My refined palate makes life SO difficult. Harrumph harrumph harrumph.

We haven’t had great luck with restaurants these past few days.  We did go out for Italian for John’s birthday (yay us for going out!), but the food at the restaurant we picked (which was supposed to be a good one) was just okay.  Then for lunch the next day, well, we had brunch the next day, but even the bottomless mimosas couldn’t make up for dry fried chicken with boring gravy over biscuits (the biscuits were fine).

But yesterday, we were downtown in the evening to check out some synthesizer stuff for John, and we had dinner at this Korean place I’ve had my eye on.  THIS place is good.  No cooking at the table, but hey, that’s less work for us.  I had bibimbap and John had bulgogi, and everything was really good.

I am relieved.  A string of disappointing restaurants is almost as bad as a string of disappointing books.  But really, it’s a sign that I should go to the grocery store.  If I’m going to be disappointed by a meal, it might as well be one I cooked myself.

Donuts and milkshakes and (maybe) Italian food, oh my!

It is John’s birthday!  For Birthday Breakfast, I brought home Dunkin Donuts AND Starbucks because I am a devoted wife, and also because I can easily pass by both places on my way home from running, but definitely more because I am a devoted wife.

Dunkin Donuts has renamed all of their donuts for Halloween, and I am totally here for that.  I got the Wicked Chocolate for John and the Boston Scream for me.  I was tempted by the Ghoulish Glazed, but I saved my extra sweet calories for my ridiculous Starbucks coffee.  John also went ridiculous for coffee today – I got him a white chocolate frappucino, which was made even more of a milkshake than usual because I think they forgot to put any coffee in it.  Milkshakes and donuts for Birthday Breakfast!

Birthday lunch was brilliant blissful buttery birthday banana bread, although that was a near no-show last night.  I got all the ingredients out, realized I didn’t have brown sugar, threw a tantrum inside my head because I REALLY didn’t want to go to the store for the 39th time this week, and figured out that we barely had enough normal sugar to make it work as long as we didn’t need it for tea or coffee today AND (pause while I breathe) I knew we wouldn’t need it because I had the Birthday Breakfast plans all figured out.

Dinner tonight is still TBD, since John is still working, but we’re thinking some Italian place in Federal Hill.  Or, if he works too much later, we’ll abandon the silly idea of going outside (which, let’s face it, is crazy talk), order in something delicious and stupid, and try again tomorrow night.  WE’LL SEE.

Pesky pedestrian pickles

The most recent two pictures on my phone right now are of pickle jars.  I accidentally bought sweet bread and butter pickles the other day, but I didn’t realize it until I took a bite of one at lunch today.  I don’t hate them, but I MUCH prefer dill pickles, and when you’re expecting to taste dill and you get whatever that sweet taste is instead?  SUPER disappointing.  (My Twitter world agrees.)  So I went back to the store today, the third day in a row, but not for that.  Well, not only for that.  Friday is John’s birthday, so I needed wrapping paper, a card, and, most importantly, a Carvel ice cream cake.  He LOVES Carvel ice cream cakes, so I’m off the hook for baking every year.

I also bought bread and pickles.  Dill pickles.  Aaaannd that’s my new secret agent name.

Speaking of baking, I have two overripe bananas, so during one of my 16 trips to the store this week, I picked up flour and baking soda, and now I need to make banana bread.  Maybe I can convince John it’s birthday banana bread.  Buttery birthday banana bread.  Blissful buttery birthday banana bread.  Brilliant blissful buttery birthday banana bread.

Food that isn’t real food

John thinks I should write about how I tried Drake’s Devil Dogs today and how they transformed my life, but that wouldn’t be true, and I would never lie to you.  I did try one today, but it did not transform my life.  It tasted like every other chocolate and cream Hostess food I’ve ever had, and (don’t hate me) I gotta say those aren’t my favorite completely synthetic treats.  Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies are the winner for me (which is kind of odd, since I refuse to eat oatmeal cookies).  Runner up: Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls.  Apparently, I prefer Little Debbie to Hostess.  Good to know.

 

Too sweet? Too dry? I can’t tell.

When we visited Seattle in May, we stopped in this sort-of-ice-cream-parlor for dessert one night because John had an ice cream craving.  He got a sundae, probably with peanut butter in it, and I got prosecco in one of those old-fashioned wide-mouth champagne glasses with a scoop of blueberry sorbet in it.  It was delicious.

Since it’s the perfect summer treat, I tried it at home tonight.  Burgers for dinner, sorbet and prosecco for dessert.

It didn’t turn out so well.  I mean, it was okay…sort of.  The sorbet (I got raspberry) was good with the prosecco, but the prosecco was not good with the sorbet.  I’m not sure what went wrong, and I’m not sure I want to find out enough to try it again.

It was a nice idea, though.

I love summer

You want to know what I’m doing right now?  Right this very second?  Well, I’m typing on my laptop (obvs), sitting in a chair in my backyard, with corn on the grill (John says it’s a barbecue because it’s charcoal not gas, but I don’t think that distinction has anything to do with reality), soon to be joined by steak (the corn, not me – the steak will not be joining me until I eat it, and then we two will become one), listening to John strum his banjo.  The only thing that would make this better, right this very second, is if I were drinking wine instead of water, but I’m doing the smart thing and avoiding those empty calories tonight because I did not avoid the empty calories of buttered banana bread at lunchtime.  Gotta make choices, and I choose banana bread and corn and steak.  The wine will still be there next week.  Or when the banana bread is gone, whichever comes first.  Willpower!

Because pie

John and I are slowly eating our way through the largest lemon cream pie I have ever seen, thanks to Amber and Brian who left it with us after the four of us were unable to make much of a dent in it Friday night.  The two of us, classy couple that we are, have been eating it straight out of the pie plate for dessert every night since then, and I think we finally crossed halfway last night (night 3).  This thing is a monster.  A 10-inch, 3-inch deep, creamy, lemony, delicious monster.

I’ll miss it when it’s gone.

My unsolicited ad for Johnson Berry Farm

The first time I ever went to Seattle was in February 2003, on a 3-day liberty call when my ship was on its way to Alaska.  It was cold, but crystal clear – no rain.  I don’t remember all of the details of that trip (I mean, it was 14 years ago), but I remember going to Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, I remember the crab legs (more on those another day), and I remember Johnson Berry Farm.  They’ve got a table in the market, selling jam and preserves, and they hand out free samples.  I don’t remember exactly what I tried that day, but they had these pepper jellies that were SO GOOD.  So good that when I found out a coworker was going to Seattle for work in 2010, I asked her to find them and bring some back to me.  Of course, I couldn’t remember the name of the farm, but I figured she could find them.  She DID find them, and she didn’t bring me anything, but the name got me to their website and I ordered some.  That was 7 years ago.

This past Saturday morning, John and I wandered the entire multi-story market, sticking our heads in just about every store (and buying books in 3 out of 4 bookstores – I’m almost all set for book club the rest of the summer), and then I stopped dead in front of the Johnson Berry Farm table.  All that build-up and I had COMPLETELY forgotten about them.  At no time while planning this trip or walking through the market did I think to myself, “Hey, remember those pepper jellies you really liked?  They’re here and you should get some.”  Nope.  Didn’t even cross my mind.  I was so surprised and SO HAPPY.  And I gotta tell you – they’re still really really good.  We bought three: two types of blackberry and (this is my favorite one EVER) raspberry habanero jam.  They have all kinds and they have LOTS of spicy ones.  Go!  Order!  Enjoy!

Johnson Berry Farm

Cream cheese is the BEST

I went to a potluck Sunday afternoon, but up until Saturday, I was a complete loss as to what to bring.  I would normally aim for dessert, or cheese and crackers, or chips and salsa, but people had already claimed those (and LOTS of people were bringing dessert).  I wanted to bring real food and somehow still avoid any real cooking.  Guess what’s helpful when you find yourself in this kind of predicament?  GOOGLE.  Who knew?

So I googled “potluck ideas” and I landed on this Appetizer Tortilla Pinwheels thing.  Guys, these are SO GOOD.  Cream cheese, sour cream, cheese, green chiles, scallions, a little garlic, all wrapped in a tortilla and sliced into bite-size pieces – HEAVEN.  I left out the olives (because gross) and doubled the cheese (because duh), and I want to eat them all day, every day.

But aside from this delicious discovery, I don’t like potlucks.  Too much pressure.  Like, if you end up having to take your food back home, you failed.  Plus you end up tasting other people’s mystery dishes (because nothing is EVER labeled) and what if you got something awful you can’t finish and it turns out you’re sitting next to the person who made it?  Better choke it all down – you never know who you might offend.  And I live in Eugene, which means that fully a third of the dishes were vegan.  Non-dairy cheese is NOT CHEESE, PEOPLE.

Chunks don’t make anything better. Unless they’re chocolate.

Today did not start out well.  I had a 9am meeting (that’s 6am for me), which is never a good start, even if the meeting goes fine (like this one did).  John went out for coffee, but he brought me back the wrong drink.  I’m sure he ordered the right thing, but what came back was dark, bitter, and thick like mud.  Blech.  So I made tea, and I discovered that the milk was bad when it poured chunks into my mug.  After I managed not to throw up on the counter, I tried again with the new jug of milk – thank goodness I went to the store on Sunday.  My third attempt at caffeine was successful.

Then work was weird – a couple of projects aren’t going well, and it’s unsettling.  On top of that, my work computer decided to break Outlook, so the last hour of my day was spent IMing with IT while handling conference calls on my phone with no computer support.  Not fun.

The day got better.  My riding lesson was GREAT.  Smooth sailing.  I had control of Tigger, and everything just felt easier.  Then I walked in the door to the aroma of the brisket I had so thoughtfully put in the oven several hours before.  It’s a rainy, slightly chilly evening – perfect for brisket.  All weather is perfect for brisket.

I am a problem solver

I’m pretty sure I have complained about the breakfast place that is within easy walking distance from our house and is really good but has TERRIBLE coffee, but I can’t find the post.  I’ll complain about it now.  There’s a really good breakfast place within easy walking distance from our house, but it has TERRIBLE coffee.  It’s not about how they’re brewing it.  We really don’t like the beans or the roast or whatever it is about a specific kind of coffee that makes it taste a certain way.  (Their Bloody Mary is also bad.)

It’s a real bummer since it keeps us from going there all that often.  Today we decided to go anyway, and I have solved the terrible coffee problem!  They also serve chai lattes, and THOSE are DAMN good.  Yay for not screwing up a drink they’re buying premade from somewhere and heating up for me!

Goal achieved

I got up this morning, trying not to think too hard about my actual age, and set ONE goal for the day.

I WILL ONLY EAT SWEET THINGS TODAY.

Breakfast: I went to Allan Bros (the local coffee place about six blocks from the house with the view of the prison) and had a French Toast latte and a giant eclair.  I mean, this thing was enormous.  It was about 3/4 the length of my forearm.  I read my book, I messed around on my laptop, and I went home in time to gather up John and head for lunch.

Lunch: We went to Mom’s Pies and had a slice of pie each.  Me: berry medley (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries).  John: apple.  They were out of ice cream, which was a little disappointing, but the pies were really good.  We got there just in time – the owner is closing the store in a few weeks in favor of his wholesale business.  He said we can buy them frozen to bake at home from a couple of local grocery stores so we won’t be completely bereft.

Dinner: Cake.  John baked me a cake (yellow cake, chocolate frosting), and that’s what I ate for dinner.   With a glass of milk, of course.  It was delicious.

All sugar, all day.  Happy birthday to me!

My future as a hobo. Almost.

It snowed most of today and then sleeted the rest of the day.  John and I did NOT go to the grocery store yesterday (which should surprise no one who knows us), so we had to venture out for dinner.  We got all bundled up (temps were in the high 20s) and headed for downtown and the nearest food, but we got stalled at the train tracks by the SLOWEST TRAIN EVER.

Aaaaannnnndddd then it stopped, right where it was. That building on the other side is where we were trying to go. So close! We waited. Waited some more. Waited a little longer. Watched a guy in a sweatshirt with no coat swing himself over the linkage between two cars. Meanwhile, the train hadn’t budged. We could see the end of it maybe 100 yards away to the left, so we eventually gave up waiting and followed the train to its end (no caboose!) and crossed behind it.

Then we had sushi because who doesn’t deserve sushi after contemplating climbing over a train?

VOLT

We had two reasons for going to PA and MD this time:

  1. Meet our new nephew, Graham!  This was supposed to be the first time we met the baby.  That was before the funeral trip, which, obviously, was unplanned, but since everyone was there, we met him in October instead.  Still, the tickets were booked and it cost more to move them to Christmas (or to just cancel and keep them as a credit) than it did to keep them and make the trip anyway.  Plus, we had reason #2.
  2. Celebrate John’s parents’ 40th wedding anniversary!  Their anniversary is the 20th, but we took the opportunity of coming into town to see the baby to get the whole family in one place and take John VII and Pat out to dinner.

We weren’t really sure just what we were going to do to celebrate at first – big family party?  small family party?  dinner out? – but then Emily had the brilliant (and very expensive) idea of taking them out to dinner at best restaurant in Frederick, MD: Volt.  She and Sean had been once, and they’ve been raving about it ever since.  She booked the nine of us (plus Graham) into a private room, and let me tell you – I have never felt so fancy.  The restaurant is in an old mansion in downtown Frederick.  The decor is pretty modern, but the room we were in was the conservatory, with a bay window at the end, and big windows along both sides looking into the garden.  The room was just big enough for us and the full staff serving us.  Seriously, every time they brought in a new course, five waitstaff came in at once and served us at the same time.  It was like synchronized swimming.  Synchronized service.  Very cool, very fancy.

Special menus were printed with “Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad” and their wedding date on them.  We had a four-course meal, with three choices per course.  I couldn’t tell you everything that was on the menu, but I can tell you what had.

  • Garlic: tom cove clams, black garlic, onion blossoms.  It was a soup, and it was SO FREAKIN’ GOOD.
  • Goat cheese scarpinocc: chicken of the woods mushroom, spinach, honey vinegar.  Little bitty filled pasta, and this was even better than the soup.
  • Lamb loin: mushroom oatmeal, maitake caramel, wax beans.  Also very very good, but the little bitty pasta was better.
  • Mini apple tart: maple ice cream, confiture de lait, ginger, rosemary.  By far the disappointment of the meal.  I mean, it was fine, but it wasn’t up to the standards of the first three courses.

Tiny portions, but plenty of food.  I would definitely eat there again, but I’ll have to save up for a while.  Graham cooperated by sleeping through most of the meal and letting Sean feed him when he woke up.  No crying, even though we were in a sound-proofed room, so if ever there was a time for a baby to cry in a restaurant, this was it.

We all look demonic in the one picture I have of the group of us at the restaurant, so you don’t get to see that unless you look for pictures I’m tagged in on Instagram.  Or go to Facebook.  Everyone in the family has probably posted a picture or two there. Pictures of the baby tomorrow!

It wouldn’t win in a cook-off

We made chili in the slow cooker today.  The house smelled delicious all day long, but the chili turned out a little disappointing.  It wasn’t bad, and we still ate too much of it, but the texture was a little strange, it wasn’t thick enough, and it needed more flavor.  I’m not sure which flavor, but something was missing.

We’ve made better chili.  Next time, different recipe.

Nope, I’m too full to spend much time thinking about next time right now.  Quick, change the subject!

Elephants?  Really?

Broken promises

I broke my vow to eat only chocolate on our return to Oregon.  At breakfast.  I had an omelet that was not made of chocolate.  And then I got Twizzlers at the airport.  And then I ate a bagel, and then I ate Cheez-Its at ten o’clock at night on the drive home from the airport.  So junk food, sure.  Chocolate, not so much.

To make it up to myself, I had chocolate for breakfast today.  (We have no other food in the house.)  That might be all I eat today because I am SO FREAKIN’ TIRED I’m not sure I can find us any other food.  Everything is too much of an effort.

Eating badly

I don’t think I have ever eaten normally while traveling.  It’s difficult, of course, but I don’t even try.  Yesterday, we got up at 5:30, got to the airport at 6:30, and bad coffee and a stale, crunchy croissant near the gate for breakfast.  Lunch was too much Italian food during our Chicago layover because we knew we’d land in New York too late for dinner so we figured we’d eat a meal and a half mid-afternoon to cover both meals.  Then we snacked because, well, we got hungry again.  But it was all sucky food, pretty much.

We could make the attempt.  I could have had a banana at breakfast.  I could have had a salad at lunch.  I could try harder and do that on our way home in a few days.  Right now, though, I don’t want to do that.  I want to go the other way.  My plan is to have nothing but chocolate (or at least nothing but dessert-type food) when we travel back.  I don’t think it would make me feel worse, and it has a decent chance of making me feel better.

Adulting slow-cooker style

Check it out.  We bought a slow cooker, it arrived yesterday, and I’m cooking in it today.  Can you believe it?  I’ll give you a minute to fan yourselves and get over the shock.

Here it is, yelling at me, apparently, telling me to COOK.  Yeah, I get it.

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And here, beneath the steamy lid, you can kind of see dinner.

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My first recipe is beef and broccoli, and if the recipe is correct, it’ll be ready in 5 minutes.  I didn’t tell John what I was making, but he’ll find out soon.

I hope it’s good.  I hope it’s edible.  Good is secondary.

Update: It was DELICIOUS.

Gin is not always disgusting

Gin: not the grossest alcohol on the planet.

Let’s not get too excited about this, gin drinkers.  I still think gin by itself tastes like pine sap, and gin and tonics taste like rubbing alcohol, so those of you who like it that way (Mom and Dad, Mel, Will) – yeah, you’re still crazy.

HOWEVER, I have discovered that I like some drinks that have gin in them, like the gimlet.  I had a vodka gimlet in Annapolis one night with Jess that was pretty good, and in the spirit of adventure, I tried a gin gimlet a few weeks ago and liked it.  Better, I think.  That’s basic, right?  Gin, lime juice, and sugar.  Surprisingly yum.  I haven’t tried making one myself, so I have no idea about proportions.  I’ve also tried experimenting with different gins, but last night’s experiments were made by different bartenders, too, so the whole thing wasn’t very scientific.

Three gimlets, three different gins, three different bartenders (same bar – the band had a gig)…so for one thing, each bartender might have made them differently.  For another thing, that means I had three gimlets last night.  Did I like the third one best because it used Hendricks instead of Bombay (the first gimlet, my second favorite) or Tanqueray (the second gimlet, my third favorite)?  Or did I like the third one best because it was the third one and of COURSE I liked the third one?  Also not scientific: last week, the gimlets I drank at the arcade with the 90s music and the flash mob (did I tell you about the flash mob?) were made with New Amsterdam gin, and I liked those very much.  More than the Hendricks one?  I have NO idea.

Also, I’m not experimenting again for at least a week because three gimlets is my limit.  Oh, I had a gin cocktail with dinner Friday night: rosemary-infused gin, lemon, grenadine, ginger soda, bitters.  It was pretty good.  Conclusion: add sugar in some form and gin tastes good!