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I'm sorry to spoil the drama of such a well-written post, but no skins and no garlic? I just don't know. I have long known that leaving my skins on was bad form, but no garlic? At times, I've forgotten to add it and have felt something lacking. So, I just don't know. But cook eat FRET speaketh the truth...

It's really time for me to get out my pasta rollers again. I spend my weekends cleaning my house instead of engaging in more satisfying domestic activities. I must remedy that.

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Husband and I spent the week before Labor Day in New York City. There is so much to see and eat (oops! I mean "do") there, that I actually created a spreadsheet in order to get as much of it done as possible. So when I get the energy, I'll tell you all about the wonderful food we had. I think I will divide the posts into these categories:
1. Sweet stuff & bagels
2. Pizza
3. Fine dining
4. All the rest

But in the meantime, I'm recovering from the flu and from taking Tamiflu. The Tamiflu was worse--dry mouth does not even begin to describe this feeling. I feel like I swallowed a hive of Africanized bees. Also, awful headaches, hallucinations/nightmares and awful stomach pains. Really, the flu was much more pleasant.

I don't think I picked it up in NYC; it's much more widespread here in the south and my symptoms didn't show up until about 36 hours after getting off the plane. I think it happened somewhere en route. Anyway, so after a week of indulgence, we come back here and eat takeout for nearly another week.

But I finally found the energy to make it to work on Friday. I'm still tired and can barely speak, but I needed to catch up. I did leave a few minutes early to beat traffic. No dice. Five mile back-up on the way home (I am hating the "stimulus package" and the ensuing construction that now f's up my commute), so I made a detour and drove past a local market, The Produce Place in hopes of being inspired to actually make something for dinner.

Oh, worth mentioning here is that a couple of weeks ago, I watched an episode of "Hoarders" and completely cleaned out the refrigerator and pantry, so not only do I know everything I have, it ain't much.

I did recall finding Lo Mein noodles I'd forgotten about (still good!) and some teriyaki flavored baked tofu (good, too!).* So I wandered the aisles with those in mind and picked up some fresh shiitake mushrooms and some carrots and headed home.

Then, I just started cooking. Husband got home and I put him to work on the carrots. Sliced up and sauteed the mushrooms in sesame oil. Boiled and cooled the noodles. Then had him grate some ginger from the freezer (still good!) and cut up the tofu. Then, in the saute pan, I poured in more sesame oil (after removing the mushrooms), a little garlic, about a tablespoon of grated ginger, some sugar, a little sriracha, soy sauce and rice vinegar. When the sugar and ginger were dissolved, Husband dumped in the noodles, mushrooms and tofu into the pan. After everything was nice and warm, it all went into a bowl with the shredded carrots and some gomasio (still good! and because I have yet to make it to the international grocery for more sesame seeds).

And it was good. But I can't really tell you how to replicate it exactly, but it's not hard. The most important thing to remember is to heat the oil/sugar/ginger/garlic/soy sauce/vinegar mixture on LOW heat so that the ginger and garlic infuse the mixture and do not burn. Very, very important.

I was really proud of myself for throwing this together. And proud of the husband for helping out so much.

*If you've seen the show "Hoarders," you'll understand all these "it's still good!" references.

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I have a bit of a reputation for hating chain restaurants. It's not so much chain restaurants as overprice mediocrity that bothers me. There are chain restaurants I love--Cracker Barrel, Sonic, Baja Fresh... and those that I hate--O'Charley's, Applebees, J. Alexander's, Chili's... Okay, the list is too long for me to write here, but what most of the restaurants I don't like have in common is that there's this level of falseness that's presented as genuine. Oh, nevermind--that's too technical and can apply to Cracker Barrel. My problem is that the food is often overpriced and under-good. Why go to O'Charley's for potato soup when it's nothing like what potato soup should be? And do people really pay multiple dollars for 1/4 of a head of lettuce with dressing? Also, they all seem to be essentially the same restaurant. And then there's this place that's popped up around this area called Cheddar's. Cheddar's? It's like the Mike Judge really wanted to bring Chotchkie's to life but didn't want to be that cheeky about it.

And then there's Red Robin. I'd read on Nashville Scene's Bites blog that it was beloved by several. Something about milkshakes, maybe. Why go to Red Robin when just down the street there is a locally-owned, long-standing treasure called Bobbie's Dairy Dip? Excellent food and excellent frozen treats.

And then the other day, a coworker mentioned he'd gone to Red Robin for lunch. "Eh," I muttered and sort of shuffled away. As I was doing so, I heard the words "bottomless basket of fries." I turned on my heels. "What did you say? Bottomless basket of fries?"

"Yes, steak fries, too! All you can eat! And they have veggie burgers, you know."
"No, I did NOT know. EITHER of those things." Y'see, I've been on a bit of a fry kick lately, even going so far as to pay a co-worker to go to Arby's for me. Bottomless basket of steak fries is good, but a bottomless basket of curly fries would be deadly to me, I'm certain (coming close is the standard side order of fries at Beyond the Edge--oh, how I love them).

So I spent the afternoon thinking about unlimited fries and when I got home, I asked the husband what he was going to cook me for dinner (ha!). He said, "What do you want?" and I said, "Well, I was thinking about Red Robin."

Naturally, he thought it was a joke. When I told him it was not, he practically gave himself whiplash getting out of the recliner to get his shoes on. He did not want to give me the opportunity to change my mind.

So we went. Observations:
1. The vast majority of the patrons at Red Robin had small children with them. I guess because it's a kid-friendly place that actually serves alcohol. We were one of only three parties in the whole place without a minor. I don't usually go to such places. Actually, I can't think of such a place.
2. The service is amazing. No trouble getting that second basket of fries.
3. Second basket of fries was the priority, so I did not have a milkshake and ate only three or four bites of my Gardenburger. I took it home and ate it later. Though fries don't re-heat well, so the last remaining fry that I simply could not fit in my stomach stayed in the basket.
4. Dang, steak fries, unlike their skinny counterparts are like those expanding sponges inside your stomach. I was miserable after what seemed like just two reasonable sized portions of fries.
5. The husband, seizing the opportunity to eat red meat whenever possible, got something called a Banzi burger. All I could see was cheese. Though could I really say anything as I was scarfing down hand over fist of empty calories? No. My Gardenburger on wheat with shredded lettuce and tomato was very nice (and healthy), however. Bocas are an option, too (but I prefer Gardenburgers--I just like the taste more).

So yeah, I did it. I was lured in by the call of the fat and I participated in what I can only deem a spud bacchanalia. But I probably won't go back soon. There is a Sonic nearby, after all.