Friday, November 30, 2012

Brooklyn Birthday Dinner for L. c/o Bar Tabac

The season of November birthdays arrived in, well, the month of November if you can believe it. A great number of my dearest and nearest enjoy birthdays of the Scorpio and Sagittarius persuasion, and that includes one Mrs. L. I made my way to Brooklyn for L.'s b-day much as I had the year before, and enjoyed a few hours of silliness time in Fatty and L.'s apartment before the real festivities began. This time may have been spent lolling about, telling stories about this and that, putting a belt around my head in the style of a fascinator and generally just cutting loose.

But that was just a precursor to the real events of the evening: dinner and dancing. L. had a dinner with about 14 of her favorite folks at Bar Tabac. We had a nice spot in the back at a long table far away from the craziness of the first room and constantly in motion front door. Bread was served. Delicious. Delightful.
M., who was seated to my right, ordered the paté as a starter, it came with the tomatoes on its surface, but we added one of the cornichons to truly let its face shine. It was the good hearty version of paté that has a lot of texture to it and a nice earthy heartiness. Eaten with a smile of course.
I went with their friseé salad with poached egg, lardons, a few stray potatoes and a nice balsamic reduction. This salad may look simple, but once the yolk got involved its overall taste profile was off the charts as far as tastiness goes.
Fat T. loves his wife.
I went with the duck confit for my main course and boy howdy did it deliver. So rich and fallllllllll offf the bone tender! I believe this plate may have had a few lingering fries and lettuce at the end of my consuming its contents, but as far as duck was concerned only bones remained.
L. is notoriously not that interested in sweets, so when our server asked us what she might like as a birthday treat it was quickly decided that cheese, not cake, would most certainly please her. I believe that this was a very sound decision.
M. and me, holding the far corner down.
We then went to the Bell House, where I took copious photographs of shenanigans, hijinks and dancing...but share only the photograph I took in the bathroom, which makes it seem like I was all alone. Of course the reality was that there were about a million ladies all in line but the angle of the mirrors and their bodies made it seem like a ghost bathroom. Point, me.
A very lovely evening celebrating a dear friend, full of good company, great food, and music with a 'Party Like It's 1999' theme. Which is a great theme for those of us who graduated from high school in that year. Though I didn't actually do much partying then. But I can pretend that I did and then relive those days that never were at events 10+ years later and it almost becomes fact. Almost.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pork Tenderloin Two Ways...And Mice

I'm well aware that mixing content about food and a mention of vermin in the same post may strike many of you as slightly disconcerting if not outright gross, but such is life folks, such is life. Another weekend found me yet again in the country with big culinary ideas and a proper amount of work space in which to execute them. When I went to the nearby grocery store I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I had purple potatoes that needed roasting, and that a protein of some kind was in order, but past that I did not know. So when I saw pork tenderloin at a reasonable price (at least in my mind) I thought what the hell, might as well. I had assumed that the packaged loin was folded in half and was one large loin but this was a mistaken impression, as I learned when freeing the flesh of its plastic casing. There were two loins! I considered freezing the bonus one for later, but somehow that seemed wrong so I decided to try two different approaches to the same cut. On the left is a pretty standard rosemary/garlic rub while on the left is a slightly more creative cilantro, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar mix.
I decided to cook them in the same pan, which may have made the resulting juices too much of a mix of the two flavors to really discern between, but no matter.
Meanwhile, the last time I had been up I noticed that the spice rack seemed to be suffering from a case of 'mice have figured out how to get in here.' But the damage was almost entirely to a loose bag of bay leaves. On that visit I cleaned out the leaves, vacuumed the poop, and wiped everything down, thinking that would take care of it, as most of the remaining spices were in plastic or glass jars. This was an oversight on my part. This time around they went to town on a bag of allspice, a plastic container of cayenne, and perhaps one other thing. Cheeky mice. You could hear them in the back of the rack and on occasion when I tried opening it suddenly they'd be right in there foraging, turning their heads over to look at me with the swagger and confidence of a young Johnny Rotten before eventually skittering off.
In addition to the rubs I also brined the pork ahead of time. This led to very juicy and satisfying results. And the tomatoes roasting in the juices were also delicious.
As were the purple potatoes.

The mice also had figured out that trash went under the sink and were just as cheeky about venturing there and not quite having the fear of god put in them by my sudden arrival.
Mice bad. Tenderloin good.

Bahamas Remembrances

L. and I went to the Bahamas last February. I certainly took lots of photos, but so did L. and soon after our return to the U.S. I expressed an interest in getting copies of some of her fancy iPhone photos. But then neither of us did anything about it. Last weekend I went up to NYC to celebrate L.'s birthday and that also became an occasion to finally get those photos. So now here they are, outtakes etc. from Eleuthera 2012, all courtesy of L.

I so enjoyed the beach I lost my head.

Channeling my inner chicken.

After our most fancy of lunches.
With our favorite driver and buddy Wallace.
I am either napping or being incredibly weird in this photo.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chicken, Okra and Pea Curry

Another country day found me making green chicken curry. I consulted a few different recipes before ultimately going my own way a bit. Started with freshly grated ginger, chopped lemongrass, three hot peppers and plenty of garlic. Added to that mixture chicken, then chicken broth. Cooked and simmered before adding additional spices, coconut milk, peas and okra.
I was quite pleased with the result. I should have used far more peppers if I wanted the dish to have any heat, but as it was it had a great lemongrass/ginger overtone and the chicken didn't dry out.
The one drawback was the lemongrass bits, which were many and yet not good to actually chew on and eat.

Egg Sandwich by the Fire

 The weekend before last found me in the country yet again. It was finally cool/chilly enough to rationalize if not totally warrant a fire. And a fire I did stoke throughout the days. I also made this egg sandwich on a Portugese roll.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hurricane Sandy's Effect on Country Trees

I had planned on working remotely a few days after Hurricane Sandy, but S. had called to say that things were a bit touch and go there as far as telephone/internet access. And electricity for that matter. So I held off going up a few extra days. When I drove up last Friday evening there was a marked moment in the drive where things suddenly got darker than usual, and there were still a few big trees that hadn't been removed from the country roads. It was striking to see all the downed wires and old trees that had met their ends as a result of Sandy. My neighborhood in Philadelphia was almost entirely untouched. We never lost power nor did we experience flooding. In fact, there's a travel coffee mug on our deck table, which even during the windiest and most rainy part of the storm, didn't budge an inch. We were lucky of course, especially compared to NYC or the Jersey shore. The country also didn't fare quite as well. The next morning I woke up far earlier than I meant to, and instead of just going back to sleep I decided to take a walk to see what could be seen as far as trees down. This tree fell smack dab on some group of wires.
Same tree, different angle.
Bird house becomes mouse house?
I found it interesting that the inside of this tree was hollowed out a bit. Obviously it had already been cut, but had it already been like that? Or did some intrepid animal quickly think that a little digging out the tree remainder could become a nice home?
Poor little fence.
This was just a pretty view.
Yup, already starting to be cut down to size, but the damage to the fence remains.
As a kid I was always sort of amazed by the ability to age a tree by counting its rings.
I am still pretty amazed by it, but also by the images that can be captured/created over the years.
Poor trees.
This storm was no joke.
No joke at all.
This tells the story of one tree falling on another, and that one also succumbing to the wet ground and strong winds.
Yup. They went down together.

And on a political note. The jerks who put these stickers on these signs are, I'm sure, quite disappointed with the results of our election. I, frankly, can't understand how we can be so divided about issues that seem so obvious. Gay marriage is a civil rights issue and anyone who feels like it is anything else than that is a terrible combination of ignorant and hateful. I know that's not very charitable, but for me it's true. Though I am not gay, it hurts me to the core to think that people truly think they are somehow 'better' or 'more worthy' of the rights and privileges that come with a legally recognized marriage. I think for many of us with that basic vantage point, the true thing that 'sticks in our collective craws' is the fact that extending the rights of marriage, or serving openly in the military, for gay/lesbian/etc does not in any way actually affect the lives of people who oppose it. They think it does. But seriously, they are wrong. I'm getting angry and sick just thinking about this, so I'm going to end it. But I do have to write some sort of something about just how I feel about the strange polarization that's going on and how it's hard to figure it out.