Sunday, August 31, 2008

making hay

well...technically, i shouldn't be anywhere near a computer right now, if things had gone according to plan. i should be rousing myself from the kind of deep sleep you only get at the cottage, assessing the lake for how glass and canoe-friendly it is, and thinking warm thoughts about the pancakes and bacon i'm about to consume and the long day of idle swimming, sunning, and reading that stretches ahead.

unfortunately, life had other plans in mind. we found out on friday afternoon that our friend's mum had passed away. she had been sick for a while and while receiving treatment contracted another illness that her weakened immune system couldn't tackle. they're a jewish family and as i've recently learned, jewish funeral services happen as quickly as possible after the death (preferably within 24 hours). because yesterday was the shabbat, the service is today.

so the cottage trip was scrapped so that we might attend the service and support the dotytron's friend through a terrible, terrible time. i can't even imagine what that must be like and i don't want to ever know. there are people who say that you must experience ALL that life has to offer...that without death the joy of birth is dulled, the sadness heightens and highlights the happiness that will (hopefully) follow. i'm not sure i'm one of those people. i don't want to know. when events like these make bring the contingency of our existences to the fore, i really think that i could lead a happy and fulfilled life without this constant. it would certainly lead to less anxiety, fear, caution, hesitance, desperation.

in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, the dotytron and i have thrown ourselves into action. we're fighting back against the random capriciousness of human mortality in the only sad, futile, way that humans know how. we seized what slim control we had and tore apart our bedroom. the dotytron completely revamped his studio and got me my new sewing machine and i got a new crafting area out of the ashes of his old computer desk. this is what it looks like:





i love it. i can knit in the rocking chair and quilt and silkscreen and do all my other stuff at the table. the spacing worked out perfectly and our room is much airier and feels even larger than it already is (and our room is HUGE...bigger than some people's entire condos in toronto). i mean, it's not as nice as some of the other studios established craft bloggers have...like these ones:



for some reason, that teal blue colour is really popular in the craft-blogger's world of crafting studios. EVERYONE has their studio painted that colour.

so we've taken comfort in order and family (house and blood). i had dinner with my mum and my bro s-dawg and her friends who are visiting from hong kong on friday and we're having dinner with them again tonight. so i have lots of restaurant reviewing to do (replete with pictures, natch). the house family have been together when we could, despite it being a bumper weekend for babies being borned for the roomie. last night, she bought us jean's vegetarian thai for dinner and we ate and watched the bbc's "blue planet." i still have movie reviews to do, too. and i finished reading "the road." so we have a considerable backlog of entries.

we've been noshing on the best. chocolate. chip. cookies. ever. a few months back, the new york times' dining section went on a hunt for the definitive chocolate chip cookie. they surveyed numerous pastry chefs and did a variety of comparisons, breaking down what is probably the most emblematic of all cookies into its' composite parts and analyzing their virtues. the resulting recipe swept the food blog world by storm, to put it mildly. my feeds were choked up with page after page of chocolate chip cookie execution. really, who can blame them? isn't the ultimate chocolate chip cookie a worthy life's goal? and isn't the new york times a reputable source to whom you would trust such a herculean task to be executed with attention to detail and tenacious commitment to veracity? some of the things they uncovered are a no-brainer. warm cookies, under-baking, a touch of salt, etc. the big revelation was letting the dough rest, which was then corroborated by no less a food-science pedagogue than harold mcgee.

well, we made the dough on wednesday evening and let it rest for the requisite 24-36 hours. the resulting cookies were simply beyond. i'm throwing out every other cookie recipe. there is no better. a sprinkling of sea salt adds the finishing crunchy crown of flavour-deepening bite, enriching the sweetness while providing a saline counterpoint. bittersweet chocolate is a must. the resulting cookie is chewy and moist (definitely not cakey, if your tastes run to that, although i turn my nose up at you), with a crisp edge and exploding with bitter, deep chocolate flavour. i highly recommend you all try it.

-----------------------------------------------------

July 9, 2008
Recipe

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Jacques Torres

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons

(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour

1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)

Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

so. full. of. beans.

so chipotle as a concept is pretty ace. there's four options: burrito, fajita, tacos (hard or soft), and taco salad. you pick your format from the options above and then proceed down the assembly line. your meat options are vegetarian, chicken, beef, barbacoa (simmered beef), and carnitas (simmered pork). all the meat is naturally raised and they make a conscious effort to reduce their footprint (paper bags, reusing stuff, etc.).


me and the dotytron got the carnitas burrito and the steak burrito and split them (they were out of barbacoa). you get a base of cilantro lime rice, then a choice of black or pinto beans, then your meat, then a choice of condiments: salsas (chunky mild, medium red, corn, hot...you can also get them all), then sour cream (if you want), and guacamole (extra money). they wrap it up and send you on your way. we also got an order of chips and salsa and guac and salsa.


our meal came to $25 without drinks. the burritos are HUGE. they weigh about 30% more than a burrito boyz burrito. and the ingredients all taste really fresh and not mass-produced. the corn salsa was a great addition - crunchy and sweet. the acidity in the lime cilantro rice makes everything taste bright. the carnitas were juicy and flavourful and the steak was tender and meaty. all in all, i would totally recommend it for a quick and cheap meal. my only complaint is that the chips were over-salted...but that's something that's easily fixed.

this is last night's dinner.

i'm not going to lie, the mixing today was a little rough. i think i did okay but it wasn't like i could seamlessly beatmatch after a 2+ year hiatus (longer, really). also, i suffered from not really knowing my own chunes anymore. but i'm not going to give up! somewhere, deep inside me, is an oldskool mix that will tear the place down. i just have to work hard to find it. and if there's one thing from which i do not shy away, it's hard work.

tomorrow is an early day on account of the long weekend. i'm going to finish some baking i'm undertaking for our weekend at the dotytron's family's cottage (we're leaving saturday morning) and then meet my mum and bro and her friends for dinner. we're going to table 17 in leslieville. i'll post a full review on saturday morning if i get up early enough.

fin.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

the wheel in the sky keeps on turning...

^^^ that's me readying myself for journey next friday.

did some reading at the cottage...here are my thoughts on what passed before my eyes.

my sis got me sarah dessen's latest, "lock and key" for my birthday. it's the story of a girl named ruby, who gets abandoned by her ne'er-do-well mother and is forced to move in with her sister, estranged after 10 years, who lives in a mansion on the other side of town. it's about how she's wrenched from the life she knew and all that was familiar (which is not to say that she particularly enjoyed it) and uprooted to a new place and has to start anew and in the process, becomes a different version of herself and reconfigures her notions of family and friends.

it's not a big stretch to say that i'm a sarah dessen fan. i devoured this book. her narratives always unfold at a steady clip and the characters and voices ring true in the sense that they're the conversations you wish you had in a dramatized version of your high school life (upon reflection, many years later). i didn't love this one as much as "just listen" and "this lullaby," but i think that's kind of splitting hairs. it's right up there with my favorites and i would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for some breezy, beachy, reading, of the young adult persuasion or otherwise.

david sedaris' latest, "when you are engulfed in flames," is a big letdown. i found myself forcing myself to doggedly get through to the end of each story, most of which felt interminably long and needlessly drawn out. at his best, sedaris draws from the wells of the near-tasteless and near-tragic to find the clear, cold, refreshing humour and truths that can sometimes be found therein. in this case, he attempts to negotiate that line and for the most part, fails. what results is a frequently tasteless journey that consistently flirts with shocking-for-the-sake-of-being-shocking and leaves you with a poor taste in your mouth. sample passages such as this, on the virtues of having a ready narrative parry to jump-start any potential conversation, "six months earlier, my icebreaker concerned a stripper who became a quadriplegic and eventually had her vagina eaten away by bedsores, not the easiest thing to wrangle into a conversation," are laboured and contrived. sedaris' attempts to throw his lot in with the rejects of the world, cloying and palpable in naked attempts such as the one above ring less and less true when he starts talking about his life in normandy, his apartment in paris, and his home in new york.

let's face it: sedaris runs with the intelligentsia, and while they may very well have their eccentricities, he's a long, far way away from the crass, near autistic boor he would have us believe he is.

the best story is one on the nature of his relationship with hugh and monogamy and their partnership, which is gentle and thematically concise even in its' meandering circumlocutions to the reiteration of his thesis. even this essay though, uses gratuitous imagery and examples to push the point.

if you've liked other sedaris work, this one doesn't live up to the promise of "me talk pretty one day" or "dress your family in corduroy and denim."

tonight we had dr. rei over for dinner. i made that lentil and pancetta, baby spinach salad thing, this time subbing in poached eggs for the breaded, fried goat's cheese and adding in some pancetta-wrapped, blue cheese stuffed roasted figs to use up refrigerator contents before we decamp to the muskokas. i'll post a picture tomorrow.

tomorrow i'm going to C & C's place to record a mix (hopefully). i've been playing around with my old skool jungle lately and lamenting the dotytron's (fiscally sound) decision to go down to one turntable. it'll be nice to see if i can still beat-match and program a set. i'm going to buy C dinner at chipotle's to thank him for caring for our cats while we were gone.

i've seen a tonne of movies lately. "tropic thunder," "pineapple express," "21," and "parenthood," so i'll try to do some film reviews a demain.

fin.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

extreme embarrassment

...reporting for duty. so, i kinda failed my G1 written knowledge test. it was HARD! wicked hard! it's split into two parts, each with 20 questions, and you have to get at least 16 right on each of them (but i think you can only get 4 wrong overall). the first part consists of written questions and the second part consists of identifying road signs. i'm pretty sure i aced the road signs...but i totally bombed the written part, mostly because i stopped reading the book after all the driving info.

my achilles heel (which can often, in equal measure, be my greatest strength) turned out to be my motto of: "how hard can it be?" (ie. if angelina jolie can fly a plane, i can fly a plane...if jamaicans can learn to bobsled, i can learn to bobsled, etc., etc.) well, in this case, 16 year olds and immigrants with english as a second language had a leg up on me because they actually READ THE WHOLE BOOK. INCLUDING THE PART ABOUT DEMERIT POINTS, which i only breezed through superficially (and by "breezed through superficially," i mean: "turned to as a respite when reading cormac mccarthy's 'the road' became too depressing"). it turns out i'm much more of a hardass than the ministry of transportation. where i would hazard that G1 and G2 drivers are not permitted to have ANY demerit points, the MTO graciously (and foolishly, i think) allows them 9. nine! i say throw the book at 'em! that's why cars are deathtraps, people! 9 is a LOT! whereas, if you receive a criminal code violation, i would take away your license for life, the MTO is much more generous (again to their detriment, putting the good people of our province at risk). the point is, i have to pay another $10 and somehow book time off of work to get this shiz done at a later date. and it's 3 hours of my life down the tubes. shaaaaaame.

in other news...the dr. rei is getting teh marriedz0rz!!! with the hanbo!!! and is sporting a hefty rock on her slender little dr. rei finger! like hella hefty! like, could take out my cat, boddington's eye, hefty. she's beside herself with happiness, which in turn, makes me beside myself with happiness (although not in the shrieky, girly, jump-up-and-down way...more in my cynical, hard-boiled, incredulous way) and has spurred me to start planning me and the dotytron's performance piece in earnest. i mean, if dr. rei and hanbo can get their acts together to get hitched after 7 months...then really, with 7 years under our belt, me and the dotytron have no excuses. so ready yourselves...i'm throwing myself into wedding (not really) planning with a zeal and eye for detail and attention and spreadsheeting the likes of which you've never seen!

actually...not all that true. no bridezilla over here. more like comedic-zilla. i want this thing to be hilares. and to embody the spirit of myself and the dotytron. which is: hilares. and: taking the piss. and: unsentimental as romance and sentimentality are commonly understood to be.

so you'll have to look elsewhere for your romantic proposal story - none of that over here. after 7 years, when your togetherness is pretty much a foregone conclusion (excitement and ambition having long succumbed to the succour of regularity, comfort, and routine) in concert with the fact that i could care less about being surprised with a picture-perfect proposal and have an extreme aversion to anything resembling cliche (even as that sentiment puts me smack dab in cliche-ville)...it seems a little redundant and silly to try to cobble something like that together. in this day and age, when women go ring shopping with their partners, what's the point of the surprise proposal? you know it's coming. it's just a matter of what day/what time of day? i guess it's just not my style. i mean, the very thought of just moving apartments makes me breaks out in hives, so ergo, vis-a-vis, i reckon that i've thrown my lot in with the dotytron because finding someone else who'll put up with me is just too much for me to contemplate/fit into my life. isn't that romantic enough? do you know how much time it takes to train someone to bear my nightime, teeth-grindingly pitchy, falsetto, coldplay lullabies? now THAT'S romance, people. do you know how hard it is to find a girl who doesn't drink a single drop but is obsessed enough with the idea of cocktails to go out and set up a home bar in the space of an afternoon and research drinks for her beloved? THAT'S love. biking home with 2 twelves of craft beer in a non-back friendly knapsack because you can imagine the pure, unmitigated joy of a cold beer on a hot day (having never experienced this phenomena yourself) is love.

in other other news...my grandpa, kung kung, totally dropped the best zinger ever. over japanese all-you-can-eat on saturday night (at which kung kung [maternal grandpa] and poh poh [maternal grandma] weren't present) my siblings and my mum got into a spirited discussion on nationalism. my mom thinks that the lack of volunteer and community spirit in canada is due to nationalism and that our nation's policy of multiculturalism has had unintended consequences of ghettoization, etc., etc. (my mom is one of the most community-minded women i know...she's a tireless hospital fundraiser, works hard for scarborough, and does so much do-gooding that she was recognized by the province and appointed to a trillium foundation organization board for organ donation. go mumsie!)

the next day, at asian legend for shanghai dimsum, at which kung kung and poh poh were present, we started talking about the olympics (my kung kung is an avid tennis/baseball/swimming/most sports fan). so i asked him who he was rooting for at the olympics:

"kung kung! were you rooting for china, or canada at the olympics...what do you think of nationalis---"

at which point he interrupted me with a booming and declarative:

"NO! one world. one dream."

hahahaha...hilarious!!! the fact that that was the olympic slogan for 2008 only makes it all the funnier.


last night i made paninis of ace multigrain bread, ricotta, figs, proscuitto, and baby arugala.


with a big mixed salad with a balsamic honey vinaigrette.


tonight i made farfalle with beet greens, ricotta, guanciale, and roasted peppers. with a tomato and basil bruschetta (toasted st. john's sourdough, rubbed with a cut piece of garlic).

i'm also making a batch of blueberry muffins for us for breakfast, featuring ontario wild blueberries. there are few things more magical than warm, buttered, crusty-topped blueberry muffins, made with so many blueberries that the muffin batter becomes an exception to the whole. and it has to be salted butter. melting into the nooks and crags and dripping down your arm. now that one of us is in school again, we need some provisions so that we're not going without handy snacks and quick breakfasts.

poor dotytron...his school schedule is killer. lucky for him, i'm probably the best lunch packer this side of snackables and capri sun juice. today for instance, i wrangled together a sandwich of sliced ribeye, with arugala and ermite blue cheese, on st. john's bakery sourdough bread, with an apple, and a 1L sigg bottle of water. when everything calms down (we're going away for the weekend again) i'm going to throw together some granola bars and mixed nuts for mid-day pick-me-ups.

it's nice to be appreciated. last night i made my own dinner and then called the roomie (knowing she and the dotytron were both going to be home late) with the mom speech of: "there's salad already made up, the salad dressing is right next to it on the counter. the sandwiches are ready to go and just have to be put in the panini press - you remember how to use that, right?" and she responded with a heartfelt, emotional, "i'm so glad you're back." lol! the roomie has fully acknowledged that her already piecemeal cooking skills have atrophied in the time she's been living here. when left to her own devices while we're on vacation, i always come home to find a fridge full of food elements, multiple boxes of cereal, and various "sentiments" (organic milk, seaweed for snacking that she never eats, m-bars).

fin.

Monday, August 25, 2008

summer's swan song

has definitely begun, with the slowly rising murmur of elegiac chords for all that was. at the same time, this slow burn of a number also hints at the insular quietude of winter to come.

what a glorious end to a gloriously full and enriching summer. i couldn't ask for better. first off: equinox two fridays ago.

expectations were definitely high. we haven't been to a jungle party that's delivered in oh, almost 2+ years. each time we ready ourselves, get in the mindset, ride out the inevitable 10pm too-tired-and-contemplating-bailing zone, only to have unfortunate episodes like early summer's impromptu alcoholics anonymous showdown at fanu. i've tried to bring equinox down to toronto (from london) with c64 no less than 3 or 4 times and we're not the only promoters who gave it an honest shake. so this is a show i had been anticipating for almost 10 years.


marlon delivered. like you wouldn't believe. it was pure vibes up inside the place...everyone was in really good spirits, we were surrounded by all our jungle friends of yore, and equinox dropped smasher after smasher...reading the crowd, filling the room with his own amen-fueled infectious energy and joie de vivre. even though we knew we had to pick up the rental car for the cottage at 8am and then go grocery shopping and then commence the 3+ hour drive up to south river (about 40 minutes north of huntsville, 60km south of north bay) we stayed til almost the bitter end, telling each other, "just one more tune!" with each track dropped only quickening our desire for more. so so so good.

i'd also forgotten that jungle is MY scene. i swear, i'm like honey and all the boys (admittedly, it's a female-poor musical subgenre) are bees...i got hit on like crazy. one of which consisted of a giant (like biggie smalls sized) dude coming up behind me while i was dancing and grinding up on my butt before i knew what was happening. i nipped that one in the bud by turning around, giving him sternface and then slowly shaking my finger back and forth in the classic, "nay nay" way. i also got this little beaut of a line dropped on me (from a guy who had kept trying to catch my gaze and then would smile for the first hour that i was there): "can i ask you a question?"

me (knowing that this was the inevitable conclusion to the volley of polite [on my part] smiles that had been exchanged thus far): "sure"

"you're very pretty. you remind me of a girl i fancy very very much"

"shoot"

...

"is your name...pamela?"

WHAT THE CRAP?!? do i look like a pamela?!? what kind of a line is that?!? there's like a 1 in 100000000000000000000 chance of that working!!! i told him that no, my name was karl lagerfeld and he switched up tactics...a little too late.

the cottage was beyond lovely. i don't really know how you could build such a beautiful, airy, winterized retreat and just not live there year-round. the lake was pretty shallow throughout (with an average depth of only 20 feet) which made the water incredibly warm and inviting (for people, not so much for fish - they have a bit of an algae problem up there). the classic cottage canadian shield rock formations were present and accounted for, with long sandy stretches of entry into the water. our dock, which was unfortunately submerged by the epic amounts of rainfall we've been subjected to this summer, ended in only 3 feet of water, which made the place really kid friendly.

unlike last year's cottage, which necessitated a 40 minute drive into bracebridge for any groceries or sundries we required, this one was just 10 minutes away from the tiny town of south river (pop. 1000) which had a beer store, a lcbo, and a grocery store for everything you needed. 2 minutes drive away from the cottage, there was a little country store for smaller missions, and a public, sandy beach with playground equipment for the kids.

we ate like kings, swam like seals, read like the bookish, literary types we are, played games and watched movies like pop-culture obsessed freaks and generally had an unwinding, carefree time away from work (which we all needed).

i also perfected a technique for s'mores that effectively did away with all my problems with the dish before. here's the issue(s) i have with s'mores. first of all: too sweet, when you go with the classic hershey's chocolate. waaaaay too sweet. second of all, it's not pleasant biting into a graham cracker, hot marshmallow, cold brittle (unmelted) chocolate combination. it's always driven me crazy that the chocolate stays firm, despite it being relatively thin and doesn't melt from the heat of the marshmallow. here are my remedies:


a) bittersweet chocolate. we used ghiradelli bars (60%)
b) break off a shard of chocolate and impregnate a marshmallow with it (i used it as a kind of skewer, holding together two marshmallows, which i then pierced with my stick).
c) toast as per usual. the chocolate will be molten goo within the crackled shell of the marshmallow. use two pieces of graham cracker to squeeze the marshmallow-chocolate magma off the stick and consume.

this led me to come up with my great money-making scheme: chocolate impregnated marshmallows for s'mores making. why hasn't someone done this already??? i think it'll fly off the shelves. i just need to contact the patent office.

so...i'm writing my driver's ed test today. i've read through the book once-ish. in my defence...the driver's manual published by the ministry of transportation is SO BORING. no plot development, weak characters, and hella repetitive. heehee. i'm going to bone up on the subway ride there. i will be EXTREMELY embarrassed if i fail.

fin.

Friday, August 15, 2008

obliterated

i'm getting CRUNKED tonight, people. i'm giving myself over to a tumult of drums, bass, and rave and i'm going to love every minute of it.

getting crunked technically means that i'm going to bedeck myself rather scantily (for practical purposes, as the el mocambo has no ventilation and i sweat when i dance), pull out my trusty raving sneaks (a pair of adidas runners that have lasted me over 10+ years), and get ready to scream, yell, bang on the wall for reloads, and generally act like an idiot. i've been waiting for equinox for about 10 years now and i don't expect him to disappoint.

yes, it means i'm going to be a proper, useless hurtbag all tomorrow, but it's going to be beyond worth it.

check this for inspiration:



!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

fin.

i gotta keep this quick...


but it kind of has to be said. what is WITH the jonas brother who flat-irons his hair?!??? why?!? he looks like a prevert. especially with his sleepy bedroom eyes. the middle one is the cutest.



seriously. what the?!?

in other news, my alter ego (or myself, depending on how far i want to go with this ruse) loves rap. amazing to an exponent of awesome.



fin.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

trying

the theme for this post will be "trying." as in, today i was inadvertently trying the patience of the dotytron when i had him pick up a package of yarn for me at the post office. i don't honestly remember ordering all that much online (webs had a massive sale and i snapped up enough for a tonne of scarves and a few jackets worth). i received a sternly worded email from the dotytron today about how he didn't really appreciate having to lug around a GARBAGE BAG full of yarn to work in scarborough and back. oops. i just saw the haul...he wasn't kidding. it was pretty substantial. heh.

i've also been trying this new thing where i don't shampoo my hair. so, everyone knows i have this crazy horse hair that gets big and bushy and loves nothing more than to look like a wild, unbridled, heavily teased mane of the arena/cock rock lead singer idiom. peeping the old yearbook pics of yore made me realized that i was not always cursed thus. in fact, i used to have typical asian silky-sheet hair. what the eff happened? was it a misspent youth? anyway, most hairstylists tell you that you should only shampoo your hair once a week, or 4-5 times a month max, and let your natural oils do their job. so i decided to try this week. the day before my performance appraisal at work. not good, folks. i was a grease bomb. so greasy i was more properly "greazy." the roomie told me that her hair chopper told her that it's okay to condition, just refrain from the shampoo. faced with squaring off against my manager with a lank, oily, stringy mass on top and a thick, coarse nest on the bottom (it's beyond my capabilities to assign "party" or "business" categories) i followed her advice the night before and went with a condition. it actually worked! since i'm at the cottage next week and showering/personal hygiene kind of go out the window (because of the bugs! it's to avoid getting eaten alive by bugs and that's my story and i'm stickin' to it!) we'll see how this two week experiment works out.

okay. i'm out of material for the theme. it was a good run while it lasted. tonight i skipped out on yoga in favour of eating my dinner (i picked up chinese bbq - roast pork, bbq pork, and roast duck on rice with broccoli and drippings) and then passing out on big brown. dr. rei and i have actually been talking about how we look so forward to this crazy hectic ram-jammed summer being donezo so that we can go back to our regularly scheduled fall programming of holing up at casa lagerfeld, having me cook an extravagant goose dinner for no reason, sitting on big brown (the couch) and watching movies and making up the dialogue to them and laughing our pants off. fall and winter can't come soon enough!

tomorrow night i'm hitting up equinox at the el mocambo. i'm pumped. beyond pumped. stoked. this jam is going to be off the chains. a wall of drums, amens a plenty, sub-bass to make your heart asplode and make the blood thrum in your ears. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it's been too long since i've had a night of jungle crunkage.

then i'm off for a week at the cottage...so it'll be all quiet on the chinotto hating front for a bit. i'm ultra excited for that, too.

books + knitting + lakeside sunning + face time with the family + craggy muskoka landscapes + long, easy days + nights spent by the fire trying to get the dotytron to keep up with my family's insanely attention-deficit song requests + cold water that sweeps your breath away + canoing with the boy + board games + card games + napping + s'mores + eating outside = axl rose's whistling in "patience"

fin.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

toronto life square

owns a piece of my soul now, considering i just spent oh, i don't know, almost 10 hours of my life in there (or thereabouts). i feel like i know the monstrosity that appeared, seemingly overnight, on the northeast corner of yonge and dundas, intimately. we're bosom friends.

first of all, i rep that food court HARD. i think it's a well conceptualized, inviting, welcoming space that's airy and clean. you can get a very decent falafel and an outstanding chickpea salad at "milo's falafel", whose preparation may stretch the temporal limits of the definition of "fast" food, but whose execution and the care taken therein conspire to elevate the humble manipulations of chickpeas, cumin, and parsley above the mundane. thumbs up! the food court also features a harvey's, which is fast becoming a rare and storied sight as they seem to be closing down faster than you can say st. hubert's.

i really like the amc theatres because they're really tastefully decorated (if kowtowing a little too obviously to the over 40, turner classics, AFI's top 50 films of all-time crowd) and they're always EMPTY. like, eerily empty. we shared the theatre with about 8 other people tops. no complaints here! less people translates to immaculate bathrooms and nary a mystery sticky spot, lying in wait for a misplaced, wayward foot, to be found.

they're also opening a branch of chipotle's in the ground floor of the complex. chipotle's has been causing quite a stir in the toronto grub world and i'm excited to try it. they're giving out free burritos all day tomorrow so i might swing by on my bike and give myself a "soft open" opportunity to scope out the scene. in addition to notification about the opening of chipotles, i also got a bunch of coupons for buy 1 get 1 free cinnabons. score! these desperate (though effective) ploys to get traffic into the amc complex makes me a little frightened that my newly minted favorite downtown mega-entertainment complex isn't luring in the droves of customers a space like that needs to stay afloat. it's a fine balance. i want all the annoying kids to keep going to the scotiatheatre, but enough people to come to amc to keep the thing going.

we saw "american teen" tonight, which is being billed as a "real life 'breakfast club'" i can't comment on that, because well, i kind of dislike the trite, pat, stereotyping of "the breakfast club" and i've never been a fan. i don't like the redemption of ally sheedy's character through the magic of makeup and i don't relate to the sanitized depictions of teenage problems. give me "heathers" or give me "pump up the volume." i'll even take the equalizing class consciousness of "some kind of wonderful" (where the poor people actually WIN for a change in a john hughes flick).

"american teen" follows a group of teenage archetypes through their senior year of high school. there's the queen b (megan), the jock (colin), the nerd (jake), and the artsy oddball (hannah). the characteristics that make this film affecting are probably fairly similar to the rationale for why i'm drawn to sarah dessen's YA novels from yesterday. while teenagers of today are too busy watching the idealized versions of their existence (played by older, impossibly quick-witted, and urbane actors a la "gossip girl") or losing themselves in the escapist vapidity of "the hills," i think the appeal of films like "american teen" plucks strongest at those who have left that awkwardness behind and have the buffer of experience and time to provide a rose-coloured resituation of what are pretty traumatic events at the time. it allows you to remember when small things just seemed SO. VERY. DIRE. and how the peaks and valleys of life mixed with hormone-fueled emotional tumult means that high school is really full of the walking wounded.

the teens in "american teen" ring true and their stories are touching for the vulnerability and haunted quality that underlie the bravado and infrequent bursts of pluck. when mitch reinholt, pictured at right, the quintessential mostly-nice guy jock with the heart-melting smile and a secret reserve of sweetness, starts a dalliance with alternative heather, i defy any girl who WAS that one standing on the sidelines of high school to not feel the flutter of butterflies in her stomach. the improbability of such a pairing is what you long for. it's terrible, but the, "are you kidding me? you like me????" thing is such a girl trope. hells, i think **i** fell in love with mitch reinholt for a bit. sigh.

you don't know how much you were manipulated with this documentary. it's one of those ones that's tricksy like that. there are a few animated sequences that i think take away from the film and due to the number of figures the filmmaker is tracking, the movie flies by and you feel like you haven't seen enough. overall, i'd recommend it...it's cute and sweet with a tart undercurrent.

*edit* i was talking to K today (who saw the film with me last night) and i agree with her assessment that this kind of documentary treatment is best suited to a mini-series format. the doc has been criticized by some as treating its' subjects as cariactures or archetypes...in a film that's under 2 hours, following 4 or 5 people over the course of a year, that's pretty much going ot be the end result. i wish i had gotten to know them a bit more or that the director could have had the luxury of fleshing out their relationships without resorting to animated sequences or dropping in character-illuminating events briefly and then discarding them.

thumbs down though, for the movie suddenly going black (we could hear the sound, but the screen went dark) just as the film is reaching the climax of senior year graduation. it was maddening trying to piece together what was happening from the snippets of dialogue mixed in with "pomp and circumstance" - a song that 99% of north americans associate with a touchstone moment. we waited and waited and then filtered out of the theatre only to be told that the problem struck the ENTIRE theatre (all 24 screens!) at the same time and that they would be rewinding the movie to the part when the problem started and reshowing it. this turned out to be a lie, as we missed the graduation sequence and move directly to the packing-up-and-moving-away-from-home montage. on the plus side, we got a free movie pass for our troubles. on the minus side, the free pass did little to ameliorate the further troubles we had to go through (standing in a disorganized and poorly operationalized line for what seemed like entirely too long) in order to receive said free passes.



phew. last night i cracked open the giordano's pizza that bwong brought me back from chi-town. true friends (nay, family!) bring back friends (read: family) deep dish pizzas. what a treat! it was delicious beyond belief. weak hearts will try to convince you that the pizza is just too rich to handle all but the slimmest of wedges. this is NOT true, if you're one karl lagerfeld, esquire...made of stiffer stuff than your usual chowhound. the thing weighed a TON.


it consisted of two layers of thin, buttery, crust that crisped up to a flaky-but-sturdy, lip-smackingly crunchy texture after an hour or so in my oven, sandwiching a solid 1.5" of gooey cheese, which in turn was topped and bottomed by thin, overlapping slices of pepperoni. the whole was glazed with a tart-sweet tomato sauce. this is a REAL PIZZA PIE. they're not kidding around with that. it was delicious. i ate more than i should but less than i wanted. i want more, more i say! chicago: you've been warned.

fin.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

embarassing admission alert!

there've been a few of them around here at casa lagerfeld lately. here's a list:

1) i've been saying "unequivocably" instead of "unequivocally" for longer than i'd care to admit

2) i was listening to the one and only episode of "this american life" that i've been able to sit through so far a few weeks back. it happened to be about people holding onto misconceptions well past the point where they should or past the point of rational, reasonable plausibility. so they talked to a woman who thought that unicorns were real (into university) and another woman who had been fed chicken for every meal all her life at home and didn't realize that there were people out there who had varied and ever-changing dinner entrees. then ira glass goes, "there's also people who believe that misled is pronounced 'meyezled'" at which point the low-watt fluorescent i'm running in my occasionally dumb-dumb head flickered slowly to life and i realized that all this time, i had differentiated between the sound of the word "misled" and the textual representation of the world "misled." so, in some part of my brain, when i heard the word misled, i understood it as the past-tense of mislead. when i came across it in books, i had pronounced it in my head as "missiled" (imagine adding a past-tense "d" sound to the word missile) as if you've been "missiled" into believing something. *tugs at collar* eeks.

3) this weekend, i realized, during a conversation with my friend's boyfriend about gaelic football, that when someone says "aussie rules," of a sport (usually football) they're referring to the australian form of the game in question and NOT to ozzy osbourne. oh yes. all this time, i've thought that when people said "aussie style ___," they meant "sports played in the style of ozzy osbourne" which i naturally translated to mean, "sports played in a no-holds-barred, crazy, anarchistic, animal [the muppet]-like way." pretty brutal.

in order to redeem myself in the eyes of my (admittedly limited) readership, today is going to be a culture round-up day. i've been backlogged lately...stuff's come up and i haven't had the time to do proper book reviews. so here goes:

i read two guy delisle comics. "shenzhen: a travelogue from china" and "aline and others." similar to "pyonyang," "shenzhen" documents a period of time delisle spent in a foreign, culturally and economically isolated city in a culturally and economically isolated country while fulfilling his duties for an animation studio.

he has a simple, naive line style that favours lots of shadowing which in turn underscores the gritty, oppressive, industrial, grey character of both those places and the lives of their inhabitants. my chief complaint is that the "fish out of water" technique can be a trifle patronizing to the citizens of the cities and also lends itself to some self-pitying "i'm so lonely!" "no one understands me!" "look at the comedy of errors that results from my inability to speak their language and their inability to speak mine!" "the food is so weird" whinging that just makes you want to say, "MAN UP, BUDDY." get over it! he fails to immerse himself in his experiences the way joe sacco (probably the most brilliant comic journalist) does. i will say that he is extremely effective at evoking (whether justified or not) his perception of the loneliness and drabness of life in shenzhen.

"aline and others" was a bit of an odd duck and kind of distasteful. aline, and the 25 girls that follow (each with a name starting with the next letter of the alphabet) each get a series of mostly wordless panels that depict first dates gone wrong, or the comeuppance of men and women engaging in stereotypical flirtations. the results are frequently sexual and have all the grace and panache and wit (that is to say, not much) of those little one panel comics in like, playboy magazine or something. i don't really understand why or how this was deemed worthy of publishing...they seem like a series of sketchbook train ride diversions in both content and execution.

i also recently finished aaron mcgruder's collection "a right to be hostile: the boondocks treasury." the comics have been turned into an emmy-award nominated cartoon series. it follows the exploits of huey (intellectual, angry) and riley (wannabe thug) freeman, who live with their grandpa and move from chicago's south side to an affluent, mostly white suburban community. comedy ensues. in all honesty, i didn't find it very funny and it felt like a bit of a trial to get through. it's a little ham-handed (michael moore wrote the introduction...'nuff said) and lacked a lot of the subtlety, timing, and breathing room that makes political satire intellectually engaging and entertaining. i forced myself to finish reading it and really, that kind of says it all.

right now, i'm re-reading sarah dessen's "just listen" and falling in love with it all over again. i could read and re-read that sucker like you wouldn't believe. the writing is so top-notch! i feel like i could honestly flip the last page, read the last line, then open it up at the beginning and start all over again with no problems at all. the depiction of teenage life and the characters and story just bloom in a naturalistic, relatable way that speaks to some memory or projection of my high school experiences. it's like that show "undergrads" (we were talking about it this weekend at the wedding)...that totally spoke to a whole generation of my peers' experiences in university and college...i totally LIVED that. even though sarah dessen handles some weighty stuff in her books, in my weakest moments i have to admit that what draws me is the romance stuff. she strikes the right balance. it's not sappy, damsel-in-distress stuff (which is what i suspect stephanie meyer's "twilight" series to be like - if you haven't heard of it...it's sweeping the nation, and a whole generation of vampire obsessed women and their daughters by storm -); it's not overly pop-culture heavy, snarky, "this is NOT your parents' YA" book stuff; it's not weird email-y and text-message-y diary formatted stuff (a la gossip girl)..it's just an honest approximation of what it feels like to feel yourself start to have those feeling in high school. when you're waiting for that first kiss to happen and the air is heavy and thick with expectations and tension and possibilities...when it could really go either way, dissolving in the unknown bliss of that first, tentative, kiss, or the embarrassed, awkward, fumbling of a missed moment.

i might be more into it than usual because the dotytron's mater (momma d) found our grade 11 yearbook and gave it to him and we had a hoot poring over it on sunday. if i get my act together i'll scan a choice pic i found of karl lagerfeld, esquire, aged 16. it's hilarious.

i'm doing errands on the way home, picking up munitions for the cottage that i don't expect the local didier iga to have up in cottage country. and maybe packing. i ended up breaking down and packing my clothes and linens last night. tonight i might tackle kitchen tools and sundries. we're probably ordering pizza for dinnie.

fin.

Monday, August 11, 2008

dancing cheek to cheek


J, looking gorgeous, as photographed by their ace photographer from hotlanta

i did very little of that. i limited my slow-dancing to a hot and heavy number with the groom's brother tony, who just might be my soulmate (he's also ranked like 7th in the WORLD - yes you read that right - for guitar hero. he's everything a girl could ever want). then my male doppelganger, A (the groom) forced me onto the floor. i guess ultimately, i don't have any real problems with slow dancing...i liked dancing with A and tony...but as a general thing, i just find slow dancing kind of awkward, forced, and hella boring.


you know what wasn't any of the above? THE WEDDING. oh what a time we had! i love love love my friends and i love them together and i love seeing them all dressed up and surrounded with people they love. it's the best! J (the bride) is one of the prettiest girls i've ever seen and made a beautiful bride. the wedding had all the flavour of their respective personalities and elements of everything i liked about them and it was so heartfelt and moving and everything you want something like that to be.


the dotytron, C and i got seated at the "ex-raver" table (shout outs to table 5) and it was so much fun. no stilted small talk, everyone was so chill and friendly. the food was delicious...a fantastic vegetarian buffet with a late night cheese table and the moistest, freshest tasting wedding cake i've ever tried. the wedding cake tasted like home baking, which is what all commercial baking should aspire to.


that's C and A looking adorable

the dotytron, C and i had some time to kill before we could check into our hotel room, so we went to the st. jacob's farmer's market. humina humina! it was mennonite, farmer's market, country kraut heaven. so many vendors, selling fruits and vegetables, flowers, antiques, mennonite country quilts, tchotkes...so many great food stalls selling proper bavarian food like perogies and octoberfest sausage...some middle eastern fare i'd never seen before, fried doughs a' plenty. we lined up for an eternity to get fresh-made apple fritters (well worth the wait) and just missed the last of the pig's tails (not a euphemism...an actual pig's tail that is boiled and then bbq'd - be still my gristle-lovin' heart!). if we didn't have a wedding to go to and the promise of a delicious meal in the immediate future, i think i could have easily spent $50 on schnitzels, summer sausages, fritters, baked goods, breads, etc. and needed to be rolled out in the back of a horse-drawn buggy.

we drove through a torrential rainstorm (story of my summer) to get to the wedding and witnessed FLOODING first-hand! it was terribly exciting (though also kind of scary). waterloo is kind of dippy in spots and the water was at least 1/3 of the way up the car at certain points. we drove through lagoons that sent waves of water splashing in either direction that was taller than the car. i also saw a sewer backing up and bubbling up with s**t water. it was gross. you know when you see flooded areas on tv and kids think it's fun and are swimming in the water? THAT'S DISGUSTING. that is poo water, people. you've been warned.


we came home yesterday and pooped out for a good long while, then went over to the doty's mater and pater's house for a belated birthday dinnie for me. it was yummy and fun and relaxing.

in other news...I HAVEN'T PACKED FOR THE COTTAGE YET. i know. it's totally huge. i'm not entirely happy about it either. people who know me well know that i like to pack for things at *least* 1-2 weeks in advance. last year, i was packed for the cottage 3 full weeks before we were going to depart, which caused no small amount of fuss with the dotytron because stuff that he needed for day to day living was packed up and he thinks i'm crazy for packing in advance.

in my defense, i pack early to avoid the last minute, (seemingly inevitable) scenario where the dotytron stands in the middle of the bedroom in his socks and underwear, the night before we're about to depart, when i'm buzzing around sorting out passports and other last minute details, and says, "okay. what should i bring?" it drives me BONKERS. but, that's part of our story so i've made peace with it. kinda.

tonight we went to harbord fish'n'chips post game with the girls from the team. i doubt i'll have any time to cook anything all week...so it's shaping up to be takeout city.

fin.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

caplansky's review!

caplansky's at the monarch is pretty damn fine smoked meat, if i do say so myself. the environs leave a little to be desired (it's in a rather dingy, smoked-stained tavern, in every sense of the word) but the food was top notch and pretty affordable.


we all got the combo plate. this came with a coleslaw that was slightly under-everythinged. it could have used a little more vinegar, a little more sweetness, a little more salt and pepper and it would have been fine. i likes me a vinegary coleslaw, but this was just short of the acidity and tasted like weak, room-temperature, limp cabbage.


you have you choice of lean, medium or fatty smoked meat. i got the fatty (for obvious reasons, the primary being that fatty = better). it comes on silverstein's rye. the smoked meat is capped with a topping of grainy mustard and cracked black peppercorns, which makes additional mustard a little superfluous. i tend to do my smoked meat sammies straight up anyway. it was delicious. what i liked most about it was that the meat was really, really juicy, hand cut in thick slices that were tender and extremely flavourful, with just the right hit of salt and capped with a melting bite of fat. i've actually found schwartz's smoked meat a little dry in the past.


another thing that makes caplansky's a delight is the hand-cut fries. crispy, salty, textbook correct. that's the kind of love i like to see. schwartz's is more old school in that they give you standard-issue deli (read: mccain's or american equivalent) fries. the option for the combo plate ($11) is soup OR fries and a nice, crunchy stubb's pickle.

dessert is a selection of pies from wanda's pie in the sky. i peeped wanda's on my way through kensington with dr. rei yesterday...they looked aight. definitely "homey" but i'm not one to pay for homey when my own pies are so stellar. i suspect mine are better. just sayin'. we opted for ice cream from the big chill instead.

according to our server, caplanksy's will be having a grand opening party at the end of august, and have enough interested investors and a solid client base that they're going to have their own stand-alone location soon (right now they're just renting the kitchen at the monarch).

i have the best friends. in addition to being treated to dinner by dr. rei, she also got me a sarah dessen book! AND bwong came back from chicago bearing a par-cooked, frozen deep dish chicago pizza for me, to be reheated and inhaled at a later date with a insta-heartburn chaser. so so so nice! i love the goosetang clan.

today is wedding mayhem! i'm so pumped!

fin.

Friday, August 08, 2008

excitement abounds!

yay for extra-short work weeks!

tonight i'm meeting up with the dotytron, dr. rei, hanbo, bwong, and maybe my dodgeball boyfriend and his girlfriend to check out caplansky's. it's a common and oft-heard complaint that there's a dearth of quality delis in downtown toronto and many a pining missive has been crafted bemoaning this very fact while simultaneously casting a covetous eye on our quebecquois neighbours who have enough deli's of sufficient quality to warrant qualitative debate. generally, the default montreal smoked meat spot is schwartz's deli. it's good there, really good. caplansky's opened up in the monarch tavern a few months back and took toronto by storm. he was running out of meat within hours! obviously, this warrants further investigation and i'm just the intrepid smoked meat gumshoe to take on this case.

if by chance mr. caplanksy runs out, our backup plan is to hit up a veal sammie from san francesco's. my veal sammie heart has historically been annexed by the stout and stalwart nonnas manning the fryer's at california's sandwiches on claremont, but i've heard enough rumblings from the veal sammie underground that san francesco's does it equally well, if not better. bolstering the long tail of the interwebs was my old supervisor T's assertion that she prefer san francesco's. T's opinion on most things food and all things italian is NOT to be taken lightly. she is one of the few people in the world whose opinion i trust unequivocally (and NOT "unequivocably" as i was saying up until two weeks ago) on all things gastronomical.

so rest assured you'll get a review with pictures tomorrow morning, assuming i have my act together.

tomorrow is my friends' A and J's wedding in waterloo. i'm BEYOND excited. going to the weddings of people you actually love and care about makes all the difference in the world...it's a guaranteed good time and i'm so happy for those two schmucks that i feel like my heart is going to asplode.

i'm also at the age where i'm more with it. i wish i was in the same headspace now as i was 8 years ago when my sister got married. at the time, i was neck-deep in filial-piety induced chafing against family ties and whatever small part of me WASN'T about throwing myself into the open arms of independence at all costs i had sold to the rave scene in exchange for bass and ecstasy. i was also with a boyfriend who was less than keen on family time and didn't really know how to give himself over to the chaos that is the lagerfeld clan. now the situation is much different. all that being said, although i shirked on the majority of my maid of honour duties, i excelled at the speech portion (writing will always be my strong suit) which i think makes up for some of my wedding etiquette shortcomings.

so...i'm kind of wearing a white dress to the wedding. it's short and kind of beachy and casual, and features a lot of silver brocade, so i thought it was totally fine and cleared it in advance with the bride to be. i told my sister this past weekend and she gave me danger-face and danger-eyes so i freaked out and went online to search out a balm for my sartorial soul only to meet the combined wrath of celebrity-blog obsessed deranged brides from all over north america, thoroughly brainwashed by vera wang and martha stewart wedding specials. oops. i didn't know it was such a bad thing! there's no way in hell i can be mistaken for the bride! S (one of the bridesmaids) has seen the dress and gave me the thumbs up and i double-checked with J (the bride) who said it was okay. so i'm flouting convention, just a little bit. i don't have time to get another dress now! all eyes will be on J's loveliness anyway...i doubt you'd be able to see anyone else in the room.

gah! tomorrow is going to be so fun!!!!!!! k-w-g crew in effect, love and gussied-up peeps in the air, good food, and dancing (NOT of the slow variety).
fin.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

nota bene restaurant


dinner at nota bene restaurant last night was a fantastic dining experience. the room is very large and has a generic, modern, contemporary feel, with big pieces of art on the walls and tasteful sage and walnut accents. it feels like a restaurant that could be in a gallery, or in a hilton or something. very spacious with lots of breathing room.

the service was exemplary. warm, attentive without being overbearing, adroit. plates were cleared and the table was de-crumbed swiftly. we never had to ask for a repour of our wine or touch the bottle ourselves. the servers, hosts, and manager managed to strike the right note. the talk never seemed forced and seemed really natural, which is the best you can ask for. when you go to a restaurant, you're paying them to be nice to you. some of the best service i've had in toronto at a restaurant yet.


first up was the bread plate, served with a lightly grassy, round flavoured olive oil for dunking.


the dotytron and i shared everything. to start, we had the charcuterie plate. clockwise from the bottom left: creemore bacon, maple bacon, saucisson sec, whipped pork fat, pickled beets, olives, mustard, roasted pork cheek, cured salami, duck proscuitto.

everything was delectable. the standouts were the whipped fat, which was so airy it was lighter than foam, heady with rosemary, and studded with sparkling grains of crunchy sea salt. i could eat vats and vats of that stuff. it tasted ever-so-slightly of sweet, porcine goodness, without any grease or heaviness in the mouth. we spread it on the toasted baguette crisps provided and ate it fat-side down to savour the melting unctuousness on the tongue, suffusing the palate with featherlight, flowing, golden, bliss. i also really loved the pork cheek, which featured a thin strip of meat, a layer of molten pork fat and a crispy, puffy, crown of crackling. it was so so so hard to share that piece of meat with the dotytron! the meat was impossibly tender, the fat dissipated in the mouth like an airy whisp of cloud and the crackling dissolved in a shower of crisp particles...like the teeniest, tiniest, pork flavoured pop rocks imaginable. love love love! other favorites were the maple cured bacon (smoky, delicate) and the creemore bacon (paper thin slices of sweet meat, vaguely reminiscent of ham). the duck proscuitto was probably the best iteration of duck proscuitto that i've ever had. what really struck me about the charcuterie platter was how nothing left your mouth with that greasy coating that cured meats tend to impart. it was very, very clean, which is a pretty admirable feat considering the sturdy flavour profiles that duck has, and that pork can have when it's natural sweetness and clean flavour are battered down with salt and the curing process.


the dotytron ordered the crisp duck salad with sumac dusted green papaya slaw and cashews. i really liked how chef david lee sneaks in asian references without being heavy-handed or gimmicky. this salad was crunchy, light, fresh and perfectly balanced flavour-wise. the green papaya was finely shredded and offset with more woody, crunchy strands of taro. coriander leaves were used judiciously and the whole effect of the salad played well against the duck, which had been flattened and cooked down until the meat was juicy and tender, the fat completely melted away, and the skin had been nudged into that sublime state where a crackling, gossamer thin structural layer shatters around airy pockets of duck-flavoured perfume.


for our mains, the dotytron got the wednesday special of lobster pappardelle pasta with chanterelle mushrooms and fresh peas. the pasta was chewy but tender, studded with chunks of lobster, sweetly starchy peas, woodsy chanterelle mushrooms in a lobster-broth infused sauce. snips of tarragon gave the dish a slight asian dimension.


i ordered the suckling pig and boudin noir tart wtih maple smoked bacon and truffle vinaigrette. it consisted of a disc of pastry (flaky, but a trifle tough and difficult to cut through), heaped with juicy strips of shredded suckling pig, shitake mushrooms, boudin noir coins (the boudin was fabulous. not heavy or overly minerally the way boudin noir can get), maple bacon and some kind of edible flower. the tart sat on top of a bed of roccola that had been dressed with the truffle vinaigrette. with all those elements, i was expecting something heavy and wintery and rich, but the vinaigrette had a puckery sharpness that cut through all the theoretical heaviness of the plate. the execution of the elements and the quality of the ingredients didn't lend themselves to dull, weighted, tastes.


for dessert, i got the niagara bing cherry crumble with vanilla ice cream dusted with nutmeg. sweet, juicy-but-not-too-wet cherries, underneath a bubbly crisp topping...classic and clean.


the dotytron got the pot de cremes (coconut, pistachio, coffee, and chocolate). the coconut was probably my favorite, full of nutty, toasted coconut flavour. the texture of the pot de cremes was a little off. heavy and a trifle gummy and pasty...not as creamy as pot de cremes should be.

the portions were pretty big. compared to lucien, i'd say everything was a good 1.5 times the size of the plates we got there and much, much tastier. the dishes are well thought out and well executed with a degree of restraint and consciousness of textures and balance. my overall impression is that the food is very light and clean and extremely well thought-out. it's not overly cerebral but you can tell that care and attention has gone into each plate and all the elements of service. all told, we spent $245 for three courses each, a bottle of wine, tax, and tip. i thought it was a great experience overall and i would definitely recommend it and would love to go back. nota bene restaurant gets a big thumbs up!


tonight i'm made nicoise sandwiches and now we're heading to the dotytron's sister's cd release party at revival. www.emma-lee.com

fin.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

stuffing my face


this is the ham and eggs i ate on sunday morning at brian's u.s.a. diner. love that place. that's 10oz of salty, porcine goodness right there.


a disproportionate number of birthday missives and greetings i received featured the phrase (or variations thereof) "stuffing your face." lol! i guess i'm pretty easy to pin down!


anytown u.s.a. came through again. holy crap that was an epic and fun-filled weekend. things got of to a very auspicious start when my stepdad, big d, was being uncharacteristically nice to me. like, insane nice. like, regular white guy dad nice. big d is a hoot. he's kind of gruff and he has angry eyebrows and he has a tendency to get all ranty and long-winded and socially awkward, but inside (DEEP inside) he's a very unique and kooky softie. he hates being hugged and gets all awkward when you do. big d is the kind of guy who once snapped at killah cam (my youngest bro): "shut up, cam, you're not r-tarded anymore." amongst other gems. he's also the kind of guy who gets mad at the kids if we use the garage door opener to open the garage door because he thinks that it has a limited number of "charges" on it, and will make you get out of the car, go into the house, and open it from the inside. he also deeply misunderstands his cell phone plan, so that when you call his phone, he won't answer, but you have to let it ring three times and hang up and then ring again three times and then he'll call you back. in other words: he's the best. a regular mensch.

so big d - not known for being the most tender-hearted of individuals - and i had been having a stand off about the transportation arrangements. basically, my niece and nephew were being babysat up at my parents' place all week because my outlaw bro and sister had conferences and stuff to do. i was hitching a ride with my parents and the kids to this rest stop on the canadian side of the border, where my outlaw bro would come and pick us up and drive us into the states. the sticking point was how i was going to get up into markham. my preference is to take the subway to don mills and get picked up at fairview mall. big d's preference is that i take public transportation (usually a combination of ttc, york region transit, and the viva) as close as possible to the family estate and then be picked up. it's the difference of about 15 minutes of driving time for big d and my mom, versus about AN HOUR of travelling time on public transit for me.

we had been tussling back and forth via email (my family's primary mode of communication...which all-too-often includes dramatic CAPSLOCK exchanges and liberal sprinklings of exclamation points and question marks used individually and tandem and frequently culminates in my mom getting offended and accusing me [in capslock, natch] of having no tact and being a rude and ungrateful daughter). finally, i consented to the viva plan.

ummm...HOLY CATS, people. big d turned into a TOTAL mushball. on friday i was receiving breathless emails (bordering on the giddy) asking me if i wanted him to pick me up anything to eat (!!!!!): "chinese noodles???? pizza???" and imploring me to call him when i reached a certain point en route so he could leave the house in due time so i wouldn't be wait too long in the hot sun !!!!!!!!! i guess you kind of have to know big d to know how crazy it is...but suffice it to say that i'm taking the viva route from now on.


we got into town and my sis showed up bearing vanilla cheesecake from the cheesecake factory. check one. killah cam and s-dawg showed up in the middle of the night and the dotytron arrived saturday afternoon after spending a soul-crushing two hours waiting at the border to get into america the beautiful.


saturday night we hit the drive in! i've never been to the drive in in canada, but something tells me that small towns in the u.s.a. do it up proper. the drive in (which is called, charmingly, "silver lakes") features an arcade, a pizza parlor, a restaurant serving burgers and stuff called the "corral", an ice cream parlor and mini putt. on saturday nights, they also have something called "chicken barbecue". ummmm...chicken barbecue is THE BEST S**T EVER. bar none. apparently it's this upstate new york thing (possibly a thing from around all the states) that churches put on for fundraising, or like, the local kiwanis dudes (or equivalent) will put on to raise money, or that you have at your wedding or something. the name refers to the preparation and the final configuration. so you get a quarter chicken, that's been marinated in an italian dressing, herby, oily marinade and grilled over charcoal (ours was improbably juicy and tender), you get baked beans, a soft roll, butter, and salt potatoes, which sit in a bucket of butter and are retrieved with a slotted spoon. apparently some chicken barbecue dinners feature pie, but with ours we got a packaged cookie. a slice of pie would have probably resulted in me quitting my job and moving to the states right then and there.


the actual drive in was really picturesque and the thunderstorm just prior resulted in rosy, amber lighting and dramatic cloud formations in the sky. we watched "the dark knight" again. i sat with my sis in her station wagon with the kids in the carseat behind us, watching their portable dvd player. when she gets tired, my niece gets to "camp" and sleep on a pile of sleeping bags and blankets in the trunk. the sky was filled with stars and it was lovely.


having rewatched "the dark knight" again, i'd like to revise my grade. i'm going to give it a solid A (8.3/10).


my niece is hilarious. this is her as patch adams (i think she makes a better one than robin williams). she's decided that she wants to be a doctor and an artist when she grows up, and she likes to do this thing where she'll say, "mom, can i have a glass of fruit punch, por favor.......that's spanish" (she's learning spanish in school). the follow up footnote is really funny.


this is a picture of my nephew doing a john waters impression with a chocolate cake thin moustache. we had wegman's cake. check two. vanilla with lemon filling for me, and chocolate with vanilla pudding (it was supposed to be blackout, with chocolate pudding, but the wegman's peeps messed it up) for the s-dawg.


on sunday we hung out and loafed and ate pizza and played bocce in the backyard. this is a family portrait we took.


monday, the dotytron and i went to play a round of golf. check three. we were TERRIBLE. we capped ourselves at 10 strokes and even still, we sucked it up largetime. i made several breakthroughs though. this year, i explored the world of clubs BEYOND the driver (last year, i tried to driver everything). i also didn't kick up my leg and improved my form. i also made solid contact 1 swing out of every 8 and i'm completely in love with that sound (golf is really a game of sounds). i also tend to hit the ball straight...which is good.

when i went to pay at the club house, the stout, gruff old man who runs the place said, "that'll be $50."
"oh," i said, "i have to rent a set of ladies clubs, too."
"okay then," he says, "that'll be $55" and stretches out his hand, palm up.

now, most people brought up in western society would be able to read the upstretched palm as a nonverbal cue that he's providing a landing pad for the money. not me! i stared at the palm, and then reached out my own right hand and shook it. it was one of those moments where even as you're doing it, you're thinking to yourself, what the HELL am i doing?!? and i could totally feel the dotytron's horror-filled eyes on me but i committed to it and executed what will probably be the most awkward handshake of my life, and definitely of my 29th year on this planet. then the guy was like, "ummm...i'm from the old school, i want you to pay." and i was losing it, giggling to myself. as we exited, the dotytron says, "ummm...i'm thinking he wasn't expecting you to slap him some skin." it was pretty funny. that explains my name (i was "the hand") on our golf score sheet (the dotytron, by process of elimination, was "the heart").


then we followed that up with a trip to stony brook state park. it's a great park. there's a spring fed swimming hole, a huge playground, campsites, and picnic tables with hibachis for people to have cookouts. i love that place and think it's such a gem. swimming in fresh water is the best.


that night, we watched "zodiac" when we got home. which resulted in me being terrified. it was pretty humid all weekend, so the poor dotytron had to contend with a 5'4", 130lb, terror-sweat-soaked weight attached to his side all night, rendering him clammy and uncomfortable. he got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and i almost hyperventilated and had a heart attack. it's weird. the movie isn't that scary...i just kind of lost it. the film is pretty good overall but loses momentum in the last third documenting jake gylenhaal's character's attempts to solve the crime and find the identity of the serial killer. anyway, i scare easy and i found it creepy, the way i tend to find serial killers whose identities are never conclusively uncovered scary. so sue me!


our last day there we filled up my sister's and outlaw bro's wading pool for the kids and played around in it. then my sister and i headed out to this quilt store (i had passed it on the way to stony brook with the dotytron) on a lark. we didn't think anything of it. my sister had wanted me to take me to this quilt store that was 40 minutes away, but i didn't want to drive so far and wanted to capitalize on my time with her and the kids. i stepped in and was immediately welcomed into the guild of small-town american quilters. my sister thought it was like some weird secret society...which it kind of was. the quilts and fabric there were much more of the amish, classic americana style (i favor more contemporary patterns, myself) but it was really homey and welcoming and we turned a corner to find a gaggle of women eating cake at a table and talking away. it was cute! they also had a selection of amish-based mystery and "romance" books there. loved it! i got set up with a self-healing cutting mat, a rotary cutter, and a beginner ruler. sweet!!! now all i need is my sewing machine and i can get started.


phew. so that's the weekend roundup. the dotytron also changed his first diaper ever ("which side is the front?") and proved once again, that he's a natural with kids. i'm a fan of the style of houses in the states. i think that clapboard houses with shutters always look really neat and tidy and cute...much nicer than the brick-heavy style favored in toronto and southern ontario.

tonight i'm going for my birthday dinner with the dotytron. he's taking me to nota bene, which is the new, more "casual" restaurant from david lee of splendido fame. it's supposed to be more rustic cooking with an emphasis on high quality ingredients and a smaller plates style. full review tomorrow!

fin.