19 October 2008

The Problem With Staying Current...

I really admire bloggers who can post daily. My problem is that if I have plenty of time to post something in the evening, then my life must not be that interesting/busy. If my life is interesting enough, I am worn out and don't feel like posting at the end of the day. Oh well. I have recently been chided into an update, since S and I have several things going on now, the most overwhelming of which is a renovation of our bathroom. It is rather disruptive as you might imagine.

We live in a condo building that was built in the 1960's. The bathroom was very, shall we say, evocative of the era. And it had not been updated. In fourty years. That is the largest of several recent or ongoing home improvement projects and some before and during shots are posted. It should be finished Tuesday, after which I will post the after photos.

As you may be able to see, the new tile is basic, timeless, white, subway tile with a black accent. After living with the retro sixties Pepto Bismol color for a few years, we though classic was the way to go. Things like bathrooms and kitchens last a long time and are major infrastructure investments. So we don't see much point in trendy decorating. If we want a trendy bathroom, we will change the towels. We think in twenty years, when someone else owns our condo, they will appreciate the choice.

01 July 2008

The Staycation Begins!

The Lovely S and I are taking a "staycation" this year. We really wanted a week to do nothing in particular. We are just sleeping late, going to long, late lunches at a few favorite restaurants, reading magazines on the balcony, and relaxing in general. This is turning out to be a much more refreshing vacation than rounding up cat sitters and fighting airlines or traffic. It reminds me of summer vacation when I was a kid.

Yesterday we went to Baltimore for the afternoon and checked out Lexington Market and Little Italy. Lexington Market is an old 19th century covered market with tons and tons of food stalls. We had what is ranked as the best crab cake on the east coast at Faidley's, a Natty Boh, and a "ripper" (a polish sausage grilled to the splitting point). Little Italy was, um, little. I think it has seen better days. Definitely does not compare to New York or Boston's Little Italy. We did have some excellent pastries and espresso, though, and checked out a nice little grocery store. We had been curious about it for many years, so now we know!

29 June 2008

Summer in the Midwest

Last weekend S and I traveled to Illinois to visit my parents as we always do in summer. I purposefully moved away to start my career after college because there aren't many professional or cultural opportunities there. But compared to a large city like Washington, DC, there are many advantages. It is a welcome change of pace for a short time.

On our first day there, we visited one of my favorite places in Southern Illinois- the Polar Whip. The PW was so named because it was the first restaurant in Illinois to serve soft-serve ice cream (I think in the 1930's). It became famous for its very inexpensive hamburgers. I'm not sure what the price was then, but in the 1970's President Ford commended them as part of his Whip Inflation Now (WIN) program. They have held their hamburger prices so low over the years that even today they sell for just 99 cents for a double cheese. I took great joy in seeing that my double cheese was less expensive than my order of onion rings ($1.25).

None of this would be so impressive if the food wasn't delicious. The burger prices are low because "filler" is added. I suspect it is some form of soy protein. That might not sound ideal, but the effect is to give the burger a nice mellow taste and a wonderful texture that crisps to a golden brown and delicious texture on the griddle. Served with onion, pickle, mustard, and ketchup, it is a tasty all-American treat you can't get anywhere else.

The next meal of the trip was my Dad's fried fish. He fishes a lot and always has a freezer full of filleted crappie or blue gill. These are both small fish and though caught wild, have no tendency to take on that "muddy" or "fishy" quality sometimes found in bass or catfish. Saltwater fish are prized in this country, but there is a lot to be said for certain types of freshwater fish. The fish fry is a lesser-know but every bit as common an institution in rural parts of the midwest as the chicken dinner or ice cream social. My Dad has perfected his technique and he fixed dinner for us on Friday night.

He breads the fish in just salted cornmeal and fries them in canola oil. At S's request, he also fried hush puppies. The amazing aspects of this fish are (asside from the great taste) the fact that he fries it without letting it become oily at all and that it holds its crispness overnight in the fridge. Actually, S's favorite part of the fish dinner is eating leftovers for breakfast the next morning. She enjoys them cold and indulged both Saturday and Sunday morning.

When we visit, my Mother always asks if there is anything in particular I would like to eat. I requested home made ice cream this trip, in part because I love it and seldom (never) make it in the city, but also because S has never had it. Growing up in an Asian culture, typical American holiday traditions are not the sort of thing she experienced. I had home made ice cream so many times as a kid at my parents and grandparents houses that I took it for granted until I moved away. Nothing quite says summer like sound of the ice cream maker churning and the ice and salt crunching around it. Just to make the experience complete, S took a turn at cranking. We made strawberry and it was, of course, delicious.

Other than eating, we went canoing one day and played croquet another. My parents are part owners of a lake camp and hunting/fishing club, Camp Heron. It is a great place for building a fire and making smores or ice skating in the winter, and any sort of outdoor activities in the summer. We got the competitive juices flowing with a game of croquet when my brother and sister-in-law visited Saturday. Despite that heinous golf-like form, my brother won a match.After the game, they drove us back to the airport in St. Louis for our return to the east coast. Along the way we saw this classic prairie farm scene at sunset. It is beautiful, but it is good to be home too!

18 June 2008

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

Another pizza triumph this week! I usually try not to be hyperdialated to the toppings on a pizza. They should be tasty and high quality, of course, but anyone can come up with ideas for toppings. The difficult part is the crust technique. I finally found a dough recipe that I'm happy with in terms of both ease of preparation and quality of finished product. Today S and I put that basic crust to work and tried a classic topping that was new to us.

We live near a waterfront with a fish and seafood market. We decided to pick up a dozen fresh clams and use them for tonight's topping, along with minced shallots, garlic, oregano, and olive oil. We put the raw clams on the raw dough and slid it in the oven. It took about ten minutes for the clams to open up and the dough to get nice and crispy. I was fearful that the liquor from the clams would make the dough soggy, but the bottom got nice and crispy (the top was a bit damp, but not enough to damage the final product). If that weren't enough to make a perfect evening, the weather cooled to about 70 degrees and we ate our pizza on the balcony. We felt just like we were having dinner in Positano!

This has made us resolve to visit the fish market more often this summer. They always have great fish, it is a beautiful 15 or 20 minute walk past a marina, and it feels very good to pick up fresh food for dinner every night. I think S and I will have a lot more salmon, snapper, calamari, and shrimp in our diet this summer.

07 June 2008

The Last Four Months...

Wow, four months! A new record. Since then, travel to Cincinnati, Detroit, Cincinnati again, Austin, American Airlines flight cancellations, back home courtesy of Frontier, five weeks of grand jury duty, tusslin', stickin', leakin', bein' hot, goin' ice-cream, leavin' out, play cousins, baby mamas, ADWs, PFCOVs, UFs, AUs, PWID cocaine, OJ, and even M-I w/A!

In the mean time, the lady senator has finally given it up. I thought she would take it all the way to the convention arguing that she had more popular votes and the super delegates should back her. In the end the pressure seemed to be too much, but not before the Clintons proved once again, it is never about anything other than their own aggrandizement. Not my first prediction to go wrong this election season... I predicted Rudy as the Republican nominee. I did predict Obama as the ultimate Dem nominee, though. As for the future, I think this election will be closer than anyone assumes. Remember, it has been a long time since a presidential landslide. Even Clinton won in 1992 only with a plurality thanks to H Ross Perot siphoning votes from Pappy. The country is evenly split, and very few will contemplate switching between McCain and Obama.

Summer has finally arrived in DC. That will of course happen between February and June. Seersucker and linen season has arrived, as well as the time to pick the summer cocktail of 2008 and enjoy a pitcher of them on the balcony, pictured above. I think I have given the recipe before for FDR's favorite rum swizzle, but it is equal parts oj, lime, and pineapple juice, with some mint and ginger infused simple syrup and as much Goslings Black Seal as you care to add. Best if you crush the ice.