seriously grrr.

It's time to finally admit that we have become rice eaters. Brown rice, specifically. It snuck into our diet as a gluten-free replacement for the bulgur we'd started eating a few years ago instead of white rice (long story), and lately we've been eating a lot of it, but we've almost been preparing it like it's something to be ashamed of, barely acknowledging its presence, hoping no one will notice it there. "Oh, that? That's just the rice."

No more, I say! I'm actually going to make "a rice dish" this evening to go along with a roasted garlic-rosemary chicken an attempt at the Italian-American mystery that is shrimp scampi. I'll still be using Saveur's cooking technique for the rice but with ingredients lifted from Cook's Illustrated.


brown rice with parmesan, lemon and herbs.

2 tbsp butter
1 small onion
1 cup brown rice
1.5 liters chicken broth
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmigiano
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp lemon juice

possibly: pine nuts, currants



reproduction thoroughly.

Last night's Japanese, which I should make a lot more often: tofu dengaku; Ottolenghi ginger-sesame cukes; salmon teriyaki; brown rice with butter and furikake; a little homemade wasabi mayo just in case. Not pictured: Bibb lettuce with Benihana dressing, really good.

BTW, I really can't say enough about Saveur's instructions for perfect brown rice, it's indeed perfect every time. Basically you cook the rice more like pasta: boil a lot of water (amount hypothetically doesn't matter but I use 1.5 liters for 1 cup of rice), rinse rice under cold water for 30 seconds, add rice to boiling water, boil uncovered for 30 minutes, dump rice into a strainer, drain for 10 seconds, return to pot and cover, steam for 10 minutes. Add butter and salt to taste.


You know, lots of people are bitching about the weather here, but to myself I'm spinning it as "most productive summer ever". No distracting sunny days to take your mind off your to-do list, no nights tossing restlessly in the sweltering heat, etc. Just 55°F and cloudy.


it's the time of the season for etc.

Above: Drew's Pub Quiz at The Tara (no longer anything resembling the Irish bar it used to be), our first night there, fun even though we came in dead last (we were the only two-person team). Drinkable-yet-affordable wine by the glass; pleasant people; moderately hard questions, etc. I'm sure we'll be back.


I decided in bed this morning that the answer to the question "when is the best time to visit Amsterdam" is either June or December. I'm basing this strictly on cheap and unusual entertainment options: this month has been so full of potential shit to do we have been thoroughly spoiled for choice. And December is the winter version of June, this-wise.

So between season closings (English for this? it's when a regularly occurring concert series has their last night of the season before closing in July and August...the Dutch for this is seizoensafsluiting), overdue socializing, friends from out of town, and especially special shows for unfortunately recently dead people, tonight is our last quiet night at home for the next several days.

And thus we are trying to have something light and healthy, so I'll be trying to do something Japanese.

Less healthily: I'm also reminding myself to try and eat at The General Muir next time I'm in the ATL. Also the next time I'm celebrating some weight-loss milestone, I should make this sandwich with mortadella, smoked mozzarella and pistachio pesto.


tofu dengaku.

400g tofu
3 tbsp miso
1 and 1/2 tbsp raw sugar
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sake (I replaced the mirin and sake with 2 tbsp shao xing and a little extra sugar)
2 tbsp dashi

These are not my directions yet: wrap tofu with paper towels and place it on a flat tray. Put a cutting board or a plate on top the tofu and let sit for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix dashi, sake, mirin, sugar, and miso in a sauce pan. Simmer it on low heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Set aside. Slice tofu into 1/2 inch thick rectangles and dry with paper towels. Lightly oil a baking tray for a toaster oven. Place tofu pieces on the tray. Cook tofu on high heat in the toaster oven for about 8 minutes, or until the surface is firm. Spread miso sauce on the tofu pieces and cook until sauce is warm.


benihana salad dressing.

1/4 cup sweet onion
1 tbsp peanut or other neutral oil
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp minced celery
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Process everything pretty thoroughly. This was really good.




Those who know me will not be too too surprised by this, but I found myself thinking it as I was walking up the stairs today with two laden Dirk bags and yes obviously felt compelled to affirm it here in these pages: I love grocery shopping. It may be my current favorite regularly-occurring non-destructive activity, which I'm sure says as much about how I'm spending my time these days as it does about my household chore preferences.

This love of mine is of course the blessing and the curse, but I'm doing a pretty good job with the current grocery budget. A critical success factor here is that I'm the only household member who grocery shops now, this is on purpose, and it's just way better in terms of knowing what's in the fridge and disposing of leftovers and etc etc etc.

So tonight is a end-of-week fridgecleaner, the "baked Italian vegetable casserole". It's also the night I've decided to start referring to zucchini the way that non-Italian Europeans do and thus we are now calling it courgette, mostly because zucchini never ever looks like it's spelled right.


baked courgette, mozzarella, red sauce. 

2 courgettes
2 balls mozzarella
can o' mushrooms, drained, chopped, browned
1 onion

smoked salt
black pepper

1 cup ricotta
16 good black olives, pitted, torn
3 cups red sauce I made earlier this week
20 fresh basil leaves

parmigiano for grating/dusting


Other cooking instructions not so interesting, but I used Mara's suggested ingredient stratification and it was nice, it went like this, top to bottom:




croccante di nocciole.

I'm making this very soon. I've got a big-ass bag of hazelnuts sitting around not getting any younger and a sugar tooth the size of the moon, also not getting any younger, etc.

I made this, and I have to say either my recipe or my technique's not perfect, or both. I don't know if the problem was my raw sugar (vs. white refined) or the 4 tbsp water I added or my impatience to be finished, but the caramel came out a little grainy and the end result isn't as toothshatteringly brittle as I would like

I definitely should've read David Lebovitz's caramel primer first, but I'm not saying we're not going to eat our end results.



taco tymez.

Since it's The Hottest Day Of The Year So Far, it's fish taco night. All the usual condiments will probably show up (chipotle slaw, pineapple-scallion salsa, guac, pico, etc) plus these two new experiments.


radish and cucumber salsa.

5 radishes
1/2 a cucumber
1/3 cup cilantro
1-2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp raw sugar
salt to taste


peach + blood orange salsa.

2 small peaches
1 ripe tomato
1/4 red onion
juice of a lime
juice of one small blood orange
1/4 madame jeanette chile, seeded, or 1/2 tsp madame jeanette sauce
1 tbsp fresh mint
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
salt to taste




Defrosted some jalfrezi sauce tonight and blasted this quick and convenient marinade onto some chicken for 4 hours or so, it wuz real nice and would probably work equally well on anything else. Quite obviously you will not be able to make this exact marinade unless you use our butcher.


tandoorish marinade.

2 or 3 tbsp bright red tandoori spice mix from the butcher, whatever looks like the right amount for the amount of protein you have
2 balls preserved ginger, smashed or pressed through a garlic press
4 cloves garlic, crushed or pressed
juice of a lemon
1/2 cup yogurt

500g of some protein


zeedijking ii (nsfw).

"Drinks at 5, Mata Hari" was the directive. The three of us started out inside on the windowfront couch, but somehow the shady, blustery terrace proved irresistible. Eventually joining us at our windswept table were a few friendly Fines de Claire oysters with mignonette (€2.50 each, but kinda worth it) and an attractive plank of lekkernijen (tidbits or treats) arranged with cyclone-defying care: parma ham with arugula; various salami; grilled asparagus, aubergine, pumkpin, courgette, peppers; a Spanish tortilla with potatoes; a very nice piece of homemade cured salmon; buffala with pesto and pomegranate seeds; some above-average calamari rings; some crackers with slightly Indian-spiced pea/mint puree and a sun-dried tomato hummous.

Shockingly, it all tasted just as good as it looked or better. And the plank was totally reasonable at €17.50. This having been our third visit, we can confirm that someone at Mata Hari knows how to cook. We haven't had anything really "fancy", but the quality of everything we've tasted has been way above-average.

Then, despite having already enjoyed a totally reasonable amount of beer and socializing at Mata Hari, the three of us braved the tourists and luxury dildos of the Red Light to "get some sun" at In de Wildeman, because they still get sun at 8pm, Mara knew this. And, she was right, they did, and we did. Unfortunately we also sat down in the sun with the bar staff and continued ordering beer, ensuring that today's goals will involve tiny reasonable things like wobbling downstairs to the grocery store; strenuously opening a can of Coke; slowly selecting DVDs to fall asleep to; carefully putting frozen pizzas in the oven.



cope's corn: bought and sold.

I assume this is another chapter in the continuing escapades of Corporations buying The Little Guys in order to tap into that cool niche-y artisan/indie market of "things made with care", then changing the product for the worse and afterwards pretending like nothing happened when customers complain. A representative comment from the Facebook page of Cope's Corn:
I wrote back in November and asked when you changed the canned Copes Corn product, but you said nothing had changed. I am back to say: I'm still sad you changed the product. No matter where I buy it or which label it has, it is still a completely different product. What's odd to me is that when I called and wrote, no one seemed aware that the anything had changed. I find that hard to believe, especially considering the new product is like ground animal feed corn, hard chunks and all (no kernels) in the same sauce. I wish someone would just say, "Yes. We changed the product." Honesty: A family tradition rich with Pennsylvania Dutch history. :)
Burn. NYT article about the original product here. This and this are the reasons I was paying attention in the first place.



in a lonely place.

A Skype contact request for Mara:
"my name is, carter f. ham i am a man that is in need of real and perfect love, i need a woman that can take me through, i have been hurt so many times by different women and wouldn't want that to hap"
This is especially misguided because there is nothing about Mara's Skype profile to suggest that she is female or even human. She appears to be a small black bird of indeterminate sex.


Nothing but failures in the kitchen tonight, wasn't planning on cooking, then it turned into "well actually the things in the fridge that need cooking are normally under my jurisdiction (courgette, sweet potato, green beans) so I'll cook...let's do Korean!" etc etc etc. Verging on bad.



marvin lee aday.

This would be more Google Maps Street View, Antarctica this time. It's like the worst video game ever. You can't even interact with the penguins when you eventually find one (and there is one just to the left of that clot of three researchers or penguin preservers or whatever they are in red at roughly the 3 o'clock position above).

Here's Svalbard, a remote Norwegian archipelago. The red flags in the distance show where the "street" is.


In my non-globetrotting hours yesterday, I made meat loaf for the first time (I typed meta loaf first, something else entirely). I was having this weird persistent craving for it, and Mara was all yeah yeah do it so I did it. It was the slowest, most careful meat loaf in history I think, because meat loaf is not known for being something you linger over in the kitchen, and yeah man I lingered.

I lingered b/c me, being me, never having made it, and me, having the humongous and still awesome Cook's Illustrated The New Best Recipe as my guide, wanted to make sure I was doing it right. I mean why bother using such an exceedingly anal-retentive cookbook if you're not going to do exactly wtf it says.

The most awesome and humongous thing I learned is that meat loaf is not at anywhere near its best when it comes out of the oven. It needs time to contract or something and I guess just relax for a while. The absolute best bite I had of it yesterday was at 11pm, five hours after it came out of the oven, and I don't think that's (just) the post-mirtazapine munchies talking, because this morning's bite at 6:30am was even better (and the bite I just had for lunch was even better, etc, it's really good now). I just don't think it should be any warmer than room temperature.

My adaptation of the recipe is gluten-free, with almond flour as the filler, and I think I didn't do much else different except bumping up some of the seasoning and omitting the, eh, bacon. And substituting arugula for the parsley b/c I didn't have any and don't ever reallly love it anyway.

Oh yis, the other awesome thing I learned was to not use a, eh, "loaf pan". This is what Cook's Illustrated is good for, they're the Mythbusters of the kitchen: turns out that if you follow conventional wisdom and use a loaf pan (can't stop saying it, loaf pan, loaf pan) for your loaf, the, ulp, "juices" will bubble up around the sides about halfway through the cooking time and ruin the sides of your glaze, which was actually the most critical component, the glaze was, so its non-ruination and general maximalization is an absolutely stellar thing to focus on. Ze recipe below will double ze glaze amounts and add a shot or two of Frank's to it for zest and zing.

And if we don't do that recipe again, we should do this one.



day 60.

Hi I'm Mark. When I'm not wasting time in one of forty-seven more normal ways to do so, you can find me navigating through African beach towns I never intend to visit via Google Maps Street View.


Just a little Note To Self initiated by an especially good night of sleep: 15mg mirtazapine at 9:45pm, 0.8mg melatonin at 10pm. Asleep by 11:30pm, awake at 8:15am (thank you kitties), feeling super duper.



bites in de pijp.

A few weeks back I thought I was going to meet a visiting friend for dinner, and there were a couple of important considerations: she was on foot; neither of us had a lot of money to spend; and she was staying in de Pijp, somewhere where I don't hang very much these days.

So, unsurprisingly, I did some research. And I found out that what I was looking for was harder to find than I expected. I eventually decided on Vamos a Ver, because she likes Spanish food and it gets great reviews, but plans changed and we didn't actually go there after all and I forgot about it. 

Then last week I was looking for a place for Moop and I to chomp something after a visit to Albert Cuypmarkt, thus also in de Pijp, and yes all my research came rushing back to me. So here are my places to maybe have an affordable bite down there*. Haven't tried any of them except Little Collins.


Sarphatipark 4

Perry's Exotische Food
Cornelis Troostplein 7

Albert Cuypstraat 40

Warung Swietie Lelydorp
1e Sweelinckstraat 1

Vamos a Ver
Govert Flinckstraat 308

The ButcherBBQ/grill
Albert Cuypstraat 129

Eerste Sweelinckstraat 23

Dopey's Elixer
Lutmastraat 49

Daniel Stalpertstraat 103

Little Collins
Eerste Sweelinckstraat 19F


* "Down there" meaning de Pijp, the neighborhood.



babys who brunch.

I've eaten two restaurant brunches within one week, wtf is happening to me. The first was last Saturday at Jason Hartley's Lovefood HQ, yes non-Amsterdammers that's really the name of it. As you know, we generally don't do pretend to do restaurant reviews here, but if something resembling one sneaks into a post it definitely doesn't try to be unbiased or objective in any way. That's a disclaimer I guess.

I might not have even mentioned my meal at Lovefood (for short) here today if I hadn't also accidentally eaten at Little Collins today, the connection being that for months now the two of them have been linked inextricably in my mind as the only really-promising places in town for a proper brunch. I'm sure this perceived promise is in no small part due to the fact that both restaurants come from cultures who know their excessive drinking (Lovefood is English, Little Collins is Australian). And for me, brunch is largely about fixing shit you drank yourself into the night before, fixing it via more booze, runny eggs, and plenty of salt and smoke.


I've just heard that Lovefood HQ is up for sale and that it'll really only exist in its current form for the next month or two, which kind of sucks b/c I found it to be somewhere I'd probably visit again. I can't say that my tongue was blown off or anything, but yes the drink options were comprehensive and intriguing, and everything we were served was pretty relentlessly tasty and definitely pretty as a picture, though in a couple of cases the menu verbiage pumped up expectations in a way the flavors couldn't match and there were a couple of tiny distracting service blips, forgetting a main ingredient of a dish for example, but yes ok otherwise a fine fine afternoon and there that's my review! I may try to go back before they're gone but let's see.


Little Collins was similar but different. Even more informal. Not trying as hard. Less overtly professional than Lovefood but not necessarily in a bad way. Less chefly 'tude as well about what they will and won't do, which while I understand this impulse completely (having owned a retail/service business in an industry known for attitude problems, and knowing what "the paying customer" can be like, we often found ourselves torn between attempting to preemptively pacify or give the finger to customer expectations), I almost never really see it done in a way that seems to get it right tonally. The Vortex in Atlanta used to strike a nice balance of light comedy and legitimate threat, but it seems like the last decade's tidal wave of customer entitlement (and L5P's complete vanillafication) has pushed them over the edge into caricature.

Yes. So Mara ordered coriander and corn fritters with ham, guac, homemade salsa, sour cream, and arugula. Hilly had eggs in a lemony Hollandaise with garlic spinach and sourdough. All done very well, though I think the general consensus was that the three of us could've pretty easily made this at home, which I might not have been able to say about the Lovefood meal (at Lovefood, in addition to my smoked haddock omelet with Mornay sauce, I had a side order of their homemade sausage, flawless and not something I'd ever do myself).

A slight difference is that, personal taste preference-wise, I more likely would've made the Little Collins meal at home, whereas there were a couple of things at Lovefood I wouldn't have bothered with (the "biscuit", and the vegetarian sausage, and probably the fried soda bread as well, again all matters of personal taate).

I'll say that each brunch venue did exactly what it was supposed to do: I reserved a week ahead for Saturday brunch at Lovefood, we had a relaxed 2.5-hour meal and long conversation inside in the shade. Beers were from the more alternative and delicious side of the spectrum (Butcher's Tears, Prael, etc). There were enough interesting things on our plates for us to spend a good portion of that time picking away at them. Though if you're American do be warned that the "Biscuits & Gravy" are in fact much more like English scones than American biscuits, we had a little sadness about this.

At Little Collins we just kind of showed up and grabbed a table in the sun and had a quick bite, we were done in 45 minutes. I had a kind of disappointing coffee (they use Two For Joy beans, which I generally enjoy, but I ordered a long black instead of my normal double espresso, bad idea) and zero beers, though I did taste everyone's Bloody Marys.

Dus: both fine and worthy of another visit...though like I said I'd probably go back to Lovefood first b/c they seem slightly more geared towards superlatives. And their Bloody Marys were better.



come, taste my tuber muslin.

Sorry, I thought my days of mocking the Amsterdam restaurant world's English were behind me but this was irresistible.

The restaurant is called COME, which I think is maybe just a hair worse than Eat Me. I thought maybe the COME people were in on the joke, but looking at the English version of their menu makes me think that no they just don't care.

"Just like the COME enjoy, you will get a variety of small dishes," they warn. Fair enough. The fish of the day is "winter codfish smothered in champagne", which sounds like it should be served with a forensics kit. The chicken of the day features both "schorsenerena la crème" (two languages, neither one English, becoming utter gibberish due to spacing) and "tuber muslin" (no idea). The veal duo includes "lende of the stone grill" with "stew of candied peal". Mmmmmm.

I'm available for consultation, people.


to the beaches.


looks like we made it.

Last night's menu started with shrimp and roasted taters with riffs on 3 Momofuku sauces: octo vin; pickled ramp ranch dressing; buttermilk-sriracha dressing. Kind of like a more flexible DIY version of this. The shrimp got someone's attention.

Then, finally, butterscotch pudding for dessert. First warm from the pan, then cold from the fridge. Eeee-yyyaaaaaaayyyyyyy.