A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Meridian Hill Park = Nottingham Forest

Last night's party was struck by Columbia Heights' own Robin Hood, liberating beer from the gentrifiers and returning it to the people. Unfortunately, I was on the other side of this act. Never have I been so annoyed at the just actions of beer liberators. Oh well -- its probably for the best, considering my hangover.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Le Néant

I don't have anything to blog about right now. No drama save for the FBI invading my office and interviewing more people than I thought they would. No cooking as I've been living meagerly on leftovers due to a persistant stinginess and a packed schedule. Just when I thought things weren't looking so hot, the social schedule starts packing up again.

Offer is still open if people want to check out Litteri's this weekend. I don't think it's as good as the Italian market in Philly that Jeff described, but you gotta make do with what you got. Other than that, might wander to a house party in Virginia Saturday, or find something else to do. Might do a lot of nothing this weekend. It's all very up in the air, but in a pleasant way.

On a food related note, I have a turkey leg I'm currently defrosting. That thing is huge! I'm currently thinking about preparation options; I'll most likely roast it very simply and make some pan gravy. I've still got the bok choy, and might try sautéeing it or steaming it. But tonight is a grill night. Impromptu party at a friend's house on a Wednesday -- love when the weather gets nice.

Things are much better after the usual pre-determined "being down" time. It's that time of year when the wine goes from red to white and the jackets get packed away. There's still stress going on (notably, housing search) but I'm prepared for it. Fun times for all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ami Bangla Bolthe Pari

So I was very, very stressed out today. The State Dept. process is now in full swing. And today was the language proficiency exam.

When I took the oral exam in February, I received a passing score on the lower end. If I could prove my proficiency in a language "in need," my score would be increased fairly dramatically -- about 20%. That's where Mom's insistence that I practice Bengali came in handy. State has consulates in Calcutta and Dhaka, and proficiency in Bengali also means that I can pick up other Sanskrit-based languages (Hindi, Punjabi, etc.) fairly easily. The test was scheduled for 1 PM today, over the phone. I'd been practicing by listening to Bengali language tapes and speaking almost exclusively in the mother tongue with my parents. But as the time for the test came closer, I became increasingly nervous. This peaked last night, when I couldn't sleep and could hardly sit still.

I sat down in an office conference room today extremely wired on a combination of nicotine and caffeine (rocket fuel!). And the nerves were bad. I was stuttering, skipping words, speaking to quickly... but when the actual time for the test came, I somehow magically calmed down. The test itself was very hard. 12 minutes of interview, a 5 minute extemporaneous speech with cross questions, and 12 minutes of interviewing my interlocutor and then translating her words to the test proctor. All to be done in my best Bangla.

Somehow, I passed the test. My speech was probably the worst part; I imagine that to a native Bengali speaker, I sound roughly like a mix between a loquacious tween and a tourist with a thick American accent. When your day-to-day conversations are about dinner and school, how can you speak to a stranger about unemployment? (Yes, I had to do this, and my phrase in Bengali for welfare was "money from the government." For recession? "Country not doing so good with money.") I was best at the translation portion. Luckily, the topic I got was transportation and infrastructure. After many hours spent on the disgustingly crowded streets of Calcutta, that's something I can speak about in Bengali at length. For the Bengali speakers who read this, some choice vocab phrases I dropped include "paka poth," "rastha ghat," and "pani thhey thhok-thokke." (dirt road, streets and alleys, flooded with water). That's right, I even remembered that since my interviewer was Bangladeshi I had to use "pani" instead of "jaal". My interviewer/interviewee spoke immaculately clean Bengali and was very easy to understand, and I picked up most of the words I didn't know in context.

Now that's another step done with. This process has been really fun in retrospect. Security clearances will most likely take some time, but there's nothing proactive for me to do except get my physical. The waiting game begins anew. One step closer to getting that sweet government job. Oh, and if I get shipped to Calcutta or Dhaka, I'm totally going to rename this blog "Calcuttaist" or "Dhakaist." But there I am getting ahead of myself. Baby steps...

You're a Winner!

I got to my desk this morning and was greeted by a bright green egg filled with chocolate. What a waste; maybe I should make my "no candy" policy clearer to people in the office. Opened the egg anyway, out of curiousity, and was greeted by a bright pink slip stating that "You're a winner!" How exciting!

So I took the slip to HR to collect my prize. And I got.... a gift card to TGI Fridays!

If anyone wants this, I will trade it to you for cash. Seriously.

Monday, March 28, 2005

87 Stick Up Kids

Last night I watched Carnivale while enjoying a couple glasses of Val D'Oca Prosecco. Dedicated readers probably remember that the wine festival reintroduced me to the world of sparkling wines. I wasn't a fan for a long time, but I'm quickly changing my tune. The Prosecco was just another step in this direction, and at $11.99 from Litteri's, it was a well priced one.

I'm not at all familiar with Italian wine. In fact, I'm generally better with New World wines rather than old. So I tasted my prosecco with no expectations. I was pleased that it wasn't as brut as the California sparklers I've had. The bubbles were less strident than domestic product. The overpowering bubbles of cheap "champagne" like Freixenet usualy makes me kind of ill, so that was a welcome surprise. The Val D'Oca was slightly sweet and went down easily. It also got me interested in sampling more prosecco, probably from Litteri's. That place is the bomb.

Update: Google searching led me to this article from 2003. No wonder I like this stuff. Should go to Italy some time soon. If its anything as lazy and food oriented as Spain, I'll love it. (sidenote to Suzanne: remember our trip to Spain? #3 on my all time favorite vacations list, seriously. Just behind the last trip to India and the Canyon.)

So I'm off to the Italian deli again this Saturday. Who wants to come with me? If you haven't been, you owe it to yourself.

I'm in the middle of watching "You Got Served" again. This movie is an absolute riot. Why are Omarion and Marques dancing in the rain? Does anyone look more frightening than Lil Kim? How did they get those Lil Saint t-shirts so quickly, and can I have one? Aren't ridiculously massive crews of more than 20 people just a mite inefficient? And can a plot have been more hurried? Doesn't matter. This movie is too entertaining.

In a not-so-completely-unrelated note, if I ever have the need for some sort of entrance music its gotta be Ante Up. Too hot. I'm picturing Hansel-level fame, where a DJ follows me around and drops the wax whenever I walk into a room. To steal a phrase used often by Kyle, best.

Stupid Tax Question

If any readers have ever received a 1099-Misc form, could you leave a comment as far as what forms I need to fill out for my federal and city taxes? I'm awful at doing my taxes and have no clue what to do. The amount is less than $1000, from my tutoring gig... and I don't know how to add this in to my existing tax forms. Thanks in advance.

Update: I broke down and purchased Turbo Tax. I really should have started thinking about this a long time ago. Stupid procrastinating.

Run and Hide Their Heads

It is absolutely miserable outside. So miserable that I didn't bother leaving my bed this morning. My back also hurts like hell (most likely rain related) so staying away from the cube isn't the worst idea I've ever had. I'll probably do my taxes, go to the store, and read every single Carnivale message board I can find.

Did anyone else catch last night's episode? TWOP forum folk are evenly split between loving and hating it. I don't know how I feel other than confused. Without giving anything away: who's good? Who's evil? I am super confused.

Also, I picked up some beautiful looking bok choy at the market Saturday. Suggestions for use?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Some Food Content

So the plan was to go out last night, somehow somewhere. I was tired but that wasn't going to stop me. Jump cut to 7 PM at home, returning from lunch and the market. Feeling like a recharge, I set my phone's alarm for 9 and decided to take a disco nap. Jump cut to midnight, when I wake in a start and realize !crap! I had slept through my alarm. Star wipe to 6:30 this morning, when I awake feeling 100%.

Who would have thought that a night staying in was the way to re-energize? Here I was thinking that personal energy levels were cyclical and when I hit rock bottom, the next level would be full energy. Turns out it's much more linear -- who knew?

Television at 6:30 AM on a Sunday morning is a very strange thing. Seriously, I had no idea some of the shows I watched even existed.

My mom actually asked me if I was coming home for Easter. Huh? Didn't realize we had heard the good news and given up our heathen ways. Though I can't really see my mom proclaim that "he is risen." She probably just wanted me to drive my sister back to college.

On to scrubbing the bathtub. Then a remarkably early brunch (I am craving smoked salmon) and a leisurely read through the paper.

Edited to add: Yes, I know I've done the epic sleep thing before. The remarkable thing about last night's nap-turned-super sleep is that I was sober.

Thought for the day: Any dungeon master worth his weight in geldings goes nowhere without his twenty-sided die.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Rare

Not a description of cooking meat, but a description of what I'm going to blog about.

I don't normally write about really deep personal things. Why? Because I figure more people are interest in meaningless vapid tales of hedonism. Well, maybe not pure hedonism, but certainly a sort of materialism and shallowness. Oddly, this has caused a backlash amongst some, who presuppose that I have no self beyond the public. Well, because I'm in a rare mood (see, title?) I'm going to write a little bit about what's going on emotionally, instead of in my kitchen.

Currently, I'm hurt. It's kind of bad. After my last relationship ended amicably, I started dating casually. That was okay, but I felt like seeing someone more than casually. And I have officially been blown off by her. Why?

What hurts about this isn't the situation in specific. Its the trend that it is a part of. Since my last really long relationship I've been able to maintain a real relationship exactly once (since = two years ago). Every other romantic experience has either been meaningless on both ends or someone ignoring me/blowing me off/ending things with no warning. It isn't fun.

So, readers, many of you coming here from searching for "hunkar begendi" on Google, there you are. A little bit of insight into my emotional state at the moment. What, you were expecting me to go into how happy I am? Sorry, no dice. I feel like a mess right now, and it isn't fun. I'd actually enjoy throwing a temper tantrum or breaking something. This isn't something I'd call a generic sort of depression. Its a situational anger. To be blunt: I'm lonely. Very.

I'm fairly talented at maintaining a public face, wherein I am always happy, confident, and unsinkable. But I feel like people should know that's not all I'm about. Unfortunately, I have a very easily Google-able name, so this blog doesn't provide much of an anonymous cover. Thus the hesitation on going into dirty details. But I felt like dropping the curtain, at least once.

I promise the next entry will be about food. Seriously.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Spring Cleaned

The task of cleaning my room eventually filled an entire industrial sized trash bag. Not that my room was dirty -- but it was ridiculously cluttered. Yesterday I decided enough was enough and cleaned like crazy. Now gone from my room are 4 bottles of wine, 10 beer cans, 3 beer bottles, 1 mickey of Jack (all empty), 7 back issues of Esquire, 3 back issues of Vanity Fair, 2 back issues of Spin, 3 empty shopping bags that served no purpose, and much bric-a-brac that I had no real reason to save. Didn't realize I was such a horrible pack rat until I saw that bag getting filled. Still cluttering the room are numerous overflow books; all of my bookshelves are full and I don't have room for another. And I do not have the heart to throw away reading material. A new bookshelf will be a purchase I'll make when I move.

Found in this spring cleaning was my ring, which had managed to hide itself in between a box of old coffee table books and a bookshelf. How the hell did it get there? That pretty much made my night, especially after my disaster of a steak dinner.

I purchased cheap meat from the NE Farmer's Market last weekend -- steak selling for $5 a pound. I noticed when I purchased the meat that it was fairly well marbled, but looked slightly gristly. No matter. Unfortunately, my ravenousness when I got home last night prevented any complex cooking. Instead, I marinaded the steak for 45 minutes and fried it. BAD IDEA. The sheer amount of gristle on this meat, exacerbated by high heat cooking, was practically unbearable. I have a few pieces left over and I've got to slow cook it next time. There's no other (good) way to melt those connective tissues down. My normal choice of steak is a flatiron, which isn't awesome for flavor but can be cut with a butter knife. The steak from the "other" market? Not so much.

Today a bunch of us went out for a co-workers birthday. Calzones were eaten, and now a small brick has taken up residence in my stomach. It's telling me not to move around much. Nice.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Durrty

Diplo of Hollertronix (who is apparently the much-ballyhooed M.I.A.'s boyfriend) has put together some fantastic grime-y mixes. Imagine dj/Rupture sans the noise, with less Arab and more crunk influences. The adjective that immediately comes to mind is "dirty", music that (to paraphrase Pitchfork) comes from the ghetto, be it barrio, project, or favela. Diplo's take on it exemplifies this "global grime" style, and his "Favela on Blast" mix (available via Boomselection) is a great example. Miami booty bass, electro, The Clash (??), R&B crooning and rapping in what I assume is Brazilian Portugeuse -- this is hot stuff. It's all based on "baile funk", the music of the Brazilian shanty towns (favela). Boomselection is already saying that baile funk is the new hotness -- kind of neat, though I wonder if this is the same form of music that was profiled in Spin a few years ago as insighting serious gang violence in the poorer sections of Rio (anyone else remember that?). If that is the case, baile funk kind of reminds me of Go-Go.

Diplo was in town a few months ago and I missed him (my big time bad) but I don't plan on making the mistake again. "Favela on Blast" is a hot download (interesting that The Village Voice was ahead of Boomselection on this one) and seeing this kind of mix done live would be amazing. I haven't had a night of sweating it out in a club in forever.

So last summer's sounds were Jamaican riddims and soca. Bollywood beats were two summers ago, and we've also seen some Miami bass revival and some sneaky drum'n'bass get popular. Is baile funk the sound for this summer?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bar Food Plus

Is it just me, or is the trend of re-imagined comfort food getting a little out of hand? The corn dogs at Tallula, the miniburgers pretty much everywhere (though I like the Matchbox version best), the "kit kats" that Michel Richard apparently serves at Citronelle... it's understandable after years of high-art cuisine alienating the common diner, but there are times when whimsy gets in the way of delicious. But despite my inner protestations, I went the comfort food route when I sat down at the Palena bar and saw that the menu featured a hot dog, cheeseburgers, and fries. Sure there were other things on the menu, but when a restaurant comes as highly praised as Palena (and if you haven't read the near-rhapsodic musings on eGullet, click here) I had to try Frank Ruta's take on the frankfurter.

Don't be fooled by Palena's amateur looking website: this is no simple restaurant. When I walked in, the first word to come to mind was "schmancy". The bar stools looked like bisected chaise-lounges; the lounge area itself was moderately lit with multiple tables. I didn't have a chance to scan the main dining room, but the bar alone felt a little out of my league. Glad I didn't change out of my work clothes before going! I grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered an $8 glass of red, a hot dog, and a half order of fries. Pulling out my paper, I prepared for the odd juxtaposition of eating re-imagined street food in such a fancy environment.

My first taste of the wine (Ramitello, Italian) set the tone for the rest of my experience. The wine was fruity and unpretentious--not the most complex flavor in the world, but a good accent to the heavier meal to come. When it did, I was pleased. The presentation of the hot dog was as expected: a large, gourmet looking sausage on a fancy bun, slathered with dijon mustard, the home made "kraut", and a few meager pieces of homemade potato salad. The fries (I bought a half order) came out on white china lined with, of all things, a brown paper towel. The kind you used to use in high school. Hilarious.

The hot dog was delicious, the lack of sauer in the kraut more than made up for by the spicy dijon mustard. At first I tried eating it with a fork and a knife. But the bartender (he was great) came by and told me to just use my hands. The decor may be fancy, but the service is homey. So I tucked in two-handed style and enjoyed something about as far from a hot dog as Oscar Meyer is from a real pig. This was no ordinary link--salty, spiced with what tasted like garlic, and clearly made from very high quality meat. Delicious. Next to that, the undercooked potato salad bits were a huge disappointment. At this point, I polished of the Ramitello and switched to a California Zinfandel.

The fries were a huge surprise, thin and served with onion rings, fried mashed potatoes (!), fried lemon slices (!!), and a spicy mayonnaise bisected by a stripe of homemade ketchup. The fries were the most mediocre part of the spread and the fried mashed potatoes (small balls of mash lightly browned) were the best. The lemon slices were a surprise; I actually bit into it thinking it was a fried potato sliced widthwise and did a double take. It was a little much with the spicy mayo, but the ketchup cooled the flavors down. The Zin wasn't the best pairing here; rich with vanilla and oak, it would probably have been a better match for the hot dog.

At its most basic, you could say I ate a hot dog and fries last night at a bar. But that summary is about as reductive as you can get. Heck, the bill could tell you that. This was next-level bar food, and it was delicious. I'm eager to return to the bar and try some of the other offerings and see if they hold up to the hot dog standard.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

TPS Report

My ring is still missing, and now I'm experiencing "phantom ring syndrome." I know its in my room--but where? Am also getting a little nervous about having to move in two months. Of course, I found my current place in a week, so it shouldn't be too hard.

Tonight I take on a new student. Not only will this be my first male student (though Vicky, it must be said, wasn't exactly a girly girl), it will also be my first non-SAT student and my first learning disabled student. How many x-factors could I agree to take on in my zeal for extra money? Should probably work out fine. His main issues are with essay writing and reading comprehension, and that's where I'm a Viking. The best park? He lives in walking distance from the Cleveland Park metro. Not only can I avoid driving by taking Metro, I have an excuse to enjoy some good food. So tonight it's dinner at the Palena bar; I actually have an excuse to go. In my course with my student I also plan on checking out Vace, Spices, and maybe even some places in Tenleytown. Nice. Full report on Palena's bar to come later tonight or tomorrow.

Oh, if you're looking for laughs, I recommend the last two entries written by DCeiver. If you aren't a religious reader of his site, you're missing out on (as he would put it) hilaritycakes.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Event Horizontal

Somewhere in the black hole that is my room is my ring, the silver one my dad bought for me in Thailand. I threw it on my bed Sunday afternoon and then crawled in bed withouth moving it, no doubt sending it somewhere outside of the space-time continuum. Can't find the thing anywhere. Ironic, because I was describing my attachment to it to a friend just Saturday night.

It feels totally weird not wearing this ring. I only take it off to shower, sleep, or go to the gym. And now I feel completely naked. There's a short-ish story about the ring's origins, but the fact of the matter is since my upanayam I've always worn a ring on that finger. Not having it? Sucks. I'm constantly feeling for it, and have debated putting a rubber band on the finger just to make the persistent "missing" feeling go away. Stupid not-quite-sober me and bad decision making.

In a completely unrelated note, my back is in serious amounts of pain. That's probably related to the ridiculous amount of walking I did this weekend and poor sleeping last night. That and the fact that the G. family all have serious back problems. Who am I to be different? Wanted to hit the gym tonight, but that is a bad idea given the state of me. Instead, I shall eat some dangerous drugs, whine about my back, and eventually cook some dinner (teriyaki pork chops, rice, broccoli). Fun night, I know. Stupid pain. When are they going to invent robotic bodies so we can get rid of these ugly sacks of mostly water? 10 bonus points if you get the reference -- no Google allowed, leave a comment.

And That's What Really Hurts

This morning was a near impossible battle between me and the snooze button. I ended up winning, motivated by my exponentially increasing irritation with the words "Donnie in the Morning." The strategic decision to have my alarm clock set for the most annoying morning show possible was made in the early days of my transition to the working world, and I believe it might be time to reconsider said choice. In fact, it might be time to retire my alarm clock. Its eight years old and though it's still ticking away, it isn't the most attractive thing in the world.

Work is the last place I want to be at right now. But I suppose I'll suffer through. I'm going to occupy myself with menial tasks and dream of my bed. We didn't spend much time together this weekend, and I plan on remedying that situation.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Mystery Dinner

1 bone in pork loin, wet rubbed
1 chorizo sausage, sliced
2 cups cooked Arroz Amarillo (available at most markets)
1 medium yellow onion, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
cilantro

For the wet rub:
1 tablespoon EVOO
chili powder
cumin
Kosher salt
Garlic powder

Broil the pork on high for 12 minutes, flipping once. Set aside. Saute the garlic and onion in a large sauce pan over medium heat until translucent, about five minutes. Add the sausage and the bell pepper; continue to saute for about four minutes. Add the rice and mix thoroughly. If the rice begins to stick to the pan, reduce heat. Slice the pork loin into large strips and add to the pan. Saute until the pork is thoroughly reheated. Turn off the heat and add the cilantro, chopped. Top with sliced, pickled jalapenos and hot salsa. Serves two.

Now here's the question: what the hell did I make? My roommate called it "Spanish Jambalaya." A decent option. I called it quick (-ish; with prep time it took 45 minutes, not to mention the two days the wet rubbed pork has been sitting in the fridge) and delicious.

Love making good dinners out of just what I have laying around. This was all out of leftover bits from other meals, fridge staples, and the pork. And I have enough for tomorrow. Sweet.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I am a Tremendous Loser

Tonight, 7:45. Watching Jeopardy. The category: Crossword Clues. The clue: A fine American grape used to make red wines (9 letters). The answer given: Cabernet. And it was judged as correct.

The answer is, for those who don't know, Zinfandel. Zin is a real American grape; Cab comes in a bunch of varieties and is more French. Oh, and there's the little matter of the letter count. In any case, I watched the entire rest of the game getting increasingly angry, as the gentleman who gave the clearly incorrect response ended up having a rather slim lead going to the end. Slim enough that the Cabernet response could have made a difference. Luckily, there was vindication: in Final Jeopardy, he referred to the Van Gogh painting as "Starry Nights" and lost.

Man, getting worked up about this took me back to old school days.

In other news, boring dinner tonight. It was an errand day. But: I actually made a perfect pot of rice two nights ago, and I've got some Salvadorean style roast pork to dry rub tonight. Yum.

The name of this blog is crazy deceptive.

Monday, March 14, 2005

This Time with Legitimate Reason

I'm down again. Spent a half-hearted hour at the gym and no amount of endorphin rush could help. One of my favorite people at the office was let go Friday, and I only found out late today.

The person in question was not part of my department or division; he was just a random guy that was in the cube next to me for some time. I don't know how good he was at his job, but I do know he had a completely useless editor that had an odd resemblance to Mr. Blobby. That editor was most likely my friends downfall. Oh, and I always had the suspicion his big boss (different from mine) was not the nicest guy in the world.

My friend was a good guy, one of the funnier and more unique people I've ever met. Others in the office felt the same way. His non-sequiturs and baffling questions added levity to boring office Wednesdays; his random drawings made with little skill still adorn my cube. We rarely saw each other outside of the office, but in the office we were always talking and joking about one thing or another.

But I'm not going to miss him just yet. There are massive changes outside of his department going on. New positions are opening and I'm going to try to convince my big boss that perhaps my friend needs another chance, this time with competent supervision. It's worth a shot, right?

Wine Wine Wine

The wine post is up on DCist. Probably the longest piece I've written for the site. If you have a chance to read it, please let me know what you think.

I'm no Parker when it comes to wine, so I left out any pretentious tasting notes ("Notes of blackberry, tar, and hairspray mark this chewy entry into the exploding Malbec market...") because I would just be making crap up. But I tried my hand at noting good wines, at the very least. Who could have known that my favorite was actually a bottle of bubbly? Ladies and gentlemen, my drink of choice for this summer (if someone nearby actually stocks it).

No Time Right Now

Swamped. Working on a DCist post about the wine fest, recovering from a boozey Carnivale filled evening, putting together some loose ends at work that require too much time for too little return. Also contemplating my tournament bracket. I've got a feeling about Wake Forest this year.

I had a couple pieces of Boschetto al Tartufo Saturday... and I can't stop thinking about it. Simply amazing cheese. Mindblowing. Might even be worth $30 a pound...

Friday, March 11, 2005

There was a Time

Thought swirled around the concept of "perfect songs" and whether such a thing exists. I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't. But I will say that Annie's "Heartbeat" never fails to make me feel good. This despite a subtle melancholy behind it, clearly a result of the sad circumstances in the artist's life.

A great song. A near perfect song.

I had leftovers last night, as planned. Tomorrow I'm venturing into the world of wine. Curious: what new varietals will I get to try? I know my red wines pretty well, but not as well as the true oenophile. Maybe I'll come across some amazing blends new to the US market. Maybe I'll have the greatest NZ Pinot Noir ever made. Maybe I'll just drink whatever is handed to me until I fall over.

Yeah, that's probably it.

To Put it Another Way

There are many ways to express one idea.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Cartoholic

Most probably know that I'm a map fan. Well, not exactly a fan -- more a semi-obsessed weirdo. This probably comes from staring at way too many National Geographic insert maps as a kid. In fact, my parents still have their collection of NG's, dating back to 1981. My favorites back in the day were a two-dimensional map of the universe I actually had hanging up on my wall (nerd much?) and two small inserts on a larger world political map that showed the distribution of religions and languages. I'd stare at those things for hours on end. Yeesh.

That doesn't have much to do with this post, I suppose. But Catherine did provide a link to an interesting website that lays out a map of all the state's one has visited. Here's mine:



create your own visited states map

So it looks like I've done a pretty good job hitting most of the states east of Old Man River, with the deep south, Wisconsin, and those crazy northeastern states still noticeably empty. I'm pretty sure I've never been to South Carolina, though I have driven through; I won't count that.

West of the river is another matter. Not only haven't I been to the Pacific Northwest, I haven't even come close to visiting the plains states, or my mom's dream location of Montana (no, seriously, and no, I don't get it either). I should remedy this, especially since watching Carnivale makes me want to go see the great wide open spaces.

Who am I kidding? 10 minutes in Nebraska and I'll be drinking beer and complaining about how there's nothing to do.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Thanks, Chemistry

I'm not as big of an Alton Brown fan as some people, so my knowledge of food chemistry is pretty poor. In fact, most of it comes from (gasp!) actual chemistry. In any case, my fritatta tonight did not, at first, come out so great. I took it out of the oven and it was much too runny. But when I thought about how the chemistry works (protein chains need to break down and bond, that needs more heat, heat isn't getting to the center, more time is needed, blah blah blah) and corrected my error, the fritatta turned out fine. Luckily I wasn't cooking to impress and a fritatta can cook up fine even if prematurely pierced (just not as fluffy). In any case, I wasn't expecting dinner tonight to be too perfect, because eggs are my culinary nemesis. Rice is a close second. In all my waxing on and on about my Hakka Chinese from a few nights ago, I neglected to mention I am incapable of not burning rice.

I won't write out the procedures for my pseudo-fritatta. But here are the ingredients. Do with this what you will:

5 eggs
1 Vidalia onion
1 red bell pepper
1 tomato, seeded
1/4 pound pepper jack cheese
3 links chorizo sausage
cream
cilantro
salsa

I did stuff with all these and made a dinner. It turned out well. And I have a chorizo and a pepper left. Nice.

Here's the conundrum for tomorrow: I have both chicken and fritatta left over. The chicken more or less requires rice, but I don't know when I'll have time to make rice between the gym and the OC. But if I don't cook it tomorrow, I don't know when I will; happy hour Friday, wine festival Saturday... if I try to make rice drunk on Saturday night, there will be only disaster. I think what I might do is pre-make the rice before I leave for the wine fest Saturday, thus having it ready for drunk me Saturday night. Maybe. All this planning, crikey.

Eris

Lots of meta blog talk in this forum that was a reaction to something I wrote for, well, you know. As is par for the course in blogging discussions, everything has come down to "what is a blog?", "how is it different?", and "are bloggers journalists?", more or less.

What a relentlessly meta day. I started getting upset by the eGullet talk, but now I get the feeling there's a mob mentality on the site.

If readers of this tiny blip on the blog map care to click over, feel free. eGullet is annoying and requires registration to post, but you can post any comment here instead. Man, I thought my days of throwing the apple of discord were over.

The Post is so Two Weeks Ago

If you haven't seen it, the Post food section today has an article on food blogs. When I first saw the topic I wasn't really surprised. The Post has been hot on blogs -- as covered in many other venues, either with DCeiver's snark or DCist's objectivity touched with a tinge of "we were here first."

The article did get me thinking though. First, there are some great blog ideas mentioned in the article. My favorite new discovery is the strangely morbid and humanizing Dead Man Eating. Its a very sad website under the surface. A deeper reading might even conclude that it is a commentary on the inherent class discrimination of the death penalty; you don't see many last requests for wagyu with foie gras. Maybe its just the menu they are provided.

But more than that, the article really emphasized to me the synergy between blogging and food. It was the ever hilarious Sunday Source that actually caught on to this, though probably not intentionally. They had an article weeks ago about "How to be a better blogger." One of their suggestions was to "blog as often as you eat." Naturally, food bloggin thus makes perfect sense. Food is an essential element of life, a regular encounter we all have, though some like it more than others. Blogging about food is blogging about life through a filter everyone is familiar with. Its a perfect match. Not everyone likes art, not everyone reads novels, but everyone eats. That doesn't mean everyone is a gourmande; but when they come across the basic vocabulary of food, everyone is familiar.

More thoughts are bouncing around, but time is short. Maybe later. Tonight: southwestern style frittata with chorizo and vidalia onions!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

In Comes Drama!

Well, the shop was a bit of a rude awakening. My financial health was just looking positive, and I was actually digging myself out of a hole. And then I got hit with the tab for repairs to my car and BAM there goes that idea. I'll be living skint for a bit. Lucky I've got plenty of fine meats in my freezer. Also, Saturday is get drunk for free by virtue of a pass to the International Wine & Food fest. Next weekend will be the real strain on my unexpectedly slim budget, but if I make it a "stay in and watch movies" kind of weekend, I'll be okay. Or if I find parties to attend instead of doing the bar thing. I should really sit down and do taxes, determining if the good government owes this taxpayer some much needed scratch. Should do that sooner, rather than later.

Man, money stinks.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Legacy Recipe

There are only a few recipes in my arsenal that have their direct roots in the cooking of my mother. As I've probably mentioned before, she isn't the greatest cook in the world. Still, her chili has found its way into my heart, as have her twice baked potatoes. But the one recipe that has found its way into my (mental) cookbook is her chili chicken. Its what's I like to call the "legacy recipe," a dish I'll most likely be cooking for the rest of my life.

What I call "the legacy recipe" is the dish that has been in your family for generations. Many times the recipe is part of a holiday tradition, or something special not enjoyed all the time. Other times, it might be the stereotypical comfort food, or associated with specific events. Some families have the joy of many legacy recipes. Others have none -- a sad circumstance indeed. Food is something that can tie families together, often across oceans. Witness the reverence that Italians have for food "the way grandma made it" or the persistence of traditional Eastern European foods in the Chicago area. More locally, look at the vibrant ethnic enclaves like Eden Center or Wheaton -- places where the food traditions of new immigrants flourish. For many immigrant families, traditions of language, dress, and religion may get lost in the morass of America. Recipes, somehow, persist. This is in part because of the adaptibility of cuisine. Food is so different, essentially mutable, infinite in possibility. The legacy recipe is not etched in stone, unchanging. That would defeat the very purpose of it. It adapts and changes with time -- and still continually evokes the past, our ancestors, previous ways of living.

All this waxing poetic is ironic, especially considering the background of the recipe I call my personal choice for "legacy" status. Ma moved to the United States before she ever learned how to cook; ironically, it was my father who first taught her how to make simple curries. She learned from those around her in the small Bengali community that became a second family. At some point in time, the recipe for chili chicken entered her repertoire. The recipe itself is bizarre. Heavily spiced with soy ("soya" in India) sauce and thin Indian chilis. Served on thick white jasmine rice, heavy on sauce but light, typically, in vegetables. Just as likely to be slow cooked as it is to be stir fried. Is it Indian? Is it Chinese? Actually, it's both. Indian style Chinese food, born in Calcutta and popularly known as "Hakka Chinese". If in Calcutta, eating it is a mouth-burningly unique experience. One that I had the pleasure of having in the comfort of my suburban home on countless evenings.

As a legacy recipe, I guess chili chicken is -- after a few mental leaps -- perfectly logical. At this point, its a triple hybrid of Chinese, Indian, and American traditions. And its a dish I most likely would never enjoy at the dining room table of my aunts in India; in fact, odds are my mother was experimenting with recreating a restaurant meal when she made it. In fact, since both sides of my family were part of the Indian bourgeoisie class, odds are few actually cooked a major meal; my mother's generation is probably the first to really step into a kitchen. So this makes me the second generation to carry the G. family's chili chicken. My gender makes it even more interesting; where now it is traditional for women to be the cooks in Indian households, for many years it was men who took the primary leadership in my family's kitchens. Thrust into the western world and female dominance in the home kitchen, its amusing that I'm the one carrying the cooking from the family. Hey, if Dad taught Mom, why not buck tradition and be a man in the kitchen? Still, a few mysteries remain. Who taught my mother to make this dish? Why do Indians call it soya sauce? What will this recipe look like in twenty years, when hopefully control of it has passed to someone else? In forty?

I'm sure mom would rather her legacy recipe to me be shorshe maach or some other disgusting traditional Bengali fish preparation. The sad irony is that the one cuisine that is truly native to my culture -- Bengali style fish -- is the one type of food in the entire world that I authentically despise. Still, the Bengali-Chinese cuisine is a nod, ever so slightly, back to the homeland. Maybe its the signal of a new sort of "legacy recipe," carrying more weight than something as simple as Mother's Pumpkin Pie.

When preparing chili chicken my instincts take hold, my urge to alter Ma's recipe slightly -- or sometimes, not so slightly. What was a relatively simple preparation has become in my hands a full on effort requiring a good 45 minutes of prep time. The sauce my mother concocted originally was a simple mix of vinegar and soy. My version has multiple sauces and an Eastern mirepoix base. I don't think my mom knows what a mirepoix is! The dish itself is best when served over rice, and gains a certain amount of richness if served as leftovers. I alternate between using a wok (or more properly, a karahi) and using a large sauce pan. When choosing the chicken, it's vital you select pieces that still have the bones in. Frankly, I think boneless chicken is tasteless and I'll only use it if absolutely necessary. Heck, for flavor's sake I err toward the organic.

6 medium sized organic chicken thighs
Ginger
5 cloves garlic
2 medium yellow onions
5-10 thin asian style hot peppers (jalepenos may be substituted if necessary)
1 bunch cilantro
Soy Sauce
Oyster Sauce
Rice wine vinegar
Scallions, as a garnish

Skin the chicken thighs and cut into thirds. Set aside. Mince the garlic, grate one tablespoon of ginger, and set aside. Thinly slice the onion. Heat a healthy glug of oil (I used EVOO) in a wok over medium heat. While the oil is heating, chop the peppers and place four of the chopped peppers in a 2-1 mixture of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Also finely chop about half of the cilantro. Save both of these -- they come into play at the end of the recipe.

When the oil has heated, throw in the ginger and garlic. Stir until the kitchen is fragrant and the garlic is soft and semi-translucent. Careful, however, not to burn the ginger. Throw in the chicken and the onions; cook as if stir frying. for 5-10 minutes.

Pour enough soy sauce in the wok to cover both the chicken and veggies. Also pour a quarter cup of rice wine vinegar and two healthy glugs of the oyster sauce. Add in the remainder of the chopped peppers and mix thoroughly. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is falling off the bone. Uncover turn off the heat. Throw in the cilantro and mix. By doing this, you are wilting the cilantro and adding its flavor to the dish. Adding the herbs at a higher temperature will effectively kill the fresh flavor of cilantro. Serve over rice, garnished with chopped scallions. In the mood for spicier chicken? Pour on the soy/ vinegar/pepper sauce. For you wimps out there, you can remove the chilis entirely. Of course, this effectively kills any Indian-ness the recipe has, but hey, this is America. We're free to make our own legacies.

Rip van Winkle

The most welcome phone call of the weekend was from my student, who informed me that she had the flu and would like to cancel our Sunday lesson. Bless her heart. This gave me license to act the fool Saturday night. I started with some solo pregaming at home before heading off to a party at The Ellington, one of the most disgustingly self-conscious apartment buildings ever erected in DC. For the price, I'm curious as to why the residents didn't just buy in to the booming DC market. Physically, the space was nice--but the kitchen was tiny and the floor was this weird concrete that made the whole place look unfinished.

The party itself was fun. Wore my DCist shirt as a joke, and it actually became a conversation topic. In fact, I met some people who gave me good story leads. Party went as parties do, drunker and rowdier as the evening stretched on. Ran into a random co-worker with whom I did shots, broke and then fixed the tap on a keg, flirted shamelessly with little success, and managed to catch the bus home to tap off a fun and cheap evening. I suspect the bus I caught was the last of the evening. Got home absurdly late and crashed harder than expected; it took every ounce of strength I had to rise on Sunday.

Since I was free from my teaching duties, I decided to kick my Sunday two months ago stylee. The market was good to me and Tunnis was okay, except for the fact that their most annoying regular -- this lawyer who never, ever shuts up -- sat next to me the entire time. We have the same conversation every time we speak ("Have you been to this club? Remember that bar?") and I'm sick of it. After a few too many beers, I came home. What was to be a short nap turned into a strange half-nap half-sleep where I woke up to watch Carnivale and promptly fell back asleep, sans dinner.

Now its work time; got here really early and townhoused a Pom. I'm nervous about the weird sound my car is making, but don't know how to fit in time to take it to a shop. I'll probably do that tomorrow morning and pray it only takes a day to fix. Oh car drama, you are no fun.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Lets Try this Again

My computer crashed and I lost a long, well written post. I don't feel like going through the writing exercise again. So here's the edit:

Wine and Star Trek are a perfectly nice combination
Armand's Pizza is not that great
Mandalay is awesome
I have a new cell phone.

Tonight is looking up. Might meet up with people I haven't seen in a while and actually go to a party. But first, there's a can of High Life in my fridge that I suspect needs to be consumed. At it has three friends; don't know if I trust them with my organic chicken thighs.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Asylum Tacos

Last night at Asylum was pretty fun. Ellie showed up 15 minutes before the specials were ending, so we snuck orders in just under the wire. Super cheap eats; Ellie said her wings were spicier than she expected, and my tacos were just okay. But for two bucks, whatever. We continued on the Shiner Bock train for a few hours; I took the metro to Eastern Market, stopped off at Tunnis, took a couple of shots, committed a faux pas, and stumbled home.

Just solved what was looking to be a pretty big problem at work... and did so rather hungover and unable to concentrate. Also got in before 9, and had the foresight to drink some water before coming in. So all in all, I guess things are looking up.

Tomorrow, I'm taking the 'rents out to Mandalay for an anniversary lunch. Tomorrow night is up in the air at the moment. That feels really nice to say.

Does anyone have any Advil?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Steak Salad and Soreness

I purchased a flatiron steak a while ago and portioned it into thirds. The first piece was marinaded in a Montreal Steak Seasoning concoction; the second, a curry and chili powder dry rub; the third, a mix of soy sauce and Worcestershire. The first two were good, not great. And due to a mix of procrastination, eating out, and other priorities, I let the third sit in the marinade for well over a week before I prepared it. The worries I had about this dish were pretty rational: soy and Worcestershire are both high in salt--so did I basically pickle my steak? Would this go down as my first real cooking abortion since this time last year? Last night was the moment of truth.

Prior preparations of the dish were served in the usual manner for flatirons. But for this particular cut, I was feeling bored. Recently some excellent Romaine lettuce had showed up at Eastern Market, as well as some decent looking tomatoes (finally!). I had bleu cheese dressing at hand, so steak salad it was. Broiled the steak under high for seven minutes on one side, five minutes on the other. In the in between time, the lettuce was fully washed and chopped and the tomato was sliced into eighths. After letting the steak rest for a few minutes, I took my super sharp (because I seldom use it) serrated knife and finely sliced the steak length-wise. It was about 8 oz. of steak--a good amount. The week of marinading, the broil, and the inherent qualities of the cut I was using made the steak amazingly tender; I was getting slices about as thin as I like my lunch meat. Well, that's an exagerration, but it was very, very thin. Threw the still-warm meat on the salad, poured on the bleu cheese dressing, and there was dinner. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the meat wasn't too salty. It tasted like it had absorbed the more umami qualities of the soy and Worcestershire without taking too much of the salt in. In retrospect, I would definitely not cook it so long. The meat came out medium well, and I definitely prefer medium rare. But it was a great high-protein meal, so that's just a small quibble.

Did a not-normal thing and went to the gym two days in a row this week. The normal routine is to take a day of rest, but I was working different groups on the two consecutive days so I decided to push my luck. Both days were arm days (bis and tris), and now my arms are a mess. This morning? Could barely brush my teeth. Yeah, that's no good. And lets not even get started about my forearms. They are a quivering mass of jellied pain. But no matter; I'll probably be okay for shoulders Fridya. Tonight is a night off, and with The O.C. in reruns I'm thinking I'm gonna go out a little. Been asked out for drinks at Asylum. Could I possibly turn that down? Yeah, you know the answer to that one.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Red Trout with Garlic, and a Personal Bit for those Interested

1/2 pound fillet of wild red trout
1 clove garlic
1 lemon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Olive Oil

When it comes to high quality fish, simply prepared is the way to go. The japanese really have it right. Too much going on ruins the fresh quality of a proper fish preparation.

For this dish, pour a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in a glass baking pan--just enough to coat the face of the trout. Cut a few small grooves in the trout. Slice the garlic as thinly as possible and place the garlic in the grooves. Spread the 1 teaspoon of salt evenly over the surface of the trout. Slice the lemon into semi-circular sections, reserving the round ends for the finishing touches. Cover the trout with the lemon slices. Flip and place face down in the pan, on the oil (you may want to arrange the lemon slices in the pan and flip the fish onto them). Spread the remaining salt on the skin of the trout, and drizzle a little bit of oil on the skin as well. Broil under high heat, 5 inches from the flame or more, for 8 minutes if you want medium rare or 10 minutes if you want medium. Don't you dare go well done!

I served this on a plate of melted leeks cooked simply in olive oil, black pepper, and salt. And it was delicious.

The cooking was one thing that made me feel a ton better after the horrid feelings of yesterday. I also worked out pretty hard, great therapy for the world weary (though probably poor therapy for my back). Also, cleaned my (formerly abysmal) room, watched some bad poker playing by various celebrities, and watched Carnivale again, this time with roommate Ken. I realize, by the way, that I called the actress that plays "Libby" Carla Rossi, when really she's Carla Gallo. That's just the wine in my veins. The episode was just as great on second viewing.

The trick, probably, is to avoid idleness at all costs. Or is it to relax more and not over-exert myself on weekends? Oh, who knows. Might as well just see where this ride is taking me.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

All Kinds of Mess

As in "I'm all kinds of messed up right now." My body is not cooperating with my brain. I'm ridiculously tired, completely unable to concentrate, and feeling like no hell conceived by man could be worse than this cubicle, right now. And I have so many errands to run... ugh.

The odds are 4-1 that I'm going to slip into a major depression in the next few weeks. Stay tuned, folks!