Archive for May, 2009

“Down, Down, Down– Red Knight Going Down!”

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Cati and I spent a few days (too few) on the West Coast visiting a couple-three friends and (my) family.  We flew into John Wayne Airport and visited Fullerton, Pasadena, Newport Beach, and Canoga Park.  The flights there and back were uneventful– that’s a good thing.  We stayed at a hotel directly across the street from Medieval Times.  The location of the memorable and HI-larious scene from “The Cable Guy.”  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go to Medieval Times on this trip. 


Here are some more highlights from our short trip:

We had some good Mexican food one night, and some Thai food another (sorry, no photos taken). 

We stumbled upon a Lizarran in Fullerton too.  Lizarran is a Basque-style tapas franchise in Spain– who knew they were global.  Technically, they’re not tapas; they’re pinxos (pronounced peenchos).  We didn’t stay there for dinner; it was crowded and they had a flamenco dancer and band playing.  Flamenco is like kryptonite to Cati.  In my experience, Flamenco is to most Spaniards what barbershop quartets are to most Americans, or Mariachis to most Mexicans– campy, outdated entertainment.  We opted for sushi instead.
We had sushi at Sushi Momo in Fullerton.  It was good, but a little heavy on the chilli sauce.  I’m pretty sure it was Sriracha— which I like, when used sparingly. 
Crisp and cool cucmber-wrapped rolls that went great with a cold Japanese lager. 
Home-made tamago– mmm.
Driving in L.A. was pretty crazy.  I’ve lived in and driven in several states and a few countries, but I have to say, L.A. drivers are really a breed apart.  From my limited experience (3 days of driving), there are four things that make it so crazy to drive in L.A.:
– The speed– people drive really fast; 10-20 mph over limit seemed to be the average speed at all times.
– The crowds– it’s jammed; masses and masses of cars whizzing by no matter what time of day.
– All lanes are for passing– right and left really mean nothing.  People weave and zip by from all sides.
– The highways are tight with concrete walls and medians, and seldom a shoulder.  The exits come up quickly.
As startling as it was, I would probably adjust to it completely in about two weeks.  But it really made an impression during our short stay.
On our last day there, we had breakfast with our friends up in Pasadena, then we spent the rest of the day with my extended family.  Well, the emphasis on food extends beyond the nuclear family in which I grew up.  We had a great meal of grilled meats– chicken, pork-ribs, sausage, beef — you name it.  I guess that’s a benefit of family members who grew up in Argentina– they know grilling.  Also, my aunt made empanadas that give my own dear mom’s recipe some formidable competition (sorry ma, they were really good). 
Cati and I take a distant second and third billing (respectively) to Nina’s appearance at any party. 
Check out my aunt’s beautiful backyard flower-garden where Nina spent the afternoon exploring. 
What a beautiful time!
Also, on an unrelated note, when we bought our new house here in Ann Arbor MI, we were presented with all the old paperwork from when the property was first purchased from the US government in 1825 to present.  Included in that stack is the record of when the property was sub-divided in 1930 by the then owners Mr. and Mrs. Ives.  Incidentally our neighborhood is called Ives Woods. 
Included in this paperwork are the rules by which lot owners must abide when buying the property.
Take a closer look at rule #1:
In case you can’t read it in the photo, it says, “Said premises shall not be sold or leased to or occupied by any person other then [sic] of the Caucasian race.”*
Holy shocking racism, eh?  I mean, there it is in unambiguous black and white– sick and wrong, innit?   Eighty years ago was a very different world.  Rule #2 is ‘no livestock’– wow.   
* In addition to bigotry, apparently poor-punctuation and bad grammar were rampant as well. 

Insufficient Inspiration for a Title

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

My mother was here visiting a few weeks back.  That allowed Cati and me to take advantage of the world’s greatest baby-sitting service (i.e. The Grandma) and go out on a date.  We are suckers for the classics, so we went with dinner and a movie.  We headed downtown to The State Theater and saw the movie Sin Nombre.  It was pretty good; violent as all-get-out, but well-made and thought-provoking (and a bit unsettling).  The violence in the film was very matter-of-fact, which is actually more disturbing than the over-the-top slow motion kind found in many Hollywood movies.  It reminded me of another fine Spanish-language movie—Maria Full of Grace.  Both movies get the viewer to feel concern for someone who, on the surface, is a “bad guy.”  I thought about both films for days after seeing them. 

Anyway– after the movie, we walked around downtown Ann Arbor on a bustling Friday night looking for an interesting place to have dinner.  As we strolled, we popped into several cool little shops and even an art gallery.  We guessed that the art gallery had had an exhibit opening that night.  We figured this because when we passed through, the scene was essentially devolving into a dance party– most likely fueled by all that free “opening-night” booze (nothing wrong with that at all).

We strolled around and finally landed at Vinology for dinner.  We sat at a table outside on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.  The setting, perfect weather, energy-of-the-evening, and service were all impeccable, but the food was just ok.  It wasn’t bad enough to ruin our first Nina-less date in a while, but every dish had an annoying flaw.  The presentation was nice (see photos), but looks ain’t everything.  It takes more than a pretty presentation, funky menu-description, and inflated price to impress us these days—it has to taste good too.  In fact, if it looks great but doesn’t deliver the flavor, it’s even worse—because there’s that subtle and lingering taste of unmet expectations.

We started with a pair of drinks; Cati had a blush cava and I had a Tullamore Dew (with an ice cube).  We ordered from the small-plates menu and had all four plates come out together.  We really had a great time but it was more-so in spite of the food rather than because of the food. 

Here are the dishes in no particular anything:

“Salad of grilled ramps, fiddlehead ferns, local greens, mushroom vinaigrette, fried egg”

 Grilled ramp salad

(Alex’s translation: “Boring-ass warm salad with an egg.”) 

“Blue cheese stuffed Medjool dates, house-made chorizo”

A bad date- the Medjool, that is.

I’ll compare this dish to the flight of Icarus.  Y’know– it aspired beyond its ability.  The mix of blue cheese, dates, and chorizo didn’t add up to anything beyond the mere sum of the parts—and what a puny sum it was.  I also learned I don’t like Medjool dates.  They are a saccharine, indistinguishable mush.  I far prefer semi-dry dates.  I can’t even articulate the difference; it’s like canned tomatoes versus tomatoes fresh from the garden.  It’s like Oasis versus The Beatles.  It’s like President G.W. Bush versus President Lincoln.  Oh, you get it.

“Creamy corn bisque, bacon and scallop croquette”

Creamed corn bisque

The soup tasted like puree of creamed corn (from a can).  The cloying sweetness of this dish made Nina’s baby-food taste complex in comparison (yeah, I try ‘em sometimes).  The croquette wasn’t half bad, but what value is a good Maraschino cherry on a mediocre sundae?

“Crispy veal sweetbreads, camembert crostini, Dijon caper dressing”

Crispy sweetbreads

This dish should have been called “Crispy fried crispy with a crispy fried crisp of crispy crisp crisp.”  That is to say—it tasted like fried.  “Dijon caper dressing?”  Where?  Oh nevermind.   

Apathy and disappointment aren’t much of a motivator to write this post, but I hope you enjoyed reading it all the same.   

Well if Beck managed to write a poignant song about resignation and frustration, I can write a measly blog-post.

Click hear* to listen Beck’s “Lost Cause” for your daily downer.

P.S.- I don’t make a habit of depressing people who read my blog-posts.  So, if you need a pick-me-up, take a look at this video of Nina cracking up at Nacho doing tricks for treats.  I dare you to try not to laugh during this (especially at ~ 55 seconds):

* Ha! Freudian typo.