Archive for the ‘Dining-in’ Category
Halloween was a lot of fun. We adults were preoccupied with all we had to do to prepare for the move, but the girls had a ball. Trick-or-treating was actually rescheduled by our town due to the storms and snow and power outages. Some of the homes we visited had been without power for a week. We didn’t care though– we SAID “Trick or treat,” people– now cough up the candy OR ELSE!” Just kidding. We skipped any houses that didn’t look festive.
We went to my folks’ place for the week of Thanksgiving. We had been without furniture for about 3 weeks in our home, so we were particularly looking forward to this visit. The weather was great and the girls had a blast.
We went to a small scenic beach and the girls played until the sun went down.
The girls think they own the farm– or at least that it was built solely for their enjoyment.
Natalia wants to get closer to the llamas.
I was on bird duty in the kitchen. I used the ATK method and it came out great. This was the third time I’ve made it this way, and it worked out well again. The trick is to cut the turkey into pieces before roasting it to ensure even heating of all parts– and no dried out breast. Check out the link above for a better explanation than I can (care to) give.
We kept it simple and had a great holiday meal. The focus was the turkey, the gravy, and the stuffing, and little else.
Another glimpse into pure spoildom.
Note my two daughters’ different approaches to ice-cream.
Natalia; all fun and games.
Nina; serious business. It must be that extra 20 months of wisdom and maturity she has on Natalia.
On a related note, about a year ago I heard a story on NPR on a common problem many of us have as we age (no, not THAT problem). I’m talking about the feeling that time is rushing by as we get older. It’s a real measureable phenomenon. Well, the best thing we have to combat this is (drumroll): new experiences. Apparently doing new things makes you notice more things around you rather than just floating by on cruise control. So when I was offered a ride on an airboat at a party recently, I thought of the NPR story and I accepted the invitation. I must say, the experience was certainly new.
…while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon
This past weekend a group of our friends from the capital district in Upstate NY came to visit us for a weekend of chatting, shopping (for the ladies), eating, drinking, and having fun enjoying NJ. The vast majority of our guests drove for around four hours to get here, so they all planned to spend the night after the shopping and dinner. So, all in all, there were nine adults and six children under one roof. Fun, right? Well, then the snow came. Wet and heavy on the leaf filled trees.
Soon, all the plans we had suddenly changed. Roads became inaccessible due to felled trees and limbs obstructing roads. There were power lines down as well. The quietly falling snow and the characteristic silence that comes with it was constantly pierced with the sound of cracking branches and popping power lines from all directions. We jokingly called it “Treemageddon.” So our town’s infrastructure was shut down. We had no electricity after about 3PM, and the heat went with it. Fortunately, our hot water heater and stove top are gas powered and they remained functional. Take a look at the photos below for an idea of the damage in my neighborhood.
Roads were completely blocked.
Power lines were touching the ground on what seemed like every street.
An anecdote goes with the photo above. In the center of the photo above, you can see where my foot prints end. It was from that spot that I stopped and took the preceding photo of the grey house before turning around. I walked about 30 feet and my friend T and I heard a loud crack and spun to see a tree limb fall very near the place I had just been standing taking pictures. You can see that the tree limb in the photo is only a few feet from where my foot prints end. Close call, eh? It was about this time that we decided our little tour should end and we went home.
We had ordered food from one of our favorite Italian spots, but the restaurant had lost power and we weren’t sure we could get there even if they could make the food. We called them and they confirmed that they were unable to get us the food. So we headed for the local grocery store to find it closed. So we kept looking and eventually found another grocery store that was “half-open.” That meant we could access the produce and food aisles, but not the frozen food cases. That was fine. We loaded up on pasta, sauce, milk, bread, and produce and made dinner for all. Of course the dinner was served by candlelight (and lantern light– thanks to our always-prepared friends).
Before you go feeling sorry for us, y’know what? We had a great time. The food was good, we had plenty of libations, and the nine adults seemed to generate enough body heat for us to not really notice that we had lost central heating. We spent the night, gabbing, and catching up with dim lighting and cold beer.
We all had tea in the morning and toasted bagels on the stove. We jokingly referred to our weekend as “urban camping.”
The next morning we dug out the cars, said our good-byes, and saw our friends off. We’re gonna miss ‘em. That’s for sure.
I took the photo below from my backyard. That’s my neighbor’s backyard. The tree took out the fence– serious stuff.
Recently Cati and I loaded up the family truckster and went to visit our dear friends in upstate NY. We had a nice time visiting, chatting, and passing the multitude of babies around like Frisbees at the beach. While in the Capital District we took the opportunity to visit Chef Ric Orlando’s New World Bistro Bar for dinner. We were feeling cocky so we went with the kids– yeah, that was dumb. The girls were loud and tired and there was really nothing on the menu they could eat; it was all spicy. Even the bread is jalapeño bread. Don’t get me wrong; I am not complaining. Goodfellas is a great film that is not appropriate for kids, but great all the same, right? We had no business bringing the babies– live and learn. Anyway, we ordered the girls a little pizza from the menu and split a plate of the terrific blackened green beans with our friends. Man, those things are so good.
The girls started getting unruly so Cati quickly enjoyed an appetizer while I occupied the little ones. She then left to put them to bed at the hotel; I promised to bring her dessert. I was left with our friends to enjoy the Jerk Chicken. I guess I was still feeling cocky because I ordered the chicken at spicy level ’10/10.’ Let me walk you through how my first few bites went down.
Bite #1: “Mmmm, this is tasty. The chicken is perfectly cooked and moist and the allspice and jerk flavors really come throu…OH MY GOD, THE BURNING! BEER, HELP ME. PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.”
Bite #2: “HOLY COW, THIS IS LIKE GETTING SPRAYED IN THE FACE WITH GRIZZLY BEAR REPELLENT. THE BURNING!”
Bite #3: “Is that you Jesus? Yes, I will walk towards the light with you.”
Bites #4 – 15: More of the above with uncontrolled twitching and sweating.
My eye sockets were sweating– I loved it. It was an experience more so than a meal. I had to let the plate cool a little to take the edge off the spice. Once it was a little cooler I could taste more than just burning. It was really flavorful. Next time I’ll probably order the level ’7′ (with humility). Chef Orlando’s style really shines through in his food. His dishes demonstrate his confidence with bold flavors. What a creative chef. I am a fan of his food. It’s not easy to find a place like that anywhere, really. Albany’s dining scene has a unique gem with the NWBB. I wish I could go there more.
I did not pose for the photo below and I am actually fanning myself like an old woman in a Southern church service. I’ll have you know, I cleaned my plate. If I’ve had a spicier meal, I don’t know when.
Speaking of spicy, Cati and I have been enjoying some German mustard that I brought back on a recent trip. It’s called Lowensenf Extra Hot, which means “Lion attacking your face and sinuses” in high German [Incredible translation work there, eh?]. This also tastes like burning, but it’s that short intense nose-burn (like from wasabi). It is so good with bratwurst and greens.
Also, I recently received an order of the soon-to-be-world-famous Christopher’s pepper-sauce. Yup, upstate NY’s very own. I ordered three bottles and Chris shared a secret formula he is working on called ‘Lava.’ It was aptly named.
And now, for no good reason, here are a couple of photos of me and the girls. The first one was taken in Mallorca this year. That’s Nina up there.
And this one shows that Natalia can sleep anywhere. You might be thinking, “Poor thing, she wants to be in bed.” That’s what I thought until we tried to take her out of her seat and she was hanging onto it trying to ignore us and go back to sleep in it. She actually wanted to stay in it and sleep while I rode her chunky little bottom around the trail; we laughed. Ah, kids.
We enjoyed some really nice weather during our vacation in Mallorca in early August.
The pomadas went down easy, like they always do.
The girls had a ball. Due to the fact that they were in the sea and the pool everyday, I don’t think we gave them a proper bath for about two weeks. Eventually, when all of us had hair like hay, we figured we ought to shampoo and condition.
We had a fun time at our friends’ place too in Alaró. They live on a small farm and they are able to fill a pool with the irrigation water from a private well of which they are members (too weird to explain). Anyway, they have a really cool swimming pool in the middle of a farm, surrounded by mountains, as a result. It was cool and we all had much fun frolicking at the pool and throwing the kids around.
Also, we had plenty of food. Here are two great classics– paella and arroz negro. “Two great tastes that go great together.”
The black rice gets its color from cuttlefish ink, and cuttlefish are cephalopods. AND speaking of cepalopods, that reminds me of something cool we all saw while going for a stroll along the water one evening in Alcudia (how’s that for a segue? Yeah, I’m ashamed.). So, we were strolling along and I noticed there were several medium sized crabs clinging to a rock. The only thing that made it unusual is that they seemed to be hiding from something. So I looked down into the water near the rock and there was an octopus feeling its way around looking for crabs. Its head was about the size of a softball and maybe about 16 inches from tentacle tip to tentacle tip. Nina and I called the others over to see the octopus. While we are all watching the sinister way it cruised along the shallow water and rocks, a large crab, about the size of Cati’s hand, crawled out of the water and on to my foot. We all had a good chuckle about this crab’s strange behavior. I tossed it into the water and the octopus darted right over to it and enveloped it. Then the octopus walked (or whatever you would call that) out of the water and over a rock, with the crab in tow. We were all a little speechless. We were watching our own live Nature program. It was pretty impressive.
We had a great vacation.
Fast forward a few weeks to Northern NJ and Hurricane Irene. Due to all the trees in close proximity to our house, we, and the girls, slept in the basement. Nina really enjoyed “camping” down there; Cati and I would have preferred our bed.
Here’s the view straight up from our deck. See what I mean about the trees?
There are no less than seven trees that are in perfect smashing range of our house. Nothing happened– to our house, but take a look at what went down three houses away. [pun intended] It missed their house by feet; power was out for half of the block for days. Not us though, whew!
And for no reason at all, here are three unrelated things:
1) A nice picture of Nacho.
2) A dish that reminded us of a traffic light after I plated it.
3) A song you should not listen to if you’re allergic to melancholy.*
*This may only affect people who were teenagers in 1985.
Cati and I celebrated our 5-year wedding anniversary recently. A lot has changed in our lives (life?) in the last five years. It’s easy for me to see that cultures that subjugate women are often prone to higher incidences of violence and zealotry. It appears that when some societies’ collective male psyche is left unchecked by the feminine counterpoint, we see a sort of frat-boy mentality played out to extremes.
Okay, “what the hell is he talking about?”– I am making a point. Women make us men better men. This happens on a societal and, for me, a personal level– I have seen the benefit. Cati has pointed out that it’s a two-way street– hence the title of the post. She and I are in this together and we’ve completed the first 5 years of the program ;). We have both grown and changed. Some of our opinions have mellowed over the years and others have strengthened. Sometimes we agree; often we don’t. I always like to have a drink before an argument to reassure me about how right I am. I know, Cati is a lucky gal.
We decided to spend the actual evening of our anniversary at home. We put the peanuts to bed and I cooked dinner while Cati worked on a scavenger hunt through the house to find her anniversary gifts (she just loves that– really). I made ajo blanco for the first course to be enjoyed with a glass (or two) of Veuve Cliquot (man, that stuff is good). Then we had oven roasted asparagus and grilled bone-in ribeye steaks from Whole
Paycheck Foods. I made a chimichurri to go with the meat– it kinda stole the show (for me). We enjoyed a bottle of Spanish red from Ribera del Duero called Pesquera that our fine friends gave us as a gift [Thanks, J and A]. The best part of all is that we had this great little dinner outside on our deck and enjoyed the cool evening weather.
I also enjoyed the view; who wouldn’t? [wink wink]
Prior to this dinner, I had the chance to take a Harley for a spin. My friend just bought a 2011 Nightster. It’s been a while since he has ridden and he was uncomfortable making the 30-mile trip back from the dealership to his house. I, being the giver that I am, volunteered to ride it for him. I know, I know, I’m practically a martyr, ovah here. It was great fun speeding through the evening on a fast cool bike. I think about getting another motorcycle from time to time, but I know it will just be a garage ornament as I wouldn’t make time to ride it (too much other stuff to do).
In fact, a look at the photos below demonstrates why I can’t make time to ride motorcycles. Our weekends and evenings have been filled with trips to the beach, bike rides on NJ trails, cool evening walks through the neighborhood, visits from friends, Independence Day parades, impromptu backyard pool parties, and bicycle rides through Manhattan (sans babies). See? Busy times are these.
As Cati and I were walking, I happened to look up and notice the intersection at which we were standing.
Naturally, my brain went right to this:
P.S. Still singing it.
We went out for dinner in NYC. We went back to Ocean Grill in Manhattan (we were there back in 2007, remember?) This time with our charming and lovely friends, who always seem happy to see us and vice-versa. I don’t know why I drove– we really ought to take the train.
The food and company were a real treat. After the meal, however, Cati and I waited 45 minutes for the parking garage to bring us our car. The entire garage had one car-elevator and there was a huge queue of people. 45 long minutes that we, being tired and irritated due to the wait, used to continue a fight debate we had been having for days. It’s a bit too complicated to detail here, but we’ll tell you, dear readers, all about it over dinner sometime.
Back to food– for sushi– and I mean traditional Japanese sushi– Sharaku of West Bloomfield, MI (yes, Michigan), is second to none. If you should find yourself within a 50 mile radius– go. Make a reservation.
Their natto (and consequently their maguro natto) is the best I have had.
Since leaving MI, we obviously have limited access to Sharaku, but we’ve found a nice place in Somerville, NJ that meets our sushi needs– Shumi. It is good.
Cati and I apparently passed the “love of food” gene on to Natalia. She eats like a CHAMP and is seldom happier than while doing so.
Actually, she is pretty happy most of the time.
The same goes for Nina, most of the time. She’s going through a phase that’s tough to take– with the whining, and the being contrary (all the time), and the emotional meltdowns. Cati and I have a theory that there is a developmental milestone going on with her brain chemistry that is as violent as puberty. A stage where little ones start dealing with an intensity of emotions previously not known to them. But it’s just our little theory; it’s likely wrong, but it helps us get through the night (that, and copious amounts of valium; I kid, I kid). She’s going through life with her eyes wide open and her inquisitiveness often makes us chuckle.
We are all ready for Spring to get here.
For additional cute-points, take a look at the cupcakes the girls’ tia Sarah brought for them. Note how Cookie Monster is eating a cookie– that is cute. (Sarah, if you should happen to read this, please plug the bakery that made the cupcakes in the comments section.)
Also, here are some elegant (and tasty) cakes from Jen and Gabe’s baby shower (From The Bread Basket Bakery in Saratoga Springs, NY).
And lastly, here’s just plain Cake:
Thank you Robert Carpenter (2:15 of the video) for my new/only dance moves from this point-of-my-life forward. I’m doing that dance right now.
Cati was sneaky and conspired with a mutual friend to find out what digital camera I had been researching in preparation to buy. Then, she bought it for me. We went out to dinner (for Korean), and she surprised me with it. I was happy to replace my dying Canon SD870 with a brand spankin’ new Canon s95. Ah well, at least she’s using her devious powers for good. In the photo below, I am swearing revenge for this trickery while she celebrates a successful surprise.
Allow me (and my new camera) to show you what a great weekend looks like for us these days.
Friday night, we left the kids with the baby-sitter (man, we love her), and we went out with friends for Indian food. Good food and conversation abounded.
We returned relatively early from our dinner and took the opportunity to walk off some of the copious curry we had enjoyed before calling it a night.
Saturday morning we followed our typical routine of coffee, Caillou cartoons, and cooing.
As Natalia went down for her 0930 nap, Nina and I rode the bike to the Chatham Borough Farmers’ Market. We often go. Nina has pastry-wrapped hotdogs and Italian Ice everytime we go. It’s funny to think about a two-year-old with a routine, but that’s what she has. The various merchants are always happy to see her, and they’re all so nice.
Cati walked over, with Natalia, joining us at the Farmers’ Market (which allowed me to actually buy food for the week rather than look after Nina the whole time.) We returned home and the girls soon thereafter went down for their naps. I took the lull in activity as my opportunity to stain the deck and mow the lawn.
When the peanuts woke up, we all went for a walk to the park.
The walks are important– we find that active kids sleep better.
After the baths and dinner, we put the little ones to bed, and I started some broth for a big ol’ pot o’ borscht. I also started dinner. We watched Iron Man 2 on On-demand. The first Iron Man movie was fun– sure, it was silly, but it was fun. The second flick in the series was long, dull, and dumb.
We had Thai lettuce wraps for dinner. I used a recipe from what is one of my favorite television shows– America’s Test Kitchen. It’s the yin to the Food Network‘s yang. I find the Food Network so annoying with its ADHD-paced editing and flashy cooks, whereas America’s Test Kitchen is a cooking show for food-nerds, by food-nerds. Some of the items in this recipe were as follows: toasted rice powder, chopped pork-loin, shallots, lime juice, fresh cilantro, fresh mint, chili flakes, and of course, fish sauce. The lettuce wraps were so fresh and crisp– this will become a regular menu item here in the Cati Shack.
Saturday was as good as they come.
Sunday started earlier than usual with crying babies and obligatory diaper changes. Since I was up, I started the coffee, and since I was in the kitchen, finished cooking the borscht and made a Spanish tortilla.
I know it ‘s good if Nina likes it– she did.
The tortilla was so good, I almost didn’t have time to photograph it.
During the little-ones’ nap I had a chance to take the bimmer for a spin. It looks like what an Imperial Stormtrooper would drive, dunnit?. [...and yes, I AM fluent in Nerd].
Now my picture-perfect weekend ends here with me on the couch blogging. Thanks for reading.
He flew into JFK and I went to get him at 6AM on Saturday. The drive there and back wasn’t bad.
I drove through Staten Island rather than take the Holland tunnel; I didn’t want to deal with driving through Manhattan. Traffic wasn’t bad at all, and it only took me an hour to get there. It was a lovely drive across the Verrazano bridge and back.
His visit was a short one, but we managed to squeeze in some nice meals, drinks, and talk of Tuvan throat-singing*. We also enjoyed the weather, chasing Nina around, and we even cut down a superfluous tree in our backyard and re-hung some fencing.
Now I need to buy a chiminea for all the firewood.
I was in Puebla, Mexico last summer and while there I was introduced to sangrita. Sangrita is similar to bloody-mary mix but it’s meant to be sipped, as a chaser, along with a tasty tequila. I found a recipe online and modified it a bit to suit my tastes. Here’s how I make it:
- 32 oz. of Clamato
- 4-5 limes
- 2-3 TBSP of OJ
- 1/2 TBSP horse raddish
- 1/2 TBSP celery salt
- 1 tsp Tabasco
- Pepper to taste
Mix everything together and place in refrigerator for a day or two (or just drink immediately– who has time to plan their drink chasers days in advance, right?). Make sure you buy some decent tequila to accompany the sangrita– I like Patron (green label).
We also had burgers, home-made cole-slaw, and strawberries and cream for dessert. I made the whipped cream myself, and it came out very good. I think making it myself from heavy cream, vanilla extract, and sugar will be the only way to go from now on– no more Reddi-whip for us.
LT and I are both fans of spicy food and hot-sauces. I gave him a bottle of this great sauce that a friend of mine from NY makes. I must take a moment to plug my friend Christopher’s hot-sauce. I know Christopher from when we worked together in Selkirk, NY. He would make this out-of-this-world pepper sauce for all his friends at work to try– y’know, as a hobby. Well, apparently after years of people telling him he should bottle and sell the stuff, he decided to do just that. This hot-sauce is so thick and hearty, you can eat it on a cracker with a slice of cheese and there are few things better. Don’t worry, it’s not one of these how-much-pain-can-you-take macho hot-sauces either– it is really tasty (and it comes in ‘Mild’ for all you capsaicin-phobes). It’s a little tart, a little sweet, a little spicy, and well, delicious. It’s perfect for pizza. Because of the sweetness, I am not crazy about it with Mexican food, but there are those who swear by it. Check out his website and buy a bottle or two ten at www.christophersfoods.com. It’s made in Upstate NY, and a couple of bottles would make a great gift for any spicy food aficionado in your life.
Traffic on the way back to JFK was a complete nightmare– it took about 3 hours to reach JFK– this was on Sunday at 4PM. LT missed his 7PM flight home and had to get a seat on the flight out the next morning at 9AM. So with a night to kill, he took the opportunity to roam around Manhattan (bars) getting in adventures– y’know, like Caine from Kung-Fu. But hey, this blog only covers Cati’s and my adventures… go find his blog for his adventures. ;)
* Ok, back to the Tuvans– the sounds these guys make are downright other-worldly; it blows my mind a little. Check it out:
LT and I, with our confidence bolstered by the tequila, practiced our harmonic overtone singing. We discovered how to quickly annoy everyone around us– even Nacho left the room. I think we’re ready to start touring.
Check out the Tuvan Simon and Garfunkel over here:
Here are some gastronomic (and other) highlights that probably warrant a post all their own, but I have grouped ‘em into one.
Some complimentary dessert from the sushi chef. It was a kind of bean paste with some frozen grapes– quite tasty really.
We bought an iRobot Roomba for the house. I am aware that I am helping usher in the robot apocalypse, but it’s a handy little tool that vacuums up nicely. I don’t know when exactly it will turn on us to enslave humanity, but it’s taking care of a dreaded household chore, so whatever.
Our friend, who knows a lot about sushi, hosted a sushi party at his place. I prepped the quail eggs (ignore the shell fragments in the bottom left egg.)
My same friend, who lived in Japan for many years, introduced me to natto. There is nothing like it– it’s funky. I actually thought it was a gross stringy mess the first time, but now I really like the stuff. It’s fermented soybeans that have a very unique nutty flavor. If you get the chance to try it, I recommend it (no money-back guarantees). Apparently, the rule is that you have to try natto seven times before you like it – kind of like whisky or cigarettes (I like those too).
Also, we were in Albany for a weekend not too long ago and went to Angelo’s 677 Prime for dinner (along with three of our friends). We were presented with a smoked-salmon cake amuse-bouche (Thanks, Chef!). It was very salty but the smokey bacon flavors were quite good.
Cati had the American Kobe steak on a hot river rock appetizer. Yeah, it was gimmicky, but good– really good.
The wasabi mashed potatoes kinda stole the show. They were so strong with the wasabi. We teared up a little with each bite, but none of us could stop eating ‘em.
When a pregnant woman wants two chocolate desserts, she gets two chocolate desserts. She also ordered the tall glass of milk– for the baby, of course.
While we were in the Capital District, we went to Famous Lunch in Troy, NY for some mini-hotdogs (we can’t resist the call of cased-pork). They are so good.
Nina enjoys her first mini-dogs (plain). Her fingers look like mini hot dogs themselves:
Summer Nina in Mallorca:
Fall Nina in Michigan (not her real ears):
…and the inspiration for the title of this post: