The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.
Most Recent Entries
- A Word Or Two About Great Bar Food [And The Golden Snacky Award Goes To…]
- This Haiku Contest/Is All About The Fruitcake/Get To Writing, Stat! [Guess Who’s Judging?]
- Five Edible Christmas Gifts To Buy For Friends and Loved Ones [Black Friday Comes Just Once A Year]
- Giving Thanks For Alternatives To Thanksgiving [Turkey, Shmurkey.]
- Taking A Bite Of The Pillsbury Bake-Off [Fear And Baking In Las Vegas]
- Sea Urchin Crostini, Tiger Beef Salad And Faked Alaska [This Week’s Weekend Eats]
- A Way To Eat Kale For People Who Hate Kale [Chef John Besh Cooks From The Heart]
- The Sip: 3 Daughters Brewing Comes To Live [Pumpkin Tap, Carmel Cafe Cocktails, Great Sips]
- Remembering Marcella Hazan [The Most Important Ingredient]
- Elevage Pops-Up, Offers Taste Of Epicurean Hotel [Duck Duck Goose Burger Blows Minds]
- Where To Eat Outdoors Now That It’s Not 1,000 Degrees [East Hillsborough Edition]
- James Villas’ New Book ‘Southern Fried’ Should Be Battered, Eaten [Everything Crunchy Is Good]
- Prepping For A Pop-Up [Chad Johnson Turns SideBern’s Into Elevage For One Week]
- Putting The Wine [And Other Drinkables] Into The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
- FishHawk Loses Park Square Cellar [Mary And Shawn Sarkisian Get Their Lives Back]
A Word Or Two About Great Bar Food [And The Golden Snacky Award Goes To…]
Posted Dec 6, 2013 by Jeff Houck
Updated Dec 6, 2013 at 06:07 PM
I come now before you to praise bar food.
It’s a forgotten art, it seems to me, to provide great eats to go along with outstanding sips. Too many bars, lounges and pubs think throwing a bowl of pretzels or wasabi peas in front of you covers the territory. I consider those an insult to the drinking public.
Recently, I’ve been reminded how much better adult beverages taste when bites of well-prepared food ride shotgun.
Verily I say unto you, I really like the crispy-fried Mac Balls [pictured above] at Brewers’ Tasting Room on Fourth Street in St. Petersburg.
I’ve eaten fried macaroni and cheese before. And I am a fan of all food in ball form.
What made these succulent treats special was that they were served with a cider orange marmalade dunking sauce that was such a perfect sidekick, I considered making a batch to slather the skin of my Thanksgiving turkey.
I KNOW, RIGHT?
The bar’s brisket sandwich was moist and tender. Their basket of parsley steak fries with garlic aioli would be the perfect late-night snack in a state where marijuana is legal to inhale. It didn’t hurt that I was washing it all down with 7venth Sun double IPA. But the balls, my goodness, they were outstanding.
Which got me to thinking about other wonderful bar food I’ve found in the area:
* Goat cheese truffles with Medjool dates, foie gras, fenel pollen and citrus at Edison Food + Drink Lab in Tampa. [pictured above] Their escargot with a cippolini onion crostini and black garlic bagna càuda is also magnificently droolworthy.
The Dr. Pepper fried baby back ribs with sweet chili sauce and sesame slaw at Z Grille in St. Petersburg. Not only do the ribs make great bar grub, they’re one of my favorite dishes ever.
The deviled egg flight at Anise Global Gastrobar in downtown Tampa, with blue cheese and bacon and curried crab flavors.
Duck fat fries at Dough in south Tampa. The potato wedges are first baked and then fried to a crisp in duck fat before being served with confit-roasted garlic aioli. Not to put too fine a point on it: They are my spirit animal.
The Tater Tots “Dauphine” at Domani Bistro & Lounge in Seminole Heights. Delicate and crispy, they’re even better when dunked in house-made curry ketchup and washed down with one of the bar’s amazing craft cocktails.
The pork-fried Marcona almonds at Cru Cellars in South Tampa. Served with applewood-smoked bacon and dusted with ancho chili, sea salt and lime, they make me want to drink a cellar full of wine. Which, if you think about it, is the entire plan.
The pates, sausages, salamis, hams, cheeses and cured and smoked fish at Mise en Place’s First Flight Wine Bar in Tampa International Airport. If you have to be inappropriately frisked by government workers in the name of public safety, you might as well make your mouth exceedingly happy.
“Pig wings” — fried pork shanks — at The Stein & Vine in Brandon. I dare you to decide among the Sriracha Ranch, Habanero BBQ, Latin Lime, Teriyaki Chili or Buffalo dipping sauces. I dare you.
Louisiana oyster shooters with tomatoes, cilantro and jalapenos in tomato lime mojito at Red Mesa Cantina in downtown St. Petersburg. These are technically a foodstuff and a cocktail, which makes them a highly efficient delicious use of taste buds.
I would, if I could, bestow each of these esteemed spots a golden Snacky Award for great achievements in the appetizer arts. But trophies cost a lot of money. Until I hit it big in scratch-off lottery tickets, they’ll have to make due with my undying love and endless appetite for their goodness.
What about you? Got a favorite Happy Hour snacking place and dish? br>
This Haiku Contest/Is All About The Fruitcake/Get To Writing, Stat! [Guess Who’s Judging?]
Posted Dec 5, 2013 by Jeff Houck
Updated Dec 6, 2013 at 05:44 PM
In 1951, Mrs. Lucille Harvey entered a white fruitcake in a Tampa Tribune baking contest. The recipe became so beloved that reprinting it each holiday season became an annual tradition.
Unwittingly, her beloved recipe inspired a fruitcake-themed haiku contest several decades later. This year marks the seventh year we will attempt to piggyback the popularity of Mrs. Harvey’s holiday treat by inviting readers to send us their poetry.
Last year, Steve Winchell of Sebring won the whole shebang with this lovely poem:
A fan of fruitcake,
I search for a kindred soul.
Kyle Roberts of Tampa took second place by going for the funny, playing off the fiscal cliff the U.S. was headed toward:
The fruitcake cliff nears!
Increase fruit or decrease nuts?
Can’t slice it both ways.
Nice to know that we left all that congressional squabbling in 2012.
Oh. Right. Nevermind.
Other top contenders last year included this one from Esther Sarris Rupp of Seffner:
CAKE? You call this CAKE?
I think it’s a conspiracy
To add fat to thighs.
Janet Watson of Wesley Chapel made us giggle with this ditty:
Sent to a sailor
the cake arrived moldy green
was buried at sea
As in previous years, you are invited to write as many haiku as you care to pen, with the understanding that a perfect snowflake of verse is just as effective as an avalanche.
Perhaps you enjoy writing topical haiku such as:
HHS web site problems
on fruitcake eating.
Health Care Act covers fruitcake.
New name: Bidencare.
Edward Snowdon says
U.S. spied on allies, but
no fruitcake drone strikes.
Perhaps other current world events will be your inspiration:
exploding in atmosphere
was a fresh fruitcake.
elects a frugal pontiff.
First words: Eat fruitcake.
Then again, there’s the world of entertainment:
Hey Miley Cyrus!
Maybe your big wrecking ball
is full of fruitcake!
Of course, the travails of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem tailor-made for fruitcake metaphors:
Coach Greg Schiano
punishes his quarterbacks
with fruitcake drills.
MRSA, losses and bad trades
Thank god, no fruitcakes.
Okay, now for the really big announcement.
Each year, I invite an esteemed food colleague to judge the entries in the contest. Previous judges have included baking legend Rose Levy Beranbaum and Shannon O’Malley, author of the book, “Apocalypse Cakes.”
This year’s judge?
Wait for it.
Wait for it.
Sorry. I’m hyperventilating as I type this…
Ree has a new book out: “The Pioneer Woman Cooks a Year of Holidays.”
You can read more about it here. Scroll all the way down to find links for ordering it online.
I reached out to Ree because I had a holiday contest and she had a holiday book. One hand scrapes mud off the boot of another, I always say. Also, Ree is a certified 100 percent doll. Just one of my favorite people.
The winner of this year’s contest will win a copy of Ree’s book.
c/o Jeff Houck
202 S. Parker St.
Tampa, FL 33606
All entries must be received by Dec. 11. Winners will be announced Dec. 22 in Baylife.
Best of luck!
Five Edible Christmas Gifts To Buy For Friends and Loved Ones [Black Friday Comes Just Once A Year]
Posted Nov 29, 2013 by Jeff Houck
Updated Nov 29, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Thursday was the biggest eating day of the year, what with the mash-up of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, so food likely is the last thing you want to think about right now when it comes to gift-giving. And yet, you should absolutely consider edibles, because unlike that Side Socket you received last year (and never plugged sideways into a wall to hide all of your electrical wires), food makes a great gift. Here are a few local offerings to consider:
1. Chances are, you have a beer nerd in your life who craves craft suds. Few things say Enormous, “Star Trek”-Sized Tampa Brew Geek more than wearing a T-shirt bearing the most sought-after local craft beer: Cigar City Brewing’s Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. (Don’t ask. Just take our word.) Hundreds of thirsty disciples wait in line once a year for the limited-edition beer. You can buy the mustard yellow Hunahpu’s shirt for $20 at their Spruce Street tasting room as well as through their online store at cigarcitybrewing.com.
2. If you believe, as Reformation leader Martin Luther did, that “Beer is made by men, wine by God,” then you want only the best grapes to touch the taste buds of those you love. If you’re gonna go big, go for a bottle of 2005 vintage Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac. Wine Advocate gave the Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon a score of 96. We give it a credit score of “Oh my, goodness!” since each bottle runs about $1,095 at Bern’s Fine Wine & Spirits on South Howard Avenue in Tampa; (813) 250-9463.
3. You might have noticed, we’re almost surrounded by water. (Thank you, skyrocketing flood insurance rates!) The Yacht StarShip takes advantage of the picturesque aspects of our coastal environment by offering River of Lights Christmas Cruises throughout December (including Dec. 27 to 29). Not only does the lavishly festooned boat serve a delicious dinner buffet, it floats passengers up the Hillsborough River to see beautifully lighted bridges and the holiday decorations along Tampa Harbor. The cruise finishes with a visit from Santa, hot chocolate and holiday cookies. Prices, not including tax, port fee or gratuity: $49.95 for adults, $29.95 for children. For reservations: (813) 223-7999.
4. You shouldn’t want to give a scrumptious box of Toffee to Go because Oprah just named it one of her favorite things of 2013. But it can’t hurt the gifter to brag about such things when it comes to impressing a giftee. The Tampa snack maker sells assortments of milk chocolate, milk chocolate almond, dark chocolate pecan and white chocolate macadamia nut toffee in a variety of sizes. Gift boxes start at $10 for a small assortment. Available at toffeetogo.com as well as at their store at 3251 W. Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa.
5. The premier food festival in the country is just a four-hour car ride south at the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which takes place Feb. 20 to 23 in Miami Beach. This annual spring break for chefs attracts every Food Network bigwig to swanky parties like The Q, which mixes barbecue and champagne on the sand a few hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean. Food stars from Jose Andres to Andrew Zimmern will make appearances at dozens of food and booze-filled events. For info and tickets — they sell out fast! — go online to www.sobefest.com.
Giving Thanks For Alternatives To Thanksgiving [Turkey, Shmurkey.]
Posted Nov 25, 2013 by Jeff Houck
Updated Nov 26, 2013 at 12:23 PM
So, you’re not into the whole Thanksgiving thing. Or maybe you’re just weary of the standard A+B=C or turkey, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.
I feel you. I do.
I dig the holiday, although I’m not sure why. It’s fun in concept to bring all of those whom you love around the table. Fun, that is, until everyone gets comfortable enough to unleash all of their pent-up frustrations with one another that they’ve barely kept contained all year. I’m my head, I envision the Pilgrims saying, “Oy vey!” and getting back on the Mayflower to sail back to England.
As for the food, I’ve started in recent years to experiment with the turkey, mostly because it’s a dull and flavorless protein. When you have to fry, grill, sear, bake, smoke or convect something to make it better, it would indicate that the traditional foodstuff could use some reinvention.
In the interest of alternative view points, here are a few links to take you to paths less traveled.
You may not choose to execute any of these strategies. But sometimes, just thinking about doing so is enough.
Food & Wine: Alternatives to turkey
Food & Wine: Vegetarian cassaroles
About.com: Calvin Trillin’s Alternate Thanksgiving Menu
Mother Nature Network: 4 Alternative Thanksgiving Celebrations
Bon Apetit: Alt-Pumpkin Thanksgiving Desserts
Mayo Clinic: Thanksgiving recipes - Delicious and healthy options
Taking A Bite Of The Pillsbury Bake-Off [Fear And Baking In Las Vegas]
Posted Nov 24, 2013 by Jeff Houck
Updated Nov 24, 2013 at 11:13 PM
LAS VEGAS — Strange memories of too many nights in Sin City. Is it five days later? Six? Seems like a lifetime ago, the kind of stiff, perfect peak of a whipped cream experience that never comes again.
But here I am, freshly emerged from the belly of the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off whale, trying to recall what actually happened, sifting the surreal from proven fact.
Forty years ago, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson swan-dived into all that Las Vegas could offer. He left in a blur of hallucinations, car wrecks and hotel rooms with bills for the damage numbering in the thousands.
I went to Vegas earlier this month at the invitation of Pillsbury to help decide which home cook had made the most creative and delicious use of their extensive line of grocery products. I left in a blur of a giant walking boy made of dough, a rental car collision agreement that inexplicably remained intact and a hotel room that seemingly plotted against me.
As Hunter said, you buy the ticket, you take the ride.
* * * * * *
To understand the American icon that is the Pillsbury Bake-Off, you need to understand what it isn’t. Specifically, this isn’t a quaint scratch cooking contest for fluffy grandmas in gingham aprons.
The #PBO, as the tweeters call it, is a marketing behemoth of epic size and dimension. For one glorious day, the Minneapolis-based company flies 100 home cooks (97 women and three men this year) and their family members to a single location, assembles 100 makeshift kitchens and countertops side by side in a ballroom, and lets the contestants create their best dessert, breakfast, appetizer or dinner using Pillsbury products.
Grand prize: $1 million.
This month’s bake-off was the 46th time Pillsbury has assembled such a spectacle. In recent years, it has been held every two years, alternating between giant hotels in Dallas and Orlando.
But this is the era of Instagram and Snapchat and selfies. Two years is an eternity. And unlike 1949, when the bake-off started at the prim and prestigious Waldorf Astoria, two years between million-dollar winners is two years too long. This is a country that Wikipedias the latest results of “Chopped” and “Hell’s Kitchen” with lightning speed. Food contests are everywhere now, nibbling at Pillsbury’s heels, so the company plans to hold the bake-off every year and take it on the road to more places. In 2014, the circus will move to Nashville.
This year, Pillsbury dipped a toe into Las Vegas, pushing all of its corporate chips to the center of the table at the Aria hotel. It was a gamble of sorts, mashing up the clean image of home baking with the hyperplastic prism of the flamingo in the desert.
The doughboy. At a casino. Without irony.
This I had to see.
* * * * * *
Judging the Pillsbury Bake-Off means signing myriad forms that declare you will, in essence, keep your big yap shut.
This is a contest, after all. One with a great deal of money at stake. The criteria for judging, the format by which 100 dishes are judged, even the very look of the room on judging day are considered trade secrets by Pillsbury, its parent company General Mills and its Ohio-based affiliate, the J.M. Smucker Co.
What I can tell you is this: The judges take on the task with great seriousness.
Joining me this year were Lynn Blanchard, test kitchen director for Better Homes & Gardens; Alice Currah, cookbook author and blogger at Savory Sweet Life; food writer and cookbook author David Joachim; Lori Lange, cookbook author and blogger at Recipe Girl; Charlyne Mattox, food editor at Real Simple magazine; and John Szymanski, corporate chef for Kroger groceries.
My category assignment this year was “Simple Sweets & Starters” — desserts and appetizers. Thank goodness I had the steady hand of food marketing expert and journalist Phil Lempert and food writer and blogger Nicole Weston to guide me.
Our category had 34 finalists.
Think about that for a moment.
Even if you take only one bite of each recipe, it still requires a judge to take THIRTY-FOUR BITES OF FOOD NEVER INTENDED TO BE SIMULTANEOUSLY IN THE SAME BELLY.
I’m sorry, but I think that’s an amazing achievement.
Imagine the best meal you’ve ever had. The finest vittles. Cooked by the most accomplished chef on Earth. An absolute dream buffet of flavors. Ask yourself this: Would you eat 34 bites of it? Would you want that many? How would your soul respond? More importantly, how would your innards?
Now imagine if that meal was prepared by 34 nervous home cooks using brand new equipment under the most intense spotlight possible for the highest stakes for which they’ll ever compete.
In that context, 34 bites takes on new meaning.
For the better part of three hours, Nicole, Phil and I pushed our way through tarts, cookies, cakes, pizzas, tacos and so many things I cannot begin to remember. Then we sat for another four hours, whittling our way to a final champion, as well as winners in ancillary categories.
We did this in a windowless brown paper bag of a conference room with cathedral ceilings, a leather pit group and fake lighted trees on the walls. Every trip to the bathroom, which according to my OCD was 212 steps away in a back channel of the Aria, required an escort to ensure that no contact was made between any judges and contestants. During one trip back to the room, I hummed the theme to “Lawrence of Arabia.”
None of the entries comes into the judging room with anything more than a number and a description. So extreme is the demand that judge and cooks never come in contact that Pillsbury emailed each of us to stipulate that we avoid reading anything about the contest or about anyone in our area who qualified for the trip to Vegas.
During a radio interview prior to the bake-off, a host happened to mention that several finalists were from Florida, a fact of which I was previously unaware. On the air I did that thing 5-year-olds do where they clasp their ears and yell, “LA-LA-LA, I AM NOT LISTENING!”
Debbie Reid of Clearwater, left, Marie Valdes of Brandon and Naylet LaRochelle of Miami
After the contest, I would read that seven from Florida qualified, including Bethany Perry of Largo, Debbie Reid of Clearwater, JoAnne Tucker and Anna Zovk of Tampa and Marie Valdez of Brandon. The truth is, I didn’t want to meet them.
I lack the emotional fortitude necessary to look people in the eyes and tell them that their dish was delicious, but not quite enough to win a million dollars and change their life forever. I am a frightened little rabbit of a man in that regard.
Which is why I went in search of Thai food, dive bars and lounges with flaming fountains until 2 a.m. on the night before the contest. It was pure passive-aggressive avoidance of the Herculean task ahead.
* * * * * *
In my own defense, let me first say that I am a lousy drinker. My house is full of dusty wine bottles, full-to-the-brim whiskey decanters and empty glasses. I enjoy beer, but only one glass at a time and frequently weeks or months apart unless professionally obligated.
Which reminds me that it’s time for a gratuitous Hunter S. Thompson quote:
“Take it from me, there’s nothing like a job well done. Except the quiet enveloping darkness at the bottom of a bottle of Jim Beam after a job done any way at all.”
I am no Hunter S. Thompson.
Which is to say that when I went with a group to the Double Down bar off the Vegas strip, I did so in order to walk in the path of Anthony Bourdain, who just so happened to be in town that same weekend. He declared on Eatocracy.com that the Double Down, which has the words “SHUT UP AND DRINK” painted in white letters on a graffiti-strewn black wall next to a pool table, is a dive bar of the highest magnitude.
He was right. It was magnificent. They served bacon martinis. They played The Ramones. And they took advantage of poor wanna-be rebel tourists like me by selling hunch punch in a souvenir porcelain toilet at $10 a pop. I can’t print the drink’s name in an upstanding publication such as this. Suffice to say it was referred to as “Hiney Water.” The pitying look on my wife’s face as she sat next to me said, “Intervention.”
We also spent a large portion of the pre-bake-off night at Lotus of Siam throwing culinary pleasures of the Far East down our gullet. This was another Bourdain recommendation, one with a tremendous menu in an off-the-strip strip mall that has a billiards hall, multiple Asian nail salons and a swingers club as neighbors.
Don’t let the scary place fool you. We were the last table to leave that night (I know this because the staff frantically vacuumed around our table as a hint), and when we went out to the parking lot, we found my rented Volvo SUV with the lights on. And the push-button engine still running. Unlocked.
Say what you will, but pool players, nail techs and those with liberal views of human intimacy have standards. And those standards exclude the theft of Swedish rental vehicles in the desert.
I forgot to mention that Bourdain walked past us at the Cosmopolitan Hotel on his way to a swanky nightclub. I shouted, “TONY!” in an overly loud way that said to him, “Walk faster, he might be packing.” Which he did, like a gastronomic mirage in the neon glare.
Back in my room that night, the hotel’s push-button controls, which manipulate all of the lights, TV and curtains, refused to do what I asked. The motorized curtains kept going back and forth. From the outside, it must have appeared to be some kind of Morse Code cry for help.
In a way, it was.
* * * * * *
“Padma is coming in.”
Four words I’ve wanted to hear ever since I began watching “Top Chef.”
Each year, Pillsbury hires a celebrity guest host to throw a little Hollywood on the bonfire. In 2010, it was Food Network’s Sandra Lee, who hugged anything that got within arm’s reach before sending finalists to be crowned on “Oprah.” In 2008, it was Joy Behar of “The View,” who dropped menopause jokes in a room full of hot-flash sufferers. Last year, The Martha dropped by to ingest Pillsbury into her teetering television show.
This year, the winner would appear on the quick-rising “Queen Latifah Show.” But due to family issues, the Queen would not be joining us at the Aria. Instead, Padma Lakshmi of Bravo’s “Top Chef” would host the awards show and celebration dinner.
Earlier in the day, judges were told Padma was planning to visit our deliberations room for a tour. I was not psychologically prepared for such news. As an avid “Top Chef” fan, I am fully aware of Ms. Lakshmi’s silky, sultry persona and her extensive portfolio of partially clothed modeling.
As previously announced, Padma glided into our room as if carried by winged unicorns on billowy clouds. She floated from table to table, making calorie-free chit-chat with judges in front of the video crew. When she got to our table, she asked, “Are you all full from eating yet?”
I cleared my throat. “It’s a little like that first episode every season of ‘Top Chef’ where you have to eat food from 20 chefs,” I said.
“Exactly!” Padma said.
She spoke to me. She spoke with me. For one shining moment. Bourdain didn’t do that. Then again, I didn’t shout, “TONY!” at Padma.
The judges gathered around Padma for a group photo. I stood behind her right shoulder. She smelled like cinnamon. A stylist at the last moment rushed in a panic toward the former model.
“She has a hair out of place,” the stylist said.
The photographer snapped the pic.
I would show it to you but Padma would not permit electronic transmission of said photo.
But it happened. I promise.
She did, however, let this photo out of the barn on her Instagram account:
Oh, to be a gluten-full spokesboy.
* * * * * *
Later that night, Padma announced the million-dollar winner at the celebration dinner: Glori Spriggs of nearby Henderson, Nev. A home cook who had never entered a contest before, her Loaded Potato Pinwheels took the top prize over a Caprese Pizza Bake casserole and an almond tart so ornate and delicate, it would have made Faberge blush.
The winner took the simplest idea and made it fun. The same ingredients as a loaded baked potato, complete with toppings of sour cream, chives and bacon bits, piped into a Pillsbury dough in bite-size form. I had visions of it showing up at parties, tailgates and my house when I got home.
When Spriggs’ name was announced, the tiny woman appeared stunned by the spectacle of it all. No tears. No screaming. Just a frozen astonishment. A blizzard of confetti erupted in the banquet hall. And like a magic trick, Padma vanished from the stage. Only the winner and an inflatable walking Doughboy stood on the huge stage.
After the confetti settled, Spriggs stood nearly motionless with her daughter, who loves to cook as much as her mother. The two became targets for cellphone snaparazzi who sent their image far and wide.
An hour later, Spriggs was asked what she would spend the money on. “My daughter has two jobs, so I’m going to make her quit one of them,” she said.
And then reality crashed the party. Someone’s life went from black and white to color in an instant. Because of puff pastry and mashed potatoes and marketing and Padma and a computer-drawn casino, the lungs in one family would breathe a little easier.
As the Gonzo Man wrote:
“Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.”
I bought the ticket. I took the ride.