Monday, June 2, 2008

Denver Dinin' and Sunnyvale's Shinin' - the marathon post

So, I just wrapped up a lil trip to tape the second and third episodes of How'd That Get On My Plate? First, lemme tell ya about me and traveling. Due to my upbringing as an Army Brat, I'm accustomed to new places and things, but boy do I dislike flying. I can remember throwing up on a government flight from Germany back to the States for a vacation and it's been difficult ever since. Then my crazy self joined the Air Force. The first year was in Korea, so that was cool, flew there and stayed put for a year. Then I got an assignment to produce and write radio news stories for AFNEWS and moved back to San Antonio (my high school city), but almost never was there because the gig required lots n lots of travel. I didn't like it. I mean I loved telling the stories, but they would sometimes come abruptly, like news does, and I'd have to get on a flight and be there. Needless to say my electric bills were teeny tiny some months due to my frequent travel the last 3 years in the Air Force. 

I distinctly remember being rolled into the television department at AFNEWS to go shoot the Holiday Greetings oversees, a 2-3 month trip that included many 1-day stays and living out of the suitcase. I protested, loudly :-) ... I was just exhausted, and a long TDY (that's military lingo for "tour of duty" and means a biz trip) didn't look like fun. It was grueling work I can't even fathom now. We'd break into teams of 3 or four and then break the world up into regions and each team would tour all or many of the bases in that region and we'd tape every single soldier, airman, seaman, or marine saying happy holidays to their families back home. You may have caught the greetings on your local news station or even on the national news around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I mean we taped thousands and thousands of people, sometimes we'd begin taping before the sun rose and ended after it fell. I was young and everyone on my team was older with families and it was always such a lonely trip for me. Our thing to say was we "flew" by some of the nicest places in the world teeheehee ... not much time to sight see. Plus, I always did the Pac-rim trip, the Japan, Guam, Korea, Hawaii leg ... man did I want to do the Germany leg and never got to. So, I say all that to say, after I left the military I thought my frequent flyer miles were over .... Since then, I've gotten better at flying, although being new to NYC just a week before 9/11 gave me a bit of a set back. I always got sick, but now there's anxiety attached. The best thing for me was to be able to plan flying, get relaxed about it and get my mind ready, in the Air Force, I sometimes got very little notice. So far on How'd That Get On My Plate? I'm doin' okay, no throwing up just yet on the flight lol ... but I did drip a tear on landing in Denver. Sucks to tell you cuz it feels wimpy, but if there is someone that dislikes flying that reads this, you have a friend, especially if you fly for work. :-) Okay, on with the post ..... Denver dining ....

I got to Denver on Memorial Day and realized I'd left my flat-iron at home, so first thing's first I needed to find a spot to buy one ... on the way to Walgreen's on the 16th Street mall I saw a Sally's and stopped there. Then looked down the street and saw Chili's ... yaaaaaaay! Don't look at me crazy, the hood I live in has no fast food places, much less the semi fast food of places like TGIF and Chili's. I mean we have a kosher Subway, but you can't get cheese on your sandwich and there's a kosher Dunkin' Donuts, but you can't get cheese on the croissanwich. I need cheese. Funny enough, I didn't get anything from Chili's that was cheese and meat combined, but I still felt like I was livin' on the wild side! Plus, have you ever had their SW eggrolls? They are yummy, even with the corn. I also must tell you about my Taco Bell thing, look ... it was right there on the 16th Street mall as well and lemme tell ya, my second paying job ever was at Taco Bell, so it's in my system. I was waaaaay too excited to find one within walking distance from my hotel!!! I did it two days in a row and woke up the next morning like, ok ... today I'll do something different. We get to the parking lot of Lamar's Donuts and off in the distance courtesy of my Lasik, I see a sign in the sky ... SONIC!!!! I immediately knew what I wanted for lunch! Donuts for breakfast of course. Here's a shot of Jamie, me and Dellgosh ... he was the master donut maker and trains people at all the stores, so he was there to give me the lowdown on Lamar's Donuts. Here we are smilin' away ... sugar does that.



Anyway, after a morning of donut making, the crew was all into getting lunch from this other place, complete with shrimp and pasta and food that was way too fancy for lunch for me ... I wanted SONIC! Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you ... Sonic was the 1st paying job I ever had. Yeah, so it was pretty neat to get done with Taco Bell, the 2nd spot I'd worked at and the next morning run into my 1st fast food love, Sonic. Also, people in the NYC area will feel my pain ... they run Sonic commercials here all the time and every single time they run, I'll log on and see if finally a Sonic is in the area .... and every time, I'm let down. Have you seen the new one with the fries and shake joke?? Hilarious to me, anyway .... I had a Cherry Limeade and Onion Rings and almost lost my mind when there was no ketchup in the bag! lol ...don'tcha hate it when that happens? Luckily, the donut shop had ketchup, go figure. I know you are like, just rings and a drink? No burger or coney?? Nope, it was all I could do to save prime real estate in my belly after working the morning in the donut kitchen. At lunch time my tummy space was at a premium. I had the equivalent of about 5-6 donuts. Lemme tell ya, I'm gonna gain some pounds with this gig if I don't watch it because people offer free food left and right and sometimes the foodie in you HAS to try it. Like who wouldn't try several donuts fresh from the fryer? I tried several flavors in several different states of production, before glaze, after glaze, no glaze, with sprinkles, no sprinkles, toppings, fillings, you name it I tried it if it was offered and then some. Then that night the suits from the production company wanted to do dinner. I was like eat after a day of over eating? Sure ... we ate at Rioja in Denver, just off the 16th Street Mall. Here's what I had ...



Brioche Crusted Sea Scallops, organic brussel sprouts, crispy smoked prosciutto, lemon creme fraiche, pistachio pistou.
The salad dressing or pistou (think pesto, i'm sure that's the derivative) was yummy ... pistachios made it perfect. This is an entree I asked to be made into an appetizer portion. Then ...


Candied Lemon Gnocchi, butter poached crab, shaved asparagus, fava beans, grape tomatoes, tarragon herb salad, Moutere Grove organic olive oil emulsion.
The asparagus were yummy, but cut in a manner that made it difficult to get on a fork, very thin and very long at an angle. Pretty, but hard to eat.


And another chef that knows we like our black pepper and we don't want to wait for someone to come by and offer it with a grinder they don't know how to use. Ever try to get them to loosen it to give you coarse pepper? It should be in the waiter handbook, how to use a grinder, right? Anyway, I'm a sucker for the teeny bowls on the table.


Now, can I speak freely? My scallops were gritty and there was a big chunk of shell in the butter poached crab meat. Lemme tell ya though, the crab meat was soooo good that even though my tummy was stuffed from a full day of eating, I searched every shred out on my plate for consumption, a little shell wasn't gonna stop me. It's just I'm sitting there having a great conversation with the people I've just met, who wants to break the flow by asking for not only the scallops to go back, but the gnocchi with crab meat as well? Plus, it takes plenty for me to send back a plate ... I think I'd only send back an improperly cooked steak. I mean that is something to get mad about, not a kitchen prepper that can't clean seafood properly. That's just me, and heck now that I think about it ... I just recently had a steak in NYC that was killed in a bad way by the chef. It was totally overcooked and  I sat there and tried to eat the tough piece of meat and never said a word. What is wrong with me? Do I need to send food back? It really feels weird to do. Help me if you have those issues. I'd much rather not eat something and say I was full to the waiter than tell them what I found wrong with it. Come to think of it, the gnocchi was a bit too salty as well. O my, what is wrong with me? I dine on tacos and onion rings and then complain about scallops lol. Okay, anyway ...the company at dinner was great. 

Then the next day we all headed out to a chicken farm in the sticks, I mean faaaar from anything. No food to eat, just chickens to pet ... take a look ... 


Okay, these chickadees were just 2 weeks old so they needed heat to feel warm ... hence my sweat. The make up artist kept trying to dab me, I was like just give up ... it's okay to be sweaty in a sweaty situation ... the chick was so sweet, when I let go to put it back down it didn't want to leave my hand. real cute.


And this is a hen about 24 weeks old and egg-baring age :-). I got a close up with no flash, she moved her head and I ended up with a prettier pic i think. Picked her up too, she was a sweetie. All her friends were pecking at my plastic bag wrapped feet. Reflexology on the farm!

Then, when we broke for lunch I was very interested to see just what we'd run into. Turns out even though we were in the stix, Sara who works on the production is like a chick I remember from a Seinfeld episode. Remember the one where Jerry was dating this girl that could get the impossible done? Remember she got tickets to a sold out show with just a smile? Anyway, our Sara has this gift, heck she got us on a farm behind a biosecure door, all I had to do was put on a blue suit ... big whoop, gimme tha suit!! So, anyway, even though we were faaaaaar from civilization, she managed to get a place to deliver lunch faaaar outside it's delivery zone. And boy was it good. You ever have something to eat where right as you bring it to your face to chomp on you are hit with the aroma of it??? That's Jimmy John's sandwiches. I mean this was a sandwich that had the freshest bread and boy did it smell fresh, just yeasty and yummy. Then the bread was chewy and light and airy all at once. Bread can really mess up a sandwich as was foreshadowing for the Sunnyvale, CA leg of the road trip... Take a look at the box each of our lunches came in too ... really cute, with chips, a cookie and a pickle.


Makes me feel like a kid to get a boxed lunch. Like it like that from In & Out Burger in cali too...


 All I could think was yaaaay cheese and meat together!!! I got the #12 Beach Club, Fresh baked turkey breast, provolone cheese, avocado spread, sliced cucumber, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, and mayo! (It's the real deal and it ain't even California.) 
THAT'S HOW THE FOOD DESCRIPTION LOOKS ON THE MENU PARENTHESIS AND ALL :-)


Turns out it was the owner that did the delivery too, really cool dude. Now you ready for this??? Remember how I was saying I'd kinda run the Taco Bell out in 2 days and knew I needed a change? I was just saying to myself, wonder if I can find something within walking distance just like the Taco Bell. So, the next day after the yummy and perfect Jimmy John's lunch I needed to get something from Walgreen's that was on the same street as Taco Bell ... and what do I see right next to Taco Bell??????



Yes, a Jimmy John's sandwich spot, right there on the left and it was right there all along. Isn't that so true in life? I left Taco Bell thinkin' ok, this is it, I gotta find another place and right next to it was a place that made yummy sandwiches. It was so funny I had to take a pic. Only thing is, the next day was a travel day to Cali. So, no more Jimmy John's, but at least I know where to get a good sandwich next time I'm in town.

Ok, on to California to talk strawberries. I knew from my teeny stint in the Inland Empire area that strawberries grow very well in Cali. We went to Sunnyvale which is significantly north of where I'd lived before, but still the perfect climate for strawberries. We got there on a Friday evening and immediately decided to catch dinner in town. Now usually before I eat at new places I google search to death and also go to a few foodie websites to check the reviews, this time I had no time. We decided on Tarragon and hopped in the car for the short trip from our hotel. All the internet time I got was to do a quick menu scan which turned up a drink I wanted to try. The Cherry Life Saver. Look, I'm a 7&7 drinker if it's not beer, but I'll try a new drink, just like food. Plus the name was catchy. We all took a sip of mine because I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but it was not a Life Saver flavor ... we all decided it was more like cherry Nyquil. That was before the food got there, I settled on 2 beers and ate this ...


Cowboy Bone-In Blackened Rib Eye Steak, Pointe Reyes Bleu and Onion Strings.
Cooked perfectly, I always ask for "medium rare, closer to rare".

and then after all the eating, laughing and NBA.com refreshes on my pda for real-time play-off scores ... our director/producer decided to give the Cherry Life Saver another go because it had watered down a bit ... turns out after time the flavors mellowed and the Nyquil flavor morphed into a Hawaiian Punch flavor! Now that's a drink I can work with! lol ... here's the watered down pic ....


Cherry Life Saver turned Kicked up Hawaiian Punch ... I'd call it "H Punch Drunk" teeheehee

So, If ya like Hawaiian Punch and want it with a kick, go to a bar and ask for a watered down Cherry Life Saver teeheehee. Service was relaxed at Tarragon, probably because the whole town was relaxed. Really cool ... on the short restaurant row we went to there were 2 other herb-named eateries. Basil and Turmeric. I think if I had to go with one herb inspired name for a place it'd be Sage. I think. The next day we headed out to the sticks again for acres and acres of strawberries. Now this was pretty cool food-wise. We stopped at a farm that had rows and rows of expiramental strawberries. From the tart to the extra sweet and can I tell ya my foodie friend? I ate as much as I could!!! Dirt and all. Plus, breaking news!!! They are currently working on harvesting white and pink strawberries!!!! I only got that info when asking about golden raspberries, I was like if you can have those, why not different colored strawberries and the strawberry geneticist gave me the news!!! Yes, you read that right, dude had a PhD in Strawberry Genetics. Word. I ate and ate and ate those top secret berries and hope the sweetest one I ate makes it to the market. Thing is, sweetness isn't the only thing they look for it's also the right balance of shelf life. So, I took care of that and shelved them into my mouth!!! Then for lunch, all the field workers were getting nothing but the best from the taco truck ... so you know that's what I wanted. I used to make up excuses to leave work when I was at AFNEWS so me and a coworker could go to the gate for the base and get some tacos from the place that sold them there. I am a taco truck junkie. Everyone else was duped into sandwiches, but I went with the unpopular route and asked for some taco truck tacos and dined on the finest of chorizo and bean while the sandwich takers complained about the bad bread that ruined their day. Remember how I said Jimmy John's sandwich bread just made my day?? I think part of my reason for not wanting a sandwich in cali was cuz the one in colo was just perfect! Why mess with an immediate good memory? Like really can I get the perfect sandwich twice in one week?? I didn't think so and the cali sandwich was being much publicized by a local, I just didn't buy into the pitch. Felt a bit set-up if you feel me. The guys on the crew said they thought the bread would be good because we were close to San Francisco which is famous for it's sour dough. We'll have to go to the bay for that ... their bread left them feeling empty, my tortillas were right on the money! When in Rome baby!!! Thing is we were all filled to the brim with fresh strawberries anyway. Ok, then just as we finished eating lunch ... the sun came out!!! Just in time for me to deliver a line to the camera about loving sorbet on a warm day, need the sunshine for that visual and we got it!!  That was Saturday, flew back Sunday and today ... I'm grocery shopping, my fridge looks a mess. I made a chocolate pudding pie last night with peanut butter chips, gonna whip up some whip cream later and indulge. Other than that, boy am I happy to be home, but boy did I have a good time on the road. 3 shows down, 10 more to tape. Happy Monday!!!

15 comments:

Alex Lopez said...

Ahh.. I want your life Sunny..all kidding aside I love how real you are...your love of Chili's brought me back to 19 when I worked as a kitchen expo. Warming tortillas, setting up the fajita station and filling the soup warmers...ah memories. I saw you on FN Dish with Adam...who guys cracked me up..especially you with the neck comment about Nipa..too much!
Sonic, used to go there when I lived in Florida..love the frosty drinks. There is a new Dairy Queen commercial that cracks me up. I am trying to find it on YouTube. Glad to hear all went well. I had a good weekend. Saw Sex and the City, made Mexican beef stew on Friday, ahd the most amazing dumplings on Saturday, picked up some Polish food Saturday night and spent Sunday at the Union Street Fair. I just got done doing recipes for a pantry class I am teaching at Sur La Table later this week. Gonna post a blog some time this week. Watched NFNS..yikes is all I will say.
Talk soon...be good!

Sunny Anderson said...

alex, teeheehee u r funny. my life? ever hear the mary j blige song with the same title? love it. anyway ... yeah i haven't even seen the fn dish webisode, so that's next after here ... i have sex and the city plans myself this week!

Lys said...

Wow - they got you zippin' all over the place, Sunny.

I used to be apprehensive when it came to flying, but one trick I learned with being on the road so daggone much - either have a cocktail pre-flight (if acceptable) or sleep. Granted I'd stay up the night before an early morning flight to do so but it was worth it (just pop some great concealer in the carry-on). It gets to the point now when I feel the wheels going up, I'm ready to doze.

Both shows sound intriguing. Good call on the tacos and if you are looking for a Nyquil esqe martini - I've got one for you (but it tastes more like a mind eraser now that I think about it... )

Lys said...

Oh - and Sunny - you MUST see S&TC. MUST MUST MUST! It's hilar.

Alex Lopez said...

I love me some Mary J.
"Just Fine"..love it!Also "Golden" by Jill Scott, and "Strenght, Courage and Wisdom" by India. Arie...good positive music...Diva's doin' what they do!!

jacob said...

I love Jimmy John's =) It started in Illinois (where I'm from) and Jimmy John himself actually lives a few houses down from my parents.

Glad you enjoyed it. My East Coast friends here have tried it (there are 2 in the DC area) and didn't like it!

Alec Smart said...

That was long post. I hear you with the fast food. Not too sure about the TAco Bell strategy, 2 days in row. I mean once is enough for awhile.Just like KFC.

Jimmy JOhns looks interesting. Since Potbelly doesn't franchise, maybe these people will sell me a franchise.Where they realy good?

And can you tell us how many strawberry crops per year these growers can yield ?

Sunny Anderson said...

lys, i know right ... going on the road again next week. mostly fun so far!! miss my guy, but other than that ... the eating out of town is fun too.

jacob, it was YUMMY ... the bread was just perfect and nothing was done in excess. perfect lunchtime sandwich.

alec, i know, sorry about the length. i kept wanting to post daily and was too tired. how about i wrote the post on the plane and then my batt died and i lost it all cuz i didn't save. yeah ... i'm wack. and i know, my taco bell tolerance is high though, working there did that. i love the green sauce and for chicken i'm a popeyes chick. now for a yearly yield in strawberries? i can't say each grower, but the one we met that grows for only one company has 50 acres and harvests 700,000 pounds of strawberries a day ... 365 days a year. and that's just one grower for one company ... we are eatin our berries. don't forget all the things they go into as well .... don't need to tell you that i'm sure. and yup ,jj's was really good. wouldn't fib on food. that sandwich made my day!

Mrs.L said...

Oh man,you were in Sunnyvale which is about a five minute drive from my house in San Jose! Trust me, the taco trucks around this area can be awesome! I'll be looking for those pink and white strawberries.

Nikki Miller-Ka said...

Hi, Sunny! I'm so glad I came across your blog. I have a food blog too :)

The 1st time I saw the commericial for your show, I was so excited to watch the premiere! You are where I want to be. I look forward to seeing what you come up with next. Mad love!

Sunny Anderson said...

mrs. l, hi! love your hood! it is so nice and quiet and yum yum yummy on the taco trucks!!! next time i'm headed that way make a suggestion .. where should i eat?

nikki miller-ka, glad you found me! i'm gonna check out your spot. thanks for the support and hope you like the new show and the new episodes of cooking for real, both start in july! :-)

Alec Smart said...

With these new gigs and especially the road trips you are going to be entrenched in a plethora of food which is going to thrown in your direction.

Hopeful for an endorsement of any type from a FN personality, you are going to get bomabarded.

And when you are the on the road with crew, eating becomes really the only social thing you can do together easily, so here you go again.

Anyone who travels extensively will say weight management is tough if you enjoy food.

That ribeye with Blue cheese and straw onions looked scrumptious btw. You have healthy per diem then ?

Sunny Anderson said...

alec ... i know right? i've been warned of the "food network 10" by people lol ... like wait i thought that was only freshmen in college!? so, yeah i know food is gonna be thrown at me ... i do tapas ... i'll take a bite of everything. so hopefully that keeps my "10" in check ... if not, i have a mind to think i'll be ok with it ... i'm a thick chick 10 more pounds isn't gonna show, my wieght hides in my booty unfortunately lol ...

EricaMichele said...

So I am SOO feeling you on Sonic---I hate that they show the damn commercials taunting me with shake sales, chili dogs, cherry limeade and Texas Toast

Go BK--congrats on all your success.

EricaMichele77

Sunny Anderson said...

erica, girrrrrl ... you want some fries with that shake??? teeheehee ... yeah, i actually had to explain that commercial to someone today, they totally didn't get what was going on in the commercial. a lil cultural divide lol ... too funny. if i ever meet the ceo of sonic, i'ma tell them they need to stop teasing us and put one in brooklyn lol. i need a cherry limeade i.v. in my arm! thanks for checkin the blog and hope you like the new shows on the way!