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Mar 28, 2013

Recipe #4: Gringo Feijoada

If I haven't mentioned it before, I went to Brazil for two years. Among the cultural things I learned to love was their incredible cuisine. It is incredible how simple ingredients like beans and rice can make absolutely delicious meals in Bahia, Brazil. The ingredients are sometimes hard to find here in the States, but the following recipe is one that I invented that, while very American, at least does the flavorfulness of Brazilian lunches justice.

Gringo Feijoada
"Uma delícia não-brasileira!"

  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • ¼½ onion, diced
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can Bean-with-Bacon soup OR canned pinto beans
  • 2 all-beef hot dogs, sliced
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into pieces and cooked
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tbsp. (or more) cilantro
  1. Sauté the onions and garlic until sautéed.
  2. Add can of black beans (with juice) and can of bean with bacon soup to pot. Add ½ bean-with-bacon soup can of water.
  3. Add hot dog slices and bacon, then stir in spices except cilantro. I also added Brazilian spices, but I'm sure you won't have access to those. :(
  4. After awhile, when you're ready to eat, throw in the cilantro.
  5. Eat over Brazilian rice (see below) with Frank's Red Sauce and cuzcuz*, farinha†, or farofa‡. It's also good with beef on the side, or chicken, or a fried egg. 
YIELD: Like 3 or 4 servings.
Directions for Brazilian Rice
  1. Sauté some onions and garlic until sautéed.
  2. Add a cup of rice, and stir around until the rice turns an opaque white color.
  3. Put in two cups of water, and salt/spices to taste.
  4. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for 10-12 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
  6. Fluff with a fork, eat beneath Feijoada (see above).
YIELD: About 4 or 5 servings. Eat the extra serving with chicken or something if you want.

Washes down well with...  Guaraná (Brazilian soda), Sprite, or exotic fruit juice/punch like mango.

*Not actual couscous, it's made from corn. Try your nearest Latino store and look for Flocão brand.
† Mandioca or cassava flour. Probably easier to find than cuzcuz.
‡ Farinha that's been sautéed with bacon and onions. It's a Brazilian thing. Don't worry about it if you've never tried it.

Mar 14, 2013

Game Review: Cave Story+

Abelhawk's Game Review of
Cave Story+
 Platform: PC (Steam), Wii
Genre: Sci-fi, Post-apocalyptic
Style: Platformer, Adventure, Shooter
Price: Cheap ($10)
URL: http://www.cavestory.org/
I stumbled upon this game at least six months ago while browsing Steam games and it looked pretty fun to me. I added it to my Steam wishlist and basically forgot about it. Steam notifies you when games on your wishlist are on sale, so when I got the email telling me that Cave Story+ was on sale for $2.50, I bought it as the Brazilians say "na hora"! I really like retro games, and I'm glad that so many indie developers are making classic-looking pixelly games with NES-like soundtracks and effects. Cave Story+ is a charming adventure game that some call "the NES game you never played." It fits right in with the classic style one can only capture today with emulators.


Such zany characters!
Like I said, I'm a fan of the charm that comes with the limitations of pixellated graphics. And they fit Story+'s style perfectly! The explosions, the flashy crossfades of mutating bosses, and even just the low-res portraits of the characters make the game fun to look at and, like I said, give it the classic feel that makes it so much fun to play. The characters are fun to look at and each one is very unique, and there are even common enemies that come in different colors depending on their fighting behavior. Despite being low-resolution, the graphics do a great job of depicting the mysterious cave world you are exploring. Small details such as carvings, statues and rock formations leave you wondering where the nearest secret is. As far as retro graphics go, Cave Story+ leaves little to be desired. And if you're not like me and into 8-bit graphics, they even have a setting to make them higher resolution with an updated look!


I was very impressed with the plot of Cave Story+. What appears at a glance to be a cartoony, simple game full of flying bullets and floating jellyfish is actually a brilliant, even dark, story. You are a recon robot (apparently called "Quote," though it is never mentioned in-game) who awakes in an isolated cave in a floating island, unarmed and with no idea what's going on. You find out later you were one of many robotic soldiers who were involved in a war against the island, but you seem to have developed feelings and sentience of your own. Upon exploring, you find a gun and make your way into a village of Mimigas—rabbitlike humanoids—who are being persecuted by a mysterious villain called "The Doctor." The Doctor is mutating the Mimigas and using them as weapons, and you meet a cast of human and Mimiga characters who are banding together to stop him. They use your help to try and cut off the source of the mutations, fight against the Doctor's minions, and ultimately defeat him. There are lots of unique bosses to fight, and even three different endings depending on your choices made. Even the names of the characters add to the random, odd feeling of the game: Santa, King, Cthulhu, Balrog, and Professor Booster.Even the characters' names add to the fun, otherworldly feel of the game: Santa, Balrog, Cthulhu, Chako and King, to name a few. If you just buy Cave Story+ for the story alone, I would say it's more than worth it.


The controls in Cave Story+ are pretty standard if you've ever played NES games before. Several puzzles involve timing jumps, and of course firing your gun is crucial to progress in the game. The guns in the game cover several different types of attacks that make fighting enemies a strategic feat. There's a fireball gun that bounces down slopes, a missile launcher with long-range firepower, and even a sword for short-range, high damage attacks. The only thing that bothered me a bit was not being able to shoot diagonally, and some of the maneuvering in the boss fights is unnecessarily hard. But that fits with the Nintendo feel for the game. The game also allows you to hook up a USB controller, which adds a really fun dynamic for controlling Quote on his adventure (this is, of course, referring to the PC version). If you can get used to pressing 'down' to interact with characters and doors, the controls are rather easy.


 I was immediately impressed with several of the mechanics of Cave Story. The "level up" system for guns is similar to an RPG, in that you collect experience points from dying enemies to make your weapon more powerful. Taking damage makes you lose experience, so boss fights can turn into a downward spiral if you get hurt enough to "level down." I also like the various upgrades that Quote gets. There are two types of jet packs, and several items to lower certain cooldowns and maintain experience gaining rate. However, I do think it a bit unjust for Cave Story to only give you one "life pot," or HP-refilling item, in the entire game. I used mine on a particularly hard boss fight, only to end up at the final boss at the end of the game desperately needing it. Save Points are few and far between, so there are several parts that I had to do completely over several times. This is fun and adds a sense of achievement for most parts, but I still have yet to defeat the end boss, who ends up mutating several times without a save point for you to stop and take a breather. This could have been made a bit easier, but perhaps I was just too quick to use my life pot earlier.


My personal favorite music in the game.
One word sums up Cave Story's soundtrack: AMAZING. Many of the areas' music tracks are so catchy I've found myself humming them to myself throughout the day. The tracks are just what a retro game should be: catchy, fitting to the feel of the game, and well-orchestrated. Like the graphics, the game allows the option to change the music to a remastered version, and even a "new" version that doesn't sound anything like an 8-bit system. I personally prefer the original music, but I'm glad they gave the option for later playthroughs of the game. I'm sure it'll add variety. The sound effects are also well-done. Simple beeps, explosions, and chirps bring you back to the days of old-time simple gaming.

Cave Story+ is a blast and a half! I encourage anyone who wants to go back to the old days of retro-shooter-platformer games to try it out. From the engaging storyline to the downright fun boss fights, you'll have a lot of fun playing and replaying the game to get all the different endings, guns, and equipment that are mutually exclusive. Abelhawk recommends Cave Story+!