Make it up as we go along

man in white shirt and black pants sitting on bench holding an ipad

Stock-photo tablet and overalls man, for no reason whatsoever. (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com)

This morning, while I pedaled up the 1st Ave. bike lane, I felt on the cusp of making some brilliant connection between one of the things I love about baseball and one of things I find most frustrating about the coronavirus shutdown. Then, with no inciting incident whatsoever, I went flying over my handlebars.

Don’t freak out, Mom: I’m fine. I was wearing a helmet, and playing football for my entire youth taught me how to tuck in all my body parts when I fall. I have some scrapes and bruises and it kind of looks like I got punched in the nose, but mostly I’m just stunned that it happened.

I’ve been on a bike at least 3,000 times in my life, easily. I’ve been doored. I’ve been clipped by cars. I’ve fallen off to the side while avoiding hazards, and I’ve tumbled over when my wheel got caught in a trolley rut. But the first time I’ve ever flipped over my handlebars was this morning, on a day when seeking medical attention for anything but the gravest of illnesses makes you an a-hole, while the roads were close to empty, in a spot where I’ve biked hundreds of times before.

And I wasn’t biking recklessly! Best I can figure, if anything besides total randomness caused it to happen today, it was that I was riding my wife’s bike because my own has a flat (the ‘rona has prevented me from getting it fixed), and it’s balanced a bit differently than mine. Also, maybe, I got lulled into a false sense of security by how few cars and pedestrians and other cyclists are around. I felt like a damn fool, either way. Still do. I’m going to be more careful next time.

That’s an excuse for my inability to better connect the following two facts, which I know to be related somehow:

1) There are obviously different levels at which the coronavirus sucks, and I still don’t want to complain too much while me and my loved ones are all (knocking wood) healthy. But one of the things I find most frustrating about the shutdown is the lack of a clear end date.

I recognize that the nature of such things is that we will not and should not get a clear end date until it’s nearly upon us, so I’m not asserting that someone should give us some official quarantine release day before science can offer one. I’m just saying, I think this would be a lot easier to bear if I could know exactly when I can do stuff again.

Think about it this way: For some reason, you are put in charge of the coronavirus — possibly because A-Rod turned down the job. And Ron Science, unimpeachable King of Science, tells you that you have two options:  A) You could let this all play out — keep everything closed, maintain social distancing, etc — to see what happens and maintain hope, without certainty, that the virus runs its course or has some sort of cure by early June. Or B) You can agree to keep everything shut down until exactly July 16, at which point you can safely go outside.

I’d definitely choose B. If I knew precisely how long this was going to last, I could better map out how to spend this time, and I’d have something to look forward to when it’s over. Part of what makes having to stay inside all the time and avoid human interaction so harrowing is not having any idea how long it has to last.

0_ZfzG-e5kmxLPR_lT2) I have very little interest in watching sporting events when I know the outcome. I DVR every Georgetown basketball game so I can start watching a little late and fast-forward through commercials, but if I see a phone notification with a score update, I always wind up advancing until the score is the one I just saw.

Same thing with baseball. I think a big part of sports’ appeal to me is that they’re unscripted; no one knows what’s going to happen, and then you watch it unfold at the arena or in the stadium or on your television. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it’s thrilling and sometimes it’s anti-climactic, but it’s always spontaneous and urgent.

I don’t begrudge people their right to enjoy baseball however they want to enjoy baseball, and I certainly understand why MLB Network and SNY and other outlets in the business of broadcasting baseball games might re-air “classic” games for as long as there are no new ones.

But I’m sure that if someone gave me the choice between rewatching Game 5 of the 2017 World Series — maybe the best and wildest game I’ve ever seen — or checking out some random, hard-fought Twins-Tigers tilt from June, 2009, I’d choose the latter unless the person spoiled the final score or told me why it was worth watching. It might take some mental gymnastics to convince myself it was happening live, especially once I saw Nick Punto, but at the very least it’d be new to me.

The connection between points 1 and 2, I think, goes back to the thing I once wrote about baseball serving as an orderly plane to help us sort out our real-life trials. Not knowing what’s going to happen makes baseball incredible. Not knowing what’s going to happen next makes real life agonizing.

Here’s a poll:

 

Sandwich of the Week!

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Sandwich of the Week is going to be homemade-sandwich heavy for the run of the TedQuarters revival. I want to support my local sandwich institutions, of course, and perhaps I’ll review some of them in this space, but I’m also trying to do the responsible thing and stay inside as much as possible.

People often give me spices and condiments as gifts, which I appreciate. I can and sometimes do make my own barbecue rub, but the gift of barbecue rub is one I’m always going to use eventually, which is more than I can say for dress slacks.

I haven’t exactly mapped out this site’s Operation Shutdown content, but I assume a lot of the food I prepare and write about here will include random ingredients I already had in my kitchen, as this seems like a good opportunity to use some of them up. That may make it difficult for you to accurately recreate these sandwiches at home. But it’s all jazz, baby. Seek not instructions here. Seek inspiration.

The sandwich: Roast beef, spinach and potato chips with club sauce on lightly toasted wheat bread.

The construction: I started with a rump roast I got from Crowd Cow, a reliably excellent source of meat that I’m going to endorse here because a) it’s a useful resource in these times and was actually available to deliver meat to me sooner than FreshDirect could, and b) we both get $25 credits if you sign up here with my referral code. Tacky, I know. But it’s not like I’m asking you to patreon me. We all get discounted meat out of this.

On the roast, I used a liberal sprinkling of Trader Joe’s coffee-garlic barbecue rub, which is delicious, and which I get as a gift frequently enough that I pretty much always have some around. Here’s how to approximate it if you don’t have access to it. Here’s the roast, with the rub, on the grill:

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Hardcore grill heads might note that I’m cooking it over indirect heat with a chunk of oak thrown in with the charcoal. But again, don’t fret about the specifics. I’m sure you can roast a perfect rump in your oven if you don’t have a fancy barbecue.

The potato chips were Kettle-band Spicy Queso chips from a half-eaten bag I had in my kitchen. I wanted to put sliced cucumber on the sandwich, but opted for baby spinach when I opened the fridge and learned we had no cucumbers. For the sauce, I took a sweet red-pepper jelly of forgotten origin that was on my refrigerator door, then mixed it with mayo, a little yellow mustard for tang, and salt and pepper.

Mixing roughly one part jelly — any sort of jelly, really — with three parts mayo makes for a shockingly good sandwich topping. I got the idea from No. 7 Sub sandwich guru Tyler Kord’s A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches, which I wholeheartedly recommend. 

Important background information: I never spent a whole lot of time thinking about roast beef until I worked at the deli. We often had it around my house growing up — I’m pretty sure it’s my dad’s favorite lunchmeat — but it was never something I went out of my way to order.

But one regular customer at the deli forced a frequent consideration of roast beef. Her name was Gae. She owned the smoke shop around the corner, she never wanted anything at the deli besides roast beef, and she only wanted roast beef it was extremely rare.

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We went through about one roast every three days, but she only ever wanted it — on a platter with gravy and french fries — if it could be sliced from the very middle of the roast. So instead of walking about 100 yards to survey the roast beef every day at noon, she’d call to check in. She had an incredible voice — a thick, sludgy New York accent with the gravelly growl of someone who not only smoked constantly but also spent most of her waking hours inside a small smoke-filled room. And she apparently had no time whatsoever for pleasantries.

“Hello, De Bono’s,” I’d say when I picked up the phone.

“IS IT RARE?” she’d ask. I knew to expect her call every day, so I always kept tabs on the roast beef.

“Hi, Gae. Yes, it’s rare.”

“I LIKE IT STILL MOOING.”

“Come on over, Gae. I’ll get it ready for you.”

Gae was right. Rare roast beef is the best and most flavorful form of that meat. And I’ve roasted beef of various cuts with plenty of success, but until last night, I never really nailed the interior rareness I was looking for.

I think some of it was that the roast was still frozen in the very center when I put it on the grill, and some of it was dumb luck: A drunk lady visiting my neighbor popped her head over the fence and started a conversation with me while I meant to be checking on the meat. The grill got to a way higher temperature than I wanted, and the first time I stuck the meat thermometer in, it was already at 125-degrees in the middle. The innermost parts of big cuts of meat continue gaining temperature for about 10 minutes after you pull them off the grill (there’s science to this), so I took it off right then, let it rest for a while, and cut it open to find the beautiful interior redness you can see in the photo above.

What it looks like:

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How it tastes: Folks, I have made so many freaking sandwiches in my life. So many. Tens of thousands, easily. This might have been the best.

And that’s both alarming and liberating, because it’s really not a sandwich I spent a whole lot of time planning. I had a rump roast I wanted to turn into roast beef. I had some potato chips and some spinach. I had a random half-eaten jar of red-pepper jelly in the fridge. I had bread. I made a sandwich.

But what a sandwich! The beef was juicy, tender, salty and meaty, and still warm from the grill. The potato chips added some spice and a powerful crunch, the sauce was sweet,  tangy and peppery. The spinach means it’s good for you.

The bread was a bit overmatched by the bulk of the sandwich and the juiciness of the beef, but it died a hero, for sure.

What it costs: $25 less than it would if you didn’t use my Crowd Cow referral code.

Hall of Fame? Yup.

We’re going to make it through this.

This Week in Taco Bell: The Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuit Taco is terrible

Hey y’all! Remember Taco Bell Tuesday? I’m now doing basically the exact same thing, except it counts as part of my job and it happens on Wednesday.

For The Win

Look upon this Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuit Taco and despair, for it might just be the worst thing I have ever eaten at Taco Bell:

(USA TODAY Sports) (USA TODAY Sports)

Mere hours after I sampled Taco Bell’s Biscuit Taco breakfast for the first time, Taco Bell announced that it will provide free Biscuit Tacos to all customers from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on May 5, the same day it will introduce its new Diablo Sauce at restaurants nationwide.

But unless some added heat can save the woeful breakfast dish, true Taco Bell enthusiasts will be best served skipping the lines that morning and showing up at 11:15 a.m. for traditional Taco Bell lunch. Thanks, Taco Bell, but no thanks. The Biscuit Taco is terrible.

Before I go on, I should note that I hoped to try the Biscuit Taco in its more heralded, Crispy Chicken incarnation. But though multiple menu…

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Chicago has the best sandwich in the world and most people don’t even know it

Hey, anyone who still sometimes checks TedQuarters! I wrote a thing about the breaded steak sandwich from Ricobene’s, the best-rated sandwich in this site’s history. People seem to be enjoying it.

For The Win

The Breaded Steak sandwich. (PHOTO: Rosario Ricobene/Ricobene's) The Breaded Steak sandwich. (PHOTO: Rosario Ricobene/Ricobene’s)

The next paragraph of this post contains a bold and speculative claim about a sandwich, but I need you to understand that it is not an unresearched one. I worked in a deli, making sandwiches, for three years. At my last job, I regularly wrote sandwich reviews. I have traveled to 42 states and 20 countries and eaten sandwiches in most of them. I know sandwiches, I promise.

And the breaded steak sandwich from Ricobene’s in Chicago is the best sandwich in the world. Mark it down.

When ordered with mozzarella cheese and hot giardiniera — those are important — the sandwich presents a combination of flavors and textures that bests every single one of the thousands of other sandwiches I’ve sampled in my 34 years.

The primary ingredient, the eponymous breaded steak, is exactly what it sounds like. But even by the…

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Conan O’Brien got to tour the Taco Bell test kitchen and I’m still on the outside like a stooge

Just because I never update TedQuarters doesn’t mean it’s not Taco Bell Tuesday.

For The Win

Conan O’Brien toured Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, Calif. for a segment on his eponymous TBS show that aired last week. It was all very funny, and the beloved late-night host even got to try something called a Quesalupa — an experimental product that presumably includes some combination of meat, cheese, beans, tortilla, sour cream and tomatoes.

Apparently men of Conan O’Brien’s stature can just waltz on in to the Taco Bell test kitchen, a veritable El Dorado for all us shmos out here waiting on our invites. And to be fair, he deserves it: O’Brien, certainly, has loads of talent and worked hard to get where he is, so we shouldn’t begrudge him the incredible opportunity we ourselves have been so long denied.

It’s just a bit frustrating, is all.

A little background: I am not just this site’s de facto Taco Bell beat writer. I am also…

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How should Derek Jeter leave the field in his last game at Yankee Stadium?

Lots of Photoshopping for the people.

For The Win

On Thursday night, legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter will play in his final game at Yankee Stadium. And though the club already celebrated Jeter’s exceptional career with Derek Jeter Day on Sept. 7, the future Hall of Famer will certainly acknowledge the adoring Bronx crowd in some way one last time before he heads to Boston on Friday for the last series of his career.

Here are five suggestions for how Derek Jeter should leave the field in his last game at Yankee Stadium:

1. Classily

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If you’re a gambler, bet on this one: Sometime late in the game, Jeter takes the field to start an inning. Manager Joe Girardi sends out a defensive replacement, and Jeter exits to thunderous applause and 50,000 strong chanting his name. He doffs his cap to the crowd, acknowledges his teammates and coaches, and disappears into the clubhouse. Dramatic photographs of Jeter leaving the…

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New bat designs could help Major Leaguers, if they’d only use them

Reblogging this here because it’s a) about baseball, b) something I spent a long time on and c) a topic touched upon here back in 2010.

For The Win

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins (USA TODAY Sports Images) Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins (USA TODAY Sports Images)

This is hardly a secret: Offensive numbers are way down around Major League Baseball. The league-wide OPS sits at .703, the lowest mark in over two decades. Pitchers throw harder. Strikeout rates have skyrocketed. Aggressive defensive shifts turn more hard-hit balls into outs. In short, it’s just not an easy time to be scoring runs in the big leagues.

But there’s a potential advantage already available to hitters, and precious few Major Leaguers have even given it a try.

Multiple companies produce bats with ergonomic knobs that have been shown to improve the speed, power, and control of hitters’ swings and reduce the hand injuries and discomfort common with conventional bats.

(PHOTO: Baden Sports) (PHOTO: Baden Sports)

“The initial reaction is that it looks like a malfunction happened in the factory,” said University of Memphis manager Daron Schoenrock, whose team exclusively uses Baden Sports’ Axe…

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Controversial former Braves closer John Rocker to compete on ‘Survivor’

Great news, everybody!

For The Win

John Rocker. (PHOTO: Erik S. Lesser/AP Photo) John Rocker. (PHOTO: Erik S. Lesser/AP Photo)

Retired MLB pitcher John Rocker, a less endearing version of Kenny Powers who had about three good seasons in a career that ended over a decade ago, will compete on the CBS show Survivor this season, according to Entertainment Weekly. It makes sense, because John Rocker absolutely will not go away.

While serving as the Braves’ closer, Rocker became an infamous baseball villain after a hateful 1999 interview with Sports Illustrated in which he seemed to haphazardly spew racist and bigoted remarks in every direction possible, targeting — among others — foreigners in general, an African-American teammate, gay people, people with dyed hair, young mothers, and people who don’t speak English.

Rocker somehow had even less control of his pitches than he did of his mouth, and never found any success in three separate Major League stops after leaving Atlanta in the…

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Bobby Bowden does not know how to order at Taco Bell

Hey, remember Taco Bell Tuesday? Been meaning to revive it here for a while. But in lieu of that, here’s a whole lot of important Taco Bell analysis on a Tuesday. Thanks for checking TedQuarters still. Miss you, TedQuarters!

For The Win

(PHOTO: USA TODAY Sports Images) (PHOTO: USA TODAY Sports Images)

For a celebrated gridiron strategist, legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden takes an absolutely pathetic approach to ordering Taco Bell. In a Tuesday ask-me-anything session on Reddit, a user asked Bowden what he recommended at the Mexican-inspired fast food chain. Bowden responded:

Wooh. Gosh, seldom do I eat at Taco Bell, I’m not sure. I don’t know. I guess I’d look to see what the most expensive thing was and go ahead and buy it. Hoping that they know what they’re talking about.

Just throw as much money at it as you possibly can: The New York Yankees method of fast-food ordering. Is that what works in college football recruiting? Wait, don’t answer that.

While “seldom do I eat at Taco Bell” sounds like a fancy way of saying, “I’m better than you and MexiMelts both,” what follows here is advice for…

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Wu-Tang Clan member calls Bill Belichick an emotionless narcoleptic

Relevant to our interests.

For The Win

Wu-Tang Clan rapper Inspectah Deck shackled the masses with drastic football analysis on Friday, taking to Twitter to mock the New England Patriots.

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As a point of reference, here is a photo of Bill Belichick from a recent press conference:

And here’s “ol Hugo Boss ad lookin ass” Tom Brady modeling for Glaceau Smartwater:

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Deck — also known as the Rebel INS — confirmed that he is a New York Giants fan, as one might have guessed from the way he slams tracks like quarterback sacks from L.T.

Also active on Instagram at @INS_tagrams, Deck engaged Twitter followers in football talk while he awaits processing on charges from the system for murdering the rhythm.

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