Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I Think I Might Cry

Thanks, I think, to Betsy for pointing this out to me. I don't know who I want to shoot more, myself or Mark Mothersbaugh.

Evidently the next collaboration/sellout is going to be with the Go-Gos.

The DVD also features "frenzied, surreal animations, including neon dinosaurs, pandas in sombreros, and anthropomorphic potatoes."

In other news, please check out Sonya's blog for her excellent description of our meal of foot tacos last Friday night. I wouldn't be able to write anything better about it -- she has described the evening perfectly -- although, "Randy" would like me to point out that PLENTY of tacos have potatoes in them (most often eaten by us at Picante in Berkeley, where they make a fine and very greasy "chorizo y papas" taco). I will try to get a photo soon of the chicken-shaped lollipop.

Another reason to cry: the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles thinks that I am a man. I got my hard-won driver's license into my hot little hand last Saturday, after our second trip to the DMV, and it wasn't until I was inspecting it at home later that I realized that according to them, my "sex" is "M". I am not looking forward to having to explain that one to the next cop that pulls me over.

And this is not the only reason to cry. We have to go back to the DMV a THIRD time this weekend, in the unending quest to register our car so that we can pay yet more money to the State of Connecticut, because according to them, I am a tax evader who has been on the lam for four years. Never mind that my car was registered here for two months before I moved back to California and re-registered it there, and cancelled my plates, and sent them back to Connecticut, and have a receipt with a date reading "CANCELLED." Never mind that they never sent me any sort of tax bill. When I presented the tax assessor with the receipt showing that they had charged me a full year's worth of tax on a car that was proven to be registered in the state for only three months, she shrugged and said that they couldn't pro-rate the tax from four years ago. So even though I did EVERYTHING RIGHT, I had to pay New Haven a years' worth of tax plus three years' interest on a car that was stolen from me a year and a half ago.

GOD. Thanks for bearing with me on that. Now I need a drink. Or a Crispy Buffalo Wonton from Ruby Tuesday, which was our only consolation after our first, failed trip to the DMV. Actually, it was pretty awful, in the way that "fast-casual" American appropriations of non-western culinary traditions often are. This little treat is a wonton wrapper filled with shredded chicken and vast amounts of cheese, sealed and fried, tossed in Buffalo chicken wings sauce, and served with the requisite blue cheese dressing and celery sticks. Saveur magazine mentioned these in their "Saveur 100" issue, and while their explanation redeems their choice somewhat ("so bad they're fabulous" was the gist of it), I am not sure we will be heading back for seconds anytime soon.

Monday, January 23, 2006

User's Guide

Thanks to Meredith for linking to this excellent Trader Joe's Primer for Manhattanittes. I don't agree with everything here -- Trader Joe's is my most reliable source of organic milk for under $4.00 a half-gallon, and a LOT of the frozen food they carry is truly terrible -- but some of the advice is spot-on. Seriously, the Two-Buck Chuck is Not Good. Not that you can get it here in Connecticut -- fucking Puritan heritage -- but trust me, I know. I know.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Whole Lotta Fatty Hype

Over the long MLKJr weekend, Andy and I went on a long-overdue trip to NYC to reconnect with folks we hadn't seen since August, in some cases. Which is kind of unforgivable given that New York and New Haven are two hours away from each other. We arrived to torrential rain, which turned to sleet, which turned to snow and well-below-freezing cold wind. I had forgotten what the wind tunnels in New York can be like, blowing uphill from the Hudson across icy trash bags and granite outcroppings right into your bones. It makes me want to just sit down on the sidewalk and cry. But no matter. Soaking wet and fresh from Janine's new gallery space, we met up with Jonah and Louisa at the much-reviewed-and-talked-about new Malaysian place, Fatty Crab.

I had a bad feeling about this place even before we got there based on Owen Phillips' review of it in the New Yorker. He described "the best dish on the menu" as being the Dungeness crab covered in spicy chili sauce, after eating which you would "feel like taking a shower." As a native west-coaster, this sentence was hard to read without feeling a little stab in the heart. Dungeness crab is one of the lightest, most subtle, most delicate things you can put in your mouth. Sometimes a squeeze of lemon overpowers it and its sweetness. So when I read about this hotshot chef dousing the crab in chili sauce, I was bewildered. HE'S RUINING THE CRAB, I thought. HE HAS NO IDEA WHAT HE'S DOING.

When we got to the restaurant, Jonah was intent on ordering the crab, and I cringed until I read on the menu that the crab of the evening was the "Jonah crab", har har, rather than the Dungeness. We ordered that, and, on the advice of our waiter, who said that everything should be shared "family-style," several other dishes, including a chicken breast sous-vide on coconut rice, some "fatty duck", some other kind of smothered chicken thing, some pork belly appetizer thing, etc. I don't mean to be blase, but it all kind of ran together, and here's why:

1. We have a Malaysian restaurant about 100 times better in New Haven
2. A whole crab smothered in chili sauce is impossible to eat with any dignity in a restaurant, especially when the tables are so close together that (a) I could hear our neighbors' conversation better than our own and (b) in order to get up from the wall side of the restaurant, almost all of the tables in the restaurant had to be shifted around
3. The only cutlery we had on the table were chopsticks, spoons, and forks. How exactly a table of four is supposed to "share family-style" a whole chicken breast sous-vide without benefit of a knife is beyond me, to say nothing of a chicken thigh and leg ON THE BONE smothered in sauce on a bed of rice.

I left the restaurant feeling like I had been had, that the chef had nothing but contempt for his patrons, that I hadn't had such an unsatisfying meal in a long, long time. Fortunately Jonah and Louisa were wonderful company, as always, which salvaged the dinner somewhat.

The evening improved dramatically upon our even wetter and soggier arrival at the Pegu Club, where we met Siobhan and Jeff and Naomi and Doug and Janine and Nate. I had been wanting to go here since before they opened, and it was worth the wait if you can stomach the idea of $12-$15 drinks. Everything the bartenders here make is delicious, and it is so quiet and civilized and the lovely staff will accommodate you without a problem as your party expands and expands, especially if you get there early. I began with a variant on a Manhattan made with rye whiskey, Cynar (artichoke liqueur), and sweet vermouth, garnished with what looked like picholine olives but were in fact homemade maraschino cherries. Andy's "Gin-Gin Mule" made with gin instead of vodka was also incredible. The big winner of the evening, though, was Naomi's Earl Grey Martini, made with tea-infused gin, frozen lemon peel, a bit of cream and frothy egg white, and simple syrup. It was everything wonderful about England served in a single glass.

After a Southern-California-Mexican stop for those who hadn't eaten dinner, we capped off our evening in Greenpoint at a new bar whose name I don't know around the corner from Siobhan and Jeff's house on Franklin and Greenpoint Avenue. I am in love with that bar. They serve some kind of new Brooklyn beer called Six Points on tap; the space is spare and beautiful and intimate all at once; the DJs -- a very earnest-looking couple who were not at all too cool for school -- were playing truly good, not overplayed, '80s music (including one of my top five favorite '80s songs), and we stayed up until 4:30 in the morning discussing such pressing issues as whether or not "Zooropa" was really great or really bad. Usually I came out on the losing side of the argument.

In the morning we met Igor and Jonathan for brunch at DuMont, which was delicious, especially my burger (though not as good as the one at the Spotted Pig), and then Andy and I went out to the Queens Museum to see the Gordon Matta-Clark show about odd lots auctioned off by New York City in the 1970s. The walk from the Shea Stadium elevated subway stop to the museum was like walking through Gorky Park or something -- it was truly like being in an eastern bloc country. It was SO cold and SO windy and we were two of the five or six people in the park total, milling around in the shadows of 1960s World's Fair relics, train repair yards, and empty stadia looming nearby, untouched until the spring. Wow.

Andy had to go to work the next day, but I stayed over in the city with Abigail and Andrew, eating delicious pizza and drinking delicious wine at their house and gossiping, and staying up all night with their poor yowling cat in heat, and then in the morning I went to my favorite Cuban restaurant for breakfast. It is called La Rosita, on 109th Street and Broadway, and I fear that my incomparable arroz amarillo con frijoles negros y huevos fritos (I don't speak Spanish) and cafe con leche may have been my last at La Rosita forever. The rents in the Columbia neighborhood have gone astronomical in price over the last few years -- everything good and cheap that was there when I was a student is gone -- and, based on the real estate agent and two white guys that came in to the place while I was eating, La Rosita looks like the next casualty on the block. If you are in New York and reading this, GO TO LA ROSITA BEFORE IT'S GONE! Order the breakfast I just described, dump a lot of sugar in the coffee even if you don't normally like your coffee sweet, and enjoy. Or, better yet, go at lunch and get the Pollo al Ajillo (chicken with garlic sauce). It is not to be believed. I might need to go down there one night this week just to have that dish one last time. You'll keep tasting the dish for three days after you eat it, but that's a good thing.

And then I went to Kalustyan's for groceries unattainable in New Haven such as jars of roasted eggplant and cans of foul moudammas, walked past Artisanal and drooled on the sidewalk a little, and finally met up with Ryan at Coliseum Books' new location across from Bryant Park. We drank one cup of coffee for about three hours -- it always ends up that way, because we are too busy enjoying talking to each other to even drink coffee -- and I got on the train home and Andy and I had some pasta for dinner. Simple pleasures.

Simple quite unlike our weekend this weekend, which I will describe soon. Tales of inauthentic Scandinavian delights, Crispy Buffalo Wontons, and the pleasant employees of the Connecticut DMV await you on your next visit.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Yay Yay Yay

Edith Frost, Roller-Skating Enthusiast, is playing a free show at Bar on February 19th!!! See you there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

New Mexico is Awesome

Thanks for your patience with the photos -- there are now many more, below, in the "Dying of Consumption" post.

Also, two more photos from New Mexico that I was not sure where to stick. Here is a cautionary sign that I saw on my way to the National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque:

And some tea that was on display in the museum:

Tim Tam Fever

The other night we had a little post-hangover gathering at our house to watch one of the saddest movies ever, "Lilya 4-Ever." We had received it from Netflix before Thanksgiving and had for some reason never found ourselves in the appropriate mood to sit down for two hours and absorb the wrenching tale of a poor Russian girl abandoned by her mother and sold into a Swedish sex ring by the only guy she ever trusted. So we invited folks over for some hand-holding and tried to make it a party.

Because Michele and Burke are two of the most kind-hearted and generous people I know, it was unsurprising -- but still a treat -- that they offered to bring over a couple of packages of Tim Tams that Xanthe sent over from Australia (they are unavailable in the States; Michele and Burke lived in Australia once upon a time; thus they have been going through severe Tim Tam withdrawal so Xanthe sent over some Timtams in the Christmas spirit). None of the rest of us had ever had a Tim Tam, so it was with much anticipation that we all learned how to do the Tim Tam Slam (aka Tim Tam Suck). As noted in the link from a couple of days ago, it involves preparing oneself a cup of tea or coffee, biting off the opposing corners of the Tim Tam, and then proceeding to use the cookie as a straw. As Burke put it, "You will begin to taste the chocolate... you will start to get excited... but don't give up yet." You must wait until the cookie is near total collapse before then shoving the entire thing into your mouth, the end result being a mass of mushy chocolatey mocha goodness exploding on your tongue.

It was pretty incredible. Half of my Tim Tam disintegrated into my coffee before I could fully slam the sucker, but that just made the dregs of my coffee much more delicious. Others had more success in the endeavor:

Sarah Successfully Slams a Double-Coat Tim Tam.

Stephen gets in on some coffee-slurping action.

Moa prepares to slam.

Moa, giddy with Tim Tam goodness.

Tim Tam carnage. Two are left for a breakfast treat!!!

I am not sure that the delicious chocolate overload prepared us very well for the movie, but the fizzy Fruit Tingles (also from Xanthe) and whiskey afterward helped us to forget. A little bit. Sniff.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Let me through! I am an archivist!!!

Can I just tell you how gratifying it was to say that to the security guard at the library on Saturday night, after I'd gotten the call that the Saarinen collection was wet and I needed to come to work and get it out of the steam room known formerly as B-69A? Man, I'm never gonna get to say that again. It was awesome, even though the circumstances were not ideal. But when else, other than in a Preservation Emergency, would I be able to get away with saying that with a straight face?

You read the link below, you know what happened. Basically a steam pipe burst and filled the library with steam for THREE HOURS before they finally found it and were able to turn it off. By that point the basement of the library was like a Turkish bath -- one in which we were wearing all of our sweaters and jeans -- and the sprinklers had gone off and the steam was condensing on cold pipes and falling onto the Saarinen drawings as muddy, moldy, filthy rain. The good news -- you can stop holding your breath -- is that everything is going to be okay. No drawings were lost, nothing is ruined, nothing is even dirty, thanks to our heavy-duty folders. Another gratifying thing about the evening: even the University Librarian was there in her t-shirt and jeans helping to schlep wet and dry drawings out to the conservation triage carts.

Andy was such a sport and also schlepped wet drawings in the hot hot heat, and helped break down boxes of supplies and move them to drier land, and got a nasty bruise on his shoulder somehow, very mysteriously. Taking one for Team Finland!

And since this is a food blog, I will end by mentioning that before the Preservation Emergency, we were just about to head over to Molly's house for a housewarming party in her incredible new apartment (it has WINGS! There are WINGS to her apartment! And a giant black cat named Bird-Dog!). I was on quite an adrenaline high and needed a beer or four to calm down, but one of the best parts of the evening was sampling her homemade Sri Lankan cheese. Evidently she boiled milk for two minutes, added some lemon juice, let it curdle, and then strained it. It was like ricotta, but a little sweeter and so fresh. We ate it with chutney and RyKrisp and it was totally the highlight of the evening. That, and finding out that Xanthe's secret Santa package of Tim Tams had actually arrived at Michele and Burke's house just after Christmas! Rejoice! But more on those Tim Tams tomorrow.

New Look

New profile photo courtesy of Cindy via Eliz's Flickr account. That was quite a night, the one we spent at Millennium (in-depth descriptions of the Bay Area Feeding Frenzy of 2005 posted here and here). I am so excited that Cindy is moving back to the Bay Area -- yet another person to go back and visit! Bay Area Feeding Frenzy 2006, here we come!

And coming soon to this space: Everyone's doing the Tim Tam Suck! And: Disaster Strikes!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Evidently I am not the only one craving super-rich macaroni and cheese these days.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Dying of Consumption

Yes, that is a really cheesy title for a blog post, but we ate a fucking LOT of cheese over the last couple of weeks. Christmas was spent with my sister Jesse and brother-in-law Michael J. Fox in Albuquerque as well as in Phoenix with the rest of my folks. A trip to New Mexico is always hotly anticipated due to that state's being the home of two prime eating locations: The Frontier in Albuquerque, serving the best green chile breakfast burritos ever:

and the town of Pie Town, which has TWO restaurants serving pie: the Pie-O-Neer,

and the Daily Pie Cafe.

I ask you, what is not to love about a state that contains both of those heavenly places, AND the Very Large Array? But wait, there's more: Jesse and Mike introduced us to two more craveable places in town. One, a Mexican restaurant called El Norteno, served the most succulent barbacoa that I have ever tasted, and the other, Garcia's Kitchen, which made such spicy and rich and truly unforgettable green chile -- both pork and chicken -- that I don't think any other will do for me from now on. Not to mention Monica's El Portal, whose stuffed sopaipillas with chicharrones were crispy and fatty and just perfect for helping me forget the incontinent woman who sat next to me, reeking, on the plane ride over.

I'm not sure I am going to be able to contain all of the goodness of this vacation in one post, because already I'm forgetting that even before we arrived in New Mexico, Andy and I had the amazingly great fortune to have our connecting flight out of Dallas leave from the new DFW Terminal (Terminal D, if you find yourself there and hungry), which houses an airport branch of the Reata Grill. The Reata in Alpine, Texas was the home of one of my earliest food epiphanies -- smoked quail over pasta, which sounds so simple but was so perfect -- so I was literally jumping for joy in the terminal when I spotted it. There is nothing like some pork tamales with pecan salsa and a very cold draft Shiner Bock to make you forget you have been on a cramped plane for four hours.

So, onward from Albuquerque. We ate at the Daily Pie Cafe in Pie Town.

Jesse won, I think, with her apple-cranberry walnut crunch pie, but I won for weirdness with my "New Mexican Apple Pie" which was described by our waitress as "a sort of woody flavor, with pinon nuts and green chiles." That was kind of how it tasted. Woody.

Before that we had stopped at the Very Large Array to take lots of photos of ourselves posing next to enormous radio antennae that communicate with the cosmos.

(This is just this mini-VLA that we played with -- it is like a whispering gallery)

Those antennae are Really Big.

In Phoenix we breakfasted on citrus from my parents' trees. This was the healthy build-up to a weekend filled with such things as a Christmas breakfast of Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding and bacon cooked on the barbeque and Champagne:

creamy soups for dinner, all the Black Butte Porter and Shiner Bock we could drink (which was not actually all that much given that we were at a much higher elevation than we are at home), and occasional gorgings on my two favorite California fast-food outlets that have been imported to the endless suburb that is Phoenix: Rubio's and In-n-Out Burger. Bask in the glory that is the Double-Double Animal Style:

Mmmmm. Fish tacos. I see them on menus at fancy restaurants, but I never order them, because Rubio's has perfected the recipe for $1.59 each. Seriously. Why mess with perfection?

Eventually we came home, full to the point of exploding. So what did I do? I made a huge vat of baked macaroni and cheese. On the plane next to the stinky lady, I groggily asked myself the question: what one food could I literally eat all day long if there were no fullness issues and no health or weight consequences? And the answer I came up with was baked macaroni and cheese. I just can never get enough of it. No helping is ever too big. Something about the blandness, the saltiness, the texture, the greasy cheese -- I could eat it for an entire day. What could YOU eat for an entire day without ever getting sick of it?

And now, I heed the siren song of the elliptical machine. I will post more, and photos, as I remember it. Right now it is all one giant cheesy blur. See, I almost forgot to mention the mini cream puffs that we dipped in chocolate fondue on New Year's eve, and the fried cornmeal cheese-stuffed things that Sabrina made earlier that evening. What kind of food blogger do I think I am? The forgetful kind, that's what. Oh, and also, the Golden Crown Panaderia across the street from Jesse and Mike's house?

The one that makes the Green Chile Bread and the gingerbread pigs and the bread shaped like a whole turkey? It ROCKED.

Happy New Year!

I have heard complaints from some of my Loyal Readers that I have not updated in a long time. Their complaints are valid. And there is a great deal of updating to do, with lots of photos of serious gastronomic excess. Due to a combination of no computer (in New Mexico), a computer in high demand (in Arizona), and a home computer that continues to behave badly (in New Haven), I have been forced to put off my updating until this evening after work. Stay tuned, Gentle Readers. You will not be disappointed.