Prep now for a smooth gameday

Every coach says it: Preparation is the key to success. It’s true for the tailgate, too. It’s so stressful to be running around at the last minute, grabbing things that you could have had ready to go. When you’re distracted, you run the risk of forgetting something vital, like charcoal – or the tickets.

Tailgate Kickoff Tip: Pack things like plates, cups, forks, paper towels and napkins – disposables that you’ll need for every game – in a plastic bin with a lid. Fill the bin early in the week, then check it after you get home from the game. Refill as needed, and the bin will be ready to toss in the car the following Saturday. That’s the kind of preparation that makes coaches proud and tailgates legendary.

Food news roundup

I started to pass on reading The News & Observer’s (Raleigh, N.C.) lead food story today. I thought, oh, just another tired list of how to save money on your food bill. It wasn’t. It was a nicely written tale of one food lover’s journey to frugal shopping while still retaining her love of cooking. (A catchier headline, maybe?) And inside the section is news for fans of Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, N.C.: There’s a second place to find its great food. Read both here.

In the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, besides the N&O’s lead story, is how to get on Bob Garner’s Restaurant Road Trip. Climb on board here.

The Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem, N.C., where I grew up, is full of memories for me. A trip to the fair usually was time for me and my father, a World War II veteran who wouldn’t go near any carnival ride. He was willing to wave to me from the ground as I spun or soared. The fair’s baking winners are in today’s Winston-Salem Journal, and they look really good. Read more here.

We all do it: Grab a hunk of brie, slap some crackers next to it and call it hors d’oeuvres. The Richmond (Va.) Times Dispatch has some ways to liven up the ol’ cheese tray, including a Gorgonzola spread. Mmm. It’s all here.

The Los Angeles Times has a discussion of creating a regional food system to help low-income families purchase fresh food, and fight childhood obesity. The article is here.

Smoked salmon, pasta, cream and…scotch? Those are the ingredients for a pasta dish in the Detroit News. Sound crazy? Read here and see.

What are you cooking, Dave?

It was the best apple pie I’d ever baked. I actually had enough crust to completely cover the top, instead of having to cheap out with latticework. And I’d even managed to roll the bottom crust gracefully into the pan without shredding it. Just the right amount of cinnamon and rum in the filling; flaky softness in the crust.

And it may be the last for a while.  When I removed the pie and pushed the “stop” button on my range’s electronic controls, there was a startling pop. The pop was accompanied by an arcing flash beneath the smooth glass top, at the edge of a saucepan sitting on a burner. When I got a whiff of burned wires, I ran to the garage and hit the breaker.

That was it for the stove, at a mere five years old, whose baffling problems had gone on all summer. It started with a pie – specifically, when I noticed that one didn’t get as evenly brown as usual. The rest of the stove still worked. Diagnosis: Broken convection relay. Relay replaced, problem remained. New diagnosis: Bad part. Then another new relay, same old problem. Third diagnosis: Bad electronic control panel. Panel replaced but…can you stand the suspense?…the problem remained. Third diagnosis: Guess what? Bad part.

A second panel still didn’t fix the convection problem, and it started beaming out cryptic error code messages and beeping at random. I felt like a demonically possessed R2D2 was living in my kitchen The hub’s opinion: “The stove is jinxed.”

The stove has had all the chances it’s getting from us. So, it’s the grill, slow-cooker and microwave for about 10 days until the new one arrives. The old one sits shut down and dark, a little menacing, like a disconnected Hal. At least it didn’t get my pie.