So, as if I needed a bracing reminder of the differences between Phoenix and Amsterdam, the phone rang at 4pm on my second afternoon back in town to remind me that the Acid Mothers Temple/Circle show was tonight (last night). Not only were these two bands that I've spent a lot of time listening to and never seen before due primarily to their distant origins (Japan and Finland, respectively), but they were playing at the Stubnitz, a huge retired fishing boat that sails all over Europe as a mobile performance space and medialab. And they were playing together, on the same night.
Getting to Stubnitz requires a bike ride to Central Station, then a ferry ride to the north docklands, then a bike ride to the ship, but it all takes less than 30 minutes if you time it right.
The food-related item here is that I smoked herb for the first time. Not herb herb, but an actual herb, sage. And not sage as in Simon & Garfunkel, but salvia divinorum, or Diviner's sage. You can check the Wikipedia link for the technico-historical background, but as for my review? The version provided last night was very mild, subtle, and all-around pleasant. The taste revealed and/or reminded of sage's relationship to the mint family, cool and refreshing.
The downside: I got home close to 4am, spent the next hour delivering the Best Backrub in Recorded History, and then was awake until 7am, thereby undoing whatever jet lag minimization I had heretofore accomplished. But it was a good show, Circle really kicked ass, and it was good to reconnect with non-vacation life already in progress.
I'm trying to recollect whether or not I've ever had to listen to one song over and over as many times as I just listened to "Frosty the Snowman." How many times? If I had to estimate, I'd say, let's see: it's 50 seconds long, and it played constantly for 3 hours. So, at least 200 or so.
See, as a gift from someone without any foresight at all (or someone who doesn't have to live with the boys), Dylan and Cole each received some sort of Christmas toy that plays music. Dylan's was a dancing snowman that plays "Frosty the Snowman", and so the entertainment went as follows: one of the boys would press play, and they'd dance around like crazy for 50 seconds; the song would finish, and then immediately, compulsively they'd press play again, dance like crazy, rinse, repeat, etc. It was extremely endearing for the first half-hour, and the second half-hour turned to a sort of disbelief, like "they can't really still be doing this, can they?" The next hour was kind of like being at the dentist's office without the upside of getting anything fixed. The third hour was as I imagine prison to be: repetitive, dreary, hopeless.
And it wasn't as if you could even leave the house to escape, because lurking just outside the front door, across the street was this:
The neighbor's Christmas tableau. Which, in addition to being visually obnoxious (you can't tell in this picture, but all of these lights blink), also plays nonstop tinny music that you can hear from our front door, including "Frosty the Snowman." I'm pretty sure this is against the law.
Had a great Reuben for lunch at the Four Peaks Brewing Co. Parentals had cheeseburgers and fries (Pitty: roasted Anaheim chili, pepper jack cheese and sweet jalapeno dressing; Daddoo: fresh, sauteed jalapeno, onion straws and cream cheese), and they ate every scrap on their plates like good parents.
I'm packing for my trip at the moment, and I think we'll be lucky if we ever see me again. My luggage makes me look like the most suspicious person alive. It's full of: extremely sharp knives, lots of them; six detonator-looking things used to control toy helicopters; four digital cameras for surveillance purposes, plus lots of miscellaneous, mysterious electronics like contact mics and MIDI interfaces...let's see, maybe I can find some C-4 or ballistic weaponry to add to my arsenal in the next 48 hours. I can already see my bag being detonated by the bomb squad on the runway in Atlanta. Maybe I should shave before I hit the airport as well if I really want to avoid a cavity search.
Before my knives were in my luggage, they performed several less dangerous functions. One of the best things I've made since I've been here was salmon rillettes, based on a recipe from David Lebovitz's site. We only had smoked salmon, and it worked perfectly well, but I'd like to try the combo version too. These were a Thanksgiving appetizer eaten by Pitts and myself on toast and crackers.
smoked salmon rillettes.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
200g smoked salmon, cut into thin strips, then cut into ½-inch (2 cm) pieces
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp chopped chives or scallions
1 tbsp capers, minced
pinch pimenton or freshly-grated nutmeg, or maybe both but I've never tried it
freshly-ground white pepper if you've got it, I never do so I use black
Mash butter and olive oil together with a fork. Stir in other ingredients to combine. Refrigerate for a couple hours, then let return to room temp before serving. Spread on toast or crackers.
INTERESTING UPDATE: I just made this with the same amount of butter and oil, but with 250g steamed salmon and 150g smoked salmon. 2 tbsp of capers and 2 tbsp of lemon juice were the only other changes. I guess what we end up with then is something slightly healthier.
Enjoyed my own Little Black Saturday today, meaning: I shopped. But it wasn't crowded at all out, and I bought mostly secondhand books, including this cookbook for a dollar: Tony Chachere's Cajun Country Cookbook. Published in 1972 (or pre-Justin Wilson in terms of America's familiarity with Louisiana cooking), it's homespun but adventurous, and applies a rather omnivorous approach to protein, including recipes for armadillo, raccoon, frog, turtle, and nutria.
Afterwards we went to Sushi Ken for lumch that made me pretty jealous. $7.50 for miso soup. salad with ginger dressing, rice, 5 pieces of sushi and 5 pieces of tempura. It was all very basic but tasty and authentic. The menu was huge and completely Japanese, the kind of place you could visit many times without eating the same thing. Will Amsterdam ever have a Japanese restaurant like this?
While we were out, Dad went to the car show (I guess I'll have to explain this at some point) and would be returning home hungry. Pitts wanted to make him pork chops, but didn't feel like breading them, which is the way he likes them, so I volunteered to try this using a modified Epicurious recipe. My family doesn't eat pink pork, but the chops were so thick that they stayed juicy despite being "fully cooked".
Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix panko, cheese, rosemary and orange zest in a flat dish for breading the pork. Salt and pepper this mixture to taste. Whisk eggs in medium bowl to blend. I double-dipped: rolling chops once in panko mixture, then dipping in eggs, then again in the panko mixture.
Melt butter with oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork chops to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer skillet with pork to oven, or transfer to baking dish. Bake about 20 minutes. When they come out, give them a squirt of lemon juice over top and another grate of black pepper.
All of which came from Netflix, which seems like a pretty good idea: you pay a monthly fee and get to rent as many movies as you can watch. You select them online, creating a queue (that's what they call it) of what you want to watch. They mail you 2 at a time, starting with the ones at the top of the list, you can keep them as long as you want, and when you return them they send you the next movies in your queue. Very dot-com, yes, but beats going to the video store unless your video store is Cult.
As you may have heard, the Friday after Thanksgiving is often the biggest shopping day of the year in America. It's called Black Friday. Some stores are opening at 3 am (yes, 03:00) in order to maximize the number of shoppers they can serve on this day.
I myself will be inside until dinnertime.
BTW, I'd like to point out that in this photo I've managed to capture quite a few defining characteristics of American suburbia: an SUV, a newspaper in a driveway, a nicely manicured lawn, somebody's grandparents' car (the old-fashioned white sedan in the background), and genetically mutated children out practicing driving, shopping, and looking bewildered. All that's missing are the cellphones.
My days are numbered, as they say. Today, tomorrow, Monday, then lots of airplane time. This means that my research activities are drawing to a close as well, so the mobile lab and sick bay that was my bedroom here will need to be completely torched and rebuilt in order to protect the innocent and restore its original "clean" state.
Last night, dinner at Z'tejas again. If you're not acquainted with this place, it's basically a chain of mid-priced "southwestern grills". Kind of like a slightly cheaper Houston's without all the beef. The food is generally tasty and reasonably fresh-seeming, and the portions are normal-sized (vs. somewhere like the Cheesecake Factory). There aren't really any kids there, the lights are low, the waiters don't have to wear funny uniforms, there's no neon on the walls, etc. In other words, it's not an annoyingly cheery or entertainment-themed place to eat, it's for grown-ups.
It's one of the default choices for when my parents don't feel like cooking because they live out in the foothills and aren't really close to much of anything that's not a chain. And for all of the reasons above, Z'tejas usually wins out. We've eaten there twice this visit and both times, the food's been perfectly acceptable, more so in fact than some non-chain places we've eaten. More in a bit.
Oy, having trouble keeping up with my own detritus. Even though this is way more posting than normal, there's so much I've done here in Phoenix that I haven't written about that it's hard to imagine when I'll get to it.
Everyday fascination with America, Americans, toddlers, parents and so forth aside, there's been all kinds of food zooming by untouched by my greasy lens. We've had dinner out a few times, including (at opposite ends of the spectrum) Sea Saw and Z'tejas; I'm still cooking through Cradle of Flavor, the twins are still eating all kinds of morbidly fascinating garbage, and I'm continuing to find interesting cookbooks stashed here and there on the premises.
It's over. The boys are napping, the adults are watching the Cowboys rout the Jets, and the dogs are alternating between dreaming loudly (with barks and everything) and looking morose because the food's been put away.
And what about the food. It was as if our dinner came out of a futuristic meal generator on which someone had pressed the "Thanksgiving" button (and selected the "careless plating" option): everything was textbook-perfect, really quite remarkable, even the parts I was responsible for. The menu:
roast turkey + gravy
cornbread dressing with bacon and pecans
green bean casserole (the classic, with cream of mushroom soup and Durkee fried onions)
broccoli-rice casserole (a Paula Deen recipe made by Pitts)
broccoli salad (kind of a coleslaw idea, assembled by Pitts)
chocolate silk pie
My contributions were based on the idea that I would cook the parts of Thanksgiving dinner that no one else likes to cook or likes to eat. That meant: cranberry sauce (detailed a couple posts ago) and stuffing (or dressing as some people like to call it).
The stuffing was going to be a recipe from John Folse's mammoth book, but when it finally came time to cook, it just seemed too complicated. So instead I ended up doing something that was probably equally complicated. First I made cornbread, and then I made stuffing with it. It wasn't actually hard, but I never ever bake, so this was slow, like learning a new piece of music. This recipe is doubled.
unkle markie's corn bread.
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 can creamed corn or 1 can corn, undrained, pureed with 2 tbsp cream.
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
1 large egg, beaten to blend
2 slices bacon, chopped
Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°F. Butter 8-inch square baking pan. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl to blend. Add creamed corn, bacon, butter and egg. Stir just until blended. Spoon batter into pan.
Bake until edges begin to pull away from pan sides and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.
2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
Preheat oven to 325°F. Cut corn bread into 3/4-inch cubes. Place corn bread cubes on baking sheet and toast until dry, about 15 minutes. Cool and transfer to large bowl.
Melt butter in a large skillet or wok. Add bacon, onions, celery and shallots; sauté just until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in herbs and add to corn bread cubes in bowl. Mix in pecans.
Stir chicken broth into dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs. Transfer to prepared baking dish and bake in covered dish alongside turkey for 1 hour (at 350F). Uncover dressing and bake until top begins to crisp, 5-10 minutes longer.
Both photos are pre-baking, first one is pre-chicken broth.
Too hungry to take a non-blurry photo of my cranberries before they went on the stove.
2 12-ounce packages fresh cranberries 1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup 1/2 cup unrefined turbinado sugar 1/2 cup water 2 tsp grey poupon with horseradish 1/2 tsp orange zest, minced tiny pinch ground cloves 2-4 tbsp pecans, toasted, chopped 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until cranberries pop, stirring often. Total simmering time was 20 minutes. Transfer to bowl and let cool.
Who needs Twitter? Why can't I just make 5,000 tiny blog posts per day? It's not like they cost anything.
We watched Michael Moore's Sicko last night, very timely as Dad and I had engaged an a protracted, civilized discussion on many worldly matters during our traffic-slowed trip home from El Nopalito last night. We figured it all out, by the way...yep, the entire Future of the World. Solved by two guys with a truck full of tacos.
Is it worth watching? If you need to feel more desperate about life in America or mo' betta about living in Europe or anywhere else with some kind of socialized medicine, yes. Or if those last two words I just used, socialized medicine, made you want to run out to the shed and git your rifle, then, yes, there's something for you to learn in this movie. Otherwise, not too many surprises there, and Mr. Moore's schtick is kinda getting old. More, tighter editing, less sappy, pseudo-manipulative music, Mikey.
Most interesting moments: an American expat in France pointed out that the French government actually fears its voters, whereas in America it's the opposite, emphasizing that it's harder to "govern" (or exploit) outspoken people who aren't afraid of you; and I desperately need a copy of the Ronald Reagan LP in which he warns against the dangers of socialized medicine leading to communism.
My mother is something else. I've learned to be very careful about what I admire when I visit the Phoenix outpost because my mother is somehow able to constantly hold a Christmas or birthday shopping list in her head at all times, and any item in which you display an unusual amount of interest can be quietly added to this list at any time.
She's really developed a flawless technique for gift-giving, ask anyone who's received a gift from her. When she's at the top of her game, she will present you with things you won't remember having coveted until after you've already thought "now how did she know I've been thinking about that?"
I can't really say that I'm on to her or anything, but this year when I thoughtlessly expressed admiration for her excellent paring knife, I noticed a brief moment of silence from her corner of the kitchen as she mentally jotted this down before telling me about some knives she saw at Marshall's.
One day later, the paring knives with my name on them started showing up. Pictured above is the coolest, easiest to use, and therefore best one so far: something called Colori from Kuhn Rikon. It's avocado-colored, the blade too. Now, the hard part: what to get for the woman who has everything (other than higher blood pressure and a few days off).
Trip report for Monday: woke up, had a Kashi whole-grain waffle and a cautiously tiny bowl of some incredibly fiber-rich cereal, the content of which appears potentially explosive; took a freshly-shaven Siberian Husky for an hour-long walk in the desert; went to Costco and watched my dad buy a few things including a 9ft plastic Christmas tree, and then receive a $300 rebate at the checkout register (we still spent $44); became semi-stranded at a Guitar Center for 3 hours where the soundtrack was Disc 2 of The Essential Iron Maiden on infinite repeat; eventually I had to leave in order to escape the Maiden...
...but then I realized that, gadzooks, Iron Maiden wasbeing piped into the parking lot. Normally an awesome thing, it's true, but today my desire for greasy British metal had already been thoroughly sated. The rest of me however was far from it (this last transitional bit reminds me of the abominable Amsterdam food writer the Undercover Glutton, please shoot me). I hadn't eaten since my waffle, so I went on a on a pitifully unpromising Quest for Food in the Quintessential American Strip Mall.
My options included the Costco (except not really because I didn't have Dad's Costco card and therefore would be turned away at the door), Guitar Center, Mattress World, Staples Office Supplies, PetSmart, and a Kyoto Bowl noodle house that wasn't open. There was also a restaurant seriously named Guam Cuisine. They must use a tractor beam to get people into the restaurant because no American I've ever heard of would willingly enter a restaurant with that name (EDIT: sorry, it's actually called Island Roots Guam Cuisine, but the big sign on the side of the building that alerted me to the fact that it was a tractor beam-wielding restaurant says "Guam Cuisine").
I ended up getting a (I just imagined making an ellipsis here that stretched for about four page lengths) Starbucks Frappuccino out of the checkout isle cooler at PetSmart (we're talking the bottled version here, not the Britney version...160 calories). There's not much else to say about this lunch other than Possible Low Point of Trip. Though not as low a point as the people who were working in these completely empty stores were having. Muzak, A/C, fluorescent lights, a uniform, and...billions of pet products. Or office supplies. Maybe flourescent lights would've helped, which is what I originally typed. Thanks, Google Toolbar.
I was mildly bummed out about the proportion of my extremely full schedule that was being blown away by my guiltily loitering around this strip mall (guilty not because I'd done anything wrong, but because of the 28 No Loitering signs that seemed to hover around me as I pointlessly shuffled from pointless superstore to pointless superstore), until I realized: when I am I going to have a chance to do this again? Make the most of it.
But how? No idea. Whippits? Thankfully, no. Eventually, I was able to identify Dad's pickup out of the crowd of pickup trucks circling the parking lot looking for stray pre-teens to abduct for organ harvesting (you think I'm kidding), and the "being alive" part of my day was rejoined already in progress. We zoomed 12 miles away to the previously mentioned El Nopalito, and returned home with a pile of real Mexican tacos that were just perfect. We got a bunch of other stuff too, but the tacos (plus the guacamole and the ancho-spiked red salsa to go with them) were the highlight for me.
By the way, eGullet and I are friends again now that the bad man is gone. Here's an informative and gawjus new pictorial from some lucky duck who was in Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead celebrations this year.
4:44PM, Sunday. All of the sudden, it's almost like I was never sick (as long as I remain seated). And at this very moment, it's a bit like I never grew up, left home, did anything other than wait for the weekend.
Right now, somehow alone in the kitchen, I can smell baked potatoes on their 74th minute of baking at 350°F, they themselves probably looking forward to bathing in butter and sour cream; there are carrots braising in chicken broth and a little maple syrup and butter; water is boiling for corn on the cob which we hope will still be OK though it's the last of the season; and ludicrously expensive dry-aged steaks are waiting to be grilled. NFL football is on the gargantuan TV screen (Dallas vs. Washington, Redskins down by 5, 8 minutes left). I've been told that there's a cherry pie waiting in the wings somewhere as well.
I myself am marinating in nostalgia, which will probably be short-lived, as the twins are due to arrive at any moment. I'm not saying it won't be nice when they get here, it just won't be nostalgia anymore, it'll be dinnertime. Or maybe this is fuel for future reminiscence, who knows: my mom just came in and said that Dad is installing some sort of Christmas decoration in the front yard that involves penguins.
Bringing it significantly closer to the kind of burrito you might actually find in Mexico. In fact, I'll be photographing a few more burritos this week if I can, for the curious and desperate back in Amsterdam.
Perhaps my nausea yesterday had less to do with just being offended by a laughably selfish man-pig subhuman dork of a man-pig (not a typo), and more to do with actually being sick.
We'd just ordered some takeout from Filiberto's, a local Mexican fast food joint, when it became overwhelmingly obvious that I was not well.
The diagnosis: ADV is in da house. And, maaaaaaaan does it totally suck. It's a bit of a mystery why it took me so long to get it, but yeah, I did. The nice part about being the last person to get it is that everyone else knows the arc of the symptoms pretty well by now: intestinal collapse; your body temperature doubles; muscle cramps twist all of your individual limbs into corkscrew shapes, etc.
Adding insult to injury, the cleaning lady (yes) brought over two dozen pork tamales and I can't even almost have a nibble of one. All I'm able to eat: my wonderful dad actually went to the store at 10pm to get me Popsicle brand banana popsicles, and if I had the capability to enjoy anything right now, I'd say they're amazingly good, but I am not quite even ready for popsicles yet. See you in 36 hours.
Oh, dear. Excuse me. My tolerance for pampered Americanism is dwindling rapidly. This time it's eGullet that is bringing me down. This bummery moment is a feeling that I have occasionally when I'm browsing the list of active topics and I see something especially offensive, but I can usually just take a peek at the thread and shake my head and move on to less depressing areas of discussion.
Yesterday, however, I made the mistake of actually participating in one of these topics, and I really really wish I hadn't. I eventually became really disgusted and didn't feel seeing that godawful color scheme ever again. And then today I went out there and...did it again. And now I am befouled anew by this blind, petty sense of entitlement that powers so much of The Crybaby Nation, personified by eGullet member #1. Boo, unfortunate. But he's got such good people skills...hard to believe there was ever any friction between him and the rest of the old-timers.
No more computer 'til this semi-nauseated feeling passes. I'll be out in the backyard.
On an uncharacteristically somber note, I want to put this here so there's a chance I'll remember to look at it more often. I didn't know Bob Lassiter, I don't like talk radio, and I didn't know why this grabbed me in the first place until I listened to it again and found myself re-grabbed. Even now I'm not sure I can articulate my fascination with it, so I won't waste too much time with an attempt.
But should someone find themselves with time on their hands, you know, the kind of Internet Time where you can somehow justify to yourself sifting through someone else's detritus for a couple of hours instead of creating your own, here are some entry points.
I found out about him through WFMU's obituary-slash tribute, here. There are many links there to MP3s of Lassiter in action, but the two that I find engrossing are ones that I can't find online anymore, only my copies:
1) This incredibly direct interrogation of an unfortunate high school student who made the mistake of calling to air his politically conservative "views" without actually knowing why he had them.
2) This equally direct examination of a heckler who waited 25 minutes on hold to toss some puny insult Lassiter's way. Lassiter seems to really want to understand why someone would want to waste his time doing something like this when the caller must've known that it wouldn't bother Lassiter in the least.
These calls are not relaxing listening. I find them incredible, though, in part because he says exactly the things you would want to be able to say to those not only mean but also stupid people who feel compelled to befoul you with their malevolence...but also because he does it with such humanity. As misanthropic and cynical as he must have been, he sounds as fascinated as I feel by the absurdity of it all. Most importantly, there's something as yet indefinable by me in his voice that compels me (and apparently many others) to listen.
Anyway, the somber part is here, the journal of his last days. Tough reading, but it seems valuable to me.
Some quick grocery store notes: the nearest grocery store is 3 miles away and it's bigger than the biggest Albert Heijn I've ever seen; walnut oil is 11 dollars for the same amount that costs 2 euro or whatever in AH; the produce options here are amazing, though I don't know if they taste like anything; TVP burgers are cheap (Boca Burgers)*; lemongrass is exotic; it's not always a bad thing when the cashier asks for your phone number...I almost didn't give it to them, and if I hadn't I wouldn't have gotten my parents' discount, which saved me about 30 percent on my bill.
* and utterly terrible. Granted, this was the vegan version, but eww, they were like wet grilled toilet paper inside-roll-things, probably is a close approximation.
How often does this happen? A website has decent, appropriate background music. Keep in mind that there's slightly less good music when the site loads, but if you manage to snag one of the whizzing-by specific flavors of Patrón, you'll hear what I'm talking about. I point this whole thing out b/c I found myself accidentally grooving out to Patrón Silver (the one without the bassline), and my brain nearly fell out of my head at the shock of it.
Also, I watched an episode of Barney & Friends today, my first. You don't get many posts about Barney and tequila, do you. Maybe you should. I'm also strictly limiting my access to my twin nephews so that I can continue liking them a lot, which is going pretty well.
I'm desperately trying to get back to something like healthy eating. Today I et: steel-cut oats with almonds, blueberries, cranberries, and maple syrup; two fruit/nut bars (the current version of the CLIF bar); two cups of coffee with a little chocolate soy milk; I made a multi-day portion of my Sicilian tuna salad with an obscene amount of Dad's expensive balsamic vinegar + fresh mint + almonds + raisins + Vidalia onions and had two small sandwiches of that on going-stale whole grain bread; and a tiny piece of Scharffen Berger chocolate. Dinner? Undecided. Most everybody's stomach is still useless from The Virus. I made chicken soup for the parentals yesterday so I 'spect that's what they'll have. I myself will strive for something a bit more excellent, I know not what.
File this under Unexpected Sentences: beautiful vegan blog. Actually, that's not a sentence at all, it's a noun and a couple of surprisingly chummy modifiers. But The Conscious Kitchen seems to be an expertly-written site about the challenges and possibilities of edible gorgeousity that don't come from no stinkin' animals.
That picture up yonder, though...that 'un's mine. These here caramel apples is strewn all about the kitchen, leftover from Trick or Treatin and whatnot. I can't resist me a bite now and then.
BTW, I'm blaming them dang Coen Brothers for this twangitty banjo-soundin dialeck we gots goin' on here.
OK, everyone in this picture is sick, plus there are a couple more unpictured people that are sick. You don't want to know the details, other than that you don't want to know the details. My parents are both staying home sick from work today, which I don't think has ever happened before in the history of the universe.
I am the only person in the family not currently experiencing extreme technical difficulties, which means that either 1) my European immune whatsis is the only thing between me and dire misery, or 2) I'm next. My money's on number 2 (as usual). Wish me luck.
The above photo captures many details that crystallize the differences between my current lifestyle and another previously possible lifestyle. For fun someday I may count them, like the old brainteasers used to make you do.
As I mentioned yesterday, today the parentals and I embarked on a promise-filled adventure that ultimately served up one resounding expectation-surpassing success and one overall disappointment.
The success? The massively good new Coen Brothers movie, just possibly the most satisfying and unaffected film they've done yet, which I'm just so happy to be able to say.
I'd need to see it again to have a more unshakable opinion, and I will, but to even be able to say that it's in the same class as Blood Simple signifies a completely unexpected return to sublimity (and movies about Texas) for those two.
What this film does, in fact, is to interweave Blood Simple's strongest characteristics (mastery of noir-style genre conventions and Hitchcockian suspense) with funnier humor, heavier pessimism, and Javier Bardem. And Tommy Lee Jones. And a host of supporting-role Texans that made me feel like I ain't skipped the True South on this visit at all. The Coens should obviously just keep making movies about Texas until they make a bad one.
Speaking of Blood Simple, the Director's Cut was just released on DVD, and I loved Roger Ebert's quote about it: "If you are squeamish, here is the film to make you squeam."
Oh right, the disappointment. Zinc Bistro. Almost great, but yeah, too many little things wrong with each dish, like no one really cared. Like whoever was cooking was cooking "someone else's food". Dad suspects that the chef wasn't in the building, and that would certainly explain it. Out back in the parking lot, maybe, running a game of three-card Monte.
Whatever, yeah, the food: not exactly bad at all, just very obviously not what it could have been. Great recipes, slightly haphazard execution. I give it 7 lukewarm poached eggs out of a possible 10. Maybe even subtract an egg for Scottsdale's general gross plasticity and the ghastly, inappropriate Eurolounge music that I can't believe anyone working or eating there enjoys.
It might seem as though there are a lot of posts happening here. But if you read closely, you'll notice that very little effort is being expended on them by me. I'm just firing them off thoughtlessly like burps after a Duvel.
My dad gave me a rather awesomely timely cookbook yesterday: The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine by John Folse. It's considerably more than a cookbook actually. Yeah, it's chock full o' recipes, but there's boatloads of history and background detail in there that I just haven't seen anywhere else, 800 pages' worth. And plus the cover photo features the author looking like he's just been brained.
One of my favorite things about the "book" thus far (I use the quotes because I actually only have it on CD, so it's more of a "file" than a "book", truth be told) is the section of menus for festive occasions, because I think of New Orleans food as being festive by nature, so it's nice to see what a big ol' party menu might look like when cooked up by someone knowledgeable. Fer example, here's the pretty over-the-top New Year's Day menu (linked where applicable to recipes on Chef Folse's website):
Oh yeah, I have a funny story to tell about my initial discussions with my mom about who makes what on Thanksgiving, but I'll add that later. For now I'll just share Chef Folse's Roasted Turkey with Shoepeg Cornbread Stuffing recipes that we'll hopefully be using for our little ol' Thanksgiving.