Al Dente On The Side: BBQ Chicken Salad

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Macaroni salad is one of my favorite sides, but The Wife is not a big fan. On top of that, it is quite possibly the most boring of the summer salads. Pasta, celery, onion, mayo. Boring.

That said, I like a nice boring mac salad from time to time. But I was confronted with the challenge of how I would get The Wife to eat it. So, I took The Kitchn’s recipe out for a spin.

It was pretty good overall. I made a couple of changes along the way, as I could see myself brining chicken breasts for the purposes of a salad. In addition to making for a good side, this worked out well as lunch for a few days.

BBQ Chicken Salad
Adapted from The Kitchn

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, basted in barbecue sauce and cooked, then diced
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (Kansas City-style)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 12 oz. elbow macaroni
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced

Bring a pan of water to boil over high heat. Add a liberal amount of salt then cook pasta per the directions on the package. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.

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In the meantime, combine veggies and chicken in a large mixing bowl and give it a quick toss with a spoon to combine. Add the mayo, barbecue sauce and vinegar. Mix until everything is well combined.

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Add the pasta to the chicken and veggies. Mix well, coating the pasta in the dressing. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Saturday Dinner: Carne Asada Tacos (or Tacos Con Carne Asada)

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NOTE: Six years of Spanish in middle and high school plus college and tacos con carne asada is all I can give you.

Everyone complains that Taco Bell is terrible. The food is terrible. The meat is low quality. The restaurants are dirty. Me? Taco Bell was great when I was in high school. My biggest problem was how they marketed their food.

Way back in the day, Taco Bell introduced a taco or burrito with grilled carne asada. As a consumer and educated person, this insulted me because carne asada means grilled meat. Thus, you were getting a taco with grilled grilled meat.

(NOTE: That this bothered me may be a reason that I had a rough time making friends and meeting girls when I was younger.) Continue reading

The Hops Spot, Sackets Harbor, N.Y.


One’s dining choices are few when you are wrapping up midday stop at Old McDonald’s Farm in Sackets Harbor. Yes, we could have had lunch at the farm, but I was looking for more than just snack bar fare. Frankly, we needed to move to a place that didn’t have  a gift shop full of toys within eyeshot.

Sackets Harbor itself is a quaint little village on the shore of Lake Ontario that grows in population each summer when vacationers settle in. We had intended to visit the Anchor, but found it closed (contrary to its website’s listing of a Noon opening. We went to Sackets Harbor Brewing Company last year. While the food was good, I was less than impressed with the beer. And, after a morning with The Father, one needs adult refreshment.

There on Main Street, to the left of the brewpub, was The Hops Spot. A streetside menu advertised an interesting array of burgers and 24 beers on tap and won a consensus from the crowd.

An outdoor patio of about a dozen tables precedes your entry to the bar and restaurant. A small dining room with a built-in cushioned bench surrounds the front of the establishment, as do windows with sills full of cookbooks. A large board on the side of the dining room listed the name, strength and price of each beer available. Depending on the time of your visit, 2 to 3 beers from Skewed Brewery — its sister establishment in Salmon Run Mall — are available.

Continue reading

Visiting The Cazenovia Farmers Market

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Saturday saw us (actually me) wake up way too late to make visit the Central New York Regional Market. If you don’t get there before 9 a.m., parking is a beast and the buildings and aisles are difficult to move around with a four-year-old. By the time I stumbled downstairs at 9:30 a.m., The Kid was well into an episode of The Octonauts with no letup in sight. I suggested that we try the Cazenovia Farmers Market and stop at Side Hill Farmers on the way home to get something grillable for dinner.

From Al Dente HQ in Camillus, Cazenovia is a solid 45-minute drive of interstates, rural highways and suburban stop lights. On this particular Saturday, traffic locked up pretty tightly at the corner of Forman and Albany Streets, slowing our progress. That said, we found on street parking right in front of Cannon/Memorial Park (the names are used interchangeably).

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Our first impression came from the size of the market. It was…small. No more than 20 vendors lined the sidewalk on Albany Street near the park with the enormous cannon monument. The names assembled were among the finest in the CNY food sphere: Zimmer Bakes, Navarino Orchard, Drover Hill Farm, and Gianforte Farm among them. Per square foot, I’m not sure there is a finer assemblage of purveyors in one space in this area. That said, it took me 40 minutes to drive one way and we were there for 15 minutes.

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After walking around the park and taking a lap in the village with The Kid, I stopped back to Navarino for an 8-quart basket of Roma tomatoes that have since been turned into Tom Colicchio’s roasted tomatoes.

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If I lived in Fayetteville or Manlius, I would absolutely, without reservations, return. This is a great little market, perfect for the size of the Madison County village. It reminds me of the Rehoboth Beach, Del. Farmers’ Market that brings together artisans and growers each week. With all of the great farms on the West and Southwest sides of Onondaga County, I wish Camillus would pull one like this together.

Cazenovia should be grateful for what it has. Judging by the crowd at 11 a.m. on Saturday, I think it is.

The Cazenovia Farmers Market is operated by the Greater Cazenovia Area Chamber of Commerce. It takes place each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from mid-May to early November at Memorial Park. During the rest of the year, it takes place every third saturday of the month at the American Legion Post 88 at 26 Chenango St. in Cazenovia. Follow them on Facebook.


Grocery List: August 15, 2014

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Just for fun, I forgot to take a photo of my grocery list. I blame The Kid, who was hanging on my arm as I made the list. You see, we had a very important date this morning. Starbucks, Target and Wegmans. The Paventis know how to party. In lieu of a list, here is a photo of the putrid pink carpet that was once wall-to-wall in my house. It has since been removed in order to showcase the original 1920s hardwoods that laid underneath.

Anyhow, last week was a long week. Evening events and morning vomiting led to a seven days that felt like 10. So, here we are, back on Sunday.

A few requests for this week, dear reader:

  1. The Chain Challenge stands at $325. Get in on the action with a donation to my Walk To End Alzheimer’s effort and you can torment me by having to eat at and review a low- to mid-level chain restaurant. It’s more fun than it sounds.
  2. My partner in crime in The Chain Challenge, Brian Moritz, is seeking votes for an opportunity to present at SXSW 2015. Please take a moment to vote for his project.
  3. Take a spin to the Syracuse New Times and make a couple of nominations for its Best of Syracuse 2014. Because I’m a shameless self-promoter, please offer this blog — — up for best local blog. And, since you’re already there, please nominate Walk To End Alzheimer’s as the best organized local walk/run event.

I think that’s it. I have a backlog of writing to do, including a review on a neat little restaurant in Sackets Harbor, a recap of my trip to the Cazenovia Farmers Market and a bunch of recipes that have yet to be written. I’d better get to work…

Send me to SXSW; torment a food snob


A public service announcement from Brian Moritz, my partner-in-crime on The Chain Challenge.

Originally posted on :


I hate using my blog for self promotion and for asking you to do something for me. But I’m part of two exciting projects that I need your help with.

The first deals directly with sports media. I’m a part of a proposed panel for the 2015 South by Southwest Sports conference. Adam Earnheardt, Lauren Reichart Smith, Jimmy Sanderson and I want to do a panel where we talk about the impact of social media on the traditional fan-team-journalist model.

A big part of the selection criteria — 30% — is based on how well we do in this open voting period, which runs into September. You can vote here, or by clicking the button below. You need to register to do so, but it’s free and easy to do so. Adam, Lauren, Jimmy and I thank you for your support!

Vote to see my session at SXSW 2015!

The second is about food.

Jared Paventi, the…

View original 93 more words

What The Hell Is That?: A Story of Leftovers Gone Wrong

So, what happens here at Al Dente HQ when we make too much soup or buy too much meat? We freeze it. You’ve seen this with our periodic Eat The Freezer entries.

More often than not, we bring it back out for a meal to be named later. Sometimes though it gets lost to the deep freeze, only to come back during a cleanout day.

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Al Dente HQ has three freezers. There is the primary freezer located in the kitchen. I have a secondary standalone freezer in my basement that is only slightly warmer than your average cryogenic unit. And then there is the freezer that is part of the 1970s-era refrigerator-freezer in my basement that keeps my beer cold. That is the last option for freezing.

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Sunday became a cleanout day when it became clear that there was not enough space upstairs for us to store any groceries this week. I made my way downstairs and attacked those freezers as well. Anything without a label was immediately discarded. Anything older than eight months went too.

The results were troubling. I found marinara sauce (above) dating to 2012. There were containers of green stuff (below) that could not be identified. There was soup of some sort that predated The Kid. One bag of rolls had more ice crystals than bread.

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My mother would have called this a sin. “It’s a sin to waste all of this food.” (Everything for Northside Italian Catholics was either a blessing or a sin. There was never any middle ground with these people.) She would also have tried to feed us the 4+ year old soup. “It tastes fine,” she would say, her own taste buds fried by years of smoking (Salem Menthol Ultra Light 100s, preceded by Parliament 100s).

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She would have also yelled at me for forcing everything down the garbage disposal. There was a glacially slow melt occurring after dumping everything into the sink. Hot water moved things along slightly, but an extra-large chef’s knife and the disposal helped me clear it all out. As a child, I was constantly accused of trying to break the garbage disposal by, you know, using it.

All told, 12 quarts of frozen liquid and two garbage bags of food were tossed. Some items were relocated to the basement. And, I clearly need a Foodsaver or better way of packing food to freeze.

Maybe my mother was right. Maybe it is a sin.

What Happens When…

Some people have asked what happens if The Kid eats gluten.

(For new readers of this blog, The Kid was diagnosed with Celiac disease before her third birthday. You can read more about this here.)

Our telltale sign is poop-related. A stomachache leads to steatorrhea, or yellow diarrhea. The yellow is the gluten that her body cannot absorb.

But, it goes beyond the biological and manifests some challenging behaviors.

First is sleep related. She will often wake up in the middle of the night, as she did last week after being glutened (what we call it), and cannot get back to sleep. We’re not just talking about a few minutes. This can go on for hours. Last Wednesday night was a doozy, as we were all awake from about 1 to 4:30 a.m.

The other is almost like a hyperactivity.

Friday night we ate at one of our favorite spots, Boom Boom Mex Mex. The Kid snacked away on tortilla chips and discovered that phony orange nacho cheese tastes good. In the past, she has eaten the cheese with no problem. After researching, we found out that the imitation cheese food product made for foodservice by Ortega was indeed gluten free.

Apparently, Boom Boom switched suppliers.

The Kid woke up at 5 a.m. today. She and The Wife went downstairs at 6 a.m. I joined them around 8 a.m. A stomachache led to yellow poop around 11 a.m. But all day long has been a fight about behavior. Using indoor voices. Listening to simple requests like not to jump on the couch. It’s more than typical four-year-old misbehavior and defiance. Everything from a dog barking to a car door slamming to a train passing on the nearby tracks is a life-altering experience that causes her to grind to a halt and ask 40 different questions.

Most of the time, she’s easygoing.  High energy, but easygoing. Today, we’re super-sensitive about everything from sensory stimulus to asking her what episode of a cartoon she would like to watch. One can see why parents of children with ADHD pursue dietary changes, including avoiding gluten.

So, what happens when The Kid eats gluten? She becomes unglued. In more ways than one.


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