Put a Dollar in the Kitty

In honor of the last-minute tickets we snapped up to see Steely Dan tonight at the Wang, Gaucho is on the Friday playlist.


Last time we visited this particular venue, it was through the kindness of some friends who brought us along to see Jeff Beck’s Les Paul tribute, an event so cool we all walked out with rockabilly hair, leather jackets, and scarlet lipstick. Even the guys!

Jeff Beck & Imelda May (photo from Gibson)

After the show we went to Shabu Zen in Chinatown for some hot pot – vats of spicy broth and plates of tissue-thin prime rib shavings, or if you go with the meatless option, bok choy, taro root, carrots, tofu skin, frozen tofu, fried tofu, enoki and shiitake mushrooms, savoy cabbage, and so on. We went whole hog with the accompaniments, little dishes of fish paste, soy sauce, minced garlic, scallions, and hot peppers that you mix and pour over the noodles and broth.  A salt bomb, yes, but it washes down well with extra tall Heinekens and hot green tea.

Bananas Spectacular

Here’s a revelation: The best time to shop at Whole Foods is 8:45 p.m. on a Wednesday.  Here’s another revelation: Whole Foods in East Fenway has upped the ante with their new banana display.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  They’ve dedicated at least 20 square feet of what is a very space-limited store to begin with solely to the banana display.  Ten square feet of conventional, another ten of organic. It’s a veritable banana jungle!

This is only one quarter of the Banana Spectacle.

So you should probably hit Whole Foods up at 8:45 p.m. on a Wednesday, because that means you’ll only have to scare away one and a half to two timid people from grabbing a bunch because they don’t want to get in your multi-angled shots of this spectacular spectacular.

The other cool thing about going during the off hours is that only the fish counter guy will witness you spill two scoops of bulk bin quinoa and Israeli couscous on the floor. However, it also means that when the custodian comes around with the broom and you’re still standing there sheepishly, there is no mass of harried shopper bodies to shield you from his (extremely justified) glare.

There are a couple of staples we get at the store that I’ve yet to find elsewhere (with minimal searching):

  • Robusto cheese: Goes well with everything and is interspersed with little salty crunchy bits that I love in gouda-style cheeses. Try a few room-temperature chunks with a McIntosh or Pink Lady apple at that 4 p.m. slump time in the workday and you’ll be very pleased.
  • Redwood Hill Farm Goats Milk  Yogurt: Will blow your mind. It’s a thinner, tangy, more liquid-y yogurt. We’ll eat it for breakfast mixed with a spoonful of red currant, raspberry, or fig jam, wherever sour cream is called for, as a butter substitute in baking, and dolloped on soups.
  • Batch ice cream: You know how if a baby is stuck under a car, the mom can get a surge of adrenaline strong enough to lift the car and extricate said baby?  That’s what happens when I see there are only a few spoonfuls left of Batch and have to fight my husband for it.  I always win.  They sell Batch at a few places, but all you non-Massholes are out of luck – you won’t find it out of state. If you to Boston, try the Cinnamon & Chocolate Bits or the Mocha Chip.

I realize that shopping at Whole Foods can be a little controversial (Whole Foods is COR-POR-ATE). And it’s not cheap. We go because we know we’ll find organic versions of just about everything, the staples list above, a variety of bulk whole grains and flours, etc. When they’re open, we get our fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs from farmers’ markets. There are some amazing local companies (Batch included) that peddle their wares around town too.  I guess our bottom line is – shop local, then shop organic, then shop Russo’s.  But go to Whole Foods for the bananas.  You won’t be disappointed.

First You Take the Graham

The other day I was driving behind a small SUV with the largest dog I’ve ever seen in my life happily seated in the way back.  (You know the “way back” – the area on a non-sedan car that is the last row of seats or is simply a storage area that can’t quite be called a trunk.  That area your parents might or might not have spread a blanket down on top of suitcases, and where you may or may not have napped on 6-hour vacation car trips, exhausted from reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School (There is no Miss Zarves! There is no 19th floor!) over a walkie talkie that was radioing to the driver and shotgun rider.  That “way back.”).  (And while I’m at it, if anyone can weigh in on the proper order of ” ” and ( ) and . and capitals in a run-on sentence, please save me from grammatical purgatory).

This dog was of epic proportions, bigger than the striped Great Dane (“Tiger”) that roamed freely around our 1995 neighborhood and would patiently endure our attempts to straddle and ride him like a pony before sauntering off to swallow cats, raccoons, other dogs, whole.

This dog was about as big as the kids in The Sandlot imagine James Earl Jones’ dog behind the fence to be.  I would know, because the couple two floors below us in our apartment building have a dog just like it, but even their dog isn’t as big as this one.

Was that anticlimactic? Wish the picture did the size of this dog justice. I will say that I didn’t take this while driving, unless idling at a red light that had just turned green counts as “driving.”  Also, we need to dust our dash.

What I Would Give for a Heart-Shaped Swimming Pool

Please Indian Summer, be gone. It’s 79 degrees out. It should be 63, at most.  Sweaters, tweed, corduroys, jeans. I long to usher you out with puffy vests and thicker weight socks.  Hot soups and hard-shell squashes. Briskness.  I have a personal rule not to buy decorative gourds or cook anything pumpkin until I’m at least wearing long sleeves.

Leaves are changing color and people are in tank tops. Even though it’s Boston, and nearly October. Last night we used the window unit A/C in the bedroom, and still woke up sweating. This is almost as bad as when it snows in late April.

I take that last one back.  It’s not worth angering the gods of the everlasting northeast winter. But alright already, where is fall?

Now for a non-sequitur.  This song (and accompanying dance moves) is pretty groovy, and at least if the lady gets hot, she can dive into in a heart-shaped pool, which I’m pretending isn’t a hot tub.  Make way, swan boats, I’m coming in.

“Kiss Them For Me,” Siouxsie and the Banshees

Two Years

Two years ago today we got hitched with some of our closest, wonderful family and friends there to share in the day and throw confetti at us. And help everything run smoothly – a trillion thanks for that.  Especially to the moms and dads. The rehearsal dinner was exquisite. The speeches were killer (both nights!). The dance floor was hot, sweaty, and joyous. The band was pure amazing. Even the grandmas were moshing, albeit in their own way, to a polka and “Yellow Rose of Texas.”  Two of the numerous uncles, one a Jesuit priest, got up to the mic and whistled and sang Otis Redding. There was a spontaneous outburst of Jets and Sharks song and snapping during picture hour. The rain didn’t matter a whit, and crammed in the back of a car with loads of tissue paper, abandoned sportscoats, umbrellas, and my huge rumpled dress, we waved to a school bus full of co-revellers en route back to the hotels. I didn’t even taste the cake. I married my best friend. It was the best day of  my life.

Because this is a (somewhat) food-centric blog, I figured I’d put up the menu from the evening. I remember the polenta as being delicious; everything else is a lovely blur.

Sashimi Tuna Cones: Spicy Ahi tuna blended with ginger and cilantro in a crisp shell
Panzanella Spoons: Cherry tomato, English cucumber, perlini mozzarella, basil and micro-croutons tossed in a light red wine vinaigrette
Water chestnuts wrapped in bacon (you have to get something wrapped in bacon. Water chestnuts were the compromise).
Crispy Eggplant with Minted Tomato Confit and Goat Cheese: Small rounds of eggplant rolled in seasoned Japanese panko breadcrumbs and fried, then topped with diced tomato, julienne of mint and a small mound of goat cheese
Tapas Shrimp: Jumbo shrimp sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and lime juice
The Love Note: A phyllo envelope of Asian pear, goat cheese and caramelized shallots
Slow Cooked Duck: Slow-cooked duck served on a corn pancake and topped with grilled pineapple chutney
Pistachio Chicken: Chunks of white meat chicken coated with pistachios and finished with Sambucca liquor

Salad of field greens with balsamic vinaigrette and toasted pine nuts
Rosemary chicken or Moroccan-style braised brisket of beef
Soft parmesan polenta and string beans with toasted hazelnuts and shallots

Breakfast of (Happily Aging) Champions

Once upon a time, when we went to a concert, we were usually late for the first set, dancing like fools through the second, and roaring with everyone else for an encore after the third. We’d jostle with the clumsy crowd for a cab to head to the next night spot, united in musical camaraderie, ears ringing straight through until Tuesday.

These days, things are a bit different. We don’t always row-hop.  We pick our favorite beer on draft, instead of the cheapest. We wear EARPLUGS.  The dancing like fools part is still de rigueur — this past Friday night several members of a much younger generation gawked at the Mr.’s moves, rather than the other way around. And I don’t expect that part will change until osteoporosis sets in.  But we left before the encore, smug in the wisdom of catching an early cab in the pouring rain instead of fighting the masses for one.  I will admit the smugness wrestled some with embarrassment as we weaved through the rows, because we all know it’s a little lame to leave before the true end.  Especially when it’s just barely 11 p.m.  Especially because the place the cab is taking you to is…your apartment.

Younger me would have scoffed at current me and the changes that have taken place in only a few years.  But current me gets to wake up to the smell of frying bacon and the Mr. wielding a cast iron skillet at the stove.  Younger me probably would have been at the dining hall with a limp and rubbery bacon, egg and cheese, served up with a side of splitting headache.  Both of us would have consumed our breakfast in pajamas though. Some things never change.

Breakfast of Champions
(by the Mr.)

Extra virgin olive oil
2 strips good quality bacon, chopped into small pieces

1/2 of a medium-sized onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 small to medium potatoes, in small dice
Red pepper flakes (hefty pinch)
Salt and pepper
Cilantro (if desired)

Heat cast iron skillet. Add olive oil, and when it is warm, add garlic and red pepper flakes.  Let cook , and add bacon before the garlic starts to brown.  Turn heat to low, and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add onion, a pinch of salt, and continue to cook at low heat until onion is translucent and bacon is crispy.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the contents of the pan to a small bowl, leaving the oils behind.  Add potato, and cook on low heat.  Be patient at this step – let the potato sit without stirring so it forms a good crust.  It will release from the pan when the crust is formed.  Once it has, stir and continue to cook until most of the potato dice sides have a brown edge.

Add the garlic, bacon and onion mixture back into the pan and turn the heat to medium.  Crack three eggs on top and sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on the eggs.  Continue to cook until the yolks have begun to set, approximately 1.5-2 minutes.

Finish cooking under a preheated broiler until the whites are no longer opaque (approximately 2 minutes).  This should yield slightly runny yolks.

Serve with some hot sauce on the side, and chopped cilantro on top, if desired.  A few more strips of bacon on the side won’t hurt the deliciousness level either.

To make this healthier, don’t eat a lot of crap for the rest of the day, and/or serve with something you made in the juicer. Also, don’t worry about it. It’s Saturday morning.

(Sidenote: The Pretty Lights concert was good, once you overlooked all the kids in bunny ears and tutus, which is easy to do when you’ve crafted a belt for yourself out of reject glow-sticks.  Pretty Lights does a decent, slightly frustrating remix of Pink Floyd’s “Time.”  I guess I am getting older — I kept wanting the record scratches to stop and the actual song to continue, because why remix genius?)