Friday, January 30, 2009

Too Far in Advance?

So, I am apparently a dork. As many of you know, I have a pretty strong OCD streak going... Lists and schedules are incredibly soothing, and advance planning is super... For the most part I think this can be OK and leads to fantastic time management, but there are times when my advance planning goes off the rails... Two examples surfaced this past week as I tried to make lists of things that I will need to buy initially when I move into my apartment... Reasonable things include a shower curtain, a cage and other supplies for Rico and Pedro, a washer and dryer, a gas grill (which some stores seem to think is a "seasonal" item around here and thus don't stock when your yard is buried by 2 feet of snow), and seating for the living room and guest room... Ridiculous things that keep showing up on my list?

1) A "puppy play pen." I don't think Rico and Pedro are necessarily going to stick around if I let them loose out in the yard, so a nice big (collapsible) puppy play pen that I could put out in the back yard would allow them to hop around eating grass and enjoying nature without fear of predators or getting lost under a fence... Brilliant, right? The thing is, do I really need to buy that right now when the backyard looks approximately like the picture below?
2) I have a really strong impulse to buy an air-conditioner. I even did some comparison shopping and started to narrow down the list of places I may want to purchase it. This is important because summers here can be very hot and humid. This is not important right now because temperatures are seldom topping 32ºF these days. I've probably got a solid 2 months before I stop seeing snow outside my window, so maybe the air conditioner is a purchase that can wait?
In summary: I am apparently a dork.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Elevator Encounter...

So, I'm on the elevator at work alone when an old man (maybe around 60 years old, and probably a contractor, not one of my co-workers) gets on. He nods at me to acknowledge my presence, then chuckles a little. This exchange followed:

Chauvinist: Well, you're lucky.
Emmo: Why is that?
Chauvinist: You didn't have to deal with the ice this morning. Either your husband did it, or you're single and your dad or brother did it.
(Elevator doors open. Chavinist exits. End scene.)

Now, in Malaysia I met several men who thought it was very strange that I didn't live with my parents even though I'm not married, but I was under the impression that women in America living on their own (digging their own cars out from the snow, scraping the ice off of their own windows) is a pretty common thing... I felt like I was in a time warp or something... At least he didn't call me "doll" or comment on the relative quality of my gams...
In other news, my rabbits officially have names: The black mini-rex is Federico (Rico for short, aka Rico Sauve when he's feeling sassy)...
...and the mini-lop is Pedro (although I can already tell he will mostly end up going by "Dork-butt" and "Stupid-head," which, coming from me, are terms of endearment when applied to pets) because when I look at him that's the only name that comes to me...

Monday, January 26, 2009

I've Got to Say It Was a Good Day...

Before I start sharing all the happiness, some of you may be wondering when I'm actually going to go to Boston to do a bit of culinary adventuring, rather than sticking to home-cooked meals and whatever I can get delivered to my hotel in the suburbs... The answer at this point is: in a couple weeks, I hope? I seem to be spending every waking moment apartment-hunting, furniture-shopping, rabbit-adopting, and shopping for other lifestyle and sustenance necessities... Oh, yeah... And working. One of these days after I get settled into my new apartment I'm going to have an afternoon absolutely free, and on that afternoon I will head into the city and find me a spectacular place for dinner. I promise.This weekend went by way too fast, but it ended with a thoroughly awesome day, so I guess it's OK. I went out exploring Saturday morning and discovered that Home Depot and Costco are both within 4 miles of the apartment I was hoping to get (having not yet signed a lease at that time, I was trying not to think of it as "mine" yet). I also accidentally ended up in a Bose store, at some point, where the pretty pretty headphones seduced me into temporarily confusing my priorities in terms of things I need to buy for the new apartment ("Hmmm... I think it goes first headphones, then a sofa...") but I have no regrets. After about 3 hours out driving around and shopping, I came home to sit around catching up on Lost and waiting to hear whether or not I was going to get the apartment I applied for. I had been really exhausted all week, and I ended taking a 4 hours nap in the afternoon... which was apparently necessary because I felt fantastic on Sunday morning for the first time since arriving here.On Sunday after playing with my awesome headphones and catching up with my big brother, over the internet phone, I headed out to another suburb to meet a bunch of rabbits who were hoping to be adopted. Holy cow, those were some cute rabbits... I met Crystal (who I mentioned here) and a couple bonded pairs (including Batman and Nala, who were really really hard to leave behind...), but in the end my heart belonged to these little guys:
I'm not 100% sold on their current names (which I'll omit here for the sake of their privacy), so if you have any name suggestions please leave them in the comments... The black one is a mini-rex, which means his fur is the softest thing on the entire planet. It's seriously ridiculous how soft this guy is... The grayish one is your average little fluffy mini-lop, and is incredibly cute. They both start to fall asleep in your arms while you hold them and pet them, and they love to play together and groom each other. Words and pictures cannot begin to describe the cuteness. I wished I could take them home that day, but they will be joining me in about 2 weeks when I get settled in my apartment...
...which I was able to sign the lease for right after meeting my rabbits! I seriously love this place, and I can't wait for my stuff to arrive from Portland/Melbourne so I can start settling in. After signing the paperwork and taking measurements for all of the rooms, I went out to do a bit more furniture shopping (now with a concrete idea of what could fit), then came home and made scale diagrams of all the rooms to see where I was going to put my new imaginary furniture.
Feeling celebratory and with a free meal waiting for me, I decided to order from the dubiously named Papa Razzi (conveniently located just a few blocks away). That turned out to be a very good idea... I don't necessarily care for the Italian restaurants you tend to find in subruban America (all those big bowls of uninspired pasta), but I saw a Wood-Roasted Atlantic Salmon Fillet (pictured above) on the menu that sounded pretty tempting (especially served with a big yummy pile of spinach and some roasted potatoes) and made me decide to overlook the name and the Italian-ness and give them a try... In the end I don't really have much to say about the salmon, since I was only hungry enough for a single bite by the time I got to it, but it was really nicely cooked and quite tasty in its own simple way.
One thing that made it impossible to be hungry for my salmon was the crazy-good Caesar salad. The dressing has a nice anchovy accent that's often missing in restaurant dressings, was creamy, delicious, and perfectly seasoned. This is one of the best Caesars I've had in a restaurant, which made its massive size a mixed blessing. (On the one hand, "Yay! Lots of delicious Caesar Salad!!!" but on the other hand "Oh, wait... I ordered salmon, too!?!?")
The other thing that made it impossible to eat my salmon was the "Cozze" appetizer of Price Edward Island mussels steamed in a white wine sauce. I just finished eating the leftovers for dinner, which confirmed the fact that this is definitely one of the best preparations of mussels I've ever had from a restaurant. The sauce was insanely delicious and the mussels were incredibly tender and flavorful. Fan-freaking-tastic.
I must not have been paying all that much attention when I ordered, because I was a bit surprised when my food arrived and I saw that it included a serving of Tiramisu. I don't tend to be a big fan of Tiramisu from restuarants, as it often just tastes like whipped cream layered with sponge cake and a little coffee... This, my friends, was not one of those Tiramisus... At the risk of sounding redundant, this was seriously the best version of this dish that I have ever tried from a restaurant. The flavor of the mascarpone shined through and the balance between the components was perfect. Crazy-good. I will definitley have to order from this restaurant again, even with its stupid name... Next time I'll just know that a salad and an appetizer is more than enough to make me ecstatically happy.

In summary: Sunday brought me a kick-ass apartment, two of the sweetest little rabbits I've ever seen, and the discovery of a pretty fantastic restaurant out here in the suburbs... Definitely made waking up to head in to work on this freezing cold Monday morning much more tolerable...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mmmm... Spices...

After work today I found my way over to what seems to be the main Asian grocery in this part of the suburbs and pretty much went buck wild in their spice section...
I feel much better now that I won't be having to pay $5 for enough cumin to last me a week... The guy who was working seemed to think I was a little odd (in a way that amused him), but it's all good... The important thing is that my pantry is starting to look a little more like something I can work with. Yay!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Case You Were Wondering...

While staying in my temporary accommodations, I have a certain budget allocated to cover my food expenses. It is very difficult to spend this if I only cook my own meals, so I have taken advantage by ordering delivery from time to time. On Sunday night, while 4 inches of snow fell on top of the 6 inches from earlier that day, I decided to try ordering Indian food from the second of the two Indian restaurants that deliver in Burlington, Massachusetts. I had ordered from Gourmet India my first night in town, and ordered from Ambassador this time. (I was actually craving Mexican food, but there doesn't seem to be delivery for that in Burlington, and I figured ordering from a different Indian place would make this a "project" instead of a "rut"...)
I went with both Saag Paneer and Chicken Korma again for the sake of comparison, and also ordered a non-vegetarian appetizer combo (featuring cumin pappadum, chicken pakoras, fish pakoras, some type of tasty red meat hunks, tandoori chicken, and a beef samosa), as well as some naan. Everything tasted great, but I think I will go back to Gourmet India for my next foray into Indian food here in Burlington for a couple reasons... The prices at the two restaurants are markedly different, but so are the serving sizes. You pay about $5 more per entree at Ambassador, but get twice as much of what you order so the value for your money is probably a wash. What I like about less expensive smaller servings is that I can order more items without ending up with $80 of food that will last me 4 meals... I also like that Gourmet India let me choose between basmati rice or naan with each entree, whereas at Ambassador the basmati was mandatory and you have to pay $3.95 per piece of naan.
The samosas and naan were very good in both restaurants, with a slight edge going to Gourmet India for hooking me up the naan for no extra charge. The Saag Paneer at Ambassador (above, right) had a lot more paneer in it than the serving I got from Gourmet India (above, left), but I actually just order Saag for the spinach (not the cheese) so that didn't win it any points. The spicing differed between the two, but both were delicious in their own awesome spinach-y way. so I'll call that one a tie. Thus, it came down to the Korma... The chicken was more tender in the Ambassador version, but I definitely preferred the seasoning in the Gourmet India Korma (which is one of the better versions of this dish that I've had in a restaurant in America).
So, there you have it: For reasons of pricing, free naan, and kick-ass Chicken Korma, the award for Best Indian Restaurant That Delivers to Emily's Hotel in Burlington is... Gourmet India! I highly recommend checking them out next time you find yourself at a hotel in Burlington...
In other news, apartment-hunting went pretty well over the long weekend (despite the fact that I was snowed in on Sunday), and I may even have found the prefect place for a kid like me. I should find out by the end of the week if it's all that I think it is (it was pretty much gutted when I saw it, in preparation for installing new flooring throughout and granite counters in the kitchen), but I'm pretty excited... One of the best features? It's pet-friendly! I am SO adopting me a bonded pair of rabbits as soon as I get moved in... or maybe I'll just start with the adorable little lionhead pictured above (a male named "Crystal" for some reason... we're going to have to work on that...). Keeping my fingers crossed that things work out...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Five Things I Learned Today...

1) If you turned the heat way down before going to bed because you like crisp refreshing air while you sleep under a big cozy down comforter, you should turn that heat up immediately after getting out of bed BEFORE getting in the shower (because after your shower you will think you are going to die from hypothermia). Boston is cold right now, people.
2) If you realize when you get to the elevator that you left your nice warm leather gloves behind, but you decide "Eh, I'll be fine..." but then you spend a good chunk of time scraping ice off of your windshields? You're going to wish you had just gone back for your gloves... especially if you are in Boston, where it is very very very cold.
3) If you leave electronics such as an iPod and cell phone in your car while you are at work and it is effing cold outside (because you are in Boston), those electronics will get so cold that the batteries think they are dead. Said electronics will function while plugged into a charger, and will understand that they indeed have plenty of battery left once your car is sufficiently warm, but for the first 15 minutes or so they are convinced that their batteries are dead. In case I didn't mention it, it is seriously cold here...
4) I apparently know more about computers/software than your average non-computer-nerd nerd (judging from conversations with my group's IT guy). I suspect this is because I hung out with a bunch of Mech Eng and Comp Sci folks while I was at Nerd School, and some of that knowledge sunk in. Ooh, and I am also apparently preternaturally gifted at changing the toner in printers/copiers. I have no explanation for this. (This item has nothing to do with how incredibly cold it is here....)
5) I've had some pretty awesome friends in my day who were fellow nerds, but I've never before been in a place where I felt so much like I was among "my people" as I do at T3. My co-workers are some of the most awesome, super-nice nerds I have ever met... (OK, so "super-nice" isn't really me, but it's the kind of people I like to surround myself with...) I totally love my new place of employment. Yay!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Emily's First Day at Work

My first day working at what I will be referring to henceforth as The Think Tank (or T3) was pretty good overall, if somewhat paperwork-filled. I spent about 90 minutes out of my first 2 hours sitting in rooms alone waiting for people to come give me more paperwork or take me to my next location. Once I got my security badge (a temporary one, until the information in the 30-page document I filled out about myself today is investigated by the government) I was taken up to meet some people in my group, all of whom (as far as I can tell so far) are ridiculously nice.
(That's not really a swarm of anything deadly in the picture... just editing for the sake of discretion...)

I met with my main boss (the one who interviewed me for the job) over lunch in the cafeteria and he seemed really nice... then after lunch I had brief meetings with my other two bosses. The one who is in charge of the main project I’ll be working on was super-cool and made me feel like I could totally kick ass at my new job. He also talked about how life working at T3 is fairly stress-free and about what a great, collaborative environment it is. I won't say anything about what I'll be doing but, from what my bosses told me about the project, it should be pretty fun.
Tomorrow I have a couple meetings at which I’ll hear a bit more about the project... then it's more paperwork to make sure I can get a paycheck at the end of the month... Looking forward to the 3-day weekend, but also sort excited about getting settled in a bit more at work next week... Tonight I broke in the kitchen in my hotel room to make a batch of spicy north-African Chicken with Green Olives (shown above). Despite the grocery-shopping travails that led me to making this instead of the other 3 things I initially wanted to make, it turned out to be exactly what I wanted for dinner and was seriously delicious.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Getting to Boston

Yesterday (when I traveled from Portland to Boston) ended up being a pretty darned long day. My flight landed a little late (at around 4pm instead of 3:40pm), but it was an hour before I could get my luggage and get to the rental car place, then another hour before they got me my car, at which point it was 6pm (in case you didn't do the math there) and I sat in traffic for over an hour trying to get to my (totally awesome) hotel. By the way, I never remember this until I'm waiting in line there, but every single time I've rented from this rental car place (whose name rhymes with "Nifty") no matter what city I'm in I've had to wait at least an hour for my car. My GPS was incredibly helpful in finding my way "home" to my fancy hotel. I hate trying to read and interpret printed directions in the dark on my own, so having a handy little gadget telling me where I am and what I'll need to do every step of the way was fantastic, especially given how tired I was after getting up at 4:30am to make it to PDX in time for my flight...
Exhausted and starving (having only had a "breakfast cookie" and 1/2 ounce of pretzels on the flight) I collapsed in my room and ordered delivery. I've learned from experience with moving that it's good (if you're me, at least) to order enough dinner on your first night to serve as an emergency lunch the next day, too, in case you're still too tired to act like a productive member of society by then. Thus, my dinner featured (clockwise starting with the naan, below) Naan, Saag Paneer, Chicken Korma, Chicken Tikka Masala, Vegetable Samosas, and Rice Pudding. Everything except the Tikka Masala was seriously good, and the Tikka Masala was just totally different than what I'm used to but still quite tasty.
After 10 hours of sleep and a lazy morning recovering from travel, I headed out to find some groceries... which ended up being a little disheartening. I won't get into the specific problems I had, but this seemed like a pretty big fancy grocery store and they had very limited options for several things that I needed. I also need to find an Asian grocery ASAP, since buying spices in a grocery store is a ridiculous waste of money for a kid like me. This afternoon I went to check out one apartment complex that I had been referred to, but it was not for me. Aside from being too expensive, the apartment didn't have a door on the guest room ("You can just hang a curtain!") and just had one communal BBQ down by the swimming pool with no patios/balconies on the rooms where you could put your own grill ("Those George Foreman grills are really great, though!").
Feeling a bit exasperated with that waste of time added to my grocery-shopping angst (as Stanley can tell you, I get disproportionally disheartened when grocery stores don't have what I need), I set out to find a place to buy a cutting board and reasonably decent chef's knife (the kitchen in my hotel room has a pretty sketchy selection of dull knives and only a glass cutting board, which is horrible for your knives) to tide me over until my kitchen stuff gets here in 3 weeks. I actually had to go to three places before I found what I was looking for (which affected my mood about how you'd expect it to after the way the rest of my afternoon had been going), but during this time I was deeply grateful to have my new best friend (picture above) sitting on the dashboard telling me "Hey, why don't you just sit back and let me do the thinking for the both of us..."

Looking forward (with a mix of excitement and nervous energy) to my first day at work tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how things shake out. More apartment-hunting this weekend, hopefully with less exasperating results. Note to self: Do not post to blog when tired and cranky anymore...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Last Weekend in Portland...

So, I just finished packing up everything that's coming to Boston on the plane with me and sorting through everything that the movers will come to get in a couple weeks. Hard to believe my 19 weeks as a woman of leisure have come to an end, but as I look back over this blog (which started around the time that I left Melbourne and began this extended vacation) it definitely feels like time well-spent.
My last weekend here in Portland was a pretty good one. Maggie came over on Friday night for one last round of chick movies. We watched The Clique (produced by Tyra Banks! and pictured below, right), which totally wishes it was Mean Girls, and Another Cinderella Story (picture below, left), which was quite extraordinarily strange and cheesy and... strange. There was a heck of a lot more singing and dancing in that one than we'd anticipated... It also featured Moesha's little brother (who we had just enjoyed a couple days earlier in the fantastic Take the Lead) except that he was suddenly all grownsd up and his giant ears were seeming seriously (and oddly) adorable/attractive. Glad I got to share that one with Maggie. Very few people understand these things quite like she does...
Saturday (after I went out and got myself an awesome GPS thingy for my car, thus eliminating any preliminary stress about getting lost while apartment-hunting when I get to Boston) I went to lunch at Alameda Brewhouse with my parents. Probably the only stout I've ever tried that I like better than McMenamins' Terminator Stout is the Black Bear XX Stout at the Brewhouse.
We tried the herbed Artichoke Spinach Dip appetizer, which has a really strong rosemary flavor that is strange but good. Definitely a spin on Artichoke Dip that I hadn't seen before...
I went with Pan-Fried Oysters for my main course, which were served on a monstrous pile of fries alongside some very cumin-y coleslaw. Cumin is by far my favorite spice on the planet, but I'm not sure how I felt about it being in my coleslaw... It didn't taste bad, per se, but it didn't seem quite right, either... The jury is still out on that one for me. The oysters were cooked perfectly, but the oysters themselves couldn't really compare to the ones I used to get (and still crave occasionally) from Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, although the standard set there is perhaps unfairly high. Overall it was a nice lunch (and one that took away the need for much of a dinner, which was good since the rest of the day was dedicated to watching football...) and I'm glad I got over to the Brewhouse once before I left town.
On Sunday I made up some hummus and lamb kofta kebabs in the morning in preparation for a fantastic football-watching lunch. The NFL playoffs have been ridiculous this year, and only one of the 8 games over the first two weekends went sort of how I wanted it to (the Steelers (who I only sort of hate) beating the Chargers (who I loathe)). This is one of my very favorite football-watching meals and is super-easy to make, too. (Yes, the assortment of food on the table is strikingly similar to that when I make Grilled Leg of Lamb with Pitas, but I like this version because it's a lot easier to make for just one person when I'm on my own, whereas I can't make it through a whole leg of lamb by myself.)
After football I met up with Max, Midge, Micahoe, and Lucas at the Boiler Room bar in Kennedy School for one last round of beers before I leave town. The beer was great (as always), my Garlic Chicken Panini (picture below taken after we'd basically finished eating when Micahoe reminded me that I hadn't taken one yet) was pretty tasty, and the company was awesome.
And, with that, I guess I'm ready to leave Portland and get started on my new adventure in Boston (which, unfortunately, will involve having to actually go to work again)....

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bowling, Chili, and Rocking Out

Thursday night I had the chance to go Wii it up with Max and Midge. After being reminded of my highly competitive nature, I think it's pretty clear that I'm going to have to buy a Wii of my own when I get settled in Boston so that I can eventually be somewhere near being in the same league as my Wii-owning friends... I am also becoming a much bigger fan of cats after spending time in the company of the fabulous Bianca (who is quite the shameless snuggle-whore...).
First up was my very favorite Wii game: Bowling! I feel like I have the potential to be a fantastic virtual bowler if only I could practice a bit more. Max You-Can-Call-Me-"Coach" Power introduced me to the magic of the Slow Bowl, which has vastly improved my game (even if my technique isn't quite as impressive as his just yet)...
After a bit of bowling we took a break to sample some of Max's Chili served with Midge's cornbread. As she may write about at her blog one of these days, Midge apparently has a bit of a history with cornbread mishaps. It's extraordinary, really, since Midge is pretty darned good at almost everything I've seen her attempt (including non-cornbread cooking), but the kitchen gods just do not seem willing to let her get a batch of cornbread to the table without incident. In the end, though, I thought this batch ended up being pretty good and it was tasty with Max's Chili (shown below with hand-cut cheese and crushed corn chips). I'd never tried the chips-in-my-chili thing before, but it was pretty good. I'm not sure it would work with my chili, but it was nice with Max's (which wasn't as aggressive on the spices).
After a bit more bowling Max convinced me to try Guitar Hero. I was pretty sure I would not enjoy this game, and I was totally wrong. Midge let me use her axe, Constance, and I played on "Easy" while my hosts played at a higher level. It was really all I could do to get my fingers on the right "strings" most times, much less to then strum when I'm supposed to, so I was in awe of the skill level I was up against... Perhaps I'll have to get myself a Guitar Hero kit after I've mastered bowling on my Wii (when I eventually buy a Wii, that is)...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More Cheesy Movies...

Last night was supposed to be Part 2 of Sequel-Fest 2008, but since the snow pushed us into 2009 we decided to mix things up and go with a "Movies Featuring People We Know from Reality TV" theme instead... Thus, for movie night with Maggie this time we watched the fantastic Take the Lead (featuring Yaya from ANTM!) and the vexing How She Move (featuring Tre Armstrong, from DDR Canada). (Also, of course, there were espresso milkshakes...)
I first saw Take the Lead on the plane when I moved to Melbourne, and it was super-cool to see it on a full-size TV without engine noise to distract me. It's a movie with fairly high production value for the genre, most likely due to the presence of Antonio Banderas in the lead role as a ballroom dance teacher who helps troubled teens by teaching them to tango during detention. The cast is full of familiar faces, with Mr. Banderas, Alfre Woodard, Yaya, the dude from Finding Forrester, the chick from Step Up, and Moesha's little brother. We actually found Take the Lead to be surprisingly funny and well-written given how cheesy it seems like it should be. I always hated Yaya on ANTM, but she did just fine in her limited role, and Moesha's little brother cracks me up. Good times...
This was my first time watching How She Move, and... Yeah. I don't know what to say. I'm not a big fan of Stepping as a "dance" style, which was the style featured here (although, thankfully, without the constant shouting of some frat's name as was the case in Stomp the Yard). This movie strayed pretty far from the usual cliches of the genre. The protagonist's mother wasn't dead (although her sister was, so maybe that counts) and nobody integrated one dance style into another in order to blow minds and shatter preconceptions (see Save the Last Dance, Step Up, Step Up 2, Center Stage 2, and Bring It On 3 for examples). The messages on the importance of loyalty, self-respect, and friendship were fairly convoluted and things involving money required considerable suspension of disbelief... In the end my thoughts on the movie can be summarized as: "Huh."
Despite being left with confusion-induced furrowed brows at the end of How She Move, I think Maggie and I were able to get clarity on a few things Tuesday night:
  1. We are glad that our mothers don't work out of our family homes as prostitutes. Judging from Yaya's home life in Take the Lead, this would not be any fun at all.
  2. We are glad that our mothers, fathers, and siblings are not crackheads. Otherwise, they would use the money we gave them for groceries to buy more drugs (like dude-from-Finding-Forrester's parents in Take the Lead) or die in some unsavory way after giving our grandmas' antique lockets to their dealers/pimps (like the sister in How She Move).
  3. I sort of wish my mom was Jamaican. The moms in How She Move have these totally fantastic accents that make even scolding sound pretty awesome.
  4. Dancing can solve all of life's problems.
The only two negatives from the night were that I got a sore throat from singing along with the Amanda Palmer solo album at the top of my lungs driving to and from Maggie's place and that I apparently discovered my limit for late-night espresso consumption (10-12 shots) beyond which I end up being awake until 4am.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Friends, Fifths, Food, and Football

Despite the fact that all four NFL games this weekend ended in ways ranging from annoying (Eagles over Vikings) to upsetting (Chargers over Colts), it turned out to be a pretty darned good weekend in the end.
On Saturday (after heart-breaking, anger-inducing overtime NFL game) I had the pleasure of attending the annual Fifthmas get-together hosted by Micahoe and his housemates. (This was one of the pre-Christmas events that the snow had postponed.) Amdist the hanging out, chatting, and beverage-consuming was a White Elephant Fifth Exchange. The large number of chicks participating resulted in 90% of the bottles containging fruit-flavored alcohol of one form or another. After the only "good" bottles (Crown Royal and Tanqueray) were stolen away from me, (as tends to happen with good things in such gift exchanges) I ended up with a mediocre Nebbiolo, which I opened to share with my fellow partygoers in the spirit of Fifthmas. Nonetheless, the party was super fun and one of my hosts was even nice enough to share some of his personal stash of gin (which happened to be my very favorite brand) with me, so I can't complain.
Much to the dismay of Max (my driver), I was having so much fun that we ended up staying until past 1:30am, which made the next morning a bit difficult given that we had to wake up bright and early (in our respective homes, of course) to continue preparations for the Rib Cook-Off I was hosting on Sunday.
I had put the pork for Pulled Pork Sandwiches (above) into the oven before leaving for Fifthmas, but I still had to get up at 7am (pretty early for a kid like me who needs 8 hours of sleep every night to avoid crankiness and exhaustion) to pull it out of the oven and get my ribs going. (A quick aside about something that is a pet peeve of mine: "Barbecue" involves cooking meat at low temperature for long periods of time, while "Grilling" involves cooking meat over high heat. (I know Aussies are particularly baffled by this distinction, since they refer to grilling as "barbecuing" and to broiling in the oven as "grilling"...) If you have a set-up for doing actual barbecue then that's an awesome way to do ribs but if, like me and many of my friends, you only have a gas grill (thus can only "grill," not "barbecue") then you're going to want to slow-cook your ribs in a 250°F oven for 3-4 hours before throwing them on your grill to finish.)
The Rib Cook-Off turned out to be pretty darned fun and rather competitive. There were 6 entries which were quite varied, with three "traditional" entries and three entries that were more new-fangled. More traditional entries included my dad's First Prize Winning rack of baby backs (which are made with my mom's dry rub and my mom's barbecue sauce, yet are somehow still referred to as dad's), my (totally not First Prize Winning, labeled "Emmo's (2)" below) spare ribs with coffee in the dry rub and espresso in the barbecue sauce, and Dustin's Third Place baby backs cooked all proper and stuff in a smoker. Dustin also contributed some ridiculous homemade jalepeño poppers (stuffed with sausage, cream cheese, and cheddar, wrapped in bacon, and smoked) that blew several minds. In the less traditional category were Micahoe's spare ribs with red curry and pineapple (which were super-tasty and quite unique) and Max's apricot-pineapple baby backs (also really unique and delicious) which tied for Fourth Place, as well as my Second Place ginger-hoisin spare ribs (labeled "Emmo's 1" below) which I would love to give you the recipe for but can't since I just threw a bunch of stuff together until it tasted right, so there you go...
It was a lot of fun getting together with my Portland friends, eating some fantastic food that everyone contributed to, and watching some mediocre football. I know I'm going to love being back in Boston and that I'll (eventually) make friends over there, but sometimes I wish there were fun jobs for a kid like me in Portland so that I wouldn't have to live thousands of miles away from these awesome people.