2021 Week 22 – Camping Do Over

May last camping trip was a wash out so I decided to try it again last weekend. This time there was no rain but the temps were a lot higher. I decided to take a different route, bypassing the I-69 construction, and wound my way south through Jasper and Ferdinand, Indiana

Ferdinand has a monastery similar to the one down the road in St Meinrad. But this one has a brewery and food! I stopped in for a late lunch of Pizza and Beer. While not they best pizza I’ve ever had it hit the spot, especially with the Sister Betty Blonde Ale I washed it down with.

After lunch I decided to finish out my last 9-holes of Disc Golf at St Meinrad. I expected to see a lot more people on the course being a Saturday but was pleasantly supersized the crowd was more like a week day. There was no need to rush and I was able to enjoy a nice round.

The Indian-Celina Lake Campground I like to test equipment at is just inside the Central time zone. In fact it’s so close my electronic devices (and car) will constantly switch back and fourth between time zones. I’ve started wearing an analog watch (Citizen ProMaster Diver with EcoDrive) to make sure I know the actual time. The Citizen is a great watch that uses the sun to keep itself charged. It also keeps amazingly accurate time. I think I’ve only corrected it twice the entire time I’ve owned it. This thing is built like a tank and it’s a nice change from the Apple Watch I wear during the week.

Another item I tested out last weekend was an Exped MegaMat sleeping pad. I bought the MegaMat last October but had yet to take it out to try it in the real world. It’s been great to lounge around on in the house over the winter but it really shines outside in a tent. The MegaMat comes in several sizes and I opted for the XL (extra long) version since I like to stretch out.

One really nice feature about the MegaMat is it self inflates. After you unroll and open the main valve it takes about 15-20 minutes to get to about 95% of where I like it. I can then take the manual pump that’s included to top it off and make it perfect.

This sleeping pad is thick and a little bulky so it’s only really good for car camping or a very short hike to the campsite. It feels like a memory foam bed when you’re laying on it and if you’re a side sleeper you’ll be happy to know it’s supportive enough to keep your hip from digging into the ground. It was worth every penny and I would not hesitate to purchase it again.

I have another camping trip planned in a couple of weeks and I’m gearing up for a trip to the Allegheny National Forrest this summer. So look forward to more trip reports and gear reviews throughout the year.

The Best Way to Reheat Pizza

I love pizza and could eat it more than just about any other food.  If I wasn’t  eating it cold the next day I’d always use the microwave to reheat leftovers.

I came across the skillet method a while ago & it’s a total game changer.  It works best when re-heating just a slice or two.  The Art of Manliness had a great writeup of the various methods.

I’ve found that a non-stick skillet with a tight fitting lid works best.  All it takes is a cold pan, a few slices of pizza, and medium heat for 8-10 minutes (depending on thickness).  This usually get me a slightly crispy bottom (better than when it was delivered in my opinion), and the slice is heated through.

Not as easy as eating cold (my second favorite way), and not as soggy as the microwave, the stovetop reheat method is my new go to method to reheat last nights pizza for lunch today.  Give it a try & let me know what you think!

Downtown Indy – California Pizza Kitchen

First of all I’d like to say “Welcome Back” to California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) after a long absence from Indianapolis.  When the Keystone at the Crossing location closed we started missing the BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad immediately.  We were randomly rewarded with that dish when we made it down to Texas or Water Tower Place in Chicago but that was few and far between…

The new CPK location in Circle Center Mall downtown is great.  It took the place of Alcatraz and my sentiments appear to be shared by many online when I say this is a HUGE upgrade for the space.  With a mix of indoor and outdoor seating CPK seats around 200 guests and does not seem that big (it’s only utilizing the ground floor of the 2-floors occupied by Alcatraz).  It’s not a quiet place by any means so prepare yourself for some noise.  The open kitchen can be seen from just about ever table as well.

We arrived around 6:30 on a Friday night & had a 5-10 minute wait before being seated.  Initial service was prompt and courteous and our drink/app orders were placed.  Service started getting a little slow after that.  Nothing ridiculous but you could tell they were still getting everything working smoothly.

We ordered the following:

  • Bang Bang Shrimp
  • Kids Pizza – Pepperoni, Sausage & Mushroom (Son)
  • Wild Mushroom Pizza with Chicken (Me)
  • Kung Pao Spaghetti (Daughter)
  • BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad minus Cilantro add avocado (Wife)

The shrimp appetizer was delivered quickly and was identical to when you get a PF Changs and Bonefish.  It was just large enough for the four of us to each get a few bites.  So far so good.

After a while three of the four entrees was delivered with the salad, of all things, being over 5 minutes behind the pizza and pasta.  Once delivered it looked (and tasted) great.  Kind of odd that the only cold item ordered took the longest to receive.

The Kids pizza was quickly devoured and reported to be great.  The wild mushroom pizza lacked salt but once added was very tasty. The crust was tender and flavorful just like I remember it.

The Kung Pao Spaghetti was the surprise dish at the table.  It was loaded with spice and surrounded by dried red chilies.  The pasta was cooked perfectly.

The BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad looked and tasted great.  Even with 3 of us sampling it my wife had about 1/2 left to bring home for the next day.

Overall I’m going to give CPK a 4 out of 5.  The food was good but the service was just a little off.  We’ll be making repeat visits, there’s no doubt about that, & hope to see the timing improve.

California Pizza Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Chicago – Lou Malnati’s Pizza

When in Rome, or should I say when in Chicago, there are a few things you have to do.  Pizza is one of those things.  On a recent business trip to the Windy City I was introduced to Lou Malnati’s Chicago Style Pizza.  I’ve had pizza from the local competitors (Giordanos, Pequod’s, Gino’s) which I always enjoyed so I was not sure how this place would stack up.

We arrived around 7pm to a full house.  I’m not one to wait more than 10 minutes to be seated but waiting is the norm in Chicago so I went with the flow.  One interesting thing I noticed right away was the recommendation to order your pizza while you waited for your tableMore on this later…

If I’m at a place for the first time and with someone who’s been there before I always defer the ordering to them.  We ordered The “Malnati Chicago Classic” which is described as:

“Lou Malnati’s is legendary for its pizza in the pan, and here, sausage is the specialty of the house. Made with Lou’s exclusive blend of lean sausage, some extra cheese, and vine-ripened tomato sauce on our famous Buttercrust.”

Lou’s has a small bar with all the classics including one of my favorite local brews (Goose Island 312 IPA).  After securing a pint we reflected on the day (IT Conference) and talked a little business strategy (this was, after-all, a business trip).

After about 20 minutes we were seated and advised that our pizza had been “partially cooked” when we ordered it earlier.  We would have to wait another 15 minutes for the pie to be completed.  Given the size of the Chicago Deep Dish this “par cooking” is a great way to greatly shorten the wait for your pie (and is common in other deep dish pizza joints).    Another round of beers and our dinner was served.

I always forget just how big Chicago Pizza’s can be.  The circumference is normal but the thickness is unreal.  This particular pizza preparation has a layer of tomato “relish” on the top that really sets it off.  The VERY fresh tasting acidic  crushed tomatoes offset the richness of the cheese, sausage and crust.

The cheese and sausage ratio was ridiculously high in this pizza.  I particularly enjoyed the sausage since it had a somewhat mild taste that blended with the cheese very well.  Even better the Buttercrust has a nice firm, almost cracker like, texture that held up to the toppings.

Overall this was a great Chicago Pizza experience and a very filling on at that.  By the time our cab dropped us off at the hotel I almost needed to be rolled up to my room.

I always like trying new things and especially variations of existing favorites.  In this case I was introduced to yet another “style” of Chicago Style pizza and it was worth the wait!

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria (River North) on Urbanspoon