A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Friday, December 30, 2005

New Blog in Development

I'm using Wordpress instead of blogger for the new blog. Right now, I'm liking it, though I wish I knew more HTML.

If you want to be on my blogroll (and currently aren't on it), let me know. This goes double for current FS peeps -- those who know me and those who don't -- as I'm trying to get a good roll going.

(Dak, PR, Furnish, Aaron, got you already)

Site address will be announced shortly. There's still a lot to do with it, but I'm having fun. The aesthetics alone are far, far better than this blog, though the new one doesn't have the same greeny goodness. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to add an image to the sidebar without having to put it in the links section.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Okay Smarty, Go to a Party

Somehow over the last two days I have gone from having exactly zero New Year's plans to being invited to three separate shindigs. This would normally be a banner thing, but the fact is I'm way too stressed to even think about NYE, and planning the logistics of going to three places not exactly close to one another is a big ole' pain. Right now it's looking like Shaw-U St-Dupont (okay, they aren't that far from one another). Of course, I only really know people at the host at the first; the other two are more like crashing. Maybe I'll try to have a different accent at each, just for kicks.

In other news, I started cleaning out my drawers of assorted detritus in preparation for the big move. In one drawer I found a bag of really old mix tapes (like, summer of 94 old). It took me a while, but I finally did the smart thing and tossed the tapes. Sentimentality is one thing, but mix tapes that feature tracks from the first Daft Punk album and things I actually taped off the radio is another. Man, remember HFS's Ten O'Clock News? Those were the days.

Here's to 2006 starting off better than 2005 did.

(side bleg: any suggested corporate housing units in the Rosslyn area? I don't want to go too expensive, so I'm thinking the Residence Inn. Other thoughts?)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Importance of Line Editing

From a Post profile of Islamabad:

"Bananas, apples, mangoes, plums, cherries, pomegranates, strawberries, peaches, plums, citrus fruits, leeches, grapes, raisins, prunes, and watermelons are of good quality but seasonal."

Well at least there's an off-season.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Other Family

Happy holidays, friends. Next Christmas, lets do it at my place. Yeah, I know Nina's is bigger, but it's a pain to find secure parking.

Secret Santa Calcutta Style

At the front of a room sits a table, covered in gifts of various sizes. A diminutive woman stands and yells out a number. The person whose number is called comes to the front of the room and picks out a present. Shaking, weighing, squeezing, or smelling the packages is not allowed. Of course, that doesn't keep people from doing it: "oh babu, just this once, it's okay, really, just a little shake." At some point, an individual whose number is called stands and looks around, seeing what gifts others have picked out. If they see something they like, they can steal it -- but an item can only be stolen twice. What, you want to steal something that's already been stolen twice? Oh, just cajole the lucky person into giving it to you and maybe you'll get lucky. Of course, you'll also have to deal with people hiding gifts perceived as better than others, though the organizer will remind people that all gifts must be visible to everyone. Also, you'll be implored by people who have received less appealing gifts to take them off their hands so they can get a new one: "Take this cheapy didi, take it, it's so nice!" Someone want to steal your silver salt and pepper shaker, despite the fact that you really really want it? Beg. Beg and plead. And then yell: "no dada, please dada, you don't want this. The other one is better, really please dada no!" Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll give up and try to steal something else -- that gift box of apricot preserves and orange pekoe tea looks appealing.

A room full of yelling Bengalis, screaming various semi-profane things at the top of their lungs, sipping "sheeraj," fighting over knick knacks someone picked up at the tchotchke store two hours prior, embarassing their children (who sit in the corner watching the madness, aghast).

Highly recommended as a game to spice up the office Christmas party. Bengalis not included.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Pitter Patter

Mom has already started with the crying, the "you're both leaving soon and we'll be all alone," the "it's so nice to have you both back" (followed, of course by tears).

And you'd think she'd be happy that both her kids were back for the holiday, especially the one in England -- who chose to spend time with her family on the holidays instead of drunkenly traipsing about Anglia (unlike her brother, six years prior). But noooo.

Emo!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Just When You Think You're Out

Here I thought my trials with my former employer were over, what with the quitting and moving on thing. How wrong I was.

Before I go on, it should be said that for the first 2.5 years there, I really didn't know I was being mistreated. It was my first job and I basically didn't have any framework for comparison. But it became abundantly clear at some point that the company I worked for was fiscally irresponsible, ethically dubious, and offered no chances for me to advance. Of course, getting a new job took me the better part of a year and a half, but it happened, and I left work semi-amicably.

Since departing, I've been kept in the loop about my old office's money problems -- problems that I personally am convinced will lead to the company going out of business at some point, or at the very least radically restructuring and letting significant numbers of employees go. Since the bulk of my 401K savings were being matched by them, I thought "hmm... time to get on the ball and roll that money over to my TSP account. So I filled out the paperwork, and in process decided to cash out a portion to get me some needed liquid funds (don't ask, just trust me, the need outweighs the tax penalty).

And here I am, five business days since I faxed my forms to the old office. I check with the old HR department and they say yes, they did get my fax, fill it out, and then fax it to the 401K folks. So I call the account folks to find out when I'm going to get my not-insignificant check. They say to me (rather annoyingly cheerily, I might add) "Oh, we're not seeing anything in process for your account. We would have processed any paperwork in 24 hours."

My 401k is administered by a big, well-known organization. And the trustworthiness of my old office has always been... shall we say... dubious. So, my emotional conclusion: the old office is lying to me. I call them on it and, hey, whaddya know, they did actually forget about it. They'll fax the forms over right away.

I should not criticize them for lying, saying they did something when they didn't. Back at the old job, I did that all the time. Heck, we were practically trained to do that sort of thing. But this is my money. (yes, shoe on other foot, I know).

And my anger toward how mistreated I was at the old job, which had subsided and/or changed into a dull sort of nostalgia, is like a phoenix reborn. What a bunch of jerks.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Snapshots of Your Tax Dollars At Work

The following stories are true.

1. Three snowstorms ago, on the shuttle back to the Metro, the gentlemen in front of me began to draw on the condensation accumulating on the window. The script looked curious: "stick tree equal sign with line through it..." I asked the gentleman if they were, indeed, runes. He replied, in a thick Scandinavian accent, yes. "I ask Thor for help. More snow, so we not have to teach tomorrow!"

Yesterday, the same gentleman (who, I must note, wears an absurdly light jacket and a thick wool hat in this cold) stood at the bus stop and scoffed at the weather. "This Washington. It does not even do winter correctly!"

2. Waiting, again at the bus stop, I struck up a conversation with an older man clearly well into his career. He told me, without flinching, that Peshawar is the capital of Pakistani pornography. "Much of it is quite brutal, actually. Very degrading." Though he hadn't been in Pakistan for nigh on ten years, he remembered the industry flourishing aside open air drug and gun bazaars. Drugs, guns, and porno: these Pashtuns make American libertarians look like fascists.

3. Today we were informed that if an American citizen dies abroad, we are not to send pornography or drugs back to the deceased's next of kin. So if you were hoping to get the meth lab materials from your uncle that died in Montevideo, you're straight out of luck.

We were also advised that certain "sensitive materials" should not be returned to the deceased. A classmate (a former missionary (!!)) piped up: "So, vibrators, dildoes, we shouldn't send those back?"

When is the last time the word "dildo" was uttered in a government building? Times involving Clarence Thomas excluded?

On days like these, where I hear Christmas Carols in Polish, where I argue with friends about whether Amharic or Georgian is the most useless language in the world to learn, where I mention as an aside to a Mormon friend that I'd not had much experience with Mormons before meeting him and he tells me "You know, we have huge penises,"... it is days like these where I realize that my life is insane. Crazy. Probably one of the more odd paths that any individual could ever choose.

Life is good. Alhumdulilah.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

aaaand...

We have official travel orders.

Commence ending gym membership, cell phone service, and working to find someone to fill a room in an awesome three bedroom Capitol Hill apartment. So if you or anyone you know is looking for housing, please please please be in touch. A comment with email or an email to me would be appreciated.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Green Plate Special

Saturday night after an amusing afternoon spent with my parents, a classmate, his wife, and my CDO (Career Development Officer, basically the person that controls the next few years of my life) I went to Corduroy to see what Chef Power had been cooking up. My date and I had already agreed that we'd sit at the bar, which was a smart decision -- the main dining area was hosting a private function. We pulled up stools and checked out the bar menu for the night, which (!!!) did not have the pork belly Rockwell types had been swooning about. Blast. But there were still plenty of awesome menu options. We decided to share the Kabocha Squash Soup and the spring rolls (natch); my date had the striped bass with a truffle-potato cream sauce and haricots verts. I went for seared ahi tuna served on sushi rice with shiso.

The soup and the spring rolls were, as expected, wonderful. Normally I'm not huge on squash soup, but I had settled on the spring rolls and deferred the choice of soup to the lady. She definitely made a good choice. The soup was rich without being overly decadent, though the texture was creamier than I thought it could possibly be. I resisted the urge to add some pepper or salt after my first taste, which was smart; subsequent spoonfuls made the subtle flavor more pronounced. The spring rolls were, as usual, awesome. I was mainly having them for the pork goodness (sans pork belly on the menu, I was compelled) but I'd forgotten just how good the spring rolls (not to mention the sauce accompaniment) actually were.

Side note: how crappy is the Sheraton Four Points? Let's put it this way: while we were having our appetizers, a pair of rather interesting gentlemen came to the bar and ordered a Coors Light and a Wild Turkey with water. Later, they each bought a Long Island Iced Tea to go and left the bar. At Corduroy. Now I don't mean to sound like too much of a snob but holy frijoles, that just screamed insulting. Corduroy shouldn't even be carrying Coors Light. Just should not.

The mains came out not to long after we had finished off the apps. The presentation of the seared tuna had me sold immediately: a beautiful square plate with a rich green border that transitioned to black at one corner, a delicious looking seared piece of tuna sitting on a bed of sushi rice that smelled like no rice I'd ever enjoyed (those familiar know my love of all things green). The meal tasted as fantastic as the presentation was beautiful, if not more so. The tuna was seared to that the inside was as close to raw as possible -- my favorite way to enjoy a great piece of fish. But (and I don't mean this as a negative, the fish was really really good!) that sushi rice. Wow. I savored every single bite and woke up Sunday morning thinking of the rice more. As a South Asian I've had my share of good rice, but never any rice this good. What was it? I tasted light hints of soy in the preparation, and the texture was divine. The light scattering of seaweed and a clear sauce I couldn't really identify made it even better. Really, there's no easy comparison here; the dish was creative without being pretentious (something that probably can't be said for my writing), presented artfully, and so delicious I can still taste it. Wow. My date's bass? I assume it was good; I had a taste, but immediately turned back to my own plate. She stated it was "pretty fabulous," and she's a fish snob, so I believe her.

One of the nicer touches of the evening came at the end, when Rissa (the GM) came up to say hello/goodbye. I'd only met her once prior, so I was very surprised she recognized me. As usual, she was sweet and great to talk to. On exiting, Ferhat (whose exact role I'm unsure of, but he's always there and dressed well) also said hello, and stated the common misconception that "off to Baghdad, eh?" (quickly corrected -- why do people keep asking me that?). It was amusing to have the date confused by the fact that random people seem to know me, though at this point she's probably not surprised by that sort of thing. It is a small town, after all.

So onwards and upwards goes my a bientôt tour of DC restaurants. I'm not sure where I'll be hitting next, but it's likely to be either Komi, Palena, or some cheap Salvadorean. And I can't wait.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Red Red Meat

The dinner Monday night at Ray's the Steaks was fantastic in more ways than one. First, special kudos to Chef Michael Landrum, who not only served every single person in the room, but cooked all the meals with just two other helping hands. How many total tops do you think he had? Guess.

If you guessed anywhere near forty, you're an absolute lunatic. The answer is 52.

The meal started with a dense and tasty bread, served piping hot. It was a no-frills starter, with no fancy grains or flavorings. That was soon followed by Devilishly Good Eggs, deviled eggs stuffed with steak tartare. It was tempting to savor each bite, but eating one whole like a real deviled egg seemed the right thing to do at the time. The tartare was like butter.

Next out were two more amuses, a scallop dusted with what tasted like a chili-based rub and two different kinds of shrimp scampi. They were all very tasty, with the spicier shrimp my personal favorite. All the shellfish were cooked to perfection. How does someone get such consistency with 104 shrimp? It boggles the mind.

After the amuses, we had what was my favorite dish of the night, a crab bisque that definitely made my knees slightly buckle. At this point the weather outside was frightful, and the bisque was quite delightful. The chunks of crab were immense and the soup was just salty enough to balance the sweetness of the meat. I wanted a piece of that bread for dipping. Would that be an insult? Who cares! With this crowd I'm sure it wouldn't matter.

After a small, light palate cleansing Caesar salad, it was time for the main course: steak. We both had the hanger steak, described by the chef as "the way beef is supposed to taste," cooked medium rare. The grill marks on the steak were, well, beautiful. The kind of marks you see on the faux meats in Outback commercials. The taste seemed almost earthy to me, in a good way -- like I was eating meat fresh from the farm, more fibrous than the tasteless supermarket dreck we're subjected too but fifteen times as flavorful. The creamed spinach and mashed potato sides were awesome accompaniments, though I must admit after a few bites I realized how full of cream my body was (after the bisque...) and gave my stomach a break. By the last bites of steak I was sweating a little... but when that key lime pie came out, I had to hit it. Though I may not usually enjoy sweets, I'll make an exception for key lime -- especially if it as good as this one was.

I'll spare you some cheesey concluding paragraph and just leave you with the following statistics. Ponder them as you complain about the next dinner party you have to cook for.

3 amuses, including 2 different kinds of shrimp.

1 salad.

1 soup.

1 main (two types, salmon and steak).

2 sides.

1 dessert.

52 tops.

1 chef, 2 sous.

1 server (also the chef).

1 dropped plate.

52 satisfied customers.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The INA Can Ram It

Currently: in the middle of my Non-Immigrant Visa test, sending emails to family and friends, and basically wasting time. Work is pretty fun at the current moment, as is obvious. I mean, who blogs during a test?

Today was a banner day, as I arranged for my departure from these hallowed grounds. Official departure as of now is January 18th. Itinerary takes me to NYC for two days, departing Saturday the 20th. Onward to Heathrow, Dubai, and ultimately Islamabad. The last two legs of the flight? Gulf Air, First Class. That's what I'm talking about, people.

The flood of departures has not begun, but it's close: our first leaves for Saudi tomorrow, and around December 17th the floodgates really open, with a departure each week it seems. We had the first goodbye party last night at Old Ebbitt, where I enjoyed a half dozen oysters and an oyster shooter. And! I found some people willing to go in on the Orca Platter with me. Now that, friends, is awesome.

First Class and Orca Platters. I should enjoy this while it lasts. God Bless America.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Somewhere between $29 and $36 per Hour

Newsflash: I know what my housing in Islamabad will be like for my first few months over there. According to Post, I will be living either here or here.

Seems a bit decadent, no? I can see how it would get totally old after a while. But for a little bit, it could be fun times.

And no, I don't plan on living like Raoul Duke. At least not much.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Two Amys, a Religious Experience

My first foray into knocking out items on my now evolving to-do list was marred by the fact that I left my camera on my kitchen counter. But it was still a very good day. I started at Two Amys where my companion and I enjoyed grilled stuffed squid with green sauce -- awesome. After the starter we diverged; she had the margherita extra while I had the ribieno extra. That's basically a calzone stuffed with pancetta, prosciutto, salami, ricotta, and mozarella. When it first arrived at our table I stifled a laugh; this was totally going to be two meals. But when I dug in I realized that reheating would be an insult to this awesome crust, so I slowly but surely soldiered through eating the entire thing. It helped that it was delicious. The quality of the ricotta stood out in particular, better than any simple ricotta I have ever had. I wish I had a little bit more tomato sauce, but the benefits of that could be argued.

After Two Amys we walked down to the Cathedral, the most inexplicable of the landmarks in DC I've ignored. Unfortunately, construction prevented us from seeing Darth Vader, but the Cathedral was still impressive. The unusual marriage of pride in America and Episcopalianism was a little strange to me -- it seemed directly in conflict with the establishment clause -- but it worked, overall. I was pleased to see an entire bay of stained glass windows devoted to Maryland, and the architecture was Gothic-tastic. In comparison to other Cathedrals I've seen, the Washington version seemed a little excessively modern, no comparison to the York Minster, but it was still a beautiful building. Overall, a very nice excuse to actually drive in the city. I'm upset I missed Messiah, but that's what happens when you spend your days away from a computer and don't research things ahead of time.