27 July 2009
I usually enjoy my memories. The more time passes the more that's all anyone of us will have so it's good to learn how best to spend time with them now, I suppose. I will sometimes languish and swim in my memories when I'm not keen on the present and sometimes the memories will insist themselves upon me, at times when I neither expect nor appreciate them.
Just to keep this mildly restaurant related, some of my most frustrating, yet wonderful memories are about wine. I want deeply, at times. I like to want. Wanting makes me feel alive and illustrates that there is something that I want, which sometimes leads to a filling of that void, which can sometimes be satisfying. Wanting is natural. Emptiness is natural and is eternally bound in spirit to the filling of that void. It is that balance that I seek and that balance that can be so frustratingly beyond my reach, at times.
There are bottles of wine that have sent me on voyages of the palate the memories of which have made me get quiet and contemplative suddenly when I've been having a good time. A note, a suggestion within the structure of what I might be drinking may send me back to a time when another wine pleased me on a higher level. The experience of an extraordinary bottle of wine can be like a close moment with a lover. When the world goes away and you're left with all that's important at that moment. When you want to laugh and smile wistfully and bask and consume and possess and be possessed and understand and be understood all at the same time. When an aroma and a flavor suddenly integrates itself into your memory like the sweetness of that first kiss or the smell of that special, close layer that hovers just above the skin, close enough that only someone with their nose against the nape of a neck can experience it. A sudden meshing of being, a connection between what a wine has to offer and what a wine drinker needs that can only be described as chemistry and that, upon experiencing it, makes your throat hitch because you feel like you've seen a beacon of light on a pitch black night on rough seas.
I don't think I'm over-selling this. To paraphrase Nabokov, you can always count on a wine-lover/romantic for a fancy prose style.
Where was I? Right. Memories. Frustration. Wine. There's a wine right now that lives at the restaurant. I took it there once when I went out of town so that, god forbid, the house got broken into I wouldn't lose all of the good stuff. It's that one bottle that isn't for sale. Not that it's rare or particularly nostalgia-ridden. It's mostly that it's so expensive that I haven't drunk it yet and it's expensive enough that it's not likely to sell. It's not a big name. It's not from a region that, in and of itself, demands high prices. It's an IGT, but it's a super-Tuscan and it's a glorious example of the winemaking art and every so often I become aware that it's there and that I'm not drinking it. A thinness of glass separates it from me. And I want to hold it and look at it and open it and then experience it with all the raw ends of my craving. But I don't.
And in a larger sense, I don't know why. I have it.
One of the things that's considerably different from my "lover" analogy. This is an experience I can choose to have as easily as simply opening the wine cave door, removing a cork, and pouring a silky ribbon of wine into a glass. I don't have to wait until we're alone. My consumption of it isn't dependent on the whimsy of synchronous desire. And, sure, it's expensive but the money's spent already.
I've decided to open it. I know why, for whom, and roughly when. And maybe it will be everything I remember and maybe it'll disappoint, but the experience will add another layer to my memories of it and another reason to stop, on whatever night during which I might be having a good time sometime years in the future, and remember the time that I had that bottle.
24 July 2009
if anybody wants to vote for one in particular...
Miller High Life:
“Things could be worse,” he told himself. “things could always be worse.” He sighed heavily as the old man played the same song on the jukebox for the 5th consecutive time. He lifted his Miller High Life, enjoyed a sip of its light, easy-going manner, watched in the mirror behind the bar as two hooded men entered with guns, and then, as Otis sang “Try a Little Tenderness,” things got worse.
I danced all night, or so I’d been told. I enjoyed light, easy-going Miller High Lifes all night, or so I’d been told. I made out with a classmate, or so I’d been told. I wish someone had told me this was a party seminary.
"She was quiet with concerned eyes and silky hair and skin my lucky senses enjoyed for a short while. I'd daydream sometimes I was a miniature man living in a tiny cabin on her suprasternal notch. I'd stand on the porch in the mornings and early evenings, rest my hands on the railing, close my eyes, and breathe in her light perfume that mixed seamlessly with her skin's own delicate scent. Or a recent shower might've left a droplet of water there and I'd backstroke lazily in it, looking up at her chin - the chin I'd kissed and held between my teeth whenever I could. I saw someone the other day with fingers that looked like hers: long and delicate like a willowy ballet dancer's legs and my own fingers ached at the memory of her fingers sliding along my palm to hold my hand. Inner elbows I'd stroked. Hair I'd brushed from her forehead. Her hand on my thigh ... I guess it's those little things that stick with you. How she pronounced certain words. That look...in her eyes that night....What's that? Oh. I suppose that didn't answer your question, did it? I'll take a Miller High Life, please."
21 July 2009
The 100 easiest, fastest recipes. ever.
There are some fun ideas in here, both as complete thoughts and as good jumping off points for a more elaborate meal. and I don't know why the font size varies so dramatically.
19. Basquian lemon shrimp
In a bowl, mix together zest from half a lemon, its juice, a finely minced garlic clove, a small spoonful of finely chopped red onion, a small handful of pitted and coarsely chopped oil-cured black olives, a few coarsely chopped smoked anchovies, a dash of aged sherry vinegar, a glug of extra-virgin olive oil, and a pinch of pimentón de la Vera. Toss in six to eight cooked and shelled prawns and season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Serve over a few thick slices of grilled peasant bread. (Pimentón de la Vera is available at brindisa.co.uk.)
89. Fresh strawberries with almond crème anglaisePut 100g chopped almonds in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until beginning to toast, about three minutes. Add 200ml each of milk and cream, 120g sugar and four egg yolks, and whisk well to combine. Cook, whisking almost constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil. While the sauce is still hot, strain it through a sieve and let cool a bit. To serve, put a handful of washed, hulled and quartered strawberries in each dish, drizzle with the warm sauce and garnish with 50g slivered almonds.
60. Chef Ichiro Kubota, Umu
Avocado wasabi salad dip
Mix avocado purée with the same amount of wasabi. Season with sea salt and sesame oil to taste. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with seasonal vegetables or crackers.
This doesn't even count as advice, really, just as an observation. and it's from the musical "into the woods." Do with it as you will, i suppose. the implication is, of course, not to let opportunity go by but what does that mean? At what cost is it all right to miss an opportunity?
Have I mentioned this before? I don't know.
We're surrounded by opportunities every day. We miss opportunities every day. And every time we make a decision to pursue something we turn our back on countless other chances.
An endless ocean of choices that can become a burden if you let it.
What can make it worse is when we don't think in terms of right or wrong. Right and wrong narrows a person's choices, with good reason, perhaps, but then we need to consider what's right and what's wrong.
Conversation is a great example of this. What we choose to say. how we choose intone. Once things are said they're out there and we have to live with the results.
Let's say we're talking about wine, since i do a lot. There's no right or wrong. There's what I like and what i don't like. Sure, there's good/bad in the sense that a wine can have turned or be corked but there's no telling until after the bottle's been opened. After the choice has been made. But fate determines that occurrence; that's out of our hands. But in the store there's only the bottle. And there's the choice you have to make. And the ramifications for having made it.
There's a bottle of Laurel Hood Pinot Noir that I'd like to enjoy right now. I honestly don't remember that much about it other than I liked it a lot. Some earth and strawberry, i seem to recall. just how i like my pinots. But now's not the time to open it. The wine is probably ready, though a few years in bottle will benefit it. I'm not ready for it, quite frankly. I want it. I'm in the mood for it but right now it would be self-indulgent and selfish to open a bottle.
I have absolutely no idea where this is going.
So how do I sum this up? I suppose there's the idea of taking care. Where do we land on decisions? Is there a right or wrong decision or is there only how we choose to live with the decisions made? I don't have a clue.
choose your words carefully.
don't try to enjoy a bottle of wine unless you're both ready.
I'm deciding to try to go to sleep.
a ukulele/guitar version of Waits' "just another sucker on the vine"
17 July 2009
What an odd week it's been. Tuesday was pleasantly busy. Nice and steady. Wednesday was dismally slow. Then Thursday came and threw us all for a loop by being quite busy. The business equivalent of expecting there to be one more step on a flight of stairs but you know what? There wasn't. We tried to keep everyone informed on how, when their order is placed after 6 other tables (two of which are tables of 6), things will take a while.
So. what will tonight bring? At least we'll be going into it expecting high volume.
Of the many lessons this restaurant has tried to teach me unpredictability ranks rather high.
anyway. what will happen will happen.
here's a cool looking recipe for scotch eggs:
and a list of blogs for the home cook:
15 July 2009
"What we eat when we eat alone"
I find myself eating alone a lot, as frequently when i return home Leigh is asleep. I enjoy the cooking process and often cook myself a protein, a starch, and a vegetable. last night, however, i enjoyed the 311 pizza from Bar None. I really like that pizza.
anyway, this seems like a book i'd enjoy reading.
14 July 2009
I wonder, sometimes, how to gauge the worth of time spent. I can see how this might be a good or a bad exercise but I think it's important to take stock, from time to time.
So, after a week off, I try to see what kind of work I got done. What kind of fun was had. what kind of progress was made in any theater of my life, whether it have any kind of intrinsic or social value.
The troughs and peaks of this last week have given me plenty to think about.
High on the list of food for thought is the importance of situational awareness. This is relevant to any arena life but we tend to forget it so quickly. The more comfortable we get the more likely we are to feel safe and, therefore, the more likely we are to begin ignoring the things going on around us that might have some impact on us.
So often, I believe, the things that bring us stress and calamity we, ourselves, could've prevented. Whether it be underplanning or underestimation or some other example of hubris, we often find ourselves in situations observation, common sense, consideration of the ramifications, or research could've righted before it got wrong.
Of course, I don't discount the value of luck, whether good or bad, in having a role in the outcomes in our lives.
So what's it going to be tonight? tomorrow? this week? Masters of our own fate? Prey to the whimsy of chaos?
Or is life, in fact, like a pinball machine? It shoots out a situation that arbitrarily caroms hither and yon and, depending on if we're paying enough attention and quick enough, we either see it coming or we allow it to pass us by.
I don't know. But it never hurts to keep your guard up and be light on your feet.
10 July 2009
08 July 2009
I fried chicken just now.
In these lean times, financially speaking (not lean everywhere. a bit of an extra presence has begun to suggest itself around my waist. we all pretend it's not there, but it is. this fried chicken won't help.) I enjoy exploring the possibilities of the more affordable meats. Chicken, by far, being the most versatile. Having enjoyed its more healthy aspects I've leapt upon its hedonistic, unhealthy side.
So some music goes on: http://8tracks.com/joemiller/groove-plane?play=1 and I put some oil to heat. I season my drumsticks. some might argue that seasoning before dredging is foolish but I do it anyway. I season with sesame oil, garlic salt, sea salt, chili powder. chili flakes. Some dried dill and paprika.Maybe some dried oregano and rosemary. ooh. some dried thyme is also nice. I then shake some vodka and Goya jamaican style ginger beer with some ice and pour into a martini glass. This is very important.
Here's where i begin to work on the macaroni and cheese. I salt some water and boil the mac.
The chicken's marinated for a bit so I add a little bit of milk to it and roll the drumsticks. I use corn meal instead of flour, so i season the corn meal with the same seasoning as I did the chicken and then I double dredge each piece before putting them in the oil.
As they bubble and pop and generally try to make a mess of your stove top you should shred some cheese. drain the macaroni and return to the eye. melt butter and mix. I add a bit of salt here, too, and mix in an egg or two. I let it think about that for a minute while I check on the chicken and wonder whether i should invest in a meat thermometer. Then I add a good bit of cheese to the macaroni with a dollop or two of, ideally, half and half and mix while I listen to James Brown singing "Popcorn." When that's smooth (the mac and cheese, for Brown is always smooth) I transfer it to a lightly greased casserole dish and top with more cheese, because I don't think ahead in terms of my health. I toss that into the oven (more accurately, my toaster oven) at some randomly decided upon heat level and let that go until it bubbles a bit (usually 15 or so minutes.)
At this point you should be on your second ginger beertini and the chicken should be done. Let those rest on some paper towels for a few minutes (or more, if your significant other hasn't come home yet even though she said she was probably going to have been home twenty minutes ago.)
When you're ready, serve and let nature take its course.
I don't know why I brought all of this up, other than to suggest that frying chicken can be fun. if you like that sort of thing.
And since we're closed for this week, this is something you could do.
02 July 2009
I know, i know; I've been terrible about updating. I still have one last update from my glorious Oregon trip, including a comment on walking through the hallowed vineyards of Eyrie with Diana Lett, an emotional experience not, I'm sure, unlike being given a tour of the white house by jackie kennedy.
So I owe everybody that. and I'm sure tushes are at the edges of their seats at the prospect.
Anyway, we'll be closed on the fourth all the way through the following week and then resuming our regular schedule on the 14th.
during that time I shall endeavor to update more regularly.
here's a video of ray charles and stevie wonder singing "living for the city", just because.