Archive | October, 2008

Meeting Barack Obama

31 Oct

I met Barack Obama face to face yesterday. In fact, I even had a chance to converse with him for a while. It was pretty fun to see him away from the political spotlight. He did seem quite tired, but I was impressed by his warm smile and friendly demeanor.

Unlike many “celebs,” Obama did not duck me or try to avoid interaction. Quite the contrary. He sought me out, shook my hand, made good eye contact, and showed great interest in me and my job with the Cincinnati Reds Spring Training Complex here in Sarasota, FL. Further, I was amazed at how much access I was allowed throughout the appearance. I even hung around while he ate lunch (salad, apple, spring water) with his staffers. Obama bowed his head for a quiet prayer before eating. I was pleased to see that. He later thanked me for our hospitality and wished the Reds good luck in 2009.  

Regardless of your political views, I think everyone should know that Barack Obama seems like a genuine guy. And even if you are a McCain supporter, I don’t think there is any reason to be afraid of Obama or overly concerned that he is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” He seems smart, caring, approachable, confident and ready to lead us if given the opportunity.

I ask that all of you put aside your party affiliations and do your part to support whoever wins the general election on November 4th. We must stop all the back stabbing & finger pointing and begin the process of coming together as “One Nation Under God.” How can we be a shining example for the rest of the world if we can’t even get our own act together? All the posturing and radical activity (on both sides) has to come to an end.  And some of you people need to stop demonizing the opposition’s candidate. C’mon, you know who you are! The eventual winner needs and deserves our respect and support. I’m sick of the endless Democrats vs. Republicans debate. We’re all Americans, doggone it. Let’s start acting like it. And now is a good time to begin.

I can’t wait to see what happens on Tuesday. Either way, it will be historic!

Get out there and vote — or stop your whining!

Insightful Piece On Redskins’ QB

31 Oct

REVERSING FIELD

To understand just how Jason Campbell makes it work for the Redskins, we had to reveal his life … in reverse.

by Justin Heckert 

Getty Images

 
SEPT. 14, 2008
There’s a moment during the game, toward the end, when he throws one of the best passes of his life. Fourth quarter, three minutes 38 seconds remaining against the Saints, Redskins down by two. Jason Campbell takes the snap. All throughout training camp, during avoidance drills, five or six times a day, the 26-year-old quarterback practiced what’s about to happen over the next three seconds. There’s a man in his face, coming at him through the line like a bull. Campbell turns his right shoulder inside, avoids the tackle, takes two quick steps forward and rears his arm backward, his body completely sideways, as hough he’s about to throw a javelin. The ball coasts 60 yards. As Santana Moss pulls it in for a touchdown, Skins coach Jim Zorn thinks to himself, I’ll be darned if it didn’t happen exactly like the drill. Wow.

In Suite 24 at FedExField, Campbell’s mom is jumping up and down, screaming. His father stands too but doesn’t make a sound.

JULY 23, 2008
During the first week of camp, Campbell’s new coach is teaching him how to position himself differently in the pocket—by bending his knees slightly. This will help him make quicker drops in Washington’s new West Coast offense, Zorn explains. But sometimes Campbell’s body posture reverts, and he says, “Durn it, I did it again.” Or: “That just be durned.”

EARLY SUMMER, 2008
Five months after Joe Gibbs resigns, Jason Campbell has this realization: He’s been in seven different offensive systems in eight years. And as he counts on two hands the names of all his coordinators, it strikes him how ridiculous that is.

DEC. 6, 2007
Campbell is jerked down from behind by a Bears defensive end, and his left knee gives out. As he writhes in pain, his teammates plead with him: “Don’t look!” It is in this moment, on the ground, then on the cart, that he realizes how important it is to take his job completely seriously. Because he doesn’t want it to be over. The next week, he sits at home with a dislocated kneecap, watching the Skins on TV, feeling as lonely as he’s ever been. One month later, he watches helplessly from the sideline as his team is blown out in the playoffs.

SEPT. 17, 2007
It’s Monday Night Football—Campbell’s first start on the NFL’s biggest regular-season stage. In the second quarter, he’s running down the sideline for what he’s sure will be some kind of heroic, 50-yard touchdown. But as he’s about to jump teammate Antwaan Randle El, who’s wrestled his man to the ground downfield, the receiver inexplicably stands up, as though the play were over. Campbell trips over Randle El and falls down with an empty field ahead. He stares at the end zone and thinks to himself, How many times do you get to rush for 50 yards as an NFL quarterback? Don’t that just be durned.

NOV. 19, 2006
Coach Gibbs wants to know if he’s ready. As a rookie in 2005, Campbell sat on the sideline learning the team’s conservative offense. It was all for naught; the Skins hired Al Saunders in the off-season to overhaul the system. Now, after having had just three months to master the new playbook—Saunders’ infamously complicated playbook—Campbell is making his NFL debut, at Tampa Bay. Gibbs calls him into the office and asks, “Are you ready?” Campbell thinks, Am I ready? I haven’t even run a snap of our offense since training camp.

On his very first play, he throws a beauty of a deep sideline pass to Brandon Lloyd. The receiver drops it.

WINTER 2006
Campbell is on a first date, which comprises bowling and a movie. “Durn, I left my wallet in the car,” he tells his companion, who will later become his girlfriend. He says “durn” instead of “darn.” This is because he’s from rural Mississippi. A “reaaaal country boy,” says Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers. The more you talk to Campbell, the more he arches his a’s and loses his t’s. He also has a habit of pausing, of taking a breath in between words, of staring down at his fingers, of curling the left side of his mouth when he remembers something that must be really good. His teammates make fun of him because he looks like Lionel Richie. But his date tonight doesn’t tease him about this. As she foots the bill for bowling, she plays another angle. “You just wanted to see if I’d really pay,” says Mercedes Lindsay, Miss District of Columbia USA 2007.

AUG. 1, 2005
The night before his very first practice with the Redskins, Campbell goes to McDonald’s at 10 p.m. and orders a burger and fries. His stomach starts to cramp a couple of hours later. The cramp turns into a gurgle, then into a problematic pain. He can’t go to sleep, even though the next day is one he’s been thinking about since he was 11 years old. He drinks some water. He sits up, gets the chills. Then he’s in the bathroom, his long legs bent and his hands clutching the rim of the toilet. Washington’s No. 1 draft pick spills his value meal down the drain. The next day at camp, he gets himself checked out by the team’s medical staff. Veteran quarterback Mark Brunell walks into the training room. “Are you sick already?” Brunell asks. “On your very first day?”

FALL 2004
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is hanging out in the training room with some players from his offense, including Campbell. The coach can’t remember his senior QB’s saying 10 words to him ever, which is why he can’t believe it when a few of the Tigers tell him now that Campbell has a date tonight. Tuberville asks them, Why are you telling me this? Their answer: Jason’s got no game when it comes to girls—at all.

SEPT. 18, 2004
It’s late, awfully late. Fourth-and-12, Auburn down 9-3 to LSU. The third game of Campbell’s final season is about to end with a loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium, in front of the largest crowd ever to see a football game in the state of Alabama. Coordinator Al Borges can barely stand to watch from the sideline. He took over the position in the off-season, replacing Hugh Nall, who replaced Bobby Petrino in 2003, who replaced Noel Mazzone in 2002. Is it any wonder Campbell has been struggling all day? As much as Borges tells him to let it rip in the new West Coast, the QB still sometimes plays as if he were afraid to mess up.

As the stadium waits, quiet as a spool of string, Campbell takes the ball from under center. The Tigers blitz. Before he’s hit by two defenders, Campbell finds receiver Courtney Taylor with a 14-yard pass to get the game-saving first down. Three plays later, he hits Taylor again for a 16-yard touchdown. The Tigers win 10-9 and don’t lose a game all season.

SEPT. 6, 2003
Campbell gets booed off the field. For the second straight game, the junior fails to direct a touchdown drive—and for the second straight game, the Tigers lose. So much for their preseason No. 6 ranking. So much for Campbell’s experience as a third-year starter making a difference.

FALL 2001
They drive all night to see him play. They leave under dark from their home in the pine belt countryside and head deep into the blank, flat spaces of southern Alabama. Larry and Carolyn Campbell always arrive at Jason’s apartment around 3 a.m. Their son, a redshirt freshman who’s already sharing snaps with Daniel Cobb, leaves the door of his apartment unlocked. His parents creep in while Jason and his roommate, running back Ronnie Brown, are asleep.

WINTER 1998
As the most coveted QB coming out of Mississippi, Campbell decides to play football at Auburn. But the junior star hasn’t told anyone yet because he knows it’ll be big news. All Campbell tells his parents is that he’s prayed a lot about it and wants to announce his decision at one of the places he’s most comfortable: in front of the congregation at his church.

 

Getty Images

 

FALL 1998
Taylorsville High is trailing Newton High 28-7 at halftime. Campbell, the starting quarterback for the 2—2 Tartars, knows what some people are saying. His dad is the school’s basketball coach, and the vice principal, and a science teacher, so the kid is starting only because of favoritism. Jason tries not to think about it. But his new coach, Shannon White, can’t remember the kid smiling even once in any of the team’s practices.

Campbell starts the second half in the shotgun. He throws for five touchdowns and 400 yards. He runs for 100 more. The Tartars win 48-28 and don’t lose another game all season.

DECEMBER 1996
He stands onstage in front of 200 people at Pine Valley Baptist Church, holding a candle. He’s 15, playing one of the Three Wise Men in the church’s annual Christmas skit. He goes to church every Sunday, Monday and Wednesday; has since he was born. His dad is a deacon. Jason is taller by far than any of the other kids who are standing near the manger in front of the pews, because he’s grown about a foot the past year. He got a whole new set of clothing the summer before the performance, clothing he can no longer wear. He looks like “nothing but legs,” his mom likes to say.

DEC. 31, 1992
Jason turns 11. For the next year, he repeatedly prefaces his statements by saying, boldly, “When I go pro … ”

SUMMER 1990
His favorite food is banana pudding. He also likes chicken casserole, corn bread, crab legs, greens, peach cobbler, peas and shrimp. Jason and his older brother, Larry Jr., have contests to see who can eat more shrimp. Jason sometimes plays tabletop football by using pencils as players. His best subject is math, and his favorite cartoon is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When he’s sure no one’s watching, he gets out his TMNT figurines and tries to mimic their cartoon voices. What he doesn’t know is that his parents have seen this and think it’s hilarious.

Everyone comes over to Jason’s home because his dad put up a hoop at the edge of the yard. Tiny Summerland, Miss., consists of about a dozen households, and the kids head to the brick house on Smith County Road to shoot baskets and toss the football. Under the footsteps of so many children, the St. Augustine grass has dried up and gone. “The Kool-Aid” house, Carolyn calls it.

One day, Jason comes inside crying because Larry Jr. and some of the bigger kids have pushed him around. His dad looks at him and says, “If you keep cryin’, you can’t hang with them. You have to find a way to beat them.”

SUMMER 1984
The Campbells buy one of those electric football game boards with magnetized players, the kind where the small figurines buzz around haphazardly. Larry helps 3-year-old Jason set up plays on the board and teaches him about the various positions. Jason is mesmerized simply by watching the pieces of plastic knock into each other. Later that summer, at a family reunion in Taylorsville, he picks up a football, and his parents can barely get it away from him. “He wanted that ball,” Larry says. “He just held onto it and held onto it.”

What Does a Busy NBC News Anchor Crave?

31 Oct

NBC’s Brian Williams was in Sarasota today to cover a Barack Obama rally. His handlers used our stadium offices as his home base for the day. One NBC staffer was responsible for keeping Williams desk stocked with his favorite treats. These must-have snacks Brian craves included the following …

 

The Return of the Mighty Boz Scaggs

29 Oct

Product Description
Speak Low his 17th. studio album; a follow-up to 2003’s But Beautiful – “a sort of progressive, experimental effort … along the lines of some of the ideas that Gil Evans explored” says Boz. Songs on the album include Chet Baker’s “She Was Too Good To Be True,” Johnny Mercer’s “This Time the Dream’s on Me,” the often recorded “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” and the Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash title track. “I’m a vocalist,” Scaggs says. “I come more out of a blues/rhythm & blues background, but this is a different way of using my voice, and much more musically challenging and adventurous for me.”

Here’s Boz in concert performing his hit, “JoJo.”

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea

29 Oct

From Publishers Weekly
The warm, languid air of the South filters through this engaging book, in which Foose shares the traditional recipes that she ate while growing up on the Mississippi Delta and has returned to after training as a pastry chef in France and traveling the world. Gently humorous stories about family and friends form a seamless part of her instructions for community recipes like Strawberry Missionary Society Salad, as well as pleasant surprises like Tabbouleh, Curried Sweet Potato Soup, and Chinese Grocery Roast Pork that take Southern food beyond stereotypes. Fried chicken and grits do appear, but for such classics Foose emphasizes relatively simple, wholesome preparations that are rich without loading on more butter and oil than necessary. Although recipes for Gumbo Z’Herbs, Chile Lime Skirt Steak, and creamy succotash are mouthwatering enough just to read about, many cooks will be tempted to flip straight to the last chapters, where her enticing breads and pastries provide the book with a winning flourish. The cook may be Southern, but the appeal of the dishes she presents should reach well beyond people who grew up in the land of four-hour lunches and sweet tea savored on a porch swing.

This French twist on U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish is easy to make and delightful to serve to both your family and your dinner party.
PAPER SACK CATFISH

Serves 6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice
6 (6-ounce) U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish fillets, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 sprigs fresh dill
1 lemon, sliced into 6 thin rounds

Paper Sack Catfish from Chef Martha Foose's book Screen Doors and Sweet Tea 1. With nonstick cooking spray, lightly spray all over the outside of six lunch-size paper sacks.  The bags should be slightly translucent after spraying.  Cut six 8-inch lengths of butcher’s twine.  Set aside.

2. Adjust the racks in the oven, placing one in the lowest slot and one in the middle position.  Preheat the oven to 350° F.

3. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with the garlic, salt, oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

4. Place the catfish in a single layer in a dish.  Pour the sauce evenly over the fish, and then sprinkle with the pepper.  Place one dill sprig and one lemon slice on each fillet.  Gently slide each fillet into each paper sack.  Gather the mouth of the bag and give it a twist, then tie with twine.

5. Place three bags on a large rimmed baking sheet and the other three on another baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, halfway through reversing the pans.  Serve at once, placing an inflated sack on each dinner plate.  For maximum effect, slice open the bags at the table.

Notes:

The sacks can be assembled and refrigerated 1 hour before baking. Add 5 minutes to the baking time if the sacks are coming right out of the fridge.

For added flavor and to round out the meal, place a few blanched asparagus spears beneath the fish and a thin slice of prosciutto or country ham draped across the top of the fish in each bag before baking.

This same dish can be prepared with fennel and oranges in place of the lemon and dill.

To learn more about Martha and her schedule of upcoming events, visit marthafoose.com.

 

Get your copy today — http://www.amazon.com/Screen-Doors-Sweet-Tea-Southern/dp/0307351408/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225301285&sr=8-1

Alvin Youngblood Hart – Modern Blues Master

29 Oct

I saw Alvin a few times when we lived in Memphis. Super-talented cat.

He normally plugs in and puts on an amazing electric show.

The video above showcases his equally powerful acoustic side.

Catch his live act – he mixes 70s rock, blues and country. That’s a rarity!

Start your collection with this CD — it kicks some serious booty!

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

28 Oct

There’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread to fill a kitchen with warmth, eager appetites, and endless praise for the baker who took on such a time-consuming task. Now, you can fill your kitchen with the irresistible aromas of a French bakery every day with just five minutes of active preparation time, and Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day will show you how.

 

Co-authors Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François prove that bread baking can be easier than a trip to the bakery. Their method is quick and simple, bringing forth scrumptious perfection in each loaf. Delectable creations will emerge straight from your own oven as warm, indulgent masterpieces that you can finally make for yourself. In exchange for a mere five minutes of your time, your breads will rival those of the finest bakers in the world.

With nearly 100 recipes to put this ingenious technique to use, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day will open the eyes of any potential baker who has sworn off homemade bread as simply too much work. Crusty baguettes, mouth-watering pizzas, hearty sandwich loaves, and even buttery pastries can easily become part of your own personal menu, and this innovative book will teach you everything you need to know.

Jeff & Zoe demonstrate in the clip found below.

Buy this amazing book!

Girl Scores Goal at Randy’s Donuts

28 Oct

This is funny stuff. Watch the urban mayhem transpire at L.A. landmark.

Pimento Cheese & Tupelo Honey

28 Oct

We had some really good eats while we were in Apalachicola. The area is famous for its Tupelo honey, but the beekeepers all seem to be located quite a few miles north of town. However, I did some web research and found that Watkins Tupelo Honey was available at the Piggly Wiggly located just a few blocks west of our bed and breakfast. I picked up a pound — not cheap at about $7 — and found it to be extremely sweet and fresh tasting. This Tupelo honey appeared lighter in color and a little more cloudy (less clear)than the traditional store-bought clover honey. If you’ve ever eaten fresh honey with the comb, you’ll have a general idea of the taste of Tupelo honey. It has a slight floral aftertaste — and I mean that in a positive way. Van Morrison once sang, “She’s as sweet as Tupelo honey.” One taste and it all starts to make sense.

 

Although several different Tupelo trees yield large quantities of honey in the southeastern United States, the Apalachicola River basin is well known for its distinctive flavored Tupelo Honey. It is also produced along the Chipola river a tributary to the Apalachicola. The Ochlocknee and Choctahatchee Rivers also produce some tupelo. These areas are the only places in the world where certified Tupelo Honey is produced. This is because of the abundant growth of the white tupelo, Nyssa-ogche, that produces good quality Tupelo Honey.

The white Tupelo Tree as it is most commonly known usually stands 50 to 75 feet tall is 2 to 3 feet in diameter. White Tupelo blooms from early April to early May, depending on the years weather. Black Tupelo, Nyssa biflora blooms in advance of white tupelo and is used to build up bee colony strenght and stores. Black tupelo produces a less desirable honey which will granulate , it is sold as bakery grade honey.

Another taste treat on this trip was the homemade pimento cheese spread we enjoyed at the Gibson Inn’s Avenue Sea. The inn is located on Avenue C, so the chef saw an opportunity to link the restaurant’s name with the local nautical traditions. Now this is no typical hotel restaurant. The chef here (David Carrier) once worked at Napa’s acclaimed French Laundry, but moved here for a simpler life and access to super fresh seafood. Much of the menu has a Southern twist.

We arrived about 5 pm or so on Saturday and found a cozy table in the pub near the big screen TV. The patrons were battling over the remote control, so we sat back & chilled with an ice cold sweet tea (and I do mean SWEET) as the channel flipped back and forth between the Florida State and University of Georgia football games. Both of the “home” teams were winning and it all remained fairly jovial.

The pimento cheese was served with some small slices of crisp toast. The spread was nice and chunky and was speckled with bright red pimento. It was expertly created and gone in a flash. And for those of you not in the know, there is a big difference between homemade and store-bought pimento cheese. Taste and compare and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Here’s a recipe to get you started:

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese

2 medium kosher dill pickles

2 cloves of garlic (adjust the amount to suit your taste)

1 4-ounce jar of pimentos (or pimientos, as they are also called), drained

Cut all ingredients except the pimentos into large chunks. (The pimentos are already chopped.) Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse just long enough to roughly chop. You don’t want to puree the ingredients, just make them pliable for the next step.

Put in large bowl and mix with about 3 good tablespoons of mayonnaise. (Try Duke’s, a Southern brand made in Richmond, Va., that many pimento-cheese aficionados prefer.)

Refrigerate, but set out for 20 to 30 minutes before use.

Sheryl’s Buffet in Live Oak, FL

27 Oct

We enjoyed a late lunch on Sunday afternoon at Sheryl’s Buffet in Live Oak, FL. This quaint little town along the fabled Suwannee River makes for a perfect setting for a good old down-home country feeding frenzy. I first learned of Sheryl’s place on a web site called www.florida-secrets.com . Check it out — pretty cool site. Anyway, Florida Secrets promised “tasty, homey, and you can’t beat the price.” Sure sounded like our kind of eatery.

As you can clearly see from the platter above, I loaded up. And I’m not ashamed to say I went back for seconds …. and thirds! Wow — where do I begin? The fried chicken was super crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. I normally prefer white meat, so I reached for a big honking breast. My sides included a warm yeast roll, sliced candied yams dripping with melted mini-marshmallows, pork-laced turnip greens (I kicked them up with some Texas Pete hot sauce), cut green beans, and fresh white zipper peas. You may also notice a small bowl of cole slaw just above the yeast roll. The slaw was perfect … just the right temp (cool) and texture (crunchy). It was minced very finely and had just the right blend of mayo and a hint of sugar. My beverage of choice was a sweet tea spiked with a lemon wedge.   

My second run (not pictured here) was highlighted by stewed tomatoes & okra, a ketchup-kissed meat loaf, and an amazing dessert which requires a bit of a description. Imagine, if you will, an expertly whipped vanilla eclair mousse dusted with very finely crumbled vanilla wafers. Man, you wanna talk about light and fluffy and deeee-lish??? It was truly amazing. When I asked our waitress, she went straight to the source — the young lady who prepared the treat. Her “awww shucks, wasn’t nothing” attitude spoke volumes about the eatery’s lack of pretention. I complimented her profusely, which quickly inspired several diners around us to revisit the sweets table. I will get this recipe and (I’m willing to bet) they will be more than happy to oblige.

If you’re ever crusing near the intersection of I-75 and I-10, please do not miss out on Sheryl’s Buffet. We’re told the menu changes frequently and features such down home goodies as baked lasagna, chicken and dressing, fried pork chops, squash casserole, and a bubbly macaroni & cheese. Sheryl’s is open from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Sunday thru Friday. Drive to 515 SW 5th Street and look for the big red barn-like structure — you can’t miss it! Call 386 362-2898 (or the local fire station) if you get lost.