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The Omnivore's Hundred

I found this meme from the blog Very Good Taste on Chocolate and Zucchini, and thought it would be a fun way to get back into blogging a bit more. I'm on vacation at Gulf Shores, and my plan was to blog my birthday dinner at Quinones and introduce everyone to Igor the Hitch-hiking Symphony Cat, but mostly I've been sitting around on the beach or the balcony doing a whole lot of nothing.

Anyway, here's the meme.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:


 

pondering

I heard a great quote a couple of months ago that keeps rolling through my head. I don't know the original source, it was mentioned in the context of a story about Judaic conversions on NPR.

"For a trivial goal, all obstacles are great. For a great goal, all obstacles are trivial."
I was jolted awake at 5:00 AM by my toothbrush.

All of the sudden I heard this high-pitched buzzing over my usual fan, sat up abruptly and sent the cats flying. Upon investigation, I discovered that my cheap battery-operated toothbrush had switched itself on and wouldn't turn off until I took out the batteries. My sleepiness dulled the edge of the weirdness until I woke up again later and saw the batteries out, so it couldn't have been just a dream.

It's working fine now. I just wanted to share.

It's a small world after all!

Yes, I take full responsibility for the fact that that song will be running through your head for the next hour....hee!

So I've been taking this landscape design class over at Callanwolde in order to figure out what to do with my yard now that the exterior renovation is (mostly) done. It's been very informative, starting with how to use design elements in your space and progressing to what plants or other materials to use, where to get them, and how to take care of them. I've gotten some great ideas to start on this summer, and a game plan for the next couple of years. Tonight was the last class, so we all presented our plans to each other and brought out pictures to show what we were dealing with.

There are ten people in this class.

Two of them live behind me.

As in, we share a property line - our backyards are catty-corner to each other. I watched their house being built this past year from my kitchen window, and they were a bit spooked by my second-story kitchen door that opens on to nothing. (I said the renovations were mostly done, right? The screened-in back porch was over my budget, and the existing steps were a death trap.) And we had no idea until we saw the pictures of each others' houses.

So far all my plans were for the front yard, but I'm feeling this sudden compulsion to get the backyard in a a bit more order...

Book Meme

Getting back into the habit of posting with a meme, taken from pmgoose, that makes me look good.

Least-Read Book MemeCollapse )

Well, THAT was fun!

Hi Everyone!

Since I've been fielding calls all morning, I thought I'd just let you
know that I made it through the tornadoes last night with my house and
power intact. My cable, however, is out, so I have no TV, internet,
or home phone (I'm writing from work now, but I'll be out for the
next couple of days). My cell phone is working just fine..

I was actually at the Shakespeare Tavern downtown last night,
preparing for a cast party. The first we knew of the storms was when
the power went out for a couple of minutes - that has NEVER happened
in the 16 years I've been working there. We share the electrical grid
with Crawford Long Hospital across the street, which gets first
priority in an outage. The actors just went on the with play, and the
lights came back on soon. Then the mother of one of my employees
called him to check in, and told us what was happening. I stayed for
the party, and drove home around midnight. I only live about 4 miles
from work, and have 3 routes I can take depending on traffic or whim.
They were all blocked off by trees, debris, or police cars. My route
of last resort took me through Cabbagetown, one of the areas hit
worst. It was spooky, driving through the dark neighborhoods and
coming upon downed trees all over the place. The lighted sign at
Georgia Power was still shining brightly over the chaos - I should
have taken a picture.

Anyway, I made it home and my house is fine. My side of the street
has power, the other side doesn't. Penny called this morning to tell
me that there was roofing insulation in the tree tops by my highway
exit, but it wasn't mine.

I hope that everyone else made it through just fine. I can't believe
how lucky the city was over all, with so few injuries and no
fatalities. I know that there is a lot to clean up, but at least
we're still here to do it!

Really Good Chicken Wings

I made chicken wings for droid18's birthday party yesterday, my first time making wings from "scratch." They turned out so well that I'm posting the recipes before I forget what I did! These are based on a blending of recipes from Cook's Illustrated and Charles Reavis's 52 Ways to Wing It. Chaz was a friend of a friend who wrote many cookbooks, was a FABULOUS cook who knew how to have fun in the kitchen, and sadly, passed away about a year ago. He is missed.

Baked Chicken Wings with two saucesCollapse )

Beach Food

I'm spending a luxurious week at my sister's beach condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama. My fellow introverts out there will understand that even more luxurious is that I'm spending the first 3 days completely by myself. Three days to re-center, quiet the monkey mind, do ONLY what I want to do, and eat whatever I want to eat. By then I'll be looking forward to my boyfriend joining me for the rest of the week, hanging out and relaxing in the best of company. My favorite thing about having a beach condo or house as opposed to a hotel is that you can cook your own food. I did most of my shopping at home and made a couple of salads that I can pick at all week, you can see them below.



Clockwise from the bottom are tortellini salad with sundried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives and basil (it's been on the Shakespeare Tavern menu a couple of times, John requested it), ingredients for guacamole, pasta salad with hard salami, provolone cheese, and kalamata olives (my mom used to make this all the time), and the wheatberry salad from my first entry in this blog. These are some of my favorites, recipes follow under the cut. I'm also including the black bean dip that my friend Kelley made every time we went to Tybee Island, and the best margarita recipe ever (don't worry sweetie, I promise I won't crack open the tequila until you get here!) All except the guacamole travel well in a cooler - make the guacamole once you get to the beach.

Beach RecipesCollapse )

Ok, enough of this internet stuff. Time to turn my attention to the beach and the pile of books I brought. No, I still haven't gotten the Harry Potter book, even though most of the people I see on the beach are reading it.

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Dinner at Joel, part deux

The thunder's gone for now, or at least rumbling off in the distance and not accompanying lightning strikes in my back yard!

Ok, so where were we? Only one course in? Oh yes. We'd been looking over the extensive wine list, trying to pick a good bottle to have with the main courses we'd ordered. All right, HE was looking over the wine list, because he's had a lot more training and experience in wine, and I was hyperventilating over the bottles that cost more than my monthly mortgage. I love good wine, but I just can't get my head around bottles that cost thousands of dollars. I mean, "bottle of wine with dinner" vs. "place to live for a month" just doesn't compute. Although I suppose if you're regularly drinking that sort of wine, a)you don't need to worry about the mortgage, and b) your mortgage is probably so much higher a $1500 price tag seems like nothing.

But I digress. We asked for the sommelier, a beautiful young French woman who finally sold us on a bottle of Chateau Pas De L'Ane 2001, a St. Emilion Grand Cru. I tend to like lighter reds, and this one was lovely. With a kind of rootbeer "nose" to it. The bottle has taken a place of honor in my living room as a candle holder.

We moved on to our seafood course. I had the salmon sashimi with sushi rice, dashi broth, and dijon mustard ice cream. I've never really had a savory ice cream before - it was still a little bit sweet, but mostly tasted like cold, creamy mustard that went perfectly with the salmon. John's peeky toe crab cake with apple curry sauce was awesome as well - the fruit and curry were a nice combination.
salmon sashimiCollapse )

crab cakeCollapse )

(I apologize for the poor quality of the photos, if anyone has advice for taking pictures up close on a white background in low-level light, I'm listening!)

For the main course, I chose the smoked roasted duck breast with truffle polenta, fresh figs, and citrus sauce, while John had the braised beef shrot ribs, baby turnips, gnocchi romaine, and red wine sauce. The duck was amazing, perfectly done at medium, tender without being fatty, and well complemented by the figs and citrus sauce, as well as our wine. The short ribs were tender - not meltingly tender, but still great - and the red wine sauce had some ingredient that we couldn't identify. We sent the server in search of the chef - it was orange peel. The baby turnips were so sweet they could have been served for dessert, but went nicely with the richness of the ribs.

duck breastCollapse )

short ribsCollapse )

I was getting pretty full by this point, but there was still the cheese course and dessert menu to check out. I decided I needed a little bit of a walk, so I visited the ladies' room, where I spent a good five minutes trying to figure out how to turn on the sink with no faucet handles or apparent motion detectors. Read more...Collapse ) Finally figured out the detectors were at the foot of the sink, but I'm sure I'm not the first person to be tempted to walk out with soapy hands.

On to the cheese course! My cholesterol level has doubled since I started dating John, and this is why. We both LOVE cheese. The selection of five cheeses was: Le Mouis, Saint Nectare, Clacbitou (goat), Medawaska, and Saint Antoine Compte. I forgot to take a picture, I was a little tipsy at this point. I'm afraid I couldn't say much about which cheese tasted like what, either, but they were all good. I only have the names because we sent our hard-working server back to the kitchen to write them down for me.

Finally, dessert. My first choice was a praline napoleon with carmalized pecans and lemon sorbet, but they were out of it. We were one of three tables left in the restaurant by this time, so I could understand. I ended up with the other dessert that had caught my eye, the hazelnut biscuit with milk chocolate mousse and milk chocolate ice cream. It turned out to be crispy layers of cookie layered with the mousse, much like a napoleon. John had the hot chocolate souffle with tonka sauce. We'd pretty much finished the wine, so we were giggling about the idea of melted tonka toys being poured into the souffle. Turns out that tonka beans are similar to vanilla. Oh well.

milk chocolate mousseCollapse )

Chocolate SouffleCollapse )

AND, there was a little birthday treat as well, a couple of hazelnut cookies and a candle on a plate that read "Joyeux Anniversaire!"

At this point I was having trouble moving and the restaurant was pretty much empty, but our ever-gracious waiter took us on a tour of "Joel's Dream Kitchen", 5000 square feet divided into at least four kitchen areas, including the country's longest cooking line(62 feet), a pasta kitchen with it's own humidity level, and freezers controlled via satellite in case of power failures. Yes, I have a handout. Yes, I'm jealous.

I was a little saddened to learn that the current version of the restuarant will close down in August, to be remodeled more along bistro lines. I'm sure the food will be just as excellent, but I do enjoy a formal dining room every once in a while. I do admit that when I heard they were remodeling, though, my first thought was "I wonder what they're going to do with the silver?"

All in all, a wonderful birthday treat with great food, great wine, and the best company!

Coming up, an account of a wine maker's dinner at Repast, corndogs at Corndogorama, all kinds of food in my old college town of Oberlin, and a couple of wonderful meals in Cleveland. Then, hopefully, I'll get back to the recipes!

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Dinner at Joël

John had been excited about my birthday dinner reservation for weeks, hinting and teasing at what it might be. Like I said, all I knew was that I needed to dress up, and eat lightly that day. I also knew that he has amazing taste in restaurants, having worked in many of Atlanta's best during his former life in foodservice. (He's out now, and I don't really blame him!)

I decided to wear my "Paris dress," a cute little thing that I got in the Latin Quarter a year and a half ago. It's a great dress, but I admit that the best part is responding to the question "Where did you find it?" Anyway, that turned out do be an appropriate choice, because we went to Joël. It's situated in a hotel/office complex, all landscaped with fountains and palm trees, reminding me of LA. We were greeted personally by the manager, who knows John, and seated immediately. Then the decision making started. Joël has a five course chef's menu, but you have to get it for the entire table, and we love to browse and share our way through the menu. Plus, there was no foie gras on the chef's menu.

*********DISCLAIMER**********

I try very hard in most of my life not to be a hypocrite, and generally I like to think I succeed. But I admit defeat in this area. On the one hand I'm going on and on about sustainable farming, local sourcing, organic this, ethical that, but I can. not. resist. foie gras. Ever since I first had it on that trip to Paris, if it's on the menu, I get it. I mean, that's only like twice a year! I have easily given up veal, I don't pine for lobster or whatever the latest endangered seafood is, but that buttery richness with a hint of gaminess gets me every time. Yes, I know how it's produced. I do beat myself up for it, but I'll still order it until it's outlawed here like they're trying to do in Chicago.

******************************

We ordered a couple of glasses of Deutz champagne to celebrate while we looked through the menu. John warned me that the bread was really good, but not to fill up on it. A good idea, since we ended up with five courses each. (OINK!) We started with two different foie gras presentations - I ordered the foie gras terrine with pear confit and brioche toast, which was light and creamy with the sweetness of the pear. The brioche was delicious, but maybe a little richer than I needed, I ended up using the bread basket baguette. John ordered the seared foie gras with hon shimegi mushrooms and caline sauce - the slightly firmer, unprocessed foie gras with the earthiness of the tiny japanese mushrooms was great as well.

Foie Gras TerrineCollapse )

Seared Foie GrasCollapse )

To be continued when the thunderstorm passes....