I would take a picture of myself right now but I don't need to b/c I found one on the internets, above.
When it comes to food prepared under the influence of the demon weed, Lance knew his shit: late-night cereal is where it's at. I like to serve mine (no Fruit Brute for me: I opt for the very responsible and adult All-Bran Flakes) with icy, icy cold milk, perfectly ripe bananas and a little maple syrup. And maybe some almonds sometimes. And yes, cartoons if possible, eighty-six the fuckin' ODing chicks.
This morning, caffeine galore after no coffee for a week. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
I'm going to the library today.
LATER THAT DAY:
The library was excellent. I was there for almost four hours, it's like a shopping mall for information, at least as good as this internet thing.
It's right next door to Sea Palace (below) for some reason. Does anyone actually eat there? I looked at the menu, 24 euros for Moo Goo Gai Pan.
The inside of the library is a bit on the mall-y side, but has enough hidden corners where you can get away from it all and go back in time for a while.
This post could actually describe the whole week: I've been inside for four days. It's been pretty OK.
I finally ventured out yesterday and my weakened consumerism immune system immediately fell prey to some impulse-oriented marketing (see above). Lay's, which I normally don't even almost enjoy before my eighth beer, is having a "Limited Edition" promotion, and this edition's wild and wacky flavors are "Spicy Reggae Chicken" and "Whiskey Cocktail". They're only 0.99 cents each, so I obviously I had to buy some, those dirty fuckers.
I'm sure at least one person is thinking, "Mmm, say, whisky-flavored potato chips, why didn't I think of that, what a timesaver, two great tastes, etc" but I should explain for the non-locals that, all indications to the contrary, "Whiskey Cocktail" does not refer to an actual whiskey cocktail.
No, here in the wonderful country where my residence is permanent "whiskey cocktail" is a mayonnaise-based cocktail sauce for fried fish, shrimp, mussels, and occasionally frites and probably lots of other things under the right late-night conditions.
The chips, you ask. Not good. Yes, the Whiskey Cocktail ones taste like, hmm, yes, whiskey cocktail sauce, that's it exactly, but the chips are flimsy and boring and not hot like most of the things you would put the sauce on in its natural environment.
And the Spicy Reggae Chicken ones. Wblecch, and that's not a typo. They're coated with something that's supposed to resemble jerk seasoning, but they end up tasting like a cheap women's fragrance based on jerk seasoning, something I imagine Rihanna's chemists might come up with when they're not working on her personal weed crop, something called maybe "Scotchie" or "Mon". Avoid.
Above: Poppy's 9/11 birthday party, with both exploding and non-exploding cake.
Used to be a time when I'd "borrow" things from my parents' cookbook library, like "permanently". Then came a time when I'd wonder why they had so few cookbooks. Now's the time when their cookbook shelves are a-heavin' again and I'm finally, just now, this year, old enough to not steal any of their shiny new books.
I'd had my eye on their copy of Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Bible for a few years now, because even though it looks horribly generic and cheap on the outside, it's actually chock full o' smart, useful recipes for just about every fucking thing you'd ever want to do on a grill. Lots and lots of interesting Indonesian and Malaysian things, a host of unusual Caribbean things, and even some Iranian and Afghani things I'd never seen or heard of before. Plus dozens of useful, accurate, authentic salads, sides, rubs, sauces, marinades, etc etc etc. I think it's a great book.
So this year I decided that I'm a big boy now, time to man up, so I bought one used on Amazon for 10 bucks. I made something nice out of it in Phoenix a few weeks ago, a coriander-grilled cod with a fresh northern Thai relish of tomatoes, basil, fish sauce, and lime, simple but great. And tonight is a non-grill adaptation, this French Antillean thing below.
panga with french west indian caper sauce.
4 catfish or cod or other firm white fish fillets
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp black pepper
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Scotch bonnet/habanero pepper, minced
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp EVOO
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp minced Scotch bonnet/habanero
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
And, as always in September, summer nights are just suddenly gone and dinnertime looks like the above snapshot from our hallway window into the backyard.
And also kind of like always in September, I tell myself that this year I am determined to make the most of The Darkness and be a productive motherfucker all winter long.
Today's maiden voyage involved that thing I mentioned about finding a place to put everything in the kitchen, which meant cleaning out the kitchen cupboards.
Which meant discovering 4 half-used jars of rock-hard peanut butter, 2.5 sizable boxes of powdered cocoa, that same crusty old bottle of Chinese black vinegar that I never ever use but insist on keeping, a pound of buckwheat flour, a completely crystallized jar of date syrup, some literally 12-year-old marjoram, a canister of powdered milk from the gulab jamun experience that will never be used for anything else, and a number of unfortunately unlabeled jars or bags of a substance that is either cornmeal or semolina, we can never tell the difference.
And so, yes, that made me do this: while realizing that this would immediately decimate any stray testosterone that might be hiding out somewhere in my system, I nonetheless felt compelled to....
Above: one of the very best things I tasted in a week of great ATL eating: one Ritz cracker + one pat of butter + one good oil-preserved anchovy filet, really unfortunate that you can't just pop them in your mouth repeatedly (after five of them you've basically eaten half a stick of butter). I only had one. One great one.
While it was lovely to see everyone and it's very good to be back, one of the slightly frowny things about returning home is readapting to our kitchen. We have too much stuff. American kitchens also have too much stuff, but they're designed with too much stuff in mind, so really unless you're a truly dangerous hoarder, it's entirely possible to reach a state where everything is put away. I know this sounds like a terribly mature, possibly even adult goal, but: in my spare time this week I'm going to try and make it possible to put everything in our kitchen away.
(Did I mention how amazing it is that we received our permanent residence permits? It's just one of those back-of-the-mind anxiety clearers that doesn't seem to happen often enough, something that's been an unresolvable worry that prevents you from making longer-term plans in fear of attracting the attention of the Great Magnet)?
Ai, train of thought. What I wanted to talk about here was how comforting it is to be back in our old kitchen in Atlanta, a kitchen now owned and operated by the Tomanek Assisted Living/Bar & Grill crew. It's hard to remember that The Gimp and I only really ran the place for a few years before coming here, I guess because it seems like we never really stopped living there, even if it's only "in person" for a few weeks a year.
Someday in these pages I want to talk about what we did to that house when we moved in, and when I say "we", I mean the Tomaneks. But I think we need to buy a new scanner first, and by "we" I mean me.
Hey hey all I'm talking about is the end of summer here, dark and cold back in The Pod with my homedwellers. It was a superconcentrated endless summer USA trip this time, I didn't feel like I was in any one place long enough to get anything done except the very basics of trying to connect with scattered family and friends and whatnot, which, yes, is the most important thing to get done anyway so yes mission accomplished.
Now I'm back in the Pod dealing with normal night-time issues, and realizing that at night: if I can be awake, if I can physically stay awake, then I want to be awake, because I'm usually not done talking to the Spide yet when she falls asleep, but then again I never am ever done talking to the Spide so anyway yes mission accomplished.
My point is, I think I need to aim harder for not being able to physically stay awake by the stroke of midnight. This is not news.
Photo above is of a book cover drawn by Conor O'Neill, an artist whom we've talked about before here and here. And here's a candid photo of the man himself at the dinner table.
Winding things up here in the ATL, this visit has seemed ludicrously short. I didn't even have time for my normal nostalgia hunt, but luckily there are things like this just lying around, so I don't have to look too hard.
OK, the absolute best thing about making too much green chile pork? Having someone turn it into some badass huevos rancheros the next morning (what you're seeing, from the bottom up: corn tortilla, green chile pork, an egg over easy, pico de gallo, black beans, queso fresco, and a shot of habanero sauce)
To an American beer drinker, a "growler" is a big ol' jug for transporting craft beer. To a British person, a "growler" is an unruly female pubic area, in general not a compliment, so they'd undoubtedly find the "Growler Tasting Choices" bit hilaaaariously funny.
I'm in the ATL. Above: the standard welcoming antipasti at Tomanek Assisted Living & Bar and Grill. Below: it's Durians Weekend starting today, and I am the cook for the first night. I roasted yet another pork shoulder (Boston butt they call it here) and split it into poblano chile pork and ancho chile pork, to be served with corn tortillas, red onions, pico de gallo, maybe pineapple-serrano salsa, etc etc etc. The pork took about 5 hours at 325F, longer than I'd planned, so Dennis and I were smashing garlic and squeezing limes from 22:30 to 23:30 last night.
They're both super-simple recipes, the red is just six or eight whole pureed anchos plus guajillo and chipotle powders; the green is four fire-roasted poblanos, a can of tomatillos, and a handful of chopped pickled jalapenos. Plus an onion and half a head of garlic each. They both use the same seasoning from the shoulder I did in Phoenix (cumin, oregano, cinnamon, clove, black pepper). The red has an extra pinch of cinnamon; the green has a touch of honey and lime.
It's my dad's birthday today. Yes, 9/11. Whenever one of the twins asks "Why is everyone so sad today?" we tell them "Because it's Poppy's birthday."
That's him on the left, in 1984 maybe, with my darling sister.
It should be obvious by this point that no wondrous blogging is going to happen before I leave Phoenix: too much to do. Both real things to do like going to basketball games and grocery shopping and iCloud troubleshooting, and non-real things to do like watching an entire day of NFL football with the parentals. Two days in a row.
My dear boy J-Kim occasionally talks about spending the entire day on the couch watching football soccer, and I usually shake my head or tsk at him parentally, but....I have re-seen the light: man, that's a mindlessly relaxing day. Somehow it even feels like you accomplished something.
It totally took me back to my pre-responsibility American Sundays (so, ages 8 through 23?) when I'd wait all morning for NFL Today (the pre-game chit-chat) to come on at noon, then watch the 1pm game til 4pm, then watch the 4pm game til 7pm, and sometimes there'd even be another game afterwards. Sheer lazy bliss.
Of course all of this NFL action requires food. I made a handful of nice things during the 400,000 commercials, and I'll document them here soon.
I'd love to have a Celebrity Deathmatch between La Perla's Calabrese di Spilinga (buffalo mozzarella, 'nduja, tomato sauce, chile oil) and Pizzeria Bianco's Rosa (Parmesan, red onion, rosemary, crushed pistachio, excellent olive oil).
A Deathmatch hosted by my mouth, every seven days or so. Today at Bianco we also had a Margherita (tomato, homemade mozzarella, basil) for benchmarking purposes and a Wiseguy (fennel sausage, homemade mozzarella, onions) to taste the sausage, but the Rosa made everything else fade into the background, it's pretty perfect.
So, stellar pizza, the Rosa is probably in my top 3 of all time; the Margherita, top 10 (the Wiseguy not at all, weirdly bland). But what would I think if we'd had to wait an hour or two for a table? Today we just showed up and walked in and were eating about 15 minutes later. The consensus among us was that we'd be happy to eat there again, but we probably wouldn't go out of our way to do it and we definitely wouldn't wait in line.
In writing about La Condesa, I said that I'd had better tacos since I'd been in town. Those better tacos would be Barrio Queen and America's Taco Shop (remember that the "America" here is a woman's name, not flag-waving).
When I first put ATS on my list of targets a couple years ago, there were only two or three locations. Now it's expanded into a real, franchised chain, they're popping up all over the place. I popped myself into one of the original locations downtown b/c I happened to be in the hood.
I think it was around 3pm, it was definitely hot as balls outside (I walked 3 or 4 blocks to get there, so, you know, ten minutes b/c Phoenician blocks are mammoth), I was the only person there, I ordered one taco al pastor (left, with avocado and pineapple) and one carne asada. The al pastor was great, better than Barrio Queen's, but the carne asada left me wondering if I really like carne asada at all: it's just overcooked beef, thinly sliced. Salsa, radish, and lime helped a lot though: anyway, they were $2.50 each or something, a nice little lunch.
I would love to hit Filiberto's just for comparison's sake today since it's right around the corner, but we're going to Pizzeria Bianco for lunch and my CRON can't handle it.
Eyes glazing over due to an incredibly sloppy and/or over-officiated Arizona-Seattle game (21 penalties in all). During yet another commercial, it appears that I am, yes, baking. Mmm, ok, not really, I'm making a glaze, for this.
After basketball at the Y yesterday, dad and I went into downtown Phoenix for some shopping and to drop in onLa Condesa's salsa bar.
I expected counter service only, but there were tables and waitresses and yes all the normal restaurant things, plus one non-normal restaurant thing: at the back of the room to the right of the serious-looking woman there's a salad bar-looking thing that contains 12 or 14 salsas.
Our first trip to the salsa bar yielded (from left): seven chile; salsa roja; pink radish; jicama/scallion; strawberry; chipotle; peanut; pecan. I thought they were all fresh and well-executed, though a couple of them probably stretched the definition of "salsa", notably the very crema-like pecan salsa (far right). Dad was totally smitten by the strawberry salsa, he tried to get some to take home but they don't do that.
If I say that the tacos themselves were my least favorite since I've been here, that's not really a negative review at all, I've just been eating very well. I had the black mole chicken (front) and a beer-battered whitefish with slaw, temporarily vegan dad had a poblano/mushroom thing. Like I said, these were fine by themselves, but they were elevated into the "good" bracket by the salsa overload...but I mean for me eight good salsas could turn a dusty pebble into a satisfying lunch.
No lie, this is where I was at 8am. That's my nephew Cole wearing #14. It was actually pretty great fun: I haven't been to a live game in so long I forgot that in real life the players can actually hear you shouting at them.
Now off to downtown Phoenix for a little shopping and a little La Condesa, winner of Best Salsa in last year's New Times Best Of 2011.
So those wonderfully tranquil and vacation-y pictures of me playing in the pool with the dogs were taken this morning. The above picture was taken in the front yard just after 5pm.
You know in the movies, typically desert-based movies, sometimes somebody looks off into the distance and a horrified look takes over their features and they yell "عاصفة رملية" (or probably something more colloquial) and the main English-speaking character looks around in bewilderment saying, "What? What's he saying?" and then finally the main character turns around to see a looming, giant mile-high cloud of sand approaching with silent, ominous swiftness.
Well that's what happened here today, minus the cinematic clichés. Here they call it a haboob, and I must say it's pretty cool.
This is an often-NSFW, mostly gluten-free kitchen notebook that also occasionally threatens to turn into something else and fails, thus remaining its same old cryptic and superficial self. These posts begin to fail to explain (start at the bottom).