Tuesday, January 26, 2010
On Saturday, I went down to San Carlos to help my dear friend Becka (and her husband and daughter) prepare for their soon-to-be-born baby (less than three weeks! ack!). We took down and organized their Christmas decorations (plastic storage bins! hooray!), donated a giant pile of miscellaneous items (books! clothes! no longer in the backyard under a tarp!), and sorted through baby clothes (0-3 month onesies! teeny little booties!). Oh, and we ate. Going to their house always means good food, and this weekend was no exception. We snacked on smoked salmon while preparing a whole roasted chicken in a clay pot (my first time doing this). When dinnertime arrived, we also had king crab legs (because, why not, right?) and a salad with sautéed leeks (I think - I didn't make 'em, but they were green and caramelized and good). The crab legs were slightly frozen in places, but man were they good...even though I may have cut my finger trying to break open a sharp claw.
Anyway, back to the chicken (pictured pre-oven here). I'd never heard of this Clay Pot Chicken thing, but apparently the clay pot keeps in the moisture in a special way. I had never roasted a whole chicken on my own before at all...so I can't say whether or not it is better than any old roasting pan, but Becka assures me that it is. And this chicken was so moist and delicious that I'm going to take her word on it.
We laid Señorita Chickeña on a comfy bed of onions, carrots and potatoes, stuffed some lemon (and onion, carrot and potato and herbs) in her crevasse (sorry, Chickeña), and slid some butter and lemons under her skin (oh, Chickeña, you buttery belle). We added some lemon slices to her knees, and a little pat of butter...down there...just for a little extra sump'n sump'n (is that how you spell the abbreviation of "something something"? Why does that even exist?). Or maybe we did it to protect her modesty. She's a modest little chicken, our Señorita Chickeña. But boy was she delicious after an hour and a half in the oven! Thank you for feeding us with your yummy, buttery goodness.
And yes, I know it should probably be Chiqueña, but I liked it better this way. And it's not like Chiqueña is any more right. I think.
I just ate a nice, cold piece (I love cold pizza) as a little "what should we have for dinner" snack, and I took a picture for you because I know you wanted to know. Mmmmm. I believe my exact words upon finishing this little slice were, "Damn, that's a good crust!!" Such a delicious pizza.
Anyway, we didn't eat until 10pm (we started at around 8pm), but it was really fun. The yeast didn't do that crazy foamy thing it usually does (I attributed it to the fact that it was in a big bowl instead of a smaller cup, but who knows?). The dough didn't quite double in size. We didn't know exactly what we were doing when it came to kneading (I am a terrible kneader...even though Reed taught me when we made this bread a while back, I never really feel confident that I'm doing it right or achieving the proper result). We just kept adding flour until it wasn't super sticky anymore, and when we figured it was probably done, we called it done. And you know what? It tasted awesome.
I can't remember the last time I made pizza dough from scratch (I usually just buy a bag of dough from Trader Joe's and pretend that since it wasn't cooked it's "homemade), but I will definitely do this from now on. It was just so good! Light and airy, with a really delicious taste...oh it was good. Next time, perhaps we will make the dough the day before, but whatever. We had a good time and ate delicious pizza. Oh, did I mention that we used the leftover pasta sauce from the other night (the one here and here) as our sauce? We did, and oh boy it was yummy. We also used spicy Italian sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, this ridiculous Reggiano and Cougar Gold. Oh, and some of the onions that were leftover from the pasta sauce. It was just plain good.
The recipe makes two pizzas, but we put one of the balls of dough (post-rising, post-kneading, pre-rolling) in saran wrap and a ziplock freezer bag and are freezing it for later. I hope it stays good. I may freeze that pasta sauce too, just to have on hand for when we make the pizza. Which will probably be next week. Or sooner. Maybe we'll bring it to Tahoe this weekend (oh yeah, we're trying to go to Tahoe this weekend).
It's only Tuesday, and somehow I am in a good mood. Must be all this rain! :-)
Anyway, I have to pick a new winner, so here goes.
And the winner is...Susie Cagle! Hey! I know her! I can hunt her down to make sure she gets her prize!
Thanks again for playing, everyone! I hope you stick around! :)
Once again, the contest winner was chosen by the Random Number Generator, who does not know how to choose favorites! Because it is a website! And it has no brain! I should not have called it "who."
Friday, January 22, 2010
- Canape of Endive, Smoked Chicken, Pear, Blue Cheese & Toasted Walnuts
- Winter Fruits & Arugula Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette & Goat Cheese
- Pan Fried Leg of Lamb with Rosemary & Garlic
- Seafood Linguini with Saffron Sauvingnon Cream Sauce
- Banana Flambe with Rum Toasted Coconut & Pomegranate Molasses
Holy cow, that food was delicious. Very, very delicious. The lamb was my favorite part, and I am not usually a lamb person! I typically find it a little too gamey (that's not the right word - too rich, perhaps). Also, I think of little lambs, and I get all sad and not wanting to eat them. However, this was ridiculous. SO freaking good. It was actually made with thyme, I think (not rosemary), and had a white wine mustard sauce that was just ridiculous when you added back the pan juices from the lamb. Holy cow. Or holy sheep, I should say.
The photo, taken by Will on his camera phone (what amazing quality! ha.), is me making banana flambe. For the second time. That's right, I liked it so much, I got to do it a second time. I definitely want to try this at home...impress some dinner guests, perhaps? It's way less scary than I thought it would be, and I never would have tried it on my own without having done it in a class-setting first.
All of the food was great, and we learned how to cook mussels too (and to know how to buy them and know if they are ok to eat), which is another thing I'd been wanting to learn. The endive situation was extremely easy, but it looked pretty and tasted wonderful. Smoked chicken, you are my new friend. I will buy you all the time from now on. Yum.
Anyway, if you are in the Berkeley area, I highly recommend these guys. The class was really fun, and it's a great deal for the money - you not only get a class, but also a delicious, gourmet meal made from fresh and mostly local ingredients. In our case, it was a 5-course meal with seafood and lamb! Such a deal! Did I mention it was a lot of fun?
My one complaint is that they spent more time than (I thought) was necessary explaining everything at the beginning, and I wished we could have had more time to do hands-on cooking instead. Maybe smaller classes would help? It was kind of difficult to move around to try cooking at each of the different stations, even though you were allowed/supposed to. That said, I would definitely go back here again!
Hopefully I will have another opportunity to give something away to you fine readers! Have a wonderful Friday!
*Contest winner was chosen by the Random Number Generator, who shows no bias or mercy! Not sure why you would need mercy, but I thought it sounded right. The RNG shows no mercy! Muah ha ha.
** This kind of humor could only mean that today is Friday.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Seriously though, it is very weird to have no idea what it's like outside. It's one thing to not go outdoors during your work day (except lunch, which should always be eaten outside when possible), but it's another thing entirely to not see the sky. I'll be taking my lunch break near a window (hello third floor lobby that is mostly uninhabited!) today so I can check out the trees bent by wind and the water coming down from the skies (if it's still raining, that is). Until then, I will listen to my Bird and the Bee Pandora station, because it puts me in a good mood. Tra la la.
Anyway, according to the guy who just walked in the door, the rain has stopped but "gosh could just about start up any minute now." It was raining like crazy last night, and when I got to work at 9am. I've heard that parts of Los Angeles (and Whittier and Orange County) have been issued a tornado warning. Excuse me? LA? Hm. Crazy Aunt Purl posted some crazy pictures (from her TV) from yesterday...ah Los Angeles in the rain, I miss you so...not at all. That is a city not built for rain.
Berkeley is not too much better; but at least it's kind of built on a hill, so most of the water runs down towards the Bay. That's my theory anyway. Like it or lump it (one of my favorite underused phrases whose origins are a mystery to me).
Because I cannot enjoy this awesome weather from my isolated, windowless (but nonetheless classy and nice) office, I will share with you this video from my friend Kate. Because not being able to enjoy the stormy weather makes me feel like a crying puppy.
Monday, January 18, 2010
All the details are here.
Also, if you have not yet submitted yourself for the Le Creuset Giveaway, what are you waiting for?
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
The Craigslist-Renter Problem:
I’ve started casually looking for apartments with a friend of mine, and I’m running into the same problem many of you are:
- Craigslist is the best-worst place to find an apartment.
- There’s a pile of spam/duplicate listings
- Many listings are misleading (at best)
So while the Craig-team has clearly created a very lean, useful tool which all of us are using, it goes for the lowest common denominator and doesn’t really fit my needs as a guy looking for an apartment to rent. They’ve gone with the catch-all model: What’s useful for selling your bike, or finding a fetishist to bang should be equally useful for finding a place to live, right?
So I’ve started thinking and doodling and I’d like to share what I’ve come up with for feedback.
Problem 1: Accountability. There isn’t any. Sure you can flag a spammer, but the spamhead can just add a new listing every day for his shitty apartment. He can say it’s $500. But $500 what? $500 per room? The whole apartment? Per month/year/week/day?
What if everyone were accountable? What if landlords had to create an account with a username? What if renters past, present, and future could rate them and refer them? What if only one listing per apartment was allowed at any one time? Sure this might scare away a bit of the volume that Craigslist has, but that volume is just noise.
Problem 2: Bait-and-switch. Spamhead has listed an apartment in Venice. It’s 3 bedrooms, listed at $2,400 a month. You live in the Valley. You drive through traffic to go look at the place, and the place is a decrepit shithole. Thanks for wasting my time dude.
Photos should be mandatory. Video walkthroughs should be encouraged. And if I go to see a place with my camera, I should be able to upload my photos to the listing. Imagine that.
Problem 3: I don’t want to start a search from scratch every time I log into Craigslist. I lose what I was doing, and the simple “bookmarking” they have on the site is horrid.
I want to be able to save place, flag places, map multiple places… I want to be able to import addresses of my friends and family from my address book and see where they are in relation to my new place. I want to be able to calculate the average distance of my potential new apartment from my girlfriend’s apartment, my best friend James’ apartment, and the nearest Apple Store.
If I’m a biker, I want to see what’s within biking distance of the place I’m looking at. Is there a movie theater? A great bar? Yelp can certainly tell me, but why should I have to open a new browser tab and do the math for myself. I want to click on a potential apartment and have it tell me that it’s walking distance to my girlfriend’s place and 2.1 miles from the nearest In-N-Out.
Problem 4: I’m moving to a new city and don’t know what the renters laws are, or if I’m getting ripped off on the price.
Aggregated renters rights laws based on where you’re looking, plus a realtime average of rent prices based on my search parameters in a given area. I’m looking for a spacious 3 bedroom in Culver City: what are my neighbors paying?
Problem 5: I’ve found a few potential places, looked at them, talked to the landlord, and now I’ve got to fill out 5 overly complex renters applications and undergo a credit check.
Hey High School Seniors: remember the common application? What if I already had a pre-filled renters application, a verified credit score, and a references from past landlords saying how dandy of a guy I am? What if I could just click a button, and presto, the landlord has all my shit instantly? From the landlord’s POV, what if I could fire up my little app and get a list of all the potential applicants, their credit ratings and referrals? I could just sort a list, pick the kid with the best credit score and references, and be on my effing way.
In a world where we’re drowning in data, Craigslist does not make it simple for me to plug in specific, renter-oriented parameters for me to search by. Sure they’ve got price parameters and ZIP codes, and “only show listings with photos” (which are usually just jpg footers from a douchey realtor embedded in the listing).
But what about all these great APIs lying around out there? What about Google Maps integration? Facebook Connect? Yelp? Wikipedia? Happy Hour App? (Had to sneak that in there.)
This really isn’t complicated stuff people. Someone just needs to say “enough” with Craigslist, I don’t give a rip about missed fucking connections, I just want to find a nice place to live with the least amount of hassle possible.
If you build it, they will come.
Please let me know what you think. Have I left anything out? I love thought experiments, and I’m open to anyone that has ideas that is fed up with CL and wants a simpler, more elegant solution to forking over huge gobs of money to people wealthier than me.
We need your help!Posted on January 13, 2010, 3:21 pm, by admin.
Anyway, I thought you all would enjoy something from the cookware area of their offerings, and here it is:
Here we have a Le Creuset Stoneware baking dish set! One is 10.5"x7" and the other is 7"x5" - both are "Caribbean," in color, which is slightly brighter in color than the one pictured above. The color is closer to this pot (below), though this is not what I am giving away.
Pretty color, eh? I, personally, am in love. They make the most beautiful and wonderful things, they really do. They're basically the Holy Grail of cooking, as far as I'm concerned (bad analogy, but you know what I mean). I have a few small things, and I would totally want to win these for myself, but I, benevolent being that I am, decided to give them away to you instead. Lucky you!
If you would like to win this fabulous set, please comment with your name and email address so I can contact you if you win. I will use a random number generator to pick the winner on Friday January 22nd.
*Note that I am not receiving any financial compensation for this promotion. I am receiving the microplane in exchange for my review of it, but not for offering the promotional Le Creuset giveaway. I will never EVER EVER write a misleading or dishonest review on this blog (or anywhere) in exchange for goods or services, and I will only promote or support companies whose services I condone. If I do receive a product in exchange for a review, I will disclose that information, as I have done above. Thanks!
Thursday, January 7, 2010
- Learn to ride a bike. I am not embarrassed about my inability to ride a bike, just inconvenienced. I don't want to be limited or held back or excluded from activities because of my lack of this one silly skill. Yes, I learned when I was younger. But I didn't ride frequently as a kid (nobody, like, rides bikes in, like, The San Fernando Valley) and when I tried a few years ago, it was a complete failure. See Amsterdam 2005. Bad times. Just ask my sister or my cousin Casey. Anyway, I would like to re-learn so that I can feel confident and comfortable on a 2-wheeler. I want to ride a bike around the Yosemite Valley floor this summer. I am planning to take a class at REI (appropriately titled "How to Ride a Bike) on February 7th. I will let you know how it goes.
- Save more money. It's been a while since I talked about personal finance on this blog! My personal finances took a year off in 2009, what with the pay cut and the unemployment and all. I didn't go into further debt (unless you count interest that accrued while I was on student loan forbearance), and I didn't diminish my savings (ok, but only by about $400 total), but I did not save. At all. I did not put one dollar into my savings account. This is ok, because I needed that money to live. Now that I am getting back on my feet, here is my plan:
- Get my checking account to the point where I have $600 minimum in there at all times as a cushion. Why $600? $500 didn't seem like enough, and $1,000 seemed like too much (though it would be great, and sure, I'll aim for it, but $600 minimum)
- Start putting at least $100 into savings each month/build my emergency fund. They say you should have 6 months of living expenses saved, and right now I've got 2 or 3. $100/month is not very much, and I should really put about $250 (slightly more than 10% of my take-home pay), but I'm going to start with $100 a month, and here's why:
- Start paying more than the minimum on my outstanding loans. I currently pay roughly $140/month for my student loan and $260/month for my car payment. I'd like to round both of these numbers up to $200 and $300 (or even $350) respectively to pay off the principal on my loans quicker. I only have about 2 years left on my car payment, but if I can bring that down to a year and a half? Less? I currently owe $4,935.60 on my car and over $18,000 in student loans. That's if I paid them off today. I've got a ways to go. But if I can up my monthly contributions, I'll pay them off faster, right?
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Today's fun topic: Biotics.
I think it is very funny that I am loading up on probiotics to counter the side effects of the antibiotics I'm taking right now. It makes sense (probiotic=opposite of antibiotic), but it still feels silly. In case you don't know, there are some...unfortunate side effects that ladies go through when they take strong antibiotics (like the kind I'm taking for those giant, red, painful, under-the-skin pimples I tend to get sometimes). Basically, as my doctor explained it to me, the antibiotics get rid of ALL the bacteria, good and bad. This means that you get *certain types of* infections very, very easily. Lady-parts are very sensitive. They do not like infections. But when you get these infections, and you have to keep taking your antibiotics (say, if it's a 1-month prescription and you are only 2 weeks into it), you have to take a bunch of probiotics to add some good bacteria back into your system. This is how my doctor explained it to me, and how I explained it to the Berkeley Bowl cashier when he asked me what probiotics were. Now don't you feel smarter?
So yeah. Now I am taking a daily probiotic pill, and eating probiotic yogurt, and also taking a one-dose megapill for the infection. Hopefully the new probiotics will battle the antibiotics and my immune system will prevail!
Aren't human bodies weird?