Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Increasing My Ground Speed

I have purchased a bike! It is a red-brown Raleigh Sprite, with all it's original parts. Not sure what year, but it's in great condition and I've managed not to destroy it on the six rides I've made so far. Being a bike owner/rider opens up an entire new world for me. I find myself overcome with the urge to buy pants that stop mid-calf and the need for a miniaturized tool kit. Before you know it I'll have various body parts wrapped in reflective tape and dreadlocks. Viva la bicyclette!

Last night two new Couch Surfers arrived from NYC, Emily and Arielle. They brought me a gift: two slices of the most moist, flavorful, mouth-wateringly beautiful gluten-free carrot cake in the world. This cake can be purchased for a surprisingly non-exorbitant fee (surprising given its miraculousness) at Risotteria in Greenwich Village. They also serve GF risotto, pizza, panini, salad and BEER, amongst other desserts. Even the table bread sticks are GF!

The desire to cook continues to elude me. Though outside temperatures and humidity may be slighty improved my apartment continues to retain heat like ... like ... like water! (Get it? Because water has such a high specific heat? Just go in the ocean late at night, you'll feel it.) What I mean is I neither want to be inside nor do I want to be home, specifically. Though that part is unavoidable, packing must occur. I can't tell you how super excited I am for my new huge kitchen! Prepare yourself for an Autumn/Winter full of dinner parties and recipe experimenting!

I did help prepare a small, light dinner with good friends Sunday night - leafy greens with a vinaigrette, pan-roasted corn and tomato salad, oven-roasted asparagus, Caprese salad, blackberries, a cheese plate, and a glass or two of red wine. Enjoyed on the back deck with a relieving evening breeze. Parfait!

I leave you today with a poem. I wrote it for my best friend's wedding toast, as was my duty to compose and recite as Maid of Honor this past Friday. It is also the poem I will be performing at open mic tomorrow night sometime between 8-10pm, if you happen to be in the vicinity of the Cantab Lounge in Central Square, Cambridge.

Her love is Spring. The cheerful pastels of youth, the scent of warmth on each mild zephyr, the coiled energy in its name. And the determination of each new flower as it burst through the soil and proclaims "I am here!" The art of creation. The dimple in the year's cheek.

His love is Summer. The ever-present, life-giving sun, scorching in its passion and echoing with children's play. It makes and keeps the promise of hot, lazy, breakfast-filled weekends, settling into your belly with the warmth of home.

My love is Autumn. Ever-changing and unpredictable, a tumultuous jumble of color, punctuated with teasing winds. But hidden inside from this bitter exterior is a house filled with comfort foods and familiar aromas and a sense of settling down, readying yourself for what's to come next.

Our love in Winter. Still and calm. Uniform and reliable. Though piercing winds may lash at exposed skin it only drives us inward, back to the core of our being. Together, we can withstand any Nor'easter.

And your love ... your love is without season. It is the audible hum of life present on the longest and shortest of days, during drought or downpour. Your love holds the entire year in the palm of its hand. It stretches its fingers, reaches out, and nearly grasps eternity.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Concern with Cocktails

My lapse in blogging is directly proportional to my lapse in cooking. My desire to cook is indirectly proportional to the temperature. You pickin' up what I'm throwin' down?

Due to a lack of funds Nacho Quest 2009 is temporarily on hold. Instead, I've returned to making my own nachos. I've got to say, my favorite combination, based on flavor and price, is thus:

Trader Joe's Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips
Trader Joe's Colby Jack Cheese
Trader Joe's Spicy, Smoky, Peach Salsa
(Sour Cream, depending on my mood)

Still, I experiment from time to time. And on the topic of experimenting, I am surprised to report that Mark Bittman and I have something in common. Money? Fame? Ingenuity in the kitchen and with the written word? Nope. We are both moving. And hence, we are both trying to empty our stores (a.k.a. pantries) in order to lessen the burden of moving.

My first pantry pilfering attempt was an unmitigated FAIL. I wanted rice, something akin to the fluffy, limey, cilantro-enhanced vats produced at Mexican chain restaurants. But with a few extra ingredients.

In my pantry = long grain brown rice, can of diced tomatoes in olive oil and garlic.
Purchased = 1 onion, 2 limes, bunch of cilantro

Result = too soupy! I couldn't figure how to get all that extra liquid out of my pot. In addition, it's not the greatest pot. It's an old metal thing, not tempered or layered or whatever it is they do to pots these days to ensure even heating and lack of things burning and sticking to the bottom unless you watch it constantly. They were a hand-me-down from my mum, to whom they were given when she got her first apartment in the early 70s, most likely purchased sometime in the 30s/40s. Oy.

Anyhow, the rice was tasty and edible (and GF and vegan) so I will consume it this week. The remaining staples in my pantry to be experimented with: black lentils, quinoa, lots of GF flour/baking mixes. Too bad it's been in the 90s and unbearably humid or else I'd be baking up a storm, seeing as how I have 10 eggs in my fridge.

To catch up: Maine was lovely. Swimming, napping, eating, and oh yes, excessive drinking. I finished my 31 days of sobriety 2 weeks ago but didn't really dive back into that lifestyle until Maine. Reminder to self - drinking eats up a lot of time, money, and calories, in both meanings of the word. This past weekend was slightly calmer, with my only adventure being a refreshing jaunt out to Walden Pond (side note: I didn't realize until high school that Walden Pond was famous) followed by a brief stop at my parents' house. Just to say hi. And pet the dog. And look through some clothes my sister is giving away. And eat.

This week's craving: farfalle with a light garlicky oil and minced bell peppers.

News Flash: I ate some guacamole on Saturday. And ... actually enjoyed it. This is huge news for all of my avocado-obsessed friends. The reason I was able to enjoy it? Made fresh, in front of my eyes, with excessive overuse of cilantro and lime, at Ole in Inman Square. The best damn (nice) Mexican restaurant in The Greater Boston Area. Perhaps it is time to start giving guac more of a chance ... since apparently it's everywhere in San Diego, one of my upcoming adventure destinations.

Later days.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Audibly Awesome

Yesterday was exciting. It was exciting because I was trained in a new skill. Yes, that's right, there are people in this word who trust me with the well-being of their patients. Surprised?

My new skill is ear irrigation. This is for when people are too incompetent/oblivious/incapacitated and do not realize how much earwax has built up in their external auditory meatus (canal.) First, I was shown how to use an otoscope to visualize the tympanic membrane (eardrum.) The LPNs said I was a natural because I could find it on every ear in the training session. While doing this you peek around for wax.

If there is wax, the removal is quite simple. Using a small "syringe" (tiny tube) hooked up to what looks like your average spray bottle by a large bore catheter (thick long hose), you squirt warm water repeatedly into the meatus. If the cerumen (wax) is too compacted you may need to put a drop of soap in the ear to chill for 15-20 minutes first. This is an easy thing to do. And since I know how weird it feels, being used as a patient during training, I won't be surprised by patients' reactions. Cool!

Other happenings: I quest ever onward in my search of nachos. Last night we went to Cambridge Common (warning, music upon clicking link) between Harvard and Porter. An overall average experience with one horrific realization - their nachos do not come with sour cream. It must be ordered with guacamole on the side. GASP! Unacceptable. Luckily my palate was sated with some BerryLine afterward.

Personal realization: I dislike Woodchuck Cider. Strongbow is by far my favorite cider, served the way the Brits do - in a glass over ice.

This weekend I am embarking on an adventure. It's only up to Maine but that is out of state so hey, I'll take it! My ride is picking me up in an hour. I am packed and I have snacks. On the topic of snacks, I find the first thing I grab is often cheesy and crunchy. For years the obvious choice seemed to be Pirate's Booty. Ubiquitous, delicious, and the name made me giggle. However I soon came to realize that Pirate's Booty, like numerous other large, name brand companies, does not quite agree with my GI tract. I was lost! Distraught! Broken!

Then a man named Joe came to my rescue ... Trader Joe. He showed me a bag of cheesy crunchy twice as big, if not more, for half the price! Yes, I speak of Unburied Treasure. Yes, there is an unopened bag sitting behind me, as ready for this mini road trip as I am (3.5 hours.) And the flavor ... oh! If you hold any doubt over the viability of cheese dust as sustenance, look no further. Your questions have been answered.

Also I have chocolate covered raspberry sticks.

Later days

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Snack Attack!

Yesterday I had a dilemma: I craved artichoke.

This was a dilemma because not only is it hotter than Hades in my kitchen, even without the oven on, but I had a limited window between getting home from work and arriving at a very swanky hotel bar for a good friend's (Emrah's) send-off party.

Hasty solution: I sidled into Trader Joe's on my walk home from work to procure a log of garlic & herb goat cheese and a can of artichoke hearts. At home I had a box of hazelnut Nut Thins. Ta da! A simple, tasty, no-cook dinner to be consumed while watching an episode of Cowboy Bebop and drying my hair.

(By the way, did you know that any two note fanfare, such as ta da, is called a tush? Well, according to a friend's father who teaches music at Phillips Academy, anyway.)

The bar that required me to actually do my hair and put on a nice dress and heels was Alibi, in Boston's Liberty Hotel. Very posh. I broke my 31 days of sobriety with a sidecar, which I have christened as "my drink." For the time being, anyway. Caught up with my friends, got to bed at a reasonable hour, still managed to 'feel' that one drink this morning. Ah, liver ... I'll try to be kind to you, not put too many toxins into our system.

Later days

Monday, August 3, 2009

Home is the place where ...

I spent this past weekend in New York City. Having lived there for three and a half years, my NY weekends are not what you would expect. Mostly I spend time with my friends, walking around, playing video games, watching movies, and trying out new gluten-free fooderies.

This weekend, however, lacking somewhat in funds, I only revisited two favorites: Ivy Bakery by my friend's place in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn for a gluten-free carrot cake cupcake (still the best GF cupcakers I've found) for "breakfast" on Saturday and a huge, glorious dosa from Hampton Chutney Co. (the one on Amsterdam between 82nd & 83rd) on Sunday to consume on the bus ride back to Boston. yum.

Otherwise the most NY thing we did was re-explore St. John the Divine, the largest cathedral in the world and by far my favorite (it has peacocks! live ones!), and meander from there (110th and Amsterdam) to a Red Sox bar called Professor Thoms' on 2nd ave between 13th & 14th. a roughly 6 mile walk, as shady as we could make it in Saturday's sunshine.

The reason we ventured back to our old NYU neighborhood and a Sox bar (my friends consist of a Mets fan, a Phillies fan, and an agnostic) was to try their nachos. According to my online research, the nachos offered at this establishment are the best in NYC. So I considered it part of my sacred duty as chairperson of Nacho Quest 2009 Boston to dive into these nachos face first.

While excellent in the categories of portion size (it came on a pizza tray!), price, and salsa, they only fared average in cheese, sour cream, and extras. The chips themselves were sub par and while we received a lovely little pile of jalapeƱos there was an overall lack of flavor. A zestlessness, if you will.

If Nacho Quest 2009 has taught me only one thing so far, it is that the chances of finding nachos better than the ones already holding spots numbers 1 and 2 in my heart are slim to none. Still, we march on. There are many nacho providing establishments in The Greater Boston Area still on our quest. And I have compiled a short list for my NY friends to explore on their own, so that when I next visit mayhaps my nachoing experience will be somewhat improved.

If you care to test my favorite nachos, head over to

1.) Sunset Grill & Tap (or Sunset Cantina, since they're the same franchise) in Allston (off the B line) and order the South-of-the-Border Giant Fiesta Nachos. Now, to be fair, the straight-up Buenos Cheese Nachos are beautiful in their simplicity and still executed expertly but let's get real - you want a gastronomical challenge. The word "giant" is an understatement. The full plate can comfortably feed 4 average to somewhat-above-average eaters. Even if you are starving you could never hope to finish an entire half plate by yourself. Unless, maybe, you practiced. Unsurprisingly my go-to chili choice is the Veggie 3-bean. Delish!


2.) CBC (Cambridge Brewing Company) in Kendall Square: tri-color chips, top-notch distribution, amazing extras, including some seriously hot peppers if you like your bites to be super spicy!

And remember, readers, the motto of Nacho Quest 2009: If we didn't layer our nachos, what would separate us from the animals?

Meanwhile, back on the farm, I passed my Kaplan audition. The next step is a one-on-one interview to make sure the fit is right and to figure out where and when I can train. As long as it doesn't get in the way of the wedding or my Left Coast trip, I'm gold. Otherwise I can always try to get back into coaching.

Later days