Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Traveler

As I mentioned before, and relentlessly on Twitter, I was out of town last week. Doing my best version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Except, less funny, and more warm weather.

I was sent to sunny Orlando to do corporate type of stuff, attend a small conference, discuss business things, talk about projections, clientele portfolios, corporate bankruptcies, mergers, acquisitions, ugh. What did I learn?

I love warm weather.
This is what February is like! It sucks.

On the night of my arrival, I showed up checked in, and ended up deciding to eat at an outdoor restaurant that night along with some fellow travelers. There I was, in February, wearing  a T-Shirt and eating outdoors. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

I discovered that my TSA screeners leaving my home town were pretty darn nice. They smiled, laughed, and chit-chatted with the line of people being herded into the millimeter scanning device. I kept thinking that I’d been warned online recently that one of the see-through-my-clothes technologies that are currently being used has recently been discovered to emit a very high dose of radiation, much more than would normally be considered safe… I read it very recently, I recall that since it isn’t a medical device, it doesn’t fall under any oversight from a party that has standards for that sort of thing, so the manufacturers are pummeling us with X-Rays in much higher doses than we’d get from something in a doctor’s office to see if we’ve broken bones.

Scary stuff. All I needed was to remember if it was the millimeter scanning device or something else. Dammit. I couldn’t even recall where I’d read the article. I do remember thinking it was relatively well cited, and at least felt like it was researched appropriately.

So, I worried a bit about developing some horrid tumor as a result. But I let it go.

Also, Orlando has Disney World and Universal Studios theme parks already – but really, the whole city is like an amusement park. I live in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. I know what those places are like. Locally, we’ve got Pigeon Forge, nothing but putt-putt courses and go cart tracks for 10 miles. Right next to that is Gatlinburg, a ski resort with 3 slopes, 4 malls, 155 restaurants and a few live shows.

This is what Orlando was like. Except without all the water... or sand.

Orlando is the same way, just a thousand times more of it. It’s weird to go to city that big that has no real industry aside from tourism. Great for a few days, but no character that I could discern from my hotel window – or from the short time I spent wondering the streets there.

I did however, manage to go to a Brazilian Steakhouse while there. A nice place in the Universal Studios bar/restaurant district. There was live music on a giant stage, some guy playing some sort of Latin American flamingo, actually, I was a bit confused by the mashup of cultures represented there, so despite it being a Brazilian steakhouse – it seemed to have a much more in common with the Mexican restaurants I’ve seen.

Not in the menu, but in the décor and music. I mean, ethnically, Brazil is Portuguese, there was no love lost with them and the Spaniards that settled over most of the continent. I suppose in the centuries since then things have been muddled somewhat. And of course I probably shouldn’t be looking for nuances in cultures to be represented at an amusement park restaurant.

But here’s the thing that actually bugged me: they come out and immediately begin talking up their signature dish - Skirt Steak.

I’m not a real foodie, but when I go to a place that is planning on charging me – er, the company I work for – upwards of a $100 for my meal, I’m not that thrilled with Skirt Steak being the main entrée.

The story I was told, and I have no idea of its validity, but I’d heard it since I was a kid spending my summers in Texas, was that skirt steak grew in popularity because it was so tough that butchers had a hard time selling it to customers and it was commonly thrown out.

So the hungry and poor residents of many towns would take this otherwise unwanted cut of meat for almost nothing, and work it relentlessly to soften it up so it could be used. It became used in fajitas and other meals where it could be cut into bit sized chunks and eaten thusly.

I’ve cooked with skirt steak, I found nothing in my dealings with that meat to dissuade me from believing that story. It’s like trying to soften up wood.

So, I watched as every single person in my group orders the skirt steak. I, having a very hard time thinking it would be good as a main course, ordered the chicken. Everyone ate in silence.  Eventually, once our plates were taken, I asked how it was.

“Not the best steak in the world,” seemed to be the consensus.

I raised my eyebrows, and folks began to clarify: “It was a bit tough. Tasty, but tough.”

Sometimes, you just have to take things on faith. I took it on faith that skirt steak should never be used as a main course in a meal. I really liked my chicken. I know this is stupid, but I like to think that if a big brained cow is going to have to die for me to have a meal, then I better damned well enjoy it. Otherwise, it died in vain. My level of guilt is somewhat less for a chicken.

That said, I’d love some fajitas.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Chicken fajitas weren't an option?

Gail said...

Sounds like an adventure anyway...being fried from unmeasurable death rays, bored by the dull scenery and attempted to by poisoned by a piece of a cow all with the great culture melting pot surrounding you...a true twilight zone!

Nancy said...

I've often said that I'd be just fine with no seasonal changes, just varying degrees of warm all year. Then I could visit places when I wanted to see some leaves or some snow. Glad you are home safely. Hope you have no tumors growing from the x-rays.

Grumpy Bulldog, Media Mogul said...

I'd love to be able to do the snowbird thing and go south where it's warm in the winter and then north where it's cool (and less hurricaney) during the summer.

So if those devices at airports really are so radioactive, how fast do you think George Clooney's character in "Up in the Air" would be dying of cancer? I mean if you were going through one of those like every 3 days, it would seem to be pretty lethal.

Matthew MacNish said...

Now I'm hungry.

mshatch said...

I'm with you on the warm weather. We've had a ridiculously mild winter here in Maine but I'm still dying for summer. I could easily turn into a snowbird.

Jay Noel said...

I went to Orlando, Disney World, in early February for business too. It was incredible, but sucked that my family wasn't with me.

And skirt steak is terrible! I'd rather eat a hamburger.

Brinda said...

I love warm weather, Orlando, amusements parks, etc. so your business trip would have been to my liking.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I love fajitas, warm weather, and any place that has palm trees. You can keep all the snow covered, icy cars and terrain.

Tonja said...

I hope some part of your trip was entertaining. Why do TSA guys need to radiate citizens traveling within the country - I don't get it.

Cindy said...

I'm like you. Unless I know what it is, I won't order it. Too risky!

I was reading your tweets too. I thought you were on vacation. Maybe I missed a tweet? :) said...

I find the best places to eat are rarely where the tourists are. Last time I was in New Orleans I asked a waiter at a bar where the best place to eat was... where did HE go for good food.

I walked to an area that started to frighten me to find a big Cajun stirring a huge pot outside with a boat oar. Seems I was just in time to "suck some head."

You can imagine the expression on my face when he said that... but that's the local term for eating crawfish, since you suck the juice out of... it's brains. Yep, brain juice. It's pretty damned tasty if you don't think about what you're doing... and what they call it.

And yes, if you're going to make a steak, make a steak that will make me have a foodgasm or don't waste the beef!

D.G. Hudson said...

Orlando is for kids, but I did go to see the Terminator show at Universal.

Good thing you know your beef and cuts of meat. I usually avoid the 'special' unless it's something I would have ordered anyway. Food was cheaper than that in Paris in some of the cafes.

Interesting post and photos.

Andrew Leon said...

Well, you know, I'm sure it's just more money for them when they sell the cheapest stuff as the main dish.

Speaking of... lobster used to be considered trash food, too. In fact, it was considered "cruel and unusual" to feed it to convicts more than once or twice a week.
double heh

Trisha said...

"This is what Orlando was like. Except without all the water... or sand." niiice :)

boopia said...

I love getting out of the cold in the winter. It is good for the soul. Skirt steak if properly marinated is NOT tough...danged brazilians. But hopefully, being Brazilian, there was no pubic hair at least?

Danette said...

I hate cold weather and it's been pretty mild here in CO than usual. But still SICK OF IT! You should have headed down to Key West. There's plenty of character even though it's a tourist town. If you stay away from the tourist drag, Duval, you can just fall in love with the quaintness of the place.

Melissa Bradley said...

Since I live in a neighborhood of carnicerias, fruiterias and panaderias, skirt steak is pretty much a staple, so when I go out, I never order it.

I love fajitas whether steak or chicken. And you're right, when the cow has sacrificed itself, we should have a superdelicious meal and not something average.