Sunday, June 28, 2009

First Full Day in Portland...

I always think (fondly) of Portland as a place where it's always cold and rainy, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Portland in June is absolutely gorgeous... so much so that I ended up getting a sunburn while sitting in the back yard reading my book...
Because we had only one overlapping day between my arrival and her departure, J came to brunch with Alicia and I at a place in NE called Screen Door. The specialize in Southern food, and I realized something after this, my fifth or sixth experience of going to a Southern restaurant that everyone raves about: I don't particularly care for Southern food. I'm cool with BBQ, but all of these biscuits, grits, fried stuff, and gravy I find myself generally underwhelmed by... J ordered the Fried Chicken Biscuit "Sandwich," which looked pretty crazy (especially with the giant knife sticking out of the chicken), and by all accounts was delicious (if you like Southern food):
Alicia ordered up biscuits with sausage gravy, which were also well-received:
I went with the Fried Oyster Eggs Benedict, as I am a huge fan of both oysters and Eggs Benedict, and it was... meh. The oysters weren't as good as most that I've had, and the hollandaise was not particularly flavorful. I am seldom disappointed by eggs benedict, but this one was sort of lame. (Shown on 2 plates because they were having an "egg disaster" in the kitchen and had to bring out the second egg separately...)The company was fantastic, so I'm glad to have gone, but I think I'm officially giving up on trying to like Southern food... After picking up Alicia's friend at the airport, we all sat out in the gorgeous Portland sunshine to enjoy nice fat rib-eye steaks with grilled sweet corn and grilled asparagus for dinner, all of which helped to make my mediocre brunch just a small glitch in an otherwise lovely day. Off to take care of some seeing-the-extended-family business today, then looking forward to a week of seeing friends and checking out my old haunts...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Choose Not to Believe...

No matter how many media outlets report it, I choose not to believe the rumors (or "facts," whatever...). Here's hoping a musical genius is remembered for his art and not for the rest of it...


You rock those short pants, sir... You rock 'em...

What I Did Several Days Ago...

Long time, no post... Last work week was pretty rough for assorted reasons, but ended on a definite high note with a trip down to Bank of America Pavilion on Friday night to see Andrew Bird in concert. This was actually a really cool open-air venue. I'll definitely have to check out more shows there in the future...
So, I'd seen Andrew Bird once before (in Melbourne), when it was just him and his 4 instruments on stage. This time he had his drummer/homie Martin Dosh, a bass player, and a guitar player with him, but he still played several instruments for us. Before I get carried away talking about his awesomeness, I should mention that the opening band was Calexico and they were really quite awesome as well. They started pretty mellow, but picked up energy as the crowd trickled in. They have a really cool vibe, and I would probably pay to see them on purpose, so it was a cool treat to get them as an opening act. They also came up on stage for the last 4 tracks of Andrew Bird's set, meaning there were about 10 different musicians up there rocking out together. Good stuff. Calexico pictured below... (All of my Andrew Bird pictures were blurry, but note our proximity to the stage...)

Andrew Bird was absolutely amazing. He's so freaking talented, it blows my mind when see him in action. (I also suspect that he is the reason I seem to find tall, scrawny guys with slightly odd-looking faces ridiculously attractive...) He kills me... Aside from his amazing voice, ridiculous whistling prowess, crazy violin skills, and guitar-playing ability, the guy is a fanatastic songwriter and is absolutely charming and hilarious when he talks to the crowd. I heart him. (And, since he chose to do a second encore, I choose to believe that he hearts me, at least in my member-of-a-crowd-of-obsessed-fans capacity, too...) Here's a music video of one of my favorite songs of his, for the uninitiated:


We've been having pretty nasty weather around here lately. It's been raining/misting on and off, but the temperature is too high for that to be pleasant. Instead the air is super-thick and muggy and driving me crazy. I don't remember June in Boston being this bad, but that may be because August is so horribly hot and humid that it makes June seem pleasant by comparison. For the record, I can handle heat (with a bit of whinging), but I really cannot handle humidity... at all... This is why there are now 4 air conditioners in my 5-room apartment. (I won't be installing one in the bathroom.) On Sunday I broke down and bought an air conditioner for my kitchen. I'd been putting this off because of the stupid casement windows that don't let you install window units, but the nice cool air from the rest of my place doesn't circulate into the kitchen at all, which makes cooking pretty unpleasant and makes the bunnies sad and lethargic (although I may be projecting there)... Because of the stupid casement windows, I had to buy a portable unit and rig a venting system using plexiglass, duct tape, and a couple hours of cutting said plexiglass with the $4 tool they sell for such things (below, left)... I'll probably come up with something prettier to replace the duct tape later, but for now it's functional and behind a curtain (below, right) most of the time anyway, so I'll call it good...

After spending most of the afternoon dealing with that, I decided to grill up a nice summer dinner even though it was dreary, muggy, and sprinkling outside. Corn was $6/dozen at Russo's, and was ridiculously delicious despite the fact that it's often not in season here for a couple more weeks. I made a ginger "BBQ" sauce for pork tenderloins, grilled off the pork and some scallions, and grilled off the corn for use in my "Grilled Creamed Corn" which is actually really healthy (made with milk, not cream) and combines the deliciousness of basil and shallots with the grilled corn to make a perfect summer side dish. I will post the recipe at my other blog one of these days, because it's deifnitely one of my favorites. Anyway, here's how things turned out:This week has been crazy-hectic at work (thus not managing to post anything until Thursday) in preparation for leaving for Portland tomorrow after work. It will be awesome to have a bit of vacation and to get to see Stanley and Alicia (visiting from Dubai), as well as Max, Midge, and all my other Portland homies who don't have clever screen names...

Fortnightly Bunnies

My posting about the week after my birthday is about 4 days late, but I promised bunnies, so I figure I should deliver...
I don't have many pictures lately, because much of the cutest behavior takes place when I'm sitting/laying on the floor hanging out with them and they're climbing on me and being adorable, which is hard to capture on camera since I have bunnies on me and since they tend to hop up to the camera and stick their little faces in the lens to see what's going on...

Here's Pedro pouting in the pet carrier after some mean lady gave him a (partial) bath:
When Pedro was done with his full-on pouting, he started doing one of my favorite things bunnies do: washing his face (second only to the simultaneous yawning-and-stretching move these guys both do that absolutely kills me...). I especially love watching lops wash their face because of the cuteness of how they "comb" their ears... Aw...

After seemingly having a change of heart for a few months, Rico is a very angry bunny again lately. I think this started when I put him/them on a diet (because Rico is obese and Pedro has some digestive issues). I didn't cut back much on their food, but Rico seems to have decided that this is Pedro's fault. He's back to growling and nipping at me and Pedro when he feels like his food is delayed, and he lunges at spinach leaves when I hold them out to him (prompting me to explain "You don't actually have to attack it, baby... It's not going to run away."). This morning he stood at the cage door and wouldn't let Pedro back into the cage after I put their morning veggies in there, and when I tried to calm him down he just growled at me and backed off a little to defend the food pile from further inside the cage. There was a pile of spinach and carrots in there half the size of his body, but he didn't want to have to share. I feel so bad for Pedro when Rico acts like this. I really never knew rabbits could growl until I met Rico. Pedro seems to recover pretty quickly from these episodes and can be found snuggling with Rico as soon as they've finished eating, but I'm sure it contributes somewhat to his nervous disposition...
Hopefully with some extra snuggles and some time Rico will learn to calm down a little. He really does have a giant (adorable white) belly, so I think it would be irresponsible to feed him extra food just to placate him... Speaking of which, here he is with a situation more to his liking: the whole pile of greens all to himself (while Pedro was still pouting in the pet carrier)...

I was noticing lately that I seem to have settled on nicknames for my little guys. Historically, I seldom call my pets by their actually names (Eduardo often went by "dork-butt" and "stupid-head," used as terms of endearment, of course...). In this case I seem to instinctively call Rico "baby/babe," " cutie," and "fatty," while Pedro goes by "cutie" (it's equally applicable to both bunnies) and "sweetie." I'm feeling sad about abandoning them for 9 days to go on vacation, but luckily their brains are the size of cashews so they may not even notice and they certainly won't remember a month from now...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

As my birthday approached, it was time again to get to work preparing my annual 5-course birthday dinner. This has been tradition for 5 or 6 years now, and I am definitely getting better at selecting a menu that won't result in too much of a crazy-hectic time in the kitchen. My friends Lisa and Will drove up for dinner as well as to be my prep wing-men, and in the end I'm pretty sure I couldn't have pulled this off without them. First up: a trio of passed hors d'oeuvres.
The first of these was Salmon Tartare with Red Onion Crème Fraîche on a Savory Sesame Tuille (basically using the French Laundry recipe for their famous cornets, but saving myself the finger-burningly tedious rolling process by making flat tuille wafers instead of cones). These were very rich but also very delicious.
The second hors d'oeuvre was Grilled Pancetta-Wrapped Peaches (a slice of a yummy summer peach and a basil leaf wrapped in pancetta and cooked on the grill). I lack the proper temperament for dealing with peaches (the peeling, the removing of the stone...), but Lisa was kind enough to take the reigns on this dish, and it turned out amazing. The recipe called for sautéing the wrapped peaches in olive oil, but that seemed like a pretty stupid thing to do so we threw them on the grill instead, which added a lovely smokiness. This will definitely be added to the list of favorite summer appetizers.
The final starter was the Emily-style classic, Fava Bean Crostini (fresh blanched fava beans and fresh ricotta on grilled baguette slices with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt), which were light, fresh, and delicious. Yay, summer fruits and veggies!
In an effort to avoid people being way too full by the end of the meal, the soup course was Clear Gazpacho Shots. These are something I had several years ago when my brother took me to Quantum in Santa Barbara (back when it was an awesome restaurant) for my birthday. I wrote to Gourmet magazine to request the recipe, and a few weeks later I got a copy of it in the mail. They never published it (probably thinking most of their readers couldn't be bothered to do the 2 days of prep), but it's become one of my favorite palate-cleansing soups. It's a clear liquid, but packed with the essence of all the fresh veggies you would find in a typical gazpacho. Yummy (and pretty)...
The salad course was a Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Feta, Red Onion, and a Balsamic Vinaigrette. This is another dish where Lisa took charge (while I dealt with some last minute prep for the main course), including having brought some awesome arugula from her home garden. None of us were really sure how this was going to turn out, but it was really quite delicious. I got a nice barrel-aged goat cheese at Russo's and luckily managed to select a really ripe and delicious watermelon. The peppery arugula, juicy sweet watermelon, tangy goat cheese, and tart balsamic all married beautifully. This was a really nice summer salad.
To pace ourselves before the main course, I served up some Strawberry-Basil Sorbet, which is one of my favorite healthy homemade frozen desserts.
The main course was a dish I had practiced (and posted about) a couple weeks ago: Citrus-Marinated Salmon with a Confit of Navel Oranges and Pea Shoot Coulis. This turned out even better this time around, and was by far the star of the show. I already spoke about it quite a bit in my other post, and this is getting long, so I'll just say: Wow. This was awesome.
Dessert was Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte, which I have also posted about previously. This is probably my favorite chocolate dessert EVER, in part because it is so very easy to make.
All in all it was a really great night, in part because of the fact that I'm friends with such totally awesome people. Funny how old 30 sounds when you're 15 years old, and how not-old it actually feels when you get there...

Wine Tasting, a Concert, and a Programming Note

I'm quite the bad blog-poster lately... Way back last Sunday I had a little wine-tasting get-together as a preliminary birthday celebration (in an effort to stretch my birthday out for as long as possible, and also to be able to invite some people who I wouldn't be able to invite to my limited-seating birthday dinner the next weekend). We went with Syrah as a theme this time and grilled up some lamb kofta kabobs (pretty much the spread I wrote about here) along with some awesome meze... all of which I forgot to take pictures of. The Syrah tasting was a much more successful venture quality-wise than the Pinot tasting had been. Terre Rouge from central California was the winner, although all but one (I'm looking at you, random Spanish Syrah) were quite drinkable.
On Wednesday I headed back down to the House of Blues to see Jenny Lewis. I wish she'd done a bit more of her acoustic stuff (in part because it was awesome when she did it, and in part because we were seated very very close to the speakers and her acoustic songs were less deafening...), but overall I really enjoyed the show, while not being particularly blown away by it...
Finally, a quick programming note: Weekly Bunnies is taking the week off, and will return next week as Fortnightly Bunnies... I'm thinking less than half of my posts on this nominally food-centered blog should be about how cute my rabbits are...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekly Bunnies

I really spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out what Rico and Pedro are thinking when they do things (like pee on my floor or panic when I cook anything), only to come to the same conclusion every time: They have brains the size of cashews. I really need to give up trying to assign higher-level thought processes to their odd behavior and just accept that they're not always going to do things that make any sense... Without further yammering, here are the bunnies... First up are a couple shots of them enjoying their dual tunnels:
... then fighting over a bit of cilantro:
More tunnel lounging:
And, finally, a video of some seriously high-quality nomming on Rico's part. (Pardon the blaring Regina Spektor in the background... I had to capture the moment, so I didn't have time to turn it down...) The best part starts at about the 0:33 mark... I bought them mustard greens for the first time this weekend, and they are big fans. I love watching Rico methodically munching his way through a leaf the size of his head... He's pretty awesome.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Worst. Concert. Ever.

I don't think I can post about how bad the TV on the Radio concert on Thursday was without spewing a lot of profanity (I'm still working through the anger and hostility towards the band that the show filled me with) so I will just post this picture and leave it at that...
I sort of hate TV on the Radio now.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Wednesday Afternoon

I've really got nothing interesting to report this week, and I don't think you particularly want to read the details of how exhausted I am or of the weight of the world trying to crush my spirit or of how my once-considerable (and modest, too!) brain seems to be shrinking at an ever-increasing rate... I also feel that I need to post non-bunny things between Weekly Bunnies posts, lest they take over the blog to the extent that they have tried to take over my kitchen... Thus, here are some random thoughts that have been kicking around in my apparently-shrinking brain lately:
  1. There is a distinct possibility that my 80-year old neighbor is either dating Popeye, dating a man who believes he is Popeye, or is actually single but believes that she is dating Popeye (who only she can see). I realize the first option there is definitely the least probable, but given the evidence (a love note from Popeye on the dashboard of her car, a Popeye self-portrait with affectionate sign-off on the white board she keeps on the back door) it's probably too soon to say. She is quite the odd duck, so I wouldn't put anything past her. She occasionally bangs on my door while yelling my name in order to ask me things, and often I don't bother to answer because I cannot fathom why she is doing so. Once I ignored her knocking and largely forgot about the incident, until I opened the door to leave for work the next morning and found on my doorknob a grocery bag containing one orange, one apple, and one box of Thin Mints. I am still trying to figure that one out... She cracked me up most recently when asking me to bring in her mail this week while she's away. I didn't think this was a particularly complicated request, but she kept giving more and more details, including pointing to the plastic bag in which I'd brought my lunch to work and saying "Oh! And maybe you can save that bag and use it to put my mail in?" as if I might otherwise... Actually, I have no idea what her fear was if she didn't specify a bag in my possession that I could use for mail-gathering. Seriously, lady. I have a freaking PhD. I think I can handle this... Anyway, sweet, eccentric old ladies who may or may not be dating Popeye make better neighbors than loud college kids, so I can't really complain...
  2. I find myself perplexed these days by the etiquette of holding doors open for people. I am seldom isolated while approaching the main entrance at work, and the spacing between people tends to vary considerably. There are times when you should obviously hold the door open for the person behind you, times when you "clearly" don't need to hold the door open for them, and times when it doesn't seem (to me) like you need to hold the door open but then you realize you were wrong and there is awkwardness when the person you didn't hold the door for catches up to you at the elevator... I put "clearly" in quotes because about 70% of the time when I feel I am way too far behind a person for them to hold the door for me, they will actually stop in their tracks and stand there holding the door open until I walk through. (It is typically the men who do this.) This is where I start to feel like I'm maybe confused about the etiquette of this situation. My policy has always been that (assuming the door isn't going to lock behind me and the person behind me does not have their hands full) I only hold the door open if doing so does not require me to stop walking. I will slow down or maybe give the door an extra shove backward if a person is just a little too far behind me, but that's as far as I'm willing to go. Any thoughts on this? Does this make me a bad person? Is it actually only men who are supposed to feel socially obligated to hold doors open for people?
  3. Because this is theoretically a blog about food, I should probably mention a random food thing... I had one of my very favorite breakfasts on Sunday: eel. It's really one of my favorite foods in general, actually, but it makes an extra-awesome breakfast... (It's probably my second-favorite breakfast on the planet behind Eggs Benedict... and it's a very close second.) This is basically a convenience food. You buy frozen barbecued eel at your favorite Asian grocery (you can buy bone-in frozen raw eel sometimes, too, but that's a lot more work than I'm willing to put in on a leisurely Sunday morning), make a batch of sushi rice, make some spicy mayo (mayo, lots of Sriracha, and a few drops of sesame oil), microwave the eel, and plate it up. Near-instant awesome breakfast:
In more interesting news, I'm off to see TV on the Radio at the House of Blues tomorrow night. Should be fun, but I'm going on my own and it's on a work night so there's a slight activation energy that will have to be overcome in order to get me out of my apartment and into Boston... Should be fun times, though... and at least there's no baseball game to jack up parking prices this time...