecan Lodge Restaurant.  If you like smoked brisket, smoked ribs, smoked sausage AND all the sides that might go with each, you NEED to visit the Pecan.  The Texas Monthly called it one of the best four (4) BBQ restaurants in the world.  (Of course, they are a bit bias but it is a great experience.)

The owners tell us the following: “It all started when we ditched our corporate jobs and weekly travel that came with them so we could spend more time as a family. And, to be honest, we weren’t out to set the world on fire – just some mesquite wood, plus a little oak. But one mouthwatering bite of brisket led to another, and before we knew it, the juicy secret about Pecan Lodge was out. Folks began to serve us up heaping portions of praise, and soon after, lines started to form for what Texas Monthly called one of the Top 4 BBQ joints in the world.


It’s not easy work, but we love what we’re doing. And there are no shortcuts to doing it right. Our BBQ pit burns 24 hours a day, fueled by nothing but wood and passion. We grind and stuff our own sausage. And anything we can make from scratch, we make from scratch – from our Southern Fried Chicken to Aunt Polly’s banana pudding to our Mac n’ Cheese to the collard greens. Times change, and sometimes you have to roll with the punches. Our little stand at the Farmer’s Market had to make way for redevelopment, so we’ve now set up camp in the heart of Deep Ellum. You’ll find us where Main St. meets Pryor St., and good old-fashioned elbow grease meets smoked perfection”

Before we really get into a pictorial visit, let’s look at how they do it.

Texas Style Brisket by Pecan Lodge
Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups paprika
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 3 tablespoons onion powder
    • 3 tablespoons garlic salt
    • 1 tablespoons celery salt
    • 1 tablespoons black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
    • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 trim brisket, about 5 to 6 pounds
    Directions
  1. Combine all the drying ingredients in a bowl and blend well.
    2. Trim the brisket, leaving about 1/4-inch of fat.
    3. Season the brisket with about 1/4-cup of the rub. (NOTE: You don’t want such a thick crust that the smoke won’t penetrate the meat. Let the brisket marinate overnight in the refrigerator.)
    4. Preheat your grill to 250 degrees F using charcoal and hickory.
    5. Using indirect heat, cook the brisket for 3 1/2 hours and flip. Cook another 3 1/2 hours, cooking for a total of 7 hours (about 1 1/2 hours per pound.) The brisket should cook to an internal temperature of 185 degrees F.
    6. Rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board before slicing. Slice brisket against the grain

How long does it take to smoke a brisket? And at what temperature? Are there any tricks to creating the “bark” on the brisket?
The answer varies, depending on the weight and type of smoker you are working with. Most of our briskets cook between 15 and 18 hours. To get a nice bark, we use a generous layer of spice rub, which — blended with the fat insulating the brisket — leads to a nice, dark bark on the outer layer.

I hope you’ve got that and will be willing to give it a try.  The Lodge is very willing to give you this recipe which I think is outstanding.

THE VISIT

The Pecan Lodge opens at 11:00 A.M. each day. Parking is no problem at all with plenty of spaces in the back and sides of the building.  As you walk towards the entrance you see two massive smokers.  These smokers run seven days a week with each brisket taking eighteen hours (minimum) to cook.  We were fortunate this day because the doors to the smoke house were open.

massive-smokers

Since it was the Thanksgiving holiday, there were fifty or sixty people in line to pick up call-in orders.  I can imagine turkey and brisket sitting on dining room tables across the Dallas area. NOTE:  The pick-up line is separate from the line for indoor and outdoor seating.  Don’t get in the wrong line.

call-in-orders-pick-up

We got there around 11:20 thinking we would be one of the first families in line.  Please note we were at the back of the line you see below.  Down the sidewalk and around the corner past the “bull” you see in the background.  I stepped out to take this picture to indicate just how popular this place is.

waiting-line

Due to the number of people ordering and needing to be seated, the management requires each order to be submitted before individuals are seated.  In other words, you can’t send a family member to save a seat while you are in line.  They are really big on this one.

please-be-seated

The two digital pictures below will give some indication as to the size of the indoor dining room.  It’s big and notice not too many people are looking up—all looking down at their plates and going at it.

inside-seating

inside-seating2

It would not be a BBQ “joint” without hats, shirts, belt buckles, etc etc.  These are on display so you can choose and pay as you place your order.

hats-shirts

Given below is the menu.  It’s the only one you get.  We all ordered one, two or three meats and one or two sides.  This gave us variety to share with each other. Note the “Hot Mess” in the upper right of the menu.  I did not order this but my son did and it is outstanding—hot but outstanding.

menue

We were very lucky in that the day gave us seventy-five degree temperatures and plenty of great sunshine.  We ate outside where there were eleven picnic tables—most of them full.

outside-seating

I know we have BBQ in east Tennessee and some of it is pretty good, but we do not have Texas brisket.  Hope you enjoyed this post and can make the visit to the Pecan Lodge in big “D”.

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