Friday, May 29, 2009

Get Me Saint Patrick's Number!

Here's something you don't see every day. I had finished up some work on the laptop last night, and everyone else was already in bed fast asleep. I went to the kitchen to shut off the lights, and was startled out of my flip-flops by a sixteen-inch garter snake staring up at me from the linoleum floor.
We're having the exterior of Casa Scampwalker painted, and we discovered that about a dozen of the critters were taking up residence in our firewood that needed to be moved away from the house. So I'm guessing that's where they came from, but still... you really don't expect to see a snake making himself at home in your kitchen.
I tiptoed out to the garage without disturbing him (I didn't want him slithering down a floor vent), and pinned the little guy down with a broom. He was liberated to the neighbor's yard, but if he makes a return trip, he won't be so lucky.
Perhaps it's payback for this little episode:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Night With Trent & Perry

I did something I wouldn't normally do last night. A good buddy and I went to the Jane's Addiction/Nine Inch Nails Show at Starlight. I think I've heard one or two NIN songs in my life -- but even so, it was a blast. There was no opening act -- kind of refreshing. The Nails just got on stage and started doing it. They were a lot of fun, although they did seem to fiddle a lot with drum machines, synthesizers, etc. In my book, that's a no-no. Show your chops, not your programming skills. Trent Reznor looked muscle-bound and pissed, as you'd expect.
But on this dank and dark night, Jane's Addiction stole the show. Maybe it was something about Perry Farrel's gold lamé jumpsuit and natty neckerchief, but they rocked -- especially for guys near or past the half-century mark.
I can't let the occasion slip without a comment about the crowd. Virtually everyone around me had earplugs in. Since when did the headbangers from Raytown start caring about their hearing? Probably something that I should have thought of 25 years ago. But if you're going to spend upwards of $50 for a ticket, why would you wear earplugs? Kids these days.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An Embarrassment of Riches

Every once in awhile, an evening comes together. I had one of those over MemDay weekend. My parents visited, and the weekend was full of wine (OK, some Spanish tempranillo, plus gin and Sailor Jerry rum), women (OK, my mom, my wife, and my daughter) and song (OK, most of it was typical Scampwalker family trading of stories).

At any rate, on Saturday night, after a rousing game of ladderball (in which the boys won, thank you very much), I put together a pretty damned fine menu, if I do say so myself. Here's the deets:
  • Axis Venison Chops, marinated in pomegranate juice, olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs. Like the t-bones before them, they kicked ass. They were less tender, but the flavor was the same - earthy, but not gamey. I seared them again on the grill, served rare (natch).
  • Brown Rice with Dried Cherries, Toasted Pine Nuts, and Tarragon. This was a little ditty I threw together on the fly... it turned out better than it should have. Mrs. Scampwalker prepared our usual brown rice in the Neuro Fuzzy, and I threw in the rest, along with a couple of pats of brown butter. It complemented the beefiness of the venison beautifully.
  • Split & Grilled Artichokes. This was one I learned at a place in SoCal (Seal Beach?)with GrandBetty & RonDad, and we make it often. Parboil the 'chokes, split them, and grill them split side down. Serve with mayo, worcestershire sauce, lemon, and a dash of Tabasco. In season, and cheap.
  • White Crappie Ceviche on Organic Leaf Lettuce. This little riff was the pièce de résistance, in my opinion. Also the most expensive, at over $60/lb. If you know ceviche, then you know it's all about freshness. This fish was 18 hours from hook and line to plate and fork (actually, a scallop shell). Served on a bed of Scampwalker's own tender leaf lettuce and arugula.
The point of this is that it all (ok, most of it) came naturally to us. The family cameraderie, the fun, and the meal. The venison is documented here, the artichokes were in season (common sense prevents us from buying $4.00 vegetables in dead winter, and rice we got from the local Asian market), but a $225 10-hour crappie trip is totally copasetic.
That's where the kids come in. I've taken them fishing plenty, but I really wanted them to experience it from a boat and really tear it up. I called Brent Frazee, the KC Star's outdoor editor, and he pointed me to Chatt Martin, crappie assassin extroidinaire. In fact, I didn't know the lake we were fishing until the day before -- Chatt is so plugged in that he gets on-demand reports from every credible crappie pro in the Sunflower State, and Melvern was hot last Friday.
And so we went. A long, hot, windless day later, we cranked in about 100 slabs... and Jack, the nine-year-old wunderkind, was responsible for an estimated 60% of them. Of the 100 we caught, we probably took 25 home that were over the 10-inch size restriction. Of the 75 we threw back, 60 were within a half inch of getting filleted.
An embarrassment of riches indeed. I'm a lucky man.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stone Coyotes: The Best Rock and Roll Band You've Never Heard Of

I'm sitting on my deck this fine Memorial Day listening to Rude Awakening, the latest effort by the Stone Coyotes. They're a curious trio from western Massachusetts (a location not exactly known as a hotbed of musical creativity). The 'Yotes quirky composition is well-documented: a family band that has Mom (Barbara Keith) on guitar and vocals, Dad (Doug Tibbles) on drums, and Stepson (John Tibbles) on bass. And they've been doing it for a little over a decade, with nine kick-ass albums to show for it.
This isn't really a review of their new album (I just downloaded it from CD Baby this morning, so I haven't had a chance to let it sink in yet), but it's a major plug for the band in general. I think I probably first heard these guys on the now-defunct XM 12 Cross Country. It's a well-documented shame that the brain trust behind Sirius-XM decided to get rid of that format in favor of so-called "Outlaw Country," which vascillates between the pointlessly profane and the cornpone. But I digress...
Anyhow, the Stone Coyotes exist somewhere amid the power chords of AC/DC, the literate lyrics of James McMurtry, and the searing vocals of vintage Pat Benetar. I only wish they'd come through the Midwest so I could see 'em live. At the very least, you should pick up a disc or download an album. Rock on.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ode to the Egg

My love affair with eggs began as a snot-nosed tyke, when I told Papa Scampwalker that "you make the bestest eggs that anybody ever had did, Dad." True story.
Over the course of the years, eggs and I grew apart like old college friends. I still liked them, I enjoyed their company when they appeared, but when they were out of sight -- they were out of mind.
Over the past couple of months, I've experienced an egg renaissance - a rekindling of the flame. It started, oddly enough, with a posting on the work bulletin board that screamed to me: FARM FRESH EGGS. It was posted by a co-worker, whose daughter had an assortment of egg-laying hens she was raising. In an effort to teach her a few lessons about free enterprise, her dad indicated he was taking egg orders for her, and they'd be delivered every Tuesday evening, for easy pick-up right there in the company parking lot. I'm not sure how successful she's been, but I hope she never quits.
Ever since my weekly egg fix, I've realized the power of the unrealized chicken. The beauty of farm-raised eggs is apparent just by opening the carton. No two are remotely the same. White, brown, mottled, bumpy, smooth... all different. Cracking every shell holds the promise of a potential double-yolker, and even the yolks of the single ones are sunnier than anything that you can find in a grocery store.
The recipes, of course, are innumerable, from the sublime cream scrambled eggs with black truffle to the proletariat fried egg sandwich to the fit-for-a-meal tortilla espanola. Here's one I'm presently gorging myself on:
Dill, Pepper, Dill, and Creamy Chevre OmeletPre-heat 10-inch, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Whisk two farm-fresh eggs, in a small bowl with ~1 tbs. of half-and-half. Spray pan with olive oil, and pour in eggs. Lightly salt and pepper, then add dollops of capricho de cabra (soft goat cheese) down the center of the omelet. Sprinkle chopped marinated red peppers (found on most grocery store olive bars), along with chopped fresh dill. Let egg set until semi-firm, then fold into thirds and flip. The chevre should just melt, and the egg should (mostly) firm up. Serve immediately, with strong french roast coffee and fresh-squeezed OJ.

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Life's Waitin' Up The Road For You And The Future's In Your Hands..."

My 40th birthday celebration is history, and as such, you sometimes need a day or two to reflect on what it all meant. (I also needed that long to catch up on sleep.)
Long story short, I rounded up several close friends and trekked to Manhattan to see Reckless Kelly play a show. If you know me, you know what I think about RK. If you don't know me, you can still know RK. Just go to their website or mySpace page and give them a listen. Then magnify that by 100 and you'll start understanding the energy they put into a live show. Hell, I even named this fine blog in their honor. But more on that later.

After one night of extended revelry in The Hat, the bulk of the group went back home while D-Dub and I followed the band to Lincoln for his 45th birthday celebration -- 24 hours after mine.
I could wax philosophic about all sorts of things, but instead, here are a few choice observations from the two nights on the road:
  • Sharing your birthday with a handful of friends aged 26 to 45 is damned fun and more than a bit humbling. Thankfully, on this night anyhow, the younger set helped the old guys stay out of too much trouble. Thanks to the posse... I'd be proud to be yours one day.
  • The So Long Saloon makes a damned fine bleu cheese burger.
  • The RK boys once again proved that beyond being amazing musicians, they're all gentlemen. Your parents raised you right, fellas.
  • The best place outside the Lone Star State to see a Reckless show is at Longhorn's. A consistently good, knowledgeable, and friendly crowd.
  • Seeing Reckless Kelly without David Abeyta just ain't the same. Prayers to you and your family, David.
  • Gravity isn't just a good idea, it's the law.
  • Thankfully (for all involved), I've decided that I am a much better parent and husband than a musician or groupie. I'm still grateful that my wife lets me play rock star wannabe now and then, though.
  • When the bus starts moving, it's time to leave.

Thanks to everyone for their well wishes and friendship. The older I get, the more it means.

*Blog post title from Wild Western Windblown Band, written by Bruce Hauser, as sung by Reckless Kelly

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Soy Jodiendo Cuarenta...

That may be an incorrect translation, and forgive me for the self indulgence, but I'm 40 today. If you've been there, you get it. If not, then screw all of you. This video is a hoot... but fair warning, it's got some blue language. Ok, a bunch.

More on what I'm doing to commemorate in a while...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Last Best Place Proves Why It Is

I know full well that I may get flamed on this post -- and maybe by both sides -- but here goes.

A very interesting battle is shaping up in the great state of Montana, and I'm surprised (but shouldn't be) that the drive-by media hasn't weighed in on it more.

You can read the full AP story here, but I'll try to condense it as I see it. Like many independent-minded, self-reliant folks, Montanans were upset with the federal government's increased meddling in virtually every aspect of their lives (tea parties, anyone?). So the Montana legislature passed (and the governor signed) a bill that exempts from federal law any gun or ammunition manufactured in the Big Sky State, as long as it's only sold and used within its sovereign borders. No registrations, no wait periods, and no background checks. Texas and Alaska are considering similar legislation.

I doubt that Smith and Wesson is talking to relocation experts just yet. But as a man who appreciates fine firearms, the thought of a law that encourages the guild gun trade in the U.S. is exciting to me. Hell, since I'm an out-of-stater, I'd even subject myself to Uncle Sam's rules to get a custom-made, limited run bird gun that's built just for me. Yet another reason to go to Montana again this fall, right?

I suppose it's a gun control issue, but like many, I agree that it's more about the Tenth Amendment than it is the Second Amendment. I give Montana a lot of credit for forcing the issue and standing up to Washington. But in all honesty, I think the bill's supporters have an uphill battle, since it would be a tall order to ensure a gun bought for in-state use didn't leave Montana. Predictably, the antis are screeching a similar tune, but for all the wrong reasons.

"Guns cross state lines and they do so constantly," says Peter Hamm, a mouthpiece for the anti-gun Brady Campaign. "This is a Sagebrush Rebellion-type effort to light some sort of fire and get something going that's pleasing to the gun nuts and that has very little actual sense."

No, Mr. Hamm, you're wrong. Thinking that a thug from South Central LA will travel to Kalispell to pay $7,000 for a custom Mauser makes ZERO sense. Let's enforce laws that are already on the books that are meant to punish the bad guys who use guns to commit crimes. Once we figure that out, then we'll argue about harassing the good folks in Montana.

You heard it here first, folks.

Grilled Axis Venison T-Bones

Last month, while on a turkey hunting trip in South Texas, I had the serendipitous opportunity to shoot a nice mature Axis buck in addition to a gobbler or two. Although I'm more of a bird hunter, I do enjoy big game hunting... and I really love cooking and eatin' me some wild venison.

That's what this post is about. Just last week, we received ~65 pounds of frozen meat from the locker, and I was most intrigued by the packages labeled "t-bone." That's not a usual cut of meat from a deer (most of the best stuff is filleted), but it certainly piqued my curiosity and I decided to thaw a package or two for a Saturday night feast.

So many venison dishes are overcooked and overseasoned, so I decided my preparation would be a simple one: a dash of Penzey's Chicago Steak Seasoning, and that was it. After bringing the Weber Genesis to about 500 degrees, I lowered the temp of my middle burner and seared it for two minutes, then turned it 90 degrees and seared it two more minutes, and repeated the process on the other side.

I topped the venison with vidalia onions, and plated it with grilled green and white asparagus, and a smoked baked potato smothered in with bleu cheese and sauteed mushrooms. To wash it all down, we opened a very tasty bottle of Spanish La Mano Mencia Roble.

As you might guess, it was outstanding. Axis venison is known as one of the best types of deer for the table, and every one of the South Texas guides I hunted with told me it was Axis they had in their freezers 365 days of the year. These chops were right on the money -- full flavored, beefy, and moist -- yet lean and sublime. Like its beef counterpart, keeping the t-bone as part of the cut afforded even more flavor and some bone-gnawing goodness. Not a bad Mother's Day weekend meal!

Monday, May 11, 2009


I'm not sure whether this little snippet, sent to me by a hunting buddy, is bona-fide or not... and I'm sorta hoping it isn't. If it is real, it unequivocally confirms what I've contended for years: there's a real element of society that actually thinks their cow, fish, fowl or pig are spontaneously generated on a styrofoam plate in some sterile lab. Thank God it doesn't have to be that way.

Not long ago, I stumbled across Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, an "honest food" blog that explains my ethos on food much better than I could. Take a look... I have a feeling I'll be expounding on food and critter killin' a lot in the future.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pirates, The Solution

I read this morning that despite the safe resolution of the Maersk Alabama pirate standoff, the buccaneering off the Somali coast shows no signs of stopping. That made me think about a conversation I had a couple weeks ago with some buddies while turkey hunting down in southeast Kansas. Fixing the problem is simple, cheap, and very effective: let Bubba do the job.

Recruit a handful of country boys that understand both self-reliance and the importance of shot placement, and put one on each boat. Offer them a decent salary, give them a dialed-in .300 Win Mag and a Mossberg 500 tactical 12-gauge, and a chance to see the world. I'll guarantee you the Somali thugs won't stand a chance.

Worried about martime law? Seriously? Would any court in America convict a homeowner of manslaughter (much less murder) for shooting a group of armed individuals who set foot on their property with the intent to cause bodily harm and steal property?

The only reason the pirates have succeeded is because they know there's very little risk. It wouldn't take too many 300-yard shots to hit their mark before these cowards decide to take up a less-risky profession.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo at Casa Scampwalker

Every year we try to observe Cinco de Mayo at the hacienda... mostly through culinary exploits. Tonight we're dining on beef fajitas (our last package, no less) from Fiesta Mart in Dallas. Some snobs may cry foul, since these are pre-marinated and ready to go, but I've never heard anyone complain who's actually eaten them. The skirt steak is perfectly trimmed -- not stripped clean of the fat like we get up here in the Midwest -- and the marinade is spot-on. They're ordered fresh from the butcher case, no cryo-vac involved. When we visit the family in Dallas, we typically buy 30 pounds or so and freeze them. Some homemade black bean refritos (with bacon grease, por supuesto) and one of my own creations, highlighted in this post, round out the plate.

This creation is something I can proudly say I came up with on my own: pulled pork and cheese-stuffed jalapeno poppers. That name is way to long and unwieldy -- alternate names are welcome. Anyhow, like most good recipes, this one came from leftovers. I had some spare(homemade) pulled pork in the fridge, and was looking for a new vessel in which to serve it. Needless to say, this little item will never be classified as diet food, but I can honestly say that I've received nothing but high praise -- from Mexican purists to spicy food sissies. Here's the recipe.

  • Combine equal parts (weight-wise) of cream cheese (low fat is fine), shredded cheddar cheese, and pulled pork (I've also used chopped beef brisket with equally good results) in a large mixing bowl. The amounts depends on the number of peppers. For 30 large peppers, I use about 8oz. of each.
  • Add half a bunch of coarsely chopped cilantro, minced garlic, a teaspoon of cumin, and ground chipotle pepper to taste.
  • Blend with an electric hand mixer, and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. The better chilled the stuffing is, the easier it is to stuff the peppers.

  • Get large, glossy, thick-walled jalapenos, preferably with long stems. Make a slit from stem to tip. Use a baby spoon (clever, eh?) to scoop out all seeds and veins (the white, woody portion holding the seeds in the center and on the walls). You can leave the veins in, but it'll result in much hotter peppers.
  • Take the filling out of the fridge, and generously fill each pepper (fingers work as well or better than the spoon).

  • Cut bacon slices in half, and use each piece to wrap the pepper, taking care to cover the incision as much as possible, and secure with a toothpick.
  • Grill over medium, indirect heat. A direct flame underneath results in scorched bacon and an empty jalapeno. Gently turn them as the bacon browns. Goo will drip, but the bacon should brown before the majority leaks out. You're aiming for softened, but not soggy, peppers, semi-crispy bacon, and gooey innards.
  • Serve with copious amounts of beer or tequila.
I'll guarantee you -- you'll get rave reviews and requests for the recipe. Tell 'em Scampwalker sent you.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Playing Possum

This time of year, I love being out on the deck, enjoying the eruption of color as the woods wake up once again. Mrs. Scampwalker was at a wingding this evening, so the kids and I spent some time potting some vegetables and flowers. While admiring our handiwork, I noticed how alive everything was -- simply verdant -- and all was good.

And then I smelled it. It negated all of the hope, possibility, and newness of the season. It was death. And it was near. In the wilds, while hunting, fishing, or hiking, I smell it fairly often... the telltale odor of something gone horribly wrong for some critter. Except this stench was five feet from my back door.

And then I saw it. It was all matted, spiky-haired, and smiling at me slyly, toothily... and very much dead. Possums are some of the ugliest creatures in the world even when they're alive. But when the biggest, ugliest, foulest possum you've ever seen decides to take a dirt nap squarely under your deck, you tend to redefine ugly. And smelly.

I'm the first to admit that I don't handle the stink of rotting flesh very well... at all. No one does, granted, but I'm a barfer. The bile was already in my throat, and I retreated indoors, with the pre-puke spits welling into the back of my mouth.

And then I remembered Hollywood. I can't name the movie, but some cop-drama stars wiped Mentholatum (or was it Vicks? No worry...) under their noses before inspecting a cadaver, which ostensibly drowned out the reek. My son and I would do this together (mostly because I still wasn't sure I could handle it).

I summoned J, and I showed him how to apply the Mentholatum properly (big globs, under each nostril). Tease me if you will, but we both donned semi-surgical-tea-towel-masks as well, assuming that whatever we were up against was much worse than H1N1.

After much scooping, gagging, poking, and facemask-adjusting, we cradled the bastard on a snowshovel and ingloriously threw him into the creek.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I Am So Wealthy

Derby Day is winding down at Casa Scampwalker, and I am booking flights to Kenya for a 10-day African safari for my family, including my bird dogs. We're all flying first class, and after spending a couple days in Nairobi acclimating and sightseeing, we'll head to the bush for a safari, and I'll be able to brag that my pups have pointed birds on two continents.

Not really. But wining $28,440 in fake dough in the Kentucky Derby will make you think that way. We each were dealt $3500 in Monopoly cash, and placed our bets. I threw the most money at the favorites, Friesan Fire and Dunkirk (beautiful gray horse), but I also happened to put $700 on Musket Man and $500 on Mine That Bird. Hey, I liked their names... muskets and birds? Would you expect anything less? Anyhow, Jack-freakin-pot.

Speaking of Jack, he was the only other one to win any money... he had a PioneerOf the Nile bet come in that just about made him even for the day. He says he hates gambling because he hates to lose money (this from the kid who will gladly drop five bucks in the candy aisle). As long as they continue to lose in our silly family bets, I think they'll stay away from the blackjack tables.

So no exotic safari is in the cards, but Kathleen and I did find some good-looking bone-in KC strips on sale at The Hen. Not a bad celebration of a good day.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Gentlemen, Start Your Horses!

Tomorrow is the first Saturday in May -- and for the 135th year, they'll run the ponies at Churchill Downs, known as the "most exciting two minutes in sports." Who am I to argue? Around the Scampwalker household, The Kentucky Derby has become something of an annual tradition. The girls typically don festive headwear, mom and dad sip mint juleps (ok, dad slurps), and we all wager tens of thousands of dollars on our favorite horses.

It's Monopoly money of course, but it's a ton of fun, and it teaches the children valuable lessons about alcohol consumption, gambling, and whipping animals to ensure peak performance. Heck, last year, the horseracing gods even threw in a bonus lesson about life or death. Mrs. Scampwalker's favorite horse (and one of the favorites), Eight Belles, keeled over and went to the glue factory.

Anyhow, we'll have a full report tomorrow on the results.

We Are All Going To Get Sick And Die.

Good Lord, I'm tired of the hysteria over H1N1, commonly (and poorly) referred to as "swine flu." It's getting downright silly. On my way into work this morning, I saw some jackass speeding down I-35 wearing a surgical mask in his own car. The travel department at work announced yesterday that they would make available surgical masks to anyone that was getting on an airplane. A PR agency is handing out earnest (and unsolicited) advice that urges companies to "provide information that informs their employees that the company is monitoring the situation." Seriously? Any idiot with a TV, radio, or web connection is monitoring the situation, whether they want to or not.

Let's get a grip, folks. This ain't that serious. As a former member of the media, I can assure you that there's nothing that puts a gleam in a TV producer's eye like the prospect of some exotic disease with maybe the potential for possible harm. Here's a few things to keep in mind:

  • Whatever Joe Biden says, disregard. This jackass obviously suffers from chronic foot-in-mouth disease.
  • Generally speaking, journalists were the kids who flunked out of biology class. Learning about and explaining health stories takes a lot of time, and let's face it -- our media and the public at large -- isn't willing to take the time to get it right. It's the era of 140-character Twitter posts, after all.
  • Mad Cow Disease, Bird Flu, SARS, West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, Ebola -- remember those? They were supposed to kill us all, too.
  • So say I'm wrong on all this, and we all come down with the flu. What happens? I feel shitty for a few days, I lay around at home and get my fill of The Price Is Right, and I go back to living my life. Of course, the elderly and those with compromised immunity systems are in much greater jeopardy, but not any more so than with the "typical" flu.
  • Thankfully, there are plenty of places to get sane information if you take the time. Let's use some common sense for a change.