Tuesday, January 30, 2007

This is my bread.

Unfortunately, I can't really enjoy it because Sunday evening I was stricken with the nasty stomach virus that has been making its way around the globe. I was in bed all day long yesterday, except for dealing with the bread. It had to be done.
It is gorgeous and amazing and inspiring...but I can't yet tell you if it is delicious. hopefully soon.

I went in to work this morning because I had to get some catering stuff done, but I felt woozy all morning. I came home and plopped back into bed for a couple of hours and then spent some time making various lists for the new wave cabaret. Soon I have to go to band practice, and then I will come home and plop into bed again. Hopefully in there I will have the courage to eat something....I just ate my tangelo and it was pretty good and didn't make me feel queasy, so there is hope. I don't know that I am up to the challenge of crusty whole grain bread just yet though.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Silence of the Yams

Haahaahaahaahaahaa! I love this man.

My first bread dough of the new regime is in a big pot in the oven right now, where it will hang out for 18 HOURS before I fold it around and then let it hang out for another two hours. Then it will go into a pretty crockery dish I bought yesterday at the thrift store for the bread making adventure, and baked at extremely high heat.
I am sort of fearful because the recipe that I printed out and followed (for whole wheat "no knead" bread) has WAY more flour in it than the other recipes I have since read, but about the same amount of yeast. Hmm. We'll see how it goes. If it comes out even okay I will be ecstatic, and then I can start playing around with it.
I had it sitting on top of the refrigerator earlier but I could not keep myself from poking it every time I went in the kitchen, so I moved it to the oven. I think it will be warmer and happier in there anyway.
Yesterday's thrifting odyssey was cut a little short by the water main break on 51...that was unfortunate. Especially unfortunate was the fact that there was no way to know until we had been sitting in traffic for 45 minutes that we weren't going to be able to get through anyway, and after trying to navigate the hills and side streets of overbrook we just gave up and went back to the south side salvation army.
But first, we did stop in the ole Red White and Blue, where rebby got a ton of t shirts to print and I got a fantastic trophy for the robot dance contest. It really is spectacular. At the salvation army rebby got another giant load of t shirts and a nice new wavy blue striped button down....I got some various lingerie type things, and a super cool big black fishnet overshirt, and a couple more glass jars for grains and things. Then we stopped at the co-op so I could get bread flour and some stone ground grits, because I am now sort of obsessed with the grits making. I will report back.
One more linky for ya....have you been using goodsearch? I have mine set to the Persad Center, but there are a bunch of worthwhile causes that deserve your click!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

SO...after begining the week with such decadence (the home cooked skirt steak dinner and the elegant fine dining dinner and the exuberant slow food dinner, which I hope to get back to soon here but I think we both know that the chances are kinda slim, given my history), and then having a middle of the week where I ate grits and couscous with whatever I could find in the fridge on top for dinner(and really awesome cold lentil loaf sandwiches on white bread with ketchup, mayo and cheddar cheese for lunch!), I ended the week with a serious gorge-fest at Ali Baba. I was supposed to be picking up some freecycled onesies at Shadyside Hospital for my soon to spawn friend, but alas, the person from whom I was supposed to pick them up did not answer her cell phone, so I stood outside the hospital for 15 minutes and then gave up. (she did call to apologize later, and offered to drop the onesies off for me if I would like. That is freecyle class, kids, and more than I can say for the three people who have so far blown off the pick up appointments they set for my stuff) Anyhoo, I still had this dinner date scheduled with Jennie, so I proceeded as arranged and got myself a coffee at kiva han while I waited for her to get off of work. While there, I let myself fall into a reverie about the delicious middle eastern treats that would await me. I was just this side of making the Homer Simpson tongue lollying out of the mouth sound when I spotted Jen crossing the street, looking very fetching in her Edward Gorey black overcoat. I ran out the door to meet her, not wanting to waste precious moments when we could be on our way to the restaurant. Seriously, I was ready to feast. So we get there and are seated and water is brought, and we decide that water is enough. I had a hard time deciding how to make it work so that I got everything I wanted, but in the end I just ended up ordering a bunch of small plates to share. We got hummus, tabouli, sleek, mujaddarra, a cheese pie each, and jennie got some bazilla for herself which I did not touch because I'm not a big lamb fan. And a big basket of pita bread (I am not a huge fan of their very big flat and sort of dry pita which is almost more tortilla like....but hey, it scoops. That's the important thing) Before the food came out I got to open my birthday presents...another bottle of VAMPIRE Merlot! (how does she do it?) and this and this, proving that she is taking my resolutions seriously! and also an embroidered kitchen towel which reads "Slow Rise....Take It Easy" with a little oven in the middle. It's beyond cute. I'll have to take a picture. We chatted a little and then the food came and we pretty much stopped the chatting and fell upon the plates with frenzy. Oh, so good. The tabouli was my favorite, so fresh and parsleyful and lemony, and the hummus was also close to perfection...very garlicky with a deep tahini flavor that doesn't bite at you like it sometimes does. The cheese pie---also amazing....it's like a big toasty bun with a bit of cottage cheese and onions inside. Not the sort of crispy filo turnover thing you might expect. I like theirs better. The sleek I have to say was not transcendent...I like mine better, honestly, but it's the kind of food that I am just grateful to be able to eat in a restaurant(especially for $3.95) The Mujaddara again was not super awesome--way more lentils than onions. I prefer a more 50/50 composition. But that is not a diss really...the little lentils were very brown and tender but not mushy, and the bits of fried onion that were evident were crispy and caramelly and delish. I tried REALLY hard to finish it off, but I reached maximum saturation. And as I was already sort of laden down with things, I didn't want to try to carry home a take out. So I let it go. I had to get a little arabic coffee even though there was barely room left in my tummy for it, but man....so good. And then the bill....$26. For ALL OF IT. I sat and stared in shock for a few minutes and then began repeating a mantra of WHY DON"T I COME HERE ALL THE TIME?!?!? Seriously. Why. I feel like I've definitely fallen into the burger and beer rut. Next time I am looking for meeting and eating options I am definitely going to recommend ali baba. And you know, I don't think my order will ever change. I might want to add on the feta plate sometime, or the baba ganouj, but really---it's a damn near perfect meal. And even though I ate myself practically into a food coma, I still felt so HEALTHY when I was done. Good times.
Speaking of good times, we headed down to the Pub last night to see the Human Brains and Darkbuster. It was SUPER packed. So packed, in fact, that it wasn't so much good times and we ended up leaving before Darkbuster even played. But the Brains put on a STELLAR show----I know every show is their best ever and you probably get sick of hearing that from me, but they really kicked it up a notch last night, I think. Maybe to impress the folks from Boston, maybe to impress the huge crowd of rockabilly dudes gathered around the TV to watch the end of the Penguins game...whatever it was, I'll take it. So so good.
The opening band was the Video Nasties from Greensburg who really were not very good and seemed to have some sort of skinhead affiliation, which really I can do without. It made me feel very uncomfortable to watch a bunch of skinheads singing along to "Beat on the Brat." Ick.
But, I talked to Logan for a while and he volunteered to bring his amp for the new wave cabaret, so at least my amp worries are solved.
Today we are heading out to the thrift store again to hunt down some more tee shirts and new wave prizes and hopefully a fedora. Cross your fingers.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

the grits!

Good lord, somehow I completely forgot to mention the grits in my dinner recap. I think that's because they weren't so much on the menu and I was doing the recap off the menu, which I had printed out and sitting next to me. But, I can't go without mentioning the grits, and really, they were good enough to have their own entry.
So here we go.

When Jilly went for her birthday, one of the starters she got was the butter poached lobster which came on a bed of grits. She said she picked it mostly because she was very curious about the grits...yeah, lobster's cool and everything, but....
Anyway, when I later talked to her about her birthday meal, she had the most to say about the grits. The consistency, the corn flavor, the delightful appearance. She wanted me to experience these grits. So we asked the server if we could have a little taste of them, and she ordered us up a whole side dish.

Good lord.

If you look here, you will see that these are not any ordinary grits. No, these grits require the equivalent of four pages of instructions to cook them properly. Reader, let me tell you....it's totally worth it. These grits were SO creamy and SO full of flavor that it seems wrong to even call them by the same name as the stuff I had out of the blue cardboard carton last night. I don't think I am going to be spending $23 on a bag of grits any time soon, but I believe there are probably some places around where I can get good quality stone ground grits a little cheaper, and use the soaking and slow cooking method to produce heavenly pillows of corny goodness. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


rock on pagans!
So....the birthday dinner at Eleven. Jilly picked me up about 7:15 and we drove down to the strip in just the tiniest bit of snow and ice. I was really happy that my birthday had brought the snow....at last, I can stop saying things like "freakish" and "apocalyptic" when referring to the weather. That is a nice birthday treat from mother nature.
We arrived just in time for our reservation, and Jilly availed herself of the VALET. We walked in and the hostess was very warm and friendly, showing us to our PRIVATE ALCOVE table. Really, it was something. Turns out that the friend who worked there is now the MANAGER, so we got some extra nice treatment all night long. So sweet!
We arranged ourselves and met our server who was a very awesome gal who had been in the same section when Jilly went there for her birthday dinner...so she remembered Jilly and knew that we were there for my birthday. She took our order for two Ketel One VERY Dirty Martinis....I am so happy that Jilly is a recent convert to the dirty vodka. I have gotten way out of the martini habit and it is nice to have someone to coax me back in to it! And of course, at Eleven they are extra cold and extra salty and the olives are big and juicy. Yum.
So here's the thing about "fine dining" that I really love....the servers are really into partnering with you to make sure you have the best experience possible. I mean, the stereotype of fine dining is snooty waiters who are going to condescend, but my limited experiences with fine dining have been totally different. I enjoy feeling like this person is really interested in me having a good time...if it's a show, that's fine. But at least I felt that way. Our server was fantastic. As soon as we were settled in with our drinks we were presented with our amusee....a tiny sliver of roasted golden beet topped with a goat cheese rosette and warm sage honey. On the most precious little glass tasting plate. It was pretty tasty, but really it was all about the presentation. Then our server came back and took our appetizer and salad orders.....being the slightest bit coy about our difficulty choosing between the two pasta starters. We finally settled on the Mascarpone and Sweet Potato Ravioli with caramelized onion puree, braised red cabbage, and roated onion. For salads we chose The Ceasar with baby red and green romaine, kalamata olive-parmesan croutons, giant parmesan shavings, and a whole white anchovy on top; and the Roasted Beet and Apple Salad with iceburg lettuce, blue cheese and hazelnut dressing. Jilly was not super impressed with the ceasar (and it was definitely not baby greens...but then again, it's definitely the middle of winter!) saying the dressing was a bit lemony. I was on the other hand totally knocked out by the beet and apple salad. Tiny dice of beets and spiced apples were pressed together into a disk, and presented on the plate with a wedge of iceburg(I am not into this trend of making iceburg cool, but whatever) that was drizzled with the dressing. It was gorgeous, and both components of the salad were pretty yummy. I would have loved it more had it been some big pillowy boston lettuce with the beet and apple disk on top, maybe....but I'm not complaining!
Next came the ravioli....I thought they were gorgeous sitting in their little pool of caramelized onion puree. Jilly felt that the raviolis looked a little too naked. We both agreed that they tasted freakin awesome, though...especially with the braised red cabbage underneath. So good!
We were relaxing and enjoying our drinks when Amanda, our new manager friend, came out and presented us with a plate of Black Truffle Fettuccini with duck confit, bitter greens, roasted squash, and crispy sage leaves, as a gift from herself and the chef. Wow! This was almost too amazing to talk about....the fettuccini was perfect (housemade, of course) the black truffle broth was overpowering (not in a "too much" way, more in a "I think I am going to lose consciousness" way) and then when you think your taste buds are going to recover, there is a shot of roasted squash and DUCK! and tiny crispy sage leaves. It really was almost too much. So good. This was one of the things Jilly had at her birthday dinner and Amanda had remembered how much she loved it, so it was a personal and very thoughtful gift.
So we were just about done swooning when the bread guy came around with a giant basket and offered us a choice...semolina sesame, a corn bread with cracked black pepper and cilantro, and a salted foccaccia. We tried them all over the course of the meal....the corn bread was my favorite after all, even though I couldn't really taste all the stuff that was supposed to be in it. The texture was amazing though. We had another round of martinis and water, and then it was entree time.
It was a tough choice for me....I'm always happy with salmon, and the preparation included lentils, but a good piece of tuna can be ecstatic. And both the server and manager assured me that overcooking was not going to be a problem, so I took the plunge. Tuna with potato, portabello, and truffle galette, mushroom puree, haricot vert, and red wine veal reduction. Jilly had the Seafood Tasting, partly so I could get my taste of salmon, and partly because she wanted to sample the crab cake. Hers came with Pacific salmon, potato crusted sea scallop, and jumbo lump crab cakes.
My plate was absolutely gorgeous, and the mushroom puree was particularly fantastic. I wasn't sure I was going to like it but it was so earthy and smooth and went well with the tuna. It was a nice change to get a tuna preparation that was not overwhelmed with strong asian flavors, too...it was basically just TUNA, surrounded by some other good tasting stuff. The galette was HUGE, and perfectly crisp on the outside with a foundation of portobello and a creamy truffle infused potato interior. Dang. The haricots verts were crisp and very green, but a tab bit over peppered. It was hard for me to fault someone for overpeppering though....I tend to do it myself. Jilly's plate was very simple....the scallop had a big potato crisp on top, and was nestled in something I don't remember....the salmon was perfectly cooked and tasted like itself as well...but the star of the plate was definitely the crab cake. The Meyer lemon buerre noisette and very light crisp panko coating....my god. If I ever go there again (and I bet I will!) It's the crab cake for me. Seriously. Crab cake and dirty martini and I'm good for the night!
But no.....there was more to eat. We did the best we could with our entrees, but neither of us could quite finish them off. When our server came to talk to us about dessert we just sort of stared at her with glassy eyes...but finally we managed to order the most delicious dessert wine of all time: 2005 Castello Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto D'Acqui. Say that five times fast....no, don't bother. Just order me a case of that shit, because it is the best thing EVER and not carried by the WINE AND SPIRITS SUPERSTORE. WTF?!?!?! Our tall flutes arrived and were so beautiful...the most deep garnet red with fizzy bubbles, and a simultaneously deep and light flavor. Impossible to describe(especially by me..I'm a dork when it comes to wines) All I can really say for it is GIVE ME MORE. We were just starting to settle down from all the overstimulation when out comes the aforementioned carrot cake, all done up on the plate with Happy Birthday written in dark chocolate. I made a few desultory swipes at it with my fork, but I could not fit it in. So the sweet server packed it up and gave me a Dessert Check to pick it up at the door! How cool is that? The bill came with three home made chocolates...I managed to enjoy two of them since everyone was saying the rosa regale goes so well with chocolate. They weren't wrong, but I think the rosa regale would go fine with anything I would ever care to put in my mouth. Seriously, I love this stuff. Just love it.
Amanda came and chatted with us for a bit, and then it was time to go. An unforgettable birthday dinner for an unforgettable birthday...thanks so much Jilly!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I don't really have time to do last night's dinner justice right now, but I promise I will write it up when I get home from work(and before I go to TONIGHT's special dinner!)
For now, I will just tell you that I am having my Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Ice Cream, Butterscotch Sauce, and Carrot Chips(a gift from the house that I could barely glance at last night, I was so full!) for breakfast. Oh. Yum.
No disrespect to cats, but........this is brilliant.

(cookiecrumb is brilliant and funny all around....read her archives while you're there!)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Well now. So far 40 feels just fine.
I worked brunch on my birthday---sold out of the potato and soysage enchiladas in chipotle mole and the strawberries and cream french toast---and got lots of compliments and birthday wishes. Then, I had a NAP, while my wonderful girlfriend made my birthday dinner. Marinated and sauteed skirt steak, steamed broccoli and dinosaur kale with garlic butter, crescent rolls, and roasted sweet potatoes and apples (which we didn't actually get to eat because they weren't done cooking. but, what nice leftovers!) We drank my xmas present bottle of vampire merlot, and then it was time for THE BEST BIRTHDAY CAKE IN THE WORLD. I even have plenty of the BEST BIRTHDAY CAKE IN THE WORLD left over, so that I was able to have a slice for breakfast today. And so I shall for the next few days.....amen.
The birthday celebrations continue...tonight Jilly is taking me for a pimptastic dinner at Eleven; tomorrow is my first Slow Food event at Il Piccolo Forno; next week the sisters arrive and we will feast and dance and then have the new wave cabaret to end all new wave cabarets(well, hopefully it won't actually end all new wave cabarets!)
Also, I got the updated expanded version of On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee as a long distance birthday present from my red headed wonderpriest. Life is SUPER GOOD!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Yesterday was a good, good day. I spent most of it getting the kitchen storage organized, and a lot of it downloading things from emusic to use up my 30 downloads before they expire. In the process, I made a couple of really awesome discoveries--most awesome is meg lee chin. Even her website is super cool! I was sort of aware of her as she does this amazing song called "Nutopia" on the Pigface album A New High In Low. But I hadn't explored past that. Then she sent me a friend request on myspace, so I thought I should check her out. WOW WOW WOW. It was all I could do not to use up ALL my remaining credits on her. But I used some restraint. I'll get the rest in February. Her music is somewhere between industrial and electronica, and her vocals are just mind blowing. As are her lyrics. Wow. One of my biggest problems in life is that when I am REALLY excited about something I am unable to express it in language. So take that WOW as a really strong recommendation!
I also got some stuff from the X UNCLOGGED accoustic album they did in 1995. And this really cool, very powerful spoken word sort of thing called "Aliens" that Exene did with the Red Aunts. And some stuff off of an album called Twisted Wille with Willie Nelson covers, including Johnny Cash with Alice in Chains doing Time of the Preacher. It doesn't get much better than that, I can assure you.
I've figured out my best emusic strategy is to go through it by label. It's a music service that concentrates on independent labels, so I'm never going to get the David Bowies or the Led Zeppelins, but I can go through everything on Invisible or Kill Rock Stars and work it that way. So it's all good.
In the evening we had a meeting with a wedding client for September...the wedding is going to be out on a farm in Clinton Pa. Only the farm actually contains an art gallery building with what sounds like a state of the art kitchen. And, this couple has quite the impressive budget. Swoon. Plus, they were really fun and nice. We're really lucky that we haven't had too many incidences of crazy clients. Sometimes the parents can get to be a little much, but for the most part the actual couples have all been delightful. Makes my job all the more pleasant.
In New Wave Cabaret news, I've got almost all of the song lists in, and I am pleased to report that INXS and Adam Ant are tied for most represented. I'm kinda bummed that my Love and Rockets and Gene Loves Jezebel promises fell through, but a night full of INXS and Adam Ant will make up for it. I'm hoping to get the flyer today, and then it's time to let the media blitz begin!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

OH my goodness gosh!
Michael Pollan is coming to speak in Pittsburgh in March! And, because my wonderful sissy got me a membership to SlowFood for a holiday present, I get a 10% discount on tickets! Woohoo! I am really excited by this.
I still haven't finished the book, but it has already completely changed the way I think about food. And as you know if you've been paying attention....I think about food a LOT.
I am hoping to be able to go to the SlowFood Pittsburgh dinner next Tuesday to hear from people who went to the big SlowFood international meeting this summer. And also to meet the members of the group. I'll keep you posted.
Freecycling of the kitchen is going well so far...I dug everything out of my akward cupboard and set aside the things I never use (and don't really plan to in the next few months) I am keeping the tortilla press, though, even though I've never used it. I really need to make my own tortillas because I eat them a lot and all the ones I have been able to find are either super expensive or full of gunk. I am also keeping the bamboo steamer because I really NEED to start using it. I put it in a new spot in easy reach so hopefully that will inspire me to pull it out when I am making dinner. Roasting is great for the chilly weather, but once spring is here it's gonna be time to start the steaming.
Speaking of spring, it's time!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Yesterday, someone brought a big box of cassette tapes into the quiet storm to give away for free. I am now the proud owner of both Monster Ballads Vol 2 and Body Count. I am not sure if I am more excited to have these things, or to know that at some point, some other person on the planet (and probably right here in Pittsburgh, even!) owned both of them. I picked up a few other items, like a digital underground, pharcyde, beastie boys, and the jacksons album with "State of Shock" on it. I can't remember who I was having a drunken conversation with about State of Shock, but the definitive answer is "the Jacksons with Mick Jagger." If you're out there.
Band practice for tonight was cancelled, and the Roxie radio party for tomorrow was cancelled too (roxie and his whole family has the FLU!!) So I'll be spending the next 36 hours listening to Ice T be brutal and going through my kitchen and storage area to get rid of things on freecycle. Wish me luck!
YAY! I get to do my first freecycle gifting today! A teacher of 9th graders was looking for binders to help her class get organized. I just happen to have a box of 6 binders I've been holding on to since I left the bookstore, thinking one day I would need to organize a bunch of papers. I tend to use manilla folders now and file things away in the cabinet, so the binders have really been taking up space. Now they can be put to good use. Woohoo! Plus, the teacher teaches only a block away from the Quiet Storm and comes in for coffee all the time. So it's a super local thing. I'm hoping to spend part of my day off tomorrow making a big list to post of kitchen stuff to offer. I've got a lot of things in the closet that I haven't looked at in over a year. Really don't need to carry them around any longer...
Aside from the freecycle hookup, yesterday I got the ball really rolling on the new wave cabaret posters. Turns out when I sent the stuff to my new wave darling last week he never got it. Drat. But, it turns out that it's all good because a couple more bands have dropped off, and a couple new bands might be taking their place. So posters made last week would have been full of incorrect information, and I hate that. I guess the internet was doing me a favor.
Had a nice busy morning at the Storm....we put the new prep regime into effect this week and I am very curious to see how it will pan out. Yesterday was a really busy lunch, as Monday holiday lunches tend to be, so I will probably need to make a bunch of stuff to get us up to speed for the schedule. I'm ready! And today is my muffin day also. I'm thinking some pineapple upsidedown muffins....yum. I cranked out cabbage rolls for supper last night, and some zucchini fries. There are some days when I just can't quit making stuff!
Once I finally got myself out of there, I hurried home to freshen up and then went out to meet J* for some beers and conversation. We also had awesome gigantic grilled salmon salads. Lot 17 really goes the distance with the salmon on the salads...it was a bigger piece than I might cook for myself! But I ate it all, and all the greens and little orange pieces too. Yummy. I have noticed a trend though....all the dinner salads in pittsburgh seem to be getting smaller in terms of the lettuce. It almost seems like there was a memo or something. I don't really understand the economics of putting less lettuce and more salmon on a salad, but hey---what do I know. The same thing happened to the dinner salad I had at Sharp Edge a week or so ago....hardly any lettuce, and a whole steak on there. MY perspective is if I wanted a steak I would order a steak, but if I want a salad I am looking for a big pile of greenage. But I guess others don't think that way, and it's more of a disguise for ordering a steak?
Anyhow, it was great to see J* and catch up on things, and she bestowed upon me a giant bag full of presents! I can't even remember all the stuff in there, but I know there was a handmade dishrag with a bat on it, and a framed matted photo of Anita Fix and Bambam that I just adore. It's really nice to have crafty/arty friends...you end up getting really unique and meaningful gifts. I am a lucky girl!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Maybe it's hormones, but wow, I just caught most of this and I was crying out loud during the part about the lady who was reunited with her chimpanzee friends, and the guy who took care of the elephant for 25 years at the zoo and then got to take her to the sanctuary where she could be reunited with another elephant she had known from the circus. Seriously, waaaaaaaaaah, crying. There was other awesome stuff too that did not make me cry, like the footage of a seahorse giving birth, and the guy who got to see the moth that Charles Darwin had theorized about. I heart PBS, bigtime.
Speaking of things I heart, check out nicole reynolds. I saw her on Friday night at this amazing queer variety show in a little cafe in point breeze called earthstone. It's new and sweet and you should stop in for a coffee the next time you are headed to the co-op. Anyway, this queer variety show: there was smells like gina, a trio of highschool punk rock dykes who tore it up, and Colelea, a slam poet who really, and I mean REALLY, blew me away with her words and her style(I can't believe I've never seen her before!) and Nicole, who had me on the edge of weeping with her songs about seducing farm girls and the end of relationships and the war, and her stories about living on an organic goat and sheep farm!, and there was Katz also known as the Athens Boys Choir, a tranny performance poet boy who was just awesome and also very sweet, and Amy Kasio and Team Gina, dancing and singing with projections....such a great night!
I'm writing to you from the comfort of my new handcuffs hoodie (I'm sorry to say they aren't available in the United States...mine came from the thrift store for $4.99!) I'm currently enjoying a very bizarre adam ant compilation that I borrowed from Jilly after new wave brunch.
Yep, you missed new wave brunch! It was fun. Not terribly busy, and way too many people ordered off the sides menu, instead of ordering Send Me a Bagel. But we got lots of orders for the Modern English Muffin, the Antmuesli, The Rock the Casbah breakfast plate, Frittata Mondatta, and I Want Pancakes. And of course, Flock of Migas. The music was good. People were in good moods despite the rain and gray.
Wow---"Place in the Country" really makes me want form an Adam Ant cover band immediately! Who's in? I want to pound on the drums like this!
Ok, back to the recap. Yesterday was a really great day off, despite the weird weather. We got up for the shows (including an amazing episode of Now about BioWillie ) and had breakfast and coffee, and then took our time getting ready to head out for the day. The plan was to drop off some things at the thrift store that rebby had cleared out of her spare room, and then visit a health food store in dormont that was rumored to carry grassfed meats. We found it, and it was pretty disappointing. They had some seriously frozen buffalo burgers, but that was about it. I did get some wah! guru chews though, so the trip wasn't a total loss. I also got some aluminum free baking soda, and rebby got a grape recharge drink that was not horrible, and picked up a free healthy living magazine that actually had some helpful information in amongst all the vitamin and colon cleanse ads. We headed back to 51 and went to John McGinnis Specialty Foods, which is my new favorite place to shop. They have Amish chickens and Smoked Pork Chops, which is one of rebby's favorite things in the world. I don't know if their meats are especially sustainable or friendly, but they are definitely very fresh and delicious, and the people in the meat dept are very helpful. They also have some good local and organic produce (more local in season, I guess) and nice specialty things like imported pastas and that fizzy water from Scotland and good cheeses. It's a tiny little store, but even if there are several other people in there it never feels like you are being jostled like at the Market District. They also have an amazing Boar's Head Deli case, with a gorgeous variety of meats and cheeses. I'm not much of a deli type, but if you are, you should definitely check it out. Rebby got some house made dried chorizo and let me just tell you....that is the shizzy.
After the grocery shopping we headed to the Goodwill to drop off the stuff and of course, had to take a look inside. That is where I found my cozy as hell hoodie, and an assortment of jars. Including a pasta jar that is actually tall enough to enclose my linguine. The one I've been using the linguine sticks out the top. Bah. I got a little corningware dish as well for my vegetable roasting pleasure, and a small stainless steel copper bottomed saute pan. Unfortunately, the Goodwill would not take her television from the 80s, so we had to hit the south side Salvation Army as well. They had no probs taking the TV, and I got a few more tall jars. Rebby got an assortment of cut glass liquor bottles....she is going to have the pimpiest liquor cabinet around! I made myself leave the gorgeous fondue set with greek animals on the side...it really was so pretty, but the last thing I need really is another fondue set. Seriously.
We headed over to D's to get some beers to go with dinner...they are stocking some magic hat bottles now, so she got a Circus Boy and I got an H IPA I am really ecstatic that I can get a couple bottles of magic hat now and again. It almost makes me want to move to Regent Square! So we got to her place and she grilled the smoked pork chops with raspberry chipotle sauce and I made some sauteed collards and black beans with rice. We feasted.
After the feast we watched some of the footage from the 2001 New Wave Cabaret. Oh goodness! I really had so few memories of this night...I think I had intentionally erased it from my memory since that was the year we did it at the Beehive and some of the bands didn't get to play. (including the human brains who had lugged all the equipment for the night!) But some of the stuff was so great! Lonely Planet Boy doing "All In My Mind", Scott Carney's "Take on Me", Melvin singing "Number with Wings"...wow. A very young very new wave Mike Baltzer doing "Everything Counts". We didn't get through all of it, and we only watched the handheld stuff (rebby had two stationary cameras set up too!) It really made me excited for the upcoming night....my friends are so freakin talented!!!!!
"who taught you to torture".....oh goodness! Whip In My Valise. I just had to say it. I had forgotten. Now I REALLY want to start an adam ant cover band!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Resolutions.....I got 'em.

I don't usually make resolutions, because my natural tendency is to lose interest in anything I start about two months down the line (if that) But this year, with the BIG DEAL BIRTHDAY and all, I feel like it might be time. So these resolutions are sort of more specific to my natal year than the calendar year, I guess you could say. Some of them are things I have started a billion times (yoga, I'm looking at you) and some of them are things that have just sort of organically grown out of the past year's interests. (organically grown. ha! I slay me.) But all of them are things I fully intend to do within the timeframe of my 40th year:

1)quit the tobacco for good
2)do a regular yoga practice, including actually going to yoga classes
3)join some gym so I can make love to the thigh press once again
4)move to a cheaper and larger apartment (it can be done! I have faith)
5)get a kretchmann CSA
6)grow a garden in black monday's back yard
7)start making my own bread
8)get a driver's license

I'll stop at 8. There are some more things I could throw on there but I don't want to force myself to add two more just to make 10. These 8 all came to me in the 10 minutes previous to sitting down to write this entry so I think they all carry some weight. Words of encouragement are always welcome.

Last night I made a very glamorous yet extremely simple dinner for rebby and myself, and it filled me with the fire of virtue. I had bought a piece of salmon at the whole foods on tuesday (I actually went in for red snapper, since it was jimmy page's birthday, but there wasn't any on offer) and I cooked it in the FLASH ROAST method. You may have noticed that I am all about roasting everything these days---flash roasting salmon means you crank the oven up to 500 and throw your cast iron pan in there, then you put a tiny bit of oil in the pan and lay the salmon in and 10 minutes later you have perfect buttery flaky fish. Good lord, it was yummy! I just put a little lemon juice on top. Along side I had sauteed red chard cut into ribbons, and some roasted acorn squash I mashed and mixed with a little heavy cream, maple syrup and jack daniels. Wooboy, that was good. And so colorful! It's times like that when I really appreciate my matte black plates. They show off colorful food so nicely.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things......

two champion chicks farm fresh eggs scrambled with carrots, spinach, onions, a few leftover roasted potatoes, all wrapped up in an alvarado street sprouted whole wheat tortilla with lots of spicy tomato chutney inside. swedish coffee from ikea and knudsen very veggie juice to drink.

with a breakfast like that I could....dare I say it? rule the world.

this morning I had a great time at the roxie radio party. he played thunderkiss 65, for petessakes! and children of the revolution. and the immigrant song. I heart that roxieboy!

last night I managed to get the yearly bottle of jack (as well as a copy of vegan with a vengeance for $7 off with my borders rewards points!) but I got so involved in slip tallies and prep planning that I never managed to crack it open! sheesh!
I did manage to watch boston legal though. I really like that show a lot. I'll crack the jack tonight. nothing wrong with celebrating jimmy's birthday all week!

tonight I may go and see alphadog for free. rebby has passes. could be weird, but it's nice to sit in a theater. I'll let you know.

so I officially did not cancel my trial membership to emusic...I was sort of on the fence about it, but did not react in time. now I have 30 downloads to use up this month----please hip me to cool tunes. I am going to download all of the duke special album, for sure, and roxie just turned me on to a swedish metal band called gemini five. anything you can recommend?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Happy Birthday Jimmy!

The rock god of my dreams turns 63 today. I wish I would have remembered to get the yearly bottle of Jack yesterday, but I forgot. I'll have to hit the wine and spirits after work today. Now that I'm off the cola though....whatever will I mix it with?
I also wish I would have remembered to check the record exchange downtown for a used CD copy of Presence. It's perhaps my favorite Zep album (no kidding!) and I don't have it on CD anymore. Boo. Hopefully my morning barista who is also a Zep fan will remember to bring in her stuff......it's going to be a very zeppelin day at the Quiet Storm!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Three cheers for downtown Pittsburgh!
Well, really, it was kind of depressing to be down there. Everything seems to be closing up, only to be replaced with convenience stores and overpriced condos. Still, I had kind of a nice shopping adventure.
I took the 81B bus because I like to go through the hill district. The hill seems to be in the process of being converted to row upon row of identical townhomes, reminding me of nothing so much as that creepy scene in a wrinkle in time when the children first get to camazotz and all the kids are bouncing identical balls at the same time. Eeek.
Anyway, creepy sameness aside, it's a nice ride through a part of the city that has a rich history. I got into town and got off the bus next to "macy's" (eek) and walked down the street to Weldins. Weldins is a reassuring trip back in time. It's an ancient stationery store, where you can still buy monogramed note cards and there is a cat sleeping on the floor and, get this---they have CARBON PAPER. I'll bet they even have mimeograph fluid somewhere in those dusty cupboards. Unfortunately, they seem to have replaced their dayrunner line with some upscale line on ivory linen....but I did get a filofax insert that is ALMOST what I wanted. Instead of having the months laid out in calendar blocks, they are laid out in single lines. Eh. I'll try to train myself to get used to it but I might have to just order a dayrunner calendar insert online. I got some new address pages too, but unfortunately they aren't alphabet tabbed. Grr. Thanks a helluvalot, filofax. These were both pretty darn cheap so I won't feel too bad if I chuck them in when I find what I really want.
From Weldins I made my way down toward market square, stopping in the weird dollar store. I couldn't help myself. I got some colorful gel pens, and some sharpies, and a couple boxes of OB tampons, and some dishsoap, and Steven Reichlen's book just about RIBS!, and a giant baking companion book, and a DVD of an arty horror film starring William Shatner called Incubus. The total was like $12.00. I love weird dollar stores!
Next door to the weird dollar store is George Aiken, and even though I thought I might regret it later(which I am right now!) I went in for an early lunch. It is really unfortunate that I love fried chicken so much because it almost always makes me feel a little sick after eating it. But I got the breast and wing plate with instant mashed potatoes and chicken gravy and some oversteamed vegetable medley. They only had Dasani water, so I opted for a bottle of lipton sweetened and lemon flavored iced tea. I took three sips and that was it....my avoidance of corn syrup has already made me extra sensitive to it.It really tasted like CORN! to me. It was sort of comforting to see that the same surly employees who refused to give me water from the tap way back when I worked downtown are still there, and still just as surly. Sigh.
Next I made my way to Nicholas Coffee to stock up on Scandanavian Morning Blend straight from the source, and was absolutely thrilled beyond belief to find Carr's Whole Wheat Crackers, which I never seem to be able to find and which are the perfect accompaniment to Ski Queen. In fact, I'm having some now. In fact, I really should have bought two boxes...these aren't going to last into the next piece of Ski Queen I buy.
I made my way through the square to The Avenue, where I got two pairs of serviceable work pants for $14.00. These chocolate brown ones I have on now are actually pretty nice...maybe I'll save them from kitchen duty instead! If I add patching my holey jeans to the to do list, I'll be ahead one pair of kitchen pants already....
Ok, so next I stopped at the ATM to deposit that check and get some stamps, and then I made my way up to Burlington. I always feel the need to look around in there, but besides a pair of weird camoflauge pants (they were white, green, gray and yellow...I don't know where you could blend in with that color scheme!) which I decided were not worth $8, the only thing I really wanted was a pair of grape colored gloves to match the scarf that madorange made for me last year. I found a great pair...they're freakin NINE WEST! which I did not realize in the store...almost terryclothesque, very soft. Only $8.00. I ruined the salesgirl's day by making her interrupt her conversation with a co-worker to find some scissors to cut the tags off, because by the time I had gotten to Burlington it was COLD and snowing. Of course, now it's sunny again. But I got to wear my new toasty NINE WEST gloves for about an hour. Cool.
I continued up the street to the busstop, where I got to watch the general flow of humanity downtown for a while. It made me realize that my world has gotten pretty small these days and I don't interact with the general flow of humanity so much anymore. That's not good or bad, I don't think....just something to think about.
So now I'm home, enjoying swedish coffee(I haven't yet told you about my ikea shopping adventure...maybe later!) and wholewheat biscuits with ski queen cheese, and after putting some more laundry in I'll get started on catching up the slip tallies since dec 29th while watching Incubus. Sounds like a great day off to me!
Oh brother.
I don't know if I will ever really finish catching up on the holiday scene---although I feel kind of compelled to do it since I am getting old and have to store my memories outside of my brain as much as possible.
We'll see what today holds---it's a full day OFF post holidays and post giant catering job, and I am going downtown to visit the bank (and deposit a check I got from my sister almost a month ago---sorry!) and visit the ancient stationery store to get some new inserts for my dayrunner. The last time I did that was in 2004, I'll have you know, but in my defence in the meantime I did have free academic planners from the bookstore. In any case, I am really looking forward to being sort of organized this year. Wish me luck, please.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

OK, so after all the baking, I crawled into bed and slept a little bit, and then it was time to go make christmas eve brunch. I packed up some cookies for all my brunch worker bees, and headed down in the non-snow to the quizzle. I had planned a pretty ambitious christmas eve menu: spinach and red pepper fritatta, vegan gingerbread pancakes, african peanut stew, and figgy bread pudding with hard sauce. It all came together relatively easily. In fact, I had a BLAST making it. Unfortunately, the brunch was pretty poorly attended. Everyone who made it out loved it, and we had a great time dancing around to the Temptations version of Rudolph and also making fun of Michael Bolton's christmas song. But I was sad that more people did not get to enjoy the figgy pudding especially. Those who tried it said it was the best bread pudding EVA! OH well. I beat it out of there by 2:30 and came home to pack up for the trip to Dormont. Oh wait! I didn't mention getting up at 5am to wrap presents, did I? Well I did. I packed everything up and headed out to the store to get the last gift certificate for my sister and her hubby, and to pick up some christmas cigarettes. I didn't have to wait long at all for my bus, and was charmed to get to ride with my friend Steve for a bit, going to meet his new lady friend for christmas eve dinner cooking. Awww. I arrived at my T stop just as the steeler's game was letting out. I decided to sit and have a cigarette while the majority of mopey steeler's fans got on the T. Still, I ended up in a car packed wall to wall with people in black and gold. When I arrived in Dormont, I didn't even get my coat off before a glass of wine was in my hand. Astoundingly, my father's house is now beer and soda free! And my father had made a point of getting some red wine just for me. Aww. I visited with the family for a while, and then sis and bro had to head out for some of the other family events. So it was just dad and his girlfriend and me for dinner. We ate delicious baked orange roughy butternut squash souffle and drank wine and had some nice conversation, and then we watched Midnight Cowboy. Ha! It was great. Late at night we drunkenly stuffed all the christmas stockings with the oddest assortment of stocking stuffers, and then dad and his lady went to bed and I got to watch half an episode of aquateens before the kids came home. Bro was determined that we would watch BEERFEST, but sis and I pretty much slept through the whole thing. Man, I was toast between the lack of sleep and the wine.
I still managed to get up before anyone else and figure out how to work the digital cable so I could watch VH1 Classic Christmas videos. I actually got to see not only some Twisted Sister christmas videos, but the Hall and Oates Jinglebell Rock AND....Billy Squier! Woohoo! That made my christmas special. Dad made coffee and eggs and bacon, and then we basically sat around all day. More christmas videos, and then we got sucked into the Temptations movie. Woah....what a downer! It was a great do-nothing day though. I avoided the temptation to drink more wine...I think that was for the best.
Next up....presents, and dinner, and .....more movies! (of course)
Wow babies! It's been like FOREVER since I last wrote! That's the holiday season....always a whole new set of things to take care of pushing all the old things to the back burner. Believe it or not, I did manage to get some laundry done in there.....but just barely. Let's see how I can do with recapping the entire holiday season in one reasonable post...
So---the fruitcakes. They are absolutely adorable, and so perfect! I gifted a few people with fruitcakes, and they were all impressed. My fruitcakes are not at all like those about which holiday jokes are told. Mine are light and delicate and full of delicious fruits and also completely soaked in southern comfort and triple sec. Yum. There are still some left that may end up in the posession of some of you reading this, if you like. ;)
In addition to the fruitcakes, I had some other baking adventures: pecan lucky stars, lemon basil cookies, peppermint candy canes, apricot cheese pastries, and pepparkakor. This list is basically in order from not at all a pain in the ass to good god these better be good because this is really HARD! The pecan lucky stars are a variation on a recipe my grandmother used to make, and I've made them succesfully before. Basically I just substituted maple syrup and pecans for sugar and walnuts. It's a kind of shortbread cookie that you cut out into star shapes and then you put a tiny bit of the nut mixture in the middle and fold up the corners of the stars. Easy and yummy. The lemon basil cookies are a recipe I got from the very first wedding we ever catered. These cookies are SO GOOD but the recipe is super weird. It involves cream cheese, basil, currants, and lemon cake mix. Next year I want to try to adapt it to leave out the cake mix...there must be a way to do the same thing with actual ingredients. Anyway, they aren't a pain in the ass at all, and they turned out good. The peppermint candy cane cookies is a recipe I have copied down in my private recipe repository which I thought was the recipe my mom used to make. Turns out it isn't, or isn't quite. The ones my mom used to make involved making red dough and white dough and braiding them together and then covering them in crushed candy canes. This recipe doesn't mention the coloring, or the candy canes even. It's basically an oatmeal shortbread with peppermint oil added. Which is fine, really, but not what I was looking for. I had made the decision to adapt it but then when I went to the store I forgot to get the food coloring. Bah. Also, I could not find any candy canes in the market district on the day before christmas eve. WTF? I ended up getting some peppermint stick candy and crushing that up using my muddler. It made a hell of a racket but as my neighbor was blasting Barry White I didn't worry too much. Anyway, the cookies turned out yummy even though they were only vaguely candy cane esque. The peppermint shortbread was good on it's own, and even better with crushed peppermint candy attached. But not the authentic article.
So now we come to the major pain the ass cookies...the apricot cheese pastries and the dreaded pepparkokor. The apricot cheese thingies are definitely a recipe from my mom, only hers were called Blushing Cream Cones. I substituted dried apricots for the garish cherries because I was trying to avoid garish cherries this year. This is a pastry rather than a cookie because it involves yeast. My mortal enemy. I went in with gusto though...and really, it all seemed to be going well. It took forever with the mixing and the kneading and the rising and the rising again. But then I really blew it when I went to form them...I made them WAY too big. Of course anyone who is not enemies with yeast knows that you have to make something a lot smaller than you want it to be when it comes out of the oven, but I was a dork and made them the size I wanted them to be. So after 10 minutes each delicate little cone was a monsterous LOAF. I was sort of crushed, but I was not going to let all that work go to waste, so I cut them up into bite sized pieces and coated them in powdered sugar. Ta-da! Totally delicious and no one was the wiser unless I complained to them.
The pepparkokor, I must say, are freakin delicious cookies and worth every minute of torment that went into making them. And there was torment a plenty. The thing about the swedish ginger snaps is you have to roll it REALLY REALLY thin so the cookies come out super crispy. The other thing is that this is the stickiest dough known to humans, even after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. And the third thing is that I was making them very late at night. So, let's put all these variables together into one big ball of drama. I took a tiny bit and rolled it out. It stuck to everything and was impossible to get off the rolling pin. SO I tried it again with a nice layer of sugar on the counter and the pin. That was better for the rolling, but the cookies stuck when I cut them. So THEN, I got the bright idea of rolling them out onto wax paper coated with sugar, and then peeling the paper away from the cookie. That worked, but it added a whole new level of torment and drama. I ended up making one pan of trees and one pan of bells and calling it a night. SO there is still a big ball of dough in the fridge, which I will probably roll out at some point when the catering madness is over. Sigh. But as I said, the reward of having fresh homemade gingersnaps is worth all the torment. They really are so much more delicious than your regular american style gingerbread cookies.
SO that's it for the baking adventures. I'll move on to Christmas eve next......