A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Friday, December 31, 2004

NYE Dinner

I've cooked dinner on New Year's Eve for the last couple of years. Seems like a nice way to end the year out. Last year was an adventure in making my own buffalo burgers, which weren't bad but were a little on the dry side (note to the interested: there is very little fat in buffalo--so adjust your cooking times accordingly).

Tonight should be a quiet dinner alone before heading out to Rob's house. I've put three chicken legs/thighs in a marinade of red wine vinegar, olive oil, chili powder, thyme, salt, and garlic. I'll let that sit in the fridge for a few hours (flipping it in the meantime, of course). Don't know what I'll serve it with. Probably broccoli and some rolls. Simple, easy, effective.

I've got a few skills I'd like to acquire in the new year. First, I want to make soup. I've done stew, but soup seems to take a lighter hand, something I definitely do not have. Hopefully by May I'll have the ability to make a bisque and French Onion soup, two of my favorites.

Also, its high time I purchased a food processor. This will help me to make gazpacho. I still haven't topped the bowl of gazpacho I had with Suzanne in Granada, years ago.

This year I roasted a turkey. Next year, I will make a crown roast. Also, I want to cook more shellfish come spring and summer. And make a perfect tuna steak--which I've failed to do on numerous occasions.

Hmm... I keep getting more ideas. At this rate, I'll have meals planned up to New Year's Eve 2005.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

This was Going to be a Not So Serious Post

I was going to mention how much I like the Pretty Toney Album, A Grand Don't Come for Free, and more on Jonathan Strange. Christmas gave me one book and two albums I'd put on my favorites of '04.

But it all seems kind of small compared to this.

120,000. That's more than any hurricane to hit the US, almost as many as Hiroshima, almost as many as the Bangladeshi flood in 1970. On googling natural disaster information, this page offers the most succinct and sobering data.

Where is our President? The rhetoric goes that he wanted to avoid the "I feel your pain" attitude that Clinton showed. Okay, maybe that makes sense. So he spent the 26th clearing brush and biking on his ranch. What? Sure you don't want to seem vapidly sympathetic, but couldn't you at least lie and say you were "getting a primer on the area's geography," "consulting your advisors on the best way to send aid," or "learning how to pronounce those big silly names"?

Here's the scenario: a horrific natural disaster strikes a heavily Muslim region. This region has been in turmoil before, is known to harbor and breed terrorism, and is seen by many national security experts as a rising threat. Do you a) Immediately and publicly move to send aid, creating a positive public image to combat anti-American propaganda or b) Bike around your Texas ranch?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Just a Test

Is this working? Posted by HelloI'm trying to get this Hello thingy to work for images, and am wondering if setting up a Flickr account would be smarter. Hmm.

On the Other Hand

Today I stayed home because I was so hungover I couldn't focus. This is what happens when you eat nothing but amuse bouches and drink wine wine wine followed by many beers. Ate last night at Tallula and had a great time. The food was seriously yummy. The corn dog--OH so fabulous. And their brunch menu looks not only awesome, but inexpensive. Prosciutto and quail eggs on biscuits with gravy--for under $10? Wow. Wonder how their Bloody Marys are. Yes, hell hath frozen over. I went to Virginia, and I liked it.

Took the orange line out there--and you know where I pick up the orange line. So on the way home, my path was very predictable. Not that my night was (or maye being unpredictable has become predictable at this point, who knows). Ended up talking to a German guy at the bar who was hiding from his Seventh Day Adventist, tee-totaling, non-smoking, pregnant wife. They got in a fight so he was determined to drink and smoke the night away. Oh, and to tell me all about it.

Do I wear a sign that says "Will have weird conversations with strangers for beer"?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


So, why did I stay home from work on Monday? Was it because I was hungover? Was I exhausted from the holidays with the family? Was I feeling ill, did I have a job interview, were there important errands to be run?

Nope. I stayed home so I could finish Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Sure, I did some other things--cleaned, bought a ladder, did some misc. grocery shopping. But the prime reason was that I wanted to finish the book. Which I did, around 4:45 yesterday afternoon.

If you haven't picked it up, and are in to pseudo-realist fantasy, go get it, like now. I'm not as well-read in fantasy as I am in sci-fi, so I can't lay down comparisons the way other reviews have (I keep reading references to the Baroque Cycle, anyone familiar) but I can echo their praise. But it's as much fantasy as it is a novel about knowledge, the relationship between master and student, early 19th-century England, and myriad other themes. At times I wondered if Clarke was making some of her extensive and exhaustive references up, or if they were real. The answer--all related to magic are fiction. Its an alternate history, and an amazingly conceived one at that.

Clarke took ten years to write this book and it shows. The book was fantastic and captivating. Best book I've read this year? Maybe. Out of all the new 2004 books I've read, this was at the top.

Next up, something entirely different: Human Capital by Stephen Amidon. Picked up this one at BEA in galley form. I've made some starts at it but have been distracted; the light week means maybe I'll actually get really started this time.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Green Earthquakes

I came in to this Xmas with 1 green sweater, while now I have four. In other news, I have a new coat, a bunch of other new shirts, two awesome new pairs of slacks, some books, some music, and so on and so forth. A good amount of new clothes, which is nice.

The earthquake in the Bay of Bengal, geologically, is astounding. 8.9--that is, I think, almost 100 times the earthquake during the 1989 World Series (is the Richter scale exponential with a base of 10? I think so). And I have a feeling part of the Andaman or Nicobar islands are completely gone. The big effect of this won't be the immediate dead, but the disease that will inevitably spread through contamination of the water supply in Sri Lanka and Madras. George W. says he'll pledge "all appropriate support" to the area. I wonder if he would be a able to find Sri Lanka on a map, or spell tsunami.

A side question: do I have any conservative readers? My best friend Chris is the one conservative I'm really close with, and even he hates George W. Bush (yes, he voted for Kerry). Anyone out there a secret righty?

Okay. Home grows tired. Looking forward to a relaxing evening with some Belgian brew before a painful day of work tomorrow.

Christmas and Caravans

Before I go into the Christmas rundown, I have a question. As we were driving home from Philly last night, we passed what had to be the strangest caravan I've seen. All four of us traded theories as to what the caravan's purpose was--what they were doing, who they were, etc., but none of us could come to an entirely satisfying conclusion. Allow me to describe:

At the Delaware Turnpike tollbooth, we pulled into a lane next two four consecutive vehicles from Alabama, headed south. The lead vehicle was a tow truck--the small kind, a "wrecker". There were a ton of trashbags and miscellany tied to the hitch including a new-looking pink childrens bicycle. I didn't get a look at the driver.

The second vehicle was a white pickup truck with a canopy. The back was piled with bags of some sort, including what many trashbags and an old navy bag from, I believe, this season. Again, no look at the driver.

The third was a maroon Dodge Caravan, probably a 99. The car was packed with people. The driver was femaleand looked Hispanic, the passengers looked ready for a long ride (blankets, snacks).

The fourth was a large white van. I think the driver of that one looked Hispanic as well. There was little to see except for the fact that this, like the other two "pack" vehicles, was stuffed to the gills with what looked like trashbags and cardboard.

This was all at 10:30 Christmas night, headed south.

First--these cars had to be together. Four cars in a row from Alabama, in PA/DE--too much of a coincidence. But what were they doing headed south on Christmas night? I guess it is a two day drive to Alabama. But what makes the group decide that of all the vehicles to take north with them, they take a tow truck? And I assume that there were at least 15, maybe 12 people in the group. How big was the family up north such that all of them would make the trek up? And if they were so poor that they couldn't afford plane tickets, those bags and whatnot could not possibly be full of presents, could they? Maybe the family up north is richer...

A few other observations: the tow truck was not highway safe. We passed it later on the road, while we didn't pass the other cars in the caravan. I contend then that we must have been near the beginning of their trip, since the truck was at the front of the group at the tollbooth. Also, they couldn't have been that poor--the caravan was clean looking and relatively late model.

Okay, so--anyone have any theories about this odd observation? What the heck could have been going on? Really, its the tow truck that throws me off.

More on Christmas later. Breakfast, Boxing Day at the mall, dinner with the fam, and then off to BWI to get Audrey.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Nervous Driving

So everyone in my family (I'm pretty sure this goes for my dad) is a nervous driver. We've all had our share of accidents, and I only think two of them have been our fault--one, I think my dad's, and one quite obviously mine (if you haven't heard that story, ask and I'll tell, it's fairly embarassing and amusing).

A few weeks ago my dad hit a deer on an off ramp. The damage wasn't that bad, but still, fairly annoying.

And today (Christmas Eve), Mom and Dad got hit by a guy trying to make an illegal U-turn. I think Dad's hurt, though he's not owning up to it, and Mom is very, very shaken up. The car is drivable, and it was the Buick, not the sofa-on-wheels my dad normally drives. So that's good. It was also pretty clearly not my dad's fault. The guy tried to make a U from the right lane of a two lane road, and my dad t-boned him (he was in the left lane of the road). No airbags, thank goodness.

This could be worse. At least they could move the car. But the timing is pretty awful--4:30 on Christmas Eve, which conveniently enough fell on a friday this year.

Okay, everyone in the house is a little tense. My dad is hella pissed. And his blood sugar was already running pretty high today. Not a good sitch. Guess who's driving both ways to Philly tomorrow?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Restaurant Week!

The list is up. Am thinking Charlie Palmer Steak and Ceiba. Audrey and I will definitely be going out for one of the nights; anyone want to make a larger party for another? Come on, its $30+ wine and tip, making it probably $50 for a damn good meal. Let's do this thing!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

More Introspection on 2004

Well, I really don't feel like posting a big time review of my favorites/least favorites of 2004, so how about a rundown, quick style?

Favorite Albums of 2004

The Arcade Fire, Funeral
You know, do a Google search. I can't surpass Pitchfork or Tiny Mixtapes on why this was the one of the best albums in recent memory. But it lives up to the hype. Many thanks to Catherine for turning me on to this masterpiece.

Kanye West, College Dropout
Hip hop favorite of many. I can't disagree. I remember requesting "Through the Wire" at a bar at the end of last year. No way I could have predicted how excellent the album is. Everything about it was excellent, with the possible exception of the kind-of-silly dropout motif. There are easily 6, maybe 7 hit singles on this album.

Cee-Lo Green is the Soul Machine
A return to the funk. My favorite album of the summer--grooving, smooth soul/funk/hip-hop. Now that the weather is colder I find myself listening to this album less, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to pop it straight back into my CD player the minute it gets warm again.

The Faint, Wet from Birth
Pitchfork hated this--probably because it was cheesy. It is--and I love it for that very reason. Certainly not as good as the truly excellent Danse Macabre but an outstanding bit of dance-punk.

Favorite Singles of 2004

Jay-Z, 99 Problems
Also probably the best video of 2004. Such a great jam. Proof that the death of Rap Rock was not a death, but a deadly move in the wrong direction. This is what Rap Rock was supposed to be, the "Walk This Way" of 2004.

Britney Spears, Toxic
How can you not love this song? Seriously.

Modest Mouse, Float On
On a mediocre-to-bad album, this song was actually a look forward to what Modest Mouse could have been and a look back to what they were. The sing along chorus had frat boys all a twitter.

Jadakiss, Why?, Fabolous, Breathe
Two outstanding songs from two of hip hop's less talented MCs, at least in my opinion. Why? sounded like an impassioned plea to explain the unexplainable, no matter how inane, while Breathe's piano hook and general backing track are, simply put, infectious.

Franz Ferdinand, Take Me Out
Everything that can be said about this song has already been said.

Biggest Album Disappointments of 2004

U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
Just so mediocre! P-tooey.

Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Two, maybe three good songs on album that sounds like half conceived possibilities.

Eminem, Encore
Mr. Shady jumps the shark. And he does it with such enthusiasm! Its like he's actually excited about going off the deep end into self-indulgent mediocrity.

Favorite Discoveries of 2004

TV on the Radio
Easily the best concert of the year for me, and it was the opening act that sealed the deal. Young Liars, had I actually been paying attention, would have been one of my albums of 2003 (yes, it is an EP. And your point is...?)

Totally missed the boat on this one too. I feel dumb about this one. It's like saying "Favorite Discovery of 2004: Cinnamon."

Favorite Thing to Happen to Me, 2004

It has been a long time since I've written anything, really. This stoked the fire. And I met some great people. Definitely took a bit of a risk asking to write for them, but it was well worth it.

Best Meal of 2004 (home cooked category)

Tough one here. I'm going to limit it to meals I actually cooked at my home, and that took some sort of preparation. With those limits, the winner is scallops in a white wine sauce over vermicelli, which I made over the summer when scallops in white sauce inevitably taste the best. The white sauce had tomato and shallot accents. I had it with a pinot grigio--most likely Ecco Domani. Yum!

Special recognition should go to the Union Meat Company and their flatiron steaks. I started buying the steaks about six months ago. They are easy to cook, wonderfully tender, and carry flavor like no real $6.99 a pound steak should. I've used soy sauce, cola, maple syrup, Madras curry powder, and myriad other bases as my marinades, and the steak never comes out bad.

Favorite Movie of 2004

Come on, I don't go to the movies enough to say anything about this. So the winner is Fletch.

Favorite Book of 2004

This is another really tough category. I read backlist books as much as frontlist, which means I finally got to Middlesex and Atonement in 2004 (both excellent). Unfortunately, I never got to read Rule of Four. And there are way too many other good books out there for me to comment authoritatively. So this category gets a "no winner," but not for a good reason. Just out of laziness.

Favorite General Trend of 2004

2004 was the year that DC stopped being new to me. Not that I ever stopped being fascinated by it--it just started to feel like home. That alone has made my experience here ten times as fun.

And a special shout out goes to Audrey, who bought me my
Favorite Present of 2004

A gray zip up hoodie that says "Calcutta" on it. Bam, represent.

This was long and took forever (with many an interruption). Anyone want me to post other '04 faves? The list has infinite potential.

Music, because I Haven't Been Cooking

I'm on a break. Seriously, I'll get back to it. Its not like I lack ingredients.

First, I've been listening to this guy Steve Mannion aka DJ Spec, a British DJ, for a few years. He keeps an mp3blog at Base58. He always puts out good stuff--so I was "chuffed" to see that he's put a 160 minute mix of 2004 songs up. Downloaded it this morning from home. Quick thinking on my part, because it appears as if the mix is gone now. The big bummer here is that I was looking forward to listening to it at work. If it comes back up, I highly recommend you download it. Yes, it is long. But he's pretty talented. No Soundhog, 2ManyDJs, or Osymyso, but very good.

Also, I want to drop something on the comment tip about Pitchfork's Top 50 Singles list. And that is this: I Like It. (Opinions expressed with infinite sagacity, this is what I specialize in) I think a few songs are a little low--eg. The Streets' "Dry Your Eyes Mate," The Arcade Fire's "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels). And there were a few songs on there that were just BAD: eg. J-Kwon's "Tipsy" (don't they know he copped that beat from Clipse?). Not to mention the songs I think are missing: Destiny's Child, "Lose my Breath" is a great example. But overall, a great list. Granted I haven't heard Annie (gonna go trolling for it now), but a top ten that includes "Naughty Girl," "Take Me Out," "Breathe," "Toxic," and "99 Problems" shows what a good year it was for pop singles. I am glad "Yeah" didn't make the top ten and "Breathe" did.

The album's list? Haven't looked at it yet. But here are my advance predictions (I swear, I didn't look at it!) Franz Ferdinand, The Arcade Fire, Kanye West, and Annie all make the top ten, while my #1 album of the year, Cee-Lo Green is the Soul Machine is in the top 25, along with Usher's "Confessions". No where on the list will we see The Faint's "Wet from Birth" (Pitchfork shows their snobbiness) or the new U2 album (which is thoroughly mediocre).

Anyone else have opinions on the list(s)? Curious to here them.

UPDATE: Man, I was off. Arcade Fire made #1 (good choice there), but no Urrr-sherr on the list, FF and Kanye were surprisingly low, and even though PFork constantly wank over Annie, she's not in the Top 10. Surprised that the TV on the Radio LP made it, as it really isn't as good as the EP.

My longstanding policy on Pitchfork has been that if an album gets a very high rating, I should check it out. Which means I need to buy the Pretty Toney Album, Erlend Øye, the new Streets album, the Go! Team, and probably the Fiery Furnaces. The sister reads this--hey, now you got a list.

UPDATE II: The base58 mix is back. I'm not linking to it directly. But if you're into glitch, electro, bootlegs, etc etc, go forth and download, my friend.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Jambalaya, Harry Potter, and a trip to Tallula

I was outside having a smoke yesterday night when my neighbor, Andrea, came out. Now, I love those neighbors. They are always friendly and helpful, they have a cute little bugger living over there who despite her occasional 6 AM crying still manages to make me smile, and they're pretty much my idea of a cool married couple. But yesterday took the cake; Andrea quite literally gave me two pounds of homemade jambalaya.

When making jambalaya, I've always just relied on Zatarain's. Despite the fact that I love making things from scratch, the fact is I'm no good--really, no good at all--at cooking rice. But Andrea's jambalaya was lightyears beyond the boxed kind. New Year's thought: make jambalaya for real. The one thing I could say about Andrea's is that it was a little mild for me. I like my jambalaya very, very hot. Anyone have suggestions or recipes? I will probably be making this one of my Sunday Monster Meals in 2005.

The pub date of the new Harry Potter has been announced--July 21. That's cool, 7 months from now. I can wait that long. Heck, I didn't like the fifth one as much as I liked the fourth. I do feel like I need to re-read that monster, which I read in one sitting at my parents house last Christmas.

It's official--I'm going to Tallula to meet with their communications manager and find out what's going on over there. Apparently they have a novel method of wine delivery that allows a much larger selection of wines by the glass. Also, they subscribe to the whole tapas craze which feels, well, about two years behind the times. The menu and wine list do, however, look impressive. I'll be writing something official for DCist and probably something a little more snarky here. The one thing about publicists/marketers that always makes me laugh: sometimes they don't realize when they're talking to one of their own. The woman I've been emailing with is working pretty hard on the sell. Good luck to her. Hey, anyone over at Firefly want to get in touch? Just kidding.

But in all seriousness--restaurant week venues will be announced Thursday. I'm on it. Hoping Firefly and Ceiba are on the list, and maybe even Palena. Wouldn't that be nice?

Dear Insomnia,

Hey, how you doing? So great of you to stop by last night. It's been a long time--glad we got to catch up! So, have you been seeing a lot of other people, or just taking it easy? Me, I've been trying to relax and recuperate from a tough weekend. Of course that's when you decide to come by--no other time would do, right? Hahah, you're just so darn inconvenient. Oh well, I guess that's just part of your charm.

You know though, I would really appreciate it if you started coming by more on weekends than on weekday nights. Not that I don't love staying up with you til 3 AM, what will the tossing, the rolling around, the general restlessness. But I wanted to be up nice and early to get to work, and you wouldn't leave! So at the very least, some warning would be nice. That way, I could party with you and Tylenol PM. Three's company, after all!

Anyway, I should get going. After you left I had a nice time dreaming that I wrecked my Dad's car. Oh, and you made me a little later than I wanted coming in to work. That's cool though--I got to see a really wicked car fire. A few minutes earlier and I might not have inhaled that benzene. Thanks, Insomnia!



Monday, December 20, 2004

Shepherd's Pie

Here is my basic recipe for Shepherd's Pie, which I made last night:

1.5 lbs stew beef
1 medium white onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 tablespoons butter
1 package Idahoan Mashed Potatoes
Beef Broth

I melted the butter in a large sauce pan and added the veggies over medium heat. At the same time I floured the beef and added it to a separate pan to brown. When the veggies were nice and cooked I poured in the beef and the broth, making the mix nice and thick. I poured all of it into a casserole and topped with (finished, duh) mashed potatoes, putting the whole thing in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes.

Again, like the pot pie, this turned out to be homestyle food at its simplest. Next time I make this dish I'll add some pizzazz, but this was my first time and I wasn't feeling experimental. Oh, and I was drunk. Kind of wish I had cooked the beef slower, because it came out a little tough, but overall the meal warrants a 7 or so.

Aren't you just waiting for my Morimoto entry? Because I'm not. Still feeling rough, so I'm calling it a night.

To See and Be Seen

I could write a long, long post on my ridiculously hedonistic weekend. The Big Hunt, Catherine's party, shopping and drinking all day Saturday, my night at IndeBleu, etc. etc. etc. But you know what? I don't feel like it. If you want to read about IndeBleu, go to DCist. Let me sum it up in a few words: it can be fun to go out and behave like a real DC socialite, but damn if it isn't tiring. I also spent some time Saturday at Poste and Fado. Much wine was drank, much much wine.

My goal now is to be invited to as many restaurant openings as possible, or at least foodie events. I'm going to Tallula in Clarendon next week, which should be fun. And I'm totally going to try to get an in at Pauli Moto's. That would be so hot.

My stomach hurts and the roads are icy. And I am a horribly paranoid driver. Not good at all.

I have visions of a long post about Morimoto in Philly. This will happen this evening.

Oh Wow!

Morimoto is coming to Tyson's. And I have a reason to go to Virginia.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Run, Don't Walk

If you are a fan of Belgian beer (and if you're not, can I hit you?) you owe yourself a trip to Schneider's on Capitol Hill (corner of D, Mass, and 3rd NE). They are selling cases of St. Sebastiaan Dark for $14.99. Twelve 750 ml bottles. That is practically 6 for the price of 1. In fact, I feel comfortable calling that the deal of the season.

They're all out of the Golden, but there are a few cases of the dark left--well, one less after tonight.

Go. Go now. If you can't make it, live vicariously through me. Beer review to follow. Hell, I got these so cheap I might actually cook with some of it.... maybe.

A Query

I currently have in my freezer:

3 Chicken Legs & Thighs
1 lb Stew Beef
1 lb Ground Beef

And I don't know what to make. I'm thinking I'll wait on the chicken since I've been eating poultry non stop since roasting that bird two weeks ago. So that leaves the beef options (what a good Hindu I am!). With ground beef, I could whip up some meatballs and have spaghetti--but I don't have any wheat noodles, which I really prefer to the regular kind. With the stew beef, I was thinking of making a version of shepherd's pie. But I don't have the mashed potato topping I was thinking of adding.

Basically, I have no starches. And since I am a Dr. Atkins hater, this is odd. I'll be swinging by some fine commercial establishments to make purchases this afternoon, so this will be remedied.

Here are the questions:

1. Meatballs or shepherd's pie? Or a third option I'm missing?
2. If meatballs, large traditional Italian style or small traditional Mom style?
3. If shepherd's pie, do I make the mashed potatos from scratch? Never done that before. It could be interesting; it could be tragic.

Any thoughts from the peanut gallery?

Also, I'll be making one of my weekly trips to Eastern Market Sunday. If you want to come along, give a holler.

A Happy Hour

Last night at the (unfortunately named) Big Hunt was a good time. Got to meet a bunch of new people, got to see people I haven't seen in a while, and as is par for the course, saw some people I wasn't expecting to see. Pretty fun. Also, tucked into some of the Big Hunt's food, which was food at its most basic. It was sustenance--no real flair or panache, incredibly uninspiring. Which made me think of a good topic for a DCist post which will be written shortly.

Thanksgiving Weekend commented yesterday on how much he hated his job. Frankly, if I was in his position I'd feel the same way. I don't hate my job, but I sure as heck don't love it right now. Well, I take that back. My boss isn't here, her boss isn't here, and the big boss isn't here. So I'm taking off mad early to do some random stuff; days like today, I do actually love my job.

More later--I do have some things I need to accomplish today.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wednesdays are Nice. Thursdays are Better.

1. That was one of the more confusing West Wings I've seen in recent memory. The odd mix of humor and gloom-and-doom just didn't sit right. Like eating sushi with strawberry jam. The "impact winter" thing? Lame. Curtis the ox-like presidential attendant? Lame. Kristen Chenowith? WAY lame. I want to take her pixie voice and emaciated looking face and toss them back on the just-off-Broadway pile where they belong. One small point though: I can totally empathize with Jed and his insistence he brush his own teeth, his insanoid beating on his thighs, his anger at his body's inability to function. Seriously. Those who were there remember the couple of times my back went out on me--unable to move, unable to stand, unable to sit... basically, arrogant/super confident men get pissed off when their bodies start disagreeing with them. Really pissed off.

My thoughts on what's gonna happen next? Donna, Mandy, and Amy form a cabal of "Women Ready and Willing for Josh." Jimmy Smits agrees to run for president, but only with Dennis Franz as his running mate. And the brain of Josiah Bartlet is transplanted into an android body a la Krang from TMNT.

2. Upon watching the first half of the pilot for Lost, I realize that the show has changed a bit since the original vision (I started the show with the first hour long ep.). Kate's rubbing of her wrists on her first appearance were interesting; Locke's joy in the rain was a nice touch in the later episodes; Charlie locking himself in the cockpit bathroom to take dope was great. But after watching the later episodes, I think it's pretty clear that the beast on the island is probably some sort Mechazilla. Or a giant backhoe gone mad. A few questions: what happened to Shannon's white skirt? What happened to the guy who got his leg cut off? How sick was it when that dude got sucked into the engine?

3. You are all welcome to the Second Occasional DCist Happy Hour at the Big Hunt, this evening at 6 PM. In attendance will be former Prince Regent of Dalmatia Rob Goodspeed, acclaimed pan flautist Mike Grass, Fields medal recipient Catherine Andrews, metaphysical tourguide Rebecca Walters, Motley Crue tour physician Kyle Gustafson, Eckankar Master Jason Linkins, pioneering xenobiologist Hemal Jhaveri, and a score of other local movers and shakers. It should be, at the very least, a night at a bar.

4. Why on earth does my roommate come in my room and linger when it is obvious I'm doing something else? He walks up the stairs and I hear him and say "what's up"--and he proceeds to tell me all the inane details of his evening. He's a ballet dancer--which is cool, really!--but he assumes I know all about the people who are movers and shakers in his industry. "Blah blah blah went to the so-and-so school, and of course he studied with whats-his-face," and so on and so forth. I know nothing about dance. That move with the funny French name you pulled off? Sounds like a pastry to me. Yeesh. I don't regale him with stories about Sonny Mehta, Peter Olson, the Holtzbrinck Group, ROI's, etc etc... why does he think I care about pirouettes or whatever when I'm in the middle of writing an email? I repeat: Yeesh.

5. Finished off a little more Christmas shopping last night. The stores were surprisingly empty, which was nice. Best Buy especially. Thank Gods the store was sold out of PS2's; I'd of bought one without even batting an eyelid. But I'm not willing to go online and buy one. Weird.

6. To those who are in the office: there will be a big office announcement either late this week or early next. It's a positive announcement and involves an unexpected move--no one leaving, but things re-arranging. Probably won't be of interest to many of my co-workers, but I find it neat. Not at liberty to say any more, but you'll know it when it happens.

7. I'm missing the Chrismukkah episode of The O.C. tonight. I'm a little upset. Maybe I can convince someone at the bar to put it on the TV. We'll be in the basement, so that is a distinct possibility.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Turkey Curry and Assorted Nonsense

Last night I believe I figured out the secret to my mother's chicken curry (even though I used turkey). I've been struggling with curries for a while; true homestyle curries are a far cry from the dishes you get at your average Indian restaurant and are more satisying than explosively flavorful. Think of it like restaurant American cuisine versus Mom's.

Here's how it all went down

1 lb turkey, pre-cooked
1/2 large white onion, sliced thin lengthwise
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Madras Curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt, as needed
flour, as needed

Add the curry powder, cumin, chili powder, and vinegar to the water. Stir and set aside. Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onion and garlic, lower heat to medium-medium high. Saute until soft and translucent. Add the turkey and the spice mixture. Stir it all together and then bring the mixture to a boil. If you're lucky, it should have an earthy yellow coloring at this point. Add flour while stirring (like a risotto, to avoid clumps) until you've reached the desired level of thickness. Note that the flour might dilute flavor--feel free to add more curry powder, chili powder, or salt to taste. Let the mixture simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes. Serve over rice--or with bread, if you're so inclined.

This recipe is a basic one and can be altered to your tastes. For example, you can add tomatoes for a nice red curry, or yogurt for a creamier sauce. Also consider the possibilities of tandoori spice, fresh cilantro, jalepenos, green (or any other color, though it would get sweeter this way) peppers, whole peppercorns, sour mustard, or any number of other ingredients. I'm considering making a variation using basil and chicken stock for a more Thai flavor, or maybe pickled mango if I'm in a Burmese mood. The variations are endless.

In other things, I've been feeling a little out of sorts lately. Call it pre-holiday tension. Thought I'd lost my beloved ring, but I quite literally remembered where it was in a flash while I was sitting at my desk. That's the good news. The bad news is that the lightbulb in our living room is out and I have to ask the neighbors to borrow their ladder again--that sucker is really high up. All sorts of things going pear shaped lately. Oh yeah, and I ran over your cat. Sorry--Mercury is in retrograde! (hah)

Yesterday I also learned that I'll have to wait until the New Year to find out about certain opportunities. Oh well--at least I'm not waiting with baited breath. The search for a change is on hold; if there ever was a worst time to be sending out feelers, it would be now.


1000 hits? Neat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

2004, The Year in Dining

Following the introspection thing, I think this is as good a time as any to go over my dining year in 2004.

Favorite Dining Experiences, 2004
Now, I don't do fine dining that often, so as far as retaurants go this list may be a little disappointing. But I'll try to highlight some good food I've had this year all the same.

Street Vendor Potato Chop, Sikkim, January 2004
We were taking a jeep into the Himalayas and stopped at a small group of stalls at around 8-9,000 feet above sea level. Despite warnings from the folks, I decided to buy food from the vendors. And man, was I happy. Imagine a piping hot latke made with chiles and onions, served in a newspaper wrap. It was windy, the sky was clear, and I was starved. Three, maybe four bites later, I was back for another. At the price of 2 rupees (that's about 5 cents), it was well worth it. On a vacation marked with wonderful food, this was the highlight.

Mr. Stox, Anaheim, February 2004
Yes, it was an expense account dinner. The wine list was a binder, but the sommelier was extremely helpful. We had three different reds, the standout being a Chateau Neuf de Pape (sp?) from, I believe, the mid '90s. I also had a lamb chop which was divine. The bill was hefty, but it was OPM--no complaints from me!

Kuna, DC, April(?) 2004
This was on one of the few good dates I had during the crazy times of last spring. The dating ended up poorly, but the meal was great. We had a "risotto pancake" as a starter, followed by a monkfish dish and a pasta puttanesca. Heavenly. Alas, Kuna has now been replaced by the more expensive Opera (and there are no working links to the Post profile!). I'll miss Kuna, especially the free wine part.

El Puente, St. Charles Ill., May 2004
One of those moments where I chose to have the absolute spiciest meal I could. I ordered a pork dish in a chile pepper sauce. What came out was bright green and spicy as all get out. Even for me--which rocks. The margaritas were excellent as well.

The Wharf Rat, Baltimore, July 2004
I was getting prepared to chair a presentation at the 2004 NABC Conference. One of my presenters didn't show up, I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants, my parents were going to be there, and I was very nervous. So I popped across the street to prep and had a bowl of traditional Maryland crab soup, half a shrimp salad sandwich, and a pint. None of the elements were at the top in terms of quality, but it was the perfect meal for the situation at hand.

Tiffin, Langley Park, September 2004
Okay, I always eat here. But it was my first proper date with Audrey and I enjoyed it. So cut me some slack, okay?

Mandalay, Silver Spring, November 2004
The first meal I had at Mandalay's new location is memorable for just that reason--I was able to enjoy one of my favorite restaurants in a completely new setting. Room temperature noodles are the bomb!

Pesca, San Antonio, November 2004
A river view, a good glass of Pinot Grigio, a great smoked salmon appetizer, and the best crab cake I've ever had outside of Maryland. Also, dinner with a new friend. Pesca was a really nice dining experience overall. San Antonio has good food--not great--but I would definitely return to Pesca if I ever got the chance.

Addis Ababa, Silver Spring, December 2004
Okay, maybe to soon to be named a Best of '04. But it was good! Click to read the full review.

Still to come, my year in cooking and maybe, if I feel like it, my year in music. This took way to long to write!


Last night I had some way weird dreams. Something involving a flying van, pulling said van, a shooting, getting money wired to Asia... the details are very blurry, but I know the dreams were weird.

Maybe it was because of the dinner I had last night:

1 lb fresh cod
1/2 stick butter
1 lemon
1 squash
2 zucchinis

Melt butter in large pan over medium-high heat. Throw in the fish. Salt cod, squeeze lemon over cod, let sit in much about 4-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. In the mean time, slice the zucchini/squash. Peel if you want, but I don't recommend it. Flip fish, add capers, add zucchini and squash, cover dish to capture steam and sit around looking bored and disappointed with this fairly unadventurous meal for about 4 minutes. Get out your plate, put the veggies then the fish, cover in the butter sauce. Turn on the West Wing and eat that thing. Realize that you basically made the most boring meal ever, and Doctor Atkins is beaming down from whatever purgatory he's in.

Of course, I still ate that stuff. All of it. The capers made it bearable. Cod is an infinite canvas for flavors, only requiring special temperature care. I could have done so much--but I was hungry, grumpy, and not mentally up for it. Blah!

Audrey tells me that Mercury is in retrograde or some other babble, meaning that things are gonna be weird this month (like they haven't been already?). I don't believe much in that sort of thing, but can you imagine a world where everyone did? What a handy excuse! Missing work, forgetting people, losing personal possessions, "accidentally" stealing things from the store--"oh, so sorry, Mercury is in retrograde."

Man, that would be great.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Back On, More or Less

So the computer is back after the catastrophic failure of this morning. I think I've got most of the necessary bits installed: Firefox, MS Office, Flash, Quicktime, WinAmp, etc. etc. I'm still reeling from the loss of some of my more prized mp3's, but I'm working on building that rather large collection back up. I forgot how many rare bootlegs/mash ups/DJ mixes I had. Oh well. The machine is running faster than it was.

Had a very annoying conversation with a Comcast employee trying to get the net to work again. Now its back, but I have to use the ethernet port and not the USB. Of course, I figured this out myself--the Comcast guy insisted I had some sort of firewall, which I didn't. Weird.

Anyway, I'm going to clean the room, fold my laundry, and watch The Two Towers.

Ugh, I'm not feeling well. Ate a big dinner, maybe too big.

The Year in Kanishka, Short Version

Friends might know that I absolutely positively despise this time of year. The hate has grown year after year to my current level of painfully astringent, paint-removing, baby-crying, puppy-kicking, blood-boiling, Jagermeister-and-Tequila-shot-taking ire. The main thing I hate isn't necessary Yule, either. Like my feelings on Tet, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any of those other silly holidays, I'm totally okay with the God stuff. No, instead, its the relentless drumbeat of introspection that gets me totally annoyed.

But this year I choose to look the beast in the eye. Gonna get all sorts of introspective in this piece. Long version to come soon, but here's the 2004 year in review, abridged.

January: India. A great time is had by all. Yaks are ridden, street food is eaten, family is seen. Nice.
February: Start dating for real. Begin the stream of weirdos, oddballs, and general problem cases that make up a good six months of my love life. Having a ball!
March: Steve moves out of the Capitol Hill house, Rob and Tracy the Psycho Hose Beast move in. Whatever, life ain't hard. I'm going out. A lot.
April: I go out. More. The revolving door of random relationships continues unabated.
May: What the heck? I decide I need to go out even more. I'm at Kingpin like every weekend, formalize my residency at Tunni's, turn 25. Tracy shows her true colors and moves out.
June: I hook up with random girls alot. This is, paradoxically, bad for the old self esteem.
July: Bengali conference is attended. A good time is had by all, and I enter into a whirlwind fling with girl I met there.
August: Fling with Baltimore girl ends in a blaze of glory. Going out reaches all time high.
September: Labor Day weekend is a serious mixed bag. Beginnings of relationship with Audrey. I calm down, going out decreases.
October: Things slow down after the bender of a summer. Things with Audrey go well, I start writing for DCist.
November: Not much to report--more of the same. I start this blog for no good reason whatsoever. Also, disillusionment sets in and the search for a change begins.
December: In a surprise move, I get hired as head of the DNC.

I'll do a better year round up later, as well as list some predictions for '05. Right now I gotta do some busy work while mentally cataloging the total losses from the clearing of my hard drive.

This Weekend, told in Reverse

• This morning I woke up, turned on my computer, and went to take a shower. When I returned I noticed that the screen looked odd. Upon closer examination, I realized that my hard drive had failed. So instead of coming in to work nice and early, I reformatted my hard drive and came to work kind of late. Oh well. No big losses except for some rare mp3s I can probably get elsewhere and a Civ3 game I've been working on. I was about to whomp the Iroquois too. Damn.

• Last night I ate the last of my stuffing, stripped the rest of the meat of the bird, and watched television. The Simpsons was okay, The Wire was outstanding, and then I watched The Two Towers for a bit.

• Yesterday afternoon was spent doing the usual at the usual. I did purchase some stew beef, which I plan on using to make a variation of Shepherd's Pie I've been thinking of.

• Saturday night I went to Adams Morgan. Started off solo at The Reef. Many interesting memories of that place. Went there right when it opened, I believe it was either Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend 2002, for an afternoon drink with Nick. Spent most of Memorial Day 2003 on the roof getting trashed with Steve, marking the beginning of my fateful "Bad Summer of '03". Went there in the fall of '03 numerous times, and then just kind of stopped. Anyway, I like the place, it's nice. (All that for "it's nice"? Yeah, I know, ripoff.) Post Reef, I headed over to Chief Ike's. I hadn't been there in years. The place hasn't changed. Why don't I go there more often? It's like Kingpin, but bigger. Met up with Ananth and tried to take a shortcut to the Woodley Park metro station, and somehow ended up in Cleveland Park. Yeah, that was a long walk. Ended up at the Sake Club, where we met up with Klancer. I had a plate of spicy tuna rolls and some good sake. A review later. Got home very, very late.

• Saturday afternoon/evening I sat around, swept the first floor of the house, watched Rat Race (which was basically an updated It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), lounged some more, watched cartoons, and conquered the Chinese.

• Saturday morning I went to the dry cleaners to pick up a shirt and a pair of pants that had been there since, oh, August. Walked in to the horrific realization that the ownership had changed and they had no record of my clothes. This was a collosal problem, because the pants were half of the black pinstriped suit that I had custom made for me when I was in Calcutta. Losing those pants would be a tragedy on the scale of the Hindenberg. The nice woman at the cleaners (who I could barely understand) pointed me towards several racks of leftover clothes that I was free to search. At this point I was sweating and pretty darn upset. But I searched and Oh Thank the Dear Lords there was my polyester K-mart shirt from 1977, right above my black pinstriped flat front slacks by Sheikh Sallar and Son, Calcutta. The relief was tremendous.

And that was my weekend, backwards.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

It is Yucky Out

And I still use words like yucky.

Last night went as predicted, except I watched the Fellowship of the Ring for a bit. 15 bucks for a bunch of beers at Tunni's--it helps that I actually bussed some tables because they were swamped. However, I must resolve to never, ever eat taquitos again. I guess I haven't learned from Phillipe's lesson.

The weather remains nasty, and I shall go back to bed now. I think I have the Two Towers DVD here, and I will watch that. Hooray for no plans!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Last Weekend vs. This Weekend

Last Friday:

I was lazy all evening, ate Doritos whilst watching [show name deleted for appearances] and then went to Tunni's to flirt with older women, eat chicken strips, and drink beer.

This Friday:

Will go to the gym. Will eat leftover pot pie whilst watching [show name again deleted] and then probably, again, go to Tunnis to drink beer.

Last Saturday Morning:

Woke up far too early for a useless class on how to teach the new SAT's.

This Saturday Morning:

Will sleep.

Last Saturday Afternoon:

Went to Audrey's, ate at the wonderful Addis Ababa, bought some comic books.

This Saturday Afternoon:

Will clean house a little, see a prospective new roommate, and prep for a turkey curry, maybe.

Last Saturday Night:

Came home to a power outage covering the entire block. Had my plans for a flank roast dashed. Went back to Audrey's, cooked the roast in question, drank wine, slept.

This Saturday Night:

Might cook a turkey curry, might not. Might go out, might not. Who knows? Who cares? I would like to party a bit. We shall see.

Last Sunday:

Woke up too early, went home, drove Erin to get a tree, went to Tunni's, came home, cooked a freaking turkey dinner, burned arm to create an awesome wound, ate far too late, went to bed with a headache.

This Sunday:

Planning on going to brunch at Tunni's to see the new brunch menu (this item may be moved to Saturday). Then nothing.

The long and the short of it is this: last weekend I drove more than I like to, did way too much, and exhausted myself. This weekend I will attempt to not move my car, do nothing, and relax. Kick. Ass.

If anyone doesn't have plans on Saturday night and wants to go somewhere different, I'm looking to try some new DC places. Where? I dunno, I'm just bored with the old guard. Was thinking of Chief Ike's, where I haven't been in a while, or DC9, where I haven't been at all. Real friend or meta-friend, it doesn't matter--I love meeting new people.

If I do try the turkey curry, I'll be posting my recipe up here Sunday or Monday. A prior warning: if I do make it, it will be spicy.

Comfort Fooding, Comfort Viewing

The turkey pot pie last night was good. I think I needed more than the recommended 2 cups of turkey meat, but otherwise it was rather great as a comfort food on a day of horrible weather.

Lost on Wednesday was fantastic. Charlie... dead... not dead? The sighs of relief filled living rooms everywhere. Jack getting his face kicked? Rock. Star Trek red shirt reference? So expected yet so good. Evangeline Lilly? Okay, not a good actress, but still hot. Locke has gone from maybe-evil to my favorite character very quickly, though all the forum folk on Television Without Pity seem to be lovin' Hurley. Actually, I guess he's pretty bomb too, but I've got a weakness for Sayid (Saaed? I never watch the credits) and Sawyer. The episode ended with a cliffhanger that won't be resolved until--gasp!--Janvier. I hope Claire's okay and Ethan turns out to be an evil robot.

Anyone know what I'm talking about? No? Then watch the freaking show! The first episode replays next Wednesday at 8 on ABC (end commercial).

West Wing, you're okay. Not great, not bad, just so-so. I could have done without Bartlett's stiff-upper-lip wheelchair routine at the end, but I do love Vinnick. He's a Republican, a Senator, and a good guy, believe it or not. That's an interesting political move and I support it full on. So a mixed bag, more or less. Bartlett's chasing of a legacy bothers me a bit, but so be it.

But the OC... oh, the OC. Yesterday's episode: flat-ish, with a great twist. Alex looks better without the 80's bangs, but still looks way too pornstar for me. And she's younger than me. Huh, weird. Oh, she's also not that good looking in real life, it seems. But holy Andy sighting! She's made the jump from Congress to Newport. Good for her. And my girlfriend finally hooks it up with Ryan. You two are cute together, congrats. Couple of negatives--well one, mainly. We all know Mischa Barton eats one, maybe two pieces of celery a day. But will someone tell Rachel Bilson that the Marisa diet does not become her? Those collarbones are looking gross. Oh, and if you're gonna play a Faint song at a dance, why "Desperate Guys"? At least play something dancier off the new album. Sheesh.

Really, folks, I don't watch that much TV.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


I'm just feeling crappy today. OC, can you save me from the downs?

Both of my roommates are moving out (different reasons--one is a student and needs to save, the other is older and wants to live on his own). If anyone knows anyone interested in two great spaces on Capitol Hill, please get in touch. I'm trying to avoid the Craigslist thing. Rent is affordable and the neighborhood is good.

Red Bean and DC food

I wrote about Red Bean. Read about it here.

I worked at the warehouse. You can read about it later, no time now!

There are an increasing number of DC Food sites. In addition to the now-year-old DC Foodies, there's now DC Füd. The umlaut adds a delightful crunch.

Also, 75% of the individuals who responded to DCist's Help Wanted post want to write about food. Apparently I'm not the only one that thinks writing about food is awesome. Oh, and I just noticed that I got promoted, somehow, to the position of official DCist food editor. How did that happen? I don't know. Maybe I'll score some sweet meals from that shizzle.

That's all for now. Making turkey pot pie (recipe from the aforementioned DC Füd) tonight, contemplating turkey curry sometime this weekend. Then maybe the bird will be done. I feel like Homer and the seven foot hoagie.

(edit: DC Füd link corrected)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Tom on Mandalay

So this Sunday Tom Sietsema reviewed my beloved Mandalay at its new location in Silver Spring. His review, on the whole, was very positive. I was especially pleased when I saw that he highlighted my personal favorite dish on the menu, the pork with pickled mango. However, I've got a couple of problems with his review.

First, he cites problems with service. Now I know Tom has been in Zurich for the last week, so his review is, at the very least, a few weeks old. Mandalay's new location has only been open for about a month and a half from what I recall--barely enough time to work the kinks out. The previous incarnation of the restaurant was basically a postage stamp, and the new location is fairly large by restaurant standards. Tom's criticisms are thus, I suspect, a little premature.

Also, I was disappointed that Tom didn't review (or note, perhaps) any of the room temperature noodle dishes. Along with the salads, these are some of the more unique (and tasty) dishes on the menu--surely they merit a mention! Tom also failed to note the Sunday and Tuesday special dishes. One of them, Sunday's chicken on coconut rice, is a revelation. The rice is so tender, fluffy, and flavorful--extremely different from the standard treatment rice gets around DC. Oh well, maybe next time.

Finally, I worry that the review might cause a mob scene at Mandalay. Tom's reviews have tremendous power--especially when he reviews something in the 'burbs. In any case, it will probably be a great boost to the restaurant's business, which is a good thing in my book.

One other side note: it's been noticed that I seem to be a pretty big fan of Sietsema. In a word, yes. Unlike Blake Gopnik, the Post's uber-snobby art critic, Sietsema is open minded to new flavors, exceedingly egalitarian, and a pretty fine writer to boot. Sometimes he deserves criticism, but ultimately he's a great critic for DC's diverse dining scene. The rating system he uses seems to reserve three and four star ratings for only the more expensive and exclusive DC restaurants, but that seems fair given the extra bells and whistles those restaurants provide. He's good people, in my opinion--and anyone who follows along with his Wednesday chats can attest to this.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Restaurant Review: Addis Ababa in Silver Spring

You might be familiar with the Addis Ababa in Adams Morgan. I am, sort of--having been there, oh, two years ago. The new Silver Spring location (8233 Fenton Street) is a boon to anyone living in the 'burbs, a fantastic chance to enjoy some fabulous Ethiopian cuisine without crossing into the district. With Mandalay, Thai Derm, and Jackies, I am tempted to say that Silver Spring might actually be becoming cool. Okay, maybe not cool--but at least home to good food.

I had a good feeling the minute I walked into Addis Ababa. The small restaurant, decorated far more impressively than neighbor Langano, was packed to the gills with Ethiopian families enjoying massive meals. Now, I've been to Langano before and it's okay. But if Langano was the initial exploratory vessel into the culinary waters of Silver Spring, Addis Ababa is the whole damn Ethiopian Fleet. Compare the dead boring decor of Langano with the wonderful, light atmosphere of a restaurant with bearskin rugs, native decor on the walls, and what looked to be chairs and tables imported from Addis Ababa (the city).

But enough about the atmosphere, on to the food. Audrey and I had a combo plate (#3 for the scorekeepers out there): kitfo, yebeg tibs, doro wat, and a tomato salad. It was wonderful. The kitfo (minced beef served cold with red pepper) was my personal favorite, though I wished that I was given the option to have it raw. Audrey preferred the yebeg tibs (diced lamb cooked with butter and jalapenos). The doro wat (roasted chicken in a spicy sauce served with hardboiled eggs) was also quite good, though eating drumsticks with injera isn't exactly easy. The tomato salad was also great--tangy, crunchy, and a great coolant next to the fire of the meat courses.

A word on injera: next to naan, which I have an ethnic bias towards, injera has to be my favorite variation on a theme of bread. Ethiopian cuisine is served on a large serving plate covered by one pizza size piece of injera. The main dishes are served on the injera, while several rolls of injera accompany on the side to use as "scoops" for the meal. The sponginess, the tart fermented flavor, the premise that it is napkin, utensil, and plate all in one--well, it rocks. At one point I was quite literally "eating the plate." Heaven.

The service at Addis Ababa was what I like in a simple, affordable restaurant. The waitress was there when we needed her but otherwise practically invisible. She offered some decent guidance on the menu without pointing us to any specific dishes. Now, she was nothing like the wait staff at a high-end restaurant. But this isn't high end--this is African soul food.

If you have a chance to visit Addis Ababa, I highly recommend it. The menu can be daunting, so I recommend a combo plate to start. Don't think about the descriptions--dive in and enjoy. You won't regret it.

One small aside: because I was literally eating the plate, I noticed that the large serving plate was anything but "native"--it was actually a large Chinese serving dish. Weird.

The Lowdown:

Food: Fantastic. Definitely good for the adventurous. Highly recommended.
Ambiance: Lively and light.
Service: Just right.
Prices: $15 per person without alcohol. Booze was not enjoyed, but prices looked moderate.
Recommended if: You're in Silver Spring and in the mood for something different. Seriously, this place is that good.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

It Ain't Me

The title of this post is basically there because I've decided "Fortunate Son" is my song of the moment. I forget what my last song of the moment was; "Dust in the Wind" had that distinction for a while, and then the remix of Nas' "The World is Yours." I guess the Stylistics "Ooooh Child" was the last one. Sweet.

Okay, here's the skinny on tonights dinner: I cooked a goddamn turkey. The traditional way. Coated in salt and pepper and baked. Oh, I put some garlic under the skin as well. I stuffed the bird with the following stuffing recipe:

1 half loaf Sourdough
1 half loaf Pumpernickel
4 small yellow onions
3 stalks celery
3 links herbed turkey sausage
Fresh Sage
Chicken stock
3/4 stick butter

Cut the bread into inch-ish blocks. Toast in the oven until crispy. Set aside in laaarge bowl. Meanwhile, liberate the sausage from casing and saute. When fully cooked, add to the bread. Mince onions and celery. Add butter to skillet and, after melted, add celery and onion. Saute over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add to the bowl. Pour in three healthy glugs of stock and one tablespoon fresh minced sage. Add a few dashes of the old Kosher NaCl. Stuff the bird. Take the leftover stuffing and put in a small casserole to bake later.

Let me put it this way: when I tasted the stuffing, I had to sit down. Seriously, it turned out so much better than I expected. This may partly be because of low expectations, but the quality of the bread was one step below heavenly. And cooked in the bird... goddamn.

In conclusion, tonight's dinner made my mouth happy.

Still to come... a review of Addis Ababa in Silver Spring, my thoughts on Tom Sietsema's review of Mandalay, a full report on the flank steak, the story of when the lights went out, and the final answer as to who shot JFK.

A Short One

There's a turkey in the oven, so I'll keep this short.

--Saturday was annoying, as the power was gizzone.
--The flank steak was good, but the lesson is to use stronger cheese.
--Christmas trees: not that hard to transport.
--The turkey tonight will be okay, I bet. The stuffing, on the other hand, will be fantastic.

More detailed notes late tomorrow. I have an eye doctor appointment which means I can sleep in, and maybe I'll blog tomorrow morning before going to scenic PG county. But there's no Wire on (suck-o).

Okay, time to make gravy from scratch. Rock, rock on.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Flank Steak: Postponed

So Audrey is ill enough that we postponed the flank steak for this evening. I'm actually pretty scared of getting ill. Its been literally years since the last time I was sick. She should be not-contagious by tomorrow, which is fine. I figure that I'd get home at the earliest around 5:30 tonight, and with prep time and cook time for the steak, we wouldn't be eating until 8-ish (obligatory half hour chill time, 45 minutes prep time, 10 minute sear, 1 hour braise). That ain't cool, 'specially because it cuts into my Star Trek (shut up) watching time. So tomorrow, the flank is on. Recipe has been finalized with some alterations from before. And it goes a little something like this:

1 1-1.5 lb flank steak
1 bunch green onions
1/4 pound Gruyere
1 bottle, good red wine (Cab preferred, absolutely no merlot)
5 healthy cloves of garlic
1 shallot
1 can beef stock
dash of Kosher salt

Pound the flank steak thin, and especially thin at the longer edges. Lay medium thickness slices of gruyere along steak, careful so that the cheese is at least 1-2 cms from the long edge of the flank (you don't want the cheese melting out into the sauce). Cut green onions to the length of the small side of the flank; lay along the flank and cheese. Roll as a jelly roll, semi-tightly. Tie with twine, and if possible try to tie off the ends a little thinner than the roll it self--not so tight that no sauce can permeate the steak's interior, but thinner.

Take a large pot and heat until absolutely steaming hot. Liberally coat with olive oil. Sear the flank roll--resist the urge to move the flank until after 2 minutes are up! (at this point, make sure an oven fan is on and maybe even a window or door is open). Remove flank to plate after searing 2 minutes each side (yes, a roll does not have sides, but there should be three, maybe four key searing edges. Like you made a perfectly circular roll. pshaw), Reduce heat, add chopped/minced/sliced (however you prefer) garlic and shallots. Cook until shallots are translucent. Add 1/2 bottle wine and stock slowly, so as to prevent hot oil splatterings (at this point preheat the oven to 250). Bring mixture to a boil very light simmer (duh, a full boil would just boil the meat. Gross!). Add flank roll to the mix and place pot, covered, in oven for one hour.

The side dish will be an asparagus saute with onions, balsamic, and red wine sauce. Served with nice crusty sourdough.

This should be good--though I'm still not sure about the temperature of the oven. But I'll do some research on roasts and finalize that.

Pictures and a report soon enough. Be patient people, I've been--this is the first complex meal I've prepared since before San Antonio!

(speaking of SA--I still haven't given my reviews of days 3-5. Eventually I'll get around to it)

Now the question is--what do I eat tonight?

In More Pleasant News

I've finally started back up at the gym. With no travel again until February I've got some good time to really work hard. I did the back, shoulders, chest, and biceps this week on a Tues/Thurs schedule.

The whole gym thing still feels new to lazy old me. I went a couple of times when I was in college, but only really started after I developed a "cubicle roll" the first year into my job. Now its an obsession. I recently switched from a Bowie gym to a Gold's closer to my house. Its better--instead of cops and hausfraus, I get mostly young folk and a fair share of hotties. Nothing like eye candy for a bit of motivation.

So yesterday I was working on my chest and decided to kick up the dumbell press to 75 per arm (I recently took a 2 week break and didn't want to push too hard). Then I noticed something odd--there was only 1 75 lb. dumbell. I looked all over the gym for its partner, but the second 75 pounder just wasn't there. This got me thinking--where the hell does a 75 lb. dumbell disappear to? I'm sure no one walked out with it (and why would someone steal a single dumbell anyway?). And it's a pretty hefty piece of metal--could it actually break? I saw multiple 80's, multiple 70's, but no second 75. Did the gym staff make a mistake and buy only one? So, so strange.

The workout routine I've got going is pretty much controlled anarchy. 6 body sections, 3 large and 3 small, paired in groups that rotate every six weeks. I try to do a different order of exercises each time to combat muscle memory. Sometimes I do a reverse pyramid, sometimes normal, sometimes low weight for speed, sometimes escalating low weights for tone. Kind of wish I had a partner, so I could do reverse lifts. Still, the solitude of solo lifting is pretty zen. I've come a pretty long way since Spring 2002 and now everything is pretty much free weights or cables. Goal is to press 250 by May. I don't know if that is really attainable, but everyone needs goals.

After the long layoff, I'm damn sore. That should only last a day or so. I still have nagging problems with both my wrists and my elbows, as they tend to give out before the primary muscles in an exercise do (so, I'll be doing a bicep curl and before my arm gets tired, my wrist gives out. Ouch.) I've tried different ways of fixing this. It's most problematic for my arms, which in turn are the area of least growth and definition.

Jesus, listen to me. I sound like a freaking gym rat. Rest assured, tonight I am going home to cook and watch Star Trek. And I played Alpha Centauri all night after the O.C. So I'm not completely a meathead.

Here I Thought I Could Get a Good Night's Sleep

... instead I get a phone call at two-frickin' thirty in the morning. Of course, I answer the phone thinking its an emergency (the vision isn't good enough for me to see who was calling easily, and besides, the ringing woke me up already) and its just Suzanne asking me (probably all drunk) to speak Bengali to some stranger. She was yelling, didn't listen to a word I said. At some point she put him on to talk to me. WTF?

Now I haven't had a good night's sleep in... oh... two weeks? And last night I was well on my way. Went to bed at 11:30, no booze, no caffeine, clean room, tired from the gym.

So that phone call Made. Me. Extremely. Angry.

Now I'm pissy and grumpy, and I'm gonna call her out on that. It's pretty goddamn rude, I figure, to call after midnight on a weekday. And 2 AM? 2 AM is right out. Yes yes, I can be chastised for leaving my ringer on, but the cell is my only phone and there could very well be emergencies at some point. So, in my paranoia, I leave my ringer on.

And there are no bagels and donuts yet in the kitchen. That is equally f'ed up.

Good news though: tonight I'll be making the flank steak I described. Full report on final recipe and preparation to follow.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

You can Take Your Things, They've Come to Take Me Home

Am I the only person out there who thinks Peter Gabriel is a fantastic songwriter? Carl, if you read this (though I don't think you do) you're the one to blame for my embarassing Peter Gabriel fandom. Embarrassing I say because my mom likes Peter Gabriel. Yeah, she's cool and all, but how embarassing is that? When did I start liking my parent's music?

I grew up in a mostly non-musical household. It was an immigrant thing--the folks only had a few of the standard musical offerings on vinyl (Best of Elton John, Beatles "blue" collection, Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, some other stuff) but they really just listened to whatever was on the radio. I have very vivid memories of getting in a car accident with my mom when I was seven, with Lionel Richie on the radio at the time. So my parent's music was basically soft rock radio tripe. Now I find myself listening to some of the artists who wrote that tripe and figuring out "Hey, these guys are actually kind of cool." Weird. Okay, so I don't listen to some of the real crap that was on the radio at the time, but my love of Peter Gabriel is unexpected.

I think the lack of popular music when I was growing up has made me the heterodox lover of music that I am today. My first experience with actually liking a pop song was Thriller in '83(?), followed by Billie Jean. The folks were so ambivalent about music that I pretty much absorbed everything I heard. I got into MC Hammer and, later, Pearl Jam. Not knowing any better I bought the latest "big new release" every few month (that caused a few bad purchases, like Depeche Mode's Songs of Faith and Devotion and Aerosmith's Get a Grip, which literally stunk. There was something in the liner notes that made my copy of Get a Grip smell like stale feet) Now what do I have to show for it? A pretty schizo collection. The big boss has come by my desk on occasion and asked how I can stack the Marshall Mathers LP next to the best of the Psychedelic Furs, or ask what I'm listening to and just act straight up confused.

But this Best of Peter Gabriel is the most confusing one of all--never thought I'd like this as much as I do. Yes, I've had the album for a while, but every time I listen to it I like it more. To think I bought it back in 2002 along with Diamond Dogs just because I felt some Carl nostalgia.

P.S. I sold the Aerosmith CD in 1996 and got 3 dollars despite the smell. My parents still have my original vinyl Thriller, wherein Michael has a baby tiger crawling on him and, in the liner notes, he and Paul McCartney play tug of war with some girl that probably isn't Linda.

Oh Sadness

The last of the Thanksgiving leftovers are officially gone. This is a cause for much lamenting. Woe is me!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Television and Cheating on Cooking

So, there are only four television shows I watch religiously--well, that is until the season premiere of Carnivale in January: Lost, The West Wing, The O.C., and Star Trek (yes, the new sucky one with Scott Bakula. What, wanna fight?). Yes, I do also enjoy "The Wire" but as its on HBO, I can miss an episode and catch up easily. Somehow, the Simpsons has fallen off my list. Weird.

Anyway, tonight was Lost/The West Wing night. West Wing has improved a bit since the last abysmally melodramatic season, though it certainly hasn't gone back to Sorkin-esque levels. But tonight's episode was solid. Not good, not great--solid. They're bringing back the old MS. Now there's talk of a new Charlie (though Charlie is still being Charlie--come on, you upgraded the job, now upgrade the wardrobe!) and Hawkeye is surely going to use his veteran status as a selling point on a campaign for President. He'll face tough opposition from Democrats Al Bundy and Bill Lumbergh. I'll let friend The DCeiver or tomorrow's DCist cover the rest of the ground.

But Lost!! I can not go on enough about this show. Tonight's episode was fantastic. Okay, maybe some liked the development in early episodes, where things were a lot more "fuzzy," but I'm really liking where this show is going. Best line of the night goes to Meriadoc: "If you can take drugs, you can deliver a baby... uh... see, I'm a drug addict... was a drug addict... I'm clean now!" If you don't watch it, well... your loss.

In other, equally as vapid news, I cheated tonight and used Old El Paso taco mix to make tacos. Okay, I added some of my own dried pepper, used freshly shredded cheddar from the market, and used chopped escarole instead of iceberg lettuce. Still, I feel so... dirty. Next few meals will have to be from scratch to make up for stupid store bought taco boxes.

And the House is Restless

(apologies to those who are not co-workers, the first part of this will be boring-ish. But you'll get to read my business rant, so stick it out)

Oooh! Tensions in the office are high. We've been losing people left and right, and now the CEO/President sent a memo cancelling our office Christmas Party and postponing bonuses (bonii?) until January. Oh yeah, times have been tight at the office, what with our completely incompetent handling of a warehouse upgrade (coupled with the integration of a friggin' foreign warehouse at the same time). We're going to lose money, your perseverance will be rewarded, we're seeing the light, blah blah blah blah blah.

Here's what should have been done at the very start of this process: We should have hired a professional warehouse consultant firm at the outset, and not given management of training and transition to a junior level employee who commands little respect and most likely gained the position/promotion by being the annoying partisan sycophant that she is. (Don't know who I'm talking about? Feel free to ask). Oh yeah, NOW you hire a new person with warehouse experience to oversee everything. Great work.

It seems logical to me that a technological upgrade of the sort that we embarked on in February requires up-front know-how--an initial outlay of cash for consultants to train employees and implement systems smoothly. We moved from a second or third generation warehouse management system to a sixth. An analogy: imagine moving from MS DOS to Windows with no guidance except a basic understanding of how the system is supposed to work. Add on a few more dimensions of complexity because you have hundreds of employees making the same jump at once and maybe, just maybe you have a fair analogue for what the office went through this past winter. It seems to me a smart business man would plan for the worst contingency--especially because we run a client-based fulfillment service. That means cash up front, yes. But I'm sure the hundreds of hours spent shelling out dough trying to mop up the mess is much more.

I still am befuddled by business practices I've encountered in the real world. There are really only two substantive assets that a non-industrial based business has: physical holdings and brain power. Think of it this way: Toyota has TONS of assets in actual "things". They could subsist on selling cars alone, with few upgrades, for some time. But a non-material producing company doesn't have much save for the buildings it owns and the brainpower of its employees. Companies like this are media, software companies--anything outside of the manufacturing world. Now, no employer is going to like it if the office gets trashed from no cleaning or upkeep, right? So if brainpower is the only other asset, it seems logical to me that employee satisfaction should be a primary concern of any business. Of course, corporations don't look at things that way, mainly because the willing pool of replacements for lost assets (in this case, employees) is often ample. Which is why smaller companies are nice. They don't have the necessary outreach/visibility/capital to lose staff willy-nilly. In publishing, Pearson/Longman/Penguin/Prentice Hall is a great example of the corporate. You think--what an awesome job, I'm working for Penguin! Well, I've met a bunch of people who work for them and only one has ever been happy. Even he was looking for work at a smaller press when I met him. Everything about the Pearson conglomerate is über-corporate, mired in red tape, and the employees are pretty much unhappy, from what I can tell.

Now, I work for a small company edging on corporate. So though we have some of the same issues as a big corp (poor vertical communication, mistreatment of some entry level employees) we get some of the problems of a small company as well (cash crunches, hiring freezes, that kind of thing.) It's a fascinating and frustrating place to work. I've learned a lot about business while I've been here. But like many others, I am feeling a bit of the old strain. The office is totally restless today. That company wide memo? Not something that would happen in a big corporation--totally a small office move. Its probably ruffled some feathers, not that this hasn't been coming for a while. But the feeling of stress in the office is unpleasant right now. I think I need a smoke.