Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Silence of the Lamb Meatballs

My sister and I agreed to host a birthday dinner at my place for Dad this year in lieu of fancy presents (we still got him a robotic walking crab, just in case). Should we grill? Should I make some of Ina’s buttermilk ranch dressing and serve it over big wedges of lettuce? Will I need to scrub my bathroom floor? We settled on lamb meatballs.

I made a version of these for a dinner party a few years ago. Someday I promise I’ll make a real meal for a party, but until then I’m going to keep making picnic foods and calling it dinner. The lamb meatballs are good on their own, but they really cry out for a thick, tangy yogurt sauce on the side. Put the whole thing on a “slider bun” and you’re ready to party.

Don’t go crazy on the cinnamon, it tends to take over and you’ll lose the other flavors. Form the meatballs a bit bigger than the suggested 2 tsp if you want something more substantial, just keep them in the oven for about 17 minutes.

I was able to source almost everything for this dinner from Findlay Market. Once you know where to look, you can find almost anything there. EXCEPT SLIDER BUNS, as a maddening search revealed. Those I got at Kroger, the kind that come in the orange plastic bag.

Deviled eggs were served as an appetizer. Pro Tip: Want to create the smell of a room-clearing fart right inside your refrigerator? Hard boil and peel a dozen eggs, put them all in a glass bowl in the fridge and don’t cover them with any plastic wrap.

The lamb meatball recipe comes from CHOW. I have lovingly copied and pasted the ingredients below.

Combine all of these things in a large bowl, form meatballs and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes:
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Serve with Fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Game On

I didn’t go to Disney as a kid. No mouse ears or photos with princesses for me, at least not until I was in high school. Instead, my sister and I would get to go to Mr. Gatti’s every once in a while. It’s a chain pizza place with an arcade attached. There, your family can gorge itself on a pizza buffet and play games for one reasonable price.

We moved away from our local Mr. Gatti’s, and it left a little pizza-slice-shaped hole in my heart. A couple years later, we were en route from Mississippi to Ohio on one of our famous cross-country trips when Mom and Dad said they had a surprise for us.

We took a short trip from the Days Inn where we were staying for the night and pulled up in the parking lot of nothing less than a Mr. Gatti’s. Kaitlin won big on that trip – we were playing an arcade version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos and suddenly tickets started spewing from the machine. We gathered them up, in long ribbons, and I think she was required to share part of her winnings with me. Our tickets didn’t even added up to a clock radio when we turned them in for prizes, but that sort of didn’t matter. I remember, indelibly, that we were winners.

I’ve done my time covering trade shows in Las Vegas and I’ve navigated the maze of many-a dimly lit casino. I like the food and drink aspect of Vegas, but I’m not a gambler so none of that has ever looked too appealing to me. Replace all of those slot machines with air hockey tables and arcade games? Now I’m interested. Turns out, there’s a place for that.

This week I was invited to take a look inside a newly remodeled Dave and Buster’s. Flashbacks to Mr. Gatti’s ensued. I was told I would be able to play skeeball if I wanted. I said yes, obviously.

I’ll admit, before yesterday I’d never set foot in any Dave and Buster’s. The lure of game play alongside the availability of alcohol was intriguing, sure, but never enough to sway me. The new look is pretty striking. Big screens, modern d├ęcor, and lots and lots of flashy games.

I sampled some of the menu items. On a scale of food court to upscale restaurant fare, it ranks somewhere around a TGI Friday’s. And sometimes, that’s all you really want. There are piles of nachos, buffalo wings, hot dogs wrapped up in soft pretzel dough, and a monstrous salad known as “The Lawnmower.” I’ll admit I have a soft spot for this kind of stuff. I blame my Midwestern upbringing, salty over-processed chicken wings and anything served with ranch sauce signals “fun” in my brain. Every once in a while I have to indulge – be it a Chik-fil-A sandwich, nuggets, an order of buffalo wings, or a road trip McDonald’s Filet o Fish. I’m not too proud to admit that I occasionally dabble in these “foods.”

Walking through the midway, I was surprised at how strong my own urge was to jump in and play. There have been some significant technological developments in arcade gaming since my Mr. Gatti’s days. Star Wars, Fruit Ninja, four-way air hockey, they’re all here, wrapped around a brightly lit bar.

The bottom line is that if you find yourself at Dave and Buster's, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the renovations and the expanded menu. The food itself isn’t worth the drive up to the outer limits of I-275, but D&B has clearly taken some care to keep its food offerings current and give the place a more modern look. It’s a Las Vegas casino experience for someone who would rather play skeeball than black jack. And if that’s you, well, you’re an arcade gamer after my own heart.

Disclosure, my meal was free. I had to leave before I could actually play skeeball.