A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Monday, February 28, 2005

Red Trout and Carnivale...

Though not in that order.

I really hope there are other Carnivale lovers reading this blog. I swear, it has to be one of the finest television shows ever created. Rarely do I heart a show as much as I heart, say, The Prisoner... but Carnivale, you win. It helps that I find Carla Rossi really hot, but the cast in general is just genius. The last thirty seconds of last nights episode blew my mind. Yes, it was a mite predictable, but it was done so damn well. My only hope now is that HBO does the smart thing and ends this show before it gets silly.

Last night's red trout was also quality. Trout is lovely bit of fish, and wild red trout is delicious. I broiled it topped with a sauce made with cream cheese, parsley, and lemon juice. Served it on a bed of melted leeks (leeks are the new hotness, I tell you) that I cooked with the last of my thyme butter. Verdict? Amazing. Ten minutes was a little long for the trout, but it still came out fairly rare. My mom describes the flavor of trout pretty well: "Mishti Maach", or "Sweet Fish". She's right. The sweetness of the wild fish was countered with the tart lemon and creamy notes of the cheese. The scattering of kosher salt on the flesh before topping the fish with the sauce was a good decision. The leeks were rich and buttery, but the salt from the butter dissappeared, mysteriously. Still, it was a good dinner.

Hell, it was a good night. A good weekend no less! Given the personal drama of the last week, that is surprising. In a good way.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Long Summary of My Weekend that will be Boring to Everyone

I made the statement offhand that I was kind of tired of the old weekend spent at Tunnis drill. It was all just getting boring. So the resolution this weekend was to do something different.

Friday night was steak, which had been dry rubbed with a mix of Madras curry powder and chili powder for three days. It turned out nice, but I wish I had made it a little more rare. Post steak I headed to the Big Hunt. An odd decision, kind of... normally Fridays aren't really out nights. Also odd because I don't know Tommy personally that well. Of course, this is the blog world, where everyone reads about everyone elses life and actual conversation doesn't have to happen. But its still good, well, as far as virtual friendships go. I had nice conversations with Yglesias and Kriston, even though I've only talked to them a couple of times prior, and hung out with Catherine and Tommy, the ostensible hosts (Tommy enters the old man club, officially).

(Aside: this blogging world thing is strange and kind of nice. Without going too deep into the personal life, my friendships have been in a weird flux state ever since Steve moved out. I fly solo more than most people, and have come up with many thoughts on the alienation of the city. But lately things have been different. I really enjoy hanging out with this new sort-of group I've met. Everyone has the right amount of nerdiness without being overwhelming, and they are all pretty fun.)

So I'm in the Big Hunt basement, drinking decent beer at a good price, when who the hell walks in but Billy, Lance, and Alexia from Tunnis. Now I've been out with Alexia before, but I've never ever seen Billy and Lance in a non-Tunnis environment. And they bought me drinks, all night, as if I was at Tunnis. It was sufficiently surreal.

Saturday brought an awful headache and the realization that I had no food at all. Thus began an epicly long day. Eastern Market, a quick lunch, then off to Mt. Pleasant to meet a friend for drinks at The Raven. A quick bus ride to U St. and a detour through Meridian Hill Park, where a Hispanic dude almost urinated on me. Numerous High Lifes (High Lives?) at The Raven, and a conversation that was to be short but stretched into dinner with another new face at a cheap ole Salvadorean joint in Mt. Pleasant. A quick ride back down to U St., the metro back to Eastern Market, and drinks at Tunnis into the late hours, hanging out with Rob's girlfriend Angie and Erin, former girlfriend of the kind-of-sketchy guy who got fired from Tunnis.

So, C+. There were too many Tunnis cameos in non-Tunnis locations, and I couldn't pass up drinking there last night (it was on the way home, dammit). Next weekend? Who the hell knows. But I'm keeping my resolution going. The effort to get out alone was worth it.

Today has been slow. Made an easy $40 tutoring. I have to say, I love my current student. She and I have the same sense of humor and she's a real delight to teach. None of the drama of my last student, who was a bit of a mess. The current kid has some insecurity about her intellectual abilities, but I think she's much smarter than she gives herself credit for.

Tonight: Wine, Carnivale, red trout in a lemon/garlic sauce on a bed of melted leeks, and prayers that the weather is majorly inclement.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Five Tidbits to Sustain your Friday Afternoon

• Did you know that The Bravery are the point of inflection of all current indie rock acts? Musical calculus, derivative of a derivative. When the second derivative is equal to zero (The Bravery), you have a point of inflection (concavity changes). Still considering whether this means acts for whom the second derivative is positive (concave up) are better or worse than The Bravery. Of course, everyone knows that the second derivative tells you nothing about whether the function is increasing or decreasing. So reserve value judgement on whether The Bravery are signal a downturn on the musical curve. (This is sheer mental masturbation and I know that.)

• On a similar note, Blue Monday has to be one of the top five singles of the 1980s. That being said, I'm still trying to figure out if the lyrics really have anything to do with the Falklands War. Oh, and Dear Orgy: Thanks, guys, but New Order didn't need your help.

• There's a story on Slate being thrown around comparing bloggers to rappers. DCeiver makes the right call here: boring and ultimately useless. Did rappers ever bring down former male prostitute pseudo-journalists? DID THEY? Didn't think so.

• Last night's Spiderman bit on The O.C.? Predictable, but still great. Question: did they film this episode in 2005? If not, they rather eerily predicted the current weather patterns in the real Orange County. I hope Caleb's house falls into the ocean. That would be awesome. And if they don't work in at least one Simpsons reference into the "Trapped in a Mall" episode in two weeks...

• Those king head commercials for Burger King are pretty weird, but DCSOB hits it right: The Darius Rucker commercial is just about the weirdest thing ever. Next up: The guy from Seven Mary Three sings a hook for Quiznos. I'm conceiving a pun on "cumbersome" and "crusted bun". Give me a break, its Friday.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Anaheim Food: A Quick Roundup

Okay, I was going to do a longer post detailing all my fooding in the city of Disney. In fact, I was even going to try and remember all the meals I've had there over the last three years. But I really don't feel like it. I've been a little down, I've got a book to read (and am doing good at the "fewer thirsty Thursdays" resolution), and I've got a new mix off of Boomselection I want to listen to. So instead, here's a quick rundown of the memorable. No addresses, sorry--I don't have the energy to look them up, come on. If you are curious about these or other Anaheim restaurants (and if you aren't going to Disneyland or a conference, there is no reason you should care), feel free to email or comment.

1. The La Palma Chicken Pie Shop

This came recommended by eGullet folk. A true greasy spoon diner type joint. They are known for their chicken pie--note, not chicken pot pie, chicken pie. It came out with a thick buttery crust and a viscous yellow looking gravy. I had it with the mashed potatoes. To be honest, I wasn't impressed at first. And then I added a small bit of salt and *bam* everything came alive. The mix of light and dark meat was tasty with the right amount of moisture. The odd gravy tasted perfectly heart clogging. And the service--old women who glare at you and seem like they don't want to see you--was perfect for the location. Do: Go here, despite its relative distance from anything of interest. Don't: Try to walk back to Disneyland from here. It will take you an hour and a half.

2. Yamabuki

Who knew a decent sushi joint could be in a Disneyland hotel? I've been going here for three years and have enjoyed it every time. This year I had the "Sashimi Zen", a plate of sashimi served with miso soup and a teriyaki marinaded eggplant dish. The miso here is some of the best I've ever had. The eggplant was interesting. Normally I'm not big on eating the skin of the eggplant, but it was well cooked and added some texture to the otherwise too-mushy eggplant. The sashimi? Crazy. The toro literally melted, as it is supposed to, and I have never, ever had a better piece of octopus. Normally the shellfish are not my favorite bits of sashimi or sushi, but this octopus was chewy and meaty without the usual overpowering fishy smell. Do: Enjoy Hakutsuru and Sho Chiku Bai sake. Don't: Go after having too many martinis to properly enjoy the meal.

3. Thai Thai

A small family Thai restaurant about a mile from the convention center on Katella. It looks like someone took a cheesy suburban restaurant and replaced the tchotchkes with Thai decorations, the menu with Thai food, and the staff with (duh) Thais. I had some hot and sour soup and a very spicy green curry, and a six pack of Singha. For $25. I love Thai food. Do: Sit at the copper topped bar, if you're dining solo. Don't: Expect amazing service. Its just okay, mainly because they are frequently under staffed.

4. The Degrees Lounge in the Marriott Convention Center

A hotel bar? Yes, this is the hotel bar with the aforementioned Bloody Mary's. And it has decent food to, if a little over priced. The one meal I had ther was their lobster ceviche. Served in a massive margarita glass, thick with guacamole and lobster, garnished with a garlic crisp. Its delicious. The other dishes? Really, I can pass. But I love the ceviche. Do: Order the Bloody, especially if your bartender is Mario. Don't: Fill up on the shrimp that garnishes each Bloody.

A had a couple other meals in Anaheim, including a moderate one at the Downtown Disney establishment of Naples, but frankly nothing was that good. I've been to finer establishments in previous years, but I just wasn't feeling it this year. Still, I had to have an okay time. Of course, I did have two meals composed entirely of airplane food, because United has decided to suspend in-flight meal service. That sucked; there is nothing more annoying than gripping a McDonald's bag and a medium soda during take off and the period where you can't have the tray table down. That's what I get for planning layovers down to the minute.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bad Combinations

All from personal experience or observation.

• A "got crabs?" hat and a convention for Catholics.
• Red velour track pants and a blue velour track jacket.
• For that matter, velour track suits and people.
• 4 gibsons and a bottle of sake.
• 3 ginger ales and the mandatory 30-minute in-seat period when landing at National.
• The 90 bus full of school kids, commuters, and a drunk guy that smells awful.
• Anchovy pizza, Makers Mark, and Miller High Life.
• A hoodie, a pair of ripped jeans, and 35 degree weather.
• The hope that snow cancels work tomorrow and the knowledge of that wish's futility.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Back

Hey guys guess what I'm back but I'm pretty busy as indicated by the lack of punctuation in this blog entry the long and short of it is that Anaheim was okay but I'm really tired and does using apostrophes in contractions count as punctuation I'm not sure in any case things are pretty hectic with catching up and whatnot plus there's really no telling what time by body thinks it is Circadian rhythms and all that so there will be be a better post when I got a minute to think and rewind OUT

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"Anaheimlich"

I'm flying to Anaheim, the armpit of Orange County, tomorrow. And the weather? Rainy. When its beautiful in D.C. That's just grand. Grizz-and, even.

This is an annual trip to the Land of Disney; this will be my third year running. Am I looking forward to it? Well, yes and no. There are two reasons, no, three, to be excited.

• As some may have heard from me before, the Anaheim Convention Center Marriott has the best bloody Mary's I've had, ever. They make them with Citron, A-1, home made mix, and garnish it all with pickled green beans and a massive shrimp. That's something to look forward to.

• There's a sushi place in one of the Disney-region hotels that is so consistently good that I've been going there multiple times each trip to the Heim. The sushi is good, but the kicker is this sake dubbed "crazy milk" (info here) that is truly a wonderous beverage. If I could bring home multiple bottles of this, I would.

• Orange County is one of the few places that still sells (as of last year) Salsa Verde flavored Doritos. If you remember me from sophomore year, you know how I feel about that stuff.

Okay, so my excitement for this trip is based on bloody's, sake, and Doritos. Friends, I am 100% genuine class.

Hunkar Begendi

Not much time to blog, as I was out yesterday and need to play some catch up. But in case you were wondering: the Hunkar Begendi at Zaytinya makes any trip worth it.

More later, but right now I have to do annoying work things. Boo work.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Porkchops, the Evaluation

I took my marinaded for two days, freaking huge porkchop and seared each side for about 4 minutes in EVOO over medium-high heat. Then I drained off the burnt oil, added a touch of fresh oil to the pan, and threw it in the oven at 375 for 18 minutes. In the mean time, I strained the marinade, threw it in a small sauce pan, and heated it on low to boil off the water and reduce. Sautéed some asparagus, plated the chop, let rest for five minutes, pour on the sauce, and voíla, dinner.

It turned out pretty damn good. The chop was excellent; the searing nicely carmelized the fatty portions, which was delish, and the sweetness of the maple syrup combined well with the soy sauce within the pork. The thyme was, in the company of such strong flavors, fairly useless. It was pretty much like throwing a ballerina in with wrestlers; when you're working with overpowering flavors like your bog-standard soy sauce, you need assertive counterpoints.

The sauce came out a little less sweet than I wanted, and it could have been a touch--and just a touch--thicker. I'll probably whisk in a bit of corn starch next time, along with some more maple syrup.

Don't have brown sugar? Trust me, a good maple syrup is a fine alternative. It deepens the flavor of pork and compliments the natural sweetness of the meat. If you, like me, are the type that likes syrup on your sausages, try cooking with it. Be careful though; maple syrup, like all other sugars, is easy to burn.

This weekend? Well, nothing planned really. But! I'm going to make braised oxtail curry some time this week. That I am so looking forward to. Does anyone know a good store to buy West Indian style roti? I think that would work well with the oxtail. I'll be in the Takoma/Langley area Sunday; advice is highly appreciated.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Rough Times Rundown

• The Democratic People's Republic of Korea admits being nuclear. Wait, Democratic? Did I miss that memo? Dear Leader can be such a joker.

• As we continue to spread the fires of democracy, its good to know our pals the Saudi Arabians got to vote this year. Hey ladies of Saudi Arabia -- did you get jealous when you saw the ladies of Afghanistan and Iraq voting? Don't worry, you'll get your chance... in 2009. Ladies and gentlemen, our closest Arab ally.

• Oh, and in case you were wondering, Africa is still a great big mess.

In other news...

People wonder why I hate Virginia?

• Prince Chuck grows a pair, gets engaged. CNN uses the word "lover" in headline. Umm, how about "girlfriend"?

Finally...

• True quote from last night's West Wing, from the mouth of Pres. Bartlet: "What's the latest in comparative constitutional theory? Is separation of powers still in vogue?"

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Porkchop Fun

Union Meat Company sells these righteous bone-in pork chops, about 1.5 inches in thickness, at a fairly decent price. So I usually purchase two and cook them in two distinct styles. Last night's chop (wrapped in foil with jalapenos and garlic, balsamic and oil, then roasted) was okay, but frankly it was just a quick and easy meal necessitated by the fact that the pork didn't fully defrost until around 7 (sidenote: I hate defrosting in the microwave).

But the pork I have marinading now should be interesting. I have it going in a mix of soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic, and thyme. I'll probably cook it Thursday, at which point I'll strain the marinade and use it as a basis for a sauce as well. Maple syrup? Yes. Its a good alternative to using brown sugar. The soy offsets the sweetness and adds to the richness. The garlic, well, is awesome. The thyme may get a little overpowered, but I'm hoping for just a little herbal smell, not much more. I'll sear the chop and then bake it for a bit... should turn out pretty well with the sauce.

In non-food related news, some miracle has made it possible for me to actually sleep through the night now. Well, not sleep through, but sleep straight from midnight to 6:30. That is a pretty big achievement, I figure.

Oh, and no movement yet in regards to the Foreign Service. Everyone at the office knows (why keep it a secret?) but the real security checking has yet to begin. I wonder if this blog will get me in trouble? Probably not. If the Department of State gets angry at these posts, then damn, that's some thin skin.

Unrelated: Organic Plain Yogurt is very tart. But with granola, it's not too bad of a breakfast food. So long Slimfast. Maybe I'll purchase your ridiculously over priced shakes again some day... but don't wait up.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Here's the Deal

Catherine asks some questions about recent events. I figure some others might also be curious, so I'm gonna break it down for all y'all.

• Right now I'm in the process of providing the DOS, the FBI, and the CIA a more complete list of close associates for the last 10 years. This includes the phone number of the liquor store I worked at between Junior and Senior year, my friend Thomas' information even though I haven't seen him in years, and a vain attempt to track down the phone number of Jermaine, my roommate from back in the Silver Spring days who I have no idea how to contact. I'm making some headway, but there will be some intense Google-time tonight.

• I have to take a language test to prove my "Level 3 proficiency" (able to converse on a variety of topics, some technical, with basic to intermediate understanding) in Bengali within the next six weeks. This test will be done over the phone, and I'm nervous because I don't know if I'll be dealing with a Bangal or a Ghoti (Bangladeshi or Indian Bengali). The accent differences are significant enough for me to worry. Also, so many technical terms in Bengali come from English. I wonder if speaking "benglish" will be acceptable.

• I've got to go to the DOS for a physical some time soon. And you know how much I love being poked and prodded.

• This entire process will take a few months. In fact, I've been told not to contact the registrar at the School of Foreign Service for at least one month, because if I contact them beforehand they'll have no idea who I am. That's a lot of waiting. I told the big boss at work that I'm giving my 18 month notice. He thought that was a good laugh.

• There is still some question as to whether everything will go as planned. I had my share of wild times in college, but they are behind me. And I was honest with the security officer. So we'll see what happens. There are certain thoughts that keep running through my mind: on one hand, I'm a wanted commodity because of my race and language skills. On the other hand, I am a bit of a wild card. But the job I'm going for is to be, basically, a PR guy for the US. That sounds awesome.

• One big question many have asked: where do I want to go? Keep in mind when asking this question that my idea of a cool vacation or a cool location isn't like everyone else's. If I got a call shipping me off to Almaty, Ascuncion, or Gabarone, I'd be much more excited than if I got sent to, say, Paris. The allure of the remote is much greater to me. All this speculation, though, is a bit prematire, contingent on whether or not everything goes okay with my background check. I'm praying right now that it does.

• Finally, a few sentences on the test itself. To say it was challenging is an understatement. Of course, I had the advantage of really not caring so much. That's mainly due to some advice I received prior to the exam: at a party I recently attended, someone told me that "no one passes the first time." So, I went in with no expectations. There were many nervous people about, and I don't think everyone understood the full scope of the assignments. Basically, its a day of role playing, all much more complex than the standard variety. We're talking situations where you're given lots and lots of background information and you're expected to assimilate it all. The day was long and pretty drawn out; I was completely spent by 3:30. Even if nothing else works out, the test itself was an experience I'll value for a long time. If you want to know more about what the exam is like, I suggest checking out this blog. That person never actually made it to the hire list... so there's no telling what will happen to me.

So, I might soon begin a new part of my life. Can you imagine how interesting the food blogging will get if I start traveling? Wow. Words do not describe my excitement.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Update

I passed.

I passed.

aaaaand.... I'm spent.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Cripes

I've got quite a day tomorrow.

So I won't be blogging.

Big question: will I blog about the experience afterwords? Probably. Its going to be a kind of fun day. Intense, but fun. The only not fun part: I have to get to the bus stop at 5:50 AM.

Ouch.

Please to Explain

From last night's State of the Union address:

"The United States has no right, no desire and no intention to impose our form of government on anyone else"

and

"Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbours, the advance of freedom will lead to peace."

Is it just me, or do those two sentences sound contradictory? "We don't care what kind of government you have... as long as its a democracy *wink*!"

(by the way, how odd is it that the first link I came to for full text of the State of the Union was The Globe and Mail?)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Food Politics

If you haven't seen it, this post is what I was referring to in my last entry. There's some controversy already--over a recipe! Cultural plagiarism is the main issue, because Scott used the modifier "Israeli". According to Wikipedia, falafel originated on the Indian subcontinent. That isn't surprising at all, as it resembles many of the chops my mom makes. The word itself has its roots in Tamil.

In all honesty, I'm not that opposed to using the word "Israeli" here. Cultures have appropriated foods since the beginnings of human migration. The traditional New England Clam Bake has its origins in old Native American food rituals; the English have co-opted curry as their own national dish; heck, even noodles and dumplings have a fascinating cultural history as different cultures have adapted recipes to fit their tastes and needs. The issue, I suppose, is that "Israeli" carries a lot more political baggage than "New England."

In any case, I'm proud of that post. It's a great recipe that I want to try. Unfortunately, I don't have a food processor--and never mind making fresh pita, that's scary. But I'd like to try it. Anyone want to have a falafel party?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Food Experimentation Abounds

Table of Contents
1. Tonight's Dinner
2. This weekend's meals?
3. Tomorrow's surprises


1

So this weekend at the market I came across a beautiful looking celery root. I've used the ingredient before, as a replacement for potatoes in a stew, but never in any other way. I bought the knotty looking thing thinking "what the hell, I'll find use for it." And find use for it I did.

Celery root is an extremely tough little tuber. After cutting off the hard and knotty brown rind, I chopped the root in half and julienned one portion, reserving half for another time. Halving the root took some strength, especially with my injured left thumb, but I got it done. Julienning was another challenge--I had to use my sharpest knife. I kind of wish I'd parboiled the piece first, but no matter.

After julienning the root, I boiled it lightly for about five minutes, just to soften it up a bit. This filled the kitchen with a sweetish, meaty odor vaguely reminiscent of celery, but not exactly the same. It was great cooking perfume. In the meantime, I heated some of the old EVOO and sauteed three stalks of broadly chopped celery (can you tell I love this stuff?), one chopped shallot, one chopped medium onion, and five cloves of garlic. I added in a healthy bit of oyster sauce, teriyaki sauce, and a touch of beef broth, and later the celery root. After the mix reduced, I added three broadly sliced portobello mushrooms and some chili powder to (ahem) kick it up a notch.

After five or so minutes, the kitchen was redolent with the odors of pseudo-asian cooking. Dinner done! Chose to eat without rice, because the celery root provided enough of a starch source.

Were I to repeat this "what do I have to use?" recipe, I would probably reduce the amount of celery and add some diced asparagus, and not bother parboiling the julienned root beforehand. Still, the dish came out fantastic. I'll have the leftovers over rice, maybe.

2

I have ground buffalo and ground free range pork ready to cook on Thursday. I'll be mixing and spicing the two together to make some crazy fancy burgers. They will be served with this with the ridiculous nine dollar block of amazingly sharp cheddar cheese I bought from the cheese guy this weekend, my favorite type of whole grain mustard, and maybe some ketchup if I feel like committing sacrilege. Nice.

Of course, the quandary is that I have a ridiculous amount of saved food. I got a good bit of chicken (most likely dinner tomorrow), the mushroom dish (dinner friday?) and two pounds of ground meat. So from the previous status of empty, my larder doth overflow. I should share the wealth. Maybe I will... or at least start planning to do so more often. My thoughts stray to bringing the burgers to Sheila's Saturday, but she doesn't like red meat and, frankly, that stuff is expensive to share with some people I don't know. Damn skippy y'all.

3

Tomorrow will be a darn good day for food coverage on DCist. I've been slacking a bit, covering (as Mssr Goodspeed puts it) "hot media on media action" and some local politics. But tomorrow has some good offerings. First, there will be a longer and more thought out review of The Islander. The goal is to do this kind of thing once or twice a month. That means more eating out, but I think I can swing that.

Better than the Islander review will be something I'll be putting up tomorrow afternoon that isn't really my deal. I'm only editing it, but trust me it is pretty fab. (Did I just say fab?) In any case, I think its something to look out for. At the very least, I know a few people will enjoy it... but I hope that it'll be a real hit.

FIN