Monday, May 14, 2007

Don't You Know Who I Am?

The trouble with being a blogger is that, whether you've earned it or not, you position yourself as some sort of expert on a specific subject. In my case, that would be BBQ - which, let me tell you effusively, I am not an expert on. I am certainly a critically acclaimed consumer of the stuff, and I do more than just dabble in preparation, but I'm a long way from being very good at it. Nonetheless, you start a blog called the Rib Rebort and you're kind of setting yourself up for a big fall, should, say you have to be paid a visit by the Real American Heroes of the Philadelphia Fire Department.

Let me rewind: On Thursday Rib Reporterette and I were to host a little dinner party, featuring yours truly, Lil Smoky, on the grill. We had some skirt steak marinated, salad all prepped, when she realized that she needed to make a quick run to the store, as we needed a few more quinces. I decided this would be a good time to throw a little slice of steak on a pan - the coals on the grill weren't hot yet - to sample the coming main course. Well, this little piece of red meat - no bigger than a Ritz cracker - had a lot of life to it. Soon after it hit the pan, the kitchen, in fact the entire first floor, was filled with an acrid grey cloud. I went to open the door, and that's when the smoke alarm went off.

Now, for those of you who haven't had the pleasure of experiencing one of these newfangled fire alarms, let me tell you what you're missing. A high-pitched squawk appears to emit from every wall in the house. The sound burrows into your brain, and very quickly works its way into your internal organs. At this point, you begin to actually see flashing lights which correspond with each infernal MEEEP! Loyal readers know of my stoicism in the face of adversity - the story of how I singlehandedly backed down a crazed herd of emu while on a UNICEF mission to Luxembourg is oft repeated, for good reason - but friends, I must tell you that I was not man enough to handle this situation. I contemplated running from the house and never looking back, but realized that we had company arriving shortly. Emily Post's visage appeared in the haze above the stove, and she looked extremely disappointed to hear that I might bail on my guests. Not wanting to let her down, I dug my feet in like Frank Robinson after getting buzzed by a high hard one.

At this point I could hear commotion on the block as neighbors, and their dogs, began to react to the hell squeal coming from the house. I located the smoke alarm, but the damn thing was hard wired to the internal mechanisms of the house - the future is here, and its almost impossible to disarm. I called Lisa, while simultaneously the alarm company was calling the house. Phone on each ear, I was able to accomplish exactly nothing. By now I'd realized that the house was not going to burn, so I turned my attention to infuriating as few neighbors as possible. Standing on a chair, I did my best Little Dutch Boy impersonation and plugged my thumb into the noise-making tube on the alarm (that's tech speak for you.)

I stood there until Lisa walked in the front door, told me I was an idiot, and cut the wires in the alarm with a pair of scissors. Silence. Ahh. Sirens. Damn.

This house, this little brick house, built in the days of bucket brigades and horse drawn fire engines, had gone over my head and called the Fire Department. How it did it I'll never know - its not talking. Suffice to say, we're on some Jetsons shit folks. Lisa went out to meet the truck, and after assuring the firemen that is was not she, but rather her boneheaded boyfriend who'd set off the alarm, she pointed them into the house.

The thing about Firemen is you really can't hate on them. Police? Yeah police can catch some well deserved flack. But firemen? What can you say about them? They put their lives on the line, they get cats out of trees, and they're unfailingly rugged and charming. They walk into your house with their friendly little chuckles, their, "buddies," and, "pals," and you just know that if they weren't on duty they'd laugh at you for your inability to cook a steak, then go fix your girlfriends carbuerator and take her for a ride on the hook and ladder. But they were on duty, thank God, so instead they just looked around to confirm that nothing was on fire, then asked if I'd been cooking. "Fellas," I wanted to say, "its all good. I'm Mr. Mo, from the Rib Report. You guys are readers, right?"

"Oh of course," slightly shorter slightly less ruggedly handsome fireman would reply. "We have a subscription at the firehouse."

"Well then," I'd say, "you surely recognize that this is all a big misunderstanding. I'm not used to working in this kitchen, and it appears there's a defective pan in here. I'll get everything straightened out."

"Alright Mo," they'd say, "hook us up with a shoulder one of these days."

Instead, they just hit me with the American Hero smirk and walked out, leaving me with a smoky kitchen, a burnt pan, and a girlfriend not known for restraint when it comes to re-telling potentially embarassing stories.

Postscript: The steak, when cooked on the grill, was banging. I then has steak the next two night at wedding related events. I've been having trouble walking.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mothers Day Update

As I promised last Sunday, I'm going to try to keep a weekly schedule with this here weblog. The weekend having been long and disruptive, though, for today all I want to do is wish a very happy Mothers Day to my mom, and all the mothers out there. I'll use my lunch break tomorrow to hit you off with the weekly post. Find out what makes a wedding a Jersey Wedding, get the recipe for a nice skirt steak with watermelon relish, and read the real story of why the Philadelphia Fire Department was in my girlfriend's kitchen last week. All this, plus Specs Franklin on the Anderson Monarchs.

Love you Mom.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Testing, testing, is this thing still on?

Uh, hi. Its been a while since we spoke. I guess I'm gonna have to go ahead and take the blame for that. I mean, sure, I've got the usual excuses - flesh eating bacteria, covert mission to Finnish Indochina, guest stint on Law and Order:GOP - but really, I just haven't had the motivation.

No, no, its not that I don't want to talk to you. I mean sure, you're a little reserved, and yeah, I feel like these conversations can be awfully one-sided, but seriously, I'm just really bad at staying in touch. Ask my mom, I phone home less than E.T.

No, dumb ass,not the football player, that's LT. E.T., the Extraterrestrial. You know, Drew Barrymore, Reese's Pieces, all that? Anyway, this isn't going anywhere. I really just wanted to tell you about this BBQ spot I ate at a couple weeks back.

Well that's the thing, it really wasn't very good at all. It's called Phoebe's, right on the 2200 block of South St. in Philly. You know, they have those glossy brochures that they leave all over the neighborhood, the ones with flames licking the pages and assorted meat products floating through the air? So, I've talked a little junk about the place before, but that was just based on a nibble or two. I wanted to give these guys a real chance.

Yeah, I talked about the demographic composition of the staff there, and theorized that their BBQ wouldn't be up to snuff. But honestly, its not just that. I mean, what's your favorite rib spot?

Okay, and when you're going to get food there, don't you start to get really excited when you're like, a block away, and you can smell that smoke in the air?

Yeah! It's food foreplay! By the time you get in that door, you're ready to do some horizontal slam-dancing with a beef brisket.

Okay, sorry. That was a bit much as far as images go. But you get the idea. And when you're on Phoebe's block? Nada. No smoke smell. It makes me suspicious. I'm not totally convinced that they're even cooking with wood.

Well, the food supports my theory. The ribs were meaty, but dry and pretty chewy. The pulled pork was fine, just cuz, you know, it was pork that had been pulled, but it wasn't a stand out. We got some greens that were salty, cole slaw sans taste, goopy mac and cheese, and candied yams that were..actually they were fine. The menu says the sides are, "awesome," but I'm starting to have my doubts about whether that piece of literature was written by an objective observer.

Oh yeah, the sauce. Good question. We got mild on the pulled pork, hot on the ribs. Couldn't tell the difference. Neither one made my tongue tingle or my lips lust for more. It was sweet, thick, gooey. I think the best adjective would be cloying.

No, I'm not 100% sure what it means either. Sounds good,though, right?

No, no, I mean I sound good when I use the word. The sauce was not good. And that's pretty much it. I'm sure they'll do well. They've got a good location, good PR, and there are enough folks in this neighborhood for whom BBQ is enough of a foreign food that quality isn't as important as the experience. I think its the same way all those crappy Indian buffets stay in business.

Yeah, I know I'm a snob. Someones got to be though.

Alright, yeah, well I've got a vegan creme brulee in the oven so I've got to run anyway. But this was fun though. Maybe we should just set a standing date for Sundays, alright?

Right, no, I didn't forget about your a capella concert, but that's just a one time thing, so I mean, maybe we can just re-schedule that week.

Alright, cool, so I'll talk to you next Sunday. One.

This Week In (Monarch) Baseball

Due to a surge in reader interest in South Philadelphia based youth league baseball, as determined by a series of focus groups conducted by our in-house research team, Polled Pork, we have dispatched veteran baseball writer Specs Franklin to follow the Anderson Monarchs. The Monarchs are a program based at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center at 17th and Fitzwater Streets in Philadelphia. Specs will follow both the 8 year old Monarchs, for whom it is the first year of kid-pitch baseball, and the 11 year old team, which has been together for 3 years now and appears to be stocked to make a run for a city title. Both teams compete in the Northeast Conference of the Philadelphia Dept. of Rec. League, and they are the only team in the conference not from the Northeast (read: suburbs.) Specs' first report follows.

The 11 year old Anderson ballclub won 3 games this week to run their record to 4 and 0 in league play. On Monday the Mighty Monarchs faced a lackluster Somerton squad, and our boys left the Northeast Nine licking their wounds after a 9-3 walloping. Fox Rok was the next to be vanquished, 13-1, as hard-hitting catcher Mason Thomas led the way with a 2 run homer and bases loaded triple. Quirky young hurlers Gilbert Peralta and Kidanny Cumba combined for a one-hitter, and lead- off man Demetrius (Meech) Isaac, wreaked havoc on the base paths while providing his usual solid play at second base. With his hard-nosed style and quiet, no nonsense demeanor, Isaac reminds some long-time baseball observers of another 2nd baseman who wore navy and white: Charlie Gehringer. On Saturday, in the first game of a Big/Little double header, the boys went in to cruise control against an overmatched Holmesburg squad, garnering both a 10-5 victory and the ire of grizzled skipper Steve Bandura and scrappy young pitching coach Doc Huron.

The 8 year old Monarchs are a rapidly improving young squad that play the game with vim and vigor. After starting the season 0 and 3, they headed out to Bustleton this past Thursday still looking for a second pitcher to complement ace Victor Alicea. With Head Coach Bandura unable to make the road rip, and morale low, Doc Huron would have to pull out all the stops to avoid finishing the first quarter of the season winless. The starting pitcher for the Monarchs that day was Ramon. While his last name escapes this writer, his performance Thursday insured that he has entered the pantheon of one-name wonders: Mickey, Reggie, Ozzie, Cal, Ramon. After surrendering 4 first inning runs, the ponytailed young twirler settled down on the hill, glaring down the Bustleton bench as they burst into their high-pitched "Time to Get A Hit!" chant, and pumping his tiny fist as one batter after another fell victim to his herky jerky slowball style. Meanwhile, the Monarchs, as if working with one mind and 9 bodies, decided to start playing baseball. The bats woke up, as lead off man Justin and number 2 hitter John Washington each reached base 3 times. Victor hit the clubs' first home run ever, a lined shot to left, and even young Mateen, the only 7 year old on the squad, got into the act, scoring twice. On defense the infield shined, exemplified by the play of Nicolas Alicea, Victor's cousin and owner of the scampiest smile on the team. He made play after play at second base, including spearing a line drive and calmly flipping the ball to first, catching the Bustleton runner sleeping for Anderson's first double play of the year. After 5 innings, with the sun setting over center field, the umpire called the game and Anderson was victorious, 8 to 5. The players on the team who were aware of the score were very excited. The rest, when informed by Doc Huron that they had, in fact, won the game, burst into a spontaneous show of emotion that was enough to bring a tear to the eye of even this hardened scribe. And while the Monarchs came back down to earth on Saturday, losing 9-6 to a tenacious Rhawnhurst Raiders club, the team's future is as bright as their smiles.

- Specs Franklin

This week at The Yards: Both teams will be in action this Saturday for another Big/Little Doubleheader. The 11 year olds lead things off at 10 AM as they clash with Boyle, while the 8's will battle Crispin at 12:30. Unfortunately, heady young pitching coach and perpetual crowd favorite Doc Huron will not be with the team that day, as his better half is participating in what is sure to be a memorable wedding. However, come support the scrappy young baseballers from Anderson as they chase their dreams at The Yards.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Marvin Gaye

Damn good.

We're so Happy You Didn't Sneeze, Too.

Today marks the 39th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was in Memphis a few months ago and had the opportunity to visit the Lorraine Motel, the sight of his murder and currently home to the National Civil Rights Museum. The museum itself was somewhat underwhelming - a little text heavy, though very exhaustive. It felt somewhat like walking through a very well written, extensive textbook on the Civil Rights Movement. This is great for some, I guess (though America is less and less literate every day, it seems) but for those of us who were raised on Eyes on the Prize, Happy Birthday, and stories from our parents, it felt a little, well, dry. But there is no denying the power of the site itself. Walking down Memphis' Main Street, a once regal thoroughfare just now showing signs of life after 40 years of abandonment, you come to spot where the low slung buildings that line the street have been cleared, leaving a wide plaza. Below the plaza, directly in your line of sight, the Lorraine Motel sits frozen in time. Its the exact image that is seared in our national consciousness. You can almost see Jesse Jackson on the balcony, pointing to the spot where the shots rang out from. The motel has been preserved immaculately, and it really resonates with visitors. Well, this one at least.

I'll refrain from playing the, "What if he were still alive?" game, as he's not. Suffice to say, he'd probably be pretty happy with a lot that's occurred over the last 39 years - he's now been dead as long as he was alive. Damn, dude got a lot done before 40, huh? - upset about other things, disappointed with much, and downright disgusted with a great deal. Anyone see the Boondocks episode where MLK came back from the dead? It caused a lot of controversy but there was some stuff in there worth thinking about.

Anyway, here's an audio clip of Dr. King's final speech, which is chilling in is prescience. Above I've also posted a youtube clip of another legend who died too young, 23 years ago this past Sunday. His birthday was Monday and this song has become part of the soundtrack to the years of upheaval that followed Dr. King's death.

I'll get back to regular rib reporting soon. Just started working with some little baseballers, and that's detracting from my computer time (no complaints here.) But I'll list the last few trivia contest winners, and will provide an update on some tips for optimizing your Spring grilling season. It's a good eating week, what with Passover and Easter, not to mention the first ballpark hot dogs of the year (food plays such an organizing role in religious events of all stripes) so go ahead and enjoy yourselves. Talk to you soon.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pig Tails and Pig Tales

Somehow I've gotten a little turned around, and here it is Thursday and I've only named 2 winners. I'll try to post up 2 today, so we're all caught up.
The AM Winner is a neighbor, friend, and fellow food fan. She made a name for herself at City Year, where she dispelled any notions of generational apathy, and got to wear thweet outfits. Check for her soon at a Quizzo game near you. She'll be the one getting all the Golden Girls questions right. Rib fans, Michiko Hunt:

1. Which rapper would you most like to eat a BBQ feast with, and why? (I realize that this question skews a little young. If you were born before 1960, and can name a living rapper besides Eminem, Puff Daddy, or Snoop Dog, I'll give you credit.)
Dr. Dre for a number of reasons: He's very smart, and would probably have pretty interesting things to say about what's going on in the world. He's been famous for a real long time, so he's gotta be full of all kinds of good stories about wild'n out with other famous people- ya know, the time he and Eazy-E had sex with Madonna....when he and Snoop got high with Bill Clinton.... He's bad ass, so your meal wouldn't be interrupted by annoying autograph seekers or paparazzi- he could just shoo them away with a disapproving glare (and possibly a gat)

2 - Is Willie Nelson the coolest man to ever sport a ponytail?
Yes. although I think the question should be, "is Willie Nelson the coolest person ever sport two long braids, a la 'Heidi' ?" in which case the answer would be HELL YES.

3 - If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, what would he invent?
Hmmm... this one is tough. perhaps some kind of intelligence test for anyone running for office? That, or he would help me patent and perfect one of my many million dollar ideas, (, head tents for sunbathers...)

4 - What will it take to get Ann Coulter to shut up?
Again, a tough one. I think falling madly in love with a half black/half Mexican man with a lesbian socialist mom would probably help her.... but since that's probably not likely to happen my second guess would be to just ignore every racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, ignorant, anti-American, bigoted word that comes out of her mouth, as all she really is an attention seeking freak show and not paying attention to her would be the ultimate punishment. Ok, i gotta win some free music for that!! also, i need to get my glass lasagna dish from your house- think it's been there since your holiday potluck....

Congratulations, Michi! You win a free CD, and since I'm in a giving mood, I'm gonna throw is a high-tech, multi-platform lasagna dish. I might even deliver it to your home. But I wouldn't bank on that.