Sunday, September 27, 2009

Creepy Ads Socializing Girls to Be Good Homemakers

I'm not going to lie to you: I love cooking and cleaning (with the exception of dusting, which I loathe). I don't think this is because I'm a chick, so much as because I'm a person who loves good food (and thus needed to be able to make it for myself or go broke buying it in restaurants) and because I'm fairly compulsive (and thus get a lot of pleasure from putting things in their place and making things perfect). I say this to make it clear that I don't think there's anything wrong with women cooking, cleaning, or being homemakers... but I do find it frustrating when products and advertising campaigns are produced that try to socialize girls to believe that this is a woman's job. This ad from the 1960's (hat-tip to Sociological Images) is particularly creepy:

I think my favorite part is that you're supposed to make sure you stay nice and pretty while you're doing all of this housework... Lest you think this is just a dated phenomenon, this modern ad is not all that different:

My favorite part of this one is definitely the fact that you can entertain your daughter's imagination by letting her do imaginary laundry. Awesome. I'm not going to offer any insightful feminist commentary here, (I have a football game to go watch, after all...) I just find these kinds of things fascinating and wanted to share.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Obligatory Non-Bucs, Non-Bunnies Post

Hey there. I've been having a rough go of things as of late, so there has been minimal culinary adventuring taking place relative to the amounts of football-watching, hanging out with therapeutic bunnies, and moping. I was going to make a batch of paella this weekend and post about its awesomeness, but then I didn't really want traditional paella, so I'm not sure what I would call the (delicious) thing I made... and then I slightly over-cooked the rice because I was waiting for halftime of the Panthers-Falcons game before pulling it off of the heat (which took way longer than anticipated)... but it was still super-delicious and somehow sort of exactly what I wanted it to be. My Pseudo-Paella ended up looking like this:
not-so-al-dente rice and all... The one bit of non-football, non-bunny excitement recently was going to see The Walkmen (possibly my very favorite active band) at The Middle East in Cambridge. Joe and I had seen them as an opener for the stupid Kings of Leon at BU, but it was a sadly brief show in a too-large venue. This time (after a decent opener called The Big and a even decent-er second opener in Here We Go Magic) we were ~4 feet from the lead singer and were treated to a nice long set. The audio could have been a bit more nuanced (Why do lead guitarists insist on overpowering lead vocals?), but they still rocked the house and it was an awesome evening. Also, the lead singer is freakishly tall (which is a good thing) and has a very cool leather jacket (as Joe noted a time or two).
Not much else to report... unless you want to hear more of my thoughts on the Bucs? No? OK, then. I go in to get my new and improved cyborg parts in about a week and a half. That day really can't come soon enough at this point.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Steph's Visit: Day Ten

Alas, the final day of Steph's visit had arrived and, despite all the awesome times and amazing food, it seemed to come a bit too soon... as the end of vacation always does, I suppose. The trip ended much as it had begun: with a bit of spontaneity. Looking at a map of Massachusetts and seeing the town of Gloucester on the coast north of Boston, we hit the food boards and found recommendations for a place in Gloucester called "Lobsta Land." We were both instantly too amused by the name not to go, so off we went...
When we arrived at Lobsta Land, we saw that they not only had the New England Haddock Chowder (which several people on the interweb claimed was the best soup on the planet) and New England Clam Chowder (which we had to get to compare with our beloved Captain Parker's), but they also had a Lobster Chowder. Thus, Chowder Fest became inevitable. We ordered a bowl of each to share and compare (pardon the sunlight jacking up my beauty shot...):
The fish chowder (front) was sort of surprisingly amazing, since it didn't sound like something I would generally order on purpose. Not the best soup on the face of the planet, but I can definitely see why people love it. The clam chowder (back left) was really nice, if not as much my style as Captain Parker's is. It's a thinner style of chowder (which I always prefer to gummy, flour-laden chowders) but I like the thyme-y accents in the Parker's chowder and the slightly thicker (while still nice and creamy) consistency. Still, this chowder was overflowing with clams and was definitely something I would eat again on purpose. The lobster chowder, though, was the clear winner. It was amazingly delicate, made with a lovely lobster stock, and loaded with chunks of sweet, buttery lobster. Totally awesome. I'm not even going to talk about the lame, bread-crumb-filled crab cake (below) that we accidentally ordered, except to say that the strength of Lobsta Land (aside from its awesome name) is clearly in the chowders...
From here we drove out to see a castle which, for unknown (to me) and surely arbitrary reasons, exists on the shore of Cape Ann. The view was absolutely breathtaking (aided by the gorgeous day), and many pictures were taken.
We drove on a bit further to see the coast out by where the rich people who don't live in castles live
then drove back towards Waltham to get started cooking a Thai food feast. On the way we made a quick stop at the Lexington Battle Green so that Steph could claim the day-trip was educational as well as beautiful... and increasing the symmetry between this day and Day One, both of which now featured spontaneous trips, chowder, and big famous rocks:
(I personally think our rock in Lexington is way awesomer than Plymouth's stupid historically-significant rock...) Unfortunately, our brilliant cooking plans hit a bit of a snag because we are very very stupid... We started with Crab Rangoon (a Steph-and-Emmo classic):
and our best-ever batch of Tom Kha Goong (which the picture really doesn't do justice to, since most of the yumminess is at the bottom of the bowl under the super-delicious broth):
and then... we were full. After torturing Pedro with duck-roasting smells the day before and curry-making smells today, there was no chance of eating another bite... (We decided to enjoy the curry for lunch the next day before I drove Steph to the airport, but had the exact same appetizers with the exact same result. It's almost like we're deeply, deeply stupid...) Nonetheless, here's what the curry broth looked like while simmering (I like to simmer the carcass in the broth to infuse it with ducky goodness while not over-cooking the meat from the roasted duck, which is later added just to warm through...)
and on my plate for dinner Monday night... all by my lonesome. Sorry, Steph!
There you have it. Ten days, the vast majority of which were thoroughly awesome (and the rest of which provided much-needed recovery time from the thoroughly awesome ones...). It was great to have one of my favorite people from back "home" come see my new city, even if she didn't let me convince her to move out here... Good times...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Steph's Visit: Days Eight and Nine

Day Eight was another travel day, and started off with our first drive into Manhattan (to return something we'd rented the day before). Steph was at the wheel and, while I already knew that she was an excellent driver, she surprised me by totally (pardon my French) made a couple NYC cabbies her bitches. I was quite impressed and thoroughly amused. Don't mess with Steph, man...
We decided to meander past Foxwoods in Connecticut on our way home, figuring you might as well see The World's Largest Gaming Facility (located in approximately the middle of nowhere) if you're in the neighborhood.
Then it was back to Waltham, where a couple bunnies (who didn't miss us nearly enough to warm my heart) were waiting for us, being awesome and standing on each other...
We had plenty of leftover pizza toppings
and decided to throw some pizzas on the grill for dinner.
This turned out to be a nice low-key way to wind down after a whirlwind trip to New York and a day of travel... and was pretty darned tasty, too. (You can tell Steph rolled out the dough, since none of them are even a little bit round...)
Day Nine of Steph's visit was a grocery-shopping, duck-roasting, lazing-around kind of day. Here's Pedro in his new favorite "hiding place" (which, you will notice, does not hide him even a little) as he fears for his life while the duck roasts. (You can also see Rico's feet, as he is stretched out in the cave not even a little concerned for his life... because he is not deeply stupid...)
And... not much else to report. You have to give us introverts a day or two off every time we have a few days of adventure, especially adventure constantly surrounded by throngs of people... Only one day left in Steph's Totally Awesome Visit...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Steph's Visit: Day Seven

Day Seven was our last full day in NYC. After lunch at Nougatine, we headed out to be tourists some more. Double-decker tourist buses were ridden. Beautiful/historically-significant things were seen. Pictures (almost 500 over the course of 2 days) were taken.
We'd had mixed luck with tour guides the day before (when we hopped off for a few tourist attractions): one horrible (although the driver was awesome and it amused me when he told me about how much he hated the guide), one decent-but-informative, one self-absorbed ass (part-time writer, part-time tour guide...), and one nice funny lady who clearly loved her city. When we hopped on the tour bus after lunch this day, we found ourselves with a hilarious, knowledgeable, clever guide, and ended up sitting with him for the entire loop (part of which we'd seen before with other guides) and laughing pretty much the entire time. We hopped off to grab a quick-if-none-too-impressive dinner at a place with horrible waiters and $6 beers, then headed back to find a spot on a night bus. More beautiful things were seen. More pictures were taken...
...then back to Queens for a good night's sleep in preparation to head back to Boston in the morning...

Lunch at Nougatine by Jean-Georges

As amazing as WD-50 was, we couldn't let it be our only awesome meal in NYC. Conveniently, a few of the Jean-Georges restaurants offer a $26 3-course lunch (any two plates, plus dessert), thus giving us an opportunity to try high-end food without the high-end price tag on the terrace at Nougatine,
in the shadow of the Time Warner building. (Oh, and did I mention it was a gorgeous day?)
We each ordered three different items and shared a bite or two, and I only dish-envy once... I started with "Salt and pepper calamari with citrus-chili dip":
This may look like your average (perfectly-cooked, high-quality) calamari with a gigantic bowl of dip, but the dip turned out to be a light and airy whipped concoction which was amazing on the (perfectly-cooked, high-quality) calamari.
Unlike a typical aioli, which can be heavy and overpowering, the citrus-chili dip complimented the squid without overpowering it. I was quite pleased with my selection... until I tried Steph's "Tuna tartare, avocado, spicy radish, ginger marinade":
That dish was good, my friends. Damn good. Insanely good. The bright ginger cut through the fatty avocado and accented the beautiful tuna perfectly. We both felt it would be difficult to come to Nougatine without ordering this dish every time... On to main courses. I chose the "Slowly cooked salmon, cherry tomatoes, crispy rice, and miso-yuzu broth"
The salmon was cooked to perfection and I loved the crispy rice and gorgeous tomatoes, especially when a piece of bright, fresh ginger slipped into a bite. It was fun assembling various components into different bites and exploring the many possible favorite combinations... Not mind-blowing (I'm feeling a bit spoiled at this point with regards to amazing food), but perfectly executed and extremely delicious. Steph went with the "Grilled beef tenderloin, garlic, parsley, and chili":
This was really quite good as well, although I would have been disappointed if I were in Steph's shoes since the beef was cooked beyond what any steakhouse would call medium-rare, (closer to the slightly-rare side of medium...) but I'm picky about such things. On to dessert. Mmmm... Dessert. I felt compelled to go with the "Jean Georges warm chocolate cake, vanilla bean ice cream" since the first-ever Jean-Georges recipe I cooked was this cake. (Shockingly, his was better.)
So. Good. Wow. Not sure what else to say... but look at the yummy oozing chocolate buried within:
Steph ordered the "Vanilla cake, fresh strawberry salad, red wine sorbet":
and was extremely happy as well. The strawberries were ridiculously fresh and delicious, and the cake was perfect. In summary, we were both quite pleased with everything, even if I suffered from a brief moment of jealousy when I tasted Steph's tuna tartare... As my father's daughter, I don't think I had it in me to not order the calamari, so I can't complain...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dinner at WD-50

After a couple hours rushing between Manhattan and Queens and Manhattan on the subway, we made it to WD-50 only moderately late for our dinner reservation.
We both went with the tasting menu, and I splurged on the wine pairings (while Steph went with a couple wines by the glass) because I knew I would always wonder how awesome the pairings would have been if I didn't... I'm hoping Steph will chime in with a couple of her thoughts in the comments to confirm or deny the thoughts I attribute to her here... The menu starts out with an amuse-bouche entitled "Striped bass, golden raisins, chorizo, green tomato consomme" and paired with Lamberti Prosecco del Veneto 'Extra Dry', Non-vintage, from Veneto, Italy:
This tasted really, really good, but wasn't necessarily mind-blowing. Definitely perked up the palate and prepared you for amazing food, though, which is sort of the point of an amuse... Next up was "Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese" paired with the same Prosecco.
The "bagel" is a bagel-flavored ice cream, which was sort of crazy. This dish was really quite amazing, and it paired perfectly with the Prosecco, too. While gushing over how cool the ice cream bagel was and how glad we were to be at WD-50, we noticed that Wylie Dufresne himself was actually in the kitchen expediting orders. That was pretty cool to see, especially given how famous he has become in recent years. Our attention quickly returned to the food, though, as the next course arrived. This was "Foie gras, passion fruit, chinese celery" paired with Chardonnay Calera 2008 from the Central Coast:
The foie cylinder was filled with passion fruit puree that oozed onto the plate as you cut into it:
The passion fruit was surprising but somehow perfect, and the wine accentuated the tropical fruit flavors and took the dish to an even higher level. We were both deeply in love with this course. At this point I'm going to start running out of adjectives, because we were pretty darned blown away by the next course as well: "Scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado, and hamachi" paired with Rosato Preto 2008 from Tierra de León, Spain:
The cube of egg is a perfectly-cooked scrambled egg wrapped in egg, and the perfectly-crispy ridiculously-fine-diced potatoes at the bottom of the picture were insane. They were definitely the component that brought all of the other flavors together into something extraordinary. The rosato paired well with this, but wasn't quite as perfectly matched as the last two pairings had been. Next up was "Cold fried chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, tabasco, caviar" paired with the same rosato:
The chicken is cooked sous vide, then chilled, breaded, fried, and chilled again. The white piles that look like mashed potatoes are actually ricotta warmed and flavored with buttermilk. The chip on top of the rricotta on the right is a chicken skin chip, which was genius. Overall this dish was interesting (the tabasco honey was refreshingly spicy, and the play on expected temperatures with cold chicken and hot ricotta was nifty), but not mind-blowingly delicious. The chicken was followed by "Perch, kohlrabi, 'dirty' grape, cocoa nib" paired with Chianti Classico 'Vigneti la Selvanella' Fattorie Melini 2003:
The fish was perfect, and the sauce and grapes were amazing as well, but we both felt like the toasted chunks of angel food cake interfered with the balance of flavors. It seemed a shame to mask any of the bright, crispy, smokey flavors in the rest of the dish behind the breadiness of the cake. Sans cake, though, this dish was the bomb. Loved it, and really enjoyed the pairing with the Chianti. Out next was the duck course: "Duck leg, popcorn pudding, kalamansi, lovage" paired with Cornas 'Cuvée Sasimir Balthazar' Franck Balthazar 2006 from the Rhone region of France:
The duck was almost like a prosciutto (a ridiculously awesome prosciutto...) and the popcorn powder over the top and popcorn pudding underneath were both delicious with it, but overall there was another somewhat dominant flavor in mix that left us both pondering how we really felt about the dish. Good and interesting but, taken as a whole, not our favorite dish of the night. The final savory course was "Lamb loin, black garlic romesco, pickled ramp, dried soybean" paired (more perfectly) with the same cuvée:
The lamb was beautifully cooked, and the crunchy soybeans were a trip. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, and thought it was a great example of using something new (the dried soybeans) with something classic (perfectly cooked lamb loin). Awesome. On to dessert, starting with "Vanilla ice cream, balsamic, raspberry":
This was just ridiculously good vanilla ice cream placed on a bed of crushed dehydrated raspberries and filled with balsamic:
This was SO good. Seriously. We were both blown away by the fact that something so seemingly simple could taste so amazing. This was actually one of our favorite dishes of the night. The next dessert was "Hazelnut tart, coconut, chocolate, chicory" paired with Commandaria St. John Keo Non-vintage from Cyprus:
Some of the individual components of this dish were a bit perplexing but, taken together, it was fantastic. Delicious, and perfect with the port. Yet another dessert was delivered to the table next, this one was "Caramelized brioche, apricot, buttercream, lemon thyme" paired with Zierfander Auslese Stadlmann 2004 from Austria (and a super-delicious double espresso):
I couldn't tell you why I enjoyed this so much, but I really did. It was light and not too sweet, and perfect with both the dessert wine and the espresso. A nice finale to an amazing meal... until the final finale arrived:
The truffles were amazing, and the "chocolate leather" packets filled with crunchy chocolate powder were definitely unique... and a clever way to distract diners from the not-so-tiny bill as it was delivered... I'd read some negative comments about WD-50 before making our reservations, most of which dismissed the food without ever having tasted it based solely on Dufresne's reputation for molecular gastronomy, but I am so glad that we chose this place for our one crazy meal in NYC. Even though a couple courses weren't the most delicious things ever, others were insane and still put a smile on my face as I'm thinking about them again tonight. Even the things that didn't work on all levels flavor-wise were interesting and fun to experience, so I have no real complaints. The service was also wonderful, and the laid-back environment was much more comfortable than in other similarly-priced restaurants I've experienced. Definitely a meal I'll remember for a long, long time... and I can't wait to find an excuse to go back...