The biggest upside to all this November travel is that I'm inching towards that bi-coastal life I aspire to. Especially this time of year, when I've caught glimpses of gorgeous fall foliage, and worn my beloved coat to help ward off the chill of mean nasty winter.
I also welcome the hours of uninterrupted reading and knitting time on these long ass cross-country flights. And more Delta/Song trips means I can renew my subscriptions to Vogue, Wired, Travel & Leisure, Lucky, and other dumb magazines by cashing in unused Sky Miles.
However, I can fool myself into thinking I'm loving the seasons and willing to take the good with the bad, but all the while I know deep down it's probably best that I don't have to live in five months of freezing temps and slush and ice.
Mixed feelings about the pros and cons of seasonal living aside, obvious downsides include my circadian rhythm being all screwy, and the embarrassingly little face time I've put in at my office. I think I've clocked about five days of respectable working hours in November. Which, truth be told, isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Best of all, this trip rocked in the food department, starting with O'Rourke's Dinerin Middletown the morning of our arrival when we had breakfast with Ethan, one of the several visits we've had with friends who are becomming the next generation of the Wesleyan Film faculty. I had to confess my slight O'Rourke's aversion, which is tantamount to heresy among Wes folk.
It's not that I don't love this place, but the nasty diner grease smell and lack of hygiene can be a serious turn-off. But this meal was great, odor-free and delicious. The small portion of raspberry pancakes with rich Devonshire cream helped jolt me back to East Coast-dom.
We had not one, but two steel car diner meals. The other was at the super fabulous Modern Diner in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where I ate scrumptious neat stacks of poached eggs, cheese, and bacon on top of English muffins. Pretty cool to learn Providence's key role in the history of the stainless steel car diner, too.
Back to NoHa. Coffee lovers in Western Massachusetts have a new exciting headquarters. Northampton Coffee is a hard core, unapologetic coffee fanatic's delight. We engaged in all sort of geek talk with the baristas, and they made a killer smooth cappuccino with rich not bitter beans and perfect micro-foam (pictured above). The simple design and gorgeous hewn natural wood counters could not be prettier and more welcoming.
Snowy Thanksgiving Day in Northampton and Leeds felt very "Over the Hills and Through the Woods"-ish (pictured above and below; sorry for the visible window screen in one of the images). The meal itself featured the usual extensive spread, mostly prepared by H's Aunt Joan and cousin Kate, with our measly contribution being contained to the wines. Dessert course paid special homage to Grandma Ida, with all items based on her recipes.
Now that I think of it, Kate's been in charge of most Thanksgiving meals over the past six years. She's now a junior at Brown, so that would mean she's been the family executive chef for holiday meals since she was 14…and I'm sure it started before I knew her. Add that to her long list of accomplishments. (I've yet to make a Thanksgiving dinner myself.) H's other two cousins, Alexis and Jess, are equally impressive. I can't help but feel like a mooching loser as my attempts to be helpful usually fail.
Well, the baby did arrive indeed. Labor started within an hour of my arrival at my sister's house, right after we took CP to school. How's that for a bit of good timing? In fact, many things about my nephew's homebirth feel cosmically beautiful, especially his being male and thus named for Jim's late uncle, at whose house he was born.
I'll get to the excellent Chinese joint in suburban Maryland later, but for now let's just say that helping care for a 2-year-old, mamma on bed rest, and 4-day-old doesn't allow for much venturing out. It's all about family time, and keeping people fed and clean. Thankfully Josh has CP at the playground right now, and at least I got to see some amazing autumn leaves along the Washington Parkway. If all goes well I can stick to my big plans to go to Target and Old Town Alexandria this afternoon.
It's an unusually warm and late, yet still dramatic, fall season. Perfect weather for an outdoor Jacuzzi birth (seriously).
About 7 or 8 years ago I thought travel and email was one of the happiest combinations to come our way in decades. Getting a Hotmail message from a good friend that opened with "Greetings from Zambia!" was like, the coolest. (Mysterious international emails offering me a stake in some lost treasure, however, are far from desirable.)
That was before the birth of the travel blog.
Lauren and Josh (AKA Lupita y Josue) have been keeping their friends and family back home in the EEUU apprised of their summer activities in Guadalajara, including their progress learning Spanish and incredible eating adventures, with their jointly scribed blog a la pibil.
Silvio's now digging up Euro trash all over the Continent, breaking hearts and leaving us in stitches as he writes about his Trans-Europe Excess.
One downside. Maintaining contact via blogging is great and all, but I miss getting postcards.
Those of us who went to Vegas and the Special Memory Wedding Chapel window for their amazing ceremony Saturday were so lucky to witness this unique event and celebrate with the couple that couldn't be better suited for each other.
We had the 'rents and a few folks over for an impromptu Seder. The menu was heavy on the North African influences and fresh, colorful foods. Why not include mango and avocado salad? Nary a stewed prune in sight. Good stuff.
I'm all for inclusion and playing with tradition, but the overly-PC hagaddah was a little annoying. It suggested a roast beet be used instead of the shank bone on the ceremonial Seder plate so that the meal doesn't add to the suffering of animals. We ate some delicious lamb. Oops.
Tossing in a bunch of parsley in cheesecloth at the end of the matzoh ball soup cycle makes for a more spry herb flavor. And I finally had the good sense to add in white meat chicken after the broth was strained. As much as I hate to waste food (especially meat), picking the most appetizing bits off of chicken leg and back bones is hardly practical when you've got a fairly big ritual meal to coordinate.
Homemade macaroons enveloped in Valrhona were a cinch, and messy fun to shape. (Not to be confused with macarons, ala Boule.) I'll definitely be making these annually.
Props to my friend Margie for looking at another aspect of Modern Jewish aethetics. From the title that references Henry's favorite band to this fun and compelling subject matter, her piece on Jonathan Adler's brilliant Reform Temple Vases is an encouraging sign that strong interest surrounds this yet-to-be-properly-mined area. Still in all fairness, I suspect few Jewish-related topics remain truly untouched or at least un-discussed; maybe something like Nascar drivers -- if any exist.
Bi-coastal fluidity remains a constant as friends continue to move. Lucky for me, many of my well-liked fellow West Coast natives who once migrated east have heeded the siren's call of mild climates and assorted pull factors. Yet some friends return East to avail themselves of exciting opportunities or to be closer to their nearest and dearest.
While I'm super bummed Anne and Flo have left L.A., I'm psyched about Flo's newest pet care venture in NYC: The Pet Girl. Her love for animals and remarkable ability to care for fuzzy creatures is without question. She'll even sing silly songs to or about them. How's that for service? And she deals with neurotic people equally as well as their neurotic doggies and kitties -- an invaluable skill in the Manhattan pet world.
Charlotte Pearl is evolving into a most excellent chow baby. We wouldn't expect anything less, yet the range of this 18-month-old's palette is turning out to be ever-surprising and defying of conventional wisdom. In addition to the regular baby/toddler mild staples of bananas etc., she uninhibitedly devours lemon wedges (rind included), chilies, mushrooms, whole marinated garlic cloves, and other wildly intense flavors.
Her grimy little hands came into contact with every item placed on the table at Campanile grilled cheese night on Thursday. I generally disagree with disenchanted reports from this recent Chowhound discussion thread. The previous meal I had was slightly disappointing, but last week's made up for it.
Nary a beluga lentil remained after C.P. finished picking the plate over. I love these delicate lentils, and their richness marries nicely with the fried goat cheese round. (For another fantastic lentil experience, I highly recommend braised leeks with beluga lentils at Mimosa on Beverly, and the lentils/beet/goat cheese salad at Ammo.)
The open-faced sandwich with seared ahi with braised and frizzled leeks, hard boiled egg and aioli remains one of my favorite meals in L.A., and is well worth the $17. I loved the subtlety of the artichoke, ricotta, and mint pesto sandwich Ali ordered, except in all honesty you can get a similar dish for considerably less money at Jar on Mozzarella Monday. The braised beef filet sand is a hearty bomb of a meal, full of robust savoryness. And the bottle of Scott Paul 2001 Cuve Martha Pirrie cost $38, a relatively non-egregiously markup from the retail price.
The meal was entirely Charlotte-approved, especially the crispy fries which, just like her aunt, she uses as a vehicle for eating catsup.
Broken napoleon with prune was a welcome variation on this Campanile dessert classic (I've had the strawberry version a couple times), and the panna cotta with chocolate almond bark surrounded by a near-flavorless espresso gelee pool went down easy.
Between the varieties of textures and tastes (not to mention the Malibu Potteries tile fountain which she kept insisting on sticking her hands in -- gross, I know), Charlotte remained fully engaged with the meal and surroundings. She even learned to say "ciao ciao" to the live fish.
Taking time off during New Year's week was delightfully bittersweet. Ah, the sheer joy of working part-time! The schedule afforded quality moments to spend with the fam and cook up some grub for New Year's Eve.
Two trays of gruyere intensive mac n' cheese -- one with gorgonzola, the other cheddar -- surprisingly yieled almost no remainders. I modified and tripled the Joy of Cooking recipe, using three boxes of Barilla elbow macaroni and adding much, much more cheese than it calls for. (You don't want to think about it, my friend.)
And there were other goods cooked in dairy fats. Mixing white and purple cauliflower for Psychedelic Gratin is a new favorite method. This chromatic clash makes for a very special lavender-tinged liquid.
The food I prepared plus Pollo ala Brasa chickens just barely fed the modestly-sized group consisting of what proved to be hearty eaters. Believe you me, I watched nervously as the buffet dwindled throughout the night. At least we had dessert to save us from the threat of impending food shortage disaster (given recent world events, I say this with an understanding that this concern was relative). Nicky brought her famous lemon squares, and the multi-talented Jill carried in a plate of perfectly chewy ginger molasses cookies.
The first carrot cake I've ever made was a hit (from the Gourmet cookbook), even if the carrots from Wieser Family Farms were not as sweet as one might think. Thankfully, the sweetness factor of the carrots doesn't seem to matter too much. The chocolate bread pudding, however, was a disappointment. I prefer making the regular fluffier recipe (usually the
J.o.C. New Orleans bread pudding) and tucking in chunks of chocolate rather than making the liquid mixture that incorporates melted chocolate. The pudding turns out too gummy and dense.
Everything was glorious until...no cha gio left at Golden Deli on New Year's Day! Does this unfortunate dearth bode poorly for 2005? The rest of dinner was typically scrumptious, so I think not.
Besides, you can always order No. 62, AKA my favorite menu typo of all time: rice paper roll with "shredded pork and lecture." We can all use a good talkin' to from a first-rate Vietnamese restaurant every now and then.