Sunday, November 27, 2011

65 Things I Will Remember About Lola

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  1. The way she would flop to the ground and sigh heavily when she laid down on the hardwood floor.
  2. The squeaking noises she made when James came home every night - and the way she stood up on the counter to see his car through the kitchen window.
  3. All her little snorty sounds.
  4. The sound of her beating on the dog door, trying to get in.
  5. The sound of her working the dog run gate back and forth trying to get it open.
  6. That terrible, braying bark.
  7. The snuffling sound of her hoovering the kitchen floor for tidbits.
  8. The way she crossed her paws daintily when she laid down.
  9. Her lady-like, soulful brown eyes.
  10. Her refusal to come until promised a treat or a meal.
  11. Her spinning happy dance as you set the bowl down at feeding time.
  12. The sound of her tags hitting the bowls and her knocking the food bowls around on the tile as she licked them both clean hours after feeding time.
  13. The way she would slide her nose under your arm if you hung it over the side of a chair, then walk your hand out to the point where she wanted to be scratched.
  14. Her licking. Always with the licking.
  15. The way she would lean full force into you with her rear and look over her shoulder pleading for a butt scritch.
  16. The way she would lean back into your hand with all her might if you pushed on her.
  17. Her terrible fishy breath.
  18. Her soft, floppy ears.
  19. The way she always beat me to the garden gate.
  20. The way she jumped back in bed with me when I would sleep in.
  21. The pawing when she got impatient while begging for food.
  22. IMG_8980
  23. The way she used to lay on the back patio and watch the birds.  
  24. The bowing, barking and romping as we got ready to go for a walk.
  25. The jumping. Always with the jumping.
  26. The way she never seemed to sleep at night. 
  27. The way she would start pawing at the gate at regular intervals at dawn.
  28. The spinning happy dance she would do when you came to get her in the morning.
  29. The way she would paw impatiently at the door on the way out for a walk.
  30. The way she and Bart (our other dog) nibbled each other constantly.
  31. The way she would come and lay next to you on the sofa or in bed and just gaze up at you adoringly.
  32. The way she would sneak over to Bart’s bowl and speed-eat any leftover food, hoping she could get it all down before we took it away.
  33. The way she always insisted on walking right next to me on my right side on walks.
  34. The way she adored Bart and would not let him out of her sight – even sitting next to the pen when he was locked up at doggie day care.
  35. The way she liked to be kissed right between her eyebrows.
  36. Her snuffling sighs.
  37. Her farts. Yes, even those were charming.
  38. Her ridiculous crotch licking.
  39. The way she and Bart would spoon on the couch.  
  40. The way she liked to have her blanket pulled out to lay on at night.
  41. The way she would almost take your finger off if you gave her a treat she really liked, but if you scolded her, she’d take the next one nicely.
  42. The pig-like snorting as she took a treat or bite of food from your hand.
  43. Bart and Lola 030
  44. The way she sat for treats on day one.
  45. The way she would jam her nose into your armpit at the breakfast table to beg for bacon.
  46. All the times we caught her up on the counter (or just heard her paws hit the floor.)
  47. The distinctive sound of her walk – created by her always too-long nails and ambling gait.
  48. The way she would try to stealth lick babies from behind, even though she was afraid of them.
  49. Her one pink toe.
  50. Her soft pink belly.
  51. Her long "handsy" paws.
  52. Her little peanut head. 
  53. The way she hated it at first when I blew raspberries on her stomach, but eventually learned to tolerate it.
  54. Her pretty girl silhouette with her long eyelashes.
  55. The rolls she would get behind her collar when she got too fat.
  56. The way her fur was always shiny, even though she had terrible dandruff.
  57. The way she would lay on the middle of the sofa, in the pillows, until she heard me coming and would then slink off.
  58. The sound of her slinking off the sofa, one back leg at a time.
  59. The way she backed up onto the sofa to turn around near the coffee table.
  60. Her Disneyland bear-cave snoring. 
  61. The sound of her pawing at the door to the garage when I came home.
  62. The way she would run circles around it if I came home in James' car, because she thought he was supposed to be in there.
  63. The long period of time when she absolutely refused to get in the car.  
  64. The way her little tail stub twitched back and forth constantly.
  65. The way she would startle if you gave her a little puff of air - the only disciplinary tool that worked.
  66. The way she would scrounge up every last bit of food on the floor and jump up on the counter to snatch the little stray bits at feeding time.
  67. The way she always smelled good, no matter how dirty she was.
RIP sweet girl.  We miss you like crazy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Five Pies

Five Pies

You've heard of Five Guys? Well, this is Five Pies.  :)

We're off on our camping trip this morning. The truck is packed with the tourney pavilion (wait till you see this thing!) The pies and chicken liver mousse are waiting patiently in the fridge. Hot chocolate has been pre-blended so it can be re-heated on the stove, and the cranberries and other accoutrement are waiting to be loaded. It looks like we're moving to the mountains. I guess that's the dark side of glamping.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I will see you next week!

{p.s.  I need one of these!}

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Indian Princess Party

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Juju contemplates her cake.
As I mentioned last week, I made the cake for a friend's four year old's birthday this weekend.  The party  was at the Rare Hare Art Studio in Normal Heights, a super-cool space for art classes and parties for kids and grownups alike.  I'll let Jora tell you more about it, but I thought I'd share a few shots, and of course, let you know how the cake turned out!
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Party guests - appropriately attired. :)
The birthday girl had requested vanilla cake, and I went searching for a new recipe since up until now, I haven't really found one I like all that well.  This one from Bakerella fit the bill.  I didn't have White Lily flour, which she said she had used, so I used a combination of two cups regular self rising flour and one cup of cake flour with one teaspoon of baking powder mixed in.  The cake was tender but rich, and I really liked the flavor.  I made my usual cream cheese frosting and tinted it pink, since  I wanted it to look just like it does in her picture.  :)  I also upped the recipe by half so that I could fill three 9 inch cake pans.
Indian Princess Party
There can never be too much pink on a four year old's birthday cake.  At least that was my theory. :)
The decorations are fondant - that was the fun part.  I had a grid mat and a little rolling pin, and cut them out with an exacto knife, pizza cutter and piping tip (the large end.)  Funny thing - while I was making the decorations in the kitchen, James and my nieces were watching Romeo + Juliet in the living room - the modern version with Leonardo di Caprio and Clare Danes.  Everytime I look at those teepees on the side of the cake I hear Shakespearean dialogue in my head.
Indian Princess Party
The gifts from myself and the girlies - I could have happily kept them myself! 
I picked up these gifts at the store at their school - the Snake and Lily.  Are they the cutest or what??  I had wanted to get her a little Indian girl, but she already had one - so I contemplated whether to get the brave, or a mama with a papoose - luckily, she got the mama and papoose from someone else - so she has the whole set now.  :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some Good Stuff - and Happy Friday!

Good Stuff 1

Just wanted to drop in and share a few fun things I spotted this week (mostly on Pinterest) and wish everyone a happy weekend!  

1. This vintage Cartier watch.
2. J Crew's Spring 2012 line.
3. Language of Flowers tea towel from House that Lars Built (the calendar is gorgeous too.)
4. Tory Burch's Arelia tassel pump. Also, this one.
5. This great vintage shot of Angelica Huston.
6. The latest Closet Visit with Karolina Maskiewicz.
7. A birthday surprise from A Merry Mishap.

We are picking up our nieces today for a weekend visit - the cake is in progress, and seems to be turning out well so far.  I'm starting to stress a little about preparations for our Thanksgiving trip, but one thing at a time, right?   xoxo

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Parmesan Crusted Chicken {A Recipe}

Parmesan Crusted Chicken
I just ate a bite of this straight from the fridge, and it was so good I was prompted to come sit down and write down the recipe right this minute, so I can do it exactly the same way next time - and of course, share it with you.  This has always been one of my favorite dishes to eat, but it took me a few tries to get the formula down for my ideal crust, and even longer to remember to measure everything out!
Parmesan Crusted Chicken
For some reason, I had a hard time figuring out the right amount of salt.  It takes more than you would think, but it really makes a huge difference.  I use both flour and crumbs to form a nice crisp coating that won't slide off the chicken, and I like to add just enough cayenne or chile powder to wake it up a little.

I made this batch the other night as a special treat for James, who just ran his first half marathon on Sunday!   We ate it with a simple salad of arugula and tomato dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.  It's a little bit of a project, with the assembly line and the frying and all (another reason it's an every-once-in-a-while thing!)  But it's pretty well worth it - especially if you make enough for leftovers.  Which, by the way - did I mention? - are fantastic cold.  :)
Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Parmesan Crusted Chicken

Ingredients:
3-4 pounds of boneless and skinless chicken pieces (I used 2 thighs, 4 breasts + 4 tenderloins)

dry mix:
2 cups fine breadcrumbs
2/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt or kosher salt
1 cup (loosely packed) finely shredded fresh parmesan cheese
1 tsp cayenne or hot chile powder
a few grinds of pepper
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

wet mix:
4-5 eggs
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
a splash of milk

2 cups vegetable oil for frying*

cut lemon for squeezing and more salt for sprinkling

Method:
Place dry ingredients in a medium-sized shallow bowl and toss with a fork to blend.

Crack eggs into a large bowl and add mustard and a splash of milk - blend with a whisk or hand blender to thoroughly incorporate the mustard.

Set up a work area with a plastic cutting board, a 2 foot long piece of saran wrap and whatever you use to pound meat. If you don't have a special tool, a flat bottomed heavy glass or small saucepan will work. (I use this and I absolutely love it, it's also great for cracking spices and smashing garlic cloves, etc.)  Cut your breast meat into halves off center, since they are thicker on one end.  Lay each piece in the middle of the saran wrap and fold the wrap over with a generous overlap (one piece should last you the whole batch.)  Lightly pound each cutlet from the center outward just a couple of times in each direction - until each piece is uniformly just a little less than 1/2 inch thick.  (Be gentle with the tenderloins, they will probably just need one very light tap.)  As you finish pounding the cutlets, put them in the bowl with the egg/mustard mixture to marinate.  They can stay there for an hour or so at room temperature and even longer in the fridge.

When you are ready to fry, pour vegetable oil to about half an inch deep in a large heavy frying pan or cast iron skillet.  Heat frying pan over medium-high heat and line a baking sheet or large platter with a double layer of paper towels.  If you plan to hold the cutlets before serving, turn the oven on to 250 degrees.

Set up your work station like an assembly line - with the bowl of cutlets and egg on one end, the crumb mixture next, then they frying pan, and the paper towel lined tray on the opposite side.  Place your cut lemon and a little dish of salt by the tray.

To fry, pluck your first piece of chicken out of the egg mixture with one hand and lay it in the crumb mixture. Using the OTHER hand, toss crumbs and flour over the chicken to coat, and flip and pat it couple of times to get the coating to stick. (If you use the same hand for both, your fingers will soon have more coating on them than the cutlets.)  Lift the first cutlet by one end and dip a tiny corner into the oil.  If it sizzles, lay it down gently in the oil.  If it doesn't - put it back in the flour and wait a couple more minutes until it does.  Dip and coat two or three more pieces, as many as will comfortably fit, and set them gently in the oil too, making sure it sizzles but isn't burning or smoking.   Let the pieces get nice and brown around the edges before flipping - they should cook quite a bit longer on the first side than the second.  Using tongs, gently flip them once. When they are well browned on all sides, lay them on the paper towels to drain.  Squirt with a little lemon juice and sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt.

Turn the oven down to 200, and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Serves about six - or fewer, with leftovers.  :)

* optimally, if you are going to fry more than 3 batches, you should really change your oil - it will get lots of burnt bits in it and start to taste funny after that.  I pushed it and did four, but that was definitely the limit.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Joan Didion's Blue Nights

Joan Didion

 “There were cucumber and watercress sandwiches, a peach-colored cake from Payard, pink champagne...”

I've had a minor obsession with Joan Didion since I read "Where I Was From" about 8 years ago.  It was the kind of thing where I immediately picked up all of of her (non-fiction) books and read them back to back.  I loved The White Album and Slouching Toward Bethlehem, and when it came out I devoured The Year of Magical Thinking - about the aftermath of the death of her husband John Gregory Dunne.

When I heard that Didion's only child had died at just 39 years of age right before Magical Thinking was released I was horrified and captivated.  I searched for more information on Quintana. What on earth had happened to her?  And how could Didion possibly cope with another loss so soon after her husband's death?   For better or worse, these questions are answered in Blue Nights.  Didion tells the story of Quintana's life - from their admittedly somewhat boneheaded handling of her adoption to her childhood in Malibu and Brentwood all the way through her illness and death - including her mental and emotional troubles and ill-fated contact with her birth family.

In recalling these events,  Didion returns to certain evocative memories again and again.  Quintana's wedding, with its peach colored cake from Payard, cucumber sandwiches and pink champagne, the stephanotis woven in her braid, the bright red soles of her Louboutins visible when she knelt at the altar. She recalls the fried chicken eaten from a friends' fancy plates to celebrate Quintana's christening, the Chanel suits the women wore and  the cigarettes they smoked and the hotels they stayed in when they traveled -  the Kahala and the Royal Hawaiian in Hawaii; the Fairmont and the Mark Hopkins in San Francisco, the Ambassador and the Drake in Chicago.

It was a life of privilege to be sure, but there is an appealing pared-down simplicity to it as well.  When they lived on the beach in Malibu, they lit fires in the fireplace to heat their home, she packed homemade fried chicken and strawberries with sour cream and brown sugar in Quintana's lunches and they had cucumber sandwiches for Quintana's sixteenth birthday lunch.  Didion always packed the same list of simple necessities when she traveled.  These small but intentional details aren't so attributable to wealth as to taste - they're decisions and choices anyone could make.

Amid the shock and numbness of grief, Didion is eventually forced to confront her own mortality.  She develops shingles, she loses consciousness in her apartment and wakes up in a pool of blood.  A doctor accuses of her of making "an inadequate adjustment to aging."  We might not all be so unlucky as to lose our entire family in the space of a few years, but if we live long enough, we will all get old.   Didion writes about aging the way I expect to think and feel about it, which is both distressing and strangely satisfying, like seeing your worst fears come true.   Unfortunately, she also confirms something else I've long suspected - that your cherished memories are not all that helpful when they serve primarily to remind you of what you have lost.

photo credits:  Payard Cake from Martha Stewart, Blue Nights Cover from Amazon, Corvette photo via New York Magazine - Getty Images, shoes from Christian Louboutin, cucumber sandwiches via Victoria Mary Vintage, Didion's packing list from English Muse, family photo in Malibu via The New York Review of Books.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Indian Princess Inspiration

Indian Princess Party

A good friend of mine is throwing an Indian Princess-themed birthday party for her four-year old daughter this weekend, and I've volunteered to dust off my baking skills and make the cake, decorated with a teepee or feather motif.  My nieces are also coming down to attend the party (they've become fast friends with the birthday girl and her brother) so I am hoping it will be a fun project for all of us!

I'm having a hard time coming up with photos of cakes for inspiration, but I did find a few for color and design.  The birthday girl has specifically requested vanilla cake, so I've been looking at these recipes from Sweetapolita.   If you have any beloved favorites, feel free to throw them my way!  I have a go-to chocolate recipe, but have yet to find a vanilla cake that knocks my socks off.

Fingers crossed that it will turn out well enough that I can post some pictures next week!

Have a good week! xox

*Update on how it came out here!*

1.  Feather Headdress via Style Milk Shop
2.  Teepee from Svpply
3.  Feather Cookies via The Kitchn
4. Indian Party via Sara's Party Perfect
5.  Rug via Brittany Jepson on Pinterest
6.  Window Decorations via Moccasin Telegraph.





Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Weekend, Friends.

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It's hard to believe it's already been a week since I snapped this photo just before heading out on the town in Vegas.  Happy Friday!  I hope you have a good weekend, whether it's a long or short one.

It's also Veteran's Day today.  I have many friends and family members who are veterans and their sacrifices and service are incredible. I think this quote sums it up quite well:

"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." ~José Narosky

I look forward to tipping a glass in honor of them and the rest of our veterans and their sacrifices at the Iron Fist Beer Lunch today at Farm House Cafe.  Salud!

Dress: Banana Republic   Clutch: Clare Vivier   Boots: Trouve   Cuff: Kora Designs

Thursday, November 10, 2011

There and Back Again - Las Vegas Edition

Vegas 2011
Lately, I've found myself becoming a true fan of the road trip.  Some of our best recent vacations have been car trips - Big Sur, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, the Grand Canyon... It's just so easy.  You don't have to worry about the size of your liquid containers, there are no backscatter x-ray machines or overzealous TSA agents to contend with.  You can pack your own food, throw a bottle of champagne or two in the car - or even a couple of stowaways like we did when we took our nieces along  to the Grand Canyon last year.  Like I said.  Big fan.
Vegas 2011
With all that in mind, we decided to drive to Las Vegas this past weekend for a visit with some friends.  (I'm not sure what is says about us that they chose to fly!)  The two photos above were taken at The Mad Greek, a classic roadside stop in Baker, California.  Baker is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and the main street is lined with fast food chains, so at least this was something different.  I wish I could recommend the food, but I really can't.  The menu is strangely complicated and there must be something good on there, but it's not the Gyro or the Greek Salad, trust me. They did have some traditional pastries and cookies in their case that looked nice, and they serve espresso and gelato, so it might be worth a stop for a snack and to take a photo or two, but I'd stick with In n' Out in Barstow or Lynwood for lunch.
Vegas 2011
When we got to Vegas we checked into our room and went out for a little walk.  I took this photo of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon through the window.  We didn't eat here this time, but it's my favorite fine dining spot in Vegas.  It's no more expensive than the other schmancy options around town, but I feel like they run a tighter ship somehow.  They also have a new three course tasting menu at the Mansion for $120.
Vegas 2011
We walked over to the new Cosmopolitan hotel to check out the "scene."  It is sort of the newest hot spot - something like the Hard Rock or Palms.  This is the "Chandelier Bar" -  located inside a giant 3 story tall crystal chandelier.  The restaurants are located upstairs in a mall-like area - and of course I wanted to check them out.  By far the most happening spot was Jaleo - Jose Andre' Spanish tapas spot, which spilled out onto the upper level (below.)
Vegas 2011 We had plans to eat that night at Julian Serrano over in the Aria hotel next door, but we had a little time to kill so we ducked into China Poblano - the other more casual Andres restaurant there, for a taco and a cocktail.
Vegas 2011
When you walk in, there are two counters on either side of the restaurant.  Behind one ladies are making fresh tortillas for tacos, and on the other side they are folding dumplings, making those little pleats one by one.  The menu features Chinese and Mexican specialities, like dim sum, dumplings and tacos, and several dishes that blend both cuisines. Everything on the menu was appealing, and affordable to boot.
Vegas 2011
We started with a couple of  margaritas, topped with Jose Andres' special "salt foam"  - I am a recent convert to salt on my margaritas, and I absolutely loved this.  Mine was pomegranate and James had the plain.  I recommend the pomegranate.
Vegas 2011
We ordered two tacos, only one of which I remembered to photograph, and some Sui Mai dumplings.  The taco below is "barbacoa" - the other was pork belly.  I preferred the barbacoa - but the sui mai may have been my favorite. I only wished we could have ordered more. The gentleman to my right ordered several things that looked good, including a ceviche of tuna with amaranth seeds, soy sauce and pecans and what I think was the "Ocean Nest" - a dish of fried egg noodles with shrimp and other seafood.  Our friends also went for brunch on Sunday and said they had a great meal.
Vegas 2011
Our dinner at Julian Serrano was good, but not great.   It's not quite "fine dining" but it's a step up from casual, located in a swankily decorated room right off the Aria's lobby.   I liked the style of the place, and a few of the things we ordered were very good - especially this scallop dish with romesco sauce.
Vegas 2011
We also liked the anchovy crostini, below.   The jamon serrano with pan tomate was also good, but James couldn't help comparing it to the Pata Negra from L'Atelier (one of the drawbacks of being spoiled by that place!) The "Gambas al Ajillo" - a usual Spanish favorite of mine - were rubbery, and our server sold us on a strange house specialty of  filet mignon with cheese and honey that turned out to be a terrible waste of a nice piece of meat.
Vegas 2011
The best thing we ordered by far was this relatively inexpensive Rioja, recommended by the sommelier.  Seriously -  remember this label.  It was excellent.
Vegas 2011
Our friends arrived the next day, and we met Lisa for lunch at Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina in the Crystals shopping center in the new City Center complex.  The mall itself is quiet as a morgue, probably because it has only the most ultra high end stores -  but we had a really good meal at this casual spot. My mussels were perfectly cooked and served in a little cast iron cocotte with lots of chorizo and spicy broth with just a touch of cream.  James had the prosciutto and pesto pizza and Lisa had the potato pizza, both of which came with a thin crust and good toppings.  We also shared a butter lettuce salad  similar to a cobb, with bacon, egg, blue cheese and hazelnuts.
Vegas 2011
After lunch, Lisa and I strolled over to the Aria for coffee and something sweet from the Jean Philippe Patisserie while James went to find Luis in the poker room.  We went a little nuts and tried not one, not two but three things - a dulce de leche filled brioche (swoon!) a "snickers" pastry, and a lemon meringue tart.   All were divine - I don't think they have anything that isn't.
Vegas 2011
It's a popular spot, located on the casino floor - hopping all day long with cafe customers getting breakfast, lunch, desserts and snacks.
Vegas 2011
We had breakfast from here two mornings in a row, and all I can say is deca-dent.  It's a good thing we brought gym clothes.
Vegas 2011
Friday night's dinner was our usual standby - Lotus of Siam.  I've written about it before here.  They have expanded significantly since we were there last, at least doubling in size and adding a large wine vault.
Vegas 2011
We always love this crispy rice dish with sausage and lime juice, and we found another new favorite this time, these prawns - separated from their shells and fried - served over spicy drunken noodles and topped with a light chili sauce. I also recommend the green curry duck and the soft shell crab salad.
Vegas 2011
Dinner the following night was at Comme Ca - a French bistro back in the Cosmopolitan.  We had originally had reservations at Twist, Pierre Gagnaire's restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental, but we decided we just weren't up for anything that fancy.  Our meal at Comme Ca started out on the right foot with lovely appetizers - an excellent seafood "plateau" and a really nice beef tartare, but slid steeply downhill with the entrees.  Luis' mussels tasted unpleasantly of dried herbs, Lisa's burger was cold, and both dishes were served with stiff, stale frites.  I had planned to order the steak frites, but James talked me into getting the "Wellington for Two" at $99  (gulp.)  Ordered medium rare it came out blue - to the point of impossible to cut - with soggy pastry and cold sides.  I think I ate two bites. It was so bad  we complained, and they confessed it was their first night serving it as a Saturday night special.  I hope they work that formula out before they ruin too many other couples' date nights.  They comped us one bottle of wine ($65) which was a nice gesture, but I would have rather they comped the more expensive inedible dish.  We skipped dessert.

Lunch on the way back was In n'Out in Barstow.  It always amazes me that their $5.45 cheeseburger combo  (Animal style, add ketchup and mustard, fries well done and a side of chiles!) can be so much better than a $100. meal.  In a strange way, I guess it all evens out in the end.

Recommended Spots:
China Poblano
in the Cosmospolitan - 2nd Floor
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Wolfgang Puck Pizzeria and Cucina
In the Crystals Shopping Center at City Center
3720 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89115

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
in the MGM Grand
3799 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Jean Philippe Patisserie
two locations, in the Aria on the casino floor, and in the
Bellagio.
Aria - 3730 Las Vegas Boulevard South Las Vegas, NV

Other Vegas Posts:
My Vegas Favorites, Otto - at the Venetian Shops, The Neon Sign Museum & Luv It Frozen Custard.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Glamping over Thanksgiving

2011-11-02 We just got back from a weekend in Vegas, which I will tell you about in a minute, but I'm already super excited about our next trip.  We've been invited to join a few close friends to go camping in Julian over Thanksgiving.  Have you ever heard of "glamping"?   I think that's what it's going to be like.  We're borrowing a canvas tent from James' family and our friends are setting up a camp kitchen (that's last year's set up in the lower middle photo above.)  It will probably be cold (it could even snow!) but with enough bourbon, wool blankets and firewood, we should be able to hang.   We'll take a few long hikes too - to warm up and work off all that food!

Everyone is being asked to contribute to the feast.  I'm thinking about making a pate or terrine from the Piret's cookbook (finally, a chance to use the Le Creuset terrine I found at an antique store a while ago!) and a few pies.  Not sure what kind yet.   Will also pack some s'mores and hot chocolate makings, the aforementioned bourbon, and a few apples for snacking.

So how is everyone else celebrating Thanksgiving this year?   Any "must have" dishes?  C'mon, spill it!  Good or bad, high or low - I know serious foodies who can't cope without Pillsbury crescent rolls, and my own mother makes her turkey gravy with cornstarch and yellow food coloring.  There's no room for shame in holiday traditions!  Or if your feast is impeccably gourmet, we want to hear about that too!

photos - top left, via Bliss,  top right, found here, bottom left, found here.  All others by last year's campers.




Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Tiger! Tiger! - North Park

Tiger! Tiger! The first thing I noticed about the menu at Tiger! Tiger! was how much it looked like the menu at one of my favorite places to eat - the Hog Island Oyster Co. in San Francisco (at the Ferry Building.) They're not using Heath Plates and you're not looking out over the San Francisco Bay, but the front side of the simple menu offering oysters on the half shell, a clam and corn chowder, Oysters Rockefeller, and a few simple artisanal salads rang some bells in a good way.

I had heard about the restaurant the day before from some friends who attended their soft opening. When I saw the words beer, sandwiches and oysters, I hijacked already existing plans with my friend Vince and dragged him here instead of Cafe Chloe for their first Friday lunch. TT uses the same ordering system as Blind Lady Ale House, the other restaurant owned by this group of friends (two couples, actually.) You walk up to the counter, place your order and get a number to take to a table. The room has  a classic "beer hall" layout, with two rows of long picnic tables with attached benches running the length of the room.  Much of the food is cooked in a large wood-burning oven that dominates the kitchen area. (I don't know about you but I'm drawn to a wood-burning oven like a moth to a flame.)  Like BLAH, TT offers a wide and ever-changing selection of beers. Since it was a work day, we didn't really indulge... much... but you'll find a great selection of local and artisanal brews to satisfy your thirst.
Tiger! Tiger! We started with their oysters on the half shell, served with lime granita, pickled chiles and micro-cilantro. Hog Island serves theirs with a cup of pickled chile mignonette, which these flavors echoed nicely. I tend to prefer for my oysters to come naked and add the condiments myself, but I thought the additions on these were well balanced.  James went a night or two later and thought the lime granita was too much, so you will have to be the judge for yourself.  The only thing I missed was some sourdough epi bread (Hog Island serves theirs with Acme.) They're baking their own breads here, so hopefully that will come along.
Tiger! Tiger! Next we were delivered a bowl of the corn, bacon and clam chowder - tender sweet clams and chunks of potato, in a light creamy broth studded with bacon and roasted corn kernels, served with a slice of house-baked levain bread on the side. The broth had a sweet, complex flavor and the clams were pretty darn perfect.  It looks a little skimpy on the clams, but I think I had already plucked at least one off before I remembered to take the picture.
Tiger! Tiger! Then came the sandwiches, a pork bahn mi and a fried oyster po'boy. Nobody likes a good sandwich more than I do, and I was pretty excited about these.  I did like the po'boy (though all that red onion was a little overwhelming) but the bahn mi was a bit of a disappointment.  I think it was supposed to be hot, but the meat had cooled by the time we bit into ours, and it was missing the funky-sweet pickled root vegetables and sweet mayonnaise that are (in my opinion at least) essential to a bahn mi.  Instead of the traditional baguette, it also came on a house-made torpedo roll.   It's hard to quibble with housemade fresh bread, but I missed the crunch of the baguette crust.
Tiger! Tiger! All of the sandwiches are served with these exceptionally good fresh, housemade potato chips.  You can't really tell from this picture, but there were both sweet potato and russet potato chips in there. They also offer several other sandwiches that sound intriguing -  like the croque madame, served with an optional bechamel sauce and fried egg.
Tiger! Tiger! Overall, given that this was literally the very first meal they served to paying customers, I thought they did a fine job. I'm looking forward to going back and trying some of their other sandwich offerings and the Oysters Rockefeller, which I hear are superb.

Tiger! Tiger!
3025 El Cajon Blvd (near 30th)
San Diego, CA 92104

Check out their Beer Week Schedule - November 3-9.
Dinner only. Closed Mondays.  (They are starting lunch service Fri-Sat. soon, if not already)

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