Archive for November, 2009

“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:

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H1 anyone?

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Cati and Nina attempted to get H1N1 vaccinations on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 and had no success.  Cati waited in line, outside, in the Michigan cold, for three hours and it became increasingly clear that it wasn’t going to happen for her or about 700 others.  Cati was among 1700 people who showed up (even more tried to get in line, but they were turned away unless they were pregnant or had children) for 1000 available shots.  It was a poorly planned and managed event.  LONG story short, Cati and Nina left hungry, cranky, cold, and dejected– without either having received the vaccination. 

We think that getting the vaccination is important, not to avoid imminent doom or anything; rather to protect Nina, Cati, and Fetus (Yep, Cati is pregnant.  Nope, that’s not what we plan to name him/her).  Sure, we’re concerned about how women and children seem to be at greater risk of severe illness from H1N1.  Plus, to a lesser extent, there is an element of community stewardship involved– y’know, kinda like giving blood.  We’d like to do our part to limit the proliferation of the H1N1 virus by eliminating ourselves as vectors.  I don’t qualify to receive the vaccination as a healthy adult male, but if more were available, I’d get it (I usually get the regular flu vaccination as well).  Everyone who has not been vaccinated benefits from the fact that the spread of the virus is curtailed by those who have.  

As parents of a toddler, we’ve thought (and read) a lot about vaccination in general.  I disagree with parents who are opposed to vaccinating their children.  The risks associated with vaccinations are minuscule compared to the benefits.  Heck, we put our children in far greater danger everytime we strap them into their car seats for a drive.  Most anti-vaccination folks are operating on fear and anecdotal tales of how vaccinations cause autism, for example.  There is no data to support their claims (and researchers have looked).  Now, some people are of the opinion that it’s their child, and therefore their choice to vaccinate or not, but it’s not that simple.  If their children live in a bubble, great; if not, they are putting many others at risk and helping viruses flourish.  How’s that saying go?  “In God we trust– everyone else, bring data.” 

Anyway, preparing for the worst, Cati tried again.  This time she went 2.5 hours prior to the clinic opening.  She brought food, a lawn chair, a book, and a thick winter coat.  Nina waited at home with me.  This time the vaccines were administered at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center in Ypsilanti on November 5, 2009.  And you know what?  It went really well.  Organizers gave color-coded wristbands to those who showed up.  These served as a guarantee for a vaccination, as they only issued as many wristbands as they had shots.  The color indicated at what time people should return so they didn’t have to wait in line all day.  This eliminated the chance that someone might wait for hours and still be turned away.  For those whose time was within a few hours of arriving and chose to wait in line, the facility was big enough to accomodate them indoors, rather than out in the cold.  Between October 27 and November 5, someone got their shi- stuff together.  When Cati arrived near the front of the line, she secured wristbands for herself and Nina.  Later she called me; I brought Nina (and 20 cups of coffee from Biggby for our fellow Michiganders).  Hey, if you are going to jump in front of throngs of screaming babies and exhausted parents, the least you can do is bring coffee, right? 

It went really well.  Cati and Nina received their vaccinations in a timely and efficient manner.  As a critic of, well, pretty-much everyting, I was delighted and proud of how well it was handled.  It’s a rare day when one can say his taxes are being put to good use. 

Here are a few pics of the ordeal.

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Interestingly, Nina made the local news too.  She makes her grand dramatic debut at 0:25 in the video below– and what a debut IT IS!   Turn your speakers’ volume WAY UP for the full effect– I dare you.  

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Not a Rerun; We Went Back.

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Ok, Cati and I know what we like and we like what we know.  We went back to Pacific Rim a few weeks back.  Here’s what we had;

Cati ordered the Pumpkin Bisque:  

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I thought it was more of a puree than a bisque, but Cati really liked it.  I’ve seen enough baby food, lately; I had no interest. 

I did order the Farmer’s Market Salad:

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Nice flavorful greens and a tangy dressing.  It wasn’t terribly creative, but it was a well-executed, garden-fresh, green salad, with a light and flavorful dressing (mm-mmm).   See, I’m easy to please. 

Cati had the Thai Pesto Fettuccini:

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Described in the menu as “Housemade fettuccini pasta tossed with sautéed seasonal vegetables and edamame, served with a Thai basil pesto and garlic-black bean sauce.”  The Thai flavors went very well with the pasta.  The pesto was oily and sapid– as you’d expect from a pesto.  It was quite good, but seemed like little more than the sum of its parts.  I don’t know; it could have used something to tie it all together.  After it cooled a bit, it actually got better as the oil thickened and stuck to the pasta and veggies.  Relative to the dish I ordered Cati’s Thai Pesto didn’t stand a chance…

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I had the Korean-style braised short-rib special.  Holy smokes; I easily won this evening’s “battle of the entrees.”  The braised beef  was down-right succulent; it was braised for 4 hours in blend of orange juice, soy sauce, honey, and red wine.  It was served with English peas [‘ello guvna], Swiss chard [yodelay HEE-HOO], and crimini mushrooms [I got nuthin’] and the lick-the-plate good butternut squash puree on which it was served made the perfect substrate for sopping up all those delicious flavors in the braising liquid.  I wish I had taken better photos to do it justice.  Just look at that pool of jus in my plate; the perfectly-cooked buttery meat fell off the bone.  The Catholic church has banned this dish as a sin of the flesh– yeah, that good.  I would order this again– heck, I’d order it right now.  The only bad thing about it were Cati’s uninvited chopsticks pilfering my plate. 

For dessert, I had an Irish Coffee and we shared the warm chocolate cake.  

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The toasty-hot gooey chocolate cake, “coconut-Kahlúa ice cream, and sake-macerated cherries” go together beautifully.  We ordered it on our last visit and had to have it again. 

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were presented with a complimentary dessert from the chef– the almond panna cotta.  

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This dessert really showed off the chef’s refined touch.  The panna cotta was not heavy or custardy at all; rather, it was silky smooth and creamy; the amaretto flavor was mild but oh so rich.  The strawberry red-wine reduction with which it was served added a a bit of tart to every bite.  I was so impressed with how smooth it was and how it all came together.  We’ll definitely be back.  I don’t think anyone in Ann Arbor reads this blog, but if you are local or ever in the area, ya gotta try this place. 

Just for chuckles, here’s Nina as “Super Baby” for Halloween:  

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We thought it an appropriate costume for a baby that never stops moving (until she crashes, of course).  She is super-active and never mildly states how she feels or what she wants; she points and screams.  Ah well, we managed to fool all our neighbors with this cute get-up.  Yeah, we raked in the candy– heh heh, suckers.   :)