29.2.08

southwesterning.

















Had a flashback to 1993 today and made some very Mark Miller-inspired overdriven hapjes for the evening snack segment of today's eating.

For those of you who aren't that familiar with "Southwestern cuisine" of the U.S., the idea is of a modern kitchen that combines the traditional foods of the cowboys and Indians with ingredients and influences from primarily Mexican but also Southern cooking, with dabs of California-Mediterranean fusion concepts here and there.

This was the food that sparked my cooking engine back in the early 90s. The first real cookbook that I started cooking out of was Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe book, and while not every single idea in there completely works, there are many extremely reliable flavor combinations in there that I still rely on when I'm feeling creative in the kitchen: corn, maple, pecan, bourbon; orange, basil, mint, chipotle, and goat cheese; cumin, anise, cinnamon, and cloves; apple, pine nut, red chile, and honey; orange, tamarind, chipotle, rosemary, bacon...

Tonight? My results were too complicated, but I felt like playing chemist and the cooking was more about that than about being comforted or whatever. Bachelor #1 tonight: cherry confit, smoked duck breast, warm goat cheese, one molecule each of cinnamon and ancho powder, a few drops of hazelnut oil, and chopped arugula. Something about the photo of this one was bugging me so it's been...removed.

Bachelor #2 was much less ambitious, and frankly leagues tastier, totally worth turning into a full-blown salad of its own: roasted red pepper, fresh basil, olive oil, warm goat cheese, fresh squeezed orange juice, toasted almonds, a teeny bit of minced chipotle, and more arugula.

















All of this was designed to fuel Mara while she made another FOT for a friend who just received their permanent residence permit for The Netherlands (pictured above, the FOT).

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UPDATE: Coming back to this post a month later because this evening on the way home from H + J's at 3am, there was a tremendous thunderstorm, like Georgia-style: lightning striking 50 meters away every 5 seconds; punishing, painful hail, etc. We were not so far from home when it hit, but we were on foot. When the lightning started to get uncomfortably close, we started to run, but we had to cross through a construction site. And as were doing so (at top speed), I made some kind of navigational error and had to stretch one iota too far to clear something I was jumping over. A couple days later, the back of my knee really started to hurt, like I pulled a muscle. But unlike a pulled muscle, it's still hurting about the same amount now, one month later. Bummer.

27.2.08

re-peat o-ffender.

















So, there's this blogger I know, and the last time I saw her she offered to lend me any cookbook in her collection, because she's moving across town, actually very close by, and I could just return it to her after she landed in her new nest.

I was extremely tempted, because she has tons of great cookbooks, including a few on my imaginary Most Wanted list. But I, in an unprecedented moment of Mature Thinking, declined, because "I don't take very good care of cookbooks". She seemed the slightest bit puzzled, like "how bad it could it be?", but Mara reassured her that I wasn't kidding.

Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is a cookbook that we've gotten a lot of use out of, but almost exclusively as a reference or inspiration point: cooking times, best methods for specific ingredients, etc. There are a couple of really memorable desserts that Mara has made out of it, and that I very much wish she'd make again (Gabrielle's Lemon Squares, please), but beyond that, nada.

Of course, as I'm finding out more and more, I am not unique in this regard: eGullet has a thread about this that, among other things, discusses the truly successful recipes from the book, the ones that people use regularly in real life. The thread also reveals that many people received their copy as a gift (as did I, thanks Uncle Richie), and that nearly everyone's copy has degenerated into a cracked-spine pile of difficult-to-use rubble like mine (shown above), which means that at least this time it's not my fault.

Anyway, the successful recipes: I'll summarize for my own benefit below. Eventually.

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refrigereat.

















I'm surprised that no one noticed a disturbance in The Force just now. It is gorgeously sunny at the moment, and I just had a big disturbing-looking bowl of braised cabbage. These two are not made for each other.

If it helps at all, I ate the cabbage cold, because I'm like that with leftovers: I just don't like warming things up, they're almost never as good as they were the first time (unless it's soup or stew or chili).

Plus this is Molly Stevens' Ass-Kickin' Braised Cabbage. Well, she calls it something like that, Sassiest Cabbage in Town, Can-Do Cabbage, My Cabbage is Better Than Your Cabbage...it is great, regardless. And? That's right, we get a gold star or two on our USDA Daily Vegetable Chart.

Oh yeh: here's the recipe. Make it! I'll be making it again this week, with some kind of protein filling that inviting vacancy atop the pile of aggressively overachieving cabbage. Assuming the sun goes away for awhile.

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MIGLIOR ACQUE

“ . . . the golden time I look for!”
—3 Henry VI, III.ii.127

When the sun went away for a while,
nobody noticed it was gone.
We’re all used to living on light
that’s eight minutes old.
Minute number nine, now . . .
We noticed number nine.

(...)

-Terrill Shepard Soules

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26.2.08

i did not know that.

















So back in August 2007 when I had my High Noon-type showdown with myself, my hours of internet research turned up lots of helpful articles touting the benefits of "orange vegetables". Wuh, like carrots 'n' shit?

Yeah, like carrots 'n' shit. Even the USDA is on board with this development, so it must really be OLD NEWS. Their weekly recommendations for "Food Groups to Encourage" suggests the following:

Dark green vegetables 3 cups/week
Orange vegetables 2 cups/week
Legumes (dry beans) 3 cups/week
Starchy vegetables 3 cups/week
Other vegetables 6 ½ cups/week

That is a lot of vegetables that I was not eating. We're doing a little better these days in the green vegetable department now that I'm using a couple of foolproof recipes for green beans, broccoli, and sugar snap peas. But we could still do better, so, I am hereby again re-reannouncing my commitment to orange vegetables. And all other vegetables.

But here's an interesting thing. One of the first recipes I made after my first recommitment was Quinoa with Curried Yogurt, in an attempt to get an orange fruit (papaya) into my system. And though the recipe resulted in a Magical Flavor Combo Discovery on my part (papaya and Javanese sambal), this recipe really really really made our stomachs hurt.

Pourquoi? We've eaten tons of quinoa before, but then come to think of it, it does seem like we never really prepared it the same way twice in terms of soaking, rinsing, etc. In fact, even now if forced to make quinoa at this very moment, I would have to ask Mara how to do it and she would probably not remember either.

So, anyway, the answer is, yes I erred. When did this become common knowledge:

The saponins in quinoa can be mildly toxic, as can be the oxalic acid in the leaves of all the chenopodium family. The first step in preparing quinoa is to remove the saponins, a process that requires soaking the grain in water for a few hours, then changing the water and resoaking again, or rinsing it in ample running water either in a fine strainer or in cheesecloth. (Source: Wikipedia)

I'm familiar with oxalic acid via my experiences with pomtajer/malanga and callaloo...I think rhubarb has the same problem as well, but I really had no idea about quinoa. So, this is good news: we've had a bag of quinoa that's been sitting around untouched because we've been scared of it. Although the papaya salad is more of a summery recipe, I'll post it here for future reference and imminent honing.

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quinoa and papaya salad (under construction).

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp Surinamese mango chutney (very different from Patak's or other brands of commercial Indian chutney)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tbsp garam masala
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp walnut oil
1 or 2 cups uncooked quinoa, depending on the quinoa to other stuff ratio desired
1 cup papaya or mango, cubed
1/2 red bell pepper, diced fine
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, crushed lightly
some fresh green chile, minced, maybe even a whole one
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or cilantro

Whisk together yogurt, lime juice, curry powder, ginger, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add oil, whisking til combined.

PROPERLY RINSE AND COOK QUINOA.

Toss quinoa with curried yogurt and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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24.2.08

the revelator.

I just realized this is one of my favorite songs of all time, even though David Rawlings' teeth scare me a bit.

21.2.08

baked shrimp and sage risotto.

















As I've said before, this is really just a genius recipe, I can't think of anything more comforting I've eaten recently. We have Mara to thank for this. Well, and a name you don't hear much anymore: Martha Stewart.

I know it breaks some rules: seafood and cheese for one, Parmesan and olive oil for another, hell even sage and shrimp is pushing it. But trust in the Mooperbird.

ETA: As usual, better pictures of the same dish here.

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baked shrimp and sage risotto.

3 tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, or one small red onion, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
pinch crumbled saffron threads
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped, or 1 tbsp or so dried sage, maybe a little more
up to 1 tsp salt, depending on saltiness of your broth

16-20 medium shrimp, deveined and halved lengthwise
1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

up to 1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano (we also use pecorino romano sometimes)
chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

+++

Heat oven to 190°C.

Put shrimp in a small bowl to marinate with the garlic, 1 tbsp of olive oil, and black pepper.

In a medium ovenproof saucepan, heat the rest of the olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice, and stir until grains are shiny and well coated with oil, about 2 minutes more. Add saffron and wine, and continue cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add stock, sage, salt, and pepper. Cover saucepan; transfer to oven. Bake until almost all of the stock is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and stir shrimp into rice, replace back in oven for 6-8 minutes to cook shrimp. Your goal is to leave the shrimp in long enough to mellow the garlic but not overcook the shrimp. Also check the salt level here: if you're not pushing the too-salty boundary, it's possible to stir some of the grated cheese into the rice at this point, that's what Mara does.

After 6-8 minutes, remove from oven, check salt level again and adjust if necessary. Serve immediately, topped with grated cheese and parsley.

Serves 4, or sometimes less.

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19.2.08

zarelessons.

















I almost never remember my dreams, unless they're really terrifying. Or I sometimes remember them if I'm woken up during one of them. This morning's 9am courier pickup from Nippon Express was supposed to be this afternoon's pickup (after they didn't show up yesterday, bastards), so their arrival this morning was unexpected. At the moment the doorbell rang, I was dreaming that Klary and I were trying to make her difficult maple whiskey custard, and we had just determined that my oven wouldn't turn on because it was too dirty, which could totally happen in real life.

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Yesterday I finally gave up on cooking from this Zarela Martinez cookbook. I tried the beef/masa soup recipe on Sunday, and it reminded me that, oh yeah: I've never made a recipe of hers that I haven't had to drastically doctor in order to get it to taste like something. I'm not quite sure what is being lost in the translation from her kitchen to mine, but my results have always been el blando. Maybe her oven is too clean.

















In order to fix this soup, I had to add some mole rojo that I made on Saturday, and now it's OK-tasting though there's a bit of dissonance in the concept of "mole soup": for me, mole needs to be closely bound to something with some texture.

The masa-thickening idea is interesting, though...I'm wondering if maybe this wouldn't be better as a chicken soup, heavy on the chipotle, with maybe some pureed corn as well.

ETA: Actually, we just had some of this for lunch, and by now, Day 3, it's very good, not really tasting like mole at all but quite spicy. I kind of wish I'd left the original recipe alone to see if it would have improved this dramatically. The garnishes are lime wedges and crumbled Turkish sheep's cheese, which to me is kind of similar to Mexican farmer's cheese in its mild saltiness, though the Mexican version is a cow's milk cheese.

















Regardless, it looks like I'll be returning to Susana Trilling for the rest of the week's Mexican experiments...her recipes just work for me. While I was making that there link, I found a nice Amazon list of Mexican and border region cookbooks here. Some of my favorite all-time cookbooks are on that list, so I should check out the rest.

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By the bye, I've been eating like an asshole again, so it's time to go back to writing down what I eat, and unfortunately I have to do it here. Sorry.

18.2.08

management.

















Brrr! The weather here has been frigid and beautiful, reminding me of an ex-girlfriend or two...hahahahahahahaha! Oh I'm just kidding. Definitely kidding.

Well, it has been nut-shatteringly cold outside and the skies have been brilliantly clear, I'm not kidding about that. It's enough to make a man nearly optimistic, I'd say. That, and the fact that this man in particular has been sleeping like a baby in a cave for the last 5 nights. It seems as though I've hit upon a successful sleep aid cocktail: 0.5 Unisom and 2 valerian/melatonin/magnesium capsules. Taken at 11pm, I have been sleeping reliably until 7am, assuming there are no feline crisis moments during the night.

The calico bitchlets are both on a diet at the moment, but I fear that our apartment may be too small for food rationing strategies; there's rebellion in the air, or underfoot...it's here somewhere. They've become extremely concerned about when the food is coming: loitering near the eating area, breaking into an occasional scuffle when the 7 pellets of chow clank into their bowls, etc. It's not easy being a parent.

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Ya, ya, ya. Unfairly, I can eat whatever and whenever I want, being top of the food chain and all. This week, because of the arctic temps and other indeterminate factors, I will concentrate on Mexican food. Two targets from Zarela Martinez's Food and Life of Oaxaca: Molito de Garbanzo (toasted chickpea soup), and Che Guiña (masa-thickened beef soup with chiles).

Pictured above: huevos rancheros kind of, eggs with a simple guajillo sauce, leftover thyme mushrooms, sheep's cheese, and scallions.

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16.2.08

keep feeling procrastination.
















Or, How I Spent Some of My Saturday Night When I Should Have Been Mixing.

The onscreen comment, BTW, assumes that you're not sitting at your computer when the other person plays.

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Spending quality time with Scrabalicious (actually Scrabulous) learns you a thing or two about Scrabble words, IOW, words that aren't used in real life, only in Scrabble. QAT, for example, played by me above, is a frequently-played "Q no U" word. Its definition: "the leaves of the shrub Catha edulis which are chewed like tobacco or used to make tea; has the effect of a euphoric stimulant; 'in Yemen kat is used daily by 85% of adults'". In this same vein, QIS is the plural of QI, or KI, the "circulating life energy that in Chinese philosophy is thought to be inherent in all things; in traditional Chinese medicine the balance of negative and positive forms in the body is believed to be essential for good health."

Another Scrabble-only word is SUQ, which is a variant of souk.
A ZAX is "a tool similar to a hatchet, used for cutting and dressing roofing slates."

15.2.08

behind the scenes.

















I had a prep cook Wednesday afternoon for the first time in a long while, and it's a keeper of an idea. I don't know how chefs take credit for anything with one of these babies around: she made the perfect foccacia dough, dug the pulp out of my navelinas (?), grated an ungrateably soft cheddar cheese, chopped 7,000 mushrooms, provided general cuteness, etc. It barely even seems like I cooked.

Refreshingly, I didn't have time to obsess about the menu, so there was at least one thing on there that I don't think I normally would've made. This is straight out of June Cleaver's kitchen.

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cheddar-peppadew spread with horseradish.

2 cups finely grated Cheddar
1/2 cup to 1 cup diced Peppadew peppers from a jar, drained
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp prepared horseradish, drained
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Ratchet up the amount of peppers to suit your need for tanginess.

Makes slightly less than 2 cups. Serve with melba toasts or other not-too-salty cracker.

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14.2.08

cuervo pleather surprise.

















It was only supposed to be a couple people over for a couple drinks. But I thought it would make for additional fun if I bought a bottle of tequila and poured strategically (my spellchecker just suggested "tragically" for this, also accurate) timed shots for people until the bottle was gone.

As you scroll through the photos, note that the arm-wrestling and Mara squeezing into her new pleather pants shots are from the midnight timeframe, and that the cake didn't come out until 3am or so. The buzzing hive of activity pictured in the bottom photos was around the 5am mark, and we finally slid into bed as the garbage trucks were beeping and grinding their little tunes at 7am or so...the best part of all this is of course that I didn't drink any tequila.

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Turkish almonds.
Tiny green olives with orange zest.

Huisgemaakte krabsalade with navelinas and chives.
1955 cheddar-Peppadew-horseradish spread.
Whole-wheat melba toasts.

Foccacie: Americano (tomato, oregano, mozzarella, pecorino); Francese (mushrooms, walnut oil, brie, thyme); Stinko (garlic confit, raclette, pecorino).

Unlimited Delicious' caramel-chocolate cake.

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12.2.08

pomvalescence.

















Someone needed some Pom Therapy today, so we moped our way over to the Tokoman for a hit of the good shit. And, like so many things aren't, it was still good.

While Mara recharged her little self via her much-needed pomvalescence, I threw caution and 2.75 euros to the wind and had a broodje surimigarnalen. Klary posted something about them recently, and I think I've written about them as well somewhere around here, but basically they're kind of freaky-looking fake shrimp made out of surimi (or more accurately, kamaboko. In Japan, the unseasoned fish paste used to make what we call "surimi" is actually what they call surimi. What we call surimi they call kanikama, which is a kind of kamaboko. I think.)

Whatever. De Tokoman's presentation of these shellfish impostors involves a lot of Javanese sambal and some homemade pickles.

Be forewarned: this is a sandwich that is better left unopened. It's completely brutal and visceral-looking, like that time on the icy tundras of the planet Hoth when Han Solo had to cut open the ton-ton to keep Luke alive (don't worry, I had to look that up):

















Yet also really great eating, like I imagine the ton-ton might also have been, except that this was warm and tropical and very habanero-spicy instead of frosty-cold and innard-y.

Well I've completely grossed myself out, so let's talk about some actual viscera. Mine!

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Liver function tests show that things are moving in the right direction (as far as I can tell) but still have a way to go. I post this here as a public reminder to myself.

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i object.

















Andy just returned from two weeks in Bangkok, where he (among other things like playing some gigs, hitting the beach, rubbing up on well-oiled ladyboys, etc.) took a Thai cooking class for something like 4 euro. Exploiter. His hotel room cost 4 euro per night as well. Actually it sounded like everything cost 4 euro. Tonight he just about vaporized us with his fancy new "authentic" Thai techniques. Turns out that in order to make "authentic" Thai food, you need to utilize a badass ninja-like technique they call Song Of The Transparent Cleaver:

















Yes, thank you, ninjas aren't from Thailand, got it. Andy is a good reminder that it's possible to have a very rich and powerful food life and not blog about it. Who else do I (or you) know that has a jar of homemade berbere sitting around?






















Tonight he made tom yum, and the soup was almost literally dynamite, spicy as seven well-oiled ladyboys and just generally the best homemade version I've had of it. Ancient Chinese Secrets? Yeah: not cooking the soup for very long at all, 10 minutes tops. Using a few more aromatics (kaffir leaves, Thai basil) than a real Thai recipe calls for because the versions we get of these things are so barely aromatic by the time we get them. Mostly, it turns out that the secret ingredient to authentic tom yum soup, in addition to ruthless wielding of the Transparent Cleaver, is this:






















It's a chili paste that smells exactly and alarmingly like shrimp shells. I say alarmingly because there's no shrimp or fish product in the ingredient list.






















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10.2.08

back in session.






















Finally I return to the kitchen. I've decided that I am not a Victoriabaars fan...gah, no wonder I eat so much catfish...it's the only available troublefree fish I like eating. It may be time to re-check everyone's status to see if, say...the Atlantic halibut should start looking over their fishy little shoulders again.

















This "confit" is supersimple, except that it requires a pretty watchful eye, more watchful than mine wants to be. It's very easy to boil your oil accidentally, which will give this a more toasted and then slightly sharp and bitter flavor if you let it go too far. So don't.

Uses? Pizza. Pasta. Pork. Bread. Do you need more?

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garlic confit.

18 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
olive oil to cover (1-2 cups)

Put garlic and bay leaf in smallest saucepan you've got, and barely cover with oil. Turn heat to medium until the very first tiny bubbles appear, then reduce to low, preventing a boil. You may have to use a heat diffuser: I had to put a skillet underneath my saucepan. Then just cook the garlic on as low a heat as possible for about an hour. Let cool, then put in refrigerator...it keeps for a month or two.

















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the jimmy picture.















I made a grievous error this morning (in addition to originally spelling "grievous" wrong, duh) and started looking through old pictures. Real pictures, like on photographic paper. Talk about nostalgia, baby...I got a regular damn ol' suffusion going on here.

But I knew the risks going in, didn't I. The reason I took a chance at all in the photo box this morning was to find The Jimmy Picture: the archetypical photodocumentation of the Mooperbird in a state of nearly perfect happiness. And there you have it, above, circa 1998 maybe, on the streets of Manhattan, cracking wise somewhere in Chelsea with a hot dog and a strawberry Julius.

Hopefully I'll tell the whole story here in a few days, including the history of Jimmy the Pizza Boy and a sidebar about Mara's mystical effect on the men of Chinatown (for example, she's walking down the street wearing a shirt with the number 33 on it, a passing Indian man says in a thick accent "let me be 34"). But first another teaser photo or two from the archives. Let's see. How about this: sometimes when you see a movie from the 80s, you're like: people didn't really look like that, did they?
















I guess the point is, there are two girls in the 1988 photo above who have been "my girlfriend" for more than a year or so at some point. And then they both showed up at my wedding in 1997:
















That's Wendy and Mara. They're obviously hugely uncomfortable with the whole situation.















You can see Mara's tongue if you look real close. Me? I was busy a few yards away, harassing my passed-out dad on the front lawn.
















I like the idea that I'm trying to chat up the pile of girls in the driveway despite my dad lying unconscious in front of me. "So hey, hey. HEY. Ladies? Hey, what are you guys doing later. Yo, me and homes here (motions at Dad) know a thing we can check out after this...Oh, yeah, totally, don't worry...he's cool to drive."

I'd like to emphasize that this is the only known example of my dad being drunk. He made a special effort for me that evening, and boy did it pay off.

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9.2.08

a girl named jo3n.

















JO3N DREAMS HE AGREES NOT TO LOVE YOU
FOR ONE THOUSAND COWS

And as the cattle enter
his corral, boulders

begin to fill his heart,
until he cannot move

for their
weight.

-Terrill Shepard Soules

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I am really not writing very much about food...next week, back to that. Tomorrow I'll make garlic confit out of Tom Colicchio's Craft cookbook. Actually, I'll make it out of garlic, from a Tom Colicchio recipe. You get sensitive about your English when you know non-native speakers are reading.

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everything's ruined.

















When we have a party over here...

Let me start over. When we invite people from two or more households over to our place, we generally give a great deal of thought as to their compatibility. I'm not sure we've ever had a situation where one invited guest takes a disliking to another guest and unpleasantness ensues. For example, where the one guest tears apart and eats the other guest and his or her entire family.

Which is what happened in Africa when someone invited the Nile perch, or Victoriabaars as it's called here in Nederland, to come hang out for awhile. "Yeah, sure, crash over here for as long as you like...the beers are in the fridge, the snacks are...hey, what? No, that's my AAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!"

The Nile perch basically ate everything in the Nile's vicinity, including each other. They made a movie about it (not the fish, some other "they") in 2004 called Darwin's Nightmare that I will probably need to watch at some point.

But the reason I'm still here talking instead of showering like I should be is...I bought some of these troublemakers today, and now I'm a gonna cook 'em. But how? Google Wire research reminds that lake/river fish enjoy being fried or served with pork. Butter, thyme, and bacon is the frontrunner right now, but someone should probably talk me out of that.

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So I ended up doing the butter and pork thing because the only people admitting to having cooked this fish online are the people who are also selling it, this is not a good sign. I made this:



What a picture, huh? I, uh...didn't take it: it's from my pretty rarely-used Anton Mosimann's Fish Cuisine cookbook, where the recipe also came from. Larded Perch Filets with Thyme, it's called, and it was fine, but I'm not sure this fish gets any better than "fine". Maybe leftovers will be better.

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Woo, "Everything's Ruined" is bad, bad, bad, almost as bad/good as that Chavez video I posted.

take-in.

















Hi there. Final weekend of recording in progress...that means not much leaving the apartment. If only Blokker delivered batteries.

And not much time in front of the stove, either...last night's gourmet treat was broiled catfish (pangafilet) and a hallucinogenically hot habanero ketchup, eaten standing at the stove. Frozen catfish/panga is on sale at the Dirk for about 2 U.S. dollars per pound (converted for our American readers), which I don't need to tell you is a ridiculous price. If only my freezer were bigger. I guess I'll have to jar the rest...catfish preserves, catfish confit, candied catfish, blleaaargh, etc.

Unless I want to eat catfish again tonight, I should probably begin considering who will feed me this avond. Miss Mara is spending the evening out so that I may be as annoying as I want from a sound perspective. Normally Thai is the default delivery food, but we just had Som Tam two nights ago (pictured above, very good again, leagues better than Top Thai) so I have to look elsewhere. If only...etc.

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7.2.08

rotating heads.













Unusually, we have a surplus of movies sitting around waiting to be watched. Like 10 of them. Tonight, we crossed one off the list. Know which one?













The movie was Volver, and it reminded me again what a unique filmmaker Almodóvar is. I never seem to really love his movies, but he's great at creating these fantastic little gaudy dreams that are full of murder and intrigue but they never seem heavy. I do wish that he'd have let Penelope Cruz use her own voice to sing with, or at least found one in the same range as her speaking voice to dub with.

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6.2.08

labor days.






















Loooong day yesterday. Up at 8am, hit the gym (this should garner a moment of silent commendation...I haven't been at the gym at 8am since 1997), then got some bloodwork done down by the Concertgebouw (just some random string ensemble dude living on the street down there, he does "Any Lab Test" and his prices are super-reasonable!), then hustled my aged ass uptown to sit around for 3 hours until UPS showed up (well, I worked on troubleshooting this website while I was waiting, so not a Total Loss), then I headed out for an evening of Culture.

Not really. I saw Cloverfield (I must warn you, don't read anything about it if you think you might see it, I wish I hadn't known anything about it), which was just alright, but I would've loved it if the filmmakers or the studios had really believed in using handheld video as the viewer's perspective; the more I could actually see of the action, the less interested I was. Characters that weren't thoroughly unlikeable would've helped too. I did really love the fact that there was no horror-movie music, and really no sounds other than those made by the characters. All of the characters, if you know what I'm saying. So: a very good idea, weakened by conceding to Hollywood's perceived accessibility requirements, big shocker.

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Then, Aesop Rock + Rob Sonic at the Melkweg, which is roughly 11 times better than Paradiso as a place to see a show. I had a moment of Cloverfield-like horror when Rob Sonic took the stage: I'd forgotten he was going to be there, and when I saw this very afroed, unshaven fat man come out I thought, "Jesus, what the fuck has happened to Aesop Rock?" (also known to sport the semi-afro and un-shave). Here is a photo depicting their relative size (photo not mine, theirs):

















You can appreciate my alarm. Here's a semi-foodrelated Aesop Rock verse for my friend Terrill who thinks he hates rap.

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Flash that buttery gold
Jittery zeitgeist wither by the watering hole, what a patrol...
What are we to Heart Huckabee? Art fuckery, suddenly?
Not enough young in his lung for the waterwings?
Colorfully vulgar poacher, out of mulch, like:
"I'ma pull the pulse out a soldier and bolt."
(Fine...)
Sign of the time we elapse
When a primate climb up a spine and attach
Eye for an eye by the bog life swamps and vines
They get a rise out of frogs and flies
So when a dogfight's hog-tied prize sort of costs a life
The mouths water on a fork and knife
And the allure isn't right
No score on a war-torn beach
Where the cash cow's actually beef
Blood turns wine when it leak for police
Like, "That's not a riot, it's a feast. Let's eat!"

And I will remember your name and face
On the day you are judged by "The Funhouse" cast
And I will rejoice in your fall from grace
With a cane to the sky like, "None shall pass."

"None Shall Pass" -Aesop Rock

5.2.08

some times.

















Above: surveillance camera footage from a security incident at the compound earlier today. You can see that Mara is only barely able to fend off the relentless jaws of the intruder (using some hand-to-hand combat skillz she picked up during her spell in the Corps) and protect her sandwich (who seems completely oblivious to the danger at hand).

We attribute our success in this matter to early detection: our sensors picked up a not-totally-unpleasant sound being emitted by the assailant...it sounded like it was saying "Oaxaca, Oaxaca" over and over. But that doesn't really make sense, does it? I mean, there wasn't anything remotely Mexican about the sandwich:

















It's definitely more of a "Italian sub" vibe: cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes, lettuce, aged Gouda, oregano, balsamic vinegar and mayonnaise. Psst: don't tell, but I had a bite of this while Mara was fighting off Mr. Oaxaca Oaxaca, it was just like Blimpie used to make.

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Below: one of many severely endearing old photos of my mama as a lil' chillun.






















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best pizza in amsterdam.





















2010 UPDATE: Since this seems to be one of my more Googleable pages, I thought I should let you all down gently: there was no Great Pizza Hunt that year, or the next, or the next. There probably won't be one this year. Because this brother is on a diet...one that pizza ain't on.

But I still have my ducky ear to the ground, and so I pick up tiny scraps of pizza info here and there. And as of May 2010, here are what I hear are the best pizzas in Amsterdam:

La Perla
Da Portare Via
Yam Yam
Renato's
Forno Communale

and after I wrote this I noticed that my list is almost exactly the same as dutchgrub's, so it must be right, right?

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ORIGINAL POST: It's taken me a while to become convinced of this, but I now think it's true: Amsterdam doesn't write about its food the way that other cities do. Google "best pizza in New York" for example. 10,000 hits. Sure, some of them, probably many of them, are pizza places boasting about having the best pizza in New York. Plus, it's New York. Substitute "Atlanta" for New York and you still get 3,000 hits. Google "best pizza in Amsterdam". I've currently got more fingers on one hand than you'll get results. Yes, I'm Googling in English. "Pizzatest" gets you 250 results, but almost none of them are useful. "Beste pizza's" and "Amsterdam" gets you 150 hits. I'm sure there's a Dutch version of the phrase that will get you a few more hits, but in general you should be getting my point.

There's another problem with food writing in Amsterdam that I'm itching to write about but I can't really get to the heart of it without directly dissing the taste buds and/or motives of several people, and yeah I'm just not really in the mood to do that the justice it deserves creatively (but Undercover Glutton, you're first on my list, and JvD you're next).

But whatever. One publication that has done a little bit of this "best of" business is the free weekly magazine NL20. They've done several tests, and while the format is OK, there are some serious flaws: in the pizza test, for example, only two pizzerias ranked higher than an 8, with most of them ranking below a 5. Certainly there are more than 2 places making edible pizza in the city, right?

So I'm going to declare that a Best Pizza in Amsterdam hunt is underway, or at least a Good Pizza in Amsterdam Somewhere Near our Apartment hunt, and even if Het Parool beats us to the publication of pizzatest results, this post is proof positive that we thought of it first. Google it, you'll see.

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Here's where I'm going to keep the (subject to change) list of pizzerias to hit.

Yam Yam

Da Portare Via
Fellini, Renato's
La Festa (on the Hazenstraat, not the Kinkerstraat)
Lo Stivale d'Oro
Italia Oggi
Pasta Vino
Da Damiano
Le Quattro Stagioni
Lagonda (one of the few Turkish-Italian hybrids we'll try, also Palorma maybe).

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