Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Maraschino Cherries Should Contain Booze


Since January when I read this Accidental Hedonist post about the history of maraschino cherries I have become staunchly anti prohibition. Maraschino cherries used to be soaked in booze! I guess I sort of knew this, I wasn't really surprised, just saddened that America's overzealous coupling with puritanism could be allowed to ruin what sounds like a wonderful idea. Even worse, why did we continue with the bleach and sugar bath post 1933? It is obviously way past time to bring the booze back to the cherry but after much googling I was unable to locate a source for old fashioned sinful maraschino cherries. So I was forced to make them on my own.

(Warning: The ingredient list of "cherries" and "booze" supplies many ways for this post to slip into dirty innuendo, I will try to resist them, but it will be very hard) (hee. hard.)

I think as far as internet bloggers go I'm pretty qualified to lead everyone down the path to cherry exploration. In addition to being an adventurous chef who can reliable tie a cherry stem in a knot with her tongue I also grew up with cherries. My grandparents lived in Cherry Valley, California where they grew a few acres of cherry trees. Every year at cherry harvest my family would trek down from the mountains to help out. In my parent's case this meant picking and boxing bucket after bucket of cherries for the "we pick" sales and praying that the suburbanite children didn't fall off of a ladder and kill themselves thus certainly leading to our family's demise at the hands of a liability lawsuit. For me and my brother and cousins cherry season meant a couple of weekends perched in a trees snacking on cherries and spying on the children being dragged on "you pick" family outings. (it also meant ignoring our mothers' warnings regarding what becomes of children who OD on too much fruit... but since this is a post about food I'll leave this little lesson to your own learning). In addition to great childhood memories the cherry orchard all access pass also afforded me direct knowledge of some awesome Cherry recipes (including cherry strutzle cake which the internet is insisting is just like stollen but I assure you it is not -- stollen is bready, strutzle is decidedly a cake with the crumbly top coat to prove it) but, the Germans weren't big on liquor soaked fruit. Until now.

I was supposed to find marsca cherries for this recipe to be authentic, but I don't live in Italy or Slovenia and while my local produce market was willing to stock cherries that have made the cross country trip from California they do not seem to be importing from Europe just yet. I had hoped to find some Queen Anne cherries which is what American maraschino cherry makers use since they're lighter in color and thus more easily dyed florescent red but I came home with a standard bag of bings.

The key to authentic maraschino cherries is cherry liqueur, specifically cherry liquor made from marsca cherries, the most prominent brand is Luxardo which I could not find. I substituted Heering Cherry Liqueur, a product of Denmark made from danish stevns cherries, which seem to exist only to serve this liqueur and a microbrew beer as the internet makes no other references. Coincidentally I'll be in Denmark come Saturday, perhaps I'll try to hunt down some cherries (or at least drink the liqueur on it's home turf). The liqueur itself is surprisingly drinkable. I tend to find liqueurs overly syrupy but this one is sharp and alcohol tasting (in a good way) without losing the feel of cherries. I could concoct many an entertaining cocktail using this as an accent and may have to keep a stock in my bar (aka the shelf where I keep booze).

I know what you're thinking -- Brianna, this is a lot of lead in for a a bar condiment recipe. But I had no choice but to provide ample back story in order to fill out this post since the actual making of the maraschino cherries is easy-peasy. Saturday morning I washed my cherries and packed them into a glass jar, covered them in a loving blanket of cherry liqueur, sealed the lid and put them in a dark place to marinate. At the last minute I decided to make two versions, one traditional and one with half cherry liqueur and half brandy since brandy cherries are also a common enough drink garnish. Today, when I got home from work I broke open both jars and began the cherry sampling, and it was good.

Surprisingly the cherries came out bleached! The few sad fruits stuck at the top of the jar where they weren't completely immersed in the loving embrace of alcohol came out black due to oxidation but the ones buried only a layer below were bright pink in the case of the brandy mix and a stunning red in the all cherry liqueur version. Neither was anywhere near the shade of nonalocoholic maraschino cherries but after tasting each I can't see any reason not to always use the adult cherries. The cherries tasted like a solid more cherry-ish version of the booze they were soaked in and for this reason I think I like the half brandy version best, the flavor is more complex and has a pleasant smoky aftertaste. I don't think I would enjoy straight brandy cherries as much as I suspect they would lose all resemblance to the fruit. The brandy cherries also seemed a bit firmer, this is probably due to the higher alcohol content. This is not to say that the straight Heering soaked cherries are anything to turn your nose at, they're also a vast improvement over their bleach soaked brethren and I suspect that if you don't have a taste for wine (which brandy is made from) you'd probably prefer the cherry only version.

I felt it only appropriate to sample my cherries as a garnish so I whipped up a drink including one part Heerings, one part lime seltzer and, of course, a cherry and was quickly in summer drink heaven. I know I should be sampling my cherries on top of a sundae but I've already had my daily dose of ice cream and am trying not to use this blog as an excuse to gain 3000lbs. I assure you the alcoholic sundae will be explored soon. Also on the exploration list is to try this recipe with dried cherries which I hear works... and which I'd be very happy about come winter.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Self Promotion

Amy and I finally got it together to post an actual review at Alpha Astoria -- read all about it here.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Winner Parade: Entry 2

Hello and welcome to the much overdue second installment of the Winner Parade series (first entry here)! In this installment fate once again tries to teach our heroine (That’s me!) that the thin line between sexy geek and unstable freak may not actually exist. Perhaps one of these days she’ll get the message (but probably not after many more beatings with the thorny club of reality) and settle for one of the mainstream beer swilling types that occasionally hit on her and she’ll live tolerably ever after. It is probably more likely that she will continue to seek out the socially stable geek which is good news for this blog but remains bad news for her personal goals.

I met He who Flees the Country (HwFtC) (sorry to give away the punch line so early but there is no better way of classifying this boy) via craigslist, back when craigslist housed actual personal ads not just ads for no strings kinky sex (I once read an ad offering to a pay a girl to eat potato chips naked in bed while the guy who wrote the ad watched (and presumably masturbated because, as we all know, potato chips are HOT)). Back before I had this blog my main creative writing outlet was personal ads, and I excelled at this little genre. Sadly, most of the replies were more, “Here’s a picture of my Johnson!” than “I am an awesome, witty, intelligent, Jared Leto look-a-like and I want to make out with you.” But HwFtC was different, he wrote back a silly reply suitable studded with fawning compliments and expressions of general awe over my mere existence.

We quickly progressed from moon-y emails to flirty instant messages to an in person meeting in a coffee shop followed by some face-to-very-close-face make out time on my couch. HwFtC was working on his PHD in population genetics, which appealed to my ironically religious love for science. Before starting down the path to scientist god HwFtC was a “dancer” in the San Francisco Ballet (apparently there is no male equivalent to the word ballerina) which appealed to my shallow love for shapely calves and muscular arms. He also had 2 lesbian moms which I took as a sign that he would not turn into an evil boy because (I assumed) his moms would find out and kick his ass. Because I do not want to edit my stereotypical view of lesbian moms I have chosen to believe that HwFtC never told his moms about how he behaved while dating that adorable geeky blond girl with the hot rack (Me again! And, yes, I assume that if he were to tell his moms about us that he would smartly avoid references to my rack). Or perhaps he did tell them and has since suffered some serious facial contusions and possibly no longer has a penis.

HwFtC and I had been making googly eyes at one another for about a month when the trouble began. This was at a time in my life were I typically went on 3 dates with a boy before he either announced that I’d make an awesome friend (especially if I would also sleep with him) or just stopped calling so I considered 4 weeks of continuous mutual liking a great boon. It was 2004 and, like many programmers in the San Francisco Bay area, I was living off of a combination of occasional contact work, unemployment and my parent’s generosity so my afternoons were often free to lounge around with my favorite soon to be geneticist. One such afternoon I got all dolled up, prepared what I’m sure was a gourmet lunch spread and spent a good 90 minutes staring at the clock before jumping to the conclusion that HwFtC had died in a fiery wreck on the 101. We had yet to reach the relationship stage of meeting each other's friends so I had nowhere obvious to turn to confirm his mortality short of internet searches for deadly car crashes (which, I assure you, I ran at least once ever 5 minutes). In the meantime I had no choice but to leave increasingly more panicked and pathetic messages on his voice mail.

This embarrassing behavior continued for 2 days at which point I received a reply to the following purposefully amusing email sent near the beginning of being stood up (as opposed to the equally hilarious but less dignified emails sent many hours or days later).

So, here's the deal. In a few days if I still haven’t heard from you I’m going to email people in your lab group and ask if you're still alive. So if you are still alive you're going to look like a bit of a jerk with a stalker. To avoid this situation, you should act like an adult and email me and say "nope, not dead, just not talking to you." If you are, however, actually dead you can just do nothing (rest in peace as it were.).

HwFtC was not dead but had instead fled to the woods to get a little one on one time with nature in an effort to clear his head and figure out how he felt about me. Apparently I am *MUCH* more interesting than population genetics (no surprise here) and this had resulted in an overturning of the poor boy's priorities and subsequently resulted in some freaking out. Where a normal boy would think, “Hmmmm study genetics or continue fooling around with Brianna?” and then laugh out loud while making a grab for my ass the kind of boys I typically date go into a free fall that involves a Thoreau-like need to get back to nature and focus on the awesomeness of cells in a Petri dish over cells making up a set of 34Ds (at the time) that the owner is TOTALLY WILLING TO LET YOU TOUCH.

To be fair all was not completely rosy in the land of dreamy gazes -- there was one stressful thing looming in the future, in roughly one month he would be off on an internship in Germany that would require us to be physically apart for 2.5 months. My general feeling on this was “eh, there’s always email” but he was much more concerned (this is understandable considering how awesome I am to hang out with, the entire country of Germany can hardly compete).

Anyway, post Into The Woods there was much apologizing and promising to, in the future, talk to me rather than commune with nature. We made plans to have lunch the next day and I was back on the road to the early relationship honeymoon period. I really should have known better. As should surprise no one, HwFtC didn’t show. Again. There was a repeat performance of the, “where the hell are you?” emails (this time with much more cursing) but I never heard another word from HwFtC. Eventually I made good on my promise and emailed one of his friends. I know this is pathetic, more pathetic than most of you hopefully think that I am capable of but a girl needs closer.

Hi,

I *think* that you sort of know me (though it's possible that i have the wrong Steve), I briefly dated your friend [HwFtC]. anyway, about 3 weeks ago he sort of dropped off the face of the planet and while normally I'd just write him off as a jerk he never seemed like much of a jerk and now I'm a bit worried that something happened to him. I know he was going to Germany soon but I would have expect some sort of note letting me know that he was leaving the country. So, I know this is incredibly weird but I'd really appreciate it if you could let me know if:

1)He's still alive (and not you know, in jail, or abducted by aliens or something)

2)If I can potentially expect to hear from him again (presumably not from the beyond -- though that might also be kind of cool.)

Hopefully with a little more information I can step back on to the good side of the "crazy stalker-chick" line.

His friend at least had the decency to respond (and was even witty! I wonder if he's single...), which is WAY more than I would have done in a similar situation. Of course I try not to befriend people who leave the country without sending at least a memo to everyone that they are currently making out with on a regular basis.

Um yes, crazy-stalker chick, this is kinda weird but I will say that I've heard from him once since he went to Germany and he was alive at that time. I did not hear any of the characteristic beeps and strange languages in the background that one would expect if he had been abducted by aliens (although who's to say that alien languages might not sound German). Nor did he mention needing bail money wired or a sex-starved cell mate named Heinz.

Obviously, that was (finally) the end of things. Even more obviously I should have chucked his ass into the dumpster weeks before – I’d like to assure all readers that my self esteem is infinitely higher today and all boyfriends who attempts to leave the country without telling me will received Lorena Bobbit-like lesbian mom treatment (*snip*).

A year or so later I did see the name of HwFtC appear in the “Who Viewed Me?” section of Friendster (God bless Friendster and it’s attempts to appeal to my humongous ego – myspace, time to cowboy up) so I was able to gather enough information to wonder what the hell I was thinking mooning over such a dork. (For those of you not in the know geeky is one thing, dorky is another thing all together and I think it’s pretty clear how these states of social status should fall in the dating hierarchy.) He’s apparently in a relationship, something I sort of suspect he’s been in since well before I knew him. One has to wonder just who this girl is and how she could possible be better than me – the only conclusion that seems realistic is that she’s imaginary. He includes 3 pictures in his profile, in one he has a handkerchief tied around his head all Little House on the Prarie-ish. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Browsing for Boys

I am not a huge fan of dating, though I've heard that other people love it to death. Ironically most of these other people seem to be married already and, I suspect, are just suffering from the all too common "grass is always greener" syndrome. I suppose it's also possible that they are married because they were so amazingly awesome at dating and they miss dating in the same way I miss my 7th grade algebra class; it's hard to never again get to do something that you kicked ass at. Anyway, dating bad. I am however a huge fan of shopping. This is probably the main reason why I sort of love online dating sites. Much as I can picture myself in that cute red polka dotted dress over at J Crew (note to J Crew execs who obviously read my blog: cut that shit down, no one is paying $200 for that dress no matter how cute) I can picture myself with so many cute boys and there's none of the pressure of worrying if they like me. Of course I am hoping to stumble on the boy equivalent of a $20 sundress (in a nice bright springy color with a full skirt and cap sleeves so I could wear it to work) but mostly I browse. Unfortunately the online dating reality is much like a trip to the Forever 21 sale rack; not only are most of the offerings not so cute but they often leave me wondering just what the designer was thinking.

It's possible that I am way to generous with giving people the benefit of the doubt but I think many of the glaring mistakes I see in these ads are well intentioned. Either way, I'd like to highlight a couple of online dating no-nos that single (or, sadly, too often, not so single) boys should take to heart. Consider this my good deed of the week.

Things Not To Do If You Are Hoping to Land some Hot Internet Girl Booty


1. Do not send me a form letter. I know you think that your message is subtle enough to not be flagged as a form letter but you are wrong. If you can't write something that makes it clear that you are writing to me and not to [insert name of breast baring human here] I will classify your message as dating spam and I will refuse to reply to it no matter how awesome you might otherwise seem. Here's an example that I recently received:
Hi
I'm lawrence, i saw your picture on this dating site and had gone through your profile, i found you interesting. You have a nice picture and your beutifull face has taken a piece of my heart. I can't wait to meet with you and chat with you so sa to know one another better. I would like you to reply to my personal mail address which is Matthewblahblah@yahoo.com.
Hope to hear from you soon.

Dude. It should be noted that I got a duplicate letter 2 days later, the only difference was that he introduced himself as Matthew. Lawrence/Matthew, (I expect you are actually Matthew since that name appears in your email address which I have been kind enough not to include on my blog) this is not a good way to try to woo women. I have not taken a piece of your heart (and even if I had that is the kind of saccharine line that you should keep to yourself), I know girls in romantic comedies love lines like this but I suspect that no real life women (even real life women who are not as cynical as I) will react to this statement with anything other than eye rolling (even if the woman you said it to was actually someone you knew). As a left brained dork who is overly obsessed with efficiency I appreciate your attempts at fast tracking the online dating process with mass mailings, I myself have often considered just handing out "you're cute, call me!" cards while on the subway, but a huge part of asking a girl out is making her feel special, this just makes me feel like one step above a blow up doll on the girl hierarchy.

2. Do not advertise your sexual prowess. I was recently reading the profile of a very cute blond boy and thinking "oh, very cute! smart! likes documentaries! witty! yeah!" until I got to the "Things I'm really good at" section.
using big words in elaborate sentences... cooking fatty gourmet southern food... eating pussy...
Cute! Yum! SKEEVY! I mean obviously this is a skill that I am all for but when you just put it out there all casual like that I do not think "awesome, I gotta score me some of that!" I do think "Ew." and maybe even "those who can't do talk about it." Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident; internet boys seems to be constantly highlighting how much they L-O-V-E cunnilingus (look forward to seeing that sentence on a future segment of "how people find my blog") . I think this may be the result of a disconnect between male and female brains. Men are probably out there browsing profiles thinking "She likes Modest Mouse! She loves the citrus oil smell that you get when you first start peeling an orange! How cute! Hey, I photograph all of my meals too!!!!... man, I wish she'd have included something about her blow job abilities, I don't feel comfortable writing to someone until that information is on the table. Next."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dear United Airlines Customer Service Representative

Hi! How’s your day going? I imagine it’s not so great, I picture your job as 8 hours of listening to people whine about crap like not receiving a second bag of pretzels despite asking FIVE TIMES or yelling at you for the thunder storm that ruined their monthly trip to Cabo. I also imagine that United doesn’t pay you enough to deal with this crap – they don’t pay me enough at my job either, if they did I would own a private jet and could thus have avoided the weekend of woe that United has subjected me to.

It all started on the evening of Thursday May 10th, I boarded my flight (United 0509) from New York’s La Guardia Airport bound for Denver at 5:00pm. The skies were clear and we pulled away from the gate on time so all seemed to be going well. While in the terminal I had heard rumblings of canceled flights to the Midwest due to thunder storms but I figured this was someone else’s bad karma coming to call and would not affect me in my travels to Las Vegas. As I’m sure you’ve already anticipated – I was wrong. We spent 3 hours sitting on the runway waiting for the ok to take off – the pilot didn’t give us much information but I was later told that the main cause of this delay was an air traffic control problem. I don’t really know what that means but I suspect that it’s airline lingo for “Screw you.” I’m sure the 3 extra hours of time spent in an airplane seat was no picnic for anybody on the flight but my time on the runway was made especially memorable by my neighbor, Judy. Judy was very chatty. She’s from Portland and works as a consultant and seemed very interested in impressing me with how important she is at her job. She is also one of those people determined not to take any crap. As a result she felt obligated to bitch endlessly about the injustice of our current situation. This made it very difficult for me to maintain the Zen-like patience that I was hoping would prevent me from giving myself a stress headache.

The 3 hours with Judy on the LGA tarmac caused me to miss my connecting flight in Denver. I was still working the sunny attitude when a robot voice informed me (via a voice message) that I had been booked on a 7:30am flight to Las Vegas. This was obviously bad news. I deplaned and looked around hoping to find a United representative to help me figure out what to do with my evening in Denver. Unfortunately the gate attendant was already busy boarding Denver passengers onto my old plane and had no intention of talking to me. It was after 10:00pm and, despite how the city is represented on The Real World, Denver must not be much of a party town because the airport was dead. There were no United representatives at any of the near-by gates (and no drunken 22 year olds being filmed while prancing around in tube tops, cargo shorts and indignant pouts) so I decided to look for the customer service center while Judy busied herself screaming at other passengers, the janitor, and the soda machine.

My quest for help did not go well. I couldn’t find an information booth with anyone manning it and the United ticket counter was a ghost town. I decided to call United but the only number I had was for reservations where a nice Indian lady told me that she could not help me with anything other than booking future travel with United. Since I couldn’t imagine willingly purchasing another United flight anytime soon and since sleeping on the cold tile of the airport baggage claim area was fast seeming a likely scenario I asked to speak to her supervisor who offered to transfer me to customer service. I agreed to this and was greeted with a message informing me that United lets their customer service reps go home at 7:00pm (much like all of their American employees it would seem – I imagine you too were snug in bed or out at some late night haunt drinking away your troubles). I’m a latte drinking east coast liberal so I’m all for workers rights including letting everyone go home in time to spend an hour pondering how Ian Zeiring turned into such a hunk-a-roony while watching Dancing with the Stars (seriously, Luke Perry can eat it, I’m signing up for a hearty dose of Steve Sanders booty.) so I tried to suppress my anger, but by this point even a heavy dose of Paxil wouldn’t have put me into a mellow mood. I decided that I was defeated and had no choice but to go to a hotel and return to the airport in the morning. I located the bank of hotel phones and started dialing… 3 calls in I found out that a huge convention was in town and all hotel rooms were occupied. This is when the last vestige of my optimism jumped ship. Because I am, perhaps, a bit stunted in my emotional development, or because I am just lucky enough to have been born with awesomely supportive parents who totally want me to call them when shit like this happens I decided to call my mom. In retrospect this may have been a bad decision. I think I would have been able to resist bawling in the middle of the deserted baggage claim area if I had not had my mom on the line telling me how angry and worried she was for me. Once I got off the phone and stopped my crying I was able to locate one lonely late night United employee in the lost baggage department. She gave me a voucher for a discounted hotel stay and pointed me to the courtesy phone where I found out that the only hotel with an opening was in some town called Parker 30+ miles away and did not have an airport shuttle. Despite the sign above the courtesy phone claiming rates as low as “$37/night” I would be paying $89+tax.

I found the taxi line and began my long journey to Parker Colorado with my Kenyan cabbie friend who did not speak much English but was able to inform me that there were no cabs in Parker so come morning I was going to be screwed (again). Luckily he offered to come back at 5:45am. After about 45mins on the road we arrived at the hotel where I shelled out my first monetary payment for United’s travel fuck up.

CASH LOST SO FAR: $75

This was, of course, quickly followed by paying for the hotel room – unsurprisingly “discount” in United speak means “still very expensive.”

CASH LOST SO FAR: $175

I slept for 5 hours before the cabbie arrived 30mins early and called me. I was annoyed but I tried to be nice since he was kind enough to drive back out to the middle nowhere to get me to the airport. So back we went and again I paid an insane amount because United is incapable of providing me with the services that I paid for.

CASH LOST SO FAR: $250

I did finally make it to Vegas and was rewarded with some good times. Lest you think that I am a dirty dirty sinner bound for Vegas to further bring down the moral fiber of America let me assure you that I was headed there to visit family, not to gamble, drink and paw at strippers. The picture on the left should serve as proof of this claim – I’m on the right wearing my bathing suit. I look pretty hot but can hardly compete with the insane cuteness of 21 month old Delanie. After my very bumpy transportation experience the trip was a success. My dad fed money into poker machines for me and I managed to win $50, I tried Ben and Jerry’s Wavy Gravy ice cream for the first time and declared it too busy but still ate the entire scoop (for it is a great sin to waste ice cream), my cousin Miquela successfully graduated from UNLV and I successfully completed two crossword puzzled while marveling over the speed at which the sign language translators had to move their fingers while signing the names of over 1000 graduates. All too soon I was back at the Las Vegas airport waiting for my flight home.

The May 13th morning flight from Las Vegas to Denver passed in a fog; I fell asleep on the runway and didn’t wake up until the captain announced our decent into Denver. I deplaned and went in search of sustenance in the form of a Wolfgang Puck spinach, mushroom and gorgonzola pizza. I called a friend in New York and arranged to visit her new home after landing. All was well. I had a good hour and a half to kill so I headed to my gate with the intention of catching up on some work. As soon as I arrived the gate attendant announced that our plane was still stuck in Portland due to mechanical problems and that United was looking for a replacement plane, in the meantime passengers should sit tight. Twenty minutes later the flight (United 0894) was canceled. Off I went to customer service where I stood in a 40 minute line only to find out that there were no seats on any flights until the next day.

I sometimes worry that as I’ve grown older I have less and less control over my tear ducts. As a teenager I used to laugh at my mother for crying over burnt dinner, cute babies and Kleenex commercials but lately I suspect I might be able to beat her in a sob off. I tried to be tough when talking to the customer service rep, I tried to look angry and mean and important as I demanded compensation for my being stuck in Denver TWICE IN ONE WEEKEND. My bravado was quickly squashed by the onslaught of tears welling from my uncooperative eyes. The customer service representative probably chuckled to herself as I walked away with a hotel voucher, $16 in food coupons which could only be used in the airport (where I would not be), and a ticket for a flight the following afternoon.

I had hoped that my overnight stay would at least allow me the pleasure of getting to know Denver, a city I always wanted to visit. Alas my hotel was marooned deep in the suburbs, and I, without a car, had only the onsite bar and the nearby Walmart shopping center to entertain me. For want of any better option I hiked over to Walmart in search of a few snack items to support my stomach while working from the hotel desk the following day – which reminds me, this hotel charges for internet access which I had to have since United was making it impossible for me to go into the office.

CASH LOST SO FAR: $260

You would think that a Super Walmart would have something worth snacking on. Some cut up fruit perhaps? A salad bar? sushi? Nope, nope and hahahahaha. I was also hoping that Sam Walton would provide me with access to some booze, unfortunately Colorado, like New York, is a blue law state and Walmart was only allowed to sell cheap beer in quantities of 24 cans at a time. I did manage to pick up some Mike’s Hard Limeade (because when it comes to drinking I’m a 17 year old girl who just snuck into her first frat party) and I took a picture of the most awesome product known to man, "Ol' Glory: America's Best Energy Drink". Yes, that is the pledge of allegiance printed on the back of the can, reminding us that GOD loves America so much that he gave to us the sweet elixirs of corn syrup and caffeine. (You should seriously go visit their website for it is hilarious) In addition to the malt liquor I purchased an apple, some baby bella cheese discs, a can of tuna with crackers, and a bag of extra spicy cheetos. I just started reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen and am currently mired in the section about the evils of surplus corn so I felt obligated to pay special attention to the corn I was consuming. The cheetos (a not spicy enough caloric luxury I only allow myself in times of extreme stress) were of course almost 100% corn. I’d like to think that the apple was corn free but it was suspiciously shiny which I suspect might have been the result of a thin coating of corn based wax. Armed with these embarrassingly unhealthy provisions and a take out menu from a local “Asian” restaurant (actual Asian country unspecified – I should probably be thankful that the word “Oriental” was not used) I returned to my hotel room.

CASH LOST SO FAR: $273

At the hotel I learned a lot about the evils of Paris Hilton from CNN and Nancy Grace who were devoting an entire hour of programming to talking about how ridiculous it is that the media devotes so much time to talking about Paris Hilton. After a couple of much too sweet alcoholic limeades I decided it was time for some Asian dinner. The restaurant would only deliver orders of $12 or more so I was forced to get an appetizer (steamed pork dumplings) and an entrĂ©e (kung pao chicken) both of which were uniformly awful –I do not recommend unspecific ethnic food purchased from strip mall restaurants in the middle of the country. I do however, recommend the gin and tonics available at the Red Roof Inn in Stapleton CO which are only $4.50 and which are served by a sweet and funny bar tender who is more than willing to slip a girl a few extra limes. I noticed that my United sponsored food coupons exclude the purchase of alcohol and I’d like to recommend that you change this policy, the only time during the last 4 days that no part of me wanted to march into a United office and throw a tantrum was during the consumption of these drinks. If you were to offer a round of free alcoholic beverages to all stranded passengers I bet you could seriously lower your customer service costs.

CASH LOST SO FAR: $286
(In the spirit of good will I’ve excluded the gin and tonics from this tally)

It’s Monday evening now and after a day of working from the desk in my hotel room (the tuna was surprisingly edible) I’m finally on a plane bound for New York City. Assuming we don’t crash or get diverted back to Denver or fall into a worm hole I should be home by 10:00pm. As you can see, it’s been a pretty miserable trip. Unlike Judy and (I assume) most of the people who call or write to you I have a hard time getting too indignant about little injustices like this. As soon as I start thinking “This is AWFUL! My life SUCKS!” my (perhaps too big) heart reminds me that lots of people (the majority of the world) have it much worse. I eventually arrived safely at both of my final destinations; I could afford the taxi fare and hotel fee so I got to avoid sleeping in the airport; I’m lucky enough to have the kind of job that can be done from a hotel room desk. But when I look back at my experiences over the last 4 days I have to believe that the service that I received is much below the level that United strives to provide. Between work and pleasure I’ve been lucky enough to do a fair bit of traveling in my 29 years and this is by far the worst experience I’ve ever had. I could end this letter with much cursing and threatening to never fly United again but, as you’ve probably gathered, that’s not really my style. I do however, think I am entitled to a free flight to compensate for the monetary and personal suffering that United has caused me. I will also be posting this letter on my blog where I can assure you that it will be read by at least 10 (if not as many as 20) other people all of whom will most defiantly be on my side, maybe one or two will even curse at you for me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A PSA for the Ladies

Girls,

Can everyone one please stop hovering? Hovering is the bathroom equivalent of driving a huge SUV. Sure, your ass is dry but while selfishly protecting your own tuckus you're spaying pee all over the damn seat. Everyone else is suffering from your self serving ways. You have no aim when you hover. If all of us would just sit the fuck down there would be no reason to hover in the first place.

If you absolutely refuse to let your precious behind touch porcelain at least have the moral character to wipe the damn seat after you spray urine all over it.

Only you can prevent wet butts.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Eating in China Town

Last week, in a bit of a panic over the 4 days of NYC entertainment that I would soon be expected to provide for my mother and our friend Jeanne, I booked an eating tour of China Town through The Enthusiastic Gourmet. (I did hesitate slightly out of a fear that poor web site design might be a sign of poor tour guide abilities but, luckily, decided that those skills are unrelated). China Town has always intimidated me. I'm creeped out by the people whispering in my ear about knockoff purses/sunglasses/perfumes. Much of the signage is in Chinese which leaves me fearful that I will accidentally consume gerbil brains. I mostly tend to pass through (swearing intermittently at the slow moving crowds) on my way to the bus depot (cause there ain't no way to beat $25 to Boston or DC). I'm occasionally distracted by the high quality produce at cheap prices but rarely does it seem worth while to risk being trampled over a few cherries. I expected the tour to be a fun way to pass a Sunday afternoon and was thrilled to have scheduled 3 hours of someone else playing tour guide but was surprised to discover tips, deals and flavors that have me almost eager to fight through the tourists and Asian Grandmas on Canal St. I heartily recommend this tour and expect to force future guests to accompany me on similar exploration of other neighborhoods -- the experience was well worth the $45/person price tag.

A few highlights:
  1. Tasty Dumpling at 54 Mulberry has to be the best kept secret in the city. For ONE DOLLAR you can get five amazingly yumarific fried pork dumplings. This is an entire meal! Fuck the dollar menu at McDonalds everyone in the city should be flocking to Tasty Dumpling (if this were to happen I wouldn't even be saddened by the ensuing obesity epidemic, some things are worth getting fat for).
  2. At the beginning of the tour the guide warned us that the food in Chinatown is authentic Chinese and is often a bit hard for Americans to adjust to, she assured us that if we didn't like something we should feel no obligation to eat it. I am a huge food snob so I thought, "ha! Boring middle American tourists probably can't handle the food on this tour but my cultured palleted will have no problems. Not only will I taste everything but I plan on loving it!" My snobbery held up quite well (who wouldn't love pork pies, egg custard, spicy beef jerky and fried dumplings?) until we got to Aji Ichiban and I was handed a piece of dried crab. I popped it into my mouth thinking "Here we go, mmmm dried fish! I am so hard core." I have to blame my Wisconsin roots for betraying me -- dried crab was so awful that I wimped out on trying any of the other dried (and often sweetened) fish products. Instead I hightailed it over to the other side of the shop where I discovered that preserved lemon is a great way to cleanse ones wimpy American pallet.
  3. Dumplings aren't the only smoking deal in China Town, it turns out that the Chinese have discovered a way to sell almost anything for 50% less than it costs anywhere else in the city. On this tour we saw entire rabbits (the dead kind for eating, not the cute kind of petting) for $4, fish at $.80/lb, mini custards for $.60 each and cooked duck for $8/lb. If I were not so lazy I would immediately start doing all of my shopping in China Town.
  4. Even an adventurous veggie eater like myself still has lots left to try. The produce market we visited was stocked with greenery that has not yet passed through my glossy rose scented lips. This will have to change. Luckily the tour guide provided us with a handout detailing the best cooking methods for each of the strange and unusual plant products. ( A note from Mom, who, a couple of years ago, bowed to her own adventurous spirit and bought and cooked a bitter melon. She does not recommend this. The resulting meal was "gross" and (shockingly) also "very bitter." Mom and Dad were reduced to the pizza back up plan.)
  5. I am happy to report that Asian communities seem to have finally realized that ice cream is the perfect food. I assume that they would have acknowledged this fact sooner but they probably needed some time to get over being angry that god didn't provide their culture with access to dairy years ago. The last tasting on our tour was an entire bowl of ice cream from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory where I had a half scoop of "Yum Butter" (aka sesame ice cream with peanut butter) and a half scoop of lychee. The experience reminded me of the Bombay Ice Creamery in San Francisco where they serve shockingly good cardamom ice cream. I heartily recommend both places (you can probably assume that I recommend any place dealing in ice cream -- expect for Cold Stone, their ice cream is strangely blah).
  6. In addition to the fun of trying new food stuffs we also learned some practical lessons like how to tell if fish is fresh:
              1. Smell it -- it should have very little scent (I already knew this one, go me)
              2. Press on it -- the flesh should spring back
              3. Check the gills -- they should be bright red
              4. Look at the eyes -- they should be clear, not milky.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Nobody Needs This


Diet Coke Plus is the newest formulation of Diet Coke. Diet Coke Plus was introduced in April 2007 in select areas for test marketing.
Each 8-ounce serving of Diet Coke Plus provides 15% of the daily value for niacin and vitamins B6 and B12, and 10% for zinc and magnesium. [1]


Seriously? Did you people learn nothing from New Coke?


My initial thought upon seeing a coworker chug this stuff like Keystone at a High School tire fire was, "way to go Coke!" Finding new ways to scam people this late in the game really has to be admired. Of course I thought the coworker was a bit of sucker. If your health situation is so starved for nutrients that you need to sneak them into your body via soda might I suggest that rather than drinking some Diet Coke you consider seeing a doctor (And eating some damn vegetables!). After doing a little research I found that the scam goes much deeper that previous thought. The people at Coke didn't even make an effort to include nutrients that their target customers (seems safe to assume that this is adult females in western countries) are typically lacking.

According to the World Health Organization:

The most common and important deficiencies for the health of populations are:


so... no
niacin, no vitamin B6 or B12 no zinc and no magnesium. Awesome. Just how do the Coke vitamins of choice fair? I've looked that up for you on ye olde internet! god bless the kingdom of tubes!

Niacin
(via
Merek)
  • Dietary niacin deficiency (causing pellagra) is uncommon in developed countries.
B6
(via NIH)
  • Clinical signs of vitamin B6 deficiency are rarely seen in the United States.
  • Individuals with chronic alcohol abuse frequently exhibit lowered plasma levels of pyridoxal 5'-phosphate, the coenzyme form of vitamin B6.
B12

B12 deficiency seems to be a bit more common and it can cause anemia (which is very common in women) so this supplement initially seems like an ok idea. However, upon further research I found that there are many different variants of anemia and Coke picked the wrong one to focus on (In the United States, 20% of all women of childbearing age have iron deficiency anemia). Next!

Zinc

(via NIH)
  • Low zinc status has been observed in 30% to 50% of alcoholics. Alcohol decreases the absorption of zinc and increases loss of zinc in urine.
Magnesium
(via NIH)
  • Magnesium deficiency is rare.
  • Deficiency of magnesium can occur in alcoholics
So the question of the month: Is Coke just choosing vitamins at random in an effort to scam those among us who want very badly to believe that diet soda is healthy or are the trying to target the burgeoning alcoholic community?