Saturday, April 21, 2007

Something Here Will Eventually Have to Explode

If you've ever had the pleasure of riding in a car with me as a passenger then you know that I am perhaps the most annoying person on the planet. I spend most trips sling-shotting between forcing all occupants to *enjoy this song right now* and trying not to pee my pants while quickly reviewing all of the life events that I'll be missing out on after I die in the car crash that is about to happen. While traveling in a car (much like while doing anything) I am incapable of shutting off the background noise of my brain and all spare neurons are so devoted to freaking out about their impending death that I cannot help but occasionally (every 40 seconds or so) grip the door handle, sharply inhale and slam my foot down on the floor in mock brake slamming (the fact that I am alive to write this post proves that all of these are effective ways of tricking the Grim Reaper). Because as a New Yorker with no car of my own I very much do not want my friends with wheels (Hi Joe!) to take away my access to Target I try to hide my certainty that the driver is steering the car and its occupants into the afterlife. This is very difficult because no matter what Disney says I'm all but certain that cars want to kill me.

For the record none of this is my fault (turns out this statement is true about all of my flaws). Growing up my mother was an ER nurse with very little fore site when it came to scaring her children for life. She would come home from a hard day of life saving/bring home the bacon and while frying it up in a pan describe holding some poor schmuck's brain in her hands. This displacement of gray matter was almost always the result of the combination of icy roads, stupidity, fast speeds and God's sick sense of humor. Somehow this resulted in a son who purchases cars for the sole purpose of crashing them into things and a daughter (me!) who cannot get into a vehicle without wondering who will show up at her funeral. This means that in addition to worrying about my livelihood I have no choice but to also put in some heavy worrying time trying to avert my brother's certain death (see: here).

This past weekend I was in a car with a number of coworkers (aka people who I would like to convince that I am sane) and had to work extra hard to hide my fear of the driver slamming the vehicle into another car or the guardrail or that Duncan Donuts up ahead (though in this last case my ejection from the vehicle might be cushioned by piles of fluffy french crullers which would be pretty awesome). This was made extra difficult by the fact that the driver was busy DJ-ing and getting us lost. At one point he suggested that someone jump out at the next light and get the directions that he left "somewhere in the trunk." Because everyone else in the car was apparently not concerned about our eminent doom I was left with no choice but to blurt out, "Oh my god I'd prefer that no one DIE on this trip, pull over like a normal person." I may be insane but at least I'm alive.

Thank God I live in New York City where one can limit her car exposure to once a week otherwise even if I somehow managed to avoid death in a fiery wreck the ulcer from worrying about such things would certainly have done me in by now.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Random Recommends 5

Tropicana Pure Valencia Orange Juice

Last week I invited a friend over for "breakfast for dinner" so that I could practice my sunny side up egg making skills. The eggs turned out lovely but the stand out of the meal what this orange juice. I normally don't find bottled orange juice good enough to bother with the calories but fresh squeezed is another thing all together and I'll happily pay upwards of $4 for a glass. Tropicana's new offering is almost as good as fresh squeezed (but requires neither muscle nor special machinery nor a busting bank account). It's so good, I even had a glass without any vodka.

Rainboots from Target has rainboots in 57 different prints (according to my calculations) for $13.99-$19.99 and if you order any two items from women's clothing or shoes you get free shipping! Last Thursday when I woke up to the ticking of rain at my window I could hardly conceal my glee (actually I made no attempts at concealing it but only Mr. Chinchilla was around to see my joyful wiggling and he just gave me that "arn't you gonna gimmie a craisin?" look as usual). A couple of coworkers and I ordered boots together a few weeks ago and so the joy continued all day as we passed each other in the hallways and giggled at each other's cute (and dry!) feet. We've been having a very rainy week and I'm happy to report that even 3 stormy days of rainy gloom is still out wieghed by the excitement of wearing my cute new boots.

Laura Bee Designs

I'm not much of a purse girl but about a month ago I decided that in order to be a proper New York City girl I needed to have at least one cute purse option for those days when my laptop bag (a previous feature on Random Recommends) is too unwieldy. I tend to get stuck on the idea of finding the *bestest* *most perfect* object of my desire which often leads to much searching and little purchasing but luckily in this case I stumbled onto the Laura Bee site fairly early in my quest. This purse may have turned me into a purse girl (if you ever catch me spending $200+ on some bag please look at me in shame and force me to give equal amounts to charity). I have a wedding to attend in two weeks and I'm already planning my outfit around this bag.

While at the site I picked up one of their cute (and fairly cheap!) wristlets as a late birthday gift for Miss Amy and while she may be politely lying she claims to that it is also quite lovely (Amy: if you don't like it give it back! I only buy gifts that I secretly want for myself!).

Emmi Grapefruit Yogurt

(Picture stolen from (at least) one cool thing)

When a coworker recommended this yogurt my immediate thought was, "eww, grapefruit and dairy?" I don't know why the idea produced such cringing since I've long been a fan of lemon yogurt. The Swiss must have made some soul exchange sort of deal with the god a dairy because oh my god this yogurt is amazing. The best part of the experience is that the foil cover tends to get a build up of the fat in the yogurt which, even though it sounds a bit gross, should never be thrown away since it's the yummiest thing in the world. God knows how Emmi manages this with only 1.5% milk fat. Somehow the overall impression of this yogurt is refreshing (not something one usually associates with dairy products). Last week I made a separate trip to a second deli because deli number one did not have this yogurt in stock -- when it comes to glowing reviews not much out does a product that has me willingly participating in such inefficiency.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Winner Parade: Entry 1

Tuesday night I was out with some girlfriends (for all you can eat mussels and half price drinks at Essex which I highly recommend) where I was asked to tell a few of the boy disaster stories from my past. My friends might just be easily entertained but through the wall of giggles they all insisted that I should begin capturing some of these stories on my blog. I’m not entirely sure how to react to the knowledge that my love life has been so comically awful as to amuse and delight those around me. I’d like to think that I just spin a good yarn but I can’t deny that most of the boys I’ve loved before do constitute a long glorious winner’s parade. I made up the term “winner parade” and expect to see it added to the Oxford English any day now.

Winner Parade [win-er puh-reyd]
-- noun
a continual passing by of people all of whom show some outward sign of a mental and/or physical inability to behave in the normal socially acceptable fashion expected for their age and/or stature. In most cases the parade members possess a "Monet-like" quality as defined in the movie Clueless, "From far away, it's OK, but up close, it's a big old mess."

Before I begin the process of using my past loves as fodder for this site I just want to reiterate two things:
  1. I seriously really liked all of these guys. They were mostly well intentioned sweet boys who could perhaps use a slap with the glove of maturity.
  2. Every one of these encounters seemed like a good idea at the time. When it comes to choosing boys to date I probably should no longer be trusted to pick the good ideas from the ticking manure bombs.

Ok, conscious clear! Let's go!

Shortly after graduating from college and moving to San Francisco I met a nice young man on the internet. Ironically I have now used this same tool to locate and spy on him (one stop shopping people.). I have no shame. Let’s call this boy Little Tortured Bunny (LTB). In LTB’s dating profile he claimed a love for Ani Difranco and yet didn’t seem gay so I was immediately sold. We did a decent amount of email fawning over one another before the big meet and greet which for some reason (as usual stupidity seems most likely) we invited multiple friends to tag along on. We went to an Asian restaurant of some sort where you had to sit on the floor. My only other memorable recollection from that evening was that his best friend was only willing to consume white or orange food items (the list of acceptable nourishment was actually restricted by much more than just color palette and essentially boiled down to white carbohydrates, bananas and cheddar cheese). Anyway, LTB seemed charming and effervescent, very in love with life and himself (yeah, I know, red flag) and was cute enough that I couldn’t see any reason not to fantasize about kissing him. And I did and then we did and thus began a couple of months of googly eyes and hand holding.

There were many slightly odd things about LTB but I managed to convince myself that most of these were simply charming quirks. He got so excited about his thoughts that he often interrupted other people. He was choosing to go by his slightly affected (and I suspect made up) middle name for no apparent reason. He had daddy issues that he made sound very grand but refused to actually discuss. He was less than over his ex girlfriend who he apparently had been engaged to – but in one of those pretend sounding “we’re 23 and we don’t need a ring!” affairs that apparently crashed and burned in one fireball of drama involving soap opera like plot devises. One night, only a month into our relationship he choose watching Toy Story over making out with me. The most interesting mystery was his job. It was 2000 and he worked at one of the larger internet companies making bank for all I could tell. I was a programmer at the time and perfectly capable of conversing on geeky subjects like java script, flash and D&D and yet every time I asked him about his job I got an evasive “you know I work for [big web company]” sort of answer. One day I got pushy and insisted on him revealing just what it was he did every day from 11-7:30.

Brianna: I’m interested in knowing more about you. I’m a programmer; I’m going to understand what your job is.

LTB: Ok... You know my friend [Weird but Freakily Smart Guy]?

Brianna: yes, sort of…

LTB: Ok well WFSG wrote this piece of software while we were in college

Brianna: uhhuh

LTB: And one day [big web company] called up WFSG and offered to buy the software and give him and “his people” jobs

Brianna: uh…huh...

LTB: So WFSG told [big web company] that I was one of his people and then they offered to move me to San Francisco and give me an insane amount of stock and a job

Brianna: ok…

LTB: So now I hang out at with WFSG!

Brianna: so you write code?

LTB: oh no… I’m just WFSG’s friend… sometimes I do a little QA…

And people wonder why the bubble burst. I could make fun of the guy but this is pretty much my dream – I wish one of my friends would get rich and invite me on a nice coattail ride. Aside: WFSG went out one day and bought a De Lorean (the car from Back to the Future) and he brought it by so we could see it which was awesome (now I’m trying to figure out why I didn’t throw myself at WFSG…). Anyway, turned out LTB had a lot of disposable income, which was nice.

So we dated, it was fun, whatever. I was going to a family reunion for a long weekend and he was having a friend visit while I was gone. Said friend was a girl who he used to hook up with. (See where this is going?). I am a trusting naïve idiot so I recommended tons of fun things that he could do with her in San Francisco and wished him an awesome weekend of catching up before boarding my flight to family fun time. Strangely they didn't seem to take me up on any of my activity recommendation having apparently made plans of their own. When I got back I only needed one look at him to confirm that he’d slept with this other girl. What an idiot. He did a lot of anguished drama filled apologizing and I rolled my eyes and sighed and thought about how disappointing people can be. So we mostly broke up except we had tickets to Rent and decided to go together as friends (as a trusting naïve idiot I was of course not angry about him cheating on me – let’s hear it for self esteem.). The boy was obviously feeling a bit guilty about being a huge dick so he offered to take me out to dinner at this fancy French place pre-show (obviously I had no objections). We got the 9 course tasting menu with wine pairing. The first 4 courses were amazing (one of which was this fresh pea soup with mint that my mouth still waters over) and if the restaurant had any smarts the last 5 courses were hamburger helper cause after 5 glasses of wine (we got one free starter glass when we arrived) I had no active taste buds left anyway. Half way through dinner this conversation ensued:

Brianna: Do you know where the ladies room is?

LTB: Yeah, down the hall behind you and turn right. But there’s a guy.

Brianna: In the ladies room? Like one of those guys that gives you towels?

LTB: No, behind you.

Brianna: Right now?

LTB: Yeah, he’s going to pull out your chair

Brianna: He’s standing there listening to this conversation right now?

LTB: yeah.

So I stifled my giggles and stood – voila! The chair just eased back without any effort from me. If you’re really lazy, this is the life. This guy stood by the table the entire time I was in the bathroom waiting for my return. How awkward must that have been for LTB? Sitting there, drunk, staring at the chair puller guy… I would have spent the entire time giggling.

I’m a big believer in going dutch but in my role as the wronged woman I made no attempt to reach for the check at the end of this meal – I did, however, take a peek – $400+ (Is this street price for cheating on a girl or was I ripped off?).

LTB all but disappeared from my life shortly thereafter – I’d like to say I threw him out but really he just sulked away and I beat myself up for not being good enough to inspire fidelity. But eventually I moved on…except… I really like spying on people. It’s not related to pining, and it’s not even malicious, I just like knowing what becomes of people who used to be important in my life. So recently I refound LTBs blog (actually blogS). I honestly had no intention of using information to boost my ego but man… he made it awfully easy. Turns out I am really awesome. Not only is the guy apparently in love with some girl who lives like 1000 miles away and who he met on a massively multiplayer game and who has a boyfriend but he doesn’t have the good sense not to whine about it for PAGES on a public blog. Perhaps this is just another post cheating gift to me – maybe in reality he’s happily married to some sexy scientist and working on his fifth novel. Maybe he just made up the blog stuff to make me feel good. Maybe he still feels so guilty that he went out and gained 30lbs just so one day when I stumbled on his flickr page I could think, “I cried for months over HIM? Silly girl.”

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lucky Enough to Live Near By

Just caught this awesome commercial for a local business

Seems like such a waste to be lounging around on Amy and Joe's couch when I could be at gallagher's picking up some hot alien ass....

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Snazzy New Look

Banner Awesomeness by Gillian
Distilling my entire life into one sentence by Mike
Annoying whining about what a pain it is to edit the blogger template? That was all me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Techniques of Fine Cooking: Entry 5 (The Last Supper)

Our original (and superior) instructor returned for the last class (*sniff*) and with him came recipe variations, exasperated sighing and cooking everything on our own (yeah!) but first he was subject to much eye rolling during the discussion of last week's debacle (Only $115! Now with eggs!). He started the class by reviewing what we (supposedly) learned last week by going over the key questions from the course book. It went like this:

Instructor: What is blah blah eggs blah blah?
Class: *chirp* *eye roll* *shrug*
Instructor: Didn't you do blahblah last week?
Class: *shakehead* *stifflegiggle*

I haven't tattled on a substitute teacher in years -- I suddenly feel like sneaking out of class early to get a cactus cooler from the vending machine and moan about the injustices of required PE credits.

The last class provided what was probably the healthiest meal -- we had at leas 11 vegetable side dishes and the london broil was grilled with very little added fat. We did devote a considerable amount of time to making multiple versions of mayonnaise but those calories don't count because they're just in a condiment, condiments are free.

The Menu

French Crudites

As our instructor said, "The French are better than us. Americans would just throw some cut up vegetables on a plate and call it a day but the French are much fancier." Too true (to both fancier and better than us). We had quite a spread of vegetables from this exercise, my team made fennel with a toasted fennel seed vinaigrette and cucumbers with creme fresh and fines herbs neither of which were particularly memorable tasting but they looked pretty and got eaten.

This exercise also had us making mayonnaise which I was looking forward to because I thought it highly likely that homemade mayonnaise was about 8000 time more yummy than store bought. Turns out they taste pretty much the same -- though we did add some toasted curry to one version and grated apple and horseradish to another to create some fancy variations (the curry version was particularly good on the steak). Making the mayo was fun as you go from "man this is a lot of fucking whisking, I'm tired" to "oh my god it's mayonnaise!" in roughly 3 minutes which feels a whole lot like magic. (I'm really just guessing on the feeling here, we made our hot little Broadway actor friend do most of the manual labor but watching his muscles flex certainly *looked* like magic -- magic plus a fattening condiment = heaven).

Vegetables a la Grecque

I know this just looks like a boring bowl of cauliflower with parsley sprinkled on it (I learned a lot about sprinkling parsley in the last few weeks) but really it's an awesome taste explosion. Grecque vegetables (which, like everything else are really French not Greek) are cooked in a court bouillon (see? French. That means short boiling) which is basically wine, olive oil, herbs and a dash of yum. As with the crudites there were multiple versions of this delicacy but the cauliflower was by far my favorite.

London Broil or Flank Steak with Spice Rub

Action shot! it was just ask good as it looks and has me contemplating a cast iron grill pan (not one of those little ones but a big old daddy of pan that would span two burners and have a smooth side (pancakes!) and a grill side -- apparently they're only like $40). The official recipe in the course book was for a traditional london broil but because our instructor is awesome he let us choose either the traditional version or a latin spice rub version. My team did the rub and this is a huge improvement on my typical flank steak for fajitas recipe -- I'll be excited to try this out when there are grilled peppers and onions, fresh guacamole and warm corn tortillas available.

Grilled Vegetables

This was yummy but seemed like a silly thing to teach in a class -- you slice veggies and throw them on the grill -- ta-da! This recipe did give me a chance to play around with a mandolin which I have been coveting for some time now because I am very impressed by the satisfyingly thin and symmetrical slices. The device does put the fear of cutting off my fingers in the forefront but I like to be perceived as a bit of a bad ass and this might be my only chance.

Flambed Fruit

Ok so I realize that I look like a complete freak in this picture but that is just evidence of how fun playing with fire is. Not only does it make me look like a freak (normally I'm quite beautiful and photogenic) but it makes me willing to share this look with the internet. Flambe: the cause of and cure for all self esteem problems. That's instructor Lorne looking on disapprovingly -- see why I was so happy to have him back?

This dessert was more showy than tastey -- we served the flambed peaches and apricots over vanilla ice cream so I obviously ate all of it but I didn't swoon like I had with the souffles or the mouse. Because we got a bit screwed with the souffle making
last week Lorne had one of the teams make a fat free banana souffle which was really quiet yummy -- I'll have to request the recipe.


  1. I am a huge dork (official evidence item #70009): I initiated a 5 minute discussion with the class about the angle we should turn the meat to get perfect grill marks. The course book said to turn the meat 45 degrees and the instructor said to visualize moving the meat from 10 to 2 on a clock. I voiced a concern about the fact that this would be a 120 degree angle, not a 45 degree angle. I began explaining how to calculate the degrees and my little math class was going swimmingly until Kajal snickered "Brianna was a mathlete." Then everyone else looked at me in shock, thinking (I assume) "but you seem *SO* cool and hot! I would never have pegged you as a competitive mathematician."
  2. An awesome side benefit to this cooking class has that I am finally being recognized as a food photographer protege. Seriously, my photography skillz when it comes to edible products are amazing. A couple of my classmates even commented that I make food look better in pictures than in real life. This is quite shocking since all of my photographs of people imply that pretty much everyone I know is blurry and badly lit.
  3. Techniques of Fine Cooking 1: Totally worth $575 (seriously). Now I'm just biding time until I can come up with an excuse to sign up for Techniques of fine Cooking 2.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My Space is in an Old Folks home

I don’t like myspace. I know this is probably because I’m old. While “social networking” seems like an ok idea (I used to be a fan of friendster cause I’m also old school) and I’m the first to jump on internet trends, myspace is a wasteland. The community has moved beyond social networking and into building personal shrines – which wouldn’t be so bad, I’m obviously pro personal shrines (see: this blog), if people didn’t love animated gifs so damn much. As far as I can tell the only smidgeon of good that has come from the myspace craze is irrefutable evidence that most people have awful taste and should not be allowed any creative freedom whatsoever. It is now time to apply this knowledge by taking away access to falling glitter, vulgar animated gifs and (in some extreme cases) text.

I joined myspace a couple of years ago so that I could spy on people from high school (call me a bitch but when I’m having a bad day there is no greater life affirming piece of knowledge than “wow, half my graduating class is still working the same job they had senior year!” I’m positive that this makes me shallow and of questionable moral character but honestly, are you surprised?). I didn’t fill out anything in my profile to ensure that no former classmates could ever feel superior to me. This Christmas I asked my 25 year old brother why he never responds to my emails and he said, “Why can’t you just write to me on myspace? It’s easier.” I chose not to point out that this was in fact, not easier (for me), since it required logging into another website not to mention finding a picture cute enough so that when people from my past find my profile they’ll feel just a little jealous so that at 29 I will be 2 points closer to winning the highschool popularity contest (Vote Brianna for Home coming Queen!). I also resisted pointing out that replying to an email takes exactly the same amount of effort as replying to a myspace message only you get to avoid burning your retinas with electric blue comic sans on a yellow background.

I’ve chosen the road less traveled when it comes to myspace friends – my list includes a select group of people who I actually know. I could be much more popular. I get about 4 myspace friend requests per week, almost all of these are from people who are decidedly not my friends. Apparently much of generation Y is confused about the concept of friends. Friends are people who know you in real life where half of the time you look like a white trash circus clown and still choose to invite you to their theme parties because no costume beats “white trash circus clown.” Friends happily eat anything you cook even if you’re in willful denial about which vegetables they supposedly hate. When you’re really hung over friends will walk a mile in 30 degree weather to bring you a bottle of Gatorade even though there is a mini mart across the street from your house (are you listening AMY?). Friends do not expect you to read about their favorite salad dressing or their most awesome high school memory. Friends know that there are better ways to waste time at work. Below are a few examples of ways that we might know each other which do not indicate that our relationship should be described using the world “friend.”
  • You saw my picture, thought I was hot
  • We were in the same world history class in 1994

Myspace also seems set on showing me awful things that I cannot unknow. Some key examples:
  • My 40 year old cousin has a friend who thinks it perfectly acceptable to wear a completely see through tank top provided it has two strategically placed sequined stars.
  • My brother seems to have a very unhealthy liking for the movie Cars and thinks that a huge picture of the tow truck character makes an awesome background.
  • The girl who was my freshman sister my senior year in high school has TWO children.

No good can come from this.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dining in the City

As a bit of a foodie who has lived in New York City for upwards of 2.5 years people have started to expect me to recommending restaurants. This is very dangerous as I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to dining in the city. When I have visitors in town or friends asking to meet up I am filled with a sense of dread knowing that soon, I'll be asked for a restaurant suggestion. I have no suggestions. There are about 5 NYC eateries that I really love (Caracas, Otto, Sala... perhaps there are only 3) but my desire to expand this list makes me hesitant to do too much revisiting. So when it comes to planning a night out I'm usually left wondering if it's ok if I just offer to make dinner rather than deal with the stress of picking a place to dine.

Typically when faced with the challenge of choosing a restaurant (or any other challenge) I turn to the all mighty internet to solve it for me. I obsessively search chowhound and citysearch for places in the right neighborhood and price range but this quickly leads to feeling overwhelmed. There's really no way to use either of these tools if you don't know what you're looking for. I usually come to the keyboard with very few specific needs (yummy, won't result in a bill that makes me gag) so there's no narrowing of the vast selection.

There are something like 8 million restaurants in the city (or perhaps closer to 18,696). Visitors seem to think that the vast number of eateries must make picking the dine of the day a simple task but this is far from the truth. More restaurants means more places I haven’t been to or heard about. And knowing there is always another option 100 yards in any direction can easily suck one into a quest for the ultimate meal. As Amy and I have discovered on many occasions this pursuit usually results in failure when starvation forces you into eating at the next place you see no matter what. I mastered the art of restaurant recommending in exactly one local. In my home town there are probably 10 places to eat that do not have drive thrus. In that climate I can easily provide a run down of the pros and cons of any available kitchen. I only go back twice a year and I’m still practically an expert – give me slim pickin’s anyday. (If anyone is driving north form LA on 395 and looking for a good burger gimmie a call)

I take restaurant recommending very seriously, especially if I’m being expected to dine there myself. I want very much to pick a place that lives up to every diner’s fantasy but I also want to go somewhere new. This makes recommending with confidence all but impossible. Part of my need to recommend well boils down to being too hard on myself. I feel like if I pick a dud I will be personally responsible for ruining everyone’s night, wasting their money, tarnishing their image of New York and possibly causing their death should food poisoning set in. This kind of pressure is apt to turn a girl into an anorexic hermit.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Techniques of Fine Cooking: Entry 4 (The Perfect Protien)

The Menu

Egg Plate

I love themes. I'm a big fan of dress up parties. I often consider making playlists around ridiculous categorizations like like "songs with state names in their title." So you would think that a class entirely devoted to one ingredient would be an awesome opportunity for me to dress in white pants and a yellow shirt and break out the jingles about eggs but somehow it just didn't work. At the end of the class when I sat down to a plate of eggs eggs and more ovum I felt vaguely ill -- eggs are heavy and need to be balanced with some other food stuffs (ideally crispy potatoes, a huge bloody mary, a scone with home made jelly, and a few sprinkles of lobster meat... I really need to go back to brunch at Applewood). However, while they didn't make for a great meal all together most of the recipes in the class were very good and I am certain that I will now be able to completely wow the next young man to show up in boxers in my kitchen on a Saturday morning (now taking reservations!).

We had a substitute instructor for this class who had an entirely different teaching style. He did a lot more demonstrating and a lot less lecturing which sounds better than it turned out to be. The lack of lecturing left me with no notes on this class so I suspect it may be difficult to recreate the recipes at home and the constant demonstrating often led to watching instead of doing. I think most of the other students considered the sub a step up personality wise -- he was easy with the compliments and forced his assistants to do all of the grunt work(cleaning our stations, watching sauces boil, mixing the instructor's drinks). I have to admit that I missed the feeling of accomplishment that comes from creating a totally edible meal despite the stifled giggles, raised eyebrows and taunting coming from the teacher. The substitute assigned an assistant to each of the tables to help us make all of our dishes (well, except for the ones he made entirely for us like the red wine sauce...) which was kind of nice as there was always someone available to answer questions. He also told us exactly what to do so we didn't have to plan out the production of the meal. This made for a fairly laid back class where everyone got to have a hand in making every dish (as opposed to previous classes where the task divisions often left some people married to losers like braised celery for the entire evening) but I missed the hustle and bustle.

Omelet with Fines Herbs

French Omlettes

These may look a little sad but I promise you they were pretty awesome. These are French style omelets, which means they're much less well done than what you're typically offered at Denny's. I think a lot of Americans would balk at just how runny the eggs were when we took them out of the pan but it made for a very creamy mouth feel and so far I seem to be salmonella free.


Nicoise Salad

WOW. I know it just looks like mounds of somewhat boring ingredients but this salad is amazing. The eggs, potatoes, tuna, and olives all work together to give you this creamy salty crunchy little explosion of utopia in your mouth. This was incredible easy (and could be made easier by not peeling the tomatoes and eliminating the string beans) and seems pretty healthy -- I may go on a nicoise salad kick next week (which means I'll eat it every single day until I'm so sick of it that the mere thought of further consumption will leave me retching... this is how I often ruin food for myself).

Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce

Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce

It looks pretty but I was skeptical of this recipe from the start -- red wine and eggs? eww. Unlike many of the other students I like soft eggs -- I think oozing yolk is just another term for yummy dip for my bread (in fact as a child I used to call over easy eggs "dippin' eggs!"). So while a bit hesitant I was open to the concept of this recipe but ultimately the sauce kind of ruined things. I was able to finish one egg without gagging like a few of my dining partners but with every bite I thought, "Poor wasted wine, I could have made you into a nice spritzer."

Chocolate Souffle

Chocolate Souffle

This is the recipe I was most excited about. I've never made a souffle before mostly due to cooking urban legends that claim that in order to do so your entire house must be devoid of sound. I live a rock and roll life style that refuses to be silenced by the likes of a rich desert. Also I like to have Engaged and Underage on at full volume while I cook (clad in the light of a 17 year old marrying a 25 year olf boy with a slight addiction to meth all of my cooking mistakes just melt away). The souffles turned out amazing, unfortunately I don't think I can take any credit for this outcome. During souffle preperation our assigned assistant stood guard at the dueling kitchenaides and wouldn't really let any of the students get in on the egg whipping action. i'm tempted to try making a savory souffle as this week's homework but I'm not sure if I can afford to risk the effects of more eggs and butter on my thighs.


1. Clarified butter, where have you been my whole life? Making our omelets in a pan coated with this magic lubricant resulted in a perfectly yellow surface with no ugly brown bits (well, except for that one that I over cooked...). The instructor demonstrated a sunny side up egg, an over easy egg and scrambled eggs and all were beautiful as well. When I expressed my awe he offered to help me make a pot of clarified butter to take home so now i have 8oz chillin' in the fridge and another 24 ready in the freezer -- I really should plan a brunch to show off my skillz.

2. Tuna in a jar! Apparently somewhere in the word they sell tuna in oil in a resealable jar -- this is brillant and I must find a source as currently I can't really finish an entire can of tuna and don't wanna keep an open can in the fridge stinking up my milk.

3. I had heard that we'd learn to make french style scrambled eggs in this class. This involves using a double boiler and stirring the eggs into almost a custard like consistency (like described here) -- I'm sad that this didn't happen since apparently this makes for an awesome dish. I'll have to make a point of trying this on my own.

4. 4 weeks of class and every menu had a salad on it. I can now make a vinaigrette with my eyes close, both legs hobbled and a dagger through my heart.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Playlist 1

In an effort to discover some new music Gillian, Alison and I recently decided to resurrect the art of the mix tape in playlist form. I was the first to finish (read: the only project manager in the group) and rather than include a standard list of songs and artists with the CD I decided to catalogue my submission here. I tried to make the cd more than a representation of my favorite songs but a collection that worked well together while still accurately representing my music library and hopefully giving the listeners some new bands to explore.

Teen for God – Dar Williams

Wish I had a God for such cynical times

This song does a great job of capturing the simplicity of religion and the desire of wanting to believe but also it’s satisfyingly silly. I love it most for the serious bit in the middle when she asks her teenage self to pray a bit for a young adult self who will have lost her faith but could really use some help from an omniscient deity. There are many things I’d like to be able to protect my younger selves from so I am drawn to the idea of asking a stronger version of me to look out for a weaker version.

Texas Trilogy: Bosque County Romance – Lyle Lovett

And Mary cooked the supper,
And Mary scrubbed the clothes,
And Mary busted horses,
And blew the baby's nose,
And Mary and a shotgun
Kept the rattlesnakes away;
How she kept on smiling,
No one could ever say.

On the surface this is a song about your standard country girl who gets pregnant at 17 and lives the boring life of a rancher’s wife. But if you listen closely Mary is a bad ass. In country songs women get to be mini superheroes a lot more often than you would think.

Satin in a Coffin – Modest Mouse

You were laying on the carpet
Like you're satin in a coffin
You said, "Do you believe what you're sayin'?"
Yeah right now, but not that often

I’m including this song because it’s so fun to listen to. The lyrics are rather basic but the beat is undeniably satisfying – whenever it turns up on shuffle I can’t help but bounce a little as a walk.

Bonnie and Clyde – Martina Sorbara

We'll pass through Prince Ed County
And I'll steal you something pretty
You'll say 'Man well aren't I lucky
I've gone and found myself a crooked lady

Martina Sorbara is somehow able to make every song she sings ooze sex, even this song which is much less jazzy than most of the other tunes on her only album.

A Man/Me/Then Jim – Rilo Kiley

For the slow fade of love
It might hit you from below
It's your gradual descent
Into a life you never meant
It's the slow fade of love

Love is hard, people never really understand each other, blah blah blah… this is probably the most accurate representation of my music library.

With My Looks and Your Brians – Mr. T Experience

So far, there's no doubt, things are working out;
between us we can cover every base.
You're cute; I'm not.
I'm sharp; you've got a certain way of spilling all over the place.

I once had a friend make fun of my love for novelty songs and I know they often seem trite but songs like this never fail to make me smile and that’s pretty awesome.

Great Divide – Storyhill

Your body is like this land
Pressed into knots just by its motion
So long untouched by human hands
So far from it’s forming ocean

Long ago a boy who I liked quite a lot introduced me to this band and I like them well enough that it almost makes up for his turning out to be a bit of an idiot.

I obsessively listened to this song while driving through Tunisia in the summer of 2001 so now a song about the Rockies leaves me nostalgic for the Sahara. I like to think about the possibility of my body being like the Rocky Mountains – would that I were that strong and menacing.

Have to Explode – The Mountain Goats

The stage is set
Someone's going to do something someone else will regret
I speak in smoke signals and you answer in code
The fuse will have to run out sometime
Something here will eventually have to explode

I cannot say enough positive things about The Mountain Goats – I’m ridiculously obsessed. I still think Tallahassee is their best album but finding on a song on it that can stand alone is difficult, I think Have to Explode pulls it off. This song captures the feelings of foreboding and helplessness that often precede a breakup it’s a beautiful little homage to pain.

When You Come Back Down – Nickel Creek

You got to leave me now, you got to go alone
You got to chase a dream, one that's all your own
Before it slips away
When you're flyin' high, take my heart along
I'll be the harmony to every lonely song
That you learn to play

This the most straight forward of the songs on this cd, guy loves girl unconditionally, guy supports girls dreams, guy waits for girl. Good thing it’s really pretty and the fiddling rocks or I’d be rolling my eyes.

Too Bad About Your Girl – The Donnas

If you werw smart, you'd send her home on BART
Before the real trouble starts
'Cause who's she gonna slap when she sees me in your lap
And you say you had a change of heart

This is a fun song and listening to it let’s me pretend to be the kind of girl who goes around stealing boys from their boring dates. I also love when a song makes me feel cool for picking out the silly local reference. BART is the train system in San Francisco.

The Luckiest – Ben Folds

I don't get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls
Brought me here

Pretty pretty love. This was Amy and Joe’s wedding song and it always makes me teary.

Brown Boxes – The Spinto Band

And all these brown boxes haven’t helped me move one bit
in half-empty rooms they sit,

Stay that’s where they will stay
I could never say,
I would never say,
"This is over"

This song speaks to some of the same themes as Have to Explode -- knowing that it’s over, not being able to move on. It’s shocking that a song that prominently features a kazoo could be so sad.

Kate Kelly – The Whitlams

Now you do horse tricks
In a wild west show
Sharp-shooting Kate
The Last of the Kellys
Now the queen of a rodeo

I’ve been trying to force this Australian band on my friends for years. To really appreciate this song you need to know a bit about Ned Kelly an Australian criminal and folk hero (if they want the rest of the world to quit with the convict jokes they may want to pick some more tame heroes like really tall lumber jacks and steel driving men). This song is about Ned’s youngest sister who was the last surviving member of the family and who some think partially inspired her borthers’ crime spree when a local policemen wouldn’t stop with the unwanted advanced. It’s a pretty song for so sad a subject matter.

North Dakota – Kris Delmhorst

I love North Dakota cause you have never been there
and the days go on forever and the towns all look the same
and I can ride the back roads and I can walk the main streets
and show someone your picture but they would not know your name

Kris is a mean lyricist. She used to make a habit of playing at least once a year at my college. If the music industry were really based on talent she’d be famous by now.

Big Brown Eyes – The Old 97s

Well a box of red, and a pill or three,
And I'm calling time and temperature just for some company.
I wish you were here. I wish I was too.
I'll drink myself to sleeplessness, I always do.

Oh Rhett Miller, if you ever need company give me a call. I once had a friend who was gaga over Mr. Miller and supposedly, well before I know her, was a bit of an Old 97 groupie. She never bedded the boy which is sad for both of us, I could have done with a little vicarious rock star action.