30.7.09

el taco del fish.













We, the last people in the civilized world to do so, finally have our very own wireless at home so we can stop stealing the neighbors'. Welcome to Scimmieland!

+++

It's a fish taco repeat tonight (in combination with The Wire Season 5). This slaw we're making is really aces.

+++

chipotle slaw.

+++

1/2 head red cabbage (2 cups or so?)
1 onion, quartered
1 plump chipotle in adobo
3/4 cup mayonnaise, possibly less
juice of 2 limes
salt to taste

We've been shzooming up the cabbage and onion together until they're chopped fine. Take them out of the processor and put them in a mixing bowl. Add the chipotle, the mayo, and the lime juice to the processor, and blend until chipotle is integrated completely. Add this to the bowl with the cabbage and onion, stir to combine.

imagine a blueberry, revisited.













Last night a gaggle of us went over to Casa Mega5ubtle for dinner, and those bitches plumb outdid themselves. I mean, yes we've known for a while now that JFK has seriously mastered Marcella's onion frittata (below, top), so its calm and simple awesomeness was seriously unshocking.

What was mildly shocking was a sinkful of clams (above), which is an excellent idea that I never have, I guess cause our fish guy never has them or keeps them out of sight. These lucky little dudes spent some time with some rosemary, garlic, tomatoes, and beer, and then we non-mollusks celebrated their recent good fortune by biting them right on their clammy little heads.

One of my favorite things somehow managed to elude my camera, I think I was just very excited to relocate it from my plate to my mouth: Marcella's eggplant cakes (maybe that's not the name, but I think this is the recipe). It could also be that they're not the most photogenic bastards on earth, but whatever...that's a dang good eggplant recipe.

And then, my other favorite thing. I'm not the biggest dessert-eater on the planet. You may have noticed. I mean, I'm big, but......hahhahhahaa. But seriously, folks. There are people who look forward to dessert, and I am not one of them.

This can possibly be traced back to a recent lack of American-style pie. Last night was the most satisfying dessert I've had in a long time, my humble apologies to anyone else who's made dessert for me recently.

I really wish I had a decent picture of a cut piece (KK now has one, thanks!), but what you're looking at is blueberry pie with a supersubtle orange zest and lavender crust (based on this Dorie Greenspan recipe that we've all been eyeing for some time). One piece was not enough, but that's where I stopped due to space limitations. I hope to have another crack at this baby tomorrow. Yes, I'm kind of having an Agent Cooper moment.

+++

All this thinking about pie has reminded me that Klary should try some shoo-fly pie when she hits PA in a couple months.

And here's the Dorie Greenspan thread on eGullet where Miss Dorie herself pops up from time to time to answer questions.

+++



26.7.09

watch your breath.

















Oversaturate much motherfucker?

+++

Fish tacos are not like regular tacos. For one thing, their name sounds like a euphemism. For another, they are way easier to fuck up than most other tacos. Fortunately for us, we did no such thing this evening. This is mostly thanks to the lovely and talented Mara.

Instructions: Take a way-huger-than-necessary flour tortilla (because that's all we could find on a Sunday), put it on a griddle so it gets some dark spots on it. Put a layer of crisp and crunchy red cabbage slaw down (made with lime juice, mayonnaise and onions). Do NOT EVER use any kind of lettuce or wiltable green instead of cabbage, or you will be sorry.

Add your seasoned and broiled fish (we used cod spiced with chili powder, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, and cumin). Top with some pico de gallo. Add a slather of guacamole. Add a drizzle of chipotle mayonnaise. Finally, add a sprinkle of cilantro, and close the damn thing up. Eat carefully: it drips.

+++

23.7.09

brokeacity.

















Above: this is what I look like when I run out of beer.

+++

Ah, the good ol' days. Beer. Terraces. We are sooooooooo broke-ass city at the moment, definitely unusually so, almost funnily so. It reminds me of a bad spell in college where I only had five dollars left in the bank, which I needed to get at, but the ATMs on campus had a minimum $10 withdrawal so I couldn't get it out. I had to borrow five dollars from someone to deposit into my bank account, and then withdraw my last five dollars. Cue violins, drizzle, and some shitty Grey's Anatomy montage music.

(I'm pretty sure I know what I bought with my last five dollars: eight boxes of Kraft Mac 'N' Cheese, eight packages of "Oriental-flavor" Ramen, and a jar of Prego. I don't believe I consumed a single green vegetable during my time spent in the Florida education system.)

It's not as bad as that right now, and we know The Poorness will end in a couple or three months, but for a while we have some serious bargain eating to look forward to. Tonight's dinner cost about 3 euros and was almost Thoroughly Repeatable. I fucked it up a bit by not exactly following what is undoubtedly an excellent Madhur Jaffrey recipe: one of my significant modifications to it was the only thing wrong with it. Here's what should have happened:

+++

roasted cauliflower masala with raita (in progress).

+++

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into 1/4-inch slices for eG-style roasting
walnut oil to coat
1/8 tsp nigella/kalonji seeds

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled
4-8 tbsp ghee, depending on your conscience (the original uses "vegetable oil")

1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 canned Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 fresh green chile, chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions: Heat oven to 250C.

Puree onion, garlic, ginger, and oil in food processor. Add to wok and fry carefully for 5 minutes. Transfer to saucepan, add last nine ingredients and turn to low, let simmer for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, coat cauliflower lightly with walnut oil, sprinkle with salt and nigella, and roast, turning every 10 minutes until nicely browned (usually 30-40 minutes).

Add roasted cauliflower to sauce, serve with raita.

+++

raita.

+++

1 cucumber
500gr yogurt
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp nigella seeds

Grate cucumber. Stir yogurt briskly until smooth. Add cucumber and cumin, salt, and pepper to yogurt and combine. Sprinkle with cayenne and nigella, serve.

+++

22.7.09

zomerstop.






















Above: our housemate Ingrid and her homemade Dirk dress in the Metro.

+++

This is the first year in a while where I've both

1) taken a summer vacation that included leaving the city
2) felt like I deserved one because I'd been working hard

so congratulations to me, sure, but now? Summer's kiss is over, baby....o-ver.

+++

I mean, it's not really over, August is the emptiest month in town, I shouldn't have anything to do, etc. But it feels somehow wise to be putting my party hat back in its holster or drawer or wherever it goes, and rejoining our semi-productive year already in progress.

+++

17.7.09

fishering.












The title is referring to some MFK Fisher I'm reading, I thought I might have something intelligent to say about it, but apparently not yet.

So let's geek out. I made this yesterday for someone's birthday party (a party I was not attending). I made it because we had all of the ingredients already and The Birthday Party wanted just one more thing, just in case.

And: it's great. Especially cold, a day later, which is something I know only because the dish never actually made it to the party. Mebbe I post my adaptation of the recipe soon, mebbe as soon as we get around to introducing it to the grilled shrimp that (I think) it so desperately wants to be paired with. I mean, yes, lamb would be more obvious, but they have such cute faces.

+++

Photos: taken while biking down the Haarlemmerstraat on the way to the BIMhuis last night (above); my view from the terrace of the Star Ferry cafe below the BIM (below); De Wittenkade two days ago where the birthday party boat that my chickpeas didn't go to left from (bottom).

+++

Via MommyWire: my beloved Richardson's burned to the ground yesterday. Glad I went last time. And the time before. Looks like it was a completely avoidable fire as well, possibly caused by the application of flammable roofing materials in the heat of a typical Phoenix summer day (115°F/46°C).

+++



16.7.09

the fandom limb.



Fandom is funny. I thought I was cured of it forever, but perhaps not totally.

+++

We used to be big fans of a certain band. When I say big fans, I mean we saw them live three or five times and listened to their music with unusual frequency for a couple of years (1995-1997). Yes, we were in a somewhat different musical world then, but I still completely understand the things we saw in them, not the least potent of which (awk?) was their hugely charismatic lead singer and his brutally snide lyrics.

One of me and Moop's first road trips together was to New Orleans, a trip completely built around seeing this band for the first time. In addition to the generally great and memorable time we had, full of new romanticness, shrimp po-boys, and punishing summer heat...the show was fantastic, easily ensuring at least another couple years' worth of devotion from us.

But as it can happen with bands, 1997 was to be their last great year. They released one more thoroughly different and disappointing disc and then called it quits, much to their credit.

+++

Fast forward 15 years. Because I'm so fucking connected in this town, I get a chance to see the aforementioned lead singer's newish band for free at a sold-out show in the big room at the Paradiso. Not only that, but I get a chance to hang out backstage and drink free Heineken and eat free ranch-flavored Doritos. Awesome, I know.

Not only that, but after the backstage refreshments get old, nine of us, including the aforementioned lead singer, head out to De Zotte for drinks. OK now this seems pretty much like a dream from 1997.

As I mentioned previously, before this evening, I was pretty convinced that I was done with being starstruck: I'm old, I've hung out backstage at Paradiso before, I've met and even befriended quite a few former heroes, I've also met some that were complete and utter dicks, etc. I should know better is what I'm saying.













I SMS Mara on the way to the bar and tell her that I'm going out for drinks with what's-his-name. She is understandably chagrined, because she is not on her way to De Zotte. I'm walking behind The Target on the way there, and I'm completely unnerved by my inability to break my own personal protocol for starting conversations ("Say, that was some show back there!"..."Hey, way back in '95 we drove 10 hours to see you guys in New Orleans...dude, you rocked!"...these are things I won't say).

We get there, and...to make a long story short: nothing happens. The bar is too crowded, we can't all sit together, there's no way for me to make some kind of approach without feeling wholly pathetic and lame. So I don't. We're there for an hour, and my only mementos of the evening are a brief but pleasant conversation with the new guitar player about zydeco music, and this superclandestine (I think I took it while I was ordering a drink, camera hidden under my arm but balanced on a salt shaker for stability) picture of The Target talking to some fanboy-I-didn't-want-to-be at the bar (trust me, I could hear some of their conversation):












+++

ahoy, maties.






















Above: cook's treat. These are the onions that were marinating with the buttermilk, Tabasco, and chicken (onions which I then fried, post-marination). Below: my chicken.

Not bad, let down a little by a too-thin crust and not-so-great chicken (I got it from the halal place across the street, very cheap, but I think I may have gotten what I paid for). But I think my seasoning was almost right. There could have been twice as much black pepper in the seasoned flour, and twice as much Tabasco in the marinade, changes which I will make to the recipe now.

Regarding crispiness. OK, we ate the chicken four hours after it was fried, but the coating was a little disappointing in this respect. I may try a bit of cornmeal in the dredge, a la Lee Bros., if there's a next time.

Due to seating logistics, I didn't get many pictures of the food after it left the house. Mara made some petite and authentic buttermilk biscuits which were devoured in toto.

I don't even know if that's a real language, but it was a true pleasure to see your average homely biscuits getting so much love as an exotic foodstuff. They were being treated almost as laboratory subjects (OK, let's see what happens if we try a biscuit with butter and honey, OK now one with barbecue sauce and butter, OK how about one with just barbecue sauce, mm-hmm, yes, etc. OK, Re-test!). That's the nice thing about petite biscuits: you can eat 6 of them.

Unfortunately we have no pictures of them (happily, KK does). Nor of my last-minute smoked mackerel rillettes (fine), the corn salad (mmm, also fine, not the best ever, I miss jalapenos), homemade pickles (way undersweetened), mojitos (yum), or Nanou's coconut-raisin-thing (right up my alley). The dessert we do see is a refreshingly light nectarine and ginger cake via the KK (that I wish I had some of right now, it would be perfect with coffee). Thanks everyone!

+++

smoked mackerel rillettes.

150-200g smoked mackerel, skin removed
about 1 cup of finely chopped chives
4 tbsp sour cream or creme fraiche OR 2 tbsp sour cream and 2 tbsp softened butter
10-20 good grindings of black pepper (unless your mackerel is already pepper-encrusted)
juice of half a lemon
1-2 tbsp prepared horseradish, depending on strength (optional)
possibly salt to taste

Combine everything thoroughly with a fork. Chill for at least an hour. Serves 4-6 as an appetizer spread on crackers or buttered toast.

+++











14.7.09

you want that all from the same chicken?












And you don't stop. It really is fantastic and wonderful that our social calendar was so happy to see us when we returned from the States. The damn thing just about bowled us down Hobbes-style when we got home, and then it proceeded to cover our faces with sloppy wet kisses for the next 10 days straight. Yesterday was the briefest of respites, and now here we go again...

The Vulgar Boatman has secured access to a cruising vessel on the morrow, and a party of six of us shall embark on an extremely modest dinner cruise, setting sail for destinations unknown, etc. It should be fun. Continuing our immersion in all things Southern, The Piggle and I have decided to make fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits. Along with the much-lauded corn salad, some homemade pickles, and who knows what else.

This is a good news/bad news kind of situation. Bad news: I've never made fried chicken before. Good news: eGullet has a six-page thread on how to make fried chicken. I'll be putting a recipe together based on my notes from that thread, and will place it right here for safekeeping. My recipe has also started to take on some characteristics of Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis's recipe from here.

+++

fried chicken.

+++

16 drumsticks
1 liter buttermilk
4 tbsp Tabasco
3 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
an onion, sliced

2 cups flour
4 tbsp corn starch
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne

1 liter peanut oil for frying

+++

Marinate overnight with buttermilk, onion, salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Drain. Let chicken come almost to room temperature. Dredge in seasoned flour and let dry for 3o minutes. Fry in 325-365F oil for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on rack.

Apparently if your chicken is blackening or cooking too quickly you could transfer those pieces to a warmed oven to finish cooking.

13.7.09

k? k.













More about these photos soon.

+++

We brought back some Georgia-style BBQ sauce for KK, and she wisely asked me, "What's the best thing to do with it?"

The answer to this is compromised a bit by our lack of proper grilling equipment.

For me, BBQ means pork, this should surprise no one. Here's a pretty typical recipe for BBQ pork ribs, where the BBQ sauce is used to baste the ribs as they cook.

Here's a North Carolina-style recipe that does a good job of describing what to do when the pork is finished, but the cooking instructions assume you have a grill. This one has good instructions for using your stove instead, but the recipe itself looks way too vinegary. So I'm still looking. In any case, the BBQ sauce is used afterwards as a condiment on your pulled pork sandwich.

For a quicker fix, I also think that BBQ sauce is pretty great on a bacon-Swiss burger, or something like this maybe.

+++



12.7.09

mennonites, sweetness.












Because some friends have just planned a vacation that will take them through Pennsylvania Dutch country, I've been thinking about Mennonites a bit lately.

Back in 1979 or something (?), my family moved to Harleysville, PA, a tiny (population 8,000) and relatively remote rural suburb of Philadelphia. Maybe it wasn't considered a suburb then, but based on recent median family incomes, I can imagine that some people who work in Philadelphia are living out there these days, I don't know.

I don't remember everything about our time in Harleysville, but it's about as far back as I can go and still come up with 10 or so vividish memories. I remember my dad singeing off his eyebrows and arm hair while using a flammable liquid to incinerate a pile of dead leaves in our front yard. He became a fireball. We all thought he was dead for sure.

I remember a female friend on whom I had a tremendous crush getting pregnant in 1981 (making her, what? 13 years old? No joke). I remember thoroughly misunderstanding the lyrics to "Waiting on a Friend" and somehow connecting them to this dastardly, crushing situation.

I also possibly remember my mom briefly briefing me about the Mennonites, something like "they're a bit different", but don't think I had any real idea of what specifically might be different. Appliance use. Maybe headgear.

Turns out the house next door was chock full o' Mennonites, a lovely woman named Eleanor, her constantly-gone truck driver husband Dick, and their two (I'm searching for adjectives here) healthily teenage daughters, Suzie and Debbie, who etched themselves indelibly into my young and malleable brain via a series of mechanisms for which I am eternally grateful.

+++

Peaches? Were we talking about peaches? The thin thin line that connects all of this is that, in addition to everything else that was unforgettable about the women next door, Eleanor made incredible pies. Her cherry and apple were great, but the pie that I'm thinking of specifically is a sour cream and peach pie, and I can still see the gleam she'd get in her eye whenever she'd ask me if I wanted a piece.

Of course I always did. After the first couple of pies she could see that I was hopelessly hooked, and she'd then start telling me a few days in advance, "I'm thinking about making pie this week, what kind do you want?"

My point is, to this day I rarely see a peach without thinking about this pie.
I'm wondering if this recipe, which I adapted from here, is something like what she used to do.

+++

sour cream and peach pie.

+++

pastry for a 9-inch pie
7 or 8 peaches, pitted and halved
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream

Place peach halves tightly together in the unbaked crust. Beat eggs, add sugar and sour cream, mix thoroughly. Pour mixture over peaches and bake at 220C for 15 minutes and then at 175C for 35 minutes. Cool. Eat.

+++

11.7.09

the silver skillet.



I was just recommending the Silver Skillet to Zora, thinking I was tipping her off to a hidden gem, and then I unearth this little segment from the Food Network...I had no idea they'd gotten famous (though the new T-shirts for sale on their website should have been a hint).

I've probably mentioned this, but I used to eat breakfast at the Skillet all the time back when I had a real job: it was just down the street from a large, very large, ok, the biggest soft-drink manufacturer in the world. I had to visit them a couple of times a week, always wearing a navy blue or charcoal gray SUIT (and TIE, though this could include colors as racy as maroon or mustard), because there was a fucking DRESS CODE, in the blasting sauna of a sunny Atlanta summertime...goddamn, did that suck.

But the breakfasts were good. Biscuits! Jelly! Bacon! Ham! Grits! Gravy! At the time though, I have to admit I really didn't have any idea that there was anything unusually special about the Skillet. It was conveniently located, the food was good, the waitresses were real sweet, and it felt like a real place with real people and a bit of history, and I liked all of that. I guess maybe that's rare enough these days to warrant a visit from FN.

+++

Just heard that Ann's Snack Bar might be passing into new hands, sorry I missed it.

+++

10.7.09

photography! mine! sucks!













I'm on a run of really hideous picture-taking, and for that I apologize. In happier news, I'm on a (very short) run of good Amsterdam eating: dinner at Issa was very good....simple, unpretentious cooking with very fresh seafood, along with the always-unexpected bonus of sweet, efficient Japanese service.

Pictured below are fried baby sardines (almost perfect); broccoli with grated daikon and cabbage (tasted like my Nan's broccoli salad in a very comforting way); fried scallop with something like a tonkatsu sauce (a bit like scallop doughnuts, these were great); takoyaki (octopus balls, very much like okonomiyaki but with a softer texture); and banana tempura.

Not pictured are the 700 other things we ate (there were four of us): beef tataki, tuna yakitori; a very simple clam soup containing 12 or so clams on the half-shell; kabocha squash tempura with green tea salt for dipping your slices into; horse mackerel sashimi; a pile of futomaki and nigiri (which, while good, were the least interesting things we ate), steamed spinach, sesame-marinated bean sprouts, cucumber salads, etc. The last pre-dessert bit was just about the best thing of the night: nasu dengaku, eggplant broiled with miso (recipe here).

Highlights: the scallop, the beef, the eggplant, the kabocha....the sardines...actually, there wasn't much that wasn't a highlight. Maybe the bill. This is a very easy place to spend lots of money. Nonetheless, it's a great way to eat. If/when I go back I will be skipping the sushi and focusing on all the little fried and grilled bits.

Afterwards, OT301.





9.7.09

on fitsum.







Here's the Wikipedia entry for Eritrean food until I get a chance to say anything other than Fenan Very Good. I could go back again tonight.

Sorry for the above photo, which looks rather like attractively-arranged barf. But I was among non-food-photographers last night and my culinary snaps were taken infrequently and with extreme nonchalance.

I think my favorite thing about the food at Fenan is that every single thing on the platter tastes good: even the salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce isn't the decorative afterthought that it can sometimes be, it's dressed in a well-considered and perfectly seasoned vinaigrette.

Andy is tight with the owner, Fitsum (who I didn't realize was our server last visit), and so I found out that Fitsum's wife normally does the cooking while he waits tables. However, last night he was doing the cooking, and I thought it was every bit as good, possibly better.

After the restaurant was closed, Fitsum came and sat with those of us who were still conscious and helped us reduce the volumes of port and whiskey that Andy received for his birthday...oy.

+++

Since the Birthday Boy picked up last night's dinner (a fantastic tradition), that leaves us free to spend even more money that we don't have on tonight's dinner: Issa, a Japanese place near the Olympic Stadium.

+++

























And then, much later...


8.7.09

luck.

















Am I really threatening to write something relevant about local food again? We'll see: I just found out that I'm going back to Fenan Klein Afrika tonight for Andy's birthday, and I'm pretty darn happy about it. Maybe there will even be some photographic action.

+++

5.7.09

independence day.












Are you as surprised as I am about all these posts? I'm really just killing time until this jetlag thing is over.

+++

As you may have seen, I didn't cook very much when I was in Atlanta, I mostly just ate fair-to-middling BBQ (I just didn't have the time, opportunity, or convenient transportation to get anywhere good!). In fact, I done gained me a few pounds. So now it's back to cooking, and back to a bit of restraint.

Pickles are good for restraint, I find. And they also address my current fixation on all things Southern. Something I wanted to make in Atlanta and never got around to it was Watermelon Rind Pickles. I shall commence pickling directly.

Vegetarianism is also good for restraint (how could it not be?). I do love tempeh, but only fried. I need to find a good recipe for baking it. Are you it?

As an aside: nothing restraint-related about this, but I saw a Colombian presentation for grilled chicken today, marinated in coffee and coconut milk. Interesting. This recipe may be a good place to start, though it's currently missing the coconut milk.

Also not very restraint-oriented, but not thoroughly decadent: I think I will need to finally make some Brunswick Stew before too long. I ate it just about every time it was on the menu this vacation (which was often), and I only had one real clunker: DBA's was not to my taste. I don't mind some lima beans in my stew, but theirs were bit on the mealy side. And potatoes? That's a no-no for me.

Not remotely restraint-related: buttermilk biscuits. Here's another recipe.

Someone is totally out of control: me. Maybe I should just eat breakfast.

OK, I will, but here's a good looking slaw-ish recipe.

Shopping list for today: salmon, arugula, avocados, beets, mustard, watermelon, feta, soy milk, tempeh, tofu, eggs, parmesan.

+++





















Stumbled across a flyer for a show I went to in 1991. The Reivers were great that night, I don't even know if I knew that they were going to break up five shows later. I think I may have known. The thing I remember most about that show is drinking too many Mickey's Big Mouths and semi-making out with a V89 DJ who had never shown any interest in me before. I think she was only doing it to piss off my dear friend Jen who I was there with, which I'm pretty sure worked. I remember being mostly surprised about everything.

+++

4.7.09

retroperspective.






















We found a bunch of quite entertaining old photos back at the Tomanek compound yesterday, or two days ago, or whenever we left. I'm going to start posting them when I get a chance. Above, we have some douchebag mockery from pre-meltdown 2007 (which reminds me, LATFH). Below, a very serious picture from 2004.

















+++

Yes. So...rounding up some lessons learned and other miscellany from our most recent On The Road segment:

  • Sometimes you cash in. Because we used to travel a lot but don't so much anymore, we've had a ton of Frequent Flyer miles just sitting around for years now waiting to be annulled by one or more airlines' financial collapse. So we decided to dust them off for this last transatlantic flight by upgrading to first class.

    Was it worth it? I don't know: a Delta Frequent Flyer mile is equal to how many Euro these days? None. So, yes, considering that it didn't cost us any actual money, yes I would say that it was worth every bit of zero actual money.

    Complex calculations would be necessary to quantify the value of little things like adequate leg room, reclinability, and not having to sleep while touching elbows with a stranger. Not-so-complex calculations could assess the downside of babies (and their asshole parents) being allowed in first class. Not all babies, mind you, just those with asshole parents. But overall I think I can say that first class made flying less shitty. Oh, but the food? Not good.

  • Sometimes you miscalculate. One day I was shopping for Latin American exotica in a small Mexican/Peruvian grocery near the Big Chicken, and a woman came up to me. Here is an approximate transcript of our conversation:

    Her: (unintelligible)
    Me: I'm sorry, non habla Español.
    Her: (unintelligible)
    Me: non habla Español, sorry!
    Her: You don't speak English?
    Me: No I don't speak English.
    Her: Ah. Interesting...
    Me: Yes.

    What follows is four minutes of me pretending not to speak English. I think my thinking was that, if I didn't speak English or Spanish, I could avoid an awkward conversation. Wrong: it turns out that she is Kenyan and is happy to learn about other non-English-speaking cultures like mine.

    Her: (holding up can of corn) In my country we call this "maize". What do you call it in your country?
    Me: "Mais".
    Her: Ah....very interesting.
    Me: Yes.

    I felt bad after about ten seconds of this, because she seemed sweet and in fact it's possible that she may even have been hitting on me. But in a conversation, once you have pretended to not speak English, it is tough to change your position on this without appearing really crazy. So we talked for another three minutes about corn, and the weather, and then she left me there, silently congratulating herself on not being the most fucked-up immigrant in town.

  • Sometimes you say "meh". A couple Fridays ago when we were in Virginia-Highland, we were naturally looking for somewhere to eat. Somewhere interesting, dark, and within walking distance. We ended up at Pura Vida (watch out for annoying website music, menu here), one of Atlanta's 50 Best Restaurants, according to the AJC.

    It was HOT out, and the interior was a perfect antidote to the sweltering mess we'd been walking around in: cool breezes from ceiling fans everywhere, and so dark that we could barely see each other when we first went in.

    We sat at the bar and tried to return to a normal human body temperature via icy cold caipirinhas and mojitos. The cocktails were frankly perfect. The food? Not exactly bad in any way, but nothing I don't think we couldn't do ourselves, and nothing I would be in a hurry to order again. I'll take some of the blame for this, I ordered kind of conservatively: shrimp cocktail diablo with butternut gelee; duck confit with caramelized plantains; fried zucchini blossoms with smoked sour cream. All good, but just the tiniest bit boring. Upshot: we had a good time, but not really because of the food. And our bartender had a great laugh, like a honking goose, a total mismatch with his physical appearance.

  • Sometimes you run out of time. I never did get to a Waffle House. Or Chat Patti. Or a single one of the current barbecue darlings. Boo. But I'll be back in October.

  • Sometimes you forget what's exotic. One day when we went to Alon's, we bought a piece of stinky cheese, a bottle of rosé, and some flatbread crisps. 23 dollars, at least twice what we'd pay here. Cheese and wine prices in America continue to amaze.

  • Sometimes you reap what you sow. This was the first time I've been to Atlanta in the summer in many years, and seeing what came out of Jeanie's garden this trip made me want to Do That Myself.
+++

home again home again.






















Goodbye tomato overload. Goodbye Borders Books & Music and your stockroom prankster. Goodbye pulled pork (this is Interstate Bar-B-Que in Memphis, at the airport. From the moment you step off your plane, the entire Memphis airport smells like BBQ, and it's not just Interstate...there's a Corky's there as well). Again, not legendary, but better than most airport BBQ (you see my point).

We are now enjoying some serious jetlag.

+++