Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Manna Restaurant

2350 Meadows Blvd
 Castle Rock, CO 80109

 You can live on pho for 10 days, but around day 5 one starts craving variety. In the middle of a Colorado schooling stint, with no time to cook, I was told the best place for great, but inexpensive food was the HOSPITAL. 

 That's right! In Castle Rock, people go to the hospital FOR THE FOOD. What the...?!?!  I hauled my ass and my books there, chomped through delectable ceviche, and attacked the desert menu. 

 PIE. Listed underneath ' Housemade Salted Caramel Gelato "Sandwich"' - [ holy crap! Gotta try that too ] - was 'Sodacracker Pie with Fresh Berries'. Have you ever heard of such a thing?! Sodacracker pie manifested as a surprise of scrumptious meringue festooned with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and whipped cream. Before demolishing it I whipped out my camera and took photos. Nobody batted an eye, I suspect people take food photos in Manna on an hourly basis. 

 Woe unto me, my camera ate the photos. So I ripped off a pie photo via Manna's Facebook account, then ironically thought it'd be a marvelous idea to draw while I was ill. Look at this beauty:

  What. The fuck. Do note that the '101˚F' is written upside down, nice touch.  Perhaps I'd have been better off IN the hospital than artistically butchering the hospital's fine deserts. Rest assured, in real, healthy life the sodacracker pie is gorgeous and uniquely yummy! I was a repeat customer. 

  And why is Manna restaurant so freaking awesome?! Because it was created by a superstar and now run by one too. I was gonna paraphrase but here's the whole shebang, it's so impressive:

"Dan Skay was the opening Executive Chef at Littleton, Parker and Castle Rock Adventist Hospitals. Chef Dan worked on the design phase for Castle Rock Adventists' Manna Restaurant. He is now the Nutrition Manager and Executive Chef for Manna with help from Chef de Cuisine Adam Freisem. In 1992, Chef Dan was the winner of the Great Chefs of America Culinary Competition and also the Grand Prize Winner of Custom Foods Golden Recipe Competition. Other accolades included winner of 1995 Premier Chefs of America, 1996 National Cully Award, 2000 Colorado Governor's Symposium Celebrating Colorado Cuisine, winning Best Colorado Entrée, and 2009 AHF National Culinary Competition Gold Medal Winner in Palm Springs, CA and the Wall Street Journal title of Hospital Top Chef. Most recently, Chef Dan won the national 2014 AHF Spotlight Award for innovation in healthcare foodservice and the MUFSO Best Concept Award."

  Chef Dan Skay and Adam Freisem make the hospital a place you go to  ON PURPOSE. In addition, the wait staff was friendly and awesome. This team simply rocks it. In their honor, here is an awful picture of all of them. ( So sorry you guys!!) 

Bravo, Manna Restaurant!!

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SURFING and STROLLING near Manna Restaurant
[ Pie tastes best when you're hungry ]

SURFING: If you know people in Castle Rock, I guess you could go couch surfing.

STROLLING: Lots of open space! But hurry, as developers are encroaching like aggressive slime mold. Front Range weather changes by the minute so be prepared to experience all four seasons. During summer, stroll during the morning, the afternoons turn into exciting games of Thunder Dodge.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Special Guest! Stacey Marie

Pies of the West Presents: special guest STACEY MARIE! 
(Experimental Baking in a Properly Equipped Kitchen)

Chef Improvisator Extraordinaire

  Stacey Marie and I met on a surf/camping trip and instantly recognized each other from the Tribe of Dork; Girly Tomboy Division.  She is a wicked  improvisatory cook and a  massage therapist with a cult following, check out her business * cough plug cough * Pacifica Massage and Wellness... 

 Why Guest Star this lass? One day at Home Break, Stacey  charged into a detonating wave with such panache that her pummeling is seared into memory forever. I was curious how this chutzpah spelled out in the kitchen, so we arranged for an experimental pie-bake. Heed our results:

 After hemming and hawing we decided to flow with a) vegan curry tofu pie, and b) peapple pie. What is peapple pie? Primarily, it's not PEOPLE pie, as my effing autocorrect insists. Peapple pie is peach and apple, pronounce at your own risk.

 Stacey's kitchen is chock full of spices and ingredients, plus mixers and quality Useful Gadgetry.  Polar opposite of cooking in my kitchen - mine's that puzzle you're working on with missing pieces, but you don't know which pieces and you don't even know what the damn picture is since the puzzle box lid accidentally got recycled.  Just as well Stacey's place is prepared, as we had some challenges. And I'm not talking our music playlist that refused to comply until we put on Kevin Costner. (You must try this. )

 Our first challenge was the crust, and we chose two; vegan xantham-gum free, and polenta. Xantham gum, that which binds all together, is common in vegan dishes but turns my gut into Waterloo. Ok. Nix the Xantham.

 How does vegan xantham-free dough turn out? Why, like shit.

Best use for vegan-xantham-free-dough; as Rage Missile

 We did everything right; mixed it just so, gently mooshed the dough, freezered the dough, coddled that dang dough.  Despite our efforts the dough kept breaking off into zillions of crumbs like so many rabbit turds. In the end we pushed  bits of the mixture into little pie tins with our thumbs - rest assured this is not a move Stacey pulls on clients. In any case the crusts were U.G.L.Y.  but effective.  By the time we reached the final dollops of dough, it was warm. And what happened? It stuck together and rolled out! Did we hallucinate, or does vegan xantham-free dough work better when it's WARM?!?! Arrrrg!

 No debate here, the best thing to do with vegan xantham-free dough is to hurl it as  a Rage Missile at Kevin Costner while he's singing. The two are meant to be together. To illustrate, I only had one measly sheet of paper to mess with, so I present  zero perspective, Mr. Costner  doesn't look remotely like himself, and his legs are stumps;

Crap picture as metaphor for unsuccessful pie dough?

  How fitting.

  Now it  was time for polenta. We simply boiled the polenta, threw in some vegan butter, and after it cooled we - easily, mind you - placed it into the  wee  tins and pre-baked to  harden the crust. Perfection. *Ding ding dingding dindingdingding!!*  Polenta wins!

  Stacey walked me through the ingredients for the curry pie; tofu, celery, mushrooms, squash,  onion, ginger, tomato paste, garlic, ginger, coriander, water, coconut oil, some kind of voodoo salt, what other spices am I missing? The curry itself involved this process of caramelizing tomato paste, garlic, ginger, onion,  spices, coconut oil, water as needed by cooking the lot in a saucepan until it was scrape-able off the bottom of the pan. Here I discovered the merits of proper wooden spoons for scraping and tasting and ingredient wrangling. Totally better than metal ones from garage sales don't ask.

 Next we mixed and cooked the rest of the ingredients, where Stacey enlightened me that it's best to cut food into same-sized pieces, so every bit will cook at the same speed. Another one of those slap-head-obvious-but-I'd-never-ever-guess and it's-great tips!

 Not obvious was stumbling into an unexpected PERIL -  Stacey's mom called  during the chopping process. Public service announcement: if you value your life, do NOT answer certain phone calls while baking. We almost lost it here. Note below how Stacey keeps her cool, though the ingredients suffer from emotive transference.

There were knives nearby too

   Disaster averted,  we slapped curry pies in the 425º oven and made way for peapples. These babies couldn't have been easier. Apple and peach were chopped into same size bits, mixed with a little cinnamon, chucked  into  the wee tins featuring lovely polenta or goddman vegan xantham-free crusts and BAM! Ready to bake.

   In the end we had DELICIOUS vegan curry and peapple pies that tasted fantastic. Every bite vanished within 24 hours.  Stacey, you're a genius! Not even our rabbit-turd vegan dough ruined the filling flavor. Shazaaaam! 

   So there you have it. Stacey's vegan curry recipe is super nommy, peapple pie is 'new' and delicious , and I like my first portrait so much I'm including it twice:

Look, I can do flattering portraits too

Thank you, Stacey Marie!

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Xantham gum is:
 a) your friend
 b) some nasty s***
 c) a deity from Scientology
 d) everywhere

Polenta is:
 a) a type of Italian car
 b) a word that almost rhymes with 'Olestra', but doesn't
 l) your new best friend
 d) mysterious

 Kevin Costner:
 a) is also mysterious
 h) bakes pie but probably not with xantham-free vegan dough
 c) did a great job with 'The Hatfields and McCoys'
 y) has a sense of humor such that he will overlook my mockery and supercrap doodle

 Peapple Pie is:
 a) trademarked by Stacey Marie and Madison
 b) unpronounceable
 x) perfect for all meals and occasions
 d) too yummy to be a Rage Missile

 Vegan Tofu Curry Pie is:
 a) healthy and delicious
 9) great, so long as you avoid the rabbit-turd xantham-free vegan dough
 *) a hippie's dream
 V) a genius invention of Stacey Marie

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Pie Style, a Fresh sTART

Pie Style, a Fresh (s)TART

 Change, it is a-comin' to Pies. The problem began with expectations, a nasty ingredient if there ever was one. I  ASSUMED that I would (  here's another nasty word ) PRODUCE Pie entries at least once a month. With near professional grade illustrations.   Besides the Buddha laughing, the other result was predictable:

 I choked. Pun intended. Eating and drawing pie is FUN, but I smothered the cheer spending so much time trying to create perfect little drawings. Hello. What is the  POINT of Pies of the West?!!

 No point. No point at all. Pies of the West is a Half-Baked-Joy-Fest, and you can't frikking eat pie when you're choking on  thistle-arsed plans!

 A tale of wisdom; many moons ago, an art professor stormed over to my drawing station where I was frozen in unhappiness. He  slapped this large, exuberant, shredded drawing to the wall and hollered,"If you don't start having FUN in these classes, don't come back!" He pointed to the ripped up picture, " THIS is what you should be doing! Not the pretty stuff! THIS!" My goodness the sense of freedom.

 That professor released me from my Gotta-Shouldas  but sometimes I need a swift kick in the ass. *WHACK!* Woo! Oh my I just schooled myself.

 Here is an example of what's to come, note how the cartoon me is reveling in the rage.  If you can't take the heat, get out of the...okay I'll stop before finishing this terrible joke;

Expectations make for
 fine Rage Missiles

  Pies illustrations will be big, messy, and not pretty. They'll be done with whatever the fuck I have on hand. They'll be slapped up without a thought to skill or consistency. But dammit,  they will be FUN, and I hope this ass-kicking heartfelt glee will be passed on to you.

 Dignity is Overrated,
 Madison C

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mazzetti's Bakery

101 Manor Drive
Pacifica CA 94044

   Roughly 15 miles south of San Francisco, the small city of Pacifica stretches along the coast farther than you could imagine for a population that size. This is truly the Gumby of cities. Off  one of the first of many Highway 1 exits/Gumby arms, the always-busy Mazzetti's Bakery lays in wait.

   Family owned for 40 years, Mazzetti's announces itself via hieroglyphic sign and  bakes everything under the sun. Too hungry to think, it took me weeks to realize the hieroglyphs represented cake decorations. Duh, they specialize in decorated cakes. How important are IQ tests, really.

  In my little world, Mazzetti's lies in a trifecta of excuses-to-go-in; only a couple of blocks from The Mighty Steed's d.i.y. car wash, two blocks from the home of Hooligan's best dog pals, and a few blocks from an occasional job where I always leave hungry.

   Upon my first quest for pie, I found out that they do NOT sell single slices, only whole pies. Damn. Undaunted, I ordered two chocolate cupcakes instead. Within days I was back, carrot cupcakes firmly in hand. Oh my god, heaven. Mazzetti's has a way of creating moist cakes that are unearthly. Skulking in for the third time,  I realized, f*** it, PIE IS MEANT TO BE SHARED, and went home with an entire Dutch Apple Pie. For my friends and neighbors.

 This isn't just ANY Dutch Apple Pie. This is a pie that was mentioned as one of the best apple pies on the peninsula by CBS San Francisco. First I dropped off a big slice with Hooligan's human buddy/owner of said best dog pals. This guy is a lucky bastard because by merit of living so close to Mazzetti's, he was the ONLY outside recipient of said 'pie to be shared.' I'm so sorry, you guys. Upon arriving home, I ate the next generous slice, took a break for dinner, and of course, ate a slice for dessert. After that I'm afraid the pie fell victim to He who Shall be Known as the Pie Eating Heathen. All I know is, I woke up the next morning and there weren't even any crumbs left. I have to stop this tale here or I'll get emotional.

 The good news is, Mazzetti's is easy to find and the Pie Eating Heathen swears he'd buy Mazzetti's stock based on their apple pie alone. You can get your own or twist my arm to pick up another pie - I'll be in the neighborhood.

 Because I suck I did not find the owners nor do much of an illustration - I'm rushing to include the next GUEST! But below I present a traced & tweaked photo of an actual Mazzetti's line:

Hooligan herding customers ( as if they needed it ) into Mazzetti's

   I'll end this overview on a spine-tingling MYSTERY: is the Pie Eating Heathen just ONE person, or TWO?? If so, WHICH two?? Or, have we stumbled into discovering a MYTHOLOGICAL BEAST,  like Sasquatch? Debate. 

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SURFING and STROLLING near Mazzetti's Bakery

 [ Pie tastes best when you're hungry]

SURFING:  Why yes. This isn't called 'Pacifica' for nothing. Wave quality is dependent on tides and number of boards aimed at your head.  The best way to maintain sanity  is to give into the Force and find  a group who will 'party wave'  everything, thus  fun will be reborn. Some choice spots are;  A) You are Part of the Problem, where on good days you can actually walk from board to board without touching water. B) Pebbles Shoved Down My Wetsuit, this place can be fun to exit. C)  Chum Comes From the Sky, not a place you'd want to surf alone and the shore pound is nasty.

HOT TIP #1: You are Part of the Problem also has a a theft problem. My friend's longboard was ripped off right under her nose while she was changing at dusk. Boo!!!

HOT TIP #2: I gargle generously w/mouthwash after surfing here. The water can be...itchy.

STROLLING: So much! Look at all those hills with trails! You've got Mcnee Ranch, Sweeney Ridge, Mori Point...Seriously, you can see routes from the highway, so go knock yourself out exploring. Don't explore the poison oak though! It is EVERYWHERE.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Peasant Pies

3 Locations!
1039 Irving Street ( Inner Sunset) / 550 Gene Friend Way ( Mission Bay) / 
4108 24th St. ( Noe Valley)

   Peasant Pies are touted as meals-to-go, which is true enough, but they should also be called, 'meals-at-speed' because that's how fast I ate them. Walking out with peasant pies in hand is like scoring giant cookies, and they are eaten accordingly.  With three locations in San Francisco, you cannot escape the Lure of the Pies. You canNOT.  I visited the storefront on Irving St.,  just a couple of blocks away from Golden Gate Park. My  Plan A) was to take my purchases to the park for a nice picnic. This is foolishness. Those buggers disappeared before I hit the first stoplight. My next Great Plan was to bring them home to heat up. The Peasant Pies clerk knew better and asked if I wanted them warmed first. "No", I smugly replied, 'I'll heat them up at home."  You know what happened. The lesson here is, always take the advice of someone wearing an apron with the words 'Pies for the People' spelled out on the front.  Note to self: at least these pies taste really dandy when they're cold.

 The gurus behind this mini chain are owner/manager Ali Keshavarz and chef Gerard Buulong. Their goal was handheld, affordable meals, and they nailed it. On the menu are meat and poultry, veggie, and sweet pies, as well as homemade soups and salads. They also pulled a double miracle, and made these goodies REALLY AFFORDABLE. In San Francisco!! Way to go, you guys!! Ali got his masters in organic chemistry, which  I suspect has led to some  awesomely creative edibles. I demolished a black bean & tofu pie, then a lentil and yam pie, both mildly spicy, delicious, and unlike anything I'd ever had.  My boyfriend nommed a chicken pot pie and a chinese beef/hoisin sauce special of the day, both earned double thumbs up.  That's right, pies can change according to request and need so you HAVE TO KEEP COMING BACK. I know I will. I haven't finished plowing through their menu.

 I have to give a big shouout to Ali Kesharav and chef Gerard Buulong, because in the name of stuffing more pie reviews in here I'm forging ahead in lieu of doing their really, really, deserved portrait. Instead, take a look at the Peasant Pies logo up top. That is the logo that marks Peasant Pies eateries. Well, mostly. I replaced their logo boy with.....*drum roll*..........

Our first GUEST: CHRIS 'The OneHundredPercent' LEE!

    Our first guest is here in spirit. No really. He is, literally, a spirit. You can cue the woo-woo ghosty sounds now. Chris was one of the very first supporters of my Cuckoo comics back when I was just starting and terrified. I used to run into him at small comics conventions and he exuded faith in my comics and what I was doing when I was rightfully mortified at my efforts. Support over the years like this is priceless. And Chris went all out and lifted the hearts of MANY!

 We remained Facebook buddies where he was outstanding for his smart-ass remarks. He was a rare  poet,  I mean, not the Oh-God-Run-Away kind of  but a really great poet whose stuff you actually, truly WANTED TO READ and had FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS ABOUT AFTERWARDS.   Most infamously I found myself laughing out loud from something he wrote while he was stuck
[ literally! ] in the hospital. Wait a minute, shouldn't this go the other way around?!?  I also failed to tell him - and I'm sure he'd like to know -  that up until 2 weeks ago, I only glimpsed at his moniker and literally thought he called himself ' Chris THUNDERPANTS Lee'. The name blended with his essence so well it was unquestionable. Whatever name Chris chooses,  he crossed planes recently and his birthday coincides with this Pies of the West entry, so Chris,  this one is just for you!

 Chris loved comics and other self-proclaimed 'dork culture' elements, especially Doctor Who. By a pre-planned coincidence, a gigantic, fantastical video rental store [ stop laughing they still exist ] called Le Video sits only 3 blocks from Peasant Pies. In the name of awesomeness, here we are rampaging through the BBC section of Le Video, sporting ninja one-sies and tossing pies;
Totally not allowed behavior at Le Video

    Chris TheOneHundredPercent - or is it, THUNDERPANTS?? - I know you are out and about cavorting! Enjoy  your wonderful adventures in the time machine, and tell us all about them when  we  meet up again in the Phone Booth!

* * * * * * * * * * * *SHAZAM!!!! * * * * * * * * * * * * 

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SURFING and STROLLING near Peasant Pies 

[ Pie tastes best when you're hungry ]

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Devil's Teeth

3876 Noriega St. 
San Francisco CA 94122

   Did you know that Great White Sharks 'spy hop'? You know, spy hop; when a marine creature lifts its head out of its watery kingdom and into your airy one to get a really good look around. Ask me how I know this.

 When you share eye contact with a Great White ,  believe me, you need pie and you need it THAT INSTANT. Fortunately for us all, the appropriately  named Devil's Teeth Baking Company sits just two blocks from the domain of curious apex predators.

 This beloved local hub serves up tons of fresh baked goodies which disappear quickly. Portions  are generous and quite suited  for the many customers who have just busted their arses trying to surf ever-loving Home Break. Pies types are baked according to season - so far I've horfed strawberry and pecan, and inhaled apple pie on multiple occasions. The apples in that pie are totally phenom. Spiced and baked just so, bites of apple are bursting at the seam. YUM.

 Of course Devil's Teeth bakes more than pie! I've nommed ginger cookies, lemon bars, carrot cake, and keep staring at their massive cinnamon rolls. Check out their menu for more temptations. They also display a jar of free homemade dog treats, so when I treat myself, Hooligan gets treated too!

  I owe the busy owner Hilary a portrait, but I didn't want to dally on Devil's post any longer. Here is Hoolie chasing flying apple pie [ and chasing customers away, it would seem ] in front of the joint;

Hooligan art bombs the Devil's Teeth Baking Co. 

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SURFING and STROLLING near Devil's Teeth Baking Company

[ Pie tastes best when you're hungry ]

Thursday, February 13, 2014

San Francisco Introduction


OVERVIEW: Oh for goodness' sake. This is San Francisco.

SURFING:  Now I will babble,  because  Nature's Insane Asylum here is my Home Break.

  There is surfing 'round these parts - that is, if you're a masochistic freak. Rips, severe beatings, and long hold-downs are your reward for the marathon effort it took to reach that peak you just saw. You know the one.  That damned  mirage which vanished the moment you finally fucking gasped into the lineup. Now you're 1/4 mile offshore and have to figure out how on earth to get back to the beach without calling the Coast Guard. Use your energy wisely,  because not a session will go by without a set that INSISTS it unloads smack dab on your head. Waves close out at sizes ranging from pipsqueek to jumbo, and also have an exciting habit of jacking up the moment you jump to your feet - a great help if you love to fly, but not so great if you love to surf.  It's no surprise that drownings occur every year, including surfers. Nobody paddles around this place  for long without AT LEAST once being convinced  they were going to die.   Surfers here need more balls than brains, or, if you're like me and don't have balls, no brains at all.  Even on small days - my 'forte' -  this place can be wicked fierce.  Home Break is less surfatory and more exploratory, each session is all about heading off yonder into...Situation X. People ask me what gym I go to, and I just laugh and laugh. Caloric output / per actual ride snatched ratio assessment =  5,000/1.

 The big beach can be roughly divided into three sections. Running from north to south; Chiropractics, Stress Test, and What Was I Thinking. Each carries its own, um,  charms. If neither that nor the near constant 20 knot onshores floats your boat, there are other local options. Tourist Trap and Zombies! are the nearest contenders.

 For more personal details on the joys of Home Break, check out my surfing magazine writing contest essay; it won an honorable mention!


 For goodness' sake, this is San Francisco. Virtually all info is available online or via sordid rumors. That said, for a spontaneous trail not listed in any guide, the  hike between your  parking spot and actual destination can be quite invigorating.  The now-you-see-it-now-you-don't public transportation system can also precipitate walking adventures.