Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I don't think I'm ever going to need to eat again. Ever. We just rolled back into town and I'm exhausted! And full. There was pheasant, paella, prime rib and Yorkshire pudding. There was potica and cardamom bread. Sugar cookies and truffles. My sister even went on a jelly bean bender.
We braved the snowy roads and were able to make it up to Duluth and then over to Gilbert, Minnesota (it's outside Virginia - middle of no where) to celebrate the holiday with my 103 year old grandma Gidgee and my great Auntie Joy and her great family. We had a blast and ended up sleeping in a little later than I meant to.
We were bundled and packed back into the car to come back down in the afternoon. While we were slipping and sliding all over the roads, we heard NPR reporting a snow advisory down here. We gave up. My car that is so very much fun in the summertime is a teeny little death trap at first sign of a snow flake. We swung her towards Duluth. There was no way we were going to push it. Besides, it was Christmas Day! Why not make the holiday last a little longer?
Mom and Julie were still in route when we pulled into a foggy, snow strewn Duluth. Since the door would be locked, we could either sit in the parking lot staring at the door, or we could find another way to entertain ourselves.
Up and over the Blahtnik bridge we went. I laughed and pointed out the twinkle lights that some brave soul had hung at the top of a grain elevator. Ah, Superior. It's grungy, desolate and always there for me. The lights weren't on at the Hammond as we approached and I sucked in my breath. Could it be? The Hammond bar closed? I needn't have been concerned. Of course they were open! The liquor store was doing brisk business. I picked up a bottle of rum, but was pulled to the other side of the room. We bellied up at the bar. I ordered a bloody Mary and Matt had a brandy and soda. It was a tasty little bloody, nice and salty garnished with a pickle, olive and pickled asparagus and that drink was no joke. The vodka warmed my tummy and unwound my jangled nerves from the country slosh through the back roads.
There were a good amount of people in there, all having a great time. The jukebox kicked in and Johnny Cash filled the room. The Christmas lights were blinking, casting everyone in a holiday glow. A steady stream of rugged men would come in, knock back a drink and ask how long they were going to be open for the day. The little wisp of a bartender said somewhere between 10 and 11. They would leave and another would come in.
I could almost see the outline of my old man in the doorway, seeking respite from his family. He'd come up with some thing that we would have needed from the store and then head out for sanctuary. He would have ordered a beer and sucked it down before heading back to town and the bustling house full of women grousing and banging pans in the kitchen.
I couldn't believe that Matt had never been there! The Hammond is an institution! They're the first business on the other side of the state border where desperate Duluthians can pick up a case of beer any day of the week that they pleased.
Accorss the street is the Hammond Spur. Outwards, it appears to be just any other convenience store, but when you walk in and the fried food smell hits you, you realize this is some place different.
I'm not certain if you're aware, but it's a proven fact that drunk people are incapable of passing up the Hammond Spur's delights. You think you're just going to stop for some cigarettes on your way home because suddenly you've taken up pool and smoking and are really good at both. Then there's the line twisting through the shelves and you find yourself somewhere by the Coke display. The smell grows stronger as your slowly shuffle towards the case. Chicken wings, jalapeno poppers and fried balls of delight. The next thing you know, your stumbling out with a grease stained brown paper sack filled with what you don't even know. This is how I discovered what a Reuben Ball is and why I love the little sucker so.
We tipped back one more drink, wished everyone in the place a Merry Christmas and before you could say cake donut I was buying two Heggie's pizzas to take home to my Mama and sister. Tonight! We eat like kings. Kings of Superior.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Great News!

Someone seems to have broken into my house to liberate Del Oven. Run! Get it while you can! It's FREE!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Supatra's Thai Restaurant

I noticed the adbandoned Chinese Food type retaurant building on West 7th when we moved in a year ago. I remember thinking to myself, Hmm... That'd be handy. But there wasn't anything in there. It's not on the best block, either. Anyone who's been in Joe & Stan's after midnight knows that things can get a little dicey over there.
When I read that Supatra Johnson had opened a restaurant in that very location, I coudldn't believe my luck! I thought that the construction of a the new Shalom home just a block away was a sign of the neighborhoods along West 7th being on the up-swing, but this was even better! I can go up the hill for something tasty and Kosher, but good Thai food? Either I go to Krua Thai, which is unequivocally the best Thai in town, but their atmosphere is less than... romantic. It's not a date night destination. Or I traipse over to Uptown, only to be let down again.
I was so excited about this prospect that we went rushing in there on a Monday night - the first night we had available for dinner out. I couldn't get over how nice the room was. It was well lit, beautifully and simply decorated. The people that greeted us inside were lovely.
We were seated in the very back corner of the restaurant by the only other two people in there. Slowly, though, more bodies began to arrive. The room was oddly quiet so I was able to overhear every conversation around me. This of course gives me free range to start handing out judgements. The two women seated ahead of us seemed to be a mother/daughter team of the most practical sort. They were both very practically dressed, hair bound back, faces bare from make up. They were carefully counting out their bill and respective tips with the aid of a calculater.
Soon I heard a couple of women seated on the other side of the wall. They wasted no time in begining the examination. "Is this fried? Battered? But sometimes you know, they batter before they stir fry. You don't know, do you." I heard the waitresses soft response. "What about this. What exactly is in there? What is that? Is it raw?" The waitress answered in a low tone. "Wait, no... What's this here? What does that mean? Is it authentic? Where does the chicken come from? Is it white meat?"
"We can prepare it with only white meat for you?"
"Why don't you go find out, first, okay? And I'll have a glass of the Thai Lemonade."
"Um, it's actually, Limeaide. Will that be alright with you?"
"I thought it was lemonade."
"I.. um... I don't think we carry lemonade, but I can check for you."
"Oh, look... it does say limeaide. Hunh. Well, fine then. Give me that."
Gah! How did she stay so nice? That's why I could never make it as a server. Just shut up and go home. Cook your own damn food, if you're so particular!
Thankfully, my eggrolls arrived to distract me. They weren't the typical bubbly Chinese take out egg roll wrappers, nor were they the super thin springroll wrappers that I've had in the past. They were a little thicker, smoother and crisp as a January morning. They were flaky and filled with ground meat and cellophane noodles. We got two for $4.95 and they arrived with a little pool of nice sweet and sour. It wasn't that overly thick candy - type stuff, but it was actually sweet and sour with just the teeniest hint of spice in the background. Tasty! They were gone in minutes - seconds if you were only timing Matt.
A new couple was seated right next to us. The entire restaurant is open, but their seating strategy seems to be, keep them close to the periphery. She wore her hair not unlike the mother/ daughter. Stremlined light brown hair tucked into a cloth binder. He was dressed entirely in black. They talked about every item on the menu. She found something she didn't like with each one. It was kind of sweet. She was clearly trying to branch out of her food comfort zone and her dining companion was trying to help her inch, ever so carefully on. Eventually, she ordered the chicken and broccoli fried rice with no onions. Fair. Onions can get in the way if not used in moderation. When asked for a spice level she said medium. The waitress was positioned between her and me, so she didn't see my head swivel towards her, eyes wide. I hope the waitress knew she didn't mean it.
Our Pad Kee Mao had arrived. Last time I ordered this dish, called Drunken Noodles at the other restaurant, it was wide rice noodles all gelled together with a sweet, soy sauce. The over cooked noodles were gooey and the odd, not at all spicy sauces was not very good. The plate in front of me held what I had been longing for. Thin, round rice noodles studded with onions, holy basil, chicken and tons of chillis. Nice. Matt and I grabbed our portions, him doing his best with the two serving spoons they accidentally have him as utensils. Soon my nose was running and he coughed. This was really hot! Just as promised on the menu! I gave my neighbor a side long glance. Honey, you are screwed.
It only took us a couple of minutes to devour the whole plate. It wasn't just that we were being piggish - because I'll admit we were, it was that the serving size was probably just a little bit more than one serving. We had under ordered our food. Neither of us were really full, but didn't feel like ordering another entree. So we contemplated our next move.
I sipped at my glass of wine with regret. The wine list is pretty bad. There wasn't a single glass on there that I had wanted, really. I think I ordered out of habit. The wines that I remember were Yellow Tail, BV Costal and Jacob's Creek. Each are in the $6-8 price range per bottle at my local liquor store. None are very good. Yellow Tail wine, any variety, is a perversion of the noble grape.
We decided to just come home. As I was plotting the seven things that I'd order the next time I visited we paid the check to the helpful server. Matt ushered me out into the cold, my belly still steaming and cozy. I'd almost forgotten everybody's business but my own.
We slammed the car doors. "I hope that waitress wrote down mild, 'cause that chick ain't gonna be eatin' no medium spice."
It was dim, but I still caught the glimpse of his eyes rolling.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Red Stag Run Down

Nice. Like how I've squeezed in three posts without actually saying much about the place?
I'd been anticipating going there since I first heard about it last summer. That's part of my problem, though. Every year I build up so much about how my birthday is going to go that nearly always something catastrophic comes about. Either I'm sick, bleeding or blubbering. This year, I was just plain hungry.
The table we were seated at was about 40 feet long, so I never got to find out how the evening went for Heath and Heather. Scottie seemed okay to shout and Aisha met me later for a drink.
That left me with Eric, Pierre and Laura within ear shot. Andy was there, and looking gorgeous, might I add, but I didn't get to talk to her either. The waiter was nice, probably about 10, but that okay. It's a Monday - JV crew is working.
The wine we ordered was a lovely Cabernet blend. I had about four glasses, which is why I didn't end up with the blubbering or the pouting.
First we ordered appetizers, the highly recommended flatbreads that were promised to arrive with squash, goat cheese and black olives. I also ordered the side dish of triple fried fries. I had to know. The flat breads came out burnt to a crisp. There wasn't even any squash on them! There were little nibbles of goat cheese (not at all melted) and smooshed olives that looked like they came out of a jar. I can't believe that they served them! They weren't nicely crusty, they were burnt and devoid of any toppings.
The fries were superb, served with the first house made ketchup I've ever tasted that wasn't horrendous. We passed them around and nibbled at the bread basket that tasted like it had been sitting out for a while. I liked the white bean puree that came with that, but I don't think that everyone did.
For entrees I decided that I wanted to try a side of the lobster mac and cheese with a salad. Our server described the mac and cheese as having a layer of lobster cream sauce over the macaroni. This sounded heavenly and reasonably priced! He said that his favorite dish was the stroganoff. Since he'd also said his favorite thing was the flatbread - I ignored this advice. Eric got the duck over butternut squash with raisins, preserved lemon and arugala. Pierre ordered the Red Stag Stroganoff. I ordered the mac and cheese with a Chop salad (with hamhocks, parsnips and more raisins, accented with puffed wild rice. Interesting!) Laura ordered the mac and cheese with a Waldorf salad.
All pleased with our decisions we sipped wine and I opened the presents that everyone had brought me. I should feel worse about accepting presents at this age, but who can resist!? Andy got me a Wustoff knife sharpener to go with the knife that Matt had gotten for me. Laura got me this kick ass Jolly Roger sparkly tray. Eric got me the holy trinity - booze, literature and kitchen utensils. These guys are awesome! And everyone got me an adorable card of some sort. Sigh.... That was fun. Hmm... out of bread in the bread basket. Yup. Is Aisha wearing navy blue down there? I don't think I've seen that before? Little dim in here. What the hell is going on in the kitchen?
I went to the bathroom where they have those neat Dyson hand dryers that "wipe the moisture from your hands." Didn't work the first two times my hands went through. It was weird. I returned to the table where there still wasn't any food.
I didn't even notice how with all of this waiting and waiting, Andy was getting nervous. She had to get home and let her dog out before the poor beast exploded or devoured his crate. The restaurant was farely empty and the table behind us, that arrived after us, were gathering their coats to leave. Finally, Andy just had to go ask for her dinner to go and take off. She had to ear her steak in the car! It was such a bummer because I really wanted to try a bite of it. More, though, the best part of celebrating a birthday in this group is having everyone there together.
Finally the food arrived. I frowned into my plate. There before me was a teeny dish of pasta topped with dried out hunks of lobster, studded with little black char marks. Not brown, black. And, it was black because there was nothing to brown. There was no sauce, no cheese, just this terrible abused lobster. Who would DO such a thing!? It was stringy and singed beyond recognition. I would rather have been served some of those fake crab legs than to see such a sight. Half starved, I took a bite anyway. The little bit of sauce under the pasta had broken. There was the oil, there was the cream, pouting on opposite sides of the stupid terrine. Damn it!
My salad was another level of terrible. It all just tasted like one big hunk of something. Except for the puffed rice, which at least had texture, something the over dressed salad was lacking. As I crunched through it I kept picturing Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel chomping on bugs in Madagascar or some damn thing.
I knew we should have gone to Bulldog!
The acienct birthday girl slouched down and pushed out her bottom lip. At least Laura shared my misery. Her food was just as dismal.
Luckily, I have friends and they understand what makes me tick. Eric generously loaded me up a big bite of his duck and pasta combo. Oh, heavenly day that was lovely! The flavors melded well (except the raisin - why are there raisins in everything? What is this - a Better Off Dead send up?) The duck breast was perfectly cooked medium, juicy, the skin crispy and the fat layer gelatinous and sinful. YUM!! The bright lemon flavor played off the sweetness of the butternut squash so well.
Pierre offered me a bite of his stroganoff and this was also delicious! Why didn't I order THAT? Aisha had that as well and loaded me up with a heaping bite of venison, sour cream and eggy noodles and passed it all the way down the table. Delicious! What the hell? What was with the discrepancies? I'm even now wondering if maybe there was a guy working the appetizers/starters/side dish station and another guy was preparing the entrees. One was heavenly while the other repugnant.
I'm actually offended about what was done to that lobster. At least they took it off of my bill, but that's not really much to make up for the fact that I thought I was going to leave hungry.
But, awesome people that are my crew, had arranged a piece of cake be brought out to me. The waiter began to tentatively sing, if for fear his voice would crack or what, I don't know, but he was reeeally not sure he wanted to sing. Awkwardly everyone else joined in. It was nice. Embarrassing, but nice.
The cake was delicious. It was a chocolate/peanut butter confection - my two favorite desert partners! It was so rich, so decadent, and so good. I had to send it around and make everyone have a taste of it. So. Good. And thank God they ordered it for me. I was still starving after all that.
We all stood and mingled for a long time, drawing out our good byes. I still felt like I barely talked to half the table. At least right now I'm working with Heather, so I can harass her pretty much any time I want.
After all the hoopla, Aisha met up with me back at Skinner's for a few more. Considering I didn't eat, this might have affected my performance yesterday. Still, it was so great to have some time to just hang and talk with my really good friend. I'm so blessed and lucky to have such amazing people accompany me on these culinary adventures. I think next year we should just skip the adventure and stay closer together, rather than me trying to make such a big deal out of everything.

Psh! Yeah, right, like that's gonna happen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Birthday Dinner Recap

Watch this space. It will soon contain a funny little run down about my evening and the shenanigans. I'll probably even mention the food. But I need about four more quarts of water and a day's distance to do any sort of justice to the event. Just trust me, that I've got the best friends in the world and you never, ever order the flatbread.

Red Stag Invitation

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bring on Eddie and the Eggnog

I'm so geeked out about Christmas already and I haven't even done anything about it yet! Okay, I guess the two teeny presents I've bought count for something, but they were really impusively purchased at the store where my mom and sister work.

Usually, I wait until after my birthday to declare the holiday season officially begun, but I'm 31 this year. It seems gauche to be the complete birthday whore that I've been in the past now that I'm finally the age where they stop carding me. In fact, they don't even pretend. There's a faraway, Bitch needs her roots done, look in the cashier's eyes while she swipes away my wine, rum, vodka and E&J purchases. (Thankfully, Matt's older than me by a few months and his new brandy drinking, classical music listening, Lawrence Welk watching self makes me feel lik a spring chicken. No. I'm not kidding. He really has been watching Lawrence Welk lately - without even a hint of irony!)

So now, we're deep in sloppy, beautiful snow I'm ready to get my holiday swerve on. I work at an ad agency - which is so friggin' cool I can't even tell you - where they're looping Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, A Christmas Story and A Charlie Brown Christmas over and over on the plasma monitor by my desk. I've watched my family's traditional holiday movie, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation twice and I'm hoping to get a few more viewings in before the fat elf brings me my loot.

I'm even considering attempting to BAKE this weekend. I know - horror of Oven drenched horrors. My mom always made this awesome cardamom bread for Christmas. It's spicey, sweet and gooey. Lately, though, she's slacked off. I suppose it's my turn, but the last time I attempted it I forgot to put the eggs in. Lesson learned - eggs are essential in most doughs. Unless they're vegan. Which I would probably never attempt. Because, seriously, you need eggs.

There's so much coming up to be excited about, too, there's the Milestone That Wasn't on Monday and next Friday is my company's holiday party. The first event is that I'm going to the KDWB Jingle Ball tonight. Isn't that the most hilarious thing ever? I mean, I don't know if you've picked up on it or anything, but I am not exactly the core KDWB listener. (See above age admission.) I've never even seen an episode of American Idol, but there's gonna be two of 'em there. I HATE Avril Lavine with a passion I usually reserve for Suburban Humvee drivers and yet - here I go! Why - por que - you may ask? Because it's free. I'm so lucky to get to go with some work friends. Also, there will be free food and booze. I can overcome a lot with the aid of a gratis buzz.

So Rock Out With Your Socks Out, my little Elfkins. This holiday is kickin' in to high gear. YEE HAW! Bring on the eggnog!


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

You're Never Gonna Believe This, Ray

I just had actual, physical contact with food from a Food Court. I'm talkin' real food here, man! Right there past the McChickey Fried Poo burger and the Subway sandwiches stuffed with hate was a little stand serving food!
Now, this isn't my first experience with this place. I didn't believe my mouth the few times I'd been there before. It's called the Fusion Grill and it's located in the State Fare (groan) area of Gaviidae Commons. A friend of mine that had been working on shedding a few pounds first recommended their vegetables and rice bowls. Hmmm... sounds tasty. Yeah, I'll be over here with the fried sandwich covered in sauce, but you enjoy that for me. Okay, buh - bye.
Then, a couple of months later, fried sandwich stuck to my meaty thighs and middle region, I decided to give it a go. On one side of the counter is a bored looking Asian woman waiting to hand you sushi and on the other side are two charming Mexican women dishing up cooked dishes. I stared at the sushi options. They looked tempting, but I decided to go with the fresh springrolls. They were tasty! The shrimp didn't taste anything like licking the bottom of a dingy - which is what I was expecting. The veggies were crisp and the gummy wrapper wasn't too gooey or dry. And the little sucker kept me full for quite a while. Of course, I figured that would be a one time visit. I hate food courts.
Then, on another work day, I was nursing a pretty decent headache and was feeling a little shakey. I was craving carbs in the worst way. Again I found myself staring at the food court options. The Great Steak Mistake, Tortilla Ria-gonna Eat That? BroadAss Pizza... McDonald's Tasty Fries... What the hell. I wanted something spicy to chase away the demons in my hair that were cursing me and my decision making abilities. I ordered the spicy noodles from Fusion Grill. They weren't quite as spicy as I liked but I choose to live on the tundra with the Swedes - I know what the prevailing heat sensibilities are. The noodles, considered a side dish, only cost me a little over a buck! And I got a huge scoop of spaghetti noodles with a light coating of red chili flakes, mixed with napa cabbage and carrots. It was so good! A little bland, but exactly what I was looking for. I scarfed it down and chased it with my fourth liter of water for the day. Clouds parted, sparrows chirped - life was beautiful! I chalked it up to my fuzzy-mindedness.
Now, here I am today, trying to resist the Styrofoam box sitting next to me and sniffling my nose. I have a spicy, sweet, hot box of curried chicken in there - and she calls to me. Oh, sweet Ganesha this stuff is good! It's decent curry - did I mention it's from a food court? I tried that Indian restaurant in downtown a couple of months ago and that place was rank. Maybe I went on an off day, but the super dry Tandoori chicken and the cold, fried vegetables made me question the denizens flocking there. No - that was terrible. This is good. If you have an Indian craving when trapped under the shadow of the IDS building, you should really head this-a-way. It's chicken thigh meat, diced bell peppers and quartered potatoes smothered in a hot, creamy sauce. You can have it served over white rice or fried. I got the fried rice and I'm not really sure that it made a difference because the curry flavor is pretty strong. The friendly lady just kept ladling food into this little box. It's enough food to feed four people! I gawked and then thanked her for my hefty container. While I was being rung up, I looked into the back prep area. There was a guy at a grill actually grilling chicken breasts - not frying, not microwaving a thing!
I lugged my lunch back to my cubicle and lo and behold - the tastiness! I even had to stop reading my favorite time waster blog to come and tell you about it! And now, I am uncomfortably full. I really should have let those three other people help me out because I am telling you people that is way too much food for only 5 dollars and change. And now, I'm sitting here wishing I'd worn my fat pants and smelling like the back seat of a cab minus Curious stink. My coworkers must hate me. Between the smell and the slacking - I'm not exactly the most popular girl in the company. I don't care, though. I've got my curry and my Internet connection and my special pen set and I don't need ANYBODY!