With all this great weather, I'll bet you've been getting in your fill of delicious grilled-out food, haven't you? Because, come on, who doesn't love a big-old backyard barbecue? Well, I'll tell you who: how about the poor schnook who gets roped into doing all the cooking? In case that's never you, let me set the scene.
Let's start off with a close-up of a smoke-haloed head beading up sweat, wearing a stressed-out grimace and being treated to a grease-fire facial. Now cut to the lounge-chair area, where ice-cold drinks are leisurely sipped and lots of advice is flowing freely on, say, how to know when bison meat is done, how to season your pork shoulder and how to prevent your glazed halibut from sticking.
Throw in some charcoal that won't light, a little forced petroleum huffing and maybe a leaky gas tank or two and I think you're starting to catch my drift. Yeah, I know it's not always this bad, but I also know that it sometimes is.
Anyway, I also know of a meal built for two that delivers all of the benefits of perfectly grilled-out food but without any of the drudgery or short-strawing your loved one into tending that outdoor hotbox again. It's the "Scharas Varieties" ($26) from Anna's Restaurant.
The north-side Anna's - subtitled A Taste from Greece - is one of the city's better Greek eateries. Inside, it has all the expected color-theme touches, like whitewashed walls and Aegean-Sea-blue flaunting murals and windowsills - but also a distinct floor-to-ceiling scale model Greek windmill, complete with thatched roof and a peek-inside section removed (looks like a well in there).
As for the Scharas dinner, it'll also transport you to Greece - or your own backyard if you're a really expert grill tender. It comes with soft, toasted pita triangles, a large mound of nice rice and a bowl of stiff, creamy, tart, garlicky and properly cucumbery tzatziki.
Otherwise it's a spilling-over platter in which each heat-intensified item is deeply grill-marked and perfectly seared to its just-cooked-through and still really juicy point. The effect is that through only high-temperature-produced smoke, olive oil and spot-on seasoning, you have simple, delicious food. So, with absolutely no hassle, it's like a full cookout dinner has magically landed in your lap.
Here's the lineup: two shrimp (tail-on, decent quality); four chunks each of deboned chicken and pork (all very tender); two lamb chops (meaty, nice-sized) and a sort of grilled salad of zucchini, tomato, onions and green peppers. Simply squeeze some lemon over all the goodies and tuck in for a still-smoking-from-the-grill dinner with no muss, fuss or cussing.