Archive for the ‘Dining-in’ Category

Days Are Long; Years Are Short.

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

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.

The Visitor

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

My friend LT came for a brief visit from sunny California.  You remember him, right

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:

“Hard to Explain”

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Here are some gastronomic (and other) highlights that probably warrant a post all their own, but I have grouped ’em into one.

Cati took me to a great sushi place for my birthday. It’s called Sharaku in West Bloomfield, MI. It was incredible…better than Saso’s (RIP).

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The uni and ikura were so nice, we ordered ’em twice.  It was easily the best uni we have ever had. 

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Some complimentary dessert from the sushi chef.  It was a kind of bean paste with some frozen grapes– quite tasty really. 

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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. 

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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.)

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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).

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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.

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Cati had the American Kobe steak on a hot river rock appetizer.  Yeah, it was gimmicky, but good– really good.   

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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Nina enjoys her first mini-dogs (plain).  Her fingers look like mini hot dogs themselves:

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Summer Nina in Mallorca:

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Fall Nina in Michigan (not her real ears):

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…and the inspiration for the title of this post:

Xmas 2008 recap

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

I’m not sure if the following Christmas song makes me want to have a drink or never drink again. 

I’ll decide over a glass of Bushmill’s.  [shrug]

We celebrated Christmas with my folks on their farm down in sunny FL.  We flew out before the big pre-Xmas snow storms hit Albany and returned after almost all the snow had melted away [whew].  Cati’s family flew in from Spain and joined us; it was great.  The holidays, in the house I grew up in, were mainly about the food (shocking, eh?).  Here are some highlights from our week with the folks on their farm.

We arrived at my father’s well maintained farm and he immediately wanted us to see the garden. 

(more…)

Jerk it out.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

People have asked me how I make such good jerk chicken [not really, but humor me].  Well, dear readers, I’m prepared to reveal my secrets.

  • Aquire some Misty Knoll Farms’ chicken (or other high quality supplier’s version thereof).  I prefer to use either the skin-on breasts or a bunch of wings.
  • Make a Jamaican friend who can smuggle in his parish’s best jerk sauce.
  • Marinate chicken for an hour to several hours in the refrigerator.
  • Grill (I prefer charcoal).  I grill the thick breasts skin-side down in a hot spot for 5 min (gives a good black char to the skin– we don’t eat it), flip and then 8-10 min on less intense heat.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF0E_ErGUHM

The two key steps here are the quality chicken and the good jerk sauce.  That’s 90% of the job. 

I get my jerk sauce from my Jamaican friend.  The whole importation/smuggling process seems a little sketchy but I don’t ask too many questions.  Check out the last jar he brought for me:

It came in snapple-type bottle and was duct-taped shut.  Should I worry about how sanitary it is?  Probably.  Do I?  Nah, nothing can survive that kinda spicy. 

Each parish (like a county) in Jamaica has its own jerk sauce, and of course, the denizens of each parish regard their respective parish’s sauce as the best.  When I gave my buddy a bottle of Winston’s (which I buy online, by the case), he immediately flipped the bottle over to see what parish it was from, so as to pre-judge it accordingly.  We’re no strangers to proximal geographical rivalries.  Ask a European what s/he thinks of his/her neighboring town’s football club– and stand back.  Or heck, ask a Texan what his favorite college football team is and you’ll get some crazy-strong opinions. 

The jerk sauce my buddy brings me is tasted by dipping a toothpick in it and touching the toothpick to the tongue.  Eating it straight, even a little bit, is like macing yourself with pepper spray- pure pain.  It can only be used as a marinade.  This stuff is so hot. 

The peppers and spices for this jerk sauce are grown on a farm that was once used by monks as a graveyard for insane heretics and criminals.  It’s said their souls contribute to the other-worldly spicy hotness– okay, I just totally made that up for effect– but the stuff is really hot, and oh so good.  We like to have the chicken with something green.  The last time we made it, we had green beans and aioli (with sliced tomatoes added to the mix for no good reason). 

Ok, now for a way-off-topic public service announcement.  Do not give your dog cooked bones, especially if he is a little dog, EVER. 

We went to Creo’ (yeah, we know, that superfluous apostrophe on the end of the ignorantly mispronounced CREE-OH is a pretentious embarrassment) and brought home what appeared to be a solid pork-bone for Nacho.  Big dumb mistake on our part.  Nacho crunched the bone up into little bits and wound up getting a major– ahem– back-door blockage, shall we say?  Long story short– $1000, a night in the dog-hospital, and a week of antibiotics later he was/is back to 100%.  Please people, be ye not so stupid as me; stick to treats recommended by your vet.  Learn from my mistake.  Oh, and as for the restaurant– great ambiance and service, but the entrees were way WAY too salty (and I am the guy who often gets scolded by his wife and/or parents for adding too much salt to his food at the table).  The desserts were good.  Based on my one and only visit, I’d say go for drinks or dessert, but go elsewhere for dinner.

Here’s an x-ray of our little guy (after the blockage was cleared):

Big thanks to the talented professionals at Parkside Veterinary Hospital and the Animal Emergency Clinic in Latham for fixing up our little hijo peludo.  This x-ray finally proves that indeed “outside of a dog a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”*

*Groucho quote.

Beware the ides of Oktober

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

We have been enjoying a beautiful couple of days in the middle of October here in Albany.  There is a touch of fall in the air, but the days are crisp and sunny (it won’t last).  I seem to have come down with a case of German fever.  The doctor prescribed a trip to Rolf’s Pork Store to cure what ails me.  I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t gone there sooner.  I am familiar with their wares as Cati and I have a very kind and charming neighbor who has given us frozen sausages and bacon from Rolf’s as gifts a few times over the years.  We have always liked what he has given us. 

What a gem of a store.  It’s not in the best neighborhood in Albany (corner of Sheridan and Lexington), but it’s not the worst either.  The store is small and consists primarily of a meat counter.  There are some imported pickles, jams, and cheeses along with German candies and flags.  I went for the sole purpose of buying some “brats” for the grill, but I couldn’t resist picking up a few more things while there.  I bought a pint of German potato salad, a half-dozen Mozart kugel chocolates, a few links of bratwurst, garlic bratwurst, and weisswurst.  On the way home, I swung by Oliver’s (aka: beer drinker’s Mecca) and bought six-packs of Spaten and Paulaner Oktoberfests.  We fired up the grill and invited our lovely friend Gina to enjoy the day with us.  In addition to a keen wit and mastery of prose, she brought a twelve-pack of Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest (which was better than her wit and prose by a long shot  :)  ).  Although Renee and I agree that Spaten Oktoberfest is the perfect beer (’cause it is THAT good), the Paulaner and Sam Oktoberfests are delicious as well.   Also, I picked up some sauerkraut from Hawthorne Valley Farms (at the Co-op) to go with the German theme.  I have mentioned the stuff here before; it’s good. 

If you like authentic, quality food, you oughtta go to Rolf’s Pork Store and pick up some goodies.  The sausages are excellent, the chocolates are a sin of indulgence, and the potato salad is beyond compare.  Ever notice how some deli prepared foods taste like they are deli prepared?  I can’t really describe that flavor, but a macaroni salad from Price Chopper always tastes like a macaroni salad that came from Price Chopper.  The potato salad at Rolf’s tastes like it’s homemade.  The vinegar is tart, the bacon bits savory, and the potatoes have just the right firmness–  go get some now; see what I am talking about.   

Let’s not forget the requisite peppers and onions.

After the beautiful plate of food above, we brewed some coffee and had dessert– three times.

Dessert 1:

The aforementioned Mozart marzipan chocolates.  My dear mum turned us on to these a few years back.  They are so good, there oughtta be laws against it.  I understand that marzipan is an acquired taste for some; but to us, it’s nothin’ but good.   

Dessert 2:

Oh c’mon, a bite or two of chocolate hardly makes a proper dessert, so we had another.  I bought some pumpkin ice cream on a whim at the Co-op the other day.  It’s from Adirondack Creamery and it’s quite good (although a bit chalky for some reason).  I served the ice cream with a small piece of heated up apple tart.  The apple tart was made and delivered to us with affection by our lovely friend Jen (the real star of blogmasterg.com). 

Hand modeling by Gina

Dessert 3:

A glass of Tokaji.  We were introduced to this sweet wine at Angelo’s 677 Prime a few years back.  We found it, quite by accident, at a wine shop here in town and bought it straight away. It’s ridiculously good (and it better be for what it co$t$).  This Hungarian wine kinda breaks the German theme, but hey, it’s good (plus if it were up to the Germans of years passed, Hungary would be Germany [wink]). 

To return to the German theme, here is the best German hip-hop song you’ll hear all day (play loud, grab your sweetheart, enjoy) :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rfSKY3aX8Q

And for no reason at all; here’s a picture of Nina in a sweater and a babushka.

Baby Recipe

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Making a baby is a lot like making hummus or meatloaf.  Although there are a few requisite ingredients (only two really), there is no set recipe, and everyone has a slightly different way of going about it.  Here are some general guidelines to help you along:

Preparation time: 2-20 min

Cook time: ~40 weeks @ 98.6F

Difficulty level (scale of 1-10): His = 1,  Hers = 10000

Preparation:  Selecting a partner is a critical step.  Quality is paramount; never settle for good-enough and shop around if you must.  Once a suitable mate is selected, and you’ve decided to make the baby, setting the mood is important.  Again, this step will vary from cook to cook, but I recommend a suave love-song to create an amorous ambience– I always use this one (works every time):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMEPFZa4ZQo

I’ll assume most people who are attempting this recipe have some familiarity with baby-making basics, but if not, this educational Monty Python sketch should bring you up to speed. 

Frequent repeated attempts are recommended.  Results may vary and there is no formula, technique, or setting that guarantees pregnancy.  If all else fails, try sneaking out of the house through a window late at night for a rendezvous in the car; I remember that being pretty effective for people during highschool.   

Guys, during the 40-week cook-time, check on your wife often.  If the pregnancy took, she should be plumping up nicely– like a Ball Park Frank.  WARNING: Do not ever, EVER, comment on the level of plumpness or the plumping rate.  This will likely trigger a moodswing (note: they will also occur without provocation). During the moodswing, just drop to the ground into a ball; protect your head, neck, and vital organs and wait it out.  It should dissipate into heavy rain bands, intermittent wind gusts, and thunderstorms with greatly diminished force within a few hours.  Get up, check yourself for wounds, and immediately apologize. 

Season the baby liberally with Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and whatever the hell mom-to-be wants. 

40 weeks of cooking, and presto– a baby:

We waited until we saw her to decide on her name; it’s Nina.  Going solely on looks, I wanted to name her Magoo, but my vote was resolutley vetoed [shrug].  Now that she’s here, all the work is behind us and we can just relax, right?  Right?  Hello?

Cati’s thoughts: Here’s a very important video that all couples who are considering having children need to see.  It’s funny and true:

The First Rule of Meat Club Is…

Monday, August 25th, 2008

This year’s BOMB party was a blast (no pun intended).  You may recall from last year’s post that BOMB stands for Boys Only Meat Bash.  The sagacious party-organizer, Mark, designed this mono-gender meat-up meet-up this way because he felt that excluding the ladies was the only way to have a truly hassle-free party.  Now now, let me explain on his behalf; he adores the company of the fairer sex (as do we all), but he knew his wife could not tolerate a party where plates are absent, napkins are scarce, cigar smoke abounds, manners are frowned upon, personal hygiene is optional, disorderly conduct is encouraged, and swearing is mandatory.  Once you invite one wife; they’ll all want to come to see one another, and before you know it, we’ll have to shave before we go.  As the unsightly gang of shabby, work-clothing clad, oafs arrived with the food, it became apparent that any effort that would have been wasted on a well-kempt appearance was instead directed at the food. 

Naturally, I had my camera with me.  Here is a short video I took of us guys milling about at the party while Mark learns how to use a cooking utensil:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QR8kd9qfx5k&feature=related

Ok, for real, the party is held at our friends’ (Sue and Mark) place at the southern edge of Albany county; the drive out is quite scenic.  My soon-to-be-famous friend Ryan and my already-infamous-friend Mitch came along with me.

This year, I made grilled shrimp with Asian pesto (thanks again for this terrific recipe, Celinabean*; it was a big hit) and jerk-marinated** chicken breasts (also a crowd-pleaser).

We saw the return of the butterflied lamb with freshly-made mint salsa/chutney (I’d have to say it’s my favorite; it’s so simple and so good). 

Also, there were boneless barbeque pork-ribs (good but tough to avoid drying out on the grill).  I thought the grilled tomatoes went really well with the ribs. 

Local sausages (we could have used some German lager to wash ’em down) and skewered flank steaks rolled with cheese.


A giant marinated beef roast with assorted barbeque sauces for dipping.

A massive bluefish filet.

 
And a super succulent double-skillet roasted chicken that was phenomenal.

Also, the meat-only rule was relaxed a bit this year and we had some delicious roasted fingerling potatoes, beets, and the uber-talented Jessie went so far as to bring a pizza and roasted garlic bulbs (??).  The potatoes were so good we all started eating them immediately as they were pulled off the grill and we all burned our mouths a little.  That just slowed us down– it didn’t stop us.  They were smooth and buttery which is interesting because there was no butter added– good stuff.  The beets were great too.  What can I say?  I’m a root-crop guy. 


Each item was pulled off the grill, or from the smoker, put on a tray and set on the table along with a carving knife.  Then all of us guys just picked at the food (while clutching our beers).  We ate while standing around gabbing.  There was also a keg of ale and a pool tournament. 

As for my pool tournament performance, I lost early and often– but whatever; it’s all politics [pffft]. 

The night wound down with unnecessary (but unstoppable) eating, listening to music, talking history, playing pool, sipping beer, and enjoying the pretty-much-perfect weather of the night. 

The title of this blogpost and the song below are references to the 1999 David Fincher film Fight Club

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dX55g_Mv7Zs&feature=related

*Yes, I am aware of the irony at play here.  I realize that I took my recipe for this men-only testosterone-fest from a foodblog with a very feminine voice.  I guess you could say her blog is strong enough for a man but pH balanced for a woman.  [wink]  Make the Asian pesto and see how good it is for yourself.

**Jerk, in this case, refers to the marinade and less-so to the marinater.  [wink]

Ham, Pastrami, and Turkey (2 of 3).

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Pastrami and corned beef are related, but differ from one another in that pastrami undergoes a smoking step during its preparation.  Initially, the “pickling” of these meats was done as a food preservation technique (before refrigeration was readily available), but the unique flavor and texture imparted by these now-unnecessary steps are still popular today.   

I finally got around to trying the food from Old World Provisions on Westerlo and Pearl St. (about 2 blocks north of the dreaded DMV) here in Albany.  They have an interesting business model; they do take-out sandwich fixin’s. 

On our visit we bought a loaf of deli rye, a jug of pickles, a jar of mustard, and 1 lb of pastrami.  Let’s start with the pastrami.  It was like no pastrami I had ever had.  The thick juicy slices were richly marbled; they looked more like slices of succulent prime rib than the dried out paper-thin slices we have come to expect from grocery store deli-counters.  The rye bread was soft to the touch and flavorful.  It went perfectly with the tangy mustard.  To call the pickles the champagne of pickles is more than a metaphor; they were actually effervescent.  They tingled on the tongue with each crispy bite and were neither overly sour nor salty.  My folks were in town (helping with baby-prep) and we wondered aloud, “How’d they do that?” as we chomped away.  Assembling the sandwiches was a breeze and we had everything we needed for a perfect little meal.  The food is artisan crafted.  By the way, if any ladies out there should ever try to win a guy’s heart via his stomach, a box of gourmet sliced-beef, a perfect loaf of rye bread, and a jar of gourmet mustard will likely do the trick; throw in a six-pack and he’ll be writing you love poems within a week.  [wink]

Also, a group of us went to Washington Park on Monday August 4th and caught a free show by Lez Zeppelin (an all-woman Led Zeppelin cover band from NYC).  I was impressed with how talented they were, and of course, I enjoyed the music.  The lead singer’s voice boomed with passion, the guitarist effortlessly peeled off the guitar licks, the drummer flailed about like a crazy person (in a good way), and the bassist handled those Zeppelin time-changes masterfully.  It was just a fun way to spend a pleasant Monday night in the park; I don’t think it’s meant to be taken too seriously.  Here’s a short video I took during “Black Dog;” enjoy:

Revel With A Cause

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Cati and I threw a wine party a few weeks back to raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t ideal for a backyard party as it was a bit cold.  But we fired up the chimenea and made the best of it.  About 35 people showed up and they each contributed (at least) $10 to the LLS.  Here’s the invitation we made for the party:

The invite.

The wine and much of the food was donated by local businesses.  We asked several local wine shops to donate a case of wine.  We asked them to supply us with four different wines (2 whites and 2 reds), and 3 bottles of each (for a total of 12 bottles).  Of course, we provided requisite credentials and explained what we were trying to do.  Some wine shops were unable/unwilling to help, others were willing and eager.  Three wine shops that deserve a big “thank you” are:

These are great wine shops that I would highly recommend you check out (even if they hadn’t helped).   So, next time you are at any of these three places, chatting with their friendly and knowledgeable staff, mention that you read about their kindness here, and say “thanks.”  I know it sounds hokey, but they really are giving back to their communities by helping to improve (and in some cases, extend) the lives of cancer sufferers (and helping their families).  If you don’t buy your wine from these shops, please consider it.  I would also like to thank:

The Honest Weight Food Co-op helped by giving us store credit to buy food.  Cati bought delicious mushroom ravioli along with fixin’s to make pasta a la suegra.  Cardona’s donated a beautiful and (allegedly) delicious fig and apple salad that went so fast, I didn’t even get to try it.  Ah well, I’ll count that among my sacrifices for the cause. 

People milled about the backyard sampling the wines and having a good ol’ time.  Our eloquent and charming friend Gina (of Wine Words) wrote brief descriptions about the wines after having tried them all, at our pre-party, the night before.  We displayed the descriptions of the wines, just to provide a little info about each bottle.    

We collected all the score sheets and headed inside for dinner because it was too cold in the backyard.  All the food was great except for our pasta which was a bit chewey because we left it to ‘warm’ in the oven for too long [oops].

While everyone was eating, the multi-talented Anne (who makes a mean chocolate cake) and I crunched the numbers from the submitted score sheets.  We identified the most-negative palate (the person who gave the lowest average score for all wines), the most “promiscuous palate” (the person who gave the highest average score, and apparently will drink anything), and we also identified “wine-palate twins” (largest positive correlation between any two tasters), and “wine-palate evil twins” (largest negative correlation).

Here’s what the score sheets and certificates looked like:

Here’s the score sheet we used.  Hey, that’s my kind of drinker, eh?  Some winners are more equal than others.

So who won what?  My very own sweet wife won the most negative palate award with her average score for all wines being a mere 4.2.  Interestingly, as some of our guests pointed out, Cati was the only taster who spit every taste.  Being pregnant excluded her from actually drinking the wine, which likely prevented her from “loosening up” her judgement, shall we say.  Hey, let’s face it, after three or four glasses of wine, it all starts to taste better, eh?  The most promiscuous palate award went to our wine-conneseur friend (and certfied specialist of wine) Kathleen Lisson.  Her average score for all wines was a whopping 8.8.  The next highest score was Linda’s- a 7.5 .  Tough crowd, eh?  The favorite wine of the night was a Spanish rioja called Zuazo Gaston donated by Delaware Plaze Liquor Store.  The least favorite was a pinot grigio called Bivio, donated by Empire Wine.  That’s not to say it wasn’t good; it just means our friends weren’t too keen on it (I kinda liked it).  Here’s what the scoring results and correlation results looked like, have a look:

The results are in!

I highlighted the overall faves and least-faves, along with the Guys’ and Gals’ picks too. 

The “wine-palate twins” were our friends Nick and Vaneeta whose scores correlated with an R = 0.83.  I think they had never met prior to that evening, and were surprised to know they had similar tastes.  We awarded them each with an interesting bottle of blush which was generously donated by Niskayuna Wines & Liquors.  Well, however they feel about their prize, I’m sure they’ll agree. 

The “wine-palate evil twins” were our lovely friends Kathleen Lisson and Shavasia.   They had a negative correlation of R = -0.79 between their scores.  Yikes, let’s hope they never have to share a bottle of wine at dinner.  Someone will not be pleased.  So, the correlations aren’t super strong (I don’t know that I’d place too many bets on R2 values of ~0.6), but they are close enough for some wine party revelry.  Have a look:

The R values for correlation. 

I am pleased to say we raised enough money to reach my $4000 goal.  I am done fundraising and now can focus on training for my marathon on June 1st.  Thank you to all of you who have donated to the LLS on my behalf and/or encouraged me with a kind word during my training (so far).  I was repeatedly and pleasantly surprised by the generosity of so many of you.  Here are some photos from the night:

The wines.

The revelers.

Chillin’, literally.

Some of the eats.

They taste, they score!

More discussions.

More tasting and discussing.

Nacho lurks for fallen treats.

The night carries on.

Gabe approves.

Jackets and drinks help us stay warm.

We like.

The awards go out.

We finally got some nice weather a week later.  Cati and I spent a portion of our morning at Tulip Fest in Washington Park.

 Tulip Fest 2008

What a beautiful photo, eh?

Ain’t life grand?