Tuesday, November 30, 2004

First Listen: Jamie Barnes 'The Fallen Acrobat'

Let me start off by tell you what this cd is not: this is not goth or darkwave or ethereal or any of those other genres that kids who read too much Anne Rice and dress up like vampires generally listen to. It's coffeehouse fare. It's folk pop. It's that sensitive guy who won't ever look you in the eye and plays his guitar, sitting up on a stool during open mic night and then leaves before you can say "hello."

I won't lie, this also isn't anything new. "Unhappy" could easily play over the sentimental closing scenes of any number of prime-time dramas. The song "Anyway..." is every song you ever heard at every coffeehouse across America. These are not new songs or new concepts. What it is.. is comforting. The singing is that just-right level of off-key. The production is simple the point of disappearing. The end results are songs that are so personal and intimate feeling that you'll feel like you're sitting in your best friend's bedroom (where the album was actually recorded, though probably not that of your best friend, I think), listening to him play just for you.

I'd post mp3's for everyone to try out, but honestly...Silber Records, who put out this cd (a great label, btw) has this cd on sale for $8.00 *shipped*. So, go to the site, listen to the music online, and, if you like it, don't be cheap and just buy the durn thing.

For more information and to check out the song "Matthew", from the album, check out:
http://www.silbermedia.com/jamiebarnes/

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Monday, November 29, 2004

Long weekends usually mean one thing in our household. Lots of food. While some people eat when they are bored, I bake.
Here's a roundup of what went down, food wise:

Thankgiving - Bruleed sweet potatoes (recipe to follow shortly) and roasted garlic rolls. Genevieve made a fruit salad and a tofurkey with carmelized onions and dried cherries.
Of course, this was in addition to the tons of food available at my family's.

To read the tofurkey story, in full, check out Genevieve's blog.

Breakfasts - more Dutch spice cake, pancakes with pan-fried pineapple, coffee cake and, this morning, good olde french toast. I am destined to be a very fat man.

Others - Pumpkin ravioli (assembled with precision by Genevieve) and Spicy Carrot & Peanut soup

More Others - garlic broth (a much loved staple around our house), pumpkin broth, roasted pumpkin seeds (with salt, pepper and chipotle powder), and ..secrets ;)

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Monday, November 22, 2004

Maybe it's the wooden clogs...

But, I made a disturbing amount of Dutch food this weekend. You see, some odd months ago, I picked up a Dutch cookbook from the Thrift store (for the low low price of 0.80). I'd not really made much from it, other than a set of very eggy pancakes, which I wasn't happy with.

This all changed this past weekend when, looking to feed my bandmates, I found a recipe in it for a curried lima bean soup (kerrie soep van witte bonen), for which I happened to have all the ingredients I needed. After that, it was all over. Next came the Dutch Spice Cake (Ontbiktkoek), a chewy, dense loaf which smelled deliciously like gingerbread in the oven. Then, the Hague's Bluff (Haagse Bluf), a marshmallow-y spread meant for spreading on lady fingers or the like (though it tasted just as yummy on the spice cake). I finished the night off with Genevieve begging me to be done cooking Dutch food. Oh..and a half batch of Peppernuts (pepernoten). Peppernuts are a holiday treat for little Dutch children, thrown into the house by 'Black Peter', upon his arrival. They're decidedly not sweet (though they do have a moderate amount of sugar) and are more appropriate to have with tea, instead of for dessert.

Here's the recipe (edited *)
Pepernoten

1 1/4 cups Flour
1 1/4 cups Self-Rising Flour
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 tsp each of: cinnamon, nutmeg, powdered cloves, anise seeds
a pinch of salt
4 tbsp water
2 egg yolks

Preheat oven to 350
Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Form a well in the center and add the liquid. Knead until it forms a smooth ball. Coat a large cookie pan with either butter or cooking spray. Split dough into marble size balls and place, in a uniform fashion, onto the pan, flatting slightly with the palm of your hand. It should make about 90 balls (approx 2 cookie sheets worth)
Bake for 20 minutes. The end result should be hard and a light golden brown.

* This book was full of "you should already know how to do this" recipes, often involving instructions as simple as "mix all ingredients and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes". This recipe, in particular, must assume that you used magic as well, as the original called for, in no way/shape/form enough liquid to get anything more than crumbly spice flour. I've altered it to what I did last night. If yours is still too dry, add a bit of milk. The dough should be smooth, but not tacky.

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Thursday, November 18, 2004

As all of you know, from Genevieve's blog, last night was our 6 year anniversary of getting together (we celebrate both this and our wedding anniversary). So, for this special occasion, we decided to check out a restaurant we've been wanting to try for awhile. Arguably, one of the best restaurants in Cleveland, if not the best. The home of Cleveland's culinary prize, Michael Symon.

Lola Bistro

Though only mere seconds walking distance from our house, we'd somehow managed never to go there before. We were scared away by the potential high prices (though, all in all, they were only a miniscule amount pricier than any other fancy restaurant), the long wait for a reservations (also proved to be not-so-true) and the lack of any veggie options for Genevieve. But, I just don't think either of us would have felt right about leaving Cleveland without stopping in there.

Well, finally heading in, we started our meal out with:
Genevieve: crispy wild mushrooms with butternut squash grits
Patrick: Slow roasted beets with apples and buttermilk blue cheese

Now, I am not a big fan of beets. But I *am* a huge fan of blue cheese and apples and...to be honest, I was willing to give them another shot. I think it's that I really *want* to like beets. They look beautiful, cooked right, they have great "mouth feel" and they're readily available most of the time at the West Side Market. But, something about them never sat right with me. That said, these were probably the best beets I've tasted and the whole dish was excellent. It's still not making me run out and get them, but at least I know what they can taste like, at the height of good preparation. Those who like beets to begin with would be in heaven.

Next up, entrees:
Genevieve: chef's whim (sauteed spaghetti squash and mushrooms with baby asparagus a balsamic glaze. "it was melt in your mouth good")
Patrick: Fish & Chips (Perch, spicy slaw and sweet potato chips)

First up, let me explain what the whole "Chef's Whim" thing is. You see, as I mentioned before, Lola does not have any vegetarian options for main entrees. Basically, as a veggie, you get two choices: their famous mac & cheese - without the chicken, or the chef's whim, which is exactly that...whatever veggie option the chef wants to make at the time. I thought this gave the whole dish a brilliant, personal touch. You weren't getting what everyone else got, you were getting something special, just for you. Plus, it was deliscious. Couldn't go wrong.

And, yes, I paid $20.00 for perch, cole slaw, and chips. I know it sounds silly, or even stupid. But, I grew up on perch. I looove perch. A good perch sandwich is simply awesome. So, when I found out that, at this "fancy restaurant", I could *get* this most lowly of fishes, I was on it. Yes, I skipped over the five spice duck and other culinary delights for something so blue collar, so Cleveland, it intrigued the hell outta me ;) That said, this *was* the best perch I'd even had. Deep fried in a well-spiced batter, this wasn't Sokolowski's fare (which *is* also some damn good fish, might I add), served with a creamy sauce, this was *gourmet perch*. Well prepared and well served, it was all that I'd hoped it'd be. Next time ....walleye ;)

We finished our meal off with:
Genevieve: chocolate covered "pretzel" with vanilla bean ice cream
Patrick: Banana Cream pie

Both were excellent. My banana cream pie was a while freggin pie! A small one, but nonetheless, much more than the thin slice my stomach was ready for. I am sad to say that, as good as it was, I just couldn't finish it.

A couple final notes about Lola:
Lola was one the originators of Tremont's "fancy casual", or whatever you want to call it, restaurant scene. As such, they were much more comfortable and laid back than even some of the newer places, like Sage (which had an incredibly stuffy atmosphere, though good food). We never felt snubbed, or like the poor relations, even if there was a huge table of suits right next to us. Maybe it was the lack of Foi Gras on the menu, but it was just really relaxed and fun.
It was also nice to see Mr. Symon slinging food in the kitchen. In another Tremont restaurant we'd been to, the "star chef" had moved out onto the floor, expediting food and rubbing shoulders with the clientele, which is, of course, great if you want to meet a local "celebrity", but it was refreshing to see someone who had been on Food Network, whose been featured in most any Culinary mags, back there still sweating it out, doing what make him famous. Cooking.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Because I want to think of something else than this place...

Patrick's Bean Burgers (modified Moosewood recipe)
Makes approx. 4
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Drain 1 can of black beans

Using a potato masher, mash the beans up into a thick paste

Add 1/2 tbsp each of the following: ketchup, mustard, soy sauce & balsamic vinegar, mix well

Add uncooked oatmeal (quick oats work the best, as they are a smaller cut) to mixture. Continue to add until it's approx the consistency of ground beef, stirring continuously, approx 1 cup.

Cook on a large frying non-stick frying pan, over moderately high heat, flipping every so often, until browned on both sides (just like you would a regular burger).

Good additions:
Chipotle Chili mayo (approx 1/4 tsp of ground chipotle chili powder to each tablespoon of mayo. more or less, depending on desired heat level)
Caramelized onions
Avocado
Roasted garlic mayo (approx 1 clove of roasted garlic for each tablespoon of mayo)

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I am sooo sick of this job.

I am tired of looking at four gray walls everyday.

I am tired of my anti-ergonomic chair.

I am tired of knowing shit that no human really needs to know. "Did ELVIS run correctly over the EVM/EVH AMPEX dataset you loaded to BALDPUBK?" I shouldn't know what the hell that means. But, I do. It's made worse by the fact that this knowledge has also shoved out other information, potentially useful information. I have lost all but the most basic knowledge of html, JavaScript, asp and most of the web design/development programs that go with it. I feel like my brain is atrophied.

I did a little math. I started here in July of 2001. That's approx 3.5 years of service to Xest. During that time I have spent approx. 588 *hours* in meetings. That's 24.5 FULL DAYS of my life sucked into the most meaningless banality imaginable. Even if I were to quit today, I would never get that back.

Thus ends the song of the disaffected office worker.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Another recipe for my slacker friends. This is from Rick Bayless's 'Mexican Kitchen'. Definitely worth picking up if you get the chance. One of the most intuitively laid-out cookbooks I own.

Mexican Rice Dinner

Dice up 2 medium tomatoes (approx 12-16 oz.) into medium sized cubes (approx. 1/4"). Throw into a bowl with:
3-5 seeded and finely chopped serranos (more or less, depending on heat tolerance)
3 tbsp cilantro (chopped)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small white onion, finely chopped and washed (rinse under cold water, drain and shake off any excess water)

In a *large* saucepan, over medium-high heat, throw in either 8 oz. of chorizo or soyrizo. (if you use soyrizo, also add approx 1 tbsp canola or veggie oil)
Cook until crumbled thoroughly, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the Xrizo, making sure there's some drippings or flavored oil left over.
Place burner on medium and throw in 1 cup of medium-grain (long is o-kay) rice. Cook until rice has begun to brown. Add the tomato mixture.
Reduce to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for approx 7 minutes, or until the whole thing has gotten kind of....mushy.

Meanwhile, bring 3/4 of a cup of water or stock to a boil (stock, obviously, preferred). When rice mixture is ready, throw the stock into the pot, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Then, add the kernels from 1 large or 2 small ears of corn along with 2 zucchinis (diced medium-small) and that Xrizo you made up before. Re-cover and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Check the rice. If it's still far from done, re-cover and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes. If almost done, turn off heat and remain covered for that 5-10 minutes. Serve with a sprig of cilantro.

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Monday, November 08, 2004

That whole "going home again" thing...

Much like my sister, fall always brings out high levels of nostalgia in me. From the Moes Cider Mill pumping out cider and grape juice by the gallons, to the pumpkin cookies from Swenson's Bakery, my childhood seems accented by those fall months of years past.

So, after hearing about the re-emergence of the previously mentioned cookies from my sister (turns out the baker from Swenson's, when he left, brought some of the recipies with him. So, though Swenson's has been closed for many years, they're still being produced under a different name), I decided to make the trek back to my hometown, Vermilion. I don't know what my real plans were, driving 45 minutes away in exchange for a couple of cookies and some cider that's already available at the West Side Market (just a few minutes from my house). I guess I was looking to conjure up some of that voodoo of years past. For whatever the reason, Genevieve and I drove out there on Saturday. Our first stop was at the Bakery, where I was disappointed to find that they were out of the pumpkin cookies. We did grab some yummy little cupcakes and cookies though, so I can't say I was crying too much.

Next up, Burnham's Orchard and Cider Mill. Burnham's was where my family got the apple supply which helped run the Moes Cider Mill. I remember hauling out there with my grandfather, years ago. All this time later, their apples are still as good and their cider tastes the most like what I remember ours to be like. We walked out of there with a gallon of deliscious cider, which is quickly depleting, and a small bag of apples. For those Cleveland dwellers who don't want to make the trek, their cider (and apples) are available from the apple stand across from Basketaria, in the West Side Market.

Our last stop. The Moes Cider Mill. Now, the Cider Mill has been closed for quite awhile. With the death of my Grandfather (and the years prior, I believe), no one in the family stood up to take over the reigns. So, the Mill has sat there, in disuse, for many years. It was kind of a weird thing, going back there. Part of me felt like I was trespassing (which is completely silly, as my family still owns the Mill and the land, so it's like, if someone did call the cops, I could just tell them that I was Alice Moes's grandson.) Moving the "security system" (a block meant to keep the sliding door from rattling in storms), we went in. I was suprised to find the place....the same. Being in a small town and watched over by an inhabited house, the Mill had been completely spared from any sort of destruction, the kind wrought by bored teenagers. Really, it had not been disturbed at all. The account sheets still lay on the shelf with notes from my aunt, detailing the cost of Caramel apples brought to the 91 Wollybear Festival.. Shoot, a half filled bottle of cider even continued to sit in the fridge. There was even a mug (obviously my mom's) sitting there, as if everyone was on a lunch break and would return shortly. Of course, it wasn't all so perfect as I make it seem. One thing did get in there: time. Dust hung in the air and over every surface. The cinderblock wall, which had borne the brunt of years of the motor, that was the heart of the mill, was crumbling. The second floor storage area, always a bit rickety, looked downright dangerous. But, everything was there. The stainless steel holding containers were still cold to the touch, the press was put to the side and the straining cloth hung on the rafters, waiting to be used.

The barn next door was another story. Caving in on every side, I didn't even feel comfortable setting foot in there for fear of having the roof fall. It was weird, though, to look in and see my grandfather's tractor still sitting there, waiting for the whole place to come down around it.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I don't think it needs to be said, but I am feeling immensely out of step with my state's, my county's politics right now.
The fact that:
The anti-gay marriage law passed all states it was in, including the toughest wording, in my own state of Ohio.
The school level was declined in Cleveland
Voinovich continues to represent us..
and......

well you all know the last one.

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