Friday, February 15, 2013

The Grille - A Masterful Balance of Time and Taste!

The Grille On Congress on is the most precious of all commodities yet the one most common and available to us all....a conundrum that awaits us each and every morning when we rise, like fresh cut flowers or a hungry dog depending on one's disposition. And we can then 'spend' our Time in any manner we choose every single day. It is one of the most singular decisions bestowed upon the populace, both Regal and Urchin. Yet it is HOW each of us uses our Time that separates the most successful amongst us from those on the lower rungs of Mr. Darwin's Food Chain.

And it is TIME that the purveyors of 'The Grille on Congress' are as intimately aware of, nearly as much as their knowledge of the food and drink they serve itself! This respect for both, the balance that they successfully manage every single day, is what brings out the throngs en masse and allows patrons to leave satisfied.

This particular occasion had me in a lunchtime rendezvous with one Admiral J. Miller of Her Majesty's Sea-bound Fleet and Miss Lady Sarah, a delightful associate who recently joined with his crew but was of recent from the Royal Order of Knights in Orlando.......

And with irony was it that the topic of discussion was Time itself....the recording, capturing, organizing, and rationalization of Time and how best to maximize it's use. Perhaps a bore to many but I assure you the spirit of the conversation was lively and festive!

Joining Admiral Miller and Lady Sarah in our discussion was Lord Rhiver of Raleigh and Sheriff Valchar of Wake Forest....two of the greatest Outliers of Time this realm has ever known for it is their success at managing time that brought us together to sample the tastings of this fine location.

The Grille on Congress is uniquely situated in an area that is rife with office buildings and the busy workers that keep the economy of the area thriving but with a dearth of quality dining establishments nearby, with  'quality' being the operative word. With the surrounding locality covering all manner of Sushi, Pizza, Pub, and PDQ Fast Food burger venues, The Grille occupies a perfect zone of delectability, that rare mix of delightful foods served at a modest fare, in well appointed surroundings, and with an ambiance of acceptable patter that will make any attending dealmaker or vacationer downright mirthful. 

The platters brought us this day ....... a midweek lunch, included Chicken Picatta, a weekly special that was so well done it was ordered by three of the five participants.......including myself! However at the last moment I had them bring a Chicken Quesadilla simply for the variety. 

The Picatta, with it's buttery Chablis and capers sauce was quite succulent and quickly devoured. 

A Grilled Chicken Salad served Lord Rhiver well while the Quesadilla was both wholesome and filling, while not being too spicy (important for those needing to return into close chambers with others soon after!) Yet the most delicious looking of the entrees was Lady Sarah's Salmon Spinach Salad, which with it's healthy portion of grilled salmon and a delicious spinach salad below, looked as ravishing and as light-hearted as a summer breeze.

The entire occasion lasted no more than an hour, left everyone feeling quite satiated, and allowed everyone to resume the days' Act II in fine spirits. The Grille on Congress offers one an occasion to dine in comfort with good food and not ever be 'surprised' by anything untoward on the's all always good!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Salt Lick Taco Bar - Austin, Tx. Airport

The Salt Lick Taco Bar on Urbanspoon
With the Case of the Traveling Mercenary nearing completion I was deposited at Gate 10 at the Austin Airport with a slight twang of hunger rumbling inside DESPITE having stuffed myself more than I should have during the previous three days. And as luck would have it staring right at me was the enticing sounding and aroma arousing Salt Lick Taco Bar, also in remarkable proximity to Ray Bensons Roadhouse Bar.....a coincidence I do not believe but one that I was happy to connect the dots on!

This tiny little Taco Stand was serving literally nothing more than four varieties of tacos an appeared to be doing so by the hundreds. The aroma and the simplicity of a quick taco or two was too much to bear and I found myself standing in a line of other weary travelers.

The Green Chile Pulled Pork taco sounded as though I was being put into a meditative state and with a Salt Lick Carne Guisado to accompany it, and a tall Texas Red Amber to 'wersh' it down with my desires to remain in Austin indefinitely were only overcome by the announcement that my flight elsewhere was boarding. 

The Pulled Pork Taco could quite possibly be the best tasting, most mouthwatering Taco concoction I have ever enjoyed and left me pining for a second. Perhaps unfair but in comparison the Carne Guisada Taco of slowly braised sirloin brisket paled by comparison and resembled what you American's call a 'Sloppy Joe' sandwich. I once knew an inspector at Scotland Yard they used to call 'Sloppy Joe' whose appearance was so unkempt that had his keen instincts for foiling capers not been so high his days in the field of investigation would have surely been short lived.

The Salt Lick Taco Bar and Ray Benson's Roadhouse Bar are two Airport Food hangouts that I will most assuredly be frequenting again!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mesa Rosa - Austin, Tx.

Mesa Rosa on Urbanspoon

Working a very important case in the North Austin, Tx. area left me with barely an hour between assignments and a strong desire for something other than 'the usual'. Quickly triangulating my location with both as well as the AroundMe App on the trusty new hand held device Watson had recently forced upon me, I located Mesa Rosa less than three miles from me and decided to venture forth.

With some fascinating metallic bandallero creatures welcoming one into the environs, and a festive coloring to the walls, I was seated very quickly and provided both menu and the obligatory 'chips and salsa' accompaniment. However, this time I was pliedwith two different varieties of salsa....a red Ranchero and a green Tomatillo, both of which were very tasty to the palate and not overly fiery. (And might I say how refreshing that they did not charge for chips and salsa as some establishments are wont to do for such an introduction to any taqueria is a sure indication of a fiasco in the making. I would walk from such a place rather than sink another second of time into it.....and never get back!)

Fully aware that a long afternoon awaited me in my most recent investigation, I opted to go light and chose the Rosa Enchilada's, opting to allow the uniformity of the 'Chicken Enchilada' serve as the basis of my comparisons. However, I was also drawn (as I always am) to the Chicken Tortilla Soup as such an enticement will win me over every time. And without Watson with me to help feed from my always over-indulgent plate, my choices were smart ones.

The soup arrived first, hot and spicy, and was slurped down as quickly as I could stand it for the fiery goodness was a delicious reminder of the days spent in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez in the Tale of the Opal Palace, but that's for another time. Fresh carrots, chicken, a tempting broth of goodness and an avocado! This was certainly a welcome surprise as well!

Barely had I finished my soup that the enchiladas arrived, and as I had requested both the green Tomatillo Sauce AND the Red Sour Cream based Suiza sauce were evident, a fine note to detail by the waiter, a very attentive young man who seemed to go out of his way to make sure I was aware at all times of the goings on regarding my order.

"Sir, I will be right with you after I finish taking this one order......" he once chimed in. "Your enchilada's will be out momentarily, they're just getting them finished up...." he again interlocuted. I thought for sure my cover had been blown and that he was on to me.......but such thoughts soon wafted away as I took in the aroma of the Rosa Enchilada's and the wonderfully made black beans and rice.

Delicious would be the proper word for I was still a bit ravenous after my quick Breakfast Taco at the airport and this meal satisfied both my growling innards as well as my miserly disposition ......and astoundingly so!

And thus with final sips of my third Arnold Palmer Tea/Lemonade, surely more than any pack mule could possibly imbibe in one sitting. Yet they were so rapidly replaced that I scantly noticed until I was ready to burst!

I was soon very thoroughly satisfied and ready to resume my afternoon posing as a mercenary salesman of fine goods and wares with the ultimate intent of gaining further access to the inner workings of a famed global corporation and it's inner culture...... an investigation that is now in it's 16th year with no end in sight!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Case of the Missing Calories - Seasons 52

Seasons 52 on UrbanspoonVery seldom is there that a case comes forth that intersects both the joy of the culinary with the delight of the company present, yet this is just what occurred at a recent clandestine rendezvous I had in the Boca Raton area at Seasons 52. 

As luck, pluck, and diligence was no doubt on my side that day I extended an invitation to a long cherished confident of my work, a delightful woman whose lineage extends to the deepest of Swedish Royal families..... and for reasons of State secrecy she will be known only as Lady C for to reveal her true identity might not only jeopardize future such meetings with such a delightful creature but also consign me to a forlorn corner of the investigative world, a location no one in my profession wishes to find themselves...ever!

Our chosen location to meet was Season's 52 on Glades Road in Boca Raton. As the date of this meeting was approximately 2 weeks prior to the Christmas Season, the Valet area was nearly on fire and the available spots to park as difficult to find as a black pearl in a beligerent oyster!

As is my wont, I arrived early to secure the area from any nefarious types as well as to engage in my customary Bombay Sapphire Martini, up, with three olives (blue cheese olives being passed over in the interests of anticoagulation). 

My investigative antenna went up almost immediately as serenading the festive holiday diners was a 'Bo the Bounty Hunter' look-alike whose croons belied an inner Van Morrison-Cole Porter.  This scene was nearly an entrance into bizarro world but with my back to the visuals I soon lost connectivity to face and voice and reveled in the aural accompaniment....and Welcome it was for medley's of Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan, Van Morrison, and a few other choice morsels salved my fears and (along with Lord Bombay) I began to feel quite jovial.

Upon the entrance of Lady C, as vivacious and vibrant a creature as has ever walked the Earth, we were quickly seated and our reacquaintance began in earnest.

Pleasantries aside, hunger drew us just as quickly to the menu here at Seasons 52 which, as the name implies, circles the finest ingredients available in whichever 'Season' one happens to find themselves. Festive Salads in Summer and Deep Golden Roasted Root Vegetables in winter, with all other seasons well represented.....and ALL with an eye towards the healthy and fit for no menu item is said to contain more than 475 Calories! INDEED! This a feat that seems nearly impossible while ALSO attempting to leave your diners satisfied. THIS would surely test my skills of investigation! Come quickly Lady C, the game's afoot!

Among a healthy selection of Flatbreads offered we chose an Artichoke, Leaf Spinach, Balsamic Onions, and Roasted Peppers selection with Goat Cheese and were soon regaling in it's deliciousness...yet it was also beguiling as my trained eye immediately questioned it's 475 calorie ceiling....and yet eat away we did!

With further 'Specials' rotating in and out of this all star menu '52' weeks a year, our entree choices were the BBQ Chicken Salad for m'lady and the Grilled Boneless Rainbow Trout for myself. Lady C surprised me with her choice but I deferred to her knowledge as she had previous experience in these environs and who am I to question any choice as my own predilections led me to a Rainbow Trout dish as surely as a Marlin is drawn to a baitfish.

BOTH meals were as succulent, as well presented, and as aromatic as they were billed to be and as we continued on into the evening the conversation and the gastronomie were both swirling and intertwined and soon became indistinguishable from each other....and knowing that the personal communication was of the highest levels, I was thus also impressed that the offerings of this fine establishment were an equal match!

And with the advent of dessert upon us I thought for SURE this is where I could trip up the chef extraordinaire, for NO ONE could deliver any type of desert worthy of the meals we had just completed AND remain below the 475 calorie threshold......but upon first sight of the 'desert tray' I knew I had met my match. Arrayed in rows like Santa's Reindeer pulling a sleigh were the evenings tall shot glasses and decorated in all their splendor as if they were ten stories tall!

BRILLIANT! The desserts had the attractiveness of fine jewels and yet the lack of their abundance bore no weight whatsoever to their reception, they were simply unparalleled! And in hindsight, what BETTER way to leave your patrons than with the accomplished feeling of 'taking it easy' on the dessert side! Everyone leaves satiated, delighted, AND firmly confident that THIS was a place they could come back to again! And so they DO!